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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr THOMAS (Barrier) - I am very glad that the honorable member for Riverina has brought this matter before this Committee. When the Electoral Act was under consideration I voted inf avour of the appointmentof a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and I shall therefore support the amendment. I am afraid, however, that the proposals of the honorable member for Riverina will not accomplish all that is required. We should aim at reducing the expenses connected with the hearing of election petitions, and it seems to me that the only way in which we can accomplish that end is by debarring lawyers from appearing before the Court. I should be quite prepared to retain the High Court as a tribunal for dealing with disputed returns if we could arrange that no barristers should take part in the proceedings. If we cannot do that, we should appoint a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and require the parties to plead their own causes. I trust that the Minister will help us out of our difficulty by making provision in the direction I have indicated. The High Court could give both litigants their assistance, and in the event of the complaint being regarded as frivolous could forfeit the petitioner's deposit of £50, and pay it over either to the King or to the honorable member whose election had been questioned.

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