3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the wide distress, great suffering, and large monetary loss which must result from the dislocation of trade due to the disagreement between the miners and mineowners of New South Wales, I ask the Prime Minister if his notice has been called to a suggestion appearing recently in the public press that the Governor-General should be asked to intervene, with a view to bringing about a satisfactory arrangement?
– He would do well to keep his hands out of it.
– This is a good intention gone wrong.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in his view, it is wise that such action should be taken for the settlement of this very lamentable difference?
– Noticing the suggestion, emanating from a Victorian Minister, I gave it some consideration. The representative of the King could not act at the request of one party, nor adjudicate upon differences of opinion upon complicated mining questions. I assume the underlying desire to be that His Excellency should use the influence, which, by reason of the high position he occupies, he can always exercise, to bring the opposing parties into closer relations. I have ascertained from him that, so far as his service to the King’ and the duties’ of his office would permit, and at the request of both parties, he would be willing, though he does not desire, to attempt the task of mediation, the onerousness of which he fully understands.
– It would be very inadvisable for him to do so.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received information from the Premier of South Australia as to the land held in the Northern Territory by the Northern Territory Railway League?
– The following telegram was received an hour ago: -
In reply to your wire twenty-second instant there is no land owned by members of the Railways and Northern Territory League except that one or two may have town allotments. A few of them hold pastoral leases totalling 8,829 square miles. Am sending you a list of names of those who constitute the League, the great bulk of whom have no pecuniary interest, but are simply acting on what they consider patriotic motives. Full particulars by to-day’s post.
– When the Northern Territory Bill was before the House last week, I interjected, during a speech by the honorable member for Went worth, that a Mr. Lindsay had told me also that the particular league, which was frequently spoken of in connexion with that Bill, owned land. Mr. Lindsay writes to me to say that he told me nothing of the kind ; that as a fact the league itself has no land, although some of its members might hold small areas. The statement of the Prime Minister, that members of the league hold 8,800 square miles, or in other words, 5,632,000 acres, seems to confirm my recollection. I think it fair, however, to Mr. Lindsay to mention his denial ; but I must add that, although he denies having made to me the statement in question, I still remain of the opinion that he admitted to me that the league had land.
– On Friday last I desired to move for the printing of a petition presented to this Chamber by certain Queensland cane-growers, but did not do so, because I was informed that it was to be printed by order of another place. Having made further inquiries, I find that, although the Senate on Thursday last ordered the printing of the petition, it has been decided that, as it was presented to the House, and not to the Senate, it cannot be printed, except by order of the House. I therefore desire to move that it be printed.
– The question is, that the honorable member have leave to move a motion.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I move-
That the petition from certain sugar canegrowers, presented to this House on the 21st October last, be printed.
– The petition only?
– Excluding the names ?
– Without the names.
– If you look at standing order 91, Mr Speaker, you will find that an honorable member may not move for the printing of a petition, unless he contemplates taking furtheraction with regard to it.
– The Standing Order to which the honorable member has drawn my attention is as follows : -
No member shall move that a Petition be printed, unless he intends to take action upon it and informs the House thereof, and that such action will be taken within fourteen days.
I take it for granted that the leave that was given by the House for the motion suspends the Standing Order, and therefore I rule that the motion is in order.
.- I should like (information from some one in authority as to what the printing of this petition would cost. Your ruling, sir, seems to me to strain the Standing Order pretty severely, but, apart from that, we should have some information regarding the probable cost of printing the petition. The position of the sugar-growers of Australia has been debated at length inthis Chamber on many occasions, and most of us are pretty well acquainted with the needs of the industry. “The Prime Minister has also assured the House that he will shortly appoint a Commission to inquire into the conditions surrounding the production of sugar in New South Wales and Queensland, and the need for continuing the bounty. I therefore ask the honorable member whether we are justified in going to the expense of printing the petition ?
– The cost will be only about 40s.
– That is a trifling sum, but I should like to know what the honorable member for Oxley expects to gain from the printing of the petition, seeing that the Government have promised to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the conditions of the sugar industry.
– That was why the Printing Committee did not recommend the printing of the petition.
– Is it not a reason why the petition should be printed ?
– I do not think so. The original petition will be available to the members of the Commission.
– There will be but one copy.
– The Commissioners can have access to it. Besides, the petition will be printed in the Votes and Proceedings of this House. Does the honorable member for Oxley think that we should be justified in entering upon this expenditure ?
– Quite justified.
– The members of the Printing Committee, after careful consideration, have decided that the petition ought not to be printed. It is on that decision that I rest my case. The expenditure incurred in printing the petition might be trifling, but by ordering that it shall be printed we shall establish a bad precedent ; and unless some good will result, in addition to the inquiry promised by the Government, I do not think we ought to take that course.
– I have ascertained that the cost of printing the petition would, if anything, be less than the small amount mentioned, and, in the circumstances, when an honorable member knows that a great interest is affected, it is usual to allow a petition to be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to the following paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of Tuesday last : -
As an instance of the enormous profits sometimes made by the manufacturers and vendors of some patent or proprietary medicines, a case may be cited which has recently come under the notice of the Customs officers in connexion with the administration of the Commerce Act.
The expert advisers of the Department state that the estimated cost of the ingredients used in a box of the article under notice which is sold at 2s. 6d. is one-fortieth part of one penny only, that is to say, the cost - if the Department’s figures be accurate - of ingredients used in forty boxes which are sold for £5 retail is one penny.
If that statement is correct, will the Minister inform the House of the name of the patent medicine referred to, so that the public may learn what they are buying ?
– My attention was not drawn to the paragraph in question until the honorable member read it to-day. I shall have it placed before the Minister of Trade and Customs, and cause to be made the inquiry that the honorable member desires.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Head-quarters Staff were then present?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The District Commandant reports as follows : -
No permanent officers were present on duty at the Naval, Military, Police, and Fire Brigade Tattoo, which was an entertainment organised by a civilian committee and not controlled in any way by the Defence Department. Colonel J. Stanley, R.A.A., Commandant, Commonwealth Military Forces, Victoria, and Lieutenant T. A. Blarney, Administrative and Instructional Staff (Cadets) were present merely as spectators.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
From September last a reduction in price was made in cases where the specifications were ordered in quantities. Reckoned on a population basis, which is considered the proper method in such a case, the Commonwealth charges are far below the prices charged in America.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Mr. M. A. C. Fraser, the Commissioner for the purpose of distributing the said State into electoral divisions, in his report laid before Parliament on the 15th day of October, 1909.
It became necessary for the Commissioner appointed for the purpose to make a redistribution of the State of Western Australia under section 23 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which provides -
Such proclamation may be made -
On the occasion of the last canvass of Western Australia, made on the 31st December, 1908, the number of electors enrolled for the State was 142,461, and the quota, ascertained under the provision’s of section 15 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-5 was 28,492. The number of electors enrolled for any division, therefore, should not exceed 34,190, or be less than 22,794. The actual position when that canvass was made, however, was as follows : - Number of electors enrolled for Swan, 40,076, or 6,772 in excess of the maximum provided by law ; the number of electors enrolled for the divisions of Fremantle and Kalgoorlie fell short of the minimum provided by law, by 866 in the case of Fremantle. and 1,345 in the case of Kalgoorlie. It is, therefore, apparent that in more than onefourth of the divisions of the State the number of electors enrolled either exceeded or fell below the requirements of the law. In these circumstances Mr. Malcolm A. C. Fraser, who in 1:906 was appointed a Commissioner to distribute the State during the pleasure of the Governor-General, was asked to undertake the work of making a redistribution, and as he was an officer of the State Government, the consent of that Government was sought and obtained to his acting, in this connexion. He was furnished by the Department of Home Affairs with all the necessary data, including the quota which he was to use in connexion with the redistribution, and he followed out the directions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, section 17 of which provides that -
Before reporting on the distribution of any State into divisions the Commissioner shall cause a map with a description of the boundaries of each proposed division to be exhibited at post offices in the proposed Division, and shall invite public attention thereto by advertisement in the Gazette.
Then, again, section 18 provides that -
Objections or suggestions in writing may be lodged with the Commissioner not later than thirty days after the first advertisement in the Gazette of the proposed distribution, and the Commissioner shall consider all objections and suggestions so lodged before making his report.
The procedure laid down by the Act was followed, and objections were received from the Albany Chamber of Commerce, the Honorable James Price, M.L.A., of Fremantle ) the National Political League, Fremantle, the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, and the National Liberal League, Perth. These objections received the attention of the Commissioner, who, after the most careful review decided to adhere to his original scheme. In the maps placed before Parliament the divisions dealt with are marked respectively A, B, C, D, and E. Under the Commissioner’s proposal the boundaries of the existing division of Perth are unaltered. The boundaries of the division of Fremantle have been altered by the inclusion therein of the State electorates of Murray, Forrest, and Collie, which were previously included in the electorate of Swan, the electoral population being increased from 21,982 to 28,909. The boundaries of the division of Swan have been altered to the following extent : - The State electorates of Irwin and Toodyay have been transferred to the division of Coolgardie, and the State electorate of Albany to the division of Kalgoorlie, while the State electorates of Murray, Forrest, and Collie will, as already pointed out, form part of the division of Fremantle; the effect of this arrangement has been to reduce the electoral population of Swan from 40,076 to 27,507. The boundaries of the division of Coolgardie have been altered as follow : - The State electorates of Mount Margaret and Menzies have been transferred to the division of Kalgoorlie, and the State electorates of Irwin and Toodyay, previously in Swan, have been included in the division of Coolgardie. The electoral population <5f the division has been reduced from 30,163 to 28,533. The boundaries of the division of Kalgoorlie have been altered to allow the inclusion in the di-‘ vision of the following State electorates, namely, Albany, formerly in Swan, and Mount Margaret and Menzies, formerly in Coolgardie, the electoral population being increased from 21,657 to 29,929. It is not proposed to make any alteration in the names of the divisions. Honorable members have had this proposition before them for some considerable time. They will notice that the Commissioner has taken into consideration the question of community of interests, the means of communication, physical features, and the boundaries of the electorates. I think it would save time if I referred honorable members to his report, in which he states that he frankly recognises the difficulties which are experienced by the Commissioner in making a subdivision, and points out that in three instances the objections were not submitted until almost the last moment, thus virtually leaving no time for. their consideration. Mr. A. H. Dickson, President of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, on 23rd August, wired the Commissioner as follows : -
I wired you as follows : - “ Most emphatically protest against transfer Albany electorate to K Kalgoorlie ; practically disfranchises district ; interests not at all identical ; such subdivision most unfair to us.”
This telegram was followed by a letter, in which Mr. Dickson said : -
It seems unfair that, in order to adjust boundaries, the Albany electorate should be transferred to a district with which its interests are in no manner identical. It practically disfranchises all this district, as the vote here has always been in the majority for the opposite party returned by the Gold-fields. ] f this port were the acknowledged port of the Gold-fields, then there would be a reason for it, but the general impression here is, “ Oh ! Albany’s interests are nothing, we will tack it on to the Gold-fields.” I do not think at all that is your reason, but it is the general impression. I recognise the difficulty of adjustment, but most emphatically protest on behalf of the members of the Chamber of Commerce against our transfer to the electorate of Kalgoorlie, thus practically disfranchising the majority of the electors, and adding us to an electorate whose interests are not identical with our own.
Mr. Dickson also forwarded on 28th August the following letter in response to a communication from Mr. Fraser -
I beg, on behalf of the electors of Albany, to emphatically protest in the strongest possible terms against the re-division of the Federal electorates as far as Albany is concerned, and I think, on investigation, you’ will agree that to attach Albany district to Kalgoorlie is to entirely ignore the very essentials which should always be considered when such a division is made, viz., contiguity and community of interests. In the first place, by reference to the map, you will note that the only connexion with the Kalgoorlie district is by rail, with a journey of about 500 to 600 miles, and this journey, mark you, all through other Federal electorates. If this was the recognised port of the Goldfields, then there would be no objection, but the distance to traverse absolutely prohibits this.
It must be borne in mind that Albany is essentially the port of an agricultural district, and, being so, the interests with the Gold-fields are entirely opposed, and the electors here are practically disfranchised by the proposal. It is not at all fair that for the convenience of Federal legislation such a proposal should be carried, and I would therefore beseech you in the strongest manner possible on behalf of a community dependent on agriculture and fruitgrowing, not to attach this district to Kalgoorlie, as in neither contiguity nor community of interest does the proposed alteration of boundaries of this electorate run parallel.
I attach a leading article of the local paper dealing with the subject
– From whom is that?
– From Mr. A. H. Dickson, President of the Albany Chamber of Commerce. On the 1st September that gentleman wrote. -
I have read your letter very carefully; but, while Albany may be recognised as the port of distribution for the ports of the East coast, it must not be considered that, from a trade stand-point, it has anything approaching a large share. All ports, including Port Adelaide and Fremantle, undoubtedly participate as much as Albany ; but it must not be overlooked such a trade is very limited.
Albany is the recognised port of the Great Southern agricultural districts; and on these districts, practically, its existence depends, and in no way through contiguity or community of interest has it affinity with the chief portion of the Kalgoorlie district. For instance, in order to reach the centre of population of that division, a rail journey of 550 to 600 miles (and what is more, all the journey through other Federal electorates) has to be taken. If West Australia sees fit to give us a direct line with the Goldfields, and thus recognise us as the port for those fields, we will gladly accept the division, but at present our interest and contiguity is practically purely with the agricultural districts, which your proposal divides us from, and gives the impression (whether justified or not) that our interests are not the same as those on whom the port depends for its very life blood, which alienation is increased by the fact that in the proposed alteration we are coupled^ to a district essentially labour, which, whether rightly or wrongly, is generally considered opposed to farmers’ interests.
On 1st October Mr. Fraser replied -
With further reference to previous correspondence, I have now the honour to state that, in my opinion, owing to geographical position, the present trade and welfare of the port, town, and. surrounding district of Albany, are not in any way likely to be interfered with to their disadvantage by my proposed Federal electoral division scheme.
Further, in order to comply with the evident intention and provisions of the Acts, the Swan division, which has increased from 23,955 t0 41,076 electors, an increase of 17,121 since the redistribution of 1906, must be reduced as low as possible to avoid the necessity for any further alteration of its boundaries in the immediate future, whilst on the other hand, the Kalgoorlie division, for the opposite reason, certainly, at the present time, needs strengthening.
No better method to accomplish this end than the one I have suggested having been yet offered, I see no reason to alter my opinion, which was only arrived’ at after most careful consideration of all the facts of the case; I therefore adhere to my original proposal.
A copy of your letter, together with one of this reply, will be attached to my Report as an appendix when submitting it to the Honorable the Minister for Home Affairs for the consideration of the Federal Parliament.
Honorable members will, therefore, see that between Mr. Fraser and the Albany Chamber of Commerce there is a distinct difference of opinion in regard to the effect of the inclusion of Albany in the Kalgoorlie district. The Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the residents strongly takes the view that, if so included, Albany will be practically disfranchised.
– How do we know that the Chamber of Commerce speaks on behalf of the local residents?
– Then I shall say that that view is taken by the Chamber of Commerce, a large and influential body in Albany. Mr. Fraser does not see that Albany would be disadvantaged or prejudiced, whereas the Chamber of Commerce takes the opposite view. That is all the correspondence in regard to Albany ; and the next refers to Fremantle. The first letter is one written by Mr. James Price, M.L.A., dated the Legislative Assembly, Western Australia^ 15th September, 1909. The letter contains the following :” -
I desire to enter my protest against the rearrangement of the Fremantle House of Representatives Electorate as suggested in your scheme for a re-arrangement of Western Australian Federal constituencies. You may, perhaps, remember that when I called upon you in reference to this matter, you expressed the opinion that “ community of interest “ existed between the Fremantles and the Electorates of Collie and Forrest, in that the major portion of the expert timber felled in the Forrest Electorate, and the bulk of the coal for export raised at Collie found its outlet from this State through the port of Fremantle. This idea was present in your mind when I saw you, and no doubt led you to believe that by adding Collie and Forrest to Fremantle, you would in no way do violence by your suggested arrangement to the principle of “ community of interest “ as laid down in Section 16 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. When you expressed this view, I dissented from it, and subsequent investigation has convinced me that you were completely in error in the opinion you then expressed. I find that for the year 1908-9, the following timber and coal was exported through the ports of Fremantle and Bunbury respectively : -
Honorable members who have read the report carefully will notice that there is a difference between the coal tonnage given by Mr. Price, and subsequently by Mr.. Douglas G.. Gawler, of the National Political League, Fremantle, and that given by Mr. Fraser, who places it at 9,1.16 tons from Fremantle, and 10,936 tons from Bunbury. In view of such a discrepancy, I thought it my duty to ascertain the exact figures ; and I applied to the Government Statistician. In reply, I have received a telegram from the Collector of Customs in Western Australia, stating that the figures of Mr. Fraser are correct. The letter of Mr. Price continues -
Now, it is a well-known fact that the Electorate of Forrest is the largest timber producing district in the State, and that practically the whole of the coal’ output of Western Australia is raised in Collie.
These figures should, I think, lead you to review your re-arrangement of the Fremantle Electorate. If all the guiding principles laid down in Section 16 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act are applied to the two constituencies of Forrest and Collie, it becomes immediately apparent that, under these directions, they are more suited to be attached to the Federal Electorate containing the town and port of Bunbury rather than to Fremantle.
I “ desire to add that I completely recognise the very difficult task you have had to perform, one in which it is quite impossible to suit all parties. I have therefore not attempted to make suggestions in connexion with other Electorates in which I have no personal interest. I believe, however, with confidence, that the views I have put forward in this letter will lead you to reconsider your suggestion so that a great injustice shall not be done to that part of the State with which I have been for some time identified.
On the 17th September Mr. Fraser replied to Mr. Price as follows: -
In reply to your letter of the 15th inst. protesting against my suggested re-arrangement of the Commonwealth Electoral Divisions, but only, however, I understand, so far as the Fremantle Division is concerned, I shall be very pleased to receive for consideration your views in detail as to what re-arrangement you would wish to suggest as being more satisfactory for this division in the interests of the State than the ohe I have proposed.
You will naturaly realize that my endeavour, as Commissioner, has not been to suggest a plan to suit the ideals of the present political parties, but to study the interests of the State as a whole, and to obtain this not only by considering immediately existing conditions, but alsoby providing for some that may be reasonably anticipated in the near future.
Mr. Price did not reply, and so far as he is concerned the correspondence terminated. The next letter is also in connexion with the Fremantle electorate, and is from Mr. Douglas G. Gawler, of the National Political League, Fremantle, dated 21st September -
After most careful consideration, and with a ful recognition of the very difficult task you had been called upon to perform, I am directed by our organization, composed of some 1,100 members, who are electors in the Fremantle constituency, to record our emphatic protest against your proposals for this district on the following grounds : -
Because it does not appear that the principles laid down : in Section 16 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, intended to guide the Commissioner in making any re-arrangements, have received that consideration we are entitled to expect.
Because there is no community of interest between the State Electorates of Collie and Forrest and the remainder of the Fremantle Electorate as proposed under your scheme ; on the other hand great diversity of interest exists.
Now, here is direct conflict between Mr. Fraser and the representative of this large league at Fremantle -
Almost the whole of the timber exported from the Forrest Electorate leaves the State through tie port of Bunbury, trade relations of all description being almost non-existent between Forrest and the Tremantles. The electors of Forrest are almost entirely composed of operatives engaged in the saw-milling industry, whose interests are entirely opposed to those of the mercantile and business people of Fremantle. Coal mining is the principal interest of the Collie electorate - here again the main port of supply of coal to shipping is Bunbury. Exclusive of coal supplied to the Western Australian Government, this is the main source of consumption of the coalraised in Collie.
Then follow the figures, the correction of which I have already referred to: -
Because the means of communication between Forrest and Collie are more efficient and easy with Bunbury than with Fremantle.
Then follows a description of a more suitable constituency which could be formed in agreement with community of interests, which, of the five conditions provided for in the Act, is the only one taken into consideration. The letter proceeds -
En our opinion the most suitable additions to the Fremantle electorate would be the local electorates of Murray (1,244 electors), Irwin [2,062 electors), Swan (3,398 electors) ; this would then leave the Fremantle constituency , as follows : -
On the 1st of October Mr. Fraser, the Commissioner, replied to the proposition put forward by the National Political League. He said -
I may. remind you that the principal consideration to be observed in arriving at a scheme of redistribution framed in accordance with the provisions of the Acts, is distinctly laid down in section 16, as being the grouping of the existing electorates into divisions, containing an equal balance of electors as near to the basis of the quota as ordinary circumstances will admit. The Commissioner has at the same time to give due consideration to the five (a) to(e) points enumerated in section . 16 of the Acts, none of which has, however, any preponderating importance as compared with the matters mentioned in the others.
To deal with your two points of objection, I may perhaps be allowed to reply -
That the Fremantle Division, as a whole, has received from the Commissioner his most careful and impartial consideration.
That the “ community of interest “ between the State electorates of Collie and Forrest, with the remainder of the Fremantle electorates, would seem to be much more apparent than that between the remaining electorates and those of Swan and lrwin, which you would propose to substitute in their stead.
There is an important distinction between the views of the two parties in regard to community of interest, the National Political League setting out the position from one point of view, and the Commissioner from a directly opposite aspect. It will be for honorable members to say which is the correct view to take. The Commissioner in his letter goes on to say -
I may point out that there appears to me to be a distinct community of interest between the timber workers in the Forrest electorate and the timber operatives in the metropolitan area, that is, the country contained within a10-mile radius of the Perth Town Hall, embracing the greater part of Fremantle and Midland Junction. The latter, according to the latest official returns, numbered 450, omitting lumpers.
As regards Collie, in addition to the fact that the bulk of the output of Collie coal is used by the local railways, no less than£55,000 worth having been used from the railway stations within the metropolitan area during the year ended 30th June last,, it also seems highly probable that, so soon as its utility for bunker purposes becomes better known and appreciated for the numerous heavy tonnage vessels calling at the port of Fremantle, this coal will have a very considerable export from that port.
It would appear that the suggestions contained in your letter are, unfortunately, based upon insufficient, and, at that, erroneous data, and consequently, it would seem, on equally faulty premises.
A portion of the data referred to has been proved to be invalid from an investigation which I have had made through the Collector of Customs in Western Australia. The next communication regarding the matter was that of Mr. M. Edward Pye, secretary of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, who conveyed to the Commissioner, without comment, the following resolution : -
That while disclaiming any desire to interfere in politics, this Chamber respectfully but emphatically protests against the proposed inclusion of the State electorates of Forrest and Collie in the Federal electorate of Fremantle, on the ground that there is no community of interest as contemplated by section 16, sub-section (a) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act between such State electorates and the remainder of the Federal electorate of Fremantle.
The Commissioner replied to that letter on the 27th September. Passing over the preliminary paragraphs of his letter, I find he said -
I may point out that there appears to me to be a distinct community of interest between the timber workers in the Forrest electorate and the timber operatives in the metropolitan area, that is, the country contained within a 10-mile radius of the Perth Town Hall, embracing the greater part of Fremantle and Midland Junction. The latter, according to the latest official returns, numbered 450, omitting lumpers.
The rest of the letter is in accordance with what I have previously communicated to the House, in my quotation from the letter of 1st October, in answer to Mr. Douglas Gawler. The next communication of importance was from Mr. G. H. Lukin, and Mr. W. H. Clarke-James, president and honorary secretary of the National Liberal League. They gave a list of objections to the proposed scheme of distribution. First of all, they pointed out that the proposals set forth by the Commissioner were not, in their opinion, in accordance with the spirit of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, having regard to the five headings to which I Have already referred. They further pointed out -
That the inclusion of Albany, an agricultural and seaport district, in the Kalgoorlie division, solely a. mining district, would be equivalent: to disfranchising over 2,400 voters.
That the inclusion of Albany in the Kalgoorlie division is not in harmony with, the “ community of interests “ as laid down in the Act;
That the present Kalgoorlie division vote can be increased by the inclusion of State mining electorates from the Coolgardie division, thus preserving the “ community of interest,” viz., the inclusion of mining instead of. agricultural electorates.
That the present vote of the Coolgardie division, being semi-pastoral, agricultural, and mining, can be raised by the inclusion of pastoral and agricultural State electorates from the Swan division, which would be observing the essential features laid down in. Electoral Act “ contiguity “ (implied through sub-clauses (b), (c), (d), (e) ) and “ community of interests.”
That Fremantle is a coastal and. seaport division, and to increase its present vote by invading the agricultural and timber areas, when the vote can be raised by the inclusion of coastal and seaport electorates, is not preserving, the spirit and intention of the Act.
That the amendments suggested herein would result in the formation of Commonwealth divisions embodying the essential principles of the Electoral Act, and. that the divisions would then be respectively -
Perth, representing metropolitan and industrial interests.
Fremantle, representing seaport and coastal interests.
Swan, representing agricultural interests.
Kalgoorlie, representing mining interests’.
Coolgardie, representing pastoral, agricultural, and mining interests.
I need not weary honorable members by going through the whole of the details to show the way in which these proposed electorates are made up, but I wish to refer them to the end of the communication from which I have been quoting, which contains a comparison between the proposal of the National Liberal League and that of the Commissioner. Under the proposals of the league the electorate of Perth would contain 27,992 electors, whilst under the proposal of the Commissioner it would also contain 27,992. The electorate of Fremantle under the proposalof the league would contain 28,686 voters, whilst under the proposal of the Commissioner it would contain 28,909. The electorate of Swan under the proposal of the league would contain 27,500, whilst under the proposal of the Commissioner it would contain 27,507. The electorate of Kalgoorlie under the proposal of the league would contain 28,993, whilst under the proposal of the Commissioner it would contain 29,929. The electorate of Coolgardie under the proposal pf the league would contain 29,699, whilst under- the proposal of the Commissioner it would contain 28,533. s° that there is a very close resemblance between the two schemes respecting the number of voters in each electorate. The Commissioner replied to that communication on 1st October, pointing out -
As regards the opinion held by your league, that my proposal is not “ in accordance with the spirit of the Commonwealth Acts,” I may perhaps be allowed to differ on this point, and may remind you that the principal consideration 10 be observed in arriving at a scheme of redistribution framed in accordance with the provisions of the Acts, is distinctly laid down, in section 16, as being the grouping of the existing electorates into divisions, containing an equal balance of electors as near to the basis of the quota as ordinary circumstances will admit. The - Commissioner has at the same time to give due consideration to the five (a) to (e) points also enumerated in section 16 of the Acts, none of which has, however, any preponderating im- .portance as compared with the matter mentioned iii the others.
With reference to the Albany electorate, in my opinion, as the division of Kalgoorlie already includes all the ports and pastoral coun-1 ry along the southern ‘ coast east of Albany, their recognised port of distribution, and with which port their direct communication by steamer is carried on, there is certainly not wanting direct “ community of interest.”
The view taken by your league that Irwin and Swan can be classed as “ Coastal “ and especially “ Seaport electorates,” is one from which I entirely differ, they being undoubtedly purely pastoral and agricultural; whilst Collie and Forrest are actually, taken as a whole, nearer the seaboard than the greater portion of the districts before referred to, the eastern extremity of Forrest being about 40 miles from the coast, and that of Collie 70 miles, whereas that of Irwin is no less than no miles.
I can also see no such “ Community of interest “ between the purely pastoral and agricultural population of Irwin and Swan, and the industrial and shipping population of the present Fremantle division, as undoubtedly exists between the latter and the timber workers and miners of Forrest and Collie.
I may point out that there appears to me to be a distinct community of interest between the timber workers in the Forrest electorate and the numerous timber operatives in the metropolitan area.
He then repeated what he had said in connexion with a similar objection taken by a gentleman to whom I have already referred. That is the whole of the correspondence. There is a direct conflict so far as concerns the important matter of community of interest in the various portions of the electorates referred to, in the positions taken up by the Commissioner and by those who have objected to the re-distribution as proposed by him. The matter has caused me very great doubts. I have given it every consideration, and in view of all the circumstances I have been unable to arrive at a distinct conclusion. If there had been time, and I had the power, I should certainly have sent the report back to the Commissioner for re-consideration.
– That is a poor thing for a member of the Government to say.
– It is a paltry position for a Minister to take up.
– I have placed the position before honorable members as clearly and distinctly as I could. I have shown the view taken by the Commissioner and the views taken by public bodies and others who placed their suggestions before him. I am sure that any reasonably minded man, if he gave the matter the same consideration as I have given it, viewing the whole of the arguments, facts, and figures which have been put before the Commissioner, and taking his report into consideration, must feel considerable doubt in connexion with the matter. In these circumstances I have no hesitation in saying, notwithstanding what the Leader of the Opposition says, that I have considerable doubt about the report, and that, if time had permitted, and I had the power - honorable members know there - is not time now- - I should certainly have sent it back to the Commissioner for reconsideration. I have submitted a motion approving of the report. I thought that, as there was no time to refer it back, and as I was in doubt, it was my duty to submit such a motion, in order to give the House a proper opportunity of considering the matter. Section 21 of the Electoral Act provides -
If both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution the Governor-General may by proclamation declare the names and boundaries of the divisions, and such divisions shall until altered be the electoral divisions for the State in which they are situated.
Section 22 provides -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
The position is that I have submitted a proposition to the House approving of the action of the Commissioner in the circumstances. It is not a Ministerial matter, but one which, merely in my capacity as Minister, it is my duty to submit to the House.
– Does the Prime Minister agree that it is not a Ministerial matter ?
– Is it to be treated as a party matter?
– Having put the matter before the House, I hope that honorable members will consider it fully, and deal with it entirely on its merits. I would remind honorable members, in conclusion, that the three divisions of Swan,’ Kalgoorlie, and Fremantle are at present out of gear so far as the Electoral Act is concerned. The division of Swan is very much above the maximum allowed in the Act, while the other two are below it. If the motion be rejected the election would have to take place under the old arrangement, which is a very inequitable one, in consequence of the variations in the electorates since the last distribution. It is, of course, quite open to the House to reject the motion and so allow the old divisions to stand, and it is equally open to the House to approve of the report.
.- I listened with pleasure and interest to the Minister’s speech, but towards the end of it, after he had, quite properly, quoted from the objections taken to’ the redistribution, he said that had he had time he would in all probability have sent the proposition back to the Commissioner for further consideration, but that as there was not time to do that it had been submitted to the House. I should have thought that a matter of this kind would be submitted by the Government and not by a Minister. The Prime Minister by interjection asked if I wanted to make it a party question. Certainly not. But I do say that the Government and not the Minister should have a policy on the matter. When I said that the Ministry should speak as one man on the subject, the Prime Minister, as I understood his interjection, attempted to convey the impression that that would make it a party question. No charge whatever has been made by the Minister of Home Affairs against the capacity or integrity of the Commissioner, to whom was intrusted one of the most responsible duties, if not the most responsible duty, with which a citizen of the Commonwealth, could be charged - that of re-distributing the electors into such groups that they will as nearly as pos sible be represented in this House on the same basis.
– And free from all Ministerial influence. .
– I did not hear a single sentence or suggestion from the Minister to the effect that there was the least suspicion that the Commissioner in making hi’.; report was in any way biased.
– Then why canvas^ his in’tegrity ?
– I am referring to the matter because the Minister said that if he had had time he would have sent the report back to the Commissioner. In that statement the Minister makes the gravest possible charge against the Commissioner.
– I made no charge against his integrity, or anything of the sort.
– Then it was a charge against his capacity. It must mean one or the other. In using those words the Minister made a most unfortunate statement, but I am glad to have his assurance that it was an inadvertence on his part, and that he did not intend to convey what the words really mean.
– No, I meant what I said in that connexion.
– Does not the honorable gentleman often use words unfortunately?
– I do, and I am very glad to be able to correct them afterwards. I am now affording the Minister of Home Affairs an opportunity to correct the phrase he used.
– I see nothing in it to correct.
– Does the Minister approve of the scheme, or does he not?
– A number of questions are being asked by honorable members other than the honorable member addressing the House. I remind honorable members that the honorable member for Wide Bay is entitled to make his speech in his own way, and free from interruption.
-This matter has ‘ been considerably canvassed. Ministers and other honorable members know that as well as I do. I wish to say in the plainest possible language that the members of a Government who lend themselves to that kind, of thing axe unfit to occupy the positions they hold, because an attempt to manipulate electorates and to take the work of electoral redistribution out of the hands of the responsible officer appointed for the purpose is about the nearest possible approach to political corruption. It is only fair to the Minister of Home Affairs that I should say that he has moved his motion as a Minister, and that he has not, so far as I understood him, spoken on behalf of the Government. The honorable gentleman said that he left it to the House to decide the matter, but I claim that that is a course which no Minister should adopt in connexion with a matter of this kind.
– Should not the House be free to decide this matter?
– Some honorable members do not seem to be free at all. In the exercise of their right they appear to be able only to chip in now andi again when another honorable member is speaking. The Government, as the executive of Parliament, were in duty bound to consider the report of this responsible officer, and to come to a conclusion either to adopt or reject his scheme.
– Have the Government not stated that?
– No, the Minister has said that he has submitted his motion because there is no time to send the proposed scheme back to the Commissioner, and that he is going to leave it to Parliament to declare whether or not the scheme should be adopted. I asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with that statement of the position, and I assume from his nod of assent that the Government will support the Minister of Home Affairs.
– Undoubtedly they will. How could they do otherwise?
– Well, I did not understand that from the words used by the Minister of Home Affairs. I certainly think the Government should do so. I have read Mr. Fraser’s report, and I remind honorable members that there are sure to be differences of opinion in connexion with a matter of this kind. I say that when no charge of incapacity or of improper conduct on the part of the Commissioner is made Parliament is bound to accept his report, especially in the last days of a session prior to a general election.
– Whether it is right or wrong?
– It is not a question of whether it is right or wrong. It is a question whether the Government believe that a proper redistribution is proposed, whether they are of opinion that it would be better to allow a gross inequality in the numbers of various electorates to continue to exist, rather than to attempt to remedy the inequality by the adoption of the scheme proposed by the Commissioner.
– Does the honorable gentleman contend that when on three previous occasions the House rejected schemes of redistribution that were proposed, they charged the Commissioners with incapacity or corruption?
– Yes. In one case a Commissioner’ withdrew his first report because he admitted that the State Ministry intervened and influenced, him. He sent in a report which he withdrew on that ground, and he subsequently resigned his position, which was a proper course for him to pursue.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney resigned over it, too.
– Who influenced the redistribution of the Hunter electorate?
– I do not know. I do not intend to address myself further to this motion. I tell the country that no question has been more canvassed quietly in this House than the possibility of blocking this proposal. I regret- it. I do not think such proceedings are correct. Honorable members should bear in mind that the present position in Western Australia is absolutely anomalous. It could not possibly be worse, and though the adjustment proposed in the Commissioner’s scheme may not be an ideal one, it would bring about an infinitely better state of affairs than at present exists. On that ground alone, honorable members will be justified in adopting the proposed scheme. I see nothing in the report or in the appendix to it to justify its rejection by the House. If the political aspect of the matter is to be considered at all, I may say that the proposed scheme would be of no advantage to the party I have the honour to lead in this House. But it is of some importance that the honour of this Parliament should be upheld in the redistribution of the electorates.
– The Leader of the Opposition, of course, is quite entitled to take every advantage he possibly can out of the action or inaction of the Government. But it is due to him, that I should say a word or two in support of the course which the Government think it right to follow.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will not reply merely out of courtesy to me.
– The course we propose to take may be considered a very exceptional course. It might be held that we should not invite the House to consider a proposal which does not commend itself to the Government as a whole. But prior to that the chief line of argument of the Leader of the Opposition was of so extraordinary a nature that it demands an immediate reply. The honorable gentleman contended that it was wrong for this House to lay aside a proposal from the proper responsible officer until either his competency or honesty were seriously challenged.
– I did not go so far as that.
– I think so, if not in set terms, by clear intention. Now the answer is not one derived from argument but from fact. On the first occasion on which redistributions were proposed by honest and competent officers no less than four out of six were rejected by this Parliament, and that immediately before a general election which left no time for their revision. There were no reflections on the officers. Afterwards different redistributions were submitted in a later Parliament.
– No, practically the same.
– I am told by those who know better than I do that they differed considerably.
– The redistribution proposed for Victoria was practically the same. The Prime Minister cannot point to any radical difference.
– I am told that even that proposed for Victoria was not the same as that which was rejected in the first instance. The statement is made to me by those who are better qualified than I am to speak on the subject. The point is that whether the proposed redistributions were afterwards partially indorsed or not, no less than four out of the six submitted were, without any thought of reflecting in any way upon the officers concerned, deliberately rejected by this Parliament. And why? Unfortunately, and perhaps it may be said of necessity. If honorable members will look at the Statute which lays down the conditions to be observed by a Commissioner in dealing with the redistribution of seats, they will see that there are six general provisions, operating to some extent in practically every constituency. Some of these can be fully met, others can be only partially met, but it would be impossible to apply them equally or proportionately, to any two constituencies which can be constructed in the Commonwealth. The consequence is that what we always get is the honest and unbiased opinion of a Commissioner who has sought to make the best redistribution with these several principles to guide him. It is clearly impossible for him in any given case to give equal effect to all six provisions, or to say to which most importance should be attached. No principles more broad or more lacking in definite leading could be devised. As a consequence there is no consistent system employed. When this proposal was submitted and the first consideration of the Minister and the Ministry together showed its unsatisfactory nature, it appeared to me to be my duty, as one of the Ministers, to take it into special consideration. I obtained the whole of the papers from the beginning and read every one of them. I then turned to the Act and endeavoured to apply its principles. If I had read this report alone I might have thought that it made out a sufficiently good case, but when I read critical reports furnished by outside authorities it seemed to me that each of them had made out a good case.
– Who were the outside authorities ?
– I read the reports carefully and critically, and if I had not seen our own officer’s proposals I would have accepted the rival proposals with just the same confidence. There was evidence enough in support of each to destroy the merits of the other. That left us absolutely at sea in determining which was an effective or fair distribution. There were strong reports against each proposal; they could not be ignored. There were arguments in favour of each, and they were not to be passed by.
– What were the arguments against re-distribution ? The fact of the Fremantle seat being in danger?
– The fact of another Opposition seat being in danger did not weigh with Ministers. .
– That was the main argument.
– The Nationalliberal party is presumably concerned in the election of a particular member, and any representations which it makes are probably subject, to a discount of that kind. So are those of certain Leagues. If I had read any of their proposals without knowing from whom they emanated, they might have appeared to me to fulfil the conditions laid down by the Act and to offer a leading which I would have followed, in the absence of other conflicting advices. In these circumstances - and the experience of my colleagues who undertook, a similar inquiry was of the same unsatisfactory nature - I ask .the Leader of the Opposition what course he thinks should be taken ?
– Put the question and I will answer it.
-I think the honorable member can be relied upon, when he comes into the same position of responsibility as we occupy, neither to reject this scheme because fault was found with it nor to accept the other. There was no time in which it could be revised. Inasmuch as the members of the Cabinet were unable to agree with the officer and yet did not possess sufficient information in support of any rival scheme, to put aside his scheme, it appeared to them that the best and fairest thing to do would be to tell the House the difficulties, and of the impossibility of accepting this proposal as it stood.
– Is this responsible government ?
– A majority vote on this matter would have bound men who, though Ministers, were perfectly entitled to exercise the freedom of their judgment as members of the House.
– I think that some of them cannot.
– Possibly. This is not a party matter as the honorable member suggests, or a Ministerial matter in the ordinary sense of the term. Being a question of the re-distribution of seats of interest to ail members of Parliament as such, and of in. more interest to Ministers than to members generally, our interest being no more than that of members, we claim-
– The interest of members is the interest of the community.
– I am not implying, as the jesting interjection seems to indicate, that members of Parliament have no party leanings. I am not implying that they favour mathematical re-distribution. It is as representatives of the people that they are specially authorized to deal with questions relating to the representation of the people. It is as members of Parliament, not as Ministers, that they are qualified to deal with them. Ministers have no more knowledge available to them than other honorable members. Being unable to approve of this proposal their proper course was to submit it fairly to the House, to frankly state the case, and to indicate that’ the great bulk, if not the whole, of us believe that this arrangement is more unsatisfactory than even the inequalities which it is proposed to remedy.
– Good Heavens !
– Why did not the honorable gentleman move to knock out the proposal ?
– Because we wished to put it before the House in a perfectly fair manner.
– The honorable gentleman could have moved to disapprove of it.
– Let the honorable gentleman do his duty.
– Be honest occasionally.
– They are wanting the honorable gentleman to crack the whip this time.
– Had we acted otherwise the argument would have been that members of Parliament were being forced to vote for a scheme in which Ministers did not believe. Strike high or strike low, it is impossible to please my honorable friends. I rose to point out the fact that from the very first the Parliament has claimed a free hand in dealing with redistributions. It has left each decision to the individual conscience and judgment of honorable members. It has left each member to shoulder his own responsibility. We are following that course. We are not making it a party or Ministerial matter, but leaving the case 1f> be dealt with on its merits. Let all those who think the evidence shows that the scheme as it stands is better than the existing subdivision vote for it. They are perfectly free to do that, so far as we are concerned.
– Are we to have no guidance from the Government?
– My honorable colleague has proposed the adoption of the scheme prepared by his officer. If it had been suggested that there was any reflection upon that officer, this motion would not have been moved, but having been moved as the expression of my colleague’s confidence in the judgment of his officer, there can be no slur upon him. The House having been frankly told that he has been unable to convince his colleagues, or so far as I know, any of them, that this scheme is better than the present subdivision-
– Does the honorable gentleman mean to say that the Minister alone is favouring this proposition?
– I am not sure.
– What is the honorable gentleman going to do?
– I shall vote against the scheme. When in a matter which is outside the range of ordinary Ministerial duties, which is not part of the policy of any party, which is left to the free and independent judgment of honorable members, we, though Ministers, claim to exercise the same free and independent judgment as other honorable members, then my friends opposite, whose usual complaint is of our dominance, are the very first to take an objection to the course which leaves them all free from our domination.
– This is certainly the most extraordinary development of responsible Government which I think any Parliament has ever witnessed.
– I sympathize with the Minister of Home Affairs.
– The Minister of Home Affairs brought down this proposal.
– To give honorable members the opportunity to vote.
– Either the Minister is recommending to the House the adoption of a report by one of his officers or he is not.
– He put both sides of the question.
– It is the Minister’s duty to do a great deal more than put both sides of the question. It is his duty to ask the House to adopt or reject the proposed distribution. He has done neither. Had he recommended its adoption, it would be a strange thing for the Prime Minister to announce that he intends to vote against it. Personalty I have no information regarding the Western Australian electorates, but I think it the duty of a Minister, when a public servant has been appointed to carry out under his instructions a duty imposed by an Act of Parliament, to recommend the adoption or rejection, of his proposals.
– The Minister cannot send the report back to the Commissioner.
– He can recommend the House to do so, and that would be the honest, straightforward, and fair thing for him to do. We could not find fault with such a proposal. The Ministry is not doing its duty in saying, “ This is the recommendation of the Commissioner, decide for yourselves what shall be done in regard to it.”
– The proposal is too fair for honorable members opposite to appreciate.
– lt is - not fair. When, the other day, a financial agreement was arrived at in secret conference with the Premiers, the Government, instead of allowing it to be treated as an open question, as it should have been, seeing that it affected the future development of the Commonwealth, assumed an air of infallibility, arid spoke of cracking the party whip.
– When did Ministers speak of doing that?
– They actually did it.
– The Treasurer is smiling at his audacity in suggesting that the party whip was not cracked. Why does not the Prime Minister support hia colleague in this instance? Surely it is a Ministerial question?
– If a Minister is bound to support his subordinates, why did not the honorable member support the action of a subordinate regarding the introduction of a Japanese doctor?
– I did so in my place in this chamber, as the present Minister of External Affairs will recollect.
– The honorable member’s party found excuses for him.
– The honorable member” is wrong as to his facts. He is attempting to prove that Ministerial responsibility was not accepted to the fullest extent by the late Government, but’ he is unfortunate in his suggestion. I supported the present Minister, and said that I would’ have done the same thing myself. A Government is expected to state its view regarding a matter upon which honorable members are more or less necessarily in the dark. .All we have before us is the report of the Commissioner.
– And that is all that I have.
– The honorable member can consult his officers.
– They cannot give me any further information.
– The distribution of electorates is put under the control of the Minister, so that he may see that the Commissioner carries out his duties properly. Were the Minister to think that a recommendation evidenced party bias, or something beyond a mere error of judgment, on the part of the Commissioner, would he submit it to the House as he has submitted this recommendation? Would he not ask the House to send it back? The Minister has not cast any aspersion on the integrity of the Commissioner, and has not suggested that he is incapable. But he has told us that, were there time to make a fresh distribution, he would send back the report. That is an extraordinarily weak position. Why is it that considerations which weigh with the Minister of Home Affairs do not weigh with the Prime Minister?
– I say that there is not time for a fresh distribution.
– The Prime Minister is going to vote for the rejection of the Commissioner’s recommendation. Is the Minister of Home Affairs going to do so?
– I shall vote for the motion which I have submitted.
– Experience hardly gives us cause to expect such consistency from a member of this Government, though I say nothing against the Minister personally. I have heard it whispered that the probable effect of the adoption of the Commissioner’s proposal would be to endanger a member’s seat, but that it would chiefly result in strengthening the position of the Treasurer.
– At any rate, I am not going to support it. I shall vote against it.
-Will any Minis ter besides the Minister of Home Affairs vote for it? We know that the matter has been discussed in Cabinet, because the Prime Minister has told us so. The Minister of Home Affairs has not been able to get his views adopted by his colleagues.
– The Government has purposely deferred this matter so long that now a fresh distributioncannot be obtained.
– That is false, and the honorable member knows it to be so.
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that statement.
– I ask that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, which is utterly without warrant, be also withdrawn. Of course, I withdraw my remark.
– I also ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I have nothing to withdraw. . I asked the Government to bring the matter on earlier, but they did not do so.
– On a point of order Mr. Speaker, I ask whether the assertion made by an honorable member occupying a responsible position that the Government deliberately
– I did not use the word “ deliberately.”
– That the Government “ purposely “ delayed bringing forward this matter is not one which, when objected to by an honorable member, should be withdrawn? I draw your attention to the fact that the Prime Minister asked for the withdrawal of the remark, and that the Leader of the Opposition has not yet withdrawn it.
– The whole incident was out of order. The interruption ought not to have been made in any circumstances. As soon as the Prime Minister interjected - and unfortunately interjections are often caused by previous disorderly interruptions - I asked him to withdraw the remark. I also asked that the statement that the Government had purposely delayed bringing the matter forward before should be withdrawn, and I understood the honorable member for Wide Bay to withdraw it. Will the honorable member inform mo whether he did or did not withdraw the remark ?
– If the Prime Minister particularly desires me to withdraw the remark, then I shall certainly withdraw it. I invited the Government to bring forward this motion earlier, but they did not do so.
– A fortnight ago.
– The report of the Commissioner was laid before Parliament on 15th October last, and it was necessary before taking action upon it to allow a certain time for the lodging of objections. I understand that the Government could have brought this matter forward at least a fortnight ago.
– The last communication on the subject reached me within the last fortnight.
– What was the earliest date at which this motion could have been submitted? Something like fourteen days ago. That being so, it is not fair for the Government, having delayed the matter unnecessarily for a fortnight, to say that it becomes impossible to send back the report.
– It was impossible in any case.
– Then that concludes the matter, for I do not desire to accuse the Minister of acting unfairly. But looking at the whole proposition before us, we find ourselves faced with some glaring inequalities. The principles of one man one vote, and of one vote one value, have been recognised within reasonable limits by the law of the Commonwealth; yet we find that there are at present 27,992 electors in the electorate of Berth, 21,982 in the electorate of Fremantle, and 41,076 in the electorate of Swan. In other words, a vote cast in the electorate of Swan today would be worth only half that of a vote cast in Fremantle. Then, again, we find that there are 30,163 electors in the electorate of Coolgardie, and 21,657 electors in the electorate of Kalgoorlie. In order that such inequalities might be rectified we deliberately provided a system which we believed would work automatically whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of a State the number of electors differed from the ascertained quota to the extent of one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
– Has the honorable member never assisted to put aside that principle in this House?
– I have not.
– There is a great deal of political rectitude about this matter.
– To what is the honorable member referring - to the redistiibution of the State of New South Wales some time ago?
– Yes, in connexion with which the honorable member voted for the gerrymander.
– In that case, good reasons were advanced for the course proposed by the Government. The honorable member will find, I think, if he looks up the records, that the Government of the day gave a distinct lead to the House in that matter. They voted together and accepted Ministerial responsibility.
– Did the honorable member obey the “ whip “?
– I had some doubt as to whether I was taking a right course of action in voting as I did on that occasion, and I have since come to the conclusion that I made a mistake.
– Even although the honorable member followed the Ministry of the day.
– This is a long-delayed confession.
– I think that the honorable member knows that it is, after all, not so long delayed as he suggests. When the first division of South Australia into electorates for the House of Representatives was made, and the scheme was submitted to the House, I made an appeal to honorable members to reject it. I pointed out that there were connected with it certain inequalities, but I appealed in vain. The Government took up a very high ground, saying: “An officer was appointed to make the distribution. Honorable members know nothing about the matter. We are not in a position to judge for ourselves, and we must either trust the officer or dismiss him.” No one had any doubt as to the integrity or competence of Mr. Boothby, who made that distribution, but I pointed out that there were associated with it inequalities which rendered it undesirable.
– In connexion with the honorable member’s electorate?
– No, I had no particular electorate at the time.
– Then in connexion with one which the honorable member was probably looking after ?
– The right honorable member is again wrong; as a matter of fact, I was thinking then of standing for another electorate. I pointed out that the electorate of Boothby, which comprised the largest number of electors under that distribution, was one of the most progressive in the State, and that in a very short time its population would be nearly doubled. The honorable member for Wakefield, who resides in that electorate, will bear out my statement that its population to-day is nearly twice as large as that of any other electorate in South Australia. I also pointed out that it was most unfair to attach one ward of a municipality to one division, and the remaining wards to another. The requirement as to observing community of interest in making the distribution was disregarded in the effort to bring about something like equality, but that effort entirely failed. I refer to the matter only because the present Prime Minister, who was at the head of another Government on that occasion, took up a lofty stand, declaring that it was the duty of the Administration either to trust their appointed officers or else to send them about their business. He said that this House was not in a position to determine the matter for itself. To-day, however, he says we ought to judge the matter for ourselves. That is not a proper position to take up.
– A Chamber of Commerce is against the Government officer, and the Government . must obey the Chamber.
– That was so obvious that I thought it was not worth mentioning. The number of electors in each electorate under the proposed redistribution is almost equal. The lowest is 27,507, and the highest 29,929, so that there is a difference of less than 2,000 between the minimum and the maximum number. Nothing can be urged against the distribution on that score; but when we come to consider the question of community of interest we find some interesting facts. Mr. Dickson, secretary of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, makes this curious statement, and I should like to know whether it is this that has influenced the Treasurer and the Prime Minister -
It seems unfair that in order to adjust boundaries, the Albany electorate should be transferred to a district with which its interests are in no manner identical. It practically disfranchises all this district, as the vote here has always been in the majority for the opposite party returned by the gold-fields.
Is that the reason?
– That does not influence me in the slightest.
– Community of interest does not mean community of political interest.
– A Labour man was returned for the electorate of Albany the other day.
– There .are several residential seaside resorts in South Australia, such as the Semaphore and Henley Beach, in which economic interests “and political interests are absolutely opposed. Regarding the inclusion of Albany as proposed, Mr. A. H. Dickson, the President of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, says -
It practically disfranchises all this district, as the vote here has always been in the majority for the opposite party returned by the goldfields.
Here the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce confuses community of interest with community of political interests. A similar mistake was made in the case of the division of South Australia into electorates. There, a number of seaside resorts possessing identical economic interests are politically opposed to each other. For instance, Glenelg objected to being included in the same electoral division as Henley Beach and the Semaphore, although its economic interests were identical. These are merely residential seaside resorts. Mr. Fraser, in reply to Mr. Dickson’s letter, clearly shows that a community of interest exists between Albany and Fremantle. He says -
This division, as you are aware, already includes all ports along the southern coast, east of Albany - their recognised port of distribution, and with which port their only direct communication by steamer is carried on.
Mr. Dickson’s reply to the Commissioner is as follows -
I have read your letter very carefully j but, while Albany may be recognised the port of distribution for the ports of the east coast, it must not be considered that, from a trade stand-point, it has anything approaching a large share.’ All ports, including Port Adelaide and Fremantle, undoubtedly participate as much as Albany; but it must not be overlooked such a trade is very limited.
This statement alleges that there is no more community of interest between Fremantle and Albany than exists between Port Adelaide and Fremantle, which is obviously absurd. Mr. Dickson suggests that Port Adelaide has as much community of interest with Kalgoorlie as has Fremantle. The whole proposal amounts to nothing more or less than political gerrymandering. If the Minister of Home Affairs had any pluck whatever, he would resent the position taken up by the Prime Minister. The former indorsed the recommendation of one of’ his officers and moved for its adoption, and the Prime Minister then announced that he did not intend to vote with him.
– The position is not such as the honorable member states.
– The Ministry ought to accept responsibility. If they think there has been a mistake committed, why does the Minister not move to have it rectified - to send the report back?
– There is no time to send it back.
– Then let the Minister move the rejection of the report.
-I have moved its adoption.
– Surely the Minister cannot move its adoption, while his own colleagues are prepared to vote for its rejection? This is certainly a matter in which Cabinet responsibility ought to obtain. What is the Minister of Defence going to do in the matter? I am told that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are going to vote against the adoption of the report ; and I think we are entitled to know what the other influential member of the Cabinet is going to do under the peculiar circumstances. Is the Minister of Defence going to vote for the adoption of the report?
– I should very much like to have notice of the question !
– Of course, we shall soon ascertain ; but it would be very interesting to know, in view of the fact that the Minister has expressed himself strongly undersomewhat similar circumstances, when his words made considerable impression on myself.
– Did the honorable member vote with me?
– The honorable gentleman almost persuaded me, and I may say that I am sorry that I was not quite persuaded. On that occasion, there were no divided counsels in the Cabinet, which gave us a lead to follow such as I should like given for our guidance now. Who is leading the Government now, with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer on the other side? If the Minister of Defence is backing up the Minister of Home Affairs, that may influence honorable members very much. What are we to do?
– Stick to thelaw !
– If the Ministry seek to set aside the law, because there is a possibility of losing a political supporter, there is political corruption of the deepest dye. There could not be a worse instance of political corruption; and, therefore, I am anxious to know what the Minister of Defence is going to do.
– If the Ministry manipulate the boundaries, they will manipulate votes at the elections !
– Exactly ; that is a very small step from setting aside the automatic operation of the law. The honorable member for Perth may smile.
Mr.Fowler. -i am amused at all this political rectitude.
– Not very long ago the honorable member would not have been amused at political rectitude, and his amusement shows the effects of evil communications. At one time the honorable member was a member of the Labour Party, and his environment was such that political rectitude was a serious matter.
– The honorable member for Boothby is only illustrating the difference which a change to that side of the House makes..
– I think riot. On the former occasion I was following the only possible guide in such cases, namely, the Government. But where are’ the Government now?
– The honorable member is following the Minister of Home Affairs.
– I understand that I am following the Minister of Home Affairs, and if members of the Opposition vote as recommended by that honorable gentleman, they cannot be accused of showing any party bias. We cannot get an expression of the views of the Minister of Defence, but on the former occasion referred to, in August, 1903, he used these words : -
I can conceive of no grosser wrongdoing or dereliction of political duty than that of which the Ministry are guilty, in seeking to deprive the people of Australia of the full value of their votes at the first election at which they will have an opportunity to use them.
– Does not the honorable member agree with that?
– On that occasion, in the case of New South Wales, I followed the lead of the Ministry of the day, whom I was supporting; and, as I say, it was the only lead I could take ; but I have told the Minister of Defence two or three times since that I think I then made a mistake. In the case of Victoria, I voted for upholding the opinion of the Commissioner, as did the honorable member for Perth.
– No ; on that occasion the honorable member for Perth voted for gerrymandering.
– No wonder the honorable member is amused at political rectitude. The present Minister of Defence on that occasion went on to say -
As to the expression “ gerrymandering “ being insulting, I do not intend it to be so construed, but at the same time I regard the Minister as a very good judge of what is insulting.
Up : to that timethe words wereapplicable. To-day they are not. We have amuch more serious case of dereliction of political duty to-day. TheGovernment are setting aside their responsibility in this matter, and intend to vote against a proposal made by one of their own colleagues. That is nothing better than gerrymandering.
– I see that I said a great deal in the speech from which the honorable member has quoted.
– Yes, and it is very good matter indeed.The Minister of Defence must agree with me, if he stills holds the opinions which he then expressed, that this is a much more gross caseof wrong doing’ and dereliction of political duty than was the one to which he then referred. There was at that time, so far as I am aware, no particular instance of wrong doing in New South Wales, because the cases dealt with related to both sides of the House. It was generally agreed that the position of some members on both sides might be rendered more insecure by what was proposed.
Mr.F owler. - That is the position to-day.
– No, it is not so to-day.
– The honorable member for West Sydney and I did not, on the former occasion, protest. We allowed the Commissioner’s report to go without objection.
– I think that the honorable member even protested against the rejection of the report of the Commissioner. The honorable member for West Sydney did the same. I hope that the House will uphold the officer who has been intrusted with the duty, and in so doing will uphold the Minister of Home Affairs, or will, at the earliest opportunity, give a ‘direction to the Minister to take action in the direction of appointing a Commissionerwhose judgment can be relied upon.
– Has it been said that the Commissioner’sjudgment cannot be relied upon?
– The members of the Government have not attempted to say so much. I am very sorry to have heard the Prime Minister speak as he didin defence of a most unparalleled act in the direction of political corruption. I expected something rather better from him. I certainly expected that, in a case where he had some doubts as to whether the proposed alteration ofboundaries was thebest that could be adopted, he and his Ministry would have come forward honestlyand said,” We think the Commissioner has made a mistake in this matter, and therefore, although we admit that the question has to be decided by the House, we believe that the recommendations ought to be sent back or rejected.” Hadthe Prime Minister taken up that attitude it would at any rate have been fair to the House. We should have had a distinct lead. But for Ministers to adopt the contemptible, cowardly, attitude of sheltering themselves behind the Minister of Home Affairs, who has to bringthe matter before the House and move that the scheme of distribution be either adopted or rejected is indefensible. The Prime Minister himself, and some other Ministers, intend to vote against their own colleague. I say that that is politically contemptible conduct. The Government should assume responsibility for the exercise of their own judgment.
– It may not be their judgment that we have to deal with. It may be the officer’s judgment.
– If the Cabinet do not think that the officer has done the right thing, they should say so plainly. The Minister, as honorable members will recollect, was not very strong upon the point.
– The Minister has to introduce the scheme.
– The Minister practically invited the House to reject it.
– To consider it.
– That was practically an invitationto reject it. He certainly was not enthusiastically in favour of the adoption of the scheme.
– I should think he ought not to be.
– He has no right now to tell the House that it ought to be rejected.
– The Minister had to introduce the scheme.
– That is all nonsense. The honorable member misinterprets the position. There was no necessity whatever for the Minister to move the adoption of the scheme unless he believed in it.
– I putthe matter plainly before the House.
– The honorable member spoke on both sides, and that is not an attitude which a Minister should take up. The House is not in a position to judge fairly and ought not to have the duty thrust upon it. It is impossible for honorable members to get away from political bias. I do not pretend to be unaffected by. bias.
– The question should be removed from Parliament altogether.
– The Act does practically remove it from Parliament, and I believe that if the Government did their duty on this occasion, and, as a Govern ment, moved for the rejection or adoption of the scheme, the House would follow their lead.
– This ought not to be a party question.
– The same was said of the financial agreement, which was a very much bigger question than this.
– That was a question of policy.
-Then we are to understand that we are not now dealing with a question of policy but of party ? Surely it is a question of ordinary political honesty. It is above all other questions one which should be settled apart from party bias. When we find just enough Ministers proposing to vote for the rejection of the report to insure its defeat because one Ministerialist is in danger of losing bis seat if it is carried, we get an instance of political perfidy that is absolutely rotten.
– They cannot save him.
– I care nothing about that matter, and I should be sorry for any vote of mine to influence it one way or the other. I intend to support the decision of the Commissioner. I have always’ taken that course, except in the one case of New South Wales, and I think I made a mistake in following the Government on that occasion.
– I think the honorable member was quite right.
– I know the honorable member thinks so, but’ I do not. It is a great deal better to accept the decision of the Commissioner who was appointed to do the work, and who is free from political or party bias, which we do not pretend to be. Does the honorable member for Franklin pretend to be free from party bias?
– Rather not. I hope that we shall come to something like a unanimous conclusion- to support the decision of the officer intrusted with this work.
– But supposewe disapprove of it?
– On what ground does the honorable member disapprove of it?
– Because we do not think it is reasonable.
– That is not a ground. It is merely another assertion. On what ground is it unreasonable? I should like the honorable memberor some one else on that side to get up and state the reasons why the report ought to be set aside. It fulfils as nearly as possible the condition that there shall be an equality of votes. It brings about as far as possible community of interest. Absolute community of interest cannot be secured no matter where the boundaries are drawn. The occupations and interests of the people of Australia are so diversified that you cannot possibly group them accurately by means of ordinary boundaries. The only way to bring about absolute community of interest would be to disregard geographical boundaries altogether, and let all the engineers, all the carpenters, all the seamen, and so on, vote directly for a representative of their own interests. This report seems to approach absolute community of interest as nearly as it ever is obtained. On what grounds, therefore, is it to be set aside? Only on the one ground that the seat of a Ministerial supporter is in danger.
– The Government put a seat against the welfare of Australia.
– The welfare of Australia, the upholding of the law, the appearance, at any rate-, of being beyond political corruption, every decent political rule that ought to regulate the conduct of Ministers, Cabinet responsibility, in fact, everything, is set aside by the Government in order to retain a seat for one of their own supporters. I should be ashamedto be a member of a Government which was guilty of such. an. act.
.- This is a very important matter, affecting not only this but. future Parliaments, and what happens to-day to suit a particular Ministry, assuming that the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby are correct, may suit another Ministry in the next Parliament. It has been asserted that the Ministry are moving in this matter in order to retain a seat for a Ministerialist.
The same argument might be applied to the Opposition, for it might be said that they desired the adoption of the proposal because it would suit their interests to gain a seat. All this shows that a very bad system is being introduced in regard to electoral matters. The object of the Act was to remove electoral questions from party bias and party influence. Certain powers for the division of States into electorates were given to Commissioners by the Act, and those electorates were to have certain physical features, and comply with certain conditions in regard to equality of population, and so on. Are we now to be invited to reject the proposals of the Commissioner for Western Australia, who has’ plotted out his State into divisions to meet the altered condition of affairs, and in accordance with the principles laid down in the Act? The position is that a ‘Commissioner by the name of Fraser has divided the State into five new parts. ‘ Are the members of this House in a position to gauge whether he has done it accurately or inaccurately ? All we know is that a Mr. Fraser was appointed to plot the State into five new electoral divisions, and has done the work. We are now placed in an awkward position. We can certainly approve of the recommendation, seeing that the Minister states that he has no reason to doubt the Commissioner’s bona fides. The Minister has moved a motion to the effect that the House approves of the report, and that motion expresses, or ought to express, his position. It does not matter how he put the question before the House. It is a matter of absolute indifference to me whether he put the case badly or well or indifferently, whether he was enthusiastic or moderate in his language, or whether he counselled or did not counsel the House to follow his lead. There is the motion standing in his name, to the effect that he, the Minister in charge of electoral affairs for the whole of .the Commonwealth, approves of the work of a Commissioner named Fraser in Western Australia. That is the only matter that concerns me as_ a representative of the people. If the Minister thinks that Mr. Fraser was an unsuitable man to make the subdivisions he should have disregarded his recommendations and told the House that he could not approve of them.
– There is no suggestion of that sort.
– The Minister frankly and openly admits that there is not the slightest suspicion of that kind. Then I ask honorable members how many of them really know the true conditions of Western Australia? How many of those who will vote on this question cao say whether Mr. Fraser did or did not do the ‘work correctly? Apart from party bias or influence, how many of them can say whether Mr. Fraser has or has not made an accurate division of the State? The only, members who can speak on the subject are the representatives of Western Australia who are interested, and the very object of the Act was to destroy the power and influence, in a matter of this kind, of those who are interested in their electorates. When the seats in New South Wales were redistributed on account of that State gaining an extra- seat, the honorable member for West Sydney and myself were particularly concerned. Over 5,000 wellknown supporters of mine were transferred to the West Sydney electorate. They were a class of voter who had no sympathy, with the average voter in that electorate, but neither the honorable member for West Sydney nor myself rose in this House and complained, or demanded that, because our electorates had been injured, and we had lost a certain amount of security, the Commonwealth Parliament should twist and cut and carve them simply to suit our personal interests. Similarly it would be going beyond the law now to ask the Commonwealth Parliament to cut and carve electorates to suit individual members in Western Australia or any other State. The object of the law was to take away from Parliament, which was the most unfit body to deal with it, the question of the plotting of States into electoral divisions. If the recommendations of the Commissioners for the different States were always disregarded, what position would the House find itself in?
– They have been disregarded on four different occasions.
– They were not disregarded ip the case of New South Wales, where twenty-six or twenty-seven seats were involved.
– The first redistribution scheme proposed was rejected.
– That may be so. I referred to the scheme proposed when it was found necessary to give New South Wales an additional member, the scheme distributing the. electors as they are now distributed.
– The first redistribution proposed in New South Wales was rejected because of movements of the population due to the drought.
– That is so. But that was not a change of the boundaries of. the electorates intended to carve out a seat for a particular person. It was a redistribution, rejected because of movements of the population, due to the drought in the western part of the country.
– Was that a fact?
– Yes, it was demonstrated at the time that one of the effects of the drought was to drive people from the western districts into the more closelysettled areas. If those who object to the proposed redistribution for Western Australia could show that Mr. Fraser, the Commissioner, has not regarded the natural conditions of the country, there would be something in their objection. Honorable members should remember that under the law a certain time is allowed within which objections to the scheme of distribution can be sent in. The scheme is advertised, and the Commissioner considers objections. If ‘any are sent in, he does not immediately lay the scheme before Parliament. I should not know Mr. Fraser from a barber’s pole, if I met him, and I am not concerned about defending him; but if a Commissioner’s scheme is to be rejected because it does not suit the view of a political majority, no man of repute will continue to hold such a position. If this matter were dealt with by the Minister or by an official of the Department immediately under his control, it might be contended that political influence was exercised to bring about a particular distribution. But that is not the case here. A number of questions have from time to time been put to the Minister of Home Affairs in connexion with this very matter, and the honorable gentleman’s answer was that it had not been submitted to the Cabinet. The Minister showed that he was in closetouch with the other members of the Cabinet. We now find the honorable gentleman submitting a motion approving of the Commissioner’s scheme. I did not hear the honorable gentleman’s speech, but I have been astonished by the remarks made by the honorable member for Boothby.
– The Prime Minister and the Treasurer intend to vote against the motion submitted by the Minister of Home Affairs.
– I cannot understand how that can be.
– The Prime Minister said that a majority of Ministers were opposed to the motion.
– The Treasurer is a representative from Western Australia, but at the election he will be merely a candidate, and Sir John Forrest as a candidate for a particular electorate in Western Australia is not entitled to say how the electorate should be carved out. If it were to be admitted that he is, one of the worst features of American politics might be introduced here. One of the most iniquitous of American politicians has supplied us with a name for the carving out of electorates to suit the purposes of a particular political party. We call that “gerrymandering.” Why should Sir John Forrest, as a candidate for election, be permitted to carve out the electorate he would like to represent? The Minister of Home Affairs is custodian of the electoral rights and privileges of the people, and is responsible to the House and the country for the honest administration ofthe Electoral Act. Mathematical precision in the distribution of the electors is impossible, and therefore a margin of difference above and below the quota is allowed. It is the duty of the Commissioner to distribute the electors in accordance with the provisions of the law, and when he has done so the Minister of Home Affairs, who is charged with the administration of the Electoral Act, is bound to bring the proposed distribution forward and approve of it.
– Who said that?
– The Minister has shown that he approves of it by the wording of his motion. He has moved, “ That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution.” There is the honorable gentleman’s declaration to the House and the country that he approves of the distribution proposed.
– It is stated in so many words.
– Yes, and the honorable gentleman cannot get away from it. The Minister of Home Affairs has shown, by tabling his motion, that he couldnot escape from the provisions of the law. It is to his credit that he does not desire to do so, and that by interjection he has said that he has nothing to urge against the capacity or integrity of the Commissioner in this case. If he had it would be his duty to remove him. The honorable gentleman has frankly said that he has nothing against him. In submitting this motion he is doing only what the law dictates. Honorable members should remember that what may be Western Australia’s trouble to-day may be Victoria’s trouble in the next Parliament. We know the struggle we had when Victorian representatives resisted a reduction in their number because the population of the State had dwindled. They thought they were being hustled, but the matter was decided upon statistical information submittedto Parliament. The proposed redi stribution now before us may not suit the honorable member for Fremantle. I have not heard the honorable member publicly on the matter. There is, however, no doubt that party feeling has been displayed, and that honorable members opposite are as anxious that the scheme should be approved, as some honorable members on this side are that it should be rejected. Honorable members opposite are jubilant because they believe that under the proposed alteration of the electoral boundaries they will be certain of gaining a seat. They are not free from blame in this matter any more than are honorable members on this side who are opposing the adoption of the scheme.
– The equity of the scheme should be sufficient.
– I hope that the honorable member for Gwydir is considering only the equity of the case.
– Has the honorable member read the Commissioner’s report?
– No ; and I do not intend to read it either. I question whether there are very many members of this House who have read it.
– That is why the honorable member is talking so confidently about it.
– The Minister of Defence has asked me whether I have read this report although he is aware that there are thousands of official documents which it is impossible for a member of this Parliament to read.
– The honorable member suggests, without reading the report, that whether it is right or wrong we are bound to vote for it.
– Why was the motion moved if it is wrong?
– That is the point.
– The Minister of Defence thinks that he has made a point. Let us see the value of it. The administration of the Act is intrusted to the Minister of Home Affairs. With the assistance of his officers he, in accordance with his statutory duty, has considered the report, and, as the result of such action, he has recommended the House to accept this scheme. That is also my recommendation to honorable members.
– I hope that the honorable member will always be ready to follow him as blindly.
– I am following the Minister of Home Affairs to-day because he is obeying the law. A fortnight ago, however, it was a most sacrilegious thing to attempt to vote against the Government.
– The honorable member has voted against the Government twenty times lately.
– I shall vote against the Government twenty times more ifI feel so disposed.
– The Minister of Defence is rather keen on this question, but a fortnight ago it was an act of sacrilege on this side for any one to oppose the Government.
– It is time to be keen when the honorable member is hurling these things about the Chamber.
-I shall hurl afew things back at the Minister.
– Hurl away.
– The best thing which I could hurl against the honorable gentleman is his own speech on this question.
– I intend to quote it directly.
– I know that in every speech which the honorable gentleman makes he leaves open a few back doors by which to escape. No doubt in that particular speech he left open a few back doors, and will try to get out of a dilemma. He is concerned to know why I am now so strongly in favour of the action of the Minister of Home Affairs, while I have been at other times openly arrayed against him. My responsibility as a representative of the people has been impugned, and, therefore, I have a right to defend my conduct. A fortnight ago it was a most sacrilegious act to attempt to vote against the Government, but to-day on a question of law we find that Ministers propose to vote against the law, and that it is a sacrilegious act for any one to uphold the law.
– That is quite incorrect.
– I find that members of the Fusion party intend to vote against the Minister who is in charge of this motion.
– Will the honorable member give us a tittle of proof of his statement that we are going to vote against the law. Let him prove that.
– I shall prove that the honorable gentleman is going to vote against the motion of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– That is another <hing altogether.
– Then the Minister of dome Affairs is not obeying the law.?
– The Minister of Defence is again resorting to a quibble. He is very keen on quibbles.
– The honorable member said that we on this side are going lo vote against the law. I deny that statement, and ask him. to prove it.
– The law provides for the appointment of a Commissioner to deal with the redistribution of seats, for the presentation of his report to the Parliament, and for the submission of a motion to each House. Every provision of the law ‘has been complied with. In submitting this motion the Minister of Home Affairs has acted in conformity with the law, but certain Ministers intend to vote against it.
– Does the law say that we must vote for the motion? That is the point.
– The law does not say that Ministers must accept the motion, but that fact only points out the absolute rottenness of bringing the matter before the Parliament. The honorable member for Wakefield has been interjecting rather freely this afternoon.
– Only once.
– Does the honorable member mean to tell me that what may be the pleasure of the party on this side to-day may not be the pleasure of another party tn the next Parliament? He contends that Parliament is the proper place in which to thresh out these matters. Does he hold that the purity of electoral administration should depend upon a force outside Parliament ? Surely he must realize that in opposing this motion the worst phase of American politics is sought to be introduced. The party which lends itself to this gerrymandering to-day will find a party -quite prepared to do the same thing to-morrow. It can only act like a boomerang. Four years ago I was affected by the redistribution of seats in New. South Wales. A section of . my constituency was cut off, and over 5,000 supporters were transferred to West Sydney. That made my electorate less secure, so far as I was concerned, and 5,000 of my supporters were placed in a Labour electorate, where they could do neither much harm nor much good. Did the honorable member for West Sydney or myself abuse our position? Did we stand up and squeal in our places, and ask for the proposed redistribution to be altered? No, sir, we did not murmur. We had to stand bv the act of the responsible officer. Did I ask the party at that time to take steps to see that the Dalley electorate was not spoiled, and my re-election made difficult? Unless the honorable members for Swan and Fremantle, and other representatives of Western Australia, can say that the Commissioner has evaded the directions of the law, how can they honestly ask the House to reject this .motion?
– He has .misunderstood the law.
– I might as well say that Judge Murray misunderstood my electorate when he took out of it 5,000 constituents of mine; he most certainly misunderstood my interests. But we, sir, are not here to conserve our personal interests. How few members of the House can speak on this question with personal knowledge ! The Minister of Defence, who is very active on this occasion, mav have read every report which, has come from Western Australia. No doubt he puts in his spare time in reading every report which emanates from that quarter. I do not believe that he has ever been in the State. .
– That is quite true.
– Then what position is the honorable gentleman in to record a vote on this motion? The only guidance which he can obtain is that of his colleague, who is responsible for the proper administration of the law, and’ I have no reason to believe that he does not intend to support the motion. The fact that, ‘in spite of the opposition of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, the Minister of Home AfFairs has carried out the intention of the law, and brought this motion ‘before the House, is a great tribute to his independence of character. It is indeed to his credit that he did not evade his duty. Instead of being traduced for Ms manner of introducing this subject to the House to-day, he ought to be praised.
– Who is traducing the Minister ?
– Before the honorable member entered the chamber the Minister was traduced by the other- side because of his manner of introducing the motion. In my opinion his conduct ought to be approved of generally. If I had less reason to support the motion than I have, the mere fact that he has taken this step on his own responsibility would command my approval. Not only has he done his duty as the responsible Minister, but I believe that he has acted in the interests of the general public. Should he remain in office, no doubt he will be found equally ready to take a similar course with regard to Queensland or any other State. In my opinion all those who are opposing this motion to-day are preparing a justification for other honorable members to resort to obstructive tactics in the future. I have much pleasure in supporting the action of the Minister of Home Affairs. His relation with his colleagues is no concern of mine. That is his business. He will not thank any one who probes that matter. The honorable’ member for Boothby did twit him about being out of touch with certain colleagues, but for years I have heard a similar taunt made. I do not think that the Minister will be much irritated by it. At any rate, it is a matter for him and his colleagues. Personally, I do not think that he has had the best of backing from them in regard to this matter, and a measure of which he has charge.
.- I am sorry that such strong language has been hurled across the chamber -during the debate, but those who have been here since the inception of Federation have witnessed the rejection of similar schemes for the distribution of electorates, and know that the making of such speeches is merely part of the game of politics. I agree, however, with those who regard the action of the Minister as somewhat inconsistent. Apparently, having gone into the matter carefully, he considers the proposed distribution unfair and inequitable, but is prepared to indorse it . from a .mistaken sense of loyalty to the Commissioner. He put the position before us in a way which did him credit, being at pains to show the advantages of the proposal, the objections token to it, and the manner in which they have been met by the Commissioner. But, incidentally, he gave us to understand that he thinks that the objections outweigh the advantages. In view of what we have heard to-day, no doubt much stronger language would have been used had the Ministry solidly supported a proposal to reject the scheme of the Commissioner. The obloquy which has been cast upon the Government would have been still greater in that case. That, I think, is a legitimate conclusion from the speeches to which I have been obliged to listen this afternoon. I do not object to the course taken by the Government. So far as it is concerned, no political principle is involved, and we ought to compliment Ministers on the adoption in this, as in other instances, of the principle of individual responsibility, which I should like to see extended. It is strange to hear honorable members who not long ago composed the Labour Government, denouncing this Ministry for lack of cohesion. They undoubtedly were solid when on the Treasury bench, so solid that to a man they supported and fought for proposals which many of them, not long before taking office, had denounced in the most uncompromising terms.
– To what does the honorable member refer?
– The honorable member knows well ; I have another topic in hand now. I may elaborate my statement on another occasion, though quite soon enough for the honorable member.
– No one is so bitter as he who rats from his party. The honorable member was elected by the Labour vote.
– The honorable member, now that he is in Opposition, is a remarkable example of political rectitude. His present position contrasts forcibly with that which he occupied when a Minister. Naturally, as the representative of a Western Australian constituency, I am interested in the proposed redistribution of the electoral divisions of the State, although not personally concerned, since the boundaries of the Perth electorate are not interfered with. But not many years ago a distribution was proposed by the same Commissioner which would have cut out the heart of the Perth electorate and joined it to the Fremantle electorate, although Fremantle is 12 miles from Perth. In compensation, a rural district, extending from 50 to 60 miles beyond the metropolis, was to have been added to the Perth electorate.
Honorable members will gather from this statement that I have no great faith in the competency of the present Commissioner to apply the principles laid down for him, and, having carefully considered his present proposals, I fail to see any justification for them. I do not object to the inclusion of part of Coolgardie in the Kalgoorlie electorate, because it is justified by community of interests, but I do , not think it right to put the port of Albany into that electorate. Coming to Coolgardie, I find that the Commissioner includes in that constituency, which is entirely pastoral and mining in character, a portion of the present Swan electorate, which is devoted to farming. Here again I fail to see where he has discovered that community of interest to secure which is so important a part of his instructions. Coming to the Fremantle electorate, he has made what appears to me to be the most remarkable mistake. Any one who looks at the map will see at once what a remarkable rearrangement the Commissioner has made. He runs a leg-like section into the heart of the Swan electorate, and connects it in the most unusual way with the existing electorate of Fremantle. Judging by appearances alone, one must be forced at once to the conclusion that such a strange figure as the Commissioner cuts into the heart of the Swan electorate requires considerable justification and explanation. I should say that the electors on the borders of that remarkable piece of electoral dissection would be at a loss to know in which electorate they actually reside. I come now to another phase of this question, which will be of some interest to my honorable friends on this side of the House. We have been given to understand that the Government insist on throwing out this scheme solely because of the representations that have been made against it from political parties most in accord with their views. Such is not the case. One of the buttresses of my position lies in the fact that I know of no individuals or organizations, save, perhaps, one or two directly interested, who have had anything tosay, by way of approval, of the scheme. I have here a long list of objections to it, and do not know where to find anything in its favour.
– Who objects?
– I have here an objection by the Metropolitan Council of the Australian Labour Federation of Perth.
– Have these objections been before the Commissioner?
– I do not know. But I have another letter which has been before the Commissioner, and in which a scheme is propounded undoubtedly superior to that proposed by the Commissioner. It comes from a sourcewhich no one will regard with suspicion. I refer to a letter written by Mr. Horan, M.L.A., of Western Australia, who has been associated with the Labour party there for a number of years. He has undoubtedly considered this matter, as I have done, on its merits, and has arrived at the conclusion that the Commissioner’s proposals are radically defective and objectionable. The letter was not read by the Minister when submitting this motion. I understand that it arrived too late to permit the inclusion of it in his report, although had he been able to do so he might have avoided a certain measure of abuse.
– It arrived too late for consideration.
– Is the honorable member proposing to quote from a letter addressed to the Minister ?
– The letter was sent by Mr. Horan in the first place to the Commissioner, who, having considered it, made an unfavorable reply. Mr. Horan then sent it on, I understand, to the Minister.
– How did the honorable member obtain a copy of it?
– If the honorable member wants to know, I may say at once that the whole matter has been published in newspapers in Western Australia. That is a sufficient reply to his. insinuation. The letter is somewhat lengthy, but its importance, I trust, will justify my reading it. It is dated 25th September, 1909, and was addressed by Mr. Horan to Mr. Fraser. It reads -
Sir, - I have made a careful study of all the literature bearing on this subject, and I at once admit the difficulty that you had to contend with in your endeavour to equalize an unstable and conflicting population.
Complying with the conditions of the Act, and duly sensible of the suggestions contained in the West Australian of August 23rd and September 22nd, as well as those of other writers and representative public bodies, I still feel that the proposals which follow are worthy of very careful consideration.
The figures being admitted, the necessity for adjustment between Fremantle, Swan, Coolgardie, and Kalgoorlie has engaged public attention.
May I submit a proposal that so fat has not been published, although doubtless considered, and my arrangement would be as follows : -
Although Mr. Horan’s scheme varies in certain respects from others that have been made, still in its essentials it agrees with P those which have been advanced as alternative proposals to that of the Commissioner. All have proceeded on much the same lines ; all have aimed at eliminating the objectionable redistribution which the Commissioner proposes- with regard to Fremantle. Mr. Horan’s scheme includes within the electorate of Fremantle the State electorates of Fremantle, East, North, and South ; Canning, Claremont, Guildford, Murray, Irwin, and Swan. In the electorate of Swan he includes Beverley, Bunbury, Katanning, Northam, Sussex, Wellington, Williams, York, Forrest, and Toodyay. In the electorate of Coolgardie he includes Coolgardie, Yilgarn, Mount Margaret, Menzies, Leonora, Cue, Mount Magnet, Murchison, Pilbarra, Roeburne, Kimberley, Greenough, Gascoyne, and Geraldton, whilst in the electorate of Kalgoorlie he includes Boulder, Brown Hill, Kanowna, Dundas, Hannans, Ivanhoe, Albany, Nelson, and Collie. That redistribution would give us electorates comprising the following number of electors - Perth, 27,992 ; Fremantle, 28,686 ; Swan, 26,597 ; Coolgardie, 30,163; and Kalgoorlie, 29,432. Mr. Horan’ went on to say -
I deem it unnecessary to recapitulate the governing conditions laid down by the Federal Act, but will demonstrate the advantages of the above outline of redistribution, bearing in mind the comments that have been made during the last few weeks on the proposals first submitted by you, and which I venture to hope were only of a tentative character, and liable, as implied by the Act, to any alteration that might be deemed expedient. To Fremantle I have added Murray, Irwin, and Swan; they are coastal in geography and interests, dealing alone with Perth as their capital and Fremantle as their seaport.
The Murray you have already agreed to, and I hope on reconsideration you will as full)’ appreciate the difficulty of excluding Irwin and Swan as you will in including Forrest and Collie, whose interests are largely indifferent, if not strongly opposed, to those of Fremantle.
The Irwin electorate, largely benefited by the sale of the Midland Company’s lands, will find its interests, business houses, and financial organizations in either Fremantle or Perth, and it is difficult to understand why it should be associated with Coolgardie.
The State Swan is an electorate acting as a buffer stop between the city and country electorates, and is largely composed of fruitgrowers and market gardeners, who deal with the metropolis or Fremantle more frequently and more directly than do the agricultural elec,torates included in the electoral Swan division. I most certainly claim the electorate of Fre- mantle as outlined herein complies with the conditions of the Act better than that proposed. From the Federal of Swan, I have .excluded State Swan for the reasons already given. I have included Toodyay, for it is almost impossible to separate Newcastle, Goomalling, and such places from Northam ; they have been associated by domestic, banking, and railway interests since these conditions came into vogue. I include Forrest for the reason that Bunbury is practically its only shipping port for timber, and its connexion with Fremantle does not appear desirable because it is possible that the differences that might arise in the ordinary competition of harbor trade might operate prejudicially to both, whereas my proposal gives each a free hand. YOU will observe the additions I propose to your scheme are Nelson and Collie ; these adjoin each other and also Albany. Briefly, my reasons are these : Nelson contains all the miners on the tin-fields at Greenbushes; does the bulk of its shipping at Albany, or has its commercial interests concentrated there, and it is desirable to bring the miners of the tin-fields in touch with the miners of Collie who, in turn, my suggestion brings in contact with the miners of Kalgoorlie. Thus would we preserve in an admirable degree the community of interests laid’ down by the Act. It will be noticed that I have excluded Irwin and Toodyay, as there are strong reasons for this course, but the grounds for inclusion of Mount Margaret and Menzies are mostly of a numerical nature, and conditions being very similar no special reason need be advanced. If it be contended that Coolgardie has the largest number of electors, then my reply is that the experience of the past shows that they have migrated to the Swan, which is now lowest, but would probably be equalized during the course of agricultural advancement.
That is a very opportune and sensible remark. The writer adds -
In- conclusion, I desire to say the Commissioner’s task has been a difficult one, and, having freely invited criticism according to legal provisions, I commend the foregoing to your earnest consideration, believing that it possesses merits in advance of any yet made public. Might I add that it is extremely desirable we should avoid, as far as possible, a duplication of names in the Federal and State electorates. Perth is acceptable ; Fremantle is doubtful ; the Swan, Kalgoorlie, and Coolgardie are altogether objectionable.
In reply to that communication the Com monwealth Electoral Commissioner wrote on 28th September -
Sir, - I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 25th inst., and to thank you for the suggestions therein contained relative to the redistribution of the State for Federal electoral purposes, which unfortunately, however, - 1 regret to have to inform you, are too late now to receive my consideration, my report to the honorable the Minister of Home Affairs being practically completed. I may mention that several of the more important features of the alternative, scheme suggested by you had already received my very careful consideration, but the arguments in their favour had not -appeared to* me sum. ciently strong to necessitate the alteration of the arrangement which I had previously come to.
Mr. Horan was so thoroughly satisfied that his scheme was an improvement upon the scheme laid down by the Commissioner that he sent the following letter to the Minister of Home Affairs -
Perth, 1st October, 1909.
Sir, - I have the honour to inviteyour attention to the enclosed letters which have passed between Mr. Fraser and myself. I am not aware that Mr. Fraser has been influenced in any way by my correspondence, and perhaps it speaks well for that freedom of thought and action contemplated by the Federal Act, that although a member for many years, and of several Parliaments, I have never had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman. Therefore, no local circumstances influenced our views. The attached letter has been shown to many members of Parliament, and the contents have been approved in every case. It is not within the province of the House to act in this- matter, but if it were, I am free to express the opinion that Mr. Fraser’s recast would be amended if not on the lines laid down by me, at least sufficiently so to remove the obvious incongruity of associating mining electorates with coastal districts, no possible connexion being visible to the layman’s mind.
That gentleman’s views in regard to the proposed redistribution of seats harmonizes exactly with my own. I have no personal interest in this matter whatever, but it does’ seem to me that the Commissioner has misunderstood his instructions. I intend voting against the Minister’s motion, feeling in so doing that, while it is perhaps unfortunate that the present distribution should hold good, it is at the same time, better than the redistribution that has been proposed. An early opportunity could be taken to make an arrangement on equitable and more harmonious lines.
.- When, two Parliaments ago, there was before us a scheme of redistribution, I objected strongly to the proposed arrangement in New South Wales ; and those who thought with me on that occasion were fully justified by after events. It was found that New South Wales was entitled to one more member; and had it not been for the action then taken by the New South Wales representatives, that State would have been short by one to-day.
– The Commissioner had nothing to do with that.
– Quite so; the Commissioner could only deal with the figures before him; but it was afterwards found out, by means of census or other statistics, that New South Wales was entitled to one more member. On that occasion the right honorable member for East Sydney went so far as to resign his seat, on the ground that the House was not doing right in not accepting without demur or question the report of the Commissioner.
– The honorable member is mistaken. The right honorable member did not resign for that reason, but because the report was not sent back to the Commissioner. The Ministry would not accept the report, nor send it back to the Commissioner.
– But the objection of the right honorable memberwas that the House would not accept the report presented by the Commissioner.
– The New South Wales members desired the report of the Commissioner to be accepted, but, failing that, they held that it ought to be sent back to him.
– And the right honorable member for East Sydney resigned.
– Because the Government were confirming the old electorates.
– And if we do not carry this motion, we shall go back to the old electorates on. this occasion; but I venture to say thatthe right honorable member for East Sydney will not resign. I emphasize the fact that I do not subscribe to the idea that this Parliament must necessarily accept what the Commissioner recommends. I say that, without desiring in any way to find fault with the Commissioner, because he is fallible like us all ; but the Government are in an extremely peculiar position. The honorable member for Perth has said that he regards the position of the Minister of Home Affairs as somewhat inconsistent, in asking us to adopt this report in view of the speech he has made. I had not the pleasure of hearing the whole of that speech; but I understand that the Minister is not altogether satisfied with the work that has been done, though, in view of the difficulty in referring the report back to the Commissioner, and having it dealt with by Parliament before the recess, he is prepared to accept it.
– In order to give the House an opportunity to consider it.
– But the Minister, by submitting this motion, advises the House to accept it. The Minister has said he is not altogether satisfied with the redistribution ; but, of course, it would be a marvellous arrangement with which somebody could not find fault. Everything human contains some flaw, including this proposed redistribution. But the Minister is asking the House to accept the proposed redistribution in spite of all its flaws. The serious aspect of the matter is, however, that we have been told by the Prime Minister that he does not intend to follow the lead of his own colleague! I can well understand the honorable member for Perth saying that the proposal satisfies him, because he is in favour of elective Ministries. But a number of those who intend to vote with the Minister of Home Affairs are not. Personally, I am strongly opposed to elective Ministries, and So is the Postmaster-General.
– It was not to elective Ministries that I referred in this connexion, but to the principle of individual Ministerial responsibility.
– That is part of the idea of elective Ministries.
– It is associated with that idea undoubtedly.
– The PostmasterGeneral, before the fusion took place; said from many platforms that he wished to restore responsible government in this country. Responsible government and elective Ministries are not the same thing. Yet here, we have a member of the Cabinet coming down with a .proposal and saying - “ This is something in which I, as Minister, do not believe; I have inquired into the matter, and my officers have given it their best attention. But although I do not think much of it, I ask you to support it.” On the other hand we have the Prime Minister telling us that he is not prepared to vote for the proposal submitted by the Minister of Home Affairs. Where; then, does responsible government come in? When the late Government was in office the PostmasterGeneral and others complained that we had no responsible government, and that they wanted to restore the system under which a Ministry would act as a Ministry and be responsible for its proposals.
– Does the honorable member say that the Prime Minister said that he is going to vote against this proposal ?
– He said so.
– The Prime Minister said that the Minister of Home Affairs had not convinced one of his colleagues.
– I do not think he said that.
– I admit that I thought that that was what the Prime Minister said, but in view of statements since made by the Minister of Home Affairs, I came to the conclusion that I was mistaken.
– That is what he did say, all the same.
– I certainly understood the Prime Minister to say that the members of the Cabinet, with the exception of the Minister of Home Affairs, were going to vote against the proposal.
– He did not say that.
– The Prime Minister said that the majority of the members of the Cabinet would vote against the proposal.
– I have not made a fetish of responsible government, as some Ministerial supporters have done. I think the country would get on just as well whether we had responsible government or not. A shower of rain is more important to this country than responsible government. But my complaint is that the Ministry have not determined whether they will vote one way or the other.
– Let the honorable member take a line for himself, and leave the Ministry alone.
– I should like to know what the Treasurer would have said if the party to which I belong had occupied the Ministerial benches.” and he and his friends were in Opposition, and if certain members of a Labour Government had suggested one thing, whereas others supported an opposite proposal? What would he have said if a Labour Government had declined to support a proposition submitted by one oftheir own number, simply because the effect of it would be to endanger the seat of one of their party? The Government would have been honest if they had told us frankly that they are opposed to the scheme of distribution because it affects a supporter df the Fusion.- There is no other reason why the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and other members of the Cabinet do not intend to follow the lead of the Minister of Home Affairs. Why has the Prime Minister taken so much interest in this matter? The head of any Government is not expected to read all that can be said for and against proposals submitted by other Departments thom his own. But we can quite understand that the seats of men who voted loyally with the Government regarding the financial agreement must be saved at all hazards. I take it that this is part of the price that had to be paid for their support.
– Order !
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed].
– When the House rose for dinner, I was saying that I rather regretted that we had not been told definitely and plainly the reason why a number of members of the Government intended to vote against the motion submitted by one of their own number. I was sorry to hear the speech of the Prime Minister. He told us that the reason why he intended to vote against the motion was that, having gone into both sides of the question carefully, and having read the report of the Commissioner, while admitting that the Commissioner had made out a good case, he was rather doubtful when he read the other side whether the case was quite as good as he thought. He therefore intended, he said, to give , the benefit of the doubt against the report. There is not a single member in the House that believes that that is the real reason why a number of Ministers intend to vote against the motion. The real reason, as everybody knows, is that it is supposed that the proposed redistribution will not assist the return of the honorable member for Fremantle to the House. It is no good mincing matters. The honorable member might of course be able to win his seat after this redistribution as easily as he did before. He might even be able to win it more easily ; but from the figures supplied at the State election it is thought that the Fremantle seat, on the lines recommended by the Commissioner, will be a difficult, if not a well-nigh impossible, one for the honorable member to win. There is no doubt that that is the real reason why the. rest of the Ministry are not prepared to support the Minister of Home Affairs. It speaks well for the Minister that he is prepared to ask the House to carry the motion. It would have been possible for him to say that he was not prepared to move for the adoption of the Commissioner’s recommendation. If he had taken that course, and given his reasons for doing so, none of us could have objected; but the present position is a strange one for the Ministry to occupy, especially in view of the fact that they were specially called into existence to restore responsible government. When the last Deakin Administration were in office, and the Labour party were sitting in the Ministerial corner, we heard a tremendous outcry from the then Opposition about the need of responsible government to restore credit, and good harvests, and the sanctity of the home and the marriage tie. All these and a few other things depended upon the restoration of responsible government in this Chamber. Now responsible government has arrived, and yet within tEe last four or five sittings we have had a Minister in charge of a Bill suggesting a certain course, and members of his own Cabinet saying that they are not prepared to follow him. That is a very peculiar form of responsible government. Of course it is a matter for the Minister’s own personal feeling if he is prepared to allow himself to be so flouted by his colleagues.
– If the question is left absolutely open, where is the flouting?
– I have had only a few months’ experience of Ministerial office, and do not know much about it ; but, after reading about what responsible government ought to be, it does seem strange to me to see this sort of thing done. Another objection I have to the course taken to-day is that it tends’ to waste time. The Opposition have been accused of wasting the time of the House. There is no fairer man in the House than the honorable member for North Sydney, and I appeal to him to say whether he thinks in his heart of hearts that the action of the Minister to-day does not tend to “waste time. If a Minister cannot persuade his own colleagues as to the righteousness of the cause that he is adopting, is it likely that he will be able to win the House over? If he cannot convince his own colleagues that the motion which he is submitting ought to be carried, how can he in reason expect to persuade the majority of the members of the House, a number of whom would naturally be opposed to him on political grounds, whereas his own colleagues would as naturally be in accord with him on perhaps ninety-nine points out of 100? Has he then a right to propose a motion which he knows is foredoomed to defeat by the attitude of his colleagues? In view of the Prime Minister’s statement, and the fact that the Treasurer has indicated by interjections - although not yet by a formal speech - that he does not intend to support the motion, he knows full well that the motion cannot be carried. Unless he deliberately wishes to waste time, he has no right to submit to the House a motion which his own colleagues are not prepared to support. Any Minister may bring forward a motion on which he knows, before he submits it, that the numbers will be against him, but in those circumstances he would always have the loyal support of his own colleagues. It is pleaded that a question of the redistribution of seats is not a Ministerial matter. We learn that from the great exponents of responsible government, for I presume that the high authorities on that subject are now sitting on the Treasury bench-
– All the speakers on the Opposition side have said that this is a nonparty matter.
– Is there “not a great deal of difference between a nonparty matter and a non-Ministerial matter? In view of the interest which is always taken by this House in any proposed redistribution of seats, it must’ be admitted that this is an important question. I suppose that if the exponents of responsible government on the opposite side are satisfied that this is a matter of so little importance that it is not necessary that Ministers should vote together upon it, it is all right. The discussion of this motion is bound to be a waste of time. No Opposition would feel that they were being treated fairly if they were informed that Ministers were divided in opinion on a motion of this kind. The work of the Western Australian Commissioner may be good, bad, or indifferent. I do not know enough of the State, and have not studied the question sufficiently, to. be able to estimate it; but I have heard no very strong arguments against the proposed redistribution. The Prime Minister certainly gave no reasons against it. The honorable gentleman merely stated that he had carefully read what was said, in favour of it, and the objections urged against it, and had personally come to the conclusion that it was not a good scheme of redistribution to support. Although the Prime Minister is of that opinion, one of his colleagues is asking the House to approve of the scheme.
– I have gone carefully into it also.
– I take it that the Minister of Home Affairs, who is charged with the administration of the Electoral Act, has given the proposed scheme at least as much attention as has the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman says that, with all its faults, he is able to ask the House to approve it. I can well remember an historic speech delivered some years ago in the Sydney Town Hall by the right honorable member for East Sydney, on the Commonwealth Constitution Bill. The right honorable gentleman said : “ With all its defects, I am going to vote in favour of it.” I take it that that is the position of the Minister of Home Affairs on this occasion. With all its defects, the honorable gentleman is prepared to vote for this scheme of redistribution. I am prepared to follow the honorable gentleman’s example, and vote for it also.
– With all its faults.
– Yes; if it has any faults. I frankly admit that I am induced to take that course by the fact that honorable members on this side seem to think that if the Western Australian seats are distributed in the way now proposed, it will make the re-election of- one of their political opponents somewhat difficult. The honorable member for Fremantle and myself - are personal friends, and I hope we shall continue to be so; but we are politically opposed, and I should certainly be very glad to do what I could politically to secure the return to this House of additional members of the party to which I belong. As I said before dinner, it looks very much as if Ministers- were prepared to stop at nothing in particular in order to assist their political friends. They appear to have said : ‘ 1 You vote with us on the financial agreement, and we shall do our best to see you through at the next election.” That is not a bad idea, and if it is frankly and publicly admitted, I think the crowd outside would be disposed to say merely, “ All right, we know what you are at now.” But I do think that it is a pity that the Prime Minister of Australia should come here and give. as his reason for taking the course he proposes to. adopt, that he has carefully considered this matter, and has weighed both sides. There is not a single member of this House who believes that statement, but it is wortHy of a Prime Minister who some little time ago asked this House to adjourn for two or three hours on a certain Tuesday because some honorable members had gone to Oodnadatta, and could not be back until the Wednesday.
– Is “Oodnadatta” a new name for the Melbourne Cup?
– The action proposed to be taken now is worthy of a Prime Minister who could make an appeal of that kind. I repeat the statement that I do not hold for a moment with those who contend that we must necessarily agree to any scheme proposed by a Commissioner. I have in times past assisted to reject Commissioners’ schemes, and I should not hesitate to do so in this case, or in the future, if I did not believe that the Commissioner had done his work well. It is a matter of very great regret to me that the members of a Ministry who have made so much of responsible government should be prepared to follow the course Ministers now propose to follow, merely in order to save a political friend at the coming general election.
, - I do not intend to detain the House at any length. We have reached a stage of the session when, I think, we should make our speeches as brief as possible, but some remarks made by honorable members on the other side, especially in referring to previous occasions on which this Parliament has dealt with schemes for the redistribution of seats, require some answer. The occasions referred to are now of a distant date, and it is due no doubt to a lack of memory that many of the statements made are not in accord with the actual facts. The honorable member for Boothby admitted that on a previous occasion he took exception to a proposed redistribution by a Commissioner. The honorable member moved an amendment to the effect that a redistribution of South Australia, in which, as a member coming from that State, he was interested, should be disapproved of. Not one objection had been taken on that occasion to the proposed scheme by either electors or honorable members during the thirty days within which objections might have been entered against it.
– Yes ; there were public meetings against it held in South Australia.
– I am talking of official objections.
– I know that I took exception to it, and held several meetings in connexion with it.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh will find, if he refers to Hansard for 1903, page 3549, that the honorable member for Boothby admitted that no objections to his scheme had reached the Commissioner.
– That is right.
– The honorable member for Boothby also admitted that he was faced with the difficulty that there was hardly time for another redistribution, but he said that, even if the effect was to retain the old arrangement under which the whole State was polled as one electorate, it would not warrant his remaining silent, and approving of something of which he disapproved. I. take it that every member of the House must discharge his responsibility in connexion with the reports of these Commissioners. Are we to be simply recording angels for the Commissioners appointed to redistribute the seats in the different States ?
– I said no.
– The honorable member did. Are we to accept this proposal or to inquire for ourselves whether or not it is a right distribution, and then record our votes? In 1903 the honorable member for Hume, who was Minister of Home Affairs, proposed that only two of the schemes should be approved ; in other words, that the schemes for the redistribution of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and” Western Australia should be disapproved of. What did he say then about the responsibility of honorable members concerning the Commissioner’s report? On page 3577 of Hansard I find this statement -
What would be the use of bringing a report before the House if we were compelled to abide by the Commissioner’s recommendation?
In that view the honorable member was supported, I shall not say by all, but cer tainly by a majority of the members of the Labour party, who then sat on this side of the chamber.
– That was a courageous course for the Minister to take.
– I shall show that it was not such a courageous course as the honorable member suggests it was. In reply to that interjection from the Minister, I said -
There is no necessity to do that. The idea was that if the report were not accepted by the House after good reasons had been shown, it should be referred back to the Commissioner.
Again, on pages 3580-1 I said -
I very much regret that the Minister has failed to take the course which he led us to believe would be followed in dealing with this matter, namely, that any distribution to which there might be reasonable and proper objection would be sent back to the Commissioner. When the Minister was introducing the Electoral Bill, he indicated that that course would be adopted, and, I think, that it would be a very proper one to take if the House saw fit.
On pages 3668-9 I said -
I do not say that if good reasons are shown we should not disapprove of the Commissioner’s recommendation….. I am prepared to support a motion to refer the proposed distribution again to the Commissioner.
The honorable member for Barrier was in error in saying that the right honorable member for East Sydney resigned his seat because the Commissioner’s report was. not accepted. The right honorable gentleman resigned because the Min,istry refused to send the reports back to the Commissioners. They refused to accept the reports, and decided to bring in a measure adopting the old divisions in respect of four States, although the introduction of womanhood suffrage had entirely destroyed the equality of the electorates.
– Are not the present Government refusing to send back the report to the Commissioner ?
– If the House passes a motion disapproving of the scheme, it will be within the power of the Minister to send it .back to the Commissioner.
– Does not the honorable member know that we have no chance of doing that in time for this Parliament?
– Honorable members have the same opportunity now as they had when on the occasion to which I referred they supported a motion of that kind. .
– The honorable member condemned the proposal then made, and is supporting it now.
– No j I said that the report should be sent back to the Commissioner, when members of the Labour party, including the honorable member for Boothby, said there was not time to get a report from the Commissioner and go through the whole process again before the elections. If I saw that the proposed redistribution of seats in Western Australia could be accepted as a proper one under the Act, I would vote for it. I have to decide on the information which I can get, and on the Commissioner’s own statement, and I have come to the conclusion that it is not a redistribution which ought to be accepted. There is less difficulty in arriving at a decision in the case of a State with five constituencies than there would be in the case of a State with twentytwo or twenty-seven constituencies.
– What about the Minister who has asked the House to accept the report ?
– The Minister may think it his duty to stand by the officer who made the report, but that has nothing to do with me. I must accept my responsibility as a member of the House. If the State has a right to a larger representation of any particular interest it should be given. But if inquiry shows that the proposed redistribution is not fair to two or three electorates, and possibly will not be fair to the people as a whole, then we must each come to a decision. I do not propose to enter largely into the question. The honorable member for Perth, who has a much better local knowledge than I have, has, I understand, stated the position with great explicitness.
– And he is perfectly disinterested, because he is not affected.
– No. Instead of there being no objections, as was the case when the honorable member for Boothby moved that a proposal for the redistribution of South Australia should be disagreed with, there have been objections, both official and otherwise, to the proposed redistribution of Western Australia.
– From both sides.
– The objections have come from some of the leading newspapers, the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, the Collie Municipal Council, the Bunbury Municipal Council, the Fremantle and Perth Political Leagues, thf> Metropolitan Council of the Australia Labour Federation, various members of Parliament, including the State member for Fremantle, and Mr. A. A. Horan, the State Labour member for Yilgarn. The objections have come from. many quarters, and from both sides in politics, and there could be no more severe criticism of a redistribution than that. I am not for a moment intimating, and I do not believe, that the gentleman who made the redistribution, has acted in any but the most honest manner. I acquit him of the slightest intention of departing in any way from a fair and judicial redistribution.
– Does the honorable member think that this proposal is better than the existing distribution?
– I have only to deal with the proposal before the House. To my mind it is considerably worse than the present distribution. The community of interest on which the Commissioner dwells considerably, and in regard to which he gives a number of replies, does not appear to have received sufficient attention. The present Fremantle division consists of the town and suburban population of Fremantle and Claremont, the largely agricultural population of Canning, and the town workshops and agricultural population of Guildford. To these are added a large coal-getting population in the State electorate of Collie, a large timber-getting population in the State electorate of Forrest, and the small pastoral and agricultural electorate of Murray, which contains about 1,200 electors. I admit that there are difficulties in every distribution, especially when it is attempted to make the outer boundaries of the State electorates coincide with the boundaries of Commonwealth electorates. Several schemes were propounded by those objecting to the Commissioner’s distribution, and some are published in his report. Some of these would have better preserved community of interest without making the electorates less shapely than they are now, or more unequal in voting strength.
– The best scheme, that of Mr. Horan, a State Labour member, does not appear in the Commissioner’s report.
– It seems an. eminently good proposal, but was received too late to be published in the report. A defect of the Commissioner’s distribution is that sufficient account is not taken of the rapidity with which the population of the Swan electorate is increasing, it having been added to by 11,807 electors between 1-906 and 1909. This increase is still going on, the agricultural settlement of the State taking place largely in that electorate. As the number of electors included within the Swan electorate is larger than it need be, it is likely that in a very short time the electorate will again be disproportionate.
– There is not the least doubt about it.
– It only requires two electorates to be disproportionate to necessitate a redistribution in Western Australia, and the Commissioner has allotted to the Swan division 4,638 electors more than he was forced to assign to it. To have reduced the number would have improved the distribution scheme. However, the honorable member for Perth, who possesses local knowledge, has dealt with the matter more fully and completely than I could do. I should like to refer to some of the Commissioner’s replies to objections to his distribution. He proposes to associate Albany with Kalgoorlie, and says in support of that proposal -
With reference to the Albany electorate, in my opinion, as the Division of Kalgoorlie already includes all the ports and pastoral coun try along the Southern coast east of Albany, their recognised port of distribution, and with which port their direct communication by steamer is carried on, there is certainly not wanting direct “ Community of interest.”
In that instance he regards geographical situation as creating community of interest, and undoubtedly it is one of the factors. But he goes on to say -
The view taken by your league that Irwin and Swan can be classed as “ Coastal,” and especially “ Seaport electorates,” is one from which I entirely differ, they being undoubtedly purely pastoral and agricultural ; whilst Collie and Forrest are actually, taken as a whole, nearer the seaboard than the greater portion of the districts before referred to, the eastern extremity of Forrest being about 40 miles from the coast, and that of Collie 70 miles, whereas that of Irwin is no less than no miles.
He refuses to group these coastal places with Fremantle, in spite of geographical association, although he has grouped Albany and coastal places near it with- Kalgoorlie. He continues -
I can also see no such “ Community of interest “ between the purely pastoral and agricultural population of Irwin and Swan, and the industrial and shipping population of the present Fremantle division, as undoubtedly exists between the latter and the timber workers and miners of Forrest and Collie.
While in the first instance he adopted geographical situation as constituting community of interest, in this case he refuses to do so, and pays regard rather to similarity of occupation. A little later he accepts trade intercourse as constituting community of interest. He says -
I may point out that there appears to me to be a distinct community of interest between the timber workers in the Forrest electorate and the numerous timber operatives in the metropolitan area, that is, the country contained within a 10-mile radius of the Perth Town Hall, embracing the greater part of Fremantle and Midland Junction. The latter, according tb the latest official returns, numbered 450, receiving wages slightly over ^50,000 per annum, omitting lumpers. As regards Collie, in addition to the fact that the hulk of the output of Collie coal is used by the local railways, no less than £55,000 worth having been used and handled from the railway stations within the metropolitan area during the year ended 30th June last, providing employment and wages accordingly, it also seems highly probable that, so soon as its utility for bunker purposes becomes better known and’ appreciated for the numerous heavy tonnage vessels calling at the port of Fremantle, this coal will have a very considerable export from that port.
– An unanswerable argument.
– If the fact that 450 workers in a division containing 28,000 electors are timber workers constitutes community of interest with timber- producing districts-, every division has such community of interest. The Commissioner accepts geographical situation as constituting community of interest in. one case, and refuses to consider it in another. Again, he uses similarity of occupation as constituting community of interest, and later rejects it. Then he claims that trade relations create community of interest, and says that because a large quantity of Collie coal is used by the railways, Fremantle has community of interest with Collie.
– All the Collie coal is not consumed in Fremantle.
– No. Such community of interest with Collie exists in all parts of the State where Collie coal is used. I cannot understand why such an argument should have presented itself to the Commissioner as a good one. Because ,£55,000 worth of Collie coal is used and handled from the railway stations, not in Fremantle, but within the metropolitan area, community of interest, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is established between Collie and Fremantle. I have to consider and weigh these facts as a member of this House, and if I thought that they afforded substantial reasons in support of the scheme I should approve of that scheme irrespective of what its political effect might be. I have to determine whether or not the arguments are sound, and when other propositions are brought forward which more completely fulfil the intentions of the Act, I am forced to the conclusion that I must oppose the redistribution.
– Why does not the Minister of Home Affairs oppose it?
– The Minister may support his officers, but I am not a Minister.
– The honorable member is not in this bargain.
– Nor in any bargain. The Commissioner also proceeds to forecast the future. He refers to the possibility of more Collie coal being used for -bunker purposes by large steamers calling at Fremantle and argues that in that way community of interest between the two places will be more firmly established. Some weight should be given to the other facts to which he refers as showing community of interest, although he has refused to attach to them their importance in considering a suggested improvement upon his redistribution. The distribution of goods produced by one district in another cannot properly be said to bring about community of interest between the two. If it could we should have com*munity of interest extending beyond! the State. Kalgoorlie would have community of interest, with Perth and Fremantle, be> cause certain goods which they produce are sent to it, or because imported goods are sent from Fremantle or Perth to Kalgoorlie.
– That was the argument of one of the objectors. He. urged that Collie ought to be included with Bunbury in the one electorate, inasmuch as coal from Collie is shipped from that port.
– I am not supporting that argument.
– The honorable member ;s supporting those who are.
– The honorable member has been in Parliament long enough, I think, to know that in supporting a certain proposal one does not necessarily indorse ali the arguments used in favour of it.
– Only those which suit the honorable member.
– An honorable member simply indorses those which he believes to be right. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is making a confession, for which I did not ask, that he supports only that which suits him.
– I have been looking opposite too long.
– If the honorable member chooses to measure other people’s corn by his own bushel I have no objection. I do not think that the Commissioner has substantiated his scheme of redistribution. On the contrary, I hold that other schemes have been put forward which would more completely carry out the intention of the Act. For that reason I propose, taking the responsibility that every honorable member should accept in dealing with these matters - the responsibility ot determining foi myself whether this scheme should or should not be accepted - to vote against the redistribution proposed bv the Commissioner.
.- I have listened carefully to this debate with the object of ascertaining whether any substantial objection to the scheme proposed by the Commissioner could be advanced by those who intend to vote against it. Up to the present, however, there has been no argument to justify its rejection. In most cases the opponents of the scheme have advanced no argument whatever against it ; they have been content to read the objections of certain interested parties.
– Is Mr. Horan an interested party?
– He has exhibited a striking enthusiasm in regard to the matter.
– I read only the Commissioner’s own words.
– Yes. In reply to certain objections. The honorable member seemed to lay great stress on the recognition that should be given to community of interest in determining the boundaries of electorates. H e is acquainted with Australia, and with most of the conditions which obtain here ; but possibly he is not so well acquainted as I am with the conditions ruling in Western Australia. I ask him to point to any constituency, save that of Perth, in which all industries are not represented. In Kalgoorlie, for instance, although mining preponderates, there are men engaged also in pastoral and agricultural and manufacturing pursuits. There are two or three classes of mining interests there. The constituency is the most complete in the sense that by far the largest number of its residents are engaged in the one industry. In the Treasurer’s constituency, however, there are men engaged in farming and pastoral pursuits, in tin mining, gold dredging, gold mining, timber getting, saw-milling, and in horticultural and viticultural pursuits. Every industry of importance to the people of Australia is represented in that electorate. Who can say that a case for the rejection of this scheme can be established merely by the assertion of an honorable member that “ If you are going to take away a. portion of my constituency, you must take away a particular district, because it has no community of interest with other parts of the electorate”? It seems to me that the Commissioner, in attaching Albany to the southern part of the electorate of Kalgoorlie, has included the one port having community of interest with other parts of the electorate along the South coast of Western Australia. There does not appear to be any objection to the inclusion of Albany within my electorate. The Treasurer does not object to losing it, and I have no objection to receiving it.
– I did not deal with Albany.
– The honorable member did.
– I referred only to the Commissioner’s reply to certain objections.
– The honorable member asked how it was possible to establish community of interest between Albany and the rest of the electorate of Kalgoorlie. I hold that community of interest is established as the result of trade between one part of an electorate and another. The House, however, is concerned not with the redistribution of the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Swan, Coolgardie, or Perth, but with that of Fremantle. This is not the first occasion on which there has been a disagreement in regard to a redistribution. Apparently it is cut and dried that this scheme shall be rejected for political purposes.
– If honorable members opposite have not the honesty to make that admission we will state it for them, and let them deny it if they can. In round figures there are 21,000 electors in Fremantle and Kalgoorlie at the present time, whereas there are 41,000 electors in the electorate of Swan. Is that a fair distribution ?
– It is against the law.
– It is contrary to the law, but is going to be allowed by a Ministry which took office to restore responsible government. The position is most unsatisfactory. The Commissioner’s report must have reached the Minister about 10th October last. It was laid on the table of the House and printed by command on 15th October last. What have the Government being doing since ?
– Working points. Today the Minister comes down, and throws this proposal upon the table, with the announcement that he intends to vote for it.
– It looks more as if points are being worked upon the other side of the chamber.
– The only thing which we have to consider is whether the proposed subdivision is a fair one for Western Australia. Unless it is accepted over 41,000 electors will be included in one constituency, as against nearly 22,000 in two others. From the 15th October until Thursday last this motion figured at the bottom of the business-paper, and would be there yet but for the action taken by the Leader of the Opposition. What is the position today? A majority of the House are prepared to reject it. Why did not the Minister submit it for our consideration earlier?
– Surely the Government required time to consider it?
– Did the Minister require seven weeks in which to consider it ? Are we now afforded an opportunity of referring the proposed scheme of redistribution back to the Commissioner of Western Australia? Honorable members know that we are not. In my opinion the Minister has performed a trick which should not be performed in this House.
– To what does the honorable member refer?
– To the Minister’s negligence in failing to bring this proposal forward at an earlier stage. Had the Cabinet not approved of the proposed redistribution they could have referred it back to the Commissioner in Western Australia for reconsideration.
– Not until Parliament had disapproved of it.
– Section 22 of the principal Act provides that any proposed redistribution of a State into divisions shall be laid before Parliament.
– For its approval or disapproval?
– The Treasurer knows what is political log-rolling.
– Oh, oh !
– As long as the honorable gentleman occupies a seat upon the Treasury benches he is prepared to laugh at anything. When he was in Opposition we could get nothing but a grunt out of him. We have to face the position that in connexion with a redistribution scheme, which affects 142,000 electors in Western Australia, only half-a-dozen objections have been lodged. Mr. Dickson, the secretary of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, ams referred to by the Minister as the representative ‘ of a large and influential chamber. It is neither large nor influential.
– I did not refer to it in those terms. My reference was to the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce.
– Then why did the Minister lay such emphasis upon the opinion which has been expressed by Mr. Dickson? The position simply resolves itself into this, that the people whose opinion he voices do not desire to be represented in the Commonwealth Parliament by Mr. Frazer. I believe that there is nothing else in the objection which has been lodged by the Albany Chamber of Commerce. Then we find that Mr. Price, the representative of Fremantle in the Western Australian Parliament, is deeply interested in this proposal. He believes that as coal is shipped from Bunbury a greater community of interest exists between Bunbury and Collie than between Collie and Fremantle.
– There is nothing in that argument.
– One has only to look at the names of the objectors to the proposed redistribution scheme to realize that their objections are purely of a political character. Do honorable members here claim that they know more about the electoral necessities of Western Australia than does the Statistician of that State? Mr. Malcolm Fraser is a respected public servant of many years’ standing, and is better acquainted with the trend of population and the possibilities of localities than any other man in the State ; and his calculations come to within a few hundreds in each case. The constituency which has been growing the quickest is the constituency to which he gives the least number, in order to allow of continued - growth.
– What about the Labour party’s objections?
– Have any objections been received from the Labour party in connexion with this matter?
– I have read some, anyhow.
– It is marvellous how the objections of the Labour party get into the hands of honorable members opposite.
– They have not gone from my office, at any rate.
– I do not know where they came from; but why did the objections not come to the Leader of the Labour party ?
– The objections were published in the press of Western Australia.
– And the Labour party would include Albany in Fremantle !
– Would the right honorable member like to part with Northam? I think he would sooner part with Albany, where the political complexion has changed lately. Has this report to be ruthlessly cast aside by men who have never even taken the trouble to look at the plans or the map?
– Oh, yes; they have.
– Have their opinions to fee pitted against those of this responsible officer, who has no political interest to serve? Apparently there is to be the minimum of speaking by honorable members opposite ; and the report is to be thrown out by men who must have the most meagre information. The Ministry have either to accept the scheme or do without a redistribution at the next election.
– The honorable member knows that the scheme is suitable to me.
– I think it makes the right honorable member’s political position safer, and, I may say, it does not affect me personally.
– It does not make Coolgardie so safe.
– I do not think it affects Coolgardie.
– It adds a large agricultural population to Coolgardie.
– Do honorable members opposite take the position that their objections are in the interests of the honorable member for Coolgardie?
– We should not consider any particular interests, but have a fair distribution.
– What about Fremantle?
– Honorable members opposite would add to Fremantle interests that are in no way connected with that place.
– We have indications that if the report be adopted there will be an alteration in the representation of Fremantle; and that is the trouble to-night.
– What justification is there for going 150 miles inland?
– I do not. know that I am here to be crossrexamined.
– The honorable member is here to justify the scheme.
– The scheme justifies itself. Considerable additions have to be made to the constituency of Fremantle; and would my honorable friends say that it ought to take a portion of the Perth constituency ?
– Why leave the coastal areas and go inland?
– According to the honorable member we must keep along the seaboard ; and, on the same principle, I suppose the constituency of Kalgoorlie should not reach the sea. What interests are added to Fremantle that are not there already to a degree, and are in every other constituency? There are interests of all. kinds in every constituency ; and there must be, except in a purely city constituency. A majority in this House, for political party reasons, are going to take the responsibility of rejecting this report. If the Minister of Home Affairs asks the House to accept the report, he ought to have the Ministry behind him. Did any one ever hear of a Minister submitting a proposal, with all his colleagues voting against him?
– That is not so.
– I am pleased to hear that; but the Prime Minister certainly indicated that that was the position.
– We please ourselves - we are free !
– This is the Government who were going to restore responsible Ministry ! They throw on the table an important proposal that strikes at the root of our constitutional practice, which is necessary in order to obtain the intelligent opinion of the electors.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I appeal to honorable members to refrain from continuous interjections. I hope that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will be permitted to proceed without interruption.
– I declare- and I desire this to stand for future reference - that if ever it is my lot to be in a Ministry, and I submit a proposal of this importance, and all my colleagues desert me, I shall get . out of that Ministry pretty quickly.
– That is a long way ahead !
– It may not be so far ahead as the right honorable member thinks, especially if we are to have this gerrymandering in order to obtain seats. What we are witnessing to-night amounts to political corruption. It is political corruption, entered upon for the promotion of party interests. My honorable friends opposite, of course, have a majority behind them. They can apply the gag if they like, and can gerrymander with the constituencies, in the interest of those of their own party. They have the press behind them, and it will throw the cloak over their iniquities, and will apologize and screech for them throughout Australia. But at the same time there are many people who are watching the work of this Fusion Government suspiciously, and who will be aware of the reasons which have influenced their decision upon this matter. No one was surprised to learn that a number of honorable members opposite were going to vote against the proposal of the Minister, but there was surprise when it was learnt that the members of the Government intended to abandon their own Minister and to take sides upon the question. The Minister of Home Affairs can take any view of the matter he likes. He can seek for balm for his conscience wherever he will ; but I have given himmy opinion as to the responsibility that should attach to a Minister introducing a Bill.
– The honorable member might let me have my own opinion. .
– The honorable gentleman cannot be forbidden to hold his own opinion, but I hope that he will not always hold such views as to Ministerial responsibility.
– I should like to know the opinion of the Minister entertained by his colleagues.
– Or by some other people.
– My honorable friends opposite are very happy, because they see a possibility of scoring an advantage.
– The honorable member misunderstands the position.
– Of course if the Government want to shorten debate they have the Standing Orders at their disposal. It would be a fitting climax to a piece of gerrymandering of this description, to put the proposition through with the aid of the gag. I have expressed myself in the strongest language permitted by the rules of this House. I believe that what is now being done is a piece of political jugglery, resorted to for party purposes. Such action must bring contempt on the Government that is guilty of it, and upon Parliament as an institution.
.- This is the first opportunity I have had of witnessing the manner in which this House deals with a new scheme for the subdivision of electorates in any State ; and I must confess that I am not impressed with it. I find that under the Act, a redistribution can only be brought about by the Governor- General moving in the first instance. When the Governor-General has taken action, the Commissioner has to forward his scheme to the Government. They have to lay it upon the table of the House within seven days after receiving it. Then the Act provides that -
If both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution the Governor-General may by proclamation declare the names and boundaries of the divisions.
But I also find that -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
– That is what is proposed now.
– No. It appears to me that a duty is cast upon the Minister to whose Department the Electoral Commissioner pertains, to examine his scheme, and either to approve or disapprove of it. When the scheme has been laid upon the table of the House, the Minister should submit a motion of one kind or another upon the subject, and he should do so as early as possible. But instead of that having been done, we have had the subject hung up until the end of November, so that it is practically too late to prepare a new scheme in the event of this one being negatived. There is no reason on earth why the Minister should not have submitted this matter to the House some weeks ago.
– Plenty of reason.
– I repeat - and I do so with a full knowledge of what has taken place in this House - that there is no reason why the motion should not have been submitted weeks ago.
– The time which has been wasted prevented that.
– There has been no time wasted at all. On what question was time wasted ?
– On every question that: was brought up.
– We were gagged.
– I appeal to honorable members to obey the direction which I recently gave, and not to interrupt the honorable member who is addressing himself to the subject. The honorable member for Gippsland should be allowed to proceed with his speech in his own way.
– The Government have had ample time to deal with this question. Who was it that wasted the time of the House from about half-past nine o’clock last Thursday until half-past two o’clock on Friday?
– The Opposition.
– That statement is so reckless that it shows that the honorable member who makes it does not care what he says. The time was taken up on an amendment moved by a Government supporter which was not adopted by the Government.
– Order ! I do not see what that has to do with the question.
– An interjection was allowed which prompted a remark from me in reply.
– I am doing my best to stop interjections, and shall see that they are stopped, but the honorable member cannot deal with subjects that are irrelevant because interjections of a disorderly character are made.
– There have been many occasions on which this subject could have been brought forward, but other matters were dealt with that were not nearly so important as this scheme for the redistribution of the electoral divisions of Western Australia, which has been left over until to-day. Comment has been made on the extraordinary action of the Government, the members of which boasted that with their great majority they were going to restore responsible government in this House. We have seen some extraordinary things done by this Government that ought not to have been done; but I must confess that, notwithstanding what I have witnessed, I was exceedingly surprised at the way in which the Government dealt with this proposal. In the first place, I should like to point out that the Minister of Home Affairs was not compelled to submit a motion expressing approval of the scheme. If after looking into the matter and consulting his colleagues on the subject, he found that they could not approve of the scheme, it was his duty to submit a motion disapproving of it.
– I am entitled to my opinion just as much ais is any of my colleagues.
– If the Minister is entitled to his opinion just as much as is any of his colleagues, it is time that we had elective Ministries, because the honorable gentleman’s statement indicates that there is no solidarity in the present Cabinet. The Government boasted that they were going to restore responsible government. The Minister is now asking the House to approve of this scheme. But he takes quite a different view of it from the Prime Minister, who, in his speech to-day, said -
If it had been suggested that there was any reflection on the officers this motion would not have been moved. But it has been moved as an expression of his - that is, the Minister’s - confidence in their judgment
That is, the judgment of- the officers. Then there was a striking and extraordinary statement from the Prime Minister -
At the same time, he has told the House that he has been unable to convince his colleagues - so far as I know, to convince any of them - that this scheme is better than the present subdivision of the constituencies.
Surely that was an extraordinary statement to be made by the head of the Government in regard to a motion submitted by one of his colleagues. The Minister of Home Affairs has not submitted this motion as a private member, but as a Minister, and as an expression of his confidence in the Commissioner who drew up the scheme. But now we are told by the Prime Minister that the Minister of Home Affairs has not been able to convince any of his colleagues that it is a better scheme of distribution than the one which is at present in operation. To my mind, the honest course to follow would have been for the Minister of Home Affairs, finding that his colleagues were against him, to come down with a motion expressing disapproval of the scheme. In the first place, the Government are to blame for the inexcusable delay which has occurred, and, secondly, responsibility attaches to them on account of the extraordinary position taken up by them in regard to their own colleague. I am not personally interested in this matter in any way whatever. I know nothing about it, except what I have heard this afternoon. But I see no reason whatever, from what I have heard, for voting against the scheme. The position was put very graphically to me by a supporter of the Government this afternoon, when asking for a pair. He asked me, “ Are you against the Government, or rather, are you with Fuller?” That was an extraordinary way to put it. On this occasion, therefore, I am “ with’ Fuller and against the Government.”
.- I do not feel called upon to attempt a vindication or championship of the position of the Government in this matter, but I think the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has introduced into the debate an amount of vehemence which is hardly called for. I have looked into the Act, and the position appears to me. to be this: The Commissioner recommended a certain redistribution of constituencies in Western Australia; and it was open to the Minister either to approve or disapprove of his recommendations, and to ask the House to adopt them, or to ask it to reject them. We have heard the Minister of the Crown moving that the
Commissioner’s proposal should be adopted, and the strange state of things - strange when looked at superficially - of the Prime Minister indicating to the House that the Minister of Home Affairs had “ failed to convince any of his colleagues “ of the desirability of confirming it. I was at first under the impression that the only course open to the Minister was to recommend the proposal to the House, and leave it to the House to accept or reject it. The House ought to know that the Minister himself cannot refer the matter back to the Commissioner except on the action of the House in agreeing to a motion disapproving of it. The Minister has taken a course which would seem to indicate that he personally approves of the scheme, but I think he removed that supposition by stating that if there had been time he, personally, would have referred it back to tha* Commissioner for reconsideration. It was quite open to the Minister to move either for the acceptance or rejection of the scheme ; but I am .bound to say that the course least liable to misunderstanding would have been for him to move in accordance with the feelings of the Government. It is obvious that the whole of the Government, except the Minister - and I am rather inclined to think the Minister himself - are against the proposal. I think, therefore, that it would have been a better course - I do not like to say a more straightforward course, because both of them are open to the light of day - for the Minister, on behalf of the Government to have moved for the rejection of the Commissioner’s recommendations. But the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and those who sympathize with him, make a very grave mistake in treating this as a matter of policy, and in saying that the attitude of the Ministry means the overthrow of responsible government. It is not a question of policy at all. It is the performance of a mere Ministerial duty ~an Executive act - which, under the Act, the Minister is bound to perform. The Act is so framed that when the Commissioner has made his report the Minister must deal with it. It was open for him to move either . way, and although, as I have said, I think it would Rave been far better, and would have given the Government a much more consistent appearance and a more consistent attitude in the House, if the Minister had directly moved the rejection of the scheme, I do not see that the Government were bound to take that step in preference to the one that has been taken. It is obvious that the Minister, although in charge of the motion, is not entirely in sympathy with it, because in his speech he indicated what he would have desired to do if lack of time had not prevented him from doing it. But the Minister might certainly have brought the matter forward at an earlier date. The report was laid on the table-of the House, I think, early in October.
– It did. not matter how early it was brought forward, it could not have been again dealt with by the Commissioner in time for this Parliament.
– That may be so, but if the Minister had brought the matter forward in October it would have given him an opportunity to demonstrate that he had done his best to bring it under the notice of the House in sufficient time to enable the House to reject it, and to permit him to send it back to Western Australia. My principal reason for rising was to protest against the matter being treated as one of policy. There is no doubt a general principle that, where a Minister takes it upon himself to advocate a certain course in Parliament, he does so as the representative of the Government, but where there is a doubt as to whether a question of this kind is one of policy or merely of Ministerial action - a duty devolving upon the Minister under the Act - the next best step, in order to convince the House that it is not being treated as a matter of policy by the Government, is for the Prime Minister to say at once, as he did to-day, that he and the whole of his colleagues are out of sympathy with the motion and will vote against it. As to the question of the time at which the subject was brought forward, the Minister may well reply that in the rush of business during the last two months it would have been impossible, even if it had been submitted earlier, to get the House to deal with it. With the exception of that and the other consideration as to the adoption of an affirmative instead of a negative form of motion, I do not think the Ministry are much to blame in the matter.
.- When we passed the Electoral Act the matter of fixing the boundaries of electoral divisions was handed over to a Commissioner in each State, in order that this Parliament should not have a repetition of the troubles which the State Parliaments had experienced. In 1903, when the question of electoral divisions was under consideration, many of those honorable members who have spoken against the Commissioner’s recommendations in this instance took precisely the opposite view. They have taunted some honorable members on this side with having voted on that occasion for disapproving of the Commissioner’s recommendations, but the then Ministry took up a straightforward attitude, to use the words of. the honorable member for Parkes. If the Ministry disapprove of these recommendations, why do they not come forward and say so? Can any honorable member believe that the Government are opposing the motion for any other than a political purpose? The political reason outweighs every other.
– Would it not have been open to say that if they had moved the rejection of the proposal ?
– It would. Not a single argument has been advanced to show how the Commisisoner could have proposed divisions that would be more suitable than those he has now recommended. After we had rejected the Victorian scheme on the last occasion, many of the Victorian members who voted against it were sorry. The country representatives voted against it then because it took away one country representative, but at the subsequent redistribution of seatsthey had to agree to losing two country representatives, one being added to the city, and one being lost altogether. It is quite possible that many honorable members on the Ministerial side who are voting to-night to send the report back, or, in other words, to save as far as possible the political skin of one of the Ministerial supporters, will be sorry afterwards for the action they have taken. No argument has been adduced to show that a more equitable or fairer distribution could be made. The Minister did not take action in the matter until he was pressed to do so by questions put to him in this House as to when he intended to bring it forward.
– It was fixed to come on last Tuesday, but the consideration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill prevented it being brought on.
– The Northern Territory Acceptance Bill was disposed of on. Wednesday evening, shortly after the dinner adjournment, and why was this matter not brought on then? It might have been brought on on Wednesday evening or after half-past 5 o’clock on Thursday after noon, when the formal Supply motion permitting the discussion of grievances had been disposed of.
– We had the Electoral Bill to deal with, and that was of great importance.
– Why was not this mat-, ter brought on then instead of the Electoral Bill? The Minister is aware that the first eleven or twelve clauses of the Electoral Bill were passed without a word. Of course, when we came to the controversial matters in that Bill honorable members were entitled to express their opinions upon them.
– It was very important that the Electoral Bill should be passed as soon as possible.
– I admit that, and the Minister cannot charge me with having done anything to delay its passage. On the last occasion, when a redistribution scheme was before this Parliament, the present Minister of Home Affairs raised his protest against what he called the “gerrymandering” that was then proposed. I wish the right honorable member for East Sydney were in his place tonight, because I should like to know what action he would take on this motion. This is a worse case of “gerrymandering” than that to which he objected. The proposed redistribution of New South Wales seats to which he objected was not suggested in the interests of a particular party or a particular member. The objection on that occasion was that certain electorates were given a smaller number of electors than others. Doubtless the Minister of Home Affairs has looked over the remarks which he made on that occasion.
– No, I have not.
– I took the trouble to look them over, and I find that the honorable gentleman was very keen against the Government proposal at that time. I believe that the course he adopted on that occasion has had great influence in inducing him not to submit a motion for the disapproval of the scheme now before the House. On the occasion to which I refer the Minister of Defence, after a very long speech, said -
I can conceive of no grosser wrongdoingor dereliction of political duty than that of which the Ministry are guilty, in seeking to deprive the people of Australia of the full value of their votes at the first election at which they will have an opportunity to use them. As to the expression “ gerrymandering “ being insulting, I do not intend it to be so construed, but at the game time I regard the Minister as a very good judge of what is insulting. . . . Since, however, “ gerrymandering “ is a term that must not be used, all I have to say is that Iprotest as strongly as I am able against the course proposed by the Government. I hope that the protest of those who think with me will be made as effective as possible - not only here, but on the public platform, so that the people may know that they have been deliberately deprived by the Government of the voting power to which they are justly entitled under the Constitution. We know that the distribution schemes debated on that occasion were not disposed of at one sitting: The debate on the Victorian and on the New South Wales schemes occupied a couple of days, and there was later a debate on the proposed distribution for Queensland. If, in this instance, the seat of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had been in danger, instead of that of the honorable member for Fremantle, we should not have found so much objection expressed on the other side. There would have been Ministerial unanimity on the question. Their supporters would have been rolled up, and the matter would have been brought on weeks ago in order to “ biff out Frazer “ at any cost.
– What would honorable members opposite have done in that case?
– I should have voted as I did on the last occasion - in accordance with my convictions. I should have voted straight.
– It suited the honorable member all right.
– It made no difference to me as I had a majority in every division of my electorate. It did not matter to me which division was removed from that electorate so long as the middle was not taken out of it, and it was impossible to do that. Ministers and their supporters have been looking round for some excuse to delay the consideration of this matter as long as possible, and now we find one member of the Government voting in one way upon it, and, if we are to judge by interjections we have heard, the whole of his colleagues propose to vote in the other way. We have heard that all those who have objected to the proposed distribution have been members of anti-Labour organizations.
– Not all ; there were two letters read from others.
– Where are they?
– They were quoted by the honorable member for Perth.
– It is very strange that the honorable member for Perth should be able to get such letters when no other honorable member can get them.
– They were published in the newspapers.
– The letter read by the honorable member for Perth from Mr. Horan has not been published in the newspapers.
– Of course, it has.
– In the Western Australian newspapers.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
– The honorable member does not read those newspapers.
– Like the honorable member for Fawkner, I have not time to read all the papers published in Australia.
– The letter from the Australian Labour Federation of Perth was also published in the newspapers.
– That is so; a telegram appeared in the Melbourne press to the effect that the Australian Labour Federation of Perth objected to the proposed redistribution, but I understand that they afterwards passed a resolution withdrawing their objection.
– What about the political pressure there?
– I have heard nothing of it, though I still remain a member of the Labour party. It is more likely that I should have information of it, if any pressure were used, than the honorable member for Perth. The honorable member appears to know more of the business of the Labour party than do those who are members of it. I saw a telegram to the effect that the Australian Labour Federation of Perth had, upon further consideration, altered their attitude towards the proposed redistribution. That was probably after they had had the advantage of seeing the full report. We got the maps and the full report here some time ago, and those who had the full report were in a better position to pass judgment upon the redistribution proposed.
– What about the attitude of the members of the State Labour party, who are opposed to this redistribution?
– I have not heard of them. The honorable member has read a letter from Mr. Horan, who is a member of the State Labour party, but no one here had heard of it.
– We are not governed by the States in these matters.
– Apparently the best thing which the Government could have done in this matter was to have referred it to the State Premiers. It is their practice when in a difficulty to refer the difficult matter to a Commission or to a Conference of the Premiers of the States.
– This is a matter which comes to us from a Commissioner.
– Yes, from a Commissioner provided for under the Act, and if they had been able to do so under the Act I have not the slightest doubt the Government would have refused to bring this matter forward at all. While that is my opinion I sympathize with the Minister of Home Affairs.
– I could not bring it on before.
– It might have been brought on before if we had not had an adjournment of a fortnight or three weeks when the whole of the business of the Commonwealth was held up while Ministers attended the Premiers’ Conference.
– That adjournment has been made responsible for all sorts of things.
– It was responsible for at least three weeks’ delay of the business of the Commonwealth. Here we have had submitted to us a report by probably the best man available in Western Australia for this work. The State Statistician, who knows more about the trend of population than does any honorable member, who is unprejudiced, and who, I take it, has no political leanings, produced a set of divisions, and with practically no argument except that which is not stated - that this course is being taken in order to save the seat of a supporter - the Minister of Home Affairs, who is responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act, asks the House to approve of the scheme, but every other member of the Ministry is going to vote against his motion.
– He said that he does not approve of the redistribution, and would send it back if there were time.
– I do not believe that the Minister of Home Affairs would stand out against his colleagues unless he did approve of the scheme. Rightly’ or wrongly I give him credit for being straightforward in regard to the motion. Of course, he gave as a reason for supporting the motion that there was not time to send back the scheme to the Commissioner. Notwithstanding the fact that he is surrounded by a number of Ministerial deserters, I trust that the honorable gentleman will remain true to the principle which he approved of here some time ago, and which is on record in Hansard, that there should be no gerrymandering in these matters ; that the report of the man who was in the best position to judge how a State should be divided, should be accepted. I regret that there will not be time if the motion be defeated to send back the report to the Commissioner, so that he could submit a new subdivision. I consider that the rejection of the scheme will be a vote of want of con-, fidence in the Commissioner who is responsible for this work in Western Australia.
– On another occasion the House passed a vote of want of confidence in him.
– In the same man?
– Not the same man, I think.
-I do not know whether the vote of want of confidence was passed in the same man or not. But how did the honorable member for Perth, who spoke to-day about political rectitude and standing firm to a principle, vote in 1903? When the redistribution scheme for Victoria was submitted, he voted that my electorate should contain 41,000 electors, and Wimmera only 14,000.
– I voted as a member of the party, decidedly.
– There was no decision of the party on the matter.
– Practically there was.
– The matter was never referred to at its meetings, and the honorable member knows that it was not. But suppose that there was a decision of the party, does he say that I went back upon it? When the redistribution scheme for New South Wales was submitted, what did he do? He neither voted nor paired. He took so little interest in the matter that he did not bother to take any action. I shall vote to-night precisely as I did on that occasion, and that is to approve of the scheme of the Commissioner, believing that he is the best judge as to how the State should be divided.
– It is a pity that we should have the tactics of Tammany Hall introduced in Australia. I give the Minister of Home Affairs credit for absolute honesty in this matter. It seems strange that, being in the possession of the Government for six weeks, this redistribution scheme should be thrown on the table like a bone to a dog, and that the Minister of Home Affairs should be the only honorable member on the Ministerial side prepared to vote for its adoption.
– How many honorable members on the other side will vote for the motion?
– The members of the Opposition will vote for the motion in order that the electors of Western Australia may have justice done to them. It would require very little corroborative evidence to prove that the scheme is to be rejected for the preservation of the honorable member for Fremantle. But that will not save him. Without the rejection of this scheme, he will be buried deeper than Mahomet’s ghost, and there will be no resurrection politically for him. I do not desire that anything I may say should have the effect of destroying his political hopes, but I can assure my honorable friends on the Ministerial side that no matter what system of gerrymandering they may resort to, no matter what plan of salvation they may adopt, there is no hope for the honorable gentleman. I am sorry to see the worst tactics of the worst gerrymandering schemers of the worst periods of American political history being introduced into Australia.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– Here is a scheme of redistribution recommended by the Commissioner, and submitted to the House by the Minister of Home Affairs, whose honesty everybody believes in, and who is receiving no support from his own side. If honorable members see a mighty structure rising perfectly story by story in a great city, they know that a master mind - a great engineer or architect - is controlling the operations.
– Who is the engineer in this case?
– That is what I want to know.
– Do not look at the Treasurer, because it is not his fault this time.
– I am not saying that it is, but I know that a master mind is behind the opposition to the motion, and who is a better builder than the honorable member for Fremantle?
From certain facts we draw spiritual or theological or scientific deductions. This? is not a theological but a political question. We wish to keep this Parliament as pure as possible. We do not desire that anything shall take place which may be regarded as a job, or a scheme for defeating the ends of justice. I like the honorable member, but, as a Christian, it is my duty to tell him that he is a “goner.” I shall not say unkind things of the politically dead. My enmity ends with the grave. In the face of the action of the Ministry and of the Confusion, Fusion, or Fungus party-
– The honorable member must not use those terms.
– Then let me call it the “ Spiritual” party. In spite of what it is doing, retribution will overtake it, and when that day comes there will be no time for repentance. The members of the party, if they desire salvation, should get to the penitents’ stool as fast as they can. However, the numbers are up-
– Who says so?
– My honorable friend must see that.
– Surely the honorable member will make an impression on them?:
– If a sledge hammer fell on them from heaven it would not make an impression on them. We talked until the tears almost froze on our cheeks, and could not prevent them from emasculating the Constitution. Yet my honorable friend, in his innocence, thinks that our talking will have an effect now. They are hopeless, and I leave them as I find them. But I speak to the few who are here to speak to the many outside so that, if possible, even at the last moment, justice may be done to the people of Western Australia, and that the redistribution of electors will not be such that there will be 41,000 in the Swan division and only 21,000 in the Fremantle division. Why are they afraid of a proper distribution? The members of the Labour party are not frightened about having farming populations included in their constituencies. Do the Ministerialists think that the Commissioner is not honest and straightforward?
– His honesty is unquestioned.
– Then why is there all this scheming to defeat the ends of justice?
– There will be no scheming. It will be a straightout vote.
– It will be as crooked as the Snake River in Idaho.
– As a personal explanation, I wish to say that the honorable member for Yarra tried to make it appear that I had done something very remarkable in voting in 1903 that the proposed redistribution of the Victorian electorates be disagreed with. Replying to him on the spur of the moment, I said that I voted in accordance with a general understanding amongst the members of the party.
– There cannot be such a thing.
– I was going to add that the division list shows a difference of opinion amongst the members of the party, so that my statement was not correct; but I voted in good company, because I voted with the majority of the party, including the honorable member for Wide Bay and others whom it is unnecessary to specify.
.- When we passed our first electoral law, we were naturally proud of providing, for the first time in history, for the election of a National Parliament by adult suffrage. Associated with the principle of adult suffrage, is that of “ one vote, one value,” to maintain which we provided for the readjustment of the divisions of each State whenever the differences between the numbers of their electors should exceed a certain margin. These redistributions were to have no party significance, and the best men obtainable were to be appointed Commissioners for the purpose. It is not creditable to the Government that this proposed redistribution has not been brought forward for consideration earlier. There will always be differences of opinion on the subject of electoral boundaries, and time should therefore be given to refer back recommendations to a Commissioner should that course be thought necessary. The last Government appointed the Commissioner whose work is now being considered, and he completed his report on the 8th October. Its consideration by the House should have been expedited, especially as Ministers are divided regarding it.
– We could not bring it on earlier.
– The Commissioner had his plans prepared on the 25th August, and then posted notices all over Western Australia asking for objections to be lodged. At the end of a month - on the 25th September - objections had been received from two Chambers of Commerce acting together, from two sections of the National Political League of Western Australia, and from a member of Parliament.
– The Municipal Councils of Collie and Bunbury also objected, I think.
– If they did, their objections are not attached to the official report. It is disgraceful that the Government are not prepared -to give us any information. The Minister of Home Affairs has spoken, and we have heard mysterious rumours as to the Cabinet being unprepared to support the motion. Why do not Ministers tell us why they propose so to vote as to continue a state of affairs in which the Treasurer will have in his constituency 1 2,000’ electors more than he ought to have ? I do not think that he desires that excess. No doubt he would be satisfied to have hi his electorate the proper quota, so that all the people might be fairly represented. As it is, many of the electors in. his constituency will be ‘disfranchised. The honorable member for Perth has read some documents containing certain objections to the scheme - documents prepared by a gentleman who did not take the trouble to forward them to the Commissioner within the time fixed for lodging objections. Those documents have been read simply to influence honorable members who do not know what the situation actually is. We look to the Government, as we have a right to do, to inform us. They took office pledged above all things to the great principle of responsible government, and they should give us the fullest information. This should be a non-party matter.
– I have given the House all the information that I nave.
– That is so, but we ought to know why other members of the Cabinet propose to vote against this motion. It is extraordinary that a Minister should present to the House a proposal which has not the support of his colleagues. Their attitude is a reflection on the Minister himself if the honorable gentleman is in favour of the proposition. The Commissioner is believed to be one of the best men who could be selected for the work, and I have heard no adverse comments on his ability. When a scheme of redistribution was submitted by a former Government the present Minister of Defence, as well as the right honorable member for East Sydney and others then on this side of the House, denounced the Ministry. Honorable members will recall the references made by the present Minister of Defence to the honorable member for Kooyong, who had openly urged that there should be representation of interests rather than of individuals. The honorable member for Kooyong had said that he was opposed “ to adult suffrage, and the honorable member for Parramatta described him as an ultra-Conservative. It would appear that the Minister of Defence, who then described the honorable member as a Tory, has been converted to his way of thinking. On that occasion the Minister of Defence and the right honorable member for East Sydney strongly supported the proposal of the Commissioner. The right honorable, member for East Sydney is absent to-day, and we do not know what is his view with regard to this matter, but it would appear that circumstances materially alter cases. We have to ascertain for ourselves what is the true position, for we can gain nothing from the silence of honorable members opposite. It is for them to say why they object to the Commissioner’s proposal. Ministers should tell us why they propose to take the extraordinary course of voting against the motion, submitted by one of their, colleagues, for the adoption of a scheme prepared by an independent Commissioner. Their opposition would appear to be based upon the objections that have been raised to it. I have read those objections, the first of which comes from the President of the Albany Chamber of Commerce. He was so eager to lodge his protest that he actually wired to the Commissioner and followed up his telegram with a letter, the first paragraph of which contains a statement showing that his objection is based upon political considerations. He says that a majority of the people on the goldfields vote differently from the residents of Albany, and for that reason he objects to the inclusion of Albany in a gold-fields electorate. Political bodies which we have declared on other occasions are behind the present Government say that they object to this scheme, and the first of their objections is “based upon political grounds. The Commissioner recognised that regard must be had to community of interest, and certain Chambers of Commerce interpret ‘ ‘ community of interest “ as meaning unity, in voting either for or against Labour. Apparently, with the exception of the Minister of Home Affairs, the Government accept that as a correct interpretation of the law. If they do not, why do they not tell us what their reasons are for objecting to this scheme? Apparently they hold that the political views of outside bodies should govern them in determining whether or not they ought to adopt a redistribution which, as I say, should be based upon the principle of “one vote one value,” and have nothing to do with political considerations. The replies made by the Commissioner to the several objectors furnish, in my opinion, a complete answer to them. I have not had an opportunity to visit Western Australia, and therefore cannot speak from local knowledge, but I know enough of the conditions obtaining in rural districts to lead me to believe that one cannot always secure complete community of interest in a scheme of distribution. In Western Australia there is a large population on the gold-fields far removed from the coast, and the Commissioner appears to have experienced difficulty in determining the electoral boundaries without allowing a gold-fields electorate to extend to the coast. Such a difficulty is experienced in every State having a scattered population. Why are the Government going to vote against this scheme? If they have justifiable reasons for doing so they ought to state them. It is not enough for them to say, “ We desire to send back this scheme to the Commissioner.” If they do send it back, what will “be the position? The Commissioner has already replied to the several objections that have been lodged, and having carefully reviewed them, thinks that they are insufficient. How is the Commissioner to be convinced that there is a necessity for another change? The action of the Government simply means that there is to be no change at all for the coming election; and it is no use mincing matters. On previous occasions we have had a debate, and reasons given by honorable members for the faith in them ; but now there is that silence which is always suspicious, as showing that the other side have no case. The one member of Parliament who has sent in objections seems to have kept away from political considerations,, and viewed the matter from the stand-point of community of interest, putting forth some tangible reasons on that score. We know right well that the Chambers of Commerce and the National League are one political body ; indeed, it is openly said by the President of the Albany Chamber of Commerce that the objections are political. Are the Government controlled by them and their poli- tical objections? If not, and the Government have other reasons, we are entitled to hear them. It is evident, however, that the Government wish to shelve this matter. I am not blaming the Minister of Home Affairs even for the delay. We recognise that if any one is responsible for the business of the House, it is the Prime Minister, who is the leader, or supposed to be the leader of the Government. It appears that the Minister of Home Affairs has had no chance to bring this matter forward sufficiently early for anything to be done before the next election ; and, consequently, the Government .are responsible if no change is made in the electorates. There is time now to adopt the report, send it to another place, and have that equality of votes that the Commissioner recommends. The Minister has done his part in submitting the report at the first opportunity ; but the quiet, cunning way in which his colleagues are working, is sufficient, apart from their other manifold sins, to condemn them in the eyes of the public. Personally, I know nothing of the boundaries in question, but we have employed the best man available, and he has submitted his report setting forth the objections laid before him. The Government must not blame us if we are suspicious. I am as little suspicious as any one, but I must say that I shall hardly be able to trust the Government in anything presently. I am afraid that the Government only regard this as affording an excellent excuse for a little more delay, so that they may go to the country with a good programme of unfinished business, for which they will blame the wicked Opposition. The honorable member for Perth read a statement made by somebody else, but what he said did not afford me much enlightenment. The Commissioner very properly asked the Albany Chamber of Commerce for an alternative scheme, but, so far, we have not heard of it. As a matter of fact, the Commissioner knocked the bottom out of the objections which were based on wrong premises, and yet we are invited by the Prime Minister to reject the proposal that his colleague is asking us to adopt, while we are left in the dark as to the reasons for this peculiar position. It would appear that this is a question on which the Government have not had a caucus, or, if they have, that the caucus has not worked well ; and in the absence of any lead from the Prime Minister, the House has to take charge ( of the business. Members of the Ministry are undermining the Minister in charge of this proposal ; and this is decidedly a departure from the principles of responsible government; possibly it may foreshadow elective Ministers, when each shall do as seems best to himself. But we have a Cabinet which claims to represent a solid fusion for all time. The “ responsibility “ is, that one Minister proposes something and another Minister says, “Oh, that is no good; do not vote for it.” That is a beautiful arrangement ! One does not feel inclined to occupy much time at this period of the session upon such a measure; but surely it is a disgraceful state of things to have a proposition of this kind submitted to Parliament by a Minister, and no reasons given by other Ministers as to why they intend to vote against it. The proposition submitted has been framed by a Commissioner who has certainly done his best in the light of all the objections that could be urged against his scheme. He has answered them all successfully and completely, and, being on the spot, he has complete local knowledge. I know that it is not always possible to group interests together in an electorate, especially in a State like Western Australia, with its enormous area. There must he different interests represented in the various constituencies. I have no doubt, however, that the Commissioner has done his very best, and I shall vote for the adoption of his scheme.
– I had not intended to speak on this question, because it may be suggested that I am somewhat interested in the proposed redistribution of seats. As a matter of fact, I sm not in favour of the rearrangement of electorates proposed by the Commissioner, although, as far as my own constituency is concerned, he has rearranged it in such a way as leaves me nothing to desire. The electorate of Swan, as the Commissioner proposes to rearrange it, would suit me exactly. If I can win the constituency with the boundaries that already prevail, I could certainly win it very much easier with the boundaries as recommended by the Commissioner. I have, of course, a complete and intimate knowledge of Western Australia. I am one of a few in the House who have such a knowledge. I am bound to say - and I say it deliberately and honestly - that if I had had the rearrangement of the electorates of that State I should not have done the work as the Commissioner has done it. For instance, with respect to the electorate that has been referred to so often during the debate - that of Fremantle - it would never have occurred to me to include in it the district of Collie, which is a coal mining centre 130 miles to the south. I should never have included, besides the large population of coal miners, a considerable .agricultural and pastoral settlement, at Donnybrook, and all along the Preston Valley.
– How would the right honorable member have got the requisite number, then ?
-I should have got the requisite number for Fremantle by including the Murray, the Forrest, and the local Swan district, all of which adjoin the present district of Fremantle. I can not understand how those districts were not included in Fremantle. Their inclusion would have given the requisite numbers, and a proposal to include them was actually made in the press, though it was not accepted by the Commissioner.
– Would the inclusion of that district have given community of interest ?
– Yes, as nearly as community of interest can be secured. But honorable members must realize that it is impossible to divide a large State like Western Australia into five .parts, with about 28,000 electors in each division, and still preserve community of interest. What community of interest is there between the miners of Coolgardie, Yilgarn, Mount Margaret, the Murchison gold-fields, and the agricultural district of Greenough and the seaport town of Geraldton, and the pastoral country up north to Gascoyne, Roeburne, and away to Kimberley in the extreme northern part of Western Australia ? What community of interest can there be between those districts and Coolgardie proper ? Taking the Swan division, which I represent, what community of interest is there between Bunbury and Collie, and Northam, York and Beverley; or between coal miners of Collie and the people of Albany > It is of no use to lav too much stress upon community of interest. All that is possible is to arrange th.e electorates so as to get as much community of interest as possible. But you cannot secure community of interest on any scientific method so long as the electorates are so large and include so many different industries. The principal reason why I have risen to speak is that I know Mr. Fraser, the Registrar- General of “Western Australia, very well. I have known him ever since he came to the State. Although I do not agree with him as to the rearrangement he has made, I have the greatest respect for him as an honorable gentleman, and I amquite sure that he would do his best in anything which he undertook. But it does not follow that this rearrangement which he has made, is to meet with my approval. I know the local circumstances, and fully recognise that the subdivision of a State like Western Australia is an extremely difficult matter. I do not suppose that if the five most competent men in this House were asked to divide Western Australia into electorates, they would make the same proposal. I know very well that the rearrangement now proposed would never have been made by me. I should not haveliked to place the agricultural and pastoral districts of Irwin and Toodyay in the Coolgardie division.
– I suppose the right honorable gentleman is aware that the chief pastoral districts in Western Australia are in the constituency of Coolgardie?
– They are. I have already admitted that it is extremely difficult to secure community of interest. I think that those districts ought not to have been included in the districts referred to if it were possible to avoid it. There ought to have been a great effort made to secure some other arrangement. But we shall never secure satisfaction in dividing a large State like Western Australia intoparts with approximately an equal number of electors in each, while one man is intrusted with the whole responsibility.
– It is too ticklish a job to be intrusted to one man.
– I do not care who the man is, his decision is very unlikely to give satisfaction. I should like to see some stronger tribunal appointed. I should like to see erected a tribunal so strong that it would not be necessary to give this House anything to say on the matter at ali.
– The right honorable gentleman is afraid of our party scoring over there.
– No, T am not afraid of anything of the kind, but I do not think we shall ever secure mutual satisfaction by settling matters of this kind in a party House, All I feel called upon to do at present is to give my own opinion based upon know- ledge. I do not suppose any one in this House knows as much about the boundaries of every one of these electorates as I do. Therefore, I feel justified in saying that the arrangement of the electorates by the Commissioner, a man I respect and have a regard for, does not commend itself to my judgment. I do not consider it is a good arrangement, and for that reason, if it goes to a division, I shall vote against it.
– We have had. to-night the most extraordinary spectacle I have ever seen in a Parliament. We have a Minister who condemns his officer moving the adoption of what that officer has done.
– The Act provides for that.
– The Act does not provide for a Minister supporting an officer whom he condemns.
– The Act provides for a Minister moving to agree or disagree with the recommendation of an officer.
– That is so. But the extraordinary part of this matter is that the Minister has moved to support what the officer has done, and has at the same time told the House that he condemns it, while the whole of his colleagues are also condemning it. I have never seen anything like it.
– We are always learning something.
– I am sorry to say that we are learning from this Fusion something that has never been learnt in a Parliament before. The report was laid on the table as far back as 15th October, and it would be very interesting to know what took place at the first Cabinet meeting at which the question cropped up. I am sure the Treasurer gave his opinions very strongly, and the Minister of Home Affairs must have known what his feelings were. The Treasurer evidently made a great impression upon the Prime Minister and the rest of his colleagues, and the. consequence is that for some inscrutable reason the Minister of Home Affairs has been allowed to act according to his conscience in saying that he does not approve of the recommendation, but does not see a way out of the difficulty. The matter has been kept too long in the background, although I am not going to blame the Minister for keeping it there. .
– It is only_ a Ministerial act”; he is bound to put it before the House.
– If it were a Ministerial act the Minister would be speaking for the whole of the Government. If there is one question more than another upon which the Government should be united, surely it is this one. When we see them disunited, we have to look behind the scenes to discover the motives that are actuating the Minister’s colleagues to vote one way while he votes the other. 1 expected, when the Minister rose, that, instead of reading a report with which we are all familiar, he would have given some more substantial reasons
– A good many of those who have spoken have said that they have never looked at the report.
– I read it, and the Leader of the Opposition said that he had carefully read every word of it. I do not blame the Minister for reading it to the House, if he knew that a number of honorable members had not read it, but I do blame him for not giving some stronger reasons why he came to the conclusion that this officer is not reliable, and not fitted to be intrusted with the work, although it is his scheme that he asks the House to adopt.
– I never said that he is not fitted to be intrusted with the work.
– The Minister said that if he had had time - I do not see why he did not have time - he would have referred the report back to the officer. What does that mean ?
– The Act contemplates that the action of the Commissioner shall be approved or disapproved by Parliament, and it must be submitted to Parliament for the purpose.
– And the Act also contemplates that, in the first instance, the Minister shall express his approval or disapproval.
– I thought the Minister had power to refer it back.
– That could only be done if the House disapproved of it.
– Then why did not the Minister, knowing that the matter was one of urgency, and that the whole of his colleagues were in disagreement with himself regarding it-
– I did not know that. I do not know it now.
– That is a still more extraordinary statement.
– I do not know that, all my colleagues are opposed to it.
– Then the Minister has only learned to-night for the first time that some of his colleagues disagree with him.
– L have not said so.
– Then what am I to understand? Either the Minister knew that his colleagues were going to support the motion, or he knew that they were going to oppose it. If he did not, he should have known it.
– I knew that some were and some were not.
– Then the Minister’s colleagues ought to have told the House the reasons for their attitude. Whose advice am I to take? The Minister says that the right thing is to vote for the adoption of the report, but the Prime Minister says, and the Treasurer supports him, that I shall do wrong if I vote for it. According to what we have heard to-day, there are two Ministers to one against the report.
– Six to one, I think.
– I am referring to the Ministers who have spoken. In fact, not one of the three has supported the proposal. The Minister of Home Affairs asked the House to adopt it, believing, I suppose, that he had the numbers behind him, but, at the same time, he said it was a bad arrangement, which ought not to satisfy the electors of Western Australia, and which certainly does not satisfy those of his colleagues who have spoken. I wonder if another Minister has a word to say in favour of it. If so, we ought to hear from him before the matter goes to a division. I have to record a vote, and, so far as I can see from the report, I believe that this officer has done the very best he could in the circumstances. I agree with the Treasurer that you cannot secure community of interest. The honorable member for North Sydney referred to the electorate of Boothby, and said that when the question of boundaries in connexion with South Australia came before the House no protest was made against the divisions as then created. That is not altogether correct. No protest may have come before the House, but I wrote to the public press about the unfair arrangement of the boundaries. I pointed out that no community of interest had been considered in regard to some of the electorates. Public meetings were held, but they were too late for the honorable member for Boothby to bring the ejections before the House. There is net that satisfaction in regard to the South Australian divisions that the honorable member for North Sydney supposed there was. We cannot have community of interest, which is one of the last things that should be considered.
– The Act says that we must study it.
– No. The Act says that the Commissioner may have regard to five different considerations.
– It says he “ shall give consideration.”
– But he can give more weight to the four other points than he need give to community of interest, although he must not neglect that. How is it possible to say that there is any community of interest between one portion of the electorate of Boothby and the other? I do not attach very much importance to community of interest. An honorable member may have a better knowledge of one occupation than of another, but he is probably as capable of representing one interest as another. I have of course a better knowledge of the business in which I was brought up than of any other; but I claim to be as capable of representing the interests of a manufacturing district or of a shipping district, and if a farming district were a portion of my electorate I should be as capable of representing it. Every member of the House would say the same. Looking through the report, I believe there is evidence that the Commissioner has suggested what he believes to be the best redistribution possible in the interests of the electors. He has evidently gone to a great deal of trouble, and has figured out the number of male and female voters in the different districts. For instance, he states in his report that under the existing arrangement there are in Perth 102 female voters to every 100 males. The proportion in Fremantle is 80, in Swan 59, in Coolgardie 34, and in Kalgoorlie 65. He has taken this proportion into consideration, and under his proposed redistribution the proportion of female voters to male voters is the same for Perth - 102 to every 100 males. In Fremantle it is 73, in Swan 55, in Coolgardie 37, and in Kalgoorlie 59. The proportion of females to males over the whole State is 62 in the case of both the existing, and the proposed, divisions. It is clear that he has taken some trouble in accordance with the provisions of the Act to frame electorates containing as nearly as possible an equal number of electors. I do not see what more honorable members opposite could want. The honorable member for Swan said that it would not matter to him; but it certainly would matter to the whole of the State if the electorate he represented were to contain as many electors as are represented by the honorable members for Kalgoorlie and Fremantle combined. That is a state of affairs which should not be tolerated, and that is why I support the Minister of Home Affairs in this matter. The honorable gentleman says that he is not satisfied with what has been done, but it is the only thing that can be done at this late hour. It would never do to have one electorate with 21,000 voters and another with 41,000. A. good deal has been said as to what the effect of the proposed distribution is likely to be. We have heard that if honorable members opposite can defeat the motion they will probably save the seat of the honorable member for Fremantle at the next election. But we have not heard one word from the other side as to. what might happen to the honorable member for Coolgardie. The only objections sent in to the Commissioner before the publication of his report were received from the Albany Chamber of Commerce, the Honorable James Price, M.L.A., the Fremantle National Political League, the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, and the National Liberal League of Perth. Not a single objection was sent in by any one connected with the Labour party. ‘
– What about the objection sent in by Mr. Horan ?
– It has already been noted as curious that we should have heard of that objection from the honorable member for Perth, and also of the objection from the Australian Labour Federation of Perth. The objection by the Australian Labour Federation was withdrawn. It was made simply because they had not a knowledge of the facts. The moment they become acquainted with the facts, they withdrew their objection.
– As soon as they saw objections were being sent in by the other side.
– There has been only one side to this matter. With honorable members opposite there is only one side to it now, and an attempt is to be made to save the seat of one of their number. I can tell them that whether this motion is carried or not, the seat of the honorable member for Fremantle will not be saved.
– The honorable member had better look out for his own seat.
– I am more alarmed about what is likely to happen to the honorable member for Corangamite. The honorable member for Perth has adopted an entirely new role since he deserted his late colleagues. I was glad that he had to bowl himself out in connexion with an indiscreet remark he made about the discussion on the redistribution of seats in Victoria some time ago. The honorable member said that an arrangement had been come to by the Labour party, but no one knows better than he does that no arrangement could have been come to by the party in connexion with a matter which is not on their platform.
– We had a pretty good understanding in other respects.
– It was not possible that there could be any understanding on such a matter, and Hansard showed how far wrong the honorable member was.
– The majority of the party voted with me on the occasion referred to.
– After saying that there was an understanding between the members of the Labour party, the honorable member had to stand up and read from Hansard that he and the Leader of the Opposition and others, as the honorable member said, voted on the other side.
– And the majority of the party.
– It was a misunderstanding on the part of the honorable member, and I am pleased to think that he was obliged to bowl himself out. I am sorry that an honorable member who was a credit to the Labour party should in so short a time have stooped so low as to try to misrepresent that party. It is strange at this time of day to find the Treasurer saying that what is wanted is a stronger and ,a better tribunal. The right honorable gentleman meant to say that what we have now is an incompetent or partisan tribunal. He said that the tribunal we have is unsatisfactory, and that we cannot get anything better from the present House - that is to say, from the present Fusion. That is a nice thing for a member of the Government to stand up here and say. If in this case the Commissioner did anything wrong it was the duty of honorable members opposite to point out what it was. I have not heard what is wrong with the scheme. I have read that the members of the Chambers of Commerce at Albany and -Fremantle, and the National Liberal League at Fremantle and Perth, are dissatisfied. I can easily understand that they are dissatisfied, because nothing of a Democratic character can possibly be done without a protest from them against it. Whatever may be done here is wrong if it does not suit the interests of the Chambers of Commerce or the National Liberal League. The power which Chambers of Commerce have been able to exercise over this Government has been simply astounding. It seems to me that they have only to place a proposal before the Minister to have it accepted. We saw that done in connexion with the telegraphs and telephones. Are they also to decide how the division of the electorates shall be carried out? I, for one, hope not.
– But the honorable member knows that it is so,, though.
– I regret that it should be so. I hope that the motion will not be defeated. The Treasurer has clearly stated his views, and so has the Prime Minister, but the Minister in charge of the motion does not know how his colleagues intend to vote. I hope that honorable members will not allow the motion to pass until they know why Ministers are going to vote on one side or the other.
– The members of the Cabinet must have known that they were divided on this question before the motion was given notice of. I should not like to charge them with making a scapegoat of the Minister of Home Affairs, but certainly he might have expected to get some support from his colleagues. If they had been about equally divided on the question, I could have understood the motion being left to the decision of the House, as usual. On many occasions, we have been charged with wasting time, and, no doubt, that charge will be repeated on this occasion.
– I can quite understand the Treasurer imputing such a motive to an honorable member who desires to speak on the question. Although the session is drawing to a close, yet we find the Ministry bringing down a proposal which they have no intention of trying to carry. The right honorable member for Swan has a rather large family in his ‘ electorate, and seems to want to hold on to them. Generally, an honorable member is rather pleased at the prospect of losing a portion of the family whom he has to look after, but I suppose that the right honorable gentleman is making the best of a bargain.The principles governing the division of a State are laid down in the Electoral Act. In the first place, community of interest has to be taken into consideration. Next, a larger area will get a fewer number of electors than will a congested area. Then a certain margin is fixed, but you could not fix any margin which would allot to one electorate 41,000 electors, and to another 21,000. Swan contains nearly, twice as many electors as does Kalgoorlie. The representative of the latter is quite willing to take a fair share of the people under the re-arrangement, which numerically seems to be a fair one. But the Treasurer holds on so tenaciously to his large family that one would think that there was something in the ownership of the particular locality which he represents. At present, Perth contains 27,992 electors; Coolgardie, 30,163; Swan, 41,076; Fremantle, 21,982; and Kalgoorlie, 21,657. The fact that there was something radically, wrong in the old division of the State was recognised, and a redistribution was prepared. Although the scheme is presented to the House for consideration when it is too late for another Commissioner to be appointed to make a re-arrangement, yetwe find the Government willing to defeat the motion. I do not know how the Minister of Home Affairs feels in the matter. I can understand that it cannot be very pleasing to him to find that, after he has been asked by the Ministry to present a scheme to the House for its approval, not one of his colleagues is supporting him. Is it not also very strange to find the Government Whip whipping up the Ministerial side of the House to oppose the motion? As we have heard so much today of responsible government, I do not wish to discuss that question, but there is something wrong about this business. The Treasurer may shake his head. Of course, he knows what is the matter. I have heard privately what is the matter, but that is of no use to me. I should like to hear some honorable member give a true explanation.
– This is very cryptic.
– Yes; I am of an inquisitive turn of mind, and I should like to know the reason for the opposition to the motion. It has been denied by Government supporters that there is any desire to save the seat of the honorable member for Fremantle, and, of course, I have to accept the denial. If his colleagues will not furnish the explanation, then the Minister of Home Affairs should state why they are not supporting him. They have talked a lot about others occupying time, but here they have spent the whole of the sitting on a proposal which they do not want carried.
– They had to submit the motion.
– They need not have brought it forward.
– It could have been included in the slaughtered innocents.
– The Act required them to bring forward the motion.
– If the Act requires that something should be done, the intention should be carried out. The manner in which the Commissioner’s report has been put before us shows that the Ministry does not wish to have this scheme adopted. If Ministers thought his arrangement faulty, they should have brought it before the House weeks ago, or told the Commissioner how the distribution should be made.
– A proposed distribution can be referred ‘back to a Commissioner only on the vote of the House.
– Had the Ministry really desired to remove the existing anomaly, under which there are 41,000 electors in the Swan division and only 21,000 in each of two others, it would have brought this business before the House earlier.
– Had the Commissioner’s report been submitted for consideration immediately it was received, there would not have been time to refer it back to him for reconsideration, and to get a further scheme from him during this Parliament.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, though I should not feel inclined to accept that of some of his colleagues. I sympathize with him in the position in which he has been placed by them. I look upon proposals brought forward by a Minister as Ministerial.
– This is not a party question.
– I should feel very sore were the members of my party to leave me standing alone in regard to any question in which they were as much concerned as I was, and unless we object to the action of
Ministers on the present occasion, we shall find them similarly divided on other proposals. We might expect such division regarding the Capital Site proposal, but I am inclined to think that when it comes to be dealt with we shall find that the party has closed up its ranks. The Treasurer might have been expected to support the Commissioner’s recommendation, because of the large number of electors in his present electorate, which would be reduced were the redistribution adopted. Personally, I have no desire to lose any of my electors, but all other honorable members are not similarly placed.
– The proposed distribution would suit me.
– Apparently it would give the right honorable gentleman a nice little pocket borough. The Commissioner must have known something about the subject with which he had to deal. If he was incapable, those who appointed him should be hauled over the coals. The Treasurer has made it apparent that it is very difficult to subdivide a State like Western Australia into five electorates which will possess community of interests. He stated that no matter what boundaries were proposed, it would be impossible to give satisfaction to every one. But is not the proposed arrangement better than the existing one, under which there is one electorate with 41,000 electors, another with 30,000, a third with 27,000, and two more with only 21,000 each? Under the proposed arrangement the difference between the number of electors in any two divisions would not be more than 2,000. I cannot see, therefore, why the Government will not accept the proposed distribution, unless, as has been suggested by honorable members on this side, the existing arrangement is being retained in the interests of the honorable member for Fremantle. Of course, no Ministerialist would say that, even if he thought it to be so. Although the Minister expressed himself as dissatisfied with the redistribution, he should be prepared to accept it as better than the existing arrangement, and unless Ministers give some better reason for rejecting it than we have yet heard, it will seem that something more than the desire to secure community of interest is prompting their action.
.- The Minister of Home Affairs has asked the House to approve of the redistribution of the Western Australian electoral divisions, and surely he is not asking us to approve of something of which he disapproves? If he does not wholly approve of the Commissioner’s proposal, he apparently thinks that there is more to be said in its favour han against it. There can be no doubt ihat the Minister had the advice of the officers of his Department in coming to his determination, and that the matter has been discussed by the Cabinet. The Minister, on the advice of his officers, has submitted to the House a resolution inviting honorable members to approve of the proposed redistribution, and yet a number of his colleagues are breaking away from him.
– He has submitted the scheme for the approval or disapproval of the House.
– That is not so. Under the Act the Minister is not compelled to submit an affirmative motion. He might have submitted a motion inviting the House to disapprove of the proposed scheme of redistribution.
– Surely it makes no difference.
– It does. If the Minister wished the House to disapprove of the scheme, why did he submit a motion asking the House to approve of it? He is either taking an honest course or one designed to enable the Government to appear officially to be doing one thing whilst in reality they are doing another, and to leave them free to go back on the Department. The Government say that this is not a party question, but it would appear that they are making it one of party politics. The Minister of Home Affairs cannot honestly go back on his Department and his officers, but other members of the Government, for party political purposes, are interfering with the basis of the representation of the electors of Western Australia in this House. Every honorable member knows that the House has been canvassed against this redistribution ; that interested parties have canvassed honorable members day after day to reject the official redistribution. Canvassing has been going on in the House even to-day.
– Amongst honorable members opposite?
– No, on the side to which the honorable member belongs.
– That is purely an assumption on the honorable member’s part.
– The honorable member knows that it is not.
– I do not.
– Because it is thought that this redistribution will affect one of the seats held by the Fusion party the Government are going back on the officers of the responsible Department without giving any reasons for their objection to the scheme. Objections that have been raised by various parties in Western Australia have been carefully considered by the Commissioner, who has deliberately replied that they cannot weigh with him to such -an extent as to induce him to depart from his original scheme. I read the official report carefully some time ago, for I saw what was going on in the House, and wished to ascertain whether there was any justification for the objection to the scheme.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. Quorum formed.)
– It is well known that every member of this House has been canvassed with regard to this scheme. Such conduct is most reprehensible. The Treasurer’s electorate now includes over 41,000 electors, whereas in the electorate of Fremantle there are, in round numbers, only 21.000 electors. Surely it will not be said that the redistribution proposed by the Commissioner would not provide for a fairer representation of the people. The Commissioner’s report was presented to the Minister on 8th October last, and the Government submitted it to the House, with a motion that it should be printed, on the last day on which it could be brought forward under the law. That was on 15th October last. Five weeks have since elapsed, and it cannot be said that the Government have not had an opportunity to submit this motion at an earlier date. The question of the representation of the electors in this House goes to the root of the whole system of parliamentary government. I have read the report of a speech made by the Minister of Defence on a previous occasion when a redistribution scheme was before the House, and can well imagine how eloquent and vehement he would be, if he were now in opposition, as he w?as then, in his denunciation of the Government for interfering in Tammanylike fashion with the basis of representation. The Minister of Home Affairs is in a most humiliating position.
– Tn what way?
– The Minister, in asking the House to approve of this redistribution, must be acting on the advice of his officers. Under the Electoral Act he could have asked the House to disapprove of it. He has not done so. He has chosen the alternative of asking the House to approve of it, and, on a question affecting his Department, and on which he must be acting with the advice of his officers, we find the Government going back on him and leaving him stranded. The position in which he is placed is most undignified. Nothing approaching responsible government is associated with the attitude of the Ministry on this question. On the contrary, there is a denial of the responsibilities of the Government. Certain members of it are refusing to be responsible for the work of the Commissioner appointed by the Department, and supported by the Minister at the head of that Department. Various members of the Ministry have gone back on him simply because of their desire that one more supporter of the Fusion Ministry shall be returned at the next general election. I think the people of Western Australia will not allow this manipulation of votes to affect the members returned at the next election. I can only enter my protest against this Tammany-like manipulation of electorates, not in the interests of political purity, of Democratic representation
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
.- I trust the Government will see the wisdom of agreeing to an adjournment of the debate at this hour on a Tuesday night. Is there no consideration to be given to honorable members, or to the question?
– There has been consideration given to the question throughout the whole of the sitting.
– If thePrime Minister adopts these methods, I do not think he is acting wisely.
– The session ought to close in a fortnight.
– The session would have closed earlier had the Government been more expeditious with business. They have, however, through the Minister of Home Affairs, submitted a motion which they do not intend to support, and, thus having provoked discussion, for them to say that they are anxious to prorogue is sheer mockery. Could the Opposition sit silent and see” responsible government dragged in the mire ? A Commissioner was appointed, presumably on the ground that he was capable of doing the work well and thoroughly, and yet, because he has not done it to the satisfaction of the political self-seekers on one side, we have a position which, I venture to say, was never equalled in any other Parliament. The Commissioner has had the temerity to do his duty according to instructions, and to law ; and, because his recommendations do not suit the Government or the supporters of the Government, even the Treasurer is prepared to turn his back on the man he calls his friend, and tell him that the vote of the House will show there is no confidence in him. This is a. piece of hypocrisy on the part of the Government, and humiliating and degrading to Parliament. Has it come to pass that to the National Government, a question of that kind is to be determined by the political necessities of an individual member? What the honorable member for Darling said jocularly I say seriously - if this sort of thing is permitted there is nothing in American politics which we shall not be capable of by-and-by if the present Government remain in power. When the last redistribution of seats was made, a whole district in my electorate, in which only one vote out of some hundreds was given against the Labour representative, was cut off, and another, in which the vote could not be calculated as favorable to the party, was added ; but I did not make frantic appeals to the Government or to Ministers on that account. I knew that the Commissioner had been appointed, and had done his work according to his lights.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
Motion (by Mr. Fuller) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sir JOHN QUICK laid upon the table the following papers : -
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended -
Postal Regulation No. 7 ; Telegraphic Regulation No. 17 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 123.
Telegrams beyond the Commonwealth - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 124.
The Clerk laid upon the table the follow i ng pa per : -
Sugar Mills - Coloured Aliens employed - Return to an Order of the House dated 20th October,1909.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to express my view on the matter which has been under discussion during the evening. I think that the Prime Minister has conducted affairs to-day in a manner that reflects no credit on this House.
– Political corruption.
– I do not think that I remember a spectacle of the kind, where a Minister in charge of a piece of business brought down a proposal, and stated that he was in favour of it, whilst the whole of his colleagues voted against it.
– Order !
– If I am not in order, I shall at once resume my seat ; but 1 understand that on the motion for the adjournment of the House I am at liberty to draw attention to any matter of public importance. I do not wish to stand here on a point of privilege. If I am in order, however, I wish again to call attention to procedure that casts a serious reflection on the honour of the members of this House, on Parliament as a whole, and on the Government. I hope that this is the last exhibition of the kind that we shall witness in this House.
– I simply desire to say, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, that it must be obvious even to those who have had very little experience in this House, that the proposals submitted to-day had no connexion with what is usually referred to as responsible government. We have been dealing with a motion connected with the administration of the affairs of this House in so far as they relate to the representation of the people and the redistribution of electorates. As such, the business had no party complexion. No question of policy was involved. It required no Cabinet unity. The Ministry had no responsibility as such. It was simply a proposal submitted by an independent State officer specially charged to prepare a scheme–
Motion (by Mr. Webster) proposed -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 20.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091123_reps_3_54/>.