1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. McDONALD presented a petition from the executive officers of the Federated Seamen’s Union of Australasia, praying the House to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill so that it shall apply equally to all vessels engaging in the Australian coastal trade, whether Australian, oversea, or foreign.
Mr. BATCHELOR presented a similar petition from the Australasian Institute of Marine Engineers.
Petitions received and read.
Mr. HUME COOK presented a petition from John Robertson, M.A., of Moonee Ponds, praying the House to take into consideration the law with respect to legal tender.
-Some little time ago I gave notice of the following question -
What was the total amount of money deducted from the salaries of Commonwealth Public servants on account of the Fidelity Guarantee Fund during the past year, and what is to become of such moneys ?
Is the Minister for Home Affairs yet in a position to answer that question?
– I will see that the information is supplied.
– I desire through you, Mr Speaker, to ask the right honorable member for South Australia a question without notice. Does he object to make public the names of the persons to whom he gave a copy of the draft Conciliation and Arbitration Bill before it wassubmitted to the House? If he does not, will he be good enough to give that information to the House?
– Before the right honorable member replies, I should like to read to the House Standing Order No. 92, which is as follows : -
After notices have been given Questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs ; and to other Members relating to any Bill, Motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the Notice Paper, of which such Members may have charge.
As the right honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, has not . charge of the matter to which the honorable member for Kooyong refers, there is no obligation upon him to reply to such a question unless he pleases to do so.
– I do not propose to reveal any confidential relations between myself and anybody else. I suggest to the honorable member for Kooyong, if he wants any information as to what I did as a Minister, that he had better ask a member of the Ministry.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer, without notice, whether it is a fact, as stated in the newspapers, that the Customs revenue for the first week in August declined from£230,000 to £190,000, and, if so, whether he accounts for that by the retirement of the right honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, from the office of Minister for Trade and Customs ?
– It is a fact that the revenue dropped some £40,000 in the week mentioned, but last week it went up £10,000. I have never assigned any reason for the difference ; but it is probably owing to the ordinary fluctuations which occur in the revenue from week to week.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Who authorized the secretary to take this step? 3. (a) Have the Department taken any action regarding the official who authorized this ?
Have the proprietary of the Sandown Park Racing Club been asked to make up the loss of revenue caused by telegrams being stopped by its secretary ? 5. (a) Were the public telegrams also stopped at the Sandown Park railway station on the same day ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed (from 14th August, vide page 3674) on motion by Sir William Lyne :
That this House disapproves of the proposed distribution of the State of New South Wales into twenty-six divisions, . named East’ Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney,Lang, Dulley, Parkes, Ashfield, North Sydney, Parramatta, Illawarra, Macquarie, Werriwa, EdenMonaro, Robertson, Newcastle, Hunter, Hume, Bland, Cowper, Canobolas, New England, Gwydir, Clarence - Richmond, Darling’ and Riverina, and shown on. the maps laid upon the table of the House of ‘Representatives on the 7th August instant.
Upon which Mr. Thomson had moved by way of amendment : -
That after the word” That,” line 1, the following words be inserted “in order that a fresh distribution may be proposed by the Commissioner of the State.”
– We were interrupted in this debate by the fact that honourable members, with one or two exceptions, had not had an opportunity to see the report ofMr. Houston, the Commissioner under the Electoral Act for New South Wales. Since then, however, the report has been distributed ; and in dealing to-day with the State of which I am one of the representatives, I think it advisable, without desiring to repeat what has already been said, to take up the question from the very beginning. I take it for granted that the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which was passed last session, was intended to supersede all previous arrangements with regard to the election of members to the Commonwealth Parliament. Particularly was the Act intended to supersede an arrangement by which the division of the States into electorates had been made under State supervision. It was natural that this Parliament should desire to have an Act of its own, as to the operation of which its own jurisdiction would be exclusive. Honorable members who look at the particular part of the Act which deals with this point will see that the provisions are very carefully drawn in order to meet the special requirements of the case. The division of the electorates was taken out of the hands of Parliament - out of the hands of the Executive - and placed in the hands of a Commissioner. Certain directions were given to that Commissioner to guide him in coming to a decision, and so careful was Parliament of the principles underlying the proposal, that honorable members were not even allowed, in dealing withthe report when it was placed before them, to criticise it in such a way as to interfere with absolute independence of the Commissioner. If Parliament did not agree to the distribution of seats as set forth in the report of the Commissioner there was to be only the one alternative of sending the report back to the same Commissioner. It seems to me that, as a matter of law, that course must be carried out if there is any disagreement. Why was that course taken? In the first place, it was taken because it would have placed an invidious task on honorable members in any House of Parliament if they were required to decide on their own electoral boundaries; and in this Commonwealth Parliament it was especially necessary that the system should be safeguarded, because we are in the invidious position of deciding the electoral boundaries in six different States. While a vote may be taken as to the electorates over the whole of a State for a State Parliament, how on earth could there be an intelligent vote upon such a question in the Commonwealth Parliament representing six States? Suppose that a large majority, or perhaps, every member for a certain State, was perfectly satisfied with the electoral boundaries and with the action of the Commissioner, then for some political purpose a vote must be taken which would altogether defeat the very object of the Act. I say that if this Parliament, or this House, is dissatisfied, it has only one course, and that course is to send the report back. But we are now dealing with New South Wales ; and let us examine the surroundings. In the first place the Commissioner selected for New South Wales is a man of the highest standing, who has been in the public service of that State for many years, and in whom everybody has the utmost confidence. Therefore, so far as the Commissioner himself is concerned, no word can be uttered against the choice of the Government. Mr. Houston has, in his report, given us reason to believe that, notwithstanding all his efforts to make a satisfactory distribution, there are numerous weak points which it is necessary for him to place before this Parliament. Nothing of the kind. The only fact brought out during the course of the debate, or in the Commissioner’s report, is that owing to the drought a large number of people have retired from certain parts of the State and settled in other parts, the presumption being that they will, within a short time, go back to their original locations and thus alter the present condition of affairs. I believe that view has been very largely exaggerated. But, even if it is correct, I ask honorable members whether it is likely that any electoral arrangements could be made to which objections would not be taken. If it be found that the State has been mapped out fairly, and that there is no strong opposition to the scheme of redistribution as a whole, we should be satisfied to accept it or send it back to the Commissioner. I hold, however, that anyone honestly reading the report of the Commissioner, or listening to the remarks of the Minister, will come to the conclusion that, if other circumstances had existed, the distribution made by the Commissioner would have been perfectly satisfactory. There is absolutely nothing against his proposal. The only departure from former conditions is represented by the addition of one division to the metropolitan constituencies, and a corresponding reduction in the number of country electorates. With that exception the whole of the electorates have been mapped out according to the conditions laid down in the Act. That is the only serious change.
– A great change has been made in the Riverina electorate.
– The remark of the honorable member shows exactly what is at the bottom of the opposition directed to the Commissioner’s report. So many diverse interests are involved thatno man under heaven would be able to satisfy every one, and it must be admitted that the Commissioner has, on the whole, done his work well. Will the honorable member for
Riverina, who thinks that some slight mistake has been made in fixing the boundaries of his electorate, say that that is not the case? We are not here to repudiate the work of the Commissioner because of certain objections, which, in the very nature of things, were bound to be made. Under the Act, opportunities are given for those who dissent from the proposals of the Commissioner to lodge abjections within a certain period. We find that objections were lodged and taken into consideration in all cases, and that, after the most careful scrutiny of the whole position a final distribution was made. What is the reason at the bottom of all the opposition 1 Is it not that the subdivision does not suit the present Government ? The Government in this matter are acting with political ends in view - which the Act was intended to absolutely prevent - and they are now asking us to turn round and defeat the object of our own Act. This does not reflect credit on us as a Parliament. I wish honorable members, who have heard the speeches of the Minister and others upon the other side, to ask themselves whether in view of the whole of the circumstances, and of the report which we have from one of the highest public servants in New South . Wales, they can honestly say that any case has been made out against the proposed distribution. I say, unhesitatingly, that no case whatever has been made out. We are told that if the report were referred back to the Commissioner it would not be possible for us to have the electorates determined upon in time for the forthcoming elections.
– Why is the honorable member proposing to send it back ?
– I am not proposing to send it back. I am speaking now upon the original motion. I say that no evidence has been adduced against the report, and that nearly every honorable member from New South Wales is perfectly satisfied with it. If nearly every representative of the State is satisfied it seems curious that, because of some discrepancy in another State it should be proposed to perpetuate the present condition of affairs in order to equalize matters.
– If every representative of New South Wales is satisfied, what is the meaning of the amendment in favour of a redistribution ?
– That is- the alternative to destruction. We know that the Government have taken measures to defeat the scheme.
– No doubt there is a certain amount of contradiction.
– Hear, hear.
– But the position from a certain point of view is perfectly clear. It is understood that a majority of honorable members are determined to deal with the electorates of New South Wales as they have already dealt with those of Victoria. They are perfectly within their rights in so doing. But on the other hand we are justified in doing what we can to compel the Htfuse to at least take a constitutional course. I think that this is the most outrageous attempt to interfere with Commonwealth legislation that has ever been known, and I certainly expected that some arguments would have been adduced to justify what is undoubtedly an extreme step. Will the Minister say that this is not a very extreme step to take 1 The honorable gentleman sits there like a Sphinx, and makes no reply.
– Self-preservation is the first law of nature.
– I assert most positively thatthe proposed distribution ought to be accepted by the House, because we have no surety for the future. If the Government had intended to reject the proposal of the Commissionei-, the constitutional mode of procedure would have been to bring down another Bill. I do not think that too strong language could be used in reference to the position taken up by the Government. The House has evidently made up its mind to reject the proposal of the Commissioner, and to practically enact by resolution that, notwithstanding the Electoral Act, under which the old system was supposed to have been swept away, we shall perpetuate existing conditions. That should have been done by a special Act in order to, at least, allow the House to set itself right. The present proposal seems to me to be outrageous, and I do not think that the electors will have a very high opinion of the consistency and honour of their own representatives when they realize that the whole electoral machinery provided for by the Act is to be set aside.
-! do not profess to be able to bring to bear any special knowledge with regard to the purposed distribution of New South Wales into electorates, and, therefore, I shall confine myself to matters with which I am better acquainted. ‘ There is one thing which we must recognise above all others at this period of the session, and that is that the more we can save time the better. It seems to me, however, that the course that has been adopted up to the present is calculated to bring about an altogether different result, for this reason, amongstothers - that we cannot settle the question by disposing of this motion. We are bound to have another debate - a debate upon the Bill fixing the boundaries of the distiricts. The sooner that is before us the better. Therefore I suggest to the Minister that he should drop this resolution. What is the use of it ? If we carry it the sole effect will be to give us power to call for a fresh distribution, and the Government do not intend to adopt that course. The Minister has declared that that is not their intention. If the honorable gentleman and the Government desire to save as much time as possible, I put it to them, ‘” Where is the utility of carrying this resolution 1” Its sole result is declared in section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which reads -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed, distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose afresh distribution of the State into divisions.
That is not proposed by the Government. They declare in the straightest and simplest terms that they will not adopt that course. Then let us get to the real work which awaits us as soon as we possibly can, by the introduction of a Bill which will enable us not only to negative that of. which we do not approve, but to make any suggestions that we choose for the purpose of fixing the electoral divisions.
– The Act contemplates that we shall either approve or disapprove of a.motion affecting the proposed distribution.
– The Act contemplates that when we desire to obtain a fresh distribution from the Commissioner we shall, proceed upon defined ‘ lines. Where is the necessity for a resolution, of this sort when we must subsequently- deal with the matter by Bill? As regards the districts of which we do approve, a Bill is required. Concerning those of which we do not approve, what is the position? In the case of South Australia, what we did was this : The Commissioner had in terms of the Act submitted a map showing the boundaries of each of the proposed districts, the names of which were set out in specific terms. Honorable members know that we discussed that resolution, and, still adheringto the language of the Act, the “proposed distribution” - the distribution’ which was proposed by the Commissioner - we struck out what he proposed and substituted something which he never proposed.
Mr.V. L. Solomon. - The right honorable member refers to the names?
– Does the right honorable member hold that that is a vital matter ?
– Undoubtedly I do. There are only two things which require to be specified in connexion with the distribution, but they are all important. They are set out in section 19 of the Act, which reads -
The Commissioner shall forthwith after the expiration of the thirty days above mentioned, forward to the Minister his report upon the distribution of the State into divisions, and the number of electors residing in each proposed division together with a map signed by him showing the names and boundaries of each proposed division.
The language of that provision is simplicity itself. There is no surplusage. What the Commissioner is required to furnish is the name of each district and its boundaries. Its boundaries are necessary in order that we may identify it when we look to its name, but the name is as essential as is the boundary itself.
– Oh, no ; surely not.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. Seeing that it is arbitrarily required that these maps shall be approved, and that the only power given to the Commissioner is to declare the names of the districts and their boundaries, how can it be urged that districts which are identified upon the map, say, as Smith or Jones - are the same as those which we afterwards call Brown or Robinson? Where is there anything in any map or plan to enable us in the slightest degree to identify the districts which have been affected by these new names? Where is Booth by to be found? In that case I entirely approve of the change which was made, but, apart from that, I ask how is the district of Boothby to be identified either by its name or its boundaries ? Some honorable members appear to entertain the idea that we have only to reject the districts proposed by the Commissionerin order to fall back upon the existing state of things. Nothing of the sort ! The provision bearing upon the matter is to be found in section 29 of the Constitution, which reads -
Until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of any State may make laws for determining the divisions in each State for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen.
Have we not made laws for the purpose of determining the divisions into which the States shall be divided? I say that we advisedly did so at the earliest possible moment in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and in section 12 of that Act we declared in terms which are utterly inconsistent with the continuance of the State power of division, that -
Each State shall be distributed into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein, and one member of the House of Representatives shall be chosen in each division.
The rest of Part III. of the Act provides the method in which the districts shall be determined. I say that the words used are general. They are inconsistent with the continuance of State legislation upon the subject, and provide for an altogether new state of- affairs. Further, where they intend that there shall be any continuance of the existing State divisions they provide for it in the plainest possible terms. For example, it is set out in section 4 -
This Act shall not apply to the election of a new member to fill any vacancy happening in the House of Representatives during the continuance of the present House of Representatives.
Except as regards casual vacancies - of course it was fully recognised that the Federal Parliament would never have time to provide for all - the law was laid down in the clearest possible terms in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Therefore, I say that we shall not get back to the old state of affairs either by negativing or by carrying this resolution. It is idle for the Government to attempt to carry it, in view of the fact that it is wanted only for a specified purpose, to which they do not intend to address themselves. The position which I put is this : Let us with all possible despatch arrive at the stage at which we can deal with the question by providing against that which we do not want, and by declaring that which we do want. This resolution gives us no power that we ought to possess - it simply duplicates debate, and lends itself to waste of time. I have listened with a good deal of interest to what has been said upon the general question. I think it is a pity that we should be troubled unnecessarily with fixing the boundaries of our own constituencies. I am inclined to think that the principle which was laid down in the Electoral Act has much to recommend it. That principle is that Parliament ought not to be troubled more than is absolutely necessary. Let the work be left to independent and skilled officers.
– And dismiss them immediately they go wrong.
– I venture to think we are all agreed that good and useful work has been done by every one of those officers. I know the mischief which results when Members of Parliament are called upon to apply themselves individually to questions of this kind. Naturally, to a great extent, they lose sight of the principle underlying them and pay regard to how they themselves may possibly be affected. I recollect that upon one occasion I introduced a Bill into the South Australian Parliament which provided for single electorates. Upon the question of the principle involved - of whether it was right or wrong - the discussion proceeded most delightfully, and I think the motion would have been carried, but at the last moment the Government made a mistake by submitting a map which showed the proposed constituencies. Then honorable members looked at it, and a number of them discovered that the proposed districts would not suit them. The result was that the principle disappeared and the map with it. I can tell honorable members further that, in connexion with this very question, in South Australia there was a considerable division of opinion as to whether we should have the State polled’ as one district or divided into a number of constituencies. The State Government had n© strong feeling in either direction, but, happily, the matter was solved by the action of a member of an independent party. He brought down a map, and honorable members looked at it, with the result that they came to the conclusion that the proposed districts would not suit them, and they voted against the distribution. The outcome of this was that the State was polled as one electorate, and that principle has been observed to this day. I am a great believer in adult suffrage. I believe also in the principle of one adult one vote. I believe. further, in one vote one value, and I venture to think that the less we, as members of Parliament, interfere in questions relating to particular districts, the better it will be. When we were dealing with the South Australian divisions, I pointed out that the division inwhich I suggested certain changes should be made was one which I was not likely to contest, but I thought that an improvement might be made in regard to it. The House, however, was against us, and properly so-
– Against the right honorable member only on the broad principles involved.
– Quite so. The House decided that they would not interfere,, and I understand that the report of the Commissioner is to be accepted. That is a tribute to the work of the officer who made the distribution. A different course, however, is to be pursued in regard to the distribution of the other States. The less we interfere in these matters, and the more we adhere to the principle of one vote one value, the better it will be. It seems to me to be extraordinary that it should be urged that we cannot work under the Act which we passed last session. Why is that so ? There is in it no hard and fast attachment to the principle of equal value to every vote. Surely it leaves sufficient room for play between one district and another 1 I am not by any means disposed to consider that the voting’ power of an individual should vary according to whether he votes in a metropolitan constituency or in the country. I presume that we each think that wherever we happened to be our worth as intelligent electors would be about the same. It does not seem to me that because we transfer our residence to a less populated district we properly acquire a greater voting power,’ or an increased degree of intelligence or strength. However that may be, allowance was madein the Electoral Act for what, it seems to me, is absolutely sufficient to come and goupon in matters of this sort.
– It allows a range of 10,000 electors between the minimum a.nd maximum.
– Yes ; a range equal to 50 per cent. Let us,’ for example, take the quota at 25,000 electors. One-fifth off that quota for a country constituency means a division of 20,000 electors, while onefifth added to it in the case of a division in the metropolitan area means an electorate of 30,000 electors’; thus 20,000 country votes would be equal to 30,000 metropolitan votes. “Why should that be? Why should a country electorate have 50 per cent, greater voting power 1
– It is 50 per cent, either way.
– Both ways. In dealing with a country district the quota may be reduced to 20,000, while it can be raised to 30,000 in a metropolitan district. I venture to think that a principle of that sort is to some extent an intrusion that is hardly warranted on the grand principle of adult suffrage and equal value for all votes.
– If we had given the Commissioners a life tenure, just as we have done with our Judges, or a seven years’ tenure-
– Order ! The honorable member must not interrupt.
– It is only an ordinary interjection, Mr. Speaker.
– The interjection is too long.
– I am inclined to think that a tenure of that description would be desirable. But even without proposing to go so far as that, I would say to honorable members - “ Keep the Parliament free from this question as much as you can, and you will get better results from impartial officers.” Do not let us revoke a principle which the House adopted, practically unanimously, only last year. Let us endeavour to stand by that principle. We did right when we passed it ; let us not depart from it until we are satisfied that it is our duty to do so.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).One would have thought that there was no need for an honorable member to give utterance to the trite truisms which have just fallen from the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston. It seems to me strange that in this, the first Federal Parliament, in which equality of voting power has always been supposed to be the keynote, we should have to go over the whole ground again in regard to what the basis of voting power ought to be. One would imagine that we were now discussing for the first time in the history of Australia a ‘ proposal for one man one vote, and that it required ‘ what may be called a kind of foundational defence. Instead of that, we have been told again and again that this Parliament is to be -
Broad based upon the people’s will.
It has been declared in two speeches by the Governor-General that proceedings are operating with .a view to carry out that proposal. In the Governor - General’s speech which was delivered at the opening of the Federal Parliament we were told that provision would be made for the bringing into operation of the principle of one adult one vote. We were also informed that further provision would be made for the electoral machinery necessary to give effect to that principle. Then we were told in the speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the present session of Parliament, some two months ago, that this matter was being proceeded with, the paragraph in the speech setting forth that -
The passage of the Commonwealth Electoral Act has rendered necessary the division of the various States into new electorates. This work is proceeding with all possible speed, and the plan of division will be submitted to you when completed.
The Government either knew or did not know at the time that there was a drought in the country. They had their electoral machinery at hand when they penned this paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s speech. They knew then as much of the conditions of the country as they know now. I desire to ask the Minister for Trade” and Customs why he submitted this matter to the Commissioner if he had no intention of seeing that effect was given to it. The principle of the Act has been left in the background. The Minister for Trade and Customs was one of the loudestmouthed members in the whole community upon this question. In pre-federation days, when we were seeking to induce the people to accept the Constitution Bill, the Minister for Trade and Customs was one of the members of the community took exception to the Constitution on the ground that the principle of one man one vote was in danger. He told us in
Sydney, with all the unction that it is possible to import into a speech, that he was against the Constitution Bill because, under it, a small State would have as much voting power as a large State would have. He inquired what purpose would be served by our having the principle of one man one vote embedded in the Constitution if the Senate “were really going to take it out. Now that he is comfortably ensconced in office, be plainly tells the people of Australia that he never believed in giving the city equal voting power with the country. We who know -the honorable member are aware that the sentiments which he has most lately expressed are those which have always been his real ones. If the New South Wales Ilansard reports be looked up, it will be found that when in an irresponsible position in the Assembly of that State he always enunciated that doctrine. He tells us now what he has always held, that he does not believe in the principle of one man one vote, and in the principle of one vote one value. To adopt the principle of one man one vote, and to differentiate between the voting power of electors in certain divisions, is to enact a farce, because the principle of one man one vote cannot prevail unless every vote is given an equal value at the ballot box. . But after saying that every man and woman in Australia shall be given the right to freely exercise the franchise in regard to the grave issues which may come up for settlement in this Parliament, the Government turn round and say that, because a drought has occurred, the provisions for adult suffrage must go by the board. Furthermore, they are going to pass a Bill to specially enact that the first Federal elections which we have been able to control shall not be carried out upon the basis of adult suffrage and equal voting power. It is a much worse thing to do than merely to reject a proposal of the kind now under consideration. If, without fresh legislation, we could go back to the old arrangement, the case would be bad enough, but it is infinitely worse to put before Parliament a deliberate proposal for the disfranchisement of the people in the crowded centres of the Commonwealth. What is the excuse alleged for this peculiar proceeding on the part of Ministers ? The Minister for Trade and Customs said, with quite a lugubrious air, that he had one reason which supported his proposal, and that he did not need any more. That reason was the existence of a drought of a very severe character in the back parts of Australia. We know that that drought has existed, and that the Minister has known of it for some years past. He knew of it when he introduced the Bill to give Commissioners power to undertake the work of dividing the States ; he knew of it when he appointed Commissioners to do that work ; he knew of it when the Governor’s speech was being prepared ; and yet he now for the first time acknowledges it, and announces it as a discovery. He apparently did not know and repudiated it when the fodder duties were put on. Other honorable members who believe, as the Minister for Trade and Customs has always believed, in the good old Tory principle of disfranchising the electors, and having interests as well as men and women represented in Parliament, do not hesitate to say so. I admired the straight out declaration of the honorable member for Kooyong who, we know, belongs to the good old Conservative school, and I wish a few other honorable members would use the same straightforwardness in the enunciation of their convictions. He told us in no unmistakable language that the reason why he voted for the motion disapproving of the Victorian distribution was that the varied interests of the country as well as its men and women might be given a chance to be represented in Parliament.
– The Act says that they shall.
– The Act . says that every man and woman shall have an equal vote at the ballot-box. That principleruns through the whole measure. I refuse to believe that we cannot get the varied industries and interests of the States as well represented on the basis of adult suffrage as by differential voting. The honorablemember for Echuca the other night said that those whom he represents believe that there should be a particular electorate in the Commonwealth to represent the water conservation idea. He had the temerity to tell us . that when they were framing their electoral divisions in Victoria, his constituency was specially laid out so as to return a man who would develop and expand and defend that idea in the House. Fancy the fact that the people of Echuca are interested in a scheme of waterconservation determining the distribution. of seats throughout the whole Commonwealth ! Fancy such an argument, being seriously put forward in a Chamber such as this ! While the honorable member for Kooyong was telling us in his straightforward way that he does not believe in the principle of one adult one vote, and therefore would vote for the disapproval of the proposed Victorian distribution, so as to give the country a bigger advantage, he was sitting side by side with some of the labour members whoalways profess to believe in the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value.
– They are the people in the steerage.
– They are cabin passengers now.
– It seems to me that some of them have got on to the bridge. At any rate, they have got up to where the Tories are luxuriating. Sitting cheekbyjowl with the honorable member for Kooyong was the honorable member for Barrier, who took occasion to cover up his tracks by the well-known methods of that peculiar fish which emits an inky fluid to elude its adversaries. He told us of all our shortcomings in New South Wales, as if they, whatever they may have been - though I deny in toto many of the statements which he made - could justify him in trying to disfranchise the men and women of Australia. He told us that the man and women of Australia had nothing to thank the leader of the Opposition for in connexion with the principle of one man one vote. All the advantages which they had obtained with regard to the franchise, he said, were due to the actions of members of the present Government.
– So they were.
– Are honorable members aware that the principle of one man one vote was advocated in the New South Wales electoral law by the leader of the Opposition ?
– It was inserted in the electoral law of New South Wales by a Bill introduced by Mr. Traill.
– So far as my recollection goes, I do not think that the Bill introduced by Mr. Traill was passed into law.
– It was not.
– I know that he argued the matter for some years, and came down to the House with a concrete proposal, which, however, he had not the good fortune to pass into law. It is, therefore, incorrect to say that the principle of one man one vote statutorily at any rate, is to be placed to the credit of Mr. Traill. Amongst other reasons for this strange anomaly, we have heard from one honorable member that the statistics are unreliable, while the rolls are not what they oughtto be. What a fine commentary that is on the administration of the Electoral-office. For two years and a half this matter has been under the review of the Minister. During this time he has been specially charged with the electoral administration, and has had officers under his control to direct in any way he pleased. Yet it seems that the Minister knows nothing about the condition of the rolls, or of the statistics relating to the voters of Australia, and it has been left to other honorable members of the Chamber to say that the statistics are defective. If the statistics are defective who is to blame ? The Minister may say that the States authorities had collected the statistics ; but surely the electoral officers have been watching what has been going on, or, if they have not, we ought to know what they have been doing during this two and a half years. . If the rolls had not been compiled as they ought to have been, the electoral officers ought to have been aware of the facts - they should have known the whole proceedings from their genesis to the end.
– The same lists will be required for the present subdivision.
– Yes. So keenly has the Minister been interested in the matter that the other day he had to confess in the House that he did not even knew a fresh roll was being compiled by the State authorities of New South Wales, although nearly every other honorable member in the Chamber was aware of the fact. If th statistics are wrong, and the roll is inaccurate, it reflects most discreditably on the Electoral-office. As to the drought, the incorrectness of the rolls cannot possibly make any appreciable difference to the distribution as a whole. There may be a few thousands more or less on the roll, but that cannot affect the distribution, seeing that above and below the maximum and minimum there is such a range in nearly every electorate as to make it impossible to revise them because of any collection of rolls. But the very idea and purpose of the Bill and of the scheme of redistribution is that the shifting population may be followed from point to point. Why was that provided in the Bill 1 We might have decided, on some ruleofthumb method, that the boundaries of the electorates should be here or there, but we provided that all the circumstances should be taken into account and that, especially when population shifted, there should be a mechanical means in the Bill of following it and dealing justly with it from the electoral point of view. The reason given _ for opposing the proposed distribution is that the population has shifted ; and we are asked to set aside the very provision of the Bill which is intended to meet such circumstances. The only argument I have heard against the proposed distribution would be an argument for another speedy redistribution after the next election. If the people are settling in the country, districts, as I sincerely hope and believe they are doing to a certain extent, there is nothing to prevent another redistribution of seats the moment the elections have taken place. We were asked by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, “ Would you legislate for the people in Victoria and in Melbourne on the basis of a Melbourne Cup assemblage”? No, I do not suppose we should do anything so foolish ; but if there were a Melbourne Cup race run every day in the year I guess we, should take . account of the fact, just as we take account of other circumstances in the State of Victoria. Whether there be a drought or the Melbourne Cup, or a temporary displacement of population, these provisions of the Act are intended to apply. And yet, now, when the provisions are so much needed, we are asked to deliberately set them aside. The position of affairs in New South Wales is set out very ably by the Commissioner. I do not think I ever read an abler report on any subject than this report by Mr. Houston. Those of us who know that gentleman have abundant faith in his integrity and ability. He is unquestionably one of the ablest public servants in the State of New South Wales, and, moreover, he is not a man too susceptible to political influence. I do not know that a better man could have been selected for this work. So far as I can learn, Mr. Houston has not been inclined to attach too much importance to the opinions of honorable members; at any rate, that is what we have been told by the honorable member for Riverina, who said that there was a difference when the first redistribution scheme was framed by the New South Wales Government. At that time, he said honorable members could go down and talk to the Commissioner; and, so far as I can find out, that is the very thing the Commissioner has resisted; and all honour to him ! We referred this matter to the Commissioner, in order to get it out of our hands altogether - so that he, with a clearer knowledge and more impartial judgment than we could possibly bring to bear - should make the best possible disposition. We might have pottered along with a redistribution scheme in this House, but we believed that we were incapable of judging with absolute fairness between our own interests and the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. More than that, we believed that we did not possess the necessary knowledge to enable us to form a judgment. The work was given to Mr. Houston, and we have the result before us ; and, without anyone saying a word about the merits of the report - without any one saying whether or not there are weaknesses at any point - we are asked to simply disapprove of it. If the motion be Carried, the only thing would be for Mr. Houston to promptly send in his resignation to the Minister for Home Affairs. The motion amounts to neither more nor less than - shall I say - callous repudiation of a solemn duty placed by Parliament . on this Commissioner. At any rate, it is treating . the Commissioner with scant courtesy. If the Minister believes that the proposed division ought to be rejected, his best plan would have been to incorporate some reason for that opinion in the motion. That would be information for the country, and respectful and courteous treatment of the Commissioner. But all we are asked to say to the Commissioner is - “We have nothing further to do with you ; we decline to recognise your scheme in any way, but we give no reasons for doing so.” That is poor treatment to extend to any Commissioner who has placed his services at the disposal of the Commonwealth. In my judgment we can deal with this matter as much as we like. All the shifting back of the population will not make the scheme any fairer - will not make it possible to distribute the seats on a fairer basis than is presented in the report. But the honorable member for Gippsland took exception to one report, because, as he said, the country electorates had not been sufficiently considered. One can understand such a statement coming from the honorable member, and also from the honorable member for Kooyong, because they do not believe in one vote one value. They contend’ that the country should have more representation in proportion to the population than the cities have. But that is not the basis of the Constitution ok the basis of representation in the Federal Legislature. Embedded in the Constitution is the principle of adult suffrage, and no matter how inconvenient it may be to the residents in the country districts of Victoria or New South Wales we’ have no right by our deliberate vote to depart from it. We are being asked to practically tear up the Constitution so far as our electoral arrangements are concerned, and I ask why 1 In the scheme recommended by Mr. Houston he has been very generous to the country. He has gone out of his way as far as possible to consider its unfortunate position. The minimum in New South Wales is fixed at 18,148, and in no less than six country electorates Mr. Houston has practically given a representative to the minimum number of voters. That, however, does not seem to be enough. When we contrast these six sparsely populated electorates in the country with an equal number of the most populous constituencies in the city, we find that there is a difference of 44,000 votes in favour of the country divisions. Mr. Houston remarks that there has been a terrible drought which has devastated the country, that the population has been shifted, and that he has so arranged matters that there should be 44,000 more voters in the six most populous electorates than in the six most sparsely populated country divisions so as to provide for the people going back. In other words, city electors suffer a loss of voting ‘power to that extent. If we continue the old order of things there will be a difference of 90,000 voters in the city electorates as compared with those in the country divisions, and we are! therefore, called upon to choose between a deficiency .of 45,000 and one of 90,000. I “think that we are already stretching the principle of one adult one -vote sufficiently when we make an allowance of 45,000 votes. We should be outraging the Constitution and outraging the people who sent us here if we perpetuated conditions under which 90,000 more voters were required in the city divisions than in an equal number of country electorates. The Government proposal is an outrage whichever way it may be viewed. It is no use to be mealymouthed over this matter, and one cannot help seeking for reasons other than those given to the House. One cannot help considering the fact that the Government proposal will operate to its own advantage. The city constituencies should, according to population, have two representatives more in New South Wales and one in Victoria than are provided for under the new scheme. Even then we should give the country constituencies a liberal allowance. Under the old scheme, which the Government’ wish ‘to continue, there would be a difference altogether between town and country of three representatives which means six on the vote. These would be a very important consideration in connexion with clear cut issues such as the fiscal question. This is the reason why there has been so much mystery over the report of the Commissioner. We could not induce the Government to be frank with us or to submit this matter to us before. It has been impossible to obtain straightforward answers for some time past. When I have asked for information all I have been able to extract from the Minister has been an unintelligible grunt. Now that he has in his own consummate way ascertained the feeling of the House, and has assured himself that he has. a majority behind him, he has come out of his shell. He has told us that he never did believe in one vote one value. I hope that when he next goes to New South Wales he will tell the people that, when he was humbugging them over the principle of one- man one vote in the days before Federation, he did not mean all he said. He should tell them that he meant to apply the principle so far as placing their names on the roll was concerned, and that he intended that they should have the privilege of placing their votes in the ballot-boxes, but that, by a cunning distribution of the electorates, he intended to deliberately deprive them of their full voting power. Let the Minimter tell the people of New South Wales in a straightforward way what he really means, and they will know how to deal with him. This debate has been re- I markable for the revelation of the Minister’s opinions. Now that he is safely in the Federal Parliament, and is dealing with the whole of Australia with the Federal Parliament behind him, he communicates to us his real views. The Minister has no compeer at pulling the strings. His scheming has been going on for weeks. It has been common talk that it was intended that the next election should take place upon the old electoral divisions, although no definite statement could be elicited. I do not Hesitate to call the conduct of the Minister “ gerrymandering.”
– Order. The honorable member must, not use that term.
– It is very insulting.
– The honorable member is not justified in using that term, which implies very gross wrongdoing on the part of those against whom it is directed.
– I can conceive of no grosser wrongdoing or dereliction of political duty than that of which the Ministry are guilty, in seeking to deprive the people of Australia of the full value of their votes at the first election at which they will have an opportunity to use them. As to the expression “ gerrymandering “ being insulting, I do not intend it to be so construed, but at the same time I regard the Minister as a very good judge of what is insulting. He is himself so accustomed to throwing around insults that he ought to be able to judge, but he ought not to complain of such conduct on the part of others. Since, however, gerrymandering “ is a term that must not be used, all I have to say is that I protest as strongly as I am able against the course proposed by the Government. I hope that the protest of those who think with me will be made as effective as possible - not only here, but on the, public platform, so that the people may know that they have been deliberately deprived by the Government of the voting power to which they are justly entitled under the Constitution.
– It is very significant that, with three or four exceptions, the twenty-six representatives of New South Wales are opposed to the course now being taken by the Government.
– When the division takes place the honorable member will see that he is wrong.
– The Minister knows more than does the honorable member.
– I am beginning to think that there have been some private rehearsals, and that they have proved very effective so far as the Victorian and Queensland members are concerned. At the same time, the position has undergone some change since the reports of the Electoral Commissioners were submitted. Last week it was urged, in regard to Victoria, by the representatives of that State, that the country districts had been depleted of population by drought,- that the country should have greater proportional representation than the city electorates, and that the Commissioner had shown want of capacity. In regard to the New South Wales distribution, only one of these arguments is being adopted, namely, that having reference to , the reduction of the population of the country districts owing to the drought. No one has had pluck enough to use the “gum-tree” argument, because in New South Wales we understand the true value of one man one vote, and one man one value. Therefore the argument which was used in connexion, with Victoria, that the country districts were entitled to relatively larger representation than were the city electorates, has not been applied to New South Wales. Another remarkable feature about this report is that after the people of New South Wales had been consulted - after the map had been submitted to them for the statutory period of thirty days - only thirtyfive objectors to the Commissioner’s recommendations were forthcoming. That, I think, is a most powerful commentary upon the good work of that officer. I ask the representatives of Victoria, before they vote upon this motion, whether they are prepared to reject a proposal to which only thirty-five persons in New South Wales object t
– The people did not take sufficient interest in the matter.
– In the electorate of Riverina fourteen objections were lodged. The honorable member who represents that district in this House, addressing himself to this question on Friday last, based his arguments upon the boundaries which had been defined. We are not here to deal with those boundaries. I could have understood his position had he argued in favour of referring this scheme to the Commissioner for revision. But he intends to vote against the whole of that officer’s proposals. If the Commissioner’s recommendations are not acceptable to this House I am prepared to refer them back to him for revision. In other words, I desire to make this a people’s question and not a politician’s question. One honorable member upon the opposite side of ‘ the chamber has declared that he believes in the principle of one vote one value, and that he is not concerned with elec- toral divisions. I trust that honorable members generally will adopt a similar attitude. Hitherto the Commonwealth Parliament has been known as the democratic Parliament of Australia, but if we destroy the principle of one vote one value, we shall undoubtedly become the most Tory deliberative Assembly in the Commonwealth. As evidencing the good work that has been performed by the Commissioner, I may mention that the maximum number of electors in the case of Ne v South Wales has been fixed at 27,000-odd, and the minimum at 18,000. The quota is 22,000-odd. These figures show that the Commissioner’s recommendations provide for a very wide discrepancy. The voters in one electorate may number either 10,000 more or 10,000 less than those in another. Yet that margin is not sufficient for the hungry, earnest friends of redistribution. Mathematically the Commissioner has made an admirable division of the electorates. He summarizes the position very well in paragraph 10, which reads -
The bible given in paragraph 7 deserves careful attention, as it indicates, not only the location, but the relative number of male and female electors within the existing .electorates ; and, when examined in relation to the quota, discloses facts which influence in the most direct manner the distribution of the new electoral divisions.
That is a most important part of his report. It will be seen that eight city and suburban electorates - namely, East Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, Lang, Dalley, Parkes, and North Sydney - include 234,406 electors, or nearly twofifths of the total voters of the State. The remaining eighteen electorates represent three-fifths of the electors of New South Wales. Surely the margin allowed there is great enough ? Yet the Government intend to reject the whole of the Commissioner’s proposals and to fall back upon the old electorates. As showing the inequality which at present exists, I may mention that the electorate of Dalley contains 30,097 voters, whilst that of Darling contains only 12,139.
– The electors of Darling have, therefore, two and a half times the voting power of the electors of Dalley.
– Exactly. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is prepared, upon a public platform, to advocate such a proposal ? Are the members of the labour party able to justify that position? The honorable member for Yarra recognised clearly enough the principle of equality in the matter of the franchise, and he has fought for it. I trust that the other members of the party with which he is associated will adopt a similar “ attitude. Is this Parliament going to sacrifice the prestige which it has gained as the most democratic Chamber in Australia, simply because the honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member for Darling, the honorable member for Barrier, and others, may be inconvenienced by the adoption of the Commissioner’s proposals ? The other day, in Mr. Speaker’s own electorate, the name of Flinders was changed to that’ of Grey in order to commemorate one who is renowned in political annals for his hard work in connexion with the adoption of the principle of one vote ‘ one value. It was Sir George Grey’s advent -into New South Wales which gave a fillip to the labour movement in that State which resulted in its securing the representation in the New South Wales Legislature .which it enjoys to-day. I trust that the members of that party will not forget this fact. It is just as well that I should speak plainly in regard to this matter. So far as I am personally concerned, the proposal of the Government would suit me better than would the acceptance of the Commissioner’s scheme. Under the distribution proposed by the Commissioner I should lose 1,500 or 1,600 block free-trade votes; but I do not contend that because an important part of the electorate of Leichardt, which I deeply iegree has been taken out of my division we should refuse to accept this scheme. That being so, surely the honorable member for Barrier and the honorable member for Darling - both members of the labour party, who in season and out of season have supported Sir George Grey, and expressed their admiration for his effective voting system - should not join with other honorable members who desire the rejection of this distribution ? I am told that I should wait until a vote has been given. But if honorable members will turn to the report they will find that the Commissioner has dealt with the whole question. He states that thirty-five objections, including those submitted by honorable members, have been considered by him, and that the only two electorates that may be considered to embrace a very large area are those of Riverina and Darling. I can understand why the representatives of those constituencies in this House should object to the wide area over which they will be compelled to travel in order to address their constituents ; but the Commissioner has made special provision for them. He points out that there are 1S,386 electors in the electoral division of Darling, and 18,862 in the electoral division of Riverina ; and in dealing with those divisions he says that -
Many of the difficulties experienced up to the present stage have been due chiefly to the necessity for an adjustment of boundaries to provide for the relief of a congestion of electoral power within thickly- peopled areas of comparatively small extent. The situation now to be faced rests, for the most part, on conditions absolutely the converse of the above, as dispersed over an area of nearly one-half of the State, there can be found only 37,248 adult electors. ‘
Those who contend that representation should be given to acres and gum-trees should remember that, according to their contention, the half of New South Wales, which contains only 37,248 electors, should return 13 out of the 26 members who represent New South Wales in this House. The argument has only to be stated in order to demonstrate its absurdity. The Commissioner goes on to point out that -
It is apparent that the voting power will, in obedience to the requirements of tlie quota, only provide for two, instead of the existing three electorates. But, in,the disposition of the voting power within this great tract, lies the most serious obstacle yet met in the distribution, e.g., more than two-thirds of the electors are to be found at, or immediately surrounding, the following’ centres, viz. : - Broken Hill, 12,229 ; White Cliffs. 1,210; Cobar, 1,986; Nyngan, 767; Bourke, 1,524 ; Deniliquin, 1,982 ; Moama, .1,354 ; Hay, 1,622; Nymagee, 646; Hillston, 709; Tocumwal, 1,185; Balranald, 533; Wentworth, 453 ; and Wilcannia, 481.
These figures show that the Commissioner has considered these special cases. He goes, on to say that -
These centres it will be seen are widely separated, and an examination of the map (applying thereto the above figures) discloses at once the difficulty of securing a satisfactory division of the area. To effect a fairly equal division in symmetrical form would necessitate a subdivision of the Alma and Broken Hill State electorates, und a disregard of community of interests there.
Thus the only alternative open to the Commissioner was the subdivision of the Broken Hill and Alma electorates for the State Parliament. I ask the honorable member for Darling and the honorable member for Barrier whether they would be prepared to support the absolute division of those electorates in preference to what the Commissioner considers to be the least objectionable of the two schemes. Objections of this kind are constantly being raised. Even certain parts of the present electorates of Riverina and Darling are by no means easy of access. The honorable member for Riverina has referred to the difficulty which the electors in the country districts experience in recording their votes, but he has overlooked the fact that the Commonwealth Parliament has provided a means of overcoming that difficulty. We have expressly provided for voting by post in scattered districts. That is a provision which, so far as I know, exists in no other electoral law in Australia.
– It is to be found in the Victorian Act.
– Then the Victorian Act has been recently amended.’ In order that electors living in scattered districts may have no difficulty in- recording their votes, we have provided for voting by post, and, therefore, the objection raised .by the honor.able member for Riverina falls to the ground. Is the difficulty in relation to the acceptance of the scheme to be overcome merely so far as the approaching election is concerned 1 If the Minister says that his proposal is merely a tentative one, what is to be the future position 1 Will not a similar trouble occur hereafter t Will not all these difficulties as to the extensive area covered by the electorates of Riverina and Darling, and the fact that one-half of New South Wales contains only some 37,000 electors, exist next year as they do now ? But, simply because of a political difficulty, we are urged to reject the Commissioner’s report, and to allow the evil day to stand over for the consideration of some future Parliament, or to be dealt with when a change of Ministers takes place. I can quite believe that when the Ministry of to-day are in Opposition they will be most vehement in their denunciation of the practice of observing the old divisions. My objections to the scheme are not of a political character. I realize that two or three electorates have been considerably changed, but that fact does not alter the political aspect of the question. It is true that, under the proposed distribution, an additional member would be given to the city. But why should not that course be followed? The large proportion of the population of the State is to be found in the principal cities, and the female vote, which has been accountable for the difficulties with which the Commissioner has ‘ had to deal, preponderates in Sydney, Newcastle, Goulburn, Bathurst, and other large centres of population. We are told that the drought has caused many changes in the population of the States. The recognition which some honorable members are now prepared to give to the effects of that disaster is remarkable. It seems to me that the districts to which repeated reference has been made are politically -stricken rather than droughtstricken. When we asked some months ago that, in the interests of the electors of the drought-stricken districts in New South Wales, certain taxation should be remitted, our cry was unheeded by those who now ask us to take cognisance of the changes wrought by the same visitation. They were not prepared to reduce the burdens on the people in those droughtstricken districts, but now, because of some political trouble, they wish us to take the drought into consideration in dealing with this question. .This would be a splendid issue on which to go to the country. We have a Ministry in power who are prepared to say openly and publicly that a vote in the country should have two and a half times the value of a vote in the city. A perusal of the figures relating to the electorates of Darling and Dalley will at once convince the House, that this is their contention. One can well understand the astonishment of the masses of the people of New South Wales when they learn that the Commonwealth Parliament, which they are disposed to regard as a Democratic Legislature, considers that it requires nearly three votes in a city electorate to balance one vote given in a country division. I could understand the Minister saying that the representatives of Riverina, Darling, and other electorates have been badly treated by the Commissioner, and that therefore he asked the House to refer the proposed distribution back to him; but that is not what we are asked to do. I find from the Commissioner’s report that he received only fourteen objections from the immense Riverina division, and, as the honorable member who represents Riverina said that he had made some objections himself, not more than thirteen of those at most came from the general public. The Commissioner dealt with those objections, and has given us his reasons for the decisions to which he has come. Every representative who does not come from New South Wales, and who is not compelled by his political bias to support the Government, must admit that the Commissioner has done well, and hitherto, no honorable member has given the House any valid reasons for dis approving of his recommendations. If any honorable member could show that he had been badly treated, or that the people of his electorate, or of the State, had been hardly treated by the Commissioner, I am sure that his representations would be brought before that officer ; but I fail to see why we should disapprove of a proposed distribution in regard to which only thirty-five objections were received. Moreover, the largest discrepancy under it is only that between a division containing 26,000 electors and one containing 35,000, whereas, under the present arrangement, 32,000 persons in the Lang Di vision have only the same representation as 12,000 electors in the Darling Division. Those who are fighting for the continuance of such an arrangement are supporters of the old Sarum system. They each want a pocket borough, so that their personal interests may be secured. The first duty of the Government in this matter was to appoint a competent and trustworthy officer to divide the State. They did that when they appointed Mr. Houston, who is a gentleman well known in the public service of New South Wales. The Ministry do not contend that he has proved himself incompetent for the work. They have not used the argument of incapacity, which was used to support the disapproval of the proposed Victorian distribution.
– No one used that argument. They all praised the Victorian Commissioner.
– They praised him, but disapproved of his proposed distribution. In dealing with these officers, we deal with them not as private individuals but in connexion with the work which they do.
If honorable members had praised the Victorian Commissioner merely for his personal qualifications, they would have proved themselves sycophants ; but, if they praised him for his work, which they were entitled to do, why did they disapprove of it? We hear a great deal about the “YesNo “ attitude, but theirs fs a “Yes-No” attitude in a superlative sense. I do not intend to praise the New South Wales Commissioner ; I let his report speak for itself. It is an exhaustive document. He asked for objections to his proposals, as he was bound by the Electoral Act” to do, and, having obtained them, he has dealt with them, and has given his reasons for his recommendations. Let those who object to his proposed distribution do the same, lt must not be forgotten that we in this Parliament are custodians of the rights of the people, nob only for the present, but for the future, and, if we wish to set a good example to those who will come after us, and to the members of the States Parliaments, we should do all ‘we can to be above suspicion in regard to electoral matters. Any action we take in the making of the provision for the casting of votes, the appointment of electoral officers, or the division of electorates should be free from the suspicion of personal interest. It may be said that we on this side of the Chamber are making a long fight on the subject ; but we do so because the great majority of the representatives of New South Wales are in favour of the adoption of the Commissioner’s recommendations. Whereas not more than three or four of the representatives are opposed to the adoption of these recommendations, the remaining twenty or twenty-two are willing to accept them, and I therefore ask the representatives of other States whether they will support the views of those who represent an overwhelming majority of the people of New South Wales, or assist those who represent an insignificant minority, and who cannot oppose the proposed distribution for any but party purposes. It looks to me as though the support which the Victorian representatives obtained from the representatives of other States to secure the disapproval of ‘ the proposed Victorian distribution is being paid for by their support to the disapproval of the proposed New South Wales distribution. If that ‘is the position, it is a sorry one for this House and for the Ministry. Every honorable member should deal with this question free from party opinions, whether he is on one side of the fiscal barrier or the other, and whether he belongs to the Labour party, or to the Ministerial or Opposition party. I cannot understand why, because the honorable members for Barrier and Darling think that their electorates have been so altered that one will have to fight the other for a seat in the new Parliament, we should consider that a. sufficient reason for disapproving of the Commissioner’s recommendation. If that is the reason why the Labour party are supporting the Government, the people of New South Wales should know it.
– There can be no other reason.
– It would seem so. If any honorable member feels that his position is being jeopardised by the alterations of the boundaries of the divisions, he must be a very weak man. If we had a right to object to the Commissioner’s proposals because they prejudically affected our personal interests, I could show that, by taking away part of the present electorate of Dalley to form another electorate, I lose 1,500 freetrade supporters. But I am prepared to bear that loss in the interests of the proper representation of the State, and so that the people of Leichardt may be given the full electoral power to which they are entitled. Surely then the members of the Labour party, who have always professed to carry the radical banner in Australia, should take a similar stand. The honorable member for Yarra laid stress on the fact that an elector in Collingwood should have as much influence as an elector in Gippsland, and I trust that the party to which he belongs will support that principle, and see that electoral divisions are not laid down in the private interests of politicians, or of parties, but to secure the proper representation of the people. As I have already said, any honorable member who thinks that the boundaries of a particular district should be altered, is at liberty to state so, and the House would be only too ready to refer his objections to the Commissioner for consideration. But not a single honorable member has made out a strong case for an alteration of boundaries. That being so, why should we disapprove of a scheme under which the discrepancies between the numerical strength of electorates . will be much less than they are at the present time ? I ask honorable members to consider the interests of the State and the
Commonwealth rather - than their personal convenience. Let our position be unchallengable on that score. Let it not be thought that we are merely .a committee of seatwarmers engineering to procure our safe return. The Minister for Trade and Customs has given no good reason why the proposed distribution should be disapproved of. The public, however, have a right to be taken into his confidence, and told his reason for asking the House to agree to this motion. The Commissioner’s report has cost an enormous sum to compile, and hitherto nothing has been said against it. No effective arguments have been used against the adoption of the Commissioner’s recommendations, which are satisfactory to about twenty-two out’ of twenty-six representatives from New South Wales. The Commissioner has carried out the intention of the Electoral Act as far as possible by giving equal value to the votes of electors in the country and city electorates, after paying due consideration to the special circumstances of the country owing to the recent drought. If we do not accept his recommendations we have no recourse but to fall back upon the old system, which no man, be he free-trader, protectionist, or labour member, can justify. Who could support a system under which 12,000 electors in one part of the State are accorded the same representation as 32,000 in another? I ask the honorable member for the Barrier and the honorable member for Riverina to put aside any consideration for their own convenience, and to take their chances under the distribution now proposed. We are not fighting because an additional member has been given to the city and suburban electors, but because the Commissioner’s scheme is in accordance with the spirit and intention of the Electoral Act. The fact that the Commissioner proposes that an additional member should be given to the city affords no adequate ground for the proposal of the Government to reject his scheme. If they believe that the new seat would probably be captured by a free-trader they should endeavour to convert the people to what they believe to be the right way of thinking and gain the seat for themselves. We are asking for exactly the same treatment that was meted out to Victoria. We did not take any exception to what was done in regard to the division of South Australia into electoral districts, arid we did npt inquire whether this member or that member was suited by the proposed distribution. We did not hear any objections raised by the members representing that State on the ground of their own personal convenience, but the officer who made the redistribution was praised, and his report was accepted. In the case of New South Wales, however, the Minister has praised the Commissioner, but has refused to accept his report. There is no justification whatever for throwing on one side the report of an able and experienced roan, who had succeeded in giving satisfaction to a large majority of the representatives of the State, and who has preserved the principles laid down in the Constitution and in the Electoral Act.
– It is not necessary for an honorable member other than a representative of New South Wales to apologize for expressing an opinion with regard to the proposed distribution of that State into electorates. There is a general principle underlying these distributions which applies to the whole Commonwealth ; and, besides that, we all represent every portion of Australia. Any one who has heard the speeches delivered hy honorable members from New South Wales, or who has read the Commissioner’s report, must come to the conclusion that the Government are doing wrong in disapproving of the proposed distribution. I am sure that in their own hearts the majority of the supporters of the Government feel that they are doing wrong, and would not be prepared to justify their action upon a public platform. The present condition of the Government benches indicates that those honorable members feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves. They are absenting themselves from the House, and are not attempting to defend the action of the Government. They are acting from motives into which it is not necessary to enter here - if reference were made to them one might find himself out of order - and they are apparently unable to face the unanswerable arguments of honorable members on this side of the Chamber. In connexion with all these distributions we should as far as possible endeavour to secure equal representation to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and we at present have the choice of adopting either the distribution made three years ago under conditions entirely different from those which now’ prevail, or that which has been ‘ made by a
Commissioner specially appointed for the work, independent of political control and with special information at his command as to the number of electors in each district. If we knew nothing more than the mere fact that one distribution was recently made by an impartial officer, appointed for the work by the Government, whilst the other was made three years ago, I do not think that any fair minded individual would have any hesitation about accepting the latter distribution. When, in addition to that, however, we find that the scheme of the Commissioner is supported by a majority of representatives of New South Wales, it is evident that there cannot be any ‘ very strong objections to it. _ The distribution has been made in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. The various conditions under which such a distribution ought to be made were taken into consideration, and surely under these circumstances no reasonable case can be made out for retaining the old system. Some two months ago the adjournment of the House was moved by the honorable member for Macquarie in order to call attention to the delay in giving effect to the provisions of the Electoral Act. On that occasion I supported the honorable member, and also found fault with the administration of the Department for Home Affairs on the ground that it had been slow in taking action. I expressed the opinion that if the distributions made by the Commissioner were not found to be acceptable to this House, and needed revision, there would not be time to permit of the reports being sent back and finally adopted by the House in time for use at the elections to be held in December next. The Minister was exceedingly annoyed at my remarks, and, speaking very bitterly, said I ought to be ashamed of myself for having made any such statement. I am now exceedingly glad that I did make that statement, because what I said two months ago is now borne out by actual facts. The adjournment was moved by the honorable member for Macquarie on the 18th June, and the Minister, in his reply, utterly ridiculed the idea that there would be any delay or that there had been any blundering in the administration of his Department. He admitted, however, that although the Electoral Act was assented ‘to on the 10th October, no action was taken to give effect to it until five weeks afterwards. Surely that was unpardonable neglect ; more especially as the Act had been passed some weeks before it was assented to. If a start had been made immediately the Act was assented to, we should have arrived at the present position five weeks ago, and the time at our disposal would have been more than sufficient to enable the Commissioner to revise his report and meet any objections that might be urged against his distribution.
– The Minister did ‘ not appoint the Commissioner for New South Wales until some, months after the Act was passed.
– Nothing whatever was done for five weeks. All that was done then was to send out certain circulars to the various States Governments. If there is not now time for the reports to be returned to the Electoral Commissioners the fault rests solely with the Department for Home Affairs, and the Minister who has recently been in charge of it ought to be thoroughly ashamed of the position. I intend to vote against the proposals of the Government. I am convinced that, if we return the map to the Commissioner, there is still time for him to effect a fresh redistribution of the electorates.
– After all that has been said ?
– I have already declared that if there is not time to effect the redistribution, the fault is that of the Minister. But, altogether irrespective of whether there is or is not time available, the fact remains that a start should have been made earlier. I shall vote against the Ministerial proposal,, because during the whole of my political career I have favoured the principle of giving full representation to the people. In Western Australia one of our great troubles in the past has been the unequal distribution of the electorates for the State Parliament. Some of the constituencies there’ used to be described as “pocket” boroughs. Although under the proposal of the Government the divisions effected would not be so bad as were those for the Western Australian Parliament, the discrepancy is far too great. The sole excuse put forward is that the drought has caused a displacement of the population. I understand it is the desire of the Government that people and not areas should be represented. No evidence has been adduced to show that any electors will be disfranchised because of the displacement of population that has occurred consequent upon the drought. The names of the electors would still appear upon the rolls. It is true that some who reside in the country ‘would have their names included upon the rolls for city constituencies, but these could vote by post so that they would not be disfranchised.
– They could not vote for another electorate.
– If their names appear upon the electoral rolls-
– If they reside at Wilcannia they cannot vote for a city electorate.
– If they voted in Sydney their influence would be felt just as much as if they voted in the country. I fail to see how any great injustice could be done to the individual. Undoubtedly a majority of the representatives of New South Wales are opposed to the course which the Government propose to adopt. I should like to quote a statement which was made by the Prime Minister upon this subject, possibly before he had ascertained the views of some of those who sit behind him. He said -
The principal persons to be considered are the electors, and not the members.
Unfortunately, the Government are now considering the interests of certain honorable members rather than of the electors generally.
– One would have thought that it was rather late in the day to have to stand up in defence of the principle of one-man-one- vote and of its corollary - equal voting power. In politics, however, as in everything else, there seems to be a tendency to drift backwards. Thus it sometimes comes about that those who boast most of their achievements in a certain direction are the first to attempt to curtail the liberty which they have conferred upon electors, as is the case with the Minister for Trade and Customs, who loudly protested this afternoon that he was a member of the Government which introduced into the New South Wales Legislature a Bill embodying the principle of one man one vote. Honorable members will doubtless recollect that during the discussions which prevailed whilst the referendum campaign was in progress a great deal of controversy took place upon Hie subject of equal representation in the Senate. Many of the electors of Australia thought that that principle was unsound from a democratic point of view, and strongly denounced it, claiming that there should be proportional representation in both Chambers. I call attention to this fact merely because the champions of the old Federal scheme, and of the later Federal scheme, excused the principle of equal representation in the Senate upon the ground that we should have proportionate representation in this House. To a certain extent we have embodied in the Constitution the principle of proportionate representation so far as the House of Representatives is concerned. Every State is entitled to representation in this Chamber upon the basis of its population. The States Legislatures themselves have divided the States into electoral areas, and, as far as possible, have endeavoured to give representation to those areas according to population. The great revolution which took place in the franchise by reason of the adoption of adult suffrage, absolutely necessitated a re-arrangement of the electoral boundaries, and it appears to me that the conduct of the Government, in refusing to indorse the schemes of the Commissioners whom they appointed, is absolutely unparalleled in the history of Australian public affairs. Attempts have been made to quote instances of a parallel nature, but they are not analogous to the present case. They related merely to simple adjustments which had been necessitated by the increase or decrease of local population from time to time. In this case, however, 300,000 electors, who have recently been enfranchised, are involved. Knowing, as we do, that the introduction of this new voting element must disturb existing conditions, we are asked to repair to the old boundaries, and to reject the report of the New South Wales Commissioner, who was instructed by the Government and Parliament to prepare a scheme based upon the principle of proportional representation. The Minister for Trade and Customs has endeavored to excuse the Government, and to enlist the sympathy of honorable members, by declaring that the recent disastrous drought was responsible for an exodus of population from the country. It is something new to hear the honorable gentleman and the Prime Minister pleading on behalf of the drought-stricken settlers of the Commonwealth. When the Electoral Act was under consideration, the Prime Minister was telling the people in London that there was no drought in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs, though he did not deny the existence of a drought, sought upon every possible occasion to represent that its results were very grossly exaggerated.
– The Prime Minister did not say that there was no drought.
– Probably our cable communication is not nearly so perfect as was the channel of communication between the Prime Minister and the honorable member. Certainly the cable messages which were published in the Australian press showed that the Prime Minister endeavoured to make it appeal- that there was no serious drought in Australia. But what I desire to point out is that the drought was upon us in all its severity when the Electoral Act was under consideration. Ministers were aware of that fact. They knew the extent to which population would be affected by it, and whether or not there was likely to be a large congestion of population in the great towns. Had they sought to provide in that Act that no new division of the constituencies should take place for the next election, it would have been a perfectly fair position for them to take up. I do not say that I should have agreed to such a proposal, because I should not, but it was open to them to suggest that there should be no fresh division for the forthcoming elections. The Ministry, however, had not the hardihood to make such a suggestion.
– They did not know how matters would turn out.
– Perhaps they were anxious to ascertain whether the adoption of such a proposal would favor themselves or the enemy. Certainly we knew that the Commonwealth was afflicted with drought at the time we were considering the Electoral Bill. The Minister for Trade and Customs was aware of the fact when he instructed the Commissioners to make the proposed redistribution upon a population basis. What did we do 1 We gave the Commissioners power to go beyond or below the quota to the extent of one-fifth, and when we allowed for that margin in the electoral law, we fully believed, as we believe now, that we provided for every possible contingency.
– The leader of the Labour party thought that a margin of one-fifth was too liberal.
– Exactly so. When that proposal was before us he delivered a vigorous ‘ speech against the proposition that the country was entitled to any more representation than was the city. I deny that we provided for that margin of one-fifth for the sake of giving the country greater representation than is given to the town. It was allowed merely in order that community of interests might be preserved, and that unless it were absolutely demanded by a large change in population no unnecessary disturbance of electoral boundaries should take place. It was never intended that the power should be used to make any distinction between the town and the country. The principle of one vote one value is embedded in the Constitution as well as in our electoral law, and we have no right to depart from it. I cannot understand how a Parliament, elected as this Parliament has been, to represent the democratic people of Australia, can be so dead to all sense of its responsibilities to the people who have created it, as to tolerate proposals such as have emanated from the Government in regard to this matter. I believe that .the proposal which the Minister has placed before us to set aside the Commissioner’s distribution of New South Wales - and I held the same opinion in regard to the Government proposal that the Victorian scheme should be rejected - is positively the most iniquitous that any Government has ever submitted to any Parliament. What is the meaning of the laws that we have passed 1 Do we intend to place laws upon the statute-book merely to befool the people t Is our work a mere pretence ? Is it a mere matter of display 1 Are we running a political theatre in which we make speeches, give expression to sentiment, and put laws upon the statute-books merely for the sake of impressing the people ? When we provide in the laws of the Commonwealth that the principle of proportional representation should guide the Commissioners in the distribution of the several States, have we any intention of carrying out that principle ; or, do we mean merely to humbug the people into the belief that we are establishing a principle of equality of voting power 1 What will be the position if this scheme is ‘ thrown out 1 It is unnecessary for me to quote many figures, because the House has already been deluged with statistics, and honorable members . clearly appreciate the position. If the existing electorates are’ allowed to remain it will simply mean, according to the figures that have been submitted to us by the Commissioner, that one elector in the country will possess two and a-half times the voting power of another in the city. I am not quoting an extreme case. There are several instances in which the voter in the country will possess two and a half times the voting power of a voter in a city or suburban electorate. Do honorable members who sit behind the Government, and who intend to support them in regard to this matter defend an inequality or injustice such as that? What is the reason for setting aside this report ? Do honorable members believe that the drought has caused such a disturbance of population that these glaring inequalities can be justified ? Are we to be told that the returns snowing that there are some 12,000 electors in the Darling electorate, and 32,000 in the electorate of Lang are incorrect ? Are we to believe that 20,000 people from Darling have settled in the electorate of Lang? Is that the explanation of the discrepancy ? If the explanation of the Ministry is that the people of the country left the drought stricken districts for- the towns, and have not yet returned to their old electorates, the position set up is simply a preposterous one. I arn here to state boldly that the figures quoted by Mr. Houston in his report - and which were furnished to him by the Electoral Department - underestimate the number of electors in North Sydney, Lang, Parkes, and a number of other city divisions. They show no increase whatever in the number of male electors who were on the roll at the time of .the last election. On the contrary, in one or two cases an absolute decrease is indicated. We know that there has been a natural increase in population in those districts, and when the rolls come to be revised it will probably be found that, instead of there being 32,000 electors in the electorate of Lang, there are 35,000. The same remark applies also to the electorates of North Sydney, Wentworth, and other divisions around Sydney. I make bold to say that, instead of this . disparity being due to the removal of large numbers of people from the country to the town, it- will be found, when the revised numbers are put forward, that there is a glaring disparity between the city and the country divisions, arising from an increase in the local population. Honorable members cannot explain away these inequalities by the mere statement that the conditions in the country are unsettled, and that the drought has wrought such terrible havoc with the population there that it would be unfair now to divide the State into new electorates. While the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was speaking, the Minister for Trade and Customs made an interjection which fully explains his idea of the position of voters in the Commonwealth. When he was told that an elector for the Wilcannia district who was away from his home could vote by post, or else vote in the new electorate to which he had removed, the Minister interjected - “ But he could notvote for his old electorate.” The honorable gentleman seems to think that the Commonwealth is divided into electorates for the pui-pose of establishing a system of paroch al. politics in the Federal Parliament. We were always under the impression that the country was divided into electorates for the purposes of convenience, and in order to preserve to some extent community of interest. We never imagined for one moment that a man who possessed a vote for one part of the country should not exercise that vote just as freely in any other part of the State to which he had removed. If, as the Minister for Trade, and Customs says, many people are away from the old electorates their rights are nevertheless preserved to them under our liberal electoral laws. . They cannot be deprived of their voting rights. If they are temporarily away from their own homes, transacting business in any other part of the State, they are at liberty to vote by post; and if they are away from their own electorates for a month, or a longer period they acquire a right to vote for the electorate in which they reside. Surely we have made our electoral law liberal enough to prevent any man from being deprived of his just voting right because he has medea temporary change of residence ? We are told, however, that this would be a most inconvenient and improper time to divide the country into electorates. Why did not the Ministry fail to discover when we were passing the Electoral Bill that the distribution would happen at a most inconvenient and unpropitious time? They went through the solemn farce of passing an electoral law containing provisions to guide, govern, and direct the Commissioner for each State in the preparation of his scheme of distribution, but now that the work is submitted to them, and they find that it does not suit them, a dozen excuses are invented to set it aside. Not one of those excuses would hold water for a minute in the view of any intelligent man. . I assert that this Parliament is upon the verge of doing a great injustice to the people of New South Wales.
– For party purposes.
– The Commissioner admits in his report that he has liberally used the margin allowed to him. The figures show that he has done so, and therefore it was really unnecessary for him to make any admission or to comment upon this point. Under the new arrangement, the population of the electorates of New South Wales would range from 18,000 to 27,000 each. That is a very wide margin, and should be more than sufficient to cover any possible condition, such as diversity of interest, that, might have to be dealt with. It seems to me, indeed, that it is more than necessary to cover fluctuations in population due to drought or any other cause. We find, on the one hand, that 18,000 electors are entitled to return a member to this House, while on the other ii7,000 electors in another part of the State possess only the same right. Here is a wide difference, and surely it should meet the case without our being called upon to throw aside the Commissioner’s work and to deprive an enormous body of people of their due representation’ in the Commonwealth Parliament. The honorable member for Parramatta has quoted figures which I know to be correct. He showed that if the existing electorates. were allowed to prevail, the six least populous districts in the State of New South Wales would return to this Parliament the same number of men that would be returned by the six most populous districts in the State, and that there would be a difference of 90,000 in the number of voters on the roll. Although I do not admit for one moment that the onefifth margin should be exercised in favour of town or country, I think that, having provided in our electoral law for that margin, we should be prepared to accept the basis laid down by Mr. Houston. Independently of the statement that there will be a difference of 44,000 between the number of voters in the six least populous and the six most populous constituencies, is it an unfair or an unreasonable thing for which we are contending?
– Not under normal conditions.
– If the conditions were normal we should not consent to the difference in numbers, so far as the voters in the different electorates are concerned, under Mr. Houston’s scheme. We should then insist upon a distribution that would give to the large centres, as nearly as possible, representation according to their population. Wc give Mr. Houston the credit for having taken the abnormal conditions of the country into full consideration. He is not a fool. He is a gentleman whose wide experience in administering the Department of Lands has given him a knowledge of the conditions of the country such as is probably possessed by no other man in the State.
– Nonsense. What does a man sitting at an under-secretary’s desk know of the conditions of a country 1
– That is a very wise remark to come from the honorable member. A man who for a number of years administers the Department of Lands in a State like New South Wales must understand the productive interests of the country. I do not mean to say that he knows as much about cattle or sheep as those who are actually engaged in pastoral pursuits, but he knows the general conditions of the country, and. could not be ignorant of the existence of an extreme drought. There are very few men possessing any position at all in the community, and indeed very few poor men, who do not know by bitter experience what the country has gone through. It was because this official had had such a wide experience as a public servant ; because he possessed such a special knowledge of the country, and could most -readily get the information which would be useful in dividing the State into electorates, that he was chosen as Commissioner. Moreover, he has taken into consideration what the Minister has termed the abnormal conditions which prevailed in the past. Although he says in his report that the objections raised on that score were matters which did not altogether come within the range of his duty, I take that statement to mean that he was bound to respect the law under which he was appointed. The Government, too, are bound to respect it, and we are bound to respect it. Of course, Parliament is in a sense omnipotent. It can pass enactments which inflict a gross injustice upon the people. It can deprive the people of their electoral .rights. It can adopt the principle of one man one vote, and by artificial arrangements - I cannot use any worse term - so circumvent the electors in the exercise of their power as to nullify the principle. Parliament cannot engage in the consideration of a more momentous question than that which we are now discussing. It touches the liberties and the rights of the electors. Yet we are asked not to occupy time in discussing it. I agree with the right honorable member for South Australia that the course which the Government have taken must be held responsible for any consumption of time. Are we who represent large and populous electorates to bp. silent when thousands of our electors are being disfranchised ? The Minister tells us that they are not being deprived of their power to vote. Of course, the 32,000 electors in the Lang division will each of them be able to vote, just as the 12,000 in the Darling division will be able to do ; but their votes will not have the same influence. On the Minister’s reasoning, the people of Sydney could not complain if the whole metropolis were made one electorate, because each of them would still have the power to vote. Not only has each man the right to vote, but we should provide that each vote shall be of equal power, and the Commissioner’s report shows us that under the present system one vote in one electorate is equal to two and a half votes in another electorate. I hope that the House will be influenced by the strong expression of opinion which they have had from the representatives of New South Wales on this question. Almost every honorable member who has spoken has pointed out that he has no personal interest to serve, and certainly that is our case. It would probably be easier for every one of us to allow things to remain as they are. Under present conditions we know our electorates, and what support we can expect from them, and it would be much more convenient to leave things as they are. But we have to consider the interests of those whom we represent. We should be recreant to our trust if we did not protest in the strongest terms against this attempt on the part of the Government to deprive them of their’ full voting power. I do not think that it will be contended for a moment that, because a number of those who sit on this side of the House represent city and suburban constituencies, we are not thoroughly in sympathy with the population of the country districts of the Commonwealth. If the producers of Australia have any friends at all they are to be found on the opposition benches. We are just as much interested in their wellbeing, and are just as anxious that they shall be given their rights, as are the members of any other party in the House. This should not be a battle of parties. It should be simply a battle for the, preservation of the voting rights of the people. If an attempt were made to deprive the people of the country of any just right, we on this side would fight as energetically in their support as would the members of any other party. We are fighting now’ for those whom we represent because there are no others ready to do so. By some strange combination of influences there has been a general arrangement, on the principle of “You stick to me and I will stick to you,” to support the Government on these motions. I hope, however, that honorable members will be impressed by the Commissioner’s report, which has now been placed in their hands, and which speaks more eloquently than can any honourable member as to the inequalities which exist in connexion with the present division of the State.
– I very much doubt if anything which can be said by any honorable member on this side of the House, whether he represents the State of New South Wales or any other, will affect the division, because it must be clear that the question* has been resolved on the Government side into a distinctly party contest, and that every honorable member who has hitherto supported the Government will rally to their cry for aid, and support the motion to disapprove of ‘ the Commissioner’s recommendation. The honorable member for Wentworth put the legal position of the matter fairly before the House. We had at the beginning of our Commonwealth history to adopt a franchise of a tentative character,’ based upon the experience of the States. But as soon as Parliament had an opportunity, it dealt with the whole Commonwealth from a national point of view, and an Electoral Act was passed providing for the future division of Australia into electorates of a more equal and equitable basis. What did that Act provide ? In the first place it recognised that the division of Australia into electorates should not be mixed up in any way with political considerations. It adopted the principle which is being .more and more widely accepted in every Anglo-Saxon community in the world, that where questions involve political considerations they should be submitted to tribunals or to individuals who are above the suspicion of leaning to either side. In accordance with that principle, a gentleman, who had a wide knowledge of the lands of the State was appointed to divide New South Wales into electorates. He had to recognise the extension of the franchise to women - ,an innovation in the electoral history of the country - and he had to see that the principle of one adult one vote, which is regarded as one of the pillars of democracy, was very carefully conserved. It seems to me a splendid illustration of the irony of events that the one man in this Chamber who has boasted continually of having introduced women’s suffrage into Australia, should to-night practically prostitute his position as their champion to bring about a gross inequality in their representation. Another such illustration is afforded by the fact that, although throughout the debate it has been demonstrated that the action of the Government absolutely ignores the principle of one man one vote, the Labour party has been, throughout, conspicuously absent from the Chamber, and taken no interest whatever in the discussion.
– What does the honorable and learned member think about it ?
– I think that that principle should be respected and observed, especially by those who introduced it. Before the honorable member had got into his political long clothes, I was a member of a Government which introduced the principle of one man one vote into the Parliament of New South Wales.
– Did the honorable and learned member agree with it ?
– Yes, I approved of it. An independent Commissioner was appointed to divide the electorates. The Act under which he was appointed was passed in October, 1902, but according to his report the question was not remitted to him until well on in the following year.
Why were five or six months allowed to elapse before the submission of the question to the Commissioner? We are told now that time is practically one of the important factors in this difficulty, and yet for five or six months after the Electoral Act was passed the Minister neglected to take it upon himself to appoint a ‘ Commissioner. The Commissioner, in his report says that, after looking into the matter, he finds that under the present division of electorates in New South Wales - the adoption of which, we are told, is the alternative now before us -
No less than fifteen out of the 26 electorates in existence absolutely transgress the legal extremes in regard to numbers, and of the remainder five exceed the quota, while six are below it.
That is the state of things in which we shall have to acquiesce if we disapprove of the proposed distribution, and that is what the Minister asks us to do. But if the House listens to the instructions of the Commissioner it will see how completely the Minister who now seeks to nullify his report recognised the proper division of functions under the Act. The Commissioner says -
Your letter of the 4th Slay last, informing me that it was not the duty’ of the Commissioner to ascertain or verify the quota ; and that the ascertainment of the number of electors was the duty of the Electoral Officer ; I was enabled to at once proceed with the work of distribution.
The Minister knew whose duty it was to work out the divisions, and I have no doubt that if the Commissioner’s recommendations had squared with the purposes of this party, it would have been adopted nemine contradicente. But when it is looked into it is not difficult to see that it does not meet the convenience of at least ten of those honorable members who belong to the Government party - ten of the twenty-six representatives of New South Wales. If the House recognises that the Commissioner is above all qualified in point of knowledge and impartiality, surely they will require the Minister to give some stronger and better reasons than have been put before the House for disapproving of a report which has involved so enormous an amount of work. It must be remembered that after the Commissioner had made his report, every honorable member was invited to put before him any objections which he might think fit The Commissioner having considered these objections, makes certain pertinent remarks which show that everything that could have been said by the ten honorable members to whom I have referred has been considered. One would imagine from some of the remarks which have fallen from honorable members that the report had come before us before any one had had an opportunity to object, but if honorable members will look at paragraph 35 they will see these words -
Careful and patient consideration has been accorded to every objection ; and, in some cases, extensive investigations carried out, to determine whether the difficulties complained of could be reasonably met. The final results, however, invariably led to anomalies and disturbances in other directions, no less objectionable than those which it was set out to amend.
So that the logic of the position is this : A man full of knowledge of his subject, with impartiality which challenges criticism, who has heard all the objections, and all the exceptions that could be taken to his report, who has given them very careful consideration, and who has made an extensive investigation, places this recommendation before Parliament as the best solution of the difficulty with which he was asked to. deal. Now the Minister comes forward, .and without any reason beyond the fact that certain parts of the State have been partly depleted of population by reason of the drought, and urges that we should reject the proposed redistribution and perpetuate all the anomalies which the Commissioner has mentioned, until after the next general election. The Commissioner points out that in fifteen out of twenty-six electorates there is absolutely a deficiency in the number of electors required to entitle them to a representative. It is a monstrous state of things that the Minister who in charge of the Bill and who isa bogus champion of the- women’s franchise movement
– He got three snuff-box.es.
– I do not know whether he got snuff-boxes, or a tea service, or a warming pan. One presentation is said to have been made to him under the belief that he was the author of the measure which extended the franchise to women in New South Wales, whereas, as a matter of fact, he was conspicuously absent both from the division and the debate on the question when a resolution was passed by the local Parliament, at the instance of the late Sir Henry Parkes. He is a bogus champion of women’s rights. In my electorate there are 17,000 women voters, contrasted with only 4,000 women voters in the constituency of the honorable member for Darling. The Minister proposes that 17,000 women in one constituency should have no greater representation in point of numbers than 4,000 women in another. The women of New South Wales should hear of this, and they will very soon discover how much sincerity and genuineness there is in the claim of the Minister to be their champion. What has the Minister stated as to hisintention ? The Electoral Act provides that when the report of the Commissioner comes before the House, honorable members shall have an opportunity to express their opinion as to whether it shall be adopted. The 22nd section of the Act provides -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution or negatives the motion for the approval of any proposed distribution the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
Honorable members have yet to learn from the Minister what he intends to do in the event of the distribution being rejected. Does he propose to exercise the option given under the section I have quoted, and direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution, or does he intend to leave matters as they are, with all the gross anomalies which at present obtain? We do not know; and it behoves every honorable member who has committed himself to vote for the rejection of the report to at least ascertain from the Minister what he proposes to do as an alternative. Is the present state of affairs to be perpetuated, or is the time which will elapse between now and the next election to be devoted to a further investigation by the Commissioner in order te see if his views can be made to square with the convenience of the Government and those honorable members who are at their backs ?
– I do not think that is fair.
– I would ask the honorable and learned member if there are any other reasons before the House ?
– That is not a fair suggestion to make.”
– It is perfectly fail in the absence of other reasons. The burden of proof is on the Minister, and not on the House. It rests with the Minister to show why a report deliberately made by an impartial and competent man should be rejected by us. Who are in a better position than are the representatives of New South
Wales to say whether the report of the Commissioner is a fair one? Has the honorable and learned member for Indi looked at the report of the Commissioner ? Does he know that if the present condition of affairs is continued there will be 32,000 electors in one electorate represented by one member as compared with 12,000 electors in another also represented by one member? That is proposed to be equalized to some extent by the distribution now before us. It is very easy for an honorable member representing the State of Victoria to take upon himself, without due investigation, to condemn the distribution of seats in New South Wales. Who is more likely than the representatives of New South Wales to know the circumstances ? And if a large majority of the representatives of that State are in favour of the report, why should the representatives of other States say that it is not a fair one, or that it would not at all events bring about a better condition of affairs than exists at present, and under which the next election will have to be conducted unless the Commissioner’s recommendations are adopted ? The honorable and learned member for Indi says that it is unfair to attribute party motives to the Government in this matter.
– The honorable and learned member went further than that.
– When a perfectly impartial Commissioner has been appointed by the Government, and has shown on the very face of his report that the distribution of seats according to his plan would be infinitely more in accord with the principle of one-man-one-vote than the existing state of affairs, would the honorable and learned member for Indi take it upon himself to support the Government in rejecting that distribution, knowing, at the same time, that a large majority of the representatives of New South Wales wish it to be adopted ?
-A large majority of the representatives of New South Wales do not approve of it.
– I contend that they do.
– We shall see on the division.
– We will leave itatthat for the present. No honorable member whose seat is materially affected can vote upon this subject without, at all events, giving grounds for strong suspicion that he is biased. We know that the seats of at least ten honorable members who support the Government are most materially affected by the redistribution. The districts to which I refer are the Hunter, represented by the Prime Minister ; the Riverina, represented by Mr. Chanter ; Cowper, represented by Mr. Clarke; Gwydir, represented by Mr. Cruickshank ; Richmond, represented by Mr. Ewing ; Hume, represented by the Minister himself.
– My electorate is not materially affected.
– What I say is that the Minister’s electorate is more materially affected than many others.
– That is not correct.
– The Minister has more than once objected to the report of the Commissioner.
– I have never objected to it.
– That statement has been freely published in the press.
– It may have appeared in the press, but it is incorrect.
– The Minister has so often denied statements which have appeared in the press that Ibalance one thing against another and still remain in doubt. The other districts affected are New England, represented by Mr. Sawers ; Darling, represented by Mr. Spence; Barrier, represented by Mr. Thomas ; and Newcastle, represented by Mr. Watkins. I say that these ten electorates, represented by honorable members who systematically support the Government, are more materially affected by the report than are any other ten constituencies in New South Wales. These ten honorable members stand in a position which can scarcely be called impartial.
– Every honorable member is affected one way or another.
– Hear, hear; and the electorates in the eastern division are affected more than any others.
– I contend that the electorates I have mentioned are more seriously affected than are any others in New South Wales. I admit that my electorate is very much affected, but I am prepared, notwithstanding, to accept the recommendations of the Commissioner. The name has been changed, and other suburbs have been included, an arrangement which will certainly not be of any advantage, from my point’ of view. But I am prepared to accept the decision of a tribunal which I know to be impartial, which has looked at this matter from a broad point of view, and has taken into consideration the interests of not only New South Wales but of the Commonwealth. If every honorable member is allowed to tinker with this question because the distribution does not happen to fall in with his political views, or to give him the chance of securing as large a majority as he had before, I should like to know how we shall be able to secure the adoption of any impartial recommendation. No one can deny that the Commissioner is absolutely impartial. There is not the breath of a suspicion that he is biased by party feeling. He is a man of recognised ability, and was chosen by the Minister himself. He was at the head of the Lands Department in Sydney for many years, and is now a member of the Land Court. As his impartiality and knowledge are not challenged, ought not those honorable members who have nob investigated the matter for themselves to stand by a report of this kind, unless the Minister can show good reason why they should take another course. The fact that there has been a drought is a paltry reason to advance. As has been pointed out by one honorable member, the drought was at its height at the time the Electoral Commissioner was authorized to undertake this work. Why was that officer commissioned to make a report when this knowledge of the effects of the drought was in the possession of the Government 1 Why did they not say to Mr. Houston, “Your report will be worthless, and the House will reject it, because while we are appointing you a certain displacement of population is taking place which will deprive it of value.” We should regard it as strange if, when a verdict was given, a suitor who realised its effect were to say, “I do not like it, and I do not like the tribunal.” I take it that this House is composed of honorable men who will not be swayed by mere party feeling. I take it that honorable members who represent States other than New South Wales will not vote in the way that they are asked without making an investigation for themselves, and without some good reason being advanced by the Minister, who practically seeks to throttle and stultify the officer whom he appointed, and against whom he cannot urge a complaint. What is the precedent which we are asked to set up ? If Parliament can turn round on an impartial tribunal which it has appointed simply because the judgment of that tribunal does not happen to suit individuals, where will the matter end 1 Quite recently we have been endeavouring to bring into existence an impartial tribunal for the settlement of industrial disputes. What should we say of the organizations which are made parties before that tribunal if, after it had given its decision, they turned round and declared - “ We were very glad to see an impartial tribunal appointed, but we are not satisfied with its judgment, and shall not abide by it. We intend to ignore it.” That is the example which is being set by the Minister for Trade and Customs and by the Government. They propose to ignore the recommendations of a tribunal which they have taken part in creating, because the result does “not happen to suit their own book. Are we not justified in assuming that there are reasons underlying their action other than those which have been advanced by the Minister ? No one can look at the figures contained in the Commissioner’s report without being impressed with the striking anomalies which occur under the present system. For instance, in the Lang division there are 32,476 electors. The voters in that district have been considerably increased by reason of the adoption of adult suffrage. But whilst the electors of Lang number 32,476, those of Darling total only 1 2,000. The Lang electorate, therefore, contains almost three times as many voters as does the Darling electorate. Similarly, the district of Hume contains 17,000 voters ; that of Gwydir 18,000; and that of Riverina 14,000; as against 32,000 in Lang. In the Parkes division there are 31,800 electors, so that in each of these three electorates there are only half the voters that are to be found in the Lang division, whilst the Darling electorate contains only two-fifths of the voters in the constituencies of Parkes and Lang. That is the state of things which the Minister, who poses as a champion of the principle of one man one vote, desires to conserve in the State of New South Wales. We are told that he is an advocate of woman’s suffrage, although 17,000 women in the electorate of Parkes enjoy only the same measure of representation as 4,000 women in the electorate of
Darling. I take the last-named division as a standard, for purposes of comparison. I repeat that it’ contains 12,000 electors, or only one-third of the number to be found in the Lang division, and two-fifths of the voters in the electorates of Parkes, North Sydney, Dalley, Wentworth, East Sydney, and Newcastle. Why, Old Sarum was a ciscumstance to this state of things. The condition of things before the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed is mild compared with that which will be brought about by the abnormal disparities proposed to be perpetrated. If ever there was an innovation in the history pf Australia which should have impressed the Minister with a sense of his responsibility, it was the passage of the Electoral Bill, of which he made such a boast. But, although it was passed in October, 1902, it was not until well into 1903 that he moved in this matter. Having secured a report, we have a most pitiable excuse put forward for ignoring it, ‘one likely to be adopted by a large majority of the Government supporters,, for its rejection. I trust that there will be sufficient independence and manliness on the part of honorable members to refuse to allow a report of this sort to be strangled by the Minister, who can advance no better reasons in support of his action. If we adopt that course now it will be- adopted upon future occasions. We shall have it said - “Oh, this was done by the Barton Government. They appointed a most impartial, officer and ignored his report, although upon the face of it it was perfectly equitable. There is no reason why it should not be done again.” Let honorable members consider for a moment the effect which the Government proposal, if adopted, will have upon the women’s vote. Surety even those who did not favour extending the franchise to women will recognise that some sort of fairness ought to be displayed towards them now that they possess the vote ? In the Parkes electorate the additional votes resulting from the adoption of adult suffrage is 17,700. In Dalley they numbered 16,500 ; in North Sydney 17,600 ; and in Lang 17,000. In each of these four constituencies 17,000 women will come in without securing any additional representation. In the Darling electorate there are 4,000 female electors. The male and female voters in that division total only 12,000 as against 17,000 women alone in each of the four constituencies I have named. The female voters in the district of Riverina number only 4,000, and those in the Barrier 4,500. By some extraordinary process on the part of these bogus champions of women, three females in each of the four constituences I indicated will enjoy only the same representation as one woman in the districts of Darling, Riverina, and the Barrier. Is there any excuse for that state of affairs ? My own electorate affords an extraordinary example of the very large number who will receive no additional representation. Here is the criticism of this proposal by a very competent authority -
And yet. we have the supporters of this proposal prating about one adult one vote. In Sir William Lyne’s constituency there are 7, 166 female electors, . in Mr. Reid’s 16,202, which means that one woma u at the Hume is to have more voting power than two at East Sydney. Instances of similar unfairness could be picked out by the dozen, the whole effect being that the one-adult-one-vote principle is to be reduced to a fraud and a sham. As great an outrage in democratic government is in contemplation as if thousands of the electors were to be kept back from the polls by force, like the negroes are in some States of America, and this is the beautiful business in which the exigencies of the professional politician are compelling the Labour party to assist the Federal Government in carrying out.
– Who is the author of that ?
– The Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– Evidently the Minister for Trade and Customs has read the article. If honorable members will take the trouble to study the figures contained in Mr. Houston’s report they will find that the constituencies of the Hunter, Riverina, Cowper, Richmond, Hume, Barrier, New England, Darling, and Newcastle tire more materially affected than are any other electorates in New South Wales.
– I rise to a point of order. I have assured the honorable and learned member for Parkes that his statement is inaccurate, and I think that he should accept my assurance. He has repeatedly asserted that ray own electorate has been altered to a greater extent than have certain other constituencies. I have denied that statement, and I think that the honorable and learned member should accept my denial.
– I do not think that there is any point of order involved. There is no standing order which requires an honorable member to accept an assertion by another honorable member. At the same time, it is a common practice among gentlemen to accept assurances as to matters of fact.
– If we are all to accept one another’s opinions the House will consist of only one party. We shall have to accept each other’s assurances upon the fiscal question and every other question upon which we now differ. It is my opinion that the constituencies to which I have referred are affected by the Government proposal more than are any other electorates in New South Wales. The Minister differs from me ; well, it is a free country, and he is at liberty to entertain an opposite view. The Commissioner has found that it is absolutely impossible for him to so arrange the electorates of New South Wales as to make them exactly similar. In the 16th section of the Electoral Act under which he made this report he had to take into consideration certain conditions. That provision reads -
In making any distribution of States into divisions the Commissioner shall give due consideration to -
Has the Minister submitted to the House a single instance of the failure of the Commissioner to consider the community or diversity or interest, the means of communication, the physical features, or the existing boundaries of , those divisions ? No. The objection to the report has been summed up in the one miserable word “ drought.” The drought existed when the Act was passed; it existed when the Minister commissioned the Commissioner, although its effects are not felt to-day as they were at that time. I assert that the displacement of the population is not so accentuated today as it was when the Minister, knowing exactly the condition of the country, appointed Mr. Houston. I have formed the opinion, for what it is worth, that the objection of honorable members is not a genuine objection to this report. I do not, for myself, believe that it is politically a bond fide objection. I have, on the other hand, formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly - and whether it be “gentlemanly” or “ ungentlemanly” to do so - that this is a mere political ruse to obviate inconvenience to the party in power.
– I am inclined to regret that the attacking forces appear to be exhausted.
– We are waiting to hear from the other side.
– We have frequently witnessed skirmishing on the part of the Opposition, but they are to-night certainly attacking in force. The right honorable member for East Sydney seems to have mustered the whole of his forces for an, attack upon the Government. I congratulate the honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat upon the fact thathe has cleared away from my mind, at all events, a misconception as to his political opinions. I am pleased to congratulate him upon the fact that he has become a thorough democrat.
– It is a pity that the honorable member did not make the discovery before.
– I never knew that the . honorable and learned member was in favour of the principle of one adult one vote and one vote one value.
– The honorable member is not.
– No. It has frequently been asserted that no honorable member would dare to say he was opposed to the fetish of “one vote one value.” I believed that on a question of this kind I should have had the support of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, but he has forsaken the ranks of conservatism and become a democrat. I have read the report presented by Mr. Houston showing that eight city and suburban electorates, together: with certain coast electorates -
Contain no less than 396,869 voters, or overtwothirds of the electoral population of the State, and that - the remaining 192,920 electors are distributed over an immense area embracing about five-sixths of the State.
That five-sixths of the State is represented by a small and insignificant number of members. I maintain here, as I have always maintained - and I shall say it again on any platform - that the producers of this country, and those living in scattered districts, are entitled to larger representation than are the people of the cities. I have no hesitation in expressing that view. I have often expressed that opinion in this Parliament. If I offer myself for re-election at the next general electionsIshall again give expression to it when before my constituents, and any one who chooses to oppose me will find that it is a very popular one with, the people of my electorate. It is a question of the producer against those who live on the producer. A great many of those who live on the producer are mere “ carpet-baggers,” who have little interest in the country. They come here to make a little money and know nothing about the true conditions of the interior.
– That is the old conservative idea.
– The old conservative idea is that we might have a huge population in the metropolitan area - consisting of people who know little or nothing of our internal conditions - who would control the destinies of the whole country. I am astounded to think that many honorable members for whose good sense in relation to other matters I have the greatest respect, have publicly stated, as the leader of the Opposition said, I believe, a few nights ago, that the humblest man in this country, however poor his intellect may be, has an equal political right, and - as I understood him to say - should have a voting right equal to that possessed by the wisest and best man in Australia. The leader of the Opposition thinks that a halfwitted man is as much entitled to political power as is the greatest philosopher. I do not congratulate him upon such a view, and although this is a democratic country I shall never lose a vote by hiding my opinions in regard to this question. I have dared to express them again and again. Many reasons might be given in support of them, but it is unnecessary for me to advance’ them now.
– It is very important that the honorable member should mention them.
– I have no objection to stating them. I do not seek votes by adopting methods such as are followed by some honorable members ; I accept the law as it is. The question before us is whether or not we should disagree with the Commissioner’s distribution. I may state at once that notwithstanding what has been said by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, I have never entertained the slightest objection to the proposal that . the boundaries of the electorate which I represent should be altered. To me it is a matter of supreme indifference. .
-I did not say that the honorable member objected to the alteration of the boundaries of his electorate.
– The honorable and learned member said that mine was one of ten electorates which were very much concerned, and he hinted that we were so deeply interested in this proposal that we should not vote upon it. Much as the honorable and learned member may differ from me, I feel satisfied that he will accept my word, and I can assure him that I have never discussed this subject with the Minister or any other member of Parliament, nor have I discussed it with one of my constituents. I have never put pen to > paper in relation to the question, nor have I spoken to any one about it. I am absolutely indifferent. If the electorate of New England were altered, as proposed by the Commissioner, I should be just as ready to contest it as I haTe always been. Such being the case, I approach this question with a mind perfectly free from any personal consideration. The proposal made by the Minister that we should not accept the. distribution came upon me as a surprise. It has been said that there is a conspiracy to defeat the redistribution of seats. I have never entered into any conspiracy of the kind, and I should have been satisfied if the Minister had moved that the distribution be approved. What does the honorable member for North Sydney propose? He practically desires us to disagree with the, scheme, in order that a fresh distribution may be made by the Commissioner.
– That proposal is made only as an alternative to the rejection of the scheme.
– I take things as I find them. If honorable members of the Opposilion desire the acceptance of this scheme, they should negative the Minister’s proposal. The course adopted by them may be a matter of party tactics, but what good would result from the acceptance of the amendment ? Do honorable members suppose for one moment that the Commissioner would be able to prepare and submit to this Parliament a fresh scheme of redistribution, within a time that would enable it to be adopted and the necessary electoral machinery matured before the next elections? It is surely manifest that such an expectation would be absurd? If the Minister would accept the amendment I should be quite willing to vote for it; but, nevertheless, I should regard it as a farce, because I do not believe that there is one honorable member who can seriously think that the Commissioner would be able to go through all the formula prescribed by the Electoral Act, and to have a new scheme ready for the next general election.
– Then the honorable member thinks that the Minister humbugged us the other day ?
– I think that the Minister might frankly say that it would be impossible to have a new scheme prepared in time.
– He said that it could be done, and that there would be a month to spare before the elections took place.
– I think it would be absolutely impossible for the Commissioner to prepare a fresh scheme in time. My honest conviction is that we shall have to revert to the present electorates-
– If the present scheme is sent back to the Commissioner ?
– In any event. In any circumstances it would be impossible to have a fresh distribution upon which we should be able to go to the country in December next. I have held the opinion for months past that- we shall have to go to the country on the basis of the electorates as they exist at present. The whole contention raised by the Minister in proposing that this scheme shall be rejected rests upon the argument that the central and western districts of New South Wales were not under normal conditions, and that the population had been to a great extent depleted when this work was carried out. That is a very sound and good argument, but it seems to me that the honorable gentleman might have put forward other reasons for the course proposed by him. I have had some experience of the central and western districts of New South Wales, and I can assure honorable members that I have an idea of the number of people who left them owing to the drought. The honorable member for Riverina said that during the existence of the disastrous drought . thousands left their homes in his electorate and flocked to the city. If that was the state of affairs in Riverina, the- conditions were far more severe in certain other portions of New South Wales.
– These people would have the right to vote wherever they are.
– They would not be able to do so. The honorable member knows that their names are not on the rolls.
– They can have their names placed on the rolls.
– They do not take sufficient interest in Federal matters to go to the trouble of having theirnames placed on the rolls. It is all very well to make that reckless assertion. The important town of Bourke has been -almost deserted by its inhabitants. It was a pitiful thing for those who had known it in its palmy and prosperous days to visit it during the drought, when, according to reliable authority, it contained upwards of 600 empty houses. In my own narrow circle of friends, I know case after case in which young married people with their children have come from the country, and are now living with their parents on the coast.
– Is the honorablemember aware that the proposed distribution makes a difference of 50,000 between the country and the city electorates?
– I am prepared to admit that the Commissioner has made a big allowance, and, no doubt, in the mind’s of some honorable members, an allowance which should meet the case, . but I do not think it sufficient. The honorable and learned member for Parkes referred to- section 16 of the Electoral Act - a very unfortunate reference for the purposes of his argument. That Act provides that the Commissioner shall give consideration to community or diversity of interest, and means of communication. I could occupy some time in showing that community of interest has not been sufficiently studied by him. A great deal has been said of his thorough knowledge of New South Wales. Theoretically he has a thorough knowledge of the working of the Land Act of that State, but no man who has spent his life at a desk in Sydney can have a proper knowledge of the physical conditions and diverse interests of the country districts.
– Or of the- means of communication there.
– That is so. The district of Riverina roughly extends for 300 miles in any direction. There has, however, been no effort to preserve community of interest there. Although it is a great agricultural and pastora district - and agriculture is continually on the increase there - votes of the agriculturists and pastoralists would under the scheme of distribution recommended by the Commissioner be swamped by the votes of the miners at Cobar, Nymagee, White Cliffs, and other places.
– The Commissioner could not transplant those mines to some other division.
– No, but the electorates should have been differentlyarranged. “What community of interest is there between a mining population and a pastoral and farming population ? I should have striven to put White Cliffs and Cobar in the same electorate as Broken Hill, even if in doing so it were necessary to make a long narrow strip of a division. Then, again, the electorate of Darling is practically wiped out. The pioneer pastoralists, the homestead lessees, and the smaller settlers living in the districts of Walgett, Brewarrina, and Bourke, will be swallowed up by the mining population of Broken Hill, and to canvass that district, even if a candidate went in a straight line from Broken Hill to the other end of it, he would have to travel over 400 miles of country in which there are practically no roads, and neither railways nor direct lines of coaches. In times of drought and . flood, both of which make travelling very difficult in that district, it would be easier for a man to go from Broken Hill to Bourke by way of Adelaide and Melbourne, to Sydney, and then travel an additional 500 miles by train than to go direct. I think that the objection taken by the honorable member for Barrier is a very serious one. The Commissioner himself has stated that it has not been found possible to give as full effect as he would have liked to give to the requirements of the Act. A great deal of doubt has been thrown upon the statements which have been made in regard to the depopulation of the central and western districts of New South Wales, but I say that it would be as unfair to divide the metropolitan area into divisions at a time when the occurrence of plague had created such a scare as to drive all the population that could get away into the country as to divide the country districts in accordance with the present location of population. If the only reason which could be given in support of the motion is what 1 may call the drought ! argument, there might be a great deal in the contention of the members of the Opposition. There are, however, to my mind, still stronger reasons why the motion should be agreed to, arid I take these reasons from the very mouths of those honorable gentlemen. The Minister has not referred to the matter because it might be considered a criticism of his own Department if he were to do so, but I am fully entitled to use this argument. If I were permitted under the standing orders I could, by quoting speeches of honorable members of the Opposition delivered during the present session, give good grounds for supporting the proposal of the Government. Without quoting their very words, however, I will briefly state the facts to which they have referred. On the 18th June last, the honorable member for Macquarie moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to the unsatisfactory state of the electoral rolls ; and, in the course of a speech in support of the motion, he said that 150,000 people had been disfranchised owing to the incomplete collection of the rolls.
– Those figures were for the whole of Australia.
– The honorable member pointed out that, as the Federal electoral law was more liberal than the electoral laws of the States, the number of persons entitled to the federal franchise was much larger than the number of persons enfranchised under the States laws. He showed, therefore, that the States electoral rolls manifestly could not meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, under which every adult in Australia is entitled to voteafter a brief residence within the Commonwealth. The honorable member further pointed out that there was a discrepancy between the census returns and the electoral rolls of 71,000 names, of which 42,000 represented males and 29,000 females. Again, after some criticism of the Minister for various so-called errors, he stated that upwards of 40,000 male electors in New South Wales had not been placed on the rolls.
– But we shall have to adopt the same rolls whatever divisions we agree to.
– If the rolls are in an unsatisfactory state, we cannot lose the new divisions under them. Besides, if we adopt the Commissioner’s distribution, we shall probably find the next Parliament arranging for a new distribution and a fresh set of rolls. If we adopt the proposed distribution, it cannot be regarded as a permanent one.
– There is no need for it to be permanent.
– The honorable member for Macquarie stated that from 30,000 to 40,000 people in New South Wales have never taken out electors’ rights, .and under the State law such persons could not have their names placed on the electoral rolls.’ But under the Commonwealth electoral law people are not required to take out electors’ rights, since the Government have undertaken the duty of collecting the names of electors. The honorable member has shown conclusively that a large number of names of electors are not included in the roll, and yet he asks us to agree to a redistribution of the electorates on the basis of this incomplete and rotten register. It is the misfortune of some men to speak too much, and chickens sometimes come home to roost. The honorable member who has followed up the occupation of baiting the Minister for Trade and Customs now finds his statements recoiling upon himself. He has shown more clearly even than the Minister . that the rolls upon which the proposed distribution is based are unsatisfactory, unreliable, insufficient, and unworthy of being adopted. On the 30th June the honorable member again referred to this question, when he said -
We shall probably find that from 100,000 to 150,000 persons who are entitled to vote will be left off the roll.
The honorable member is clamouring for the adoption of this roll as a basis of representation. He now states that the 150,000 electors to whom he referred were distributed over the Commonwealth and were not all to be found in New South Wales, but I find that one of his principal political associates on the front Opposition bench, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, stated during the same discussion -
It is plain that at least 150,000 electors have been disfranchised. . . . One hundred and fifty thousand electors are at present disfranchised in New South Wales.
– The Minister stated that we were wrong.
– It does not matter what the Minister stated. If the Minister is regarded as incapable of performing his duties, the honorable member should move a vote of censure upon him instead of condemning the rolls at one moment and then clamouring for their adoption the next.
– I did not say that there were 150,000 electors off the roll in New South Wales.
– I cannot say that the honorable member did definitely say that, but his remarks would induce one to suppose that he was referring to the omissions in that State only, and the statement of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa was explicit. Adding the 150,000 electors to the estimate of the Commissioner, we find that the number stated to have been omitted would represent one-fifth of the total number of electors in New South Wales. That was a most serious statement to make, and it appeared to many honorable members that, owing to the enormous difficulties of grappling with the question, it would be almost impossible to collect a satisfactory roll in time for the elections in December next. If the general elections could be postponed till March or April, no doubt the Minister would have ample time in which to collect proper rolls. I am very reluctant’ to criticize the actions of Ministers. My attitude has shown that I am friendly to the Government upon general lines of policy, and I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will be able to defend himself satisfactorily against the criticisms, to which he has been subjected. I cannot, however, help thinking that when the Electoral Act, which conferred a vote upon every adult in the Commonwealth, was passed, the State roll was no longer a proper basis for us to adopt for election purposes. There are thousands upon thousands of. men in New South Wales who, owing to their isolation or their indifference, have failed to take out electors’ rights. The Electoral Act dispenses with the necessity for a right ; and, therefore a fresh roll to include the names of all adults in the Commonwealth should have been collected irrespective of expense. Even the leader of the labour party, when taking part in the debate on the 18th- June, expressed his conviction that it was likely that we should probably have to fall back upon the present divisions. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has no interest in New’ South Wales, and cannot possibly know much about the conditions in that State, and yet he ventured to take part in this debate.
– Why should he not?
– I am not questioning his right to do so. I have always regarded the honorable member as one of the fairest men in the House, and I was sorry to see him display such keen party bias. In the course of the debate, to which I have already referred, on the 1 8th June, the honorable member severely censured the Minister in connexion with his administration of the Electoral Act. He referred to the difference- between the census returns and the rolls in New South Wales as representing a deficiency in the latter of 90,000 names. Now the honorable member is joining with the others of the free-trade party in clamouring for the adoption of the proposed distribution. On the occasion referred’ to ‘he said -
I contend that any division of the electorates, either of Victoria or New South Wales, which is based on such rolls, will not be a just one.
Here we have an example of the grossest inconsistency.
– The rolls have been adjusted since then.
– No ; - they have not. The Minister took certain steps to invite electors, whose names were not on the roll, to apply to have them included, but thousands of men never saw the invitation, and it met with a very poor response.
– The old divisions are based upon the imperfect rolls referred to.
– It does not matter. My contention is that we require’ a more comprehensive registration of names before we attempt any redistribution of seats. I do not know whether the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was inspired by a desire to assist his friends of the free-trade party, but his statements certainly cannot be reconciled. On the 30th of June the Minister admitted a discrepancy of between 80,000 and 100,000 between the census and the rolls in New South Wales. The Minister also said that lists were being exhibited in every post-office in New South Wales.
– He has taken a. fresh roll since.
– I have condemned the idea of taking the State rolls ‘ as the basis of the Federal rolls. I will undertake to t-ay that in New South Wales tens of thousands of electors have been disfranchised. The Minister declared that -
Lists were being exhibited at evey post-office in New South Wales, with a notice asking persons who are entitled to exercise the Federal franchise to apply to have their names placed on the roll.
– Upon what date was that?
– Upon the 30th June last. I maintain that the people do not take sufficient interest in Federal politics to bother their heads about securing the insertion of their names upon the electoral rolls.
– Have we to consider that ?
– We have to consider it. I think that the services of the police should be utilized to collect the names of those who are qualified to vote throughout Australia. I can quite understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs was disappointed with the way in which the lists came tohand. What chance was there of the position being otherwise? Let honorable members look at the scattered character of our population. As a. matter of fact, the people of Australia have little knowledge of our Federal system ; and it is largely owing to the fact that Federal matters are reported so very meagrely in the provincial press «f New South Wales. I have no desire to prolong my remarks. Upon this matter members of the Opposition stand self condemned. In their speeches they have adduced the strongest reasons why it would not be- fair to adopt the- divisions which are recommended by the Commissioner. I have listened carefully totheir statements, because I honestly desire to- see the Electoral Act carried out in its entirety.
– Although the honorable member does not believe in it.
– No more than I believe that any half-witted fool would be as competent to manage the affairs of the- Commonwealth as is the honorable member. I honestly desire to see a proper roll collected and the whole machinery of our Federal electoral system brought into operation in time for the next elections. That, however, is impossible. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite. They have delivered some very warm speeehes ; and they have indulged in a good deal of loud talk and have thumped the- table so violently as to almost bring the rafters down about our ears. ‘ I scarcely think that the honorable member for North Sydney is acting upon his own initiative in this matter.
– Excuse me, I am.
– Did the honorable member propose this amendment without any conference or understanding with the leader of the Opposition ?
– I proposed it without the leader of the Opposition knowing anything about it.
– Then the honorable member is acting entirely upon his own initiative ? I would point out that if the leader of the Opposition supports this amendment, he will simply be indorsing the action of the Government in rejecting the recommendations of the Commissioner.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. The amendment practically indorses the action of the Government in rejecting the proposals of the Commissioner. The honorable member for North Sydney has simply prefaced the Government proposal by a few words, the object of which is that the report shall be referred back to Mr. Houston for reconsideration. My contention is that it is hopeless to expect to effect any change in the boundaries of our constituencies in time for the forthcoming elections. The leader of the Opposition has made this a party question. In his speech he said that surely it was a question of such a character that it could not possibly be discussed upon party lines. I am always suspicious of the right honorable member when he adopts that tone. Upon this occasion there has been a greater rally of party supporters than upon any previous occasion.
– That is not correct.
– Honorable members are in attendance who are very rarely present. Since the matter is to be made one of party I decline to assist honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Barrier referred to the fact that in 1896, when the present leader of the Opposition was at the head of the Government in New South Wales and was supported by a very powerful party, great discrepancies in regard to the number of electors were disclosed-
– I do not think that the matter which the honorable member is discussing has any relevance to the question under consideration.
– The right honorable gentleman took no action in regard to the report submitted by the Commissioner upon that occasion. He allowed it to lie upon the table of Parliament for eighteen months without taking any action.
– That was a very different matter from this.
– It was upon all fours with it. The right honorable gentleman’s justification for ignoring that report was that the rolls were in an unstatisfaetory state and that he could not act until a fresh roll had been compiled. I take up a similar -attitude upon the present occasion. Lest it may be inferred that I have criticised Mr. Houston unjustly, I desire to say that I have the very highest admiration for that gentleman. I believe that he is a thoroughly capable officer, but there is no living man who can possibly be acquainted with all the diverse conditions obtaining in New South Wales without seeking some advice. Mr. Houston sought no advice, but acted entirely upon his own judgment. I ventured to visit his office, where I saw his secretary, to whom I intimated that I was prepared to give him any information in my possession. I was, however, informed that no person had been allowed to supply any information whatever. No doubt that was a very wise thing in its way. At the same time the Commissioner was arrogating to himself a knowledge which no man could possibly possess.
– A knowledge which he was expected to possess, otherwise he would not have been appointed.
– My right honorable friend, talented as he is, cannot possibly know everything, and has often to seek advice, just as he did in reference to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– We had better get the J udges to seek advice next.
-I have given a few of the reasons why I must support the Government upon this occasion. I have not the slightest objection to any alteration of the boundaries of my own electorate. At the same time I believe that the rolls are in an unsatisfactory condition, and as it is impossible to effect any improvement in them in the time at our disposal, I intend to support the proposal of the Government.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has pointed out that the people in various parts of Australia do not interest themselves very much in Federal politics. Indeed he went so far as to say that it was necessary for the police to look them up and insist upon the insertion of their names upon the electoral rolls. It appears to me that in supporting the action of the Government, the honorable member is relying very much indeed upon his own opinion of the interest which the residents of New South Wales take in electoral matters. I would suggest to him that it may be to his interest to be a little more careful in his statements, otherwise he may be “left” at the next elections.
– I will chance that.
– If there is one thing above all others with which the people of New South Wales are, and have been for years, concerned, in relation to electoral matters, it is in seeing that the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value should be embedded not only inState legislation, but also in the legislation of the Commonwealth. I am surprised that those honorable members of the labour party who represent the electors of New South Wales, and who, to my knowledge, have been ever since 1889 advocating the principle of one man one vote, should be on this occasion supporting the Minister for Trade and Customs in a deliberate attempt to make the principle of adult suffrage provided for in the Electoral Act a perfect farce in its application to New South Wales.. It is unnecessary for me to deal at length with the figures which have already been quoted in order to prove the absolute accuracy of my contention. One would have thought from the remarks of the honorable member for New England that he was the sole representative of the producing interests of New South Wales. He went so far as to urge that the people living in the cities and towns of New South Wales were living on the country-
– They do not produce much.
– And that the producer has a right to more voting power than has the resident of a city electorate, or a coastal electorate such as Illawarra or Newcastle. That is exactly the contention which the Minister for Trade and Customs was at pains to emphasize. That honorable gentleman, who has posed as a supporter of one man one vote, pointed out when introducing this proposal that he believed that the people living in the country districts should have more voting power than is possessed by those living in the city or coastal electorates. The honorable member for Gippsland and others supporting the Government proposal have also put forward the same contention. I can quite understand such an argument coining from the honorable member for Gippsland, because we are aware of the conservative ideas which he holds in this connexion.
– What does the honorable and learned member know of my opinions ? I have supported one adult one vote ever since I have been in Parliament.
– And would put it in shackles.
– I have heard the honorable member on different occasions assert in this House that the producers of the country should have more voting power than have the people of the towns.
– I do not say that they should exercise a greater influence per capita.
– The action of the honorable member in supporting the Ministerial proposal shows that he is seeking to give effect to the opinion which he has held for manyyears.
– I do not think the honorable and learned member understands the meaning of one vote one value.
– He is seeking to take away from the people of New South Wales the principle of one man one vote, and to give greater voting power to the people living in country districts than to those resident in the city or in the coastal area. The honorable member for New England and certain other honorable members who happen to represent: country constituencies are not entitled to take to themselves the credit of being the sole representatives of the producers in this House. I have the honour to represent one of the most important producing constituencies in Australia.
– But where does the honorable and learned member live? Does he live in his constituency?
– I was born there, and I am proud to say that the people amongst whom I was bred and born returned me to the first Federal Parliament. I have every reason to speak as one who knows these people, for the great producing industry which saved Victoria was inaugurated in my constituency. There are also a very large number of coalminers residing in my electorate. The coal-mining industry is carried on in the electorates of Illawarra and Newcastle, and I am astounded that the honorable member for Newcastle, who knows ‘that the coal miners, above all others in New South Wales, have been fighting for the principles of democracy - for the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value - should be supporting the Minister in this proposal. According’ to the figures submitted by Mr. Houston, fifteen electorates, comprising the metropolitan and coast divisions, contain 396,869 electors - a proportion of 26,458 electors to each of those constituencies. In the rest of New South Wales we have eleven electorates, in which there are 192,920 electors, which is equal to 17,538 electors to each of those divisions. These figures clearly show that so far as the metropolitan and coast constituencies are concerned two voters are equal to only one voter in the other eleven electorates. If we had passed a system providing that acres and gum trees should be represented according to their area and number I could understand the attitude of those who are opposed to the Commissioner’s scheme. But, in view of the fact that we have passed a law providing for adult suffrage and containing a provision enabling the Commissioner to make a certain allowance either above or below the quota, in order that the voting power shall be as equal as possible, why should honorable members support the proposal put forth by the Minister for Trade and Customs. As the leader of the Opposition has pointed out, it would have been rather dangerous for the Government to entrust the conduct of this matter to the present Minister for Home Affairs, because he is not quite so clever in this connexion as is his predecessor. The Government proposal is part and parcel of a course of action which has been followed for a considerable time in order to insure that the elections, which must take place before long, shall be carried out on the basis of the old electorates. There was a great deal of glamour associated with the first Federal election. The Prime Minister, who was of late years leader of the Federal movement in New South Wales, and others who were supporting him, received a very large number of votes, simply because of what they had done for the Federal cause. Various promises were made by them in regard to the Tariff and other questions, and upon the strength of those promises they received the support of thousands of electors in New South Wales ; but, in view of their broken pledges, I believe that they will never again receive that support. The old electorates helped to give the Government a majority, and they feel satisfied -that the distribution made by Mr. Houston - the most capable officer who could, perhaps, have been selected in the whole of New South Wales for this work - would not be advantageous to them. The Minister for Trade and Customs knew that Mr. Houston was a capable officer, and he selected him for that reason. The Commissioner has. presented us with a scheme of ‘ distribution, and because it does not suit the present Administration - because it is felt that the Opposition would gain under it - various consultations have been held, and certain honorable members have been going about the House with very gloomy countenances. They have been downcast because of the alterations proposed in their constituencies. In one case an electorate has been altogether wiped out by the Commissioner. It would not suit the present Ministry to have the election carried out according to. the distribution made by Mr. Houston and the whole of this trouble is due to that fact. The main question to my mind is whether the States are to be distributed to suit individual members Or the Ministry for thetime being, or whether the work is to be carried out in a way that will give the people .an opportunity to properly express their views at the ballot-box. A telegram was received during the dinner hour stating that the electorate of Lang, instead of comprising 32,476 electors, has now 35,000 within its boundaries.
– And yet the people are said to be going back to the country.
– Yes, I shall have a word or two to say presently about the drought.
– How does the honorable and learned member account for the difference of nearly 3,000 ?
– Many people have gone to live in the electorate of Lang, because it embraces a favourite suburb, which has been greatly improved by the extension of the electric-tram service to it. I happen to have my Sydney dwelling-house in the electorate of Lang, and therefore I am a constituent of my honorable friend, Mr. F. E. McLean.
– I am another.
– There has been .a great increase in population.
– In what time has this increase taken place ?
– During the last twelve months. A telegram has been received, stating that there are now 35,000 electors in Lang, and as against that we have only 12,139 electors in the Darling division. The honorable member for Newcastle has 29,444 constituents, while there are 23,333 electors in Illawarra, as against only 12,139 in Darling. While I believe strongly in the principle of one man one vote, I believe also in the principle of one vote one value.
– What is the value of a vote ?
– How can we have one man one vote and one vote one value when we have 12,139 electors in one electorate as against 29,444 in another 1
– I thought that the value of a vote was the influence which it exercised on legislation.
– How is that value to be appraised except at the ballot-box t
– Exactly. Are we going to put the electors through an examination in order to find out what their political education is ? The thing is ridiculous. I should like to compare three of the country electorates - Riverina, Barrier, and Darling - which contain 42,232 electors, with three city electorates - Lang, North Sydney; and Parkes - which contain 95,813 electors.
– -Does the honorable and learned member claim that the three country constituencies have more political power than the three city ones ?
– The political influence of the electors in the three country constituencies I have named is, in proportion to that of the electors of the three city constituencies, as two is to one. The object of our Electoral Act, however, was to put all the electors of Australia on the same basis. I contend that the effect of disapproving of the proposed distribution of the Commissioner will be to disfranchise a large number of persons in New South Wales, and to- give an unequal distribution of political power; I do not wish to impute any wrong motives to the Minister, but in my opinion this is being done purely for party purposes. I can account for his action no other way. What he now proposes is in opposition to the principles which he has hitherto advocated. T*t is also in contradiction to the principles of the Labour party, who are supporting the Government on this occasion.
– The Labour party are not solidly supporting the Government, and I may add that this question has not been discussed by them.
– I am- glad to hear it. The majority of members of the party are, however, supporting the Government, and it appears to me a remarkable thing that those whoclaim to fight in the interests of democracy should go back upon the principles embodied: in the Electoral Act. I think that the position of those honorable members cannot be emphasized too strongly, and I feel certain that when the people of Ne ew Sou th Wales have an opportunity to express their opinion in regard to their action, they will show them, and some of the members of the Ministry, what they think of the whole business.
– I listened with considerable interest to thehonorable member for New England, and although I made an interjection while he was speaking, I did not do so with any hostile intention. He appears to me to be one of the most consistent of the members who have spoken on the other side, inasmuch as he has practically stated that he does not believe in the principle of one man one vote, or the principle of one vote one value. Thatbeing his position, he can consistently support the Government in their attempt tosecure the disapproval of the proposed distribution of the Commissioner for New South Wales, wherein an effort has been made to carry out the provisions of the Electoral Act which embodies those principles.
– I did not say that I supported the Government for that motive.
– No, but that is the goal which the honorable member will reach. It must have been to you, Mr. Speaker, a great surprise, coming as you have from the most democratic of Parliaments, to hear the speeches which have been made on the Government side of the House. In the State in which you were reared they have always had one man onevote. While in the- other States of Australia there was plural voting, and in New South Wales at one time- men might have possessed as many as 125 votes, the citizens of your State have always had but one vote each. But in the ‘Course of time, as intercommunication between the States has become easier, the spirit of democracy has extended from South Australia throughout the Commonwealth. Demos has always reigned in the State of South Australia, and for some years past in other States of the Union, but it must be a surprise to you to find that he is about to be deposed, and deposed by his own apostles. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for .Kennedy say that this is not being done by the Labour party as a whole ; but a large section of that party, and possibly its most influential members, led by Mr. Watson intend to support the proposal of the Govern ment. They are prepared to depose Demos, who recently reigned throughout the Commonwealth, and no doubt when they go before their constituents they will have a good deal to answer for because of that action. I find that in “Victoria, while .72,360 persons in the city of Melbourne will elect only two representatives, 72,270 electors in the country districts of Wannon, Indi, Echuca, and Gippsland will elect four representatives ; so that whereas the city population’ will have a representative for every 36,180 electors, the country population will have a representative for every 18,067 electors. Therefore, two female voters in either Yarra or Kooyong, the Melbourne constituencies, will only be equal to one male voter in any of the constituencies I have mentioned. I do not think that the Labour party will be able to satisfy the women of Melbourne that that is a fair arrangement. During the discussion of the motion in regard to the proposed Victorian distribution, the honorable and learned member for Corinella played the schoolmaster, and resorted to the very undesirable practice of quoting from the speeches of honorable members without giving the context. He tried to score in favour of Victoria by doing that in connexion with a speech delivered by the honorable member for Lang. The honorable member’s remarks when read with the context leave a very different impression from that created by the quotation made by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The honorable and learned member also treated in the same way a speech by the right honorable member for East Sydney, and, in reply to a speech by myself, stated that I had fallen into an error in assuming that an attempt had been made to differentiate between male and female electors. How can any honorable member say that there is no differentiation between country and city constituencies, and between men and women, when in a Melbourne constituency 36,180 electors - of whom more than 20,000 are women - ha ve only the same representation as IS, 06 7 electors in a country constituency in which there are no more than 10,000 men. The honorable member for Gippsland says that electors in the country should have more representation than those in the city, but I do not think he has any right to complain, inasmuch as the vote of any one of the electors in his constituency is equal to that of two electors in a city constituency. No doubt a strong case might be made out, from his point of view, if we were now discussing the representation in any of the State Parliaments, but the representation in this Parliament is quite a different thing. The residents of the country districts have a direct interest in securing a large representation in the States Parliaments, in order that they may obtain the attention of Ministers to their needs in regard to the making of railways, the construction of bridges, and the laying out of roads. As Ministers will admit, it is numbers that tell in regard to requests for such works. The States Parliaments, moreover, have to deal with such questions as land legislation, the conservation of water, and a score of other matters in regard to which the people of the country require the constant assistance of local representatives. But this Parliament has no such work to do, and I think that, on reconsideration, the honorable member for Gippsland, who spoke so eloquently and forcibly in favour of his proposal, will see that a very different interpretation from that which he gave1 to it a few minutes ago, when he made it convey the meaning that gum trees and holdings as well as men, should have representation! should be placed upon the expression one man one vote, and each vote one value. In order to adequately carry into effect the principle of one man one vote we should see that each vote is given the same vallue, and we can do that only by dividing the States into electorates in which the electors are, as nearly as possible, equal in number. That is what we mean by one vote one value. That principle is laid down in the
Constitution and in our Acts of Parliament, and is generally accepted throughout the Commonwealth. I find that in Victoria there are fifteen country constituencies, with an average of 23,533 electors, and eight city constituencies, with an average of 33,875 electors. That is a most unfair distribution of voting power. I am surprised to learn that many honorable members who represent Victoria, and who are satisfied that affairs should remain as at present in that State, .are disposed to take the view that the scheme of distribution now proposed should be adopted in New South “Wales in order that the electors may have the fullest possible advantage of the application of the principle of one vote one value, though they will not allow so liberal a provision to apply to their own State. In New South Wales the quota is 22,684, the maximum is 27,220, and the minimum 18,148. Therefore a margin of 4,536 above ‘or below the’ quota, or 9,072 in all, is allowed. One would suppose that that would be sufficient to enable the electorates to be so distributed as to give satisfaction and to secure justice to all. The honorable member for Riverina delivered a very forcible speech from his own point of view, and quoted facts which one would think should induce him to support the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney, namely, that the distribution scheme be returned to the Commissioner for amendment. He was able to show that the State could be so divided that every sitting member might retain a constituency, and that at the same time there need be no disparity in the number of electors in the divisions. The desired change could only be brought about by adopting the course suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney, and I therefore claim for it the support of the honorable member for Riverina. I under-‘ stand that the members views were made clear to Mr. Houston, but I presume that that gentleman had no time to fully consider them. If, however, the report were returned to him he would have an opportunity to give full effect to the suggestion of the honorable member, and to make a satisfactory distribution. I am, however, well satisfied with the distribution made, and the amendment referred to is to prevent the Government from “gerrymandering” the electorates. In New South Wales there are seven electorates which have less than the minimum number of IS, 148 electors. These are Hume,. Bland, Canobolas, Richmond, Darling, Riverina, and Barrer. In the Darling electorate there are 12,139 electors only. With me, this is not a question of city versus country, because my electorate has one-third more electors, and extends to the centre of New South Wales, and adjoins that of Darling. Under the Government proposal it will require threeof my electors to equal the voting power of two persons in the Darling Division, which is on the opposite side of the road. I think the Minister would act wisely if he adopted the distribution scheme recommended by the Commissioner, who has performed his work to the satisfaction of the great majority of the electors of New South Wales, and would thereby remove the existing disparity. Under present conditions the electors of New South Wales cannot enjoy the advantage of one vote one value, nor win every adult have the vote to which he or she is entitled. Pour city and suburban constituencies, namely, Lang, Dalley, Parkes, and North Sydney, contain 125,910 electors, or an average of 31,477 per electorate. Pour country electorates, Richmond, Darling, Riverina, and Barrier have a total of 59, 129 electors, or an average of 14,782 per electorate. Under the old conditions when a vote was given to property-owners the average in the State of New South Wales was two votes per elector. Now it appears that electors in certain country electorates are to have the equivalent of two votes per elector, as against one vote per elector for those residing in the city and suburbs. Moreover, my constitutents have one-third less voting power than electors in the adjoining country constituency. This is most unfair, and I hope that the Ministerwill reconsider the position and take a course that will be satisfactory to the people of New South Wales and more in accordancewith the principles which he has hitherto’ advocated.
– I have listened with much interest to thedebate, and have paid particular attention to’ the remarks of the honorable member for New England, who has thought fit to refer to my action two months ago in .moving theadjournment of the House for the purpose of calling attention to the neglectful administration of the Electoral Act. I thenhad occasion to speak in no measured terms- of the apathy and inattention of the Minister. I realized that he had designedly neglected this important part of his work in order that he might, at a later stage, find an excuse for placing obstacles in the way of the adoption of the distribution proposed by the Commissioner if he found it desirable to do so in his own interests. In June last year the Minister received the authority of Parliament to make preparations for the collection of the rolls, because it was then that we passed the Franchise Act. On 10th October of last year the Governor-General assented to the Electoral Act, which prescribes the mode in which the electorates are to be divided, and the Minister was required to appoint a Commissioner forthwith in order that divisions might be made in time to enable the general elections to take place upon the new distribution in December next. What has been the attitude of the Minister all through ? Has he made any serious attempt to carry out the will of Parliament as expressed in the Franchise and Electoral Acts? According to the report of Mr. Houston the Minister took no action whatever. He was busy visiting other States, and doing a little electioneering on behalf of himself and the Government, instead of taking measures which would secure to the electors the full enjoyment of their political rights. It was not until the end of April, six months after the Electoral Act was assented to, that the Minister gave instructions to Mr. Houston to proceed with the important work of distributing the electorates. Can any honorable member point to any other case in which such apathy and neglect have been shown by a responsible Minister. The honorable member forNew England, who is a consistent supporter of the Government, while attempting to cloud the issue by referring to my action, still found it impossible to avoid taking some exception to the action of the Minister. My action in moving the adjournment of the House was perfectly justified. I knew what was going on. I had had years of experience of the tricky ways of the Minister, and I knew of the danger that thousands of electors would be disfranchised unless he was kept up to the mark. ‘ Even the honorable member for New England, who is a strong supporter of the Government, was compelled to admit that the Minister for Trade and Customs had been guilty of gross neglect in reference to this important matter. We have heard a great deal of talk about the principle of one man one vote. When the delegates were appointed to frame a Constitution for the Commonwealth, upon what basis were they elected ? Did not an equal value attach to every man’s vote?
-It did except in the case of Victoria.
– My protectionist friends have always pointed to Victoria as a democratic State, where everybody enjoys equal rights. In New South Wales the. Federal delegates were elected upon the principle of manhood suffrage, and an equal value attached to all votes. Under the proposal of the Government, however, three votes in one electorate will practically have only the value of one vote in another electorate. The delegates to the Federal Convention were elected upon the principle of one man one vote.
– In South Australia and Western Australia the women voted.
– Order !
– I warn honorable members of the danger which they incur in adopting the Government proposal. In the Electoral Act we have provided that one vote shall have only one value, as far as the election of senators is concerned. But what do I find? If we take the eight existing electorates of Lang, Parkes, East Sydney, North Sydney, Dalley, South Sydney, Wentworth, and Parramatta, which are represented by members of the Opposition, we shall find that they represent 236,000 electors, whereas in the constituencies which are represented by eight Government supporters there are only 160,000 electors, the number being made up as follows : - River - ina, 14,920; Richmond, 16,897; Hume, 17,347; Gwydir, 18,354; Cowper, 24,351 ; Hunter, 24,001; New England, 23,378; and Eden-Monaro, 20,546. If the House adopts the proposal of the Government the eight members of the Opposition will thus represent 76,000 more electors than will the eight Ministerial supporters.
– How many of them will get back to Parliament ?
– There will be no trouble as far as the Opposition members are concerned. We have one of the best battle cries, because we are fighting for a principle in which we believe.
– A principle in which the honorable member does not believe.
– The Government of which I was a member in 1891 was the first administration which had the courage to submit to the New South Wales Parliament a proposal in favour of one man one vote.
– I do not think that that matter is relevant to the matter under discussion.
– A statement has been made in reference to members of the Opposition.
Mi: SPEAKER.- The matter to which the honorable member refers was first suggested by the honorable member for Barrier, and I twice called his attention to the fact that he was travelling beyond the subjectmatter of the debate.
– I have no desire to transgress the rules of debate. At the same time I felt that the honorable member for the Barrier was misrepresenting the real facts of the case. We feel very strongly in favour of this principle, and when a dastardly attempt is being made to take away the rights of the people of the Commonwealth we are naturally indignant.
– A dastardly attempt 1
– Upon another occasion I may use even stronger language. If I would not be out of order I should like to point out to this House and the country that the first person to deal with the question of one man one vote in New South Wales was the late Sir Henry Parkes.
– He promised to deal with it, but that was all.
– In the eight constituencies to which I have already referred, the four which are numerically stronger, and which are represented by members of the Opposition, contain 125,920 electors, as against 92,776 in the four strongest divisions which are represented by Ministerial supporters. The other four electorates which are represented by Opposition members contain 110,000 voters, as against 67,118 in the four electorates which have returned Ministerial supporters. Yet the Minister for Trade and Customs, in company with the Prime Minister, took credit at East Maitland for having passed a very liberal Electoral Act. I would point out that that measure is only liberal so long as its provisions are liberally administered. They have not been so administered. To my mind the Government are laying themselves open to a suspicion of gerrymandering similar to that which took- place in America some years ago, where, owing to manipulation on the part of the Government, one party were able to secure the return of fifty supporters representing 50,000 electors, .whilst the other could obtain the return of only 11 members although . they represented 56,000 electors. Any one who knows Mr. Houston will admit that he is a straightforward man. I have such confidence in him that I never called upon him while be was engaged upon this work, and knew nothing of the distribution that had been made until other honorable members acquainted me with the details of it whilst I was travelling between Sydney and Melbourne. I did not desire to know anything in relation to the scheme, because I was satisfied that Mr. Houston was a straightforward, honorable man. If honorable members of the Opposition have confidence in Mr. Houston, surely the Government who appointed “him to do this work should be able to trust him.
– Would the honorable member have called on Mr. Houston if he had thought that he was not straightforward ?
– I was perfectly prepared to trust him. I wish now to deal with one or two other statements. The honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member for Darling, the honorable member for Barrier and the honorable member for Bland are supporting the Government proposal to disfranchise thousands and thousands of the electors of the Commonwealth. If we do not accept this scheme those four honorable members will represent 59,254 electors, whilst two honorable members of the Opposition will represent no less than 64,000. Can honorable members say that the principle of one man one vote, one vote one value would be recognised under such a system 1 Could any honorable member dare to go on any platform in the Commonwealth and Say that he believed in the principle of democracy - that he believed in the principle of one man one vote, one vote one value, at the same time supporting the Government proposal 1 The honorable members of the Opposition are the democrats. They are the men who are standing by the rights of the people. T am pleased to find that the light honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, is with us in this matter. He has always been a strong advocate of the principle of one man one vote, one vote one value, and I am not surprised to find that he feels impelled in this matter to part company with those with whom he has been so long associated. His loyalty to his party is such that if he could have shown any justification for the Government proposal he would have done so ; but he cannot see his way clear to give up a principle for which he has been fighting for years. Although I often differ from the right honorable’ gentleman, I give him every credit for being true to principles of this kind.
– Too thin.
– I wish to deal fairly with my right honorable friend. When I think that he is on the wrong track, I shall fight him as strongly as possible.
– What did the right honorable member say about the Goldring case 1
– I have said nothing.
– I differed from him in regard to that case, and I am still awaiting an explanation. Let me give another illustration in regard to the unfairness of the Government proposal. I shall take the electorates of Lang, Parkes, North Sydney, Wentworth, East Sydney, South Sydney, and Dalley, which, if this scheme be rejected, will comprise 212,362 electors. Seven honorable members will represent 212,362 electors in the electorates I have named. But even if this scheme be set aside I believe that the Government will be compelled to pass a short Bill to ratify their proposal.
– They will have a lively time.
– I promise them a lively time, and others will also take action to that end.
– The House which represents the principle of one vote one value will also have a chance of saying something in regard to this matter.
– Honorable members will have a chance of showing that they believe in the principle on which they were elected by defeating the scandalous proposal which has been made. There are 212,362 electors in the seven divisions I have named, while there are 110,000 ‘electors in the electorates of Riverina, Darling, Hume, Bland, Barrier, Gwydir, and Richmond, which are all represented by Government supporters. There is thus a difference of nearly 100,000 electors between the two series of divisions. Yet we are told that the principle of one man one vote, one vote one value is recognised in this proposal.
– The honorable member is not satisfied.
– And we have the honorable member for Maranoa “ barracking “ for the Government proposal.
– Hear, hear.
– If the honorable member saw 50,000 workmen disfranchised he would not talk in this way. That will be the result of this proposal.
– Let us now take the electorates of East Sydney, Illawarra, Wentworth, West Sydney, Parramatta, Parkes, Lang, Dalley, Robertson, North Sydney, South Sydney, Macquarie, and Werriwa, in which there are 337,000 electors. I have taken this list of thirteen electorates, because they are represented by honorable members who support the proposal made by the honorable member for North Sydney. If we add the electorate of Canobolas - which is represented by Mr Brown, who I feel satisfied would vote with the Opposition if he were present - we have 356,000 electors represented by fourteen members, while there are only 232,000 electors represented by twelve honorable members on the Government side of the House. There is thus a difference of 1 24,000 electors. Should we not do our best to avoid anything -in the nature of the ‘ gerrymandering “ business which was carried out with so much success in America some years ago 1
– They never did anything as big as this in America.
– They were pretty bad, but they had more experience than the people of Australia have had. What I am . afraid of is that if we do not nip this proposal in the bud there will be a danger of the growth of this objectionable business in this Parliament. I should be very sorry to see anything of the kind take place, because although I may differ from the conclusions arrived at by the House in connexion with many matters, I have good reason to be proud of being a member of the first Federal Parliament. I do not wish anything to occur which will make it possible for the people to look with contempt upon the first Parliament of Australia. I am anxious that the high tone of Parliament shall be maintained, but I am -afraid that if the Government proposal is carried we shall deserve the censure of the electors. I have always felt - and I have never hesitated’ to express the opinion - that if anything ever does take place to damage the prestige of this Parliament, it will be due to the action of the present Minister for Trade and Customs. I come now to the women’s vote. Before the Electoral Bill was passed, I heard the Minister for Trade and Customs point out time after time 1 hat he was a strong advocate of the principle of women’s suffrage. Indeed, he took the credit of having brought forward, and caused to _ be passed into law, the Bill conferring the franchise on women. As a matter of fact, the whole question was settled by the Constitution. At the time of Federation, womanhood suffrage existed both in South Australia and Western Australia, and under the Constitution we have no power te take away any of the rights of the electors in any of the States. In arranging for a uniform system, it therefore became necessary to provide for the extension of the franchise to the womanhood of the Commonwealth, and it was not the Minister but the people, voting in accordance with the principle of one man one vote, who insisted upon the application- of the principle of womanhood suffrage to the Commonwealth. Has the ‘honorable gentleman attempted to give full effect to the extension of the franchise to women? In the eight electorates - East Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, Lang, Dalley, Parkes, North Sydney and Parramatta, as they exist at present, there are 129,000 women voters. On the other hand, the electorates of EdenMonaro, Hunter, Cowper, Richmond, Hume, New England, Gwydir, and Riverina, which are represented by honorable members sitting on the Government side of the House, there are only 70,177 women voters. The honorable gentleman proposes that 129,000 female electors represented by eight honorable members sitting on this side of the House shall have no greater voting power than is given to the 70,177 female electors in the same number of constituencies represented by ‘ Government supporters. Can it be said in these circumstances that he is dealing fairly with the women of
Australia ? If honorable members go into the details, they will find that there is a very large number of females in many of the electorates. In the electorate of Lang, for example, there are 17, 500 females, while there are 4,000 in the Darling division. Taking the old divisions, and including only male electors, I find that the total number of electors was 303,757. Allowing a margin of one-fifth, that gives a maximum of 14,019 and a minimum of 9,347, the divisions having a population in excess of that maximum, being Lang, North Sydney, and Newcastle, and only one - Darling - being below the minimum. But, if we allow for female electors, eight of the divisions would have more than the quota and seven would have less than it, which shows the marked difference that the enfranchisement of women has made. The honorable member for New England, who referred to my action in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss the faulty collection of the rolls, will, if he refers to the debates, find that when on a subsequent occasion I dealt with the matter, the Minister interjected that there were only 9,000 names unaccounted for. I was not satisfied with that explanation, though it will be seen on reference to my figures that the loss in votes has been chiefly in the city and suburban electorates. The great difference between the number of names on the roll in 1902-3 and the census returns affects principally the city and suburban electorates of Sydney. This is shown by the information which I have received recently in regard to the compilations made by the State Government. In the Lang division under this distribution there are 32,400 electors on the roll, arid only 12,000 in the Darling division. It- requires 32,400 electors to elect a member of the Opposition, and only 12,000 to elect a supporter of the Government. Recent figures, however, show ‘that the number of electors in the Lang division is really 35,000. In addition to that, if two city electorates are taken, it will be found that there is a further increase of 3,000 names, and also an increase of fully 3,000 in the electorate of North Sydney, where, according to tho Minister, most of the country people went to reside.
– The honorable member is quoting two sets of figures ; one compiled recently and the other eighteen months ago. .
– Yes ; but it is due to the honorable .gentleman’s inactivity and neglect of his duties that this muddle has occurred. If the standing orders allowed me to do so, I would be justified in using still stronger terms, and I shall not hesitate to use such terms outside when an occasion arises. If the Minister had seriously wished to have the States divided equitably and fairly, he had ample time within which to make the necessary preparations. Unfortunately, however, Parliament went into recess shortly after the passing of the Electoral Act, and did not meet again until May, and up to within two or three weeks of our re-assembling he practically did nothing towards getting the Federal rolls prepared, or obtaining a fail’ distribution of the electorates. Even the honorable member for New Engand nad to condemn him for that, and every straightforward . man must take the same view of his conduct. The honorable member for Barrier referred to the redistribution of electorates made in New South Wales under the Act of 1893. At that time there were 145 members in the Legislative Assembly of the State.
– There were 141, and the number was then reduced to 125.
– Before the redistribution, the electorate of West Macquarie returned two members, but afterwards returned only one, and I had to seek election for the Bathurst constituency, so that I have reason to remember the occurrence. What I wish to point out, however, is that, although there was then a reduction of members, whereas there is no reduction in connexion with the proposed redistribution, there was no attempt to “ gerrymander.”
– What Government introduced that reduction 1
– The Government of which the Minister for Trade and Customs was a member.
– I cannot allow discussion on something which took place in 1893 in relation to the representation in a State Parliament.
– I am aware that I was a little out of order, but I was referring to the matter only incidentally, to show how, on that occasion, honorable members were ready to comply with the provisions of the law. Then, with regard to the Commissioner’s report in 1896, no charge can be levelled against the Reid Government, because the distribution which was then made would really have benefited those sitting on the side to which I belonged. This difficulty, however, arose. The Chief Electoral Officer pointed out that if an extraordinary vacancy were to occur, through the death or resignation of a member, no election could be held under the old law, and that the new law would not come into force until after the dissolution of the Parliament, which had only just come back from the constituencies. There were other legal difficulties in the way of carrying out the division, which affected only 8,000 voters in thirteen electorates out of 125. In this case the whole of the seats in this House are concerned. The electors of the Commonwealth are entitled to full voting power, because they are called upon to bear an equal share of taxation. When taxation laws are passed no difference is made in favour of the 32,400 electors in Lang as distinguished from the 14,000 electors in Riverina, and therefore equal voting power should be given to them. Honorable members know that when the distribution of the Victorian electorates was under consideration, I should have preferred to deal with the whole question in a general way, because the same principle is involved in each ease. The Government succeeded in their attempt to inflict a great wrong upon the electors of Victoria, and they are now endeavouring to bring about the same result so far as the people of New South Wales are concerned. We regard it as our duty, not only to the people of New South Wales, but to the electors of the whole Commonwealth, to do our utmost to prevent the Government from pursuing their intentions. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Government succeed in their present attempt they will place in the hands of the enemies of federation one of the strongest weapons that could be wielded by them at the coming elections. I do not wish to see that. Whilst I voted against the Constitution Bill, 1 felt that, after the people had agreed to it, it was our duty to so frame the laws and to so carry out the provisions of the Constitution as to make the Parliament of the Commonwealth worthy of the respect of the great body of the people. If the Government proposal is adopted, we shall run great risk of bringing about the general condemnation of our action as a Parliament
I hope the good’ sense and fairness of honorable members will induce them to give full consideration to the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney. Personally, I have confidence in the Commissioner, whose high reputation for fairness and integrity are thoroughly appreciated by me. The Minister told us some time ago that there would be ample time to enable us to send back the report for further inquiry and to finally adopt it, in an’ amended form if necessary, before the elections in December. But, when I asked him if he were prepared to adopt that course, so that the Commissioner might reconsider his report in the light of the further information afforded by the new rolls now being collected in New South Wales, he said that he did not intend to do so. The Minister did not want any further information. He was evidently afraid that any further information that might be obtained would disprove his own statements, and lead to his own condemnation. Undoubtedly, that would be the result; and, further, it would show the glaringly inconsistent conduct of the Government all through the piece. I feel it my duty to enter a strong protest against the attempt which is now being made to disfranchise thousands, of voters in New South Wales, and I hope that a sufficient number of honorable members will be found to support the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value, and that we shall have the electorates distributed upon a fair and equitable basis.
– The hour is very late, and I do not know that any more information can be afforded to the House. Certainly no information that could be afforded would have any effect upon the Minister: I have perused the report of Mr. Houston, who seems to me to set forth very clearly indeed the reasons which actuated him in making the distribution. I do not agree with some of these reasons, but, nevertheless, the Commissioner directly contemplated by the Electoral Act, which in its turn was directly contemplated by the Constitution Act under which this Parliament exists and under which we exercise our functions, has made the distribution. That having been done, I consider that, constitutionally, we ought to do one of two things - either to accept the report or to send it back to the Commissioner and ask him to make another distribution. I do not agree with what has’ been done in regard to the division in which I am particularly interested. I exercised my right under the Act and made a complaint to the Commissioner, which he acknowledged. I understand that the electors in a certain portion of my electorate which has been detached under the proposed distribution followed up this protest by presenting a very largely-signed petition against the distribution, but that the Commissioner, acting strictly within his rights, was unable to see his way to fall in with their suggestion. The Commissioner seems to be one of those rare persons who are not amenable to the protest of the politician or to the petition of the elector. It is possibly owing to his being such a rare individual that he is not persona grata with the Minister. My pathetic request for him to leave the West Sydney division alone fell on stony ground, and the petition of m)’ electors was no more successful ; but I admit that that is no reason for our usurping the functions of the Commissioner. The Commissioner is placed in a position outside the arena of politics and his duty is to distribute the electorates under such conditions as will enable politicians to fairly appeal to the country. It would be a lamentable thing if politicians were allowed to divide the State into electorates to suit themselves ;. and, while I fancy that I could have divided the State in a way that would have suited me better, I do not consider that that would justify me in refusing to accept the distribution made according to law by a properlyappointed person ; nor, as far as I have been able to gather from the speeches of those who defend the proposal of the Government, is there any special reason why we should do so. I see that the city and suburban electorates of New South Wales contain 39-74 per cent, of the total electors. Under the present division they have only 30-77 per cent, of the representation, whereas under the proposed distribution they would have 34*7 1 per cent. They may fairly be said to be entitled to this, because that would be 5 per cent, below what they could properly claim. The country constituencies contain 60’26percent. of the electors, and under the present divisions they have 69’23 per cent of the representation, whereas1- under the proposed distribution they would have 65 per cent. That would be 5 per cent, in excess of what they would be strictly entitled to. If time permitted’ I might point out very many injustices under any system. We are face to face with a principle which I have not been able to persuade myself to put upon one side. I think it is the duty of the House either to abide by the Commissioner’s report, or, as an alternative, to ask him to furnish a fresh one. Failing that, I do not think that we have the right practically to make an electoral division for ourselves. Under the circumstances, I shall be compelled to vote against the proposal of the Government. I trust very sincerely that even at this late hour in the day the Minister will see the advisableness of referring this report back to the Commissioner, accompanied by the very voluminous reasons which have been advanced both for and against the distribution proposed by him, leaving him to make any fresh division which more mature consideration may suggest.
– This subject has been so well thrashed out that I do not propose to occupy very much time in discussing it further. Upon such an important matter, however, it would ill-become any honorable member to remain silent. We are now at a very crucial period in the history of federation. We are faced with the fact that a general election is imminent, and that if we do not assent to the Commissioner’s recommendations we must appeal to the country upon the basis of the divisions which were effected three years ago by the States Legislatures.
– It is a humiliating position to put us in.
– It is. Last year I declared that the present Minister for Trade and Customs would make a muddle of the whole business. I am very sorry to say that I have not been disappointed. The worst feature about the matter is that nobody can put more than one construction upon the action of the Government. They have, in effect, passed a motion of mo confidence in themselves. They selected their own Commissioner, and he has submitted his report, which they have asked the House to reject. They do not attempt to excuse their action by pretending that the officer in question has effected a bad division. They say that the distribution recommended is good, but they intend to vote against it. They urge no reasonin support of their action save that which was given by the honorable member for Barrier, who declared that “ it did not suit him.” There is, however, another serious aspect of this question. We ha ve recently passed a Judiciary Bill, and we have seen some honorable members in this House, who hope to occupy judicial positions in the High Court, defending the action of the Government upon this occasion.
– Who are they ?
– I shall not mention names. Of course the Prime Minister has declared that he does not intend to accept a seat upon the High Court Bench. But there are members who, if they desire to occupy high judicial positions, should take care that no discredit attaches to this Parliament. Some honorable members have said in effect, “ 1 know that the Government proposal is wrong, but the majority think that way, and I shall vote accordingly.” Such a course of reasoning would excuse any rogue of any crime. I am glad indeed that a number of labour members have not pretended for a moment that theGovernment proposal is right. To do so would constitute a distinct abnegation of the principle which they have adopted in their platform, and which they have attempted to carry into effect. They have, however, so far departed from their belief in their own principles that they intend to vote for the Government proposal.
– Many of them do not intend to vote at all.
– The honorable and learned member should look after his own votes The labour members are well able to look after theirs.
– It appears to me that they do not regard the sound interests of the country. If in the future they intend to adopt a similar policy, so far from attaining a reputation for honest government, they will obtain one for assisting in dishonest government.
– That is a nice thing to say.
– Because a party in this House is numerically strong, is no reason why I should refrain from expressing my honest convictions.
– I would point out to the honorable and learned member that we are not discussing the policy of any particular party upon the motion before the House.
-But the policy of the labour party has a very great bearing upon it. A certain law wasenacted by this
Parliament. In it very large provision was made for the difference between the interests of the country electorates and those of the city. In my own electorate, for example, there are IS, 000 voters as against 26,000 or 27,000 in the .city and suburban constituencies. That is a fairly large margin. Under the division proposed by the Commissioner seven country electorates will contain 132,000 electors, as against 180,000 in seven city and suburban divisions. That is a very large margin indeed. Under the existing divisions seven country electorates which contain 111,000 voters, return as many members to this House .as do seven city electorates which contain ‘213,000 voters. The honorable member for Gippsland has declared his belief that the country should have more representatives than the town. Assuming that he was quite correct in his contention, does he not see that such an argument may be used against himself in the future t .For instance, it might be argued that the country electorates should contain the maximum number of voters, and the city constituencies the minimum. If that principle can be adopted upon one side, it can with equal justice be adopted on the other. The honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member for the Barrier, and the honorable member for Darling do not contend for a moment that the interests of New South Wales would be endangered if we accepted the recommendations of the Commissioner. If there is anything which has filled me with regret that I am a member of this House, it is the proposal submitted by the Government upon the present occasion. I shall vote against that proposal, although I think it is too late to give effect to the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney. At the same time I believe that we’ should have some further report from the Commissioner as to what can be done. If it be possible at this late stage to make a fresh distribution in the case of New South Wales, I should be perfectly willing to adopt that course. I am afraid, however, that it is too late. More than twelve months ago I pointed out that I feared some steps would be taken by the present Ministry to prevent full expression being given to the will of the electors. I repeated that opinion some two months ago, and it is perfectly clear that it is going to be justified. I should like to know what position will be occupied by those honorable members of the Labour party who have talked so much of the principle one man one vote, one vote one value when this proposal is carried out.
– I wish to say a few words on the amendment that has been moved, and I think that the House will consider it only fair that I should be allowed to make a brief reference to a charge which has been made against me. I endeavoured to make a personal explanation at the close of the speech in which the allegation was made j but since then I have had an opportunity to examine the official documents relating to the transaction in New South Wales to which reference was made, and I believe that honorable members will allow me now to clear away the charge which was made against me by the honorable member for Barrier, .who from his local knowledge should have known better. So far from the matter to which he referred being one affecting a general election by the people, the facts are that there was a general election in 1894, that there was another general election in 1895, and that the report by the Commissioner came up in April 1896, nine months after the last general election. It was presented under a provision contained in the New South Wales law which provided for a report during .the stage intervening between two census periods.
– Order ! I think it would be better for the right honorable member to deal with this matter by way of personal explanation.
– I am asking the special leave of the House to make an explanation,, and I hope I shall be allowed to deal with it in this way.
– I feel satisfied that honorable members desire that I should have this opportunity to state that two general elections took place within two years immediately previous to the report ; that the report came up nine months after the latest election, that it affected only thirteen constituencies out of 125, that the largest excess number of votes above or below the quota was 900 and the lowest 500, and that the total number of votes above or below the quota in the whole thirteen electorates was only 8,000. There was the further difficulty that if . we proclaimed the new boundaries the old boundaries and the old rolls would disappear, while the new boundaries would not come into effect until a dissolution of Parliament some three years afterwards. If a representative of one of those thirteen electorates had died, or something had happened which called for his resignation during the intervening period, there would have been no power to elect a member to fill that vacancy until Parliament expired - more than two years after the receipt of the report. I have here a copy of the report presented by the head of the Electoral-office who officially pointed out these matters to me and on the grounds of the complications which would ensue, advised against action being taken. I hope, therefore, that in this great struggle upon which we are only beginning to enter - because this is a matter that rises quite above our fleeting differences ; it is a matter upon which I intend to take a course which will ‘ probably be sufficient to attract some amount of public attention to the situation in which the House stands - we shall not have such charges. But before I adopt the course to which I have referred I will make a last appeal to the Minister in charge of this matter. I shall presently ask the honorable member for North Sydney to withdraw his amendment, because I fully agree that while that amendment to a motion submitted by the Government is before us, it is scarcely to be expected that the Ministry can listen fairly to a friendly suggestion. I propose, with the leave of the honorable member for North Sydney, that the amendment shall be withdrawn so as to make the decks clear for a friendly arrangement, and I beg of the Government to reconsider the position. ‘The Mi mister for Trade and Customs, in moving this motion, made the following statement -
Iti any ease, I have watched the dates so carefully that it is still possible to refer these boundaries bask to the Commissioner.
– Will the Minister consent to the adoption of that course ?
– Then why make that statement ?
– My reason for making the statement is that honorable members declared last night that there was practically no time to return these boundaries to the Commissioner foi’ revision, and to deal with the matter finally before the prorogation of Parliament. I know that if we adopted that course we should have at least a month to spare.
Therefore, the honorable gentleman in charge of this matter told the House last Friday that there was time to refer the distribution back for reconsideration. He also told the House that he would not refer it back for reconsideration, and hinted in some vague way at some measure of legislation, which may be absolutely necessary to deal with this emergency, but the object of which is made plain. . It is that in spite of the facts disclosed by the report of the Commissioner, in spite of the failure of the Government to locate the missing electors from the country districts in any other electorate in New South Wales, and in spite of the fact that if the missing electors had gone into the city electorates, the Government proposal would swamp them worse than ever by making their vote in a city electorate worth only one-third of the vote which they would have cast had they remained in their country divisions, the Ministry desire to revert to the old electorates. Therefore, this proposition does not stand on any principle of common sense. It raises an issue in the. early days of this Commonwealth which rises infinitely, above the fleeting political fortunes of one party or another. We have taken what we believe to be a principle which represents the advanced thought and is the political birthright which every man and woman brings with him or her into this world, and we have solemnly enshrined it in our Constitution. But now on the very first occasion when these hundreds of thousands of electors of Australia - the women enfranchised for the first time - have an opportunity to give effect, equally and straightforwardly, to their views in the selection of the second Parliament of this country, a sinister influence’ crosses the path of public duty, and men who are sworn by every principle of their political careers to watch the rights of the humblest man and the humblest woman in this country, remain silent while tens of thousands - armies- of workmen and women are robbed of their political rights. My honorable friends of the Ministry owe a duty and responsibility to the country. I, too, in my humble position owe a duty to the people of this country at such a crisis in the political honour and integrity of its affairs. If my appeal to the Government is to fail - if they will not withdraw this motion and reconsider the position - and if the representatives of other States in this Parliament who sat silently by and heard damaging proofs of enormous discrepancies representing not a few electors, but a larger number than is to be found in two of the States of the Commonwealth put together, refuse to take action, what will be the position ? If those honorable members who with us are trustees for the Commonwealth, who with us have an equal share of the responsibility of keeping the exercise of the the franchise free from the dangers of personal interest, decline to take action, what is to be done 1 If we cannot be true to the vital principle of the Constitution which we have sworn to defend, what good is there in us ? Why this parade of the democracy ? Why this parade of being the trustees and representatives of a democracy if, on the first occasion upon which we have a chance of doing anything for them, we descend to an act which stifles the right and the intellect of hundreds of thousands of people in this Common wealth? I have nothing more to say. But I ask the Minister to abandon the attitude which he has assumed. I urge him in his reply to suggest some means by which we shall not be compelled to sit down and allow this wholesale deprivation of right. We talk about the people and about ourselves sitting here as representatives of the people. Why should we deprive them of the one right which they possess? Why, when they can exercise that right only once in three years, do we not smooth the way of these thousands of electors to the ballotbox? Why should we create pitfalls and obstacles for them, so as to turn aside tens of thousands from an equal share of political power ? Let this kind of hypocrisy disappear. Let the honorable gentleman speak straightforwardly, as did the honorable member for New England. The honorable member breathed the spirit of this conduct. He said straightforwardly that the people of the towns live upon the producers of the country, and that they are not entitled to the same political rights. That was the principle also expressed by the Minister who unfortunately has had this power in his hands. When these matters were discussed in his own State, he informed us that the people, in the country should have .a larger share of political power than is possessed by the people resident in the towns. This action is being taken under a pretence, and it involves so great a wrong that I cannot sit silently by while it is being consummated.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HumeMinister for Trade and Customs). - I have sat here for two days, and have been subjected to abuse as unlimited, as unwarranted, as strong and as undeserved as that which any Minister has ever been called upon to bear.
– Not .as undeserved.
–Q.uite as undeserved. Whom have we as our accusers ? Have we not the same honorable members who voted and fought as they have been fighting to-night during the whole time that the Tariff was before us ?
– We are true to our principles.
– We are proud of the fight that we made on the Tariff.
– Are they not the honorable members who then individually opposed everything proposed by the Government, and who on every occasion hurled allegations of untruth against Ministers as well as against those who supported them ? As the Minister in charge of this proposal, perhaps, considering the source from which it comes, I could not expect other than the words which have been used by honorable members who have so frequently made statements of the same kind. I have heard the pathetic appeal of the leader of the Opposition, but I know that his tears are crocodile’s tears. I know, too, what a wail he would make if he could have certain previous actions of his own condoned. I do not know if I am entitled to reply to the personal explanation which he made just now, but I know that the action taken on the occasion to which he referred was precisely on all fours with that taken by him now. The thirteen electorates to which he referred would have been placed at a political disadvantage, so far as his side of the House was concerned, if the alterations had been made. He glossed that fact over, and I should not have mentioned it if he had not referred to the matter just now. He jumps Jim Crow, and turns his coat so often, that those who know him place no confidence in what he says from day to day. I have listened to-night to statements in regard to the discrepancies between electorates which have been supported by the deliberate quotation of recent returns in regard to some electorates, and of returns compiled eighteen months ago in regard to others. Is that fair political warfare? Is it not rather an attempt to deceive the House and the people ? Honorable members opposite have stated over and over again that the Darling electorate contains 12,000 voters, and I have received a memorandum in which it is stated that that electorate has, or will have, after the sitting of the Revision Court, the minimum or a number approaching the minimum number of electors required under the Act, and that when the returns are all in, and the Revision Court has sat, it will be found that the two adjoining divisions have also the minimum number of electors.
– I challenge the honorable member to produce that information.
– I state that I have been informed by-
– Mr. Martin.
– The honorable member makes that interjection in a deliberate attempt to insult me. I shall have something to say about the Chief Electoral Officer before I resume my seat, in reply to the vicious, venomous, and untruthful attacks which have been made upon him. As far as the facts can be gathered at the present time, it is believed that there will be1 a better distribution of the electors after the Revision Courts have sat than is contained in the recommendations which have been submitted to the House by the Commissioner for New South Wales. The reason is, that population is drifting back to places which were depopulated. In paragraph 26 of his report the Commissioner says -
In addition to this, examination disclosed isolated centres or knots o£ voting power, more or less remote from each other, and scattered over immense tracts of country, at the best of times never more than sparsely populated, but at the present practically depopulated.
I asked one honorable member of the Opposition, who was quoting from the report, to read that passage, but he did not do so. Then in paragraph 27 the Commissioner says -
The extraordinary condition of things in- the Western division, and the slight accretions of electoral power in that division, as compared with other parts of the State, conjoined with the operation of the quota, produced a situation of almost insuperable difficulty in regard to the electoral division.
– The honorable gentleman should read paragraph 20.
– Why did not honorable members read what the Minister asked them to read ?
– I shall read a good many more paragraphs before I sit down. Will any honorable member tell me that it would be fair to the country districts of New South Wales, in the face of the facts there stated, to approve of the proposed distribution? I have been accused, in unmeasured terms, of having asked the House to disapprove of the distribution for some ulterior motive, of doing it for a political purpose, as part of a conspiracy, and so forth. I have also’ been accused of want of genuineness, both in my political life and in my present action. I defy any other honorable member to show a better record of political consistency than that which I have gained during’ my political life of 23 years. I can, however, point to political delinquencies on the part of the leader of the Opposition, who, on one occasion, said that no politician was worth twopence unless he was politically inconsistent.
– What a dreadful thing to say ! The Minister has some consistent men behind him at all events.
– Can honorable members fancy the honorable and learned member for Parkes appearing here with the cloak of democracy on his shoulders ? .
– It is time that he did, since the professed democrats have gone wrong:
– He has seen the error of his ways.
– He will1 never see the error of his ways in that respect so long as he breathes. During his political life he has been inconsistent in his strong Tory and conservative tendencies.
– The honorable gentleman does not know the meaning of those words.
– The honorable and learned member does not know the meaning of democracy, and he professes to be a democrat. He said to-night that certain members of this Ministry were not the first to introduce the one man one vote principle in New South Wales, because he was a member of a Ministry which in 1S9I introduced it.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable and learned member did not go further, and say that the proposal was never proceeded with, but that the promise, like others which he and his- party made-, was broken. He tried to detract from the actions of the Prime Minister and myself, and of those who were associated with us in the passing of the Act of 1893. It was in consequence of the passing of the Act that the right honorable and learned member afterwards would not allow the Commissioners to readjust the boundaries, because to do so would have been detrimental to his own supporters. That instance as I said before, is absolutely on all fours with the state of affairs as to which the honorable and learned member is taking the other side to-night. The honorable and learned member for Parkes mentioned ten electorates - among others the electorate which I represent - the representatives of which he said were more interested than others in refusing to accept the proposed divisions.
– I said that there were more material alterations in those constituencies than in others.
– And the honorable and learned member said that the representatives of those electorates had no right to take any part in refusing to adopt the proposed boundaries.
– I did not.
– I understood the honorable and learned member to say so, but if he denies it I will say no more about the point. I interjected that what was said by the honorable and learned member in that regard was not correct. If honorable members will take the trouble* to look at the .proposed boundaries of my electorate, they will see that the alterations are more congenial to me, if I were to consider my own interests alone, than are the present boundaries. I can say the same with reference to several cases to which the honorable and learned member referred. He did not allude to the alterations in connexion with the city and Newcastle electorates, where the difference between the old numbers and the proposed new ones is greater hi most cases than are the differences in the instances to which he alluded.
– I showed thd whole of the increases and the whole of the decreases.
– I have a note in my hand, and I think that the honorable and learned member is wrong. The honorable and learned member omitted to enumerate the alterations made upon the eastern seaboard, which are greater than the alterations in one or two of the extreme western electorates Although
I have a strong feeling of a personal character in favour of Mr. Houston, I venture to say that he has made a grave mistake in regard to the principles upon which he was instructed to deal with this matter. He was directed to have under consideration certain points as laid down by the law. He was told to consider “ community or diversity of . interest.” I -ask any honorable members who know anything of New South Wales to look at the map and to say whether that point of view is regarded even to the smallest extent. As the honorable member for New England referred to this subject in detail 1 do not intend to do so. He showed that community of interest was absolutely thrown to the winds. Means of communication were also ignored, nor was consideration paid to physical features, though they are not so important. Let me now allude to the special direction which Parliament gave to the Commissioner. He was instructed to . regard the existing boundaries of divisions. That instruction was deliberately placed in the Act in order to induce the Commissioners to have regard to the present boundaries as far as possible. This does not appear to have been done. If the New South Wales Commissioner had commenced upon the eastern seaboard and worked his divisions westward, he could have made practically the whole of them with few alterations. Excepting on the western boundaries of the electorates these would have been brought in. A grave mistake has been made by the Commissioner in not commencing at the east instead of at the west.
– Why not give him an opportunity to rectify the error ?
– There has been a great screech from the leader of the Opposition about the principle of one man one vote. We all know that he never did anything to establish such a principle. But under the law to which he alluded as having been passed in New South Wales in 1893 there was a margin of 600 above and 600 below the quota of 2,000. The margin was given to allow the Commissioner an opportunity of varying the subdivisions up and down in that respect, and of dealing fairly with the sparsely-populated country districts. Similarly under the law passed by this Parliament a provision was made allowing a maximum above and a minimum below the quota. Was that provision made simply for fun, . or was it put there for a purpose? . If it was made for a purpose what was that purpose ? Was it not intended that it should be utilized to the most extreme extent at a time when the conditions were not normal - in fact, extreme ?
– It has been utilized.
– I am going to point out that if that direction had been observed to the fullest extent it would have made a difference in the city electorates and in Newcastle of 21,256 votes, which was just the number required for the lost country electorate.
– That is taking the extreme in every case.
– That is taking the maximum in each case.
– Will the Minister say whether he is taking the drought-stricken areas only, or all the country in his comparison ?
– These are the city electorates, and I shall give the honorable member the names.
– But the Minister is taking merely the drought-stricken districts ?
– I am taking the Sydney electorates of East Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, Parkes, Dalley, Ashfield, Lang, North Sydney, and Parramatta. There would’ have been another electorate if the maximum had been adhered to in all these electorates. When I submitted the Bill to the. House, the provision was for one-fourth, and not one-fifth, and I made a statement at the time that it was necessary there should be a margin of one-fourth above and one-fourth below the quota to meet the exigencies of the case, as between the sparselypopulated districts and the central districts. I said -
It will be necessary to allow a margin of 25 per cent. This percentage has not been arrived at b3’ guess, but from actual observation of the facts which exist to-day in States where electoral districts are divided by this method, and in others where the allowance has been made in view of special conditions, naturally without the aid of a Commission.
I think it was the honorable member for Gippsland who urged that there should not be a subdivision on the lines proposed. In the Bill as submitted there was also a proposal for three Commissioners instead of’ one ; but the House thought otherwise. In my opinion it was unwise to refer this matter to one Commissioner instead of three, seeing that the latter could have held consultations before arriving at a decision. However, the House decided on one Commissioner instead of three, and altered the one-fourth to onefifth. Had the Bill as submitted been adhered to in these two respects, there would not have been the trouble which has arisen. The division to which I referred in New South Wales, and which is now the division of the Federal electorates was created by three Commissioners, who took some advice. I think I am correct in saying that after the first publication of the boundaries, the leader of the Opposition and also the honorable and learned member for West Sydney communicated with the three Commissioners, and got them to alter the boundary so that it should run east and west instead of north and south, or vice versâ, I am not sure which. This absolutely altered the conditions of the two electorates, to the benefit, I believe, of both. I am not drawing attention to this because I objected to the alteration. I think it is proper for a Commissioner or Commissioners to take good advice when it is tendered.
– Then the Minister gave his advice ?
– I did not give any advice.
– The Commissioner in his report says that he has given full consideration to all advice offered.
-I believe that objections were sent up in a formal way, and that those are the objections referred to in the report. I was told that some objections had been sent from the Hunter electorate, but it could not be ascertained that any notice had been taken of them. That may or may not be the case, but at the same time, under the peculiar conditions which existed, and which exist to a limited extent now, it is unfortunate that those who know the conditions of the country in the western division, did not offer advice as to the boundaries. At the time this calculation was made the country was perhaps in the worst possible state ; and it will take twelve months, if not longer, before it is in its normal condition, even if the good seasons continue.
– It will take years.
– It may be that it will take years, but I am within the mark in saving that it will take twelve months or more. Would it be proper or correct to adopt divisions which are so extraordinary in their shape, and to have those divisions remain for the next three years or thereabouts ? I have heard it said to-night that electors will be on the rolls for the city and may vote for the city, although they really belong to the country ; but, in my opinion, those people will practically be disfranchised, seeing that their homes really are in the country. The proper course is to have the names of those people on the rolls for the country and not on the rolls for the city.
– Even if they do not go back to the country for years ?
– As I said before, I think it will be twelve or eighteen months before we see a normal condition of things in the country.
– The people are returning daily.
– There could be no stronger paragraph written by the Commissioner than that read to-night, in which he practically says that in consequence of the drought the country is absolutely, or, at any rate, nearly denuded of population.
– The Commissioner does not say that.
– The Commissioner does say so.
– At any rate, the Commissioner’ shows just as many electors in those constituencies as there were at the last election.
– The Commissioner uses the words I have referred to.
– Not in regard to whole districts.
– In regard to the country, the Commissioner says that it is in such a condition that it is practically depopulated.
– The Commissioner says that in centres the voting power has been reduced.
– I am quoting the words of the Commissioner. Under the conditions, I certainly do not think there should be a division at the present time, unless it be a division very different from that submitted by the Commissioner. What position would the Commissioner be in if the report were referred back to him ? If I could possibly put the Commissioner in such a position that he would be able to deal with this matter in a different way - that is, to deal with it under normal conditions - I should at once agree to refer the report back. But if the report goes back under the present circumstances, the Commissioner will practically have to make another division under identical conditions.
– Notwithstanding the information the Minister gave us just now?
– The calculations are not made up to the present time.
– Whose fault is that ?
– How did the Minister get the information if it is not available ?
– lt is information obtained not by the actual collection of the rolls, but by comparison with various other figures given to me.
– But who is the statistician ?
– The figures are the result of the honorable gentleman’s intuition.
– Some honorable members have done all they could by way of abuse to represent that the Department over which I have presided has not done its duty, and one honorable member made a great point of the fact that five weeks elapsed after the Electoral Act was passed before any action was taken to give effect to it. Honorable members can scarcely conceive of the large amount of preliminary work that had to be done before any real progress could be made. In the first place, all the printing had to be done, and this took a very considerable time. It was very difficult to get all the work performed, even within the period to which reference has been made. When that was completed, arrangements had to be made with the various States to obtain the assistance of their officers and the police for the purpose of collecting the rolls. Circulars had to be sent out and lists had to be furnished to the police all over Australia, and, as I said before, we had some considerable difficulty in one or two cases in making arrangements of a satisfactory character with the States Governments. Honorable members must not think that all this did not take a very considerable time.
– Why did the Minister wait six months before he appointed the Commissioners ?
– We required to have the names in from every State before the Commissioners could do anything whatever. As soon as the* lists of names were furnished, so soon were the Commissioners appointed. There was no delay as far as that was concerned. Then the Commissioners were called upon to make their distributions, and. after that they were required to publish their maps and exhibit them for a month. As soon as these maps came back to the Department they were immediately placed upon the table, together with the reports, and there has. not been any unnecessary delay in any case. I say, further, that with promptitude there is still ample time to refer the report back to’ the Commissioner. I have said so all along.
– Does the Minister propose to send the report back ?
– Never mind what I propose.
– The Minister said he would not send it back.
– Taking the 25th August as a basis, there will be 96 days between that date and 30th November. It will occupy 46 days to -remit the report to the Commissioner and receive it back, leaving 50 days still to run to 30U November. Presuming that the report wei-e before both Houses for 10 days in order to enable honorable members to consider it, that would leave 40 days for the exhibition of the lists and the holding of the revision courts. As I have said, with promptitude, the report could be referred back to the Commissioner in plenty of time to admit of the redistribution before the elections in December, and if I had any new features to submit to the Commissioner I should not object to adopt that course. There are, however, no new features to submit, and it would be simply nonsensical to send the report back.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Honorable members have something to cheer at when they are disfranchising hundreds of thousands of electors.
– The right honorable gentleman is always talking in that way, but when he has the chance he never does anything ; he always sits back in the breeching. ‘ In connexion with the complaints which have been made by a number of honorable members regarding delay, I recognise veiled- attacks upon the Chief Electoral Officer. The leader of the Opposition has made a direct attack upon that excellent servant of the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman made statements the other evening with regard to M r. Lewis which are without foundation in fact. He stated that Mr. Lewis had been retrenched from the Lands Department in Sydney eighteen years ago.
– That is absolutely true.
– I shall furnish honorable members with some particulars of the history of that officer, and shall show that since the occasion to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, he has himself employed him to deal with municipal and electoral work.
– It was then than I discovered his absolute incapacity.
– The right honorable gentleman took a very long time to find it out. Mr. Lewis was engaged for 25 years in the Survey Department of New South Wales, during the latter part of which time he was in charge of the Reserves branch, and had the administration of 40,000,000 acres of Crown lands. On the 30th June* 18S7, when in receipt of a salary of £490 per annum, he was retired from this position owing to the abolition of the office consequent upon the reorganization of the Department, and the introduction of a scheme of decentralization. I was there at the time, and I was one of those who had something to do with carrying that scheme of decentralization into effect. Up to that particular time the whole of the work of the Reserves branch was centralized in the head office in Sydney, and ‘the representatives of the country districts, of whom I was one, desired that the work should be decentralized. This was not because of any fault on the part of the officers, but because the districts were becoming so large, and the work so heavy, that we thought it could be better performed in the country than in one central office. That was the whole and sole reason why Mr. Lewis was removed from the Lands Department. Prior to this retirement, Mr. Lewis, together with the Surveyor-General, the Deputy Surveyor-General, the Chief Draughtsman, and many other senior officers similarly situated, was granted three months’ leave of absence, and had paid to him by the Government the unpaid superannuation deductions in consideration of meritorious service. On the day that the three months’ leave should have commenced, the late Sir Henry Parkes sent for Mr.
Lewis, and appointed him as Local Government Officer with Electoral Reform, at an advanced salary of £600 per annum. Therefore Mr. Lewis was not one day .out of the service.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Honorable members opposite are cheering, but they cannot know anything about the matter.
– More recently this position was continued by Sir George Dibbs, and as Commissioner for the subdivision of the State of New South Wales into districts under the new Act for electoral purposes, Mr. Lewis was entirely responsible for the origin of the new system which came into operation in July, 1894. This service extended over a period of nine years, and it was 11Ot until the year 1896 that Mr. Lewis retired from the public service of New South Wales - seven years ago, not twenty years, as stated by Mr. Reid.
– He was dismissed, and his subordinate was put in his place.
– After I had deposed the right honorable gentleman from his position as Premier in New South Wales, I could not find one man other than Mr. Lewis who had the experience or the ability necessary to cleanse the rolls, which ‘ had been left in a most unsatisfactory state by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– The Minister did not depose me.from office. ‘ It was Mr. Fegan
– I do not know why, but from that time up to the present the right honorable gentleman has exhibited the most vicious, uncompromising, and unfair attitude towards Mr. Lewis, and has, I arn sorry to say, made the most untruthful statements regarding him.
– Order. The Minister must withdraw that statement.
– If I could use any other words I should be glad to do so. However, as you, Mr. Speaker, have called upon me to withdraw the statement, I comply with your ruling. Let me repeat that Mr. Lewis was the one man whom I could find in New South Wales capable of purifying the ‘rotten rolls left by the right honorable gentleman when I deposed him from office. I brought this -gentleman to Melbourne, find have continued his services. I venture to think that no other man I know of would have performed the work as well and as intelligently as he has done.
– The honorable gentleman tried to get Mr. Martin appointed in his place.
– That is another mistake, which I regret to say the leader of the Opposition and honorable members on that side are always making. I have never attempted to do anything of the kind.
– The honorable gentleman never thought of doing it 1
– The honorable gentleman brought him over here for that purpose.
– I never thought of doing it. I cast back the imputation in the face of those who make the untruthful statement.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s denial if he says that he did not do it.
– I never did anything of the kind. In conjunction with Mr. Kelynack, Mr. Lewis prepared a Local Government Bill, under instructions from the right honorable and learned member. He was appointed in January, 1900, as one of three Commissioners to divide the State into electoral divisions for Federal purposes, and in 1901 he was appointed as one of a Commission of Experts to formulate a scheme of electoral reform. I am called upon to stand by officers who have done their work properly. For that reason I have taken the trouble to , read to the House, even though it has taken a little time, the history of an officer- who has been so much maligned. I do not know that there is any other point to be mentioned, except the suggestion by the right honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, that the proper course was to bring down a Bill. The Electoral Act directs that a motion shall be proposed, and I have acted in accordance with the provision. It is intended, as I think the right honorable and learned member knows, under advice, to submit a Bill. I felt that unless this motion was submitted, the following direction of the Act would not be carried out -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution -
I felt that I could not take the responsibility of bringing down a Bill without first asking the Housewhether it desired that I should take that course.
– The honorable gentleman has followed the Act by submitting a resolution for the approval or disapproval of Parliament.
– A judicial decision in advance.
– After these motions have been passed, a Bill can be brought down to deal with this matter, as it would have been dealt with if the advice of the honorable and learned member had been correct. I should like to refer to many other matters ; but as honorable members desire at this late hour to leave for their homes, I shall refrain from dealing at the present time with many questions which have been referred to.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– Would it be in order, sir-
– Does the honorable member rise to a point of order ?
– I wish to move an amendment, if it is possible.
– If the honorable member will consult the standing orders he will find that when the mover of a motion has replied, no further proceeding in relation to that motion, such as moving an amendment, is possible. At any moment before the Minister had replied, any honorable member who had not spoken could have moved a relevant amendment.
Question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this House disapproves of the proposed distribution of the State of Queensland into nine divisions, named Brisbane, Capricornia, Darling Downs, Herbert, Kennedy, Maranoa, Moreton, Oxley, and Wide Bay, and shown on the maps laid upon the table of the House of Representatives on the 11th August instant.
It is quite unnecessary for. me to refer in detail to the divisions proposed in Queensland, because the conditions to which I have referred as affecting the divisions in New South Wales have operated with perhaps greater force in Queensland.
– What is the use of talking when it is all settled ?
– I shall not detain the House very long, but I must refer to one circumstance in connexion with the division of Queensland which is most extraordinary. When the first division was made and was sent down, and I was on the’ point of taking further action, I received a telegram altering the proposed divisions absolutely. The divisions, as first submitted, were divisions which I was informed by members representing Queensland would not be objected to. But by telegram those divisions were altered suddenly in a manner that, to me, was most extraordinary. In these circumstances, and in view of the fact that the drought produced an abnormal condition of things in Queensland, I submit the motion standing in my name.
– I would say a few words in protest against the motion, but it appears to be utterly useless to do so. One’s breath is quite taken away ‘ by the action of Ministers in the last two cases. It is quite useless for us to debate any questions when we find men going back at the dictation of Ministers upon principles which they had affirmed a hundred times. Where has their manhood and spirit gone to?
– It is not right of the honorable and learned gentleman to talk about dictation.
– The only excuse I can offer for the honorable member for Herbert is that he has had to do what he was told.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa is out of order.
– I rise to order. I ask the protection of the Chair. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has no right to say anything of the sort. His statement is a reflection on every member on this side of the House, and I, for one, strongly resent it.
– I must ask the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to withdraw the remarks, inasmuch as they are considered offensive.
– I withdraw the remarks which the honorable member for Herbert seems to think offensive, but I am really at a loss to understand why the honorable member should assert himself just now.
– The honorable and learned member must not repeat the offence.
– It is perfectly useless for honorable members on this side to debate any question when we find honorable members opposite breaking the law which they have themselves assisted to pass. It is useless in this House, as at present constituted, to assert anything. We must wait until there has been another election before we can expect to have anything like honest Government in Australia.
Mr. A. PATERSON (Capricornia).This motion has been brought on at a very late hour; but as it deals with ray own State I cannot permit it to be passed without some comment. I find it hard to believe that the Mister can have read Mr. McDowall’s report, * or that he can have studied it with any care.
– Information is fatal to this sort of thing
- Mr. McDowall is a gentleman who is. absolutely without any political bias. No> objection of that sort can be entertained in connexion with any report which he signs, and I am sure he has the confidence of members on both sides of this House.. I am an economist in matters of cash by arbitrary compulsion of circumstances, and I am also an economist of language as a matter of voluntary conciliation, but I cannot allow this motion to pass without saying something. I shall give honorable members a very few figures which will put the whole business in a nutshell. The number of electors in the proposed distribution is 222,100. The quota is 24,678, the minimum 19,742, and the maximum 29,614. The allowance for variation, 20 per cent, more or less, is therefore 9,872, or 40 per cent, of the quota. In the proposed distribution this works out very closely, because the actual variation between the greatest number in the electoral division of Oxley,. 29,443, and the least number in Maranoa,. 20,627,is 8,816 electors. That is 36 per cent. of the quota. There is therefore only 4 per cent, of difference between the provisions of the Act and the distribution as now proposed. But if we are to revert to the old divisions we get into difficulties at once, for we find that three of the old divisions will not have the minimum number of electors required by the Act, namely, Herbert, with”77 less than the minimum, Kennedy, with 845 less, and Maranoa, with 3,25S less, whilst two of theold divisions exceed the maximum number of electors, namely, Oxley, with 1,583 more, and: Brisbane, with 3,443 more-. Only four of the divisions will be unchallengable whether we. adopt the proposed division, or go back to the original division, namely, Wide Bay, Moreton, Darling Downs, and Capricornia. Again, under the old division the margin of allowance, instead of being 9,872, will be 16,573, being the difference between Brisbane, which, with- 33,057, contained the largest number of electors, and Maranoa, which, with 1.6,484, had the smallest number. That is two-thirds of the quota itself. It represents 67 per cent, of the quota, therefore in the Maranoa district a voter would be equal to two voters in Brisbane. In Brisbane two adults would have only one vote, whilst in Maranoa each adult would have a vote. There must be some strong reasons to justify such a state of things,, and I ask the Minister to tell us what those reasons are. It is useless for him to bring up the old argument as to the effects of the drought.
It will not work. It has been said that the Commissioner has failed to pay due consideration to the four points set out in section 16 of the Electoral Act. That, however, is entirely a secondary consideration. The quota is of paramount importance. The same section declares -
The Commissioner may adopt the margin of allowance whenever necessary, bat in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
Under the proposed distribution, the provisions of the Act would be complied with. If, however, we adhere to the existing electoral boundaries, the Act will not be complied with.I do not see how this matter can be rectified by the introduction of a Bili. It is positively outrageous to propose such a course at. the end of the session. Anyhow, what necessity is there for the introduction of a Bill, seeing that the Commissioner has proposed a perfectly feasible distribution? We have often heard reference made to “ driving a coach and horses through an Act of Parliament,” but the Government proposal will drive a whole team of bullocks through our own statute, and I do not see the object of it. I have been endeavouring to ascertain what object underlies the Ministerial action, but I have failed to discover it. Of course it will be a very fine thing for the Minister, when facing his constituents, to be able to say- “You blame me for the way in which I treated my own State, but I meted out similar treatment to “Victoria and Queensland.” It is a very delicate thing for an honorable member to address himself to a question of this kind. I hold that it is entirely a question for the electors to decide. We have to remember that in the case of Queensland two trials were made in regard to the proposed distribution. The first partook of the nature of an experimental division, and it aroused such tremendous indignation when the boundaries were published in the press that within 48 hours another distribution was decided upon. The electors were entirely satisfied with the second distribution, so muchso that only two objections from the whole of Queensland were lodged against it, and one of them emanated froma member of this House. A great deal has been said in reference to the effects of the drought. We know very well that the drought did affect these country constituencies. But, although many of the men who came from the western districts were driven into the towns, I believe that quite as many, if notmore, are now leaving the towns and quitting Australia. Only to-day five of my constituents sailed for South Africa. They were all carpenters, and were thoroughly good tradesmen. It is very bad taste to drag Queensland into this matter at all. When the first experimental distribution was submitted to me, I wasasked to protest against it because it added Mackay to my electorate - which I did not want, because it is a black labour district - and handed Mount Morgan over to the district of Maranoa. However, I took up the position that it was entirely a question for the electors to decide, and refused to raise any protest. It is very discourteous to drag Queensland into this matter to assist the Government in fighting New South Wales. All that Queensland wants is justice, and I shall be sorry if she is denied it.
– I do not intend this motion to pass without entering a final protest against the action of the Government. When a division has been made in a State, and when the people of that State have had an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with it, and there have only been two objections urged against it, although there are active political bodies ready to take action should it be necessary to do so - when, in such circumstances - the solitary local objector objecting to only two of the divisions - the Ministry deliberately goes back on its commission, deliberately evades the Act, and determines that that State shall not be redistributed, but that the election shall take place on the basis of the old electorates, which this House hasdeclared to be unsatisfactory and improper, I say that no Ministry could go any further on an improper course.
Debate (on motion by Mr.R. Edwards) adjourned.
– I have received the following letter, dated 18th August, 1903 : -
Sir, - I have the honour to tender my resignation of my seat in the House of Representatives for the constituency of East Sydney, New South Wales. I have the honour to be, your obedient servant,
To the Honorable the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn -
I desire to say that the first business to be taken to-morrow will be the proposed Queensland distribution. There will then bo a debate, which I think will be a short one, on one of the amendments made by the Senate in the Judiciary Bill. I understand that there is only one that is likely to bc discussed, after which the House will be asked to deal with the Senate’s amendments in the High Court Procedure Bill. These matters having been disposed of, we shall proceed with the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030818_reps_1_15/>.