3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last week, when the Constitution Alteration (Finance)’ Bill was being discussed, I interjected that “ it was only fair to the honorable member for South Sydney to remember that he thought that the Brisbane scheme was to be for thirty-five years only,” whereupon the honorable member for Melbourne Ports replied that that was not correct, that the statement was not made in his speech, and the honorable member for Gwydir added, “ Another unscrupulous interjection by the honorable member for Corio.” I should not have taken notice of the remarks of these honorable members, whose denials or contradictions are immaterial to me, had not my statement been commented upon outside. Let me read from the official report of the Brisbane Conference what the honorable member for South Sydney really did say. I shall read only those passages of his speech affecting the matter immediately in question. The honorable member is reported to have said that -
He bad carefully scrutinized Commonwealth expenditure, and admitted that the amount set down would not do all he would like it to do; but, on the other hand, to take even what they were asking would possibly be a bit of a wrench for the States.
Four sentences further on he added -
The proposal meant, in effect, that £1 or 25s. per head would be paid to the States out of Commonwealth revenue, no matter from whence it was obtained by the Commonwealth.
And a little later he said-
This scheme met the objection raised by, the Premiers’ Conference against Sir William Lyne’s proposals; the Premiers objected to there not being any provision after thirty-five years, and Mr. O’Malley’s proposition was open to a similar criticism.
It is clear that the honorable member for South Sydney thought that the scheme would have effect for a longer period than thirty-five years, because he said that it would meet the Premiers’ objections to the proposals of the honorable member for Hume, and to there being no provision after thirty-five years.
– I wish, to ask the Prime Minister whether he will have inquiries made with a view to ascertain if it is true that vessels sometimes leave Australian ports with cargoes stowed above empty ballast tanks, thus raising the centre of gravity and correspondingly lessening the vessels’ stability, and increasing their tendency to capsize in a heavy seaway ? Is he aware that some nautical experts hold the opinion that the loss of the Clan Ronald and other vessels was due to that cause? Will he see that suitable provision is made in the Navigation - or some other - Bill to prevent vessels from proceeding to’ sea in such a condition as may jeopardize the safety of life and property from this or’ other avoidable causes?
– The Navigation Bill deals with the unseaworthiness of ships; but I do not know how far- the suggestion of the honorable member would conflict or harmonize with its provisions. I shall, have pleasure in referring the matter to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who has charge of the measure.
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that the military detachment at Lilydale, Tasmania, has been without a rifle range for two years? Will he have inquiries made, and have the matter remedied as soon as possible?
– I was not aware. I shall have inquiries made.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the rates of pay for shorthand writers for the preparation of the Commonwealth law reports . in South Australia are much lower than are given for the same work by the State, and are considered ‘by the local pressmen to be sweating rates? Will the honorable gentleman consider whether an adjustment cannot be made ?
– I have nothing to do with the preparation of the law reports.
– I- shall have inquiry made into the matter.
Distribution of Forms - Payment of Deferred Applications
– Will the Treasurer arrange that old-age pension forms shall be obtainable at the Melbourne General Post Office? It would be convenient to the public to provide for this.
– I shall see the Postmaster-General about the matter.
– According to to-day’s newspapers, something like 4,000 applications for old-age pensions are still undealt with. I ask the Treasurer from what date, should the applicationsbe granted, will the pensions applied . for be paid?
– I have specifically replied to the question already several times. Payment is made on the first pay day following the date of application.
Employment of Boys - Rates of Wages
– In July last an examination was held to test the qualifications of boys applying to enter the Department of the Postmaster-General . as juniors, but none of those who passed it have yet been appointed. In my electorate, four or five boys have been in the temporary employment of the Department all the time. I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he thinks it right that boys should be .employed temporarily in the place of .boys who qualified for permanent appointment some months ago? Are not those who have passed the examination entitled to appointment, even if it be only temporary ?
– I am not aware of the facts, and will cause an inquiry to be made. If the facts are as represented, it would appear that some wrong has been done which should be rectified. In response to a request made by the honorable member for Adelaide on Friday last, I now make available to honorable members the following revised list of the rates of wages to be paid in connexion with postal, telegraphic, and telephonic contracts, under the Postmaster-General’s Department : -
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper : -
Beer Excise Act-Regulation No. 15A added (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 125.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a question seriously affecting the Federation which was recently asked in the Victorian Legislative Council by the Honorable R. H. S. Abbott. If so, will the honorable gentleman introduce legislation this session to enable a referendum to be taken at the next election on the question’ whether the Upper House of the State Parliament of Victoria should not be abolished.
– The question which the honorable member says was asked in the State Legislative Council is not within my knowledge.
– The Honorable R. H. S. Abbott asked whether a referendum of the electors of Victoria would be taken on the question of the abolition of Federation ?
– I am not aware that a referendum of the State of Victoria would have any legal effect if it were taken in such circumstances. I hope that the attention of the electors of Victoria, and of the other States, will be concentrated in the coming Federal elections, at all events, upon the referenda which the Federal Government are proposing.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question in connexion with some claims for compensation in the case of officers and others who have died on duty, or through casualties or diseases sustained in active service. In some cases, the persons entitled to the compensation have been waiting twelve months for it. No provision to meet these claims is included in the Estimates, and I should like to know whether the Treasurer can see his way, either by introducing a Bill or by some other means, to meet them. In some instances, although the claims have been admitted, the persons entitled to the money are in some distress through the want of it.
– I can only inform the honorable member that the matter is under consideration. It has not yet reached a stage when we can submit a proposal to Parliament, but we hope to be able to bring in a Bill dealing with the question during this session, and covering, of course, only those who are entitled to compensation.
Native Labour - Land Concessions to Syndicates
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The opinion was furnished by the Attorney-General, and laid on the. table on Friday last, after the honorable member for Darwin had given notice of his question.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 5184), on motion by Mr. Fuller: -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I think there is only one matter in connexion with this Bill with which I have not already dealt. When the debate was adjourned I was about to point out the very considerable danger that arises in connexion with the postal voting system. I expressed the opinion that the whole system should ‘ be abolished, and, of course, I am therefore strongly opposed to any extension of it. The Commission that investigated the matter a few years ago made this statement in their report: -
Without concluding that undue influence was used in connexion with the postal vote the evidence adduced shows that under the present sub-section advantage might be taken to destroy the free and secret exercise of the franchise.
Although since the Commission reported we have amended the law,- I hold that if a wider inquiry into its operations were possible, the statement I have quoted would be borne out. I have referred to the safeguards which we provide to secure the secrecy of the ballot and prevent the exercise of undue influence at elections. We do not permit any one to enter the polling booth with a voter, and we have police on duty to keep those engaged in active canvassing or in assisting electors more readily to find their numbers on the electoral rolls at some distance from the door of a polling booth. We appoint returning officers and deputy returning officers, and the candidates” are represented by scrutineers. All these safeguards are provided in order that elections may be properly conducted, and to prevent the exercise of undue influence, but there is not one of them associated with the operation of the postal voting provision. This fact should of itself make us only the more careful about extending that operation. Every one who has had any experience of the way in which voting by post is carried on must be aware that under that system unfair and undue influence is frequently exercised. Although I was at one time strongly in favour of providing this facility to vote for persons who could not be present in their . electorate on the day of polling, I have now come to the conclusion that it would be wise to abolish the postal voting provision. With the facilities that are now afforded in other directions, there is less need than ever for postal voting. Statements made to me as to the undue influence deliberately used in Queensland, show that the vote recorded in this way is not the honest vote of the people, but one influenced bv fear. This was shown distinctly at Charters Towers, where the women were told that if they did not vote for certain candidates their husbands would lose their positions ; and husbands, who had the courage to vote as supporters of the Labour party did suffer. Do I understand that the Government are opposed to the proposal of the honorable member for Balaclava?
– I am glad to hear that, because it means that there is no likelihood of the suggestion being accepted. Whilst we all desire to see every facility given to women to- exercise their vote with some degree of comfort, we- must not forget that the elections are very important, and occur at such long intervals, that it is somewhat straining the point to talk about the effort that is necessary to get to the polls. Many women in their every-day life have to cover long distances; and the elections and political meeting are now conducted with such decorum that there does not seem to be any need for the special arrangement suggested. If we had to provide all the officers necessary to enable women to vote without going to the poll it would mean a sweeping change in the whole system. Every one knows that the secrecy of the ballot is not maintained, and that few of the electors are conversant with the electoral law, beyond the short notices which appear in the local press, and the information afforded by interested canvassers and tourers. The greatest safeguard can be obtained only by arranging that every woman shall go to the polling place, while, of course, facilities are provided for those who may be away from home on the election day. The radius of 7 miles appears to be very small, when we consider that people are willing to walk quite that distance, or to ride 50 miles, to attend a political meeting. Associated as I am with a nomadic class, it might be thought I should prefer to vote for extended facilities ; but, under the “ Q “ form, when the electors are subjected to dose questioning, and are under the public gaze, I think every safeguard is provided. That leaves only the sick to provide for, and the percentage of these cannot be large; and it therefore seems that we have to ; choose between the disfranchise of a limited number, owing to such adverse circumstances as we all must meet, or . taking the . risk of ten times the greater evil by the extension of the postal voting system. As I say, I am very glad to hearthat the Government is not prepared to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Balaclava; and, further, I may repeat, in my opinion, the 7 miles’ limit is too large, seeing that in Sydney and Melbourne, where half the population of the two States reside, . the electors can easily use the trams for that distance. It is unnecessary, on -the second reading, to deal with all the details of the Bill, but I urge, as I have previously urged, that instructions beyond those already printed and issued are necessary for returning officers and others concerned in the elections.
– We are anxious to get this Bill through, so as to start on that work as soon as possible.
– I am not going to delay the passing of the Bill. The matter to whichI have referred is one of the utmost importance, for a blunder made by an officer in connexion with an election is both troublesome and costly. There should be a careful selection of officers in the first place, and instructions should be given to inexperienced officers so that risk of mistakes will be reduced to a minimum, more particularly in connexion with postal voting, which is not carried on under the eyes of properly-trained officials.
.- Legislation relating to the Department of Home Affairs is not showy, but has certainly an important bearing on the public. Nothing is more to be desired than a thoroughly workable and effective Electoral Act. Electoral legislation is essentially a people’s question, andwe want “a people’* measure, irrespectiveof party political views. . The Parliament that supplies the people with an -easy, honest, and ready method of recording their votes does them no more than justice. This Bill is really a machinery measure, and, whilst important, is not as far-reaching as should he the ‘legislation of a Commonwealth Par liament, which should be able to pride itself at least on the possession of effective electoral machinery. I am not carping, nor do I desire to reflect on the Minister of Home Affairs, but it is remarkable . that, since 1902, we have had no less than five amending Electoral Bills. Patch after patch has been applied to the original Act instead of a complete and thorough Electoral Bill being introduced. The Minister has probably , not held office long enough to enable him to introduce such a Bill, and no doubt an amendment of this will be found necessary later on. The honorable member for Darling, notwithstanding the name of the constituency which he represents, is opposed to the extension of facilities for voting by post to women. It was only yesterday, figuratively speaking, that the party to which he belongs was most pronounced in its advocacy of the principle of voting by . post, andI admit that one of the essentials of a Democracy is that all the electors, male and female, weak and strong, shall have the readiest method of recording their votes.
– Think of the corruption which takes place in connexion with voting by post.
– Surely, in endeavouring to secure electoral reform, we can forget mere matters of party ascendancy. The Labour partyhave the most complete organization, and their opponents, who make use of voting by post, are, for the most part, people who are not accustomed to work as part of a large political force. No one knows better than I’ do that the political labour forces of Australia, to their infinite credit, vote with almost religious fervour, and avail themselves to the utmost of the work of their organizations. We are asked now to affirm, not a new principle, but the extension of the principle of voting ‘by post plus a further, guarantee of the preservation of the secrecy of the ballot. The new forms, copies of which have been distributed by the Minister, are most admirable. Their provisions are simple, and they will prove of great use to the average elector. The Minister is entitled to credit for having supplied honorable members with illustrationsof the procedure under this measure, which, although they may savour of the kindergarten, are undoubtedly very useful. While honorable members opposite object to voting by post the honorable member for Darling has indulged in a. paean of praise for the “’ Q “’ forms, which are used by absentee voters. If there is. danger of corruption it is in connexion with, the use of those forms.
– A person using one- has to mate a sworn declaration.
– There are some people who in the heat of an election are prepared to make a swore declaration without a moment’s thought, although I am glad to believe that the number is comparatively small. I have come to the conclusion, however, that to charge people with corruption, either in connexion with voting by post or the use of “ Q “ forms is to go altogether too far. If there is anything of which Australia ought to be proud it is the purity of her elections.
– The honorable member has not had my experience or he would not say that.
– There may be isolated cases of corruption ; but, after all, one swallow does not make a summer. If the vote secured by a candidate is not as heavy as he thinks it ought to be he at once concludes that “the other fellow ‘’ has been at work and says “ There has been a bit of corruption going on.” If he secures a big vote,’ however, he says “ The election has been conducted on admirable lines.” I should say that at least 98 per cent, of the electors are free from corruption in connexion with voting, by post or the use of “ Q_ “ forms. The Minister intends under this Bill to abolish several forms now in use, such as the “ Electoral Cl’aim “ form, the “ Application for Transfer “ form, and the form for “Application for Transfer from one sub-division to another,” and to substitute for them one complete form. The Minister, in hi? second-reading speech, said that the- existing form of electoral claim was not to be superseded. In that I think he made a grave- mistake.
– I said that all forms now outstanding were to be recognised.
– I can understand outstanding forms being honoured until the new form comes into operation. But surely copies of the new forms can. be circulated throughout Australia in time to be used before the next, election.. In a- time of political, excitement, when- party organizations are working their hardest, there is some danger of trickery. The average elector does not rush to transfer from onn? division to another when an-, election is not expected for twelve months. But dur- ing the excitement of a pending election, there is danger to be apprehended from the use of the existing forms.
– As soon as this Bill becomes law, none of the old forms, except those outstanding, will be used.
– That is a satisfactory statement. I understand that as soon as this Bill becomes law, the old forms will be discarded, and the new forms will take their place?
– 1 thought I made that clear.
– No; the Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the old1 forms were to remain good. I listened to his statement very carefully, and my recollection is borne out by the Hansard report.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– I thought 1 heard the Minister say the contrary.
– The main point is, however, that form B, in current use, is a most dangerous one. It allows an electoral claim to be entertained simply on the representation of the claimant. There is no witness, and no guarantee is required. The danger is that such claims can be made just before an election, and that, when made, they have to be honoured by the electoral registrar. During the fortnight preceding polling-day, these claims are likely to be made in shoals. People will rush to the registrars,, claiming the right to be- enrolled in certain electorates. The police authorities will have no time to check the claims, and there will be no guarantee as to whether they are genuine, or not.
– Claimants have to reside in the subdivision for which they desire to vote a month before an election..
– But under this form oi application there is no test as to whether the applicant has resided in the subdivision for a month, or any shorter period. Even the signature of the claimant has not to be witnessed. The fact that these forms are to be superseded furnishes an extra reason why this Bill should be put through speedily. If there has been corruption of a serious, character hitherto,, it has occurred in consequence of these forms being used. If a man. named Smith, for example, said that he resided in. Edwardstreet, Balmain, there, would be no check upon his statement. The Minister has done well to propose to provide a form. that seeks to avoid the dangers that may arise under form B. But the form that is to take its place reminds me of a Sunday school catechism card. I never saw more questions jammed into a smaller space in my life. These forms will be used by people, some of whom are in a hurry, some of whom will be nervous, and some of whom write a large hand. No fewer than six questions have to be answered upon a very small card. Does the Minister really think that the card is sufficiently large ? I do not know whether a spasm of economy has suddenly overtaken him.
– Do not the questions simply require an elector to answer “ yes “ or “no”?
– But, in addition to the answers to questions, the card has to contain the date of the application, the signature of the claimant, the signature of a witness, with his occupation and place of living. I do not want a very large card to be adopted, but there is surely a happy medium. Some men write a large signature. Many will be inclined to fill up such a form in a running hand. The filling up of this card, to people who do not write in minute hieroglyphics, will be a matter of difficulty. The form, when full, will look like a fantan card, if I may assume, Mr. Speaker, that you know what that is.’ I do not know whether the Government have asked the Minister of Home Affairs to cut clown the expenditure of the Electoral Department, but I hold that, in regard to electoral matters, he should not be governed in his actions by a consideration for pounds, shillings, and pence.
– Hear, hear ! I quite agree with the honorable member.
– The opportunities for electors to cast their votes should not be regulated by that consideration. I do not suggest extravagance in the Department; but I certainly ask that every elector shall lie afforded the fullest facilities for recording his vote, and that an amount sufficient for that purpose should be provided. I have never been much impressed by a Chief Electoral Officer who, in his report, claimed that he had conducted an election more cheaply than had any one else. Now, we can have cheap and nasty elections. It is only once in three years that the people get a chance to speak their mind ; and we always hope, that they will speak with a coherent and powerful voice. I have ever been opposed to the rolls being collected in the present manner, I hope yet to see the Minister propose a broad and comprehensive amendment of the electoral law, instead of relying upon a system which, if looked into, would be found to be very costly. I venture to say that the services of the police, the postal officials, and the registrars, if properly appraised, would represent a very large sum. [n my opinion, the Commonwealth Electoral Office should work in conformity with the State Electoral Offices; in fact, there should be one large. Department, whose duty it should be to prevent gerrymandering, stuffing of the rolls, and negligence in regard to enrolment. It should carefully watch the arrivals in, and departures from, every electorate, and maintain a system for the purification of the rolls, which, whenever an election was sprung upon the people, should always be found, by the Parliament and the country, to be almost perfect. Our present system is a clumsy one. For some reason or other, there seems to be a desire on the part of the House to cut- down the expenditure on electoral matters. If there is a case where most complete machinery should be provided regardless of the cost, it is in the conduct of elections. I consider that the Minister has acted wisely in adhering to and simplifying the system of voting by post. I had hoped that, in addition to providing reasonable facilities for voting, the Bill would have also provided for the contingent or preferential vote, not the proportional vote, which is- a different thing. Many persons confuse the two things. It has been rumoured in certain newspapers that a system of preferential voting would be introduced.
– The Prime Minister stated here the other day that it would be done.
– I am very glad to bear that the Minister will have charge of a Bill of that character.
– This is purely a machinery measure.
– Exactly. In regard to expenditure on electoral matters, the Minister ought to be intrusted with unlimited power, because we cannot expect him to provide a proper system unless proper machinery is placed at his command. The system under which the names for a directory on which business men rely, and which electors very often consult is more expensive than is our present system of collecting electoral information, but it is very effective. The system which is adopted by private enterprise might be imitated to a great extent by the Department., The collection of names in .districts and suburbs by private firms is carried out far more carefully and effectively than is the collection of information for the Electoral Department. I am not casting any reflection on the police, who, I recognise, have quite enough to do in connexion with their ordinary duties without being called upon to undertake administrative work for the Electoral Department. If their work for that Department had to be paid for in a proper way the cost would be very great. Although the Commonwealth does not directly pay ibr the services of the police and registrars, yet, indirectly, it does. I am not here to outline a scheme. If the Minister will examine a directory for Victoria or New South Wales, he will be astounded at the pains which have been taken to insure completeness and accuracy. Far less attention, however, is given to the compilation of our electoral rolls. I cannot understand why the Minister, who is anxious for proper facilities to be provided and for a large vote to be cast, has not announced his intention to establish more polling booths.
– I am doing that everywhere now.
– I am very pleased to hear that statement, because so far as Sydney and surrounding electorates are concerned an additional polling booth would be a novelty.
– During last month I sanctioned a great number.
– For many year’s in Sydney we have had the same number of polling booths.
– It might be inferred that too many were established in the first instance.
– No. The honorable member for Darling said it was nothing for a person to have to travel 7 miles to a polling booth. To the resident of a city or a suburb that is considered something, but, of course, to a resident of a country place it is nothing. In the latter case it serves to kill time. A man’s nearest neighbour in the country may not be much closer than seven miles, and, therefore, the distance is considered nothing. But, unfortunately, in the congested areas’, the more means of locomotion that is provided the more do people dislike travelling a distance. It is of no use to beat about the bush. Townsfolk get lazy and almost want a polling booth to be established alongside their door. I believe that country people are far more active on polling day than are the residents in congested areas. The latter have many other things to occupy their minds, but in country districts a general election is one of the few excitements which the people get. Before voting by post is abolished it should be remembered that in our large cities and their suburbs there is a tendency for a certain proportion of the people at certain seasons of the year to resort to country districts to recuperate. Our elections are generally held at or near Christmastide or Eastertide. In the latter case a large number of female voters leave the cities and suburbs to spend a week or two in the country, and the provision for voting by post enables them to cast their votes while they are enjoying a holiday. I cannot understand any honorable member standing up here and saying, “ I only want those on my own side to vote. I only want the organized force to vote. Never mind about the other side.” On behalf of those who are not organized I wish to say that in my opinion the provision for voting by post is an excellent one.
– They are organized all right, over there.
– I do not know about that. The honorable member must be more knowing than I gave him credit for.
– I have been through the fire.
– The honorable member has been through the fiery furnace. If he were to ask me whether I thought that honorable members on this side of the chamber were organized, I should not use that word in my reply. If they could trace any cases of corruption to the system of voting by post I could understand honorable members asking for its abolition. We know its advantages, and the statement that it may be abused is not a sufficient reason for repealing it. I am glad that the Minister has proposed these alterations, and that the present forms are merely temporary. I hope, however, that the cards which he proposes to use will be made larger. I do not wish them to be as large as the side of a house, or as the bottom of a Merry Widow band box; but at present they are toe- small. I am pleased.,, too,, that the principle o(. preferential voting is to be extended.
– The first man past the post should get the job-
– This is a people’s measure, and their interests should be studied before those of candidates or political parties. But. the administration of the Department of Home Affairs should not be too parsimonious.
– The Bill is one to be considered in Committee rather than, to- be discussed at the second-reading stage;, because no great principle is involved, its value depending chiefly on matters of detail. I do not contemplate with satisfaction the frequent alteration of our electoral machinery, of the constant substitution of new forms of claim, transfer, certificate, and the like. It is better to continue to use forms which are not quite perfect than to make constant changes. People get used to certain forms, and are more likely to exercise the franchise if things are made easy for them than if frequent changes cause our electoral administration to be difficult to understand. The Commonwealth has made rather too many changes, with the result that an immense amount of printed matter is constantly going out of use, though, the new forms differ hardly appreciably from the old. These changes confuse the electors. When discussing the last Amending Bill, I mentioned that the returning officer for the Commonwealth district of Boothby is also returning officer for the State district of Torrens, which contains, perhaps, 10,00.0 or 12,000 more electors, though in most respects the two are identical, their boundaries differing only in one direction. But while the State is the larger electorate, the forms and documents necessary for the conduct of State elections are contained in a bookcase about 6 feet high and 4 feet broad., the rest of the accommodation of the office being occupied with Commonwealth stationery and forms, a surplus being also piled up in the balcony at the back. This is ridiculous. The Commonwealth forms should not be more numerous and bulky than those of the State. It is the constant changes that, account for this difference. Qf course, we are always seeking after the best, but we are making changes too often. I see little in the complaint of the honorable member for Dalley as to the size of the proposed card. In my opinion, the card is: better than the paper form which it is to supersede.. It will be easier to handle, will not: tear so readily, and can be carried in the pocket.
– It is a great improvement on the present form.
– I’ think so. I hope that the Minister will not make it larger. He might improve it, however, by striking- out the provision for the attestation of a. voter’s signature.. The witness is- asked to declare that he, being an elector, or qualified to be one, has seen the claimant sign the claim.’. But what advantage is gained by such a certificate. The person who wished to make a false claim would have no difficulty in obtaining a witness for his. signature.
– In any case, the witness is- not liable.
– Exactly. If a man knew that he were witnessing a false claim, he would not sign his own name. The only effect of this provision is to make it more difficult to get one’s name placed on the roll. We are all agreed that it is desirable that every person who is qualified to vote shall have his name placed on the roll and kept there. Anything that will hinder that is disadvantageous. In South Australia the police have recently, been collecting the names for both Commonwealth and State rolls. In collecting for the Commonwealth they have asked those whose names were not already on the roll to fill up the necessary application forms ; but in the State collecting, the names of all who did not fill up forms were left off the rolls. That is an instance of the way how not to do it. People will not continue to register their names year after year. Having registered once, they think that that is sufficient. Why should a man’s name be struck off the roll if it has been properly put on, and he has not moved, or lost his qualification? Provisions requiring fresh enrolment are a mistake. I believe that, sooner or later, we shall provide that the police, the postmasters, the shire clerks, the rate collectors, or some other officials shall be made responsible for keeping on the rolls of each district the names of the electors qualified to vote- therein. There is no difficulty in and around Adelaide in connexion with the ratepayers’ rolls. House occupiers, who are not directly responsible for the rates; have their names placed on the rolls.
– In Victoria mot 70 .per cent, are on the ratepayers’ lolls.
– Are there special officers in South Australia to look after the ratepayers’ rolls?
– The work is done by the district or town clerks.
– I do not think that any one in Victoria would suggest that the rate collectors should be trusted in this matter.
– The district and town clerks of Victoria are men of the same clay, and just as honest, as those of South Australia. The difference is merely one of system. In South Australia, every -one resident in a district is on the Council roll for that district, and I have scarcely ever heard of an instance in which the name of a resident has ‘been left off the Council roll. But at every State and Federal election we find that there are hundreds :and thousands of names left off the electoral rolls. The average elector, and even those connected with political organizations, do not know that names have been left off the rolls until an election takes place. At every Parliamentary election, scores of electors, after entering the polling booths in order to record their votes, discover that their names are not on the rolls. Though the electors claim to have signed the proper papers, and to have done eerything necessary to secure their enrolment, it is, in most cases, discovered on inquiry that they have not done so. In the case of the District Council rolls in South Australia, the names of all ratepayers resident in a district are placed on the citizen’s roll by the district clerk, and no ratepayer is called upon to register his right to vote., The adoption of a similar system in connexion with our electoral rolls should bring about all that we desire. It should be the duty of an electoral officer, when any one comes to reside within his district, to put his name on the roll, and to see that it is struck off the roll for the district which he has left. I hope that it will not ‘be long before we shall have adopted such a system. It might seem at first glance to require the appointment of a considerable number of officers to carry it into effect, but I have no doubt that it would be found very much more economical than the present system. Postmasters in towns -keep an accurate record of the names’ of all persons living in .their .particular district ; any changes axe constantly noted. It might foe urged that .we could not ask them to do this work of electoral registration in addi tion to their’ other duties. But I venture to think that it would not equal the work which .they are now called upon- to do as the result of the difficulties arising from the present system. I think the system of personal registration by electors has Icd to a lot of .abuse, and really increases the duplication of names on electoral ro:13s. We shall make a very great improvement iff our electoral system if we adopt a commonsense method of intrusting an electoral ‘Official with the duty <of putting the names of electors on the rolls, instead of leaving it to the electors themselves to see that they are enrolled. It is not that electors generally do not wish ito have their names on the rolls, but there is a general inertia, and people put off until to-morrow- what ought to be done to-day. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer., and that is the question of voting toy post I shave never -voted for any extension of the postal - voting system originally adopted in .South Australia. The demand for such a system was made there, in the first instance, -on behalf, chiefly, of seamen. As a class,’ they were found .to be unable to say that they would be at a particular place cn a given day, and perhaps not more than ro per cent, of them would be able to vote in the district in which they resided. The postalvoting system was proposed and adopted to meet their convenience, and .a distance limit from the polling place was included, which covered the case of shearers, commercial travellers, engine-drivers, and others, besides seamen. The system was gradually extended to include women who had reason to believe that, on account of ill-health, they would be unable to record their votes at a polling booth. There could be no possible objection to that, but we are now face to face with a tremendous expansion of the original proposition. Under our law, any elector who has reason to believe that he will not, during the hours of polling, be within 7 miles of any polling place in his division, is permitted to vote by post. A rmit whs intends to take a tram ride of 7 miles need not worry about voting personally; he can use the postal vote.
– Postal voting is more restricted under this Bill than under the existing law.
– I am aware ofthat. But there .are some who believe that the existing provision should be even further extended,, and I am showing how far .the existing provisions go .beyond the original idea to enable persons who really would not be in a position to vote personally to vote by post. The system has so developed as to have become almost the substitution of a postal vote for a personal vote.
– It is more difficult to travel 7 miles in some country districts than it is to travel 14 miles in other districts.
– I admit that; but, in most districts, the elector has no difficulty in travelling 7 miles. Any one who may be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending a polling place is also entitled to vote by post. There can be no objection to that. But I complain that the continued extension of the system has made it dangerous. It is quite unnecessary to give any party complexion to the objection to the present postal voting provisions. I assume that all political parties desire facilities for the free exercise of the will of the electors. Any scheme lending itself to coercion of any kind must be viewed with grave suspicion, and its operation hedged round with all kinds of safeguards. .
– Does the honorable member speak of “ coercion “ ?
– “ Coercion “ is, perhaps, a rather stronger term than it is necessary to use. I refer to the exercise of any influence calculated to interfere with the expression of the will of the elector. We have gone so far as to say that no one shall be permitted to do any canvassing in the neighbourhood of a polling booth. All political touts are kept at least 50 yards from the entrance to a booth’. We take care that no one shall attempt to exercise undue influence, intimidation, or coercion, or influence of any kind, anywhere near a polling booth. But under the postal voting system we have the exercise of undue influence and coercion in a most dangerous form. The postal vote, for instance, is very largely used by domestic servants.
– They are not coerced, they are merely bluffed.
– I am afraid that they are frequently coerced. The master or mistress asks them if they intend to vote. If they say they do, a postal voting certificate is obtained, and they are asked to sign it. In the circumstances, unless, they are persons of strong will, they will sign anything. They sign the certificate in the presence of the master or mistress, or some friend of the family, a justice of the peace, or medical practitioner, and do not attend at a post-office for the purpose at all. The whole business is carried out as a sort of family arrangement, and in such circumstances only strong-willed persons, who may be careless about annoying a master or mistress, are able to exercise their free will in the matter. This is a species of intimidation, or undue influence, that is exercised at every election. It is idle to say that it is not, because, as a matter of fact, we know that the ballot system is being undermined, as a result of the extensive use of the postal voting provisions. We have gone in our law very much further than any provisions adopted in South Australia. Under the State law we had at least this safeguard, that the elector wishing to vote by post had to attend at a post-office and record his vote in the presence of the postmaster, some time prior to the election. We have omitted that safeguard, and given the power of witnessing a vote to any authorized witness, which practically means anybody, seeing that, after a very long list, there are included all public servants who may be proclaimed.
– Some of the justices of the peace regard this work as derogatory to their dignity.
– That may be, but other justices of the peace lend themselves to the work as strong political partisans. Any authorized person can go round and gather these certificates, and this opens the door to much intimidation. For instance, if there were a Labour Government in power, with the public servants generally favorable to that Government, the results might be such as to make the people heartily sick of postal voting. While that, of course, is not possible just now, the present Government will not be in power for ever; and to place in the hands of the public servants of a State control over the voters is to provide an engine for possible corruption and intimidation. Do I understand that the. Government propose to introduce a measure for preferential voting this session ?
– Then I hope that such a measure will not be passed. The object of the preferential or contingent vote is to secure the bond fide choice of the ma- ‘jority of the electors. That, in itself, is a desirable thing; but we must recollect that the boundaries of the electorates are artificial, and that, if they were disturbed in any direction, the result of an election might be very different.
– The candidate who gets the majority of the votes is the choice.
– I am strongly in favour of having Parliament, as far as possible, a true reflex of the views of the people, as represented by the majority ; but, if anything is to be done, we ought to institute proportional voting.
– But if only 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of the electors vote, how can we have the views of the majority ?
– That is another question.
– The first man past the wire ought to be the one elected.
– As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Darwin and myself both oppose the contingent vote, but from different stand-points. The only object worth striving for is that the people shall be represented in their due proportion.
– The system has been tried in Tasmania.
– And has- been a great success.
– No it has not ; it is impossible to get an appeal to the country on a straight issue.
– As to the success or otherwise of the system, that, of course, is a matter of opinion. But does any one believe that we ever do have an appeal to the country on a straight issue? Does not the personal equation come in every time?
– There was very nearly a straight issue on Friday !
– The great probabilities are that, in an election in the honorable member’s district, the votes would be. for him as against his opponent, and the agreement to which he refers would probably have no influence on the result. To say that we cannot have a direct appeal on any particular question may be all very well on the platform, but, as a matter of fact, it is nonsense- almost as ridiculous as saying that the debates here influence votes.
– May I ask what does influence elections in South Australia?
– The honorable member must not ask me conundrums of that kind. Whether honorable members favour or object to proportional voting, it must, at least, be admitted that it repre sents the fundamental principle, namely, that a true majority shall be obtained, with a hearing for the minority. It is obvious that in the Senate there could be a representation of one side only throughout the Commonwealth, and a preferential or contingent vote could only make it more certain that, under no circumstances, could a minority be heard in Parliament.
– In Parliament it is only the majority that counts.
– If so, why have a Parliament at all? Why not ascertain how many persons are in favour of a given party, and allow that party to arrange all legislation in a little room?
– That is what is happening now !
– That is what is happening in some places. Parliament should be the place in which decisions are arrived at after all sides and shades of opinion have been heard or had an opportunity of being heard.
– Or it ceases to be a deliberative body.
– Quite so; it becomes a mere recording chamber of the decisions of the majority ; and, if that be the proper plan, the people of Australia are the maddest of mad people to maintain seven Parliaments. I strongly favour proportional representation.
– We cannot have it.
– We can, so far as the Senate is concerned, and, indeed, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, only we should have to abolish our present boundaries.
– All that is desired at present is to enable us, under the existing law, to obtain the opinion of the majority.
– That is, to further accentuate the absolute rule of the majority.
– We wish to make the law consistent with the principle.
– Of course, that measure is not before us now, and probably we ought not to discuss it at any length. I understand that, in future, the ballot-papers are to- be printed on what is called “value” paper, that is, paper bearing a secret watermark?
– This paper, I suppose, will be more expensive than the paper at present in use; and I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether there is any real advantage in the change. The whole virtue of a ballot-paper,, no matter what the material may be, lies in the initials of the returning officer.
– It is not proposed to do away with the initialing of the ballotpapers by the returning officer, but we intend to use the specially prepared paper so that a vote will not be invalid because the returning officer’s initials do not appear on the ballot-paper.
– That places the matter in a different light and alters my view entirely as to the advisableness of using “ value “ paper. At the last election for the Senate in South Australia the whole of the electors voting at one polling booth were disfranchised because the initials of the returning officer were riot attached to the ballot-papers.
– We intend to adopt this new course in order to avoid an election being upset on a technical point of the kind referred to.
– Had such a provision been in force at the last general election the personnel of the Senate would not have been what it is to-day. In conclusion, I wish only to express the hope that we shall not have introduced year after year Bills to amend the electoral law. It would be far better for us to put up with some slight inconvenience rather than to be constantly amending die law, since these frequent changes tend to confuse the- electors and to prevent votes being recorded to the extent that they would otherwise bc
– I am sure that the Minister has introduced this Bill with the intention of providing the fullest facilities for the electors to record their votes. If there is one thing that is required more than another in connexion with our electoral legislation it is that the most ample facilities for voting shall be provided, because we find that, in connexion with most elections, the proportion of votes recorded is remarkably small. In quite a number of instances not more than 50 per cent, of the persons enrolled have recorded their votes. That shows either that the people do not take such an interest as they ought to take in a Federal election, or that the facilities to record their votes are not what they ought to be. In this connexion I regret to find that some honorable members are opposed to the facilities fe voting by post for which this Bill provides. Under this Bill persons, who are ill or who expect to be not less than 7 miles, distant from a polling, booth on the day of an election n;ay vote by post. Some honorable members in objecting to. that provision have said that a distance of 7 miles, is a mere nothing. One honorable member declared that it would be an easy matter foi people to travel that, distance by tram. I regret to say that there are many parts of my electorate where ;t is impossible to travel that distance either by tram or train, although they are enterprising people there who could record their votes in an intelligent manner if reasonable facilities were afforded them. In many districts in my electorate the polling booths are far more than 7 miles apart, and to say that it is nothing for a woman to leave her home and her children and to travel 7 miles or more to record her vote is to display a total ignorance of the conditions under which people are living, or a want of interest, which is - even worse. While the system of voting by post may be1 subject to abuse the advantage which it offers Ls that it gives ever.v one an opportunity to vote. If the Minister is not disposed in country districts to provide polling booths less than 7 miles apart, then voting by post is the next best provision to make. If we were able to provide a polling booth within easy reach of the residence of every elector the position would be different ; but we are not able to do so, and if we were to do away with the system of voting by post we should practically declare that people who had the courage to gointo the back-blocks, and to engage in the work of pioneers should be denied a voice in the selection of the members of this Parliament. I am sure- that no honorable member desires that. Voting by post must, of course-, be safeguarded from abuse, but I am inclined to think that the abuses said to be associated with the- system are considerably magnified. In country districts more particularly, manypeople are constantly travelling. Men travel with stock or engage in various businesses which take them miles away from the polling booths in respect of which they are enrolled. Then there are commercial travellers who are seldom at home. All these people have appreciated the postal’ voting system.
– Could not commercial travellers use “ 0 “ forms?
– Commercial travellers do not always know when they are likely to- be home.
– And so with seamen.
-Quite so. They are absent from home for weeks at a stretch. The facilities for voting should be made as easy as possible. The only objection 1 have to the Bill is that electors who intend to vote by post will be able to obtain the necessary ballot-paper only from the returning officer of their electorate. The returning officer for Cowper lives at the extreme end of the electorate, and it would be impossible for people in some parts of the electorate to obtain a reply to an application for a postal ballot-paper in less than ten days. Many people are not aware ten days before polling-day that they will not be at home on that day, and consequently many people, because of this provision, have been and will be debarred from voting. I should like to see power given to the deputy returning officers to issue postal ballot-papers, and I ask the Minister to consider that suggestion. I urge that the system of voting by post should not only be retained, but, subject to proper safeguards, increased. The only other point to which Idesire to refer relates to the way in which names of persons are allowed to remain on the rolls in respect . of an electorate from which they have removed. Many people having become enrolled for a certain district, leave without notifying the Electoral Department of their change of residence, and their names consequently remain on the rolls for a considerable time. It is thus possible for a man to vote for an electorate in which he has no interest. Many persons on changing their places of residence do not take the trouble to have their names placed on the roll of the electorate to which they have removed, and if they vote at all they vote in respect of electorates in which they have no interest or sympathy. Their homes are not there, but if their names are on the roll they can record their votes.I should like to see provision made for purging the rolls of the names of persons who have removed, and I trust that the Minister, before we reach the Committee stage, will consider these matters.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh [4.55]. - The honorable member for Dalley said that the Labour party had favoured the extension of postal voting. I remember when the system was introduced in South Australia with the object of allowing seamen who could not go to a polling-booth to record their votes. The Legislative Coun cil then saw fit to extend that provision in the direction for which both the Commonwealth and the South Australian law now provides ; but the working of the system has been anything but satisfactory. If we provide facilities for fraud, undoubtedly fraud will be perpetrated. The grossest kind of fraud has occurred in connexion with postal voting. I took part in a recent State election to fill the vacancy caused by thelamented death of the late Premier of South Australia, Mr. Tom Price, and during the campaign I discovered several kinds of frauds. 1 am sorry to say that one of those frauds was perpetrated by the manager of one of the largest business concerns in Adelaide. I refer to Mr. Hill, the manager for Mr. Darling. Mr. Darling is one of the political opponents of the Labour party, and was for some years leader of the Opposition in the South Australian House of Assembly.
– Surely such people would not be guilty of anything of that kind.
– I shall tell the House what was done. It is always very difficult to trace these frauds, but I experienced no difficulty in discovering that which took place in the instance to which I have referred. The honorable member for Boothby said that there was a safeguard attached to the system of voting by post in South Australia’, because there ah elector had to go to the post-office to obtain his postal ballot-paper and record his vote, and the Commonwealth postal stamp had to be placed on it. In this instance, however, even that safeguard was of no value. Two respectable.lady canvassers called on an acquaintance of my own - a lady who was seriously ill and could not possibly go to the polling booth on polling-day. They asked her in the first place did she intend to vote, and, if so, would she vote for the candidate opposed to the Labour party? “Oh,” my friend replied, “ my husband and I always vote for the Labour candidate.” They then coolly told her that they had interviewed her husband, and that he was not going to vote for the Labour man. That was a lie, but the two respectable lady canvassers did not trouble themselves about that. My friend, who was in a very nervous state, said, “ I cannot vote, because I shall not be able to go to the post-office.” One of the ladies replied, “ You will not have to do that. You have only to sign a form, where you are, and we will see that everything is fixed up.”
This obliging gentleman, Mr. Darling’s manager, went round in a cab, and the lady’s vote was recorded at home. A number of houses were visited, at which the same sort of thing was done. At any rate, the postmaster admitted, when I made inquiries through the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, that he had gone to different houses in a cab with the Commonwealth stamp. That is the kind of fraud that was perpetrated.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that electors in South Australia were simple enough to vote in that manner?
– Yes ; if there is one thing about which the electors know little - and about which members of this Parliament know little - it is our electoral law.
– We do not do that kind of thing in Victoria. The honorable member is speaking of South Australia.
– The same kind of thing was done, wholesale, in Victorianotably in the electorate of Melbourne. It will be done elsewhere. When I went into the electorate of Wakefield at the recent election, I found that some intelligent people were not aware that an illiterate could go into the polling booth and direct his vote to be recorded by the returning officer, in the presence of a scrutineer.
– There was a presiding officer in St. Kilda at the last election, who did not know that the Federal law allowed an illiterate voter to vote in that manner.
– An illiterate can vote at a State election in South Australia; that is to say, any one can inform him whether the name of the candidate for whom he wishes to vote is in the- first, second, or third square on the ballot-paper; but he is not allowed to make use of the presiding officer in actually recording the vote, as I am pleased to say is the case under our Federal Act.
– I had to produce a copy of the Act to one returning officer, to prove to him that an illiterate voter could vote in that manner.
– The postmaster to whom I have referred did not know the law. . He is a very honest man ; but I have papers in my possession which show the kind of pressure that is brought to bear upon some postmasters by persons with whom they are dealing in the way of business. A postmaster who has a little store is naturally anxious to oblige a man with whom he has business relations; and although I am satisfied that the postmaster to whom I have been alluding did not know that he was breaking the law, yet I also know that the law has been broken systematically at every election. While the honorable member for Eden-Monaro wasPostmaster General, I pointed out to him that in a country district in South Australia “a postmaster was driving round in a vehicle with the Commonwealth stamp, and taking the votes of all and sundry. He told me that that sort of thing must be stopped, and that he would give directions that the stamp was not to be allowed to go out of the office. Nevertheless, after the Torrens election, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral to whom I said that the Minister had told me that the stamp was not to be allowed to leave the office, showed me the instructions that he had, and which contain no such direction. He showed me the instructions which he received in 1905 from Mr. Sydney Smith, who was then PostmasterGeneral in the Reid Government - - instructions which, I am glad to know, were given against the advice of the officers, who did not believe in them. These instructions permitted a postmaster to take out the stamp in the manner described, solong as it did not interfere with his duties to do so. Imagine the position of a number of postmasters dependent upon the business brought to them by leading residents in country places. These people would have no difficulty whatever in inducing the postmasters to travel for miles outside their own districts with the Commonwealth stamp. I know that in the Barker electorate a postmaster went miles outside his own district, and the most atrocious frauds have been committed. I am sorry that no punishment has been inflicted, though I gave the names of those whohad done wrong in this matter. I believe that it is my duty to stop fraud under the Electoral Act, as far as possible. It is for these reasons that I object to the postal voting provisions. I know that the abolition of the system will inflict a hardship on shearers and seamen; but I had rather see seamen, who may be at sea at election time, deprived of their vote, thanhave the frauds that are committed under the present system. The honorable member for Franklin has interjected that what has taken place indicates extraordinary innocence on the part of electors ; but the honorable member for Yarra has remarked that even presiding officers do not always know what the law provides. To show what little safeguard we have at present against electoral frauds, I have here a number of papers containing applications for postal votes. Every one of these applicants was refused on the ground that he could not sign his name; and properly so. The mark of the applicant is on each paper, and each one is properly witnessed by a justice of the peace. But I have been furnished with the names of three other persons who made claims under precisely the same circumstances, and whose papers were witnessed in exactly the same way, but who were allowed to vote. I may here remark that, if we did the wise thing, we should not allow justices of the peace to have anything to do with electoral papers. Justices of the peace axe political appointments, and the frauds that have been committed by them in Queensland have been outrageous. At one time, it was impossible to get on to the State electoral roll there without the signature of a justice of the peace, and many shearers were refused the right to vote because they could not secure a signature. There is plenty of other work for justices of the peace to do, and we should not allow them to touch election papers. I do not know of anything which has been so productive of fraud in connexion with elections as the power intrusted to justices of the peace. Then, again, much wrong has been done by returning officers. At the last election, a friend of my own, at Tea Tree Gully, South Australia, on going to record his vote, called attention to the fact that the returning officer had initialed the ballotpaper on the wrong side. The returning officer at first refused to rectify the error. Thirty electors had voted on papers which were initialed on the wrong side. The result was that they were disfranchised. The disallowing of their votes might have turned an election. What is to prevent a returning officer making a mistake wilfully ? At present, he runs no risk. Indeed, in one case that I know of, I doubt whether the “ mistake “ was not made wil- fully. My personal opinion, from my knowledge of the man, is that such was the case.
– Did not that occur at a State election?
– No, at a Federal election. The reason why the officer initialed the papers on the wrong side was that he was in the habit of initialing them on that side in connexion with State elections.
– Is that the fellow who had two piles of ballot-papers ; ohe pile correctly initialed, and the other wrongly?
– Yes. One returning officer, as the Attorney-General knows, burnt all the ballot-papers, and cleared out of the country to escape punishment, and I know that he received consideration for what he did. The laxity that occurs in connexion with our elections is astonishing. At Gawler, we had a returning officer who actually did not know whether he had burnt the ballot-papers or not. He finally said that he had burnt them, but afterwards the papers turned up.
– I happened to defend him, and I know that he did not, definitely say that they were burnt.
– The then AttorneyGeneral - the present Minister of External Affairs - admitted to me that the papers were recovered.
– The returning officer believed that he had destroyed them.
– He never actually said that, though.
– I applied to the then Attorney-General to be allowed to have the papers examined.
– That was after the case was concluded.
– I maintain that the papers ought to have been inspected.
– Under the authority of the law, though.
– Exactly. I am simply showing the laxity that has occurred in the conduct of our elections. There are many cases for which this Bill does not provide.. Although frauds are committed, no provision is made in this Bill for the proper exposure of them when they occur. I believe that’, had it been known that the ballot-papers supposed to have been destroyed could have been examined, the trouble ‘ in the case to which I refer’ would not have occurred. It has been represented that, as we allow illiterates to vote at an election, we should also allow them to vote by means of postal ballotpapers. I am entirely opposed to that idea. Indeed, in Committee, I shall make an endeavour to wipe out the postal-ballot system altogether. I do not mean to say that the frauds that have occurred have been entirely on one side. But it is our duty to prevent fraud, and I think I have shown that it cannot possibly be prevented under the postal-ballot system. I have given the names of parties who have broken through the system. There cannot be anything plainer than that. The penalties ought to be much severer than they are.
– What would the honorable member do with persons who voted two or three times at one election ?
– I should imprison them without the option of a fine. I have heard that that very serious offence has been committed over and over again, though I have not absolute proof of that.
– Would it not be a great safeguard to require a person to sign his name on the roll when he voted?
– At the election to replace the deceased Premier of South Australia, an ex-Legislative Councillor - one of our leading business men - actually tried to vote a second time at a polling-booth near which I was standing. I am sorry to say that he was not allowed to do what he wished. That was a disappointment to me, because I have known two or three gentlemen of good standing who have tried to vote a second time. One of our leading business men wanted to vote for his brother on the ground that he was his attorney, but, of course, he knew that he was not entitled to vote.
– That is not confined to one lot of voters.
– I am not saying that it is. I cannot do more than state what has come under my notice. I have brought injustice after injustice, grievance after grievance, before the ‘ State Parliament, without giving names, only . to be told that mine were the wild statements of a Labour man. Years ago I adopted the habit of denouncing a fraud or an injustice whenever it came to my knowledge by naming the offenders. I regret that this Bill does not do something more in regard to safeguarding the limitation of election expenses. I do not know that I would not be more liberal in some directions.
– It is ridiculous to have the same limitation for an immense electorate as for a small one.
– Yes. I think that in regard to my own electorate the limitation is quite enough. No election of mine has cost myself or the Labour party above£40, not even an election for a Legislative Council constituency embracing halfadozen State electorates. At the same time, it is ridiculous to talk about £100 being sufficient for large country electorates like that of Grey, for instance. Although the Act says that honorable members ought to make a true and faithful return of the amounts expended by them at the election, yet we have had the Treasurer standing here and stating that on rolls he had spent £25 which he had not included in his account of expenses. That, I contend, is part of the expenditure which has to be accounted for.
– The present roll will cost the . honorable member from six to eight times as much as the last one.
– Why ?
– Because the roll for every polling-booth was issued separately before.
– Honorable members will be able to buy a complete roll and dissect it. I do not know why we should not return to the old plan and supply a subdivisional roll at a cheap rate. In my opinion, the cost of such rolls ought to be included by a candidate in his account of expenses. There is another fraud which ought to be safeguarded against. It will be remembered that I brought before the House the case of two newspapers which had been published merely to forward the interests of a party at the last election. I do not want to see a recurrence of that atrocious act. I ask the Minister to consider whether he cannot devise some way to prevent it. I have no objection to my opponents issuing as many newspapers as they please provided that they are bonâ fide. At the last election a newspaper was published in Western Australia for the purpose of running a certain number of candidates. I doubt very much if the expense was not defrayed by honorable members, but I have no proof of that. It is a shocking scandal that 70,000 copies of a newspaper which was not registered, and which was circulating the most atrocious lies about the Labour party that I have ever read in the press, was permitted to pass through the Post Office at the same rate as registered newspapers. It was a fraud upon the public revenue. I do not like to be vindictive, but I should only have been doing my duty if I had seen that the Deputy Postmaster-General for Western Australia was dismissed, because within an hour of a friend making certain inquiries’ and weeks after the conclusion of the election, the newspaper was registered. That is an example of the shocking things which are done at election time, and which ought to be safeguarded against. In the case of large electorates a candidate should be allowed to spend more than £100; above that no person ought to be permitted to spend a sixpence on behalf of another person, no matter who he may be, and any breach of the provision ought to carry a. penalty. At present, if any one would only present me with the money, I should have no difficulty in spending ^10,000 on behalf of my colleagues and yet keep within the law. It is a pity that it can be done. We ought not to keep up a hypocritical pretence and frighten more conscientious persons “who find that £100 is not sufficient for carrying out an election.
– What amount does the honorable member suggest?
– For city and suburban electorates the amount should not be higher than £100 as at present. But for Senate elections and for electorates like that of Boothby and extensive electorates such as are represented by some honorable members on the other side the amount ought to be more.
– I think that city electorates are the most expensive of all.
– They need not be. I know that whilst I represented a city electorate - it was not what might be called a Labour electorate - I never required to spend more than £20.
– But the league spent the money for the honorable member.
– Yes they did. They spent the money on organizers-
– Every farthing of the money I spent was accounted for, and the largest, sum which has ever been paid at an election, including an election for a seat in the Legislative Council, did not exceed .£40.
– Oh !
– That statement is true. My only regret is that we did not have such sums as the honorable member refers to to spend. I only wish that we had them to spend now. While the law stands as it is we should make good use of the money. But unfortunately we have, always been in a chronic state of bankruptcy. After an election we have gener-ally been in debt for a year or two. The honorable member need not talk about the money which has been spent by our side. We have been trying to raise the paltry sum of £4. a week for an organizer. But we have never been able to pay an organizer or a secretary.
– They do more in Victoria, anyway
– I am speaking of a State which I know.
– I know an organizer who has been at work for the Liberal Protectionist party for three years, at a salary of ,£150 and all expenses paid.
– I know nothing about what is being done in Victoria, and I should like to have some proof of the honorable member’s statement.
– The Australian Workers’ Union pays the man.
– I am a member of that Union, and I am pleased to say that we have had an organizer at a good salary going round South Australia for the purpose of organizing both industrially and politically, arid when the elections areover it will be found that he will havespent several thousands of pounds less than the law permits us to spend. I only wish that we had all that the honorable member says that we have to spend. It would certainly be put to good use in the interests of. the country.
– I should like to see a balance-sheet.
– If the honorable member will come over to South Australia with me I shall show him the whole of the books amd the balance-sheet for everything connected with the Labour party organizations. He will be afforded an opportunity to satisfy himself as to every farthing which has been received and spent; but, of course, he will be disappointed at the smallness of our income.
– Will the honorable member show me a balance-sheet of the cinematograph ?
– I know nothing about that. I only wish, that the Labour party had a cinematograph, because I believe that it is the finest advertising medium which has yet been discovered. The Labour Government lost no time in seizing the opportunity to advertise Australia abroad by that means, and if we took that step in the public interest, we certainly would act similarly in the interests of our party, had we the necessary money. With regard to the rolls, the Minister should see if something cannot be done to prevent the names of persons being struck off the rolls. The names of intimate friends, who have not shifted out of their districts, some of them not even out of the houses in which they have resided for years, have found their names struck off. Wherever . 1 have gone to the revision courts, I have received very little satisfaction, though, of course, the names have been restored. It is a fact that some person does strike names off the rolls. Some returning officers are not, to my knowledge, trustworthy men. Privately I can give the Minister the name of a man whom I would not trust. Not one out of every four persons in the district - and it is’ not a Labour district - has the slightest faith in him.
– How long has hebeen there ?
– For many years, and he has done most outrageous things. I have asked two or three members living in the district, although it will not affect the prospects of our party in the least degree, to show what he is doing in connexion with the post-office. I am trying to get proof that he sends out telegrams openly by means of strangers, and that he does not know anything about the new postal provisions in regard to State Savings Banks.
– I cannot deal with a case like that.
– I shall furnish the Minister with proof of my statement whenever it is available. Such proceedings ought to be safeguarded against. Under this Bill that man will have the power to strike the name of any person off the electoral roll. I have never been able to find out by whom such acts have been committed. A provision of the Act requires a sum of 5s. to be deposited by any person who applies to have the name of a person struck off the roll, and I desire to know whether it has been strictly enforced.
– I . made inquiries about the matter, and I understand so.
– I hope that the Minister will ascertain if the provision is strictly carried out, because I doubt if it is. I know that names are struck off the rolls regularly.
– Is not that largely done by the registrars?
– Do not the police make objections to the names?
– The police take the responsibility of making an objection after a private person has suggested that a certain name should be struck off.
– Very often the objections have been found not to be valid. The number of persons who come to me with a complaint that their names have been left off the rolls for an election has been astounding. We cannot take too much pains to insure that the name of a person shall not be struck off a roll without just cause being assigned. My chief complaint is against the postal voting provisions of the existing law. We should expunge every provision which creates a procedure liable to wholesale abuse.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh and others that we should do all that is possible to prevent fraud, but I am not in favour of abolishing the privilege of voting by post merely because abuse has occurred in connexion with it, any more than I would be in favour of abolishing sovereigns because counterfeits are made, or cheques, because signatures are sometimes forged. Like the honorable”member for Cowper, I wish to encourage all to vote. The man who has broken his leg, or is otherwise in . such a state that he cannot come to the polling booth, is as much entitled to vote as is the man who is strong and healthy. Such persons, and women who cannot get to the booths, should be allowed to vote by post. The postal voting provisions are also of advantage to persons living at places far removed from polling booths. In closelysettled districts and in cities the disadvantage of distance does not exist. I have always been in favour of postal voting, and hope that it will be continued. I hope, too, that provision will be made for preferential voting. When the right honorable member for Swan brought forward legislation affecting the Senate elections, I proposed the adoption of what: is known as the Hare system, but my proposal did not receive enough support to justify me in pressing it to a division. I still believe that that system is the best for making Parliament a truly representativebody. Its adoption is not necessary, if all that is desired is to have the whole community voting for one or other of the main political parties, but if Parliament is to represent all shades of opinion, so that matters may be fairly and impartially discussed in the public interest, provision should be made for proportional voting. I hope, therefore, that some amendment will be moved here or in another place which will provide for the true representation of the whole, and not of part, of the people. Election expenses raise a very- vexed question which should be dealt with. Both sides employ organizations in the various States to advocate the claims of their candidates. Their accounts should be scrutinized and their expenditure limited just as is done in the case of candidates. It is not fair that wealthy men should be permitted to spend large sums in the interests of certain candidates, as was done in Tasmania three years ago.
– Would the honorable member prevent the owner of a motor car from taking his friends to the poll?
– That is a different thing from employing paid organizers, and having them continually at work in the interests of candidates.
– All the motor cars in the electorate were being . used on behalf of the honorable member for South Sydney at the last election.
– What I complain of is done by both sides. I am considering the matter impartially. If it is right to limit the expenses of candidates, it is also right to limit the expenses of organizations which work for the benefit of candidates. Without some such limitation, the wealthy must have an advantage over those who are without means. Without some such limitation, those who are well off must win, while the poor will go to the wall. I hope to see the day when party squabbles will cease, and all will try to do what is best, in the interests, not of a party, but of the whole community.
– I wish to remove the misapprehension under which the honorable member for Hindmarsh was labouring when he said that frauds had been permitted in South Australia in connexion with the absentvoters’ provisions. He referred to cases in which postmasters were brought to certain houses to impress the office stamp on voting papers, and spoke of that as a fraud. I had, with the late Mr. Kingston, something to do with the consolidation of the Electoral Acts in 1896. That codifying Act contains no provision requiring postmasters to be at their post-offices when applications are made to them for absent voters’ papers. It being found inexpedient to allow postmasters to leave their offices, as was done in some cases, to go to private houses, the law was altered by the Act of 1908. But no fraud was committed by the action complained of under the Act of 1896. I think that these irregularities ought to be brought under the notice of the Department concerned; so that if any officer has done wrong, the fault may be corrected.
– It is too late, generally.
– So far as the election is concerned ; but the Department has received no information regarding these matters. All the Act of 1896 says is that the elector desiring and entitled to obtain an absent-voter’s paper may, after the issue of the writ, apply for an absent-voter’s certificate. It was under that provision that the actions complained of were done. The Act of 1908 inserts, after the words “ may after the issue of the writ,” the words, “ upon making a declaration in the prescribed form before a postmaster,” and adds the proviso that the declaration shall be made, and the vote recorded, only at the post-office of which the postmaster is in charge. What was done before the passing of the Act of 1908 cannot be termed a fraud under the Act of 1896, or even a straining of its provisions, though they appear to have been taken advantage of.
– I do not desire to have the amount which a candidate may spend on an election -£100 - increased, but I think that candidates should be allowed to spend their money with fewer restrictions. There are only certain directions in which candidates are now allowed to spend their money.
– The honorable member wishes to make things more difficult for candidates. At the present time, an election cannot be fought for ; £100.
– I represent a district larger than that of the honorable member, and my expenses were only£13 or£23, - I forget which - and were paid by the union. Personally, the election did not cost me a penny.
– Is the honorable member aware that it is illegal for a union to pay the expenses of a candidate?
– No. I think it is a very proper thing for a union to do. No doubt, the Employers’ Union pays the honorable member’s expenses.
– I should like some one to pay them, but I have to pay them myself.
– At the present time it is illegal for a candidate to spend money in providing motor cars, cabs, or other vehicles in which to convey electors to the polling booths ; a provision which favours the wealthy, because they are able to take advantage of the conveyances of friends.
– Has. the honorable member in mind what occurred at South Sydney during the last election?
– Possibly some of the members of the Labour party had motor cars placed at their disposal. I do not complain of that. What I ask is that their candidates shall be permitted to spend all, or any part of £100, in providing conveyances.
– The law now describes that as bribery.
– Yes ; I wish to have that provision altered. A large number of persons will not go to the polling booths unless conveyed there.
-i have never employed a cab.
– Perhaps others have done so for the honorable member. I do not suggest that the amount which a candidate is permitted to expend should be increased ; but a candidate should be at liberty to spend part of it, at least, on conveyances.
– We are not all as wealthy as the members of the Labour party. We cannot afford that expenditure.
– I wish to discuss the matter reasonably. Candidates whose friends can provide them with motor cars to bring electors to the poll have a decided advantage over those whose friends do not possess motor cars. I am asking only that a candidate who has no friends possessed of motor cars may, under the law, be permitted to spend a portion of the electioneering expenses allowed in the hiring of cabs if he thinks it well to do so.
– What about clerical assistance ?
– I am not dealing with that. I wish merely that candidates should, if they think fit, spend some of the money they are allowed to expend in conducting an election on the hiring of cabs to bring electors to the poll. I do not ask that the limit of £100 for election expenses should be increased. I should be prepared to vote for a reduction of the amount to £50, but I do ask that candidates should be permitted to spend some portion of the amount allowed as election expenses, whatever it may be, in the hiring of cabs if they think fit. There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. There may be twenty polling places in an electorate at which the votes recorded are counted by the deputy returning officers, and I ask that in future, when a deputy returning officer sends in his report of what occurred at the polling booths over which he has charge he should, if he records the polling of informal votes, set out the reason why he declared them to be informal. I feel confident that at the last general election a large- number of votes were declared informal by deputy returning officers which would not have been held1 to be informal by the returning officers for the various, districts.
Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [5.50).- I desire to bring under the notice of the House the statements made in a petition which has been sent over the whole of Australia, and has been very widely signed, dealing with comments by newspapers on political questions prior to an election. As the arguments bearing on the question are so well and tersely stated in the petition I purpose to read it. It is as follows -
The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the House of Representatives for the State of Victoria, respectfully showeth that we desire our Parliament to aid us in asserting and establishing our right to elect our representatives to Parliament, without newspaper dictation or domination. We further protest against and seek to be shielded from the many usurpations, partialities, suppressions and injustices, which are at present thrust upon us by uncontrolled newspaper proprietors, and which we hereinafter detail.
Australia has led the civilized world in many reforms, and we feel that the time is here when, the people should be enabled to judge fairly of, and without direction elect, their representatives.
The press enjoys many privileges at the handsof the people, and, in return, we feel that we are entitled to have the names and views of candidates placed fairly before us. We say the press should not be permitted to conceal the names and views of candidates. Such concealment is unjust, to us, the electors. Every name should be given equal prominence, and this we demand.
We protest against and deprecate the infamous practice of distorting candidates’ views in press reports.
Candidates are misrepresented and electors are misled by the wilfully unfair and prejudiced criticisms of candidates by the newspapers.
We proclaim the unfairness practised by the press of selecting from a candidate’s speech those of his utterances which may be calculated to harm him, while the remaining portion of his deliverance is suppressed.
We . desire that a candidate shall have the opportunity of being fairly judged by the electors on his absolute merits.
It must be fully recognised that a newspaper is merely run as an instrument to make money for its proprietors, and not solely for philanthropic and national purposes. We venture to point out that there may be an aroma of suspicion in the persistent advocacy by the press of certain candidates at elections. The public at large too often labour under the belief that the partiality displayed by the press is an inspiration.
We recognise the value of a free press, but we abhor the abuse of liberties.
To avoid and prevent the further growth and repetition of these vile abuses, we humbly beg that the Government will for the future regulate the business of our elections as hereinafter suggested. While being cognisant of the cost to us as a people, we pray that our Parliament will enact that for three months prior to a general election newspapers shall not be allowed to refer to candidates in any way whatever, nor should they be allowed to in any way direct the electors in the selection of a candidate, nor should candidates be permitted to advertise in the press.
In lieu of practices hitherto obtaining, we respectfully suggest that the candidates’ names, views, and a list of proposed meetings shall be submitted to the electors by the Government, through the medium of the post. This may be n little costly, but we feel the expenditure would be well merited, as the present abuses will thereby be swept away.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray.
That petition has been signed by thousands of electors. Honorable members are aware that a candidate who has the backing of a powerful daily newspaper is enabled to speak, not to 10,000, 20,000, or 50,000 people, but to speak with 100,000 tongues to 100,000 people. We know also that many of the statements published in the newspapers for political purposes at election time are the reverse of truthful, The petition I have read was prepared primarily to overcome this difficulty. 1 signed the petition, but it was not sot up by me. It was got up by Mr. Atkins, who was a candidate for the Senate at the last Commonwealth election, and who, in his own opinion and the opinion of many thousands of people who voted for him, was very unjustly treated by the press. What chance has the average nian in a political contest against a man who has the backing of an important daily newspaper? His election expenses are limited to £100 but if he were to spend the whole of that amount in advertisements one little paragraph published on behalf of his rival in the news columns, or side by side with the European telegrams, would be worth more than columns appearing in the ordinary advertising pages. I have fought the press for twenty years. The newspapers have been unceasing in their opposition to my political views. I have perhaps had to fight harder on that account, but 1 have so far been successful. 1 must admit that I possess an advantage which few members of this House possess in the fact that the constituencies I have represented have been compact constituencies. I have to-day the privilege of representing the most compact city in Australia. Sydney, splendid city as it is, isdivided, for Federal purposes, into four constituencies, all represented by the points of the compass. The fact that I have represented a compact constituency has enabled me to fight against the press by merely taking, the platform. The honorable member for Adelaide, the honorable member for Perth, and some other honorable members possess a similar advantage; but what chance has the man contesting a country constituency against the opinion of a large daily newspaper that speaks each day to a hundred thousand persons? He has to “ contend against the influence of leading articles that are unsigned. The authorities of the newspaper address the electors with the important little word “we,” which is the prerogative only of royalty and the press, and I maintain that in this way the newspapers exercise too great a power. The petitioners to whom I have referred suggest that -
In lieu of practices hitherto obtaining, we respectfully suggest that the candidates’ names, views, and a list of proposed meetings shall be submitted to the electors by the Government, through the medium of the post.
That would not involve the engagement of a single additional postman or clerical official, and would not increase the expense of the Post and Telegraph Department by a penny piece. I can speak of the State of Victoria with some knowledge, and some time ago I estimated what it would cost to take a referendum of the electors of this State. My figures were checked by Mr. Mccutcheon, a man of vast experience in this city, and a member of the State Parliament, and they showed that the views of every elector in Victoria might be secured at a referendum for a little less than £700. That is what it would cost to print the papers necessary to take such a referendum, and they could be delivered by the existing postal machinery without additional expense. The Postmaster-General is aware that if the papers were registered as newspapers it would be possible to send fifty or sixty of them through the post for one penny. I admit that no candidate would be so foolish as to expect to be fully reported by the daily press, but it is distinctly unfair that certain candidates should not be mentioned in the press. If the mighty daily press of this city combined to support the election of three persons to the Senate, what hope would any one, outside, perhaps, the members of the Labour party, have against those candidates? One newspaper is supposed to represent the Conservative interests, and is very fair in the expression of its opinion, even of its opponents, while the other is supposed to present the Democratic view, and does so, especially in regard to Protection and the referendum. When those two papers differ there is a chance for an independent man to slip in. As I have said before, if the Labour party had no organization . we could not possibly hope to fight this domination of the press. As the petition truly says, a newspaper is, first of all, run for . the purpose of making money, and not as an act of philanthropy, or with any very high ideal. . True, a newspaper may advocate a high ideal ; but that is not the object for which it is conducted ; to paraphrase an old Spanish proverb, from, I think, Don
Quixote, “ Charity is a makeshift of the rich.” If this House is really honest in its desire to limit a candidate’s expenses to £100 we should provide that, when a newspaper mentions the names of candidates, the publicity should be appraised at the current rates for advertising. If there had been such a law in existence many members who have had the luck to be returned on a wave of press opinion, would have had to certify to an expenditure of considerably more than ,£100. Another point to which I should like to draw attention is that of the use of vehicles at elections. If a man has friends, rich and willing enough to lend vehicles, he may have assistance representing ten times the amount that he puts down in his sworn statement for the conveyance of voters. In England we know that in this connexion bribery is carried on to a disgraceful extent. I remember a late Premier of Victoria, Mr. Munro, telling me that when he was asked to contest a seat in Great Britain he was told that he would have to plank down at least ,£2,000, though, of course, the cost of the contest would be considerably more. One member of the House of Commons informed me that when he was granted a walk-over it cost him £25 for the official who declared that no other candidate had come forward. In England, in a constituency of 10,000 electors, the cost to the candidates is at least £500, so that, if there are two, it means £250 each, an amount which, of course, is never returned. With our freer franchise we have not that bribery and . corruption, but there is still the objection I have indicated in regard to the use of vehicles. In this connexion the electors are humbugged, because here is afforded an opportunity for a rich candidate to spend practically as much as he likes. The streets of Melbourne have been filled with the dust of motor cars all in use for one candidate.
– The same in South Sydney.
– I can assure the honorable member for Wentworth, that I am not making any personal attack, but merely pointing out that north, south, east and west we have this abuse. Of one honorable member in the House, who has my highest personal regard, it has been told me that while his expenses represented about two motor cars, he had, at least, the use of seventy motor and other vehicles, lent by his friends. I point out that the Act uses the words “directly or indirectly; “ and I am sure that the Minister of Home Affairs will admit that it seems to be, the privilege of the profession to run a coach-and-four through any Act of Parliament. I know that the Minister is sincere in his desire for electoral purity ; and we may hope to have the benefit of his legal knowledge and acumen in providing that no owner of a vehicle shall be permitted to carry strangers to the poll on an election day - that no one shall be carried in a private vehicle except members of the’ owner’s household, up to, say, the number of ten, so as to include servants and so forth. I know how an employer can bring pressure to bear, though the ballot-box is, I believe, as secret as the grave. I know of only two exceptions in Victoria, one when three ballot-boxes were missing between eight at night and nine o’clock on the morning after ‘he election in Melbourne, and another when the returns sent down were changed. As to voting by post, I have it from the confidential man of my opponent that he knew how ninety-nine out of every hundred voted ; and in one subdivision of Melbourne, where the furthest distance from a booth was one-third of a mile, there were more postal votes than in the whole of the large State of South Australia. The proprietor of one of the largest hotels in Melbourne stood over his servants whilst they signed the certificates, although, as honorable members know, such a procedure is against the law. The result of that election was that I had a bill of costs of over £200 in the highest Court of Australia, though I may say that that bill has not yet been settled, and is not likely to be settled, by those who ought to meet it, seeing that the whole fault lay with the Government officials. There is no disgrace in the fact that a woman is about to become a mother ; but the section, as it stands, opens the door to subterfuge. I know that postal voting has been used by people who have had no right to the privilege. A member of a religious body, which is not the body to which I belong, though one for which I have the highest respect, namely, the Quakers, tried to make their religion an excuse for not entering into the hurly-burly of a pollingbooth. I have seen elections in every State of the group ; and we know that the contests for the Commonwealth Parliament are better carried out than in any of the States; and I should not object to any female relative of mine going to a booth to record her vote. We cannot be toostringent in regard to- voting by post and I think the Minister of Home Affairs will not controvert any statement that I have made in this connexion. The honorable gentleman may tell me that, if any illegal practices are carried on, the law will step in; but we know that there are a greater number of criminals outside of gaol than in, and the law ought to be plainly set forth, so as to prevent any subterfuge. In the dying hours of a dying session of a dying Parliament a Bill may be easily slipped through ; but we must prevent the unjust usage of wealth. What would we think of a man who wore knuckle-dusters in order to fight a man with bare fists, of a man who fought with a loaded revolver against blank cartridge, or eleven players being asked to meet twenty-two on a cricket field ? Is not the original Act, and every amending Act, an endeavour to free the electoral law from abuses? Is it not the desire of Parliament that every candidate shall have a fair field and no favour? If that was not the desire prompting this Parliament, why did we provide that the expenses of candidates should be limited? Why did we take various other precautions to prevent abuse? And is it a far step to take to say that expenses can be controlled? If a policeman outside a polling-booth saw a conveyance repeatedly bringing voters to the booth, could he not interrogate the driver, even if he stopped or pulled up 200 or 300 yards away ? The committees of the various candidates could also keep a check and say how many times motor cars, carriages, dog-carts, or cabs had been driven to the polling-booths loaded with passengers. If there is no other way out of the difficulty, why not provide that every candidate shall be allowed to use a certain number of vehicles the cost of which shall be stated in a sworn declaration, and that any voter travelling to the polling-booth in any other conveyance should be liable to a fine. I have enunciated my objections to the present system. One of these is the dominance which the press secures under it. No doubt the present Government will have the support of a majority of the newspapers; but the Labour party are so accustomed to fight the press that they would be inclined to think that they were in the wrong if they found it lighting strongly for them. I have no other arguments to address to the Minister to induce him to adopt my view with regard to the other matter to which I have referred ; but if he did, then, even if fate decreed that he should not be returned to this House again, or that he shouldbe returned but not as a Minister, his name would go down to posterity as that of a man who had put down the infamy resulting from the friends of candidates, figuratively speaking, walking through the Electoral Act. If every citizen went to the poll with the same fervour as is displayed by the Switzer when putting in his vote,there would be no cause for complaint. But men who endeavour to win voters to their side by the use of their money would be found heavy with guilt if weighed in the scales of justice. I hope that the Minister will define some means of preventing such iniquities upon our Electoral Act, and of making Australia a country in which elections should continue to be conducted on the most honorable lines. I believe that it already stands next to Switzerland in that respect, and with all its faults I do not know an Electoral Act that I should prefer to it. Just as Switzerland, with her splendid referendum and initiative, has been described as the school-house of Europe, so Australia in the matter of her electoral laws should be made an example to the rest of the wide world.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy for the abuse of which he speaks?
– I would make it an offence for the friend of a candidate to take any one in his conveyance to a polling- booth to vote.
– Frequently men ride to a polling-booth in a candidate’s conveyance and vote for his opponent.
– I have heard that that is so. I have cited the case of an hotelkeeper who stood over his servants and saw that they voted by post when they had no right to do so, and we could not blame twenty men if they availed themselves of an offer of a ride in a motor car to vote for a certain candidate, and on reaching the polling booth exercised the privilege which this Parliament has given the electors of Australia; the privilege of using a ballot-box which tells no tales.
– There are scores of grateful people in Melbourne who would vote for the honorable member no matter who conveyed them to the polling booth.
– My honorable friend would not have me quarrel with them. I am sure there are many men who would do the same for him. If I were pressed for time I should not hesitate to use an opposition conveyance to enable me to reach a polling booth before it closed.
– Then why does the honorable member object to “ the other fellow “ getting a lift?
– The evil of the present system would not be so great if polling day were made a public holiday, and it were provided that no employer, under penalty of imprisonment, should prevent his employes from voting. To the men whom the honorable member and I have in our mind’s eye a line would be nothing, but they would fear the prison taint. I think we can say that the nine years of the history of the Federation are a record of the enactment of laws that have never been equalled in any other period of the world’s history, excepting only, perhaps, the nine years that followed the French Revolution. Our second Parliament was elected on a franchise wider, as far as my reading goes, than that of any separate nation. It is so wide that it recognises, with Ruskin, that “Life is the only Wealth,” and every man and woman in the community can claim the right to vote. As I understand that the Government desire to proceed with other business I ask . leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th November, vide page 5392) :
Clause 3, as amended - [The] Constitution is altered by inserting after section ninety-four thereof, the following sections : - “ 94A. From and after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and ten, sec tions ninety-three and ninety-four of this Constitution shall cease to have effect. “ 94B. From and after the first day of July,
One thousand nine hundred and ten, the Commonwealth shall pay to each State, by monthly instalments, or apply to the payment of interest on debts of the State taken over by the Commonwealth, an annual sum amounting to Twentyfive shillings per head of the number of the people of the State as ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth. “ 94C - (1.) The Commonwealth shall, during the period of twenty-five years beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and ten, pay to the State of Western Australia, by monthly instalments, an annual sum which in the first year shall be Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds and in each subsequent year shall be progressively diminished by the sum of Ten thousand pounds. “(2-) One-half of the amount of the payments so made shall be debited to all the States (including the State of Western Australia) in proportion to the number of their people as ascertained . according to the laws of the Commonwealth, and any sum so debited to a State may be deducted by the Commonwealth from any amounts payable to the State under the last preceding section or this section.”
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 7-4-5 p.m.
– I think we might reasonably expect to hear some statement as to the attitude of the Government concerning the position which has arisen. Does the Prime Minister intend to make a statement?
– I had not intended to do so.
– I think we should hear something from the Government.
– It did not appear to me that any explanation was necessary, the position being obvious. It was proposed last week to omit the first word of the clause under consideration, in order that, if it were found that a majority of. the Committee were in favour’ of that proposition, the result might be taken as implying that a definite time limit should be substituted for the proposal of the Government. This is indefinite as to time, permitting the Constitution to be altered at any period that may be thought fit, though the clause does not in itself fix any period. It was specifically indicated that the amendment in the mind of the honorable member for Mernda, who moved the omission of the first word of the clause, would fix a period, that period being reached when the payment by the Commonwealth to the States of the 25s. per head should reach the sum of, approximately, £7,500,000. The result of the division was- an absolute equality of voting. One member of the Ministry was, however,, absent unpaired.
– So- was. the honorable member for South Sydney.
– So, as I am reminded, was the- honorable member for South Sydney. The voting being equal, there was not a majority of the Committee in favour of the proposal for a fixed term. It is unnecessary to examine the combination which brought about the equality of voting. On one side of the House there may have been considerable differences of opinion ; whereas, on this, side the votes of one-half the members of the Committee were in favour of the agreement as it stands. Under those circumstances, it appeared to the Government that the only course to be pursued was to proceed with the measure, and to deal with any specific amendments which may hereafter be moved when they are before us.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to proposed new section 94b : - “ Until such time as such payments amount to the annual sum of Seven million five hundred thousand pounds, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides.”
This is the amendment which I indicated jr. the course of the debate last week, and I regret that it has become necessary for me to submit it. I do so with the greatest feeling of responsibility. The question has now narrowed itself down to very small limits. It is not the agreement which I and other honorable members who differ in some respects from the Government -on this matter are questioning. We say - and I think I speak for all of those who have pronounced their opinion on the matter-
– I think not.
– I think I speak for all who have been acting with me in this matter.
– All the honorable members who voted in the negative did not agree with the honorable member’s proposition.
– They were using the honorable member.
– I am only speaking for those who are in agreement with me, and who have publicly announced their views. My task to-night is to put into concrete form the ideas which we entertain regarding an amendment of the agreement which shall not be a refusal to entertain it or to adopt its. essential principles. We accept - or I dc, at any rate ; I shall speak in the first person to avoid interruptions - trie main principles of the agreement. It is not my intention to alter its financial terms as submitted to Parliament by the Prime Minister. We accept it. We know absolutely well that any agreement must be open to criticism as to its various parts. In some respects this is not an agreement which I should have cared to propose. But I set aside all questions as to whether the agreement in itself is right or wrong. I am prepared to accept it, save on one point. An attempt is now being made to place the Parliament of Australia in the position of recommending to the people a certain alteration of the Constitution. I emphasize that, because we have been told by various speakers and in the press that we are keeping certain proposals from- the people. I say that our duty, imposed upon us by the Constitution, is to take the responsibility of recommending to the people a course whichwe think it desirable that they should adopt. We, therefore, have a solemn responsibility not to ask the people to vote for a proposal which will take away from future Parliaments the right which we enjoy to-day as the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It is not merely a question of finance. As honorable members are aware, the proposals which I have made have been in the direction of recognising to the fullest extent that it. is the duty of the Commonwealth to provide for the wants of the Slates. I have gone beyond most honorable members in my desire to see that the obligations which the States have incurred shall be covered by the Commonwealth as far as that is reasonable and proper. I submitted a scheme which would have involved a much longer period than that embodied in the proposal now submitted by me. My individual opinion has always been that if this Parliament fulfils one of the main objects for which it was created, and for which Federation was brought about, the assumption of the State debts, it will, immediately it assumes responsibility for any portion of the debts, practically assume an obligation for the whole. I was prepared, therefore, in a spirit of liberality, to secure to the States a payment up to the extent of their full obligation for interest on. loans which they have incurred up to the present time. The proposal that I am now making is one which does not go so far. The reason why I move it is this : It will be admitted that the Braddon section, as part of the Constitution under which we are working, makes a certain provision for the wants of the States. It provides that after a certain time - namely, ten years - Parliament shall provide. What I fail to see is, why honorable members should be asked to make an arrangement, or to advise the people to make an arrangement by which the power conferred upon us by the Constitution shall be taken away from this Parliament. I know that it may be answered, as it has been answered by the Prime Minister, that the -power which places this provision in the Constitution can also be invoked to remove it. But I feel that the provision deliberately placed in the Constitution by the framers of it confers upon this Parliament a power which we should not lightly be called upon to forego. It has been said that what the people do - and do, be it remembered, on the recommendation of both Houses of this Parliament - can be undone in the simplest possible fashion when public sentiment so permits. ‘But that argument, while plausible and on the face of it apparently unanswerable, is absolutely fallacious. Let us assume that this provision is put into the Constitution as proposed by the agreement. Suppose that it becomes desirable, in the interest of the people of this Commonwealth, that; at some time it shall either be removed, or that the proposal now before us shall be modified or altogether abolished. We should then be faced with this position, which I wish to emphasize. We should have first to secure that this House and another place should, by majorities of the whole number of members, recommend an alteration of the Constitution to the people. That is the first step. We will suppose that the House of Representatives of the day agrees to an amendment considered to be suitable to the circumstances and the occasion. But it may be that a majority of the Senate, where all the States, whatever may be the population, have the same representation, will oppose an alteration of the arrangement now proposed, and which I am assuming will be in existence. We have then the possible position that this House may, in the interests of the whole people, desire to make an alteration, but the smaller or larger States may be represented in another place by men who are pledged to refuse to make any change. I know that the Prime Minister will be ready to say that there is a way out of that position, because it is provided in the Constitution that a question which may be submitted to and carried by one House and refused by the other, may ultimately be sent to the people. I admit that, and I shall, therefore, pass away from that phase. lt is now proposed to go to the people with a proposition which is not of an abstract nature, which is not like the question of Federation which the Prime Minister adduced the other day as showing the growth of public opinion in favour of a certain movement. The conditions then were not like those which would exist in circumstances such as 1 am supposing. There will be a direct pecuniary interest created which may differ in the several States, and in order to alter the Constitution we have to obtain a majority of the people voting in all the States, and a majority of the States. That is practically a condition of things which would place this Parliament which, according to the Constitution, was evidently intended to have the control and direction of the Commonwealth revenues, in the position that it could not even consider the question of making an alteration which, in its opinion, and in the opinion of a great majority of the people, might be desirable because it could not secure a majority of votes in four States. Several honorable members have given a concrete example of what might happen. The reference was to the last referendum when it was shown that the wish of 973,113 electors as expressed by their votes, could be defeated by 86,055 electors, representing a bare majority of the votes cast in the three smaller States. In such a condition it is perfectly evident that if it suited the interests of the smaller States to hold on to the arrangement as it was they might defy the opinion of the great mass of the people of Australia. I ask myself and also the Prime Minister why this question has been raised. I am quite prepared to admit that the Premiers, in the interests of their States had1 a right to placetheir views before the Government and the Parliament of the Commonwealth when the time had arrived for us to deal with questions arising out of the expiry of the Brad- . don section. Although the State Premiers, as an organized body, are absolutely unknown to the Constitution, still, I do not in any, way wish to deny that it was the duty of those gentlemen to see that the interests of the States were duly protected. When this House is approached, and the Premiers have stated what they think ought to be the allocation of the revenues’ of the Commonwealth to the States, and when they further ask that that allocation shall be placed in the Constitution without a limitation as to time, so as to give them the security which they require - a security such as they had under the Braddon section and which this House has more than fulfilled by not only giving them their threefourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue, but ^6,000,000 in addition - I ask what reason can be given for making this larger demand upon the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister has been careful to tell us that he submitted the requirements of the Commonwealth and the States submitted their requirements. When these are provided for in the same way as they have been since the inception of Federation, and when the States have been treated during the interval not only with absolute fairness, but with liberality - a liberality which’ I cannot help thinking sometimes was misplaced - what reason can be given for seeking to go beyond the necessities of the case and asking that, in addition to having the’ provision they require placed” in the Constitution as was the Braddon section, this Parliament should recommend the people to vote for a proposal which, if adopted,, would place future Parliaments in a very different position from that occupied by this Parliament? I cannot conceive why this House should for a moment entertain such a proposal. I and those who are acting with me do not object to the agreement. We accept it in all its parts, and desire to place it in the Constitution as was the Braddon section. But we object to an arrangement which would be indefinite, and which would certainly place enormous impediments in the way of any future Parliament in dealing with the finances as it may deem best, in the interests of, and in accordance with the requirements of the great bulk of the people. The other night the Prime Minister read the report of a statement made by the Premier of Queensland. To my mind that statement, which I had previously read in the press, was, coming from where it did, simply ludicrous. Mr. Kidston, as I have said here before, was the first man who wrote to me in 1906 approving with some slight modifications, as he put it, of the proposals which I put before the House with a view to the settlement of the finance question.
– Times have changed.
– There have been a good many changes of opinion since then.
– The Fusion party has changed its opinion.
– We have only to look to the front Treasury bench to see evidence of that.
– I know that many honorable members have a facility for changing their opinions. I do not pretend to be their judge. In this statement, Mr. Kidston, who, I am given to understand, is the strongest advocate of the agreement, as it is in the interest, not of the Federal Parliament, but of the States, tells us that we who are seeking to fix a time - fifteen, or twenty, or twentyfive years - are really trying to tie up the Commonwealth much more effectively than would the proposal contained in the agreement. “ In vain is the net spread in sight of any bird.” If that honorable gentleman believes what he says, if he thinks that it would be more advantageous to the States that we should adopt a plan which might embarrass this Parliament, why does he not accept the suggested amendment? My thorough conviction is that he realizes that once he gets this provision into the Constitution, he and others would ha”ve a power which they have not at present, and that is the power to coerce, to interfere with, and even to dominate the Federal Parliament. My feeling, especially to the head of the Government, is such as to cause me to speak with deliberation, and also with a desire not to say anything to pain my honorable friend, or in any way to weaken his influence in this country. But I feel that I, and those who are acting with me in this matter, are doing what we can, in the most friendly possible way, to save him from making the greatest mistake of his political career.
– That is in the honorable member’s opinion.
– I am entitled to my opinion, and I am not to be in any way put down by gentlemen who are intolerant of anybody but themselves having an opinion. It is thirty years since the Prime Minister and I entered the political arena’ as opponents. Since that time, we have been fast friends, and ever shall be, notwithstanding anything which may arise in connexion with this matter. From his long acquaintance with me, ‘he knows that I am not one of those carping critics who try .to interfere and to defeat proposals, which he in his responsible position seeks, in the public interest, to promote. He knows that I have been, and am now, :a loyal supporter. I say that in all sincerity. But I feel that, in a way which it is not necessary for ‘Hie to characterize, he has drafted into a false position, and I ask my honorable friends on this side, who have it in their power to obtain an amendment of this agreement in the direction which I have suggested, to .save him from being associated with -what -would result disastrously for the future interests of the .country.. That is my conviction.
– And the conviction -of the honorable member only.
– That is not so. There is no need for heat, or excitement, but we are standing at the parting of the ways. I am merely stating my own opinions, “without seeking to dominate others. My conviction is, that unless the agreement be carried with some such addendum as I have indicated, we have not heard the last of the interference of the Premiers in the affairs of the Commonwealth. If carried with that addendum, it will give them all that they are entitled to ask for, but nothing more. I have no feeling against the Premiers. To most of them I am personally unknown. But they exercised in the Conference an influence which, they were not entitled to exercise. They went beyond their authority and their reasonable rights.
– They are exercising an- influence in this Chamber which they have no right to exercise.
– They are attempting to do so.
– I think that everyone, wherever he may sit, and whatever his opinions may be, ought to repel emphatically any attempt to interfere with the independence of honorable members.
– Has any influence been used, so far .as the Victorian representatives are concerned?
– I say nothing about Victoria,.’ I speak of the Premiers.
– There is a Premier of Victoria.
– I am prepared to tackle him, df necessary, though I shall be surprised if he, whom I know to be a level-headed man, asks for something be yond what he is entitled to, and which we are willing to give him.
– These are our proposals. Why not let the Premiers alone ?
– The Minister says, “ These are our proposals.” Are they in accordance with the Fusion agreement?
– Yes. There is nothing in them inconsistent with -the Fusion agreement.
– I shall next hear the honorable member- say that black as white. An agreement winch says distinctly that provision shall be made for a period of years .cannot, toy -any perversion of human ingenuity, be construed into an interminable provision. I use the word “ interminable “ in a practical sense, knowing that by the consent of tfe Legislature, and of the people, any -arrangement can toe legally terminated.
– The honorable member has not quoted the whole of the clause of the agreement to which he refers.
– I have quoted only that part of it which bears on the question at issue.
– That which happens to suit the honorable member’s own purpose.
– Of course. My honorable friend is impervious to anything like reasonable argument. It is my deliberate opinion that an arrangement which will entangle this Parliament in an almost insuperable series of difficulties before it can deal with the financial question, or with the disposal of the money of the Commonwealth at some future time, . is not consistent with the terms of the agreement on which I .and others formed the party which put the honorable member for Parramatta into his present position.
– I differ from the honorable member.
– We are likely to differ ; but the published evidence so amply proves my case that I can afford to allow the honorable member to express his view. Perhaps he will permit me to hold ;mine. The Premiers have placed the Prime Minister in an exceedingly awkward position. When they had it presented to them that a strong body of opinion in the House, and even in the Ministerial party, was opposed to an interminable agreement, they should have had the grace, having been met by the Prime Minister so handsomely and reasonably in all other respects, to deal with this matter in a way which would meet the views, not only of fully half of those sitting on the Ministerial side of. the chamber, but, apparently,, of a considerable majority of the whole Committee. I would, remind the Minister of Defence, who asks, why I refer to the Premiers, and says, “ These are our proposals,” that the Premiers, are one. party to the agreement, while this Parliament is the. other. The Prime Minister made a mistake in going beyond the terms of the Fusion agreement which created his party. He has admitted that he did go beyond the terms of that agreement, and the Premiers knew that he was doing it. He made a mistake in doing more than submit the agreement. Seeing that a majority are prepared, to agree to its essential provisions, he should have given to honorable members the full liberty to vote as they thought right in regard to it, according to the terms of the Fusion arrangement.
– The House consented to an adjournment so that the Government might meet the Premiers..
– That is an absolutely irrelevant statement. I was in favour of the Government meeting the Premiers, and have never expressed the contrary view. This is a Parliamentary matter, concerning every,, and not one, political party,, as I have from the first tried to impress upon honorable members. We, on the Ministerial side, had the right to expect that any arrangement entered into would not be antagonistic to that which brought us together.
– This is a better arrangement.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion; it is not mine.
– It is. an admission that there has been an alteration.
Mr.HARPER. - To me, this is not a question of money. As I have indicated, I do not think that the terms are important. My view has- always been that, so long, as we keep within the amounts to which the States are committed in respect to the interest on their debts, we shall be safe, because we are faced with the obligation of taking over their debts. It was stated the other day, in the newspapers, that the Premier and Parliament of New South Wales do not view the transfer with favour; but, if I. live a few years longer, I shall see the day when the States, or some of them, will be only too glad to come under the wing of the Commonwealth with respect to their debts. That is why I am willing to allow my proposals, for the taking over of the debts of the States to remain out of the agreement. When I look at the list of liabilities falling due, and consider the difficulties, which will be experienced in converting this enormous amount of indebtedness, I am sure that the day will come when the people of Australia, and even the State Premiers themselves, will be- glad to place themselves under the wing of the Commonwealth Parliament and have its powerful, assistance in the conversion of the State debts and the renewal of their loans at a reasonable rate of interest. But the terms of my amendment will not go as far as that. I have fixed’ the amount to be paid to the States at£7,500,000, which is practically equivalent to the annual interest due on the debts existing at the time of Federation. It would work out in about fifteen years according to the present ratio of the increase of population. I think that seeing that the Braddon section was enacted for ten years, and has answered its purpose, if we give the States a contribution of 25s. per capita for another fifteen years, the provision to- be terminable in the same way as the Braddon section, so that thereafter it shall continue in force until this Parliament otherwise provides, we shall make a sensible and reasonable arrangement which I believe the people, if they understood it, would approve. I may say that in addition to those who recorded their votes for the amendment on- which a division was taken the other night, there are at least half-a-dozen honorable members on this side, some of whom have spoken to that effect, and some of whom have privately intimated their entire approval of a limitation of the operation of this agreement.
– The honorable member’s arguments have convinced them that a limitation is not necessary.
– I am sorry if that be so.
– I am very glad.
– The honorable member has not yet spoken, and I do not know what his opinions are.
– I shall speak directly if I get a chance-
– It would be better for the honorable member to give the names of the honorable members to whom he refers.
– I mention no names, but if I were to do so, I do not think I should include the honorable member for Franklin. I repeat, and I challenge contradiction of the statement, that at least half-a-dozen honorable members on this side, in addition to those who have already voted-
– We have heard that before.
– The honorable member does not like it, but I shall repeat it again.
– If it is not unparliamentary, I shall say that I do not believe it.
– Perhaps the honorable member is aware that the same statement might be applied to the other side.
– That is not correct.
– I have been told that.
– Surely the honorable member is not ashamed to be associated with us ?
– I again appeal to honorable members to cease their interjections across the chamber. We are in Committee, and every honorable member has the same right as has the honorable member for Mernda, if he so desires, to speak to the question.
– It is those fat men opposite who are doing it.
– I ask the honorable member for Maranoa not to interject.
– I repeat, for the benefit of my honorable friend, the honorable member for Grampians-
– The honorable member is only wasting his breath.
– I may be, but I repeat that there are at least half-a-dozen honorable members on this side of the House who did not vote for my amendment the other night, but who have it in their power, if they act according to their professed convictions and support those who wish to amend the agreement, to put this matter beyond dispute. I am not their judge, and shall not presume tq tell them what course they should take. But I am going to tell them what the result would be if they followed a certain course.
– So far as the honorable member knows.
– It is strange that this part of my speech should have such an extraordinary effect upon some of my honorable friends. I do not wish to tell an honorable member that he should vote in a particular way, . but I tell my honorable friends on this side that if they voted in this matter in accordance with their convictions they might place this question beyond any dispute, and at the same time, relieve the Government of an enormous difficulty. The Prime Minister has said that if any amendment of the agreement is carried the agreement goes. He has also said that he will take the agreement to the country. I venture to predict that if my honorable friends on this side vote according to their convictions-
– That is the honorable member’s opinion.
– My honorable friend interrupts again just when I am reaching my point.
– I ask the honorable member for Grampians to cease his interjections.
– If my honorable friends on this side could see their way to vote in accordance with their convictions
– I do not think the honorable member should say that at all.
– I am going to say it.
– One would think that this was a Tariff debate over again.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is a joker; but we are not joking to-night. If the honorable member will permit us to deal with a serious matter in a serious way it will be very much better for all concerned. I repeat that if five or six honorable members on this side vote in accordance with their convictions
– - Why does not the honorable member name (-hem ?
– If they vote in accordance with their convictions and so form a majority to put this amendment into the Bill the Premiers will accept it. -That is my opinion. If they do not, then they must be very foolish men.
– That is the honorable member’s individual opinion.
– That is my individual opinion.
– Only the honorable member for Mernda is wise.
– I may be wise or not, but I am stating my .opinion.
– And the honorable member is saying that other honorable members are foolish.
– When the honorable member for Fremantle has his opportunity, he can get his wisdom in. What I wish to say is that if this amendment be carried - and it can be carried if honorable members vote in accordance with their convictions
– Why should the honorable member say that?
– Does the honorable member think that the honorable members to whom he refers will advocate the agreement when they are before the electors?
– I shall come to that. 1 had no idea I should occupy so long a time in making my speech. It was not my intention to do so, but my honorable friends are so restive, so .impatient, and so irritable that they have made me prolong my remarks. If I stay here until midnight “I shall say what I stood up to say.
– We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
– So am I. I am out for the night. I repeat that if the amendment is carried it is my humble opinion that the State Premiers will accept it.
– We we beginning to think that the honorable member does not mean it ; he has said it so many times.
– I again appeal to honorable members to allow the honorable member for Mernda to proceed. I have noted that certain honorable members are interjecting continually, and if I find them interjecting again I shall name there.,
– I say that I believe the State Premiers will be prepared to accept the proposed amendment of the agreement. That is my conviction. I say so because I recognise that they are hardheaded business men, and know what is best for their States. We should, by carrying the amendment, relieve the Government from a very difficult position. Suppose, for the sake of argument, the State Premiers resent any amendment of the agreement and insist that in the event of its being amended the Government shall withdraw the Bill, and suppose the Government take the Bill to the country, which is the other contingency to be considered, I say that when it is put before the country I shall ask the Prime Minister how he can advocate an agreement against the views of many of his supporters, and’ oppose a proposal which gives the State Premiers all they want, and carries 0m his bargain with them, and which refuses a. y to give away the rights of the Common health Parliament. I can face that contingency with perfect equanimity. I feel that I shall have no difficulty when the concrete fact becomes known to the electors. It is not known at present, because, owing to the way in which the matter has been represented by the press, it has been impossible up to the present for people outside to learn what the position really is. In my constituency at any rate, I shall let my people know that the real question at issue is not the terms of this agreement-
– The honorable member is not known in his constituency.
– The honorable member for Fremantle may have no constituency at all after the next election, and that will be worse for him than it would be for me were it true that some of my constituents do not know who I am. I’ feel that when the concrete fact becomes known to the public, that what has divided us is not a refusal to carry out the agreement or a desire to take from the State Premiers anything for which they have asked, but a refusal to part with the birthright of the Commonwealth, a totally different aspect will be put upon the matter. I trust that the Committee will accept the amendment, and that some honorable members who have not yet given us their support will see their way to do so. If they do, I believe the matter will be settled. There were other points on which I intended to touch, but I think I have said enough, and owing to the interruptions I have said more than I intended to say. There is one other point, however, with which I might deal, and it is this : This Parliament is intended by the Constitution to be the Parliament of Australia, and we should look to its privileges and its rights. It has been the object of vituperation in many quarters since the” establishment of Federation, and has been referred to in a most improper and antagonistic manner. This. Parliament has, I believe, done its duty well. It has made mistakes - it has done things of which I disapproved, and against which I voted - but, on the whole, it has done its duty admirably. It has taken over a great many important functions which were formerly administered bv the States ; and I look forward to the time when all parochial and sectional feeling, which is incidental to every Commonwealth and Federation, shall have died away - when, in fifteen or twenty years, the pride in the Commonwealth Parliament, and the desire to uphold the Federation, shall, as in other countries, have be-‘ come the prevailing sentiment amongst the people. At present we are still in the days of small things. The Leader of the Opposition, the other day, said that in the last nine or ten years the Federal feeling had immensely increased; and in my belief it will still further increase..
– If the honorable member had to vote for Federation to-day, would he vote “yes”?
– I would. The question of the honorable member shows’ why he desires this agreement. The honorable member is opposed to Federation, whereas I am not.
– I asked a simple question.
– And I have given a simple answer. I look forward to the day when the feeling of parochialism and Staterightism will disappear. I do not for a moment say that the Federation should be all-powerful.. My maxim is, and has been from the first, that the Federal Parliament and Government should be supreme within their own sphere, and that, the State Parliaments and Governments, who have enormous duties to perform, should be supreme and independent in their sphere. One of the means by which that result may be attained is by dissociating, as the Prime Minister has said - and I give him all credit - the finances of the States from those of the Commonwealth. We can do that without lowering the Commonwealth ; and, as the honorable member for Flinders said so eloquently the other night, it is now a question of taking the high road or taking the low road. . If we who have our positions here under the Constitution - having imposed on us the administration of the great fund which is placed in our hands - deliberately, by our votes, pass a measure on, to the people with our recommendation on it, to lower the position and status of all future Commonwealth Parliaments, I cannot imagine a more effective way of lessening the public respect,, trust, and confidence in this Parliament. Perhaps, my views go beyond those of the Prime Minister. He has, in my opinion, been one of the brightest stars in the Federation.
– A great Nationalist he used to be !
– He is still ;, and I. repeat that I feel that those of his friends, who do not see eye-to-eye with him at this stage and on this matter, are- honestly following their convictions, in the hope that they may save, him and his Government from what we regard as a grave and a serious mistake. That is my deliberate conviction; and it is my wish that honorable members on this side,, who agree with me, shall see that, when there is an arrangement entered into of which they do not approve, and that the part of which they do not approve is one that was not in the Fusion arrangement, they are absolved from party obligation so far as that is concerned. The Prime Minister has, in the most handsome, way, acknowledged the position.; and it is only due to ourselves that we should, while remaining loyal to him, his party, and his. policy, as I do, indicate to him that we do not wish to oppose his judgment or upset his arrangements, but that our sole object is to save the position we occupy as representatives of the people of Australia.
– The assurance of the honorable member for Mernda that the course he is pursuing is dictated only by public ends is one that I frankly accept. The further statement he was good enough to add, that our present antagonism in argument implies no cessation or weakening of private friendship, is one in which I most cordially concur. One cannot but deeply appreciate the manner in which, in circumstances of trial, the honorable member has been generous enough to emphasize both points. Let us hope that the result will be, if possible, to communicate to the atmosphere of this debate a lucidity undisturbed by personal prepossessions or by party leanings. I hail with satisfaction the fact that the line of argument pursued by the honorable member concentrates the attention of the Committee on the real point at issue. If I regret that, owing to the lively interest felt in his remarks, these were occasionally prolonged, and followed a more devious pathway than he intended, it is because I hope that this will not in any way obscure the one issue which he put in the forefront of his speech, and. of which, I trust, we shall not lose sight during this debate. The honorable member said at the very outset that by his amendment the discussion on this measure- has been narrowed to a single issue; and I. take that as a perfectly correct statement of the- case. Although the honorable, member at times went, perhaps, a little beyond that single, issue, I doubt if it was. more than was- necessary to enable it to be perceived in its main, relations. In the debate on the second reading we were pro- perly and naturally led rather afar, through fields of figures and scattered statistics, sought to be - applied in interpretations of the future of this country. A re-reading of those various contributions, including my own, has shown that this was, perhaps, a necessary stage of the debate. But most of uswill . admit that no sufficiently distinct leading was obtained from them, to render it necessary to pursue those lines of argument further.. We come, therefore, as the honorable member for Mernda very properly and aptly said, to a . single issue. In what manner shall . this agreementbe placed in . security ? Whether- by fixing a term . of years, subject to revision afterwards, as the Braddon section is now to be revised ? Or whether, instead of endeavouring to fix , a definite term, we shall trust to the power of the people of Australia to amend the Constitution as they may think necessary in . the light ofthe times to come? That is the whole point at issue between us. Do we suggest that this amendment shall be embodied inthe Constitution for a definite term of years, after which it shall be remitted directly to Parliament, and through Parliament to the people? Or shall we pass it -for . an indefinite term, so as to permit either earlier or later than the fixed term, as circumstances may dictate, the power of amendment to be in the hands of the electors as well as of Parliament? That is frankly and clearly the issue which the honorable member put; and we may argue it with frankness and clearness, for it is the point at issue between us. If, therefore, I commence by taking exception to one phrase of the honorable member, it is not because he has coined it, but because it has, perhaps, been too lightly adopted. He spoke of the proposal to embody the agreement in the Constitution, subject, therefore, only to the amendment of the Constitution in the way provided, as “ taking . away “ power from this Parliament. I submit that -this is an incorrect, or, at all events, may be, a dangerously misleading statement. When it is proposed to place this or any other proposition in the Constitution, that Constitution still remains unalterable except with the authority of this Parliament. The Constitution of Australia cannot be altered by the people without the sanction of this Parliament.
– This Parliament cannot alter the Constitution.
– We give away a power we now possess.
– If we wish to be accurate it is important to realize, in the first place, that it is incorrect to speak of “ taking away “ a power from this Parliament, or to say that this is a proposal to ‘do so. This is a proposal to share the . power with the electors in the wav provided by the ‘Constitution, Parliament retaining a joint responsibility in every case.
– Can we share anything without ‘giving something . away ?
– If honorable members reflect for a moment - if they take a calm view of the position I am putting - they tv-ill see that they may have misaprehended this matter. It is absolutely and literally true that we cannot take away all ipower from this Parliament ; by placing the -agreement in the Constitution. If this Parliament possessed the power now, independently of the electors - which no honorable member, I venture to think, will rasserrt - and then transferred it -wholly to the electors, they might speak of its being “taken away. 1 ‘ But since it needs the consent of both this Parliament and the electors to put it into the Constitution, or, when it is inserted, to take it out again, it is not fair to speak of taking away the power of the Parliament, . except so far as the electors are given -a direct voice.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I again appeal to honorable members not to interject. I would remind them that we are in Committee, and that every honorable member has the right to speak.
– My endeavour is to clear the issue, and, if I am in error in -any point, it will be easy for honorable members presently to expose it. Meantime, if I am heard out, the misapprehension will not remain. In future, some phrase other than that of “taking away” the power from Parliament ought to be used, since it is not strictly correct, and conveys misleading impressions. We have not a final power in this Parliament of dealing with this or any other question. If we desire to effect an alteration of the Constitution, we must submit that proposed alteration specifically to the people. We have no further authority. The next Parliament, if there be no amendment of the Constitution, will possess the right to amend the Braddon section in any way it may think necessary. But, ‘before we reach that Parliament, we have to -confront the electors of Australia, and after we have passed it, shall have to face the electors again. Consequently, whether or not this Bill be carried by a sufficient majority to allow the electors to speak specifically upon this question, they will speak at the next general election through their representatives.
– We are all agreed upon that.
– We are agreed, but I am perfectly certain that if this language were employed on the public platform as it has already been employed in the press, it might produce grave misapprehensions on the part of many of those to whom we are about to appeal. Honorable members, however they may carp at any particular phrase I may use, now realize that in any case it is unfair - and I take now a further step - to speak of this Parliament as if it were not an appointed and delegated body, subject at every stage to its constituents. When an outcry is raised against placing before the people a proposal that they may feel pleased to place in the Constitution, my honorable friends opposite consistently and persistently choose to forget that it cannot be placed there at all except by a majority of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth.
– But it can be kept there by a minority.
– That is the second stage; one stage at a time. It cannot be kept unless first placed there by a majority of our people. My honorable friends consequently exhibit their apprehension that if this question be put separately to the people, a majority of the whole of the electors of Australia will be found in its favour.
– If we recommend it.
– If they were as confident that the electors agreed with them as they would have us believe, would they fear to send this agreement to the people? On the contrary, they would cry, “ Why delay in the Legislature? Why not appeal to the electors? If the majority accept it, we are prepared to accept it.” We do not hear any such cry. We observe the liveliest alarm on their part that this agreement may be allowed to go to the electors.
– But the electors must either take the whole or none.
– Exactly. My honorable and learned friend implies that, because the electors must take either the whole or nothing, we are proposing to put the question at a disadvantage. We are con tent to accept that disadvantage ; it is ours, not his. That interjection illustrates the extraordinary anxiety of my honorable friends not to let this agreement get to the people of Australia. It is said that we shall recommend them to adopt it. I accept that statement. Those who vote for the Bill certainly will recommend it, and they must represent a majority here to get the question submitted. That majority will be on this side of the House. Honorable members opposite speak as if they, too, were recommending it to the people, and as if they feared that this effort would be the last. They have still their inexhaustible resources. They have their platforms, their leagues, their influence, and their organized strength to use against the Bill on the appeal to the people. How, then, can we interpret the extraordinary anxiety shown by the Opposition not to permit this question to be submitted to the people unless we attribute it to an absolute want of confidence in their own cause, and in their, own power to convince the electors that this agreement is undesirable? This proposed amendment must be approved by a majority of the people, independently of the States, as well as a majority in the States, to secure its adoption. Is it not exactly the same process that will be required to take this agreement out of the Constitution? Precisely the same.
– Absolutely, no. It will require a majority to put it in, but a minority will be able to keep it there.
– That is not the whole point. In the course of this argument, my honorable friends opposite have but one point. They run away from the fact that to secure the insertion of this agreement in the Constitution, we must have a majority of the whole of the people as well as a majority in the States. Of that we hear nothing from them. They add that the people who put this into the Constitution would, when it was proposed to take it out again, have also to capture a majority of the States. That is perfectly true. We can form individual opinions as to what provocations would be necessary to win the support of four out of all six States. On that head, I do not think it necessary to elaborate the argument of last week. First of all, this is a financial question, and financial questions press most directly upon the electors as taxpayers. No one would attempt to take this agreement out of the Constitution unless it was felt that it was too costly, either for the Commonwealth or. the States, and needed to be amended to make it just. If it was unjust financially, it would prove its injustice by pressing unfairly upon the people.
– Might it not become irksome to the Commonwealth, yet profitable to the States?
– Yes; and there is another contingency. It might become extremely irksome to the States but profitable to the Commonwealth. Again, honorable members opposite are insisting on certain formsof taxation which they believe ought to be imposed, not merely for revenue, but for purposes beneficial to the people of Australia. This proposal will not deprive them of the power to impose that taxation. Should the injustice or the inequality which they apprehend from this agreement arise the Commonwealth will have power to escape that injustice or inequality by taking the very road to direct taxation that honorable members opposite desire.
– I think that road is still open.
– Yet the honorable member, and those who think with him, appear to object to take the very course that, if their argument were sound, must lead them to the end they most dearly desire. That inconsistency is for them, and not for me, to explain. Nor do [ propose to detain the Committee at length with a catalogue of the reasons why an amendment of the Constitution of a financial character, directly it becomes a serious burden, would give force to any movement for a change of the Constitution. I shall not repeat the illustration with reference to the difficulties in spite of which Federation was brought about. The honorable and learned member for Flinders very properly pointed out some differences between the case for union and the case for an amendment of the Constitution. There was the momentum . of a great ideal behind the Federal movement, but also a wide difference in the result to be achieved. Then we had to secure the assent of both Houses of the Legislature in every single State, and afterwards a successful referendum of the people in each separate State; to win the Legislatures we had to win the State Ministries of the day. That is to say, we had to secure the assent of six Ministries, twelve Legislatures, and six referenda, before we obtained Federation. But to amend our Constitution we require only four State referenda upon a proposal from this Parliament; we do not require the consent of any State Legislature or any State Ministry. We simply seek the vote of the majority of the people in the whole Commonwealth, and of a majority in four States. Therefore, I venture to say that, allowing for the obstacles to be surmounted in the Federal movement, we may use the illustration it affords. At that time there was no National Parliament, no National Government, and nothing like the national sentiment that now exists. With their impetus behind us we may confidently say, as the honorable member for Mernda did towards the close of his speech, that the last factor has to be reckoned with hereafter. Taken all together these forces do not leave the amendment of our Constitution the insuperably difficult task that my honorable friend supposes. I believe that under circumstances of financial pressure it would be no difficult task, even if there were a conflict of interests, as there might be, between the State Legislatures and the Commonwealth Legislature. The conflict of interests would not be between the State electors and the Commonwealth electors, for they are the same people, and the difference between the “Legislatures would not invoke feelings of such a partisan character that they would preclude the consideration of what was the best business course to be pursued.
– But remember that 90,000 electors could block 900,000.
– The honorable member for Parkes points out that under present ciroumstances there are great disparities between the populations of the several States. But those will gradually tend to disappear. With the possible exception of the State of Tasmania, can the honorable member venture to predict that the disparity is likely to remain ? Does he consider that Western Australia, and South Australia, not to speak of . Queensland, with their enormous areas and vast resources, will not before long acquire populations perhaps larger than that of Victoria, and able to compare with the population of the mother State itself, great as are her resources?
– Does the honorable gentleman suppose that the two larger States are going to stand still?
– Certainly not. But the honorable and learned member will, I hope, agree that where there is the greatest area of unoccupied and fruitful territory there will, in all probability, be the greatest and most rapid increase of population. Consequently the disparity oi which he speaks is not a permanent condition of this Commonwealth. He who could predict what the population of the Commonwealth will be twenty years hence, or what the proportions of population in the various States will be, would surely acknowledge that 11 the majority of the people in a majority of the States “ will not long mean that difference between 90,000 and 900,000 which the honorable member suggests.
– There will be greater safety in leaving an opportunity for review ten or fifteen years hence.
– That ‘observation suggests matter for another line of argument. At present, and in my previous remarks, it has been sufficient for me to defend the policy which we have proposed. If I can prove that it involves no injustice and presents no insuperable obstacles to revision, should the terms become sufficiently irksome, I have proved my case. It is not necessary for me to attack the project of the honorable member for Mernda, or that of the honorable member for Parkes. Th<= argument between us is whether it would or would not be prudent to specify the period for which this agreement is to be made, and thus specify a time when it must come up for revision; or whether it is not the safer course to allow the people themselves to say when the time shall have arrived to amend the agreement. These are arguable alternatives. No one pretends that this agreement is the result of a Divine revelation, neither to be criticised nor to be amended, even when amendment commends itself to our judgment. We are content’ to say that the agreement, as it stands, appears to us to be a fair one, and that this power of amendment in the Constitution appears to us to be a sufficient safeguard against the time when some amendment will become necessary. That is our case for the clause’ as it stands, and that, therefore, is the whole case which it is necessary for me to submit. The honorable member for Mernda was perfectly right when he contended that under his proposal he had studied the interests of the States. He also made it clear - as his amendment shows - that he proposes to place the provision in the Constitution. He relies, I apprehend, upon the votes of honorable members opposite, who strenuously resist the proposition to put any amendment of any kind in the Constitution.
– The honorable gentleman now wants to “ divide and conquer.” We can see what he is after.
– The menacing silence on the benches opposite-
– I said “ yes.”
– “Yes “ to what?
– That we did not want an amendment of the Constitution.
– Exactly. If the amendment is to be carried it must be by the votes of those who take exception to the very means by which surety is sought to be given. The one thing that commends it to honorable members on this side ‘of the House, is the one thing objected to by honorable members opposite, though all vote for it.
– But it is admitted that voting for the agreement is against the convictions of some honorable members opposite.
– It is interesting to hear these allusions to “ convictions !” The honorable member up till lately had his own convictions. My honorable friends opposite have their convictions, and can follow some of them, but on others, if the majority of their party says “ no,” they cannot.
– Does the honorable gentleman really believe that?
– I do.
– Then the statement is noi correct.
– I know that, my hon ora Me friend has always said so, and so far I cannot point to any instances in which the programme of his party has differed from his convictions. But I also know of instances - and not infrequent instances - in which the convictions of honorable members on that side have been violated by their votes.
– The same applies to the honorable gentleman’s own side.
– This side to-day offers the very best possible illustration of the absolutely clear contrast between our political methods. At our party meetings there has been no vote. At our party meetings no resolution has been proposed, or carried by a majority to which the minority must conform. On the contrary, here is our minority, in active opposition to our policy. It is an amendment from amember of our party, which the Committee is now discussing ; and but for the assistance supplied by my honorable friends, it would not have the least chance in this
Committee. Brought forward without the assistance of honorable members on this side, the amendment need not have occupied half an hour. It is because the members of our party are unable to see eye to eye with us on this matter - taking a different view, and acting upon it - as they are entitled to do - as to the duration of the agreement, that the present situation has been caused. The criticism of the situation by the members of the Opposition is made to order.
– The honorable gentleman is misrepresenting the Opposition party.
– I do not think so.
– The position has been explained fifty times.
– And I have accepted my honorable friend’s explanation as far as it relates to himself. But where it relates to others I must claim to use my own judgment, my own observation, and my knowledge of statements, made to me at different times - some of them long ago.
– Name one honorable member who has made such statements.
– Secret statements.
– Yes, secret. We never hear in our party of resolutions carried in caucus, of members voting one way and the other, and of the suppression of our minority. I have, however, dwelt upon that point sufficiently. The honorable member for Mernda alluded now and again in his speech to the position occupied by the State Premiers. It is not my province to defend them. They are answerable for their own actions. They are quite capable of speaking for themselves. They have concurred with the agreement.
-The honorable gentleman wants to make some of us answerable for them.
– I was about to approach that very problem. As for Conferences of State Premiers, I think that the honorable member for Mernda, after commencing in a critical fashion, concluded by admitting that these were useful and practical, and that the common interests of the States were well considered in them.
– I said so.
– I think it would be regrettable in every respect if the members of the Federal Parliament were found engaged during a State election in taking a personally active part in the conflict. Exactly the same principle which we should apply in our own case applies in my opinion in their case.
I should regret to see State Ministers or members of State Legislatures taking a personally active part beyond the recording of their votes in their own district, or perhaps acting in their own immediate district, but certainly not taking a strong part, in any Federal election.
– The honorable member is aware that they have already publicly threatened so to do.
– Labour members always do.
– My honorable friends opposite are so sensitive that in this case I shall not draw a parallel. It is highly desirable that members and Ministers, Commonwealth and State, should refrain from personal interference with any elections except their own. But seeing that both represent the same body of electors and are concerned in the particular question now before us, it is perfectly impossible to prevent either from making the fullest statement. of their case and claims to the public. By publications, by statements made - not at election time, or not on election platforms - they are, I take it, as much at liberty as we are to discuss all proposals vitally affecting them.
– That is their right as citizens.
– That is their right as citizens of which we cannot deprive them. We cannot forget that ours is a Federal Constitution-, of which State Administrations are as much an integral part, looking at the whole organization, as is this National Parliament. We have a greater scope of legislative area and the vital question of defence. I do not attempt to compare our two separate Governments. We are so interlaced that it is perfectly impossible to deal with any great Federal issue without cutting across State issues, or to affect the States without affecting Federal interests. Consequently we cannot, or ought not,’ to be hypersensitive if in matters affecting the States they take all the means they have of putting their case before the public. It rests with us to correct them when we consider ourselves challenged, in order that the public may form a sober verdict.
– They have threatened to oppose every man who may vote against this agreement.
– Mr. Kidston threatened to capture the Senate and to block it.
– The reference to another place reminds us that the popular sanction required for any amendment of the Constitution, whether it be to place something in or to take something out is, after all, no foreign addition. This Parliament consists of two Houses - this House, elected by the people according to their numbers, and the other Chamber with an equal representation of States at present differing enormously in population. No measure accepted by this House, which represents a majority of the Commonwealth as a whole, can find its place on the statutebook until it has run the gauntlet of another Chamber, whose members are chosen by States without regard to population. The Senate represents practically the vote of a majority of the States; it sanctions the proposals adopted here by representatives of the majority of the people.
– It would be as true to say that the question was settled by Foxton.
– The significance of the two shapes which the referendum takes when sanction is sought for an amendment of the Constitution is plain. The people first vote for the whole continent, as in this House, and then the peoples of the States are counted by majorities, as they are, roughly speaking, in the other Chamber.
– Two gauntlets have to be run to get it back again.
– Every amendment of the Constitution runs two gauntlets instead of one. The gauntlet run under the popular vote in these two methods of reckoning is almost a precise equivalent of the gauntlet run by all legislation in our two Chambers elected on different bases.
– Why put the provision in the Constitution?
– My honorable friend was, I think, one of the not very numerous supporters of the present Constitution from the members of his party.
– In any case the bulk of. honorable members opposite did oppose this guarantee of popular approval in the dual form which is now part of the Constitution.
– The Minister of Defence and Senator Millen did exactly the same ching.
– Yes ; but some persons never learn by experience. It is my good fortune to be associated with gentlemen whose store of wisdom increases with their experience. Many other considerations, need to be taken into account before you can place in the scales, with any attempt at equity, the proposal of a fixed term, for a revision of this agreement, and the proposal to leave it to the double referendum. We consider that the opportunities for amending the Constitution,- in relation to matters so immediately urgent and pressing as financial necessities often are, will suffice. We have confidence that they will not be found burdensome by the people, or that when they are found burdensome this agreement can, without undue effort or unreasonable delay, be there and then amended. I, like the honorable member for Mernda, attach the greatest importance to the growing sense of unity among the people of Australia - and look forward to that increase of population which shall bring State and State more closely in touch at their borders - to a steady development of Inter-State commerce which shall make our commercial interests more indissoluble, to fuller opportunities of intercommunication, to a better distribution of knowledge relating to Commonwealth obligations - I rely upon all these forces to multiply the means which the electors now possess of forming a judgment upon large matters of policy. At present, one State is separated from the other by several days’ journey, and one or two States are remote from the centre of government. In this Parliament, Federal affairs have been conducted under greater disabilities in the past than they are in the present. We ate conducting them to-day under much graver disabilities than will exist in another ten or twenty years. That’ growing together of the people of the States, and their common sense of national unity, will tend to diminish, not only those disparities of population which at present separate the two modes of referendum, but also those causes of inter-State friction which have so often provoked jealousy ;.r.J misunderstanding. Understanding each other better, bound by a sense of national duty, and governed by Australian ideals, the amendment of the Constitution by such a people as the Australians now are, especially by such a people as they will then have, become, ought surely not to interpose such insurmountable obstacles as my honorable friends suppose. It does appear to me as if in this instance they had permitted their apprehensions of the unknown future to weigh upon them as though it were all darkness ; at all events, as if all they can discern cast a shade. Surely it is but reasonable to expect that this country, with the opportunities for development which it possesses, will beget an electorate so keen, clear, and prompt in understanding its own affairs, and handling its own interests, particularly its financial interest, that we may be sure no minority will long delay the victory of a majority of the people in this or any other regard. Probably, some of the States with the smaller population will be found at least as prompt as those with the larger population, in supporting national reform, wherever and whenever that is shown to be necessary ; and until it is necessary, the appeal to them need not be made.
.- Hitherto, I have not taken part in the debates on this subject, and I do not intend to occupy much time now. I have listened with attention to the very many able speeches which have been made; but I cannot help thinking that a good deal of the matter, excellent enough in its way, has been somewhat irrelevant. We have had many prophetic statements, which I take to be a very bad form of irrelevancy in connexion with politics. No one seems to object to the arrangement proposed by the Government as it affects the situation between the Commonwealth and the States at the present time, It is generally regarded as a very fair one for the present. It is only in connexion with the future that some honorable members see anything radically wrong with it, and apparently we must project ourselves considerably into the future to discover objections to it. Every one declares that for a good many years to come the arrangement will work satisfactorily, the term mentioned varying from ten to twenty, and even thirty, . years. If the arrangement will be good for a considerable number of years, the only practical way in which the Government can give effect to the generally expressed view is to put it in such a form* that for a definite period it will not be interfered with. To me, undoubtedly the best way of doing this is to embody the agreement in the Constitution. We are told that to do so is to give away the rights of this Parliament. The Prime Minister has replied to that contention very forcibly ; I have only to add an argument which may not have occurred to him. The Parliament will have the power to set the referendum at work at any time to secure the amendment of the Constitution with a view to an alteration of the agreement. How, then, can we be said to give away its rights ? The Prime Minister has pointed “*ut that the objection narrows down to a lack of faith in the people to make alterations when they come to be necessary. I go further, and say that it amounts to an insinuation against the honesty and patriotism, of the smaller States of the Union. It has been said time and again that a combination of the three smallest States could prevent any amendment of the Constitution. I do not dispute that, but, if an amendment of the Constitution were found to be desirable, the people of the smaller, just as well as those of the larger, States would recognise its desirability. The State elector cannot be dissociated from the Federal elector. The two are one and the same person. Every elector has two pockets, the State and the Commonwealth pocket, into each of which he puts so much for various public purposes. Does any one argue that if he discovered that he was putting too much into one pocket and too little into the other, he would not be ready to re-arrange matters? It is admitted that he sees the advisability of making an adjustment of the -financial position now ; yet we .are told that he will . be unable to see the wisdom of a rearrangement at some future time,, should that come to be necessary. That is a position which cannot be maintained. The electors of the smaller States are not likely to be less Federal in their instincts in this matter than the people of the larger States, seeing that, in common with them, they must bear the brunt of any inequitable arrangement. I challenge those who represent the smaller States to tell their electors that they object to the agreement because they have no trust in the intelligence and patriotism of those who sent them here. Will those who represent constituencies in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, or Tasmania dare to tell their electors that they are less likely to exercise an intelligent and honest vote in this matter than those of New South Wales and Victoria? It is insinuated that the people of the three smaller States will not show that wisdom in connexion with future proposals for the amendment of the Constitution which the electors of the larger States will show. I have no fear that they will ever stand in the way of a wise re-adjustment, and refuse to believe that those whom I represent will show less intelligence and patriotism in regard to this matter than the people of New South Wales. As a Democrat, I believe in putting an issue of this kind before the people, and feel certain that if a re-arrangement should be required in the future, those who agree to the present proposal will consent to its subsequent amendment.
.-I am sorry that opposition to the agreement has been shown in this Chamber, especially since no word of opposition to it has been heard from any part of Australia. The people are not generally silent when a measure vitally affecting their interests is being discussed, and had they thought the agreement to be wrong, protests against its ratification would have been received from all parts of the Commonwealth. But the) have been silent regarding it, which, 1 claim, shows that they are ready to allow us to do our best in the interests of the country. Many of those who oppose the agreement, especially the Ministerialists, have put forward schemes of their own, but no one of them believes in the scheme of his neighbour. I wish to see the best done for Australia, and therefore will support the agreement. The honorable member for Mernda must have great powers of persuasion, because we are told he has several followers, but, although, he has had a scheme before Parliament ever since I have been a member, only two or three others are willing to support it.
– It was adopted by the Deakin Government.
– The honorable member for Fremantle has abandoned the Fusion agreement.
– The electors and the Ministry knowthe requirements . of Australia. The Government is composed of Ministers who have been dealing with financial proposals ever since Federation was inaugurated. Those who oppose the scheme virtually say that they know better than the Commonwealth Government and the State Premiers, which is saying a good deal.
– The Premiers know better than we do what they want; it rests with us to say whether we shall give it to them.
– The honorable member for Mernda used a big “ We “ sixteen times in three minutes. I have been told that the only man who is entitled to call himself “We” is the editor of a newspaper, but the honorable member spoke of himself as “We” so often that one would think he. represented the whole of the people of Australia. The honorable member forgot that there are some other big” We’s “ on this side of the House. ‘ His action seemed to me like that of the tail trying to wag the dog. Usually the tail waits until the dog is pleased before it wags, and 1 hope that when we have finally dealt with this matter we shall be able to show the tail that it is necessary that it should wait upon the dog. When the Prime Minister attended the Premiers’ Conference he was aware of the views held by the members of the Fusion party, and he must have known the opinions expressed especially by the honorable member for Flinders. There is conclusive evidence that only a very short time ago the honorable member for Flinders was prepared to give the States much more liberal treatment than the Prime Minister now proposes to givethem. The honorable member’s position is entirely reversed to-day. Only a few weeks ago the honorable member for Gippsland was blindly supporting the honorable member for Flinders. To-day their- positions are reversed, and we find the honorable member for Flinders blindly supporting the honorable member for Gippsland. That, to my mind, requires a- good deal of explanation. The honorable member for Flinders, speaking in this House on 28th August, 1907, was willing to hand back to the States , £7,250,000 per annum, which was£500,000 per annum more than the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Braddon section. The honorable member said that any less amount would embarrass the State Governments. What kind of a somersault has the honorable member thrown since? 1 could forgive an honorable member for turning a political somersault in order to defeat a political opponent, because I have seen that kind of thing done so often. But I have never before known an honorable member to turn a political somersault in order to defeat his own party. I do not wish to make a statement which can be contradicted tomorrow, and I therefore refer honorable members to the Hansard report of the debate which took place on the Budget on 28th August, 1907. The honorable member for Flinders, speaking on the financial question on that occasion, said -
The first question we have to consider is what proportion we should have to return to the States. I am one of those who say we must look forward to a policy of fair and not ungenerous treatment of the States. . . . I recognise all these facts, but I also recognise on the other hand that the States . have to meet the interest on their debts. They have great works in relation to the conservation of water for the development of their territories and also their police, systems, their education systems, and other public services….. The fact remains that all the undertakings I have mentioned as well as others are dependent upon their finances, and nothing worse could happen to the Commonwealth than that we should attempt to avail ourselves of our financial supremacy either to diminish the means or embarrass the finances of the States, or to wring from them powers which they themselves are unwilling to give us. What ought we to give back to the States? Whilst I recognise that they must be treated fairly, even generously, by us, I think that before 1910 any scheme that Gan possibly be adopted by this House must be one that will render us quite independent in respect to our finances.
That is exactly what the Prime Minister has said here to-night. The honorable member for Flinders’ further said -
That solution must be one which to my mind will confer on the States, if not for all time, at all events for a long period, the power to reckon with security on fixed payments for their development.
What do we ask for now but fixed payments which will guarantee development nf the States?
– For all time.
– I shall deal with tha! directly. Who can say that the least populous States to-day will not in the future be the most densely populated? The contribution to the States must be on a pet capita basis, and honorable members must see that a contribution on that basis, if fixed according to the population of the States to-day might be very unfair to some of the States’ in a few years. The population of Queensland and of Western Australia is likely soon to be very largely increased. Western Australia has nearly ^caught up to South Australia already in the matter of population. Queensland is a wonderful country, and there is no doubt that in a very few years that State will rank as one of the most densely populated States of the Commonwealth. Both Queensland and Western Australia are countries of great possibilities, and they are going ahead by leaps and bounds. A fixed contribution om the basis of the present population of the States might very well be unfair to those States in the future. I claim that the contribution should continue on a per capita basis, so that the State which makes most progress may secure, as it ought to do, the largest contri bution. The honorable member for Flinders also said -
If we were reduced to a Customs and Excise revenue of ,£9,000,000 any adjustment that would give the States only three-fourths of that amount would be one that would be not only ungenerous to them, but absolutely embarrassing, if not disastrous to their finances.
The honorable member was prepared at that time to return to the States £500,000, more than three-fourths of £9,000,000.
– And to make such an arrangement for all time.
– I shall prove that in a minute. The honorable member said -
I propose to put before honorable members some idea of what would be the result of giving the States only three-fourths of the reduced revenue I have mentioned.
– Of the reduced revenue after making a great many deductions.
– The honorable member for Parkes will excuse me, I have not yet completed my quotation. The honorable member for Flinders also said -
What we might fairly say is that the lower limit of the amount which we ought to hand back to the States is that which to my mind is impliedly prescribed by the Constitution.
That is to say, the honorable member regarded the Braddon section as affording an indication of the contribution which should be made to the States. He went on to say -
All I say is that a fair reading of the Constitution seems to convey the idea that what lay in the minds of those who framed it was “ We give and invest you freely with the vast revenues of the Customs and Excise which you can control, enlarge, or diminish as you like; we allow you ten years in which time we hope and expect you will take over the debts of the States as now existing.” … I mean simply that I think the burden it was intended we should take, whatever the adjustment might be, was, roughly speaking, the burden of the interest on the debts as they existed at the time of Federation….. Honorable members may take whatever view they like, but I venture to submit that whether they agree or not in the principles I am enunciating most will agree that the amount which would thereby have to be returned is not at all an unreasonable one.
I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to what the honorable member said next -
It would be in round figures £7,250,000, with which the interest on the debts could be paid.
The honorable member is now voting agains’ a proposal to hand over to the States no more than £5,600,000. The’ honorable member said further -
The sum that we shall return is, as I have shown, £7,250,000 out of the .£9,000,000, and that will leave us £1,750,000 from Customs and Excise.
Talk about leg-roping the Commonwealth ! We should have had a proper leg-rope put upon the Commonwealth if we had been left with only .£1,750,000 to carry out Commonwealth obligations. Vet that is what the honorable member foi Flinders at that time proposed. I come now to the most important part of the honorable member’s remarks. He said -
I am endeavouring to take a sanguine view of the revenue and to cut the States down to what seems the lowest amount on which a satisfactory permanent settlement can be arrived at.
That was not a settlement for a term. The honorable member, spoke of a permanent settlement. He is undoubtedly a clever barrister who has been accustomed to argue on either side of a question, and I am afraid he has forgotten that when he is in this House he is not in a Court, because here as well as in Court he has argued one way one month and in another way the next month. The honorable member when he made this speech was prepared to suggest a permanent settlement of the question, and if he had been in power at the time he would have settled it permanently by returning £7,250,000 annually to the States and leaving the Commonwealth leg-roped with a revenue from Customs and Excise of only £1,750,000. Had the Customs and Excise revenue been reduced to £9,000,000, the Commonwealth would have received, as has been pointed out, only £i,75°>O0°. > but the revenue is now about £10,600,006. so that we may add the £1,600.000 to the £1,750,000, giving a total of £3>35°>000> or £1,650,000 less than under the proposed agreement. With a revenue of £10,600,000, we propose to return to the States £5,600,000, leaving £5,000,000 for the Commonwealth. This gives £1,650,000 more to the Commonwealth than would have been available under the scheme which the honorable member for Flinders was willing to support, or sufficient to pay old-age pensions. If this difference of £1,650,000, and each annual difference, so long as any existed, were capitalized from the start, it would, in twenty or thirty years, return sufficient interest to enable us to carry on for ever; and yet we are told that our scheme is all wrong. I nm as much in earnest about this matter as is the honorable member for Mernda ; and I know as much of Australia and its needs as does the honorable member. If the honorable member, and also the honorable members for Gippsland, Flinders, and Parkes, knew as much of the requirements of Australia and the needs of the. State Premiers, they would vote for the scheme of the Government.
– Knowing that this question was to come under consideration, I thought it well to ascertain the opinions of honorable members of this Chamber, and of the Premiers of the States. I find that in 1906 there was a Conference held in Melbourne, at which the present Premier of Queensland, Mr. Kidston, was present, and that that gentleman was prepared to accept a proposal made by the present Commonwealth Treasurer, to give the Federal Parliament full control up to 1920. In that year, however, Mr. Kidston desired that there should be an amendment of the Constitution, and the present Commonwealth Treasurer denounced the idea most emphatically. The Treasurer declared that he would not ask the Commonwealth Parliament to give up their powers; and “Mr. Ashton and Mr. McGowen, representing New South Wales, spoke in a similar strain. Mr. McGowen, who is the Leader of the Labour party in the State, said -
We have to stand in front of the Federal Parliament and say, “ For ten years of Federation you have met us generously with a true Federal spirit, having regard to the State interest and to the national interest, but we do not know how you will meet our successors fourteen years hence.” We do not know how the Federal Parliament will act. I am perfectly willing to incorporate that, but I think it my duty to submit to my friends whether it is not possible that we are asking too much, and are not likely to obtain what many of us think it is possible to obtain.
He referred to the proposal to have a referendum in 1920 on the question whether the arrangement should continue. The present Commonwealth Treasurer, at the Bris* bane Premiers’ Conference, again emphasized the declaration that the National Parliament would not give up its rights. He urged that it was our duty, in the interests of the people, to adhere to the Constitution, and asked what would be thought of a Commonwealth Government and Parliament who, by giving up the powers vested in them, declared that they were not fit to be trusted with them ? Such a step, the Treasurer declared, would strike at the veryfoundation of the Constitution, which ought to remain intact until 1920, when, perhaps, we would be in a position to see how it worked. According to the Treasurer, it was not wise to tinker with the Constitution in 1907 ; and yet to-day we find him supporting a proposal to tinker with it in 1910. As a member of the Chamber, I have a duty to perform - a duty to the people who sent me here. Much as I regret having to vote against the proposition of the Prime Minister, I believe that my constituents are against it ; and, therefore, I have no right to cast a vote which would disfranchise them. In my opinion, it would be an injustice to the people to accept this agreement as it now stands. May I, at this stage, quote from the remarks made by Sir Joseph Carruthers, at the Brisbane Conference, showing that he was totally opposed to the powers of the Federal Parliament being taken away. The following is an extract from the report of his speech at the Conference: -
It is a very serious thing to ask the Commonwealth of Australia to commit itself irrevocably to a scheme of finance between the Commonwealth and the States, the results of which no man here can talk of. Just look at our revenue for the last year. It is beyond the expectations of any man in Australia.
– It is not irrevocable at all.
The Hon. J. H. CARRUTHERS. - Not irrevocable; but we know how very few alterations have been made in the equally irrevocable Constitution of the United States. We know how difficult it will be if anything is put in the Constitution to get it amended under the complicated process provided by the Constitution.
– It would be very easy to amend it if it were causing financial dislocation.
The Hon. J. H. CARRUTHERS.- Take this contingency - that it is found that this arrangement works harshly and unjustly to two States, but works favorably to four States. You have then to ask for an amendment of the Constitution against the interests of the people of four States, and against the interests of the Treasurers of four States, and you have to get that amendment carried by a majority of the people in a majority of the States. You can’t do it. It will be far easier in dealing with a question of this character to get an amendment made by the Federal Parliament than it will be to get an amendment made by .the Federal people, because if you have got four States who are perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, and have only to appeal to their sense and honour to give up something for the benefit of others, it will be very difficult to carry the amendment, especially when some people may think that they would have to give up a certain amount of revenue over and above what they aTe justly entitled to surrender.
That was the opinion expressed by the exPremier of New South Wales. To show what would be the difficulty experienced in securing the removal of this- agreement from the Constitution if it were embodied in it, I propose to quote some figures in regard to the voting at the last general election. In New South Wales including an estimate of 8,000 votes . each in re- spect of the electorates of Parramatta and North Sydney, in which no contest took place, 216,506 votes were polled. In Victoria every seat was contested, and the votes secured by the successful candidates totalled 189,342, or a total of 405,848 for the two States. In Queensland 71,639 votes were cast; in Western Australia 32,629; South Australia 40,080 ; and Tasmania 26,448, making a total of 170,796 votes in the four States. It will thus be seen that in New South Wales and Victoria 225,053 votes were Cast in excess of the total polled in the other four States, yet on that basis it would be impossible to secure an amendment of the Constitution, although the vast majority of the people of New South Wales and Victoria favoured it. We offer to give to the States a per capita allowance of 25s. per annum ; and that, according to the Treasurer, would make the States secure. At the Brisbane Conference the right honorable gentleman said that it was the duty of the Commonwealth to make itself secure first of all, and a proposal byMr. Evans, then Premier of Tasmania, that the Conference should agree to a per capita payment of 34s. per annum was lost. The representatives of Tasmania* voted for it, whilst the representatives of New. South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland opposed it. The representatives of Western Australia did not vote. My opposition to this proposal is based largely on the opinion which I hold that it would prevent a high Protectionist Tariff being brought into existence. That was the opinion expressed by Mr. J. M. Davies, a representative of Victoria, at a Conference held in Melbourne in October, 1906. Speaking as a representative of this State, he said -
As we go on manufacturing machinery and a whole lot of other articles, if those duties that are put on for protective purposes have the effect which they are intended to have of promoting manufacture in the States, the necessary consequence will be a great diminution in the total of our revenue.
– Is that why the honorable member for Parkes will vote against the agreement ?
– I am not concerned with the reasons that may actuate the honorable member for Parkes for voting against the agreement. I am concerned only with my duty to my constituency, where thousands of persons, are employed in various industries. It has been said that the New Zealand Tariff is a Protective one.
– That is not correct.
– It is not. Mr. Miller, Minister of Labour in New Zealand, speaking in the Parliament of the Dominion recently, said it was not a Protectionist Tariff.
– That is a poor authority.
– I do not think I could quote ahigher authority on the subject. I am prepared to take full responsibility for the vote I intend to cast. It is for the people to say whether or not this is to be one of the last speeches I shall make in this Parliament ; but I am not going to stifle my own conscientious convictions in order to try to placate any opposition that may be offered to me. I take the earliest opportunity of saying that I resent any effort to try to pull me over the ropes and to lead me to vote against my own convictions. Whether I retain my seat or not I am not going to vote against what I believe to be right. I have never yet given a vote against my convictions, and I am not going to do so at the eleventh hour. That is the position I take up, and I intend to stand by it. On that I shall go before my constituents and ask for a continuance of their confidence. I have carefully studied this question, and the authorities I have quoted lead me to believe that I have adopted the right course. I could quote the Prime Minister, I think, in this connexion, but I have no desire to do so.
– I have no objection.
– Believing it to be my duty to gain all the information possible on the subject, I have carefully read the reports of the Conferences held in Brisbane and Melbourne. I have . come to the conclusion that the Treasurer was right in the contention he advanced at the Brisbane Conference in 1907, and I should be prepared now to follow him in support of that contention. But I am not prepared to vote to restrict the power of the people. I am prepared to trust the people and to give them power to make this amendment if they desire to do so. If I were to vote for this agreement being placed in the Constitution, it would be my duty to advise the electors tosupport the proposed amendment of the Constitution. I gather, however, that the preliminary stage relates not to the submission of this question to the people, but to our agreeing, first of all, to the Constitution being amended. I am prepared to support a straight-out referendum on the question of whether this agreement should remain in operation for all time or for a limited period. I speak with a limited knowledge of the position, but I believe that a majority of the people are opposed to this agreement remaining in force for all time.
– The honorable member is making a big mistake.
– That, after all, is a matter of opinion. There is only one clear course open to me, and that is to vote in the direction that I believe to be right. I do not think that inside or outside the chamber I should be asked to do something in- which I do not believe. I feel the position, perhaps, more keenly than any other honorable member, for the reason that I have been approached in a direction in which neither the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Mernda, nor the honorable member for Flinders has been. Why an effort should be made to induce me to go back on the position that I have taken up and to vote contrary to the views that I have expressed, I am at a loss to know. I have no desire to harass other honorable members, and trust that no honorable member will attempt to harass me. I have given this matter careful study, and have made up my mind with regard to it.
– The honorable member is sticking to the Fusion agreement.
– I am prepared to admit that I did not know what was the Fusion agreement as to this question. When the Fusion was proposed my principal consideration was that the first plank of its platform should be the maintenance of a Protective policy ; for the rest I was prepaied to trust the Prime Minister. I shall give a vote in a direction which I believe to be in accordance with the views of the majority of the people in my electorate. I shall stand by my guns, and shall look towards the future with confidence, believing that my action will be indorsed, not only by my own constituents, but by the people of Australia.
.- I desire to allude to one statement which has been made by the Prime Minister. I have taken the trouble on about ten occasions to explain the position of my colleagues as members of the party which I have the honour to lead. I wish to say again - and I say it in terms which no honest man can misunderstand - that, except on platform questions., no authority can bind a single member of this party. Any inference to the contrary by those who have knowledge must be made with wilful dishonesty.
Business of the House - The Labour Party - Parliament Buildings - Hansard Typists.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to mention that we intend tomorow 1 to take a division on the amendmentmoved by the .honorable member for Mernda upon the Bill which has been under consideration during the evening.
.- It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that he intends to take a division on the question to-morrow. There is no more important matter before this Parliament.
– It has been under consideration tor a fortnight.
– It is quite evident that there are honorable members who do not desire the question to be properly debated. Some honorable members opposite are always ready to get up and talk nonsense, although it is evident that they do not know the rudiments of the question. The Government have no mandate from the people for dealing with it. They did not appeal to the country upon it. If they have a good case, surely they should not be afraid of having it discussed.
– It has been discussed.
– Any attempt to put on the gag in reference to this question would be strongly resisted bv me.
.- I quite agree with, the anxiety of the Leader of the Opposition that as much light as possible should be thrown upon all questions submitted to this House. A few moments ago the honorable member alluded in no unmeasured terms to references made by the Prime Minister to the solidarity of his party. I should like to urge upon the consideration of the gentlemen whom he leads - the Labour party - the desirableness of taking the public completely into their confidence. How is it that that party has voted absolutely solidly upon a number of burning questions that certainly did not form part of their party’s programme, as submitted to the public? How is it, for example, that the Leader of the Opposition and his party, without a solitary exception, voted in favour of Home Rule for Ireland ?
– The honorable member is “ green”
– Am I?
– The Prime Minister and his party also voted for the Home Rule motion.
– No, they did not.
– I believe that the honorable member for Richmond did not, nor did the right honorable member for Swan. There is only one party in this House that voted solidly for Home Rule, although no question affecting the platform of their party turned upon it.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would do him a lot of good if he had a little “home rule “?
– I am glad to say that comparatively recently I have taken on a little “home rule” on my own account, and I hope that after a number of years of it 1 shall look as happy as my honorable friend does.
– Is it true that the honorable member has “ a little opposition “ there now ?
– I wish my honorable friends opposite would shed a little more light upon their party doings. How is it that the Labour party, without any mandate from the constituencies, voted absolutely solidly against the Naval Agreement? I would go a step further, and ask the Leader of the Opposition why it was that his party, with only one exception - that of an honorable member who got up and said that he would not be mean enough to be bound to vote in an) such direction - voted solidly against the Queen Victoria memorial ? These are a few of the things - all turning in one direction, it will be noticed ; all questions affecting Imperial sentiment and consolidation - upon which the Opposition voted solidly. Consequently, I think I am justified in saying that my honorable friendsopposite are not altogether sincere when they state they are not bound by the Caucus except on questions affecting the platform of their party. I hope that we shall have no more humbug and nonsense from the Opposition in reference to this matter. My honorable friends show a remarkable capacity for splitting their voting strength when it suits them ; and also when it suits them they can vote more solidly than any other party in. this House.
– I desire to bring under your notice, Mr. Speaker, a matter which relates to the condition of the buildings in which we are meeting. During the last week or so,I have been showing a few friends over the building. On one or two occasions I went on to the roof. I noticed that the stonework at the top of the structure is getting into a dilapidated condition. This is, as we are all agreed, a magnificent building, and, as the State of Victoria has allowed us to occupy it, the least we can do is to look after it properly. I am mentioning the matter publicly in order that it may be brought under the notice of the House Committee. I trust that inquiries will be made into the condition of the stonework, as to which it appears to me that there is undoubtedly room for considerable repairs.
.- On a former- occasion, during the present Parliament, I brought under the notice of the House the position of a number of gentlemen employed as temporary typists in connexion with the Hansard staff. It will, perhaps, be remembered by you, Mr. Speaker, that these gentlemen are employed from session to session at a fairly decent wage ; that is to say, sufficient to induce many of them to re-engage from time to time, although it is not sufficient to enable them to live while Parliament is not in session. We were promised that something would be done in the direction of giving permanent positions to them. I do not know whether anything definite has yet been done. I believe that some regulation was drawn up, but, if so, effect has not been given to it. This Parliament is approaching its termination, and so far the typists have not been provided for. The skill demanded from’ typists connected with the Hansard staff is very much superior to that required in ordinary offices. They have to be thorough experts at their business, and, by continuity of practice, they attain to a degree of speed that is not possible to men who are not called upon to type for long periods from swift dictation. When they become accustomed to the work of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff they cannot be easily replaced. I submit that something ought to be done to put them on a permanent footing. At present, they are paid for the work they do during about six months in the year, and they are also occasionally occupied while Parliament is in recess in connexion with the reporting of Commissions. I think that they are paid at the rate of about £200 a year while they are working. If they ‘ were employed perma nently at about £160 a year, the expense to the Commonwealth would be very little greater, whilst their service would always be available to the Government. They could be utilized by the Public Service Commissioner, without extra remuneration. At any rate, if permanent positions were given to them, they would be enabled to settle down and make homes for themselves, as they are certainly not tempted to do under present circumstances.I understood that the regulation which I am told has been framed would be brought into operation earlier, and that these men would be given an opportunity such as is given to nearly all others working within the precincts of this House of occupying permanent positions. Under present circumstances, they are turned adrift when the session closes, and there is no security of employment for them while Parliament is in recess. I make this appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, because 1 know that the matter was brought under the notice of your predecessor, and I trust that you will be able to do something.
– In reply to the honorable member for Kennedy, I desire to say that the condition of the stone- work of this building has been engaging my attention. I had a consultation with the Prime Minister on the subject, and it is also my intention to bring the subject before the House Committee at its next meeting. In addition to that an extra hand has been engaged for the express purpose of attending to the repairs on the roof which are so urgently necessary. With respect to the typists their case has caused me great anxiety and much thought. I realize the position in which they are placed. I wish that it rested only with myself to order that something might be done ; but, as honorable members know, this House is only part of the Parliament, and it is necessary that an agreement should be come to between the President of the Senate and myself in regard to any officers who are under our joint control. Regulations have been framed and are now under consideration. I believe that some action will be taken to help the typists. I suppose that nearly every member of the House has spoken to me about them, showing the great interest which is taken in their case. I can assure honorable members that everything will be done as early as possible in order to meet their representations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091109_reps_3_53/>.