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Thursday, 21 May 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for External Affairs) [12.25] . - Honorable senators may remember that, following the census taken on the 30th June, 1933, commissioners were appointed to propose a redistribution of the electoral divisions in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Such action is authorized by section 25 of the Electoral Act which provides that a re-distribution may be undertaken -

(a)   whenever an alteration is made in the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the State;

(b)   whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of the State the number of electors differs from the quota ascertained by dividing the whole number of electors in the State by the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the State, to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less; and

(c)   at such other times as the Governor-General thinks fit.

Reports were duly received from the respective commissioners, submitting proposals for the redistribution of the electoral divisions in each of the States specified, and those reports were tabled in Parliament on the 28th June, 1934. The proposals of the commissioners were subsequently adopted by Parliament in respect of the States of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, and, as a result, the new divisions in those States were brought into effect prior to the general elections held on the 15th September, 1934.

With respect to the States of Victoria and Western Australia, however, the original proposals of the commissioners were disapproved by the House of Representatives, and, as time did not permit of fresh proposals being obtained and dealt with before the dissolution, the' 1934 elections in those States necessarily had to be held on the existing boundaries.

The motion agreed to by the House of Representatives on the 5th July, 1934, in relation to the original proposals submitted by the commissioners in regard to Victoria, was as follows: -

That thi* House disapproves of the distribution of the' State of Victoria as proposed by the Distribution Commission, and requests the Minister to return the same to the commission with the view of a fresh distribution being made of this State having regard to community of interests and the margin of allowance provided for in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Sub-section 2 of section 24 of the Com' monwealth Electoral Act reads - - If. either House of the Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution or negatives a motion for the approval of any. proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the distribution commissioners to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions. .

Pursuant to '.the resolution of the House of Representatives, the Minister for the Interior . duly directed the commissioners for the State of Victoria to propose a fresh distribution. Their fresh proposals for the distribution of the electoral divisions in that State are now before the Senate.

The proposed redistribution involves jio alteration of the number of electoral divisions in Victoria, the number of members of the House of Representatives to which that State is entitled on the basis of its population as disclosed by the 1933 census, being twenty, as at present; but, as will be seen from the table furnished in the Commissioners' report, a realignment of the boundaries of the divisions in that State is necessary in order to provide a more equitable basis of representation than now exists. For instance, in the metropolitan area the Division of Henty, as at present constituted, contains more than twice as many electors as are embraced in the Division of Melbourne, whilst as regards country divisions, Flinders contains over 30,000 more voters than does Ballarat,

It may be remembered that the first proposals submitted by the distribution commissioners for Victoria provided for the elimination of the country division ot Corangamite and the substitution therefor of an additional metropolitan division. The fresh proposals submitted by the commissioners are less drastic, in that the existing basis of ten metropolitan and ten country divisions is preserved; and whilst the marginal difference in enrolment between the average of the metropolitan divisions and the average of the country divisions has been increased from 2,930, as provided in the first proposals, to 8,068, the numbers allotted to the several divisions under the fresh proposals are, in all cases, well within the margin permitted by the law.

Honorable senators will observe that, r; is proposed to name the new division created by this redistribution " Deakin " in honour of the late Honorable Alfred Deakin, one of the most outstanding of the great men associated with the foundation of the Commonwealth. The late Mr. Deakin commenced his parliamentary career in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria in 1879, later holding office in that State as Solicitor-General, Commissioner for Public Works, and Chief Secretary. He took a prominent part in the federal movement, and was a member of the delegation sent to London in 1900 to secure the passage of the Constitution Bill through the Imperial Parliament. The late Mr. Deakin was a member of this Parliament from the inception of the Commonwealth until his retirement in 1913. He held office as Attorney-General in the first Commonwealth Ministry, and, subsequently, on three occasions as Prime Minister, he guided the destinies of this country wisely and well. Several divisions in other States bear the names of notable men associated with the foundation of the Commonwealth - Parkes, Barton, Reid and Watson in New South Wales; Griffith in Queensland; and Forrest, in Western Australia - and it is thought fitting that as the opportunity now presents itself the name of Deakin should be similarly perpetuated in Victoria.

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