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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3414

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Leader of the Australian Country Party) - The use of the guillotine to force this legislation through this House is possibly the most despicable display of arrogance that we have seen by the Government and is in complete contempt of the functions of the Opposition to be able to expose the fallacies of the arguments which the Government is using to substantiate its case. It appears that the Government hopes that this referendum question will be passed because of the ignorance of the people in not knowing the full facts; in other words, it is to be approval by stealth. If Parliament is to act effectively it must be used as a sounding board for points of view. When Parliament does not operate freely and effectively the most important ingredient of democracy - that is, free speech and liberty - is replaced by bullying and tyranny.

One cannot help but react strongly to the storm-trooper tactics that are being used by the Government on this and another 2 constitutional issues. Nothing is more fundamental to our parliamentary system and to our way of life than the very great questions that are now being brought before this Parliament and that will eventually be put before the Australian people. They are issues which took our founding fathers years to decide upon. They have been in operation for 72 years. Now we have the farce of the Government trying to force amendments to them through this chamber in a matter of hours. The Government is using the most repressive parliamentary procedures that it has at its disposal. This important question is being forced through this House in a debate limited to 2 hours. That means that the Opposition will have only one hour in which to put its case. Only 15 minutes have been set aside to debate the Bill in the Committee stage. Democracy is under challenge. We see a power hungry socialist Government in operation. It is trying to stifle free speech and the operations of this Parliament.

For a Prime Minister so dedicated to the principle of one vote one value as the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is, it is remarkable that he has introduced a Bill which will take us further away from that principle than we are now. The fact that the Prime Minister has done this must throw into question his motives and the genuineness of his Government's attitude to the electoral system. The explanation is that when political gain and expediency come in one door attachments to so-called basic principles go out the other. In his second reading speech the Prime Minister spoke of writing into the Constitution the principle of substantial equality of electoral divisions for all parliaments of Australia. Just what right or justification the Prime Minister has to tell the States what they must do escapes me; but I will come back to that question in a moment.

Earlier this year the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), introduced legislation providing for what he saw as equal electoral divisions, even though he proposed a 10 per cent tolerance either side of the quota. The Parliament rejected that proposal, as it should have. The clear intention of the Government is, by one means or another, to minimise the representational strength of country areas. Having failed to do it with the Commonwealth Electoral Bill the Government is now resorting to another tactic. If it felt so strongly about this issue before, why has it been ducking the issue? Why has it not taken the issue to the people? The grounds exist for a double dissolution to be sought. But no. This new attack on the voting system, even more so than the earlier one, is designed to give the Labor Party a political advantage. No doubt the devious ingenuity of the Minister for fiddling with the electoral system has resulted in his discovering yet another means that is even better than his previous one of entrenching the Labor Party in office.

This time the Prime Minister is not simply asking the Parliament to change the law to the advantage of the Labor Party. This time he wants the Parliament to ask the Australian people as a whole to approve at a referendum a change in the Australian Constitution to give an advantage to the Labor Party. There seems to be no limit to the lengths to which the Labor Party will go to try to tamper with the electoral laws in order to help itself. And this time it is even prepared to throw overboard and move right away from a principle which it has always championed and demanded should be applied to the electoral system.

May I quote a gentleman well known to honourable members as an expert in electoral matters, Mr Malcolm Mackerras of the Australian National University. He states:

I am firmly of the belief that redistribution conducted in accordance with the provisions of Mr Daly's Bill-

This Bill before us - - would result in the greatest departure from the principle of one vote - one value ever seen in the history of Australian House of Representatives elections.

For many years, the Labor Party has claimed that in the absence of one vote one value, country people in Australia have enjoyed an unfair voting strength against the people of the city. This allegation has been answered many times, and the special representational difficulties of large, sparse electorates have been pointed out.

But what is being put to us now? We are being asked to support a proposal which would result in the votes of urban workingclass people, for want of a better term, having the highest value; the votes of country people having a lesser value; and the votes of urban middle-class electors having the lowest value. The reasons for the Labor Party wanting to bring about this situation should not be very difficult to discern. Why is it that the proposal put forward by the Prime Minister would bring serious inequities and unfairness to the voting system? In some areas, particularly in the capital cities, there are large concentrations of unnaturalised migrants. The Prime Minister wants the electors in such areas to have proxy votes for the people who are ineligible to vote. In many city suburbs there are large numbers of children. Again, the Prime Minister wants the parents to have proxy votes on behalf of their children.

As we all know, population figures taken from the census returns would be very quickly out of date, whereas the electoral rolls are kept up to date all the time. The census does not always show where a person lives, but where that person happens to be on a particular night. As a result, thousands of country people, or people from other cities, or even from overseas, would be counted for inclusion in the population of electorates. Other countries do conduct redistributions on the basis of population, rather than on voters simply because they do not have electoral rolls like ours. We do not need to use an unfair, unbalanced system. We have the most advanced system of keeping up to date electoral rolls of any country. We have led the world in the development of permanent electoral officers and of the maintenance of permanent and regular electoral rolls.

If we look at some figures relating to various electorates, we will soon see what the Labor Party's real motives are. For example, take the electorate of Grayndler. We already know it is the smallest electorate, and therefore its representative in this House, who is the Minister for Services and Property, is quite unable as he so often demonstrates, to have any understanding of the problems of those members representing large electorates. But the interesting thing is that only 47 per cent of the people in Grayndler are on the electoral roll. Having seen the kind of member they have, it is not surprising that they are discouraged from wanting to put their name on the electoral roll. But we can easily see what the Government has in mind.

In the electorate of Sydney, Mr Speaker, you will be interested to learn that only 45 per cent or 46 per cent of the people are on the electoral roll. This means, of course, that if the Prime Minister's proposal had applied in 1969, and electorates had equal populations, one vote in Sydney would have been worth 1.7 votes in the electorate of Robertson for example. This is a far bigger departure from one vote one value than actually occurred in 1969. Yet this is what the Prime Minister - this great champion and protector of the sacred law of one vote one value - wants the Australian people to approve. This must be the greatest display of cynicism and political opportunism this country has ever seen. Using the same kind of example in Melbourne, one vote in the electorate of Melbourne would have been worth 1.77 votes in Diamond Valley - an even bigger departure from one vote one value than would have occurred in New South Wales in 1969.

The abandoning of principle by the Labor Party becomes even clearer if we look more closely at the situation which would have applied in 1969 if the Prime Minister's proposal had been operative then. If New South Wales electorates had had equal populations, in Grayndler it is estimated there would have been 44,125 electors on the roll instead of the 58,782 who actually were on it. In 1969, there were 43,409 voters actually enrolled in Darling, compared with 62,087 in Parramatta. This is the kind of thing that has caused such long and agonised wailing from the Labor Party, and such indignation at the so-called prostitution of our electoral laws for political advantage. Yet if the Prime Minister's proposal had applied in 1969, there would have been, for example in Sydney, 42,999 voters on the roll, and 67,878 in Robertson - a far greater prostitution of the electoral laws than the Labor Party has always claimed already exists. In Victoria in 1969 there were 45,457 voters in Mallee and 58,776 in Batman. But the Prime Minister, under his proposal, would have seen to it that there were 38,788 voters in Melbourne, for example, and 64,709 in Diamond Valley. These illustrations serve to completely destroy any claim the Labor Party has ever had to really stand for the principle of one vote one value.

Mr Mackerras,whom I quoted earlier, has done a very interesting examination of the party advantage which would be gained under the method proposed toy the Prime Minister. In Victoria, for example, a table showing the advantage or lack of it that would have been gained at the 1969 election if electorates had been drawn on a population basis shows the greatest advantage going first to 8 Labor seats, then a lesser advantage, or disadvantage, to a mixture of seats consisting of 5 Country Party, 7 Liberal and 3 Labor - and then the least advantage, and in fact an increasing disadvantage, going to 11 Liberal seats. If any honourable member has any remaining doubts about the Prime Minister's motives, surely these examples will dispel them.

Coming back to the proposal to insert a new section into the Constitution dealing with the election of members of State parliaments, I must say that I find it quite remarkable that the Prime Minister is so filled with a sense of power that he has taken it upon himself to initiate this matter. This certainly accords with his well-known views on the powers and the rights of the Commonwealth, and on the role of the States. It must seem odd, even to a layman, that the Prime Minister feels it is open to him to initiate action which he intends should lead to the States being told by him in effect how their Parliaments should be elected. I think the States would be quite entitled to tell the Prime Minister to go and mind his own business. I certainly believe that this proposal is arguable as to its correctness under the Constitution, and further I should be very surprised if the States did not challenge it in the High Court. If they did not do so, they could well live to rue the day when they allowed the Prime Minister's unbridled arrogance to go unchallenged.

What the Prime Minister is proposing, it seems to me, raises questions of the most fundamental importance for the federal system. Surely nothing is more central to the authority of the States than the methods of election of the Parliaments of the States. Yet here we have the Prime Minister presuming to tell the States that they must change the methods they now use to elect members to their Houses of Parliament - methods which are laid down in the States' own Constitutions. We should remember that the Constitution came into existence as a result of each State, or the people of each State, agreeing to unite in a Commonwealth under the Constitution. The Commonwealth was the creation of the States. They created the Commonwealth, and they surrendered to the Commonwealth many powers which formerly they had exercised. But the Prime Minister is not content with the existing situation. Not only does he want new powers written into the Constitution dealing with federal powers to control prices and incomes, but he now wants also a whole new section written into the Constitution directing the States as to how they shall manage their parliamentary elections. This strikes at the very heart of the States' authority. Of course, the Prime Minister will say that he is merely proposing that the Australian people be asked to decide whether his intentions should be given effect. But before that happens this Parliament is being asked to decide its attitude, and in my opinion this Parliament should reject outright the over-riding of States' rights which the Prime Minister's proposal represents.

I think we should look closely at section 106 of the Constitution which provides that the Constitution of each State shall continue as at the establishment of the Commonwealth 'sub ject to this Constitution' - that is, the Commonwealth Constitution - until altered in accordance with the State Constitution. It seems to me that if the Prime Minister's proposal purports to bring about changes in State Constitutions, then it runs counter to the Commonwealth Constitution. If the words subject to this Constitution' in section 106 mean the Constitution as passed into law in 1900, then the Prime Minister cannot use the amending power of section 128 to cut down the rights of the states under section 106 simply by the device of inserting a new section called 106a. It is interesting to note that Sir Owen Dixon has referred to the Constitution providing for the 'Independence from Federal control of the State in the discharge of its functions'. He also supported the proposition that the legislative powers of the Commonwealth could not 'be used directly to deprive another Government of powers or authority committed to it or restrain that Government in their exercise . . .'. (Extension of time granted.)

Sir OwenDixon also pointed out that Parliament could not deal with a State as if it were legislating for a person. He said:

It may be that section 106 provides the restraint upon legislative power over the States which differentiates it from power over the subject, and that no law of the Commonwealth can impair or affect the Constitution of a State.

It seems to me that the Prime Minister wants this Parliament to pass laws which will, if approved later by the people, affect in the most fundamental way the Constitutions of the States. I believe that this proposal runs counter to the provisions of the Constitution, and certainly to the spirit of the Constitution. I believe the States should very carefully consider the attack which the Prime Minister clearly is making on their authority and I think their study of this proposal could well lead them to the conclusion that it demands their challenging it in the High Court. If they do not challenge it, they are likely to find their authority undermined to a far greater extent than it already has been, and indeed to find the stage set for an even more rapid undermining of their authority in the future. Mr Speaker, because the Australian Country Party is implacably opposed to these two fundamental provisions of the Bill, it will vote against it. In doing so it will assist in preserving the long established and highly respected electoral system that has operated since

Federation and it will be acting to defend the sovereign rights of the States.

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