2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The Seat of Government Bill distributed this morning contains a schedule setting forth the description of the territory to be acquired.
– As the Bill is set down on the notice-paper for to-day, it is not competent for the honorable member to discuss it.
– I wish to know if the Minister has had a map prepared, showing the territory embraced by the description, and, if so, whether that map will be available to honorable members when the Bill is discussed?
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to supply honorable members with a short digest of the anti-trust legislation of the United States and the anti-dumping legislation of Canada and New Zealand1? The copies of that legislation now available to honorable members are very limited.
– I will ask the AttorneyGeneral if he will have that digest prepared.
– Is the Bill, whose provisions may absolutely prohibit trade with so many parts of the Empire, intended to be the session’s contribution to the preferential trade question ?
– I see nothing in it inconsistent with preferential trade, and believe that until similar legislation has been passed by the mother country and other British Possessions, we shall not have adequate means for carrying preferential trade into effect.
– This Bill then does mean protection pure and simple.
– 1$ the question of copyright now dealt with’ by the Governments of the States or by the Government of the Commonwealth?
– The Copyright Bill now before Parliament will bring it under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the increases granted to officers of the Trade and Customs Department be paid before Christmas ? Perhaps the Treasurer can say whether the increases for all Departments will be paid before then?
– An application has already been made by the Department to the Treasury, and I have been informed that the amounts due will be paid before Christmas.
– At the present time the Sydney express carries a mailbag, into which persons who have paid the late fee can drop their letters, between Albury and Melbourne, but between Melbourne and Albury that is not allowed to be done, and the guard of the train is not permitted to take charge of late letters offered to him. Will the. Postmaster-General see that the same convenience is provided between Melbourne and Albury as is given between Albury and Melbourne ?
– I have already made alterations with a view to improving the postal arrangements between Melbourne and Sydney, and Sydney and Melbourne, and will inquire into the matter to which the honorable member _ has drawn my attention. I am much obliged to him for having done so.
– Some little time ago, the honorable and learned) member for Corio asked some questions about some remarks made by Major Garrard in regard to certain guns at Queenscliff. I am now supplied with the following answer: -
Re Major Garrard’s remarks as to (our of the guns at the forts at Queenscliff being without ammunition, after a full consideration of what was required as regards the guns foi defence, Major-General Sir Edward Hutton classed these guns as reserve, and did not consider it necessary to provide cordite for them. There is the ordinary ammunition available for use by them at practice.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if it is a fact that the postal officials of the Commonwealth are employed as debt collectors.?
– I am not aware that any of them are engaged in that employment. If the honorable member will give me fuller particulars, I shall be pleased to make inquiries on the subject.
– Is it a fact that the postal officials of the Commonwealth collect money in payment of purchases made from tradespeople, and sent through the post?
– No doubt the honorable member refers to what is known as the value parcels post, which was instituted by the honorable member for Macquarie, under which postmen collect payment on certain parcels.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the tradespeople in country districts find1 this system of debt-collecting by the postal officials a great hardship, because, to their injury, ft centralizes trade in the cities? Will he, therefore, consider the advisability df rescinding the regulation which empowers postal officials to collect debts?
– If the honorable member wishes to know anything further on the subject, I think he should apply to the honorable member for Macquarie.
– I should like to know when the value parcels post was first brought into general operation, and the extent to which it has hitherto been availed of in various States. It would be interesting to know how far the business of. country storekeepers is being affected by it.
– P shall te very pleased to furnish the information. The system is one which enables people in: the country to purchase goods in the city and have them sent to their homes by post,, the postman collecting the money payable on (he goods.
– The system has been in operation in Queensland for several years.
– lt was introduced under the Commonwealth control1 by the honorable member when he occupied the position of Postmaster- General,, and I believe that he received a deputation of storekeepers who represented that thescheme was operating to their disadvantage.
MINISTERS laid upon the table thefollowing papers : -
Report by Mr. Charles Robert Scrivener, surveyor, giving technical descriptions of the Federal Capital Site, and the maps accompanying it..
A report of the Joint Library Committee.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt, of the Annual Report pf the AuditorGeneral and the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1905.
Ordered to be printed.
– I wish to know from theMinister representing the Minister of Defence, if tenders were recently called invarious parts of the Commonwealth for thesupply of saddlery and other materials, and’ whether the lowest tender for the supplies for one of the States was sent in by a South Australian firm, which was not given the contract, a tenderer in the Statein which the supplies were to be used’ being allowed to lower his tender, which wasthen accepted ? I understand that there isno question of the excellence of the goods of the Adelaide firm.
– The Minister has had a matter of this kind under consideration, and’ I shall endeavour to obtain from him thefullest information on the subject, and* submit it to the House. If Parliament isnot sitting at the time, I will send it direct, to the honorable and learned member.
– Will the Department see that in future the lowest tender is accepted, -even though iti may come from a State in which the supplies are not to be used ?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister. A reply to a question of this kind should come direct from him.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, in reference to the delivery of telegrams to places more than a mile and. a half from post-offices, whether the contracts which are let are left to the local postmasters to arrange, arid whether local persons are given an opportunity to tender ?
– All contracts are generally given to the lowest tenderer who can do the work properly. If the honorable member will give notice of his question I will cause inquiries to be made. The desire of the Department is that every convenience shall be afforded at the lowest price possible.
– I wish to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council if the Minister of Defence has yet appointed military chaplains to the Defence forces of Tasmania. A number of names were sent in some seven months ago, and, so far as I know, nothing has yet been done.
– The matter has not yet “been dealt with, but I shall endeavour to expedite a settlement, and will probably see the Minister about the matter to-day.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting Supplementary “Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Buildings, for the years ended 30th June, 1904 and 1905.
– I move -
That the Estimates be printed and referred to “the Committee of Supply, and that the Committee of Supply and the Committee of Ways and Means be made Orders of the Day foi tomorrow.
As honorable members are aware, the sum of ^200,000 is included in the Appropriation Act as an advance to the Treasurer to meet unforseen and extraordinary services, and at the end of the year the expenditure from this vote is included among the items of the Appropriation Bill. The Treasurer’s advance is given to enable him to make advances to public officers, and to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be included in a Parliamentary appropriation. For some reason this appropriation was not asked for in respect to the expenditure from Treasurer’s advance incurred during the year ended June, 1904.
– What was the amount ?
– .£7,258. The Deakin Government was then in office, and it was succeeded by the Watson Government, and afterwards by the Reid Government. The expenditure from Treasurer’s advance for the year 1904-5 amounted to ,£136,941. A Bill to appropriate that amount could not have been submitted much earlier than the present moment, but a Bill to provide for the amount expended in 1903-4 could have been presented last session. As the money has been spent, I think that it is well that we should pass these items. They have been allotted to the proper heads, the accounts are all in order, being legally covered by the appropriations made by this House. The only thing we can now do is to appropriate these moneys, of course at the same time criticising any amounts which may have been expended’ out of the advance by the authority of the Treasurer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to introduce a new Bill.
– Although I understand the Bill is a formal one, and relates, merely to the payment of fees, the Minister cannot introduce it without the usual leave.
– I object.
– It is only a matter of form.
– I do not care what it is.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer whether Sir Edmund Barton, when Prime Minister, carried out his promise to this House that he would apply to a high financial authority in England for advice as to the practicability of consolidating the public debts of the States ; and, if so, whether the report he received will be made available to honorable members.
– I am not aware that any such .report was received ; I have never seen anything of it.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as the necessary information is available.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether consideration has been given to the application for postal facilities at Break-o’-day, near Bendigo?
– In answer to the honorable member, I beg to state -
The matter referred to has been inquired into, and it has been reported that the information supplied by the postmaster at Bendigo indicated that a private bag only was required. In consequence of later information, representations received through the honorable member, further inquiry is Being made with a view to providing any facilities that may be necesstry
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being -made, and answers will be furnished as soon as the necessary information is available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Minister for Defence has been able to give favorable consideration to the establishment of a troop of the Victorian Light Horse at Bendigo?
– I have made inquiries, and may state, without actually binding the Minister, that in all probability, the wishes of the honorable and learned member will be acceded to.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Postmaster-General is aware that such representations have been made.
– I move -
That the following Standing Orders, recommended Bv the Standing Orders Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives be adopted by this House, in substitution for existing standing orders 214A and 214B : - 214A. Any public Bill which lapses by reason of a prorogation before it has reached its final stage may be proceeded with in the next ensuing session at the stage it had reached in the preceding session, if a. periodical election for the Senate or general election for either House has not taken place between such two sessions, under the following conditions : -
The proposed Standing Orders are intended to carry out an arrangement arrived at by the Standing Orders Committees of this House ana of the Senate. The other Chamber has already performed its part, and it remains for us to perform ours. We have been, acting upon similar Standing Orders, the only variation now proposed from those previously operating being made by the provision that requires a resolution on the part of the House in which a measure originated, to restore it to the businesspaper in another session.
– Would the Prime Minister state how that would affect the right of honorable members to make a second-reading speech on the Australian Industries Preservation Bill?
– That case would not be affected. The existing Standing Orders cover it. As I have explained, the new Standing Orders make no alteration, except in regard to the consent of the originating House being required before a lapsed Bill can be restored to the business-paper.
– I take it that these proposals are merely for the purpose of reconstituting lapsed business, and that it is intended to provide that the Bill shall not be restored except by resolution of the originating House ?
– That is so
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 14th December, vide page 7050):
Proposed new clause 50A -
After section 202 of the principal Act the following sections are inserted : - 202A. (1) No party to the petition shall, except by consent of all parties or by leave of the Court, be represented by counsel or solicitor.
In no case shall more than one counsel or one solicitor appear on behalf of any party. 202B. The Court may award costs against an unsuccessful party to the petition. Provided that the amount of costs to be paid by any party shall in no case exceed the sum of One hundred pounds.
Upon which Mr. Maloney had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ or by leave of the Court “ be left out.
– I have to thank the Minister for the way in which he has introduced this clause, but my feeling is that counsel should not be employed, except with the consent of both parties to the cause. It should not be competent for the man with the longest purse to obtain the permission of the Court to employ counsel, and to practically compel his opponent to do the same thing. Section 199 of the Act requires that the Court shall be guided by the substantial merits and good conscience of each case without regard to legal forms and technicalities, but I am sure that the honorable member for Riverina will agree with me that the spirit of that provision was broken on the very first occasion that the Court was appealed to.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the following new clauses be inserted : - “47 A. Section 193 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the whole of sub-section 3.” “ 50B. -Section 206 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘ (or until the High Court is established the Governor-General.)’ “
– I move- That the following new clause be inserted - “ 26A. Section 97 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph c.”
I am sure that honorable members will agree wilh me that no person should be prohibited from becoming a candidate for this Parliament on account of his poverty. If the electors have sufficient confidence in- him to return him, bis inability to find £25 should not act as a bar to his, election. Upon the last occasion that I submitted a similar proposal, the only reason advanced in opposition to it was that the absence of a deposit might lead to candidates being blackmailed.
– A candidate has been known to poll only four votes.
– But does the honorable and learned member suggest that candidates have gone to the poll for the purpose of blackmailing another candidate? The abolition of the £25 deposit which is at present required by the law would not have the effect of increasing the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth. The machinery which has to be called into operation is exactly the same, irrespective of whether there are only two candidates engaged in a contest, or whether there are a hundred. In my judgment, the £2$ deposit which the law now insists upon is tantamount to a wager with the returning officer that a candidate will poll sp many votes.
– If a candidate has a reasonable chance of being elected for any constituency, it is no hardship for him to be called upon to deposit £2$ with the returning officer. I am not ashamed to confess that when I first stood (fo!r’ Parliament the £40 deposit which the law demanded had to be found for me.
– Why should a candidate be compelled to find a depos.it ?
– Simply to prevent candidates who have no possible chance of success from contesting elections. If a man cannot provide the deposit himself, surely he can find twenty-five supporters who are willing to deposit £1 each on his, behalf.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne).- -It may interest honorable members to know that the deposit required under the principal Act is a mere bagatelle compared with the expenditure- which candidates have to incur in Great Britain. There, if a man has ai walk -over, a Government .official has to bepaid £25 to declare him elected. If thereare two or three candidates for a particular division, they must be prepared topay from ^500 to ^700 to provide conveniences which the Commonwealth provides free of cost. In my opinion, no> candidate who, from conscientious motives, refuses to borrow from his friends, should be prevented from contesting an electorate. At the same time, it is necessary, to guard against frivolous opposition. Perhaps that object could be attained by declaring that 500 or 600 electors - whose names should not be disclosed to the public - shall be required, to indorse the nomination paper of any candidate.
– Upon the lastoccasion that this question was discussed.. I supported the abolition of the deposit system, and I see no reason whatever to change the attitude which I then assumed. The honorable member for New England has declared that the existing law prevents unnecessary expense. How? All the expenses contingent upon an election have to be incurred irrespective of whether there is a contest or not. All the electoral machinery has to be called into operation. Consequently the deposit system does not diminish the cost to which the Commonwealth is subjected. The honorable mem-, ber for Melbourne has urged that it would be wise to insist upon all candidates securing the indorsement of their nomination papers by 500 or 600 electors, as a guarantee against frivolous opposition. Need I remind him that candidates themselves are the best judges of when there is frivolous opposition, and in such circumstances they will limit their expenditure accordingly. I fail to see any virtue in the argument that the deposit system secures economy both to the Commonwealth and to the candidate. We all know that to-day elections are conducted uponwhat is known as the ticket system, and I fail to see that any good purpose is to be served by the continuance of the deposit. If the object be to keep down the number of candidates. I am certain that it is not achieved. The mere fact that he had to provide a deposit of £2$ would not be a barrier to the nomination of the average man who thought he had any chance of being returned.
– I regret that I cannot see my way to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Herbert. At one time, under the electoral law of New South Wales, it was , necessary to lodge £40 with a nomination paper, and, under that system, a defeated candidate rarely lost his deposit. After a time, the State Parliament, in its wisdom, decided to repeal the provision requiring a deposit to be lodged, and the result was that in almost every electorate a contest took place. Men who had not the slightest chance of being returned frequently offered themselves for election, and the country was thus put to much unnecessary expense.
– But in any event the Senate elections must take place on the same day as those for the House of Representatives, so that no saving can be effected by the continuance of the deposit system. “ Mr. CHANTER.- I disagree with the honorable member. On one occasion, nominations were invited for the State electorate of which I was the representative, and it was generally believed that I was not to be opposed. But at the last moment a gentleman, nearly eighty years of age, who was somewhat deficient mentally, was nominated against me, with the result that the Crown was put to the expense of conducting an election, at which he polled seventeen out of a total of between 1,000 and 2,000 votes. In another case, a candidate’s nomination was signed by seven electors’, but he polled only five votes.
– I know of a case in which- a candidate received only two.
– I recollect the case to which the honorable member refers. Frivolous nominations followed upon the abolition of the deposit system, but as soon as the practice of requiring a deposit to be lodged with every nomination was reverted to, frivolous contests were avoided. I am satisfied that the existing provision does not interfere with the nomination of candidates who have any reason to believe that their candidature is likely to be successful, and I. therefore, trust that the amendment will be rejected.
– Unlike the honorable member for Riverina, I think the amendment should be accepted. It embodies a principle of which I have approved for some time; as the result of my experience as a member of the State Par liament of New South Wales. Originally, under the electoral law of that State, a deposit was not required; but, because it was said that a contest at a by-election was due to the influence of publicans, who felt that it would lead to the distribution of money, the Parliament decided to require a deposit of £40 with each nomination. That provision inflicted a hardship, not only upon many would-be candidates, but upon their friends.
– I have not heard of a case of hardship having arisen under it.
– Let me give the honorable member a case in. point. An .able, reputable gentleman in my own electorate - a prominent land-taxer, whom I hold in the highest esteem - desired to contest a seat in the State Parliament; and, as he was not in a position to find the neces sary deposit himself, a number of his friends lodged it for him. They expected, very naturally, that it would be returned, but, to their dismay, it was garnisheed.
– We might as well charge every elector 2s.. 6d. for the right to vote.
– The principle in each case is the same. I am free to admit that I am not a wealthy man, and that, when I was first nominated, I should have found it a difficult matter to raise the deposit of £40. No deserving man who wishes to secure a seat in Parliament should have to place himself under a monetary obligation to his friends. The corollary of a free franchise is a free nomination.
– How are we to prevent a rush of nominations for the Senate elections?
– I admit that there has been an abuse of the system, that in some cases candidates have been nominated to split a vote, and in others merely to secure the expenditure of money which naturally attends a contested election.
– And sometimes a candidate is nominated for mere amusement.
– Quite so; but abuses of the kind are not so numerous as to require the remedy embodied in the principal Act. If the purpose to be served is that of splitting votes, a deposit will always be found ; whilst I do not think that the deposit system deters those who wish a contest to take place, for the sake of the expenditure which it entails, from, putting up a candidate. It is true that the existing law may prevent nominations being lodged by political cranks of the class to whom the honorable member for Riverina has referred; but they are few and far between, and I hold that there is no justification for providing* a penalty to meet such cases. As the result of my experience as a member of the State Parliament, I am strongly opposed to the provision in the existing Act, and hope that the amendment will be carried.
– I would urge the honorable member for Herbert not to press his amendment. He must be aware that there are many publicans, who, although decent fellows, naturally wish to see a contest because of the expenditure of money that it involves, and are therefore prepared to put up opposition when a deposit is not required.
– The honorable member does not want opposition:.
– None of us do. The honorable member for Herbert must be aware that a Labour man, or any other candidate who has a hope of winning a seat, has no difficulty in raising a ^25 deposit. If such a man experiences any difficulty in the matter, let him come to me.
– I differ from those who think that the requirement that a deposit of £25 shall accompany a nomination is not a barrier in the way of many aspirants to political honours. It was very inconvenient for me to find the money to make this deposit, although I had every chance of winning the seat, and I was prevented from using the money while fighting the election. Before resigning from the State Parliament to contest the Federal seat, I did not see how I could obtain the money necessary’ to make a deposit of ^25, and to pay my expenses, but, fortunately, some of my constituents had some time previously opened a subscription list, with a view to making me a testimonial in appreciation of my services, and I went to the electorate to see if I could be allowed to use part of the money collected, to pay my deposit. If I “had been told that it was not their intention to collect money to enable me to leave the State Parliament, I could not have contested the Federal seat. We have no right to put any obstacle in the path of the aspirant to political honours.
– A man is not required to pay for the privilege of recording his vote.
– No, and similarly, a man should not be required to pay to become a candidate for Parliament. No distinctions should be made in this matter between rich and poor. It is objected that, without a deposit, men of straw are frequently nominated, but it is not often that men allow themselves to be nominated unless they think that they have an opportunity to win a seat
– I hope that the Committee will not accept the proposed new clause. The sum of ^25 is so small that it should not prevent any candidate likely to be chosen by a constituency from being nominated. VI do not think that any one possessing the political attainments likely to enable him to secure a seat in Parliament will find it impossible to obtain the money to make this deposit. It has to be remembered, however, that the expense of conducting a Commonwealth election is very much greater than the expense of conducting a State or municipal election, and nobody, except bond fide candidates, should be encouraged to go to the poll. Where no deposit is required, I have known men to allow themselves to be nominated merely for advertising purposes, having no hope of winning the seat.
– A candidate might wish to advance some political opinion.
– Then, he should fight the election fairly and squarely. I have every sympathy for those who are poor, but I do not think that the Commonwealth should be put -to an expense which,, in the case of a Senate election, might amount to thousands of pounds, by candidates who are not bond fide. However, as the pros and cons of this question arewell known to honorable members, I shall not occupy more time in dealing with it.
– I trust that the deposit will not be abolished. The fact that £25 has to be “deposited has never debarred from nomination any man’ who had a chance of winning a seat; but, even if it did, the inconvenience to an individual is nothing as compared with the expense caused to the Commonwealth whenelections are made necessary bv the nomination of candidates who are not bond fide. Would the honorable member for Herbert agree to the proposal that the candidate who has thus- caused the time and’ money of the country to be wasted should, if he failed to score one-tenth of the votes polled, be liable to imprisonment for from three to six months?Under the law, every candidate who polls 200 out of every 1,000 votes given has his money returned, and those who cannot estimate the feeling of the electors sufficiently well to know that they will be able to obtain that number of votes should not complain of being mulcted in this small sum.
Question - that the proposed new clause be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move; -
That the following heading and new clause be inserted : -
26B. After section one hundred and five of the Principal Act the following section is in. serted : - 105A. A candidate may withdraw his con sent to his nomination not less than twenty-four hours before the hour of nomination by lodging with the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State in the case of a Senate election, or with the Divisional Returning Officer for the Division in the case of a House of Representatives election, a notice of withdrawal in the prescribed form, and thereupon the nomination shall be cancelled, and the deposit lodged shall be forfeited.
At present a candidate once nominated cannot withdraw before nomination day, and I think that we should permit this to be done, subject to the forfeiture of the deposit.
An Honorable Member. - Why should the deposit be forfeited?
– Some penalty, it has been represented to me, should be imposed, or otherwise men might hand in nominations with the object of levying blackmail. This provision of right of withdrawal was recommended by the Conference of Electoral Officers, and the Minister approves of it.
– I do not see any reason why a candidate should not be permitted to withdraw rightup to the time fixed for the receipt of nominations. A man might die within the twentyfour hours preceding the time fixed for the receipt of nominations, but according to the honorable member’s proposal, his name would still have to appear on the ballot papers.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Boothby. It has been my practice to lodge my nomination within a few hours of the time fixed for the receipt of nominations, and I see no reason why the power of withdrawal should not extend right up to the last moment.
– I think that the proposed new clause would rather hamper, than assist, a candidate. I take it that a candidate is morally and legally entitled to withdraw his nomination and demand his deposit back at any time prior to the actual time fixed for the nomination.
– It is held that at present a candidate has no power to withdraw, and this clause is intended to overcome the difficulty.
– Some more simple means should be adopted. A candidate should be able to withdraw right up to the time allowed for the receipt of nominations.
– I do not object to extend the time for withdrawal, as suggested.
– If honorable members agree to this proposal, they will stultify themselves. We havejust decided that a candidate shall deposit £25, the object being to prevent bogus nominations. If we permit a candidate to withdraw his nomination and to demand back his deposit, we shall render nugatory what we have already done.
– The honorable member misunderstands the position. The deposit would be forfeited. This provision was .recommended by the Conference of Electoral Officers. At the present time any person may . nominate as a candidate up to the hour of 12 noon on the day of nomination, but once the nomination paper and the deposit are lodged - even though ‘they may have been sent in weeks before the nomination day - they cannot be withdrawn. That opinion has been given by the Commonwealth officers. The honorable member for North Sydney proposes that before any expense has been incurred by the Commonwealth, a candidate shall be allowed to withdraw his nomination, but that he shall forfeit’ his deposit. It is not desirable that we should afford opportunities to bogus candidates to levy blackmail. ; and, therefore, it is considered wise to provide for the forfeiture of the deposit.
– What would prompt a man to withdraw his nomination, unless his d’eposit were returned to him?
– The prospect of being defeated. He would not have his deposit returned in any case unless he registered a certain proportion of votes. We should do all we can to prevent nominations on mere chance. ‘ The act of nomination should be regarded as a serious step. I can quite conceive, however, that after a man has, after due consideration, been nominated, the position may become so changed that he may not consider it worth while to go on. “Under such conditions, we propose to give him a chance to withdraw, but the deposit which safeguards the nomination must be forfeited. Take a scattered electorate like that of Coolgardie or Maranoa. A candidate for either of those divisions may desire to hold his first meetings in the populous centres, and subsequently to visit the remote portions of the electorate. Consequently, he may wish to lodge his nomination paper with the returning officer some weeks before the date of .nomination. Upon the whole, I think that the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney is a fair one, and I am quite willing to assent to it.
– From the way in which the existing law operated at the last general election, I recognise the necessity for its amendment. Under the principal Act, when once a candidate has lodged his nomination, paper with the re turning officer he cannot withdraw from a contest, no matter how desirable it may be for him to do so. I disagree with that portion of the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney which permits a candidate to withdraw his nomination not less than twenty-four hours before the hour of nomination.
– That was suggested by the conference of electoral experts, but I do not see very much reason for it, and I am willing to strike out that portion of the amendment.
– Then I shall be perfectly satisfied. At the same time, I think that if a candidate is allowed to withdraw, his deposit should be refunded, so long as his nomination has not involved the Commonwealth in expenditure.
– I need scarcely remind honorable members that under the Electoral Acts of some of the States a candidate is at liberty to withdraw his nomination up till a week after nomination day, and is entitled to have his deposit refunded. But under the Commonwealth Act when once a candidate has been nominated, he cannot withdraw from a contest. There is, however, nothing to prevent a bogus candidate from addressing meetings and canvassing an electorate right up till the last moment prior to the nomination. It seems to me that the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney, if adopted, will not alter the present situation. I cannot see that very much good or very much harm will result from- its adoption.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- The weakness of this clause is that a candidate who makes his deposit, and subsequently wishes to withdraw from a contest, has no inducement to do so, and consequently he puts the country to considerable expense. I think that we ought to offer a candidate some inducement ‘to withdraw under such circumstances, but at the same time we should mulct him in a fine for his temerity in nominating when he knew that he had no chance of being elected. I would, therefore, suggest that after the word “ and,” line 15, the words “two-thirds of” be insorted
Mr.’ HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).It seems to me there is very little inducement for a candidate to retire at the last moment if he is obliged to forfeit his deposit. On the contrary, there is every reason for him to go to the poll, and thus to involve his opponent and the country in considerable expense. I am inclined to support the suggestion of the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– I think that some provision ought to be made in this clause for the return of a candidate’s deposit in the event of his death occurring between the time at which the deposit was lodged and the date of the election.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby). - I move -
That the proposed new clause be amended by leaving out the words “ not less than twenty-four hours “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ at any time.”
No candidate will subject himself to a fine of L 2’5 when he can escape that penalty merely by withholding his consent to withdraw to the last possible moment.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- I would point out to the honorable member for Boothby that if the words “ not less than twenty-four hours” be omitted, it will be possible for a candidate, who may fear the result of a contest, to induce a dummy opponent to nominate so as to keep others out of the field. At the last moment the dummy could withdraw, and the other man would be elected. Under the clause, in its original form, if the withdrawal had to be made within twenty-four hours of the actual time of nomination, such a scheme could not be carried out, because the public would be aware of what was being done, and another candidate would be nominated. I do not wish to oppose the amendment, but it seems to me that the contingency mentioned has not been taken into account.
– I think that the Committee ought to recollect that it is fundamentally necessary that the provisions of this Bill should be simple and unequivocal. There is no part of an Electoral Act over which more unpleasantness can occur than over doubtful phraseology with regard to the position of candidates. If any good could be derived from the amendment. I should heartily support it. But the Committee are evidently determined that although a candidate may retire, he shall not be refunded his .£25 deposit. That being the case, what inducement is there for him to subject himself to any trouble at all? If he knows that when once his money has been deposited he cannot secure its return, we may accept it as inevitable that he will not make his deposit until the last possible moment, when all doubt has been removed as to the wisdom of his entering the election. If, however, the deposit is to be returned, then, unless we can change some of the attributes of human ‘ nature giving us this guarantee, the introduction of this clause can do no good?
– Having put down his money, lie will not withdraw.
– No, because he will consider that he has a chance of getting a proportion of it returned to him. If we add words in which we can see no value, we shall only complicate a clause that should be as simple and as unequivocal as possible. The Committee ought to object to the insertion of any condition unless they are satisfied that it will be advantageous.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I. have listened with attention to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, but I would point out that we are dealing with, not what is the intent of the present Act, but that which has been construed to be its meaning. “He says that if a man had once lodged his deposit, although- he might ‘ have done so weeks before nomination day-
– Men never do that.
– In some cases a candidate must lodge his deposit some time before nomination day. When a man is seeking to be returned for a large electorate, and desires to have everything in order before he sets out upon his campaign, he often lodges his deposit some time before the day of nomination. Then, again, candidates for election to the Senate mav find it necessary to attend to that detail days before the last hour of nomination. Here is another case that is worthy of consideration. A party may nominate a candidate in the belief that a more desirable man cannot be induced to stand. Bull, if, at the last moment, the latter withdraws his objection, and the party desires to nominate him, the candidate first nominated cannot secure a withdrawal of his paper. The result of this system is that names are placed on the ballot-papers in a way that tend only to confuse the electors. Those who do not pay close attention to political matters cannot be expected to know that one of those on the ballot-paper is not really a candidate, and the outcome of the system is that votes are often wasted. Even the electoral officers have recognised its undesirableness, and an amendment has, therefore, been proposed to allow of withdrawal up to the last hour of the day of nomination. The clearer and simpler our ballotpapers are the better.. It is- desirable that we should make it clear that up to the last moment prior to nomination there can be a Withdrawal, but, to meet certain dangers, I am perfectly willing to accept the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Coolgardie.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I move -
That the proposed new clause be amended by inserting after the word “ and,” line 15, the words “ two-thirds of.”
If this amendment be accepted, a candidate who retires in the circumstances named will be repaid one-third of his deposit money, while the remaining twothirds will be forfeited. I think that the adoption of this system would tend very often to save the country the expense of conducting an election, while it would also reduce the costs of a bond fide candidate. I may mention that the Minister, and also the honorable member who moved the insertion of the proposed new clause, have consented to the insertion of my amendment.
– Having given this proposal some consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is wise to allow a candidate, who withdraws, to secure the repayment of the whole of his deposit money. It is useless to deny that when nomination involves some monetary consideration, a man is not likely to offer himself as a candidate for election unless he is fairly confident? that he will have a good run for his money. I recognise that the desire is to protect the Commonwealth from unnecessary expenditure, but although much has been said about bogus candidates. I do not think we are entitled to set ourselves up as judges in that regard. A man may have but a very small following, and yet be honestly convinced that he should offer his services to his country. If a candidate be permitted to withdraw his nomination, and his name does not appear upon the ballot-paper, why should not the whole of his deposit be returned?
– –That would encourage black-mailing. 1
– I disagree with the honorable member. Is it reasonable to suppose that a candidate would allow himself to be black-mailed by a man who, he felt satisfied, had no chance of being returned?
If a .candidate is, so to speak, of no consequence, that fact is generally pretty well known.
– But a candidate might have to spend ^200 or ^300 as the result of his being opposed, and it would therefore pay him to give even an opponent who had no chance of being returned a sum of ^50 to retire.
– I take it that no honorable member would do such a thing,; if he did, he would be guilty of an act of bribery. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that we should make the clause as clear as possible. A candidate who withdraws from, the field should either be returned the whole of his deposit money Or none at all. If a candidate becomes ill or arrives at the conclusion that he has made a mistake, why should he not be allowed to withdraw and to have his money returned ? During the debate a tendency has been shown on the part of many honorable members, to conserve the interests of a particular set of candidates. I think that the principle is a wrong one. Why should a man who is a popular candidate, and therefore likely to succeed, have any right to claim a special privilege or protection ? I strongly hold that if a candidate’s nomination be withdrawn before the day of nomination, the whole of his deposit should be returned.
– I feel disposed to support the view put forward by the honorable member for Wide Bay. A candidate should be allowed to withdraw at any time before the day of nomination without being mulcted in a penalty.
– I should not object to a provision that he shall withdraw at least twenty-four “hours before the time for re’ceiving nominations expires.
– I think that we should allow a candidate to retire up to the day of nomination, and to have the whole of his deposit returned.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment (by Mr. Batchelor) agreed to-
That the proposed new clause be amended by leaving out the word “ forfeited,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ returned.”
Amendment (by Mr. Bamford) agreed to-
That the proposed new clause be amended by adding after the word “ returned “ the following words : - “ 105B. In the case of the death of any candidate before the hour of nomination, the deposit lodged by him shall be returned to his personal representatives.”
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I think that the deposit lodged should be returned if the candidate dies at any time prior to the election. I should like to know whether the person who dies before the hour of nomination can be legally regarded as a candidate.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - After the nomination, certain expense is incurred by the Department in connexion with it, and, therefore, I do not think the deposit should be returned; but I am willing to consider the matter. The clause puts it beyond doubt that the deposit of any person dying before the hour of nomination shall be returned to his personal representatives.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “42A. - After section one hundred and fifty- three A, the following section is inserted : - 153B. - (1) Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if both Houses of the Parliament by a resolution approve of a system of voting by means of voting machines described in such resolution, the polling at any prescribed polling-places may subject to regulations be conducted by means of such voting machines instead of by ballot-papers.
After the passing of such resolution the Go vernor-General may make regulations prescribing all matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the system of voting by means of such voting machines.
Such regulations shall in particular provide for-
The secrecy of the voting;
The prevention of fraud ; and
The polling-places at which the polling shall be conducted by means of the voting machines.
Regulations made in pursuance of this section shall not have any force until they have been laid before both Houses of the Parliament for. thirty days or, if within that time a resolution has been proposed in either House of the Parliament to disapprove of the regulations, until the motion for the resolution has been disposed of.
If a resolution disapproving of them is passed by either House of the Parliament the regulations shall be of no effect.”
There are now gentlemen in various States who are devoting their attention to the perfecting of voting machines, and if machines are invented which will properly and expeditiously record votes, without the violation of the secrecy of the ballot, and in such a manner that fraud can be prevented, I think that we should make provision for allowing them to be used. The use of these machines is not made mandatory by the proposed new clause, and cannot take place until it has been authorized by a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. I understand that the Minister will accept my amendment.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I am prepared to accept (he amendment if it is in order. It provides, in effect, that if, after thorough investigation by experts, and, I presume, a trial under very harsh and rigorous conditions, a machine is discovered which will fulfil the conditions essential for the proper conduct of a ballot, it may be used in an election, if its use is authorized by a resolution of Parliament.
– The passing of the authorizing resolution would be equivalent to the introduction and passing of an amending Bill.
– Yes. Four or five voting machines have already been submitted to the Department. They are all Australian inventions, and exceedingly ingenious, though I need not particularize their methods of working, because I think that honorable members have seen many of them. I confess that, to my mind, there are many difficulties in the way of using machines for the registration of votes. In the first place, they can be used only in large centres of population, because the Commonwealth could not afford to supply them to every outlying polling-place. This would have the effect of complicating our electoral arrangements by introducing different systems. Then, again, as has been recently shown in Victoria, machines can be manipulated, without the manipulation leaving any record by which the wrongdoer can be traced, or its being even discovered that any wrong has been done.
– The human machine can be manipulated, too.
– Yes; but in that case detection of the offenceis more probable. The Electoral Committee recommended that it was worth while investigating the working of voting machines. The evidence given to us on the subject was that they have been used satisfactorily in large centres in the United States, recording the votes polled accurately and expeditiously. But the Department is not yet in a position to confidently recommend the adoption of any machine here, even if the use of machines were sanctioned by Parliament. I fear tEa’t the amendment is beyond the scope of the Bill, because the principal Act, which we are seeking to amend, provides for voting by means of ballot-papers, which is essentially different from the recording of votes by machines.
– I hope the Committee will not agree to the amendment. It will be time enough to provide for the use of voting machines when the Department is prepared to recommend some make of machine as satisfactory, and the Minister has admitted that the passing of resolutions to sanction the use of a machine - which is what is contemplated by the proposed new Clause- would be practically equivalent to the introduction and passing of an amending Bill. One course would be likely to provoke as much discussion as would the other. After the explanation made by the Minister, it would be unwise to proceed any further, and I think that we might defer the consideration of the matter until it has been established beyond all doubt that we should do better to adopt voting machines than adhere to our present system.
– I have had some doubts with regard to the admissibility of certain amendments, and I have given the matter some attention. Honorable members must recognise that the powers of the Committee are limited. We are bound by the instruction of the House, and by the scope of the measure submitted to us. But, putting those considerations on one side for the moment, I would point out that we have, during the last few days, adopted certain provisions which are directly at variance with that now submitted. Therefore, although I am averse to restricting the power of the Committee, I feel that it is not competent for it to insert the proposed new clause; it would have the effect of rendering nugatory much’ of the work already done in connexion with the Bill.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 44a. Section one hundred and sixty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by striking out a-11 words in (i) after “ in excess of,” and inserting in lieu thereof “ an amount to be fixed by the Chief Electoral Officer in respect of each Division, having regard to the area of the Division, the means of travelling therein, and the distribution of its population, but not to be less than One hundred pounds, nor more than Two hundred and fifty pounds, for any Division.”
I do not wish to initiate a general debate on this question, because I addressed’ myself to it at some length when I spoke on the motion for the second .reading of the Bill. Whilst we have fixed ai minimum for election expenses, which will apply generally, we must recognise that the electoratesvary widely, not only in regard to area, but also in respect of the distribution of population and their general features. Whilst £100 might be sufficient to cover the expenses of a candidate in a small and thicklypopulated electorate, it would he manifestly inadequate in large electorates, with scattered populations. I do not object to the maximum of £100 for some electorates, but I think that we should take into account inequality of conditions as between one electorate and another.
– Does the honorable member think that the area of an electorate should be taken into account?
– Certainly, because in some of the larger divisions, much more travelling is necessitated, and it is more difficult to reach the electors.
– I heard one honorable member say that he had gone through his electorate on a bicycle.
– Yes, and one honorable member stated that it would occupy him six months if he visited every part of his electorate. I recognise that under present circumstances it is not likely that honorable members will listen to this proposal, but I regard the matter as a very important one. We allow candidates for the Senate to spend ,£250 in a small State like Tasmania, whereas some of the electoral divisions which’ are represented by honorable members in this House have six times the area of that State.
– But not so many polling places. My electorate is larger in area than Tasmania, but I would rather travel and conduct an electoral campaign there, than make an exhaustive canvass of Tasmania.
– But in his electorate the honorable member has the weight of population in one place.
– I had to travel about 750 miles prior to the last election.
– Under my proposal the Chief Electoral Officer would take that circumstance into account, and would make a fair allowance. I donot think candidates should have to face the alternative of refraining from thoroughly canvassing their electorates, in order to keep their expenses within the prescribed limits, or largely exceeding the specified allowance. In large electorates where the centres of population are scattered, halls have to be hired at a great number of places, and posters have to be distributed and advertisements inserted in the newspapers announcing each meeting. The conditions, that have to be complied with in such cases are very different from those prevailing in city or suburban constituencies, where two or three thousand persons can be addressed at ‘the a ne meeting. Some electorates are so large that it is, impossible for the candidate to reach all parts of them, and therefore many of the electors have to be communicated with by circular. Honorable members will agree with me that it is necessary that the views of the candidates should be made known to all the electors. I am not an advocate of large expenditure by candidates,, but I do not wish to place them under the necessity of leaving a number of the electors in ignorance as to their views, or of incurring expense in excess of the lawful sum, and which the unscrupulous will hide when the returns are sent in.
– I represent one of the largest electorates, and my expenses on the last occasion amounted to £13.
– The election should not have cost the honorable member even that sum - he was grossly extravagant. Although I have very little hope of carrying my proposal, I intend to test the feeling of the Committee.
– I intend to oppose this clause, which seeks to increase the limit of expenditure to which candidates are at present restricted. If it be accepted by the Committee, it will be within the option of the Chief Electoral Officer to permit a candidate to expend £250 in the case of an election for the House of Representatives.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Amendment (by ‘Mr. Tudor, for Mr. Dugald Thomson), proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 46B. Section one hundred and eighty of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in (a) after the word “ advertisement,” the words “ other than an advertisement in a newspaper.”
– The effect of this proposal would be to remove the necessity which now exists for all electoral advertisements appearing in the newspapers,, being signed by the secretary of a parlia mentary candidate. I do not agree with it. If it be necessary for other forms of advertisement to bear the signature of the secretary of a candidate, it seems to me that it is doubly necessary in the case of a newspaper advertisement.
– Did the honorable member himself comply with the law in that respect at the last election?
– I did.
– No candidate did so ia Victoria with the exception of myself.
– If the candidates in Victoria were so ignorant of the provisions of the law as to endanger their seats if they were elected, I may tell the honorable member that the same indifference was not manifested by candidates in Western Australia. At the end of an election campaign all candidates are compelled to present to the Chief Electoral Officer a statement of the expenses which they have incurred. If irresponsible persons are to be allowed to publish advertisements on behalf of any candidate, who can vouch for the accuracy of that return ? The worst feature of the amendment is that under it any person might publish advertisements regarding a candidate without any authorization whatever. If it be adopted, there would be nothing to prevent any man from inserting in the Melbourne newspapers an advertisement intimating that the honorable member for Yarra would address the electors at Richmond to-morrow night, when, as a matter of fact, he intended to speak at Collingwood
– There is nothing to prevent that being done now.
– I contend that there is. If we strike out that portion of the existing law which relates to newspaper advertisements, we shall be offering a premium to those who desire to injure a particular candidate, and we shall be denying the latter the opportunity to secure redress.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- I opposed this provision when it was inserted in the principal Act. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has stated that the present law prevents any unauthorized person from advertising that I intended to address a meeting at Richmond, when, as a matter of fact, I intended to speak at Collingwood. May I point out to him that it does nothing of the kind. Any person can attach the name of my secretary to an advertisement, and secure its insertion in the newspapers. The man who receives the advertisement cannot identify the individual who hands it to him. The present law is a dead letter in Victoria. Only the other day I turned up the file of the Age for last December twelve months, when the last Federal elections took, place, and upon one day I counted twenty-two or twenty -three election advertisements, only three of which complied with the requirements of the law. Two out of these were my own, and the other had been inserted on behalf of Senator Styles. I regard the retention of the existing provision in “the principal Act as absurd. Unless the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney be carried, Ave ought to insist upon every transgressor of the law being prosecuted. Personally I think that a copy of all electoral advertisements and all other advertising matter published om behalf of candidates should be sent to the Chief Electoral Officer, so that he might see whether they had infringed the law. That would form an additional safeguard in the matter of the limitation of expenses. In the interests of the big newspapers, it is not fair to compel candidates to attach to every advertisement which they insert the name of their secretary.
– I hope that the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney will not be accepted. The existing law has been the law of South Australia for many years. In that State all election advertisements are very carefully watched, and if a successful candidate infringed the law, prompt action would follow. In Adelaide the principal newspapers charge candidates £4 per column for inserting their addresses to the electors. They allow them half a column gratis.
– The Melbourne newspapers will give us nothing.
– So far as I am aware no such practice has obtained im any other part of the world. Under the old South Australian system it was by no means uncommon for a candidate to arrange with the proprietor of a newspaper to publish a page report of his speech without any indication to the public that it was an advertisement. TheSe reports often set forth that the candidate was enthusiastically received by an overflowing meeting, when, as a matter of fact, there were, perhaps, only a score of persons present, and in this way the public have been deceived. A labour candidate who could not afford to pay for a lengthy advertisement was thus severely handicapped. There also used to be an arrangement by which the daily newspapers gave every candidate for political honours a half-column report at the opening of the campaign-, but refrained from, publishing any further notice of his meetings unless it was paid for as an advertisement. Thus the candidate with means enjoyed a great advantage over his poorer opponent. I do not blame the newspaper proprietors for the adoption of this system, but the result of the law now in force in South Australia is that if a candidate makes special arrangements for the publication of the reports of his addresses those reports must be signed, and must be preceded by the word “Advertisement.” Another point is that prior to the amendment of the South Australian electoral law a candidate could incur great expense in connexion with the publication of reports of his meetings without being called upon to account for it in his statement! of electoral expenses. These facts ought to satisfy honorable members of the necessity for the provision in the existing Act. Even at the present time it is by no means uncommon to see a four or five column report of an electioneering address in a South Australian newspaper; but, as the word ‘‘advertisement “ must appear at the head of such reports, the public are not misled. If candidates choose to pay for long reports of their speeches they may do so, as long as the public are not led to believe that they are ordinary newspaper reports.
– By special arrangement, telegrams have been sent all over the country announcing that a candidate has been holding highly successful meetings.
– I have known such telegrams to be published in various newspapers. I think the provision in the South Australian Act is a splendid one, and that it ought to form part of the Commonwealth electoral law. At the last general election Mr. Charleston, a former member of the Senate, issued an address with the word “ advertisement ‘ 1 appearing at the top of it, but it was unsigned, and I can assure honorable members that had he been reelected action would have been taken against him. I am surprised that the South Australian law in this respect has not been copied by the other States.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - As the mover of the proposed new clause. I would point out that honorable members appear to be unnecessarily alarmed as to its possible effect. The absurdity of the section which I seek to amend is that it requires that even a notice calling a meeting must have at the foot of it the name and address of the person authorizing it. Such a provision involves a candidate in a great deal of unnecessary expense, and since it in no way safeguards the public, I propose that it shall be repealed, especially as noncompliance with it involves a penalty not exceeding L100, or six months’ imprisonment.
– That would cover the case to which I have referred.
– The honorable member has referred to a system which prevails in South Australia, and I am prepared, in order to avoid the difficulty which he has suggested, to insert after the word “ advertisement,” in the proposed new clause the words “ of a meeting,” so that paragraph a of section 180 of the principal Act would be amended by the insertion df the words “ Other than an advertisement of a meeting in a newspaper.”
– I should not object to that.
– The proposed new clause would not be so far reaching as some honorable members appear to think; but I am prepared to amend it in the way I have indicated. If it be adopted it will’ prevent candidates being put to what is really an unnecessary expense.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).’ - I would point out to the honorable member for North Sydney “that there is a very strong reason why election advertisements and notices should be signed by the person authorizing them. There is nothing to prevent a man from inserting an advertisement in the name of his opponent callinga meeting for a certain date, and using against him his failure to attend that meeting. It is necessary that we should protect candidates against bogus advertisements and also electioneering squibs that are often sent out at the last moment. I have known a Victorian election to be turned by the issue, at the eleventh hour, of typewritten circulars bearing no signature, and reflecting on one of the candidates. The whole object of section 180 of the principal Act is to protect candidates from electioneering tricks.
– But there is nothing to prevent a man from inserting a bogus advertisement in the name of his opponent. The candidate who inserts an advertisement without giving the name and address of the person authorizing it may be punished, but a man who wished to publish a bogus advertisement would not think of signing it.
– I think that news-‘ papers should be prohibited from publishing unsigned electioneering advertisements..
– That would be going too far.
– I do not think so. I fail to see why there should be any objection to the provision in the original Act that every electoral advertisement shall give the name of the person authorizing it. Whyl should a man be ashamed to put his name to such an advertisement?
– The question is not as to any one being, ashamed, but as to the cost which the system involves.
– The publication of the name of the person authorizing the advertisement does not involve much cost. At all events,, it does not in the case of a country newspaper.
– The publication of the name and address of the person authorizing the advertisement often means paying for an additional half-inch.
– There is something more than the question of cost to be considered. I think that we should endeavour to secure the purity of elections, and for that reason I oppose the proposed new clause.
– I do not think that sufficient reasons have been given for the rejection of the proposed new clause. The honorable member for Hindmarsh appears to think that the section which it is designed to amend should remain as it stands, inasmuch as in some mysterious way it must assist to dispel an erroneous idea that seems to have grown up in the minds of many people in South’ Australia that Labour candidates when on the hustings cannot state their views. At the last general election I did not comply with the provision of the Act, that at the foot of every electoral notice the name and address of the person authorizing it shall appear. My advertisements always contained the two words, “Crouch” and “Corio,” and I considered that that was a sufficient indication of the name and address of the person authorizing them. I hope that the Committee will accept the proposed new clause.
– I am willing to make the provision read “ notif ying or announcing a meeting.”
– The case referred to Jay the honorable member for Hindmarsh is not met by the existing law, because a Jong account in a newspaper, purporting, to be the report of a meeting, cannot be /regarded as an electoral advertisement, handbill, or pamphlet. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie spoke of the possibility of meetings being falsely advertised, but any one who wished to publish a misleading advertisement could easily append a false name to it.
– Then the newspaper in which it was published should be held responsible.
– I have never heard of such tactics being adopted in Victoria, but if a false name were used, the offender could not be traced. I think that the present provision inflicts unnecessary expense
And inconvenience upon candidates.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- In my opinion, the general requirements of the Electoral Act in regard to the advertising of public meetings, and so forth, have proved valuable, so far as elections in New South Wales are concerned. I remember that once, when I was contesting A very hotly-fought election, a statement was circulated by special horsemen throughout the settled parts of my electorate, setting forth that I was a member of a singletax league in Sydnev, which, in fact, did not exist, and that I had given a pledge to the league to support a direct land tax for Commonwealth purposes, which would bring in j£8, 000,000. That statement was published on a sheet which bore no imprint, and there was no means of tracing the author of it. It was issued to damage my chances, and looked authentic. Under the old law, such a statement could have been circulated as an advertisement, but the Commonwealth law would prevent that being done. I do not know that the signing of advertisements convening meetings is so necessary, because I do not think that many bogus meetings will be advertised but every newspaper proprietor should be required to see, as far as possible, that the advertisements accepted by him are authenticated, and the original copy should be sent to the Chief Electoral . Officer for examination. I suggest’ that the amendment be made to read “other than an advertisement in a newspaper con.vening public or committee meetings only.” We should stand by the principle of the original provision, and, if necessary, strengthen it. For that reason, I should like to see an amendment inserted requiring newspaper proprietors receiving electoral advertisements to see that they are properly authenticated, and copies of them made available to the Chief Electoral Officer, if necessary.
– The provision in the South Australian law has worked well for a number of years, and has created no difficulty. It has been said that the South Australian newspapers have been unfair with regard to the space which they have given to the reports of candidates’ meetings, but they are decidedly fairer than the Victorian newspapers, judging by what I have seen of the deliberate and wilful mutilation of speeches here.
– That is much worse.
– Yes. It was not until I came to Melbourne that I knew of this wilful cutting down of speeches delivered in election campaigns or in Parliament. During the Federal Convention campaign, the South Australian newspapers, however, took a course which caused a good deal of annoyance to politicians, by printing among the notes and news of the day what appeared to readers to be authentic reports of meetings, but were really concoctions of the paid secretaries of candidates. When’, on one occasion, I complained of this to the leader of the staff of one of the newspapers, I was told that if I liked to do as the candidate to whose paragraphs I was referring was doing, and would pay 6s. an inch for such reports, I would be similarly treated. I believe that it was these practices which led to the present provision in the South Australian electoral law. I think that the name of the person authorizing the publication of any electoral circular, address, or manifesto should be printed, so that the people may know who is responsible for it.
– That provision does not go far enough. It should apply to leading articles as well.
– I agree with the honorable member that it does not go far enough, and I should be very sorry to see it cut down. Advertisements may do a candidate considerable injury, and he ought to be able to ascertain who is attacking him.
– Suppose that a false name were given?
– In that case, I would make the newspaper proprietor responsible. I have hitherto conducted my election campaigns without a committee, and did not employ even scrutineers during the last two elections. I should like to see election committees and all similar institutions done away with. In the interests of purity of elections in this great democracy the less opportunity we give for the expenditure of money in such a manner that it will tend to influence the votes of the electors, the better. Every advertisement that appears should bear the name and address of the person inserting it. I shall certainly vote in favour of retaining the law as it stands.
– I should like to know whether the Minister could frame a provision to prevent candidates from issuing circulars to the detriment of their opponents on the morning of the election day.
– The honorable member for Bourke intends to move in that direction.
– I think that we are at cross purposes in this matter, and that there is a deal of misapprehension as to what the effect of the amendment would be. It would not cure the evils of which the member for Hindmarsh complains, and I suggest that the Minister should makesome radical amendment in paragraph a of the section proposed to be amended. I cannot make out the meaning of the last phrase, “ and on the face of the notice the name and address of the person authorizing the notice.” The previous part of the section provides that the issue of an electoral notice without the name and address of the person authorizing the same shall be an illegal practice, and I cannot understand why the words I have quoted are added. There would be nothing to hinder a person from giving a false name. What we want to do is to provide that no notice relating to an electoral matter shall appear unless it is authorized by the candidate. Every newspaper proprietor, before inserting an advertisement, should be satisfiedthat it is authorized by the candidate. That could be done in a dozen ways. The Minister will not achieve his purpose by merely excepting newspaper advertisements. That would not cover the whole of the ground. The desire is to prevent the insertion of bogus advertisements, or the. issue of bogus pamphlets, and I think we should prescribe that any publication of an electoral advertisement, handbill, or pamphlet without the authority of the candidate should render the offender liable to a penalty. I do not move an amendment to that effect, because I feel that the Minister in charge of the Bill could best draft a provision of the kind.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- The proposal now being made is something akin to that which was intended to increase to £2 50 the amount which a candidate might devote to electoral expenses. If the amendment were adopted any irresponsible person might insert an advertisement in a newspaper with the object of assisting the candidate.
– I intend to except only advertisements calling meetings.
– That would not overcome the difficulty, because a person might insert an advertisement calling a meeting, and at the same time enter into a long description of the qualifications of the candidate. I would urge the Committee to make the conditions as strict as possible, and not to permit the insertion of any notice unless it is authorized by the candidate or by his duly appointed agent.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby). - I trust that the Minister will not accept the proposal either wholly or in part. We want to provide against bogus advertisements of whatever kind. We cannot prevent persons from signing false names upon election notices ; but, as a matter of fact, the newspapers take care not to accept such advertisements unless they are fully satisfied that they are properly authorized. I was the secretary of a political organization, when the Act first came into force, and as we had to run about fifty or sixty candidates, we had to be very care-‘ ful to see that every advertisement, circular, pamphlet, or poster, bore the name of the person authorizing it. No difficulty was experienced so far as that was concerned. I trust that everything in the shape of anonymous attacks or advertisements of a bogus character will be prohibited. The name of the person responsible for an advertisement should invariably appear. So far as the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is concerned, I would point out that it would be difficult, in many cases, to obtain the direct authority of the candidate. Moreover, any elector. should be allowed to insert an advertisement, if he thought fit, so long as his name was attached. I would strongly advocate the extension of the provisions of the original Act, so that leading articles in the newspapers, which are very frequently advertisements for particular candidates, should have attached to them the name and address of the writer. If that course were adopted, the articles would, as a rule, have precious little influence. I hope thatthis provision in the Act, which has worked very well, will not be altered.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I hope that honorable members will speedily proceed to a division. I intend to carry out my promise to the honorable member for North Sydney, because I do not think that the amendment in itsretrictedform would weaken the Act.
– But a bogus advertisement might be inserted in a weekly newspaper, and no opportunity would be presented for warning the electors.
– In Queensland there is no provision of the kind. I could not agree to the amendment in its original form, but if it be altered in the way suggested it would not weaken the Act.
– The South Australian Act has worked very well. I think that every man ought to attach his name to the advertisement inserted by him. The authority of the candidate should not be required, because any elector who may feel strongly in regard to a particular candidate, should be at liberty to insert an advertisement on his own account, so long as he attaches his name and address.
– But the object is to prevent bogus advertisements.
– Yes, but I do not see why we should prevent an elector from advertising the fact that he prefers a particular candidate. In England a law was passed a few years ago to prevent persons from defaming candidates upon the hustings. Under certain circumstances, that has abolished the right of pleading privilege in connexion with elections.
– A similar provision has been adopted in Victoria.
Mr.GLYNN. - My point is that this proposal has not been adopted throughout the Commonwealth. We must afford some protection to candidates. No objection has been raised to the law which obtains in South Australia, although it has been in operation since 1866. I am sorry that I cannot agree with the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– In my opinion the present law has operated advantageously, and there is no necessity to amend it. If we sanction two methods of inserting advertisements relative to parliamentary elections, we shall inevitably create confusion. I hope that the Committee will decline to allow any such advertisement to be inserted in a newspaper,0 unless it is authorized by a candidate.
Question - That the proposed new clause be read a second time - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) proposed -
That the proposed new clause be amended by inserting after the word “advertisement,” lines 5 and 6, the words “ announcing the holding of a meeting.”
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- In my opinion, this amendment, if adopted, would bring about a “very serious innovation. It would open the door to an unlimited expenditure by a candidate without any possibility of a check being imposed upon it.
I am convinced that it would be impossible to trace that expenditure with a view to ascertaining whether or not a candidate had exceeded the £100 limit prescribed by law. I would further point out that advertisements by irresponsible persons might be inserted in “such a form as to contain insinuations against candidates. I hope that the proposal will be rejected.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to. Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne). - I move -
That the proposed new clause “be amended by adding: - “And by striking out the words ‘and on the face of the notice the name and address of the person authorizing the notice.’ “
As far as I can see, there is absolutely no meaning in the latter portion of paragraph a of section 180. The words which I desire to omit have been inserted by mistake. They are simply a duplication, and are apt to puzzle persons who are endeavouring to conduct an election in a straightforward manner.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I trust that the honorable and learned member will not press his amendment. He affirms that these words are mere surplusage.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- I trust that these words will be struck out since the Minister himself admits that they are inexplicable. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has shown that they are, practically a repetition of the preceding part of the provision, and that their retention is likely to lead to confusion. I, therefore, support the amendment.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to. Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - It is not my intention to proceed with my proposal to move the insertion in the Bill of a new clause providing that the seat of a member of either House, who directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for doing work in connexion with the Parliament, or any Department of the Public Service, or for making representations to any Minister, Department, or officer of the Commonwealth, shall be declared vacant. Whilst I believe that it would be well to place such a provision on the statute-book, in order to let the public of Australia know that this Parliament sets its face against such practices, I recognise that it hardly comes within the scope of the present measure. I have consulted the Chairman, and find that he is of opinion that the clause is beyond the scope of the Bill, and that being so, I am reluctantly compelled to .refrain from moving its insertion. I think that the bulk of honorable members would favour the passing of such a provision, as indicating that we have set ourselves a certain standard, and that it is our desire that it shall be observed. It would certainly not cast a reflection on any honorable member, nor do I believe that such a reflection could be cast upon any member of the Parliament, but as, in the opinion of the Chairman, the proposed new clause is beyond the scope of this Bill, I shall have to await some other opportunity to embody it- in the electoral law of the Commonwealth.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I would point out, Mr. Chairman, that the proposed new clause which the honorable member for North Sydney has just withdrawn has been taken in preference to proposed new clause 48a and several others of which I have given notice, and which appear earlier in the list of amendments.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).-I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “48p. Any offence against the provisions of this Act shall be reported to Parliament by the Court Of Disputed Returns, and the Attorney- General shall take immediate steps to prosecute any and all offenders.”
During the proceedings before the Court of Disputed Returns, to which reference has already been made on several occasions, offences were alleged to have been committed by some of the candidates, and it was naturally thought that any breaches of the electoral law which had been proved before the Court would be punished by it by the infliction of the penalties provided for. But, to the surprise of even a great many of the members of the profession, the Court decided that it had no jurisdiction in such matters, and that some person, a candidate, or his agent, or any one else, would have to turn himself into a public prosecutor, and charge the offender before one of the minor Courts, with the possibility of appeals from Court to Court, until finally the High Court was reached again. Our Electoral Act was based on the
British Act, and on that of South Australia. The British Act provides for the appointment of a public prosecutor, whose duty it is to charge persons said to have committed offences. Undoubtedly Parliament, having said that certain things are wrong, and punishable, meant that they should be punished, and I now ask the Committee to provide that, when an offence has been discovered by the Court of Disputed Returns, it shall be reported to Parliament, and the Attorney -General shall then take steps to immediately prosecute the offender.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I agree with the honorable member that offenders against the electoral law should, when discovered, be prosecuted and punished.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas). - I would, point out that this is a most dangerous provision. If it were adopted, the Attorney-General would have no option but to prosecute, which would be practically taking away a prerogative of the Crown, it being one of the first principles of Magna Charta that, even though a grand jury may have committed a man, the Attorney-General may intervene. Most offences against the Electoral Act are taken cognizance of by Courts of summary jurisdiction, but the honorable member is practically providing for a prosecution in the superior Courts in all cases.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot). - Unless some person is instructed to prosecute, many offences against the Act will go unpunished. I know of a case in which bribery was committed, but I was unwilling to prosecute, and I know that in many cases there will be no prosecutors unless some public official is appointed to prosecute.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- On the promise of the Minister, I am prepared to withdraw my proposed new clause for the. present, though I repeat that the High Court has ruled that it can take no notice of offences against the Act, such as bribery, corruption, treating, and so forth.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne). - I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ When any newspaper during any Federal election publishes in its columns remarks injurious to any candidate, such candidate shall have the right of having published his explanation in the same column in any subsequent issue of such paper to be named by such candidate, and the refusal of the editor, publisher, or owners of such newspaper to publish such candidate’s explanation shall be punishable by a penalty not exceeding twenty pounds; and on demand of such candidate, shall, at the end of said explanation, publish the name and address of the writer of the injurious statement.”
This proposal may seem somewhat strange to some honorable members ; but I understand that a similar provision has been in operation in Japan for some years. In that country, any man who is slandered by any newspaper has the right to demand that an explanation shall be published in the following issue of the newspaper, and in the same column as that in which the original statement appeared. Honorable members may say that the Courts are open to any one who may consider himself aggrieved, but I would point out that by the time that a newspaper can be proceeded against in the ordinary course the election is probably over, and all the injury is done. I know of one candidate who issued a writ against a newspaper after he had lost an election, and the newspaper paid the penalty and published an apology in its, columns next to those devoted to the European cables. The gentleman referred to devoted a portion of the sum recovered from the newspaper to defraying the cost of an advertisement in a prominent place in another newspaper. I am willing to support any proposal that will safeguard candidates against unjust treatment on the part of newspapers. I do not care one jot so far as I am concerned, because I have had to fight the newspapers all my life, and I shall continue to do so. If I go down, I shall not squeal. If a statement published by a newspaper is injurious, or libellous, or malign, a candidate should have the right to demand that his explanation shall be published in the following issue of the journal under the conditions I have described. If the proprietors of a newspaper will not comply with the requirements of the case, they, should be brought to book at once.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I trust that the honorable member will not press his proposal. We have reached a very late stage in the consideration of this Bill, and honorable members have had no notice that this very important question would be raised. The honorable member may be justified in taking action to accomplish his object, but I do not think that it is altogether reasonable to expect us to insert the proposed new clause in an Electoral Bill - certainly not at this stage. The dealing with remarks published by the newspaper “ with results injurious to any candidate “ might be quite beyond the scope of an Electoral Act. I would point out that we are dealing merely with the machinery in connexion with the conduct of elections. The new clause which is to be proposed by the honorable member for Bourke will, to a very large extent, accomplish the purpose which the honorable member for Melbourne has in view.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes). - I should like to approach this matter by a more Socratic method, and ask a questionor two. I should like to know what tribunal is to settle the question at issue. Who is to decide whether the remarks published by the newspaper are injurious ?
Mr.KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).-I shall support the proposal, and I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne will “press it. At the last general election in Tasmania, a newspaper called the Burnie Server, attacked me persistently, and refused to publish my replies. That journal was backed up by all the combinations of slanderers and “ boodliers ‘ ‘ in Australia who subscribed to it, in order to defeat me. I think that a candidate should be in a position to compel a newspaper to publish his replies to their injurious statements.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- I am very much in sympathy with the honorable member for Melbourne, but I cannot support a proposal which is utterly impracticable. The honorable member will be well advised if he yields to the request of the Minister. It would be absurd to make a provision of the kind proposed without fixing upon some tribunal to determine whether the statements published were injurious. The candidate could not be a judge in his own cause. The editor of a newspaper would be as much entitled ti> say that the statement was innocuous as the candidate would be to declare that it was injurious. Provision might, however, be made that a candidate who feels himself aggrieved by the action of a newspaper should have the privi-lege of applying to a Supreme Court or District Court Judge in Chambers. An application could be made upon twentyfour hours’ notice - and if the Judge decided that the article was injurious to the candidate, he might order the offending newspaper to set apart certain space for the publication of a reply.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Mr. McCOLL (Echuca). - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ No general election shall be held during the months of November, December, January, and February, except in the case of an election following a penal dissolution.”
There is one class of the community who are very peculiarly situated; I refer to the farmers. Their income is entirely dependent upon their gathering their crop at a certain season, when the loss of a day may have very serious consequences. At the last Commonwealth elections, general indignation was expressed throughout the country districts because they were held in the midst of harvesting operations. I claim that some consideration should be extended to this large and important class. There is no other section of the community which occupies an analogous position.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I quite sympathize with the object which the honorable member has in view. At the same time, I do not see how it is possible to accept his amendment, in view of the fact that under the Constitution Parliament must continue to exist for a period of three years, and that writs must be issued within a certain time of the dissolution. Moreover, the elections for this House should be synchronous with the Senate elections.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- I trust that the Committee will reject this proposal, which would not achieve all that the honorable member desires to accomplish. I would point out that in New South Wales a number of the farmers are also graziers, and it is just as important to them that they should get the wool off the backs of their sheep at a certain period of the year as it is that they should gather in their ) crops at a certain season. To comply with their requirements, all the months from August in each year would require to be exempted. Moreover, if we, extend1 special consideration to one class, why should we not extend it to other sections of the community ?
Mr. SPENCE (Darling). - I should like to see some provision made for my squatter friends. If we are to adopt the principle suggested we should have to exempt the entire vear.
Mr. ‘BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I intend to support the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca. I do not think that a majority of electors are concerned as to when an election takes place, but undoubtedly it is a matter which affects the farmer very materially. Though I fail to see how effect can be given to the proposal, I intend to support it.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I quite sympathize with the representatives of farming divisions who wish to secure a special benefit for their constituents. Under existing arrangements, it is impossible to hold an election far from December unless it is held during the middle of the year.
Mr. BAMFORD (Herbert).- Last year I compared the results of the polling in seven country electorates in Victoria with the results in seven metropolitan divisions, and I applied a similar test to constituencies in New South Wales. That comparison conclusively proved that in every instance the country electorates polled more heavily than did the city divisions, and consequently the argument of the honorable member for Echuca is absolutely worthless.
–1 regret that this proposal has been received in a spirit of levity which the subject does not warrant. There is no more important interest in the Commonwealth than that of agriculture. It. must be remembered that farmers cannot leave their work at certain seasons of the year’ except at great personal sacrifice. The difficulty which I see in the way of accepting the amendment has reference to the Senate elections.
– And to the Constitution.
– I do not think that the Constitution makes it mandatory that Parliament shall continue in existence for three years.
– It declares that writs must be issued within a certain period after the dissolution.
– In that case, Parliament might easily be dissolved a few weeks earlier. The greatest difficulty in the way of accepting the amendment has reference to the elections of the Senate. We must all recognise that in order to save the Commonwealth an expenditure of ,£50,000 the elections for the two Houses of the Legislature must be concurrent. If that difficulty could be overcome, there is no doubt that by adopting the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca we should be conveniencing a very large section of the community without injuring; any other class.
– It seems to me that the amendment is somewhat impracticable under present circumstances. At tEe same time, I would urge upon the Government the wisdom of endeavouring to secure an amendment of the Constitution, with a view to deferring the elections of the Senate for two or three months, so that the elections in 1909 might be held in March or April. I would point out to the honorable member for Echuca that if his proposal were carried the general election would take place in October, and that whilst that would certainly be convenient from the point of view of those who would be engaged later on in harvesting, it would lead to the disfranchisement of a large number of shearers in New South Wales.
– And also a large number of sheep farmers.
– It would certainly lead to the disfranchisement of a large number of people. The holding of a general election at any time between midwinter and the end of the year would not be convenient to all persons engaged in rural industries, and it would also be unsatisfactory from <-he point of view of the candidates. The first general election for the Federal Parliament was held, I think, on the 30th March, 1901, and if we could arrange for our ordinary general elections to take place about tha: time in the year, I believe that it would be found satisfactory to all classes of thecommunity. About the fall of the year, shearers, farmers, fruit-growers, and, indeed, all persons engaged in rural industries., can usually spare the time to go to the polling booth.
– Why not arrange for the next general election to be held about that time?
– It would not be an easy matter to arrange, since the election of senators must take place before the first day of January.
– That is the date from which their allowance is paid.
– That is so. I do not know whether or not there is a serious constitutional difficulty in the way of the elections being held about the month of March, but it seems to me that, at any rate, the inference to be drawn from the Constitution is that the senatorial elections shall take place before the end of the year. If a proposal to amend the Constitution were submitted to the electors, with the recommendation that all parries could afford to give, I am satisfied that it would be carried without difficulty. I hope that the Government, during the recess, will consider my suggestion.
– If it were adopted, a much heavier vote would be polled.
– That is my opinion. I do not think that any section of the community would object to such an amendment of the Constitution.
– I hope that the honorable member for Echuca will not press his amendment to a division. tit my opinion it would not be wise, in the first place, to insert such a provision in *-he Bill, whilst in the second it is reasonable to assume that if there be no constitutional difficulty in the way the Administration for the time being will take into consideration the desirableness of fixing a date that will best suit the convenience of the electors generally. No matter what, day be fixed for the holding of a general election, some one must be inconvenienced ; but it is highly undesirable that an election should take place during the shearing months or in December, inasmuch as it would be inconvenient for a large proportion of those engaged in rural industries. In view of our experience at the last general election, I think that if we decided that all future elections should be held a fortnight earlier in the year the convenience of all would be met. That might be arranged by executive act. If the suggestion made by the honorable member for Bland could be put into practice, I believe that it would be even more satisfactory ; but a glance at the records shows that there was very little difference between the votes polled in the farming districts at the first and second general elections. It cannot be denied, however,, that the last general election was held at the most inconvenient time of the year.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I would urge the honorable member for Echuca to withdraw his amendment, and I promise to consider the suggestions made by him, as well as those made by several other honorable members. It” we are in office when the time arrives to deal with this question, we shall consider, in the light of honorable members’ experience, what is “the most suitable date on which’ to hold the next general election, and’ I undertake in the meantime to consider the very im- portant suggestion made by the honorable member* for Bland. Even if the honorable member for Echuca could pass his amendment, I should still hold that it would not be wise to embody such a provision in the Bill.
– May I take the Minister’s statement as an assurance that the Government will arrange for the next general election to be held at a reasonable time?
– When the matter comes up for consideration we shall endeavour, in the light of what has been said bv honorable members, to arrange the most suitable date ; but I cannot undertake to bind the Executive of the day. I am merely expressing my own personal view of the matter.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin). -I would point out that at the last general election the voting in the farming districts of Tasmania nearly doubled that of the first one, which was held in March. That serves to indicate that the time at which it was held was not altogether unsuitable, from the point of view of agriculturists.
Proposed new clause negatived. Schedule.
Form B verbally amended.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I think that this will be a convenient stage at which to discuss the question of whether claims should be witnessed. I invite honorable members to consider whether there is the slightest necessity for providing that an original claim to be placed on the roll should be witnessed. The advisability of requiring an application for a transfer from one polling place to another to be witnessed is apparent j but why should we enact that an ordinary claim for enrolment shall be wit.nessed, and that the witness shall be an elector? In some remote districts, where, perhaps, only half-a-dozen persons ate settled, not one of them would be able to get on the roll without travelling some distance to obtain the signature of an elector to his application form. It seems to me that such a system must tend to the disfranchisement of many people.
– The police are all electors,
– Yes ; but they are not always available. . In any case, why should persons be put to a lot of trouble to procure witnesses to signatures, when nothing is gained by doing so ?
– The honorable member would be in order in discussing this matter only after having secured the recommittal of clause 17.
Form B, as amended, agreed to.
Forms C and K, verbally amended, and agreed to.
Mr, GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I think it only fair to point out to honorable members that in form O very important alterations have been made At the present time an elector is required, when voting, to place a cross at the end of the name of the candidate for whom he wishes his vote to be recorded j but we propose to alter the ballot-papers, so as to require the placing of this cross opposite and on the left side of the name of the candidate for whom the vote is to be recorded, because we think that that will lead to fewer informalities.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I think that the proposed alteration is a mistake. The present arrangement has worked well in South Australia for nearly half a century, and it has also been a success in Western Australia, .where the percentage of informal votes recorded has been very small, and, having been adopted now in two Commonwealth elections, has become familiar to the voters throughout Australia. Most people are right-handed, and, in placing a cross before the name of a candidate printed on a ballot-paper, can hardly avoid, in using the short carpenter’s pencils which are provided, covering up all the names with their hands, whereas, if the cross is placed on the right hand side of the paper, after any particular name, this is impossible. The honorable member for Riverina lost some votes through informalities caused by the clumsy ballotpaper issued for the first election; but there were practically no informal votes cast on the second occasion, because I took care to have the ballot-paper properly revised. Mr. Boothby, the father of the Australian’ ballot, who devoted a considerable part of his life to perfecting a system of balloting, has persistently assured the South Australian Department that fewer informalities occur when the voting-paper is marked on the right hand side, than take place when it is marked on the left hand side, and experience bear* out his statement. The specimen ballot-paper set forth in form 0 is faulty in several particulars. In the first place, it should provide for the placing of crosses on the righthand, and not on, the left hand side of the paper, and, in the second place, the squares opposite the candidates’ names should not be separated by spaces of practically the same size, because that style of printing has caused electors to place their mark on the space between two squares, instead of in a square. In the third place, instead of printing trie Christian names and surnames of candidates in the one-sized type, the surnames should be printed in a larger and darker type than that used1 for -the Christian names. I move -
That form O be left out.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I would point out that under the Act the Chief Electoral Officer will have power to issue regulations. I much prefer that the squares shall be placed on the left-hand side. But if the Committee reject this proposal, I shall take their decision as a direction to place the squares on the other side.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).- I hope that the Committee will adopt the Government proposal. No difficulty is experienced when candidates have ordinary names, but some of them have Christian names which might easily be mistaken for surnames. Take my own name, for instance. Some persons might vote for me under the impression that they were voting for a person named Guthrie. The square on the left-hand side is closest to the surname of the candidate, and, therefore, is in the best position for the guidance of the elector.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina). - I trust that the form proposed by the Minister will be adopted. I know that at the last election a number of informal votes were recorded, owing to the squares being on the right-hand side of the ballot-paper. The records of the High Court show that a number of votes were rejected, because the crosses were put, not in the squares, but in the space intervening between the end of the name and the squares.
– The squares were placed on the left-hand side of the ballotpapersused for the election of representatives of New South Wales at the Federal Convention, and the proportion of informal votes was the smallest ever known.
– The honorable member for Bland has correctly stated the case. The honorable member for Boothby is apparently wedded to the practice that hasbeen followed in South Australia, but experience in other parts of the Commonwealth has shown that it is desirable to place the squares on the left-han’d side, close to the surnames of the candidates. I think that it would be advisable also to use a thick printer’s rule for printing out the uneven spaces on the right-hand side of the paper.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang). - I support the proposal that the squares should be placed on the right-hand side. There is a good deal in the contention that confusion will arise if the squares are placed on the lefthand side. It would be a. distinct improvement on the present system if the Christian names of candidates were made to precede their surnames, and the latter were brought out level, and as close as possible to the squares in which the voters had to mark their crosses. The surnames could be printed in heavy type to distinguish them from Christian names, so that the electors might not be misled by the resemblance of surnames to Christian names.
Mr. FRAZER (Kalgoorlie). - I share the opinion of the honorable member for Boothby. In the Electoral Act we adopted1 a specific form of ballot-paper to .which the electors in nearly all the States were unaccustomed. The proportion of informal votes at the last election could not be regarded as excessive, and, therefore, it may be assumed that the present system is satisfactory. Some of the States have followed the example of the Federal Parliament, in order to bring about uniformity, and if we adopt the Government proposal, we shall not only render it necesary to make a further explanation to the electors, but once more bring about want of uniformity. The present system has given universal satisfaction.
– I do not understand why honorable members should devote so much attention to a discussion of this character. I shall certainly support the Government proposal. Any one listening to the debate would imagine that the electors of Australia were so ignorant that they could not be relied upon to exhibit the slightest glimmering of intelligence. It will next be proposed that a guide should be appointed to conduct every elector to the poll, and show him how to vote.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne).- I shall support the Government proposal. I would direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that at the Riverina election, which formed the subject of inquiry before the High Court, it was shown that the honorable member for Riverina lost no less than fifty votes at one polling place on account of the cross being placed in the space between the name of the candidate and the square, instead of in the square. If the squares had been placed on the left-hand side, next the surnames of the candidates, these mistakes would not have occurred.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I would direct attention to the fact that at the last election the number of votes recorded in New South Wales was 282,000, of which 7,834 were informal ; in Victoria, 262,000 votes were recorded, of which 4,818 were informal; in Queensland, 115,000 votes were recorded, of which 3,057 were informal; and in South Australia, 20,122 votes were recorded, of which only 542 were informal. The officers of the Department who met to consider what alterations it would be well to make in the Act did not recommend this change, although they did recommend nearly every other alteration which has Been submitted by the Minister. Why should we make an alteration merely for the sake of doing so, especially when it will lead to the adoption of different methods in the conduct of elections in the Commonwealth and in the States? I see no reason why we should not adhere to a form which has so far given satisfaction.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- The percentage of informal votes recorded at the last Federal election was less than at previous elections, but of course that does not prove that a better method might not be adopted. I point out, however, that at the second Melbourne election there was a very much smaller percentage of informal votes recorded than at the first, and that was due to the fact that voters understood the method of voting much better at the second than they did at the first election. I acted as scrutineer for the honorable member for Melbourne at the Benevolent Asylum, where the greatest percentage of informal votes might have been expected. There were only four informal votes out of a total of about 400 recorded at the Asylum, and of the number who voted, not more than eighty or ninety had to be assisted by the returning officer in recording their votes. I point out also that the majority of candidates would not be placed at the same disadvantage as one of the gentlemen who stood for Melbourne at the last election, seeing that he had three long Christian names, all of which appeared on the ballotpaper. I do not think it advisable to make the alteration proposed.
Question - That form O be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Form R - Verbally amended.
Mr. BAMFORD (Queensland). - I direct the attention of the Committee to the instructions which appear at the side of this form. If honorable members will look at the instruction opposite the figure 3, they will see that it reads -
The name and description of each person to whom any sum is paid, and the reason for which it was paid to him must be set out separately.
In the instructions opposite the figures 4, 5, and 7 the words “the name and description of each person “ are repeated. I think that the phraseology of these instructions is confusing. I imagine that to any but a legal mind it would seem that the description of a man should have some reference to his height, weight, the colour of his hair, and so on. I think that some alteration should be made, and I move -
That form R be amended by leaving out the words “and description” in marginal notes to paragraphs 3, 4, and 5, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “occupation and address.”
Amendment agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clauses9A, 15, 17, 27, 26B, 28, 42A, 47, 50, 51, and form B.
Amendment (by Mr. Chanter) proposed -
That the motion be amended by the insertion after “47” of “48 and 49.”
Question - That the figures proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The House divided.
– The honorable member for Wilmot could have debated the question when it was put from the Chair.
– I did not know that.
– The honorable member cannot blame me for that.
– I call attention to the fact that the honorable member for Darling, who is voting in this division, has paired.
– I have nothing to do with pairs.
– I challenge the vote of the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, who crossed the floor after you had named the tellers.
– I ask the honorable member for Southern Melbourne whether he did so?
– I did not, sir.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina).- I desire to move that the consideration of proposed new clause 48A be recommitted. Can I do that now?
-I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment at the hands of the honorable member, because he has already moved to recommit a certain clause, and has, therefore, exhausted his powers. Any other honorable member can move for him. I may point out that if honorable members take matters into their own hands there must be confusion, as there was just now during the division. The honorable member for Riverina moved to recommit clauses 48 and 49. When he sat down, I put the question, and no other honorable member rose to debate it.
Mr. CAMERON (Wilmot).- I desire to have some way of moving, when the Bill is recommitted, that in future all election petitions shall be heard by a Committee of the whole House.
– If that is the same question as was raised in the clauses which the honorable member for Riverina desired to recommit, of course it cannot be raised again. Do I understand that it is the same question?
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) : Clause 9A -
Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after “ existing boundaries of divisions “ “ (e) Boundaries of State electorates.”
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - This clause was inserted at the instance of the honorable member for North Sydney, to enable the House to take into consideration the existing boundaries, of divisions. The amendment I propose to move is merely to express his ideas in slightly different language. I move -
That the words “ existing boundaries of divisions “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ Paragraph d the following new paragraph.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 1.5. verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 17 - “ 56. Claims …. shall be signed by the claimant and witnessed by an elector…..
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby). - I move -
That the words “witnessed by an elector” be left out.
I imagine that it is not the desire of honorable members, to place any hindrance in the way of electors being enrolled. The retention of these words will afford no possible protection. What particular advantage could it be to the community to require a person to witness a claim to get on the roll? It could not stop duplication of enrolment, but it could hinder a number of persons, from being enrolled. It is ridiculous enough to require this claim to be witnessed at all, but to require the witness to be an elector is really absurd. This provision, if carried, would tend to keep more names off the roll than could be collected from time to time by the policemen and postmasters. If the Minister could show that it would afford any protection to the public, I should be prepared to consider whether that advantage would outweigh the. disadvantage to which it would subject many persons. The witnessing of a claim has never been required in any other place in which this system of enrolment is in force. It cannot possibly prevent duplication, because if a person were determined to be enrolled twice, he could attain that object just as easily with the aid of a witness as otherwise. In any case, it would be of no advantage to a man to have his name on the roll twice.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I am rather surprised at the views, which have been expressed by the honorable member for Boothby, because as a member of the Select Committee on Electoral Act Administration he must know that very important evidence, furnished by the honorable member for Riverina, and reports by the electoral officers for that district, revealed a state of affairs which justified the making of this special recommendation.
The evidence discloses that under the existing law roll-stuffing may be resorted to. It would appear that the registrar is bound to receive any claim signed by a claimant. Instances were cited of persons who had been resident for less than one week in a division having been induced by an agent to sign claims.
On that point there was indisputable evidence furnished.
– How were they duped ?
– All I know is that persons who had not applied for a transfer from one division to another division, simply because they could not legally have complied with the Act, came in, and when a large number of new claims were handed in to the registrar he was bound to admit them.
Subsequent investigation proved that these persons were enrolled elsewhere, and were not entitled to vote in the division for which they had submitted claims for enrolment. It is recommended that each claim should be witnessed by an elector for the division ; and that it be made an offence to witness any such claim without due inquiry on the part of the witness as to the qualification of the elector.
That recommendation was the result of careful investigation and deliberation on the part of the Select Committee. We do not wish to- afford an opportunity for th rolls to be stuffed.
– A man who wants to stuff the roll will do so.
– Under this Bill a man will not be able to stuff a roll, because
– What difference will that make?
– If , in the future, an elector were to witness a claim without making a proper inquiry, he would be liable to punishment. In Queensland the only persons who can attest a claim are justices of the peace. We wish to adopt the precautions which are taken in other parts of the world to prevent roll-stuffing. This provision is not intended to keep people off the rolls, and, in my opinion, it will not have that effect. In view of the fact that every adult in the community is an elector, what hardship can it impose upon any one? Unless the word “elector “ were retained, great trouble would be caused, because it would then be possible for a roll-stuffer to get another man of that type to witness his claim. I do not think that the provision will have any of the evil effects which the honorable member for Boothby seems to fear. The returning officer or registrar is entitled to place names on the rolls in the absence of a claim, if he thinks that a person is entitled to the franchise. It is only right that there should be some safeguards in connexion with these wholesale collections of names. Under the circumstances, I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
– I support the amendment, because my experience is that the obligation to obtain a witness is an unnecessary obstacle in the way of securing the enrolment of electors. The Minister has not given any sufficient reason for objecting to the amendment. The case cited by him is exceptional, and affords no justification for penalizing electors throughout the Commonwealth. To provide that a claim must be witnessed by an elector means that the claimant must satisfy himself that the witness is an elector, and should it be found subsequently that the witness is not an elector, considerable trouble may be caused. The signature of the claimant ought to be sufficient.
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina). - I trust that the Minister will stand by the Bill. According to the evidence given before the Select Committee which inquired into these matters, deliberate attempts weremade to foist people on to the roll by the bundle, and, under the circumstances, the registrar
– Will witnessing the signatures prevent that sort of thing?
– In one case a man, professionally engaged by candidates to collect names, placed himself in the position of endeavouring to induce boys to perjure themselves by swearing that they were over twenty -one years of age. No witness, however, would append his signature unless he believed the application to be bond fide. In any part of the Commonwealth, no matter how remote, a man has to get his application to the post somehow. If he posts it himself, the postmaster may act as witness, and if the letter has to be sent to the post-office, then the person who carries it may witness the signature. The object of the clause is the enrolment of names which have been omitted by the police, and I can see no inconvenience whatever in obtaining the signature of a witness, considering that every person over twenty-one years of age is qualified to be an elector.
– But the witness may not happen to be on the roll.
– The clause simply provides for the signature of an elector, and, in the face of the evidence given before the Select Committee as to rollstuffing, a clause of this kind is most desirable.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- The Minister seems to forget that the difficulty we have to combat is indifference on the part of those who are qualified to be electors. Amongst people who are anxious to engage in roll -stuffing, the necessity for a signature will be no deterrent ; but the slightest trouble is sufficient to cause very many electors to neglect to make application until an election is very near at hand.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 26b - “ 105B. In the case of the death of any candi date before the hour of nomination, the deposit lodged by him shall be returned to his personal representatives.
Amendment (by Mr. Bamford) agreed to-
That the words “hour of nomination” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ date of election.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Section 109 of the Principal Act is amended-
by omitting the whole of paragraph a, and inserting in lieu thereof the following paragraph : - “’ (a) who has reason to believe that he will not on polling day be within ten miles of the polling place for which he is enrolled. . . . “ “(2) In the case of an application under para graph (a) the applicant shall state in the application the reason for his said belief. All such applications shall be … open to inspection by the public at any time during office hours.” ….
– I move-
That the word “ ten “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ seven.”
This clause slipped through without an opportunity being afforded us to consider the desirability of the proposal to make the limit ten miles, instead of five, as provided in the principal Act. The amendment of the original Act seems to have been introduced because of fraudulent practices within the metropolitan areas, and, apparently, in the belief that these fraudulent practices would be prevented by extending the limit a few miles. Such a result is not very probable, but if the clause remains as drawn, much inconvenience will be caused in country places which are miles away from any polling booth - inconvenience which will morethan outweigh any advantage to be gained by imposing the larger limit. It is quite easy to conceive the hardship which might be imposed on persons who, on the day of election, are occupied eight or nine miles distant from the polling booth.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That after the words “office hours” the words “ until the election can no longer be questioned,” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
After section one hundred and nine of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 109A. The following persons are authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act : -
All Commonwealth Electoral Officers for States; all Returning Officers; all Electoral Registrars ; all Postmasters or Postmistresses or persons in charge of Post-offices; all Police or Stipendiary or Special Magistrates of the Commonwealth or a State…..
– I move -
That after the word’ “ postmistresses,” line 9, the words “ who are permanent officers in the public service of the Commonwealth,” be inserted.
The amendment will practically give effect to the desire of the Committee that postal ballotcertificates should be witnessed by officers in the Public Service.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 42A negatived.
Clause 47 (Failure to transmit claim. Employers to allow employes leave of absence to vote).
– I have been asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh to move an amendment. Just before an election takes place it is the practice for various organizations to make a canvass of the houses in the division for the purpose of ascertaining if the names of all those who are entitled to vote are upon the roll. The members of these bodies usually leave enrolment application forms with the householders, and after these forms have been filled in they collect them for the purpose of forwarding them to the Chief Electoral Officer. It has been found, however, that those employed in collecting these claims, instead of handing in the whole of them, destroy the applications of electors who are known to be political opponents. As aresult, it frequently happens that an elector, upon visiting the polling booth for the purpose of recording his vote, finds that his name does not appear upon the roll. That is a very unfair way of cheating him out of his vote. Consequently I move -
That the following words beadded : - “ 182c. When any person has signed a claim to be enrolled as an elector, any other person who induces the claimant to let him have custody of the claim for transmission to the Electoral Registrar, and fails without just cause or excuse to transmit the claim to the Electoral Registrar shall be guilty of a contravention of this Act. 183D. - (1) If an employe who is an elector notifies his employer before the polling daythat he desires leave of absence to enable him to vote at any election, the employer shall, if the absence desired is necessary to enable the employe to vote at the election, allow him leave of absence without any penalty or disproportionate deduction of pay for such reasonable period not exceeding two hours asis necessary to enable the employe to vote at the election.
Penalty : Five pounds.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 50 (Voiding election for illegal practices).
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The honorable member for Riverina desired that some means should be provided by which, if a Court were adjudicating upon a case which involved the voiding of a member’s seat for illegal practice, the fact could be officially reported to the Minister. To meet his views, I move -
That the following words be added : - “ 198B. When the Court- of Disputed Returns finds that any person has committed an illegal practice, the Principal Registrar or District Registrar of the High Court shall forthwith report the finding to the Minister.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. ,
Clause 51 (Gifts by candidate).
– I beg to move -
That the following words be inserted : - “206c. - (1) Any person who makes or publishes any false and defamatory statement in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate shall be guilty of an offence against this Act, and shall be liable on conviction to a penalty of One hundred pounds or six months’ imprisonment.
Provided always that it shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this sub-section if the defendant proves that he had reasonable ground for believing and did in fact believe the statement made or published by him to be true.
Any person who makes a false and defama tory statement in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate in contravention of this section may be restrained by injunction at the suit of the candidate aggrieved, from repeating the statement or any similar false and defamatory statement. 206D. Telegrams relating to elections and con taining only the names of divisions, names of candidates, and the numbers of votes polled for each candidate and lodged for transmission on the day of or before noon on the day after the day of election may, subject “to regulations, be transmitted on payment of the rates prescribed in the Second Part of the Second Schedule to the Past and Telegraph Hates Act 1902.”
I may tell honorable members that this sub-clause has been drafted for me by the Parliamentary Draftsman. It was suggested by the section contained in the English Act of 1895, under which a number of decisions have been given, and also by the Victorian Act of 1904 which contains similar provisions. In this proposal, however, I have followed the English Act more slavishly than the Victorian Statute, because it happened that the first case tried under the Victorian Act failed. That Act contains the words “ false statement of fact,” and the magistrate who determined the case declared that the words “ of fact “ had given him such trouble that he could) not decide in favour of the plaintiff. But on every count in connexion with the case he found for the plaintiff, and recommended him to appeal to the High Court. He was, however, a poor man, and did not care to proceed further. I have consulted! several of the legal members of this House,, who agree that these words will cover all the cases referred to by the honorable member for Coolgardieand the honorable member for Melbourne. The intention is to prevent any person from’ making defamatory statement^ with respect to candidates for election.
– I am in accord! with the general principle of the proposed new clause; but it seems to me that it isdefective in that a person who makes useof defamatory statements against a candidate may raise the defence that he honestly believed them to be true.
– Reasonable ground must be shown for that belief.
– This is the exact provision in the English Act.
– In an ordinary actionfor libel such a defence could not be successfully raised. No man is entitled tomake defamatory statements, even if he believes, them to be true. It may be that we cannot apply the strict law of evidence to proceedings in relation to parliamentary elections ; but I think that this clause does not offer candidates a sufficient protection.
– A person against whom complaint was made would have to showthat he had some justification for his. statements.
– It seems to me that the clause will allow more latitude than is. desirable for the circulation of defamatory statements.
– The person concerned’ would still be open to an action for libel.
– I should like to add to the proposed new clause a paragraph providing that -
Any person issuing or circulating “ dodgers “ injurious to a candidate on the morning of election shall be guilty of a criminal offence, and on conviction shall be sent to gaol for not less than, six months or more than ten years.
– I hardly think that the clause goes far enough.
– Every man who makes a defamatory statement will be liable.
– My point is that if a newspaper published a defamatory statement concerning a candidate, an injunction- could be obtained against it; but that the clause as it stands would not restrain another newspaper from copying that statement.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- I trust that the clause will not be allowed to pass in its present form. I have special reason for taking up this attitude, since at the last general election statements of the most defamatory character were circulatedin regard to me, and circulated, too, by wellmeaning, but misguided, ladies in some cases, against whom one would be naturally loth to take legal proceedings, especially as the slanders had, in the first place, been manufactured by men who screened themselves behind the women in their dissemination. It was reported, for instance, that I was a most immoral, dissipated, and brutal individual, and that I had several children, whom I used to hang up in a wood-shed and flog almost to death. As a matter of fact, I have no young children.
– The honorable member carries in himself the refutation of such charges.
– That may be so, so far as those who know me are concerned ; but the point is that such statements might have been made to many persons who were not personally acquainted with me. I think the clause is loosely worded, and does not sufficiently safeguard candidates from imputations of a scandalous character.
– I think that we are loading up the Bill in a way that is altogether unnecessary. During an election campaign, scandalous statements in regard to candidates are often circulated, and on hearing what has been said about me at such times, I have been inclined to think that I ought to be hanged. But I do not believe that we should trouble about these matters; I do not think it is necessary to provide against them in the Bill.If we are going to do so, however, let us take care that there shall be no escape for those who circulate these defamatory statements. I think that the proviso as to reasonable belief in the truth of the statements ought to be eliminated.
– I am unable to support the amendment. The law already offers sufficient safeguards, and I fail to see why a candidate for parliamentary honours should be protected against defamatory statements to an extent beyond the protection which is given thegeneral body of citizens’.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin). - I move -
That the following words be inserted : - “ 206E. - (1) Any person who -
having announced himself as a candidate for election to the Parliament, shall, before the poll for the election is closed; or
having been elected to serve as a member of either House of the Parliament shall during the existence of the Parliament for which he is elected offer or give directly or indirectly to or for any club or other association, other than a charitable institution, any gift, donation or prize, shall be guilty of an offence against this section. Penalty : ?5.
No person shall be guilty of an offence within the meaning of this section if he honestly believes that the club or association to which the gift donation or prize was offered or given was a charitable institution.
” Charitable institution “ includes a church or other religious body, a hospital, benevolent or other charitable institution, or any society or association having for its object or one of its objects the assistance of relief of sick, destitute, or injured members, or other persons.
No proceedings shall be taken for a contravention of this section except within three months after the act complained of.”
My proposal is designed to cope with the malicious activity constantly displayed by those who indirectly levy masked “ blackmail “ on the miserably paid Members of this Parliament.
– I intend to oppose the proposed new clause, as I consider that it would be an undue interference with the liberty of the subject. A Member of Parliament or a candidate forparliamentary honours should be at liberty to give to any cause which he regards as worthy of his benevolence. If a man believes in a church, why should he not be allowed to subscribe to it ? If he be a devotee of the turf, why should he not be permitted to subscribe to the funds of a racing club? When a Member of Parliament is asked for a subscription, and does not feel disposed to grant it, it is open to him to refuse the request. I oppose this clause on principle, believing that a Member of Parliament should be at liberty to give to whatever association or institution he pleases.
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that portion of this clause is beyond the scope of the Bill, since it refers to the actions of Members of the Parliament. This Bill deals only with electoral questions, and it is, therefore, not competent to embody in it a matter which affects the actions of a member after he has been elected. I think that the clause will therefore need to be redrafted.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The amendment would, no doubt,be in order if the honorable member confined it to gifts by candidates. I suggest that he should amend it in that direction, allowing candidates to give what gifts they like - provided that there is no corrupt intention - to churches, hospitals, and other charitable asylums, and for the relief of the sick and destitute.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- I will accept the Minister’s suggestion, although the provision will not be of much effect against the boodler, when amended as the honorable and learned gentleman suggests. I withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the following words be inserted : - 206B. - (i) Any person who having announced himself as a candidate for election to the Parliament, shall before the poll for the election is closed offer promise or give directly or indirectly to or for any club or other association, other tha a charitable institution, any gift, donation or prize, shall be guilty of an offence against this section. Penalty : Five pounds in addition to any other penalty provided by law.
No person shall be guilty of an offence within the meaning of this section if he honestly believes that the club or association to which the gift donation or prize was offered or given was a charitable institution.
” Charitable institution “ includes a church or other religious body, a hospital, benevolent or other charitable institution, or any society or association having for its object or one of its objects the assistance or relief of sick, destitute,or injured members, or other persons.
No proceedings shall be taken for a contravention of this section except within three months after the act complained of.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- The Committee would have made itself ridiculous if it had agreed to the proposed new clause as originally moved by the honorable member, but I am opposed to that now before the Committee. The honorable member wishes to penalize men for being generous. These attempts to regulate human conduct by means of paper laws compel men to practise deception, and, instead of elevating human nature, do the reverse. Attempts to make men moral by Act of Parliament always fail. Let the man who cannot afford to make gifts have the courage to say to his electors, “ I cannot give to this or that cause “ ; but do not deprive a man who desires to be generous of the right to be so. I am in no better position financially than is the honorable member for Darwin who is always whining about the way in which he has to give to his electors, and asking that his salary be increased. I question whether he really gives very much. But why should a man be prevented by law from giving if he desires to do so?
– Why should we prevent a man from giving money to individual electors?
– That is a different thing. What is there wrong in giving to a cricket club, or to any institutionof that kind? No doubt it is thought that men of wealth willhave an advantage over poor men by giving more liberally, but I have yet to learn that a man can buy his way into Parliament. All through this session we have been trying to put restraint on individual action, for which there is no justification. I have heard of candidates for this Parliarment telling the electors that if they were returned they would putthe mining laws right, so as to do away with “boodlers,” and would amend the land laws, although they knew that this Parliament cannot pass such legislation. Is it not worse to make such statements to the electors than it would be to give to cricket clubs? It make one’s blood boil when humbug of* this kind is proposed.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- As the honorable member for New England has sung such a loud song about this proposal, I desire to say that it was drafted by the honorable member for Lang, for whom I fathered it. I do not care, financially speaking, whether I am kicked’ into or kicked out of Parliament. It is because I am financially independent that I can father these proposals. Members have come to me, and have cried like babies; about the £400 a year salary which they are receiving ; but they have not the pluck to announce themselves publicly in favour of” my proposal to raise the salary of Federal’ members to £600 a year. I am not afraid to say that the present allowance is too little, and I do not wish to be in Parliament if my services are considered not worth£600 annually. The honorable member bellowed like a sick bull on the Rocky Mountains; but the proposal came from a member of the Opposition. Whenever they have anything to propose, which they think right, but which they are frightened to bring forward themselves. I shall be willing to father it, because I do not care if my electors kick me out when I am right. Even if they do, I shall still enjoy my two meals a day and my bed.
– I am not able to vote for the amendment, because I do not think that we should legislate to prevent any man from spending his money. We have been legislating to prevent men from earning money, and now we wish to prevent them from spending lt. The honorable member complains about getting only a miserable ^400 a year, but he looks very well on it. He would be in a different position if he had a wife and a dozen children to keep. If a man is generous enough to contribute to cricket and football clubs, he should be allowed to give away as much as he likes.
– No doubt, every man should be allowed to spend his money as he pleases, so long as he does not attempt to bribe those whom he wishes to elect Wm to Parliament. If he wishes to be generous, let him be so before “his candidature, or after it. The clause merely provides that a candidate shall not attempt to bribe his prospective constituents ; it does not prevent him from giving11 to a church, or a charitable institution, or for the relief of the sick and destitute. They say that money talks, and it never talks louder than at election times. It is, however, apt to create suspicion when a man chooses to exercise his generous impulses just when he is asking to be elected to Parliament. . «
– I do not think that candidates should be allowed to bribe their way into Parliament ; but the honorable member’s proposal is too wide in its scope. No doubt, at times a judicious donation to a church is as helpful to a candidate as is a gift to any other institution.
– But it may take the form of bribery?
– That depends on the motive of the giver. A man may give £5 to a church about which he does not care a snap of the fingers. A man frequently subscribes to a church in much the same way that he would contribute to the funds of a cricket club, not because he cares anything ab?”t “the institution, but merely for the idea pf winning votes. I do not think that a man should be excluded from contributing to charitable and other institutions during the whole of the time that he is sifting as a member of Parliament, but he should not be permitted to contribute even to the funds of a church during the two or three months that elapse from the time that he announces himself as a candidate until the election takes place. No man can devote his money to a better purpose than a hospital; but a candidate can advertise himself as well by contributing to such an institution as in almost any other way. I have no feeling against churches, because I am a member of a church myself, but if a candidate were rich, he could, by judiciously subscribing to the churches in the electorate, go a long way towards assisting himself into a place in Parliament.
– I agree with the honorable member_for Barrier. There is no question that the practice of pestering members of Parliament for contributions to churches and other institutions is a relic of the old days., when men practically bought their way into Parliament.
– The honorable member need not give anything to the churches unless Ke likes.
– A man who has plenty of money can afford to comply with the demands that are made upon him, but others may be compelled to refuse, and may thus be placed at a disadvantage. I believe that every man should belong to some church or other, and contribute towards its maintenance, but I see no reason why he should also be called upon to subscribe to the funds of every other church in his electorate. A candidate may influence votes in his favour by subscribing to a church just as readily as bv contributing to the funds of a football club. Therefore I hope that the suggestion to the honorable member for Barrier will be adopted.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I have no objection to a candidate being debarred from subscribing to charitable and the other institutions referred to at election times. I have had to contest an election against a wealthy man who made liberal donations to various institutions, but I do not think that that helped him very much. I frequently receive a request for subscriptions, and am informed that my predecessor contributed so much - an amount which I could not attempt to give. I think that a man should be returned to Parliament on his merits, and I have taken up a firm stand all through the piece, so far as that is concerned. I do not think the proposal of the honorable member for Barrier is “of much practical value, but at the same time I have no objection to it.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas) proposed -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ other than a charitable institution.”
– I entirely sympathize with the object of the honorable member, but I should like to know whether., under the amendment, a candidate who had been in the habit of subscribing to a charitable institution, would be prevented during the term of his candidature from forwarding his ordinary contribution? I always understood that a candidate was dedebarred from contributing for the first time to charities, and I have acted under that belief. But at the same time, I do not think that a candidate who regularly contributes to charities should be debarred from following his usual practice even at election times.
Mr. THOMAS (Barrier).- I see no objection to contributions being made under the conditions referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth; but it might be difficult to make a distinction in favour of such cases. The difficulty might be overcome by postponing the contribution until after the election.
-^ shall support the amendment, because I recognise that it will conduce to the purity of our public life. I have known poor candidates of small means to be handicapped in an election contest by the liberal contributions made by richer opponents to charities and other institutions. I remember one case in which a rich man, who was contesting an election in New South Wales,, made a number of exceptionally large donations just prior to an election. I do not mean to say that that, by reason of these contributions, he was successful, but he won the seat. Donations of the kind described very frequently influence weak people in favour of a candidate. In years gone by, seats have been practically bought by rich men who have made handsome bequests and gifts. I frankly confess that I cannot afford to make liberal donations to public institutions, and I have absolutely refused to comply with any of the requests that have reached me. I cannot afford1 to do so. The country does not expect it of me. It should be made plain that a man is not elected to Parliament in order that he may distribute his allowance amongst his constituents. His honorarium is intended to enable him to defray his expenses whilst he is serving the people. A man who subscribes to a hospital, so far from performing an act of charity, is discharging a plain duty. Moreover, I do> not think that any great advantage is derived by candidates who devotetheir money to such purposes. But when they pander to the members of cricket clubs, race clubs, and similar institutions, they are guilty of a form of bribery. I do not think that contributions of this kind are necessary to establish a man in hisposition in Parliament. I was told by. old politicians in New South Wales that if I refused to follow the practice that had’ been pursued in the past, my parliamentary, career would be a very short one; but I stated that if I had to choose between becoming impoverished, and holding my position, I should retire from public life. I put the question to the test, and I passed through the ordeal successfully. Wealthy candidates should not be placed in a position of undue advantage over their poorer opponents, and I shall therefore cordially support the amendment.
Mr. R. EDWARDS (Oxley). - Whenspeaking a few minutes ago, I was under the impression that sub-clause b, proposed by the honorable member for Darwin, was to be included as a part of the clause, and’ would have prevented Members of Parliament from making- these contributionsthroughout the year. As that is not the intention, I am prepared .to support the clause. If the provision is to apply only for a limited time before an election, thereis not the same objection to it.
– It must not be done after a man has announced himself as a candidate.
– I think there should be some fixed time.
– The man fixes the time himself, when he announces himself as a candidate.
– I know that the existing Act provides for something of the kind, and I was careful not to contribute anything during the time provided for. As I now understand the matter, I am prepared to support the clause.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- Although it has been implied that I had some hand inthe drafting of this provision, I can say that it bears no resemblance to any proposal that I have advocated. My idea was absolutely to prevent Members of Parliament making use of their positions as such to bribe electors by donations to institutions to which they would not subscribe as private individuals. This proposal does not touch that at all, and the previous proposal submitted dealt with that matter only to a limited extent. This will not overcome the abuses and evils that exist at the present time, and which tend to make the retention of some seats dependent not upon the merits or services of the member in a representative political capacity, but upon the length of his purse and its capacity to be drawn upon for various local purposes, private and otherwise. The difficulty is that it applies only to candidates, and while a candidate may mot give anything during his candidature, he may say to persons who make applications to him/ “ Let this matter stand over until after I am elected.” He might thus make an implied promise, at least, and -merely postpone carrying it out until after he is elected.
– That is done now.
– It is; and it is- one of the evils against which we should guard. The proposal now before the Committee does not guard against it, but, on the contrary, promotes it. A man may receive fifty notifications that he has been elected patron of this or that club, and very often, even when no request is made for it directly, the notification implies that a donation to the funds is expected. If we are going to legislate in this matter at all, what i’s now proposed is farcical, and will absolutely fail to achieve the object desired.
– I am strongly in favour of some provision restraining candidates and Members of Parliament iti the matter of donations of the kind alluded to. I have for a very long time past refused to contribute to other than hospitals, on the ground that I cannot afford to respond to the numerous calls made by various associations on the purse of a Member of Parliament.
– I have had over 800 -written applications of the kind, apart from verbal applications, in one year. .
– That is the experience of the majority of honorable members. It is a polite form of black-mail levied upon a man who happens to hold the position of a Member of Parliament. I do not see that the clause, as amended, referring only to candidates, would be very much better than the existing state of affairs. I think that such a provision is more necessary in the case of a Member of Parliament than in the case of a candidate. I do not object to an opponent of mine spending money in this way, because I do not believe that it influences many votes, but it is unfortunate, in the public interests, that a poor man getting into Parliament should be at the mercy of a large number of people, or run the risk of being dubbed mean and unwilling to contribute to any good cause. In my view, the provision should apply particularly to Members of Parliament. As you, sir, have ruled that the sub-clause embodying that proposition would be out of order, the balance of the clause, in my view, is not worth bothering about.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home/ Affairs). - The definition of a candidate in the principal Act, I find does not apply to this part of the Act, and it is therefore necessary to include in this clause the words contained in the definition of a candidate. I therefore ask the honorable member for Darwin to insert, after the word “who,” the words “within three months before the day of election.”
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- I accept the Minister’s suggestion. The honorable member for Lang said that his name had been brought into the matter, and I desire to explain to the honorable member that the honorable member for New England made a most vicious assault on me for having moved the amendment, and I pointed out that I had merely adapted it from that which had been suggested by the honorable member for Lang.
– I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment of the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ himself,” .line 3, the words “ within three months before the day of election.”
Amendments (by Mr. Thomas) agreed to-
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ other than a charitable institution,” and sub-clauses 2 and 3.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Melbourne, who has had to go away, I move -
That the following words be inserted : - “ 206f. A candidate who feels aggrieved by any criticism or statement concerning him published by any newspaper may apply in chambers to a judge or a stipendiary magistrate for an order directing the newspaper to publish on the same page and column in the next or subsequent issue which the injured person may name of such newspaper the candidate’s explanation at reasonable length; and the newspaper shall publish such explanation accordingly.
Penalty : Twenty-five pounds.”
– Perhaps the honorable member would insert the words “ or police magistrate,” because every police magistrate is not a stipendiary magistrate.
– I have no objection.
– I have read the proposed new clause, which I understand the honorable member desires should be inserted as an addition to clause 51.
– I left it to the Minister to say where it should come in.
– I point out to the honorable member tendering the amendment, that clause 51 is before the Committee, and deals with disqualification for bribery or undue influence. A grievance of a candidate cannot, I think, be recognised ns a matter cognate to that dealt with in this clause.
– I think that the ne,w clause now proposed is just as much out of order as paragraph b of the clause submitted by the honorable member for Darwin.
– As I have been intrusted with the amendment by the honorable member for Melbourne, I think it right to say that I rose to move it after the honorable member for Bourke had moved his amendment. I thought that was the proper time. But I was informed from the Chair and by the Minister that it would be more convenient to move it at a later stage. It would be very unfortunate if, through my having accepted that advice, I should now find that the amendment is out of order.
– Will the honorable member tell me when he was prevented from moving it?
– Immediately after the amendment of the honorable member for Bourke was disposed of, I rose to submit this amendment ; but I was asked not to move it then.
– Perhaps I may point out that the intention, in recommitting clause 51, was to allow miscellaneous proposals,, of which notice had been given, to be moved. That was the understanding.
– Of course, I was. not aware of that. Certain clauses have.been recommitted, and it is my duty to. see that nothing is submitted to the Committee that is not in consonance with thedirection of the House. That is the ground upon which I ruled that the amendment was out of order. But the Ministernow tells me that clause 51, which is part, of the division of the Bill headed “ Miscellaneous,” was specially recommitted in order to allow certain new clauses to be moved, and that this is one of them. Under those circumstances it would not be right for me to rule the amendment out of order on the ground of irrelevancy. I shall,, therefore, allow the amendment to be moved. “ ‘
– I wish to know whether,, in view of your .ruling with regard to the proposal as to charitable donations, you now rule the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wide Bay to be in order? It does not appear to me to be quite germane to an Electoral Bill.
– If I understand the position rightly, the decision of the Chairman in the previous case was that it was not competent in an Electoral Bill to deal with the position of members of Parliament after they had been elected. But I submit that the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay does not in any way affect a man after he has been elected” to Parliament. We have already inserted’ provisions in this Bill to prevent persons from doing certain things between the time when they become candidates and their election to Parliament. I contend that it is equally competent for the Committee to decide that a man shall not be libelled during the term of his candidature. If we pan defend a candidate against himself in respect of giving donations, we can defend’ a candidate against the attack of others, , and provide a penalty in. the event of hisbeing unfairly attacked. I submit, therefore, that the amendment should not be ruled out of order.
– With respect to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Bland, I must rule that there is a wide distinction between the present amendment and that upon which I previously gave a decision. The previousamendment affected only a member of Par- liament. This amendment affects a candidate whether he is afterwards elected to Parliament or not. It relates to occurrences anterior to election. Therefore, I think it is well within the scope of the Bill. The only doubt that I expressed was whether the amendment was relevant to the clause recommitted. But as I am now assured that the clause was. recommitted for a special purpose, and as I am aware that it is the practice to recommit clauses for special purposes, I feel that it would be improper for me to rule the amendment out of order.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - Speaking to the merits of the amendment, I have to say that I find myself unable’ to accept it. its object is to ‘ protect a candidate against unfair criticism. In the first place, I consider that it is an impracticable proposal. It provides that any person who feels aggrieved by any criticism may apply to the Court. It practically blocks all criticism of candidates for Parliament. I have already accepted an amendment under which false statements are punishable; but this amendment does more than restrain persons from making false statements. It is,, moreover, vague. We have tried to meet what is fair and reasonable, and I would ask the honorable member for Wide Bay not to press this amendment.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- It does seem to me that some honorable members are attempting to carry the principle of the protection of candidates too far. For my own part, I have always felt that healthy criticism by newspapers did a. candidate for Parliament good. A piece of criticism may cause a man to make a len times better speech thant he would otherwise do.
– Some of us believe that we owe our seats largely to adverse criticism.
– I have never had many newspapers supporting me, and I was always grateful that some of them did not.
– Has not the honorable member found that some newspapers would not publish replies to attacks made upon him?
– It is only occasionally that one meets, with a newspaper editor who is so unfair as that.
– The only one that I know of is the editor of the Age.
– There are newspapers that are quite as bad as the Age in that respect. If a candidate is able to go on to a platform, and say that he has been unfairly attacked, and. denied the right of reply, the sense of fair play which is entertained by the great bulk of the people of this country is such that the circumstance is probably the best thing that could happen to him.
– The candidate probably speaks to twenty-five people from the platform, whereas the newspaper may speak to 1.00,000 people.
– But the 100,000 people are probably not influenced by the statements of the newspaper which they read. Newspaper attacks doi not always have much effect, or many of us would not be here now. Under this amendment, there would be the further difficulty of determining whether the grievance of a candidate was sufficiently serious to merit a reply, and whether the reply sent by him was of reasonable length. Suppose a newspaper comes out a day or two before an election with a wild attack upon a candidate, and that he proposes to’ reply. He has first of all to go to the Court and obtain an in- junction, or some kind of order declaring that his grievance is sufficiently serious to demand redress. “After the order of the Court has been given, the editor of the newspaper may say that the pressure of his space for that particular day was so great that the unreasonable length of the’ reply precluded its insertion.
– Then the pressure on his, pocket would amount to £25.
– But who has to be the judge as to what is “ reasonable “ length ?
– The Court.
– The amendment provides that the editor shall allow a “ reasonable space” for reply.
– And that the newspaper shall publish the reply accordingly.
– The editor of the newspaper may believe that five lines, constituted sufficient space; and if the candidate required six lines to be inserted, another application to the Judge would be necessary. Do not honorable members see that it all comes down to a matter of judgment as to whether a candidate has been seriously attacked, and as to whether the reply which he wishes to make is of reasonable length. Who is to determine whether any letter written by a candidate shall necessarily be inserted’, or whether his grievance is, sufficiently serious to demand any redress whatever?
It is difficult to apply such a provision, and in the vast majority of cases a man is not one whit the worse for newspaper criticism of the kind indicated.
– I did not altogether agree with the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne when it was first moved ; and, at his request, I have given it another and less objectionable form. The Minister of Home Affairs raised the objection that it is vaguely worded, and said that any person might choose to feel himself aggrieved by moderate criticism. But he did not tell the Committee that the aggrieved person would have to convince a Judge or a magistrate that his grievance was a just one. Had he been quite frank he would have added that it was not the candidate’s feelings which would determine the issue, but that the decision should be tested with the sober judgment ,of an independent arbitrator. I cannot understand the extreme censoriousness of the honorable member for Bland. He implied that the supporters of this amendment dislike criticism. I rather welcome criticism, because, in my opinion, it keeps public life healthy. The criticism with which this amendment deals is not exactly that based on lies, because it is only a clumsy writer who descends to falsehood concerning an opponent. This amendment is devised to meet suppression, distortion, or wilful misrepresentation. It is designed to protect candidates against newspapers which boil down speeches so as to conceal their full meaning, and then proceed from this foundation to raise their own superstructure. The honorable member for Bland remarked that the newspapers will publish any contribution which a man may send. But I know of one or two cases in which two leading newspapers in this city .refused to publish contributions in correction of their misstatements. In face,. that is rather the rule than the exception, for the newspapers publish only what suits their policy. The honorable member for Bland seemed to think that, under the amendment, it would be necessary for the aggrieved person to obtain a second order from the Judge before he could compel the offending newspaper to publish a correction. Possibly the clause does bear that interpretation, and, if it does, it can be easily amended; but that is no argument against ‘the principle. I do not agree with the Minister of Home Affairs that the amendment is un workable, but if it should be considered that an amendment’ would make it more workable I feel sure that the honorable member for Melbourne will gladly accept any assistance in that direction.
– This amendment appears to me to have for its object the coddling of candidates for public life. Public men must not be hypersensitive, because if they are it? will be a great surprise to me if they are ever elected. It is going altogether too far to call upon a newspaper to publish a reply to its criticism. Take the two morning newspapers in Melbourne. When one newspaper has published a hostile criticism of a candidate, invariably the other newspaper will present the other side of the case. If newspapers overreach themselves they will fail to accomplish the object of their criticism, as they did here in the case of Senator Trenwith. He was most warmly assailed by all the (powerful organs, but, in spite of their criticisms, he was returned at the head of the poll by an enormous majority. Hostile criticism is . the best thing in the world for a candidate for public honours, or for a Member of Parliament. The trouble with most of the newspapers is that they do not know Gow to spell our names. Very often we wonder whether they have in their linotype machines any ot the characters which are required to represent our names. I really cannot understand any one asking the Committee to enact this coddling provision. When a public man has initiated an action for libel against a private individual, what has generally been the result! ? Time after time a jury has refused to award damages in a case of that kind. All this goes to show that jurymen consider that a public man is fair game for criticism. If, on the other hand, the criticism of a newspaper will not bear inspection, it will soon be dropped. If this amendment1 be carried, I shall expect to see a more hypersensitive member of the House proposing that no interjections shall be allowed to be made at a public meeting, and that henceforth candidates _will have to. talk to “ dead “ audiences. I suppose that by-and-by it will be proposed that reports of public meetings shall only appear: in that most respectable organ, the War Cry. The honorable member for Coolgardie said that a newspaper appeals to an audience of 100,000 persons, but the average number of electors in a constituency is not more than 30,000. If his argument had any application at all, it could only apply to a Senate election, and, all the newspapers of a State fighting for or against a candidate it is not reasonable to believe that the proprietors and editors would combine in common criticism against him if it were not fairly justifiable. If I can pass through “ yellow “ journalism and get returned, surely every other honorable member can survive hostile criticism.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi - Attorney-General). - I wish to point out to the honorable member for Coolgardie that this amendment is really impracticable. Take the case of a candidate who was fighting his way through ?a huge constituency in the country, and who, a few days after its publication, received a copy of a metropolitan newspaper, containing certain statements, what would he have to do? He could not go near a Judge. He would have to bring before, a police magistrate, if one could be caught in a remote corner of the State, the publisher of the newspaper, and make him show cause why he should not print an explanation.
– Could he not wire to a solicitor in Melbourne to put the case before a Judge?
– Does the honorable member expect the candidate to leave the constituency and go down to the metropolis and enter into the field of litigation for the purpose of getting an order, which might) be combated for a considerable time, perhaps until after the election was over. But, to put the matter on higher ground, newspapers have very high public functions to perform We cannot forget that when they are dealing with great public matters they Have just as important a duty to discharge as honorable members or candidates. The press has to advise and inform the public of what is going on. We have tonight, by means of another amendment, gone a long way in the direction of protecting candidates as to statements of fact by newspapers ; and in this we have followed English law. But if we say that no newspaper, however honest its criticism may be, is to perform a great public function, except under fear of being hailed before a Judge, or a magistrate, and compelled to publish some explanation, or socalled explanation, in the same columns under a penalty of .£25. I think it will be the public, and not the candidates, who will suffer. .To tell newspapers that thev must not report public meetings at which some statements may be made reflecting on a candidate, would be to do a great in. justice to the people at large.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- I am inclined to the opinion that we may rest satisfied with what has already been done with a view to protecting candidates against unfair press criticism. Any newspaper, whether country or.metropolitan, which deliberately makes false statements in regard to any candidate should be held answerable for its wrong-doing. My own opinion, however, is that the more . unreasonable the attack the better it is for the candidate. As a matter of fact, the representatives of the press, who occupy seats in the galleries of this House, publish columns of caricature and misrepresentation regarding honorable members. ‘Praise, blame, and misrepresentation are used just as its suits the purposes of the press - with a view to curry favour, it may be, with certain honorable members, or with the public, or the newspaper proprietors. The honorable member for Dalley, who “has addressed us on this proposal, has had a bed of roses throughout his political career: He has ever been the “ white-headed boy “ of the metropolitan press, and I do not know that, under the circumstances, he may be taken as an authority on the question of what criticism should be regulated, and what criticism should be encouraged. Vigorous criticism is sometimes the lifeblood of a candidate for parliamentary honours. It has been my experience tohave every newspaper in the district, not only criticising me, but refusing to report one word of my utterances. Indeed, the only way in which I could induce one newspaper, which was not quite so bitter as the rest, to publish one address which I delivered, was to purchase 500 copies at 2d. each. However, these antagonistic newspapers over-stepped the mark, and fortunately there was time enough for me to demonstrate to the public the unfair and un-‘British conduct to which I was subjected. The result was that I was returned to this House. The same sort of conduct is pursued by the metropolitan press. I have known a metropolitan newspaper to reserve its criticism until the day before the election, when there was no chance for the candidate to reply, and then publish most libellous matter.
– This proposal would not remedy that sort of thing.
– What punishment does the honorable member suggest ? ?
– I can only leave the matter to the conscience of the press.
– Will the honorable member name the newspaper, or newspapers to which he refers?
– I do not think that any distinction can be made between newspapers. The honorable and learned member for Parkes is one of the fairest men in the House, and, as he always reads both sides of any question, and stands as an authority of what is the correct thing, I am afraid it would be impertinence on my part to indicate the newspaper. I am afraid the amendment is too cumbersome to attain the object of the mover; out the clause we have previously passed will give us some power over libel.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- The honorable member for Melbourne has returned to the Chamber, and taken charge of the amendment; and I should now like to say that when I undertook to submit it, in order that it might be placed before the Committee, I intimated that I did not quite agree with the proposal it embodied. However, the fact that such a proposal is made is evidence that the press in some parts of Australia is grossly unfair. No honorable member, especially a fighting member like the representative of Melbourne, would submit such an amendment unless there had been some gross abuse of the privileges of the press. Weighing everything in the scales, however, I am of opinion that if we tried to protect ourselves by legislation, we should lose in the result. My experience is that the very best thing that can happen to a radical candidate is to have the whole of the conservative press against him. In Queensland we have always thought it a glorious privilege to
– I feel thatthe object I had in view has been fairly well achieved, and that I may rest content with the provision which has already been placed in the Bill, and which to a great extent covers the ground. The wording of my amendment might not be such as to best attain the end in view ; but I point out to the Attorney-General that it would have placed a candidate in such a position that, if a newspaper wronged him, that newspaper would be compelled to publish his views in as prominent a place as was given to the attack. At present the only remedy is to send a letter to the editor, who may or may not publish it. If he does not throw it into the waste-paper basket, he inserts it in some obscure corner, unless the sender happens to be an important individual. Then, again, letters sent in this way are very often condensed to such an extent as to remove the true substance. Perhaps during the recess, the suggestion contained in the proposed amendment may receive consideration, with good results in the future. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- I object to the amendment being withdrawn, in order to call attention before its withdrawal to the way in which honorable members in the corner areusing the opportunity this Bill affords to advertise their particular pretensions to public favour.
– What a discovery !
– It is not much of a discovery, because we have been witnesses of the undignified proceeding for several days. Under cover of this amendment, we are told that the public press has been extremely unfair to certain honorable members of this House.
– It is a fact.
– It is a fact; but the press has been unfair, not only to certain members, but to members on all sides of the House. I objected to the withdrawal of the amendment, merely to get the explanation into the pages of Hansard, that the Labour Party are not the only sufferers, and that the official press of that party is quite as unfair, if not more unfair, than the press of any other party.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. WATSON (Bland)- I move-
That the following words be inserted : - “ 206D - Telegrams relating to ele’ctions and containing only the names of divisions, names of candidates, and the numbers of votes polled for each candidate and loaded for transmission on the day of or before noon on the day after the day of election may, subject to regulations, be transmitted on payment of the rates prescribed in the Second Fart of the Second Schedule to the Post and Telegraphic Rates Act 1902.”
The effect of this new clause will be to permit telegrams relating to elections to be transmitted at press rates. It is almost certain that advantage will not be -taken of the provision on the main lines.
– It will.
– I am pretty certain, however, that it will not be resorted to on the main lines between large towns, because the newspapers in those towns obtain the returns, and invariably exhibit them in some public place. My object is to enable residents in small centres who possess telegraphic facilities to have these returns transmitted to them for public information. The adoption of my proposal cannot involve” the Commonwealth in any great loss, inasmuch as it merely refers to the actual returns, and to the names of candidates, and the practice is to be allowed only upon the day of election, and until noon upon the day following.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Before this amendment is adopted, I think .that we ought to have a statement from the Postmaster-General in regard to it. The -danger which I foresee in it is that it will lead to such a congestion of business on the wires that the public may be seriously Inconvenienced.
– Does the honorable member think that private messages relating to the results of an election would be sent over the wires between Sydney and Goulburn while the Goulburn newspapers were exhibiting full returns in the streets?
– Yes. I am -afraid that in many quarters, where the lines are fairly occupied, it will lead to such a congestion of traffic as will practically paralyze the Postal Department. However, if the Postmaster-General can see no difficult/ in that respect we may very well allow him to assume the responsibility.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- I do not think that this amendment ought to be carried. There are very few country towns which do not possess a post-office, and where there is a post-office there is usually a telephone, so that the information which the honorable member for Bland desires to be transmitted to the people could easily be telephoned from town to town.
– Only at telegraphic rates.
– Even admitting that fact, the amendment would prove of very little value, because in most instances the information would relate to a particular electorate or a particular candidate. It would not exceed twenty-five words.
– It would be much more than that.
– I do not think so.
– The country electors want to know the returns for the whole of the State.
– Even at the ordinary telegraph rates sixteen words can be transmitted f rom any portion of a State to any other portion for ninepence. I think that the honorable member for Bland will find that the whole of the returns of a State will not be telegraphed to country towns upon polling-day, or even on the following day, before noon. The point mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta was, I think, a good one. The proposal will undoubtedly result in congesting the wires upon polling-day, and will not benefit the revenue of the Postal Department. As that Department is now being carried on at a loss, I think that we ought to have a statement from the Postmaster-General in regard to the matter.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I am rather surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Coolgardie, because he, like myself,, represents a large constituency. I ask him to consider the difficulties which confront small settlements in the back-blocks.
– I never heard the honorable member eloquent about them before.
– This is a proposal to send information which will be of great interest to partisans in remote settlements, and I think it is a very proper one. In my own State a great number of people exhibit a keen interest in elections both for the State and the Commonwealth. It is a very good thing to cultivate that interest. Upon that ground I appeal to the honorable member for “Coolgardie to allow the clause to pass. Personally, I believe that it will add to the revenue of the Postal Department, although not to such an extent as to result in a congestion of the lines. 1 cordially support the new clause.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the following words be inserted : - “ 207A. Any candidate duly nominated for election as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives shall, subject to regulations and subject to the payment of the charges prescribed in the first schedule to the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902, be entitled to transmit through the post one copy of an election address or manifesto relating to such candidature to each elector whose name appears on the roll for the State or division as the case may be for which the candidate is nominated.”
Under the Postal and Telegraph Rates Act 1902 the postage upon all newspapers intended for delivery within the Commonwealth is id. per 20 ozs. on their aggregate weight., if posted by any person at one time. During the last election, candidates were enabled to post a small registered newspaper, containing their manifestoes, to their various constituents. In my judgment, every candidate is entitled to place his views before the electors whose suffrages he is seeking. At the present time, with the limitation which is imposed upon his expenses, it is absolutely impossible for him to come into contact with them. “The only .way in which he can make his ‘ views known is bv the adoption of some such means as I suggest. I think that the adoption of my proposal would afford candidates a proper opportunity to place their views before the .electors. Such a provision might well be inserted, inasmuch as we have already provided in the principal Act that certain electoral matter shall be passed through the Post Office.
– The honorable member wishes candidates to have the same privileges that are accorded to the press ?
– Is this privilege to be enjoyed all the year round?
– No. To secure this privilege, a man must have been duly nominated as a candidate. I have consulted the leaders of the House, who approve of my proposal, and I feel sure that if will commend itself to the Committee.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I see no objection to the acceptance of this amendment.
– Is the Minister prepared to extend the privilege to candidates for municipal and district councils, and other bodies?
– No ; we are dealing now with a Bill relating to elections to the Commonwealth Parliament ; we are dealing only with matters within our own jurisdiction. I shall not oppose the amendment.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- I see in this proposal a secret dagger to assassinate the democracy of this country.
– It is a dagger which democracy might use in another direction.
– It would cost a Member of Parliament the larger part of his parliamentary allowance to print addresses to be distributed throughout an electorate containing 15,000 or 20,000 voters. The majority of candidates are poor men, and it seems to me that this proposal, if carried, will give an undue advantage to the wealthy combinations of Australia. At the first blush it seems to be an innocent proposition, but in the event of its being carried, I can well imagine the secret financial boodlieristic organizations of this country meeting, in dark corners or in great palaces to prepare documents for the annihilation of the Labour Party. I call upon the Committee to resist this attack upon the breastworks of democracy.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- I am surprised that the honorable member for Darwin should oppose this proposal. As a true protectionist, anxious to foster new industries, he ought to recognise that the passing of this clause would giVe a great impetus to the manufacture of waste-paper baskets for the homes of the unfortunate electors of Australia. We are told that packages of newspapers weighing 20 ozs. may be sent through the post for id. Not much labour is involved in the delivery of bulk parcels to one address; but surely it is not proposed to send bulk packages of electioneering circulars weighing 20 ozs. into every home. If this proposal be adopted, it will impose a heavy burden on the Postal Department, which might be called upon, for id., to deliver 400 or 500 packages of advertisements in as many different homes. I do not think that the Commonwealth, can afford that, and I shall therefore oppose the proposition.
Mr. CARPENTER (Fremantle). - I wish to say a word or two on the serious side of this question. I believe that the honorable member for Kooyong has the very best intentions in submitting this amendment, but I would point out that he is asking us to vote certain privileges that will be peculiar to ourselves. Honorable members know that “in connexion with the question of the taxation of Federal incomes there has been considerable unrest and criticism among the people. Surely we do not desire to add to their just cause of complaint by deliberately voting to ourselves privilege’s which will not “be granted to the general public. It is not even proposed to extend the concession to -candidates for elections to the States Parliaments. Members of those Legislatures would have a perfect right to ask, “ Why should’ Federal members vote themselves privileges which are denied to us?” The same remark will apply to the position of candidates for election to municipal and district councils, as well as other public bodies. If the honorable member intends to be consistent, by proposing to extend this privilege to the general community, I shall be prepared to consider his proposition ; but if .we conferred these special privileges upon ourselves, we should subject ourselves to welldeserved criticism. I hope that the amendment will be rejected.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Fremantle has dealt quite fairly with this proposed new clause. The matter does not concern me, since I so seldom change my views on any question that my constituents nave them in a stereotyped form; but I can quite understand that it is a matter of keen concern to some honorable members, who may change their views at every fresh election. I Have the greatest respect for the stability of the views of my honorable friend, the member for Kooyong ; but, as he represents a constituency which has a moving population, it becomes necessary for him, no doubt, from time to time, to let them know, by means of addresses, what his views are on current topics. There is a very serious side to this proposal, and I think that the honorable member for Fremantle has quite missed the point. The “honorable member for Kooyong does not -wish to give Members of Parliament an ad vantage over other people. He has pointed out that it is possible to send through the post 20 ozs. of newspapers in bulk for id.
– Yes ; that is the point. One may take twenty newspapers to the post-office, weighing, an ounce each, and have them distributed over the country broadcast for id. The honorable member for Kooyong merely contends that, for educational purposes, the addresses of candidates for election to this Parliament are quite as valuable as newspapers, and should be distributed by the post-office at the same rates. I do not think that he is asking for a privilege; he merely desires that candidates shall be allowed to take advantage of the existing practice in regard to newspapers. Presumably, the ground upon which newspapers may be posted at such a cheap rate is that they contain at least a modicum of educational matter; and it is only fair to assume that the addresses of parliamentary candidates will do the same. I speak quite disinterestedly, because I am not likely to avail myself of the privilege, since my constituents do not need matter of this kind !
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- The honorable member for Wentworth is under a misapprehension,. The Post and, Telegraph Rates Act provides that the postage of newspapers shall be id. for 20 ozs. aggregate weight, although each newspaper is in a separate wrapper. I do not look upon the proposal of the honorable member for”’ Kooyong as anything very dreadful, but I would point out to the Committee that the object which he has in view could be achieved if he had his addresses printed in his local newspaper, and .then circulated.
– That might be difficult to arrange.
– He could get them printed if he were willing to pay for the printing.
– His local newspapers happen to be the Age and the Argus.
– There are several small newspapers in the Kooyong electorate, any one of which the honorable member could avail himself of for the publication of his addresses, and he could have copies of these newspapers posted at the rate of id. for 20 ozs. Still. I see no objection to the insertion of this provision in the Bill. It is a very fair one, and will operate as usefully for one party as for another. I db not share the rather pessimistic views of the honorable member for Darwin, and see nothing dangerous in the proposal.
– The candidate should certify that they are election addresses.
– That is a detail, and is provided for by the words “ as prescribed by regulation.”
Mr. STORRER (Bass).- I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that, although we have control of the post-office, we should not use it to give special concessions to ourselves which are not given to other public men.
– They cannot be given to other than candidates for the Federal, Parliament.
– Then we should not give this privilege to candidates for the Federal Parliament. The addresses of candidates for the States Parliaments are relatively as important as those of candidates for this Parliament. I hope that the Committee will show its independence and wisdom by rejecting the proposal.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong has been received with a certain amount of hilarity ; but I trust that it will be seriously considered, as it is of importance, especially to candidates who have to address widely-scattered country constituents.
– Who has most to gain by the arrangement - the candidate or the electors?
– The electors have to be informed of the views of the candidates before they can choose rightly between them, and it is fair to both parties that the best means available should be used for making them known.
– Is not the best means to address constituents in a public hall?
– The honorable member could address from an hotel balcony practically the whole of his electorate, and could go all over.it in his motor car in a very short space of time; but it would take six months to visit all the small centres of population in my electorate. The honorable member for Darling, who represents a larger constituency, tells me that he has not yet seen half of his electors, and I question if I have seen half of mine. If the amendment be adopted it will facilitate the circulation of candidates’ views through the electorates, and. I understand, the means proposed will be available to all candidates, and not only to retiring mem bers. I think, too, that it should be extended to candidates for States Parliaments.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne). - If I understand that the privilege contemplated by the honorable member for Kooyong is to be conferred only upon candidates, I have no objection to it. I understand that 20 ozs. of newspapers can be sent through the post for one penny, and, although that seems to me to be a large weight of matter to forward at such a low rate, there is no reason why candidates should not derive some benefit from the regulation. I do> not think that any political association should be able to make use of the name of a member, because the cost of sending circulars or manifestoes through the post would have to be included in such member’s election expenses. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has made a playful allusion to an assumed change of opinion on the part of the honorable member for Kooyong. I have known the honorable member for many years, and I have found him to be a true friend and a good mate. I have no reason to quarrel with him except in regard to his political opinions. I should be pleased if he did change his views,, and bring himself more into line with those who are endeavouring, to lift up humanity. I shall support the proposal.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley). - I would warn honorable members of the probable consequences of adopting the proposed new clause. At the time of the Federal referendum, the leading newspapers in New South Wales forwarded copies of some of their special political issues to every elector in the State, and the mail services became so congested that the coaches were laden with mail matter to the exclusion of passengers.,, in some cases for many days. If every candidate is to be permitted to forward bulky parcels of manifestoes through the post under the conditions proposed, the mail services wilt not be able to meet the demands made upon them. It seems to me that there is a disposition on the part of honorable members to substitute the manifesto for the address from the platform, and I am astonished that members of a party who have for so long prided themselves upon their ability to appeal to the sympathies of the electors by addresses from the rostrum should now be found supporting the honorable member for Kooyong. Those who wish to issue manifestoes can do so at their own expense. I shall certainly not be any party to encouraging a practice which I feel sure will cause a breakdown in the postal service. The chances are that many honorable members of the Labour Party, instead of wooing the electors by means of addresses written by themselves will forward to them manifestoes drawn up by some skilful journalist in the pay of the party.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- At present the poor man who happens to be a candidate for Parliament does not usually adopt the method of printing manifestoes and sending them to the electors ; but he may be encouraged by the facilities which it is proposed to offer to place himself upon an equality with a richer opponent, who makes liberal use of the printing press and’ the post. If the mail services became blocked, as predicted by the honorable member for Dalley, the poor candidate would at least have the satisfaction of knowing that if his own manifesto could not reach the electors, his opponent would be at a similar disadvantage. Newspapers very frequently circulate special issues of their journals among the electors in any division in which they desire to give special support to a candidate. Under the proposal of the honorable member for Kooyong, the candidate against whose interests the newspapers are working will be able to counteract their influence to some extent by distributing countermanifestoes. I should like to hear what the Postmaster-General has to say as to the practicability of the proposal. I have some sympathy with the honorable gentleman when these demands are made upon his Department. The honorable member for Kooyong has not appreciated the responsibilities he is imposing upon the Postmaster-General, but I am prepared to vote for the amendment if the Minister is prepared to accept those responsibilities.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- I wish to guard against any suspicion that the remarks which I made in a spirit of persiflage, as a contribution to the humour which has permeated most of the discussions of to-day, were not made with reference to any particular member of the Committee. The honorable member for Kooyong is an old friend of thirty years’ standing; and there is nothing I should regret more than to lead him to suppose that I made a joke at his expense. The honorable member’s views are so much like my own that I might almost say they are identical with them. I am quite equal to more persiflage, if it is necessary ; but I wish now to treat the matter seriously, because I think that, possibly, the honorable member for Kooyong might consider that I was willing to make a joke and sacrifice my friend. I had no idea in making a joke to give it any point regarding the honorable member personally.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- The PostmasterGeneral should seriously consider this proposition, because it will be possible under it for 500 of these manifestoes, if they are reasonably brief, to be sent through the post for one penny. In the circumstances, the matter is one which vitally affects the Post and Telegraph Department. The authorities of that Department will not know when they will be deluged with these manifestoes, and therefore, for some time before an election, they will require to employ a large number of temporary hands to be prepared to deal with them. It is extraordinary that the Minister in charge of the Department should be prepared to stand by without protest while another Minister accepts an amendment which will have a most serious effect upon his Department.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will be prepared to grant to candidates for State Parliaments a concession similar to that which has just been granted to candidates for this Parliament?
– That would have to be done under the Postal Rates Act. It could not be done under this measure.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I do not object to the suspension of the Standing Orders, but I desire to point out that a number of the concessions which have been granted under this Bill will involve serious inroads upon the revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department. I do not know the view of the PostmasterGeneral, but I can tell the House, that when this matter was discussed by the last Government, one of the points which I considered it to be my duty to bring before my colleagues was whether the revenue of the Department ought not to be increased by a contribution from the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department. If the Post and Telegraph Department is made to bear more than its share of the electoral expenditure, it is evident that it will be a long time before we shall be able to afford to concede penny postage to the people of Australia. If the PostmasterGeneral will look through this Bill, he will find that a large number of concessions have “been granted, involving a considerable loss of revenue to his Department, not only in regard to the transmission of matter for parliamentary candidates, but also in respect of reductions in the cost of telegrams. These concessions must interfere seriously with the departmental business, as well as reduce the revenue. Has the PostmasterGeneral made a calculation as to their probable effect? It has been suggested that the whole of the administrative work under this measure should be undertaken by the Post and Telegraph Department. If that view is to be adopted, it will mean further serious burdens upon the Department. Many of us have at heart the desirableness of bringing about pennypostage throughout Australia. We admit that at present the revenue cannot bear the strain. But every one of these conces sions makes it more difficult to inaugurate that reform. What steps are to be taken to recompense the Department for the large amountof additional work that will be entailed upon it, and for the depletion of its revenue? These matters should receive the serious consideration of the PostmasterGeneral.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I should like to learn from the PostmasterGeneral whether it is intended to make higher payments to the various mail contractors throughout the Commonwealth who will have to carry all the literature that will be transmitted under the provisions which have just been inserted in this Bill? Is it intended to sweat the contractors in the interests of candidates for Parliament? I think it is an outrage that this kind of thing should be done. If we, as members of this House, wish to increase our emoluments, let us increase them in a direct way, not by side winds, by means of which we think the public will not know what we are doing. We ought not to pass laws which mean increasing the burdens on the people in this fashion. For my own part, I think that what we have done will be of very little advantage to candidates, though it will seriously decrease the revenue. I regret to say that the Bill has been debated throughout with the idea of securing more advantages to ourselves rather than from the point of view of increasing the public advantage. Our object seems to have been not to. serve and help the public, but to assist those who stand as candidates for Parliament. I enter my strongest protest against what has been done.
– The debate is somewhat irregular. The motion before the Chair is that the Standing Orders be suspended. On the motion for the adoption of the report, such remarks as have been made by the last two honorable members who have spoken will be in order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - There is much to be said in favour of the view of the honorable member for New England. I think that when the Government recognise how many propositions they have accepted, which cannot but have a result beneficial to Members of Parliament, whilst they are detrimental to the public interest, they will be anxious to show by their administration that they do not regard Members Of Parliament as in any way more deserving of consideration at the hands of the Commonwealth than ordinary citizens.
– Does not the amendment just carried in Committee apply to every candidate as well as to Members of Parliament”?
– But we all know that a candidate is a potential member of Parliament.. Even the honorable gentleman in his Jess confident moments will recognise that.
– Does the provision not apply to the carriage of newspapers now ?
– Not to the same degree, as I have shown. I do not wish to debate that question, but to suggest to the Government the propriety of following their action to its logical conclusion, however disastrous the consequences may be to the taxpayers. Are only candidates for seats in this Parliament to receive these extraordinary advantages? Should not all candidates at elections - municipal, State, and Commonwealth - get ,the same advantage under this Bill ? We are told that because honorable members’ speeches and manifestoes are educational in their effect they are to get this exceptional treatment-. Are not all speeches delivered at municipal and State elections equally educational in their effect, and, if so, will not the Government carry out this project to its logical conclusion? Again, if the advertisements, of candidates for Federal honours are held to be educational in their effect, why should not the advertisements of any member of the community be also carried at the same extraordinarily cheap rates? I would suggest to the Government that if they do not wish to be held guilty by the people at large of feathering the nest of present or potential members of the House, they will be compelled to follow out their action to its logical conclusion, however extensive the consequences may be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise to move that the Bill be not read a third time until to-morrow.
– Order ! The honorable member can debate the question of the third reading of the Bill, but he cannot move that motion.
– In the earlier portion of the sitting, sir, I desired to bring certain facts before honorable members with regard to the Bill, and in now rising to oppose its third reading, I des,ire to know exactly how I stand. I understood that any honorable member could move against the third reading of a Bill, and give his reasons for so doing. I desire to move an amendment which would not deal with the Bill itself, but which, if carried, might be accepted by the Ministry as an intimation of the views of a majority of honorable members. I understood that I should be perfectly in order in taking that course, and, perhaps, you will put me right if I am wrong in my impression.
-I understood that the honorable member desired to have an opportunity to refer to certain matters of which he informed me. He has now that opportunity ; but as to the question whether or not any amendment he may desire to move is in order, I should need to be apprised of what it is before I could offer an opinion. _ Mr. Chanter. - On a point of order, sir, I desire to ask_ whether it will not be competent for the honorable member to move. as an amendment to the motion, that the Bill be read a third time on a future day ?
-The honorable member for Wilmot informed me that he desired to make a speech on a certain aspect of the question, and I informed him that at this stage he could do that without the slightest hindrance, and without moving an amendment. Of course, if he desires to move that the Bill be read a third time on “ this day six months,” he is entitled to do so.
– I desire that honorable members should have an opportunity of considering whether they have not made a mistake in agreeing to certain clauses of this Bill, and the only way in which I can give practical effect to that desire is by taking this course. At an earlier period of the sitting two honorable members who have had practical experience of the trial of election petitions by the High Court expressed their views on the subject. Although they were successful candidates, still they have expressed the strongest objection to election petitions being decided by that tribunal. My position is that of an unsuccessful petitioner. I propose to submit certain facts, and honorable members will then understand that not only successful, but unsuccessful, . candidates are equally opposed to. petitions being heard in the future by the High Court. Nineteen months ago a general election was held, and in my candidature for the Denison seat I was defeated by twenty-eight votes. Finding that, in a number of instances, bribery had been used, I decided to petition against the .return of the successful candidate. I lodged my deposit of ,£50, and filed a petition df ten clauses, seven of which dealt distinctly with bribery, the remainder simply asking for a recount of the votes. After a considerable time the Chief Justice appointed a certain day on which it was to be heard. A short time before that day my opponent, through his solicitors, applied to the Chief Justice, in Chambers, in Sydney, to have seven clauses struck out of the petition, and His Honour gave me seven days in which to show cause why that should not be done. As it takes some days for the mail to reach Hobart, the result was that, when my counsel had to show cause, he found that he could not get his objections lodged in time. As a matter of fact, the written objections which were posted immediately after we received the notice, reached Sydney twentyfour hours after the Judge had ordered the clauses to be struck out. We found that it was impossible to get bur objections there in time, and we had to have recourse to the telegraph wire ; but I need hardly point out that it is impossible for an advocate to be instructed as to His case as fully by wire as in writing. Sir Samuel Griffith, who authorized the case to come before him in chambers, also heard the case.
– Does the honorable memoer mean to say that only seven days were allowed to send across to Tasmania?
– Only seven days were allowed after the application.
– Where were the objections filed?
– In Sydney. The day of trial arrived, and Sir Samuel Griffith came to Hobart to preside at the hearing. When the case was called, Mr. Lodge, my representative, rose to complain of the manner in which we had been treated, pointing out that sufficient time had not been afforded to prepare the case. To this Sir Samuel Griffith replied: “I do not know why those clauses were struck out; they ought not to have been.” These were the words used by the very Judge who had himself ordered the clauses to be struck out. I can assure honorable members that every word I say is absolutely true.
– What did the honorable member’s counsel say ?
– What could my counsel say, except that the clauses had been struck out against his will ? Then Sir Samuel Griffith added, as an afterthought, that our Sydney representative had consented to that course; and my counsel retorted that if that were so, our- representative had done so contrary to our express instructions, but that it could not be believed that he had so acted. Honorable members who paid some attention to the election petitions heard at that time may remember that Sir Samuel Griffith said that he had no power to deal with cases of bribery. When our case was proceeding, he told my counsel and myself that, although he had no power to deal with a single case of bribery, if many cases of bribery occurred, and could be proved, he had power to deal with them, and would do so. What was my position? The Judge had struck out the seven clauses on which I relied to prove my case, and then he coolly turned round and said that he had no power to deal with bribery. When it was originally proposed that the High Court should be the tribunal to hear election petitions I supported the idea, and in this connexion I would like to remind honorable members of a certain provision in the original Electoral Act to the effect that any evidence, even if not strictly legal, which, was likely to lead to substantial justice being done, should be admitted. Sir Samuel Griffith, being a man of legal mind, absolutely refused to allow us to take advantage of that section. Just before the luncheon hour arrived on one day during the trial, my counsel placed Mr. Sei;gar in the witness-box, and proposed to examine him, but Sir Samuel Griffith would not allow that to be done. When the Court met after lunch, the Chief Justice decided that if we could connect Seagar, who was the officer in charge of the Invalid Station, near Hobart, with the bribery, &c, he might be examined. This, it must be remembered, was after the Judge had refused point blank to allow us to examine Mr. Seagar, although he was one of my most important witnesses in connexion with the case then being investigated. My counsel must take responsibility for the fact that, although my principal witness had been present in Court from 10 o’clock in the morning until the adjournment for lunch, he had disappeared when the Court resumed. Thereupon, Sir Samuel Griffith said : “ I will give you an hour to find the witness, and if you can find him within that time, and can connect Mr. Seagar with the bribery, I shall allow you to crossexamine him.’” I have no hesitation in saying, that if the investigation had been conducted by a Committee of this House, an adjournment would have been granted for a reasonable time, in order to enable us to find the witness, and compel him to give evidence, under the section to which I have referred. Hobart is a town of some 36.000 inhabitants, and of fairly large area ; and, although we searched carefully, the witness could not be found within the hour which had been allowed. I ask honorable members to put themselves in my position, which may be theirs fourteen months hence. I am sure we all desire that substantial justice shall be done; and. if I can convince honorable members that justice was not done in my case, I think I may fairly ask them to reconsider the position. Then, we desired to investigate a large number of postal votes. The Chief Justice, however, declined to allow us to examine the flaps attached to them, to see whether the signatures corresponded, and therefore it was idle to proceed with the inspection. Judgment was entered against me, and I was saddled with costs. A little later, I left to attend to my parliamentary duties here, and immediately upon my arrival, feeling that I had been badly treated, I gave notice of a motion in favour of the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into all matters connected with the Denison petition. I did not for a moment entertain the idea that I could unseat the honorable member for Denison, but I desired to bring the subject before the Committee, so that Parliament might subsequently be afforded an opportunity to decide whether or not we ought to revert to the old system of referring all disputed elections to a parliamentary tribunal. I asked my barrister to forward the telegram and the letter of instructions to which I have referred, in order that I might be in a position to prove my case. He ignored my request. In the short space of three months I wrote to him upon six occasions, and per sonally saw him once. The only answer I got from him was that he was feeling unwell, arid intended to leave for a holiday. He promised that upon his, return he would attend to the matter, but he failed to do so. I was, therefore, compelled to renew my notice of motion in regard to a parliamentary inquiry from time to time. It remained upon the business-paper for the whole of that session, and was renewed again this session. The election petition was heard on 18th April, 1903, and from the next day till 7th October, 1905, I was not asked to pay a single penny of my opponent’s expenses. But a short time ago, in view of the large amount of Government business upon the paper, the Prime Minister moved that private members’ business be set on one side for the remainder of the session. Only three or four days after that notice of motion appeared, I received the following telegram: -
Have just received documents which you better peruse. Shall I post to Bentley or Melbourne? Wire reply.
The wire was signed by F. Lodge, who acted as my counsel. That telegram was followed within a few days by the following letter, which is dated Hobart, 9th October,^ 1905 -
Dear Sir, - The document as to which we telegraphed you was the long delayed bill of costs of Sir Philip Fysh of the Denison election petition. We now post it you herewith for your perusal and observation. The total amount is j£i85 gs. Please return the bill by Thursday morning next, as the taxation is adjourned to that day.
– Does that .£185 represent an amount in addition to what the honorable member had to pay himself?
– How much did the honorable member pay himself?
– Close upon £200. Besides, I wish to direct special attention to the fact that whilst my motion in favour of the appointment of .1 Select Committee remained upon the business-paper the bill of costs was never presented. But just about the time it had to disappear from the business-paper, the bill of costs was presented.
– The honorable member has called attention to the fact that he has a notice of motion upon the businesspaper relating to this very question. In spite of that fact, he is entitled to make a general reference to the cost of a disputed1 election, which was heard by the High’
Court, but I do not think he is in order in discussing in detail the matters to which he refers.
– I should like to point out that I am not now asking for the appointment of a Select Committee. I desire to impress upon honorable members the point that substantial justice cannot be done as long as election petitions are dealt with by the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns, instead of being referred to an Elections and Qualifications Committee. I am bringing forward facts.
– The honorable member will be quite in order in speaking on those lines. Even his notice of motion would not preclude him from doing so; but I fail to see what relation the point as to the date on which a bill of costs was rendered, as well as the other matters to which the honorable member was referring when I interrupted him, cam have to the question.
– But if I can connect them?
– If the honorable member can do so, I shall have no more it say.
– I wish to show honorable members what a petition cost me, so that they may h’ave an idea of the costs to which they may be subjected should they be concerned in an election dispute.
– The honorable member will be perfectly in order in doing so; but that matter has no relation to the date when a certain bill of costs was delivered.
– The bill of costs was not rendered for a year [and eight months. It was then taxed, and within twenty-four hours I received notice that ,if it were not immediately paid proceedings ‘would be taken for its recovery. I wish to show honorable members that there is something very suspicious in connexion with the case. I am actuated only by one feeling. I have been through the mill, and have suffered. Two other honorable members have also been through the mill, and, notwithstanding that they have been successful, they agree with me that is is undesirable that election petitions should in future be dealt with by the High ‘Court as a Court of Disputed Returns. That is the point that I wish to strongly impress upon honorable members. The Ministry, and particularly the Minister of Home Affairs, bave taken up an attitude towards me that Is scarcely fair. The Minister in charge of the Bill did everything in his power to prevent me, at an earlier stage in the proceedings, from dealing with this question. I shall not say’ that his action was due to the fact that he is a lawyer, or was prompted by any desire to prevent a slur ‘being past upon the High Court; but if honorable members desire substantial justice to be done them in connexion with any election dispute with which they may be concerned - if they desire to see the law, which is designed to secure purity of elections, carried out as it should be - they will decline to allow electoral petitions to be dealt with by the High Court.
– It means ruination to any but a wealthy man.
– T am not so much concerned with the effect which this system may have upon a man’s pocket ; I am actuated by a far higher motive. I think that honorable members are desirous that the will of the electors shall be carried out, and that the intention of the law shall be observed. That being so, they should see that, when a petition is lodged on the ground that the law has been violated, the petitioner shall have fair play.
– And we never had it.
– I can say honestly that I did not have fair play. The only three honorable members capable of expressing an opinion on this question are unanimously against the continuation of the present system. I have endeavoured, as well as I can, to lay the matter before the House, and have no desire to trespass further upon its indulgence. Only one election petition was dealt with by the Elections and Qualifications Committee appointed by the first Parliament, and I believe that that tribunal did substantial justice. I favour the appointment of an Elections and Qualifications Committee, and do not care how it may be constituted; my sole desire is to endeavour to benefit my fellow members. If I succeed in doing so, I shall feel that I have done something for the parliamentary institutions of Australia. I had proposed to move that the Bill be not read a third time until to-morrow, and to suggest that if the motion were agreed to, the Government should regard it as an intimation that the majority of the House were against the High Court being the Court of Disputed Returns. But as I understand that a satisfactory promise has been made in regard to this matter, I shall refrain from submitting such a motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from9thNovember (vide page 4908) on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
In lieu of the duty of Excise imposed by the Excise Tariff 1902, there shall, as from and including the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and seven, be imposed on sugar the fallowing Duty of Excise : -
Sugar - per cwt. of manufactured sugar - Four shillings.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “imposed,” line 1, the words “ upon sugar “ he inserted.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the following words be added : - “Which duty shall be charged, collected, and paid to the use of the King for the purposes of the Commonwealth : Provided that this Act shall not apply to or affect the duty imposed by the Excise Tariff 1902 upon sugar produced from cane grown and delivered for manufacture before the 1st January, 1907.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
The first amendment merely varies the original amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney in a way of which I think he will approve. The next provides that questions may be put to immigrants within a year after they have entered the Commonwealth. The third is the insertion of a new clause, making misrepresentations to a contract immigrant an offence, while the last requires the Minister to lay on the table of both Houses of Parliament a return showing the number of immigrants who have been admitted, the places from which they have come, and the number refused admission.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ;report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Earlier in the evening I inadvertently voted on a question in regard to which I had paired with the honorable member for Maranoa. I was in the Library when the division was called for, and the bells rung, and, on entering the Chamber, naturally seated myself on the same side as the Minister of Home Affairs, since I was supporting the Government. Before I discovered the fact that the question involved the recommittal of a clause affecting the Court of Disputed Returns, the tellers had been appointed, and, although I was reminded of my mistake by the honorable member for Riverina, it was then too late to leave the Chamber. I had previously said to the Government whip - “ I think I am paired ; “ but he had replied - “No, you are not,” not knowing of the arrangement with the honorable member for Maranoa, which I had forgotten, and which, through our own fault, had not been recorded. I feel annoyed at having made this mistake, and desire to offer my apology to the honorable member for Maranoa for having broken the pair, which I regard as a serious thing to do. The division, too, was a very close one, and without my vote would have been a tie ; but I think that thehonorable member for Canobolas will not object to mv saying that, althoughhe voted for the recommittal, he did so not knowing that the clause proposed to be inserted in the Bill had been discussed earlier in the day. He voted on the recommittal to allow debate, but was himself opposed to its insertion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.57p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 December 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051215_reps_2_30/>.