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Thursday, 24 July 1902

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Although most honorable members may desire to restrict the expenses incurred at elections, the limit fixed in this clause is too small, especially for large districts with scattered populations.For the purpose of returning members to the House of Representatives, South Australia will be divided into seven districts, each containing from 15,000 to 20,000 electors. The areas of some of these districts will be so large that ?100 would be altogether inadequate to permit candidates to place their views before the electors by advertising, or other legitimate means. When the South Australian ' Act, upon which this Bill is largely framed, was before the State Legislature, the object was not so much to restrict legitimate expenditure by candidates in placing their views before the electors, as to prevent the employment of numerous canvassers, and the exercise of unfair influence by the expenditure of large sums of money. Although £100 might be sufficient to defray the expenses of a candidate in an electorate within ten miles of Melbourne, it would be quite insufficient in a district extending over hundreds of miles of country, with numerous small polling places. The northern district of South Australia, according to the subdivision proposed in the State Parliament last session, would embrace an area extending from Port Augusta to Port Darwin, a distance of nearly 1,200 miles, with a stretch of country 500 miles in width. It was necessary to include this large extent of territory in order that the district might contain approximately one-seventh of the electors on the roll. Honorable members will see that it would be utterly impossible for a candidate to fairly place his views before the voters at the numerous pollingplaces which exist in that stretch of country with an expenditure of £100, which amount covers the hire of halls in which to address the electors, and the remuneration of scrutineers to look after his interests. I see by the marginal note to clause 174, that the main provisions of this portion of the Bill are taken from the South Australian Electoral Act of 1896. In that Act it is provided that the expenditure incurred by any candidate shall not exceed £50, plus an additional £5 for every 200 electors upon the roll in excess of 2,000. Under such a scale the limit of expenditure which a candidate may incur in a district containing 15,000 electors is between £400 and £500. That Act was intended to apply to much smaller districts than those which will be created when South Australia is divided into only seven constituencies for the return of members to this House. I have no desire to unfairly increase the amount which a candidate is entitled to expend. Indeed, I consider it is an excellent thing for candidates themselves that their electoral expenses should be limited. But there is a point below which we ought not to go. In connexion with the recent election of representatives of South Australia to this House, it was most difficult for candidates to get their views fairly put before the people. It will be still more difficult for a candidate who is contesting a district outside of the city or suburbs to attain that object.

Sir William Lyne - I have been told that it costs more to contest an election in the city than it does in the country.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am perfectly sure that it does not cost anything like as much in the way of legitimate expenditure. To place one's views before the electors in the Yarra district, foi" example, would not be nearly so costly as in a country electorate containing a scattered population.

Mr O'Malley - I - It would not cost oneeighth the amount.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No; nor onetenth. In South Australia the daily newspapers charge candidates four guineas a column for reporting their speeches on the first occasion upon which they address the electors. As evidencing the utter inadequacy of the limit of £100 in the case of a candidate for the House of Representatives, I may mention that when I addressed the electors in North Adelaide, three days after the Prime Minister had declared the Government policy at Maitland, the reporting of my speech in the Advertiser and South AUStralian Register cost me £25.

Sir John Quick - Was the speech charged for as an advertisement 1

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I was charged advertisement rates. Every candidate who desired to have his utterances reported had to pay the same rate for all matter in excess of three quarters of a column.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - The publication of all my utterances would, in my estimation, be dear at a pound.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think that probably there were candidates in New South Wales and Victoria who paid equally large sums to the Daily Telegraph and the Age respectively.

Mr Watson - Not for the insertion of matter in the news columns.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - At any rate, I am declaring what is an absolute fact. I mention this matter to show that if a candidate desires to have his views fairly placed before the electors, the proposed limitation of £100 would be totally inadequate to the necessities of a large district. What is the reason for this limitation ? Is it inserted for the purpose of preventing a candidate from having his political views circulated amongst the electors 1 I think not. It is rather intended, I take it, to prevent the improper expenditure of money, thereby giving the wealthy candidate a most unfair advantage over the poorer candidate.

Mr Watson - What limit does the honorable member suggest ?

Mr..V. L. SOLOMON.- I do not think the amount stipulated in this clause in connexion with elections for the Senate is anything like adequate.

Mr Tudor - The Senate has agreed to that limit.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - But does the honorable member imagine that candidates for the other branch of the Legislature will in the future limit their expenses to £250 ? Does he believe that in any of the States a senatorial candidate could fairly put his views before the electors, pay for the services of scrutineers, the hiring of halls, &c, for £250 1

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