1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CHANTER presented a petition from the Chamber of Mines, Sydney, praying the House to restore the Bonuses for ManufacturesBill to its original form.
Petition received and read.
– In presenting a petition from 88 fruit-growers at Renmark, praying the House to retain theduty of 3d. per lb. upon raisins and sultanas, I desire to say that I do not share the opinions expressed by the petitioners, but, as a matter of duty, I move -
That the petition be received and read.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. PHILLIPS presented a similar petition from 292 raisin-growers at Mildura.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether it is true that the federal military authorities are ignoring the claims of the South Australian drill instructors, and are sending to Adelaide men who have been retrenched in New South Wales and Queensland. An officer in championing the cause of the noncommissioned officers in South Australia says -
They have proved during a long course of years to be thoroughly competent to train the troops, and our representative corps to the Sydney Commonwealth celebrations and to Melbourne during the Royal visit compared more than favourably with any troops from the other States. Colonel Taunton, who watched the recent Easter manvres here, also expressed great pleasure at the evidence of careful training and discipline which he observed. Our instructors have worked on with very little encouragement for years, and it is only reasonable that they should expect some consideration when it is decided to employ regular instructors. Some of the best non-coms. in the active forces have expressed a determination to resign in consequence of their shabby treatment, and no wonder.
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of the question.
– I wish to ask if the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs has been directed to the following telegram with reference to Customs administration in Adelaide, which appeared in this morning’s Argus? -
Following on the notification that theVictorian system of passing entries is to be adopted in this State, it seems that instructions have been issued that officers are not to give information to importers regarding the correct rate of duty to be paid on goods. This new and unpleasant instruction came into effect this morning. Importers who were in doubt regarding the correct rate of duty discovered that the approving officers could give no assistance as formerly. They must, therefore, in future use their best judgment and run the risk of the consequences should they commit an error of judgment, or go to the extra trouble of sighting the goods. This is exasperating, especiallyas it is difficult to see where an injustice would be done to any officer, or how the revenue could possibly sutler by the extension of what after all is only ordinary business courtesy.
If this telegram is correct, does not the Minister think that the action taken by the Customs authorities will lead to a multiplication of the vexatious prosecutions for trivial errors of various kinds in passing Customs entries that have been so much complained of in the past?
– There would be some force in the remarks of the honorable member if the telegram were true, but it is not. The only new direction given has been issued for the purpose of preventing the public from being led into error, and in order to secure to them the best advice as to the way in which they should make their entries. I found that some of my officers who were not competent to do so had been advising the public with results which ought, if possible, to be avoided. I therefore wrote the following minute : -
Confusion evidently arises from the loose practice which frequently prevails of every officer essaying to reply to inquiries by the public as to Tariff questions, and verbally. I desire that officers specially qualified be selected for this purpose, and that they will give their advice in writing in all cases, limiting it to declarations that in their opinion goods of certain descriptions - specifying them - are dutiable under specified Tariff items at specified rates. They will not initial any invoice until entry is duly made.
The result of this will be to secure to the public the best and most direct advice. Trouble has arisen in some cases, owing to the advice given, and it would be a great mistake to continue to allow every officer to give his opinion.
– Surely every officer who is competent to receive an entry should be able to advise the public?
– I think we have adopted the best course in placing our most competent officers at the disposal of the public, so that they may receive advice of a character that will admit of no doubt.
– I desire to ask whether the answer given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the question put by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, does not indicate that the complaints which have been made are justified ? I have received similar complaints from Sydney, and I understood the Minister to say that correspondence has to be entered upon to obtain the advice mentioned.
– Oh, no !
– According to the Minister’s statement the reply must be in writing, and doubtless it would have to be asked for in writing.
– Certainly not.
– Is the Minister aware that the system of obtaining from the party who has to check the customs duties, prior to entering them up, the rate which is chargeable upon a particular item is now being departed from, and that the party making the entries has to risk falling into error, with all its attendant consequences ? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire into the matter and see how his instructions are being carried out, so that any officer who has to check an entry - prior to its presentation - may say what he will pass as the correct duty upon any particular article ?
– There is no intention to require anything in the shape of correspondence, but for the security of the public and to prevent the department being misrepresented, instructions have been issued that the decision must be given in writing. The idea is that the public, when approaching the skilled officer whom we shall select, may mention a certain item, and ask the rate at which it is dutiable, and that the officer shall give his reply. The last portion of the minute which I read just now distinctly sets out that he is not to overhaul the invoice till the entry has been made. Some time ago, instead of being required to answer a simple question as to the duty chargeable upon a specific article, there was practically an invitation to Customs officers, by perusal of the invoice, to assume the responsibility of themselves deciding, the rate of duty upon goods, variously described, which they had not seen. The proper course is for the importer to make the entry. Afterwards the checking, as regards the accuracy of the invoice, is undertaken by the examining officer.
– The same officer who has not seen” the goods 1
– If- necessary he examines the goods. “We are willing to undertake the responsibility of telling the importer what is the duty upon any particular item, but it is his duty to inform us of the nature of the goods which are contained in the invoice. When he does so he will get our decision. But we will not declare that in any particular invoice there are goods of a particular description.
– Will the Minister intimate to the public the. officer to whom they have to apply for such information 1 It is perfectly certain that if written answers are to be given, an officer must be appointed for that purpose.
– It is of no use appointing. a special officer unless his services are made available to the public. We do not contemplate making a special appointment, but a special selection will be1 made from our most skilled officers, for the purpose of giving the public the advice indicated.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing, the Prime. Minister whether he has received any communication from the Western Australian Government in reference to the operation of the latter portion of section 95 of the Constitution, and whether the Government have given any further consideration to the recent decision of theCustoms authorities in connexion with that matter ?
– I received a letter upon the subject from the Premier ofWestern Australia last Monday. That communication was at once- referred to my honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, who returned it to me this morning. A reply is now being drafted for signature. At present I see no reason to suppose that the existing practice will be altered, but the subject will be considered by the Premier of Western Australia, to whom information for which he has asked is now being supplied.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he has yet looked into the statement made by the public officers of South Australia, in reference to the charges levied for work done in connexion with- his department, and if so, whether he has arrived at any decision ?
– I have not had time .to look into that matter, but if the- honorable member’ will give notice of his question for either to-morrow or the next day, I will reply to it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Home Affairs if he can yet say when the experts who are to report upon the federal capital sites will be appointed 1
– It is quite impossible to fix a date. At the present time there are a great many important matters occupying my attention, but I can1 assure the honorable member that the subject to which he has referred will be dealt with without any unnecessary delay.
– Some time ago, after re,ferring to the war of railway rates on the borders, particularly of Victoria, and South Australia, I asked whether the Minister for Home Affairs would request the Premiers, of the various States to interfere, with theview of securing an agreement between the Railways Commissioners, in order to overcome the difficulty. The honorable gentleman promised’ to do so, and I should like to know whether he has carried that promise into effect; if so, whether any pledge has been given, by ‘the Railways Commissioners in. reference to the matter 1
– The question to which the honorable and learned member refers was brought forward some time ago. I communicated with the various Ministers for Works in the different States with regard to it, and I received replies which I think I gave to honorable members. Subsequently another question was asked upon the same subject, and I believe that I then wrote to the Department for External Affairs, asking that the States Premiers be communicated with. If the honorable and learned member will submit a question on the next day of sitting, I will give him a positive answer.
– I should like to know whether in view of the great pressure which has devolved upon certain Ministers, owing to the absence of some of their colleagues in London, they will take into consideration the propriety of making greater use of the services of Sir Philip Fysh?
– Perhaps I ought to say, in response to my right honorable friend’s humorous question,that the Government have not hesitated to take advantage of the services so generously given by my colleague, Sir Philip Fysh, upon every possible occasion. He is only absent at the present moment, owing to special claims upon his time, and I hope that he will be with us again next week.
– With the permission of the House, I desire to withdraw from the business paper the motion which I submitted, for a return relating to Australian mail and passenger traffic statistics. I do so with the consent of the Government, who have already supplied the information asked for.
– In the ordinary course no such motion could be moved until the order of the day in question was called on; but, in the special circumstances of the case, perhaps the House will permit the motion to be withdrawn.
Order of the day discharged.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
To what portion of the Parliamentary buildings have additions been made for the accommodation of the Parliamentary reporting staff, as alleged by the Argus of the 22nd instant.
– The paragraph referred to appears to have been based upon an entire misconception. In the first place, no structural alterations whatever have been made in this building. In the second place, no additions have been made to the Parliamentary buildings for the accommodation of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, who are accommodated in rooms formerlyoccupied by members and officers of the State Parliament. Partitions have been erected in some of these rooms, in. order to provide accommodation for the typewriters. There could have been no undue expenditure in that respect, because the total cost of the alterations made since this building was taken over by the Commonwealth eighteen months ago amounts to only £336. The paragraph appears to have been based upon a misunderstanding of the cost of all the repairs; furniture, fittings, and other outlays incurred in connexion with Parliament House during the past eighteen months. As honorable members are aware, that expenditure covers the provision which has been made for the press and for honorable members themselves.
– The press ought not to growl, if portion of the expenditure has been incurred for its convenience.
– The provision made was for the representatives of the Inter-State press. Of course, the representatives of the Victorian press have their old accommodation.
– Therefore the Argus objects to the expenditure, I suppose ?
– There has been no outlay upon these buildings except that rendered necessary by the fact that this is the Federal Parliament and not a State Parliament. Very much greater provision had to be made for the accommodation of members, officers, and the press. Although this is an extremely handsome and stately building, honorable members who formerly occupied seats in the Victorian Legislature know that it was extremely inconvenient in many respects, and I think that those associated with this Parliament know that it does not yet possess too many conveniences for the transaction of public business.
asked the Acting-Prime Minister,upon notice -
Whether, previous to the appointment by the King of a Governor-General under section 2 of the Constitution, the Government will arrange for the choice by popular election in the Commonwealth of a Governor-General, whose name could then be presented to His Majesty for consideration.
– There is no such intention.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are us follow : -
asked the Acting Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether the amended and reduced rates of pay for the Victorian Permanent Engineers will be applied during the term of engagement of those affected, or whether the department will wait until re-engagement or promotion, as stated in District Order of the 8th inst.
– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is as follows : -
The amended rates of pay will only apply to new appointments, re-engagements, and promotions.
asked the Acting Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s questions is as follows 1 and 2. Yes.
– Before the business of the day is called upon, I desire to inform honorable members, that in the hope of disposing of the Electoral Bill, and a little more business, tomorrow night, we do not propose to ask the House to sit on Friday. The Government intend to set that day apart for the consideration of the requests which we expect to receive from the Senate in regard to the Customs and Excise Tariff Bills.
– Do the Government propose to adjourn on Thursday in time to enable honorable members from other States to catch their trains?
– I do not apprehend so, unless we make much more rapid progress with the Electoral Bill than we have been doing.
In Committee : (Consideration resumed from 22nd July, vide page 14523).
Clauses 125 to 129 agreed to.
Clause 130 (Separate compartments).
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).There may be four or five different polling booths at one polling place, and I should like to know whether provision will be made so that there may be a presiding officer at each booth ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 131 (Ballot-boxes).
– Allusion has been made to the probability of an election for the House of Representatives and an election for the Senate taking place at the same time, under the same returning officer. This is suggested in the interests of economy ; but the clause provides that each polling booth shall be provided with “ a ballot-box,” apparently not contemplating such a contingency as I have mentioned. This is an important point in connexion with economy, and I ask the Minister to give it consideration, especially in view of the suggestion by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that provision shall be made for the retirement of members of this House at the same time as the retirement of half the members of the Senate. Such a course, if adopted, would mean the saving of thousands of pounds.
– I will look into the matter, but it seems to me that the meaning of the clause is that a ballot-box shall be provided for voters for each House. In order, however, that there may be no confusion or doubt, I shall, if necessary, have words inserted to meet the view of the honorable member.
– According to clause 156, which deals with the conduct of the scrutiny, the counting of the vote for each House will have to commence at practically the same time. In the South Australian Act it is prescribed that the scrutiny must commence without delay ; but it is obvious that the presiding officer cannot proceed with the counting of the votes for both Houses at one and the same time, and some special provision is required to cover the case. In South Australia they get over the difficulty by first counting the absentee votes for both Houses, which occupies only half-an-hour or three-quarters of an hour, and thus the Act is complied with.
– Clause 156 provides that the scrutiny shall commence “as soon as practicable” after the closing of the poll, and I should say that it was not “ practicable “ to count the votes for both Houses at one and the same time, so that I do not think any trouble may be anticipated. As to the point raised’ by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, I do not think that there need be any doubt as to the meaning of the clause, but, should there be any necessity for amendment, it can be recommitted.
– I should like to emphasise what has been said about the necessity for economy, and I am sure the Government will keep the point clearly in view. In the more populous cities it may, perhaps, be difficult to hold both elections under the same presiding or returning officer, but in the vast majority of country places this would prove easy enough.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 132 agreed to.
Clause 133 (Senate ballot-paper).
– In view of the notice of amendment I have given on recommittal, in clause 12, I should like to know whether consequential amendments, in the event of my proposal being carried, can be moved in clause 133 and other clauses, or whether it would not be better for me to precipitate a debate by moving the omission of this clause.
– I suggest that the clause be allowed to pass, and if the amendment to which the honorable member refers is carried, consequent amendments may be made on recommittal.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 134 to 136 agreed to.
Scrutineers may be appointed by candidates to represent them at polling places during the polling, butso that not more than one scrutineer shall be allowed to each candidate at each polling place, and appointments of scrutineers shall be made by written notice to the returning officer, giving the name and address of the scrutineer, or without such notice by permission of the returningofficer.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).At the last election in my constituency there were, I think, four or five booths within a polling place, each being labelled alphabetically for the convenience of voters, and I suggest that such a division necessitates a scrutineer in each polling booth.
– It does not “ necessitate “ a scrutineer at each.
– One scrutineer could not do the work of the whole four or five booths.
– Is it absolutely necessary that the authority of the scrutineer to act shall be on a printed form, or is it open to a candidate to write it? It is sometimes inconvenient to get the form from a returning officer.
– What is the reason for the question ? Is the honorable member under the impression that a candidate cannot write the authority ?
– I know that in country places very often the returning officer will not accept the written authority of the candidate, but insists on the printed form being filled in.
– The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs suggests, I presume, that “polling booth” should be inserted instead of “polling place “?
– The word “compartment” would make the clause quite clear.
– The word “compartments” is used in clause 130, and my suggestion is thata scrutineer should be appointed for each booth.
– As I read the clause at present, I think the insertion of the word “compartment” instead of “place” would meet the case, and I move -
That the word “place,” line a, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “compartment.”
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson),What is meant by the words “ shall be made by written notice to the returning officer.” Do those words mean that the printed form shall not be used, but that the candidate himself shall write the authority for the appointment of scrutineers ?
– I take it that it means either course. There is a printed form which it is customary to use, but I have no doubt that the notice may be given by either method.
– The term “ written notice “ is an awkward one, and might be misunderstood. The essential thing is that the noticesshall be signed by the candidate. So long as the signature is valid, it is immaterial whether they are written or printed.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs wishes the committee to substitute the word “ compartment “ for the word “ place,” but clause 130 provides that -
Polling booths shall have separate compartments, constructed so as to screen the voters from observation while they are marking their ballot papers.
Surely it is not intended that candidates may appoint scrutineers for each of these compartments.
– The “ compartment “ referred to in clause 130 would be a very different thing from the compartment to which the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs refers.
– There is another objection to the amendment. In South Australia, in centres where the poll is a large one, as at the Town Hall, Adelaide, a long table is provided, at which several polling clerks have seats, one issuing papers to electors whose names begin with any initial from A to H, another to electors whose names commence with initials from I to M, and so on.
– Is there only one ballot box?
– Yes ; but it is useless to challenge a vote at the ballot box. The time to do so is when the elector asks for his ballot paper. When there is a rush, and a dozen electors are applying for ballotpapers at the same time, it is very difficult for one scrutineer to watch all of them, and make objection to any he thinks should be challenged.
– In the case of federal elections a uniform system will be adopted, and the present South Australian practice, which makes a proper scrutiny impossible, would be discontinued.
– If the word “compartment” is used, it may happen that in a place like the Town-hall, Adelaide, a candidate may be able to appoint only one scrutineer, while in other places he may be able to appoint a scrutineer for each of a series of tents or booths.
-Probably the word “subdivision “ would do. InSydney the practice has been to subdivide a large hall when it has to be used as a voting place.
– That would overcome my objection.
– The New South Wales practice has been to have in the country one polling booth, one place to vote in, and one ballot-box ; and in the cities, where the voting is likely to be large, to have a number of ballot boxes, a number of poll clerks, and a number of compartments. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs wishes to allow candidates to appoint a scrutineer for each compartment. It is impossible for one scrutineer to scrutinize the electors who present themselves in a dozen compartments.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).It seems to me that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, if carried into effect, will not interfere with theSouth Australian system, where there has been only one room, and therefore only one scrutineer allowed. The clause is almost a literal copy of the South Australian provision.
– I think that the returning officer in South Australia can allow more than one scrutineer.
– Not more than one scrutineer for each candidate can be present in a booth at any one time.
– How many poll clerks are allowed in South Australia?
– The ballot-papers may be issued by several poll clerks, but they must all be signed by the returning officer. It is usual for candidates to appoint two scrutineers, who may relieve each other, but who cannot both be present in the booth at the one time. There is no need for more than one scrutineer, because directly an elector asks for a ballotpaper his name and number on the roll are called out loudly by the poll clerk who gives it to him, and the scrutineers then tick them off on their rolls. I have never heard candidates in South Australia suggest that they should be allowed to appoint more than one scrutineer.
– I hope that the Minister who carries out the provisions of the measure will see that arrangements similar to those which have been usual in New South Wales, and which have worked splendidly there, are adopted. Candidates will then be allowed to appoint a scrutineer wherever a presiding officer is in charge. If half-a-dozen scrutineers’ were allowed, candidates might be put to considerable expense.
– That is their look out.
– I think that we are bound to consider them in the matter.
– I do not think that the clause will be improved by substituting the word “ compartment “ for the word “ place.” I remember a case in which the point raised was whether an “ apartment” is the same thing as a “ compartment.”
– Electors do not. go into the compartments to poll their votes. The act of voting is the placing of the ballot-paper in the ballot-box.
– I am afraid that if the word “compartment” is adopted, candidates may be able to appoint as many as perhaps a dozen scrutineers at some places. In South Australia, at the last election, a public ‘ hall was ‘divided into a polling booth for the Legislative Council and another for the Legislative Assembly, and the clause would enable a candidate in such a case to appoint two scrutineers to represent him in the one room.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).Scrutineers are appointed so that they may, with the assistance of the electoral rolls, check the voting, and challenge any elector whom they think should not be allowed to record his vote. But under the clause as it stands, if there were one polling place but six polling booths, only one scrutineer could be appointed by each candidate, and he would be unable to check the voting in the six booths. It would, therefore, be advisable to .adopt the Queensland system, and allow one scrutineer for each polling booth.
– If every Federal candidate had a scrutineer the whole booth would be filled up.
– The political organizations will generally appoint one scrutineer to act for all the candidates representing their party when both senators and members of the House of Representatives are being elected on the same day. Except in certain cases, I do not consider it necessary to appoint scrutineers, but if the object is to allow scrutineers to properly perform their functions, opportunities should be given to candidates to appoint them for each booth in a polling place.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the word “ written “ be omitted, and that after the word “ officer,” line 6. the words, “signed by the candidate” be inserted.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- I hope the Minister will reconsider the question of substituting the word “booth” for the term “compartment.” In clause 130 it is provided that tha polling booth shall be divided into several compartments constructed so as to screen the voters from observation, and there may be a dozen of these compartments in one booth.
– There could not be a dozen polling compartments in one booth ; the meaning of the word “ compartment “ must be governed by the context.
– I see the force of the honorable and learned member’s observations, but “ compartment,” as used in this clause, is open to the same construction as that placed upon it in clause 130, and we know what successful quibbles can be raised by lawyers “who have not half the ability of the leader of the Opposition. Perhaps the Minister will reconsider the matter.
– I shall be quite prepared to see that the term as used in this clause harmonises with the other provisions in the Bill. If necessary I shall recommit the clause.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 138. - (Persons present at polling.)
– This clause provides that no candidate shall in any way take part in the conduct of an election. Is it intended to prohibit the candidate from even exercising his vote ?
– That is not the intention.
– I suggest that candidates, as well as the poll clerks, doorkeepers, and scrutineers mentioned in the clause, should be permitted to enter the polling booths. There are times when it is absolutely necessary that the candidate should be present in order to prevent irregularities. Even when the candidate has a scrutineer safeguarding his interests that officer sometimes desires to refer to his principal.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).It would be a great mistake to permit candidates to remain inside the polling booth. I remember one case in which the partners of a candidate stood outside the door of the booth and tried to influence electors. That was considered as something approaching a scandal, but if a candidate were permitted to exercise his influence upon voters in the booth, the position would be much worse.
– Candidates should not be permitted to remain in the neighbourhood of the booth.
– There might be some advantage in permitting a scrutineer to consult a candidate, but as this would be done only in very few cases there is no great object to be gained by permitting the candidate to enter the booth. The scrutineer can always come out of the booth and consult the members of his committee.
Clause agreed to.
Clause . 139 - The polling shall be conducted as follows : - (i.) Before any vote is taken the presiding officer shall exhibit the ballot-box empty, and shall then securely fasten and seal its inner cover so that nothing can be removed without breaking the seal : (ii.) The poll shall open at eight o’clock in the morning, and shall not close until all electors present in the polling booth at seven o’clock in the evening, and desiring to vote, have voted : (iii.) At the close of the poll the presiding officer Shall publicly close, fasten, and seal the outer cover and take charge of the ballot-box, and with the least possible delay forward it for the purpose of scrutiny ; and it shall on no account be opened except as’ allowed by this Act.
– Subclause II. provides that the polling booth shall close at seven o’clock in the evening, and I desire to see the time extended to eight o’clock. In mining centres the miners change shifts at seven o’clock, and as they cannot always record their votes before they go into the mine in the morning, it is desirable that the time should be extended as I suggest.
– In mining camps the men go on shift at eight o’clock, and if the booths are opened before that time they will have an opportunity of recording their votes before they commence work. I have suffered from the want of some such provision as this. I therefore move -
That the word “eight,” line9, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ seven.”
– I hope the committee will not agree to the amendment. In the summer time seven o’clock might not be too early, but in winter it would scarcely be light at that hour, and, moreover, it would be difficult to have everything in readiness for conducting the poll. The various States have had a long experience with regard to the best hours to fix for polling purposes, and we should be guided by their practice. I find that in New South Wales the polling hours are from eight o’clock to six o’clock ; in Victoria from eight o’clock to seven o’clock - in the metropolitan districts ; in Queensland from eight o’clock to four o’clock -these hours may be extended by proclamation ; in South Australia from eight o’clock to seven o’clock ; in Western Australia from nine o’clock to seven o’clock ; and in Tasmania from eight o’clock to six o’clock. We are extending the hours in three of the States, but providing three additional hours in Queensland - except where a proclamation is issued extending the time - and an additional hour in Tasmania and New South Wales. Therefore I hope the committee will not agree to the amendment.
Amendment (by Mr. McDonald) proposed -
That the word “seven,” line 12, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “eight.”
– For the reasons which I have just given as to the practice hitherto followed in the various States I cannot agree to the amendment.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).In South Australia the practice has been to open the polling places from eight o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock in the evening, but all elections have been held on Saturday. But what I wish to put before the committee is that in South Australia it hasnot been found that the time allowed for voting is too long, although the elections there have always been held upon Saturday, when the bulk of the business men and workmen are disengaged. Under this Bill, however, the elections may be held upon any day, and as a great many people leave their homes at seven a.m. and cannot return from work in time to enable them to change their attire and record their votes by seven p.m., I do not think that eight p.m. is too late an hour for polling.
– What about the hours worked by the returning officers and poll clerks?
– The returning officer has to keep the booth open from eight a.m. till the hour fixed for closing the poll. He then has a hurried meal and begins to count the ballot-papers. At midnight he ceases counting. We have adopted extraordinary provisions to enable those who may be incapacitated to vote, but I hold that the closingof the polling booths at seven p.m. will disfranchise more electors than would be prevented from voting on account of serious illness and infirmity. Some men do not cease work until six or seven p.m. Take the case of hawkers.
– They can vote at any time.
– The honorable member is assuming that they are engaged in. hawking in the vicinity of the polling booth, when, as a matter of fact, they may be several miles away. I trust the Minister will agree to extend the hours of polling till eight p.m.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor. He declares that the returning officers will cease counting the votes at midnight. If so, the ballot boxes would have to remain open from midnight on Saturday till the following Monday morning. In the interim, who is to take charge of the ballot-papers ; they should be under seal ?
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 23
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Electors not having voters’ certificates and not voting by post may vote at the polling place for which they are enrolled.
Electors having voters’ certificates may vote at any polling place within the division upon delivering up to the presiding officer their voters’ certificates.
– I think that the Minister will recognise the wisdom of omitting this clause. In the absence) of a voter’s certificate, there is nothing to be gained by inserting a clause which compels a man to vote at the polling booth for which he is enrolled.
– I think that the honorable member is correct. In consequence of the omission of Part XI., there is no need to retain this clause.
Every person claiming to vote at any pollingbooth shall state his christian and surname, and if so desiredby the presiding officer, any other particulars necessary to be stated in the roll for the purpose of identifying the name upon the roll under which the vote is claimed.
– I should like to know what is the meaning of the words “ necessary to be stated in the roll ? “ Do they mean that the presiding officer is to ask the elector questions relating to particulars which are already upon the roll ?
– I think that the clause explains itself.
– I quite understand what is aimed at. The desire is to obtain a distinct statement from the elector which will enable him to be identified as the person claiming to vote. At the same time the phraseology employed seems peculiar.
– The applicant claiming to vote would be asked where he resided and certain other particulars which are upon the roll, and are necessary.
Clause verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 142 -
If the right of any person claiming to vote is challenged, the presiding officer may, and’ at the request of any scrutineer shall, put to him all or any of the following questions - (i.) Are you the person whose name appears as [here state name under which the person claims to vote] on theroll for this division ? (ii. ) Are yon the person to whom this voter’s certificate was issued? (iii. ) Have you already voted, either here or elsewhere, at this election ?
– The leader of the Opposition last night raised some objection in connexion with voting by post ; and the questions provided in this clause do not cover the whole ground. Has the Minister any suggestion to make ?
– I think it will be necessary to insert a clause to this effect -
No person shall be qualified to vote at an electionfor any division exceptthe division in which he lives.
Ifthatnew clause beinserted,then the question -“Are youdisqualified from voting?” will, I think, meet the case. OtherwiseI had intended to propose such a question as is asked in New South Wales - whether the voter still has the qualification he had when he was placed on the roll. The point raised by the leader of the Opposition last night was that a man might move to another division and. the fact be overlooked that his name remained, on the register, there being no means of reaching him in order to ascertain whether he had the same qualification. The suggested new clause is concise, and will meet the point raised by the leader of the Opposition.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).Under the South Australian Act a voter is asked - “Are you of the full age of 21 ? “ It may occur to the scrutineer that the voter is under age, and power should be given to ask the question.
– But there is the comprehensive question - “Are you disqualified from voting? “
– Such a question as I have suggested can do no harm, and has been used several times in South Australia. Another necessary question which is in the South Australian Act is - “Is your name, to your knowledge, on any other electoral roll?” That is asked in order to stop any person operating on a name duplicated in another division.
– A voter should not be on two rolls.
– But such cases are often brought about by the fact that it is easier to get a new vote than to transfer, and then, owing to the duplication of registration, the percentage of electors who vote appears smaller than it really is.
– The fourth question covers the whole ground. We know how disinclined women are to admit that they are over 21. This is a serious matter.
-I think the fourth question is comprehensive enough, because any one under 21 is disqualified from voting.
– Does every voter know that?
– I should say so. The only questionIhad thought of inserting before suggesting the new clause which I have read is - “Do you now possess the qualification upon which you obtained enrolment?” If honorable members are agreeableIwill add that question, which can do no harm and may do good. In the meantime I move -
That sub-clause (2) be omitted.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).The suggestionwhich has been made by the Minister for Home Affairs will not cover my objection, because the voter, even if. he were nineteen when he was placed on the roll and twenty whenhe presents himself to vote, can truthfully say he possesses the same qualification.
– I have an amendment in an earlier part of the clause.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the words ‘ ‘ If the right of any person claiming to vote is challenged,” be omitted.
If that amendment is carried, I intend to move that the words “ Any person claiming to vote “ be inserted in lieu of “ him,” in line 3. Why should the presiding officer be restricted to putting these questions only if he is moved thereto by some other person - only if the right of the elector is challenged?
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. V. L. Solomon) agreed to-
That the word “him” line 3, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “any person claiming to vote.”
Amendment (by Sir Williamlyne) agreed to -
Thatsu b-clause (2) be omitted.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the following words be added : - “ (ii) Are youof the full age of 21years?”
– I am prepared to accept that amendment.
– Before any person can have his name enrolled he must state that he is 21 years of age.
– I think there is some need forthe insertion of these words, inasmuch as a peculiar anomaly now exists in Victoria, and, possibly, in some of the other States, owing to the fact that, while the State electoral law says that only persons who are 21 years of age shall be entitled to vote, our land laws permit persons to select land when eighteen years of age, and theirnames often get upon municipal and parliamentary rollsas those of registered holders of land.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney). - I move -
That the following words be added - “ (V.) Do you now live within the division for which you are enrolled?”
I desire the insertion of those words, because the question as to qualification is a vague one. An organized attempt might be made to poll men in a division from which they have removed; but if such men are asked directly if they still live within the division they will be less apt to give false answers than if a vaguer question is put to them. Furthermore, a man may believe that, although he has ceased to reside within the division, he is still qualified to vote in it, and he might therefore unwittingly give a wrong answer if asked - “ Are you still qualified to vote in this division?” and thus render himself liable to serious penalties, although he had no evil intent. But if he is asked - “Do you now live within the division?” he will be able to answer the question with knowledge.
– When the Bill was under discussion last month, the Attorney -General promised to frame a provision which would prevent electors who had ceased to live in one division, but who had not been livingin another divisionfor a sufficient length of time to qualify for enrolment in it, from being deprived in the interval of the right to vote. Such a man could not say that he still lived within the division for whichhe was enrolled.
– He could say that he did not live within the division, and explain the circumstances.
-I think it will be better to postpone this clause until we can see How the Minister proposes to deal with the difficultyto which I have referred.
– Some people are continually changing their residence.
– Yes. In many cases electors have frequently to move from one electorate to another, because of the precarious nature of their occupation.
– I propose to accept the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney, but I shall take care that the clause as amended will not conflict with the provision which I propose to introduce, continuing to an elector his right to vote during the interval when he has left one electorate and has notqualified for another, and providing for the case of teamsters and others whose occupations compel them to be continually travelling. I promise the honorable member for Bland that the matter will nob be overlooked, and that if there is any difficulty this clause will be recommitted.
– Is it intended that residence within a division shall, within certain limits, be essential ?
– Yes. I propose to insert the following provision -
No person shall be qualified to vote at any election for any division except the division in which he lives.
-I should like to point out that sub-clause (4) containsa question referring to a general qualification, and should not be followed by a question referring to a particular qualification. The clause should be amended so asto make the question whichthe honorable member for North Sydney wishes to insert sub-clause 4, to be followed by the question- “ Are you otherwise disqualified from voting?” as sub-clause V.
– I trust that the clause will be postponed.
– The clause cannot be postponed, because it has been amended.
– Then I hope that it will be recommitted. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney will have the effect of disfranchising a number of electors in the metropolitan constituencies, because changes of residence are frequent. Some provision should be made so that an elector may not be disqualified from recording his vote in one electorate during the period which must elapse before he can qualify to vote in another.
– That is specially provided for.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The course the Minister proposes to take will Tender it necessary that the returning officer shall be tolerably familiar with the provisions of the .Bill. My experience is that returning officers are not very well acquainted with the law relating to elections, and that very often when they ask questions they do not. realize the true significance of the answers given, and find themselves in a, dilemma. The question as to residence should be put in a definite form, in order to indicate the period of absence which would disqualify the elector. Then there could be no doubt in the mind of the returning officer as to whether the elector was entitled to vote.
– I will see that that matter is attended to.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I understand that the Minister is willing to allow sub-clause (4) to follow the sub-clause just inserted.
– I think that =sub-clause(4) should be amended, as suggested by the leader of the Opposition, to read - “Are you otherwise disqualified from voting?”
– The clause provides that the returning officer may put all or any of these questions. Supposing that the question to which the honorable member has referred were the only question put to the elector ?
– The good sense of the returning officer would scarcely permit him to put the question in that form.
– I think we might allow the matter to stand as it is, in view of the point raised by the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– I am satisfied if other honorable members are content.
– I quite appreciate the desire of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, but I would point out that the insertion of the word “otherwise” might render the question ridiculous. In the first place, we should have to alter the provision that the returning* officer may put all or any of these questions. Supposing, for instance, he put the first question - “ Are you the person whose name appears on the roll for this division ? “ and the elector replied - “Yes.” It would be absurd to then ask, “ Are you otherwise disqualified from voting ? “
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 143 agreed to.
Clause 144 -
The voter’s answer to the questions shall be conclusive, and the matter shall not be further inquired into during the polling.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).Are we to understand that it is intended that the decision of the returning officer shall be conclusive, and that no question can be raised at the court of disputed returns ? There does not seem to be any provision in the Bill for afterwards dealing with any vote which may be called in question. Supposing a returning officer were to improperly allow an elector to record his vote ; what provision is there for dealing with the matter at a later stage? In Queensland, at the last election, the question of residence was raised, and a number of votes were challenged on the ground that the electors were not qualified at the time their votes were recorded. These cases could be brought before the elections tribunal, as . the votes were identifiable by the numbers placed on the ballot-papers. There is no such provision in this Bill, and apparently the question whether a person is entitled to vote rests entirely upon the decision of the returning officer. I admit- that in Queensland great objection is raised to the numbering of the ballot-papers, on the ground that the practice destroys to some extent the secrecy of the ballot. We might, however, make some provision for placing the votes questioned in a separate box, in order to permit of an investigation before the court of disputed returns.
– I think the ballot-papers should be numbered, because otherwise it will be difficult, if not impossible, in cases of impersonation to trace the votes given by those who violate the law. In some cases it is absolutely necessary for the purpose of inquiry to ascertain in which way the impersonator casts his vote, and it would be unfortunate if we adopted a system which would not permit of the votes being traced.
– That would destroy the secrecy of the ballot.
Mr.CROUCH.- It need not do so, because the ballot-papers would not be seen by any persons other than the members of the court appointed to deal with them. As matters stand, there will be ample room for fraud.
– I hope that the idea of numbering the ballot papers will not be entertained. That practice is followed in Victoria, and, rightly or wrongly, there is an impression that, by means of thenumbers, the way in whicha particular vote is cast can be ascertained. We should not perpetuate any system which encourages that idea.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 145 -
No omission of any Christian name, or entry of a wrong Christian name, and no mistake in the spelling of any surmame, shall warrant the rejection at any polling of any claim to vote if the voter is sufficiently identified in the opinion of the presiding officer, and no female elector shall be disqualified from voting under the name appearing on the roll because her surname has been changed by marriage.
– It is provided that the omission of a Christian name, or a mistake in spelling a surname shall not warrant the rejection of a claim to vote. I think that we might also add that a mistake in an address, or in the description of a man’s occupation, shall not invalidate his claim to vote. It very often happens that an address is wrongly given, or that an occupation is wrongly described.
– We shall have to be very careful how we extend the provision.
– As the presiding officer has to be satisfied that the voter is sufficiently identified, an elector should not be debarred from exercising the franchise by any mistake in his name or description.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland is a very good one. We mustnot forget that the details which are inserted in the rolls are supplied in the first instance, not by the applicant, but by the officers who are sent round to collect the information. It will thus be seen that it would be easy for an elector to be misdescribed.
– I think that this difficulty and a number of others would be overcome by the insertion of some general words, because we must not forget that the presiding officer has upon all occasions to be satisfied that the voter is sufficiently identified. It would be extremely hard if, owing to some omission or error, an applicant were refused a vote, even though the presiding officer had thoroughly satisfied himself as to his identity. The insertion of some general words would, I think, cover every possible trivial error that could arise, because we always have the safeguard that the voter must be sufficiently identified in the opinion of the presiding officer.
– The only doubt which presents itself to my mind is whether the adoption of the suggestion which has been made would not confer practically unlimited powers upon presiding officers. All the States Electoral Acts contain a somewhat similar provision to that under discussion. Before agreeing to the suggestion, I should like time to consider it in all its bearings, in order to guard against possible abuses. If, upon consideration, I see that under its operation no difficulty is likely to wise, I shall be quite willing to adopt it. Therefore, I move -
That the clause be postponed.
– I should like to know if the provision relating to the spelling of names is to have a general application. Paragraph (b) of clause 113 also contains a reference to the writing of the candidate’s name by electors. If it be possible for a man towrite his own name incorrectly, I am sure that the risk of error is greatly increased when he is called upon to write some one else’s name. Only recently, in a North Queensland newspaper, I saw the Prime Minister referred to as Sir Edward Barton. Therefore I desire to know if the provision in reference to the spelling of names is to be general in its application?
– The object of this clause is to prevent any elector being deprived of a vote through the commission of an error.I knowthatthe votesof our German colonistshavefrequently been disallowed on account of an error in spelling. The purpose of thisprovision is to allowthe elector tovote, despite any errorof that kind, should the presiding officer be satisfied of his identity.
Motion agreed to ; clause postponed.
Clause 146 agreed to.
Immediately upon handing the ballot-paper to the person claiming to vote the presiding officer shall place a mark against the person’s name on the list of voters.
– I would suggest tothe Minister the wisdom of inserting after the word “officer” the words “ or poll clerk.” In somepolling places theofficials consist ofthe presiding officer andhalf-a-dozen poll clerks. It is the dutyof the latter to hand the voting papers to the electors, and it is equally their duty to tick off upon the roll the names of the voters to whom ballot-slips have been issued, so that a record may be kept of those who have voted.But itis impossible for the presiding officerto undertake the whole of this work, which should properly devolve upon the poll clerks.
– The honorable member for South Australia overlooksthe fact that if we insert the words he hassuggested the poll clerk at a country polling place,where there is only one presiding officer, will be empowered to tick off the names ofthose electors to whom ballot-slips have been issued. His proposal seems to me to be in the direction of depriving the presiding officer of power and transferring it to the poll clerk.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I fail to see how the presiding officer in a polling booth, where there are half-a-dozen poll clerks employed, and where there is a big rush of voters, can tick off the names in the manner prescribed by this clause. At any rate I askthe Minister totake a note of the point which I have raised, and to look intoit very carefully. We certainly require a record to be kept by a properly authorizedofficer of the whole of the voters towhom ballot-slips are issued. If the Minister will agree to dealwith this matter, I shall not press the amendment.
– I think there is a good deal in what has been said by the honorable memberf or South Australia, Mr. V.L.Solomon. Accordingto clause126, the returning officerhas to appoint apresiding officer ateachpolling place atwhich the former cannot continuouslybepresent. If thereisto beonlyone presiding officer for each polling place,andthere arehalfadozentables,I do notsee howhe can perform all the duties required of .:him. Some alteration will haveto be made, and the question raised is worthy of consideration, in connexionwith not only this, butwith other clauses. By an amendment in clause 126, or elsewhere, the presiding officer should begiven power to appointa substituteto perform certain of the duties, or else the pollclerk should be appointed to perform them.
– The question is an important one ; but I ask honorable members topassthe clause without amendment for the present.Ihave already promised the honorable and learned (member for Darling Downs that this matter shall be considered in connexionwith the subdivision of’ polling places in largecentres of population.I shallsee that some clause is inserted in order to meet the views ofhonorable members.
Clause agreed to.
Upon receipt of the ballot-paper the votershall without delay -
– I move-
That after the word “candidates,” line 4, the followingwords beinserted. - “ and to clearly show the initials of the presiding officer.”
The committee have shown the commendable desire to eliminate the possibility of fraud. In the Queensland Act there is a provision that an elector must fold the ballotpaper in such a manner as to show the initialsof the officer,and unless this is done, the initialing is of no use. If the amendmentbe carried the returning officer willbe perfectly certain that the paper which is placed an the ballot-box is the one he has issued.
Mr.FOWLER (Perth). - I suggest that there be a square on the back of the paper in which the returning officer’s initials
– The suggestion of thehonorable member for Perth is a good one,affordingas it does the easiest way out of the difficulty. It may, however, be a matter for departmentalarrangement.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- If the amendment beadopted, it would, no doubt, be better that the initials of the officer shouldappearat someparticular part of the ballot-paper,so that they may be seen when theballot-paper is folded. This would prevent the officer scrawling his name anywhere he might choose. I shall have a form prepared to carry outthe idea.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That before the word “deposit,” line 7, the words “hand it to the presiding officer to” be inserted.
This amendment has been suggested to me by an old and experienced returning officer in South Australia. To allow an elector to himself place the voting paper in the ballot-box seems a departure from the custom which prevails in some other places. In South Australia the paper is handed to the returning officer, who then has a means of seeing whether there is only a single paper, and of detecting any fraud,and the system has worked very well. The amendment also has the advantage of allowing the presiding officer toexercise better control in the case of double elections which, in the futherance of economy, we hope may toe adopted for the Commonwealth Legislature. In South Australia cases have occurred in which the ballotpapers for the Legislative Assembly have found their way into the boxfor the Legislative Council, and vice versâ, and it is desirable that such occurrences should be prevented. In my opinion there is an element of danger in allowing the electors to themselves place the ballot-papers in the ballot-boxes.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I hope the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, willnot proceed withthe amendment, which would prove most dangerous, especially in remote districts. The honorable member for Bland
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - I do not intend to press the amendment upon the committee, though the course which I suggest has beenadopted in South Australia, the home ofthe ballot. The electoral legislation of that State has been the modelfor much of the electoral legislation of the other States, but none of the frauds which appear to have been so frequent in Queensland have been practised there. Perhaps an efficient safeguard is provided by requiring the voter to show the returning officer the ballot-paper with his signature upon it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
If any voter satisfies the presiding officer that his sight is so impaired or that he is so illiterate that he is unable to vote without assistance, the presiding officer shallmark, fold, and deposit his ballot-paper for him, or, if required by the voter, shall permit any person indicated by the voter to accompany him into the voting compartment, and to mark, fold, and deposit his ballot-paper for him.
-I do not think that a blind orilliterate voter should have to rely solely upon the honesty of the presiding officer for the marking of his ballotpaper as he desires. In New South Wales the ballot-papers of such persons are, when marked, shown to the scrutineer and the poll-clerk, who see that they are marked in the way desired.
– Then there is no secrecy.
– There cannot be any secrecy in connexion with the voting of blind and illiterate persons.
– But is there less chance of the secrecy of the ballot being violated when four or five persons see how a paper is marked than when only one person knows?
– The voter has the satisfaction of knowing that his vote is recorded as he wishes. I think that the latter part of the clause, which provides that any blind or illiterate person may be accompanied to the polling booth by someone else, gives large possibilities for influence, compared with which those given by the postal voting provisions are insignificant. There is nothing to prevent persons from pretending to be illiterate, and I know that in one case 50 electors voted as illiterates at one polling booth, so that it should be known if any one went wrong.
– In South Australia only blind persons are allowed to have assistance in the booth.
– There may be some reason for that; but it is a mistake to allow any blind person to be accompanied into the booth by others.
– It is time that we ceased to make provision for illiterate voters.
– The Victorian Act provides for the ballot-piper being marked by the presiding officer in the presence of a witness, if the elector so desires.
– In Queensland, the paper may be marked in the presence of the poll clerks, candidates, and scrutineers.
– Section 89 of the New South Wales Act, 56 Vic, No. 38, provides that -
If any person to whom a ballot-paper shall have, been delivered as aforesaid is blind, or is incapacitated by any other physical cause from voting in the usual way, or is unable to write, and shall signify the same to the returning officer or deputy, such returning officer or deputy may and shall, at the request of such person and for him, and in the presence of the poll clerk and scrutineers, if any, strike out, in the polling booth, from such ballot-paper, the names of such candidate or candidatesas such person may designate, and shall forthwith cause the ballotpaper of such voter to be deposited in the ballotbox ;a nd the name and number on the electoral roll of every voter whose vote is given pursuant to this section shall be entered on a list to be called the “List of open votes.”
– I think that the Minister might adopt some such provision as that, in lieu of the clause now under discussion.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I hope that the Minister will not make any provision for illiterate voters.
– There are some illiterate electors who should have the right to vote.
– They will have the right to vote, but I do not think it is necessary to make special provision for their voting. Persons who cannot read, may be shown how the candidates’ names stand on the ballot-paper, and cannot easily make a mistake.
– A ballot paper may be handed to an illiterate person upside down.
– He could tell by the heading which was the top. In South Australia we have never made provision for illiterate voting, and it has never been found to be necessary. Why should we load up the Bill with provisions intended to meet only fanciful difficulties, which as a matter of practical experience have been found not to exist? This cumbrous provision may result in the elector having indorsed upon his voting-paper something contrary to his wish, and I see no object in allowing two or three men to accompany the voter, when he can do everything that is required by himself.
– See how the Act was abused by the 50 men referred to by the honorable member for Bland.
– Yes; that instance affords clear proof of the way in which such a provision can be abused.
– If we could believe that illiterates no longer existed in Australia, or that they were likely to cease to exist in the immediate future, we might abandon any idea of providing for them. Unhappily, however, owing to the sparse settlement in many parts of the Commonwealth, schoolmasters cannot reach the whole of our people, and many children are now growing up as illiterates. This state of affairs will continue until the country is much more thickly populated. There is no reason why we should add to the disabilities under which an illiterate man labours by preventing him from exercising the right to vote which he may have earned by his good character and conduct.
– We should be giving a further incentive to persons to become educated.
– But in many cases the fault does not lie with the individual. In many cases the means of education cannot be placed at the command of these persons.
– Yes, they can, if efforts are properly directed.
– I have been the Minister of Education in Tasmania for many years, and have done everything possible, but have necessarily failed to reach a great number of persons out in the back country.
– Because they have no free education Act in Tasmania.
– A free education Act would not convey the schoolmaster to every one’s door.
– I hope the Minister will adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland. My constituency is one in which there are a great number of people who have grown .up in ignorance because they were not within reach of a ‘school. Many children are being brought up in the bush without any chance of going to school, or even of seeing a township. Some of the people in Western Queensland never saw a railway train until a few years ago, and to this day there are many who have not seen the sea. Surely people so situated should not be disfranchised because, owing to circumstances beyond their control, they cannot read and write. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, apparently thinks that South Australia can do no wrong, but in that State . we find that the percentage of voters who exercise the franchise is lower than in any other part of the Commonwealth.
– That shows that there have been more voting-papers put in the boxes in the other States.
– I have had dealings with electoral matters ever since I have been in Queensland, and I know of the dodges which are resorted to. On one occasion, when I was acting as scrutineer, an illiterate elector came in, and told the returning officer that he desired to vote for a certain candidate. The returning officer thereupon struck out the wrong name, and proceeded to place the voting-paper in the ballot-box ; but I interfered, and demanded that the paper should be altered, and thus secured a vote for the candidate in whose interests I was working. On another occasion upon which I was acting as scrutineer the returning officer gave an illiterate voter a paper, and told him to strike out the name at the bottom of the list. The desire of the elector being to support the candidate against whom I was working, I wished to secure the man’s vote. I entered into conversation with bini, and succeeded in turning the paper upside down. The elector then took the paper into the voting compartment, and struck out the words “ballot paper,” and the name of the candidate first on the list.
– -How did the honorable member get at the elector ?
– After he secured his voting paper I had a conversation with him. On another occasion, a man who was nearly blind would not permit the returning officer to mark the paper for him. The printing on the ballot-paper was very faint, and the elector made his marks on the back of the paper instead of on the front. There will always be illiterate persons in every electorate, and I hope that the Minister will consent to insert some such provision as that suggested.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).The provision intended to permit any person indicated by the voter to accompany him to the voting compartment for the purpose of marking his ballot-paper is fraught with very great danger. If we were to leave it entirely to the returning officer, there might also be some danger, but the marking of the paper might be left to the presiding officer and two scrutineers. The marking of the voting-paper should not be left to any person indicated by the voter, because that would open the door to fraud. No doubt many electors are illiterate through no fault of their own, and there is no reason, or justice, or policy in denying them the right to exercise the franchise. We ought, however, to provide such safeguards as will insure the carrying out of the intention of the voter without opening the door to fraud, and that can be done only by leaving it entirely to the returning officer, “or to the returning officer and one or two of the scrutineers.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).We shall offer encouragement to fraud if we afford the agent of the candidate an opportunity to satisfy himself that an illiterate voter whom he has bribed has cast his vote as desired. There are a number of men to be found in large communities who would not hesitate to sell their votes, and there are others who would buy them, provided they could satisfy themselves that the votes were cast in a particular way. We should leave the illiterate electors to their own resources, asinSouth Australia.The results can beno worsethanhave been recordedinthatState.
-Iam willing to accept the suggestion of the honorable member forBland.Itheref ore move -
That all the words afterthe word “him,”line 5, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ in the presence of such scrutineers as may be present.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 150 - (Spoilt ballot-papers).
– I should like to knowwhat is the object of providing that spoilt ballot-papers shall be destroyed?
-The idea is to prevent them being used in any way.
-Would itnot be advisable to return them to the chief electoral officer?
SirWilliam Lyne. - That has not been the practice followed in the various States.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 151 -
In elections for the Semite the voter shall mark his ballot-paper by making across in the square opposite the name of each candidate for whom he votes. The voter shall vote for the full numberof candidates to be elected.
– As honorablemembers will observe, this provision dealswith elections for the Senate, and the question naturally arises, to whatextent this House should assist inlaying downthe conditions upon which the members of the Senate shall be elected. The clause practically provides thatwhenever vacanciesarise in the Senate, the electors mustvote for the full complement of senators required. That isto say, they are debarredfrom plumping. I desire to excise the last sentence from thisclause. It may be laid down as a principle that thisHouse should leave to the Senate the task of determining the conditionsunderwhichits members should be elected, but.I thinkwe are quite within our powers in indicating those upon which wethink they shouldbe returned. The other Chamber has already asserted its powers in this direction by deciding that it shall have the right to approve of the electoral divisions mapped out for the return of members to this House. It it for us to exercise a similar power. Ido not believe that any elector should be compelled to vote for the full number of senators required to fill vacancies. The individual voter should have an absolute choice inthe matter. If out of those who are nominated he isof opinionthathe can conscientiouslyvotefor oneonly, he should be allowedtoexercise his conscience freely and to vote accordingly.If heiscompelled tovote for the fullnumber of senatorstobeelected, itmay be that the very vote which he isobliged to recordinfavour of the individual whom he desires to seeexcluded will result inhis return, as againstthe candidate whom he particulars favours.I hold that complete liberty should be given to theelector in this connexion. In other words,he should have theright of plumping. Therefore I move -
That the words “The voter shall vote forthe full number of candidates to be elected,” be omitted.
– Ithink that we shall be acting very nwiselyif we interfere inthismatter When we come to deal with the clause which providesthat theSenate shallapprove of the electoral divisions for theHouse of Representatives, Iintend to ask the committee to amendit, so that the approval of this Chamber alone will be sufficient.The Bill, asit was introduced into the Senate, did not contain thepresentprovision.
– Is it not a matter for Parliament, and not for one House, to say how the people should be represented?
– I would point out that what we originally provided is the practice adopted in every State. Would thehonorable member for Bland have agreed to a proposal that the electoral divisions for theNew South Wales Legislative Assembly should be approved by the Legislative Council of that State ?
– The Legislative Council there doesnot represent anybody.
– My argument is equally good if appliedto otherStates where themembers ofthe Upper Houses are elective and notnominee. Ithink it isunfairfor theSenateto require that the electoral divisions for the House of Representativesshallbeapproved by that Chamber. Should the States be divided into electorates for the return of members totheSenate,as they may be under the Constitution, I should hold that the other House was the proper body to determine the boundaries of those electorates. If this House interfered in a matter of that sort I think thatthe Senate wouldrightly object.
– This House would interfere.
-That maybe so, but I amputtingwhat applies to one House.
– It applies to parties also.
– In theStates the LegislativeCouncil has never been allowedto determinethe electoral divisions forthepopular Chamber. Thehonorable andlearned member for Darling Downs wishes to give the electors the rightof plumping for theSenate. I do not think that we should interfere with whatthe other House has done in regard tothis matter. Ifthe Senate desires that the elector shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected, why should its wish not be respected ? AsfarasI am personally concerned, I do notapprove of plumping, and I hope that the committee will reject the amendment.
-I entirely disagree with the Minister in the view which betakes concerning the right of this Chamber to interfere in this particular matter. This is aquestion concerning the election of representatives to the Senate for thewhole ofAustralia.We as representatives of the whole of Australia are clearly interested in the character of the legislation passedby the other House, and I should not for a moment question the right of that Chamberto criticise any legislation passed bythis House.
– It is a dutywhich both Houses owe tothe Commonwealth.
– Yes. It is a question of legislating forthe Commonwealth, as awhole,by theParliament of which we form one part, and theSenate another. Concerning this particular clause it seemsto me that in declaring that the elector shall vote for the fullnumber of candidates required, the Senate stopped short of doingthat which wouldto my mind have been agood thing. The value of the present proposal is very question- able. If the other House had decided that the-elector should vote for candidatesaccording to the preferential method, itwould have accomplished some good.But as the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has pointed out, it may fall upon an elector to vote not only for the candidate of his choice, but for onewhom he does not wish toseereturned.
Mr.Henry Willis. - That isquite right.
– It is not right that an elector shouldbe made to votefor a man whomhe desires to see excludedfrom Parliament equally with the candidate whom he wishes to see returned. Allthis difficulty, however, would be overcome if we addedtothe clause a provision that thevoteshouldbegivenin the order of theelector’spreference.
– I thinkwe are all likely to be at sixes and sevens in connexion with this clause. I disagreewith some of the remarks which have been made by honorablemembers, and I agree with others. As to therights of this House to alter any clause dealing with the Senate-
SirWilliam Lyne. - I did not speak of “rights,” but referredto the advisability of ournot interfering with clauseswhich affect the other House only. I know that the House of Representatives has a perfect right to deal withsuch clauses ; but I spoke of the inadvisableness of submitting a geographical map to both Houses, instead of only to the House directly affected.
– That is the same thing, and I rather regret the Attorney-General is not in the House to advise theGovernment on this one of the first occasions onwhich the question of the relative powers of thetwo Houses has arisen. I contend that Parliament must be taken as a whole, andthat both Houses have equal rights in dealing with the machinery under which members of the Commonwealth Parliament are elected. The analogy drown by the Minister is not quite correctwhen he likenstheCommonwealth Constitution to the original State Constitutions. The Senate is in norespect anUpper House. We may use the terms “Upper “ and “Lower,” but they do not apply to the Constitution under which we live. There is neither an Upper House nor a Lower House; one House represents the States and the otherHouse representsthe people, and both have equal rights in this matter. On that point Ifeel, asa layman, quite clear. With the right honorable member for Tasmania,Sir EdwardBraddon, I should havepreferred the Senate to “go the wholehog,”and provide for preferential voting. But “ half a loaf isbetter than no bread,” and to do away with plumping is, at any rate, one step nearer to the condition of affairs which those who advocate proportional representation are seeking to bring about. If we allow plumping it will mean plumping all round. Every section of the community - religious, political, and social - will plump for a particular candidate or candidates, and in that way we shall not get the expressed will of the people. The result will be those accidents of party warfare which are to be deprecated ; and the only way to avoid them is to oblige the voters to vote for the total number of candidates to be elected. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has pointed out the difficulties under which electors will labour in having to vote for men in whose political views they have no confidence. But the remedy is’ in the hands of the electors, who ought to see that candidates are nominated for whom they can vote. Unless the full number of members required are voted for, we shall, as I have said, get only sectional voting. The labour party will naturally vote for a certain restricted number, and the same with the fre”e-trade and protectionist forties. And these parties will be split up on religious, temperance, or other questions. The only way in which we can provide against Such a disastrous state of affairs is to adopt the clause in the Bill. On the other point, I shall always claim that both ‘Houses are equally free to deal with the machinery devised for carrying out the provisions of the Constitution.
– The Minister has lost sight of the fact that this is a different Bill from that introduced to the Senate, in which the Government proposed proportional representation. That system would have had the advantage that in both Houses the basis of representation would have been community of interests; nothing has been substituted for proportional representation, and, in my opinion, we have a perfect right to deal with the measure from any point of view.
– I did not say we had no right to do so.
– I know that the Minister put the question rather as a matter of propriety or courtesy. I presume the Government had good reasons for proposing the system of proportional representation, and, seeing that the Senate rejected that proposal,’! think that this House ought to have an opportunity of discussing the question and adopting such modifications as it may think fit. I will not strain the point raised by clause 24, although no doubt we have a precedent in the fact that the Senate made some proposals interfering in matters more particularly concerning the House of Representatives.
– There is something for consideration in the view of the honorable member for the Grampians, that we are now asked to view this measure, not as it was originally formulated by the Government, but as it emerged after having been considered by the Senate. I question the stand taken by the Minister - that it is not advisable for this Chamber to express an opinion on this particular clause. It is the duty of . the House of Representatives, as well as that of the Senate, to voice within the walls of Parliament the public opinion which, prevails outside. The fact that this clause happens to’ relate particularly to the Senate is no reason why the desires of a large section of the people should not be expressed within this Chamber. A big principle underlies the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. That proposal simply asserts the right of every voter to judge for himself as to how many or how few of those nominated shall receive his support, and we should be careful in limiting that right. At the senatorial elections in New South Wales there were what were known, as “ bunches” run. There were “ bunches” of six representing respectively the two big parties of free-traders and protectionists : there was a “ bunch “ in the labour interest, consisting of two nominees, and one in the socialist interest, while several nominees ran “on their own.” There were something like 50 candidates nominated for the six vacancies, and the result of the election showed that a large number of the electors preferred one or two members short of the number required by law. The result was that these voters, in what I consider a legitimate and reasonable exercise of their right of choice, were disfranchised. This is sufficient evidence of a very strong feeling amongst the electors that they should not be compelled to vote for men of whom they do not approve. The honorable member foi- South Sydney says that the electors should see that such nominations are made as will permit them to exercise their votes ; but it is more in accordance with natural rights to give a choice of those who are nominated. I shall support the amendment, which I regard as fair and just.
– I do not think that we need have any doubt as to the propriety of this Chamber dealing with this clause. No restrictions are imposed upon us in this connexion, and we have a perfect right to deal with this matter, just as the other Chamber has a right to express views as to the basis of the elections for the House of Representatives. But I am absolutely against the proposal to allow plumping. If it is desired, under our system of Government, that sections should be represented, we have adaptations of the Hare-Spence system, and there is also the method of single-member constituencies. But I am absolutely against introducing into .this measure any proposal which would result in the state of affairs seen in threemember constituencies in New South Wales when plumping was allowed.
– That will be the result of the amendment.
– I am satisfied that by such means we shall not obtain the representation of the will of the people. Sharp electioneering agents frequently managed under that system that men should be elected who would have had no chance of success had they contested the seat against some of the candidates who were .rejected. That is not a representation of the people. Under that system, while a proportion of the electors would give their votes for the full number of candidates to be elected, less scrupulous persons might be influenced by organizations to give all their votes to the one candidate, who would receive also the votes cast for him by electors who voted for the full number, and selected him as one of them. In that way a candidate might slip into the position of a representative without really representing the views of the majority. The objections to the system were made manifest in New South Wales at election after election, and it is not desirable to introduce it here in connexion with Commonwealth elections. If it is considered desirable by the majority of the committee that we should have proportional representation, let us adopt that system : but if a simpler system than that is desired, but one which will give approximately similar results, let the senators for each State be returned individually by separate constituencies.
– Not with a preferential vote.
– In my opinion, the preferential voting system is unsuitable where there are single constituencies, but, by having single constituencies, you can obtain roughly what is aimed at. The system of plumping is one which may be worked to the advantage of the sharp and unscrupulous, against the simple but more honorable and scrupulous. It has not worked in the direction of securing fair representation, and I therefore prefer the provisions of the clause.
– I have no hesitation in recording my vote for an amendment of the clause, because I consider that I was sent here to represent my electors in regard «to the determination of the conditions which shall prevail in the election of senators as well as in regard to other matters. As I understand the meaning of the term “plumping,” it is something quite different from what certain honorable members have in their minds. In the old country, it is customary at certain elections to give the electors as many votes as there are candidates to be elected, and they can vote for the full number of candidates, or give the whole of their votes to one candidate, or dispose of them in any other way. But the system suggested by the honorable member for Darling Downs is. something quite different. It simply gives each elector the right to exercise his judgment in regard to the various candidates, and allows him to vote for one or more as he thinks right. Although I have heard many objections to this so-called plumping system, I have heard no satisfactory reason why it should not be adopted. There seems to be a good deal of objection to it in the minds of many honorable members and persons outside, because of the possibility it affords of allowing electors to cast all their influence for the return of certain candidates, and it is urged that it is likely to be exercised largely on behalf of labour representation. In my opinion, however, it is more likely to be used against labour representation than in favour of it. Amongst the working classes there are more electors prepared to give votes to other than labour candidates than there are electors among the other classes who are prepared to give votes to labour candidates. We are told that the system will prevent the verdict of the people being obtained upon any definite issue, because electors will be influenced by considerations other than those actually placed before them. But. if a man wishes to practically disfranchise himself weshould let him do so. It might happen that an elector who was called upon to decide between the free-trade and the protectionist partiesmight say that he was a protectionist, but would not support a Catholic. He might discover that therewere two or three candidateswhowere both Protestants and protectionists, and he might then decide to still further limit his selection by saying that hewould vote only for an ardent teetotaller. In that way, he might cut down his privileges, and even disfranchise himself, and, if he chooses to do so, I do not suppose the country will be much the worse. Parliament would not be justified in compelling any elector to vote for candidates of whom he did not approve. It wouldbe immoral to do so. Instead ofgetting nearer to the preferential system, when we compel the electors to vote for the full number of candidates required we are getting further away from it, by preventing them fromexercising any reasonable choice, since if a man has to vote for six candidates he may have to vote for several to whom he has the strongest political and even personal antipathy.
– I trust that the amendment will be carried.I haveknown of elections in Victoria in which the electors should not have been compelled to vote for any candidate, but the Bill requires electors to vote for the number of candidates to be elected, which is wholly opposed to the principle of proportional voting, which was originally proposed by the Government. The honorable member for Flinders has given notice of his intention to move that an elector who fails to vote shall be fined£5 for the first offence, and between£10 and £20 for the second. Perhaps he would make the penalty for the third offence hanging. If that motion were carried it would be monstrous to compel an elector to vote for the full number of candidates to be elected. No elector should be compelled to vote for persons whom he does not think should be elected. It has been said that as in Victoria the protectionists are in a majority, the free-traders of this State will have no representation in the Senate, but I think that a minority, especially if it is a substantial one, has a right to representation, if it can secure a sufficient number of votes to return a candidate. No man should be compelled to vote for a candidate who would not adequately represent hisviews. At the last federal elections four out of the six States allowed the electors to please themselves as to the number of candidates for whom they voted, but in New South Wales and Victoria the block-vote system was adopted. It hasbeen urged that the electors are allowed even under this system to practise plumping, because they throw away some of their votes upon candidateswho have no possible chance of election. This, however, is not likely to be resorted to extensively, because if a deposit is required, there will not be the number of candidates that there was previously in States where no deposit was required; and there will not be the same opportunity for throwing away votes. The effect of the system proposed will be to secure the representation of the political party which may be in the majority, however slight, and to ignore the rights of the minority, however large. The press will issue their political tickets, and the chances are that in New South Wales the free-trade party will be triumphant, and that in Victoria, the protectionists will carry the day, to the exclusion of all other sections of the voters. Forty- nine per cent. of the electors may be in. favour of a certain candidate, and yet be unable to secure his return. We should afford the electors every opportunity of deciding for whom they will vote, and we need not fear that plumping will be very largely, resorted to. Some honorable members hold that we have no right to decide the conditions under which the elections for the Senate shall take place, but I contend that we are perfectly entitled to amend the Billin the direction proposed by the honorable and learned member for DarlingDowns.
– The amendmentproposed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs is so reasonable thatIam at a loss to conceive what objections can be urged against it. The honorable and learned member is now taking up the position which was originally assumed by the Government. The provision which it is now sought to amend was inserted after the introduction of the Bill. The object of the amendment is to secure to the electors a perfectly open franchise, which they may use in any manner they please, whereas under the clause as it now stands they will probably be compelled to vote for one or more candidates of whom they cannot approve. Suppose that three senators had to be elected, and that of the only really eligible candidates two were free-traders and one was a protectionist; would not a hide-bound protectionist do great violence to his feelings if he had to vote for the free-traders? Similarly, I might be called upon, in order to cast the required number of votes, to vote for a man whomI should regard as a political fossil. Such situationsmustconstantly occurif the provision is passed as it stands. Electors will, in many cases, have to vote against the dictates of their conscience, and, act in a way which will militate seriously againstwhat they conceive to be their interests. The honorable member for South Sydney stated that certain scandals and complications of a serious character had occuredinNew South Wales when plumping was allowed, and he urged that the wish of the people rather than that of the individualshould be expressed. I would point out, however, that individuals must have a perfectly free hand in choosing their representatives in order that the views of the people may find adequate expression.
– The honorable member for Yarramadeaverystrong: point when he declared that,ifwe agreed to the clause as it stands, we should place the whole of the States under the control of the press, and absolutely destroy State rights. So many people would be practically disfranchised as to entirely neutralize the effect of the voting facilities granted by the other provisions of the Bill. The Minister for Home Affairs is absolutely; fair in. most matters,but in this instance he is taking; up an unreasonable attitude. If we had adopted the Hare-Clark system, the votes cast would have been estimated at their proper value, but if the clause is passed in its present form hundreds of conscientious people will abstain from voting rather than support candidates of whom they cannot approve. If I were called upon to vote for three candidates, and could not approve of more than two of. them, I should probably throw away my third vote upon aman whose chances of election I regarded as hopeless. Thousands of others might dothe same, and an utterly unworthy representative might be elected.
Protectionists might be compelled to vote for free-traders, and free-traders for protectionists. I remember one case in America in which seven candidates submitted themselves: for election, and only one of them had not shot a man. If inthat case the electors had been called upon to vote for three candidates out of theseven, those who did not believe in murder would have been compelled either to vote for two murderers or to abstain from voting. If three senators had to be elected for Tasmania, and only one of the candidateswas opposed to “ Tattersall’s” sweeps, the conscientious opponents of “Tattersall’s” sweeps would be compelled to vote for two supporters of that institution, or abstain from voting.
– But there would be no difficulty inbringing forward other candidatesin a caseofthat kind.
– Candidates of the desired type cannot always be obtained. Mr. Adams, of “ Tattersallls,” practically owns the whole of Hobart. No child can be born unless its mother has a certificate from Mr. Adams, and no man can die with the hope of getting into heaven unless he is similarly equipped, and the probability is thatthe electorsof Tasmania who are opposed to “Tattersall’s” willhavevery little to do with the selection of thecandidates at the next election. The people of Hobart look upon Mr. Adams of “ Tattersall’s,” as an idol - as a saint who has come from heaven to save the country. I, along with hundreds of others, who are just as conscientious as my honorable friends, will be disfranchised because, as long asI live, I shall never vote for a man who preaches that gospel against the rest of the States. I must ask the Minister, as a man of reason and justice, to carefully consider this matter. The proposal in the Bill will practically disfranchise every church throughout Tasmania at the next senatorial election. It will simply compel a few of us to put our hands into our pockets for the purpose of running dummies. Great heaven ! have we not enough hypocrites and sycophants in Australia ? I appeal to the Minister not to insist upon a provision which compels an elector to vote for a candidate irrespective of whether or not he desires to support him.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I have listened with a good deal of interest to the remarks of the honorable member for
Tasmania. Prom the way in which he has put the case one would think that under this clause, an attempt is being made to prevent electors from exercising the franchise and returning the best candidates. Nothing of the kind. There is absolutely nothing to prevent an elector from nominating any candidate he chooses, either for the Senate or the House of Representatives.
– Why compel the electors to nominate candidates ?
– The law compels that. It provides that the candidate shall be nominated by so many electors. It is within the power of any voter to nominate one or more candidates, as the case may be. If he finds that there is only one candidate in the field whose views harmonize with his own, he has the right to nominate five others, and if their political opinions accord with those held by a majority of the electors, the six candidates will be returned.
Mr.Batchelor. - How can an elector tell what candidates will contest a certain constituency ?
– I will undertake to say that the honorable member knows perfectly well beforehand what candidates intend contesting his particular electorate.
– Because I make it my business to find out.
– So do the various political organizations. I know very well that the Free-trade Association does. It is perfectly within the power of any body of men to ascertain what candidates intend going to the poll. The Senate desires that the electors in the various States shall have a fair opportunity of voting for the the six best candidates nominated.
– Why not for one candidate?
– Because the Constitution provides that there shall be six candidates returned. I think that every elector should exercise his judgment and support the six candidates who will best represent the views of the people of the Commonwealth.
– Suppose that six good men are not available?
– The honorable member credits the States with very little intelligence if he thinks that it is impossible to secure the services of six thoroughly qualified candidates. If any important question is likely to engage the attention of this Parliament, and if there be a sufficient number of electors in favour of one candidate to insure his return, the same body of voters can nominate and return five other candidates holding similar political opinions. What possible harm can accrue to the Commonwealth if the electors are required to choose the six most suitable candidates from their point of view? If they find that there are not six candidates in accord with their views, there is nothing to prevent them from nominating six who are. I cannot understand the argument of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, who declares that under this clause a large number of the electors in each State may be disfranchised. It is evident that those electors must be in a minority, and the principle of democratic Government is that the majority shall rule. I intend to support the clause.
– I am very much surprised to hear honorable members who call themselves democrats advocatinga tyrannous proposition under which the will of the people cannot find expression.
– We have proved ourselves more democratic than has the honorable member.
– The honorable member proved himself a democrat just now by seeking to deny representation to those holding a different political faith from that of the majority. I ask the Government to adhere to the Bill as nearly as practicable in the form in which it was originally introduced. At that time it contained provisions for the adoption of proportional representation - provisions which have since been eliminated. I think it is incumbent upon the Government in such circumstances to adopt the next best scheme, instead of the other extreme, namely, . that of the block vote. Under a system of proportional representation, the idea is to secure a fair representation of the views held by the people. The adoption of the system of the block vote will entirely defeat that object, and will ensure not only that the majority shall rule, but that the minority shall be absolutely unrepresented and unheard. Under the block-vote system, if in any one of the States the two opposing political parties were almost equal in numbers, nearly half the community would be entirely unrepresented in the Senate.
-The people have been taxed to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds during the present session upon the casting vote of the Chairman.
– What has that to do with the matter under discussion ? We know the fiscal views of most of the States. In Victoria there is believed to be a majority of protectionists, and in New South Wales a majority of free-traders. Is it suggested that in each case only the majority shall be represented independently of their numerical strength? That would be a scandalous position to assume.
– The honorable member is speaking against majority rule.
– Majority rule is one thing and representation is another. While the majority must rule in this House, the members returned are able to submit divergent views ; this is something more than the mere recording place for the views of the majority.We do not always receive the proposition from the Chair with our minds fully made up ; there is always the opportunity of converting a minority into a majority. Our recent political history has shown that the free system of voting has returned members of no less ability than those returned under the block system. In South Australia the people were allowed to vote as they liked, and that State has in the Senate to-day an absolutely fair representation, of which as a South Australian I am proud. On the other hand, three or four years ago, at the time of the elections to the Federal Convention, not a single labour representative was returned, exceptMr. Trenwith of Victoria, and he was “ run on a ticket.” I do not say that labour representatives would have been superior, or even equal, in mental calibre and statesmanlike ability to the gentlemen who were elected to that Convention, but that fact remains that, owing to the enforcement of the block system, no such representative was returned, notwithstanding that so large a proportion of the population belongs to the labouring classes. That is an illustration of the absolute tyranny of the majority. Ten members had, in South Australia, to be elected to that Convention, and amongst the candidates were three representatives of labour, the object being to secure a fair representation. The position was similar in every State except New South Wales.Most of our party voted for the three men and for liberals, bringing the number up to six or seven ; but the same electors had to vote for men whom they did not desire to see at the Convention, and to whose political views they were utterly opposed. The Adelaide press, and every fair-minded man, recognised this as a most unfortunate result of the block vote. Is the honorable member forMacquarie a party to a movement to prevent any labour representative obtaining a seat?
– I represent a larger labour constituency than does the honorable member.
– Is the honorable member a party, or would he be a party, to a scheme to absolutely annihilate labour representation in the Senate?
– I contend that the majority of electors should rule.
– In that I am with the honorable member, and the best way to achieve that object is by a system of proportional representation. But we have not that system, and the only way in which a minority can obtain justice is by allowing the electors tovote for men of the same political faith as themselves. The honorable member forMacquarie suggested “dummy” candidates, or, at any rate, said that enough candidates could be found tomeet the difficulty.
– I did not speak of “dummy” candidates; the electors can put up candidates to represent their views.
– In South Australia the people will not vote for “ rubber” men, simply because they are nominated by organizations.
– In New South Wales the people vote for the best men.
– The representation of New South Wales in the Senate would give greater satisfaction if that State had sent some labour representatives. I acknowledge the undoubted ability of the senators from New SouthWales, but I am speaking of the best means of expressing the will of the people. The result of the Federal elections in South Australia was the return of three protectionists and three free-traders to the Senate, and three protectionists and four free-traders to this House, the balance thus being, slightly in favour of the freetraders. Would it have been fair for South Australia to be represented by free-traders only t
– A majority of freetraders have a right to return a majority.
– The honorable member’s position seems to be that thirteen free-traders should have been returned for South Australia - a most undemocratic suggestion.
– The honorable member is undemocratic in wishing the minority to rule.
– It is not a question of ma jority rule, but a question, of whether the minority, and a large minority, shall be absolutely unrepresented in this House. There were four protectionist candidates in South Australia. Would it be fair for this House deliberately to say that in such a case the protectionist electors might vote for four candidates of their own faith, and then be compelled to nullify their choice by voting for free-traders ? Electors cannot be asked to vote solidly for men of whom they have no knowledge, and it may be that sufficient protectionists, with chances of success, cannot be found to come forward as candidates. At any rate, it is undemocratic to force people to vote for men whom they do not want to see in Parliament.
– The electors should be asked to select the best men available.
– All the electors are not in a position to select the best men. They know and believe in certain ‘ men,, but as to others they are quite ignorant, and we have no right to compel them to vote for the latter. I think that the system of electing candidates upon newspaper tickets is a mistake, and does not obtain the best results from parliamentary government. In my opinion, it has already gone too far in Australia.
– The electors can exercise their own judgment.
– When a newspaper like the Melbourne Age runs a set of candidates for the Senate, it can place before practically every elector in Victoria the merits of those candidates and the demerits of all other candidates; so that unknown candidates of the ability of men like the Prime Minister, or the leader of the Opposition, could not hope to be returned. I ask honorable members not to regard this matter from the party aspect, and selfishly seize what looks like an opportunity for gaining a party victory, because the majority of to-day, becomes the minority of tomorrow.
– That is what the free-traders have been saying all along in reference to the Tariff.
– The free-trade majority in New South Wales may in time become a minority, and then, instead of being able to capture every seat, may see every seat taken from it, so that it will be unrepresented. This is a system for greasing the fat sow, and helping the top dog. It prevents the minority, whose judgment may after all be the soundest, from obtaining any representation at all. It is a kind of mob rule, which is always dangerous.
– Does the honorable member call majority rule mob rule ? That is a new interpretation.
– The system which I am opposing will result in nothing but mob rule, and will prevent the minority from being represented at all. It happens at times that constituencies run wild with enthusiasm, and then under the block-vote system, there is very little chance of the stable elements of the community obtaining Parliamentary representation.
– We have a blockvote whenever a party votes in a certain way in this Chamber.
– The ‘ minority always has an opportunity of placing its views before the Chamber, but under the system which I am opposing, the minority outside will have no opportunity to secure the representation of its views. I am sorry that the honorable member has left the paths of democracy to secure what can be merely a temporary party success. lc has been said that each party can put forward as many candidates as it likes, bu t no party would gain any particular advantage by doing that. Besides, we do not want every little section of the community to put forward the full number of candidates, so that it may not be compelled to vote for candidates whom it does not want to see elected. I think that as a rule it is a mistake for electors to plump ; but it is ‘quite another thing to say to them - “ You shall, in every case, vote for the full number of candidates, although among them there may be men whom you do not want to see elected.”
– No elector need record’ his vote.
– That interjection gives away the whole case. A man may not want to vote for six candidates, because although he wishes Bill Jones, who is his bosom friend, to be returned, he has no desire to support Jim Smith, whom he would rather see employed in any than a parliamentary position.
– An elector in a single electorate who disapproves of all the candidates offering is compelled to refrain from voting.
– Yes, but in every State there are a number of single electorates, and thus the disfranchisement of certain electors in one electorate is compensated by the disfranchisement of certain electors of opposite views in another electorate.
– That argument applies to the system of representation by States.
– Under the blockvote system, if there were a majority of protectionists in each of the three smaller States, the protectionist party could control the Senate, and in that way the political policy of the Commonwealth, even though the large majority of the people of Australia were free-traders.
– That is one of the evils or the equal representation of States, which the honorable member favoured.
– I had no voice in the framing of that provision of the Constitution which provides for the equal representation of States. Personally, I think the Commonwealth will ultimately work in the direction of unification, because of the great difficulty in governing small separate communities. I do not think that any real damage can be done where plumping is resorted to, because unless a majority vote for some one candidate he cannot be returned, notwithstanding the plumping. The plumping system gives proportional representation to an extent which is impossible under the block-vote system.
– Plumping gives an accidental result.
– Yes, but in a haphazard way it secures something which is equivalent to proportional representation. At the federal elections in South Australia there was practically no plumping, and that practise is not very likely to be largely resorted to in the future. As a rule the electors voted for as many candidates as represented their political views. It is not our business to dictate to the electors as to the men for whom they shall vote. They have a right to return just such men as they desire to see in the House and no others. Some electors may not know enough of any six of the candidates to justify them in voting for the full number, and I would point out that every vote that an elector gives to a candidate with whose views he does not agree nullifies the support he accords to those whom he desires to see returned. In South Australia four protectionists only offered themselves as candidates for election, and it would have been most unfair in that case to compel the electors to support men who were opposed to their way of thinking. The proposition is a preposterous one, and only needs to be fairly stated in order to secure its general condemnation. The Government proposal would to an even greater extent than the single electorate system perpetuate the tyranny of the majority.
– The honorable member for South Australia apparently wishes to put back the clock, and revert to the plumping system. Some of the States have been divided into single electorates in order that the majority of the people may be properly represented, but the honorable member is not in favour of proportional representation. The honorable member made a strong point of the fact that if any particular party were to put forward any two or three candidates, and had to vote for six, they would be practically disfranchised ; but in such a case the party would be only reaping the reward of its own neglect. Under the system proposed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs the labour party would nominate a certain number of candidates, and the free-traders and protectionists would do likewise. The prohibitionists, the supporters of “ Tattersall’s,” the licensed victuallers, and the socialists would also put forward one or more members of their respective parties, and the supporters in each case would plump for their own particular candidates. This would probably result in the return of representatives of a number of small parties. The representation of small parties is not to be desired in the general interest, and if strong parties are to be returned, majority representation mustbe provided for. Therefore, I am in favour of the Government proposal.
I should prefer to see only two parties. A third party is generally impotent in itself, and it is only by alliance with another that it is able to accomplish anything. Generally the result is more harmful than otherwise. I am as democratic os is any honorable member, and I have supported every democratic measure that has been brought forward. It would be impossible for the members of the labour party to do anything without the co-operation of the democrats on this side of the Chamber.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).Under the provision, as it stands, the electors would be compelled to vote for the most objectionable candidates. At the last federal election in Victoria the labour party, to which I have the- honour to belong, submitted three candidates, and the instructions given were that the votes were to be cast first for the three labour representatives, and next for the most objectionable men, or those who would have the least chance of being returned. It was represented that if those who voted for the labour representatives were to support other liberal candidates, they would injure the chances of those they specially desired to return. That was a sneaking way of plumping, I admit ; but we had to resort to that subterfuge in order to overcome the effects of the iniquitous system of compelling men to vote for those whom they do not regard as fit to legislate. We have no right to insist upon the electors voting for a given number of men any more than we are entitled to compel every man in the community to record his vote. If the block vote is insisted upon, the electors will, in many cases, be compelled to support candidates of whom they do not approve. That is the position in which the electors of Victoria were placed at the last federal election, and the Bill proposes to perpetuate a most unfair system. We shall actually be forced to vote for men who, upon moral, intellectual, or political grounds, may be absolutely objectionable to the community. I sincerely hope that the Government will hearken to wisdom. There is no need to discuss the question of freetrade, democracy, or protection in connexion . with this clause. The greatest authority on democracy at the present time is Lecky, who, although a free-trader, declares that democracy is frankly and avowedly protectionist all the world over. That is a sufficient answer to anything that has been said in that direction. I hope that the Government will see the error of their ways, and not impose upon a large section of the community a condition which is immoral in its end, irrespective of whether or not its intention is immoral.
Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - We have heard a good deal about majority representation and majority rule, but I scarcely think that those who talk so glibly about majority rule grasp the full significance of that term. Does it mean that the whole representation of a country, of every interest and of every class, shall be monopolized by just a bare majority of the electors ? Could anything be worse in the interests of a State than that it should be represented by persons who were hostile to a” good deal more than half of its people ? Let us assume that in Australia four-tenths of the electors are free-traders, three-tenths protectionists, and that three-tenths are in sympathy with the labour party. Under the block-vote system it is almost certain that the great bulk of the representation would be divided amongst the free-traders and pro- tectionists, whilst the labour party would be entirely unrepresented. We have seen what proportional representation has done in Belgium. Prior to the adoption of that system, the clericals had it entirely their own way, but since its adoption the liberals have obtained . a fair share of the representation. Is not that what we all want to see 1 Do we not wish the interests of every section of the community to be voiced in our councils 1 Do we not desire that Parliament shall be a reflex of the true feelings of the nation ? Surely the only way in which that result can be attained is by the adoption of the system which was originally contained in this. Bill - that of proportional representation - which, even at this late hour, I should like to see the Government make an endeavour to force through. If, however, they decline to do so, by all means let us amend the clause under discussion so as to make it approach as nearly as possible the result which would have been obtained under their original proposal. I intend to move to add to the clause the words - “but may make the votes preferential by placing the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, ite, in’ the squares opposite the candidates’ names,” thus indicating the order of the electors’ preference.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). - To my mind, the principle of majority rule does not enter into the consideration of this question, which is one of legal tyranny. Under this clause the electors are asked to select those who shall represent them in the Senate. The Constitution requires that six senators shall be returned for each State, and because of that provision the Government propose to compel every elector to record six votes, irrespective of whether or not he can conscientiously approve of six candidates. If there are not six candidates who commend themselves to his conscience and good judgment, he is either compelled to become a hypocrite by casting his vote in favour of the return of men in whom he does not believe, or to disfranchise himself. I therefore support the amendment.
Mr. THOMSON (North Sydney).- I should not have addressed myself to this matter a second time but for the remarks which have been made by certain honorable members. Those who support the clause in the Bill have been accused of advocating a hypocritical and immoral proposal. I think the.confusion of ideas which prompted such a statement ought easily to have been seen by those honorable members who made that assertion. Do they mean to suggest that it is immoral that the majority should rule? Do they not recognise that two or three votes in this House are sufficient to determine the policy of the country ? If it is absolutely immoral that a small majority should possess that power, why do they support the institution of which they are members ?
– Why should I be compelled to vote for a man in whom I do not believe ?
– Has the honorable member had no connexion with associations which compel men either to vote for a particular individual of whom they may not approve or to abstain from voting? Has he never been connected with any organization which has chosen one particular individual as its representative and which has prevented any other candidate from coming forward in that interest? Has no vote been decided in meetings of different parties by a majority of one? Have not governments been supported in power by a majority so obtained? Whilst an honorable member may have what he thinks good reason to object to this provision, and to favour giving the elector the right to vote for a less number of candidates than there are vacancies to fill, I do not think it becomes him to accuse supporters of the clause of hypocrisy, and of advocating an immoral proposition. I should like to know whether the Government are in earnest in their support of this clause, and therefore I shall watch the division with very keen interest.
– I have supported the Bill as it came from the Senate.
– The Minister supported it upon two grounds ; first, because the original proposal has been altered by the Senate to which Chamber this clause applies ; and secondly, because he is opposed to plumping.
– I said that personally I was opposed to plumping.
– I quite agree that two opinions may very well be entertained on this question. I do not impute motives to those who hold a different opinion from that held by myself, and motives should not have been imputed to those who support the clause as it stands. In a single electorate it may be that 49 per cent. of the people are not represented by the person who is elected. All that is held is that in a number of constituencies that effect is balanced : and that is the reason for the democratic support of single electorates. So with State electorates. It is not true that, if there is a majority of free-trade voters throughout the Commonwealth, every State will be held by free-traders. One State may return all free-traders, and another all protectionists, and the same balancing influence is felt as with single electorates. Of course, there may be an objection to equal representation in the Senate which gives the same effective vote to the smaller State as to the larger State : but that is part of the Constitution.
– I should be the last to impute motives to honorable members because of the attitude they assume. I am much obliged to the honorable member for Robertson for his assurance that “Codlin is our friend, not Short,” but I do not know that the remarks of the honorable member have any particular bearing on the subject at issue. Democrats exist in both fiscal camps, and I hope that will continue to the end. As to compelling men in organizations, of whatever political complexion, to vote for particular men to the exclusion of others, the honorable member for North Sydney must, on reflection, see that most of the candidates within an organization, whether it be in a freetrade, protection, or labour organization, hold exactly the same set of opinions as those which govern the members. There is, therefore, no sacrifice in their agreeing to sink individual liking of the candidates, and voting for those selected by the majority. That applies to organizations formed for the purpose of carrying out certain sets of political principles, but it does not apply to the case of a number of candidates at a general election. In that case there are a number of men with whom the electors agree on one point, but with whom they disagree on every other; and there is, therefore, a much wider range for the expression of different opinions than is the case in an organization. The two cases are not parallel, and the argument is hardly fair.
– The organization selects the three as well as the one.
– It is outside the organization of which we are speaking in this connexion. There are two aspects of the matter which have not been referred to. There are four States exit of the six whose representatives in the Senate were elected under the plumping system, and the result in the States where the block system prevailed was the absolute obliteration of the country vote. That was the case in both Victoria and New South Wales.
– The honorable member does not believe in majority rule.
– I do; but I do not necessarily disbelieve in minority representation. I allow the minority to have its voice, but the majority must rule if we are to have any progress.
– Then why not support the Bill ?
– Because even if the majority is to rule, the minority is entitled to have its voice ‘heard.
– We are considering the representation of the States, not of one State.
– Prom my point of view that makes the position all the worse.
– In Victoria there was one free-trader out of the six senators returned.
– I did not know there were any free-traders returned in Victoria, judging from election promises ; but I believe since then one or two senators have been moving in a halting fashion in the direction of that policy. I do not share to the fullest extent the fear of some honorable members that if the clause is carried the! labour party will be wiped out in the Senate. That may be the result in some States, but at any rate, the Bill will be the means of enabling the labour party “ to wipe the board “ in Queensland.
– The labour party would be represented in that way.
– That would be good as a compensation, but it would not be a result which we could hail with any degree of delight. It would be much better to have a reasonable degree of representation in each of the States. Whether the matter particularly concerns this Chamber or the Senate, I do not see why we, as a Parliament, should not have a voice in deciding the question of how the Commonwealth is to be represented. The Constitution allows- us full power, and it would be foolish to divest ourselves of that power, and let the senators look after their affairs and we after ours. Each’ Chamber should be consulted, and have a voice in the election of Parliament. I trust the committee will see the necessity of giving minorities some degree of representation, and preventing unfair compulsion on electors to either vote for men they do not want, or to run “ dummy” candidates.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Bland has proved to the hilt the contention of the Government. All the honorable member’s followers were, I think, unanimous in saying that under the clause there would be no representation of ‘the minority, but the honorable member for Bland expressed the opinion that the labour party would “ wipe the board “ in Queensland. The honorable member showed that in New South Wales there were returned five free-traders to one protectionist, and in Victoria five protectionist to one free-trader while, according to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, the representation of the two parties was equal in his State. It would appear, therefore, that the parties are equally represented, and that the proposal of the Government is one which the committee should adopt.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- The honorable member for North Sydney made some special reference to myself, and seemed to claim that there had been some inconsistency on my part. I fail, however, to see that the analogy which that honorable member drew proves any inconsistency. “Under the Bil], a man who claims his right of choice is disfranchised* No one can see what a man -does in the ballot-box, and the organizations are simply a combination of voters of like political views, who desire the return of candidates in favour of those views. Such organizations are common to all parties, and if a traitor be found in any he is simply “ passed out “ of the camp. There is no .analogy between disfranchising a man because he exercises his right of choice, and the action of an organization in removing a man with whose political views it is not in sympathy.
– So many arguments have been used on both sides that it is necessary for me to explain the vote which I intend to give on this important question, I have experienced both modes of voting in contesting elections in South Australia. At the first election for the Federal Convention in South Australia the voting was on the block system. The result was that a large and powerful section of the community*- the labour party - was virtually unrepresented. Personally I had no reason for complaint, as I was one of the ten who were chosen. But upon the occasion of the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate, when the people of South Australia had the right to vote for the whole number of candidates required, or any smaller number they thought fit, the result was that the Senate was represented in each House by freetraders, revenue-tariffistS) labour representatives, and protectionists. Therefore, I feel that we should trust the good sense of the people in this matter. I have no sympathy with the proposals to provide for contingent voting. So long as the ballot is conducted as it is now, the electors should have the freest opportunity to combine, if they think fit, to obtain increased representation. I shall vote against the clause as it stands, and for the election of both senators and members of the House of Representatives in the manner in -which they were elected by the people of South Australia on the last occasion.
Mr. FOWLER (Perth). - I have listened very carefully to the whole debate, and I have not heard any one say that the system of block voting is amy thing more than an expedient. No one has attempted to refute the argument that to compel an elector to vote for candidates whom he does not wish to be elected is immoral. The labour party will be able to play the block vote game as well as any other party can do so. I have not been asking for a concession in the interests of that party. I have been protesting against the provisions of the clause as immoral and inequitable. But if they are carried into law, it will be found that the labour party, instead of, as in the past in South Australia, putting forward only one or two candidates in a timid, hesitating way, will put forward the full number of candidates required, and in view of the position which we have taken up upon this question, both here and in the Senate, we shall have every justification in asking the electors to support them. If the clause is carried as it stands, both sides will have reason to rue the day when they put aside principle for the sake of a mere temporary expedient.
– I do not think that the , honorable member for Perth should attempt to threaten the committee by telling us that in future the labour party will put forward the full number of candidates at every election. If at the last election they put forward in South Australia only one or two nien in a hesitating fashion, I presume it was because they thought that no more than two had any chance of election. If they had believed that they could carry the election of six candidates, they would have put six men into the field, nad in future, whether the clause is passed or not, they will put into the field as many candidates as they think will be elected. In Victoria we have always looked upon proportional representation as .something essentially conservative, and it has always been supported by the conservative press. I have strongly .opposed it, because I consider that it makes for the representation of sections instead of majorities, and one of the fundamental principles of democracy is majority representation. This is the first time, indeed, that I have heard the members of the labour party put forward any other principle. We have been told that the adoption of the block vote will bring the machine system into politics; but the only party that has done that is the party which is opposing the clause.
– What about the Age ticket ?
– If it is immoral to compel electors to vote for candidates whom they do not wish to see elected, is it not immoral to compel the members of a party in this House to vote for principles to which they are opposed ?
– What party does that?
– The labour party, by its solidarity pledge.
– That is not correct.
– It is the labour party which has taken the initiative in bringing the machine system into politics.
– In no State in the Commonwealth have more machine votes been cast than in Victoria. The existence of the honorable member for Echuca -depends upon the machine system. If it were not for the Age he would not be here now. The whole protectionist party in Victoria is practically run by the Age. They dare not put a man forward without consulting the proprietor of that newspaper. It is not very long since the secretary to the Protectionist Association had to admit on oath in the Supreme Court that he submitted the names of the candidates to the editor of the Age before they were accepted.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I am willing to admit that, where the interests of my party are concerned, I shall be ready to take every advantage of the position.
– Quite right, too.
– The members of every party do that. The question which we have to decide now, however, is, should we compel electors to vote for candidates whom they do not wish to see elected? Why should an elector be compelled to vote for three candidates for the Senate, when he considers that two of them are men who should not be elected, and that by voting for them he will practically stultify himself? No elector should be placed in that position. I shall vote against the clause.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 16
Majority … … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
In elections for members of the House ofRepresentatives the voter shall mark his ballot-paper by placing the number 1 in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes in the first instance ; and in addition he may give contingent votes for the remaining candidates by placing the numbers 2, 3,4, and so on in the squares opposite their names so as to indicate the order of his preferences for them.
– I should like to know what attitude the Government intend to assume with regard to this clause. I believe there is a very strong feeling against the contingent vote, and I, for one, am opposed to the introduction of any of these fancy systems of voting. As it is probable that at the next federal election the two Houses will go to the country at the same time, the introduction of the contingent voting system would lead to a great deal of confusion. I do not know that the object aimed at is of sufficient importance to justify us in unsettling the minds of the electors, and thus, perhaps, disfranchising a very large proportion of them. In certain cases the contingent vote might not attain the object aimed at. On rare occasions, in New South Wales, a candidate has been returned by the votes of a minority ; but this has happened to every party in the State, and it is not at all certain that the results would have been altered by the operation of the contingent vote. As personal considerations enter so largely into the selection of candidates - especially in single electorates, such as are provided for in connexion with the election of representatives to this House - it is very difficult to say which candidate would be returned upon the second ballot. Further than that, in Queensland both parties counsel their supporters not to use the contingent, vote.
-It might be made mandatory.
– Yes ; but that might result in still greater confusion. I am informed that the Queensland Ministry, which introduced the provision for the contingent vote, immediately after it had been passed counselled all their supporters not to use it. The clause might be eliminated altogether or amended by providing that a cross should be placed in a square opposite the name of the candidate for whom it is desired to vote. This method proved very successful in New South Wales at the Convention election in 1897. Although ten candidates - ino more and no less - had to be voted for, the election resulted in the smallest percentage of informal votes ever recorded. In 1901 the elections for the Senate under the old system of crossing out the names of the candidates for whom the electors did not desire to vote resulted in the largest percentage of informal votes ever recorded - between 30,000 and 40,000.
– That was because so many names had to be struck out.
– That may be so; but the practice of placing a cross against the name of the candidate for whom it is desired to vote is simple and easily understood, and should be adopted in connexion with the election of representatives to both Houses of this Parliament.
– If the Government do not intend to press this proposal, I need not waste time in discussing it. I am quite sure that a considerable majority of honorable members are opposed to it, otherwise I could show that it would not accomplish the object aimed at.
– In theory the contingent vote appears; sound, but the method proposed here is not quite the same as that adopted in Queensland. In that State, after the first vote, the names of all but the first and second candidates are struck out, and the votes are divided between the two remaining. That is in the case of single electorates. The proposal in the Bill is that if there are four or five candidates, only the last one shall be struck out in the first instance, the votes belonging to the rejected candidate being distributed amongst the others. Then the lowest on the next count is struck out, and so on until only one remains. The system is somewhat complicated, and I took the trouble a day or two ago to work it out, with rather astonishing results. I found that it was possible for the candidate who obtained the largest proportion of number three votes to secure an advantage over his opponent who received the largest proportion of number one votes, and consequently my faith was very much shaken in the scheme contained in this Bill. I think that I accurately gauge the feeling of the committee when I say that we ought not to persist in the proposal for the adoption of the contingent vote. Therefore, I purpose altering the clause under consideration - a course which will necessitate amendments in a number of other clauses. I move-
That the words “placing the number1,”, line 3, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “making a cross,” and that all the words after the word “votes,” line4, be omitted .
– I desire to congratulate the Minister upon the admirable way in which the Government have pushed this Bill through. It seems to me that at every stage, upon the slightest opposition to their proposals being evidenced, they have either welcomed amendments or openly courted defeat. No doubt we shall witness the same sort of conduct in regard to the Tariff suggestions. Ministers had it in their power to make this Bill confer upon the people true representation at any rate so far as the Senate was concerned. They have grievously failed to do so, and in the humiliation that ought to follow I leave them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 153 agreed to.
Clause 154 -
If from any cause any polling booth at a polling place is not opened on polling day the return ing officer or the presiding officer may adjourn the polling for a period not to exceed seven days, and shall forthwith give public notice of the adjournment.
– I trust that the Minister will extend the period of adjournment provided for in this clause. Seven days is altogether too short. At the last election in Queensland it was a very difficult matter indeed for the presiding officers to reach some of the outlying polling places. Hitherto the elections in that State have taken place in the wet season, and if the clause in its present form be adhered to, it will disfranchise a very large number of electors. I therefore move -
That the word “ seven” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ twentyone.”
– I quite agree with the remarks of the last speaker. The period prescribed in this clause is altogether too brief, and the Government will only be giving effect to the principles of democracy by allowing every elector an opportunity to record his vote.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 155 and 156 agreed to.
Clause 157 -
Each candidate may appoint one scrutineer to represent him at the scrutiny,’ and one scrutineer to represent him at any count of the primary votes.
-Seeing that the committee have struck out the provision relating to the contingent vote, this clauserequires to be altered. I theref ore move -
That all the words” after “ scrutiny “ be omitted.
– I desire to know whether in electorates which contain only a few pollingplaces, the votes cast will be forwarded to one centre, at which the scrutiny will be conducted? If not, it seems to me that each candidate will require one scrutineer at each polling place where votes are to be counted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 158 agreed to.
Clause 159 -
A ballot-paper shall be informal if -
– In consequence of the important amendment which has just been made in the Bill, some further amendment is, I suggest, required in this clause. A vote will not now be informal if the elector votes for less candidates than the number required, though, of course, voting for a greater number remains an informality. I move -
That the words “or less,” in lines 5 and 9, be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment(by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “ does not,” line 13, be omitted.
– I find that subclause (c) will require recasting inconsequence of the amendment providing for plumping, and I move -
That sub-clause (c) be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 160 agreed to.
Clause 161. - (Scrutiny of votes in Senate elections.)
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I understood the Minister to say that provision was made, or would be made, that at outside polling places at which only a small number of votes are recorded, the presiding officer shall at the close of the poll sealthe ballot-box and send it on to the central returning officer. In which clause is that power given ? The clause under discussion makes some provision for an assistant returning officer, but there is no special provision for sending in a ballot box to any particular centre.
– I should like the Minister to give the committee some satisfaction in regard to the point raised by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, because my constituency and others are very seriously affected.
– The ballot-box has to be sent to the returning officer.
– Is the meaning of the clause that only in thecase of a certain small number of votes being recorded, shall the box be sent on to the central booth, or have the boxes from aU the booths to be sent there?
– Provision should be made in this clause as to where the boxes referred to in clause 139 are to be sent. I think it will be necessary to take the number on the roll and not the number of votes recorded, as deciding whether the provision which the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs now suggests shall apply.
– Some explanation ought to be given by the Minister.
– These matters have always been dealt with by regulation in the States. lft clause 215, power is given to make regulations, and under these the suggestions made by honorable members may be carried out.
– This is the time at which to settle such questions.
– This is not a matter for regulation, but one which ought to be definitely settled now. There should be some definite provision in the Bill, as to the course to be followed. If we allow the matter to te provided for by regulation, it may happen that in a number of places where only a few votes are recorded the electors may be influenced. Most of the difficulties which have arisen under our electoral laws, have been due to the fact that matters which should have been definitely provided for have been left to regulations, and have been dealt with differently by different returning officers.
– I should be willing to insert a definite provision in the Bill if I knew how to meet the difficulty ; but in the. States this matter has been dealt with by regulation and proclamation, and as that system has worked fairly well, I think we might adopt it in connexion with Commonwealth elections. However if the honorable member can suggest am amendment which will meet the case, without making the measure cumbersome and unwieldy, I shall be glad to accept it.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - We have had in South Australia some experience of the’ cases to which the honorable member for Kennedy refers, and in the northern territory, where, at many of the polling places only a few people come to vote,, the ballot-boxes, except upon the telegraph lines, are sent in to the chief polling place, supposing that to be within a fair distance. It is almost impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule in the Bill as to the number of electors who must vote at a polling place to enable the votes to be counted there, but it might be provided that where a polling place is within reach of the central polling place within a reasonable time - say seven or fourteen days - the ballot box should be sent there unopened, but that otherwise the assistant returning officer should count the ballot papers on the spot.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I suggest the insertion of the following provision : -
But no assistant returning officer shall open any box at any booth where there are less than 100 electors on the roll.
– I do not think that that provision would work.
– Then the Minister should postpone the clause, and let us consider the matter further.
– I do not wish to postpone .the clause, -but I promise to have a provision drafted, somewhat on the lines suggested by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Y. L. Solomon, which, I hope, will meet the wishes of the committee ; and I shall submit it to them for approval. It may either be an amendment of the clause, or of clause 8, or a new clause altogether.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).This matter is really controlled by the provisions of clause 8, under which assistant returning officers may be appointed to exercise powers within any portion of a division. If clause ‘8 were amended to provide that the areas over which they shall exercise supervision must contain a certain number of electors that might meet the case. One Commonwealth constituency contains eight State constituencies, and at each important centre in each of these eight constituencies there will be an assistant returning officer^ The officers at outlying centres will be presiding officers.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - If it were pro* vided that the ballot-boxes must be sent in to the assistant returning officer that would do. Will the Minister, if he cannot frame what he considers a suitable provision, recommit the clause ?
– I hope that the Minister, in framing his provision, will not follow the suggestion of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Y. L. Solomon. We do not want it to be known how the electors at a small polling place have recorded their votes, whether the polling place is or is not within a certain distance from the head polling place.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 162 agreed to.
Clause 163 (Scrutiny at Elections for House of Representatives).
– Will the Minister give us another opportunity for considering this clause, as well as clause 161?
– What I have said in regard to clause 161 applies also to this clause.
– So far as I understand the position, the honorable member for Maranoa, and other Queensland representatives, desire to have the ballotpapers counted at some central polling place. The New South Wales practice has been for the presiding officer at each polling place to count the ballot-papers at the conclusion of the poll, in the presence of the scrutineers. He then fills in a form stating how the votes havebeen cast, and, enclosing it with the ballot-papers, forwards the ballot-box to the returning officer for the electorate, by whom the papers are again counted. By this system the people at each centre are enabled to quickly ascertain how the voting has gone. It has been objected that at small polling places it may allow employers to know how their employes have voted ; but I cannot see any great objection to it. However, the difficulty will be met by requiring the ballot-boxes to be sent unopened to the divisional officer. Of course, if they had to be sent to the chief electoral officer it would delay the returns considerably, and a large amount of work which is now performed by the country officers would devolve upon the central office.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 164 and 165 amended consequentially, and agreed to.
Clauses 166, 167, and 168 negatived.
Clause 169 agreed to.
Clause 170 (Return of writ).
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - This clause provides for the return of the writ by the divisional returning officer through the Commonwealth electoral officer for the State in which the election is held. There does not seem to be any provision with regard to the person from whom the divisional returning officer is to receive the writ, and I should like the Minister to make a note of the point.
– I shall be glad to do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 171 and 172 agreed to.
No electoral expense shall be incurred by a candidate in respect of any candidature -
– I foresee some trouble in connexion with this clause. It is provided that no electoral expense shall be incurred by a candidate for the House of Representatives in excess of £100. Clause 175 provides that “electoral expense” shall include all expenses “incurred by or on behalf or in the interests of any candidate,” and in order to make this clause consistent it will be necessary to amend it by providing that no expense shall be incurred by a candidate, “or on his behalf or in his interests,” in excess of £100. I am decidedly in favour of this clause, although I regard it as a triumph of hope over experience, because I do not think we shall succeed in reducing election expenses toany great extent. We should, however, make our attempt as effective as possible, and the clause in its present form would not prevent political organizations from incurring very heavy expenditure in the interest of certain candidates.
– Does not clause 175 govern this one?
– Yes, but this clause might be made much more clear. I move -
That the words “ or on behalf or in the interest” bp inserted after the word “ by.”
– I should like the honorable member to carefully read clause 175, which was inserted for the special purpose of accomplishing what he now desires. That provision was intended to - and I believe does - govern clauses 173 and 174, and any other clause in which the words “ electoral expense “ occur.
– I think that the honorable member for South Sydney is quite right in his contention. Unless we adopt the amendment submitted, the clause will provide that no candidate for this House shall himself incur electoral expenses exceeding £100, but will contain no limitation as to expenditure incurredon his behalf or in his interests.
– I think that we shouldbest meet the necessities of the occasion by inserting in this clause the words “ on his behalf, or in his interests,” and omitting them from clause 175. That will make the position very much clearer than it is at the present moment.
– I desire to ask the Minister if this clause is intended to meet two particular cases, namely, expenditure by a candidate and expenditure on behalf of or in the interests of a candidate? Under paragraph (c) of clause 185, if a candidate for this House spent more than £100 he would be guilty of an illegal practice, and would be liable to prosecution. Is it also the intention of the Government to provide that if the expenses incurred by electioneering agents on behalf of a candidate, or in his interests, in conjunction with those of the candidate himself, exceed the amounts prescribed in this clause, such agents shall be liable to additional penalties?
– That is the intention.
-Then it seems to me that there is some reason for keeping the matters quite distinct. At the same time I desire to point out that expenditure may be incurred on behalf and in the interests of a candidate without his knowledge, and under such circumstances it would be extremely hard to render him liable to prosecution
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020723_reps_1_11/>.