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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) .- Like the last speaker, I desire to see a date fixed for the holding of the general elections which will meet the convenience of a large majority of the voters. The debate which has taken place this afternoon demonstrates that whatever date is fixed some in convenience will be experienced. But we have to regard this matter, not from, the stand-point of a State, but from that of the Commonwealth. There is a good deal in the contention of the honorable member for Bland that from the present time till the end of the year isi a very unsuitable period for the conduct of a general election. In the first instance, we should inconvenience those who are engaged in the sugarproducing industry ; in the next, we should affect those who follow the avocation of shearers, and finally, we should interfere with those who will be taking part in harvesting operations, towards the end of the year. I think that Parliament would be well advised if it made some alteration in the direction indicated by the honorable member for Bland, and determined that in future the general elections should take place at the beginning of the year. So far as New South Wales is concerned, I think that March or April would be a very suitable period at which to appeal to the country. There would be difficulties in giving effect to his suggestion, but these would not be nearly so insurmountable as are those which are experienced at the present time. Undoubtedly the last elections were delayed till the very worst period of the year, so far as the farming interests were concerned. In my own electorate the fact that there wa's not a contest for a seat in this House helped to minimize the vote which was cast on that occasion. The farmers' were in the very midst of their harvesting operations, and the period was one at which the greatest amount of damage could be done to the crops by windstorms. About a day or two Prior to the pollingday a severe windstorm passed over a portion of my own constituency, with the result that the standing crops were practically threshed out. The storm did not cover an extensive area, but the country which it affected was severely injured in the matter of its wheat return. This alarmed the farmers in the district who were not touched by the disturbance. They worked all hours in order to get their crops harvested. The result was that a large number of them did not trouble to record their votes, notwithstanding that some of them were working within sight of the polling booth. Upon the other hand, it has been suggested by farmers' representatives in Victoria, supported by the leader of the Opposition;, that the general elections should be held in October. So far as New South Wales is concerned, difficulties would be experienced in October, only in another direction. In December the farming community is, to a large extent, disfranchised, but in October the shearers and those engaged in the pastoral industry would share the same fate. Early in October shearing operations are in full swing, and towards the end of that month the grass seeds begin to ripen, so that one day's! seeding may mean a very, heavy loss in a man's wool returns. Consequently it is the great desire of the pastoralist to get his wool off the sheep's back within that period. What we should aim at is a mean between the period of the completion of the shearing and the heavy time of the harvesting - between, say, the 15th November and the first week of December. After the first week in December the difficulties in connexion with harvesting are accentuated every day till the end of the year. It has been suggested that the Labour Party desire the elections to be held as late in the year as possible, because they fear the farmer's vote. Personally I do not fear that vote. I am a farmer myself, and I have done something to make the farming movement in New South Wales a substantial success. I do not think that the party to which I belong has any cause to fear the farmers' vote. I hold that the elections should be held at a period of the year when the largest number of voters will be able to exercise the franchise, and consequently I urge the Government to fix a date between' the 15th November and the first week in December. Otherwise the difficulties experienced at the last election will be repeated.

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