Opinion Number. 439

Subject

REPRESENTATION OF TERRITORIES EXTENT OF COMMONWEALTH POWER TO ALLOW

Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION, s. 122

Date
Client
The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs

The following memorandum by the Chief Electoral Officer has been submitted by the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs to me for advice:

The question of the representation in the Commonwealth Parliament of the persons residing in the Federal Capital Site Territory (numbering approximately 800) is one that can only be dealt with by parliamentary action under the provisions of section 122 of the Constitution, which provides that-

'The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.' The residents in the Northern Territory (numbering approximately 750) are in the same position under the Constitution as those in the Capital Site Territory.

I would suggest for the Minister's consideration that advice might with advantage be sought as to the form of representation in the Federal Parliament which could, at this stage, be given to residents of the Northern Territory and Capital Site Territory under the constitutional provision.

The legal position is that the Federal Parliament has power to permit any representation of a Territory in the Federal Parliament that it thinks fit. Thus it might allow any one of the following forms of representation viz.:

  1. representation by one or more Senators or Members having full rights of audience and voting; or
  2. representation by one or more Senators or Members having limited rights of audience and voting; or
  3. representation by one or more delegates having a right of audience, but no right of voting.

The representation might be limited to one House only, or extended to both.

The question, therefore, of the form of representation, if any, to be adopted is for the Parliament to decide. It is obvious however, that, if either Territory were at the present time given even one full representative in either House, its representation in that House would be greater, in proportion to population, than that of any State.

I might point out that the District of Columbia, the Federal Capital Territory of the United States, does not send any representatives to the Senate or to Congress, and that the other Territories only have one delegate each to the House of Representatives who is allowed to sit and speak, but not to vote.

[Vol. 9, p. 405]