3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have been supplied with the following additional information in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Hunter in regard to the annual leave’ of examining officers in the Department of Trade and Customs, New South Wales. It is this -
There are no cases in which examining officers on the New South Wales staff have been denied their annual leave for the past two years. There are only three cases where leave was deferred from last year and has not yet been taken this year. The reasons why such leave has not been taken this year are - one officer has not yet applied and applications from the other two have only just been received. All applications will be granted before the end of present year in accordance with the departmental order issued in 1905, in which Collectors are instructed to encourage officers “to take their recreation leave annually.
Report (No. 5) presented by Mr. Hutchison, and read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Hutchison) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
.- A petition has- been presented by certain Queensland sugar-growers, praying for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the industry, but the printing of it is not recommended by the Committee. I should like to move that it be printed without the names of the petitioners.
– I understand that an order for its printing has been made in another place.
– I was informed just before entering the chamber that nothing had been done in another place in regard to it.
– I submit that a motion to amend the category of recommendations of the Committee would be out of order; that the only course which could be taken would be to invite the House to consider the propriety of having the petition printed, and to refer the report before us back to the Committee for reconsideration. It seems to me that it would be quite improper for the House to amend the recommendations of the Committee.
– I would point out, in the first place, that such a document as that referred to has been ordered to be printed, and, in the next place, that the report of the Printing Committee is simply a recommendation which it is competent for the House to alter or deal with as it pleases. The records of another place show that an order has been made for the printing of this petition, and under the circum- stances I suppose the honorable member for Oxley will not make a motion.
– I am satisfied with your assurance, sir. The question at issue is so important that I felt that the printing of the petition should be ordered.
– The Printing Committee did not recommend the printing of this petition, because it is not usual to recommend the printing of petitions unless honorable members . specially ask for it. We knew, too, that the Government had determined to appoint the Commission asked for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The following paragraph appears in the Argus -
Coal on Deck.
There is evidently small risk of the “Bucknail “ liner Swazi running short of fuel during her voyage to the United Kingdom. Upon arrival here yesterday morning from Sydney she not only had her bunkers full, but carried about 400 tons of coal on deck as well. The Swazi is loading wool and other cargo in the Victoria Dock.
I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the Government can prevent vessels from leaving port on long voyages with such a large quantity of deck cargo? Does he realize that, as the bunker coal is consumed a vessel so loaded is likely to become top heavy, and may capsize in rough weather?
– The British Merchant Shipping Act and the State Acts control navigation in our waters, but probably the honorable member’s question will call the attention of the State authorities to this matter.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister when he intends to proceed with a motion which stands last on the list of Government business, providing for the consideration of the report of the Commissioner appointed to re-distribute the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, presented to Parliament on the 15th October. Will the motion be brought forward at a date which will enable the matter to receive the consideration which it deserves? The distribution of electorates is the basis of our representative system, and it will be a grave reflection on the Government if this matter is not properly considered.
– I propose to take the first opportunity that offers to ask my honorable colleague to move the motion referred to. After he has done so, the Government will consent to the adjournment of the debate until a date when honorable members may be expected to have made themselves familiar with the facts of the case.
– Will the motion be dealt with to-day?
– It will be moved today, or on Tuesday, But I shall not press for a decision then.
– It now stands at the bottom of the list of Government business.
– So that it may be taken at the first opportunity in the way I have mentioned.
.- The following paragraph appears in today’s Age: -
Mr. Hedges said that the manager of the Norseman railway line had telegraphed to him that men employed there last June totalled 166, of whom only six were foreigners. Mr. Frazer had given the number as 340 employes, of whom 320 were foreigners.
What I said - and the Hansard record bears me out - was that the statement was made by the honorable member for Cook.
.- The criticism I made was to the effect that on the 1 st June last the Western Australian Gold-fields Firewood Supply Company Limited, of which the honorable member for Fremantle is managing director, and, I understand, about four-fifths owner-
– The honorable member understands too much.
– I accept the interjection as highly complimentary. I stated that this company had in its employment on the 1st June last as firewood cutters employed on its Kurrawang line 316 aliens - Italians and Austrians - and 20 Britishers. My information came from an employe of the company who is on the spot and knew what he was talking about. As I pointed out last night, the honorable member for Fremantle took the trouble to contradict a statement which was not made. His figures referred to the Norseman railway line ; mine to the Kurrawang wood line. My information is authentic.
– Why does not the honorable member give the name of his informant ?
– Because I do not desire him to be victimized. My information has been vouched for by several gentlemen of high standing.
– I wish to know if by any means I can obtain the uncorrected Hansard proof of the honorable member’s remarks. I took a note of what he said, and, of course, if I am wrong I should like the matter cleared up.
– The report is available for the honorable member to see.
– I am prepared to hand the honorable member my proof.
Construction of Telegraph and Telephone Lines : Supervision
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - :, 2, 3, and 4. I am not aware. 5 and 6. If the honorable member will make the representations required under the Australian Industries Preservation Act to the ComptrollerGeneral of Trade and Customs, full inquiry will be made.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 18th November, vide page 6080).
Amendment (by Mr. Bowden) again proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : -
Section one hundred and seventy of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section v. thereof the words “ and halls therefor.”
– I do not like the proposal,because it is not advisable to make our elections more expensive if it is possible to avoid it. The existing provisions are absolutely inadequate to prevent the most wholesale and corrupt bribery if any person were disposed to resort to it. For instance, there are candidates out now all over Australia, and during the next two or three months they can, if they choose, spend thousands of pounds in the most corrupt and flagrant bribery, the Electoral officers being utterly powerless to prevent it or punish them. We have to give an account of only those election expenses incurred within three months prior to the election. Consequently, any candidate can, four months before election day, commit any act of bribery that he chooses, or spend as much as he chooses in any way he pleases, thus riding roughshod over the bribery and corruption sections of the Act.
– They are doing it now wholesale.
– Then it ought to be stopped, and I should like to see the time extended from three months to six months prior to the election. If there is one thing on which all sections of the House agree it is that ‘we should secure purity of elections.
– And purity of returns.
– Undoubtedly. Certain expenses are being incurred now under other guises, but actually for election purposes. For instance, an employe of the Australian Workers’ Union, drawing a salary from that body and paying all his expenses out of its funds, could be carrying on his election campaign, and not a shilling of that expenditure need be presented in his return. The same thing may apply to other leagues.
– The Commonwealth Liberal League has three paid organizers, drawing£27 a month each, in my electorate now.
– Both sides are paying organizers, and so far as that is for the purpose of establishing political leagues or carrying out their own political views, I can see no objection to the expenditure; but when candidates use it as a means of furthering their own interests it is time the House took the matter into serious consideration. Whilst we are straining at the gnat of whether we shall allow a few pounds for halls to go into the accounts or not, we are swallowing the camel of allowing the most wholesale and corrupt bribery to take place unchecked if candidates wish to resort to it.
– I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that it is a mistake to increase our legitimate expenses if we can possibly avoid it. The Treasurer evidently agrees with that remark, as he cheers it.
– If we can possibly avoid it, yes.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so, because I have noticed that those members who favour the new clause, which really means an increase in the expenses of elections, are almost without exception- men with very large banking accounts. That makes me very suspicious of their bona fides.
– That is not the object at all.
– My object is to keep the fountain of justice pure, as an honorable member for Tasmania put it. The less we are able to spend in election expenses the more likely we are to be free from bribery and corruption. Now that we have a Protectionist policy, ft is a simple matter for a manufacturer who has enormous interests at stake, to insure that candidates, who see things as he wishes, are returned. Anything that we can do to prevent that sort of thing ought to be done. It is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition should have introduced the class question into his arguments. He compared the Labour party with other parties, and said that they were at certain disadvantages.
– The honorable member is in error.
– Then my memory must Le becoming somewhat defective, but I understood the honorable member to indicate that there were certain facts which gave an advantage to the man who was able to spend the most money.
– ‘Hear, hear, but that is quite another matter.
– One can interpret such remarks in any way he likes, and I suppose one is, to a certain extent, biased or prejudiced, but I took the honorable member to mean that there were certain discrepancies between the two classes.
– No. I think there are as poor men on that side as on this.
– The members of the Labour party have a great advantage over those who represent the other party so far as halls are concerned. The honorable member said it was absolutely necessary for candidates to speak in halls. I do not think so. Most of the representatives of the Labour, party in this House are men of robust physique, trained to speak in the open air, and do not require to pay for halls. Compare my highly sensitive and delicate organism with that of the honorable member for Werriwa, for example ! What chance have I against him on equal terms ? Is it not right that I should be to a certain extent protected, by being able to speak in a hall, rather than to a roughandtumble crowd at a street corner ?
– That is a most insulting’ remark.
– I did not mean it to be insulting. I have had considerable experience of addressing crowds, and I would sooner address a rough-and-tumble crowd at a street corner than an assemblage in a nail. In my electorate I have seen, inside a hall which was paid for, the most disgraceful exhibition of rowdyism - in fact, an uproar. It is very much easier to keep order outside. I am altogether opposed to increasing’ the cost of elections, and that this proposal means an increase nobody can deny. It is all very well to say that even if one has to pay for halls he need not spend his hundred pounds, but what is my position ? Every one knows that I am allowed to spend ,£100, and consequently all my committees say - “ You have to spend ,£100 to start with.” I put that amount down to be spent, but, of course, I place it in the hands of a solicitor, who sees that it is not exceeded. I shall have to pa j for cabs out of that amount, and consequently shall have less to pay for halls. It is very convenient for a candidate to be able to say that under the Act he is not permitted to spend more than ^100, and that therefore he cannot be expected to hire halls- all over the place. In the warm weather it is far more agreeable to speak in the open air than indoors. A more orderly meeting can be obtained out of doors, for if a man at the back of a meeting in the open air is creating a disturbance a candidate’s friends can deal with him in a way that is not possible in a public hall. As this is merely a machinery Bill, I urge the Minister to take a firm stand in opposition to the amendment. I am surprised that the honorable member for Nepean should have submitted such a proposal, and I shall certainly vote against it.
– This amendment is really a proposal to extend the statutory limitation of electoral expenses. The provisions of the original Act dealing with this question were inserted to eliminate from election .contests a number of undesirable elements calculated, to prevent a correct expression of public opinion at the ballot-box. They were also designed to place a poor man who might seek the suffrages of the people on the same footing as a wealthy man* Parliament thought that the mere possession of wealth should not be an important factor in the determination of an election. Although the honorable member for Nepean does not actually ask that the limitation of .£100, for which the Act provides, should be increased, his proposal, if adopted, would extend the privileges and opportunities that the wealthy possess.
– There would be no extension. Halls have to be engaged at the present time.
– Quite so; but a certain measure of control is now exercised over the hiring of halls and other electoral expenses, inasmuch as a candidate is not permitted to expend more than ^100. The honorable member for Nepean proposes that there shall be no limitation to the expenditure which a candidate may incur in respect to the hiring of halls. If it is right to exclude the hiring of halls from the list of items in respect of which not more than a total expenditure of £100 may be incurred, is it not equally right to exclude from it the cost of electoral rolls, the publication of candidates’ addresses, postage stamps, telegrams, scrutineers, and committee rooms? All these are items in respect of which candidates are permitted under the Act to incur expense, but the total must not exceed £100. They are justifiable items of expenditure in connexion with a properly-conducted election. Why allow them to remain in the list of electoral expenses under section 170, and remove from it the cost of hiring public halls? Since they are all equally justifiable items of expenditure, the only logical position for the honorable member to take up is that there should be no limitation to electoral expenses. In that way we should get back to the old position in which a man able to command a large amount of wealth, either personally or through political “organizations, enjoys a substantial advantage over those who cannot, with the result that an election may be influenced in an undesirable way. Our desire in inserting these provisions in the original Act was to insure that the result of elections should reflect the ideals and opinions of the electors. The original provisions in the Act should be allowed to stand. If the hire of halls is to be removed from the list of electoral expenses set forth in section 170, the only logical conclusion is that all the other items should be eliminated, and the purposes of the Act, so far as the limitation of expenses is concerned, absolutely defeated. Some honorable members prefer to speak in halls, while others favour open-air meetings. A point that is worthy of consideration, especially on the part of members in New South Wales, is the use of school buildings for public meetings. I am informed that in New Zealand school buildings are available, save during school hours, for political and other public meetings. Progress and Farmers’ Associations and like bodies have the free use of school buildings.
– Not the free use of them.
– At all events there is only a nominal charge sufficient to cover the cost of lighting and cleaning. In this way school buildings are put to a public use. No one can cavil at the adoption of that course. It certainly affords great facilities to residents of small country districts. In New South Wales, however, a school building is held to be so sacred that no public meeting is allowed to be held in it. Very often in small country centres great expense and inconvenience are experienced in consequence of this regulation on the part of the Department of Education, since people are compelled to contribute to the cost of schools, but are not allowed to use them for public meetings. They have thus to incur the additional expense of erecting public halls,, with the result that one often sees two partially used public buildings in a small centre of population where one would suffice. Some of the States, notably Queensland, have fallen into line with trie Dominion of New Zealand in this regard, and I think that the State Government of New South Wales might very well follow their example. If they did so they would convenience not only Federal, but State members and the general public. I hope that the Committee will not accept this amendment. If it be carried, then logically every other item in section 170 shouldbe eliminated. That would mean the negation of the principle of the limitation of electoral expenses, which would be a very grave mistake.
– I am glad that this amendment is being treated as a non-Ministerial question, for it is a matter that affects every one of us, more or less, personally, and more particularly those who represent large constituencies comprising many polling places. I have no desire that the expenses of candidates shall be increased, for I know that a candidate for the representation ofa large electorate is put to considerable expense in travelling over it. The travelling and living expenses of a candidate for a large country electorate are in themselves a considerable item. My constituency is not thickly populated, but there areno large unoccupied areas within it, and it would take a man at least three months to visit every part of it. It contains 183 polling places. I can assure honorable members that I have no personal feeling whatever in regard to this matter, and only desire to discuss the question as one of public concern ; and I am sure the decision of the Committee will be accepted by everybody. The desire is that candidates shall obey the law, but the Act is so drastic as in my opinion to be inoperative, as proved by the fact that there has not been any action taken during the last ten years, not because there have not been cases to justify action, but because of the extreme stringency of the law, and the difficulty in administering it. A candidate is naturally anxious and careful not to break the law himself, but I feel sure there is scarcely a case where his friends have not done so, either intentionally or unintentionally. According to the section, the hire of halls is an election expense, whether they be paid for by the candidate or by his friends, or any league, union, or committee. If any one pays for a hall for a candidate to speak in, and the expenditure is not included in the return, an electoral offence is committed. As a matter of fact, however, committees and friends do engage and pay forhalls and the candidate asks no questions, and is unaware of it.
– That is not true, so far as the Labour party in South Australia is concerned.
– Does the honorable member not have halls provided for . him wherever he goes?
– But the hire is included in the return of expenses.
– In addition to section 170, we have a drag-net provision in section. 171, which includes all expenses incurred by or on behalf or in the interests of the candidate, except, of course, personal expenses. As showing how little the law is understood by a great many honorable members, we had a prominent member of the Labour party saying yesterday that he thought that the expenses dated only from the nomination, whereas we know that they date from three months previous to an election. Not long ago, I talked over this matter with a prominent member of the Labour party, who told me that his expenditure was, I think, £15, and when I asked him how he managed to keep it so low, he said - “ Oh, well, the unions pay the rest.” I pointed out to him that this expenditure was illegal, unless included in the return; and he told me that, if that were so, there was not a single member of the Labour party who had been properly elected.
– He told the honorable member what is not true.
– He is a prominent member of the party, and ought to know all about the matter.
– It is not true in my case.
– Are not halls provided for the honorable member?
– I pay for every one of them.
– But the honorable member has not 183 halls to pay for.
– There are sixtyone halls to be paid for in my electorate.
– Like the honorable member for North Sydney, I do not wish inadvertently or otherwise to do anything contrary, not only to the letter, but to the spirit of the law; at the same time I am quite sure that some of my friends do not know the Act, and do things that contravene its provisions. The whole of the clauses in this part of the Act are hardly understandable, and a lawyer is required to ascertain their meaning. They ought at least to be made perfectly clear, so that the law may not be evaded, except knowingly. All over Australia organizations are at work at election time, and it is very questionable whether some of the expenditure they incur would not be deemed by the High Court to come within the meaning of election expenses. Even if the meetings be held in private houses, a legal interpretation as to the meaning of the section would be desirable. It is almost impossible, especially in the southern parts of Australia, where the climate is cold, to speak in the open airin the evenings, quite apart from the inconvenience of such a method.
– How many halls are there in the 183 centres of the right honorable member’s electorate?
– I cannot say, but there are proportionately more agricultural halls in Western Australia than in any other State; there is hardly a centre where there is not such a hall, and all of them axe conducted by committees, who have to make a charge. This difficulty is a practical one; and I do not see how a candidate, out of his £100, is to pay for halls, and also for the necessary printing, advertising, postage, &c. The hire of halls ranges to as high as three guineas and more in some of the larger towns; and for the candidate to pay for them is impracticable. If committees, unions, or associations were free to pay for and provide a candidate with halls I have no doubt they would do so; but they are prevented by the Act. I rose solely to point out that a candidate’s friends, by paying for these conveniences, may be inadvertently breaking the law ; and we have no desire to place them in an improper position. I cannot see any reason why the trades unions, and so forth, should not be at liberty to provide halls for their candidates, or why the women’s leagues and Liberal associations should not exercise a similar privilege. The money does not come out of the candidate’s pocket, so that the honorable member for Hunter need not feel any alarm on that account.
– Would the right honorable member include trusts, combines, and monopolies?
– I do not know anything about trusts and combines. The honorable member would appear incapable of dealing with a serious question.
– The Treasurer has told us that in his opinion the Act is so drastic as to be inoperative, and also that the trades unions contribute to the expenses of Labour candidates.
– I have heard of Labour candidates getting purses - one in Western Australia was presented with
– In South Australia every penny spent in connexion with the candidature of a Labour representative for printing, halls, or anything else is stated in the return of expenses.
– Not personal expenses.
– They have not to be shown in the return.
– The honorable member should read section 175.
– I know that in South Australia every expense which the Act requires to be stated in the return is so stated. Labour candidates for the Senate have to travel all round the State like other candidates, but never yet have their expenses, including the hire of halls, exceeded the statutory amount. In South Australia, where there is no hall available, we are able to use school buildings, on payment of 5s., the charge formerly being 2s. 6d. I have acted as secretary for a Senate election, and know that after the cost of halls and every other expense had been paid the expenditure did not reach one-half of the statutory amount. No Labour senator in South Australia has spent, in connexion with his election, half the sum that candidates are allowed to spend. Of course, during the election to which I refer, I should have cheerfully spent more money had we had it to expendthat is, without exceeding the statutory limit. My election expenses have never exceeded £40, and the party has paid them for me.
– That was a violation of section 175.
– In connexion with the return of Labour candidates, a statement is made of the expenditure and of the manner in which the money was provided. That is for State elections. I have had only one contest since the Act was passed, and it did not cost £20. My last election did not cost me twenty pence.
– The provisions of the State Act differ from those of the Commonwealth Act.
– Yes. Every penny spent in securing the election of a Labour candidate is shown in the returns..
– My expenses have ranged from £5 to ^45-
– If others did as the honorable gentleman has done, they might get returned for £4.5. He has had no reason to complain of the support given to him. It has been objected that the Australian Workers’ Union employ organizers who assist candidates, and the Treasurer said that he would allow unions to provide halls for candidates. If that were done, the door would be open wider to bribery.
– At the present time candidates are allowed to pay scrutineers. Some of those who act as scrutineers vote against the candidates whose money they take, and are the worst class of men. These payments are a form of bribery. In South Australia the Labour party does not pay scrutineers. But if Labour leagues, industrial unions, or other bodies are allowed to provide halls for candidates without accounting for the expense, more money will be available for bribery. The effect of the amendment will be to increase the sum which may be spent by a candidate in securing his election, and thus to increase the opportunity for the exercise of undue influence. Every man who is paid for his services at election time is likely to. support the candidate who furnishes the money. Labourrepresentatives have lost a number of supporters^ - who were not worth much - because they could get nothing out of them, whereas, as they said, the other side would give them a guinea or a five-pound note. I should be willing to support a provision preventing contributions to candidates’ expenses exceeding the amount provided for in the Act.
– The Act enacts, that, money shall not be contributed.
– If that is so, the honorable member for Wannon should have no difficulty in punishing a man who has already raised ^1,000 in his district. He should approach the Treasurer to ascertain what steps to take. I am willing to make it necessary for industrial unions to give an account of the money which they provide for the expenses of candidates.
– They ought not to provide any.
– I have been for years a member of the Executive Committee of the Shearers’ Union of South Australia, which at the present time is paying a man to organize labour leagues and industrial unions. I am prepared to provide that the time paid for in the. organization of labour unions and the support of Labour candidates should be debited against the expenses of those candidates. Even with that, the total expenditure would not come to one-tenth of the sum allowed by the Act. We have been endeavouring for years to obtain money to pay for a secretary, but we cannot raise the £4 or ^5 a week which is necessary, and our secretarial work has to be done voluntarily. The Treasurer interjected the other day that he has spent ^25 on rolls, and that he thought that the hiring of halls should not be included in the ^100 which a candidate is allowed to spend. I think that it should. Any other provision would give an advantage to the wealthy man. The candidate who has money with which to hire any number of halls is in a better position than a poor man.
– To put every man in the community on the same footing, it would be necessary to say that no candidate should spend more than ^5.
– I have gone through an election and not spent as much. When the weather is fine, I prefer to speak out of doors, because I then get larger audiences. The electors do not like to assemble in halls in warm weather. I am glad that the Minister has not accepted the amendment, and I am surprised that some of his colleagues are supporting it. According to the Treasurer, the law is being broken now, though, as I have proved, it is not being broken by the Labour party in South Australia, whatever may happen elsewhere. The amendment would make it easier to do what is improper in connexion with elections, and, therefore, I shall vote against it. I am surprised that Ministers who supported the provision when originally introduced now wish to destroy, it. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that new candidates have an advantage over sitting members. I understand that the honorable member for Calare has an amendment which will do something to remove our present disadvantage. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that the period during which the expenditure of a candidate is to be accounted for should be extended. Indeed, what is needed is that there should be a complete account of the expenditure by any person upon his candidature, whether it has extended over twelve months or three years.
– Why not say that no member should be re-elected ?
– I wish to remove a disadvantage to which sitting members are subjected, by reason of new candidates being allowed to spend money unchecked before Parliament is dissolved. As we are compelled to account for every sixpence which we spend on our candidature, our opponents should have to do the same thing, because honorable members are here doing their duty. They cannot incur expenses for advertising meetings and engaging halls, and be here at the same time. Many honorable members would like to be away, and it is a fact that on account of the Act as it now stands, some of our members are now absent electioneering. They are forced to take that course for the preservation of their seats. That should not be so, and it is right that we should put a curb on other candidates so that all may be on an equality. I hope that the amendment, which would open the door for further abuses in connexion with our electoral machinery, will be rejected.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh stated that the intention of those moving in this matter was to secure greater opportunity for undue influence. There is no such intention. There is no intention to increase the expense. Candidates will not require to spend one penny more on halls than they do now. Honorable members know perfectly well that in some electorates as compared with others the requisite number of halls for holding meetings cannot be provided by the amount allowed, when other expenses are taken into account, and an extension in that direction night to be permitted, because it is a direction in which there, can be no undue influence, no bribery, and no corruption. It is true, as the honorable member for Calare said, that the other expenditure which is allowed will still be limited. The honorable member asked why this expenditure should not be enlarged. The reason is that in any electorate all that is necessary in the interests of the people can be accomplished by a limited expenditure on those items, but that in some extensive electorates you cannot hold the necessary meetings and pay for the halls under an allowance which mav be sufficient for a smaller electorate. I opposed the existing provision when it was first passed. One strong reason given for it was that it would protect candidates against being pressed into heavy expenditure, as they would be able to plead that, they could not incur any more cost than the law allowed. By an amendment last night, we put into this clause a provision that takes away that safeguard. We allowed expenditure on cabs and vehicles. That is a direction in which candidates can be pressed to incur expenditure. There is no such danger in regard to halls.
– They are bound by the ,£100 limit, any way.
– That does not matter, because there is a direction in which they can be pressed to expend money where previously they could have said that the law would not allow it. On the other hand nobody has, within my knowledge, pressed candidates to hire halls. Candidates have never been desirous of hiring more halls or delivering more speeches than they thought necessary. The law as it now stands cannot be observed in the larger electorates if the people. are to be reached as they ought to be reached. We ought to face that fact, and accept the honorable member for Nepean’s suggestion. It has also been suggested that “the limitation of expenses should be made to apply for six months prior to the election. That would simply extend the difficulty by causing further charges to be debited against the election expenses. I can quite understand those who hold seats wishing to secure themselves by making it as difficult as possible for the other man, but that is not a good thing. Every candidate should have an equal opportunity. If the time is extended and legitimate expenses, such as those for holding meetings and so on, incurred by the candidate during that period, have to.be debited against the £100, the danger of corruption which now exists will simply be increased. People cannot be bribed bv the hiring of halls, but there is another form of corruption which is likely to lower the character of a representative. That arises by compelling a man who is contesting a large electorate either to lose his opportunity of reaching all the people and so run the risk of being defeated, or else to prepare and declare to a return which is not absolutely correct.
– I am with the honorable member in that matter ; if we cannot address the people in halls prior to the three months’ period, we place ourselves absolutely in the hands of the press.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I am certain that we can acquit the honorable member for Nepean of anything but an honest intention to so liberalize the Act in regard to an expenditure which cannot in any way come under the heading of bribery, but which, on the other hand, is necessary, especially in a large electorate, in order to reach all the electors, that there will be no necessity for furnishing returns which’ are not in accordance with fact, and the making of which is sure to lower the standing of the representatives of the people.
.- I believe in keeping down election expenses as much as possible. At the same time I concur iri the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney as to the amount allowed being the same for a city as a country constituency, and so placing country candidates in an unfair position. I represent, I suppose, the largest country constituency in Victoria, but after all it is only a pocket handkerchief as compared with country constituencies in the larger States. I know from experience that it is exceedingly difficult, in fact almost impossible, to keep within the .£100 limit. If, however, any adjustment is to be made as between the different kinds of constituency it ought to be done on the basis of a fixed cash amount. The proposal now before us will not meet that difficulty, because it also will apply equally to city and country electorates. For that reason I cannot support it. I am sure the only object which the honorable member for Nepean has in view is to place candidates in country constituencies on a fairer footing than they occupy at the present time. I know the number of meetings that have to be held in country constituencies, and if one had to pay anything like high prices for the halls, it would be almost impossible to engage them unless one wiped out some other item of expenditure altogether. It would be better, however, to leave the Act as it is than to make an alteration which would render it possible for a candidate to increase his expenditure to a very great amount. I cannot see how it will fail to increase the expenditure. Whether the candidate or his supporters pay for the hall, the amount of money expended on his behalf will be increased. Some other basis than that suggested by the honorable member should be adopted, but there will always be a great difficulty in making a differentiation, because what would be a fair amount for my constituency, for instance, would not be fair for some of the enormous districts in Queensland and Western Australia. It is greatly to be regretted that the Government are not solid on the subject. The Minister of Home Affairs said his reason for not accepting the amendment was that it attacked a vital principle in the electoral law, but surely if there is one subject more than another on which a Government should be solid it is on a vital principle in an Act. I have been amazed at the action of the Government on two or three subjects lately. They were intensely solid last week, but during the present week, on another Government measure, their famous majority was allowed to absent himself and not record his vote, while on the present occasion we shall have Ministers voting against each other on a question which the Minister of Home Affairs rightly declares to be a vital principle. If we do not do it, members of the next Parliament must devise some means of equalizing the opportunities of candidates in city and country constituencies.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland call for some reply from me as Minister in charge of the measure. It is in no sense a Government measure as Government measures are understood. It is a Bill for perfecting the machinery of the Electoral Act. It was ready when I took office, and would have been introduced, as the late Minister of Home Affairs can testify, no matter what Government was in power. It was framed after the experience of years in the administration of the Act. When I referred to a vital principle in the Electoral Act, what I wished to convey to the Committee was that, having introduced this machinery Bill, I did not wish any of the principles of the Act, whether they were good or bad, to be interfered with in it. I stand so far as I can by the original Act, wishing only to bring this machinery measure into operation to perfect its administration.
.- The Minister of Home Affairs has not yet become quite so accomplished in the art of making black appear white as is the Prime Minister. His diplomatic replies are not quite up to the standard of the speeches which we have been accustomed to hear from his leader. The honorable gentle- man has said that the question at issue involves one of the vital principles of the electoral law, but he is now endeavouring to show that the Government should be free to vote as they please upon it since it is raised in connexion with what is only a machinery Bill.
– I am standing by the Bill.
– And we have the spectacle of the honorable gentleman’s colleagues opposing him with regard to it. We have had from the Treasurer a fighting speech in opposition to a policy which, as the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out, is one of the principle features of the original Act. I- regret that this Bill has been brought on so late in the session. When a general election is close at hand some honorable members are inclined to look more to the advantages which they can arrange for themselves under the law than at what is the settled electoral policy of the Commonwealth. If this Bill had been restricted to machinery provisions, in accordance with the intention of the Minister, the position would have been different.
– I have not departed from it.
– That is so; but the Government ought certainly to try to control their own supporters, and not permit a machinery Bill to be made an excuse for radical and ill-considered alterations in the policy of the principal Act. Unless the Government stand by the Minister in charge of the Bill, it seems to me that we shall have certain wealthy members dominating the position, and carrying amendments of the electoral law that will cut across the path of democratic representation in this House, and give an overwhelming advantage to men of means. A good deal has been said with regard to the money spent in connexion with elections by Labour organizations. I have heard some honorable members refer to the extent of union funds. For instance, some say, “ The funds to the credit of the unions in New South Wales amount to £90,000, and the Labour party are able to draw on that enormous sum.” That is not correct. Those funds are not subscribed for electioneering- purposes, although a union may contribute a few pounds to a political organization. I know a union, 7,000 strong, which does not pay more than £10 per annum into the political Labour fund. The allowance to a Labour candidate* is very small.
– I ask the honorable member not to go into details.
– I am simply pointing out the inaccuracy of the statement made by the Treasurer that large amounts are at the disposal of ‘ Labour organiza tions. The assistance I received at the last general election amounted to ,£15. The leagues in my electorate contributed £10, and the central executive £5.
– That was sufficient to invalidate the honorable member’s election.
– Yet a man on the other side may spend ,£1,000.
– Here we have the legal mind again. An honorable member on this side may have his election voided because a sum of ,£15 has been contributed towards his electioneering expenses, whereas one of our opponents may expend £1,000 in connexion with an election, and yet legally represent his constituency. Supporters of this amendment have urged the enormous area of some electorates as a justification for it. As a matter of fact, the amendment has not been supported by the representatives of large constituencies. The honorable member for Grey represents the largest electorate in the Commonwealth, but he has not said that there is any justification for this proposed extension of electoral expenses. And so with the honorable member for Maranoa, the honorable member for Coolgardie, the honorable member for Darling, the honorable member for Calare, and the honorable member for Gwydir. Each of those honorable members represents a very large electorate, but they have not asked for a widening of electoral expenses. The plea for this extension comes from representatives of the smaller city constituencies. The honorable member for Mernda, for instance, and a few wealthy members support’ this amendment.
– He does not represent a city constituency.
– My point is that the plea for this amendment comes from wealthy men, or from representatives of city and suburban constituencies.
– The honorable member for Nepean is not a wealthy man.
– I do not think that he can be described as a poor man. He would not feel an expenditure of .£500, nor would the honorable member for Mernda experience any difficulty if he were called upon to expend .a large sum. The honorable member for Wentworth also pleads for this extension. He represents a city constituency, and is one of the wealthy members of the House. To my mind this amendment is a studied attack upon one of the vital principles of the electoral law, namely, that the poor man shall have an equal opportunity with the wealthy manin wooing the suffrages of the people. Reference has been made to the question of bribery and corruption. Let us take the case of a contest in a manufacturing constituency, in which we have on the one hand a wealthy man running on the Conservative ticket, and on the other a poor man.
– Does the honorable member think that that has anything to do with the question before the Chair?
– I am pointing out that if we widen the electoral expenses which a candidate may legally incur, we may open up avenues to corruption.
– The honorable member will be in order in doing that, but I would remind him that there are no clauses in the Bill dealing specially with corrupt practices.
– I shall not deal with that question, but I point out that by widening the electoral expenses that may be incurred under the Act, we may put some men in the way of temptation. Representatives of wealthy interests in an electorate might say to a poor man whose opponent was wealthy -“ You are faced with a. wealthy opponent, but we are prepared to help you through, if you in return will promise, if elected, to help us.”
– They might say - “ Give us a mortgage over your salary.”
– They might say, not only that, but - “ If you are returned , you must give us a mortgage over some of your votes.” My own opinion is that the electoral expenses allowable under the Act are, if anything, already too wide. A man having a little influence with certain sections of the community, can even now say to a candidate - “You are allowed to spend £100 in connexion with your election, and if you do not give me a job, I shall fight against you.” We ought to do all that we can to safeguard the purity of elections. I hope that the Minister will not only oppose this amendment, but induce his colleagues to vote with him. The Government ought not to take up the convenient attitude of saying - “ The Minister in charge of the Bill will oppose the amendment, but members of the Cabinet generally are free to vote upon it as they please.” That does not suggest Government responsibility.
– We might as well have an elective Ministry.
– We might as well put any men on the Treasury bench, and allow a free scramble in connexion with these questions. The attitude of the Ministry is the very opposite of that of responsible government. If we re-open this question, we shall invite a wholesale widening of the whole section. If the Government are prepared to say - “ We insist upon this being a machinery Bill, and a machinery Bill only, “‘I shall be ready to assist them in resisting amendments from any part of the Committee.
– I have said that I am resisting the amendment.
– But I desire the honorable member’s colleagues to join in that resistance.
– The Minister cannot run the Government.
– It is only fair that his colleagues should stand by him.
– The honorable member for Barrier was successful yesterday in passing an amendment in regard to electoral expenses.
– He did not have my support, and I am prepared to assist the Minister in resisting every amendment if he will stand by the machinery provisions of the Bill. Questions of policy relating to the electoral law should be discussed, not on the eve of an election, but at least two years before. When their opponents are already in the field, honorable members are not prepared to discuss such questions of policy as calmly and dispassionately as they would in the absence of such conditions. The Government should not take advantage of their majority to carry a vital alteration of the electoral law, which has not been thoroughly considered by them, and was not brought forward as part of their policy. I hope that this and every other proposal to widen the section of the principal Act will be resisted by them.
.- I desire to explain an interjection that I made whilst the honorable member for North Sydney was speaking, and which might have been misunderstood. In the course of the honorable member’s remarks, I interjected that we must be careful not to impose too strict a limit on the hiring of halls, because, otherwise we should place ourselves in the hands of the press. I am strongly opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Nepean, because, in my opinion, £100 is quite sufficient for all expenses, including the hire of halls, during the three months we are supposed to be candidates. I am pleased with the firm attitude of the Minister ; but his speech, in answer to that of the honorable member for Gippsland, is certainly one of the most startling I ever heard a Minister make. The honorable gentleman states that this is not a Government measure. Surely it is a Government measure, seeing that it is introduced by the Government? It is, I may say, a very good Bill, and one which must have been introduced whatever Government were in power.
– The Bill I introduced is being departed from.
– I could quite understand the Minister saying that he would not throw such a Bill under the table, because certain amendments were carried against him; but it is most strange that members of the Government should vote against the Minister on a point that he has declared to be vital to the measure. I cannot find words to express what would have happened in the Western Australian Parliament if the present Treasurer had introduced a Bill, and found one of his Ministers announcing that he intended to vote against it.
– The amendment isnot a Government proposal.
– That may be ; hut, to ray mind, an insult is offered to a Minister in charge of a Bill when he finds one of his colleagues not prepared to support him. For a Minister to be flouted by his colleagues in such a way is intolerable. Of course, a Minister cannot expect to carry the whole of his party with him in matters of detail ; but the present position is the first of the kind I have seen.
– The honorable member’s memory is veery short; there was a similar position last session.
– Only on the Federal Capital question.
– The honorable member for Mernda (old us last night that, during the three months of his candidature, he spent. /its on halls, leaving only £25 for the balance of the expenses. I suppose that Mernda, with its numerous, scattered little towns, is one of the most difficult constituencies in Australia, and, in view of the honorable member’s statement, I should be prepared to omit the hire of halls from election expenses, and limit the latter to ^25. What is sufficient for Mernda ought to be sufficient for any constituency in Australia. The Minister of Home Affairs has taken a very proper stand; and I hope he will be supported, not only by a majority of honorable members, but by every member of the Cabinet.
– I have explained in reply to the honorable member for Gippsland, that this is purely a machinery measure, intended to facilitate the administration of the Act, and purify elections as far as possible; and that it was prepared, during the time of the late Administration, and would have been introduced no matter what Government were in power. I made it clear last night that I was opposed to any extension of the Act which would increase the election expenses of candidates, because I regard the limitation as a vital principle. I take that stand in relation to the present amendment, and shall take it in relation to any other amendment which may be moved, whether I consider the principle involved a good one or a bad one. This is a. machinery measure, introduced with no idea of interfering with the principles of the Act. I knew very well before the Bill was introduced that the tight honorable. member for Swan was strongly in favour of such an amendment as that now proposed ; and I do not take on my shoulders any responsibility for what he may do.
– Was the Treasurer consulted in the matter?
– Amendments are now being proposed quite beyond the scope of a purely machinery Bill. I have consulted none of my colleagues except the Attorney-General ; but, so far as I know, they are all opposed to this amendment. The honorable member for Swan, so far as I can see, puts this as a personal matter.
– Then he ought to walk out as the honorable member tor Brisbane did.
– That is a question for the right honorable member himself. I sincerely hope that the amendment will not
.- The honorable member for Barrier has made an attack on the Minister on account of the attitude of one of the honorable gentleman’s colleagues; but I think that the amendment carried last night, on the motion of the honorable member, has much to do with the present proposal of the honorable member for Nepean. I do not know whether much is really gained by renting halls. At any rate, during the last campaign I Paid j£3 5*. f°r a hall, and was not allowed to speak in it for more than three minutes. Then I tried speaking out of doors a little later, and was pelted with bags of flour. If some one moved in the direction of preventing the holding of meetings for three months before an election, I should be inclined to support the proposal.
– Provision should be made for the orderly conduct of meetings.
– In my opinion, the effect of the amendment would be to increase the sum which candidates could spend. I think that £100 is quits enough.
– Too much.
– I should be prepared to reduce the amount to ,£25.
-Why not say that there shall be no candidature at all?
– To .increase the amount which candidates may spend will give an undue advantage to those who are well off. If the cost of hiring halls is not to be included in the £100 that the candidate may spend, the man who has enough money to hire as many halls as he needs will get the best hearing.
– If we allow the cost of halls to be excluded from the return of candidates’ expenses, candidates who are not wealthy will make speculative and manipulative agreements with those who are well off, privately contracting to pay them so much of their salary if they are returned, and to vote as they are told. Thus we shall have men in Parliament influenced by others outside.
– That could take place now.
– No. Man was put on earth to think of the best ways to get to the top, notwithstanding all obstacles, and as Gladstone once said, “We should make it as easy as possible to do right, and as hard as possible to do wrong.” If candidates are allowed to spend what they please upon halls, we shall find that some will spend £3, £5, £t, or any price for hiring Halls, until the expenses of an election will rise like the Himalayan mountains. I should be ready to vote for a provision penalizing interference with a public meeting. In some of the United States of America those who interfere are arrested, and locked up all night, being brought before a magistrate next day.
– Is that the land of liberty ?
– When a man engages a hall, and advertises his intention to lecture there, he is in the position of a host, and those who attend are his guests. If guests are not satisfied with the fare put before them, they can take their hats and go, but they are not supposed to break up the house in which they are being entertained. A candidate is entitled to be heard, and the public to hear him. Those who do not wish to hear him should leave the hall, and if they will not go out, the authorities should put them out. I have no trouble, because the people are only too glad to listen to me, but I have no wish that others should be interfered with. The late Sir Edward Braddon once said that he was never in a place where he got a fairer hearing than on the west coast of Tasmania.
– That could not be said of every part of New South Wales.
– New South Wales is parochial, while Tasmania is national. We should be careful not to put into the Bill anything that may tend to promote corruption. Men are very determined when they have a high goal in view. We know how the players fight on a football field, and our Parliamentary election is a similar scramble. Time and again persons have approached rae - not Labour men nor “ boodleiers” - and asked me to furnish them with money to stand for Parliament, promising to pay me part of their salary afterwards. That is a regular business in the States. The honorable member for Nepean has an honest Christian face, but I urge him not to proceed further with an amendment which will open the door to bribery. History shows that the greatest corruption has followed the placing on the statute-book of provisions which were put forward by good Christian men who did not understand their purport. _
– I understood that this was to be a machinery Bill, and I was surprised, therefore, that any Minister should support an amendment which goes beyond a mere alteration in machinery. Personally, I should oppose every proposal to increase the sum which a candidate may spend. That, I feel, would be the result of the amendment. Some day vigilance committees may be created which will give the enemy a shock.
– Both enemies.
– Yes j and it will be a good thing for the country. The present law is often evaded. The Indian who is after my scalp is even now hiring halls and speaking through my electorate, spending probably far more than the £100 allowed by the Act for the support of a candidature. The only case made out for the amendment is that of the Treasurer, but it is hard cases such as his which make bad laws. He tells us that he represents a very large electorate, in which groups of farmers here and there have halls which, he is compelled to hire. But he seems capable of looking after himself, and has got along well enough so far. The sum of ^15 or £20 will enable me to pay for all the halls which I find it necessary to hire during a tour of my electorate, because I speak also from public balconies. If the hiring of halls was not to be accounted for in the candidate’s expenses, candidates would be met with a demand for bigger prices for halls. They would be told that they were in a position to spend more. My opponent’s expenses on the last occasion for the whole of the electorate, which is one of the larger ones in New South Wales, were only £29, or less than I spent. It ought to be possible for any man to conduct his election campaign, apart from personal expenses, for the amount allowed at present, even though it includes the hire of halls. I hope the Committee will reject the amendment, although no doubt it has been proposed in the best of good faith.
.- Those who oppose the amendment claim that the existing section was passed in order to put every one on the same level. If that was the object I do not know any more clumsy expedient that could have been devised, and it has certainly absolutely failed to achieve it. It is absurd to say that all candidates are put on the same level, when a man contesting an electorate covering 4 square miles is allowed to spend £100, while another contesting an electorate like that of Grey, which contains about 800,000 square miles, or Coolgardie, which contains over 700,000 square miles, can spend no more. I agree with the honorable member for Darwin that we must preserve the purity of elections and election returns. The honorable member seems to be a great authority on bribery and corruption. I do not know where he obtained all his information, but it is to prevent anything of that sort that I have moved the amendment. It is absurd to say that the payment of the rent of halls opens the door to bribery and corruption. We all know that there are ways of getting under and through and round the law in this regard ; but they do not commend themselves to me, and it would be better to deal with the matter straight out. Let us have a fair return showing the whole expenditure. To hire halls and advertise meetings in all the centres of my electorate, without counting the expense of getting once round it, would cost quite £100. The only thing that saved my scalp last time was the fact that I was working the electorate for six months instead of three.
– And spending money all the time?
– Yes. If I had to furnish a return showing the whole of the money I put into the electorate, I admit that it would run to much more than ^100. but I saw the Act, and took good care to spend as much as possible before the three months’ period, and to keep my expenses well within the limit during that period. That sort of thing is putting the matter on a low level. It makes a man think less of himself than he ought to think.
– It is legitimate.
– It is legitimate in the sense that it is within the letter of the Act, but like a lot of things that are done, it is absolutely outside its spirit. I have moved this amendment to prevent practices of that sort, and to secure the purity of returns. The honorable member for Barrier, who said he could cover his electorate within the £100, admitted that in the one large centre which controls the whole of his electorate, he gets his halls for nothing. Honorable members from other States have said that they can get the public school buildings for a nominal fee. That alters the position in their case, but it does not apply to New South Wales. Therefore, under an Act which is intended to put all candidates on the same level, candidates in different States are on different levels. The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to the fact that South Australian senators can cover the whole State for less than £250, but in nearly every instance senators work together, and divide the expense. Three senators contesting Tasmania can spend £750, while a man working a big electorate for this House, three or four times the size of Tasmania, is allowed to spend only £100. I believe in limiting election expenses, but the present law puts a premium upon chicanery and subterfuge of all kinds.
.- There is a good deal more in this matter than appears upon the face of it. I was not present when the Treasurer spoke, but others have said that there can be no possibility of injuring the purity of elections by extending the privilege in regard to the hiring of halls. I am sorry to say that is not my experience. During, the last election for Riverina an attempt was made, and succeeded in some cases, by those opposing me, who had command of any amount of money, to prevent my securing halls by booking them before me for the dates on which I had announced my intention to address meetings. It is possible for that sort of thing to happen again. I particularly appeal to representatives of large country electorates not to interfere with the existing provision. If they do, they may find themselves in the position in which I was placed. It is absolutely necessary to obtain the largest hall possible in big centres. It would be a physical impossibility to sustain a long campaign by addressing meetings in the open air. Outside meetings cannot be controlled in the same way as can those held inside a building. I am glad to hear that the Minister intends to resist any alteration of the Act in this regard. The honorable member for Nepean has stated his own experience at the last election, but so long as he remains a member he will not be able to repeat it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– .Before we adjourned for lunch, I pointed out that on one occasion I was unable to obtain the use of halls because they had been previously engaged by an opponent. They were not actually used by him.
– Was the honorable member’s opponent a Labour candidate?
– No; I have never been opposed by a Labour candidate. 1 have always had to fight men with the power of the purse behind them.
– I know of cases in which a Labour candidate has been refused the use of halls, although others have been able to hire them.
– If we had to deal only with men who would honestly obey the law, we might be induced to enlarge the area, of expenditure, but I believe that every candidate will be protected by the retention of the present limitation. If we exclude the cost of hiring halls from the expenses of candidates, which must not exceed .£100, very grave abuses will arise, and I hope that the Minister in charge of the Bill, and his colleagues, will unite in resisting this amendment.
– I have a lively recollection of the way in which halls are engaged in connexion with an election campaign. In the early days of my political fighting, the party with which I am associated found great difficulty in securing the use of. public halls. We were not thought respectable enough to be allowed to use them.
– The owners thought that there would be nothing left of the halls after the meetings had been held.
– Exactly. In some cases we were asked to pay £3, and to deposit j£io to cover any damage that might be occasioned, although the ordinary charge for the hall was only 15s. In some parts of Victoria candidates running in certain interests are received with open arms by some people, who are even willing to pay for halls for their use. A man might be able to secure a hall because he was opposed to a Labour man, but if at the next election he were opposed to a more Conservative candidate the use of the hall would be refused to him. I am accustomed to fighting political battles in the open, but a great deal of glamour surrounds large meetings in public halls, and the candidate who is able to secure such meetings obtains a good advertisement. It is hard that a man well advanced in years should have to hold open air meetings, and I claim that if we extend in the way now proposed the limitation of electoral expenses imposed under the principal Act we might well make extensions in other directions. Electoral expenses were expressly limited to prevent the wealthy obtaining an unfair advantage over poor men who might seek to woo the suffrages of the electors. There are members of this House who can afford to pay for the use of all the halls they require during a political campaign. Indeed, any man who has been in Parliament ought to be able to pay for the use of the halls he needs, but there are others to whom the cost would be a very serious matter. It i» not right to give a man with a big banking account an advantage over another without one. The sitting members in the course of a campaign are able to use their railway passes in travelling from place to place, and in that respect have an advan- tage over their opponents. A similar privilege should be extended to all candidates, and at a very slight cost halls in the different electorates might be placed at the disposal of candidates by the Government. There are drill halls in all large centres of population, and they should be placed at the disposal of any candidate who might desire to use them. I am more fortunately situated than axe some honorable members, since my electorate is a comparatively small one. Some electorates in Victoria are so large that a great many halls have to be engaged in which to address the electors, and the position is the same in the other States. I hope that the Government will stand by the original provision in the principal Act. It may have pressed heavily on some, but if it were amended as proposed it would certainly operate harshly to others.
.- It seems to me that this amendment has been moved as a set-off to that carried yesterday requiring candidates to include in their electoral expenses the cost of conveyances used in carrying electors to and from the poll. That amendment was designed to correct an abuse that is known to exist. That is to say, although the law has declared that a candidate shall not use vehicles to convey electors to and from the polling places, it is well known that it has been disregarded. The Committee having made it compulsory for a candidate to include in his return the amount expended by him on the hire of vehicles, it is now sought to secure a compensating licence by allowing candidates to incur whatever expense they please in hiring halls. Agents may engage halls, or moneyed men many secure throughout a campaign all the halls available, though I do not suppose” the latter would happen. It seems to me that the amendment is deliberately conceived with a view to correcting the defect of the other amendment; and, therefore, I shall oppose it. Had I thought it likely that the present amendment would be carried, I should not have voted for the previous amendment.
– The honorable member is in error in his supposition, because my amendment was moved first, and I gave way to the honorable member for Barrier.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– Imove -
That the following new clause be inserted : -
Section three of the Principal Act is amended by leaving out theword “ three “ and inserting the word “ six.”
This proposed amendment is in the interpretation section, and the effect is to make any person a candidate, who, within six months before the day of the election, offers himself as a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, and to render him subject to all the conditions in regard to expenses and so forth. It is generally recognised that in the Federal elections for either House, the areas to be covered are so large that candidates who wish to get into touch with the electors must enter the field for a much longer period than three months prior to an election. As a matter of fact, candidates have been in the field now for practically nine months.
– My opponent has been in the field since last election.
– That may be. During at least nine months selected candidates of all parties have been actively canvassing.
– Does the honorable member propose to make his amendment apply to the coming elections? If so, every donation we have given since September last will make us guilty of bribery.
– The amendment applies only to the future. If certain restrictions are to be imposed, they should cover a reasonable period.
– A member is always a candidate.
– To a certain extent that is so, and the amendment will apply to sitting members, as to others. The desirability of the proposal is so selfevident, that I need not further occupy the time of the Committee.
– I oppose this amendment for the same reason that I have opposed previous amendments, and shall oppose all future amendments of a similar character. Inmy opinion, the extension of time will only place a candidate in greater difficulty than ever in regard to the limitation of his expenditure. I do not see why a man, who is seeking Parliamentary honours, should not have an opportunity to go round to test the feeling of the people, and to educate them politically from his own particular point of view. It appears to me that there is a personal element more than anything else in this proposal, so far as present members are concerned.
– The amendment applies to every member of Parliament, just as it does to others.
– I have heard no argument which justifies in any way the proposed alteration of the Act.
– The arguments in favour of a period of three months apply even more strongly in favour of a period of six months.
-But the term of three months fits in with the issue and the return of the writs, and so forth.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority ….. .2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.-I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 28B. After section one hundred and seventy- eight of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - 178A. Subsequent to the day of nomination and until after polling day any newspaper may print and publish the speech of any candidate, but if any newspaper shall print and publish the speech of any candidate, such paper shall also print and publish the speech of every candidate, and shall give equal space and prominence to each, but shall not comment in any way upon any such speech during the period aforesaid, and shall not, in its leading columns or otherwise, advocate any policy or party or in any way attempt to influence the vote of any elector.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds or six months.
I shall not deal at length with the proposal, because I have already spoken upon it, and it appears to me so eminently fair that I anticipate that it will be largely supported. In Melbourne, there are two very powerful press organs, read by possibly 250,000 people daily, which usually put a very one-sided view of public questions before their readers. Indeed, their misrepresentations are sometimes of such a character as might cause Ananias to blush, were he still in the flesh. I appeal to the spirit of fair-play which animates every honorable member, and the community generally, for support for this proposal to give all candidates the same opportunity to make their opinions known. What I propose is that for a period, which may not exceed seven days, the newspapers, whilst being allowed to publish any speech made by a candidate, shall not comment in any way on his policy, so that the public may calmly and judicially come to a decision regarding the merits of rival candidates and policies. It must seem to honorable members absolutely fair that the public should know exactly what is said by candidates. In my own case, and in that of other members of my party, what has been said on the platform has been so twisted by the newspapers as to become unrecognisable. We have had to submit to misrepresentation of the grossest and most misleading character.
– I wish to record my opposition to the proposal. One of the worst things that the Committee could do would be to check discussion or criticism on any public question. I find fault, not so much with the virulent oppo- sition with which the policy which I advocate is often met, as with the complete lack of interest in public affairs characterizing a large section of the community. The honorable member’s proposal will tend to increase this disregard for public questions. It has been noticed by writers on the American Constitution that the American newspapers do not print articles on public questions, because, as the Ministry is appointed for a term of years, and neither its position nor that of the President can be affected by any adverse vote, no one takes any interest in public affairs, with- the result that the people suffer at times. I suppose that I have as much reason to complain of misrepresentation as any one on this side of the chamber, and the Labour party has more reason to complain than any other.
– They are given more space than any other in the newspapers.
– Does the honorable member refer to the space given to the printing of his wretched misrepresentations about the Labour party not having any religion?
– I have not made any statement of the kind.
– No doubt all candidates should be fairly treated by the press, but the public will benefit by the exercise of the fullest rights of criticism by newspaper writers.
– They should deal with all alike, and should be made to sign their articles.
– It would not be possible to find enough paper to print all the speeches which will be delivered within the next four or five months, but I should be willing to support a proposal requiring the signing of newspaper articles. To prevent criticism, even for a period of seven days before an election, would be a bad thing.
– I desire, as a personal explanation, to say that the statement that I have written to any newspaper declaring the Labour party to be without religion is absolutely incorrect. Anything that I may have published concerning the religious opinions of the party has been contained in quotations from Labour newspapers.
– The honorable member for Herbert complains of the manner in which the Melbourne morning newspapers twist and distort the utterances of himself and other members of the party to which he belongs, but the honorable member for Cook, another member of the party, has several times declared that he owed his election to the opposition of the daily press of Sydney.
– I believe that I got a good many sympathetic votes because of its opposition, but I was on the spot.
– I shall not dilate on the advantages conferred by giving freedom to the press. The honorable member for Werriwa has well said that it would be a bad thing to stifle criticism on questions of public importance. It seems to me that it would be difficult to carry out the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert. On one occasion, in New South Wales, there were more than thirty candidates for the Senate. Could any newspaper be compelled to print the speeches of so many ?
– What I say is that if one candidate’s speech is printed, all should be printed.
– The result of carrying the amendment would be that the public would be kept in the dark altogether. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the proposal.
.- The Minister might have objected to the amendment on the ground on which he has objected to others, that it is an interference with the original intentions of the Bill. I have been surprised, in listening to the discussion to-day, to observe the squeamishness of some honorable members. They think too much of their self-protection, and it does not do them credit. Public men cannot be strong unless they are willing to submit themselves to the fresh breeze of criticism, whether published in the press, or expressed at their meetings. Honorable members opposite are constantly referring to “our party.” Whenever they move an amendment, it is not in the interests of the community generally, but because “ our party” is suffering in this, that, or the other direction. “Our party” should not be specially considered when we are dealing with a Bill to improve the electoral machinery of the country. We should discuss this matter without considering party interests. Honorable members should not look at any question from the point of view only of “our party.” I suggest to them that if they are anxious for a proper record and a proper opportunity for candidates, whether hostile or favorable to “our party,” to express their opinions, if they desire to purify public life, they should not concern themselves so much with the press as with the preservation of the right to free speech. That is the danger to which many candidates are exposed, and it is driving from the ranks of aspirants for political honours a class of men who do not care to undertake the task of facing organized obstruction. I have never fought in wrappings of lavender or surrounded by a glass case. It has always been my good fortune to fight openly andstrongly upon various platforms. No man courts criticism more quickly than I do, and if I am given an opportunity to reply to it on the platform I am perfectly satisfied. When, however, the voices of men who are trying to reply to criticism are drowned by organized obstruction, let “ our party “ fight for freedom of speech and fair play.
– If the honorable member moves in that direction I will back him up.
– The honorable member for Darwin to his credit expressed similar sentiments this morning, although he belongs to “our’ party.” I do not charge all of its members with encouraging organized obstruction, but if they are children and afraid of press criticism they should never have entered public life. If a man lacks robustness and the mental vigour necessary to repel attacks, his path in life does not lie among public affairs. The greatest asset that a public man can have is hostile criticism, so long as he gets enough of it. I should like to have the whole press of Australia attacking me every day in the week. That would be much preferable to occasional slobber or favorable comment, with long intervals of silence. The public of Australia are such lovers of fair play that if the press oversteps the bounds of fair criticism sufficiently long a revulsion of feeling takes place, and they support the candidate who is attacked. What any Parliamentarian or candidate has to fear is being taken no notice of. Why should we dictate to the press? They write as a commercial concern, and their contributors use their literary skill and journalistic ability with their tongue in their cheek quite as often as public men are charged with speaking insincerely. I appeal to the honorable member for Herbert, as a member who desires to be in the advance line of political thought, never to close down upon the channels of information that circulate throughout an electorate. I have never yet been the spoilt darling of the press of any city. Perhaps I do not deserve it, or it may be that I do not desire or cultivate it. I do not want a church meeting to address, but I want a guarantee that organized obstruction shall not continue. My experience has been that when I have had the opportunity to speak to the people I have been very well treated, even by those who differ from me on political affairs, but on many occasions I have met with organized obstruction which, I am sorry to say, has come from “our party.” They are not the children of grace or the angels they would have us believe. Although they are squeamish on the subject of the press to-day, and ask for personal protection, we know that when the battle* is raging the members of “our party” not infrequently organize bands of men in particular constituencies to drown free speech. Instead of being concerned so much with the newspapers, let them use their undoubted powers, as many of their own members desire to do, to put a stop to that sort of thing. Members should not keep any particular paper in mind. Take them small and large, the newspapers of Australia are a credit to the Australian people. Compare them with the large journals of America or Great Britain, and the significant feature that stands out clearly is the purity and cleverness of the Australian press We have, outside the daily journals, weak imitators of Reynolds’ N ewspaper , and still weaker imitators, with their open letters, of the style of Marat. But what appears in their columns is as nothing to the criticism that occurs at the time of French, German, or American elections. Members might complain if at election times they were subjected, as American candidates are, not only to charges of political corruption, but to attacks upon their personal honour, and behaviour, and moral character. Surely we are not children that we cannot go into public life unless the public are constantly putting honey drops in our mouths. The press of “ our party “ is quite as vitriolic in its attacks as are other newspapers. If a man were squeamish he could point to the columns of Labour newspapers, such as the Brisbane Worker, or the Sydney Worker, and other prints, which are as adept at twisting statements made in this House as are the most acute artists on other newspapers. “ Our party “ ought to purify itself. There is another class of newspaper which appears upon the day that is not the busy day of the week, and which does not restrict itself in its criticisms. But is any man the worse for it? Apparently the members of “our party” believe that the public will be influenced by what appears in the press. Do they think that the average elector is devoid of ordinary judgment and common sense? Let me respectfully tell them that the average elector knows almost as much as the members of “our party” do. “Our party” are not influenced by newspapers. They would not be. They never read a leading article, and are never governed by it. “ Our party “ would scorn to be led by the press, and surely the least they can do is to admit that the electors have equal judgment and equal ability. If “ our party “ is out for reform, I hope that, in the interests, not of one section or faction of the public, but of every candidate who is fighting a battle, they will allow a fair and square go all round. Let us use our mental powers to appeal to the electors. Give us a chance to put questions of public interest clearly and distinctly before them. But the way to secure that is not to squabble about whether meetings shall be held in halls or not, or whether the press shall be muzzled, but to sec that any body of men who obstruct the right of free speech, whether in the interests of “ our party “ or of any other, are sternly put down. If we “desire to encourage men to offer themselves upon the platforms of the country for public service, it is not newspaper criticism that we need fear, it is not newspaper comments that we need guard against, it is not the use of halls that we need restrict, but it is the preservation of the right of free speech, which in Australia there is a danger of losing, that we should be concerned about. There is the battle before us. I was proud to hear the Minister say that he would not allow the principles of the Electoral Act to be tampered with, but I hope that the Government, now that they have an opportunity and an election is approaching, will take steps, in the interests of all the electors, whether Socialists, Anarchists, Fusionists, or Confusionists, to insure a fair contest which will bring out the best class of candidates on both sides. It is not every man who has both the physical and moral courage necessary to go through a severe campaign under present conditions. I cannot support an amendment of this character.
.- The speech just delivered by the honorable mem ber for Dalley was amusing, as no doubt he intended it should be.
– I do not think that the honorable member could be either amusing or instructive on this question.
– I may be permitted, however, to point out the honorable member’s inconsistency. Only a few days ago he complained in this House in vigorous language of the criticism to which the Postal Commission had been subjected by the public press.
– That was to get level with what had been said in another place. I could not bring up the matter in any other way. The Standing Orders would not permit me to do so. Be fair.
– I ask the honorable member to refrain from interjecting and to assist me in conducting the Committee in the way that he thinks public meetings should be conducted.
– I think that a perusal of the report” of the honorable member’s speech on that occasion will show that the burden of his complaint was that the press had unfairly criticised the Postal Commission.
– The honorable member will find that it was quite the reverse.I said that public men must submit to criticism.
– Order !
-Time will not permit of my looking up the report of the honorable member’s speech, and I am not permitted to discuss it at this stage. But there is still another inconsistency on the part of the honorable member. The public can ascertain the views of public men either by attending their meetings or by reading the reports of their speeches in the public press. The honorable member does not object to certain addresses being stifled in the press, but he does object to their being stifled in the street. There is an organized opposition on the part of the press to the dissemination of Democratic views among the people. The honorable member does not object to that, but he does object to an organized opposition which he affects to believe exists - an organization of individuals who attend public meetings to prevent certain candidates being heard.
– Does not the honorable member also object to that?
– I have had to put up with as much of that sort of obstruction as any honorable member has. I remember going on one occasion into a Conservative stronghold and endeavouring to address a packed meeting in a town hall, but I was not permitted to make my voice heard, for five minutes in an hour. I did not object to that. If honorable members express views in opposition to those held by their auditors, and in a way that is objectionable, then the meeting, whether it takes place in the street or in a hall, is bound to express its dissatisfaction.
– Labour obstructionists would start singing a chorus in such circumstances.
– I have had to submit to such obstruction on the part of the Conservative friends of the honorable mem-, ber. Honorable members opposite say that we ought not to be so squeamish - that we should not object to the public press refusing to report our speeches during an election . campaign - yet in the same breath they object to what they describe as an organized effort on the part of individuals to prevent their views being made known. Their attitude is utterly inconsistent. I do not say that the honorable member for Dalley deliberately set out to indulge in a fulsome eulogy of the public press, but had he desired to obtain a column report in the Sydnev daily press to-morrow he could not have done more to achieve his object. I intend to,vote against this proposed new clause for the reason that this is only a machinery Bill. When a prior amendment was under discussion I stated that if the Ministry would stand by the Bill as such and refuse to introduce into it questions of policy, I should give them my support in resisting its amendment. In accordance with that promise I shall oppose every amendment to interfere with the policy of the principal Act, irrespective of what my personal opinions may be. I shall do so because I realize that this is not the time to tinker with the policy of the electoral law. We are within a few months of a general election, and in such circumstances honorable members are net so rea d v to allow their, calm judgment to prevail in dealing with an Electoral B;ll as they would be at a different period. It is because I think also that any tinkering with” the electoral law will tend to the disadvantage of the party to which I belong that I shall resist all amendments except those designed to improve the machinery clauses of the Bill as long as the Minister in charge adopts the same attitude. It is a mistake on the part of some of those with whom I am associated to support such amendments, since the Govern ment have a majority against us, including a number of wealthy men whom a wide interference with the policy of the electoral law would suit very well. It would be a mistake to interfere with its policy in any particular, since it would open the door to interference in other directions. If there is any general interference with the policy of the principal Act at this stage, we shall have to fight the next general election under a law that will be very much to the disadvantage of the party to which I belong.
.- I have frequently advocated the referendum, believing that if it were once introduced with the initiative into our Constitution, the power of the press would be kept under control. I understand that the press, to acertain extent, is controlled in South Australia. With all deference to and kindly feeling towards the honorable member who has moved this amendment, I do not hesitate to say that its adoption would mean such a revolution that the newspapers of Australia would become simply uncontrollable, even if it were carried. I do not believe that the present Government, whose existence depends upon the dominant press of Australia, would be prepared, in the event of its violation, to go so far as to press for such a penalty as that for which it provides. It would be an advantage, however, to provide that every political article published in a newspaper within three months of an election shall have attached to it the name of the writer. Honorable members would then know who were attacking them or their party
– If that were the law. I am inclined to think that the names of certain honorable members would be found ap pearing at the end of some political articles.
– I understand the honorable member’s allusion, although I am certain that neither his name nor mine would appear at the foot of any newspaper article. If this amendment be rejected I shall at the proper time move the insertion of a new clause providing that -
Every political article appearing in a newspaper three months prior to an election shall be signed by the writer thereof.
I suppose that I can speak of a personal experience such as has not befallen any other honorable member. For twenty years, save’ on two occasions, I have had to fight the dominant press of this city. I was supported by it once in a municipal election in which I was defeated, and once in a political contest. So great was the power of the press in this State at one time that Mr. Graves, who then represented Delatite in. the Legislative Assembly of “Victoria, said, “Give me the support of the Age newspaper, and, old man though I am, I am willing to fight any constituency in Victoria.” If this’ proposed new clause were carried, the newspapers would have to devote equal space to the reports of the speeches of every candidate. In that way justice would be done. We know, however, that newspapers are conducted not altogether on the score of justice, not on the higher ethics of morality, but purely as machines to coin dividends.
– How could a newspaper give equal space to a speech by the honorable member and one by the honorable member for Gwydir?
– The honorable member for Gwydir is able to give more study to the preparation of his speeches than my busy life will permit me to give to the preparation of mine. If the honorable member would care to take some lessons I am sure that the honorable member for Gwydir would be pleased to place his ‘book at his disposal, provided that the honorable member was prepared. to tear himself away from the study to which he has devoted his life. The power of the press is dominant in Australia, although it is not similar to that wielded by the yellow press of America. Great as the civilization of America is, if I understand rightly the leading articles in the monthly periodicals, the power of the press in that vast continent is to be deprecated. It is “out for boodle “ the whole time - not for the higher interests of the nation, but for the interests of the few’ who possibly pay it to fight their battles. If the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert goes to a division I shall vote for it, though I candidly own that I do not see how the Government cap possibly control the- press. What the Government could do would be to insist that all leading articles should he signed, and such a step- would mean no loss of subscribers, providing the articles were based on right and justice. The signing of the articles would prevent, under the pronoun “ we,” which is only used by Royalty in the older lands-
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that question.
– I take it that if the proposal be agreed to, and - a leading article advocated the candidature of a cer tain man, his opponents would have the right to similar space in which to ventilate their views. While I do not say that such a law is impossible, I am afraid it would be extremely difficult to administer. As I say, however, I shall support the amendment as ‘ a step .towards controlling the power of the press when it is sought to be used in an unjust way. I think, however, that the amendment of which I have given notice would meet the difficulty.
– - 1 move -
That the proposed new clause be amended by the addition of the following words : - “Any person wilfully disturbing a public meeting shall be liable to six months in gaol with hard labour without the option of a fine.”
I have had a lot of trouble with rich boodleiers, who, because of their wealth, think they can do as they like at public meetings. These people must be taught not to interfere with free speech, the preservation of which is the* palladium of the liberty of the people. A candidate is entitled to be heard, and the people are entitled to hear him - that is the basis of Democracy. Those who do not desire to hear him should either leave the meeting or go to gan
– Whatever may be said on behalf of this amendment of the honorable member for Darwin, I hope the Committee will n’ot support it. I repeat that we are now dealing with a purely machinery measure, and I hope nothing will be done to interfere with the object of the Bill.
.- I suggest that the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin should be submitted as a separate clause, because, otherwise, honorable members will be placed in the awkward position of voting to add something to a clause with which they do not agree. In spite of what the Minister has said about the introduction of new principles, this is a reform that is crying for attention ; and the language of the honorable member for Dalley is not at all too strong. I am glad that the honorable member for Darwin is so impregnated with a belief in free speech as to be impelled to submit this amendment ; and I can assure him that he will have large sympathy from this side of the House if he accepts my suggestion. Last Friday, after the forms of the House had been used in a certain and very necessary way, a member of the Opposition said, “ I guarantee that every person who tries to speak in my constituency will be gagged !” That was a threat of absolute obstruction, not by the honorable member himself, but by a group of men organized by him for the purpose. Within the last six months the president of a Labour league, accompanied by a number of men, tried to drown my voice at the only political meeting I have attempted to address there for about two years.
-i am willing to fall in with the suggestion of the honorable member.
Foreigners in Western. Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Fuller) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- For the purpose of making an explanation, I have been supplied with a Hansard proof, and I find that’ it completely verifies the statement that I made in regard to the employment of foreigners in Western Australia. The honorable member for Cook, according to Hansard, said -
As i pointed out last night, the honorable member for Fremantle took the trouble to contradict a statement which was not made. His figures referred to the Norseman railway line. My information is authentic.
I find that the honorable member did refer to the Norseman line, on which he said that, out of 340 men employed, 320 were foreigners. I think it desirable that this matter should be cleared up.
.- The whole point is whether the company of which the honorable member is manager
– I am not manager of any company.
– The whole point is not whether 316 aliens, as against20 Britishers, were employed at a particular place, but whether they were employed. On looking over the report, 1 find that the language is not very clear, and that the honorable member may have reasonably come to the conclusion that the reference was to the Norseman line, whereas I referred to the Kurrawang line. The whole objection is a quibble.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at3.43p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091119_reps_3_54/>.