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Thursday, 19 June 1902

Mr McCAY (Corinella) - It is a very futile proceeding to say that the commissioner shall allot a certain number of electors more or less to each division if you require him to adhere as nearly as practicable to the quota, and make it necessary for him, whenever he departs from it to the extent of 4 per cent., to give reasons for the departure. If the provisions of the Bill do not mean that the commissioner is not to depart from the quota unless he is forced to do so by reason of practically insuperable difficulties in the way of adhering to it, I am not competent to interpret the English language.

Mr Fowler - It would seldom be impracticable to make the electorates numerically equal.

Mr McCAY - They can, practically, be made equal in every case, except for the fluctuations of population. There is no suggestion in the Bill that the commissioner may deliberately make the electorates numerically unequal, which is what the honorable member for Gippsland and others desire. The Attorney-General referred to the New South Wales Act, but in that Act the provisions contained in clauses 17 and 18 are. embodied in one section. The provisions of clause 17 are, therefore, much more stringent and binding than the similar provisions in the New South Wales Act. Therefore, I think the Bill might be improved by combining clauses 17 and 18. That may seem a mere verbal quibble, but, looking at the ordinary canons of legal interpretation, I think what I suggest would have an effective result. The honorable member for Bland told us the other night that we were pledged to the principle " one adult one vote," and that its natural corollary was " one vote one value." I deny that the ordinary rules of logic can be made to apply to the political conditions of the community. If we followed everything we did to what might be called its logica conclusion, we should often place ourselves in very undesirable positions. Indeed, I dc not think that logic and consistency are interchangeable terms as applied to political affairs. " One vote one value," in the sense ordinarily applied to the term, is not a necessary consequence of the principle " one adult one vote." The phrase "one vote one value" was used by the honorable member in the sense that each vote must have the same arithmetical value, but life does not consist of arithmetic, and the proper interpretation is that every voter shall have the same opportunity, however small, of controlling the destinies of his country. For honorable members to apply the phrase as though it meant that every elector shall be the same fraction of an electorate as any other voter is of any other electorate is to beg the question, because it assumes that to be the same fraction of an electorate means to have the same effect as a voter. In Victoria it has been found that the number of qualified electors enrolled in country districts is always smaller than the number of qualified electors enrolled in city districts. That is one respect in which the country is at a disadvantage as compared with the city. The reason is obvious. In one case a man has only to walk, perhaps, a few hundred yards, or less than a mile, from his home to have his name enrolled, while in the other case he has to travel, perhaps, 20 miles. The logic of facts is the sternest and most effective logic that I know of.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - One set of facts may be altered without altering another set.

Mr McCAY - The fact that I speak of - the smaller enrolment in the country than in the city - is due to a fact which we cannot alter, the fact that in the country people live at greater distances from each other than they do in the city. I think that the proportion of five voters in the city to three in the country would be too wide, and that a difference as between four and three would be quite sufficient. Roughly speaking, in the division of the Victorian electorates for the Federal elections, 10,000, 12,000, and 14,000 were the 1 standards adopted for the country, urban, ] and city electorates respectively. My own electorate was supposed to contain 10,000 electors, and it was regarded as being ; about midway between an urban and a 1 country electorate. It is somewhat more densely populated than a country electorate, and less densely populated than an urban electorate. The Bill should show clearly that, owing to the disadvantages under which country electors labour, it is intended that there should be a distinction made between the country and the city electorates within the prescribed limits. As the clause stands, the commissioners in each State might tate a different view, and split up the States on entirely different bases. This and the next clause should be combined ; the words proposed to be omitted should be struck out, and clause IS should be amended so as to indicate that the proportion of population to the area should be taken into consideration by the commissioners.

Mr Conroy - How could the principle advocated by the honorable and learned member be applied to Western Australia and Queensland 1

Mr McCAY - We could not allow for a sufficient disparity to meet the divergent circumstances of an electoral district like Maranoa and one like Melbourne Ports, but the subdivisions might be made in the larger States upon the same general lines as in Victoria.

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