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Wednesday, 13 June 1906

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) .- I am very glad to be able to support the amendment. So far as my electorate is concerned the new scheme of distribution is more favorable than the old one. Therefore, if I were swayed by personal considerations I should support the motion, rather than the amendment. I feel, however, that the Commissioner's first proposal was a fairer one in every way so far as the residents in ihe country districts are concerned. The honorable member for Yarra referred to the very large electorates represented by the honorable members for Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, and Maranoa, and I wish it to be understood .that I have every sympathy with the electors resident in those divisions. I recognise that it is almost impossible for the honorable members who represent such large electorates to reach every portion of them, and that their electors labour under great disabilities. In considering a matter of this kind we should not allow our minds to be influenced by the class of representative that is returned for a particular division - whether he be a member of the Labour Party, a Ministerial supporter, or a member of the Opposition. We have to consider the desirability of giving the electors equal facilities for recording their votes, and for coming into contact with their representatives, and insuring that their interests shall receive due attention in Parliament. The honorable member for Yarra quoted certain figures, and boasted of the action which his party had taken with a view to securing equal representation for both town and country. I should like to remind him that on a previous occasion when the question of redistribution was under consideration most of the members of his party voted against the proposal for reducing the discrepancies between certain -metropolitan and' countrydivisions in New South Wales. When it was proposed to redistribute the electorates in that State nearly all the members of the Labour Party voted in favour of retaining the Riverina electorate, which then had 15,993 electors, in preference to the proposed new division which would have contained 22,218 voters. At that time the Darling electorate had 14.168 electors, and it was proposed under the new plan of distribution to increase the number to 21,495. 1°- marked distinction to these country electorates the metropolitan, division of North Sydnev had 38,589 electors, and the Parkes division 36,804.

Mr Kelly - Hear, hear. More than too per cent, in excess of the number of electors in the Darling and Riverina electorates, and vet the Labour Party voted in favour of retaining those anomalous conditions. That is what thev call " one vote one value."

Mr Tudor - The conditions in Victoria were worse still.

Mr WILSON - I think that the figures I have quoted show that the Labour Party did not, on that occasion, pay full regard to the principle of "one vote one value," to which they profess to attach so much, importance. It must be recorded to the credit of the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that they voted in favour of the proposed redistribution. But all the other members of the party voted in support of perpetuating a most iniquitous state of affairs. I think that it has been shown conclusively by the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable and learned member for Wannon, and the honorable member for Grampians that the first scheme brought down by the Commissioner is preferable to that now before us. I notice that Ballarat and Bendigo, which are to a very great extent metropolitan constituencies, have electoral populations of 28,342 and 28,316 respectively, as against 28,180 in the proposed new electorate of Yarra. The Bendigo electorate embraces a considerable rural population, and the representative of that district would have to occupy some weeks in order to reach every part of his division. I admit that the number of electors in the Yarra division at present is grossly disproportionate, and that some alteration should be made : but the Commissioner has gone to the other extreme by allotting to the division a smaller number of electors than are contained in the proposed divisions of Ballarat and Bendigo. By the expenditure of a few pence on tram cars, or by holding one or two meetings, the honorable member for Yarra can reach the whole of his electors practically in one or two nights. But in the other case it takes weeks for a man to reach his constituents. In Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, it is practically impossible for some honorable members to reach their electors within a reasonable time. What chance, for instance, has the honorable member for Grey to reach those of his constituents who live in the northern portion of that electorate ? Absolutely none ! If the electors are to know how they are represented in Parliament, and what sort of men their representatives are, then at some time or other they should have the opportunity of meeting them. It is in every way desirable that the amendment should be carried, so that the older scheme of Mr. Topp may be adopted. It must be borne in mind that the two schemes were drawn up by the same man, and after careful revision. Both are worthy of consideration from the House.

Mr Storrer - Second thoughts are the best.

Mr WILSON - Very often, as honorable members know, a man's best comes out in his first thoughts, and not in his second.

Mr Kennedy - But the Commissioner, in his report, explains why he recommends the second proposal.

Mr WILSON - That is quite true, but on page 4 of his report he says -

Though in the scheme I submitted last year, the number of electors in the Division Balaclava was 361 below the maximum number, the electoral population had increased in last September to 454 above that maximum number, and to 361 above the legal maximum number for the present distribution.

That only exists in the case of one electorate,but it can be altered aseasily as possible. The honorable member for Kennedy has said that it would be difficult to bring about the proposed alteration, and the Minister of Home Affairs has said that the work of re-arranging the rolls for the electorates has been proceeding upon the assumption that the new scheme would be adopted. Only a fortnight's work has been done in connexion with the rolls. When the rolls are pinned together, each polling place is represented' by a roll. Therefore, if the amendment be adopted, it will only be a question of bringing the rolls together in a different form.

Mr Groom - There is a great deal more than that involved in the adoption of the amendment.

Mr WILSON - The amount of work that hasbeen done isvery small indeed. If a reasonable amount of work had been done, we should not have had the Minister stating to-day, in answer to a question, that on account of the backward state ofthe rolls, it would be absolutely impossible to hold the general elections in October. By giving that answer, hereally condemns himself out of his own mouth. If the rolls were so far forward' as he now states, there would not be the slightest reason why the general elections should not be held in October. All the facts show that it is almost immaterial which scheme of distribution is adopted to Victoria.

Mr Groom - The honorable member will remember that I stated that it was the Chief Electoral Officer's opinion, and that it was based upon the assumption that we would adopt the scheme.

Mr WILSON - I quite understand that, but the Minister's reply to the question, and his statement with regard to the adoption of this scheme, are not consistent.

Mr Groom - It is the statement of the Chief Electoral Officer.

Mr WILSON - In my opinion, the Minister is inconsistent in the action which he is taking with regard to this scheme. I sincerely hope that honorable members like the honorable member for Maranoa and others who represent large electorates will give country constituencies in Victoria the benefit of the first scheme by supporting the amendment.

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