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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1787


Senator JESSOP (South Australia) - The Opposition has not changed its attitude in relation to this Bill. We do not lend our support to the proposition before the Senate. The second reading speech made by Senator Cavanagh certainly has not done anything to persuade us to change our minds. In fact, his speech is substantially the same as the original second reading speech made by Senator Willesee when he introduced a similiar Bill into the Senate. Senator Cavanagh did vary his speech slightly from that of Senator Willesee by endeavouring to make political capital of the fact that the Australian Country Party member for the Northern Territory, Mr Calder, supported the Bill in the House of Representatives and that the Country Party senators chose to oppose the measure in this place. I appreciate Mr Calder 's stand on the matter and applaud the fact that he demonstrated how we on this side of the chamber have the right to vote according to our own wishes. We are not subject to the will of the Party, as is the unhappy lot of Australian Labor Party senators. Senators, of course, have the duty and responsibility to protect the interests of the States.


Senator Devitt - You are reading your speech. You are in breach of the Standing Orders.


Senator JESSOP - I do not really have to, although I have seen honourable senators on the other side of the chamber do it very frequently. Anyhow, I suggest that honourable senators on this side of the chamber have a different responsibility from that of honourable senators opposite. The Country Party senators, together with all other honourable senators on this side of the chamber, recognised that this Bill jeopardised the position of the States of this country and quite properly exercised their vote accordingly in the interests of the States. Senator Cavanagh also referred to a statement purported to have been made by the Chairman of the Liberal Party federal electorate conference which was held in the Australian Capital Territory.


Senator McLaren - It was in the newspaper.


Senator JESSOP -I know that. He quoted from the newspaper indicating that that conference asked us to support that measure. Here again is an example of how the Liberal Party is quite different from the Labor Party which is subservient to people in the Party who are nonelected people in the country and who have the advantage, so they think, of telling their members of Parliament exactly what they have to do. What I did- I think that it was quite a proper thing to do- was to talk to senior members of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory and explain the attitude of the Opposition to this Bill. We maintain that the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have adequate representation. This is particularly so in the Northern Territory. I have my doubts really about the representation in the Australian Capital Territory because of the present incumbent who has done little to give the people of Canberra any confidence.

However, we have agreed in the Senate to allow for another member of the House of Representatives when redistribution next occurs. Hopefully, at that time the people of the Australian Capital Territory will have a member of the Liberal Party representing them. I would think that there is a strong possibility at the next election that the people of Canberra will have 2 members of the Liberal Party representing them, judging from what I have heard about the present member for the Australian Capital Territory who sits in another place. I reminded people from the Liberal Party who came to speak to me that the Australian Capital Territory has not only an elected member who is their representative in the Parliament but also another Minister whose sole responsibility is to look after the Australian

Capital Territory. We also have in the Parliament a committee that is comprised of representatives from all parties to watch the interests of Canberra.


Senator Webster - Probably because the Ministers are incapable of doing the job.


Senator JESSOP -That probably is the point. But not only has the Australian Capital Territory a committee to look after its interests but, also, the Parliament has seen fit to appoint a Joint Committee for the Northern Territory. I know that honourable senators on both sides of the Senate are represented on that Committee. In addition to the appointment of that Committee we have a Minister for the Northern Territory as well. I am sure that any State of the Commonwealth which had a Minister responsible solely for it would have a very strong voice, or should have, in the Cabinet room. I want to mention also that in the Northern Territory a Legislative Council is operating which gives added stength to the representations that are made from that area. I want to suggest- I support the Liberal Party organisations in this matter- that it is about time we had a look at the question of local government for the Australian Capital Territory. I think that this is an area of need to which we should be paying some attention. I hope that the present Minister will look at that question and do what he can to introduce local government into the Australian Capital Territory as soon as posible.


Senator Devitt - Don't you know that is already being looked at?


Senator JESSOP - I was aware of it. That is why I wanted to give my support for it. The Minister and honourable senators on the Government side ought to be grateful to me for supporting the action that has been taken. I can do no more than reiterate what I said in my previous speech on this matter on 7 June 1973. On that occasion I said:

We believe that this proposal is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution by which the sovereign States agreed to the establishment of the Federal Parliament. The prime reason for this agreement was that the Senate should be created as a States' assembly with the clear and prime responsibility of protecting the interests of the States, particularly the less populous ones. In order that the smaller States were given full protection, the basic principle of Federation was equality of Senate representation of the original States and that all proposed legislation must have the majority assent of the Senate before being enacted. The people responsible for drafting the Constitution acted very wisely in this respect as this principle gave a reasonable guarantee to the 3 smaller States that they would have an equal voice in the Senate and provided a balance to the House of Representatives where they were decidedly outnumbered by New South Wales and Victoria. We believe that if this Bill were approved, this principle would be destroyed by giving the balance of power to Territorial representatives and the Senate would no longer be a true States' House.

The passing of this Bill would also open the door- and I believe quite properly- to a request from other Territories of Australia to seek Senate representation, and this would create a precedent for the admission of 2 senators from the Australian Antarctic, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Island, Heard Island, McDonald Island and Norfolk Island. A further 12 senators could conceivably be added to the number of senators in this place. I think that this Bill is a further attempt by the present Government to weaken the States.

And undoubtedly, in the long term, it would be the thin edge of the wedge towards the abolition of the Senate which, I understand, is the driving ambition of some honourable senators opposite.

I understand that the Representation Bill is consequential upon the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill. Therefore, the Opposition rejects both of these Bills.







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