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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 982

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - I support the amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act which the Bill now before the House seeks to achieve. Therefore I lend my support to the proposal that will reduce from one-fifth to one-tenth the permissible variation provided for in the Act from the predetermined quotas for electoral enrolment and I also support the other measures which adoption of the Bill will achieve. Dealing with the proposal to reduce the present allowable variation in the quota, I must say that I am not sure that every elector in Australia is fully aware of the method adopted in arriving at a quota for a division or a Federal electorate. Much has been said about this subject, but I do not know that everybody is aware of how this is achieved. Perhaps it is fairly generally well-known that the Constitution makes provision for determining the number of representatives from each of the States, lt is through the adoption of this formula that 45 members currently represent New South Wales, 34 represent Victoria, 18 represent Queensland, and various other numbers represent the other States of Australia.

However, this debate concerns the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and it is important that relevant provisions of this Act be examined. Section 18 in Part III of this Act lays down that for the purpose of the Act the whole number of electors in each State, as nearly as can be ascertained, shall be divided by the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State in order that a quota may be ascertained. Section 19(1.) permits the distribution commissioners to form divisions or electorates the enrolments of which may exceed or fall short of the quota by one-fifth of the quota.Therefore it is quite evident that in a State where the quota for a division is 60,000 it is permissible to have 48,000 electors on the role of one electorate and 72,000 on the role of another in the same State. The amendment being sought by the Bill would permit a variation of only one-tenth above or below the quota. Therefore with a quota of 60,000 for a division the lowest number of electors permitted would be 54,000 and the highest number 66,000. In the main that is what this debate is all about, and it is important that the people of Australia should be aware of that fact. It is important that they be given an opportunity to form an opinion on whether, with an electoral quota of 60,000, the number of electors enrolled in one electorate should be fewer by 24,000 than those enrolled in another electorate in the same State or whether this tolerance should be reduced. My guess is that the average Australian does not accept the present situation and therefore the action of the Government in seeking to amend the Act will be generally supported.

My support for the change in the Commonwealth Electoral Act which this Bill seeks to achieve is being strengthened as each of the Opposition members contributes to the debate. I have listened intently as they have put forward their reasons for opposing the measure, and I have endeavoured to unearth some degree of logic in the submissions they have made in support of their actions. So far. in my opinion, they have failed to advance one logical argument to substantiate the opposition they so inflexibly maintain. The Opposition suggests that the Government has ulterior motives in seeking amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Let members of the Opposition be assured that the real reason behind the Government's action is to ensure electoral justice for the whole of the electorate of this nation. The Government is seeking to ensure that certain citizens do not have greater influence in government than do others. If the people who elect representatives and through this means thereby collective! \ elect Government are to be given their democratic rights, it is of immense importance that the electoral system is a fair one. Whether or not honourable members opposite recognise and accept the fact I submit that an electoral system can encourage or discourage electors' participation. If the system is not regarded as being a fair one, Parliament and what it stands for will lose the respect of the majority. After all elections are for the benefit of the electors, and finally they will see that they have introduced a system which to them provides an adequate means of expressing their views.

Before it is suggested that my interest may be a personal one, let me point out that currently the electorate represented by me is one which has approximately the correct quota for the State. Therefore I am not seeking to have a greater or smaller number of electors enrolled. Further, because I believe I represent an electorate that has about the quota for Queensland, I am in a position to voice some opinion in regard to the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the variation we are seeking to it. With my contribution to the debate I shall endeavour to be objective in my approach to the Bill and what it seeks. My attitude as an elected representative is that the electoral rights of people of Australia are paramount and these must receive proper consideration if we are to suggest that the electoral system of this nation is a democratic one.

A broad and thorough coverage of all relevant aspects of the changes being sought has been provided by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in his second reading speech. For my part, it is my intention to deal mainly with the State in which my electorate is situated. 1 am deeply concerned with the system which has permitted the development of an unfair electoral advantage in certain areas of Queensland, and I shall refer to this as 1 progress. The present system lends itself to providing an advantage to some, thereby disadvantaging others. Naturally previous governments, to suit their own ends, have made good use of the system's looseness. The statement by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) that only once since 1949 has the Party gaining the greatest number of votes been unsuccessful in winning the most electorates, 1 believe, was an incorrect one because in 1961 and again in 1969 the votes gained by the Australian Labor Party totalled more than the votes gained by the parties now in Opposition. But of course, at both of those elections, the Opposition parties were then in government.

I suggest that only those who support the gerrymander - the unfair loading of electorates - will seek to defeat this Bill. Surely it is not valid argument - I have heard this said on several occasions during this debate - that because a provision has been in the Electoral Act for more than 70 years it should remain there. If this is the attitude to change of those in Opposition, there can be no doubt that they will remain in the political wilderness for a long time. The Opposition must realise that the people of Australia are demanding change. In December 1972 the people gave a clear and definite indication of that demand. Members of the Australian Country Party are opposing the change because they have a vested interest in maintaining low electoral enrolments. It appears that they oppose the democratic belief that enrolments for divisions should be as nearly as possible equal. Apparently they believe that the number of electors necessary to form a country electorate should not be the number required by the quota, certainly not the number allowed in excess of the quota, but very definitely a number approximating that permitted below the quota. A perusal of enrolment figures shows that many electorates represented by Country Party members contain the lowest enrolment figures that can be arranged in accordance with provisions of the Electoral Act. Consequently, it appears that Country Party members wish to represent the least number of people. In turn, because of low enrolments in Country Party electorates, the people in country areas have a greater voting power than people in the cities.

Let me make it clear that, contrary to what previous speakers have stated, there definitely is no animosity on the part of honourable members on this side of the chamber towards people living in the country. On the contrary - I believe figures prove this and 1 hope to show this in the limited time I have available to me - there is a definite animosity on the part of Country Party representatives and those in command of the Country Party machine towards people who live in the cities. If honourable members listen to me, I will explain to them what happened in Brisbane last Saturday as a result of the animosity and the apparent hatred of certain people in Queensland towards people who live in the cities. I hope that members of the Liberal Party will take heed of this because it is extremely important to them.

Mr Cooke - We are all ears.

Mr DOYLE - I have noticed that but ] did not like to say anything. I suggest that this type of electorate loading suits the Country Party. It has been their political lifeblood for many years. It is not a good thing for the nation or the people of the country. I do not subscribe - I make no apology for saying this - to a policy which gives country people up to 50 per cent advantage over city people in respect of the value of votes cast. This has been permitted to occur for far too long and, as a representative of a city electorate, I believe that this unfair practice must cease.

I realise that many city dwellers resident in my electorate do not vote for the Australian Labor Party. This can be said of all electorates throughout the nation. However, I assure these Australian people who are city dwellers, particularly those living in the Lilley electorate, that I shall not be a party to selling them short and downgrading the value of their vote. They have a democratic right to electoral equality. I am somewhat shocked to see the

Liberal Party falling for the anti-city attitude of the Country Party and succumbing to minority pressure. I am absolutely amazed at the attitude of Liberal members, not because they oppose a move made by a Labor government, but because they apparently are unable to understand that, by bowing to the Country Party, they are destroying their own electoral chances for the future. I believe that members of the Liberal Party who think and look to the future would agree with that statement.

To provide startling evidence of this. I have only to refer to w' occurred in Queensland last Saturday when, in Brisbane, the opponents of Labor were trounced at the municipal polls. The Australian Labor Party won 20 out of 21 wards in the metropolitan area of Brisbane and had overwhelming victories in other parts of the State at local government polls. The City of Brisbane Act was amended by the Country Party Premier of Queensland - a party that does not have one representative in the metropolitan area of Brisbane - to defeat the Jones administration, an Australian Labor Parry administration. The reaction from the people of Brisbane to this dictatorial act by the Country Party Premier was, as I have said, to return the Jones administration and leave the opponents of Labor with one ward out of 21 wards in the city. The 'Sunday Sun', one of the Sunday newspapers in Brisbane had as a headline: City thumbs its nose at Joh!' Of course, Joh is the Country Party Premier of Queensland. The report went on to say:

The Government's move to get rid of Clem Jones by ending the separate Lord Mayoral vote in yesterday's City Council election proved a dismal flop. Tha people of Brisbane answered by giving Clem's team the biggest vote triumph in Australian election history.

The 'Sunday Mail' report on the municipal elections contained the following opening statements:

Brisbane's massive support for the Clem Jones Australian Labor Party Council team was reflected yesterday in most South-East Queensland and Northern provincial cities.

I emphasise the word 'cities'. It is clear that in the cities of Queensland there has been a violent reaction by the people against the Country Party Premier and the CountryLiberal Party Government he leads. It must be acknowledged that city people will not sit idly by and allow their rights to be eroded. As one who believes in the 2-party system, I am genuinely concerned that the Liberal Party apparently cannot or will not come to realise that it is withering on the vine because its members will not stand up to minority parties. I say that with every conviction.

The thinking of Liberal leaders appears to he different from that expressed by the Queensland President of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia, Mr K. Martin who, on 28th January at a Young Liberal convention held at Surfers Paradise called for a new electoral distribution in Queensland because, in his opinion, the State redistribution of 1972 was completely undemocratic. According to newspaper reports, Mr Martin also called on the State Parliamentary Liberal Party to press for a new redistribution, taking more into account the principle of one vote, one value. Mr Martin also is reported to have stated that when there is a situation where there is a difference of more than 250 per cent between the number of voters in one electorate and the number in another, there is justification for people to say that Queensland is a Cinderella State. He also is reported to have said that State and Federal governments have been bound continually by the wishes of the sectional Country Party.

Apparently at this convention Mr Martin warned against fielding separate Senate teams. Mr Martin said that if the 2 parties fielded separate teams the Liberals could be the losers. This is not a member of the Australian Labor Party talking; it is a Young Liberal in Queensland. He expressed the view that the Country Party might outvote the Liberal Party. I do not know Mr Martin personally but I readily acknowledge his fear for the future of the Liberal Party. This is why thinking people within the Liberal Party are joining the call for one vote, one value. They can see the necessity to stop the undemocratic march in this nation's politics of the Country Party, whose members comprise 9 per cent of the Parliament. Adoption of policies which permit the gerrymander - the electorate loading and voting manipulation - will not be tolerated by people today. In Queensland, the State Government is a coalition which is controlled by a party which received the minority vote, namely, the Country Party. The people of Queensland have witnessed at State level over the past few years the development of a system of voting at State elections which is heavily loaded in favour of Country Party candidates and, to some extent, of Liberal candidates. Certainly, it is to the disadvantage of Australian Labor Party candidates.

Let me give just a few examples. At the 1972 State election the Country Party received 20 per cent of the total vote cast in Queensland and won 26 seats; the Liberal Party received just over 22 per cent, which was about 2 per cent more than the Country Party received, and won 21 seats, which was 5 seats fewer; and the Australian Labor Party gained 48 per cent of the total vote and won 33 seats. As a result of the worst gerrymander ever, the Government of Queensland was elected on 42i per cent of the State vote, with 47 seats. Many city people were penalised as a result of this. The Australian Labor Party candidates received approximately 5i per cent more of the total vote than the combined Country Party and Liberal Party received, but it won 14 seats fewer than the Government parties. A startling lesson is learnt when one looks at the figures. In Queensland it took an average of 13,045 votes to elect an ALP candidate and 6,972 to elect a Country Party candidate.

I believe that, because of the gerrymander that has taken place in Queensland, because electorate loading has been permitted under sections of the Electoral Act and because there has been an attack on the rights of city people, there has been a reaction. It has been very evident. As I mentioned, it was very evident last Saturday at the municipal election held in Brisbane. I can foresee, as Mr Martin, the President of the Young Liberals in Queensland, apparently had the foresight to realise, that if the Liberal Party wishes to sit idly by and allow the Country Party voting power to develop to such a degree that one vote in the country is worth 1± or 2 votes in the city there certainly will be a reaction from people living in the cities. I repeat what I said earlier: Although all the people in the cities did not vote for me, I will be standing up as I am today, demanding the rights of the people who live in the cities and demanding that the value of their vote be the same as that of people living in country areas. I certainly support the Bill.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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