The Territory is too big for them to grasp




Sir – I sent the following letter to the secretary of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.


Dear Secretary,


I wish to make a submission to your inquiry on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Ensuring Fair Representation of the Northern Territory) Bill 2020.


Quite clearly, determining fair representation on the basis of a mathematical formula alone, would be a travesty.


The underlying presumption in such a cold, clinical, approach must be that all people are equal and are evenly scattered around an electorate within one climate zone.


Such an approach pays no heed to the diversity of the Northern Territory.


Our Indigenous population mix for a start is unlike any other State – over 30% compared to the next highest jurisdiction with about 4%.


Further, 70% of our Indigenous population live in very remote areas, whereas in the States the Indigenous population is predominantly urban.


And we also have an ethnic mix quite unlike any other electorate, and that is before we look to our offshore islands.


Geographically, our lands extend from the harshest, driest deserts to the tropical, monsoonal coasts. 1.348 million square kilometres of thinly populated, harsh lands.


To expect one Member of the House of Representatives to adequately consult with, and represent widely different peoples over such an immense area is self-evidently ridiculous.


It would add insult to the injury inflicted a few short years ago when the Government cut the resources of the Australian Electoral Commission in the Northern Territory from seventeen to three.


As well as ensuring that the current level of representation for the Northern Territory is preserved, the committee could usefully interest itself in two further matters:


• Seeking amplification to the criteria which determines the number of members, to pick up many of the factors mentioned above which add to the complexity.


• Opening up a debate about the stark imbalance in tiny Tasmania having twelve Senators, and the vast Northern Territory only two.


Thank you.


Bob Beadman (pictured)





  1. Thanks for your insightful position, Bob Beadman.
    When the Bill is debated next month in the Federal Parliament, I can only hope that commonsense prevails. The Northern Territory is clearly a diverse jurisdiction with a huge land mass and broadly positioned communities. It deserves to be more fairly represented on the national stage to take that reality into account.
    Our infrastructure was never adequately resourced by the Fraser government when we achieved self-government status in 1978 and we’ve been struggling to keep up ever since.
    To throw us back to a time where we had only one voice in the Lower House cannot be allowed to happen. No one voice can claim to be a true representation of the broader cultural, environmental, economic and social landscape that we are.
    We are first rate Australian citizens not second rate castaways. We continue to deserve better.

  2. Bob: More to the point is the guaranteed number of Reps seats that the States have. NOT based on population! As I have said in another post: Tassie is guaranteed five seats by the Constitution regardless of population.
    And the cute bit, called the double entrenchment, is that to change it, a referendum would have to be won by not only the usual “majority of votes in the majority of states” but the majority has to include Tassie!
    The relevant bits of the Constitution are:
    S. 24 (ii) 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.
    S.128 Altering the Constitution.
    No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.

  3. In New Zealand there is a fixed quota because the total population of NZ is shifting north. We have a very very complicated MMP voting system which even makes it more complicated. This is what you need in the NT as below, but a two seat quota, as per South Island.
    It is guaranteed to have 16 general seats, and dividing the number of persons in the South Island’s general electoral population by 16 determines the South Island quota.
    Bye, Murray, in a very cold Christchurch.

  4. Bob Beadman has it right. To reduce the Northern Territory back to one Federal electorate would be a travesty.
    Special provisions for the determining electoral boundaries in the NT need to be implemented.
    When the NT was one electorate with Jock Nelson being the Member for many years it did not have the required number of voters.
    As a result for quite a number of years the Member for the NT did not have voting rights in the House of Representatives.
    That must not happen again but there has to be a way for the NT to have more than one Federal Member.

  5. I read somewhere once that Australia is the most over-governed country in the western world. The highest ratio of politicians per head of population.
    Bob’s argument certainly conforms with that line of thinking.


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