Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre addresses redistribution tribunal

A tribunal has heard Tasmania should create an electorate that encompasses the whole state for Aboriginal people to elect a Legislative Council member.

The submission was made by activist Michael Mansell on behalf of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, during a public hearing on electoral boundaries.

The proposal was not supported by all Aboriginal groups in Tasmania, and was quickly rejected by the state government.

The Initial Redistribution Proposal for Legislative Council electorates was released in January, and included major changes to the Western Tier and Apsley electorates, including new names – McIntyre and Prosser.

It was met with significant protest from elected representatives, including Western Tiers Independent MLC Greg Hall and Apsley MLC Tania Rattray, who both made submissions to the tribunal and appeared at the hearing on Friday.

A redistribution proposal is required by law every nine years to keep electorate population numbers even.

Mr Mansell said Tasmania could include a statewide electorate as one of the 15 electorates during this redistribution, and allow Aboriginal Tasmanians to either vote in that, or in their regional electorate, but not in both.

“This doesn’t exist anywhere else in Australia but the Maori have had this for over 200 years. They have seven seats in the New Zealand parliament.

“In the United States, the Indians have two seats in the parliament. In Columbia, they have three indigenous seats, so there’s nothing unusual about trying to find ways for minority groups to be represented in the parliaments of that country.”

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding was asked about the proposal on Friday, and said the government did not support it.

“We understand their call for that. This has been on their radar for some time but the Tasmanian government doesn’t support it… We think the structure of Tasmanian politics is about right and special seats is not something we support.”