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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2423


Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Minister for Services and Property) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide for an additional representative for the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives. The provisions of the Bill are to (a) provide for 2 members of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory elected on the basis of single member electorates, with effect from the first sitting of the Twenty-ninth Parliament; (b) provide for full voting rights for both members for the Australian Capital Territory with all the powers, immunities and privileges held by other members of the House of Representatives; (c) divide the Australian Capital Territory into 2 single member electorates, of which one electorate shall embrace part of the Australian Capital Territory proper and the other electorate shall embrace the remaining part of the Australian Capital Territory plus the Jervis Bay territory - to be effective immediately following the expiry or dissolution of the Twenty-eighth Parliament; and, (d) provide - (i) for the setting up of a distribution committee, and (ii) for the inviting of suggestions and objections and preparation of a report to Parliament, along similar lines to that provided for the distribution of a State into electoral divisions.

The Australian Capital Territory was given representation in the Australian Parliament in 1948 on the initiative of the then Labor Government, with effect from the 1949 elections, on the basis that the member representing the Australian Capital Territory had the same voting rights as the member for the Northern Territory at that time, namely, that the member could vote only on a motion to disallow an ordinance affecting the Australian Capital Territory. In 1959 he was given the same additional right as was given in that year to the member for the Northern Territory to vote on any Bill that related solely to his Territory, namely, the Australian Capital Territory. In 1966, after years of advocacy by the former distinguished member, the late Jim Fraser, and the Australian Labor Party, the member for the Australian Capital Territory was given the right to vote on any matter after the ensuing general election for this House.

These constitutional developments were in accordance with section 122 of the Constitution which provides, in part:

The Parliament may make laws for the government of any Territory surrendered by any Slate to and accepted by the Commonwealth, . . . and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament, to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.

The number of electors enrolled in the Australian Capital Territory increased from 11,841 in 1949, when the Australian Capital Territory was given its first representation, to 48,127 in 1966 when the member for the Australian Capital Territory was given full voting rights in this House. Today there are 85,282 electors on the roll for the Australian Capital Territory. This number exceeds by 5,385 the number of electors enrolled in the next largest Australian electorate, which is Diamond Valley, with an enrolment of 79,897.

In 1970 the then Minister for the Interior indicated that his Government: bearing in mind the provisions of section 122 of the Constitution, favours the principle of providing representation for a Territory commensurate with its development and population growth.

He went on grudgingly to admit that:

.   . we may well have reached the time when we need extra representation for the Australian Capital Territory.

What a remarkable conclusion to be reached, at a time when the Canberra electorate had already grown much larger than the majority of electorates in Australia. But in typical fashion, having acknowledged the need, the Minister was overcome by the inertia from which he and his Government suffered over the years. The inescapable fact was that by comparison with the States the Australian Capital Territory was and is underrepresented in respect of both population and electors.

Under the provisions of the Representation Act, in determining the number of members of the House of Representatives a quota is ascertained by dividing the number of people of the States as shown by the census by twice the number of senators - that is, by 120. The number of members to be chosen in each State is then determined by dividing the number of the people of the respective State by the quota. The quota based on figures derived from the 1971 census was 104,376. The number of members determined for each State and the resultant average population per member in respect of each State were as follows:

 

The average population per member for the States, taken as a whole, on figures obtained at the 1971 census was 101,010. The population of the Australian Capital Territory at the 1971 census was 144,100 which was 42.66 per cent above the average for the States. The population of the Australian Capital Territory is expanding rapidly and at 30 September 1972 it was approximately 162,000, while the electoral enrolment for the Australian Capital Territory as at 27 April 1973 was 85,282, including 561 18, 19 and 20-year-olds.

While the enrolments for the several divisions in the States range from approximately 42,000 to 80,000, these are evened out at a redistribution. However, the enrolment for the Australian Capital Territory cannot be similarly adjusted. It continues to grow with the increase in population. The average enrolments for divisions in each State as at the end of April 1973 were as follows:

 

It is estimated that the electoral enrolment of the Australian Capital Territory will exceed 120,000 by December 1975- the normal time for the next general election of members of the House of Representatives - and 185,000 by 1980, an annual increase of about 9 per cent. If an additional member for the Australian Capital Territory were provided as from the next House of Representatives election on the basis of the Territory being divided into 2 divisions, the estimated average number of electors per division - about 60,000 - would be in reasonable conformity with the average for the States combined, namely 58,741 as at 27 April 1973, and considerably in excess of that for Tasmania.

Once again it remains for the Australian Labor Party to take the necessary action to ensure proper representation for the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives. Of course we propose to go further and there will be a cognate Bill relating to representation in the Senate, which, together with the Bill before the House, will give a measure of justice to the Australian Capital Territory at this stage of its development. Moreover we will keep the matter under review and introduce further legislation as the population increases and the need develops.

I need not emphasise to members of this House the challenge and the burden associated with representation of such a large electorate comprising such highly sophisticated electors as one finds in the Australian Capital Territory. Honourable members will recall the toll which such representation took of our late lamented friend Jim Fraser and which no doubt contributed to his untimely death. I never cease to be amazed at the conspicuously effective and untiring service given by my distinguished colleague, the honourable Kep Enderby, in performing his ministerial duties as Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory and in discharging the unequal burden of representing this electorate which should have been divided much earlier. The Australian Capital

Territory, with no mayor, no local government representatives and no State members means that the people are entirely dependent on their member of the Australian Parliament to a much greater extent than possibly anywhere else in the world. Every grievance from the municipal to the national level ends up as the responsibility of their representative in the Australian Parliament. He is the mayor, the alderman, the ombudsman and their parliamentary representative all rolled into one.

The Australian Capital Territory with its rapid growth, population and development, its wide diversity of interests and its multiplicity of problems makes the demand for additional parliamentary representation unanswerable. Briefly, let me compare it with, say, the State of Tasmania. That State with a population of approximately 393,000 less than two and onehalf times that of the Australian Capital Territory with approximately 162,000, has 35 members of the House of Assembly, 9 Legislative Councillors, 10 senators and 5 members of the House of Representatives - a total of 69 parliamentary representatives plus over 500 local government representatives, whereas the Australian Capital Territory is represented most ably by a single Labor Party parliamentary representative. Of course there are 8 elected Advisory Councillors for the Australian Capital Territory but these worthy members can do not more than advise the Minister in local matters.

Before I conclude I wish to refer to one or two aspects of the legislation which are no doubt of interest to the House. Firstly, 1 refer to the provision for the legislation to take effect from the first sitting of the twenty-ninth Parliament, and that may be much earlier than a lot of people think. This arises from the differing legal opinions as to whether it would be constitutionally practicable to provide for the election of an additional member for the Australian Capital Territory during the term of the current Parliament. The Solicitor-General has advised that if the Government wishes to so provide, in his view such a law would be valid. However, because a doubt exists about the matter, the Government considers that the wisest course is to defer the election of the additional member until the next general elections for the House of Representatives, particularly as separate legislation is being introduced to provide for 2 senators for the Australian Capital Territory to be elected before that time. The election of the senators will in the interim period provide the additional representation so urgently required in the Australian Capital Territory. Secondly, under the provisions of the Bill the tolerance between the electorates must be. not more than 10 per cent, with additional provision for further redistributions whenever the Governor-General so directs.

This Bill is a further step in the fulfilment of the Government's promise to provide additional representation in the Australian Capital Territory. It is progressive legislation, all too long delayed, to give to the people of the Australian Capita] Territory increased representation in the Australian Parliament. It is a move which should commend itself to all the democratically-minded and one that should receive the support of both sides of this Parliament. In addition it is urgent because of possible coming events. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Ian Robinson) adjourned.







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