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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 985

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - There are 2 views which may be taken of this Bill. Firstly, there is the view which the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) invites us to take and, secondly, there is the view which the Bill commands us to take. Any resemblance between the 2 views is, in the language of Hollywood, entirely coincidental. I will be saying something about both of the views later on, for better or for worse. But first let me say this to the Minister and to the Government: I know that they have no particularly elevated opinion of our intelligence, but they do not do themselves much credit if they take the view that we do not apprehend what is in fact behind this Bill.

When he introduced the Bill, the Minister said that it was a little measure - stirring up comfort all over the place. Let me digress for a moment to say this to the honourable gentleman: Here is a Bill to amend the Electoral Act, introduced a few weeks after a Bill again to amend the Electoral Act to provide for 18-year-old voting. Why did the Minister not join the 2 of them together? It is perfectly - plain - I hope that the country understands this - that the Labor Government is pitching for a double dissolution. The Government may take the view that it is riding high at the moment. I do not want to upset it too much so early in the session; but, by the time the bills for the Government's extravagance start arriving in and the level of inflation is understood by the people of this country, its prospects of surviving as the Government after a double dissolution will disappear completely. He may ooze confidence today, but if the honourable gentleman would take any advice from me I would sweep him to the writer of Ecclesiastes who wrote that it is far better to be a live dog than a dead lion. If the honourable gentleman has any sense he will not seek to use this Bill as the means whereby to dissolve both Houses of the Parliament.

Having said that, I turn to the Bill itself. The honourable gentleman was in a most genial mood when he introduced the Bill. He reminded me of a judge wearing a black cap, about to pronounce the death sentence and invoking the Deity's mercy on the soul of one about to be swept to eternity. The Minister said that the changes would be minimal. That was the adjective he used. It took him 40 minutes to tell us about the minimal changes. He incorporated 5 tables in Hansard. We all were indulgent; we allowed him to put them in. If he could have put a photograph of himself in Hansard it also would have gone in. He was courteous. He thanked us all. Figures galore were produced. He then indulged himself in a touch of history, took himself back to 1902 and also reminded us about the Joint Com mittee on Constitutional Review. In all my days I never suspected that I would see the honourable gentleman posing as one with an affection for history.

Mr Deputy Speaker,I would like to put my cards on the table with the honourable gentleman. I take the view that he has succumbed to political notions which are startingly irrational. But, despite that, we have contrived to form a friendship which on occasions is quite rollicking. That adds point to what I say to the honourable gentleman. On the basis of what he disclosed historically the other day, if he thinks when an historical society seeks him out that it is after his patronage he should be cautious. It will not want his patronage; it will be seeking him as a curio. What is the origin of this 20 per cent tolerance? As has been pointed out by my distinguished and gallant friend, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes), this provision has been in the Electoral Act since 1902.

Mr Cohen - But rarely used.

Mr KILLEN - I will come to that. 1 am indebted to the honourable gentleman because, of all the percipient minds on the Government side, the honourable member for Robertson at least has some claims, albeit tenuous ones. Let rae come back to 1902. When the Bill of that day was being debated the honourable member for Bland, a Mr Watson, proposed that there be a 16i per cent tolerance. Mr Watson was to become the first Labor Prime Minister. He proposed 161 per cent. Does the Minister for Services and Property seriously suggest that Mr Watson in 1902, looking at his argument, was seeking to impose something distorted upon the Australian people? In the Committee stage another honourable member said that at first sight it would seem as though the honourable member for Bland was right. That is the effect of what he said. Then it was suggested that, instead of 161 per cent or one-sixth, the tolerance should be one-fifth. What is striking about the history of this provision is that in 1902 it was agreed to without division.

In my submission, what was put to the House this afternoon by the honourable member for Barker is striking in its validity. If any honourable gentleman opposite, in the course of this parliamentary session, talks about decentralisation I hope that every syllable disposes to choke in his throat. The simple truth of our existence is that the great majority - the overwhelming majority - of the Australian people live in a few cities and common sense, quite apart from any other consideration, commands us to look anxiously and realistically at the position of country interests. It is all very fine with one broad sweep of the brush, as it were, to say: 'The people are in the cities and this is where all interest lies*. The simple truth of the matter is that this nation extends far beyond the cities. That is not a very profound observation to make but one which I fear must be made having regard to the attitude taken by some honourable gentlemen opposite.

Probably the best argument against this legislation comes from the Minister's own lips. It came out with that touch of fragrance of argument that we have been accustomed to. One vote one value' was the honourable gentleman's indulgence the other evening. Splendid heroics! Let us read what the honourable gentleman had to say when it came to the crunch. He seemed to me to be a little confused. I do not want to upset him because my nature itself would be distressed by doing so. The Minister said:

The vote of one person, whatever his occupation or location, should be as good as the vote of another.

At first blush all of us would agree with that. We would not find ourselves in argument with that at all. But what is the argument of the Minister for Services and Property. He also said that exact equality in the number of electors per division cannot be achieved, nor is it desirable. Which argument does the Minister embrace? He cannot have both arguments but with a name like Frederick Michael Daly what else could we expect of the honourable gentleman? He reminds me of the curious Irish character standing in the dock called upon by the judge's associate to plead either guilty or not guilty. He said: 'I don't know, I haven't heard the evidence yet'. But why is there the provision for a 10 per cent quota variation in the Bill? Why put on the bracelets, the virtue, of 10 per cent? If the honourable gentleman wants to keep the principle of one vote one value, about the only place in which he could display that principle would be in a political clinic. The Minister concedes that when we look at his argument.

But let us go back to the halcyon days of 1949 when the Minister for Services and Property did not have resting upon his shoulders so delicately all the shrouds of

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authority and he was the mere private member, the honourable member for Grayndler. A redistribution was carried out in those days by a Labor Government. The Minister for Services and Property and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), who thundered about this so vigorously on a recent evening, were both in that Parliament. What happened in 1949? Again I do not want to upset the honourable gentleman, for this really hurts me. The number of electors in the seat of Grayndler was 40,716 and, according to the honourable member for Grayndler, not all of them were Christians either. In the same election there were 31.616 electors in the electorate of Kalgoorlie. In round figures there were 40.000 on the one hand and 31.000 on the other. One vote one value! Let us take the seat of Kennedy at the same election. Tt had 30.364 electors. The simple truth of the matter is that this is a case of convenience as far as the Minister is concerned. He thunders, as did the Minister for Education the other evening, that this is in effect Labor policy T would hale to have him on my side in an argument if he says that this is Labor policy.

Let us take 2 seats in Western Australia - firstly, the seat of Balcatta which has 14.129 people on the roll. Secondly, the seat of MurchisonEyre has 1.879 electors. With about 3 months hard work the member would know them all by their Christian names. But I have heard no complaint from the Minister nor have I heard any suggestion from the Minister for Education that they are determined to bring the principle of one vote one value ink Western Australia. The Minister for Education interjects. I point out that Mr Tonkin has been in office for some months now. Pie honourable gentleman cannot reprobate one stand and then say that that is not convenient. The simple truth of the matter is-

Mr Beazley - The Tonkin Government cannot get this Bill through the Legislative Council.

Mr KILLEN - If the Tonkin Government wants to show that it has a conviction about one vote one value let it persist in the matter but there has been precious little evidence of any persistence. Let us take South Australia, another Labor State. Honourable members opposite do not like this. It upsets them. But they should not get upset. We will get them some lithium and that will quieten them down later on. In South Australia the seat of Norwood, held by the Premier, has 16,316 electors while the seat of Whyalla has 9,280. I have not heard the Minister announce: T propose to lead an expedition to South Australia to relieve the people from their state of torment about the fact that they have not one vote one value'. Let us take another chamber in this place. Does any person seriously suggest that the Senate today is a reflection of the intention of the founders of the Constitution? It was to be a House of review, a House in which the position of the States and the Commonwealth was to be considered, and considered meticulously. No person would seriously contend that. But there are 10 senators from South Australia representing 350,000 people with votes of the same value as 10 senators from New South Wales who represent 31 million people.

Mr Hunt - It is 4.6 million.

Mr KILLEN - I am indebted to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) for reminding me of that. That is to indicate the position of peril which the Labor Government is in, at least from the viewpoint of vindicating in terms of logic and sharp political honesty its present position. But there are 2 other reasons why I believe the Minister for Services and Property can be persuaded to withdraw this Bill. He holds himself out as a man of reason, a man of logic and a man always willing to listen to argument. I want to put to him 2 arguments which I hope will convince him that the Bill cannot work. If I convince him that the Bill cannot work I am sure that he would be agreeable to withdrawing it. Let me take the first argument. Clause 4 of the Bill seeks to amend section 25 of the Act by deleting 'one-fifth' wherever it occurs and inserting the words 'one-tenth'. What is the effect of this? Taking the redistribution as from 1968 to 1972, there were some 47 electorates in this country over the quota of onetenth. The provision in the Act is mandatory. It does not say 'may' but 'shall'. If we find that in Queensland one or two electorates are out of balance and over the quota we are required to have a distribution. In South Australia, of 12 seats in the period from 1968 to 1972 there were 3 seats with a variation of over 10 per cent. In other words, we would have to have a redistribution. It would be mandatory under the proposal of the Labor Government.

The outcome would be chaos and a frequency of redistribution which would be confusing to the Australian electorate and intolerable to those who go to Parliament. Beyond that, imagine the position of the electors themselves. Let us put ourselves in the position of living in an electorate adjoining thai of Hindmarsh, held by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), that zealot for parliamentary democracy. Let us contemplate being caught up in the redistribution and going into his electorate. It would be enough to form the foundation for a nervous breakdown.

The second argument I put to the honourable gentleman - I know he has been tremendously impressed with the first - is that the Bill cannot work because the proposed alterations to section 19 of the Act would mean that there would be a situation where the provisions already in the Act would have to be infringed in order to have an electorate. Let me illustrate that proposition. Prior to 1965 what appeared in section 19 was a provision to the effect that the redistribution commissioners should take into account community of interest or diversity of interest. The commissioners were at liberty to consider all of the factors that went with a community of interest or with a diversity of interest. In 1965, as we all know, that was altered to include many other things - the trend of population, which stays of course; the density or sparsity of population in a division; and the area of a division. What is proposed by the Minister is community of interest within the division, including economic, social and regional interests. But precisely nothing is proposed for section 19 of the Act which would enable a group of redistribution commissioners to ensure that existing boundaries of a division, the physical features of a division and the means of communication and travel could be observed. Take, for example, the seat of Kennedy. Kennedy would have to extend from Mount Isa through Cloncurry down to Kingaroy in order to get the numbers. Does the Minister seriously suggest that Kingaroy has community of interests with Mount Isa? Nothing could point up in a sharper way the absurdity of the proposal.

I finish where I began: The Labor Party seeks to meet the Liberal and Country Parties in electoral combat as a result of this Bill. To the Minister and those who sit with him I say that we are ready and by the time the bills of the Government's extravagance come home the people of Australia will be ready and the Minister for Services and Property, if he is lucky, may come back here and take the seat I am now sitting in.

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