2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
PERTH-FRE MANTLE CABLES : WAGES.
Mr. CARPENTER asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that men employed by his Department in laying cables-, between Perth and Kiemantle are being paid only 7s. per day - the recognised rate for such work in Western Australia being not less than is. per hour?
Is the payment of this reduced rate being made with his knowledge or consent ; or will lie give instructions that the recognised minimum wage be paid?
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN. - Inquiry is being made, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.
Mr. CHANTER asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In view of the Attorney-General having given his opinion, that military clerks are not eligible for transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service, and the statement made by the Minister for Defence in the Senate on the 12th September, 1905, that they (the military clerks) had a very just cause of complaint in not being classified under the Commonwealth Public Service Act - Is it the intention of the Government to introduce legislation this session to bring them under the Public Service Act?
If not, does the Government propose to make some provisional arrangement such as that suggested by the honorable member for Werriwa in this House on the 31st October, 1905, to meet what the military clerks regard as the injustice of their position ?
Mr. EWING. - The answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions are as follow : -
In view of the pressing and important business requiring the attention of Parliament, it is not possible to introduce legislation on the subject this session.
Being expressly excluded from the provisions of the Public Service Act, no provisional arrangements, even if such were desirable, can be made.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have not had time this morning to look at the paragraph referred to; but I shall endeavour to give the honorable member an answer on Tuesday next.
Debate resumed from 28th August (vide page 3486), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Wilks had moved by; way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ it is not expendient to proceed further with this Bill during the present session for the following reasons : -
.- I am anxious that a vote shall be taken oh this Bill, so that we may see who are in favour of the principle which it embodies, and who are opposed to it. Every honorable member has at some time expressed himself as desirous of procuring majority rule, and whether the Bill, if passed into law’ would achieve that end can be known only by practical experience.
– The Government said last night that they would go on with the Referendum Bill this morning.
– No; with the Preferential Ballot Bill.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say last night that he would this morning proceed with the Preferential Ballot Bill. It has been suggested by some honorable gentlemen that, instead of providing for the preferential ballot we should adopt the second ballot; but I cannot see that we should obtain from the second ballot a result differing from that which would be obtained from the preferential ballot. I think that a smaller number of electors would take part in the second ballot than would take part in the first ballot, so that the system of the second ballot, in addition to being more costly than the preferential balloting system, would give the result of a smaller number of votes. It has been objected that the Bill makes “the adoption of preferential voting optional, and does not apply the principle to Senate elections.
– Does the honorable member think that the measure will become law?
– No, because certain honorable members who profess to believe in it are willing to make any excuse for voting against it.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– The honorable member for Dalley has moved an amendment which, while it declares in favour of the principle of the measure, raises the objection that the time is inopportune for embodying it in legislation. That is always the cry of the Opposition when proposals for legislation are brought forward. I admit that the measure is being discussed very late in the session, and that if it is passed there will be hardly sufficient time to provide for its administration. We are told that the electors would not be able to get! a grip of the system if it were applied to the next election ; but I think that they are intelligent enough to do so. At the last election, we adopted an entirely new system. Previously, the electors in nearly every State had been accustomed to strike out the names of the candidates for whom they did not desire to vote; but at the last election they were required to place a cross in the square opposite the name of the candidate whom they wished to elect. At the forthcoming election, the squares will be placed on the right hand instead of at the left hand of the candidates’ names, and under the system provided for in the Bill electors would be asked to indicate the order of their preference by numbers placed in those squares, or if they preferred, by placing a cross opposite the name of the candidate for whom they voted. I admit that it is inconsistent for ‘ Parliament, having made it compulsory that, in the Senate election, electors shall vote for three candidates, to make the preferential system optional. I opposed the provision which requires electors to vote for three candidates in the . Senate election, because I thought that they should be allowed to vote for only two candidates, or even for one, if they did not wish to vote for more.
– The Labour Party gained two senators by the system adopted.
– Yes ; and no doubt those who were responsible for the adoption of that system are sorry for it now. Like a number of other schemes for dishing the Labour Party, it did not work out as it was thought it would.
– Is this a scheme to dish’ the Labour Party?
– If honorable members opposite thought that it would have that effect they would support it.
– Quibbling again.
– If I were in the habit of quibbling, as the honorable member is, I should never do anything else. I believe that the electors will readily understand the preferential system of voting, and that fewer informal votes will be cast under it than under the old New South Wales system. In Victoria preferential voting has been tried, in connexion with the selection of labour candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate. I have here. a copy of the ballotpaper used. Professor Nanson, in speaking of one of these ballots, stated that the preferential system had received a setback, because in March last it took more than a month to ascertain the result of the voting; but he claimed that he could have ascertained the result in four, hours. I was connected with the ballot in question, and was present during the greater part of the time that the count was going on. The actual count of ballot-papers did not take much more than a week. We had, however, to obtain returns from branches scattered all over Victoria. All the ballotpapers issued, used and unused, had to be counted to. make sure that the balloting had beeni conducted in a straightforward manner. The Labour Party’s system is different from that adopted by some of the other parties. Evidently machine politics is being introduced on the other side, at least so far as Victoria is concerned ; but we find that a candidate who was alleged to have been indorsed by his party, a certain Mr. Brown, is now ordered to stand down in the interests of someone else. The executive, which meets in Collins-street and pulls the strings, has no doubt decided that he is not good enough. Every candidate chosen by the Labour organizations, however, is permitted to go to the poll. No such candidate would be asked to stand down in the interests of someone else. Professor Nanson, in arc article on the preferential ballot which appeared in the Age, gives as an illustration an election in which the result of the first count showed the strength of the free-traders to be 500, of the Labour Party 400, and of the protectionists- 300, and says that as soon as these figures were announced the merest tyro could foresee the result of the election. He declares that -
When the protectionist candidate at the foot of the poll is rejected, all the protectionist votes will go to the Labour candidate, who will thereby secure election.
Professor Nanson is himself a tyro, so far as practical politics is concerned, as that remark shows. There is now running in the protectionist interest, as a candidate for the Senate, a Mr. Charles Atkins, who is in favour of a high Tariff and freedom of contract. Will any one say that the votes which would be cast for him would have been cast for a Labour candidate, if he did not stand ? He is the man who, when the Trade Marks Bill was before the House, used to supply the members of the Opposition with information which might assist them in defeating the union label provisions, and he acted similarly when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before us-
– What nonsense. I have never received a communication from him ir: my life, and I do not think that any one else has.
– I know that he took this action. I have it on the authority of a member of the Opposition, who is not present - a failing with the Opposition generally.
– The honorable member is a perky little man.
– I object to the honorable member for Yarra being called perky ; that is my privilege.
– The honorable member for Parramatta cannot help saying what he does. It is natural for the honorable member to insult any one who may happen to be on his feet. He cannot keep the peace even with members on his own side of the Chamber. When the honorable and 1 learned member for Farkes was speaking the other evening, the honorable member for Parramatta engaged in a wordy warfare with him - presumably because he was not playing speaks ‘ ‘ with the honorableandlearned member - unti,l you, sir, put a stop to the personal interchanges.
– I am bound to give a denial to the honorable member’s untrue statements.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word “ untrue,” and substitute the word “ incorrect.”
– I say that it is correct that the candidate who has been selected by the Protectionist Association-
– Will the honorable member please discuss the Bill.
– As it would be quite competent for the Senate to make the measure applicable to the election of members of that Chamber, I desired to point out how the voting would probably take place.
– I did not call the honorable member to order on account of any references of that kind, but owing to his allusion to extraneous matters, and- to certain remarks which have been withdrawn.
– It has been stated that the time occupied in the counting of the votes at an election under the contingent voting system would be so great that the result could not be announced within a reasonably short period. It has also been shown that the contingent vote has not been exercised in Queensland. The electors can hardly be blamed for failing to cast a preferential vote if it is optional upon their part to exercise it. I admit that if the preferential voting system were adopted in connexion with the Senate elections, I should have some difficulty in deciding how I should express my preference, after casting my primary votes for three candidates. I could not very well give any kind of vote to a candidate who has declared that he is opposed to all labour legislation of whatever kind, nor could I support a candidate who has absented himself from the Chamber in order to avoid the necessity of recording his vote when certain divisions were impending, or one who has expressed himself in favour of imposing a duty upon kerosene and remitting the duty upon beer. In the exampleswhich have been given by the Age to illustrate the operation of the new system of voting, the Labour representative has occupied the position of the defeated candidate in every case. I can quite believe that if the supporters of the Labour candidate contented themselves by casting their primary votes, their opponents might, bv expressing their preference, eventually secure a victory. There is no doubt that the parties opposed to that with which I am associated will in many cases combine with a view to defeat the Labour candidate. The honorable member for Corinella has more than once advised the electors to combine to defeat the Labour Party. I remember reading a speech which the honorable and learned member delivered at Colac, in which he endeavoured to show that the Labour candidates had, in the majority of cases, been returned owing to the splitting of the votes of those who were opposed to them.
– I did not-say that. The honorable member did not show me the paper in which he said that he saw- a report to that effect.
– No, because I found that I had given it away to some one else. Certain honorable members on the other side of the Chamber have suggested that the Protectionist and Free-trade Parties should combine for the purpose of “ dishing : ‘ the Labour Party, and we know that a movement in that direction was inaugurated about two years ago.
– The honorable member will admit that he and others are combining to” dish ‘ ‘ us.
– So far as the Labour Party are concerned, there will be no combination at the next election. They will depend entirely upon the merits of their own platform.
– What did the AttorneyGeneral say at Warrnambool?
– I admit that according to the report of the Attorney-General’s speech, he appeared to be very rapidly coming round to our way of thinking. But his position, in that respect is not peculiar, because many honorable members are every day becoming more liberal in their ideas. The honorable member for Dalley, when he was proposing his amendment, suggested that we should adopt a system of selfregistration, which he said would be cheaper and more effective than that now adopted, and would lead to the enrolment of a much larger number of electors. We have had a modification of that system in operation in Victoria for some time. In addition to- the ratepayers on the roll, any person who desires an elector’s right may apply to the registrar and obtain one. At the first Federal election in my constituency the number of electors on the roll, prepared in the way I have described, was 13,000 adult males. When a little later on the police made a collection for the purpose of compiling a new roll, over 4,000 names were added, making a total of 17,000 electors. There had not been an increase of anything like 10 per cent, in the population in the meantime, and yet the number of electors on the roll was increased by 33 per cent.
– What increase was there in the percentage of votes recorded?
– It is impossible to say, because the ratepayers’ roll would include the names of many persons who would be entitled to vote elsewhere. Probably, with the increased number of electors on the roll, the percentage of votes recorded would be less than formerly. I think that we should extend to the people every opportunity of exercising the franchise in such a way as to insure that this House should accurately reflect their views. I do not know whether the measure now before us would promote that object, but I think that it should have a trial. I shall, therefore, support the second reading, of the Bill, and” do my best to make it effective.
– I candidly confess that I have a decided preference for the extension, of the voting power of the electors as far as possible. But I cannot understand why an important measure such as that before us should have been introduced in the closing hours of this Parliament.
– You can take off a. leg at the eleventh hour.
– Just so, but I think that the more simple our system of voting is, the: better it will be for the electors and for this House. If a measure of this kind had been passed in the first session of. this Parliament, the electors would have had opportunities to familiarize themselves with the new system of voting. But if the Bill be passed at this stage much confusion is bound to arise. If an elector does not vote for three candidates for the Senate his ballot-paper will be informal. In the case of the election of members of the. House of Representatives, however, the electors will have the right to exercise a preference, but may refrain; from doing so if they choose. In all these matters we should be guided by past experience. It is admitted that the optional preferential vote in Queensland has been a failure. Personally, I think that the Labour Party have been quite right in advising their supporters not to exercise the preferential voting, power. If I had an opportunity of plumping for two out of three candidates, I should certainly not throw away 33 per cent, of my voting power by giving a secondary vote to another candidate and thus run the risk of bringing about the defeat of One of those in favour of whom I had cast my primary vote. The position taken, up by the Labour Party in Queensland is. perfectly sound and ra- tional, and doubtless if this Bill became law the majority of voters of all parties would refrain from expressing their preference. We know that when the hordes of Russia were being defeated by the Swedes, Peter the Great said to His men, “Go on lighting - our enemies are teaching us how to defeat them.” In other words, the admirable discipline of the smaller body was impressing its lessons upon its opponents. I say that, in their system of organization, the Labour Party have set a splendid example to the rest of Australia’, and it is a great compliment to their methods that those who differ from them in politics are now employing similar methods. I understand from the representatives of Queensland that, in that State, the system of allowing voters to express a preference for particular . candidates at the ballot-box has been discarded by both political parties. Neither of them use it. Consequently, we are being asked at the eleventh hour of the session, when time is the very essence of the contract, to pass a Bill embodying a system of preferential voting which has already been tested in one of the States of the Commonwealth, and which has absolutely failed.
– Are we not paid to do some work?
– But Ave might employ our time much more profitably than by enacting legislation which has so utterly failed elsewhere.
– Where has similar legislation failed?
– In Queensland.
– Is that the only place upon God’s earth?
– It is the only State in Australia in which the system of preferential voting has been tried. The system embodied in the Bill is the very antithesis of what is known as the Hare system of voting. The honorable member for Bass supported the measure because he is an advocate of the Hare system. But the method of voting provided in the Bill is exactly the opposite of that system. The Hare system aims at securing the representation of minorities. Under it, as soon as a candidate has obtained his quota, the surplus votes recorded in his favour are distributed amongst the other candidates. The experience of the working of that system at two elections in Tasmania was such that, when an’ appeal was made to the country, scarcely a singje candidate advocated its continuance. The ex-Attorney-General, Mr. Clarke, who had written pamphlets in support of it, was obliged to give a public pledge that, if he were re-elected, he would not seek to re-introduce it. The aim of the optional system of preference which is incorporated in this Bill is to insure majority rule, and, if there be any virtue in it at all the exercise of the franchise ought to be made compulsory.
– Why is the Bill introduced ?
– My opinion is that it was introduced with the idea of making the preferential system of voting compulsory, but, as the result of pressure which has been brought to bear upon the Government, an optional system has been substituted.
– Give us credit for honest motives.
– I will. If the measure represents an honest attempt to secure majority rule, it should provide for a compulsory system of voting. So long as the preferential system is an optional one, so long we shall find that electors who vote upon party lines will not throw away a portion of their vote upon candidates other fhara the particular individual they desire to see returned. I was very much interested in the statement of the honorable member for Yarra that the names of 4,000 electors had been added to the rolls in his electorate as the result of a house-to-house canvass by the police. In my opinion, the persons who do not take the trouble to secure enrolment are the individuals who do not take the trouble to vote. I find that in New South Wales, at the last general election for this House, only 48 per cent, of the electors enrolled, or less than one-half, exercised the franchise. In Victoria, only 53 per cent., or a little more than one-half of those enrolled voted. Of the electors of Queensland, who hold the place of honour in this connexion, 57 per cent, voted, in South Australia 40 per. cent., in Western Australia 30 per cent., and in Tasmania 45 per cent. In Western Australia, not one elector out of three took^the trouble to exercise the franchise. In my judgment, parliamentary representation has now become something more than a privilege. When we conferred adult suffrage upon the people we imposed upon them a direct responsibility, and should the Bill a good showing. That showing is best illustrated by giving the Age, the Argus, and the Labour candidates. On looking at the results it will be seen (hat whilst the Age quartette scored the least number of votes, two of their nominees (Best and Styles) got in, whilst Labour, which scored 9,000 more votes, only got one senator (Findley) returned : -
The Labour candidates averaged 79>623 votes each, the Argus candidates 78,137 votes, and the Age candidates only 77 , 347. If the system proposed in this Bill had been in operation at the last election for the Senate, the result might have been different.
– The Labour Party would have secured the return of two candidates.
– Undoubtedly. If the scheme propounded in this Bill is of any value, the contingent vote ought to be compulsory, and should “apply also to elections for the Senate. A Bill of this kind, which does not attempt to provide for the compulsory exercise of the contingent vote, but merely sets forth that the elector may, if he chooses, mark his preference on the ballot-paper, is so much fudge, and it is only a waste of time to seriously debate it. There is one part of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley with which I agree. I allude to the reference in it to the fact that we are on the eve of a general election, and that it is absolutely impossible to coach the Electoral Department and the electors themselves in the new system before that election takes place. The Federal electoral system is vastly different from that to which the electors were previously accustomed. At the last general election is was responsible for many informal votes, and for appeals to the High Court, which subjected two or three candidates to very serious expenditure. Just as the people are beginning to understand the working of that system, however, a proposal is brought forward that, so far as elections for the House of Representatives are concerned, it shall be discarded. If we adopted the Bill we should offer a premium to the casting of informal votes, and the only result would be a repetition of our experience at the last general election, when several seats were challenged on technical grounds. These facts should make us chary about adopting the Bill. If its provisions had been embodied in the Electoral Bill that was dealt with last session they might have been threshed out, and thoroughly understood by the electors, but I feel that we are unable properly to deal with the question at this stage. Even if the amendment is rejected, I think that we may rely on the good sense of the Parliament to see that the Bill is not passed. I hope that honorable members on both sides of the House will take care that what is an incomplete and to a large extent a farcical proposal is not placed on the statute-book. The evil which it is intended to cure is not very serious. If it could be cured we ought to cure it; but I hold that this Bill does not really attempt to remedy it. The Ministry are practically prescribing a bread pill for what they say is a very serious disease, and I do not know that bread pills, whether administered by the Deakin Government or any other body of political physicians, are likely to prove beneficial. I do not hesitate to say that it is considered by the Government that the Bill will save the seats of certain honorable members who are to be opposed both by Opposition and Labour candidates. It is thought that the supporters of those candidates may record their second preference for the Government nominees, and thereby enable them to save their seats. Majority rule may be most speedily secured under an arrangement that only two candidates shall contest each electorate. Under such an arrangement we should have a straightout fight, and would have no difficulty, in determining which party had a majority of votes behind it. The Labour Party have gained their strength by means of wellorganized and closely-knit forces, and those who do not believe in their programme should in that respect follow their example. They should adopt that course rather than endeavour to secure seats by refraining from taking decided action with respect to certain political questions, and making concessions to both parties in the hope of securing second preferences which will enable them to save their political skins. This Bill is only a “ make-believe,” on the part of the Government, and I hope that if the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley be not carried, the Bill itself will be rejected.
.- As one of the few members who have had any experience of preferential voting - or what is really the Hare-Clark system - I may say at once that I am a thorough believer in it. Properly carried out, it is one of the best systems that could be adopted in connexion with general elections for the Commonwealth- Parliament. Although the Hare-Clark system had been applied for some time previously to State elections in Hobart and Launceston, it was not until the holding of the first Federal election in Tasmania that it was extended to rural electorates. But although, unfortunately, many of the more elderly people there, as elsewhere, have not been so well educated as are the younger members of the community, remarkably few mistakes were made. A system of that kind - a system that I have always advocated - is a good one ; but that proposed in this Bill is a hybrid. I think that the exercise of the contingent vote should be made compulsory. The fact that the Government propose that it should be optional is sufficient to satisfy any disinterested party that the Bill has been introduced for one purpose, and for one purpose only.
– For the sake of majority rule.
– I think not; I believe that it has been introduced to enable the Government to increase their strength at the next general elections.
– The honorable member would not blame them for that.
– I am not prepared to say that I should at any time blame a marr for endeavouring to save his political skin, but when a Minister introduces a Bill of this kind, I think that he ought to tell us plainly that it is designed not for the good of the community as a whole, but to save the political skins of certain honorable members. It must be apparent that the Government, in proposing that the exercise of the contingent vote should be optional, have but one object in view. They know that in many cases their candidates will be opposed by representatives of the Opposition and of the’ Labour Party, and that in nine cases out of teji the unionist, will not cast a contingent vote. They also know what are the tactics usually adopted by the Labour Partywhen they discover at the last moment that their candidate is not likely to be successful. In such circumstances the Labour leaders would probably say, “ We cannot secure the return of our man for this electorate, and the Opposition are of no use for our purpose. We can, however, squeeze the Ministerial candidate, and perhaps we had better chuck him a vote. ‘”’ That happened a few years ago in connexion with the election for Denison. The Labour Party on that occasion preferred the present representative of Denison to myself, and a large number of them voted for him at the last moment. Whether this Bill be passed or rejected it will always be open to the party to adopt such tactics; but I appeal to honorable members to say what useful purpose this Bill will serve unless! the system which it embodies is made compulsory. I am not prepared to say that if it were made compulsory I should not, at all events, give it my serious consideration. If we provided that every elector must vote for the full number of representatives for his electorate, the contingent vote would be compulsory.
– That principle applies to the Senate elections. The electors must vote for the full number of representatives to be elected.
– But as a rule the candidates for the Senate run on “ tickets.” As none of the States except Tasmania has had practical experience of this system, it would probably be advisable to postpone its adoption until after the next election. If the Minister of Home Affairs will withdraw the Bill, and, next Parliament, introduce another making the preferential system compulsory, I shall, if I am here, support it, and I should give even stronger support to a measure embodying the HareClark system. My desire is that the majority of the electors in each division shall be represented in Parliament. We have, in this House a signal, and. for the members of the Opposition, a painful example of the evils of minority rule.
– The honorable member believes in a minority of one.
– Even if the majority is a majority of one, and on the occasion referred to the majority was a very good one, that is better than the rule of a minority, such as we are getting at the present time as the result of the alliance between the Government and the Labour Party.
.- I am opposed to the Bill, and shall not hesitate to do all I can to wreck it. While, no doubt, we are all desirous of establishing majority rule, the effect of the Bill would not be to secure it. In my opinion, its tendency would be to give us minority rule in more instances than occur at present. Under the existing system, in divisions where party feeling runs high, the attempt is made to keep back unnecessary candidates. A weak party often refrains from putting a candidate into the field, knowing that it is unlikely that that candidate will be elected, and, fearing that, by splitting the voting, it may bring about the election of a candidate to which it is absolutely opposed. Under the preferential system, however, every party would be likely to put forward a candidate, because the chances of weak parties would be increased. An objection which has been urged against the Bill is that it makes the adoption of preferential voting optional, and not compulsory. I take it for granted that the Government desire majority rule, though, of course, I have my private opinion on the subject. To my mind, we get majority rule practically only when the majority holds definite opinions on certain questions. But, although some honorable members object to the Bill because it makes preferential voting optional’, and say that they would support the measure if the system were compulsory, I should then resist it even more strenuously, if possible, than I shall under present circumstances. I am not opposed to compelling electors to go to the poll, and I think that if we had compulsory voting, penalizing electors who did not go to the poll, it would play into the hands of the Labour Party. A large number of those who at present take no interest in politics, sympathize with, the Labour Party, and would, if they voted, vote for Labour candidates, while there are others who would certainly do so, but are prevented by their employers from going to the poll. Compulsory voting would bring about the recording of the votes of all such persons. But I should strongly object to the electors being compelled to vote for any one or any number of the candidates, because some electors might be opposed to every candidate nominated. Under the present system an elector is not compelled, even if he goes to the poll, to vote for any candidate, because he can make his ballotpaper informal. At the first Federal election, there were three candidates for Parkes. One of them was the present representative of that division.
– I suppose that the honorable member had little hesitation about voting for him.
– I could not vote for him, because, while I agree with him on some points, there are many points upon which I differ from him. The second candidate was a protectionist, who may have been in favour of protection and freedom of contract, as Mr. Charles Atkins announces himself to be; but, at any rate, I did not feel inclined to vote for him. The third candidate was announced as a Labour man ; but he had not been indorsed by the executive, and I knew nothing of him. I went to the poll, however, because there were two Labour candidates for the Senate, and, while handing in a formal ballotpaper for the Senate election, I made my other ballot-paper informal by scratching out every name on it.
– I have heard of an elector scratching out the names of all the candidates on the ballot-paper and writing in his own.
– With compulsory voting, the elector should be able to deal as he likes with his ballot-paper; but if, on the occasion to which I refer, the compulsory preferential system had been in force, and there had been a Labour candidate for the electorate of Parkes, I should have been compelled to vote for that candidate, and, to make my vote formal, to show a preference for the remaining candidates, none of whom I wished to vote for.
– The honorable member would bring the horse to the water, but would not make it drink.
– I object to the compulsory preferential system for the reasons which I have given. Another objection to the measure lies in the fact that its provisions do not apply to the Senate. In answer to a question asked by me during his second-reading speech, the Minister said that he had no objection to the measure being made applicable to Senate elections by the members of that Chamber, if they chose to amend it in that direction.
But is not this a Government measure, and do not the Government profess to be anxious to secure majority rule?
– That is what they are not anxious for.
– Ministers tell us that they are in favour of majority rule.
– Outside, but not inside the House.
– If they believed in majority rule, and thought that the Bill would secure it, they would surely have applied its provisions to Senate elections, as well as to elections for the House of Representatives. There is a strong probability that each of the three big parties will, in Victoria at any rate, run three candidates for the Senate. Both the Labour Party and the Protectionist Party will run three candidates each. I believe that the Freetrade Party has been joined by the honorable member for Echuca, and that he and the honorable member for Grampians, and a third candidate, will stand in the interests of that party, or, if honorable members like to term it so, the anti-Socialist party. It is generally believed, too, that no one of the three tickets will have a great advantage, in the matter of votes polled, over either of the other two. That being so, the Ministry should surely take advantage of their preferential system - and they are prepared to die to secure majority rule - to apply it to the Senate. Why not at least experiment with the Senate?
– Try it on the dog.
– If the system were seen to work well in Senate elections, we could subsequently adopt it for elections for the House of Representatives. Surely the Minister will give us a better reason than that already furnished for not applying the principle to Senate elections.
– He said that the time is too short in which to do so.
– I cannot see why there is not time to apply the principle to Senate elections if there is time to apply it to the House of Representatives elections. It would be just as easy for electors to indicate their preference for Senate candidates as to do so for candidates for the House of Representatives, although in one case there would be three candidates to choose, and in the other only one. The Age newspaper has been strongly supporting the Bill, and, in a leading article published a few days ago, pointed out that the honorable member for Corangamite represents a minority.
He is there spoken of as a free-trader, though he sometimes denies that he is. The votes polled for him at the last election numbered, according to the Age, 4,600, while 4.036 votes were cast for a candidate named Dunne, 1,484 for a candidate named Woods, and 2,968 for a candidate named Wynne. The writer of the article contends that if the preferential ballot had been in operation, the Labour candidate, Dunne, would have been declared elected, because the 1,484 votes polled for Woods, the candidate lowest on the poll, would have been added to Dunne’s 4,036 votes.
– Dunne was not a Labour man.
– I am accepting the statements of the Age. It is very kind and considerate of the Age to endeavour to secure the return of a Labour main, especially in view of the leading article which they published some short time ago in condemnation of the Labour Party and all its works. They forgot to say any/thing whatever about the 2.968 votes cast for Mr. Wynne. As Mr. Wynne is a Conservative, we have every right to suppose that any secondary votes recorded by those who supported him would go to Mr. Wilson. Thus we may assume that, even if preferential voting had been in vogue at the last election, the honorable member for Corangamite would still have been returned. The Age would no doubt have been very sorry to see a Labour man defeated, but that could’ not be helped under the circumstances. I am not very strongly in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley. He states that a general election is imminent, and that consequently there is not sufficient time for the proper consideration of the measure. I do not know that that is a very strong reason, because most of us have made up our minds, and do not require to spend very much time in discussion. We need not concern ourselves as to the electoral arrangements, because that matter can very well be left to the Department. I am opposed to the Bill, not because of the tiddlywinking objections raised by the honorable member for Dalley, but because I object to the principle underlying it. I shall vote against the second reading, and shall call for a division if necessary.
– The honorable and learned member for Wannon described this Bill ‘ as farcical. As far as the Ministers are con- cerned, however, it is not farcical, but a matter of life and death. It is very kind of them to bring forward a measure which will permit Labour men and free-traders to support protectionist candidates. I admire the candour of the honorable member for Maranoa when he says that he will advise the electors in his constituency to merely cast their primary votes. Every other candidate will do the same. He will say, “ Give your vote to me and let the other . men go.” If it had been proposed to compel electors to express their preferences, I could have understood the action of the Government in bringing forward the measure.
– Would the honorable member vote for compulsory preferential voting? .
– No; I do not approve of preferential voting in any form. I believe in one vote one value. I do not think, for example, that we should ask a protectionist to vote for a free-trader or for any other candidate of whose policy he could not approve. The fact that the preferential vote is to be optional will render the measure inoperative. I shall certainly advise the electors not to trouble themselves to record any secondary votes. It is a mere waste of time to devote our attention to legislation of this kind. It has been claimed that an attempt is being made to bring about majoritv representation, but the Bill would utterly fail to accomplish that object. The Age states that the preferential voting system has been successfully applied to the selection of Labour candidates. That is no doubt correct, because the system is applicable to cases in which all the voters believe in the same principle. But we should not introduce any system that would require Socalists to vote for anti-Socialists, or free-traders to vote for protectionists. I would advise the Minister to withdraw the Bill and proceed with some useful measure.
– No wild enthusiasm is being displayed by the supporters of the Bill, and I am afraid that I cannot say very much in its favour. Ever since I took part in politics, I have been an advocate for a system of voting which would secure- a just representation of the people. I do not think that it is worth while to take much trouble to bring about majoritv rule, because the loss of a seat by the splitting of votes of one party in a certain electorate is more often than otherwise counterbalanced by a gain in an other seat through the splitting of votes on the opposite side. On the whole, therefore, we arrive at majoritv representation. We ought to aim at the accurate represen tation of the feeling of the electors. At the last elections for the House of Commons, a very small surplus of Liberal votes proved sufficient to enable that party to almost annihilate the Conservatives, and the House of Commons does not at present afford anything like a fair representation of the opinion of the electors.
– There are too many Conservatives there, even now.
– There are always too many of the “other fellows.”
– Exactly, and we must try by propaganda work and other means to reduce the numerical strength of the “ other fellows “ as much as we can. If the principle of majority rule were applied, it is quite conceivable that the Senate might be composed entirely of representatives of one party in politics. In fact, that result may be brought about at the next elections. I am inclined to think that next session the Senate will be composed almost entirely of Labour members. Whilst such a result might be very gratifying to the members of the Labour Party, I am not so biased as to think that it would constitute a fair representation of the views of the people. If the . Government had aimed, by means of the Hare-Spence system of voting, to secure a more accurate representation of the views of the electors in the Legislature, there might have been something to justify the introduction of the Bill. One of the chief objections urged against the preferential voting system is the liability to error, and the multiplication of informal votes. Under the Government proposal, the number of informal votes would probably be largely increased, because two systems of voting would be in operation at the one election. Unless very good reason is shown for making a change, I think that we had better adhere to trSe present system of voting. I intend to vote for the second reading of the measure, with the object of trying to make provision for proportional voting under the Hare-Spence system.
.- I desire to congratulate Ministers upon their success in maintaining a grave face when they allege the seriousness of their proposal. They have been seized at a very late hour in the day with a violent fit of alleged anxiety for majority rule - an anxiety which extends, however, only to that House which is concerned in the making and unmaking of Governments. The electors whose views are to be expressed by means of the election of senators are to be left severely alone. The Minister tells us that if the Senate desire that the preferential voting system shall be applied to the elections for that Chamber, he will raise no objection. All I can say is that the Government, which desires to see majority rule achieved, and which is going to stake its life upon it, is taking up an extraordinary position when it acknowledges that its enthusiasm extends to only one branch of the Legislature. In order to achieve the alleged result of majority rule - because I propose to point out that this measure, ipstead of securing majority rule, provides for the wildest of lotteries - the Government have proposed a system of voting under which, when there is a multiplicity of candidates, the one who receives the smallest number of first votes will be dropped out of the ballot before the recount takes place. I have no hesitation in saying that under normal conditions, where there are more than two candidates, there will probably be three candidates for the House of Representatives. If the three sets of electors were nearly equal in numbers-, it would be a matter of pure chance whether the proposals embodied in this Bill would insure the selection of the real choice of a majority. If the Government are in earnest in their desire to insure majority rule, why do they not introduce the proper system of preferential voting - in cases where a number of candidates are contesting an electorate returning a single member - under’ which all the preferences are added together, and an average is struck ? The Minister ought to have considered all the alternative methods of preferential voting in single electorates. Under the scheme which is embodied in the Bill, we might very well have a repetition of that ancient historical example when all the Greek generals were asked to vote upon the question of who was the best general, and when every one of them put himself first, and the same man second. Under this Bill the first candidate to drop out at an election would be the candidate whom everybody with the exception of himself agreed was the best man. Take the figures in the remarkable instance circulated by the Government, in which Smith gets 5,000 votes, Brown, who is ultimately elected, 3,500, Jones 3,400, and Robinson 2,100. If,as well might happen, the great majority of the electors who gave their first preference to Smith, Brown, or Jones, selected Robinson as their second choice, although he received the smallest number of first preferences, and was thus defeated, he would be the individual who should have been elected. Under a proper system of calculation, when preferential votes are recorded, Robinson would be the candidate who would be returned. If all the supporters of Smith - to put an extreme case - gave their second preference to Robinson, and if all the supporters of Brown and Jones did likewise, it is apparent that Robinson would be the candidate whom the majority of the electors desired to represent them. Yet, because he happened to be the candidate with the smallest number of first votes, he would, under this Bill, be the first candidate defeated. The entire measure rests upon the theory that first preferences are not a final guide, and yet the Bill proposes to take first preferences as a guide in the matter of which candidates shall be defeated. If it be wrong to select a candidate merely because he secures the largest number of first preferences it is equally wrong to reject a candidate because he obtains the smallest number of first preferences. The Bill recognises an impropriety in the determination of an election by the number of first preferences recorded in favour of a candidate, but breaks its own principle by determining the rejection of a candidate by the first preferences recorded. It does not matter whether we act upon a system of selection or exclusion. I maintain that if first preferences are not a reliable guide in the one instance, they are not a reliable guide in the other.
– How would the honorable and learned member cure that evil ?
– The way to cure it is to adopt the more scientific method of adding up all the preferences recorded in favour of the various candidates, averaging the total number of marks thus obtained, and rejecting the candidates who are below the average. Even that system is liable to error, but it is much less so than is the method which is proposed by the Government. The system which is outlined in the Bill is a hopeless lottery, and is no more likely to achieve the obiect at which it aims than is the existing system. Probably it is much less likely to do so, even assuming that all the electors indicated their preference. But when in addition the Government propose to make the exercise of the preference optional, they again condemn their own Bill. They practically say, “We must have a preference indicated in order to determine the will of the majority, but we will not insist upon having that preference indicated, and we will not insist upon having the will of the majority determined.” How a Government which professes to be fighting; strenuously for majority rule can take up such an attitude is to me incomprehensible. If they wish to insure majority rule, they must insist upon all voters going to the poll, and voting in accordance with the system which is necessary to secure majority rule.
– That could only be done by looking at each elector’s ballot-paper.
– The Government are endeavouring to compromise between what is called principle and what is undoubtedly convenience. Under any other system of preferential voting save this, all the ballotpapers would have to be assembled at one spot, and counted by the one officer. I am not sure that even under this Bill the adoption of that course would not be necessary.
– We should be on the gridiron for a month.
– But the inconvenience to which candidates are subjected is as nothing compared with the public weal. That is why the Government continue to hold office in spite of the inconvenience under which they labour. They think that they are promoting the public welfare enormously by carrying on the government of the country. To insure majority rule, two things are necessary, namely, insistence on all electors going to the poll, and insistence upon them voting in accordance with the preferential .system. Anything short of that is little better than a farce, and it is little more than a pretence to urge that it can insure majority rule. If there are 25,000 electors in a constituency, and only 15,000 vote, and if one candidate secures 10,000 votes out of the 15,000 votes polled, he will not represent a majority of the electors, but merely a majority of those who exercised the franchise, assuming that a proper system of counting the votes is observed. If the Government are in earnest in their desire to ascertain who is the real choice of a majority of the electors, they must abandon this lottery, under which a candidate is rejected merely because he has obtained the smallest number of first preferences. If, in the illustration given by the Government, Robinson were the second preference of the supporters of Smith, Brown, and Jones, Robinson - who would be defeated because he happened to secure the smallest number of first votes - would really be the candidate who ought to have been elected. I object to the Bill on purely arithmetical grounds. It breaks the very rule which it professes to lay down. In fact, as I have already said - and this remark summarizes my position upon the question - if it be wrong to elect a candidate because he has obtained the largest number of first preferences, it is equally wrong to reject him because he has obtained the smallest number of first votes. One system is just as bad as the other arithmetically and mathematically, and if the Government .really wish to insure majority representation - quite apart from all questions of compulsion or of insisting that those who go to the poll shall indicate the order of their preferences - they must adopt not this .system’, which would result in the defeat of a candidate because he chanced to obtain the smallest number of first votes, but the system of adding up the preferences recorded and of averaging them. I am no lover of any of these fancy systems of voting, and I have been consistent in my distrust of them. In this connexion, it is interesting to note the attitude which is assumed by newspapers like the Age, which at one time enthusiastically opposes all systems of. preferential voting, and at another supports the principle. I suppose that it gets more light every day, although I should not be surprised if in two or three years it was again found reconsidering its position. The Government have brought forward this Bill at the end of a Parliament when honorable members have neither the time nor the opportunity to carefully consider the actual mathematical merits and demerits of the various systems of preferential voting. They are proposing a system which breaks in its essence the very principle which they allege they wish to affirm. As a matter of mere mathematics,, it is as little reliable as is the system which they propose to supersede. If they are earnest in their endeavours to introduce a system which, as a matter of mere mathematical calculation, will offer more chance of the real choice of a majority of the voters being elected, I ask them not to substitute for the existing system a system which has all its disadvantages and defects and a few more of its own. I challenge the Government to justify the substitution for the existing system, which gives the victory to the candidate who obtains the largest number of first votes, of a system which rejects the candidate who secures the smallest number of first votes. The matter has only to be stated to show that in the Bill exactly the same principle is being followed as is being followed at the present time. The only difference is that the Government start at the bottom instead of the top. But it is the same system exactly, and it is therefore liable to the same mischances. I venture to say that if the scheme proposed by the Government be adopted at the forthcoming election, it will result in the return of more representatives of minorities than does the present system.
.- Believing as I do in majority rule. I intend to vote for the second reading of this Bill. The complications that have arisen in connexion with the application of the contingent voting system to two-member constituencies in Queensland show that it would be unwise, if not practically impossible, to apply it to elections for the Senate. The honorable member for Franklin has giver, notice of his intention to move an amendment that voting shall be compulsory, and I should certainly be glad to give my support to any sound scheme that would resuit in majority rule. The Government have some justification for bringing forward this scheme, which, theoretically, is a perfect one, although practically it is not. Anyone who is in favour of the second ballot system would be equally favorable to that provided in this Bill since, if the people would fully avail themselves of it, we should secure under it all the advantages to be derived from the second ballot. Unfortunately, however, where the contingent vote is optional, the people often fail to exercise it. The Minister of Home Affairs would have done well if, instead of using purely imaginary figures in the illustration of the working of the system which he gives in his memorandum, he had used the actual figures relating to an election in Queensland. The honorable member for Wilmot asserted that the preferential voting system had proved satisfactory in connexion with the Tasmanian elections for the House of
Representatives. I would point out, however, that it resulted in the casting of a large number of informal votes - an evil which we should all wish to avoid. At the first Federal election in Tasmania, 16,575 votes were polled, and, as the result of complications due to the preferential system of voting, 533 informal votes were cast. In South Australia, where the primary voting system obtained, 62,892 electors - or almost four times the number who recorded their votes in Tasmania - went to the poll, and yet the number of informal votes cast. there was only 985. The experience of Tasmania clearly indicates that the preferential system leads to a larger proportion of informal votes than is possible under the ordinary system of primary voting. The question naturally arises, “ Will the electors avail themselves of the system embodied in this Bill?” If they would, I should be still more inclined to support it, but our experience in Queensland shows that where the contingent vote is purely optional, the electors, as a rule, do not trouble to exercise it. What we need to do is to make our electoral system as simple as possible, and, in the circumstances, it seems to me that we shall have to content ourselves with the system of primary voting. That for which the Bill provides would encourage a superfluity of candidates to come forward. One of the strongest arguments that could be used against the Bill is supplied by the figures employed in the illustration furnished by the Minister as to the probable working of the system. In his memorandum he takes, as an illustration, an election at which there are four candidates- - Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson - and at which, on the count of the first preferences, the result is as follows - Smith 5,000, Brown 3,500, Jones 3,400, Robinson 2,100; total, 14,000. He then proceeds to theorize on the assumption that all the voting papers showed that the preferential, or contingent voting system, had been availed of. As a matter of fact, it is unfair to assume anything of the kind. I propose to put before the House some figures relating to a Queensland election in which I was interested. Speaking! from memory, one candidate received 409 primary votes, another 439, and still another 458. As no candidate obtained an absolute majority, the man lowest on the list dropped out, and cognisance was taken of the second pre- ferences. I believe that 41 were credited to the candidate who had polled 439 votes, and 31 to the candidate who had polled 458, so that the voting was 480 and 489 respectively. The contingent votes in that case, therefore, did not alter the result obtained on the count of primary votes. A review of the returns in respect- of the first Federal elections held in Queensland emphasizes another difficulty ; it shows that the number of informal votes cast in electorates where the opportunity to apply the contingent voting system offered was far greater than in those electorates where only primary votes were cast. For instance, only forty-five informal votes were cast in connexion with the election for Oxley, where the contingent vote was not exercised, but no less than 388 informal votes were cast at the election for Moreton, where advantage was taken of that system. I do not think that a stronger argument could be urged against the Bill. In the election for Brisbane, where the contingent voting system was also used, 234 informal votes were recorded. These figures show that the risk of informal votes is much greater under the contingent vote than it is under the primary vote system. Before resuming, my seat, I should like to refer briefly to the statement which has been made that I was returned on a minority vote. In response to that assertion, I invite the attention of honorable members to the statement made at the declaration of the poll by one of my opponents - the late Honorable Macdonald Patterson, a man who was well respected, and whose death was regretted by- all - that had he not stood, 1,500 out of the 1,799 votes which he received would have been recorded in my favour. That statement was reported in the Brisbane daily newspapers, and it shows that it is unfair to suggest that I really represent a minority vote. I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill, reserving to myself the right to support any amendment that I consider will be likely to improve it.
.- - In the dying hours of the Parliament, the supporters of the Government can best assist them by speaking as briefly as possible to the questions submitted to the House. That has been my rule during the session, and I do not intend to depart from it to-day. I have for many years supported the preferential voting system, believing, that that which prevails in Victoria is incomplete. It has always been my desire that majority rule should prevail, and I have no sympathy with the suggestion that it is now too late in the session to deal with a Bill of this kind. We are on the eve of a general election, and surely if the system proposed is a good one, it is not too late to pass it into law. In. this respect, our position is very much like that of the surgeon who, even at the eleventh hour, is prepared to perform an operation if he thinks that by doing so there is a possibility of saving life. It should be our desire even at the eleventh hour in the life of this Parliament, to secure majority, representation for Australia. We have three parties almost evenly balanced, and under the existing system, when a candidate is opposed by representatives of the two other parties, he has a chance of being returned on a minority vote. If I were opposed by another Labour man as well as by a Conservative candidate, I should have no chance of being returned to represent Melbourne, and in the same way the Conservatives would have no hope of winning the seat if they ran two candidates in opposition to myself. I trust that those who believe in majority rule will not take up the attitude that we have not time to deal with the Bill during he present session., and that it should be held over for the consideration of the next Parliament. Surely something more than party considerations should influence us. We should be influenced by something more than the mere question of which party is to occupy- the Treasury benches, or which party is to sit in Opposition. Australia cries for sound legislation, and if we adopt ‘an effective voting system we may speedily secure majority representation and afterwards good legislation.
– Did the honorable member hear the argument advanced bv the honorable and learned member for Corinella?
– I like him sometimes when he oasts off rough shavings, but I think that a man of his great abilities could have done more for the country than he has. I trust that, if he is returned at the next general election, he will profit by the two bitter lessons he has received. He gave my feelings a very severe wrench at a time when I was one of his warmest admirers. I trust that we shall be returned at the next general election on majority votes, and1 that we shall not have triangular duels.
Honorable members will recall the outcome of the three-corner vote in Manchester. If we have triangular contests the results must be disadvantageous not only to this House but to Australia. Out of the love which I bear to Australia, which is greater than that which I have for any other country, I express the hope that, even at the eleventh hour, that system will be adopted which will be most beneficial in its results, and that the absurd existing system will be discarded. I hope that honorable members will not raise small points to hinder this from happening, because the time is not opportune for doing so. In conclusion, I would point out that the preferential system has been tried in Victoria by the Labour Party in connexion with the selection of three candidates to carry the flag of labour at the Senate elections. Twenty-three names were submitted, and the papers were rendered informal if on l one mistake was made in the allotting of preferences, while the perplexities of the voters were increased by the fact that thev had to vote for three candidates, whereas under the Bill only one candidate will have to be voted for. Nevertheless, only 5 per cent, of the votes cast were informal, and I doubt if one per cent, would have been informal if the electors had had the option of voting straight out, or expressing a preference. I hold that in all cases the majority should rule.
.- It :s regrettable that those who oppose the measure must expose themselves to the insinuation that thev are doing so for personal ends : but that personal gain is not the reason for my opposition is clearly shown by the record of the voting at the last election. If there is one division, which, for many years 10 come can be expected” to cast an outright majority for the party to which I belong, it is that which I have the honour to represent. I am sorry that the Bill has been introduced on the eve of a general election. History is repeating itself. Immediately before the last election, the Government of the day refused to accept the recommendation of the Commissioner appointed to distribute the State of New South Wales into new electoral divisions, and thereby obtained in that State the name of “ the gerrymandering Government.” Now, a Government under the same leader, and supported by the same party is bringing forward ill-considered and crude proposals which it is hoped will achieve a result similar to that gained by the gerrymandering tactics to which I have referred. There appears to be something in the political conscience of the Cabinet in which the Minister of Trade and Customs is so dominating a personality which makes it easy for them to treat sacred things like the franchise as matters to be dealt with for their political advantage. If the Bill has been introduced to secure majority rule, which is the claim of the Minister, I ask him. why he has not made it apply to Senate elections. Is it less important that majorities should be represented in the Senate than it is that they should be represented here, where a party of eighteen governs in a house of seventy-five by means of the support of another party of twentyfive? The Minister has informed us that the representation of nine Victorian divisions would be different had the preferential ballot been adopted at the last election. It may be news to him that one only of the four candidates run for the Senate by the Age newspaper would have been returned under that system. Is that why the Government have not applied the provisions of the Bill to Senate elections ? They must give far more cogent reasons for the distinction which they have drawn, if they - wish the people to believe that their object is other than it appears to be. I have always endeavoured to consider questions of this character uninfluenced by party considerations.
– That is indicated by the honorable member’s preceding remarks.
– Those remarks express my indignation at the attitude of the Government towards a non-party question. We know that the measure will not pass; but, in considering any proposal of this kind, we must concern ourselves, not with its probable effect on the fate of a few seats on which the Deakin party are casting longing eyes, or ‘of seats in Tasmania which the Opposition hopes to secure, but with the interests of the electors, who wish for a simple method of expressing their views. After the humiliation which the Government has experienced during the last few days, in the exposure of their difficulty in maintaining a quorum of twenty-five with a party of eighteen all told, I shall be glad to even stretch a point in its favour; but I cannot fail to take the objection that a Parliament elected under the provisions of the Bill would be the re- verse of representative of trie popular feeling. Preferential voting is not made compulsory by the measure ; but even a compulsory preferential ballot would not give a true indication of the views of the electors. Let us see what would happen if that, system of voting were adopted. Supposing that there were four candidates for a division, whom we will call Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson, and that one of them was very much stronger than any of the other three: would not the efforts of the three weak candidates and their supporters be directed chiefly, not against each other, but against the strong candidate who was their common danger; and would not the strong man be compelled, in an effort to gain an outright majority, to direct his efforts against the other three candidates without discrimination ? In such a case how would the ballot-papers be marked? Obviously, the supporters of each candidate would give their first vote for the man whom they desired to elect, and their preferences for the remaining three in the order of their supposed weakness, casting their second choice for the candidate whom they thought would have the least chance. Suppose that the number of votes polled was 10,000, of which 4,999 were cast for Smith, 1,800 for Jones, 1,701 for Robinson, and the remaining 1,500 for Brown. Brown’s name, after the first count, would be struck off the list, and his preferences would be awarded to Robinson, who would thus Have 1,701 first votes and 1,500 second votes. It is assumed that the second vote expresses the preference of the elector in regard to the remaining candidates; but, in casting it, he, in reality, makes his choice of the least evil. If the electors trusted all the candidates in the .field, there would not be the bitter fights which now take place. As a matter of fact, they trust only their own candidates, and dislike all the others, some more than the rest. Consequently, in awarding their preferential votes, they_ would give their second preference, not to the candidates whom they liked most, but to the candidates whom they disliked least. In the case I have put by way of illustration, Robinson would have 1,701 primary votes, and the modified dislike of 1,500 electors. Thus he would have more votes than Tones, the second man on the list, who would be knocked out. Jones’ supporters would naturally give their second preferences to the man they conceived to be their least dangerous opponent, and Robinson would be elected instead of the man who received more than three times as many of the first preferences of the electors. Surely when possibilities of this kind are presented, honorable members should pause before they agree to the principle of the Bill. Robinson received the secondary votes of a large number of electors, not because they trusted him, but because they did not want Smith to be elected. It should be our aim to secure the return of the man who is most trusted in the constituency. No one could say that, in the instance I have just quoted, the man who received only 1,701 primary votes out of 10,000 would be the most trusted. The Government proposal is obviously not designed in the interests of majority rule, or the true representation of the wishes of the people in Parliament. Under these circumstances, it is natural for us to ask in whose interests the Bill’ is designed? I think that the object of the Bill must be clear to all honorable members who have listened to the figures quoted by the Minister. We have been told that the measure would have affected only two seats in ‘Tasmania, and two in Queensland, as against nine in the State of Victoria.
– It would not necessarily have affected those seats, but it might have done so.
– Exactly. In every State except Victoria, the great issue which is dividing the electors into two camps is that of Socialism. In Victoria, however, that issue is clouded by the further question submitted by the Government, namely, whether we shall adopt the principle of prohibition or inordinately high protection. Therefore, in most of the States we shall have the electors divided into two camps and two only, whereas in Victoria there will be three parties represented. It is apparently hoped by the Government that in Victoria those who cast their primary votes either in favour of the socialistic or of our democratic party will give their preferences to those whom they fear least, namely, the candidate who is the rail sitter. We are told by the Age that at the last election in Victoria a number of seats were won by candidates who did not secure a full majority of the votes. Four of these seats were won by Deakinites, four by supporters of the Opposition, and one by a Labour candidate. The Government hope that if the measure is passed, the sup-, porters of Labour candidates in Victoria will cast their second preference votes in favour of Government supporters, and that the voters who favour supporters of the ReidMcLean faction will also follow the same course, because they will have less fear of the Deakinite than of the Labour man. In this way. they expect that the candidate who is sitting on the rail, upon the socialistic question, will be able to ride into Parliament. When we are dealing with matters relating to the suffrages of the people we should be entirely free from considerations such as those I have mentioned. Our anxiety should be to enable the constituencies to record their verdict upon current political questions in a thoroughly straightforward and honest way. It would be childish to suggest that because a Labour man gave his preference vote to a Deakinite, rather than to a Reid-McLean candidate, he would therefore be in favour of the former. We know what the Labour Party think of the Deakin Government. They have made it plain that they do not trust the Prime Minister, and yet it is now proposed to induce them to vote foi his supporters - for men in whom they do not believe. Therefore, I contend that we should not give the slightest quarter to the Government proposal. We know that it is not intended that the measure shall be carried beyond the Committee stage. An arrangement has been made in order to enable the Government to save their face. The Bill is to be read a second time, and subsequently dropped. The Government naturally do not want to have their plans exposed. Therefore, some honorable members, although they abhor the principles of the Bill, are prepared to assist them over the second reading to extricate themselves from a dilemma. I have a certain amount of sympathy with Ministers under the circumstances, because they have not been treated by the Labour Party so well as they expected, although quite as well as they deserve. The Government and their supporters . were some time ago afforded a guarantee of immunity from opposition by Labour candidates at the forthcoming elections, but certain gentlemen outside, very properly, did not think it wise to indorse the arrangement, and now Ministers are endeavouring to devise means’ by which they can secure the return of their supporters in the absence of any definite arrangement with the Labour Party. I en- tirely agree with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Dalley. In my opinion, it is not expedient to proceed further with the Bill during the present session, for the reason that a general election is imminent.
– How does the honorable member know a general election is imminent ?
– By. the honorable member’s white face. There is consequently not sufficient ‘ time for the proper consideration of the measure, or for making the necessary electoral arrangements. I thoroughly agree with the honorable member that the proposals contained in the Bill are crude and incomplete, and that no provision is made for increasing the total number of votes polled, or for effective voting. Moreover, the question of introducing a new system of voting has not been considered by the constituencies. Upon the last occasion that this proposal was made, it was condemned in the most unqualified terms by the honorable member for Bland, who thought that it would tend to confuse the electors. If that objection held good then, it would have still greater force at the present time, when we are upon the eve of an election. The Bill appears to me to be an opportunist device to shelter the Government from the consequences of the indignation of the electors. We now have a Government, representing a. .party of eighteen all told, controlling a House in -which it is necessary to have twenty-five members to form a quorum. I believe that when the elections are over, there will not be a sufficient number of Deakinites to constitute a Ministry. The Age, in a. singularly able article, recently expressed the opinion that the introduction of the preferential voting system- would foster party feeling, which was “ the salt of elections.” Only quite recently the same newspaper was crying out loudly for the abolition of party government and party feeling in politics. Why this, somersault?
Sitting suspended from i to 2 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I was referring to the support which this Bill was receiving at the hands of the leader of the Labour Party. I recognise that that honorable member occupies a very difficult position, and that he is impelled to support the measure from a number of considerations, the most weighty of which is that he entered into an arrangement under which he promised to do all that he possibly could to secure for certain Ministerial supporters immunity from Labour opposition at the forthcoming general elections. I can quite appreciate the motive which prompts him to support this measure, but I cannot understand whyother honorable members of his party are supporting it. The Bill is designed to unfairly assist Government supporters, to the disadvantage even of the Labour Party.
– It was very nice of the honorable member to say what he did about the Labour Party.
– In Committee the honorable member will assist me to kill the Bill. I really cannot understand why members ol the Labour Party are content to attend here day after day simply for the purpose of affording the Government an opportunity to introduce political placards to their disadvantage. This Bill is designed solely in the interests of Government supporters. I cannot understand why the Labour Party assist the Government to keep a quorum to enable them to introduce legislation of this sort - legislation in which Labour members do not believe, and which will damage their chances in Victoria. 1
– We do believe in it.
– I do ; not know what the honorable member believes in, but I do know that upon this Bill we have heard a great many expressions of adverse opinion from members of the Labour Party. Prior to the adjournment for luncheon the honorable member for Barrier spoke in no uncertain voice concerning it, and with considerable weight. I know that other members of the Labour Party will embrace the first opportunity which presents itself in Committee of dealing the Bill a knock-out blow. Personally, I am prepared to do that now on the second reading.
– I wish to express my surprise that a Bill of this character should have beer, brought before us during the closing hours not only of the session, but of the Parliament. Under the circumstances, one is led to wonder why the matter has so suddenlydeveloped urgency.
– Is it sudden?
– There was no mention of the Bill in the GovernorGeneral’s speech at the opening of Parliament.
– The honorable member complained that the Vice-Regal speech was too long.
– It was full of padding and of emptiness. But nobodywill attempt to deny the importance of a Bill of this character. In many respects it is the most important proposal that has been submitted for our consideration, and it is calculated to have very far-reaching effects. Consequently one wonders why a proposal of this kind has suddenly become such an urgent one as to preclude the consideration of other important matters upon which we are pledged to the people of Australia. I strongly protest against the Bill being thrown upon the table to the exclusion of more important business, and without any reference to the constituencies themselves.
– What business is there in the honorable member’s mind which he regards of more importance?
– I know what is more important in the honorable member’s mind - the Tariff proposals which were submitted yesterday.
– They do not go far enough.
– All the more reason why we should not consume the opportunities which are left to us to afford relief to those industries which the honorable member has so repeatedly assured us are in such an untoward position. I do not understand the ‘reason why the Government have rushed this Bill forward, except that it has been advocated in the columns of the Age newspaper. That, of course, is a supreme reason for anything which they may do. The Age has only to make a suggestion, and we may rest assured that some similar proposal will be submitted for legislative indorsement by the Government. In my judgment there never was a Bill which could be more clearly traced to the influence of a newspaper than can this measure. No demand has been made for it bv the constituencies. Not a single request has ever been preferred by any organization, by any party, or by any individual.
– The honorable member himself has been crying all round the country about the need which exists for insuring majority rule.
– I will deal with that matter presently. I say that the proposals in this Bill will not insure the rule of the majority. It does not go a bit nearer insuring the rule of the majority, than does our existing voting system. A little later I hope to show how unfair the Prime Minister was in his criticism the other night of the attitude which has been adopted towards this Bill by the leader of the Opposition. The measure does not propose to insure that the majority of the electors shall vote. It merely embodies a proposal for manipulating the votes which are now cast, and that without the slightest guarantee that any better determination will be arrived at than can be arrived at under the existing system.
– How can a candidate manipulate votes?
– I am not speaking of personal manipulation.
– The honorable member spoke of “ the unfair manipulation of votes.”
Mr. JOSEPH COOK. I did nothing of the kind. The Bill merely embodies proposals for gathering up the vote which is now cast, and for a fresh manipulation of it. There is no guarantee that under that fresh manipulation we shall approach any nearer to the ascertainment of the will of the majority of the electors than we do under the existing system. The Bill will not insure the ascertainment of the desires of the great majoritv of electors. When the Prime Minister made his adverse criticisms of the attitude which, is taken up by the leader of the Opposition, he did not touch that question at all. The Bill itself is not intended to touch it. It is merely designed to deal with the votes which are now voluntarily cast by the constituencies. I should like to point out that this scheme has already been discussed in this Parliament, and has been repudiated by the Government. As a matter of fact, it was opposed by them, because thev recognised that it would be an imperfect instrument with which to achieve the results at which” they now aim. After having said “ No “ to these proposals during the brief life of the present Parliament, , thfe Government now wish legislatively to say “ Yes “ to them. If ever there was a case of “No-Yesi” it is to be found here. This auestion was discussed last session when thecamendment of the Electoral Act was under consideration.
– This question has not been discussed since 1902.
– It was discussed in the Senate last session, and Min isters there gave it a good trouncing. Indeed I have a very vivid recollection of the way in which the leader of the Labour Party and the Minister of Trade and Customs, who was then Minister of Home Affairs,, both denounced the proposal as one which was not calculated to achieve the end in view. Now, however, these gentlemen suddenly swing round to it, and wish to embrace it for no other reason than that Professor Nanson is advocating it in the Age, and that that journal is supporting it in its leading columns.
– This Bill does not embody Professor Nanson’s scheme.
– Professor Nanson’s scheme provides for effective or proportional voting.
– But he is now advocating that for which this Bill provides, and is making a most1 strenuous, appeal to the Labour Party to support it. In his last article, he gives reasons why the Labour Party should stand by it. He says, in effect, to them, “See how it will work. If the Deakin party do not win the votes, you will be able to obtain them, and if you do not secure them they will go to protection.” Throughout the article we have an assumption on the part of the Professor that the Labour Party are all protectionists.
– Two-thirds of them are protectionists.
– I do not think that the proportion is so large. Professor Nanson assumes that “ labour “ and “ protection “ are synonyms.
– They certainly ought to be.
– I am aware that the honorable member is prepared to argue that that should be the position, but a very, considerable proportion of the supporters of labour are free-traders. Professor Nanson assumes, however, that, if they vote for any candidate outside their own party, thev will vote for a protectionist, and, therefore, he makes a stringent appeal to them to support this proposal.
– Is not the present position very unsatisfactory?
– So far as I am aware, the only authority that can be cited in support of this hurried legislation is the Age newspaper. I presume that it will be generally admitted that our present system is more or less defective; that there will be no two opinions that the re- suit achieved at a general election is by no means an ideal one, and that we should avail ourselves of any effective means of remedying the evil. I doubt, however, whether this proposal would provide the faintest remedy. It does not propose to deal with that great mass of inert voters who do not go to the poll.
– But it is a step forward.
– Not at all.
– If we could secure the return of a candidate by a majority of those who record their votes, surely we should have gained something.
– This Bill will not enable us to achieve that result. If the honorable member had heard the speech delivered by the honorable member for Corinella, he would not hold such a high opinion of the accuracy of this system as he now appears to entertain.
– The view expressed by the honorable member for Corinella is contrary to that which he advanced a little while ago.
– I do not think so; but whether it is or is not so, the case that he advanced requires to be answered. The Minister in charge of the Bill should show, if he can. that the figures presented bv the honorable and learned member are susceptible of controversion. Cases have been cited by the honorable and learned member for Corinella showing that this Bill will give us no better results than are secured under the existing system - that the mere inversion of a process will not of itself cause votes to be distributed with greater accuracy than now obtains. That statement needs to be answered by the Minister. I wish now to refer to the way in which the Prime Minister in the course of a speech delivered at Maryborough last week, criticised the attitude of the Opposition with respect to this measure. The sub-heading given bv the Age to its report of that part of the Prime Minister’s speech, is “ Mr. Reid’s Double Face.” With, a wide knowledge of newspapers published in every part of the world, I may say. that I have never seen anything like the virulence displayed by the A ve in denouncing the leader of the Opposition.
– Then the honorable member does not read many newspapers.
– I have seen nothing like it.
– Is not the Sydney Daily Telegraph quite as bad in its criticism of the Prime Minister?
– It never attempts to deal with the Prime Minister as the Age deals with the leader of the Opposition. Its criticisms of the Prime Minister have been purely impersonal.
– Does the honorable member think that that has anything to do with the Bill?
– I am tracing the origin of this proposal, and showing how even the Prime Minister’s statement is reported.
– This Bill does not relate to the relative accuracy of any reports in the press.
– Perhaps not. This is what the Prime Minister said -
The leader of the Opposition has wailed over the fact that, although electors may go to the poll under the present system of voting, the man elected may not represent the majority of those who go to the poll.
I defy the Age, the Prime Minister, or any member of the Government to point to a sentence of that kind that has ever been uttered by the leader of the Opposition.
– I shall quote such a statement on the part of the right honorable member.
– I shall be glad to hear it. All that the leader of the Opposition has bewailed is the fact that people do not go to the poll. That has been his complaint on every platform. It is a justifiable complaint that not 50 per cent, of the huge enfranchised masses of Australia take the trouble to cast their votes at a general election. That is the great outstanding trouble to which the leader of the Opposition has been referring.
– Speaking at Warragul, he made a complaint similar to that attributed to him bv the Prime Minister.
– Why does he not put his own electorate in order before he complains of others?
– What has the honorable member had for lunch?
– These personal matters are entirely irrelevant.
– Quite so, Mr. Speaker ; but surely I have a right to replyto these interjections?
– The introduction of personal matters is entirely irregular. An irregular interjection is no excuse for an irregular reply. I am afraid that, unless the honorable member passes from the point which he has just been discussing, I shall have presently to inform him that his remarks are not in order ; that the question before the House is not what the leader of the Opposition said or did, but whether a Bill relating to contingent voting shall be read a second time. I ask the honorable member to come as quickly as possible to the question which is before the House.
– Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot refer to a speech made by the Prime Minister on the question of preferential voting?
– I rule that the discussion must be relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill. The Bill has no bearing on what the leader of the Opposition may have said in the course of any election campaign in which he has taken part, nor does it necessarily relate to any reference that has been made by the Prime Minister, not in this House, but elsewhere, to the leader of the Opposition. If in connexion with the consideration of every Bill that came before the House the arguments used for or against the measure by the Prime Minister or the leader of the Opposition, might be exhaustively discussed, our debates would be practically endless and quite irregular.
– This is the first time I have heard it laid down that we cannot allude to a speech relating to the question before the Chair.
– I have not given such a ruling.
– I am controverting a statement made bv the Prime Minister in regard to this very Bill.
– I would remind the honorable member that what I said was that unless he speedily came to the question immediately before the Chair, I should have to intervene. I did not find fault with what he had said up to* the point at which I intervened, but stated that if he continued the line of argument then being pursued by him, I should have to remind him of the Standing Ordres. The incidental reference that he has made to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister is quite in order, and such references as he makes to it during the next two or three minutes will be permissible, but it would be entirely irregular for the honorable member to continue to debate a matter that is only incidental to the question immediately before the Chair, and to depart from the subject-matter of the Bill itself.
– I wish only to refer to the criticism of our attitude on this Bill which was indulged in last week by the Prime Minister. I have no desire to go beyond that. The Prime Minister said that the Opposition had been declaiming all over the country against the enormities of the present system, and that when we were offered that for which we had been asking we ran away from it as fast as we could. That is surely a statement to which some reply should be made. The honorable and learned gentleman said -
I am prepared to say that personally I believe in making it compulsory, that the man should express all his preference on the voting paper, and I am prepared to extend the same system to the Senate.
If the Prime Minister is prepared to carry out these reforms, why does he not make provision for them in the Bill? Why has he, as it were, thrown upon the table of the House a Bill which at a public meeting he has declared to be only a botch, and to need various amendments to make it effective? Surely Ministers cannot be serious in asking us to deal with a measure which they have flung before us in this most casual way. If the Prime Minister is in favour of all these changes he should provide for them in the Bill itself. He went on to say -
But, recognising the period of the session which we have reached, we brought it forward in a milder form, as the electors perhaps could not have sufficient notice to enable the whole of them to be instructed in the system without the possibility of mistake.
Does the fact that it is not to apply to Senate elections make it less difficult to apprehend the purpose of this new proposal ? Is the Bill simplified by the fact that it is not to apply to elections for t!ie Senate ?
– Is it not easier to apply it to electorates where there will be only two or three candidates than to elections for the Senate, where there may be eight or nine candidates ?
– Is it easier for an elector to write on a ballot paper ir:e figures i, 2, 3, 4 than to write the figures 1, 4,v 7, 8, and so forth? The one process involves no ‘greater difficulty than the other. If any difficulty will Le experienced in initiating the electors into the mysteries and” difficulties of this system, that is a supreme reason why it should not be rushed upon them on the eve of a general election.
The Prime Minister himself has furnished the best of reasons why the Bill should not be rushed through in the closing hours of the session. He admits that it takes time to instruct the people how they shall vote, and i presume that the poll clerks and returning officers must have any change of system explained to them rather elaborately. Therefore, the Bill should be put on one side until there is an opportunity for framing a complete system, and giving time to the people to become acquainted with it before being called upon to use it. The Prime Minister says that the complaint of the Opposition is in regard to the manner in which votes are now manipulated, but our complaint is, and it is being voiced every day by our leader, that of those entitled to vote less than 50 per cent, do so.
– The instruction needed by the electors would be very simple.
– Then, the honorable and learned gentleman was speaking idly when he said -
Recognising the period of the session which we have reached, we brought it forward in a milder form, as the electors perhaps could not have sufficient notice to enable the whole of them to be instructed in the system without the possibility of mistake.
– We have not adopted the system which we regard as ideally desirable.
– Why should a difference be made between the House of Representatives and Senate elections ? Why should not the same system apply to both ?
– In a Senate ejection an elector might be called upon to express his preference for ten or fifteen candidates, of whom there would be three to be chosen.
– That would be necessary if preferential voting were made compulsory. It is not proposed that it shall be compulsory.
– I think that it should be, if we had time and means to apply it to both Senate and House of Representatives elections.
– Our trouble is now not in compelling electors to express a preference, but in getting them to vote. Why not wait until next Parliament, when a definite and concrete proposal can be put forward for providing for the expression of the opinion of the electorates ? The Prime Minister admits that this is only a tentative proposal, and that it is in every way imperfect. There is no violent hurry for a change of the kind proposed, and it has not been asked for, except by the Age newspaper and Professor Nanson.
– The Age wrote down Professor Nanson about three years ago.
– Was that in regard to preferential voting ?
– Ministers themselves have spoken against this system.. The Minister of Trade and Customs has de clared it to be clumsy and unworkable, but, on the eve of a general election it is discovered to possess all the virtues. I admit the imperfections of the present system j but I have yet to learn that an ideal system has been evolved. I shall be very happy to adopt any system which will give better results than obtain from the present system. Such results will not be obtained from the Bill, and, after the’ crushing indictment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the whole subject should be inquired into further. An ideal system would recognise and harmonize the conflicting interests of the electors.
– And prevent us from being defeated.
– That would not matter so much if the electorates were properly represented. We must look in vain for ideal representation so long as there are such places as No. 66 Bourkestreet, and such institutions as the Caucus, working wholly, solely, and always in the interests of organizations, and caring nothing for anything else. Before we can have an ideal1 electoral system, we must have an ideal condition of sentiment operating.
– The Bill is the outcome of the sentiment which is operating.
– In what way has that sentiment manifested itself? What demand has there been for the Bill? I doubt if the Ministry represents the sentiments of the electorates upon any matter. When the Ministerialists last appealed to the electors, they were returned as the smallest party in the House, and have therefore no mandate to speak for the country. While we have conflicting party interests and elements, we shall seek in vain for an ideal system of representation. If we could apply -some principle of proportion to the gathering in of the votes which are cast, that would be an ideal system; but I see no possibility of doing so. No system has yet been devised which cannot be manipulated for party ends, so long as fierce party spirit exists.
– Does the honorable member think that the system provided for in the Bill could be manipulated?
– Yes. The honorable member will do all he can to manipulate it, of course legitimately, to put a ring round Australia. He will not consider the intelligence of candidates, the wishes ofthe people, or anything else, except in doing what he can to obtain a higher degree of protection. With such feelings finding their embodiment in party organizations, there is no possibility of obtaining ideal results. Professor Nanson himself has made a pitiful’ and frenzied appeal to the Labour Party in support of his scheme. He advocates its adoption for purelv party considerations. He tells them that the adoption of the system will mean that their candidates will be returned, while the protectionistsa re told that it will result in the return of protectionist candidates.
– That is because protectionists and Labour candidates represent the views of the majoritv of the people.
– I doubt it. In the case of Victoria, some of the people have wrongly been imbued with a strong personal dislike to the leader of the Opposilion, and are inclined to treat him unfairly. This feeling is likely to operate in the decision of political issues.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it has operated with Professor Nanson?
– No; but it will operate in many quarters That is due to the attacks of the Age. I have never known a newspaper to attack a public man so virulently as the Age has attacked the right honorable; member for East Sydney. We are constantly boasting of the development of the altruistic principle in this community, but evidence multiplies to show that it is not developing to the extent suggested. Although it is mouthed so much by the Labour Party, that party is constantly shutting itself off more closely from neighbourly contact with others. The need of Australia is not so much an electoral svstem for the better recording of the popular will as greater popular interest in politics. In Japan, I believe 95 per cent, of those on the roll go to the noli, and in some European countries from 90 to 95 per cent, do so. But although our peonle are supposed to he keenlv alive to their democratic privileges, only about 45 per cent. vote.
– In the countries to which the honorable member refers, there is no such thing as adult suffrage, only a section of the people being on the rolls.
– That has nothing to do with the casting of the vote. Whereas in other countries as many as 95 per cent, of the votes are cast, our returns here run down as low as 30 per cent. I do not believe that there would be any necessity for new-fangled processes of voting and methods of manipulation if we could induce the great mass of the electors to do their duty. The more I look into this matter the more I think that something ought to be done to bring the electors face to face with the solemn duty which they are called upon to discharge. I was recently reading in a pamphlet that away back in the days of Solon, a law was passed which dishonoured and disfranchised any man who, in a time of sedition, abstained’ from flaking action upon one side or the other. It was laid down in the Statutes that it was criminal to abstain from, interference with, the conduct of the affairs of the country. It is true that we have no sedition in these days. But as great disasters may overtake a community in times of peace, through sheer negligence and abstinence, as are brought about by the processes of war. Nations have had their decay hastened by their indifference to great national questions, and to the needs of the body politic, not in times of war, but in. the piping times of peace. In the same way, when all around is peace and contentt influences may be at work amongst us that may ultimately bring about the downfall off the State. Therefore, it is of the utmost, consequence that the people should take an active interest in the affairs of the country. They should be awakened from their lethargy, and induced to take an active part in political life. In other words, I am inclined to the view that neutrality in matters of political moment should be made a statutory offence. Only in that way, I fear, shall we solve the problems that are now confronting us. Anything short of a provision of that kind will merely tinker with the question, and that is. all that it is proposed to do under the present Bill. The franchise is not conferred upon the people merely as a privilege to be cast aside or treated as personal property. The idea underlying the conferment of a democratic franchise is that it shall be used for national ends. The theory is that a democracy is best governed when the whole ©f those engaged in the building up of the country take a part in its affairs; in other words, when the whole of the people are governed by the whole of the people. There is a duty which corresponds to, and is the exact measure of, the privilege conferred by the franchise, and this duty should be discharged. If that result cannot be brought about by any process except that «f compulsion, we shall have to proceed to that extreme. The Bill does not touch the fringe of the difficulty which needs to be grappled with. It does not afford a guarantee that a single additional vote will be cast. It is proposed to manipulate the 30, 40, or 50 per cent, of votes that are cast, but not to multiply the total by one. The difficulty which transcends all others is that of inducing the people to vote. If we can succeed in accomplishing that ob’ject, we shall be able to solve many of our political and social problems in a satisfactory manner. At present out politics are dominated by parties, most of which represent minorities. The great mass of the people who do not belong to organized bodies do not take the trouble to vote, so that even under our democratic franchise the State is being ruled by well organized minorities. I thoroughly agree with the reasons put forward by the honorable member for Dalley for the postponement of the measure, which should not be dealt with in the last days of this Parliament. The matter is far too important to be dealt with hurriedly. Of course, we are told that there is no chance of the Bill being passed - that the Government do not wish to carry it.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– It is common talk in the lobbies that the masters of the Government have told them that the Bill after passing the second reading must not be proceeded with, any further.
– Did not the Minister of Trade and Customs propose that arrangement ?
– No, I rather think that the proposal emanated from one of the masters of the Government. I am informed that a, great deal of the activitydisplayed by Ministers during the current, week is attributable to influence exerted from the same quarter, and that what we were induced to regard as a well-arranged surprise was due to the response by the Government to the hustling to which they were subjected by the Labour Party. It is understood that the members of the Labour Party are doing their best to save the fate of the Government, and that the Bill is not to be placed upon the statutebook this session. I hope that that is so, because I regard the measure as shockingly crude and incomplete. If the Bill’ became law, we should have two systems of voting in vogue at the next election, leading to an increase in the number of informal votes. This would tend to serious confusion. That is the generally expressed opinion. The electors are sufficiently confused by our parliamentary methods, and the differences between our legislative machinery and that of the States, and we should certainly not add any complexities that will tend to their further bewilderment. The measure might very well be permitted to stand over until a more comprehensive and effective proposal could be submitted. All parties are agreed that our present system is defective. Therefore, an effort should be made to prepare a scheme that would result’ in the disentanglement of our electoral affairs, in the fuller exercise of the franchise, and the better representation of the people. I think that the matter should be remitted to the constituencies before any change is made. It has been the practice, to refer such matters to them beforehand. Let the electorates ratify this proposal, and then let it be placed upon the statute-book. But until the constituencies have been consulted, we ought to pause before we commit the Commonwealth to a proposal as crude and incomplete as that submitted by the Government.
– I was surprised beyond measure to hear the honorable member for Parramatta declare that the leader of the Opposition has never advocated majority rule, and that he has never favoured such a scheme as that which is now under consideration.
– I did not say that.
– Then I do not understand what the honorable member did say. He criticised a statement by the Prime Minister, and affirmed that what the leader of the Opposition had contended for was a system of compulsory voting.
– I simply read a passage from the speech delivered by the Prime Minister at Maryborough, and I said that the leader of the Opposition had made no such remark as was imputed to him.
– I intend to show that he did make such a remark upon more than one occasion. I propose to quote, not from the Age newspaper, which the honorable member appears to dislike so much-
– I do not dislike it.
– The honorable member stated just now that the motive underlying the introduction of this Bill was not a desire to secure majority rule, but the dislike of the public of Victoria for the leader of the Opposition.
– I said no such thing.
– Then I do not understand the meaning of words. I asked the honorable member whether he thought that Professor Nanson was supporting the principle of preferential voting because he disliked the leader of the Opposition.
– And I said “ No.”
– The honorable member implied that the majoritv of the people of Victoria disliked the right honorable member for East Sydney, and that the Age was supporting this Bill from personal reasons.
– I si’mplv denounced the virulence of the Age towards the leader of the Opposition.
– The virulence of that organ is not directed at the leader of the Opposition, but at the principles which he advocates. Speaking at Warragul on the 30th July, 1904, the right honorable member is reported by the Argus’ to have declared that he was endeavouring honestly and faithfully to carry out the principle of majoritv rule in the Commonwealth. He added -
What is it that enables one-third of the House of Representatives to keep about two-thirds in opposition ? Is that’ majority rule ? For the House of Representatives at the last election 186,000 electors voted for Labour supremacy in Parliament, and 350,000 electors voted for the two other parties, so you see 186,000 electors are over-ruling 350,000. For the Senate 500,000 votes were polled for the Labour Party, and 1,400,000 for the two other parties.
Surely that is an absolute condemnation of our present voting system ?
– Is that a justification for the introduction of this Bill?
– It is a justification fot any proposal which will insure majority rule.
– This Bill does not do that.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It is a matter of arithmetic
– I think that the Bill ought to go a great deal further than it does. It ought to provide for compulsory voting, and it ought to apply to elections for the Senate. Again, I find that the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 22nd August, 1904, reports the leader of the Opposition, in addressing the electors, to have said -
The existence of three parties is also destructive of parliamentary government, as all authorities describe it? Mr. Gladstone, voicing the general view, defined such government to be “The possession of executive power by a Ministry possessing the confidence of the majority of the representatives of the people.” We have had no such Government in the Federal Parliament for a long time.
– Order ! I do not think that this Bill has anything whatever to do with the existence of three parties in this House.
– Except that if we could secure effective voting, we might be able to obtain results which would more clearly reflect the opinion of a majority of the electors. It is held by the leader of the Opposition that the three-party system does not reflect that opinion.
– I would remind the honorable member that the question before the Chair is not the three-party system of government, or what the right honorable member for East Sydney may have said, but whether there shall be contingent voting at the next general elections, and at subsequent elections for the Commonwealth.
– But surely I shall be in order if I illustrate my point by showing, that the present system of voting does not reflect the opinions of a majority of the electors ?
– If the honorable member proposes to show that whereas the present system of voting results in the return of three parties to the Parliament, the Bill would abolish three-party rule, he will be in order.
– Speaking at Melbourne, upon 1 st September, 1904, the leader of the Opposition is reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to have stated -
In the last general elections in Victoria, five Labour men secured seats because the candidates against them, polling 1.2,000 more votes, could not agree as to which should fight for the seat Five seats lost means ten votes lost in the House, and we shall go down again if that sort of thing is going to happen.
I contend that that is as powerful an argument as can be advanced in favour of majority rule.
– What is the honorable member endeavouring to do ?
– I am attempting to prove that the honorable member was wrong when he declared that the Prime Minister had no ground for saying that the leader of the Opposition professed to be in favour of majority rule, but that when a proposal was introduced to achieve that end, he blocked it. The honorable member for Parramatta has said that I ought not to support this Bill at such a late stage of the session, because the Tariff question is of infinitely more importance.
– The honorable member supports the Bill because he dare not vote against it.
– Utter nonsense.
– If we deal with strangled industries this session, there will be no necessity for this Bill.
– The honorable member for Gippsland is pledged to fiscal peace.
– I am not pledged to anything.
– A little time ago my honorable friend urged that he could not consider the position of strangled industries on, account of the pledge which he had given.
– The honorable member would not settle the Tariff question this session upon any account.
– I want to settle it in a.n effective way when we do attack it. The honorable member for Parramatta has urged that the introduction of this Bill is sudden ; but I have shown that, as far back as 1904, the leader of the Opposition demonstrated” the urgency of it.
– Not of this measure.
– Will the honorable and learned member support taking the Bill into Committee, with a view to making its provisions effective?
– That is exactly what I intend to do.
– I am merely discussing the principle which is involved in the Bill.
– Will the Government say that they intend to pass the Bill through Committee this session?
– Will the honorable member assist us to put it through Committee ?
– I cannot prevent it being passed.
– There is no doubt whatever that a Bill of the kind ought to be agreed to this session, not only for the purpose of insuring majority rule, but for the purpose of doing away with the very evils of which the honorable member for Parramatta has complained. I hold that, unless the successful candidates of any party reflect the opinions of a majority of the electors, a very grave evil exists. By. an effective system of voting, I believe that that result can be arrived at. There is not a man in touch with any organization who would not welcome any effective machinery which would do away with the evils of our present system.
– Does the honorable member think that this Bill provides an effective method ?
– I do not think that it goes far enough.
– It simply assists minority representation.
– Personally, I prefer the second ballot, and I certainly think that voting ought to be made compulsory, and that the Bill should also apply to elections for the Senate. But, if honorable members are in earnest in their desire to remedy abuses which have grown up under our electoral system, they should join me in an endeavour to make this Bill more perfect than it is.
– The measure would make the position of affairs worst than it is.
– I do not think that the Bill - even if it were not improved upon - would make matters worse. It it were brought into operation, it would afford us an opportunity of detecting its imperfections! and of putting matters upon a proper basis.
– But the Bill is based upon exactly the same principle as is our present system.
– At this stage I do not intend to reply to the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member. No stronger arguments could be advanced in favour of ai system such as that which is embodied’ in the Bill than those which were urged by the deputy leader of the Opposition. ‘ He pointed out the evils which surround Our present voting system, and he emphasized the fact that it does not insure the election of representatives to this House by a majority of the electors. Yet he says that the time is not opportune to effect a change. When will the time be opportune?
– Will the honorable member assist in making the system compulsory ?
– I am prepared to do anything to make the scheme a practicable one. If the honorable member can show that his proposal is practicable, I shall be pleased to support it. If the position is anything like as bad as has been depicted by the honorable member for Parramatta, it is his duty to try to improve it.
– Does not the honorable member think that the passing of this Bill on the eve of a general election would be rather confusing to the electors?
– I do not think that the electors are so unintelligent as the homorable member seems to believe they are.
– Many mistakes arose at the last general election in connexion with the new requirement that the elector should put a cross in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he desired lo vote.
– Not very many. Whilst I should like to see the cdntingentvoting system made compulsory, I am prepared to accept the Government proposal as a moiety of a reform the need for which will become more and more apparent as present conditions develop.
.- I yield to no man in my desire that we should secure what is known as majority representatioin in the counsels of the nation. Every effort should be made to insure that Parliament shall reflect the will of the majority of the people; but, after carefully examining this Bill, I have arrived at the conclusion that it would not enable us to achieve that result. I am not convinced that it would carry us even a reasonable distance in that direction ; it seems to me that it would make cdnfusion. worse confounded. It would be impossible for the electors, before the next general election, to master the details of the system which it embodies. But there are still stronger objections. When the first Parliament of the Commonwealth was dealing with the Electoral Bill, several new voting schemes were submitted, together with explanations, by the Chief Electoral Officer ; but, in the end, the Department itself was so befogged that the responsible Minister was very glad to drop the proposed innovations. If the Government carry the Bills that have been fore shadowed we shall have several referenda with regard to contemplated amendments of the Constitution.
– And it will take a man half a day to record his votes.
– That is so. The Government propose at the /next general election to take a referendum on the proposition that the Constitution shall be so amended as to enable the general elections to ta,ke place early instead of late in the year. They propose also to take a referendum on a suggested alteration of the Constitution in reference to the transfer of the States debts, and to take another in relation to what is described as “ special duties “ - which I understand covers a proposal to ear-mark certain revenue for specific purposes. Then, again, several important amendments of the Constitution, are proposed by private members. In one case, it is proposed that a referendum shall be taken on the question of whether the Constitution’ should be so amended as to empower the Commonwealth to take certain action with regard to monopolies, and also to extend its powers to legislate in connexion with labour and industry. At the last general election, the Government of New South Wales took a referendum on the question of whether or not the Constitution of that State should be amended to provide for a reduction of the number of members of the State Parliament, and it has been suggested in many quarters that the first election of shire councillors under the new Local Government Act of New South Wales should take place simultaneously with those for the Federal Parliament. Having regard to these various referenda as well as to the fact that the electors will have to vote for candidates for both Houses, it seems to me that the position will be somewhat confusing, and that if, at this stage, we further complicated the present electoral system, defective as it may be, the result would be most unsatisfactory. We should probably have a repetition of our experience in connexion with the first general election in New South Wales, when, owing to the fact that there were something like fifty candidates for the Senate, many informal votes were cast, whilst some electors refused to go to the poll. I repeat that this Bill will not secure majority representation. The primary voting system enables us to ascertain directly the opinions of the electors with respect to a candidate, and, indirectly, their view of the policy, which, for the time being, he espouses. When a vote. is so split up that the successful candidate does not represent a majority of the electors, the inference is that the electors themselves are so divided in their opinions that it is impossible for a candidate to secure an absolute majority vote in that division. An attempt to secure a complete expression of the will of the people bv means of preferential voting has been made in Queensland, and also in Tasmania, but from what we can learn from authoritative sources, it has not been wholly satisfactory. The contingent voting law in Queensland is practically a dead letter. Candidates representing all shades of political thought unite in recommending the electors not to avail themselves of, the preferential voting provisions of the Act. The result is that those provisions are not availed of to any material extent, and do not appreciably influence the elections. Doubtless the same position would arise under this Bill. Is it worth while further encumbering our electoral machinery with the complicated provisions set forth in this measure? The only way to secure by a direct vote a true expression of the opinion of the majority of the electors is to have a second ballot, but the carrying out of that system is surrounded with difficulties. The extent of the Federal electorates and the expense which would be incurred in holding a second election, practically places such a proposal outside the arena of practical politics. This method of preferential voting practically means voting in the dark. When the Seat of Government Bill was under consideration, and honorable members had to select one of the nine or ten sites proposed, it was suggested that we should take a preferential vote ; but when honorable members saw what that proposal would really mean, they promptly rejected it. They recognised that the knowledge they possessed of the way in which the primary votes would be cast would materially influence them in recording their contingent votes, and the result was that we had a straight-out ballot. The same difficulty would apply to an election under this system. If three or four candidates, were nominated for one electorate, electors would record their primary votes, and their second preference would depend largely on the position of their candidate and of the other two or more candidates. While I am desirous that that system shall be adopted which will enable the wishes of the majority of the electors to find a clear and definite expression, I am not convinced that the measure provides it. In my opinion, the provisions of the Bill, if passed into law, would materially complicate the holding of elections, and would interfere in cases where no alteration is desirable. That being so, I cannot support the Bill, and shall vote against it, though if it gets into Committee I shall not offer it factious opposition, but shall do all I can to make it as perfect as possible.
.- The experiment proposed by the Government is, under all the circumstances, worth making. Some four years ago, when a similar proposal was before the House, I opposed it, and the right honorable member for East Sydney has been good enough to refer recently to my attitude on that occasion. He ignores the fact that since then we have had a general election, which returned a large number of minority representatives. No fewer than thirteen of the members of the’ House were returned by minorities, and, though I do not contend that most of them would not have been elected under a system of exhaustive bal.lotting, it is possible that they do not represent the views of the majority in their electorates. That in itself is a reason for reconsidering the position. Furthermore, I have of late had the opportunity to listen to the persuasive eloquence of the right honorable member, not in advocacy of the method of Voting here proposed, but suggesting the desirability of some system which will remove the present anomalous position of affairs in this Parliament, and provide for majority rule. These considerations have weighed with me in coming to the decision that it is worth while to make an experiment to ascertain how far the’ optional system of contingent voting will be taken advantage of by the electors when there are more than two candidates. I am not prepared to go to the length of compelling electors to indicate their preference on the ballot-papers, because I fear that that would lead to the casting of a large number of informal votes. It is desirable that any new system adopted shall be made optional, so that electors who prefer to keep clear of possible entanglements may have their primary vote recorded. I am not prepared to do more than try the experiment of allowing an optional preference. It seems to me desirable, especially when three parties are contending for the suffrages of the electors, that an effort should be made to give effect to the wishes of the majority. Whether the proposed system will benefit the Labour Party or one of the other parties, is problematical. No one can say how far it will assist any party if adopted at the forthcoming election. But the leader of the Opposition has emphasized so greatly the desirability of having returned a party with a strong working majority, that I think it worth while to make’ an effort to discover a system which will accomplish that. I am not wedded to the proposals in the Bill, and shall be prepared in Committee to vote for any other method which appears more likely to secure majority rule. As I have admitted in my public speeches for some considerable time past, it is not desirable that the threeparty system should continue, no one party in the House possessing a majority.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - The Bill will not prevent that.
– I do not say that it will ; but any method insuring that effect will be given to the will of the majority of the electors will bring us nearer to what is desired.
– The Opposition are upholding the three-‘patrty system now.
– The right Honorable member for East Sydney has appealed to the people of Australia to put an end to the three-party system, and I jam with him in the desire to do so. It is highly desirable that one of the parties should h’ave a working majority.
– Especially if it is our party.
– Yes. It is a moot point whether the Bill will bri/ng about that end, though I think that it will tend to do so. If in Committee any honorable member can suggest a method more likely to achieve what we desire, I shall support his proposal ; but I do not know of any better method.
– Why not try any new system on the Senate?
– I do not think that that would work. There are a number of difficulties to be met in making any experiment ; but these difficulties would be greater in the case of Senate elections, where there are three candidates to be chosen, than in the case of the House of Representatives electiolns, where only one candidate can be chosen for each division. I am prepared to adopt the Government proposals as an experiment; but if any better method is suggested in Committee, I shall vote for it.
– - I wish to indicate how I intend to vote in the event of a division. So much has been said against the preferential system, that there is little or nothing for me to add. The system is in force in Queensland, but it is very little used, because candidates nearly always ask their supporters to vote directly for them, without indicating their preference for others. As the system has not been found of much advantage in the Queensland State elections, I do not think it wise to adopt it for Commonwealth elections. A great deal has been said about majority rule, but I am not convinced, that it is absolutely necessary, if two parties can agree to carry on the business of the country, that one of them shall have a majority in the House. Indeed, it is not always a good thing to have too strong a majority. The Opposition, perhaps, has found that out. I regard the preferential system as a useless one, and nothing is to be gained by placing on the statute-book a measure which will not benefit the people. We hear that the Bill is to be abandoned.
– The Opposition say so.
– If it is to be abandoned, I thifrk that it should be dropped at once. It has been suggested that it should be amended to make voting compulsory, fining those who do not go to the polls. That gives me another reason for voting against the second reading, because I am determined that mo opportunity shall be given, so far as I am concerned, for the insertion of provisions of that nature. I am altogether opposed to making it compulsory to vote. That system might do for the towns; but the people of the country are very differently situated, and, in many cases, find it impossible to vote, however much they would like to do so.
– The Bill has been attacked on various grounds, but its fundamental principle still holds good, and is unassailable. All parties agree that the object of the measure is a good one, and that what we need is majority rule. The. problem that confronts us is how to secure the expression of the will of the majority in the single electorate. Several systems have been spokefn of. The proportional system of representation has been mentioned, but it has been forgotten that that system is inapplicable where there are single electorates. The one criticism directed against the measure has been that the system provided it not the best obtainable. The honorable and learned member for Corinella says there is a better one, which he calls the average system, and which would provide a remedy for the evils which now exist. When a ballot was taken on the Capital Sites question, the plan of excluding the lowest name on the list was discussed, arid the honorable and learned member introduced another method which he said was known as the average system. The condemnation of that system for electoral purposes is to be found in his own judgment, which is given in Hansard, at page 3482, volume 20 -
The system of averaging and knocking out the sites which have above the average of points, and retaining those which have below the average, and if necessary, re-averaging again, insures the adoption of the absolute choice of the House. The system could not very well be used at a general election, because, if the scrutineers had to count up 20,000 ones, twos, and threes their work would be stupendous. In an election of 1his kind, however, with a small number of votes, it is possible to adopt it, and produce such results as I have shown.
I contend that the honorable and learned member, in fairness to the House, should have told us, when he suggested that as a aire, that he had himself condemned it as absolutely impracticable. Instead of doing that, he left upon the minds of honorable members the impression that the metho3 he suggested was a better one, and preferable to that proposed by the Government. He admitted) on a previous, occasion, that it would be impracticable to apply the average system to an electorate containing 20,000 electors. I should like him to explain how the system could be practically applied to the Senate elections, seeing that there are 687,000 electors on the roll, and that 324,364 votes were recorded at the last election.
– We applied the Hare system to an election at which 80,000 votes were recorded.
– That is an entirely different matter. I have been furnished with a copy of an excellent article written by the Rev. T. J. Smith, M.A., and reprinted from the Narracoorte Herald, of 25th and 28th March, 1902’. The writer deals with the average system of voting, and says -
I have myself used this method in various small church and other elections during the past twelve years, and I can bear witness both to the extraordinary power, simplicity, and finality of this method’, and also to the excessive and wearisome toil involved in the scrutiny. And hence I do not think it possible for use in the large elections which occur in politics.
The only criticism levelled at the principle contained in the Bill, putting on one side the question of whether or not preferential voting should be made compulsory, was that it might work out differently, and would not . give the same accurate result as could be arrived at by means of the average system. I have already shown that that system is impracticable, and’, that being so, I would ask what method we are to adopt? Not a single honorable member has suggested any method better than that proposed by us.
– It is all right if you’ make it compulsory.
– It is left to the option of the majority whether they shall express their views in a certain way. I submit that if the majority who have a right to express this preference do not care to exercise it, we can rest content with having afforded them the opportunity. If the majorityelect to say, “ So far as we are concerned, although we have a right to exercise the option, we prefer to stand by our first vote, and if our candidate is not returned, we shall be contenf to ‘ abide by the result.” what objection can be urged ? Some persons may think that preferential voting should be made compulsory, but that consideration does not affect -the fundamental principle. The exhaustive system of preferences provided for under the Bill is absolutely the best and most practicable that has yet been devised.
– The Minister has not yet replied to the vital objection urged by the honorable member for Corinella?
– I have replied to the honorable and learned member. He stated that under the proposed system it would be quite possible to throw out a candidate whose election would be secured under the average system. But I have proved that the average system is hopelessly impracticable, whereas the method we propose can be effectively applied. We merely propose that ift on the first count, the votes indicate that one candidate is out of the contest, he shall be dropped, and that the preference votes shall decide the issue as between the other candidates. I would ask honorable members to vote for the second reading of the Bill, even if they_ believe in introducing the compulsory element. It is the underlying principle that we want to affirm, namely, the desirability of obtaining an expression- of the will of the majority as far as possible by means of the exercise of preference votes.
– Has the preferential voting system been used in Queensland?
– Yes. The results in five elections have been affected by the influence of preferential votes, but in many instances the preferential votes have not affected’ the results at all. I admit candidly that the system has not been used to the extent that was expected; but I would point out that when the matter was recently under discussion, and it was suggested that the preferential voting system should be dropped, the absolute equity and fairness of the principle was admitted. If it affords an equitable and just means of voting, why should we not stand by it. We have been told ‘that we ought not to adopt it, because we do not propose to apply it to the Senate elections. As I have explained, however, we should have to deal with an entirely different problem in connexion with the return of representatives to that Chamber. A number of conflicting systems would have to be considered, and it would be extremely difficult to deal with the matter at this stage with any prospect of success. It may be considered that in connexion with the Senate we should arrange for proportional representation. It might be possible to adopt the Swiss system, under which we should have to divide the electors up and fix a quota, and allot to each party representation in proportion to its strength. That is one system that might be proposed.
An Honorable Member. - Does the Minister favour that system?
– I am only pointing out what systems can be considered. In the caseof the election for the House of Representatives we have a simple matter to deal with, and can make all the necessary arrangements in time for the general election. In dealing with the Senate, however, we should have to face a number of difficult problems. Of course, if the Senate could come to an agreement on the point quicklv, I should be very glad. We are proposing something which is thoroughly practicable, and in connexion with which we can make all the necessary arrangements. No one has suggested that the electors are not sufficiently intelligent to enable them to vote in the manner proposed. The honorable member for Dalley admitted that the electors were just as intelligent as we were, and that they could exercise the franchise with due regard to the consequences of their actions. We have ample time within which to carry the new system into effect, and the electors can very readily be made acquainted with what is required of them. There is absolutely no reason why we should decline to take action with a view to securing that which we all desire, namely, a better representation of the people in Parliament. I trust that we shall have the assistance of the majority of honorable members in making the measure effective and bringing the new system into operation at the next general election.
Original question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
– I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the schedule of proposed duties which he has circulated in connexion with the reciprocal Tariff treaty which was made with the late Prime Minister of New Zealand. I have been looking through that schedule, and I find that a very important item has been omitted from the list of preferences. Whilst apples, pears, and grapes, are to be admitted into New Zealand at a lower rate of duty than was formerly charged upon them, I see that oranges are ‘to receive no preference. Why that should be so, puzzles the wit of any ordinary individual. One would have thought that oranges above all other fruit would have been included in the list of items to which a preference has been extended.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the question, and thus anticipate debate upon a subject which already appears upon the businesspaper.
– I should like the Minister to furnish an explanation of this very serious and inexplicable omission from the schedule.
– In reply to the remarks of the ‘honorable member, I can only say that it was not for lack of trying that we failed to induce the late Mr. Seddon to extend preferential treatment to Australian oranges. Both the Prime Minister and myself went almost to the point of breaking off negotiations with the late Prime Minister of New Zealand, in order to secure a preference to oranges, and to various other articles. But we could not induce him to yield.
– Did he give any reason for refusing; to extend preferential treatment to oranges?
– He did. His reason was that their admission would interfere with the growers of oranges in certain parts of New Zealand-
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1906/19060831_reps_2_33/>.