Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Electoral Amendment (Territory Representation) Bill 2020; Second Reading
We've talked about numbers a lot during the debate surrounding fair representation for the NT. The Northern Territory has a quarter of a million people and several islands. It is 1.4 million square kilometres in size, or one-sixth of the continent—an area 35,000 times bigger than the electorate of Melbourne. To have just one representative in this chamber, representing all those people over all that land, would, as one of the previous speakers said, be patently absurd. The NT government estimates that there are about 24,000 unenrolled voters, almost all of whom live in our remote Aboriginal communities. All those Territorians deserve a fair and representative voice in their federal parliament. The minister commented about fixing a situation where we haven't got the Australian Electoral Commission staff that we need in order to get people educated and enrolled. I welcome his comments in that regard.
For those listening at home, on the road or in your workplace, there are not many of us Territorians in this building. There are only two of us out of 151 in this chamber and two of us out of 76 in the Senate, the upper house. I want to mention Tasmania quickly, because we've picked on them a bit in the battle this year and we don't begrudge them their representation at all—we love Tasmanians. Tasmania's a state and we love small states, in particular, but they are guaranteed a minimum of five lower house MPs to our two, and 12 senators to our two. That's 17 federal representatives to our four. But they're only about twice our size in representation. So I'd say to the previous speaker, the honourable member: when you talk about one vote, one value, let's get a bit real about what's happening in Australia, in terms of the need for a bigger conversation in our country about fair representation.
If we're serious about giving all Australians an equal voice, and I seriously hope we are, then as a nation we should consider what it means for our two territories and their growing populations to be so minimally represented, particularly in the Senate. Maybe that's a conversation we can start to have next year. As the member for Lingiari said, let's just crack on. There's so much more I want to say about the Northern Territory and the wonderful people of the Northern Territory—a lot more I want to say—but in the interests of time and in the interests of getting this bill passed I will move to the thank yous.
Suffice to say, there's a really bright future ahead for the Northern Territory. Our population will continue to grow, so proper federal representation—that we will soon have—is just the start. As I said, there are so many people to thank, people who saw the unfairness of this representation or the redistribution and fought for fair representation.
Firstly, to my friend the shadow special minister for state and senator for SA, Don Farrell: thanks very much, because it was you with our NT colleague Senator Malarndirri McCarthy who put up a co-sponsored bill six months ago that kicked this process to where we are today. Thank you to my friend the member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon. What a legend. He's been a tireless representative for the NT for decades. He represented all of that land and all of that water by himself. Maybe someone else could have done it, but it would have been pretty bloody difficult. I congratulate him on his continuing service to the people of the Northern Territory. I want to thank NT CLP Senator Sam McMahon with her Nationals colleagues, in particular, Barnaby Joyce, the member for New England, and Senator Matt Canavan. They lit a fire under their Nationals colleagues, and I want to thank those other colleagues. The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, got behind the push. I want to thank the Greens. I want to thank the crossbench. I want to acknowledge the NT government and their substantial support, and the NT CLP opposition. It was a bipartisan effort. Thanks to you all. Thanks to those opposite for realising that this would be a colossal mistake, that it would be unfair, and for acting to fix it.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank the thousands and thousands of Territorians who joined the campaign to protect their own fair representation. This is a great Christmas present for all Territorians. Thanks to everyone. Now let's get it done—and let's boot 2020 out the door—and legislate for fair representation for the NT. I thank the House.