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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Mr MCDONALD (Kennedy) .- I can hardly understand why such a small percentage of votes is recorded in the Victorian electorates. I represent a division which has an area three times as large as that of the State of Victoria. Some of nw constituents have to travel 50, 60. and even 100 miles to a polling place, and vet 57 per cent, of those on the roll recorded their votes at the last election. It is quite inexplicable to me that a larger percentage of votes is not recorded in divisions^ where the electors are, except in rare instances, within ha.]fanhour's walk of a palling place. I do not think that the poor results are entirely due to the fact that the elections are held at an inconvenient time, because the smallest percentage of votes has been recorded, not in the country districts, but in the towns. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Bland, and several other speakers, that the early part of - the year - about March, for example - would !be a most suitable period at which to hold the general elections. I most strenuously object to any such arrangement, but I have nothing to urge against the polling-day being fixed for some time in May. I need scarcely point out that in Queensland the wet season extends from January to Mardi, and, during those months it, is almost impossible for one to get over the country at all. In the northwest and portions of the south-west of Queensland, at that particular time of the year, I have seen the water stretching across the country for thirty or forty miles. The rivers are flooded in all directions: Under such circumstances, the great bulk of the voters, would be disfranchised if the elections were held at that particular period. As a matter of fact, whilst I was engaged in electioneering, I had an experience of being kept four days in one place, without being able to obtain anything to eat. At the first general election for this Parliament, my opponent, in following me round my constituency, got stuck up between two rivers, and was unable to 'get back to the big centres of population before polling day. I understand that he delivered his final address to the coachman who was driving him, the banks of the Flinders River. In my opinion, either April or May would be the most suitable period of the year at which to hold the elections.

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