PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2727


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 28/11/1972

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 2727

Statement by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. William
McMahon, M. P.
Whitlam has stated that a Labor Government would amend
the electoral laws to abolish preferential voting and to introduce
the first-past-the-post system. He qualifies his statement by
adding that this would not be done until the re-election of his
government after a first term of office:.
The full implications of these announcements should be
understood by every Australian.
Mr. Whitlam is totally incapable of enforcing the
qualification that this radical change would not be introduced in
the first term. He cannot guarantee that he will remain the loader of his
party. His leadership has been seriously challenged in the past.
Given a taste of power, more significant challenges may be anticipated.
Anyhow, Mr. Whitlan is the servant and not the master of
his party's policies. He must obey the directions of the A. L. P.
Federal Conference or risk expulsion. Ho has shown, particularly
in policies on arbitration sanctions, that he is willing to reverse
his policies at the crack of the whip from outside.
If first-past-the-post voting is the policy of the A. L. P.
as now reluctantly revealed by Pkr. Whitlam, there will be inevitable
pressures to introduce it as soon as possible.
First-past-the-post is a bad system.
Its effect in this country would be to destroy the smaller
minority parties and Independent candidates. That is what it is
intended to do. That, in fact, is why it is used in some overseas
countries. The intention of the Labor Party is crystal-clear: Once
having gained power it would remove any possible threats to its
future. This is a real and very serious threat. Labor aims,
therefore, to neutralise and emasculate small parties such as the
Australia Party, the D. O. G. S. and the D. L. P. so as to ensure that
the preferences of any such groups ( or new political groups which
may emerge) can never be turned against it, however extreme or
offensive its policies may be. / 2

Mr. Whitlam's announcement is -the death sentence for such
groups. It would be the destruction of valuable checks and balances,
the end of minority voices vital to a healthy democracy.
It is a strange irony of fate that those minority parties
whose second preferences have been directed to Labor in the past
are to be rewarded by extinction against the possibility that they
may show some independence of spirit in the future.
Under first-past-the-post, it is readily possible for a
political party polling considerably lewss than one-half the vote
to gain power. And once in power, it would be extremely difficult to
remove. Mr. Whitlam's second aim is -to weaken the rural vote
throughout Australia. He knows that country people by substantial
majority support the Liberal and Country parties. He knows, too,
that three-cornered contests ( where both Liberal and Country Party
candidates are present) tend to be successful against Labor so he
is seeking to make such contests impossible. Under first-past-thepost,
a three-cornered contest would divide the coalition vote and
allow a minority Labor candidate to win.
Once again, the Labor Party is seeking to deny freedom of
choice. It is seeking to destroy the total value of every vote
cast in Australia for small groups or Independents.
The right of such groups to exist and assert their
influence is fundamental to the Australian political scene.
This electoral issue, carefully suppressed by Labor until
now, emerges as a major factor for izvaluation in this campaign.
CANBERRA, 29 November, 1972

Transcript 2727