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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr WATSON (Bland) - It seems to me that the amendment is somewhat impracticable under present circumstances. At tEe same time, I would urge upon the Government the wisdom of endeavouring to secure an amendment of the Constitution, with a view to deferring the elections of the Senate for two or three months, so that the elections in 1909 might be held in March or April. I would point out to the honorable member for Echuca that if his proposal were carried the general election would take place in October, and that whilst that would certainly be convenient from the point of view of those who would be engaged later on in harvesting, it would lead to the disfranchisement of a large number of shearers in New South Wales.

Mr Brown - And also a large number of sheep farmers.

Mr WATSON - It would certainly lead to the disfranchisement of a large number of people. The holding of a general election at any time between midwinter and the end of the year would not be convenient to all persons engaged in rural industries, and it would also be unsatisfactory from <-he point of view of the candidates. The first general election for the Federal Parliament was held, I think, on the 30th March, 1901, and if we could arrange for our ordinary general elections to take place about tha: time in the year, I believe that it would be found satisfactory to all classes of thecommunity. About the fall of the year, shearers, farmers, fruit-growers, and, indeed, all persons engaged in rural industries., can usually spare the time to go to the polling booth.

Mr Johnson - Why not arrange for the next general election to be held about that time?

Mr WATSON - It would not be an easy matter to arrange, since the election of senators must take place before the first day of January.

Mr Fisher - That is the date from which their allowance is paid.

Mr WATSON - That is so. I do not know whether or not there is a serious constitutional difficulty in the way of the elections being held about the month of March, but it seems to me that, at any rate, the inference to be drawn from the Constitution is that the senatorial elections shall take place before the end of the year. If a proposal to amend the Constitution were submitted to the electors, with the recommendation that all parries could afford to give, I am satisfied that it would be carried without difficulty. I hope that the Government, during the recess, will consider my suggestion.

Mr McLean - If it were adopted, a much heavier vote would be polled.

Mr WATSON - That is my opinion. I do not think that any section of the community would object to such an amendment of the Constitution.

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