Bills Digest no. 87 1977
Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 1977
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Amendment Bill 1977
Date introduced: 23 February
House: House of Representatives
The Bill has two purposes. The first
is to ensure that redistributions required as a result of a changed
number of seats for a State because of a determination under the
Representation Act 1905, will be commenced as speedily as
possible and, that if such redistributions are not proclaimed
before the next ordinary general election, the State will vote as
one electorate. The other purpose is to ensure that electorates
with a very large area do not contain more electors than smaller
(1) The current amendments to the
Representation Bill 1905 require an ordinary general
election to be held, in any State, for the correct number of seats
as most recently determined. An ordinary general election is
defined as one at or towards the end of the three years of a normal
House of Representatives. This conforms to the decision in
McKinlay s case (50 ALJR 279).
(2) In 1974 when section 19 of the
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 was amended to alter the
permissible departure from the quota from 20% to 10%, amendments
were also passed removing from the criteria required to be
considered by the Distribution Commissioners, ones relating to area
and sparsity of population, which had effectively required the
creation of country seats with far fewer electors than city seats,
because of the greater size of the country seats. When the
amendment was made, no provision was included to ensure that, in
addition to a greater area, country seats did not also contain
larger numbers of electors than smaller city seats.
The Bill amends the Commonwealth
Electoral Act 1918.
(1) Amendments relating to
McKinlay s case.
The main amendments are to sections
24 and 25 and the insertion of a new section 25A.
Clause 10 amends section 25 so that
when a determination of the number of seats in a State shows a
change, a redistribution must be initiated immediately (new section
25 (2) (a) ). The existing occasions when a redistribution may be
initiated are repeated in new section 25 (2) (b) but new
sub-section (4) provides a new limitation, in that a redistribution
on the grounds of an imbalance between numbers of electors in
divisions may only be initiated if no other redistribution has
occurred in that State for seven years.
Section 24 is amended by clause 9 so
that the Governor-General must proclaim new divisions as soon as
practicable after they receive Parliamentary approval and whether
or not the House of Representatives has since expired or been
The amendment to the proviso by
clause 9 (b) is consequential on the new section 25A which provides
that by-elections after an election at large are also held at
large. Section 24 (1) currently provides in the proviso that
by-elections are always held on the boundaries in force at the
general election date.
Clause 11 inserts new section 25A to
provide that ordinary general elections (as defined in the
Representation Act 1905 as proposed to be amended), where
the State is not distributed into the correct number of divisions
to correspond with the latest determination of the number of seats,
must be held at large (new sub-section 25(1)).
New sub-section 25 (2) provides that
a by-election following an election at large will also be at
Clause 5 amends section 16 so that
the Governor-General must appoint Distribution Commissioners when
they are needed.
Clause 6 amends section 18A so that
the Distribution Commissioners commence their task as soon as
practicable after they have been appointed .
Clause 8 amends section 23 to permit
some period for the Distribution Commissioners to consider
suggestions and objections to their proposals. The section now
requires them to report immediately the period for making such
suggestions or objections is over. They will now be required to do
so as soon as practicable.
(2) Amendments relating to size of
Clause 7 inserts two new sub-sections
in section 19 with the effect that on a proposed redistribution no
division of less than 5,000 square kilometres may contain fewer
electors than any division of 5,000 square kilometres or more.
Law and Government Group
23 February 1977
Bills Digest Service
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