Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 4 April 1973
Page: 1078

Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Minister for Services and Property) - The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) said that he was ruthlessly gagged last night. If the speech we. heard from him this afternoon was no better than the one he proposed to make last night, we did not miss much. The honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) mentioned that he also was ruthlessly gagged last night. The ghost of his father appeared in his speech today. I could not help thinking that they must have coalesced some way and discussed it, because it was precisely the same speech that his father made here in days gone by, depending to the last drop on the right of the Country Party for special consideration because it cannot obtain votes from the Australian people. It was said that this debate was gagged last night. It was gagged because honourable members opposite set out deliberately to stop me replying to the charges that had been made against the Government. A Country Party member took up 20 or 30 minutes of the time, of the House when other honourable members could have been speaking.

But honourable members are very privileged. They have a democratic government now and they are speaking in committee, which was rarely, if ever, the case in the last Parliament. I want to clear up a few misconceptions about the Bill. We are discussing the very crux of the Bill - the changes that have been made to section 19. Statements have been made already in the Committee stage that cannot be supported by fact. A few moments ago the honourable member for Farrer said that only once since 1949 has the party that obtained the majority of the votes not won the election. That statement repeated by many honourable members in the course of this debate is completely and utterly false, and I shall show it. The facts are that in 1954 the Australian Labor Party won 50.1 per cent of the votes and gained 56 seats. The LiberalCountry Party with 47 per cent of the votes gained 58 seats. In 1961 the Labor Party gained 46.76 per cent of the votes and won 62 seats.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Mr Chairman, I take a point of order. For how long is the Minister allowed to mislead the Parliament? He knows full well that the 1954 election was fought on a redistribution which was introduced by a Labor government.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! That is a frivolous and vexatious point. It is not a valid point of order.

Mr DALY - Do not worry, Mr Deputy Chairman. The honourable member is trying to fight his way back to the Ministry. In 1961 the Labor Party won 46.76 per cent of the votes and gained 62 seats. The Liberal-Country Party won 40.91 per sent of the votes and gained the same number of seats. In 1969 the Labor Party won 46.95 per cent of the votes and gained 59 seats whereas the Liberal-Country Party with 43.33 per cent of the votes gained 66 seats. They are authentic figures given to me by the Chief Electoral Officer. They will lay to rest for all time the statements made by honourable members opposite that the majority vote elects the government in this country.

Honourable members have spoken about a lot of things in the course of this debate. One honourable member is on record as saying that he objected to the redistribution in Queensland but it was changed to suit him. I liked his delivery but the content of his speech does not bear scrutiny. Is that the kind of redistribution that the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Eric Robinson) thinks was an improvement? In Queensland in the last State election the Country Party with 20 per cent of the vote won 26 seats and the Liberal Party with 22 per cent of the votes won 21 seats. The honourable member for McPherson changed things and made it better for everybody. The Labor Party with 47 per cent of the votes, more than the combined total of the other 2 parties, won 33 seats. The minority party in Queensland - the Country Party, which supplies the Premier - with the lowest percentage of votes exercises supreme control in that bastion of Country Party democracy with the help of the greatest gerrymander in the world.

It has been said that the Labor Party is seeking to consolidate itself. There is no need for that. There is massive support for the Labor Party from one end of this country to the other. Criticism has been levelled at the Government for adopting the suggestion of the Constitutional Review Committee for a 10 per cent variation. It is not possible for the numbers to be exactly equal but they should be as near as practicable to that ideal. Two members of the Country Party, the late Mr Drummond and Len Hamilton from Western Australia, sat on that Constitutional Review Committee. The members of that Committee uniformly supported a margin of not more than 10 per cent. So let honourable members who sit in the corner answer that one. There is nothing new about 20 per cent or 10 per cent.

Let us look at the other States. In New South Wales under the Liberal-Country Party Government there is a IS per cent margin. So that Government is evidently not in agreement with honourable members opposite. In Victoria - one cannot say that that is a really democratic State - the margin is down to 10 per cent. In Queensland it is 20 per cent but may be departed from to a greater extent than 20 per cent in the northern zone. No wonder they want the 20 per cent. In South Australia it is 10 per cent in the metropolitan area and 15 per cent in the country. In Western Australia it is 10 per cent. So what is new about this suggestion? One would think it was a revolutionary proposal. Those people who tend towards democracy agree that this is something that should be done. Therefore, those who support a margin of 20 per cent and the removal of these barriers, which count trees, acres, horses and cows instead oi people, subscribe to a system of political gerrymandering that has no place in any democratic institution.

Country Party members have said that they are being attacked and that my speech was political. What a shocking thing to say about me. The fact of the matter is that none of them heard the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in his heyday as Minister for Social Services. I would be a babe in the woods compared with him. We always know when the citadel of the Country Party is being assailed. There is always trouble when the redistribution of boundaries is mentioned. Any party with falling support and falling numbers cannot survive unless it can rig things, constitutionally if possible. Who will ever forget the unforgettable occasion in this Parliament on 1st April 1971 when the former Minister for the Army, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), describing the Queensland Liberals who crossed the floor used these words:

This is exactly my point. If the principle of one vote one value is introduced any member of the Opposition who has the guts can say 'you vote your way, I will be like the 8 traitors who walked across the floor of the Queensland Parliament 2 days ago and who betrayed the interests of the people who live in rural areas in Queensland'.

He was not talking of Labor members; they were his blood brothers in the Liberal Party. What a dreadful thing to say about one's colleagues. That shows how the Country Party reacts when anything like boundaries is mentioned. Listen to this report in a Queensland newspaper about Mr Hinze, the Country Party member for the Gold Coast:

There was an uproar as the House divided. Mr Hinze Country Party (Gold Coast) had to be restrained by Government members as he rose from his seat, waved his arms and angrily shouted at the 8 rebel Liberals. He shouted 'Mongrels, mongrels'-

What a dreadful thing to say. This man is one of the people who tell you that they believe in democracy. Mentioning electoral boundaries to the supporters of gerrymanders in the Country Party is like putting your hand in their pocket and taking out any money you can find. They will fight to the last.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - You are not on the air.

Mr DALY - The honourable member for Wannon, who is sitting at the table, warbles away now and then, but he will get his chance, so I will not deal with him at this stage. The Country Party resists electoral reform because it can exist only through unequal electoral representation. The Leader of the Australian Country Party is on record on 26th May 1965, when he was the Minister for the Interior, as having said:

The population of a division includes the children, migrants and everybody in the area.

Whom would he think it includes? Does he think it includes sheep, cattle and things of that nature? Of course it does not, and the Labor Party subscribes to the belief that it Joes not. Throughout this debate, particularly on the question of one vote one value, the silly argument has been raised about the constitutional position in the Senate. It has been said that the same number of senators represent Tasmania Queensland and the other States and that they do not represent equal numbers of people. Of course they do not, for the simple reason that our constitutional fathers made lt practically impossible to change the system that they established and they could never have achieved federation unless that system came about. That argument is one of the weakest I have heard, and I doubt that any party in this nation could change the Senate system of representation because I could not see Tasmanians of any political ilk voting to reduce their representation or to increase the representation of New South Wales or Queensland. It has been said that that argument basically supports the propositions put forward by honourable members opposite, but it is an argument that would not bear investigation.

Honourable members opposite said that there is no need to change the system in respect of area and that kind of thing. They mentioned the terrific strains imposed on members representing country electors. They certainly have a lot to put up with, but the people who are represented by the Country Party put up with a lot more. Honourable members opposite do not even know the area of electorates.

Mine was said to have an area, I think of 3.95 square miles. For the benefit of everybody it is Bi square miles, and I will tell the Committee what it has in it. It has people - about 125,000. That is different from the electorate of one member of the Australian Country Party which contains 60,000 or 70,000 people. The country member certainly has disadvantages, and they have been aggravated for years by the Government that the Country Party supported in this Parliament. But there is no cause in a democracy to pervert the course of justice because a government does not give members adequate facilities to represent the people by whom they are sent to this Parliament to state a case.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - You have not done anything about that.

Mr DALY - I do not take a lot of notice of the honourable member for Wannon, because he sat in government for so long that he forgot what a backbencher had to do. We are told that under the proposed new system a redistribution will be required every 3 years. That argument is not logical. Redistribution normally takes place after a census, which I think is conducted every 5 years or more. If only the last Government had not been afraid of the result of a redistribution in Western Australia, Western Australia would have had an extra seat immediately after the last census. The fact of the matter is that the former Government feared the creation of another electorate in that State. It delayed a decision on the matter for so long that now it is urgent and necessary that we give effect to this legislation in order that Western Australia at least may get the seat to which it is entitled.

Let me put honourable members right. Honourable members opposite say that a redistribution can be held only when certain seats are out of focus. That of course is one reason for a redistribution, but big changes are taking place in this country. As honourable members know 750,000 18-year-olds are now eligible to go on the roll and there will be half a million more such voters by the next election. If the Governor-General thinks it is fit, even under the existing legislation those additional electors in themselves will necessitate a redistribution to be held.

I do not wish to take up further time at this stage of the debate, but I will be speaking later this evening. I do not want lectures from the honourable member for Wannon or the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes).

The honourable member for Barker comes from the State in which Sir Thomas Playford did not have a redistribution for 25 years and in which one vote in the country was worth 6 in the city. If I want to know anything about gerrymanders I will look for the honourable member for Barker, because I reckon he could put us on the beam. If I wanted somebody else I would make a beeline to Queensland and have a yarn with the Premier, because he would bring me right up to date. If I wanted to indicate in this Parliament the party that has existed on professional and political gerrymanders, constitutionally applied, I would look straight at the Country Party and know that I was 100 per cent right.

I shall finish in a few moments, but I just thought I would put the record straight in respect of these matters. As I say, in New Zealand a variation of 5 per cent from the quota is allowed. Now it is regarded here as revolutionary when we change a few things to bring more democracy to the country areas. Members of the Liberal Party say that they believe in the principle of one vote one value, but they are like they were in government. They could say what they liked as long as they did not vote for it. The Liberal Party says that it subscribes to the principle of one vote one value but will not vote for it. Its coalition partner with a glorious display of unity said: 'It is just impossible. Have nothing to do with it.' So how could we ever win. If we made all electorates equal in size or made the permissible variation from the quota 40 per cent we would find that there would be some difference on the other side in respect of it.

The real opposition to this Bill comes from the Country Party. I excuse the Liberal Party because it has to survive with somebody. It cannot do it on its own so it just tags along. But let me warn the Country Party. Electoral inequality is its lifeblood politically. It cannot exist without boundaries being constitutionally gerrymandered and it cannot exist without the Bjelke-Petersens and others giving effect to policies which we are trying to refute in this Parliament but in relation to which our efforts are being opposed by those who sit opposite. I hope that this Bill will be carried and that in due course those in another place will pass judgment on it and in due course the people will pass judgment on them. These things want to be carefully pondered ere honourable members opposite rush wildly into rejecting this legislation, which is vital in any democracy.

Suggest corrections