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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - Unlike the honorable member for Riverina, I think the amendment should be accepted. It embodies a principle of which I have approved for some time; as the result of my experience as a member of the State Par liament of New South Wales. Originally, under the electoral law of that State, a deposit was not required; but, because it was said that a contest at a by-election was due to the influence of publicans, who felt that it would lead to the distribution of money, the Parliament decided to require a deposit of £40 with each nomination. That provision inflicted a hardship, not only upon many would-be candidates, but upon their friends.

Mr Lonsdale - I have not heard of a case of hardship having arisen under it.

Mr BROWN - Let me give the honorable member a case in. point. An .able, reputable gentleman in my own electorate - a prominent land-taxer, whom I hold in the highest esteem - desired to contest a seat in the State Parliament; and, as he was not in a position to find the neces sary deposit himself, a number of his friends lodged it for him. They expected, very naturally, that it would be returned, but, to their dismay, it was garnisheed.

Mr Wilks - We might as well charge every elector 2s.. 6d. for the right to vote.

Mr BROWN - The principle in each case is the same. I am free to admit that I am not a wealthy man, and that, when I was first nominated, I should have found it a difficult matter to raise the deposit of £40. No deserving man who wishes to secure a seat in Parliament should have to place himself under a monetary obligation to his friends. The corollary of a free franchise is a free nomination.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How are we to prevent a rush of nominations for the Senate elections?

Mr BROWN - I admit that there has been an abuse of the system, that in some cases candidates have been nominated to split a vote, and in others merely to secure the expenditure of money which naturally attends a contested election.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And sometimes a candidate is nominated for mere amusement.

Mr BROWN - Quite so; but abuses of the kind are not so numerous as to require the remedy embodied in the principal Act. If the purpose to be served is that of splitting votes, a deposit will always be found ; whilst I do not think that the deposit system deters those who wish a contest to take place, for the sake of the expenditure which it entails, from, putting up a candidate. It is true that the existing law may prevent nominations being lodged by political cranks of the class to whom the honorable member for Riverina has referred; but they are few and far between, and I hold that there is no justification for providing* a penalty to meet such cases. As the result of my experience as a member of the State Parliament, I am strongly opposed to the provision in the existing Act, and hope that the amendment will be carried.

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