Opinion Number. 251

Subject

H0USE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTIONS EXTENT OF COMMISSIONERS POWER TO ALTER PROPOSALS FOR DISTRIBUTION

Key Legislation

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACTS 1902-1905, ss. 17,18,19

Date
Client
The Minister for Home Affairs

The Minister for Home Affairs asks to be advised on the question raised in the following minute by the Chief Electoral Officer:

The Commissioner appointed under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Acts 1902-1905 for the purpose of distributing the State of New South Wales into Electoral Divisions for the election of Members of the House of Representatives, in his report dated 2 May 1906, states (paragraph 57) that in addition to dealing with the written objections and suggestions relating to his proposals which were lodged within the period provided in section 18 of the Commonwealth Electoral Acts 1902-1905 he, so far as he thought proper, acted upon other suggestions and discoveries (paragraph 57) which, in his opinion, were calculated to improve his scheme of distribution. He then explains in the same paragraph the source and nature of certain suggestions which would appear to have been made verbally, and to the character of certain discoveries. The latter, it would appear, led to an alteration of his original proposals-affecting in one case 567, and in another case 284 electors, who had been wrongly located.

Sections 17, 18 and 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Acts 1902-1905 provide as follows:

  1. Before reporting on the distribution of any State into Divisions the Commissioner shall cause a map with a description of the boundaries of each proposed Division to be exhibited at post-offices in the proposed Division, and shall invite public attention thereto by advertisement in the Gazette.
  2. Objections or suggestions in writing may be lodged with the Commissioner not later than thirty days after the first advertisement in the Gazette of the proposed distribution, and the Commissioner shall consider all objections and suggestions so lodged before making his report.
  3. The Commissioner shall forthwith, after the expiration of the thirty days above mentioned, forward to the Minister his report upon the distribution of the State into Divisions, and the number of electors residing in each proposed Division, as nearly as can be ascertained, together with a map signed by him showing the boundaries of each proposed Division.
  4. I submit that the Attorney-General be asked to advise as to whether the Commissioner after publishing his proposals is empowered-

    1. to consider and act upon objections and suggestions other than the objections and suggestions provided for under section 18 of the Commonwealth Electoral Acts 1902-1905;
    2. to amend his published proposals on his own initiative and in consequence of the discovery of an error to the extent of altering boundaries and changing certain electors from a proposed Division to another proposed Division.

In my opinion, the intention of the Act is that the description as publicly exhibited should not be materially altered except as a result of the consideration of any objections or suggestions lodged in pursuance of section 18.

I think that any material alteration of the boundaries of an electorate made by a Commissioner after the public exhibition, either upon his own initiative or as the result of verbal suggestions or objections made by any person, would endanger the validity of the distribution. The alterations referred to in the Chief Electoral Officer's minute as having been made by the Commissioner in New South Wales appear to me to be material.

[Vol. 5, p. 299]