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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3428

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - I am somewhat astounded after listening to some of the statements which have been forthcoming from members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) spoke about the despicable display by the Government in wanting to go to the people of Australia to seek their opinion on an alteration to the Constitution. Supporters of the Government believe that this is the democratic right of the people of Australia. I was rather astounded to hear the Leader of the Country Party make such a statement.

Several speakers from the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Country Party, relied heavily on the Constitution and its reference to how the electorate should be determined. I think the point that has been missed is that over the years there has been a great drift of population from the country areas to the cities and particularly to the capital cities. For instance, 60 per cent of the people of Australia lived in country areas in 1916. When I refer to country areas I include country towns. Forty per cent of the then population resided in the capital cities. At present, about 55 per cent of Australian people live in the capital cities and about 85 per cent reside in the capital cities, provincial cities and towns. There has been a marked shift of population from the country to the cities. The Opposition has not taken this into account when it has considered what the Government is endeavouring to estabilsh.

One point that became evident after listening to Opposition speakers was that the great majority of Australians and particularly those who live in the larger cities, the provincial cities and towns, have been informed in no uncertain terms by Opposition members that their vote should not have the same value as the vote of people who live in the country areas. Speakers from the Opposition side have dealt mainly with how many square miles are contained within the boundaries of a few electorates. They have sidestepped the real issue that is being debated in this House, that is, whether members of this House and of State Parliaments should be chosen directly and democratically by the people. I submit that this is an admirable objective and one which I believe should have the full support of all fair minded people. It appears that those in Opposition seek to walk roughshod over the Australian people and to treat city electors as second rate citizens. They appear not to understand the provisions of this Bill.

The provisions of the Bill have been dealt with at some length. But, in short, the intention is to introduce into the electoral laws provisions which will ensure that electorates are evenly weighted. I submit that this, in turn, will lead to the conduct of truly democratic elections by applying the principle of one vote one value.

I submit that there should be no opposition to the proposal to seek the people's views on altering the Constitution in the manner sought because if the people of Australia are in accord with the views of the Opposition they will reject the proposition that is put before them. But they should be given the opportunity to express an opinion on this matter. I believe that members in this House have no right to refuse the move to gain an expression of opinion from the electorate. On the contrary, I suggest there is a moral obligation on all elected representatives in this House to permit the people's view to be obtained.

Much has been said concerning some supposed ulterior motive to gain an advantage for the Australian Labor Party. Of the three political parties whose members sit in this House, the members of the Liberal Party should be the most active in supporting this measure. I say this because I seriously believe that the Liberal Party should take stock of its position, I point out that in the community there are people who belong to a branch of the Liberal Party who appear to subscribe to the view that the Liberals should be looking where they are going. I refer to a Press report in the Brisbane 'Telegraph' of 29 January 1973 which was headed: 'Young Libs. Proposal to Scrap States'. The article states:

Surfers Paradise: A radical policy document which even questions the present States system in Australia has been drawn up by Queensland Young Liberals. . . .

Entitled 'Towards a New Freedom', the document is expected to be resisted strongly by the senior Liberal Party in Queensland.

The document drawn up by the young Liberals in Queensland states in part:

We therefore seek to encourage the development of the Parliamentary Committee system, particularly in the Upper Houses of the Parliaments of this nation where it is not necessary for the government of the day to retain control of the day-to-day business of the House.

One real step forward in the creation of such a system would be the democratisation of the election procedures of these Houses, as the undemocratic nature of their composition currently would prevent their holding the respect of the electorate when they inhibited the activities of government.

It states further:

Liberals therefore seek to include in the constitution of all governments the principle of a continuing independent electoral commission determining boundaries on a basis of community of interest whose numbers of voters are equal subject to an allowable variation of not more than 10 per cent in order that the future development of growth areas would not make the distribution obsolescent within a very short period.

There are young people in the Liberal Party who can see what is occurring and they show some concern about it.

If we look no further than the voting results at the 1969 and the 1972 Federal elections, we see that the voting trends, so far as the 3 political parties which have members in this House are concerned, show some startling results in some respects. I shall deal with New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland to illustrate the manner in which the Liberal vote fell and the Country Party vote increased. Between 1969 and 1972, while the Australian Labor Party vote went up considerably in New South Wales, the Liberal Party vote declined by 37,673 votes and the Country Party vote rose by 14,593. In Victoria, the Liberal vote dropped by 20,201 and the Country Party vote increased by 20,200. In Queensland there was a drop of 2,407 in the Liberal

Party vote and an increase of 35,000 in the Country Party vote.

At the 1972 Federal elections the Australian Labor Party gained 49.6 per cent of the total primary vote and won 67 seats. The Liberal Party received 32.1 per cent of that total vote and had 38 members elected. The Country Party received 9.4 per cent of that vote and that Party won 20 seats. There emerge from the foregoing figures 2 important factors. The first is that as a result of the Country Party manipulation, this minority group has 16 per cent of the total membership of this House, although its vote was only 9.4 per cent of the total vote recorded by the electors of Australia. When we hear the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) speak about what might occur in the future 'by way of gerrymandering of electorates if the people of Australia decide that they want the Constitution altered, it makes us realise why the Country Party has no desire to see any change made. As I indicated, it recorded 9.4 per cent of the vote but has 16 per cent of the membership of this House.

The second factor is one which should be causing grave concern for every person in the community who believes in the principle of one vote one value. It appears that as a result of the manipulation of the Country Party the Liberals have been robbed of five or six seats in this House. If they are happy to accept this kind of situation - after listening to some of the speakers today it appears that they are - the people of Australia should be asking why this type of gerrymander should be permitted and why the Liberal Party is so anxious to allow a situation like this to continue.

Mr Reynolds - It might have no choice.

Mr DOYLE - The tail apparently is wagging the dog. I am of the opinion that the Liberals should hang their heads in shame for permitting a minority group to outmanoeuvre them. I anticipate that they will rue the day that they buckled under Country Party persuasion and allowed their position to be weakened. When we look at the question of responsible government in the Queensland Parliament, the situation is even worse. For people who have any desire to see democracy working as it should, the situation in Queensland is particularly frightening. In Queensland the most blatant, dishonest and immoral gerrymander possible has been engineered by the minority party, the Country Party. The minority party is in command of the Queensland Government because of dishonest rigging of electoral boundaries. The sad part about the whole rotten business in Queensland is that the Liberal Party has caved in under the minority domination of the arch boundary rigger, and the result is staggering.

I would explain that prior to the 1972 State election there were 78 electorates in Queensland. The Country Party and those who are in control of that Party in Queensland, having the cunning of all confidence men, sensed the support that the Australian Labor Party was gaining and decided to increase the number of electorates from 78 to 82. Great shadow sparring by the State Liberals followed, but the minority Party soon flattened its weaker unholy partners, and the Liberals again bowed to Country Party pressure. While this argument concerning the rigging of boundaries and the gerrymander that was to take place in Queensland was going on the 'Australian' newspaper of 30 March 1971 ran an article under the heading 'Politics versus principles*. I shall quote from a section of that article under the subheading 'Worst ever'. It reads:

The Liberal Party State president, Mr E. Robinson-

He now sits in this House- says that if the Country Party's proposal is adopted it will mean 'electoral injustice at Country Party insistence,' while Mr Houston says it is 'the worst gerrymander the world has ever seen.'

So it came to pass that at the 1972 State election in Queensland the people went to the polls to elect-

Mr Giles - Mr Deputy Speaker,I wonder whether the honourable member would do us the courtesy of describing the Labor Party's suggested boundary-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins - Order! The honourable member for Angas wil resume his seat.

Mr King - It is a good point.

Mr DOYLE - Of course it is a good point if it wastes time, but I will not waste time answering that sort of interjection. When the people went to the polls they went to elect 82 State Government representatives. I can easily understand why honourable members opposite, particularly those who belong to the Country Party, do not want to hear what goes on in Queensland. The result of this election illustrates the detrimental effect to democratic elections that the political racketeers achieved in Queensland. The Australian Labor Party received 430,476 votes, which was 48 per cent of the total votes cast, and had 33 members elected. The Liberal Party received 201,608 votes, or 22 per cent of the total vote, and had 21 members elected. In democratic Queensland, where the Country Party is in control of the coalition, the Country Party gained 181,288 votes - less than 20 per cent of the total vote - and won 26 seats. I point out that 2 independent candidates also were elected.

Examining the results, it can be seen that Liberal Party candidates gained 20,320 votes more than their co-runners for 5 fewer seats. That is how strong the Liberal Party is in Queensland. The Liberals clearly failed the people who supported them and they failed democracy. Further, the combined votes of the Country Party and Liberal Party candidates totalled 382,896 or 47,580 fewer than the total ALP vote, but won 14 seats more than the Australian Labor Party. In short, the present coalition Parties combined gained 42.2 per cent of the total vote for 47 seats, and the ALP gained 48 per cent of the total vote and won 33 seats. If anywhere in this country there is need for democratic electoral reform, surely it must be in Queensland. I submit with all honesty that reform should be made not just to benefit any political Party but to ensure that elections are properly conducted.

I have illustrated how the Country Kid, the oil baron of Kingaroy, and his hatchet men put it all over the city slickers, the smart businessmen of the Liberal Party, whom they took for a ride about 1 8 months or 2 years ago. I must point out that in a spirit of true charity a little heart balm was handed to the Liberals. This was done in the form of a gerrymander in the Brisbane metropolitan area which favoured the Liberals. The result of this was the election of 17 Liberals who collectively gained 36.7 per cent of the city vote and the election of 15 ALP candidates who collectively gained 51 per cent of the vote. The rotten position in Queensland as a result of political wheeling and dealing is that, at the 1972 State election, on average it took 13,045 votes to elect one ALP candidate, 9,600 votes to elect one Liberal and 6,972 votes to elect one Country Party member.

The magnitude of the political racketeering which has been imposed upon the people of Queensland is shown when one realises that Brisbane's Lord Mayor at the last Brisbane City Council election received 30,000 votes more than the Country Party could muster in the whole of the State at the previous State election. The excuse usually put forward by those who support dishonest electoral boundary rigging is that the Country Party held electorates are large in area and sparsely populated. This false argument falls fiat in Queensland, because of the 8 large country electorates 5 are held by the Australian Labor Party. These are the electorates of Mount Isa, Cook, Tablelands, Warrego and Belyando. It is clear that the whole dishonest electoral mess in Queensland is easily exposed, and the shallow arguments of the architects of the crooked system which exists are easily destroyed.

It has been pointed out here today by previous speakers that similar gerrymanders exist in other States, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. I have pointed out that the Country Party in this House has overrepresentation, if one considers the vote it receives throughout the nation. I believe this is a matter that should cause concern to the people of Australia, and it should particularly concern those honourable members opposite who belong to the Liberal Party, because they should come to realise that the tentacles of electoral corruption are spreading and it emerges that the old buddy of the Liberal Party, that is the Country Party, is well on the way to white-anting the Liberal majority of the Opposition.

I want to refer to a Press report which appeared in yesterday's 'Canberra Times' under the heading: 'Kane Urges Joint DLP-CP Ticket Under Anthony'. It reads in part as follows:

The Federal secretary of the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Kane, has called for a new national force in Australian politics led by the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony.

If Doug Anthony can campaign for the Senate in the 4 smaller States at the bead of a joint DLP-CP ticket, it will lay the foundation for a strong political force in the smaller States prepared fo defend their interests against Canberra,' he said.

That indicates that the DLP and the Country Party do not place much reliance on the strength of the Liberal Party in campaigning.

I believe that the people of this nation are fed to the teeth of the electoral gerrymanders which have been permitted not only in the Federal sphere but also in the States, and particularly in Queensland. Minority control is undemocratic. I am confident that it will not be accepted or tolerated by the people of Australia. All the arguments that might be put forward against the Bill that is now before the

House must fall flat because we of the Australian Labor Party Government merely seek to give the people of Australia the right to make a determination.

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