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Tuesday, 22 May 1973
Page: 2425

Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Minister for Services and Property) - 1 move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide for Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory on the basis of 2 senators for each Territory. The Bill provides for the election of 2 senators each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and that such senators have the same powers, immunities and privileges as senators representing the States; that the first election of Territory senators be held at the same time as the next Senate elections in the several States or at the same time as the next general elections for members of the House of Representatives, if such is held before or in conjunction with the next Senate elections; that the term of the first Territory senators be from the date of their election until the eve of polling day for the ensuing general election for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election for Territory senators, elections be held at the same time as the general elections for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election of Territory senators, the terms of Territory senators be the period between each House of Representatives election; and for the Territory senators to be elected under the same system of proportional representation as that currently applicable to the election of senators representing the States, except in the case of a single casual vacancy when such vacancy shall be filled by the holding of a by-election adopting the procedures used for filling a single casual vacancy for a State senator, as far as may be applicable.

Under another Bill to be presented later today, Territory senators will be excluded for the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of section 10 of the Representation Act. The Bill before the House is an historic Bill. It is introduced by this Government in furtherance of our belief that while ever the national Parliament remains bicameral it is in accordance with the political tenets of the Australian Labor Party that all parts and all the people of Australia should be represented in both chambers. The platform of the Australian Labor Party that all parts and all the people tal Territory and the Northern Territory to be represented by senators with full voting rights. It is a great honour for me to initiate this historic legislation. With this legislation the Australian Labor Party asserts the particular responsibility this Parliament bears towards these 2 mainland Territories which are under the direct control of the Parliament. The Australian Parliament passes laws concerning both of these Territories. These laws must be approved by both Houses of Parliament. And in respect of these Territories, the laws are wider in scope than it is possible for Parliament to pass for other parts of the nation, for they include matters relating to municipal and State functions which would normally be the prerogative of State governments.

The Government and the Australian Labor Party believe that the administration of the Territories should be accountable to a Parliament in which the views of the citizens of the Territories can be stated in both Houses by those responsible directly to the electorate of the Territories. Honourable members will know that before the Commonwealth accepted the Northern Territory from South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory from New South Wales, residents of both of them were represented in the Parliaments of those 2 States in the same way as all other residents were represented. The Territories were incorporated in electorates for the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales and the House of Assembly of South Australia. The Northern Territory was included in a province for the Legislative Council of South Australia and the citizens of the area now comprising the Australian Capital Territory were eligible for appointment to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. When the Territories were surrendered to the Commonwealth their citizens were disfranchised and were denied parliamentary representation for a considerable time.

In 1922 the Northern Territory was given representation in the Australian Parliament by one member in this chamber. He was not entitled to vote on any matter. In 1936 he was given the right to vote on a motion to disallow an ordinance affecting the Northern Territory. In 1959 he was given the further right to vote on any Bill which related solely to the Northern Territory. Whether or not a Bill was related solely to the Northern Territory was determined by the Presiding Officer or, if there was objection to the ruling of the Presiding Officer, by the House. In 1968 the member for the Northern Territory became entitled to vote on any matter. In my second reading speech on the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill I recounted the history of representation of the Australian Capital Territory in the Australian Parliament. I shall not repeat it. The Australian Labor Party has struggled for years to give adequate and effective representation to both Territories. Lip service was given to this concept by members of the Opposition. They had the opportunity but took no action.

Honourable Members will recall the efforts of the late lamented Jim Fraser in this regard. We all recall the maiden speech of the distinguished Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) in this House. The Labor Party asserted its view that further representation for the Territories was long overdue when private, member Bills were introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) then Leader of the Opposition. These. Bills were taken to the second reading stage on 7 November 1968 and 20 August 1970. But the parties now in opposition would not allow these Bills to come to a vote. In his 1968 speech on the Territory Senators Bill the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, also pointed out that there is nothing unusual in having more members for the Senate than for the House of Representatives for any Territory. Tasmania and Western Australia at this stage have more senators than members in the House of Representatives and in 5 States in the United States, Alaska, Delaware, Nevada, Vermont and Wyoming, there is but one member of the House of Representatives although there must be 2 senators under the Constitution. Accordingly, this is not without precedent under the American Constitution on which our Constitution is based or under the Australian Constitution itself. The Prime Minister in presenting the Labor Party policy at the last Federal election made it clear that further representation would be given to the Territories if Labor were elected.

Honourable members will recall the maiden speech of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) when he advocated appropriate recognition of the Territories. In 1970 when the private members Bill, proposed by the then Leader of the Opposition (the Territory Senators Bill) was debated in this House the then Minister for the Interior aside

I know that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is desirous of speaking. His name is on the list of speakers. He supports the view, that has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition.

But of course the honourable member for the Northern Territory did not speak on the Bill - he was not allowed; it would have been embarrassing.

Mr Corbett - How do you know?

Mr DALY - Because I was here. The then Minister for the Interior adverted to the matter in his speech on the Territory Senators Bill in 1970. He admitted that the question of representation was of little importance to the Government. He said:

The Leader of the Opposition has challenged me because, on the last occasion this subject was debated, in 1968, I do not think I had time actually to reach that conclusion.

The conclusion to which he was referring was the one reached in 1970 after 2 years of concentrated thought and no doubt with monumental single mindedness which he stated as follows:

While no formal decision has been taken in the matter it can be said that the Government, bearing in mind the provisions of Section 122 of the Constitution, favours the principle of providing representation for the Territory commensurate with its development and its population growth, but it considers that the present time is not appropriate to introduce senatorial representation for each Territory as proposed by the Bill.

The time is never appropriate for those who do not wish to move. Justice delayed is of course justice denied and yet it was in the Senate that action was taken by this Parliament which so profoundly affected the Territories.

The Prime Minister when debating the Territory Senators Bill in 1970 drew attention to the fact that there have been several motions in the Senate to disallow ordinances concerning the Territories and he listed a number of instances where such ordinances had been debated. There are committees in this Chamber dealing with the Northern Territory. There is a Joint Committee of the 2 Houses on the Australian Capital Territory, there is a Public Works Committee, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory Committees, Public Accounts Committee, Public Works Committee and many others. However, no senator from the Territories is here to sit on them although they are matters of vital importance. Is it not strange that there is not one elected representative of either Territory in the Senate to expound the case for the local inhabitants? Surely this is a situation which in all fairness must be corrected.

The provisions contained in this Bill are on similar lines to those proposed by the Prime Minister in the Territory Senators Bills introduced by him when Leader of the Opposition in 1968 and in 1970. The justification for the provision of senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory was expounded by the Prime Minister on these occasions and such justification has continued to exist and to grow with the growth and the development of the 2 Territories. It is unthinkable that such significant parts of Australia are not represented in both Houses of the national Parliament. Since 1967 the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has been pressing for Senate representation of the Australian Capital Territory. At its meeting on 1 1 December 1967 the following resolution was carried:

This Council advises the Minister that the Australian Capital Territory should be allowed representation in the Senate and seeks the Minister's assurance that he will do everything possible to persuade the Government to introduce the necessary legislation in Parliament in order that citizens of this Territory are no longer denied adequate and proper Parliamentary representation.

The continuing development of the Australian Capital Territory and its high percentage population growth highlights the need for this Territory to be represented in both Houses. The Legislative Council of the Northern Territory has sought Senate representation for the Northern Territory on several occasions over many years. In 1969, the Legislative Council asked by resolution for the representation of the Northern Territory in the Senate by 2 senators. The Northern Territory, comprising an area of 520,280 square miles, is a vital part of Australia which should be represented in the Senate in addition to the representation of its people in the House of Representatives.

Before I deal with the main argument in support of the Bill I should perhaps refer to the position under the Constitution. Section 7 of the Constitution provides:

The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State directly chosen by the people of the State . . .

The Constitution further provides for an initial number of 6 senators but that the Parliament could make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State but that equal representation of the States was to be maintained and no original State could have less than 6 senators. The Constitution therefore provided for equality of State representation irrespective of the area or the population. Section 121 of the Constitution provides that:

The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such adminisMon or establishment make or impose such terms or conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of Parliament, as it thinks fit.

The Australian Parliament therefore could admit new States but was not required to accord equality with the original States.

But Section 122 of the Constitution is relevant to the question of representation of a Territory in the Federal Parliament. It provides that:

The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired 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

It is clearly permissive. It was therefore the clear intention of the founders of the Australian Constitution that Parliament should be empowered to permit representation of resi dents of the Territories of the Commonwealth in the National Parliament. It seems clear beyond doubt also that they recognised the injustice of disfranchising a person simply because he transferred from a State to a Territory of the Commonwealth.

I now refer briefly to a further section of the Constitution which is relevant to the Bill. Section 24 provides that:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by rae people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.

The Bill before the House will increase the number of senators by 4 making a total of 64 senators in all. I mention here a very significant matter. On the basis of advice by the Commonwealth legal advisers, the provision for Territory senators by virtue of Section 122 of the Constitution does not cause an alteration in the number of members of the House of Representatives by virtue of Section 24. Therefore the 4 senators representing the Territories will be excluded in determining the number of members to be chosen in the several States, in pursuance of Section 10 of the Representation Act.

Having established the constitutionality of the measure, I would like to turn now to the reasons why it is necessary and desirable to extend representation in the Senate to the 2 Territories. Senate representation for the States is based on equal representation irrespective of population. While the number of people or the number of electors is not therefore a significant factor in Senate representation, the estimated population as at 30 September 1972 and the enrolment as at 27 April 1973 in respect of each State and Territory is as follows:

The population of each Territory is increasing at a much greater rate than the populations of the States but at the moment the only representation in the Australian Parliament of either Territory is one member in the House of Representatives with no representation in the Senate. On the latest information available from the National Capital Development Commission it has been assessed that the population of Canberra could reach the half million level between 1992 and 1996 and that a population of 600,000 at the year 2000 is feasible, based on a decreasing percentage growth rate.

In respect of the Northern Territory I am advised that the projected population for 1980 is assessed at 165,000 rising to 275,000 by 1990. These figures are those on which joint agreement has been reached between Government departments for planning purposes. Perhaps I might be permitted to quote the remarks of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory when he made his maiden speech in this House on 20 August 1970. The honourable Kep Enderby said: lt is interesting to compare the situation in the Australian Capital Territory with the situation in Tasmania ... as far as Tasmania is concerned it has approximately 3 times the population of the Australian Capital Territory. In terms of numbers on the electoral roll the proportion is probably the same . . . Tasmania has 10 senators, 5 members of the House of Representatives, 19 members of its Legislative Council and 35 members of its Legislative Assembly, making a total of 69 politicians representing Tasmania as compared with one member representing the Australian Capital Territory, an electorate of approximately one-third of its size.

The only good thing about that is that there is not one Country Party member among those representatives. The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory continued:

In addition Tasmania has a system of local government. There is no local government or territorial government in the Australian Capital Territory. Territorial government in the Australian Capital Territory comes directly from and is the law-making power of the public servants and beyond the public servants of this House, and of the Senate by way of review. This is all the more reason for adequate and proper representation in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. There is no local government or state government equivalent in the Australian Capital Territory.

Need I say more than what the honourable member for the A.C.T. said then. The argument today is even more cogent. The residents of both Territories are people who in all respect are similar to those who reside in the States. In 1970 the Prime Minister described the Australian Capital Territory as:

The fastest growing, the youngest and in many ways the most affluent and best qualified electorate in Australia.

Honourable members will see this from its member. The then Prime Minister continued:

It is an electorate which, incidentally, should now have 2 representatives in this place as well as in the Senate, because there are many instances in this chamber where 2 members of the Country Party together represent no more persons, no more residents, than the Labor member of the Australian Capital Territory has to represent singlehanded.

This position still applies.

The people of both Territories pay taxes in accordance with the law. They are subject to the same laws but are not represented in the Senate where they are surely entitled to have presented to that House the views of the residents of their respective Territories. Again, because the Australian Parliament is responsible in the Territories for making laws in respect of matters reserved under the Constitution to the States, the Government should be answerable to both Houses of a Parliament each of which includes appropriate representation from the Territories. This Bill provides for representation for the Territories in the Senate in a manner different in extent and nature from the representation of the States in the Senate and as I pointed out, this difference is authorised by the Constitution. In particular, instead of having 10 senators for each Territory as there are for each State there will be 2 senators for each Territory.

Two senators are suggested because it would be proper to have an even number representing the Territories. If only one senator alone represented a Territory, almost certainly the one party would be represented for long periods. It is probable that both senators would belong to the same party. It would appear then to be more democratic to have an even number elected each time for each Territory thus following the pattern of the major parties providing that each would have a representative in the Senate. The term provided for each of these territorial senators is not 6 years, the constitutional period for state senators (except in the case of double dissolution - always likely to be on); the term for territory senators will be the life of the House of Representatives. The main difference in representation which the Bill provides for the Territories as distinct from the States is the term of office. The Constitution expressly provides requirements as to the terms of office for senators representing the States. The Constitution leaves it to this Parliament to determine the terms of office for senators representing the Territories.

The Government has adapted the method which was unanimously agreed to 15 years ago by the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties in the House were represented. It was recommended by the Committee that the Constitution should be amended to provide that there should be an election for half the senators every time there is an election for the House of Representatives. The Committee believed that this would cut down the number of elections and so minimise the distraction of elections and the difference between the 2 Houses. The decision to bring the elections of territory senators into line with those of the House of Representatives is in accordance with the Constitutional Review Committee's findings. Both senators will be elected every time there is a general election of the House of Representatives. So for the Territories there will be elections for both Houses of Parliament at the same time. When this Bill passes the Parliament, the writs will be issued for the elections of senators for the Territories concurrent with the next Senate general election or House of Representatives general election, whichever is the sooner. Thereafter all the senators for the Territories will retire at each House of Representatives election.

There is perhaps one further point to which 1 should refer. In the past, some honourable members have seen some inconsistency in the platform, constitution and rules approved by the Federal Conference of the Labor Party in Melbourne in 1969 and the attitude of the Government towards representation in the Senate. It is true that it is well established Labor policy to abolish the Senate. The Labor Governments view on this point was cogently presented by the Prime Minister when, as Leader of the Opposition, he spoke on the second reading of the Territory Senators Bill on 7 November 1968. He said: lt has been said quite correctly that the Australian Labor Party is in favour of the abolition of the Senate. One of the first planks to the Party's platform provides for an amendment of the Constitution to abolish the Senate. This is one amendment of the Constitution which would require the support of a majority of the voters, not only in Australia as a whole and in a majority of the States, but in every State. Accordingly it would be a difficult amendment to carry ... Be that as it may, the situation is that as long as this is a bicameral legislature, in the name of democracy and decency people throughout the nation should have a vote for both chambers. Everyone is subject to the laws and therefore everyone ought to have a vote to choose the members of each House of Parliament which makes the laws.

As importantly, the Government believes that this legislation goes far towards achieving the basic principles of the Labor Party's platform on constitutional matters which reads as follows:

The restoration of Parliament as the principal organ of democracy and social and economic change, the maintenance of effective Parliamentary supervision over the administration. The adaption of procedures and privileges of Parliaments and their committees to contemporary standards of efficiency and justice.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Ian Robinson) adjourned.

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