Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Electoral Amendment (Territory Representation) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I intend to make some brief remarks on the Electoral Amendment (Territory Representation) Bill 2020 and certainly don't intend to hijack the ability of this bill to pass at the appointed hour. But as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters I just wanted to make a few brief comments. I'm very glad we have landed at the point where, I'm very confident, we're going to be passing this through the parliament this evening and through the Senate in time for the Christmas break, so we can give certainty to the people of the Northern Territory. I think it would have been patently outrageous to see a situation where lower house representation in the Northern Territory was reduced from two members to one. We've obviously seen it in the determination from the AEC at the state level. It's disappointing to the people of Western Australia that they are losing a seat. I'm sure the people of Victoria are happy that they're gaining a seat. But when you go from 16 to 15, or from 32 to 33, that's very different than going from two members to one member. The calculations that are applied in going from 16 members to 15 members should be quite different when the proposition is potentially going from two members to one member, and I warmly endorse this change to the formula.
I would have had trouble supporting legislation that put a floor in place. I've got nothing against the good people of the Northern Territory, but I do believe in the principle of one vote, one value. I think it is very important in the people's house, the House of Representatives, that we have some connection to the concept that we are the democratically constituted house in our bicameral system that is based on the principle of one vote, one value. And frankly, as a member on the conservative side of this parliament, I will say that there have been times in my home state of South Australia and in the state of Queensland—and I'm sure members opposite would have felt particularly disenfranchised—when we didn't have that fundamental principle in place. This formula is a great formula, because of course it accounts for the fact that when you could potentially be losing 50 per cent of your representation in this chamber there is a different test to when you might be moving from a number in the mid-30s, up one or down one. In the case of my home state of South Australia, disappointingly, we went from 11 seats to 10 seats at the determination for the 2019 election.
I think this is a really excellent outcome. I was very appreciative of the process the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters had. The submissions we received from various groups in the Northern Territory were unanimously in support of the outcome we've achieved. They made very eloquent arguments that I think we already instinctively understood—that it was important to come up with a way to make sure that the outcome that had so closely been triggered by that population calculation didn't eventuate. I am very happy that we've constructed a mechanism that means we are still ensuring that the broad principle of one vote, one value is in place. My hope is that the Northern Territory is in the opposite situation and that you go from two seats to three seats as soon as possible. We'd love to see that kind of growth in representation from the Northern Territory in this chamber. I'm thankful for the good spirit and constructiveness from all members of this House, and senators, who I think have brokered an excellent outcome not only for the people of the Northern Territory but also for the fundamental principle of our democracy and the way in which we construct the membership of this House. I commend the bill to the chamber.