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Wednesday, 18 June 1902

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is pleasant to hear the honorable member for Laanecoorie take high ground with regard to the dignity and honour of Parliament ; but I do not think that anything that has been said really calls into question either our dignity or honour.. We are considering what is the best principle to follow. AVe have safeguarded our dignity by declaring that we shall have nothing to do with deciding disputes arising out of contested elections, and we should act wisely in declining to take upon ourselves the decision of the boundaries of the electoral districts. These divisions are not to be determined altogether by considerations as to the numbers of voters, but very frequently the relative positions of parts of a district to each other have to be taken, into account. We should keep this question altogether clear of any suggestion of manipulation with a view to serve .the interests of particular parties or candidates ; and we* should remit the whole question to an independent tribunal. I . think that too many commissioners are provided for, because under the operation of some of the clauses the decision will rest with only one commissioner. So far as that goes, I should be quite content if we had only one commissioner. But honorable members seem to forget a statement which was made by the Minister for Home Affairs in introducing this Bill. Upon that occasion I believe he declared that he would accept an amendment providing for the appointment of one commissioner for the whole of theCommonwealth, if that officer were assisted by two persons possessing an extensive knowledge of their respective States. Probably we might achieve that end by appointing as commissioner a

Judge, who, in determining the various electoral boundaries, could be aided by two technical experts, such as surveyors. I am satisfied that if we leave this matter to Parliament we shall have 75 commissioners. We know that gerrymandering has taken place in America, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley, has said to the contrary. The statement of the honorable member for Gippsland, in reference to his happy experience in settling the boundaries of the Victorian electorates, is perfectly correct. He was eminently successful in that task, but he should recollect that at the time he made that distribution there were no sitting members to be considered. I think that the committee would do well to retain this provision in the Bill, but I fail to see any reason why we should appoint three commissioners. Let us have one commissioner, assisted by such skilled officers as he chooses to employ, or by two local representatives.

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