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Friday, 15 December 1905

The CHAIRMAN - I have had some doubts with regard to the admissibility of certain amendments, and I have given the matter some attention. Honorable members must recognise that the powers of the Committee are limited. We are bound by the instruction of the House, and by the scope of the measure submitted to us. But, putting those considerations on one side for the moment, I would point out that we have, during the last few days, adopted certain provisions which are directly at variance with that now submitted. Therefore, although I am averse to restricting the power of the Committee, I feel that it is not competent for it to insert the proposed new clause; it would have the effect of rendering nugatory much' of the work already done in connexion with the Bill.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney). - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - " 44a. Section one hundred and sixty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by striking out a-11 words in (i) after " in excess of," and inserting in lieu thereof " an amount to be fixed by the Chief Electoral Officer in respect of each Division, having regard to the area of the Division, the means of travelling therein, and the distribution of its population, but not to be less than One hundred pounds, nor more than Two hundred and fifty pounds, for any Division."

I do not wish to initiate a general debate on this question, because I addressed' myself to it at some length when I spoke on the motion for the second .reading of the Bill. Whilst we have fixed ai minimum for election expenses, which will apply generally, we must recognise that the electoratesvary widely, not only in regard to area, but also in respect of the distribution of population and their general features. Whilst £100 might be sufficient to cover the expenses of a candidate in a small and thicklypopulated electorate, it would he manifestly inadequate in large electorates, with scattered populations. I do not object to the maximum of £100 for some electorates, but I think that we should take into account inequality of conditions as between one electorate and another.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member think that the area of an electorate should be taken into account?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly, because in some of the larger divisions, much more travelling is necessitated, and it is more difficult to reach the electors.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I heard one honorable member say that he had gone through his electorate on a bicycle.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, and one honorable member stated that it would occupy him six months if he visited every part of his electorate. I recognise that under present circumstances it is not likely that honorable members will listen to this proposal, but I regard the matter as a very important one. We allow candidates for the Senate to spend ,£250 in a small State like Tasmania, whereas some of the electoral divisions which' are represented by honorable members in this House have six times the area of that State.

Mr Thomas - But not so many polling places. My electorate is larger in area than Tasmania, but I would rather travel and conduct an electoral campaign there, than make an exhaustive canvass of Tasmania.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But in his electorate the honorable member has the weight of population in one place.

Mr Thomas - I had to travel about 750 miles prior to the last election.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under my proposal the Chief Electoral Officer would take that circumstance into account, and would make a fair allowance. I donot think candidates should have to face the alternative of refraining from thoroughly canvassing their electorates, in order to keep their expenses within the prescribed limits, or largely exceeding the specified allowance. In large electorates where the centres of population are scattered, halls have to be hired at a great number of places, and posters have to be distributed and advertisements inserted in the newspapers announcing each meeting. The conditions, that have to be complied with in such cases are very different from those prevailing in city or suburban constituencies, where two or three thousand persons can be addressed at 'the a ne meeting. Some electorates are so large that it is, impossible for the candidate to reach all parts of them, and therefore many of the electors have to be communicated with by circular. Honorable members will agree with me that it is necessary that the views of the candidates should be made known to all the electors. I am not an advocate of large expenditure by candidates,, but I do not wish to place them under the necessity of leaving a number of the electors in ignorance as to their views, or of incurring expense in excess of the lawful sum, and which the unscrupulous will hide when the returns are sent in.

Mr Thomas - I represent one of the largest electorates, and my expenses on the last occasion amounted to £13.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The election should not have cost the honorable member even that sum - he was grossly extravagant. Although I have very little hope of carrying my proposal, I intend to test the feeling of the Committee.

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