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Tuesday, 26 July 1904

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sure that the House is indebted to the honorable and learned member for Corinella for endeavouring to devise a system of voting which would be an improvement on that suggested by the Government. He has' to some extent succeeded; but the question that arises to my mind is whether we should adopt that system, or follow that by which Ave made a selection last session. I would point out that the system proposed by (he honorable and learned member would, as has been admitted, be subject to manipulation. If, for instance, ten of the twenty of the second votes which, in his example, placed Melbourne in the first place, were given, not to Brisbane, but to Sydney, because Brisbane was regarded as the strongest rival to Melbourne, the result would be entirely different from that shown by him.

Mr McCay - The result would not be the selection of Sydnev.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No ; Brisbane would be struck out in the first exclusion.

Mr McCay - The same result might occur under the Government scheme.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government scheme might be attended with exactly the same results.

Mr McCay - And so would the system which we followed last session.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -As the system followed last session was simply that of placing a cross, at each ballot, against the site preferred--

Mr McCay - That is the -scheme proposed by the present Government.

Mr Batchelor - Exactly the same.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite so. Of course, there could under that system, be a transfer of votes; that is to say, an honorable member may put a cross opposite a site, as indicating his first preference ; but if he afterwards - although that site has not been struck out - deserts that site and supports another, with the object of manipulating the voting, then that manipulation is displayed. For the honour of the House, it has to be ' said that on the last occasion there no such manipulation attempted. Every honorable member supported a site, and continued to support it until it was struck out;, but if there is manipulation under the proposed plan, as I understand it, that manipulation cannot be detected, seeing that the vote first given is the only recorded, vote for all the sites. Under the system followed last time - a system which I now learn is the proposal of the Government on the present occasion - we could at least detect any attempt at manipulating the figures.

Mr McCay - That is a further manipu"lation, which is not possible, under my system.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There can be no manipulation on the first vote; but on the second vote there might be the transfer of the first preference, and that would be a manipulation, displayed at once in the second ballot. But I quite admit that none of the schemes get entirely over the difficulty which the honorable and learned member for Corinella says applies to his own proposal. The only advantage of the scheme proposed by the Government is that it displays manipulation. But the whole difficulty could be got over in this way : After a site is inserted in the Bill - that is, if we do not agree with the site at present in the Bill, and another name is inserted - any .of the remaining sites not chosen could be put as amendments against that particular site. There would then be a test as to whether the site finally, selected was genuinely the first choice.

Mr Austin Chapman - There is a site in the Bill now.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that is not the site selected, we could, as a further test, place the remaining sites against any site which might be inserted. . The scheme adopted on the last occasion worked very satisfactorily, it being evident from the voting that there was no attempt at manipulation. I am rather astonished to hear the proposal to vote on districts, because that is a proposal which was defeated on the last occasion.

Mr Batchelor - We practically whittled down the sites to districts.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that the Minister only wants fairness to be observed ; and I ask him, how we could get a fair vote under those circumstances? There are two sites, say, in the southeastern district - Bombala and Dalgety. Some honorable members may be absolutely determined, for particular reasons, that they will not vote for one of these two sites - that they prefer any site to one of those two. . On the other hand, they may be quite ready, when the site which they favour first has been struck out, to give, if not a first ' vote, at any rate, a second vote for one of the sites in another district. Vet the proposal to vote in districts gives such honorable mernbers no opportunity to express their opinion as between the different sites.

Mr Batchelor - That could be done afterwards.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But that would be after those honorable members had lost their opportunity . to vote. Suppose, for instance, that an honorable member were in favour of Dalgety, but against Bombala, and that, rather than give a vote for Bombala, he would vote for Tumut, Tooma, or Lyndhurst. Such an honorable member is given no opportunity to express his view, but is forced to vote for a site he may not want, because the district in which there is a site he would be willing to support, if the site he first favoured were struck out has been voted down.

Mr Batchelor - Suppose we named the places, we should be confronted with the same kind of difficulty.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not at all ; because if a range is given, say, within twenty miles of a place, we have distinct positions.

Mr Reid - And each site stands on its own merits.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the right honorable member for East Sydney says, each site would then stand on its own merits, and would receive the consideration which honorable members desired to give it. An honorable member would be enabled to either give a site a first vote, or, if a site which he favoured more were struck out, a second vote, in' fair competition with the other sites. It is decidedly unfair, unjust, and improper to force men to vote in the way proposed. It would not matter so much, and might be fair, if there were three or four sites in each district; but it is not right to force honorable members to vote for a district, when they may be favorable to one site, and absolutely opposed to another site in that district. Altogether, I do not see- what is to be gained by the method proposed. If any site has a majority in its favour, -and the sites are separated, that site cannot avoid getting the support of that majority. Why "box" the sites up? Is not the " boxing up ' ' some attempt to arrive at a result which would not be arrived at under other circumstances ? As I say, if there were sufficient distinctness in all the districts - even if there were several sites in each district - the House might be asked to first decide which district it desired. But the sites are close together in some cases. Tumut and Tooma are not much closer together than Tooma and Dalgety.

Mr Batchelor - There is a high range of mountains between the two latter, and that practically makes them different districts.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the difference between them is not very great.

Mr Spence - It is only the natural features of the country which separate those districts.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is a considerable range of mountains between Tumut and Tooma, but that range is not thought to separate the districts. If it were unjust to any particular site that the sites should be separated, I should not advocate such a course; but, in my opinion, there would be no injustice. Every site would be considered on its merits, and not attached to another site to its injury in the eyes of some honorable members, nor attached to another site to its advantage in the eyes of other honorable members. Each site would be distinctly and separately considered.

Mr Crouch - Let us decide on the district first, and afterwards decide on the site.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the same difficulty would then arise. An honorable member will know before he votes that he is in favour, perhaps, of one site in a district, while absolutely against another site in the same district. An honorable member might not prefer either site as his first choice, but say, " I would rather vote for any site in the list than one of those sites ; yet by my vote for the district I may be forcing the selection of that site as the Capital." I think the Minister will admit, if he looks at the matter candidly, that there may be grave injustice under the system of voting for districts, whereas there can be no injustice if the sites be separated.

Mr Batchelor - But with separation we might not arrive at the real decision of the House as to which is the best site.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is just what we should arrive at.

Mr Batchelor - I am afraid we might not.

Mr Reid - There would be ' another chance on the Bill, of changing the site.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that we should be more likely to arrive at the real decision of the House by separating the sites, rather than by taking the course now proposed. How is an honorable member to vote if he is absolutely against one site in a certain district, and places it last, and yet is favorable to another site in the same district? There can be no valid objection to separating the sites, which would then be each distinct, with its merits and demerits. In addition, when we came to consider the Bill, there would be a chance to move, an amendment that another site be inserted.

Mr Batchelor - We do not want the discussion all over again.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That cannot be prevented, so far as I can see.

Mr Batchelor - But we do not want to encourage another discussion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think we are far more likely to encourage another discussion by dealing with districts, than we are by dealing with individual sites. I suppose we are not going to insert in the Bill a district only, but will name a site within a certain radius of some place. I should not object if we decided 01 a site within, say, twenty miles of a certain place; that would be perfectly legitimate. I do not wish to limit the choice to the mere township.

Mr Batchelor - We might use the words "shall be in the southern district," and then use the words of the schedule " and within " so many miles of a particular place.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But we ought to do that at the outset. For instance, if we provide that, the site shall be within fiftv miles, say, of Tumut, we include Tooma ; and I think it ought to be indicated that the site is limited to within a certain range of country.

Mr Watson - Some discretion mustbe given to the Government after the detailed surveys are made.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It should be indicated that the site shall be within a reasonable distance, so that it may be plain which of two sites may be meant.

Mr Watson - That is quite right.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I therefore urge on the Ministers that, while it may be fair to all to separate the sites, it cannot be fair to some to vote on districts.

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