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§ 105. “As Nearly as Practicable.”

These words are not intended to allow the Parliament a discretionary latitude in fixing the number of the members of the House of Representatives, but to provide for the slight variation that may be caused by the provision for the minimum representation of a State, and also by the provision for representing fractions of a quota. According to the mode provided in this section for determining the number of members, the “quota” of representation is to be ascertained by pure arithmetic. So far, the words, “as nearly as practicable” are unnecessary. But the quota so obtained, though it of course divides exactly into the population of the Commonwealth, is not likely to divide exactly into the population of each State. There will probably be fractions in each State, arithmetically entitled to a fraction of a member; and whether these fractions are ignored altogether, or whether provision is made—as in this section—for assigning a member to any fraction greater than one-half the quota, the result may be to slightly disturb the “two to one ratio.” A further, and, at present, more considerable element of disturbance is the provision that each State shall have at least five representatives. On a population basis, Tasmania is at present only entitled to three representatives; and her two additional members, not being allowed for by the quota calculation, go to increase the number of members beyond the “two to one ratio.”

The Parliament, when it makes “other provisions” for determining the number of members, will be bound by the constitutional provision to make their number “as nearly as practicable twice the number of the senators;” and the clear intention is that the absolute ratio should only be departed from, so far as may be necessary to adjust fractional and minimum representation.

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