1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 7) presented by Sir John
Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Mr. DEAKIN presented a petition from, the President and Council of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association of Victoria, theMayor and councillors of Ballarat East, theMayor and councillors of Sebastopol, and 3,000 citizens of Ballarat, praying theHouse to pass into law the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill.
Mr. HARTNOLL presented three petitions . from certain electors of Tasmania, praying the House to prohibit the importation, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
Debate resumed from 18th August (videpage 3787), on motion by Sir William Lyne -
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.
-My object in moving the adjournment of the debate last, night was . to give honorable members an opportunity for the free and intelligent discussion of the distribution of the Queensland Federal divisions proposed by the Commissioner recently appointed by the Government for that purpose. I felt that properconsideration and attention could not begiven to this important matter if we proceeded with it at the late hour’ at which weconcladed the sitting. It will be admitted: that the representatives of Queensland should know . pretty well, whether the distribution proposed by the Commissioner is. or is not acceptable to the electors of the’ State. I abstained from speaking upon theproposed New South Wales division becauseI felt that I did not possess the information necessary to qualify me to give an. expression of opinion on the subject, and I did the same in regard to the proposed distributions of South Australia and Victoria.. But, in regard to the matter now before theHouee, we, who represent Queensland, arein a very different position. I had tho-‘ pleasure of spending last week in Brisbane. It was an opportune time to be there, in that it enabled me to meet a larger number of people than I should have met on any other occasion. The annual show was being held, and consequently there were in the city many thousands of people from tho country districts. I mixed freely with them, and took the opportunity to ascertain their feelings in regard to the Commissioner’s proposals. I can honestly say that in no instance was any objection to them expressed. Not a solitary elector made the slightest objection to the divisions proposed by Mr. McDowall. But one morning last week I was very much suiprised to read in the Brisbane newspapers that the Minister for Customs intended to move resolutions dis- . approving of the schemes of distribution for the States of Victoria, Kew South Wales, and Queensland. The Queensland - Commissioner himself found that there were few objections to bis scheme. He says iti his report that -
Two objections and suggestions in writing have been lodged within the 30 days allowed for that purpose in section 18 of the Act.
The objections came from the districts of Herbert and Kennedy, the other seven Queensland constituencies offered no word of protest. One of the objections came from the honorable member for Herbert, and the other was from the Cairns Political and Progress Association. Mr, McDowall goes on to say that -
The only other communication in writing in the shape of a suggestion was from the Cairns District Electoral League which is more a letter of approval than a suggestion.
Seeing that there were, so few objections from the electors of Queensland, I do not see why this House should take it upon itself to reject the scheme prepared by Mr. McDowall. I believe that the Ministry in appointing Mr. McDowall and the other Commissioners felt the utmost confidence in them. The general public had the same confidence, and were prepared to abide by whatever scheme was proposed by them. What can be the reasons for the determination of the Ministry not to accept the schemes, I am unable to say. But I fancy that there must be other reasons than the drought. A large number of people have come to the conclusion that there must be other reasons. Is it possible that the Minister had a feeling that the divisions prepared for Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland might have such an effect that at the next election some members’ of the Government would, be. left out in the cold?
– The Minister could not have thought so as regards Queensland.
– I wish I were the only member of this House who entertained that feeling.
– It could not refer to Senator Drake, because he is not a member of this House.
- Senator Drake is not tho only member of the Government.
– He is the only representative of Queensland in the Government.
– There are members of the Government who represent Kew South Wales and Victoria. Is -it possible that the Minister imagined that the scheme prepared for New South Wales was such that even he might be left out in the cold, and that some members who usually support the Government might find it difficult to obtain seats in the House? The country never expected that the’ divisions would be so arranged as to make it easier for members of the present Parliament to obtain re-election. ‘ The electorates were supposed to be divided in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Speaking for myself, the electorate of Oxley, as now proposed by Mr. McDowall, is somewhat against my interests. A very large slice of the present Oxley divisions has been taken away from my electorate, and something like 2,000 electors have been given overto my honorable friend, the member for Moreton. I think I am justified in saying that at the last election those electors voted strongly in my favour, and possibly they would do the same again if they had the opportunity. Bat they have been taken away from me, and’ have been given to my honorable friend, who, I hope, will receive their support.
– I think the insinuation the honorable member is making is unworthy of him.
– I hope I am wrong. I have no desire to do an injustice to any member of this House. I would not willingly do an injustice to any one. But I would remind the honorable gentleman that some time ago, when the honorable member for Gippsland urged that Parliament should make the divisions, the Minister urged that that course would show partiality. The same Minister has now been guilty of greater - partiality than any Minister in Australia has ever been. Although I do not olaim that the divisions are in any way perfect, I still maintain that we ought to accept them, and to carry out . the next election on the basis of the new scheme, and not according to the old one.
– The old scheme was good enough to return the honorable member, was it not ?
– I am not speaking for myself. I do not care a rap whether or not I am again returned to Parliament. I have been very comfortable in the Federal Parliament. ‘ Honorable members on both sides of the House have treated me with the greatest consideration. I want to do justice to every honorable member. I have nothing to say against any one individually. But I am speaking of the policy now proposed.
– What new scheme does the honorable member refer to ?
– I refer to the scheme now placed before the House.
– This is Mr. MoDo wall’s second scheme.
– It is the one that we should recognise. The scheme which Mr. McDowall first prepared was only in existence for forty-eight hours.
– This is Mr. Philp’s scheme.
– I maintain that it is not.
– It is a pity that some people in Queensland have not left Mr. McDowall alone. There has been a disgraceful state of things there.
– I do not think that Mr. McDowall would allow himself to be interfered with by Mr. Philp or any one else. I look upon Mr. McDowall as being independent of politics, and as one who is determined to do justice to the public generally.
– How does the honorable member account for the alterations made in the first scheme?
– In Queensland there was a howl of dissent at the time the first division was announced, and Mr. McDowall was sensible enough to discover that he had made a mistake, and to take the first opportunity to rectify it. I do not claim that the distribution is anything like perfect, but at the same time we ought to adopt it for the purposes of the next election. The honorable member for Gippslaud, for whom I have the highest respect, suggested that Parliament should make the distributions, but the Minister strongly opposed that idea because he thought that it would expose us to a charge of partiality.
– Did the Minister select the Commissioner for Queensland whom he now alleges has been “got at” ?
– I take it that he would naturally appoint all the Commissioners, and that he would select independent men, persons having nothing to do with politics, and expect them to do justice to the electors, and to leave out of consideration any individual representative. I was surprised to hear that it was proposed to reject the recommendations of the Commissioners. I do not say that it was owing to my absence that the Ministry got themselves into trouble, but, at any rate, they have involved themselves in difficulties, and placed the House in a most humiliating position. Reliable, honorable, and independent men were appointed to perform certain duties, and now that they have brought forward their reports, their efforts should not be utterly ignored. Why does not the Minister allow the Commissioners an opportunity to revise their work ? They carried out the instructions which were given to them. They paid regard to community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, and the existing boundaries of the divisions. Can any honorable member say that the Commissioner for Queensland did not pay due attention to those matters ?
– Yes, we all say so.
– I do not thinkthat that isan altogether correct statement. I do not claim that the distribution now before us is perfect, but I think it should be adopted as the basis of the next elections, and that when the people who have been driven from the country districts by the drought have gone back, in some twelve or eighteen months’ time, a further distribution should be made. When the.suspension of the fodder duties was under consideration, no such anxiety was displayed for the welfare of the country people, and I cannot understand why the . Government should now show such concern on their behalf.
– I wonder that the honorable member is willing to give the country districts any representation whatever.
– The residents in the country districts are entitled to every representation. I should like to remind the honorable member that he represents only 20,627 electors, or 4,050 under the quota. I am a much smaller man in every sense, and of less weight than is the honorable member, and yet I have to carry upon my shoulders 50 per cent, more electors.
– What is the area of the honorable member’s constituency ?
– My electorate isa very compact one and wonderfully rich, and it requires more looking after than the immense territory represented by the honorable member. The only fault I have to find with the distribution proposed is that Queensland is not divided into ten electorates instead of nine. If the population in that State was counted according to the method that has been adopted in Victoria, Queensland would be entitled to an additional member ; but I understand that this is not the proper time at which to discuss that question. I intend to oppose the motion, and I hope that other representatives of Queensland will do the same, because I believe that the electors of that State are looking forward to being able to exercise the franchise under the proposed distribution at the next election.
– I had hoped that the motion proposed by the Minister would be earned on the voices, because it seems to me that the action of the Commissioner for Queensland is practically indefensible. The honorable member for North Sydney referred last night to the fact that no objections had been raised ; but every one who has had anything to do with politics knows very well that in matters of this kind theelectorsare particularly apathetic Under the conditions of the Electoral Act, copies of the Commissioner’s recommendation had to be exhibited for thirty days, and certain forms had to be complied with, and very few men indeed, beyond those intimately concerned, are willing to take any trouble in these matters. It is difficult even to induce men to go to the poll and record their votes, and it is a wonder that any action whatever was taken.’ Only two objections were lodged - one from myself, and one from a Cairns political organization. I should like to point out to those honorable members who are exclaiming against the existing divisions, as compared with those proposed by the Commissioner, that, out of 22.2,100 electors, only 5,026 are really interested in the proposed change. The honorable member for Oxley told us .that when he was last in Brisbanehe met a number of people from thecountry. It is the residents in the’ country districts who are most interested. in this proposal, and I feel sure ‘that they will not object to our adhering to the old divisions for the present. The electors of Maranoa and Kennedy are particularly well represented at present, seeing that they areaccorded more than the full value of theirvotes. Some complaint might be made by the electors in the district represented by the honorable member for Oxley, and in the Brisbane electorate represented, by Mr. Macdonald-paterson. The latter district has 3,443 electors in excess of the quota, whereas in Oxley there are only 1,583 in excess. Of the whole of the electorates there are only three which do not comeeither within the maximum or the minimum. The electors in the Moreton division come within the maximum, and there areonly three electorates which would be really affected by our adhering to the present divisions instead of adopting those proposed by Mr. McDowall. Those which would not beaffected are Wide Bay, Herbert, Capricornia, Moreton, Darling Downs, and Kennedy. In the Maranoa district the number of voters is below the minimum but the electors there ha ve no reason to complain, because their votes possess their full value. It is. significant that when the later divisions proposed by Mr. McDowall were advertised, most of the northern public journals werein favour of them. It is true they declared that the divisions might have been improved upon ; but no very serious complaints were urged, and it was thought that under thecircumstances’ they might well be accepted. For instance, a leading newspaper in the- electorate of Capricornia was in favour of them, and so also were several journals in my own electorate. The great outcry which is alleged to have been made was confined to a few , persons who were particularly interested in the matter, and who desired the electorates to beso arranged that they could “dish” the Labour party. That was their expressed desire. But the most significant feature of the whole proceedings was the change ,of front made by Mr. McDowall. His original map was certainly an improvement upon the present one, although the divisions then prepared could not be highly commended. I am convinced that they- would not have been indorsed by the House, because he- did not attach sufficient weight to considerations of accessibility and community of interest. Forty-eight hours after that map was published Mr. McDowall, for some reason or other, saw fit to withdraw it, and to issue an entirely different map. I desire to know what were the reasons underlying his action. Possibly the Minister’ can inform us.
– Cook. - The Minister says that the Commissioner was interfered with.
– I wish to tell the House what I have heard, upon very good authority, although my authority is not a Minister. Fortunately, there are other avenues of information open to honorable members, otherwise we might sometimes be kept completely in the dark upon most important matters. I have been informed, upon good authority, that on the morning after the original map was published, the Premier of Queensland and the Minister for Railways visited Mr. McDowall’s office and actually bounced him into withdrawing it, and substituting for it the electoral boundaries which he now proposes.
– That does not say much for the Commissioner.
– It says nothing at all for that officer. I challenge the Minister to inform the House whether my statement is accurate. J believe that he has the information which will confirm what I say. If that be so, I ask him to lay it upon the table of the House. If my information is accurate, every honorable member ought to vote in favour of the rejection of the Commissioner’s recommendations, if only to evidence their disapprobation of the action of certain State Ministers.
– If that statement can be substantiated every honorable member will.
– I think that we should pass what is practically a vote of censure upon the Commissioner for having allowed himself to be dominated by State Ministers in that way.
– Why did not the Minister protect his officer ?
– That is a question for the Minister to answer. I trust that the information for which I have asked will be forthcoming.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I intend to support the proposal submitted by the Government. I do so, because I believe that the Electoral Act was intended to confer upon this House a true revising power. It was never meant that that power should be used for party or political purposes by either side of the House.
– Is this a revising power which we are asked to exercise ?
– It is a power of rejection which we should’ exercise. Regarding the proposed new electorates in Queensland, I do not think it can be said that the Ministry desire their rejection upon any personal grounds whatever. To my mind there is ample justification for rejecting the whole of the electoral divisions proposed in that State, because they do not constitute the best scheme that has been submitted to the people. If we take into consideration the conditions laid down in the Act in reference to community or diversity. of interest, means of communication, geographical position, and existing boundaries, I hold that the second scheme proposed by the Commissioner is not the best one possible. I have in my hand the first map of the new Federal electorates which were proposed by Mr McDowall. That map was published in the Brisbane Courier upon the 11th of June last. If honorable members will look at it they will at once realize the tremendous changes that have been effected in it, especially in the electorates of Kennedy, Herbert, Maranoa, Capricornia, and Darling Downs. The boundaries recommended in the electorates of Brisbane, Oxley, and Moreton are practically unaltered. The remaining districts, however, have been completely changed for some reason or other which is not patent upon the face of this report. With a view to ascertain what had brought about this change, I consulted the files of the Brisbane Courier. From’ these I gather that the original scheme recommended by the Commissioner was published in that newspaper upon the 11th of June of the present year. The whole of Mr. McDowall’s report was printed, and that officer declared that his desire was to place the scheme before the public at the earliest possible moment. Upon the very next morning however, and before the scheme could possibly have reached the electorates of Kennedy, Maranoa, and Darling Downs, a paragraph was published in the journal to which I have referred stating that there was sharp criticism in political circles of the scheme proposed, and the paragraph continued -
It was believed that the total results of his efforts would be to give enormously increased chances to Labour candidates:
Then, speaking of the electorate of Herbert, the’ Courier added -
It had been anticipated that the other party had an excellent chance of taking the Herbert from the Labour candidate on account of the strong vote in the neighbourhood of Townsville, but this is all changed from the number of State Labour electoral districts admitted to it.
If the House rejects the scheme submitted by. the Commissioner, and we are compelled to adopt the electoral divisions made by the State Legislature some three years ago, we shall revert to conditions under which, according to the Courier, the party which is opposed to labour will be given a distinct advantage.
– Does the honorable and learned member himself believe that statement ?
– I will express my own belief presently. I am now dealing with the historical aspect of this matter. The Courier paragraph declares that, according to the divisions made by the State Legislature, the Labour party will lose some seats, and complains that the divisions originally submitted by Mr. McDowall were bad, because they .gave such an excellent chance of success to the candidates of the Labour party, It continues -
Moreover, whatever strength there was at Townsville will now be counter-balanced by the strong Labour vote at Charters Towers in the case of the Kennedy division, into which- it has been thrown.
The same newspaper finds fault with the inclusion of Mount Morgan in the Maranoa division, but of the other divisions it says that “little criticism is offered.” Upon the very day succeeding the publication of the Commissioner’s original map this criticism appeared in a public journal which is published in the capital of Queensland.
– This is very serious.
– That statement was published on the 12th June. The next statement appeared in the Courier on the 18th June. On that date this newspaper published an interview with Mr. McDowall, in which the Commissioner explained the position taken up by him. He justified his division, and pointed out the reasons why it should be retained. On .the 19th June the Courier published a leader in which it found fault with the scheme, on the ground that it showed a want of regard for the community of interest. It then went on to say that the matter of means of communication - is no doubt important, but affords no justification for the wholesale amalgamation of interests such as is to be found iu the new electorate of Herbert.
It considered that a neglect of the sugar, mining, pastoral, and other industries was shown, and urged that special representation should be given to the tropical agricultural interests. It said -
While the sugar industry itself may be voiceless unless we insure a victory in the Wide Bay electorate.
I am not aware that it is voiceless at thepresent time, but the Courier maintains that it is. It went on to say that -
The present division of Herbert would be a. disfranchisement of the old electorate as originally defined for the purposes of the first Federal election.
It then proceeded to raise objection to the Kennedy and Maranoa divisions, and stated that -
The directions plainly given by the Federal Electoral Act and the electoral divisions, clearly marked out by the State Government, have been, alike repudiated, with the result of creating dissatisfaction everywhere outside of the SouthEastern electorates. It is therefore gratifyingto learn that the Commissioner has stayed his. hand, and that there is apparently some prospect of amended boundaries being devised before the electoral maps are exhibited in the various, divisions iis required b)7 law.
Immediately after the publication of this leader, Mr. McDowall’s alterations cameout, and, on the 25th June, the Courier published an article expressing its appreciation of the changes that had been made. -
– Evidently the Courier is taking an active interest in this matter.
– The Courier simply recorded the historical sequence of events. It is well able to take care of itself. It has a right to fight as it thinks fit, and I am not making any suggestions in regard, to it. But when we come as n judicial body to consider this matter, and to determine whether we should or should not accept this distribution, I contend that we should have the various stages of each event placed in their order before us, sothat we may justly appreciate the significance of the work which we are called upon, to perform. The Courier plainly showsthat the first agitation in Queensland with respect to the divisons; was based, not on the contention that the spirit of the Act hod been violated, but on the ground of political considerations. I contend that that fact is clearly and manifestly proved, and that it was never contemplated that we should pay any regard to the question of political considerations when dealing with this matter. The Minister for Trade and Customs was right when he said that so far as the Queensland distribution was concerned, a great variation in the population of the scattered districts had been occasioned by the existence of the drought. I shall give some official figures in respect to this matter which should prove of interest to honorable members. They were published in the Courier on the 24th of June, after the revised distribution had appeared, and the.police returns had been received. The honorable member for Maranoa will bear me out in saying that the drought started in Queensland about the year 1896, and continued with increasing intensity until recently. It is well known that, after it had been in existence for several years, great fluctuations took place in the population of the State.
– When I was up North I found that whole stations had been abandoned - that there was not a man or a hoof on them.
– That statement is borne out by the official figures. I shall not deal with the changes of population from the inception of the drought, but will take the census returns for 1901, and ask the House to compare them with the police collections. Let us take, for example, the figures relating to the electorate of Capricornia. According to the census returns of 1901, the adult population entitled to be on the rolls for the electorate of Capricornia, as defined in the last report made by Mr. McDowall, was 26,209, while the police collections in December last showed a decrease of 4,681. I am not dealing with the time when the population existed largely in the western parts of Queensland, but’ I am taking the figures for the place in respect of which I can obtain reliable statistics. The police collections in December showed ‘ that the adult population of the electorate was 21,528, or a decrease of 4,681 electors. In the Herbert electorate there was a total decrease of 2,193; in the electorate of Kennedy a decrease of 914; in the electorate of Maranoa a decrease of 2,179 ; and in the electorate of Wide Bay a decrease of 1,932. 8 t
– Were the police returns complete? Were they as good as the census returns?
– I think so. In my opinion the Commissioner of Police and all the officers under him are entitled to every credit. I believe that they .did their best to efficiently carry out their work. I made particular enquiries so far as my own electorate was concerned, and I found that the police had done excellent work.
– Do the police returns for the other electorates show an increase t
– There is an increase in some cases. The return also shows that about 12,000 electors have left their usual place of residence and are missing.
– How do the complete census returns for Queensland compare with the police returns 1
– It is impossible to compare them, because the totals are not given. I contend that the statement made by the Minister, that there have been great fluctuations in the population in these outlying districts of Queensland is clearly proved by these figures.
– :If the police returns are not reliable, so much the worse for the distribution.
– So far as the Electoral-office can judge, the police collections made in Queensland are satisfactory.
– My inquiries lead me to vouch for the accuracy of that assertion.
– The police did good work in my electorate.
– The Commissioner and his men are to be complimented on the way in which they carried out their work. The first proposition which I lay down is, that so far as we can prove by reference to the Courier, the first agitation in Queensland was on political grounds and it was not raised by the people particularly interested in the electorates in regard to which complaints were made. The electoral boundaries, as now fixed, are not the best that we can obtain. I think I may be permitted to deal first with the way in which my own electorate has been divided. As a matter of fact, the present division of Darling Downs has been practically mutilated. I shall refer honorable members to the Commissioner’s own report in respect of this electorate. On 18th June, when he was defending his position, he said, in the course of an interview with the Courier reporter, that -
As previously explained, the deficiency in Maranoa might have been supplied by lopping Dalby and Carnarvon off the Darling Downs and adding them to Maranoa ; but these two districts, Dalby and Carnarvon, include centres of population which it was thought unwise to separate from the Downs, and which could have little or no community of interests with such places as Betoota, Boulia, and the areas lying along our western border.
He practically makes this admission again in his own report. He says -
This excision of Dalby and Carnarvon from Darling Downs was very distasteful to me, and I endeavoured to avoid it ; and it was only to avoid a worse combination that I was compelled to adopt it. I know that the fruit-growers of Stanthorpe, the tobacco-growers of Texas, and the farmers of Inglewood and Goondiwindi, not to mention the Dalby people, will feel themselves badly mated with the immense bat sparsely populated grazing country extending to the South Australian border, but with a margin of only onefifth allowable, some of the more populous districts nearer the coast had to assist in bringing up the numbers to the minimum permissible under the Act.
In his previous report he pointed out that, through lack of community of interest, he had excluded Dalby and Carnarvon from the Maranoa electorate. The Brisbane Courier, in its article of appreciation, says -
It is rightly enough argued that the lastmentioned (Darling Downs) electorate, which is a well-defined geograpical and agricultural unity, has been somewhat mutilated in the new division.
But because representation is given, as it believes, to the opponents of a certain political party, it is quite prepared to support the mutilation. The honorable member for Oxley has stated that he has heard no complaint as to the way in which the divisions have been laid out. I am afraid that he has heard only the felicitations of those who admire his representation of certain interests, or the expression of views in regard to the demarcation of his own electorate ; I doubt if he came into contact with representative men from the other electorates, and got their opinions upon the position.
– Yes. I saw a good many.
– I am afraid that the honorable member did not meet the Courier representative at Carnarvon, who writes* from Stanthorpe to that journal to say that -
Much dissatisfaction is expressed with the inclusion of Carnarvon in the Federal division of
Maranoa. It is felt that Carnarvon has much more in common with the Darling Downs than the western districts of which Maranoa is chiefly composed. It is also thought that the Carnavon electorate would not be represented so well in Maranoa as they have been in the Darling Downs, and that it is unfair to isolate this electorate from the adjacent district, where the community of interests is much greater than can be hoped for in the case of the western electorate.
If honorable members read the newspapers published in that part of Queensland, they will see that much dissatisfaction has been expressed with the Commissioner’s distribution. The Border Post, published at Stanthorpe, protests strongly against the position of that district in the proposed scheme,, while the Dalby Leader, a newspaper published at the other end of the electorate, takes a similar position, pointing out that Dalby is really a part of Darling Downs, and should not be placed in another electorate. Similar dissatisfaction has been expressed in other divisions. If honorable members turn to the Commissioner’s report, they will see that very strong objections were raised by the people of Herbert to his proposals, and strong objections have been urged against them by newspapers circulating in other parts of the State. I believe that the first scheme proposed was, except for a flaw in. regard to the demarcation of the Capricornia division, and which I think might have been altered to meet the requirements of the Electoral Act, the best that could have been put forward, and if submitted to Parliament would have been adopted. I regret the agitation which has been started, not for the good of Queensland, to obtain the due representation of its various interests, but purely for political purposes. We should show our disapproval of it by the rejection of the Commissioner’s scheme in toto. In exercising our powers as a revising body, we are justified in trying to get at the true state of affairs, and to do justice to the ‘ whole State.
– I have only a few words to say on this motion, because I think that its discussion should be left largely to the members of the State. I shall vote against the Government because, among other reasons, I think that the Electoral Act requires that, where either House does not approve of a proposed distribution, the Executive must send it back to- the Commissioner for’ reconsideration. Section 22 of the Act provides that -
If either House of. Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
I say that that provision is imperative. If honorable members look at section 21, they will see that the word “ may “ is used in regard to the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General when both Houses of Parliament have passed a resolution approving of any proposed distribution. It cannot be argued that any option is given in regard to the issue of that proclamation. Similarly the word “may” must be regarded as imperative in section 22. Therefore, if either House rejects a proposed distribution, the Minister must send it back to the Commissioner with instructions to him to propose a fresh distribution. It may be said that it is now too late to do that. If so, the Minister is to blame, and our only alternative is to accept the distribution proposed.
– Parliament can do what it likes by passing a Bill.
– Yes ; but we should not violate the provisions of. the Electoral Act.
– No; but the Government intend to introduce a Bill.
– Yes ; but I disapprove of the introduction of a Bill to vary the terms of an Act which contemplates the securing of uniformity in regard to Federal elections. Unless a Bill is introduced to apply to all the States, and the distribution of South Australia is repudiated, the essential principle of Federal legislation, which is the securing of uniformity, will be violated. Although it is not prescribed by the express words of the Constitution that there shall be uniformity in regard to legislation on any of the matters set out in section 51 of that Act, it is evident that the object of all Federal legislation should be to promote uniformity : but if the Government pass such a Bill as is spoken of there will not be uniformity, unless the South Australian division is repudiated, and that is not contemplated.
– Is not uniformity obtained by dividing the hitherto undivided States 1
– No; because they will not nil be divided under the same .Act. They will be divided under two Acts, the 8 t 2 provisions of which will not be the same. Anything we do in this matter should be done by one Act. We should not have two Acts, one of which provides for a method of distribution inconsistent with that provided for by the other. For instance, while section 16 of the Electoral Act provides that in the making of any distribution regard shall be had to community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, and existing boundaries, it is not certain that due consideration was given to those matters in. the original division of the States by the States Parliaments. Nor is it certain that the States Acts contain the provision that the number of electors in any division shall not exceed or be below the quota by a difference of more than one-fifth. The provisions in the Electoral Act in regard to that and other matters are imperative, and they should apply to the distribution of all the States. If we provide for the distribution of South Australia and Western Australia by one Act, and that of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria by another, in which the States divisions are re-adopted, we shall violate the essential principle of federation, because we shall allow the existence of different conditions in the various States.
– The recommendations of the Commissioners are based on different quotas.
– I do not wish to discuss the details of the distributions, because they have already been fully dealt with. All the Commissioners were bound by the terms of the Electoral Act, and I do not think that the provisions of that measure have been violated by any of them. If we allow the State electorates to stand, in a great many instances we should violate the principle of division prescribed, the ground of electoral uniformity.
– Would not a measure renewing the old electorates be a Federal Act?
– No doubt ; but the whole of the existing divisions were made under State Electoral Acts, some of which adopted different principles from those laid down in the Commonwealth Act, under which South Australia and other States will be divided. Consequently, we shall have two principles of division, one under the Commonwealth Electoral Act and one under States Acts, and these diverse principles will be repugnant to the spirit of Federal legislation. This consideration will compel me to vote against the proposal of. the Government.
– I recognise that the details of the matter under debate should be undertaken by the representatives of Queensland. But it does seem to me that in a general way there is nothing before us, either on the surface of the Commissioner’s report or in the representations of the Minister, or, allowing for everything that has been said by one or two of the Queensland members, to justify the absolute dismissal of the procedure prescribed for the protection of the Queensland people. Only two notices of objection to the proposed divisions were received by the Commissioner, and those have been dealt with by him. I should like to know how we could possibly expect any kind of unanimity of feeling with regard to the distribution of electorates in a State like Queensland. We have there a handful of members representing an area in which it must be almost impossible to comply with the conditions set forth in the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– The objections made apply only to two electorates.
– My point is that the division, has been carefully done, presumably after much consideration ; but Queensland is a State which has such an enormous territory that it would be impossible’to please everybody, and impossible to comply with the ordinary conditions laid down in the Electoral Act. Therefore, if we postpone the distribution until after the next election there is no reason to believe - as far as any evidence before us goes - that we shall obtain a better result than is before us today. In view of all the circumstances, in view of the speeches made by some of the representatives of Queensland, in the face of the evidence itself, and of the absolutely meagre information which we have obtained from the Government, we must attribute the tactics adopted in this case to the same motives as induced the tactics which prevailed in dealing with New South Wales. We must assume that for certain political reasons, more with a view of safeguarding themselves in their opinion at the next general election than from any other consideration, the Government have sacrificed the whole of the principles of the Electoral Act of the Commonwealth. We must assume that they have done this in order to suit their own purposes.
– I have been particularly interested in the proposals for the distribution of seats for the Federal Parliament, because in the State from which I have come we have had for many years a very bitter experience- in that connexion with regard to the State Parliament. In Western Australia the distribution of seats was so disproportionate that for years and years it was a source of continual agitation. Therefore the people ofWestern Australia are particularly well educated on the question. They know how the principles of representative government may be defeated by a method of distribution. In that State we had as many as a dozen electorates at one time, each one of which returned a member to the State Parliament, whilst the sum total of the electors in those constituencies was not so great as the number in one other district. For instance, we had a district which had forty-six electors on the roll, but which returned a member to Parliament ; and there was another district with close upon 6,000 electors which also returned only one member.
– Was not the former quota small enough for the honorable member ?
– I can see a great deal of difficulty about reconciling that system of representation with any. democratic ideas. I am much surprised that any honorable member holding democratic opinions should seem to favor such a state of things. I must assume that the honorable member for Maranoa is not in earnest in his interjection, because I am perfectly sure that he favors the principle of equal electorates, and recognises as fully as I do that that principle is the only one by means of which we can secure a fair representation of the people. For the reason I have given, I. am particularly interested in the system of distribution. Whilst the proposal of the Government is not in the matter of discrepancies so bad as the system which existed for so long in Western Australia - and which to a certain extent still exists there - nevertheless the discrepancies which may be found in these proposals are very great indeed. They are so great that I am surprised that so many honorable members holding liberal views should support them.
A statement has been made by the honorable member for Herbert that certainly was 6f a very surprising character indeed. He asserted that the Premier and the Minister of Railways in Queensland interfered with the Commissioner in the distribution of electorates for the State. According to what the honorable member said, a distribution had .been arranged by the Commissioner, and the scheme had been published in the press of Brisbane, but subsequent to its publication the Commissioner, owing to the representations of the gentlemen mentioned, was induced to entirely alter the boundaries. Of course, as a private individual, the Premier of Queensland, just like any other individual, was entitled to make objections.
– He was not entitled to interfere with the Commissioner.
– At that time the first scheme had not been published and advertised.
– The Premier was entitled to make an objection subsequent to the’ official announcement as any private individual, might do. But the- method he adopted was reprehensible in the. extreme. If the statement of the honorable member for Herbert be correct - and I presume he would not have made it unless he had very good authority for it - it is not to the credit of the Premier and the Minister of Railways of that’ State. Nor is it creditable to the Commissioner that he allowed himself to be influenced by any such representations. But the way in which we ought to -view the proposals of the Government is as follows : - We have now before us, irrespective of the representations which may have been brought to bear upon the Commissioner, the old scheme which was made three years ago under a different franchise, and when the conditions were altogether different from what they are mow, and the new scheme arranged by the Commissioner appointed for the purpose. I gather from the report that there are great discrepancies in the numbers of electors in the present divisions. In the Brisbane -electorate there are 33,057 electors, and in the district of Oxley 31,197. On the other hand, the district of Kennedy has 18,897 electors, and Maranoa only 16,484. It will therefore be seen that there are in Brisbane twice as many electors as in Maranoa. Under these circumstances, I fail to see how any honorable members holding liberal views can do other than approve of the distribution proposed by the Commissioner in preference to that made three years ago.
– I noted with interest what was said by the Minister in introducing this resolution. He put it that the very sudden alteration of the divisions first proposed to the distribution now before us was of an extraordinary character. The matter has been gone into more closely to-day, and some honorable members have stated that the Premier of Queensland and the Minister of Railways interviewed the Commissioner and brought pressure to bear which occasioned the change. We ought to know exactly what are the facts in this connexion. My own notion is that no one has a right to privately interview the Commissioner on the subject. He is in the position of a judge, and in order that he shall not make any mistake for want of information, there is a procedure prescribed by which he may be enlightened. The Act provides that -
Objections or suggestions in writing may be lodged with the Commissioner not later that thirty (lays after the first publication of the proposed distribution, and the Commissioner shall consider all objections and suggestions so lodged before making his report.
That is a safe and proper mode of procedure, and no private “ ear- wigging” of. the Commissioner, and no private proceedings which cannot be examined afterwards, should be permitted. If anything has to be represented to the Commissioner, it should be put in writing, so that in the ordinary course it might be regularly ‘placed before the House. ‘ I strongly object to anything in the shape of swaying a judge - and the Commissioner is in the position of a judge - who holds, to some extent, the future political existence of honorable members in his hands. The mode in which information can be brought under his notice is prescribed in the Act, and nothing else should be permitted. If there has been any attempt of the character referred to by a member of this Parliament, or of any other Parliament, the fact ought to be known, and I ask the Minister straight, in the interests of right, whether he knows of anything which warrants the suggestion that there has been any conduct of the kind attributed to the gentlemen named
– He says so.
– If there has been anything of that kind, the officer ought not to have permitted it, and ic would have been well if the fact had been stated in the plainest possible terms, because to my mind it marks the character of the report now before us. If it is clearly established that the report is the result of private “ear-wigging” of the Commissioner by gentlemen of the character referred to, we ought to have nothing to do with it.
– The t-eport should not have been brought before us.
– I am compelled to present the report to the House.
– I must say that I do not see how the Minister could have avoided laying the report upon the table.
– He might have appointed another Commissioner.
– No. doubt the Minister will say whatever is necessary upon that point.
– Is there any evidence before us?
– A positive statement has been made by some honorable members, and all I am asking is that we may have the benefit of any facts with which the Minister is acquainted, so that we may judge what foundation there is for the statement. I would go further and say that it seems to me that the sooner we have the Bill before us the better. I take it that it will be brought down in such a shape that we shall be able to do what we consider right and just under the circumstances. We shall not have to choose simply between adhering to the old electoral divisions and adopting the reports of the Commissioners, but shall be able to do justice as best we may. In view of the debates which have taken place, the Commissioners whose reports have been set aside , should have an opportunity of replying to the criticisms to which the reports have been subjected. We considered that they were trustworthy officers, and the presumption is in their favour. I am sure that we do not want to legislate in this matter except on the best and most correct lines, and those who are responsible for the proposals which have been rejected might at least be called upon for a further report, so that when we have the Bill before us, we may have the advantage” of their statements, and know what to do under the circumstances. The
Minister has admitted that the first distribution by the Commissioner for Queensland was unobjectionable.
– I said that, so faras I was informed, it was so.
– I gave the fullestweight to the Minister’s statement, and I confess that I have not heard of any objection to the distribution first proposed. What then is the right course for us toadopt ? Surely it would be proper for us toadopt the division, which was unobjectionable - but are we asked to do that ? Nothingof the sort.
– We could not beasked to do so upon this motion.
– I am only suggesting the propriety of having the Bill broughtdown at once, so that we may have full power to deal with the matter. It is not a. question so much of what we should rejectas of what we should provide for, and itshould not be put to the House as a matterqf adhering to the old state of affairs, which has been in existence for the last threeyears, as an alternative, to approving of therecommendations of the Commissioners. W eshould have an opportunity of doing whatwe conceive to be best. It would be a mistake to ask us to decide between thedistribution now proposed as distinguished from the old divisions when we have thedistribution first proposed by the Commissioner. The Minister stated-
When the first division was made and was sentdown, and I was on the point of taking furtheraction, 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.
Then, why limit our discussion to the acceptance of the distribution last proposed?” Our proper course is to do all that we can to effect the best division possible. According to the Minister’s own declaration, thebest division is not chat which was’ madethree years ago. That it should be the bestwas inherently improbable. Let us pass, then, from the consideration of the question of its rejection. It is far more important for us to provide for that which weought to accept. Let the Bill be introduced which will enable us to do what weought, and that at the earliest possible moment.
– The question which has been raised by the honorablemember for Herbert, regarding the action. of the Queensland Premier and the Minister for Railways in interfering with the Electoral Commissioner in the performance of his duty, is one into which we should carefully inquire. If there be any reasonable ground for entertaining such a suspicion, I am of opinion that the electoral boundaries which are now recommended by Mr. McDowall should be referred back to him for revision.
– It devolves upon those who make the charge to furnish proof of it.
M r. TUDOR. - At any rate, we have evidence that within forty-eight hours of issuing his original map the Commissioner withdrew it, and substituted a fresh map which defined entirely different boundaries. What right had he to do so? Personally, I should not care about trusting the Premier of Victoria and the ex-Minister for Railways to draw up an electoral map which would be acceptable to labour representatives. I do not know that the Queensland labour members would receive any more justice from the Premier of that State and the Minister for Railways than would labour candidates here it the hands of Mr. Irvine, and Mr. Bent. Seeing that the map originally submitted by Mr. McDowall has been withdrawn, I maintain that some reasons should be assigned for his action. He should certainly be called upon to explain why he altered the electoral boundaries which he first recommended. I voted against the Government upon the motions submitted in reference to the New South Wales and Victorian divisions, and should do so again under similar circumstances. At the same time, I cannot support the scheme recommended by the Queensland Commissioner, in view of the fact that, within forty-eight hours after the publication of his original proposals, he withdrew them and substituted others, without assigning any reason for so doing.
– I rise only for the purpose of saying that I do not entertain the same, view regarding the duty of honorable members, and the meaning of the provisions of the Electoral Act, as does the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston. The true interpretation of that Act, so far as I understand it, is that the Houses of Parliament have not abandoned their right to determine the boundaries of the new Federal divisions in the various States. What we did, after providing that the States should be divided into electoral divisions, was to say that we would not immediately proceed to determine those divisions, but that we would, through the Ministry, appoint an officer to do intermediate investigating, collating, and mechanical work. In performing the duties vested in them by Parliament, the Electoral Commissioners were asked to take into consideration certain conditions, and their discretion was limited in certain ways. When their work was completed, the Ministry were bound to submit it to Parliament, and when Parliament resumed consideration of the matter, it must be called upon to say “ yes “ or “ no “ upon a distinct motion as to whether or not the divisions proposed shall become law.
– And what further ?
– When I have dealt with that point I shall go further. In determining this matter, I cannot see that it was open to the Minister to take any course other than that which he has adopted. I do not follow the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, in his view that the discussion of this motion constitutes a waste of time, because what is the alternative? That the Minister, forsooth, must say that he does not agree with the proposed electorates, pigeon-hole them, and not bring them before Parliament at all. That is not the meaning of the Act. Its meaning is that the Minister should appoint his Commissioner, who is to be a public servant of the Commonwealth, and should receive from that officer for theinformationof Parliament the distribution recommended. It was the Minister’s bounden duty to submit the Commissioner’s report to Parliament, in order that the two Houses might judge of the desirableness or otherwise of adopting the proposed divisions. Not only has the Minister done nothing wrong, but he could not have swerved one iota from the course which he has pursued. Had he acted otherwise he would have been guilty of a gross breach of duty. In my judgment it was obligatory upon him to bring this motion before the House. Of course, he is at liberty toexercise his discretion as to the form of the motion. He must determine in his own mind whether it shall be a motion to approve or disapprove of the proposed divisions, but it is entirely within the power of the House to agree or disagree with him. That is not merely a reserve power which we possess, but it is necessary to the completion of the work which the
House has undertaken that it shall resume consideration of this question at the point where it left off when the Act was passed. Having received the proposals of the Commissioners, we must determine whether we can pass them into law or otherwise.
– Or revise them.
– There is no power under the Electoral Act in its present form to alter these divisions. There is only power either to approve or disapprove of them. That is why the Minister has been forced to take the action which he has taken.
– The same provision which declares that Parliament shall either approve or disapprove of them says that if we disapprove of them we shall return them to the Commissioner.
– The provision in question declares that we “ may “ return them to the Commissioner.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the House intended that the Minister should be the sole judge of whether that course should be followed ?
– That is just what I am arguing. The Minister is not the sole judge, and he has not assumed that power. He has simply done his duty, and has come to the conclusion that these particular divisions ought not to be approved. ‘The motion under consideration is that we disapprove, of them.
– What is the position if the House reject them ?
– We repeal the Act.
– That is where the right honorable and learned member falls into an error. We do not repeal the Act by carrying out its provisions.
– We revert to a totally different state of things.
– The real conclusion of my right honorable and learned friend is that the Act itself should have been framed differently - that it is faulty, and that it should have declared that, in the event of the House disapproving of the Commissioner’s recommendations, a particular course must be followed.
– What is the meaning of the word “may “ in sections 13 and 21 ?
– Section 13 reads-
The Governor-General may appoint one person in each State to be the Commissioner for the purpose of distributing the State into divisions in accordn nee with this Act.
– Is that imperative ?
– Certainly: When we are speaking of the Governor we do . not usuallv use the word “ shall,” but when we are referring to a Minister we are not soparticular. From section. 13 onwards there are a series of provisions which deal with matters from the appointment of a Commissioner down to the submission of his report and map to Parliament. When the Commissioner has completed all his. work what is to happen? Sections 21 and 22 do not say that “ when “ both Houses of Parliament have passed a resolution the distribution shall come into force ; but that “ if “ both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution the distribution shall become operative. The matter is, therefore, perfectly conditional. The language is most emphatic. This distribution by the Commissioner is to have no force or validity unless the contingency mentioned in this Act occurs. “ If “ Parliament shall pass a; resolution approving of them - and only in that event - the divisions shall become law. There is sometimes great virtue in an “ if,” and the words of these two sections are very significant. It seems to me that sufficient attention has not been given by honorable members to the words of the sections as they stand. The first and, as it seems to me, the only thing which the Minister can do in this case is to move that the House disapprove or approve of these divisions. Upon what basis are we to approve or disapprove of them ? I must say that I am altogether opposed to investing the Commissioner with any sacrosanct character. He is not the person who is immediately concerned in this matter. The real object of our solicitudemust be the people of Australia, and, in my opinion, this House would have been absolutely wrong if it had passed an Act to the effect suggested by the arguments of some of my honorable friends. What would have been the position if this House had joined with the other branch of the Legislature in saying, “ We do not know who the Commissioner may be ; we do not know what his. tendencies may be ; but we will put itabsolutely in the power of the Minister of the day to appoint any person he chooses, and whatever the Commissioner does shall bebeyondappeal. However fallible he may be “ - and even the best and youngest of us are fallible - “ whatever mistakes he may make, whatever erroneous information may reach him, his determination shall be final and beyond appeal.” For whose benefit would such a course have been taken ? I think we must not consider the Commissioner so much as the whole of the people of Australia. It is for, the purpose of preserving our duty to the people of Australia that we have reserved to ourselves the power to approve or disapprove of any distribution. In disapproving of a scheme, Parliament is not to be put in the “ tight corner,” if I may use a colloquial expression, of being bound to give particular reasons, based on evidence that would be necessary to convict, a man of fraud, for its action. I utterly repudiate such a suggestion. We have to form our opinion honestly and as best we can upon such evidence as we can obtain (mentally and morally, and to say whether, in our opinion, this distribution ought to be approved of or not. I am unable to understand the argument that although we cannot search the mind of the Commissioner we are to swallow everything he does unless we can bring evidence that would be sufficient to convict him in a court of justice of doing something morally or monstrously wrong. I cannot think that that is our duty. We have not to look to political considerations. We must not regard our own interests. We must not regard the interests of any policy, fiscal or otherwise. But it does seem to me that if, 11 DOn material such as the Minister brings before us, or that we may gather from our - fellow members we arrive at the conclusion that the distribution would be wrong, it is our bounden duty, irrespective of any feeling in regard to the Commissioner, and, while thinking that he has honestly endeavoured to do his duty, to say that we disapprove of it and that it shall not be law.
– May I suggest that the honorable and learned member for Indi has been chasing a shadow? No one has ever set up ‘the contention that we must perforce accept the dictum of the Commissioner. No one has put forward an absurd proposition of that kind ; nor has
Any one said that we should surrender ourselves politically body and soul into the hands of the Commissioner. All that is contended is that it is wise and prudent for the House to accept the verdict of the Commissioner, unless it can show good reasons for the adoption of an opposite course. That is the only suggestion that has been indicated throughout the debate, and it is the position which the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, sets up. He says that we are bound under the Electoral Act to do certain things, and that, in his opinion, it would be better for honorable members to keep away from the Commissioner. He never suggested, as the honorable and learned member appears to think he did, that it would be improper or illegal for any honorable member to go near the Commissioner. His sole argument was that in his opinion it would be better for us ‘ to keep away from the officer, and that is our contention. While the honorable and learned member for Indi has been chasing these legal subtleties, he has not given a single reason why we should vote against the determination of the Commissioner for Queensland ; nor have I heard any given during the whole debate, save one, which reflects most seriously upon the integrity and ability of that officer. The honorable member for Herbert charged the Commissioner with having been manipulated by certain people in Queensland, and the Minister for Trade and Customs, in substantiating that statment in an interjection, said that it would have been better if certain persons had kept away from him. That is the way in which the Minister puts the position, clearly leaving it to be inferred that the Commissioner has been led by the interference of Queensland Ministers to do some.thing which he otherwise would not have done That is practically an allegation of a corrupt action on the part of the Commissioner. It is a serious statement to make, - especially when we remember that the man against whom it is levelled is not here to reply for himself. Surely the least that we can do is to probe these allegations to the bottom and to see whether there is a substantial basis for them. We owe it to the Commissioner to clear the suspicion sought to be woven about him in this Chamber. We obtain the services of a State officer to do this work, and then we turn round and accuse him of having been corruptly manipulated by the Ministry he has served in the State. If the Minister for Trade and Customs knew that the Commissioner had been improperly influenced by Queensland Ministers it was his bounden duty not to submit this scheme to the House. On making the discovery, he should have instantly discharged him and appointed another man in his place. It is an insult to the House to bring down for our consideration a report which the Minister suggests has been obtained by unfair means. The Minister should have sent this officer about his business the moment he discovered that any improper influence had been brought to bear upon him.
– Surely he does not make such an allegation 1
– In reply to a statement made by the honorable member for Herbert, the Minister said that it would have been better if certain persons had kept away from him. The honorable member for Herbert goes further, and asserts that the Commissioner was influenced by Mr. Philp and other members of the Queensland Ministry, with the result that the proposed divisions were suddenly altered. That is a very serious statement to make, and the Minister is under an obligation from every point of honour, and every consideration of fair play, either to clear this officer’s character, or to justify all that has been said about him. Until that is done the House should be prepared to accept the Commissioner’s report. All that honorable members who have made a charge against that officer have done to support it is to mention the coincidence that the Premier and the Commissioner of Railways in Queensland went to see him, and that within forty-eight hours afterwards he altered his proposed distribution. Such a statement is not sufficient to destroy a man’s character, and would not be accepted as proof in any court of law. If substantial grounds can be given for the accusation which has been made against the Commissioner, every honorable member will vote against the acceptance of his proposals j but do not let us cloud with suspicion the reputation of a man who is not here to defend himself. The Minister should, in fairness, either see that the statements made against the Commissioner are substantiated, or disprove them. What reason has the honorable gentleman advanced for the rejection of the proposed distribution 1 The only reason advanced is that it was altered within forty-eight hours.
– I said that that was one reason, because the circumstance seemed to me a singular one.
– It was the only reason the Minister gave.
– No, it was not.
– No reasons were given last night. The honorable member for Herbert has expressed surprise that the motion has not been agreed to without debate. Have we come to this, that when we have appointed Commissioners to do certain work, and their proposals have been formally submitted to us, we are ready toveto them without consideration t We havecertainly the right to do so. Parliament issupreme, as the honorable and learned member for Indi is always telling us. But did we intend to play a farcewhen we passed the Act ‘I Did we think that Parliament would be asked to disapprove of proposed distributions without being given the slightest reason for doingso 1 I think that the intention of honorable members in passing the Act was to provide for a new distribution in each State prior to the holding of the next Federal elections. Now that these distributions have been made, however, we are asked to disapprove of them, and the only reason alleged by the honorable and learned member for Indi for taking such action is that we have power to do so. I was surprised at such a statement. Of course we have the power, but what .we have toconsider is the wisdom of such a course. There have been strange proceedings while these motions have been under consideration. Members have voted in a certain way one day and have voted in an opposite way next day, without giving any reason for the change. Honorable members voted for the proposed South Australian distribution, in regard to which the provisionsof the Electoral Act were rigidly adhered to.
– I ask the honorable member not to refer to the South Australian distribution.
– I do so only inci– dentally, to show how the treatment accorded to the proposals of the Commissioner for South Australia differed from that which has been given to the proposals of the Commissioners for other States. I ask the reason for that change. Surely if there is any State in which consideration should be given to the country divisions, it is the sparselypopulated State of South Australia. In that State, however, the provisions of the Act have been rigidly adhered to. The electorate of Flinders, for the representation of which I understand the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, .will be a candidate next year, is larger than the State of New South Wales. But, notwithstanding its large area, the Commissioner has given it as many as if not more electors than he has given to some of the Adelaide ^constituencies. Yet honorable members approved of that distribution. What reason had they for adopting it, and objecting to the proposed distributions of the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, where the population is closer, and the difficulty of travelling less 1 Certain principles are laid down in the Constitution and in the Electoral Act, but while honorable members were ready to apply them to the conditions of the sparsely populated State of South Australia, they were not ready to apply them to the populous and compact State of Victoria.
– The honorable member is now making more than an incidental reference to the distributions which have already been dealt with by the House.
– I have finished what I intended to say on that head ; but I think I was entitled to refer to the contrast. If certain principles should be applied to South Australia they should also be applied to Queensland. I hope that honorable members will seriously consider the matter before they vote for the rejection of the Commissioner’s recommendation, since in doing so they will be departing strangely from the principles laid down in -connexion with the South Australian distribution.
– I have not hitherto taken any part in the discussions upon the proposed distributions of the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, because I thought it better to leave them to the representatives of those States. We have now, however, a new position before us. Serious charges have been made against the Queensland Commissioner and certain influential persons in that State. No honorable member has a right to make such charges unless he is prepared to prove them, and I think that we should adjourn the discussion on this motion until the charges made have either been proved or disproved. I therefore ask the Minister to consent to an adjournment until the Commissioner has had an opportunity to answer the allegations which have been brought against him. It would be scandalous if, before the Commissioner has had an- opportunity to answer the charge, we passed the motion and rejected the proposed distribution, chiefly on the ground that there has been some hankypanky work in connexion with it. Surely honorable members will not practically brand the Commissioner as dishonest until he has had an opportunity to explain his position ‘? If the statements made by some of the Queensland representatives are true, and the Commissioner has been so weak as to yield to the temptation alleged, the House will be unanimous in rejecting his distribution. But we should not deal with it merely on hearsay evidence, and thus injure an officer’s reputation without giving him an opportunity to clear himself.
– Did not the withdrawing of one map and the substitution of another within forty-eight hours look funny?
– Would the honorable member, if a similar charge were made against him, like the House to deal with it without waiting to hear his explanation ? We have no right to condemn a man merely because something “ looks funny.” I do not wish to delay business, but this matter has been kept back for so long that it might easily be postponed for another week. If I shall be in order in moving the adjournment of the debate-
– The honorable member having spoken, he cannot move the adjournment, but any other honorable member who has not spoken can do so.
– I am very sorry that I have not an opportunity to move the adjournment of the debate, and I trust that some other honorable member will do so. The Minister should, in the interests of his own officer, allow the discussion to be postponed for a week, until the charge against him can be investigated.
– How would that affect the distribution %
– We are not dealing with this proposal in .view of the effect it will have upon the electoral divisions.
– I hope we are.
– Undoubtedly we are not. It has been stated that there has been some queer work in connexion with the distribution of electorates by the Commissioner, and honorable members are no doubt being influenced by that fact. Therefore a vote should not be taken upon the motion until the imputation upon the officer has been removed or the charges are fully proved.
– I listened with close attention to the speech of the honorable and learned member for Indi, which was a most magnificent piece of special pleading on behalf of the Government and the Minister, and the policy adopted, by them in regard to this matter. If, upon questions of public policy, we are to have the Government saved by the delicate shades of meaning which can be attached to one word in an Act of Parliament, our position will become very critical indeed.
– My speech was absolutely the other way.
– The honorable and learned member laid a good deal of stress on the meaning to be attached to the word “ may.”
– That was because I was asked the question.
– The honorable and learned member’s speech was a fine piece of special pleading, and he took a severely technical view of the whole position. Our indictment of the Government is that they are departing from the spirit of the Electoral Act. They may be saved upon the’ letter of some miserable clause ; but if they are to be saved in that way, let us exactly understand the position. So far as the spirit of the electoral law is concerned, everyone must admit that the idea running right through the Act is that we must leave the work of distributing the electoral areas to impartial Commissioners, with no political ideas to sway them one way or- the other. I admit that Parliament has the reserve power to accept or reject the recommendations of the Commissioners, and I have never contended that we should give up our final right in that respect. But before the work of a Commissioner is rejected, it should be shown that upon high public grounds it is bad, and has been done in such a way as to imperil the principle laid down in the Act. Not one word has been uttered by the Minister in that direction, .
– If I spoke for a week I should not alter the honorable member’s opinion.
– Unless the Minister could say a good deal more than he has already stated, he would not alter any one’s opinion. When the discussion of the resolutions relating to the electoral distribution was commenced, a few days ago, we were told by the Minister that he had not a word to say against the Commissioners. He began by praising the Commissioners.
– I was referring to one Commissioner only.
– We will get back to the previous discussion. The Ministersaid that he had no fault-
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring to the previous discussions.
– I simply wished to support my statement. The Minister now impugns the work of the Commissioner; and charges him with having submitted to pressure from persons who had no right to influence him.
– So far I have not said anything of the kind.
-The Minister has said a good deal by way of interjection. - He has practically indorsed the remarks of the honorablemember for Herbert, who appealed to him to substantiate them. If the imputation cast upon the Commissioner by the honorable member for Herbert is unfair, the Minister should be the first to stand up and defend him. We shall have arrived ata pretty state of affairs when public officers cannot rely upon their Ministers to defend them. If the Minister sits quietly by and. allows this imputation to be made against an officer whom he. has appointed, does he not realize that he will become a party to the imputation? The honour of his officers ought to be as dear to him as the life of the Government itself. A serious charge is; levelled against a high public official by an honorable member, who appeals to the Minister to support him, and yet the Minister remains silent.
– Have I had a chance to say a word ?
– The Minister hashad ample opportunities.
– The Minister cannot, reply until the close of the debate.
– The Ministerpractically supported the statement of thehonorable member for Herbert.
– I shall have a statement to make at the proper time.
– I am willing towithdraw every word I have said againstthe Minister if he will assent to the fairand reasonable request of the honorablemember for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that the discussion should be postponed until the Commissioner can be consulted,, and the charge against him investigated. It is a very serious matter for an honorable- member to charge the Commissioner with submitting himself to improper influences, and the occasion is sufficiently important to justify an adjournment of the debate.
– Similar charges were made last night against the Chief Electoral Officer.
- Mr. Speaker has already ruled that I cannot refer to what was said during the previous debate, and, therefore, I shall not refer to what was statedyesterday. We are confronted with the report of the Commissioner for Queensland, who has acted according to law. He had instructions from the Minister to divide the State into electorates on the basis of proportional representation. He tells us that he has established a quota and divided the State on the basis of that quota, that he has used the margin allowed, and that he has exhibited his maps in accordance with law ; and, finally, he has submitted his report. Now we are called upon to say whether we approve or disapprove of the divisions made by him. It has not been suggested that the distribution has not been made upon the principle of proportional representation. Mr. McDowall quotes the conditions to which ho was called upon to give due consideration when making the distribution. He says -
In making the distribution I gave due consideration to community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions.
– That is exactly what he did not do.
– I should like the honorable member to take the opportunity which will be afforded him to show in what respect Mr. McDowall has failed to give due consideration to these matters. The Minister has not satisfied the House upon that point.
– Did not the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs show that the Commissioner had failed in that respect?
– The honorable and learned member showed that there had been departures to some extent from these principles ; but it must be recognised that the boundaries of existing electorates cannot be preserved if effect is to be given to the principle of proportional representation. All that is required is that the Commissioner should give due consideration to the matters I have mentioned so far as may be consistent with securing proportional representation. He can only depart from the quota by one-fifth over or under. He cannot preserve existing boundaries absolutely. There must be a variation of boundaries from time to time if the population basis as laid down by the Act is to be adhered to. In Queensland there are at present the same anomalies as to population that have been pointed out in New South Wales and Victoria. If the existing boundaries are preserved, the electorate of Brisbane will have 33,000 voters, which honorable members will notice is nearly 50 per cent. in advance of the quota., whereas the electorate of Maranoa would have only 16,000 electors. Is it fair that . because a man lives in Brisbane he shall vote only as’ one of 33,000, whilst an elector in Maranoa is permitted to vote as one of 16,000. In the proposed division of Maranoa there are 26,607 electors. The number within the present boundaries of that electorate is 16,4S4, whereas in the division of Brisbane under the existing boundaries there are 33,057 voters. This brings us back to the old trouble which was brought forward so prominently in the case of the other States, namely, that an elector in the country possessed twice the voting power of an elector in the metropolitan district. Is that a state of things which was contemplated by the Electoral Act? Does it fit in with the principle of proportional representation which is embodied in the Constitution?
– Ask the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– I shallnot ask the honorable and learned member, because he would probably evade giving a direct answer by means of some technicality. No doubt he would point out that honorable members are labouring under a misconception as to the strict legal meaning of the provisions of the Electoral Act. The fact, however, is patent that in the district of Brisbane 33,000 electors are required to return a representative to this House, whilst in the district of Maranoa only 16,484 are necessary. Had the boot been upon the other foot, doubtless we should have seen the burly representative of Maranoa storming, upon the floor of this House upon the violation of the rights of his constituents.
– That is the condition of affairs under which we have been living in Queensland.
– Bat under Federation we were to inhale a “ rarer “ atmosphere. Certainly, I was under the impression that any attempt to “ fix up “ electorates would be regarded by this Parliament with contempt and scorn. But, after what was done in the case of the New South Wales electorates last night, I shall not be astonished at anything which this Chamber may do. When a grave injustice can be perpetrated upon the electors of any one State I have very little hope.
– I do not think that the honorable member ought to reflect upon the vote of this House.
– I feel that a very grave injustice was done to the electors of Tew South Wales by the vote of this Chamber last evening.
– Order. When the honorable member made that remark inadvertently, I pointed out that it was not in order. Now that he has emphatically repeated it, I must ask him to withdraw it, because it constitutes a reflection upon a vote of this House.
– Of course, I have been too long in Parliament to imagine that I can successfully contend with the Chair, and therefore there is no course open to me but to withdraw the statement. In dealing with the divisions which are now under consideration, I do not expect the House to adopt a different principle
– What principle has it adopted 1
– I do not know. A principle is laid down in the Electoral Act for the guidance of the Commissioner, and that principle, should be respected by Parliament. Last night I admitted that Parliament is omnipotent in these matters. It has a reserve power which enables it to set aside the Commissioner’s report. It has power to be unjust if it chooses. It has the power to pass laws which press unduly on different sections of the people. But are we, the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament, prepared to justify before the people of Australia unequal divisions, such as those which will be established if we reject the Commissioner’s report ?
– The proposal of the Government represents an excessive consideration for existing boundaries.
– It is a very excessive consideration to existing boundaries.
When we inserted in the Electoral Act a provision declaring that due consideration was to be extended to existing boundaries, we did so as sensible, practical men who had no desire to witness any unnecessary disturbance of those boundaries. If anything like proportional representation could be attained without disturbing the boundaries of any electorate, I should be the last to advocate such a disturbance. We have no desire to alter the existing boundaries merely for the purpose of creating chaos. Our desire is that those boundaries shall be altered, only when the adoption of that course is necessary to give effect to the main principle of the Act, which is proportional representation.
– We had better reject the South Australian distribution in view of our recent action.
– I am very glad that South Australia has been divided upon the basis recommended by the Commissioner for that State. It shows that when we come to consider this question, untrammelled by vested interests, we recognise the principle embodied in the Constitution and in the Electoral Act.
– Do not say “ vested interests.”
– I withdraw that expression, and say that when we come to deal, with the matter purely as one of principle, the House recognises that the principle of proportional representation lies at the foundation of our electoral law. But when we deal with this question complicated by existing boundaries and by the interest which each honorable member has in preserving those boundaries, at once there is a combination to prevent any alteration whatever being effected. That is simply the attitude taken up by honorable members who are in opposition to the Commissioner’s scheme. They do not at present desire any disturbance of the existing electoral boundaries, but when the elections are over, they will return to their former loyalty to the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value. At present we are merely beating the air. At the same time, I suppose a certain amount of satisfaction is to be derived from protesting against what we consider to be unjust. I ask the Minister to consider the reasonable request preferred by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. It has been said that improper influence was brought to bear upon the Queensland Commissioner in the preparation of the map which he submitted.
– How can that affect the divisions ?
– It has been stated that the Commissioner decided upon a plan of distribution which was published in the press and immediately withdrawn. If that plan were based upon the principle of proportional representation, and if it were more in harmony with the opinions of this House and therefore more likely to meet with acceptance at the hands of honorable members, surely it might be brought forward. The Commissioner might very easily substitute his original proposals for his later ones.
– Is it likely that he would do so 1
– I am not in a position to say. The Act provides that if either House of Parliament disapproves of the scheme recommended by the Commissioner, it, may be referred back to him for further report. If the officer is acquainted with the objections which have been urged in Parliament against his scheme, and has formulated another plan of distribution, based upon the principle of proportional representation - a plan which he knows will be more likely to meet with the support of honorable members - could he not submit it to the Minister ?
– The honorable member would ask the Commissioner to please Parliament rather than to do what was right.
– I should ask him to do nothing of the sort. Parliament, however, is doing something which is infinitely worse. We are undoing the work of the Commissioner and adopting a set of boundaries which involve gross inequalities.
– By adopting the course suggested by the honorable member we should be flying right in the teeth of the Act.
– I am not proposing that we should do anything of the sort. It has been declared that the Commissioner has prepared two plans of distribution, and that one of them was set aside as the result of improper influence having been brought to bear upon him.
– It was a plan which was acceptable, so it is said.
– I cannot say that the scheme under consideration is an unacceptable one. Under the Electoral Act the people were allowed thirty days in which to lodge objections against it, but only two were forthcoming, one by the honorable member for Herbert and another by a man who represents a district or progessive association., I would point out that Queensland is alive with political and labour organizations. Did any of those organizations protest against this proposed divi-sion 1
– Yes. They did so through rae.
– Did the honorable member make any representations to the Commissioner ?
– No. I had no communication with him.
– The law provided that the map should be submitted to the people for a period of thirty days, within which it was open to them to lodge objections against it. Only two objections, however, were. forthcoming.
– Is the honorable member speaking on behalf of the Labour party of Queensland ?
– I have a right to speak upon the basis of the report. It is admitted that these active political organizations exist in Queensland, that the plan of distribution was exhibited for thirty days, and that not one of them lodged an objection against it in the form prescribed by law. I am entitled, therefore, to argue that they entertained no objection to it. That is a perfectly fair inference to draw from the facts. If that be so, why should the House discard the Commissioner’s recommendations ? It is true that the honorable member for Herbert lodged an objection, and that the Commissioner dealt with it. He could not have adopted the alternative proposal submitted by the honorable member for Herbert without going beyond the minimum allowed by law. The Commissioner could not oblige the honorable member, and at the same time observe the law. In the letter addressed by him to the honorable member for Herbert, he clearly pointed out that it was impossible for him to accede to his request without bringing himself into conflict with the law. The only objections submitted to the scheme have been answered by the Commissioner, and yet
Parliament is asked to set aside the distribution. .
– Has the Commissioner given any reason in his report for the withdrawal of the first distribution made by him ?
Mr.F. E. McLEAN.- I think not. I see nothing in the report in reference to that matter ; but there is abundant opportunity to prove whether or not any improper influence has been brought to bear upon the Commissioner. If it could be shown that improper pressure was brought to bear upon him with a view to obtain an alteration of the original distribution, that would be sufficient cause for a searching investigation into this matter.
– How could we prove such a thing? It would be a very difficult matter.
– I dare say that it would be a very difficult thing to prove.
– The honorable member for Maranoa should not make an assertion unless he is able to prove it.
– Do not saddle me with the accusation.
– These facts provide additional reasons for the adoption of the suggestion that we should delay our decision until an investigation has been made. It is unlikely that we shall require to use this distribution for some weeks or months, and Parliament should hold its hand for a week or a fortnight in order to enable the Minister to make a searching examination into these very serious charges; If it cannot be proved that any improper influence has been brought to bear upon the Commissioner, then Parliament, on every ground of public policy, and especially as’ no objections have been lodged by the people of Queensland, should adopt the report.
– I have some hesibation in taking an active part in the consideration of a question, which more closely affects the representatives of the State concerned ; but at the same time I feel that I have listened to accusations against the Commissioner which warrant the suggestion made by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that Parliament should defer the further consideration of this distribution until we are able to learn whether there is any justification for them. If there is one atom of truth in the statements which have been made against this officer, and which have almost been approved by the Minister, it is certainly right that, pending a searching investigation, we should stay our hand. The Minister has not positively admitted that there is any truth in the charges, but he has practically allowed that there must be some ground for them. In these circumstances, surely the Commissioner should have a right to disprove allegations which, in themselves, are sufficient to damn any man in the public service of Australia.
– He is not now in the public’ service. He is a retired public servant.
– That does not alter the position.
– No. The Commissioner was appointed to carry out a work of the greatest ‘ importance to the State.
– He was appointed on the recommendation of those who knew him, and should have been able to judge of his capabilities. I did not know him.
– Although. the honorable gentleman might be accused of having made certain appointments in New South Wales, I do not suggest that his far-reaching influence extends to Queensland. I have no desire to interfere with the distribution of Queensland, any more than I had a desire to interfere with the New South Wales divisions. The South Australian scheme has been passed, and I am satisfied with it, although I have no doubt that, from a personal point of view, I might have had a very much better distribution.
– The honorable member would have made Palmerston a separate constituency.
– I think I could have carved out a division which would have suited me much better than does any electorate in the scheme of which we have approved. To return to the Queensland distribution, . I think that the Minister should consent to the adjournment of the matter for a week, in. order to allow the Commissioner an opportunity to answer these charges.
– Why did not the honorable member suggest an adjournment when his right honorable leader made certain charges against the Chief Electoral Officer ? ‘
– I had paired with an honorable member on the Government side who was very ill, and I was not in the chamber at the time. I believe that the leader of the Opposition suggested that instead of the scheme for the distribution of New South Wales being rejected, as proposed by the Government, it should be returned to the Commissioner for reconsideration.
– The honorable member is very anxious for a postponement.
– I am not. I am quite satisfied with the South Australian distribution, and . I think that every one recognises that Mr. Boothby divided that State into electoral districts on just lines. I am not at all certain that there was any great dissatisfaction with the Victorian scheme which has been disapproved, and the motion for the rejection of the New South Wales scheme of distribution was not supported by the majority of honorable members from that State.
– That is not so.
– Order ! The New South Wales distribution is not before the House.
– The objections raised to this scheme are very different from those which were put forward when we were dealing with the distribution of the other States. We have here a distinct accusation that something essentially wrong has been done by the Commissioner, and the accusation should be proved or disproved. I care not on whose ‘recommendation the Commissioner was appointed; but we arc told that he was selected on the recommendation of honorable members represanting Queensland constituencies.
– I did not say that.
– Who made the appointment ?
– It was a Government appointment.
– The honorable gentleman said that Mr. McDowall was appointed on the recommendation of those who were principally interested in the matter, and that he did not know him.
– I said that he was appointed on the strength of representations which were made by members and others.
– The field of argument is widening.
– Was he recommended by State or Federal members?
– I do not know, but I am endeavouring to get at the root of the matter. I presume that honorable members representing Queensland constituencies in this House recommended his appointment, but some of them are now not only dissatisfied with his work, but are attributing to him a very serious offence. They assert that he was led by the influence brought to bear upon him by members of the State Parliament, including the Premier, to alter his original scheme of distribution.
– I do not say that he was influenced by State Ministers.
– The Minister was a party to the appointment, and he should give Mr. McDowall an opportunity to prove or disprove this charge. I do not profess to be sufficiently familiar with the geographical features of Queensland and its population statistics to enable me to form a judgment as to whether this distribution is right or wrong ; but I support the request made by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton. A man charged with the gravest crime in the calendar is by British law not considered guilty until he has been proved so. Surely an officer appointed by the Cabinet at the instance of Parliament, and on the recommendation of members either of this House or of the State Parliament of Queensland, to perform certain responsible duties, should be given an opportunity to answer charges brought against him before we, by agreeing to the motion, practically affirm our belief in the truth of them ? I do not think any representative of Queensland will deny the fairness of the request for an adjournment. I have no desire to delay the consideration of this question, but I hope that in justice to the Commissioner some honorable member will move the adjournment of the debate.
– I have listened with a good deal of attention to the discussion, and I think that the point which has been put forward by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, is a good one. The Minister wishes the House to believe that he alone has power to say whether a proposed distribution shall or shall not be sent back to the Commissioner.
– The Electoral Act leaves it to the Executive.
– According to my reading of the Act, it is compulsory for the Government, if either House disapproves of a proposed distribution, to send it back to the Commissioner for a fresh report. Section 22 provides that -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
– “ May.”
– I am about to show that the provision was passed upon the understanding that “may” meant “must.” When the Electoral Bill was under discussion in th$ Senate, the Vice-President of the Executive Council made a definite statement on that Subject, as the following quotation from the debates in that Chamber, appearing on page 10815 of the Hansard reports will show : -
On the other hand, there can be no possible object in making it necessary that a resolution shall be introduced in one House, then passed on to the other because we cannot amend the report. If we could amend it, and in such a way that finally both Blouses could come to an agree- ment, there might be some reason for doing so. Senator Charleston. - Surely we can object to the report ?
Senator O’CONNOR. We cannot either accept it or reject it. It would destroy the whole system of the Commissioners if we could amend a portion of the report. We must deal with it as a whole. The whole principle of the Bill, so far as this part of it is concerned, is that the Commissioners have the responsibility of making the distribution. If the Houses approve of the distribution it becomes effective ; but if the Houses do not approve of it - the)7 have only power to approve or disapprove - it must go back to the Commissioners for amendment.
Therefore, it is unquestionable that the word “ may “ means “must” in this connexion. That contention was also supported by the right honorable member for South Australia.
– The section supports the contention that the approval of the House to the South Australian distribution was not properly given.
– Yes ; Senator Sir John Downer, another Government supporter, said -
We do not send it back with any direction ; we simply say that we will not have it.
It would be very strange if Parliament, having dealt with the Commissioner’s report in the only way the law permits - by either approving or disapproving of it - it was left to the Government to take what further action they chose.
– Why not deal with? the merits of the particular case now underconsideration 1
– My honorable and learned friend wishes to lead me away from this point. My desire is to find out our exact position.
– We have already had three discussions on the subject.
– There will be a few more discussions upon it before the proposals of the Government are approved of in this House and in the Senate.
– The honorable member cannot speak for the Senate.
– I trust that the Senate will take a strong stand in thematter.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to the other branch of the Legislature.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi has come to the support of the Government with the statement that once we disapprove of thereport of the Commissioner, as we have donein the case of the proposed distributions of New South Wales and Victoria, their responsibility ends. I say that it does not.. When the House disapproves of a proposed distribution, it is- the clear duty of theGovernment to send it back to the Commissioner for a fresh report. That must bedone under the Act. If, when the Bill, wasbefore the Senate, the question had been raised, the members of that body would no doubt have made it clear that the matter was not to be left to the sweet will of theMinister. The Act does not allow us to amend a Commissioner’s report.
– We have amended the report of the South Australian Commissioner.
– Some extraordinary things have been done here during the past two or three days. The members of this Parliament were returned to support the principle of one man one vote, one vote one value, and I therefore did not expect to see them take action which will have the effect of disfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. The statement was made by the honorable member for New England that he believes that the country electorates should be treated differently from the city electorates.
– The honorable member is now referring to a speech made in a. previous debate, arid is therefore out of order.
– Then I will say that the position has been taken that the number o£ electors in a country division should not be so large as the number of electors in a city division. But whereas in the electorate of New England there are about 23,000 electors-
– The honorable member is not now dealing with the proposal before the House.
– I am trying to show that we should endeavour to secure uniformity in our legislation in regard to electoral matters. In my opinion, we are not doing so, but have inflicted a serious wrong upon thousands of electors throughout the Commonwealth. Whatever may be said to support the contention that the city
And country divisions should be differently treated, it cannot be contended that there is any good reason why 12,000 electors in one country division should have the same representation as 23,000 electors in another country division.
– To what divisions does the honorable member refer ?
– I should be out of order if I named them, but the honorable member for New England knows one of them, and the honorable member for Darling the other.
– But we are at present discussing the proposed Queensland distribution.
– It does not suit the honorable member to have these matters brought forward, because it breaks down the contention which he has urged upon the House. The . Minister by his speech and by his silence has allowed the House to form the impression chat a wrong action has been committed by the Commissioner for Queensland.
– The Minister cannot speak now without closing the debate.
– I admit that, but he could make an interjection. I feel sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would allow him to infringe the ordinary rules of the House in that respect if his desire was to convey to honorable members his belief that there is no good ground for the statement which has been generally circulated to the injury of the Commissioner and to the prejudice of honorable members’ opinions. The right honorable member for South
Australia, Mr. Kingston, pointed out that, whilst he was strongly in favour of the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value, he was anxious to know from the Minister before being called upon to vote whether there were any grounds for the serious charges levelled against the Commissioner. If I thought it could be proved that the Commissioner was guilty, I, like the honorable and learned member, would not support his recommendation. I cannot always compliment- the Government upon the appointments they make, but I believe that in regard to the Commissioners they have endeavored to select the ‘ most competent men. I know the Commissioner for New South Wales to be an honorable, straightforward, and able man. I do not know anything about the Queensland Commissioner, but, judging from his report, he has shown great industry in the discharge of his duties, and has furnished valuable information. Still, I should feel inclined to reject his distribution if I felt that there was the slightest ground for the charge made against him. Honorable members do not like charges of corruption to be made against them, and they should be careful before allowing similar accusations to lie against high public officials.
– Have not a good many charges been made against Mr. Lewis, the Chief Electoral Officer ?
– I am prepared to prove by reference to public documents anything I have said against Mr. Lewis.
– I think that I have disproved the honorable member’s statements by reference to public documents
– The Minister has done nothing of the kind.
– No one objects to charges being made against public officers if they can be proved.
– Honorable members against whom charges are mads have opportunities of rebutting them, and public officers of high standing who are attacked should have a chance of meeting any accusations made against them. It is only fair that the Minister should inform us exactly as to the information in his possession which would support the charge against the Commissioner.
– I promise the honorable member that I shall give some information before the debate is closed.
– I ask the Minister whether there is any ground whatever for the serious charges levelled against the Commissioner 1
– The honorable member is inviting me to be disorderly.
– The Minister does not hesitate to go that length when it suits his purpose, but he has entirely failed to give any reasonable reply to the questions submitted to him upon this occasion. With regard to the electoral divisions of Queensland, I find that in three of the existing electorates there are 56,000 electors, whereas in three other electorates there are 89,000 electors,, or a difference of 33,000. That surely presents a very serious state of affairs, and one which cannot be approved of by those who advocate one vote one value.
– What does the honorable member mean by one vote one value ?
– When my honorable friend was fighting in favour of the Constitution Bill he advocated the principle of one vote one value.
– Has that anything to do with the question which is now before the House 1
– I am endeavouring to show that the Constitution embodies the principle of one vote one value, and that the Government are now seeking to rob the electors of their right. The principle is fully applied in the case of the elections for the Senate, and it is within our power under the Constitution to extend it to the exercise of the franchise in connexion with the elections for this House. It might be urged against us by honorable members in another Chamber that the principle of one vote one value had not been applied in our case.
– Order ; it is not competent for the honorable member to use that argument.
– My point is that in such an event ‘we could not turn round and say that we had provided that there should be as nearly as possible an equal number of electors in the constituencies. We find that in three divisions there are 56,000 electors, ‘and in another three S9,000.
– The Commissioner, in his first report, said that that was a proper distribution. He desired to have a margin of one-fourth instead of one-fifth.
– I know nothing about the first report of the Commissioner,, and it is not competent for us to deal with any document beyond that presented to us.. The Commissioner, in the distribution before us, divides’ the constituencies to which I have referred in such a way as to considerably reduce the differences mentioned. In the case of Oxley, the number of electors was reduced from 31,000 to 29,000.
– The Commissioner had to do that in order to bring the number of electors within the margin allowed. He desired a larger margin to work upon.
– Under the proposed distribution there are no such contrasts as exist at present.
– Does the honorable member intend to support the proposed distribution ?
– I shall support it unless the Minister for Trade and Customs can show that in its preparation, dishonest practices have been resorted to. The Commissioner has declared that it is a. fair distribution. So far as the number of electors are concerned, it certainly constitutes a more equitable distribution than dothe existing electorates. I presume that the Minister made full inquiries beforeappointing Mr. McDowall 1
– Certainly I did.
– In view of the charges which have been made, the obligation rests upon the Minister to referthis report back to the Commissioner in order that further information may be supplied. Unless that course be adopted, we-, shall do an injustice both to Mr. McDowall and to the country.
– It is notnecessary to malign the character of theQueensland Electoral Commissioner to justify the proposal of the Minister for Trade and Customs. As I intimated just now, Mr. McDowall in his first scheme - which, by theway, was published iri the Brisbane Courier,. long before it was available to honorable members - declared that, in dealing with the peculiar circumstances of Queensland, he was circumscribed in his action by themargin which this Parliament had allowed in the Electoral Act. He alleges that if hehad been permitted a margin of one-fourth instead of one-fifth, he would have been able to effect a much better division. Thus the officer whom the honorable member for Macquarie is so anxious to defend,. desired to do the very thing against which he argued. Moreover, Mr. McDowall is an ex-Surveyor-General of Queensland, who knows what he is talking about. He was particularly desirous of giving a larger measure of representation to the country districts than to the metropolitan divisions. Such a proposal is entirely’ in opposition to the whole trend of the discussion upon this motion. Concerning the arguments which have been used in support of the principle of one vote one value, I merely desire to say that they are very good in their way. But with the exception of the right honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, not a single honorable member has contended that the principle . should be adhered to under all . conceivable circumstances. We have provided in our Electoral Act that it may be departed from to the extent of 40 per cent. I believe in that principle as much as does any one, although it is not incorporated in the platform of the Queensland Labour party. I admit that it is a good principle, but a*; the same time, we ought not to take extreme views upon this matter. There is one aspect of the question as regards Queensland which should be carefully kept in view. It is very evident that Mr. McDowall possesses a mind which is so evenly adjusted that it is susceptible to representations by any party. That is patent from the fact that in his first report he set out in the most precise way the reasons which influenced him in arriving at the divisions which he recommended. In his second report, however, he controverts some of the arguments which he had previously used. Therefore, I hold that it is not necessary to prove that undue influence was brought to bear in order to warrant us in rejecting his recommendations. There is still another aspect of this matter, which I think should be put by a Queensland representative ; and, perhaps, I can put it with more grace, because the district of Wide Bay, which I represent, would not be affected under either of the schemes recommended by the Commissioner.
– Neither would Capricornia.
– Capricornia was affected under the scheme originally recommended by Mr. McDowall. Of course, if this matter is to be carried further, it will be necessary to embody all these reports in Ilansard, so that we may be thoroughly protected. The electorate of Capricornia was considerably disturbed in the first division, as will beseen from a perusal of its boundaries, which, were defined as follows : -
Capricornia, comprising the State electoral, districts of Clermont, Mackay, Normanby, Rockhampton, and Rockhampton North ; and that part, of Bowen comprising the State electoral divisions of Bowen, Mackay, and Ravenswood ; and that part of Fitzroy comprising the State electoral division -of Rockhampton ; and that part of Kennedy comprising the State electoral division of Cape River; and that part of Mitchell comprising the State electoral divisions of Aramac, Barcaldine, Hughenden, and Muttaourra.
– I referred to thesecond division.
– The electorate of WideBay would not be disturbed under either of the divisions recommended, so that I cannot be accused of having any personal interest in this matter. It is only fair, however, that I should state- in the plainestpossible terms that Queensland standsalone in one particular respect. The. State Government there have avowedly set themselves the task of defeating the Labour party at the next Federal elections. Immediately the first divisions recommended by the Commissioner were published in the Queensland press, the State Premier, according to a wire which was despatched here, denounced them, and declared that he waspreparing a map of his own, which would set out a better distribution. I do not deny his right to do anything that he haspower to do. Knowing him and his political associates, I am convinced that they will not fight shy of us for want of weaponswith which to achieve their purpose. WhilstI am dealing with this phase of the ques tion, it might be as well if I quoted someevidence which ‘ comes from Western Australia. One of the representatives of Queensland in the Senate also holds aseat in the Legislative Council of thatState at the present time. I refer toSenator Ferguson, who, according to the Perth Morning Herald of the 11th August, was interviewed in Fremantlewhen on his way to London. The paper in question states -
Among the passengers for London in the- R.M.S. Orontes, who passed through Fremantle yesterday, was Senator Ferguson, of Queensland, who was accompanied by his wife and family. Owing to it being his intention to make a protracted stay in Britain, he will not stand for reelection to the Senate. In ‘ conversation with a Herald reporter on board the steamer he stated that he considered that the death knell of the- labour régime had been sounded in Queensland, and that the people were heartily tired of labour representation. At the next Federal election there would be a clear-cut issue between the Queensland Government and the Labour party in regard to the Senate seats, and he did not think’that one labour man would be returned. Each party would have three nominees, and the members of each were pledged to support the chosen candidates. He thought that Mr. T. Glassey, undoubtedly the greatest democrat in the State, would not be reelected, as he had not been chosen by either party, and if either supported him it would be endangering the position of its direct nominees. The Government and their supporters were raising £.10,000 to fight thesocialisticor Labour party, and at the time of his departure they had already collected £4,000.
– How will they be able to expend that amount in view of our electoral law?
– I do not believe that any man would prevent them from expending it. We may express pious views about corrupt practices in connexion with elections, but I defy airy one to catch some of the clever electioneering agents that we have in Queensland.
– Is it not a fact that they have only £250 instead of £4,000 at their disposal?
– Senator Ferguson, who is certainly within the circle of which I. am speaking, said that, at the time of his departure for England, they had collected £4,000.
– They had only £250 on paper.
– This money has been collected for the purpose of crushing the Labour party. I ask honorable members for other States whether their States Governments interfere in any way with Federal members?ently situated. Our State Government is
– How long has the honorable member been aware of this fact ?
– We have known it ever since our return to this Parliament.
– Is the Minister aware of it ?
– He must be.
– Every one who reads the newspapers must see that the honorable member’s assertion is correct.
– The Minister cannot be unaware of the fact that the State Government is desperately fighting thfi representatives of Queenslandin this Chamber, as well as in the Senate, who do not agree with its views.
– Would the State Government interfere with the Commissioner?
– The honorable member ought to be careful in putting such questions to me. I was not referring to any pressure being brought to bear on the Commissioner. I said at the outset of my speech that that question did not arise. I shall not discuss the question of whether or not undue influence has been brought to bear on . the Commissioner, and I should be very sorry to hear that it had. I venture to say that every Commissioner is more or less influenced, and I differ from the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, who appears to think that we are not competent to deal with the ‘ redistribution of seats. In my opinion, we are quite competent to do so, and any body of members constituting ihis House that was incapable of dealing with them would be unfit to represent the people. The final deci-r sion in the matter of the distribution should rest with the House, and I regret that we have not the power to revise these schemes. The suggestion has been made that the original distribution made by the Commissioner should be adopted. But, unfortunately, it is not before us, and I understand that it would be impossible to have it brought before the House.
– We could deal with it in the Bill.
– That is a different matter. I think, speaking generally, that thefirst distribution would be more satisfactory to the great majority of Queenslanders than is the one now before us.
– And that it would be better to adopt it than to return this scheme to the Commissioner?
– So far as I am personally concerned the difference between the two schemes is not very great. It . is in regard to the electorate of Maranoa that the original scheme prepared by the Commissioner would be found to be advantageous.
That electorate covers an area which is larger, I believe, than New South Wales.
– The original electorate waa just under. 300,000 square miles in extent. *
– New South Wales covers an area of 31 1,000 square miles.
– The electorate of Maranoa is almost as large as the State of New South Wales, and yet we have honorable members complaining of the anomaly of a proposal that 1 7,000 electors residing in that vast constituency should have as much voting power as is exercised by perhaps nearly twice the number living in another part of the State. Mr. McDowall would have preferred to have that large margin to work upon when dealing with such a division. It would have enabled him to arrive at a decision more in accordance with the Act under which he was working. But he had to keep within the powers granted to him, and he experienced the greatest difficulty in doing what he considered would be just. The papers relating to the first distribution should have been made the property of the Commonwealth. If that had. been done honorable members would have had an opportunity to inspect them. I understand that Mr. McDowall did not absolutely complete his original scheme ; but he published it broadcast.
– He sent it to me officially.
– For two days after the publication of the scheme in the Brisbane Courier it was exceedingly difficult to obtain anything more than confidential hints from the Minister’s office in regard to it. I enter my serious protest against the adoption of such a course. The Minister had certain information in his office, but honorable members had to wait until the Brisbane newspapers arrived in Melbourne some days later before they could obtain the details of the scheme. That is riot a desirable situation for honorable members to occupy in relation to an important question like this.
– The Commissioner was given special power under the Act, and I felt that I could not publish the information at my disposal at the time referred to without his consent.
– All the parties did their best according to their lights, but that fact did not relieve us from the embarrassing difficulties which arose. The publication of the scheme in the Brisbane press prior to any information being obtainablein relation to it in Melbourne gave the State Government a lead of threedays over honorable members of this House. The State Government alwaysappear to have an advantage over us. I was a member of the State Parliament in which the electoral divisions upon which we were elected to this House were first discussed and carried. The StateGovernment came down with a proposal that one division - the electorate of Mara-: noa - should comprise a little over 5,000 voters, as against 15,000 voters in theelectorate of Wide Bay.
– They made that proposition because it suited them to do so.
– Quite so. I have always held that Paliament is the body to arrive at a proper distribution, and that view is. supported by the action of the State Parliament on the occasion to which I refer. Notwithstanding that the Government had. a large majority, the views put forward in opposition to their proposal appealed with such force to Ministerial supporters, thatthe divisions were varied, and were mademore or less reasonable before being passed into law.
– But the Government voted against the alterations.
– The good sense of theHouse allowed it to make a reasonable distribution. In view of this fact I regret that in this matter we have not the power of revision as well as of rejection. I do not think it wise or necessary for an honorablemember to make sweeping assertions; or tolose his temper in dealing with this question. So far as the general principle is concerned I certainly favour one vote one value, but having regard to the special circumstances, I am in entire agreement with the proposition submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs. It is, undoubtedly, a fact that the population of the remote districts of Queensland has been more or less reduced by reason of. the drought. As one of the newspapers published in this city remarks to-day, nature has struck them heavily, and why should Parliament also strike them. A largepopulation has moved from the country citywards. What better proof could we haveof that than the fact that the old division of Brisbane North, which, formerly had a fewer number of voters than had the electorate of Wide Bay, has to-day ii number enormously in excess of the voters to be found in it? The people, especially the wives of settlers - and good settlers too - have undoubtedly migrated to Brisbane. When the police collections were made, the state of affairs was not in anything like a normal condition. Much as I like the principle of one vote one value, I have a still greater regard for the proposition that we should endeavour to induce the people to settle in the back portions of Australia, and particularly in the State’ of Queensland. There has been far too much centralization, and any little encouragement of a political character towards the settlement of the land shall not be wanting so far as I am concerned, even if it violates the great principle of one . vote one value. There must of course be some limit, but had this House fixed the margin at 50 instead of 40 per cent., that would cover the whole difference between the distribution made by the Commissioner and the old divisions. I regret that so much time has been occupied in dealing with the question, and that so much acrimony has been imported into the debate ; but I believe that some good result will follow from the discussion, and that, in any event, we shall all admit the good faith of those who take a certain course of action in regard to the matter.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay is to be congratulated upon the calm judicial way in which he has dealt with this question. But some of the reasons advanced by him in support of the rejection of this scheme do not appeal to my mind, and I shall endeavour to refute them. The honorable member asserts that the electorate of Maranoa is practically equal in size to the State of New South Wales, and is therefore entitled to special consideration. If theenormousareaof some of the Queensland electoratesis tobeconsidered, why did the honorable member fail to. have regard to the extent, of some of the divisions of South Australia when the distribution of that State was before us ? The South Australian electorate of Grey, for example, covers an area larger than Queensland itself. If it is right that special consideration should be given to people living in such extensive divisions, why did not the honorable member for Wide Bay, together with the supporters of the Government, fight for tha interests of that electorate? We have had several propositions put before us. The scheme of distribution for South Australia has been accepted, but we have rejected the Victorian and New Sbuth Wales distributions, and it appears that a similar course is to be followed in regard to Queensland. Each. Commissioner, as his report has come before us, has been spoken of as the most able man who could be obtained for the work. Honorable members have praised the Queensland Commissioner, who was the Surveyor-General of the State, as they have praised the other Commissioners ; but in every case, with the exception of South Australia, they have disapproved of the proposed distribution. It is a remarkable thing that it was possible to observe the principle of one vote one value in South Australia with almost mathematical precision, but that it is impossible to do so in the other States. In dealing with the New South Wales and Victorian distributions we have had what I may call . the “ drought “ argument and the “ gum-tree “ argument advanced in support of the proposals of the Government, and now we have the worst argument of all, the “ gotat “ argument ; honorable members imputing wrong-doing to the Queensland Commissioner in order to lead the House to disapprove of his proposed distribution.
– The honorable member has been imputing motives to me from the very beginning of these discussions.
– On no occasion, either in this Parliament or in the State Parliament, have I imputed motives to the honorable member. The statement has been made, and has ‘ been indorsed by the honorable member for Wide Bay, that the Queensland Commissioner has been “ got at by the State Government.
Mr.Fisher. - I said nothing of the kind.
– I made a note of the honorable member’s exact’ words in reply to my interjection. It is going round the Chamber, and the Minister has said that improper motives have been attributed to the Commissioner.
– I have said nothing of the kind.
– Member after member has made the statement, and the Minister has not contradicted it. If the Minister knew before giving notice of his motion that the
Commissioner had been actuated by improper motives, he should have dismissed him and punished him. But if he has become informed of the fact since then, he should have -taken the House and the country into his confidence on the subject, and asked us to disapprove of the report on the ground that the Commissioner had been improperly influenced. He has not done that, and therefore I say that the “ got-at “ argument is not sufficient to justify us in voting for the motion. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that the desire of the State Government in Queensland was unquestionably to “down” the Labour party, and that the Government had used influence with the Commissioner.
– Weakness, but not improper motive, has been attributed to the Commissioner.
– “ Weakness “ is a very euphemistic term to apply to the action of the Commissioner if’ his conduct has been improper.
– I- did not use the words which the honorable member has attributed to me.
– My answer to the honorable member and to others is that if the Labour party in Queensland, which according to its representatives here is the best organized labour force in Australia, thought that it was not being fairly treated, it should have openly and publicly lodged objections with the Commissioner ; but that was not done.
– If the honorable member reads the Commissioner’s report, he will see that the secretary to the Cairns political organization lodged an objection.
– That objection, and the objection of the honorable member for Herbert are the only two which appear in the report. My political views, so far as they can be defined, are distinctly radical. I do not lend myself to any party in matters of this kind, and if the statement that the Government of Queensland interfered with the Commissioner in order to “down” the Labour party there appeared to me true, I would vote for the disapproval of the proposed distribution. But I want proof of its truth. Before we reject the proposal of the Queensland Commissioner, we should receive further information on the subject. I am willing to refer the matter back to the
Commissioner, so that he can reply to the charges which have been made against him, but I require that in the case of Queensland, as in the case of other States, the principle of one man one vote and one vote one. value shall be recognised. Unfortunately the House has hitherto, except in the case of South Australia, refused to recognise that principle. I am fighting this battle to-night, as I did last night, and last week, not on political grounds, but on the grounds of principle. In my opinion, honorable members are concerned not about the disturbance of boundaries but about the disturbance of representatives. It is of no use to disguise the fact. Ministers and members are fighting for their personal interests, and are neglecting the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I thought that the honorable member did not impute motives !
– I am not doing so ; I am merely giving my opinions. If the principles I have named can be applied in SouthAustralia, why cannot they be applied in the other States. All that the Minister has done in regard’ to the proposed Queensland distribution is to throw the Commissioner’s report on the table and move that it be disapproved of. He gave >no reason why the House should take that action. To-day, however, the honorable member for Herbert has brought forward the “ got at” argument, and he has been supported by the honorable member for Wide Bay, and others. We are now focussing the attention of Australia upon a struggle between Parliament and the people. The people are not interested in maintaining the existing boundaries of divisions. Bather than have a repetition of what has occurred during the past few days, I should like to see the people Vote in each State as one electorate in the choosing of representatives for this Chamber as well as for the Senate. If each State voted as one electorate, the votes of country electors would not count for more than the votes of city electors, and we should have a full recognition of the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value.’ I think that the people - -when they understand the wrangling which has taken place here and the flimsy arguments which have been’ adduced in support of the disapproval of distributions - will say that they would rather not have the States divided than have the question treated as it has been treated. At the present time we find that the city of Melbourne is being robbed of two representatives.
– The honorable member cannot refer to the Victorian distribution.
Mr.WILKS. - I am sorry that I cannot. As has been pointed out before, it is not proposed to ask the Commissioner to make a fresh distribution. We are told that there is not time enough. If that is so, it is unquestionably the fault of the Government.
– I have not said that there is not time enough. On the contrary, I say there is sufficient time.
– Then, by all means let us have fresh distributions, but do not let us fall back on the old divisions. The difference between some of the present Queensland divisions is too great. Maranoa, for instance, contains 17,000 electors, while there are 30,000 in other electorates. It cannot be argued that there are particular interests in Maranoa, or Kennedy, or Capricornia vvhich require particular representation in this Parliament. The matters with which we can deal under the Constitution are matters in which the people of Brisbane, and of the other cities of the Commonwealth, are as much concerned as are the people residing in the country constituencies. If the administration of the Lands or the Mines or other similar Departments had been referred to the Commonwealth, the position would be different. We are concerned with the people, not as electors in New South Wales or Queensland, or of any other State, but as electors of the Commonwealth. Whether a man be a fisherman on the Gulf of Carpentaria, a- goldminer at Kalgoorlie, or an iron worker in my constituency, he is entitled to fully exercise the rights conferred upon him by the Constitution, and I hope that we shall apply the principle of one vote one value to the fullest possible extent. The honorable member for Wide Bay has urged that the margin allowed for the Commissioner was not sufficient to enable him to make a just distribution. When the Electoral Bill was under discussion it was proposed by the leader” of the party to which the honorable member belongs to reduce the margin to one-eighth, and I cannot understand why the honorable member should now clamour for an extension to one-fourth. The object of allowing the margin was to enable the Commissioner to overcome certain difficulties with regard to the boundaries, and to deal in a practical rather than in a strictly scientific manner with the division of the State. The Commissioner for South Australia dealt satisfactorily with the distribution of that State, which is even more sparsely populated than Queensland, and I cannot understand why a margin of one-fifth should not have proved sufficient to enable satisfactory results to be achieved in Queensland. The Minister has been asked, to inform the House as to the basis of the charge made against the Commissioner. If he had reason, before the report was laid upon the table of this House, to believe that the Commissioner had acted improperly, he should not have presented his recommendation. A Bill will have to be brought in to give effect to the resolutions of the House with regard to the electoral divisions, and it will then be possible to adopt the original recommendations of the Commissioner in regard to Queensland instead of retaining . the present unsatisfactory divisions. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that it was right that it should be left to Parliament to deal with the distribution of the electorates, but I do not agree with him, because Commissioners, free from political influence, would not be likely to make such grave mistakes as would honorable members actuated by regard for their own interests. The Commissioners were chosen because they were practical and independent men, and their reports should not be set aside without the strongest reason. If it can be shown that the Commissioner* for Queensland has made a mistake his report should be referred back to him for reconsideration.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I understood the honorable member for Dalley to infer that I had acted in collusion with a political association in Cairns in raising objections to the recommendations of the Commissionei.
– I said, in effect, that the Cairns association was the honorable member’s uncle.
– The honorable member for Dalley may explain his meaning afterwards. In the meantime I wish to state most emphatically that I knew absolutely nothing of the objections raised by the Cairns association, and that in this connexion I had held no communication with that body.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The report of the Commissioner for the distribution of Queensland into electorates appears on the face of it to be a very fair one. The Commissioner has divided the State into nine electorates, and appears to have paid full regard to the principle of proportional representation.
– Did the honorable member see the first report of the Commissioner ?
– I have not seen any report other than that now before us. Any remarks I may have to make will not be antagonistic to the honorable member, although I may have something to say with regard to the electorate which he represents. I do not think we should be called upon to set on one side the report of an officer of the high standing of Mr. McDowall, unless the strongest reasons can be adduced. The honorable member for Kennedy was fair and honorable enough to admit that Mr. McDowall was held in high estimation in Queensland. He said, by way of interjection - “ He is not a bad sort.” Mr. McDowall is the ex-Surveyor-General of Queensland, and knows that State thoroughly. His long and interesting report shows that he has taken great pains and displayed great assiduity in performing his work. He has gone so far as to say that if the margin had been a little greater he would have been able to distribute the electorates to the satisfaction of all persons interested.
– Why did he not adhere to his first report?
– The honorable member had better ask Mr. McDowall. If any charge is to be levelled against that officer it should be openly made in the House, and should be amply supported. Honorable members represent the whole of Australia, and it is as much my duty as it is that of the honorable member for Maranoa not only to see that an officer discharges his duty properly, but also to protect him against unfair attack. Insinuations have been made regarding Mr. McDowall, and if anything is to be urged against his conduct or his report it should be done openly. The honorable member for Herbert took a thoroughly straightforward course in communicating with the Commissioner with respect to his proposed distribution of the electorates. He made certain suggestions, which were fully considered by that officer. We may gather something as to the nature of these suggestions from the replies given, by Mr. McDowall. On the 13th July, Mr. McDowall wrote as follows : -
I have to thank you for your communication of the 9th inst., received this morning, suggesting certain alterations in the boundaries of Herbert and Kennedy, and protesting against the inclusion of the pearl shellers of Thursday Island with the graziers of Western Queensland.
As far as memory serves me, I tried the combinations .you mention among the numerous otherarrangements of boundaries that I sketched out before deciding, mid as far as I recollect, therewere objections as far as numbers were concerned, to say nothing of the separation of Mackay from the other sugar districts
I will give your suggestions careful consideration, and send you a further reply in a few days.
Having given the matter careful consideration, he wrote again on the 17th July asfollows : -
Again referring to your letter of the 9th inst., and my hurried reply on the 13th inst., I have gone carefully into the numbers of voters in the Herbert electoral division that you propose, and, as I expected, the excision of the whole of theState electoral districts of Mackay and Bowen leaves only 18,243 votes in the division, and even the addition of Bourke (875) only brings the number up to 19,118.
The further addition of the whole of the StateRegistration Division of Ayr of Bowen (547) which is really more than yOU propose only brings the, number of votes up to 19,065, still under the minimum.
This is, of couse, fatal to 3’our scheme, as the minimum is 19,742, and these figures must berigidly observed ; other conditions may be waived, but the maximum and minimum must be adhered to.
The Cairns Political Progress Association have suggested a modification of the boundaries of Herbert and Kennedy, ‘which is somewhat similarto your proposal, inasmuch as it puts Mackay and Bowen into Kennedy, and separates these districts from Cairns and Geraldton. As my reply to this Association bears also upon your proposed division of the sugar districts, I enclose you a copy of my reply to them as well as a copy of their letter ; also two maps showing their proposal as well as your own.
In reply to the objection urged by thehonorable member for Herbert, the Commissioner states that it was quite impossiblethat the suggestions of the honorable member could be carried out. In perusing this document I find that ample evidence is forthcoming why the State could not be divided in the manner outlined by those who took the trouble to make suggestions to Mr. McDowall. That officer says -
A distribution of this State into ten divisions, or a distribution into nine with a margin of onefourth, would have been comparatively easy and much more satisfactory.
No doubt in the course of a few years we shall be able to secure a much more satisfactory distribution than it was possible for the Commissioner to make under the mandatory directions which he received. Those directions are incorporated in theElectoral Act, which declares that in effecting the divisions the Commissioner shall give due consideration to community or diversity of interest ; to means of communication ; to physical features; and also to existing boundaries of divisions. As the officer in question had to comply with the terms of the Act in the particulars enumerated, he was unable to make any other division consistently with the faithful discharge of his duty.
– The honorable member f iorgets that he previously made a different division.
– In all probability an officer charged with the task of dividing such a large State as that of Queensland, which embraces an area greater than that of Victoria and New South Wales combined-
– It is twice as large as those two States combined.
– I can quite con- . ceive that an officer intrusted with that work might make several divisions before arriving at one which was satisfactory to himself. Of course, if the Commissioner submitted a plan of distribution to some person other than the Minister, it is for the latter to say whether such action was in the interests of the community. At the same time it is incumbent upon any honorable member making such a covert charge against an officer to put it forward in the most definite and set terms possible so that the accused may be afforded an opportunity of replying. I have no sympathy with an officer who would go behind the back of his Minister and perform work to the satisfaction of State officials rather than of the Minister who engaged him on behalf of this Parliament. Mr. McDowall says-
A study of the subject reveals the fact that the population of Queensland is very unevenly distributed, the bulk of the population being on or near the eastern sea-board.
Settlement in Queensland is similar to that which has taken place in the other States, so that while it is impossible for the Commissioner to divide that State into electorates to the satisfaction of the representatives concerned, it is possible for him to cut it up to the- satisfaction of Parliament. I trust that when the good of the country is at stake we shall rise superior to personal interests. From the Commissioner’s report,I conclude that Mr. McDowall has discharged his duty faithfully, and to my mind it is incumbent upon the Minister to advance reasons why the scheme recommended by him should not be accepted. It is not right upon a mere ex parte statement to conclude that undue influence has been brought to bear upon the Commissioner in the performance of his duty. Before arriving at such an opinion, the Minister should be satisfied from undeniable evidence that Mr. McDowall has been unfaithful to his trust. Should he be so satisfied, it seems to me that a very serious situation would arise, inasmuch as possibly the officer in question would have to be retired from his position. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I assume that a good division has been effected - certainly it constitutes a decided improvement upon the presentdivision. Under the electoral boundaries, as they now exist, there are 33,057 electors in the district of Brisbane, and only 16,484 in that of Maranoa. In the southern part of that State, therefore, an elector has more than twice the voting power of an elector in Brisbane. Surely no one can seriously urge that such a distribution is just, seeing that under our own electoral law we prescribe a margin of only 5,000 above or 5,000 below the quota. I understand that the Minister intends to introduce a Bill for the purpose of legalizing the action which he has taken. That, however, will scarcely condone the offence which he wishes us to commit upon the eve of a general election, by effecting, in the interests of the sitting members, an alteration in the provisions of an Act which was deliberately ‘ passed when the representatives in this House desired to be faithful to their trust. It is a most improper course to pursue. I trust that the House will reject the proposal of the Minister and adhere to the scheme which has been recommended by the Commissioner. In one portion of his report, Mr. McDowall states that he received, some commendation from the Chief Electoral Officer for his preparation of that document, and for the promptness’ with which it was forwarded to head-quarters. Under these circumstances, I trust that the Minister will adopt the course of returning these divisions to the Commissioner for revision, with instructions to prepare a fresh distribution for submission to Parliament in time to be of use in the impending general elections.
– In the first place, I have been ‘attacked by . some honorable members upon the ground that in submitting this resolution the course which I adopted was one which I ought not to have pursued. It has been urged that, instead of putting forward this proposal, J should have dealt with the matter by a Bill. It seems to me that the Act is very definite in regard to this point when it declares in section 22 that, after the maps and the reports have been submitted to the House -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into .divisions.
Section 21 also deals with the course which is to be followed if both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution. When the Government felt that these distributions were not in the best interests of the electors of town and country alike, it would have been cowardly for them to submit a motion for their approval with- the knowledge that it would probably be defeated. Honorable members will readily concede that a Minister adopts a much more manly attitude when, instead of resorting to a subterfuge, he submits a motion in accordance with the law, and takes a course which he and his colleagues believe to be a proper one. I have come into the open, and I have clearly stated my opinion in regard to this matter.
– For the first time, on record.
– I know that the honorable member’s opinion would be different if he could only express it free from party bias. I contend that the course taken by us must commend itself to every disinterested and non-party man in the community. What object had we in view in submitting to the House the principle of one man one vote - a principle which was supported mainly by honorable members on the Government side 1 The curse of plural voting had been felt in New South Wales, and probably in all the other States, and it was our desire that it should be abolished so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. Up to the present time we have had no definition of the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value. That is something new. The cry has been rehearsed in the Opposition room, and it has been brought down for the purposes of theatrical display on the floor of this House. The chief object which we had in view in giving legislative effect to the principle of one man one vote was the destruction of plural voting, and that desire has been carried out as the result of the action of honorable members sitting on this side of the House rather than because of anything done by honorable members of the Opposition. In dealing with this matter, the first consideration is not whether the Commissioner has done anything wrong. The primary question is whether or not the distribution is a good one.
– The .Minister has to prove that it is not, and he has failed to do so.
– It has been very strongly demonstrated. If the honorable member and others on that side of the House were allowed to have their way they would not permit the electors residing in the country districts, and who represent the great producing interests of the Commonwealth, to have a voice in the government of the country. Two honorable members have gone so far as to say, “Let us have no divisions. Let us poll the State as one electorate.” What would follow the adoption of such a proposal ? Tt would mean that the large centres of population would absolutely control by ticket the whole of the members to be returned, and the producing interests of the country districts would thus be absolutely swamped. What is our aim in dividing a State into electorates? Is it not one of the objects sought to be achieved that the numerically weak,, but great producing, parts ‘ of, the country, shall have some voice in government? I am pleased that one or two honorable members of the Opposition have to-night let out the secret that they desire the State to be polled as one electorate, so that the cities will be able to control the country.
– Who said that t
– The honorable member is one of those who made the assertion.
– I shall have to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable gentleman represents the manufacturers, not the producers.
– I represent the. producing interest, which includes the manufacturing more, perhaps, than any other interest in the community.
– The Minister should resign his seat and fight out the question with the leader of the Opposition.
– I do not indulge in nonsensical and dramatic displays.
– The leader of the Opposition will give the honorable gentleman battle in his own electorate.
– The honorable gentleman put 25 per cent, duties on the producing interest.
– I have no desire to import Tariff considerations into this discussion, but I may, perhaps, be permitted to say that I am in favour of anything which will help the producing interests of this community. I am strongly opposed to anything which would destroy our producing interests and, at the same time, injure the consumer. The so-called “destruction “ to which the honorable mem- . ber refers is doing a great deal of good to Sydney, as well as to other parts of the Commonwealth. The suggestion has been made by one honorable member that in the Bill which will probably be submitted in connexion with this matter it would be wise to provide for a new arrangement of the boundaries. Any honorable member who has had as much experience as I have had during my period of public service, will know thatit would be very difficult to attempt to alter certain boundaries without varying the whole of them. Indeed, I think that it would be scarcely possible to carry out such a proposal. I contend - and my view is indorsed not only by the Commissioner for ‘Queensland, but by the Commissioner for New South Wales - that, if a margin of one-fourth instead of one-fifth had been allowed, it would have enabled the Commissioners to deal with the abnormal conditions which have prevailed in the country during the last two or three years. In the Bill, as introduced, I provided for a margin of one-fourth, and I said at the time that I had not made that provision without well weighing the condition of things which prevailed in Australia. I. felt that it was the lowest margin that, would meet the extreme circumstances in which the Commonwealth was placed by reason of the drought.
– South Australia requires no margin ?
– The Housedecided against, me, and I had to accept its decision. The Act as it stands is. therefore the work of the Parliament. I also proposed that we should have three Commissioners insteadof one for each State, and I hold that if these two proposals had been carried intolaw no trouble would have arisen. The House decided, however, that there should beonly one Commissioner for each State, and I had to do the best that I could in the circumstances. The Act is not as perfect as I should wish it to be, nor as perfect as I believe it would have been if it had been carried into law as introduced by me. I donot think it is wise to refer the distribution of a State to one Commissioner. In my opinion the House should not delegate itspowers to any one individual, and I feel satisfied that if my proposition had been adopted there would have been no occasion for the course which we now feel compelled to take. The honorable member for Parramatta has referred to the position of South Australia. I would point out, however, that. South Australia was not divided into electorates for the first Federal elections, and that it lends itself to subdivision on an equality of quota to a greater extent, perhaps, than does any other State. There is a vast area stretching away from the north of Adelaide, and there is the Northern Territory itself with only a fringe of population, but with that exception - and even those conditions present no serious difficulties - the State peculiarly lends itself tothe purposes of an equal distribution. In . Tasmania as well as in South Australia, the distribution of population is small, but is moreeven than is that to be found in any of the other States. On the other hand we have in Victoria and New South Wales two great cities, representing half the population of each State, while the capital of Queensland has also drawn a great population from the centre of that State. Perhaps I am wrong in saying that it has attracted the people from the central districts, for the population has to a certain extent been driven to it by the exigenciesof the State. Not only the women . and children, but the owners of property in the drought-stricken districts, as well as the labouring population, have been driven into more favoured localities. We hear a great deal about the unemployed in large centres of population. We hear of them here to a certain extent, and to a very considerable extent in New South Wales. What is the main reason for the existence of these large bodies of unemployed 1 It is that ordinary sources of employment in many of the country districts have failed, and that men have been driven to the large centres of population. That is one of the great evils which have followed from the extreme drought from which we have suffered. The drought in New South Wales did not extend over a period of one or two years, but a period of five or six years.
– That was the position in Queensland.
– Quite so. But it is only within the last two years that its effects have been felt in their most acute form in those two States. Honorable members opposite blame the Department for Home Affairs for failing to rush this thing and that thing through, and for neglecting to have everything up to time. But in the establishment of that new and great Department, and the creation of a highly important branch of it, greater activity has been shown and more punctuality has been observed than might reasonably have been expected. The officer who has been so much maligned and so maliciously attacked by certain honorable members of the Opposition deserves thanks and praise rather than abuse for his work. If it were necessary to refer these distributions back to the Commissioners, and if I had before me data that would satisfy me that it would be anything but a farce to adopt that course, I should be prepared to return them for reconsideration. I repeat the assertion that there would be ample time to return the distributions to the Commissioners, and as long as I could see that I should be able to submit the schemes in time to permit them to be returned and adopted before the next elections, I felt satisfied that I was properly discharging the duty intrusted to me. There has been no failure in any degree in dealing with this most exceptional matter. An attack has been made upon the Queensland Commissioner. I dislike very -much to have to make reference to matters of this kind at any time ; but I regret to say on this occasion that I have in my possession two documents which are of a most serious character.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman mention the fact when he was moving the motion t
– I want honorable members to see ‘ that I have not rushed into the breach. A certain statement was made to me verbally. I refused to accept a verbal statement, and said that unless it was made in writing, and supported, I would take no notice of it. The names of two or three persons who could substantiate it were given. I sent to Brisbane to ascertain if they would substantiate it, and I have here a letter, signed by them, which practically substantiates it, though they decline to make any further statement unless called upon for an official report. Upon receiving that letter, I instructed my secretary to call upon them for an official report. That has been done. The report has not been received yet, but I was told an hour or two ago that a telegram had come saying that it is on its way. I am not going to give any names at this stage, with the exception of that of the editor of the Brisbane Courier, although one or two names are used.
– What are the statements to which the honorable gentleman refers ?
– I instructed my secretary that, if he obtained the confirmation of the statements anticipated, he should, before either he or I said anything on the subject, communicate the charge and the’ documents supporting it to the Commissioner, so that we might have his answer before making anything public, and let it go forth side by side with the statements which have been made. .That is the course I have taken, and I venture to think that it is fairer to the Commissioner than it would have been to come here with a statement which I might or might not have been- able to substantiate, without giving him an opportunity to deny and disprove the charges made against him. I venture to hope that the charges and statements which have been made, and the baiting which has taken place in connexion with the matter, will now absolutely cease. If I had had the Commissioner’s reply, I would have laid these documents upon the table, but I do not think that it is fair to make them public until he has had an opportunity to give his side of the question, and make his defence, if he has a defence to put forward. The charges are serious.
– All we ask is that the consideration of this matter shall be postponed until the charges have been disposed of.
– The question for the House to consider is not whether the Commissioner has or has not done anything improper, or placed himself in an improper position, but whether the proposed distribution is a fair one. The reference which I made to this delicate question in introducing the motion was that I had received a scheme of distribution from the Commissioner for Queensland, and that when I was on the point of taking action upon it, I received by telegram a second ‘ distribution, which to me contained a surprising alteration. The first distribution was one which I believed would not have been objected to by any member of the House or by the electors. I did not know then what I know now. The occurrence, however, placed an obligation upon me to make an inquiry as to the cause of the sudden change. I have, in consequence of what has been stated here, been drawn into saying more than I desired to say.
– The Minister had no right to say what he has said.
– The honorable member taunted him for not saying it.
– I did not want to say anything until the Commissioner had replied to the charges brought against him, and his reply could be made public at the same time. Certain names have been given to me, but I am not going to mention them, because they have not been substantiated as I think they should be.
– Will the Minister lay the papers upon the table when they are available 1
– t shall be very glad to lay the papers upon the table when the Commissioner has made his reply. I wish now to say a word or two in reply to the statements of the honorable member for Oxley. I was very much hurt at the attack which he made upon me personally. I took his remarks as a reflection upon my personal character. There are some honorable members of whose statements I do not take much notice, because they repeat their accusations so often that they probably believe them to be true, although they are absolutely untrue. But when the honorable member for Oxley accuses me of having: been influenced by an unworthy motive in connexion with this matter, and of beingguilty of greater partiality than any other honorable member, I hurl back the charge.
– Why did not the honorable member accept the Commissioner’s scheme ?
– Because I thought it was not a good one. If there was no- other reason, I have during the last few minutes given a very good reason, and it will be still further investigated beforeI have done with the matter. I did not expect to have personal accusations brought against me in connexion with this matter. Personally, it does not concern me one iota how the State of Queensland is divided. Probably the distribution proposed by the Commissioner would be as good for the Government as the present divisions. I was, however, intrusted with the administration of the Act, so that I might see thatthings were fairly and reasonably managed. That is what I have done. If the honorable member for Oxley harbors the suspicion that I have been influenced by ulterior motives in connexion with any of the three distributions of which I have asked the House to disapprove, he harbors a thought which is unworthy of him. I would not entertain such a suspicion in regard to him, and I feel that he has no right, whatever malign statements he may have- heard from honorable members opposite, to entertain such a suspicion in regard to me.
– The Minister knows very well that I made no personal attack upon him, and it is unworthy of him to pretend that he thinks I did.
– I took the honorable member’s words down. He said that I was acting from some unworthy motive. If that is not a personal attack, I do not know what is. I am no more capable of doing anything of the kind that he suggests than he is. My political character has been more tried than his has. Of course, if he says that he did not intend to make a personal attack upon me, I accept his explanation. But it seems to me that no other interpretion could be placed upon the words which he used. I am sorry that I have had to deal with these matters. I do not think that there is any further statement I need make with regard to the motion. To my mind, it is as clear as possible that the proposed distribution is not a good one, nor the best that could be made, and no harm will be done if we revert to the old divisions and allow the electors to vote at the coming elections in the divisions which were laid out by the State Parliament.
– As a matter. of personal explanation, I wish to say in reply to the statement of the Minister that I desire the House of Representatives to be returned by the States voting as single electorates, to secure the return of a certain ticket-
– I said that that would be the effect of such an arrangement.
– What I said was that it would be more in the interest of the people to allow them to vote for the members of the House of Representative with the States as single electorates, than to continue a system under which, as it would appear from this debate, politicians are plotting out the electorates to suit themselves.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative..
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed from 14th August, videpage 3678):
Clause 31 -
In addition to the matters, in which original jurisdiction is conferred on the High Court by the Constitution, the High Court shall have original jurisdiction in all matters which involveany question, howsoever arising, as to the limits inter se -
Commonwealth and those of any Stata or States, or
Senate’s amendment -
Omit all the words after “matters,” line4, insert “arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation.”
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I hopethe Committee will not agree to the amendment. It may be remembered that when the Bill was introduced it was proposed to give to the High Court, inaddition to the powers conferred by section 75 of the Constitution,all the optional powers mentioned in section 76, viz., toconfer upon the High Court original jurisdiction upon matters arising under the Constitution, or involving its- interpretation, or arising under any laws made by the. Parliament, and upon matters of Admiralty and Maritime jurisdiction, or relating to> the same subject matter claimed under the laws of the different States. Strong objec=tion was taken to converting what was regarded in the beginning as an appellate tribunal into one with vast original jurisdiction, which would overlap the jurisdiction of the States Courts, and involve the> creation of a large Judiciary and corresponding expense. This clause was considered before the number of Judges was fixed, because it was fully understood that if the original jurisdiction were cut down a comparatively small Judiciary would suffice. The Government evidently felt the force of that reasoning, because, at the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, one of the branches of original jurisdiction proposed to be conferred, namely, that relating to Admiralty and maritime matters, was immediately struck out. The proposal to confer original jurisdiction in the other matters mentioned was strongly opposed, and after a debate extending over two days the Attorney-General recognised that the Committee was strongly against him, and gave way, at the same time expressing the hope that perhaps the Committee might, at a later stage, see its way to concede a small measure of original jurisdiction.. That was done. Although clause 31 was, in the first instance, practically struck out, a slight concession was afterwards made to the Attorney-General by conferring upon the Court original jurisdiction in all matters involving any question as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the States, and those of any State or States, or of any two or more States.
– Does this amendment relate to that point ?
– The amendment is much wider than the provision for which it is proposed to substitute it. If the amendment is agreed to, the two paragraphs will disappear, because they will be included in the more general wording adopted. I- ask honorable members not to go back upon the emphatic direction given by the Committee to the Government, that there should be no enlargement of the original jurisdiction of the High Court beyond the two matters provided for in clause 31 as it left this Chamber. The Prime Minister indicated, when the clause was being recommitted, that perhaps the Government might seek in another place to enlarge the jurisdiction. Objection was at once taken to any action on the part of the Government to upset the emphatic decision of the Committee. But still that course was eventually adopted. If honorable members will refer to the debates they will find that the Vice-President of the Executive Council moved the amendment, which was accepted without any discussion by honorable members in another place, who do not appear to have been very attentive to what was going on. I think that honorable members will agree that practically the whole of the original jurisdiction that could be conferred upon the High Court would be embraced in the words which it is proposed to insert.
– How many cases among those which have arisen have involved the interpretation of the Constitution t
– No doubt up to the present the majority of the cases which have come before the courts have turned upon the construction of particular Acts of Parliament ; but at the same time I contend that if there were no provision other than that which it is now proposed to insert, regarding the original jurisdiction of the High Court, it would be sufficient to cover the cases which have been heard up to the present. Section 76, sub-section 2, of the Constitution refers to matters arising under any laws made by the Parliament, and that provision appears to me to have been inserted for greater caution rather than as being necessary, because matters arising under Acts of Parliament come within the comprehension of the words of sub-section 1, which deals with matters arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation.
– Is a question arising under a Federal law one arising under the Constitution ]
– As the Constitution is worded I know that a distinction is drawn between the two classes of cases, but honorable members know that where doubt exists as to the exact connotation of words, or the express meaning of terms, an additional provision is often inserted to make everything secure. I regard sub-section 2 in that light, and as not being necessary to bring matters arising under the laws passed by Parliament within the jurisdiction conferred upon the High Court. Supposing, however, that I am wrong with regard to that, we are still being, asked to revise our wellconsidered judgment upon the mere initiative of the representative of the Government in the other Chamber ; and I object to that. There is no necessity to confer original jurisdiction in cases such as have been referred to. Supposing that the words, “arising under this Constitution, or involving its interpretation,” are so limited as to apply only to the Constitution as an Act, the cases mentioned ought not to be decided in the first instance by the Federal Judges. They are matters of such great importance that, in regard to them, the Federal jurisdiction ought to be appellate only. The judgments given in cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution which come before a single Judge - that is, as a Court of first instance - are certain to be followed by appeals, because the magnitude of the issues involved will be too great for the decision of a single Justice to be regarded as conclusive.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the amendment involves a very considerable extension of the original jurisdiction of the Court 1
– It certainly involves an extension ; and I was endeavouring to argue that the extension might be a great one - that these words might cover the whole of the words included in sub-section 2 of section 76 of the Constitution.
– All the decisions show that that is not so.
– At all events the honorable and learned member will agree that we do not require to give original jurisdiction in these matters to the High Court.
– Why should we deny it?
– Does the AttorneyGeneral think that the Court at its inception will possess all the jurisdiction that can be conferred upon it under the Constition ‘
– Unfortunately not.
– In section 75 of the Constitution we have made provision for conferring upon this tribunal greater powers of original jurisdiction when the increase of our population warrants us in adopting that course. Surely there is no necessity for the High Court to overlap the States Courts by conferring all this original jurisdiction upon it. Honorable members in another place desire us to partially cancel a wellconsidered decision. There is absolutely no necessity under the Constitution to confer - upon the High Court original jurisdiction in these matters. If that jurisdiction is withheld the Court will give judgment only in its appellate jurisdiction. As a matter of expediency and convenience this jurisdiction ought not to be immediately vested in the High Court. Should it be subsequently required, it is an easy matter to amend an Act of Parliament. I ask the Committee not to reverse our previous decision.
– Before honorable members are called upon to address themselves to this matter I” think that the Attorney-General should advance reasons why we should be asked to agree to the amendment of the Senate.
– I gave reasons when I spoke upon Friday afternoon. 8 Hz
– It is true that the AttorneyGeneral pointed out that the Senate had made a departure from the decision of this Committee, but he gave no reasons in support of the amendment.
– The honorable and learned member could not have listened to them, otherwise he would have found them most convincing.
– The Senate has practically restored the Bill to the form in which it was introduced into this House.
– Unfortunately not.
– I do not know that the jurisdiction which the other Chamber proposes to confer upon the High Court is quite as full as that which the AttorneyGeneral originally desired to vest in it. At the same time nobody can quite see the end of this provision. We all know that the natural tendency of Judges is to arrogate to themselves as much power as possible. I desire to prevent the clause from being drawn in such an elastic way. In the form in which it left this Chamber, its. meaning was perfectly clear, and no reason has been assigned, why a departure should be made from the decision of the Committee. Upon looking up Mansard I find that the debate upon this question extended over two days, and that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, advanced strong reasons against any alteration of the character proposed by the other Chamber. It is true that he spoke upon the clause in the form in which it was then submitted, but he dealt specifically with the same objections that were advanced by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn. After a long discussion, the Committee unanimously determined to limit the jurisdiction. As the High Court Bench will consist of only three Justices I would point out that if a case involving the original jurisdiction of the Court is heard by one Justice and an appeal be made from his judgment, the other two Justices must constitute the Court of Appeal. Such a state of affairs would soon be urged as a reason for the appointment of an additional Justice. I did not object very strongly to the appointment of five Justices, but seeing that the Committee have determined that the High Court Bench shall .consist of only three, I protest against the creation of difficulties which must necessitate the appointment of a fourth. In my opinion the Committee will act wisely if it adheres to its original decision. If we confer this original jurisdiction upon the High Court its effect will be to deprive some of the Supreme Courts of the States of the jurisdiction which we have already extended to them under this measure. I learn by reference to Hansard that no debate took place upon this proposal in the Senate, but that it was inserted merely because it was suggested by the Minister who is in charge of the Bill in this House.
– No ; by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– No doubt it was inserted at the instance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, with the approval of the Attorney-General. I do not think that the Committee ought to agree to it.
– As allusion has been madetothedebate which occurred in another place, I may be permitted to say that notice of this amendment, which was inserted at the instance of my honorable and learned colleague, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, had been given by more than one member of the Senate. My colleague simply moved it in order to avoid delay. The question of jurisdiction had been discussed at some length upon the second reading of the Bill, and the Senate was so unanimous in desiring to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Court that the dirticulty which my colleague experienced was not in making amendments in the Bill, but in inducing the Senate to make as few as possible. I believe that Senator Symon and others held that this amendment represented so small an extension of the constitutional powers conferred upon the Court that they doubted whether it was worth while making the addition. Nevertheless, they all approved of it as an addition, and the bulk of them were prepared to go further.
– Upon the second reading of the Bill, Senator Symon approved of the powers of the Court being limited to those of appellate jurisdiction.
– This amendment does not involve an extension of the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court. It merely lessens the exclusive jurisdiction which the States. Courts would possess in these matters. The margin between the form in which the clause is now submitted, and that in which this Committee agreed to it, is relatively small, and represents only a difference in optional jurisdiction. Thus the parties who prefer to’ go to the States Courts will still have those tribunals open to them, whilst those who prefer the High Court will be able to come before it. I think that the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, will find that the distinction between the area which this clause covers and that which is covered by sub-section 2 of section 76 of the Constitution is much more definitely drawn than he apprehends. Under no circumstances could it be held that the second sub-section is included in the first. In Quick and Garran’s work, The Annotated Constitution of the Commonwealth, page 790, a quotation is made from Storey’s Commentary, in which Storey points out that -
Cases arising under the Constitution, as contradistinguished for those arising under the laws of the United States, are such as arise from the powers conferred, or privileges granted, or rights claimed, or protection secured, or prohibitions contained in the Constitution itself, independent of any particular statute enactment.
Therefore I take it that the authoratative and undisputed interpretation of the United States tribunals upon this point would be followed by our own Courts.
– The provisions are not at all analogous.
– They are analogous in this respect, that with us a distinction is drawn in our Constitution between matters arising under the laws made by this Parliament and matters arising under the Constitution. In the absence of that specific provision a similar distinction has been made in the United States in the clearest possible manner. If that distinction were made in the United States, in the absence of express enactments to that effect, how much more clearly will it be drawn when it is set out upon the face of our Constitution! Under the circumstances, honorable members will see that this is merely an optional jurisdiction. It is only opening a door through which no one will enter except those who desire to do so.
– Except defendants.
– At present the plaintiff has the choice. He takes his case into the State Court if he pleases. In this instance the plaintiff is given a wider area of selection in the margin of cases - cases which were not covered by the Bill as we sent it to another place, but which will now be covered.
– Is there not ample provision in clause 41 for removing these cases?
– We took away all power of removal as of right, and strictly safeguarded the power of removal left. Under that provision the Court may, for special cause shown, order a removal. If there be any classes of cases to which the Federal Court ought not to have a closed but an open door, it is surely those arising under the Federal Constitution, and involving its interpretation. No attempt has been made to give it exclusive power to deal with . them. It is sought only to enable the Court to deal with what, perhaps, is the most distinctively Federal class of cases which could be conceived. This is a plea for the open door rather than the closed door, the door having already been partially opened by the liberalty of this House. Surely the views so strongly expressed by the Senate are entitled to consideration. The concession is so small that I feel satisfied that the Committee will not be hardhearted enough to refuse to grant to this Court merely the first of the four measures ofoptional jurisdiction which the Constitution allows to be conferred upon it.
– This clause would include an action for penalties under clause 46.
– That is not an important matter. It relates to any matter arising under the Constitution itself. Cases of that kind are not numerically great, but some of them might be of the utmost importance.
– This question was very fully discussed when the Bill was last before us. As it originally stood clause 31 provided that the High Court should have jurisdiction in respect of all matters -
– And three have been struck out.
– We omitted the four paragraphs after a discussion extending over three or four days, and the Attorney General was so convinced that the feeling of the Committee was against him that he did not divide it. The chief factor which induced the Committee to arrive at this decision was that the Supreme Courts vested with Federal jurisdiction were competent to deal with all matters likely to arise under these particular paragraphs as well as any other case that might occur. It was considered that by restricting the jurisdiction of the High Court, the necessity for an increased number of J udges would be obviated. Have we since obtained any additional evidence to show that there is an actual necessity for the extension of the original jurisdiction of the Court in this way ?
– Another place thinks there is a necessity for it.
– This provision was inserted in another place, on the motion of a Minister.
– I have explained that matter.
– This amendment will probably extend the jurisdiction of the Court inonlya limited degree, but no reason has been assigned for the alteration, and I feel impelled to vote against it.
– As I understand the position the matter stands in this way. At present the original jurisdiction conferred by clause 31 extends to matters, which involve -
Any question, howsoever arising, as to the limits inter se -
Of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any States or States, or
Of the constitutional powers of any two or more States.
Those are some of the questions, and very important questions, which we expect to arise under the Constitution. It is very plain that many questions may arise under the Constitution, but it is doubtful whether or not they will always answer the description in this clause. A question might arise under the Constitution, but it might be doubtful whether it related to matters involving any question as to the limits inter se - of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States.
A good deal of discussion might occur as to whether, although it was a constitutional question, it belonged to the particular class provided in thisclause. I understand that the amendment made by theSenate was designed, among other things, to do away with that particular form of doubt.
– It creates a still greater doubt.
– No. If we say that any question arising under the Constitution may be dealt with in this way, no ligitant will be in fear lest, by some closely-reasoned judgment, he is found to be a party to a case which gives rise to a constitutional question, but not of the kind dealt with in the clause as passed by us.
– Does the amendment limit the possibility of a litigant getting into a wrong Court ?
– It practically provides that there is to be only one Court - the High Court.
– This does not provide that only one Court shall deal with these cases, because as the Attorney-General has said it will be optional to any litigant to go to a State Court. This does not make the jurisdiction of the High Court exclusive.
– The honorable and learned member knows as well as I do what will be the effect of this amendment.
– I do, and I am going to state it. The effect of this amendment will be that a litigant in Queensland, for example, who has the choice according to the time of the sitting of the Court and so forth, will take the advice of his legal adviser, and adopt that course which it will be more convenient and more economical for him to follow. If his case involves a number of findings of fact as well as questions of law, counsel will probably say, “Let us go to the State Court and get the law and the facts decided. We can then go to the High Court.” If the facts are not in dispute and the parties can agree to state a case they will at once say, “Why should we not go to the highest tribunal instead of taking all these intermediate steps which must involve us in expense ? Why should we not have the case decided at once?” Merchants would gladly embrace such an opportunity. They would say, “ Why should we go to the State Court and incur cost when we should have to go after all to the High Court?”
– They should not have the opportunity because we have proposed that Only three Judges shall be appointed.
– I do not think that bears upon the present question. There is no question as to increasing the number of Judges.
– Why not, if we extend the jurisdiction of the Court?
– I am referring to the advantage which will follow to the community from this proposal. Most of us have had some experience in advising members of the mercantile community, and we know that their desire is to secure a speedy settlement of disputes. They desire that their cases should be settled as speedily and as cheaply as possible. A litigant may choose his Court according to the nature of his case. If he resides in Queensland and the case is likely to be one involving a long investigation of facts and requiring the examination of a number of witnesses, he will go to the State Court. After the matter has been thrashed out he will go to the High Court if the decision of the lower Court is unsatisfactory to him. But if the parties Agree to a case being stated and say “ We do not wish to incur costs in respect of witnesses; we are prepared to submit the case stiaightway to the High Court,” why should they not be able to adopt that course ?
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the law in a big case would be so divorced from the facts that it could go to the High Court straight away ?
– Certainly. In many instances there is no doubt about the facts and if the parties can agree upon them-
– Kingston v. Gadd was such a case.
– In such a case why should not the parties go at once to the highest tribunal ? I really cannot understand from the public stand-point why there should be any objection to this proposal.
– Thehonorable and learned member might say that all disputed cases ought to go to the High Court in this way.
– I do not think that a High Court consisting of three Judges could deal with all cases. It is not proposed to invest the Court with original jurisdiction in relation to all cases arising under the laws made by the Parliament. If that were the case the objection would be a solid one. But where this proposal is limited to questions relating to the Constitution no such objection can be taken. I cannot say exactly how many cases have occurred in Australia : but doubtless a large number have arisen in some shape or form. I should imagine that of that number not more than three have involved the interpretation of the Constitution.
– Is that the honorable and learned member’s legal opinion ? Is he prepared to place it on record now that, in his opinion, this extension would go no further than that ?
– I am speaking only of my recollection of the past. It is not a question of legal opinion, but of fact. Take the case of a question relating to the taxation of State imports, such as the action of the Attorney-General of New South Wales v. the Collector of Customs. That would come under the present clause, and would be judiciable in the first instance by the High Court. The case of Kingston v. Gadd would not.
– It relates to Commonwealth legislation.
– Exactly ; when the parties could agree upon the facts, would it not be a very proper thing to allow the case to go straight to the High Court ? When the matter was before us in the first instance, and had still to go to the Senate, I could well understand the anxiety of honorable members not to increase the original jurisdiction of the Court, lest the Senate might be tempted to increase the number of Judges proposed to be appointed. But there is now no risk in that direction. Therefore, it seems to me that all that we have to look at is the benefit to be given to the community. I can see, for instance, that if the Arbitration Bill be passed, as I hope it will, a question might easily arise which should not be dragged before a State Court and then to the High Court. Why should not the parties, if they want to know if a matter is or is not within the Constitution, have a right to go direct to the High Court without any extra expense ?
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I hope that the Attorney-General will give the Committee a better reason for agreeing to the amendment than the statement that it would be an act of friendliness to the Senate to do so. There is no escape from the position that if we agree to the amendment we give the High Court original jurisdiction in regard to all matters arising under the Constitution. A certain original jurisdiction is given to the Court by the Constitution, though for my part I think it is a pity that any such jurisdiction was given to it. The Attorney-General, when the measure was last before us, urged that this original jurisdiction should be extended, but the feeling of the Committee was so decidedly against him that he would not even call for a division in support of his proposal. Now, however, we are asked to go back upon our opinons, and to do what we have already decided not to do. Does not the honorable and learned member for Indi admit that the amendment will enlarge the powers of the Court beyond what was originally intended? We originally provided that the Court should be, as far as we were able to make it so, merely an Appellate Court. But if we agree to the amendment, we shall open its doors so wide that we. shall require to appoint to the Federal Bench not three Judges, but halfadozen. I challenged the honorable and learned member to place on record his legal opinion upon the point, so that it might afterwards be quoted against him, but he would not venture to do so. Did not that show that he was speaking with a reservation, and that the powers conferred upon the Court by the amendment are much wider than any layman would imagine ? I trust that all those who are in favour of making the High Court as much as possible merely an Appellate Court will vote against the amendment. We are being asked to insert in the Bill, though in another form, a provision which we have already rejected, and I ask the assistance of lay members of the Committee in opposing it.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority… … …1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 34 -
The High Court may make orders or direct the issue of writs -
Senate’s amendments, omitting the words “ not being the Supreme Court of a, State,” in paragraphs a and b, agreed to.
Senate’s amendment -
Insert new paragraph (dA) of mandamus ; or.”
– I think that we should recommit clause 4, which says that the High Court shall consist of the Chief Justice and two other Judges.
– The honorable and learned member cannot move such a motion in Committee.
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 34 empowers the High Court to make orders or direct the issue of writs, ahd specifies the purposes for which those writs may be issued. Among others a writ may be issued -
Commanding the performance of any duty by any person holding office under the Commonwealth.
Those words cover the ordinary writ of mandamus, but, as other cases in which such a writ is required may arise, the Senate proposes the addition of a new paragraph providing specifically for the issue of writs of mandamus. A new sub-clause is also added to insure that the section shall not be taken to limit by implication the power of the High Court to make any order or direct the issue of any writ.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- In the last five minutes we have, by amendments so specious that only lawyers could have drawn them up, completely altered the character of the Bill. The way in which they have been got through is a fraud upon the Committee.
– The honorable and learned member must withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the word “fraud,” and say that the Bill has been absolutely changed.
– That is the honorable and learned member’s opinion.
– Both the honorable and learned Attorney -General and the honorable and learned member for Indi know that it is so. I asked the honorable and learned member for Indi to give a legal opinion on the point, so that if he were ever appointed to the Federal Bench I could quote it against him afterwards ; but he refused to do so. Although the lay members of the Committee may not understand them, the simple amendments that have been made have quite altered the character of the Bill. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and the honorable member for Gippsland, did all they could to reduce the expenses connected with the High Court, but the Government are now seeking, through these amendment-!, to increase the expenditure to an extent undreamt of by us. We should enter a strong protest against the gross extravagance to which it is proposed to commit us.
– Order ! The honorable and learned member is discussing matters entirely foreign to the proposed amendment.
– Every alteration that is being made in the Bill is in the direction of extending the jurisdiction of the High Court, and will eventually lead to an increase in the number of Judges, because the purely appellate - character of the Court is being destroyed.
– The honorable and learned member must confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– I am indicating the effect of this and other amendments. The Committee is being asked to absolutely stultify itself because the whole foundation of the Court is being changed by the amendments. I decline, as a lawyer, to allow the imputation to be cast upon the members of my profession thatwe are always in favour of enlarging the Courts. The amendments that are being made will probably lead to an increase in the number of Judges, and I am determined that nothing shall be done in that direction without a strong protest from me.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– My argument is that we are being asked to assent to vital changes in the Bill.
– I would ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable and learned member is in order in discussing the whole Bill upon the amendment before the Committee 1
– The honorable and learned member is not in order. The question before the Committee is the acceptance of the Senate’s amendment to insert a paragraph in clause 34.
– I am. pointing out that the effect of inserting the words proposed will be to change the character of the Court, and I am pointing out that I am not in favour of enlarging the opportunities of lawyers to secure fat billets.
– I must say that the only extravagance in this connexion is to be found in the language employed by the honorable and learned member. I have twice explained at some length the meaning of the amendment, and am sure that no other honorable and learned member will be found to indorse the assertion that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has made. I pointed out that in the Bill as it was sent to the Senate power was given to the High Court to issue a writ of mandamus against all persons holding office under the Commonwealth. I explained, further, that under the new paragraph now proposed the Court would have conferred upon it the remainder of the ordinary jurisdiction of Courts in regard to the issue of writs of mandamus, and am sure that no member of the profession on either side of the Chamber who heard my explanation would find any such divergence between it and the facts as the honorable and learned member for Werriwa has sought to establish. I do not dispute the right of the honorable and learned member to express his opinion, or to believe that he is right, but I claim to be perfectly entitled to declare that his view is utterly wrong.
– Perhaps the honorable and learned member for Werriwa was under some slight misapprehension as to the effect of the amendment, and therefore the heat which he has displayed may be to that extent pardonable. Personally, I think that the amendment is necessary. It will not extend the jurisdiction of the Court, but will confer upon it that ancillary power which it ought to have. Under the clause as it stood, the Court would have power to issue a mandamus against an officer of the Commonwealth but not against an ordinary citizen.
– 1 should like the Attorney-General to inform us why it is proposed that the High Court should have power to issue writs against the Supreme Courts 1
– -That relates to the Supreme Courts in their Federal jurisdiction only, and the power is necessary.
– The amendment appears to me to involve a very grave change, and to carry out a design - I do not say a nefarious design - to compel Supreme Courts to “ knuckle under “ to any fiat of the High Court. The idea in the first instance was that the Supreme Courts should judge as to their duty, and the High Court as to its duty, but now the proposal is to permit all kinds of writs - by way of mandamus or otherwise - to be issued to force the Supreme Courts to adopt the view of the High Court, even before they have given their decisions.
– The power relates to the Supreme Courts in their Federal jurisdiction only.
– Yes, but there might be a difference between the Federal Court and the Supreme Courts as to the meaning of an Act or of the Consitution, and before the Supreme Court had fulfilled its functions the High Court might issue a mandamus directing it to do this or that. I do not think tha,t that is desirable, even though the power relates to the Supreme Courts in their Federal jurisdiction only. It might lead to great expense, because the High Court would be able to issue writs of certiorari and writs of mandamus to compel a Supreme Court, before it had performed its functions, to carry out the view of the High Court. Grave differences may arise as to the constitutionalty of this particular Bill - as to the validity of Clause 40, which forc.es all appeals to the High Court and voids appeals to the Privy Council. Suppose that a Supreme Court assumes that such a provision is invalid, and that it is arranging for an appeal to be carried on as of right, to the Privy Council. If the Supreme Court show an inclination to allow the appeal to go, the High Court might, under the provision now proposed, interpose with a mandamus to compel the Supreme Court to take a certain course, or might, by other means, cause the removal of the suit from the Supreme Court, and thus prevent it from giving a decision. I shall vote against the amendment, and I think that the proposed new sub-clause should ako be rejected. We should allow the Supreme Courts to take the view that an appeal lies to the Privy Council, notwithstanding the fact that the Bill provides that it shall not so lie. Under the amendment proposed, if the Supreme Court of a State had not actually decided a case, the High Court could intervene with a direction. Of course, I urge these views very respectfully ; but if the amendment be pressed to a division, as I hope it will be, I shall vote against it. I was net listening at the time the last amendment was being put from the Chair, otherwise I should have objected to it.
– Prom the very introduction of this Bill I have consistently endeavoured to restrict the original jurisdiction of the High Court, and my last vote was cast in the same direction. At the same time I cannot see that the proposed amendment tends to enlarge the original jurisdiction. It simply regulates the mode in which the jurisdiction shall be exercised. It is practically a pare of the appellate jurisdiction, and merely indicates the way in which the power of revision shall be exercised. Inasmuch as the amendment does not enlarge the powers of original jurisdiction, I shall support it.
– In giving the High Court power to grant a mandamus we do not permit that . body to supersede the Supreme Court of a State in any way whatever.
– I think the honorable and learned member is- wrong.
– At any rate, the honorable and learned member will agree with me that no Court ever says to another tribunal, “ Before you enter upon the decision of a certain case, we will tell you how you must decide it.” The only occasions upon which the High Court would issue a mandamus, would be when the lower Court, by reason of some mistaken view of the law, failed in its Federal jurisdiction to hear and determine cases. For example, let us suppose that the Supreme Court of a State declares that it has not the power to hear and determine a particular case throughout. A litigant may hold that the Court possesses the necessary power, and may apply to the High Court for the issue of a mandamus. If the High Court considers that the State Supreme Court is endowed with the necessary jurisdiction, it will issue a mandamus compelling that tribunal to hear and determine the case. The procedure followed is exactly the same as that which is adopted by the States Supreme Courts when inferior tribunals mistake their powers. It is only when the lower Court, in its mistaken view of the law, declares that it has not jurisdiction that the higher tribunal will step in and issue a mandamus, which, after all, is a mere matter of machinery.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I would direct attention to the fact that in paragraphs a, b, c, and d of clause 34 the power of the High Court is limited to matters which relate to the exercise of its Federal jurisdiction. Paragraphs e and foi the Bill in its original form, however, were not so limited. The mistake which has been made is in supposing that the power to issue a mandamus is confined to matters of Federal jurisdiction. It is not. It is absolute, and it is all the more expressive because in the preceding provision? the power is confined to Federal jurisdiction. Further, can we confer power to issue a mandamus in cases where the matter involved is not one of Federal jurisdiction ? Suppose, forexample, that a Court is called upon todeal with one point in perhaps twenty, which involves a question of Federal law, The other nineteen points may relate to. matters of ordinary law. What I mean is that the Court may issue a mandamus upon ordinary matters of law. I have said that it was unfortunate that issue should have been joined on this particular writ of mandamus. The very first amendment which was carried in the interpretationclause clearly indicated what was the intention of the Senate. Right throughout these amendments the intention evidently is to allow the High Court to interfere before a decision has been given by the Supreme Court of a State, and to direct that Court as to its business and as to how it is to perform it. I, therefore, move -
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by the insertion after the word “mandamus” of the words “in matters of Federal jurisdiction.”
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- The honorable and learned member might go further by adding to this amendment the words “except in the Supreme Court of a State.” I objected to this clause when it was previously under discussion, because the Privy Council does not issue writs of mandamus to Courts of inferior jurisdiction. As the Privy Council does not compel by mandamus the discharge of a duty, similarly we ought not to vest that power in the High Court.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- The Committee has swallowed so much of the Senate’s proposals in clauses 31 and 34 that I have no objection to this further alteration being made. I only regret that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was not more alert when the amendments in those clauses were under consideration, because his vote would have made ail the difference in the decision which was arrived at.
Amendment of the Senate’s amendment agreed to.
Senate’s amendment -
Add new sub-clause 2 - This section shall not be taken to limit by implication the power of the High Court to make any Older or direct the issue of any writ.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo). - I would direct attention to the position of matters of habeas corpus now that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has been agreed to.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether he thinks the alteration which has just been made was needed” It will certainly have the effect of raising a doubt as to what habeas corpus, without a similar limitation, means. I strongly suggest that it is highly desirable to omit the words which have just been inserted. As to the power of the High Court to issue writs of mandamus, the contention is that, unless we confine them to matters of Federal jurisdiction, they will be applicable to other cases ; but I take it that the power to issue the writ will not give jurisdiction where it does not exist.
– I admit that writs of habeas corpus ought to be similarity limited.
– I would suggest to the Attorney-General that he would do well to stick to his Bill. It has not yet emerged from Committee, and I trust that before it finally leaves this
Chamber he will do what is necessary to remedy the error that has been committed.
– I would suggest that no words should be added here, and that the Attorney-General should recommit the Senate’s amendments in the clause.
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo).- I hope that the Attorney-General will consider the suggestion, and either recommit the amendments or add the provision in some other form, because, as it stands, the words habeas corpus are left, without any connexion with the remainder of the clause. In the American Federal Acts all cases relating to habeas corpus are distinctly provided for in order to show that the matter is within Federal jurisdiction.
– Surely this is a machinery clause.
– It should be carefully considered before it is allowed to pass in its present form.
Mr. CONROY ( Werriwa).- The words are entirely unnecessary, and should not have been inserted when the Bill was first before us.
– They were inserted in order to remove a very grave doubt.
– I did not know that there was any doubt in the mind of the honorable and learned gentleman. When they were inserted I said there could be no doubt about the matter, but I thought that the amendment was made because of the opinions expressed by some of the lay members of the House.
– I had my doubts.
– If the honorable and learned member had any doubt about the subject, the-position is different.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- Could we not at this point insert words which would accomplish all that is intended? This sub-clause has some reference to Federal jurisdiction. I merely make the suggestion to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).This addition is very wide, and I should like the Attorney-General to tell us what is the real object of it. Are we going to let a writ de homine repligiando to be issued 1 The anxiety of the Attorney-General appears to be to draw all cases into the High Court.
– I am not responsible for the amendment.
– It reminds me of the story of a policeman who was appointed to a certain district and began to feel that he would be withdrawn unless some one got drunk and gave him some work to do. This fear led him to go round the district and ask some one to commit some breach of the law. I think the Attorney-General is anxious to secure more work for the High Court, and apparently by hook or by crook is determined to give it power to issue any writ or order-
– Which may be within its power. This does not add anything. I will explain it if the honorable and learned member will permit me to do so. I am not responsible for the origin of this amendment, but, so far as I understand the position, it was proposed because it was considered that other remedies might be required which were not within the terms of any one df these specifications. Consequently, this provision was inserted, not to enlarge the powers of the High Court, but to prevent any contention that the recapitulation in the preceding part of the clause was exhaustive, excluding everything not specifically included in it.
– Such as a writ of prohibition or certiorari.
– Quite so. It was argued that many cases could be conceived in which none of the particular writs here authorized could suffice ; although they were and ought to be within the power of the High Court in its Federal jurisdiction. In order that the Court should be able to give effect to its will, it was felt that it required power to issue writs. This provision was inserted so that, without giving a new endowment to the Court, the recapitulation to which I have referred might not be considered exhaustive and exclusive. -
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).- I see the object of the amendment, but I feel that it could have been achieved by simply employing the first part of the phrase -
This section shall not be taken to limit by implication the power of the High Court.
That would leave it open to the Court to issue any writ or order.
– There is no intention to extend the powers of the Court.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- I think that the Attorney-General has put the position very well, and I should like the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne to recognise the reason for using the last few words in the amendment. They are necessary. Section 34 commences with these words -
The -High Court may make orders or direct the issue of writs - and in order that the powers of the High Court should not be made wider than is necessary, the new sub-section is limited to the issuing of any writ. As I understand the position it is this : A superior court is invested at common law with power to see that the inferior courts have not transgressed their jurisdiction.
– This is an effort to bring tho Supreme Court under the heel of the High Court.
– No. The Constitution says that every Court shall obey the orders of the High Court in matters of Federal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of a State is no more under the heel of the High Court than are the County Courts Under the heel of the Supreme Courts. We are giving certain powers to the High Court, and this amendment is designed to show that we are not taking away the means necessary to enable it to carry out its undoubted jurisdiction. It is to prevent any argument as to the power of the High Court being foreshortened.
– It is very awkwardly done. Motion agreed to.
Clause 35 -
The High Court shall, except as provided by this Act, have jurisdiction to hear and determine appealsfrom all judgments whatsoever of any Justice or Justices, orJudge of the Supreme Court of a State, exercising as a Court of first instance the original jurisdiction of a. High Court whether in Court or Chambers.
Senate’s amendments -
That the words “ or Judge of the Supreme Court of a State” and “as a court of first instance “ be omitted.
– I move-
That the amendments be agreed to.
Honorable members will see that this amendment is necessary because in paragraph c of clause 36 that particular matteris specifically provided for. That paragraph deals with -
Any judgment of the Supreme Court of a State, given or pronounced in the exercise of Federal jurisdiction in a matter pending in the High Court.
This is a power given the Supreme Court of a State to deal with such matters in Chambers as may devolve upon that Court under our rules of Court. It was included originally in clause 35, but it is thought that from the point of view of better draftmanship it would be better to restrict that clause to appeals from Justices of the High Court and to place paragraph c in clause 36, which deals with appeals from the Supreme Courts of the States, although in this case the Supreme Court of a State is acting in Chambers for the High Court in” a matter pending in the High Court.
Motion agreed to.
The Appellate Jurisdiction of the High Court with respect to judgments of the Supreme Court of a State or of any other Court of a State from which at the establishment of the Commonwealth an appeal lay to the Queen in Council shall extend to the following judgments and to no others namely -
Senate’s amendment -
That after the word “judgments,” line 6, the words “ whether given or pronounced in the exercise of Federal jurisdiction or otherwise,” be inserted.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I should like to know what is the meaning of the word “otherwise?”
– Clause 35 is now to deal only with appeals from Justices of the High Court. Clause 36 deals with appeals from the decisions of the Supreme Court of a State, either in the exercise of its Federal jurisdiction or in the exercise of its ordinary State jurisdiction. These words are to place the matter beyond all doubt. It is chiefly a question of draftsmanship. It is desired to make it clear that the appeals cover both powers given by the Constitution. There is no extension of power.
Mr. KENNEDY (Moira).- I am not quite clear about the matter. The clause provides that -
The appellate jurisdiction of the High Court with respect to judgments of the Supreme Court of a State,’ or of any other Court of a State from which at the establishment of the Commonwealth an appeal lay to the Queen-in-Council, shall extend to the following judgments and so forth. Does it make this obligatory on these Courts ?
– That is the constitutional provision.
– There is no doubt about that.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment -
Insert after,the word “insolvency,” line 12, the words “but so that au appeal may not be brought from an interlocutory judgment except by leave of the High Court.”
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
I explained this matter on Friday last when introducing the amendments to the Committee. These words were formerly in the Bill, but the honorable and learned member for Bendigo had a doubt as to whether they were within the constitutional power of this Parliament, and they were accordingly omitted. Upon consideration, it appears to me that they are within the power of this Parliament, and I think it very desirable to reintroduce them. In this State it was thought necessary to pass a special Act to limit appeals upon interlocutory matters - a power which was becoming extremely burdensome in the hands of litigious people. ‘ This is a safeguard which has been adopted in other States.
– The appeal might sometimes be from a Full Court.
– But even in that case I think that leave should be required.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Might I suggest that we should follow the practice which exists under the JudicatureAct in England as well as in Victoria, so that the Supreme Court itself might give leave toappeal? In the English Act, which we havecopied in Victoria, there is no appeal fromi an interlocutory order in Chambers unless either the Judge who has made the order or the Full Court gives leave. We go only to the Full Court, as it were, to obtain leave to appeal, and that involves the expense o’f an application. There is a good deal of trouble saved if the Judge who makes the order is able to say in answer to a request for leave to appeal - “ You can appeal if you choose to do so,” whenhebelievesthereissufficientdoubt about the matter to warrant the adoption of that course. In order to allow that to be done, the only alteration necessary would be to say that -
An appeal may not be brought trom an interlocutory judgment, except by the leave of the Supreme Court or of the High Court.
– I think that the suggestion is a good one, but I have a slight doubt as to whether we can make this limitation. In a recent divorce case an interlocutory order was made by the Supreme Court of a State, and an appeal was allowed to the Privy Council. If such a matter is appealable to the Privy Council, it must be appealable to the High Court, and this limitation cannot cut down the right. The suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne would get over the difficulty.
– How would the honorable and learned member put it ?
– I move-
That the Senate’s amendment be amended by the insertion of the words “ Of the Supreme Court or “ after the word “ of,” line 4.
In order to prevent a multiplication of appeals, it is said that an appeal from an interlocutory order shall be only by leave. That would, perhaps, involve a special application, but expense would be saved if when a man said to a Judge who had made a certain order - “ The question involved in this case is an important one, and there is likely to be an appeal. Will your Honour grant leave to appeal 1 “ the Judge were able- to accede to the request. I think there can be no harm in allowing that course to be adopted.
Amendment of the Senate’s amendment agreed to.
Senate’s amendment omitting the words “ exercised by a single Judge sitting in Chambers,” and inserting “ given or pronounced in the exercise of Federal jurisdiction in a matter pending in the High Court,” agreed to.
The jurisdiction of the High Court shall be exclusive of the jurisdiction of the several Courts of the States in the following matters : - a Matters arising under any treaty .
Senate’s amendment - After ‘ ‘ arising “ insert “directly.”
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I think it would bea pity to agree to the amendment. The words used in the clause as it stands are the words used in the Constitution, and I think we should not alter the phraseology. There is no Federal jurisdiction in the High Court unless a matter “arises directly.”
– What is to be done with matters arising indirectly?
– The object of theamendment is to make it clear that the section does not interfere with proceedings taken under Extradition Acts in the States Courts.
– Any constitutional doubt can be settled only by reference to the wording of the Constitution.
– All doubt upon the point will be removed by a short Bill dealing with extradition which the Government intends to introduce this session.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment inserting new paragraph agreed to.
Clause 40 (Federal jurisdiction of State
Courts in other matters).
Senate’s amendment - Omit paragraph c, insert new paragraph.
– Paragraph c now provides that -
Wherever a decision of a Court or Judge of a State is declared by the law of the State to be final, the High Court may grant special leave to appeal from the decision to the High Court.
The Senate propose to omit that paragraph and to insert the following -
The High Court may grant special leave to appeal to the High Court from any decision of any Court or Judge of a State, notwithstanding that the law of the State may prohibit any appeal from such Court or Judge.
– That applies to matters of Federal jurisdiction.
– Yes. The provision which the Senate wish to insert is much wider than the original paragraph, and the drafting is better. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment in clause 5 9 agreed to. Clause 66 -
No execution or attachment, or process in the nature thereof, shall be issued against the Commonwealth or a State in any such suit ….
Senate’s amendment - After “against” insert “ the property or revenues of.”
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
It will be seen that the amendment is a limitation of the original provision.
Motion agreed to.
On receipt of the certificate of a judgment against the Commonwealth, the Governor-General may cause to be paid, out of moneys to be provided by the Parliament, the amount of each damages or costs as are awarded to such party, and may perform any decree or order pronounced or made by the High Court in the suit.
Senate’s amendment -
After “Commonwealth” omit remainder of clause, and insert “or a State, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, or of the State, as the case may be, shall satisfy the judgment out of moneys legally available.”
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
It is thought that the clause as originally drafted imposed something like a coercion upon the Governor-General, and that the form of expression now proposed will better fulfil our intention.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendments in clauses 70 and 73 agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the whole of the Senate’s amendments with the exception of numbers 14 and 19, which they had amended.
– Perhaps . the Attorney-General will see whether a message should not be sent in regard to writs of habeas corpus.Otherwise the Senate may refuse to accept our amendment in regard to writs of mandamus.
– My own feeling so far as writs of habeas corpus are concerned is that it does not matter how many Courts have the power to issue them, so long as they are sufficiently eminent. I cannot conceive how that power could prove burdensome to any one, but I can imagine that it might be of great service.
– Would it not be better to strike out the words which we inserted?
– Yes, we might remove the difficulty by striking out the words inserted by inadvertence. I therefore move -
That the Bill be recommitted with a view to the further consideration of Senate’s amendment No. 14 in clause 34.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee : (Recommittal.)
Clause 34 (Mandamus).
Senate’s amendment as amended -
Insert new paragraph “(dA) of mandamus in matters of Federal jurisdiction ; or “
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the words “ in matters of Federal jurisdiction.”
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Deakin) read a first time.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr.
In Committee : (Consideration of Senate’s amendments.)
Senate’s amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
Perhaps the Attorney-General could give us some idea of the order of business for to-morrow?
– It is proposed to proceed with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and I hope the debate upon the second reading will be pursued without further interruption to its conclusion. If on any evening there should be any difficulty in continuing the debate to a sufficiently late hour, the Minister for Home Affairs will ask the House to agree to two or three new clauses which it is proposed to add to the Defence Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030819_reps_1_15/>.