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Wednesday, 13 June 1906

Mr MALONEY (Melbourne) . - The honorable member who preceded me made, a good point when he spoke of the saving of expense that would be effected by adopting the proposal of the Government, instead of the amendment. As an old member of the State House, it occurred to me, when the honorable member for Gippsland said that he did not want an advantage for the country at the expense of the town, that, although he was Premier, Minister, and member of the Victorian Legislature for something like twenty-three years, a single instance cannot be recalled - and I say it in all good temper - of his having tried to wipe out the infamy which still attaches to the State representation. When he was in the State House, Castlemaine returned two representatives, while Flemington and Essendon, which contained four times as many electors, returned only one, the present Prime Minister; so that a voter in Castlemaine had four times the voting, power of a voter in Essendon. I cannot remember that the honorable member for Gippsland ever fought against that system, though the party of which I am a member has always declared that a vote should have the same value, whether the voter resides in a city or in the country.

Mr McLean - What is the value of a vote? Is it not the influence which attaches to it?

Mr MALONEY - The value of a vote is the value of the human being who gives it. Human life is the only thing which is of value. For that reason, the greater population of Victoria gives her a larger representation, although she is a mere mouthful of territory, than is given to Western Australia, which is ten times as big. If area counted, how could Victoria stand against Queensland, South Australia, or Western Australia?

Mr McLean - I do not regard area, but the influence which a vote exercises on the government and legislation of the country.

Mr MALONEY - The influence of the country members of Victoria has been directed towards obtaining a disproportionately large expenditure of public money in the country. Mr. Service, who was Premier of Victoria for many years', showed that clearly, to his eternal credit. The honorable member for Gippsland says that he does not ask for an advantage for the country as against the towns ; but he cannot get it, because this House is established on too democratic a basis to permit any such infamy. I am glad and proud that, throughout the length and breadth of Australia, every human unit has the same political value, whether living in the town or in the country. But we could never get the idea into the bucolic intellects of the country representatives in the State Parliament, and those who have spoken on the other side were, with the exception of my honorable friend, supporters of the party which took away from part of the com.munity their rights as citizens. I believe that Mr. Bent will, to his credit, soon reverse that action, although, if he does so, that little tin god, Mr. Irvine, will weep, put ashes on his head, and clothe himself in sackcloth. Why should not Victoria lose a member, and New .South Wales gain a member, if the relative populations of the States make that fair? The land laws of New South Wales have been much better than those of Victoria.

Mr Wilson - In what way?

Mr MALONEY - Companies and individuals who could command money could get thousands of acres of the mallee country for as. 6d. a square mile; but when I moved that any head of a family should be allowed to get it at the same price, these gentlemen voted against me.

Mr McLean - When Minister for Lands, I passed a law preventing the aggregation of mallee lands. There is no similar law anywhere else in Australia.

Mr MALONEY - That was a good action, and I acknowledge it, as I acknowledge another statesmanlike act in regard to the wiping out of the power of the Upper House which Mr. Irvine allowed to be reversed. The honorable member understands my allusion to action taken in connexion with the Factories Act. If the amendment were adopted, I should have a better chance of retaining my seat than if the distribution now proposed were approved of. That consideration, however, does not weigh with me against what I conceive to be the fairness of the Commissioner's latest recommendations.

Mr McLean - I could not have a better proposal than that now made bv the Commissioner - it suits me admirably.

Mr MALONEY - In that case honours are easy, and perhaps the honorable member will withdraw his amendment. I regret deeply having to leave behind me the veterans who stood bv me for nineteen years. They always kept the flag of labour living, and thev were not daunted when Mr. Irvine, who could not keep me out of the House by fair means, destroyed my constituency by dividing it into three. I feel sure that the motion will be carried, and that the honorable member for Gippsland will fail to achieve his object. I am certain, moreover, that the veterans to whom I have referred will vote for labour no matter under what circumstances they mav be called upon to exercise the franchise. Thev will support the great cause of democracy, ar.d will always be in favour of fair and square representation.

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