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Thursday, 5 June 1902

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes; but we should have to use the existing rolls.

Mr Wilks - Then there is no urgent necessity to pass this Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I think there is. My experience is that it is necessary at frequent intervals to revise the rolls. In New South Wales the rolls have in times post become very much overloaded with the names of persons who were no longer entitled to hold electoral rights. Within fifteen months after the last referendum we revised the rolls in New South Wales, and made 250,000 alterations. As I stated the other evening, the process of purging the rolls is being carried out as faras that is practicable at the present time under the existing law. But it is only possible to purge them to a very limited extent, because no such provisions are extant as those contained in this Bill. In clause 4, provision is made that this Act shall not apply to the election of a new member to fill any vacancy happening in this Chamber during the continuance of the present House of Representatives. It could not very well be made applicable to such an election for a variety of reasons, one of which is that if a State which at present returns its representatives as one constituency were subdivided, we should have to select some particular district, instead of the whole State, to elect the new member. Though the Bill was originally framed with that object in view, I found upon analysing the question that, owing to the intricacies and difficulties which surround it, it was really impossible to give effect to the original intention. Thus it is that clause 4 has been inserted in the Bill. Part II. deals with the general administration, which, to some extent, resembles the general administration in most of the States, with this difference - that we now provide for one chief electoral officer, and also for an electoral officer in each State to control the elections in that State. The latter will be subject only to the Chief Electoral Officer. In addition to that, power is given to appoint a returning officer for each division. That officer will be under the chief electoral officer of the State, as the latter is subordinate to the chief electoral officer of the Commonwealth. In dealing with this question I do not wish honorable members to become alarmed at the extra expense involved in the appointment of new officers. We have recently heard a good deal about the appointment of officers in my department, although, as I have previously stated, that department is very meanly administered. We intend, as far as possible, to utilize the services of existing Commonwealth officers in the performance of allthe work that is necessary. They will be chiefly postal officials and such others as can be efficiently utilized for the service. They may have to be paid a small additional sum for the services required of them, but I wish it to be distinctly understood that it is not intended to appoint an entirely new staff to cope with this work. Power is also given to appoint assistant returning officers, if necessary, for such districts as the Northern Territory, &c,as well as electoral registrars. These are the main features of Part II. of the Bill.

Mr McCay - Will the divisional returning officers be public servants?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Not necessarily. In some cases it may be impossible to get public servants to perform this work, but as far as practicable it is intended that those undertaking it shall be Commonwealth officers. I believe that in the Postal department we shall be able to secure nearly all the public servants required, but if not, we may utilize the services of the inspectors under the Public Service Act, or those of other Commonwealth officers. Part III. is an important one, because it creates the divisions of each State, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned. Save for dealing with general elections, this Bill refers more particularly to the House of Representatives than to the Senate. It is proposed to appoint three commissioners to subdivide each State. That practice has been adopted in one of the States upon a previous occasion, and it has also been followed in other countries, notably in England and New Zealand. It is better to deal with the matter in this way than for the Government to undertake the work themselves. . Of course, there should be no inducement to define the boundaries of a division in other than a fair manner ; but if the Government undertook the task, they might possibly be accused of cutting up the electorates in a way to suit their own party.

Mi-. Poynton. - Will there be separate commissioners for each State ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I cannotanswer that question at the present time. I think it is mote than likely that one or two commissioners will act in all cases, and that in determining the limits of the electorates, they will, be assisted by a gentleman who has been for a considerable time resident in the particular State affected. They will thus be less liable to error than would otherwise be the case.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Do these divisions refer to the existing electorates, or will they involve the creation of new electorates ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am speaking of the subdivision of those States which at present vote as one constituency for the return of members of the House of Representatives.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Are not the States already divided ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No; for instance, Tasmania and South Australia elect representatives voting as one constituency.

Mr McCay - Is it proposed to re-divide those States which are already divided ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Not unless that course is considered absolutely necessary. The Bill does not compel it to be done. "For instance, in New South Wales or Victoria, which have already been divided into electorates for the return of members to this House, population may have increased in one division and decreased in another, and the variation of the boundaries of a division may therefore become necessary. The commissioners will deal with these alterations of boundaries.

Mr Thomson - There is the female vote to be considered, too.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes. The female vote will be exercised to a greater or less extent in every State, and consequently will cause a re-arrangement where such is found necessary.

Mr Page - Will these commissioners become permanent officers ?

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