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Wednesday, 31 July 1912

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - Senator Gardiner has stated his reluctance to vote against the amendment put forward by Senator Henderson anc? Senator Lynch. I think that if he had. waited until he heard me, his reluctancewould have been even greater.

Senator Pearce - He might have waited? for his leader.

Senator RAE - He might. I entirely dissent from Senator Millen's opinion in. regard to the fitness or otherwise of Parliament to deal with a matter of this kindHe says that he would not deprive Parliament of the right to express its opinion ; but he thinks that some other method should be adopted rather than that Parliament should have the final decision in itshands.

Senator Millen - To secure finality;, that is what I said. What is to stop honorable senators opposite from putting thisoff till after the next election?

Senator RAE - Of course, Senator Millen did not say anything about putting thematter off till after the next election; but he was in favour of some other method of" arriving at finality rather than risk a condition of affairs which might lead people,, not merely in this instance, but in other instances, to endeavour to secure a redistribution to their own advantage, by continually rejecting schemes which werebrought forward, lt appears to me that in putting forward that opinion SenatorMil len was expressing a want of confidence-; in the integrity of Parliament.

Senator Millen - I always said that thehonorable senator was an incurable joker.

Senator RAE - I am not joking when* I say that we have no reason whatever tosuppose that any section in Parliament will' arrange an organized opposition to defeat a proposed scheme of distribution in orderthat the electorates of a State may begerrymandered to suit its own political interests. If a scheme is obviously fair, and* the reasons in support of it submitted by the Commissioners - should they be foolishenough to give reasons - are evidently just, there will never be found any large number of members of Parliament who will* endeavour to defeat it. Senator Millen was unjust and ungenerous, as usual, by innuendo, in making out that theacceptance of the Victorian scheme was*due to the fact that it suited the politics of this party. The opposition to theadoption of the proposed scheme of distribution for Western Australia is based" on logical and sound reasons. First of' all, we object to the Commissioners basing; their distribution on mere anticipations^ which, in a country like Australia, may be proved, in a very short period of time, to be- entirely wrong. The movements of population in a sparsely settled country, particularly if it be a gold-bearing country, are likely to be sudden and extensive. They may not in some instances be permanent, but in other instances the effect produced may continue for a generation. When Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie were discovered, no one dreamt that there would be so large a population settled at each place for so long a time. The same may be said of Broken Hill and of Wyalong. At Wyalong there were but a few persons at first, then there were some thousands of miners settled at the place, and as mining declined agriculture took its place. We are justified in view of such facts in objecting to a distribution based on anticipations of the future. In the next place, a careful perusal of the report of the Commissioners discloses the fact that they have ignored the paramount considerations of community or diversity of interest, physical features, and means of communication. This was a very serious error of judgment 011 their part. There may be difficulty in arriving at anything like evenlybalanced electorates, and in order to justify any serious departure from equality of numbers the Commissioners must show that one or all of the paramount considerations referred to will be served by such a departure. It should be shown that in order to accomplish the greater good it is necessary to commit the lesser evil, but in this case the Commissioners propose a departure from equality, and also from community of interest. They justify one wrong by doing another. They submit a departure from equality as a reason for separating communities which should be connected. They give as a reason for departing from the principle of conserving community of interest the fact that they desire to put more than the quota into one electorate to meet a declining population which they anticipate will continue to decline. A decline in the population of a mining district may continue for years up to a certain point, and then, apart from the possibility of the discovery of new finds, a gradual increase of population may take place through land in a mining district being brought under cultivation. There are many places in this continent which were looked upon merely as mining fields, where, after the mining population commenced to decline, a steady influx of people has occurred, gradually building up, not a sensational, but a permanently prosperous condition of affairs. The districts of Cue and Mount Magnet are so far separated from the centre with which they are associated in the proposed scheme of distribution that to go from those places to what might be described as the capital of the division in which they are included would involve a railway journey which it would take as long to make as it would take to go across New South Wales. A person going from Mount Magnet or Cue to Kalgoorlie would have to go first to the capital of the State, and then in quite another direction for some hundreds of miles.

Senator Millen - Not in connexion with the business of voting.

Senator RAE - Senator Millen cannot support his argument in this connexion that we, as senators, have to travel very lo:ig distances in New South Wales, because we are dealing here with electorates for the House of Representatives. I consider that it would be a dangerous precedent to adopt a distribution of Commissioners founded on their ideas as to the probable movements of population in the future. It seems fairly obvious that the construction ot a railway to Esperance by the State Government, and the opening up of lands on either side of it, will lead to an accession of population in that part of the division which will quite make up for any reduction in the population of the gold-fields. The Commissioners should have taken the figures supplied by the census, and should have kept in view the paramount considerations of community of interest, physical features, and means of communication. As they have departed from these, not to conserve an equality of electors in the different divisions, but in order to excuse a gross inequality of electors, I am compelled to accept the reasonable and forcible arguments put forward by honorable senators from Western Australia, and I shall vote for the amendment.

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