1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to know whether the Minister representing the Prime Minister has further considered the question of the business which the Government intend to ask the House to transact during this week ? It seems to me that if we can get through the Electoral Bill before we adjourn, we shall do very well, and if the Minister can assure us that he will be content with some such arrangement, I think I can promise, on behalf of honorable members on this side, that everything will be done to facilitate business.
– Anxious as I am to meet the wishes of the honorable member, I regret to say that since last night an unfortunate incident has occurred, which will slightly alter the course of events. The Minister for Home Affairs is confined to his room, andmay not be able to leave it tomorrow. Consequently, it will be necessary for us to proceed with the Electoral Bill as far as possible to-day, and possibly to consider the Bonus for Manufactures Bill to-morrow.
– The Minister representing the Prime Minister said, yesterday, that he had no record of the number of permits issued to Chinese in Western Australia, and still current. I wish to know whether, in view of that fact and of thecircumstance that a number of permits have been forged, the Government will take into consideration the desirableness of preventing the entry into the Commonwealth of Chinese holding permits.
– Every precaution is being taken to prevent imposition on the officers by means of forged permits and by impersonation. We are frequently detecting Chinese in the presentation of forged permits and in impersonation, and I think we are fairly well alive to their deceptions. We are obliged, however, to recognise genuine permits, because they have been issued by the States in good faith.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister take steps to provide tho courts exercising federal jurisdiction with copies of the Commonwealth Acts t A complaint was recently made at the Court of Petty Sessions at Fort Melbourne, that the magistrates who were called upon to adjudicate upon a case arising under the Immigration Restriction Act had no copy in court, and bad to send out and borrow one.
– I am somewhat at a loss to understand how that could have been; since I have already placed 280 copies of the Act in the hands of the Victorian Government, and have sent 350 to New South Wales, 170 to Queensland, 110 to South Australia, 1 20 to WesternAustralia, and 1 00 to Tasmania. In addition to this the post-offices in large centres of population, and Chambers of Commerce and similar bodies, have also been supplied with them. It seems extraordinary, therefore, that any stipendiary magistrate should not have a copy of the Act. As I explained to honorable members yesterday, the distribution of the Act has been undertaken by the States Governments.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister to the question of His Excellency the Governor-General’s allowances. The cable despatched by His Ex- cellency the Governor-General to the Secrettary of State for the Colonies, after the Governor-General’s Establishment Bill was passed by this House, was as follows: -
Prime Minister introduced a Bill into the House of Representatives, 1st of May, granting an annualallowance to the Governor-General at the rate of £3,000 a year. Bill retrospective from 1st January, 1901, in order to relieve me of portion of the great expense of Royal visit.
Opposition in the House of Representatives was so general that the proposal was withdrawn without pressing for a division, but an amendment was substituted granting me £10,000 to compensate me for part of expenditure in connexion with exceptional year. This passed by a large majority.I have no cause of complaint as to the past, but I anticipate great difficulties as to the future for me and for my successors. No allowances whatever will be given. On a salary of £10,000 per annum I am expected to pay staff, visit various States, payingall travelling expenses except the railway, occupy two great Government Houses, pay lights, fuel, stationery, telegrams, postage other than official, dispense hospitality, maintain dignity of the office. I have already strained my private resources beyond all justification. The position is impossible. After grave consideration I think that’ you had better recallme after the Coronation.
I wish to know whether His Excellency has not misunderstood the attitude of this House towards the question of allowances, and whether the publication of this cablegram has not caused great misapprehension in the mindsof the people of the Commonwealth.
-I do not think that His Excellency has misunderstood the matter at all, but I am ready to believe that there has been misapprehension in the minds of some people outside. Unfortunately, it has been customary to refer to expenditure incidental to the discharge of the duties of His Excellency’s office as allowances, although His Excellency has received no part of the money. I refer to such items as the cost of official telegrams, and so on. These expenses will always be paid by the Government. Money paid direct to His Excellency, or for the upkeep of his establishments, or for gas or fuel, are properly termed allowances. These have been distinctly refused by Parliament, and it is not intended to grant them to any future occupant of the office.
– They have not been wholly refused.
– Yes, they have.
– Is there any objection on the part of the Minister to lay upon the table an official paper setting forth the whole of the amounts paid to His Excellency or in connexion with the maintenance of his establishments ?
– There will be no objection to furnishing such a statement, and I propose to lay it upon the table in connexion with the suggestion which is to be made as to the scale of future allowances to be given to the Governor-General. But for the ill-health of the Minister for Home Affairs, and the absence of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, it is probable that the Cabinet would have arrived at a determination upon this matter to-day. I shall have pleasure in giving the House the fullest particulars as soon as possible.
Ordered (on motion by Sir Langdon Bonython) -
ThataReturn be preparedand laid on the Table of this House, showing -
The number of troops supplied by each State of the Commonwealth to the Imperial Forces in South Africa.
The total cost to the British Government in each State of such troops, including horses, equipment, and all expenses.
The average of such cost per man in each State.
– In this connexion I am prepared to lay upon the table a partial return giving the particulars referred to in item No. 1. As to items Nos. 2 and 3, some little time must elapse before the returns can be completed. The number of troops furnished by each State for service in South Africa is as follows : -
Debate resumed from 17 th June (vide page 13796), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That theBill be now read a second time.
– I understand that there is a general desire that this Bill should be discussed in committee rather than debated at length upon the second reading, and I am prepared to join with other honorable members, who have not spoken, in passing a temporary self-denying ordinance, and abstaining from making a second reading speech. In the hope, therefore, that I shall not stand solitary in my virtue, I propose to wait until we reach the committee stage. -
– I do not intend to occupy a great deal of time but there are one or two points in the Bill to which I wish to refer at this stage. There is much to admire in the Bill, and on the whole it is drafted on the most liberal lines. It follows very closely the electoral laws of South Australia and Western Australia, but there is a good deal in it that is very indefinite, and which will require to be made very much more clear in committee. I refer more particularly to the method which is to be adopted for the division of the States into electoral districts. I asked the Minister whether it was intended to appoint an Electoral Commission in each of the States, and he replied that his idea was that two commissioners should travel through all the States and co-operate with a third commissioner to be separately appointed in each State. If that course is to be followed great delay must occur before any decision is arrived at. The commissioners will have to complete a roll of the electors in each district, and the particulars will have to be advertised. It will be possible, under the present provisions of the Bill, for any ten electors in a constituency to object to the proposed division, and have it referred back to the Commission. The commissioners then have to review their work, after which it comes before this Parliament. Parliament then has a right to veto the whole of this most costly procedure, so that two years may be occupied in arriving at finality. Should Parliament object to the distribution which has been made, the matter is to be referred back to the commissioners. Under this provision it is possible for a dozen men to prevent this Bill becoming operative for a very considerable time. I fail to see the necessity for the appointment of a commission which is to roam over the whole of Australia in order to define the federal electorates. I have yet to learn that any great dissatisfaction exists with regard to the Victorian electorates, the boundaries of which were determined by the State Parliament.
– The commissioners accept the existing electorates.
– Under this Bill there is no guarantee that they will accept any such districts.
– They are called upon to accept existing electorates unless the latter conflict with the principles laid down in this Bill, and that can scarcely be the case if the present margin obtains.
– The commission have power to determine the districts. Speaking of the State which I have the honour to represent, I am quite confident that in less than a week Sheriff Boothby could determine the boundaries of the various electoral districts for this House in a way that would be acceptable to the people of that State, and I believe that the responsible officers in the other States ave quite capable of doing the same thing. But if the work of the commissioners has to be submitted to Parliament for its approval, where is the utility of appointing them ? In my opinion it would be very more expeditious, and certainly much cheaper, to appoint a select’ committee to undertake the work of distribution. I would further point out that the Bill does not specify the rates of pay of electoral officers or prescribe the method to be adopted in their selection. When dealing with this matter in South Australia, a very simple section was inserted in the Electoral Code Act, providing for the reappointment of the existing electoral officers. Could not the same plan be followed under this Bill? Is it intended that there shall be a duplication of officers ; if so, I shall oppose it. South Australians have every confidence in the State electoral officers, and believe that they will effectively discharge any duties which they may be called upon to undertake in connexion with our federal elections. The Bill also contains provisions which deal with the powers of returning officers. The federal officer is to be supreme, and then come the chief returning officers of States, the returning officers of the various districts, and the assistant returning officers in that order. Clause 167 provides that in all cases where an equal number of votes has been recorded for two or more candidates, the returning officer has the right to exercise a casting vote, thus deciding the election. Does that provision apply only to the returning officer of a district, or of a State, or does it also include the assistant returning officers 1
– It applies to returning officers only.
– But I would point out that the definition of “returning officers” includes divisional officers and their assistants. Under this clause, assuming that the boxes had to be opened at a sectional polling place in any district, the divisional returning officer or his assistant would have the right to determine an election in case an equal number of votes had been cast for two or more candidates.
– That is not the intention. We will make the clause quite clear.
– As the Bill is at present worded the position which I have indicated may possibly arise. I do not intend to vote for any scheme which will confer absolutely equal representation. Where country interests are concerned some margin must be allowed, and I believe that under the provisions of this measure there is ample margin to ensure the protection of the country as against the city interests. I shall not support the scheme in reference to the contingent vote, because I believe its adoption will lead to endless confusion at the ballot-boxes. I much prefer the simple method in vogue at the present time. The measure is a very liberal one, and embraces many of the provisions of the South Australian electoral law. Since 1896, when we passed the Electoral Code Act, I have contested a number of elections in that State, and in the light of that experience, I congratulate the Minister for Home Affairs upon having adopted many of its most liberal provisions.
– As I have spent a good deal of time in studying the details of this Bill, I regret that I cannot impose upon myself the self-denying ordinance which is to be practised by some honorable members who may not have given it such exhaustive consideration. I regard this measure as one of the most important measures that has come before this Parliament. In fact, if it were not that adult suffrage is now happily the law throughout the Commonwealth, I should endeavour to secure the rejection of this measure for the present session. There are many features in it to which I object, and it exhibits a lack of that thorough care in drafting and revision which should characterize it, seeing that the Government had such an excellent model as the South Australian Electoral Code Act upon which to proceed. It is a model Act, although, perhaps, I ought not to say so, seeing that I undertook the consolidation of the South Australian electoral laws prior to their being codified by the present Minister for Trade and Customs, who is undoubtedly without a peer as a draftsman in Australia. I could understand the haste of the Government to secure uniformity in electoral matters if they joined reform with it. But mere uniformity for its own sake amounts to nothing. Unless we can advance beyond the errors of most of the existing systems, I scarcely see that the mere desire to achieve uniformity is in itself indicative of virtue. This Bill does not promote either uniformity or simplicity. I hope to indicate many respects in which it is faulty in this connexion. For instance, as soon as this Bill is passed we shall have in the States and the Commonwealth two sets of electoral rolls. The Commonwealth rolls will be compiled upon, perhaps, the most dilatory and expensive method conceivable. I look forward to a time when, through a delegation of power, solicited by the federation and granted by the States, we shall have both in the Commonwealth and the States one Electoral Act, and one principle of division, involving, as these will, one suffrage, one set of officers, one roll, one mode of election, and one code to secure the purity of elections. In this Bill we really have, in some respects, made confusion worse confounded and diversity still greater. I will give a few examples of this. Before doing so, however, I should like to mention that during the last eight or ten months a great many suggestions have been made regarding improved modes of election apart from the details of administration. We have had recommendations made concerning proportional representation. We have embodied in this Bill the principle of single member districts. In connexion with that two methods are open for adoption, one of which dispenses with the contingent vote. We have also the block vote, with compulsory voting for the number of candidates to be returned. Then there is the block vote with the power of apportioning votes at the discretion of the electors. There is also the question of the accumulation of votes. Then there is the Wood system, which has been recently placed before honorable members, and the very great question of large against small constituencies. Surely within the few days of this session which remain, honorable members cannot assume that we have power either to moot these points or to decide as to the relative efficacy of them with a view to make the best possible choice. I regret that we are almost forced by the fact that adult suffrage is law throughout the Commonwealth, and the consequent necessity for the speedy framing of a Commonwealth electoral roll, to consider without adequate information, and to decide finally, upon a measure of this sort. Again, I would ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether we are to assume that if a very great matter of principle is embodied in a
Bill, as introduced in another place, and that principle is rejected, this House is not to have an opportunity of declaring its opinions upon that principle? The Bill, as introduced into the other Chamber, contained provisions for proportional representation, which fact amounted to an affirmation that that principle was accepted as part of the Ministerial policy. Are we to take the measure as it has been emasculated in another place as the text for our discussion ? Why does the Minister not do what is usually done, namely, re-introduce the measure in the state in which it expressed their real policy, and give this House, which represents the people in proportion to numbers, an opportunity of deciding on the merits of the whole Bill ?
– I would remind the honorable member that the Bill is as it came from the other branch of the Legislature, and could not therefore be submitted in an altered from.
– The measure can be altered in committee.
– But not at this stage,
– What I wish to insist on in this first session of the Parliament is that it is a bad principle for this House to be denied the opportunity to test, on the Government initiative, a vital matter of policy. The , provision to which I allude was cut out of the measure in another place, and in my opinion the proper action of a Government, who have their heart in their policy, would be to introduce the measure as originally drafted. The Bill, as introduced, and even as it now appears, is by no means perfect ; and I shall make a few suggestions for consideration before we go into committee. In the latter stage of the Bill we generally find that the Government have no time to consider suggestions, or that the draftsman is not at hand, and consequent])7 amendments are not made. Let me first refer to the proposed method of ascertaining the divisions. Under clause 16 divisions are to be fixed by ascertaining a quota, to be found, in the first instance, by dividing the number of persons ‘ qualified by the number of members. That is an amendment on the Bill as originally introduced. If the Bill had remained as originally drafted, we could not possibly have had divisions under possibly a year and a half, because the framing of the electoral rolls would have been necessary before the commissioners could get to work. Even now, to ascertain the quota in the way proposed imposes on the commissioners an impossible task.
– I think the provision is that the number of electors, not the number of persons qualified shall be divided by the number of members.
– “ Persons qualified for the first division “ are the words used in the Bill, and the commissioner cannot ascertain who are qualified. He cannot, for instance, ascertain the number of lunatics, the number of convicted persons, or the number of aliens or others who are expressly disqualified under the Constitution and the Franchise Act. It would be better at once to substitute the word “adults “ for “ qualified persons.” We have adopted adult suffrage, and the number of adults can be ascertained from the census.
– All adults are not qualified.
– But the number of adults may be taken as the basis. We have given statutory recognition to adults, but what is proposed in the Bill is the task of finding who are qualified, and it is a task which cannot possibly be carried out. Several of the forms have not been provided for in the schedule ; there is no form, for instance, for the Speaker’s writ, or for a change of polling place. There are several errors of substance in some of the forms, to which I shall refer in committee. As I have already mentioned, I regard the proposed method of compiling the rolls as the most expensive that can possibly be conceived. The provisions dealing with this matter are contained in clauses 34 to 51. We shall have a roll of probably 1,500,000 electors under adult suffrage. The rolls are to be compiled every three years, and the method is that written lists are to be made out. Until the roll is complete it cannot, according to clause 51, be printed. The procedure is, first, that the electoral officers of the States, and the police officers of the States, are to help the Commonwealth Returning Officer in framing the rolls. It is for those officers to suggest the persons who are to be put on the roll ; but we cannot really compel thom to act, because we have no direct .power over them. When the necessary data have been sent in to the Commonwealth officer in each State, he must make’ -out a complete list, a copy of which he will hand to each divisional returning officer and to the registrar of each polling place. Besides the copy for the registrar himself, other copies have to be handed to that official for exhibition at each police station and post-office, and such other places as the returning officer may suggest. There must also be a complete copy of the roll kept by the divisional returning officer for his own use, he, as well as the registrar, being entitled to place persons on the list. Besides, before the court of revision is held, there must be a final complete list for each divisional returning officer to send to the court. All this represents a minimum of seven copies in writing of a list containing 1,500,000 names, addresses, and occupations ; iu other words, before the court of revision is started there must be over 10,000,000 names, addresses, and occupations copied out.
– How can that be avoided? ‘
– My suggestion is that we adopt, with some modifications, the South Australian practice, which is based on the census. That practice can be adopted now, since adult suffrage is the law. The census gives the necessary data in the names, addresses, and occupations of persons, arranged according to districts.
– What does the honorable and learned member mean by “the census”? It is not printed, is it ?
– The census officers of the State can allow the Commonwealth officers to make the necessary copies. If my method be adopted, there will be only one writing required, namely, a copy of the census returns. This is not a suggestion of my own, but one which I have considered with Mr. Boothby, the returning officer in South Australia, who, with all duc deference to others, is perhaps the principal authority on electoral matters in Australia. Mr. Boothby has had vast experience, and, as the father of the Ballot Act, he has taken a deep interest in electoral questions for the last 30 or 40 years. The names, addresses, and occupations of all adults may be taken from the census returns, each written on a separate slip of paper or card-board. These can be tied up, or grouped in boxes, according to the polling places, and sent to the printingoffice. . * ‘
– The honorable and learned member is going into such detail that I feel bound to call his attention to a ruling given in May, page 445, to the effect-
The second reading is the most important stage through which the Bill is required to pass ; for its whole principle is then at issue, and is affirmed or denied by a vote of the House, though it is not regular on this occasion to discuss, in detail, its several clauses.
I am afraid the honorable and learned member is discussing in detail several clauses of the Bill, which cannot be done on the second reading, but which finds its proper place in committee.
– With all respect to you, sir, I am not at present discussing the details of clauses of the Bill, but suggesting an alternative to details of the Bill, with which I have already dealt.
– That is discussing detail.
– I suggest that it is not discussing detail. Surely, sir, you will not rule that where we have a Bill affirming a certain method of doing a thing, it is not proper for an honorable member to suggest another method in lieu of several clauses ? In committee, I cannot turn from one clause to the other, and, therefore, can deal with my present point only on the second reading.
– My ruling is to the effect that on the second reading the principles of the Bill must be discussed, and that details cannot properly be referred to except incidentally. The discussion of details is work proper to the committee stage and not to this stage.
– I recognise that ruling so far as it appertains to a particular clause ; but I ask you to allow the latitude which is always allowed, I believe, in the Imperial Parliament, of discussing a principle by grouping clauses.
– If the honorable and learned member does that, he will be quite in order.
– I am afraid I did not make myself clear. I was dealing, by way of grouping certain clauses, with the method of compiling the rolls, and as I say, I could not in committee refer from one clause to the other. My only opportunity is at the present time, and I am dealing with the effect of clauses 34 to 51.
– What I called the attention of the honorable and learned member to was the fact that he was discussing what copies had to be written, and whether the names should appear on separate pieces of paper, and be grouped together and put in boxes.. That appears to me essentially detail, and I must ask him not to continue in that way. So long as the honorable and learned member confines himself to general principles I shall not interpose.
– I shall endeavour to do so ; but it is impossible to suggest a different method without showing how it should be carried out. If you, sir, decide against me, I shall say no more. I have, however, given . an indication of the method which I suggest, and I can refer to it again in committee, which stage the House appears anxious to reach as soon as possible, whether the Bill be good or bad. Whatever lists are to be exhibited at polling places can be printed copies of a list which has been once made. If the States are really in earnest in the matter of economy, and we wish to attain true simplicity and uniformity, we ought, as soon as possible, to make a bold attempt to have adult suffrage in the States as well as in the Federation, and have one roll for both the Commonwealth and the States, the States rolls being simply parts of the Commonwealth roll.
– That rests with the States.
– With us also to some extent.
– We should be happy to help the States.
– It should also be possible . to make the electoral divisions of the Commonwealth multiples of the divisions for States purposes.
– That is done in South Australia.
– State rolls canbe used because we have adult suffrage there, and it can be done wherever that principle is in operation. The sooner we bring about a state of affairs that will enable us to have one roll and one method of divisions, for both Commonwealth and States, the better it will be for true electoral reform. Under this Bill, as was pointed out by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, there is really a duplication of officers. There will be a chief electoral officer for the Commonwealth,an electoral officer for each State, returning and assistant returning officers for each division, and electoral registrars, which will make the present confusion worse confounded, and increase the present expense. I do not wish to say much in regard to the details of the Bill, but I should like to point out to the Attorney-General that whereas clause 90 provides for the fixing of the time and place of elections, and applies to elections for the Senate as well as to elections for the House of Representatives, section 9 of the Constitution provides that -
The Parliament of a State may make laws for determining the times and places of elections of Senators for the State.
No power is reserved to this Parliament to fix the time and place for the election of senators, and therefore the provision to which I have drawn attention will have no effect. The Bill provides for the creation of single electorates for the election of members of the House of Representatives, and for a block vote in each State for the election of senators. W e have been told that it is the desire of the Government to retain the divisions already in existence in the larger States. I know, however, that in South Australia there is no apparent desire for the division of the State into electorates, and therefore there is no necessity for the appointment of commissioners to subdivide that State.
– I understand that the Bill is intended to bring about uniformity of administration.
– That question is not affected by the matter to which I am referring, and it is easy to show that the proposedsubdivision of the States cannot secure uniformity of representation, inasmuch as, so long as a minimum representation of five is given to certain States, and their population remains too small to allow them to secure that or a larger representation on the population basis, there cannot be uniformity. In Tasmania and Western Australia, for instance, the quota at the present time is about 35,000, whereas the quota in the other States is about 52,000. I think that for federal elections the electorates should be large, even if they do not embrace a whole State, so that the representation should be as national as possible.
– Large electorates require large banking accounts.
– That does not necessarily follow. If I had contested some of the small State electorates in South Australia, I should have had to spend a much larger sum than I was required to spend to secure my return by the whole State. All I spent was about £30.
– That was for the first election.
– I believe that in future elections I shall have to spend less. The small coterie who are open to pressure, or who require particular methods of canvassing, are not powerful in large electorates. The opinions of 1,000 or 2,000 electors make very little difference when a candidate has 35,000 or 40,000 electors behind him, but in an electorate numbering only 3,000 or 4,000 electors, the coterie I speak of tends to become all-powerful, and methods of canvassing which are not often confessed to have to be adopted. With large electorates the representation is upon a much more national basis than with small electorates. I do not believe in the principle of single electorates. The principle of the Bill is to have single electorates and majority rule, meaning thereby, not only majority decision, but majority representation. But surely the true principle of government is that all leading lines of effective opinions - that is, opinions held by such large numbers of persons that they are entitled to be considered forces in current politics - shall be represented? The principle adopted in the Bill will crush out minority representation, although it is minorities which generally lead in matters of radical reform. The Bill will be useful only to the extent to which in its working it departs from the principle upon which it is framed. If majorities and minorities are so grouped that in some of the divisions the majorities are congested, there may be some chance for minority representation. That is what I think is known as jerrymandering in America. The influence of a majority is wasted by putting into an electorate more voters than are required to turn the scale in that electorate in a certain direction, and thus an opportunity is given for the representation of a minority in some other electorate. It is only where irregularities exist that we shall have some minority representation under the Bill, and then by chance, not by law. Surely honorable members should not be in too great a hurry to affirm a principle which is open to those objections ? The contingent vote provision amounts to this : That the Government want the majority to be the party in every case to return the member elected. I agree with the principle of the contingent vote, but it marks the ideas of the framers of the Bill. . In every district the dominant party is to return- the member elected, and, as far as possible, the majority in each State shall represent the national majority. This arrangement will, as I have shown, exclude the probability of fair representation of the opinions of the minority. Honorable members may say that such a thing is not possible, but I can show that it has actually occurred. I had the honour of being the first person to be elected in Australia under adult suffrage. At that’ time there were in South Australia 27 electoral districts, in only one of which - that represented by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley - were women voters in the majority. If an issue had arisen then upon which the men and women voters were absolutely divided, the men could have returned 26 out of the 27 candidates elected. In regard to what has actually occurred under the single electorate system, let me quote the results of the Imperial elections for 1S95. The liberal votes then totalled 1,800,.000, and the conservative and liberal unionist votes 1,775,000. The true representation of the parties would therefore have been 242 liberals, and 239 conservatives and liberal unionists ; but the actual representation was 202 liberals and 279 conservatives and liberal unionists. In other words, the conservatives and unionists had a majority of 77, when, with true representation, the liberals would have had a majority of three. Then, again, in the elections held in 1900, I find, according to the Times, that 2,360,000 unionist votes returned 380 members, while 2,055,000 liberal votes returned only 187, a most unequal representation. Now let us deal with the block vote. Honorable members see clearly that if the block vote accomplishes what is intended by it the majority will always rule. That occurred, I believe, during the convention elections. There was not a single labour member returned for South Australia, whereas in Victoria the Age ticket secured the return of the ten candidates whose names were upon it. Does not that show that a newspaper commanding similar influence would be able by the block vote to secure the whole representation of a State? But let us take a case in which the block vote and the single electorate system worked together - as they did in the Belgian elections down to 1S99. The block vote was taken in the larger towns - Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Liege- and the single electorate system was applied to the country, and to a few small towns. I say that this instance proves conclusively that under the block-voting system a compact party can secure the whole of the representation.
– Not a single protectionist would be returned in New South Wales.
– As a free-trader, I should object to that, because I believe in proportionate, and not in disproportionate, representation. Take the case of Brussels. With the block-voting system in operation, the clerical conservatives, representing onethird of the electors who voted, returned sixteen deputies, and the liberals and socialists,, not voting together as one party, but separately, and representing two- thirds of the voters, returned none. Take the next succeeding election. The liberals and- socialists, after the experience they had previously gained, decided to join their forces, with the result that they secured the return of the whole of the eight deputies whose positions had to be filled. It could not be more conclusively shown that under the block-voting system, if it is properly applied, the whole of the representation will go to the majority. The country single member districts during the particular elections to which I have referred gave an enormous preponderance - practically the whole of the representation - to the clerical conservatives. Now what has been done. They have grouped the single districts in the country into larger districts, and they have applied to both the cities and the country the principle of proportional representation. I do not wish to overload what I have to say with figures, but I can prove by quoting from the actual election returns that parties are now represented in Belgium almost exactly in proportion to their numbers on the electoral rolls. Wherever the block-voting system has been in existence for a time it has been abolished. It was discarded in America in 1842. It was tried in France in connexion with the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, and was abandoned after one election, because it gave too great a preponderance to the representatives of one party.
– Is there responsible government in Belgium ?
– I think the Belgium Constitution hist framed was modelled upon the English Constitution, the chief difference being that one is printed and the other is not. There is not exactly responsible government, as we understand it, in Prance, but. that does not affect the question of the elections.
– Under the system to which the honorable member refers, we cannot have a stable majority in Parliament.
– Does the honorable and learned member justify an erroneous representation, so long as it secures a stable majority ? If that is to be done we should always have a majority that would be in conflict with the views of a great number of the electors, and we should have to trust to chance for the efficacious working of the Parliamentary machine. I do not wish to enter more fully into this question of proportionate representation, except to say that I am exceedingly sorry that the time at our disposal will not admit of this matter being thoroughly thrashed out here.. A large number of the electors in South Australia, if not in other States, are pledged to the principle, and it is a little too much for honorable members to “ pooh pooh” proportionate representation - a system which has been strongly indorsed by some of the most prominent writers of the last century. Rowan described it as one of the greatest discoveries that had been made in connexion with the principle of representation under responsible government.
– And Gladstone condemned it.
– I read the speech by Mr. Gladstone in which he criticised the proposal made by Mr. Leonard Courtney. Mr. Gladstone did not condemn it, but endeavoured simply to have it shelved for the time. He dealt with the whole matter in a skirmishing way, and his speech did not amount to a deliberate and carefully considered condemnation of the principle apart from party exigencies. Politicians are more or less affected by questions of temporary expediency. Not only Rowan, but Henry Fawcett, Sir John Lubbock, and Lord Rosebery have advocated the principle of proportional representation. I may mention, also, that it has been included in the platforms of the National Municipal League of the United States which has a membership far in excess of the total number of electors on the rolls of Australia. At a conference of delegates of this League, held for the purpose of framing a model charter for the cities of America, it was recommended that the principle of proportional representation should be adopted in connexion with the municipal elections, and also at elections to the constitutional conventions of the States. The Buffalo Conference, which was held about eighteen months ago, and represented all the leading political parties in America, passed resolutions’ in favour of the application of the principle of proportional representation. Surely, when we find the great writers and thinkers of the age, foremost politicians, and influential political bodies advocating the principle of proportional representation/it is not for honorable members, with a few cavils or a few casual remarks, to condemn it as being unworthy of consideration. Let us see what is being done on the continent. Lowell, in his work on Continental Government, speaking of the reform in Switzerland, said : -
The object of the reform there is not to prevent politics from degenerating into a corrupttrade, but simply to give each class of opinions a fair influence in political affairs. There appears to be good grounds for believing, therefore, that proportional representation will work well in Switzerland.
As a matter of fact since 1891 several of the Swiss cantons have adopted the principle with exceedingly successful results. I have already referred to the case of Belgium, showing what results were obtained under the old system, and the success of ,the new system as manifested at the elections in 1900. With reference to the time occupied in making up the returns after the poll, I may mention that in Brussels there were 170,000 votes polled, and eighteen deputies and nine senators to be returned. There were 417 polling places, and the whole scrutiny lasted from 3 p.m. till 10 p.m. This shows that the work to be done by the electoral officers does not occupy a very great length of time. About eighteen months ago, I believe, a Japanese commissioner, who was appointed to inquire into the best system of representation, reported in favour of the system of proportional representation. It is urged that we should have mere faddists represented in Parliament under a system of proportional representation, but how would that be possible ? The quota necessary to return a member must be a large one. Two years ago it was suggested that the State of South Australia should be divided into districts for the purpose of electing representatives to the Federal Parliament. That suggestion was not adopted, and the State was polled as one district. But I desire to show what would occur under the single district system for the return of representatives, and what I believe would occur were the districts grouped with a view to proportional representation. I will take the case of three districts, one having 24,000 voters, another having 21,000 voters, and a third having 23,000 voters, giving a total of 68,000 electors. In the first district with 24,000 voters, it would be possible for 14,000 voters to return a member, and then there would be 10,000 electors disfranchised. Again, taking the next district with 21,000 electors, there might be the same parties, say protectionists numbering 12,000, and freetraders numbering 9,000. The protectionists would return a member, and the free-traders would be disfranchised. In the third district, with 23,000 voters, 14,000 votes might be polled for a protectionist representative, and 9,000 for the defeated or free-trade candidate. In other words, in the three districts the majority would total 40,000, and the defeated minorities 2S.000. One part)7 would have, the whole of the representation, and the defeated minority would have none. I ask is that a fair system of representation? Does it not occur to a greater or less extent in all elections under this system ? But supposing we grouped the districts for the purpose of proportional representation, the group quota would be at least 17,000, and with a polling force such as I have .given of 28,000, the freetrade party would be entitled to one member out of the three if under the Droop quota it polled 17,0,00 votes. That would be its true and proportional representation. Do not honorable members recognise that in such a division or grouping of the districts, the quota would be too large to permit of any representation of faddists? If 17,000 persons were united with a view to carrying out a particular policy, surely they would be entitled, not to decide upon its adoption, but to voice their principles in Parliament. That is all that we claim for proportional representation. On the other hand, let me give an instance of the working of the principle of single-member districts. This principle has been operative in most of the I States of America during the past 50 or 60 1 years. As honorable members are aware, in America the parties for polling purposes are very clearly differentiated. In 1899 in Michigan the republicans, in whose favour 222,000 votes were cast, secured only twelve seats ; whilst the democrats, who found 176,000 supporters, gained none. That fact illustrates the effect of the principle of singlemember districts. I do not wish to labour the matter, but the figures I have given are condemnatory of the principle embodied in this Bill, and I again express regret that an opportunity of adopting a better system is to be denied to this House. If the opportunity did arise, having advocated the principle in the State House, I would advocate its adoption for federal purposes. It is recommended by authority, tested by experience, and can be supported by considerations of logic and common sense.
– I cannot agree with those who think that we have all that we require in this Bill. In my opinion, it fails to fulfil the expectations of those who anticipated that the Commonwealth Electoral Act would be vastly superior to any State Electoral Act. At the same time I recognise the difficulties of the question, and the limited time which Ministers have had to prepare this Bill. I also realize the exigencies of the situation, which compel us to pass a Commonwealth Electoral Act this session. To my mind it is a matter for regret - as has been pointed out by the previous speaker - that this House is not to be allowed an opportunity of discussing the great principle of proportional representation. It seems to me that those honorable members who declare that they cannot, understand that principle, and that nothing can be urged in its favour, cannot have given the matter any consideration, because the principle itself should be intelligible to any one who can understand the multiplication tables. It has the indorsement of some of the greatest thinkers of this and the preceding age, and with the amendments which have since been made, it is as perfect a system as we can hope to adopt. The only way in which a democratic form of government can be carried out, is by giving the largest possible effect to every man’s vote. The Bill is full of defects. Nevertheless something must be done, and done this session. At the same time I hope that I this Bill will not continue in operation for 1 more than three years. I trust that before the expiry of that period we shall secure a much more perfect measure. I earnestly recommend the Government in the interim to consent to the appointment of a commission to obtain information from other sources - information which would guide us in the framing of a more permanent measure. Very many improvements that we might easily adopt have been made in the electoral laws upon the other side of the world, but it is very difficult to secure details in connexion with them. Amongst other improvements which I know have been effected are mechanical aids in the collection and registration of votes. To my mind, it is quite clear that from outside sources we could derive assistance which would facilitate the registration and collection of votes, and prevent a lot of the informalities which now occur. It would be a wise thing if the House insisted upon this information being collected as a guide to us for afuture occasion. In the work of preparation of the rolls, it seems to me there should be some cooperation between the Federal and States Governments. If the Commonwealth is to prepare rolls for the entire community, and the States are to undertake a similar work for themselves, whilst the municipalities also compile ratepayers’ rolls, it seems to me that much expense will be incurred which might well be avoided if we adopted some automatic way of getting the electoral rolls collected and cleansed. I believe that we might take the census returns as the basis of our rolls and adopt some automatic method of adding to them the names of those who attain their majority between the date of one census being taken and that of another, andof removing the names of those who die. In these respects many improvements might be made. At the same time it is essential that we should pass an Electoral Act in some form this session, and therefore I shall not offer much objection to what I regard as the defects of the measure, although, had the opportunity been available, I should have liked to secure a thorough discussion of the principle of proportional representation. I trust that the Bill will pass through committee without many vital amendments, because it is necessary that it should become law at an early date to meet any emergency that may occur between the present time and the elections for the next Parliament.
Question so resolved in the’ affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Mr. G. B. Edwards.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears, “candidate” means any person who, within three months before the day of election, offers himself for election as a member of the Seriate or the House of Representatives. “ Division “ means an Electoral Division for the election of a member of the House of Representatives…..
– I move -
That the word “means” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “in Parts II., XV., and XVI. includes.”
The amendment is intended to remove a possible ambiguity.
– I would point out to the AttorneyGeneral that under this provision “ candidate” includes any person who, within three months before the day of election, offers himself for election, &c. It occurs to me that the period prescribed is very much longer than that stipulated in any of the existing State Acts. Of course this matter would not be important but for the penalties prescribed in Parts 15 and 16, which are very stringent. For example, under Part 16, bribery would be held to include even the dispensing of some little hospitality to a friend within three months of an election. To my mind, two months would be an ample period. Thirty days usually elapse between the day of nomination and that of election, so that, if my suggestion were adopted, a clear month would be allowed before the date of nomination.
– A person has to offer himself before he is considered a candidate.
– I take it that a man does not offer himself until he signs his nomination paper, or until he publicly announces, through the press, his intention of becoming a candidate. The words “ publicly announces “ would be better than “ offers.”
– I think the word “offers” is strong enough. A case occurred in one of the States, in which the intention to bribe, and the fact of bribery, were manifest, but it was perfectly impossible to have justice done, because the bribery had taken place some two or three months before the actual date of election. It is in view of that case, and probably in view of similar cases, that this definition has been inserted. What the honorable member has said would be perfectly applicable but for the restriction that the candidate must “offer” himself, which means openly announce himself as a candidate. The fact of a man having an intention to stand as a candidate, and privately doing certain acts, may not render him amenable : but if he offers himself three months before the election he mast take the responsibility of his position. Once he offers himself as a candidate, he renders himself amenable to the electoral law.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - There certainly should be some interpretation of the word “ offers,” before which I suggest that the word “ publicly “ should be inserted.
– Such an amendment would enable a man to do what he liked privately. Let the court decide whether, as a matter of fact, a man has offered himself as a candidate.
– We know what difficulties have arisen in consequence of leaving too many matters of this sort to the court.
– The amendment would allow a man to spend as much as he liked after he had told his friends that he intended to become a candidate.
– If that be so, let the period be made six or twelve months. I move -
That after the word “ election,” Une 3, the word “ publicly “ be inserted.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).The definition of “ candidate “ has to be read in conjunction with later clauses which are meant to preserve purity of elections by rendering liable to penalties any candidate who makes certain offers with a view to influencing votes. The object is to preserve purity for at least a period of three months.
– Suppose a candidate offers himself at an earlier period ?
– An arbitrary time must be fixed. A public announcement could be very easily avoided until the day before the election, and in the meantime money could be spent with a view to influencing the electors. “ Public announcement” is just as wide a term as “ offers,” but the latter has a common-sense meaning at which the court will find it easy to arrive.
Amendmen t negatived.
– I move -
That the word “ division “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ electoral district. “
I notice that the Bill abolishes the term “electoral district” and substitutes “division ;” but in my opinion it would be better to adhere to the old description.
– The words “ electoral district “ are used in Victoria, but in many of the other States the word “ division “ prevails.
– I think “ division “ is the right word. It is the word used in section 29 of the Constitution under which we are passing this Bill, and it is as well to follow the Constitution.
– There is no point in the amendment so far as South Australia is concerned, because in that State there are “districts “for the lower House and “ divisions “ for the Legislative Council.
– I notice that “ Minister “ means the Minister for Home Affairs. Would it not be better to substitute for this, “ the Minister administering the Act,” seeing that another Minister might act, or, under a rearrange.ment, the Minister for Home Affairs might disappear.
– That is provided for by the Acts Interpretation Act which sets forth that “ Minister “ shall be deemed to include any Minister acting for the Minister mentioned in the Bill. The definition in the Bill really imposes no limitation, and appears only because the Electoral Bill will be administered in the department for Home Affairs.
– We might as well show on the face of the measure what we mean.
– But a person, on looking at the Act, would not, if the honorable member’s suggestion were carried out, know by which Minister it was administered.
– -What I have suggested is usual in other Bills. However, I do not press the matter.
– Does the Minister not think that there is some necessity for a definition of the term “ residence.” We attempted to define this term, or to make it clearer, in the Franchise Act.
– It was struck out of the Franchise Act.
– That makes it more necessary to have some definition in this clause.
– I propose to strike out the word “ reside “ later on, in order to make this Bill agree with the Franchise Act.
– I should like to draw the attention of the Attorney-General to the definition of “returningofficer “ as read in conjunction with clause 167.
– When we come to clause 167 I propose to add a word which will remove the ambiguity to which the honorable member has called attention.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to
Clause 5 - (Chief electoral officer),
Mr. A. C. GROOM (Flinders). - I should be glad to know whom it is proposed to make chief electoral officer, and what his remuneration will be. In the Bill I see no provision for the remuneration of returning officers, poll clerks, or other officials.
– On the Estimates we discussed at some length this very question. It is proposed that the chief electoral officer shall receive £450 per annum.
– Why not complete the Bill by inserting the amount of remuneration to bepaid ?
– The salary will appear on the Estimates each year, and honorable members have as much control over the Estimates as over this Bill. It is better that the House should be able to review these salaries - when dealing with the Estimates for the year, than that they should be sterotyped by Act of Parliament.
– Must not the appointments be made through the Public Service Commissioner ?
– Yes. After the proclamation of the Public Service Act all appointments must be made through the Public Service Commissioner.
– Is it proposed to pay the returning officers?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Commonwealth Electoral Officers for the States).
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia). - I wish to know if these officers are to be paid, and, if so, what amounts they are to receive. Are the services of the returning officers for the States to be utilized ? I know that in South Australia the Chief Electoral Officer could easily perform the work required by the Commonwealth.
– I take it that the Commonwealth must have executive officers in each State, but I presume that if it is found, when the Act is in full working order, that there is very little for them to do, their time will also be utilized for the performance of other services. No doubt, at first, there will be a large amount of work to be done, and it will probably occupy the whole time of the officers appointed.
– I am informed that it is not considered likely that the work to be performed by these officers will occupy the whole of their time throughout the year. The intention is to appoint, as a rule, either an officer in a Commonwealth department, or one of the State electoral officers, to undertake the work. He will be engaged upon it onlyduringthat portion of theyear in which the revision of the rolls and other matters’ concerning them require to be considered, though of course, in the year in which an election takes place, there will be more work for him to do. However, before the Bill gets out of committee, the Minister for Home Affairs will probably be able to inform honorable gentlemen as to his exact intentions in this matter.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).- It seems to me that it is necessary to have for the performance of this work an officer who has had experience in connexion with it. We cannot expect an officer of the Works department, for instance, to perform it satisfactorily. I wish to know definitely if the Government intend to avail themselves of the services of State officials, or to create duplication by appointing Commonwealth officials to do the work ?
– Duplication will be avoided wherever possible, and, in the first instance, it should be possible to avoid it in nearly every case.
– Does that statement apply both to the officers under discussion and to the assistant returning officers?
– In South Australia £5,000 is sufficient to pay for the conduct of an election, and it will be possible to get the work done more cheaply and more satisfactorily with a staff which hasalreadv every detail at its fingers’ ends, than by creating a new staff. I hope that the services of State officers will be used.
– While I agree with the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that we should be economical, I am opposed to allowing the State electoral officers in Queensland to have anything to do with the administration of this measure. Perhaps things can be carried on more cheaply in South Australia than in Queensland, because the populated area of that State is very much smaller than the populated area of Queensland. In Brisbane, there are twelve or thirteen electoral officers, and we know by the way in which they conducted the last general elections in- Queensland how they would administer this Act. A more scandalous thing than those elections never- occurred in the annals of Australian history. I am opposed to having any but Commonwealth officers for this position.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I trust that the Ministry will not be led astray in this matter by false ideas of economy. It seems to me that they should have absolute control over those who will carry out these duties. The honorable member for Maranoa has shown that in some of the States there is not that harmony between the State and the Federal Governments which would conduce to the satisfactory administration of such 7an Act as this. While it would be a good thing to save money by appointing to these positions officers who could occupy their spare time by performing other duties, I do not think that State officials should be intrusted with the work, because, in my view, no man can be held responsible to two masters. As to the expense, the House will be able to express an opinion in regard to the appointments and the salaries given when it comes to deal with the Estimates. I believe that in New South Wales and in Victoria the officers appointed will not be able to do any other work. Originally there were 50 persons employed in the New South Wales electoral office, and the Public Service Commissioners, who put their knife into that department pretty deeply, reduced the number to thirteen. That being so, I think that if the Commonwealth is able to get on with one officer in New South Wales and another in Victoria it will do very well.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bland. 39 k
At the present time the Queensland electoral officer has the whole of his time occupied by his electoral duties. This Parliament has doubled the number of electors upon the roll throughout the Commonwealth, and as in Queensland we have large areas of sparsely populated country, requests for information and guidance will constantly be coming in from the local electoral registrars. Furthermore, as the provisions of this measure differ very much from those of the local Act, it would be a mistake tohave one officer administering both. I think, too, that a Commonwealth offivershould be responsible for the Commonwealth rolls. The compilation of the first roll will occupy an officer and his staff at least twelve months. During that time hewill acquire a good deal of experience and information, which we should continue to keep at our disposal. Can the AttorneyGeneralinform me if these electoral officers are to be the returning officers for the States in . connexion with elections for the Senate ?
– Yes. That is provided t for in clause 169.
– I have nodesire to be extravagant, but I think that wemight impair the efficiency of our system of representation if we did not provide for” a proper staff of electoral officers. The basis and foundation of our system of parliamentary representation is the electoral roll. We shall have an unprecedented number of applications from persons who desire to beplaced on the rolls, and the resources of ourelectoral branch should be such as would enable it to cope with all demands made - upon it. It is desirable that our electoral . office should be kept entirely apart from theState departments, and that a distinctbranch should be established under thecontrol of the Commonwealth.
Sir LANGDON BONYTHON (South Australia). - I entirely sympathize with theview expressed by my honorable colleaguethat economy should be exercised to thefullest possible extent, but at the sametime there is a considerable amount of forcein the suggestion of the honorable memberfor Bland. If a Commonwealth electoral1 officer is appointed for each State, the interests of the Commonwealth will be fully conserved, and the existing machinery will be found sufficient for all general purposes.
– In the in,terests of efficient management in electoral affairs, the Commonwealth should have its own officer in each State. During the last federal elections arrangements were made by the New South Wales Government for holding courts of revision in every electorate just prior to the issue of the writs. The object was to allow persons who had applied for transfers of their rights from one electorate to another to be registered upon supplementary rolls which were subsequently issued. At the Orange revision court a long list of names was submitted, and the active political agent of one of the candidates suggested that as so many names were being submitted some inquiry should be made as to the bona fides of the applicants. Notwithstanding the protests of the representatives of a large number of those who were applying to be registered as voters, the presiding magistrate adjourned the court, and the result of his action was to deprive a large number of electors of their right to vote. In another case in the Molong district the deputy returning officer omitted to return the butts of the electors’ rights issued to the presiding magistrate, and all those whose rights were thus affected were disqualified. In the Condobolin electorate some sixty rights were sent in to the returning officer, who omitted to hand them to the officer presiding over the revision court, and the holders of the rights were disfranchised. Complaints were made to the Government in all these cases, but the persons concerned were unable to obtain any satisfaction, and the officers who were guilty of criminal negligence were simply reprimanded. I fear a repetition of this kind of thing if the control of electoral matters is left in the hands of the States officers, and it is therefore desirable that we should have the administration under our direct control.
– If this clause is agreed to there will be in each State an electoral officer directly responsible to the Federal Government for the administration of electoral affairs. Matters of detail relating to the preparation of the rolls will have to be dealt with at a later stage. We do not wish to rush into any extravagance in connexion with the appointment of deputyregistrars or to maintain a staff of permanent officers for the purpose of attending to the federal election matters of each of the States. We may leave all these minor details to be attended to by the State officers who will be under the direction of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- It is desirable that the committee should be furnished with some information as to the intentions of the Government. In this and the next few clauses provision is made for the appointment of something over 1,000 officers, and we should be informed as to the terms on which they are to be appointed, and whether they are to be permanent or temporary officers of the Commonwealth. We are not dealing with the appointment of only one person in each State, and if we are not careful we shall probably find ourselves committed to a scheme which will involve the employment of large staffs of officers in each of the States. We should . avoid duplicating the work which is now performed by State officials, and we should avail ourselves as far as possible of existing organization and machinery. It appears to me that we are asked to pass this Bill without absolutely knowing anything about the cost which the Commonwealth will incur under it.
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo).- I do not think we can expect the remuneration of the various electoral officers to be provided for in this Bill. This is not an Appropriation Bill ; it is practically a machinery measure. It is better, therefore, that the expenditure should be provided for in the annual Appropriation Act.
– What the honorable member for North Sydney asked for was a general statement as to the way in which the department is to administered.
– I am coming to that point. I merely say that the Bill is properly shaped, and ought not to contain items of proposed expenditure. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that it is advisable that the Minister should give us some indication of the way in which the divisional Returning Officers are to be remunerated. In Victoria at the present time many of these officers are honorary officers. The Federal Electoral Officer should be exclusively in the service of the Commonwealth Government. He should be a thoroughly independent officer, who is in sympathy with the principles of our Federal Act. At the same time I do not see why some of the other officers, such as electoral registrars, should be exclusively federal officers, or for the matter of that, exclusively State officers. They may be paid by fees. At the present moment there are a large number of electoral registrars who are performing work for the States Governments and whose services under this .’Bil] could be utilized by the Commonwealth Government. I would strongly urge the Ministry to insist upon the remuneration, of these officers being reasonable.
– I feel impelled to join with other honorable members in asking the Government to give us a satisfactory assurance in regard to the remuneration of these electoral officers. I view with considerable alarm the possibilities of this department, should it not be administered by a Minister who is noted for his care in conserving the public funds. It is desirable that honorable members should have some idea of the expenditure which will be incurred under the Bill, especially as the work provided for must be put in hand the moment the measure becomes law, in order that everything may be in readiness for the next elections. It is quite likely that this House will have no opportunity of controlling the expenditure in connexion with the preparation of the first federal rolls. In Victoria, a great deal of the actual electoral work is done in an honorary way. I think we should have a definite assurance from the Ministry that, as far as practicable, the existing States machinery will be used, in order that the cost of the elections may be reduced to a minimum. Personally, I do not think that postal officials are the best officers to undertake the task of preparing the new rolls. In Victoria, that work is performed by electoral registrars and electoral inspectors. The latter are sometimes policemen or truant inspectors. At any rate, they nearly always combine some other duty with that of electoral inspector.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - I think the difference of opinion evidenced upon this question clearly shows the complicated character of the matter under discussion. . I do not imagine we- can accomplish much good at this stage, except by pointing out the necessity for exercising economy all round. I think it would be wise if the Minister, prior to the Bill being disposed of, made a statement regarding the modus operandi which he intends to adopt. It is not usual to include in Bills of this kind details of administration. The Estimates for next year will soon be before the House, and I presume that the whole of this expenditure will be covered by them. It 39 k z seems to me that that will be the proper time for us to discuss it.
– I scarcely see how the Minister charged with the administration of this Bill can follow one set rule, seeing that the conditions vary so much throughout the different States. In my judgment, the Commonwealth Government ought to retain control of the conduct of our elections. Of course, if the Commonwealth and the States adopt a uniform franchise and electoral law, the cost of administering this Act will be materially lessened. In the initial stages of the operation of this measure, it is evident that, owing to the different laws which prevail in the various States, a considerable expenditure will be incurred. In South Australia,and Western Australia, for example, adult suffrage prevails. In Queensland the plural voting system obtains. There a man may have 30 or iO votes. In Victoria a man can vote in more than one electorate. Consequently it will cost more to conduct elections in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland than it will in South Australia. Notwithstanding that the services of State officers will be utilized, I believe that the Commonwealth will require a staff in the larger States to undertake the preparation of the rolls. Therefore, I fail to see how the details asked for can be supplied by the Minister at this stage.
– There is a good deal of force in what the honorable member has urged, and I hope that his remarks will receive attention. I will ask the Minister for Home Affairs, as soon as he has sufficiently recovered to resume charge of this Bill, to make a statement to the House, which, I am convinced, will be of a re-assuring character. It is not intended that the Commonwealth shall employ a thousand new officers whose services shall be wholly devoted to it. The number of officers who are provided for upon the Estimates, and who give their entire services to Commonwealth electoral duties, is less than half-a-dozen. The rest will receive only an honorarium for their services.
– Will the divisional officer be a permanent officer ?
– No; his services are required only at election times.
– Duties are imposed on returning officers under clause 10.
– That is only as regards electoral machinery. The real duties which make him a returning officer are practically confined to election times. Of course, there will be casual duties to perform throughout the year, but they are not sufficient to occupy the whole of his attention. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, touched the root of this question when he pointed out that the possibilities for exercising economy would be largely determined by the circumstances of the electoral systems of the various States, and that where adult suffrage obtains, it might be possible to have one department for both the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the compilation of the rolls. That, of course, would admit of immense savings. In other States, where there is a wide discrepancy between their qualifications of voters and methods of election and ours, it may be necessary to. have distractiveofficers until these differences are removed, as they will be in course of time. There is not the least doubt that the system in the States will approximate to that of the Commonwealth, which in this Bill is placed on a line with the most advanced countries. Then an opportunity will be afforded of combining, so to speak, the main portions of electoral work, to the economical advantage of both the States and the Commonwealth. I shall ask the Minister for Home Affairs, when he is able to resume his place, to make a statement to honorable members, laying down the lines on which he proposes to proceed regarding these appointments, and the salaries attaching to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Assistant returning officers may be appointed to exercise within any portion of a division, subject to the control of the divisional returning officer, all the powers of the divisional returning officer, except the powers of that officer under Part X. of this Act.
– In another portion of the Bill provision is made, I believe, for polling places outside a division, and, if so, the clause under discussion requires widening. I would suggest that the words “ or at any polling-place for a division,” should be inserted with that object. In many parts of the country, a township just over the’ border may be more convenient of access than any place within the division. Under such circumstances, there could be polling places for two divisions in the township.
– The honorable member thinks that the words “within any portion of a division,” amount to a limitation.
– Yes. In Sydney, for instance, polling places near one of the ferry wharfs could be conveniently used by a great many people whose business causes them to cross the harbor.
– -If the honorable member will move that the words “ or for “ be inserted after the word “ within “ I shall accept the amendment.
– I move-
That, after the word “within,” line 2. the words “or for” be inserted.
At the same time I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the words I previously suggested would not better meet the case.
– In later clauses of the Bill I find no power given, in so many words, to appoint any polling place for a division as distinguished from a polling place in a division. I take it that the words of clause 26 may be taken to imply that a polling place need not be in a division, and consequently I suggest the same form of words for the present amendment.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I offer no objection to the amendment, because it would not be convenient to now debate the principle of voting places outside a division. While agreeing to the amendment, in order to make the clauses harmonize, I want it understood that I do not by any means agree to the suggestion that there should be outside polling places.
– The amendment is necessary, if we are to allow the committee a chance later on of debating whether or not there shall be voting piaces outside a division. Personally, I am in favour of a voter being allowed to vote for his division at any polling place in the Commonwealth that is, I would allow a Sydney elector to cast his vote in Melbourne, if he happened to be in the latter city on the day of election.
– There would be no roll by which to check such an elector under clause 142.
– There could be a heavy penalty for making a false declaration ; and I think the same risk of personation runs, whether or not my suggestion is acted on.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).Is it the intention to have a form of Oath administered to all returning officers, as in Queensland and in Victoria ? Perhaps this is a matter which could be provided for by regulation, though it is under special sections in Queensland. The oath administered, binds the officer to do his duty faithfully, and to observe secrecy, and though there are penalties, yet the oath acts as a reminder, securing, it may be, more efficiency.
– I am obliged for the suggestion, as to which I shall make inquiries.
– In the last line of the clause assistant returning officers are excepted from exercising the powers of the divisional returning officer under Part X, which deals with postal voting. In South Australia, where postal voting was first adopted, the idea was to enable people at a distance the opportunity to exercise the franchise, and in large districts, such as we have in that State and in Queensland, the provision is no doubt extremely useful. That usefulness, however, will be to a great extent discounted by the exception to which I have referred. The divisional returning officer may be hundreds of miles away ; and yet, under the clause, applications cannot be made to the assistant. The conduct of elections and other important duties are intrusted to assistant returning officers, and I do not see why they should not be allowed to issue absentee voters’ forms, of which they must keep a complete record.
– Would the honorable member trust assistant returning officers to strike electors off the roll t
– Does the honorable member think .that question ought to be raised now ?
– The honorable member is himself raising the whole question.
– If Part X of the Bill is not going to be of as much convenience to electors at a great distance, as to other electors, we had better strike out the provisions for postal voting. In South Australia, when, a voter applies for an absentee voter’s paper, the fact is recorded in red ink opposite his name on the roll.
– But in South Australia application must be made to the divisional returning officer.
– And that has been a source of great trouble in many of the outside districts, notably in the north, where the population may be scattered over an area of 1,000 miles long by 500 miles wide. The divisional returning officer may be 300 miles away, and it must be remembered that application cannot be made until after the nomination. Therefore, an applicant who resides at a great distance is at a disadvantage in comparison with the man who is residing in a thickly populated district, and who can take advantage of, perhaps, a daily post.
– Is the honorable member of opinion that seven days will not be enough ?
– I think that assistant returning officers should be allowed to issue these papers. They would be able to keep butts, which would show to whom the papers had been issued, and to mark off upon their rolls the names of those to whom they were issued. I do not care how much the provision is hedged round with safeguards, but I think a great hardship will be inflicted upon many electors in thinly populated districts if this arrangement is not allowed.
– The omission in the clause was deliberately made, but, having heard the honorable member for South Australia, I can conceive of cases in which it might be of considerable advantage to confer upon assistant returning officers the power to issue these papers. I shall ask the Minister for Home Affairs to consider under what terms, if any, such an arrangement might be provided for.
.- I am afraid that it would be a mistake to allow assistant returning officers to issue these forms. In South Australia the electors must address their requests to the returning officer, because he is the person to whom the postal ballot-papers, when filled in, are returned. As a matter of fact, the supporters of the various candidates obtain application forms from the returning officers, and spread them broadcast over the electorates.
– In all ordinary cases we must adhere to the provision that the forms shall be issued only by returning officers, but there may be special cases in regard to which some other arrangement may be made.
– In the electorate which I represent, there are many places in which there is only a weekly mail, so that voters would not obtain papers from a returning officer in less time than a fortnight. There are, however, in the division several pretty large towns, and the assistant returning officers there are men of standing, and of large experience in the administration of the State electoral laws, so that there should be no hesitation in trusting them with the issue of these forms. If that is not done, the provisions of Part X. will be of very little value to many of those for whose advantage they were mainly devised - the electors of the thinly populated districts of the Commonwealth, such as is practically the whole of the western division of New South Wales.
– I suggest that the clause might be passed as it stands, and the matter under discussion dealt with when we come to part X. A great many of those who represent States in which this or a similar provision is in operation, assented to it in the first place, with a certain amount of misgiving, because they feared that it might impair the secrecy of the ballot. I had such misgivings, but so far, I know of nothing in the operation of the system to justify them. But although it appears to have worked well, we should be careful not to relax any of the safeguards surrounding it, and there are possibilities of abuse if we give the power to issue these papers to too many officers.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I should like to point out to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, that the assistant returning officers at the smaller places are not provided with complete rolls until immediately before the elections, and therefore they could not certify whether names were or were not upon the roll.
– They would not issue applications except to those whose names were on the roll.
– Yes ; but if they have not complete rolls they cannot be given the power to issue certificates. In South Australia electors very frequently make application under this provision before the nominations have been made, so long as the writs have been issued. They can make their applications beforehand, and the returning officer sends along the forms as soon as the nominations are issued.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I am content with the assurance of the Attorney-General that another opportunity will be given to consider this matter.
– Such an opportunity will be given.
– It seems to me that the point at issue is whether electors will have time to send in applications for these forms, and obtain them from the returning officers in time to record their votes. But why should not the forms be distributed broadcast through the electorates, and sent direct to the returning officer ? Why should electors be required to make application for application forms’?
– Under that system there would be no opportunity to secure identification by comparing two signatures.
– If that is done in every case, the whole 30 days allowed between the nomination and the election will be absolutely necessary.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Electoral registrars may be appointed to keep the rolls at specified polling places. The divisional returning officer shall keep the rolls for all polling places in his division for which no registrar has been appointed.
Clause verbally amended.
– It is well that there should be some clear definition of the duties of the various officers to be appointed under the Bill. I do not see any definition of the duties of the returning officer as distinguished from those of the electoral registrar. The duties of the former should be strictly limited to those which usually pertain to the office. The returning officer occupies a semi-judicial position, whereas the electoral registrar is intrusted with the preparation and compilation of the rolls. Under this clause there seems to be some overlapping of duties. Both officers are enjoined to “keep the rolls.” Does that mean merely the custody of the rolls, or the preparation and compilation of them? In clause 38, also, there is a similar confusion, because both the registrar and the returning officer are required to place names upon the roll. The duties of the registrar and of the returning officer should be kept entirely apart.
– Itwould be a great mistake to follow the course suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. In South Australia, the practice has been for the returning officer to also act as registrar, and a registrar is appointed only in cases where the returning officer cannot act in the dual capacity. The system adopted in that State works exceedingly well, and a great number of names which would never otherwise appear there are placed on the rolls by returning officers acting also as registrars. It would be a great mistake if in every chief divisional town it were necessary to appoint, not only an assistant returning officer, -but also an assistant registrar. With regard to the amendments that are now being made as consequential upon that recently agreed to on the motion of the honorable member for North Sydney, I think that, inasmuch as similar amendments will have to be made throughout the Bill, it might be as well to pass one provision covering the whole of them.
– I can understand the position assumed by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, because he speaks in the light of Victorian experience. We have been accustomed to regard the returning officer as a person appointed to preside over and conduct elections, while the preparation of the rolls has been entirely in the hands of Ministerial officers termed registrars. That system has not, however, been followed in South Australia. Under the Bill the divisional returning officer is really the chief registrar of the division in which he lives. First of all he has the general custody of all the rolls, and then he has particular rolls for which he also acts as registrar. That combination of functions has been found conducive to economy and the better supervision of the rolls. The system has been deliberately adopted, and it does not result in that confusion which would be implied if we were following the Victorian system. If the honorable and learned member reads these clauses together he will see that there is a consistent purpose running through them all.
– I do not see any reason why the divisional returning officer should not keep a complete record of the rolls for the whole division. The clause provides that -
The divisional returning officer shall keep the rolls for all polling places in his division for which no registrar has been appointed.
Why- should he not keep a complete record?
– He will have a complete record of the rolls, but he will not “ keep “ them in the sense of preparing them.
– There is no reason why the divisional returning officer should not keep all the rolls, irrespective of the fact that registrars are appointed in outlying portions of the district. There should be a place in each division at which the rolls for the whole of the division could be inspected.
– It is only a question of phraseology. What the honorable member desires is to be done.
– I think that the words “ for which no registrar has been appointed “ should be omitted, because otherwise an elector desiring to know what roll he was on would have to go to each registrar in order to obtain a sight of the rolls. I move- -
That all the words after “ division,” be omitted.
– The purpose which the honorable member has in view would be met if the latter part of the clause were altered to read as follows : -
The divisional returning officer shall supervise the rolls for nil polling places in his division, and keep those for which no registrar has been appointed.
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo).- I was in some doubt as to the meaning of the word “ keep.” I cannot believe that it has any reference to the preparation of the rolls, because that work is especially provided for in clause 34. Therefore, this clause apparently does not contemplate the preparation of the rolls, but merely their custody. I agree with the honorable member for South Australia, that the words “ for which no registrar has been appointed “ are unnecessary. Therefore any person who desired access to the whole of the rolls for any division could secure it by going to the general returning officer. I do not see why the divisional returning officer should be called upon to discharge a sort of residuary function in cases where there is no electoral officer for certain specified places. Therefore I suggest that these words should be omitted.
– I am unable to agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who is still reading this provision through the spectacles of Victorian ex,perience. I would point out to him that in a sense the chief electoral registrar for a district does prepare the rolls, and that he also keeps them. He prepares lists that he forwards to the federal returning officer. It is the signature of the latter, however, which converts those lists into rolls that are afterwards kept by the electoral registrars and the divisional returning officers for purposes of public inspection. If we omit the words referred to, we shall cast upon the divisional returning officers all the work of preparing the rolls, and shall also come into conflict with later clauses of the Bill.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.
Clause 12’ -
Each State shall be. distributed into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein.
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the following words be added to the’ clause : - ‘ ‘ And one member of the House of Representatives shall be chosen in each division.”
– This clause opens up one of the most important questions dealt with in the Bill, namely, that of sub-division. Section 7 of the Constitution provides -
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.
Then section 29 provides -
Until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of any State may make laws for determining the divisions in each State for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen, and the number of members to be chosen for each division. . . . In the absence of other provision each State shall be one electorate.
Accordingly, for the first federal elections some of the States Parliaments divided their States into certain electorates. For example : New South Wales was divided into 26 districts, Victoria into 23, Queensland into 9, and Western Australia into 5, but South Australia and Tasmania were satisfied to elect their representatives in the same way as they elect their senators. . The evident intention of the Constitution is ‘ that the people of the various States should I be the judges as to the manner in which the members of this House are elected.
– Until the Parliament otherwise provides.
– I would point out to the honorable member that that phrase occurs in nearly half the sections’ of the Constitution. No occasion has been shown for this Parliament to interfere with the existing state of things, and with the rights which have been conferred upon the States by the Constitution itself. Of course, it would have been a farce to expect the electors of New South Wales to vote for 26 representatives out of probably 60 or 70 candidates in the field. Therefore, the Parliament of that State divided it into 26 electorates. In Victoria precisely the same thing occurred. But in South Australia, which elects only seven members to this Chamber, and which contains a large territory, with a diversity of interests in respect of State matters, the people chose that their representatives should be elected by the State voting as one constituency. What demand has been made for any alteration? What has been done to induce this Parliament to wish to divide that State into electorates, or to appoint a commission to undertake a work which the State itself has not found it necessary to perform ? When this Bill was before the Senate, that Chamber was particularly careful to eliminate the clauses having ref terence to the subdivision of various States into electorates for the return of senators. In South Australia there has been no outcry either on the part of the press, or the people, in favour of subdividing that State in the way that is contemplated in this Bill. I ask the Victorian representatives whether they intend to support the subdivision of the smaller States, and afterwards to vote for the retention of the present Victorian electorates instead of relegating to a commission the power to subdivide them ? What is “sauce for the Victorian goose is sauce for the South Australian gander.” In Victoria an Act was passed dividing the State into 23 electorates, and until the Bill before us, or some similar measure becomes law, the Victorian .Parliament have power to amend their present Act, and elect members to this House in the same way as they elect senators. It is most unfair to States who do not desire to be so subdivided, to argue that in the Constitution there is a mandate to this Parliament to “ otherwise provide “ in the absence of any demand from the people.
– Does the honorable member not think it desirable that the Commonwealth should take away from the States the power to fix electoral divisions?
– I cannot say I think that such a step is desirable. In my opinion it is more desirable that the people, through their representatives in the local Parliaments, should exercise the right which the Constitution gives them - the right to either subdivide the States or leave each as one electoral district. The only reasonable argument in favour of the clause is that of uniformity. . But in South Australia the members of this House were elected by the whole of the people on the broadest franchise in the Commonwealth, and the Victorian Parliament did not make any effort to secure uniformity by giving the women of the latter State the franchise. A great many of the provisions of the Bill before us are useful and necessary ; but, while it may be desirable to have uniformity, there is no immediate necessity for making the subdivision of States compulsory ; and I intend to oppose as strongly as I am able the exercise of this power by the Commonwealth Parliament. My desire is to strike out the provisions to which I object, and to leave the States as they were, at any rate until this Parliament receives some intimation that they desire a change from the people most closely interested. In some large States it may be an advantage to have electoral districts ; but members elected by a whole State are in a much more independent position than are members elected by small constituencies.
– Relatively small ; there are no small constituencies.
– The smallest federal constituency contains about 10,000 electors.
– But the difference between a constituency of 10,000 and a constituency of 100,000 is very material. Without in the least degree desiring to be offensive, I may suggest that in the smaller constituencies the “roads and bridges” member and district necessities and influence are. much more prominent. There is always the influence of certain sections of the community. There may be a section in favour of the Hare-Spence or some other system of proportional voting, or it may be a section with strong prohibitionist views. . But in large constituencies broader national views prevail, and representatives can refuse to be held pledged to any particular sections. For this reason only, I believe, the people of South Australia decided to elect members to this House in the same way that they elect senators.
– They certainly chose a very admirable body of representatives.
– I am not alluding to the representatives who have been returned ; but it is certain that those elected in South. Australia represent every prominent line of thought on national political questions. There are two or three representatives who may be termed “ advanced liberals “ or “ democrats,” led by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and we have a representative of labour in the honorable member, Mr. Batchelor, and another liberal respresentative in the Speaker. Along with these are representatives who are not so pronounced on democratic questions. The States who have adopted the system of one electorate have not desired to press their views on other States, and, in all fairness, freedom ought to be allowed in this matter. The adoption of the system proposed in the Bill would lead to a considerable amount of friction, seeing that the sub-division has to be made not by Parliament, but by a commission.
– That is another question.
– But it is intimately connected with the question now before us.
– The subdivision might be on any plan.
– We may pass this clause and reject the next.
– That is just what I do not want honorable members to do. There are honorable members who strongly object to a commission subdividing States which have already been subdivided by the local Parliaments, and I think that South Australia and Tasmania have an equal right to object to any. subdivision. The other portions of the Bill are necessary and valuable, and in regard to these I shall give the Government every assistance in my power.
– I do not object to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, declaring that he does not want his State divided, but I can assure the committee that I want Tasmania divided into electoral districts. The Parliament of Tasmania introduced a Bill with that object, and they called the West Coast district “Natone.” But, as may be seen from the local Ilansard, the members of that Parliament got frightened of a stranger from South Australia, -who, they said, would be able to hoodwink the electors of the West Coast, but could not persuade the electors of the whole of the State to return him.
– Who was that ?
– I was the “ stranger.” The consequence was that at the instigation of Sir Edward Braddon, the Bill was rejected ; and I want the State divided into electorates, because I am not prepared to spend £500 on another contest. This Parliament ought to give the Tasmanian people a chance of electing members to represent the different views which are held in that State. If there be one electorate we must have the Hare-Spence system of voting ; I do not want to have the block system, with every newspaper in Tasmania against democratic candidates. For my pare, I am willing to accept the divisions which were set forth in the Bill presented in the Tasmanian Parliament, or to have the matter submitted to a Select Committee of this House. Such a committee would have all the necessary information before them, and would not be influenced by such considerations as I have indicated. I shall oppose the omission of the clause.
– It seems to me that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, has missed the main importance of this clause. The question is whether Parliament shall take under its control the delimitation of its electorates, or leave it to the States.
– We could get rid of that difficulty by declaring the States to be divisions.
– That would settle the question in one direction. It is essential that this Parliament should take into its hands the division of the electorates. It is conceivable that if we did not, any one of the States Parliaments might make a fresh division of electorates which might have a very direct bearing upon the views expressed by representatives in this House, and such a thing would be intolerable. Without discussing the question, should the States be divided into electorates, I say that we must take out of the hands of the States Parliaments the power to interfere with our electoral boundaries. I differ from the honorable member in regard to the inference to be drawn from the provision of the Constitution to which he referred. It seems to me that the wording of the section conveys the idea that each State should be cut up into electorates, and the proviso at the end was inserted merely to prevent any State from being unrepresented through the failure of its Parliament to divide it into electorates. Personally, I think it is essential to provide some practical distinction between the method of electing the members of this House and the method of electing the members of the Senate. If the States were divided into electorates, we in this House would each represent about the same number of people, and though, for convenience sake, no electorate will be made up of a part of one State and a part of another, we shall be really representatives of the Commonwealth without regard to State boundaries. If, however, we leave it to the States Parliaments to determine the manner in which the electorates are to be divided, we may have our claim to be considered the representatives of the people seriously interfered with. I trust that the committee will not carry into effect the honorable and learned member’s suggestion.
– The honorable member for South Australia has based his proposal upon what he spoke of as the effect of the Constitution in conferring upon the States the right to determine how elections for the House of Representatives should be conducted; But it was impossible for the Convention which framed the Constitution to do anything else, and the right is limited by the expression “ until the Parliament sholl otherwise provide.” Although I agree that effect is not likely to be given to those words in other sections of the Constitution for a considerable time to come, I feel that the Convention intended Parliament to settle this matter once and for all, and I am with those who wish us to settle it now. The Premier of Victoria has just proposed that the members of the Victorian Legislative Council shall be returned to represent single electorates. That is a democratic proposal, and one which is in accord with the progressive spirit of the times. Surely the honorable and learned member for South Australia will not argue that we should revert to the old-fashioned method of electing representatives by a block vote? The single electorate system has been tried, and found to answer better than any other that can be devised for securing a true expression of the views of the electors. In my opinion the attitude of the honorable member is not in keeping with the democratic instincts of the people of South Australia. They have given us the lead in many important matters affecting representation, and I hope there will not be any attempt to interfere with what must be their desire - to see a uniform and efficient representative system adopted throughout the Commonwealth.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).The honorable member for South Australia has pointed out one or two distinct advantages which arise from having the representatives of the State elected by the whole of the electors of that State. Undoubtedly we who represent South Australia feel that we represent the whole of the people of that State, and that we are therefore in a stronger position than if we represented only the people of individual districts. We knew when we were elected that we had the whole population behind us. Furthermore, it is a much simpler matter to provide for proportional representation where the whole State is one electorate than under any other arrangement. I do not think, however, that these advantages are a sufficient reason for not placing the representation of all the States in this House upon the same footing. I do not think that the honorable member, Mr. Solomon, can fairly claim that the fact that South Australia was not divided into electorates is a proof of the wish of the people of that State to vote as one division. He knows that a resolution was passed by the House of Assembly there affirming the desirability of subdividing the States into electorates, but, as some dispute arose as to the number of members which should be allotted to Adelaide and its vicinity and to the country generally, a large number of those who had previously been in favour of the division of the State withdrew from that position in order that an unfair division should not be made. Then, too, it was not considered very safe to send the proposals up to the Legislative Council at that time, since they might have been dealt with in such a way as to suit the views of the members of that body rather than those of the great mass of the people.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I shall support the position taken up by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon. Both the honorable member and myself take this attitude with a considerable strength of conviction, owing to our experience of the result of the voting in South Australia as one district, both for the representation of that State at the Federal Convention, and in this Parliament. Where a State can vote as one district, owing to the number of candidates being so small as to present no difficulties, the representatives chosen are men that, for good or bad, have been tested in public life. They must be known to some extent, or they will not stand a chance of election for the whole State, and they will thus have the benefit of experience in State politics to assist them in discharging their federal duties. In addition to this, the representation in federal matters ought to be broad, and the districts ought to be so arranged as to enable honorable members to view all matters upon broad lines, and to destroy the power of small sections, which often turn elections in small districts. This is strictly in accordance with the federal principle. In the German Federation, Berlin has six representatives for a total population of about 2,000,000, Therefore every representative stands for about 300,000 people. In the Belgian, as well as in the Prussian Constitution, there is a provision that, although members are returned for districts, they must always act as national, and not as parochial representatives. This plainly shows that the ideal of a Federation is to destroy the representation of small communities, so that national questions may be approached from a broad stand-point, and so that the States may hold the same position with regard to the Commonwealth as a whole as districts occupy in regard to each particular State. In view of these facts, honorable members must recognise that a strong case can be presented for large districts, not only in the small States, but even in the larger ones. The smaller constituencies, for instance, might be grouped so as to decrease the divisions to one-third or one-fourth of the present number. We have to deal inthis Parliament with broad national matters - not with State, but with Australianquestions - and I am entitled to view this subject from an Australian point of view. What is sought to be done is to divide up the States into small parts for the ostensible purpose of securing an Australian representation.
-In order to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.
– Whilst the Constitution prescribes a uniform method for choosing senators, there is no such provision as regards the choice of representatives in this House ; and this shows that diversity was contemplated as regards this House. The States must be treated alike with regard to the election of senators, but no such stipulation is made in regard to the election of members of this House. In the United States, for some time, senators were elected for the States Senates by the electors of the State voting as one body; and when that good principle was in some States abandoned, Bryce declared that the Legislatures degenerated, owing to the character of their representatives being lowered rather than raised. American experience condemns the principle of the division of the States into small districts for the return of senators, and a very strong primafacie case is presented for leaving the small States alone. Is it fair that the commissioners should not be allowed to interfere with the larger States, and that they should be specially required to upset existing arrangements in the smaller States ? In the subdivision of the larger States the commissioners are not to disturb existing divisions.
– The existing divisioas are to be taken as the basis, but they are to be altered subject to the principles laid down in the Bill.’
– One principle of the Bill is to secure as far as possible equal electoral districts, but the existing divisions are not to be interfered with any more than is absolutely necessary, and there is no doubt that this provision very strongly commends itself to many honorable members who would not care to have their districts disturbed.It does not matter to me personally, apart from the matter of expense, whether South Australia is divided into small districts or not, nor do I think that any of my colleagues have the smallest reason to fear the results of a subdivision of the State into districts. I think, however, that the better principle to adopt is that of the wide representation of national interests rather than that of sectionalizing the States by dividing them into small districts.
Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN (Wentworth). Most of us will sympathize with the honorable members for South Australia, and so far as the principles enunciated by the honorable and learned member, Mr. Glynn, are concerned, I think that we are all agreed that national representation is better secured, as a rule, where few members have to be returned, by treating the State as one electorate. I am afraid, however, that this is a case in which, no matter what arguments may be adduced, it will be impossible for us to adopt any course except that provided for in the Bill. It might be left to the States to arrange their own divisions, but I think we have come to the conclusion that in all matters connected with the election of representatives of this House we must have complete control. We cannot differentiate between the States, because that would be opposed to the principle of the Constitution. Honorable members must,” therefore, see that it is impossible for us, much as we may sympathize with them, to adopt any other course than that proposed in the Bill.
– Although I am very much in accord with what has been said by my honorable colleagues from South Australia, and although I am satisfied that the electors of that State had no reason to find fault either with the mode of election or with the result of the first appeal that was made to the State as a whole, I think we shall be only acting fairly in determining that the members of this House shall be elected upon a uniform basis. We shall not in that case have members in some instances representing States and in others representing only districts. There is a further consideration which has been mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, namely, that if we do not move in this matter it does not follow that the States Parliaments will not take action on their own account. We have also to remember that if we allow the whole of the electors in a State to vote as one body, we shall expose ourselves to the risk of incurring great expense in the event of a. bye-election.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 -
The Governor-General may appoint three persons in each State to be commissioners for the purpose of distributing the State into divisions in accordance with this Act, and may appoint one of them to be chairman.
– I think that in this clause we might dispense with the services of the commissioners. In saying this, I am not actuated solely by motives of economy, but I believe that the work of distribution will be better done if the Minister is saddled with the responsibility of submitting proposals to the consideration of Parliament. In the first place, he has the whole of the machinery of the Commonwealth at his disposal. He can obtain all the information that is necessary from the statisticians of the various States. He can also secure data from any of his officers scattered over the Commonwealth. Therefore, he is in the very best position to formulate proposals which are likely to meet with the acceptance of Parliament and the approval of the country. I have acted in a similar way in the State of Victoria. I selected from my department the officer whom I believed to be best qualified to undertake this particular work. Together we secured all the necessary statistics and prepared a plan of sub-division. We then called in the services of a committee of the Cabinet, who considered the matter from every possible standpoint, and it was not until after we had revised that plan several times that we felt justified in submitting our proposals to Parliament. When a Minister presents his proposals to Parliament he has to accept the full responsibility for them, and is, therefore, in a very different position from that occupied by commissioners. I hold that we shall obtain a much better distribution from the Minister than we can hope to secure by the appointment of outside commissioners. There is no necessity to appoint eighteen highly-paid officers to traverse the Commonwealth in order to derive information which is much more accessible to the Minister himself. Moreover, the commissioners would have to incur enormous expenses in travelling. I am perfectly sure that by the plan which I suggest we shall obtain the best and most equitable distribution, whilst at the same time effecting a very large saving. To test the question, I move -
That the word “Commissioners” be omitted.
– I hope that the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland will not be carried in its entirety. In the first place, somebody must be appointed to determine these divisions.
– The Minister can get the assistance of any officer he desires from the States ; they are all at his command.
– To me it is perfectly clear that Parliament could not undertake the task of dividing the different States into the electorates required. Can any honorable member declare where the different polling places in his electorate should be located? If Parliament undertakes this work, particular towns may be compelled to vote in one electorate when by community of interests they distinctly belong to another. I desire to see these distributions kept as free from Parliamentary interference as possible. If the honorable member for Gippsland would limit his proposal to the retention of one commissioner, or the chief returning officer, I should be prepared to support it. I would further point out that a similar system to that proposed by the Government obtains in England, and also in New Zealand, which colony has been held up to us as an example of extreme radicalism. I do not think that honorable members can spare the time necessary to carefully study all the boundaries of the various electoral divisions so that they may be enabled to determine whether those boundaries are acceptable.
– Why should we shirk our responsibility?
– Because we are not competent to decide this matter. If I read the surveyor’s decription of the boundaries of any electorate throughout the Commonwealth, I will undertake to say there are not very many who could follow it. Can the honorable member for Gippsland define the limits of his own constituency at the present time? I am sure that he could not.
– Only South Australia and Tasmania have to be subdivided.
– Is no alteration to take place in the existing electorates in the other States?
– How shall we be better off if the boundaries are determined by commissioners instead of by Parliament ?
– The honorable member has not grasped the gist of my remarks. I hold that Parliament is not competent to define those boundaries. The divisions must be madeby some outside authority.
– As a matter of form the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland would come better a few words earlier, although that consideration is practically immaterial, because if the proposal be carried it will be necessary to omit clauses 13, 14, 15, and probably 19, 21, and 22, and to amend clauses 23 and 24. Therefore it will necessitate recasting most of this part of the Bill. Although this proposal would effect such a gi-eat alteration in the measure, it is not vital. The control proposed by the Bill ultimately rests with Parliament. Where this proposal differs from that of the honorable member for Gippsland is that, in order to give confidence to the public, the allocation is to be made simply on the lines of the principles laid down in this measure, and will not be governed by considerations of political expediency. The first inquiry authorized is to be made by commissioners, who need not be many or persons outside the service, or highly paid. The qualifications of the commissioners may be a competent knowledge, of surveying and sufficient general knowledge of the districts. This, coupled with the statistical information supplied by the department, will enable them to make a general division of the population according to the principles laid down. That is only the first stage of the proposal, because the report must come before Parliament to be accepted or rejected. If rejected, the some impartial authorities are required to submit another scheme until Parliament is satisfied.
– Irresponsible authorities.
– They are responsible to Parliament, and Parliament is responsible to the country for the scheme accepted. The course proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland is a short cut to the same end, and he is justified in pointing to the success of his own attempt to divide Victoria into electoral districts. If I remember aright, that measure passed through without a division, or, at any rate,, without alteration. But I have known schemes of the kind in past times in this State which met with fierce opposition, and in connexion with which motives were freely imputed to the Government.
– My scheme met with a good deal of opposition, but after a full discussion it was accepted.
– Other schemes have not been so fortunate. The proposal before us does not seek to take the matter out of parliamentary control, but proposes that as regards the particular line to be followed in separating district from district, Parliament shall have the opportunity of considering the judgment of men who have no personal interests to serve.
– Surely the responsible Minister is competent for the task ?
– The Minister is competent for the task and could do it in a shorter time, and undoubtedly at less expense, though in any case the expense need not be great.
– At less expense and with a greater sense of responsibility.
– Under either plan the commissioners would probably be officers either directed by the Minister to submit their proposals to him, or authorized as a commission to submit them to Parliament. It is simply a difference in procedure. Ours gives greater public confidence, and the .plan has worked well in Great Britain and New Zealand. I think there is, under either plan, something like this in New South Wales.
– The plan did not work well in New South Wales the last time it was tried. The commissioners brought up a report involving a disparity of 9,000 electors for one district, and 15,000 for another.
– The system proposed has, as a rule, worked well. I have admitted its disadvantages, and have called attention to its advantages; one of the chief is that the proposals, which will come before Parliament, will be above all possible suspicion and challenge.
– To which proposal do the Government commit themselves 1
– The Government retain the proposal in the Bill ; but I wish honorable members to realize that the difference is one of procedure and not one of principle, the ultimate choice in each case resting with Parliament. The question is whether the divisions shall be proposed by the Minister or by persons appointed by him - experts outside and supposed to be free from bias.
– It will relieve the Minister from personal responsibility.
– It may relieve the Minister, but it will not relieve Parliament from responsibility.
– It is government by commission.
– It would be government by commission if the House were compelled to accept the suggestions of the commissioners. But as a fact the House is left perfectly free. Honorable members will now be able to weigh the pros and cons. of each proposal, one of which is the more direct, involving more Ministerial responsibility, but which leaves the way open to the imputation of political influences. The other proposal is somewhat more cumbrous and more expensive, but the suggestions laid before Parliament are those of a dispassionate tribunal. While’ admitting the success which in “Victoria has attended the course proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland, it seems to me that the advantages of the scheme laid down in the Bill are such as should commend it to members of this House.
– The unsatisfactory results of the system in New South Wales I do not regard as due to any fault of the system itself, but as due rather to the fault of the Government in appointing the commissioners they did. In New South Wales the commissioners were set a standard, with the quota amounting to 11,000 electors, from which they had as nearly as possible to get an equal number of electors in each district. But the commissioners brought in a report showing the disparity of 9,000 in the Barrier and 15,000 electors in Newcastle electorate.
– There was a disparity between the 15,000 in the electorate of Dalley, and the number in other electorates.
– At any rate, there was an enormous disparity, and Parliament was in the position that they had to accept the scheme or go without any division.
– There are no such disparities in Victoria,
– In Victoria, though the idea was togive greater representation to some districts than to others, the disparity was not so great as in New South Wales, where it was sought to obtain equal electorates. It would be a safer plan if the men or man - because I do not think it necessary to have three - who have the fixing of the boundaries should be as far as possible removed from party considerations. If we once set the example of the Government of the day fixing electoral boundaries, it may be followed in subsequent allocations of seats.
– If it does not work well we may trust the Parliament to alter it.
– There is a disposition on the part of English-speaking people to follow what has been done, simply because it has been done. The experience in America in this connexion has not been such as to encourage us to follow their example. In the most recent elections in the United States there were “many complaints of gerrymandering. It is more than likely that the dominant political party will endeavour to arrange matters in their own way ; and, on the whole, I think we had better stick to the principle of having a commissioner.
– I agree that it would be better to have a commissioner. According to the plan of the honorable member for Gippsland, the boundaries would be fixed more on political than on physical or community of interest lines. If the present Minister for Home Affairs were to attempt to disturb the existing boundaries in Victoria and introduce equal electorates, we can imagine the sort of ‘support he would receive from the representatives of that State. The electorate I represent contains close on 16,000 electors, while electorates in Victoria have about 9,000, there being in . the latter State three kinds of electorates - city, suburban, and rural. Public confidence will be much stronger if an outside body undertakes this work If the Minister fixes the boundaries he will certainly have regard to his own supporters, and, as matters now stand, he would take good care not to disturb the Victorian boundaries. In Tasmania and South Australia they have not had divisions, and there would be no such interests to serve. If the Minister presented the report he would have to stake the life of the Government on it.
– Not at all.
– Then what becomes of this cry of responsibility? I think members are more concerned about clause 1 6, which deals with the equalization of electorates, than they are about the clause under discussion.
– The clauses have nothing whatever to do with each other.
– The amendment would be a source of danger to the great principle of equalization of electorates, and in order to secure the confidence of the public in the divisions I shall support the appointment of a commissioner.
– I shall vote in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland. The work to be done does not justify the appointment of eighteen commissioners, each three of whom would no doubt have their secretary, clerk, and surveyor, at a very considerable cost. The work of fixing the districts has been almost done. There are only two States which have not been divided, and in those States that are divided the work would be simply a readjustment of the present boundaries of the electorates. The work of the commissioners would simply mean the inclusion of so many State electorates in the federal division. The existing divisions could be adjusted fairly on the population basis, and the cost of the plan proposed in the Bill need not be incurred if the Ministry undertakes the work. No matter how the division is effected, there will be accusations of political influence. Commissioners will be appointed by the Government, and it might be said that they would be influenced by the interests of the particular party which supported the Government. I do not say that would be so, but that might be the position assumed by those who were dissatisfied with the divisions made.
– This question should be decided upon the lines proposed in the Bill; although I think that one commissioner in each State would be sufficient. If the slightest suspicion is to be entertained, even by a minority of this committee it would not be fair to allow matters to rest in the hands of responsible Ministers. I do not say that the Ministry would not exercise their powers honorably, but there will be a considerable amount of delicate work to perform, and a thoroughly independent officer should be appointed for the purpose. There have been great changes in New South Wales since the last faulty division was made, and the commissioner will find his work very difficult, even acting within the lines laid down in the Bill. On the whole it will be far better for the Ministry to avoid any contact with this matter.
– When I dealt with the distribution of the electorates in Victoria not one member of the Victorian Parliament sought to exert any influence upon me.
– That may be. The honorable member for Gippsland is above suspicion. If the proposal now before us is not adopted, the Ministry must bring down a scheme for which they are responsible, and then everything will be prejudiced. On the other hand, an independent commissioner will bring down a report entirely devoid of party complexion, and it will be within the power of honorable members to deal with that report as they think fit. Although the work of the commissioners appointed in New South Wales was badly done on one occasion, the principle adopted should not be condemned.
-I am astonished at the attitude assumed by honorable members from New SouthWales, who admit that the system which was adopted there completely broke down.
– Only once. It proved satisfactory on the other occasion.
– It broke down because the commissioners had no responsibility. No responsible Minister would dare to lay before this Chamber a plan of distribution which would provide for districts having electors varying in numbers from 9,000 to 15,000.
An Honorable Member. - That was done in Victoria.
– In Victoria we did not aim at equal electorates. Our object was entirely different from that sought to be achieved in New South Wales. We endeavoured to preserve the relations which existed in the State Parliament between the town and country electorates, but in New South Wales the commissioners had a definite instruction to adopt the principle of equal electorates. The result of that definite instruction to irresponsible men was to bring about a disparity of 6,000 voters between two electorates, with a maximum of 15,000 votes. There is no complaint in Victoria to-day with regard to the distribution which took place in that State.
– Yes, there is. I have heard a number of men state that the country districts have had too much representation.
– Will the honorable member believe me when I say that a complaint was made by the present Treasurer, who was then leader of the Opposition and of the metropolitan party in theVictorian Assembly, that the country had not sufficient representation ? Even though the statement of the honorable member for Bland was correct, I would point out that it was not the distribution that gave rise to complaints so much as the allotment, which introduced an element altogether foreign to that which we are discussing. We are not considering the relations between town and country electorates, but the question of appointing irresponsible commissioners to prepare a scheme for our consideration. I regret the timidity shown by the honorable member for Wentworth with regard to the good faith of members of this Parliament. “ I hope the day is far distant when we shall have reason to be afraid of the honesty of those honorable members who sit on the Ministerial benches. Our greatest security lies in the fact that we can trust them to bring down a scheme of distribution. On the score of expense alone I object to the appointment of three commissioners, and I am opposed altogether to Parliament and the Government laying aside their responsibilities in the way proposed. One of our duties should be to see that our elections are managed in such a way as to insure the honesty, integrity, and purity of our representation, and we cannot discharge our obligations in this regard when we are afraid to trust each other. Honorable members may say that they have no suspicions themselves, but they are giving colour to the suspicions entertained by those people outside who are only too ready to point the finger of scorn at Members of Parliament. I always feel when an attack is made upon the honour of Parliament that my own personal honour is being assailed, and 1 resent any attempt that may be made to belittle Parliament, or to derogate from the dignity of a magnificent free institution. Above all, I am a firm believer in Ministerial responsibility, and if we are going to have government by commission, the sooner we appoint a committee to conduct our business and go to our homes the better it will be. I am prepared to adopt that course if honorable members say that they have no further confidence in the honour and integrity of Parliament. We shall make a mistake if we allow those who are in authority to shirk their responsibilities. The time available for doing all that is required in connexion with the division of the States into electoral districts will -be ‘very short, and we may find ourselves landed in the same awkward position as was brought about- in New 39 l
South Wales. The Government should instruct their officers to prepare a scheme, which should afterwards be carefully considered in Cabinet, and presented to Parliament with the Ministerial imprimatur. Then we should have an opportunity of considering a thoroughly fair and equitable scheme.
– The honorable member would make a party fight over it.
– No ; there is no necessity for that. There could be a party fight only if honorable members were so base as to desire to take advantage of one another. I do not think any such state of affairs will arise in this Chamber.
– It is pleasant to hear the honorable member for Laanecoorie take high ground with regard to the dignity and honour of Parliament ; but I do not think that anything that has been said really calls into question either our dignity or honour.. We are considering what is the best principle to follow. AVe have safeguarded our dignity by declaring that we shall have nothing to do with deciding disputes arising out of contested elections, and we should act wisely in declining to take upon ourselves the decision of the boundaries of the electoral districts. These divisions are not to be determined altogether by considerations as to the numbers of voters, but very frequently the relative positions of parts of a district to each other have to be taken, into account. We should keep this question altogether clear of any suggestion of manipulation with a view to serve .the interests of particular parties or candidates ; and we* should remit the whole question to an independent tribunal. I . think that too many commissioners are provided for, because under the operation of some of the clauses the decision will rest with only one commissioner. So far as that goes, I should be quite content if we had only one commissioner. But honorable members seem to forget a statement which was made by the Minister for Home Affairs in introducing this Bill. Upon that occasion I believe he declared that he would accept an amendment providing for the appointment of one commissioner for the whole of theCommonwealth, if that officer were assisted by two persons possessing an extensive knowledge of their respective States. Probably we might achieve that end by appointing as commissioner a
Judge, who, in determining the various electoral boundaries, could be aided by two technical experts, such as surveyors. I am satisfied that if we leave this matter to Parliament we shall have 75 commissioners. We know that gerrymandering has taken place in America, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, has said to the contrary. The statement of the honorable member for Gippsland, in reference to his happy experience in settling the boundaries of the Victorian electorates, is perfectly correct. He was eminently successful in that task, but he should recollect that at the time he made that distribution there were no sitting members to be considered. I think that the committee would do well to retain this provision in the Bill, but I fail to see any reason why we should appoint three commissioners. Let us have one commissioner, assisted by such skilled officers as he chooses to employ, or by two local representatives.
-The honorable member for Laanecoorie did not hold out a very attractive bait to the Ministry when he suggested that they should stake their official existence upon any proposal which they, after consultation with their officers, submitted to Parliament. I do not think there is very much difference from the point of view of Ministerial responsibility between the proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland and that of the Government. The amendment really provides that the Government shall submit the report of their chief electoral officer. Generally speaking, in each State that officer would be appointed as commissioner. Certainly in South Australia there is no man so fitted for the post as Mr. Sheriff Boothby. I am sure that before tabling any proposals in regard to cutting up South Australia into electorates, the Government would consult that officer. Probably they would adopt his distribution. Then why not appoint him commissioner, and let him report directly to this Parliament ? To my mind, the appointment of one commissioner seems to be the right thing. All the talk about gerrymandering is utterly beside the question. What is wanted is an outside commissioner who will report direct to Parliament. Should Parliament disagree with his report it can be referred back to him. But, on the other hand, I should be very sorry to see Parliament undertake the work of defining the boundaries of the various electorates - as has been done recently in some of the States, notably in South Australia, where something approaching gerrymandering certainly did take place, although it ‘occurred in the House. The alterations made in some of the districts of that State are open to grave suspicion. At any rate, a very large section of the people consider that in connexion with them there was a deliberate piece of gerrymandering. I prefer that there should not be the slightest suspicion of anything of that sort occurring under the operation of this Bill. I say that the report of the commissioner should be laid upon the table of the House in the form in which it leaves his hands, and that any proposals to alter it should be made upon the floor of this Chamber. The adoption of that course would . effectually dispel all suspicion which might otherwise be entertained. I hope that the committee will adhere to the proposal for the appointment of one commissioner. More than one we do not need.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I am sure that the committee are obliged to the honorable member for Laanecoorie for the certificate of character which he has given it. I hope that we are all honest. I trust that none of us merit the charges of meanness and dishonesty at which he has hinted, but of which I am sure we have never been accused by other honorable members. Certainly they have hinted at the existence of party feeling, and declared that political interests would claim attention if the work of distribution were undertaken by Parliament. If, however, the honorable member cannot see the distinction between meanness or dishonesty and party feeling, as it manifests itself from time to time in this Chamber, he should consider the matter again. All that has been alleged is that this House, by reason of its party composition, is utterly unsuited to undertake a work of this delicate character. We were also told by the honorable member for Gippsland, whose utterance was pitched in that high key which does credit to this so-called rarer atmosphere, that the work should be undertaken by a pure Minister who would not be susceptible to political influences, and that he should stake his official existence upon his immaculate scheme. I hold that the’ responsibility of determining this matter is one above all others which the Ministry ought not to be saddled with. What particular knowledge of the topography of Australia has the Treasurer, the Attorney-General, or the Minister for Trade and Customs? We never knew before that those Ministers were geographical experts. Is it fair to ask them to accept responsibility for a scheme regarding which they have the most imperfect knowledge? This distribution should be undertaken in as impartial a way as possible. Some one should be appointed to perform the work who is absolutely free from party bias. There is no analogy - as was suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland - between Victoria and some of the other States. In support of my contention, I would point out that for year’s past Victoria has enjoyed a settled protective policy. It is claimed that there are very few freetraders in the country districts. Therefore, there is no strong political feeling in the community, and consequently there can be no analogy between this State and those where such a feeling exists and causes parties to divide themselves into hostile camps, fighting for different fiscal policies. Neither is there any analogy between Victoria and, the larger States by reason of the difference in size. To quote this State as an example, where entirely different conditions prevail, is altogether misleading. Let me suppose that the honorable member for Gippsland knows an electorate in the country where sentiment is equally divided between free-trade and protection. Should there be a centre just outside the boundary line of that district, which might turn the scale in favour of his own particular policy, I will undertake to say that his unconscious bias would lead him very strongly to see a community of interests between that place and places within the electorate referred to. I. am not accusing the honorable member of dishonesty. I should be very sorry to do that. I believe that he is as honest as any other honorable member, and would strive to do his duty faithfully. I am speaking only of unconscious bias, to which he would be subject on account of his fiscal belief. Under such circumstances, I should naturally suspect any proposition coming from the honorable member. I should think that he had been susceptible to this bias, in spite of his efforts to free himself from it. We have no right to lay any honorable member under that suspicion. That is why we should appoint a commissioner who is not subject to party influences. What happened in New South Wales? Every one felt that there were inequalities in the scheme adopted there, but Parliament was assured by the commissioners who undertook the work of determining the federal electorates that they had made as fair a distribution as they could, owing to the diverse conditions operating in that State. So distrustful was the House of its ability to deal with the matter that it refused to touch a single line of their report. Therefore, honorable members left it severely alone, and with all its imperfections it was accepted as the best scheme that could be secured under the circumstances. It is not the honesty of the House that we distrust, but the want of knowledge on the part of honorable members, allied to the strong party feeling which may give an unconscious bias to any efforts they may make to apportion the electorates equally. On the whole, therefore, I think that we should adhere to the proposal of the Government. It is a geographical as well as a political problem which has to be solved, and Ministers have no right to be saddled with responsibility, since they cannot be expected to be seized of all the facts concerning which they are asked to accept that responsibility. I suggest to the honorable member for Gippsland that he should withdraw his amendment, and test this matter on some earlier words in the clause.
– I am quite willing to do that.
– There need be no difficulty. It will meet the object of the honorable member for Gippsland quite well if he moves the omission of the words “ the Governor-General,” his desire being that the Minister shall undertake the work, and the Governor-General make no appointments. When that amendment has been dealt with, we can settle the number of commissioners, if any are to be appointed.
– I think the honorable member for Parramatta said that I had hinted at meanness and dishonesty on the part of honorable members.
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie remarked that he would like to go home if he had the views as to meanness and dishonesty which seemed to underlie the remarks of some honorable members.
– I thought I had made it perfectly clear that I thoroughly believed in the honour of every individual member, and I conveyed a very fake impression if I used such terms as the honorable member has mentioned.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. A. McLean) proposed -
That the words “ Governor-General,” be omitted.
– The honorable member for Laanecoorie is to be congratulated on his manly speech, and I am sorry’ that other honorable members have endeavoured, as far as possible, to enable outsiders to cast reflections on our honour. Every time we delegate our powers because we are afraid of the bias and bigotry outside we relieve ourselves of responsibility in a back-handed, invisible kind of way. I never heard of the Canadian Parliament abrogating their powers; and as to the United States, I am perfectly willing to deposit £100 for the unemployed or the poor, if another honorable member will cover that amount, and prove to me, from some responsible authority, and not from reports of people who are paid to cry down the Government, that during the last twenty years Congress has jerrymandered any seat. My idea is to make the Englishspeaking peoples respect each other; but some honorable members would lead us to believe that Congress consists of a pack of thieves. It is unfortunate that some honorable members have brought into this House a parochial and provincial influence, which it will take centuries to remove. We have heard a great deal about the necessity for common sense, but what we want in this House are men of uncommon sense, such as form the Parliament of the United States. I desire to see Tasmania divided, because I do not want to tramp that State and dip my hand into my pocket as I had to do at the last election. The statistician and surveyor of that State might be brought over, with the maps which were prepared for the proposed division of Tasmania last year, and, after investigation, the responsible Minister could submit proposals. The honorable member for Werriwa asked whether the honorable member for Gippsland could tell the boundary lines of his own electorate ; but these are facts to be gathered by subordinates whom we can hire at any time. My fear is that, if commissioners be appointed, they may make a mistake, and thus cause the scheme to be too late for the next general election. Honorable members have had such an experience of the unparalleled capacity for bungling in the States that they are afraid to give this House a chance of doing its duty. I shall support the amendment, and if it be defeated, I shall propose the appointment of a select committee. Representatives were returned because the people believed them to be capable men, and if we admit that we have not the required intelligence to carry out this work, we ought to resign.
– We are in a difficulty in discussing this clause in the absence of the Minister for Home Affairs. When the honorable gentleman was introducing the measure, I interjected a question as to whether there would be a separate commission for each State, and the reply given to me, as reported in Hansard, was as follows : -
– I cannot answer that question at the present time. I think it is more than likely that one or two commissioners will act in all cases, and that in determining the limits of the electorates, they will be assisted by a gentleman who has been for a considerable time resident in the particular State affected. The)’ will thus be lass liable to error than would otherwise be the case.
Apparently the idea of the Minister for Home Affairs is that the commissioners will go over the whole of the six States, in the company of a local man in each State. I have not much objection to a commissioner for each State, and I have every confidence in the officers of the electoral office of South Australia, from the chief downwards. A roving commission of one or three would not only be very costly, but would take years to complete the work. If the Attorney-General can tell us that the idea is to have such a commission then we had better postpone the clause.
– We can easily amend the Bill by providing for a commissioner in each State.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral support that proposition 1
– I do not think it is an important alteration, and if the House wishes to make it, I shall offer no opposition.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).In my opinion the criticism of members who sit behind the Government, though directed at the Opposition, has been really levelled against the Ministry. The Opposition, on the other hand, have supported the Government proposal to have thework carried outby a commission, though they believe that one commissioner will be able to do the work more effectively than will three. In New South Wales and New Zealand such commissioners have been appointed, and excellent reasons for such a course have been furnished during the last decade. Australian politics have taken a turn in which the responsibility of Ministers is almost forgotten. In order that pressure may not be brought to bear on them, the Government feel that this is a department which can be better dealt with by a commissioner than by a political head. It is a delicate matter for a Minister to alter the boundaries of an electorate when that may mean the rejection of a supporter. Members of Parliament knowthat in certain parts of their electorates they obtain more votes than in other parts ; and if a Minister proposed to so alter electorates as to risk the seats of supporters, the human nature of those supporters would come to the top, as in America and New Zealand, and sufficient influence might be brought to bear to induce the Minister to take other steps. I believe in the honesty of every individual member and Minister, but at the same time the responsibility of a Minister would cause him to lose his seat on the Treasury benches if he performed such work as is now proposed to be handed over to a commission. By the Bill responsibility is removed from the Minister, and the officials appointed will be able to carry out their work fearlessly and effectively, while members will not be under the ban of suspicion referred to by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. It will not then be suspected that honorable members are endeavouring to bring influence to bear upon Ministers with regard to fixing the boundaries of electorates in which they are interested. I trust the committee will not support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland.
– This proposal apparently gives effect to a principle which has had a trial in New South Wales, but which does not appear to have been attended with a great amount of success. It also represents in a concrete form the feeling of want of confidence in Parliament to do certain work, which has been industriously fomented outside. Of late years there has been a fatal tendency to rob Parliament of its powers and functions, and transfer them to apparently irresponsible boards and commissions. Our powers are being whittled away, and sanction is being given by such a proposal as this to the feeling of distrust which is being engendered in regard to the honour and integrity of Parliament.
– We have the final determination of the matter.
– Then why should we delegate it in the first instance to a public servant ? Until the Federal Parliament shows incapacity or unfairness in dealing with public matters, I do not think we should do anything that would have the tendency to transfer the powers of Parliament to outside bodies, and rob us of our proper responsibility. I believe that the Ministry of the day, whilst retaining our confidence, ought to be charged with Ministerial work of this kind, and that they should submit proposals to Parliament.
– And take the responsibility of them.
– Yes, certainly. Every proposal submitted by the Ministry is presented with a due sense of responsibility. If any scheme brought forward by a Ministry is corrupt, it will be open to criticism and challenge, and can be rejected, and surely the scrutiny of Parliament should be sufficient to insure that any unfair proposal will be held up to ignominy. In Victoria we have had no experience such as that which is said to have been gained in other countries, and which has led to the present proposal. No fairer or better distribution of seats could have been made under the circumstances than that which took place in Victoria in connexion with the federal elections. The scheme was prepared by the McLean Government on the knowledge which they were able to obtain from their officers, and it ran the gauntlet of criticism both in Parliament and throughout the country, and was eventually adopted. We have had no experience as a Federal Parliament that would justify any abrogation or surrender of our right to take a practical part in the division of the electorates.
– Parliament will have to approve of the scheme in any case.
– Yes ; and I object to delegating to commissions the powers which ought to be exercised by this House from the outset. The commissioners are to be empowered to travel all over Australia, to take evidence, to invite objections, and to hold inquiries, and I ask where is the necessity for all this. Every little village orator will be able to appear and give evidence before the commissioners, whilst honorable members of this House will be denied the right to make any suggestion or to take part in the preliminary investigation. I hope the committee will cast upon the Government the responsibility of bringing forward a scheme for the distribution of electorates, and that we shall not abandon our rights, powers, and functions as a Parliament.
– The honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat has touched on most points regarding which I desired to address the committee. The present tendency, apparently, is to lessen the responsibilities of Parliament in connexion with all these matters, and 1 think it is very much to be regretted. The Ministry should be prepared to accept the full responsibility in connexion with all proposals submitted to Parliament. The proposal to appoint three commissioners appears to me to be extravagant, and to provide for a cumbersome way of doing what could lae accomplished more’ inexpensively by the officers for whose appointment we have already provided. Instead of appointing three commissioners for each State it would be sufficient for us to ask the chief electoral officer in each case to submit a proposal for the re-distribution of seats whenever it is necessary. This could be submitted to Parliament through the
Ministry of the day. If commissioners are appointed they will probably base their representations upon the information they derive from the chief electoral officers in the States, and the only effect of carrying out the present proposal will be to create another sub-department in the federal service, and to provide snug billets for the persons appointed to act as commissioners. Honorable members appear to have overlooked the fact that Parliament will have the final decision of this- matter after the Commission has presented its report, and I ask why we should be afraid that Parliament would not arrive at a fair decision in the beginning. Why should there be any fear of unconscious bias on the part of honorable members in the first instance 1 The Bill lays down the principle upon which the electoral divisions are to be determined, and whatever officer may be appointed to report upon the subject, his recommendations must be made upon certain well defined lines, or Parliament will not endorse them. If a commissioner is appointed, it may be years before any decision is arrived at. In connexion with the proposal for uniform electorates, we have the possibility presented of a difference of 5,000 votes between two electorates. Assuming that the quota is 10,000 electors, it will be possible to have one electorate containing 7,500 voters, and another with 12.500 voters. I think the chief electoral officer in each of the States might be employed to do all that is necessary in connexion with the division of the States into electorates. These officers could report direct to the Ministry, and a scheme based upon their recommendations could be laid before Parliament. We have had experience of some such system in Victoria, and no sound objection can be urged against it.
– It is strange that the principal opponents of the Government proposal should be found sitting on the Ministerial benches. These honorable members seem to forget that it is not so very long ago since they supported a proposal in the Public Service Bill to take out of the hands of Parliament the control of the public service. This was done because it was considered advisable that the service should be entirely removed from political patronage or party bias. Eloquent appeals have been made to the committee, especially by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, against delegating to commissions or boards an)’ of the functions of Parliament, whether they be judicial or otherwise. But I do not see how they can express indignation at the proposal of the Government in view of the decision which we have already arrived at in connexion with the Public Service Bill. I admit that the honorable member for Moira has made a suggestion which is well worthy of consideration, namely, that the chief electoral officer in each State should be eligible for appointment as a commissioner, and we might amend the Bill so as to provide for that In some cases these officers are suitable ; in others they are not. In some of the large States they have not had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the physical features of the districts, and with their particular interests. In certain of the States, however, and especially in the smaller ones, these officers are as admirably fitted to make these divisions as any persons could be. That is a consideration - as was pointed out by the honorable member for Kennedy - which it is worth while to take into account. I quite agree that it is questionable whether we should retain someof the provisions in the Bill which must inevitably result in a large expenditure. The insertion of a clause pro- viding that the State electoral officer shall bo eligible for appointment as commissioner would overcome some of the objections which have been raised upon the ground of expense. The honorable member for Laanecoorie declared that the Victorian Parliament had not created such inequalities between the number of electors in the various divisions as were made by the commissioners in New South Wales. I have had an opportunity of seeing the actual figures in reference to both States, and I find that the smallest electorates in Victoria contain between 9,000 and 10,000 electors, whilst the largest comprise between 15,000 and 16,000 electors. Precisely a similar condition obtains in New SouthWales. But the honorable member further stated that in Victoria no attempt was made to equalize city and country constituencies. In this connexion I would point out that in New South Wales the greatest difference which occurs between country constituencies represents 3,892 electors, whilst in Victoria it reaches 3,281 electors. Thus, although there is a less difference in Victoria, it is not considerable. There is a difference between the largest and smallest Victorian city constituenciesof 3,21 1 electors. In this State therefore there is proportionately as large a difference as obtains under the divisions determined by the commissioners in New South Wales. I suggest that the Attorney -General might meet the objections which have been raised by inserting words to show that it is intended that the chief electoral officer shall be eligible for the office of commissioner.
– If that suggestion has the approval of the honorable member for Gippsland I am willing to agree to the appointment of one commissioner instead of three, and to make it clear that where the chief electoral officer is suitable he shall be eligible for appointment to the office of commissioner.
– I think that is a vast improvement upon the Government proposal, but I believe that my amendment is better still, and will certainly result in a saving of expenditure.
– If the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney will unite the committee after this very careful and thoughtful discussion, I shall be glad to accept it as a satisfactory solution of the matter.
Mr.PAGE (Maranoa). - I hope that the honorable member for Gippsland will not withdraw his amendment. He has put his case very forcibly before the committee. Before hearing his remarks, I had decided to vote in an opposite direction. If Parliament can define the boundaries of the various electorates as simply and satisfactorily as that work was done in Victoria, it will be all right.
– Parliament cannot do so.
– If Parliament cannot make a better fist of it than did the three New South Wales commissioners, God help us ! Only to-night the honorable member for Bland declared that gerrymandering had occurred in several New South Wales electorates, and there was no alternative but for the State Parliament to accept the recommendations of the three commissioners, as otherwise members would have had to face an election with the whole State voting as a single constituency. In Queensland an attempt was also made at gerrymandering in some of the electorates, but when the distribution came before Parliament, the whole thing was exposed, and the electorates were referred for final revision to the chief draftsman of that State. If one man can accomplish what has been done in Queensland and Victoria, surely to goodness the same results can be achieved in the future ? I am satisfied that, under the proposal of the honorable member for Gippsland, we shall secure a very good distribution without unnecessary expense. The Government practically ask us to take a leap in the dark by appointing three commissioners, who will have a retinue of servants, for which the Commonwealth will have to pay. I do not believe in government by commission. I hope that - the amendment will not be withdrawn.
– I hope that the committee will’ accept the compromise suggested by the Attorney-General, which seems to be a very fair one. I am rather surprised at the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Maranoa, seeing that only a little while ago he urged the Government not to appoint the State electoral officer of Queensland as commissioner. The honorable member should recollect that in the case of Victoria the distribution of the electorates was undertaken by a Minister who was thoroughly familiar with the whole of the State. But no Minister could be expected to successfully undertake the subdivision of States with which he was not acquainted.
– He could get the assistance of his officers.
– That is exactly what the Attorney-General proposes to do. I prefer that a commissioner should be appointed to carry out this work rather than that it should be undertaken by the Ministry. Even if Ministers did undertake it, they would not attend to the matter personally, as did the honorable member for Gippsland. I can well remember the time in Victoria when a disgraceful distribution of electorates was made by the parties in power. The district in which I resided was zig-zagged, and particular houses -were cut out of it in order to insure the return of a certain member. A commission of one for each State would prove the best for this work, and there is, no doubt that the Government will select efficient men. I agree that we should be above suspicion in the eyes of the electors and others outside. I urge the honorable member for Gippsland to accept the compromise which has been offered, and if the plan be not suitable another may be prepared. The commission in New South Wales did good work, but both it and the Parliament had too limited a time in which to deal with the matter. This seems a choice between two different methods of doing the same work, and there is every probability, that ‘ the same gentlemen will be appointed, whether they, be called commissioners, or by any other name.
– I hope the honorable member for Gippsland will proceed to a division upon his amendment, in which case I shall support him. The Bill seems to land Parliament on the horns of a rather absurd dilemna. If it requires commissioners to properly divide the States into electorates, and Parliament is not qualified to do the work through the Ministers, who would obviously be assisted by official and outside information, why is the matter referred to Parliament in the last resort ? If Parliament is in a position to form an opinion on the scheme submitted, then Parliament is justified in trusting its own officers to formulate the scheme. If the Government brought in a Bill which showed the slightest suspicion of gerrymandering the Opposition would soon point out the fact, and the Government would lose more than they could hope to gain. On the other hand, if a commission submitted a scheme which was not acceptable to the majority, that and other ‘schemes could be thrown out until a satisfactory one was presented. If there is to be any impropriety On the part of Parliament, as imagined, the commission scheme would simply retard it longer than the other scheme. In my opinion, Parliament will do this work more expeditiously and economically than will a commission ; and the position is not at all comparable to that of the public service, in which an enormous amount of detailed administration goes on from day to day.
– It will take six years to adopt a scheme under the amendment.
– It will take sixteen years to pass the proposals of a -commission. To deliberately incur expense in the way proposed is a course which should not be taken without very strong reasons. The foundation of the argument against the amendment is simply that- Ministers cannot be trusted.
– The argument is that it is not the kind of work Ministers should be asked to do.
– That is the same argument in more polite language.
– The argument as to expense is about the weakest that has been advanced against the appointment of a commission, which would probably consist of the heads of the electoral department, the statistical department, and the survey department, who would have at their command all. the necessary information to enable them to prepare a perfectly unbiased report. These officers have been called upon time after time to do exactly the same kind of work for the States Governments.
– It is proposed to have one commissioner in each State.
– The cost would amount to only a moderate fee of 50 or 100 guineas to each of the officers for the extra work. They would be uninfluenced by Ministerial or party considerations, and would bemore likely topreparea schemesatisfactory to the majority than would Parliament aftei-, possibly, the exercise of a great deal of influence and “ back-scratching.” In the past there have been cases of gerrymandering and manipulation by prominent parties as the result of leaving such matters to be dealt with by Parliament. The amendment may be to the interests of those who, like myself, would rather see States, which so desire, left undivided, because it would take very little engineering to prevent this portion of the Bill becoming operative before the next general election. The commissioners will not find the work very heavy, seeing that very little alteration will be necessary in States which have been already divided, and Parliament would hardly interfere with divisions which appear to have given satisfaction. In my opinion, the whole expense of the work will not amount to more than £1,000 or £1,500 ; and I hope the amendment will be defeated. I shall support the Government in the amendment to appoint one commissioner, instead of three, in each State.
– I feel compelled to vote against any commission. It is one of our most important duties to see that the country is properly mapped out into constituencies, so that the people may be properly represented. It is the duty of the people to elect members, and our duty to see that facilities are afforded for proper representation. . I admit that diversity of interests and occupations, and the physical features of the country, are very important factors in determining constituencies. But that is the concern of this Parliament, and not the concern of two or three individuals who, perhaps, have nob as much personal acquaintance with the various requirements of the country as honorable members of this and another Chamber. The project to refer to a commission the work, of mapping out constituencies, and of bringing down a castiron report which Parliament is unable to alter, but may only accept or reject, is against my idea of what is right and proper.
– That is not according to clauses 22, 24, and 25.
– Parliament has power to reject or adopt, but no power to alter.
– It is provided that the Minister may direct the commissioners to make a fresh distribution.
– Yes ; but not to alter in this particular, or in that particular, the report first brought down. If we do not agree with the commissioners’ recommenda-tion with regard ‘to one or two constituencies we must simply say that we cannot adopt the report. Parliament is not called upon to give reasons for its objection to the report, because it is not supposed to sway the commissioners in any way whatever. If we are to exercise our knowledge of the country and our discretion, the system now proposed is wrong, and I infinitely prefer to leave the full responsibility with Parliament. We should not be discharging our full duty by simply saying “Yes” or “No” to the recommendations of one, or two, or three individuals in the community. Under the provisions of the Bill we shall have the power to reject the report of the commissioners and we shall be entitled to discuss it us we like, but we should have less power over the commissioners’ proposals for the distribution of seats than the other Chamber would have over Money Bills.
– Is it not possible, under the provisions of clause 24, to direct the redistribution of seats in one particular State without involving the whole Commonwealth?
– Yes ; but it is within the power of the commissioners to adhere to their own proposals, or to make such alterations as they please, and I contend that it is fundamentally wrong to deprive Parliament of the power to rectify what it believes to be a mistake. If Parliament is to have such power, what necessity is there for a commission ? .
– How could Parliament fix the boundaries of electorates ?
– If Parliament is not able to fix the boundaries of electorates, how can it be expected to approve of the recommendations of the commissioners? Does my honorable friend contend that parliamentary approval of the commissioners’ report is to be a farce : that it is to be given blindly ?
– It cannot be done in any other way.
– Then the proper course to adopt is to declare that whatever report is brought down shall be law. Are honorable members going to adopt that principle? Any such provision would not be consonant, so far as I can judge, with the object for which we are sent here. I appreciate the way in which the Attorney-General is trying to meet the views of a large number of honorable members, but I cannot look upon his proposal as a change in the right direction. If it is wrong to give so much power to three men, it is trebly wrong to give it to one. The safest course to adopt will be to compel Parliament to take the full responsibility of performing the great, onerous, and necessary work of dividing the country into proper electorates.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - The honorable and learned member for Indi has taken a very extreme view of the cast-iron nature of the proposed arrangement. Under clause 24, if either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions. Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that the Minister, when he gives instructions to the commissioner, will not inform him as to the trend of the opinion of Parliament?
– Is the Minister to go behind the back door and tell the commissioner whatbe should do? Why should the commissioner be used as a cloak ?
-By appointing a commissioner we shall secure an unprejudiced tribunal which will f urnish us with the groundwork for our discussion. This groundwork may be perfectly satisfactory, and we shall know in any case that we are dealing with something absolutely free from political manipulation.
– The honorable member suggests that this unprejudiced tribunal should be directed by what he describes as a prejudiced tribunal.
– The whole question involved in this controversy is the possibility of party influences being brought to bear in the determination of a matter which should be absolutely free from any such suspicion. Honorable members know how easy it is to gerrymander electorates in the interests of certain political parties, and it is highly desirable that our foundation proposals should be beyond prejudice. We should safeguard the Ministry itself against any suspicion. There has been a great deal of talk about surrendering parliamentary rights, but we are not proposing in this case to give up our rights to a greater extent than would be involved by the appointment of a Judge or a Public Service Commissioner. I think that, if honorable members adopt the principle proposed by the Government, they will act wisely, and earn the commendation of the public at large.
Question - That the words “ GovernorGeneral “ proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause -put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. O’MALLEY (Tasmania). - As we have been beaten upon that point, I propose to move that a select committee of the House of Representatives, consisting of two members from each State, be appointed for the purpose of distributing the States into divisions, in accordance with this Bill.
– I point out to the honorable member that an amendment of that kind will not be in order, because the Governor-General has no power to appoint a select committee.
– I find I have overlooked the effect of the last division. I intended to propose the amendment to which I have referred on the assumption that the
Governor-General had been omitted from the clause.
– I move -
That the word “three” be omitted, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the word “one.”
After the discussionwhich has taken place, it may be desirable to reconsider some of the later clauses, from clause 19 to clause 24. I shall not ask honorable members to review them to-night, but shall take it for. granted that, if we substitute one commissioner for three, honorable members will desire that we should also, so far as possible, prune the procedure provided for in the later clauses of this Bill, with a view to adopting a simpler method of bringing the proposals of the commissioner before Parliament.I think it is the wish of the committee that the one commissioner shall submit what has been termed the ground-work of the proposal, and, that, if possible, some of this elaborate procedure should be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister if it is intended to continue to-morrow the consideration of the Bill we have been discussing this afternoon, or if there is to be fresh business submitted.
– As indicated at the commencement of the proceedings this afternoon, we propose to proceed to-morrow with the Bonus Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 June 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020618_reps_1_10/>.