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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr LONSDALE (New England) - I think that the arguments advanced by the Minister show that this paragraph is unnecessary. He has mentioned that if he found the number of electors, in only one electorate out of all proportion to that of another, he would cause a redistribution to be made.

Mr Groom - I said that where the number was so out of joint as to shock the conscience I should do so.

Mr LONSDALE - It seems to me that paragraph c meets the whole case, because it provides that a redistribution shall take place -

At such other times as the Governor-General thinks fit.

Either paragraph b or paragraph c is unnecessary.

Mr Groom - The intention is that paragraph b shall lay down a guiding rule.

Mr LONSDALE - But how can that be so when the honorable and learned member says, in effect, that if only two out of twenty-six electorates in New South Wales were so out of joint as to shock the conscience, he would have a distribution ?

Mr Groom - It has been suggested in another place that certain words should be inserted so as to clearly indicate that paragraph c stands as an entirely separate provision, and I intend to move an amendment to give effect to that proposal.

Mr LONSDALE - The clearer we make our laws the better. It seems to me that we should not insert any unnecessary provision.

Mr Groom - Is the honorable member for Boothby prepared to accept mv offer?

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby)'.- If I cannot induce the Minister to agree to so amend the clause that a redistribution will take place whenever in one-fifth, instead of one-third, of the divisions of a State thenumber of electors is more than one-fifth above or below the quota, I shall, of course, accept his offer to substitute the word "one-fourth" for "one-third." I understand that the Minister's chief objection to my proposal is that if we provided that a redistribution should take place in the event of one-fifth of the divisions of a State being more than one-fifth above or below the quota, the result would be that such a discrepancy, in the case of only one constituency in one of the smaller States, would necessitate a redistribution.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would have to take place if the number of electors was only a few above the margin.

Mr BATCHELOR - Or a few below it. I would point out, however, that the population of those States which have only five representatives each is more stationary than is that of some of the other States; so that there is not much likelihood of this machinery being put into operation in their case.

Mr Groom - In Western Australia, we might have the mining section of the community shifting from one place to another.

Mr BATCHELOR - As I pointed out on a previous occasion, a mistake was made in connexion with the first distribution of South Australia into Federal electorates, inasmuch as the largest number of electors was given to a constituency which is a rapidly-growing one. The result is that although the numbers were nearly equal at the time of the distribution, they have now grown quite out of proportion. That tendency will increase. The constituency to which I allude is still growing at the expense of some of the others, and its voting power will become grossly unequal to that of other electorates. That position would not be changed even if we provided that a redistribution should take place when the electors in one-fifth of the divisions were above or below the margin. Such a provision would not apply, even if there were 40,000 or 50,000 electors in that constituency, unless there was a discrepancy in at least one-fifth of the electorates in South Australia.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Minister will have a power over and above that provided for in this paragraph. This merely serves to indicate the limit beyond which the discrepancy shall not be allowed to go.

Mr BATCHELOR - I hold that whenever even one constituency becomes grossly out of proportion to others in the same State, an automatic redistribution ought to take place, but if honorable members are not prepared to agree to the amendment moved in my behalfby the honorable member for Yarra, I must, perforce, accept the Minister's offer.

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