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Thursday, 19 May 1904


Mr WATSON (Bland) (Treasurer) . - My honorable colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, having been called away, is temporarily absent from the Chamber. I assume that he will have an opportunity to speak to the motion later on, and, in the meantime, I desire to say that the Government do not intend to oppose the appointment of this Select Committee, so long as it is made clear that we do not, in advance, declare that there has been any fault in the administration of the Act by the Department.


Mr Johnson - The honorable gentleman does not propose to limit the right of honorable members to criticise the administration ?


Mr WATSON - No; but the Government would feel constrained to oppose the motion if it contained, in so many words, a declaration that would practically prejudge the whole question before the Committee had investigated the matter. I think it is only fair that it should be assumed that, although there may be room for inquiry, we have not, collectively, made up our minds that there have been faults on the part of the administrative officers. I understand that the words : " and the apparent inability of the administrative Department to efficiently cope with its work," have been omitted from the motion, and, under these circumstances, the Government have no objection to it. It must, I think, be apparent to us all, as it is to the general public, that a great deal of f riction, at least, arose in connexion with the last general election. In my own electorate quite a number of people, apparently through no fault of their own, were disfranchised. Even if the proposed inquiry should not disclose any fault on the part of the officials, it may result in the collection of information which will enable us more easily to correct defects in the law, thus preventing similar friction, inconvenience, and disfranchisement in the future. From that point of view, the Government have no objection to offer to the motion.







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