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Thursday, 30 August 1928

Mr BRUCE (Flinders) (Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) . - (By leave.) - It is within the knowledge of honorable members that the present House ofRepresentatives will expire by effluxion of time in January next. Under the law it is possible for the election of the new Parliament to be postponed until the beginning of March next, but since, after January of the coming year, this House itself will necessarily be dissolved, the Government has been giving consideration to the most suitable and convenient time in the public interests for the holding of the general election. Because of the climatic conditions prevailing in some parts of the Continent, the months of January, February and March are not convenient for the holding of an election in Australia, and to my mind it is obviously desirable that the poll should take place during the present year. On the other hand, it is not convenient to hold an election in Australia after the middle of November, because of the harvesting operations in our rural industries. In 1922, circumstances required the holding of an election on. the11th December, but that proved to be a most inconvenient date, leading as it did to the failure of a great number of people in the rural districts recording their votes. The fact that the law now makes voting at Commonwealth elections compulsory, renders it even more undesirable to hold an election during harvesting period, unless it is absolutely imperative to do so. All honorable members will agree that it would be unjust to require an individual either to break the law of the land by not recording his vote and so to subject himself to a penalty, or to absent himself from activities which are of vital importance to him personally. There is no need, however, under present circumstances, to impose such a hardship on ' any section of the people of Australia. The Government has, with the exception of one measure, completed the programme it submitted to the people at the last general election. That exception is the National Insurance Bill, which the Government, when it last sought the approval of the people, promised to bring down. It is proposed to introduce that bill in the course of the next few days. Ministers feel that, when that is done, it is desirable that they should resubmit themselves to the electors for their further endorsement. Consequently they propose to bring down immediately a bill for the holding of a referendum in connexion with the financial agreement - I have given notice of the introduction of that bill to-day - and to invite Parliament to consider as soon as possible their ' financial proposals for the current financial year, which will be outlined by the Treasurer in a few moments. As soon as provision' has been made for the necessary finances of the country during the holding of the general election, I propose to ask his Excellency the Governor-General to grant a dissolution of this Parliament with the view to the holding of the election on the 17th November next. That, having regard to the interests of the people generally, is thought to be the most convenient date. I remind honorable members that if the election is to be held on the date I have mentioned, it will be necessary for the enabling bill for the holding of the referendum upon the financial agreement to be passed through the Parliament by the 17th September at the latest, and this, having regard to our sitting days, really means that it must be passed by Friday, the 14th September. I invite the cooperation of honorable members in passing this measure, as also the measures providing for the necessary financial requirements of the country during the period this Parliament will be dissolved, so that an early appeal to the electors may be made. .

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