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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 1017

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr WALLIS - (Quorum formed). 1 thank the honourable member for Boothby. I hope that the people in South Australia now realise the number of electors in the Legislative Council districts in that State. I was mentioning that in Central District No. 1 there are 106,000 voters and that in the Northern District, which is the smallest, there are only 50,000 voters. Prior to the recent election on 10th March the Liberals were able to control 16 of the 20 seats in that House, despite the fact that the Australian Labor Party in South Australia consistently polls well in excess of 50 per cent of the overall vote of the people. As the honourable member for Boothby will well know, it was clearly indicated on 10th March what the people of South Australia thought. I think that the last election showed the Liberal Country League in South Australia that the people of South Australia are not prepared to tolerate such undemocratic political power any longer. The LCL in fact at the last election, despite the unjust electoral set-up, lost 2 of its seats in the Legislative Council and certainly received a big fright in another Legislative Council district.

Efforts to give this upper House some semblance of democracy in the past have always been rebuffed by the use of the undemocratic power that it has consistently used against the political interests of the people of South Australia. However, the results of the last election are a clear warning to the Legislative Council in that State that refusal to pass legislation from the House of Assembly on matters in which the State Government has a clear mandate from the people will result in the Legislative Council having to answer to the South Australian people for their actions. So much for the South Australian upper House. In every other State upper House we find conditions that have some parallel with the South Australian Legislative Council situation, and until these Houses are reformed to reflect the political wishes of the majority of the people we cannot say that we are a true democracy.

I would like to refer also to the electoral setup in the South Australian lower House, the House of Assembly. Until a few years ago we had the dubious honour of having the most gerrymandered electoral system in Australia under the former Premier, Sir Thomas Playford. We had electorates varying from 4,000 to 40,000 electors. 1 might add that the numerically smaller electorates were held by LCL members and that the numerically larger electorates had elected Labor members. The former LCL Premier, Mr Steele Hall, apparently had some twinges of conscience about the unfair setup in South Australia and some twinges of conscience over the gerrymander, and as a result had a redistribution carried out in 1969 that did in some measure take some of the worst features out of the gerrymander; but he clung to the weighting of the electorates in areas where the LCL was in favour. Incidentally, Mr Steele Hall has since had the chop for his more progressive ideas. City seats after the redistribution had over 14,000 voters while rural seats had approximately 9,000. It is interesting to note that at the election on 10th March the size of some electorates had remained at 9,000 while some had grown to 23,000 or 24,000. Here again most of the small seats numerically are held by the LCL and the larger seats are held by the Labor Party.

But whilst we still have our anomalies in South Australia, I think we have lost our crown as the most gerrymandered State to Queensland, where we see the reins of government in the hands of a Party which is receiving only 20 per cent of the overall votes of the Queensland people. Perhaps this is the good record that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned when he referred to the good record Australia has in dividing our electorates equally for political reasons. We on this side of the House firmly believe that one man's vote is as good as anothers, and we will continue to press for reforms in the electoral system of our society so that we can say that our society is democratic in every sense ot the word. This Bill is a further step along that road, and 1 therefore fully support the measures contained in the Bill.

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