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Thursday, 19 June 1902


Mr WILKS (Dalley) - The honorable member for Laanecoorie admitted that in an ideal State every vote should be regarded as having the same value ; but in the course of a very elaborate speech he tried to show that that is impossible under existing circumstances. The clause allows the commissioner a very large margin to work upon, but permits him to avail himself of it only under exceptional circumstances. The honorable member for Gippsland, however, would allow him to use this margin at all times, according to his discretion. Therefore, in a State in which the quota was 12,000, it would be possible for him, at his own discretion, to give one division 9,000 and another 15,000 electors. Could there be a more tory system of representation than that ? If areas are to be represented rather than population, the people of Western Australia and of Queensland might fairly argue that, as the compact and closely populated State of Victoria is allowed six senators, they, as their States are very large and sparsely populated, should each be permitted to return more than six senators. The honorable member for Gippsland contended that the country districts would be swamped by the city electorates if the same quota were adopted throughout, but I would point out that in federal matters there should be no diversity of interest between people in the towns and those in the country. It is true that the Federal Parliament has the power to impose taxation, but the whole population, irrespective of location, has a common interest in legislation of this character. I have here a copy of an article which appeared in Temple Bar for February, 1902, upon the subject of " The Value of a Vote," and the arguments used by the writer are almost identical with those advanced by the honorable member for Corinella. This may be a mere coincidence, but the similarity of language is very remarkable.

Mr.McCay. - I did not know that there was such an article inTempleBar, a magazine which Ihave not seen for years.


Mr WILKS - Amongst other things the writer referred to says -

What the single voters wanttodo is to alter this so that no special electoral privilege shall attach to any one class or individual. It is a pleasing politicaltheory that one man is as good as another, and as much entitled to a voice in the affairs of the State as another, provided he fulfils thestatutory requirements. Without quarrelling with the theory it may be admitted that the interests of all men are equal in good government, the maintenance of law and order, and the protection of life, health, and property.

After making a very similar proposition the honorable and learned member for Corinella urged that a different quota should be adopted for country, as compared with city, constituencies, but his arguments had no application to our circumstances. The margin of one-fourth allowed for variations from the standard quota is too large, and I suggest that it should be reduced to oneeighth. It has been pointed out that voters in the country have not the same facilities for enrolment, or for recording their votes, as have those in the city, but that is no reason why we should depart from the general principle of equality in the division of the electorates. The disadvantages under which country electors now labour may be removed by affording greater facilities for registration and for voting, and there are no difficulties in this regard that may not be easily overcome, if the electoral department is properly organized and administered.







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