1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. PAGE presented a petition from the President and the executive officers of the Brisbane Labour Council, praying the House to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, so that it sholl apply equally to all vessels engaging in the Australian coastal trade, whether Australian, oversea, or foreign.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if there is any truth in the report that the Government intend to abandon the Papua Bill because of certain amendments made in Committee.
– I ‘have now under consideration the course to be pursued in regard to that Bill, and before, proceeding further with it. I may have certain inquiries made in New Guinea.
– The following para graph appears in this morning’s Argus -
The attempt that is being made to compel Queensland sugar planters to employ white labour is likely to prove a costly comedy. There appears to be little doubt that the Comptroller-General of Customs was right in ruling that bonuses cannot be ‘ paid on sugar produced from cane grown with the aid of coloured labour. A man wishing to embark in the industry must, therefore, purchase” white “ cane, or the sugar obtained from the cane will be denied the subsidy of £2 a ton. This is the legal interpretation of the Bonus Act passed last month. All holdings worked with coloured labour after the 1st February lost cannot be registered or the bonus claimed unless the cane growing in them is uprooted, and new white-grown cane is planted. Consequently any planter who continued to employ kanakas after February must sacrifice all his cane, and begin de novo if he wishes to become entitled to the Federal bounty. The Prime Minister said lastevening that he purposed reading the Act anew, in order to see whether Sir William Lyne and Dr. Wollnston have correctly interpreted it.
– That is what I did. not say.
– In view of the statements contained in that paragraph, 1 wish to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, if a planter who has given notice of his intention to employ from the 28th February lost none other than white labour, purchases young plants from one employing coloured labour, he will be unable to obtain a bounty upon the sugar manufactured from the cane.
– I presume that the paragraph which the honorable member has read refers to a decision which I gave a few days ago, after a consultation with the officers of my Department. The position is this : For the propagation of sugar cane the old cane is cut up, and the cuttings are placed in the ground, and from them, the young plants are produced.
– There is no transplanting.
– I have seen it done, and, therefore, I know that it is so. In the case to which my decision refers, the question was not whether the bounty should be given when the original cane from which the young plants were derived had been grown with -the aid of black labour, but whether a bounty should be given upon sugar produced from cane grown from young plants purchased from nurseries and other plantations and cultivated by black labour. ,
– There are no such nurseries.
– I am informed that there are. I am told that there is a nursery on one of the large plantations where black labour is still used. There is no objection to thepayment of bounty upon sugar produced from cuttings from cane which two or three years ago may have been planted or cultivated by black labour, but the bounty will not be allowed upon sugar produced from cane grown from young plants propagated with the aid of black labour since the 28th February last.’
– It may simplify the matter to those who are not thoroughly acquainted with the subject if the Minister will answer me these questions : If the cane is planted from cuttings from cane grown by block labour, will the sugar produced earn the bounty? If the planting is from stools produced with black labour, and having a growth of their own, will the sugar earn the bounty 1
– I think I made it clear that when the sugar is prpduced from cane grown from cuttings the bounty will be payable, but that when it is produced from cane grown from plants which have been propagated by black labour, it will not be payable;
– I wish to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to the following, resolutions which have been moved in the Queensland Legislative Assembly by the State Treasurer : -
Have the Commonwealth Government been consulted as to the power of the State Parliament to tax such messages transmitted by the Federal agency, or as to the means by which such revenue shall be collected ?
– I am informed by the Prime Minister that no communication relating to those resolutions has yet been received by the Government, nor have I had an opportunity to see them. I do not know to what such a communication could relate, unless to the Constitutional power to impose the proposed taxation, and that, if the resolutions are passed into law, will probably be very speedily tested in the Courts.
– On the 2Sth July the honorable member for Perth asked me the following questions -
A reply has now been received from the General Officer Commanding to the following effect : -
With reference to the question of Mr. Fowler on the notice paper of the House of Representatives, dated 28th July, paragraph 2, I have the honor to stutefor the information of the Minister, that there will be nothing inconsistent with military strategy in commencing the construction of a transcontinental railway three years before it might be required in the scheme for efficient defence.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply, I beg to state -
Sir JOHN FORREST laid upon the table the following papers : -
Commonwealth Military Forces - Regulations for musketry training ; Regulations respecting issue of small-arms ammunition ; Regulations governing the appointment of officers of the Defence Forces as A.D.C.’s to the Governors of the States ; Alterations of Regulations regarding efficiency and pay.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The motions relating to the proposed distribution of the States into electorates were submitted in order to comply with the requirements of the Electoral Act. I informed honorable members that it would be necessary to bring in a Bill to make it quite clear that the existing divisions were adopted by the Commonwealth, and to guard us against the possibility of the repeal of the Electoral Acts of the States. The Bill is introduced for the purpose then indicated. It does riot deal with any other subject. There are other matters with which I should like to deal, and which, if the Government remain in office next session, will form the subject of an amending Bill.
– It is just as well to mention that “ if.”
-There is not much doubt that the Government will remain in office.
– There is considerable doubt.
– The honorable member’s wish is father to the thought. If the Government remain in office, and, as I say, there is not much doubt about it, a Bill will be brought down for the amendment of the Electoral Act in a direction which I think will meet with the approval of honorable members. When the Electoral Bill was first introduced, it contained a provision that the distribution of the States into electorates should be referred to three Commissioners, and that a margin of onefourth instead of one-fifth should be allowed. Those provisions were copied from the Electoral Act of New South Wales, and I regret that they were not adopted.
– The Minister accepted the amendments. ^
– Ministers often accept amendments when they know that they would be carried against them ; and, moreover, it is often wise to arrive at a compromise in order to avoid lengthened and unprofitable debate.
– Does the Minister intend to propose an amendment with regard to the distribution of the electorates by one Commissioner?
– Most decidedly. I feel, and I believe the majority of honorable members agree with me, that it is not wise to intrust the distribution of the electorates to one Commissioner.
– I must ask the Minister to confine his attention to the provisions in the Bill.
– The Bill provides that we shall, except in two instances, adhere to the existing divisions instead of adopting those proposed by the single Commissioners, and I desired to intimate that the Government felt that, in future, the distributions should in each’ case be made by three Commissioners instead of one or by some other method. Long debates took place upon the motions having reference to the distributions proposed by the Commissioners.
– Order ! The Minister is not in order in referring to previous debates.
– In that case I do not quite know how I am to proceed with my speech.
– I would point out to the Minister that the standing orders specially prohibit any allusion to previous debates, but honorable members are perfectly in order in referring to facts which may have been elicited during such debates. If the Minister confines his remarks to the facts of the case, he will be in order.
– I shall endeavour to do so. One of the main objections taken to the proposal of the Government was based upon the fact that the numbers of electors in some of the existing divisions in New South Wales were considerably below the minimum. I desire to point out that, since the rolls were compiled last year, a new collection has been made, which, although stil incomplete, shows that a great change has taken place in regard to the three divisions to which special reference was made. According to the latest returns the Barrier division has between 17,000 and 18,000 electors, or only a shade below the minimum number. The figures are incomplete, and large numbers of persons are returning to the electorate every week. In the Darling division there are now between 14,000 and 15,000 electors, and large numbers are returning each week.
– How many electors were there in Darling at the previous collection ?
– According to the collection made last year there were 12,000 voters in the electorate.
– Are the figures quot- ed by the Right Honorable G. H. Reid incorrect ‘?
– The right honorable gentleman has submitted so many figures. To which does the honorable member refer?
– I am referring to those which were quoted only three or four days ago.
SirWILLIAM LYNE.- I do not know anything about them. I do not pay the slightest attention to the statements of the right honorable gentleman.
– The figures quoted were obtained from official sources and absolutely contradict those given by the Minister.
– I am quoting from an official document which has been placed in my hands by the officers of the Electoral Department. According to these figures the electorate of Riverina, to which large numbers of persons are still returning, now contains 16,500 voters, whereas, under the collection which took place last year, there were only 14,900 within the division. Therefore, my statement that before the Revision Court was held not one of these divisions would fall below the minimum is borne out by the figures.
– Can the Minister say what the minimum will be under the new collection ?
– The quota under the previous collection was 18,137.
– The quota under the new collection will be very different.
– No. I am taking the quota given to the Electoral Commissioner when he was making his distribution, and that will not be materially changed. I am quoting these figures to show that my prediction is being borne out by the figures under the new collection. InVictoria between 8,000 and 9,000-I believe the actual number is a shade over 9,000 - applications have already been received from persons who desire to be placed on the rolls. This has occurred before the holding of Revision Courts, and before the expiration of the thirty days prescribed for the exhibition of the rolls. And much the same thing is happening in New South Wales. Therefore I venture to think that the result will be entirely satisfactory. It must not be for one moment supposed that the quota will be very seriously altered, because the increase in the numbers of electors in the Western division will involve a decrease in the number in the Eastern division.
– Has the Minister any evidence of that?
– Yes I have, but not here.
– The Minister ought to give that information to the House.
– I wish the honorable member would not be so restless. I am pointing out that the quota will not be materially altered, and that our action in adhering to the present divisions will be attended with the most satisfactory results. A great deal has been said regarding one vote one value, and I wish to direct attention to the fact that under the State distributions in Victoria and New South Wales, the disproportion between’ the numbers of electors in the country and city divisions is very much greater than in the case of the Federal divisions. I hold in my hand a list which discloses the differences that exist between the number of voters in some of the State electorates of Victoria and New South Wales, and I find that they are very great indeed. In some of the Victorian electorates there is a difference of more than two to one, and in some of the New South Wales divisions the disparity is almost as great. In New South Wales the difference was to some extent the result of the action of the leader of the Opposition, in declining to allow the rolls to be dealt with by the Commission which was appointed for the purpose.
– That is the only argument which the Minister can use.
– The honorable and learned member for Illawarra knows that that is not so. I merely quote these instances to show the differences which obtain in the existing electorates of some States, although no uproar has been raised, either by the States Parliaments or the States electors, similar to that which was raised in this Chamber last week by members of the Opposition representing New South Wales. In that State there is no outcry, although a much more extreme condition of things exists in regard to many of the State electorates than obtains in connexion with the Federal divisions.
– Why, upon this question, the leader of the Opposition addressed the largest meeting ever held in Sydney.
– I do not suppose that he did anything else. I presume that the people would attend to listen to the fun if for no other purpose.
– The Minister is afraid to face the same sort of public meeting.
– I have been told that before, and I have faced the people.
– A right about face.
– I go straight. I do not turn right about face as’ does the honorable member. Considering the attitude of the Sydney press, I was very much surprised to learn on my recent visit to that city that there was not a greater outcry than there is. When the people really understand what the leader of the Opposition is talking about–
– The Minister will realize it at the next elections.
– No doubt the honorable and learned member for Parkes will realize something which will not be quite as palatable to him as are many of the remarks which he hears in this House. 1 have given these particulars simply with a view to show that a difference in the number of voters in the various State electorates exists to-day all over Australia, as it does, indeed, in every part of the British dominions. It is totally impossible to get an even balance of numbers, and to ensure that all persons shall be fairly dealt with. In Tasmania, for example, wherever an even distribution has been adopted throughout the State, an approach to the quota has been secured ; but where a large population is settled in one portion of a district, whilst the other portions are sparsely populated, it has been impossible to get the quota throughout. I think I have clearly shown that, under the circumstances, the Government have adopted the only practical and proper course. We do not intend to allow any part of New South Wales, or of the other States, to be disfranchised by reason of the abnormal conditions which ha ve existed so long. This measure is the natural sequence of the action of an overwhelming majority of honorable members in regard to the four States to which I have referred. This short Bill is simply the result of the action of a majority of honorable members who have fully considered and debated this question. It is the desire of the Government to place the position which they have adopted beyond alllegal douDt, and to avoid any slip in connexion with the electoral divisions. I may add that, although the Government are taking this course, a difference of opinion exists as to the necessity for it. Many legal gentlemen hold that there is no necessity for this Bill ; but, to put the matter beyond all doubt, the Government have decided to submit it for the acceptance of Parliament.
– If it does not pass, what will happen t
– I do not think that the heavens will fall. At the sametime, I venture to think that the Bill will pass, because all who do not entertain a strong party bias are in favour of the course which has been pursued by the Government. I believe that the measure will be carried ; but, even if it were not, it is very much open to question whether the forthcoming elections could not be conducted upon the existing electoral divisions. However, the course which we are taking is that which was suggested by the leader of the Opposition. Surely honorable members opposite ought not to be hostile to action which, in the first . instance, was suggested by their leader.
– How does the Minister know that we are going to be 1
– I do not know. At the same time it has been suggested that, when an understanding was arrived at the other evening, I knew that the candidature of the right honorable member was being opposed. I wish to say that I did not know.
– Then the Minister told a little fib.
– I do not think that I told a fib. I assured the honorable member himself in the train that I was not aware at the time that Mr. Reid’s candidature was being opposed.
– Order ! These remarks have no relevance to the matter under consideration.
– That is so, but I can scarcely fail to hear whispers concerning what is going on. I did not know that the right honcrable member’s candidature had been opposed until an hour after the arrangement had been made.
– Some, years ago, in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, there was a body of men who were facetiously termed the “ rumourist “ party. In this city I think there is, at any rate, one journal which may be called the “rumourist “ journal. That organ has taken upon itself to declare that honorable members upon this side of the House intend to obstruct or “stone-wall” this Bill. i wish to say that whilst we shall use every legitimate means of debate, and see that this question is threshed out to the utmost, there will be no obstruction. We may ask the Government not to unduly hurry the various stages of the Bill, and i think we shall be perfectly justified in doing so in view of its supreme importance. There is one matter, I take it, upon which the Government will agree with me, namely, that after an Act has been passed by this Parliament providing certain machinery for arranging the electoral divisions free from political control and free from the suspicion of political influence, it is a very serious step indeed to set that machinery aside. The Electoral Act is not an ordinary Act of Parliament, but one which lies at the very foundation of the honesty of the electoral system. When we pass Acts in this House, we all know that they have to go before a final tribunal - the tribunal- of public opinion. In a deliberative assembly of this kind it is our duty to credit each other with absolute honesty of purpose. i am not prone to treat subjects in any impassioned language, and certainly i have never posed in a theatrical manner in this House ; but i do say that there is something in the notion of the Government in connexion with this matter which strikes deeper than does any ordinary act of legislation. When this Parliament enacts legislation, the minority know well enough that, if it inflicts an injury upon the people, within a short time public opinion will make itself felt, and that those who have betrayed the country will be compelled to give way to others. But it is a different kind of statute that we are now asked to sanction. It is an Act which is intended by the members of a moribund Parliament to absolutely strangle public opinion at the next elections.
– How can weefface the injury? How can we undo this wrong 1 If this were an ordinary Act of Parliament, a new Parliament elected upon the system provided for in the Electoral Act - a system which removed any suspicion in regard to the mode in which membcrs were to be elected, and which gave the people of Australia every reason to believe that that Parliament would represent public opinion - could exercise its censorious jurisdiction over it or any other statute passed by this Parliament. But this is a Bill which is intended to alter the public opinion of Australia. It is designed to interfere with the legitimate choice of a majority of the people. Let us look into the question as it is presented by the Government. Two reasons arc advanced for their action. The . first is a reason on the surface, which they clearly express but do not justify ; the second a reason which is concealed. The first reason is that, owing to the unfortunate drought which has afflicted Australia during the last few years, and especially during the past eighteen months, numbers of people have left the interior and crowded into the towns of the more settled districts. But another reason has been urged by the Minister which gives us a little insight into the real motives underlying the action of the Government. He declares that when he first presented the Electoral Bill to Parliament he desired that a larger margin should be allowed in connexion with the quota.
– I desired to have the same margin as that which obtains in connexion with the States electorates.
SirWILLIAMmcmillan. - The Minister has been pursuingthat idea throughout. But I should like to ask him if the drought was not at its very height when he issued instructions to the Electoral Commissioners to undertake the new divisions of the States t If at that time the condition of things was such that we could not obtain a proper enrolment of the people owing to their migratory habits during the period of drought, surely common sense and honour should have induced him to recall the Commissioners, and to say to them - “ We shall place this matter before the Parliament of Australia. No proper arrangements can be made under the present abnormal conditions, and therefore we shall ask Parliament to accept the existing divisions.” But?, instead of adopting that course, the Government practically said - “ We shall take the risk and see how matters will turn out.” Then, finding that the divisions recommended by the Commissioners did not “ gerrymander “ the districts exactly to suit the interests of a majority of honorable members, the schemes were brought before us as absolute abortions which ought to be rejected in favour of the old States divisions.
I should like to know whether . we are not absolutely forced to the conclusion that it is because the new divisions do not suit the majority of honorable members that an Act of Parliament is to be absolutely scouted. What other reason can there be for the action of the Government? There can be no other reason.
– There are many other reasons.
– Do honorable members mean to say that had the new divisions leant more carefully to the interests of those who form the majority in this House, there would have been any interference with the Electoral Act ? If the new divisions are now to be set aside, if the solemn decision of this Parliament is to be departed from, there should be reasons for the adoption of such a course. I shall examine, in the first place, the reasons given for the proposed departure from the Act, and the reasons against it. Let us turn .to the report presented by the Commissioner for Victoria, and see whether he was not absolutely alive to as great an extent as the Government could be to the present peculiar position of affairs. Let us see whether he did not make provision for the contingencies to which reference has been made, and whether the margin of one-fifth above or below the quota which we agreed upon was not sufficient to do away with the anomalies. I shall bring before the House the evidence given by the Commissioner for Victoria, who says -
As, however, section 10 of the Act referred to grants a discretionary power to depart to the extent of one-fifth more or one-fifth less than the quota, and having in view the recognised interests as between country and city, and that many electors in drought-stricken areas were temporarily residing in the city, I deemed it prudent to exercise that power to a very large extent.
Thus we have the Commissioner for Victoria setting forth in his own report that he was just as much alive as was the Government to the fact that during the time of drought people migrated from the country to the city, and that to enable him to deal with the special conditions which thus arose, he availed himself of the utmost latitude allowed him by the law in fixing the different boundaries. I shall deal still further with his report. According to the provisions of the Act, tho Commissioner was called upon to exhibit a map showing the proposed divisions and to allow a certain time within which objections might belodged against his scheme. Was that condition complied with ? In the case of Victoria, it was most thoroughly observed. And what was the result? I should like honorable members to listen to the Commissioner’s statement as to the way in winch he carried out his work. Dealing with the objections lodged against his scheme hesays -
I have duly considered the above objections,, and desire to report as follows, viz. : -
That shows that the Commissioner was notincapable of accepting suggestions, and of correctly interpreting the spirit of his instructions. He goes on to say -
Again he exercised his discretion, and wasopen to reason -
I cannot, however, see any good reason fortaking Woodstock awa3’ from the proposed Bendigo Division.
Then he goes on to say that he has taken, every objection into consideration ; that it is practically impossible to deal with all theboundaries in accordance with every principle laid down, and that certain latitude has to be allowed in dealing with thescheme. No honorable member, after reading the report, could fail to come to any conclusion other than that the Commissioner for Victoria has made an honestattempt to carry out the principles and the spirit of the Electoral Act. I shall deal, now with the proposed distribution of New South Wales, submitted by the Commissioner. Is there any reason for setting asidethose divisions ? Save for the quotation on one or two occasions of certain figures, which it is impossible for us to check, the Government have not given one reason for their action. It is lamentable that in thematter of statistical information the members of the Commonwealth Parliamentshould be in a worse position than aremembers of. the States Parliaments. In many cases, when debates are hurried on,; it is almost impossible for us to obtain that statistical information which is absolutely necessary to enable us to form an opinion. I am now speaking probably in the shadow of a foregone conclusion. This House has practically decided the matter. There is a majority acting without reason, and unprepared to deliberate on this question. I had hoped that after the protest made by the leader of the Opposition there might have been an opportunity to induce honorable members to reconsider the position by putting before them a fair statement of the case. But the minds of the majority are made up, because they think that the Government proposal suits them. So far as they are concerned, it is not a matter of deliberation or of adhering honorably to the Act which we have passed. They are influenced by the lowest and most selfish consideration of what will suit them when next they go to the country. The Commissioner for New South Wales has done exactly what the Commissioner for Victoria has done. I should like honorable members to listen to what he says in referring to the old divisions -
It is plain, therefore, that no less than fifteen out of the twenty-six electorates in existence absolutely transgress the legal extremes.
The Goverment’s own representative - one of the ablest men in New South Wales, who has been the official head of the Lands Department for a number of years, and is now practically in the position of a J udge in the Land Court - says that so impossible is the old system, that he has to draw attention, in view, probably, of something that he may have heard, to the fact that -
No less than fifteen out of the twenty-six electorates in existence absolutely transgress the legal extremes.
In other words, we have a Minister of the Crown defeated in Committee of this House who plainly declares that he does not consider that the margin which both Houses of Parliament in their wisdom decided upon is sufficient, and, that therefore, he will in the face of this Act of this Legislature create the very condition of things which we have said should not exist. Mr. Houston, the Commissioner of New South Wales, declares that fifteen out of the twenty-six divisions under the present system absolutely exceed the legal extreme as to the number of electors in each division. Then, again, as far as New South Wales is concerned - and this relates to one of the most important provisions in the
Act - there was practically little dissent from the work of the Commissioner. Every objection that was lodged against the scheme was carefully and thoroughly sifted, as the report will show, with the result that the Commissioner declares that the whole of his work has been carried out in a reasonable way. I turn now from the position which might otherwise have been suggested in regard to the migration of a large number of people from the country to the town. I have proved that, according to the evidence before us and the speeches of the honorable gentleman who has introduced this Bill, there is nothing to show that there is such an evil arising out of the schemes proposed by the Commissioners as to compel us to revert to the old States divisions. I hold - and I should like the honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill to listen to this one simple fact - that there ought to be overwhelming proof of the superiority of the existing divisions before we reject the new schemes prepared under an Act which we solemnly passed. Even if there are anomalies under the new distributions - even if the old divisions are a little better than are the new ones - that, in the circumstances, would not justify the absolute reconsideration of the whole scheme agreed upon by both Houses of the Parliament. But it is clear from figures that have been quoted by the leader of the Opposition - and one or two of which I shall repeat - that the anomalies arising under the old divisions are ten times greater than are the anomalies associated with the new ones. Let us take the figures as they have already been put before us. We find that there are 12,139 electors in the present electorate of Darling, and 32,476 electors in the existing . division of Lang. Those are the two electorates which exhibit the greatest disparity, so far as the number of electors is concerned. We find that the Commissioner points out that as between these two extremes there are a number of anomalies, having regard to the spirit of the Act, fifteen out of the existing twenty-six divisions being in an absolutely abnormal condition. I shall now quote figures - which, I presume, are correct - submitted by the leader of the Opposition, showing that two Melbourne electorates aggregate 72,364 electors, while four country electorates in Victoria aggregate 72,271. In other words, we have in two Victorian electorates practically the same number of electors as is to be found in four others. What I desire to point out is that if a case had been made out against the proposals of the Commissioners, showing that the anomalies involved in them were equal to those which exist under the present system, there might have been some reason for setting them aside. But we find that having regard to all the difficulties that must arise in fixing these boundaries, the anomalies which the new divisions present are but one-tenth of those existing, under the present system. I should like, therefore, to ask the Government upon what principle they have acted in throwing aside the provisions of a solemnly conceived Act of Parliament, as well as the work of men whom they admit to be above any personal suspicion 1 The whole question is simply this - and it requires no rhetoric to impress it upon the minds of sensible men - that under any circumstances, having regard to our enormous territory and sparse population, it would be impossible to create any division which would comply with all the principles of the Act. It is impossible to have electorates in which there may not be peculiar boundary lines, and in which there may not be instances of dissimilarity of conditions and interests. No Commissioner could avoid that in a country like this. But allowing for that, it is no reason for rejecting the divisions of the Commissioners. These are facts which every one who was interested saw were inevitable. Allowing that such anomalies must exist, what is there to be said against the proposed divisions? It is said first of all that there has been a tremendous migration from the country to the towns, and that this has absolutely upset our calculations. I have here some figures which have emanated from the leader of the Opposition. I take it for granted that he obtained his information from reliable sources. He says that the Darling electorate in 1901 contained 9,000 odd people.
– That is a very good indication. We generally get male and female together. We can only get the best figures obtainable. It is very difficult in this Commonwealth Parliament to get reliable figures on any subject. Without reading out these figures in detail, Mr. Reid shows that in the electorates of Darling, Barrier, Riverina, Canobolas, Robertson, Bland, Macquarie, Gwydir, and
Hume, in 1901, there were 89,000 males ; in 1902-3, 90,000; and in August,0 1903, 94,000. In other words, there has been in some places an almost inappreciable migration. But let it be admitted that it is very difficult to understand the question as a. whole, owing to imperfect statistics. We will allow that thousands of people have left the country districts to go into the towns. Nevertheless, I want to know - and this is the whole question before the House - are there likely to be more anomalies as the result of the arrangements of the Commissioners during this period of drought, than there are under the old system that was prepared three years ago? I sa.y further, repeating myself, that even ifr there are anomalies, they would hav& to be absolutely overwhelming to justify us in setting aside a carefully prepared scheme under an Act of Parliament, and in taking into our political hands what was solemnly intended by that Act of Parliament to be taken away from us. That is. my position, and the closer it is kept in sight by honorable members and by the country the better what has been done will be realized. Of course, this arrangement suits the Minister for Trade and Customs. He does not care. I do not want to betoo personal towards the honorable gentleman, but I take it for granted that thisBill bears the imprint of his hand.
– Does it?
– If this, matter had not been in the honorable gentleman’s hands, I have no doubt whatever that the subject would have been mentioned in the House long ago. Where was the need for secrecy? Here we have Commissioners going on with their work month after month under conditions which the Government now tell us made it impossible for them to create fair boundaries. Yet there was not a word said in the House ; not a preliminary report; not an echoof any differences between the Government and the Commissioners. The work was all done in the peculiar manner in which the honorable gentleman very often indulges. Not on the floor of this House, but outside this House, this matter has been settled Does the honorable gentleman take me for such a fool as to image that there has been no gerrymandering with honorable members? It has been kept very close indeed.
– They must have gerrymandered also then.
– Here we have a scheme embodied in an Act of Parliament. The Commissioners start out at a time when the conditions with regard to the drought are thoroughly known. They are allowed to complete their reports, and, without a single word being known, the Minister, with lightning rapidity, comes down to this House and says, “We intend to brush the reports aside.” There has not been within my experience such a course taken with regard to an Act of Parliament as has been taken with regard to the Act affecting this matter. If the argument used by the Government is of any value at all it applied when this work was going on. In sill parts of Australia considerable expense was being incurred while the Commissioners were working at their schemes. The very” conditions that are prevalent now were prevalent then. But the Government now
Advance as an argument for setting aside the schemes of the Commissioners, conditions that were well known and recognised at the time those schemes were being prepared. The Government stand condemned by their own action. It seems to me that the whole subject is in a very small nutshell. We have one question before us - whether the political influence which the Electoral Act was supposed to kill has been allowed to be exercised by a Government which pretends to represent the democratic sentiments of the people. The Government knows that we are practically in a moribund Parliament. ‘ Has this Government a right, without any real cause except reasons which ought not to have any weight in the matter - reasons which they know are of a political character, affecting the seats of their own supporters at the next elections - to reject the- work of the Commissioners? After having allowed the Commissioners to do their work day after day, and ultimately to “bring up reports, when the Government found that the proposed boundaries were not equally as good for their prospects as the boundaries of three years ago, were the Government justified in flouting an Act of Parliament ? I do not know what the fate of this Bill may be. I do not know what may be done elsewhere. But I feel that this is an outrage on the Constitution. I feel that the absence of honorable members who are interested in it - the absolute conspiracy of silence which we have witnessed very largely in this debate
– The honorable member cannot say that. He was not here last week.
– It will be a conspiracy of silence now. That is very clear, because we cannot have the talk if honorable members are not here.
– Has the honorable member taken on the mantle of the prophet ?
– There were not many here last week, but there were tons of talk.
– I do not intend to take up any more time, but I say that neither by the Government nor by honorable members who have spoken in favour of the Government’s action has there been one word said to justify doing away with the acknowledged provisions of the Act of this Pai-lament; and I cannot help feeling that the conscience of the country should be aroused to a state of affairs in which their own representatives repudiate the very principles they laid down in their own act of legislation. It is not my business to know the reasons which have affected various honorable members in coming to a vote ; but I do think that those who are in favour of this measure must feel that it is not altogether a question of the rights of the people that is being considered. It is a selfish thing that -Parliament, having posed before the country in a democratic spirit, should now, at the instigation of the Ministry, set at nought the principles which the very Constitution itself created, and which our own Act confirms. Personally, if I were standing for Parliament again, I should certainly have to speak before the electors of this country in no unmeasured terms. I do not wish to prolong the debate unnecessarily ; but I do say that men who do a thing like this under the guise of democracy are not to be trusted by the democracy of Australia.
– I think that the object of the present action of the Government is well known. It is to prevent the country districts in New South Wales and Victoria being deprived of a member, the effect of which would be to give an additional seat to the cities. The opponents of this proposal take up the ground that the very, foundation of the Constitution is equality of representation, or equality of numbers in each electorate; or, to put it in other words, “one vote one value.” I have always been a supporter of that principle.
Those who support that principle conscientiously do so with the view that each vote shall have the same value. What is the value of a vote ? I consider that the value of a vote is to be gauged by the extent to which that vote influences legislation, and influences the government of the country. Those who say that equal numbers in each electorate produce that result say what they know perfectly well to be incorrect. The city electors have enormous advantages which are denied to the country electors. They have, in the first place, density of population ; they have community of interest ; they have every possible facility for combination and organization. They live in close proximity to the polling booths and to the scat of government. The country districts have the exactconverse of these conditions. They have population scattered over an enormous area. They have diversity of interest. They have no facilities whatever for organization and combination. That is impossible in the sparsely-populated country districts. They live considerable distances from the polling booths, and they are remote from the seat of government. What is the test of whether the statement I make is true or not ? . It is to be found in the present Federal Parliament. The Government contend that the next elections should be conducted on basis of the present electorates. That is what is objected to by some honorable members, who say “No; they ought to give an additional member to Melbourne and Sydney.”
– Hear, hear.
– Does the honorable member for Gippsland think that 35,000 and 14,000 is a fair proportion ?
– I will show in a moment what I think, and ask the honorable member what is his opinion. What are the conditions of parties as representing the town and country in the present Parliament 1 Out of twenty-six members for New South Wales there are eighteen bond fide residents of Sydney.
– Including the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Do these honorable members not live in Sydney ?
– Does the honorable member for Gippsland not live in Melbourne ?
Mr.A. McLEAN.-I do.
– And do the honorable members who live in Sydney not include the Prime Minister ?
– That only makes the* case worse. I count myself a country member because most of my interests are in the country. I am only endeavouring to show how parties stand at the present time. As- I have said, of the twenty-six members for New South Wales eighteen are bond fide residents of Sydney, and there are two or three others who live in close proximity tothat city,while one, I believe, lives in Adelaide most of his time. Out of the eight remaining members who live outside of” Sydney two or three live either close tothe city or in Adelaide. In the Senate, which has co-equal powers with the House of Representatives, and without the consent of which we cannot pass a solitary measurein this Parliament, five of the New South Wales members reside in Sydney, and one resides in the country.
– The whole six reside in Sydney.
– I am told that thereis one of the New South Wales senators whose chief interests are in the country.
– That is unquestionably so ;. the honorable senator’s interests are 500 miles away from Sydney.
– I allot ‘that honorable senator to the country ; and, even under these circumstances, there is only one representative of New South Wales in the Senate who can by any stretch of the imagination, be called a country representative. And what do we find in Victoria? The country districts of Victoria are entitled to fifteen, and the metropolis to eight, representatives. The fact is, however, that the metropolis, instead of having eight representatives, has fourteen ; while the country districts have only nine, counting myself as a country representative, although I live in Melbourne. If I am excluded from the country members, there are fifteen representatives for the city, and only eight for the country districts.
– Is that argument not unworthy of the honorable member?
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa, if he says the opposite, says that which he knows is not true.
– The honorable member for Gippsland must withdraw that statement.
– I certainly withdraw the statement in deference to your ruling,. Mr. Speaker ; but any one who argues that’- under the proposal of the Government, an injustice is done to the metropolis of Victoria or New South “Wales- ‘
– That is not the question.
– That is the question which has been argued all through - the question of one vote one value.
– The question is, that in my electorate it takes three men to have the same influence with their votes as that exercised by two men in other electorates.
– Does the honorable and learned member deny that the value of a vote lies in the extent to which it can influence the legislation and government of the Commonwealth ? If the honorable and learned member denies that statement, I must decline to further argue the matter with him. Any one who knows the meaning of one vote one value, must know that one vote should influence the government of the country as much as another vote ; and much is required to counterbalance the natural advantages enjoyed by the compact electorates of the city. A reasonable allowance will go a little way in that direction, but certainly not the whole way. The cities have dominated legislation in the past, and their power is becoming greater every year, while the voice of the country districts is sinking intc utter insignificance. Those honorable members who are in favour of one vote one value, and who profess to believe in the doctrine of equal electorates, are those who go into the suburbs every week - and sometimes two or three times a week - in order to impress on the people the necessity of forming unions and of organizing and combining in order to bring influence to bear on legislation.
– Hear, hear.
– Thehonorable member for Yarra says “ hear, hear,” and he was the was the only Victorian who voted on the other side. The honorable member for Yarra knows the value of unions and combination.
– Is it right that I should have 13,000 more electors than there are in the city of Melbourne ?
– The honorable member was one of those who helped to take the vote away from the owners of property in Melbourne, and he ought to be the last to complain of the effects of that step. The very fact that honorable members are eternally impressing on their constituents the necessity for combination and organization, is clear proof of their knowledge that the value of a vote does not depend on numbers, but on natural advantages for combination and organization, which enable every possible influence to be brought to bear upon the Government of the country.
– Would the honorable membercompel every representative to reside in his own electorate ?
– No ; but the honorable and learned member must see that a person who lives in the city, and whose associations and experience are principally confined to the city-
– The honorable member has not shown that.
– I have given the numbers. Surely the honorable and learned member would not have me relate the history of every individual representative? It is quite sufficient to give the number of those who arebona fide residents of the cities.
– Some of us have lived in the city only since we became members of the Commonwealth Parliament. I ask again, would the honorable member compel representatives to live in their own electorates ?
– I would not compel a representative to live anywhere which does not suit his own convenience. Another argument is that the very foundation of the Constitution is equal electorates - one adult one vote, one vote one value, and equal electorates.
– When was that theory advanced ? Never during the Federal elections.
– It is a recent development.
– That is the contention which has been advanced for days past by honorable members.
– It is utterly incorrect to say that it was a contention advanced when Federation was being advocated.
– What I say is that honorable members, in arguing this question, say that the very foundation of the Federal Constitution is one vote one value ; and that a natural corollary is equal electorates.
– I do not know a section of the Constitution which proves that.
– Any one who has studied the question knows that such a contention is utterly opposed to the Constitution.
– Hear, hear !
– The Constitution makes one elector in Tasmania equal to eight electors in New South Wales. Where is tho sense or reasonableness of the contention that it is a violation of the Constitution to depart from the principle of equal numbers in every electorate?
– We could not have had Federation without some such discrimination.
– That is not the question ; I am now replying to those who contend that equal electorates are the foundation of the Constitution. The Constitution, on the face of it, is utterly opposed to equal electorates, giving, as I say, as much, power to one elector in Tasmania as it gives to eight electors in New South Wales. Notwithstanding that the electors in New South Wales may provide seven or eight times as much of the revenue, Tasmanian electors have an equal power in the distribution of that money. I may go a little further. Those very honorable members who are so strongly opposed to the proposal of the Government are those who are well versed in all the arts and tactics of “ stone- walling.” What is “ stone-walling” ? Is it not an attempt on the part of the minority to override and rule the majority? While honorable members are contending so strongly in favour of majority rule, and the adoption of equal electorates, they ought not, in their own persons, to set the bad example of acting in direct opposition to their own principles. I do not think it necessary to labour this matter further. I have all through done my best to prevent the country districts being deprived of a member because of abnormal conditions. I believe that if the people who have been driven off the land by the recent disastrous drought had time’ to return to their homes, there would be no necessity to disturb the present proportions.
– On looking at the Bill I do not gather exactly what the Ministry are contemplating. In clause 2 it is provided -
Where under a law of a State, made in pursuance of the Constitution, the State is at the commencement of this Act distributed into electoral divisions. . . .
I do not know that there is any State which is distributed for future elections into electoral divisions, and will, therefore, be so distributed when this Bill becomes law. I hold that under the Constitution there are at present no States distributed into electoral divisions. If this Bill be passed there will really be no electoral divisions of the States under the Electoral Act ; and the Constitution is fairly clear on the point. The divisions of the States cease as soon as provision is made by the Federal Parliament, and in respect of the election of representatives for the House of Representatives provision was made on the 10th October, 1902, when theElectoral Bill became law.
– Does not the very fact that the leader of the Opposition is at present submitting himself to the electorsunder the law of a State prove that electoral divisions do exist?
– I do not know what isbeing done ; and there is, at the present time, a good deal of administration which is open to challenge.
– The Electoral Act does not apply to the election at present in progress.
– As the acting leader of the Opposition points out, the Electoral Act expressly does not apply to an election such as is now taking place. There is a special* section in the Act on the point. I shouldbe sorry to regard Ministerial action as the measure of constitutionality; and the Bill certainly contemplates that at the present time there are electoral divisions.
– So there are.
– There are no electoral’ divisions under the Electoral Act - thereare no electoral ‘divisions under the Constitution.
– How can there be a by-election if there are no electoral” divisions ?
– There is a special provision in the Electoral Act that in such case the existing State divisions shall apply.
– But what about, other cases ?
– That provision does notapply to a general election in respect to which the Electoral Act was passed ; and’ the Minister ought to know his own Act . better.
– If there were a genera] election to-morrow it would beunder the old electorates.
– That is not so, for the simple reason that the special saving clause applies to any election until there is a dissolution. In case of a dissolution the elections must proceed under the Electoral Act, and under this Bill when it becomes law. The Bill is based on the assumption that under the Act there “ are electoral divisions to be adopted, and it proposes to adopt all the electoral divisions which are in existence at the time it becomes law. But there are for future purposes no electoral divisions within the meaning of the Act at the present time, and, therefore, there will be none when this Bill becomes law. I do not know who concocted this measure, but it appears to me that the Ministry are drifting from bad to worse. They strain the Constitution and violate the principles of the Electoral Act, and then frame a measure to do something which is an absurdity.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that clause 2 is the absurdity?
– Clause 2, in words which I have quoted, does not speak of the Electoral Act, but a State law made in pursuance of the Constitution.
– It adopts and continues the States laws.
– The point lies in the words “ the State is at the commencement of this Act distributed.” The reference to the Constitution is simply contained in the words that the Acts passed under the Constitution to make provision for the first election-
– Shall be continued ?
– It does not say that. It refers to the Acts intended to be continued, but that is not contained in the wording of the clause. The Acts referred to were repealed as soon as on the 10th October, 1902, we passed the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and my point is not that, these Acts were not properly passed under the Constitution, but that they are no longer in force, and cannot be in force when this Bill is passed.
– Has not clause 1 some application to and bearing upon the question ?
– I do not think so. The date is the date of this Bill, and not the date of the Act with which . it is to be incorporated. I looked into that point.
– Clause 1 says that this Bill is to be construed and read as one with the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– I know the point the honorable member is taking, that the date is the date of the Act with which this Bill is to be incorporated. The clause says that it is this Bill that is referred to. That is specific enough, and it is not the Commonwealth Electoral Act with which this Bill is to be incorporated only for certain purposes.- Unless the Ministry amend the drafting of this measure, they will be in as big a muddle as when they first departed from the principle of the Commonwealth Electoral Act itself.
– The Attorney-Gene ral drafted it.
– I am trying to help Ministers in the matter, and I am contend-ing that the measure will be ineffective when passed. This is all owing to the departure of Ministers from the principle of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The honorable member for Gippsland argued this matter as if we were considering the question of what ought to be the basis of representation. We have settled that question. We have settled by the Commonwealth Electoral Act that our representation shall be based upon numbers with a certain latitude.
– The contention of honorable members opposite all through bus been that we are trying to do an injustice to the cities.
– The principle of representation by numbers may be departed from to the extent of. one-fifth. It is not provided that the Commissioner shall make such a departure unless he is compelled to do so by a geographical necessity in the delimitation of the divisions. The point is that the divisions ought to be,as the Constitution really provides, on the basis of numerical representation. The argument of the honorable member for Gippsland is directed against the spirit of the Constitution itself, as I think I shall bc able to show him, and against the principle of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The honorable member’s argument is that the city should have less representation numerically than the country, owing to the greater interests of the country from the agriculturists’ or producers’ point of view. But we have settled that once and for ever, and unless the honorable member wishes to retrace his steps in that matter he cannot now take up that stand as an answer to toe arguments urged on this side against the departure which has been made from the principle of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The honorable member referred to the Constitution as introducing a disparity of representation on the basis of numbers, but he forgets that that only applies to the Senate.
– Which has co-equal powers with the House of Representatives.
– The principle applied to the House of Representatives is, as far as possible, representation in proportion to numbers. Each State, under section 24 of the Constitution, is to be divided for the purpose of electing members to the House of Representatives in proportion to the respective numbers of the people. That is expressly provided, and it is emphatic, because the election is by “ the people of the Commonwealth” - words which are not found even in the American Constitution. Numerical representation is the basis of the House of Representatives, and this Bill is one which deals with the House of Representatives and not with the Senate. The Senate is not touched by this Bill or by the part of the Electoral Act with which we are dealing in this Bill. The honorable member for Gippsland must, therefore, as far as possible, follow the principle of the representation of the House of Representatives, and that, under the Constitution, is numerical. It is also under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act properly numerical. I, therefore, cannot for the life of me understand how the honorable member proposes to follow that principle by saying that there should be representation given to the country districts which is not based upon numbers. The framers of the Constitution did not draw these distinctions. Victoria has the largest city population of any of the States, but the framers of the Constitution did not on that account say that Victoria was entitled to a smaller reputation than any of the other States. The argument of the honorable member for Gippsland would apply with equal force to the whole of the representation of Victoria, and on his argument Victoria has received a greater share of representation than she is entitled to on the basis of her country population. I am afraid that the honorable member in going back upon the principles of democracy is treading upon rather dangerous ground.
– It is of no use to. speak about the principle of representation being numerical when we know that the States are not given representation according to numbers in the Senate.
– The Senate has nothing to do with this. I have endeavoured to point out to the honorable member that this Bill applies to the House of Representatives only. It deals only with the representation here, and no analogy, therefore, can be drawn from any disproportion of representation given to the States in the Senate. I am sorry that the honorable member and some other honorable members should have violated the principles which we adopted in the face of a good deal of opposition - adult representation, and, as far as geographical delimitation will admit, representation in proportion to numbers. The Ministry are violating this principle by introducing this Bill. .1 did not deal with a single figure when I last spoke on this question, but certainly there is no getting over the lesson taught by some of the returns. Figures showing a gross violation of the principle of numerical representation are to be found, for instance, in the report (of the Commissioner for New South Wales. It will be seen that, whilst the number of voters in North Sydney under the division to be adopted by this Bill, that is the old State division, is nearly 32,000-
– That was over twelve months ago.
– There are 1,200 more now.
– I am sure the honorable member for Bland will not insist so much upon the extraordinary migratory habits of the people of New South Wales as to say that, owing to adverse conditions which have been growing for three or four years, there has been a depletion of the population of country districts, and that people who have settled elsewhere in new districts will go back again to their old districts within five or six, or even twelve months.
– A very large proportion have gone back already.
– That is rather too thin.
– It is a fact, nevertheless. The honorable and learned member does not happen to know these things. Mr. Reid’s figures prove that they are going back.
– I question the accuracy of any figures that are not official.
– Mine are official figures.
– Official figures were quoted by the leader of the Opposition.
– Official figures that vary month after month must be of an extraordinary character. The Minister for Trade and Customs to-day gave us the number of voters for Riverina at 16,000 odd ; but the official figures we have in print, and those upon which the honorable gentleman introduced his motion, asking us at the same time to dissent from the report of the Commissioner, showed that there were only a little over 14,000 electors in Riverina.
– I do not know whether the honorable and learned member is aware that at that particular time a new roll was being collected.
– I heard of that. Let us come to matters represented by the official returns.
– Just so ; let us rely upon something antediluvian, something out of date.
– The honorable member for Bland should be ashamed to speak on this matter.
– T intend to speak. I am quite capable of defending myself.
– I hope the honorable member will be able to say more than he is saying by his interjections. According to the figures of the Commissioner, North Sydney has 31,862 electors, whilst the figures for Darling are 12,139. In other words, on the official returns, which we ought to follow, because they have been collected under the Electoral Act, there were 19,723 surplus electors in North Sydney as compared with Darling, and we might have carved one and a-half electorates as large as that of Darling out of the surplus in North Sydney. Surely that is not a principle of representation consistent with democracy, with the principle of adult representation, or according to numbers? Yet it is one which the Minister for Trade and Customs is, by this Bill, asking the House to perpetuate. Let honorable members look at the electorate of Parkes, for instance. The Commissioner gives the number of voters there as 31,475, whilst the number given for Riverina is 14,920. There is therefore a surplus of 16,555 in Parkes as compared with Riverina, or more than would permit of the carving out of another district equal in numbers to Riverina. Such a distribution as this means practically in the case of North Sydney, as compared with Darling, the disfranchisement of 20,000 electors. Is that representation in proportion to numbers? Is that a democratic principle ? The honorable member for Bland says that the number of electors in the country districts are increasing, and on that point I refer the honorable member to the report of the Commissioner to show that that officer took into account the possibilities of population returning to some of the districts when the drought began to abate. This is what I desire the honorable member for Bland to bear in mind when he proposes to correct the figures I quote. The honorable member has said that in some of the country districts the numbers have recently been very largely increased. I find that Riverina, under the division proposed by the Commissioner for New South Wales, would have had 18,i562 voters, which would give between 4,000 and 5,000 more than will be given to that district if the principle represented in this Bill is followed. In other words, the Commissioner made an allowance for returning population.
– The honorable and learned member is lamentably at sea.
– At page 6 the New South . Wales Commissioner, in paragraphs 19 and 20 of his report, expressly states that the drought has been taken into account, and the possibility of population returning to the country districts has been noted. He says -
An examination of the number of electors allocated to the proposed divisions, as set out in the table given in paragraph 1, will show that while high numbers have been adopted with thicklypopulated areas, such as the divisions of the city of S3’dney and suburbs and Newcastle, moderate or low numbers have been assigned to the divisions in the central or western districts, and to some of the coastal divisions. The principle of this distribution of numbers rests largely on the assumption that, given a return to more favorable seasons, the country population will naturally expand.
I cannot say how the honorable member for Bland can discard the recommendation of the Commissioner, in the expectation that there will be an immense migration of voters within about twelve months, when the Commissioner says that he has already taken that into account in the division which he has suggested.
– So far as the law will allow.
– To the extent of the onefifth, which would be an exceedingly large margin. Will the honorable member for Bland say that it is consistent with the principle that a larger margin than one-fifth by way of anticipation should be allowed ?
– Then why object to the recommendation of the Commissioner being given effect to ?
– The incomplete roll vitiates the whole of the argument.
– The honorable member is going purely upon the conjecture that the population of the country districts will go back, and is going back in certain numbers.
– That is true.
– Here we have an expert who has been months in compiling a report, if we arc to judge by the delay in bringing down the resolution, aud he says chat, on the material before him, he has taken a fair estimate of the population that will return between the period of this dissolution and the next one which will probably be asked for by the Governor-General. There are some minor matters connected with the Bill to which I might draw attention, but they can be fairly dealt with in Committee. I do not know what ma)’ be the effect of the reference to “a proposed distribution” in clause 2. If there are any divisions - and I say there are no electoral divisions - the clause proposes to adopt them until both Houses of the Parliament have passed a resolution approving “of a proposed distribution of the State into divisions.” What proposed distribution? Is it the one which we have already had suggested to us ? * Is that to be brought up again ? I do not know how long this Bill is to be in force. That does not appear in the Bill itself. It may be perpetuated for three, six, or eight years.
– For ever.
– It does not refer to the redistribution provided for under section 23 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That section deals with a redistribution which assumes that there has been one distribution.
A redistribution of any, State into divisions shall be made in the’ manner hereinbefore provided wherever directed by the Governor-General by proclamation. » » ‘
The Bill does not, at all events expressly, refer to a redistribution. We are not, therefore, being asked to pass a measure to have force until a general redistribution takes place under the provisions of Part III. of the Electoral Act. Perhaps, in his reply, or in Committee, the Minister will say for what period the measure is to have force. In my opinion, the Ministry are very much to blame, not only for having violated the principle of the Electoral Act, but for having put those who support them in a difficulty by not introducing the motions relating to the proposed distributions at a time when the provisions of the Electoral Act could be complied with, and new distributions asked for in those cases where the original distributions did not meet with approval. The Franchise Act became law on the 10th June, 1902, and the Electoral Act on the 1 0th October of the same year, so that the Minister might surely have introduced his motions earlier.
– The honorable and learned member forgets the existence of the drought.
– I suppose that some such excuse will be advanced by the Ministry. In my opinion, however, they were bound to deal with conditions as they existed. They had no right to wait for twelve months for the population to return to the country,’ seeing that on the average a redistribution may be expected every three or six years. They must have had some other motive than that advanced for not introducing the motions earlier. I am sorry that the Bill has been introduced, and if a division is taken upon the motion for the second reading, I shall vote against it.
– I admit that the situation is an extraordinary one, since it brings an honorable member like myself, who has always strenuously supported the principle of one vote one value, ‘ and has always endeavoured to’ legislate for the adoption of that principle as nearly as possible–
– Why does not the honorable member say what he wishes to say straight out ? Why does he try to explain his position ?
– I do not desire impertinent interruptions from the honorable and learned member.
– We do not wish for untrue explanations.
– The honorable and learned member for Werriwa must withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it, for a parliamentary reason.
– It is just as well that the honorable and learned member has withdrawn it. I was about to say, when I was so impertinently and foolishly interrupted, that I have always asserted that it is our duty to see that, as far as possible, the votes of the electors are given an equal value. It is somewhat remarkable, therefore, that upon this occasion I should be found voting upon the same side as the honorable member for Gippsland, who is of opinion that the country population should be given a special representation. I have always dissented from that opinion.
– My wish is to carry out the principle of one vote one value.
– I am aware that the honorable member has tried to reconcile his concrete proposals with that principle, but I do not think that he has succeeded in doing so.’ Although my experience as a country representative leads me to think that there are many more difficulties in the way of country electors recording thenvotes than have to be faced by city electors, the greater enthusiasm of the former, and their stronger desire to have a voice in the affairs of the country, frequently result in the recording of a higher percentage of votes at country polling places than is recorded in the cities.
Mr.A. McLean. - How does the honorable member get over the fact that eighteen of the New South Wales representatives are city men ?
– The country electors do not pay regard to the fact that candidates come from the cities ; they look merely to the platform which they are supporting.
– Nearly all the members of the Government are city men, and yet the honorable member for Gippsland supports them.
– Quite so. Besides, the fact that a member lives in the city does not indicate that he is not well fitted to represent a country district.
– He always votes with the city against the country when there is a conflict.
– I know of many instances where the reverse has happened. However, that question has been disposed of. But while it is incongruous that my honorable friend and myself should vote on the same side, it is just as strange to find the acting leader of the Opposition displaying a new-born and extraordinary regard for the interests of democracy. My explanation of the vote which I intend to give is simply this : The roll upon, which the Commissioner for New South Wales made his proposed distribution was compiled when the drought was at its worst, and that fact vitiates the argument of the members of the Opposition in favour of its adoption. I have the highest respect for the New South Wales Commissioner, but had we adopted a scheme of distribution based upon a roll which did not disclose the true location of population, we should have perpetrated as big an injustice upon the country electorates as the retention of the existing divisions can place upon the dwellers in the city. The honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, in reply to questions which were asked him, insisted upon relying upon a roll collected twelve months ago. In my view, the Department of Home Affairs, and technically, therefore, the ‘Minister who was in charge of it, is responsible for a great deal of the trouble which we have had. The Commissioners should have been appointed earlier, and the rolls furnished to them should have been brought up to date. But what are the facts 1 The New South Wales Commissioner was asked to make a distribution upon a roll collected in July, 1902.
– Who is to blame for not appointing him earlier 1
– The Government, and the Government are also to blame for supplying him with a roll collected in 1902 under the State franchise. The Commissioner himself admits that the roll was defective, because in paragraph 34 of his report, he says - replying to the objection that the electoral rolls were incorrect owing to the collection being made under abnormal conditions -
The matter is seemingly not within the scope of consideration of the Commissioner.
He was given certain information as to the number of electors, and he had to make his distribution accordingly, although he knew that the actual state of affairs was different from that shown by the roll Supplied to him.
– The honorable member should read paragraphs 19 and 20 of the Commissioner’s report.
– Paragraph 19 is as follows : -
An examination of the number of electors allocated to the proposed divisions, as set out in the table given in paragraph 1, will show that, while high numbers have been adopted within thickly populated areas, such as the divisions of the city of Sydney and suburbs and Newcastle, moderate or low numbers have been assigned to the divisions in the central or western divisions, and to some of the coastal divisions.
He also adds that, so far as he was allowed to do so by the Act, he had regard to the effects of the drought. I contend, however, that the incomplete roll with which he was furnished prevented him from giving to the circumstances the consideration which they required. Had a complete roll been supplied to him a very different set of divisions would havebeen arranged.
– Was the roll sufficiently defective to justify the setting aside of the proposed distribution ?
– In my opinion the defectiveness of the roll justified us in retaining the existing divisions. The leader of the Opposition, in speaking in Sydney the other evening, seemed to be unaccountably mixed, because he quoted the recent increase in the number of male electors as some justification for the attitude which he has taken.
– He referred to the matter to justify his contention that the proposed distribution should have been returned to the Commissioner.
– -In that case he was not correctly reported. The report of his speech makes it appear that he referred to the increase as a reason why the proposed distribution should have been adopted.
– He referred to it to show that the population has now returned to the country.
– My contention is that it is now returning, which is a. very different thing.
– The Minister has stated that there is ample time to make a fresh distribution.
– I am inclined to take that view, too, provided that there is no necessity for an exhibition of the proposed divisions, for a period of thirty days. The Electoral Act requires that the first proposed distribution shall be made public for a period of thirty days, and that the Commissioner must furnish the report to theMinister within a certain time after the end of that period. If the same procedure must be adopted in regard to a second distribution, 1 am afraid that there is not now timefor one to be made.
– Would it not be better torepeal the provision in the Electoral Act requiring the thirty days publication than to pass the Bill 1
– It might be.
– We might dispense with, a new publication.
– That might be done.. The crux of the whole position is this : That in July, 1902, when the roll furnished to the New South Wales Commissioner was compiled, the drought was at its worst, and there had been a steady diminution of . population in the greater part of the western district. . The commissioner emphasizes thefact in paragraph 26 of his report, when hesays -
Examination disclosed isolated centres or knots of voting power, more or less remote from each other, and scattered over immense tracts of country, at the best of times never more than sparsely populated, but, at the present, practically depopulated.
Similar evidence is given by every person acquainted with the condition of thewestern country. The figures obtained from official sources by the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, and reproduced in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Saturday last, showed’ that there were 96,500 voters in nine country electorates in 1901 ; that that numberhad been reduced to 89,915 in 1902; and that in August, 1903, the number had again risen to 94,104. Therefore, it wasclear that since the general rains had fallen population had been flowing back to the western districts. The figures related to male electors only ; and, of course, the increase would have been larger if female voters had also been taken into account. The fact that the increase has been much larger is demonstrated by the figures quoted by the Minister with respect to the Barrier, Darling, and Riverina electorates. It is shown that within the last thirteen months therehas been an increase of 5,734 voters in these electorates, as compared with the number on the roll at the time Mr. Houston made his distribution. Still, the returns are incomplete, because more names have yet tocome in. So far, over 9,000 names have- been added, and over 3,000 have been struck off, leaving a net increase as stated. The Minister’s figures are a great deal more significant than those quoted by the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, and they seem to me to emphasize the fact that the population is going back every month with greater rapidity. Therefore, I contend that by the “time the election comes round we shall see a state of affairs in the western electorates very different from that which seemed to be disclosed by the rolls of 1902.
– There will be a very large addition when the Revision Courts ure held.
– Yes, no doubt. If the elections are held in .December I presume that the Revision Courts will sit early in November.
– They will sit about “the middle of next month.
– The -figures at present -available have been compiled from the returns of the official collectors, and as a cer- tain proportion of those entitled to vote are invariably missed by the police, the probability is that the numbers of voters are still greater than the returns represent. I believe that in view of the collections, and of the better seasons which seem to be in prospect, there will be no greater disproportion between the numbers of voters in the existing divisions than in the divisions as proposed by Mr. Houston. I blame the Government for not having taken earlier steps to give effect to the law. A number of honorable members have repeatedly asked whether steps were being taken to have the distributions made at the earliest possible opportunity, and I regret that the Minister did not see fit to take steps in New South Wales, as in other States, to have a special roll collected for Federal purposes.
– I took the same course there as elsewhere.
– Yes, at a later stage, but not in the first instance. Mr. Houston had to work on rolls collected long before the time at which he began his distribution. Furthermore, they were collected on the basis of the State franchise, with the result that a number of electors who would be qualified to vote under the Federal franchise were omitted. That, was a mistake, and if other steps had been taken I am sure that much of the trouble now being experienced would have been avoided.
– At this stage I shall content myself with making a further protest against what I regard as one of the most unfortunate steps taken in connexion with this Parliament. We cannot be too delicate with regard to our actions in respect to the distribution of the States into electorates, and after we had deliberately passed the Electoral Act it was the business of the Minister to see that it was brought into full operation. In any event, the divisions, however arrived at, should be based upon greater equality than is now secured. The Minister seemed to quite overlook the necessity for giving effect to the Federal legislation. He mentioned the fact that the discrepancies between the States electorates were greater than in the existing Federal divisions, and he argued from that that there was no necessity for a change. He seemed to think that if the States were content to put up with discrepancies, we should not complain. I wonder whether the Minister would be prepared to urge a similar excuse for not carrying into effect other laws passed by this Parliament. Take, for instance, the Pacific Island Labourers Act. Would the Minister come down, and say - “I have not taken the necessary steps to carry that Act into effect, because, after all, the laws of the State are very objectionable, and the people will be no worse off under my neglect than they would have been under the State laws ? “ When we pass laws, are we to be told that we should not bother about effecting improvements because’ the States have previously taken no action to bring about better conditions 1 The Minister stated that the margin provided for in the Act was not so large as that first proposed. But I would point out that he did not fight for the larger margin.
– Yes, I did.
– I remember the circumstances quite distinctly. The Minister did not trouble to divide the Committee. When I asked him why he did not call for a division, he said it was of no use. I told him that he would have received the support of a number of members of the Opposition. He did not test the feeling of the Committee, and therefore cannot say what attitude a majority of honorable members would have taken. The Minister has also stated that he could not agree to disfranchise the large number of persons who would be deprived of their right to vote if the proposed new divisions were adopted. I contend that an- infinitely larger number of electors will be disfranchised if the present divisions are retained. The honorable member for Gippsland objected to the proposed distributions on the ground that in both New South Wales and Victoria the country electorates have been deprived of one member. I would point out, however, that irrespective of drought conditions in the country, the larger proportion of women settled in the cities and towns would, upon the extension of the franchise to females, necessarily add to the voting strength of those divisions. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to the principle of one vote one value. Under the Act a considerable margin is allowed in favour of the country districts - a margin to which I do not object - but the honorable member treated the matter as if no allowance had been made. I can show the honorable member that in that regard he has proceeded upon a wrong assumption. In four of the States, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, under the new division the average number of electors in the city and suburban constituencies is ,4,297 in excess of the average in the country electorates. That means that, as compared with the country divisions, 103, 12S voters in the metropolitan and suburban electorates are unrepresented. In the face of these figures* how can the Minister say that he does not desire to disfranchise a large body of voters. Upon the metropolitan and suburban basis the country electorates are given representation for 1.76,177 electors more than they possess. Surely that advantage gives much greater value to the country vote. In the metropolitan and suburban electorates of New South Wales under the new divisions the average number of electors is 9,558 in excess of the average in the country districts. Consequently, as compared with the country districts, 35,779 metropolitan and suburban electors are unrepresented. In both these cases I credit the country electorates with the full number of electors resident in certain towns and cities, such as Ballarat, Newcastle, ite, although - even on the line of argument pursued by the honorable member for Gippsland - they are not entitled to consideration on account of a sparsely settled population. But the astonishing feature is that the honorable member for Gippsland has not observed that as between one country electorate and another, under the old divisions, there existsan enormous difference. In New South Wales, for example, the country division of” Richmond, which has not suffered from, drought, contains only 16,000 electors; and that of Werriwa, which has not suffered seriously, only 18,000 electors ; whereas the divisions of New England and Hunter contain 23,000 and 24,000 voters respectively. Thus we find that in certain countrydistricts which have not been seriously affected by drought a difference of 50 per cent, exists in their representation. How does the honorable member for Gippsland, or the Minister, justify his support of this Bill when such alarming discrepancies are disclosed, not as between city and countryconstituencies, but as between country and country electorates ? The honorable member for Gippsland declared that consideration should be extended to the country, and I am not averse to that being done. Hebased his argument upon the fact that in sparsely-populated country districts it is more difficult for electors to exercise their franchise, and that, consequently, a lesser number of votes, should be required toreturn a member than would be needed if” we insisted upon an actual equality in the votes recorded. If the honorable memberis not satisfied with the large margin which has already been granted to thecountry electorates, his argument should’ carry him further. On that principle Victoria - having a more closely populated country than New South Wales or Queensland - would be entitled to smallerrepresentation than would those States. Will the honorable member for Gippsland indorse his argument to that extent?. Doe* he maintain that the more densely populated portions of Victoria should receivelesser representation than the sparsely peopled districts of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia ? I amsure that he does not, although -that is the logical outcome .of his argument. Thehonorable member also affirmed that a number of honorable members are really representatives of the city, because they residein Sydney and Melbourne. He stated that the residence of a member shows where his interests lay, and what district he ismost likely to represent effectively. I donot share that view at all. I think that a member may live in the city, and faithfully represent a country constituency. The’ honorable member for Gippsland himself does that. Similarly, a man may live in the country, and faithfully represent a city constituency. The larger number of honorable members of this Chamber reside in Melbourne, although some represent other States. But will the honorable member for Gippsland argue that that fact makes them representatives of Melbourne ?
– Their actions do not show it.
– But according to the honorable member they ought to show it. The honorable member for Gippsland declares that Sydney really hag eighteen representatives and Melbourne fifteen.
– The eighteen honorable members to whom he referred are permanent residents of Sydney.
– I am not aware that they are permanent residents of Sydney any more than arc some members who reside in Melbourne.
– I take if that they are all chosen by the electors.
– Exactly. According to the honorable member for Gippsland, Melbourne is the best represented portion of the Federal territory.
– So it is, I believe.
– I would ask the honorable member whether those representatives have not been deliberately selected by their constituencies as the individuals who, of all the candidates who solicited their suffrages, would best represent their interests? Would the alterations of the divisions have the slightest effect upon that? Those honorable members were elected upon the existing divisions—
– Which the honorable member declares are unjust to the city.
– I have never said that.
– The party with which the honorable member is associated has said so.
– What I say is this : There is not only a difference as between the city and country electorates, but as between country and country constituencies. The numbers of voters in the country electorates themselves vary by as much as 50 per cent. That is evidenced in the case of the Richmond division, which contains only 16,000 electors, as against the adjoining electorate of New England, which contains between 23,000 and 24,000 voters. Neither of these districts has suffered materially from the drought, and yet the same differences and inequalities exist. There is the same over-representation in the one case, and the same under-representation in the other, that exists between city and country electorates. The fifteen honorable members who reside in Melbourne, and the eighteen who are resident in Sydney, were elected under the very divisions to which we are now asked to revert.
– I mentioned that as a proof that the city did not suffer under the existing divisions.
– If the electors of the country think that they will be better represented by a city resident, or vice versa”, they prove it by casting a majority of votes in his favour.
– In the country districts it is due to local jealousy as between one township and another.
– The possibility of that will always exist under any division that may be effected. The honorable member for Bland based his objection to the scheme recommended by the New South Wales Commissioner upon the ground that sufficient allowance had not been made for the effects of the drought. I cannot understand how any one can sustain that objection in view of the statement of the Commissioner himself. He says distinctly -
The principle of distribution of numbers rests largely on the assumption that given a return to more favorable seasons the country population, will naturally expand, the rapidity of the expansion being regulated by the character of the settlers, climatic conditions, quality of the soil, &c.
He also says, that because of climatic conditions he has given a much larger representation to the drought-stricken districts than that to which they would otherwise be entitled, and he justifies his action by stating that if the. seasons improve the extra representation which he has allowed them will be justified. Yet some honorable members persist in declaring that no such allowancehas been made. I repeat that an allowancehas been made. I have proved my statement by the figures I have quoted, which show that in four States, the country as compared with the metropolis has secured representation for 177,000 electors more than it contains. I am not opposed to consideration being extended to the country districts, and I do not say that this consideration has been improperly extended.
At the same time I object to dealing with the matter as if no allowance in that direction had been made, when, as a matter of fact, an enormous allowance has been made. The districts alluded to by the honorable member for Bland have never in their whole history contained a population which would justify a larger representation than the Commissioner has accorded them. The honorable member declared that the roll was taken when the drought was at its height - a fact which has been allowed for, as I have demonstrated - and that it was an imperfect roll, because it was collected upon the basis of the State roll. I quite admit that it was collected upon the State basis, and I think it was very wrong that it should have been so collected. I cannot understand why we should incur all the expense of doing a thing that will afterwards prove to be useless. However, for some extraordinary reason, it was collected upon the State basis. But that fact affected the city and suburban electorates as well as the country. For example, North Sydney - which is not altogether a city and suburban electorate, because it embraces a large country area - according to the latest figures from the Electoral Office, contained about 2,0(J0 more electors than are comprised in the lists on which the old division was made. It is very natural that all districts should be affected by the collection upon the State basis because the Federal franchise is more liberal than is that of the State. An elector has to be resident in a State for only six months - instead of twelve months, as required by the States laws - in order to be entitled to have his name placed on a Federal roll ; and be has to be resident for only one month in an electorate, instead of three months, to secure the right to vote for that division. We have also to remember that people in receipt of charitable relief are admitted to our franchise, although they are excluded from the States franchise. There is a very large number of these people, but their names did not appear on the States rolls on which the divisions were made. In this respect alone the number of electors will be largely increased, for there are some thousands of people in our charitable institutions, and, for the most part, their names will be placed on the rolls for city and suburban electorates. The divisions were made without any consideration of that fact. Then $he honorable member for Bland has shown by the figures which he quoted that there is really very little in the demand for the rejection of the new schemes on the ground submitted by the Minister. The honorable member said that in nine electorates, representing a very large portion of New South Wales, and comprising that part of the State which was effected to any extent by the recent drought, there were, in 1901, 96,500 electors, and in 1902 only 90,000. A similar reduction also took place in the city and suburban divisions, and I think it was due largely to the failure to add the new arrivals in the electorates. But, in 1902, there were 94,000 electors, or within 2,500 of the number which was to be found there before the drought had had any serious effect in removing population in the country. According to the honorable member’s figures, that is the whole difference between the number of electors who resided in these constituencies at a time when the drought was most severely felt, and those who are to be found there at the present day. What, then, becomes of the objection? It falls absolutely to the ground, and, as I have already said, we must search for other reasons for the rejection of the new divisions. The honorable member for Bland also quoted certain figures submitted by the Minis! er, and stated that a roll which had recently been collected showed that, as compared with the rolls on which the Commissioner made his distribution, there was an increase of 5,734 electors in three divisions. But even that increase does not bring the number of electors in these electorates anywhere near the quota. The Minister states that when the Revision Court is held more names will be added to the roll. The Court will sit in October or November next ; but even if we adopted the distribution placed before us by the Commissioners the Court would still be held, and all who desired to do so could then have their names placed on the rolls. The whole argument falls to the ground. There is no substance in the reasons given, and not one of them will bear examination. The only reason that would bear a moment’s consideration would be a statement on the part of honorable members that - “We have changed our minds since the passing of the Electoral Act. We think that it is wrong. We are not going to recognise it; and at some future date we shall endeavour to” secure the passing of an amending Bill.” But are honorable members prepared to say anything of the kind ? I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bland say that he considered that if proper arrangements .were made, and a shortening of the process which has to be observed in relation to the making of the distributions of the States, were attempted, a redistribution might yet be made. I trust he will give his support to such a proposal.
– How would it be possible now to make a redistribution ?
– If the process prescribed by the Act were shortened a redistribution could be made in time for the next elections.
– We should have to amend the Electoral Act.
– We are now amending it. If the honorable member does not desire a redistribution he will of course refuse to accept my view of this matter. If he does not desire to see the principles of the Electoral Act carried into effect - if he does not wish to overcome any difficulty which has arisen, or to secure representation in accordance with the new list, with which the Minister declares himself to be thoroughly satisfied - he will oppose any redistribution of the States. I noticed a statement published in the press to-day to the effect that the Minister considers it remarkable that the Electoral Office should have succeeded in compiling rolls which so closely approximate the census returns. If that be so why should we not take the necessary steps to enable us to avail ourselves of the perfected rolls, and to go to the country somewhat on the lines which we declared in passing the Electoral Bill to be the proper ones t I have no doubt that there are honorable members in this House who could readily draft proposals which would overcome any technical difficulty. We should recognise that we at last have rolls as nearly perfect as they are ever likely to be, and that, by reducing the time within which objections to a proposed scheme must be lodged, we could have the States divided entirely in conformity with the Act we have passed. I am not urging that in the redistribution there should be an equal quota for town and country divisions, but that there should be a reasonable allowance in favour of the country districts to cover all the contingencies .which the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out. If that course were adopted there would be no> stain upon our actions such as must mark them if we deliberately declare in favour of electing a new Federal. Parliament on a. basis of representation which is so unequal as to be absolutely unjustifiable, and sogreat a departure from the provisions of theElectoral Act that if we do adopt it thoseoutside Parliament must consider that ouractions are actuated by -something morethan what appears on the surface.
– Noone could have been surprised to hear theleader of the Labour Party offering a kind, of apology for the extraordinary position in. which he and his followers stand with: regard to this matter.
– Not all of them.
– A very largenumber of them. Most honorable memberswho have had any experience of public lifebecame somewhat weary of the constant reiteration over a period of many years of” the great results that were to follow theadoption of the principle of one man onevote, but if any of us had been told someyears ago that in so short a time after therealization of the hopes of those whoespoused that principle we should have theextraordinary spectacle of the LabourParty - the democratic party, the socialist party, or whatever they may be called - actually lending themselves to an outrageupon the very principles which they had espoused for the greater part of their lives, we should indeed have been credulous. My surprise is that the acquiescence of the Labour Party has been given in such a docile manner to this attempt on the part of the Minister to stultify thowhole of the work of the Commissionerswho were appointed on non-political principles to redistribute the States of the Commonwealth into Federal electorates. Wehave heard to-day an admission - a very fair, candid, and honorable admission - that the leader of the Labour Party feels that he and his followers occupy an extraordinary position. He said, I think, that he felt there was an incongruity in their position in standing here to-day, and practicallyassenting to this measure. But it was very satisfactory to hear the same honorablemember admit that there would be some reason in an alternative proposal to send back these divisions to the Commissioners, and, with that view, to reduce thetime within which, under the Electoral Act,. objections must be lodged to the proposed divisions. I hope that before this Bill has been passed an attempt will be made by some one, in the face of the Minister’s wish, to have the rejected schemes referred back to the Commissioners, in order that the sincerity of a large number of honorable members in their very lengthy advocacy of the principle of one man one vote may be preserved. One has to ask himself really what is the question before the House. I confess that if I, as a visitor, had been told that a Government of the- Commonwealth had been able practically to neglect this matter for two years, and then at the end of 1902 - two years after the inauguration of the Commonwealth - for the first time to take steps to have the States divided into electorates, I should have been utterly surprised to think that a Parliament would consent to such delay. But that is the fact ; because, whatever difficulty is now arising, and -whatever anomaly or contradiction may now arise out of the extraordinary position in which this House, being within a few months of the next election, is placed, by reason of the utter negligence of the Government in reference to this question, cannot be accounted for in any other way than by the utter indifference of the Ministry to the necessity of placing the divisions upon a perfectly equitable basis for the second election of the Commonwealth. The Minister, as a member of the Government, succeeded in carrying the Electoral Bill which is now upon our statutebook, and which provides very properly, as was pointed out during the debate which took place some days ago, that it is an essential feature of any equitable division of the States that the work shall be carried out by an absolutely impartial and non-political tribunal. As honorable members are aware the Commissioners were selected with great care, their selection being due to the fact that they were absolutely unconnected with the political life of the States or of the Commonwealth as a whole. So far as the personnel of the Commissioners is concerned, no one could offer any objection to the results of their labours. They were appointed, however, at a time when the great objection which is now being offered to their schemes either existed or might have been anticipated. The drought was then at its height, and all the difficulties as to the movements in population, which are now brought forward as an excuse for the rejection of these schemes could ‘then have been foreseen. No misgivings were then expressed by the Ministry as to the probable value of the results of the Commissioners’ investigations ; but as soon as the schemes of distribution were returned to the Government it was discovered that they did not suit ten honorable members - certainly from New South Wales - who happen to vote with the Ministry. I know that the Minister is prepared to repudiate any such suggestion, but I submit to the House that in the absence of any other reason which will stand a moment’s investigation, the only logical conclusion to which the public can come in regard to the opposition to the Commissioner’s scheme for the distribution of New South Wales is that ten out of twenty-six representatives of that State find that it will be highly inconvenient to go to the country at the next elections upon the divisions recommended by him.
– That is. not so. The statement is absolutely untrue.
– The honorable member for New England must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word “ untrue,” but the honorable and learned member’s statement is absolutely incorrect. He should take my word that it is so, as I am one of the ten members he referred to.’
– I am prepared to take the honorable member’s assurance with regard to himself. I am not speaking of him, however, but of the Ministry. The Government discovered that, for ten members of the party which supports them, it would be found inconvenient to go back to their constituents under the new divisions. It is therefore to the Government, and not to the honorable member, that I attach the blame and the ignominy, I will say, of taking this extraordinary position with regard to the electors of New South Wales. The Minister has succeeded in inducing the House, not to send this report back to the Commissioner to enable him to redivide the State of New South Wales, but instead, in inducing this House absolutely to ignore the report. He has allowed this House to be influenced by statements in regard to the State of Queensland, which have not only been absolutely denied by the officer who made the report from that State, but whose superiors there have shown so much indignation that it is reported that a Royal Commission is to be appointed to investigate the charges made against him. The Minister in charge of this Bill allowed those charges to be made against that officer, without either repeating them himself or denying them, or even expressing any doubt with regard to their correctness.
– Is’ that officer in the State service ?
– I think he was a State officer appointed for the purpose.
– He is not in the State service now ; he has retired on a pension.
– That does not touch the point which I am bringing before the House - that the Minister, in his high position, and with the responsibility resting upon him, allowed charges to be made in this House against the officer of absolutely misusing the power intrusted to him as a State Commissioner : charges so serious that we hear that the State in which the officer acted is about to appoint a Royal Commission at his own request to investigate them. The Minister in charge of this Bill heard those charges made. He did not make them himself ; he did not directly indorse them ; but he allowed them to be made without contradiction and without offering one single word of excuse or contradiction. The Minister allowed the House to be influenced in regard to some of these divisions by statements of that sort, which have never yet been substantiated or indorsed by any authoritative person.
– What is the honorable and learned member referring to ?
– To the charges made by the honorable member for Herbert with regard to the method and the manner in which the divisions were made in Queensland.
– The honorable and learned member will see that he is now referring to a previous debate.
– I was only referring to the fact, and will not allude to it any further. The honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill heard all those charges made, and he must know that, in inducing this House practically to discredit these reports, influences were used which he was unable to indorse, but had not the magnanimity to rebut or to deprecate.
But, turning to the State which I represent, we find this position - that this House refused to be guided by the fact that thirteen members from that State expressed in this House their approval of the proposed divisions. There were thirteen members who approved of them, against twelve on the other side ;. and the vote of one other member who was away would have made fourteen to twelve. So that we find that the representatives of other States were actually helping a minority of New South Wales representatives to repudiate the divisions for their own State, which we say the representatives of otherStates know nothing about. No doubt could have been left in the minds of any honorable member who heard the debate that the whole thing was what I may call “a back-scratching” proceeding, by which the representatives of certain States were not to have the divisions laid out for those States, and, in return, the representatives of other States were not to have the divisions laid out for their own.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has just said that the votes of members from other States relative to the divisions of the New South Wales electorates were back-scratching proceedings, and were given for the purpose of inducing the New South Wales members to help them in regard to their own divisions.
– I regret that I did nob hear the remark of the honorable and learned member for Parkes. Had I done so, I should have called attention to it. I will ask him to withdraw the remark.
– I did not say that other honorable members were influenced by that motive, but that any one listening to the debate would have that impression left on his mind - whether rightly or wrongly, - because we find other members from other States, who could not have been aware of the position and the details in New South Wales, assisting the minority from that State. I ask honorable members to notice that members from other States helped the minority of the representatives of New South Wales against a majority of the representatives of that State to set aside the divisions of New South Wales, of which those other members knew very little, and which it was not their business to know.
– How did the New South Wales members vote in regard to the Victorian divisions %
– I am going to deal with the case of New South Wales first. We all recognise, I think, that the divisions in New South Wales, and of the other States on which the first elections of the Commonwealth took place, were of a tentative and temporary character. I think that the whole House will be with me in that statement.
– Certainly not.
– It was never intended for a moment that those divisions should exist for all time, otherwise this House would not have passed an Electoral Act which provided for the redistribution of the electorates in all the States. The anomalies which existed at that time, and which exist now, indeed, are of so gross a character that no one who has any regard for equality of representation could possibly stand up for them. Take the electorate of Parkes, which I have the honour to represent. It contains 32,000 electors. The electorate of Darling contains 12,000 electors, so that according to the existing divisions which the Minister is now trying to perpetuate, 32,000 people in Parkes are receiving no more representation than 12,000 in the electorate of Darling. In Parkes, by the innovation of the women’s franchise, 17,000 women have been placed upon the rolls ; whilst in the Darling electorate 4,000 women have been introduced. So that under the existing state of things, which the Minister is deliberately trying to’ perpetuate, 17,000 women of Parkes, a suburban constituency of Sydney, will have no more representation than 4,000 women of the country district of Darling. That is to say, the representation of the women of the latter constituency will be as four and a quarter to one of the women in Parkes. The Government and the Minister have the temerity to stand up and try to induce Parliament to pass a Bill which would have the extraordinary effect of producing a system under which 4,000 women have as much voting power as 17,000 ; and this proposal is to apply to the three years after the next general election.
– There may be a dissolution before the next three years are completed.
– The same condition of things would apply to a general election after a dissolution. So that seventeen women in Parkes will have only the same voting power as four in Darling, and 32,000 male and female electors will have the same power as will 12,000 in Darling. The whole purpose of the Electoral Act, as I have said, was to get some non-political authority to make these fresh divisions. We- have tried to avoid interfering and tinkering by people having political partialities with anything that has to do with elections. The whole object of the Act was to commit this work to a class of men whose impartiality and neutrality with regard to political parties were beyond question. We thus agreed that it should be the work of impartial men to divide these States into electorates in order that we might secure something like equitable representation. In asking the House to agree to this Bill, the Minister gave as the only possible reason for it the. drought. He argued that the drought had so moved the population of the States, more especially in New South Wales, that it would be an anomaly and an injustice to allow the new divisions to operate. The leader of the Opposition the other day quoted in Sydney some figures which he had obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer. I would ask honorable members who are present to notice what a complete stultification they offer to the position which has been taken up by the Minister. The figures of the Chief Electoral Officer show the movements of the population in regard to ten electorates, and I will quote to the House the population of those ten electorates at three different periods of our history - in 1901, when the first election took place ; in 1902-3, and in 1903. I ask the Victorian members particularly some of whom assisted in rejecting the electoral divisions proposed by this officer - to notice how completely the Minister was without material to justify him in the course which he took. These figures, as the honorable and learned member for East Sydney told his audience, were supplied to him by the Chief Electoral Officer in New South Wales. In the case of Darling we find that while in 1901 the male constituents numbered 9,.104, and in 1902-3 had dropped to 7,950, they last month - August - had increased to 8,964, or only 200 less than the number in 1901, when the present House was elected.
– Does the honorable and learned member not see that that is exactly what I have contended all along ?
– If the Minister for Trade and Customs will be a little patient I shall show that there is complete justification for sending these reports back to the Commissioners, seeing that the population has now been restored to what it was in 1901. Are we to pass a Bill which will perpetuate “the wicked anomaly under which Parkes contains 32,000 electors and Darling only 12,000 electors? “Are we, with our democratic Constitution, to perpetuate that anomaly, while the reports can be returned to the Commissioners on the ground that the population has returned to the districts it had left ? I quote these figures particularly for the information of the Victorian members. I desire to show that the statements which were made by the Minister to the effect that the conditions with regard to population in New South Wales have so completely changed that it would be an injustice to allow the electoral divisions to be made, even on the present figures, are a mistake and a misrepresentation, whether intentional or not. In the Barrier constituency, which is represented’ by a gentleman who supported the Government in the rejection of the Commissioner’s report, the male population “in 1901 was 10,290, and in 1902-3 was 9,596, showing a shortage of 700. In “ August of this year, however, the male constituents of the Barrier had increased to 10,141. It will be seen that the change in this constituency since 1901 is represented by only the difference between 10,290 and 10,141. In the Riverina in 1901 the male constituents numbered 9,944, and they had decreased in 1902-3 to 9,349, but last month they had increased to 9,362, or only 600 short of 10,000. In Canobolas in 1901 the male constituents numbered 10,641, and had been reduced in 1902-3 to 10,066, but at the present time the number is 10,305, or a difference of only 300 as compared with 1901. In Robertson in 1.901 the male constituents numbered 11,663, arid had decreased in 1902-3 to 11,013, a shortage of 600.
– Whence are these figures obtained ?
– From the Chief Electoral Officer, so that the authority is unquestionable.
– He is the only authority, because he collected the rolls.
– If the honorable member for Parkes would go two or three years further back, he would find that the decrease of population is much greater than he shows.
– It is an easy matter for an honorable member to question figures which do not happen to suithis side.
– There is no argument in the honorable and learned- member’s figures.
– There is noargument which the Minister can appreciate. I know no man in the House whohas a lower standard of logical appreciation than the honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill ; his logical acumen is on a par with the delicacy of an elephant in a drawingroom.
– I must ask the honorable and learned member for Parkes not toturn his back to . the Chair when speaking, because I cannot quite hear what he says.
– As to logic, theless the honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill says the better; for logic is an elementquite foreign to his ‘ composition ; it was absolutely omitted from his personality. I want Victorian members to give me theirear while I show how absolutely unjustifiableit is to say of New South Wales that thedrought has so shifted the population that it would be absurd to now send this reportback to the Commissioner. I was pointing out that the constituency of Robertson in 1901 contained 11,663 male electors, and in 1902-3 contained about 600 short of thatfigure, but that in August - of this year thenumber had increased to 11,630, or only 33 below the figures of 1901. These figuresare supplied by the same electoral officer who prepared the statements which havebeen laid before us to-day by the Minister.
– If those statements do not come from the Chief Electoral Officer, they must come from a subordinate - that is the only alternative.. In the constituency of Bland, which is represented by the leader of the Labour Party,, the number of male electors in 1901 was- 10,997, and in 1902-3 it was 10,438, but in August the figure was 10,928, or only 70’ less than in 1901. In Macquarie in 1901 the number of male electors was 11,356, and in 1902-3 it had dropped to 10,413. Last month, however, the number had increased to 10,624, or only 700 short of the* 11,356. In Gwydir, in 1901, the male electors numbered 11,633, and in 1902-3 they had dropped to 10,910, but last month they were 11,387, or only 240 below the figures of 1901. In Hume, the constituency represented by the Minister in charge of the Bill, the. number of male electors in 1901 was 1.0,872, and in 1902-3 it was 10,180, but last month the figure had increased to 10,763, or only 100 below the figures of 1901. I have given the figures connected with ten constituencies, six of which are represented by honorable members who assisted the Government to reject the division made by non-political and impartial Commissioners. I have shown that, in August of this year, the male electors were within a trifle of their number in 1901. What becomes of the authoritative statements, made to this House - in order to induce honorable members to follow the advice of the Minister - that the country has been so denuded of its population by the drought that it would be an absurdity to make the division of New South Wales on the basis of the population as shown immediately before the present time? The- figures I have given completely stultify the statements of the Minister, and ought to show honorable members that the statements made by the honorable gentleman are not based on the facts as supplied by the head of the Department over which he presides.
– The drought began long before 1901.
– There had been a drought in the time of Noah, but T am dealing with the century in which we live. What I contend is that, if the population has returned to those parts of the country to which I have referred, the proper course for the House is not to reject the reports, but to send them back to the Commissioners, so that we may have them revised in time for the next election. How can any member of the House, who professes to believe in equal representation, possibly justify voting for a Bill which has the effect of pepetuating the state of things which prevails in the electorates of Parkes and Darling? What objection can any honorable member have to sending the report back to the Commissioner in order that he may reexamine the whole question, and again report in time for the elections ? The Electoral Act provides that, after the division has been made, the electors shall have an opportunity of objecting within thirty days. I hope somebody will propose that, instead of perpetuating the unequal, inequitable, unfair, and undemocratic divisions on which this House was elected, we shall take some steps to have the matter again referred to impartial Commissioners, in order that they may divide the electorates, in view of the fact that the population has returned to the parts of the country which according to the Minister, were denuded in drought time. The honorable member for Wentworth has very properly pointed out, that when these Commissioners were appointed the drought was in existence, and, as we all know, there are passages in the report of the Commissioner for New South Wales which show that the state of things which existed prior to his entering on the re-adjustment was of the worst possible character. The Commissioner tells us that no less than fifteen out of the twenty-six electorates absolutely transgressed the legal extremes. The honorable members for Victoria and other States ought to remember that the effect of this Bill is to perpetuate that state of things. If the Bill be passed it will become a description not only of a past state of things, but of a state of things which this House is asked to perpetuate. The honorable member for Wentworth pointed out that the Commissioner’ for Victoria showed in the body of his report that he had taken the drought into consideration and provided for it. If we look at this, question from the simplest logical standpoint, we are in the position that the Minister, having the burden of proof on him, first, to show why the proposed division should be rejected, gave as his one and only reason the drought. That statement, however, as I have said, is completely stultified by the figures I have placed before honorable members. In the second place, the Minister is now endeavoring to induce the House to perpetuate the unequal state of things of which we are all aware. It is a perpetuation which is not necessary, because if the period of thirty days in which electors may object, were reduced to, say, fourteen days or seven days, there is no reason why these reports should not be returned to the Commissioners.
This might give us something like an equitable and, if honorable members please, a democratic division of the electors. That is .the position, and honorable members have to choose whether we shall. perpetuate the state of things which, according to the Minister, existed in 1901, or whether we shall adopt some more equitable principle. I cannot understand why wore interest is not taken in this measure. It may be because it is not understood. But when I tell honorable members that the extraordinary anomaly of having 32,000 voters in one electorate as against 12,000 in another, is only typical of half-a-dozen or a dozen constituencies in New South Wales, they will understand why honorable members representing that State are a little indignant at an attempt to continue such a state of things.
– Is there any other district but Langin which so great a disparity exists?
– Yes; there is North Sydney. I may tell the honorable member, also, that Darling is not the only constituency in which there is a comparatively small number of voters. There are five other constituencies in which the electors come within 1,000 of the number in the electorate of Darling. There is one constituency with 12,000, another with 13,000, and another with 1 4,000.
– The honorable and learned member quotes an extreme instance and says that it is typical of the others.
– I say that it is typical within a few hundreds. I may tell the honorable member that I did not select the extreme case when i selected Parkes, because in Lang there is a still higher number of electors.
– I understood that the honorable and learned member was referring to Lang.
– No, I was referring to Parkes, my own constituency. There are 32,000 in Dalley, 30,000 in Parkes, 31,475 in North Sydney, and -31,800 in Lang. The honorable member will see that there are four constituencies which have 30,000 voters and over that number ; there are two others in which there are 28,000 voters, and one in which there are 29,000 voters.
– And in the new division of Lang there are 35,000.
– And in the new division of Lang there -are 35,000. If the honorable member for Coolgardie is in any doubt about the constituencies having lower numbers, he will find a number, of such constituencies with which to compare those which have a larger number qf voters.
– There are two in Melbourne with 37,000 voters each.
– I think I may say that there are at least eight constituencies in New South Wales in which the representation would be only as two to five as compared with eight other constituencies in the same State. That is a state of things which one may read of in connexion with the Reform Bill of 1832. It is a sort of thing which, when we read of it in history, we wonder why it should have been allowed to continue.
– The honorable and learned member need go back only a few years into the history of New South Wales to find a worse condition of things.
– It might be worse, but ought it to be worse? And ought this House, in a country like Australia, to tolerate that kind of thing? I point out to honorable members that there is a means of avoiding the difficulty. Although the divisions which were submitted by the Commissioners, and subsequently rejected by the House, may have been far from equitable, no honorable member can contend that they provided for a state of things nearly so inequitable as that which we are now being asked to make permanent. Unless our boasted love of equality in parliamentary representation and our boasted democracy are mere shams for electioneering purposes, we should stand together, and insist upon something being done, if it can .be done, which will, at least, remove the anomalies it is now proposed to continue. However much my impartiality may be doubted in this matter, it is a fact which cannot be got over that ten honorable members coming from New South Wales have voted with the Government for the rejection of the proposed division of their own State. It is not for me to attribute motives, and I have no disposition to say that honorable members have been actuated in this matter with a desire to convenience themselves. But I do say that that is a construction which suspicious people might very well put upon their action. It behoves every honorable member, in view of the coming elections, to be able to go before his constituents and say that he did his utmost to prevent the continuation of the wicked state of things which I have brought before the House, and that he did so, not merely in connexion with his own State, but in order to help the representatives of other States to put the divisions of those States upon a more equitable basis. It is to be done and done easily. The Minister has not shown the House that these divisions cannot be sent back to the Commissioners to be modified so as to suit the altered state of things resulting from the return of people to different districts. Seeing that the step which the House is asked to take here is to choose between insisting upon the Commissioners being asked to modify their first reports in -view of the return of people to the constituencies, and the continuation of the wickedly unfair and inequitable state of things I have put before honorable members, some such action as I have suggested ought to be taken. The burden of proof in this matter is upon the Minister. One ought always to look to that. Where an impartial person has been appointed to give a decision upon a certain thing, whether it be a judge or an arbitrator, and some one who may be interested desires to upset that decision, we all recognise that the burden of proof rests on the man who desires to alter the de terminal ion. When a man desires to get a new trial in regard to a matter in which he is interested, it is his duty to show good reasons why the former decision should be reviewed. That is the position in which the Minister stands in introducing this Bill. The honorable gentleman should show why, with three or four months before us, we should deliberately tolerate a state of things which we actually passed a Bill to correct. That is our position. The chief object of the Commonwealth Electoral Act was to enable us to provide for the holding of the next elections upon an equitable basis, and to appoint impartial men to make the divisions. Here, just as though we were going to have an election to-morrow, some honorable members are coolly assenting to this Bill for the deliberate perpetuation of the previous inequalities of representation. I have no doubt the Bill will pass, but I hope that before it is passed an attempt will be made to so amend it, that, while retaining its character as an amending Bill we shall alter it from the present attempt to countenance an unfair and inequitable state of things to a measure having for its object the sending back of their reports to the Commissioners in order that they may modify them in time for the next election. The Bill should be so amended .in order that we may all be able, when we go before our constituents, to say - “ We have, at all events, tried to divide the States in such a way as to enable the men and women of Australia to retain an equal voting power under the franchise to which they have been admitted at this early stage of the Commonwealth.”
-! have debated the general question several times, and I therefore propose now to say but a few words upon the fresh aspect of the matter as presented to us to-day by theMinister for Trade and Customs. In moving the second reading of the Bill the honorable gentleman has presented us with yet another set of figures. He declares that these are the last and the latest, and I suppose’ we may accept them as the revised version. But I should like to know whencethese figures are derived1! There is nothing on the paper before me to show who hascompiled the statement.
– It was compiled in the Electoral Office here from lists sent in. by the State officers in New South Wales.
-Exactly. And. as against these figures compiled here without the help, in any way, of the New South Wales officers, from whom they have been obtained-
– As the honorablemember will see, they are collected from thelists.
– I know they are. The officers in New South Wales who havecollected the lists, and who are officially responsible for them, have made one compilation as against another which the Commonwealth officers have made.
– The only difference is that one is more complete than the other.
– I understand thatthe figures in the statement which has been referred to on this side of the House are thelatest obtainable, and were supplied only last week. Are the figures which have been quoted by the honorable gentleman later than that 1
– I understand thatthey came from Sydney last week.
– Exactly. Each statement is made up from the same returns, and yet the honorable gentleman’s figures, give 14,000 voters for Darling, as against 9,000 given in the other statement.
– No ; as against 12,000. The 9,000 refers to males only. There are really 12,000 voters on that list and the. number is shown to be 14,000 now..
– Granting that, there is a difference of 2,000 shown.
– If the honorable member will look at the statement he will find that it is an incomplete return, and therefore the figures are of little value.
– I should like to have a complete return if the Minister can furnish one.
– Honorable members have the latest return I can furnish.
– The figures quoted in the statement by the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, refer to male voters only; but even if the female voters are included the honorable gentleman says that there has been an increase of over 2,000 in the electorate of Darling,,
– I have no doubt that these figures are perfectly correct.
– I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman thinks they are correct, but he has no means of checking them. Why should we assume that figures compiled by officers here in Melbourne away from the source of information -and from those in touch with these things, and responsible for them, are more correct than those which are supplied on the spot by officers directly responsible for their -accuracy ? Why can we not have a set of figures attested by the Commonwealth electoral officers and by the State officials in New South Wales 1 Why has not the honorable gentleman so checked his figures that we may have something definite to go upon? Why should we have the New South Wales officers giving us one set of figures and the honorable gentleman submitting a contradictory set of figures? The honorable gentleman told us something similar the other night. He told us that the latest figures he had recei ved showed that in the constituency -of Darling they already had the minimum.
– No. I said they were approaching the minimum.
– Yes ; and when we approached the honorable gentleman to know where he secured those figures, he said that hehad received information to thateffect. The honorable gentleman has no doubt been informed, but there is nothing authoritative about his information. When we go to the -authoritative source of information we get totally different results, and in the absence of some reconciliation between the two sets of figures presented to us, I prefer to take those supplied by officers on the spot, who are collecting the rolls from day to day.
– And a nice collection they have made of it too.
– Is the last collection unsatisfactory’?
– Yes, it is.
– If it be unsatisfactory, and this list is compiled from it, ought not the list also to be unsatisfactory ?
– The lists are not complete, and that is the reason why they are- unsatisfactory.
– There is no use in the honorable gentleman charging the collectors of the rolls in New South Wales with having done unsatisfactory work, when at the same time he gives this House statements made up from their returns.
– They have borne out everything I said.
– If the lists are unsatisfactory, what was the use of the honorable gentleman submitting such figures this afternoon? If his sources of information are not what they should be, of what value are the deductions which he has drawn from them ? On the Minister’s own showing, we should not take notice of the papers which he has put before us. After all these months of inquiry and investigation, the Government should have ready a set of figures to which both the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Officer for New South Wales would put their seal. I understand that the former has only recently been in Sydney, where he consulted with the Electoral Officer for New South Wales. Did he bring these figures back with him ? If so, why is it that the State Electoral Officer has since issued an entirely different statement ?
– One list contains the names of males only, while the other contains the names of both males and females.
– But supposing we give the Minister the benefitof his statements concerning the drought stricken districts, and admit that there is only the minimum of electors in the districts of Barrier, Darling, and Riverina, the fact remains that the number of electors in the Barrier is only half the number of electors in the Lang division. Our contention, however, is that the quota should be reasonably adhered to in respect to both city and country divisions. Why should the minimum number of electors be in the country divisions ? It is not so in regard to the States of South Australia and Tasmania. The divisions in which Hobart and Launceston are situated contain nearly 70,000 electors out of about 160,000 electors on the Tasmanian roll, but the widest district in that State - La Perouse - lias the largest number of electors. In South Australia, again, the country districts have been given as large a number of electors as the city divisions, yet the Minister regards it as a remarkable triumph to be able to say of a country district in New South Wales that it contains the minimum number of electors. The returns may prove that people are going back to the country to live, and we hope that that is so, but the fact does not alter the glaring inequalities to which I refer. Figures have been quoted to-night which show that the Lang division will contain 35,000 electors, while there are only 17,000 electors in the Barrier division. I have yet to learn that the miners of Broken Hill wish for more representation than is given to the artisans of Sydney, or that the miners of Wyalong desire more political power than the miners of Newcastle have. Yet the Minister proposes to give the miners of Broken Hill and Wyalong twice the political power of the miners of Newcastle and Illawarra. They would, however, be the first to object to such an arrangement if they had the opportunity. They would declare that all they wish is to stand on an equal footing with their fellows elsewhere. But the Minister says that, because Broken Hill is in a country district and a certain distance from Sydney, the miners there should have two and a-half times as much representation as is given to the people on the coast. The Minister is seeking to perpetuate a condition of things for the retention of Which no one has asked. His action is therefore entirely gratuitous. When we on this side questioned the drought argument, honorable members opposite began to find fault with the distributions of the Commissioners on the ground that community of interest has not been regarded, and when that argument was met we were told that there was something’ wrong with the boundaries of certain divisions’. One honorable member wants to retain certain boundaries so that the water conservation idea may be represented here, while another honorable member says that there has been a conspiracy in regard to the electoral rolls. Bub all the arguments which have been advanced do> not constitute a serious indictment of the proposals of the Commissioners. Will any one of those who have spoken so strongly in disapproval of the proposed distributions undertake to make better ones ? In my opinion the united efforts of every member of the House would not produce any betterresults than have been attained by the Commissioners. I am afraid that we shall, never get a perfect scheme of distribution, and the question we should have asked before disapproving of the Commissioners’ schemes was whether we could improve matters by taking that course. I read thismorning the report of a speech made at Geelong by the i right honorable member for South Australia, in which he referred tothe representation- of the people of the Commonwealth. When he declared that the principle of one vote one value is now in force, I wonder what the honorable and learned members for Corio and Northern Melbourne, who were upon the platform, thought on the subject. The right honorable member for South Australia has alwaysbeen consistent in regard to this matter, but he might have told the people of Geelong that this House had adopted a proposal to give the people in thecountry twice as much representation as is given to the people of the cities. When we were told that the distributions were made without regard to community of interest,. I pointed out that the Constitution does not take that into account.
– But the Electoral Act does..
– If we had known how the Minister intended, to use the Act, we should have worded it differently. Weare asking him to comply with its provisions. He, however, has made up hismind to put it aside altogether. Hewill have nothing to do with it. Thehonorable member for Dalley very properly pointed out that the Constitutionmakes no distinction between the gold-miner and the fisherman, or the ironworker and the farmer. They are, as they should be, treated alike under the Constitution, which, primarily relates to great national affairs. As I have already observed, the same argument that would operate in favour of differentiating between the voters of thecity and country constituencies within the State should, serve to secure to us, as States, the full and complete benefit of the voting value of the> adults of the States. The most trumpery arguments have been used to justify a radical departure from fundamental principles. Some honorable, members have gone out of their way to besmirch the character of the Commissioners ; others have belittled the Commissioners, whilst others have resorted to the most trumpery pretexts for voting against the proposed distributions. Objection was taken to the report of the Commissioner for Western Australia because a few people in Subiaco were cut off from Perth and attached to fremantle. On this ground, and others equally trivial, we were asked to reject the scheme of the Commissioner, who was declared by the Minister for Home Affairs to be the most competent man in that State to undertake the task, in the case of Queensland, the Commissioner’s proposal was rejected although several representatives of that State declared themselves favorably disposed towards it. The fact that a trial draft of the distribution was made forty -eight hours before’ that which was finally sent in by the Commissioner formed the sole basis for the assumption that he had been interfered with, and that he had allowed himself to be subjected to influences which rendered him unfit to discharge a high public duty. Strange to say, the only two schemes which have found acceptance relate to States in which the most rigid lines as to the quote have been adopted, and in which no distinction has been made between electors residing in the country and those in the city. With regard to New South Wales, it has been argued that if the report of the Commissioner had been adopted, community of interest would not have been preserved. One is led to inquire what community of interest exists at present. For instance, what community of interest is therebetween the Wyalong miners and the farmers and pastoralists in the Bland division ? Then, again, what community of interest is there between the miners of the Barrier and the rest of the population in that division, who are mainly engaged in pastoral pursuits ? The honorable member for Illawarra represents about 1,500 miners, and all the rest of the electors in his division are farmers, or are engaged in kindred pursuits. In the case of my own electorate, the Commissioner proposed to make changes in the direction of securing greater community of interest ; but his proposal was rejected, and the present diversity of interest is to be perpetuated. The
honorable member for Macquarie represents a large number of miners at Blayney, Capertee, and other places, and he has a petition to present from the miners resid-r ing in one portion of his electorate, who have no community of interest with the farmers and producers who constitute the main body of the voters. It is almost impossible to secure complete community of interest in every division, and under present conditions the most glaring anomalies occur. The Commissioner endeavoured to bring about community of interest as far as possible. He says that he did his best in that direction, but that there were necessarily some flaws in his scheme. These have been seized upon as a pretext for pitchforking the report out of the House. I should like to know whether the Minister expects the Commissioners whose reports have been rejected to undertake any more work for him. I do not hesitate to say that he would not get any more work out of me if I were one of the Commissioners. I should not undertake anything more for a Minister who criticised my work in the way that he has criticised theirs. Whereas honorable members picked all sorts of holes in the work of the Commissioners, no one attempted to berate the Commissioners themselves. When fault was found with the work of the Commissioner for ‘Victoria, one honorable member after another said that .the distribution made by him was not a- bad one for a first attempt. . I venture to say that not one honorable member knows a. half or a quarter so much about the State which he represents as does the Commissioner who was appointed to distribute that State. Do honorable members suppose that theCommissioners have not read the Act, and that they have not made an honest attempt, to give effect to it 1 Do they suppose that community of interest has been ignored ? All the Commissioners emphasize the difficulties with which they had to contend and the peculiar problems they were called upon to solve. There is no doubt that they have very closely studied the Act, and that they have done their best to carry out the’ instructions given to them. They say that owing to special geographical features, the trouble arising from sparseness of population in certain localities, and the peculiar way in which boundaries were arranged, they had a very difficult task to perform, and that they have done their best under the circumstances. Honorable members have mot said one word regarding the good features of the work accomplished by the Commissioners. Common fairness required that they should be given full credit for the admirable results achieved under the most difficult conditions. Honorable members have gone about with a Federal microscope in order to find flaws in the work of the Commissioners. The Attorney General is very fond of referring to the Federal telescope, and to the State microscope, but in this particular case honorable members have made full use of the microscope in the Federal laboratory, and have magnified every little flaw. Some of the reports, which contained full and effective answers to all the adverse criticisms passed upon them, have been completely ignored. In connexion with the severance of Subiaco from the Perth division, the Commissioner completely justified his action, because he was able to point out that he was endeavouring to secure community of interest rather than to destroy it, as some honorable members have represented. The Commissioner for New South Wales dealt with all the objections, and his report, the most lengthy and complete of all, contains abundant reasons why they were set aside. Moreover, he deals with the very point upon which the Minister has laid such emphasis, because he shows that he has made the fullest possible allowance for the condition of the drought-stricken districts. He knew that the drought had brought about abnormal conditions, and that .the population would soon return. The Victorian Commissioner took a similar view, and yet both the reports have been deliberately set aside. If the next general elections are conducted upon the basis of the old divisions, the results of the voting cannot possibly represent the deliberate views and feelings of the electors. It is only right that the Minister in charge <of this Bill should be present when honorable members are discussing such an important matter. [Quorum formed.] A singular circumstance in connexion with the electoral schemes which were recommended by the Commissioners for the various States is that the two which contained the least detail have been accepted by this House. The schemes which were most complete and most replete with information have been contemptuously rejected. Only one inference can be drawn from the peculiar treatment which has been meted out to the recommendations of the Commissioners. It is that the fuller the information the more fatal it is to the schemes which the House has in view. The division list will show that those in regard to which the vote of the House was most decisively adverse were those, in which the information was most complete. Reports have been submitted which, by comparison, were rightly described by the honorable member for Dalley as “ pockethandkerchief “ reports, inasmuch as they »merely stated what had been done without assigning any reason for the action which had been taken. These schemes were eagerly accepted by the House. Wherever the Commissioner has taken pains to acquaint the House with reasons for his action, wherever he has traversed the objections which have been made, and showed that the very best possible had been done under the circumstances, his recommendations have met with the least favour. The Minister has told us with another flourish that he regards what has been done by the Electoral Office as a triumph. The officers of his Department, I understand, entertain a similar view. Only to-day I read in a newspaper that the Under-Secretary for his Department regarded the fact that the Electoral Office of the Commonwealth had succeeded in adding the names of 8,000 electors to the Victorian rolls as a veritable triumph. Let us examine that item as it stands. Eight thousand electors distributed over twentythree Victorian constituencies would mean an addition of 350 or 360. names to each electoral division. Would that addition make any difference to the scheme recommended by the Commissioner’! Yet it is regarded as a complete triumph of the Electoral Office in Victoria. Apparently there is no fear of disfranchising any more electors in this State, because, on the authority of the Electoral Office itself, the rolls are as complete as they can possibly be made. Therefore all the talk we have heard about the names having been badly collected can no longer be urged as a reason for the rejection of the Victorian scheme. We are told on the authority of the Electoral Office that the collection of names for the rolls is now complete.
– No. The addition of 8,000 names represents only half.
– Is that the triumph of which Mr. Miller speaks 1 I understand, from the interview with him which was published in to-day’s newspapers, that the collection of names for the rolls had been completed.
– Is the process still going on ?
– I understand so.
– When will it be completed ? It is already complete in the huge State of New South Wales, and yet we are told it is only half complete in the small State of Victoria. Is that the triumph of which we have heard so much ? When the Minister assumed control of the Department for Home Affairs, we did expect that he would stir things up a little, and bring to bear in his work of administration that knowledge of affairs for which he is so distinguished. In Victoria, where the Electoral Office has to grip only a small State, and has all the machinery for the purpose close to its hand, it has only been able to accomplish half its work ; whereas in the great State of New South Wales the work is complete, and the returns are to hand. It is remarkable, too, that this information leaks out to suit the passing phases of this most important question. When the Minister wishes to point a moral or adorn a tale, he instances three constituencies, and exclaims - “ Here is the justification for all which I desired to do.” Similarly, when an answer is required to some criticism which has been offered, the Attorney-General interjects that the rolls in Victoria are only half complete. If so, what is the meaning of the boastings of the Under-Secretary fortheDepartment for Home Affairs that nothing more can be done in the way of perfecting the Victorian rolls? An addition of 8,000 names has been made to them, which represents about 350 electors distributed over each Victorian constituency! Is that a reason for the rejection of the boundaries proposed by the Commissioner? I venture to say that such an addition would make no appreciable difference to any further scheme of redistribution, or to the proposal which the House recently considered. The Minister has made much of the fact that in each State the work of defining the boundaries of the new electorates was undertaken by one Commissioner, whereas it should have been performed by three. It is passing strange that he made no objection to the appointment of one Commissioner only. At the eleventh hour he discovers as a reason for the rejection of the schemes recommended that the work should have been undertaken by three Commissioners. By the way, I think that in New South Wales the State electoral scheme of distribution which has been so adversely criticised was prepared by three Commissioners, one of whom is the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth. One, therefore, has to look further afield for reasons for rejecting the proposal than the plea that it was prepared by only one Commissioner. But apart from that fact, there is yet adequate time for the work to be undertaken by three Commissioners. There is still ample opportunity for the House to refer these schemes back to the Commissioners, and to permit of the elections for both Houses being held concurrently in the middle of December. The Minister himself acknowledges that there is time to allow of that course being adopted. If one Commissioner cannot perform the work satisfactorily, let us appoint three ; but let us insist that it shall be accomplished in such a way that when we appeal to the people their voice shall be regarded. The honorable member for Bland has affirmed that there is now no time to permit of further revision. He spoke of the thirty days allowed during which objections to the scheme may be lodged. But, in answer to his criticism, £ would point out that the thirty days in question need no longer constitute a bar to the course of action suggested. In this Bill we can provide that, only three days shall be allowed during which objections may be lodged. There is nothing to prevent us from doing so. Honorable members have criticised this Bill as if any further effort in the direction of equalizing present differences was absolutely impossible. But the truth is that our hands are not tied in any way.I f necessary we do not require to go to the country in the middle of December, although I hope that we shall do so. At the same time I trust that we shall appeal to the country under a better arrangement than that which is contemplated by the Minister. Above the question of expense looms the necessity for insuring that the people’s voice shall be heeded in the composition of the next Parliament. That is a question of rauch more importance than is the saving of a few paltry thousands of pounds. I repeat that there is still time to accomplish all this work, to meet all the objections which can be raised, and to have the elections carried out in the middle of December. Practically no objections were lodged against the schemes recommended by the Commissioners. Honorable members talk about watching the interests of the country electors. Where are the objections of the country people to those schemes ? Are the country residents utter simpletons who do not know what is being done by their Parliamentary representatives? That argument, I am aware, is used by some honorable members. We have been told that the people do not take sufficient interest in these matters. My experience is that they are just as familiar with what is going on in Parliament as are the Members of Parliament themselves, and we shall probably verify the truth of that assertion when we have to go before them. During the whole course of my political life I have never found the people whom I represent wanting in appreciation or in criticism of my political actions. They know exactly what is going on in Parliament, and therefore this assumed parental control which members have affected over the poor benighted electors in the country is entirely gratuitous. It is indeed insulting to them as electors, and is not in any way in accordance with the facts Honorable members urge that the reason why more objections have not been lodged against the several schemes is that people in the country do not take as much interest in these matters as they ought to do. 1 assert that the people in the country are prepared and willing to take the responsibility of their failure to look into these matters, and of any want of care of which they may have been guilty. I have never seen any want of keenness in their attention to political matters, and I contend that this objection cannot hold good. If, then, the residents of country districts are familiar with what is taking place, why have there not been more objections than have been lodged with the Commissioners ? I believe that some seven or eight objections were lodged against the scheme prepared by the Commissioner for Victoria, while in one of the reports which were dealt with by us last week it was stated that two - and only two - objections had been lodged against it. Those objections were lodged by honorable members. I am not quite clear whether an honorable member of this House, apart from the substantial body of electors outside, ought to object to any of these schemes. I am not for an instant setting up the position that an honorable member is not equally entitled with an elector outside the House to criticise the work of the Commissioners, but I contend that he is entitled to criticise them only as an elector, and certainly not as a Member of Parliament. I repeat that we have no right to be fixing up little nests for ourselves. We have no right to set up a little electoral building for ourselves, and to warn off all the Commissioners of the States and all the legislative machinery of the country from the little snug buildings that we have completed for ourselves. This is not, after all, a member’s question ; ‘ it is a people’s question, and therefore an honorable member has no right, other than that possessed by every other elector in the community, to criticise the work of the Commissioners, or the drafting of the schemes. It is an ugly fact for the Minister, and the majority behind him to overcome, that the schemes which have been rejected are those to which there has been very little objection urged by the people, who are primarily responsible. They are quite content with the new divisions, and it is only honorable members who find these many and varied objections to the Commissioners’ proposals. That being so, we have to look for reasons for the opposition other than the suggestion that in these schemes there is no regard to community of interest. We have to go below the surface of the question and to try and find the reason within this House - not outside of it - for the extraordinary action of Parliament at the present moment. This matter furnishes a fine commentary on the administration of the Government. I remember that months ago, in the very first speech which I made upon the floor of this House after the opening of the present session, I warned the Minister that it was time that the reports of the Commissioners were on the table. I. told him that he was delaying these matters for consideration at a time too perilously near the end of the session to enable them to be effectually treated. I told him also that it seemed to me that his object was to postpone this question to the latest moment at which it would be possible for the House to deal with it. We find that the same strangely fatuous, belated policy marks the Government’s treatment of the Federal capital question. The action taken by the Government in regard to the distribution of the Commonwealth is typical of its action in relation to nearly all other important questions. The same spirit runs through the whole of their administrative acts, and the most important questions are being left over for consideration at the very latest point of time at which the Parliament can deal with them. In the expiring moments of a Parliament which, one might almost suggest, judging by the state of the House, has already become moribund, one would think that the Ministry would make a final effort to get some of these important questions out of the way ; but a fatal hesitation seems to have settled on the Government, and they appear to come to the House with various proposals only when they can no longer delay them. The way in which this question has been dealt with by the Government is in accordance with the treatment of another big question which I am not at present permitted to discuss and it is indeed typical of all their administrative acts at the present time. No one can say that they have not been warned. If one makes a suggestion the fact that it has some point is the surest reason for its being immediately frowned upon and ridiculed by the Minister who happens tobe in charge of the matter under consideration. I am not disappointed at the developments which have taken place in connexion with this question, because I have foreseen them. Honorable members may talk as much as they like about the settlement of other important matters, but the time has almost gone by when there can be any effectual and adequate treatment of them by this Chamber. For the first time in the history of Australia we have given the women of the Commonwealth a vote in relation to Federal affairs, but we are, at the same time, enacting that they shall be so classified, as far as the next elections are concerned, that two women, within one geographical area, shall exercise no more influence upon the Federal Parliament than does one woman residing within another geographical area. Two or three women in the city of Melbourne are to have no more power in the election of the next Federal Parliament than one woman will have, for instance, in the electorate of Gippsland. The position will be the same in New South Wales. The honorable gentleman responsible for this act of electoral repudiation - or, as I said the other night, this act of betrayal of the great democracy of Australia - is the one honorable member who has taken to himself more credit than has any other man in the Commonwealth Parliament for what he has done for the women of Australia.
– And he will keep it, too.
– As a set-off against’ that, I propose to put this act of betrayal of the women of Australia to his debit account. He hastened to extend the franchise to women when he found that it could be no longer delayed. He got upon the risingtide and it carried him along to power and position. But now, on the very first occasion that the women are to to be lined up, so to speak, at the Federal ballot-box - at a time when they are being told, practically, by the Constitution, as well as by the Electoral Act, that for the future they shall have an equal and fairly-apportioned vote so far as Federal matters are concerned - they are also being told by this simple act of his that a restrictive classification .is to be made, and that one woman in one part of Australia shall not have a voting power equal to that possessed by a woman residing in another part of it. Therefore all this talk about one vote one value - the theme of so. much eloquent declamation last night at Geelong and other parts of the Commonwealth - is neither more nor less than misleading. There is no such thing, and could be no such thing, as one vote one value under the existing grouping of the electoral districts. What are the matters with which the next Parliament, will have to deal t The bookkeeping period will soon expire, and some of the most momentous financial considerations that this or any other Parliament has ever had to face will very shortly come before this Legislature. They cannot any longer be postponed. Are the women of Australia not to have an equal voice in the determination of these great financial questions 1 They will be subject to a States veto in the other Chamber which will to some extent modify, shall I say, or attenuate, the vote which is given here. The very fact that that States veto exists, and that enormous States interests will shortly come up for treatment in this House, ought to be a reason why the vote in this Chamber should be as fairly and as equally representative of the voice of Australia as is possible. I venture, therefore, to think that the existence of the . States veto, which is maintained in another place where the financial interests of theStates are supposed to be specially safeguarded as against the general interests of this Chamber, is a reason why we should have the voice of Australia, as expressed in this’ House, as unfettered as possible. The question of States debts has also to be dealt with. We speak about taking over the debts of Australia ; but under this scheme of distribution the next House will not be competent to deal with that question, because it will not represent the true opinion of the people of Australia on the subject. Let me refer, for example, to the position in New South Wales. It is well known that that State is against all the Tariff restrictions which have been imposed, and yet under the grouping of the electoral districts we have in this House ten representatives of New South Wales who misrepresent the opinion of the majority of the people of that State. They no more represent the opinion of New South Wales than dees the man in the moon.
– I presume that they represent their own constituencies t
– That is precisely what I am pointing out.
– That is all that they can be asked to do.
– I am pointing out that owing to the present electoral grouping we find that ten representatives of New South Wales in this House misrepresent the opinion held by the State on the fiscal question. No honorable member from New South Wales will attempt to controvert that statement. Surely that in itself is a sufficient handicap without an attempt being made to place other restrictive forces within the four corners of our Electoral law. It is another reason why the electoral divisions should be as fairly and equally apportioned as possible. There are quite enough inherent anomalies in the system of grouping the electorates without placing this further imposition on the backs of the people. Then there is the question of the Tariff. I apprehend that the women of the Commonwealth will be keenly interested in the next fight over the Tariff. They will and ought to have some opportunity of saying whether they approve of what this Parliament has done in taxing their homes and their lives in every way - a work of which I think we have no reason to be proud. It is agreed upon all hands that that work must be submitted to the electors foi- their judgment and approval, and the women of the Commonwealth should have an equal voice in pronouncing judgment upon a work which closely affects their lives at every point. I venture to say that if this proposal is carried into effect, and the old unequal divisions are adhered to - divisions which can be justified by no appeal to intelligence or to reason ; by no appeal whatever except to the most sordid, base, and ignoble considerations - the voice of Australia at the ensuing elections will not be recorded. I presume, however, that it is of no use toargue .the question if the House has made up its mind. Rut a great wrong is beingdone to the Commonwealth. Howevermuch I may be disposed sometimes to have a joke with honorable members at their expense and to take one in return, this question strikes me as being the most serious that the House has ever had toface during its existence. No more important question than that of the apportionment of the votes and the creation of electoral districts, so that the voice of the people may be pronounced equally, could occupy the attention of a deliberative assembly. It is of no use for the Minister to tell us airily that rigidly equal voting; does not prevail anywhere in the Empire. We know that.
– Nor in any of the States either.
– We should get as near to it as possible.
– It is two to one in some cases.
– Is it two to one in Tasmania for instance t Is it the idea of the honorable gentleman that, after granting one man one vote and one woman one vote, we shall subject electors to the same disabilities in Federal matters as they were wont to labour under in the States 1
– I stand by the electors, but the honorable member is trying ta injure them.
– Instead of standing by the electors, we think that the honorable gentleman is standing on their liberties and trampling them in the dust. Instead of facilitating the expression of the voice of Australia under the new conditions, instead of determining that the votes of the people shall be of equal importance, no more and no less, wherever they may be geographically located, we have given them votes nominally, and the Minister is taking care that they shall be muzzled at the ballot-box. I make a final protest against the inequity which is being perpetrated by this Bill. It is a betrayal of the people of Australia in the most important matter which they have had brought under their attention. This question will also have to be fought out in another place. We shall all have to submit ourselves to the
Arbitrament of the people at the polls. They will not be able to express their opinions in regard to us as freely as they could do if we had dealt fairly with them under our electoral arrangements. But I trust there will still be power enough inherent in them to express their judgment upon this, the most important subject they will have to deal with. This is the fundamental question of all. The question of the Tariff or of the States’ debts is nothing alongside this one of the peoples’ right to exercise their votes in the choice of their Parliament. All other questions are incidental to the one great issue in favour of which the people of Australia have already pronounced, and that is that every man, when face to face with his electoral responsibilities, and in determining the lines on which this Common wealth shall proceed in the future, shall have an equal voice at the polls. The questions with which we have to deal have an importance reaching far into the future, and affecting the building up of the Commonwealth. But there is no question which ranks in importance beside that of seeing that the people’s voice is freely expressed. That result cannot be obtained under this arrangement, because the voice of the people will be stifled. It is for that reason that I protest so strongly against this Bill.
– I understand that during my absence from Parliament last week the members of the Opposition were engaged in a noble fight to preserve for the people of the Commonwealth the liberty which is sought to be denied to them by the Government. I am glad, indeed, that that fight succeeded, so far at all events as to enable members who happened to be absent to attend in their places, in order to urge upon Parliament the proper consideration of the question. The Minister in charge of this Bill has pointed out that he has been the advocate for the liberty of voting both for men and for women. Oh many occasions the honorable gentleman has endeavoured to show- not with success, I admit - that he alone was responsible for the women being allowed the right to record their votes. But he forgot to point out that to you, sir, during the Convention, is the credit due for the introduction of a section in the Constitution which made it imperative on the part of this Parliament to give to every woman in the Commonwealth equal rights of voting with men. It is true, Mr. Speaker, that woman’s suffrage was not made general under the Constitution ; but inasmuch as in two of the States, South Australia and Western Australia, the franchise had been given to women, and inasmuch as the Constitution provided that no matter what might be the opinion of the members of this Parliament they should not take away voting power from those who had the franchise in the States, it was practically imperative that the franchise should be conferred upon women. Therefore it is not to the Minister nor to the Government nor to myself - who have always advocated women’s suffrage - that the credit is due, but to the foresight of yourself and those members of the Convention who supported your view. Iam sure, however, that you never for one moment anticipated that the honorable gentleman who is now in charge of this measure would be guilty of an act which would prevent the possibility of women exercising the franchise in the fair and equitable manner that was intended. The Constitution provides that in the allotment of members to the various States population shall be considered ; that is to say that every man, woman, and child in the various States should be counted, and according to the quota each State should be entitled to a certain number of members. I remember that when this question was first raised in this Parliament there was a difference of opinion in the minds of honorable members as to whether the correct statistics had been obtained. I believe that the honorable member for Kennedy questioned the accuracy of the figures for the State of Queensland. He moved the adjournment of the House in order to secure consideration for the question. He claimed that every adult should have the right to vote, and that the number of members for the State of Queensland should be fixed not according to the number of electors, but according to the number of all the men, women, and children living in that State.
– It did not require me to point that out. The Constitution does it.
– On that occasion the honorable member was strongly in favour of the terms of the Constitution being carried out, but now he and nearly every other member from Queensland seems to be taking the opposite view. He is going to vote, I believe, in a way which will have the effect of giving one person in one electorate a voting power equal to that of three persons in another.
– What about the 150,000 which the honorable member says are disfranchised ?
– I am glad that the honorable member has referred to that. He should look up the speeches, and he will find that I quoted the exact differences between the census returns-
– The honorable member must not refer to a past debate.
– But it relates this question.
– That matters not. The honorable member must not do it.
– I am only proposing to refer to figures affecting the present question.
– That, of course, the honorable member may do.
– It is well known that there is a difference between the census returns and the number of people on the rolls. I pointed out that there was a difference of, I think, 65,000 between the male and female adults - not 150,000 as stated. The 150,000 refers to the whole of the States of the Commonwealth, and the records will show that I am correct in stating ‘ that I pointed out that at all events there was a difference that ought to be inquired into by the Government. But did the Government take any steps to inquire? Is it not well known that the Minister and his staff designedly delayed dealing with the Federal rolls in order that he might have some excuse for rejecting those divisions if the Commissioner’s divisions were not satisfactory to the Government. That was the Minister’s clear intention, as the whole of the proceedings go to .show. No Electoral Officer was appointed in New South Wales until about six weeks ago, although the Franchise Act, which gave a vote -to every adult mau. and woman, was passed in June of last year, and the Electoral Act, which provided the machinery to carry out that law, received the Royal Assent in October. The Minister in charge of the Department did not attempt to appoint a Commissioner until April of this year, and took no steps to have the electoral roll compiled under the Electoral Act. I could see what the Minister’s attitude would be. We in New South Wales know what he is and what his engineering capabilities are ; and I anticipated that he would indulge in some of his “ little games.”
– What about the honorable member for Macquarie himself ?
– I shall be prepared to defend myself when the time comes. Two months ago, when I moved the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to the advisableness.of having the electoral rolls revised, I anticipated that the Minister would, though unsupported by any statistics, turn round and say that the drought had caused changes in the various constituencies ; and that is exactly what has occurred. I then pointed out - and supported my statement with figures - that the large deficiency between the census returns and the electoral rolls was mostly observable in Sydney and suburbs and in the County of Cumberland.
– The honorable member’s figures were all wrong.
– That is a very bald statement; in support of which the Minister has submitted no reliable figures. In order to justify his course of action the Minister has submitted a statement, prepared by we do not know whom, in order to show that there has been a great change in the Darling, Riverina,, and Barrier electorates. I asked to be permitted to see the return, but I found that in the case of the Barrier and the Darling the figures were described as incomplete. In fact the return produced is totally incomplete and inaccurate. We do not know what the return means, but we do know that the intention of the Minister is to prevent thousands of electors from recording their votes in a fair and legitimate way.
– I challenge the Minister to produce an official’ record to show that any large number of electors have left the country districts to which reference has been made. If the Minister proposes to alter the whole scheme of the electorates, lie ought to show some authoritative document on which he relies.
– But the House has already decided.
– The House has not decided this matter, and honorable members will take some time before they decide in the way the Minister wishes.
– Is the honorable member for Macquarie going to “ stonewall ?”
– I have no such intention. I understand that during my absence last week a certain arrangement was arrived at, and, as I have never gone contrary to any understanding of the kind I shall not do so on the present occasion. At the same time, I cannot give up my rights when I feel that a great wrong has been done to the people of the Commonwealth ; and while I have any voice as a representative in this Parliament, I shall enter my strong protest against the scheme which I am sorry to say has received the support of the majority of honorable members.
– It is a scheme under which a large number, who would have been disfranchised if the honorable member had had his 1,Va,Vi will get their votes.
– Only to-day I have had telegraphed to me information showing the exact position of affairs in fifteen of the country electorates. The Minister has come here with incomplete returns, and I ask honorable members whether it is fair to ask the House to pass a Bill which will have the effect of disfranchising over 100,000 electors, and that without the production of any reliable information on which to base our decision. We cannot accept the Minister’s bald statements, because they are not founded on fact.
– The majority of honorable members accept my statement.
– The Minister bad better not ask me how that result has been brought about. I do’ not want to reveal the tactics of the Minister, but they are tactics which are not creditable to the Government or to the House.
– I say that that was untrue.
– I repeat that the tactics adopted are creditable neither to the Minister nor to the Government. The tactics are in keeping with the character of the Minister, but I hope we shall never see their like again in this Parliament.
– Do not keep anything back”.
– I thought that the affairs of this Parliament were to be conducted in such a way that we could boldly face the world ; but I am sorry to say that a number of honorable members have been misled. I use the term “ misled “ because I do not think that honorable members would willingly permit this great wrong.
– The honorable member for Macquarie did the same thing himself about eighteen months ago.
– I do not know to what the honorable member refers.
– The honorable member for Macquarie promised to deal with the electorates in New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has already dealt with that question.
– And he was wrong.
– The’ Minister says that the honorable member for Wentworth was wrong, and he makes that a justification for his action to-night.
– Do not get excited.
– I must apologize to the House if I appear to feel somewhat keenly on this matter ; but the great wrong which is attempted in regard to a principle for which I have always fought, both inside and outside Parliament, is sufficient justification for the warmth which I display.
– A beautiful piece of acting !
– I promise the Minister that he will have to do a little acting the next ‘time he goes before his constituency.
– The honorable member had better mind that he has not to “ dance the tune.”
– I have had to “dance “for twenty-one years, but I have always come out “ on top.” p
– The honorable member has been beaten a good many times.
– I was beaten once in fighting for a principle in which I believed.
– The honorable member acted honorably.
– I think it will, be admitted that I risked more than any other honorable member on that occasion, and I am prepared to do the same again, if needs be, for a principle in which I believe. The Minister has received a present of a snuff-box from the women of some State or other ; but really, in my opinion, he ought not to have the credit of extending the franchise to women. The Minister was supposed to have given the franchise to women, but he has taken that franchise away again ; and I wonder what a prominent lady - whose name I shall not mention, but who deserves great credit for her share in that reform - would now say in view of the fact that under the Bill some 17,000 women in one electorate will have only the same power as 4,000 women in another electorate. Does the Minister believe that that is a proper principle ?
– What is the remedy of the honorable member ?
– I shall tell the honorable member for New England a little about the miners of Hillgrove before I have done. The New South Wales representatives on the Federal Convention were elected by every male adult, and the same method was adopted when the Constitution was placed before the country for approval or disapproval. Every man’s vote had an equal value in the election of senators, and the next election will be on the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value.
– How can that be when Queensland has a population of only 500,000, and New South Wales has a population of 1,400,000?
– I am pointing out that every adult male and every adult female will have an equal voice in choosing the senators to represent New South Wales. Each vote will have equal value.
– The constituencies are not equal.
-I shall come to that presently. I am dealing now with the election of senators, and I say that the principle adopted is that of one vote one value.
– It is not.
– According to the Constitution, I admit that the smaller States are entitled to the same representation in the Senate as the larger.
– The honorable member has got on to the horns of a dilemma.
– The honorable member had better leave that, and pass on.
– It is not my custom to treat matters in that way. According to the Constitution, each State is entitled to return six senators, though’ somehave less population than others. But when the candidates go upfor election in the variousStates, the vote of every elector is of equal value in returning the six senators. In some of the electorates proposed for the House of Representatives, 35,000 electors will return but one member, whilst in others 14,000 electors will be able to return one member. When the present Minister for Trade and Customs submitted the Commonwealth Electoral Bill to the House last session, he pointed out that he did not believe in the principle of one vote one value ; but that he recognised that the people of the Commonwealth required that that principle should be given effect to. In saying that, he meant to refer to honorable members. He agreed thathonorable members desired that that principle should be adopted, and he said that the Government had endeavoured to carry it out as far as possible. While the honorable gentleman was speaking, if I remember rightly, the honorable member for Gippsland interjected in a way which indicated that he did not agree with the principle of one vote one value, and the Minister replied at once that he agreed withthe honorable member, but he recognised the will of Parliament in the matter.
– I agree with the principle of one vote one value, but I do not think that can be secured by equal numbers in every electorate under all conditions.
– That may be, but T do not think that even my honorable friend will admit that it is a fair distribution to have 35,000 voters in one electorate and only 13,000 in another to return onemember. That, I think, is going beyond what any one would advocate.
– No one is advocating that.
– By voting for this Bill, honorable members are supporting that. The present Minister for Trade and Customs said, in reply to the interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland, that while he agreed with that honorable member he realized that Parliament desired that such a distinction as between country and town, as the honorable member for Gippsland proposed, should not be made, that the Commissioner should in each case adhere as far as possible . to the quota, with the right to go one-fourth below or one-fourth above as the necessities of the case might require, but that the principle was to be one vote one value. That was not the opinion of the Minister, but it is what the honorable gentleman said was the will of Parliament upon the question. The honorable member for Bland was even more emphatic in what he had to say. The honorable member expressed himself in favour of the principle of one vote one value, and he went on to say that whilst there might be some slight departure from that principle in consequence of the difficulty which people in the country districts might have in getting to the polling booths, as compared with people in the large centres of population, he did not at all approve of the margin proposed by the Minister. The honorable member held the view that in many country districts people take even a keener interest in election matters than did those who resided in large centres of population. The honorable member went on to say that it was absurd to propose to give votes to acres instead of to people. All through his speech the honorable member for Bland was against the contention of some honorable members, and notably of the honorable member for Gippsland, that there should be so large a margin allowed. The Bill was carried with the provision giving the Commissioner certain latitude in making the division. When the Minister for Trade and Customs was speaking on this question recently, I asked the honorable gentleman why he did not send the report of the Commissioner back for further consideration, if he was not satisfied with it. The honorable gentleman admitted that people had returned and were returning in large numbers, to the country districts, and though he would not adopt the course suggested, he said that if we adopted that course we should still have at least a month to spare.
– The honorable member is again referring to a previous debate.
– When was that?
– I do not desire to transgress the rules of debate, but I believe that a statement of that kind was made on the 14th August last, which was only about a fortnight ago.
– Did the honorable member believe that 1
– I believe that it could have been done, and I believe that it can be better done under an amendment which honorable members will have an opportunity of recording a vote upon before this Bill goes through, when we shall test whether they believe all the statements submitted by the Minister as to the differences in the various districts. I have here a statement prepared in the Chief Electoral Office for the State of New South Wales, and I take, for purposes of illustration, three Federal electorates to which reference has been made during this debate - Barrier, Darling, and Riverina. I find in this statement the number of voters in the State electorates of Barwon, Bourke, Broken Hill, Cobar, Coonamble, . Deniliquin, Hay, Lachlan, Murray, Sturt, Wentworth, and Wilcannia, and I remind honorable senators that these State electorates comprise practically the Commonwealth electorates of Darling, Riverina, and Barrier.
– No, they do not. There is a big mining development outside of Cobar, which those districts do not include. Nymagee and Shuttleton are both outside.
– This is near enough.
– There must be a difference of over 1,000 electors in those two cases.
– The districts to which I have referred fairly represent the principal districts’ affected by the drought. I think honorable members will admit that. I take the figures relating to male voters, because we cannot estimate female voters in making a comparison for some years back, since women were only admitted to the franchise last year. Speaking then only of male adult voters, I find that in 1902-3 the proportion of male adult voters in the State electorates, to which I have referred, was 9-27 of the total number of electors in the State of New South Wales, whilst according to the roll for 1894-5, the proportion of adult voters in those districts was only S-98 of the total number of voters in the State. The honorable member for New England made an interjection just now with regard to the fairness of the proposal submitted by the Government. I shall deal now with figures supplied by the Minister, which he admits are incomplete, but which give higher numbers than the return supplied to me by the Electoral Office in Sydney. I apply these figures to the case of the electorate of the honorable member for New England, and I would ask the honorable member what the miners of New England, of Hillgrove, ‘ Armidale, and those districts, will say to the comparison which I now propose to give, not between a Sydney constituency and a country constituency, but between country constituency and country constituency. I propose now to deal with Riverina and with Darling, which comprise a large number of miners, as honorable members are aware. In these two electorates, according to the figures supplied by the Minister, and compiled after the people, are said to have gone back to the country districts, . there are 48,198 electors in the New England and Hunter districts, represented by the honorable member to whom I have referred and by the Prime Minister. They are both country electorates, in which the people are interested in mining, pastoral, and dairy pursuits. ‘They contain large numbers of producers, who, the honorable member for New England will admit, are as much entitled to consideration as those in the Darling and Riverina districts. While 30,562 electors in the Darling and Riverina divisions are entitled to return two representatives, 48,198 electors, or 17,636 more, are required to return the Prime Minister and the honorable member for New England. Is that a fair distribution 1
– But my honorable friend is prepared to vote for that arrangement, although he admits that it is unfair. He will presently have to explain to his constituents why he voted for an arrangement under which two miners at Hillgrove will have only the same representation as one miner at Broken Hill or Darling. To make sure that I should not mislead the House, I obtained this afternoon by telegram a verification of the figures which- I am using. I am sorry that Ministers, have not been equally straightforward. Whenever we have asked for information we have been told that “the rolls are not ready,” or that “consideration is being given to the subject.” To make another comparison between country electorates, I would point out that, whereas 43,650 electors in the divisions of Cowper and Robertson have only two representatives, 30,562 electors, or 13,088 fewer, in the divisions of Darling and Riverina have the same representation.
– How does the honorable member propose to remedy this state of affairs 1
– I will answer the honorable member’s question presently. Let me” now compare four f ree-trade with fourprotectionist divisions. Honorable members opposite tell us that they desire a straightout expression of opinion from the people upon the subject of free-trade and pro- . tection ; but while 67,610 electors in protectionist divisions have four representatives, only the same representation is given -to 125,778 electors in free-trade divisions. In other words, each of the free-trade members represents nearly twice as many electors as each of the protectionist members. But, notwithstanding this dastardly attempt on the part of the Ministry to cripple the free- trade representation-
– I do not think the honorable member should use language like that.
– I apologize for doing so. I was carried away by my indignation at the injustice of the action which is contemplated by the Government.
– Why is the honorable member afraid to face the electors of the present Macquarie division ?
– I am not afraid to do so. Although the honorable member and the Minister for Trade and Customs thought that the distribution of the Commissioner would lead to my defeat, I was quite satisfied to “ accept it. I knew that the work of dividing the State had been left to an honorable, straightforward man, and I troubled no more about it, because I think that ‘honorable members should not try to gerrymander their electors. Comparing eight divisions with eight others, I find that 216,114 electors have only the same representation as 115,998 other electors, so that more than 100,000 electors are in the first case practically unrepresented. Yet the Government tellus that they desire to observe the principle of one vote one value. The Minister for Trade and Customs has had a typewritten circular sent round the country toshow that the whole of the senators representing New South Wales belong to Sydney, while the whole of the Victorian senators are Melbourne men. In my electorate mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries areall represented, but the electors there, as did the majority of the electors in many other- country divisions, voted for five of the senators who were returned to represent New South Wales.
– I do not think that this has anything to do with the question.
– I am trying to answer the contention of the Minister for Home Affairs. Even the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, although he represents a country district, resides in the city.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to enter upon a discussion as to where honorable members live.
– All I desire to show is that the people of the country have a right to choose what representatives they please, whether they live in the metropolis or in the country.
– I do not think that that question is at issue.
– I am referring to it incidentally. Although the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Prime Minister, and other Ministers represent country constituencies, they are city residents. Only three representatives from New South Wales - and I happen to be one of them - live in the country.
– Order. I have already asked the honorable member not to refer to that matter.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I have said all I wish to say on that point. I find that in the five electorates of New England, Cowper, Illawarra, Hunter, and Robertson there are 115,000 electors. In five other country electorates, namely, Richmond, Hume, Barrier, Darling, and Riverina - represented by members who are dissatisfied with the boundaries fixed by the Commissioner - there are only 79,000 electors.
– Then the electors in the country divisions are not equally distributed ?
– No; that is exactly what I am endeavouring to show. There is almost, if not quite, as great a difference between the number of voters in one group of country electorates, compared with another, as between the country electorates and the city constituencies. According to the Minister, two farmers are only equal to one farmer in another district, and one miner . at Cobar is to have the same voting power as two miners in the New England district. The honorable member for New England does not believe in the principle of one vote one value, and he has not hesitated to say so, even though nine-tenths of the members of the House presumably hold the opposite view. The honorable member said that one of the reasons why he supported the Government proposal was that he did not altogether believe in the principle of one man one vote.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– That is the impression which the honorable member left on my mind. I gave him credit for having the courage to express his opinion on that question. We have heard a great deal about the concession which was made to the women of the Commonwealth when the franchise was extended to them ; but under the present distribution of the electorates the privilege is not so valuable as it has been made to appear. I find that in one group of three electorates there are 53,000 women voters, whereas in another group there are only 15,300 voters. Therefore one woman in the Darling or Riverina electorate exercises nearly as much voting power as four women in one of the other electorates referred to. The Minister and other honorable members who hold similar views regarding the Tariff, claimed that their position would be strengthened by the extension of the franchise to women, but apparently they are not content “that the women should have an opportunity to exercise their power of voting to the fullest possible extent. Is it because the 53,000 women happen to be in free-trade electorates that they are to have only the same voting power as 15,000 women who reside in constituencies represented by protectionists?
– Why does the honorable member always impute motives ?
– I have no desire to impute motives, but the electors will be disposed to do so if the Bill is passed into law. I am afraid that the Minister and those who are supporting him will meet with very severe condemnation, and I am opposing the Bill because I wish to safeguard Parliament against serious reflections. If the women voters are so strongly in favour of protection as the Minister claims, why should they not be afforded every chance to assert their political power? When it was proposed to confer the franchise upon women, it was urged that as women were subject to the same laws and to the same taxation as men, they should enjoy equal political privileges. I quite agreed with that view, and that is one of my reasons for protesting against a proposal which will have the effect of preventing women from exercising that equal political power which the Electoral Act provides. In the case to which I have referred no discrimination would be made in favour of the larger number of women with the smaller political power, in the event of taxation being imposed. The 53,000 women would pay nearly four times as much in the form of taxation as would the 15,000 women. I find that in eight free-trade constituencies there are 130,000 women; whereas in eight other divisions represented, almost without exeeption, by protectionists, there are only 52,000 women. In other words, in one case, 52,000 women are enabled to return as many representatives as are 1 30,000 women in another instance. I ask honorable members if that is fair treatment? The women thought that they were to have equal political rights with the men, and provision to that effect was made in the Constitution. But now we are called upon to adopt a course that will have the effect of practically defeating the purpose of the Constitution. When the clause of the Electoral Bill dealing with the divisions was under discussion the Attorney-General distinctly stated, in opposition to the opinion expressed by the honorable and learned member for Indi, that if the House rejected the distribution proposed by the Commissioner it would be imperative upon them to send it back to the Commissioner for revision. The Attorney-General ought to be a very good authority upon a question of that kind.
– I do not think the AttorneyGeneral said that. The honorable member is thinking of some phrase used by the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– I am not mistaken, and I shall be able to refer the honorable and learned member to a passage in Hansard, which will bear out what I state. When the same clause was before the Senate, the question was raised whether, after the House had rejected the distribution proposed by the Commissioner, it would be open to the Minister to pigeonhole his report, and there let the matter rest. Senator O’Connor said -
If we could amend it (the clause), and in such a way that, finally, both Houses could come to an agreement, there might be some reason for doing so.
Senator Charleston. Surely we can object to the report ?
Senator O’Connor. We can either accept it or reject it. It would destroy the whole system of the Commissioners if we could amend a portton of the report. We must deal with it as a whole. The whole principle of the Bill, so far as this port of it is concerned, is that the Commissioners have the responsibility of making a distribution.
The responsibility was- to rest upon the Commissioner and not upon Parliament. According to Senator O’Connor we could not amend the scheme in any particular - we must either accept or reject it. As will be seen by reference to Hansard he declared -
If the Houses approve of the distribution it becomes effective ; but if the Houses do not approve it - they have only power to approve or disapprove - it must go back to the Commissioners for amendment.
– For amendment.
- Senator O’Connor affirmed that it could not be altered in any way. He said that if either House rejected it, it must be referred back to the Commissioners for amendment.
– For amendment. Does not the honorable member see the point t
– In this connexion I also desire to quote the opinion of Senator Downer. He said : -
The Houses will say that they accept the report or that they do not. If we are going to send the report’back at the direction of one House or the other there will be no end to the business. We do not send it back with any directions. We simply say : “ We will not have it,” but we suppose that the debates will probably be noticed by the Commissioners, and that they will act in some degree with reference to the opinions which the votes show Parliament to have entertained.
The opinion of the Attorney-General was in the same direction. All these facts go to prove that when the Electoral Bill was under discussion, it was never intended to vest in the Minister for Home Affairs the power of gerrymandering. Had we thought that such a lever was to be placed in his hands - that he could order the report of the Commissioners to be thrown into the waste-paper basket - the provision would never have been assented to. The opinions of the senators I have quoted, and the view which was expressed by the AttorneyGeneral, show conclusively that if either House rejected any of the schemes it was imperative that the Minister should refer them back to the Commissioners. The honorable gentleman himself has informed us that there is still ample time to permit of that course being adopted. He has even assured us that in such circumstances there would be a month to spare.
– The honorable member agrees with him, I suppose ?
– I agree that we should not allow these inequalities to exist, and that the elections should not be conducted upon the divisions which the Government desire to fasten upon us. They have not submitted any official document in support of their contention as to the number of people who abandoned the country districts. Upon several occasions I have pointed out the importance of having a new roll prepared. The Minister, however, appears to have given no attention whatever to that important matter.
– He is too busy reading the newspapers.
– He is too busy travelling over the different States, endeavouring to influence the electors, instead of attending to the administrative work of his office. Although the Electoral Act was passed last session, the Minister did practically nothing to carry out the will of Parliament until April of the present year. The honorable member for Bland and the honorable member for New England both blame the Government for their neglect in this connexion, but nevertheless they intend to vote with them. So far, I have dealt with the position only as regards New South Wales.
– The honorable member has merely touched upon it.
– I have no desire to deal with this matter at greater length than its importance demands. I compliment the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, upon having the courage of his opinions, and upon fighting for a principle which he has always advocated. Notwithstanding that he is an old colleague and a strong friend of Ministers, he deemed it hia duty not only to vote against them, but to protest against this unfair attempt to disfranchise nearly two hundred thousand electors in the” Commonwealth. That is really the effect of the Government proposal, inasmuch as it will give two miners in the New England district only the same political power that is possessed by ohe miner in the Darling .division. The right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, deserves the greatest credit for having told the Government that they are adopting a principle which is quite contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act. Knowing the strong feeling which he entertains upon the question of one vote one value, the Government dared not attempt anything in the nature of jerrymandering in the case of South Australia. They were compelled to give practically equal rights to all electors in that State. The Minister for Trade and Customs has sought to raise the question of city versus country, but I have shown that almost as great differences exist between country and country electorates as exist between city and country constituencies. In South Australia some of the city divisions contain fewer voters than do some of the country electorates.
– The honorable member is referring to the scheme proposed by the Commissioner 1
– Yes. I am speaking of the scheme recommended by the Commissioner, which this House adopted, and for which the honorable member voted. He supported giving an elector of Adelaide even more political power than is possessed by an elector in the country. At the same time, I admit that as far as was practicable the Commissioner attempted to give effect to the principle of one vote one value. I believe that in two of the country districts which embrace large areas - one of them almost as much as does the entire State of New South Wales - there are even more voters than are to be found in the divisions of Adelaide and Port Adelaide. It is to the credit of the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, that 1 he is now endeavouring to secure in the electoral divisions for New South Wales a recognition of the principle of. one man one vote, one vote one value.
– In” the case of South Australia we were satisfied with the recommendations of the Commissioner.
– Yes. I am glad that the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, and his colleague, Mr Poynton, are fighting for the adoption of the principle to which I have alluded, so far as New South Wales is concerned.
– The regret is that we have not the services of Mr. Speaker.
– I arn sure that if we had the advantage of the presence of Mr. Speaker upon the floor of the House he would paralyze some honorable members opposite. He would be able to use very strong arguments in favour of a principle which he has long supported.
– The honorable member has no right to drag Mr. Speaker into this controversy.
– I refer to you, Mr. Speaker, as a representative of South Australia, in which this principle has been adopted.
– We often miss Mr. Speaker’s vote.
– No doubt. I am not going to occupy the attention of the House for a much longer period. I feel that I have done my part in endeavouring to impress upon the House - if it is possible at present to impress any point in regard to this question upon it, in view of the fact that a large majority of honorable members have pledged themselves to go back upon principles which they were returned to support - the importance of opposing this measure. I have felt it my duty in the interests of the Commonwealth to place before honorable members and the country generally my reason for fighting as strongly as I am able to do against the iniquitous proposal of the Government. I cannot understand the attitude taken up by honorable members who represent this State, many of whom have from time to time advocated the principle of one vote one value. If they look at the existing Victorian divisions they will find that there is a great difference between the number of electors in certain country divisions as compared with some of the metropolitan constituencies. I was surprised to find’ that representatives of Victoria were prepared to accord us so little support when we were dealing with the various States divisions. In order to show our sincerity in dealing with this matter, I would point out that, when the South Australian scheme was before the House, honorable members of the Opposition unanimously voted for it, and when it was proposed that a return should be made to the existing electoral divisions for Victoria, which present . many of the anomalies that relate to the New South Wales divisions, we felt it our duty to fight as strongly as possible against the
Government proposal. We took that action, although for the most part we were representatives of New South Wales, and had.no interest, save that which every member of Parliament must have, in the Victorian distribution. The majority of the House, however, decided against us. Then we felt it our duty when the Minister submitted the motion for the rejection of the New South Wales scheme of distribution to enter our protest against the proposal. Our protest, however, was again unsuccessful. I would point out that the Government have not carried out the law as interpreted by the Attorney-General, as well as by the Vice-President of the Executive. Council, who, if report be true, is likely to be honoured with a seat on the High Court Bench, and of whose legal ability, therefore, his colleagues must have a very high opinion. Both these members of the Government, as well as Senator Downer, have expressed the opinion that, immediately this House refuses to pass a scheme for the division of any State into electorates, it is the imperative duty of the Government to return that scheme for reconsideration by the Commissioner. The Government cannot claim that time will not permit of this being done, because the Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted that these schemes could be reconsidered and dealt with by us, and that there would still be a month to spare. He refuses to return the divisions to the Commissioners, not because he does not believe that time will permit of the adoption of that course, but because it would not suit the Government to have the Commissioners’ divisions adopted. Why is that so?
– I ‘wish the honorable member would give the House the reason for the action of the Government.
– I think my honorable friend, on Thursday last, put it before the House in a very capable way, and gave some honorable members.a few homethrusts when he explained why the Government were endeavouring to fasten this iniquitous proposal on the country. We know that they are actuated by party motives. I have no desire to disregard the Standing Orders, but I think that the Government, and those who support them, are laying themselves open to the charge that they are actuated by a desire to promote their own interests in seeking to prevent hundreds of thousands of electors–
– Hundreds of thousands 1
– Yes ; I have already shown that there is a difference of 100,000 electors in sixteen electorates in New South Wales, and that the same disparity exists, to a very large extent, in relation to the Melbourne divisions. The Government, and those who support them in this proposal, are seeking to deprive nearly 200,000 electors of the equal rights and privileges which they are supposed to possess under our Electoral Act, Why are they doing so ? The people will see that under the- existing system four women in one of the free-trade constituencies of New South Wales have a voting power equal only to that possessed by one woman in a protectionist constituency. The same anomaly exists in relation to other divisions. In the electorate of Lang, for instance, there are nearly 35,000 electors, and they are to have no more power than the 12,139 electors in the Darling division. Is that a fair distribution 1 We have also the electorate of Parkes, comprising over 30,000 electors, who can return only one member, whilst, according to the Minister’s figures, 14,920 voters in the electorate of Riverina have the same power. The honorable member for Dalley represents some 30,000 electors, but he has no greater power in this House than has the representative of a constituency in which there are only some 14,000 electors. Are such conditions in accordance with our Electoral law 1 Is it not a fact that the rolls show that in regard to the number of electors fully half the existing divisions are contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Bill passed by this Parliament in October last 1 Honorable members know that this is an attempt to legalize an illegal act - to inflict a great wrong upon the electors of the Commonwealth. I have spoken at considerable length on this question because I feel that a great wrong is being done to the people of the Commonwealth. I hope that even at this late hour honorable members will hesitate to give their approval to the proposals of the Government. I cannot say what may happen to the Bill when it goes to another place. The Standing Orders will not permit me to do so : but we know that honorable members of another place are elected upon the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value as far as each State is concerned.- We know also, that under the wise provisions of the Constitution, a general .election is shortly to take place for the House of Representatives, and at the same time nineteen senators are also to be returned. Honorable members of both Houses of the Parliament are called upon to vote for a Bill which will have the effect of disfranchising thousands and thousands of electors, and when those who support it submit themselves for reelection, they will have to justify their action. I am satisfied that when the electors are called upon to give their decision those who now seek to raise the question of town against country will find it impossible to do so so far as the people are concerned. We can show that some country districts are now misrepresented in regard to this question - that five country divisions as compared with five other country constituencies show a disparity of over 35,000 votes. Under this proposal two miners at Hillgrove, supposed to have equal rights under the Constitution, will have no greater voting power than is possessed by one elector in another part of a State. Those who support this Bill are saying in effect, “ We are going, at the dictation of the Government, to legalize an illegal Act. We are going to say to the miners at Hillgrove, to the miners and agriculturists represented by the Prime Minister, and to the miners and farmers represented by the honorable member for Cowper, and others, ‘Notwithstanding that the Constitution and the Electoral Act gives you certain rights, and provides that every vote shall be of equal value, we have agreed to a measure under which one elector in the Darling division will have a voting power equal almost to that possessed by two miners or farmers in the electorates of New England, Cowper, and the Hunter.’” The Minister will have to justify his action in supporting this measure when he goes before his constituents.
– He will do it.
– I daresay that he will attempt to do so, but I do not think that honorable members who support this Bill will be as successful in their efforts to humbug the people in regard to this question as they were on a previous occasion in regard to other questions. At all events, I feel that on the second reading of this measure I have done my duty as far as lam able in bringing under the notice of the House and of the people the iniquity that it is- sought to impose upon the Commonwealth by the unfair and unjust attempt of the Government, headed by the Minister in charge, to suit party interests.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The speech which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Macquarie is a’ very exhaustive review of this subject, and one that must, I think, have made the Minister feel very uneasy. We could not hear a speech from an honorable member better acquainted with the history of Australia, and especially of New South Wales, as to. the redistribution of seats. He has had twenty odd years’ experience in the Parliament of New South Wales with the Minister for Trade and Customs. Consequently, he is well acquainted with all that that gentleman has done, and knows all his shortcomings. But I find the Minister using those very shortcomings as a reason for the stand that is being taken by the Government in bringing forward a redistribution of seats that is not satisfactory to the people. He tells us of the injustices that have occurred in the past in New South Wales, and uses them as a pretext for the Bill before us. A great deal has been said that must have been exceedingly disagreeable to the Minister.
– I like it, having regard to the source from which it comes.
– We might take a great deal of what has been said with a grain of salt, but I am inclined to think that there must be something in it, because not one honorable member only but quite a number were able to bring forward instances showing that what the Minister is trying to establish in the Commonwealth is an old practice in New South Wales. However, I have no grievance against the honor-“ able gentleman, and have no reason to say disagreeable things of him.
– I do not feel so happy now !
– At the same time, sitting _ here as an independent listener - as a man with an open mind - I am convinced by the speeches which have been delivered, especially that of the Minister himself, that a grave injustice has been done to Australia in not approving of divisions which have been faithfully made by the Commissioners appointed by the Government.
– The principal newspapers of the honorable member’s electorate say that I am right.
– I receive a, dozen or more newspapers from my electorate every week. To-day I looked over a number of them. I found that there weresome references to the action of the leader of the Opposition in resigning his seat, and supporting what he had done, but there is only one newspaper that has supported the Minister.
– Why is the honorable member not willing to face hiselectors on the old boundaries 1
– The old boundaries would suit me very much better than the new ones. The division which I support would give me an area of 5,000 square miles. -I do not think I know a single individual in the added area. It would give me an additional State electorate to the four which I already have within my division. Therefore I cannot say that that is favorable to my interests. I know the people in my old electorate, and I know that they are well satisfied with me. I might very well leave well alone. But I believe that I owe a duty to the Commonwealth as well as to New South Wales, and am bound to vote in the direction that will be in the interests of Australia. I have always understood in reading parliamentary history that when there was a redistribution of seats there should be a general election, so that the people might be represented in their true proportions. We are now on the eve of a general election, and to make preparation for it we passed an Act, which is the most democratic measure ever enacted having for its object the perfection of electoral machinery. Parliament passed that Act so as to do justice to the whole of the people of Australia. We affirmed the principle of one citizen one vote, and that every vote should have the same value. We also kept well in . mind that there should be single electorates, and that all the elections should take place on the same day. To attain this state of perfection we have had to work for twenty-five years. One after another all the inequalities have been struck out. At last we have a measure as perfect as we’ could make it. There is to be no taxation without representation. We might, therefore, have expected that, when the general election took place, and themen and women of Australia cast their votes for representatives in this Parliament, every vote would have the same value-
But, although the Minister has been a supporter of women’s suffrage for many years in his own State, and might have been expected to agree to a redistribution of seats that would have given the women fair representation, he has gone back upon himself, by rejecting the new scheme of distribution that is proposed. He favours the old divisions that were based upon manhood suffrage, and paid no consideration to the votes of the women. We know that women gravitate to the cities. In all the great cities of Australia the women predominate. In two of the electorates of Melbourne 20,000 women will only have equal voting power with 10,000 men in the country. Therefore women are not receiving proper consideration at the hands of the Government. On the other hand we find that 10,000 men in certain electorates have more voting power than 20,000 men in some large centres. These inequalities arise in consequence of the Government adhering to the old electoral divisions, which were arranged under manhood suffrage when women had no voting power. The inconvenience of adapting the old system to the new conditions must be patent. Therefore I urge that the Minister would do well to return the maps and the divisions to the Commissioners for reconsideration. In many instances the people are returning to the country after the drought. I have before me a return to which prominence was recently given during the election campaign of Mr. Reid in Sydney. As these figures are up to date, I should like the Minister to pay attention to them. Mr. Reid said -
He had obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer additional returns for the drought-stricken areas which Sir William Lyne talked so much about, and, so far from the exodus of people being shown in the nine electorates most affected by drought, there were really 4, 18!) more male electors than a year ago.
These are figures provided by the Electoral Officer, from whom the Minister receives his information. This officer says that in the Darling electorate in 1902-3 there were 7,950 electors against 8,964 in August, 1903 ; in the Barrier electorate there were in the former year 9,596, and in 1903 there were 10,141 ; in Riverina there were 9,349 in 1902-3, and 9,362 in 1903 ; in Canobolas there were 10,066 in 1902, and 10,305 in 1903; in Robertson there were 11,013 in 1902, and 11,630 in 1903; in Bland there were 10.43S in 1902, and 10,928 in 1903 ; in Macquarie there were 10,413 in 1902, and 10,624 in 1903 ; in Gwydir there were 10,910 in 1902, and 11,387 in 1903 ; in Hume there were 10,180 in 1902, and 10,763 in 1903. The number of electors in the constituency of the Minister for Trade and Customs has increased as compared with the number last year, and the figures I have quoted show that the people have returned and are returning to their electorates.
– Surely the honorable member does not place my electorate amongst the drought electorates.
– No, not to the extent as in other electorates ; but I think my electorate may be regarded as having been largely affected by the drought. As I say, the people are returning to their homes. If the Minister’s electorate has not been affected by the drought, how does he account for the increase of 600 electors during the last twelve months 1 The explanation must be that the electorate, to some extent, has been affected by the drought, and, with the people returning, we shall find the electorates, at the time of the elections in December, in their normal condition. In my opinion the Minister ought to have adopted the subdivisions suggested by the Commissioners, who are men of the highest repute, approved by the Minister himself. The Commissioners have performed their work well, and have given satisfactory reasons for the subdivisions they propose ; and if the Minister, even at this moment, would accept an amendment, by which the report could be sent back and a redistribution made, in view of the normal conditions which will prevail at the time of the elections, every man and every woman would have an opportunity of exercising the franchise. I do not think it is necessary to say much more about this Bill, seeing that I addressed myself to the subject as each subdivision was laid before honorable members. But it seems most remarkable to me that in the two States where the subdivisions are approved of, those subdivisions are in the interests of the Government; whereas in the other States, where the subdivisions were not in the interests of the Government, the suggestions of the Commissioners were rejected. This unsatisfactory state of things requires some explanation. The Minister for Trade and Customs is well aware that in South Australia, if the elections were to take place under the old arrangements, every member of the Opposition from that State would, in all probability, be re-elected ; whereas if a subdivision takes place, it will necessitate two or more of those members standing for the same constituency, with the probable result of the loss of a seat. That, of course, would be to the advantage of the Government, while a rejection of the proposed subdivision would have a contrary effect. As I say, some explanation is necessary, because it. is not proper that certain reports of the Commissioners should be approved and others disapproved in this fashion. However that may be, I voted in favour of the adoption of the suggested electorates, because it is the duty of Parliament, having appointed Commissioners to carry out the work in pursuance of an Act passed by this Parliament, to consider fairly and honestly the recommendation submitted, and to decide whether the explanatory report is in accordance with the figures and facts submitted therewith.
– And whether the work could be better done.
– Exactly. Not only the Minister for Trade and Customs, but other Ministers have repeatedly stated that the Commissioners chosen are men of the highest character and competence - that better men could not have been selected. In Tasmania, if the elections were conducted under the old arrangements, the Government would, in all probability, lose a supporter ; and, knowing that, the Government favored the acceptance of the report of the Commissioner. Was it in consequence of the fact that the subdivisions of the Commissioners would enable the Government to retain their supporters that the reports in the case of Tasmania and South Australia were accepted 1 Why did not the Government approve of the subdivision suggested in the case of Western Australia/ - a subdivision which the figures and accompanying explanation show to be the best that could have been made. The Minister for Home Affairs stated that he knew the Western Australian Commissioner, who had been trained under him, and was a most straightforward man. The Commissioner is, I believe, the Surveyor-General of Western Australia, and is a man thoroughly familiar with the country and the various centres of population, and well qualified for the work. But if his subdivision had been approved the Government would probably have lost two supporters. It appears to me that the Government have considered all these facts, and have come to the conclusion that in the case of Western Australia it was to their advantage to reject the subdivision suggested by the Commissioner. In the case of Victoria, if the Commissioner’s subdivision had been approved of, the Opposition would, in all probability, have won a seat ; and the Government saw the disadvantage they would be under. This most probably influenced the Government in urging the rejection of the Commissioner’s report. The Minister ought to give some explanation of these remarkable facts, because it is not in the interests of Australia that any member of the Government should be charged with gerrymandering. I have no grudge whatever against the Minister, but I am inclined to think that suspicion will rest upon him unless he is able to give some satisfactory explanation to the people of Australia.
– In view of the understanding arrived at last week, I do not intend to detain the Committee long with my remarks. The occasion, however, is so important that I feel it my duty to draw attention to the facts of the case. The result of the action of the Government is that we have rejected, the proposed subdivision of the electorates arrived at after a full consideration of all the facts. The drought and every other argument advanced by the Minister for Home Affairs, and those who support him, were fully considered by the Commissioners and the subdivisions were made according^. It does not speak very highly for the action of the Minister when we find that in South Australia and Tasmania, where previously there were no subdivisions, the Government accepted the reports of the Commissioners, although in neither of these States was any provision made for a difference between country and city electorates. When we regard the arguments used by the Minister for Trade and Customs in reference to the country electorates of New South Wales, we are forced to consider whether he is really correct in the statements he has made. In the case of New South Wales, at all events, the Commissioner took into consideration all the arguments which have since been used by the Minister, and gave every possible effect to them. The Commissioner took advantage of the quota to such an extent that in each of. seven of the country electorates of New South Wales, even under the proposed subdivision, there are only 125,000 electors as against 150,000 in the city.
If the quota had been exactly observed there would, of course, have been just as many electors in the country as in the city. When the Minister said that no difference was allowed in regard to country electorates, he was evidently stating what is not in accordance with facts, and on that ground alone his arguments, so far as New South Wales is concerned, fall to the ground. I rauch prefer the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Barrier, who, although a member of the Labour Party - a cardinal principle in the platform of which is one vote one value - did not pretend that the electorates now proposed would have the effect of carrying out that principle, but simply opposed the subdivision because it did not “suit him.” That is an argument we can all understand, although it has only a personal application. If the Minister for Trade and Customs had simply said that the proposed subdivision did not suit him, or did not suit two or three of his friends, and that he had decided to take advantage of his position as Minister and refuse to accept it, we could have understood his action. In the case, perhaps, of one or two members, there would have been a certain amount of sympathy with him, seeing that the Electoral law as framed by ourselves absolutely compelled the subdivision of the existing electorates. But all these points were full)’ discussed when the question first came before us. The honorable member for Gippsland argued very strongly that the country electorates should be considered much more than the city electorates - that in fact we should not give effect to the principle of one vote one value - and he submitted many reasons in support of that view. The House, after very full discussion, rejected the amendment suggested by that honorable member. The honorable member for Bland, the leader of the Labour Party, suggested that the quota should be reduced to one-eighth. He contended that the Commissioner would have a very small difference to work on of only between 2,000 and 3,000, instead of nearly 5,000 at the present time. The Minister pointed out, however, that he thought that quota too small, and, after some, consideration it was increased to one-fifth, the original proposal of the Minister being one-fourth. The quota of one-fifth allows such a large margin that in each of seven country electorates of New South Wales, as I have said, there are no less than 25,000 more voters than in the city. The honorable member for Bland, when speaking on that occasion, waxed very eloquent indeed, and said -
I could not on any consideration vote for a principle which I believe to be radically wrong.
Those were very fine words coming from the leader of the Labour Party, the chief plank in whose platform has been “ one vote one value.” On the first opportunity the honorable member is given of carrying it into practice we find him departing from the principle and telling the miners of Temora and Wyalong, in his own electorate, that the votes of four of them are equivalent only to the votes of three miners in the electorate of Darling. After uttering those bold words, which I believe the honorable member meant at the time, it is a very sorry thing to find the leader of the Labour Party absolutely departing from the principle there laid down. The honorable member gave no explanation for his departure from principle, and I was tempted to interject angrily at the time to ask the honorable member why he did not do exactly as the honorable member for Barrier had done, and say, “ It doesn’t suit me.” If the honorable member had said that, or that it did not suit one or two members of his party, I could have understood him. What one most dislikes in parliamentary life is to find a man turning back upon a principle with which he has always been associated.
– What about the honorable and learned member’s leader 1 Has not he often acted in that way 1
– The honorable member may think that my leader has been wrong, but the right honorable gentleman, who waslately member for East Sydney, has, by his. resignation, drawn attention to this matter in a way in which no other action he could have taken would have done.
– Outside of Sydney no one knows what is taking place there.
– It may be the case that people in the honorable member’s electorate do not know what he does, and that possibly accounts for the presence of the honorable member in this House. I venture to say that there is sufficient intelligence in the bulk of the men who study labour questions to induce them to strongly resent the action of the honorable member for Bland.
-The conduct of the honorable member for Bland is not the question before the Chair.
– -Perhaps so ; and I will say that I believe the people in this country would strongly resent the action of any one who would at one moment assert that he was in favour of the principle of one vote one value, and at the next, after such a bold declaration, turn round and vote in the opposite way. What value can be attached to our public utterances if we do not, when opportunity is offered, give effect to the views we have expressed. I could understand the honorable member for Gipps-‘ land being opposed to any Bill that could be framed on this subject, because his argument would lie against any measure that could be brought in to deal with it. After I had heard the honorable member’s speech, it was clear to me that it must follow that every member should be compelled to live in his own electorate. It is true that the honorable member made an exception in favour of himself, and stated that although he lived in the City of Melbourne he counted himself as a country member, because he had interests in the country. However, when he was dealing with honorable members on this side who represent country electorates in New South W ales, he counted them as living in the City of ‘Sydney, even though some, like myself, have lived all their lives in the country districts - not in the city, but within a radius of 100 miles of it. If it is right to include some of us as living in the City of Sydney, men living in some parts of Gippsland might be fairly reckoned as living in the City of Melbourne. I was pleased to find that those members of the Labour Party who have determined to support the Government in the present proposal did not attempt to explain their votes on any such false grounds as were given by the honorable member for Gippsland. The Government have stultified themselves by their action in this matter. They had the appointment of the Commissioners, who were given full power to investigate matters in the preparation of their reports. The Government have not complained in any way of the conduct of the Commissioners, and they -have not said that they departed from their duty. They have allowed the electoral officers intrusted with the collection of the rolls to continue their work as Federal officers, but if the charges made against them are true, not one of those electoral officers should have been allowed to remain in the service for five minutes. The moment he believed one tithe of the things which have been charged against those officers, the Ministershouldhave exercised his power to dismiss them from the service of the Commonwealth. Itonly shows how little value attaches to the statements made by thehonorablegentleman when wefind that those officers are still in the employment of the Government. They say that those officers did their best, and they propose still to retain them in their positions. Is that the way in which a Government should behave ? Is that a proper line of conduct for a Minister to pursue? At one moment members of the Government praise the work of these officers, and say that everything that they have done is perfectly correct, and that the Government are well satisfied with their work. Then they come to this House and condemn the work of those men. That is what we are asked to do now, and that is what we did when we rejected their proposed divisions. Nobody pretends that the divisions proposed were perfect, or that we shall ever get a division of the States which will absolutely suit every one. I suppose that the ideal electorate from the point of view of a member of Parliament would be one in which there was only one elector, and that one the honorable member himself. In his electorate the honorable member for Darling is getting down to that, though he has not quite arrived at it yet. This is not the way in which to give effect to the principle of representation and to see that the people get their votes. When honorable members compare city and country electorates they must remember that while the contention that there should be some distinction in favour of country electorates may have some force in a. Parliament dealing strictly with local affairs,-it loses much of its force in such a Parliament as this, . in which we are dealing with the larger questions affecting the whole of Australia. The laws we pass here can in no sense be described as local laws. Each of the States has full power to make local laws, and we cannot interfere with them in any way whatever. The only matters in which I think it can be said that a member of the House of Representatives has to perform the duties of a local member are those connected with the postal and telegraphic services. “ It really cannot even be said in that case, inasmuch as the interests he represents are so much more than those of a single individual, because no demand can be made upon him for his services in any way, until at least a certain number of individuals have decided to act together. So that the whole of the argument of the Minister for Trade and Customs falls to the ground. The honorable gentleman himself must have thought that they could not have much effect because he continually changed his view. At one moment he was asking honorable members to adopt this proposal because it was something in favour of the country as against the town. The honorable gentleman used that argument in order to stir up strife between country and town. One cannot help thinking that it was rather a clever political move in its way, and would tend to confuse, as no doubt it has confused, the minds of many electors in the country. I take, for instance, the electorate represented by the honorable gentleman himself, the electorate of Hume, according to the division proposed by Mr. Houston. I think that 18,000 was the quota fixed for that electorate.
– The quota is the same in every case.
– Indeed, it is not. The Commissioner gave the electorate 18,300 voters, but” he could have included 26,000 electors in it. He took into account the effect of the drought and everything else.
– There was no drought there.
– I believe with the honorable gentleman that there was not that complete devastation which took place in some other electorates, but in the case of the electorate of Darling we find exactly the same thing taking place. It seems to me that the arguments have been so fully put, and the statistics quoted have been so complete in refutation of the statements made by the Minister for Trade and Customs, that there is no necessity for me to urge them at any greater length. I need only say that it must be clear to honorable members that all the arguments founded on reason have been urged from this side. With respect to the action of honorable members opposite, one cannot help regretting that such an incident as this should have arisen in the Federal Parliament. I have no hesitation in declaring that, to my mind, it is absolutely the worst incident that has yet taken, place amongst us.
– I understand that the Government are anxious that the debate should close, but before it closes I desire to make my position clear. I voted with the Government when they asked the House to disapprove of the proposed divisions for Victoria, and I consented to a pair being arranged for me with regard to the proposed divisions for New South Wales. I did so because I felt that the circumstances, at all events in Victoria, and I thought also in New South Wales, warranted me in voting in that way. I also hoped that an. opportunity might be given me to vote for sending back the reports to the Commissioners. I am given to understand that an amendment in that direction will be moved when this Bill gets into Committee, and, if it is shown that there is a possibility of further reports being supplied in time, I shall be prepared to vote for such an amendment. I think we are establishing a most dangerous precedent in doing what this Government has asked the House to do. It will come back to this Parliament some day and we shall be blamed for having introduced the very ugly political practice, known as gerrymandering. Further than that, I believe that those who will be standing for reelection under the existing divisions will be accused throughout the four States, in which divisions were made previously, of having preserved their electorates for themselves. They have worked those electorates already and know them, and they will have an advantage over other candidates. Although in many of the country districts there was a desire that the elections should take place under the existing divisions, those honorable members who are opposed in their candidature will be told that they did all that they could to make things easy for themselves. If the proposed distributions could have been returned to the Commissioners months ago, it would have been better, but I hope that they will still be sent back, and I shall certainly vote for that course if an opportunity to do so is given.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister for Trade. and Customs). - I do not wish to make a long reply to the lengthy and vigorous repetitions to which we have had to listen during the past week or two, because it is almost useless to refute again statements which have been so often refuted already. The honorable member for Wannon has in a secondary manner spoken about gerrymandering. If the members of the Opposition make accusations of gerrymandering in reference to the existing divisions, those accusations apply, so far as the New South Wales divisions are concerned, to the Commissioners who drew up the scheme which was approved of by the State Parliament, and, so far as Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland are concerned, to the Parliamentary Committees who framed the proposals which were adopted by the Parliaments of those States. If our proposal now were to alter the existing boundaries, there might be some ground for the charges which have been made, but we ask the House to retain the existing boundaries as marked out by independent Commissions. It has been said that the whole trouble has been caused by the late appointment of the Commissioners, but do honorable members think it was possible to appoint the Commissioners before the lists and other information which had to be submitted to them had been collected t Directly that information was available the Commissioners were appointed.
– In New South Wales the lists were prepared months before the appointment of the Commissioner.
– In New South Wales, last year’s lists were taken, but names had to be added to them, and the attempt to bring them up-to-date occupied a considerable amount of time. I admit that I did not anticipate the discrepancy between the number of names on the rolls and the actual number of voters in the State which was afterwards shown to exist. The honorable member for Macquarie puts the difference at 150,000, and I have already given it as 91,000, but that was because I wished to be within the mark, because I have received reports which have been confirmed more than once, to the effect that there were at least 106,000 short. I regret that the last collections, so far as they have gone, are not satisfactory. Some of the lists have been returned with two or three, or half-a-dozen names added, when we know that they should have been fairly filled up.
– Why does not the Minister give us the lists, so that we can see them t
– The honorable member should try to exercise his common sense. How could I produce for the inspection of the House a bundle of lists three feet high ? Honorable members have quoted to-night figures which they obtained from the State Electoral Office in New South Wales. I was in Sydney last week, but when I sent one of my officers for the figures, [ received the reply that they were at the Government Printing-office, and that the lists had been so cut up to facilitate printing that they could not give me the information I desired. Apparently certain honorable members are able to get from the State Electoral Office information which should go first to the Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, but which he is unable to obtain. I presented to-night a list to show that the contention of the Ministry and of honorable members who support our action is that, with the change of season and the occurrence of copious rains, people who were driven away from the western districts are gradaully drifting back again.
– The figures show that they have drifted back again.
– A great many more will go back during the next two or three months. I gave the return of which I speak to honorable members. The figures, however, are, as I have stated, in certain cases, incomplete, because I have not obtained .from the State officials all the information which I should have been able to procure. The figures which have been quoted to-night by the Opposition deal only with male electors. Why did not honorable members opposite admit that fact 1 Why did they not say whether the figures were based upon the State collection for the State rolls, or upon the State collection for the Commonwealth rolls?
– Because the figures were obtained from the Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth.
– Why did not honorable members say whether the figures were obtained from’ the State collection or from the Federal collection t There is a considerable difference between the two.
– They were obtained from the Commonwealth officer.
– They were not obtained from the Commonwealth officer, but from the State officials. The honorable and learned member for Parkes proved to be the strongest advocate of the position f have taken up. He proved the correctness of my contention from the first that, as the seasons changed, so would the population be redistributed, and normal conditions restored. ,
– I showed that the people had gone back.
– Honorable members challenged the correctness of my statements.
– So we do now.
– The honorable and learned member has proved my statements, and I tender himmy heartiest thanks for having kindly acted as my advocate. The honorable and learned member, lawyer-like, referred to the position of affairs in 1901, 1902, and 1903. If he had compared the conditions existing in 1894, 1895, or 1896 he would have found that twice the number of electors who have gone back to the western divisions may be expected to return there. Of the three electorates to which exception has been taken, it has been proved that there are at least 17,300 electors in one electorate, 14,000 odd in another, and 16,509 in a third. The figures are still incomplete, and each day a large number of men, women, and children who were driven away by the drought ure drifting back into their own localities. Therefore, by the time the Revision Court is held at the end of next month there will, I think, not be any division with less than the minimum number of electors.
– The western divisions have 50 per cent, more representation than they are entitled to.
– The State electorate of Willoughby, which is included in the division represented by the honorable member for North Sydney, has 10,421 electors ; St. George, represented by Mr. Carruthers, has S,691 electors, Marrickville 8,938, Barwon 2,347, Tweed 2,881, Broken Hill 4,961, and Bingara 5,048 ; that is the condition of the present State electorates. It is practically impossible to divide the States of New South Wales, Queensland, or Victoria, in such a way as to secure an equal number of electors in each division irrespective of whether they are in the city or the country. Honorable members of the Opposition have been endeavouring to divide the State of New South Wales so that the country should have only five or six representatives as against twenty or twenty- one city and suburban representatives. They will not be allowed to commit such an act of injustice. In regard to the Darling electorate, a mistake has been made which deprives that division of a considerable number of electors. The State officer did not know that Nymagee and Shuttleton, another mining settlement, were included in the Darling electorate, and the electors at those places have been wrongly included in an adjoining division. Therefore the number of electors in the Darling division has already about reached the minimum.
– Who is responsible for that mistake?
– The State officials in New South Wales.
– How can we hold them responsible? The Minister must take the responsibility.
– It seems to me that some honorable members have adopted the plan of using the information supplied by the State officials against the Federal officers.
– The Minister is passing the most severe condemnation upon his own officers.
– Some honorable members have apparently been meandering around with a view to obtain information which would lying the State officers into conflict with the Federal officers. The statement made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes was unworthy of him. He said that there had been a great . deal of “back-scratching” in connexion with this matter before it was submitted to Parliament.
– The honorable and learned member was right.
– I am surprised to hear the honorable member say so, because a most serious imputation was cast upon those who supported the Government in connexion with the motions tabled last week. I should nothave thought such astatement could be seriously made by any honorable member who had any regard for his reputation.
– I make the statement.
– No doubt, but the honorable member has no regard for his reputation.
– My reputation will stand against that of the Minister.
– I find that I was in error when I stated that Judge Murray was a member of the Commission which distributed the State of New South Wales for the purposes of the Federal elections. Two Commissions were appointed, one to divide the State into electorates for State purposes, and the other to make a distribution for Federal purposes. Judge Murray was the chairman of the State Commission, and Mr. McMaster, who is an able and reliable man, acted as chairman of the Federal Commission. The imputation of gerrymandering has therefore been hurled against Mr. McMaster.
– The charge was not against Mr. McMaster, but against the Minister.
– Order ! Will the Minister kindly resume his seat. I do not know how many times I have called attention to the repeated interruptions which have taken place during the last five or ten minutes. I must ask honorable members to allow the Minister to make his own speech in his own way.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish-
– He has his own peculiar way.
– We know it.
– Honorable members are already resuming the disorder to which I have just called attention. I shall have to take further notice of the interruptions unless my request is acceded to.
– I wish, in justice to Mr. Houston, not to correct, but to explain the statement which I made, to the effect that if he had started to distribute the electorates from the coast, and had worked westwards with a contraction in the number of electors as required on the western boundaries, he need not have robbed the country of one representative. I said further that there would have been little alteration in the boundaries, except on the western side of one electorate and on the eastern side of another. Mr. Houston states in his report that he commenced from the electorate of Wentworth. I do not dispute that, but Mr. Houston circled round the electorate instead of commencing all along the coast and working directly westward. That is what I intended to convey in making that statement. I ‘ do not think that anything substantial has been advanced to which I am called upon to reply. It has been alleged that I desire to deprive a large number of women of their votes. With the assistance of my colleagues and the generous co-operation of honorable members, I think I may claim to have taken a prominent part in extending the franchise to the other sex. Under these circumstances I am not likely to do anything which will have the effect of depriving them of their votes. The fact is that it suits those who opposed that great reform, to endeavour to curiy favour with the women at the present time. The whole of the tirade in which< they have indulged has been prompted by that desire. I do not fear but that we shall receive fair consideration from the women electors of the community. I very much regret that so much heat has been imported into the consideration of this question, and that it was not discussed more calmly, especially by the honorable member for Macquarie, who addressed himself to it for about two hours.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
– In moving
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to state that we shall proceed tomorrow with the consideration of the Electoral Divisions Bill, and that as soon as . it has been dealt with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be further considered.
– I should like to know why the Electoral Divisions Bill is being persistently put in front of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1 Last week the taunt was hurled at honorable members who spoke upon the proposed electoral divisions that they were blocking the passing of the Arbitration and Conciliation . Bill. It seems to me that’it is now thought that the latter measure can wait for a month, if need be, until the precious Electoral Divisions Bill has passed through the House. I should like to ascertain the reason for the frenzy which was shown last week in relation to the. passing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in view of the fact that the measure with which we have just been dealing seems now to occupy supreme prominence in the minds of the majority of honorable members. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is being pushed perilously near to breaking point, so far as this Parliament is concerned, and I doubt whether it will have any chance of passing through both Houses of the Legislature before we make that appeal to the electors for which we are all so anxious. It seems that no matter how near the end of the session we may be, that measure is to be allowed to stand over until we pass the precious Bill which is going to upset the whole of the electoral arrangements of the Commonwealth, so far as the next Parliament is concerned. Why is there so little anxiety shown to push on with the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill when there is a chance to do so, and so strong a desire to hurry on with. this paltry measure?
Si r EDMUND BARTON. - The honorable member knows quite well that it was stated all through last week that the question of the electoral divisions was to be settled before we proceeded with the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. .
– That does not make the position any better.
– Quite so; but one thing which makes the position worse is the inordinate delay which is taking place in dealing with the Electoral Divisions’ Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030901_reps_1_16/>.