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Wednesday, 13 June 1906

Mr SKENE (Grampians) . - I followed the arguments of the Minister of

Home Affairs as closely as I could, but must confess .that they did not impress me. He pointed out incidentally that there was no protest against the scheme ; but I would remind him that there was practically only one raised against the last scheme submitted by Mr. Topp. That objection came from my own electorate, but the suggestion then made was not adopted. The division to which exception was taken remains in the scheme now before us, but no protest has been entered since it is useless to raise objection after objection when no heed is paid to them. I see no 'difficulty in the way of putting into operation the 1905 scheme, as compared with that now submitted, and I fail to recognise the force of the objections raised by the Minister. He spoke as if one scheme provided for twenty-three representatives for Victoria, and the other for only twenty-two.

Mr Groom - No.

Mr SKENE - That, at all events, was the impression which I and others formed.

Mr Groom - I said that as regards the scheme providing for a representation of twenty-two members we had already done a great deal of work which would have to be started afresh if we adopted the other.

Mr SKENE - I happened quite accidentally yesterday to enter the Electoral Office, and was there introduced to the gentleman who has just been appointed Chief Electoral Officer. I had not given any consideration to this matter, but in the course of conversation we thrashed it out, and I believe that the proposal made by the honorable member for Gippsland could be given effect to. As a matter of fact, supplementary rolls would be necessary under the scheme that the Government ask. us to adopt. 1

Mr Groom - Supplementary rolls would be necessary under any scheme. The difficulty relates not to supplementary rolls, but to the constitution of fresh polling-places.

Mr SKENE - The polling places could foe left as they are in the different divisions.

Mr Groom - A main' roll has to be adopted, and must definitely set forth the various polling places.

Mr SKENE - I have yet to be convinced that any difficulty would be experienced in giving effect to the amendment. If it were carried the necessary readjustment could speedily be made. I have a plan of my own electorate under the new scheme, showing the different polling places within it, and if it provides for polling places for which Mr. Topp made no provision in his previous scheme, it simply rests with the Department to draw boundary lines around' them. If the polling place's in the one scheme are convenient for a certain number of electors, they will be found equally convenient in the other. Coming to the question of the difference between the size of town and country electorates, it has been suggested that these sweeping changes have been made by the Commissioner merely for the purpose of striking off some corners of electorates which stood in the way of a reasonable plan of distribution. But would any one seriously suggest that, in order to do this, it is necessary to have a difference of 10,720 electors between two divisions? Surely a margin of 1,000 or 2,000 would be sufficient to work upon in making such readjustments. The honorable member for Gippsland read from Mr. Topp's first report some very excellent reasons in support of its adoption, and all that can be said against it now is that a discrepancy of 361 votes in the electorate of Balaclava demands the alteration now proposed. In his first report, Mr. Topp almost went so far as to suggest that he had' contemplated eliminating one of the town electorates. He told us that the electorates within the metropolitan area were drawn upon good natural boundaries, and that the division of the country into Federal constituencies had been made with the desire to secure greater community of interest, and so forth. What has he said in his second report? He has simply declared that it is necessary to depart from his first scheme in order to provide for the rapid movement of population, as illustrated in the case of the electorate of Balaclava. I think that the injustice which has been done to rural districts in this matter is greater than appears at first sight. We have no option but to submit to the loss of one representative of Victoria in this House. But what does that loss mean? I understand that in New South Wales the quota is 4,000 less than that fixed for Victoria, and that whilst New South Wales gets another member, each of its representatives represents 24,000 electors, as against 28,000 represented bv the members returned by Victoria. The country districts of Victoria have to submit to the loss of two representatives, and the whole readjustment tends to the disadvantage of this State. We have lost a representative by a narrow majority, and New South

Wales has secured an additional one; the whole disability falls upon Victoria. The Minister has failed to show why the 1905 scheme should not be adopted. It would mean no alteration so far as the population is concerned; it would simply involve an alteration of the electoral areas. I can see no reason why the population could not be divided into the different areas suggested. I shall certainly support the amendment.

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