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Wednesday, 10 September 1902

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - Having listened to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, and the honorable member for Canobolas, I cannot see how this motion is practicable. The Constitution declares that the States shall regulate elections for the Senate, and this House has no power to compel the States to provide that they shall be carried out simultaneously with those for the House of Representatives. For example, in Queensland the elections for the Senate may be held upon Saturday, whilst in South Australia they may be decided upon Monday. These are some of the difficulties with which the mover of the motion has omitted to reckon. On the other hand, let us suppose that there is a dissolution of this House but not of the Senate. How does he intend to cope with that position 1

Mr Poynton - That would not be a general election.

Mr PAGE - It would be a general election so far as this House is concerned. This Chamber has no power to order that the elections for both Houses shall take place upon the same day. Of course, I thoroughly sympathize with the desire of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, to secure economy. We should reduce the expenditure incurred in connexion with the conduct of general elections as much as possible. At the same time I should like to know how he proposes to overcome the difficulties to which I have referred. It would be a perfect farce if elections for this House were held upon one day, and those for the Senate were held in the various States upon six different days.

Mi'. Poynton. - I do not think that that is possible.

Mr PAGE - It is not only possible, but it is very probable. The honorable member knows enough about party Government to realize that the Ministry will not go to the country at a time when they expect to be defeated. If I had to determine the matter I should fix a day that would best suit my party, and the honorable member would do likewise. A statement has been made which I think should be contradicted by the Minister in charge of the Electoral Bill. He declares that the next election in connexion with this Parliament will cost more than did the last one. We have been assured by the Minister, times out of number, that it will not cost half as much as did the first federal election, and yet some honorable members declare that it will involve a larger expenditure. It has not, however, been shown how that result will be brought about. To my mind, they should support their assertions by facts.

Mr Poynton - We have increased the facilities for voting.

Mr PAGE - But at the same time we have simplified the method of voting, and made it more effective. When the Electoral Bill was before this House, not a single suggestion was made that the increased facilities which it confers upon voters would involve a greater expenditure. I would further point out that, in Victoria and Western Australia, elections have been carried out under the system proposed in that measure. In this connexion the experience of Western Australia is that the elections conducted there are less expensive than they are in the model State of South Australia - the State that could do no wrong if it tried, not even in the appointment of military drillinstructors. I fail to see that the honorable member for South Australia has made out a good case for his motion.

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