Senate debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2020


Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Ensuring Fair Representation of the Northern Territory) Bill 2020; Report from Committee

5:37 pm

Photo of Sam McMahonSam McMahon (NT, Country Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to welcome this report from JSCEM on behalf of all Territorians. Most people probably don't know what a joint standing committee is or what it does, and Territorians are no different. Yet today, whether they know it or not, they are applauding the work of this committee. One thing that's vitally important to Territorians is their representation. Strangely, a lot of people in other jurisdictions would probably tell you that the world will be a better place with fewer politicians, not more. Yet, this is not the case in the Territory. Everywhere I go, travelling throughout the Northern Territory for these past six months, there's been one burning question on everybody's mind: what's happening with our two seats? So I'm very proud and happy on behalf of Territorians, who are rejoicing over this report and the work that this committee has done on this inquiry. Even though they may not know what a joint standing committee does, they know that it has delivered them the retaining of two seats in the Northern Territory, which, as I said, is vitally important to Territorians.

Recommendation 1 of the report states:

The Committee recommends that instead of the Senate proceeding with the Bill—

that being the private senator's bill—

the Government introduce a Bill to provide for a consistent floor of two seats for both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. As a consequence, the 2004 margin of error rule for the Territories should be repealed to provide consistency with the formula applying to the States. It further recommends that as part of a new Bill, the two Territories should also be subject to the same rules as each other in the process of redistributing boundaries between electorates, under Part IV of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Recommendation 2 states:

The Committee recommends that the Government review the existing provision of additional resourcing to MPs with large electorates, and consider whether further targeted resourcing would assist with representation by MPs of their constituents in these large electorates.

That's another thing that is important to the Northern Territory. As we've heard from Senator McCarthy, the electorate of Lingiari also encompasses Christmas and Cocos islands. For Senator McCarthy, the member for Lingiari and I to get to those places, we have to fly to Perth. We'd be one of the few jurisdictions in the world where you have to leave your electorate and go to another electorate to get back to your electorate. It's a week-long trip. So it's absolutely vital that we remain with our representation and that we're also able to resource these important parts that form part of the Northern Territory.

Recommendation 3 states:

The Committee recommends that if the Parliament does not enact a two seat floor for the Territories, it considers instead either:

      So, effectively, this recommends guaranteeing a minimum of two seats for the foreseeable future. This is vitally important to Territorians. As I said, they are rejoicing today with the tabling of this report in the Senate. I would like to thank Senator James McGrath and his committee for the excellent work they did, for the excellent consultation and inquiry and for the outcomes they have recommended in this report.

      I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

      Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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