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Thursday, 27 October 1904

Mr BATCHELOR (Boothby) - A somewhat serious condition of affairs is disclosed by the statement of the Prime Minister, according to whom we cannot at any time expect to obtain a reasonably correct roll. A collection of names was made bv the police and postal officials at the end of last November, which was supposed, to be up to date, and yet when the police went round at the beginning of last July, there were from 300.000 to 400,000 inaccuracies. Therefore, we can assume that when the rolls are brought up to date within the next two or three months they will still be faulty. As the Minister of Home Affairs is aware, the police began to collect the rolls on the 1 st July. I understand from him that five more weeks will elapse before that work will have been completed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Yes, because the collection in two States was not ordered simultaneously with the others.

Mr BATCHELOR - Their collection" was ordered, but arrangements in connexion with the carrying out of the work had not been completed. In New South Wales 'the police commenced to collect the rolls on the 1st July; but the lists would not be printed and revision Courts held for some weeks yet.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Revision Courts cannot be held within a week or two. Thirty days' notice has to be given of the intention to hold a revision Court.

Mr BATCHELOR - The work of completing the rolls, and of bringing them up to date, will occupy until the end of December of the present year. It has already been shown that after nine months had been devoted to their preparation, they contained from 300,000 to 400,000 inaccuracies. If that is the normal condition of things, it is evident that we shall never get the rolls in anything like an accurate state.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - It is more than nine months since the previous collection took place.

Mr BATCHELOR - Possibly it is twelve months. The work of collecting the rolls usually occupies from seven to eight months, because the States do not undertake the work simultaneously. The Watson Administration were induced to request the States Governments to commence the collection of the rolls in July by the knowledge that at that period some of the States were engaged in collecting statistics. To ray mind it is obvious that an earnest attempt will have to be made to expedite the collection of the rolls by the police, otherwise they will never be in a proper condition.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - There are greater discrepancies upon the present occasion, owing to the original defects, to the re-grouping which is now taking place, and to the alteration which is being made in the polling-places.

Mr BATCHELOR - It ought to be stated that owing to the re-grouping, the rolls in their present condition are not accurate to the extent of some 300,000 or 400,000 names, but the impression should not be. conveyed that this number of persons cannot exercise the franchise.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - A very large number ot voters have removed from their former electorates.

Mr BATCHELOR - I notice that the right honorable member for Swan is now present in the Chamber. Some time ago I asked the Minister of Home Affairs whether he was aware that when the right honorable member retired from office there were no rolls - either old or new - available for the conduct of an election. The right honorable member thereupon interjected that my statement was absurd! The fact is that he did not carefully listen to my statement. It is absolutely true that there were not sufficient rolls in Western Australia to supply the needs of the police in the compilation of fresh rolls.

Sir John Forrest - Why could not additional copies be printed ? All the type had been set.

Mr BATCHELOR - Yes, and "pie" had been made of if many . months previously.

Sir John Forrest - It ought not ,to have been distributed.

Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable member was indirectly responsible for that, although I know that he was not aware of the. fact that the type had been distributed.

Sir John Forrest - Then why make such a song about it? 1 suppose that the honorable member wishes to take credit to himself?

Mr BATCHELOR - I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that even under such an excellent administrator as the right honorable member for Swan, all sorts of inconvenient conditions arise.

Sir John Forrest - I su'ppose that everything was left in a perfect state when the honorable member vacated office?

Mr BATCHELOR - By no means. There were some occasions upon which I did not exactly fill the bill.

Sir John Forrest - That was an accident.

Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable member will see that there was no need for him to get into such an excited state of mind as he did upon a former occasion. The charge of inaccuracy which he levelled against me was absolutely unjustifiable. I have no wish to occupy any more time upon this matter. It is evident that we must reconcile ourselves to a condition of things under which at no particular period can the rolls be regarded as perfectly accurate, because of the shifting of population, and the fact that electors will not take the trouble to get .their names transferred. In order .that we may have a fairly full roll, I am of opinion that it will be necessary to provide for frequent collections - probably one each year - by the police and postal officials.

Question resolved in the negative.

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