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Thursday, 26 October 1905

Senator PEARCE - I can quite understand that the quota mentioned in this clause is different from the quota mentioned in the Representation Bill ; but at the same time the necessity for an alteration is brought about by the operation of a clause in that measure.

Senator Millen - Not always.

Senator PEARCE - It provides the only efficient way we can have of knowing when the necessity arises. The others are pure estimates.

Senator Millen - In that case, the quota is determined by population for which an enumeration is necessary, but in this case it is determined by electors who are enrolled.

Senator PEARCE - That is so. At any rate, the population is an indication of the number of electors.

Senator Guthrie - Not necessarily.

Senator PEARCE - Why has the alteration to be brought about? It is because in certain States not the number of electors, but the number of the population has increased. That was' the reason urged for the distribution of seatst and that will be the reason urged inevery case.

Senator Millen - No; in New South Wales another reason was the disproportion between the number of electors in one electorate and the number in another.

Senator PEARCE - According to the statistics I quoted, Victoria is entitled to lose a' member, andNew South Wales to gain a member. That necessitates a distribution of seats. This clause will come into operation when that event takes place. I know that the quota mentioned, in the clause is not the same as the quota which is used to determine whether there shall be a distribution of seats, but the two things are interdependent. Some provision is necessary in order to indicate that this clause comes into operation by reason of the disproportion shown by the enumeration under the Representation Bill. But certainly there is some force in the Minister's objection that unless Senator Millen can suggest suitable words to put in, we should hot create a blank.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales). - Senator Keating affirms that any one can determine, when the necessity arises for ascertaining the quota, by watching the drift of population. Standing on a pinnacle, it may be possible to look all over Tasmania and see where the copulation has drifted. ButI ask honorable senators who come here from the States on the mainland if any one of them, even with the most intimate knowledge of country districts, can tell with any degree of definiteness whether population is flowing from or to an electorate? It is possible to determine that population is drifting into Western Australia because we have sources of information. But it is not possible, by mere observation, to determine whether the quota within the State is varying. How is that quota obtained? It is obtained by dividing the number of electors on the roll by the number of members which the State is entitled to return to the other House. That cannot be done by observation. It is not such a stupendous task' that we should hesitate to say that it shall not be undertaken frequently. Thechief electoral officer has lying upon his table the electoral rolls for the States. He will be in a position to know at any time exactly how many electors there are in a State, because under this Bill the rolls will undergo constant revision. All he will have to do will be to divide the number of electors by the number of members which the State is entitled to return in order to ascertain . the quota. He can then turn to the rolls to see if any electorates fall above or below the quota, and if so whether to a greater or lesser extent than the margin. The work is not stupendous. But how can any one know that it ought to' be done un less the figures are worked out? No one can say whether the population has drifted from one part of the Commonwealth to another without making a calculation. What I ask is that at certain periods an actual calculation shall be made to determine whether or not the quota has been preserved. It appears to me that it does not matter how frequently the quota is determined. If after inquiry it appears that the quota remains the same as it was twelve months ago, there is no necessity for action. But if there has been a change, there is a necessity for it. I admit at once that I would like to link this proposal with the RepresentationBill. . But it is difficult for me to do that. I think it is an obligation upon the Ministry, if the sense of the Committee is expressed, to make use of the draftsmen which they have behind them, and to put the provision into proper shape; If the Committee approves of my proposal, it should be for the Government to draft such an amendment as will make it link in with the Representation Bill.