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Wednesday, 5 September 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - Exactly the same difficulty as that indicated by honorable senators opposite might arise under the present system. It is admitted, even by those who oppose the. Bill, that the object is to have the elections either before or after December, on the ground that it is not advisable to have them in the middle of the harvest. Senator Symon and others who have spoken against the measure, admit that that is a reasonable proposition ; and they suggest that the elections should be held in October. But I ask Senator Walker how he proposes to avoid precisely similar difficulties to those which may arise at the present time. If the elections were held in October the defeated senators would still retain their seats, and some national crisis might ren'der it necessary to call Parliament together before the end of the year, when of course those defeated senators could take their seats. It is all very well for Senator Walker to make a silly objection of the kind ; but he ought to remember that exactly the same position is possible at the present time. The whole argument for altering the date of the elections is that it is not convenient to have them so late in the year as December; and that is the only point which weighed with me in voting for the second reading. I believe it has been shown that it would be far more convenient for a large section of the electors if they were not compelled to go to the poll either late in November or early in December; and the only object of the Bill is to make it possible to hold the elections in April or the beginning of May. The whole of the objections raised by Senator Symon against the Bill apply to the present system. The ' honorable and learned senator seems to imagine that some great evil will arise if Parliament be dissolved in December and there is an interval of two or three months before the elections - that is to say, if there is a six months interval between the end of the one Parliament and the first meeting of the new Parliament. The honorable and learned senator did not reply to a question I interjected as to what evils ha

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I tried to answer the honorable senator by saying that that is not the position in the States.

Senator O'KEEFE - The last election in South Australia was, I believe, held in May.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - There is no instance, so far as I am aware, of a six months interval.

Senator O'KEEFE - Did not the old Parliament in South Australia terminate somewhere about December on the last occasion ?

Senator Guthrie - In November.

Senator O'KEEFE - In that case the elections were not held until the beginning df May; and I ask whether Senator Symon can point to any inconvenience or injury that resulted. A similar system is followed in other States. In Tasmania, for instance, Parliament met about the middle of last year, and sat until the end,' when it went into recess, the elections being held at the end of March. It has been the general custom in several States to hold the election at that time, or it might be in April ; and I do not see how it is likely that any inconvenience or wrong could result from a similar system in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament. Until some evil has been shown to result from the practice I have indicated, I shall support the clause.

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