Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Electoral Amendment (Territory Representation) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I might start from where the obvious point is. As a person who's been in this building for 15 years, we're lucky in how a democracy works. A democracy works, but sometimes the numbers are tight, and the numbers are tight in both houses. You don't want to exercise that issue of leverage every day, because it makes things chaotic. But there comes a time when you should, and this is one of those times when you have to stand up and be noted and—not big-noted, but be noted—do the right thing. I'm sick of regional areas just losing and losing and losing again.
Our forefathers—and they were blokes—worked this out when they created the Federation. Tasmania got five seats. If you just go to one person, one vote, that can make life an absolute misery for those in the corner—for those in the corner of the Northern Territory; for those in the corner in the missions outside Alice Springs; for those in the corner around Katherine; and for those in the corner around Tennant Creek. I don't live there, but they're Australians. As Australians, they have a right to be heard in this chamber and not be diminished by the fact that, by some peculiarity of colonisation, they don't have the vote that other people have. That would be a complete indictment of what our views are as Australians.
We believe in a fair go for people. The argument that was put before me at times was: 'Oh, but they don't vote for us. It's not our seat.' How absurd is that! What an absurdity if you start grabbing that argument. I don't come to this chamber just to represent people who believe in what I believe. God knows: most people in this chamber don't believe what I believe. You come to this chamber to represent people and make sure they are heard; that the most genuine representation is given to them; and that they can turn on the telly at two o'clock and see the member for Lingiari or the member Solomon, or the senators for the Northern Territory. That is why we are Australians. That is why we are in this parliament. We will not be beholden to some effervescent puritanical view. We must look to a deeper purpose as to why we're here.
I want to congratulate people who are not of my political ilk: the member for Solomon, the member for Lingiari and Malarndirri McCarthy. When I was a kid, she was Barbara—I've known Malarndirri McCarthy for a long, long while.
We're here to represent people, even if they're not on our footy side. We're here to stand up for them as well and make sure they're heard. This is a great thing for our parliament. It shows the parliament in a bipartisan way. With logic and forethought, we can work a way to bring fairness and decency. This is important.
I want to also acknowledge the support of others who quietly sat back and are not in this chamber tonight but made sure their voices were heard and that they stood up. This is a great night not just for the good people of the Northern Territory but for our nation. It says that our nation is not a puritanical nation. It does not live by some divine creed. It has the capacity to sit down and rationally, honestly and fairly figure out the issues that are before it, come out with a fair outcome, and put aside parochialism and animosities to make sure that the Australian people who watch this chamber, as the benefactor of the freedoms and liberties they have, see that it is a representation of them.