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Tuesday, 27 May 1902

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I think that the lines which the debate has followed have been largely due to the speech of the honorable member for North Sydney, and I am pleased that he has since explained his position, because the impression he first made upon me and others was that he aimed at the abolition of the Department for Home Affairs. He directed attention particularly to the sub-departments, which he considered would be better administered by other Ministers. It was suggested, for example, that the Electoral office should be under the control of. the Attorney-General or of the Postmaster-General, but if effect were given to such suggestions there would be nothing for- the Minister for Home Affairs to do.

Mr Thomson - There are other departments yet to be taken over which would justify his existence.

Mr BROWN - It seems to me that the sub-departments which have been allotted to the Minister for Home Affairs come properly under his control. Not the least of them is the Electoral office, whose work could not be properly performed, either under State control or as part of some other department, without the infliction of great injustice upon the Commonwealth. The department is one whose functions practically give life to the Commonwealth, and it is of such large dimensions that it- could very readily become disorganized, which would tend in the direction of stultifying the federal movement. Objection has been taken to the fact that the heads of subde"partments have been termed "secretaries," but it does not matter what they are called, so long as the committee keep a watchful eye upon the salaries proposed. This Parliament has provided for a special Commonwealth franchise, and is about to devise special electoral machinery. A number of the States do not recognise adult suffrage, and some of them recognise a property qualification, or impose limitations upon the suffrage, which we have not allowed. Therefore, it seems to me that if the . administration of the electoral office were left in the hands of State officials, our efforts to place the Commonwealth franchise upon a solid democratic basis must fall to the ground.

Mr Poynton - I had nothing to say about', the electoral office. I attacked the proposed Public Works department.

Mr BROWN - Well, other honorable gentlemen have suggested that the electoral office should be made part of some other department, but I am thoroughly in sympathy with the proposal of the Government to make it a special department. I shall have something to say later on upon the question who should be at the head of that department. The Inter-State Commission, the Public Service Commissioner's department, and the Public Works department are all very important departments, which must be kept separate in order to secure efficiency.

Mr Poynton - We shall have more officers than private citizens eventually.

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