29th Parliament · 1st Session
The Joint Sitting met at 10.30 a.m.
The Clerk of the Senate (Mr J. R. Odgers) read the proclamation.
– Members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives, pursuant to the rules adopted by both Houses, the Joint Sitting will now proceed to the appointment of a Chairman. Is there a proposal?
– I propose to the Joint Sitting for its Chairman the honourable member for Sydney, Mr Cope.
– Is the proposal seconded?
– I second the proposal.
– The Opposition does not propose to nominate any person for the position of Chairman for reasons which I will briefly state when the Chairman takes his place.
- Mr Cope, do you accept nomination?
-Yes, Mr Clerk.
– I am bound to ask whether there are any further nominations. There being no further proposal, I declare Mr Cope to have been appointed as Chairman.
Members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives, I wish to express my grateful thanks for the high honour that you have been pleased to confer upon me.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce-Leader of the Opposition)- Mr Chairman the Opposition did not, as you heard me say earlier, put forward a candidate for Chairman to oppose you. We did this recognising that there is a need to proceed with the business of this Joint Sitting as rapidly as possible.
Were it not so, a long period would be taken with the counting of a ballot. I think it would be desirable, and the Opposition fully supports that view unanimously, that we should get on with the business, and I welcome you to the chair.
– I am sure, Mr Snedden, that if everybody feels as relaxed as I am we will get on famously.
The Chairman read prayers.
– Members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives, before proceeding to the business of the Joint Sitting, I feel reference should be made to the historic nature of this Joint Sitting. This is the first Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives convened by His Excellency the Governor-General pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution for the purpose of resolving disagreements between the 2 Houses. It is, accordingly, an occasion of great constitutional significance in the history of this Parliament.
The Joint Sitting will now proceed to deliberate and vote upon each of the 6 proposed laws named in the Proclamation by His Excellency the Governor-General, dated 30 July 1974, which has been read by the Clerk. The proposed laws are:
Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973
Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973
Representation Act 1973
Health Insurance Commission Act 1973
Health Insurance Act 1973, and
Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act 1973.
– I now call on the first proposed law, namely, the Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973, and pursuant to rule 1 1, 1 propose the question:
That the proposed law be affirmed.
The question is now open to debate. Pursuant to rule 8, no member may speak for more than 20 minutes and, pursuant to rule 18, each speaker speaking on the question ‘That the proposed law be affirmed’ shall speak from one of the lecterns provided near the table. I call the honourable the Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam.
- Mr Chairman, I support the motion. This is an historic and unprecedented, a sobering occasion. We are witnessing for the first time a Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate of Australia. It is the first time that the members of both Houses have sat together as a single legislative body. It is the first time that the proceedings of Parliament, of either House, have been televised to the nation. I welcome the opportunity thus provided for the Australian people to see the workings of their Parliament at close hand, to consider the Bills now before us and to reflect on the reasons why this extraordinary Joint Sitting of Parliament has come about. For, momentous as the sitting is, the reasons for it are not a matter for pride. It has come about because of the repeated refusal of the Senate to pass legislation which has been approved by the House of Representatives- the people’s House, the House where alone governments are made and unmade. It has come about because despite two successive election victories by the Australian Labor Party, despite the clear endorsement by the Australian people at the elections only 1 1 weeks ago of the Party’s policies and of the specific measures now before us, the Senate and the Opposition are still resolved to obstruct the Government’s program and to frustrate the will of the people. Not the least of the effects of this obstruction has been to delay the business of government while great and pressing national issues demand attention. Let it be understood that this Joint Sitting is a last resort, a means provided by the Constitution to enable the popular will- the democratic process- ultimately to prevail over the tactics of blind obstruction. The Constitution provides that if the Senate in certain circumstances twice rejects Bills passed by the House of Representatives, the GovernorGeneral may dissolve the Parliament and new elections may be held. That is what happened last April and May. The Constitution further provides that if, after a double dissolution and fresh elections, the Senate still obstructs such a Bill a joint sitting of both Houses may be held to consider it. That is what is happening now. Even the Sitting itself, an event clearly envisaged and provided for by the Constitution, has been subject of a desperate last minute, last ditch legal challenge by our opponents. Now, at last- at long lastafter sustained stonewalling and filibustering the Parliament can proceed to enact these essential parts of the Government’s legislative program.
Before dealing with them, however, I want to speak as gravely as I can of the implications of this long process of obstruction. The repeated rejection of this Bill is part of a pattern of obstruction adopted by the Opposition since the Australian Labor Government came to power. It has been rightly described by Sir Robert Menzies as a falsification of popular democracy. Writing in 1968, Sir Robert said:
It would be a falsification of democracy if on any matter of Government policy approved by the House of Representatives, possibly by a large majority, the Senate representing the States and not the people could reverse the decision.
Mr Chairman, we have seen in the history of this Bill one example of such a falsification. It is fitting that the first Bill to come before this first Joint Sitting of the Australian Parliament should be designed to strengthen the equality of popular democracy in Australia. The essential purpose of this Bill is a simple one. It is to enshrine the principle of one vote, one value. It will establish equality of representation as the paramount objective when electoral boundaries are drawn. To resist that simple, clear and basic principle of democracy we have had this long campaign of obstruction.
Specifically, the Bill provides that in any electorate the number of voters shall be not more than 10 per cent above or below the average number of voters in all the electorates of the State concerned. At present, a variation of 20 per cent is permitted. In other words, we shall be reducing the permitted variation from one-fifth to one-tenth. We shall be ensuring that the number of voters in each electorate is much closer than it is now to the ideal of equality. We shall thus be removing from the electoral law much of the scope now afforded for malapportionment and gerrymandering of electorates.
I invite honourable members and honourable senators to consider how flagrantly the number of voters varies between the different electorates at present. Remember that the greater the variation the more the value of a man’s or woman’s vote is diminished or inflated. In New South Wales twenty of the 45 electorates are more than 10 per cent above or below the average quota. Four of them are more than 20 per cent above the quota and 2 of them are more than 20 per cent below it. In Victoria there is a variation greater than 10 per cent in 14 of the 34 electorates and a variation greater than 20 per cent in 7 of them. In Queensland there are 9 of the 18 electorates that depart by more than 10 per cent from the quota and 3 that depart by more than 20 per cent. In South Australia 4 of the 12 electorates depart by more than 10 per cent from the quota and 2 by more than 20 per cent. In each of these States the quota for an electorate is about 64,000 voters. Yet in New South Wales the enrolment between the largest and smallest electorates varies by 35,000 voters. In Victoria it varies by 38,000 voters. In Queensland it varies by 43,000 voters and in South Australia it varies by 31,000 voters. Throughout Australia and even within particular States some people’s votes are worth 50 per cent more than others- in fact, up to 90 per cent more than others. That is unjust. It is a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process.
What we are now proposing- this reduction in the permissible variation between electorateswas first proposed 15 years ago by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review established by Sir Robert Menzies in 1956. It was a Committee that included members of all parties in the Parliament. The Liberal Party members were Sir Neil O ‘Sullivan; Sir Alexander Downer, son of one of the founding fathers of Australia’s Constitution, a Minister, later High Commissioner to Britain; Mr Justice Joske; and Senator Wright- now one of the opponents of this legislation. The Country Party was represented by the Honourable David Drummond and Mr Len Hamilton. That Committee- that all party Committee on Constitutional Reviewunanimously recommended exactly the measure that we are now putting forward, briefly at the end of 1958, and with full reasons at the end of 1 959. I remind honourable members and senators of the Committee ‘s words:
The Committee feels constrained to say, however, that the one-fifth margin on either side of the quota Tor a State which the Act allows may disturb quite seriously a principle which the Committee believes to be beyond question in the election of members of the national Parliament of a federation, namely, that the votes of the electors should, as far as possible, be accorded equal value. The full application of the margin each way to two divisions in a State could result in the number of electors in one division totalling 50 per cent more than the number of electors in the other division. Such a possible disparity in the value of votes is inconsistent with the full realisation of democracy.
The Committee recommended that the Constitution be amended to provide that: . . . upon the division of a State into electoral divisions, the number of electors in a division in a State should not exceed by more than one-tenth, or fall short of by more than onetenth, a quota ascertained by dividing the total number of electors in the State by the number of members to be chosen in that State.
On repeated occasions since 1959 the Labor Party, now twice confirmed as the Government, has sought to amend the Electoral Act to establish in legislation the principle which the Committee believed should be enshrined in the Constitution itself. This is the objective of the legislation now before this Parliament- to implement by law a proposal endorsed by the distinguished Committee of both Houses and all parties as a constitutional amendment 15 years ago. Our proposals are the culmination of a long campaign of debate and action inside and outside the Parliament. When we moved the proposals as amendments to Electoral Bills in 1961, 1965 and 1968 Liberal and Country Party members defeated them. When Senator McKenna in 1964 and Senator Murphy in 1968 and the honourable member for Grayndler, the father of the Parliament, Mr Daly in 1971 introduced the proposals in private members’ Bills, the Liberal and Country Party Ministers would not allow a vote to be taken upon them.
Finally, in May this year, the Government submitted a referendum to the Australian people seeking to have the principle of electoral equality entrenched in the Constitution. We sought then to introduce equality on the basis of electorates of equal population. The Constitution always has provided that the number of electorates in the several States shall be in proportion to their populations. The present Bill, of necessity, relies on a different test of equality- the number of voters in each electorate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has supported that principle. He did so when he opposed our referendum. On 5 May the right honourable gentleman, in a considered Press statement objecting to the principle of equal population electorates, stated:
If the so-called democratic elections referendum was passed it would allow electorates to be based not on the number of voters but on the number of people. This represents a fundamental departure from the principle of one vote one value-the only right and proper principle on which to base electoral redistributions. Australia’s electoral system must be based on the underlying principle that the voter has an equal say compared to any of his fellow voters.
He may now have the grace to acknowledge that our legislation will promote precisely that principle.
I shall deal briefly with 2 other aspects of our legislation. The variation of 20 per cent from the quota, which we intend to reduce, has been provided in the Commonwealth Electoral Act since Federation. In 1965, however, the then Government amended the Act to oblige the electoral Commissioners to depart from the quota of electors to a much greater extent than before. What had been a reasonable discretion allowed to the Commissioners became a direction to them to do what is neither reasonable nor democratic. They were obliged to consider a whole host of factors which gave undue weighting to remote or sparsely populated electorates. Yet these electorates are all much less extensive than they were before the expansion of the Parliament in 1 949 and telecommunications and transport connections with them and within them have immeasurably improved. In our legislation we propose to remove many of these factors from the list of considerations to which the Commissioners must pay regard. We believe, in the words of the great Chief Justice Warren of the Supreme Court of the United States of America in 1964-
The fact that an individual lives here or there is not a legitimate reason for over-weighting or diluting the efficacy of his vote. The complexions of societies and civilisations change, often with amazing rapidity. Representation schemes once fair and equitable become archaic and outdated. But the basic principle of representative government remains and must remain unchanged. The weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives. A citizen- a qualified voter- is no more or no less so because he lives in the city or on the farm.
The proposal in the Bill is, we believe, a fair and just proposition. It leaves the Commissioners with a very reasonable degree of discretion. We also propose to allow for more frequent redistributions. The Act will be amended to provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever, in one-fourth of the electorates in a State, the number of voters differs from the quota by onetenth or more.
We believe the purpose of this Bill to be a clear and honourable one. Its basic principles have been recognised by the Supreme Court of the United States for 10 years and by an all-party committee of our Parliament for 15 years. It affirms the Government’s belief that every person’s vote is of equal value no matter where that person lives. It affirms our belief that all men and women should be equal in making the law as they are before the law. It gives to those who sit in this Parliament at this historic Joint Sitting of this Parliament the opportunity to stand up and be counted, to say whether they believe in these democratic principles and, above all, in the supreme principle of one vote one value. For its content and its implications, for its real value and its symbolic importance, for its contribution to the cause of democracy in a world where democracy seems daily more frail, I commend this Bill to honourable senators and members.
– This is indeed an historic occasion. So many people have described it as such that one is convinced it must be. In fact, it has not occurred for 72 years. Although there are many people in the community who are wishing that the necessary pre-condition- that is a double dissolution- would occur much more quickly and that it might occur very shortly, I do not contribute to any speculation about it.
But this hope is heard expressed wherever one goes throughout the country. Many people are likely to see this Joint Sitting as an anticlimax. This morning I was reminded by my colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), of a story about the parliament of Russia. The parliament of Russia was discussing the colour that the Russian clergy should wear while Lenin was taking over the country. That in many ways is the point here: The Joint Sitting is anticlimactic in a sense simply because one of the great issues of today is the issue of inflation, about which the Government has done nothing and has offered no leadership. The Government has not given an analysis of the causes of inflation. Nowhere can anybody find a piece of paper or several pieces of paper and say: ‘This is the Government’s analysis of the problem of inflation and these are the policies by which it will be dealt’. At the present time we have strikes in two major States -
– Order! I think the right honourable gentleman is aware that I have allowed a passing reference to several matters that are not contained in the Bill. I ask him to direct his remarks to the Bill.
-Mr Chairman, these issues are of major importance to the entire community and no leadership has been given by this Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in opening this historical sitting said that it had been caused by the repeated refusal of the Senate to pass some Bills. That is certainly true. But the construction put upon it by the Prime Minister was that the Senate and the Opposition were resolved to obstruct the passage of legislation. We are not resolved to obstruct legislation. We are resolved not to let legislation go through the House of Representatives and the Senate which we believe is bad in principle and which would detract from the constitutional principles of parliamentary democracy. When such legislation is put before either House of the Parliament we will do all we can to prevent its passing and if that is what ‘obstruct’ means then the word has found a new meaning in the dictionary. I will shortly describe the legislation now before the House in detail. It must be remembered that the legislation was introduced by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). At least that is his official title; but he is generally known as the Minister for the conservation of a Labor government in office even with a minority of the votes.
This legislation seems simple, and it is; but it has an explosive political content. The proposal is that there should be some changes- they sound simple- first cut down the margin from 20 per cent above or below the quota to only 10 per cent. The proposal was put in propaganda terms to be very democratic because the numbers in electorates would be closer. But that is a facile view and cannot stand up to examination. The second purpose is to revise the Commissioners’ instructions as to what they should take into account when recommending a redistribution. The third purpose is to change the frequency with which there would need to be electoral redistributions. Currently when there is a redistribution, the Distribution Commissioners appointed for the purpose look to the legislation to find their instructions as to how they should conduct that redistribution. They now find that when redistributing seats, no seat can be more or less than 20 per cent from the quota. I will not go into the way in which the quota is determined, but let us assume that it is 50,000. There can then be a clear margin above or below that figure. The Distribution Commissioners are able to go to the full length of those margins now. The proposed change in the law will mean that they will not be able to go to 20 per cent above or below but only to 10 per cent above or below. That is the first provision, and that is political dynamite. It is the basis upon which a gerrymander can be built by the Labor Party. That is why we oppose it.
The other criteria in the present Act relating to instructions to the electoral Commissioners are that they should take into account community of interest, means of communication and travel, the trend up or down of population figures, physical features and the existing boundaries. There are 3 additional matters which the Distribution Commissioners may take into account now under the present Act. One is remoteness or distance within the area; the second is the density or sparsity of population; and the third is the area of the division. Each of those 3 considerations are to be taken out of the Act by the proposal now before us. In other words, the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Darling and Leichhardt are to be treated exactly the same as an inner metropolitan electorate of Sydney or Melbourne. This is an absurd proposition. Under the proposal now before us the Distribution Commissioners will not be allowed to consider density in inner Sydney or sparsity in outback Kalgoorlie. These considerations are to be removed if this Bill becomes law. The Bill proposes then firstly that the quota shall be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent and secondly that the critical considerations of remoteness, density and area shall be removed from the present Act. These 3 considerations are essential to give some reality to the representation of electors in each electorate. If this vast continent is to have people populating it in as broad a way as possible the 3 provisions that I have just outlined are necessary. Australia is one continent and a single country, and the fact that people come from Western Australia, Queensland or Tasmania does not make any difference to their essential character as Australians. There is no immediately observable difference between Tasmanians and Queenslanders and we want to maintain that in the future.
The history of the 20 per cent margin now in the Act goes back to 1902. 1 know that things are not right simply because they have been there for a long time. But to allege that a great new truth has suddenly been found in 1974 and that it has eluded the search of all people of all political persuasions in the Parliament for 72 years is nonsense. Under the present system of redistribution, seats gained in Commonwealth parliamentary elections have reflected with sufficient accuracy the number of votes cast for a party or groups of parties.
One need only remember that the Labor Party polled less than 50 per cent of the votes in 1972 and again in 1974 but gained more than 50 per cent of the seats. That is a test of fairness about which we may fairly bridle.
The fundamental test must be one vote one value. We support the principle of one vote one value but the Labor Party does not. The Labor Party put forward a constitutional proposal which would have torpedoed any consideration of the principle of one vote one value. The Labor Party wanted to give votes to people under the voting age and to people who were not citizens by drawing up electorates on the basis of population. If the Labor Party had been allowed to do this it would have created for itself immense political advantage for the Labor Party but would have abandoned the principle of one vote one value. Fortunately the people of Australia were not hoodwinked, even by the name of the referendum proposal which described it as a democratic amendment to the Constitution.
We agree with the principle of one vote one value but what we feel is important is to make it clear that one vote one value means that no sectional or geographical group should ever exert more influence than its numbers warrant. It is totally impossible to have every electorate with exactly the same number of electors at all times. We would find that the day after the Electoral Office opened after a redistribution had taken place people who had died or people who had moved out of the electorate would have to be taken off the electoral rolls. This would mean that the electorates would be out of balance again. All one can do is to approach the problem by maintaining electorate equality as near as practicable. That is the history of electoral balance in Australia.
Let me take New South Wales as an example. I know that the Labor Party will allege that the Opposition is opposing this Bill because of country interests, whether they be the interests of the Country Party or of country members of the Liberal Party. But the views of the Country Party and the Liberal Party coincide totally. We are not prepared to have the needs of country electors ignored. But equally we will adhere to the principle of one vote one value. New South Wales represents a typical example of the rest of
Australia. The fact is that when looking at New South Wales one has to exclude the electoral division of Darling, as Darling, centred on Broken Hill, is one of the smallest electorates in Australia. Certainly it is a very small electorate in New South Wales. Because of its peculiarity in respect of community of interest, remoteness, distance to travel, etc., the Division of Darling has been accepted by all parties since Federation as one which will be small by comparison with other electorates. The seat happens to be held by the Labor Party.
Excluding that example, the cold mathematical facts are that a vote given a value of one in metropolitan Sydney is worth less than a vote in outback or rural New South Wales where the value is 1.05. Point zero five is the extra loading for people facing the problems of remoteness, distance, difficulty of transport and communication and the difficulty of a member representing his electors and the electors having access to him. That is not too high a price to pay. It would be too high a price to pay only if it distorted representation, but it certainly does not do this, because the Labor Party holds a preponderance of the seats in New South Wales. In fact the Labor Party holds more seats in this House proportionally than the votes it polled. The Labor Party polled less than 50 per cent of the votes yet it has more than 50 per cent of the seats. So it is nonsense to pretend that one can equalise electorates so as to give a value of better than one to 1.05.
It is necessary to consider that in Australia 7 seats are each over 120,000 square miles in area. Some city seats are a mere Vh square miles. Can one say to electoral Distribution Commissioners: ‘You must apply exactly the same criteria to 3^ square miles as to 120,000 square miles’? That is absurd. The argument needs only to be stated to be seen to be absurd. The electoral Division of Kalgoorlie is most of Western Australia. It is 7 times the size of England and Wales. It is 870,000 square miles. Under this legislation Distribution Commissioners will be told: ‘If you want to give that seat more than 10 per cent below the quota you are acting unlawfully.’ Is Kalgoorlie to become not 870,000 square miles but 1,000,000 square miles? Will such a redistribution serve the interests of the people of Australia? The seats of Leichhardt, Kennedy and Maranoa occupy most of Queensland. Grey and Wakefield occupy most of South Australia. All these seats are bigger than most countries of the world. There are 23 country seats in Australia over 10,000 square miles in area.
Is the Labor Party serious about its proposal? Let us examine it for its authenticity. Let us examine it to see whether when the Labor Party states its purpose one can believe it. In Western Australia, where there was provision for a margin of only 10 per cent above or below the quota, a State Labor Government actually increased the variation to 20 per cent. That was in 1972 or 1 973 that the government- a Labor Government -actually increased it to 20 per cent. The State Labor Government knew that it could not get by on a mere 10 per cent margin. It increased the quota to 20 per cent. Seats with such margins in Federal divisions have existed for 72 years. That system has survived and it has never in any way dinted democracy. In fact, it has contributed to democracy. In the recent distribution of Federal electorates in Western Australia, when the State Labor Party wanted to reduce the margin to 10 per cent, what did the Distribution Commissioners do? They gave two seats a margin of over 10 per cent- one of them was 13.29 per cent above- because the Commissioners knew that such adjustments had to be made and were appropriate. When the Labor Government went to the people with its referendum it abandoned the concepts of this Bill. It put in the referendum proposal an entirely different concept- to redistribute according to population and not according to voters and not according to the principle of one vote one value.
The Constitutional Review Committee has been referred to. It seems to be the basis of the Government’s whole argument- that is its publicly presented argument. But it is not the basis of the Government’s argument in fact. The basis of its argument in fact is that the Government believes that there can be manipulation in its favour to preserve it in office with under 50 per cent of the votes. The fact is that the Constitutional Review Committee ignored all professional advice. The Commonwealth electoral officer, the State surveyors-general and the State electoral officers all said that a capacity of 20 per cent was needed. The Government ignored that advice. It is still ignoring advice. Remember the Trade Practices Bill, which, according to the Government had to go through the Parliament urgently? The Government itself later brought the Bill back with over 100 amendments. So it is still ignoring advice.
In 1955 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made a statement which is reported in Hansard. He talked about Senator Wright changing his mind. Listen to this change of mind. The Prime Minister said:
At least the numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent . . .
In 1968 there was a redistribution of your electorate of Sydney, Mr Chairman, and of the electorate of the Minister for Services and Property or Minister for electoral conservation, however one sees it- the electorate of Grayndler. Each of those seats was above quota by 13 per cent and 1 4 per cent respectively. By 1 974 they were down to minus 1 7 per cent and minus 1 4 per cent. They went right through the barrier. I do not intend my remarks as a criticism of the Distribution Commissioners, but they should have taken the seats of Sydney and Grayndler right out to the limit of 20 per cent to allow for their downward movement. My own electorate was 2 per cent below the quota and it is now 21 per cent above it. The electorate of Mitchell was about level and it is now plus 29 per cent. If we are looking for true democracy why have we allowed this to happen? The answer is that the Distribution Commissioners did not take full scope of the capacity allowed them, which is 20 per cent and not 10 per cent.
Let me make this clear: The Labor Party thinks that it can take advantage of population moves. We are determined, as long as we can fight, not to let the Government do that by this means. Let me also make this clean It is not an instruction to the Distribution Commissioners to make the difference 20 per cent; it is a capacity or a power that the Distribution Commissioners have to make the difference up to 20 per cent if they can see that there will be great movements in population. In fact when they redistributed in 1968 they allowed a bigger margin than 10 per cent in 27 seats out of 123. Only 90 seats out of 123 were below 10 per cent. That shows that there was not some giant forcing them to go to 20 per cent instead of 10 per cent. The norm is below 10 per cent Only 6 seats were between 15 per cent and 20 per cent.
The Prime Minister has been very interested in electoral affairs throughout his career. In 1962 he wrote to the Distribution Commissioner and said: ‘The way to do this is not to start off so that everything will be equal but to ask how long the redistribution will last. A census is taken every 7 years and that is usually about the time a redistribution lasts. Try to work it out so that they are equal in term’. He was right in 1962; but he is horribly wrong in 1974.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– If it is without precedent since
Federation for any government to change electorates towards 10 per cent from 20 per cent above or below the quota- the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) suggests that that is a very significant point- it is also without precedent for the Senate to reject Supply, which apparently the Leader of the Opposition does not think is a significant point. His comments on Western Australia and the will of the former Labor Government in Western Australia were a total misrepresentation. What that government has arranged electorally have been compromises that it can arrive at with a Legislative Council in which it has no possibility of having a majority at all. To cite what happens there as the chosen will of the State Government of Western Australia is a total misrepresentation.
The right honourable gentleman referred to the electorate of Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie, he should know, has the greatest population of all Western Australian electorates, although it has the smallest enrolment. The reason is that Aborigines do not have to enrol and many workers in the Pilbara do not choose to do so. Such people cannot be counted. Finally, it was not the Duma or the Parliament of Russia which debated the colour of the clergy’s robes during the revolution; it was the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This Bill, which has now occupied the Parliament since 13 March 1973, proposes to cut the permitted variation in electorate enrolments from 20 per cent to 10 per cent above and below the quota. It is debatable whether that degree of equalising of enrolments is its major significance, important as that is. What is just as significant is that it will ensure a greater frequency of redistributions, and that is long overdue. Persistently between redistributions there is a tendency for inner city enrolments to shrink, outer suburban enrolments to soar and country enrolments to remain static. The disparities become appalling.
As instances I give the seat of Bruce, represented by the Leader of the Opposition, as typical of an outer suburban electorate; Gwydir as typical of a country electorate; and Perth as typical of an inner city electorate. Bruce in 1958 had 65,102 on the roll. By 1966 it had 119,445 on the roll. Had the permitted variation been only 10 per cent, the redistribution would have taken place much sooner than it did. Gwydir in 1958 had 41,491 on the roll, and by the 1969 byelection it had 45,104 on the roll- almost static. It had 44,170 on the roll at a time when Bruce had nearly 120,000. Perth in 1958 had 34,493 on the roll and by 1966 the enrolment had sunk to 30,786, a quarter of the enrolment in Bruce. The redistribution in 1968 increased the enrolment of Perth to 58,000.
By 1966 the maldistribution had become a standing scandal, but the provision that change took place only when 25 per cent of the electorates exceeded the permitted variation of 20 per cent in the number of electors is what has retarded the rate of redistribution. Clearly the redistributions will be more frequent if they take place when 25 per cent of electorates reach a disparity greater than 10 per cent, and the scandal of variations from 30,000 to 130,000 on the mainland outside of the Northern Territory, which has special representation, will no longer develop.
I would stress that in this Bill we are dealing with a remedy for the inequality of citizens, and that it is vital to offset the chronic injustice perpetuated in State and local government. I have mentioned examples of the denial of citizen rights in the States. For instance, there is a total denial of all citizen rights in the Upper House of New South Wales, for which nobody has to vote. I ask honourable gentlemen opposite which parties maintain that system. In local government in elections for city councils most people have no votes and some have 8 votes. This kind of situation applies in 4 States. It accounts for the abject record of most local government in Australia in housing and social service contrasted with local government in Great Britain.
I shall deal with the rationalisations which have been advanced when it has been sought to justify the disparity in electorates. The first is that it encourages decentralisation and development in the country. For years South Australia was the State of the most marked over-representation of the country and the least development in the country. In Western Australia only one thing has ever created development in any explosive sense outside the metropolitan area and that has not been the Australian Country Party members; it has been mineral discovery. The present system can guarantee a sharp growth after each distribution draws the electorates back to the degree of equality represented by a 20 per cent variation above and below an average, which means in fact a 50 per cent disparity. If the average is 50,000, for instance, under the present law an enrolment may be as small as 40,000 and as great as 60,000 at the new distribution. Starting off with one electorate 50 per cent greater, it has been demonstrated that that electorate can be 400 per cent greater by the time of the next distribution.
The danger point for the Country Party has usually been immediately after a distribution. I liked the way in which the Leader of the Opposition skated over what happened in Western Australia as a result of the last distribution. A redistribution took place in Western Australia. It put metropolitan electors into country seats. As a result the Country Party lost Moore and Canning, not to the Australian Labor Party, but to its Liberal Party ally. In the case of Moore, Mr Maisey ran third to the Labor and Liberal candidates and his preferences put in the Liberal. In the case of Canning, Mr Hallett suffered from the fact that the Labor Party candidate ran third and Labor preferences went to the Liberal Party and not to the Country Party. In that contest Mr Hallett depended on the Liberal candidate running third but the enrolment of Liberal voters in a sub-metropolitan extension of his seat ensured that Liberals would be the recipients and not the givers of preferences.
The second rationalisation of malapportionment is that a scattered population, for some reason or other, needs extra representation. It is equally valid, or more valid, to say that the poor need extra representation. It has become a curious feature of Australian electoral distributions that we have readily argued that property needs extra representation, and indeed, in upper Houses we have argued that it needs exclusive representation. One might argue that the poor, being socially and economically powerless, need extra political representation. However, this Bill does not provide for the weighting of poverty, property or anything else. It ensures that electorates will have only a 10 per cent variation above and below an average on the mainland at the time of distribution. If the average in a State is 50,000 the seat at redistribution may be as small as an enrolment of 45,000 or as great as an enrolment of 55,000. I suggest that that is as far as reason will go. I refer on this occasion, as I did on an earlier occasion, to the case of Baker v. Carr in the United States Supreme Court. The Court stated:
The weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives.
In Australia we have explicitly denied this in State and Federal electorates. In the States we have blatantly introduced property factors, a form of class war. The United States Supreme Court continued that it would effect:
Equal representation of all citizens of all places as well as of all races.
We have recently, by enfranchising Aborigines, moved to equal representation of all races. This
Bill moves us towards equal representation of all places. The United States Court also held:
The overriding objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the State.
I would reiterate an argument I advanced before. The real reason for the objection to 10 per cent has nothing really to do with 1 0 per cent as a concept of variation above and below a norm figure. The real objection is to the frequency of redistribution. More than a quarter of the seats of New South Wales have a variation of 10 per cent above and below the norm. It is usual, if more than a quarter of the seats in a State have that variation, to have a redistribution. If we make the variation 20 per cent the redistributions will be infrequent. If we make it 10 per cent the redistributions will be more frequent. Should they be more frequent? The argument that the population is constantly changing- advanced by the Leader of the Opposition- constantly moving and constantly enlarging in some areas in Australia today is not an argument against frequent redistributions; it is an argument for frequent redistributions to keep the electorates which we represent in this House relatively equal.
No points have been made against the Bill itself. There is no real argument against the 10 per cent variation. No real argument has been advanced as to why there should not be more frequent redistributions. Bruce, the seat of the Leader of the Opposition, at one stage attained the size of 120,000 when it had originally distributed at 45,000. That is a clear sign of the need for more frequent redistributions than are taking place today. I support the Bill.
- Mr Chairman, I oppose this legislation. I oppose it as undesirable and unworthy of the very high traditions that have surrounded electoral matters in the Federal Parliament. I think that those people who have not taken a great interest in this electoral matter must now become highly suspicious of the Government which has become preoccupied with electoral matters. At this historical double dissolution meeting, 3 matters deal with electoral issues. Since this Government came to office we have had 6 referendums, two of which dealt with electoral matters. Why do electoral matters have such a high priority in the issues of Government? Why was this one of the first pieces of legislation to be brought in after the Government won office in 1972? Has there been any great public disquiet in this country about the way redistributions have been carried out in Federal elections?
The legislation we are examining has virtually been the same since Federation, 72 years ago. It has been accepted by previous governments, both Labor and non-Labor. There have never been any allegations of unfairness or of rigging of electoral boundaries. During those 72 years we have seen a drift of population more to the city areas. We have seen the number of city electorates increased and fewer country electorates until today about two-thirds of the electorates come from city or metropolitan areas and onethird come from the country. If the population trends continue the imbalance will become greater, yet this legislation is going to accentuate that imbalance. So the question is why. I do not think anybody for one minute would imagine it is for the benefit of the Liberal and Country Parties. What the Government is doing is playing political trickery. It is desperately trying to secure itself in office by manipulating the electoral laws of this country. If this legislation is passed it will mean that when the electoral commissioners in future draw up electoral boundaries no account will be taken of the fact that some electorates are compact and some are enormous in size; no account will be taken of density of population and sparsity of population; no account will be taken of the disabilities caused to a member trying to meet his constituents because of their isolation, because of distance, because of the difficulties of communication.
In addition, this legislation will reduce the maximum 20 per cent allowance above and below the quota to 10 per cent. The implication of this legislation is that a redistribution can be carried out immediately- something which, under the existing law, is not permissible. Labor will be able to carry out a redistribution virtually before every election. I wonder why the Labor Party wants this set of circumstances to obtain.
– What about New South Wales?
-Mr Chairman, it is quite obvious that the conscience of Government supporters is being pricked otherwise they would not be retaliating. I do not care what State governments in Australia do. I know that the reputation of the New South Wales Government is high and that that Government can stand up and defend its position. But this Commonwealth Government is bringing itself into disrespect by trying to manipulate and gerrymander the laws of this country. This Government brought forward a referendum proposal which was designed, supposedly, to make all electorates contain the same population. This was supposed to be the introduction of the principle of one vote one value. Of course, that was false. The Australian people saw through the proposal and rejected it. I venture to suggest that if this legislation had been put forward as a referendum proposal it too would have been rejected by the Australian people.
The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) lays great emphasis on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. That Committee suggested that there ought to be a reduction in the variation from 20 per cent to 10 per cent above or below the quota. If the Prime Minister felt so strongly about the Committee’s recommendations why did he not make that recommendation a referendum issue? He did not do so because he knew that if the Australian people had been able to examine that one single issue they would have rejected it out of hand. Our system in this country has stood the test of time; our democracy has worked well.
The Labor Party is able to have this Joint Sitting because it was part of an overall election campaign; it was part of a total package. But did that election really give the Government any great mandate to push ahead and change the electoral laws of this country? Certainly the Labor Party won the election but not with a majority of the votes. In fact, its proportion of the votes was reduced compared with the number of votes it received in 1972, its representation in the House of Representatives was reduced, it did not get control of the Senate and it lost the 4 referendum questions. That is a very frail ground on which to believe that it can push this Parliament around and do what it likes.
When the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) first introduced this Bill on 13 March last year he said:
Equality of political rights is inherent in a truly democratic state. To this end, we intend to amend the law so that, as far as may be practicable, the value of the vote of one citizen shall be equivalent to the vote of another.
The Liberal and Country Parties agree completely with the principles expressed in those words. Equality of political rights is a matter that must be guaranteed under the law in a democratic society. Equality of voting value and equality of political representation are fundamental principles which should be insisted upon and adhered to. But, Mr Chairman, equality of political rights, equality of voting value and equality of political representation cannot be guaranteed in a situation where electorates which vary in size from less than 4 square miles to almost 900,000 square miles, are required under law to have virtually equal numbers of electors. That is a statement of fact which is beyond challenge. No fair minded Australian citizen would accept that there is the same degree of equality of representation when the member who represents such an enormous electorate has to face the difficulties of communication and isolation. The concept of equal numbers of voters in electorates could be substantiated if all electorates were the same- if they were the same size, if they had the same physical conditions, the same problems, the same growth, the same population patterns. But, of course, they are not all the same; they are different. That is why a variation has been allowed.
The whole effect of this legislation we are discussing will be only to make these big country electorates even bigger and the city electorates smaller. I think it should be a matter of some interest to the Australian public that the Minister for Services and Property, who is in charge of this legislation, has the smallest electorate in Australia. It would be quite unfair to imagine that he could understand the difficulties of a member representing an enormous electorate. It would be quite unfair to expect him to know what is involved in travelling around an electorate of a few hundred thousand square miles in which there might be not one but 20 or 30 communities. It would be impossible for him to understand that the member representing one of these country electorates could be responsible not for one or two local government authorities, as a city member may be, but for 10, 20 or even 30 local government authorities. In such an electorate there might be a duplication of problems and a wide variation of difficulties.
I think it ought to be made quite clear that the Labor Party Government is seeking to have this legislation approved with one motive in mind, and that should not need any explanation to the Australian people. Let us consider a few things. The Labor Party claims that it is dedicated to the concept of one vote one value. That is not true. The Labor Party is not dedicated to the concept of one vote one value. Recently a referendum was held which sought to have electorates divided in such a way .that they had the same number of people. That does not mean that they would have the same number of voters. There is a vast difference between the two. When electorates are divided on the basis of the number of people account is taken of all those people under the age of 1 8 years and all those new Australians who are not naturalised. The result is that there is a wide variation in the number of electors in each electorate. In fact, using the 1971 census as a basis, the Prime Minister would have had in his electorate 46,000 electors, whereas some of the large country electorates would have had 70,000 voters. So the concept of one vote one value which the Government is putting up is a phoney one. Mr Malcolm Mackerras, who is a gentleman well known to honourable members and honourable senators as an expert in electoral matters, said that a redrawing of electoral boundaries on the basis of that referendum ‘would result in the greatest departure from the principle of one vote one value ever seen in the history of House of Representatives elections’.
Let us look at the situation in Tasmania. The enrolments in electorates in that State are 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000 fewer than the average in some of the other Australian States. Why has the Labor Party for so long tolerated this gross violation of the principle which it claims to hold so sacred? The reason is that it would mean a loss of Labor seats in Tasmania. The basic point about this legislation is that it will have the effect of reducing the maximum tolerance from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. The proposal will mean that the maximum tolerance of 20 per cent will no longer apply. Yet the Government has so skilfully and falsely presented the facts to the Australian people that many think that there is a difference of 40 per cent between country electorates and city electorates. The people who draw up new electoral boundaries for the electoral divisions have never applied, to the best of my knowledge, the maximum 20 per cent tolerance. They may have gone as high as 17 per cent for some of the gigantic electorates, but the variation is usually between 5 per cent and 15 per cent. At the moment the average difference between all of the country electorates and the city electorates in Australia is 8 8 ½ per cent. Is that a gross distortion? Is that unfair?
Again we must ask ourselves: Why is the Labor Party going to such extraordinary lengths to change the law? Why has it decided to change its mind now when it accepted, when it was in office earlier, the fairness and the reasonableness of the electoral laws? Obviously the Prime Minister has changed his mind, as was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The Prime Minister, when speaking on an electoral Bill, said:
The numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent allowed under the Act.
Why has he changed his mind? I think we all know the reason. Perhaps he is becoming a little desperate about the tenure of his office. The Labor Party desperately needs to create the means by which it can hold a redistribution and, in doing so, create more city seats and fewer country seats. The Labor Party cannot win country seats. In fact, it is losing them. So it is adopting the tactic ‘if you cannot beat them, abolish them’. That might be OK, but let us see what happens to the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Whan), the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) or the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) when the people of those electorates have to make a judgment on who betrayed their interests in this Parliament. The Labor Party could not care less about the democratic rights of Australian citizens to enjoy equality of representation in this Parliament.
Let us have a quick look at what happens in some of the other countries with no less an attachment to democracy and equality of representation than we have. In New Zealand enrolments range from 16,000 to 21,000, a difference of about 35 per cent. In Britain, the mother of modern democracies, at the recent election, which was immediately after a redistribution, numbers ranged from 22,000 to 96,000, a difference of 400 per cent to 500 per cent. Britain could fit into any one of a number of our large country electorates. In Canada, where there has only recently been an election, the number of electors in electorates varies from 7,500 to 80,000. The Minister for Services and Property returned from Canada only recently, but we did not hear a word about this variation. I wonder why. Of course we are not suggesting that there ought to be the same variation in Australia, although if the percentage differences were applied here there would be a greater variation. We are saying that the present legislation has stood the test of time as being fair and reasonable, and it should remain so. I ask why senators and members really want to change the present electoral laws when the Labor Party won the last election with 49.3 per cent of the vote and gained 52 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives. Why does the Minister who is in charge of this legislation not mention that in his electorate- that tiny city electorate- he has 6,000 fewer voters than I have in my electorate?
In case the message has not got through, I repeat that Labor wants the situation changed so that it can be absolutely sure that it remains in office. The Labor Government is very prone to talk about gerrymanders and to allege that there have been gerrymanders in Federal redistributions. There have been no gerrymanders of Federal electorates. Each redistribution has been carried out strictly according to the law. The Labor Party is trying to break down the fair and just principles by which Federal redistributions have been carried out since Federation. In a ringing climax to one of his speeches on this matter, the Minister said:
Electoral laws should provide equality, not privilege.
The Country Party agrees with this principle. We say that electoral laws should, as far as is humanly possible, provide each Australian with equality of representation in this Parliament. We say that the changes now proposed will further reduce the opportunity for country people to enjoy equality of representation while increasing the privilege of others who already enjoy easy access to political representation. We say that without any alteration in our present law there is arising a heavy imbalance of political representation concentrating more and more power in city areas. The proposed law will further aggravate this problem.
Representation is far more than the right to mark a ballot paper. It means the right to be adequately and fully consulted in discussing problems and in marshalling ideas. It means the right to be able, without undue difficulty, to talk to one’s member. It means the right of proper communication with those who sit in this Parliament. That right is in large measure denied to many members who represent large country electorates. It is a right which, for country people, is protected to a degree, but only to a limited degree under existing law. We of the Australian Country Party would be failing in our duty if we did not fight with all our power to protect the limited rights of country people and to fight to secure for country people something approaching the equality of representation to which they, as Australian citizens, are entitled. Labor’s electoral self-interest and electoral greed discredit this legislation.
– I call Senator Steele Hall.
– I take a point of order. If the honourable senator intends to speak on behalf of the Government might I suggest that he speak from the lectern on the other side of the House?
– Order! The Chair is not in a position to know how any person will speak in this particular debate. I suggest that if the honourable senator is supporting the Government he should speak from the other side.
– One of the tragedies of the non-Labor side of politics in Australia is that it almost invariably stands against the extension of the franchise to its fullest. Today, with the experience that I have behind me in the matters of electoral redistribution and electoral reform, I thought, when listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), that I was back in South Australia listening to members of the Legislative Council. Apart from the 2 remarks of the Leader of the Opposition relating to the change of mind of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and to the capacity that the 20 per cent variation gave for a better allowance, in his view, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Party simply laid bare the poverty of their parties’ attitudes to electoral reform. There is no doubt that on this issue both sides of politics in Australia use different dictionaries. Both sides say that they believe in equal representation, in one vote one value, but then go on to give their different interpretations. If at this stage my view happens to be that of the Bill brought in by a Labor government I am not ashamed to say so. The speech of the Leader of the Australian Country Party was, in fact, a travesty of what he said previously. I shall quote his remarks made in previous debates, if I may, Mr Chairman, soon.
The issue surely is based on 2 facts or 2 studies, the first concerning the justice of the legislation, standing in its own right, and the second concerning the claim of the Government to it. I think they are the 2 issues which are paramount in this debate. It would seem that the Liberal and Country Parties, represented in the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973 in the last session, I understand, by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, speaking for both parties, must have made a judgment that it is better to gain some political advantage by the effect that the wider distribution, the quota variation of 20 per cent, will have on boundaries than to see a reduction in their advantage by the criticism that they stand against the extension of the franchise in this way. It is incredible to me that the Liberal Party, at least, can stand against the full implementation of this Bill. I wonder how any person on the Opposition side who calls himself a Liberal can stand behind the Leader of the Country Party in what he said to the House previously. I say that on behalf of my Party which, in South Australia, is beginning to be widely recognised as a far more Liberal party than those that have gone before.
The basis of the last election is contained in a number of statements made by leading political figures. The Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Snedden, said on 4 April this year.
Now is the time to put it to the choice of the Australian people.
He was speaking generally of the Opposition’s dissension with the Government. He went on to make this key statement:
The people of Australia did not give a mandate to this Government to change the whole nature of the Australian democracy. If that is to happen, it can happen only by the freely expressed will of the Australian people. The only way to determine that is by an election for the government of Australia.
His colleague the Leader of the Country Party, speaking on the same day in the program called ‘A Current Affair’, said this of the Government:
It’s exceeded its mandate and I believe the Australian people have a right to reassess their point of view and to affirm or reject the Government that it put into office 18 months ago. It ‘s a case now of whether the Australian people still feel the same as they did in 1972.
They were the words of the Leader of the Country Party in setting up the election.
– What are you going to do about the health Bill?
-The Leader of the Country Party tries to distract me. His 20-minute speech was a distraction and did not deal with the issues. The Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate, Senator Withers, in setting up the election, said:
Why do we take this course of action? The Opposition and the Opposition parties- I hope my friends and allies will not object to my including them in this statement-when the Electoral Bill first came before the Senate last year -
I interpose to point out that he mentioned the Electoral Bill: decided to vote against it. We knew full well that we were embarking upon a course which could lead to a double dissolution.
Later he went on to say:
As far as we are concerned, the sooner the Prime Minister sees the Governor-General and obtains his double dissolution and this matter is resolved by the people, the better . . .
In setting up the double dissolution the Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate specifically mentioned the Electoral Bill.
– And the Gair affair.
– We can have more distractions if honourable members would like to speak of them, but I am dealing with the Bill. It is quite clear that the Opposition parties in both Houses of the Parliament set up the election as a test for the Government. They said so clearly in so many words, and at various times mentioned specific issues. There is no doubt that this Government has a very fair claim to the Bills which it is presenting to this Joint Sitting. Whilst it is somewhat difficult for new members of the Parliament to vote according to that premise, because they did not have a hand in causing the double dissolution, I believe that former members of the Parliament who have been returned certainly should support the result of this Joint Sitting. There is no other way to look at Australian democracy. Not to do so would be to deny constitutional representative government in Australia and to set up a dictatorship in a House which is not based on that form of representation.
I have a history of involvement in electoral reform in South Australia, as I have said. I could recite the long list of quotations which I have here and which would make honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives think that they were listening to Mr Snedden or Mr Anthony. They are words spoken by legislative councillors in South Australia who went through the old theme. While they might believe in equality of representation they have a different view of what ‘equality’ means. They perpetuate the myth, which in itself denigrates country people, that country people are beset with particular disadvantages and therefore should have electoral advantages. I have seen members of a party move through country areas telling country people for decades how disadvantaged they are and at the same time, in a parallel fashion and as a result, they have drawn that countryside down to a position where it has been ridiculed by democrats. It is the result of the Party that has so implanted that undemocratic viewpoint in the minds of country people. I am pleased to say that there are many country districts in South Australia which are now accepting the view that there should be equal value through one vote one value. In the recent byelection which was held to fill the vacancy created when I became a member of the Senate, the Liberal Movement won the State seat on a policy of one vote one value in one of the more conservative country areas in South Australia. It only needs to be held up as a fair thing and people will know and believe it.
What does the Opposition say outside of this debate and other debates on this Bill? I would like to quote several passages. In a speech on 20 March 1 973, on this same Bill, Mr Snedden said:
Our purpose is to maintain, as far as is practicable and fair, the principle of one vote, one value. We wish to ensure that electoral results will reflect the opinion of the majority. If the electoral processes are manipulated to serve the political interests of persons or parties it would be a denial of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process.
He then went on to say:
The potential movement of population is fundamental to the proper establishment of electorates.
Mr Anthony, in a speech on 10 July 1 974, said:
This Bill really represents the latest attempt by the Government to destroy the just and fair principles on which electoral distributions have been conducted since federation.
He went on to say:
I believe there is a principle of equal, if not greater importance than the mechanical theoretical principle of one vote one value, and that is the principle of equality of representation.
That is where, in Mr Anthony’s view, the area of an electorate transcends the value of what people say on their own behalf as individuals. In the last debate on this legislation in this House he spoke on behalf of the Opposition in promoting that view. I wonder how many Liberals there are who will sit subjugated on the Opposition side when the vote is taken today. When we look aside from the justification as to whether a person should have an equal right in respect of Bills of great moment which affect his future and which are passed through this Parliament, and when we look past the basic claim of government after a double dissolution on this legislation, we can look to the more mundane justification of the difference in numbers which has already been referred to today.
Looking at my own State of South Australia I find that in 1968, which I believe was the time of the first election after the previous redistribution, the number of voters for the seat of Bonython was fixed at 49,000, for Kingston at 51,000 and for Wakefield at 46,000. In Bonython the number has grown from 49,000 to 80,000; in Kingston from 51,000 to 72,000; and in Wakefield from 46,000 to 49,000. Therefore, Wakefield is up 8 per cent, Kingston is up 42 per cent, and Bonython is up 62 per cent. As I am an anti-Labor politician -
Opposition members- Ah!
– Yes, I knew. As a matter of fact, Mr Chairman, I threw that in for effect. I have seen in my State a so-called non Labor party destroy itself because it claimed it was anti-Labor by saying that it had, in effect, the divine right to govern. If those members opposite who sit to your left, Mr Chairman, will some day understand that they do not have a divine right to govern but that they have to earn it they might return to this side of the House a lot more swiftly than they are likely to return at the moment because the speeches that have been given here today will not stand the analysis of any secondary school child in Australia.
I heard one speaker from this side of the House- I think it was the Prime Minister- quote a passage from a speech by Sir Robert Menzies. There is still a member of this chamber who also had something to say about blockages which are created in the Senate. In 1953 the then Senator J. G. Gorton had something to say about blockages in the Senate. All I can say is that as we look out across the disruption in Australia we certainly find that it starts at the top, and it starts right here in federal Parliament. Unless members of the Opposition understand the consequences of the Constitution and the view that the Australian public will have of its consequences, they will certainly be condemned to that side of the House. There is a very real need to understand that these issues are ones to which the Government now has a very fair claim.
I will vote, if I can move very briefly aside for the moment, against the other measures which the Government will present to this Joint Sitting and that, Mr Chairman, is not because of any particular views held by people on your left. I will certainly vote for this Bill and the two other allied electoral Bills. Any person who studies the history of the generation of this Joint Sitting will know that in 1974 anyone who stands against extension of the franchise stands against his own political future.
– One would have thought that we had just heard from the greatest electoral reformer ever to come into any Parliament in Australia and it is rather interesting to note the electoral reforms which he carried out in 1970 as Premier of South Australia. When a Liberal Country League seat of Frome had but 8,296 electors 2 seats held by the Australian Labor PartyAdelaide and Coles- each had in excess of 16,000 electors. This occurred under the great electoral reformer. In the election held on 10 March 1973, on this great electoral reformer’s boundaries the LCL could still win the seat of Frome with 8,296 electors but the seat of Mawson, which had been held since its inception by the Australian Labor Party, then had 24,639 electors, a ratio of 3 to 1. Mr Acting Chairman- I am delighted to see you in the chair- we are talking about a 20 per cent variation and Senator Hall, the great electoral reformer, was talking about a 3 to 1 variation. No wonder one should beware of the devil when he quotes scripture. One would have thought that the honourable senator was a supporter of what Mr Whitlam said in his submission to the distribution commissioners in 1968:
No distribution should permit a situation where a party or a coalition of parties which secures a majority of votes does not secure a majority of members in the House of Representatives. To permit otherwise would be to perpetrate a travesty of representative government.
That is what we saw in South Australia in both 1970 and 1973-variations of 2 to 1 and 3 to 1. 1 am also more than interested when a person, knowing that the double dissolution occurred in respect to 6 Bills, can come into this place and say that the Government has a mandate for three but not for the other three. How does one arrive at that dichotomy? How does one arrive at that equal division? There is no explanation of that, but enough time has been wasted on the honourable senator. Let us get back to the Bill.
Why do Mr Daly and his supporters bring in this Bill? For electoral justice? Not at all. It has been brought in merely to secure the Labor Party in office for a long time. I knew something about the Labor Party long before these Johnnycomelateleys came into it. I was told by my father as a very young child: ‘The most important man in any organisation is not the president, is not the secretary. You become the returning officer.’ He is the most important man in the Labor Party. That is the principle that the Australian Labor Party lives by. The other thing he told me all his life as we went along on polling days was this: ‘Remember the great Labor principle- vote early and vote often’. That is what this Bill is all about too. I know a little about what the Labor Party means by electoral reform. What it means is to secure itself in office for a long long time.
Today the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam gave us one of his lectures about how democracy is so frail in Australia at the moment. I did not hear him say anything about what Mr Mundey said yesterday when he was attacking democracy. How does Mr Whitlam talk about democracy being frail in Australia? He says democracy is frail in Australia because one chamber of this Parliament is prepared to exercise its rights which it was guaranteed under the Constitution. He and his Party are the people who are putting democracy under attack in this country, not the Senate. He stood here and lectured us about the frailty of democracy when he and his Party and his supporters outside are doing more to pull it down than anybody else in the community.
The simple fact of life is that the Labor Party is not prepared to settle for 52 per cent of the seats for 49 per cent of the vote; it wants a Western Australian situation- the first redistribution carried out by a Labor Party Government since 1948. Of course, we all remember what happened in Labor’s fancy fiddle of 1948. It should have won the 1954 election on it, but it fiddled the seats so much that it lost the election.
Remember that last fiddle? It almost succeeded last time in Western Australia- the result of a Labor Party redistribution. The Labor Party got 46 per cent of the vote and it almost got 60 per cent of the seats. That is not a bad result. As I said, Labor Party policy is to vote early and vote often. Yet in this place it tries to talk about electoral reform. It is humbug.
I understand that electoral reform is to make something better by removal, but the Labor Party has no desire to make it better except to make it better for itself. Its motive is pure selfishness. That is why it wants to do it. This whole Bill is totally unnecessary. Members of the Labor Party are not prepared to contain themselves until the 1978 redistribution is due. They are not prepared to contain themselves until the next census is taken. They are greedy to hang on to office. They love the big black shiny motor cars. They love the fruits of office and they love appointing the boys to the jobs. There are still a lot more supporters to be rewarded, so they have to hang on to office no matter what they do. They are afraid of the consequences of their present policies. They have internal fracas within their own Party and they do not even trust the quality of their one man Government much longer. They want to rig the electoral boundaries so that they can settle down after 1978 really to work over the whole of our electoral system.
I know the Labor Party tried to work over the electoral system in the last referenda, but it could not. The Australian people were a wake up to it so they threw its proposals out. Now it wants to assault the electoral system through the back door. This Government is one of fiddle, fiddle, fiddle. That is what it wants to do. We are going to have the ‘Fiddler of the Electoral Boundaries’ starring the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who cannot even send carpet tacks to China. That is how good he is. He cannot even organise sending a kitchen sink to Red China. How could he be trusted to fix the electoral boundaries. The Department of Services and Property cannot even furnish a house, that is how good that Department is.
We know that no system can provide for exact representation. I was delighted that my friend and colleague Mr Anthony noted and made reference to the fact that he represents 6,000 more electors than does Mr Daly. But we never hear about that from the Government. We never heard from Mr Daly when he came back from Canada- that wonderful country whose electoral system he admires enormously- that it has a 25 per cent variation from quota in electorates.
When the Prime Minister stood up here and lectured us, as he so often does, about democracy and about what that great Chief Justice Earl Warren said in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, he certainly did not advert to the Supreme Court case of February 1973 involving the State of Virginia. In that case the American Supreme Court ruled that it was not necessary in drawing up boundaries for electorates to be equal. The court stated that account could be taken of other factors and approved a variation of 15 per cent in the size of electorates. We did not hear about that case. All we have heard about is selective quotation and selective indignation. There is no need or justification for this legislation.
As I said before, at the last general election the Australian Labor Party polled 49.3 per cent of the primary vote and obtained 51.96 per cent of the parliamentary seats. Is that unfair? Is that unreasonable? The simple fact of life is that what the Australian Labor Party wants is 52 per cent of the parliamentary seats for about 45 per cent of the votes. Members opposite will not even get that next time because the result in the Western Australian election was not good enough for them.
Whatever else the presentation of this Bill at this Joint Sitting has done, it has shown that this Government cannot be trusted. In recent weeks this Government has shown that it cannot be trusted. What has happened to the Prime Minister’s boast during the election campaign that only Whitlam had reduced inflation by onethird? What has happened to the boast that only Whitlam could do so much in 16 months? We have heard all the broken promises in relation to full employment, falling inflation and booming business. But have honourable members and honourable senators heard the other promise? It is that only Whitlam will reduce home interest rates by 3 per cent.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)- Order! The honourable senator will connect his remarks to the Bill.
– With respect, Mr Acting Chairman, I say that I am speaking to the Bill. I am saying that the Government cannot be trusted in relation to this Commonwealth Electoral Bill as it cannot be trusted on any other matter. I ask honourable members and honourable senators to remember what else the Labor Party said before the general election. It was stated that only Whitlam had a program of child care. What happened to that? Women and kids last.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN -Order! The Joint Sitting will come to order.
– I understand that points of order are not being allowed but I respectfully suggest to you, Mr Acting Chairman, that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate confine his remarks to the Bill.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- I ask the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to connect his remarks to the Bill.
-Mr Acting Chairman, I am delighted that you take so much notice of the other things that I say. I come back to what I said: If we cannot trust the Government in relation to one thing, we cannot trust it on anything. If we cannot trust it in relation to its so-called promises, are we going to trust any member of it in relation to electoral matters? Mr Acting Chairman, I would not trust the Government with anything. As far as I am concerned, this was a bad Bill to start with. It was a bad Bill the second time around, it was a bad Bill the third time around and it has not improved in the cooking. As far as I am concerned, it is still a bad Bill and I intend to vote against it.
- Mr Acting Chairman, I repeat the words that I used when I first introduced this Bill to the Parliament on 13 March 1973. 1 said:
Free elections are basic to a democratic society. But free elections by themselves are not enough- the results must reflect the will of the majority both in individual constituencies and throughout the nation. If the electoral laws do not result in the Government desired by the majority- if they are manipulated to reflect the political interest of persons or partiesit would be a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process. The Government, mindful of its mandate and responsibility, is determined to ensure that the Australian electoral laws embrace those fundamental principles of human rights and democracy in this nation.
Only those who believe in a selective form of democracy will oppose the principle of equality of voting and the elections of governments by the majority. The Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party of Australia come within this category. The members of the Country Party depend on this form of democracy for their survival, individually and as a Party. Like poodles, members of the Liberal Party yap along at their heels. The Opposition Parties have undermined the basic democratic principles of elections. The value of one vote of one citizen is no longer equivalent to the vote of a citizen in another part of the country. A political party like the Country Party which rarely receives more than about 10 per cent of the votes of the Australian people has a disproportionate influence on the welfare of this nation. If any proof of that is wanted, Senator Steele Hall today rent asunder the false policies put forward by the Country Party in a speech which showed why he lost the premiership of South Australia on the basis of just electoral reform. Is it any wonder that the Labor Party gives him its preferences in South Australia? I give the honourable senator the good oil that if he keeps on going as he has on this issue he will continue to get them, because these issues are important.
Senator Withers brought out the question of the electoral boundaries which Senator Hall had introduced. He did not say that a Tory Upper House which Senator Withers supports was all that stopped him from adopting the principle of one vote one value. He did not say either that before Senator Steele Hall had a redistribution of electorates in South Australia, electorates under the ‘Playmander’ in that State ranged from 4,800 persons to 46,000. This is the policy that those opposite put up today. Senator Withers spoke of raising the dead and of the need to vote early and often. Looking at a few members of the Liberal Party I reckon that they have some dead votes and that if there were more cemeteries in their electorates a few of them would not be here.
Senator Withers complained also about the Western Australian redistribution when it was introduced in the Senate. I shall quote from what Senator Withers said about the Western Australian redistribution in the Senate on 16 July 1974. This was the redistribution for which I as Minister had the responsibility. Senator Withers said that in Western Australia it had been shown quite clearly that the Government believes in a fair and just redistribution. This is the man who has just said it was not fair. The Australian Labor Party in that State won 5 seats with 46 per cent of the votes, and the Liberal party won 5 seats. It took 2 Country Party seats from the Country Party. Evidently there is a Country Party over there that cannot win country seats, so Senator Withers has no reason to sling off at the Labor Party. This Opposition has consistently opposed the question of electoral reform as Senator Steele Hall, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other speakers have said. In government it refused to debate the legislation. In opposition it has opposed the Government’s legislation and ignored the mandate given to the Whitlam Government in 1972. This legislation has passed the House of Representatives 3 times and still the Opposition opposes it. It has ignored, again as other speakers have said, the endorsement by the Australian people on 18 May 1974.
It has forced the nation to the first Joint Sitting in the history of this country. Having taken the proposal for the Joint Sitting once to the High Court, it has even said it is going to take it there again and so deny the people their democratic rights. This shows that there are sinister reasons why the Opposition opposes the legislation, one being that the Country Party wins only on weighted electorates. Having a good look at the Country Party members one would have to know that they could not win fairly, that they would have to have something in their favour in order to get the support of the country people. The Opposition parties are fighting desperately to have existing inequalities in the electoral system retained. The Country Party is clinging desperately to existing laws which give it a greater voice in the government and in the Parliament than its numbers warrant. Its survival depends on weighted electorates. The Liberal Party, as I said before, puts expediency before principle for the doubtful support of its strange and weird political allies.
This Bill seeks to reduce the permissible variation from one-fifth to one-tenth. It removes certain factors regarding electoral redistribution, and disabilities arising out of remoteness of distance and density or sparsity of population of a division and the area. It also provides that there shall be a redistribution when one-fourth of divisions of a State vary below or above the permissible tolerance. These changes were in the main inserted by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1965 and were designed to weight electorates. The great white father of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen, said this when he introduced them in 1965:
There is in this measure a provision which I say unashamedly I hope will operate to bring out more tolerance towards the permitting of a smaller number of electors in the gigantic, remote and difficult electorates.
That has resulted in the weighting of these electorates today. At that time the emphasis was removed from the quota to factors. We on this side of the Parliament believe that electorates should be equal, that one vote should have one value and that no person’s vote should be worth more than that of another person, regardless of whether he lives in a city or country area. Chief Justice Warren of the Supreme Court of the United States of America has been quoted today by the Prime Minister. In his findings in one case in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, Chief Justice Warren said:
Legislators represent people, not trees or acres . . . The weight of a citizen ‘s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives.
On having a good look at the Country Party, I think a few sheep have a vote. The Bill seeks to introduce equity and fairness into the electoral system. At the present time Federal electorates within the same State vary. For instance, in New South Wales the electorate of Mitchell has 82,864 electors, which is 35,038 electors or 73 per cent more than the electorate of Darling. In Victoria, the electorate of Diamond Valley has 87,725 electors or 38,213 electors more than the electorate of Wimmera, which has 49,512 electors. In Queensland, the electorate of McPherson has 90,525 electors or 43,032 electors more than the electorate of Maranoa, which has 47,493 electors. In New South Wales, the LiberalCountry Party Government has a redistribution every 4 years and electorates vary from 1 9,000 to 29,000 electors. The 10 per cent variation in the quota for which this Bill provides will greatly reduce the disparity between electorates. For example, the maximum difference between electorates in New South Wales will be 12,950 electors as against 25,500 electors at present and in Victoria it will be 12,844 electors as against 25,690 electors at present.
The Australian Country Party, which is fighting so vigorously against these proposals, as Senator Steele Hall and others have said today, have never polled more then 10.9 per cent of the total vote but has exercised a parliamentary vote of between 16 per cent and 17 per cent and a ministerial influence of more than 20 per cent in Cabinets. On 18 May last the Country Party polled 10.7 per cent of the votes. It has a voting strength of 16.5 per cent in this House and a 44 per cent influence in the Liberal-Country Party inner Cabinet. The people of Queensland, under the greatest operator of all time in respect of electoral gerrymanders in the Country Party Premier of Queensland, have a gerrymander inflicted upon them today which has been described as the worst gerrymander the world has ever seen. The last vestige of democracy has gone under the administration of the Country Party Government in Queensland. It was even described by the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson)- at the time he was State President of the Liberal Party of Australia- as being electoral injustice at Country Party insistence. Is it any wonder that the Country Party is today fighting these proposals. Let us listen to what the family newspaper had to say about a speech by the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) in Murwillumbah on 15 June 1964. 1 understand that its name is the ‘Murwillumbah Daily Times’. This is what it reported its favourite son as saying on the Queen’s birthday
Mr Anthony said the task of electoral reform was probably one of his worst jobs as Minister for the Interior and one on which his political future hinged.
In other words, he was going to direct the electoral Commissioners to draw the boundaries to suit the Country Party. That is why he made that statement at that time.
I mention the following matters in order to bring the situation up to date: In Queensland, for instance, the Australian Labor Party with 48 per cent of the votes- more than the combined total of the votes of all the other parties- holds only 33 seats; yet the combined parties with 42 per cent of the votes hold 47 seats. In Queensland it takes 13,045 votes to elect a Labor member, 9,600 votes to elect a Liberal member and 6,972 votes to elect a Country Party member. That is what the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review has described as a gerrymander. Is it any wonder that the Liberal and Country parties fight to retain this undemocratic situation. The timeworn arguments of the tories that are as old as those who sit in the South Australian Upper House have been trotted out today to support the Opposition’s policies, which Senator Steele Hall who is, unfortunately, from what I can see the only liberal in the Parliament, has publicly condemned from this platform and in other places. It is no good saying that he is a communist, which is what honourable members and senators opposite say about others, because he is one of their own who has seen the light and who- in relation to this cause at least- has joined those who sit on the right side of the fence. I did not think anywhere hidden in the Liberal Party was a man with his intelligence and foresight. Whilst most Liberals know when to get out of the wet this man has done it on principle, and that is so different from other members of the Liberal Party. Not only the Australian Labor Party supports equality of representation. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, the Supreme Court of the United States and the Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia, though that is not exactly a good recommendation, support equality of representation as well. Dr Hughes, the Liberal Party candidate in the next Senate election and the candidate in the last election for the seat of Canberra, on behalf of the Liberal Party in Canberra made a submission for equality of electors in the 2 electorates in this district. So, why do members of the Opposition say that there should not be equality of electorates?
The Opposition argues that Labor is gerrymandering electorates to entrench itself in power. Gerrymandering, as everyone knows, is the creation of electoral divisions which give certain parties favoured treatment. Of course, what the Country Party supports are gerrymanders by legislation- not by direction to the distribution commissioners- which forces them to take a certain line. It is a real attack on the integrity of the commissioners to say that the Labor Party is endeavouring to effect a gerrymander. The Act lays down that in each State the Electoral Officer, the Surveyor-General and one other person with similar qualifications shall be appointed as distribution commissioners. If the Opposition wants to know how long that provision has been in the Act, I point out that it has been there since 1902. Therefore, there is that protection which has been in existence since 1902 which relates to the men who are appointed as distribution commissioners. It did very little credit to Senator Withers in another place under the privilege of Parliament to attack the integrity of men who, everyone knows, have a high standing in the community. On the last occasion one of them was appointed by the Liberal Party itself. There is a safeguard against gerrymanders in this Parliament. Whenever legislation on electoral boundaries is presented it must come before both Houses of the Parliament. If one House of the Parliament rejects that legislation it can then be sent back to the commissioners. The Country Party has said that these provisions have not been changed since 1900. In 1965, when the Opposition was in Government, it amended the Electoral Act and some provisions which had been contained in the Act since 1902. So it was good enough for the previous Government to amend the Act after 65 years but it is not good enough for the Labor Party to amend it after 74 years. What kind of reasoning is that?
The Opposition parties have spoken about a frequent redistribution. Even at this stage, under the law that has been in existence since 1902, the Government can have a redistribution every year if it so desires because a redistribution can be made as the Governor-General thinks fit. That provision is contained in the law at this time. No matter what percentage there is above or below the quota, it makes no difference to that situation. Why should there not be more redistributions if there is an imbalance between the electorates and a redistribution is necessary? Does the Opposition support Sir Thomas Playford who thought that 23 years was a reasonable duration to wait for a redistribution? Does the Opposition want to wait as they did on one occasion when there was, for instance, 29,000 voters in the seat of West Sydney and about 134,000 voters in the seat of Bruce- a disparity of about 105,000 or 145 per cent? I ask those opposite to get up and say where they stand on these kinds of electoral injustices? The opposition argues that there is not much difference between 10 per cent and 20 per cent. Well, that means a lot of members opposite cannot count. I think if their salaries were reduced by 10 per cent and then 20 per cent they would recognise the difference. Variations and the disparity between electorates as members know, will be considerably reduced.
The Opposition parties say that the Labor Party is discriminating against country seats. The Australian Labor Party is the only national country party in the nation. The Australian Labor Party holds almost as many country seats as those opposite do. The Liberal Party took 2 country seats away from the Country Party at the last elections. What is more, there are only 3 States with Country Party members. Just to add variety, the Country Party has a different name in every State. The Australian Labor Party holds the largest electorate in area in Australia, Kalgoorlie. The answer to the problem of representing country seats is not to weight the electorates for country members but to give them adequate facilities to carry out their responsibilities and to reach their electors and not by making country votes worth more than city votes. The Government holds the largest country seat in terms of enrolments, the seat of Robertson, which has a population of 79,000. This is a direct answer to those opposite who say that the Labor Party does not know the problems of the country people.
The time worn arguments that have been trotted out by those opposite will not bear investigation. The situation is that in 1954, 1961, 1969 and 1972, the Australian Labor Party obtained more votes than were obtained by the parties of those who sit opposite. In 1954, 1961 and 1969 the Australian Labor Party was defeated, but if a system of first past the post voting had operated in 1974 it would have won 75 seats in this Parliament. This example proves how undemocratic are the present electoral boundaries.
This Bill gives to this historic Joint Meeting of the Australian Parliament the opportunity to give expression to the democratic principle that a person ‘s vote is of equal value no matter where he is domiciled and whatever his class, creed or occupation. All men should be equal in making the law as before the law. Electoral laws should provide equality, not privilege. These are the basic principles of this legislation. The Bill gives expression to the democratic principles of equal rights for all people, as opposed to the manipulation of the electoral system for the benefit of political parties. Its objective is to give to the
Australian people truly representative government and to give practical expression to the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, which still echo down through the ages and linger in the minds of all democrats, namely: ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people’. That is what this legislation stands for. The legislation deserves the support of this great national assembly. I hope that it will be endorsed.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) referred to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) as the Minister for conservation of a Labor Government in office. That statement, of course, is amply borne out by what we have just heard from the Minister. In fact if the honourable gentleman’s capacity for electoral gymnastics is in any way exceeded, it is by his own acknowledged incapacity as a furniture removalist.
The Bill before this Joint Sitting has been opposed consistently by all members of the Liberal and Country Parties. It has been rejected by successive Parliaments. Its endorsement now by this Joint Session would, we believe, place at risk the very basis of the democratic process which this Parliament is to uphold. It is in fact a cynical device designed to serve the long term political advantage of the Australian Labor Party.
– It is not rubbish. This Bill in essence is unnecessary, inequitable, certainly unworkable and, I believe, is without precedent in the Australian Parliament. The Government, at a time when the nation is desperately seeking a semblance of political leadership, has decided that this matter is to be given first priority before the Joint Sitting. A government which seeks to give priority to a Bill of this kind is failing to provide the form of constructive, sound, firm and political leadership which is essential to overcome the manifold problems of the nation which today suffers under a state of industrial siege and debilitating inflation of an unprecedented order.
The existing electoral system has operated without challenge by previous governments of all political persuasions. The present Administration, in seeking to amend the Act, has failed to advance the cogent and justifiable reasons which a fundamental alteration to the Commonwealth electoral process certainly demands. The principle of a 20 per cent tolerance in electoral quotas has been accepted by every Australian head of government since the legislation was enacted by this Parliament. This includes the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who referred to the 20 per cent tolerance during a debate in the House of Representatives in 1955 in the following terms:
That principle is to ensure that every electorate shall have approximately the same number of electors, so that the votes of all electors shall be equal in value. At least, the numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent above or below the quota as allowed under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
The Prime Minister apparently is now prepared to condemn a fundamental principle that at one stage he supported. In defence of his Party’s vested interests in this Parliament and throughout the country he has deliberately sought to abandon a vital aspect of Australian democracy upheld by successive Labor Prime MinistersWatson, Fisher, Scullin, Curtin and Chifley. But, of course, this Prime Minister is not a man cast in the mould of those great Prime Ministers of former years.
What the Minister for Services and Property stated in his address to the House is a sham and a mockery. He claimed that under the existing legislation the election results do not reflect the will of the majority either in individual constituencies or in fact on a national basis. That proposition is both dishonest and misleading. As the Leader of the Opposition has effectively pointed out, the real test of equitable electoral legislation is that the party which receives the majority of the votes should also receive the majority of the seats. This has in fact happened in all cases under the distributions which were made during the record term of the previous LiberalCountry Party Administration. The Labor Party’s propaganda in this House and outside seeks to insist that the Electoral Act is unfair and that redistributions have been biased against the Labor Party. There is no better refutation of that proposition than the results of the last Federal election. At that time in respect of the House of Representatives the present Government polled 49.3 per cent of the formal votes and received 5 1 .96 per cent of the seats in the new Parliament. That result was achieved on boundaries drawn up under a former Liberal-Country Party government in 1968. In fact when the vote is expressed as a ratio of the percentage of seats to the percentage of votes the result slightly favours the Labor Party.
The Opposition is on record in this Parliament as supporting the principle that all votes should have equal value. But equally we recognise that in terms of the realities of the position that it is not possible to attain this ideal. A practical adherence to this principle would require every electorate to contain precisely the same number of electors and enrolments in every electorate to increase at exactly the same rate. These conditions are manifestly unobtainable. Even if all the divisions were drawn so that the voter population was exactly equal at a particular date, they would be substantially less than equal within months of the commissioners’ proposal being submitted. It is grossly misleading to argue that the present Electoral Act is designed to permit inequalities in favour of one party or another. The commissioners, appropriately, have the capacity to apply a tolerance greater than 10 per cent in those few seats that have rapidly changing populations, or other peculiar circumstances. Such a level of tolerance is necessary to cope with the changing population patterns in Australia during the foreseeable future. There has been a continuing high level of migrant intake for about a quarter of a century. Subdivisional and housing developments and the construction of high rise buildings have led to population concentrations. There are movements of people arising from new industrial and urban developments. It is essential therefore that the tolerance factor in distribution be large enough to take account of this position while at the same time enabling voter equality to be preserved. Experience has shown that a 20 per cent tolerance is in fact essential, especially if too frequent redistributions are to be avoided.
The 1974 general election achieved an equitable result using electoral boundaries based on a 6-year-old distribution. This was in spite of substantial population shifts and the entry of 18- year-old voters. If this legislation had been enacted at the time of the 1968 redistribution it would have been necessary to have a further redistribution before the 1972 election. A further redistribution might then have been necessary before the recent election in order to accommodate the changes in electoral rolls arising from the lower voting age. In the short period between December 1 972 and May 1 974 some electorates increased by less than 1,000 electors while others increased by as many as 17,000. The Minister for Services and Property has pointed out that the formalities for a redistribution take about 28 to 3 1 weeks, or up to 8 months, to complete. A major redistribution could take up to one year or more. Even then electorates would not be of equal voter strength.
This country has a history of infrequent redistributions. The Opposition believes this to be desirable in a representative type of government. Effective representation and meaningful voting demand stability of electoral boundaries. This is possible under the present practice. But the adoption of this legislation would necessitate in all probability a redistribution prior to every general election. In those circumstances the quality of representation would be greatly undermined as electors faced continual changes in both their elected representatives and their electorates.
It is not necessary to utilise the full time available during the course of this address to point to the sham and mockery which have underlined the whole proposition which this Government has sought to put down. Professor David Butler of Oxford University, in his book ‘The Canberra Model’, referred to our electoral system in the following terms:
Australian Federal governments have never tried to subvert the Constitution by, for example, extending the life of a Parliament. Electoral law has been moderately fair and bipartisan. . . . Redistribution excites a lot of innuendo, but by world standards or even by some state standards, federal gerrymanding has been negligible.
It is clear that no legitimate argument exists to support the terms of the legislation now before us. The Government, both in its attempts to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act and in its unsuccessful proposals to amend the Commonwealth Constitution, has exhibited a total disregard for the principles of the democratic process. A government which seeks to use the Parliament to destroy electoral equity must forfeit its integrity and credibility. Any Prime Minister who is prepared to come into this chamber, on an occasion such as this, and, mouth the fundamentals of democracy but who clearly is unable to provide leadership for the Australian democracy at the present time is not capable of maintaining the confidence of the Australian people. To a man and a woman, the Opposition totally rejects the Bill before the Parliament.
– I support the proposal now before this Parliament. Benjamin Franklin once said that the right to fair and equal elections is at the very heart and core of any free constitution. That statement was made by a man who played a very important part in framing the Constitution of the United States of Amenca. This electoral proposal is put before us so that we can carry out that principle. I would like to discuss the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden. I do not believe that he is being consistent in his attitude. Not so long ago- in fact, on 5 May this year- Mr Snedden issued a Press statement. In the fourth paragraph, when he was talking about the referendum concerning democratic elections, he said: This represents a fundamental departure from the principle of one vote one value- the only right and proper principle on which to base electoral redistribution. I repeat those words’the only right and proper principle on which to base electoral redistribution’. I was so impressed with that statement that at question time I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a question on this subject as follows:
Will the Prime Minister consider reintroducing last year’s Commonwealth Electoral Bill so that those members who support the principle of one vote one value for the first time, such as the Leader of the Opposition, can vote to have his principle enshrined in our electoral law?
Earlier I tried to ask the same question and the Leader of the Opposition had it ruled out of order because supposedly it was not allowable as it related to some opinion he had expressed. The Opposition was very worried about that sort of statement. The fact is that the Opposition now has a chance to put its vote where its Leader’s words were, but we all know what will happen. This question will be decided on the numbers of the Government against those of the Opposition, with the single exception of the vote of Senator Hall. It is quite useless for Senator Withers to talk about what had happened in South Australia. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has already mentioned that it was quite impossible to do more than Senator Hall did in South Australia when he was Premier. We know that we are afflicted in this country- I use the word ‘afflicted’ advisedly- by Upper Houses which are not democratically elected, which are not elected by the people, which flout the very principle about which Benjamin Franklin talked in his words that I read to the Parliament.
I represent the division of Diamond Valley in the House of Representatives in this Parliament. It has the largest electoral population in the whole of Victoria. In my own State in the electorate of Wimmera 56 people have the same voting power as 100 people whom I represent. This is supposed to be democracy. Immediately to the north of Wimmera in the electorate of Mallee 57 people have the same voting power as 100 people in the electorate of Diamond Valley. Is this democracy? Of course it is not. We heard the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) talk before about the Leader of the Opposition’s electorate of Bruce. Prior to the 1968 redistribution it had over 120,000 electors while other electorates had only a quarter of that number. That is not democracy either. In fact it is quite impossible to determine a redistribution on the basis of area. Mallee, which is the largest electorate in Victoria, with an area of over 19,000 square miles, has a population density approximately 8 times greater than that of Darling, the largest electorate in New South Wales. Is there any logic in saying that a vote in Darling ought to be worth 8 times a vote in Mallee? Of course not. The way to make representation more equal from the point of view of servicing electorates is not to gerrymander or, more correctly, to malapportion the electorates, but to make the services available to members fit and proper for the job members have to do. They can then service their constituents and not come into this House with a weighted vote which goes against every principle of democratic elections which we hold dear in Australia. This is something which we have fought for, and I think we should not give it up lightly.
Much has been made this morning of the statement that the Australian Labor Party received only 49 per cent of the vote but 52 per cent of the seats in the last election. But when we look at the preferred vote- after all our system is of a preferential nature- we find that the situation is completely different. On the preferred vote the Australian Labor Party, which sits in the House of Representatives as the Government, had much more than 50 per cent of the vote. The combined vote of the Country Party, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Labor Party over Australia, is very much less than 50 per cent of the total. In fact of the total votes polled, the Australian Labor Party polled about 250,000 more than the combined votes of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party sits in the House of Representatives as the Government not because of a gerrymander but in spite of it.
If we are to talk about the representation of large areas, surely, as members spend a lot of their time in Canberra, we should give an electorate a weighting according to its distance from Canberra. Nobody has suggested that. Yet travelling becomes part of the members ‘s time. It takes time to travel from Perth. I can board an aircraft at Tullamarine airport and be in Canberra in about 40 minutes, but it takes my colleagues on both sides of the House much longer to come from Western Australia. The fact that 20 per cent variation has been the rule since Federation ought not blind us to its inequiti. When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that 20 per cent was a perfectly reasonable tolerance he was referring to the fact that no one could argue that it was not fair. I think that to turn the argument on its head, as some speakers have done, is completely wrong.
Today we have heard speakers on the other side of the chamber bring in all sorts of side issues and all sorts of things which have nothing to do with the Bill, and direct all sorts of tirades against this Government. But what we are discussing and what this Bill puts before the Parliament is whether we will so organise our electorates that every person at voting age will have his vote weighed equally, not in the way which has happened in the past. At the moment 18.5 per cent of electorates in the various States are below 10 per cent of the quota which is prescribed in this Bill and 20.9 per cent are above that 10 per cent. In other words, more than one-fifth of the electorates in the States are above the quota prescribed in the legislation. Gladstone once said: ‘Do our opponents believe in counting votes or weighing them?’ Mr Acting Chairman, I put to you that u I were a member of the Australian Country Party I would hide from the weights and measures inspector. The Prime Minister quoted a section from the 1959 report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review but I believe that it needs to be said again. The Committee stated unanimously that any quota differential over and above 10 per cent could not be justified. I believe that to be true. Of course there is quite a good deal of difference between a gerrymander and a malapportionment. A gerrmander takes its name from Governor Gerry of Massachusetts who drew up a series of electorates shaped like a salamander. But a malapportionment is a different thing. It is where one gets the weighing of votes to suit a series of areas. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said that a 20 per cent tolerance was essential because should this Bill become an Act we would have too frequent redistributions. That is just not true. If the distribution commissioners look at the situation and allow for growth areas, there is no reason whatsoever why we should have too frequent redistributions. When the 1968 redistribution took place it should have been evident, and if the proper set of criteria had been established it would have been evident, that the seat of Diamond Valley would grow considerably in succeeding years. Yet no real attempt was made to allow for that. This Bill will allow a weighing to be within a quota of 10 per cent which protects other areas. I do not believe that at any time it should be more than 10 per cent.
– It would have needed 20 per cent. The honourable member knows that very well.
– That is only because of the circumstances involved. But the right honourable gentleman’s Party supported the situation which allowed 20 per cent but it did not provide for that variation because it sold out to the Country Party any principles it had in regard to electoral distribution. It is a great surprise to me that the Liberal Party which, at the turn of the electoral wheel, might one day-a long way off I feelbecome the government of this country in its own right, will never, as it sells out to the Country Party and allows that weighing of electorates, achieve what should be the objective in a 2-Party system which relies on traditional Westminster style democracy of governing in its own right. At present the Liberal Party has no chance to govern in its own right. Of course the Liberal Party in Victoria is very disturbed about the situation. That is one of the reasons why there was trouble at the election.
This Bill is of great importance to the Australian people. It allows for one person one vote. It allows the people of Australia to decide, by a majority of electors, who will govern them. It allows the people of Australia to determine what sorts of policies are to be passed in this Parliament. It is a most important part of our democratic structure that governments should be elected on the basis of one person one vote. I believe it is ridiculous to expect commissioners to take into account area as well as population, because not only do areas vary but the population distributions within areas vary. I draw to the attention of members of this Parliament the situation that occurs in various country electorates. Some country electorates have a large number of urban centres within their boundaries. In the seat of Mallee, which I cited earlier, the population is relatively dispersed with only 41 percent of electors living in towns with a population of 1,000 or more.
However, in other country seats, in both Victoria and New South Wales, the situation is different. For instance, in the seat of Gwydir represented by Mr Hunt, the percentage of electors in large towns is 58.17. It is easier to service an electorate which has a concentration of voters in urban areas than to service an electorate where there are a large number of small towns and hamlets which their representative must visit. This is regardless of the size of the area because in these days of modern travel and communication it is possible for members properly to service their electorates.
I know, from living in country areas, that in walking down the main street of a country town one can meet more people whom he knows than he would in a city. This is because there is a focus of community activity in smaller areas. In an electorate like Diamond Valley, which has a large number of people dispersed evenly over the whole suburban landscape, that focus of community interest is not as easy to organise as it is in a country town. A member visiting a country town at once has a whole structure of community organisations before him with which he can keep contact. With modern travel there is absolutely no reason why we should weigh the vote of country electors more than city electors, because country members are more in contact with their constituents.
I believe that this Parliament- this House of Representatives and Senate assembled together- should pass the proposed law which is before it. As I have already explained, there is no way by which equality between various electorates can be achieved because the areas of the States vary so much. But there are very good reasons why we should pass a law which will enable the principle of one person one vote to be enshrined in the legislation used to decide what members are to represent the various areas of Australia. I support the BiD and suggest to honourable members opposite that they should change their minds and vote with the Government on this issue.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch the Joint Sitting was dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Bill. The stated purpose of the Bill is to reduce the permissible variation in the number of voters in electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent above or below the quota. Before I rose to speak 9 speakers had taken part in the debate. Four of them have come from the Opposition side and the remainder have come from the Government side- or so I would have thought from listening to Senator Hall. Immediately before the suspension of the sitting the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) referred to the fact that he would not like to be a member of the Australian Country Party in this Parliament. I say to him that I have been a member of the Country Party in this Parliament for 16 years, and I am proud of it. My Party has been represented in this Parliament since 1919, and I think its record speaks for itself. The honourable member for Diamond Valley also referred to the significance of the altered tolerance, and he wanted to know why such great importance was placed on it. I will deal with that point later in my contribution.
The Government has made great play about this Joint Sitting being an historic occasion. Not only is it an historic occasion, but it brings television to the Parliament for the first time. I am very glad that television has been brought to this Parliament on this occasion because it brings the Australian people right into this Parliament and allows them to see the merits and demerits of the Government case and the Opposition case. The people can judge the issues for themselves. I believe that after listening to Government speakers the people will be better informed of what the Government is trying to do by this Electoral Bill. I only regret that the television coverage will not spread into the distant parts of Australia so that those people who have pioneered this country and who are still pioneering it in many areas could, if they had television, hear and see how this Government is ignoring them in this legislation which provides for parliamentary representation in this Parliament. I will refer also to the areas that this Government has overlooked and that this Government is demoralising with its policies regarding the representation of rural people.
I look firstly at what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said when he opened this debate. He referred to the obstruction of his Government by the Opposition Parties in the Senate. I would much rather call it tactics, and I am quite sure that the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, called it tactics when his Party in the Senate delayed, amended and defeated the previous Government’s legislation that came before that chamber. We all remember that throughout 1973 and until the federal election in May, the Prime Minister led the Labor Party onslaught on the Senate. During the election campaign he stomped from one end of Australia to the other emotionally appealing to voters to give Labor a majority in the Senate. Day after day he argued that it was undemocratic and unfair that a government should be frustrated by senators who in some cases had been elected several years before Labor came to power. Very few voters in Australia could have failed to hear the Prime Minister’s plea for Senate control. Yet what happened in the election? The people flatly refused to grant that extra power for which their Prime Minister asked. The Prime Minister obviously has failed to see the significance of that result. He either does not see or will not admit that the Australian people choose to elect the senators whom they prefer and not those whom the Prime Minister wants.
Those who have already spoken in this debate have failed, I believe, to explain why there is a necessity for change. I recall that the Government put before the Senate two different Bills, the present Bill and another which was totally at variance with the concept of one vote one value. In other words, when the Senate was considering those Bills the Government had one foot in each camp. Today the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), the Minister responsible for this Bill, failed, in my view, to give any explanation as to why he wants to change the present system. I would have thought that the Minister would take the opportunity to explain to the people who are listening in why this legislation is necessary. But what did he do? All he did was stand up and castigate the Australian Country Party, a party that has given great service to this country. The Minister said that the Country Party received only 10.6 per cent of the total vote in Victoria. What he did not explain is that of the 34 seats in Victoria the Country Party stood for only six and won six. It obtained more than 50 per cent of the vote for the seats it contested.
It has been pointed out time and time again during this debate and in other debates that the existing legislation has resulted in a great gerrymander which was perpetrated by the Country Party. But that is not true. If anyone wants evidence of a gerrymander he should have a look at the position in Queensland in 1949. The Government of the day had a redistribution which resulted in the Labor Government gaining 42 seats in the Parliament with 46 per cent of the vote. Forty-eight per cent of the vote gave the Liberal and Country parties 31 seats. Government supporters now say that in the past the Liberal Party and the Country Party have tried to create gerrymanders.
I want to recall something else that the Government has said. The Labor Government has said repeatedly that the value of the vote of one citizen should be equivalent to the value of the vote of another. But let us come closer to the core of Labor’s disagreement with the present electoral situation. With the 20 per cent variation in the quota, the average number of voters in country electorates is lower than the average number of voters in city electorates. So what the Labor Government is saying is that it is wrong for a country vote to have a greater mathematical value than a city vote. During this debate we have heard a great deal about the concept of one vote one value, but no speaker on the Government side of the chamber has made a prediction as to what difference this reduction in percentage variation will make to country areas. I believe that it will reverse all that country people have tried to do over the years.
The Labor Government wants to increase the area of the electorate of Kalgoorlie, as the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said, from about 800,000 square miles to one million square miles. What does this proposal mean? It means a reduction in parliamentary representation for all people who live in that area, which is one of Australia’s great areas, and a reduction in the ability of people in the electorate to communicate with each other. I believe that this is a most important aspect of all these proposed redistributions. I wonder what the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) has to say on this matter. We will not know because in this debate up to the present, despite the statement by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that the Labor Party, the Government of this country, holds more rural seats than any other Party, we have not heard from one Labor member who represents a rural area.
-Why not? Because they are not game to speak. They know that the policies of the Labor Party have been detrimental to the people who live in the rural areas. There have been 4 speakers from the Government side. All of them, probably with one exception, come from densely populated areas. The one exception was the honourable member for Diamond Valley who represents an urban area in Victoria. I challenge those Labor Party members who represent rural areas to say where they stand on this Bill and whether they agree that their constituents in these vast areas should have a lesser degree of representation in this Parliament than they have now. They have said it in Caucus. Surely if they are game to say it in Caucus they should be game to tell the people, through this Parliament, where they stand. I have agreed not to speak at length. 1 believe that this Bill is a farce. It is detrimental to people living in the outlying areas of this country. For that reason, I oppose the Bill.
-Mr Chairman, so far this debate has been quite notorious because so many speakers have spoken in favour of the principles of one vote one value but at the same time have expressed their intention to vote against the principle which they have espoused. I found some of the contributions very interesting, even if they were only a repetition of history. All the speeches so far were based on principle but were accompanied by the same old feeble excuses which have been advocated at each appropriate time in this Parliament since 1902. They were the same arguments, almost without variation. I was amazed to hear Senator Withers speak of the message he learned at his father’s knee. ‘ Look out for the returning officer. He is the one most important man’ is the message he gave us. ‘Vote early and vote often’ was another message he gave us. If they are the 2 lessons which he learned in his childhood, no wonder the Liberals picked him as their leader. Has there ever been a greater example of a misspent youth?
This proposition is a worthwhile one. It has been subjected to extensive debate in the House of Representatives and in the Senate on 2 separate occasions in each place, and it has been before the Australian people. There is absolutely no doubt that the Australian people want a system which gives equality of value of votes for all voters. That every citizen should have an equal voice in the Parliament is the very basis and foundation of democracy. If that situation does not endure democracy does not endure. If that situation is not upheld by this Parliament there is almost an immediate breakdown of law and order in our society. Government of the people, by the people, for the people is not an empty phrase and is not something that can be tampered with.
The United States Supreme Court has had an opportunity of expressing a legal view on this question on several occasions in recent years. In every single case that has been before the United States Supreme Court it has made the same decision- that the democratic concept will not tolerate the gerrymandering of politicians. The democratic state has inherent in its concept that all citizens will have an equal voice. The Westminster system of government under which we operate gives to the party with the most seats in the lower House an absolute monopoly of power in that House. In those circumstances it is even more essential that every citizen’s vote should have equal value. It is ludicrous for members of the Opposition to come here today with tired, worn out old arguments. They have used the argument about the man in the country, which was argued in 1902 when there were no telephones, no trains, no motor cars, no communication between the citizens of the outback of this great nation. That argument is no longer appropriate today. Let us look at these self-styled, selfappointed advocates of the rural area. They stand here today crying for inequality of voting, to be weighted heavily in favour of the country person whom the Country Party has neglected shamefully over the last 25 years.
Let us look at the facts. The census taken in 1916 showed that 60 per cent of the citizens of Australia lived outside the metropolitan areas. In 1972, 54 per cent of the citizens of Australia lived in the metropolitan areas of our capital cities. Why? Because the Country Party, which has been operating since 1919, has seen the decline of population in rural areas during the whole of its existence. The reasons are simple. Until last year children in the rural areas of this country did not receive equality of educational opportunity. Country people still do not receive equality of opportunity in employment. People in rural areas do not have equality of opportunity for the same life style and for the same enjoyment of life as do people in the metropolitan areas. That is as a result of the political party which has represented the country areas since 1919. The rural electorates have got 50-odd years of decay from the Australian Country Party.
The 1902 debate is very interesting. The Minister concerned, when referring to the tolerance, stated clearly that if in any circumstances a variation in equality of electorates was 1 ,000 or more a particular explanation of the reason for that variation had to be given by the Electoral Commissioners. So it was assumed that, consistent with the constitutional requirement, there would be equality of value of votes cast in elections for this Parliament. That is what the Australian Constitution requires. That is the way seats are allocated as between the States. It is assumed in the Australian Constitution that politiciansmembers of this Parliament- will act as honourable men, will ensure that their electorates are so framed as to allow the people to give expression to their view. It is assumed that electorates will be so drawn as to ensure that the rights of people are put above the convenience of political parties and members thereof.
In 1968 only 8 electorates out of the 45 electorates in New South Wales following the redistribution had variations above 10 per cent over the quota. An equal number- 8 electorates- had more than 10 per cent below the quota. The position in New South Wales now is quite remarkable. No fewer than 26 New South Wales electorates in this Parliament exceed the quota by 10 per cent or more and 23 electorates are 10 per cent or more below the quota. Of the 26 electorates which are above the quota by 10 per cent or more, 19 are held by the Australian Labor Party. Of the 23 electorates which are 10 per cent or more below the quota, 1 8 are held by the Opposition Parties. Is it any wonder that members of the Opposition stand here, almost in hysteria, fighting against the concepts of equality of voting?
It is absolutely certain that we cannot always achieve equality of numbers as between individual electorates, and that is why the Government proposes the variation of 10 per cent either way. It is not reasonable to split communities in half. But we do not need a total variation of 40 per cent to give effect to that principle. We do not need a variation of 40 per cent in order to have regard to the problems of communication which have been raised here today. In fact, in city electorates where this great variation is now occurring we need a variation of only 2 per cent or 3 per cent to give effect to equality of voting and at the same time not split legitimate communities in half. Today, at this Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, this historic occasion, democracy in Australia is on trial. Let those who stand for democracy speak today in this Parliament. Let those who want to masquerade and create all sorts of smokescreens and introduce red herrings into the simple, relevant argument cringe and find excuses for trying to uphold dictatorship by the minority.
It has been put that in this Parliament there are certain people who believe that they were born to rule. It took a massive vote to shift them off the perch or to move them off the throne. It has been argued in this Parliament in the past that there has never been an occasion when the party with the majority of votes has not had the majority of seats. In 1954 the Australian Labor Party received 50.1 per cent of the vote and the Liberal and Country Parties received 47 per cent; but the Liberal and Country Parties remained in government. In 1961 the Australian Labor Party received 47.99 per cent of the vote and the Liberal and Country Parties received 41.98 per cent; but the Liberal and Country Parties continued to govern. In 1969 the Australian Labor Party received 46.95 per cent of the vote and the Liberal and Country Parties received 43.3 per cent; yet the Liberal and Country Parties continued to govern. In 1972 the Australian Labor Party gained 49.59 per cent of the primary votes and 41.48 per cent of the primary votes went to the Liberal and Country Parties. It took that proportion of the primary votes to change the government and put the category A boys in their place. They found to their horror that they were not born to rule at all. That came very hard to them. They cannot accept it. They think that they did not lose; that they just did not get the numbers.
In the United States Constitution Convention debate of 1 778 James Madison said:
Who are to be the electors of the Federal Representatives? Not the rich more than the poor, not the learned more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names more than the humble sons of obscure and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States.
The same principle applies in Australia almost 200 years later. This Bill will establish new and more appropriate guidelines for the redistribution of electorates. It will assist the Distribution Commissioners in the future, whenever they are called upon to perform their task. I commend this Bill. I believe that every person who believes in the democratic concept will vote for it.
- Mr Chairman, 3 times this Bill has been debated in this chamber and in the Senate. Now we are having a Joint Sitting after a double dissolution which saw the Government’s majority in the House of Representatives halved. The Government also failed to gain control of the Senate. We now have a contemporary Parliament. I well remember the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) rushing into this chamber saying: ‘What we need is a contemporary Parliament.’ Ever since we have had it he has been complaining so much about it and so often. Why is the Labor Government so persistent about this Bill? Determined after the election of 1972, the Government has now become desperate. For it this Bill represents a matter of survival. Without electorates drawn in its favour the Government has no chance of winning another election. With electorates drawn in its favour the Government recognises that it has some chance. Labor recognises the electoral climate brought about by raging inflation, rampant industrial unrest, a divided Cabinet, a mutinous Caucus, confusion and a lack of confidence throughout the community, fragmentation in both policy and the Party, and sees the need to do something pretty badly. The really historic thing about this Bill is that the Labor Caucus agrees on it. I think it is about the only Bill that has come before the Parliament on which all members of the Caucus have actually agreed.
I want to make my personal position quite clear. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) referred to me this morning. I have consistently said over the 10 years that I have been involved in organisational politics that I believe in electoral justice and I believe in electoral equality, as do the majority of Australians, but they need to be implemented with a degree of tolerance and flexibility. The Minister referred to statements I made when, as President of the Liberal Party in Queensland, I spoke of a Bill which, incidentally, was defeated in the Queensland Parliament. The quote was accurate. Given those same circumstances I would say the same things again. I extend a public invitation to the Minister or anybody else in the Labor Government who wants to come to Queensland and have a debate about electoral redistributions in that State. There is a first-class invitation which I have issued because Labor’s history in electoral redistributions in government is shameful.
The present Act has been law since Federation. Some amendments were made in 1965 and they, in my view, were desirable. We have had 6 redistributions between 1912 and 1968 covering 25 elections. With one exception the party that got the majority of votes formed the Government, and that is the real test. Indeed, at the last election on 18 May I thought the Labor Government was pretty lucky because with less than 50 per cent of the vote it got about 52 per cent of the number of seats. Certainly there have been some imbalances but overall the history of this Parliament has been good and the record fair. I want to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan), who referred to a court decision in the United States of America. My memory of that decision is that it certainly upheld that there should be electoral justice and it agreed to the necessity for tolerance. We ought to compare our record not only with that of the United States of America but also with that of Canada, Britain and France.
This Bill is the brainchild of the Minister for Services and Property. Of course I can understand that in Opposition- particularly for the number of years he spent in it -a degree of frustration overcomes anybody. Some people in periods of frustration and adversity can enrich their souls. It is a shame that this particular Minister, with the discomfort of being in Opposition, has become very bitter about electoral affairs and this is blinding him to any sense of fair play. He postures in a prepared speech: ‘We want to be fair, open, just and reasonable.’ But in an unguarded comment in a television interview, smiling happily on his return from Canada, he said: ‘We want to give the Country Party as many heart attacks as possible. ‘ What he is really about is to reduce any form of fairness in respect of rural representation. I know that on 18 May there were some fatal heart attacks but not within the Country Party. And the Minister well knows that there are more to come unless he can juggle the electorate boundaries. What does the Government want to do? It wants to reduce the tolerance allowed above or below the quota from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. It would mean constant redistributions. It would, of course, mean more seats in the large capital cities. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) represents a very small capital city seat in Sydney. But we in the Australian Parliament are interested in representation of the entire nation and not just the big capital cities of this country.
Professional advice to the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was that we need 20 per cent variation. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in a moment of frankness- he has them from time to time but they are becoming infrequent- said that there ought to be a 20 per cent tolerance. It is quite false to claim now that we must have that percentage reduced in order to achieve electoral equality. To be perfectly honest, if we want to achieve electoral equality we need a tolerance of greater than 10 per cent for areas of growth. We cannot achieve electoral equality for areas of growth on a 10 per cent basis. In addition, the Government wants to alter the criteria to be applied by distribution commissioners. It is all right to keep community of interest- economic, social and regional; it is all right to keep means of communication, travel, physical features and trends in population changes. But the Government wants to delete any reference in the criteria to be applied by the commissioners to disabilities caused by remoteness through distance or density or sparsity of population, or areas of a division. They might have been put there in 1965. In my view they should have been there before.
What we need in this vast continent are greater facilities for members to carry out their responsibilities. The need for those criteria will diminish as the years go by but they are certainly needed in present day Australia. To suggest that the tolerance be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent and that we should alter the criteria the commissioners work under to satisfy electoral equality, will offend the commonsense- it does in fact offend the commonsense- of the Australian electors. There is one other good reason for retaining the present tolerance which I hope the Government will consider. The Government wants this Bill passed so that it can rush into a redistribution which it knows can be of value for only one election, with all the instability and problems that will bring upon us. There has to be a census in 1976, and if we can believe the Bureau of Statistics with regard to population trends, after that census there will need to be a reapportionment of the number of electorates in the various States. I am pleased to see that Queensland is likely to get an extra seat as is Western Australia and New South Wales is likely to lose one. Why distort the entire electoral map for just one short election?
I appeal to the Labor Government to forget this obsession about changing the electoral laws which have stood the test of time. It will not fool the nation by this approach. The Government won the last election and it was told to get on with the job of facing the really big issues that are concerning this country. That is what this Government ought to be spending its time doing- facing up to the really vital issues. The Australian electorate is not likely to forget, nor will it forget at the next election, a Government which was so determined to get legislation through to redraw boundaries in its own electoral favour.
– We have just heard a speech from the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson). Let me say that he represents the largest enrolment in Queensland, some 120,000 people. He is a man who comes here and says: ‘It is all right to represent 120,000 because I am in the city but, of course, if you are in the country you can drop it down to 80,000. That is the style of legislation we want here ‘. What were the principles upon which this legislation was first introduced? Back in the 1890s when the Constitution was drawn up the size of electorates was based on population. Section 24 of the Constitution says so. In fact, quotas are determined on population and the first 75 members that were elected to this place were elected on the basis of roughly 50,000 electors per member. At the time the population was 3.7 million.
That ought to be the yardstick we ought to have a look at here. If population is the yardstick, why is it that the Australian Country Party is so frightened of the amendments proposed to be introduced? Those silent acres, those speechless miles will still have a voice through the Country Party, which has never contested enough seats to form a government. It has always contested only a minority of seats so it could be an appendage to the Liberal Party and thereby extract its pound of flesh on the basis of subsidies or some other perk which no other Australian can get. It is about time the Opposition had a look at what was said when the original legislation was introduced by Sir William Lyne in 1902. He said that representation would be on the basis of equal population; not on the basis of tolerances which could be so divergent as to be 20 per cent either side of a quota with the result that one person may have to represent 50 per cent more people than another. That is not justice in any sense of the word.
We heard it stated today here what a dreadful thing it is that the city people have so many representatives in the Houses of Parliament. In New South Wales there are 21 Federal seats with a population of over 100,000. The Australian Labor Party represents 15 of them, the Liberal Party represents 6, and the Australian Country Party represents none at all. There is the massive concentration of people. Are these people not entitled to some consideration? Admittedly they are landless; and admittedly they do not own 1,000 or 200 acres somewhere else in a fertile area of New South Wales. Perhaps they are only tenants. I represent 1 10,000 of such people and they make me just as busy as the constituents of anybody who wants to claim that he can represent only 70,000 or 80,000. This remoteness, this sparsity that the Country Party says is so worried about is not really what it is worried about; it is worried about the fact that if boundaries were redrawn on the basis of population there would be less Country Party representation here. It would have to be less in the sense of fairness to the people in the cities.
Why is it that our forefathers thought it was reasonable to base representation on population yet the Opposition now claims it ought to be on enrolment. Bear in mind that because of the large migration program in Australia these new citizens are living in the city areas and they have many needs. Their needs are not only in respect of health, education and housing, the whole ambit of their needs, is carted into this Parliament on the basis of what would be good legislation or legislation in their interests. That is the role of the representatives here. They are elected as legislators, not just to become mere letter carriers to indicate that they have made some telephone call to a Minister and therefore that they are representing an area well- not at all. The issues in Australia which must be faced up to now are national issues- issues on which the whole of the people can express a voice. The vote of each person right across the country should be equal.
The electorate of Kalgoorlie has been memtioned in some derogatory fashion. Let it be said here and now that the electorate of Kalgoorlie has a population of 135,000. So let it not be said that when considering a redistribution population changes would not be considered. Such issues are part and parcel of the amending Bill. We heard a diatribe about what a dreadful thing it would be if we had to go back to the position of one vote one value and that the Labor Party would be in office for a long time. Of course it will, and so it should be, because it has always had the majority of people supporting it.
Are the people of Australia to trust government of the future to a Country Party that can poll at best, say, 10 per cent of the votes and demand 1 6 per cent of the seats? Is this not the issue that was fought out in the Constitution Convention? If it was intended that weight would be given to space, distance and remoteness, that would have been considered at the time. The whole issue of this meeting today deserves some serious consideration. The justification for the Senate was the preservation of State rights, not the destruction of votes for city people. Why are we here today? It is because of a double dissolution caused by senators who are elected on the basis that they will look after State rights. They are not doing that at all. In fact, the people in the cities would be entitled to appeal to those senators and say: ‘As a result of your action you are preventing us from getting an equal opportunity in the voting sphere.’ Honourable gentlemen opposite pay no credence to that at all.
This is the second time we have had to confront the Opposition with this legislation. Admittedly, as a result of the double dissolution we did remove a splinter Party which supported the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party through thick and thin but did not have enough votes to have one person elected to the House of Representatives. It was on that basis that we were forced to hold the double dissolution. But the Australian Labor Party won again on the principle for which we had fought. We are submitting this legislation to the Joint Sitting on the principles that were espoused back in the 1890s and enshrined in the legislation of 1902 that people and population really count.
It matters nothing to us if we have to represent 100,000 people as long as all honourable members represent 100,000 people. For example, 9 seats in the city represented by Australian Labor Party members should not contain 270,000 more people than 9 country seats. That is the position now and it is what honourable members and honourable senators opposite call justice. They would not dare come down to the city and contest any of the city seats on that premise. Yet members of the Australian Country Party are always saying that the Australian Labor Party is not interested in the country. At least they should give us credit for the fact that we go to the country and fight electoral campaigns there. We oppose the Country Party. We never see the Liberal Party of Australia doing this because the Opposition is a sham.
The real problem of democracy in this country is the sham of the Opposition. We are led to believe that there are 2 parties in opposition- one the Liberal Party and the other the Country Party- with 2 different policies. They have played a confidence trick on the people. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) knows the trouble he had trying to suggest that certain candidates should not be opposed in certain country electorates in Victoria. He knows the trouble he had because to obtain such an undertaking, you have to do deals and you have to barter. This is done on the basis that if we do not oppose your candidate he will be all right. I know full well that the real issue is this: The Opposition professes to be 2 political parties. Members of the Country Party make out to country people that they are their sole representatives. If country people only realised that the Country Party could never form a government they would vote its members right out of office. The real role of Country Party members is to join the Liberal Party in Opposition. That is their role and that is how they perform in the Parliament. Never once have they advanced one individual idea. Never once have they introduced any legislation that would be in the interests of the nation. Their representation is always conducted on the basis of a sectional interest- the landed gentry.
As the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) said: What worker could be more underprivileged than the rural worker- the fellow who has no land? What about his rights, his children, their educational facilities? He is the most underprivileged person in Australia. When we want to do something about his wages and conditions, members of the Country Party decry and oppose such moves. I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament when members of the same political persuasion as members opposite refused to grant rural workers a 40 hour week. They opposed it and used their numbers in the Upper House to do so. These members of Parliament who represent the landed gentry do these things on the basis of assisting Australia. I say that they do nothing to assist Australia.
These are the facts: As a result of the McEwen amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1965 which gave so much weight to distance, space and anything but people, for the first time in 50 years the variation in 25 per cent of the electorates was in excess of the 10 per cent quota. This is the situation and so the problem has arisen. The table I have presented shows that the distribution following the introduction of the McEwen legislation resulted in a far greater number of electorates having a variation in excess of the 10 per cent figure than had ever been the case in the 50 years prior to the introduction of that legislation. Was not the legislation introduced for that purpose? Of course it was.
Today, when we try to amend the legislation and correct the anomaly, members opposite try to cast all sorts of aspersions upon the Prime Minister on the basis that perhaps he is not effectively representing his constituents. He represents 143,000 people in Werriwa. He can effectively represent them in the Parliament only by being an active member of Parliament and an active legislator and not by being a person who goes around and interviews everybody in his electorate. It would be physically impossible. By all means, let us take into consideration population density. Do not let us put the position in this parish pump way as members of the Country Party love to do. They state that because they are surrounded by acres of space and dying towns, this should be taken into consideration. Unless we return to the principles of the Constitution in which the quotas for electorates are fixed on a population basis and make the sizes of electorates more related to that factor, there will be injustice in this country.
In the present situation, the Labor Party can poll 5 or 6 per cent or more of the votes than the Opposition Parties but can only obtain a narrow majority. The Opposition Parties use this weight of numbers in the Senate ostensibly on the basis that they are representing the States. For the life of me, I do not see how they can reject this legislation on the basis of representing the States. They themselves are a bad enough example. It is to the credit of no Party for Mr Eric Robinson to talk about what went wrong in Queensland. If something is wrong, it is wrong. It does not matter what Party did it. We do not want to rely on a bad precedent. We should come back to the principle on which the Constitution was founded and pass this legislation in order to make sure that when the people vote for candidates there is an equal opportunity for each political party to form a government.
In fact it has been said in America that if a party wants to have incumbents, if it wants people who just want to stay in Parliament, there is no better way of doing this than the way the Country Party wants to do it here. That is by having this great disparity between people in the city and people in the country; by having the tolerances against people in the city and thereby to guarantee the continual re-election of those country members. It does not do much good for democracy to have people sitting here for 20 years because they effectively and safely represent very small areas. It would be much better from the point of view of democracy if seats were made more marginal. In fact, it is suggested that even with a swing of 1 per cent, which would be some indication of public opinion, we at least ought to get a 2.5 per cent change in representation. We do not do that under this type of mathematics for which the Opposition is so infamous. It is on those grounds that the members on this historical occasion ought to have a look at what their trust is. It is to guarantee to this nation that they are democrats and that they will act in accordance with the will of the majority of the people.
All that this Bill is saying is that these are the ways the boundaries ought to be drawn. It does not say that these are the ways people must vote. The people themselves will exercise that discretion. They will evaluate the policies. But the Opposition does not want to let them do that. Opposition members have this problem of always hating the city. They must ask themselves where they would be without the population of the city. The people of the city are taxpayers, be they migrants or otherwise, and they are making their contribution to make this country great, yet the Opposition wants to deny them the opportunity to do so. There is no rhyme or reason why the Bill should not be supported.
-Mr Acting Chairman, we have just heard the usual diatribe from the Special Minister of State (Mr Lionel Bowen) on matters affecting the Country Party. Today he put himself in almost the same classification as the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in his hatred of those people whom he cannot beat in a genuine election. The only way he can beat them is by a redistribution and by abolishing seats. The whole purpose of this legislation is not the cause of one vote one value, as so righteously claimed by those who sit on the Government side. Its aim is no more or less than to perpetuate a redistribution of this Parliament that will have the effect not only of reducing the Country Party in terms of numbers in this House but also of reducing the number of Liberals in this House. That is the purpose of the legislation, and the Minister for Services and Property is the guilty man. He has confessed to his guilt for, as the member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) said, when the Minister came back from Canada this is what he had to say: ‘Labor to change all Federal electorates’. That is what the Minister said. This is not a case of the Distribution Commissioners changing all electorates. The Minister said: ‘The Labor Party will change all electorates and the Country Party will lose seats’. He made that as a firm statement on either ‘AM ‘ or ‘ PM ‘ and he said it also at his Press conference in Sydney. He went on to say:
The Federal Government is planning a major redistribution of all Federal electorates as soon as its electoral changes are approved at a joint sitting of Parliament. The Electoral Office is understood to have already prepared a list of names for Distribution Commissioners.
The Electoral Office has apparently prepared a list but the Minister has pre-empted its decision already by declaring that the Country Party will lose seats. There is no doubt at all in my mind or in the mind of anybody on this side of the Parliament that the Distribution Commissioners will come under pressure from the Minister for Services and Property such as they have never come under before in the history of a redistribution of this Parliament. Sir, if I could make a second point, the Minister for Services and Property wants to reduce the variation from 20 per cent to 10 per cent so that he will be better able to introduce redistribution on a faster basis than previously. That is, the demographic changes will force a need for redistribution more often. I say that the Distribution Commissioners ought to be very careful how they handle the first Bill because obviously the Minister for Services and Property will sack them before the second redistribution comes down.
The people of Australia ought to be made aware of the real motives of this Minister in his attitude to this whole Bill. The attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the principle of one vote one value is clearly demonstrated by the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that have been quoted already today. It was also clearly stated in his submission in relation to the last redistribution in New South Wales. The Prime Minister then submitted to the Distribution Commissioners that an extra 4,000 voters should be taken from the seat of Prospect and added to the seat of Reid. The upshot of that would have been a further move away from the principle of one vote one value because the Prime Minister’s proposal would have increased the electorate of Prospect from 3.68 per cent to 11 per cent below the quota and would have made the electorate of Reid 16.82 percent above the quota.
The whole purpose of that was that the Prime Minister’s son was, I understand, proposing to be a candidate for that seat and he had to beat Dr Klugman. The Prime Minister was unable to secure that massive change, that massive gerrymander. Fortunately the Distribution Commissioners whom I, as the then responsible Minister, had appointed were fair minded men of great principle who were not going to be suborned or overborne by the Leader of the Opposition, as the present Prime Minister then was, simply to get his son into this Parliament. That is the real attitude of the Labor Party to the principle of one vote one value. Its own Prime Minister, who is now sitting at the table, tried to get the Distribution Commissioners to fall for that trick, a base trick indeed.
Both the honourable members for Phillip (Mr Riordan) and the Special Minister of State made reference to the way of life in country areas. I suspect that neither of them has ever dirtied his shins, knees, boots or even hands at any time in the countryside. I invite them, together with the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), who has presided over the greatest destruction of rural industry since Federation, who is not in the House at this the first time that we of the Opposition who sit in this chamber of the Parliament have had an opportunity to nail him to the desk and who is badly represented in this chamber by the Minister for sugar at the best of times- I invite them, as well as the Minister for gerrymander, who is sitting at the table at the moment, to a meeting on Thursday night at Narromine. They have probably never heard of it. It is in the electorate of Darling. The honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) has probably never heard of it either. I invite them to attend the meeting on Thursday night and to sit back and listen to what the people of the countryside are saying about the Labor Government. They would not have the courage to do it.
This Bill is a measure of the determination of the Labor Government to bring down the greatest gerrymander in history. Since I have been a member of this Parliament- since 1961-1 have heard the honourable member for Grayndler, who is also the Minister for Services and Property, talk a great deal about electoral matters. In Opposition he used to sit not far from where the honourable member for MacPherson is now sitting. In those days he used to rail against the then Government on redistribution matters. He always used to talk about the principle of one vote one value. It was only a few months ago that the Minister for Services and Property told the world at large, by way of a leak, that it was his intention to dispose of the problem of the number of electors in a constituency by working instead on the basis of counting the number of people in it. The base reason for doing that, of course, is that he thinks that will advantage the Labor Party’s cause in the holding of office. The whole approach by the Minister during his parliamentary life has been a sham. One of the few mistakes the Prime Minister has made- perhaps I am wrong; perhaps he has not made a mistake and knows as well as I do that the Minister’s single determination is to bring down the greatest gerrymander in history. The Minister is the only member of the Labor Party who has the courage to do it. That is probably the only reason why the Prime Minister appointed him to that position. They are indeed determined to bring down a great gerrymander.
The point has been clearly made that the wishes of the people at an election should be reflected in the result of the election. The facts are that in 1972 the Australian Labor Party received 49.6 per cent of the votes and 53.6 per cent of the seats and won Government. That was under a redistribution undertaken during the time when I was the Minister responsible for these matters. If I remember correctly during the course of the debate when that redistribution came into the House there was not one charge of gerrymander. There was not one such charge made by any sensible member of Parliament anyway. I will be fascinated when the redistribution which is proposed in this legislation introduced by the Minister for gerrymander takes place if there is not one charge of gerrymander. If there is not, I will give a garden party for the wharf labourers. There is one essential factor required and that is that the distribution commissioners in a redistribution must be men of integrity. They should not be over-borne or overweighed by ministerial opinion, as the Minister for Services and Property has tried to do. I charge the Minister with the heavy responsibility of making sure that when the distribution commissioners are appointed the redistribution is run on proper lines, as it has in the past.
It is a fact- the honourable members for Phillip (Mr Riordan) tried to ignore it but it is a simple fact- that the only redistribution that did not present the perfect result in terms of seats won for percentage of votes won was the 1949 redistribution which was brought in by Labor itself. On that occasion the Labor Government tried to gerrymander the electorates and all the prima donnas wanted safe seats with a majority of about 20,000 votes. When the results of the election were known the Labor Party found itself out of office because of that redistribution. Apart from that one redistribution, I think that in every other redistribution the election results have clearly carried the people’s will. There has been a change of government when there has been a swing against the government and the election results have been, indeed, very fair.
Let me conclude on one point. The people of Australia are concerned to know whether they are being treated properly and equitably in electoral matters. The simple fact is that since this 20 per cent variation of a quota was introduced in 1902 it has been supported by every parliament until this time. It was supported by the great Labor Prime Ministers Curtin and Chifley, and even as far back as Scullin. It has been supported by political parties of all colours. Now, for some reason the Minister for Services and Property, who is sitting at the table, is trying to tell us that by reducing the variation from 20 per cent to 10 per cent we have reached the great state of one vote one value. That argument will not wash with the people of Australia. It is not true and the people of Australia will see the Government for the fraud that it is.
-This afternoon during this debate we have heard speakers from the Opposition side refer to the great esteem they have for the principle of one vote one value. But as speakers from this side of the House have often reminded the Opposition parties, so far only one member from that side had indicated that he is prepared to vote in accordance with the principles that he espouses in this chamber. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), made some very hurtful references to my colleague, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), and implied that he had no interest in the welfare of country people. Of course, it is well known, as he has often told us, that he was born at Currabubula and he has frequently made very affectionate references to cockies corner. It is well recognised that he has a sincere regard for people from country areas. The point made by the honourable member for Gippsland, that the redistribution that will follow the passing of this Bill will mean that the Australian Country Party will lose seats, is just an incidental effect of the legislation, but the legislation will reduce the imbalance of the electorates and will bring us closer to the ideal of electorates being equal. To criticise the Minister and to accuse him of” failing to show consideration for and interest in the rural sector of the community because of this fact is unfair in the extreme.
We have heard a variety of explanations as to why this historic meeting is taking place today. On 2 occasions within 18 months the people of this nation have indicated their support for the policies of this Government and particularly for the Bill that we are now discussing because there can be no question that ample publicity was given to the fact that this Bill was rejected by the Senate on 2 occasions. The people supported the Government’s policy on this redistribution and returned the Government to office. This is a Government which has been frustrated by the will of senators who claim that they have been chosen to represent the States in the Senate. This is a Government which in a short period of time between the 2 elections, has put through the largest number of Bills introduced in any one year; the largest number of Bills declared urgent in any one year; the largest number of Bills passed into law in any one year; the largest number of Constitution alteration Bills in any one year; the largest number of sitting hours in the last 60 years; the largest number of debates on the adjournment in any one year in the House of Representatives; the largest number of general business matters voted on in any one year; the largest number of petitions presented in any one year; the largest number of grievance day debates in any one year; and the list goes on and on. I could make reference also to the dynamic leadership of this Government and the leadership that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has shown this nation.
The frustrations that have been forced on this Government have produced a situation today where it is necessary for the first time since Federation to hold a joint sitting of the 2 Houses of Parliament to ensure the passage of this legislation. There can be no doubt that since coming to office this Government has sought consistently to remove all forms of discrimination from our laws, whether it be discrimination against women, Aborigines, migrants or in the various other forms that it appears in our statutes. This Government, in a very forthright way, has acted to remove discrimination from our laws. The legislation that is before us seeks to remove possibly the worst form of discrimination that exists in the Federal electoral laws of this nation. The form of discrimination to which I refer allows over-representation to exist in this Parliament. I refer here to certain areas of the nation whose electorates are very heavily weighted. This Bill seeks to remove from our electoral laws this discrimination which has been tolerated and sponsored to a great extent by members from the other side of this chamber.
The honourable member for Gippsland said during his speech that redistributions carried out from Federation up until the present time have been fair, honest and equitable. But let me remind honourable members and senators that Mr McEwen, when speaking as the Leader of the Australian Country Party following the introduction of the 1965 amendments to the electoral laws, said:
There is in this measure a provision which I say unashamedly I hope will operate to bring out more tolerance towards the permitting of a smaller number of electors in the gigantic, remote and difficult electorates.
Yet it has been suggested by Country Party members that previous redistributions have been fair and have not operated in favour of their political party. Members of the Country Party today oppose this legislation simply because the Government is to remove the existing gerrymander that favours their Party and make the redistribution laws of this country fairer than they have been in the past.
There can be nothing more equal than equal. Whilst we agree that it may not be possible to achieve that sort of result in a determination of the number of electors in each electorate from State to State, we still believe that it is possible to get much closer to that ideal situation than exists today where the weight of variation can extend from 20 per cent below to 20 per cent above a quota. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) speakes with 2 voices. He speaks here with one voice but speaks with another voice when he goes into Queensland and steps into National Party territory. Of course, the right honourable gentleman’s Party is not called the Country Party in Queensland but is known as the National Party, which is short for multinational Party. As head of the National Party he is asked questions about the gerrymanders that exist in Queensland. Today, of course, in justification of that situation in Queensland, we are told that the Labor Party used to do the same thing as is being done by the National Party.
The honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric Robinson) challenged the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) to talk about the gerrymander that exists in Queensland. This Labor Government does not run away from the fact that Labor governments in the past have been guilty of these things, not only in Queensland but probably elsewhere. But surely the argument that that situation existed in the past cannot be justification for it to continue to exist today. I refer to what the Leader of the Australian Country Party says when he assumes the mantle of responsibility federally on behalf of the National Party. Mr Anthony was questioned in Townsville about unfair electoral laws. A Queensland newspaper reported:
The Country Party Federal Leader (Mr Anthony) agreed yesterday with a suggestion that State Governments had jockeyed the electoral laws.
The newspaper report continues:
Speaking on an open-line radio program, he said it had been done in all States over the last 50 years. ‘I don’t approve of it’, he said.
The Leader of the Country Party does not approve of it and yet he supports it. We will see within the next hour or so that his vote will support it.
If it is suggested today that the Opposition is united in its attitude against the proposals contained in this Bill I think it is as well to remind members of the Parliament of the great fights that took place in their party rooms at the time in 1973 when their original decision to support this Bill was taken. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ of Friday, 30 March 1973 reported:
The Liberal Party yesterday decided to oppose the electoral changes- but only after a heated debate. Several Liberal senators might not vote on the Bill . . .
Of course, we found that they were forced by the Country Party to toe the line, and they did vote on the Bill. The newspaper report continues under the headline ‘Snedden angry’:
The Party room debate established strong divisions among the 60 Liberal senators and MPs on whether the Bill should be opposed or allowed to go through.
Those Liberal senators and members referred to in the report were the realistic and the fair minded. There may be still a few among them who are fair minded and honest in their approach to electoral justice. They are the people who argue against this proposal but were dragged by their bootlaces into supporting the Country Party on the continuation of the gerrymander that exists under the current legislation which we seek today to amend.
To impress some of the members from Queensland I will quote what the ‘pro-Labor newspaper of Queensland’ said about this proposed redistribution. I quote from that well known Labor journal, the ‘Courier Mail’! In speaking of this legislation in its editorial it said:
This does not mean the change is wrong. The present system certainly gives the Country Party disproportionate representation in Parliament. Improved transport has made it much easier for members to move about sprawling rural electorates.
Mr Acting Chairman, much of what I could say this afternoon in regard to the reasons why all fair minded people will agree that this legislation is overdue and should be supported has already been said. I will make just a few more comments. One remark I wish to make is to remind some of the younger Liberal members that not so long ago the Liberal Party in Queensland carried at its State Conference a resolution which proposed exactly the same proposition as the Government includes in this legislation. That resolution was that electoral quotas should not vary by more than 10 per cent.
Let me refer again to the remarks made by the honourable member for McPherson this afternoon. How on earth can he justify to his electors the variation in enrolments that exists between his electorate and the electorate of Maranoa represented by the Country Party member- I do not know whether it is Country Party member or National Party member- Mr Corbett. At the 1968 redistribution the enrolment for McPherson was 47,371. The enrolment for Maranoa at the redistribution in 1968 was 44,788. Let me remind honourable members and senators that the enrolment in McPherson at 28 June 1974 of 90,525 is the highest in the State except for my electorate of Bowman, which is the second highest. The honourable member for Maranoa represents a little more than 50 per cent of that enrolment. I can see how embarrassed and ashamed he is. He should be embarrassed by and ashamed of the small enrolment that he represents. His voice in this Parliament is disproportionate to the voices of us who represent the numerically large Queensland electorates of McPherson and my electorate of Bowman. Let me whisper that the present enrolment in the electorate of Maranoa is 47,493. That is 29.83 per cent below the quota. The enrolment in McPherson is 39.47 per cent above the quota of 64,906.
As I said at the outset of my remarks, there can be no doubt that the only fair thing would be to have equal numbers of enrolments in all electorates. That is impossible to achieve. The legislation being considered today goes as close as is reasonably possible to achieving this by reducing the margin from 20 per cent above and below the quota to 10 per cent above and below the quota. What the Government proposes is equality of all electorates as near as it is humanly possible to achieve it in legislation. I urge the combined Houses to support this legislation.
-The fact that we are debating this Commonwealth Electoral Bill for the fourth time is in itself an explanation of the chaotic position in which we find our economy, our society and our nation- a nation that was described in the Press yesterday as being on the brink of anarchy, a nation that is supposed by many to be tottering on the brink of economic chaos, a country with increasing unemployment, high and rising inflation and an incredible increase in the number of strikes. This has occurred because, rather than have the Parliament consider economic measures, the Government has placed economic management in its ‘too hard’ basket and concerns itself with electoral redistribution. The Government has charge of the business of the Parliament. The Government could have brought forward other matters if it regarded them as more important. It brought back the Bills which were made the subject of the double dissolution and it deliberately chose matters such as electoral redistribution rather than matters such as trade practices or conciliation and arbitration- matters about which the Government has complained that the Senate has not acted as it should have done. Obviously none of those latter matters was considered by the Government to be of high priority.
The people of Australia already have had the opportunity to express their view about the importance they place on electoral redistribution in our present circumstances. They were given the chance in a referendum and they very clearly voted no. Yet today we find ourselves here, forced by this Government to debate again, for the fourth time, the question of electoral redistribution for the benefit of the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Grayndler and Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has attacked the Australian Country Party which, as we know, represents many of the farmers of Australia. He has shown that his only interest and the Government’s only interest in farming is in farming electorates. This matter has no relevance to solving any of the major problems of the day.
As the honourable member for McPherson, Mr Eric Robinson, has said, the real importance of the Bill is that the Australian Labor Party sees it as a matter of its own survival as a government. On the present basis of distribution and the present system of arriving at that distribution, the ALP has won two of the last three elections. One would have thought that it might be content with that situation and prepared to say: ‘In those circumstances we do not want to change it’. One would have thought that bearing in mind the fact that there has to be a redistribution following the census in 1976 it might also say: ‘It is so close. Why change it now?’ But I think the important point, as I believe has been made earlier in the day, is that the Government faces an election before that next redistribution would be through, and it wants to be able to redistribute to its own advantage before it has to face the electors again, because it knows what the situation is. It knows that the people of Australia are sick and tired of a government that puts economic management into its ‘ too hard ‘ basket.
One may imagine that if we are to have redistributions based on the proposals contained in this Bill it could be necessary to have very frequent redistributions. The Government says, through its speakers here today and elsewhere , that it is really providing one vote one value. That simply is not true. There is no way that can be done. Not even daily redistributions would be able to provide that
– It is a sham.
– It is a sham, as was just said. It is a sham to say that this Bill or any similar Bill would provide truly for one vote one value. The real question is whether the plus or minus 10 per cent or the plus or minus 20 per cent discretion in redistribution is the better and the fairer. The arguments in relation to that have, I think, been put. From this side of the chamber arguments have been put effectively to suggest that 20 per cent is desirable and reasonable. Again I simply remind people that not only do we believe that that is reasonable but even the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in 1955 believed that it was reasonable. That was before he found it necessary to change his mind. Presumably that was something Caucus did to him as well. Can we trust this Government?
– Of course you can.
– Thank you very much. Perhaps somebody who says that we can trust the Government would tell us why it is that in relation to the redistribution in the Northern Territory the Government that supposedly believes in open government has not yet told us or anybody else how it will go about it. It has not told us the method of redistribution. It has not told us whether we will there have a true one vote one value or how Aborigines will be treated. We have not heard whether the redistribution will be on a basis of population or on a basis of voters. In fact, we are waiting to hear. Presumably it will be after the redistribution that we will be let into the secret of how the Government is going about it. Clearly the position is that this Government wishes to have a redistribution to its own advantage. As Senator Withers so eloquently put it this morning, how could anybody trust the Government? How could the mothers of pre-school children trust it? How could the textile workers in my home city of Launceston trust it? How could anyone suffering inflation trust it when it won an election just a few months ago and promised everyone faithfully that only Whitlam and his Government would be able to save their employment, cure inflation and provide $130m for preschool care and education? Not one of those things has happened in Australia; the very reverse has happened.
Reference has been made to the situation in Tasmania and the equitable nature of the proposals that are made. At the moment, I simply remind members, 45 per cent of the population of Tasmania has no voice in the House of Representatives of Australia. Forty-five per cent is unrepresented, and it will not make it any better to make the variation in the quota plus or minus 10 per cent as opposed to plus or minus 20 per cent. Some attacks were made on the role of the Senate by none other than the great selfproclaimed democrat, the Prime Minister. He referred to the Senate white-anting democracy, but I simply remind him and others that the Senate has just been re-elected. It has been reelected on a fair and democratic basis and it has been re-elected with a job to do. It has been reelected to keep an eye on a government that the people of Australia obviously are not prepared to trust with the full power over both Houses.
Reference has also been made to the question of a gerrymander. I thought it would be interesting to contemplate the origin of the word ‘gerrymander’. Of course, as many know, it was named after Governor Gerry of Massachusetts in the United States of America who approved an electorate which was so distorted to his Party’s advantage that it was in a peculiar shape, looking a little like a salamander. Now, let us bring the situation up to date. The Australian Labor Party, and particularly the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) wants very frequent redistributions- one next year and one in a couple of years time. Presumably he will go down in history as having provided the Dalymander. Let us consider for a moment the role of the Senate. I think Sir Winston Churchill is worthy of being quoted in this chamber. In November 1947 referring to the Parliament Bill then being debated in the House of Commons he stated:
Of course, there must be proper Executive power to any Government, but our British, our English idea, in a special sense, has always been a system of balanced rights and divided authority, with many other persons and organised bodies having to be considered besides the Government of the day and the officials they employ . . .All this idea of a handful of men getting hold of the State machine, having the right to make the people do what suits their party and personal interests or doctrine is completely contrary to every conception of surviving western democracy.
Yet that is what this Government, and in particular this Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), would have us believe should happen in this country. He would wish to abolish the Senate. He would wish to be able to gerrymander or Dalymander the electorates. He would wish to be able to denigrate the Senate in carrying out its constitutional function which has just been reinforced by the people of Australia in a fully democratic vote. I think that perhaps we can have regard to what Professor Keeton said in his book called ‘The Passing of Parliament’. He stated:
The regimes of both Mussolini and Hitler, it will be remembered, began in exactly the same way, and inasmuch as Sir Stafford points out that all opposition to government policy is to be treated as sabotage, it is clear that the dissolution of an effective parliamentary opposition would rank high on the list of priorities.
This morning Mr Whitlam quoted Senator Wright. I also quote Senator Wright. In the Report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review he is reported in this way:
Opposition to any Government view in the Senate is no longer graced with the term opposing view. It is something to be disparaged. It is ‘obstruction’ by the Senate.
I think that is the best explanation which can be given of why we have had attack after attack made upon the Senate during the debate today. This debate is irrelevant. This debate will not solve any of the problems of the country. This debate has been brought about solely by the selfinterest of the Australian Labor Party in endeavouring to entrench itself in a way which is in the interests neither of the nation nor of the economy which the Government is charged to administer. Let us concern ourselves with how this Parliament can benefit the nation and not just the Australian Labor Party. Let us get back to the real work. Let us have some proposals for economic management and community development.
-Mr Acting Chairman -
– My word, we are getting a bit thin now, are we not?
-I thank the honourable member for Angas. I have no doubt why other honourable members from South Australia did not speak after Senator Steele Hall. Most of them used to be members of the Liberal Movement. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has been missing all day. He was a very fond follower of the ideals and principles of the Liberal Movement as espoused by Senator Hall in this chamber. Coming so late into the debate one has an opportunity to assess the influence it has had on honourable members. After speaking to all people on our side of the chamber, I find that no one has been persuaded by the arguments put forward by the opposition. However, I have been given a new lease of life after talking to a number of honourable members opposite, especially those of the Liberal Party, who now realise how they have been hoodwinked by the Australian Country Party. The influence of the Country
Party on the Liberal Party in this debate would be the greatest confidence trick ever played on any political party. This is the third or fourth time this matter has been debated by the chambers and this is the third or fourth time on which the Senate has shown no respect at all for the judgment of or the laws to be passed by the House of Representatives. What do the last 2 elections mean? No one in this chamber has put forward the view that the issue of electoral reform was not debated at the last 2 elections. We all saw the glossy photograph- we are not sure about their ages or their hair styles- of the 4 leaders of the Liberal and Country Parties. Each and every one of them in all their major speeches warned the people of Australia what a disaster it would be for the Labor Government to be reelected in Australia. The people answered them on 1 8 May 1 974 as they did on 2 December 1972 by re-electing the Labor Government. Obviously this was an issue.
– How did you get on with the referendums? How many of those did you win?
– I think there is still some doubt on the Opposition benches as to who won the election. I was amazed to come across a document which I thought was a send-up of the Liberal Party. So I have not quoted from it before, but I shall do so now, seeing that honourable members want their views to be clarified. I think, judging by the front of the document, that there is some scheme going on in the Liberal Party secretariat to undermine the prestige of the Leader because it has a Pickering drawing of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden. I did not quote from this document earlier because I did not believe it was a Liberal Party document. Some of the articles contained therein are ‘The Best Vote for Years’ by Bob Southey; ‘How I Lost, Drew and Won Stirling’ by Ian Viner; ‘What’s So Different About Queensland?’ by John Moore; ‘Why We’ll Win Next Time’ by Bill Snedden; and ‘The Powers of Leadership’.
The most interesting feature of the whole booklet is the article by Mr Snedden. I suggest to all honourable members that they should get a copy of it. It is a most interesting journal. At page 3 1 of the booklet in the article by Mr Snedden the following appears:
I believe the Party’s morale, stature and confidence are very high today. It is, perhaps, remarkable that this statement could be made in the aftermath of an election which, regrettably, we lost.
My reading that quote will save the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) trying, for the remainder of this year, to get the Leader of the
Opposition to admit that the Liberal and Country Parties lost the election. At the election in 1972 and again at the election in 1974 the Labor Party announced that there would be electoral reforms throughout Australia. How the Liberal Party can sit by and be hoodwinked and confidenced into going along with the Country Party is completely beyond me.
What advantages are there to the countryside in having a 20 per cent electoral tolerance? I do not stand here to defend anybody who gerrymanders electorates, be he Tom Playford, Bjelke-Petersen or Vince Gair. What advantages are there? Country members say: ‘We will not have to drive so far if we have a smaller electorate. We will not have to do a number of other things which city members do not have to do.’ They are not the advantages that country people want. Someone spoke about going to Narromine. I went to Narromine before the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) was out of nappies. I suggest that the Liberal Party should take the lead from their President in Victoria and stand up to the Country Party. He was re-elected. People in the Liberal Party have faith in his leadership. Obviously what is required in the country are the things that governments can give them, not fewer miles for members to travel. The country needs schools and, of course, child care centres. The first time members of the Country Party heard the term ‘child care’ they thought it was an R-certificate movie. Obviously these are things that the country people need and this is the first Government that has ever thought about giving them these facilities.
Let us consider the history of how the Liberal Country League in South Australia treated Senator Hall. What was his crime in South Australia following upon the Government of Sir Thomas Playford from 1932 to 1965? What happened to Senator Steele Hall in South Australia? His crime was not his policies outside his view- his progressive view- of electoral reform. People stood here and accused him of not bringing in the principle of one vote one value. How could he bring in the principal of one vote one value in the Upper House in South Australia that was controlled by the conservatives with a majority of 16 to 4? The only reason the conservatives did not have a majority of 20 to nil in the South Australian Upper House was because they would not run candidates in the other districts. That was the view held by the Upper House, the conservatives, the Adelaide Club, the ‘Establishment’ of that city. Senator Hall, the Leader of his Party, said that he could not go along with it and that there ought to be a recognition of the fact that the people were sick and tired of it. After the South Australian elections in 1968, when the Labor Party received almost 54 per cent of the votes but were defeated in government, 20,000 people marched from the parade grounds in Adelaide to Light Square to demonstrate against the iniquitous electoral system that operated in that State. In 9 elections held under Sir Thomas Playford ‘s Government, Labor won the majority of votes in 8 elections but it never governed during that period. Senator Hall’s crime, for which he was convicted without trial in the Adelaide Club, was that he wanted the people to have a fairer distribution of the electoral boundaries in South Australia. He is to be congratulated for his stand on that issue, and we will reserve judgment on his stand on other issues.
The final point I make about this issue is that I am amazed- perhaps I should say astoundedthat Senator Withers could come into this chamber and use his father as a spring-board in order to demonstrate some argument against the laws that are being introduced by this Government.
– You have to tell the truth.
– It is a pity we could not let his father in to tell the truth about how he educated his son and what it means. Ours is the only Party that has been in existence since Federation. Ours is the only Party that is likely to continue. Ours is the only Party which truly reflects the thinking of the vast majority of the Australian people. I ask the members of the Liberal Party- the newspapers get to the country too late to let country people know what is going on- to come and join us.
– The previous speaker, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), referred to our friend and colleague, Senator Withers. I think Senator Withers is a very lucky man to have the benefit of having had the opportunity to talk to his father and learn some of the antics of the Australian Labor Party. He knew his dad. From listening to the supporters of the present Government speaking on this Bill today one would gain the impression that they believe that they have a monopoly or concern for democracy. I can assure all honourable senators and members that this is not so, and that the LiberalCountry Party coalition Opposition feels just as strongly about what must be preserved in the interests of democracy as does any other member of this Parliament.
The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) glibly repeats the phrase ‘one vote one value ‘. To me one vote one value means just that. But the moment the Minister refers to a 10 per cent variation, that is the end of one vote one value. He cannot have it every way. If we are to have one vote one value, that is it. On 13 March 1 973 the Minister said:
Exact equality in the number of electors per division cannot be achieved, nor is it desirable.
That conflicts completely with the many speeches that we have heard him make in this place since unfortunately he was elevated to the Ministry and given the portfolio which is responsible for electoral matters. It is a hollow cry.
Frequently members in this Parliament allude to the 1968 redistribution. I speak as the member for Griffith, which is on the southern side of the Brisbane River. My electorate was given a greater percentage loading than any other electorate in Australia. Figures supplied by the Minister indicate that there was a loading of 16.08 per cent in the electorate of Griffith. The reason that was done was that the population in parts of my electorate in the South Brisbane area in Griffith is fast diminishing. One of the reasons why we have had this 20 per cent variation in the quota is to allow for changes in the population in electorates.
The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) this morning referred to the fact that his electorate has 6,000 more voters than does the electorate of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who is the Minister responsible for this legislation. In 1968 the electorate of Grayndler exceeded the quota by more than 1 4 per cent. But the electorate of Grayndler, like the electorate of Griffith, has gone through a phase of dying in numbers of voters.
The preservation of our democracy is possibly the greatest responsibility which lies in the hands of the members of the Parliament. For threequarters of a century this nation has survived as one of the minority of countries throughout the world which have not suffered from upheaval as a result of revolution or an attempt at armed overthrow of the Government. We are regarded as one of the stable nations of the world because all previous governments in this country have respected our democratic institution, our electoral boundaries and our electoral system.
Redistributions have taken place in 1912, 1922, 1934, 1948, 1955 and 1968. But the Minister for Services and Property is proposing in this present legislation that the people of Australia be subjected to a redistribution every few months as population changes come about. My friend, the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Eric
Robinson), who is from the Gold Coast of Queensland, represents an electorate which in number of voters is fast approaching the 100,000 mark. This increase in the number of voters has come about because of the growth that is taking place in his electorate; it has not come about because of some gerrymander by the LiberalCountry Party coalition in 1968. It has come about because so many people have moved out of the electorate of Grayndler and have gone to live in McPherson because they know that they will be better represented. Furthermore, if the Minister is successful in having this legislation approved by the Joint Sitting he will immediately look at the 1972 election results; he will look at the electorate of Bowman and at all of those other electorates which Labor is just holding by a whisker, and he will suddenly start bolstering those electorates which need attention so that when the onslaught comes from the Australian people at the next election those people who represent these electorates will have a greater chance of continuing in office. It is for this reason and this reason alone that this legislation has been put to the Joint Sitting. The Labor Government is keen to see this legislation approved by the Joint Sitting so that it can manipulate the electoral boundaries for its own electoral gain.
A claim that past elections have been unfair cannot be substantiated. There have been 11 elections since 1949, and in 10 out of 1 1 cases the Government of the day has gained a greater percentage of the vote than has the Opposition.
-Say that again.
-Government supporters say ‘Nonsense’ and ‘Rubbish’. It is obvious that Government supporters today are voting like mushrooms; they have been kept in the dark and they do not know the historical facts. In 1949 the then Liberal-Country Party coalition beat the Labor Party by2½ per cent of the vote; in 195 1, by 2 per cent; and in 1954,I admit, the Australian Labor Party beat our vote by 4 per cent. (Government supporters interjecting)-
-All right, Government supporters think they are smart because they have drawn my attention to an error. But that happened under the Calwell ALP redistribution of 1948. That was not a gerrymander by the Liberal-Country Party coalition. In 1955 members of the present Opposition, when in government, beat the Labor Party by 2 per cent, in 1958 by 12percent,in 1961 by 2Vi per cent, in 1 963 by 7 per cent, in 1 966 by 1 7 per cent, and in 1969 by 2 per cent. In 1972 the Labor Party beat the Government of the day by approximately 3 per cent. In 1974 the Australian Labor Party’s vote slipped back and it beat us by 2.3 per cent. Democracy will never be perfect. That the ALP gained power in 1972 with 49.71 per cent of the vote and held power in 1974 with 49.3 per cent of the vote indicates that the system is not as the Government attempts to make it out to be and is not loaded against the ALP Government as it would like the people to believe.
After an electoral Bill leaves the Parliament the main responsibility is in the hands of the Commissioners. I believe that the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Officers in each State have shown, by the results in the past 2V4 decades, that they have been men who have taken notice of the need to preserve our democracy. If we send our democracy down the drain we are losing everything in this country. I have also discovered lately a well-concealed and connived plan by the Minister. In the not too distant future he intends to change the Electoral Act to alter the requirement that the Surveyor-General of each State be appointed as a redistribution commissioner so that a registered surveyor may be appointed. I shall tell the Joint Sitting the name of one man who is a registered surveyor in Queensland- none other than the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones. Can you imagine what he will do to me in Griffith if the Minister gives him one of the jobs for the boys and makes him one of the redistribution commissioners? He will do to me what I did to him at the last election.
I would remind the Joint Sitting that Labor has had one change in redistribution, and that was in Western Australia. It needed only 11 more votes in one seat in that State, as my friend the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) can confirm, and it would have won 60 per cent of the seats on 46 per cent of the State vote. In summary, the Minister is trying to impose on this country a system which is not in use in any other country. All other countries- France, the United States, Canada and others- have a special loading. I remind the Joint Sitting of the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when speaking to an electoral Bill on 2 June 1955. He said:
That principle is to ensure that every electorate shall have approximately the same number of electors, so that the votes of all of the electors shall be equal in value. At least, the numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent above or below the quota as allowed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Professor David Butler of Oxford University in a book called ‘The Canberra Model’ said:
Redistribution excites a lot of innuendo but by world standards, or even by some state standards, federal gerrymandering has been negligible; even with a country leading . . .
Overseas political students who come to our country have stated that Australia is a fair, honest and open country so far as the drawings of the boundaries of Federal electorates are concerned. In essence, that preserves the democracy which allows the honourable member for Grayndler, with all his weaknesses, to come into this place and to promote and propose legislation which is to the detriment of the people.
My electorate is a city electorate. Having listened to Government supporters today one would think that members of the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party who represent far-flung corners of this great nation have no special problems. I can assure members, as one who has travelled extensively throughout Australia, that country members, regardless of their political affiliation, have special difficulties which members who represent city electorates do not share.
The Minister for Services and Property might look at his watch; that is all he cares about. But I am speaking about the people in Queensland and people in far-flung areas. In conclusion I sincerely hope that, when this legislation has passed this Parliament and finally goes to the Electoral Commissioners to be implemented in the redistribution of the electoral boundaries of this nation, they recognise the tremendous need to preserve the democracy which we have followed for three-quarters of a century under both nonLabor and Labor governments. I thank the House.
– The debate having concluded the question is:
That the proposed law, namely the Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1973, be affirmed.
Pursuant to rule 1 1 the Joint Sitting will divide. Ring the bells.
The Joint Sitting divided. (The Chairman-Hon. J. F. Cope)
– Order! The result of the division is ayes 96 and noes 91. I declare the proposed law affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by section 57 of the Constitution.
– I now call on the second proposed law, namely, the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973 and pursuant to rule 1 1 1 propose the question:
That the proposed law be affirmed.
– May I have the indulgence of the Joint Sitting to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate commences I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the Joint Sitting to have a general debate covering this proposed law and the proposed law entitled Representation Act 1973 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, Mr Chairman, that you permit the subject matter of the 2 proposed laws to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the Joint Sitting to have a general debate covering the 2 proposed laws? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-These Bills, like the other 4 Bills under consideration in this first Joint Sitting, have been before each House of the Parliament on 3 previous occasions. These proposed laws do not deal with the rights of political parties; they deal with the rights of our people. In the Government’s view the right of representation in the national Parliament is a fundamental right that belongs inalienably to all the people of Australia. This right is emphasised in Article 22 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
Everyone has the right to take pan in the Government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
It also goes on to say:
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of Government. This will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage, and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
In our view that universality should embrace the Senate. The privilege of electing representatives to the Senate has been exercised by voters in 6 States since Federation. It should be a privilege open to all Australian voters whether they live in States or territories. The effect of these proposals will be to give representation in the Senate to the 140,000 voters in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. After the Bills were twice in each House the then GovernorGeneral on 1 1 April this year dissolved the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. Those Bills were among the proposed laws that Sir Paul Hasluck took into account in granting the double dissolution requested by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). At the election on 18 May the people of this country returned the Government to office.
In his policy speech the Prime Minister drew the attention of the electors to the Government’s efforts to have these Bills passed, along with the other 4 Bills that are being considered, at our Joint Sitting. The Prime Minister pointed out that the Opposition had continually denied representation in the Senate to the people of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. When the Parliament reassembled a month ago these Bills, along with the other 4 Bills, came before each of the Houses for a third time. The result was the same. The Opposition parties continued to deny representation in the Senate to the people of the 2 Territories. The deadlock persisted. The Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, convened this Joint Sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives on Tuesday last week. A further attempt was made in the past few days in the High Court of Australia to prevent the enactment of this Bill, along with the other 5 Bills, into law. That attempt to stop the proceedings that are taking place here in Parliament today, I am pleased to report, has failed. After all these frustrations we have now come together to deliberate upon the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill and the Representation Bill and to enact them as laws of this Parliament.
This is a simple democratic measure. Representation of the people in the national Parliament lies at the heart of democratic government. The principle was recognised by those who framed the Australian Constitution. For example, in section 24 the Constitution provides that the House of Representatives should be comprised of members directly chosen by the people. Why should the people of the Northern Territory and of the Australian Capital Territory be denied representation in both Houses of the Parliament? They have long since been represented in the chamber in which we meet today. Their representatives in this chamber have full voting rights along with all the other members who meet in it.
At the instance of the Government the people of the Australian Capital Territory now have 2 members in the House of Representatives enjoying full voting rights. That is as it should be. Why then deny the people of the 2 Territories representation in the Senate? It is a minimum requirement of democracy that they should be so represented. The arguments for this course are overwhelming. They have been stated over and over again during the long series of debates that have preceded this Joint Sitting. Those who drew up our Constitution felt so keenly about the representation of the people that they expressly did not follow the example of the United States Constitution. The American Constitution did not allow the Territories to send members to Congress but simply permitted the Territories to send delegates to Congress who could speak but not vote.
When the Australian Constitution was adopted there were no Territories but it is quite clear that the establishment of Territories was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution. Section 122 of the Constitution provides that Parliament may allow the representation of Territories in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which the Parliament thinks fit. In the most recent debate on this matter in the Senate the Opposition Parties sought to argue that the Bill was unconstitutional. In keeping with the pattern of obstruction which has persisted with regard to all these measures for more than a year, the Opposition moved to have this particular Bill referred to a select committee of the Senate. This committee was to inquire into whether the provisions of the Bill were consistent with the Constitution. Plainly this was no more than a stalling device. In the Government’s view the Bill is entirely consistent with the Constitution.
The Representation Bill is a companion to the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill. Its main purpose is to amend the formula in the Representation Act under which the number of members of the House of Representatives for the several States is determined so as to ensure that the existing nexus between the number of members of the House of Representatives and the number of senators is maintained. Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth and the number of members shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators. Section 24 further provides that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the numbers of their people. The section goes on to specify the manner in which that number is to be determined until the Parliament otherwise provides. The Parliament has otherwise provided by the Representation Act.
Section 24 of the Constitution does not, in our view, apply to senators for a Territory; that is, in meeting the requirement in section 24 for the number of members of the House of Representatives to be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators, Territory senators are not to be counted. The formula under section 10 of the Representation Act for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States sets out that a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators. The number of members to be chosen in each State is determined by dividing the number of people in the State by the quota. If, on such division, there is a remainder, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
Clause 3 of the Bill makes it clear that in applying the formula provided under section 10 of the Act the people of the Commonwealth are the people of the 6 States and do not include the people of any Territory. Clause 5 of the Bill, which substitutes the words ‘senators for the States’ for the word ‘senators’ makes it clear that Territory senators are excluded from the formula for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States. Thus, consistent with section 24 of the Constitution’, the introduction of Territory senators will not affect the representation of the States in the House of Representatives. The opportunity is also being taken to amend the Act in certain minor respects.
Mr Chairman, if this national Parliament is to be truly national it should represent all the nation in both Houses. If our Parliament is to continue to be an institution able and willing to initiate and carry through the necessary economic and social reforms it will need the support of all our people. If it is to continue as an institution of free speech, able and willing to face the challenges it is meeting from elsewhere to its capacity, its authority and even to its freedom of debate it will need the support of all our people. To have that, at least all of those people should be represented in both Houses. The Territories should be allowed their representatives in the Senate. I commend the Bill to members of both Houses of Parliament.
-I rise to oppose these 2 Bills- the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill and the Representation Bill. On 3 occasions the House of Representatives has passed a Bill dealing not with its own membership and its own composition but dealing with the membership and composition of the Senate. On 3 occasions the Senate has rejected a Bill dealing with its own composition and its own membership- a Bill not originating in the Senate but being imposed upon it by a government whose professed philosophy is to abolish the Senate. We maintain the principle that there should be 2 Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament- a House of government and a House of review. We are fortified in that view because our history indicates that we would not have the nation we have today unless we had had a House of the people and a House of the States. We believe that the future of this country lies in maintaining the House of the people and the House where the States’ representations can be heard and can be given advancement.
I believe that the members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party would endorse my statement that if only the Australian Labor Party would break down the concept that the Party is more important than the States, the Senate would be able to exercise in a more meaningful way its role as the States House. Until that happens there will be a limited value of the Senate as a States House. But it is still a place in which representatives of the States are able to speak and to have their voice heard. This Bill seeks to break down the authority of the Senate, to weaken the power of the Senate and to deny to the States that voice which our Federal compact sought to give to them. The Bill is the signal step in the obliteration of the Senate as a second chamber in which there is an opportunity for the States’ voice to influence and to determine national policy. Throughout this debate we have heard of the so-called obstruction of the
Senate. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) this morning referred to it constantly. I have heard other speakers on behalf of the Labor Party referring to the obstructionism of the Senate. There is no obstructionism from the Senate if we are democrats and recognise that the voice of the people can be expressed in 2 chambers each elected on a democratic basis. When one looks at the pattern of 1 973 what does one find? At the end of 1973 the Prime Minister spent a considerable time in an address to this chamber. He claimed it was a record year of achievement unsurpassed in the history of Federation for the Parliament to pass the number of Bills which were passed in 1973. Statistically the Prime Minister is entitled to his record. But he cannot have it both ways, because if 1973 was the year of great achievement, it cannot be the year of unparalleled obstruction on the part of the Senate. The record shows that in 1973 223 Bills were brought to the Senate from the House of Representatives and that all but ten of those Bills were passed. There is no record of obstruction in that performance.
I look to see what has happened in this current session of the Parliament in accordance with the sheet which is distributed by the officers of the House of Representatives. I find that the only Bills that have been rejected in this sitting are these Bills which are currently before the Joint Sitting. It is quite easy to recognise from what has happened already in the House of Representatives that a pattern comparable to that of 1973 is likely to emerge and that pattern is not a pattern of obstruction. The talk of obstruction and frustration is the only refuge open to a government which has seen those promises which were so easily made equally easily dishonoured in performance. It has to find some argument, some reason, to explain to the people of Australia why it cannot deliver that which it so grandiosely promised in 1972. It must give some explanation as to why the high hopes and the expectations have been so dismally rewarded. So it talks of obstruction and frustration in the Senate. It would like to have the Senate abolished or, if not abolished, to have it reduced in influence, because by reducing the influence and ability of the Senate, this House, dominated by the Labor Party, would be able to achieve what it wanted simply by the passing of the Bills through the numbers which it possesses, and there would be no means whereby the people of Australia could be prevented from suffering the excesses of that authoritarianism. Therefore, because the Senate cannot be abolished, we have an underhand means whereby the influence of the Senate is sought to be reduced. That is the purpose of this Bill.
I know it has been said by Senator Murphy today, and by spokesmen on behalf of the Government when the Bill was before the House of Representatives and the Senate in the past, that the purpose of the Bill is to give representation to the Territories. It is said that we cannot have a proper representation in this country until the Territories are given representation. But this is an argument of 1974 which did not have appeal in the 74 years of our nation’s Federation. When, in 1972, the Northern Territory was given representation in the House of Representatives there was no suggestion that for a proper representation there should be a representation also in the Senate. When, in 1948, representation was given to the Australian Capital Territory by a Labor government there was no suggestion at that time that there should be representation in the Senate in order to give effective representation to that Territory. There has never been any suggestion by this Government in connection with its present proposals that any one of the other Territories of the Commonwealth should be given representation. Why are simply 2 Territories singled out? I suggest that the reason lies in the means by which the Government expects that it can influence the votes, to give it control of the Senate, in the representation from those Territories.
We are not told, for example, why it is essential that there should be representation in 2 chambers. If the basis of representation is that there are matters affecting either of the Territories in respect of which representatives of those Territories should have a voice in the passing of the laws which relate to those Territories, that right is already given by the representation in the House of Representatives. Of course, within the last 12 months the Australian Capital Territory has been given an additional representative in the House of Representatives. Concepts of one vote one value have not influenced the Australian Labor Party to deny that overrepresentation to the Australian Capital Territory.
Why, for example, should there be 2 senators from only two of the many Commonwealth Territories? We have not heard any argument or been given any reason as to why there should be 2 senators. It appears that the principle, if once accepted, is a principle which could be expanded so that instead of 2 there could be 10 or 50 representatives from each of the Territories. If that principle were to be accepted and implemented the purpose of the Senate as a
States House with equality of representation between the States would cease to have meaning. I can only say that the best argument against the second of these Bills- the Representation Bill- is that if the existing law remains unamended it will be a preventive to increasing the representation of the Territories in the Senate because to do it under the existing law would involve doubling the number of members of the House of Representatives every time there was an increase in the number of Territory representatives in the Senate. I believe, therefore, that it is appropriate that we keep the Representation Act unamended. That explains why the Opposition parties will vote against both of these Bills.
I have said that there is a real purpose lurking behind the ostensible purpose for these Bills being introduced. If, for example, one looks at the quotas which senators have to achieve to be elected in the States of New South Wales and Victoria at a periodic half Senate election, and then looks at what would be required to elect a senator from the Territories one will have not only a remarkable admiration for the dexterity with which the one vote one value principle can be espoused and then denied by members of the Labor Party, but also a picture of how unjust the representation would be. In 1970- the figures would be greater now, of course- a person required almost 300,000 votes to be elected as a senator in New South Wales. In Victoria he required almost 225,000 votes. But to be elected a senator for the Australian Capital Territory all that would have been required in 1973 was 28,000 votes and to be elected a senator from the Northern Territory all that would have been required was 10,600 votes. Where is the one vote one value principle of the Labor Party in that concept? Where is the justice in that sort of presentation?
We ought to recognise that the Labor Party is a party which, since it has been in Government, has exercised a power of patronage and corruption which is unequalled anywhere in Australia’s history- and the record of some of the States does not bear too close a scrutiny. We have seen public funds expended in millions of dollars for the purpose of capturing support for and ensuring it will remain with the Labor Party. If one examines the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and considers the methods which have been adopted one can only believe that the intent of this Bill is to ensure that representation from both of those places ultimately will be secured for a Labor Government which, by the expenditure of money, buys votes.
We have seen by the Government the expenditure of money for specific purposes which, if it had been expended by an individual during an election campaign, would have exposed him to the offence- the illegal practice- of treating. It is by this means that we have seen developing in this country the use of patronage in order to secure votes. I take the Northern Territory as an example. We know that it is a significant and growing electorate in which there are many Aborigines. Many of the Aborigines of Australia have benefited from the actions of a recent Minister- not the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- who went around Australia distributing Government largesse in millions of dollars. Why? He said it was to advance the Aborigines. Knowing the Minister, I can say he does have that sort of heart. He would have wanted to advance the Aborigines but, at the same time, he let those who followed him say with some conviction: ‘Take away this Government, change the Government, and the largesse which you are receiving will not be available to you any longer’. That is patronage, that is corruption and that is the way in which votes can be won and it was the way in which of course, prior to the English Reform Acts, votes were won in the United Kingdom. We do not want to see this happening in this country. We do not want to see crucial representation in the Senate secured by that means.
When we look at the Australian Capital Territory we look at an electorate which is predominantly a Public Service electorate. I have here a copy of the Melbourne ‘Age’ which was published during the election campaign and which has the headline: ‘Pledge gets Labor PS cash’. When one looks at the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of about the same date one sees the headline: ‘$10,000 gift to ALP “blackmail”.’ When one reads the account of what happened we find that a Public Service organisation gave $10,000 to the Australian Labor Party as part of a business deal. The arrangement was made by the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) with the Secretary of the organisation. The Secretary of that organisation in a letter sent to his office bearers in other places said:
A friend to support our cause in Cabinet is most helpful. He-
That is the Minister - indicated if a donation was made, he would continually remind his colleagues of this. The making of a donation -
These are the crucial words:
The making of a donation is in fact a business matter which would assist in the objects of the Association . . .
By that means the Association avoided the provision of its constitution that it should not be partisan in political matters. I can only say, to make point of what I have been stating, that in 1969 the Liberal Party secured 22.8 per cent of the vote in the Australian Capital Territory. In 1969 the 2 representatives from the Australian Capital Territory would have been representatives of the Australian Labor Party. In 1972 the Liberal Party secured 26 per cent of the votes and again the result would have been the same and members of the Labor Party know this. Of course, in 1974 when in so many significant parts of the country the dangers of a continuing Labor Government were recognised the Liberal Party vote swelled to a much higher percentage. Nevertheless, I am confident, the belief of the Labor Party is that by the distribution of Government largesse and by the exercise of patronage the necessary votes can be secured.
We oppose the Bill which seeks to reduce the effectiveness of the Senate and which seeks to take a way from the Senate its essential character as a States House. To interpose into the Senate representatives of the Territories is to break the Federal contact and to deny to the States the opportunity through equal electorates to ensure that by an equally democratic base there is a voice which can be put alongside the voice of the people not divided into States as electorates. We oppose this Bill because it is another of those measures by which the Government, without expressing its ultimate intentions, is seeking to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people. It is in denial of the one vote one value principle, which was the kernel of their support for the previous measure. How can there be one vote one value when 28,000 votes in the Northern Territory will elect one senator and 300,000 votes are required to elect one senator in New South Wales. It is a denial of the one vote one value principle and it is the Labor Party which is putting up this proposal.
It is a Bill which would give a disproportionate influence to the Territory senators so that they would have the deciding votes in any issue on which, having regard to the equality of State representation, the major parties would be equally divided. It is a Bill which flatly ignores the decision of the referendum last May by seeking to give to the Territory senators a tenure of office equal to that of the life of a member of the House of Representatives. That was a concept we put to the people and it was rejected by the people. It is a Bill which is not in the interest of the Territories because it does not give them what they are looking for most, and that is effective self-government. It is finally a Bill which opens the way to patronage and corruption on the grandest scale. These are matters which ought to be exposed to the people of Australia, even if it has taken a joint sitting to make the facts known to them.
- Senator Greenwood who represents the State of Victoria tried to suggest that an extension of the franchise to allow Australians who live in Canberra or the Northern Territory to send people into one of the 2 Houses of this Parliament is patronage. Before I came into this assembly I read some of the remarks attributed to the honourable senator in a speech which he gave in the Senate on the same subject and, quite frankly, I could not follow his arguments. He repeated those arguments in the speech which he just made. He says that public servants who support Labor- and they do this for very good reasons- are being got at in some way. He then says that because one of the most under-privileged groups in the community- the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory- are being helped by this Labor Government, they too are being got at in some way. Many many years ago a man called Voltaire described how words were invented to hide the real thoughts of certain spokesmen. This description could be used pertinently in that way here today.
Senator Greenwood talked also about a States House. Honourable members must ask themselves what is meant by the expression ‘a States House’. As far as I can understand the system, senators, who are not State government people and who are not elected to the Senate as representatives of the New South Wales Government, the Queensland Government, the Victorian Government, the Tasmanian Government or the Western Australian Government, are elected to the Senate according to a different system of elections than those relating to the House of Representatives, but just as members of the House of Representatives are elected to that House to represent the people of a particular part of Australia, so too do senators represent people and not State governments. It is sheer nonsense to suggest, as was suggested a moment ago, that there is a conflict in that you can set up a House of people against a House of the States. The Senate is just as much a House of the people as is the House of Representatives. The fiction that senators represent State governments is broadcast and republished all the time.
May I suggest something that I think should be said? It is a pity that joint sittings do not take place more often. What more absurd system can we have as a system of structural government written into our Constitution than one in which measures originate in the House of Representatives; having been considered in the House of Representatives go across to the Senate where they are considered again and are rejected or amended in ways in which the House of Representatives, ot the people’s house as it is called, does not accept; after the necessary time lag come back to the House of Representatives where they are again debated; and are then sent across to the Senate where they are again rejected; this action leading to a double dissolution? Under this system, these measures are then canvassed before the people in an election; they will be introduced again into the House of Representatives which would go right through the gamut of examination and debate; and then they would go to the Senate where they are again examined, debated and voted on. At that stage there would have been 3 debates in the House of Representatives and 3 debates in the Senate which means that the measures would have been discussed 6 times. In addition, if there has been an election before that, these matters may have been debated before the people. If there is a double dissolution there is a debate before the people again. Finally these matters may be put before a joint sitting. All in all this measure, for example, has on my count been considered on about 7 occasions. Would it not be better if we could sit down at a meeting of members of both Houses at a single sitting? I make no apologies for the policies of my party when I say that we would have a better Goverment if the Parliament were not divided against itself in the way in which it is divided against itself now. The situation would be far, far better.
Talk about obstruction! Just think of this measure in particular, which seeks to give the people of the Australian Capital Territory representation in this Parliament where they have not representation already, that is, in the Senate. Many measures that concern the people of the Australian Capital Territory are debated in that chamber but the people of the Australian Capital Territory do not have a representative to participate in any debate in the Senate, as they ave no opportunity to send a man or a woman to express their point of view in that chamber.
The history of this measure began in 1968 when the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), then Leader of the Opposition, introduced a private member’s Bill seeking to do what this Bill proposes to do. The issues were canvassed at that time in the House of Representatives. Honourable members should remember that the Government of the day in 1968 refused the right of that Bill to go to a vote. The then Government stopped the debate on the measure. In 1970, the then Leader of the Opposition- the present Prime Minister- tried again, out of a recognition of the pretty fundamental and basic fact that a large number of people in the Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory are without their democratic rights. On that occasion, a little over 4 years ago, I made my maiden speech on that legislation. Since then, the matter has been debated 7 times in this Parliament. Now, as a last resort, the Bill is being considered by this Joint Sitting.
What a way to run a country. What a way to have to run a country. What a way to have to make laws. To make these laws we must go through this process. The measure which was debated earlier today by this Joint Sitting began in the minds of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which was established by Prime Minister Menzies as long ago as 1958. The set of rules by which the people who are sent to the 2 chambers of this Parliament must try to run the affairs of this country make up a remarkably cumbersome, inefficient and backward system.
A great deal has been said about obstruction. We remember what Senator Withers said in discussing, I think, the electoral legislation in the Senate in April of this year. Senator Withers said that the Opposition Parties in the Senate were determined to bring down the second Whitlam Ministry which, at that time, had been in office, following its election in December 1972, for some 15 months. Of course, the first Whitlam Ministry lasted for a month only while final election returns were obtained and Party elections held. The Opposition Parties in the Senateafter the election of the Labor Government began their course of obstruction which led finally to the calling of a double dissolution. This was precipitated by the refusal of supply by the so-called House of review. It is a House of obstruction, not a House of review.
A little while ago in the House of Representatives we heard the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) say in respect of one of the measures that the Joint Sitting will discuss tonight or tomorrow- I refer to the National Health legislation which proposes a health scheme on which this Government campaigned and was elected; it was proposed first to the Australian people in 1968 and was restated in 1969, 1972 and 1974-that he and the Opposition would go to the barricades rather than yield one iota, one inch, to the will of the people. If the statement that the Opposition will go to the barricades to prevent that scheme being introduced in not enough proof of the obstructionism which comes from the Opposition parties, I point to the legal challenge that was mounted by 2 members of the Senate, who sit in this Joint Sitting now, before the highest court in the land. Those honourable senators said: ‘We will not tolerate the present situation’. In order to stop the passage of our measures, every action must be invoked to prevent the democratic rights of the people being enacted.
There sits in the House a good friend of many of us, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He is fond of quoting Edmund Burke. May I remind the honourable gentleman of a statement that is attributed to Burke. He said:
Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.
What brings us together here today is a bad law. It is our basic law- the Constitution- which insists that people go through this enormous time scale of effort and frustration and which provides the opportunity for people who have lost the election, who have put their points of view to the people and who have had them rejected, as a government in exile, so to speak, in the Senate to say: ‘We will not accept the will of the people. We will block it’. In that sense a form of tyranny is brought about by that bad set of basic laws.
Let me say something about the general feeling in the Australian Capital Territory. I am sure that it exists in the Northern Territory and I am sure that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) will support me in this because he has spoken about it on other occasions. Here in the Australian Capital Territory there is a feeling of under-representation. Let us think of the ordinances that have been disallowed in the Senate- ones relating to legal practitioners, the Canberra Community Hospital and the trespass on Commonwealth lands. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) brought in an iniquitous piece of legislation dealing with the Aboriginal embassy. It was repealed by this Government and then in the Senate the repeal was disallowed by senators who refused to accept what the Government had said it would do and on what in part, at least in this city, it had fought an election and the people had voted. I could go on. Time and time again measures that have been introduced have been disallowed in the Senate where the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the people of the Northern Territory have no representation.
All the legislation in the Australian Capital Territory is delegated legislation. The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is of prime, basic importance to the people of Canberra, but they are not allowed to have any person sit in on the hearings and participate in the Committee’s deliberations. Not only is it unjust; it is also unfair. It shows a conservatism of mind on the part of the Liberal and Country Party representatives in this Joint Sitting that is almost unbelievable. When I look at my good friend the honourable member for Moreton I am reminded of another quotation. Disraeli said that conservatism is ‘the mule of politics that engenders nothing’. It is absolutely incapable of creating anything; all, it can do is obstruct. Of course, the prime conservatives in this place are the members of the Country Party, aided and abetted by their Liberal colleagues who are real conservatives but who are not game to call themselves that and who choose the euphoric title of ‘liberal’, which they are not. There are far more liberals, in the real sense of the word, on the Labor side than there are on their side.
The Death Penalty Abolition Bill, which succeeded in the Senate, related to Canberra as much as to any other part of Australia. Yet Canberra people were not allowed by the Opposition to have any representation in the Senate. Other examples could be given. I could refer to the ordinances dealing with temporary control of Lake Burley Griffin, medical practitioners and many others.
– How did you get a guernsey?
– I got a guernsey all right. There are nearly 250,000 people in Canberra. That is more than half the number of people in Tasmania. The Australian Capital Territory has 2 representatives in this Parliament- the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) and myself. May I put to the Parliament what representation Tasmania has? It has 10 senators, 5 members of the House of Representatives, some 35 members of a State Lower House, I understand about 19 members of a State Upper House and I am told about 500 aldermen. The discrepancy is a little remarkable. The Opposition says that because the Senate is a State’s House representatives of the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory shall not sit in it. When members of the Opposition meet in their party room, do they vote as senators from Tasmania, Victoria or Western Australia? I think not. If they do, it is an added reason for doing away with the Senate, but I do not think they do, because they come here as Australians, not as, say, Victorians. By what right does a Victorian say that as a Victorian he objects to a New South Welshman as a New South Welshman, or by what right does a New South Welshman object as a New South Welshman to a person who lives in the Australian Capital Territory, where 250,000 people live? The Constitution speaks of the people of the States. It has very few references to the States as such.
Behind the opposition that is mounted to this proposition lies not concern for a legal fiction, which is all that the description of the Senate as a States’ House is. What lies behind it is deeplyfelt conservatism that the present system as it is understood cannot change, should not change. This is reflected in the Opposition’s obstruction, whether it be to the Government’s proposal for referenda reform, proposals for control over prices and incomes or all the other measures that the Labor Government, since it has been in office, has tried to implement, whether it be in relation to civil liberties, electoral reforms such as this measure or economic management. Whatever it happens to be, the Opposition has opposed it for the sheer sake of opposing it. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said the other day, the real crisis in this country at the moment is the threat to democratic order. That is right. That is the real crisis so long as the bloodyminded Opposition in its conservative guise says no to everything, forcing a situation whereby it takes 1 8 months for some measures to get to this stage of a joint sitting. This is the first time in the country’s history that we have had to go to the last stage of having a joint sitting. It has never been necessary before. What better proof does the Opposition want of its hostility, its opposition, its obstructionism? A joint sitting has never been necessary before. The Opposition’s attitude to this measure is consistent with its attitude to Supply. What the Opposition says is consistent with the proposition that it would turn off Supply again tomorrow if it could, or in November, March or April if it could. It cares nothing for the proper management of the country. It cares nothing for democratic reform. It cares nothing for the principle of one vote one value. It cares nothing for giving proper representation to the people of the Australian Capital Territory and it cares nothing for giving proper Senate representation to the people of the Northern Territory. I support the measure.
-People listening to this debate and viewing it must have been somewhat confused by the contribution of the rather sour and embittered Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby), who preceded me. His contribution, to my mind, was a complete paradox. He started off by asserting that it was nonsense to think of a States’ House as contrasted with a people’s House. He seems, of course, to have forgotten that we are talking about the Constitution and within the Constitution, a Bill that can be passed to change the character of one of those Houses. Indeed, section 7 of the Constitution states:
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.
The Minister started off arguing rather for the abolition of the Senate. Then he proceeded to argue why those whom he represents in the Australian Capital Territory should be given 2 senators.This Bill, in fact, provides for 2 things. It provides first of all that two and two only of the Territories of the Commonwealth should be provided with additional representation and that that representation should be in the Senate. That additional representation is to be two in number irrespective of the number of persons at this stage on the electoral roll and able to vote for members of the House of Representatives. At present we have 2 representatives for the Australian Capital Territory and one for the Northern Territory in this place. The Minister in his argument ignores completely the fact that under this Bill we are constituting not ordinary senators but something less- what one might call minisenators. They will have the voice but not the power, and not quite the term of ordinary senators; indeed not quite the term in a form which was rebutted by the Australian electorate in one of the referenda proposals which were submitted to the Australian people on 18 May. So I found it very hard to understand whether the Minister for Manufacturing Industry was really in favour of the abolition of the Senate or whether he was arguing for this Bill.
Let me put to members of this chamber that there seem to me to be several real reasons why this legislation has now been argued by the 2 Houses of the Parliament without resolution and, for the first time, at a Joint Sitting. Without doubt the ultimate purpose of the legislation is not to provide enhanced legislation or to have an enhanced voice in the determination of legislation in relation to Territories of the Commonwealth, but rather it is intended to give the Australian Labor Party control in a chamber which, at the moment, it sees as frustrating its intention in the legislature here in this lower House. Of course, that argument denies the validity that honourable senators themselves enjoy the same measure of electoral support as does any honourable member in the House of Representatives. It is not an artificial argument to consider that members of the Senate are voted for and are elected by the electorate of Australia. Indeed, honourable senators have exactly the same right and opportunity to go before the people and have just done so.
– Not in the Australian Capital Territory.
-It is interesting to hear the honourable member for Eden-Monaro interjecting. I rather thought he would be most apprehensive after the allegation which he has made about people who have been validly elected to a corporation which was established by vote in this chamber and, in the electoral process. The honourable member supported the legislation when it was submitted to this House. Now he queries the basis on which those people were elected. The honourable member is suggesting that senators are voted for in anything but a regular fashion. Members of the Senate are entitled to cast their views on legislation before the Parliament as is any member of the House of Representatives. For that reason the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), because of insufficient numbers in the Senate, is unable to secure the passage of legislation. He is now turning to a device which will increase the number of honourable senators so that he will not have to rely on the normal constitutional process which has been with us since 1901, and although the number of honourable senators has been increased relying on section 7 of the Constitution and on the concept of the Senate as a States House, the Government has seen fit to enlarge the Senate not for the purpose of giving greater voice to the Territories of the Commonwealth but rather to give itself perpetual control of that place. It is interesting, if one looks at the statistics of the probabilities of election, to see that that in fact is likely to be the case having regard to the present voting pattern both in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory. It is important that we recognise the ulterior motives by which this legislation is coming forward. Also, this is part of an anti-State posture which this Government is pursuing. No doubt a tremendous crisis exists generally in the administration of the Australian economy. It is a crisis which is seen not just in the measure of industrial unrest which at the moment is being completely ignored by members of this Government, nor is it just in the degree to which inflation is eroding the earnings of the average citizen -
– What has that to do with the Bill?
-It has a great deal to do with the Bill. At this moment a great crisis is affecting the State governments which, in this Parliament, are represented in the Australian Senate. Each of the State Parliaments has within the Senate an equal opportunity to express a point of view on legislation which this Government brings forward. Each one of those State representatives is going to be prejudiced by the degree to which his voice is watered down by the addition to that chamber of additional votes by persons who are not going to be in the same way concerned with these basic economic issues which only last week in this chamber have been shown to be of so little concern to the Government.
– Are not the people of the A.C.T. concerned?
– The honourable member for Eden-Monaro supported the National Roads Bill, a piece of legislation which denies the State governments the right to any say whatever even on the purchase of a road grader. He is one of those who, within the Labor Party and the Labor Government, has set about destroying State governments. This is another piece of legislation directed towards the elimination of the voice of the States. It is important that we recognise its 2 purposes: First, the perpetuation of Labor in office, and secondly, the destruction of State powers.
– We got more than 66 per cent of the votes.
-I am glad to hear the honourable senator comment about how impossible that might be. He may be interested to know that there are several Territories for which the Australian Parliament and people are responsible- the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, Cocos Keeling Island, the Coral Sea islands, Heard Island, Macdonald Island, the New Guinea Trust Territory, Norfolk Island, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and Papua New Guinea. At the moment none of those territories is included in this legislation. If one cares to look at section 122 of the Constitution one sees therein power for this Parliament to provide for Territory representation in the Parliament; so it is nonsense to say: ‘For the time being we are giving a voice to 2 Territories alone- the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory’. In fact, this Government, by legislation within the terms of section 122 of the Australian Constitution, can give exactly the same Senate representation, or indeed more Senate representation, to each one of the Australian Territories. If it does that, before long we are going to have not a States House but a Territories House. Of course, that might be carrying the argument to extremes but it is true that that is possible within the extension of the abuse of power which this Government is perpetuating by the changes which this legislation represents.
In my Party we are as concerned about an adequate and effective voice for those who come from the Territories as we are for those who live anywhere else in Australia. We are concerned that the member for the Northern Territory has such tremendous distances to cover. We are concerned at the problems he has in communicating adequately with each of the people in the several towns, communities, Aboriginal settlements and far flung stations of the Northern Territory. It was for that reason that in the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2), which preceded this debate, we strongly supported the maintenance of a 20 per cent margin. The nonsense that this Government is perpetuating in this Bill is that whereas a moment ago it suggested one vote one value it is now saying that one vote one value means nought.
Mr Chairman, we believe that as the Northern Territory moves towards statehood it should be given an opportunity to have the same sort of Senate voice as every other State, not a watered down Senate voice with senators who are to be elected for less than a full term and senators who are to be restricted in such a way as to reduce the power of those who are normal members of the Senate. Rather we would see the Northern Territory as it moves to statehood being given the same right to elect senators as original States but in such a way that the people of the Northern Territory should first determine whether they want statehood.
This Bill, of course, provides also for the Australian Capital Territory. Is any supporter of the Government really suggesting that the ACT is going to move towards statehood? Are they not really saying that what they are after is domination of a chamber which, for the time being, they see as frustrating them in their attempts to distort completely the democratic processes in our community. What utter nonsense it is to hear the honourable member for Canberra and Minister for Manufacturing Industry comment on the Statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that the real crisis is the threat to democratic order. All we have to do today is look at the crisis the Government has created. In no way has this Government at this stage commented on the statement by Mr Mundey a few days ago in which he called on this nation’s trade unions to hold a national strike later this year. In no way has this Government tried to intervene in order to control the oil crisis that threatens this nation. Rather, it has passed the buck and said it is somebody else’s responsibility. In every way this Government is avoiding the exercise of responsibility. It seeks to abuse responsibility, not to exercise it.
This measure is one of a series of measures. It is interesting to note that of the 6 measures that we are considering at this Joint Sitting, three in fact relate to representation either by distorting electorates in order to determine the number of members in the House of Representatives or by distorting the numbers in the Senate in order to ensure the probability of a Labor majority in that chamber. This legislation is completely repugnant to honourable senators and members on this side of the chamber on the same basis as it was on each of the 3 successive occasions when it came before both Houses of this Parliament. It is for that reason that I intend again to vote against it. I believe that it does not enhance the opportunities for democratic government in this country. I believe that if honourable senators and members- even those few on the Government side who think sanely and sensibly about the implications of this legislation- genuinely believe that the statement of Edmund Burke that bad laws make for the worst form of government should not be seen to be repeated by the Government in this Parliament, they should cast thenvotes against this measure. I completely reject the measure which the Government puts forward.
– One of the main purposes of this Bill is to give the people of the Northern Territory representation in the Senate. After listening to the speech of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) it is very clear where the Australian Country Party once again stands on this issue. It is bitterly opposed to giving the people of the Northern Territory, who are Australians and electors, the right to have Senate representation. Everyone in this chamber will watch with interest the way in which the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) votes on this measure. On the last occasion this issue came before the House of Representatives the members of the LiberalCountry Party Opposition did what they are doing again this evening. They blatantly opposed the measure but on the last occasion did not call for a division because they did not want to expose the honourable member for the Northern Territory. Mr Acting Chairman, one thing is certain: There will be a division on this Bill. We on this side of the chamber will watch with interest how the honourable member for the Northern Territory votes on this measure because he has consistently said that he supports Senate representation for the Northern Territory, but just as consistently he has voted with the Country Party against any measure which is designed to bring that about.
Despite their rights as Australians and their undisputed rights as electors, the people of the Northern Territory have been denied the opportunity to elect representatives to both Houses of this Parliament. They have been denied this democratic right for 63 years. They are still being denied the right to send a representative or representatives to the Senate because of the bitter opposition of the Liberal and Country Parties. The situation is even worse when one considers that in 1901 the people of the Northern Territory were part of South Australia. If they were entitled to vote as part of South Australia then they were automatically entitled to vote to send representatives to both Houses of this Parliament. It was not until 1911, after they had sent representatives to both Houses of this Parliament for 4 parliaments, that the Northern Territory Acceptance Act came into force. That occurred on 1 January 1911 and it denied the people of the Northern Territory all electoral rights. They had no right to send a member to the House of Representatives. They had no right to send a representative to the Senate. They had no right even to vote in referenda which proposed changes to the Constitution.
A bitter fight developed in the Northern Territory, and it was not until 1 922 that the electors of the Northern Territory were able to send a representative to the House of Representatives. For a number of years Mr. H. Nelson, father of the present Administrator of the Northern Territory, fought incessantly in this House for full voting rights, because although he was the representative of the Northern Territory he had no voting rights at all. He could take part in debates but he could not vote on any matter. In 1936, there was some progressive liberalising of that situation. But it was not until 1968, after the present Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr Jock Nelson, had made many a stirring speech in this House in relation to representation for the Northern Territory, full voting rights for its representative and Senate representation, that the honourable member for the Northern Territory in fact received full voting rights.
It took 57 years, from 191 1, to achieve this. In 1974 the Liberal and Country Parties still bitterly oppose giving the people of the Northern Territory Senate representation. The Liberal and Country Parties treat the people of the Northern Territory as second class citizens, and they ought to be thoroughly ashamed of it. The people in the Northern Territory are Australians; they are electors. Under section 122 of the Constitution machinery is laid down for giving all electors of the Commonwealth a vote in choosing a representative for both Houses of the Parliament. But the Country Party in particular, supported blindly by the Liberal Party, still refuses to give the people of the Northern Territory a representative voice in the Senate.
The Northern Territory is rapidly developing into an area with significant economic potential. As such it is desirable that the people of the Northern Territory have a voice in both Houses of the Parliament so that they are able to argue for and against the measures that from time to time come before the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Northern Territory is not a poor area. In fact, it is one of the richest cattle areas we have in Australia. It occupies oneseventh of the whole area of Australia. It has the richest uranium deposits in the world. Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, and the capital of northern Australia, is in fact our front line of defence. But the people in Darwin are denied by the Liberal and Country Parties the right to have representation in the Senate. Alice Springs is an international tourist resort. What do people from overseas think when they go to the Alice Springs district and they are told that the people who live in this international tourist resort do not have a representative voice in the Senate and that they cannot even vote in referenda which propose changes in the Constitution.
While I am on this point of referenda, I would like to refer to an example of blatant hypocrisy which we witnessed last week. The honourable member for the Northern Territory bitterly opposed the referendum proposals when they were being canvassed. He bitterly opposed the people of the Northern Territory being allowed to vote on proposals to alter the Constitution. To save his skin, he gave notice last week that he would introduce a private member’s Bill which would give the people of the Northern Territory a vote in referendums. What blatant hypocrisy!
Because the Northern Territory is a Territory its affairs are influenced by this Parliament- by the Senate and the House of Representativesmore than the affairs of the States are influenced by this Parliament. This comes about in a number of ways. For example, the annual appropriation for ordinary government activity comes under the scrutiny of both Houses of this Parliament- the Senate and the House of Representatives. Public works in the Northern Territory which cost more than a certain figure must be scrutinised by the Public Works Committee. Certain statutory actions- for example, land acquisition- can be disallowed by the House of Representatives or the Senate. One can, in all propriety, ask: ‘Is it right? Is there justice in the Senate being allowed to pass judgment on important issues which affect the every-day lives of the people of the Northern Territory when they cannot get a representative in the Senate’? We in the Labor Government support completely and utterly, and have done so for a long period, Senate representation for the people of the Northern Territory.
It is not surprising that the elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council have for a number of years pressured Federal governments to give Senate representation to the people of the Northern Territory. For instance, in 1957 the Select Committee on Constitutional Reform appointed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council included in its report a recommendation for Senate representation. Similar recommendations flow to the Legislative Council with monotonous regularity. Despite these constant pressures, in the 23 years that the Liberal-Country Party had control of the government of this nation it did nothing- not one thing- progressive to give the people of the Northern Territory a voice in the Senate. On the other hand, the Labor Party has consistently, in the House of Representatives, in the Senate and outside, advocated Senate representation. The present Prime Minister, as has been pointed out, introduced Bills in November 1968 and August 1970 to give Senate representation to the Northern Territory. What happened? This magnificent Opposition, as it is now, did not allow these Bills to go to a vote. They went to the second reading stage, but the then Government would not allow them to go to a vote because the vote of the honourable member for the Northern Territory would be registered against the proposal.
Let us consider briefly what the present Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, said in 1966. He stated that a case could be made out for 2 senators for the Northern Territory.
– Who said this?
-Did he really?
-Yes. A case could be made out for 2 senators for the Northern Territory is what he was reported in the Northern Territory Press as having said. No doubt he would be very quick to point out that on 29 May 1973 each member of the Country Party in the House of Representatives voted for the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill. Why did they do so? In the Senate the Country Party voted against it. Why? In the House of Representatives it was to protect the honourable member for the Northern Territory. Yet we have this blatant hypocrisy now. At the Joint Sitting they are opposing it again. They do not know what they are doing. What happened when this Bill was introduced after the election? Speaker after speaker, including the Leader of the Country Party and the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, got up and opposed giving the people of the Northern Territory a vote for Senate representation. I challenged the honourable member for the Northern Territory at the time to declare himself in the only way he could- by calling a division. As members in this House would know I said he would not and could not call a division. I was made to withdraw a word I used and I will not use it again. He would not call a division. He would not declare himself in this House and in the Hansard record as supporting the Government. What happened when the question was put? No division was called for. There is a word for these sorts of people who get up and speak- as they have done- and refuse to give the people of the Northern Territory a vote in the Senate but at the same time refuse to record their names in division so that it can be seen where they stand.
The Labor Government, and the Labor Party when it was in opposition, have consistently supported every move to give the people of the Northern Territory a representative in both Houses of this Parliament. As I said before, the Prime Minister of Australia, when we was Leader of the Opposition, on two occasions introduced such Bills into this Parliament. They were not allowed to go to a vote. We on this side of the Parliament look with great pride to when this vote will be taken, because when the vote is taken we will see a majority of votes- as is needed under the Constitution- in this Joint Sittingto give the people of the Northern Territory the just rights for which they have been fighting since 1911. Despite the repeated, consistent and disgraceful opposition of the Liberal and Country Parties this legislation will be passed. Every member on this side of the House will be watching the performance of the honourable member for the Northern Territory to see which way he votes. This time he cannot shirk the issue. If he is loyal to his own Party in this Parliament he will vote with the Country Party. But he will not. Let us see what he will do. Do not let him be absent from the chamber when the vote is taken. Let him cast his vote as we know he will cast it.
– Why cannot you rise above personal abuse for a change?
-There is no personal abuse. These are the hard facts of life. The people of the Northern Territory are utterly sick and tired of the hypocrisy of the Liberal and Country Party in not giving the people of the Northern Territory a voice in both Houses of the Parliament. Those people are entitled to representation. They are not second class citizens. People on the other side of the House, by their actions, rank the people of the Northern Territory as second class citizens.
What about the Aborigines in the Northern Territory who wish to have their names included on the electoral roll? Like other people of the Northern Territory they are denied the right to representation in the Senate. We on this side of the Parliament, when it comes to a vote - (Opposition members interjecting)-
-There are enough natural feathered galahs in the Northern Territory without you adding to their number; members opposite do not need to add to their number. We on this side of the Parliament will look with pride at the result of the division on this Bill because what we will achieve tonight for the people of the Northern Territory will earn their lasting thanks.
– It is well and fitting and appropriate that on an historic occasion such as this, when the debate will be recorded in perpetuity, that the fallacious nature of the Labor Party’s administration and argument is recorded, particularly the way in which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who is the current Minister for the Northern Territory, vilified and attacked the member for Northern Territory (Mr Calder). If the people of the Northern Territory are upset about the Country Party they would not be returning the honourable member for the Northern Territory, who is a Country Party member, time and again. The justice of the electoral system is shown in that regard. So, too, is the fallaciousness of the arguments advanced by earlier speakers.
Regrettably, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, fell into the same category. I recall that when the Senate debated this matter our Party in that place moved an amendment to have it referred to a committee for examination, particularly as to its constitutional standing and legality. Senator Murphy described that amendment as something aimed at stalling the legislation. He said that it was another example of obstruction. That shows how well he and his supporters read the Senate records, because contained within that amendment was a directive that the committee meet only for a fortnight and then report. I well recall Senator Wright saying so well in the debate on that occasion: If the Government would use the argument of stalling and obstructionism in the case of a committee which was to report in a fortnight, how would it describe seven High Court judges, in touch with one another, deliberating on one occasion for 15 months in order to reach a determination? Either Government supporters are interested in the constitutional standing of their Government’s legislation or they are interested only in their own rhetoric. By the performance put up this afternoon I suggest that the latter is the case.
Senator Murphy also said that if this Parliament is to be truly national it must be representive of all people. As the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) rightly pointed out, what are the Government’s proposals for the people of Cocos Island who have opted for Australian citizenship? Indeed, what are its proposals for Norfolk Island or the other Territories of Australia? They are not mentioned. As for what was said by the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northen Territory, all he developed in his contribution to this debate were arguments against the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). Those arguments were proved invalid by the decisions of those who voted in the last election and returned the honourable member for the Northern Territory to this place as their representative.
It is utter hypocrisy for a party to put forward a measure to increase representation in a body that it seeks to destroy. This measure is a sheer and blatant example of hypocrisy in legislative form. The real purpose of this measure is to dilute the Senate, to change the Constitution and to oppose the expressed will of the people. I say that it is unconstitutional. The Government puts forward the proposition that its legal validity arises from section 122 of the Constitution. It says that that section provides sufficient power for legislating in this manner. Even a first year law student would advise that one must read a document as a whole, and therefore, particularly, one must read section 122 with sections 24 and 7. Unless one reads section 7 with section 122, this measure is unconstitutional.
I said earlier that this measure also is against the expressed wishes of the people. I remind the Government that only 2lh months ago at a referendum a question was put to the people of Australia which was designed to tie the elections of the Senate to elections of the House of Representatives. That question was defeated overwhelmingly. Yet by this measure the Government proposes to tie the election of the proposed senators for the 2 Territories to the election of members of the House of Representatives. That is the very antithesis of what was determined by the people at the referendum 2V4 months ago. If that is not enough, not only does the Government ignore that referendum decision but it ignores the decision at the referendum in 1967 when the question put to the people was aimed at breaking the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives. That referendum was defeated overwhelmingly. Yet the Government is seeking to achieve that aim and providing power to do so in the legislation now before us. These Bills therefore not only are called into question on constitutional grounds but also are substantially against the will of the people as expressed at 2 referenda. All the rhetoric in the world cannot mask the emerging reality that this Government seeks to implement its doctrines through this form of legislation. Furthermore, on constitutional grounds the Senate was created on the basis of equality, originally with 6 senators for each of the States and then the number was lifted to ten. Equality in the Senate is a fundamental tenet. This Bill smashes that doctrine. It is, in a nutshell, a piece of political carpentry structured to tear down such basic tenets that the founding fathers regarded as fundamental to the document they produced. So many members opposite are seeking to change the Constitution but not by the methods proposed by the Constitution. This legislation seeks to do that. Indeed, one of the aspirants for the Ministry who missed by one vote, I understandSenator James McClelland- in the debate on 17 July, said:
Unfortunately we are stuck with a Constitution which those wise founding fathers made it almost impossible to alter. Let us try to change it to bring it up to date if we can.
He did not mean to bring it up to date by any referendum proposal but by legislation of a surreptitious nature as is brought forward on this occasion- the third occasion before the Parliament of Australia. That is what he wanted to do to be up with the times. This Government has sought by a variety of means to present itself as being up with the times. Members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself indulged in a degree of acting in a film of Bazza McKenzie, I am sure with the encouragement of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). I suppose that has to be an example of this Government’s seeking to be up with the times. Let us recall that in Monaco they have a film star for a princess; in California they have a film star for a governor; and we have won ourselves a film extra for a Prime Minister. Government supporters say: ‘Let us not bother with the law, let us be up with the times. Let us just change it not by the express demand of the people through the ballot box but by whipping through legislation that may well be unconstitutional.’ (Government supporters interjecting)-
– I do not mind your interjections. We believe in the forgiveness of sin and also in redemption from ignorance, so you can interject as much as you wish. We are not opposed to change, as the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for New England indicated. In fact, we have a vision for the development of this country not merely in its parliamentary structure but also development in its fullest sense. We have an exciting vision for the Northern Territory. We see it developing through self-government to statehood. Where are the remarks now? When this proposition was placed before this chamber 2 years ago by the honourable member for Dawson he indicated that he was in favour of statehood and self-government for the Northern Territory. He has been expressly overruled again by his Prime Minister. He is notching up more defeats in Cabinet than even the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass).
This Government is seeking to administer for representation in a piecemeal fashion. Where are your plans? Where are your schedules? Where are your blueprints? They are non-existent. You have no cool commitment, no steady purpose for the Territories. Look at the way you administer the Territories. I will touch on that in a moment. Yet you describe us and particularly my Senate colleagues as being the white anters of democracy, an expression used last week by the Prime Minister. You claim to be the champions of parliamentary democracy and yet in Government you have used the gag and the guillotine in that short period of time more frequently than any other party. To use your own terminology, you are not merely the white anters of the Parliament or of democracy. You are not merely the borers in the framework of the Constitution. You are the piranhas of the parliamentary process and your legislation deserves to be defeated.
I now turn to a quotation from the speech of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) when he introduced this legislation. On that occasion he said, amongst other things:
We believe that while the national Parliament remains bicameral -
I emphasise the words ‘while the national Parliament remains bicameral’. Mark the further hypocrisy because the Government intends to transform this institution into a unicameral system in perpetuity. The Minister said:
We believe that while the national Parliament remains bicameral, the people of the Territories, like all the people of Australia should be represented in both chambers.
That is what was said and it has already been called into question. What is the Government doing about the people of the Territories- Cocos Island, Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, Ashmore and Carrier Islands and the Coral Sea islands? There is one man on a meteorological station on one island. Is the Government going to send him here to look after himself as the Senate representative?
What has the Government done with the Territories of Australia? Its maladministration is reaching disastrous proportions. The Prime Minister is doing secret deals with the Prime Minister of Singapore over the transfer of Christmas Island. The people of Norfolk Island, who are also Australian citizens, are going to petition the United Nations because of the Government’s maladministration. The Government is voting in New York at the UN for independence for Cocos Island but when it is questioned about it back here it says that no one in his right mind would believe in independence. The Government says one thing in New York and one thing in Australia. Which is to be believed? What of the electoral system or the elective system on Cocos Island? The last Liberal-Country Party Minister for External Territories reached agreement with Mr John Clunies-Ross about an elective system and the Government has not been able to do anything about it or to implement one of the heads of agreement which was reached during those discussions in 1972. So the Government’s measures are not only hypocritical; they are not only unconstitutional; they are also the epitome of maladministration in a legislative form.
Government supporters should not think that they can claim that the Territories will be adequately represented by this piecemeal approach. The Government is not calling forth the aspirations of the people of the Territory; it is dangling this sort of thing in front of them so that it can put aside the proposals for self government in due course for the Northern Territory and for a legislative assembly in the Australian Capital Territory. Why has the Government changed its mind on that? When one notches up the arguments on this legislation; when one calls into question its validity; when one examines the propositions the Government has put forward, one sees how the Government has failed, especially when one compares the Government’s achievements since it came into office with the promises it made in 1972. No wonder the Opposition is not prepared to go along with legislation of this nature.
We say to the Government: ‘If it has a plan and a blueprint for statehood or self government for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, let us hear it. Do not strike down the fundamental tenets of this Constitution. It is not a document just to be played with. It is the structure and the legislative form on which this Parliament is built. Without it we would not even be here. We would not be speaking here today’. Yet the Government seeks to erode the influence of the Parliament by a cheap form of political propaganda and a watering down of the bicameral system and of the effectiveness of the Senate. It is for those reasons and for the reasons that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) and others have put up against this proposition today, that we reject this proposed law. If the Government were truly seeking representation for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory it would recognise what we did, that is, encourage them and change their representation in this Parliament so that their representatives vote on all matters and not merely on Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory matters; it would propose and support other propositions for their development and it would not bring in this form of piecemeal legislation.
We believe that the consistency of our record is well before the people and that when the Government lays before the High Court the arguments on constitutionality the High Court will be interested in reading the document as a whole. It will harmonise section 122 with section 7. Yet the Government has not. It has not even chosen to utilise any other aspect of the Constitution in its argument except section 122. We believe that this legislation ought to fall to the ground on that basis alone, and that is probably the most fundamental basis. But we also believe it ought to fall to the ground because it contrasts so much with the undying principles of the Australian Labor Party’s platform to abolish the Senate and reduce this bicameral system, which is provided for specifically by the Constitution, to simply a unicameral system. If that is the Government’s fundamental tenet, as espoused by its platform, that is in stark contrast to this legislation, piecemeal and all as it is.
- Mr Acting Chairman, with your permission I shall return to the provisions of the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill. We have been accused today of being corrupt because we are introducing this Bill. We have been accused of corruption because we have tried to do something about the Aboriginal problem, although what that has to do with the Bill I do not know. We have just heard the previous speaker, Mr Peacock, telling us that we believe in the abolition of the Senate and that we propose to have a unicameral system of government but in the meantime we are doing something which contradicts that policy. The honourable member visited New York and some other places as well. Do not ask me to follow him in his remarks because he went so far from the factual situation in many respects that I would have to wander a long way from the terms of this Bill to follow him.
He talked about the abolition of the Senate. It is quite well known and there is no denial from anybody in my Party that we want to see a unicameral system of government in Australia. That would be the most common sense system to have. Seeing this sitting today, I think, only underlines that. As the honourable member well knows- he quoted Senator James McClelland on this subject- the situation is such that a straight out abolition of the Senate is almost impossible, because there is a heavy body of legal opinion which says that a Constitution alteration referendum proposing such a question would have to be carried not only by the majority of people in the majority of States but that it would have to be carried in every State. With the great outlook of the Opposition today, these great progressives that we have heard so much about and who have all these grand ideas for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, one can just imagine them supporting something designed to alter even the crossing of a ‘t’ or the taking away of the dot from an T in the Constitution.
What is this Bill about? All it does is to introduce 2 new elements into Australia’s present electoral procedures; that is to give 2 senators each to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, and secondly, to give them a special term of office so that their election would coincide with the election for the House of Representatives and their period in office would coincide with that of the House of Representatives. Let us take the second point first. What in the world is wrong with that? The present ridiculous situation is that a House of Representatives election is held one year and an election for half of the Senate is held in the next year. That is bad for government and for the people who are conducting the elections. The situation came about because of a political stunt by the Liberal and Country Parties many years ago, and so far we have not been able to get around it. Because we believe that all senators should be elected at the same time as House of Representatives elections are held, we have written this present provision into the Bill which we hope after today will become the law of Australia.
The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2), which was passed earlier in the day, gave equality of voting to people irrespective of their geographical location. This Bill seeks to give equality of representation irrespective of geographical location. The Government says in this Bill in a very simple way that all Australians irrespective of where they live in Australia should have equal representation. This Parliament is bicameral. The previous speaker, Mr Peacock, made quite a play on the words of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) that while the national Parliament remains bicameral the people of the Territories should be represented in both chambers.
When one thinks about the simplicity of these provisions and the very minor approach it makes to provide equality of representation in Australia, one may ask: What possible arguments can the Opposition possibly raise against them? I think the answer has been given here today by members of the Opposition. Very few of them at any stage have got anywhere near the provisions of the Bill. The arguments they have tried to dredge up are indeed few. I do not know how members of the Opposition can argue that because people live in the 2 territories in Australiathe Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory- they should be denied the same representation as anybody else in Australia or that m some way they are unworthy of being represented in the Senate although they are represented in the House of Representatives. Although we heard today of how the former Liberal-Country Party Government gave these people representation, I point out that that former Government gave it very slowly over a long period of time and only after tremendous prodding from the Opposition which in those days was formed by the Australian Labor Party. Somehow it is suggested that because people live in these territories they are unworthy of being represented in the Senate and that elected representatives from the territories should not sit in the Senate.
We have had plenty of material to read on this matter because the Bills have each been presented 6 times before the 2 Houses of Parliament. One of the arguments of the Opposition that I have noticed from a reading of such material is that the Senate is a States House at the moment and has been so since federation. Because it has been made up of State senators, it is argued that people who live in the territories should not be allowed representation in the Senate, although this has been clearly envisaged in the Constitution. I notice that the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), I thought very offensively, stated:
I do not believe that it is possible for the Senate effectively to represent the States if it is to be given what I would see as tainted representation for the Australian Capital Territory.
I would ask members opposite: When are you ever going to allow representation in the Senate for these people if you say that now is not the time? Will such representation be granted when the territories double or quadruple their populations? Certainly, that is what will happen in the Australian Capital Territory. At that stage, will the people of the Australian Capital Territory still be denied Senate representation? Would such representation in some way break down the position of other honourable senators from the States merely because the territories are called territories and not States?
I also notice that some very selective references were made to the Adelaide Convention of 1897. They are completely irrelevant and misleading. Of course, I point out that the 1897 Convention was one of the conventions that led up to federation. Of course, all sorts of debates took place on this type of thing. But at that stage there were no territories because the Northern Territory was not in existence and, of course, the Australian Capital Territory was not even contemplated at that stage. But even though there were no territories at that stage, there was acknowledged in the Constitution the possibility that one day this Parliament would have to legislate for exactly that situation. It could hardly be envisaged in those days that 250,000 people would live in the territories, as they do today. As I say, even in those days section 122 was written into the Constitution. It clearly gives us the right to do exactly what this Bill is seeking to do today. The situation at federation was that the founding fathers did not debar anybody from being represented in the Senate. Everybody living in some part of Australia had the right to be represented in the Senate. I state for the benefit of those people who like to quote the Convention of 1897 and the Australian Constitution which was drawn up at the turn of the century that that is not the situation today. What this Bill attempts to do is to bring the situation originally envisaged into being so that we will again have significant parts of Australia being represented in the Senate.
The other argument that I have located is that the election of Territory senators would be anomalous and that they would vote according to sectional and regional interests. This argument is advanced by the same people who are always chiding the Senate and saying that the Senate does not represent the States- in other words that the senators speak for sectional interests. Now we are told that if the territorian senators are going to do it, then somehow they will be completely wrong. We are told that they would not vote with a national outlook. What sort of an argument is that? Of course, the fact is that senators vote in the Senate as they do in the House of Representatives, that is, on Party lines. That is where the rub starts to come.
Another argument I have seen advanced- I do not think that it was put forward in the Senate, thank heavens- was that these 4 Territorian senators would in some way combine or somehow the aspirations of the Northern Territorians and Australian Capital Territorians would be so similar to one another that they would form a little party of their own and would be able to hold sway in the event of a deadlock.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Chairman, I said before the suspension of the sitting for dinner that this was a simple Bill and was introducing only 2 new elements into the electoral system. One was to elect to the Senate 2 senators from the 2 Territories of Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. We have already passed one Bill which gave some sort of equality of voting, and this Bill is endeavouring to give some equality to representation in Australia. The argument that the Opposition has put forward is that the Senate is a States House. Of course, that is a myth, but it is the argument that the Opposition puts forward. If it wants to stick to that argument, what it is saying is that the people in the Australian Capital Territory will not at any stage in history be represented in the second chamber in the Australian Parliament. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. If it says that the Senate is a States House and therefore the Territories cannot be represented in it, it is saying that the Australian Capital Territory will never be represented in the Senate. I understand that at least the Australian Country Party- I am not sure of the Liberalssays that the Northern Territory one day will become a State and its people will be able to be represented in the Senate. When? If it has Senate representation, how many representatives will it have? If it becomes a State it must have 10 senators and the situation will be much worse than we are accused of trying to make it at the moment.
The other argument, of course, is that senators representing the Territories would be sectionalists and would be arguing for the rights of the Territories. Yet, as I said earlier, the Opposition maintains that the Senate ought to be a States House. Therefore, senators ought to be arguing for their States. Of course, the only time that senators argue for their States is when they meet in the Party rooms, because the Senate is run just the same as the House of Representatives is. It is run on Party lines.
All that the Opposition has put up is just so much poppycock. The real reason it wants this Bill defeated is that it enjoys, by a particular turn of events, a situation where in spite of the fact that the Australian Labor Party has won 2 elections the Opposition in another place, because of its numbers, is able to frustrate the Government’s legislative program. The real reason the Opposition opposes this measure is that it wants no alteration to the numbers in the Senate. If a quarter of a million people in Australia are to suffer, that is too bad. They are only people. The Opposition will not give up the grip that it has on the Senate at the moment.
Let me come to what I term the last diversion. All the arguments that the Opposition has put forward are diversions. Honourable members opposite are not analysing the situation and their arguments are no real reason for opposition to the Bill. The last diversion is the question of the
Territories other than the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The Opposition has approached this question in different ways. Senator Greenwood today asked this question. ‘If provision is made for 2 senators to represent each of the Territories what is to stop a provision being made for 10 or 50 senators ?’ What sort of argument is that? It is a Greenwood argument. If there is proportional representation and there is a representation of 50, or even 70-1 suppose we do not stop at 50 under Senator Greenwood’s formula- what is the difference if, out of the 50, 25 sit on either side? Senator Greenwood ‘s argument holds up only if the Senate is indeed a States House. It would hold up if it was said: ‘All right, if we provide for 100 or 200 senators from the Territories we will thwart the States House’. Then the argument would have some validity, but it has no validity at the moment because the Senate does not operate as a States House and nobody in his right senses would ever claim that it does.
The Opposition asks: ‘What about the other Territories?’ However it does not specify them. What are the other Territories? They are Christmas Island, Carrier and Ashmore Islands, and Heard Island, where nobody lives. The Opposition approached this aspect in 2 ways. It said that if there is one person living on any of these islands he will become the local senator. On the other hand it says that when the number of people on these islands starts to build up they will want to be represented too. My answer to that is that if there are a significant number of people in these Territories they should be represented. What we are saying is that no Australians should be debarred.
The Opposition says that the Government is thwarting the Constitution. I repeat that we are putting the electoral situation back to where it was when the Constitution was first written. At that time it did not exclude any Australians from being represented in both Houses of Parliament. We are trying to return to that situation. If those islands which I mentioned ever get to a situation where they have a significant number of people, then of course they ought to be represented. What is the final brake on this rot which honourable members and honourable senators opposite talk?
– What about the States House?
-The honourable member is going on with the States House business again. What absolute rot. Mr Chairman, even if we reach the situation where we say that we will allow these 2 Territories to be represented and that we will worry later about representation of other territories, when we get down to Christmas Island or Ashmore Island this Parliament will have to have a similar Bill before it. It cannot be done automatically. That Bill will have to go through the normal democratic processes of Government, the media, and public opinion, which finally determines our actions in this place. The Opposition talks about the Northern Territory without stating what representation it will give in the Senate if the Territory becomes a State, as the Opposition says it will. It does not say when this will happen and it does not say how many representatives it will have in the Senate. But, of course, the real reason for this opposition does not lie in any of these diversions which the Opposition puts forward. The real reason is that it wants to maintain the situation which we have now in the Senate. That is why the Opposition says it is prepared to give Senate representation to the Northern Territory in due course but not to the Australian Capital Territory. It is looking at the immediate situation and where it thinks the electoral advantage lies, either in maintaining the situation as it is today or, alternatively, in allowing representation for the Northern Territory where proportional representation will look after the political situation. But not so with the Australian Capital Territory.
The real reason is that Opposition members believe that they were born to rule and that nobody else in the community is capable of doing so or even should be allowed to do so. They do not care if we go to the public a dozen times and if we win a dozen elections; these people of the Opposition think they were born to rule. They will not accept the decision of the people. They will not accept that they are in opposition. They intend to maintain their present position by hook or by crook. As I say, it does not worry the Opposition whether it is a quarter of a million people or half the Australian population who suffer. They are only people. The Opposition wants to stay where it is so that it can carry out the dictates of its masters who control it from outside this House.
– I am immensely relieved to begin participating in this debate by offering congratulations to my friends on the Government benches. I confess quite unashamedly that I admire the splendid dexterity of mind which they have shown during this debate. Beyond that I confess further my intense admiration for the splendid manner in which they can be flexible upon matters of great principle. This is a Party, largely dragooned on occasions, which today has fought with a zeal, which one would describe as being reminiscent of the early apostles, to get through this Parliament- I speak of the parliament in its corporate sense- a Bill to add numbers to the Senate. But, on the other hand, they are deeply committed to the abolition of the Senate. Whatever prejudice may consume you, at least you must admire them for this. Quite unashamedly and unflinchingly I express my admiration. But I am bound to say to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and to those who sit behind him- not always with enthusiasm- that I excuse myself for expressing admiration for the passionate display of commitment to their cause to abolish the Senate. Having said that by way of weary introduction, I remind the Parliament that to read the debates of 1 897 dealing particularly with section 57 of the Constitution, which enables both Houses to meet here now to consider this Bill, is to run through the roll of the greats of early Australian history- Deakin, Barton, Trenwith, Glynn, Isaacs, Symon and Forrest. In dealing with this very provision, Symon said:
If after a double dissolution the Parliament is ever called to consider anything I am quite sure they will approach it with moderation and with fairness.
Mr Chairman, if by any chance you should hear during the course of the next day or so a sustained rustling noise, in the language of antiquity ‘let not your heart be troubled’. It will not be a noise signifying the arrival of the millenium; it will be merely a noise signifying that the ghosts of the past are fleeing from our presence quite convinced that the hopes of their yesterday are not to be fulfilled in our today.
The other preliminary observation I make is that I wonder whether when those in the future come to read of this occasion- I forbear from using that adjective which seems to jar upon so many people- they will have a towering impression of the high sense of relevance that grips the Australian Parliament in dealing with a Bill of this nature, to add 4 new senators to the Australian Parliament, at a time when the economy is tottering and when disaffection is present. I would not expect honourable gentlemen and ladies opposite to be thrilled by that observation, but the simple truth is that to add 4 new senators to the Australian Parliament at this time would hardly convey the impression that the Government had a glorious sense of redemption and a high sense of purpose. Those who come later will say of this decision that it represented a monumental piece of folly.
– It was a new dawn.
-I say of the honourable senator who interjects that I would excuse myself from trying rational argument upon him. It would be a desperately unrewarding exercise. The argument put to the Parliament this afternoon by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) may be stated in the form of a very short thesis. It is this: It is the inalienable right of all people to be represented in Parliament. In other words, it was a gloss on the great cry of centuries gone by- no taxation without representation. That was a great cry, a proud cry and a cry which, because it was not understood in England, lost it the American colonies. I do not believe I am doing my friend the Attorney-General any disservice by saying that this is the argument he pressed upon the Parliament this afternoon. I have no wish to injure his collection of sensitive feelings, but that is a very misconceived idea of the purpose of this Bill. The purpose of this Bill, or rather the effect of it, will not be to give people representation in this Parliament. The Bill represents the most significant assault ever on the Australian Constitution. If this Bill is carried, becomes an Act and remains a valid Act of Parliament, it will be the most significant de facto alteration ever made to the Australian Constitution. Let me come to the great cry, the clarion call, that came from the Government benches this afternoon- one vote one value.
-I am delighted to find that at least there is no look of apostasy on the face of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), because he says ‘Hear, hear!’ when I mention one vote one value. The past is the past said Government supporters. If that be the case, why did they not decide on this occasion to strike out with new verve, new vigour and a new sense of vision? Why is it that they press upon the Parliament and the people this argument for 2 senators from the Northern Territory and 2 senators from the Australian Capital Territory when the Australian Capital Territory has approximately four times the numbers of voters on its roll as are on the Northern Territory roll? Is that consistency of argument, Mr Prime Minister? Is that consistency of argument, Mr Minister for Services and Property? No sense of smugness will smile that argument away.
When one reflects upon the origin of this provision relating to Senate representation for the Territories one finds- again this matter was dealt with at the Adelaide Conference of 1897- that the proposal was put forward that these Territories had first to become States, and by the merest twist of fate, at that time one Sir Edward Braddon foresaw this day, and it is one of the ironies of history that the wrong Braddon amendment was accepted. When he sought to press upon those at the Convention that this would happen, even the percipient mind of Deakin caused him to say: The statesmen of the future would never do this. Barton said : ‘I urge my honourable friend, Sir Edward Braddon, to desist from pressing this amendment because it can serve no purpose’. Deakin went on to argue to his own inimitable fashion: ‘Territories- no, there would never be any consideration’. In contradistinction to what was impressed upon us this afternoon by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), the truth of the matter is that at the Adelaide Conference they sought to restrict any suggestion of the Territories being represented to following the American lines where they would turn up and speak but not be heard. That is the background to this matter and I think it deserves to be given. I congratulate Senator Georges from Queensland who is trying to interject. We all congratulate him. His attempt to interject is the most sustained display of activity that we have seen from him since he has come to this Parliament.
I want to take the assumption- a rather extravagant one albeit- that this Bill, as an Act, is found to be a valid exercise of power, and I want to show to the Parliament the effect of it upon the Constitution. When the Constitution was drawn up, when it was agreed to by the Australian people, it was agreed to only after very sustained argument and discussion, and it was no lightly arrived at decision. Great persuasive powers had to be brought into play. The smaller States were disturbed as to their position in relation to the larger States. The whole structure of the Senate was built around the design that that would never be given the opportunity to take force. Yet here today we say no; we dismiss it. There is this great inclination to want to dismiss history and not to seek to carve out any worth while niche for ourselves. But on that occasion when the deal was made- it is not to use language of disgrace to so describe it as a deal- there was relief among the smaller States.
It is all very fine for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to turn to the argument which has been pressed by honourable gentlemen on this side of the chamber regarding the other Territories and to say: ‘Oh, well, if they come to a state of development where they have sufficient numbers, certainly we will bring them into the
Parliament’. The honourable gentleman excused himself from giving the slightest indication of what was, to his mind, sufficient numbers of people. Why is it that on this occasion the Government opts for 2 senators from each of the Territories? Why does it not opt for 4 senators? What is so blessed about the number 2. Is the number 2 completely covered with virtue? There again the Government immediately disturbs the relationship between the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are 2 representatives from the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives. If this figure is based on section 24 which governs the relationship of the number of senators to the number of members in the House of Representatives, on the Government’s own reasoning there should be at least 4 senators. At least the Government has some measure of virtue- tattered neverthelessavailable to it as far as the Northern Territory is concerned.
If at some time in the future a government of the day is minded to bring down another Bill to increase the number of senators from two to five, the moment that is done the destruction of the relationship of the 2 Houses is advanced to that extent. That is precisely the point which is not going to be explained away by the Government falling back and saying: ‘Well, we are seeking to alter the Representation Act’. Since when has a mere Act of this Parliament sought to put asunder and to disturb the entire constitutional structure of this country? Yet this is precisely what honourable ladies and gentlemen who sit behind the Government- I will on this occasion say with mixed enthusiasm- are endeavouring to do. Even though today the Government may command the numbers- that blessed estate in politics- whether or not it will command them in the future is another consideration. It may build a precedent today and build another precedent upon that. The Government is disposed towards creating law. If the law of this country is to deteriorate into such a state that the entire constitutional structure can be broken down- chiselled here, modified here- by a mere wilful Act of Parliament, then the people of Australia will find themselves in a very sorry, desperate state of affairs.
There are 2 sections of the Constitution which are being manifestly disturbed by the introduction of this legislation. The first is section 122 which, admittedly, makes provision for the Parliament to admit to the Parliament on such terms and conditions as it sees fit representatives of other States and Territories. But it was never the intendment of those at the convention debates which founded this country that representatives of Territories which had not been raised to the status of States be brought into this Parliament. As I say, Deakin and all those who sat with him rejected the move made by Braddon to try to control that affair. The second section of the Constitution which is being disturbed is section 24. Section 24 states that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be, ‘as nearly as practicable’- that is the language that is used- twice the number of the senators. The mere introduction of a Representation Bill to amend the Representation Act cannot be allowed to be accepted as something to tranquilise the community into a state of agreement and to say: ‘Our fears are unfounded’. The men who wrote the Constitution were men of reason, men of justice. I wonder whether that is the case today. The Government proposes that there should be 64 senators, and that all of those senators should have full voting powers. The vote of one senator from the Northern Territory will have precisely the same voting strength as that of the distinguished and gallant senator from New South Wales, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. (Government supporters interjecting)-
– I am dealing with great principles; I am not dealing with the latest display of plots in the parliamentary Labor Party. I say to the Parliament and, through this Parliament, I hope to the people outside that this is not some casual program which has been embarked upon. This is a program, a campaign, which has been sustained and which is now coming near to fulfilment, to ensure that the Senate as a place in the Australian structure is, if not destroyed, considerably diminished.
In the conduct of all human affairs there are 2 constant companions- history and reason- and right reason determines what history writes. The reason that is being displayed today is not right reason. It is the attitude and conviction of men and women who look upon the Senate as a chamber of frustration and who misunderstand its historic role and its purpose. They are the people who today are seeking to secure for themselves a rather shabby place in the history of this nation.
- Mr Chairman, those members both of this Parliament and of the general public who have followed today’s proceedings with particular attention may have gathered by now that, to coin a phrase, this is an historic occasion. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), in his quaint way, went even further and called it an historical occasion. I must say that all the speeches confirm my view, which I have long held, that an awful lot of history must have been awfully dull. For that reason, I am grateful to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who, no matter how abhorrent his politics, never manages to be dull, although tonight he was more concerned with the ghosts of the past than he was with the problems of today.
What is the Opposition’s case against the simple proposition that we put, which is that people living in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, being just as certainly citizens of Australia as are people living in New South Wales or Tasmania, are just as entitled to be represented in both Houses of the national Parliament?
– Why? You have never said why.
– I will get around to Senator Greenwood. Fortunately, as is his wont, he has led with his chin a couple of times, and I will be glad to hang one on him in a moment. Some quite bizarre arguments have been put in support of the Opposition stand against the Government’s proposals. Perhaps the most mind-boggling argument that has been advanced was that which was put by Senator Drake-Brockman in the Senate on 14 November 1973 when this matter was debated there. He said … the Senate is a States House and the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are not States.
I do not want to debate the question of whether the Senate is just a States House. I suggest that this is a tired old cliche which is constantly being trotted out as some justification for the Senate’s existence. I merely ask honourable members to ponder the statement made on 10 April last, the last day of sitting of the previous Parliament, by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Withers, who made a highly instructive remark.
– What I said then still stands.
-He must constantly be reminded of this statement. It is nice to know that he has not repented. He said:
We embarked on a course some 12 months ago-I am not trying to be provocative- to bring about the House of Representatives election.
I take it from his interjection a moment ago that he does not resile from that extraordinary confession. Are they the words of a zealous custodian of States rights or are they the words of a jugular vein politician who is determined to use the Senate merely to reverse the freely expressed will of the people of Australia? But forgetting this States House fantasy for the moment, let us examine Senator Drake-Brockman ‘s proposal more closely. Does it not come down to this: Because the Australian Capital Territory did not exist and in fact was not even in contemplation, and because the Northern Territory had only a handful of inhabitants at the time that the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, the citizens of these 2 areas of Australia are forever to be denied equality of representation in the national Parliament. What foundation in logic is there for a proposition like that? Are not Territorians people? What is there about living in a State rather than a Territory which makes a citizen -
-Order! There is far too much audible conversation. The honourable member for Barker will remain silent.
– I did not say anything. I said nothing.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber and I point out to all members that it is not too early to create a precedent. I ask all members to be silent.
-Mr Chairman, I was about to ask: What is there about living in a State rather than a Territory which makes a citizen need more protection against the depredations of the wicked House of Representatives? Those opposite must either abandon the arguments that were put by Senator DrakeBrockman or forget the fiction that the Senate is a States House, a fiction which was well and truly demolished this afternoon by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby).
In a period when our institutions are creaking at every joint, the last refuge of the idolators of the status quo is an appeal to the founding fathers- those wise men who brought the commandments down from the mount and gave us a prescription for running our affairs, a prescription which Senator Greenwood would have is eternal and unchangeable, like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. In this case, even an appeal to the founding fathers will avail them nothing. As Senator Murphy so aptly demonstrated today, it is quite clear that the founding fathers envisaged just such a situation as the Government is facing in this legislation. I do not know whether members opposite have bothered to read section 122 of the Constitution, but it states:
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.
What else is the Government attempting to do but to carry out the clear intention of that section? Perhaps it will be argued that the Territories are already adequately represented. I have, in fact, heard that argument advanced in the Senate.
Just as a matter of arithmetic, what justice is to be found in these figures: 240,000 Tasmanian voters elect 15 representatives to the national Parliament; 95,000 Canberra voters elect 2 representatives to the national Parliament; and 30,000 Northern Territorians elect one representative to the national Parliament? We have been constantly twitted on what the Opposition appears to regard as some great logical inconsistency: that what we are putting up in this Bill represents some sort of departure from the principle of one vote one value which guides us in these things. What is the implication in the denial by the Opposition of a right to vote for the Senate to those numbers I have mentioned? What members opposite are saying is that, so far as the Senate is concerned, 100,000 votes in the ACTU should have no value. I should have said A.C.T.
The only other argument worthy of the name which has been advanced against the Government’s stand on this matter was raised by that doughty traditionalist, Senator Greenwood, and repeated, I am sad to say, by a much more worthy representative of this Parliament, my friend Mr Killen, the honourable member for Moreton. That argument is that there is some inconsistency in a government whose policy is to abolish the Senate advocating its enlargement. Every day that I spend in this Parliament increases the strength of my belief in the need to abolish the Senate. Despite Senator Greenwood ‘s disclaimer of obstruction by the Senate, his Leader, Senator Withers, let the cat out of the bag in the statement I referred to earlier.
On this very Bill some Opposition senators voted differently from their colleagues in the House of Representatives. It will be recalled that when the motion for the second reading of the Bill was agreed to by the House of Representatives on 29 May 1973 it was carried by 78 votes to 43 votes. Seventeen members of the Country Party crossed the floor and voted with the Government, the other 3 members of the Country Party being absent when the vote was taken. Yet, when the vote on the motion for the second reading of the Bill was taken in the Senate all 5
Country Party senators voted against the Bill. Obviously, despite what their Party thought of the merits of this Bill, the Country Party senators were persuaded by Senator Withers to join his squalid conspiracy against democratic government. So much for the question whether the Senate has been obstructionist. Of course it has been obstructionist, and it is quite clear that it will continue to be so to the detriment of democratic government in this country.
For this reason, and in order that democracy may have a chance to survive in this country, I firmly believe in the abolition of the Senate. I hope that one day the abuse of power by the Opposition senators will persuade voters that the Senate is dispensable. But we have to be realistic, and it is quite clear that that time has not yet arrived. We have to face the fact that the Senate unfortunately will be here for some time. We on the Government side believe that if we have to have a Senate we should try to make it a House which is a little more representative of the Australian people. For that reason, while feeling nothing but disenchantment with the Senate, as I think a growing number of the Australian people are feeling, I support the Government’s proposals.
-We have just listened to what was probably one of the most frank expositions of the Labor Party’s position in regard to this Bill. Senator James McClelland spent a good deal of his speech telling us quite bluntly that he agrees with the abolition of the Senate. Of course, that is the policy of the Australian Labor Party. So what an incredible fraud this whole exercise is. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are to be offered 2 senators each, but on the basis that the Labor Party will set out to abolish the Senate. The honourable senator is reputed to have advised Senator Murphy in that historic raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and since that event I do not think he has made one constructive suggestion to either the Government or the Parliament.
In opposing this Bill I recall 2 relevant events that throw some light on the underlying reasons for this move ostensibly to give the Territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, representation in the Senate. The first one arises from the Prime Minister’s first official visit to the Northern Territory in June last year. He is reported in the ‘ Australian’ of 8 June 1973 as having said that there was no chance of statehood for the Northern Territory. The article is captioned ‘Whitlam Tells N.T.: No chance of statehood ‘. It goes on to read:
The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, shocked Northern Territory leaders in Darwin yesterday by declaring the Federal Government would not give the Northern Territory statehood.
Mr Whitlam said it would be a ‘disaster’ to see the Northern Territory and the A.C.T. as Australia’s seventh and eighth States.
The statement was made at a civic reception . . .
The article goes on:
Mr Whitlam, who had just spent three days wooing the Indians, shocked local leaders with his stern remarks on domestic matters in Darwin.
That is one very significant factor that needs to be borne in mind- no statehood for the Northern Territory.
The second significant matter is contained in the Australian Labor Party’s Platform, Constitution and Rules’. It is enshrined in Labor Party policy. It clearly says in section 2 (a) of Part III as a result of the Launceston conference in 1971 ‘we will abolish the Senate’. It is against this background that we are discussing this legislation tonight. On numerous occasions the Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that he does not favour the present Federal system of Government in Australia, but he does favour a unitary system of central government and regionalism. Indeed, he has lamented the disability that his Government suffers as a result of having a bicameral system compared to New Zealand with its unitary system. Those are his views. Perhaps those views are shared by other people, but not by the majority of the Australian people. The failure of Federal governments to achieve State powers by numerous referenda bear witness to that contention. True, he is entitled to his views but he is not entitled to force those views on the people either overtly or by stealth. It is against this background that I call into question the motives of the Whitlam Government in providing two of our many Territories with 2 representatives in the Senate. It has already been clearly pointed out, in any event, that they will not be equal senators in a strict sense. They will be different representatives serving in the Senate. They will be elected on different terms and at different times but with powers equal to any other bona fide senator. In a sense they will be second-class senators. They will share the same chamber, the same Standing Orders, but will be representatives for a different duration and for a different purpose.
In moving to diminish the limits of power of the States through the Senate, the Government is taking another bold step to violate State rights by eroding the Senate’s power, influence and prestige. This legislation violates the historical origins of the Senate and weakens the foundation of our
Federation. In no way do I under-estimate the needs of constitutional advancement in the Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory. As one who believes in the need for new States, I have sought to advance the Northern Territory towards full statehood with the consent of the people of that Territory. I am fully aware of the efforts that my friend and colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has made to achieve constitutional advancement for the Northern Territory and Senate representation for that Territory. I deplore the unwarranted attacks that were made upon him by the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). The Minister thinks that he can continue to hold his seat of Dawson with those sorts of personal attacks. If that is the best he can put up in this Parliament in a debate of this nature, I would say that he has a very shaky hold on that seat of Dawson.
It was largely due to the pressures applied by the honourable member for the Northern Territory and the elected members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council that the former Liberal Party-Country Party Government made a firm offer to the Northern Territory towards constitutional advancement and executive power. It was my responsibility as the Minister for the Interior to lead the negotiations and discussions which resulted in this firm offer being made in October 1972. The proposal was tabled in this Parliament on 25 October 1972. It was a proposal that involved the efforts of many hours of work by senior public servants in many departments. What has happened to these proposals? Why did the Government not proceed with these discussions when it assumed office in 1972? This is a government which has a great propensity for haste, for change. Why have these talks not continued since December 1972? The Government chose to sweep the whole package under the rug and appointed a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory. In other words, it washed its hands of those proposals and has given that Joint Committee a charter to investigate a form of constitutional advancement for the Northern Territory.
In its eagerness and impatience to achieve its objectives the Government has pre-empted the Committee’s deliberations and recommendations. It has pre-empted the constitutional review which is currently going on and in which both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are involved. I cannot believe that this proposal for 2 representatives in the Senate is designed to give more effective government or representation to either the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. It provides something short of Senate representation for those Territories. Such senators will not be there on the normal basis of Senate representation.
Let us be frank. This Bill is brought into this Joint Sitting in the hope that when it is carried it will provide the Labor Government with a majority in the Senate thus enabling it to achieve its philosophical and policy objectives. It is purely a political stunt that could well slow down the constitutional advancement of both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Other speakers have pointed out that it makes a complete mockery of the Senate as a States House and there are all sorts of doubts as to its constitutional validity. No doubt these will be tested in the High Court at the appropriate time. Let me conclude by saying that I am diametrically opposed to this Bill for the reason that it destroys the concept of the Senate being a States House. As the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) said it shatters the constitutional framework of this country. It deals it a mortal blow but it is in line with the general policy objective of this Government to ultimately abolish the Senate and to achieve a form of central government with regional councils.
– If ever there was a Bill which should have the unqualified support of all members of this Parliament this is the Bill. If ever there was a Bill which gave people the opportunity to show where they stood on basic democratic matters and on matters of discrimination, this is it. But what have we seen? We have seen the members of the Opposition come forward with a whole range of rather spurious, irrational, illogical and quite undemocratic propositions and arguments which reflect little credit on their intelligence or their integrity. Let us look more closely at the sort of arguments they have brought forth. Some are: The Bill is not constitutional; it is doubtful whether the founding fathers intended that the people of the Territories should have representation; and the Territories are already over-represented. These are the sort of arguments they are putting forward. Another argument is that the Government is introducing this legislation as a plot for the purpose of getting the numbers in the Senate, and there is the quite ridiculous argument that if we give representation to these 2 Territories we will then be under an obligation to give it to all the Territories. Let us look a little more closely at some of these arguments.
We have heard the relevant section of the Constitution read many times, but we just do not seem to be able to get through to the Opposition so I will read it again. Section 1 22 states:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State . . . 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.
There, in plain language, is the constitutional legitimacy for this measure. The Opposition claims that the founding fathers did not intend that the Territories should have representation. Let us look at what some of them said during the great debates of the 1 890s. Alfred Deakin, one of the greatest of the founding fathers and the one who showed a great deal of insight into the way the Constitution would work, said:
We should seek to erect a constitutional edifice which shall be a guarantee of liberty and union for all time to come to the whole people of this continent and the adjacent islands.
Deakin stressed ‘union’ and ‘the whole people’. Is there any suggestion in that statement that the 200,000 people of the Australian Capital Territory and the 100,000 people of the Northern Territory should be treated differently from the rest of Australia? Of course there is not. Deakin went on to give some further very good advice. He said:
Wherever we can detect a Federal interest or power we should provide for it in advance without waiting for public clamour or the long agitation leading up to an amendment of the situation. We should provide in advance for all conceivable Federal contingencies, strengthen the Federal Government and trust the Federal Parliament to use its powers wisely.
This was the advice from one of our wisest founding fathers and this is the kind of advice which the Australian Labor Party is now accepting in this Bill.
I am sure that any student of the Constitution would agree that the Constitution is not just a rigid set of words; it is a living document. It can and should be interpreted in a way which reflects the changing attitudes and values of a dynamic society. Sir Richard Baker, one of the South Australian delegates to the 1891 convention, confirmed this view when he said:
I do not care in what way you frame the Constitution. The people of Australia will mould and modify it in accordance with their ideas and sentiments for the moment, although its outward form may remain the same.
It was obviously intended to be a living document. Let us move forward to more recent times. I ask honourable members to cast their minds back to the perilous days of World War II when the Australian Labor Party provided such magnificent leadership to the nation under the Prime Ministerships of Curtin and Chifley. Even then there was a stirring in the village of Canberra for representation. A little known incident offers pertinent insights into the debate about what the founding fathers actually intended. A deputation of local citizens waited on Prime Minister Curtin to plead for representation for the Australian Capital Territory. Heading that deputation was the only surviving member of the founding fathers. He was not a politician , but was one of our most eminent jurists and distinguished public servants. I refer to the late Sir Robert Garran, who assured Prime Minister Curtin that not only did the Constitution allow for territorial representation in both Houses but also that the majority of the founding fathers definitely understood that this would take place as soon as there were Federal territories with appropriate population numbers. There are people living in Canberra today who can vouch for the authenticity of that statement.
Let us turn to the equally spurious argument that the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are already over represented. Senator Greenwood cited some remarkable figures. I do not know where they came from because they just do not fit in anywhere. I have the right figures here. If the Australian Capital Territory were to elect 2 senators tomorrow, each of those senators would represent twice the number of people at present represented by each senator from Tasmania. On present growth forecasts if they were elected at the time of the next electionin about 3 years time- they would each represent more than the number of people represented by each senator from Tasmania,
South Australia and Western Australia. It is utter nonsense to say that the people of the Australian Capital Territory are over represented. The figures are just not there to prove it. Even in the Northern Territory, by the time it has Senate representation, each senator will be representing more than the number of people represented by each of the senators of Tasmania.
If we take a broader view and look at all the elected people in the States, the position is even more remarkable. If we in the Australian Capital Territory had our new assembly of 18 elected legislative assembly members, 2 members of the House of Representatives and 2 senators, we would have one elected person to more than 5,000 electors. If we look at the smallest States, we see that Western Australia has one elected member for each 387 electors, South Australia has one elected member for every 527 electors and Tasmania has one elected representative for each 480 electors. The people of the Australian Capital Territory are not just slightly less represented than the people of those States. They do not have even half their representation. The have only one-tenth of their representation 1,000 per cent less than the less populated States of the Commonwealth. So it is utter nonsense to say that we are over represented. It is a complete and utter myth. Mr Chairman, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard those documents from which I have quoted.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
– Then we have the argument that this move is a plot to gain political advantage for the Australian Labor Party. There are no grounds whatever to attribute such an unworthy motive to the Australian Labor Party. I do not know of any way in which the Australian Labor Party could win the 2 Senate seats in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. If Senator Greenwood or the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) knows, they must have some new theory because nobody in the Australian Capital Territory knows how it could be done. There is no way that this would happen, except in very exceptional circumstances. This is how I believe the position should be so that the constituents can go to the parliamentary representative who represents their political point of view. The only way in which the Opposition could be disadvantaged in this situation would be if there was a breakdown in the longstanding marriage between the Liberal Party and the Country Party. Although that marriage has long been sterile as we have seen in the debate this evening, it is still quite obvious that those Parties just cannot afford not to live together.
Finally, there is the quite absurd claim that if we give representation to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory we would then have an obligation to give it to all other Territories. Here again, the Constitution clearly states otherwise. It says that the Parliament may allow representation to the extent and on the terms that it sees fit. There is clearly no such obligation whatever in the terms of the Constitution. None of these arguments can be taken seriously. They are merely conservative and devious devices in order to deny adequate representation and to perpetuate discrimination against citizens who pay their taxes in the same way as everybody else and who live under the same laws as everybody else. These are the people whom my colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) considers, apart from the electors in his electorate, to be the most intelligent electors in Australia. These are the people to whom the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) referred in the House of Representatives on 29 May as being small sectional groups which are not like those in the rest of Australia. That is what the Opposition thinks of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. It thinks that they are small sectional groups which are not like the rest of Australia.
The whole problem is to get through to the Opposition that Canberra in the mid-1970s is not a sleepy country town. It is not a typical State town which has been denied the opportunity for growth under backward Liberal and Country Party State governments. It is a modern city of 200,000 people, and within the next decade the population will go to something like half a million. The Country Party, of course, has the small-town mentality and tends to relate its politics to acres and square miles rather than to people. Its stand on this Bill has been quite schizophrenic in more ways than one. It supports senators for the Northern Territory but not for the Australian Capital Territory, apparently on the basis of the square mile syndrome. While it consistently opposes the Bill in the Senate, it does not seem to be able to make up its mind whether to support it or reject it in the House of Representatives. It will be interesting tonight to see what happens.
I know that there are some members of the Opposition who have a fair knowledge of Canberra as a community, but there are many members who have no knowledge of Canberra apart from the precincts of Parliament House. I am quite confident that if I took many of these members out to Tuggeranong, Belconnen West or Charnwood they would not know where they were and if the water spout in Lake Burley Griffin were turned off they would not be able to get back to Parliament House. They would not know where it was. That is how much they know about the Australian Capital Territory. That is how much concern they have for its citizens.
I believe that this Bill merely provides for the anticipated normal progress and development of a democratic society- a society which seeks to avoid discrimination against any section of its people. I suggest that it is precisely the kind of development which the founders of the Constitution foresaw. People like Deakin, Piddington and Garran, men of great vision and men with a sense of history, foresaw the need to make provision in the Constitution for this historic Joint Sitting this evening. I wonder what these great men would be thinking if they were sitting in this chamber tonight and hearing the arguments of the Opposition. Mr Chairman, I can assure you that the people of the Australian Capital TerritoryI have no doubt I speak for the people of the Northern Territory too- are utterly fed up with the backing, the filling, the delay and the humbug that has gone on over the Senate representation of these 2 Territories. They are absolutely fed up with the discrimination, and I suggest that it should end once and for all here tonight.
– It has taken me 25 years to summon the courage to confront this occasion. As I moved down from the Senate to take part in these proceedings, I was fully conscious of the fact that this occasion was unique in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia. It has been called historic. I prefer to suggest that it is unique. It is unique because it will take its place in history as indicating that on this occasion, the single instance out of 3 double dissolutions, it has been necessary to resort to a joint meeting of the 2 Houses of Parliament to reach a decision on matters that divide the Parliament. It is in that sense that Whitlam has achieved the discreditable historic record of coming back, if Steele Hall will listen -
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)- Order! Senator Wright will refer to the honourable senator and the Prime Minister by their proper titles.
– If Senator Steele Hall will listen, the honourable Prime Minister, Edward Gough, God’s great gift to the nation, brought this Parliament back from the double dissolution with a reduced majority in the House of Representatives and a minority in his support in the Senate. In that respect this is an historic occasion. The confusion and the limited confidence and credit which were given to the
Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) after a double dissolution have compelled the political problem to be resolved by a Joint Sitting. There are members who today and tonight have said that this is a matter for reflection. I think it is for us, as members of Parliament, to remind ourselves that we are passing a day or two in resolving constitutional conflicts while outside in the nation those who are working are doing so under great tribulation. There is great unrest. This afternoon Senator Murphy thought he was rebuking others but he was rebuking himself when he said that law and order is under challenge. A few moments ago a Government speaker meant to refer to the Australian Capital Territory- the A.C.T.- but, servilely and glibly, ‘the ACTU’ came off his tongue. These are the creatures of that element which tonight is fermenting anarchy outside.
– Tell us about the Bill.
– In a minute. This is the threshold behind which we consider the strength of our Constitution. But I suggest that members on the Government benches should not make any mistake. We do not guarantee a system of law and order unless we properly understand and implement the Constitution. Tonight interest rates for the great financiers are 12 per cent to 14 per cent. Last week, by a shabby, shameless act the outback residents of the Northern Territory were robbed of the petrol price equalisation scheme.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin 0’Byrne)-Order! I think the honourable senator has had a fair amount of latitude. I remind him that the Bills before the Joint Sitting are the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill and the Representation Bill. I ask the honourable senator to confine himself to the subject matter of those Bills.
-I have built the background behind which we now should consider these Bills. They are a great contribution from the greatest Foreign Minister we have had- the Honourable Edward Gough Whitlam! He claims to have a mandate for these Bills. When he went to the country he had a majority of 9 seats in the lower House. He is back with a 5-seat majority in that House, and two were gratuitously conferred on him. Even though Senator Steele Hall gives him some comfort today and tonight, he rules in another place only by the will of the said Senator Steele Hall.
– What have you got against Steele Hall?
-The interjector who has just favoured us with another piece of his cacophony, the great joker of the Parliament, comes forward and says that the Senate has obstructed the Parliament. I would not go before the people in an election campaign and advocate a policy in opposition of Labor, and then because the Government got a miserable majority of 5 in one House and a minority of 2 in another, come here and desert the causes that people elected me to represent. While the Senate has constitutional authority and I have power to persuade in the country, I will use my vote in the Senate to establish the right of the people who voted for me. Let Government supporters call it obstruction or any other word beginning with ‘o offensive or otherwise, the Senate has its role in this Parliament which the House of Representatives today is determined to forget.
I listened this morning intently to the Prime Minister, when there was a squabble about the equal division of States into electorates so as to give either a gerrymander or a just election, complain in this chamber, the House of Representatives: ‘As if the House of the people should be obstructed by the Senate’. Senator Murphy- a rainbow apparition I scarce can look uponcomes in to advocate this Bill, and for 40,000 electors in the Northern Territory and 10 1,000 in the Australian Capital Territory he says: ‘These are people of Australia; ergo they are entitled to entrance into the Senate’. But that all forgets a just interpretation of the Constitution. God forgive the founding fathers that they forgot to anoint Gough Whitlam, the Prime Minister, as the Lord ‘s sole anointed law giver to this country and they said: ‘He may need not only an Opposition in the House of Representatives but he may need a House of review- the Senate’. Otherwise we would have never had the nation of Australia at that time beset with all the hostile menaces of European aggrandisement in the Pacific. Read Rudyard Kipling in the basement. Defence demanded that we federate, and the prudence of the day compelled an agreement between the 6 States to federate on the terms of the Constitution. Law and order. The recital is that the people of the States agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Constitution hereby established.
It is a poor tribute to Robert Gordon Menzies to hear the Prime Minister quote him as the precedent on every occasion. The Prime Minister is as like to Menzies as I to Hercules, as might and main see as an eye to Hercules. So it is not a case now of one vote one value; it is a case where, with all the wisdom of the Caucus on petrol price equalisation schemes and so on, and with all the genius of Caucus to keep down interest rates and provide decent economic housing, they might need a little assistance. That is why, instead of allowing them to have their little gerrymanders in the several States in order to divide the Molonglo or the Yarra or the hills of Sydney, they gave us in the Senate a chamber where State boundaries are the discrimen and the people of the States vote as one. The 6 original States are guaranteed equal voting power in this Senate, and no one can detract from that except by persuading the people to allow an amendment to be made to the Constitution. Nobody can introduce into the Senate intruders who will weaken the power of the States on that compact.
We owe our existence in the Senate to no accident of birth. We are the sons of no peers, nor are we appointed by outgoing Labor politicians. We are elected by the people on adult suffrage with potency equal to that of the gentlemen and ladies who inhabit the House of Representatives. How real, how genuine is the little theatre of mirth on the part of one representative opposite who is unknown to me?
We talk about one vote one value. The Northern Territory has about 40,000 voters. If the proposal in this Bill were accepted it would give the people of the Northern Territory one-sixth of the suffrage of Tasmania and it would give them one-seventieth of the suffrage of New South Wales. Government supporters say that the people in the Territories are to get only 2 senators each as against 10 senators from each of the States, but my colleague the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) has demonstrated that this is just the beginning. We should not allow ourselves to be bemused by the idea that this is a genuine attempt to give representation to the people of these 2 Territories. We, in our period of government aggrandised the Australian Capital Territory in an unparalleled experience- one which the present Government will never achieve. When I was the Minister for Works the Northern Territory rejoiced in a share of the civil works program that built up the Territory magnificiently. These are the acts of genuine welfare that the people of the Territories are entitled to expect.
The proposal to have 2 senators from each of the Territories is intended not to give genuine representation but to overrule that captious majority which the Prime Minister was not able to persuade into his Caucus at the last Federal elections. He has gone on record in his Chifley lecture as saying that he is dedicated to the destruction of the States. It is on the State Constitution that the Senate is founded. But the Prime Minister, with his regionalism, wishes to eviscerate the very structure and quality of the Senate. He shows that by providing that the 2 representatives from the Territories are not to come into the Senate and to take office for the term of a senator. They are to go out every time the Prime Minister goes to the hustings, in the hope that he can get a Labor senator elected from each of the Territories.
But so far from contenting himself with a basis upon which to hold by-elections, which is the appropriate constitutional provision for the Senate, he provides also that every time the resignation of a Territorial senator is procured a by-election shall be held. Of course, we have had some experience now of a by-election being achieved in the circumstances of sending Senator Gair to Ireland, thus achieving a political advantage for the Labor Party. It would have provided a little longer time in office for this poor Prime Minister who, in the environment of the country, is putting forward such peevish propositions as this and who is for all the world like the chicken that has come out of the coop, pecked and worried and bleeding from the hawks. Here we have the Prime Minister claiming to have achieved an historic occasion, a Joint Sitting of both Houses, whereas the maudlin fact is that the Joint Sitting is necessary only because his electoral result left him in such doubt as to his differences with the Senate that it is necessary for us to come together and, as great democrats, submit the life of the Senate to this miserable majority of three.
- Mr Acting Chairman, in your memoirs you will at least be able to record that you presided over the most manifest reason for the abolition of the Senate that you will ever see. The honourable senator from Tasmania, they tell me, was - (Opposition supporters interjecting) -
-I will speak loud enough to be heard, no matter what the rabble opposite does. I understand that the honourable senator from Tasmania was No. 2 on the Liberal Party ticket at the last election. He is the second prize. What must the first prize have been like? He said that he has been here for 25 years. During that time he has helped to contribute to the continuous disruption of the Australian political system. During those 25 years he voted for the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, which was one of the great disgraces of this Parliament. He supported conscription over the many years during which it was inflicted on Australia. What a miserable 25-year record. Tonight the people of Australia must be confounded as they consider the day long histrionics of the people opposite. We are endeavouring to place the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory properly into the electoral map of Australia. The polysyllabic platitudes of the honourable senator from Tasmania, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and my friend, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), have been exciting to listen to, but what nonsense they talk. The honourable senator from Tasmania talks about unrest and anarchy outside. What better argument for that than what the people have been able to see here today.
In fact, of course, we are discussing a Bill which is to be enacted and brought into effect by this Joint Sitting today. The Bill is simple and direct. I have a copy with me and in case honourable senators and members have forgotten I will tell them what it is all about. Its purpose is to give to the Australian Capital Territory Senate representation of 2 senators and to the Northern Territory Senate representation of 2 senators. All day long the noise of battle has rolled from the people opposite who have said: ‘This is going to ruin the Senate ‘. In fact, written into the Act itself is the very protection of the way in which the Senate is constructed. The Bill provides for proportional representation in such a way that it will be very unlikely that there is not representation from both the Labor and the non-Labor parties. It is written into the Constitution that the Senate is part of the Australian Parliament, and this produces the protective system. I am surprised that nobody opposite has pointed out that fact. Therefore, most of the arguments advanced by the people opposite that this proposal will cripple the Senate because it will produce a lopsided Senate have no grounds in fact. The thought of a lopsided Senate makes the mind boggle. This proposal will produce no substantial difference in the political structure of the Senate. That is important. Yet today, in the country which Lord Bryce, I think it was, in 1911 said was the most democratic in the world, we have listened to the representatives of the Liberal Party and the Country Party denouncing the proposal as a parliamentary plot. I find it difficult to understand how honourable members opposite, many of them with fine records as citizens and parliamentarians, have been able to confound their logic with the arguments which they have advanced.
I listened to Senator Greenwood from Victoria. He referred to all sorts of terrible things that would flow. He said that this proposal was manifest corruption. He mentioned my previous Ministry. I will let history deal with that matter. I have not time to waste on it tonight. He reminded me of all the campaigns in history and of all the occasions on which people have opposed every attempt to change any social situation- from putting the Plimsoll line on ships to the 40-hour week, to giving people the vote at 21, to giving women the vote at all and to the roads of ruin of which politics are always so full.
There were several other instances which I would like to refute. I think the honourable member for Kooyong referred to islands in the Australian scene- Norfolk, Cocos, etc. His was a melodramatic misuse of analogy. How on earth could he relate the population on Norfolk and Cocos to this situation? It follows in no way whatsoever. Therefore, I believe that this Parliament has done itself a disservice by the arguments which have been continuously advanced this day. I disagree completely with the honourable member for Moreton that this is the most historic alteration to the Constitution. Probably the most historic change in the Constitution was that which occurred when the High Court ruled that there could be uniform taxation. Possibly, as an electoral question, the change to the electoral system in the 1948-49 period, which introduced proportional voting at Senate elections, was a much more substantial change than anything else, because it created the situation in which there is practically equal representation in the Senate. It is unfortunate that those opposite confused their role as members of the Senate with their role as members of political parties, because that is not the way they talked today. The honourable member for Moreton talked about the Senate’s historic role. How does he see its historic role? It is to rubber stamp anti-Labor legislation and to frustrate Labor governments. We are here tonight to remind the people of Australia about that.
One other obsession that honourable members opposite have is that institutions are much more important than people. They refer to the States. What are the States? They are geographical aberrations, in most cases, drawn on the map over a century ago. Yet they are supposed to have some substantial value which is greater than that which belongs to any person. Fancy considering that the humble people of the Territories be represented in this institution, particularly in the Senate. So they are obsessed with the Senate and with bicameralism. Honourable members opposite say that this proposal will mean that the people of the Territories will be over represented. I say to Senator Wright from
Tasmania that at the first Federal election 38,000 electors were enrolled in Tasmania. They elected 6 senators and 5 members of the House of Representatives. That has nothing to do with the question, either. Nobody has suggested at any stage that the Senate represents people equally. It is a geographical representation system.
What are the issues? Firstly, are all Australians equal? Are they equal before the law? We try to make them so. Are Australians equal in their representation in this place? They are not, while the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are not represented in the Senate.
What is representation about? Earlier today we debated the question of how electoral boundaries should be drawn. Representation in this Parliament covers a multitude of functions. First of all, there is the sheer arithmetic of it. Arithmetic has little place in relation to the Senate when we consider Tasmania vis-a-vis New South Wales. Representation has little relation to space, but it has a lot to do with people. It has something to do with equity. But more importantly in the parliamentary sense, it has to do with the voice of the people in the way they speak and in the way they are heard. That is the issue here this evening.
These are the realities of the Senate: Because it is elected equally from the States, it is almost bound to be equally divided after an election. Therefore, if people are excluded from representation in the Senate they are excluded from the proper deliberations of this Parliament. The only way that political power can be exercised by people is by their being a part of the political institutions. The only way that the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory can exercise their rights and their duties as free and equal Australians citizens is for them to be represented wherever there are representative institutions, including the Senate. The matter is not just one of voting. All of us here know that in the politics of confrontation we do come to vote one side against the other. But people exercise influence in these institutions often times not because they represent 5,000 electors, 50,000 electors or a million electors, as my friend the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) does, but because they have a voice and a personality and they stand for something.
There is no way that the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory can have a proper place in Australian politics unless they are represented equally in the Senate. Participation is the very essence of the democratic contract. I intend to speak on the situation in the Australian Capital Territory rather than the situation in the Northern Territory which has been handled adequately by my friend the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). The honourable members for Canberra (Mr Enderby) and Fraser (Mr Fry) have represented adequately the situation in the Australian Capital Territory. But let me say something about it and for it as a non-voter in the Australian Capital Territory but as one who has been deeply involved in it ever since I was elected to this place 19 years ago. Canberra is deeply involved in the national interest. We cannot think of Canberra and the national capital unless we think also of the nation. The fact of the matter is that the interest of the local people is fundamental. One of the questions we face- I put it to the Parliament now- is to create an electoral, parliamentary or governmental system for the Australian Capital Territory. The interest of the national Parliament is absolute. I can see no way in which this Parliament will surrender its right to make the laws or to be part of the law making apparatus for the A.C.T. It is only just and proper that in the due process the people of this Territory should be properly represented in both parts of the Parliament.
Tonight we are talking about some very important things. We are considering the Australian continent. It is one continent and one people. Since the very beginning of representative and responsible government, governments have aimed at delivering to all Australians, no matter in which part of the continent they live, the same quality of service and the same quality of government. One hundred and two years ago the various States embarked upon an education system to deliver to the furthest pan of Australia the same quality of education as they would deliver to anybody who lived in the city. They said that they would do the same with health services. Now it comes to political rights. It is late in the day, but the decisions we will make this evening will deliver equal political rights to all citizens in Australia, no matter where they live.
The history of electoral advance has been one of struggle, of reason against unreason. It has been a struggle on behalf of people against prejudice and bigotry. It has been an attempt to change institutions which would not change themselves. I remind honourable members and senators of the Bill. The Bill is a significant document. It does change an attitude. It does not change the Constitution. The important factor is that it does not change the basis of the representation. We may well take the honourable member for Moreton at his word and have 5, 15 or 50 senators from each Territory, but so long as they are elected on the system advocated and proposed in the Bill it will not make a jot of difference to the balance in the Senate.
I remind honourable members and honourable senators of the run-up to this operation, the efforts to frustrate it and the long haul to get here this afternoon and this evening. No matter how much obstruction occurs from now on, at least on this occasion we will have made a great achievement- we will have written into legislation matters which, one hopes, the people opposite will never be able to unwrite.
- Mr Acting Chairman, in speaking to this Bill I want to say first and foremost that Senate representation for the Northern Territory -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Chairman. In the light of previous statements on this matter by the honourable member for the Northern Territory it is not to be assumed that he is speaking against the Bill. As the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) insisted this morning that those speaking in favour of the Bills at this joint sitting should speak from this side of the chamber, the honourable member for the Northern Territory should be asked for which side he is speaking.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- I do not uphold the point of order. I ask the honourable member to continue with his speech.
– If I can say a word to ‘Diamond Jim’ while I am here, I say that I will speak from wherever I wish in this House and I will make the decisions here that I wish to make. I will not be dictated to by any of the smallminded socialist left-wingers on the Government side. I am speaking from this side. Having set the stage, Senate representation and, for that matter, a vote in a referendum for Territorians, has been on my platform for the Northern Territory since 1966, but reservedly. By all means let electors in the Australian Capital Territory have a vote in referendums. All Australians are entitled to that right despite the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Cabinet did not see fit to give them that chance at the recent referendums. They coupled that proposal with something else which they wanted to sneak through on the people of Australia. The people of Australia did not fall for it so there went our chance to get a vote in a referendum. By the same token I say that this has been on my platform. At least I have introduced a Bill to give the people in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory a vote in a referendum without having strings tied to it. The Prime Minister, in his smallminded way, cannot avoid tacking something on for his own political advantage. He does it every time. He is an ex-two-bit lawyer so what would you expect? Why should there be Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory? After all, the people in the Australian Capital Territory do have a Minister, of sorts. What is more, they did have one whose portfolio embraced the Northern Territory. It is unfortunate, I suppose, from a voting angle that he is no longer the Minister for the Northern Territory. He made such a complete hash of it that he was removed from the office. There is now a Minister solely for the Capital Territory. The Minister responsible for the Territories was removed from office because he pursued the most disastrous policy on Aboriginal affairs that has ever been brought into this Parliament.
We now have one Minister of State representing the Australian Capital Territory. We now have 2 Federal members in the House of Representatives representing the people of the Australian Capital Territory. There is also the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. I do not know how many members are on that Council- seventeen or twelve or whatever it is. There is the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory which consists of 9 members. The Government is now saying that there is a need for 2 senators to represent the Australian Capital Territory, an area of perhaps a couple of hundred square miles. The Northern Territory covers 520,000 square miles but it has only one Federal representative. There is some sort of difference. But the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) does not seem to think that there should be any difference between the amount of the electoral allowance applicable to his electorate of 3 square miles and that paid to a member representing an electorate covering 520,000 square miles. He thinks that the members should be paid the same electoral allowance.
– Why did you vote against the rise? What is wrong with you?
– Did you increase the allowance? I will now mention Senate representation for the district of the Capital Territory. I point out that members of the United States Senate said that they believed that the people of the district, that is the capital District, should be represented in the House of Representatives but that the Senate is the forum for the people, that is, that the Senate should represent the States from where the people come. Quick and Garran, an authority quoted at length in this debate, agree with the view put forward by the United States senators. By all means let us have representation for the Northern Territory but why couple it to the Australian Capital Territory which has no connection with the Northern Territory whatsoever? It is 2,000 miles away; there is no community of interest. The Australian Capital Territory has no major industry; the Northern Territory has. The difference in the size of the 2 Territories in terms of miles is terrific. There is virtually no difference in the population figures. The Northern Territory can become a State but the Australian Capital Territory can never become a State. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister has said that statehood for the Northern Territory would be a disaster I consider that we should be working towards achieving statehood for that Territory.
This legislation is patently aimed at grabbing 2 Senate seats in the Australian Capital Territory. That is what this legislation is designed for. This Government is not interested in the people of the Northern Territory. May I remind honourable senators and members where this legislation started. It happened one day in 1968 when I was successful in obtaining a vote for the member for the Northern Territory. When the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, said in effect in this place that he would grant the member for the Northern Territory a vote the then Leader of the Opposition looked like some sort of mullet just out of the water. Whether he had been gaffed or stunned I do not know, but his mouth dropped open, his face went red, and his very often seen petulant self was revealed. On that very day he brought this legislation into this place. He brought it into the House, never having mentioned it before, despite the fact that it was in my election platform in 1966 and I had espoused it in my maiden speech in this House. He petulantly introduced this Bill in an endeavour to embarrass the then Government and the member for the Northern Territory. He would know now that the Labor Party strongly holds the Australian Capital Territory seats. It strongly held the seat of the Australian Capital Territory through an able member who is now deceased but who I am certain would be very disappointed to see some of the antics of his colleagues in this House. Now the Australian Capital Territory seats are held by 2 Labor members. Why would the Leader of the Government not imagine that he could get 2 senators in the Australian Capital Territory? Of course he would and that is why he has introduced this Bill. It is patently clear that that is what he has done.
How interested is the Labor Party in the Northern Territory? Let us look at a few matters. The Labor Party has attacked the Northern Territory and has attacked the outback. It has abolished the long distance freight rebates; it has abolished the petroleum products equalisation scheme; it has abolished the developmental tax concessions; it has virtually closed down one of the Northern Territory’s major mining industries; it is attacking all the other primary industries from which Australia gains its wealth. Where will the Government get the wealth to carry out all its socialist schemes if it is not from primary industry, either pastoral or mining? What consultation has the Minister for the Northern Territory had? He spent his entire speech abusing me this afternoon. It was a completely non-productive speech. Has he shown any interest since the May election? He has failed even to consult with the members of the Legislative Council on the matter of self-government and more responsibility for Territorians. I ask again: How interested is he in the Northern Territory? I will quote a few comments made by people in the Northern Territory to show what they think of him. The first is:
There has been no talk by the Minister and no indication as to what the new administrator’s council will do.
Another, dealing with co-ordination between the Australian Government and the new Assembly, is:
No attempts have been made and if those attempts are not made the situation will be chaotic.
I have grave doubts as to whether these problems have been researched by the Department or the Minister.
These are about the man who spent his entire time today accusing me of not being interested in the Northern Territory. How interested is he? He has not been to the Northern Territory since 18 May. He was scheduled to open the Travelodge motel on the Esplanade on election day and he did not show up. I do not know why. Let me continue with what people in the Northern Territory think of the Minister. Another stated:
Most of us are more acquainted with the details of the operation than the Department … or the Minister himself.
I will continue quoting these comments because this is what the people of the Northern Territory think of the Minister. He spent his time today making up things and mouthing untruths about me. Another comment deals with the Legislative Council and its responsibility. The Minister has not been to the Northern Territory and has not consulted with members of the Council since the election. The comment is:
There were good grounds why the matter which should be looked at again and why the Minister could have had further discussions with us and the people of the Northern Territory. It is unfortunate that it was not done.
These are the remarks of people that I am quoting. I am not pulling them off the top of my head in the form of personal abuse as the Minister did this afternoon. I am quoting from the Hansard of the Northern Territory. Another comment is: . . . a far distant Minister who never now even bothers to set foot in the place or even communicate with the people of the Northern Territory either officially or unofficially.
This is the person who is accusing me of not being interested in the Northern Territory. For heaven’s sake, I have lived there all the time, I have espoused these things all the time, I have brought them up in the Parliament and I have introduced a Bill on this subject in this Chamber, yet this person who is the Minister says these things. Frankly, I do not see how he can ever set his foot in the Northern Territory again. The Labor Party has sold the Territory down the drain. Once again I quote from the Northern Territory Legislative Council Hansard, which states:
The honourable Minister appears far too busy of late to come to the Territory to discuss matters with elected members even when they paid the courtesy of writing to him or indicating that urgent discussions are needed.
This is the sort of attitude which the Labor Party is adopting towards the Northern Territory.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)- Order! I have allowed the honourable member a certain amount of latitude. I ask him to come back to the Bill.
-Were you in the chair this afternoon when he was saying these sorts of things? I am speaking the truth.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN -Order!
-He spoke a pack of lies this afternoon.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Order!
-He lied about me this afternoon.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Order!
-I am quoting from Hansard. All I want is a fair go. That is all I am asking for.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Order!
-I ask you, Mr Acting Chairman, to give it to me.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Order! The Joint Sitting will come to order.
– You did not quieten him this afternoon. You did not call him to order at all.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN- Order! I am simply asking the honourable member to connect his remarks with the Bill before the Joint Sitting.
– These remarks are connected, exactly with the Bill before the chamber. Of course I am in favour of Senate representation for the Northern Territory. Despite the fact that I do not speak from the Government side of the chamber, I do support this measure because it will bring something to the Northern Territory, but I know very well indeed that this legislation is being used as a means to try to whittle away the only chance that people with any sane approach to government have of retaining Australia as we ever knew it- the Australia that some of us fought for. Not too many people on the other side of the chamber did because they did not even think it was worthwhile.
– You are despicable.
– Despicable be damned. I am just telling you here and now that I will support this measure because of the Northern Territory and not because of the racket that the Labor Party is producing to try to get a majority in the Senate so that it can run its left wing propaganda socialist stuff through the Parliament.
– We have had a most extraordinary performance tonight from my predecessor at the podium the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I am afraid that in the past nobody told me that I should rush down to the House of Representatives to hear him speak, so this is the first time that I have had the pleasure of hearing him entertain us. I thought that perhaps at this late hour, as the honourable member for the Northern Territory, he would have thrown some light on some of the curious performances that we have seen coming from his colleagues with regard the entitlements of the Australian people to vote. I thought that as the member for the Northern Territory he might have been able to explain to us how it is that when the Opposition approaches the voting rights of those people who are entitled to a vote it says that their electorates should be gerrymandered, and when it comes to the voting entitlements of those people who are not entitled to vote it says they should not be able to vote at all. Ultimately we found that Mr Calder indicated an intention to cross the floor to vote with us, but not without a valiant effort to get himself thrown out of this Joint Sitting by deliberately provoking the Chair, by deliberately acting in such a way that in any other sitting, if we had not had such a tolerant Acting Chairman as you, Sir, he would have been ejected from the chamber. Of course, he wanted to be ejected from the chamber so that he would not have to cross the floor and vote with us and go back and answer to the people of the Northern Territory as to why he had repeatedly betrayed them in the Parliament.
What a sorry performance we have seen tonight. But certainly it was only one of a series of very sorry performances that we have been watching all today. Perhaps in the past it could have been argued that there was something wrong with having the proceedings of Parliament televised. But if ever anyone could be open to the conviction that Parliament ought to be the subject of non-stop televising, today’s proceedings would have justified such an argument. Today the Australian people have had revealed to them a series of spokesmen from the Opposition parties whose main goal during the whole of this Joint Sitting has been to deprive the Australian people of the right democratically to elect the Parliament of this country. That has been the whole purpose of their actions today.
Let us have a look at the proposals that are before the Joint Sitting. These proposals are that there should be 2 senators from each of the Territories of Australia. What advantage is there for the Australian Labor Party in saying that there should be 2 senators from each of the Territories? Are members of the Opposition parties being so complimentary to us as to say that the Australian Labor Party will receive over twothirds of the votes in each of those Territories and thus have its senators elected? Are they saying that we shall therefore obtain a majority by the means of giving the franchise to our fellow Australians who live inside these Territories? Do they say that over two-thirds of the people in these 2 Territories support the Australian Labor Party? If that is what they want to say then let them stand up and say it.
If that is not what they say, then what are they saying? Are they saying that the Territories should continue to be unrepresented in the Parliament? The people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are affected by the laws which are made by this Parliament just as much as any Australian citizen living in any of the 6 States. We believe that it is intolerable that any Australian, wherever he may live, whatever his ethnic origin or whatever his educational standard may be, should be deprived of the right to vote in the election of the Parliament of the Australian people. This is what is being resisted today by the Opposition.
I dare say that members of the Opposition could be suspicious about these matters. I suppose that they think that somebody will play a dirty trick on them because of their experience in playing dirty tricks themselves. Did they not repeatedly inside the Parliament vote against the member for the Northern Territory having a vote in the House of Representatives until the Country Party gained a member from the Northern Territory? Did they not down the years, when the Australian Labor Party proposed that a vote should be given to the Northern Territory, deny the right of the people of the Northern Territory to have a vote? They did this, not because of any democratic principle, but because all they believe in is the gerrymander. They operate under the principle of government by gerrymander. Like all people whose moral sensibilities are blunted they are unable to believe that anyone else has any motives other than the base motives which they themselves have.
What conceivable difference can it make from a party point of view if there are 2 senators from each Territory elected on the basis of proportional representation? Does not reason suggest that there will be one member in support of the Government and one member in support of the Opposition elected from each of these Territories? Does anyone have any arguments to suggest that we shall gain more than one senator from either of those Territories? If so, it is only because the support for our Party in those Territories must be so overwhelming. I should think that if Mr Calder were to be seen frequently by the people of the Northern Territory on whatever television sets there are in the Northern Territory, perhaps he would be correct and we would have 2 senators from the Northern Territory.
What sort of arguments have we heard today from some of the constitutional sages from the other side of the Parliament? Senator Greenwood told us with great indignation how shocking it is that the House of Representatives should have made decisions about the constitution of the Senate when the Senate did not want to have its membership changed in this way. He told us how deplorable it is that a Labor dominated House of Representatives should dare to offer its opinion on the membership of the Senate. I am afraid that I have not heard that argument from Opposition senators when the composition of the House of Representatives has been debated in the Senate. I have not heard Senator Greenwood and his colleagues say: ‘If the House of
Representatives has decided that there should be an electoral Bill of a certain type, because we belong to another House we shall abstain from voting on this matter or we shall do what the House of Representatives wants’. What is the point that Senator Greenwood was making? It is that the House of Representatives is not entitled to deliberate on the composition of the Senate but the Senate is entitled to deliberate on the composition of the House of Representatives. Although he did not say it, what is the reason? The reason is that in the House of government the Australian Labor Party has a majority to which it was elected, and in the Senate a combination of misfit organisations holds a majority owing to the flukes of preferential voting.
Senator Greenwood also told us that we would have to be very wary because the Labor Party would engage in bribery and all sorts of public works would be introduced into the Northern Territory apparently to gain 2 senators. I must say that as a senator from Western Australia I find it mind boggling to hear somebody from the Opposition benches talking about the bribery of electors; to hear the people who gave us the Ord scheme talking about bribery of electors when we well know that the only purpose of the introduction of schemes of that type was to bribe certain electors in Western Australia some years ago when the previous Government was in well deserved difficulties.
The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who has a great reverence for deceased politicians, was at great pains to describe to us what the founding fathers had done for us. I have always been a little mystified as to why the fact that someone was elected to Parliament in 1 899 makes him more sagacious than somebody who was elected to Parliament in 1974. Apparently, if we follow through the reasoning of the honourable member for Moreton, all wisdom ended with the Neanderthal man because anything that came after that is a shocking modern device cooked up by left wing socialists. The Australian Labor Party, whatever it may not be, is at least post-Neanderthal. We are unlike the Piltdown men opposite. I call them Piltdown men advisedly, because it may be remembered that the Piltdown man was constructed artificially.
The Piltdown men opposite would tell us that, because a group of politicians amongst whom the Labor Movement was almost totally unrepresented, if not totally unrepresented, almost 80 years ago decided to devise a Constitution whose purpose would be to preserve the property rights of the wealthy citizens of that day, to withstand the scourge of the Peasants’
Revolt of which they had recently read and to allay the fear that the events of the last 500 years might catch up with them, a Constitution of that type is with us forevermore and is never to be departed from, like the Three Estates of King Louis XVI. We reject that also. We believe that the Constitution of Australia has to be changed in order to move with the changes in the circumstances of our country. Since the foundation of this Commonwealth the political Labor movement has developed, giving representation to people who were not represented when the Constitution which we now have inflicted upon us was first presented to an unsuspecting group of colonials.
The honourable member for Moreton has said that somehow or other, by some extraordinary circumstance, although the population of the Australian Capital Territory is 4 times that of the Northern Territory the Australian Capital Territory will have the same number of senators as the Northern Territory will have. I do not want to labour old points but surely, if population is the basis on which the honourable member for Moreton and his friends approach representation in the Senate, then they would have moved long ago to see that the representation of New South Wales and Tasmania respectively was adjusted. But no, that is sacred. If this doctrine which was handed down in 1895 by men with long white beards that all States should have equal representation is such a sacred doctrine, then surely the Opposition would say that all Territories ought to have equal representation too.
In fact, we are the people who are in keeping with the founding fathers, not the honourable member for Moreton. But what have we done? What has the Australian Labor Party tried to do? We have tried to see that the people of these 2 Territories are represented in both Houses of the Australian Parliament. That is precisely it. We have done it on a basis whereby there will be 2 representatives from each of these 2 Territories. They are not States, but we believe they are entitled to have some representation. The representation from each of those Territories should be equal. We say that each of those 2 senators should be elected by the proportional representation system on each occasion that the elections take place. This is an inbuilt safeguard against any form of gerrymander. One might say that it is an inbuilt safeguard against any one party gaining both those seats. But why does the Opposition oppose the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill? The Opposition opposes the Bill because it hates the very thought of universal franchise. It is still fighting the wars which were fought before the first Reform Bill of 1832. 1 see that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) has apparently heard of it, but by the bemused faces of most of his colleagues apparently they have not yet caught up with it. I tell them that the reason they oppose this Bill tonight is for same reason that they have opposed the other proposals which have been before the Parliament the purpose of which was to see that, as far as was practical, there would be equal representation of each constituency in the House of Representatives.
The Opposition hates the very thought of equal representation of the Australian people in the same way that it hates the thought of any representation of the Australian people. But, after all, in many respects the members on the Opposition side are quite correct in loathing democratic government. Their loathing of democratic government is not just some mere quirk, some mere eccentricity on their part. The reason they loathe democratic government is that they know that ultimately with democratic government the obsolete ideas and the selfish interests which they represent in this place will be swept away. We support democratic government because we believe that this country should be governed by the people . We believe that democratic government is the only form of government which the Australian people are entitled to have. Democratic government is a goal for which we shall continue to struggle despite all of the opposition of the moth-eaten, moss-backed reactionaries sitting on the left of the Chairman of this Joint Sitting.
– Post-neanderthal, perhaps; homo sapiens, demonstrably never. I am very grateful to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) for his anthropological exercise because if heat and ersatz indignation could be substituted for intellectual preoccupation, the Minister would have made a memorable contribution. Having said that, it is well to get back to our muttons. As a previous speaker for the Opposition has said, of all the measures before the Joint Sitting these 2 measures now before us, the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill and the Representation Bill, are the most important in their future potential to alter the whole framework of this Parliament, of this parliamentary system and, therefore, of the structure of decision making in this country. But they are memorable for something more than that. They are memorable because the Government has produced a hybrid mule of very strange proportions.
Someone has said that this is a simple measure. A simple measure, yes. What are its three characteristics? They are initially to introduce 2 Senate representatives for each of the Territories, to elect them at House of Representatives elections and, indeed, not to count them in determining the size of the House of Representatives. That is one way of putting it. Let me put it in its hybrid mule characteristics -in its genetic characteristics. Incredibly enough, the Government of the day proposes to create 2 different Senate systems. There are to be 2 different kinds of representatives in the Senate. There are to be senators from the States. There are to be representatives from the Territories; not senators but representatives. There are to be senators from the States elected- the public has voted for this at Senate elections- separately, if necessary, as States and groups of States. There are to be Territorial representatives elected at each House of Representatives election. There are to be senators whose casual vacancies are replaced by a formula set out in the Constitution. There are to be Territorial representatives elected under a formula of by-elections, quite differently. Indeed, it is alleged that they are not to be counted when the Senate is counted in determining the size of the House of Representatives. Why? For all of this, and running through the whole thread of the Government’s debate today, there has been one single theme: ‘We are going to do this because we have a mandate’. I stress the word ‘mandate’.
I think it was in 1968 that a referendum was held inviting the people of Australia to break the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives so that it would not be compulsory in future for the House of Representatives to be as nearly as practicable twice the size of the Senate. The people then said: ‘No, the nexus shall stay’. Where is the mandate for a government to come forward and say: ‘Nevertheless, although the people have said they want the nexus to remain between the Senate and the House of Representatives, we are going to break it’? Where is the mandate for that? I thought the Government went to the people to seek a mandate for a constitutional reform at the last election to bring the House of Representatives and Senate elections always together compulsorily. Unless I am mistaken, the people said: ‘No, they can be and can remain separate’. What is the purpose of this legislation? It is to force the twinning of the elections for Territorial representatives and the House of Representatives. Where is the mandate for that? Long before we venture on this hydrid we should have a policy as to the representation of these Territories in the future as States or as other bodies.
What possible explanation is there for setting up 2 different types of representatives in the Senate? If the Government were so keen to have referenda why on this important matter of altering the structure of this Parliament did it not go to the people by way of referendum? It must know that there are grave doubts as to the constitutionality of these Territorial representatives. It must know that the earlier sections of the Constitution appear to be in conflict with section 122. Why did it not go to the people on this matter? It went on many other matters and, of course, got an emphatic rejection. I am not arguing that the Territories themselves should not be represented in this Parliament. On the contrary I believe that the right course for this Government and this Parliament to follow is to take this matter to the Constitutional Conventions between the Commonwealth, the States and local government, to invite Territorial representatives to those conventions, and to have protracted discussion on the future nature and structure of the Territories, their movement into full statehood and their representation in this Parliament.
Why have we not heard of the experience in America concerning representation of Territories? Surely the most important discussions, which are very pertinent to us here, arise out of the discussions regarding the District of Columbiathat is, the Federal State incorporating Washington- and whether it ought to have been represented in the Senate of the Congress of America. Those discussions reached the conclusion that at this stage at least the District of Columbia should not be represented primarily because of the danger inherent in a Public Service State having, perhaps, a balance of power. All these things should have been thought out, discussed and put to the public. What has been put to the public has had an emphatic no- a no which has gone to the heart of these 2 Bills; a no to the methodology of the election of Senate territorial representatives. But nothing like that has happened at all.
During the course of today we have heard of the obstruction of the Senate. We have had some fascinating confessions. One honourable senator from the Labor Party said that he and the other members of the Labor Party would like to see the Senate abolished because of its wicked obstruction. What we have not heard is Senator Murphy stand up here today and recite his credo which he recited virtually every day when he was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. He then asserted the right to the Senate Opposition to resist and to oppose when it disagreed with measures. He asserted the right of the Opposition in the Senate to refuse supply, to refuse money Bills and to act according to its conscience on any measure. Why is it now, some 2 years removed from that time, that the Senate is suddenly obstructionist? The Leader of the present Government and the Labor Party, when they themselves were in Opposition, saw virtue in the very things that we are now accused of doing. So let us put this aside. No doubt they do not want a House of second thoughts that meets every Wednesday and, of course, is called the Labor Caucus. There is no doubt about that. Of course, the Caucus has second thoughts on everything that its schizophrenic Cabinet may do. That is fully understandable.
The main thing that the people of Australia should understand is that this sudden discovery that the Senate itself should be abolished is something that is new found. It is true that it has lain inside the Labor Party’s platform for years. It is true that members of the Labor Party have said: ‘Yes, yes, it is there but we are not going to do it’. It is true that when the members of the Labor Party formed the Senate Opposition they sought to be a vigorous Senate Opposition and they defeated infinitely more Bills than the present Senate Opposition has ever defeated. Their record of rejection of Bills, including money Bills, goes far and away further than any kind of record of the present Senate Opposition. So do not let us have this humbug that suddenly there is opposition in the Senate.
The Senate itself is performing its constitutional function. Whether the members of the Labor Party like it or not, the Senate itself is inherently inside the Commonwealth Constitution a States House. Let members of the Labor Party go to the people of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia- the less populous States- and tell them that the Senate is not a States House and that the senators are not here to rectify the arrogance of the use of numbers in the House of Representatives. Quite clearly the people of the less populous States look to the Senate as a States House to overcome the potential tyranny inherent in the House of Representatives because the more populous States have the numbers in that House. There is a numbers game in which the Government revels now but in respect of which Senator Murphy saw more than wicked tyranny in years gone by. I urge that these measures be put aside, that they be taken to the Constitutional Convention, that second thoughts be given to them so that we can move these Territories into full Statehood and real and proper recognition.
-In his final remarks Senator Carrick used the word ‘humbug’. If ever humbug was spoken it was spoken by Senator Carrick tonight. If ever we have heard hypocrisy, humbug and misleading statements we have heard them from speakers on the opposite side of the House. What seems to horrify Senator Carrick is that there will be 2 types of senators in the Senate if this legislation is approved. Might I remind Senator Carrick that for years supporters of the present Opposition put up with special types of representatives right here in the House of Representatives. The first member for the Northern Territory was elected in 1922, and until 1936 he had no vote in the House of Representatives. He had a special type of representation in the House of Representatives. In 1968 he, along with the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, finally gained full voting rights. But Opposition supporters put up with that type of special representation for years and years while they were in government. What humbug it is to say now that there should not be a special type of representation in the Senate.
– Who gave the vote?
– The honourable member for Gippsland asks: ‘Who gave the vote?’ From 1949 to 1968 when both of those seats were held by the Australian Labor Party the Opposition did not believe in democratic principles. It did not do so until it gained the seat for the Northern Territory, and then Opposition supporters suddenly became great democrats. I noticed also that Senator Carrick used the district of Columbia in the United States as an example to support one of his arguments. How marvellous it is that the Opposition uses the United States example when it suits its case. It did not suit its case when it was arguing this afternoon in relation to one vote one value, but it does suit its case now that it is talking about Senate representation. I might remind the Opposition that the District of Columbia has just been given representation in the House of Representatives.
Why do the Liberal and Country Parties fear this Bill? The reason has nothing to do with democracy or democratic principles, because if ever there was a bunch of politicians in this country lacking in principle it is those on the other side of the chamber. The simple fact of the matter is that they fear that they will not get equal representation. The proposition is to have 2 representatives in the Senate whose representation is on a proportional basis. This will mean and should mean, in effect, that anyone who receives about 34 per cent of the vote in either of those Territories should win a seat. Surely the parties opposite should win a seat in the Northern Territory. If a person is any sort of a candidate and conducts any sort of a campaign he should be able to win a seat in the Australian Capital Territory. The fact is that during the last election the Opposition polled so badly in this seat of government, in this place where people saw how it behaved for 23 years, that it does not give itself a chance of winning a seat in the Australian Capital Territory. That is why it is opposing this legislation. If it thought it could win a seat it would be supporting this proposition.
The fascinating part about this legislation is that it is about the fourth time it has been before the Parliament-the House of Representatives, the Senate, and now the Joint Sitting. On the first occasion it was presented to the Parliament the Country Party voted for it. Its members crossed the floor because of their support for the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). On the last occasion the Country Party managed to talk out the time allotted for consideration of the legislation so that it would not come to a vote. Why is it now that it has suddenly changed its mind? Only a few months ago it supported the legislation but now suddenly we find that the legislation is against all democratic principles. I am reminded of the speech made tonight by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), who is a man for whom we have a great respect, a man who is a great traditionalist and a great speaker in this place. But I am afraid that I can never quite get over the worship that the honourable member and so many others opposite have for the Constitution. There is a very great danger in this Parliament and in this country in our becoming worshippers of the Constitution. This was a problem that faced the founding fathers of the United States. If one reads of Jefferson, Franklin or any of the other great founding fathers, one sees that they warned against the very thing that we in this country are doing today, namely, believing that at the time the Constitution was framed some great wisdom was handed down from the mount to those who framed it. This a very great mistake and a very great danger.
As the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator Wheeldon, asked earlier, what special intelligence and what special wisdom prevailed among Australian politicians of the 1 890s which made their words good for all time? I believe that if we had to draw up a constitution tomorrow there would be the wit, the wisdom and the intelligence in politicians on both sides of the parliament to draw up a better constitution than those people did 80 years ago. I ridicule the attitude that the Constitution is sacrosanct and must not be touched for all time. The point which Senator Wheeldon made was that it was drawn up in the 1890s, at a time when the Labor Party virtually did not exist. It was in its infancy. It was formed in 1891. I could be marginally out in these figures, but I believe that at the 2 Constitutional Conventions the Labor movement had one representative out of 135. Those people who drew up the Constitution were, primarily, men of property, merchants, farmers and men of influence in our community. Representatives of the people whom we on this side of the Parliament represent were not members of the various State parliaments at that time. The result is a constitution which is ultra-conservative and ultra-cautious. One of the great shames of our history is that at the time of the drawing up of the Constitution the Labor movement was not fully represented, as it should have been. If it had been fully represented, we would not be having the sort of struggles and battles that we are having today.
I am reminded again of Mr Killen ‘s question: Why two; why not four, why not six, why not ten? I suppose that the reason is very simple. Two is the smallest number which ensures proportional representation. In effect, it means that both the Labor Party and the Liberal and Country Parties will be equally represented in the Senate after these elections. I believe that this will happen. One might well ask: Why did not people on this side say in the debate on the earlier Bill: Why 20 per cent; why not 40 per cent, why not 60 per cent, why not 80 per cent?
– What about one vote one value?
-That is exactly what I was talking about. Honourable members and senators opposite argued that 20 per cent was a figure which showed some great wisdom. I was making the point: What was so special about and what was the great wisdom in 20 per cent?
There was derisory laughter when Senator James McClelland called for the abolition of the Senate and then said that while it exists it should be democratic. I ask honourable members and senators on the other side- members of the Liberal and Country Parties- what they found so amusing about our opposition to the Senate. If this Bill is passed- it will be passed in a matter of minutes- will they show their sincerity by not standing candidates for either the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory? Because they do not believe in the principle of representation of the Territories in the Senate, will they withdraw their candidates? The logic is the same, as Senator James McClelland pointed out. The trouble is that the Senate has become obstructionist for obstruction ‘s sake. It still seems to be carried away with its moment of glory a few years ago when one of its strength stepped down from the Senate to become the Prime Minister. I suggest to the Senate that it should not let that moment of glory go to its head.
-In the limited time available to me, unfortunately it is not possible to deal with the hopelessly inconsistent speech of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen); but anyone speaking at the end of a debate of such consequence as this inevitably finds himself in a somewhat invidious position. Therefore, I consider my role to be one of synthetising and expanding in some respects some of the arguments put by previous speakers. In particular my remarks will be directed towards the points raised by my friends and colleagues the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and Senators Wright and Carrick. This legislation demonstrates the essential hypocrisy of the Labor Government. On the one hand, the Labor Party platform states that the Labor Party stands for the abolition of the Senate. It is quite implicit. Everyone knows it. It has been in the platform for years. We of the Opposition do not agree with that proposal, but we understand it.
It has become apparent through this debate that members of the Labor Party, while apparently agreeing with the policy for abolition of the Senate- every candidate from that side of the chamber has to sign a document accepting that platform- do not seem to want to understand it, although it is not difficult. That is the essential hypocrisy to which I referred a moment ago. The Australian Labor Party cannot be sincere about its platform and this legislation at one and the same time. It is self-evident that if members of the Labor Party sincerely believe one, they cannot sincerely believe the other. There is a further test which can be applied to the Government’s sincerity. If there was one thing which this Government was keen on, it was referendums, or referenda according to one’s taste. With what nostalgic envy must members of the Labor Party look back to those heady days immediately after Labor’s election to power, when its confidence knew no bounds, when the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), inordinately pleased with himself and puffed up with the sense of his own importance, was confidently proclaiming himself to be the greatest Foreign Minister Australia had ever had.
The Labor Party proposed referendums on anything and everything, but a responsible Senate thwarted the Government’s irresponsible attempts to subvert our federal system. The Labor Party, with this confidence born of arrogance, put referendum question after referendum question. Every one was rejected. Perhaps this was the first indication to the Government that the people of Australia were not prepared to trust it with any more power than it already had. How wise subsequent events have proved the Australian people were in rejecting this rash of referenda. Just think what the position would be like today if this incompetent, disorganised government, now in public disarray with half a dozen Treasurers and would-be Treasurers, had been given the powers for which it asked in these referenda. The point is that there was no reluctance to put referendum questions, at least on the part of the Prime Minister. Why did not the Labor Party put its own platform to test and have a referendum to abolish the Senate? If the Labor Party was sincere in believing its own platform, it had a moral obligation to put such a referendum. By its failure to put that question to the people the Labor Government repudiated its own long-standing policy and demonstrated its own hypocrisy to the electorate. This legislation now puts the seal on the Government’s repudiation of its own policies. Instead of abolishing the Senate according to its platform, the Labor Party proposes to enlarge it.
But what are the real motives? It looks to me like an example of not being able to have your cake and eat it too. Apparently the Government’s real motives are to undermine the States. This legislation proves that the Labor Party is prepared to repudiate one area of policy in an effort to further its own aims in another. No less an authority than my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Moreton, with his usual felicitous turn of phrase, in most moderate and temperate terms described this legislation as an assault on the Australian Constitution and our federal system. It would not just provide territorial representation in the Senate, as envisaged by section 122 of the Constitution; it would also provide territorial senators who would have full voting powers in the Senate. It would substantially affect that part of the Constitution referring to the establishment and working of the Senate.
Therefore this legislation is nothing short of an attempt to subvert the Constitution. I am not one of those who says that the Constitution should never be changed. The point is that we have properly established machinery for changing it, but this legislation is not part of such machinery. The Constitution stands quite apart from any other law or Act of Parliament, being a compact, as has been said in this debate before, between the Commonwealth and the States. Under this compact the Senate is the House of the States who therefore have the right to be consulted before any alteration, such as is proposed, is made to it. Passage of this legislation would deny the States the opportunity to make their views known on this issue.
Changing the representation in the Senate in the way that the Government proposes could lead to the ultimate absurdity- the House of the States being controlled by representatives from the Territories. This would be a complete negation of our Constitution because we must not forget that if Territorial Senate representatives can be created by this legislation there will be nothing to stop the Government increasing the number in either the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory, or the number of Senate representatives from other Territories as well if the Government believes that by so doing it could gain control of the Senate. This would make nonsense of proportional representation and totally destroy the ability of the Senate to act as a House of review.
There are further basic inconsistencies in the legislation which need to be examined. For example, whilst it is proposed that representatives of Territories in the Senate should have full voting powers they would differ in important respects from other senators. A study of the speech made on 22 May last year by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) shows just how different they would be. They are to be elected differently. Their terms of office are to be different. We are told that section 24 of the Constitution is not to apply to them yet they are to attract to themselves power equal to those of the true Senate representatives of the States. I put it to the Parliament that the Government cannot have it both ways. It seems strange, putting it in the lowest possible key, to claim that these people would be full senators for the purposes of some sections of the Constitution- for example, section 22 and 23 relating to votes and quorums in the Senate- but not in others, for example, section 24 relating to the nexus between the number of senators and the number of members in the House of Representatives. I say this knowing that the Government has received advice on the point but how can you have a situation in which a representative is a senator one minute and not the next?
When in government the Opposition Parties took the initiative in improving the representation of the Territories in this Parliament. During our time in government Territory representatives in the House of Representatives gained full voting powers. During our time in government we put forward proposals designed to give a greater degree of self-government to the Northern Territory. But what has happened to those proposals? Nothing. They have been swept under the carpet. All that has happened is that this Government has brought forward a miserable ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory the effect of which will be merely to change the title of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. This is a mockery. By the Minister’s own statement this new Legislative Assembly will not have one extra power over the present Advisory Council. It is just a public relations exercise and a very poor one at that.
We on this side of the Parliament shall continue to support responsible legislation having the objective of improving the representation of the Territories in this Parliament, as we did in the last Parliament when we supported the legislation to create another seat in the Australian Capital Territory. But we state very firmly that this Parliament has a wider responsibility- to uphold the Australian Constitution and to preserve the checks and balances of our Federal system and our bi-cameral form of government. This legislation is not consistent with those responsibilities. As I have described, it contravenes in important respects the basic principles embodied in the Constitution and the form and working of the Parliament. For all those reasons I oppose the Bills.
– The debate having concluded the question is:
That the proposed law, namely the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973, be affirmed.
Pursuant to rule 1 1 the Joint Sitting will divide. Ring the Bells.
The Joint Sitting divided. (The Chairman-Hon. J. F. Cope)
The Joint Sitting in division:
– Excuse me, Mr Chairman, will I be counted if I sit in the passageway because I am so politically and philosophically opposed to this?
-Order! The result of the division is ayes 97, noes 90. I declare the proposed law affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by section 57 of the Constitution.
– The question now is:
That the proposed law, namely the Representation Act 1973, be affirmed.
Pursuant to rule 1 1 the Joint Sitting will divide. Ring the bells.
The Joint Sitting divided. (The Chairman- Hon. J. F. Cope)
– The result of the division is : Ayes 96, Noes 91.1 declare the proposed law affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by section 57 of the Constitution.
Rule 5 provides that unless otherwise ordered, the sitting shall conclude at 1 1 p.m. It now being after 1 1 p.m., the Joint Sitting stands adjourned and will be resumed at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
Joint Sitting adjourned at 1 1.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 August 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1974/19740806_reps_29_hor89/>.