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Thursday, 19 June 1902

Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) - I presume that the honorable member for Gippsland desires that the electoral divisions in New South Wales and Victoria shall remain as at present, but some alterations will be necessary, because in the distribution of seats, the electoral commissioner will have to consider the effect of the extension of the franchise to women, and particularly the large accession of voting power thereby given to the city electorates. If the electoral divisions remain as at present the country electorates in Victoria will return a much larger proportion of representatives than will the city electorates. We find that the Victorian representatives in this Parliament are made up of eight city members, twelve country members, and three urban members. The urban electorates may be fairly regarded as in much the same category as the country electorates. For instance, the Attorney-General tells us that his constituency of Ballarat includes about 30 miles of rural country in the direction of Smythesdale. Under existing circumstances, it may be very properly urged that the electors in the city should have a larger proportion of representatives, because the representatives of the country electorates have exercised a stronger influence in passing taxation proposals than have honorable members returned bv city constituencies. There is no reason why the commissioner should not exercise the full discretion given to him by the clause as it stands, and I hope, therefore, that the committee will not accept the amendment.

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