1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish toask the Acting
Prime Minister if, in view of the great desire on all hands, both inside and outside the House, that the Tariff may be disposed of with the least possible delay, the Government will consider whether they cannot bring the matter forward at the earliest possible moment ?
– I can without hesitation say that the Tariff will be submitted at the earliest possible moment. Certain returns are being prepared showing the revenue and other effects of the suggested changes. My honorable colleague the Treasurer has these in hand, and is pressing them forward; and they will be completed as soon as possible.
– We should be able to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff on Wednesday next.
– We shall make every endeavour to do so, although that is very early.
– I should like to know whether the proposed suggestions of the Senate will be submitted in such a form that they may be easily compared with the schedule of duties as originally proposed by the Government, and as afterwards amended by this House ; and whether returns will be prepared showing how the revenue will be affected in each case.
– There may be some little difficulty in doing as the honorable member suggests. Honorable members will be more interested in a statement showing the duties as they left this House and the alterations suggested by the Senate. Of course the original Tariff is available for purposes of reference if necessary.
– The revenue considerations will be the most important.
-All the information possible upon that subject will be given. I do not think there would be much advantage in setting out the duties as originally introduced into this House, because what we are most concerned about is how far the Tariff as agreed to by this House would be altered if the suggestions made in another place were adopted.
– In asking the honorable the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the federal military authoritiesare ignoring the claims of South Australian drill instructors, and sending to Adelaide men who have been retrenched in New South Wales and Queensland,
I desire to say by way of explanation that considerable discontent prevails at the present time amongst military men in South Australia, and that this has been intensified by the fact that ten drill instructors, of whom seven are from New South Wales and three from Queensland, have been appointed for the South Australian forces. It is understood that those drill instructors are to divide amongst them annually ?1,600.
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
No. The permanent drill instructors of South Australia are retained. Additional drill instructors have been sent to assist.
That is the answer supplied to me by the military authorities.
– Do I understand that the South Australian drill instructors are to be retained and paid?
– Yes; I believe so.
asked the Minister for
Home Affairs, upon notice -
Service Act into operation by proclamation ?
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the honorable the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he has any objection to layu pon the table of the House a copy of the Commission of His Excellency the Acting Governor-General.
– I have pleasure in laying upon the table a copy of His Excellency’s commission.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table
Telephone trunk line regulation fixing press rates.
In Committee -
Resolved (on motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill to regulate parliamentary elections.
Resolution reported and agreed to.
– Information has just been received that the Coronation of His Majesty the King has now been definitely fixed to take place on 9th August. Honorable members are perhaps aware that in order that due respect may be paid on that occasion to His Majesty, and that the members of the Commonwealth forces, who were chosen to represent Australia at the Coronation ceremony, should not be disappointed, they are being retained in London. This may necessitate a further request to the House to provide for the unexpected additional cost. The sum will not be large, and as soon as it is definitely ascertained I shall inform honorable members as to the amount. The expenses of the troops in London are being defrayed by the Imperial Government, but we have to provide for the payment of the men for the extra time they are being detained, and any extra amount that may be payable to the steamship owners who contracted to convey the troops back to Australia at an earlier date, and whose arrangements may have been interfered with by the postponement of the Coronation.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 23rd July, vide page 14617).
Clause 173. - No electoral expense shall be incurred by a candidate in respect of any candidature -
Upon which Mr. G. B. Edwards had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “or on behalf or in the interest of” be inserted after the word “by,” line 2.
– Although most honorable members may desire to restrict the expenses incurred at elections, the limit fixed in this clause is too small, especially for large districts with scattered populations.For the purpose of returning members to the House of Representatives, South Australia will be divided into seven districts, each containing from 15,000 to 20,000 electors. The areas of some of these districts will be so large that ?100 would be altogether inadequate to permit candidates to place their views before the electors by advertising, or other legitimate means. When the South Australian ‘ Act, upon which this Bill is largely framed, was before the State Legislature, the object was not so much to restrict legitimate expenditure by candidates in placing their views before the electors, as to prevent the employment of numerous canvassers, and the exercise of unfair influence by the expenditure of large sums of money. Although £100 might be sufficient to defray the expenses of a candidate in an electorate within ten miles of Melbourne, it would be quite insufficient in a district extending over hundreds of miles of country, with numerous small polling places. The northern district of South Australia, according to the subdivision proposed in the State Parliament last session, would embrace an area extending from Port Augusta to Port Darwin, a distance of nearly 1,200 miles, with a stretch of country 500 miles in width. It was necessary to include this large extent of territory in order that the district might contain approximately one-seventh of the electors on the roll. Honorable members will see that it would be utterly impossible for a candidate to fairly place his views before the voters at the numerous pollingplaces which exist in that stretch of country with an expenditure of £100, which amount covers the hire of halls in which to address the electors, and the remuneration of scrutineers to look after his interests. I see by the marginal note to clause 174, that the main provisions of this portion of the Bill are taken from the South Australian Electoral Act of 1896. In that Act it is provided that the expenditure incurred by any candidate shall not exceed £50, plus an additional £5 for every 200 electors upon the roll in excess of 2,000. Under such a scale the limit of expenditure which a candidate may incur in a district containing 15,000 electors is between £400 and £500. That Act was intended to apply to much smaller districts than those which will be created when South Australia is divided into only seven constituencies for the return of members to this House. I have no desire to unfairly increase the amount which a candidate is entitled to expend. Indeed, I consider it is an excellent thing for candidates themselves that their electoral expenses should be limited. But there is a point below which we ought not to go. In connexion with the recent election of representatives of South Australia to this House, it was most difficult for candidates to get their views fairly put before the people. It will be still more difficult for a candidate who is contesting a district outside of the city or suburbs to attain that object.
– I have been told that it costs more to contest an election in the city than it does in the country.
– I am perfectly sure that it does not cost anything like as much in the way of legitimate expenditure. To place one’s views before the electors in the Yarra district, foi” example, would not be nearly so costly as in a country electorate containing a scattered population.
– I - It would not cost oneeighth the amount.
– No; nor onetenth. In South Australia the daily newspapers charge candidates four guineas a column for reporting their speeches on the first occasion upon which they address the electors. As evidencing the utter inadequacy of the limit of £100 in the case of a candidate for the House of Representatives, I may mention that when I addressed the electors in North Adelaide, three days after the Prime Minister had declared the Government policy at Maitland, the reporting of my speech in the Advertiser and South AUStralian Register cost me £25.
– Was the speech charged for as an advertisement 1
– I was charged advertisement rates. Every candidate who desired to have his utterances reported had to pay the same rate for all matter in excess of three quarters of a column.
– The publication of all my utterances would, in my estimation, be dear at a pound.
– I think that probably there were candidates in New South Wales and Victoria who paid equally large sums to the Daily Telegraph and the Age respectively.
– Not for the insertion of matter in the news columns.
– At any rate, I am declaring what is an absolute fact. I mention this matter to show that if a candidate desires to have his views fairly placed before the electors, the proposed limitation of £100 would be totally inadequate to the necessities of a large district. What is the reason for this limitation ? Is it inserted for the purpose of preventing a candidate from having his political views circulated amongst the electors 1 I think not. It is rather intended, I take it, to prevent the improper expenditure of money, thereby giving the wealthy candidate a most unfair advantage over the poorer candidate.
– What limit does the honorable member suggest ?
Mr..V. L. SOLOMON.- I do not think the amount stipulated in this clause in connexion with elections for the Senate is anything like adequate.
– The Senate has agreed to that limit.
– But does the honorable member imagine that candidates for the other branch of the Legislature will in the future limit their expenses to £250 ? Does he believe that in any of the States a senatorial candidate could fairly put his views before the electors, pay for the services of scrutineers, the hiring of halls, &c, for £250 1
– Candidates do not attempt to go to that expense.
– I have been told that the return of some of the gentlemen who were elected in Victoria cost them thousands of pounds.
– But others did not spend £50.
– I am using this information only to point the argument that, whilst we are entitled to insist that no candidate shall incur more than a reasonable expenditure, we are not acting wisely in limiting that expenditure to such an extent as to preclude a candidate for an outside district containing a scattered population from fairly placing his views before the electors. As the honorable member for Yarra interjected just now, the Senate has agreed to limit the expenditure of candidates for that House to £230.- Whether its members intend religiously to adhere to that provision . is their business, and not mine. But I certainly think that in elections for the House of Representatives, if it be possible to discriminate between metropolitan and outside constituencies in this connexion, it would be wise to do so.
– L - Let us limit it to £50 for city electorates and to £100 for country constituencies.
– .To my mind, to insert a limit of £100 in connexion with a country electorate would be an utter absurdity. Even to send a circular through the post to each elector in a district containing 20,000 voters would cost more than the amount prescribed. I intend to move that the limit in regard to the expenditure of candidates for the House of Representatives shall be £200.
– When I submitted my amendment last evening there was scarcely time to point out the reason why something should be done in the way of altering this clause in the direction indicated. It was contended by the Minister for Home Affairs that by the inclusion of the words, “ or in the interests of any candidate” in clause 175, he had covered the whole ground which my amendment is intended to embrace. I hold, however, that it would do ‘ no harm to express it more definitely here. If honorable members will turn to clause 185, which deals with the penalties to be imposed, they will observe that, under paragraph (c), any contravention by a candidate of the provisions of this portion of the Bill renders him liable to prosecution. But there is no provision in that clause for punishing any person other than the candidate himself. Consequently, even if this amendment be carried - and I hold that it is necessary to give expression to the evident intention of the Bill - there ought to be an addition to the clause imposing a penalty, in order to make sure that those who spend money on behalf of a candidate or in his interests may be reached. It is of no use limiting the amount of money a candidate may spend if we do not at the same time impose a limit on the amount which may be spent by organizations in his interest. If organizations ave left free to spend money, in order to secure the return of a candidate, the law may be evaded by the candidate subscribing to those associations. That is evident from our knowledge of human nature, and our past experience in politics. I am not now dealing with- the question whether it is right or politic to try to limit the expenses of a candidate. Such an attempt seems to me to be a triumph of hope over experience ; but if it can be done we ought to do it. The Bill may be an effort in that direction ; but the effort must be complete, or the clause should be dropped. In clauses 174 and 175 there is some confusion. Clause 174 defines in a negative way what “ electoral expenses “ may be incurred, and clause 175 dennes those expenses in another way. But if we amend clause 173 we shall be able to strike out clause 175, and leave clause 174 as the only defining clause. If the expenses are limited to those set out in the sub-clauses of clause 174, all expenses outside of those will be illegal ; and, going further, we might insert a sub-clause in the punitive clause 185 dealing with those, other than candidates, who spend money in contravention of clause 174. I move my amendment in the present clause to test the sense of the committee as to whether we should make a legitimate attempt to restrict the expenses at elections. There is a good deal in the argument of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, that we cannot expect a candidate to adequately place his views before a large constituency at the expense of so small an amount as £100. At the same time, we have legislated in many directions in order to secure that the wealthy man shall enjoy no privilege or power over others less fortunately placed. If we allow the expenses to be larger than are absolutely necessary, the wealthier man is given a better chance by reason of the fact that he can place his views before a larger number of electors, and thus be more likely to. secure a majority of votes. If £100 is not enough to allow, we can make the amount larger, still limiting it. But if we limit the amount in respect of candidates, we are only playing with the question if we do not also impose a limit in respect of others who may pay money .on the candidate’s behalf or in his interest. The returns of expenses are to be made within eight weeks of the result of the election ; but I do not think that will work ‘ well, because many expenses might be paid subsequently. A candidate must spend money in order to place his views before the public by means of addresses and advertisements : but it is not necessary for anybody to incur expense on his account. It would bv better if we went so far as to make it equally illegal for anybody to spend money in promoting any candidature. It may be said that this is a limitation of the rights of the people ; but the rights of some persons are limited only by their wealth, which gives a larger political influence to its possessor than can be exercised by others.
For these reasons I intend to press the amendment, and if it does not accord with certain provisions in the Bill, it is the Minister’s duty to .alter those provisions in order to bring them into uniformity.
– After the short discussion of last night, I this morning took some advice, and I am confirmed in the opinion that clause 175 does all that is aimed at by the amendment..
– Clause 173 is the best place in which to make the provision.
– I must differ from the right honorable member. This clause governs other clauses as well as clause 175.
– Where is the penalty on anybody other than a candidate who exceeds the limit of expenditure 1
– The penalty will, I think, be found provided in clause 187. The only difficulty that presents itself to me is that clause 175 makes a candidate liable for what may be done by somebody else without his knowledge.
– I do not know that the clause does that ; but if it does, it is very unfair.
– So far as I can gather, a candidate under clause 175, or under the amendment, would be liable to prosecution if a member of his committee spent £80 with his knowledge, and another £80 without his knowledge.
– Would the money be spent by the candidate in that case 1
– No; but it would be spent on his behalf.
– According to clause 173 the electoral expense must be incurred by the candidate, whatever “electoral expense” may mean.
– According to clause 175, “electoral expense” includes all expenses incurred “ by or on behalf or in the interests of any candidate.” That is the interpretation of the words “ electoral expense,” and clause 173 provides that no “ electoral expense “ shall be incurred by the candidate beyond a certain amount. I inquired this morning what was the intention of clause 175, and was informed that the idea in drafting it was to make a candidate liable for anything done by his committee or any one else on his behalf, with or without his knowledge.
– A rival candidate might spend money on behalf of his opponent.
– When I heard that that was the intention of the clause, I pointed out that any person might deliberately get elected to a candidate’s committee, and, by spending money without the candidate’s knowledge, invalidate an election. I propose when I come to clause 185 to provide that a candidate shall not be liable unless he is aware that the expenditure has taken place. I ask that the clause be allowed to pass, because, so far as I can gather, the words in clauses 173 and 175 are sufficient to prevent a candidate doing anything in contravention of the Bill. I shall later on deal with the question raised by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon.
– I think there is a little misapprehension. I care not what the definition of “ electoral expense “ in clause 175 may be, but it certainly has a very wide range of meaning. It includes expenses incurred “ by or on behalf or in the interests of any candidate,” but, whatever that means, we find that the meaning of clause 173 is limited. The latter clause provides that no “ electoral expense “ - giving the words their widest meaning - shall be incurred by any candidate beyond a certain amount. These words, “ by any candidate,” limit the whole operation of clause 173. We might make “ electoral expense “ include everything, but still no offence is committed by a candidate unless the expense is incurred by him. Consequently some amendment is necessary, though I do not think we ought to go so far as has been proposed. We might provide that the expense must be by or on the authority of a candidate,” but it would not do to use the words “in the interests of,” because a candidate might not only be perfectly innocent of the expenditure, but have expressly forbidden it. It would be unfair to make a candidate liable to penalties when he has done his best to prevent any contravention of the law.
– My desire is to make liable persons who spend money on behalf of a candidate.
– I think that object ought to be attained in some other way, because we certainly ought to avoid punishing an innocent man.
– We might amend the punitive clause, which at present only punishes thecandidate.
– Clause 173 ought to be kept distinct. If we want to punish persons other than the candidate, I do not see how we are to do it. Is it to be that each person may not spend more than £100, or that if a number of the candidate’s friends spend £100 exactly, and another person spends an extra shilling, there has then been an infraction of the law. That, I think, cannot be provided, and it is most important to keep clause 173 perfectly clear and distinct. It does not go far enough at present, because it allows a man’s friends to spend money with his knowledge and sanction in excess of the sums mentioned, so long as he himself steers clear of personal expenditure above those amounts. If we inserted the words “or by the authority of,” I think they would cover the whole ground, so far as it should be covered. It is not enough to say that “ electoral expense “ is a term having a wide meaning, and therefore covers the whole ground of prohibition, because the clause provides, not that no electoral expense shall be incurred in respect of any candidature, but that no electoral expense shall be incurred by a candidate.
– I am inclined to think that the hope that any provision of the kind we are now discussing will be honestly observed is a wild expectation ; but, although such provisions may be easily evaded, they may have a wholesome effect in establishing a code of morals which better minded people will observe. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Indi that if we retain the clause we should insertin it the words whose insertion he has suggested.
– Does the right honorable member wish to punish a candidate who acts through an agent?
– If he acts through an agent authorized for the purpose in some way. No one would wish to make a candidate guilty of an offence against the Act if his agent, contrary to his instructions, did something which should not be done. We know the sort of trickery which is possible even in connexion with agents. An agent might be got to put a candidate in a very unfortunate position, if candidates were in all cases bound by the acts of their agents. But while I look upon this clause as likely to set a good fashion, its provisions could easily be evaded. For instance, clause 174 provides that no electoral expense shall be incurred, except in respect of, amongst other things, election agents. Under that provision a candidate could practise the grossest corruption by buying the votes of electors under the pretence that he was employing them as election agents. It must not be forgotten that the organizations of poor men provide a vastly better electoral machinery than the services which wealth can command. I do not think any candidate is better off than the labour candidates, who have hundreds of men ready to work for them without reward. I think that the clause should be amended so as to provide that the candidate shall be liable for the acts of his agent, if, without himself incurring expense, he does something which shows that he authorized some one else to incur it for him ; but the giving of his authority should be proved, and should not be merely a matter of implication. It is as wrong for a candidate to say - “ I shall not do this thing myself, but I want you to do it for me,” as for him to actually commit the offence himself. But we must not apply the practices of the Customhouse in these cases, and presume that the candidate is guilty unless he can show that he is not. The honorable and learned member for Indi has pointed out that the provisions of clause 175, read in conjunction with the provisions of clause 173, do not make a candidate responsible for the acts of others committed without his knowledge and consent. The last offence defined in clause 187 will meet the case of any person other than a candidate who is guilty of a violation of the clauses which we are discussing ; but there is nothing to prevent ten agents from each spending £95 in respect of a candidature. That is one of the little avenues for cleverness which we cannot close by legislation. I look upon the clause as a well meant provision, which we must piously hope all candidates will observe ; but we must make it clear, since the violation of this provision may have serious consequences, that no candidate shall be held responsible for any act which he has not personally authorized. It may be that the provision of paragraph (c) of clause 185 providing that -
Any contravention by a candidate of the provisions of part15 of this Act relating to the limitation of electoral expenses- shall be an illegal practice will make it sufficiently clear that a candidate is not to be held responsible for acts which he has not authorized. No doubt the Minister will tell us, as he has already done in so many cases of difficulty, that he will seriously consider the matter, and will put it right some other time.
– I am still of opinion that clause 175 is sufficiently explicit and extensive to cover clause 173, but I should like to direct the attention of honorable members also to clause 190, which provides that the acts of authorized agents shall be deemed to be the acts of the candidate, unless it is proved that they were committed without his knowledge or consent, and that he neither directly nor indirectly sanctioned, countenanced, or approved of them in any way. Then clause 191 provides that -
Everyperson shall be liable for an illegal practice committed directly or indirectly by himself, or by any other person on his behalf, except as mentioned in the last preceding section.
– Then the person charged with an offence would be called upon to prove a negative, which is absurd.
– There is a similar provision in most of the State Acts.
– Then it has hitherto been regarded as a dead letter. One prosecution under it would prevent it from being reenacted in future.
– I think there is sufficient elasticity in these provisions to prevent a candidate from being unfairly prosecuted.
– What is an authorized agent ? Could a candidate allow his personal friends to act without coming under this provision?
– I presume that an authorized agent would be any person who acted with the knowledge of the candidate.
– W - We ought to do away with agents altogether. I do not have any.
– It is impossible to do away with agents. We are not all so popular as the honorable member, who has only to go into a State to be returned. It seems to me that the amendment is unnecessary. The candidate is responsible unless he proves that he did not give his consent to, and had no knowledge of what his agent was doing.
– Th The provisions which we are trying to insert here look very well . on paper, but, even if we safeguarded them with stone walls, and domed them over with a roof of steel, we should not be able to prevent corruption. In South Australia there is a strict law against practices of the kind which we are trying to prevent, and yet the licensed victuallers spent close on £2,000 in one electorate in trying to defeat me, and were not prosecuted. The man who understands how to run the show will always be returned. I look upon agents as a means of wasting money. You give them £50 or £100, and they go to a staggerjuicery and make persons drunk, and think they have done a good turn for you. What is the use of making laws which are to be broken ?
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I have looked into the point, referred to by the Minister, as to the liability of persons other than the candidate, and I am afraid there is no provision here that would make the actions of such persons offences against the law. The limitation is upon the candidate alone. It is stated that no electoral expense shall be incurred “ by the candidate “ in excess of £100. Clause 175 only defines “electoral expenses,” and does not extend the operation of this clause to another class of individuals. The offence is really set out in this clause, and other persons acting independently of the candidate can spend as much money as they like. If we desire to make it an offence for a person other than the candidate to spend more than £100, we shall have to go further than is now provided. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for South Sydney would meet the case to some extent, because it would prevent, say, Jones, from spending more than £100 on behalf of a candidate, Smith. But supposing that Jones spent £95, and Brown spent £6, the two amounts could not be added together in order to make Jones an offender.
– Unless Brown acted as Jones’ agent.
– -Yes but he would have to be an agent authorized to incur that expenditure ; a general authority as agent would not suffice. If we were to make a candidate responsible for the acts of his agent, some person might spend over £100 on his account, and then say that he acted as the agent of the candidate, and thus upset an election.
– But that is not made a cause for upsetting an election.
– But if a candidate indulged in illegal practices his election would be upset.
– Power is given to the Court of Disputed Returns to deal with cases of that kind.
– Unless we insert some additional words, such as have been suggested, the candidate only can be proceeded against for spending money in excess of £100 in connexion with an election.
– I think the Minister might take into consideration the point submitted by the honorable and learned member for East Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Indi. Personally, I think the words, “ or his agent,” should be inserted after the word “ candidate.” I find that in section 8 of the English Illegal Practices Act of 1883 it is provided that, “ No expense shall be incurred by a candidate at an election, or by his election agent.”
– But that does not affect any one beyond an agent of the candidate.
– We could not make a candidate liable for the acts of persons other than his agents. It would be contrary to the genius of our law to do so.
– But we could prosecute the other people.
– That is another point. We must make the candidate responsible for the acts of his agent. The English Act goes further, because it makes not only the candidate but the agent liable for the contravention of the Act.. It provides that any candidate or election agent who knowingly acts in contravention of the Act shall be guilty of an illegal practice. An agent could not shelter himself behind his principal, or plead that he did not know that it was illegal to exceed the expenditure of a certain amount of money. This Bill should be made as effective as possible. It is true that designing men with great financial resources may be able to defeat our object to some extent, but an effective provision would exercise an important moral influence upon the community. When subjected to pressure to incur extravagant expense, a candidate would be able tq plead that it would be illegal, and every honest candidate would endeavour to avoid breaking the law.’
I think that in any case a candidate would be liable for the acts of his agent, but it is desirable that the offence should be expressly fastened upon the person whom it is intended to reach. Therefore, I shall support the amendment so far as it aims at making the agent responsible.
–! hope the Minister will reconsider the whole of these clauses. Whatever may have been the intention of the framers of the Bill, the provisions inserted are not likely to bear much fruit. The agent, as well as the candidate, ought to be made responsible, but if the honorable member .for East Sydney is correct in his contention that the friends of the candidate, to an unlimited number, can each of them spend £95, the provision will be of no avail. The candidate might very easily say that he did not authorize his friends to expend the money.
– Supposing it were true that he did not authorize them, would the honorable member still punish him ?
– If a limit is placed upon the expenditure in connexion with a candidature, the amount fixed should cover the money expended by the candidate and his agents and friends. If, however, the friends of the candidate spent money without his authority it would be most improper to hold him responsible.
– That is provided for in clause 190.
– I hope the Minister will reconsider the whole of these clauses.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I understood the Minister to say that really two classes of offences were aimed at in this provision - offences committed by the candidate himself, and by other persons on his behalf or in his interest. There is no offence created so far as agents are concerned, except in the latter class. The only expenses authorized are set out in clause 174, and if any expenditure were incurred for other purposes, an offence might be created which would come within the scope of clause 187. I am not sure, however, whether it is intended that the expenditure by persons other than a candidate for purposes beyond those mentioned in clause 174 shall be regarded as constituting a punishable offence.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I do not think that my amendment could be carried into effect without recasting the whole of these clauses, and as the Minister does not seem disposed to offer any assistance in carrying out the evident intention of the Bill, I do not see that any good object is to be gained by pressing my proposal. If it is intended to create two classes of offence, the clause as it stands fails to achieve that object, because no penalty is provided for the second class of offences, and some amendment must be made to cover the case of electioneering agents.
– Does the honorable member contend that clause 187 does not provide for the imposition of a penalty ?
– It does not directly do so, though it ‘may do so impliedly.
– Those who are qualified to express an opinion inform me that it does.’
– If we cannot make these clauses a little more definite than they are, it would be wise to eliminate the whole of them. They will never be effective, but, as has been said, their enactment will merely set up a standard of moral tone. Statutes are made to be carried out, and some of the most experienced members of this committee have declared that these clauses will be operative only in the case of men who possess good consciences, and that the candidate who desires to buy his way into public life will still be able to do so. If we seriously intend to attempt to suppress bribery, we must insert some provision which will have the effect of making an agent as well as the candidate liable for any breach of this portion of the Bill. I should like to go still further, but I can see that we cannot include what I desire in this clause unless subsequent clauses are remodelled. I, therefore, ask leave to withdraw the amendment with a view to submit another.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. G. B. Edwards) proposed -
That the words, “ or any agent,” be inserted after the word “ candidate.”
– If I understand the amendment aright it is unnecessary, seeing that clause 190 provides -
The acts” of authorized agents of a candidate shall, in matters connected with . elections, be deemed to be the acts of the candidate, &c.
The clause under discussion must be read iii conjunction with the provision to which I have referred, so that if expenses in excess of the limit prescribed are incurred by the authorized agent of a candidate, the latter will be liable.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - When speaking a’ few minutes ago I intimated my intention to endeavour to alter paragraph (6) by inserting the word “two “ in lieu of “ one.” Under the South Australian Electoral Act, upon which this portion of the Bill has been modelled, the limit to the electoral expenses which may be incurred by a candidate in a district containing 20,000 voters, is about £300. Within the past three or four weeks I find that in connexion with the House of Assembly elections in the State which I represent, the successful candidates for metropolitan constituencies, according to their sworn statements, spent the following amounts : - Mr- Dixon and Mr. Cohen, who contested North Adelaide, East Adelaide, and West Adelaide - a district within a 4-miles radius of the city, £383 each; Mr. Jenkins, the present Premier, who also contested an electorate within a radius of 3 or 4 miles of the city, £292; Mr. Darling, leader of the Opposition, £17S ; Mr. Seward, £184 ; Sir Jenkin Coles, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, £148 ; and Mr. David James, who was returned for Kapunda, £192.
– They would have been returned had they spent much less.
– It is all very well for honorable members who represent pocket constituencies to talk in that manner, but those who represent large districts must recognise the absolute impossibility of limiting their expenditure to £100. Adverting to the recent elections in South Australia, it is well known that the National Defence League spent hundreds of pounds in pushing the candidature of men whose expenses have been returned at £300 odd.
– How is it that the labour party fight elections so cheaply 1
– It is because the labour organizations contain thousands of men - the very best of canvassers and organizers - who work from mere patriotism.
– Ought we not to encourage rather than discourage that sort of thing? . ‘ .
– Of course we ought ; but, on the other hand, those who do not belong to labour organizations have a more difficult problem to face. I submit 41 p that the sum of £200 is not an excessive limit to prescribe in connexion with a district containing 20,000 or 22,000 electors. I therefore move -
That the word “one,” line 7, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ two.”
– I am sorry that I cannot agree with the honorable member. The recommendation made to me before this Act was framed was that we should limit the expenses of candidates for the House of Representatives to one-half the amount allowed to candidates for the Senate. I thought that I was going far enough in proposing a limit of £100 and £200 respectively. The object which the Government have in view is to restrict the expenses of elections as far as possible. I know that the newspapers make very heavy charges whenever they have an opportunity of so doing, and in the absence of such a provision as that under consideration, it is quite possible that they may levy still higher rates. But, perhaps,’ their charges will be somewhat limited if they know that candidates are debarred from incurring more than a certain expenditure. I remember that upon one occasion 1 was charged £100 for an advertisement of less than a column.
– But the right honorable gentleman would not have had to pay it had the matter been taken into court.
– The matter was taken into court by the candidate who was running with me, and he was defeated. The exact- amount involved was £102. In Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland there is no limit to the electoral expenses which a candidate may incur, but in South Australia the limit is £50 in connexion with a district containing 2,000 electors, but an additional £5 is allowed for every 200 voters on the roll.
– That would mean a limit of more than £500 for a constituency for the return of a member to this House.
– In Western Australia no limit is fixed, but there is a limit in Tasmania. To apply to the Commonwealth, however, the limit adopted in Tasmania would mean that each candidate would be at liberty to expend about £3,000.. I am told that some candidates do spend that amount. My own impression, however, is that if for the Senate and House of Representatives a maximum of £250 and £100’ respectively is allowed it will bo as much as candidates can bear, and as much as should be spent. I recognise that there may be some force in the contention that provision should be made for offences committed by two sets of persons. Perhaps the matter is not as clear as it should be, and at a later stage, therefore, I shall either propose an amendment or a new clause, to remove all doubt upon the subject.
– I wish to support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for South Australia to the extent of asking the Minister to agree to a compromise. I ana quite in sympathy with the object of the clause, and I agree that it constitutes a sort of coat of mail to honorable members by enabling them to defend themselves against undue demands. But I would point out that the provision which will chiefly limit electoral expenditure, and which will prove the greatest check upon the candidate, is clause 174, which specifies the direction in which expenditure is considered legitimate.
– It will not make the slightest difference.
– To my mind, it constitutes the greatest safeguard. Surely the expenditure allowed under clause 174 should be sufficient to cover every legitimate outlay. Clause 174 provides for seven directions in which there may be expenditure. But even if we were to exclude all but two of these legitimate items of expenditure, £100 would not be enough. If a candidate in a scattered district, with, say, 24,000 electors, where the population could not be reached by any cheaper means, had to send a circular addressed to each elector, that alone would absorb £100. Then public meetings and halls have to be provided for ; and it must be remembered that under the extended f ranchise halls will be more largely used than in the past, in order that the women may hear the views of candidates. In an election 50 meetings would not be an extraordinary number - I myself held 46 - and if each meeting cost only £2, the £100 would be gone.
– What about after the meetings t
– The New South Wales Act specially excludes certain expenditure as non-allowable, and I, at any rate, have never incurred any expense outside that which is authorized. It is my desire, and no doubt the desire of other honorable members, to adhere to the law ; and I do not wish to insert a provision which it is impossible to observe. An unscrupulous candidate can, with the greatest ease, evade restrictions as to expenses. The returns have to be sent in eight weeks after the election and a candidate may appear blissfully ignorant of expenditure which has not at that time been made out of his own pocket, but out of the pockets of other people. No return is made of that expenditure, but after the eight weeks the candidate innocently discovers that it has to be met, and he meets it. In South Australia, some people were speaking to me about a candidate who had spent a very large sum of money, and I asked how that could be done under the law. I was informed, “ Oh, that is . easy enough ; he did not pay it until after his return had been sent in.”
– But all outstanding accounts have to be stated.
– But the candidate is supposed to know nothing of the expenditure of which I ‘am speaking, the money having been paid by other people. I would also point out that under this Bill a man need not spend £10, and yet be unseated, if the expenditure has been in directions other than those prescribed in the clause. That is a great security, and I think the Minister might agree to make the limit £1^0. I have shown that on two items alone it would be quite impossible, in scattered districts, to keep the legitimate expenditure within £100; but if the limit were made £150, there would be an opportunity to keep ‘ down expenses by refusing requests which are constantly made at elections, and, at the same time, of securing honest returns.
– I cannot accept the amendment. I should like the committee to come to a division, and I shall, of course, accept any decision which may be arrived at.
Mr. V. L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - In view of the compromise suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. V. L. Solomon) negatived.
That after the word “hundred,” lino 7, the words “ and fifty” be inserted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 174 to 177 agreed to.
Clause 178 (Breach or neglect by officers).
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).The Minister promised when dealing with the question of postal voting that he would have a clause drafted making it perfectly clear that any attempt on the part of an officer to look at a voting-paper shall render him liable to a penalty.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the following words be added - (iv.) Any attempt by a person authorized or required by this Act to witness the signature of an elector on the counterfoil of a postal ballot-paper, to influence the vote of an elector whose signature he witnesses, or to look at the elector’s vote.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Whoever (i.) promises, or offers, or sug gests any valuable consideration, shall be guilty of bribery.
– I move-
That the following words be added - (iv.) Makes any wager on the result of any election.
The Minister for Trade and Customs may smile, but he would not do so had he had my experience of the results of wagering on elections. It is extremely dangerous to allow people to wager in this way.
– It is already made an offence in the Bill.
– I know that it appears in the schedule of offences, but I wish to make wagering a specific offence.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).Does the honorable member propose to make wagering the offence of bribery? The penalty shown in the schedule for wagering on the result of an election is £50, but if the present amendment be agreed to, and the offence be made one of bribery, the penalty will be a sum not exceeding £200, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year. That seems a punishment altogether out of proportion to the offence of wagering on an election.
– Sub-clause (1) is practically on the same footing as my amendment.
– Sub-clause (1) deals with promises of reward which clearlyconstitute bribery. A wager might in no sense be corrupt as an attempt to influence an election, but, on the other hand, it might be another form of bribery, andI take it that in such a case the court would so regard it. It seems to me that the provision in clause 187 is sufficient.
– I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Coolgardie. I know of my own knowledge that candidates have laid wagers with individuals who were able to influence a large number of voters, that they would not win - a type of wager which is one of the most insidious and objectionable methods of bribery, for which the most severe punishment should be meted out.
SirWilliam Lyne. - I think the case is met by the provision in clause 187.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I am aware that clause 187 makes it an offence to wager on the result of any election, but wagering of the character which I wish to prevent is really bribery, and should therefore be dealt with in clause 179. It sometimes happens that a candidate’s friends will lay £25 to nothing upon his chances, which is practically the offering of a bribe of £25 to a wavering voter. I think that the penalty provided for in clause 187 is not adequate for an offence of that kind. However, Ishall not press my amendment if the Minister is opposed to it.
– The candidate who wagers for the purpose of bribing electors will have to spend a tolerable amount of money, but I have known instances of candidates backing themselves simply as a sporting matter. However, I am willing that persons should be prevented from entering into wagers even as harmless as that. It must be remembered that a person who wagers upon the result of an election will be liable for a penalty of £50 for each wager.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 180 and 181 agreed to.
Clause 182 (Licensed premises not to be used for election purposes).
– This is a complete innovation, so far as my knowledge of electoral law goes.
– There is a similar provision in the Tasmanian electoral law.
– And in the Western Australian electoral law.
– There is no such provision in the electoral law of New South Wales, and, I think, of other States. In many country districts it is impossible to secure any central building which is not an hotel. It has never been alleged in New South Wales that bad practices have resulted from the holding of meetings in hotels, or the addressing of assemblages from hotel balconies. In my own electorate, although there are 75 or 80 polling places, there are not public halls in more than ten of them.
– It is possible to hold open-air meetings.
– They might be well enough in the summer-time, but in’ the winter-time electors would not attend them.
-Could not meetings be held in the State schools?
– In New South Wales State schools cannot be let for the purpose, and in many cases they are situated a mile or two from the business centre.
– This is a clause of which I disapproved, but which was inserted by the Senate. I know that it is impossible in many places to procure halls.
Clauses183 and 184 agreed to.
In addition to bribery and undue influence, the following shall be illegal practices-
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I cannot understand why, if a candidate puts an advertisement in the newspaper, it should be necessary for it to be certified to by the person who authorizes its insertion. It is also unnecessary to enact that the name and place of business of the printer of any advertisement, hand-bill, or pamphlet shall be printed at the foot of it, because that is already provided for in the State laws. The provisions of this clause seem to have been taken from the South Australian law ; they do not exist in the electoral law of any of the other States. I move -
That paragraph (a) be omitted.
– I hope that the amendment will be carried. The provisions of the clause might be very beneficial to newspaper proprietors, but they would greatly swell the expenses of candidates, which we have just determined must not exceed £100. I do not know how effect can be given to the provisions of clause 173 if we pass this clause as it stands.
– When a similar provision was inserted in the South Australian law, it was pointed out that a good reason for its insertion was that it would prevent the enemies of a candidate from publishing unfair, scandalous, or scurrilous advertisements and lampoons without making themselves responsible for them.But it appears to me to be going to an absurd length to compel a candidate to add to a published address which he has signed a notification authorizing its publication. ‘
– While there may be something in what the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, has said, it seems to me that the provisions of the clause are carried too far. I was in South Australia at the time of the last general elections, and I noticed that a man could not put up a calico sign above his committee-rooms without having to print upon it the name of the person who authorized it. Furthermore, the newspapers charge pretty stiffly already for a three-line advertisement of a meeting, and if another line has to be added to show by whom the advertisement has been authorized, it will mean still more expense to the candidate.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- The publication of unauthorized lampoons can be prevented by the provisions of paragraph (b). The printer could be proceeded against for libel, by either criminal or civil process. Printers are not fools, and the name of the man who authorized the printing of the lampoon would be revealed to the candidate. I shall press the amendment.
Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - Why should the whole responsibility be thrown upon the printer? Why should not the persons who authorize the printing of these documents be men enough to attach their names to the documents?
– They are not likely to do so.
– Then they should not issue them.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- Scurrilous attacks upon candidates do not always take the form of pamphlets or lampoons, and I suggest that political leading articles in the newspapers should also be subject to the conditions laid down in paragraph (a).
– I should like to see every newspaper leader signed.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … 19
Noes … … 16
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Crouch) negatived -
That the words ‘ ‘ publication in this paragraph shall include newspaper political leaders or articles “ be added to paragraph (a).
Amendment (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the following words be added : - “ Advertisement in this section shall not mean any advertisement in a newspaper.”
– I should like honorable members to thoroughly understand what they are asked to do. If the amendment be carried, any vagabond wishing to work injury to a candidate will be able to insert in the newspapers an advertisement damaging to his chances, and the candidate will not be able to trace its author. The proposal is the most silly one ever submitted in this Chamber.
This afternoon we have been endeavouring to protect the candidate by preventing the issue of scurrilous pamphlets in which his private character may be attacked, and yet it is now seriously proposed to allow any individual to insert in the public press advertisements which are calculated to prejudice his prospects of election.
– Has not the candidate a remedy against the newspaper which publishes such advertisements?
– He has no remedy against a political squib. I need scarcely point out that not long ago an anonymous advertisement appeared in one of the Victorian newspapers, asking the electors to refrain from voting for a pro-Boer. Speaking from experience gained in South Australia, I affirm that this provision does not work disadvantageously to the candidate. On the contrary, it protects any man who wishes to contest an election upon honest lines. I trust that the committee will reject the amendment.
-The honorable member who has just spoken is very inconsistent. So long as statements appear in the leading columns of a newspaper, he does not mind, but when they are published in the advertising pages he desires that the name of the person authorizing them shall be appended. It seems to me that this is one of the worst clauses in the whole Bill.
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, I should like to point out that if the committee adopt the amendment, any person who is aggrieved by the publication of an advertisement in a newspaper will still retain all his rights at the hands of the civil and criminal courts. If a newspaper publishes an advertisement in which a candidate is held up to ridicule, or is libelled, the candidate has his remedy at law. He does not require a double-barrelled remedy such as he would possess if another person were made responsible for the libel. I cannot see that adoption of the amendment will produce the awful results pictured by the honorable member for South Australia. On the other hand it will save candidates a considerable outlay, and enable them to insert advertisements in the newspapers in the manner they have hitherto been accustomed to do in five out of six States. Consequently I support the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 11
Noes … … … 20
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
– This is a clause which, I think, ought to be recommitted. If a card be issued, bearing the words “Vote for” a certain candidate, it is apparent that it has been issued by that candidate, and it should not be necessary to publish the name and address of the person who has authorized it. This clause will operate so foolishly that it is necessary to make every protest against its passing. If an address is issued to the electors, it is apparent that it has been authorized by the candidate ; any court would decide that as amatter of fact. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ If it is apparent from any advertisement, handbill, pamphlet, or notice that it has been issued by the candidate, no such name or address shall be necessary. “
– I must support the amendment. When I was in South Australia during the last general election I saw the inconvenience which arose from such a provision as that contained in subclause (b). Unless the amendment be agreed to, the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, if he were once more contesting that constituency, would have to show a printed authority on such posters as “Reid’s Committee Rooms.” That is the absurd obligation placed upon candidates under the South Australian Act, from which this clause is taken. These extra lines will benefit only the newspapers, against whose scurrilous attacks we should have some protection. The clause might have been better framed, and it would have been well if the Minister had consented to recommit it. We are endeavouring to cut down expenses all round, and I see no reason why candidates, by a clauseof this kind, should be compelled to add to their own expenses in the interests of the newspapers.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided-
Ayes … … …11
Noes … …. … 17
Majority … …. 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 186 agreed to.
Clause 187 (Electoral offences).
– I understood that the Minister had consented to report progress after dealing with clause 185. It is not right, with the present thin House, to go further with the Bill this afternoon.
– I should have very much liked to go through the remaining clauses to-day, seeing that not much debatable matter is included. However, as a number of honorable members are desirous of rising early, I shall consent to report progress.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message requesting certain amendments.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the House at its rising adjournuntil Tuesday next.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to inform honorable members that, so far as we can judge, it will not be possible for us to consider the Customs Tariff Bill before Thursday next, if then. Everyeffort will be made to prepare the necessary information in order to present the whole of the proposals which have come from another place in such a form as to enable honorable members to deal with them expeditiously. In themeantime there remains the Electoral Bill to be disposed of.
– What other business is it proposed to take?
– After the Electoral Bill it is proposed to deal with the Bonus Bill.
– The Government will be prepared to proceedwith the Customs Tariff Bill next Thursday ?
– I cannot promise, but hope we shall be able to consider that Bill on Thursday or Friday.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to a matter which concerns those engaged in shipping business in Melbourne. Hitherto it has been the custom at that port, when over-sea vessels have arrived after the closing of the Custom-house at four o’clock, to grant permits for the discharge of goods on the wharf and into the sheds, the papers being formally dealt with next morning. At nine o’clock in the morning, when the Custom-house opens, there is generally a rush of business, and it is often ten or eleven o’clock before formal leave can be obtained for ships to discharge Lately the permits have been withdrawn, and consignees are under the necessity of waiting fifteen or twenty hours- that is, from about four in the afternoon until midday the following day - before goods can be discharged. I ask the Minister to take into consideration the advisability of renewing the issue of these permits, so that valuable time which in these cases means money, may be saved.
– It is a strange thing that the matter has not been brought under my notice, but I think there must be some misapprehension on the subject. The public of Melbourne and of other large ports are always keenly alive to matters of convenience. I shall make inquiries, but I think I shall find that the honorable member is mistaken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5. 16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020724_reps_1_11/>.