1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the Parliamentary Allowances Bill this session?
– Yes. Attention was called to the fact that it is doubtful whether two or three ofthe clauses in the Electoral Bill already passed, which relate to the time from which the payment of allowances to members shall commence, are covered by the order of leave, and it is therefore intended to eliminate them from that Bill and to enact their provisions in a separate measure.
– As the members of this House know very well, South Australia has for some time past been suffering from an invasion of drill instructors, but it seems likely that that invasion will soon be forgotten by reason of another, compared with which the effects of the recent earthquake will lose all significance. Among the documents laid upon the table yesterday by the Treasurer, there are Estimatesof revenue and expenditure, from which it appears that the Government intend to send 721 buglers to South Australia. I have no idea why they are to be sent there, unless it be to keep up the courage of the drill instructors. I have risen to ask the Acting Minister for Defence if he can explain the matter.
– What the honorable member draws attention to may be merely a clerical error. Provision is made in the Estimates for the payment of the drill instructors to whom he has referred, but there is no intention to send to South Australia any more instructors, nor, so far as I am aware, any more buglers.
– Is the Minister sure that the responsibility in this matter does not lie with the Major-General, and not with him?
– Has any money been sent to England to purchase Lee-Metford or other rifles ; and, if so, what was the amount sent?
– £25,000 was provided on last year’s Estimates for the purchase of rifles, and, following the usual practice, it has been paid into the State Treasury of Victoria, to be held in a trust account, and money will be provided in London when it becomes necessary to pay for the rifles ordered. As to the kind of rifle purchased, that is a matter which is not within my province.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs been called to the fact that Colonel Templeton, the officer commanding the rifle clubs in Victoria, has been able to get 100 of the best rifles now used in the British army for £4 2s. 6d. each? If so, can the honorable gentleman explain why the Commonwealth Government should pay £5 each, or an extra 17s. 6d. upon every one, when ordering 5,000 rifles, or 50 times as many as were purchased by Colonel Templeton ?
– My attention has not beendirected to the matter. The rifles obtained by the department are purchased through the War Office, by whose recommendations we are guided as to the class of rifle and the price, which, I believe, is fixed by tender. It seems to me that if Colonel Templeton has purchased rifles for £1 2s.6d. each, they are not likely to be of as good quality as. those ordered by the Government, or else the War Office has been led astray in the matter.However, I shall make inquiries on the subject.
DUTY ON TAPESTRY.
– It was stated in the South Australian newspapers the day before yesterday thatas much as £140 was paid as duty upon a tapestry imported by Mr. Brookman. Iask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether a reasonable construction cannot be put upon the Customs Tariff Act which would allow the omission of such works of art duty free?
– The only descriptions of property admissible as works of art are statuary and paintings. Tapestry is not so admissible, and is dutiable under the heading of textiles.
PREFERENTIAL RAILWAY RATES.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable and learned member’s questions - 1 and 2. The attention of the Premiers was invited to the charges made for carriage of goods by rail, and they were asked whether they had under consideration the continuance of such rates, and whether they proposed to attempt any arrangement with the other States, with a view to the nearer assimilation of rates, than at present exists. The Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria have acknowledged the letters, and the Premier of South Australia has asked for further particulars.
– I saw the honorable gentleman’s letter to the Premier of South Australia. It was too ambiguous.
– It was not thought so by the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions -
asked theActing Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Government hasgiven sanction to that part of Major-GeneralHutton’s report which refers to the use of Australian troops outside the Commonwealth for offensive purposes ?
-I wish to preface my formal answer to this question with the remark that I consider it a very important one-
I informed the General Officer Commanding on 5th August. 1902, that I could not agree with any proposal to give control, or implied control, over Australian troops to any but the Commonwealth authority ; and pointed out that whilst, as in the case of South Africa, circumstances may arise in which it may be desired to send abroad a volunteer force, expenditure cannot at present be incurred on the maintenance of an establishment based on any considerations of undertaking such external operations. In reply to this, the General Officer Commanding stated that he never intended that any paragraph in his memorandum above referred to should bear that construction.
I had not time to look carefully through the document until the date mentioned, but when I did so, I considered that it advised an implied power of permission, and I at once took an opportunity to remove from the mind of the General Officer Commanding the impression that the Government, or Parliament, would, for a moment, consent to such a proposal.
Mr.FULLER asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint six or seven persons on the commission to inquire into the question of the proposed Federal capital sites ?
Whether it is intended that each State shall be represented on the commission ?
Does the Government intend going outside the public service for all or any of the appointments ?
– In reply to the honorable and learned member’s questions - 1, 2, and 3. I would invite the honorable member’s attention to the notice of motion upon this subject standing in my name.
The motion will be moved at the first opportunity, and when I move it I shall make some reference to the number of commissioners.
asked the Acting Prime Minister,upon notice -
Whether he is aware that -
The Government of Victoria has called for tenders for the construction of a reservoir at Waranga, and a length of channelas part of the Victorian scheme known as the Goulburn Mallee scheme ?
The channel when completed will be 110 feet wide and 7 feet deep, and be capable of diverting . 103,000 cubic feet of water per minute from the Goulburn to the reservoir ?
In addition, the construction of an eastern channel, capable of diverting 20,000 cubic feet per minute, is under consideration by the Victorian Government?
The combined diversion’s capable of being made by the two channels exceed the whole volume of the Goulburn in a year of low discharge ?
The supply to these channels is to be supplemented by the construction ofachannel capable of diverting 40,000 cubic feet per minute from the Murray at a point about 12 miles below Albury ?
Protests have been made to the Government of Victoria by the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia against any further steps being taken for diversions that affect the rights of other States, pending the presentation of the report of the Inter-State Royal Commission, and to ask whether, to safeguard the Federal interests of the Commonwealth under the trade and commerce clauses of the Constitution, the Acting Prime Minister will add to the protests of New South Wales and South Australia one on behalf of the Commonwealth ?
– I have not checked the accuracy of the statements of fact contained in. this question, but assume them to be correct. Any protest by the Commonwealth which conveyed no indication of the atti- tude we are prepared to assume would be unavailing. The honorable and learned member is as well aware as any representative in this Chamber that of all the obscure provisions in the Constitution, those relating to the powers of this Parliament in regard to its controlof water supply are among the most difficult. However, I propose to give the complex issues attaching to the sections in question my attention at the earliest moment of leisure, and, having formed a judgment as to the powers of the Commonwealth in this particular regard, shall be prepared to advise as to the protest, if any, to the Government of Victoria.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Referring to the inquiry made on the 10th instant regarding the extensive irrigation scheme about tobe commenced by Victoria in the Murray Valley; also to his reply that the Commonwealth has only to do with navigation, and that conservation questions must be settled between the States themselves, will he, after consideration of sections 98 and 100 of the Constitution Act, say -
Whether, in the preservation of navigation, it is not the right and the duty of the Commonwealth to inquire into, and approve or oppose as inquiry may justify, State enterprises for the Storage or abstraction of the waters of navigable rivers or their affluents? 2.Whether, in the interests of the Commonwealth and of the constructing State, it is not desirable that the inquiry shall precede rather than follow construction ?
Whether a “ reasonable” use does not imply that there shall be no undue abstraction by one State to the disadvantage of others interested of the water available for conservation and irrigation ?
Whether the Commonwealth cannot, if need be, prevent by law the “unreasonable” use of such water ?
Whether the report of the Royal Commission on the Murray River, now sitting, is not likely to assist in the determination of what is reasonable as regards the very waters being dealt with by the Victorian scheme?
Whether he will see that the necessary steps are taken to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth and of each of the States concerned ?
– This question is, to a certain extent, connected with that just asked by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn. In reply to it, I desire to say -
Bill returned from the Senate, with the following Message : -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for “An Act to regulate Parliamentary Elections,” and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate has agreed to the amendments of the House of Representatives, Nos, 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 to 20, 26, 29, 31 to 40, 42 to 57, 59 to 85, 89 to 94, 96 to 98, 100, 101, 103, 105 to 109, 111 to 113, 115 to 118, 120 to J 38, .142, 144, 163 to 179, 181 to 191, and 193 to 195 ; has agreed to amendments Nos. 25, 28, 30, 41, 88, 95, 99, 102, 104, 140, and 143, with the amendments indicated in the annexed schedule ; has disagreed to amendment No. 141, amending clause 182, as indicated in the annexed schedule ; has agreed to part aud disagreed to part of amendment No. 110, and made a consequential amendment in clause 146, !is indicated in the annexed schedule, and for the reason set out therein ; and has disagreed to amendments Nos. 2, 6, 21 to 24, 27, 58, 86, 87, 114, 119, 139, 145 to 162, 180, 192, and .196, for the reasons assigned herewith.
Resolved (on motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That the Message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s Message):
Clause 26 (Polling places).
– As amended in this’ Chamber the clause provides that no polling place shall be appointed after the issue of the writ and before the time appointed for its return. It is now proposed by the Senate to substitute the word “closed” for the word “appointed” where first occurring, so as to provide that no polling place shall be closed after the issue of the writ. Power is given in the clause to appoint polling places wherever they may be necessary, and the restriction which prevents the appointment of a polling place after the issue of the writ will now be removed. I do not consider the amendment very important. I therefore move -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendment.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 33 (Persons entitled to have their names on roll).
– In this clause we inserted the proviso that -
Any senator or member of the House of Representatives shall, if he so desires, be entitled to have his name placed on, and retained on, the roll for any division lie represents instead of the roll for the division in which he lives.
The Senate have amended the proviso by omitting the word “ or” and inserting in lieu thereof the words - “shall if he so desires be entitled to have his name placed on or retained on the roll of any one division of the State he represents instead of the roll for the division in which he lives, and that any “
The. amendment will make the provision somewhat more clear so far as senators are concerned. The object of the provision is to prevent any senators or members of the House of Representatives from having their positions jeopardized through non-residence in the electorates which they represent. I move -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s, amendment.
Motion agreed to.
Verbal amendment of amendment in clause 35 agreed to.
Clause 57 (Addition of new names).
– Theamendment in this clause is not a very important one. The clause provides that new names may be added to the rolls, pursuant to lists prepared by the Commonwealth electoral officer in each State. The Senate now propose that the additions to the rolls shall be made pursuant to lists “ prepared by the returning officer for each division.” I move -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendment.
– I do not think this clause is quite correct, although I do not very well see how we can alter it at this stage. As it stands it provides that new names may be added to the rolls pursuant to lists prepared by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in each State. The amendment proposed by the Senate is a proper one to make, bub the lists referred to are not used for the purpose of correcting the rolls. They actually constitute the rolls. After the lists prepared by the electoral officer have been before the court of revision, they constitute the roll. These lists are supplied by the returning officers; they form the basis of the rolls, and are not afterwards brought forward for the purpose of adding to them. We should not have inserted paragraph (c) in the form in which it appears, but the alteration made by the Senate is an improvement.
– We have provided in the Bill that lists shall be prepared triennially, independently of any claims that may be made for additions to the rolls - that the rolls shall be purged every three years.
– We have abolished the provision that was originally made for the preparation of lists triennially.
– I was not aware of that. I do not see why a preference should be given to the returning officer.
– I do not think the amendment is very important.
– It is important to this extent, that we are introducing a fresh list - preparing authority. The clauses which relate to the preparation of the lists refer to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer as the compiler. Of course we know that the returning officers actually prepare the lists, and that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer adopts them, but I am afraid that if we accept the amendment of the Senate some difficulty may arise.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 119a (Voter whose sight is impaired).
– This clause provides that, where blind persons are unable to vote without assistance, the electoral officer may, if so desired, mark the postal ballot-paper as the elector may designate, and read over to him the declaration on the counterfoil. I was at first disposed to objects to the amendment omitting the last provision, but it was pointed out to me that there was no provision made in the schedule for printing the declaration on the counterfoil. The amendments are not very important. I move -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendments.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 128 (Substitute).
– This clause was amended in this Chamber to provide that any presiding officer might appoint one or more assistant presiding officers to assist him in presiding at any compartment in a polling booth. The Senate now propose that the words “ compartment in a “ be omitted, and as amended the clause will provide that the presiding officer may appoint one or more assistant presiding officers to assist him in presiding at any polling booth. The omission will lessen the risk of complications. I move -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendment.
Consequential amendment of amendment in clause 137 agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
New clause 139a (Electors to vote for division in which they live).
Verbal amendments agreed to.
New clause 140a -
Any elector may vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled, or if he is absent from the polling place for which he is enrolled, may vote at any other polling place for the same division, if he makes and signs before the presiding officer a declaration in the formR1. in the schedule.
– This is a very important clause, and if my memory serves me accurately, I think that on. a previous occasion the honorable member for Bland desired to insert a somewhat similar provision in the case of elections for the Senate, and of elections in which a State voted as one constituency for the return of members of this House. At that time I strongly objected to making any such law ; consequently the provision was made applicable only to electorates for the House of Representatives. The Senate has taken exception to that proposal, and has amended the clause by the omission of all the words after the word “elector.” line 1, and the insertion in lieu thereof of the following words : - “ when voting at a polling place at elections for the Senate or for the House of Representatives shall, except as provided in sub-section (2) of this section, only be entitled to vote at the polling place For which he is enrolled. “(2) Provided always that the regulations under this Act may provide facilities for enabling electors to vote at elections for the Senate or for the House of Representatives at other polling places within the State in which the election is held, and may provide for all matters (not inconsistent with this Act) necessary or convenient to be prescribed for the purpose of carrying this part of this section into effect, and in particular for the following matters : -
I had a consultation upon the matter with the Minister in charge of the Bill in the other Chamber, and, as a result, this clause conferring upon electors the right to vote at any polling place -within a division, where that course can be adopted without incurring any undue risk of impersonation, has been agreed to. I was induced to agree to the amendment of our amendment because of its permissive character.
– Supposing that the Ministry of the day find that the system will work in the case of elections for one House, but not in the case of elections for the other ?
– Then it will be applied only to elections for the one House. Personally I think it . would work in cases where a State is not too large. The system was tried in connexion with the federal elections in Tasmania, and also to a certain extent in the case of the Queensland elections. Since that time, however, it is rather significant that in Tasmania a new Electoral Act has been passed which does not include any such provision.
– That is because the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, was elected to this House.
– I do not know whether that is so or not. I do not wish to prevent these facilities from being provided in cases where there is no danger of- their being abused, and that is ‘why the clause stands in its present form.
– Is there any limit imposed as to the distance which an elector must be from a polling-booth before he can avail himself of this facility t
– I think that the distance was previously fixed at five miles, but that provision has been struck out. In certain electorates the proposal would perhaps work very well, but in the northern portions of Western Australia and Queensland, as well as in New South Wales, where there is a long water frontage, and where men move about very freely, we require to be exceedingly careful if we are to prevent impersonation. That is my feeling in reference to this matter. If it is found that the system can be worked in South Australia, but not in the Northern Territory, power is given under the Bill for the issue of a regulation which will permit of these facilities being granted to the former, and not to the latter. In this matter I am desirous of meeting both the Senate and the members of this House as far as possible, but I am averse to being bound by any clause which will render it imperative that we should provide these facilities in cases where that course may be found almost impracticable.
– I think there is something to be said in favour of allowing the details regarding the granting of this additional facility to voters to be prescribed by regulation. Some time ago I made a suggestion that the general principle could be safeguarded by providing a form of declaration which an elector would be required to sign before being permitted to vote. Of course, I admit that it might be found that such a system would not oiler a sufficient safeguard against impersonation. It might be a wise course, to have regulations sufficiently elastic to allow of alterations being made in the method of voting. At the same time, it might be found that while the Ministry of to-day were willing to grant additional voting facilities, their successors, a few months later, might wish to rush an election through under conditions -which would be to their own advantage, and might, therefore, refuse to issue the necessary regulations. It is very unwise to surround the exercise of the franchise with such conditions. I therefore move -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by the omission of the word “may,” where first occurring in sub-clause (2), ‘with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.”
Whilst it. would then be imperative that . facilities for voting outside of any electorate should be provided, all the details relating to those facilities would be prescribed by the Minister under regulation. Thus he would still retain .control of the safeguards which, in his opinion, were necessary to prevent impersonation, and the electors would have some guarantee that the facilities, would be open to every one who desired to take advantage of them. In this connexion, I desire to call attention to a provision in the New South Wales Act. The Minister for Home Affairs was a member of the State Government in 1S93, when that Act was passed. In that measure a section was inserted providing that polling places for certain electorates might be proclaimed by regulation outside the bounds of those electorates. I ask the Minister to say from his experience whether that provision was availed of until the last general election ? I contend that it remained a dead letter, because the Ministry of the day were not particularly anxious that the extra facilities for voting should be given. At the last general election in New South Wales, Sydney was made a polling place for a number of country electorates, but in many cases a less number of votes for outside electorates were recorded in the capital than would have been recorded in other parts of the State. I know that in my own district quite a number of people who were there on business, and who were entitled to vote for other electorates, could not do so. This facility for the exercise of the franchise was restricted to Sydney apparently, because the Government desired to give their pastoralist friends who were attending thesheep sales there an opportunity of voting, although they did not wish any one else to enjoy the same advantage. It appears to me that while it is wise to allow the Executive to alter the regulations as frequently as may be found necessary, we should make it imperative that these facilities should be provided. . I would strongly urge upon the committee the desirableness of agreeing to the amendment. By so doing we should place it beyond the caprice of any Minister to determine whether or not this broad principle should be given effect to. With that object in view I submit the amendment.
– I hope that the honorable member will not do that.
– Why ?
– Because it is a very serious amendment, which affects the principles of the Bill, and I should take it as such.
– Surely the Minister will admit that there is a very considerable distinction between the clause in its present form, and the provision which was passed by this House upon his own initiative, and which gave to electors who might be absent from their own particular polling places an opportunity to vote at any polling place within their division ? The honorable gentleman should recollect that he is not going to remain in office for all time, and his successor may not be so sympatheticas himself towards the general principle of providing facilities for voting. At any rate, I hold that it is unfair to subject the people of the Commonwealth to the caprice of Ministers of the day. In the New South Wales Electoral Act a similar permissive provision was never taken advantage of.
– It was never there.
– There is a provision in the New South Wales Electoral Act of 1893 - which is still in force - which allows the Executive to proclaim polling places for any electorate outside that electorate, but it was taken advantage of by the Government of the day only when it suited them to give their squatter friends an opportunity of voting. I have no objection to squatters being allowed such an opportunity, but I claim that equal facilities should be offered to all. At no general election prior to the last one was Sydney made a polling place for other electorates.
– Yes, it was, upon twenty different occasions.
– It was not made a polling place for country districts under the new Electoral Act?
– I had to attend to the matter, so I know all about it.
– However, that consideration does not touch the general principle, that the permissive sections of the New South Wales Act were not availed of in respect of those districts in which it was most necessary that they should be given effect to. Therefore, we should make it imperative that these regulations should be issued, subject always to the right of the Executive to alter the form and number of safeguards which they may consider necessary to prevent impersonation.
– Voting by post helps the honorable member a little.
– My impression is that voting by post does not help at all. Voting by post is a conservative dodge all the time, and I am not in favour of it. At any rate, we are not discussing that at the present time, but another question altogether. In my opinion, this matter should not depend on the will of individual Ministers, no matter who they may be or which side of politics they represent.
– I cannot accept the Bill with the amendment.
– I cannot help that, but it is very peculiar that the honorable gentleman should assume such an attitude. A few weeks ago the Minister introduced a clause allowing a man, on making a declaration to vote in anypart of his division, and it must be remembered that some divisions are as large as Tasmania. The honorable member for Coolgardie has a division as large as Queensland, and the constituency of Maranoa is big enough to take in several Tasmanias. That clause was very properly passed, and now when the Minister is to be given control of all the safeguards, and allowed to vary those safeguards, time and again, after every general election, just as he thinks fit, he informs the committee that he will drop the Bill sooner than consent to my amendment.
– I shall.
– This strikes me as the case of a man “ straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.”
– No ; it is not.
– In any case, I intend to press my amendment.
– The honorable member wants to wreck the Bill.
– I do not want to wreck the Bill, but I want to wreck the opportunity of a Minister or anybody else using this measure for his own ends. It should not be left in the hands of a Minister to proclaim polling places at his own sweet will, in order to suit his own particular shade of politics. The Chamber should insist that this provision be fixed, and not subject to the will of the Ministry of the day. One of the worst features of every electoral Act so far is that Ministers are allowed to fix up these matters to suit themselves or the party to which they belong, and as a matter of principle such a condition of things should be prevented. In this instance I do not go to the extreme I proposed a few weeks ago.
– The honorable member goes a little further in this amendment than ever he went before.
– I proposed a few weeks ago that an elector, on signing a declaration, should be allowed to vote for his electorate in any part of the State. I now suggest that it shall be imperative to provide by regulation, facilities by which an elector may vote wherever the regulations allow him to vote, and under whatever safeguards the regulations may provide. There is a very wide distinction between that and the former proposal, though the present amendment is in favour of the Minister’s contention to the extent that a large amount of power still remains with him. But it ought to be imperative on the Minister to provide some facilities, it being left to himto say what the facilities shall be, and the manner in which they may be taken advantage of. I trust the committee will see that it is proper to take out of the hands of the Ministry the regulation of these matters pertaining to the whole of the elections. Such a power is a prolific source -of corruption in some places. I do not say it is a source of corruption in Australia, because we can pride ourselves on reasonably honest administration of these matters in this country. But in some places the power is admittedly a prolific source of corruption and gerrymandering, and experience has shown that these matters should not be left to the control of Ministers, who may act according to the circumstances of the moment.
– The honorable member knows what the effect of his amendment will be ?
– I shall take all the consequences ; if the Minister adopts a certain attitude, other people can do the same. Honorable members will see that all details still remain in the hands of the Executive of the day, but the duty is made imperative that they shall provide facilities.
– I regret very much that the honorable member for Bland has taken the extreme course of submitting this amendment. I have done all I can to meet the desires of what is called democracy, which the amendment, it seems to me, will have a tendency to destroy. There is a vast deal of difference between a division for the House of Representatives and a division for the Senate, the latter consisting of a whole State.
-But some of the divisions for the House of Representatives are as large as some States.
– That may be so. I thought I was going too far when I agreed to a proposal of the kind in connexion with divisions for the House of Representatives. But now we have to deal with South Australia, including the whole of the Northern Territory, and with the whole of Western Australia and Queensland, with immense seaboards. If the amendment were carried we might have a repetition of what has taken place in New South Wales to a great extent. In New South Wales men have been taken from ships-
– And graveyards.
– That may be so ; but men have been taken from ships in order to vote, and when they were wanted next day they were far away. If that can be done in New South Wales, how much more could it be done along the long sea- boards which I have indicated 1 I do not wish my name associated with a Bill which willl break down by reason of its leading to personation and other ills. My wish is to pass a Bill which will be a credit to the Ministry and to this Parliament. I say un- hesitatingly that the amendment makes it impossible to exercise any restriction where a State is the division.
– The safeguards will still lie with the Ministry.
– If that be so, the amendment is of no effect.
– The difference is between Parliament bringing this provision into effect and the Ministry bringing it into effect.
– If the honorable member for Bland means only such polling places a& the Minister may decide, there is no necessity for the amendment, because the Minister could make only one polling place. But that is not the object of the honorable member ; the object is to make this provision compulsory for a whole State.
– There are the safeguards.
– Of what good are safeguards, when men may be at a place one day, and 50 miles away the next ?
– That is an argument against the whole clause.
– The honorable member has gone a great deal too far in this amendment, which I cannot accept.
– Then the honorable gentleman does not intend to carry out the provision. He says the safeguards ‘ are of no avail.
– The safeguards are of no avail if it be compulsory to open every polling place in the whole State to every elector. It may be that a large portion of the State could be worked under this amendment, and that a fringe of a State could not, and there should be power within the executive authority to see that iniquities, such as I have indicated, are prevented. What is the use of regulations, however stringent, if they cannot be put into force? This is a power that has been exercised only tentatively on one occasion in each of two States. It has been tentatively exercised in Queensland and Tasmania ; but there has been passed in the latter State a new electoral law from which the provision is omitted.
– That is to kill me.
– No, it is not. Let me also refer to the extra expense which this amendment would involve. I shall not refer to the question of divisions for the House of Representatives, because that matter has already been settled ; but I cannot agree to this plan being adopted in regard to a whole State. The amendment will lead to excessive printing.
– Nothing of the sort.
– It will be necessary for every roll to be in the hands of every returning officer throughout the whole State, and that must lead to additional printing expenses. That, however, is a minor question. The great question is whether it is possible to control elections in large States with great sea-boards, such as Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland, without the introduction of personation and attendant trouble. Then, again, the amendment will entail great delay in arriving at finality at elections. If there were an election in the neighbourhood of Adelaide, no return could be given until the full figures had been received for the Northern Territory. I have discussed this clause in Cabinet, and also with the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and I went as far as I possibly could when I agreed to a permissive clause, with power to alter or restrict if necessity arises. I cannot go further in the interests of the Bill, and I do not think *it is fair to ask me to do so. I have very reasonable cause for complaint against the honorable member for Bland for pressing this point to extreme lengths, before we know what may be the outcome or the result of innovations of a serious character extending over the whole Commonwealth. I do not feel disposed to link my name with a Bill which will be troublesome, if not dangerous, to work. I have gone so far that I am prepared to extend polling places as much as is possible and reasonable, but I do not wish my hands tied. I do not desire to be bound to make every polling place in the State a place where any elector may vote. The honorable member for Bland stated that only on one occasion had the Government of New South Wales created a polling place in Sydney, and that it was then done in order to meet the convenience of pastoralists at show time.
– It was during the sheep sales.
– I do not say that polling places for other electorates have always been proclaimed in Sydney, but that arrangement has been made in the great majority of elections during my1 parliamentary experience, for the convenience of the many electors who have business in Sydney on polling day, and who leave their own divisions at hours which make it irksome for them to vote there. If the honoraMe member’s interpretation of the effect of his amendment were correct, there would be no need for it, because the Rill will make provision for the proclamation of polling places for a division outside the boundaries of that division in certain cases where it is thought desirable to make that arrangement. This amendment, if it means anything, will mean that every polling place shall be a polling place for every division in the State. That I strongly object to.
– I submit thatthere are only two alternatives in regard to the effect of the amendment of the honorable member for Bland ; either it means no more than is meant by the words which it is proposed to insert in the Bill, or it provides for a system allowing electors to vote practically free from restriction at any polling place in the State.
– But subject to regulations.
– According to the amendment of the Senate, the regulations are only to provide facilities for enabling electors to vote at elections, and for all matters necessary or convenient to te prescribed for the purpose of carrying this part of the clause into effect. If it were competent for the Executive to proclaim regulations limiting the number of polling places at which the right which the honorable member for Bland desires to give may be exercised, an elector would be in no better position than under the clause as it is proposed by the Senate to amend it. His amendment will either have no effect at all, or it will compel the Executive to proclaim regulations allowing electors to vote at any polling place in the State.
– But the regulations will prescribe the method in which the right is to be exercised.
– If the Executive have power to make such regulations, the position will not be different from that created by the provision as it stands. What difference is there between compelling the Executive to pass regulations which they can frame so as to practically have the effect of preventing what the honorable member desires to see done, and authorizing them to make such, regulations in regard to the matter as they may think fit ? If the honorable member wishes to give electors the right to vote in any polling place within a State, that right should be provided for in the Bill, and not by regulation ; but, much as I desire to see every facility given for voting, it seems to me that the proposed alteration is one which should be introduced in the first place in a tentative fashion. The honorable member for Bland has expressed his objections to the system of voting by post, and when a member of the Victorian Parliament, I expressed similar objections and doubts in regard to the system, until I saw it in operation, but then I became convinced that it was a useful and not a dangerous system. If electors ave to be permitted to vote, in any polling place in a State, every polling booth will have to be supplied with the electoral rolls for all the divisions in the State, because the only check upon a voter’s qualification is his enrolment. There is, for instance, no such thing as an elector’s right provided for in the Bill.
– I am ready to vote for the adoption of the elector’s right system.
– Yes ; but we cannot put it in the Bill now. If I walked into a polling booth at Brisbane, and said that I was qualified to vote for the Maranoa division, it would be impossible to show that I was not entitled to vote for that division, unless there were a copy of the roll for the Maranoa division in the polling booth.
– A vote is not counted until it is checked by the returning officer of that division with the roll for the division for which it is recorded.
– In any case that checking will take a long time, and it is doubtful whether under the clause, as it is proposed to be amended, a regulation could be framed to provide for such a system of checking. Besides, it might happen that a man would represent himself as some one whose name was on the roll.
– Personation of that kind might succeed under the existing system.
– It cannot succeed except in comparatively isolated places.
– In every electorate at least 40 per cent, of the electors are unknown to those in charge of the booth.
– I have not contested electorates so large as that of the honorable member for Bland, but I know that in Victoria there are usually persons in the vicinity of a polling booth who could identify the electors who come there to vote.
– No one knows half the electors in my division.
– No one man may know anything like half the electors in the division, but there are always men within the vicinity of a polling booth who could identify most of the electors in the division. It seems to me that the Minister has made a fair proposal.
– Which he does not intend to carry into effect, because he says that the system cannot be safeguarded.
– I do intend to carry it into effect.
– The Minister said that the system could not be safeguarded if the right were given in regard to every polling booth within the State. I think it is reasonable for the Minister to say - “ I will see if this arrangement will work ; and, if it is shown that it will work well, will put it into effect.” While we are all ready to provide facilities ‘for voting, every true democrat ‘must be equally anxious to prevent the improper use of the ballot-box. It is everybody’s interest to do that. It will take a year to get the Commonwealth rolls ready, even if the Bill is passed very shortly. I hope, therefore, that we shall be able to finish with it this week. It would be a great disaster if it were withdrawn.
– I am sorry that the Minister lias taken this matter so seriously. There is not a vast difference between “may” and “shall.” “ Shall “ is no more effective than “ may,” unless you possess the power of enforcement.
– The honorable member can depend upon it that Tasmania can be worked that way.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Bland that he should consider if the matter is worth fighting about earnestly at this stage of the session. I think we might give the clause in its present form a fair trial. If we find that it is necessary, we can easily amend the Act afterwards. I feel that the Minister is endeavouring to do his best, and that it would not be fair at this stage to cause any trouble over such a trifling matter as the substitution of the word “shall “ for “ may.” It would, be to my interest to have the State of Tasmania divided into five electorates, because I am not prepared to spend a large sum of money in securing my return as a representative of the whole State. I am anxious that the sovereign democrats of the West Coast of Tasmania shall have an opportunity of returning me without any opposition.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia.)I am somewhat at a loss to understand why the Minister should anticipate any serious trouble from the adoption of the amendment of the honorable member for Bland. He has almost threatened to abandon the Bill, but I cannot see how any serious result could possibly follow from the adoption of the amendment, even if the wide interpretation suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is accepted. Under the clause, as it now stands, a Minister might afford facilities in one case and withhold them in others in order to promote the interests of a particular political section. I do not, of course, contemplate any such possibility in connexion with the Minister for Home Affairs, but unfortunately it will be impossible to retain him in that office for all time. It should not be within the power of any Minister to manipulate an Act of Parliament in the interests of his own party, and the provision should be mandatory. When the ballot-papers are sent to the re-turning-officers, all cases of impersonation must be disclosed,’ and any improper votes would be disallowed. Therefore, no abuses beyond those which would be possible under the Bill, as it stands, could possibly occur, and the fears of the Minister appear to me to be wholly imaginary. If an election took place in the Northern Territory, where the polling-places are few and, in many cases, are over 100 miles apart, and a number of sailors were to arrive there and declare that they were identical with certain electors whose names appeared on the roll, they would have no greater facilities for imposing upon the authorities if the amendment of the honorable member for Bland were carried, than under the system favoured by the Minister. I hope that the Minister will recognise that he has been making a great bugbear out of a very small matter, and that he will act wisely by agreeing to the amendment.
– The Minister states that this amendment was carefully considered by the Cabinet, and, if so, the Cabinet is somewhat deficient in knowledge of grammar as well as in the capacity of expressing its meaning in common-sense English. t
– The honorable member is mistaken. I said that the subject of the clause was considered by the Cabinet, but not the wording of it.
– The clause is certainly drafted in a very slipshod fashion. The new clause, 140a, as it originally stood, provided that “ any elector may vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled,” whereas the Senate proposes to omit all the words after “ elector,” and to provide that -
Any elector when voting at a polling place at elections for the Senate or for the House of Representatives shall . . . only be entitled to vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled.
I should like to know the meaning of those words. How ca,n an elector be considered to be “ voting at a polling place” if he is not “ entitled to vote” at that place? This is a most ridiculous jumble, and most unfair to those who will be called on to interpret the law. The clause should be altered to read -
No elector shall vote at any polling place except that for which he is enrolled, subject to the provisions of sub-section (2).
I ask the Minister to consider this suggestion. I make every allowance for the difficulty of framing a uniform law, equally’ applicable to the conditions of large elec- torates such as those of Queensland and Western Australia, and of the smaller electorates in crowded cities. The Minister must, however, remember that unless some provision of this kind is made we shall absolutely disfranchise a great many electors in the larger constituencies. The Minister may urge that under the provision in subclause (2) he will be able to make regulations for establishing polling places and for allowing people to vote. If the present Minister were to retain office for an unlimited period, I should be quite satisfied with such a provision, but I think it would be better if he could see his way clear to provide some means for affording the electors in the more remote and scattered constituencies the fullest facilities for voting. If the Bill is passed without some such provision it is quite certain that a considerable number of voters in the electorate of Coolgardie will be disfranchised.
– I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie is right in his criticism regarding the wording of the clause. Strange to say, I had marked out certain of the words to which he refers as surplusage. It would be sufficient to provide that “ any elector shall, except as provided in sub-section (2), only be entitled to vote, &c.” Even then the provision would not be perfect in form, because it should commence with a negative.
– I am willing to agree to an amendment of the amendment in that form.
Amendment of Senate’s amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by the omission of the words ‘ ‘ when voting at a polling place at elections for the Senate or for the House of Representatives.”
– Neither the amendment of the honorable member for Bland nor that of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, meets the objection which I have to this Bill. At the present time the measure provides that, in the case of elections for the House of Representatives, any elector shall have the right to vote at any polling booth within his division. That is a concession which I am unwilling to give up. If I accurately interpret the feeling of the committee, I scarcely think that the honorable member for Bland will be able to carry his amendment. The Senate holds that a division is an electoral area for this House only. Let us make it compulsory that an elector shall be allowed to vote at any polling place within his division, but make the granting of that facility optional at the will of the Executive for the whole of the State in the case of elections for the Senate and this House, and if the honorable member for Bland will withdraw his amendment, I will move accordingly.
– I am agreeable to do that.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I would point out that the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for South Australia will have the effect of destroying the whole of the voting by post provisions of the Bill. I leave out of consideration the clumsiness or otherwise of the clause in its present form.
– An elector really does not vote at the post-office.
– I am not quite sure as to where he votes under those circumstances, but I am inclined to believe, that although his vote may be counted at a place other than that at which he casts it, he really votes when he marks his ballot paper.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- I recognise that there is a great deal in the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Upon the whole, perhaps, it would be just as well to disregard the clumsy construction of the clause, seeing that its meaning is so obvious. I therefore ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment of Senate’s amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Watson) proposed -
That the Senate’s amendment he amended by the omission of the word ‘‘may” where first occurring in sub-clause (2), with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.” “
– I think that the Minister for Home Affairs fears that more difficulties will arise under the operation of the clause, as the honorable member for Bland wishes to amend it, than will really exist. We ave all anxious to prevent impersonation in the conduct of elections, but we also desire to provide reasonable facilities to voters. The Minister lays it down as a fundamental principle that an elector shall be registered at a particular polling booth, and that he shall record his vote there. If that proposal is insisted upon in its entirety, it must inevitably result in the disfranchisement of a large number of electors, because man)’ persons must necessarily be absent from their homes upon polling day. The Minister recognises that some relaxation of this hard - and - fast principle should be made, inasmuch as he has provided for voting by post. I agree with the honorable member for. Bland, that whilst the voting by post provisions offer certain facilities to electors, those facilities will be very considerably restricted under the proposal of the Government. Further, there is more danger that undue influence will be brought to bear upon electors who vote by post than exists in the case of electors who vote at a polling booth. Having gone so far as to provide for voting by post, the Minister might well go a little further, and agree to the amendment. Under the proposal of the honorable member for Bland, there will be no greater danger of impersonation than already exists. It is no more necessary to provide that an electoral roll shall be kept at every polling booth throughout the States than it is to insist that an electoral roll shall be kept at every post-office in connexion with voting by post. I understand from the honorable and learned member for Corio, that the Minister is prepared to make some concession, and therefore I will refrain from arguing the matter further.
– It has been suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corio that this committee might well adhere to its former decision in the case of elections for the House of Representatives, and allow the permissive part of this provision to apply only to elections for the Senate. I do not know whether the other Chamber will agree to that course but certainly, such a proposal meets the strong objection which I entertain to extending the system to both Houses. Under these conditions the clause would read -
Any elector may vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled, or, if he is absent from the polling place for which he is enrolled, may vote at any other polling place for the same division in an election for the House of Representatives if he makes and signs before the presiding officer a declaration in the form R1 in the schedule. Any elector when voting at a polling place at elections for the Senate shall only be entitled to vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled.
– I think the proposal of the Minister is a fair one, and accordingly ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- Before the amendment is withdrawn I wish to enter my protest against the principle of drawing distinctions between the two branches of the Legislature. If the system is a good one in the case of elections for this House, surely it is equally good in the case of elections for the other Chamber. I do not approve of the clause at all. It is a bad principle to introduce two electoral laws - one foi* the Senate and another for the-House of Representatives.
– The primary object of the clause, I take it, is to provide facilities for the exercise of the franchise by electors who may happen to be a considerable distance from the polling booth for which they are enrolled, upon polling day.
This provision, however, goes much further than that, and will permit of every elector in a city or suburban constituency voting in other electorates. To obviate the confusion which would result if any such practice became general, it would be wise to insert a proviso that the privilege in question shall be granted to no elector who, upon polling day, is within 3 miles of the polling booth for which he is registered.
– Make it 10 miles. An elector can travel that distance if he desires to vote.
– I do not wish to render it difficult for a man to exercise the franchise. I was simply thinking of the effect which this clause would have upon city and suburban constituencies. Under the existing system the returning officers, who know the number on the roll, can form an idea as to how many electors will vote, and accommodation is provided accordingly. But, under the proposal now before us, hundreds of electors might present themselves at a particular booth, ,and, as their coming could not be anticipated, difficulties might arise, and it is conceivable that a new election might be necessary.
– Where is that likely to happen ?
– In any large centre of population.
– There has been a similar law in Queensland for years, and such a contingency has never arisen.
– And in New South Wales, with a similar law, there has never been any trouble.
– I was not aware of that ; but, in any case, would it not be wise to fix the limit at 3 miles 1
– A man may be working 2-^ miles from his proper polling place, and not be able to get a holiday.
– But the polling places are kept open until seven o’clock at night, so that greater provision is now made for electors than formerly. I should like to see a proviso such as I have indicated inserted in the Bill.
Sir- William Lyne. - In the Bill, as originally introduced, a limit of 5 miles was provided, but that was struck out.
– The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, need not have any fear of a polling booth being rushed. A similar provision has been in operation in Queensland for’ years, and all that has been found necessary has been the provision of a few more voting papers. I can assure the honorable member that the experience in Queensland is altogether different from that which he fears will result from the adoption of the proposal before us.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). - The experience of New South Wales in this connexion is identical with that of Queensland. In New South Wales we have the safeguard of electors’ rights, under which an elector may vote at any polling place in his own electorate or division. In my own electorate, there are a couple of mining centres separated by 2 or 3 miles, and the miners who live at one place and work at another are enabled to vote at the place most convenient to themselves. From this no injustice or wrong has resulted. Then at the last federal election in the town of Parkes there was a big rush of miners from adjacent places just about an hour before the poll closed. When it was seen that the number of officers were not able to cope with the demand made upon them, some electors drove to another polling place about 3 miles distant, and there recorded their votes to the number of 40 or 50. But for a provision similar to that now proposed, they would probably have been disfranchised. No injustice was done in that instance, and I am afraid that the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, is creating difficulties where none exist.
Amendment of Senate’s amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That after the word “ division, “ line 5, the following words be inserted - “ of an election for the House of Representatives,” and. to add to the clause “ any elector when voting at a polling place at elections for the Senate shall only be entitled to vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled.”
Amendment of the Senate amended to read as follows, and agreed to -
Any elector when voting at a polling place at elections for the Senate shall .
Clause 178 (Breach or neglect by officers).
– The Senate has added to the definition of breaches of official duty the following sub-clause : - “ (iiin) Any disclosure by any person authorized to mark the vote of an elector, or ii posta ballot-paper touching the vote of the elector.”
I move -
That the Committee agree to the Senate’s amendment.
Motion agreed to.
New clause 190a -
Any person incurring or authorizing expenditure on behalf of a candidate, without the written authority of the candidate, or of his agent authorized in writing, shall be guilty of a contravention of this Act.
– The Senate’s amendment in this clause is a very small one, the substitution of the words “any electoral expense “ for the word “ expenditure.” I move -
That the Committee agree to the Senate’s amendment.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I think the Minister ought to tell us what effect the amendment will have on the clause.
– The amendment is intended to bring the clause in consonance with clauses 173 and 174.
– In that case let us understand the exact meaning of the words “any electoral expense.” According to clause175 we are told that “electoral expense” includes all expenses -
Incurred by or on behalf or in the interests of any candidate at or in connexion with any election, excepting only the personal and reasonable living and travelling expenses of the candidate.
No doubt clause 190a ought to be as drastic as possible, but I am sorry to see the word “ contravention.” Would it not be better to simply say that a person will, under certain circumstances, be guilty of an offence against the measure?
– I think the word “contravention” is used in the penal clauses.
– I have never seen the word used in any Act, but I suppose it is now too late to make any alteration.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act is divided into Parts, as follows : -
– I move-
That the amendment omitting “Court of Disputed Returns, sections 197 and 211,” and inserting “Committee of Elections and Qualifications,” to which the Senate has disagreed, be not insisted on.
This amendment opens up the question whether the tribunal to deal with disputed returns shall be a Judge of the Supreme Court, or an Elections and Qualifications
Committee. I am afraid that there is a very strong feeling in the Senate on this point, in view, perhaps, of events in that House during the current session. I hope honorable members will not insist on our amendment, or otherwise a difficult question may arise between the two Houses. The gist of the whole matter lies in this amendment, and I think that this is the best time for its discussion. When the Bill first came from the Senate, the Government supported the provision for the trial of election petitions by a Court of Disputed Returns, but this committee was opposed to the establishment of such a court, and I therefore had a number of clauses drafted, providing for the substitution of Committees of Elections and Qualifications. The Senate, however, seem to be very strong upon their original proposal, and therefore I suggest that the committee should agree to it.
– The Minister for Home Affairs says that the Senate is very strongly in favour of the establishment of a Court of Disputed Returns, but the honorable gentleman must recognise that this committee is equally strongly of the opinion that disputed elections should be dealt with by Committees of Elections and Qualifications. When the question was before us on a former occasion, so few members were prepared to support the Senate’s proposal that the Minister abandoned his call for a division in favour of it. That fact must surely be within his recollection.
– It is. I have admitted that the committee expressed itself in favour of the establishment of Committees of Elections and Qualifications.
– I do not intend to repeat arguments which were so fully stated in this Chamber when the matter was dealt with before. The Minister has referred to the fact that a dispute in connexion with a certain election to the Senate is really at the bottom of this matter.
– I did not speak with authority, but I had the case in my mind.
– Common rumour is not always a common liar, and it is a matter of knowledge to every member of this committee that the reason why the Senate was opposed to the creation of Committees of Elections and Qualifications for the trial of disputed elections is that considerable feeling arose between
– Lawyers never quarrel unless they are paid to do so.
– That may be so, but it has notbeenshown by those who are in favour of the establishment of a Court of Disputed Returns that the members of a Committee of Elections and Qualifications would not be impartial. I feel certain that there is scarcely a member of this committee who would not rather trust his case even to a committee of opponents than take it before a court. I would sooner be tried by members of the Ministry, to whom I sit in opposition, than go before a court.
– Then the honorable member is a plucky man.
– Great expense is involved before a man can even enter an appearance in a court. It has been said that a gentleman who recently contested an election to the House of Representatives was involved in enormous expense through having to appear before the Committee of Elections and Qualifications. But a fool and his money are soon parted, and that one man has flung away money on lawyers unnecessarily is no reason why other persons who may hereafter contest disputed elections should be equally foolish. This committee has declared emphatically in favour of the creation of Committees of Elections and Qualifications, and I hope that it will insist upon its will being carried into effect.
– Does the honorable member think that party feeling may not occur in connexion with a Committee of Elections, and Qualifications?
– It may occur, but it might also occur in connexion with a trial before a Court of Disputed Returns. Will the honorable and learned member say that no J udge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales has been swayed by party considerations ? I should not like to have been a party to any political trial before - to mention one only - the late Mr. Justice Windeyer.
– The honorable member would have found him a much fairer Judge than he thinks.
– I know the maxim, De mortuis nil nisi bonum, and had” it not been for the interjection of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, I should not have mentioned Judge Windeyer’s name. But we ought not to cry stinking fish; we should credit our fellow members with the possession of a sense of justice and impartiality. If the arguments advanced against the creation of Committees of Elections and Qualifications are to be held to have force, what defence can be advanced in support of the system of trial by jury ?. If a Committee of members of this House cannot be trusted to deal fairly and honestly with a fellow member ‘ whose right to sit here is being contested, how can we decently give to a jury picked up almost from the streets the power to send an accused person to the scaffold. Why not have a jury of Judges ?
– Juries are not picked up from the street.
– In many cases they practically are. I have seen juries empannelled, not to try a man for his life, but to investigate the cause of a death, who might be said to have been been picked up from the streets. I have seen that happen not- once, but 50 times.
– The honorable member is referring to coroners’ juries.
– Yes. However, I do not desire to go into that question now. I will not weary the committee by repeating the arguments which were used before, but I hope that honorable members will stand by the position which they formerly adopted. There are 36 members in the Senate, while there are 75 members in the House of Representatives, and the majority here in favour of the appointment of Committees of Elections and Qualifications was nearly equal to the whole Senate.
– It is amazing that the Minister should be prepared to surrender one of the fundamental principles of democracy - that the members of this House must try the ease of every member whose election is disputed. Such a member has a right to be tried by a jury of his peers, and to choose his jury from amongst the members of this House. I should not be afraid to be tried by my fellow members. I have lived amongst them for nearly two years now, and I would much sooner submit a case to them than to a Supreme Court. When a man goes before a Supreme Court he has, first of all, a solici-_ tor to fee, then a junior barrister, and then a silken King’s Counsel, and probably spends £100 on the preliminary canter before the trial commences.
– No doubt the money is well spent.
– The honorable and learned member’s remark shows how anxious he is to retain the privileges of his profession. I think that it is time we had free -trade in law. I have had experience in South Australia. On one occasion they said to me - “ Trust yourself to a judge of the Supreme Court.” But when the biggest blackleg who ever went unhung in Australia charged me with being an embezzler, a judge of the Supreme Court there said that he believed him, because he was a bluff old English soldier. That j udge was a worshipper of property, who regarded me as a dangerous political force ; .and he gave me 40 bob for my character. I hope we shall not relegate to a Court of Disputed Returns the right to try election petitions. The only man who has any rights before the courts is a millionaire. Money speaks all languages, but i L is only for the wealthy that it speaks. If I had a contest with a Tasmanian millionaire he would be able to brief the best barristers procurable, and I should have to throw up the cose. I would rather retire altogether than fight a case before a court, even if I could get a rich man to pay my expenses there. On one occasion in South Australia, an election was disputed by certain persons who ‘ engaged barristers and solicitors to conduct their case, and the expenses were so large that they frightened me, and made me resolve never to take a case before the court. It cost Mr. Aikenhead, of Tasmania, £3,000 to defend his right to sit in the State Legislature, and he was so heart-broken at the robbery to which he was subjected that he died shortly afterwards.
– I am glad’ that the Government have seen fit to support the Senate. We are asked now to decide whether we should refer election disputes to a body of men who understand the law of evidence, or to a tribunal which has no knowledge of it. In every case in which Parliament has provided for the settlement of disputes by arbitration courts, not skilled in the taking of evidence, the costs have exceeded by from four to ten times the expenses entailed in the hearing of similar cases before properly constituted tribunals.
– But this court has to decide the cases coming before it according to equity and good conscience, apart from strictly legal evidence.
– I believe that every dispute should be decided strictly according to the law. When we have law we have certainty.
– But not equity.
– That is the fault of the men who make the laws. An Elections and Qualifications Committee, consisting of members of Parliament, mar very well be relied upon to deal justly with cases which arise when party feeling is not running high, but when questions of the utmost importance are referred to it, and when party feeling is perhaps greatly excited, the greatest suspicion must attach to the decision of a parliamentary tribunal. Many of the State Parliaments in the United States, and the British Parliament have found parliamentary tribunals for the hearing of election disputes extremely unsatisfactory, and they have adopted the system of referring them to courts which may be relied upon to give unprejudiced decisions.
– Does the honorable and learned member contend that the English courts have given satisfaction ?
– No courts could give satisfaction to both sides in a disputed election. In this matter we have to consider the question of expense, and I contend that there will be less expense attached to the hearing of cases before courts presided over by trained men than if they come before purely parliamentary tribunals. One or two of our States Parliaments have found that the system of referring disputed elections to a parliamentary committee is unsatisfactory.- I would go the length of saying that.it is much more important that the courts for the trial of disputed elections should appear to be fair and that there should be no suspicion cast upon them, than that they should be actually free from mistakes. A trained court would be free from suspicion. If an election dispute occurred in connexion with this House, and I were appointed a member of the Elections and Qualifications Committee, I might be regarded by the parties to the dispute as too violent a partisan, and if three or four other members of the committee were of a like temperament, would there not be in the minds of the men who were to be tried the idea that a judicial decision could not be expected from us 1 I do not think that the majority of honorable members possess the judicial temperament necessary to enable them to arrive at a thoroughly impartial decision where party interests are involved. Therefore, all election disputes should be referred to an outside body, which would be free from all suggestion of political influence, or from the predominance of party feeling.
– I do not altogether agree with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, because I think he has misunderstood the position. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, has made grave charges against some of our Judges, but I do not agree with his view regarding the occupants of the judicial benches of Australia. In New South Wales, we have been particularly fortunate in the selection of our Judges, and I am perfectly sure that no suspicion could possibly attach to them. Therefore, it is not for that reason that I object to the present attitude of the Government. I have had to submit to the ordeal of an inquiry before an Elections and Qualifications Committee. Thedecision wentagainst me, but I believe that it was a fair and honest one so far as the committee were concerned. One of the great objects we should hold in view when dealing with this matter is to avoid expense and delay. I understand the Senate were largely influenced by the experience gained in connexion with the dispute that occurred regarding the election of Senator Matheson. One case has been referred to the Elections and Qualifications Committee of this Chamber, and the honorable member whose right to sit here was. questioned belonged to the free-trade side. No party spirit was, however, manifested in connexion with that inquiry, and an honorable member who supports the Government proposed that the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, should be allowed to retain his seat. The honorable member for North Sydney told us on a former occasion that, although at one time he was a strong believer in courts for the hearing of election disputes, his inquiries in England had shown him that the system adopted there was not a success, and that we should avoid falling into a similar mistake. He informed us that the costs in some cases amounted to thousands of pounds, and also that considerable delay was involved. We must remember that the members of the committee are selected by Mr. Speaker, and as care is taken to see that all parties are represented, there .does not appear to be anything o prevent them from giving thoroughly impartial decisions. I admit’ that on one or two occasions mistakes may have been committed, but we shall act wisely if we adhere to the system which has been in vogue in most of the States rather than try experiments which may involve great loss of time and money.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Without fear of contradiction I say that the justification for the appointment of an Elections and Qualifications Committee is to be found in the experience gained in connexion with the States Legislatures. Fewer mistakes have been made by Parliamentary Committees than by courts of law, and we should be committing an error if we departed from the practice, which has so much to recommend it. I disagree with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa when he says that the decisions arrived at in connexion with disputed elections should be strictly in accordance with the law. That is precisely what we wish to avoid. If the case which was recently decided by the Elections and Qualifications Committee of this House had been dealt with from a strictly technical point of view, the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, would have been unseated, and his place would have been taken by a gentleman who received only one-third of the support accorded to the successful candidate. Therefore, if the law had been strictly interpreted, an outrage would have been committed upon the electors of Tasmania. It is because substantial justice should direct the decisions of a tribunal of this character, rather than any strict interpretation of documents, that we do not need a Judge to preside over it. Without the slightest intention to cast any reflection upon a Judge, I doubt whether his training makes it as easy for him to decide upon the equity and good conscience side of cases as to construe the statutes from time to time. A little while ago I was present at a court in which the Judge who presided had to decide upon the equity and good conscience of the case before him. During the hearing an agreement was produced of a most iniquitous character and instinctively he held to the terms of that agreement, notwithstanding that it was an iniquitous one upon its face.
– It would be a very dangerous precedent to allow a Judge to set aside agreements.
– The fact that there was an agreement at all seemed to weigh more with him than did the equity and good conscience aspect of the matter. In connexion with the court proposed we do not want that kind of thing to obtain. When a question of law has to be decided, by all means let it be determined by a J udge ; but I do not think we should be acting wisely if we appointed a Judge to preside over a court which has merely to say whether substantial justice has or has not been done to the electors of the Commonwealth as a whole. It is the electors whom we have to consider and not the candidates. We must look beyond the latter to the effect -which the decisions of this tribunal may have upon the electorates of the country. There is another aspect to this question, namely, that of the expense involved. In my ‘judgment it would be far better to adhere to the system which has worked well in Australia for so many years than to revert to the. position sought to be established by the Senate. I trust that the Minister will not insist upon the amendment made by this Chamber. 45 m
– I have already stated that the Government do not intend to insist upon it.
– They must not, or they will lose the Bill.
– Who has said so?
– They say so in the Senate.
– Is it to be understood that this House is going to allow the other Chamber to mould the Bill in its entirety ? After the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I shall vote with the greatest possible pleasure against the Government proposal. He has declared that there is a threat hanging over the Ministry in connexion with this matter.
– The Senate has no more made a threat in regard to this matter than it did in regard to the Tariff.
– I have yet to hear that any threat was made by the Senate regarding the Tariff.
– There were five or six.
– I certainly never heard of any. I did hear that the Senate intended to fight for its principles, just as this House fought for its principles. On the merits of the case, however, I think that there is more to be said in favour of the appointment of a Committee of Elections and Qualifications to decide disputed elections- than there is in favour of a court of law.
– I shall support the Bill in the form in which it was returned to the Senate. I am not particularly enamoured either of the court which it is proposed to establish to determine disputed elections, or of the committee ; but, on the whole, it is perhaps better to allow such disputes to be decided by the latter. The Supreme Court would undoubtedly be a little more impartial, but that is the only virtue which can be claimed for it. Any vices connected with the appointment of a committee will certainly be embodied in the Supreme Court, constituted as the body proposed would be. It is an anomalous Supreme Court which it is sought to set up. All the rules of evidence are abolished and the court is to be guided only by the substantial merits of the case.
The whole foundation of its jurisdiction is prescribed by the Bill. In framing the Supreme Court provisions we have really borrowed from the Acts- of South Australia and Western Australia. which provide for a mixed tribunal. In South Australia, for example, one of the J Judges of the Supreme Court sits with the members of the Elections and Qualifications Committee. In my opinion, that is the best form which these clauses could take. I am driven to support the proposal for a committee rather than the anomalous tribunal which the Government originally sought to establish. They did not even vest in the Supreme Court Judges of the States in the interval which must elapse between the enactment of this legislation and the establishment of the High Court power to make necessary regulations. I do not fear that a committee would be other than impartial. The courts were established in England in 1839, at a time when parties were separated by strongly drawn lines, when great political rancourprevailed, and when there were not the same checks upon the tendency to partiality on the part of members of the House of Commons as are operative to-day. There is no doubt that the expense connected with the determination of disputed elections would be- considerably less if those disputes were decided by a committee composed of members of Parliament. Moreover, in connexion with a court of law there must be lawyers engaged, and in some cases great delay must occur. We shall have to wait until it is convenient, for judges to sit, and instead of the business being expedited, as it would be if the decision of a disputed election rested with ourselves,.it will be delayed. That may have the effect of sustaining the suspension of a member for three or four months, and possibly the scandal which was witnessed earlier in the session in connexion ‘ with an election petition against the return of a member, may.be repeated. Under the circumstances, I think that we should adhere to the Bill in the form in which it was returned to the Senate.
– This is one of the few occasions upon, which the decision of the Senate is in harmony with my own views, and, therefore, I am in favour of not insisting upon our amendment. For years past I have been of opinion - partly as the result of the experience of the working of Elections and Qualifications
Committees - that it is far preferable to allow disputed elections to be decided by people who are entirely separated from politics. Some honorable members have urged that a committee would deal out absolute impartiality. My own opinion is that in the great majority of instances it would be impossible for any honorable member to separate party feeling from the position which he occupies as a judge. I admit that if the case were a clear one it is not likely that the members of a committee would be so susceptible to party influences as to arrive at an improper decision. But in every well-contested case in which a doubt existed as to which party was in the right, the tinge of bias would unconsciously operate and influence an honorable member’s judgment. The honorable member for Parramatta spoke of the failure of a Supreme Court Judge in New South Wales to be guided by the equity and good conscience of the case he was trying. I know nothing of the merits of that particular case, but I am acquainted with some other instances in which J udges have laid aside the technicalities of the law and been guided only by the simple merits of the case. It is as unfair to argue that, because one Judge failed to have regard to the equity of a case, as directed, others would follow his example, as it. would be for those who do not believe in the establishment of a committee to determine election disputes to declare that, because one committee has proved itself not only incompetent but biased, every other committee would adopt the same attitude. I hold that we are more likely to get abstract justice meted out by men who are perfectly untrammelled by party ties than we are from individuals whose whole life has been passed in the turmoil of politics, and who must necessarily be strong partisans.
– Why not have every case tried by a jury of Judges instead of by a jury of laymen ?
– I do not think that that is an analogous, case, for the reason that a jury under ordinary circumstances consists of men who. are not supposed to have any interest in the questions which they have to try. In the case of disputed returns, however, every member of the tribunal has a party interest, and may have to consider whether the filling of a particular seat will not mean the casting out of the party with whom he is associated.
– That is a reflection on honorable members.
– In these matters we must consider ordinary human nature. I do not think that the expense of going to the High Court will be any greater than that involved in a case tried before an Elections and Qualifications Committee. Under either circumstances the parties may fee lawyers. In the one case which has arisen in the House of Representatives, the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, engaged a lawyer, who, however, owing to a constitutional disqualification, could not act, and the other side engaged a lawyer, whom either Mr. Whitelaw or his friends had to pay.
– Parties will be bound to employ lawyers in the High Court.
– There is no greater compulsion to employ lawyers in a case before the High Court than in a case before an Elections and Qualifications Committee. One clause on which the Senate insists, provides that the equity and good conscience ofthe case has to be taken into consideration in arriving at a decision ; and I believe there will be just as great or even greater probability of that clause being observed by the High Court as by a tribunal consisting of active political partisans. The system would work well from the point of view of all parties if the members of the tribunal consisted of those who had withdrawn from active political life.
Question - That the amendment be not insisted upon - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Clause 8 (Assistant returning officers).
That the amendment adding the words “but no assistant returning officer shall be appointed in, or for any portion of, the division in which less than 100 electors are enrolled,” to which the Senate has disagreed, be insisted on.
There was a very long debate on this clause, in which the representatives of Queensland appeared to be more particularly interested. The object of the amendment was to prevent the anticipated exercise of undue influence in outlying places in Western Australia, Northern Queensland, and elsewhere. The amendment represents a compromise which was arrived at, and I cannot see why we should alter our decision.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 22 (Report to be laid before the House of Representatives).
That the amendment omitting “both Houses of Parliament,” and inserting “ the House of Representatives,” to which the Senate has disagreed, be insisted on.
The clause, as amended, provides that the report of the commissioner shall be laid before the House of Representatives within seven clays after its receipt. But to that the Senate objects, and provides that the report shall be laid before both Houses. In this matter only a resolution, and not a Bill, is involved, and the House of Representatives desires to be consulted in the distribution of the electorates in the various States. I take the view that the House of Representatives should decide its Own divisions, and as this matter in no way affects the Senate, I propose to insist on the amendment.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I think the Minister ought to accept the amendment of the Senate, and allow both Houses to have a say in this matter. The distribution of the divisions does not concern this House merely, though it may concern particular members of the House.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential amendments in clauses 23 and 24 insisted on.
Clause 28 (Where electors to vote in case polling place abolished).
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the amendment adding the following proviso, “Provided that no polling place shall be so closed after the issue of the writ and before its return,” ‘to which the Senate has disagreed, be not insisted on.
Provided that no polling place shall be so closed after the issue of the writ, and before the time appointed for its return. have been added to it, the original proviso having been amended by the substitution of the word “ closed “ for. the word “ appointed “ where it first occured. The addition of those words to’ clause 28 would be merely useless repetition.
Motion agreed to.
New clause 98a (State members not entitled to be nominated).
That the amendment inserting new clause S)8a. to which the Senate has disagreed, be insisted on.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- Since this matter was last before us, the South Australian electoral law has been altered. so that a member of the Federal Parliament may now be nominated for a seat in a State Parliament, and I understood that a similar amendment had been, or is to be, made in the New South Wales electoral law.
Sir William Lyne. - No.
– In any case, it is a very bad policy to attempt to make reprisals in this manner. There is already a good deal of bitterness felt in regard to several matters arising out of federation, and we should not sow discord in this instance.
– This Parliament has not created any of the bitterness that exists.
– Well, we should set a good example to the States. The provision in the electoral law of the States to which exception was taken originally was first passed by South Australia, and then copied by the other States Parliaments.
– Did not the honorable and learned member introduce the South Australian measure 1
– I was Attorney-General of a .Ministry who found the Bill on their file, and the Premier, who had carried the motion for the introduction of the measure, asked me to move its second reading. I explained, in doing so, that I was acting from constitutional necessity, the matter being too petty a one upon which to resign my portfolio, but that I did not believe in the provisions of the measure.
– Did the honorable and learned member vote for it?
-^-1 spoke and voted against the motion for the introduction of the measure. I think that we should not insist upon the insertion of new clause 9t>a. Federation has had to endure a lot of pinpricking, and it is difficult for the people to grasp the merits of a dispute between the Commonwealth Parliament and the States Parliaments, but I do not think we should pass a provision of this kind. I doubt, indeed, if we have the constitutional light to create this disqualification. Certain disqualifications are categorically set out in the Constitution, and there is no mention of the power pf the Parliament to vary them. A similar provision exists in the American Constitution, and it has been laid down by Burgess that the disqualifications there are fixed, and cannot be altered, except by an amendment of the Constitution.
– They cannot be added to by the States.
– I have not looked into the matter recently, but my impression is that they cannot be altered. There may be a difference between a qualification and a disqualification in that respect. For instance, under the German Constitution, while a disqualification cannot be altered except by an amendment, Parliament can do what it likes in regard to qualifications. What the committee wished to provide for was that members of States Parliaments should not be capable of being nominated for membership of the Commonwealth Parliament. Of course, if the committee do not insist upon. the insertion of clause 98a, members of States Parliaments will be able, not only to be nominated for, but to sit in the Commonwealth Parliament. Personally, I do not object to that, because I think it better to leave the matter entirely to the electors. I know that some of the members of the Cabinet were strongly opposed to this disqualification.
– I regret that the Minister proposes to insist upon the amendment, because I do not agree with the principle contained in it, and because I think that the Senate hold a very strong opinion as to its undesirability. The provision was not inserted in the Bill when originally before the Senate, and the members of that, body refused to agree to it when the Bill was returned to them with amendments from this House. I do not think that we should limit the choice of the electors in the manner proposed. In passing such a provision we seem to be thinking more of ourselves than of the people of the Commonwealth. A good many of the members of this Parliament were returned while members of States Parliaments. Unfortunately, I was not a member of a State Parliament when the federal elections took place, but if I had been, I should not have felt that 1 was doing wrong in contesting a federal seat without resigning from the State Parliament. The insertion of this provision in the Bill has been keenly resented in the various States Parliaments.
– And approved of by the genera] public.
– I do not agree with the honorable member there. I think that it is very probable that candidates who are members of States Parliaments will be asked, “ Will you resign your membership of the State Parliament if elected to the Commonwealth Parliament?” and in most cases thev will be compelled to promise to do so. It is, however, a matter to be left to the candidates and the electors. We have no right to impose this disqualification. Under the clause as it stands, we might practically prevent any mem’ber of a State Parliament from contesting an election, because the clause states that any person who withinfourteen days prior to the date of nomination was a member of a State Parliament shall not be eligible for nomination for the Federal Parliament. Clause 90 provides that the nominations may take place, seven days after the issue of the writ. In the case of a dissolution the Government might appeal to the country upon matters of the greatest importance, and the nominations might be fixed to take place within less than fourteen days after the issue of the writ. Thus no member of a State Parliament could possibly be nominated/
– Clause 90 provides that the nomination day shall be fixed not less than seven days after the issue of the writ.
– Yes, I know ; but I am pointing out that it is possible to fix the date of nomination in such a way as to prevent the members of the States Parliaments from being nominated.
– It would not be practicable to fix the date of nomination within fourteen days after a dissolution.
– That period could be very nearly approached, -and the nomination day might under some circumstances be fixed” within seven days after the date upon which the writ was issued. It is conceivable that such an attempt might be made under certain circumstances. Why should we force members of the States Parliaments to resign before the nomination day? If a member resigned on the day before the nominations were received, he would cease to be a member of the State Legislature as effectually as if he had resigned fourteen days or 140 days beforehand. I do not know the object aimed at in fixing the term at fourteen days. We may very well leave it to the electors to make their own choice, and if they prefer a member of a State Legislature, let’ them give him their support. It would be a great pity if a member of a State Parliament resigned his seat, and failed to secure election to this Parliament. His services might be of great value to the State Parliament.
– Then let him stay there.
– I think the honorable member is looking at the matter from rather a personal point of view. I am not more anxious than is any other honorable member to have members of the States Legislatures contesting seats in this Parliament, but if the electors thought that some State member was a better man than I am - although I should probably utterly differ from them - they would have as much right to their opinion as I have to mine, and they should be at liberty to elect the man whom they think would best serve their interests. I quite admit that in the case of members living inVictoria, there is not the same strong reason for personal feeling in this matter as in the case of honorable members representing the more distant States. The whole question, however, resolvesitself into this: Are we to consider the advantage of certain individuals, or the advantage of the Commonwealth ? For the reasons I have stated, I intend to support the Government.
– On a previous occasionI voted for the omission of this clause, and I shall now act in accordance with that attitude. I objected to the restrictions imposed upon members of this Parliament by the States Legislatures, and I do not think that in a spirit of retaliation I should adopt a course similar to that which I disapproved of in their case. I admit that honorable members from the more distant States are placed in a position of greater disadvantage than are those who represent Victoria or the nearer parts of New South Wales. Honorable members from Queensland and Western Australia require at least a fortnight to enable them to reach their electorates, and no doubt the fact that they have to remain away from their electorates for many months at a time leaves it open to their opponents to greatly prejudice their chances of re-election. Still I think that on general principles it is wrong to impose any restrictions upon the choice of the electors, or to imposeany disabilities upon members of the States Legislatures.
– As I said on a previous occasion, I do not agree with the view that we are limiting the choice of the electors. We are not limiting the choice of the people, but that result is brought about by the man who says - “ I will not give up one position until I have secured another.”
Are we to offer a bonus to men who cling to one benefit whilst they are seeking to secure another, and expose those who are not in the States Parliaments to the necessity of taking all the risk. ?
– I think that a man ought to be able to sit in both Houses.
– Oh, no. “ One man, one vote” - “one member, one Parliament.” I am not considering the interests of the representatives from the more distant States, so much as the advantage to be derived by the public. Are we to offer an inducement to honorable members who are representing different States to remain here and do their duty without the fear of being undermined in their electorates, or are we to encourage them to leave their places here and visit their constituencies in order to preserve their seats ? If we do not impose restrictions upon the candidature of States members, the representatives from the more distant States will always be in fear of the overwhelming advantage given to those who maydesire to unseatthem. If we are to tell honorable members from Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, and some parts of New South Wales and South Australia, that they were running a great risk of being undermined in their electorates, we should probably find that their work in this House would deteriorate. When I heard the honorable and learned member for Corinella say that it was disadvantageous to the public interest that we should impose the proposed restrictions, I asked - “Why?” I see no reason why a member of a State Legislature should say - “ I shall cling to my present position until I get into the Federal Parliament.” On the other hand, I recognise that under existing circumstances, the members from the distant States would, if they considered their personal welfare, leave their work here. I am glad to say, however, that they have resisted any such influence. I look in vain for any argument sufficient to induce us to reverse the vote we gave on a previous occasion. It has been said that the Senate will not pass this clause, but I would point out that its opponents had a majority of only one, and that it is a matter of common knowledge that the members of the other Chamber are prepared to reverse their vote. We have, by a majority of two to one, twice affirmed the principle contained in this clause, and are we, under these circumstances, to defer -
I will not say to a chance vote - but to the single vote majority in the Senate ? When we consider the merits of the case, and the manner in which the clause has been dealt with in the Senate, I think we shall be justified in leaving it as it stands.
– I was sorry to hear honorable members express sympathy with the representatives from the more distant States in connexion with this matter. I accept their expressions of sympathy as thoroughly genuine; but, speaking for myself, I would be content if members of the States Legislatures were permitted to oppose me. Under such conditions I should have the support and sympathy of the majority of the people, because I feel sure that the electors would resent the action of a State member in contesting a seat in the Federal Parliament without having previously resigned his position in the State Legislature. I should prefer to be opposed by a member of the State Legislature rather than by one who had been obliged to resign his seat. Therefore, I disclaim altogether any idea that I am actuated by personal considerations in giving my vote in this connexion. The honorable and learned member for Corinella expressed surprise that a provision was inserted in the Bill requiring that a member of the State Legislature should resign his seat fourteen days before the date of nomination in order to qualify himself as a candidate for a seat in this Parliament. The position of a member of a State Parliament is not altogether ornamental. He has certain duties to his constituents to perform, and I do not see how he could discharge these and prosecute an election at the same time. It would be positively indecent to allow any man to hold a responsible position in which he would be called upon to do important work for the public, and at the same time to permit him to set aside his public duty and endeavor to win another seat. If ! were a member of a State Legislature and I failed in a contest for a seat in this Parliament, I should not be able to look my constituents in the face again and expose myself to the gibe that I continued to be their member only because I could not very well help myself. That would be a most degrading position for any man to occupy.
– I do not feel at all strongly upon this proposal, but I know well enough that when I was a candidate for the Commonwealth Legislature
I should have felt it very awkward indeed if I had been obliged to relinquish my seat in the New South Wales Parliament prior to being elected. I did not doubt for a. moment that I should be returned, but still that was the feeling of all members of the States Parliaments, and I believe that we should place other men in the same position that we ourselves then occupied.
– The right honorable member was within a few weeks of a dissolution.
– Then if this matter were one of principle, instead of being a personal one, we ought to have been more ready to resign, inasmuch as we should not have been required to sacrifice much. However, none of us dreamed of adopting that course. My idea is that, as a general rule, a man does not give up the position which he holds until he has secured the position which he wants. That feeling is inherent in human nature.
– Is it a right feeling ?
– I do not think it is” wrong. If the electors resent the fact that a man has unsuccessfully offered himself as a candidate for another Parliament they can always defeat him. I must say that the clause under consideration seems to me to suggest selfishness.
– In my opinion, by inserting this provision we .are only affirming what the Constitution at the present time provides. That instrument of government distinctly sets out that no person holding any office of profit under the Crown shall be capable of sitting as a member of - this Parliament. I submit that any member of a State Parliament who is in receipt of a parliamentary allowance is the holder of an office of profit under the Crown.
– He is elected, and does not hold office under the Crown.
– The fact which I have mentioned should prevent him from being nominated, even if this clause were not in the Bill.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- As the clause stands, it prevents any member of a State Parliament from being nominated for. a seat in the Commonwealth Legislature. I should like to test the question whether nomination should not be allowed, and whether we should not compel a State member who is returned to this Parliamentto resign his State seat within a given time of his election.
That is the law in Canada at the present moment. A member of a provincial Legislature may be returned to the Dominion Parliament, but he-has to resign his former position within ten days of his election. To my mind, that is a very fair provision. I suggest that the clause should be amended to read - “No person who at the date of election and for fourteen days thereafter was a member of the Parliament of a State shall be capable of sitting as a senator or as ft member of this House of Representatives.” “Mr. Isaacs. - That is really excising the clause.
– No ; it permits of the nomination of a State member, but prevents his sitting after his election. If we reject the clause in its present form, a member of a State Parliament can not only be nominated for election to the Commonwealth Parliament, but can actually sit in both Legislatures. The reasonable question to test is as to whether he should be nominated.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I should like to know whether the Minister intends the term “.nomination “ to refer to the technical nomination which takes place in connexion with an election, or whether it is to include the proposing of a person, under section 15 of the Constitution, in the case of casual vacancies in the Senate ?
– It does not deal with that matter at all.
– I feel that, in connexion with this question, I am fighting a somewhat up-hill battle. That fact is chiefly due to the action which has already been taken by some of the States Parliaments. . Had they not initiated preferential legislation of this character, the opposition to the course which I favour would hot be so strong. The States Legislatures now recognise that by enacting such legislation they inflicted an injustice, not merely upon members of this House, but upon the electors generally, and therefore we may reasonably hope for its early repeal. The honorable and learned member for Indi has argued that this proposal does not limit the choice of the electors. I hold that it does. I would point out that of the 26 representatives from New South Wales who sit in this Parliament, only three are new to political life. Similarly, only six of the representatives of Victoria are new to political life.
– That was the first federal election, and cannot be regarded as a’ precedent.
– I disagree with the honorable and learned member. I hold that the States Parliament should be the training ground for the Commonwealth Legislature. If a member of a State Parliament is elected to the Commonwealth Legislature that fact should render his seat in the State House vacant. But to say that a man should be compelled to retire before he seeks election would be to curtail the choice of the electors, and to inflict- a wrong upon State members. There is a probability that at the next election I shall be opposed by a member of the New South Wales Parliament, but, nevertheless, I desire to give the electors the widest possible choice. I, therefore, support the position taken up by the other Chamber.
– I would suggest that we have had ample time to reconsider our decision upon this question. The insertion of the clause under discussion has engendered much ill-feeling in the various States, and to declare that we are afraid of the members of States Parliaments contesting our electorates does not’ reflect credit upon us.
An Honorable Member. - We do not say that.
– It looks very much like it. Seeing that the Senate has omitted this provision, it would be a very grave error on our part to reinsert it.
– The honorable member, I believe, was Premier of South Australia at the time the Bill providing that members of the Federal Parliament shouldnot be eligible to contest elections for the State Legislature was passed?
– No; the measure was introduced when the present Minister for Trade and Customs was Premier of that State. I admit that I was responsible for a resolution which declared that no member of the State Legislature should simultaneously hold a seat in ‘the Federal Parliament. That resolution led to the drafting of a Bill which went a great deal further than I intended the resolution to go. As a matter of fact I think it went a great deal further than many honorable members intended, though at the same time I do not see any advantage to be gained by either federal or State members. Unfortunately every one of the States followed the example of South Australia in not devoting much consideration to the matter. In South Australia the Bill was passed through all its stages under fifteen minutes. The present Speaker of this House, who submitted the Bill in the South Australian Assembly, informed honorable members on that occasion that it was merely to carry out a resolution of the House. That resolution, however, was intended to prevent a man from occupying two positions, and the Bill went much further. I would rather see this matter more exhaustively debated, and a division taken in a fuller House, because the results may be more far reaching than we at present imagine.
-Which way would the honorable member like the voting to go ?
– I should like to see the voting go in the direction of eliminating the clause as the Senate wishes. I have never been in sympathy with such a clause. In my opinion, honorable members who are now so keen about placing an embargo on State members will find that their action, when the time comes, will be used as a weapon against them, with very good effect. In some of the States at the present time, federal members are not deprived of the opportunity of becoming State candidates, without resigning their seats in this House ; and the States which have passed a law in a contrary direction are utterly ashamed of it, and prepared for repeal.
– The States were not ashamed of the law until this clause was carried.
– Until we applied thetu quoque argument, and endeavoured to retaliate, the States did not perceive the force of what they had done. Now that the States are inclined to rescind the law, it would be a great pity to include this clause in the Bill. I, therefore, hope honorable members will give no hurried vote, but, after careful consideration, will adopt the course suggested by the Senate.
Question - That the amendment be insisted on - put.
The committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments in clauses 117 and 118 not insisted on.
Clause 151 (How votes to be marked in Senate elections).
– This clause, as the Bill originally came to us from the Senate, provided that -
The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.
Those words were struck out by the committee, but upon . the Bill being returned to the Senate that body insisted upon their retention. I propose to adopt the same attitude on this occasion as we did when the Bill was last before us, and therefore I move -
That the amendment omitting the words “The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected,” to which the Senate has disagreed, be insisted on. (Committee counted.)
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I hope that the committee will not insist upon its amendment. This matter has already been before us twice. On the first occasion the Minister voted against plumping. On the second occasion there was no division, but I do not know why the Government should have changed their attitude in regard to the question. There is a strong feeling in the other Chamber against any interference with the mode of elections affecting that body, and they are totally opposed to a system which will allow of plumping. We have already insisted upon several amendments to which they have disagreed, and that being so, I think we should not insist upon this amendment. It seems to be an altogether wrong principle that the minority should rule. At the time of the election of representatives to the Federal Convention, every State provided that voters should vote for the full number of candidates to be elected. It is an underlying principle of democracy that the majority shall rule. I understand that a number of honorable members are voting for the retention of the amendment because they believe in proportional representation, and consider this the next best tiling ; but, as they were unable to get the committee to agree to proportional representation, I do not think they should attempt to secure by a side wind the adoption of a system under which the minority would rule.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- I hope that the committee will stand by the position which it assumed when the matter was last before us. I do not agree with the honorable member for Macquarie, that democracy requires that voters shall be compelled to vote for a certain number of candidates. It is democratic to give all men facilities for voting, but they should be allowed to exercise their judgment as to how many candidates they will vote for. To carry the contention of the honorable member for Macquarie to its logical conclusion, an elector should be disfranchised if he did not see his way to vote at all, or if he recorded his vote in such a way as to make it informal. If the amendment is carried, electors will be at liberty to vote for the full number of candidates, but they will also have the privilege of voting for a lesser number if they feel inclined to do so.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - -I am placed in a position of considerable difficulty, because, having read the reasons which Ministers gave for doing quite the opposite to what they now propose, I was convinced by them, and the Minister for Home Affairs has given us no explanation of their change of attitude. Is it because of influence which comes from a certain part of the Chamber 1
– The right honorable member would like to be influenced in the same way.
– One of the advantages of my position is that I can speak my mind. If my honorable friends knew what Ministers thought of them they would be much wiser. I think them good fellows, but they sometimes exert more weight in the Chamber than they are entitled to exert. The Ministry should give us some other explanation than a’ strategical reason for their change of position. Personally, it seems to me that as both Chambers will have to give way in some matters, if the Bill is to be passed, it would be more sensible for the Senate to give way in those matters which more particularly affect the House of Representatives, and for the House of Representatives to give way in those matters which more particularly affect the Senate. Whatever happens in connexion with this clause, the Ministry will have the advantage of having occupied the right position on at least one occasion. x
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Any one who has represented a constituency electing more than one member is aware of the great inconvenience and injustice which arises from the system of plumping. It leads to the misrepresentation of the opinions of electors, and to the most painful recriminations between candidates and their supporters, and is not a fair way of ascertaining the real views of a constituency. At the same time, I think that the system of block voting brings with it almost as great evils, and does injustice to minorities. There is no doubt that if the opinions of the people of New South Wales were represented in the Senate in proportion to the numerical strength of political parties in that State, there would not be such a large preponderance of the representatives of one party in the Senate. Under the block-vote system, electors are compelled to vote as their party leaders tell them. It is useless for an elector to exercise his own judgment, and to vote for the man who is not supported by the party or by some newspaper, because if he does so he only throws his vote away. I shall not propose it now, because it is too late in the day, but for the Senate I should like to see a system of proportional representation which would enable considerable minorities to be given fair representation in each Parliament.
– A number of honorable senators would like to see that system for the House of Representatives.
– Proportional, representation in the House of Representatives is quite a different thing from proportional representation in a House for which three members are elected at a time from one constituency. But realizing that that is impossible, the question is - Are we to persist in this idea of allowing plumping 1 I find that for all practical purposes the proposal to allow plumping -applies only to elections for the Senate, and I therefore think that we might fairly give way to the wishes of honorable senators upon the point. I agree that we are in both Houses interested in all measures affecting each House. I agree also that we are responsible to the people of Australia for seeing that, as regards both Houses, our system of election is a fair one. But when there is a difference of judgment, and when I regard the large majority by which the opposition to plumping has been carried in the Senate, I think we shall be engaged in a fruitless effort, even if it were a wise one, in attempting to insist upon this provision for plumping. I feel that it is of tremendous importance that we should get this Electoral Bill through. It is the most liberal electoral law ever passed in the world, and before this Parliament expires I should like to see this Bill the law of the land. It is not perfect. With many others, I do not like the block-vote system, but I admit, at the same time, that there are evils in the other system, and as we shall expect the Senate to .give way to us in certain very important matters in connexion with this Bill, we should gracefully give way to them in their strongly expressed wish upon this question.
– Where does the elector come in ?
– The elector is injured by the plumping system as well as by the system of block voting, but I believe the system of plumping is worse than the other, and anyone who has been through the .mill in a constituency entitled to two seats must know that.
– Nonentities may fee shoved in by party interest under the block vote.
– That is so, but I think it is our duty to try to get into the Bill . such provisions as will best -secure the opinion of the public being registered without regard to party advantage. I am sorry to think that party advantage has perhaps largely influenced the action upon the provisions -both for block voting and voting by plumping. I should be glad to support a reasonable provision to enable proportional representation to be given effect to in elections for the Senate.
– The Bill, upon its introduction, contained, such a provision, but it was thrown out by the Senate.
– I understand that is so. We must feel our way in these matters, and, personally, I should like very much to see a speedy decision come to in regard to this Bil], because we do not know at what stage we may all be sent to the country. In saying that, of course I speak without authority, and I, of course, speak with greater freedom, having less responsibility.
– The honorable and learned member fears an epidemic.
– I have explained the reasons for which I intend to vote for not insisting upon this amendment. I sincerely hope the committee will ‘ see its way not to persist in an amendment which it is hopeless to carry.
– Looking carefully into the -matter as to whether plumping is as objectionable as some opponents of the system would have us believe, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing in the objection taken. An illustration which I propose to give will convince honorable members that the provision for plumping will not have the effect which it is anticipated. Honorable members are aware that in the case of the Tasmanian elections the State was polled as one constituency, and it was compulsory upon every elector to vote for three candidates. Up to within a very short time before the nominations closed the labour party in Tasmania had put forward only two candidates, Messrs. O’Malley and Whitelaw. But half->an-hour before the nominations closed the labour party sprung a surprise upon the community by nominating a man named Blanchard, who, up to that time, had been unknown in politics or anywhere else, the object being to enable them to throw away their votes. As each elector was compelled to vote for three candidates the party put up this man of straw, and when the poll was declared one of the first two labour candidates had a large majority, and “the other a smaller vote, while Mr. Blanchard received only some 70 No. 1 votes, about the same number of No. 2 votes, and he had something like 3,500 of No. 3 votes. Honorable members will see from that, that if plumping is not allowed all that it is necessary for a party to do is to sacrifice a small sum of money-
– And run a “dead ‘un.”
– And as the honorable member says - “ Run, a dead ‘un.”
– Is- it not an objectionable principle, according to the honorable member’s argument?
– I think I am not called upon to answer that question. I merely desire to point out that whether we have plumping or block voting makes very little difference to the opportunity for party action.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- As pointed out by the leader of the Opposition, one of the first things we have to remember is that we are dealing with a question affecting the other House more than this House. The Senate has asked us to assent to a certain form of voting, and to provide that every elector shall vote for at least three senators. As the matter affects, them more than it affects us, we should give their proposal due weight.
– It affects the electors, as well.
– That is so, but the honorable member must remember that, as the Constitution stands at present, the States are asked to vote as States for the Senate, and we cannot get away from that fact. When honorable members speak of introducing proportional representation for the Senate, they quite overlook the fact that this is the House for which, if for any, proportional representation should have been introduced. I may say that if honorable members desire enlightenment upon the subject, I can refer them to a book written by Mr. Ashworth, of this State, which explains the two systems more concisely than any work which I have previously read. We are asked by the Senate to bring about a certain change in the law as originally proposed. I find that I can hardly say that, because the Government themselves at first suggested this provision and supported it, and then, possibly because of representations made by the honorable member for Bland, they changed their mind. Following their usual practice, Ministers said, “ Yes, Mr. Watson.’
– The honorable and learned member should try something else.
– I wish the Government would try something else, and say “ No, Mr. Watson.”
– Does the honorable and learned member not know that the Government supported this provision in the Senate before the Bill came here at all ?
– If I am asked, I must admit that I do not know -what the Government have supported, as I think they would hardly disgrace the chameleon in the rapidity with which they can change. We are asked here to deal with a matter affecting the Senate, which is an entirely different body from this House, and which, if it represents anything at all, represents the people as States. No one who reads the Constitution can doubt that for a single moment.
– I have heard the honorable and learned member doubt it.
– The honorable member may have heard me suggest a doubt as to whether it is wise that such a provision should be contained in the Constitution, but that is a very different thing. There ought not to be more than two parties in a Parliament^ and if we cannot get that principle recognised in this House, we should try to secure its recognition in the other. The existence of three parties in a House is not a success, and the truth of that statement is illustrated by the work which is done in this Chamber. In some cases the very members who bring about the changes in a measure are not those on whom any responsibility is thrown. If a measure is good, the party by whom it is introduced ought to have the credit of it ; and if a measure is bad, the party by whom it is introduced ought to bear their responsibility. Those results cannot be secured when there are more than two parties in the House, because the blame can be so equally divided. If we accept the proposal of the Senate, the practical result will be that only two parties can be returned to that Chamber.
– The honorable and learned member does not believe in any labour men being returned.
– If the labour men are in a majority, I believe that their candidates should be returned, and that is the very reason why I wish to see the responsibility for legislation cast upon their shoulders if they are equal to the burden ; but if they are not equal to it, let them make way for others. I do not think that the House ought to insist upon its opinion when the Senate, by very large majority - by twenty to nine in the first division, and eighteen to nine in the second one - has affirmed that plumping ought not to be allowed. The opinion of that Chamber is at least entitled to respect here. There is no doubt that if we wish to see the Electoral Bill passed we shall have to give way to the Senate if it adheres to the clause. We might as well give way to the Senate with a good grace at the present time. We must consider the opinion of the Senate whether we like it or not, and the sooner we yield with a good grace the better for the Bill.
Question - That the amendment be insisted on - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment in clause 158 not insisted on.
Clause 174 (Expenses allowed).
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the amendment, omitting the words “ (vii.) Election agents,” to which the Senate has disagreed, be not insisted on.
– On a previous occasion the committee was very emphatic in excising these words from the clause. Every one knows that at a contest election agents involve candidates in large expense and embarrassment. Undoubtedly if one side is not allowed to utilize the services of an election agent the other side can get no advantage therefrom. In the past, election agents have been utilized in the service of wealthy candidates, and if we permit these words to remain, the tendency will be to give wealth a commanding position in securing representation in these Chambers. In going to the poll every man should stand as far as possible in an equal position. No handicap should be imposed on him on the ground of want of funds. Election agents are very often fruitful in abuses, in twisting the law, and in endeavouring to find loop-holes for tricks which, except in politics, most men would regard as unfair. Their whole tendency is bad, and, therefore, I hope the committee will insist upon its original decision in the matter.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I confess that I am rather at a loss to know the principle upon which the Government are proceeding in regard to amendments which they propose to insist upon, and those which they propose not to insist on, unless their plan is to insist on those amendments to which the Senate will not agree, and not to insist upon those which the Senate is exceedingly likely to agree with. Previously this committee took a very definite view in regard to election agents, and there was a clear opinion that it was inadvisable to allow of their payment as an addition to election expenses. But now, without a word of explanation from the Minister as to why we should reverse our previous action, a resolution hasbeen submitted that the amendment be not insisted on. I certainly want to know why we should give up what we decided upon before, as I am still of opinion that what we agreed to was a very wise amendment.
Amendments, omitting clause 197 and inserting clauses1 97a to 197t,not insisted on.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the amendment omitting clause J 98, to which the Senate has disagreed, be not insisted upon.
– Although we have decided against a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and in favour of referring disputes to a court of- disputed returns composed of’ Judges of the Supreme Court, still there is a strong feeling both amongst members of the House of Representatives and of another place that it is desirable to have an amalgamation of both systems. Therefore, I would urge that we should amend the clause we are now dealing with so as to provide that a Judge of the High Court, together with a committee of each House, shall be the Court of Disputed Returns, and shall have ju risdiction either to try election petitions or to refer them for trial to the Supreme Court- of the State in which the election was held or the return made. I therefore suggest -
That the words “The High Court” be omitted’ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “A .Judge of the High Court, together with a committee of each House.”
I may state that the’ system which I suggest already exists in South Australia, and according to the testimony of all the honorable members from that State whom I have been able to consult - both in this Chamber and in the Senate - it has worked admirably. I think, that with a Judge as chairman of a committee composed of - members of Parliament, we should get a body that would be absolutely impartial, and we should also have a tribunal that would pay consideration to the litigants, and see that they were not put to any undue expense. The Judge would be there -to state the law to the committee, and to assist them in rejecting irrelevant or immaterial evidence. I would ask the Minister for Home Affairs, to take this suggestion into account. If he will do so, I believe that it will be gladly accepted in another place. This is the last remaining opportunity of putting, forward the proposal, and if we do not avail ourselves of it, it will not be within the power of the other Chamber to make the required amendment. I think the .Minister himself was in favour of this proposal some time ago. If he was not, I have possibly misread some of his remarks. With a Judge as chairman pf a committee consisting of members from both sides of the House we should have the best tribunal that it is possible to obtain - one possessing, legal knowledge combined with common sense and a knowledge of the world.
– Does the honorable member propose to differentiate between the functions of the Judge in regard to questions of law and of fact 1
– I merely make the suggestion hoping that the Government will, accept it and draft an amendment that will properly cany out my proposal.
– The honorable, member is mistaken in supposing that I was at one time in favour of the provision which he has suggested. It would be unwise to insert such a provision now.
– The honorable gentleman was quite ready to accept it when a division went against him a few weeks ago.
– I was against it altogether. In the general debate it was shown that the practice named had been observed in South Australia. I was opposed to the adoption of that practice, and I hope the honorable member will not press any amendment in connexion with this matter now. I should prefer to leave the clauses as they ‘were when we dealt with them, at such great length upon a prior occasion. I feel that the adoption of the South Australian practice would not lead to any improvement in our present system. Personally I do not object much to an Elections and Qualifications Committee, but as we have decided against such a proposal, I hope the committee will agree to a Court of Disputed Returns practically as provided before. I think the time will come - probably after the next elections - when this provision will have to be eliminated from the measure. If I had held originally the opinion which I now entertain, I should have brought in a separate Bill dealing with this question, just as has been done in some of the States. I should not have complicated the measurewith a provision of this kind ; but as we have gone so far in the matter I hope the clause will be carried.
– I -im satisfied that the adoption of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Coolgardie would give eminent satisfaction. I know of no case tried under the South Australian system which has given rise to any dissatisfaction. I feel assured that another place would agree to the proposal. A large number of honorable senators would prefer it to the provision now contained in the Bill. I was a member of the South Australian committee for a number of years.I think that during that time four cases came before us, and we invariably had the advantage of a Judge’s advice on the points of law. Each House selected its own committee, and there was no case in which our decision did not give entire satisfaction. The system proposed by- the honorable member for Coolgardie would be much less costly than that for which the Bill provides.
– I hope the suggestion made by the honorable member for Coolgardie will not be pressed. I think that the object of creating a court of disputed returns is that we may have a tribunal which can sitin every State of the Commonwealth - wherever a cause of action arises. If. the honorable member’s proposal were carried it would mean that the committee of each House appointed to assist the court in coming to a determination would have to be a migratory body. Under the Bill as it stands, if a cause of action arises in Western Australia, it may be determined by a Judge sitting there. If it arises in Queensland it may be determined by a Judge sitting there at any time ; but if the honorable member’s proposal were carried out it would mean that a certain number of members-at least a quorum - would have to travel to various parts of the Commonwealth in order to attend upon a Judge. It would be unfortunate if that proposal were carried at this stage. In thefirst place, it would detract to a great extent from the value of the court, because it would compel all cases to be heard at the seat of government, and probably at a time when the House was sitting. The court would not be available at any time. It would be preferable not to have a mixed tribunal. I would point out further that the proposal would mean the remodelling of the whole Bill. It would necessitate the insertion of clauses defining the functions of the Judge and the lay members of the tribunal, as well as a number of machinery clauses similar to those in the Statutes of various States. There are many other difficulties, and it would be inopportune at this stage to carry out the honorable member’s suggestion. I think we ought to stand by the Bill as it exists at present.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential amendments omitting clauses 199, 200, 201 not insisted on.
The court of disputed returns shall sit as an open court, and its powers shall include the following : - …
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the amendment omitting clause 202, to which the Senate has disagreed,be not insisted on.
– I understand that the Minister is in favour of limiting the costs which may be awarded by the court to a sum not exceeding £100.
– No. I really think that it would be unwise at the present time to insert a limitation as to costs. A bogus action might be brought against an innocent person, and I think that in such a case the party against whom the petition was lodged should not be deprived of his right to recover costs.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).-I move-
That the clause be amended by the insertion of the words “not exceeding £50” after the word “cost.”
I think it is very proper that a limitation should be placed upon the power of the court to award costs. The establishment of a Court of Disputed Returns in England has caused a large number of electioneering barristers and solicitors to spring into existence. Enormous bills of costs are compiled by electioneering lawyers.Very large fees are marked on their briefs, and it is impossible for a poor man to proceed with a case.
– The honorable and learned member has assisted in setting up the court. Can he not trust it?
– Yes. But when a court dismisses a case it usually adds in a casual way - “With costs.” It does not often know what those costs are likely to be. As to any man of straw being put up, I would point out that it is necessary to lodge only £50 in order to commence proceedings. Clause 200 provides that -
At the time of filing the petition, the petitioner shall deposit with the principal registrar or district registrar (as the case may be) of the High Court the sum of £50 as security for costs a
My proposal is certainly in the interests of the poor man, and I ask the committee to accept it.
– There is an objection to limiting the amount of costs which may be allowed. For example, if a poor man were elected, a wealthy opponent might put him to a lot of expense in proving his election, knowing very well that costs amounting to only £50 would be recoverable against him. That would be a mere bagatelle to him. The person returned might be put to twice or three times that expense, and why should he not be able to recover his taxed costs if he is successful 1 Is it not possible that a man might lodge a petition merely for the sake of aggravating his successful opponent, knowing that it would not involve him in costs exceeding £50, while, perhaps, the sitting member would be put to far greater cost in preparing his case 1 Of course such a case would not happen very often, but still, if it did happen, the successful party should be entitled to recover the costs to which he had been put, and we cannotdo better than allow them to be fixed by taxation. I consider that a man should be entitled to recover his costs, otherwise a premium will be held out to a wealthy organization, or to some wealthy man who does not mind a loss of £50, to put an opponent to a great deal of expense. I think the honorable and learned member for Corio will see that a case such as I have suggested might readily arise. Such a limitation as that proposed by him might be very injurious, for even a member who was not likely to be unseated, would be compelled to go to some expense in preparing his case. If a petitioner is actuated by wrong motives, it is only right that the court should be able to award the full amount of costs against him.
Mr.’ CROUCH (Corio).- It has been suggested that the maximum amount of costs which can be awarded should be fixed at £200. I know very well that that sum would not meet the case. .1 am perfectly aware that to contest some disputed elections in England costs from £2,000 to £2,500. That is the principal objection which can be urged against the establishment of a court and in favour of the appointment of a committee. In Victoria a little while ago, the costs in appeals from courts of petty sessions used frequently to aggregate £70. The State Parliament, however, has since limited the amount to £20, and almost invariably the costs fall below that sum. If the committee wish the Court of Disputed Returns to be respected, I ask them to support the amendment.
– I do not think that there is anything in the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corio. Paragraph (c) of clause 199 allows a petition to be lodged by any person who is qualified to vote at an election. The following clause sets out that £50 shall be deposited by the petitioner as security for costs. But let us suppose that the Bill contained the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corio, and that a wealthy but unsuccessful candidate wished to put the successful candidate to expense. To accomplish his object he would merely have to induce a “ dummy “ to deposit £50 of his own money as security for costs. In the event of failure of petition the person declared elected would not be able to recover more than £50, because the petitioner would probably be a man of straw.
– He could get an order for maintenance.
– But he would ‘first have to prove connivance between the “dummy” and the petitioner. The honorable member’s proposal is absolutely valueless, unless the wealthy candidate who has been unsuccessful is foolish enough to sign his own name to the petition. Moreover, is it not everyday experience that if a man is worth costs they can be recovered against him, but that if he is not it is impossible to recover them ? I should like to see provision made for larger security being given for costs, but the proposal under consideration would not assist in that direction one iota.
– I trust that the amendment will be withdrawn. It appears to me that it is a little inconsistent for those who voted to establish this court to now seek to fetter its operations in every possible way. If a complicated case came before this tribunal does the honorable and learned member for Corio suggest that lawyers could be engaged who would be prepared to see it through for a paltry £50?
– What need is there of the services of lawyers ?
-I think that there will be very great need for their services. I venture to say that it will be almost idle for a layman to contest an election in this court unless he is represented by counsel, and the better his lawyer the better will be his chance of success. That is the reason why I entertain such a strong objection to the establishment of a legal tribunal. I can only foresee the most disastrous consequences from such a limitation as is now proposed.
Consequential amendments, omitting clauses 203 and 204, not insisted on.
Clause 205 (Immaterial errors not to vitiate election).
Motion by (Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the amendment omitting clause 205, to which the Senate has disagreed, be not insisted on.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I wish to ask the Minister if he has considered the extent to which the Court of Disputed Returns has power to declare a seat void upon the ground of bribery or corruption. It seems to me that no specific provision has been made to render a member ineligible to hold his seat for either of those offences. A conviction has to be obtained before a seat can be declared vacant.
– When this Bill was previously under consideration I inquired into that very matter, and I was informed that the court has power to declare a seat vacant for the offences named.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential amendments, omitting clauses 206 to 210 inclusive, not insistedon.
Clause 21 1-
The Justices of the High Court or a majority of them may make rules……
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the amendment omitting clause 211, to which the Senate has disagreed, be not insisted on.
– It appears to me that in connexion with the power conferred by this clause there is a slight omission.Until the High Court is established, no other tribunal is vested with authority to make these rules of court. In my opinion, the Governor-General should be given power to frame these necessary regulations until the establishment of a High Court.
– If there is any doubt about the matter it would be wise to deal with it now.
– Then I move-
That the clause be amended by the insertion after the word “ them “ of the words “ or until the High Court is established the Governor-General.”
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).Under this clause the Judges have power to make rules of court, but there is no provision that such rules shall be laid upon the table of the House. Under the Judiciary Bill, it is provided that every rule of court must be submitted to Parliament, so that, should it be found to contain anything with which the Legislature disagrees, it can be annulled. Here we are delegating very important powers, and I think we should, therefore, provide that rules of court made in pursuance of this provision shall be laid upon the table of the House. I hold that Parliament should retain the same control over the Judges when they are sitting as an election tribunal as it does over them when they are sitting to administer any other branch of the law. This is really a case of delegating legislation, and in all such cases we should retain, as it were, a power of veto, so that control may be exercised where it is considered any injustice is done.
– Has the honorable and learned member an amendment to move ?
– I move -
That the clause be further amended by the addition of the following words: - “Every rule of court made in pursuance of this section shall be laid before the Senate and the House of Representatives within 40 days next after it is made, if the Parliamentis then sitting, or if the Parliament is not then sitting, then within40 days after the next meeting of the Parliament ; and it an address is presented to the Governor-General by either House of the Parliament within the next subsequent 40 sitting days of the House, praying that any such rule may he annulled, the Governor-General may thereupon annul the same ; and the rule so annulled shall thenceforth become void and of no effect, but without-prejudice to the validity of any proceedings which have in the meantime been taken under it.”
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia). - I draw the honorable and learned member’s attention to clause 215 and ask whether it would not be better to make in this clause the same provision as is made there in regard to regulations ?
– In that case there is no power to annul.
– No doubt, but I would scarcely go the length of allowing Parliament to annul the decisions of the court.
– A similar provision is in the Judiciary Bill.
– We have not yet seen the provisions for procedure under the Judiciary Bill. Usually these rules are not subject to control.
– They are in England.
– In some States they are not subject to the control of Parliament; but I agree with the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment inserting new clause 213a not insisted on.
Amendments in Form M, Form Q, and Form R insisted on.
Amendment omitting clause 182, to which the Senate had disagreed, passing the clause in an amended form, insisted on.
Clause 146 -
If the name under which the person claims to vote is upon the list of voters for the polling place, or if he delivers to the presiding officer a voters certificate……. the presiding officer or a poll clerk shall hand to him a ballot-paper duly initialed…….
– The House of Representatives omitted the words “ he delivers to the presiding officer a voter’s certificate,” and inserted “his name is on the roll for the division, and he makes and signs a declaration as required by section 140a.” The Senate disagreed to the insertion of the words just quoted, and made a consequential amendment by adding the following proviso to the clause : -
Provided that the fact that an elector’s name is not on thelist of voters for the polling place shall not prevent him from voting incases where provision is made by regulation allowing electors to vote at polling places other than the polling places for which they are enrolled.
I move -
That the amendment be not insisted on, and that the proviso be amended by adding, after the word “enrolled,” the words “subject to section 140a.”
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
In Committee :
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to make temporary provision for enforcing claims against the Commonwealth.
– I wish to know if the Attorney-General intends to go beyond what appears to be the scope of the proposed Bill ? I understand that the Bill which he is about to introduce merely gives power to sue the Commonwealth in the States Courts pending the establishment of the High Court. When the Post and Telegraph Bill was under discussion I several times pointed out that it contained no provision giving a right of action against the Commonwealth, and Ihave on other occasions drawn attention to the fact that there are no tribunals which have express jurisdiction in regard to cases, whether against the Grown or between private citizens, arising under Commonwealth Acts. The Attorney-General told me, when we were dealing with the Post and Telegraph Bill that, although no specific jurisdiction was given to the State Courts, he thought that those tribunals would deal with cases arising under the Act ; but in Sydney the other day, a man who wished to sue the Commonwealth to recover £500 damages, failed, first, because it was held that no right of action against the Commonwealth had been conferred upon private citizens, and, secondly, because the Court refused to exercise jurisdiction in the case.
– That was the opinion of only one Judge.
– It was stated at the time that it was not likely that the Ministry would allow injustice to be done, and, perhaps, the Attorney-General can tell us what is to be done in that case. Will they make special provision for meeting the claims of the individual whose case has been defeated because of their negligence ? Why should they not bring in a Bill at once to allow the State courts to deal, not only with litigationbetween citizens of the Commonwealth, but to try all causes of action which may arise under the Constitution or any Commonwealth enactment, until such time as the High Court is established ?
– Would the honorable and learned member allow the State courts to issue all sorts of writs ?
– Yes. The Constitution provides that Parliament may confer such powers on the State courts. In that respect it differs from the American Constitution. It provides that every tittle of federal jurisdiction, whetherin connexion with a mandamus against the Crown, or an injunction, or anything else, may be vested in the Supreme Courts of the States as well as in the High Court. There is no jurisdiction which may be conferred upon the High Court which we have not power to’ confer upon the Supreme Courts of the States. What justification, then, is there for the timidity of the Ministry about allowing the Supreme Courts of the States to deal with all matters of litigation arising under the Constitution or under Commonwealth enactments until the establishment of the High Court? I cannot see why we should not trust the Supreme Courts of the States. It may be contended that it is undesirable to allow cases between State and State to be decided by the Supreme Court of any one State. But such cases will notoccur once in 50 years. Practically all the litigation that will arise will be between citizens. Why should not a claim against the Minister for Trade and Customs be entertained by the Supreme Court of a State?
– They are now.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs is probably the only Commonwealth officer against whom a citizen could obtain an injunction. I think that under the Constitution a citizen has a right of action against the Commonwealth when it retains his property, although no such right is expressly conferred by it. I cannot, however, see any reason for denying justice to the citizens of the Commonwealth until the establishment of the High Court. We are protected against the possibility of clashing decisions by the right of appeal to the Privy Council. Ought we to be afraid of the exercise by the people of the right of appeal to such an august tribunal as that ? In the Convention I voted for the abolition of the right of appeal to the Privy Council, but I am not so prejudiced in the matter as to contend, now that the Constitution allows the right, that citizens should not be permitted to exercise it. It is absurd for the Ministry to deny justice to the citizens of the Commonwealth by their practical refusal to confer federal jurisdiction on the Supreme Courts of the States. We ought at once to pass a Bill of three or four clauses, providing that in all casesarisingunder the Constitution, or any Acts passed by this Parliament, jurisdiction may be exercised by the Supreme Courts of the States.
– Is not that what is proposed to be done?
– No. The Bill about to be introduced is simply a measure to cover the denial of justice which occurred the other day in Sydney. Personally, I think that the Supreme Courts can entertain such actions. It seems to me that jurisdiction exists in every court of the realm as a matter of common law, and consequently in the Supreme Courts of the States; but we should not leave the matter in doubt. I hope that the Attorney-General will introduce a short Bill to enable all matters of original jurisdiction - not of appellate jurisdiction - to be decided by the Supreme Courts of the States. During the sittings of the Convention, I tried to get this right of action embedded in the Constitution, but, unfortunately, all that the Constitution provides is that Parliament may pass laws giving a right of action against the Commonwealth. The Attorney-General should allow every single point of litigation against the Commonwealth or between private individuals under the Constitution, or under Commonwealth Acts, to be within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Courts of the States until the High Court is established. At the present time people are under the impression that nothing can be done until the High Court is established, but there is nothing to prevent the vesting of the necessary jurisdiction in the Supreme Courts of the States. It is a pity that this has not already been done. It was the manifest desire of the members of the Convention that it should be done.
– I thoroughly indorse the remarks of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and I trust that the Government will see its way to introduce a Bill conferring jurisdiction in all cases arising under Commonwealth laws upon the Supreme Courts of the States. Section 71 of the Constitution says that -
The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia, and in such other federal courts as the Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction.
Clearly that section empowers us to confer jurisdiction upon the Supreme Courts of the States, and under the Customs Act we allow actions to be brought by the Commonwealth in the police courts. Sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution deal with the original jurisdiction and additional
Original jurisdiction of the High Court, and in section 77 it is provided : -
With respect to any of the matters mentioned in the last two sections, the Parliament may make laws (I.) Denning the jurisdiction of any federal court other than the High Court : (H.) Defining the extent to which the jurisdiction of any federal court shall be exclusive of that which belongs to or is vested in the courts of the States : (HI.) Investing any court of a State with federal jurisdiction.
– Perhaps the Bill is intended to do that.
– No. The AttorneyGeneral has told us that he does not propose to give this power to the States courts. But it must be remembered that no new body of citizens was created by the establishment of federation. The citizens of the Commonwealth are the same people as the citizens of the States. If we do not invest the States courts with jurisdiction in regard to cases which will perpetually arise, we shall have to establish not only an appellate High Court, but federal courts exercising jurisdiction similar to that exercised by district courts, and instead of providing appointments for four or five lawyers, we shall have to create positions of one kind and another for 400 or 500 persons, because we shall require federal district courts, circuit courts, and an appellate court. If we do that, there will be an outcry on the part of the people. The remedy against such extravagance is to invest the States courts with jurisdiction. The Ministry seem to welcome the opportunity to show that difficulties now exist in the way of citizens proceeding against the Commonwealth, in order to strengthen the case for the establishment of a Federal High Court, but the existence of these difficulties really strengthens the case for the investment of the State courts with federal jurisdiction. If necessary we’ can afterwards create a federal appellate court, but there is already in existence the Privy Council, to which appeal can be made where there is dissatisfaction with the judgments of the Supreme Courts. I shall strongly oppose the creation of a large number of legal offices. In my opinion, if the States courts are not invested with federal jurisdiction, the Commonwealth will be involved in an expenditure of £150,000 or £250,000 a year for the maintenance of federal courts. I do not think that that would be right. In America there are federal, district, and ‘ circuit courts, as well as a Federal High. Court, and if we do not invest the State courts with federal jurisdiction, we must establish similar courts here. If we were dealing with an entirely different body of citizens we might establish such courts for them, but every citizen of the Commonwealth is a citizen of some one of theStates.
– This is a bogy of the honorable and learned member’s own creation.
– I assure the honorable member it is not. In this particular caseof Hannah against Drake, the facts were these :. A cabman was standing in Elizabethstreet with his horse and cab, and while repairs were being effected to one of the telegraph lines, the wire was cut and fell across, an electric wire, and also on to the cabhorse. An electrical connexion was established, the horse was struck dead, and the cabman was thrown off his cab and seriously injured, and he has no remedy whatever.
– This Bill is intended to give him a remedy.
– Does not the honorable member see that hundreds of other cases may arise in a hundred other forms 1 I asked the Attorney-General whether it was intended to invest the State courts with federal jurisdiction, and he said “ No.”
– I said no such thing.
– Then I shall ask the honorable gentleman directly whether it is his intention to pass a Bill to confer federal jurisdiction upon the State courts.
– So far as providing remedies against the Crown is concerned, yes.
– The honorable gentleman proposes, the Bill for one purpose only.
– Could not the honorable and learned member deal with this upon the second reading of the Bill ?
– It might be dealt with upon the second reading of the Bill, but the difficulty then may be that we shall not be able to amend the Bill in the direction desired. I can assurehonorable members that,, unless we confer federal jurisdiction upon the State courts, this Bill will mean largely increased expense to the people of Australia, and it will mean the appointment to offices of a great many lawyers. At the time the Constitution, was framed the members of the Convention saw’ the difficulty, and that is borne out by the fact that section 71 of the Constitution enables Parliament to invest the ‘State courts with jurisdiction, and it is therefore clear that we have an easy way out of the difficulty. I remember also that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, Sir John Quick, in his work upon the Commonwealth Constitution, pointed outthat probably for the first two or three years it would be found advantageous for the Commonwealth to confer this jurisdiction upon the State courts, in view, first of the saving of expense, and also in view of the experience which will be gained ; two very sound reasons for adopting the course suggested. I would ask the Attorney-General to adopt the suggestion, and confer federal jurisdiction upon the State courts for at least the next six months. By the time Parliament next meets we should know whether the arrangement works well or ill, and if it has been found to workbadly we can alter it. Ministers in this Bill propose to deal with one case instead of grasping the matter as a whole.. I ask every member of the committee interested in keeping down the expenses of the Government to press upon Ministers the course suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo and other members of this House.
– I desire to take up the declarations of the honorable and learned member forWerriwa. In the first place, if we appoint three Federal Judges and then vest the Supreme State Courts with jurisdiction, we can save all the expense the honorable and learned member has talked about.
– There is no such proposal in this Bill. It does not appoint any Judges, and it does not involve any such expense.
– Then what was our honorable and learned friend talking about ?
– I do not know.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee :
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act relating to the allowances to members of each House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
– Is this a Bill to provide an allowance for our hard work during the last two years?
– If the honorable member will give me a chance, I shall let him know the object of the Bill.
– I should like the Minister to explain its purpose so that I may know what I am doing, because I am nearly in the Destitute Asylum.
– The Bill is being introduced to get over a difficulty which occurred in the Senate regarding a clause in the Electoral Bill the object of which was to allow senators and members of the House of Representatives to claim their allowance from the date of their election, instead of from the date of their being sworn in. The clause was inserted in the Electoral Bill in this House, but an objection was taken in the Senate to its insertion on the ground that it was not covered by the message from the GovernorGeneral, and therefore it was disagreed to. In a short Bill I have embodied the provision, which could not be carried through the Senate in the other Bill.
Mr. O’MALLEY (Tasmania).- The explanation of the Minister has taken the heart out of me. I supposed that the Bill meant something. It should have been called a Continuation Salary Bill, not a Parliamentary Allowances Bill. We have all been expecting during the day that there was some hope of our getting £200 more per year, so that we could keep out of the Destitute Asylum, and now the Minister has disappointed all of us.
– I understand from the Minister for Home Affairs that the Bill consists of a few clauses, to cover a provision which would have been retained in the Electoral Bill if it had been thought by the Senate that the Constitution permitted the thing to be done in that way. It was urged in that Chamber that the provision exceeded the order of leave.
– We ought to have a little more information about the measure before it is introduced. I understand from the Minister for Home Affairs that its object is to allow the members of the two Houses to draw their remuneration from the date of election, instead of from the date of being sworn in.
– From the day on which a member’s name is certified by the Governor of a State to the GovernorGeneral.
– Does that mean that the Parliament is to last for three years from the date of election, or three years from the date of members being sworn in ? If it is to last for three years from the latter date, the members may draw their salaries for considerably over three years in one Parliament. I think we are entitled to know what the Bill provides for.
– I thought that I had made the object of the Bill plain to honorable members. It contains the following provision : -
The allowance to each senator under section 48 of the Constitution shall be reckoned -
The allowance to each member of the House of Representatives under section 48 of the Constitution shall be reckoned from the day of his election .
– Will it be possible for an honorable member to dra w hisallowance for more than three years?
– I do not think so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported.and adopted.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move, with concurrence -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I read the whole of the Bill to honorable members just now. I think it is clearly understood what it provides for. The question was debated when the clause, which is practically the same as this Bill, wasin serted in the Electoral Billbefore itwas returned to the Senate. The provision has been embodied in a separate measure simply because it was considered in the Senate that it was outside the order of leave of the Electoral Bill, and therefore could not be passed in that way, and desiring to carry out the alteration in the way I am doing now I have introduced this Bill hurriedly at the last moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reada second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I think that we should not hurry on the passage of a Bill which increases the expenditure of the Commonwealth, without a little consideration. Very often an important principle involving a considerable expenditure of public money is introduced in a Bill in the same way as this provision was inserted in the Electoral Bill, and many persons may not observe its effect. Certainly the effect of this Bill will be to largely increase the public expenditure, by making the remuneration of members extend over morethan three years. The duration of a Parliament may be three years and two or three months, but at the present time a member can draw remuneration foronly three years.
– That could not be, because the Constitution Act provides that a Parliament cannot last for more than three years.
– It provides that a Parliament may last for three years from the time when the members are sworn in. On one occasion I was elected for five months before the State Parliament met and the members were sworn in, but we did not draw any allowance for that period. It is notdesirable to rush these mattersthrough the Chamber. A little time for reflection should be taken before we increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Gippsland was present when the clause was introduced into the Electoral Bill, but it was discussed here from various stand-points, for a considerable time. I should not have introduced the Bill in the way in which I have done to-night, except to get over a technical difficulty which has arisen. Otherwise the Senate was agreeable to the provision, while this House was practically unanimous in favour of its enactment in the Electoral Bill. It is not a new question which is being introduced. It was thrashed out in the Senate, and approved of ; but a technical objection was taken to the insertion of the clause in the Electoral Bill on the ground that it was outside the order of leave.
– Surely there cannot be any necessity to rush the Bill through all its stages now t
– We have not very much time in which to deal with this question. If it were a serious matter, I should defer to the wish of the honorable member.
– So far as expense is concerned, it is more serious than the Minister seems to imply.
– I disagree with the honorable member on the question of expenditure. If honorable members are elected to their seats for three years and one month, or three months, they ought to be paid. On one occasion the honorable member was acting as a member of the State Parliament for five months before he could be sworn in, and he was not paid. I think that he ought to have been paid. It is rather hard on any honorable members not to be paid in such circumstances. The members for Western Australia might not be able to attend the first session of a Parliament, and if they did not, as was the case in one instance last year, they could not draw their allowance for some months.
– Not until they begin to discharge their duties.
– One or two’ cases have occurred of honorable members being unable to be sworn in. In one instance,, owing to illness, an honorable member could not draw his allowance for some considerable time after ‘he was elected. In another instance, a representative of. Western Australia did not -happen to be in Melbourne when the session was opened, and he. could not draw .his allowance for a month or six weeks, until the House met again after the celebrations had been concluded. The right honorable and learned member for East Sydney-was in that position, and he did not ‘take his allowance at all in consequence of the provision in the Constitution Act. These are the cases which caused me to consider this question, and.’ to fix a date when .a claim could be made. That date should be the date when .a candidate knows he is .elected. I really think that there is not much .ground for objecting to the passage of the Bill.
– Every new move we make, is in the way of creating additional expense.
– I like to be as economical as possible, but I do not join in the great outcry that everything is going to the dogs because members of Parliament are paid. I never did believe in that cry. There are more legitimate ways of reducing expenditure than by decreasing the allowance of those who work very hard. I do not wish the honorable member for Gippsland1 to think that I want to rush the measure through the Chamber. If it is the pleasure of the committee that more time for its consideration should be allowed, I am willing to defer to their wish ; but, at the same time, I do not see the possibility of any harm being done by passing the Bill after the long discussion we had on the question.
– I think it would be decent to take the usual time to consider the Bill.
– Our time is getting short.
– We are dealing with a measure which affects ourselves, and, therefore, it would be better to take more time.
– That is straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. The provision has been discussed twice, and approved of almost unanimously by both Houses. Surely, there can be no exception taken to the passage of the Bill under those circumstances.
– The Bill simply puts private members on a dead level with Ministers. In the olden times, after an election the Ministry called Parliament together so that honorable members could draw their allowances ; but if a man was unfortunate enough to be elected and not to be sworn in before the close of a session, he had to wait six or seven months - as Mr. Williams had to do at St. Kilda, and Dr. Salmon at Talbot and Avoca.
– We have had two or three cases of that kind in New South Wales.
– For two or three months before I came to Melbourne I was trotting up and down for my constituents and outsiders. I had to knock about here and there.
– That is not the work which we were elected to do.
– The whole idea of honorable member is to put on the screw, so that a man of ability will not stand for a seat in Parliament. Because he is offered a starvation wage, he will prefer to stay outside, where he can make more in an hour than he could do here in a year. That is what it is coming to. The honorable member wishes to have a House full of imbeciles.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understood that the question of the federal capital sites was to be determined to-night. The Acting Prime Minister told us that it was to be so, and that he was anxious that the Minister for Home Affairs should bring on the question when we had disposed of the Bills which have just been dealt with.
– That was so, but it was not expected that the discussion of those Bills would continue until ten o’clock. The matter could not be disposed of tonight. I happen to know that two or three amendments will be moved which will involve considerable discussion. I shall probably take three-quarters of an hour myself.
– When are we to have the matter dealt with?
– We shall deal with it as soon as we can possibly find time for it.
-That is a statement that we have often heard from the Minister. He is trifling with the question. We cannot get to know anything definite about it. I am surprised that honorable members on my own side of the House do not insist upon its being dealt with.
– I understood that the matter of the selection of the capital sites was to be brought on to-night. We were promised last night that it would be dealt with.
– It is not quite fair to ask me to bring the matter on at ten o’clock at night.
– Last night we were promised that everything would be done to try to bring the session to a close at the earliest possible moment, even to the extent of sitting late and early, and on extra days in the week. But to-night we are asked to adjourn at three minutes past ten, whilst last night we adjourned at nine o’clock. I certainly think that the Minister for Home Affairsmight have made his speech introducing the motion. Now his speech will take up the best part of an afternoon.
– I am not a longwinded speaker.
– The honorable gentleman said he would take three-quarters of an hour. If he delivered his speech tonight, honorable members would have time to catch their last trams and trains. There has been no honest and legitimate attempt to bring the session to a close, but, on the contrary, there has been a considerable waste of time ever since the session started. I enter my protest against the adjournment. To-morrow we must take the Budget debate, as special arrangements have been made for it, so that the matter of the federal capital will have to be postponed indefinitely.
– I agree with the previous speakers that it is time that the matter of the selection of the capital sites was given some precedence of other business. Everything else seems to be taken in front of it. It is important, as has been pointed out, that the subject should be dealt with, so that the initial steps and the necessary inquiries may not be improperly rushed. I do not know whether the Government are going to allow it to stand over until the Estimates have been dealt with. Ifso,we shall be curtailing the time necessary for proper inquiry, and there must be one of two results. Either the information will not be available in time, or will not be based upon a sufficiently close inquiry. I desire also to ask the Minister for Home Affairs for some explanation of the answers given to-day to certain questions of mine regarding the use of the waters of rivers, and thepossible interference with their navigation. In answer to my first question -
Whether in the preservation of navigation it is not the right and the duty of the Commonwealth to inquire into and approve or oppose, as inquiry may justify, State enterprises for the storage or abstraction of the waters of navigable rivers or their affluents?
The Minister said -
I believe it is the constitutional right, and if the navigability was to be interfered with it is the duty.
Then he says in the second answer that -
There is no necessity for inquiry unless it is apparent that the effect in No. 1 question will be produced.
That effect is an interference with navigation. How can it be apparent that there is such an effect unless an inquiry takes place 1
– If the honorable member will read further, he will see that there is an answer, which says that if the works are carried out and the navigation is to be interfered with, the diversion of the water can be stopped.
– Until an inquiry has been made it cannot be apparent that there is any interference. But surely the inquiry should be made before the construction of the works takes place.
– Why ? If a State likes to do the work and take the risk, there is no harm if that State can be stopped when it is done.
– After all the expenditure to the State?
– That is the State’s look-out.
– Is it just to a State that it should be induced to incur expenditure without any question being raised, and that then, after extensive works have been constructed and people have been induced to take up land in anticipation of the use of the water from these works, the Commonwealth should step in and say - “ You have exceeded your rights, and your works must be abandoned “ ? That surely is not a reasonable nor a sensible procedure. At any rate, if inquiry cannot take place within sufficient time, should not a caution be given and steps taken to indicate to the States that any exceeding of the State rights or interference with navigation will subsequently have to be stopped by the Commonwealth ? The Minister says that the Commonwealth can after the construction of the works prevent the water being taken. Even for the sake of amicable relations with the States it is necessary that if we do inquire we should inquire at the time when least harm can be done. Then, as to my last question -
Whether he will see that the necessary steps are taken to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth and of each of the States concerned ?
The Minister said -
Only as far as navigation is concerned.
Well, that does not answer the question. It does not state distinctly that any such steps will be token in connexion with the particular project which has been mentioned. It merely indicates that steps are only takable as far as navigation is concerned. This is a matter of interest to several of the States. I do not wish to interfere either with the State that proposes the scheme or any other State, but I do desire that the Minister should be seized of the importance of acting in any matter that has been consigned to the care of the Commonwealth - of acting wisely, promptly, and in such times that unnecessary expenditure will not have been incurred, by a Stale under the idea that the silence of the Commonwealth means consent. I also want to know whether the Minister will give an indication of what he is prepared to do before a State is committed to a scheme that must draw heavily upon the water of one of the principal Inter-State rivers ?
– In reference to the discussion about the capital site, as the matter stands now the Minister for Home. Affairs has put a motion upon the business-paper, and has intimated to the House that he will move it when convenient. We want to have some definite time fixed when the motion will be moved. I waited to-night, at considerable inconvenience to myself, because I understood that the Minister intended to introduce the question. I do not find fault with the Government in their conduct of business, but in a matter of this sort, especially when the Government knew that I intended to propose an amendment, I think that I and others are entitled to know the definite date when the matter will be brought forward. It will be very disgusting, if I may use that “expression, to find the subject suddenly sprung upon the House at a late hour. I should feel aggrieved if it came up when I was not present and did not anticipate it. The Minister should indicate when he intends to bring the subject forward.
– I feel exceedingly dissatisfied with the reply made by the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to the matter of the capital sites. I stayed here to-night purposely, because I was led to believe that a distinct promise had been given by the Acting Prime Minister that the matter would be definitely dealt’ with to-night. What is the position? To-morrow the debate on the Budget will be resumed, and subsequently the Estimates will be considered. Then the motion for the appointment of a committee of experts will be dealt with. The Minister for Home Affairs will possibly require a week or two to consider what selection should be made, the House will be prorogued, and the appointment of the committee will be entirely in the Minister’s hands.
– Does the honorable and learned member suppose thatthe House is going to appoint the committee ?
– No ; but I think we should have an opportunity of saying whether or not we approve of the personnel of the committee. I should not like to say that the matter has been deliberately postponed by the Minister for Home Affairs, but it appears to me that some pressure is being brought to bear upon him in order to delay the settlement of the question as long as possible. We see day after day in the daily press articles relating to the federal capital. Proposalsare made that we should meet alternately in Melbourne and Sydney, and it is asserted that there is no necessity for the expenditure of large sums of money in establishing thefederal capital in the bush of New South Wales. A distinct compact wasentered into with New South Wales that upon theestablishment of federation the capital would be fixed in that State without delay, and honorable members from New South Wales are entitled to see that that promise is carried out as soon as possible. It appears to me that the representatives of New South Wales in theGovernmentaremaking a distinct breach of faith with the people of that State so far as this business is concerned.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie.).I regret that the Acting Prime Minister should have interjected a few minutesago that the responsibility for the delay rests with certain honorable members on this side of the House who have been stonewalling. There is no justification for that charge. Honorable membersknow that the greater part of the evening has been devoted to the consideration of the amendments in the Electoral Bill, and not even the Minister for Home Affairs can complain that time has been unduly wasted in dealing with that measure.
– I do not complain.
– But the Acting Prime Minister has charged this side of the House with the responsibility for the delay in bringing on the motion. I say there is no justification for the charge of “ stone-walling.”
– There is every justification for it.
– If any stonewalling had been indulged in surely I would have known of it. I know of no such tactics. Honorable members have a right to debate any question which comes up, and I have yet to learn that because they think fit to discuss a question with a view of eliciting certain information, they are to be accused of stone-walling, and of blocking the progress of business. The question of the selection of the federal capital site is a most important matter. The understanding was, that the motion relating to it should be dealt with as soon as possible, and I am much dissatisfied with the delay that has taken place. Some months ago the Minister for Home Affairs arranged for honorable members to visit the various sites.
– Why deal at this stage with the whole question ?
– It is a very important matter.
– The honorable member wishes to make a little political capital out of itin Sydney.
– Thehonorable member cannot saythat I have endeavoured to harass the Government in this matter. I have adopted a very moderate stand in regard to it. I have visited the various sites, and I regret that, after the inspection by honorable members, arrangements were notmade for the experts to get to work as earlyaspossible. I should not have risen but for the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister that honorable members of the Opposition are responsible for the failure of the Government to proceed with the motion to-night. I defy any one to say that anystone- walling has taken place.
– Did not the honorable member hear the remarks made by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa ?
– The honorable and learned member has a perfect right to address the House.
– He simply took up the time of the House.
– If the honorable and learned member had transgressed the rules of debate he would nothave been allowed to discuss the matter at any great length. I regret that the Minister for Home Affairs cannot see fit to proceed tonight with the motion relating to the appointment of a committee of experts. I came to-day from New South Wales because I understood that it was intended to proceed with the matter this evening, and . I entertained that belief until halfanhour ago. I hope that the Government will fix a date upon which the matter will be brought forward, and that notice will be given. I fear there will be further delay, because to-morrow we enter upon the Budget debate.
– What is the use of talking about all these matters ?
– I wish to refer to them because it is my desire that the compact entered into between the people of New South Wales and the rest of Australia shall be carried out.
– The honorable member for New England has blocked the settlement of the question.
– The motion would have been brought on to-night but for the honorable and learned member for Werriwa.
– I do not want to go into the merits of the question, butin view of thefact that wehave been in session for nearly eighteen months and that very little progress has been made, notwithstanding that the people of New South Wales have been promised time after time that it will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible, we have very strong reasons f or complaining, andfor askingthe Government to take some steps to place the matter upon a business footing. The question of the appointment of a committee of experts should be dealt with during the nextfew days. I do not knowwhen the Minister proposes to go on with it.
– The honorable member is stopping us frommaking a statement on the subject.
– It is a great pity that we do not do a little more stopping.
– Thehonorable member has done allhe could in that direction.
– I have not. Where is the evidence that the question has ever been seriously submitted to us? If the Minister for Home Affairs will tell me that he is prepared to fix a date upon which the motion will be set down for discussion I will resumemy seat.
– The honorable member ismaking a mountain out of a molehill. If he resumes his seat I will tell him when we propose to proceed with the motion.
– I shall be pleased to allow the honorable member to make that statement.
– The section in the Constitution providing that the capital shall be in New South Wales was drawn up more than three years ago; the Federal Ministry have been in office for 21 months, and although they have been aware from thefirst of the existence ofthat section, they have done nothing to give effect to it. The matter has been delayed by the action of the pretended representatives of New South Wales who help the Government from time to time.
– Who are they ?
– The honorable member is one. He sits behind them all through, and although he talks about being infavour of a certain course, he supports the Government when we try to displace them.
– The honorable member is “ talking down his neck.”
– If I could talk into the honorable member’s ears with any hope of reaching his brains it would be a good thing. I can only say that the honorable member and others like him who join in keeping the present Government in power have delayed the settlement of this question. All the protectionist members from New South Wales seem to have an animus against that State because it has belied their predictions,and appear to consider that the best thing they can do for afree-trade State is to try and deprive it of as much as possible. What have we even in the motion to be submitted ? ‘Does it propose that the sites already investigated by the commissioner appointed by the Government of New South Wales shall be dealt with by a boardof experts? No. At least one important site has been omitted. Lake George is included in the listpro- posed to be dealt with, but I understood that the sites immediately connected with it, such as Goulburn and Yass, would have been included. Unless there is an alteration in the Constitution, the federal capital must be on the main line, between the two great cities of Australia. It must be in the readiest place of communication, wherever that may be. What we want to know is when shall we have an opportunity of discussing the motion. If the Minister is prepared to make a statement on that point I will sit down.
– I regret that so much heat should be imported into a question of this kind.. I did not accuse the Opposition of stone-walling the Electoral Bill j but I must say there was a good deal of talk on that measure. What the Acting Prime Minister had in his mind, I think, was not the Electoral Bill, but the business which immediately followed it.
– Hear, hear !
– I have had by me all the evening the papers connected with the motion for the appointment of a committee pf experts.
– And honorable members saw the Minister bring the papers in, and they talked the matter out.
– Asa point of order, has the Acting Prime Minister any right to make a statement to the effect that members of the Opposition saw the Minister for Home Affairs bring the papers in, and that they then talked the matter out.’ None of us know what papers were brought into the Chamber.
– There is no point of order in what the honorable member for Macquarie has raised, unless he feels that the words of the Acting Prime Minister reflect upon him personally.
– I regard the words of the Acting Prime Minister as a personal reflection. “Mr. SPEAKER.- If that is the feeling of the honorable member, I must ask the Acting Prime Minister to withdraw the words.
– I withdraw the words as applying to the honorable member, but my statement is absolutely true.
– Then I ask to whom the Acting Prime Minister did refer ?
– The Acting Prime Minister says that his statements had no reference to the honorable member for Macquarie, and the withdrawal must be accepted.
– When interrupted I was stating that I brought the papers with me this evening. I do not know whether any honorable member saw that I had the papers, but it was agreed between the Acting Prime Minister and myself, when it was thought that the Electoral Bill would be dealt with by 9 o’clock, that I should proceed with the motion to-night. I did take exception to going on with the matter at so late an hour, because I felt that little was to be gained We all know that the debate must take up one day or, at any rate, nearly a day, and it would have been a waste of time to commence to-night after nine o’clock. However, in deference to the wishes of the Acting Prime Minister, I was prepared to go on with my speech, which in any case will not be a long one. When I first initiated the idea of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives visiting the proposed federal sites, I was met with a storm of opposition from that section of the press which represents the gentlemen who now sit opposite the Government. I am now speaking of the Sydney press, which did everything possible by means of ridicule to break down my proposal. That opposition has continued ever since, but as my colleagues know, I am determined to break down the antagonism of those who wish to get the matter into their own hands or delay it indefinitely.
– What about the Melbourne press 1
– I say nothing about the Melbourne press ; I am now speaking of those who complain that there has been undue delay.
– Does the Minister accuse the Opposition of causing delay ?
– Yes. I refuse to be bullied by honorable members opposite, or to allow misstatements about my actions to be made in the press of New South Wales. I have been, as others have not been, true to New South Wales, but I do not talk loudly of what I wish to do. I did not wish to speak with so much heat, but I feel that 1 have been unfairly dealt with by honorable members opposite. I intend to consult the Acting Prime Minister, and I am sure that he and my other honorable colleagues will agree to deal with this motion immediately after the general debate on the Estimates, and before we enter into the lengthy detailed discussion of the items. I hope honorable members are satisfied that I am doing my best to carry this matter through. In reply to the question raised by the honorable member for North Sydney, I have to say that - 1 gave- my replies to-day with as much detail as- was possible. The honorable member knows perfectly well that in dealing with the question of the river waters of Australia, the Commonwealth has powers only so far as navagation is concerned. If the Government were to do as the honorable member suggests, and- caution either the State of Victoria or the State of New South Wales not to interfere with the waters of the Murray, or of any of the rivers, I am afraid that we should get a nice snub; and I refuse to put myself in that position. That is the reason I referred in the language which I did to the very delicate questions asked to-day ; I desired not to say one word that could be construed as dictating to any State. I know the question has been’ raised as to the filling of the Waranga basin with waters diverted from the Murray, but these works are undertaken by the State, and the State must take the responsibility. It must be remembered, however, that works to the extent of £200,000 a year are being proposed in New South Wales, and if a caution were given ‘to Victoria, the. Government would be called on to extend that caution to New South Wales. Under the circumstances, I refuse to put myself in the position of being told by a State Government to mind my own business.
– What about other States which are just as much interested ?
– I am only referring to the two States in which it is proposed to spend a large sum of money in diverting the waters of the Murray or its tributaries.
– And which works may deprive other States of water.
– That is where the necessity arises for the replies I gave to-day. If it be shown that the work done seriously interferes with the navigation of the river, then the Commonwealth will have power to act without asking either of the States. But until one or other of the States, or, indeed, all the States, ask the Commonwealth to deal with conservation, irrigation, and diversion of, as well as with navigation, we have no power under the Constitution.
– But there is need for inquiry to ascertain whether these works will interfere with navigation.
– Inquiry cannot tell us that until after the work is done. A Royal commission is inquiring into the matter now, and one of- the main portions of its report will relate to the storing of water at various reaches from Albury upwards. If that be done, the water taken by the States of Victoria and New South Wales will not affect navigation in the slightest degree, but if the river is tapped I have no doubt there will be interference. We have to take the whole question into consideration, and it will be quite time to deal with the matter when we have the report of the commission.
– Does the Minister not think it would be fair to ask the Statesto’ hold their hand while the commission is sitting?
– This is a. delicate matter. “We know how jealous the States are of interference’ by the Federal -Government or by the Federal Parliament, and for that reason I do not desire to make any statement as to what I think the States should do.
– Does the Minister not think that the Federal Parliament ought to express- an opinion on the matter ?
– I question very much whether the Federal Parliament ought to express an opinion, because it would not be a very pleasant thing for us to be told to mind our own business. I have thought this question out, and I, myself, wrote the answers which I gave to the honorable member for North Sydney. Even if the works’ are -carried out, and the effect- is as the honorable member for North Sydney, or as the representatives of South Australia may fear, then the Federal Parliament can step in and prevent this water from being taken, until such time as reservoirs are provided to’ keep the stream up to navigation level. This question would not have been so difficult hod this House agreed to pass an InterState Commission Bill this session. I met objections by altering that Bill, and I feel that the opposition to it was unreasonable. -Had the measure been passed, we should have had a body to deal with the very important questions which are now raised, whereas in the absence of such, legislation, we are helpless. We should have great trouble under the Constitution, without on Inter-State Commission Act, in providing machinery to deal with the question as the honorable member for North Sydney wishes.
I must apologize for taking up so much timeat this hour, but this is a very important question, and the position of the honorable member for North Sydney demands that I should pay considerable attention to what he says. I have done my best, and I can assure honorable members that the Government, my department, and myself will be very vigilant. This is a question which I have been closely associated with from 1880, once as a member of a previous Royal commission, and I take the deepest interest in it. I cannot place myself in any invidious or improper position, and can- only assure honorable- members that everything possible will be done to- prevent any serious trouble.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 8
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020924_reps_1_12/>.