25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Health. Is it correct that the pensioner medical service does not cover the cost of physiotherapy treatment given in either a public hospital or a private hospital by an outside physiotherapist, even though such treatment is given on the recommendation of the pensioner’s own doctor? If that is so, and as many pensioners require this treatment but cannot afford to pay for it, will the Minister recommend that such treatment be included in the pensioner medical service? If not, why not?
– This item has not been Included in the national health scheme to date. This matter has been raised on several occasions in the past and has been considered. However, I will look at it again and advise the honorable member of the result.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information that he can give the House concerning the recent infiltration by Indonesia against Malaysia and the counter action which has involved Australian troops?
– The news that we have is largely in line with what has appeared in the newspaper cables. A further group of Indonesian raiders, estimated at between 50 and 60, was put ashore south of Malacca in the small hours of yesterday morning. It is pretty clear from the examination made that the forces included a substantial number of regular personnel of the Indonesian armed forces. Immediate counter action was taken by security forces, including a company of Australians. The situation is well in hand. There have been quite a few surrenders and the Indonesian operation appears to be likely to be as complete a failure as the ones at Pontian and Labis.
I do not need to remind the House of the discussion that occurred in the Security Council and of the overwhelming view taken by the members of that Council against this Indonesian aggression. That condemnation would have been the more effective but for the veto of the Soviet Union. We believe that this is once more a very clear case. So far as we are concerned, the action taken to resist this aggression, of course, is obviously correct. Incidentally, I point out as a matter of history that this is the first occasion on which Australian troops have actually been in combat with Indonesian troops. We will report to the United Nations the measures that have been undertaken, the fact of the involvement of our own troops, and that we will continue to act in this way to help Malaysia to defend itself against unprovoked attack.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund had an income of more than £6i million in the year ended 30th June 1964 and paid to exservicemen benefits amounting only to less than £31 million? Is the Minister aware that the Fund has been the subject of considerable criticism by service personnel in recent years and is recognised as the main reason for the high rate of resignations of commissioned officers from the forces - especially the Army - over the past two years? Will the Treasurer take steps to have the law relating to this Fund amended so that retirement benefits will be brought more into line with the pensions paid to Commonwealth public servants of comparable rank? Finally, will the Treasurer advise the House as to what were the total investments of the Fund at the end of June 1964?
– I do not think the House will expect me to have available now the detailed information sought by the honorable gentleman. I shall study the text of his question and secure the information for him. But there are one or two general observations which ought to be made. I think we do no service to the servicemen or to the public if we regard the defence forces retirement benefits scheme which has been adopted by this Parliament as unreasonable or ungenerous. This scheme arose from recommendations of the Allison Committee. I believe that it is by no means an ungenerous scheme, having regard to the basis of Commonwealth contributions to the Fund. Quite obviously when there are claims to be made on the Fund in the future, and it has not enjoyed a long life as a fund, it will be left with a substantial capital amount against the contingencies of the future. We have reviewed the Fund from time to time. I believe, from my own knowledge of the Fund, that it is certainly no less favourable for the contributors to it than would be, say, the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund for members of the Public Service. If there is, as I doubt, any considerable number of officers who have retired from the forces because of their belief in the inadequacy of the Fund, I would conclude that this Action has been based upon an inadequate knowledge of the benefits to be derived from the Fund and of how they compare with provisions made elsewhere.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Has the Minister seen or heard of a statement in which Mr. Kenny, a senior vicepresident of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said in regard to the strike at General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. -
We are now faced with a situation of extricating the unions from a ridiculous situation. The trade unions would be disgusted if I were to tell the full story.
Can the Minister throw any light on this remarkable statement in which Mr. Kenny referred also to the “ debacle “ of the trade union movement?
– I think that what has already been said in the House by me in answer to several questions was a prelude to what Mr. Kenny said at the Trades and Labour Council last night. Mr. Kenny made it clear in his statement that the spate of strikes that are now taking place at General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd. and, I add, at Mr Isa are contrary to the expressed views of the organised trade union movement of this country. The General MotorsHolden’s strike cost the country between £23 million and £25 million of production. About £1) million in wages was lost. No benefit has accrued to the workmen them selves. I pointed out that this strike was called, and deliberately called, by a small section of left wing trade union leaders. This is to be deplored, and I am glad that Mr. Kenny has had the courage to make this statement condemning the small group of people who are sabotaging Australian industry.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the proposal of the Victorian Government to impose a separate income tax. I ask whether the Government’s consideration of this matter is complete. If it is, what is the attitude of the Government to the proposal of the Victorian Government that its separate income tax be collected by the Commonwealth Government?
– The honorable member was good enough to raise this matter in the House a day or two ago and I have therefore put myself in a position to set down a reply to his question with some precision, this being desirable. As all honorable members know, in his Budget Speech of 9th September, the Premier of Victoria announced certain proposals for the levying of an income tax on individual persons resident in Victoria. The tax was to be payable from 1st July 1965. Subsequently the Premier wrote to me asking for the co-operation of the Commonwealth in collecting the tax, as envisaged in the provisions of section 15 of the Commonwealth Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. Naturally, my colleagues and I have given this important proposal very close and detailed consideration. In the light of this, I have now informed the Premier that we find ourselves unable to meet his request. I have pointed out to Mr. Bolte that it has been necessary for us to study his request, not simply as a matter between the Comonwealth and Victoria, but as one having implications for the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and all States. From that standpoint, it had become apparent to us that for the Commonwealth to meet Victoria’s request could very well raise problems essentially of a kind with many of those we knew to be involved in a full return of tax powers to the State Governments.
As the House will recall, at various Premiers’ Conferences in the past the Commonwealth has indicated its willingness to consider arrangements under which the States might once more exercise income tax powers. However, it being our view that this matter is necessarily of concern to all States, we have been prepared to consider it only with States as a whole and not with States separately. Our position has been and is that the Commonwealth could contemplate an arrangement involving the abandonment or modification of uniform taxation only if the arrangement met certain essential conditions - more particularly that it should be supported by ali States, that it should contain adequate safeguards for the interests of taxpayers, and that it should provide a sound basis for future financial relationships between the Commonwealth and each of the States. However, in conveying our decision to Mr. Bolte, I have made it clear that should he or the Premier of any other State so desire, the Commonwealth would be prepared to discuss this or any other aspect of Commonwealth and State financial relationships when the financial assistance grants arrangements are being reviewed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. I refer to representations I have made and to discussions I have had with regard to an application by the Tumut Sub-Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia for a grant under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Is a sub-branch of the League eligible for assistance under the Act? If not, will the Minister indicate what steps may be taken by a sub-branch to become eligible for a grant under the Act?
– To suit the convenience of the League and for obvious reasons, only State branches of the League are eligible for assistance under the Aged Persons Homes Act. But that does not prevent any sub-branch or any group of subbranches from exploring the possibility of establishing a home under the Act in any locality. Formal application can be made only by a State branch of the League, and the General Secretary of the League is familiar with these arrangements. I am quite confident that with the assistance of the honorable member for Hume and the State Secretary of the League in New South Wales a succesful application will be lodged through the State branch on behalf of the Tumut Sub-Branch of the League.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the penny, bearing the portrait of the Queen or of former Monarchs, will disappear when decimal currency is introduced? If this is a fact, is the Treasurer aware that this coin is regarded as of great value in two-up schools for use in an Australian national pastime? Is he also aware that the game is not for basic wage earners and, whilst regarded as illegal, numbers among its patrons men from every walk of life, including legal men, business men and members of the Liberal Party? In these circumstances will he favourably consider the retention of the penny in the interest of those who seek their enjoyment and fortune in patronising this national pastime?
– The honorable gentleman may have found the answer I have been seeking as to why 80 million pennies had to be minted this year. However, with that addition to the stock of pennies available to the community I feel that followers of this particular sport will have resources to follow it for many years to come.
– My question is further to a question asked by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. In his reply the Treasurer mentioned that the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund was not a disadvantageous scheme compared with the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. Can the Treasurer say what is the position of a public servant who retires after 34 years service. Does he receive a pension or not?
– I shall get a precise statement for the honorable gentleman. He is assiduous in his well intentioned efforts to secure a change in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. I have previously assured him that the matter he has raised is continually under the consideration of the Government.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport now in a position to inform the House whether a confirmed route for the turn around of the Crystal Brook-Port Pirie standard gauge line has been planned to cross Wandearah Road, Port Pirie? If the turn around is planned for this point, has full consideration been given to providing an overpass at this junction so that the traffic hazard will be minimised?
– I cannot give the honorable gentleman the confirmation he seeks. The proposed route is at present being surveyed so that estimates of costs can be made before the Commonwealth undertakes any commitment regarding the construction of that line. Until this survey is completed I will not be able to give him the information. The survey will take some time yet.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. In view of the general interest in the future method of marketing the Australian wool clip, proposals for which are at present being held up by the action brought by the Logan Downs Pastoral Co. challenging the levy for wool promotion purposes, is the Minister in a position to give the House any information in general terms of the grounds on which this action is based?
– I think this is more a question for the Attorney-General to answer, because he is in possession of information that I have not received. In the absence of that information, I could not give a detailed reply. I shall ask my colleague to supply the honorable member with an answer.
-My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Has he received from the National Nursing Education Division a request for a grant of £10,000 to assist the Division in its programme of nursing research? If no decision has been reached, will the right honorable gentleman expedite consideration of this important matter which involves the many problems that beset the nursing profession?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES__ I do not know whether this request to which the honorable member refers is some recent one. Offhand, I am not in a position to say whether such a request is at present in my office. If it is, it will certainly receive very prompt consideration.
– I address my question to the Minister for Housing. He will know that the maximum income limit for eligibility for State Housing Commission homes in rural areas of Western Australia is £28 16s. 8d. a week, or £1,499 per annum, plus £25 per annum for each child under the age of 16. I ask: If the State Government decided to widen the area of eligibility for Commission homes by increasing the maximum income limit, would the decision conflict in any way with the Federal Government’s policy in respect of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement?
– The only aspect of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement concerning the allocation of houses that comes within the control of the Commonwealth is the very general obligation on the State to make dwellings built with funds provided under the terms of the Agreement available primarily to families on low and moderate incomes. Some of the States, but not all, impose a means test. Under the terms of the Agreement, there is no power for the Commonwealth to suggest any particular detailed test. The general policy of the Commonwealth under the Agreement is that, apart from the matters in respect of which specific provision has been made for Commonwealth authority to be exercised, the Agreement should be administered, and the requirements for the allocation of houses built with funds provided under its terms should be decided by the States.
– I address to the Minister for Trade and Industry a question about the United Kingdom surcharge tax on imports, particularly imports of Australian wines. Is the Minister aware of the fear of the Australian wine industry that the volume of its exports sales to this market may shrink? In view of this possibility will the Minister take strong action to step up the scale of promotional drives to aid the sale of Australian wines in countries bearing some potential for sales, such as Canada and Japan?
– As soon as the British Prime Minister informed our Prime Minister of the surcharges to be applied, the Prime Minister advised Mr. Wilson that we would immediately wish to enter into consultations with a view to ascertaining the full implications of the proposals, the effect if any on our trade agreement with the United Kingdom and the implications to our preferences, as well as raising the issue of any particular hardships that might result to Australian industry. One of the matters requiring discussion was the point at which goods in transit might be subject to surcharge. Steps are in train for formal consultations between the two Governments on those matters. Obviously one of the industries that may be affected, and affected perhaps quite importantly, is the wine industry. Every effort will be made to protect the interests of the wine industry. If it appeared that the proposed British action will have a detrimental effect on the wine industry we would, in consultation with the Australian Wine Board, see whether there was scope for more actively trying to penetrate alternative markets.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. In view of the deaths that occur from accident or sudden illness among Australians visiting the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States of America and in view of the fact that so few of such people leave wills, with subsequent legal inconvenience to their sorrowing relatives, will the Minister, through his officers, consider requesting all Australians who seek passports prior to going overseas to make a will before they leave this country? I do not want to frighten anybody, but the necessity for this precaution was brought home to me only last week when I had to assist in the case a young Tasmanian woman who had died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage on 20th October in Essex, England, and did not leave a will.
– I am interested in the case referred to by the honorable member. Apart from the matters of this nature that come to my notice as Minister I am aware of the position because of a particular case that arose at one time. I think the honorable member’s suggestion has quite an amount of merit and, therefore, I will take up the matter with my Department. Although many people when applying for a passport are reluctant to supply the information that is sought from them, I am sure that they will recognise that the furnishing of information of the type suggested by the honorable member is most desirable. I think members of the Parliament who travel abroad should also be advised to make a will before leaving Australia.
– Did the Treasurer receive a deputation this morning from representatives of organisations interested in the income tax legislation that has been introduced into this House? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Government will proceed with the legislation before the House rises? If so, will he say whether the organisations interested will have an opportunity to discuss the mechanics of the legislation with Treasury officials and to place their views before the Government before the debate takes place?
– I have received requests from several quarters to defer the legislation so that it may be carefully studied by accountants, lawyers, organisations representative of taxpayers and others. This morning I received a deputation representative of many of those who had made these proposals to me. I pointed out that there are important practical considerations why the Government believes it desirable that the legislation be passed through both Houses during this sessional period. The legislation, admittedly, is complex; but it would not be practicable for us to deal with it until about April or May of next year if it were not to be disposed of in this sessional period. I believe that this would leave too long a period of uncertainty for many people who would wish to deal with their affairs with a firmer knowledge of what the Parliament had adopted than would be the case if a continuing delay were to occur. On the other hand, I have pointed out to those who saw me this morning that we shall not be debating the legislation in the House until the week after next, and that if there are any matters which they feel should receive some immediate consideration by the Government, then officers of the Taxation Branch will be available to discuss them before the Parliament resumes the debate.
In any event, in the interval between the passage of the legislation - assuming that we go ahead with it - and the meeting of the House next year, there would be opportunity for further study, both by the officers of the Taxation Branch and by outside organisations. If, in the new year, it can be demonstrated to the Government that there are particular aspects of this matter which should be examined, then the Government will be willing to look at them in the light of the representations then made to it. While I shall give some thought to what has been put to me this morning, for the practical reasons that I have outlined, my own disposition, and I believe that of the Government, is to proceed with the legislation to adoption by both Houses before the Parliament rises.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he is aware that large construction companies are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining supplies of structural steel and that this is causing a dislocation of work in the building industry. What inquiries has his Department made concerning this matter, and when is the present scarcity of structural steel likely to be overcome?
– It has not come to my knowledge that large construction companies are experiencing any trouble in obtaining supplies of steel, although it is well known that the high level of economic activity, including building activity in Australia, is putting a full demand on Australia’s resources. One consequence of this is that at the moment substantial quantities of steel are being imported from overseas. I mention that the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. has been progressively and very substantially increasing its production of all types of steel section and steel plate. If the honorable member will be good enough to let me have the names of the companies affected I shall make inquiries to see whether there are any steps which can be taken to help them.
– I address to the Minister for Trade and Industry a question supplementary to one answered by him a few moments ago. It relates particularly to the export of manufactured goods to the United Kingdom and has particular reference to an organisation in my electorate which exports photographic goods. Will the Minister make particular representations to the United Kingdom Government that some relief should be given to those exporting firms in Australia that have existing commitments for exports? Will he ask the United Kingdom Government to give special consideration to those firms which have relied on the good faith of the United Kingdom and which would suffer hardship if any sudden imposition of duty were made? If the United Kingdom is unable to carry out its legal or moral commitments under its trade agreement with Australia, will the Australian Government look sympathetically at the question of giving some kind of relief to firms in Australia which are likely to be affected?
– I will certainly concern myself actively with the issue raised by the honorable member. We must comprehend that it is the responsibility of the government of any country whose overseas balances are running out to take some appropriate step to protect its balances. We ourselves have done this by introducing import licensing, a very unhappy step for any government to have to take but a quite inevitable one. The United Kingdom Government has chosen the course of imposing a surcharge upon items other than foodstuffs and raw materials, these exclusions being fairly obvious if the surcharge system is to be followed. However, this undoubtedly results in quite serious and unexpected business disabilities for some firms and some countries. The company exporting photographic materials, which I know very well - I think the honorable member is referring to Hanimex Pty. Ltd. - has a magnificent record of breaking into a difficult market with an Australian manufactured product. It is well known that the Government has pursued a variety of policies to make it more possible for Australian manufacturers to sell their products in highly competitive overseas markets, and this is one company which has responded to the call to export and has achieved great success. I undertake to devote myself to studying the position so as to see whether there is any way of providing some relief in respect of the items produced by this company.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether a number of Hong Kong nationals with poor financial backgrounds who have applied for visas to enter Australia as students have been failed in English by the Australian immigration authorities in Hong Kong although their standard of English is quite satisfactory?
– I have no knowledge of this case. We have in Australia some 10,000 students from other countries who have been granted permission on certain conditions to come here and study. It is generally accepted that they have to attain a certain standard. However, if the honorable member will give me the details of this case I will be quite happy to have a look at it. I can assure him that our representatives in other countries are very careful in their selection of students.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for National Development. The Minister will be aware of the apprehension felt in many places about future markets for indigenous crude oil. While the oil exploration industry enthusiastically welcomes the Minister’s assurance that the Government will insist that all locally produced oil is purchased by Australian refineries, there remains the vital question of price. Will the Minister assure the nation that the Government will use its influence to ensure that local production, so vital to our defence and economy, is not threatened with low cost imports from areas of over-supply, such as Indonesia? In particular, will he give an assurance that when the present shotgun marriage of the Moonie producers and the refineries comes to an end the Government will do what it can to ensure the fixation of a price more in keeping with Australian conditions?
– I can understand the honorable member’s aversion to shotgun marriages; I understand he is a minister of the Church. I can assure the honorable member that the Government and I have in mind that any locally produced crude oil must be sold at a fair and reasonable price, and at a price profitable to the people who search for, and discover oil. We realise that unless this happens there will be a lack of encouragement for these companies to carry on their search for oil. I hope I will still be Minister for National Development when Australia becomes self-sufficient in crude oil. Obviously, this will happen only if a fair, reasonable and profitable price is paid for local crude oil. The Government is considering ways in which this can be brought about.
– I put a question to the Prime Minister who is representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs. It appears that two months ago the InterParliamentary Union Conference, on which our delegates reported to us two days ago, did not discuss a draft resolution on apartheid in South Africa because it failed by six votes to achieve the two thirds majority required to place it on the agenda, and that the draft resolution would have been listed if the seven Australian delegates from the Government parties had not voted against its listing. I ask the right honorable gentleman: As the Australian Government since 1960 has ceased to vote against the discussion of apartheid in the General Assembly of the United Nations, why did the members of the Government parties vote against the discussion of this subject at this recent international conference?
– I will see if I can get any information on this matter. I would like, incidentally, to point out that honorable members who go to meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union are there, not to present some party viewpoint but as individuals. I have always understood that they exercised their own judgment as to what they said.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has had an opportunity to consider the implications of the proposal made by an Opposition spokesman to the effect that a public authority should determine the budgets of large firms? The proposal might be conveniently identified as the Cairns proposal. In view of the fact that several million Australians have an interest in public companies, could the right honorable gentleman say whether his appraisement of the proposal has led him to the conclusion that it does not represent solicitude for shareholders of the country, but a blunt warning of nationalisation?
– I have not had the advantage of reading the full text of what the honorable member for Yarra has said on this important topic. I can only comment, therefore, on what appeared in the Press. This seemed to me to be entirely consistent with the firmly held views of the honorable member in relation to the programme of nationalisation to which he and all other honorable members sitting alongside him in Opposition, I understand, are pledged.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that the servicemen now being despatched to Darwin to man the Bofors antiaircraft guns have had two weeks hurried training only for this purpose? Is it also true that the limited training involved practice against targets drawn by a 1947 vintage plane borrowed from a private owner? If these are facts, will the Minister agree that the whole exercise is merely another rushed pre-election gesture rather than a genuine contribution to Australia’s defence requirements?
– The people to whom the honorable member refers arc soldiers who are shadow posted to an anti-aircraft battery in Darwin until such time as the Citizen Military Forces unit there is raised and trained. The soldiers concerned all have other jobs, but they are all, basically, trained gunners. The training to which the honorable gentleman has referred is designed purely to bring their skills up to date. The Army believes that their skills are perfectly adequate for the purpose and that the men are quite capable of manning these guns in Darwin, if required.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the latest sale of wheat to Communist China by the Australian Wheat Board. No doubt the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Trade and Industry will recall the numerous representations that have been made on behalf of the flour industry by the honorable member for Mallee and me, and also by other honorable members. I ask: First, does this recent sale include any flour? Secondly, is there any truth in the suggestion that a further sale to Communist China is contemplated? Thirdly, if there is any truth in that suggestion, will the Minister bring to the notice of the Australian Wheat Board the distressing position of the flour industry so that in future contracts with countries such as Communist China a reasonable amount of flour can be included, and thereby at least try to counter the decline of an industry which was once a very good export industry and which does much to help to give employment in country areas?
– My understanding of the recent contract made between the Australian Wheat Board and China is that it does not include any sales of flour. The honorable member referred to the flour industry as a declining industry. The Department of Trade and Industry has had some successes in relation to this industry, notably with Ceylon which has renewed for two years an agreement for the purchase of 100,000 tons of flour. There have been other sales which should keep the industry at least at about its present level. There is a representative of the flour industry on the Wheat Board. I am quite sure that the representative, Mr. Minifie, will keep the Board alive to the requirements of that industry.
– I present the fourth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave? - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday, 9th November, at 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 15 th October (vide page 1979), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House is of opinion that a decision on the proposal contained in the Bill should be deferred until the Government introduces other electoral legislation announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech.”
If that amendment is defeated, the Opposition will not oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) explained when he introduced the Bill, its passage is necessary if the size of the Parliament is not to be reduced. In 1962, in the consideration of the proposed redistribution of seats, it was found that the operation of the section of the Constitution which cites the number of members would have meant a reduction of one seat in each of the States of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales and an increase of one seat in the State of Victoria. At the moment the House of Representatives consists of 122 voting members and 2 non-voting members. Had the 1962 proposals been approved by the Parliament, the size of the House would have been reduced by two. Under the present legislation the size of the House will not be decreased at all; it will be increased from 122 to 124.
It has been found possible - we hope that it will be found to be constitutionally valid - for the Parliament to decide that any fraction remaining after dividing the number of people in each State by the quota will mean the addition of one more member for that State. The whole matter comes down to what is meant by the statement in the Constitution that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. No-one knows what the opinion of the judges of the High Court of Australia would be on this matter. But some of us believe that the Government could allow the Parliament to make a decision on it. There has never been any decision by this Parliament on what that section of the Constitution means.
Many of us believe that the House of Representatives should be much bigger than it is. There are now members representing more than 100,000 electors. The number of electors in an electorate falls to around 33,000, which is about the number of electors enrolled in my electorate of Melbourne. But my electorate is not the only one in which there is such a small number of electors. From time to time we hear talk about a new Parliament House and about increasing the membership of the House of Representatives. I hope that you will pardon this diversion, Mr. Speaker. I think that a new Parliament House is 20 or 30 years ahead. I do not think there is any urgency at all about the building of a new Parliament House, because in this chamber there is room for 144 members.
I hope that some means will be found whereby the number of members of the House of Representatives can be brought to that figure while the number of senators is held at the present figure of 60. The only way to increase the size of the House of Representatives which would not be subject to legal challenge, other than by the method suggested by the Minister for the Interior - I presume that the present proposal will not be challenged - is to increase the size of the Senate so that when the size of the Senate has been increased by a minimum of two senators for each State the House of Representatives can have another 24 members added to its membership.
– Would that not result in deadlocks?
– That is so. That is a very valid argument against increasing the size of the Senate by two for each State. It should be increased by four for each State. We considered this matter in 1948 when we were enlarging the House of Representatives. We rejected a proposal to increase the size of the Senate by two for each State and decided on an increase of four for each State for the very reason that was advanced in the interjection that the honorable member for Higinbotham just made. Mr. Turner, the then Chief Electoral Officer, was the man who pointed out the danger of deadlock if senators are elected by the system of proportional representation. Nobody wants the size of the Senate to be increased - not even the senators themselves.
The Constitutional Review Committee, which reported to the Parliament in 1959, suggested that the Constitution be altered so that the Senate should consist of no more than 10 members for each State. The provision in the Constitution is that it shall consist of not less than six members for each State. We wanted the Constitution altered by writing in “ ten “ instead of “ six “ and also to provide that there would be no power in the Parliament to increase the size of the Senate any further. At that time, in order to meet the situation with which we are faced today, we proposed that the Constitution should be further amended to permit the size of the House of Representatives to be increased, on the basis of having one member for every 80,000 people living in a State. If that alteration had been made we would have a House of Representatives now of about 140 to 144 members.
– People or voters?
– People, and I emphasise the word “ people “.
– It would be 139 now.
– I thank the Minister for giving me the correct figure.
There would be nothing wrong with having a House of Representatives of 139 members today. The Constitutional Review Committee used the term “ 80,000 people “ because there are children whose interests have to be served by members of Parliament. More importantly, those children will some day be voters. Also, there are many unnaturalised people in the inner metropolitan electorates today who will not become naturalised, but they must have their interests served and they, in many cases, make more demands on members of Parliament than do natural born or naturalised Australians. So we feel that the Government should have put to the people the various proposals advanced by the Constitutional Review Committee. It has not done so. We think the matter is so important that a referendum should be taken on the subject now. Indeed, as an Opposition Party we have moved so far in this matter that Senator McKenna, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has brought down bills in the Senate to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee on this and other matters. I have heard it said that although the Government is not very keen about doing anything on the recommenda tions of the Joint Committee it is at least open to conviction that the sections dealing with the relationships of the two Houses should be submitted to the people in order that the necessary alteration in the Constitution may be made.
I do not want to deal at any great length with what the Constitutional Review Committee recommended, but I think it is germane to the argument, and quite relevant, that I should read out what the Committee did recommend. In paragraph 44 of the report which, as I have said is now five years old and five years neglected, the Committee recommended that the Constitution should be amended to provide as follows -
In its long and very valuable report the Committee said at paragraph 316, in respect of the quota provision, which in the Electoral Act now is 20 per cent. -
The Committee feels constrained to say, however, that the one-fifth margin on either side of the quota for 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 the State could result in the number of electors in one division totalling SO 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 realization of democracy.
– So the Leader of the Opposition thinks that 10 per cent, is more reasonable?
– Twenty per cent, is no good, but 10 per cent, is?
– The Committee recommended that the electoral law should be amended to substitute 10 per cent, for 20 per cent., and if the honorable gentleman will contain himself for just one moment I will tell him that this decision was made after the greatest consideration, that it was a unanimous decision of the Committee and that the two members of the Country Party, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Drummond, who served on the Committee agreed with the Labour representatives. The four Liberal Party members also agreed.
– All I said was: What is the difference between Che 10 per cent.-
– The honorable member for Indi oan make his contribution later, but I hope he will read the report of the Committee before he does so, because he is liable, judging by his interjection, to run counter to the opinion of his own party’s two representatives on the Committee.
– Order! I point out that the honorable member’s interjection should not open up a wide debate on redistribution.
– No, Sir. Paragraph 329 of the report states - the Committee concluded that it should recommend the inclusion in the Constitution of provisions ensuring the regular review of the electoral divisions of each State and also accord near uniformity to the value accorded to the votes of the electors for each of the States.
Paragraph 330 is significant. It states -
One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms, the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.
That statement also was unanimously agreed to.
There were certain features of the Bill introduced into the Senate to which we think the Government should have given effect. I refer to the provision that a referendum should be held to repeal section 127 of the Constitution which prevents Aborigines from being counted for the purposes of determining the population of the Commonwealth. Had the Aborigines of Western Australia and Queensland been included in the census of 1961 Queensland would not have lost a seat and Western Australia would not have lost a seat under the later proposals. We think the Government ought to give early consideration to including, in the referendum, proposals for the deletion of section 127. There is not very much more that I want to say on the matter. This is largely a technical bill. However, I want to emphasise that this very valuable Committee did recommend that the Constitution should contain a provision that there should be no deviation of more than onetenth of the quota. I would like to read one other section of the report. At paragraph 345 the Committee said -
The Committee considered the extent of the problems which would arise from inserting in the Constitution a requirement that no division in a State should depart from the quota for that State to a greater extent than one-tenth more or onetenth less. The Committee was assisted in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr. L. Ainsworth, who also obtained the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General for each of the States. The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
– Could the departure from the quota be any greater in one of the gigantic electorates such as Kalgoorlie?
– I shall say, “Yes”; and I will show just how in the past the deviation has been greater than 10 per cent. It has sometimes gone much higher. Perhaps this is a matter to be considered for particular areas, but at the moment I am trying to show the House that the preponderance of feeling was that the tolerance should be not more than 10 per cent. I hope it will never be suggested that every country electorate should have 10 per cent, less than the quota or that an outer metropolitan electorate should have 10 per cent less because it is an expanding district, whereas electorates in the inner areas, which today are being rebuilt, should have a burden of an additional 10 per cent, placed upon them. It is suggested that populations will move out of the inner metropolitan areas, which will become industrial centres, but the trend all round the world today is to build big blocks of flats in the inner areas and for people to move back into these areas. We do not want dead cities. In one sense, it is perhaps as well that the Electoral Act is not before us for review at the moment. Very serious consideration must be given to quite a number of factors when the Electoral Act is being considered by Cabinet.
I have said that the preponderance of evidence given before the Constitutional Review Committee was in favour of retaining the one-fifth fraction. But in paragraph 346 the Committee - again unanimously - said -
Undoubtedly, it would be easier to apply a onefifth margin than to work within the limits of a one-tenth marginal allowance from quota. Nevertheless, the Committee is satisfied that the problems of applying a one-tenth margin are quite manageable.
The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) asked me a question a moment ago about the deviation for big electorates. In paragraph 349 the Committee said -
In the 1955 redistribution there were, however, only three very large divisions, Darling, Kennedy and Kalgoorlie, outside the one-tenth margin of allowance. Details were as follows -
The Committee then set out that in New South Wales the quota was 43,482 and the assessed enrolment for the Division of Darling was 38,486, the percentage below quota being 11.5. In Queensland the quota was 41,309 and the assessed enrolment for the Division of Kennedy was 33,906, the percentage below quota being 17.9.
– The honorable member would not object to that?
– No, I think that would be all right for those areas, but broadly where we have big centres of popu lation, we should get as near to one vote one value as we possibly can.
– Order! I ask tha Leader of the Opposition not to be drawn too far away from the provisions of the Bill. If he is, it will be difficult to control the subsequent debate. The question of redistribution is not before the Chair.
– Would you allow me to complete the quotation from the Committee’s report?
– The Committee said that in Western Australia the quota was 37,378 and the assessed enrolment for the Division of Kalgoorlie was 32,159, the percentage below quota being 14. The very fact that we mentioned this in our report shows that we were alive to the significance of it. There is really nothing more for me to say on the Bill. It at least does not deprive the Parliament of two members; it at least gives the Parliament two more members. All I am sorry for is that no way has yet been found to give the Parliament the number of members it would have if the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee were given effect to. The Minister for the Interior has said that the number of members would then be 139.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes. I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak to it.
.- Behind a facade of such high sounding principles as “ the protection of the interests of the rural voters “ and “ the democratic rights of those in outback Australia “ lies a sordid and sinister story of political intrigue between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party to produce this plan designed not for the purposes stated but rather to destroy the very basis of democratic representation - one vote one value - in order to maintain the minority control of the Commonwealth Government by members of the Australian Country Party, which is rapidly disappearing from the political scene. In other words, this measure is the first step in the introduction of a blatant gerrymander of the Federal electorates.
– Order! I warn the honorable member that I will not permit a general discussion of redistribution. The honorable member is entitled to refer to boundaries, but the position is that we are considering quotas and not redistribution as a whole. Therefore, any general debate on redistribution will be out of order. This is a very difficult matter to determine and the co-operation of all honorable members is required.
– Mr. Speaker, I have carefully studied the terms of the Bill and I do not think you will find that I am departing from them. I submit that I am entitled to tell the Parliament of the circumstances that led to the introduction of the Bill, which provides for four seats more than the previous proposal did. With your approval, Mr. Speaker, I will deal with these matters. The Bill amends section 10 of the Act and provides that a State will obtain an additional member for any fraction of a quota. It provides on this basis for 124 members instead of the 120 members in the previous proposal. I believe I am entitled under Standing Orders to show why the Government now wants to increase the previous number of 120 to 124. Although the legislation proposes only certain changes in the Representation Act, it presents to the Parliament the sinister picture of events yet to come when the Government deals with redistribution. For this reason, the amendment moved by the Opposition, which seeks to have these proposals placed before the Parliament, should be supported and accepted.
I wish briefly to trace the events that led to this Bill being placed before the Parliament. At page 110 of “ Hansard “ of 22nd February 1962, the then Minister for the Interior advised the House that, as required by the Representation Act 1905-1938, he would give certain figures showing that the number of members of the Parliament should be 120, a decrease of two. There was no opposition to that statement from the Country Party, the Liberal Party or any member of this Parliament. It was all over in about 30 seconds. On 10th April 1962, following the introduction of those proposals, the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) announced the appointment of redistribution Commissioners. They were independent and reputable men, and no opposition, not even from the Deputy Prime
Minister, who is Leader of the Country Party, or from those who have since spoken and been responsible for the introduction of this present legislation, was voiced in this Parliament. Those who were appointed were unanimously chosen to draw up the electoral boundaries, with the full support of the Country Party and of the Deputy Prime Minister.
On 4th October 1962 the Minister presented to the Parliament the report of the commissioners, and then, to use words that we all understand, all hell broke loose from the Country Party. From that day forth nothing has been too nasty to be said, and under the facade of rural demands for more representation all manner of things have been said in attack on the original intention that would have produced 120 seats in the House of Representatives. Of course, the Standing Orders do not permit me to do so at length, but I mention in passing that on the 29th November 1962 the Minister for the Interior moved for the adoption of the proposal and since then there has been a campaign by members of the Country Party. To the credit of the member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) he said the Country Party was endeavouring to do what is apparent to everybody by introducing to the Parliament this measure to bring about a blatant gerrymander of Federal electorates.
Of course, action has not been confined to this Parliament. The Country Party stood over the Victoria Government, and whether we agree with the policies of the Government or not, its members are elected by the people. The terms of Country Party success can be measured against the promise of an electoral gerrymander in Victoria. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made his attitude clear. He was not in favour of this proposal being brought to the Parliament, because he was reported on 8th August as saying that the Government had no alternative but to accept the electoral redistribution recommendations of the Electoral Commissioners. He said -
This must be done to remove the function of fixing electoral boundaries from suspicion of gerrymandering.
That statement arose out of the enthusiasm to force this legislation before the Parliament. To digress a little, I go back a little earlier to the time when similar proposals were introduced prior to other redistributions. Similar legislation was introduced in 1955, and on 31st May 1955- page 1309 of “ Hansard “, the present Country Party Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said -
However, we have to accept the decision of -the referee, and I think that, on the whole, the Commission has done a fairly statesmanlike job.
This is what he said about legislation in which no Country Party seats were to be reduced. He was quite adamant when he said -
We have left it to the commissioners to consider these protests, and we accept their decision.
How statesmanlike. No Country Party seats disappeared then, so in no circumstances was there any injustice then. Notice the difference when the Parliament is to be reduced from 124 to 120. In 1955 the then member for New England, Mr. Drummond said -
I cannot recall that I have ever appealed against a decision of the umpire.
How great are the traditions of the Country Party when its interests are not affected. Of course, at that time the Deputy Prime Minister did not see fit to speak on the proposals, nor did the Prime Minister. Because the Labour Party was being adversely affected by the redistribution of seats there was no sympathy or call for electoral justice. If we study the history right through, the pattern behind the legislation is apparent. The Deputy Prime Minister went almost berserk when it was decided in 1962 to reduce the size of the Parliament. From one end of Australia to the other we saw newspaper headlines like, “Mr. McEwen hits at Crazy Seats Plan “, which appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 17th November in that year. That newspaper reported as follows -
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) said tonight it was “ crazy “ and “ cock-eyed’ “ that Queensland should have its representation reduced in the Federal Parliament under the recent redistribution.
At that time he was attacking the scheme to reduce the number of seats to 120. Under the heading, “ Attack on Redistribution Dismays Government”, the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 20th November 1962, stated -
The slight hopes that the Liberal Party may have had that its coalition partner, the Country Party, would accept the current proposals for redistribution of electoral boundaries, were dashed by the outspoken attack by the CP. Leader and Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, in Brisbane on Friday.
All over the country Press reports like this were appearing. When the legislation was introduced to give effect to the proposal the then Minister for the Interior did what I have done today - he traced the history of the proposals and referred to the impartiality of the Commissioners and how they had done their work honestly and impartially. Then he said -
At the very least one would have thought that the objections on the wider grounds should have been taken before the Commissioners embarked on their task, when it became obvious, after the tabling in this House of the Chief Electoral Officer’s Certificate on 22nd February, that a redistribution on the existing system was imminent. To await the outcome of a redistribution and then to say in effect that whatever the Commissioners did under their terms of reference could not be right because legislation under which they operate needs changing, would be an argument that could lead the public to feel that, like the fox in the fable, the individual advancing it had suddenly found that the grapes were sour.
If the legislation were necessary, the former Minister for the Interior was quite right in saying that objection should have been taken when it was first proposed to reduce the number of members of 120. However, what the Country Party thought and what the hopeful Liberals thought at that time was that there would be three or four fewer Labour seats and that their parties would not be affected. The truth was that Labour did lose a number of seats and the sympathy of the Deputy Prime Minister for the Labour Party almost makes me laugh now. When the proposals of the Commissioners came before the Parliament, on 4th December 1962, the Deputy Prime Minister said -
The Australian Country Party manifestly is concerned with the protection and betterment of rural society. The rural voice in the Parliament is only as strong as the numerical strength of its representation in the Parliament When I speak of the rural voice I make clear that I am not referring only to the rural voice as expressed through the lips of an elected Country Party representative. I make it clear that I am referring to the rural voice as expressed through the lips of whatever member representing whatever party the electors choose to send to the Parliament Historically, rural electors have chosen to send to the Parliament representatives from all of the great parties.
He went on to say -
I make it clear that my party- the Country Party - is the only political party which has been created exclusively for the purpose, primarily, of teeing that the interests of those in the outback - those engaged in the rural industries, those engaged in the great export industries - are sufficiently expressed in the Parliament.
I tell this Parliament that that is downright rot, and I will tell honorable members why. In this Parliament today there are 21 Labour members representing country seats, 16 Liberal members representing country seats and 20 Country Party members representing country seats. For every Country Party member in this Parliament representing a rural district there are almost two representatives from the Liberal and Labour Parties. The largest country party - with a small “ c “ - in this Parliament is the Australian Labour Party with 21 members representing rural seats, so what humbug the Deputy Prime Minister talks. Let us refer further to what he said. He went on to say -
I repeat that I am not harping on the Country Party; I am speaking of rural seats generally.
He said that he did not care then where members came from, he was speaking in the interests of all parties. What the Leader of the Country Party wants us to believe when he supports this legislation is that his intention is solely directed to helping all parties with members from rural electorates. I ask this question seriously: Can anyone imagine the Deputy Prime Minister doing anything in a redistribution proposal that would help the Labour Party gain office? The purpose of his whole campaign is to see that the electorates are gerrymandered by the Country Party. He can try to hide behind this facade, but this is quite apparent.
The Prime Minister in 1962, of course, did tell the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) that the boundaries had to be accepted. I must say here that I thought he made a sound contribution that day in the’ Parliament on that question. This is what he said -
We also decided, having discharged that function, that as there is no issue of government policy which arises in relation to the report of independent commissioners appointed under statute, we would not seek to impair the normal rights of any member, in such circumstances, to a free opinion and the free expression of that opinion in the normal way.
I have seen the right honorable gentleman allowing these free expressions of opinion. I have seen the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) threatening a member of the Liberal Party of Aus tralia with fisticuffs in this chamber on this issue. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that they can have a free vote on redistribution. Every member of the Parliament knows that the Government, judged on its attitude to the 1955 proposals, had a responsibility, whether or not it agreed with the redistribution findings, to support independent commissioners who had been appointed under a statute of this Parliament and whose reports were rejected, for the first time since I have been a member of this place, at the dictates of the Australian Country Party, the members of which sit in the corner opposite. Blatantly and without principle, they decided on that occasion that they would not support the proposals of the independent commissioners.
Let us consider the attitude of the Australian Country Party towards the distribution proposals. On 8th December 1963, the “ Daily Telegraph “, under the heading, “CP. Criticises ‘Silence’ of liberal M.P.’s “, reported -
Liberal parliamentarians’ inactivity in the redistribution debate was “ inexplicable “, the Chairman of the NS.W. Country Party, Mr. J. B. Fuller, said today.
Here is another newspaper report. Under the heading, “ New Plan on Federal Boundary Changes Aims at CP. Consent”, it states -
A new plan for electoral redistribution, aimed at winning Country Party consent to boundary changes, provides for raising the effective voting seats in the House of Representatives from 122 to 124.
This is not the policy of the Liberal Party of Australia. It is the policy of the Country Party and it was enforced at the point of the political gun, because, at the time, the Government had a majority of only one. On 7th April 1963 the “Sun-Herald” reported -
It looks as if Liberal scruples and interests are going to be subordinated to CP. demands. McEwen has served notice that any new plan will have to be good.
I put these facts on record because the people are entitled to know that the Deputy Prime Minister is party to a proposed electoral gerrymander that is unequalled in the history of our time. The “Canberra Times” of 25th July 1962, published the headline, “Country Lost Vote Power, Says McEwen”. Of course country areas must lose voting power, because population is drifting to the cities. That is not surprising when one sees the kind of representation that country people are given in this Parliament by members of the Australian Country Party. Members of the Country Party in this Parliament talk about decentralisation but have done nothing about it in all the years that that party has been represented here. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 28th March 1963 published the headline, “ CP. Stands Firm on Boundaries.” There is no doubt about whose redistribution this is. Everybody knows that the Country Party wants one vote in the country areas to be worth three in the cities. They intend to instruct the commissioners accordingly. I understand that, as a first step, a special study has been made of the methods adopted by Sir Thomas Playford in South Australia in an endeavour to keep in office for all time in this Parliament a Liberal-Country Party Government, no matter what means have to be adopted. The “Daily Telegraph”, on 3rd April 1963, published a report under the heading, “ Public kept * in the dark ‘ “, in these terms-
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) today called for new legislation on electoral redistribution.
Why was he silent in 1955? Why was he so silent in earlier days? He was silent simply because seats held by the Country Party were not then affected as much as on the recent occasion. Seats held by the Labour Party were affected on the earlier occasion. He now attempts to speak for all parties. The fact is that he appeared likely to lose one of his supporters. This was the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan). The Country Party was also likely to lose Mr. Leslie, who then represented the electorate of Moore. I can understand the present honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey) wanting to see something done now to make his seat safe, because he is in the Parliament and the former member is out. I have here another newspaper report dated 20th June 1963, under the heading, “CP. Terms for Redistribution”. It states -
The Country Party still wants a Federal electoral redistribution which will preserve rural representation in Federal Parliament.
That allows for members of the Australian Labour Party to represent country electorates, I suppose. The Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Leader of the Australian Country Party, has evidently developed a >great interest in the welfare of Labour members such as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). The right honorable gentleman need not worry about the honorable member for Darling, for he has held his seat for 25 years without his assistance.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like your ruling on the question whether we are discussing the Australian Country Party or electoral redistribution.
– Order! I have been listening to the debate very carefully. The honorable member for Grayndler has not yet transgressed the forms of the House.
– I thank you for your ruling, Sir. All these matters that I have been putting to the House are evidence as to why the present measure was brought before the Parliament. After the most recent proposal on redistribution had been made, the “Sydney Morning Herald”, on 3rd February 1964, published a report under the heading, “New Federal Proposal on Redistribution Pleases Country Party”. There has not been one report to the effect that it pleased the Liberal Party of Australia, because it does not please that Party. The report in the “Sydney Morning Herald” stated -
The Government was committed to a “line of redistribution “ which was the “ Country Party’s line”, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. J. McEwen, said yesterday.
Mr. McEwen, who was speaking as leader of the Country Party, at the Federal Council of the party in Canberra, said the party’s attitude to redistribution was to preserve rural seats - not Country Party seats.
I am delighted to see that he is so interested in the welfare of honorable members on this side of the chamber who, as members of the Australian Labour Party, so well represented the country voters who elected them. The newspaper report continued - “The people can please themselves whether they are Labour, Liberal or Country Party,” Mr. McEwen said.
I wonder what he would say if it turned out at any time that there were more Labour members than members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party in this Parliament. Is he trying to tell the people that they should put the Labour Party into office? One would have to be a hillbilly to believe that that was what he was trying to say. In 1955, the Deputy Prime Minister agreed to accept the referee’s decision, but today he puts those high principles behind him. He turns his back on the principles that he held then and he is prepared now to look after the interests of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
It is always handy to keep reports like those that I have been reading. They are enlightening to members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party as well as to us on this side of the House. A newspaper report appeared on 3rd April 1963 under the heading, “Strong McEwen Attack on Redistribution “. It stated -
Liberal Parly hopes that an early solution might be found to the problem facing the Government on redistribution faded today because of an outspoken speech by the Country Party Leader and Minister for Trade, Mr. J. McEwen.
Mr. McEwen, addressing the annual conference of the Victorian Country Party, described last year’s redistribution proposals as “quite incredible”, the kindest word he could apply.
He said the Country Party wanted “ electoral sanity “.
Apparently, electoral sanity means the election of a majority of Country Party members, if we correctly follow the pattern of thinking of the Deputy Prime Minister. Time will not permit me to read all these newspaper reports, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should very much like, however, to have them all on record in “ Hansard “ to show the political and electoral blackmail that has been practised by honorable members who belong to the Australian Country Party. On 25th February 1964, on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament, the Governor-General delivered a Speech which contained the following statement -
Regarding the Electoral Act, my Government will introduce amending legislation to make it clear that, in making any proposed distribution of a State into divisions for electoral purposes, the Distribution Commissioners shall take into account community of economic, social and regional interests, difficulties of communication, remoteness or distance, the trend of population changes, physical features, and the relative areas of proposed divisions. No fixed quota differential is proposed.
That is the basis of the measure at present before us.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. All that the honorable gentleman is now saying is quite plainly out of order. It relates to another bill and therefore cannot relate to this Bill. I suggest that he is completely out of order in debating something relating to another measure while the present Bill is under consideration. He will have plenty of opportunity to debate those other matters when another bill comes before the Parliament next year.
– On the point of order: The terms of the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) make it quite plain that this Bill should be considered in conjunction with another measure which, until the present Bill was introduced, has always been referred to in the same terms. This measure is part of the same pattern. The present Bill will remain dormant until the other measure is brought in and disposed of. It is quite clear that if the Bill now before us is to be properly debated it must be discussed in conjunction with the terms of the other measure, because the present Bill is part of the pattern that was presented by the Government in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) during the last Federal general election campaign, and in the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of the Parliament, in which proposed legislation was detailed. This is the way in which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who introduced this Bill, has dealt with the subject in all the subsequent questions which he has been asked about it. I submit that we cannot deal with this Bill for the first time in isolation. The amendment which was proposed by my Leader and which 1 have seconded makes it still more clear that it is necessary to consider the foreshadowed measure if one is to discuss the amendment properly.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order. I suport the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). This Bill, in essence, lays down the number of representatives in this House to be elected in each of the States, not the method of determining the boundaries of the various electorates. The intention of this Bill is not to decrease the total number of representatives in this House. The Bill does not in any shape or form affect the distribution of electorates.
– Order! I thank honorable members for their assistance in this matter. I want to advise the honorable member for Grayndler and any subsequent speaker on this Bill that I will not allow a full debate of any anticipated legislative proposals dealing with redistribution. The main purpose of this Bill is to give a State an additional member for any fraction of a quota in lieu of a member for a remainder greater than one-half of the quota. The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading in the folowing terms -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House is of opinion that a decision on the proposal contained in the Bill should be deferred until the Government introduces other electoral legislation announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech.”
This does not mean that honorable members may speak on any proposed electoral legislation. They may speak only about this Bill.
– I am sorry that you, Sir, have had so much trouble. I was happy with your decision earlier, not that it was correct but because honorable members opposite wanted to stop me from speaking. The Minister for Primary Industry is touchy. He should remember 1955 and accept the referee’s decision. The honorable member for Bradfield is as silent as the grave today. He is one of those rebels who rights here as long as he does not have to stand up and be counted. On a former occasion he described the proposals contained in this legislation as a blatant gerrymander through the back door and nothing else. Today he sits there-
– I was not referring to this Bill.
– Today you sit there-
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair and not the honorable member for Bradfield.
– Today the honorable member sits in this Parliament and approves this rotten legislation.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Grayndler is getting wide of the Bill.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler is in order at the moment.
– The Deputy Prime Minister has said that the Bill is designed to protect representation of rural electorates. According to official figures, 55 per cent, of the population in 1960 lived in the capital cities as against 51 per cent, in 1947. This shows a trend. In the last Federal elections the Liberal Party polled 2,045,571 votes, the Country Party 489,498 and the Labour Party 2,507,168. The Liberal Party won 52 seats, the Country Party 20 and Labour won 52 seats. Of the formal votes 37.14 per cent, went to the Liberals and a miserable 8.89 per cent, to the Country Party, and the Labour Party received 45.52.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that he is getting close to the point when I may have to stop him from speaking. I would like the honorable member to confine his remarks to the Bill and to the amendment.
– I am pointing out that at the last elections Labour polled five votes for every one polled by the Country Party and the Liberals polled four votes for every one polled by the Country Party. The Country Party wants more representatives in this Parliament from rural areas despite the fact that Labour polls five times and the Liberal Party four times as many votes as the Country Party. Notwithstanding that fact the Labour Party has only two and a half times as many members in this Parliament as the Country Party. These facts destroy completely the theory put forward by the Country Party that Labour as a party is discriminating against country interests and that country interests are entitled to greater representation. It is apparent to me that the real purpose behind the Bill to increase the Parliament to 126 has not been publicly revealed. To their eternal disgrace members of the Liberal
Party have connived in this in order to destoy the democracy that we know. Today the Country Party is blatantly telling the world that this will be a Country Party redistribution loaded against all other parties but particularly the Labour Party. In the political sense the Deputy Prime Minister has stood over the Prime Minister and the Government and in exchange for Country Party support has demanded that the Government bring down this legislation.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your tolerance despite the fact that some honorable members have tried to upset you. I have, despite interruptions, recorded the history of this legislation. It is a story of intrigue and electoral blackmail by the political bushrangers of the Country Party. It is a roundup and a retreat on the part of the Liberals. It is the first move in the implementation of a blatant gerrymander of Federal electorates.
– I do not need the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) or any other honorable member to speak for me. I am perfectly capable of speaking for myself and expressing myself, I hope, with the utmost clarity. What does this Bill do? In determining the number of members that may represent a State in the House of Representatives the Constitution lays down a formula. Under that formula a State, depending on its population, is entitled to a certain number of members which may include a fraction. As the law stands at present, if that fraction is less than one half that State does not get an additional member. If the fraction is greater than one half the State gets an additional member. Under the existing legislation a State such as New South Wales or Western Australia may lose a member despite the fact that its population has increased. The legislation now before the House is designed to prevent this situation from occurring and to ensure that whenever there is a fraction, no matter whether it is less or greater than one half, the State shall have an additional member. This is all that the Bill proposes.
The Opposition has very cleverly introduced an amendment. I must congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who must have had a hand in -framing the amendment. He is a most astute lawyer, but I do not think the people of this country are looking for leaders who are merely astute. What is the amendment? The amendment is -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House is of opinion that a decision on the proposal contained in the Bill should be deferred until the Government introduces other electoral legislation announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech “.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will consider further whether the amendment is permissible. If an amendment of this kind is permissible in respect of any Bill coming before the House, clearly it can throw the debate wide open. If the Bill before the House happened to concern arbitration, no matter what that Bill proposed, an amendment of this kind could open up the whole field of arbitration for discussion. I do not believe that this is in accordance with the principles and forms of the House. I believe that the amendment is not the kind of amendment that is in accordance with the usual procedures of the House.
However, I did not rise to make technical points; I am not like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that regard. He may make as many technical points as he wishes. The people of this country do not want as leaders people who are merely clever and astute; they want people of character. They do not want the honorable member. However, I did not rise to be legalistic. I rose to say something. I have no objection whatever to the Bill and I do not believe any honorable member or any member of the public has any objection to it. Quite clearly it is absurd that under the existing formula, although the population of a State has increased, that State should have one member fewer than it had before. This is so patently absurd that I do not believe anybody will quarrel with the purpose of the Bill. But, because the debate has strayed a long way from what I believe to be the purpose and intention of the Bill I wish to make my position perfectly clear.
I agree broadly with the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. In particular, I agree with the recommendation that the principle of one vote one. value should not be departed from. I also agree that a margin of 10 per cent, is adequate for all normal purposes. There may be perhaps half a dozen seats, such as Kalgoorlie, Darling, Kennedy and Maranoa, in which the margin should be somewhat larger, but, in general, I agree with the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee that 10 per cent, is sufficient. Indeed, when the major legislation comes before the House, I hope to be in a position to move an amendment in accordance with the recommendation of that Committee, with a proviso relating to exceptionally large electorates like Kalgoorlie and the others I have mentioned.
I am entirely in favour of the principle of one vote one value, and, when the relevant Bill comes before this House in the next sessional period, I shall support that principle with my voice, and with my vote. There can never be any question about that. I have expressed this view in the past, and I adhere to what I have said. But all that has nothing to do with this Bill and I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you would not permit me to make other than a passing reference to those matters.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– The matter is entirely irrelevant to this Bill, and I believe that the amendment that has been moved is not in accordance with the practice of the House or the orderly conduct of business. Such an amendment opens wide the door for debate to roam all over the whole field of which only one part is touched by the Bill under consideration. I do not believe that Parliament would be workable under those conditions. If you hold, Sir, that this is a proper amendment, then you open up the question whether the Standing Orders Committee ought to have another look at this kind of device.
– I ask leave of the House to add words to the amendment.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That the following words be added to the amendment-“ and until the people have been given an opportunity to vote at a referendum on the Constitutional Review Committee’s proposals on Commonwealth legislative machinery”.
– The amendment before the House now is -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof-“ this House is of opinion that a decision on the proposal contained in the Bill should’ be - deferred until the Government introduces other electoral legislation announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech, and until the people have been given an opportunity to vote at a referendum on the Constitutional Review Committee’s proposals on Commonwealth legislative machinery “.
.- I rise to support the amendment, which I seconded, and I thank the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) for agreeing to the inclusion of the additional words. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) was stirred at my having made a submission on a point of order on which you had ruled earlier, into attacking me as an astute lawyer. I thought at first that he was attacking his own leader again. The amendment, with the words which have been added, will enable us to look at the real merits of this proposal without any resort to astuteness or legalisms.
The amendment seeking postponement is a perfectly proper one. Quite clearly, if this Bill goes through, it will remain dormant until its companion bill - the Commonwealth Electoral Bill - has been introduced and either passed or rejected. If the Government states that it is not now going ahead with its forecast amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, then we shall not proceed with the amendment to this Bill, and we shall not oppose this Bill. If, however, the Government still intends to proceed with the amendments which it has forecast, if it still intends to proceed with the companion bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, we believe that there is no harm, but rather every advantage, in deferring consideration of this Bill until the other measure is considered.
I say that for two reasons. The first is that if the number of divisions in each State is to be determined by this Bill, that determination should be made on the latest figures. And there will be no determination made under this Bill, as amended, until a distribution is held. We all know that the Government will not make a determination of the number of divisions in each State under this Bill until it decides to make a distribution. If a distribution is to be made, then it should be made on the most recent figures and between now and the time that distribution is made there may be a variation in the figures which would affect the number of divisions in a State.
Secondly, this Bill will remain dormant until the other bill goes through. So we might as well wait for the terms of the other bill. Nothing will be done pursuant to this Bill until the companion bill is passed. They should be considered together.
Only in the last couple of weeks has there been any suggestion that this Bill would be introduced at any time other than the time of introduction of the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It will be remembered that last November the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said in his policy speech that there would be amendments to both Bills, and the Governor-General, in the Speech he delivered when opening the Parliament on 25th February last spoke thus -
My Government will submit amendments to the Representation Act and to the Electoral Act. Under the current provisions of the Representation Act, the Chief Electoral Officer, in determining the number of members each State shall have in the House of Representatives, is required to find that where, after dividing the State population by the electoral quota, there is a remainder equal to less than one half of the quota, no member shall be chosen in respect of that remainder. In a situation where State populations are growing at different rates, this requirement can have the effect that some States may lose representation, despite a general growth. My Government considers that, in such circumstances, there should be no loss of representation, and proposes to legislate accordingly;
– Does the honorable member oppose that?
– No, but we say that this Bill should not be taken in isolation. I propose to read the companion piece from the Governor-General’s Speech.
– But not to debate it.
– That does not arise at the moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I was simply anticipating it, because the honorable member said he was going to read that part of the Speech. I wanted to remind the honorable member that we cannot have this part of it debated.
– With respect, having in mind the amendment, this is the other electoral legislation announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
– Precisely. But we arc dealing with the Bill before the
House. We have already discussed the matter and the Chair has already expressed an opinion as to how the debate should proceed. I wanted to remind the honorable member that so long as he understands the position and complies with the requirements he will be in order.
– The Governor-General proceeded -
Regarding the Electoral Act, my Government will introduce amending legislation to make it clear that, in making any proposed distribution of a State into divisions for electoral purposes, the Distribution Commissioners shall take into account community of economic, social and regional interests, difficulties of communication, remoteness or distance, the trend of population changes, physical features, and the relative areas of proposed divisions. No fixed quota differential is proposed.
On 4th March the Minister for the Interior was asked by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) when legislation could be expected on this subject. The Minister replied - the honorable member . . . may rest assured that it will be within a year.
On 16th April the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) asked the Minister -
What progress has been made in the proposed alterations to the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Representation Act to enable the agreement between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party for a gerrymander of electoral boundaries to be put into effect? Will the legislation be introduced by the end of this year?
The Minister replied -
When I first answered this question in the House I said that I thought something would be brought into the House within a year.
Again on 2nd September the honorable member for Lang asked the Minister when he proposed to bring in the legislation, and the Minister replied -
I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to a question asked by the honorable member in the first sessional period earlier this year, when I said that legislation to amend the Representation Act and the Electoral Act would be introduced within a year from that time.
Everything that has been said by the Government on the hustings, by the Governor-General on behalf of the Government, and by the Minister for the Interior who is responsible for both Acts has been on the basis that both bills would be brought in together. These are companion pieces of legislation, and the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and seconded by me would ensure that they were dealt with together, as was foreshadowed in the election campaign and in the announcement of the legislative programme and as was implied in answers to questions. No other interpretation is available from all that we have previously heard on this subject than that the bills would be brought in together. One would have to be a very astute lawyer to distinguish between the timetables for the two bills. If the companion piece of legislation, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, is not to come in, then we can put this Bill through immediately. If it is to be brought in it should be considered conjointly with this Bill. We have moved that this Bill be deferred until the other one can be considered conjointly with it. As my colleague the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has pointed out, they are being brought in separated to disguise the difference of opinion between the Country Party and the Liberal Party on this subject.
The Minister himself, when speaking on this matter outside the House, has quite obviously had both bills in mind. Let me quote from his family newspaper, the Murwillumbah “ Daily News “, of 15th June -
The Minister for the Interior, Mr. J. D. Anthony, told a Country Party dinner at Murwillumbah that, in carrying out the proposed redistribution of Federal seats, he would make sure fewer people were required to elect representatives in country areas than in the cities. He said Australia’s electoral system was the finest in the world, but lacked territoral representation.
Representation now was based on population, not area, with the result that power in Parliament was confined to the heavily populated areas.
There was not enough development in the inland and northern areas as the tendency was to develop Australia’s thickly populated eastern seaboard.
Mr. Anthony . . . said the task of electoral reforms was probably one of his worst jobs as Minister for the Interior and one on which bis political future hinged.
Outside the House, as in the House, the Minister’s constant theme has been that these bills go together and that the House should consider the bills together. The House should determine how many divisions there will be in each State at a time as close as possible to the time when the distribution is to be made, because if the division of States were to be made now and the distribution was made later, then the distribution might automatically be distorted by the number of divisions now determined.
These go together. They have always gone together. Why are they being separated now for the first time?
The report of the Constitutional Review Committee was brought down five years ago this month. Six years ago last month honorable members were provided with a preliminary number of reasons for all of the Committee’s proposals, including the method of dividing the States into divisions and distributing between divisions. If the Committee’s recommendations had been put to the people and adopted by them there would have been no need to amend this Bill and any provision under the companion bill for a gerrymander would have been nipped in the bud. I will point out how the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, if adopted, would have made this Bill unnecessary.
The justification for this Bill has been that if these amendments are not made Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales will each have one fewer member in this House after the next distribution. But there would have been no diminution in numbers of members in this House from Queensland and Western Australia if the Government had put the Constitutional Review Committee’s proposals to the people concerning the counting of Aborigines in the population and had had them accepted. The Leader of the Opposition has had a motion on this subject on the notice paper since Inst April. Discussion of it cannot continue unless the Government puts aside the second motion by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) on fluoridation of the Canberra water supply - on that matter of course we support the Minister for the Interior and his predecessor. Section 127 of the Constitution reads -
In reckoning the numbers of people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
The Constitutional Review Committee said -
Apart from its statistical significance, the main effect of section 127 of the Constitution is to preclude the aboriginal population of a State from being taken into account when determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State.
Aborigines in all the States now have votes for the House of Representatives, although they are still denied a vote in State elections in Queensland and until recently were denied it in Western Australia. But although they now have votes for the House of Representatives they cannot be counted in the working out of the number of divisions for each State in the House of Representatives.
– Can any Aboriginal be a member of Parliament despite the fact that he is not one of the population?
– Yes. I think our legislation now permits an Aboriginal to be elected a member of Parliament, but even if the legislation does not, the Parliament could pass a law enabling an Aboriginal to be elected a member of Parliament. If Aborigines could be counted in working out the number of divisions in each State, then Queensland and Western Australia would retain their present numbers. There would be no need to bring in this amendment. The principal Act precludes Aborigines being counted in working out the number of divisions for a State. This is because sections 25 and 127 of the Constitution require that they be excluded. If sections 25 and 127 were removed, then this offensive section of the principal Act could be deleted. On my first point, if the proposals of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review to replace section 25 and delete section 127 of the Constitution were adopted, then there would be no need for this Bill in order to maintain the present numbers for Queensland and Western Australia.
Again, the Constitutional Review Committee recommended that the number of members in this House should no longer be limited to twice the number of members of the Senate and that it should be possible to increase the number of members in this House as long as there was no more than one member to every 80,000 persons, on the average, in each electorate. Here again, if this proposal were adopted not only would Western Australia retain its present number of divisions in this House, but every other State on the mainland would have additional divisions in this House. There again, there would have been no need to introduce this Bill. Every State would have retained its present numbers, or even increased them.
The third proposal that the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review made concerned the size of the deviation from the quota that could be made in a distribution. The Constitutional Review Committee stated that such a provision was necessary for this reason -
The adoption of a maximum margin of one-tenth would make a very material contribution towards preventing possible manipulation of the divisional structure of a State for political purposes.
The Committee further pointed out that it had only ever been necessary in the rarest cases to have a distribution which allowed for a greater deviation than 10 per cent. At the last distribution in 1955 only three divisions, Darling, Kennedy and Kalgoorlie deviated from the quota by more than 10 per cent. In every other case, it was possible ta make a distribution within that amount. In most cases, the deviation was less than 5 per cent. The joint Committee on Constitutional Review reported -
In the preparation of a proposed redistribution of a State, the Distribution Commissioners enjoy substantial discretion so that they might achieve the most equitable results possible. They are required to pay regard to the considerations laid down in section 19 of the Act which include community or diversity of interest, means of communication and physical features. But, in the opinion of the Committee, it is quite unrealistic to imagine that in electorates covering more than 100,000 square miles, the reduction of the permissible margin from one-fifth to one-tenth will produce any vastly different results. Community of interest and the other factors mentioned in section 19 can mean a great deal in drawing the boundaries of divisions of small areas, but they become rather unreal in the determination of the boundaries of the mammoth divisions which exist in four States.
It is the Committee’s view that each division can be fitted into a marginal allowance of onetenth without frustration of the purposes of section 19. The same legal considerations have applied to the last three redistributions, but the assessed enrolment of Kalgoorlie, Darling and Kennedy, for purposes of the redistribution in 1937, was, in each case, considerably greater than the quota determined for each of the States concerned for purposes of the redistributions in 1948 and 19SS.
A steady increase in the population of the undeveloped areas of Australia, accompanied by an increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives to meet the requirements of a general increase in population, is needed to make possible a substantial reduction in the size of the large divisions in Australia.
I reiterate that in the unanimous opinion of the members of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which comprised members of the Labour, Liberal and Country Parties, the best way to see that there was more adequate representation for the sparsely settled parts of Australia is to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives.
You do not increase the representation in this Parliament significantly by gerrymandering the present number of members. More divisions are required. The only way under the present Constitution that we can have more divisions for election to this House is to increase the number of members of the Senate by another 24, as happened in 1949. The reason for this is that there must be even numbers in the Senate from each State if half the senators are to retire at each election. If however, there were only eight or twelve senators from each State, then every election would return equal numbers of Government and Opposition senators in each State under the proportional system of election, which all parties accept for the Senate. It would then be inevitable that the Senate would always be deadlocked. The result of that would be that little legislation could ever be passed by the Senate or the Parliament. The consequence is that if we are to increase the number of members in this House under the Constitution as it stands, we have to increase the number of members in the Senate by 24, so that seven senators would be elected each time in each State and either the Government or the Opposition could obtain a majority of them. If the outback, inland and northern areas of Australia are to be more adequately represented, the only solution is to have more members in the House. The way the Constitution stands at the moment, this can only be done by increasing the number of members in the Senate by 24. Nobody supports that.
– The members of the Senate might.
– No. They do not. Actually, I think they enjoy the relative exclusiveness of the club. The three matters then, that I have raised, relate to the counting of Aborigines; the standard quota of electors for each division in this house and the number of members in this House, irrespective of the number of senators. These three matters were recommended for attention by the Joint Committee on Constitution Review six years ago. The reasons for the Committee’s recommendations were given five years ago. If those recommendations had been put to the people and adopted, then not only would this Bill be unnecessary and the gerrymander contemplated in the companion bill impossible, but also this House would already have a greater number of members, and the outback, inland and northern areas would be more adequately represented. The basis of our Federal compact in Australia is the same as the basis of the Federal compact in the United States of America on whose constitution our own Constitution is based. This basis is that every State should have equal representation in the Senate but that the population should be proportionately represented in the House of Representatives. One might suggest that if we are to develop the inland and the north of Australia, as the Leader of the Country Party suggests will be done by this Bill, then we ought to see that Queensland and Western Australia have as many members as any other State in this House as they have in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I stated that, if the Government had given the people the opportunity to adopt, and if the people had adopted, the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee which were made over six years ago and for which full reasons were given five years ago, this Bill would not have been necessary. The Aborigines in Queensland and Western Australia would have been counted and the present number of electoral divisions in those States would have been preserved. There could have been one member in this House for every 80,000 persons in every State of Australia, which would have meant not only that Western Australia would have preserved its present number of members but also that every other mainland State would have had an increased number of members. Furthermore, as a result of Aborigines being counted the most northerly electorates in Australia would have been smaller in area than they are now, just as they all are smaller now than they were before the 1949 enlargement of this House.
This Bill only postpones the decision on the number of members in this House from the various States. It is impracticable to increase the number of members in this House by increasing the number of senators by 24, which is the increase that would be necessary to make the Senate workable, to preserve it from deadlocks, and to permit lt to pass legislation sent to it from this House. Unless the proposals made by the Constitutional Review Committee are written into the Constitution, there will continue to be fluctuations as between the States in their numbers in this House. After this Bill is passed, there can be no increase in the total number of members in this House; it will remain at 125 - five from Tasmania and 120 from the mainland.
– This Bill does not solve anything.
– It solves nothing; it merely postpones the solution of the problem. It means that as the populations of the States vary, in due course some mainland States will have more of the 120 votes than they have at the moment and some will have fewer. This Bill does not solve the constitutional problem of having in this House proper representation of the Australian people, wherever they live and from whatever racial stock they come.
As regards representation in this House, the whole principle for which we strive within each State and within the Commonwealth as a whole, is the principle of one vote one value. We will not tolerate and we will not condone any dilution, undervaluation, debasement or discrimination in representation. Those terms come from decisions of the United States Supreme Court over the last two and a half years. The Minister for the Interior has referred fo the case of Baker v. Carr which was decided in March 1962. That was the first in a long line of significant cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. It dealt with distribution in a State legislature. In the United States the State legislatures are responsible for distribution not only for the State legislatures themselves but also for the primaries to select candidates for the Federal Congress, and for the distribution of seats in the Federal House of Representatives. In successive cases - Baker v. Carr, which was decided in March 1962; Gray v. Sanders, which was decided in March 1963; Westberry v. Sanders, which was decided in February this year; and Reynolds v. Sims, which was decided in Tune this year - the United States Supreme Court has extended the principle of one vote one value, or men not acres, to every form of representative and elected government in that country.
Earlier speakers in this debate have suggested that, if this Bill is passed, there might be a challenge to it in the High Court to decide the question whether this House has, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of members that the Senate has. But I have no doubt that if the companion bill to this Bill - the Commonwealth Electoral Bill - is introduced and passed by this House in the form forecast by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) a year ago, by the Governor-General last February, and by the Minister for the Interior inside and outside the House ever since, it will be challenged in the High Court. The United States Supreme Court has now interpreted sections of the American Constitution, which have been adopted in the Australian Constitution, in such a way as to say that the principle of one vote one value is fundamental to representation in the United States House of Representatives. And it is just as fundamental to representation in the Australian House of Representatives.
An astute lawyer recently left this House to preside over the High Court of Australia. He would be very greatly extended to distinguish the American cases in their application to the proposed Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. But we may not get to that stage. A Senate election will be held before then. The Senate cannot be gerrymandered. In the Senate election which will take place on 5th December the Australian people will have their last opportunity to ensure that gerrymanders are not written into the statute book of the Commonwealth of Australia as they are written into the statute books of most of the States. If the Australian people vote to safeguard their right to one vote one value, the Senate will not pass the companion to this Bill and equal representation in this House will be preserved.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Bill now before the House provides for an amendment of section 10 of the Representation Act 1905-1938. The intention is to alter the formula for determining the numbers of members of the several States in the House of Representatives. The Bill, if agreed to, will increase the number of members of the House of Representatives with full voting rights by two - from 122 to 124. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has stated, the Opposition does not oppose the intention of this measure, but we do ask for the measure to be deferred to coincide with consideration of the suggested amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. This Bill stems from the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen) and the Leader of the Opposition in rejecting the redistribution proposals that were submitted in 1962. Those proposals, if accepted, would have reduced the number of members of this House with full voting rights by two, from 122 to 120. New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia would each have lost a seat and Victoria would have gained a seat.
The Distribution Commissioners, in determining the numbers of members, must act in conformity with the Representation Act. Therefore, the Distribution Commissioners were not in error in submitting their redistribution proposals in 1962. As most honorable members are aware, section 10 of the Representation Act 1905-1938 conforms with section 24 of the Constitution which reads as follows -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner: -
A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators:
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
But notwithstanding anything in this section,five members at least shall be chosen in each Original State.
All that we seek to do by this amendment is to omit the words “greater than onehalf”. As an illustration of the way in which this would work, on the occasion of the last redistribution proposals Australia’s population, according to the 1961 census figures, excluding the population of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, was 10,415,654. That figure was divided by 120 which gave a quota of 86,797. The quota was then divided into the individual populations of each State, and if on such a division there was a remainder of greater than one-half of the quota of 86,797 that State was to be entitled to another seat. In numbers of seats by States the result of the division would be: New South Wales 45.13, Victoria 33.76, Queensland 17.44, South Australia 11.14, Western Australia 8.47 and Tasmania 4.04. But as section 24 of the Constitution says that an original State must have at least five members, the 4.04 figure would not be applied to Tasmania.
It is quite obvious that one of the greatest anomalies in the Constitution was brought about by the fact that the founding fathers who framed the Constitution did not envisage our great immigration scheme. As a consequence, now, particularly in the industrial areas of Sydney and Melbourne, these are numerous people who are not counted for the purpose of determining electoral quotas. In those areas, particularly in my electorate - I know that this applies also to the electorates of colleagues the honorable members for Scullin (Mr; Peters), East Sydney (Mr. Devine) and West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) - we are faced with the situation that we represent a great number of new Australians, many of whom are eligible for naturalisation; yet we are handicapped by the fact that those persons are not counted when determining the electoral quotas. It was only recently that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) told me that he gets probably more cases from me than he does from any other member relating to new Australians who want to bring their friends or relatives from overseas.
To illustrate the situation in which some honorable members are placed, I should like to cite some figures for the division of
West Sydney. According to the last census the population of that electorate exceeded 80,000, but the division had an enrolment of only 35,000. Yet in the electorate of Wentworth the census showed a population of about 62,000, and in that electorate there are 41,000 people on the electoral roll. The House will appreciate from those figures that honorable members who represent industrial areas containing people who are eligible, and some who are not eligible, to be counted in determining a quota, are forced - although we do it willingly - to represent all those people. In that way we are penalised. In reply to a question that I placed on the notice paper recently I received information that at the present time in Australia 250,000 new settlers who are entitled to be naturalised have not yet applied for naturalisation. Included in that number are about 60,000 under the age of 21, which means that 190,000 people in Australia could, if they took the trouble, become naturalised. If they were naturalised this would have a great bearing on the quotas of industrial electorates. The matters to which I have referred are some of the ludicrous features of the system under which we work and which was initiated by the founding fathers of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to section 127 of the Constitution. This is a subject that cannot be mentioned too often. Prior to the suspension of the sitting it was stated that if Aborigines had been counted as pan of the population there might very well have been no need for this amendment to the Representation Bill because a seat would have been retained in Western Australia, just as one would have been retained in Queensland. Including Torres Strait Islanders, Queensland has approximately 18,000 Aboriginal people. In addition, there are approximately 6,000 Aborigines in Western Australia, and South Australia has 4,000 to 5,000. If the Aborigines had been counted Queensland would have needed a population of only 4,000 more to have retained its 18th seat. Western Australia, with an additional population of a little more than 2,000, would have retained its 9th seat. But then we come to the impossible and ludicrous position where a person who is not counted as one of the population could sit in this chamber as a member of the House of Representatives.
He could even become a Minister of the Crown and still not be counted as one of the population. Such a situation is quite possible. Honorable members may think that it is not probable, but the situation is possible in future years. Matters such as this must be rectified if we are to make our system work as it should work.
The Australian Labour Party has never, at any stage in its history, suggested that people in rural areas should not have proper and just representation in this House. That is evidenced by the fact that the Chifley Government in 1949 took the action that increased the number of members of the House of Representatives from 72 to 120 and the number of senators from 36 to 60, which meant that people in rural areas had much greater representation. People in those areas have much greater representation today than they had in former years. I expect that redistribution proposals will be introduced next year. Perhaps I am getting a little wide of the Bill in referring to this subject which would be relevant in a debate on the Electoral Act, but other honorable members have referred to the subject so I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to refer to it briefly also. Members of the Country Party have referred to the permissible margin, which is now 20 per cent., on either side of the quota. My impression of their argument was that they were saying they should not have to represent more than about 40,000 people because of the size of the areas that they represent. They said that they would accept 40,000 people as being a reasonable number for each Country Party member to represent.
If the Constitution were amended by referendum1, would the Country Party be satisfied if every member of the House represented only 40,000 people? That is a point that we must have explained to us. Do those honorable members want less people in each country electorate and more people in each city electorate? At the time of the last redistribution proposals, of the 45 seats in New South Wales no fewer than 23 were in the metropolitan area. There were 22 extra-metropolitan seats, that is, seats in areas outside Sydney. I believe that that number gave a fair and adequate representation to people outside the metropolitan area, for they were represented by 22 members of the 45. Nothing could be fairer than that. I am a stickler for the principle of one vote one value. That is the only possible way to exercise a true vote in any community.
– What about the Senate?
Mr. COPE__ It is in the Constitution.
This is just another matter-
– We cannot change that.
– We can amend this situation in the bill that will be brought before us at some time in the future in regard to electoral matters. But the point about it is that one vote one value is a true principle of democracy. Arguments have been raised about the gerrymanders in Queensland and what has happened because of gerrymanders in South Australia. I am not concerned about who was responsible for what happened. The only thing I am concerned about is that one vote one value is the only true principle of democracy. It would be absolutely fantastic for any Australian to go to a parliamentary conference overseas, or to any other conference, and advocate great principles of democracy while we had a minority party in control in Australia. Delegates from other countries would just laugh at the Australian representative. The fact is that the only truly democratic way is to have government by the majority. If 51 people out of 100 favour a motion and 49 oppose it, the resolution is carried.
– That is preferential voting.
– That is how a decision should be reached in all sorts of voting.
– It cannot be done with the first past the post system.
– I suppose if 11 out of 21 of the Minister’s colleagues vote for a motion, the views of the 11 and not of the 10 would be adopted and the motion would be carried. We should not get away from the facts. I have never known a minority vote to be adopted by a meeting; but this is happening in South Australia and in Queensland. We do not want this system introduced in the Federal sphere and we must be careful to see that it is not.
I have prepared a table giving the latest enrolment figures, the average quotas for each State on the basis of 124 members and the average quotas on the basis of 120 members. This is interesting and gives a sound reason for everyone to support the Bill. The table shows the difference in the quota when we take 120 members and when we take 124 members. For instance, in South Australia the average quota with 12 members would be 45,859 but with 11 members it would be 50,028. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate the table in “ Hansard “.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19641030_reps_25_hor44/>.