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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr CROUCH (Corio) .- Although I seconded the amendment, I did so chiefly to secure an opportunity to speak at once, because it seems to me to matter little whether the motion be carried as it stands, or as it is proposed to amend it. In any case, the elections will be held as soon as practicable, because on the 15th November Parliament will be in recess, and possibly this! House will have been dissolved, so that the Government will then have a free hand, and will, of course, do only what is practicable in the matter. I regret, however, that a tendency has been shown by some members of the Opposition to make political capital out of the motion. With the exception of one or two representatives! of metropolitan divisions, practically all of us represent rural as well as urban voters. Even the Melbourne Ports division is big enough to contain a certain number of farmers.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I represent fifty-four.

Mr CROUCH - I regret, therefore, that the honorable member for Gippsland suggested that the question is that of' town versus country. We have had a good many indications of the fact that at the next general elections the Opposition 'intend to raise the flag of anti-Socialism, but there have been a good many false issues raised, and it was interesting to hear the honorable member compare the difficulties under which the farming population labour with the position of the manufacturing population of the towns. According to him. the issue at the next elections will be whether, to use his own words, the country vokel should be taxed to give more protection to the manufacturing population in the towns. We may take it that that branch of the Opposition which consists of so many in"gredients, and now. places itself under the leadership of the honorable member for Gippsland, who repudiates for the time that of the right honorable member for East Sydney, is going to tight against further protection to the manufacturers of Victoria.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable and learned member is not now discussing the question before the Chair.

Mr CROUCH - I regret that this matter has been brought in, and the issue of town versus country raised ; but, as the honorable member for Gippsland has raised it, I felt it necessary to refer to it. The Minister has told us that delay must occur, because the police in Queensland and New South Wales have not yet sent in complete lists. I think it a very great pity that the collection and' revision of the rolls is not conducted on a uniform system throughout the States, and that the police are not similarly employed in Victoria. It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth depends for the correctness of its rolls upon States machinery.

Mr Groom - We have a collection of our own every three years. Mr. CROUCH, - Yes ; but it seems to me unfair that, because the States machinery is better in Queensland and New South Wales than it is in Victoria, the candidates for election in those States should be able to go to the country on more uptodate rolls than are obtainable in Victoria.

Mr Groom - We are trying to arrange with the States for an annual collection.

Mr CROUCH - I do not think that we should depend' on the machinery of the States. It is an unfortunate thing that we have not a uniform Commonwealth method. There has been a special effort made by members of the Opposition to place in the wrong the representatives of farming constituencies who sit on the Ministerial side of the Chamber. As in my division there are 16,000 rural electors, and only 12,000 urban electors, I am naturally desirous of doing all that I can for the protection of the farmers, and therefore resent the attempts which have been made ito show that we on this side are not their friends.

Mr McLean - The honorable and' learned member need make no explanations if he votes properly.

Mr CROUCH - The honorable member for Gippsland wishes to have the 15th November fixed upon as the date of the next general election ; but I prefer to have the election take place as soon as practicable, which may mean that it will take place before that date.

Mr McLean - That explanation will not be accepted bv the farmers.

Mr CROUCH - If it does not, I, and not the honorable member, will take the consequences. . At any rate, the farmers will not be deceived by the protestations of those who say that they are anxious that the general elections shall be held on the 15th November, when, possibly, they could be held a month earlier. I do not wish to deal with the constitutional point which has been raised'. It may be, if the members of the Senate are required to attend in their places within thirty days of the general elections, that senators will be summoned to attend a meeting of a Parliament in which they may only a few days to sit, and, possibly, if the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives are to be held on the one day, it will be necessary under the Constitution to hold them on some day in December. Of course, if that is so, we must bow to the Constitution.

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