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Tuesday, 8 November 1904

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I am pleased to hear from the Prime Minister that the Government intend to appoint a Commonwealth Statistician. The need of such an officer has been felt in the past, and I do not know how we should have fared if the valuable services of Mr. Coghlan had not been available for us. It is very desirable that such an officer should be appointed as soon as possible, and if the Commonwealth can secure the services of Mr. Coghlan they will act wisely in doing so. The items in connexion with the Electoral Department show what a large spending Department it is. We find that, although £46,923 of the vote for last year was spent in connexion with the last election, an item of £1,500 appears on the present Estimates. I should like to know whether this additional sum will be sufficient to meet the whole of the remaining claims in connexion with the election.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - It is estimated to cover them; they come dribbling in.

Mr BROWN - Will the amount cover the honorariums which have been mentioned ?


Mr BROWN - Then I presume that matter will receive consideration later on. I should like to know when it is expected that the report of the Electoral Act Committee will be printed and placed in the hands of honorable members. It was laid upon the table some time ago, and I understand that authority for printing it has already been given. If the report is to remain in the hands of the Government Printer until after the close of this session it will lose a great deal of its value. I would urge the Minister to expedite the printing. I notice that provision is made for one item which is apparently transferred from last year. It relates to the expenses of the inquiry into the charges made against Mr. McDowell, the Commissioner for the division of the State of Queensland into electorates. I should like to know whether the gentleman who had charge of this inquiry, who was sentfromNew South Wales, was one of those responsible for the terrible muddle which occurred in connexion with the electoral arrangements in that State.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - With regard to the inquiry of the honorable member for Canobolas, I can only say that, as I was not a member of the Electoral Committee, I cannot say from my own knowledge who was mainly responsible for the muddle which occurred in New South Wales. When the report is printed, it will doubtless be seen that the Committee have indicated where the responsibility lies, so far as they have ascertained the facts.

Mr Brown - The Committee did not deal with this matter at all.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - But I understand that the honorable member is asking whether a certain officer is responsible for the electoral muddle which occurred in New South Wales. I cannot allocate the blame, because I was not a member of that Committee, and, since I have held Ministerial office, no such inquiry has been made within the Department. I shall have no objection whatever to hastening the printing of the Committee's report; but I understand that it will probably be issued tomorrow. Concerning the £20,000 which appears upon the Estimates, a portion of that amount will be recurring expenditure, but another portion will not.

Mr Tudor - What is the proportion of the expenditure which will be recurring ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - The nonrecurring portion will include the writingup of the registers, which represents an outlay of£1,000 at1s. 6d. per hundred names. Then a considerable portion of the £2,600 which is provided for books, printing, stationery, and ballot box equipment, will not be an annual expenditure, because preparation has been made to furnish every ballot-box with the forms requisite for the conduct of an election.

Mr Tudor - With all necessary forms, withthe exception of ballot-papers.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Yes, the ballot-boxes have been supplied with all the papers which can be anticipated. The outlay for maps will be a recurring expenditure only when a redistribution of seats takes place.

Mr Tudor - Does the Department intend to publish maps of the existing constituencies in Victoria ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) -No. I would further point out that the £7,700 which is provided to cover the cost of the police canvass will recur only when such canvasses are necessary. Altogether, about £10,000 out of the £20,000 provided upon these Estimates will recur only at intervals. The balance will be an annual expenditure.

Mr. McDONALD(Kennedy).-I desire to ascertain when the scheme for the redistribution of seats is likely to be submitted to Parliament? Everybody is aware that the present position of parties in this Chamber is very uncertain. Personally, I am of opinion that Queensland is entitled to another representative, and, if that be so, Victoria will probably be entitled to one less. Under the provisions of the Constitution the numerical strength of this House must be practically twice that of the Sepate. I am strongly of opinion that Queensland is entitled to an additional member.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Attention was promised to that matter at an earlier stage in the debate.

Mr McDONALD - Will the Government endeavour at the earliest possible moment to ascertain the exact populationof each State, in order that we may decide upon a scheme for the redistribution of seats ? The matter is a very important one, because the return of an additional member by the State of Queensland might have the effect of either retaining or displacing a Government. I trust that the Ministry will give this matter early attention.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Progress reported.

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