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Thursday, 29 July 1920

Mr BELL (Darwin) .- I am sure the motion is submitted with the best intentions, and I have every sympathy with its object; but it must be remembered that there are parts of the Commonwealth in which other periods of the year would prove most unsuitable for elections.

Mr Prowse - Name them.

Mr BELL - There is my own electorate. I am afraid the proposed close season for elections is a little too long. If the period proposed had been from the 1st December to the end of February I might have been able to accord it my support; but, in my electorate, which it must be admitted is a country one, we have a long and heavy wet season. Some of the electors there have to travel fully twenty miles to record their votes, and I do not desire any proposal that would result in further restricting their opportunities of getting to the poll. As a matter of fact, in the winter season in Tasmania it is almost impossible to travel for voting purposes. It would certainly be unreasonable to ask the women electors to travel at such a time, and we wish to see the women at the poll, because their votes are usually on the right side. It must be admitted that the climatic conditions vary very greatly from north to south in Australia. In my own electorate March is about the best possible month for an election, and 1 should not like any part of that month excluded.

Mr Jowett - Is the honorable member aware that a large number of people on the mainland take a delight in visiting Tasmania during the months mentioned in the motion ?

Mr BELL - I am not saying that the months mentioned in the motion are not suitable, but if the House decides that they are unsuitable the tendency will be in fixing polling day to get as far away from those months as passible. The months of May, June, July, August, and September may cover the period when the people in some parts are the least busy, and when the climatic conditions are the best, but they would be the worst possible months for the holding of an election in Tasmania. The honorable' member proposes to amend the Constitution, but I do not think it is necessary to go to that extent. His purpose could well be served by a simple amendment to the Electoral Act. I do not think the honorable member need fear that any Government would choose a month for an election when people are not likely to go to the polling booths. He may be quite right in claiming that the months of December, January, and February are unsuitable for the holding of an election in many parts of Australia, because the harvest operations are in full swing; but I represent the interests of people who live in a very wet climate and who could not get to the poll if the close season which the honorable member seeks to fix were extended to the month of March.

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