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Wednesday, 24 September 1902


Mr HIGGINS (NORTHERN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Proportional, representation in the House of Representatives is quite a different thing from proportional representation in a House for which three members are elected at a time from one constituency. But realizing that that is impossible, the question is - Are we to persist in this idea of allowing plumping 1 I find that for all practical purposes the proposal to allow plumping -applies only to elections for the Senate, and I therefore think that we might fairly give way to the wishes of honorable senators upon the point. I agree that we are in both Houses interested in all measures affecting each House. I agree also that we are responsible to the people of Australia for seeing that, as regards both Houses, our system of election is a fair one. But when there is a difference of judgment, and when I regard the large majority by which the opposition to plumping has been carried in the Senate, I think we shall be engaged in a fruitless effort, even if it were a wise one, in attempting to insist upon this provision for plumping. I feel that it is of tremendous importance that we should get this Electoral Bill through. It is the most liberal electoral law ever passed in the world, and before this Parliament expires I should like to see this Bill the law of the land. It is not perfect. With many others, I do not like the block-vote system, but I admit, at the same time, that there are evils in the other system, and as we shall expect the Senate to .give way to us in certain very important matters in connexion with this Bill, we should gracefully give way to them in their strongly expressed wish upon this question.


Mr BRoWN - Where does the elector come in ?


Mr HIGGINS - The elector is injured by the plumping system as well as by the system of block voting, but I believe the system of plumping is worse than the other, and anyone who has been through the .mill in a constituency entitled to two seats must know that.


Mr Watson - Nonentities may fee shoved in by party interest under the block vote.


Mr HIGGINS - That is so, but I think it is our duty to try to get into the Bill . such provisions as will best -secure the opinion of the public being registered without regard to party advantage. I am sorry to think that party advantage has perhaps largely influenced the action upon the provisions -both for block voting and voting by plumping. I should be glad to support a reasonable provision to enable proportional representation to be given effect to in elections for the Senate.


Sir William Lyne - The Bill, upon its introduction, contained, such a provision, but it was thrown out by the Senate.


Mr HIGGINS - I understand that is so. We must feel our way in these matters, and, personally, I should like very much to see a speedy decision come to in regard to this Bil], because we do not know at what stage we may all be sent to the country. In saying that, of course I speak without authority, and I, of course, speak with greater freedom, having less responsibility.


Mr Isaacs - The honorable and learned member fears an epidemic.


Mr HIGGINS - I have explained the reasons for which I intend to vote for not insisting upon this amendment. I sincerely hope the committee will ' see its way not to persist in an amendment which it is hopeless to carry.







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