2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The Clerk informed the House that Mr. Speaker was unavoidably absent.
Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 10.32 a.m., and readprayers.
– Why should a difference be made, Mr. Deputy Speaker, between the procedure adopted when Mr. Speaker enters the Chamber and takes the chair and that adopted when you act in his stead ? At his entry there is always a great parade and flourishing of the mace by the Sergeant-at-Arms, while you are permitted to sneak into the chair, the mace, instead of being borne before you by the Sergeant- at-Arms on his shoulder, being carried in before-hand, in quite another manner; Are these differences in accordance with the Standing Orders?
– I understand that the proceedings which have taken place were strictly in order, and in accordance with the practice elsewhere.
Motion (by Mr. Ewing) agreed to -
That the reports of Captain Creswell, laid on the tableon Thursday last, be printed.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform the House whether Colonel Lyster has been permanently appointed Commandant of the Queensland Forces, or whether that appointment is temporary only, until approved after the determination of Colonel Plomer’s engagement?
– I shall see the Minister of Defence to-day on the subject, and shall endeavour to answer the honorable member’s question to-morrow.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What was the total strength in the Commonwealth of the Permanent, Militia, Volunteers, and Rifle Club members for the year 1904; and what is the total strength of these respective branches of the Defence Force at present?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows; -
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring ina Bill for an Act for the preservation of Australian industries and for the repression of commercial trusts.
That Mr. Deakin and Sir William Lyne do prepare and bring in a Bill.
Bill presented by Sir Williamlyne, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That it is expedientthat an appropriation of revenue be made forthe purposes of a Bill for anActto grant andapplyoutofthe Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £25,000 for the purposes of the erection of a Memorial in honour of the late Queen Victoria.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That Mr. Deakin do prepare and bring in a Bill.
Bill presented by Mr. Deakin, read a first time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Ewing) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for compensation to be paid to Colonel Price, C.B., and Lieut.-Col. Bayly.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That Mr. Deakin and Mr: Ewing do prepare and bring in a Bill.
Bill presented by Mr. Ewing, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from11th December (vide page 6596), upon motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In view of the statement of the Minister yesterday, and the provisions of this Bill, I think that I shall best be consulting the convenience of the House if I decline to waste any of its time in taking part in an utterly farcical proceeding.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The heading to Division VIa. Metals and Machinery in the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1902 is amended by omitting all words from and including the words “ To come into operation “ to and including the words “ sufficiently established,” and by inserting the following words in lieu thereof : - “ The operation of this division is suspended as to the articles of manufacture specified therein, which (except Iron Galvanized, Plate, and Sheet) are exempt from duty until this Division is brought into operation. “This Division may, by Proclamation, be brought into operation as to any such article from a date specified in the Proclamation. “ Provided, however, that no Proclamation bringing this Division into operation as to any article shall be made until the Governor-General is satisfied that the manufacture of the articleor, in the case of a Proclamation bringing this Division into operation as to Scrap Iron or Scrap Steel, is satisfied that the manufacture ofIron or Steel) from Australian ore or material is sufficiently established in the Commonwealth.”
– I move -
That the words “ the Governor-General is satisfied,” lines 20 and 2r, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words” the Minister for Trade and Customs certifies.”
The object of this amendment is to bring the clause into accord with what I stated last night.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “ is satisfied,” line 25, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ certifies.”
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the following words be added : - “ and the certificate has been affirmed by joint addresses passed on the motion of Ministers by both Houses of Parliament.”
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I was not present when the second reading of the Bill was moved, and I desire to ask what is the meaning of passing an Act which Parliament may afterwards bring into operation. I understand that ‘both Houses of Parliament have, at some future time, . to consent to this thing being done. What is the value of passing a Bill of this sort when we shall have to pass a resolution afterwards for the same purpose?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - If the honorable and learned member had looked at the wording of division VI. a of the Customs Tariff, he would have seen a provision to bring certain . articles under duty by proclamation, but not until an Act had been passed. It says -
No proclamation to issue except in pursuance of a joint address passed on the motion of Ministers by both Houses of Parliament statingthat such manufacture is sufficiently established.
Precisely the course which was taken in that case is being taken now.
– I should like the Minister to explain how this measure will help the encouragement of manufactures. At Penguin, in Tasmania, Mr. Ellis, formerly a member of the New South Wales Parliament, has been producing raw iron for many years. He is the first producer of raw iron in this country. What I wish to know is how the Bill will help him.
– It will not come into operation until both Houses have passed a resolution.
– When it does come’ into operation, it will only impose a small duty of about 10 per cent., when it ought to impose a dutv of 15 or 25 per cent., or whatever amount may be sufficient to help such a man to carry on his. business.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - Except by means of a bonus, there is no way in which to effectively help industries of this kind up to a certain period, when they get a protective duty. The honorable member knows that he opposed the Iron Bonus Bill:
– I opposed the appropriation of the enormous sum which the Minister was proposing to give away as aprize.
– The majority of the House opposed the Iron Bonus Bill and the granting of bonuses.
– If a small amount be offered to a man like Mr. Ellis, I shall vote for the proposal, because he has the works going.
– I have been acquainted with Mr. Ellis for a great many years. I know that he is quarrying iron stone near the Penguin, but I am not aware that he is smelting iron for raw material.
– He is producing raw iron.
– Mr. Ellis is producing iron ore, but not raw iron.
– If the Minister will offer some encouragement, he will produce raw iron.
– If the honorable member had helped me to pass the Iron. Bonus Bill, as I think he should have done-
– No, because the Minister was going to help the big “boodleiers.”
– The honorable member is quite mistaken. What was intended under that measure was to allow any one, no matter whether he was a big or small producer, to gain the advantage of the bonus. I am, and always have been, strongly in favour of giving a bonus. But when I find that it is absolutely impossible to pass that measure, I must try to get as much as I can. What willtake place under this Bill, at any rate, if I have an opportunity to administer it, is that if any one were producing sufficient ore to manufacture one item of importance-
– A bucket?
– If, for instance, sufficient iron were being produced from our raw material to manufacture the whole of our wire netting at a price at which it would commandthe market here, I should be quite prepared to come down and move an address in order to bring the duty on that line, into operation.
– Suppose that the iron made from Australian ore was not satisfactory, and that the ironmaster had to put in Swedish or American ore, what would the Minister do?
– That would not be true Australian iron ore, and it would receive no consideration.
– We have the best iron ore in the world.
– Iknow that there is plenty of good ore in Australia - and it is not of one particular class either - for flux, and also for giving strength and malleability.
– A Yankee sailor told me that we have better ore than they have at Pittsburg.
– I think so, but the honorable member and others would not support the Government, and that is the reason why the ore is not being converted into iron and steel.
– In this Bill there is nothing to support or oppose.
– I am glad that the honorable member agrees with the Bill, but before a year is passed I think he will find that there is something in it. I have referred to the itemofwire netting; but there are many other articles to be considered. Last night I said that if the steel or iron used in the manufacture of reapers and binders were all made from Australian ore I should submit an address to the House, with a view to bringing into force the duty of 15 per cent. I could instance many other items which could be considered. The Bill is worded in such a way that we can take any particular item, and propose an address in favour of bringing into operation the duty imposed thereon in Division VIa. of the Tariff. It has been worded in this way in order that it may not be necessary for the industry to wait for protection until the whole of the pig iron required to produce all the iron of Australia is being produced. Under this Bill, when ‘the two Houses adopt an address, in respect of one, two, three, or four items, protection will be given to the industry.
– Why not allow the Bill to come into operation at once? Why make it necessary for each House to pass a resolution?
– The object is to allow those who desire to invest their capital in the development of this industry to know what is in the mind of Parliament, and to understand that, not an Act, but merely an address will have to be passed in order to give them a part of the protection which they require. Because I do not believe in this as a protectionist measure, considered as such, and having regard to the duties which could be imposed under Division VI.a, I think it is only a make-believe. I hope that the geese on the other side will not cackle so much. The duties which are prescribed in Division VI. a of the Tariff are not what I call protective. I am only applying that division as far as I can at the present time.
– What does the Minister think would be a fair protection ?
-I should impose a duty of 25 per cent. on reapers and binders, and aduty of 15 per cent. on iron. That is what I should call something like protection. It is not my fault, however, that this Bill will not give the protection which I should like to give. I have to do the best I can in the interest of our industry, and the only course I can take now, without giving an opportunity to the Opposition to raise a hue and cry, and say that we are interfering with the Tariff, and raising the fiscal question, is to take the duties as they are prescribed in Division VIa., and make the best of them. Last night it was stated by either the deputy leader of the Opposition or the honorable member for Macquarie that in New South Wales a duty of 10 per cent. had not been imposed on pig iron. In my second-reading speech, I said that a duty of 10 per cent. had been imposed by the Dibbs Tariff, but on reference to that Tariff this morning, I found that a duty of 10s. per ton was imposed, to come into operation a vear afterwards.
– I think that for the last fortnight the procedure in connexion with our measures has been very extraordinary. We are pretending to pass laws, but we are passing them with a provision which will prevent them from coming into operation. In my opinion, a capitalist who would be foolish enough to put money into an industry under this clause ought to be in Kew Asylum.
– Whv did not the honorable member support the measure to grant a bonus ?
-I do not believe in bolstering up one industry at the expense of others, more particularly when we are asked to vote money for the benefit of men who are promoting a company with a capital of£1, 100,000, out of which they are to receive . £500,000.
– The honorable member is trying tosneak out of his responsibility.
– The Government are trying to sneak out of giving effect to their policy. To pretend by means of the Bill to encourage capitalists to enter into the iron industry is merely to play with legislation. If there was nothing objectionable in the Bill when it was introduced Ministers should have stood by it, and not have made its effectiveness depend upon the passing, of a resolution by Parliament at a subsequent date.
– The honorable member would have been one of the first to protest if I had adopted the course he suggests.
– We have been merely playing at legislation for the past fortnight.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The Minister has made some extraordinary statements concerning this measure. He really must have been affected bv the article which appears in the Age this morning, because language similar to that employed by the writer of the article has tripped lightly from his tongue. He says this is not a protective measure - it is merely a “make-believe.”
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Every one knows that it is a “make-believe,” and the Minister need not have told us that. It has “make-believe” stamped all over its features. This little bantling of the Minister pretends to makes some concession, whereas he knows that it confers absolutely no advantage. I wonder what that bodyguard which escorts the Minister to the Sydney station every weekwill think of this proposal when they see it. Last week we could scarcely get from the trainbecause of the number of gentlemen who were congratulating the Minister. Now, this measure is all that he is offering them. They must be very credulous, notwithstanding that their trust has been so absolutely betrayed by the Minister for many years past. He has pretended to help them in their industrial occupations for the past fourteen years, and here is the help that he is giving them.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade arid Customs). - I can well understand a number of political frauds seeking to shelter themselves behind the article which appeared in this morning’s Age, and which was written by a man who had no knowledge of the facts. It has afforded honorable members who were bitterly opposed to the Bill, in the form in which I desired to pass it, an opportunity to pretend that they are acting in the interests of the iron-workers. Honorable members know of the action that I have taken for the last fourteen years, to protect the great iron industry, in the teeth of the opposition of honorable members opposite, who have never ceased in their efforts to injure the working classes. I was told by the deputy leader of the Opposition last week that he would fight the Bill in the form in which it was introduced until after Christmas.
– I give that statement an absolute denial. The Minister is stating what is absolutely incorrect, and he knows it.
– Now that the Bill has been altered, the honorable member shrinks and sneaks behind the Age article, and makes an attack on me. He is too great a coward to state the case plainly.
– I rise to a point- of order. Not only is the Minister telling downright lies, but he is also insulting.
– Order. Both the Minister and the honorable member for Parramatta must withdraw the expressions used by them.
– I withdraw my remarks.
– If my remark was out of order, I withdraw it. I like a little straightforwardnessin matters of this kind, and I want to make it clear that honorable members opposite are shrinking and sneaking behind the Age article. They intended to oppose the Bill to the fullest extent of their power. It was not with any pleasure that I consented to amend the Bill, but one must be actuated by considerations of common sense when dealing with matters of this kind. I found that I had no possiblechance of passing the Bill as originally framed, becausehonorable members objected to the proposal to place in the hands of the Executive the power reserved to Parliament by Division VI. a of the Tariff. I was not stupid enough to drop the Bill because I could not get everything I wanted, and, therefore, I consented to amend it.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (bySir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to be. passed through its remaining stages without delay.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I congratulate the Minister upon setting aside the Standing Orders in order to enable a Bill of this farcical description to be passed without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion(by Sir William Lyne) proposed
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I rise, at the earliest possible moment, to give the lie direct to the Minister.
– Order. I cannot allow the honorable member to use expressions of that kind.
– The Minister has made a statement concerning me which has not a tittle of foundation.
– Itis absolutely true.
– At no time did I discuss the Bill with the Minister until yesterday, when he told me. whilst I was sitting on the Opposition benches, that his proposal was precisely on the same lines as the provision in Division VIa. of the Tariff. Until then I had never opened my mouth to the Minister.
– The honorable member is absolutely mistaken.
– The statement of the Minister that I told him that I would oppose the Bill until after Christmas is absolutely incorrect.
– It is absolutely correct.
– I never in. my life made such a statement to the Minister.
– Is not the honorable member’s memory at fault?
– The honorable member is prepared to stand by the Minister in anything.
– I stand by a man who I know speaks the truth.
– Order. The honorable member is notin order in making an insinuation of that kind.
-I withdraw the remark.
– I am not concerned about the statements of the honorable member for Gwydir - I do not care what he says or thinks - but I am concerned about the statements of a responsible Minister, who puts language into my mouth that I never even thought of If the Minister goes on like this, he will make it impossible for a decent man to have anything to do with him. I may say frankly that had not the Bill been amended, I should certainly have opposed it.
– That is what the honorable member told me.
– I did nothing of the kind. The Bill, on the face of it, is a fraud from start to finish. It means nothing so far as any practical assistance to the iron industry is concerned. I have letters in my pocket now from ironworkers at Lithgow, asking me to do nothing to hinder this Bill from going through. These people actually think that this Bill imposes duties for their benefit; and the sooner they know that it is simply another of the many deceits, that this Minister has practised upon them during his Ministerial career, the better for them and the better for all concerned. We all know that last week, when we arrived in Sydney, the representatives of the iron industry were there, running after the Minister as a great benefactor; and here is the result of it all. This Bill does absolutely nothing over and above what has been done before.
– That is not correct.
– All that this Bill does is to remove the preamble in Division VI.a of the Customs Tariff Act relating to the bounty.
– It does away with the necessity for passing an Act for that purpose.
– May I remind my honorable friend, in answer to his statement, that the same resolution which would bring these duties into operation would remove that language from Division VI.a?
– No, certainly not.
– That is not correct; it is ridiculous. Let the honorable member ask Mr. Speaker, who will tell him that he ls wrong.
– It takes an Act to alter an Act.
– What, is the difference? The same majority that will pass a resolution will put a formal Act through. Putting an Act of this kind through means the work of about five minutes.
– Would it? I do not think so.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we on this side should oppose it?
– I do. most decidedly.
– Taking out that language from section VI.a? That is the only point. The honorable member need not quibble like that, as he always does.
– The honorable member never made a straight statement in his life. He is not capable of a straight statement.
– Order !
– I rise to a point of order. I have been listening to the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta for twenty minutes. The like of it I have never heard in any civilized assembly, before. I understand that the honorable member has accused the honorable member for Bland of “ quibbling, as he always does.” I think that is going to extremes. The House is not used to such accusations, and I will ask you to insist upon the honorable member withdrawing that language.
– He is the most insulting man I have ever struck !
– Order ! There are too many remarks in speeches, and too many interjections of an unnecessarily personal character. No good result canpossibly come from them, and they tend only to promote angry feelings,. I will ask honorable members on both sides, when speaking to questions, and when interjecting, to refrain from the use of such language. As the honorable member for Northern Melbourne has called attention to a remark made by the honorable member for Parramatta, I will ask him to withdraw it.
– If you rule that my statement as to quibbling is out of order. I will certainly withdraw it.
– If the honorable member had simply said that the honorable member for Bland was quibbling. I should certainly have not taken any notice of the remark. I should even have passed by the remark, “ He is quibbling, as he always, does,” as there was some little excitement in the Chamber, if attention had not been drawn to it. But now that attention has been called to the language. I will ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– Certainly. May I, in passing, call attention to a statement made by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who has thought it necessary to take a point of order? He is a gentleman who professes to be very accurate in his statements. But he has declared that he has been listening to me for twenty minutes, whereas in fact I have been speaking for only five. This is a specimen of the accuracy we get from this gentleman, who isso punctilious and so critical of other people. As to the honorable and learned member’s description of my speech as one, the like of which he had never heard before, I reply that I do not value his opinion upon that point.
– Order. Will the honorable member discuss the Bill?
– I am going to discuss it. Now, what does this Bill do? Let us get back to the measure itself, and see what it is going to do for the iron industry of Australia. After it is passed, it can do nothing for the industry until iron is actually on the market to meet the requirements of Australia produced from Australian ore. That cannot be, under the most favorable circumstances, until the year 1907. Does the Minister deny that? I repeat that there can be no iron produced from Australian ore before the year 1907. Therefore, we are passing a Bill to say that in the year 1907 the Minister may come down to Parliament and ask it to impose a duty to benefit an Australian industry, and Parliament may pass it or refuse to do so. Is not that, on the face of it, a frivolous waste of the time of this House, to say nothing more? Is there any ironmaster in the world who, on a mere contingency of that kind, would invest his hard earnings in this industry. I say that the Minister is making the people outside believe that this measure makes a substantial concession to the iron industry of Australia, when it does nothing that has not already been done in Division VI. a of the Customs Tariff Act. And now he has accepted an amendment - suggested, of course, bythe Labour members. He would not have looked at this amendment if they had been solid behind him. If it had been proposed from this side of the House, he would have ridiculed and danced on it. But because it has been suggested by a Labour member, he clutches at it anxiously, and is glad to take it, and to urge the House to put the Bill through, although, on its face, the whole procedure is a frivolous waste of time and effort - a farce and a fraud, so far as those outside are concerned. The honorable gentleman’s statement as to his having imposed a duty in New South Wales is quite true. He was instrumental in imposing a duty of 10s. per ton on pig iron, which was to take effect in the succeeding January. That duty, if I remember rightly, remained on the statute-book for two years; but it had not, so far as we are aware, the slightest effect in stimulating the pig-iron producing industry of New South Wales.
– We had not Inter-State free-trade at that time, it must be remembered.
– But I come back to the point, and the only point I wish to make ; that the Minister has been making the people engaged in the iron industry believe, for many months past, that by means of this Bill, we are going to establish the iron industry in New South Wales. This Bill will do nothing of the kind. It merely solemnly enacts that in the year 1907, when we may hope that pig iron may be produced from Australian ores, this same Minister of Trade and Customs may come down to Parliament, and ask itto impose a duty which he now has not the pluck to propose, but which he is making the people believe that he will impose at some time in the distant future. It is a safe proposal, but again I say that it is a sorry farce.
– The position in regard to this measure is very simple. The Government is convinced that the development of the iron industry, and the manufacture of Australian iron from Australian ore, is a great national object worthy of considerable national sacrifices. We were prepared, and should to-day be prepared, if there were any possibility of success, once more to ask this House to vote the necessary sum by way of bounty in order to encourage and develop the industry, in the confidence that any expenditure of that kind would be repaid over and over again by the development both of one of our great natural resources and of the many industries depending upon it. Knowing that to be politically and practically impossible, the Government would have been content to allow the measure to be removed from the notice-paper, had it not been for the strong representations which have been made to us by those who are associated, and desire to be associated, with the development of the iron industry.
– They did not know what this Bill means.
– I beg to differ from the honorable member. I believe his constituents to be better informed with regard to the measure than he gives them credit for being, when he admits that he has letters in his pocket asking him not to do anything to impede the passage of the Bill.
– Not this Bill.
– This Bill.
– They think it means duties.
– I am satisfied that they perfectly well understand that this Bill means duties when the making of what may be called raw material - although the first stage of manufacture has been gone through - has been sufficiently developed, when Australian iron from Australian ore has been manufactured sufficiently to enable the duties to be imposed without a serious disturbance of the iron market of the Commonwealth. They know that very well. I am in a position to say, also, that those who employ the ironworkers, whose capital is invested in the Lithgow ironworks, and those who propose to invest capital in other works, are perfectly well aware that this measure involves no immediate imposition of duties.
– Then what will be the use of it? It will not help them.
– The point is this : our object in bringing in this Bill, at this particular moment, is not due to any political motive; it has not been done of our own motion ; but in consequence of strong representations, both from those interested in the development of the iron industry, and from other channels. We are assured that this particular proposal will be of material assistance and encouragement to them. They believe, and I think rightly, that the tide of opinion in Australia is setting strongly in favour of the development of the iron industry. They believe that the encouragement will be given by higher duties hereafter. They believe that such duties will be given; but in the meantime they require some assurance that Parliament has not altered its mind, and that when a certain state of development has beenreached, this small but encouraging duty in VI. a will be imposed upon the articles which they manufacture. It is from those whose money is at stake today that we have had representations that the passage of this Bill will be of great advantage to them.
– Is this Bill a guarantee that the duty will be imposed?
– I have said that they rely upon the opinion of Australia hardening in the direction of the encouragement of the iron industry.
– Will the honorable gentleman answer my question? Is this a guarantee that the duty will be imposed ?
– It is, so far as this Parliament can give a guarantee affecting next session or the next Parliament. Of course, we cannot give a definite guarantee in regard . to any political proposal in the future. The course taken will depend upon the assent of representatives, who are responsible only to their constituents, or, if an election transpires, it depends upon the constituents themselves. Personally, I think that their confidence is well founded. That, however, is not the point. Having been asked to effect this small alteration in Division VI.a of the Tariff - an alteration whichthese people believe would confer a great advantage on them - what would have been the position of the Government had we refused to accede to their request? Should we not have been traitors, not only to the pledges which we have given, but to the great industry, the development of which we are so anxious to assist? In this Bill we are expressing what is practically the unanimous intention of this Parliament. I repeat that we should have been false alike to our pledges and our duty if we had not submitted this measure, even though we did not believe that it would prove as useful to those who desire it as they themselves believe. Personally, I am of opinion that their anticipations of higher duties are well warranted.
– Were they aware of the nature of the alteration which the Minister has now made in the Bill ?
– I do not know. They were not consulted as to the details of the measure. They merely asked for an assurance that, though a Bill authorizing the payment of a bounty upon the production of iron from native ores is not passed, and though neither the Commonwealth nor the State were prepared to undertake the nationalization of the iron industry, these duties in VI.a would be imposed if private enterprise developed the industry to such an extent as would justify Parliament in adopting that course. Having complied with their request, we have done our part. In taking another step to re-affirm the decision of a previous Parliament - as embodied in Division VIa. of the Tariff - that the iron industry is one of the most important in Australia and should be developed without delay, we have discharged our duty politically, as well as to those who are engaged in that industry.
– I am not surprised that the Minister of Trade and Customs should support this Bill in its present form, but I am certainly surprised that the Prime Minister should do so. He declares that the iron industry is worthy of a great national sacrifice. That is his opinion today, when he is ruling the destinies of Australia. Why does he not evidence his faith in that opinion ? Why is he not prepared, at the risk, if need be, of sacrificing his position - although I do not admit that he would incurany such risk - to give effect to his conviction that the iron industry cannot prosper without the imposition of protective duties?
– I am not in favour of imposing any duties until production is sufficiently advanced to allow of that course being adopted without unduly affecting the Australian market.
– Duties could be imposed, to come into operation two years hence, if the Prime Minister so desired. That would allow time forthe development of the industry, and. if at the end of that period Parliament did not consider that it had been sufficiently established, the duties could be removed.
– That method would be no better than the one which we are adopting.
– It would be considerably better.
– It would be strongly opposed by the Opposition.
Mr.DUGALD THOMSON.- I would oppose it, because I do not believe in the duties.
– What is the difference between bringing duties before Parliament at that particular period, and bringing resolutions before Parliament?
– There is a difference, because two years hence there may be a very different Parliament in existence. The Prime Minister has said that those who are at present engaged in the iron industry are in favour of this Bill. Naturally they are, when they can get nothing else. They are in favour of the imposition of duties, but they were favorable to a bonus being paid upon the production of iron from native ores. Ministers have all along declared that the industry could not be established without the payment of a bonus. They pledged themselves to bring such a proposal before Parliament. They spoke so strongly of the necessity for the payment of a bonus to establish the industry, that I cannot understand them now abandoning their views and submitting a perfect sham to this House in the shape of the Bill which is under consideration. The Prime Minister said that we can give no guarantee of what a future Parliament may do. Yet he implied that such a guarantee is sought by those who are engaged in the industry. If we can give them no such guarantee, what advantage will this Bill confer upon them? The measure simply leaves matters as they are.
– No. It removes the necessity for passing another Act.
– It removes the necessity for the payment of a bonus which the Ministry professed to believe ought to be granted in the interests of the whole community.
– I say so now.
– Yet the Minister has abandoned the Bill which provided for the payment of a bonus. Would it not be just as easy for the Government to introduce a measure to alter Division VI.a of the Tariff, as regards the bonus, as to pass this Bill, which accomplishes nothing, and which necessitates, when anything is to be done, the adoption of an address in both Houses of Parliament? It is just as difficult to secure the adoption of an address in any Parliament in which there is a considerable minority in opposition, as it isto pass a short Bill.
– The Minister is talking nonsense.
– A resolution cart be adopted much more easily than a Bill can be passed, because it does not afford such opportunity for obstruction.
– To pass a resolution in Parliament requires a majority.
– But there is only one debate upon a resolution.
– Under the new Standing Orders the Government have the power to limit debate in any way that they may choose.
– Just as. the Government in New South Wales did last week.
– Honorable members opposite adopted the closure resolutions “for exactly that purpose. There need be no undue debate upon, a measure if a majority are favorable to it. This Parliament is now adopting the extraordinary course of passing legislation and neutralizing its whole effect by incorporating in it certain amendments. We are developing what, I am glad to say, is rather a rare practice in the States Parliaments - a system of sham legislation. Measures which are designed to effect certain results are submitted for our consideration. But they are mere shadows. There is no substance in them. Those results have to be achieved by some future legislation which may not come before the Parliament which has enacted the first measure. We are simply saying in effect, “ We will pas,s this legislation, which means nothing, so that a future Parliament, if it chooses, may make it effective ! “ There is a vast field open to us in that direction. We might utilize all our constitutional powers in that way and pass an enormous number of Bills framed on that principle.
– What a record we could make in the number of measures that we could pass.
– No Parliament could approach our record either from the stand-point of the number of measures that we might pass, or from that of their ineffectiveness. We have adopted the practice to which I refer in respect of one measure, and we are now asked to follow it in regard to another. An alteration of Division VLA of the Tariff could be effected at any time that Parliament was favorable to it by a short Act, the consideration of which would occupy no longer than would a resolution in favour of the adoption of an address. Holding the views that I do, I suppose that I ought to feel gratified that the Minister has accepted a proposal which means, nothing.
– The honorable member is not showing his gratification.
– Because I hold that this matter should be viewed from a more exalted stand-point, namely, fi om the stand-point of sensible action on the part of this Parliament. As far as the provision itself is concerned, believing that we are entering upon a very dangerous course when we commence to impose duties, on iron, which is the raw material of so many industries-
– England built up her iron trade under protective duties.
– I would ask the honorable member to recollect the size of her iron trade when she abandoned protective duties, and also its wonderful expansion in the absence of those duties. I have no desire to delay the House, and I shall not debate this question; but I recognise the grave danger of imposing duties of the kind, in view of the fact that iron productions form the basis of so many industries. If the idea were to impose duties at the present time, I should have to oppose the proposal. The Minister, however, takes quite a different position; he believes in the. imposition of duties, and is also of opinion that an industry is being established. I think the Minister would bear me out in the statement that iron is being produced at Lithgow from Australian ore at the present time.
– I do not think so.
– I am not certain on the point, but I was under the impression that one furnace is in operation there.
– No; I saw a representative of Mr. Sandford the other day, and I am informed that there is not furnace going.
– I know that, at any rate, Carcoar ore has been used for smelting purposes.
– That is being done after a bonus has been arranged.
– There has been no arrangement with the State Government for a bonus.
– It is an arrangement for a bonus.
– I do not think that is so, as a matter of fact, because the price of iron is now so high that it will be supplied at less than it would cost to import.
– But the price will be down again.
– That may be so; but we cannot count on that any more than we can count on the reception which this proposal before us may receive at the hands of another Parliament.
– It will be. all right.
– Does the honorable member for North Sydney favour the Executive imposing duties?
– Then why argue against Parliament having the power?
– I am not -arguing in that way ; I favour Parliament having the power. That is already arranged for in the 6a provision of the Tariff, and all the Government have to do is to bring down a: Bill at the time when they consider that clause should be put in operation, substituting a provision that the industry having been established, the imposition of a bonus shall not be required to precede its establishment, and that the duty shall come into force.
– The proposal is a declaration that the Minister may introduce an address with the same object ; and the course proposed is much the simpler.
– It is not in the least simpler. Even if this were a different kind of Bill, there would be no necessity to deal with the matter now. The industry cannot be established during the recess ; and I do not see the use of employing the closing hours of the session with measures which practically mean nothing, when the Ministry desire to conclude other business, in respect to a good deal of which the Opposition are willing to render assistance. This is not a question to be regarded from the point of view of the side of the House on which we happen to sit. I undertake to say that any honorable ‘member on the other side, who looks at this question honestly and tries to form a just conclusion, will see the impotence of the whole proposal, just as, at any rate, one of the press supporters of the Government does to-day, when it expresses the opinion that this .measure is a hollow sham. I object entirely to this method of legislation, of which we have lately had two or three examples. We have had an Immigration Restriction Bill, which proposed to do a certain thing, and, by means of an amendment, failed to do it; then Ave had the Contract Immigrants Bill, which, until amended, .proposed to do something which it did not do, but left matters just as they were, or, perhaps.- Th a worse state. Now we have this measure proposing to do something with which neither the honorable member for Wide Bay nor myself agree.
– I disagree with this manner of legislating.
– I am now speaking of the manner. When the Bill is passed it will do nothing.
– I think it will.
– Another Parliament will have to pass a measure before anything can be done.
– Not a measure.
– An address is a measure.
– I think it will be passed, and that plenty of iron will be’ produced in the next seven or eight months.
– I do not see how the Minister can entertain that hope, considering that he has just said that works have to be established for the purpose.
– I said that works, are being established.
– They are not, I understand, yet being established ; that is to say, the furnaces are not yet begun, though, I believe, some one has gone abroad about the business. However, that is immaterial. Either next session or next Parliament a measure has to be passed, and, instead of wasting time now, it would be infinitely’ ‘ better to leave the consideration of the whole question until then. We are now only pretending to do something which may never be confirmed, and, even if it is, a real Act of Parliament will have to be passed to give substance to this empty shadow.
– It makes one, to a certain extent, content to know that members of the Opposition have taken for their text this morning something that has appeared in the Melbourne Age. Inspiration is required; and evidently those honorable members are not particular whence it is drawn. It is remarkable that a measure of this kind cannot be discussed without the honorable member for Parramatta, who is the deputy leader of the Opposition, hurling at the Minister in charge observations which, in my opinion, are absolutely unworthy of any representative in this Chamber. This measure has been described as another fraud - as only one of many frauds “which have characterized the political’ career of the Minister. Statements of this kind are surprising, as emanating from a gentleman who might glance at his own windows before throwing stones at the windows of other people. The honorable member for Parramatta turns on any one who ventures to point our the absolutely un-British conduct which marks him whenever he rises in opposition to any proposal.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has the honorable member for Gwydir under his thumb.
– The honorable member for Parramatta now accuses me of supporting the present Minister of Home Affairs under all conditions, rightly or wrongly. But the consistency I have shown in supporting one whom I know to be right is a fact in which I take a great deal of pride. The consistency of the honorable member for Parramatta lies in denouncing anything and everything, whether he believes in the proposal or not, just as it suits his political mission. However, the honorable member “ gave away “ the whole position when this morning he stated that he had received letters from his constituents begging him not to oppose this measure.
– The honorable member for Parramatta does not oppose the measure.
– I admit that; but we can now see the lever by which he is worked - the lever which moves this gentleman, who, of all others, is the greatest exponent of freedom of commerce and trade. When he hears the still small voice of his constituents, he is prepared to swallow all his high aspirations in regard to fiscalism, and to be silent on the floor of this House in. the presence of a measure which invades the very principles he so strongly advocates.
– That is very loud, but where is the point?
– The point is that the workers of Lithgow are sufficiently strong to override the honorable member’s professions with regard to free-trade.
– I do not understand the honorable member.
– I cannot help that; I cannot supply the honorable member with the sense to understand.
– How does the honorable memberfor Gwydir account for the fact that thevoters of Lithgow return the honorable member for Parramatta to this House?
-I can only say that the workers of Lithgow, like the workers of Bathurst, are liable to be hypnotized by the wonderful presence of the honorable members who now represent them, the hypnotism being assisted by the glamour thrown around those two gentlemen by the Sydney daily press.
– When the honorable member has represented a constituency for twenty years, he may be in a position to talk in this strain.
– The length of the period does not prove the efficiency of the representation.
– The honorable member for Gwydir, in order to get into Parliament, had to go to a constituency where he was not known.
– Well, that is more than the honorable member would ever dare do.
– Will the honorable member for Gwydir discuss the Bill?
– I am merely replying to interjections, which are published, and thus spread misrepresentation abroad.
– It may be well for honorable members generally to know that interjections not replied to are not published in Hansard.
– But they are published in the newspaper press.
– In any case, I shall not allow irrelevant or improper interjections to be held to justify any departure in debate from thesubject-matter of the question.
– I ask for no concession ; but it is very difficult to refrain from replying to interjections. The honorable member for Parramatta, and others, declare that this Bill does nothing - that it is a sham, a farce, and a fraud. But the Bill does, practically, as much as can be done by Parliament at this time. We simply give the right, in some other session, or to some otherParliament, when it is proved that iron has been made from native ores, according to the terms specified, to apply the provision of the Tariff to the industry. The present proposal is made in the belief that it will save time; and the only criticism advanced against it amounts to an assertion that a resolution will prove as difficult to pass as an Act of Parliament. Every honorable member who has considered the question must know that that assertion is not correct. Honorable members can speak only once to a motion, but there are endless opportunities to discuss a Bill. That being so, the objection can only be regarded as being most insincere. I hold that something tangible will result from the passing of this measure. We do not propose to allow the Minister of his own motionto bring
Part VI. a of the Tariff into operation, but, by this measure, we” call upon him to obtain the consent of the Parliament to that being done. The honorable member for North Sydney has said that when the time arrives for the adoption “of that course another Parliament may be in existence ; but that is an immaterial consideration. The Opposition are opposed to the imposition of duties,, the granting of bounties, or anything else “designed, to encourage our industries, and hence their objection to this proposal. But for the arrangement made by the Government of New South Wales with’ Mr.. Sandford for the supply of all the iron required by the Railway Department of tha.t State for the next seven years-, the Ministry would have proceeded with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill in its original form. For reasons overwhich, we- have no control, the situation has changed, and yet the Opposition would have) the public believe that, the Government are backing down from the position which they first took up. Such an assertion is an idle one. The honorable member for North Sydney spoke of this as sham legislation, to be perfected hereafter by some other Parliament. Such an attack may be all very well from the point of view that, it is the duty of an Opposition to. denounce every Ministerial- proposal, but, after all, that is a sorry position to take up. The Government and its supporters hold that it is only right that Parliament: itself should determine when Part VI. a of the Tariff shall come into operation.
– I wish that I could do more, but I cannot.
– The Minister never tried’..
– Had the Minister proposed that Part VI. a of the Tariff should be brought into force by Executive act, his proposition would not have been as far forward as it is to-day. We know that- he- would like to do more if he could, and- so would every other honorable member who is honestly inclined to assist the iron industry, and does not favour a certain policy merely for the sake of gratifying a small coterie of his constituents. The Minister in the circumstances is doing all that he can, and but for the contract made between the Government of New South Wales and Mr. Sandford, I am satisfied that .he would have done that- which the Opposition now upbraid him for failing to do. If the Opposition find fault with the Government for neglecting to provide for the payment of bonuses in connexion with the industry, they must also find fault with the State Government which has placed the supply of iron and steel for the State Railway Department for seven years in the hands of a close corporation. It has- also been declared by the honorable member for North Sydney that this is a most shadowymeasure, and that had the Government desired to push an Iron Bonus Bill’ through the House, they could have done so by means of the “ gag.” The Government brought forward the closure standing orders merely to secure a means of defence against waste of time on the part of the Opposition, and I am sure that they have no desire to avail themselves of it for any other purpose. In dealing with this Bill, the Opposition have been letting off political fireworks very much like those which were fired two or three days ago by the Premier of New South Wales, and it seems to me that they are unworthy of further attention. 0
– The honorable member for Gwydir has posed as the apologist of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and no one knows better than I do how sadly the honorable gentleman is in need of some one to play that’ role for him.
– I must ask the honorable member to address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I am referring to the attitude taken up’ by the Minister in regard to this Bill. The honorable member for Gwydir has said that he believes in strict adherence to principle, and that honorable members ought not to allow their decisions in regard to any matter to be swayed merely by a desire to consider the interests of a small coterie of electors. He proceeded to make an attack upon the deputy leader of the Opposition, but I would remind him that when Part VI. a of the Tariff was being considered by the first Parliament no one adhered more loyally to his principles than did the honorable member for Parramatta. Notwithstanding that a great many of his constituents are interested in the iron industry, the honorable member stood firm to his convictions in regard to freedom of trade, and thus set the honorable member for Gwydir a lesson which he might well take to heart. The honorable member for Gwydir, who speaks of consistency; has been in turn free-trader, protectionist, and labour member.
– The question to which the honorable member is now referring has nothing whatever to do with the Bill. It is because honorable members debate each other’s actions, instead of the question before the Chair, that so much, neat is raised.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I feel that, as the honorable member for Gwydir has discussed the actions of the deputy leader of the Opposition, I should like to refer to his political characteristics. When the Minister was moving yesterday the second reading of this marvellous piece of legislation, I interjected that it was merely a political placard, but was emphatically informed that it was not. To-day we find that it is nothing more than a piece of make-believe. The leading protectionist journal in Australia - a newspaper which in other respects supports the Ministry - publishes to-day what certainly cannot be described as a panegyric on the Minister, and points out that it is merely a waste of time to pass such a measure as this. I admit that I am glad that the original Manufactures Encouragement Bill has been stripped in this way of the provisions to which I was opposed. I do not profess to know anything about the technical details of the iron industry, but I certainly do claim to voice the views of my constituents, who, with the exception of the State Government, are the largest consumers of iron and steel in New South Wales. The industries established in the electorate of Dalley use more iron than is used in all the rest of the Commonwealth,, when that used by the States Governments is excepted. I have, therefore, a right in speaking on behalf of those who use iron to express my satisfaction that the Government proposal for a bonus on its production has been emasculated at the direction of the Minister who proposed it, and is now nothing more than a placard. I can understand protectionists being incensed and protectionist organs calling the Minister to task for the present position of the matter, and I direct attention to the hours of our time which have been wasted by Ministers in the discussion of the proposed bonus. Honorable members will remember that there were strained relations between the present PostmasterGeneral and the present Minister of Trade and Customs, who alternately had charge of this matter. They were animated by political jealousy, and the desire to show the public who was the most earnest advocate of the introduction of the bonus system in relation to the iron industry. And now the result of their contention is a mere placard. I am reminded also of the fact that another colleague of the Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Richmond, iri speaking of that honorable gentleman, said that while out of office he was an ardent protectionist-
– Has this anything whatever to do with the question?
– I think I can connect my remarks with the question. I wish to say that the present action of the Minister of Trade and Customs induces me reluctantly to accept the statement made by his colleague that when out of office the Minister is a strong protectionist, and that when in power he omits to take advantage of his opportunity to give effect to the protectionist principles he professes. As a freetrader I am pleased that the efforts of the Government in this matter have ended in nothing. Personally I should of course be glad to see all the members of the present Parliament returned to the next, but if I am myself returned I shall continue to adopt the same attitude on this question, and will oppose the resolutions referred to if they are brought on.
– The honorable member is merely a phonograph, for Mr. Franki.
– I am nothing of the sort, but I know that only a little time ago Mr. Franki, who occasionally advocates protection, was highly eulogized by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I have not the pleasure of numbering amongst my acquaintances either wealthy merchants or affluent manufacturers. My walk iri life is in a more humble sphere. I am satisfied that manufacturers and importers alike will do what they can to induce Parliament to pass legislation in their interests. I am very pleased to think that the House has practically destroyed this measure. It is not likely that very much capital will be invested as the result of a promise that something may happen two years hence. I .am sure that you, s.ir, as a business man, would not put £10,000 into any venture on the strength of such a promise. It is too much to ask honorable members to believe that manufacturers and ironmasters in Australia, and capitalists like the honorable member for Kooyong, will put £500,000 into the establishment of works and the erection of smelting furnaces, in the hope that in two years’ time certain resolutions will be passed by Parliament. I must say that if the article in the Age this morning is not an attack upon the Minister it is one of the most brilliant examples of unconscious irony that I have yet had an opportunity to read.
Mr SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I should not have risen to speak on the third reading of this Bill were it not that the Minister of Trade and Customs accused certain members of compelling him to make alterations in the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– The questionbefore the House is the third reading of the Bill. As the Minister of Trade and Customs has not spoken on that question, any reference to the honorable gentleman’s remarks must be a reference to a previous debate which the honorable member for Macquarie must know cannot be made now.
– I thought I might be permitted to make a passing reference to what the honorable gentleman said. We should like to know how the Minister can explain his remarkable change of front. It cannot be due to any criticism by the Opposition, because there has been no criticism which could have had such an effect. The honorable gentleman has been continually telling the people of New South Wales that it was has intention to assist the establishment of the iron industry in that State by means of a bonus. I know that at the last election the Minister was at some pains to send up a big gun, in the person of Mr. Sandford, to contest ray electorate. I believe that the largest iron deposits to be found in New South Wales are to be found in that district, but notwithstanding, the fact that a large number of the electors, and, amongst them personal friends and supporters of my own, were greatly interested in the establishment of the iron industry, on principle and in the public interest, I felt it my duty to oppose the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and the result of the election was that I was returned with twice the majority I. had at the previous election. The Minister of Trade and Customs told the people that it was necessary to pass the Manufactures Encouragement Bill in order to establish the iron industry in New South
Wales, and we now know that it is about to be established without any bonus at all.
– No, no.
– Will the Minister tell me that the price which Mr. Sandford has asked is higher than the current price of iron ?
– It is estimated that his price is equivalent to a bonus of 7 per cent.
– The current price of iron is about the same as that to be paid under Mr. Sandford’s contract. It is clear that the Opposition in this House, by their attitude, in preventing the passing of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, have saved the country £200,000 or £300,000, because the Minister now admits that there is no necessity to pass that Bill.
– No, I do not.
– Then why has not the Minister the courage of his opinions, and why does he not go on with the measure?
– If I could pass it I would do so, but I cannot hope to pass it in the face of the screeching from the other side.
– The Ministry have introduced the “gag” in order to push their business through, and why have they not the courage to use it to push the Manufactures Encouragement Bill through?
– Everything comes to him who waits.
– If the people have to wait for the Minister to give them the measure they will wait a long time, because he admits that he has not the courage of his opinions. He says that to pass the measure is the right thing to do, but he admits also that he has not the courage to do it, although he has a majority to support him.
– I do not ; I have no majority to pass the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, or it would be passed.
– The honorable gentleman told us over and over again that there was a majority in favour of the Bill, and he now admits that the majority are with those who took so strong a stand in opposing the measure in the first instance. When the Manufactures Encouragement Bill was first brought before the House, the proposal was to give the Minister of Trade and Customs the right to say when certain duties should be imposed for the benefit of certain people.
– No, it was not.
– The proposal was that the Minister should issue a pro:clamation bringing the duties into force.
– No, the GovernorGeneral in Council.
– The honorable gentleman is quibbling. He knows that ; the Governor-General in Council is the Executive.
– But not the Minister.
– The honorable gentleman is aware that if the Minister recommends a certain course, the Executive will adopt it.
– They may not do so.
– The honorable gentleman is still quibbling. He is a member of a protectionist Government, and he should not be where he is if. the majority of the Cabinet are not prepared to assist him in carrying out a protectionist policy. The honorable gentleman wanted Parliament to place in his hands the right to say to a body of manufacturers that the protectionist duties should come into force when he pleased.
– That matter is not before us now.
– I wish to know what induced the Government to go back upon the first proposal. There is now a complete back-down,, and the proposal ils that (no proclamation bringing part VI.a of the Tariff into force shall be issued until Parliament has approved of it.
– Quite right.
– I agree with the honorable member that it should not be left to the. Minister. Parliament” only should impose taxation. Under this Bill those interested in the iron industry will be in no better position than they were before.
– Yes, they will.
– I should like the honorable member to tell us how they will. The honorable member for Northern Melbourne,, in his opening remarks, said that he did not see very much difference between a resolution and a Bill; if there is a majority of honorable members in favour of a measure, it is only a matter of time when it will become law. Why should we pass a Bill making it appear that we are doing something, when we are really doing nothing? The Minister himself has shown that this is a mere piece of makebelieve. No doubt the people of Lithgow and others were under the impression that the Government proposed to enter into some contract with them, or to do something for them; but all they have done is to bring in a measure providing that some other Parliament may pass a resolution for the imposition of duties. The Bill does not bind any other Parliament, and is altogether farcical in its nature.
– We have arrived at a very extraordinary position. We are all satisfied that the measure means nothing, so that, apparently, the Opposition is now devoting itself to help the Government to do nothing, which, it seems to me, is an unconstitutional position for an Opposition to occupy. I have read the principal Act and the amending Bill, to see how we stand, and it appears to me that the only difference between the two indicates a back-down on the part of the Government. Division VI.a of the schedule to the Customs Tariff Act provides that the duties therein mentioned are -
To come into operation on dates to be fixed by Proclamation, and exempt from duty in the meantime, except as to iron, galvanized, plate and sheet.
The Bill omits these words, and provides in lieu thereof, that -
The operation of this Division is suspended as to the articles of manufacture specified therein, which (except iron galvanized, plate, and sheet) are exempt from duty until this Division ils brought into operation.
This Division may, by Proclamation, be brought into operation as to any such article from a date specified in the Proclamation.
It seems to me that those statements are practically identical, although that in the principal Acf is briefer and more concise than that contained in the Bill. The principal Act continues -
Proclamation to issue so soon as it is certified, by the Minister that the manufacture to which the Proclamation refers, has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth, according to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses for the encouragement of manufactures, or to the establishment of manufactures under the direct control of the Commonwealth or State Governments; but no Proclamation to issue except in pursuance of a joint address passed on the motion of Ministers, by both Houses of Parliament, stating that such manufacture is sufficiently established.
In lieu of that provision, it is now proposed to adopt the following: -
Provided,, however, that no Proclamation bringing this Division into operation as to any article shall be made until the Minister for Trade and Customs certifies that the manufacture of the article (or, in the case of a Proclamation bringing this Division into operation as to scrap iron or scrap steel, certifies that the manufacture of iron or steel) from Australian ore or material is sufficientlyestablished in the Commonwealth, and the certificate has been affirmed by joint addresses, passed, on the motion of Ministers, by both Houses of Parliament.
Now there we have the two propositions complete. Is there any difference between the two ? There is, however, a slight change which is rather significant. In the original
Act the following words appear: -
According to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses for the encouragement of manufactures, or to the establishment of manufactures under the direct control of the Commonwealth or State Governments.
Those words are not in the amending Bill now under discussion ; for this measure does notcontain any proposition relating to bonuses. Therefore, the only difference between this Bill and the principal Act is that this Bill provides for the dropping of the idea of giving a bounty on the production of iron. If the Government choose to waste a couple of days in unnecessarily altering the verbiage of an Act of Parliament, that is their affair, though it is a pity that they should be forced to juggle with words in order to disguise from the electors the fact that they have done nothing to honour their election pledges in this, regard. Yesterday, when the honorable member for Wide Bay made an interjection which led to the adoption of the vital amendment made in Committee, I was led to think that the Minister of Trade and Customs was not fully seised of the significance of his proposition ; but I do not think that now. I think that probably the honorable gentleman had made up his mind beforehand to move this amendment, and that he knew that some such amendment would be accepted ; for I cannot believe that the Minister was not sufficiently alert for the maintenance of the protectionist principles which he espouses. The Prime Minister has told us that the Bill gives as much as can be got. Are Ministers endeavouring to make it appear that the Opposition have prevented the passing of a Bill for the payment of bounties on the production of iron? Those who have followed the methods recently adopted by the Government to force legislation through the House know that it is not due to the Opposition that this proposal has been dropped. The party which has compelled the Government to drop it is that upon which they have to depend for their political existence.
– Has the Opposition had a caucus?
– What I suggest to the honorable member is that perhaps the Labour Party in caucus decided that they could not support any proposal for an iron bounty.
– The Government could not live unless theyhad the solid backing of the Labour Party. Even if one or two members of the Labour Party oppose any proposal, it is forthwith sacrificed !
– Since the Government of New South Wales have decided to give a bonus there has been no necessity for the Commonwealth to give one.
– Exactly ! Yet I have seen a letter from the great iron district of New South Wales, in which it is stated that the Government contract will not keep the iron industry alive unless it gets some assistance of this kind ! The Prime Minister has told us that he believes that the establishment of the iron industry is anxiously looked forward to throughout the Commonwealth, but that this sham is all he can get from Parliament. He is in a position to advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House and go to the country, in order to prove the bona fides of his election pledges in this regard. We have a right to expect that a Prime Minister should not tamely sit down under the criticism of an Opposition if he thinks that his attitude will meet with the support of the country at large. It is significant of the bargain which has been contracted in the House between two of the three cricket elevens about which the Prime Minister was once so eloquent, that the nominal captain of both is afraid to face alone the club that supports him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from nth December, vide page 6643):
Clauses 33 to 37 agreed to.
Clause 38 -
Section one hundred and thirty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (i) all words after the word “ fasten,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ its cover “ ;
by omitting from paragraph (iii)the words “and seal the outer cover.”
– Section 137 deals with the fastening of a ballot-box after an election has taken place. But, if the clause were passed in its present form, it would mean that the returning officer would have to fasten the ballot-box, and not to seal it. It is desirable that the seal should be affixed, and, therefore, I move -
That the words “and seal” be left out.
Hitherto, the difficulty has been that the ballot-box really consisted of an outer box and an inner box, and, necessarily, the Commonwealth has been put to very heavy expense.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 39 -
Section one hundred and thirty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1) and (2) and inserting in lieu thereof the following sub-section : -
In an election, an elector may vote only -
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I have given notice of an amendment in this clause, but I think that in order to save time it had better be moved in another form. Owing to the difficulty of ascertaining exactly what are the amendments of the law contained in this Bill, I thought, when I gave notice of my amendment, that it was intended to abandon the “ regulation ‘ ‘ form, which allows an elector to vote at any polling place in his State for any division therein to which he belongs. As I recognise that the debate should really be on the “ regulation “ form, which I now see is proposed to be retained, and as there is no use in debating the Q form if the other is to be adopted, because the greater includes the less, I move -
That after the figure “ (2),” line 3, the word “ and “ and the figure “ (3) “ be inserted.
It is sub-section 3 which provides that there shall be a form to be fixed by regulation, and under this form an elector, upon signing a declaration, can vote at any pollingplace within his State.
– Was it not the practice at the last election to allow a man to vote at any polling place in which there was a divisional returning officer?
– No; wherever there was an assistant divisional returning officer.
– But in some States there were only three or four assistant divisional returning officers.
– I know that a desire has been expressed that the number of assistant returning officers should be increased. Provision has already been made in that direction to some extent, and additional officers will doubtless be appointed. That, however, is not altogether the point. My objection is based upon the fact that the regulation forms can be abused. I do not desire to repeat what I said upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I then spoke very fully in order that honorable members might not be taken unawares. I desire to afford the fullest facilities for voting if we can discover a safe means of permitting electors to vote at the most convenient polling place. But I contend that the regulation form presents opportunities forserious frauds. The law can be safely evaded because it is easy for unscrupulous parties to ascertain the names of a considerable number of electors who will not be able to record their votes in a given electorate, and to arrange with their supporters in various parts of the country, far from the electorate, to personate the electors whose names are sent to them, and who are voted for with the regulation form. All that a person claiming to vote is required to do is to sign a declaration. He can then vote with perfect safety. Those who are willing to incur some risk can proceed still further. The votes of a large number of electors in, say, the Wimmera division, could be recorded in the suburbs of Melbourne, or vice versâ Of course, that fraud would be discovered if the votes were checked afterwards. No such check was imposed at the last election, and no one can say whether frauds were or were not then perpetrated. Irregular practices of that kind would be brought to light if sufficient scrutiny were provided for after an election, but it would then, probably, be too late to discover and punish the offenders. In the other way, however, it is not necessary to incur any risks. Unscrupulous persons need only ascertain the names of those who cannot vote in electorates in which close contests are anticipated, and then arrange for dummies to record the votes.
– I think that the regulation form presents smaller opportunities for fraud than do the provisions for voting by post.
– Personally, I should be quite willing to abolish the whole of the special facilities now provided, and merely group the elector’s around specified polling-places. The original intention was to create small areas around specified polling-places, to compile rolls for such areas, and to require the electors to record their votes within them. It was thought that, by that means, a close scrutiny could be exercised over the voting. But if Parliament declares that opportunities to vote shall be presented to those who are unable to reach the pollingplaces on election day, I prefer a system of voting by post, because if it be properly carried out, the voting can be checked.
– Voting by post would not entirely meet the case.
– It will not meet the convenience of electors who, at the last moment, find themselves unable to reach the poll. Those who avail themselves of the provisions for voting by post have to make preparations beforehand.
– I have seen 400or 500 men blocked from voting by being compelled to work late on polling day.
– I have had no experience of that kind. I consider that there is grave danger to be apprehended in connexion with the use of the regulation form.
– We shall have to go back to the elector’s-right system.
– The elector’s right system worked admirably at first, but when it was discovered that electors removing left their rights in the hands of unscrupulous persons, who could make use of them by employing dummies, the New South Wales authorities decided to abandon it. I will now take the other aspect of the matter. If the regulation form can be safely used, seeing that we now give the opportunity for an unscrupulous person to make use of it, we could and ought to give an opportunity to all electors to use it. In fact, no other method of voting is necessary. An unscrupulous man will sign a declaration and record his vote. A scrupulous man will not do so unless he has the right. Consequently, if we make this the system of recording votes, we should incur no greater danger than we do at present. We should thereby greatly simplify our electoral machinery. An honorable member suggested last night that if we adopt postal poting at all, we might adopt it as a universal method. But that argument will not hold water, because voting by post is a clumsy system on account of the precautions taken to prevent fraud ; and it would be very inconvenient to apply that clumsy system to the whole of our voters. But this system which I recommend requires no precaution, except the simple signing of a document. There is no dufficulty about recording votes under it. Polling places could be established at the most convenient places ; and voters could enter those polling places and record their votes for whatever division they were enrolled. It would save expense and prevent a duplication of polling places. It would simplify the Act enormously in other directions. I intend to take a division on the question, though I am afraid that the slight amount of attention that one can secure for an amendment on a measure of this character at this late stage of the session will make it difficult to carry such a proposal. I have no wish to delay the Bill. Some of the amendments of the law which it makes are very desirable, and should be adopted at the earliest possible moment, so that the Minister may make arrangements in his Department to meet any contingency. I very much regret that the Bill was not brought forward at an earlier stage of the session, when an important matter such as this could have received that attention which I think it deserves, if we are to have a satisfactory electoral system.
– What would the honorable member substitute for the sub-section which he proposes to omit?
– I would not substitute anything. I would leave the postal voting provisions to afford an opportunity for voters absent from their electorates to record their votes.
– They do not meet all cases.
– I admit that. But if the system proposed is sufficiently safe to meet all cases to which the regulation form applies, it is safe to adopt it as the one principle of the Act in regard to voting. It would save an enormous amount of duplication, and it would give no more opportunities to an unscrupulous man than the present provisions do. If the present system is as dangerous as I believe, it ought not to be continued; but if it is held to be safe, we should simplify our whole electoral law byadopting it as the one system of voting. That being so, I content myself by moving the amendment.
– The honorable member for North Sydney, has argued his, case very ably, and if we were to take his amendment as now submitted, we must be convinced that the amendment he proposes ought to be adopted. The object of the provision is to enable people to vote at a convenient place. In order that honorable members may understand the point, I had better put in record in Hansard the law asit stands at present. But before quoting the section, I should like it to be understood that this is the last time I shall agree to consider a Bill of this nature, in the form in which the measure before us is submitted. Even honorable members who are familiar with our legislation, and with forms of amendments, find this Bill quite a morass. It is extremely difficult to understand what we are doing.
– This method is adopted because these are administrative matters which we desire to get through as quickly as possible.
– The particular subsection which the honorable member for North Sydney wishes to excise reads : -
Provided always that the regulations under this Act may provide facilities for enabling electors to vote at elections for the Senate or for the House of Representatives at other polling-places within the State in which the election is held, and may provide for all matters (not inconsistentwith this Act) necessary or convenient to be prescribed for the purpose of carrying this part of this section into effect, and in particular for the following matters : -
The weakness of the honorable member’s case is that, whilst he has well illustrated the danger of allowing electors to vote in the manner prescribed by regulation, he has not been able to cite a single instance in which the existing provision has been misused.
– I said that no misuse would occur in connexion with the first election or two.
– Section 139 of the principal Act is particularly wide, and invests the Governor in Council with power to check any abuse that may be discovered. I contend that we are not justified in eliminating that provision, which, of my own knowledge, has enabled a number of voters to exercise the franchise who would otherwise have been deprived of it.
– The honorable member must recollect that there was no scrutiny of the rolls after the last election.
– That may be so. But the difficulties which the honorable member has pointed out can be remedied without in any way depriving an absent voter of the privilege which he now enjoys. The principal Act contains sufficient machinery to enable the electoral officers to detect any person who endeavours to impersonate.
– Does the honorable member think that there have been many attempts to commit a fraud by way of impersonation ?
– I do not know of any. But I can recollect three instances in which electors travelled some distance to an assistant divisional returning officer for the purpose of recording their votes under the facilities offered by section 139 of the principal Act.
– I do not think there is one man in a thousand who would impersonate.
– I hope that there are not so many ready to commit a fraud as some honorable members appear to imagine.
– But they do not look upon impersonation as a fraud.
– In my opinion, there has been too much laxity of administration in connexion with the crime of impersonation. If I had the power I would punish all persons guilty of that offence by imposing a term of imprisonment without the option of a fine. The very first principle of government is that a voter should exercise his own franchise only. Even if the provisions of the present law have been abused and impersonation has occurred under them, that fact does not establish the case put forward by the honorable member for North Sydney, because those provisions have enabled a number of electors to exercise the franchise who otherwise could not have done so. I trust that the Committee, upon a mere hypothetical case, will not consent to the amendment, because it has not been shown that the existing law lends itself to impersonation to any serious extent. As honorable members are aware, in the larger States, men are frequently called upon to travel all over the country. If, after the issue of a writ, an elector received notice to leave a particular locality for a distant part of any State, he would be unable to vote by post; and, in the absence of this provision, would be deprived of the franchise. I fail to see that the honorable member for North Sydney has established his case.
Mr.BATCHELOR (Boothby). - I find it difficult to understand the attitude of honorable members who oppose the form of voting provided for in this Bill, and who, at the same time, support the system of voting by post. Of course, the honorable member for North Sydney is not included in that category. He disarms criticism in that connexion by declaring that he would abolish every form of voting save that of voting at the ballot-box under the grouping system. If that were possible, I should certainly support him. But for any honorable member to object to this proposal after we have adopted the system of voting by post, forcibly suggests “ straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” For every case of impersonation that can occur under the regulation form of voting, hundreds of cases might occur under the postal voting system. Under the latter system fraud isnotorious.
– There are more safeguards provided under the system of voting by post than there are provided under this system.
– I admit that. But, although it is hedged around with all sorts of safeguards, the fact remains that under the system of voting by post fraud is notorious. Under the system to which I am alluding, there is no possibility of intimidation or coercion, or possible neglect on the part of those whose duty it is to post the voting papers. There is only the one danger of impersonation.
– And the danger of payment for impersonation.
– That is so. But if electors are disposed to personate others they are more likely to do so by means of postal voting than they are ifthey have to personally attend at the polling booth, and run the gauntlet of publicity and the possibility of questioning by the returning officer. Direct impersonation is almost unheard of in South Australia. Sheriff Schomburg, who acted as assistant to Mr. Boothby from boyhood, and is, perhaps, more familiar with this method of voting than any other person in Australia, told me that in the whole course of his experience he had found only two or three cases of impersonation.
– But in the Bill the South Australian provision is departed from entirely.
– The reason given by Sheriff Schomburg for the small number of cases of impersonation is the necessity for personal attendance.
– In South Australia the elector has to vote in his own electorates, whereas under the Bill he may exercise the franchise hundreds of miles away.
– At the last elections in South Australia, there were no cases of impersonation.
– Some honororable members have said that there were in other States, but, in any case, the rolls were never checked with a view to directing duplicate voting.
– There ought not to be many cases of impersonation of dead electors, and a check in this connexion may be supplied by more frequent returns from the registrars of births and deaths.
– We are endeavouring to get these returns supplied at more frequent intervals than once a quarter.
– Cases of impersonation are more likely to occur where certain electors are not likely to exercise the franchise ; but such cases are negligible, compared with those which may happen under the system of postal voting. It is absurd to object to the system which I advocate, and at the same time urge that postal voting, with its greater possibilities of fraud should be adopted. As a matter of fact, the system adopted under the regulation form is of infinitely more convenience to the electors than that of postal voting. In my own electorate at the last election, the largest firm of bootmakers in Adelaide informed their employés, on the night before the election, that, owing to the great pressure of business, they would have to work late on the following day.
– The same sort of thing occurred m my constituency.
– Of course, this pressure of business may have been only a coincidence, but one can well imagine a firm of manufacturers adopting a plan of that kind, in order to prevent their employes from voting. Had it not been for the system -which 1 have described, several hundreds of voters, would have been unable to exercise the franchise. The action of the firm became known at the last moment, on the night previous to the election, and on election day the whole of these employes voted at the Town Hall. As a matter of fact, the number of employes who thus voted was greater than that of the electors who exercised the postal vote. We can imagine what would be the effect if a number of employers agreed to keep their employes working late on election day. It would mean that, perhaps, thousands of voters would be prevented from exercising the franchise, and yet a howl is raised because one or two such persons throughout the Commonwealth will be unable to vote unless there are afforded special facilities, which may open the door to wholesale fraud. Now the people of the Commonwealth are aware of the advantages of this system, they will not consent to the inconvenience which would be caused by doing away with it; and I cannot think that the Government are likely to consent to the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney. Of course, any provision which allows the voter to vote elsewhere than within his own electorate opens the door to a certain amount of fraud, but, compared with the possibilities under the postal system, the fraud in infinitesimal.
– The underlying principle of an Electoral Bill should be to enable all electors, by every legitimate means,, to record their votes. While I believe thoroughly in the sound common sense of the honorable member for North Sydney, I am. of opinion that, in so far as we lessen the opportunities granted to absentee voters, we shall be departing from the democratic principle to which I refer. I am prepared to support any proposal to safeguard the system and to provide for the imposition of heavy penalties upon those who abuse the privilege. I think, however, that we shall make a mistake if we do not afford every elector ample facilities to record his vote. That should be our.guiding principle. I recognise that abuses may creep in under this clause, but it rests with the Committee to provide safeguards against any corrupt practice. The honorable member for Boothby referred to the likelihood of an employer keeping his men so closely at work as to render it impossible for them to record their votes. Although I have a’ full knowledge of the commercial community I have never heard of such a case.
– I can assure the honorable member that it did take place at the last general election.
– I am sorry to hear it, because the principle underlying this Bill is that every elector shall have an opportunity to record his vote. No employe should be debarred from exercising this right. I am sure the honorable member for North Sydney really desires to give every facility for voting ; but at the same time I am prepared to assist the Minister in providing for heavy penalties for corrupt practices of any kind.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).Like the honorable member for Kooyong, I believe that the fullest facility should be given the electors to record their votes, but that those facilities should be safeguarded from fraud. I cannot understand the attitude of the honorable member for Boothby. Last night he condemned the system of voting by post, holding that it was availed of more largely by the rich than by the poor. This is an illustration of the extraordinary influences which govern some honorable members in discussing questions of this kind. The honorable member is opposed to voting by post because the system is more largely used by the rich than by the poor, and yet he is now prepared to support something which would give the poorer sections of the community greater facilities for recording their votes than are enjoyed by the rich. 1 take it that we are here to conserve the rights of all classes, and that we should endeavour to pass a Bill which will enable us to secure a proper expression of public opinion throughout the Commonwealth. That being so, I am surprised at the position taken up by the honorable member. It shows that it is impossible for some honorable members, in ‘dealing with these matters, to separate themselves from the classes with which they aTe peculiarly associated. I am glad to saythat I have succeeded in doing so, and have always held that we should legislate for the community as a whole. If the incident to which the honorable member for Boothby has referred occurred - and I have no reason to doubt his statement - the intention of the existing Act was distinctly violated in a way that ought not to have been tolerated, because it would seem that the men in question availed themselves of “ Q “ forms to record their votes at a polling place within their own electorate.
– The honorable member has completely confused the incident.
– The honorable member said that a bootmaker told his men, on the day of election, that they would have to work overtime, with the result that they found that they would be unable to vote at their own polling places. They were, therefore, rushed into the polling booth at the Adelaide Town Hall - which, I assume, was within the electorate in which they resided, and voted on “ Q “ forms.
– No ; they resided in the suburbs.
– The shadow of suspicion surrounds the whole incident. The intention is that a man who may be 500 miles away from his electorate on polling day shall not be debarred from recording his vote. It is to meet such cases that the amendment has been proposed. The honorable member for Boothby said that no impersonation took place at the last election. Can he tell us that the rolls were checked ?
– We took care to do that.
– I have never done so, and I think that very few resort to that practice. It is, to say the least, singular that the Labour Party is the only section of the House which complains of the proposal now before us. If the honorable member for Boothby wishes to do away with the practice to which he has referred, let him move an amendment providing that any one who prevents his employes from recording their votes shall be punished.
– Notice has already been given of such an amendment.
– I was not aware of that; but I believe that we have a similar provision in the New South Wales Electoral Act.
– Against an employer who refuses to allow his employés an opportunity to record their votes?
– I think so. I believe it provides that employers must give their employés time off to enable them to vote.
– I think the idea has originated in the honorable member’s honest mind, and that there is no such provision in the New South Wales Act.
– I believe it provides that an employer shall give his men time off to enable them to vote, and shall not make any deduction from their wages in respect of the time so lost.
– That is the American system.
– Every employer should be required to allow his employes to vote, unless some exceptional circumstances, such as a consequent break-down of machinery, would render it impossible for some of them to get. away.
– Why not make polling day a public holiday throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I should be in favour of such a proposal, although I do not think that it would altogether meet the case, because there are many men who must necessarily be employed on holidays. The proposal which the honorable member for Boothby advocates would open the door to greater fraud than is possible under the system of voting by post. Voting by post is necessary to meet the case of women and many persons in a feeble state of health, who could not travel to a polling booth. It is no argument against the system to say that it is used more largely by the rich than by the poor.
– Is the honorable member going to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for North Sydney ?
– Yes. And I shall also be prepared to vote for an amendment providing that employers who wilfully prevent their employes from voting shall be punished.
– The honorable member for New England has expressed a doubt as to whether any manufacturer would do that which has been alleged by the honorable member for Boothby. It appears to me that during the month of December it would be practically impossible for many manufacturers to do anything else, in view of the fact that at that time of the year there is invariably a great rush of work. That which occurred in the electorate of Boothby might occur in any other manufacturing constituency. The men would probably receive notice a few days before that they would have to work overtime for probably a week or more.
– That is an argument in favour of making polling day earlier in the year.
– The date of polling is not determined by the Parliament, and the probability is that even if it were fixed earlier in the year, it would not materially alter the position. The system of voting provided for under this clause as well as that of voting by “Q” forms, and voting by post, open the door to a great deal of impersonation and fraud, and I think that we should hedge round these provisions with as many restrictions as possible. At the last general election, several who presented themselves at their polling booths found that they were alleged to have voted by means of the “ Q “ form at a polling place over a mile away. Every care should be taken to secure the identification of the elector claiming the right to vote under this system ; but in some cases, especially in the metropolitan areas, the percentage of electors who can be identified is very small. For instance, there are over 40,000 electors in my constituency, and I am certain that no one could identify 30 per cent, of them. I am confident that even the police in my electorate could not identify 12,000 out of the total number. I hope that if any amendment is agreed to it will have the effect of placing restrictions on the use of the absent voter’s’ certificate, and the voting under form Q, to provide for identification. At the last Melbourne election two or three electors presented themselves in the Gipps subdivision, and found that they had been personated by others who had voted in their places ; and, apparently, under the present arrangements, a person could make use of form Q to vote at practically every polling booth in a division. I am opposed to postal voting altogether.
– What would the honorable member do in regard to the use of form Q in an electorate as large as Victoria?
– I think that an analysis of the voting at the last election would show that the percentage of those who used the postal vote and form Q_ was larger in the cities than in the ‘Country constituencies. We cannot place too many restrictions on these means of voting, and I trust that the Minister will, if possible, frame regulations to prevent their abuse.
– I wish to know from the Minister if there are regulations authorizing a returning officer to refuse to allow an elector to vote at a polling booth other than that for which he is registered ?
– At the last election scores of electors in my division were refused the privilege of voting under form Q. They wished to vote at the chief polling place, and were told that they would have to vote where their names were registered. Later, when some of them pressed the matter, acting under advice, the returning officer gave them blank forms to fill in. I believe that the Act requires that these forms shall be filled up in the presence of the returning officer,- but in the case to which I am referring they were filled up outside the polling booth, and the returning officer was afterwards induced to indorse them. There should be regulations expressly instructing the returning officer and his deputies as to their duty in this matter.
– In accordance with regulation 8, the presiding officer must, before allowing any person to vote, be satisfied that his name is on the roll, though he is entitled to put certain questions.
– Men coming into the cities to work have to vote either during their dinner hour, or between 5 and 7 in the evening, and many of them try to take advantage of the dinner hour. At the last election I told the returning officer at Perth that some hundreds of men would probably flock to his booth during the dinner hour on polling day, and advised him ti procure the assistance of a few extra clerks for that period. He refused to do so, with the result that the booth was beseiged from 12.30 until after 1 o’clock by men who could not vote because they were not provided for. The Minister should issue instructions to the returning officers in the larger centres to procure additional assistance during the earlier parts of the day. On the occasion to which I refer, hundreds of men in Perth lost the right to vote because proper facilities had not been provided for recording their votes.
– The instruction has been issued that all necessary assistance must be asked for well in advance. I will make a note of the honorable member’s suggestions.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- The honorable member for New England appeared to question my veracity, and though it is hardly worth while to take notice of what he said, I wish to inform the Committee that I made no imputation of unfairness against the employer referred to. The last election was held on the 16th December, when there was a great press of work, and hands were, therefore, compelled to work overtime. Most of the workers in the large city factories live in the suburbs, and are unable to return to their electorates to vote duringthe dinner hour. That was the case in the instance to which I referred. But while those electors were legitimately kept at work, men may, on other occasions, be prevented from voting for sinister reasons. I am not inconsistent in this matter. I have said that I am prepared to strike out the provision for voting under form Q, and for postal voting, but it is ridiculous to make a fuss about the few persons who would be unable to vote if we abolished postal voting, and, at the same time, to object so strongly to a provision which is of advantage to an infinitely larger number of voters, and does not open the door to fraud to anything like the same extent.
Question - That the word and figure proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 40 to 42 agreed to.
Clause 43 -
After section one hundred and sixty-one of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 161a. At any timebefore the declaration of the poll, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State may, if he thinks fit, on the request of any candidate or of his own motion, direct a recount of the ballot-papers from any Division or portion of a Division or of the ballot-papers contained in any parcel.
– I move-
That the words “may, if he thinks fit,” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ shall on good substantial reasonsbeing given.”
My object is to provide that in the event of a mistake being discovered during the time which elapses between election day and the declaration of the poll, the returning officer shall order the votes to be recounted. At the last general election two returning officers construed the law in different ways. In Tasmania one returning officer, upon being applied to for a recount, ordered that it should be made. I think that he construed the law properly, because he, and he alone, was responsible for the correctness of the writ, and should satisfy himself that everything was in order before signing it. In that case a recount was made, with the result that every one was satisfied that justice had been done. The returning officer for the Riverina electorate, however, adopted a different course. As honorable members know, the election took place on the 16th December, 1903, and the poll was not declared until the 26th December. There were five assistant returning officers in the division, each one of whom counted the votes, and sent the ballot-papers in a sealed parcel, together with bis certificate, to the returning officer. Within two days after the poll had been taken, my committee discovered that a serious mistake had been made in the count. I immediately directed the attention of the returning officer to the matter. I afterwards wrote to the assistant returning officers and ascertained that there was a discrepancy in the figures sent in by them. One of the assistant returning officers, who was satisfied that a mistake had been made, was prevailed upon’ by me to officially report the matter to the divisional returning officer, who was stationed at Hay ; but, notwithstanding this, my request for a recount was absolutely refused. The Department were so dissatisfied with the action of the returning officer, that they took very good care not to permit him to conduct the next election. The only reply that I could obtain from him was that he had no power to recount the votes; that that could be done only by the High Court.
– He was quite right.
– He was quite wrong. The returning officer its alone responsible to the Department and to the public for the accuracy of the writ which he returns. The assistant officers have no power to order a recount. If they had had such authority it would have been exercised in this case. The returning officer, although he knew that a mistake had occurred, declined 10 comply with my request, and he thus involved the candidates and all others concerned in serious delay and considerable expense. As honorable members know, the High Court was appealed to, and it was represented,, not by myself but by mv opponent, that a recount was necessary. That was made, with the result that my statements and those of the assistant returning officer to whom I have specially referred were fully borne out. Surely we should not ‘allow a divisional returning officer to refuse a request for a recount under such circumstances. We ought to provide that he shall be absolutely responsible for the accuracy of the returns.
– Why provide that substantial reasons shall be forthcoming?
– So as to obviate the possibility of the returning officer being subject to all the worry that would be involved in a recount of the votes being made for frivolous reasons,.
– The honorable member has very justly explained the reason why this clause has been inserted in the Bill. It is intended to meet the case of an election in which the returns evidence upon their face that a mistake has been made in the counting of the votes. In the honorable member’s own case, such an error had occurred, and, excluding all other informalities, a recount would undoubtedly have shown for which candidate the majority of votes had been polled. These facts, to my mind, justify the insertion of this clause.
The honorable member’s amendment, if anything, tends to limit the Government proposal.
– I think there are very fair reasons why; we should not make the clause any stronger than it is.
– If the honorable member for Riverina presses his amendment, I am not sure what its effect would be. The returning officer would be guided in his action by the character of the reasons which were given.
– The request of a candidate should be quite sufficient to insure a recount.
– I think it is the duty of a returning officer to declare what the electors desire, as evidenced by their votes. If he sees that some gross mistake has occurred, it is his function to rectify it. I am prepared to consider the amendment.
– I suppose that these is never a case in which a defeated candidate does not think that he can show substantial reasons why the votes should be recounted, particularly if the polling happens to be close. I would point out to the honorable member for Riverina that his amendment is in the nature of a two-edged sword. I think it was Boss Croker who said, “ Give me the counting of the votes, and I will rule the place.” As a matter of fact, he did rule the place until the system which was then in vogue was altered. What we require to do is to cast the responsibility for a recount of the votes upon an officer who is under the control of the Executive. In my opinion, the Minister has gone quite as far as it is wise to go by inserting; in this clause the words “may if he thinks fit.” If a returning officer is not capable of exercising judicial functions, he is unfit for his office. By inserting the words “ good substantial reasons “ we cannot make the provision any stronger than it is, because a competent officer would decide whether or not the reasons offered by a candidate were “ good and substantial.” On the other hand, if we leave it open to every candidate to demand a recount of the votes, it may involve the poorer candidate in a heavy loss. I presume that they would be recounted before witnesses.
– In the presence of scrutineers.
– That is just the point. Under such circumstances it might happen that a poor candidate might be compelled to incur the expense of a recount by the action of a wealthy opponent, who desired to subject him to all the trouble that he could. The clause in its present form goes quite far enough. If we amend it in the direction desired, we may make it a weapon of oppression against the poorer class of candidates. We must rely upon the returning officer in the exercise of ordinary common sense to prevent unjust acts being committed. The honorable member for Riverina desires that we should make it mandatory upon the returning officer to order a recount of the votes upon good substantial reasons for the adoption of that course being shown. The amendment might lead to the very result which the honorable member wishes to avoid. . If a defeated candidate for an electorate comprising the Northern Territory demanded a recount, he might prevent the elected candidate from taking his seat for three or four months.
– Only two or three days would be occupied in making a recount
– But the delay that would necessarily take place in. communicating with outlying places would practically prevent the elected candidate iron taking his seat for three or four months after the date of his return.
– But these delays muni take place in any case.
– It is proposed that the electoral officer shall not have the discretionary power which the Minister purposes to confer upon him.
– In the case to which I have referred the returning officer had the power to order a recount, but he would not take action on the reasons which I submitted.
– He held that the reasons were not good and sufficient.
– Surely an allegation that a mistake had been made was a sound reason ?
– Then why did the officer make the return that he did?
– I cannot say.
– If a returning officer gave me a certified return, but after an interview with another candidate made a different return. I should look with the greatest suspicion, on the second one, although it is true that he might have made a legitimate mistake in the first place. I should hold, however, that an officer who ecu Id make such a mistake should not be again nominated for the position.
– The honorable and learned member is under a misapprehension. There is only one officer who has to hand in a sworn return in connexion with an election), and it was that officer who refused the recount.
– Had he received the return from a particular polling booth?
– He had to deal with every return. He was the divisional returning officer.
– We must give these officers some discretion. We have control over them, but have none over candidates. If we are going to empower any defeated candidate to require a returning officer to make a recount, irrespective of whether or not he thinks a recount ought to be made, Ave shall create a serious position.
– But substantial grounds must be shown; the proposal is that the clause shall be mandatory if substantial grounds be given in support of a demand for a recount.
– If the intention of the amendment is not to make the provision mandatory, it will carry us further than th° clause does as it stands. I presume that if the amendment be made, returning officers will construe this as a mandatory provision.
– But at present a returning officer may refuse to direct a recount, even if there be good grounds for a recount being made. If we pass this amendment, he will be afraid in such cases to refuse a recount.
– My point is that I do not think we should make this clause mandatory. As it stands, it will require an officer to make a recount on good reason being shown.
– My desire is that the clause shall be mandatory.
– In that respect, a danger may arise. We cannot provide against want of fairness on the part of a returning officer. He occupies a judicial position, and if he is determined to act unfairly, it will be open to him to hold that any reason submitted to him in support of a demand for a recount is not good or substantial. We know that what may be regarded by a defeated candidate as substantial reasons for a recount may be viewed in a different light by others. It will be far better to leave the clause as it stands. I assume that its object is to give the returning officer a judicial discretion, and not to make the clause mandatory.
– The idea was that a returning officer should comply with the request for a recount on good reasons being shown.
-Some officers have held that under the existing Act they cannot direct a recount.
– And we, therefore, wish to give returning officers the power, but the clause does not go as far as the honorable member for Riverina thinks necessary.
– The honorable member wishes to make it mandatory.
– The use of the word “ may “ is mandatory in the sense that the returning officer must direct a recount if good and sufficient reasons be shown.
– I think that the clause goes as far as is necessary, and that, by making it mandatory, we shall open the door to fresh trouble; a poor candidate, although he may be successful, may be forced to incur expense to which he ought not to be put.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Riverina is defeating the purpose that he has in view. I quite agree with his intention, and when the original Electoral Bill was before us I submitted an amendment that would have given effect to it. But if it be provided that the returning officer shall, at the request of a candidate, direct a recount on good and substantial grounds being shown, the officer will still have the right to determine whether those reasons are such as should induce him to comply with the request, and he may refuse to take action upon them. I recognise the desirableness of not giving a candidate power to require a recount for any frivolous reason. I would submit to the Minister an amendment which I putbef ore the Committee when the first Electoral Bill was under consideration. It provided that -
The Chief Electoral Officer may, upon the written request of any candidate, accompanied with a deposit of Five pounds, recount the votes at any election at a day to be fixed by him, of which he shall give notice to all other candidates who may be present at such recount. If such recount shall have the same result as the result of the poll previously declared by the Returning Officer, the deposit shall be forfeited, and applied in such manner as the Chief Electoral Officer shall direct.
If we give the returning officer no discretionary power, but leave it open to any candidate to demand a recount without lodging a deposit with his written request, we shall have nearly every defeated candidate availing himself of this provision. If, for instance, I were defeated by 200 votes, I might think it worth while to take my chances of discovering irregularities by means of a recount.
– We are not asking for a scrutiny.
– If a recount were made, all the candidates would have a right to see the ballot-papers, and would be able to determine whether the crosses were inside or outside the squares on the ballot-papers.
– But the honorable and learned member would not require a deposit to accompany a request for arecount if the returning officer were given a reasonable discretion.
– When a recount takes place, to all intents and purposes a scrutiny must also take place. A candidate who was defeated by, say, 200 votes, would take care to have a recount, unless a penalty were provided as a deterrent against frivolous objections. I have known different decisions to be given, riot only at different polling booths, but at different tables in the same polling booth upon the question of whether or not the crosses placed on certain ballot-papers complied with the law. That position arose in connexion with the elections for Riverina and Melbourne. We want to be able to compel the returning officers to order recounts whenever candidates think that there is reason for them. It must be remembered that the returning officers are drawn from a class, which is not democratic, and no discretion should be left in their hands in this matter. Therefore, I want to amend the amendment so as to provide that a returning officer shall order a recount when requested by a candidate to do so. If necessary, in. order to prevent frivolous requests for recounts, we can require candidates asking for recounts to deposit a small amount ; but we should not leave it to the discretion of the returning officers to order recounts, because, what might be considered good and substantial reasons in the case of a request by a candidate of the Employers’ Federation class, might not be considered good and substantial reasons ifgiven by a labour or democratic candidate.
– I do not think that any deposit is necessary. In my opinion, frivolous requests are provided against by the amendment as it stands, because the returning officer must be satisfied that the request for a recount is based on good and sufficient reasons, and, if he refused to comply with such a request, he would not be likely to. remain long in the service of the State. At present, returning officers may refuse to order recounts, no matter how good the reasons for that course may be. They have nothing to fear, because the Act gives them that discretion.
– I support the amendment. The experience of the honorable member for Riverina in this matter is somewhat similar to my own. If the returning officer who presided at my election could by any act have secured my defeat, he would have done so. During the recount lie was running about the room not knowing what he was saying, while another man was following him, beseeching him to be firm.
– Was he firm?
– He was ‘firm in wrong-doing, and I am glad that the Government of the day deprived him of his power to do ill, and put in his place a man who will carry out His work well. I have two instances which, I think, support the amendment. These are affidavits of gentlemen who acted as scrutineers -
Whilst acting as scrutineer (voluntary) at the table N to R, at Hotham polling place, after the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives were counted and tied up, and the numbers declared and signed for - after some considerable time, when counting the Senate ballot-papers - it was discovered that a ballot-paper for the House of Representatives was mixed with the Senate ballot-papers, and such ballot-paper was a vote for Dr. Maloney. This vote was not included in the number handed in as total from such table.
During the progress of the tallying of the votes after the ballot boxes had been opened by the Returning Officer’s deputy, I found about twenty ballot-papers (red ones) on the Moor under the table where I was then standing near. I picked them up, and handed them to the Poll Clerk, and he accepted same, and they were counted wilh the others. They had apparently fallen off the table on to the floor. That as soon as I gave them to him, he put them on the form, and sat on them, and when the counting took place, he included them in the tally. I had previous to this pointed out to Constable Fallon that the said papers were on the floor, and he saw me hand them to the Poll Clerk’.
I could quote many similar statements. In addition to these irregularities, two, if not three, ballot-boxes were missing for a period of twelve hours, and one of the returns from a polling booth was altered so as to give my opponent an advantage, instead of allowing me a small surplus. That was a case in which a recount would have been justified. I agree with the honorable member for Corio that the amendment should be made mandatory, though I have no objection to requiring a small deposit to prevent frivolous requests. At the same time. I do net think any candidate would ask for a recount unless he thought he had a fair chance of benefiting by it.
– In the Darwin division at the last election my opponent demanded a recount, and the returning officer gave it to him, and I gained nine votes by it. Still, I agree that the provision should be mandatory. If a candidate desires a recount at a closelycontested election, he should be given it. If the returning officer for Riverina had given the honorable member for that division a recount, the Commonwealth would have been saved an expenditure of between £5,000 ard .^6,000, and the honorable member would not have had to waste hundreds of pounds in appealing to the High Court. No doubt the returning officers are honest and just, according to their lights, but they are unconsciously influenced by their environment, and lean towards those who are the opponents of the progress of the human race. Therefore, it might easily happen that, if there were a difference of only a few votes between a wealthy candidate and a working man’s candidate, the returning officer might say to the poor man - “ I see no reason for giving you a recount,” and the latter would have to perhaps ruin himself if he wished to test the matter before the High Court. At the same time, I have no objection to the requirement of a penalty of, say, £5 to prevent frivolous requests. I had no objection to allowing a recount, although I was within 130 votes of ray opponent, and the position looked doubtful for me. I sha.ll always be in favour of a recount, because I do not wish to sit here, unless as the representative of a majority. I believe that other honorable members think with me in this matter. There will be none of the blood of Brian Bom in my veins if I ever consent to be returned on a “faked” count.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).I think we all desire to do full justice to every candidate, but I am afraid that the amendment will not accomplish the object of the honorable member for Riverina. If it is left to the returning officer to judge as to what are good and substantial reasons for a recount, he will still have full discretion to deal as he may think fit with any request, preferred to him. It would be better to strike out the words “ may if he thinks fit “ and substitute the word “shall.” Then every candidate would have a right to ask for a recount.
Mr. GROOM. (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I would ask the honorable member for Riverina to consent to the retention of the words “ may if he thinks fit,” and to insert after the word “ fit “ the words “ and shall on good and substantial reasons being given.” That would leave discretionary power in the hands of a returning officer, and at the same time make it clear to him that on good and substantial reasons being given he should order a recount.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina). - I prefer to strike out the words “ may if he thinks fit,” and substitute the word “ shall.” It has been urged that no candidate would without good reason apply for a recount, and I agree with that view. I have no objection to requiring a small deposit from the candidate asking for a recount of the votes.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - If my suggestion were adopted, the returning officer would still have some discretionary power, and, at the same time, could not refuse to order a recount if good and reasonable grounds were shown.
– Would not the case be met if a deposit were insisted upon ?
– That would be some safeguard ; but I do not think that is sufficient. We are all agreed that mere frivolous requests should not be entertained. We must give the Commonwealth Electoral Officer some discretion.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).I quite agree with the Minister. At the first Federal election, at which I was defeated, I received telegrams from a number of my supporters who urged me to ask for a recount of the votes, because they felt certain that the returns were not correct. I satisfied myself, however, that there was nothing wrong. If I had acted upon the representations first made to me, and a recount had been made, considerable expense would have been incurred to no good purpose. It seldom occurs that a returning officer is unreasonable; whereas we know that defeated candidates might be disposed to ask for a recount on the off-chance that a mistake had been made. In view of the fact that it is intended to refer election disputes to a Committee of this House instead of to the High Court, I think we should give the returning officers full discretion.
– I think it is highly desirable that the returning officer should have a certain amount of discretion, and also that a deposit should be provided to cover the expense of the recount. I quite admit that there are cases in which it might be desirable to have a recount; but in other instances an angry candidate might, without sufficient cause, cause the result of an election to remain in uncertainty, and put the Commonwealth to considerable expense.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I am willing to consider an amendment providing that at any time before the declaration of the poll, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall, for good and substantial reasons, at the request of any candidate who lodges a deposit of£5, to be returned to him unless his application is frivolous, or may of his own motion, direct a recount.
– I shall be prepared to accept an amendment in that form.
– I do not care to make a definite proposal at present, because the matter is one which affects the whole of the Senate elections, and requires very careful consideration. I think that it would be preferable to postpone the clause, in order that I may look fully into the matter.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That clauses 43 and 44 be postponed.
Clause 45 -
Section 172 of the Principal Act is amended by adding the following sub-section : - “(111). The return and the receipted bills of particulars shall be retained by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, and shall be open to public inspection during ordinary office hours, on payment ofthe prescribed fee.”
– I move-
That the following words be added : - “ and shall be published in the Commonwealth Gazette.”
Under the existing law, a certain limit is imposed upon the expenses of parliamentary candidates. They are called upon to produce vouchers for every item exceeding £2, to make a declaration before a justice of the peace, and to forward it to the Department. There, these declarations are entombed. Nobody can see them. This, I contend, offers a premium to candidates who are dishonestly inclined. When it is known that under the Act, as it is administered, it is impossible for any person to inspect the details of their expenditure, they will recognise the utter futility of the whole proceeding. What is the practice of the House of Commons in this connexion ? Not only does it limit the expenditure of candidates, but it compels them to file declarations, and produce vouchers. It also publishes their expenditure to the whole world.
– As a result, £20,000 is sometimes spent upon an election.
– When candidates are aware that details of their expenditure will be published to the world, they will be very careful to comply with the law, but when they know that those details will be entombed in the Electoral Office-
– Anybody can inspect them during ordinary office hours.
– I tell the honorable member that it is impossible for anybody to see them.
– Under this Bill, any person can inspect them upon payment of the prescribed fee.
– This clause provides only a partial remedy for the evil to which I refer. In South Australia, I understand that the details of the expenditure incurred by candidates are published in the Government Gazette.
– No. The newspapers usually procure them from the Electoral Office, and publish them.
– The fact remains that the particulars are published.
– So they may be under this provision.
– What possible objection can any candidate, who has honestly complied with the law, entertain to allowing details of his expenditure to be published in the Commonwealth Gazette?
– The adoption of that procedure would only add to the cost of elections for an entirely useless purpose.
– It would do nothing of the kind. I have no wish to unduly labour this question. I believe that the publication of the particulars to which I refer in the Commonwealth Gazette, would be an inducement to candidates who are not disposed to be honest to act in accordance with the law.
– In my opinion the principal Act goes quite far enough. It imposes a limit upon the expenses whichcandidates may incur, and it also provides that a return of those expenses shall be filed with the Electoral Office. When candidates are travelling over the various electorates, it frequently happens that they can only tell what their expenditure has been by a reference to the cheques which they have drawn. Scores of them do not obtain receipts for every little item. I certainly do not. I merely know that I keep within the limit prescribed by law, and that the returns which I forward to the Electoral Office contain all the particulars that it is within my power to furnish.
– But if the honorable and learned member’s cheques were payable to order, would they not institute receipts?
– The honorable member must recollect that I am allowed so much for travelling expenses. In my opinion, this clause goes a great deal too far. It presupposes that every candidate - certainly every successful one - is dishonest. If that be so, this Parliament is not worth very much.
– Could not a similar thing be said of all law?
– It might ; but, unfortunately, we shall presently be confronted with an anti-trust Bill, which presumes that the Minister of Trade and Customs for the time being is above suspicion.
– This provision will apply to every candidate.
– Then it will apply to every member of this Committee, and it is a distinct reproach to them. A great many honorable members may need the imposition of all these safeguards. God help the country if they do. In canvassing my electorate, I know how much I expend, and I keep within the limit prescribed by law. Now, however, I am asked not only to submit for the inspection of an electoral officer a declaration of my expenses, but to allow him to publish it to the world.
– Surely the honorable and learned member is not ashamed of it ?
– I am not. At the same time, I do not desire everybody to know my business.
– It is the business of the public.
-It is not. It ceases to be the business of the public when I keep within the limits prescribed by law. By adopting this amendment we shall be lowering our own standard of honour.
– At the present time the electoral officer simply accepts the statements of candidates. He does not examine them.
– It is perfectly within his powerto examine them.
– Under what section is that power given?
– Under the existing Act a candidate has to declare his expenses.
– But there is no power of examination.
– Why do we have an Attorney-General if he is not to take cognisance of these matters? It is idle to attempt to fight against this proposition if honorable members take up the line of argument that we have no character to lose.
– Who has put forward such a contention?
– That seems to be the position taken up by the framers of the Bill. The clause goes too far. All that we should do is to take care that the amount of the expenses which a candidate is allowed to incur under the Act is not exceeded ; there is certainly no occasion to require that the details of a candidate’s electioneering expenses shall be published. If this amendment be carried, most of us two or three days later will awake to the fact that in agreeing to it we have practically said: “There are such a lot of perjurers in this House that we cannot rely upon their oaths. We know that whenever the opportunity offers they will perjure themselves.” As a rule, I do not like the idea of taking an oath, because I think that my word is sufficient; but when I do take one, I like to be scrupulously accurate in my statements. The bulk of honorable members seem to be suggesting that they take up a different position.
– That is an insult to the Committee.
– If that be the honorable member’s view, he will not support this amendment. If the Chief Electoral Officer has reason to suspect fraud, he may institute a prosecution ; but the argument of some honorable members appears to be that we are such a dishonest body of men that it is necessary to publish to the country all the items of our electioneering expenses.
– If they be accurate, there can be no harm in publishing them.
– There might be no harm in the honorable member owing £1 for a pair of boots which he purchased yesterday ; but he would not like that fact to be published. I have entered my protest against a proposal which, to my mind, will lower the dignity of the House, and I trust that it will not be accepted.
– To my mind the amendment is a very reasonable one, and I hope that the Government will accept it. I am utterly unable to account for the assumption of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that the mere fact of our requiring the publication of electioneering accounts will convey the inference that some honorable members are perjurers. Thatis the most far-fetched argument towhich I have ever listened, and, coming, as it does, from a lawyer, it is simply amazing. The law already provides that every candidate shall make a declaration as to his electoral expenses.
– But the honorable member for Riverina said that his amendment was designed to prevent fraud.
– Does not the honorable and learned member recognise that candidates who are never likely to be returned may offer themselves for election, and avail themselves of a means of advancing their candidature which is not allowed by the law ?
– Such offences may be punished.
– Under this Bill a man who makes a false declaration will be liable to punishment, and if he be returned his election may be declared void. The amendment will relate not only to honorable members, but to every candidate who goes to the poll.
– Is it necessary to publish these accounts?
– I think that it is. In the case of a contest between an extremely wealthy man and one in poor circumstances, there is always a temptation for the man of means to buy his way into Parliament, not, perhaps, by directly giving away money, but by paying extravagantly for services rendered him.
– How would the amendment improve the position?
– If a candidate complies with the provisions of the Act, it will be impossible for him to pay extravagant fees.
If he declares that he has not spent more than £100, when in truth he has exceeded that amount, he will be amenable to the criminal law.
– But, say that he made a declaration that he had spent more than £100?
– It would remain for the Attorney-General to take action. He would then be guilty of corrupt practices. I wish to point out that the expense involved in giving effect to this amendment will be comparatively trifling. The space occupied in the Government Gazette by a detailed account of a candidate’s electioneering expenses should not exceed three or four inches. I hold that we should do our best to make that publication attractive, and that we have in it the nucleus of a very useful institution. Every government notice, every item of public interest which the Government finds it necessary to publish, should appear first of all in the Government Gazette.
– Would an electioneering account be of interest to the public?
– Most interesting. The deails would also be interesting to a candidate who might be able, by examining it, to obtain evidence showing that his opponent had been improperly returned. I see nothing wrong in this amendment; it is only the logical outcome of the provision we have already passed, that a candidate’s electoral expenses shall not exceed a certain sum.
– Would it not be sufficient to provide that the accounts shall be accessible to any person?,
– That is the provision contained in the clause.
– But the honorable member for Riverina took the view that many persons who might wish to obtain such information would find it inconvenient to attend at the central office to obtain it, and that itshould be published in the Government Gazette, so that it would be accessible to any one. Honorable members will find that, at the very outside, the total cost of giving effect to this amendment will not exceed £50 or £60 per annum, and that that expenditure might easily be reduced by cutting down the frill connected with all Government proclamations.
– We have shortened these notifications.
– If a piece of land is needed for a post-office, about 12 in. of space is taken to describe it, and about £3 is spent on advertising, when the land itself is not worth more, perhaps, than 30s. The expense of the course proposed by the honorable member for Riverina could be saved a thousand times over by adopting rational methods in connexion with Government advertising. I cannot understand the opposition to it, and I hope that the Committee will agree to it.
– The reason for publishing the statements of candidates’ expenditure is to prevent omissions. At the present time there is no sufficient check. A candidate has to depend on the returns sent in to him from those who are acting for him, and a wealthy man’s friends may easilyspend hundreds of pounds on his behalf without his knowing anything of the expenditure. Similarly, an organization like the Political Labour League might spend money on behalf of a candidate, and furnish him with an account which would make his expenses less than£100 ;whereas if the money spent by some of its branches were added, the total would be much greater than that. The only check against these omissions is to secure the publication of the accounts. They will then be circulated in the various districts, and some one who reads them will be sure to tell tales. In past elections, more than£100 has often been spent by candidates ; but there is no possibility of proving the fact. If the accounts were published in the Government Gazette, I think it would prove a check against such practices. It is very difficult for any candidate to keep his expenditure down to£100, and thus comply strictly with the law.In large divisions, where it is necessary to hire halls in a large number of places, even at a rent of only £1 per night, the outlay is heavy, and there are many other expenses. Some candidates pay for the services of scrutineers ; but I could not afford to do so, since there are about 100 polling places in my division. But, although it is difficult to keep within the limit, I think that the provision in the law is a good one. I should like to see the electors themselves take more interest in political matters, and assist more willingly in the conduct of elections. The only way, however, to test the correctness of the accounts of candidates is to publish them. I do not know why any one should be ashamed of having his accounts published. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa spoke of the need for a pure
Parliament. The adoption of the course proposed would help to keep Parliament pure, because it would prevent the people from trying to buy their way into Parliament.
– Honorable members seem to think that the accounts sent in to the Chief Electoral Officer are not examined ; but, when I filed my accounts, one or two receipts had not come to hand, although the money had been paid, and I was written to for them more than once. It is, however, sufficient to allow the inspection of candidates’ accounts by any member of the public who desires to inspectthem during ordinary office hours, and is willing to pay the prescribed fee. That arrangement permits any newspaper proprietor to publish in his journal any information on the subject which he thinks his subscribers would like to read. It is, however, altogether unnecessary to publish the accounts of candidates in the Government Gazette. Not only the accounts, but the receipted bills also, are to be published. It may be, however, that a candidate is not able to pay at the time of his return all the debts contracted during his election. Ihave heard of very excellent legislators being in that position. But although members may want a little time in which to pay, they are a most upright and’ just body of men, and I do not think would either evade paying, or would tell a lie about their accounts. The honorable member for Darling spoke about a league spending money on behalf of a candidate, but a man’s enemies could do that in order to secure his defeat. My greatest anxiety during the last election was to keep within the limits imposed by the Act.
– One cannot do so.
– I did so. It was a great relief to find that I was within the £100 limit. I hope that the amendment will not be carried.
– I do not know why the Committee should be averse to following the good old rules which business men adopt. No one objects to the publishing of bills of sale, although that bears hardly on persons in poor circumstances who are forced to borrow money.
– What is the need for the amendment if the information is already available to whoever cares to searchfor it ?
– What is the reason for not making these accounts public ? Our actions in this Chamber are published widely by the press, notwithstanding that we maintain a Hansard staff to report our proceedings. In my opinion, the Gazette in which these accounts are published will sell well. More than 100 copies would have been sold in my division after the last election had the amendment been in force then; and more than 100 persons would have tried to find out who paid for the motor cars which were used. I do not blame my opponent for what was done, but when agents of the calibre of Carey are employed - a man who does not dare to return to this State - their actions must be closely scrutinized. The publishing of the accounts of candidates would help to carry out the intention of Parliament that any man of moderate means shall not be prevented from securing his return by the expenditure of wealthy opponents. I see no reason why the public should not be given this information. They are our creators, and have a right to know whatis spent during elections. I have paired, so that I cannot vote for the amendment, but I trust that it will be carried. The Commonwealth Gazette will be more valuedby the people if information like this can be obtained from its columns.
– I have no personal objection to the publishing of election accounts. I have a strong suspicion “that my opponent at the last election spent much more than £100 on his expenses. If he did, it was so much the greater honour for me to defeat him. But why should these details be published?
– The actual amount expended is not shown in the candidate’s accounts.
– It should be shown there. It sometimes happens, . however, that those who are elected to Parliament are not able at the time of their return to pay all the accounts submitted to them. I know of some candidates who have had to give a promissory note for the amount of their election expenses, and I ask honorable members whether such a fact should be made known throughout the Commonwealth ? The whole question is too small to justify honorable members in expending time over its discussion.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- It is within my knowledge that one honorable member’s election cost him under £2. Why should that fact be made known to his disadvantage?
– All the more honour to him.
– The matter is capable of being viewed from another aspect. In some cases, candidates are not required to bear the whole of the cost of contesting an election. If it were shown that a candidate’s expenses amounted to only £2 or £3, he might be required on the next occasion to spend a great deal more. Then, again, let us consider the case of a candidate who has a great deal of travelling to do. At the first election I spent £52 10s. upon the hire of vehicles alone, but such an amount would not be included among the particulars of my expenditure. A candidate in a city constituency might not be called upon to spend more than £1 upon travelling expenses, and the total cost of his election might not represent more than £90. My election account might show only £90, whereas my actual expenditure, including travelling expenses, would amount to a great deal more. Therefore, the particulars proposed to be published would not indicate the actual amount expended by a candidate. If a candidate is to be required to furnish particulars of his expenses all items should be included. The matter seems to me to be trivial in the extreme, and I am astonished that honorable members should advocate the adoption of a course which can have no other effect than to mislead the public. In reply to the honorable member for Melbourne, I would point out that I lost some of the receipts connected with my election accounts, and not the whole of them, as the honorable member appeared to assume.
– I shall support the clause as it stands, because it seems to me that if the receipted bills of particulars are open for public inspection, the necessities of the case will be met. Very few persons will wish to see the accounts. Each account would probably occupy a column of the Gazette, and when we consider that probably 200 candidates would furnish particulars of their expenses, the cost of advertising would be very considerable. No good purposecould be served by adopting the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 -
Section one hundred and seventy-four of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move -
That paragraph b be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - ” (b) by omitting all the words after the word witnesses ‘ in paragraph 4 down to the end of paragraph 5.”
My reason for moving the amendment is that the matter dealt with in the paragraph is provided for in clause 32.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 47 -
After section one hundred and eighty-two of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 182a. The following acts are, on polling-day, and on all days to which the pollingis adjourned, prohibited within eachpolling-booth, namely : -
Penalty : Twenty-five pounds. 182b. The person witnessing any claim or application to transfer or application for a postal vote certificate under this Act shall, if he is not personally acquainted with the facts, satisfy himself, by inquiring from the claimant or applicant that the statements contained in the claim or application are true.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.
– This clause makes provision for a new offence in that it prohibits canvassing near polling booths. The Bill, as introduced, provided that canvassing should not be carried on within a certain distance of the polling booth, but I move -
That after the word “ prohibited,” line 6, the words “at the entrance of or” be inserted.
– Why not provide that canvassing shall not be carried on “ within or about “ the entrance of a polling booth?
– There is only one entrance, as a rule, and once a person has voted he is not likely to be interfered with in any way by canvassers.
– I do not think that the amendment will serve any good purpose. . I presume that the actual door of the polling booth would be regarded as the entrance, and canvassers might carry on their operations on the footpath in front of the booth up to within a yard or two of the doorway. They would merely be prevented from blocking up the entrance. It seems to me that if the amendment were adopted some trouble might be experienced in defining the word “ entrance.” I should like to. see some provision made for preventing canvassers from hanging about the entrances of polling booths, but I do not think that the amendment would accomplish that object.
– I think also, that the amendment would fail in its object. It is very undesirable that a crowd of canvassers should be permitted to congregate about the entrances to polling booths, and I think that it would be preferable to prevent such persons from approaching within a certain distance. Electors should be able to record their votes without being pestered by canvassers.
– The difficulty is to fix a proper limit.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the word “ each,” line 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ a “ ; that after the word “ transfer,” line 15, the words “or change” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 48 -
Section one hundred and ninety-four of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of paragraph e the words “ or (if the facts relied on in support of the petition are breaches by a candidate of the provisions of Part XIV. of this Act) within forty days after the filing by the candidate of the return of his electoral expenses.”
– I intend to move that this clause be omitted, with a view to inserting another clause, which will be followed by others, of which I have given notice. The question involved is whether it is desirable to continue to refer election disputes to the High Court, or whether we should revert to the practice of appointing an Election and Qualifications Committee.
– Trust the Court.
– It is not a question of trusting the Court. I think I can show that, where elections are disputed, it is not in the interests of candidates to force them to appear before one of the most costly tribunals in the Commonwealth. When this matter was previously under consideration, Parliament deliberately determined, for the purposes of the Act, to convert the High Court from a court of law to a court of equity. In section 199 of the principal Act the intention of the Legislature is apparent. That provision declares that, in dealing with disputed elections, the Court shall have regard only to equity and good conscience, and shall ignore legal technicalities and the laws of evidence. With all due deference to the High Court of Australia, I say that it is absolutely impossible for its members to dissociate themselves from their’ legal training, and to control the proceedings in connexion with disputed elections in the homely manner which was intended by this Parliament. When the principal Act was passed, I thought it would be possible for any candidate to approach that tribunal and to secure speedy and cheap justice. But I found, at a later stage, that it was impossible to take a single step towards the High Court without being called upon to employ certain legal gentlemen, who would insist upon going through all the forms provided by law, as if hundreds of thousands of pounds were involved in the dispute. If my own experience in this connexion, and that of the honorable member for Melbourne, are not sufficient to induce the Committee to revert to the old order of things, I shall be grievously disappointed.
– Has the honorable member thought of the alternative of retaining the present tribunal, but of disallowing costs?
– I can scarcely conceive of costs being disallowed. Where would the honorable and learned member and his colleagues be under such circumstances? In inviting the Committee to omit this clause, I propose to retain all the penalties at present provided by the Act, but to vest the power to inflict them in a tribunal appointed by this House, and nominated by Mr. Speaker.
– That is the old scheme.
– It is partly the old scheme.
– Under such a system we should have men sitting upon the Committee who had taken an active part in elections.
– My experience in the State of New South Wales, where a similar tribunal is in existence, was that, although party feeling ran very high upon several occasions, not a single case occurred in which that body failed to mete out justice to the parties interested at a reasonable cost.
– I can recall one instance. In the case of Willis v. McDonnell, I do not think that the latter received justice.
– At the last general election I felt it to be my duty, both to my constituents and myself, to lodge a petition against the return of the successful candidate. That petition was prepared for a considerable time before the High Court or one of its officers was ready to receive it. A registrar had been appointed - a very estimable gentleman - but there were no rules of Court, and consequently I had to wait week after week before I could lodge it. After its lodgment a considerable time elapsed before the hearing was commenced. That was nevercontemplated by Parliament. Further, despite the fact that I did not call a single witness, and that I employed the services of only one professional gentleman, the costs which I had to pay totalled more than £400. I have already exhibited the bill to several honorable members. The candidate whose seat I challenged engaged three of the leading barristers of this city, and also three solicitors, and his expenses, I am satisfied, must have aggregated thousands of pounds. In such circumstances, is the Committee prepared to continue a practice under which the man possessed of the most means is nearly sure to win ? I repeat that Idid not call a single witness, or enter the witnessbox myself. I merely submitted a petition in which I made certain allegations, which were considered by the Court, and yet my own costs aggregated more than £400.
-Was a large sum expended in advertising the petition?
– No. The sum of £50 had to be deposited with the petition. I may further inform honorable members that at one period of the proceedings an application was made for a recount of the votes. If anElections and Qualifications Committee had been in existence, that recount would have taken place in the parliamentary buildings, and the parties to the action would have been able to attend it. But in my own case the recount extended over a number of days. Upon the Friday prior to leaving for Sydney, the Chief Justice ordered the recount, expecting that it would be completed by the following Monday. Accordingly he instructed those representing the partiesin the Court, to mention the case to him in Sydney upon the succeeding Tuesday. That was done at a considerable expenditure.
– What did it cost ?
– The gentleman who was acting for me, communicated with another professional man in Sydney, asking him to mention to the Chief Justice on the Tuesday that the recount had not been completed. In reply, the barrister in Sydney telegraphed that he could not comply with the request unless he was instructed by a solicitor. As a matter of fact, the case had to be thrice “ mentioned “ in the High Court in Sydney.
– What did it cost ?
– I have already given the total cost of the proceedings. I have no desire to expose the charges made by professional men in this Chamber.
– If costs were not allowed, those professional gentlemen would not be engaged.
– The abolition of costs would remove one objection in the shape of the expenditure which has to be incurred by the parties to a disputed election, but it would not obviate the delay which now takes place. On the other hand, when a petition is presented to Parliament against the return of a candidate, the usual practice is to refer it to a Committee, which deals with it immediately, and presents a report upon which the House, having the whole of the facts of the case before it, is able, without delay, to come to a decision.
– Does the honorable member remember the trouble which occurred in this House, because the late Sir Edward Braddon sat on Whitelaw’s case?
– I have no recollection of it, but the Parliament can always provide against such difficulties arising.
– The honorable member admits that the High Court, as the Court of Disputed Returns, dealt with his case justly and satisfactorily, and he ought, therefore, to consider whether it would not be a good tribunal, provided that costs were abolished.
– I shall be prepared to listen to any suggestion in favour of retaining the High Court as the Court of Disputed Returns, and providing for the abolition of costs in connexion with proceedings before it.
– Where would a man be if the other side employed a barrister ?
– I take it that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Parkes is that neither side should be able to secure professional costs.
– In other words, if a dissatisfied candidate employed a barrister before the Court, he would be personally responsible for his fees.
– That would not remove the present difficulty. It is because I am not in a position - andI am not ashamed to admit it - to employ professional gentlemen in such cases, and because I feel that many others are similarly situated that I wish to have disputed returns dealt with by a tribunal which will be as just and expeditious as is the present one, whilst the cost of conducting a case before it would be much less. I have known petitions to be dealt with by Elections and Qualifications Committees without professional assistance being engaged on either side. The interested parties have produced their evidence, and the Committee has without delay pronounced its decision.
– The honorable member has made out a strong case.
– I have no desire to speak disrespectfully of members of the legal profession, either inside or outside this Parliament. I presume that if I were a lawyer, I should be anxious to obtain as many fees as I could honestly earn. But that is not the position that I take up. Whilst I hope that I may never have to appeal again to the High Court or to any other tribunal, Ihold that it is the bounden duty of the honorable member for Melbourne and myself to place our experience before the Committee, in order that honorable members may take steps to prevent the recurrence of such difficulties as we encountered in our efforts to secure justice. There is an old saying, and a very true one, that “ money talks “ ; in the language of the American, “ the almighty dollar is always on top.”
– The honorable member won his case. Surely he does not mean to suggest that that was due to the fact that he had money?
– Certainly not; that is not the point. What I wish to put before the Committee is that if I had not won my case, I should not only have been subjected to injustice, but mulcted in costs to the extent of thousands of pounds.
– The honorable member could have lost his claim only on the ground that it was not a just one.
– In some law suits it is considered quite justifiable, and, indeed, good tactics, to pile up the costs against the other side as much as possible.
– There are not many clients of that kind.
– The honorable and learned member for Parkes knows of a case in which costs were piled up, in the hope that I should be called upon to pay them; but fortunately, that anticipation was not realized. I do not wish to labour this question, because I think my proposal speaks for itself. I have good reason to fear that if the present expensive system be retained, those who have the most money will avail themselves of it to defeat their opponents.
– And even a wealthy man might be ruined in the end. The honorable member says that his opponent in the case in question, incurred costs amounting, perhaps, to thousands of pounds.
– But some men have a far greater capacity than have others to endure a financial strain.
– Why should even a rich man be put to unnecessary expense in this regard?
– To attain a seat in this Parliament is an honorable ambition, and every man should Have a right to seek to gratify it. Let us take the case of two men, the one being a rich man, and the other having but slender means, who contest an election. In the event of the latter being returned, the wealthy man, if dissatisfied with the result, may appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns, and use his money, not only to have his opponent unseated, but to ruin him financially.
– The honorable member’s opponent thought that he had a just case.
– I do not propose to discuss that point. It is well known that in all branches of the law litigants who have little money can obtain but little justice. A man of means is able to utilize all the machinery available to protract litigation, until he eventually breaks down the opposition of the man whohas nothing.
When the existing Act was under consideration in this House, it was considered that the Court of Disputed Returns, for which provision was then made, would be divested of all legal technicalities and forms of procedure. But I call upon any honorable member who witnessed the proceedings in which the honorable member for Melbourne and I were interested, or who read the reports of those proceedings, to say whether they differed in any respect from those associated with an ordinary lawsuit. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not seeking to reflect in the slightest degree upon the members of that Court. I believe that they did everything which honorable and just men could “have done; but the fact remains that lawyers, by reason of their training, have an unconscious bias, and cannot get away from the ordinary forms of legal procedure to which they have become accustomed. On the other hand, an Elections and Qualifications Committee, appointed by this Parliament, would act in equity and good conscience-
– Does the honorable member believe that he would have won his case before such a Committee?
– I am certain that I should have done so. I invite honorable members, who have held seats in the States Parliaments, to put their experience before the Committee. When the Act was under consideration in this House, the honorable member for North Sydney, who had read of the costliness of the proceedings in connexion with disputed elections to the British House of Commons, specially warned honorable members against constituting the High Court a Court of Disputed Returns. He pointed out that it would be a very costly tribunal, whereas an Elections and Qualifications Committee would provide a homely, but just and economical, means of dealing with disputed returns. The deputy leader of the Opposition uttered a similar warning, and as those warnings were disregarded’, it remains for the honorable member for’ Melbourne and myself to give the Committee another one, based on our own experience. The honorable member for Melbourne and myself have had to pay for the interpretation of the law which this Parliament passed to regulate the conduct of elections. Notwithstanding that the Act says that legal technicalities are not to be observed, the Court put a legal interpretation upon the homely ‘phrase “officers of the police force.” Parliament meant by that phrase the members of the police force, just as the employes of the Customs Department are meant by the term “ officers of the Customs Department.” The Court, however, held that a police constable is not an officer, and on that point *he elections of both myself and the honorable member for Melbourne were invalidated. Would such a point have been considered for five minutes by any Committee of Parliament? I might give other instances to prove that the Court is unconsciously guided in its decisions by legal technicalities and the laws of evidence, and that this makes its expenditure too costly to allow an ordinary person to avail himself of it. I therefore intend to move the omission of clause 48, with a view to insert in its place the following clauses-
– It is not competent for the honorable member to move the omission of a clause, but he may vote against it, and, if it be negatived, may, at a later stage, propose the insertion of new clauses. He cannot, however, either propose or discuss such clauses now.
– I do not intend, to move them now,, but I wish to read them to show honorable members what I propose to substitute for the present arrangement.
– The honorable member might move the omission of the words’ “ Section 194,” as a test question. If that amendment were carried, the Government would, no doubt, consent to the clause being negatived, and the honorable member could,, later on, at the proper stage, move the insertion of his proposed nev? clauses.
– Will . not the honorable member be in order, in urging the Committee to negative the clause, in reading the proposals which he wishes to substitute for it?
– He may indicate what they are, but he may not discuss them in detail. May is very specific on this point. In that authority it is stated, at page 459,, th.it-
Neither may an amendment be proposed to leave out from the word “ That “ to the end of the clause, in order to substitute other words, such an amendment being in the nature of a new clause.
– If the honorable member reads his proposed new clauses, will he be held to be discussing them in detail ?
– Certainly not.
– I accept your suggestion, sir, and therefore move -
That the words “ Section one hundred and ninety-four,” in line 1, be left out.
I wish to create another tribunal in place of that provided for in the Bill. The nature of that tribunal may be gathered from the following provisions, which, if the clause is negatived, I shall later on move to insert -
The validity of any election or return may be disputed by petition addressed to the Honorable the Speaker of. the House of Representatives in the case of an election for that House, and to the Honorable the President in the case of an election for the Senate, and not otherwise. The Speaker and President shall immediately on receipt refer all such petitions to the Committee appointed by either House as the case may require.
The Committee shall consist of not less than nine members nominated by the Speaker in the case of a disputed return or election for the House of Representatives, and the President in the case of a disputed return or election for the Senate. If such nominations are not objected to within six days of their being so nominated, then such persons as are nominated shall constitute the Committee. If objected to within the prescribed period, a ballot shall be taken and the members chosen thereat shall constitute the Committee.
The Committee so chosen shall be the Court of Disputed Returns, and shall have jurisdiction to compel the attendance of witnesses, take evidence upon oath, and sit in any part of the Commonwealth it may deem necessary, and shall lay its report before Parliament upon all -matters deter, mined by it.
That is briefly my proposal. I may add that I would give the new Court which I wish to create all the powers the High Court now possesses for punishing those who do wrong.
– I cannot accept the honorable member’s proposal. This matter was fully discussed when the original Bill was before us.
– But not in the light of experience.
– We had the experience of other places to guide us, and deliberately determined to take from Parliament the decision of questions of law affecting the election of its members.
– What has law to do with elections ?
– A great deal. Even an Elections Committee would, I trust, be guided to its decisions by considerations of law, and not by what its members might think ought to be the law.
– It should be guided by the principles of justice, which one does not always get in the law Courts.
– No doubt the honorable member has a keen sense of justice, but honorable members must not run away with the idea that there is some universal sense of justice present in each of us, ready to be applied on every occasion. When a community has expressed its will in Acts of Parliament, those Acts must be considered binding on every one who has to do with their interpretation. The intention of Parliament was to remove the determination of questions affecting elections from a Committee of Parliament, whose members might be unconsciously biased. It was shown that from the history .of the United Kingdom the Electoral Committees Had practically become purely partisan bodies, and that the Imperial Parliament had seen fit to abolish its Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and to refer electoral disputes to the Courts, on the ground that Members of Parliament should not decide questions affecting the validity of their own return. The experience of other countries, and the experience of honorable members themselves in other Parliaments, made us determine to hand over to the High Court the decision of points arising under the electoral law. The first question we have therefore to consider is, “Has this tribunal failed in its duty, and shown itself ineffective to such an extent as to justify us in taking from it powers deliberately vested in it?” Has it failed to-justly interpret our laws? Has it been influenced by party considerations to give incorrect decisions, or has it held the scales of justice fairly and evenly? I have followed its proceedings with considerable interest, and, in my opinion, its judgments, on the facts put before it, have been fair, and governed by correct interpretations of the intentions of Parliament.
– We do not question its justice, but it is beyond our reach financially.
– If honorable members do not question its justice it has, as a Court of Justice, answered satisfactorily. The honorable member for Riverina addressed himself to two points, the procedure of the Court, and the cost of proceedings there. Unfortunately for him, no rules had been formulated, and, further than that, work was pressing, and arrangements had been made by the Court to move about from place to place. There certainly were difficulties to be overcome, but those were the result of the special conditions which prevailed at the time, and would not arise now. I think that it is well worth considering whether the rules of the Court could not be simplified to an extent that would enable election petitions to be more expeditiously dealt with.
– Would it be possible to exclude lawyers altogether from cases arising out of disputed returns?
– It might be possible, but not desirable. I think, further, that we might consider the possibility of reducing the costs attached to the hearing of election disputes by the High Court. I would direct attention to the fact that under the proposals of the honorable member for Riverina the Elections and Qualifications Committee would have power to award costs, and that any balance above the deposit payable by the petitioner would be recoverable at law. Therefore, if the Committee were appointed, the question of costs would still have to be considered. Candidates appearing before the Court would have the right to be represented by counsel.
– I propose to move an amendment dealing with that question.
– If it be admitted that the High Court has so far proved a suitable tribunal, and has given just decisions, would it not be wiser to direct our attention to the question of limiting the costs?
– If that could be done, the difficulty would, be overcome.
– I could not, on the spur of the moment, promise to do it, but I think that the simplification of the procedure and the reduction of the costs are matters worthy of consideration. I would point out that, in many cases, heavy expenses are incurred owing to the necessity of bringing witnesses from far distant localities.
– That did not occur in my case.
– It certainly occurred in the case of the honorable member for Riverina.
– The honorable member had no witnesses.
– Yes, he did. He was, I understand, obliged to bring down the returning officer and some of the assistant returning officers, and to keep them in Melbourne during the hearing of the case.
– But the Elections and Qualifications Committee would proceed to the electorate in which the dispute occurred.
– That is not at all likely to happen. The members of the Committee would be prevented by their parliamentary duties from leaving the Seat of Government for any length of time. If, for example, a dispute were to arise in Queensland, it would be impracticable for the Committee to proceed to that State to conduct the inquiry. -We have to consider what is likely to occur. Honorable members, know of the difficulty that is experienced in inducing members of Royal Commissions and Select Committees to visit other States. When a judicial body is constituted for the purpose of investigating facts, it is essential that the whole of its members should be present throughout the inquiry in order that they may see for themselves how, when important questions of fact have to be decided upon, the witnesses conduct themselves. No one would ever propose that three or four jurymen should examine one set of witnesses, and three or four others another set. I contend that an Elections and Qualifications Committee would be a large and cumbrous body compared with the High Court. If we decided that the High Court should no longer deal with disputed returns an election petition from Queensland, or Western Australia, or Tasmania, instead of being dealt with in the State in which the dispute occurred, would have to be decided in Melbourne, and witnesses would have to be brought here at great expense. The probability is that in such an event the heavy expenses that would have to be incurred would, in many cases, preclude aggrieved parties from lodging petitions. I would ask honorable members not to abolish the present Court of Disputed Returns so soon. It has been in existence for only two or threeyears, and I think it would be a great mistake and a retrograde step to make the proposed change. On the o’ther hand, we should act wisely if we continued the present arrangement, and addressed ourselves to the question of the simplification of procedure, and the reduction of costs. In. my opinion the cost involved in dealing with petitions before a Committee of Elections and Qualificationswould be quite as heavy as those that would be incurred if the High Court were appealed to.
– The election petition, Whitelaw v. Hartnoll, was heard by the Elections and Qualifications Committee without involving the parties in any expense.
– No important questions of fact had to be considered in that case. The petition was presented at the beginning of the year, and the decision of the Committee was not arrived at until the end of the year. We know that constant delays take place in connexion with the proceedings of Committees of this House. The convenience of members has to be considered, and much valuable time is lost in consequence. The High Court, on. the other hand, is a judicial body, which would deal with election petitions as part of its ordinary duties. It would act expeditiously, and exercise its jurisdiction on the spot. I think that we should make a. serious mistake if we retraced our steps in this matter, and I would, therefore, ask honorable members to allow the present tribunal to remain, on. the understanding that the questions of the simplification of procedure and reduction of costs will be considered.
– The Minister appealed to honorable members not to abolish the present Court so soon. His remarks indicate to me that he thought it might be necessary to abolish it at some time or other.
– I did not intend to conveyany such impression.
– Then the Minister said that he would take into consideration the question of reducing the costs now entailed upon parties to elections disputes. That amounts to an admission that the costs at present are very heavy.
– Not necessarily. The simplification of the procedure would result in a reduction of costs.
– I shall support the honorable member for Riverina in this matter. I have had considerable experience of the Elections, and Qualifications Committees in New South Wales, and I have every reason to think well of them as tribunals for the settlement of election disputes. It is contended that the members of such Committees are swayed by party feeling, but I can adduce evidence to the contrary. Under the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina, the Speaker would be empowered to appoint nine members of this House to constitute an Elections and Qualifications Committee, and he would naturally select those best fitted to discharge the duties that they would be called upon to perform, and to act justly between the parties. Some years ago, the return of the honorable member for Macquarie for one of the suburban constituencies, in New South Wales was disputed. He had been a Minister, and party feeling ran very high. The honorable member had many old friends in the House, and, undoubtedly, had the full support and sympathy of every member of the party to which he belonged. One would have expected that, under such circumstances, party feeling would have manifested itself ; but nothing of the kind happened. I was a member of the Elections and Qualifications Committee, and I fought as, hard as I could up to a certain point for the honorable member; but the evidence presented by the petitioner was so overwhelming that the Committee felt compelled to decide against him, and their report was adopted by the House. I would point out that even if the members of the proposed Elections and Qualifications Committee were swayed by party feeling, and gave a decision against the weight of evidence, it is not to be supposed for one moment that the House, to which the report would have to be submitted, would uphold it. If it did so; it would proclaim itself as unfit to deal with the many larger and more important questions, which demand its attention from time to time. I venture to say that not even the greatest advocate of the system under which the High Court acts as a Court of Disputed Returns can urge for one moment that the costs incurred before that tribunal by the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne were other than excessive. This House has recognised that fact by empowering the Treasurer to recoup them a portion of their expenditure.
– Only a little of it.
– Yes, only a portion of it. We all recognisedthe injustice of the position in which they were placed through no fault of their own. We are now engaged in the consideration of a. most intricate piece of electoral machinery. I maintain that upon a strict interpretation of the principal Act there is not an honorable member in this House whose seat could not be challenged. Why? Simply because the returning officers at the last election were not trained men. The return of honorable members could be challenged, not because they committed any illegal act, but because the machinery of the electoral law, as the result of the employment of inexperienced officers, was thrown out of gear. The amendment of the honorable member for Riverina does not close the door upon any person who desires to petition against the return of a candidate. As a matter of fact, it affords increased facilities in that direction, by providing that it shall be necessary for a petitioner to deposit a sum of only £50 to cover all expenses. I ask whether any petitioner in Australia can approach the High Court if he has only £50 in his pocket. The present suggestion can be justified only if it can be shown that Elections and Qualifications Committees are liable to give corrupt, and, therefore, unfair decisions.
– I have known of a case before such a body in which the expenses of one of the parties were £2,000.
– That must have been a case in which the two parties directly interested possessed very large purses.
– What would the expenses of that case have amounted to if it had been tried before the High Court ?
– Much less, I think.
– The honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne will tell a different tale. If the High Court is to decide all future petitions as it did the two cases in question, and if the same legal machinery is to be invoked, it would be infinitely preferable for a successful candidate if he were a poor man, to resign his seat than to submit to such an expensive reference, especially if the petitioner were a wealthy man. The principal Act provides that disputed elections shall be determined according to equity and good conscience. But the training of the Justices of the High Court is such that they cannot decide matters from other than a legal stand-point. The Minister of Home Affairs has said that the settlement ofthese cases is facilitated by their reference to that tribunal. I contend that it is not. The proceedings in the case in which the honorable member for Riverina was interested extended over a period of about three months.
– The petition was ready in December, 1903, and the decision of the Court was not given until March 1904.
-In New South Wales, I believe that a time limit is imposed upon the deliberations of the Elections and Qualifications Committee.
– Thepresent PostmasterGeneral has appeared before that body.
– And I obtained a unanimous verdict from men who were politically opposed to me.
– Exactly. It is just as reasonable to argue that a jury will be corrupt, as to urge that a Committee composed of Members of Parliament will be corrupt. Although we may have our party fights, there is a point at which our manhood asserts itself, and if we cannot be true to our oath, we have no right to be here. There is still another view which I would like to present to the Committee. If the present system be continued, we shall find “spec” lawyers urging defeated candidates to appeal to the High Court.
– Very like a whale.
– Of course I am speaking as a layman, and I regret to hear the honorable member for Northern Melbourne use such inelegant language. Let us suppose thatat the next election petitions were lodged against the return of three or four of the successful candidates. What would probably happen? Having discovered that this House has partly reimbursed the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne the expenses which they incurred in appearing before the High Court, there are any number of “spec” lawyers, who, for the purpose of harassing the successful candidates, would advise the defeated aspirants for Parliamentary honours to lodge a petition against their return. They would urge : “ If you fail, you will not be a loser financially.”
– I trust that the Committee will agree to the proposal made by the honorable member for Riverina, that all petitions against the return of a member shall be referred to an Elections and Qualifications Committee. When that system was in force in connexion with this Parliament it worked satisfactorily. It is hardly necessary to say that whilst the High Court is founded upon principles of absolute justice, the vast majority of the people are not in a position to have their disputes settled by that tribunal. It is from that stand-point that I wish to address myself to the question.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The poor men in this House have not the slightest objection to the High Court acting as a Court of Disputed Returns, except that the presentation of a petition to that tribunal involves enormous expenditure. We hold that every candidate, no matter how poor he may be, is just as much entitled as is the richest man in the community to secure justice. But under the present system that is not possible. A wealthy man is able to secure the best counsel, whilst the poor man on the other side, who has to speak for himself, is doubled up by rules and regulations, tipstaffs, dog-fences, crows’ feet, and all other essentials to the working of a great Court of Justice. It is to enable the poorest candidate, who feels dissatisfied with the result of an election, to obtain justice, that we desire that the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns shall give place to an Elections and Qualifications Committee. It was prophesied’ for over a month, after the last general election, that my return would be contested, not because I had done anything that was not straightforward, but because hope sees the star within, and “ listening love ‘ ‘ can hear the rustling of a “ parliamentary wing.” I approached some members of the legal profession in regard to the matter, and a nice, kind, sympathetic lawyer told me he would be prepared to start with a fee of fifty guineas ; but he could not tell me where Justice lived, and when I went home that night I could not sleep. I have made up my mind, after the experience of the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne, that if ever my return be disputed I shall abandon my case, no matter how just it may be, and let my opponent take my seat. I have arrived at that determination, because if either of the honorable members to whom I have referred had losthis case, he would have been called upon to bear the whole cost of the proceedings. In the case of a poor man, that would mean bankruptcy and financial desolation. Mr. Whitelaw, a labour man from the west coast of Tasmania, lodged a petition against the return of Mr. Hartnoll, and the dispute was referred to the Elections and Qualifications Committee. Sir Edward Braddon was Chairman of that Committee, whilst the honorable member for Boothby was also a member of it. I have been informed that the honorable member for Boothby, who is a member of the Labour Party, voted against the labour man, because he considered that Mr. Hartnoll was absolutely entitled to theseat.I am satisfied that if that case had come before a tribunal in which able barristers, prompted by learned solicitors, were employed, and various forms and ceremonies observed, difficulty would have been experienced in securing a decision. The lawyers say that the Committee ought to have declared that another election should take place, but it wisely viewed the matter from another stand-point. Had I been a member of that Committee I think I should have said: “What chance has Mr. Whitelaw of winning this seat against Mr. Hartnoll? It seems to me that he has none, and therefore it would be useless to put the country to the expense of another election.”
– That has nothing to do with the question.
– But there is sound common sense behind it. I am so satisfied that the proper tribunal to deal with an electoral dispute is an Elections and Qualifications Committee that if a petition were presented against my return I should be prepared to submit my case to a Committee consisting of three of the greatest Tories on the Opposition benches. On the other hand, if the case were dealt with by the High Court, and I were unable to secure a first-class barrister, whilst the other side had five or six eminent counsel, I should feel, in the event of my return being declared void, that I had not received justice. It is not the business of the Judges to plead a man’s case ; it is the business of the party bringing his dispute before the Court to have enough money to secure justice. We have now an opportunity to revert to the old system. If honorable members fear that it might lead to the giving of partisan decisions, let us provide that a case in which a member of the Labour Party is concerned shall be dealt with by a Committee consisting of nine members of the Opposition, that a case concerning a member of the Opposition shall be dealt with by a Committee consisting of Government supporters, and that one affecting the return of a. Government supporter shall be dealt with by a Committee consisting of members of the other two parties in the House. Is it reasonable to believe that a man who, by sheer force of ability, has won a seat in this House, would be guilty, as a member of such a Committee, of giving a partisan decision? Members of this Parliament have too much respect for themselves to do anything of the kind. There is a great deal of individual, as well as collective, pride in this Chamber, and I am glad that it is so. Unless we desire to make it possible that threefourths of the members of the House may become bankrupt, we should refer disputed elections to a Committee of honorable members. I shall vote for the amendment.
– Would the honorable member allow counsel to appear before the Committee ?
– No. Each candidate should come before the Committee, and state his case in his own way. If a case arose on the west coast of Tasmania, the Committee should go to Queenstown, instead of bringing witnesses to Melbourne. The Committee should conduct its inquiries wherever the dispute arose.
– What about the expense?
– Why should not counsel be employed?
– The Commonwealth could stand the expense. What we desire to getat is the truth, and lawyers are paid, not to bring out the truth, but to prevent witnesses from telling the truth, and to bewilder and hinder them until they do not know where they are. I have no ill-feeling against the members of the legalprofession, and regret that I do not belong to that body. As a matter of fact, I have the profoundest regard for their abilities, and flyto them whenever I am in trouble. A Committee of this House, however, could deal with election disputes without the aid of lawyers. The expense of conducting a suit before the High Court is terrible. One has to wire to Sydney, to fee a solicitor, to notify a barrister, merely to mention a case to the Judges. I am afraid that the Minister of Home Affairs is, by reason of his environment, becoming a Conservative. I expected to see him fight for the manhood and womanhood of this democracy, but he is unconsciously contending for the accumulated wealth of the community. I remember that the honorable member for North Sydney was originally opposed to the establishment of the High Court as the Court of Disputed Returns.
We have before us living victims of the present system. The honorable member for Riverina was a rich man when he brought his case before the Court, but now he is a poor man. I remember once, out on the Brazos River, in Texas, there were three farmers who had a quarrel, and there were three poor lawyers in Columbus city. The farmers went to law, and when the case was settled, there were three rich lawyers, and three poor farmers. So it is with those who go before the High Court. I ask honorable members opposite to help us to rescue our fellows from the thraldom of the legal profession.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Riverina is deserving of the thanks of the Committee for having moved the amendment. The High Court was popular with honorable members generally when this matter was under consideration a few years ago, and it was thought better to allow the High Court to deal with election petitions than to permit honorable members to try the case of a fellow member. The Court has given justice, but its procedure is very expensive. It probably cost £40 to mention the case of the honorable member for Riverina to the Court in Sydney. I understand that it cost him about £400 to fight that case, while.it cost his opponent anything from £2,000 to£3,000. That is a very expensive way of testing the validity of an election, and if there is a cheaper and equally effective procedure possible, it should be taken. We have been told by honorable members who were members of the Parliament of New South Wales that the Committee of Elections and Qualifications there gives full justice, while the expense to parties appearing before it is nominal, so I think that we might very well establish a similar body here.
– The Victorian experience is different.
– I heard the Prime Minister interject that it cost£2,000 to conduct a case before a Victorian Committee.
– That was the cost to one side only.
– No doubt a great many witnesses were called, and a number of legal men employed ; but, probably, had the case been heard beforethe High Court, the cost would have been ten times as much. The Prime
Minister shakes his. head, and I must admit that he knows more about these matters than I do; but the Minister of Home Affairs admitted that the procedure of the Court of Disputed Returns is very expensive, and should be cheapened. Still, the Chief Justice will not alter it unless compelled to do so by legislation. He will retain the present procedure, and endeavour to uphold the dignity of his Court. Personally, I would almost rather resign my seat than contest a disputed election before the High Court, if a great deal of evidence had to be called, and the totals were close. Courts do not favour the statement of cases by litigants themselves, and the High Court would probably extend very little sympathy to any legislator who appeared before it. No doubt, justice would be done, but the litigant would probably be advised to employ a trained lawyer, in order to save time.
– The Court would not suggest that.
– It is a common thing for Justices to make such a suggestion, and if a litigant pleads that he is a pauper, the Equity Court will see that a lawyer is assigned to him to conduct his case.
– Where does that happen?
– In New South Wales., and in every other British community. If a litigant appearing before the Equity Court says that he is a pauper, a barrister is appointed to plead his cause. I have had a great deal of experience, and, although I have been mostly on the winning side, I know that it costs a good deal of money, even to win a suit.
– And a great deal more to lose.
– It is ruinous to lose, and it seems to be almost ruinous to win in the High Court. I hope that the Government will recognise the feeling of the Committee in favour of a change, and will propose the substitution for a Court of Disputed Returns of a Committee of nine members, selected by Mr. Speaker, making the maximum amount to be awarded as costs £50. The honorable member for Riverina does not make that sum the maximum, but if it were made the maximum, it would preventabuses of the kind suggested by the honorable member for Dalley, where impecunious and pettifogging . lawyers take up cases on “ spec,” in the hope of getting heavy costs out of a wealthy opponent. I think that a Committee would do justice to all parties.
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Riverina has brought this matter before this Committee. When the Electoral Act was under consideration I voted inf avour of the appointmentof a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and I shall therefore support the amendment. I am afraid, however, that the proposals of the honorable member for Riverina will not accomplish all that is required. We should aim at reducing the expenses connected with the hearing of election petitions, and it seems to me that the only way in which we can accomplish that end is by debarring lawyers from appearing before the Court. I should be quite prepared to retain the High Court as a tribunal for dealing with disputed returns if we could arrange that no barristers should take part in the proceedings. If we cannot do that, we should appoint a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and require the parties to plead their own causes. I trust that the Minister will help us out of our difficulty by making provision in the direction I have indicated. The High Court could give both litigants their assistance, and in the event of the complaint being regarded as frivolous could forfeit the petitioner’s deposit of £50, and pay it over either to the King or to the honorable member whose election had been questioned.
– I have to thank the honorable member for Riverina for the action he has taken in this matter. The honorable member proposes to carry out what was evidently the intention of the honorable member for Wilmot who has on the business-paper the following notice of motion : -
That a Select Committee be appointed, with powerto send for persons, papers, and records, to inquire into -
All matters in connexion with the hearing of the Denison Election Petition on the 18th April, 1904.
The advisability of amending the law so that all future Election Petitions should be judged by a Committee of the House.
I thoroughly agree with the position taken up by the honorable member for Riverina, who stated that he would be prepared to trust his case to the decision of honorable members opposite rather than appeal to the High Court. I would point out that all the Justices of the High Court are old politicians. One loomed very largely in the affairs of the Commonwealth in its first days, and another represented His Majesty’s Government in another place. The Chief Justice was for many years a leading politician of Queensland. Is it to be suggested that those gentlemen are more honorable because they have become horse-haired divinities? I had been accustomed to look upon the Justices of the High Court in the dispensation of justice as next to the Almighty, and I entered the portals of that Court with a certain amount of confidence. I knew that there was a provision in the Electoral Act that its decision should rest upon equity and good conscience rather than upon legal technicalities. I was, however, rudely disillusionized. What was the first infamous demand that was made upon me? My lawyer told me that the petition which he had drawn up - rather a long one, I admit - would have to be advertised in one of the daily papers and in the Commonwealth Gazette. At a rate of 3s. per inch in one case, and 6s. per inch in the other, the cost of advertising that petition would have amounted to £90.
– But some arrangement was arrived at - a fresh rule was made?
– Yes ; that was because I took the bull by the horns. I was required by the Act to deposit £50, and if the Court had refused to accept my petition, I should have appealed to the Federal Parliament. I represented that I was unable to pay for advertising the petition, and, further, that I would not pay it if I were able, because I considered that the demand made upon me amounted to robbery. My case proceeded, and occupied the attention of the Court for something like ten hours, some two mornings and afternoons, and, although I had summoned no witnesses, the costs amounted to the sum of £200. To this day I have not obtained a decision from the Court. I found that justice was soiled with the filth of lucre. I do not for one moment make ‘any imputation against the character of the Justices of the High Court. I do not suggest that they are any less honorable to-day than when they moved in political circles. On the contrary, I believe that they are thoroughly honorable men. But I contend that it is a disgrace to our democracy that litigants should have to pay toll at every step they take in our Courts of Justice. My legal adviser informed me that as sure as the day followed night, I should win my suit, but that it would costme £1,500 to carry the case to a successful issue.
– Did they so inform the honorable member before the case was entered upon?
– No. That was after our first experience. The Chief Justice announced from the Bench that months must elapse before he could give a decision, and my legal adviser asked me whether I thought I could win another election. I said I could do so if it were a fair fight. I was advised that it would be much cheaper to adopt that course than to carry on my suit. It really seems absurd that the costs involved in a trumpery case of that kind should amount to more than the total ex penses incurred in connexion with the last general election in Tasmania. In. 1901, those expenses amounted to £1,649,butin1903, owing to the splendid management of the electoral officers, the outlay did not exceed £1,358. We have heard of the large sum which had to be spent by the honorable member for Riverina, and possibly we shall be told of the expenses which his opponent had to incur. I should be willing to accept the High Court as a tribunal for the trial of disputed election returns, if the, parties concerned were not robbed at the very portals of the Court. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Barrier is not a new one. In Gronlund’s Co-operative Commonwealth, I find the following passage: -
Just as little Switzerland will furnish us a model of really popular democratic administration in the “ referendum,” so it is possible that little Denmark will furnish us a model of popular administration of justice in her so-called “ Courts of Conciliation,” which have been in existence in that country since 1828, and during that period have given immense satisfaction, so much so, indeed, that similar Courts have to a certain extent been adopted by other countries in Europe. The distinguishing feature of those Courts is that no lawyers are allowed there. All suits whatsoever; without regard to the amounts involved, must, in the first place, be brought before these Courts. The judge takes down the oral complaint of the plaintiff, and the oral defence of the defendant, and renders judgment accordingly. If, however, either of the parties is dissatisfied with the judgment, the judge refers the case to the regular Courts, in which Courts, however, no other evidence is allowed to be introduced, but that which was laid before the judge’ sitting in the Court of Conciliation.
The cases brought before the Court cost litigants, on the average, only 2s. 6d. each. I should be willing to give the High Court a trial as a tribunal for the settlement of disputed returns, provided that petitioners were not required to deposit more than ^20, and could not be mulct in any further expense. Lawyers should be debarred from appearing before the Court in election cases. Surely the Justices of the Court can do without the assistance of barristers, and can deal out justice without loo much regard for legal technicalities. Of course, no one need be prevented from obtaining legal advice outside the ‘Court. Any person should be in a position to stand up and speak for himself before this tribunal, which, in these’ matters, is paid to dispense justice and not law. I shall vote for the amendment, and I sincerely hope that it will be carried. I understand that the Government are willing to introduce a short measure which will” have the effect of considerably curtailing the expenses ordinarily involved in a reference of these cases to the High Court. If we fail to carry this amendment, I trust that such a measure will be introduced early next session. Personally I am very desirous of seeing something done in that direction before the next general election takes place. I would not care, to again cross the portals of the High Court, not because I do not believe that its members are as honorable men as any who have occupied the judgment seat in any Court in Australia, but because, as the result of the’ abominable system of procedure adopted, litigants have law administered to them in lieu of justice.
– It is rather trying to be called upon to follow the honorable member in his oratorical flight by a prosaic commentary upon two or three practical speeches. The honorable member possesses an advantage over me in that he has quoted from some work upon a modern Utopia, with which I am not acquainted - a Utopia in which I understand the cost of counsel is 2s. 66., and that of an attorney is. 3d. I have no desire to deal with any imaginary community of that sort. We are living in the Australian Commonwealth, and the question under consideration is whether or not some alteration should be made in the law in regard to inquiries connected with disputed elections. I listened with great attention and curiosity to the speech of the honorable member for Riverina, and to that of the Minister who undertook to answer him. I am bound to say that the Minister’s reply was very disappointing. He seemed entirely to lose sight of the principal points mentioned by the ‘ honorable member for Riverina. First of all, the latter took exception to the High Court as a tribunal for inquiring into disputed elections, and, secondly, he objected to the expenses which litigants were compelled to incur in appearing before it. He also gave the Committee some information in regard to his own costs. I confess that I was somewhat astonished when I heard his statement as to the costs to which he had been subjected. Fortunately, I have had information placed in my hands which satisfies me that that statement was very much exaggerated. For my own part, I think we should be acting very unwisely if we attempted to substitute another tribunal for that which has been appointed’ by this. Parliament, for the purpose of inquiring into disputed elections. At the same time, although I belong to the profession for which the honorable member for Melbourne exhibits so much pity and contempt, I am perfectly prepared to assist trie honorable member for Riverina to dispense with the costs of appearing before that tribunal in connexion with matters of this sort. I object to the substitution of any Elections and Qualifications Committee for the High Court for several reasons. In the first place, I think that honorable members ought to be relieved as much as possible of the obligation to .inquire into matters which are outside their legislative duties. They certainly ought to be relieved of the obligation and unpleasantness of inquiring into matters which touch upon the interests of their fellow members. One does not need to be long in politics to have seen many cases in which it is abundantly clear that, although the members of parliamentary Committees may have had every desire to act in an impartial way, party feeling has played a very important part in their decisions.
– Can the honorable and learned member give an instance in point ?
– I can give many such instances. The honorable member is too fond of asking other honorabe members to supply particulars, in order that he may carp at them. Another reason why I object to the substitution of a parliamentary Committee for the present Court of Disputed Returns is that we have quite enough to do as legislators without being called on to adjudicate upon matters in which the interests of our fellow members are involved. Further, I submit that an Elections and Qualifications Committee is not as competent a body to deal with questions involving an interpretation of Statutes as are trained lawyers. So far as the employment of counsel is concerned, I can only say that the High Court has demonstrated to the people of Australia that far from being influenced by the weight of eminent counsel, the veriest fledgeling in the profession has as much chance before that tribunal as has the most eminent counsel at the Bar in any State, provided he has, facts and is able to marshal them. I am perfectly prepared to vote for an amendment which will have the effect of completely disqualifying the High Court from awarding costs to the successful party. The moment that is done, litigants appearing before it in connexion with questions of this kind will stand upon precisely the same footing as they do when they appear before an Elections and Qualifications Committee. I have heard honorable members urge that if we abolish the right to charge the unsuccessful suitor with costs, we shall allow the rich man to engage an array of counsel on one side, whilst the poor candidate will be unable to emulate his example. But I would point out that that power already exists in respect of any Elections and Qualifications Committee. There is no restriction upon the right of any suitor to engage the whole Bar of a State if he chooses to do so. We know very well that whilst a formidable array of counsel might exercise a very powerful influence upon the average Member of Parliament sitting upon such a body, it would not be likely to weigh very heavily with trained legal minds, such as, those which constitute the High Court. Therefore, apart from all other considerations, I maintain that that tribunal is more qualified in every conceivable way than is a Parliamentary Committee to deal with matters of this sort. It has been urged by the honorable member for Riverina that the High Court is influenced by the rules of evidence. I have yet to learn that those rules are anything more than common sense applied to the elucidation of truth. For instance, one of the rules is that hearsay testimony is not admissible. Very often a tribunal which is composed of laymen would allow A to relate something which he had heard some other person say. The rules of evidence provide that A can only swear to facts within his own knowledge. The laws of evidence, which have been spoken of as “ technicalities,” are the embodiment of common sense and worldly knowledge, as applied to the elucidation of truth, and must be adopted by any tribunal which professes to properly investigate any question remitted to it. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that of the two tribunals, the High Court is eminently superior, because its members are paid for exercising their judicial ability, and because the appointment of an Elections and Qualifications Committee would necessitate honorable members doing work outside their legislative functions, with the further objectionthat they would be adjudicating upon matters in which their fellow members are interested. The strong point of the speech of the honorable member for Riverina was his own personal experience - a bit of autobiography. I think that I am fairly paraphrasing that speech when I say that he led the Committee to believe that the proceedings before the High Court had cost him £400, and that he believed the expenses of his opponent aggregated some thousands. As a matter of fact, although the whole of the costs which were incurred on behalf of the honorable member amounted to £400, when they were submitted to an officer of the Court for taxation - and it is only fair that the taxing officer should have his due - they were reduced to£251. The Committee ought also to know that the whole of that amount was paid by Mr. Blackwood. If the honorable member for Riverina had only contracted with his lawyer not to charge more than the taxed costs-
– That is pretty rough on Mr. Blackwood.
– I will deal with that matter presently. The honorable member for Riverina led us to believe that the proceedings before the High Court had involved him in an expenditure of £400. It is true that the bill rendered by his lawyer did total that amount. But it is also true that an officer of the much-abused High Court reduced that sum to £251. and that the whole of it was included in the bill which was paid by Mr. Blackwood.
– What would have occurred if the unsuccessful suitor had had no means ?
– I will come to that in a moment. Further, we were led to believe that Mr. Blackwood’s costs amounted to some thousands of pounds ; but the honorable member for Melbourne, adopting language in keeping with his other nights of oratory, declared that they amounted to ,£5,000 or £6,000.
– He said £1,500.
– Then the statement to which I refer must have been made by the honorable member for Darwin. I do not know whether the spread-eagleism of the United States, as represented by the honorable member for Darwin, is more exaggerated than is the oratory of the honorable member for Melbourne ; but, at all events, we were told by the latter that the costs amounted to some thousands of pounds, whilst the amount was swollen to £5,000 or £6,000 by the honorable member for Darwin. As a matter of fact, the costs incurred by Mr. Blackwood, who was said to have had an array of counsel, amounted fo £441, or £41 more than those of the honorable member for Riverina
– Those are only the costs of which we know.
– I have Mr. Blackwood’s bill of costs in my pocket. To the sum of £441 we have to add £251, the taxed costs of the honorable member for Riverina.
– Would not there be any additional charges for witnesses?
– They are included in the bill to which I refer, and which I am prepared to show the honorable member. It is hardly desirable that the Committee should be tempted by exaggerated statements to accept- this amendment. When the original Bill was under consideration, the Prime Minister told us that an Elections and Qualifications Committee in this State had at one time involved one of the parties to a dispute in costs amounting to £2,000. It was said that that was an exceptional case, but the same remark might fie applied to Mr. Blackwood’s case ; it might be said that, having regard to the scope of Mr. Blackwood’s case, and the multiplicity of complications involved, that the one was as large as the other.
– Why should Mr. Blackwood have had to pay for a blunder committed bv one of our own officials ?
– That is another matter which is not in issue. The question is whether the law shall be so altered as to substitute for the High Court, as a Court of Disputed Returns, an Elections and Qualifications Committee; and whether the High Court shall be allowed to throw the cost of the successful party upon the unsuccessful one. I suggested to the Minister, and I suggest again, that if he desires to retain the High Court as the tribunal which is to settle complicated electoral disputes, and relieve honorable members of that unpleasant task, he ought to provide that it shall not have power to throw the costs of the successful party upon the unsuccessful one. I agree with the Minister, and I believe that most thinking men share with him the belief that it is well to retain the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns. Speaking as a lawyer, I have no hesitation in asserting that if my suggestion be adopted the result will be that as long as one party sees that there is no chance of getting his costs from the other side it will be to the interests of both to keep their expenses as low as possible.
– That is an admission.
– It is a jibe that is often used by Members of Parliament - and I shall not say by which class it is most frequently put forward - that the legal profession is that which is to be most pitied. I can only say that it is singular that every member of a certain party, at the first opportunity, enters that profession.
– It is good business.
– Very good business. I am satisfied that unless the Minister is prepared to adopt the course which I suggest he will not save the tribunal which he favours. It is a matter of common knowledge that the High Court is not likely to be affected in any way by an array of counsel. Any man who is aware of the practice of that Court will bear out my statement that the merest fledgling at the Bar has just as much influence with it as has an array of .King’s Counsel appearing before any tribunal in Australia. As long as a suitor is satisfied that he has a case, he may rest assured that if he retains some one who is competent to put it before the Court, the extent of his expenses will be less, certainly not more, than if he had’ gone before an Elections and Qualifications Committee.
– It is rarely that the honorable and learned member for Parkes favours us with his attendance, and he is therefore entitled, when he speaks, to claim the attention of the Committee. The honorable and learned member seems to hold a brief for the legal profession. He has sought to show that if the Minister will agree to render it impossible for the Court to throw the costs of the successful candidate upon the unsuccessful one, the difficulty will be solved. His manner would lead one to believe that as soon, as he has spoken, the matter should be taken as settled ; but the figures quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Riverina are startling, and are of themselves sufficient to warrant the acceptance of the amendment. The honorable and learned member for Parkes commenced by seeking to discredit the quotation made by the honorable member for Melbourne with regard to the procedure followed in Denmark; but he had to make the admission, for the first time within my knowledge, that he had not read something appertaining to the social progress of the world. I am satisfied that the quotation and the arguments used by the honorable member for Melbourne strongly supported the position which he set up, and that whatever may have been the costs incurred by the honorable member for Riverina, his experience must have been a bitter one. I believe that all electoral disputes should be settled by an Elections and Qualifications Committee. The honorable and learned member for Parkes objects to such a tribunal, because he holds that Members of this ‘Parliament should be called upon to perform no other duty than that of legislating for the Commonwealth ; but the fairest tribunal that could be constituted to deal with matters of this kind is one consisting of Members of Parliament, who are familiar with the intricacies of an electioneering campaign, and can bring to bear a knowledge which is not possessed by anr legal luminary who has no political experience. So far as I am aware, there has been little room for complaint as to the decisions of the Elections and Qualifications Committee of the State Parliament of New South Wales, or as to the cost of conducting proceedings before it. That Committee has dealt with dozens of disputes, but I know of only one case in which an aspersion has been cast upon it - and cast, upon it, I believe, with some justification. I have known the Committee to declare void the election of a supporter of the dominant party in the State Legislature, and we must not lose sight of the fact that we have an additional safeguard in the power of Parliament to override the decision of the Committee. The members of the legal profession are fighting for their own hand. In every matter relating to the High Court which has been dealt with by this Parliament, a solid phalanx of the legal members of the House has supported the point of view of the lawyers, and. when they have not been able to get their own way, they have sought to build a bridge to carry them over the objections, of the other side. The proposal that the Court shall not have power to mulct the unsuccessful man in the costs of the successful party would not grant any relief. The honorable and learned member for Parkes said that Mr. Blackwood was called upon to pay costs amounting to £692, and he spoke of the amount as if it were a mere bagatelle. Although a candidate may have contested an election fairly and honorably, and be returned1, his opponent, if a rich man, can practically drive him out of Parliament by entering an action against him before the Court of Disputed Returns. Is that justice? If the honorable member for Melbourne had not had the courage to -fight a second contest, rather than be mulcted in the costs involved in an appeal to the Court,, the people of Melbourne would not have had the man of their choice to represent them. Not many men would have done what he, did on that occasion. I am surprised that the Minister of Home Affairs is opposing the amendment. He must unwittingly be influenced by his environment. I do hot agree with the suggestion that the difficulty would be met by limiting the expenses of litigants appearing before the Court of Disputed Returns, because I know that, however one may get into a Court, he will not leave it until he has lost pretty well all that he possessed, unless he is a very rich man indeed. “ Walk into my parlour,” said the spider to the fly; but once a litigant gets into Court, he has to pay for his experience there. What is taking place in connexion with the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, shows the abuses which arise from the employment of lawyers. Had the Labour Party of New
South Wales had1 their way, and had lawyers been prevented from appearing before that Court, cases which have been awaiting a hearing for a long time would have been dealt with satisfactorily before this. But every lawyer appearing before that Court stretches out his case as long as his conscience will permit him to do so, and there is hardly any length to which their consciences will not permit them to go. It is said that the employment of lawyers shortens the hearing of cases, because evidence is placed systematically before the Judges. As a matter of fact, however, the contending lawyers enter upon a battle royal, each intent upon proving that he is right, and when the case is disposed, of, the clients are ruined men, not having a feather to fly with. If we wish to do justice to future members, let us refer disputed elections to a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and prevent lawyers from appearing before that Committee. The Prime Minister spoke of a case before the Victorian Committee which cost a great sum of money, but that case may have occurred in the dim distant past, when elections themselves cost £6,000 or £7,000. Is any one better qualified to deal with an- election dispute than an experienced Member of Parliament, such as would be appointed by Mr. Speaker to this Committee?
– As a rule, an independent Judge would be the best man to try such a case.
– I do not agree with the honorable and learned gentleman. There are no legal questions involved in these cases; the questions at issue are merely questions of fact. Any man of ordinary common sense would be better qualified to decide such cases than a Judge, who would be inclined to give technical legal decisions. If one wants a technical legal decision, in accordance with the strict letter of the law, he should go to a tribunal like the High Court. But if he wants a decision on the merits of the case, without the introduction of any technicalities, he will get one in accordance with equity and good conscience from men of common sense rather than from Judges’. I admit that I have a strong prejudice against the legal profession. There are rare exceptions upon whom I look with admiration, but I think that if the legal body did not exist, and our Taws were administered in accordance with equity and good conscience, we should be better off than we are.” In Denmark they do not allow lawyers to appear in the Courts, leaving it to qualified lawyers to decide according to the merits of the cases submitted to them.
– Litigants very seldom ap’peal in Denmark.
– That is because the verdicts are in accordance with common sense, and commend themselves to the parties concerned. I have had some experience of Courts, and had I been guided by the advice of lawyers in a case in which I was interested some years ago, I should simply have had my pockets picked. Instead of taking that advice - because I felt that it was opposed to justice and equity - I brought my case before the Full Court of New South Wales. Any layman of ordinary intelligence should be capable of bringing a case before a Court as well as if he had a barrister to do the work for him. No doubt if the cost of taking a case before the Court of Disputed Returns were limited strictly to we should get justice from that Court.
– I have promised to see in what way the costs can be reduced and the procedure of the Court simplified.
– Will the Minister tell us that he is prepared to strictly limit the expense of appearing before the Court, and to provide that no further sum than that fixed shall be recoverable from either petitioner or respondent?
– Does the honorable member mean that the amount payable to counsel by either party should be fixed beforehand ?
– I would prevent counsel from appearing, before the Court, and would strictly limit the expense of proceedings there. If that were done, we might possibly retain the present procedure. No doubt if we abolished the lawyers the Judges would decide matters on their merits. I trust that the Committee will see that members are protected from having to pay heavy law expenses in connexion with disputed elections, and will indorse the principle of referring election disputes to a Committee of Elections and Qualifications. Who will say that such a Committee would not do justice to those appearing before it? Even the most unpopular man in the House need have no fear that he would not get justice from such a Committee. I ask the Committee not to be led away by the speech of the honorable and learned member for
Parkes, who thought that it would be a great thing merely to relieve the unsuccessful litigant of the costs of the successful litigant. Unless we get a clear and substantial promise that a change will be made in the present procedure, which will be a distinct gain, it will be our duty to substitute for the Court of Disputed Returns a Committee of Elections and Qualifications.
– I have had the greatest difficulty in making, up my mind how to vote on this situation, because I have the highest confidence in the Court of Disputed Returns as at present constituted. I do not, however, agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that the only question to consider now is whether we shall substitute a Committee of this House for that Court. The real question is - What should it cost candidates to contest a disputed election? Sad to say, there is very little justice for the man who cannot afford to buy it. When you have to buy justice it always pays you to employ not the fledgling barrister, but the very best counsel that can be obtained. That means that the poor man is practically placed out of Court. The expenses of the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne in connexion with their cases before the High Court amounted to a great deal more than the cost of returning the whole of the representatives of South Australia at the last election. No poor man can afford to incur expense of that kind. If the Minister could show me that there was any way in which election disputes could be referred to the High Court without involving the litigants in undue expense. I should prefer to allow the law to remain as if is. But I recognise that whilst the High Court can grant costs against the petitioner-
– Even before an Elections and Qualifications Committee, the successful party might incur considerable loss if the Court had no power to reimburse him.
– I consider that where ai candidate is rejected through no fault of his own, he should! not be called upon to incur any expense in connexion with the adjudication upon his case. After listening to the discussion, I have come to the conclusion that if counsel are allowed to appear before the Court of Disputed Returns the expenses will be enormous. If lawyers .-we permitted to appear before an
Elections and Qualifications Committee hundreds of technicalities will be raised and many days will be occupied in explaining matters to the lay members of the Committee. Therefore, it would be far better to retain the High’ Court as a Court of Disputed Returns, if lawyers are to be permitted to take part in the proceedings. I see no better way of meeting the necessities of the case than by supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Riverina. If the Minister can show me that it will cost a poor man nothing to go before the High Court-
– The poor man suffers in everything.
– I recognise that it will be a long time before we can realize the anticipation of Lord Brougham, who spoke about finding law dear, and leaving it cheap - finding it the patrimony of the rich, and making it the inheritance of the poor. But I think that we should do everything that lies in our power to simplify legal procedure, and to reduce the cost to litigants. I do not propose to show, any consideration to the lawyers. If I had to appeal to the Court, I should engage the very best counsel ; but if I lost my suit I should probably not be able to pay them. I have had a somewhat extended and verysad experience of the law during the last fifteen years, and I have always enlisted the services of the best men I could secure. I have obtained justice, but I have had to buy it. If the honorable member for Riverina, or the honorable member for Melbourne had to fight another case before the High Court they would probably not be able to afford to employ counsel, and would find themselves at a disadvantage, for the reason that barristers would, in all likelihood be engaged by the other side. The best thing that we can do under all the circumstances is -to provide for a Court constituted of members of this House, to limit the expenses to £50, and to provide that counsel shall not appear before the Court.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The wheel appears to have made another revolution. My thoughts go1 back to the time when it was thought to be a great reform to do (away with Elections and Qualifications Committees. It was then held that expense would thus be decreased and justice insured. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has approached this matter with a perfectly fair mind1, and with a desire to deal justly with even ‘the lawyers. He, at least, has not accused the honorable and learned member for Parkes of speaking from a self-interested point of view. The honorable and learned gentleman tells me that he had appeared in only two parliamentary election cases in his life. I have not been engaged in even one. I hope that members of the muchhated legal profession will receive credit for communicating the results of their experience without regard to self-interest. Election disputes occur so infrequently that one could scarcely be influenced in his view of such a matter as that now before us by the hope that he would be called upon to conduct an election suit. I have looked up the debates which took place in the House of Commons when Mr. Disraeli, then Chancellor of the Exchequer,, brought forward his proposal for the establishment of a Court of Disputed Returns. Until Walpole’s time the whole House voted upon election disputes, and there was a precious party scrimmage in every case. Under Greville’s Act an Elections Committee was chosen by lot. Afterwards, in 1848, a Committee of six was appointed under the Speaker’s warrant. A similar proposal is now being made by the honorable member for Riverina. Great precautions were adopted, and a tribunal was formed of an odd number of members, chosen from the six appointed by the Speaker, to decide upon each election dispute. Now, what was the result of the experience gained from 1848 to 1868? I shall quote the words of Mr. Disraeli, whose Bill was supported by his great opponent, Mr. Gladstone. At page 695, vol. 190 of Hansard, Mr. Disraeli gives the result of the experience gained in the previous twenty years. The members of the Committee to which I have referred were solemnly sworn to execute justice and maintain the truth. They were empowered to call witnesses, and every care was taken to arrive at a just decision. Yet Mr. Disraeli says: -
Yet that tribunal has not proved satisfactory, and at no time perhaps have there been, more than recently, greater complaints and charges against the inefficiency and unsatisfactory character of that tribunal. Every one will admit that, notwithstanding all the precautions we have availed ourselves of, as exemplified in the existing Act, the expenditure -
I hope honorable members will bear this in mind - upon these election petitions has not diminished, but I believe I may say it has been considerably increased ; that the decisions of the Committees have been uncertain, and, therefore, un satisfactory, and that they have offered no obstacle whatever to the growing practice of corrupt compromise, by which, in the process of withdrawing petitions, a veil is often thrown over more flagrant transactions than any which are submitted to scrutiny and investigation.
He refers there to the practice that was followed at one time in England. If a petition were presented charging A, a Conservative, with bribery and, another petition was presented charging B, a Liberal, with bribery, the party managers would set to work and bring about the withdrawal of both charges. The result was that the most scandalous cases of bribery were never proceeded with. Of course, pressure was brought to bear to prevent such petitions from being prosecuted. It was found that members who were still hot with the excitement arising from a recent election were the most unfit persons in the world to decide whether or not the electoral law had been complied with. Mr. Disraeli continues: -
I think, then, that after the experience we have had of the existing law, the opinion of the House has been gradually, but surely, formed, that there is something in the principle upon which the jurisdiction of the House in regard to controverted elections rests, which is essentially vicious, and which has hitherto prevented, and will prevent, any satisfactory solution of the difficulty, and injurious consequences which all recognise, and which many have felt. And what is that principle? It is that the House has hitherto insisted1 - and I grant that it is natural, and that in a certain sense it has been wise and salutary that they should have insisted - on retaining the privilege of deciding on those questions which are so interesting to every member of the House, as forming in fact the elements of which it is to consist. But public opinion and the opinion of this House have in a- great degree of late years come to the conviction that it is only by the transfer of this, jurisdiction with respect to controverted elections from the House to some other and competent tribunal, that we can arrive at more satisfactoryresults than we have hitherto experienced.
– Was that at the time of the rotten pocket-boroughs?
– No; they had been done away with for thirty-two years. In reference to the United States,, to which the honorable member for Darwin referred, I would point out that the Constitution does not permit any tribunal, except a Committee of the House, to deal with electiondisputes. Public men. in the United States have repeatedly expressed their deep regret that disputed elections cannot be referred to a Court of Disputed Returns. They recognise the immense superiority of the system which is in vogue in England. Therefore, I am justified in claiming that it is not good logic to cite the procedure which is adopted in the United States. In Canada all disputed elections are referred to the Law Courts, and not to a Parliamentary Committee. I should be very sorry if, after the short experience that we have had of dealing with these matters, we took the retrograde step of referring disputed elections to a less qualified tribunal than that which adjudicates upon them at present. Why is the High Court a more competent authority to decide these questions th<m any Committee of the House can. be? Because the great aim of any such inquiry is to elicit truth, and the Court, from long experience, is able to reject such evidence as does not lead directly to the truth. Any person who reads the newspaper reports of the proceedings of the Police Commission, which is at present sitting in this city, must realize how that inquiry is being unnecessarily prolonged. Its members are discarding all the experience which has been acquired by the Courts. Thev are allowing witnesses to tender hearsay evidence, with the result that a great number of honest people are being made unhappy. The Courts, from long experience, know when to stop persons from offering unnecessary and stupid evidence. Then points of law will arise, even under the best drawn Statutes, and there is no doubt that a Justice of the High Court is more qualified to handle such questions than is a Parliamentary Committee. I admit that the cost of employing counsel and solicitors is the vulnerable point of any judicial system, and I am prepared to assist in making the reference of disputed elections to that tribunal less expensive. In this connexion I may perhaps be permitted to refer to a little experience of my own. Some years ago I was Chairman of a Law Reform Commission which sat in Victoria. Upon that body were some commercial men, and others who were very indignant with the Law Courts because ,of the huge costs which they sanctioned. They suggested a scheme of general arbitration. They advocated the casting aside of technicalities, and thought that decisions could be given by laymen. Bat before the Commission concluded its labours, nearly every member of it joined in a recommendation against arbitration. If men are not trained to the sifting of evidence, they allow witnesses to be heard who ought not to be called, with the result that the proceedings are unnecessarily prolonged. It is the time over which cases extend, and the number of witnesses who are examined, which chiefly contribute to the costs incurred. Now, I propose to deal with the question of the expense of retaining counsel. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has suggested that no costs should be granted to the successful suitor. May I remind him that that system was tried in nearly every State in America? What was the result? It was provocative of vindictive proceedings. Let us suppose that a man wishes to wreck vengeance upon his enemy, and that he can afford to indulge in expenditure for that purpose. He can pay his own counsel, and he knows that that will be all that he will be called upon to do. He feels that as he has not to pay his opponent’s counsel, he can make him “shell out” week after week, and month after month, in defending himself. The practice of imposing costs upon the unsuccessful party is the best deterrent against litigation with which I am acquainted!. I feel, therefore, that I cannot concur in the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
– We might do what is done in Queensland - limit the cost to a fixed amount.
– I hope that some means will be found by which the expenditure in this connexion can be reduced. I think that Ave might provide that only one counsel shall be retained upon either side.
– It would be better to prohibit the employment of counsel.
– I should like to allow the Judge to decide whether he will hear counsel. There are certain cases in which he might very well dispense with the services of counsel, but there are others in which counsel can be of material assistance to him. It is like one squeezing both sides of a nut - both sides come out, and one gets the kernel ?
– Who gets the kernel ?
– I understand that the honorable member’s regret is that he does not -secure it. The nut-crackers do not enjoy the kernel. Under section 199 of the existing. Act, the Court, in deciding disputed elections, must be guided by the substantial merits and good conscience of each case, without regard to technicalities or the laws of evidence.
– Yet it took the High Court four months to decide one case.
– The honorable member is scarcely just in his remark. There was a long interval between the sittings. The fundamental objection against the appointment of an Elections and Qualifications Committee is that men hot from the country are not qualified to decide such matters as would be remitted to them.
– That statement is opposed to modern experience.
– Human nature is the same all the world over. When one feels that an opponent is pulling for his side, one naturally begins to pull for his own side. Our great aim should be to secure justice without regard to its bearing upon parties. I understand that the numbers are against me, but I would suggest that a Judge should be appointed chairman of the Committee, so that he might do what is done by the President of the New South Wales Arbitration Court - exclude what is unnecessary in the way of evidence.
– We get more satisfaction from the Arbitration Courts in New South Wales in cases which are not heard by a Judge.
– An Arbitration Court has to deal with the conditions relating to the carrying on of a trade, and I admit that oftentimes a Judge has not the economical or other experience necessary to enable him to decide what is a living wage for an artisan, or what is necessary from the point of view of an employer’s business. But the Court to which electoral disputes are referred has to deal with findings of facts. It has to determine whether so and so was guilty of bribery, or indulged in any other illegitimate practice, and it has also to decide questions of law. I shall vote for the clause as it stands, but as a kind of via media, I would suggest that we might have a Judge -as Chairman of the Committee, and that he should have the right to exercise a discretion as to whether or not he will hear counsel. His decision in that respect would depend upon the nature of the case. I would further suggest that neither party should be allowed to retain more than one counsel, and that there should be a scale of charges subject to the control of the House. I understand that the Minister is prepared to move in that direction.
– Hear, hear ; a lower scale of charges.
– This is a matter which opens up much debatable ground, and I am not surprised at the differences of opinion which have been expressed. I am sure that honorable members will at least give the lawyers the credit of desiring, to the best of their ability, to place their experience before the Committee. T feel strongly that the proposal to revert to an Elections and Qualifications Committee is a mistake, which will no doubt be rectified as the result of experience. I have put before the Committee the experience which Mr. Disraeli gave in r868, when he was bringing forward his Bill.
– That was practically forty years ago.
– Rotten boroughs had disappeared over thirty-two years before that date. They were abolished in 1832, whilst 1848 saw the extreme refinement of House of Commons Committees. With all their care and experience, and notwithstanding that the most honorable men were named in Mr. Speaker’s warrant, to act as
A Committee, the system was still found to be unsatisfactory. There were all sorts of strainings at the leash by the members of the Committee when they were confronted with the question, “ Shall this seat go to this party, or to that one?” I trust that honorable members will allow the clause to pass as it stands; but I would beg the ‘Minister to meet the desire of honorable members to the fullest extent bv providing for a reduced scale of costs, by limiting the number of counsel to be engaged, and so limiting the costs of petitions. I am confident that proceedings bofore an Elections and Qualifications Committee would cost far more than thev would when brought before the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns.
– I certainly agree with the view taken by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. If we set aside the High Court as the tribunal to which disputed elections shall be referred, we shall take a distinctly retrograde step. It must be admitted that the High Court is better fitted to conduct an inquiry than is any body of men who have no special legal training. Having regard to the Standing Orders which we have passed, it seems probable that in the near future the dominant party will begin to recognise that a member of their own ranks must be chosen to act as Speaker. It is useless to mince matters, because, as the result of the passing of Standing Orders similar to those -to which we have agreed, the Speaker in the House of Representatives of the United States is vested with so much power that the dominant party returned from time to -time make no secret of their determination to choose from among their own ranks a Speaker who will represent them.
– If Mr. Speaker were to act in the manner suggested by the honorable and learned member, the difficulty would be overcome by the provision for a ballot of the whole House.
– A member of the legal profession who appeared as counsel for the successful party in a case which came before the Elections and Qualifications Committee of New South Wales within the last six years, told me that any Court of which he was aware would have decided against him, and that he was very thankful that he had to deal with a body of nonprofessional men. I would add that the expenses incurred in connexion with the settlement of that dispute by the Committee’ were not one whit less than they would have been had the matter been dealt with by a Court. In the latter event, the probability is that it would have been settled in one day.
– May not the honorable and learned member’s informant have erred in his judgment?
– He thought that the law was so clearly against him that he would have been unsuccessful. Can it be said that the cost of petitioning against the return of a member, or of contesting such a petition would be reduced if we allowed such cases to be dealt with by an Elections and Qualifications Committee?
– If we referred them to such a Committee, and decided to exclude the lawyers, the expenses would certainly be reduced.
– I think that the honorable member took that view of the position when we were dealing with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. But we all know that in two cases which came before the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, and in which counsel were not briefed, the decision of the Court was reversed on appeal. ‘ An Elections and Qualifications Committee would take just as long to deal with a petition as would the High Court, ana another point is, that upon the finding of the Court a criminal charge might be brought against one of the parties. Is it in our power to appoint a Court of such a nature that it cannot try a man judicially?
– We have power to create any Court.
– The honorable member must recollect the case in which the Chief Justice declared that the provision in the Customs Act, that the averment of the prosecutor shall be taken as proof of the charge until the contrary is shown, was such a departure from all the principles of law by which we are guided, that the Federal Parliament had no power to pass it. The case was tried on the assumption that this Parliament had exceeded its powers.
– Is not this Court the highest in the land?
– The Constitution provides for a Court outside, and beyond this Parliament. Surely the honorable member will see that the High Court is appointed by the Constitution, and until that is altered this Parliament cannot be a judicial Court. To refer election disputes to a Committee of Elections and Qualifications would be to lengthen, not to shorten, proceedings. It is proposed to allow such a Committee to try cases of bribery, or undue influence involving penalties of £200, or imprisonment not exceeding one year. Such a Committee would, in my opinion, be exceeding its powers for imposing such penalties.
– The High Court has decided that it cannot impose these penalties.
– They have done so in part. I ask the honorable member, therefore, if any other Court would have the power? There would be an appeal from the decision of the Committee to the ordinary Courts, and that would lengthen proceedings, and increase expenses. Some honorable members wish to substitute the Committee for the Court, to save expense; but, as -I have shown, it would increase expense. Our experience goes to show that a Committee would not be more trustworthy than the Court, and the proceedings before a Committee would be more expensive than the proceedings before the Court. As an instance of what happens in America under the system which some honorable members wish to adopt here, let me mention the case referred to by Mr. Lawson in Everybody’s Magazine. A cer- tain Senator Clark having been returned, a petition was presented against him. In America these petitions are dealt with by the Senate, whose decisions cannot be upset. Senator Clark was so satisfied that he had been properly elected, that he resigned his seat to test the matter, and was again elected, when one of the agents of the Standard Oil Trust came to him, and said, “ The first petition was brought against you because you are opposing the trust, and another petition will be brought against you, and you will be unseated, unless you side with the trust.” Senator Clark laughed, and said, “ You cannot persuade me of that. If you put into my hands proof that I shall be unseated, I will vote with you.” Within a week, however, the proof was forthcoming that he would be unseated if the petition was proceeded with. He thereupon said, “ If that is what politics have come to, I toss the whole thing up, and vote with you.” Such a thing would not have happened had the case been brought before a Court, and in Amercia efforts are being made to have these matters dealt with by the Courts. It is only natural for a man to think that a member of his party is more entitled to be heard than a member of another party, but the point which I wish to specially emphasize is that there would be no saving of expense by allowing disputed elections to go before a Committee. The honorable member for Gwydir knows how a strict Chairman can keep a man to the point, so that even one with his powers of twisting round a subject cannot string out his speech for any great length df time, and in a Court Judges keep counsel strictly to the point. In some arbitration cases in New South Wales, where proceedings are supposed not to be in accordance with strict legal rules, we find the parties nine times out of ten going into side issues quite apart from those first submitted, and, consequently, cases take days to finish. The witnesses’ expenses would be the chief item in the bill of costs in any case involving charges of bribery or undue influence or intimidation, and- that item would be no smaller if the case were heard by a Committee than if it were heard by a Court. I know of a case in New South Wales in which the witnesses’ expenses, because of the delays which occurred, came to £1,200, while the other expenses did not amount to £300. Had that case not been heard before a man of legal training, it would have occupied much longer than it did. What took place before the Tariff Commission shows howirregular are the proceedings of bodies of this kind. Mr. McKay swore before that Commission that the price of harvesters in the Argentine was so much, and in Canada so much. He did not attempt to prove that statement, and it turned out to be absoluely untrue. The Government, however, accepted it, and sent to the Argentine and to Canada for confirmation, when they ascertained that the price of harvesters in the former place, instead of being £80, was £41, and In Canada, ,£36. The Commission could have forced Mr. McKay, in a very simple way, to prove his statement, but they were content to take it as it stood, with the result that the Government undertook heavy expense in making inquiries which came to nothing.
– Does the honorable member desire that we shall finish this week ?
– I am opposed to hasty legislation at any time. The effect of rushing through legislation at the end of a session, as I have pointed out before, is to make amending legislation necessary, and to give work to the lawyers, about whom honorable members are constantly complaining. If we wish to prevent opportunities for litigation, we should devote great care to the framing of our legislation. The experience of England and America shows that nothing will be saved by substituting a Committee for a Court. A Committee would allow any statement to be made by the witnesses appearing before it, instead of confining them to relevant evidence, and, consequently, a great deal of time would be occupied in putting forward and contradicting irrelevant testimony. That would not take place before a Court. Neither could it be argued that a Court would show favoritism. But we could not be sure that a Committee would not do so. Even honorable members possessing the best intentions would be affected by party bias. Therefore it would be unwise to make the proposed change. In a case of bribery, moreover, an immense number of witnesses would probably be called, and, as Committees cannot sit every day, the parties would be put to great expense in maintaining them.
– The Tariff Commission has been sitting even’ day.
– All its (members do not attend every day, and if the Committee for Elections and Qualifications sat every day, some of its members would attend one day and others another day, and the cases would be dealt with by the men who had not heard the whole of the evidence submitted. If any member of a Committee, who had not been present for the whole of the time, joined in a decision to unseat a member on the ground of bribery, the finding might, in my opinion, be upset. We cannot cheapen the law in the way proposed. We cannot do more than provide that only a certain sum shall be allowed for expenses, and that only one counsel shall be employed1. That would be some slight check. It would have been very hard on the honorable member for Riverina if he had been unable to recover costs? The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne indicated that unless some safeguard were provided, it would be possible for a vindictive man to go on with a case in the hope of inflicting monetary loss upon his opponent. All my reading has shown that it is a mistake not to have a judicial body to decide questions such as those arising out of election disputes. A Court made up of partisans is not likely to approach the question in a judicial frame of mind. Therefore, it would be a mistake to dispense with the present tribunal. If we make the change proposed, we shall certainly not lessen the cost to litigants. I feel sure that the -very first time that the Elections and Qualifications Committee is called upon to deal with a case of bribery or undue influence, very heavy, expense will be incurred. Both the successful- and the unsuccessful party will be landed in such heavy expenses that honorable members will seriously consider the desirability of making a change.
– I have seen so much of lawyers that I should be glad to do anything that would have the effect of getting rid of them. We shall shortly be called upon to consider an AntiTrust Bill, but I think that greater benefit would be conferred upon the community if an Anti-Lawyer Bill were passed. According to my experience in connexion with the Parliament of New South Wales the expenses incurred in connexion with inquiries before Elections and Qualifications Committees are not excessive. I quite realize the advantage of having trained minds to conduct inquiries, involving questions of law, and, if necessary, we might provide that a Judge should preside over the Court of Disputed Returns. I would, however, have nothing whatever to do with lawyers. If the High Court is, retained as a tribunal for the hearing of disputed returns, the Justices should act in the capacity of arbitrators, and entirely dispense with the assistance of barristers. We are assisting the lawyers by rushing through legislation night after night, without paving any regard to the interests of the people.
– The honorable member must not reflect upon Parliament.
– Then I would say - using the words scarcastically - that we are giving the fullest consideration to the Bills that come before us, and paying every regard to the public interest. In our Courts we find barristers on one side saying that the law means one thing, whilst those engaged on the other side put forward a diametrically opposite view. This is no doubt due to the very careful way - I am still speaking sarcastically - in which we deal with the measures that come before us. I am sure there will be a revolt against this state of affairs some day. The sooner we cheapen law for the people the better. I feel very strongly upon this matter, and I shall support the amendment. I do not trust the House in many matters, but I think- it preferable to rely upon an Elections and Qualifications Committee than upon the High Court. The Committee would not be composed of members of any one party, but would be fairly representative of all .parties in the House, and we might rely upon them to do what was just. I should certainly not allow any barristers to appear before the Committee. Litigants are now being ruined by the costs piled up by lawyers, and the less we have to do with members of the legal profession the better.
– As I shall be found voting against some of my colleagues on this question, I desire to say a word or two. We have heard the High Court spoken of from the legal standpoint as a fitting tribunal to adjudicate upon disputed election returns, but I desire to speak not so much in favour of the High Court, as against the proposed Committee. I have had no personal experience in this matter, but I have been made acquainted - with cases - one in particular - which has taught me that whatever disadvantages may attach to tribunals constituted of trained lawyers, they are not to be compared to those which are associated with Committees composed of partisans. I contend that no House ever elected an Elections and Qualifications Committee without paying some consideration to the parties to which honorable members belong.
– The members of the proposed Committee are to be nominated by the Speaker.
– Still the members will be selected with a view to secure the representation of all patties in the House. If they were angels from heaven honorable members could not help taking a party view of election disputes. I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Darwin arguing against the retention of the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns. If there is one honorable member in this House who has suffered as the result of a decision on the part of a Parliamentary Committee it is the honorable member for Darwin.
– A Judge was at the head of that Committee.
-Yes, but the Judge was not responsible for the decision of the Committee. As soon as it was known that the Committee was to be appointed, an honorable and learned member of the State Legislature, who was engaged as counsel by one of the parties to the action, suggested to the members of the Committee, directly or indirectly, what verdict they should give. No one was surprised, although many were shocked, when the Committee decided as he had indicated. A bench of three Judges could not very well be got at in that way. The candidate who was elected had promised the electors that if he were returned he would distribute his parliamentary honorarium among them, and for that reason - for that act of bribery - he was unseated. Although the Committee unseated him, they refused to assign any reason for their decision, because if they had done so the candidate would havebeendisqualifiedfrom sitting as a member or contesting an election for two years. Yet the honorable member says : “ Let us substitute a Parliamentary Committee for the High Court.” I would point out to him that a Judge would not rule the Committee; it is more likely that the Committee would overrule the Judge. If members wish to insure that the parties to a disputed election shall receive a “ fair deal,” and if we can secure a reference of all such cases to the High Court, for the same outlay as would be involved in an appeal to an Elections and Qualifications Committee, by all means let us provide for that. But do not let us abolish the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns, upon the ground that the appeals to it are too costly.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I think that the Minister might indicate what amendment he is prepared to suggest, with a view to reducing the cost of these references to the High Court. So far I have refrained from speaking, because I desired the matter to be put to a vote as soon as possible. We all recognise that the costs incurred by the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne, in bringing their cases before the High Court were excessive, and we are anxious to see such expenses reduced.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - Earlier in the debate, I made a promise which I will certainly fulfil. I intimated that I thought it might be possible to effect some simplification of procedure under the rules which are framed by the Judges, and I will endeavour to secure that. I am quite prepared to frame a clause for the purpose of limiting the number of counsel who may be engaged in these cases.
– Why allow them to appear at all?
– I think it is advisable to do so.
– They should only be permitted to appear on the certificate of the Judge.
– I will consider that point. I think that we might very well follow the practice which has been adopted, in Queensland, where the total amount of costs which any one party may be ordered to pay cannot exceed £200.
– That does not cover the ground at all.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne also pointed out that where a successful litigant has been subjected to expenditure, he ought to be recouped to a certain extent. I am prepared to see if provision cannot be made in that direction. I will have the matter inquired into, and submit a proposal for the consideration of the Committee.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- If my opponent chooses to employ Mr. Purves or Mr. Cussen, or somebody else of like ability, how can I appeal to the High Court and fight the case myself? Undoubtedly I should have to employ a barrister of equal standing. In South Australia I suffered as the result of the system of allowing a Judge of the Supreme Court to act as chairman of the Elections and Qualifications Committee.
– By general consent it was agreed that the question of whether disputed elections should be dealt with by the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns or by an Elections and Qualifications Committee should be determined by an amendment to omit certain words, and I would point out that that amendment has been dealt with.
– We are now dealing with the question of costs.
– We are dealing with clause 48 which contains no reference to costs, and I would ask honorable membersto recognise the agreement, and the decision which has been arrived at.
– A threat was made that a petition would be lodged against my return at the last general election, and the possibility of one being financially ruined by proceedings in the High Court is a very serious matter. If the High Court is to deal with disputed elections I shall not contest any petition that may be presented against my return, no matter how just my claim may be, since I do not wish any man to have the opportunity to force me into the Bankruptcy Court or a destitute asylum.
– I do not agree with the statement made by you, Mr. Chairman, that it was tacitly agreed that the last division should decide this clause.
– Not the clause, but the question of whether disputed elections should be dealt with by the High Court or by an Elections and Qualifications Committee.
– There is no reason why a compromise should not be arrived at. The machinery which the honorable member for Riverina proposed to provide was practically the sameas that for which provision is made in the principal Act. Paragraph e of section 194 provides that every petition disputing an election or return shall - be filed in the Principal Registry of the High Court or in the District Registry of that Court in the Capital city of the State inwhich the election was held within forty days after the return of the writ.
I suggest that we add a proviso giving the petitioner or the respondent the option of deciding that the petition may be dealt with either by the High Court or by an Elections and Qualifications Committee.If either party objected to the petition being dealt with by the High Court, it would then be necessary for it to be brought before the Elections and Qualifications Committee. I think that the suggestion is one which should meet with the acceptance of honorable members on both sides.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- I should like to learn what course the Minister intends to pursue. I do not wish him to congratulate himself that he has practically carried this clause, because I feel just as strongly as to the need for reducing or abolishing costs in connexion with the hearing of election disputes as I do upon the choice of the High Court in preference to an Elections and Qualifications Committee. The Minister must not suppose that the recent division has determined the whole of the questions involved in the clause. The Committee wish to know what is to be done?
– I have already stated what course I propose to pursue.
– The honorable and learned gentleman took a long time to tell us what he was going to do, but I could not gather his intention from the statement that he made. Is the clause to be postponed, or is it now open to be amended ?
– I propose to recommit it.
– Will the Minister state what is the general direction in which he proposes to amend it?
– I propose to limit the costs.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne).- I should like to know whether, in the event of the recommittal of the clause, the honorable member for Herbert will be at liberty to move the amendment which he has suggested ?
– If the clause be recommitted that amendment may be moved.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 49 to 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause53 agreed to.
Clause 54 negatived.
Postponed clause 43 (Recount at Senate E lections) -
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The honorable member for Riverina desires to move an amendment in this clause, but as he is not present I shall be preparedto agree to its recommittal.
– I think that the honorable and learned gentleman might well consent at this stage to progress being reported.
– Let us pass this clause.
-It is because I understand that the honorable member for Riverina is very much interested in this clause that I suggest that progress be reported.
– I am prepared to agree to its recommittal if the honorable member for Riverina desires that course to be adopted.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 44 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 12a. Section twenty-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding the following sub-section : - “ (2) The Commissioner shall thereupon propose a fresh distribution in the manner hereinbefore provided.”
Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 9a. Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after “ existing boundaries of divisions “ “ (e) Boundaries of State Electorates.”
Amendment (by Mr. Groom, for Mr. Lonsdale) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 9b. Section seventeen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after the word “ map “ in the second line, the words “with a description of the boundaries.”
Amendment (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 25a. After section sixty-six of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - 66a. Any Member of the Parliament or any candidate or any authorized representative of a political league consisting of not less than fifty financial members who are electors may at any time, when any employes employed thereon are not at work, such as dinner time, crib time, “ smoke oh,” or changing of shifts, enter any mine mine working mine building factory workshop or any place where any work or undertaking is carried on, and may interview any employes for the purpose of obtaining the enrolment or assisting in obtaining the enrolment of such employés or any of them as electors, or for the purpose of assisting such employes or any of them.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I do not see how I could accept the clause, even if it were in order. The honorable member proposes to give the right to any Member of Parliament,, or candidate, or any authorized representative of a political league of fifty members to go into any mine, building, factory, or workshop at dinner time, crib time, “ smoke-oh,” or the changing of shifts, with a view to obtaining the enrolment of the employés. I think that the law already provides every facility for enrolment. The intention is to take away this duty as much as possible from political parties, and intrust it to authorized officials, and we employ the police to go round and make a thorough collection of names. I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- At the last elections we counted 600 names of persons living at Gormanstown, Queenstown, and Linda Valley which were not on the roll after the police had made their collection, though many of them had been living in those places for seven, eight, or ten years, while other names on the roll were all mixed up. I intended, after the election, to move a vote of want of confidence in the Government, but my respect for the Prime Minister prevented me from doing so. Everything was arranged to defeat me. No honest man and good boss will refuse to allow any one to enter his works when his men are doing nothing, for the purpose of securing their enrolment. All that would be done would be to get their names, to be forwarded later on to the returningofficer, if they were not already on the roll. An employer who in this democratic country would not allow that to be done would be a dishonest man.
– No. Why should an employer allow any one to go on his premises ?
– The honorable member seems to think that employers would be justified in shutting their men up altogether. The country rests upon the votes of an intelligent people, and no one should be prevented from inducing men to place their names upon the roll.
– The honorable member could visit the men in their homes.
– The honorable member speaks as if miners had ordinary homes. Many of them live in little tents scattered about the hills, and it is very hard to get at them, because immediately after they leave their work they hurry away home. I shall press my amendment, even though I stand alone.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne).- Many good employers permit candidates to interview their employés during working hours ; but othersare not so accommodating. Personally, I have rot experienced very much trouble, butI think it is desirable that every facility should be offered for inducing men to enrol themselves. I shall support the amendment.
Question - That the proposed new clause be read a second time - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 42a. - (1) Every person who is entitled to vote at any election (hereinafter called the elector), and who by reason of being engaged in the employment of another person would be otherwise prevented from voting, shall be entitled to absent himself from his employment for a period of two hours while the polls of such election are open and for the purpose of voting.
Penalty : Five pounds.
The object of the clause is to afford electors an opportunity of leaving their work in order to record their votes. The provision is copied from the New York Act.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I move -
That the word “of,” line 7, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ not exceeding.”
The idea underlying the amendment is that leave of absence to employes to enable them to record their votes shall be limited to the necessities of each case.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That after the word “ himself,” line 15, and after the word “ purpose,” line 19, the words “ for a reasonable period “ be inserted.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I do not think that we should ask employers to pay men for the time which they lose in discharging a duty which every citizen is expected to perform. It should always be our object to indicate that theduties of citizenship come before all other considerations - that a man should be prepared to make some sacrifice in fulfilling the duty that he owes to himself and his family. That being so, I fail to see why employers should be asked to remunerate their employés in respect of the time which they lose in recording their votes. All that we should do is to provide against a disproportionate deduction from wages. That is to say, if a man is absent from his work, say, for one hour or two hours, the employer should not be at liberty to make more than a proportionate deduction from his wages.
That sub-clause 3 be left out.
Mr CONROY (Werriwa). - I am in favour of the amendment, because I think that the sub-clause as it stands might have a prejudicial effect upon the workers. We cannot prevent an employer from closing his establishment on polling day. I know of one institution which gave its employés a half-holiday on election day and the men complained that they received only half a day’s wages. If we pass this sub-clause it may lead to many men losing a whole day’s work.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I desire to withdraw my amendment for the omission of subclause 3, and to move one more upon the lines of my original proposal, the phraseology of which has been suggested by the honorable and learned member for Parkes. I propose that the words ‘ ‘ penalty either by way of “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ disproportionate,” and to insert before the word “required,” in line 22,the word “penalty.”
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Watson) agreed to -
That the words “ penalty either by way of,” line 21, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ disproportionate “ ; and that after the word “ or,” line 22, the word “ penalty “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : -
This section shall not apply to an elector whose absence might cause danger or substantial loss in respect of the employment in which he and others are engaged.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes). - I think that this clause is bothunwise and unfair. It has not been shown that it is necessary
– I voted against the second reading of this clause, and, although it has been amended, it seems to me to be a verv unwise provision from the point of view of the workers. I have not heard of any case in Tasmania where an employe has been refused an opportunity to record his. vote. In many cases, workers are driven to the polling places by their employers or others, and I think that this proposal goes a little too far. Employers in Tasmania, at all events, are not so despotic as to deprive those serving them of ari opportunity to record their vote. Many of these proposals are altogether too extreme. There are a good many mines and factories in my division, but I have not had the complaint from employes that they have been prevented from voting. It may be objected that the Federal elections take place only once in every three years, but honorable members forget that there are sometimes, by -elections, and, moreover, omexample is likely to be followed in regard to State elections, municipal elections,, and elections for Road Trusts., and similar boards.
– I am surprised that the Government have accepted the amendment. I have never heard of a man or woman being refused by his employer the right to vote, and, in the past, as an employe, I have always been willingly afforded every facility to record my vote. It seems to me that every facility is given to townspeople to vote, and every obstacle placed in the way of the voting of country people. The limit for postal voting has been extended from five to ten miles,, thus depriving thousands of country persons of the opportunity to vote, and unreasonably extending a privilege to persons in towns and in closely settled districts. I should like to know who is to be the judge as to whether inconvenience or danger will result from the absence of an employ^? I suppose the employer must determine that, though nothing is said on the subject.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- The honorable member for Echuca sees great danger in the proposed new clause; but all it provides is that an employe” may take two hours off to record his vote. Notwithstanding what the honorable member has said about his experience, I know that on many large stations in my division, although men are not told that they cannot go to the poll, they are sent to distant parts of the runs to work there, and it is thus made impossible for them to vote.
– They should not let it be known how they, are going to vote.
– Honest men do not hide their intentions. Surely the provision is a just one;, because an employe cannot be absent from his duties for more than two hours, and provision is made to meet the cases of those in positions of responsibility. Although I have given only one instance of the manner in which men are prevented from voting, I could give scores of other instances.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).- Apparently the honorable member for Echuca was not present when an honorable member mentioned the fact that hundreds of smelters at Port Pirie were unable to vote, because they could go to the poll only at the time of the changing of ths shifts, and the returning officer could not then supply all who presented themselves with ballot papers. I also know of a case in which a publican refused to allow a female servant to go to the poll, because he thought that she would vote for a Labour candidate, and I am glad to say that she left his employment the same day. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the polling booths are not opened until 8 o’clock in the morning^., when hundreds of men and women have to be at work, and these people do not leave their employment until after polling hours, or at a time when the polling booths are inconveniently crowded, especially for women. Those facts should convince honorable members that the proposal is a fair one.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- I am satisfied that there are cases in connexion with which a provision of this kind may Le necessary, but the Minister should have more respect for his Bill than to allow such a badly-drafted provision to be inserted in it. I am sure that, in view of the complications, no discreet employe” would take the risk of absenting himself from work under- its protection ; and it is certainly a provision which will give occupation to the lawyers.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate, requesting concurrence in the following resolution : -
That the Government should do everything in its power to make the State-owned Pacific Cable a financial success and an up-to-date business enterprise.
Mr. EWING laid upon the table the following paper: -
Finance and Allowance Regulations Defence Acts 1903-4. Statutory Rules, 1905, No. jj.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
House adjourned at n jo p. in
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 December 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051212_reps_2_30/>.