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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1471


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

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr Speaker,this Bill, which seeks to provide Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, is in identical form to the Bill having the same title which I introduced on 22 May 1973 and which was passed by this House on 30 May 1973. As honourable members would know, the motion for the second reading of the Bill was defeated in the Senate on 7 June i973. It is interesting to note, however, that when the second reading of the Bill was agreed to by this House on 29 May 1973, it was carried by 78 votes to 43. Seventeen members of the Australian Country Party crossed the floor and voted with the Government. The result of that division as recorded on page 2815 of Hansard shows that the other 3 members of the Country Party were absent when the vote was taken. Very little criticism was offered in this House by the members of the Country Party and in fact the Country Party member for the

Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is recorded as saying in the course of his speech:

In speaking to this Bill, I point out that in 1966 Senate representation for the Northern Territory was on my platform and it has been ever since . . .

He further said:

I support Senate representation for the Northern Territory . . .

At another stage he went on to say:

This Bill seeks to grant Senate representation to the Northern Territory. I say again that I welcome it . . .

He further said:

I am glad that it has been introduced because it provides a chance for the Northern Territory to get further representation in the Parliament . . .

Yet, when the vote on the second reading of the Bill was taken in another place, we find that all 5 Country Party senators voted against it. Senator Drake-Brockman, at the conclusion of his speech, stated quite definitely:

Therefore, we in the Country Party oppose the legislation.

This is a remarkable display of political gymnastics based not on facts, principles or reason, but straight out political opportunism. I wonder whether it is more than coincidence that the Chinese acrobatic team is visiting Canberra this week. In fact the only party out of step in this House was the Liberal Party. Even the Australian Capital Territory federal electorate conference of the Liberal Party is reported in the 'Canberra Times' of 17 May 1973, under the heading 'Libs Wants Two A.C.T. Senators', as supporting the legislation. That article stated:

The Australian Capital Territory Federal Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party may ask the Party's Senate wing to initiate moves to bring in legislation giving the A.C.T. two representatives in the Senate.

The Conference may ask the Senate wing to initiate it, mind you. The article continues:

The Federal Electorate Conference will also ask the Parliamentary Liberal Party to support any legislation providing for the two Senators. At its meeting last night, the Conference carried a motion supporting the establishment of two Senate seats for the A.C.T. both to be elected at the same time. The Chairman of the Conference, Dr Peter Hughes said today the legislation should be brought down as soon as possible. The two Senators are vital to Canberra because the A.C.T. is under-represented in that it does not have self-government', he said.

In these circumstances, to say the least, the attitude of the Opposition parties to this legislation is indeed exceedingly difficult to follow. Of course we understand that they have one policy in this House and one in another place. Senator Withers said to the Leader of the

Opposition: 'Keep your nose out of our business'. So evidently we have to negotiate 2 ways.

My second reading speech when introducing the Bill is reported in Hansard at pages 2425 to 2430. In that speech, I fully explained the details and the purpose of the proposed legislation and, having in mind that the measures contained in the Bill were agreed to by this House, I do not propose to enter into a lengthy discourse on the many reasons which justify the proposed legislation.

However, for the benefit of honourable members. I will deal briefly with the proposals contained in the Bill, and the purpose of the Bill. 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 election in the several States or at the same time as the next general election for members of the House of Representatives, if such is held before or in conjunction with the next Senate election: 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 purpose of this Bill - and this is its only purpose - is to provide a measure of representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory in the

Senate and thus give some meaningful expression to section 122 of the Constitution in respect of the Senate as an integral part of this Parliament. Such representation is clearly permissible. Section 122 of the Constitution provides:

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.

During the past couple of decades there has been a significant increase in the development and population growth of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These 2 Territories, and the people who reside in them, are as much part of Australia as any other part. Had these areas not been formed into Territories they would have been within the States of New South Wales and South Australia respectively and their people would have participated in electing representatives to the Senate. We believe that while the national Parliament is comprised of 2 legislative chambers, all people and all parts of Australia should be represented in both chambers. We tried to bring this about in Opposition and we seek to bring it about in Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when Leader of the Opposition, introduced the Territory Senators Bill in 1968 and again in 1970. He explained the justification for the provision of senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory on those occasions. This justification has continued to exist and to grow with the growth and development of the 2 Territories.

I turn now for a moment to a matter which has been the subject of legal advice in relation to section 24 of the Constitution which provides, in part:

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

On the basis of the advice by the Commonwealth legal advisers, the provision of Territory senators under 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. Consequently, the proposed Territory senators 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. This will be made clear by proposed amendments of the Representation Act contained in the Representation Bill which I shall introduce later this day.

The Bill before the House provides for senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory differing in extent to representation in the Senate afforded the States. The Government proposes two senators for each Territory. We believe that it would be proper to have an even number elected each time for each Territory, thus allowing representation of the parties to be more evenly balanced than would be the case if only one senator for each Territory was provided.

Fifteen years ago the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties were represented, recommended that there should be an election for half the senators every time there was a general election for the House of Representatives. Bringing elections for Territory senators into line with House of Representatives elections accords with the recommendation of that Committee. It is proposed that the first election of the Territory senators will take place at the next Senate elections or at the next general election of members of the House of Representatives if such takes place sooner than the next Senate elections. The legislation gives effect to the Government policy to provide increased representation to the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This Parliament has an obligation to give adequate representation to the people of these Territories. The Government is endeavouring to carry out its mandate and the Opposition in this House and another place should act with a sense of responsibility and not, by its actions, deny the people of these Territories the representation in the Australian Parliament to which they are so justly entitled. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Peacock) adjourned.







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