4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Wireless Telegraphy - Cape Borda Station - Payment of Employes
– Has the PostmasterGeneral any information to give the House about the intentions of the Government in regard to the provision of a wireless station at Cape Borda?
– I am not yet in a position to make any statement regarding wireless telegraph installations. We have had a lot of difficulty in connexion with the matter, but I hope to make an announcement to-morrow. As to Cape Borda, the advisability of purring a station there will be considered in connexion with the general scheme for linking up the coastline of Australia.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain the cause of the delay in paying the employes of the General Post Office, Sydney? Last time the temporary hands had to wait four days beyond the due date..
– If the honorable member will giveme particulars, I shall be pleased to have the matter inquired into.
Price of Harvesters - Patent Leather - Piano Duties
– I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs some time ago whether the prices of harvesters have been increased. Is he able to reply to the question ?
– I have not yet received official information on the subject, but I understand that the manufacturers of harvesters have increased their prices considerably above those charged in 1906, when the duties were last considered.
– Is it not a fact that there has been an increase of wages in the harvester-making industry to account for the increase of prices?
– The men, largely by their own efforts and organization, have obtained higher rates in this State from a Wages Board, but the employers fought against the increase very bitterly.
– Is the Minister aware whether there have recently been heavy withdrawals of patent leather from the Customs House, of a nature to cause the suspicion that there is a leakage of information regarding the Tariff proposals ?
– I am not aware that there have been heavy withdrawals of patent leather, but such withdrawals would in no case be evidence of the’ leakage of information, because patent leather is not mentioned in the new Customs Tariff schedule.
– I understand that there is a duty of 25 per cent. on patent leather.
– The duty on patent leather has not been altered since it was fixed in 1908.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received from the piano-manufacturers of Australia a reply to his circular asking them to submit their balance-sheets, and to prove whether they were being ruined or were prospering under the Tariff?
– All the pianomanufacturers in Australia have replied to the circular, and answered its questions fully.
– Will the Minister lay the information and the balancesheets on the table, for the information of honorable members in considering the proposed increase of duty?
– No. The information was given on the understanding that it would be regarded as confidential, and it has been so treated. I am the only Minister who has seen it.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many officers have been transferred to the Department of Trade and Customs in New South Wales-
– The Public Service Commissioner advises that the necessary information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as available..
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Supply of White Flannel - Eaglehawk Area Officer - Karrakatta Rifle Range
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether it is true that a military officer from Queensland has been appointed area officer in Eaglehawk, Victoria; and, if so, under what circumstances such appointment was made?
– Yes. Ex-Lieutenant Allen, late R.A.G.A., because he was considered the most suitable applicant.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What are the reasons for closing the rifle range at Karrakatta,Western Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Because certain of the suburbs of Perth are extending into the danger zone, and the range would eventually become a menace to public safety. A road in rear of the targets is also coming more and more into use, and strong representations have been made that the range was unsafe, and that it interfered with the use of the lands in rear of targets.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The reply to the questions is rather lengthy. It reads as follows : -
The article in question contains so many qualifications and reservations that it is difficult to find any definite statement to reply to. For instance, the following quotation is a sample : - “Mistakes may have been made; the Fitzroy Dock may be in a hopeless state of disorganization, but it may pull through all right,” &c.
It is undoubtedly the policy of the present Government to assist and encourage State enterprise wherever possible.
The statement that the revenues of the Commonwealth “ are being, and threaten to be, in still greater volume poured out at an alarming rate “ is inaccurate, unless reference is made to the whole Naval expenditure on construction, as the greater part of the money is being spent on construction in England, only£8,284 being spent on the re-erection of the Warrego during last financial year in Australia. It is also inaccurate to say that any of this money is spent without any check. The Naval Board’s accountant has access to the books of the dockyard, and naval engineers watch the construction of the boat.
The article admits that “ the Fitzroy Dock was probably the only State institution in the Commonwealth in a position partially to tenderfor any part of the gigantic operation involved in the construction of a second-class cruiser and four destroyers.”
Itgoes on to delve into ancient history as to mismanagement of the dockyard in past years, omitting to mention that as a result of those inquiries matters were put on a better basis.
The article points out that the British Government does not confine itself to one dockyard. The analogy is a poor one. The British Government is spending from 9 to 13 millions per annum on construction, Australia is proposing to spend less than£1,000,000 on local construction, spread over two years. Britain is able to keep numerous dockyards going because of the enormous amount of private shipbuilding. The comparative failure of Austraiian yards has beencaused by that very policy of so dividing the small amount of work that was available, so that no one yard received sufficient to justify its erect’ ing a proper plant; the result is half-a-dozen poorly equipped yards. This is the reason why Victorian firms are not in a position to do this work. It is to be noted that quite recently Victorian firms failed to tender for a local dredge.
– We have read all’ this in the press this morning.
– I am aware ofthat. But the questions were asked, and it is necessary, I presume, that I reply to them. I may mention that I said at the onset that the reply was a long one. I have no desire to read it, but the honorable member for Riverina asked the questions, and) I presume that he had a right to ask them. I understand that similar questions were asked in the Senate yesterday. The honorable member was aware of that fact, but he still pressed his questions here this morning.
– Has the. honorable member much more to read?
– I am not more than half-way through the reply, sir. I have no desire to read it if you think that it should be laid upon the table.
– I would suggest that long replies to questions should be laid upon’ the table.
– I will willingly da that.
– That would be much better, and also save time to the House.
– If I may make a suggestion, sir, that would apply especially when the matter is not new. When thematter has already been communicated to the press, there is a reason for not reading it to the House.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for Commonwealth Government inscribed stock and for other purposes connected therewith.
This is a machinery Bill, pure and simple.
– For loans?
– No; mere machinery.
– I should like to know from the
Prime Minister what the object of the Government is in introducing a measure of this kind? It may be “ a machinery Bill pure and simple,” as he says, but with what end in view, and for what purpose? Is the machinery to be thrown on the scrapheap, and not used, or what is it intended to do? I can understand Ministers bringing in a machinery measure when they tell us candidly and specifically what the machinery is intended to accomplish. But here we get no statement, no explanation of any kind, but “ mere machinery, mere machinery.” Have we nothing better to dothan to pass motions which mean nothing ?
– This is only a motion asking leave to introduce a Bill.
– Yes ; and this, I take it, is the time for the Government to explain what they intend to do. I do not ask for even an explanation of the measure, but simply for an expression of the intention of the Government in introducing this proposal. I think that the least which the right honorable member could do would be to apprise the Committee what the machinery is intended to accomplish.
– I think that the Committee is quite entitled to have further particulars of the measure. We have in power a Government which declared that to borrow money from the public is quite contrary to their policy. We know that inscribed stock is a means of giving security to the public for a loan. It is quite possible that the Government snean to get a Bill of this sort, and then, in recess, to go back on their policy and issue inscribed stock in order to raise a loan from the public. I think it is due to the Committee that the Prime Minister should state whether the object of this motion is to introduce a Bill empowering the Government to issue inscribed stock, so that they may float a loan in the recess. I would ask him to assure the Committee th.it there is no such intention.
.- I think that honorable members who have preceded me were perfectly right in asking the Prime Minister what is the general purport of the proposed measure. We have issued no stock, and when we have brought before us a Bill dealing with inscribed stock, we naturally conclude that it is intended, sooner or later, to float a loan. I think that, inasmuch as this is the first time that any thing of the sort has oc curred, the Prime Minister ought to give us some idea of his general intention.
– The last speaker assumed that a loan could not be raised without a measure of this kind, and I think that the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Parramatta did too.
– Of course it could.
– A Bill was introduced by a previous Government to raise a loan.
– Not by a Government which was opposed to the raising of loans.
– And it was supported by those who have spoken to this motion.
– That is different from the right honorable member introducing a Loan Bill.
– That is not the point here.
– That is the point.
– I think that it is high time that a general Stock Bill was passed.
– Perhaps, we would think so too if we knew what was in your mind.
– If anything has been said against the Government, it is because they have not made preparatioas to take over the State debts, or to take the necessary steps to enable Commonwealth stock to be issued at any convenient time when Parliament has legislated on the subject.
– No; it wasbecause of their declared determination not to make a loan of any kind for any purpose.
– The honorable member has never been briefed to explain what the policy of this party is.
– I admit that, and the members of the Government cannot do it either.
– While I have the greatest respect for the honorable member’s ability in many respects, I do not think that they are likely to, either. At any rate, I do not accept his statement of our policy at any time.
– It is something to know that you are coming round to decent views.
– This proposal does not in any way involve the question of a loan or loans, but it lays down the machinery to enable this Parliament at anytime it thinks fit to ‘ make provision to raise necessary loans.
– We may take it, then) that it is not for immediate use.
– It may, or it may not. I shall not reveal anything of what the policy may or may not be. No one can look into the future.
– It is the policy of conversion in which the honorable member for Parkes is interested.
– The conversion of stock or of honorable members opposite ? I think we are all agreed that this is a necessary part of the Commonwealth machinery, and that honorable members on both sides not . only understand what the Bill is, but are in agreement with the policy of it.
– The Prime Minister began his little speech, in which he told us absolutely nothing, with the statement that this Bill involved no new principle ; and that it had already been placed in principle on the statute-book by the late Government. I am totally unaware that the late Government brought down a machinery Bill of this kind, although it undoubtedly submitted a distinct and definite proposition to raise money. Are the Government now bringing down a Bill to provide the machinery for raising loans, without the slightest idea of putting that machinery into use ? If we are passing legislation that is not to be used, but only to be placed in the political shop window, we should know that that is so.
– This is not a very attractive Bill for the political shop window.
– It may or may not be. Neither the honorable member nor any one else knows what it is. The Prime Minister is following his general policy of telling the House absolutely nothing, unless where he cannot avoid doing so. It is a good thing for the leader of a caucus to pursue, but one marvels at the complacency of those behind the Prime Minister, who, I believe, know no more about a great deal of the legislation “being introduced than we do. They are blindly following their leader in this respect.
– I thought that everything was fixed up in caucus.
– At one time we are told that everything is fixed up in the caucus, and then we are told that we are blindly following our leader. Both statements cannot be. correct.
– They are not inconsistent. If the honorable member’s mind is incapable of making distinctions it is not my fault.
– Nothing is inconsistent so far as the honorable member for Parramatta is concerned.
– Will this rowdy Minister be quiet?
– This rowdy unpaid’ Minister.
– No fear; he is not an unpaid Minister; he does not scab on his job. The Prime Minister should tell the Committee what he has in his mind in submitting a proposal of this kind. He will not tell us anything, and his blind followers sit back and say nothing.
– The Opposition hear of things of which I know- nothing. ,
– Then let the honorable member tell his constituents that he is voting on matters of which he knows nothing.
– That is not the question.
– The honorable member says that the Opposition knows more than he does about much of the legislation: introduced by the Government. We know nothing of it, and if the honorable member is in the same position, he should go on the stump next Saturday and tell his constituents that he is voting blindly every day of his life for legislation of which he knows nothing, and about which his leader will say nothing to him. He should let his constituents know that that is the way in which Commonwealth legislation is being transacted under the aegis of a Government that is supposed to represent the great Democracy outside.
.- It is high time that the Prime Minister learned better manners. He is treating the Committee with a great deal of disrespect.
– Give him a show !
– I should like the Prime Minister to .give us- “ a show “ to gain the information we are’ entitled to have.
– I hope the honorable member will not bully us.
– The honorable member for Maranoa may laugh. There is an old and a true adage, that “fools laugh at their own folly.” The Prime Minister, in submitting this proposal, sought to have it adopted by the Committee without offering a word of comment, and what he said later on, as the result of objections raised by the Opposition, was quite insufficient to meet our requirements. We are en titled to know whether he has a loan in contemplation, and to what extent he proposes in that respect to depart from the policy that has been enunciated as that of his party. The procedure adopted by the Prime Minister in this case is quite in keeping with the practice that has lately grown up in regard to every Bill introduced into this House. We have submitted to us Bills of which little or no information is vouchsafed to us ; we are allowed to drift in the dark, and from what honorable members supporting the Ministry say, they know even less than do the Opposition concerning such measures. Surely we have not ceased to be a Parliament. Surely this has not ceased to be an assembly where we are expected to discuss and understand public questions.
– It is simply a registry office for a caucus that does not sit.
– Henry Willis would deal with the honorable member.
– Under Labour dominance the Parliament of New South Wales is degenerating and becoming a disgrace to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
– I am sure that I am not, but why permit these interjections? I seriously ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to give us some little information that will enable us to form an opinion as tothe merits or demerits of the proposition submitted to us.
.- So fas as I am able to follow this measure, the Prime Minister is correct in saying that it is simply a machinery Bill which in itself does not authorize any borrowing.
– None whatever.
– At the same time, on reflection, Ministers will recognise that the inquiry made by the Opposition as to whether the Prime Minister intends during this session to take any action, in respect of which this is but a preliminary, is quite reasonable. We can forecast several directions in which Ministerial action might be taken - and action that probably would not be open on principle to objection from this side of the House. But the query was whether this measure is being passed in anticipation either of what may happen during the recess, or as a prelude to some proposition that will be submitted to the Parliament before we prorogue. Having regard both to the state of business and to the stage of the session we have reached, these are not unreasonable inquiries. An answer, at all events, would’ permit honorable members to consider what should be their attitude when any such departure is actually proposed. If, as I assume, the object is to place this measure before Parliament with a view to the adoption of a policy that would involve the utilization of the Bill during the forthcoming recess, we are entitled to have a statement in that regard. Such a statement should save much idle debate.
– The Leader of the Opposition agrees with my statement that this is a purely machinery Bill, and that it cannot of itself enable the Commonwealth Government to raise any money or to apply any money to any. purposes to which money is not already being applied. Therefore, it involves no question of principle. It is, in my opinion, a measure which might very w.ell have engaged the attention of the Federal Parliament earlier. But we have been pressed with other business.
– Wouldanything go wrong if in the press of business at the present time this measurestood over until next session ?
– I think it is desirable that the Bill should be passed.
– What makes it advisable?
-If the young and impetuous and often inaccurate member for Richmond will restrain himself I will explain. The question that has been asked by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Parramatta has no relation to this Bill at all.
– They asked what the Government intend to do with the Bill in the recess.
– We can do nothing with it unless this Parliament legislates in another way. I ran assure honorable members that the Government will do nothing, and will attempt to do nothing except by legislation that may be introduced later on. If the Government see fit to bring, in a measure to raise money under this Bill they will do so.
– This session?
– They may.
.- Notwithstanding my youth, impetuosity, and so forth, I should like to know what makes it advisable to introduce this Bill now ? I think we are entitled to know that.
– The public interest.
– In what direction does the public interest demand the passing of this Bill now ? I think I can see why the Government want it. They want it for two purposes. First, in connexion with the proposed reduction of the reserve behind the Australian notes ; and, second, for the purpose of investing funds which they hope to get in connexion with the Savings Bank.
– Did the Government commission the honorable member to make this Ministerial announcement?
– They did not, but I think I can see the reason for the introduction of the Bill. It is only fair that the Prime Minister should state whether the reasons that I have suggested are correct or not. I do not see why the right honorable gentleman should not take the Committee into his confidence, and tell us why the Bill is required.
– It ma.y be for the purposes of a loan for the Savings Bank.
– The Bill may be required . for other purposes also. We certainly ought to be informed why the Government think it advisable that such a Bill shouid be introduced at this period of the session.
– The right honorable the Treasurer has just stated that nothing can be done under this Bill without further legislation - that it will not authorize the Government to do anything unless Parliament passes another Act. I do not think that that is the case. If this Bill passes, the Government can invest any funds that they have authority under this Bill to invest in inscribed stock. They will be permitted to invest all the money derived from the note issue, and any other money that they have, in Government securities. I take it that that is the object which the Treasurer has in view. In fact, it must be the principal object. Probably he wants to invest the money pertaining to the note issue, and to use it for public purposes - for building of railways or other public works for which, however, he will have to obtain parliamen tary authority. This is an every-day procedure in the States. If a Government has Savings Bank money, or any other money, it is permitted to invest those funds in landed estate or public securities, under Acts of Parliament. Whenever a work has been authorized by Parliament, this money can be used for the purpose of carrying it out. Take, for instance, the trans-Australian railway. It is provided in the Bill for the construction of that linethat the money is to be appropriated from either revenue or loan funds. If money for that purpose were required, it would be competent, under this Bill, to use moneys obtained from the sale of inscribed stock or loan moneys.
– This Bill, of course, does not provide the money.
– No, but if the Government have, say, £1,000, they can, under this Bill, put a piece of paper intothe public securities, and take that£1,000 for a public work, which has been authorized by Parliament. I am quite sure that that is the case. It is the law and the practice everywhere. The use of local inscribed stock is as common in the Statesas is the Consolidated Revenue Fund. We are quite familiar with the practice. I do not know of any pressing necessity for this Bill, but’ we certainly shall have to have a measure of the kind very soon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- As I did not have an opportunity of speaking on this measure at the second-reading stage, and as it was passed through Committee on Tuesday morning before the arrival of the train from Sydney, where I was compelled to go at the end of last week, I should like to make a few observations now.
First of all, the necessity for this . Bill is hardly apparent to me. It sets up a new and distinct arbitration tribunal expressly for the public servants. It lis quite true that Mr. Justice Higgins will preside over the Court. He will form the Court under this Bill, and also under the general arbitration law - he will act in two capacities. There will be two distinct Arbitration Courts, one exercising the jurisdiction of the general arbitration measure, and the other exercising the jurisdiction conferred by this Bill. In the original Act, “industrial dispute” means -
A dispute in relation to industrial matters -
arising between an employer or an organization of employers on the one part and an organization of employes on the other part; or
certified by the registrar as proper in the public interest to be dealt with by the Court - and extending beyond the limits of any one State……
There are some other words in regard to the railways which have been rendered inoperative owing to the judgment of the High Court, and the section proceeds -
Or to employment in industries carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or State or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth. …..
The Postal Department is an industry carried on under the control of the Commonwealth, and it is presided over, in regard to the salaries, by a Public Service Commissioner, who is a public authority constituted under the Commonwealth.
– In what sense is the Post Office an “ industry “ as defined in the original Act?
– It does not matter what the dictionary meaning of the word is - the definition is provided in the Act itself. The word “ industry “ means -
Business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, service, or employment, on land or water, in which persons are employed for pay, lire, advantage, or reward, excepting only persons engaged in domestic service and persons engaged in agricultural, viticultural, horticultural, or dairying pursuits.
An “ industry,” according to the Act, is any service in which persons are employed for pay, hire, or advantage; and we see immediately that the Postal Department is a service in which persons are so employed. The Postal Department, so far as “ industrial dispute “ and “ industry “ are concerned, is provided for in the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act. When this separate measure was introduced, I was a little exercised in order to ascertain exactly what its provisions were intended to do.
There is, of course, a Public Service Act, which confers certain powers on the Public Service Commissioner in regard to the salaries of employés ; and there seems to have been a general impression that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not override the Public Service Act. That aspect of the question has not been debated; but, if it had, I think it would have been found that, wherever the Conciliation and Arbitration Act comes into conflict with the Public Service Act, it, to that extent, overrides the latter.
– The AttorneyGeneral indicated that in his speech.
– Unfortunately, the speech of the Minister has not yet been published in Hansard, and, consequently, is not yet available.
– I thought we were promised printed slips of the speech?
– Probably we were, but I have not received one. In that part of the Public Service Act which deals with salaries and wages, there seems to be an anticipation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act subsequently passed, because section 17 is as follows -
The officers in the Administrative Division (except in the case of officers paid at a specified rate by virtue of any Act), shall be paid such salaries as may be provided in the Appropriation Act.
Then we have section 18 -
In the Professional and General Divisions (except in the case of officers paid at a specified rate bv virtue of any Act), the officers shall be paid such salaries and wages in accordance with such fixed amounts or scales as may be prescribed.
In each of these sections there is definite provision that the public servants shall be paid as prescribed under the Public Service Act, except where the rate is prescribed by some other Act. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act was subsequently passed, and set up machinery for dealing with disputes between employers and employés ; and, as this covers public servants, if any award were made under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act it would immediately come within that provision regarding officers paid at a special rate by virtue of an Act, the award being made under theConciliation and Arbitration Act. It is perfectly clear that the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act covers the employe’s in those two divisions of the Public Service. But the matter may be further emphasized by a reference to a case in the New South
Wales Court, in which practically the same question arose for judicial determination by a Supreme Court Judge, and here I wish to show that, as regards industrial matters, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to the extent to which its awards conflict with the operation of the Public Service Act is supreme.
The Railways Commissioners in New South Wales operate under the Railways Act of the State of 1901. Subsequently the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed, providing that “ industrial dispute “ and “ industry “ should be held to apply to the railways of the State. The Painters Union obtained an industrial award from the Court, and sought to compel the RailwaysCommissioners to pay the rates prescribed; but the Railways Commissioners appealed, and the case, in the end, went to a Judge of the Supreme Court. The Commissioners set up the contention that they were exercising their independent powers under the Railways Act of the State, and that, therefore, the later Conciliation and Arbitration Act could not interfere with their discretion with regard to. wages. The question was argued at very great length, and a decision was given by Mr. Justice Cohen, in which he laid down that wherever the Arbitration Act in its operation came into conflict with the Railways Act the former should prevail.
– That related to State law.
– Yes, but the same principle operates. We occupy the same position in regard to the Commonwealth Service. The rates of pay of the members of that service are regulated by the Public Service Commissioner, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which deals with industrial disputes was enacted after the passing of the Public Service Act. I do not think it will be contended that there is any difference whatever between the principle which is applicable to the two cases.
– The Constitution expressly provides that where a Commonwealth law and a State law are in conflict the Commonwealth law shall prevail.
– The honorable member evidently has not been following the point I am arguing. I say that the principle which was adopted in a case in which two State laws were in conflict is equally applicable to a case in which two Commonwealth laws are in conflict.
– Does the honorable member think that that was the principle which operated in the mind of Mr. Justice Cohen?
– I am sure of it. I was very interested in the case, and was present in the court for some days to hear it argued.
– What will happen if two Acts conflict after this Bill has become law?
– If the Public Service Commisioner sets up the plea that this Bill does not detract from his authority under the Public Service Act, an authoriative decision will have to be obtained as to which law shall prevail, and as legal decisions are in existence on this point, we may safely anticipate the ruling.. Mr. Justice Cohen, in giving judgment in the case to which I have referred, said -
Mr. Garland argued that the Industrial Arbitration Act repeals those particular provisions. Well, the Court is of opinion that it does not repeal them, but the position is this : that at present, notwithstanding the Industrial Arbitration Act, the Railways Commissioners are acting, I assume, under those sections of the Statute to which Mr. Garland called the attention of the Court. But the Court being of opinion, for reasons I shall mention directly, that the employees - to take, as an illustration, the painters employed by the Railway Commissioners - do come within the scope of the Industrial Arbitration Act, the position is this, in the opinion of the Court, that if the Commissioners have prescribed conditions as to hours and wages to govern the employment of the painters in their employ, and this Court has also laid down provisions dealing with the hours and wages of painters who are in their employment, then, so far as the conditions are inconsistent, the conditions laid down by this Court must prevail ‘; but so long as there is no such interference, then, as I have already pointed out, the Railway Commissioners still continue to act under the full power and authority given to them by the various sections of the Statute to which Mr. Garland called attention, and to which I have adverted.
– Order.I have allowed the honorable member considerable latitude, but he is now going beyond the motion for the third reading of the Bill, and is dealing with matters of detail.
– I submit I am perfectly in order in attempting to show that there is no necessity for this Bill, and in quoting a judgment of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in an analogous case to prove that the principle which operated there is applicable to the measure which is now under consideration.
– Order. Upon the motion for the second reading of a Bill its general principles are discussed. In Committee, debate is further restricted because those general principles have already been affirmed. If I were to allow the honorable member to enter into a discussion of details at this stage we should, on the motion for the third reading of the Bill, have a repetition of the debate which took place in Committee. I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the general principles of the measure.
– I was under the impression that the question of whether this Bill was required was a broad one, which I would be at liberty to discuss.
– But the honorable member is going beyond that when he quotes a particular judgment.
– I had limited my quotation to the precise point which illustrated my argument.
Some little time ago the members of the General Division of the Postal Service in New South Wales desired to submit an application for registration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I took a very great interest in the matter, and obtained a reliable legal opinion upon it. I saw the Registrar of the Court, who informed himself of the position, and who told me that these public servants might safely submit their application for registration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The application was accordingly lodged with the Registrar, but the Attorney-General of the clay, the honorable member for Darling Downs, objected to it. Some politicians interested themselves in the question at this stage, and between them and the active opposition of the Government to the registration, the application was withdrawn. I have since made inquiries into the matter, and ascertained that these public servants would have secured registration under the Act in spite of the opposition of the AttorneyGeneral of that time. That being so, I fail to see any reason for constituting an additional Arbitration Court under a separate Act.
It must be distinctly understood that this is not a Bill which seeks to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is a measure which is designed to bring new machinery into operation. It is true that some of its clauses refer to provisions in that Act, but merely for the purpose of incorporating them in this Bill,” and to constitute a new tribunal, although it is true Mr. Justice
Higgins is the Court in each case. For instance, clause 2 contains a definition of the word “ organization.” That clause reads - “ Organization “ means an organization within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1 904-11.
That means that this Bill adopts the definition which is contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Similar references are made in clauses 3 and 4. A clause which I should have liked to hear explained is clause 15, and I am sorry for that reason that the AttorneyGeneral is not present. It provides for awards which are inconsistent with Commonwealth law or its regulations.
– Order. The honorable member is now discussing the details and not the principles of the measure. I have already allowed him ample latitude.
– I am a little in the dark as to what 1 may discuss on the third reading.
– The honorable member may discuss the general principles of the Bill, but he is doing more. He is picking out the particular clauses and discussing them. He is, therefore, trying to do in the House work which should have been done in Committee.
– I know that an expression of opinion by a Minister is not binding upon you, sir, but when the Bill was at the second-reading stage I expressed a desire to speak on certain points, and was told by the Attorney-General that I would have an opportunity of discussing them on the third reading. I have no desire to discuss the individual clauses of the Bill, but clause 15 contains one of its vital principles, and seems to be the only reason why the Bill was introduced.
– The honorable member may refer to the clause without reading it or going into details regarding it.
– I shall try to keep within the position which you lay down as to third-reading debates, as far as I can understand it. Some specific statement might have been made as to what law was referred to in clause 15. The expression “ the laws of the Commonwealth and the regulations made thereunder “ is so wide that it is almost impossible to know what it means. If it referred to something in the Defence Act or the Public Service Act that should have been specifically stated, but the Opposition were so kind when the Bill was going through Committee that the clauses seem to have been passed without criticism as fast as the Chairman could put them. Consequently, it is probable that not more than two or three members understand what the measure means. Clause 15 appears to make a discrimination between employes of the Public Service, saying to some of them, “ You shall come under this Arbitration Court,” and to others, “ You shall not come under it.” For instance, by section 19 of the Public Service Act the Clerical Division is divided into five classes, with the proviso that each class shall be subdivided as set forth in the third schedule to the Act, and rates of salary paid for each subdivision as specified in the schedule In the schedule specific rates of pay are laid down for six subdivisions of each class of the Clerical Division, ranging from £60 for the first subdivision of the fifth class to £600 for the fifth subdivision of the first class. It would appear that the Arbitration Court set up by this Bill is to have power to investigate these cases, but cannot make an award without referring the matter to Parliament. Both Houses of Parliament would have to agree upon a rate laid down by the Arbitration Court Judge before it could come into operation. Parliament can make this alteration of its own accord. Therefore I do not see the necessity for a Bill to provide for an exhaustive examination by the Arbitration Court of the case on both sides, with the subsequent provision that its determination should not come into operation unless Parliament agrees to it, Parliament knowing practical lv nothing about the case.
– But Parliament cannot make the investigation that this Court can.
– Then why does the Bill provide that Parliament can veto the decision of the Court? I know that this House cannot be turned into an arbitration tribunal for the examination and crossexamination of witnesses.
– Parliament will have the advantage of the finding of the Court. Surely the honorable member does not want to take away from Parliament the ultimate power ?
– Nothing can take the ultimate power from Parliament; nor (would I desire it, even if it were possible. If the Arbitration Court laid down a rate of £600 for first-class officers, and Parliament afterwards, by a resolution of both Houses, fixed .£800, that would not be an interference with the award, because in every case the award lays down a minimum rate. The Public Service Commissioner, or any Commonwealth authority, would be able to lay down higher rates without coming into conflict with the award of the Arbitration Court. The Commonwealth can pay the Arbitration Court rate, and something over it. This has been decided time after time in the Arbitration Courts of Australia. It was decided, for instance, by Mr. Justice Heydon, in New South Wales, that where a Commonwealth award prescribed a higher rate than a State award for the same class of workmen, there was no conflict, as the State award could be paid at the lower rate, and the Commonwealth award could be paid at the higher rate, the one being supplementary to the other. It is clear, therefore, that where the Public Service Act provides for a higher rate than that awarded by the Arbitration Court, or where the Public Service Commissioner or Parliament raises the rate above the award, it is to be supplementary to, and is not to conflict with the award. But this Bill, in clause 15, enables Parliament to interpose to prevent the operation of an award of the Court fixing an increased rate. As a provision to enable Parliament fo increase rates above an award is pure redundancy - needless, and of no practical effect - the provision can only be required to veto increases under an award, which is the only practical use the clause could be put to. That is why I am concerned as to the real import of the clause. The clause is very much involved, and, though I have consulted some of the members of the Government who might be considered to know something about its effect, I am as much in the dark as to what it really means as ever. It is foi that reason that I so much regret that the Attorney-General is not present to explain the real effect of the clause. If the purpose had been to amplify the powers of the Arbitration Court to deal with grievances of the public servants, to remove some of the restrictions applicable to arbitration under our limited powers with respect to general industrial disputes, all that would have been necessary would have been a short amendment of the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It must be borne in mind that our powers over our own employes are not restricted by the Constitu-tion in the same way as in the case of disputes in relation to workers who are under the State industrial laws. It seems to me that the effect of this Bill will be practically to set up a new Court with less extensive powers than those possessed by the Arbitration Court in connexion with other matters. The Bill will extend the definition of an organization for the purpose of registration, and possibly also the definition of industrial disputes. But it seems to me to seriously limit the discretion of the President of the Arbitration Court to make an award in accordance with the evidence submitted to him.
– In what respect?
– I have already stated that, under clause 15, if the Public Service Act provides that a certain rate of pay shall attach to a certain office, and the Arbitration Court, under this Bill, makes an award in excess of that rate, that award will be held up until both Houses of this Parliament are agreed that it should come into operation. I do not see why there should be any necessity to interfere with an award of the Court. Without this measure at all, Parliament could increase the rates of pay of public servants at any time without coming into conflict with an award of the Arbitration Court. Under clause 15 Parliament may refuse to sanction an award which is justified, in the opinion of the Court, according to the evidence submitted by the employes. That being so, the Bill instead of offering a remedy for some of the evils brought under the notice of honorable members, will be likely to create fresh trouble. We shall have representations made to us by public servants affected, and will be compelled to go through the whole of the evidence they have submitted to the Court. That, it seems to me, will be merely duplicating the machinery, and I again point out that we might do all this without any reference to the Court at all, and acting upon a memorial presented to Parliament by public servants asking for increased rates of pay. As the AttorneyGeneral is now present, I may be permitted to say that I understood from the honorable gentleman that this Bill would not be taken through Committee until, with others, I had an opportunity to discuss it after the arrival of the Sydney express on Tuesday.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond legitimate debate upon the third reading of the Bill.
– I wish to give a reason why I should like the AttorneyGeneral to explain the meaning of some of the clauses of this Bill.
– The Attorney-General would not be in order in explaining the clauses on the motion for the third reading.
– Let the honorable member move that the Bill be recommitted, and see what will happen.
– Very well, I shall move the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose of reconsidering clause 15.
– The question has been put to the House - That this Bill be now read a third time. The honorable member, therefore, would not be in order at this stage in submitting a motion for the recommittal of the Bill.
– Should I be in order in moving that all the words after the word “ That “ be left out?
– The usual motion in such cases is - “ That all the words after the word ‘ That ‘ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words ‘ this day six months.’ “ The honorable member might submit his motion in that form.
– I will not do that because it would place me in a false position, and would not enable me to discuss the matter I desire to discuss.
– I ask the honorable member to proceed on the question before the chair.
– I feel that I must resume my seat since it appears that I am not at liberty to proceed as I desire on the motion for the third reading.
– I hope that the honorable member will not think that I am in any way curtailing his privileges. His difficulty has arisen not through any fault of mine, but because of the action of the House. The honorable member, I am sure, will admit that because the House has taken a certain course, that is no reason why I should permit him to transgress the rules’ of debate. The honorable member desires to say something which would be out of order on the’ motion for the third reading of the Bill, and I must ask him to comply with my ruling.
– Surely I am entitled to ask the Attorney-General what is the meaning of a certain clause before the third .reading of the measure is passed. If I am not, it is useless for me to take up any more time. I was pointing out to the honorable gentleman the reason why I make my request, and it is because I had not the opportunity to deal with the matter on Thursday “afternoon.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question, and I ask him to confine himself to it.
– The honorable member may discuss on this motion anything which he could have discussed on the motion for die second reading of the Bill.
– No, the Speaker tells me that I cannot discuss anything that I might have discussed on the second reading of the Bill.
– No, Mr. Speaker did not tell the honorable member that.
– During the time I have been a member of this House I have heard many discussions take place on motions for the third reading of Bills. I certainly did not understand that I would be restricted in the way I am this morning in asking the Attorney-General, in his reply to the debate on the third reading of this Bill, to explain the meaning of certain clauses in it. As it appears I am not in order in seeking the opinion of the honorable gentleman, I shall have to resume my seat.
– I take this opportunity to enter my protest against the manner in which the Bill has been brought to its present stage, and against the shutting of the door, as it were, against honorable members who are entitled to all information possible on a subject of such importance as that with which it deals. The contemptuous manner of the AttorneyGeneral, however, will not prevent me from saying what I have to say. I take the stand that the Bill is in part unconstitutional, and that while it professes to deal with the whole service, a section of the service cannot be effectively brought under it. It seems to me that the use of the words “ but subject to the Constitution,” in clause 15, indicates a knowledge on the part of the Minister that a. section of the Public Service cannot form itself into an industrial organization, and cannot consequently take advantage of the provisions of the measure. The President of the Arbitration Court is to make an award in regard to any dispute brought before him by an organization of public servants, and that award must be laid before
Parliament, together with a statement of the manner in which it conflicts with the laws of the Commonwealth, or regulations made thereunder, should there be such a conflict. Parliament will then see that the award as it stands is ultra vires, and may do one of two things - it may reject it, or it may amend the law. In this way a differentiation is made regarding public servants. One section will be affected by this provision, but the other will not, because not provided for specifically by enactment or regulation. If it were intended to bring all the public servants under the arbitration law, steps should have been taken to amend or repeal the laws which prevent that being done, there should have been an .amendment of the Public Service Act to remove the obstacles in the way. As it is, the Government admits the existence of these obstacles, and says that awards shall not operate until Parliament has removed them.
– What trouble does the honorable member anticipate?
– Any one who knows the ability of the Public Service Commissioner in framing regulations and manipulating them - I do not mean unfairly, but to suit his particular reading of a case - is aware that it will be almost impossible for public servants to bring a case before the Arbitration Court, and that if they do bring such a case the chances of obtaining justice will be very remote. They must ask themselves : What are the possibilities of approaching the Court, under what disabilities shall we suffer in doing so, what will it cost, and what shall we get as the result? They are hedged round by restrictions both before going to the Court and after ‘they have been there. The awards of the Court must be referred to a second tribunal, this Parliament, which may or may not give effect to them.
– That remark would apply to any awards.
– In regard to the public servants, Parliament is in the position of an employer. But it is not in that position except in regard to the Public Service. For the honorable member for Batman, who is a legal gentleman, to tell me that an ordinary industrial award is in the same position as will be an award under this Bill is to express an opinion which I cannot follow. In the course of my career, I have had to oppose some very heavy legal men, and in the highest Court of the country, too. It is not a new thing for me to find myself up against legal men, with their legal acumen, when a question of this character is under consideration.
-Have you knocked them out?
– I have knocked them out, and, what is more, I have received unstinted praise from the three Judges composing the Full Court - a thing which no other layman in Australia has ever experienced. It is not necessary for a man to have a training in law to be able to dissect the English language and to read common sense into a law. After all, in these, as in all other matters, what tells with the Court, whether it be the High Court or any other Court, as legal men will admit, is not legal technicalities, but common sense. This is the thing which tells practically every time when one appeals to a Judge against a mere technical reading of the law.
– That is very cheering coming from the honorable member. This is the first time I have heard that from him.
– The honorable member has only been here for a short time; he has not lived very long, and I have no doubt that he will learn a lot before he dies. However, I do not wish to be drawn off my track by legal subtleties. I have pointed out what will be the position of the Public Service under this measure. It is not fair, I submit, to differentiate between two sections of the Public Service, or to leave any possibility to differentiate. If we are going to deal with the Public Service, we should deal with it as a whole, and let every public servant, irrespective of the emolument which he may receive, be treated as a citizen of Australia and a worker in a Department on an equal and equitable basis. This Bill does not, in my judgment, do that.
– The legal advisers of the Government say that everybody but the Public Service Commissioner is included in the measure.
– They point us to the first clause, in which that provision appears, but clause 15 - which must necessarily govern the interpretation of clause 1 - contains special provisions which were framed for the purpose of indicating that a section of the Public Service cannot be brought under the Bill except on certain conditions. That is a limitation, and a very irritating and rigid one.
– Had we not better throw out the Bill ?
– I do not want to see anyparty feeling aroused, because the measure deals with too big a question to justify party strife. It deals with a question which affects 20,000 public servants, and will affect many more in the future. It is really too big a question for parties to fight over, and should be treated seriously. It is singular that we should be asked to depart from a system which has been adopted by all other countries that I know of. It has always been recognised that the Parliament of a British country is supreme in regard to its public servants. This Parliament is still supreme in that regard, and no one can controvert the fact that it must always be the sovereign power.Let us take the history of, for instance, Great Britain. I admit that the Parliament of a country cannot deal with intricate disabilities in the Public Service, but whenever technical intricacies have mastered the parliamentary mind, what has been the attitude of the British House of Commons? It has requested the appointment of a Royal Commission composed of men who, in its opinion, were qualified to collect evidence on the subject, to analyze it, and to make a recommendation. On no less than four occasions in recent years Royal Commissions have been appointed at the instance of the House of Commons to deal with the affairs of the Postal Department, and in every case the Royal Commission had specified subjects to investigate. From time to time the Royal Commissions reported, and their reports were generally adopted by Parliament, so much so that on the last occasion, which occurred about four years ago, the award the Buxton Commission gave - an award involving an expenditure of£1,000,000, and covering a section of the telegraphists and the postal service - was accepted by the British Parliament. The money was paid, and there has not been, to my knowledge, any disruption of the Department since then or any complaint of moment. This shows that the Parliament has the power, and can exercise it in a broad way, by calling upon impartial men to investigate any trouble which it is not capable of investigating. I learn from the press to-day that in Canada the Parliament is being asked to approve of the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the telegraphic, telephonic, and postal affairs of that great country. What is that but a tribute to the methods of investigation pursued by our own Postal Commission, which made a report on very voluminous evidence, and had experience which had never fallen to a previous Royal Commission ? I find- to-day that in order to regulate one section of the postal service, on a report made by a private citizen, the newspapers, which hounded down a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the ramifications of the whole Department, are now howling for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the telephone service. I draw attention to the glorious inconsistency of the press that could shut down on a broad inquiry which, in my judgment, has been more successful than any previous inquiry, and then appeal, because it suits them, for a Royal Commission to investigate something which is well known to the Department, and pretty well known to every man who has looked into the matter. However, that is only by the way, to show what one has to face in this country. I look upon this measure as the greatest vote of censure which could possibly be levelled at the Public Service Commissioner. In other words, it says to him, “ The duties which you have hitherto performed are no longer within the scope of your office,” or, “ You are no longer qualified to perform them.” I am convinced much in the same way, but I do not recommend this plan as a remedy. I prefer to go to the root of the evil - not to put another plaster on the sore place, but to extract the cancer, and so cure the trouble. This measure is, without doubt, a vote of censure on the administration of the Public Service Commissioner’s Department. It has been administering the affairs of the Public Service, and in spite of the Attorney-General’s denial that the Public Service Commissioner was an arbitrator I tell him, with all due respect, that he is wrong j that the Commissioner is nothing more or less than an arbitrator in an Arbitration Court, fixing the wages of tho members of the great Public Service in the light of the conditions prevailing therein. It gets on one’s nerves to hear a responsible Minister in charge of a Bill making such statements when one knows what actually exists in the service to-day. The Attorney-General remarked that he did not propose to say anything in criticism of the Public Service Commissioner or of the Postal Commission. That was very kind of him, and was also a wise and convenient course for him to adopt. In taking up that attitude he displayed again that alertness and agility in escaping from a difficult position of which he is recognised to be a master. He also stated that the petition signed by 4,000 public servants, and presented to this House, was not really against this Bill, but was an appeal for something else. That petition would have been far more numerously signed had time permitted, and, as a matter of fact, it was really a petition against the reference of these matters to a Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and an appeal for the establishment of a board of control as suggested by the Postal Commission. It was a definite objection to one proposed source of redress, and a definite appeal for another. The Attorney-General suggested that the petition was of no moment, since it was signed by only 4,000 members of the Public Service, and that if it were signed by 35,000 members of the service the position might be different. He knows, however, that there are not 35,000 officers in the service, so that his statement was an exaggeration. There are only 20,000, but he stretched the total to 35,000, in order to make the number signing the petition appear to be comparatively small. If a plebiscite of the Public Service were taken to-day in regard to this Bill the Attorney-General would find the result not only discouraging, but surprising to him… The Bill, however, has been rushed through, and full time has not been given us to thoroughly grasp its purport. The Attorney-General said that this Bill would not take away the right of appeal to Parliament. As a matter of fact, it could not do so. If the people chose to abolish Parliament in favour of some other tribunal that right of appeal could be set aside, but in no other way could that be done. In the following statement by the Attorney-General we have an absolute justification of the report of the Postal Commission, and of all that we said in regard to the past administration of the service -
He made no charge against the Commissioner, but it was humanly impossible for a man to bc at once an administrator of a Department and a judge of the complaints arising under that administration.
That bears out my assertion that this measure is, in effect, a vote of censure on the administration of the Public Service Commissioner. The Public Service Commissioner has asserted that it is humanly possible for him to do all that is required of him in his position, . and to give general satisfaction, yet the Attorney-General says that it is not, and that this legislation is therefore necessary. If that is not a condemnatory statement of the position of the Public Service Commissioner I do not know what is. Before introducing this Bill the Government should not only have repealed that part of the Public Service Act which is covered by clause 15, but should have abolished the Public Service Commissioner’s Department. That Department can no longer be necessary if this Bill is going to be effective. Onlyone body is required to assess the value of the services of our employes. We do not want three or four persons to be employed in’ triplicating or quadrupling the work of testing the value of those services. One body is sufficient, and one body alone exists under any other arbitration law of which I know. That being the position under the ordinary arbitration law we have in this measure an anomaly that will bring trouble to the Par.liament and to the Public Service. Unless the Government are prepared to clip off the useless branches that have hitherto encumbered the service, and to set up a tribunal which will allow of promotion by merit and reward according to value, there must be more trouble in respect of these attempts at arbitration than we have had. Under this Bill the President of the Court, according to the Attorney-General, is to legislate subject to the veto of Parliament. It is a marvellous proposal that we should allow the President of an Industrial Court to take upon himself not only judicial but legislative functions ; that we should allow him to decide whether or not these officers can legally be brought within the jurisdiction of his Court; that we should allow the merits or demerits of a case to depend upon his mere ipse dixit, and further, that his legislation should be annulled only by the exercise of the parliamentary veto.
– Can Parliament delegate its legislative powers to any one?
– I think not, but the Attorney-General says that the President can exercise these powers. He is reported to have said -
Parliament was giving the President of the Court the right to make legislation subject to its veto, but unless the right of veto was exercised, that legislation passed into law.
Therefore, unless this Parliament vetoes what the President does, then the President of the Court will occupy the position of the Parliament itself.
– Can he appropriate the money in this regard ?
– It might be claimed that since clause 8 provides that the chief officers of several Departments shall comply with the awards of the Court, and since they could not do so, in the case of an increase of salaries, unless this Parliament made the necessary appropriation of money, the President will in effect be able to do so. Their compliance, however, must depend upon Parliament. In cases where the President legislates, and the Parliament does’ not veto what hie does, we shall have an innovation in law-making the like of which has not occurred in any country of which I have read. I know of no such provision in any law by which the functions of a Parliament are delegated to a subordinate authority who is not responsible to the people. This is a serious departure from the conditions that ought to prevail. I agree with the principle of arbitration, and would support the Bill tooth and nail if it proposed to set up a capable tribunal, free from political or other improper influences, to assess the wages of the public servants, and to provide for officers being rewarded according to merit. If a tribunal of that kind, not hampered or hamstrung by any other tribunal, was brought into existence, and was made to apply to all the service without risk of conflict with laws or regulations, I should be found to be one of the strongest of its supporters. Some may consider my attitude to be a strange one. It may be said that I, as a Labour man, am on this occasion voting against arbitration. But, as a matter of fact, my attitude is thoroughly consistent. I want arbitration to be thorough, equitable, and just to all. I want to have no person coming in to dictate to Parliament, or interfere with its functions, and I do not want Parliament to be charged with the responsibility of vetoing at the dictation of the Government of the day an award made by an Arbitration Court. I . have pointed out several anomalies in this Bill. It is because of them that I take up the stand that I do. I have never before criticised so keenly a measure introduced by my own party. But I feel, in the light of what may happen in the future, and of what experience may teach us, that I am justified in saying, with all modesty, that I have made a few predictions in my time from my position in Parliament, and have not been very far wrong, whether they were constitutional predictions or otherwise. I have felt it to be incumbent upon me as a representative of the people to say what I know to-day, so that when the trouble comes later on, and the disabilities arise which will undoubtedly arise under this measure, when the discontent occurs - and I shall be surprised if that discontent does not become tenfold what it is already - I myself shall not be condemned by my conscience for having neglected to look carefully into a measure of this kind, and for having failed to point out anomalies which, in my judgment, should be removed in order to make this the beneficial measure of arbitration which I understood it was intended to be.
– We may begin by having a quorum to listen to a debate on a matter of this sort. [Quorum formed.’] I called for a quorum to emphasize the fact that when the one man in this House who has investigated this subject more closely than any other was speaking his final sentiments, the Government of the day and the party which supports them did not pay him the compliment of listening to him. I know that the honorable member for Gwydir does not require any advocacy or defence from me. But I think it is only right to say that on this question, affecting Ministerial supporters outside as it does in so eminent a degree, honorable members opposite have not even sat in the Chamber to hear arguments on the subject from one of their own side, and that one, I repeat, an honorable member who has given more time and energy to the consideration and unravelling of the tangled skein which has existed in the Post Office for so many years, than any other man in this Chamber. He has applied his mind to the subject in a disinterested way with a view of benefiting those who have given him their confidence and support.
– This is the richest thing on record ! When the honorable member tried to speak while the honorable member for Parramatta was in office, he was continually gagged.
– It seems impossible for any one to address himself to the House without this unruly Honorary Minister interpolating.
– The honorable member and his party continually gagged the honorable member for ‘Gwydir a little while ago.
– I must ask the Honorary Minister to cease these interjections.
– I may have my own differences of opinion with the honorable member for Gwydir, but I think I am broadminded enough to yield him the meed of praise which is his due, so far as the investigation of Post Office affairs is concerned ; and I ought to be allowed to do that without being met with gibes and jeers from any Minister. I want to say as plainly as I can, and in as few words as I can, that, in my judgment, the bringing forward of this measure is a deliberate and a weak avoidance of the issue which honorable members opposite themselves have raised, and- a shelving of a difficulty which they have been called upon to meet. They are doing this in a way which, I think, no fairminded man can approve of, inasmuch as’ they deliberately set aside their responsibilities as a Government, and hand the troubles over for the present to a Court to do for them that which they ought to have the courage to face at once and do for themselves. The public ser;vants, and particularly those in the Post Office, trusted this Government to give them! fair play ; voted for them- in very large numbers in the belief that they .would getfair play. But when they were so trusting the Government, and. voting for them at the’ last election, when they appealed for justice’ to Parliament, and when they sent this Ministry in as their chosen representatives to do them this meed of justice to which they considered themselves entitled, they were not told that all they would get in return,, two years hence, would be, first of all, some inquiries, and then again someother inquiries at the hands of an, outside Court altogether. The public, servants believed that they were appeal-, ing to men whom they could trust to give them justice by their own hands in the; Parliament of the country. It appears that they have trusted the Government in vain. They voted for the Labour party, believ-ing that the troubles would be speedily1 rectified as far as possible; but, instead of receiving fair play and justice on the floor of this House, they are relegated to an outside Court, and may whistle for any! justice other than the Court will give, them.- This is a shirking of responsibility which I- hope will never be re’peated under similar circumstances. It is for individuals outside to pass their opinion, as I have no doubt they will ; burit is for us, as representing the whole people, to say what we think of a proposal, now made for the: first time, to give the working of the public Departments to a Judge who is now overworked, and cannot possibly undertake those extra duties. It is a fact, I believe, that seventy trade unions have already registered, and that only three have so far obtained full awards. On this overburdened Court we are going to cast the duty and responsibility of administering the Public Service of the Commonwealth. This does not mean merely fixing wages and conditions, but actual administration, if this Bill is carried. The Court may, of its own motion, do anything it pleases without reference to any plaint of the men ; and, if that is to be the case, it is time to shut up Parliament, so far as the active control of the Public Service goes.
– In view of the Public Service Act and the Constitution, does the honorable member say that the Court can administer the Departments?
– I say that the Court is to set aside the Public Service Act and the Public Service Commissioner, and there is to be no appeal, or no discussion even, between the two authorities.
– This Bill does not abrogate the Public Service Act.
– The Bill abrogates the Public Service Commissioner - it sets him aside, together with his system of classification, as of no avail. The Court may make its own regulations, .and fix its own conditions, and will, as I say, practically administer the Departments if it thinks fit to do so. To carry out the functions outlined in the Bill will occupy the Court from January to December, and then, at the end of the year, it will have to begin all over again. One cannot imagine, the constant variation of conditions in a Public Service like that of the Commonwealth. Its control is not a matter that can be settled to-day for all time. It is not a matter that can be settled on broad principles, leaving the details- to somebody else-; it is, in its very essence, one of adjustment of details, such as I believe no Arbitration Court, so far as I know, can successfully undertake. - As a matter of fact, the Court recognises that this cannot be done j . and it is .proposed to delegate the duties to a police .magistrate, a police stipendiary, any. special magistrate, or other person whom the Judge may deem fit. The judgment of these people is to be final unless there be an appeal.
– Does the honorable mem-‘ ber say that the judgment of the police magistrate is final?
– A police magistrate may make an award from which there is an appeal to the Court - he is given power to hear and determine a case. Perhaps I- should not have used the word “final,’’ seeing that there is an appeal ; but, in my judgment, the very principle of arbitration is being set aside. If arbitration means anything, it is that both sides shall be put in the same position before the Court ; and that is not the case under the Bill. The men will be fighting with their hands tied behind them, so to speak. Penalties, for instance, may be imposed on the men which may not be imposed on their employers/ seeing that Parliament cannot be penalized by any Court; and that is not an equal “deal.” Outside employers and employes are alike subject to penalties, but under the Bill we have a one-sided affair. Only the’ public servants are required to do, or not do, certain things at their peril ; and, more-; over, while there is no appeal for the men, there is an appeal for Parliament, the em’ployer. They cannot have a verdict ap-,r pealed against, or quashed, whereas we can,’ without any penalty or consequences to ourselves. That is the sort of Arbitration of which the man complained, because the award was given against him.
– “Win, tie, or wrangle !”
– As the honorable member very aptly says, it is a case of, “win, tie, or wrangle” - we are “on velvet”. all the time. The men may, but we cannot, be fined j£io, if we ignore any award of the Court. What is. the method of this, Court ? If an organization, or a number of men, are dissatisfied with their conditions., –the honorable member for Gwydir, who has just been through the mill, will correct me if I am wrong - they have, in -the first’, place, to make representations to the head of the branch, from whom there is . an appeal to the heads of his Department. If. the head of his Department does not give, him satisfaction, he- may, under a new’, regulation, appeal direct to the Public Ser-j vice Inspector in his State.
– And a very good regulation too. …
– Yes. It ‘pro!vides a short cut, and snips off a bit of the red tape. After he has reached the in’spector, he may appeal direct to the Com–’ missioner. What does’ the Commissioner do? Does he settle the matter finally? I think not. Honorable members will have observed that on the Estimates provision is being made for two new positions on the central staff of the Post Office. I understand that the duty of these officers will be to report and inquire into all matters connected with the administration of that Department. Before the Commissioner decides any matter he will refer it to these two experts for their opinion. When they have conducted an investigation into it, it will go back to the Commissioner to be finalized by him. Honorable members who have had any experience of circumlocutory methods know how long that will take. When the employes have gone through all those processes they reach the point from which an outside employe starts. They have to go through all these formalities before they can reach the Arbitration Court. Then their, plaint is formulated. The Court may appoint a special tribunal consisting of either a police stipendiary, a magistrate or other person, to hear and determine their case. If the determination be not satisfactory the men will have a right to appeal again to the Court. That means that they must wait until Mr. Justice Higgins can find time to deal with their claim. After that has been done, the case will be submitted to the Prime Minister and the Attorneygeneral, and further investigations will accompany the final award to this House. Even if the organization be successful, it will then have to wait until the Estimates have been approved by Parliament before it can reap any of the fruits of an award. Is a process of circumlocution like that going to settle the troubles of the Post Office? On the contrary, it must multiply them. The irritation in that Department must increase, and not decrease. The sense of wrong and oppression, and the inability to get their grievances rectified must eat into the minds of the employes. Therefore, the Bill is not a measure to prevent friction or to bring about a better feeling in the Postal Department. It merely provides a method of weakly shelving the issues which ought instantly to be faced. With a rare want of courage, it leaves somebody else to deal with them. But I am afraid that anything which I may say will be in vain. The Labour party raised these issues, and made political capital out of them from one end of Australia to the other. Now that they are asked to look them squarely- in the face they desire to shunt them on to a Court, which from its very constitution cannot help Commonwealth employes to a speedy settlement of their troubles. I would further point out that this Court is not to be an Arbitration Court at all. It it to be virtually a dictator so far as these men and their conditions of employment are concerned. It can, of its own motion, exercise any powers that it may choose to exercise. We cannot conceive of a wider power than that. It is instructed to do what Parliament would never dream of doing. Parliament is governed by many considerations which will not apply to this Court. The Bill will practically hand, over the administration of our Departments to a Judge who is quite incapable of dealing with them, because of his want of experience, his want of knowledge, and his lack of time to attend to the thousandandone details connected with their working. The Judge is to begin afresh where the Postal Commission has ended. What is likely to be the further result of an inquiry conducted by him de novo? In my judgment the Bill is a shockingly weak avoidance of responsibility. It seeks to push on to a Court a duty which Ministers have pledged themselves to undertake for the purpose of remedying abuses which they themselves have declared to ex,st. We are to allow Mr. Justice Higgins to deal with the Postal Commission’s report. We have gone to all the trouble and expense of getting it and finalizing it, and now the Government say to him, “ Take it over, and let us not be bothered with it. We do not want to be bothered with it. We do not want to undertake the responsibility of facing the issues which it raises.” They wish Mr. Justice Higgins to do this work for them. This is being done by the party who obtained the votes of those men at the last election. They asked for justice, and the Government are throwing at them a Court in which they will appear with their hands tied behind their backs, to fight a Government which can beat them in the final resort in ways that they a are not able to imitate or emulate. While requiring them to abide by the verdict of the Court, the Government are able to set it aside. We do not pledge ourselves to abide by it equally That is the Court to which we are asking the public servants to go. It is not to be an ordinary Arbitration Court, in which the two sides will appear equally, but a Court which will require only one side to abide by its decisions, while not binding the other side at all. All this is being done by a Government who are in their position to-day largely by appeals of this kind. They are shirking and declining their responsibility to face a serious situation, and refusing to give these men the justice which they promised them on the hustings.
– I do not like to pass a harsh judgment on the honorable member for Parramatta or his speech, but he seems to be rapidly becoming a past-master in the art of setting up a man of straw and knocking it down again. The honorable member would do himself more justice, and stand higher in the estimation of the country, if he dealt with these serious questions in a fair spirit. If this Bill were of anything like the extreme character that the honorable member has indicated, I should not be found supporting it. I think I have some little brains and capacity, as well as has the honorable member for Parramatta, and my careful examination of the measure does not lead me to the emphatic conclusions which he has expressed.
– Perhaps you will show from the Bill where I am wrong.
– I do not think that would be very difficult. I admit that we are dealing with this matter from an experimental stand-point, and in all such cases a good deal has to be taken on trust. It is only when a method comes to be practically applied that difficulties present themselves, and new phases which were, perhaps, not previously considered of importance have to be reckoned with. We have no example of Public Service questions being referred to an Arbitration Court outside of the States that have recently legislated in that direction. I am not aware that in the Old Country, America, or Canada there is any tribunal at all analogous to our Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Therefore, the authorities in those countries, who apparently have their difficulties and troubles with their Public Services just as we have, would find it necessary, if they desired to investigate in this way, to go to a specially constituted tribunal in the nature of a Commission. If we had no Court to deal with the matter we should be in exactly the same position.
Some time ago, when a Public Service problem was brought before the
House, and an investigation was deemed necessary, it was decided to appoint a Royal Commission. My worthy friend, the honorable member for Gwydir, was a member of that body, and I say unhesitatingly that its results would not have been so complete, nor its work so effective, if he had not been on it. He was one of the men who went there to do something. He was satisfied that there were real and legitimate grievances, and that something should be done to ascertain the reasons for them, and then remedy them. Taking that attitude, he was able to do great and important work. I am not altogether satisfied with the view of this Bill which he has presented to the House today. He seems to have the idea that, on account of existing legislation, a section of the Public Service will be excluded from any award of the Court. I understood from the Attorney-General that the Bill would comprehend the whole service, including both general and clerical divisions, and that any award of the Court, although it might conflict with the Public Service Act, and with the regulations of the Commissioner under the Act, would prevail, subject only to an appeal to Parliament. If that is not so, then I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that this legislation must fail to accomplish the purpose it has in view. If it arms the Court with power to deal only with the General Division, and the Clerical Division is excluded from the Court’s determinations, the Bill must fail to achieve the purpose which I and others have in view. To the extent to which it adjusts matters relating to the General Division, and fails to touch the Clerical side, it will accentuate the evil, and make the existing confusion worse confounded. In fact, it will bring about a condition of affairs that will speedily call for further action on the part of the House or the Government.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that, under clause 15, the clerical branch of the Public Service may be excluded from the benefits of the measure. It is provided that the Court may make awards in respect to wages, hours, and conditions, and that, if it feels that the interests of justice require it, these awards may be contrary to existing legislation, in which case the fact must be reported to the Attorney-General and the
Prime Minister, who will place the whole matter before Parliament. Parliament, as the supreme authority, must take cog- :nisance of such awards, and deal with them as it think* best. As for the words “subject to the Constitution,^ with which fault has been found, I would point out that we cannot legislate contrary to the
Constitution. Our Public Service consists of men brought over from the service of the States on the transference of certain
Departments to the Commonwealth, and of men who were appointed directly to it. < The Constitution preserves to transferred officers the rights and privileges enjoyed under State control, and the provision to -which reference has been made seems to direct attention to that fact. It is a re- minder that neither an award of the Court nor any Act of this Parliament can inter- fere with those rights.
As to the objection that the Court will be limited in its powers because its findings will be subject to the re- view ‘ of Parliament, I ask whether the objectors would make Parliament subject to the Court. 1 hold the view that
Parliament must be supreme. It is not : the employer of the Public Service in the sense that some have used the term, but acts as the representative of the people, who are the employers, and to whom it is responsible. Every three years, the members of this House must submit themselves : to the constituencies, to be judged by their legislation and the administration which they have supported, and, if they cannot justify their votes and speeches, others may be chosen to fill their places. As representative of the people, Parliament must have the final decision of matters of “ this kind, and the Bill recognises that. It has been suggested that individual public : servants with a grievance will have to go through a routine of endless red-tape, appealing from one authority to another, and after having had their cases dealt with, first in the subsidiary Court, and then in the Arbitration Court, will be subject to the decisions of the Government and of Parliament. I take it, however, that individual grievances will be dealt with by the tribunals established under the Public
Service Act and the Post and Telegraph Act, and that only matters affecting large principles will be referred to the Court. The public servants, through their repre- sentative associations,” will be able to refer to the Court big questions in which at least large sections of them are interested.
– Of course, there is nothing of that in the Bill
– I am stating the purposes to which the Bill gives effect.
– The Bill covers the professional, clerical, and general divisions of the Public Service.
– I am glad to have that assurance, because the complaint has been made that the clerical division has been excluded. The Court will inform Parliament regarding matters about which it could get information otherwise only by the report of a Royal Commission or Select Committee.
– The honorable member for Gwydir was one of a Commission appointed to inform Parliament regarding the postal service. :
– Parliament does not usually appoint Commissions until troubles have reached proportions detrimental to the service, and compelling attention.
– Then there is to be no court of appeal for individual public servants.
– Parliament must always be the final Court of Appeal. The Bill enables the Public Service organizations to take matters before the Court, and have them inquired into earlier than they could be inquired into under the present system, and thus it is more likely that justice will be done speedily.
As to the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta that the Bill is an attempt to evade promises made to the Public Service by the Labour party when in Opposition, I say that no party has done more for the lower-paid public servants. This Government has done more than any other to remedy the grievances disclosed by the Postal Commission’s inquiry.
– What other Government had a chance of dealing with that Commission ‘ s report ?
– The Government of which the honorable member was a member had an opportunity, but, so far as I know, it did very little.
– The report was not presented while we were in office, and the honorable member knows it.
– Judging by the honorable member’s utterances to-day, if the late Government were now in power there would still be very little done.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that, according to a member of his own party, the service is still reeking with dissatisfaction?
– Because, previously, public servants had no opportunity to bring forward their grievances. They now have a voice, and are properly allowed to. use it. Public servants know where the trouble actually exists.
– Who gave them the right to take part in political affairs?
– Certainly not the Opposition.
– Why is it that the discontent has not been removed after all these things have been done?
– We have in the Public Service some men who, like the Opposition, are never satisfied. They are against the party on this side of the House as a matter of policy, as well as of principle. That, however, is not a reflection on the service generally. On the whole, it is a loyal service, of which we may well be proud, and my desire is that legitimate grievances should be removed, and the service rendered more efficient than it is at present. We cannot have an efficient service whilst big grievances and injustices exist in connexion with it, and the best way to secure a perfect service is to remedy those grievances. This Bill appeals to me as providing a means of considering and remedying, not only existing grievances, but grievances of the future. Under it, it will be possible to deal with grievances in their initial stages, so that they will not be allowed to accumulate and to give dissatisfaction, as Has hitherto been the case. If this Bill were of the character suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta, I, for one, should not support it. I cannot agree, however, with his presentment. I use my own judgment, and I believe that the ultimate result will be that this Bill, properly administered, will be demonstrated to be a good one in the interests of the Public Service, the Parliament, and the country a» a whole.
– The honorable member for Calare always claims to be fair, and he generally is, but the speech just made by him is a remarkable one. Is it fair to complain that the late Government did not deal with the report of .the Royal Commission on the Postal Services, seeing that that report was not even prepared until after the present Government took office?
– The inquiries of the Commission were always conducted in public, and the evidence was available to the late Government.
– The honorable member distinctly said that he blamed the late Government for not dealing with the report of the Commission.
– He said no such thing.
– He did.
– He spoke of grievances.
– It is useless for honorable members opposite to try, as usual, by interruption to prevent us from, putting a case before the House. I repeat that the report of the Commission was not prepared until after the present Government took office. One gentleman, who occupied a prominent position on the Commission, had to remain in Melbourne and assist in framing the report after he had ceased to be a member of this House. The honorable member for Gwydir is the only member of the Commission who still retains a seat here, and I should like to know’ whether he is prepared to say that the Government have dealt in a statesmanlike way with the report of that Commission. As a matter of fact they have turned it down. The utmost consideration they would extend to the honorable member was to allow him the privilege of submitting a motion in favour of the adoption of the report. The honorable member for Calare also said that if the Bill did what, as a matter of fact, he will see it does do, if he reads it carefully, he would not support it. He has practically urged that under it the Court will be asked to deal only with big principles, which can subsequently be determined at a general election by the voice of the people. In other words, Federal elections are to be fought out on an award given by the Court, dealing with certain brandies of the service. In clause 5 of the Bill it is provided that -
An organization of employes in the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall be entitled to submit to the Court by plaint any claim relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment. . .
Could there be a wider provision? Is there in the arbitration laws of Australia anything covering a wider range? Do not the chief issues put before such Courts resolve themselves usually into questions of hours, conditions of labour, and rates of pay? These are really the only issues to be put before the Court, and I take it that they will be the only issues put be- fore it. The clause goes on further to provide-
– I ask the honorable member not to deal with the clauses of the Bill.
– Another point is that any of the powers conferred on it by this Bill can be exercised by the Court on its own motion, so that the statement of the honorable member that he supports this Bill because it will enable the Court to deal only with great principles is but an excuse for getting out of a difficulty. The Court can on its own motion practically deal with any matter relating to the service. Under this Bill we are giving to the Court powers that are at least equal to, if not in excess of, those given to it under tlie principal Act dealing with general employers and employes. If honorable members vote on the motion for the third reading of this Bill in accordance with the views that have been expressed by them, it will be rejected by a substantial majority. Quite a number of honorable members opposite have objected almost in toto to the Bill, and have urged that it should not be put into operation. I am glad, therefore, that they will have an opportunity to vote on. the motion now before the Chair. The Government by this measure are delegating to a Court a power which no other Court, so far as I know, has ever exercised in connexion with a Public Service. Honorable members opposite have said that it will afford . a speedier means of dealing with difficulties than is at present available. There should be no delay, however, under the present system in dealing with all grievances of the Public Service. If any of the provisions of the existing Act stand in the way of the speedy consideration of the grievances of any branch of the service the Act should immediately be amended, and the obstacles removed. Our Public Service will never be contented or satisfactory as long as any barrier is placed in the way of the ventilation of legitimate grievances. But will this Court provide a speedy means of adjusting differences? Every one knows that it is, at the present time, so to speak, loaded over the Plimsoll mark, and that men have struck because they have been unable to get their case before the Court owing to the pressure of work upon it. If we are. to throw on this Court the grievances of the whole service years must elapse before some of them can be dealt with. The honorable member for
Calare says that the chief virtue of this Bill lies in the fact that an award made by the Court will enable the particulars of the case to which it relates to be so presented to Parliament that it will be able to deal with it. He ought to know that this Parliament will not be able to deal with an award provided that an award keeps within the four corners of the existing legislation. There is a speedier and a better way of ventilating the grievances of the service than the proposal that the whole process of testing the grievances of public servants shall be carried out by the Court, and that this Parliament shall then deal with its award. I do not think any member has ever raised a barrier between himself and the service. It cannot be said, at all events, that a Federal Minister has declined to listen to the proper expression of grievances of public servants.
– What about that case from Campbelltown which the honorable member had in hand?
– Minister after Minister assured me that the case had been thoroughly ventilated ; but I took the opposite view. I thought that the case was a hard one.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the measure before the House.
– The only object with which this Bill has been introduced is to allow the Ministry of the day an opportunity of shirking its proper responsibilities. ‘ If any Federal Government is not in a position to deal with the Public Service fairly and honestly, I am confident that, no matter to what party that Government may belong, a majority will always be found in Parliament to insist upon evenhanded justice being meted out. I believe that above all party considerations will arise a distinct recognition of the fair claims of not only any branch of the service, but of any individual in the service. I have too high an opinion of Parliament to think that party considerations, either on one side or the other, will ever be allowed to stand in the way of any such recognition.
– In Parliament, the trouble is very often to discover what is fair.
– That will be discovered on representations which are, and, I think, should be, made to members of this House. I am not one who thinks that it ought to be a crime for public servants to approach any member of the House, and place their views before him, and so afford an opportunity to ventilate grievances much more effectively than they can be ventilated under this Bill. How is any branch of the service to approach Parliament under this measure? The public servants will first have to create a union.
– That might not be a bad thing for them.
– I am not saying that it would. Then they will have to go to a Court, in opposition to the Public Service Commissioner as representing himself, the Government, or this Parliament. Without speaking personally of any Judge, I say that the Court, trammelled as it is with present work, will find it impossible to cope with the task given to it in the time at its disposal. We may attempt to shut our eyes to the fact, but we know that this Bill lias been introduced in order to shelve the claims of the Post and Telegraph servants, whose grievances have been ventilated through the Postal Commission, and laid before this House. Instead of the Government dealing with that report, and declaring whether the claims made are just or unjust, it is proposed to send them all to the Arbitration Court. It is not fair to compel men with legitimate grievances to join a union, and then go to the Court, because we are not prepared to deal with their case. The exPostmasterGeneral would be the very man to say to the public servants, if this Bill be passed, that all they had to do was to go to the Court in order to have their grievances settled; indeed, this Bill is the outcome of the very difficulty that the ex- PostmasterGeneral got into with the Post Office employes. This Bill creates an autocrat with far greater powers than are given to the Public Service Commissioner. Over and over again we have heard complaints, from myself amongst others, that the Commissioner is given too much of that power which ought to be exercised by this Parliament ; and yet, by means of this Bill, we are creating a practically impregnable officer, whose awards must run unless they are ultra vires. Of course, this Bill will not remain in operation very long ; it is one, amongst several others, that will be repealed after the next election.
– Has the honorable member’s party agreed to that?
– The electors have agreed. If the Bill does remain in opera tion, the very men who are now supportingit will be those to proclaim that Parliament has parted with its powers ; and their complaints will be the reverse of mild compared with those now made against the Public Service Commissioner. There will be intense dissatisfaction if any award is given which increases the hours of labour, makes the conditions more onerous, or decreases salaries. This Parliament, when considering the Estimates, is the very best authority to deal with such matters. If we confess that we are incompetent to fix the hours and remuneration in the Public Service, no greater condemnation of Parliament could possibly be uttered.
– Have salaries on the Estimates ever been increased?
– I have seen that done.
– I think it is a very rare occurrence.
– If the honorable member had more experience he would know that there have been cases, not in which salaries have been increased on the Estimates, but in which items have been postponed on division, as indicating the will of Parliament, and the Government have increased those votes on the Estimates. It is not fair to the Parliament that we should surrender our full and complete rights in this respect, nor is it fair to the public servants to compel them to join a union and refer them to an autocratic Court, which will become so congested with business that years will pass before cases can be decided. From one end of the service to the other there will be dissatisfaction and disorganization, and both Parliament and the public servants will bitterly regret this legislation.
.- I have listened with interest to the forcible speeches delivered from the other side, and more particularly to the logical speech drawn from the honorable member for Calare on this side. I began to think that, after all, we are not such “ dumb dogs “ on this side as the honorable member for Wentworth told us last night we were.
– That was in regard to another measure on which I should like to hear the honorable member.
– Possibly we may cease to be “ dumb dogs “ on that other question if we find that we have anything to reply to. This subject, so far from not being debated sufficiently, has been debated ad nauseam; and I rise more particularly to say a word or two in reply to the honorable member for Parramatta. If that honorable member was not sincere in his indignation he appeared to be; but. with great respect, having regard to his seniority, I venture to say that his speech was inconsequential and illogical to a degree. He charges this party and Government with having betrayed their trust to the Public Service - with having promised them something that we are no longer willing to give them. And he went on to say, to use his own words, “ Instead of the simple, direct, fair play which they have a right to expect from this Parliament, the Public Service is to be relegated altogether to an outside power.” A little later on, however, he told us that, when an award of the Court has been given, the public servants will not get a “ square deal,” because Parliament can repudiate the award or quash it as they think fit. In other words, he said that this Parliament, which he declared was no longer to be allowed . to give the public servants a “ square deal,” will have power to put aside any award of the Court. Such a position is contradictory.
– It is, as the honorable member puts it; but I repudiate his statement.
– I do not know whether I rightly understood the honorable member, or whether he says I am now misquoting him.
– I do say so.
– I say deliberately that there is not the slightest doubt, because I todk a note of the words at the time, and they all appear in Hansard if they are not excised. The honorable member for Franklin was not true to his colleague, and took a different view. He said that the House would not repudiate any award as a general rule, but could be relied on to give a “ fair deal.”
– I say that Parliament cannot do so.
– The honorable membersaid a few moments ago that, as a general rule, this or any other Government might be relied on to give a “ square deal.”
– I do not think the honorable member understands what either of us said.
– That is possibly true ; I can only say that I tried very hard to understand the honorable member for. Parramatta, though I found great difficulty in doing so.
– I can well believe that.
– I have endeavoured, at any rate, to read a logical sequence into the honorable member’s sentences. If it be said that we are treating the public servants badly, I desire to know what right, if any, we are taking away from them by this measure, or what obligation, if any, we are imposing upon them that is not imposed on them now? I defy honorable members on either side to show that we are imposing upon the public servants a single obligation which they do not bear at present, or taking away from them a single right which they now enjoy. As a matter of fact, in addition to the rights which the public servants already have - the right, for instance, to have their grievances heard by the head of the Department or by the Public Service Commissioner, or to come to Parliament - we give them the right to have their grievances heard in the full, free, open light of day before an expert tribunal. The honorable member for Calare said the result of the Bill would be that matters of detail would still remain with the Commissioner or permanent head, and that only matters of great principle or affecting large bodies of public servants would go before the Arbitration Court. That appears likely to be the natural result of the Bill, but the honorable member for Franklin seemed to think that we were asserting that only matters of great principle could be tried by the Arbitration Court. We do not say so, but we do say that only matters affecting large numbers of persons, and. for the most part, important principles will be dealt with by it, because matters of detail, for many obvious reasons, will still be dealt with by the most convenient, cheap, and expeditious method.
– Would the honorable member indicate shortly what are the principles, and what would be the details?
– The honorable member is asking me to elaborate a great many details which members of the Public Service will know much better themselves before any concrete case arises. If, and when, any of these matters come before Parliament, Parliament will always have the advantage of the evidence taken before, and the decision given by, this expert tribunal in open Court. When honorable members speak on the one hand of taking this matter out of the hands of Parliament, and, on the other, of Parliament having the ultimate say - using whichever argument suits them better for the time being - it is worth reminding them that the present Government, and the Labour party generally, are not ashamed or afraid of the fact that the wages of all the temporary employes in the service are now regulated to a great extent, if not wholly, by the rates fixed outside by an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board, or even by the rates prevailing in or fixed by a union. That, of course, does not relieve Parliament of any of its responsibilities, nor can it limit the power of Parliament, but it has been found a very convenient and, on the whole, a just method of arriving at a fair wage.
– A definite instruction has been given that wages should be regulated in that way.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say so. I see no reason for voting against the measure, which I think will be of great advantage to the Public Service. So far from being a vote of want of confidence in the Commissioner, it will relieve him of a great deal of invidious work, and tend to the peace and harmony of the service generally.
.- The honorable member for Batman used his reporting abilities in order to take one sentence from one part, and another sentence from another part, of the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta, and make a cheap debating point by contrasting the two, without relation to their general context, or to the subject as a whole. He said it was necessary for him to do this, because the honorable member for Parramatta seemed to be sincere. I will pay the honorable member a greater compliment by saying I believe he was sincere in some of the statements which he has just made. He said that this Bill and its proposals had been debated ad nauseam. I presume he was sincere when he made that statement. If he meant anything by it, he meant that the interests of the public servants of Australia, as affected by this measure, had been sufficiently scrutinized by this Parliament in the course of its passage through this House.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member signifies his acquiescence in my interpretation of his remarks. I shall show later that there is considerable doubt as to how the public servants of Australia are affected by the measure. How did this Parliament treat the question? The AttorneyGeneral made a promise to the honorable member for Cook that the Bill would not pass through the crucial stage of the second reading until Tuesday afternoon, by which time that honorable member would have returned.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– I am endeavouring to reply to a statement by the honorable member for Batman which was permitted to go into Hansard.
– The honorable member must deal with the question before the Chair.
– The question is, “ That this Bill be now read a third time.” I think I should be justified in giving as a reason why it should not be now read, the fact that it was not sufficiently considered during the second reading or in Committee.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in going into details.
– I propose to make only a bald statement of fact which the records of the House will support - that the Bill was taken through its second reading on Monday night when the House, as a whole, understood that it would not be taken. Its Committee stage was taken -
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– I am not taking this course with any desire to quarrel with your ruling, but I do say that no Bill that has not been considered properly at every stage ought to be permitted to pass through this Chamber. We are now asked to allow the Bill to go beyond our control - to send it to another place as if it had been properly considered and debated.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use language of that description. When a Bill has passed through Committee, it is assumed that the Committee has properly considered it. The honorable member has. no right to reflect on the Committee in the way he is doing.
– Move the omission of the word “now.”
– Before I resume my seat, I shall move that the word “ now “ be left out, in order to give honorable members an opportunity of discussing whether or not the measure has been sufficiently considered to enable us now with a clear conscience to send it to another place.
– Do I understand the honorable member to move the amendment he has indicated?
– Yes. I move-
That the word “now” be left out.
– Then I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment.
– I am satisfied that honorable members generally have not given sufficient consideration to the details of the Bill, which affects the Public Service to a considerable degree. We are asking the Arbitration Court to take the place of Parliament in dealing with questions of increases of pay and betterment of conditions for the Public Service. It is also provided that Parliament may quash any award of the Court, but the Bill further provides, in effect, that no public servant will be able to ask any member of this House to vary an award of the Court. It is laid down in clause 8, to which I direct the attention of the honorable member for Batman, who thought the matter had been debated ad nauseam, that the Public Service Commissioner, the permanent heads, and chief officers of the several Departments of State-
– Order ! The honorable member must not go into the details of the Bill.
– I shall content myself then - I feel myself almost in another Parliament - with saying-
– That is a very nasty and insulting reflection. You ought to be called to order.
– If I have to keep myself very narrowly to the point, Mr. Speaker, I should like your protection from constant interjections.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question before the Chair?
– The fact remains that the ordinary means by which the public servants are able to have their grievances heard in this Chamber are being taken from them.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the question of the Public Service at all. He has moved an amendment to leave out the word “ now.”
– If I cannot show why the Bill should not be read a third time “now” there can be no purpose in the amendment. If I am to have any right to free speech in this Chamber, I must surely be free to show that the Bill ought not to be passed without consideration, as it appears by its very terms dangerous to do so. I desire to give only one reason why, in the interests of the public servants, it is necessary that we should proceed with reasonable slowness with respect to the Bill. That reason is that we are taking from the public servants the right of direct individual or collective appeal to Parliament. Under this Bill, no member of the Public Service will be able to appeal direct to Parliament without incurring a fine. Clause 8 declares that the public servants must abide-
– Order ! The honorable member must not deal with the details of the Bill.
– If it is proposed to take from the members of the Public Service the right to appeal directly to Parliament, the proposal should be seriously debated,” but in consequence of the failure of Ministers to give effect to an undertaking with honorable members, it has not been so debated.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– I have moved the omission of the word “ now “ because the House has not yet had an opportunity to fully discuss the measure.
The Public Service is big enough to require decent treatment at the hands of the Prime Minister, but it will not get that treatment if this measure is not seriously considered at every stage, and those who are opposed to it are given an opportunity to explain their opposition. Of course, if the Prime Minister will withdraw the Bill now, I shall not press my amendment. There are differences of opinion regarding it on the part of Ministerial supporters, and the rushing through of the Bill has prevented their settlement in caucus. There should be an opportunity for that settlement. It is greatly to be regretted that the honorable member for Gwydir should have found it necessary to make the speech which he delivered this morning. ‘ He indicated that had he been permitted to speak on the second reading, he could have given reasons of great weight for the amendment of the Bill, while the honorable member for Cook said much the same thing. It is unfortunate that by some extraordinary coincidence both of these honorable gentlemen were absent when the second reading was carried.
– That has nothing to do with the amendment.
– The honorable member for Gwydir was an important member of the Postal Commission, which spent eighteen months in investigating the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department. He should have been heard during the second -reading discussion of a measure like this.
– I have already on several occasions called attention to the honorable member’s irrelevance. If he will not confine himself to the amendment 1 must take another course.
– The difficulty is to know what you, sir, hold to be relevant. The two reasons I advance in support of the amendment are, first, that the Bill is a serious one - which you will not allow me to debate - and, secondly, that it has not been seriously considered - which I am not permitted to discuss. I must, therefore, content myself with adding that the interests of the Public Service are being imperilled most wantonly by the action of the Government in forcing this measure through Parliament without the serious consideration to which it is entitled.
– I second the amendment, though I presume that that will not prevent me from discussing the original motion. The measure seems to be very much misunderstood.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the amendment.
– Then I submit, on the ground that its provisions are not thoroughly understood by the House, that the Bill should not now be read a third time. Some of its supporters have spoken of it as conferring advantages on the Public Service, while others have said that the advantages to be gained from it would go to the Commonwealth. Arbitration has by no means proved a success, and even those who have had recourse to the Court now admit that it is unsatisfactory. The Government appear to be forcing the public servants, whether they like it or not, to go to the Arbitration Court for the redress of grievances. In this morning’s newspapers it is reported that the great Seamen’s Union has just decided by a majority of nine to one to cancel its registration under the Arbitration Act, practical experience of the working of the Act having made its members dissatisfied. We are forcing the Public Service to go to a Court which the members of that union regard as unsatisfactory. That measure of attention which would justify the thirdreading of the Bill has not yet been given to it. I was prevented from registering my vote on the second reading, and we are now asked to send the Bill to another place before we have made up our minds regarding its effect. The division of opinion on the part of honorable members opposite in itself justifies the further consideration of the measure.
.- I am not opposed to the bringing of the service under the Arbitration law”. I would not take from them any ot their existing rights and privileges, but I would add to their privileges by enabling them to obtain the redress of grievances in connexion with which they had failed to obtain redress in any other way, by submitting claims to the Arbitration Court. At the same time, I do not regard the creation of an additional Court as necessary.
– The honorable member must not speak on the main question.
– I am giving reasons why the Minister in charge of the Bill should explain its provisions, and prove the need for a new Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I submit that I am in order in asking for an explanation of the general principles of the measure in discussing an amendment to omit the word “ now “ from the question, “ That the Bill be now read a third time.”
– The honorable member is in a different position from that of other honorable members, as he spoke at some length on the question, “That the Bill be now read a third time,” when he was at liberty to deal with general principles. He is now trying to do the same thing again, but he cannot be allowed to do so.
– It is something new to me, Mr. Speaker, to learn that any rights I have in discussing an amendment are prejudiced by some address thatI have made on the previous question. I submit that that which I am entitled to discuss on the amendment cannot be restricted by the discussion that took place on the main question.
– The honorable member cannot go over the same ground again.
– Surely I am entitled, on the amendment, to traverse as much ground as any other honorable member, regardless of whether I have spoken or not?
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing that.
– Having regard to the happenings in another part of the Commonwealth, it would probably not be well to come into too direct conflict with the Presiding Officer of the House.
There are only two points upon which I desire some enlightenment. I have the strongest possible objection to voting for a Bill the meaning of any part of which I do not know.
– The honorable member was not here when the Bill was introduced!.
– He was not here because he was told that it would not be dealt with during his absence on a certain day.
– The honorable member for South Sydney is making a mistake.
– The honorable member was in the train with me at the time.
– No, I was present during the discussion on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The honorable member is referring to the discussion in Committee.
– The debate on the second reading was not finished when we were in the train.
– It had practically been concluded. The honorable member need not be interjecting into my speech references to my absence.
– I was absent myself.
– The understanding that I had with the Attorney-General when 1 went away was-
– The honorable member must not deal with that matter ; I have already prevented others from doing so.
Mr. j. H. CATTS.- The honorable member for South Sydney is interjecting into my speech statements that misrepresent my attitude.
– The honorable member will be able to make a personal explanation.
– But the report of that explanation will be dissociated from the report of this debate.
Before this Bill is read a third time we should have from some Minister an explanation of why it is necessary to provide this additional and new piece’ of machinery, and to set up a new’ Arbitration Court for the Public Service. We ought also to have an explanation as to what will be the effect of clause 15. If, later on, public servants come to me and challenge my vote upon this measure, I do not want to be unable to give a reasonable explanation of its provisions and my reasons for voting for it. I have no wish to waste time. I am sincere in my desire to understand what I am doing. I have in my electorate a large number of Federal public servants, and if they ask me the meaning of any clause in the Bill, I desire to be able to give them an explanation of it.
– But do they want the Bill at all?
– They may not;, but I do not think that public servants will be prejudicially affected by having the right to go to an Arbitration Court. Under this Bill they need not appeal to it unless they choose to do so. T submit, however, that they have the right to go to the Court under the general Arbitration Act. No statement has been made to show that they have not, and that this entirely independent machinery is necessary. I wish to enter my protest against the absence of the Attorney-General from) the chamber during the discussion of this Bill. ‘
– That is scarcely fair. The honorable member knows that it is a matter of health.
– I do not.
– And I suppose that the honorable member does not care, either.
– I must consider the interests of my constituents.
– The honorable member was away all day on Monday.
– The honorable member knows that the arrangement for the House to sit last Monday was made at such a time that honorable members could not alter their arrangements accordingly.
– The Attorney-General is about the House now.
– -If he is about the House dealing with public business, fie should be able to be in the chamber whilst this Bill is under consideration. If the AttorneyGeneral is too ill to attend, surely some other Minister should be able to give us the explanation of this Bill that we require. If it is not possible for him to be here to tell us something of it, probably the Minister of External Affairs can give us the desired information.
– The honorable member ought to have been here to hear the AttorneyGeneral’s explanation of the Bill.
– -I was here, and heard the Attorney-General move the second reading of the Bill ; but the points to which I am referring were not explained.
– The honorable member knows very well that the Attorney-General is ill, and that, in fact, he is not fit to be here. It is cruel for him to De attacking the Attorney-General as he is doing.
– I do not want him to be here; but I do» think that some Minister should be here to give us an explanation of the Bill. Surely that is not unreasonable.
– Three Ministers are present. How many more does the honorable member want?
– Let any one of them give me the explanation for which I ask. Honorable members who are interjecting know nothing about the Bill, and yet, when I ask in a reasonable way for an explanation of two of its principles, I am attacked. It is quite unnecessary for honorable members to make insinuations and unpleasant interjections. That kind of soft stuff does not in the least disconcert me. I am here to do my duty to the people whom I represent, and not to take up an attitude merely with a desire to please honorable members, whoever they may be.
– The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I should not have made the remarks that I have concerning the Attorney-General if I had known that he is ill and unable to be present. But if he is not well enough to be here to explain some of the outstanding principles of the Bill some other Minister should give us that explanation. Surely some Minister is here in charge of the measure. Apparently, all that I can do is to enter my emphatic protest against the failure to supply the explanation that I have requested. I have my own opinion as to the real inwardness of this measure, but I am entitled to a frank statement from the author of the Bill. On behalf of the public servants, whom I represent in this Chamber, I repeat that I should like an explanation of why a separate Bill and a new Arbitration Court is necessary in this connexion, and, secondly, a statement as to the meaning of clause 15. If I cannot obtain that explanation I shall have to tell the public servants who come to me that I did my best to ascertain the meaning of the measure on which I was called upon to vote, but that, for some reason or other - probably because the Attorney-General was ill, and no one else knew anything about it - I was unable to get the desired information. In these circumstances they will be left to their own resources in obtaining an explanation of the provisions of a measure that must seriously affect their position and their interests.
.- I do not propose to detain the House by attempting to traverse the general character of the Bill, which has been, though briefly, sufficiently discussed already. In this debate, however, an assumption has existed to which it may be desirable to call attention by way of what might be termed a footnote to the Bill. Quite irrespective of the merits of the proposal to refer, over the heads of Parliament, to an outside tribunal, matters affecting our public servants, is the question of the particular nature of this tribunal to which we are seeking to transfer a large measure of our responsibilities. The Arbitration Court, as it was in the first instance properly termed, discovered even under the initial legislation of this character, a straining of the scope of that appellation far beyond any bounds that had hitherto been covered by that title. As a Court, it figures largely in this measure, and it is to this Court that the control of Public Service conditions, of which complaint is made, can be referred. So much is plain.
The word “ Court ‘ ‘ is retained throughout the measure, and “I have not the least doubt that the word will be accepted outside, as it evidently is inside this Chamber, and to a much greater extent, at its face value. The particular matters to which I desire to call attention are those lying outside the ordinary meaning of the word “Court,” which, in this measure, are only connected with the Court when it is made a doorway, so to speak, through which they are approached.
In the first place the Court, as a Court, is under this measure endowed with all those powers that belong to all legal tribunals of the higher class. In addition, even in its own particular sphere, and under its own legal or semilegal methods, this Arbitration Court goes far outside the domain hitherto covered by the word “ Court “ so far as I know, in any country, or in any circumstances. Under this Bill this “Court” is endowed with a practical administrative governing authority in which the judicial element entirely disappears, and in connexion with which legal restraints of all kinds are brushed aside. These powers are exercised by one individual - the President of the Court or by his deputy or by both - and the word “ Court” is retained, when none of those powers is judicial, or is exercised judicially in the proper sense of the term. This “ Court ‘ ‘ exercises a power of appointment. It creates beyond, itself an agent that is not a tribunal - an agent who may be a police magistrate, having some legal experience in minor Courts, or any other person to whom may be delegated the task of a simple Inquiry into facts. That inquiry need not be legal in its character - an inquiry conducted by any man of standing into any question of interest affecting our public servants on which a decision is desired. Here, then, at the second remove from a “Court,” itself clothed with powers far outside the ambit of any known Court,, we have a power of delegation to individuals who are temporarily vested with a certain authority, which in any sense has only remote relation to the work of a Judiciary. It involves an inquiry and the making up of a man’s mind.
In addition, we find that this “ Court,” without being moved, without appeal, without any of the ordinary steps by which judicial machinery is set in motion, can act pf its own accord, just as the head of any business, or as any independent citizen acts in his own affairs. The word “Court” is still retained, and the public will read, and many of them accept, it at its surface value, believing that a Court is doing something by those judicial methods by which all Courts are bound. Yet, that will not be the case in any true sense of the word. They will see proceedings set in motion by the head of the Court, who may decline to exercise the powers placed under his control, and depute them to others. Those powers, not being magisterial, and not connected with the law, can be exercised by any competent individual in the community. Yet his decision will be clothed with the authority, prestige, and influence which attaches throughout the British Dominions to all our
Courts, be they small or great, without there being the slightest warranty for the use of the title “ Court,” or the exercise of legal machinery. Surely that is a phase of this proposal to which attention may be fairly called.
The point is that whatever is done to or for our public servants under this Bill, whether it be successful or not - whether it be fitting or practical or not - it will rarely be the action of a Court, or in any sense judicial. Usually it will be a pure matter of administrative control, by a practically unfettered judgment, in . regard to questions of hours, wages, and conditions of labour. In addition, the decision arrived at by a nominated individual to whom the task of inquiry has been deputed, still acting in his non-judicial character, is not susceptible of appeal in any other Court. So here we have something which is nominally, but in no real sense a Court; this gives us at best a practical business method of obtaining a decision from a trusted person on some practical question; yet then, straightway, it can be clothed with all the power and sanction that can be given to the most matured decision of the highest tribunal in the land.
– And without appeal.
– As I have said, the President is placed practically beyond the reach of control, check, or challenge. He is placed in executive authority to such an extent that his will becomes law with the Public Service Commissioner, the permanent heads, the chief officers of the several Departments of the States, and all persons in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. Each and all of these public servants appointed by Parliament, and subordinate to Parliament, are directed by Act of Parliament to obey a behest ultimately perhaps that of some person without judicial authority or legal standing, who is only the appointee of a person who constitutes the Court, under other circumstances and for other matters. The whole Public Service of the Commonwealth is subordinated to his will, although the decision obtains its only sanction in a Court when it is remitted to the President, and he approves of it.
– He will give his decision on the evidence before him.
– My point is that we should not be slaves of phrases - that we should realize that, by retaining judicial terms and forms, we are not obtaining judicial sanctions, safeguards, and limitations. We are here embarking on a field of executive action and administration, and of delegation to persons who are not judicial in training and need not be judicial in their methods. I treat of no other aspect. We must, therefore, endeavour to ascertain how far, under the mere exterior semblance of legal forms, we may be departing from sound principles, and from ordinary legal or Court practice. We are using terms which imply throughout the exercise of judicial care, authority, control, and methods of dealing. In many cases these will not be acquired. It is probably necessary to recall to honorable members’ minds the only relation established between those extra-judicial bodies of varying degrees of legal impotence; - the President of the Court and the Parliament. So far as this Bill goes, Parliament need not take action ; and, in fact, is not supposed or empowered to interfere with any decision arrived at which does not come into conflict with a Statute or regulation of the Commonwealth. If it does so come into conflict - if it deliberately or distinctly challenges them, and Parliament remains passive, the decision of the delegated person simply overrides the Statute or regulation of Parliament, as the case may be. Was there ever such a transposition of sovereignty ?
As I have said, the whole subjectmatter of the Bill, from the stand-point of its effect on the service, has been, for my purpose at all events, sufficiently discussed already. I do not touch on that now. I limit myself to the extraordinary but warranted inference that will be drawn from the new relation between Parliament and its Public Service, owing to the fact that we have chosen to drape this new authority in judicial robes, and to connect it with judicial methods, even when, in fact and in effect, there has been nojudicial element of any kind worth mentioning. Inthe next place, we have placed this oddly composite tribunal over Parliament itself ; and, in that sense, it stands between Parliament and the Public Service. Again, even when it is proposed to alter a law or a regulation of the Commonwealth Parliament, the whole burden of responsibility in the way of action is thrown, not on the intermediary which might be called upon to justify itself, but on the Legislature, which must step forward and formally intervene ; and unless the Legislature does so, the decision of its agent, Whatever it may be, will be carried into effect. I think that is as pithily as I can put the position without going into undue detail.
I have mentioned only one or two considerations which are worth recollecting, inasmuch as the man in the street, the reader of the newspaper, and the auditor at the public meeting when this Bill is discussed, will inevitably be carried away by presuppositions, assumptions, and associations owing to the, if I may say so, artful use of judicial terms and forms. The arbitrary character of this piece of legislation, and its extraordinary constitutional implications, have already been alluded to. The outstanding fact to which I finally call attention is that in very many of its transactions this “ Court “ differs in its constitution and powers, and their extraordinary extensions, from any known to us in any other country. Whatever this tribunal may do or be, it will not as a rule be a “ Court “ or even a judicial tribunal.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Report (No. 3) presented by Mr. Bam ford, read by the Clerk Assistant, and adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Frazer) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
.- 1 thought the Postmaster- General intended to make a statement absolving the Postal Department, since Federation, from responsibility for the loss of important documents in connexion with the contracts by which private persons were allowed to build telephone lines in the eighties, when the Department was under the control of the separate Colonies.
– Nothing has been lost since the Department has been under our control. I do not know whether any of the other people lost the documents.
– Then we must be satisfied with that assurance.
– Are we to understand that there are in the Department no contracts relating to purchase telephones other than the usual application on the part of a man wanting a telephone, and the undertaking of the Department, on the other hand, to construct it?
– That is so.
– My information is that there are legal documents, elaborately drawn up, and forming the basis of contract between the owners of these telephones and the Department. It is very singular, indeed, that the Department is not able to produce one of them. I suppose they have been lost or put away. Has the Minister thought any more over the phraseology of the operative clause, of the Bill ?
– Yes, I looked into the Bill this morning and have not the slightest doubt that it is right.
– Is the Minister satisfied that it includes all forms of purchase telephones?
– I hope it does, because, whatever it may fail to do with regard to the purchase telephones of the olden days, it certainly appears from its phraseology to cover every form of contract such as is now entered into by people under the guarantee system. If there are any cases in which people have constructed lines between their own buildings entirely on their own account, the Department not building the lines, I submit that the phraseology of clause 2 does not cover them, seeing that it covers only telephones which have been built by the Department, although guarantees as to their cost may have been given by the owners themselves. However, if the Minister is satisfied on that point, the responsibility is his and not ours.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5th December, (vide page 3741), on motion by Mr. King O’ Malley -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I hope that, as the result of the very powerful and impressive speeches delivered in opposition to this Bill, honorable members on the other side will be disposed to give grave consideration to the points raised and objections taken. I sincerely trust that the voice of reason, if not the still small voice of conscience, will make itself heard in the deliberations of honorable members with respect to this important measure. It is a measure in which, not merely honorable members of the Federal Parliament, not merely parties within the Commonwealth, are interested, but in which upwards of 2,000,000 voters are vitally concerned. We were informed by the Minister in charge of the Bill that there are now over 2,000,000 adults in Australia entitled to the privilege of enfranchisement, and consequently any act or proposal which purports either to impose disabilities or to grant facilities and advantages in electoral matters is a question in which they are all vitally interested. Such proposals ought not to be submitted from any party standpoint or inspired by any consideration of party advantage on the one hand, or disadvantage on the other. Yet I feel constrained to say that it is difficult to con.template or discuss with calmness some of the proposals in this Bill, which bristles with many sinister and suspicious aspects.
There are in it many provisions which, if carried, are at least expected to work to the advantage of one party in the Commonwealth, and to the disadvantage and prejudice of the other party, represented by honorable members on this side. Whether such is the deliberate intention of the Bill is a question open to argument and inference. For my part, I believe there are strong grounds for suspecting the motives and objectives of many of its provisions, which have already been subjected by members on this side to powerful and convincing criticism. I appeal to honorable members all round the House not to be responsible for any proposals which are calculated in essence or effect to work any political wrong or injustice, or to operate to the distranchisement of any elector or group of electors. I appeal to them also not to be parties to any legislation calculated to inflict a blow upon political opponents. In the forefront of the Bill is a proposal which is a deliberate attempt to do a manifest wrong to a large body of electors. It goes to the root of the franchise, and may operate to the prejudice of a certain average number of the enrolled 2,000,000 electors - supporters as well as opponents of the party in power. According to the figures submitted by the Minister of Home Affairs, over 29,000 men and women at the last general election availed themselves of the right to vote by post. I have not the figures for the preceding election, but 30,000 may be regarded as the probable number who would vote by post at the next election were the law to remain as it stands ; we may assume that the proposed alteration will disfranchise that number. I decline to accept the statement that postal voting has been accompanied by political corruption, unless evidence is given to justify it. So many safeguards and precautions surround the system, that, although mistakes may have been made, and, in isolated cases, there may have been improper conduct by officials, corruption, abuse, maladministration, or failure of the law cannot be fairly alleged. No doubt honorable members are familiar with the Act, but it is necessary to forcibly draw attention to its provisions in the interests of the electors. Those who are privileged to vote by post are such persons as may have reason to believe that they will not, during polling hours on polling day, be within 5 miles of any polling place for the division for which they are enrolled, or, being women, will be unable, by reason of illhealth, to attend a polling place to vote, or who will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from doing so. There are strong reasons why this privilege should be continued under all and any of those conditions, though that relating to the’ 5-mile limit is not so strong as the other two. Persons in sound health, and determined to exercise the franchise, would go more than 5 miles to vote. It was felt, however, that in remote and scattered districts, electors should not be required to sacrifice time in seasons when time might mean money to travel long distances to exercise the franchise. In cities, towns, and boroughs, there is probably not an interval of 5 miles between polling places, so that the provision would not operate there. In a democratic country, with universal suffrage. Parliament; should do all that is possible to extend the opportunities for voting. It should certainly not reduce them. We should educate the people as to the need for exercising the franchise, and should facilitate its exercise. But great as is the wrong likely to be done by taking the right to vote by post from country electors situated more than 5 miles from polling places, a still greater wrong will be done by taking that privilege from women in ill-health, and from all who are suffering from serious illness or infirmity, preventing attendance at the polling places. Persons should not be disfranchised because they are ill, and unable to go to the poll. This provision must have been inserted in the Bill for some sinister reason, and not, as is alleged, to put an end to corruption, and to secure the purity of elections. The experience of the last two elections does not justify the proposal, and in contrast to what is now being done, we have the provision granting a privilege to seamen and others who expect to be absent from the Commonwealth on polling day. Why should the privilege of practically voting by post be granted - under a new form, it may bt; - to absentees from the Commonwealth on polling day, and denied to those who are within the Commonwealth on polling day, but who suffer from illness or infirmity? If it be just to allow men and women who may be outside the Commonwealth on polling day to record their votes under certain safeguards, then it must be equally just to grant the same right to those who happen to be within the
Commonwealth but cannot go to the poll. Why this discrimination between absentee voters and those who are sick and infirm? We have had no explanation save a vague suggestion which has been hinted at, and I shall show how groundless is the imputation of corruption, or the alleged possibility of impurity of elections, under the system of voting by post. Let us, first of all, consider the safeguards provided by the Act. In the first place, an application for a votingpaper must be signed by the applicant in the presence of an authorized official witness. Under the Victorian State law even that condition is not insisted upon. Any elector may apply for a postal vote in his own handwriting without the necessity of his signature being attested by an official witness. At the last State election, being absent from Bendigo, attending to my parliamentary duties, I wrote out an application for a postal vote and signed and posted it. Subsequently, I got back the application, and had only to do the usual work of filling in and signing the paper in the presence of an official witness and to post it. Our law is surrounded by even more safeguards against impersonation or the improper user of the system. It is certainly equal to the postal voting provision in any State of the Commonwealth.
– Under the Commonwealth law the honorable member could have voted on a “ Q “ form for a Federal election if away from his home.
– I admit that. But in this case voting by post was more convenient. At present, however, I am merely endeavouring to draw attention to the safeguards surrounding the Federal system, which seem to be as good and as reasonable as the wisdom and prudence of man could suggest. I wish to show the precautions taken in the case of sick persons who vote by post. Under the Commonwealth law a sick person cannot apply for a postal vote unless his application is witnessed by an official, and followed up by a record of the vote in the actual presence of an official. Then the officer has not the right to post the vote; I think it must be posted by die voter.
– No; the voter must give the paper to the person who witnesses his signature.
– It is open to argument whether the ballot-paper, instead of being given to the officer, should not be left in the hands of the voter to be posted.
– In the past various persons have collected scores of postal votesin that way.
– That is a detail capable of further consideration. I should’ prefer the postal vote being left in the hands of the voter to post, because it is his property ; but when the matter was before the Parliament it was thought best to provide that it should be left in the handsof the officer, since he is the legal representative of the Returning Officer. It was assumed that, in his hands, it would reach its proper destination. That, however, isa detail that does not justify the sweeping, away of this privilege. It is quite possible that some of these officers, in times past, may not have strictly complied with the law. If they have made mistakes, however, that has not been the fault of the voters. If officials who witness ‘ signatures do not strictly comply with the law, then those representatives of the Department are responsible, and not the voters themselves. Why should electors to whom this privilege has been granted be deprived of the right’ to vote merely because some isolated case of mistake or inadvertence may have been traced to Commonwealth officers? If any Commonwealth officer has signed postalvoting papers in blank, then he should be prosecuted under the Commonwealth law. If the Department received information regarding such a violation of the law, it was its duty to secure the punishment of the offender rather than for the Government to come down with a wholesale pro’posal to abolish this privilege. The Minister in charge of the Bill, with all his departmental knowledge, however, is not able to give to the House even rough particulars of these alleged offences, which might amount to corruption. One would hardly think that any person coming within the designation of a Commonwealth officer, would be guilty of such an act. I believe that, with the advance of Democracy in this country, the education of the people, and particularly the independence of the average elector in Australia, the time has passed when general or even specific charges of electioneering corruption can be brought against voters, or those endeavouring tosecure votes. I do not think that any of the officers listed in the schedule could be charged with attempting to secure votes by false and fraudulent practices.
– The officials are not toblame; justices of the peace are the principal offenders.
– They are the officers to whom I am referring ; they are statutory officers, authorized to witness these documents. If any of them have been guilty of the practices complained of, they should be prosecuted. Honorable members ought not to denounce justices of the peace, or any other officials intrusted with the carrying out of the law, unless they have evidence to support their charges. The Government should not indulge in vague charges of breaches of the law in this regard unless they have some evidence of those breaches, and if they have such evidence, they should set the law in motion and allow these people to defend themselves. Is this privilege to be taken away because of any fault on the part of the electors, or does any fault lie with the officers ? Who is corrupt ? There is not a scintilla of evidence to show that a single vote has been obtained by improper influence in connexion with the system of voting by post. What motives could these officials have beyond the ordinary considerations of mankind ? What have justices of the peace to gain by any breach of duty ? They are sworn to administer the law. They are judicial officers, and ought not to be slandered in this House, even in a body, by vague hints or insinuations being thrown out concerning them. What becomes of this charge? This proposal is anti-Liberal and anti-democratic, and is against the true interests of the political freedom of this country. This Parliament, therefore, ought not to be a party to it. Let me utter a word of warning, as well as a word of advice. It may be that it is thought that these proposals will disadvantage the party which happened, in the ordinary fortunes of war, to secure the majority of the postal votes recorded at the last Federal election. By inflicting this wrong on Liberal and democratic electors on our side, the Government are also inflicting a wrong on the electors on their own side. This scheme may operate as_ a kind of legislative boomerang, that will recoil upon themselves when the day of political assize and judgment comes. It is not likely that this proposal, if it becomes law, to disfranchise a large section of the community, will be forgotten at election time. There will be plenty of people willing and ready to remind the 2,000,000 electors of Australia of the privilege of which they have been deprived by the action of the Labour Government. I contend that this will amount to a political wrong and a political injustice. Such a proposal can spring only from a kind of political madness. lt has been said by one of the ancients that those’ whom the gods wish to destroy they first made mad; and it may be that this proposal has emanated from a party who are not as prudent and as discreet as they used to be. I have heard it said recently that the worst enemies of the Labour party are not on the Opposition side, but in their own ranks; and of all the many unwise and indiscreet proposals submitted by the Government, this is about the most monstrous and unjust, and the most likely to recoil against them when the day of reckoning comes, as it undoubtedly will. This proposal to abolish postal voting will be resented by. the men and women of Australia who have hitherto enjoyed the privilege. The very strongest of us may be stricken; and even such typical men in the country as the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition might be deprived of the franchise under the disability imposed by this Bill. Why should men and women in possession of their reason and faculties be deprived of the right to vote through the wholesome and useful institution of postal voting, when, at the same time, a person who happens to be on the high seas, altogether out of the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, is the favoured object of special legislation?
– There must be some special reason for that !
– I have already referred to what I think is the special reason, and I have indulged in no more than fair comment on the acts of public men. The proposed abolition will be particularly objected to by the women ; and I should like to read a protest adopted by the Central Council of the Australian Women’s National League, on the 4th December. It is as follows: -
At the meeting of the Central Council of the Australian Women’s National League, held this morning, the following resolutions were carried unanimously : -
Resolution No. i. “ That this Council, representing many thousands of women, enters the strongest possible protest against the action of the Federal Government in proposing to disfranchise thousands of women throughout Australia by the abolition of the postal vote.”
This vote was specially granted for the express purpose of enabling those who are ill, or disabled, to record their vote, thus exercising the privilege the Parliament conferred upon them and which the Government now seeks to take away.
Because there may be isolated instances where the privilege has been abused, seems to this Council very little argument in favour of the abolition of the postal vote itself, which, if carried into effect, will be a monstrousinjustice.
Resolution No. 2. “ That this Council urge upon the Federal Government the re-consideration of the motion declaring any Saturday the universal polling day throughout Australia.”
This disfranchises large sections of the community to whom this day is sacred.
The proposal to extend the hour to 8 p.m. does not meet the case, the Sabbath lasting from sunset to sunset, and in many parts of Australia, sunset is long after that hour.
Further, that elections held on Saturday must necessarily entail a great amount of Sunday labour.
Trusting that you and your colleagues may re-consider these two proposals.
On behalf of the Council of the A.W.N. League.
I desire to place this protest on record on behalf of thousands of women, not only in Victoria, but throughout Australia. It voices the strong sense of injustice felt, not only by the members of this organization, but by all the adult women of the community, who are being ruthlessly deprived of a privilege which has hitherto been availed of to the public advantage. There are other proposals in the Bill in regard to which it is desirable to emphasize our opinion. From one or two speeches that have been made, it would appear that those who oppose the measure are not able to convince honorable members opposite of the strong foundation there is for the objections raised; and, under the circumstances, we are justified in re-stating those objections. I admit, of course, that honorable members, more particularly the honorable member for Wakefield and the honorable member for Wentworth, have voiced the reasons against this Bill with much force and lucidity; but still it is felt that the reasons will bear recapitulation, so that they may reach those 2,000,000 voters whose rights and interests are being prejudicially affected. There are a number of clauses in the Bill which are evidently directed against certain political organizations, and which will adversely affect the prospects of Liberal candidates. Clause 32 contains the following : - 172a. - (1.) Every trades union registered or unregistered, organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has, in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense -
This is evidently aimed at organizations whose sphere of usefulness is Liberal propaganda, although, to some extent, it appears to cover all political organizations. My own belief is that the clause, as it stands, will not include all the real political organizations which carry on propaganda work. The political organizations on the Liberal or Democratic side of politics carry on their operations openly and above-board, and under their true and proper name. Their meetings are open and free, and their appeals to the public are made in an honest and straightforward way. On the other hand, most of the effective political organizations associated with honorable members opposite are rather disguised and masked, elusive and very hard to trace. They carry on their operations under so many names, and in so many guises, that it would probably be difficult to sheet home the responsibility for the required returns. There would not be much harm in a provision of this kind if it were of universal application - if there were not a cunningly secretive design or motive behind. In actual practice and operation this clause will greatly harass and worry candidates for Parliament, seeing that it is intended to make them liable for the actions of political bodies which may be working for public purposes, quite irrespective of the interests of any aspirant for Parliament. This is a blow aimed at honest political organization and at the effectiveness of elections. I do not think it would be possible in a country with such a scattered population as Australia to have an effective general election without the assistance of legitimate political organizations. That fact has been recognised by honorable members opposite, who led the way in this direction, and showed their political wisdom by creating a scientific network of organizations, some open and above-board, and some secretive and disguised and incapable of identification or analysis. Nothing should be done which would have the effect of gagging or penalizing any honest effort at organization. A candidate cannot possibly conduct a great contest without assistance of the kind ; and there cannot be an organization without some expense and sacrifice on the part of those who form it. In a democratic country like this we ought to facilitate and recognise the usefulness of honest organization rather than brand those engaged in it as though they were employed in some illicit calling. Hitherto organization work has been carried on with the utmost freedom. Personally speaking, I have, in times past, been placed at a disadvantage in Bendigo, and had my chances of election reduced, through the constituency being invaded by political organizers from the other side. I make no complaint on that score ; but I do say that . paid organizers of the other side of politics have systematically invaded Bendigo. They have remained there day after day and week after week, working and canvassing through the length and breadth of the constituency, against me and the cause I represent, but I have never complained. Other honorable members have had the same experience. It is a fair part of the game as long as it is honestly done, and so long as there is no resort to bribery, or corruption. Why should we complain of any honest appeal to the electors through the public platform or the agency of the press? The platform ought to be recognised as the legitimate medium of appeal to the electors. We ought to encourage public meetings an’d public appeals, and welcome every fair means resorted to for the purpose of educating the people, stirring up their interest in politics, and inducing them to become acquainted with the work of political government, and to take a hand in the great work of general elections. Past experience in the Commonwealth shows that, either through a deficient power of appeal, or through the deficiency of organizations which have hitherto existed, in many of the electorates not more than 55 per cent, of the persons enrolled have gone to the poll. The explanation may be that the platform appeal,, or the means of reaching the people, have not been sufficiently effective. No candidate can possibly cover large constituencies such as we have in the Commonwealth, without the assistance of political associations. No candidate can, unaided, do the work of appealing to the people to make him their member. He must be assisted by friends and supporters or political associations. All honour and credit ought to be given to those political organizations which have in times past endeavoured to arouse public interest in public questions. If we are to have valid and effective elections, if we are to arouse the dormant interest of 45 per cent, of the electors, who in times past have not voted, the work cannot be left to the candidates alone, or to the unaided efforts of the small scratch committees which they may form for electioneering purposes. We must be prepared to expect in this country, as in England and America, standing political organizations, whose function and duty it will be, within reasonable limits as to expenditure, to engage in the work of political propaganda, and circulate information broadcast throughout the country. The people of the country are entitled to such assistance, and to hear both sides. There should not be a mere one-sided statement of the case by one group or set of political organizations. We must therefore recognise the advisability of retaining political organizations without branding them with the stain of illegality, or penalizing them by such provisions as are embodied in this Bill. One of the most dangerous clauses is 172A. If that is carried efforts will no doubt be made in the future to assail the positions of many candidates who have been elected at the polls by making them personally responsible for the expenditure of organizations over which they may have no control. In order to sustain that position, I direct attention to the provisions of the principal Act, with reference to the limitation of electoral expenses. Section 169 of the Act of 1902-9 provides that no electoral expenses shall be incurred or authorized by a candidate in respect of any candidature in elections for the Senate in excess of .£250, or in elections for the House of Representatives, in excess of £100 Then section 170 defines what may be electoral expenses, such as purchasing rolls, printing, stationery, hiring committee rooms and halls, holding public meetings, and engaging scrutineers. Section 171 provides that “electoral expense “ shall include all expenses incurred by or on behalf of, or in the interests of any candidate at, or in connexion with, any election, excepting only the personal and reasonable living and travelling expenses of the candidate. That law may, if rigidly exercised, often lead to great wrong and injustice to a successful candidate, and if read in conjunction with the following clause in this Bill - “ Every trades union, registered or unregistered, organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has, …. expended any money or incurred any expense on behalf of, or in the interests of, any candidate …. shall make a return of the money so expended …” - may be designed or intended to make a candidate responsible for the expenses incurred by any political organization which may take part in the election with or without his consent. According to the clause the organization has to file a statement of the expenditure incurred on behalf of or in the interests of any candidate. It would be hard indeed to make any candidate at a Federal election responsible for the whole of the expenditure incurred by an independent political organization. He might fairly be held responsible for the expenditure of any organization which he has assisted to create, or any committee which he has established, or which may be hoisting his colours, or circulating his cards. Tn that case he might fairly be held to be the principal, and they his agents, but we are carrying the principle of liability for the acts of agents too far if we make any successful candidate, whether Liberal or Labour, responsible for the whole of the expenditure incurred within his district by wide-spread far-reaching organizations, whose head centre might be in Melbourne, Sydney, or any other city of the Commonwealth. This clause, therefore, is aimed firstly at political organizations, which might do a great deal of useful work in exciting and promoting public interest in elections, and, secondly, may be aimed at honest and innocent candidates who, after having fought a hard battle, and won the seat fairly and openly, may, upon the filing of a return such as this, find themselves liable to be unseated on petition to the High Court on account of the doings of political organizations over which they have no control. It ought to be considered contrary to public policy to make any organization of a widespread general character file such returns, or to hold any successful candidate responsible for the cost of their proceedings. If a Liberal candidate is elected, and it happens that the Commonwealth Liberal Organization, whose head-quarters are in Mel- bourne, have sent up lecturers or speaker* to his district to explain Federal politics and assist in enlightening the electors and exciting public interest, he may be held liable for their expenses, which, added to his own expenses, may make them exceed the£100 limit. In the same way a Labour candidate, if assisted by a Political Labour League, whose head centre is in Melbourne, or by the Australian Workers Union, sending lecturers and canvassers and agents to his district, may be liable to attack.
– Would that apply to organizers ?
– It applies to anybody organizing or doing any work calculated to promote the interests of or for the benefit of any candidate. The words arewide ; but, though wide, may lead Itq ruinous litigation in the High Court. A distinction ought to be drawn between the political organizations, committees, and associations formed in any electorate where the candidate has special knowledge of and control over them, and where he may have the opportunity, if he thinks fit, of forbidding their intervention in the election, and widespread Australian political organizations that claim the right to take a hand in Federal politics anywhere and everywhere. In one case we may be justified in intervening and limiting the expenses, and insisting upon everybody within the district filing returns, but in the other, where there may be merely a general appeal, but incidentally a particular appeal on behalf of the local candidate, we are launching upon a process of legislation and prohibition which may operate as a two-edged sword, affecting not only the interests and fortunes of the Liberal party, but undoubtedly the position of the Labour party as well. Therefore, where political organization is necessary and justifiable to develop and foster public opinion, and induce people to go to the poll, it ought not to be considered unlawful or improper to make widespread general appeals to the public, and those who indulge in those appeals ought not to be called upon to file returns of expenditure as though they were suspected persons engaged in an illicit traffic.
– There is nothing in the Bill to make a candidate responsible for an organization’s expenses.
– Yes; wherever there is any suspicion of organization work being done on behalf or in the interests of any candidate, the candidate may be made responsible in the High Court. This is a machinery Bill, by which everybody is required to file returns, and when those returns are filed, any dissatisfied candidate, Liberal or Labour, may refer to them, and use them as a weapon for harassing the successful man and placing him on his trial. It may be used to harass men, to put them to unnecessary expense, and even to blackmail them. Why should returns be made by widespread organizations? Nothing should be done to prejudice their usefulness. It is the local committees that are the real promoters of individual candidar tures. Provision is made for the disclosure of expenditure on newspaper advertising, but every political party should welcome the privilege of being able to appeal to the electors through the enlightened agency of the press. Such appeals are made in the light of day, and could be assailed if unworthy or unjustified. They are as honorable and legitimate as appeals from the platform, and the making of them should not be interfered with or penalized. Newspaper proprietors are called upon to make returns as to the money received for political advertising. That is a Paul Pry proposal, and unworthy of a great party. The newspapers of this country will stand comparison with those of any country in the world. Of course, they must be conducted in accordance with business methods, but there is nothing dishonest in accepting political advertisements. At election time they crowd their columns with reports of the speeches of candidates of all parties, Labour candidates getting as good reports as members on this side. It would not pay a newspaper to get the reputation of being unfair. The Labour candidates are reported in the Bendigo Advertiser and in the Bendigo Independent almost verbatim, and the Melbourne journals treat all candidates alike.
– Is it fair that one candidate should receive only two inches and another five and a-half columns?
– If a Labour candidate makes a speech worthy of filling five and a-half columns, he will get a report of that length ; but if he is soon gravelled for lack of matter, how can he be reported in full ? Labour candidates have no reason to complain of the Victorian press.
– And in Sydney the Daily Telegraph, a Liberal paper, pays the present Attorney-General to contribute articles in the Labour interest under the heading The Case for Labour.”
– Since the Labour party has acquired importance and prominence, it has been as well treated as any other political party, and this small-minded attack on the newspapers is unworthy. This legislation will, in the end, recoil on those responsible for it, because the common sense of the country will rebel against it. At the next election the people will be made fully acquainted with the effects of these proposals. Another provision to which I desire to draw attention is that making it compulsory to hold the elections on Saturday. It has been openly stated in this Chamber that the proposal is made to enable the workers to take advantage of the half-holiday. But with the polling booths open from 8 in the morning till 8 in the evening, every person of every trade, calling, or occupation who can go to the polls will be able to vote. When I first was returned to the Victorian Parliament the poll used to close at 5 p.m., and it was difficult for the Bendigo miners, who left off work at 3 p.m., to find time for voting, but under the Liberal Government, which passed the Commonwealth electoral law, the hours of polling were extended to 7 p.m. Now, to court popularity, it is proposed to extend them to 8 p.m. If Saturday is to be the invariable polling day, it will disfranchise all belonging to the Hebrew faith and the Seventh Day Adventists, who regard Saturday as the Sabbath, and will not engage in secular occupations on that day.
– Do they not consider that the Sabbath ends at 6 p.m. ?
– Yes; but the provision in the Bill would prevent them from taking part in the election during the day. They would be debarred from acting on the committees of candidates, pressing electors to go to the poll, and doing other electioneering work. A large number of persons would be disfranchised by the provision.
– About 9,000.
– In South Australia for many years past the polling has taken place on Saturday, and that has not prevented the return of prominent Hebrews to the State Parliament.
– Petitions have been presented to this Parliament by ministers of the Hebrew Church and by Seventh Day Adventists, praying that Saturday may not be made a polling day. If Saturday be chosen, the counting of votes and making up of returns will not, in many cases,be completed by midnight, and the officials will be compelled to work during Sunday, while the period of suspense as to the results will be prolonged.
– Work will cease before midnight.
– In that case, there will be a suspension of the counting for twenty-four hours at least, which will be most unjustifiable and inadvisable.
– For twelve years past it has been the practice in South Australia to hold the State elections on Saturdays.
– The arrangement must impose on the press reporters, leaderwriters, and others a very difficult and worrying task. It will be their duty to make ready for publication in the Monday issues the latest ‘results obtainable. It is not fair to the press, or to the electoral officers. It is all very well to say that this work will not be done, but a great deal of it will go on. If it does not, then this is an unworthy and improper interference with the expeditious ascertainment of the poll. There should be no suspense in the counting of the poll once it has been taken ; and if the Government wish to avoid delay, they will not take it on a day that will mean that Sunday must intervene before the results can be known.
– Under this proposal, the honorable member will have time to cool down after an election, and to make a nice little speech in seconding a vote of thanks to the Returning Officer.
– These matters are too serious to justify the flippant interjections in which the Honorary Minister has been indulging. I feel strongly concerning many of the proposals in this Bill ; and the worst of all is that which attempts to disfranchise between 29,000 and 30,000 electors who, according to the evidence, have hitherto exercised the privilege of voting by post. That is a basic objection going to the very root of the Bill. The proposal to abolish an institution that has worked so well is revolutionary, and can be explained only on the ground that it is put forward for the benefit of one party and to prejudice another. In the words with which I began my address, this Bill bristles with sinister and many suspicious aspects.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo and several others, who have urged that our electoral machinery should be free from party colour. We should, as far as possible, provide machinery that will give every possible facility to the people to record their votes, consistent with the conduct of elections in a proper manner. The question arises, however, whether the present Act has given satisfaction ; and I rise now to make my position clear before we proceed to a division. So far, I have not heard a case made out in support of the amendment of the Act. On the question of voting by post, I have an open mind ; and for that reason, I do not propose to vote against the second reading of the Bill. I believe that this is largely a Committee measure, and in Committee I shall exercise my right to vote on the different clauses according to the circumstances. I think that there is room for an explanation from both sides of the House in regard to postal voting. From my own side, I have not yet heard of any concrete case in which the existing provisions have been abused. On the other hand, the arguments of the Opposition have not satisfied me that those provisions have not been abused, and I have therefore been led to look further abroad for information. The information that I have obtained, while not complete, goes to show that there is room for some amendment of the postal voting provisions of the Act ; but whether that amendment should go to the extent of abolishing the system altogether, is a question which I shall need to hear further discussed before I arrive at a conclusion. There is evidence, however, from which it appears that there is some objection to the method in which the postal voting provisions of the Act have been exercised. I have here a Teturn of the postal votes recorded, I think, at the last general election, which shows that in Victoria the postal votes recorded were within1,151 of the total number cast in the whole of the remaining States.
– They know the game here.
– This goes to show-
– Better organization.
– I do not know whether or not that is so. I believe that the organization in New South Wales is equal to that of any other part of the Commonwealth.
– On the Labour side.
– On both sides.
– Were the figures quoted by the honorable member those relating to the last general election, or to the referenda ?
– They were quoted by the Minister of Home Affairs, who pointed out that 14,049 postal votes were issued in Victoria, as against 15,200 issued in respect of the remaining States. Those figures, I think, go to show that people in this State have a method of dealing with the postal-voting system which is different from that followed in the other States. For instance, in New South Wales, which has a larger population than has Victoria, the number of postal votes recorded was considerably less. I take it that there are just as many old and sick and infirm people in New South Wales as there are in Victoria ; yet the number of postal votes recorded was considerably less, although the organization in the Mother State is as perfect as it is anywhere else in Australia. This fact is some justification for the proposal to deal with the postal voting system. I find, further, that in 1904 a Select Committee of this House was appointed to inquire into the working of the Electoral Act, and that it reported as follows in regard to the postalvoting system -
Your Committee are of opinion that the sections allowing voting by post should be amended. No objection was taken to sub-sections (b) and (f) of section I09. Even if the evidence oi serious abuse of sub-section («), testified to by witnesses, does not establish the facts alleged, yet it is clear that this sub-section is open to serious abuse. Without concluding that undue influence was used in connexion with the postal vote, the evidence adduced shows that under the present sub-section advantage may be taken to destroy the free and secret exercise of the franchise.
– Hear, hear; that is the essence of it. Anywhere outside the ballot-box means destruction.
– In view of that finding by a Select Committee appointed by this House, and having regard to the figures placed before us by the Minister, I am under the impression that there is room for some alteration in this particular direction. I therefore propose to vote for the second reading of the” Bill, in order that amendments which I think necessary may be submitted in Committee. I am one of those, however, who believe that every possible facility should be given to the people of Australia to honestly record their votes. If we find that the machinery in existence is open to abuse, we ought to try to so amend it as to prevent that abuse.
– But we ought to have evidence of the abuse.
– It is a serious matter to take away the right to vote by post unless we have complete justification for that action. Many people would be unable to record their votes but for the system of postal voting. My father would have been unable to vote at the last two elections but for its existence ; and my own personal experience in that regard may be that of many others. There are many people too infirm to go to the poll who yet take an interest in politics, and are always anxious to record their votes. We should, therefore, consider the whole matter very carefully, and try to ascertain first of all whether the possibility of abuse of the system cannot be avoided by amending the existing provisions, instead of repealing them altogether. If evidence can be submitted showing that an amendment of these provisions will be sufficient to render an abuse of the system impossible, I shall certainly support such an alteration. I desire also to say . that I am opposed to the system of compulsory enrolment. Many honorable members opposite favour it, but I believe that we should interfere as little as possible with the liberty of the subject. I know that it is absolutely necessary for the benefit of the whole of the people to pass laws to interfere with the liberty of the subject in many directions, but it is questionable whether it is in the interests of the people that enrolment should be made compulsory. I do not think it is. Those who do not take the trouble to ascertain whether or not their names are on the roll do not care whether they vote or not. . Every person who takes an interest in the welfare of his country is always anxious to know if he is enrolled. If he finds that he is not he avails himself of the first opportunity that offers to secure enrolment on the supplementary rolls. But by providing for compulsory enrolment we are going to say to every man and woman in the Commonwealth - “ No matter in what part of Australia you live you must see that you are enrol led ; otherwise you will be liable to be prosecuted, and if you are prosecuted the onus of proving that you took steps to secure enrolment will rest not upon the prosecutor, but upon you.” What does that mean ? Many working men and others who move from time to time to different parts of the Commonwealth may not consider it is necessary to give notice of their change of residence, or to see that they are enrolled in respect of a particular division. When it is found, however, that they are not on the roll, action will be taken against them, and upon them will be thrown the onus of proving that they took steps to secure enrolment. Then, again, under this system a working man may be summoned for failing to secure enrolment. He will have to appear before a Police Court, lose a day’s work in so doing, and in addition prove that his nonenrolment is due to no fault of his own. That, I think, is going altogether too far, and I shall not vote for such a provision.
– How is it that the Caucus has not “ gagged “ the honorable member ?
– The Caucus ‘never gags any honorable member. Every honorable member has free play for his conscience, and, as a matter of fact, I do not see eye to eye with my party so far as this measure is concerned. As long as I am a representative of the people in this House I shall vote in opposition to my party, irrespective of what the consequences may be, upon any matter on which I do not see eye to eye with them.
– At least five of the honorable member’s party said the same thing concerning the last Bill before us, but they all voted, I believe, for it.
– I know nothing of that.
– I was particularly glad to hear the statement just made by the honorable member for Hunter.
– I feel very strongly regarding this proposal for compulsory enrolment. I .do not think it is justifiable, and do not believe it will be the means of securing a larger poll. I see in it a danger, especially to the nomadic section of the population, who are constantly moving from place to place. In justice to them, I do not think we should provide for compulsory enrolment. Those who are not prepared to look after their own interests, and to see that they are enrolled, are not worth bothering about. At the present time every facility is afforded an elector to secure enrolment up to within two weeks of an election, and merely in order to compel the enrolment of men who do not take sufficient interest in the affairs of the country to induce them to have their names placed on the rolls we are not justified in passing a provision which. may result in men being dragged before the Court, because, on moving from one electorate to another they have failed to see that their names are placed on the rolls for the dis trict in which they have been residing for more than a month.
– That will not be done.
– If the honorable member can show that my statement is not correct I will reconsider my position.
– If a man is on a roll he cannot be summoned.
– If he is on a roll for any division he cannot be.
– He has to be enrolled..
– He must get a transfer.
– If he is enrolled we look after him.
– Even if that be correct, it only to a certain extent minimizes my objection, which applies to a man who, by oversight, may omit to enrol, and on whom the onus of proof rests when he is dragged before the Court. When the Bill is in Committee I shall vote against these provisions.
– Is it not the duty of Parliament to provide for a complete roll ?
– It is the duty of Parliament to provide the machinery for as complete a roll, as possible, and, in my opinion, the present system of collecting the names by means of the police, and giving individuals an opportunity to be placed on the supplementary roll, is sufficient. As to those who do not avail themselves of the opportunities now afforded, I do not think they would vote in any case.
– There is much growling at elections by people who find that they are not on the roll.
– That may be, but those people ought to look after their own interests at an earlier period.
– Is it not the duty of Parliament to see that a complete roll is prepared ?
– How can Parliament do that? What more can Parliament do than provide the machinery to enable the preparation of a complete roll? If people do not avail themselves of the facilities offered it is their own fault.
– Very often it is due to official remissness.
– That may be; but, at the same time, the elector will still have the onus of proof thrown upon him. As to newspapers I have yet to learn that they have done much harm to the Labour party. As a matter of fact, I believe that when the newspapers refrain from attacking the
Labour party, it will cease to be repre.sen ted on the Treasury bench. Our position to-day is solely due to the fact that the newspapers have so unfairly attacked us in the past that the public, generally speaking, when they hear our views, recognise the injustice, and give us their support. I have no objection to the newspapers doing what they think is best in their own interests from the commercial point of view. We have the same right, and, doubtless, when we have established newspapers of our own, they will do the best they can for their own political side. The honorable member for Bendigo expressed the opinion that it is very unfair to have the polling on a Saturday, because it disfranchises a considerable number of people of certain faiths. In my own electorate there are many Seventh Day Adventists ; but I believe their Sabbath finishes at sundown, and, therefore, they have time to vote between 6 and 8 o’clock. As to those of the Hebrew faith, the Honorary Minister told us that in South Australia they have voted for years on the Saturday. The question is, which day of the week, if fixed for the polling, would disfranchise the most people; and I have no hesitation in saying that more would be disfranchised by the selection of any day from Monday to Friday, than the Saturday. On the first five week days the great bulk of people do not leave their work until 6 o’clock, and, after their evening meal, there is very little time before 8 o’clock, and often they refrain altogether from voting. On the Saturday, however, business ceases at 1 o’clock, and there is ample time.
– In some places the half-holiday is on the Wednesday.
– But generally it is on the Saturday, and it is in the big centres where so many people would be disfranchised. I believe that thousands were unable to vote on the occasion of the referenda, because there was not sufficient time after the shops closed. Of course, any day of the week .would do, if .the States Governments would proclaim a holiday, or a half -holiday, on the day of an election ; but as they will not do this the best possible day is the Saturday. It is in the country’s interest that every elector should cast his vote in order that a true expression of the people’s views may be obtained ; and, during the debate, quite a number of honorable members opposite have urged that every facility should be given, and every obstacle removed. In Commit tee I shall endeavour to have an amendment adopted to abolish the deposit, and another to provide that a member of a State Parliament may contest a Federal constituency without resigning his seat. While I think it is necessary that there should be some provision to enable persons to vote anywhere in the Commonwealth . outside their own constituencies, I am not sure that it would not open the door to as much abuse as does postal voting. We are told that such an elector must sign a declaration, and so forth, but it will be quite possible for him to vote in half-a.-dozen places. It is questionable whether the Electoral Officers will take the trouble to go through the whole of the ballot-papers; indeed, it would be foolish to expect them to do so. The only chance of detection would be in case of a petition, when the signatures could be compared. ‘ I intend to support the second reading of the Bill, and to defer any remarks until the Committee stage, which is that at which the real consideration of the measure should be undertaken.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Hunter on his speech, and the Government on having kept the “ cream “ of their speakers until the last. The honorable member’s utterances would be quite worthy of any Liberal, for he has expressed himself in such a way as to meet with the approval of the great majority of honorable members on this side. There are some provisions in the Bill of which its sponsors must, to some extent, feel ashamed. The speeches which heralded the measure in this and another place were absolutely devoid of any information, or of any justification for the proposals before us; and honorable members are fairly entitled to complain that they have not been justly treated in this connexion. Nothing has been said to convince us of any necessity for a .Bill of the kind, and it can only be regarded as a retrograde step. For )’ears we have been extending facilities for voting, and making it possible for every person in the community to exercise the franchise. Now, however, it is proposed to abolish postal voting on the ground that the privilege has been improperly used. If, however, we analyze the voting all over die Commonwealth, it will be found that there are many practices to which exception could be taken. I do not think the Minister of Home Affairs was justified yesterday in saying that postal voting makes it hard for the electors to do right, and easy for them to do wrong.
– That is an American quotation !
– The further we get away from American ideas and practices in elections the better for Australia.
– We have the American system now, and we are trying to change it to the British.
– I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that greater facilities are offered for wrong-doing in the proposal to allow an elector to vote anywhere in the Commonwealth than there is in postal voting. I have made inquiries at the Electoral Offices as to the possibility of fraud under postal voting, and Ifind the officers satisfied that every reasonable precaution has been taken, and that the irregularities are proportionately small. Of course, we do not know what regulations are to be adopted in regard to the new system; but it is noteworthy that while every condition is laid down in the original Act, the present measure depends largely on the regulations. To allow these things to be done by regulation instead of by Act of Parliament is practically to place some officer in an autocratic position. It becomes practically the determination of a one-man Parliament, and for that reason I view the practice with great disfavour. This, is the place where the details of important measures should be threshed out. We are elected to this Parliament for the express purpose of making the laws, and making them sound and defensible. By passing a Bill which provides that such-and-such things are to be done by regulation we are practically handing our responsibilities over to an officer, who has, of course, his responsibilities as a member of the Public Service, but who is not responsible to the people as we are. It has remained for a Government whose publicly-announced watchword has been “ equality of opportunity to all “ to devise the destruction of postal voting, which means that there will not be equality of opportunity for all. I value my privilege to vote, as do most of the right-thinking people in the community, and a party who pride themselves upon the cry of “ equality of opportunity to all “ are wantonly taking away that privilege from many people without rhyme or reason. They have advanced no reasons for these proposals. The only member who has attempted to do so has been the honorable member for Hunter.
I, as well as most other people who are not in the secret of why this step has been taken, am inclined to think the reason is that the postal vote has gone more largely against the Labour party than for them. I am not justified in saying absolutely that it is so.
– Some of them have said that it is so.
– That strengthens my position, and ought to go a long way to determine the honorable member for Hunter as to how he should vote.I am told by one honorable member that a Minister of the Crown, and a number of representative members of the Labour party in another place, have taken up the position that they are opposed to postal voting because it means a larger vote cast against them than for them.
– It is destructive of the secrecv of the ballot.
– Who says so?
– Every Christian man in this country.
– If Christian men make statements of that sort, I prefer nonChristians. The Minister, in his responsible position, is not justified in making statements which he cannot prove.
– I will prove them all right.
– I say to the Minister, “ Equality of opportunity is your cry, but destruction of equality of opportunity is your method.” Is the Electoral Department so effete and incapable that large wrongs have been perpetrated, and it has not been able to sheet home a solitary case ? The Minister significantly points to something as if he had evidence in front of him. If he has, it is his bounden duty to submit it to the House. Until he does submit it, public feeling will be against him and his party, because they are perpetrating a cruel wrong on the public without evidence.
– I was trying to save your friends, but you can move for the evidence.
– If the Minister has the evidence, it is his bounden duty to produce it, no matter which side it tells against. I stand for purity, for righteousness, for truth, and judgment, but the Minister appears to be endeavouring to shield some one who has been doing wrong. The very best argument against the suggestion that there has been great political corruption in the use of the postal vote is that, so far as I know not a single case hasever come to light. The Electoral Office has all the machinery necessary to test the cases, and full power to act. We do not know the merits of the card system which is to be introduced, and by which, according to the Minister, the signatures are to be compared. The Minister is an adept at playing his cards, but I venture to say that on this occasion he has played his best trump prematurely, and the inevitable result will be to penalize his own supporters more than ours. The people who are going to suffer by the repeal of postal voting are very largely the poor in our public institutions, and the sickly, who have no conveniences for being brought long distances to the poll. Those in fairly well-to-do circumstances, and. likely to vote on our side, who happen to be sickly, can be brought to the poll in vehicles, but the poorer section of “the community, who are supposed, in the majority of cases, to be the special care of the Ministerial party, would probably have to be brought to the poll in a waggon or a bullock-dray, if they came at all. Although they may be anxious to vote, they will not willingly undergo those hardships. This is no laughing matter. It is in some cases a question of life or death. Persons in country electorates who have to travel long distances in an uncomfortable vehicle in order to record their votes may risk the journey when in ill -health, and may do so at the expense of their lives. It is a serious blot upon the record of the present Ministry, who stand ostensibly for the poor of the community, that they should introduce legislation which will prevent those people from voting by post. A more scrupulous Government would, never have thought of taking this step. If they had been sincere in the matter, they would have proposed, for instance, the discontinuance of the postal voting system so far as absentees are concerned, and its continuance in the case of the sick and disabled, and the women.
– That is where the frauds come in - with the women.
– Would the honorable member dare to face the women of East Sydney, and tell them they are frauds?
– The frauds of canvassers go round, and get their votes against their principles. I will explain the matter to the honorable member in Committee, if he does not know it.
– I hold the women of cur land in the highest respect, and am sure their political morality is not second to that of the men. The speech of the honorable member for Werriwa, on the
Ministerial side, deserves a little attention. He claimed that some injury was done to him, because there were in his electorate more justices of the peace prepared to sign postal votes against him than for him. He lost sight of the fact that Parliament has authorized quite a number of people to witness signatures on postal voting papers. These include postmasters, schoolmasters, stationmasters, and any electoral officer.
– We have tried them all j we know.
– I am sure that if they have been tried, they have all been found prepared to do their duty honestly. The honorable member for Werriwa’s argument is specious and futile. It is one of those statements which can be classed as so much clap-trap.
– You know that you could not find two magistrates in your electorate to put themselves out for a Labour voter.
– What if all the magistrates are on my side? I believe they are, because all sensible electors are on my side. There are quite a number of other people who are entitled to act in this capacity. Surely police officers can be trusted.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The Bill provides that persons who move from one electorate to another must cancel their registration in their old electorate, and enroll themselves again in the new, or, in default, be liable to a penalty to £2. The honorable member for Hunter has rightly pointed out that this provision will injure a large number of working people. Probably, for every person in a good position who changes his residence in any given time, a dozen working people do so. The time allowed for registration in the new electorate is a month, which is ridiculously short. At least three months should be allowed, because in settling down to new conditions one might easily overlook the necessity of registering. The new registration is not necessary to preserve the right to vote, because an elector can vote as an absentee in his old electorate until he secures the rightto vote in his new electorate. The provision is unnecessarily harsh towards those for whom we should have consideration, and in practical working will probably break down of its own weight. There will be so many delinquents that it will be impossible to enforce the law, which must become a dead letter. It is easy to enforce awards of the Arbitration Court against employers, but they cannot be enforced against the workers, because the latter are too numerous. Similarly, this provision will be inoperative because too many persons will become liable to be fined. Proposed new section 172A provides that- (1.) Every trades union registered or unregistered, organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has, in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense -
In my opinion, organizers who travel through the country as canvassers should be compelled to make a. return of their expenditure. At the last general election, three labour organizers in New South Wales became candidates for the Senate, and it is reasonable to assume that in connexion with their organizing work they canvassed on their own behalf to secure their election to the Senate, because all three are now senators.
– Senator McDougall was never an organizer.
– I stand corrected to that extent. Two of these senators were organizers, and the same remark applies to several members of this House. Men who were ostensibly travelling as organizers for labour unions were engaged in canvassing for seats in the Legislature, and they should be made to send in a return of the expenses so incurred.
– They will have to do so.
– I do not take that view of the intention’s of the Government. There are no organizers on the Liberal side who are engaged in canvassing for seats for themselves.
– There are four or five in
New South Wales.
– There must be a great deal of wickedness there, or the honorable member would not be here. Although much has been said which is damaging to the reputation of our people in regard to the conduct of elections, it is notorious that all the abuses which have come to light have been associated with labour unions.
– That is not correct.
– I instance what has occurred in South Australia.
– I speak of my own knowledge.
– The honorable member’s knowledge may be deep and profound, but it does not get rid of the fact that prominent men of the Labour party in South Australia have been engaged in roll-stuffing, and a more dangerous offencecould not be imagined. The Minister has been challenged over and over again to produce evidence in support of his statements in regard to improper conduct, and I challenge him to produce the papers inconnexion with this roll-stuffing case. Section 139 of the principal Act is repealed, and there is substituted for it a provisionpermitting electors to vote immediately after the issue of the writ.
– That is in the principal Act.
– I do not think that persons should be allowed to vote until the nominations have been made, because until then the electors cannot know who are the candidates. A person should not be allowed to vote in the dark.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the second ballot?
– No; though there is something to be said for preferential voting. Proposed new section 196a imposes a greater obligation on the Electoral Officer. Both the honorable member for Riverina and myself know what it is to contest a disputed election. Hitherto the successful candidate has always been made the respondent. It is provided in this amending Bill that -
The Chief Electoral Officer shall be entitled by leave of the Court of Disputed Returns to enter an appearance in any proceedings in which the validity of any election or return is disputed, and to be represented and heard thereon, and in such case shall be deemed to bea party respondent to the petition.
That, upon the whole, is a very wise provision to make, because in the majority of cases the disputed returns generally arise out of mistakes made by subordinate Returning Officers. That was the position in my case, and also, I think, in the case of the honorable member for Riverina. In consequence of such mistakes candidateshave been put to serious loss, and have experienced a good deal of trouble and turmoil of mind. I therefore think it is only right that the Chief Electoral Officer should be allowed to enter an appearance. The provision, however, should be mandatory, and he should be made a party in every case where the ground of objection is a mistake on the part of the Electoral Office.
– So that the Department might be liable for costs for its own default ?
– Exactly. It is all the more necessary that this provision should be mandatory, in view of the fact that it is proposed to amend section 202b of the principal Act by omitting therefrom the words -
Provided that the amount of costs to be paid by any party shall in no case exceed the sum of One hundred pounds.
That is the limitation as to costs that may be awarded against an unsuccessful party to a petition ; but it is now to be abolished, so that there will be no limit to the costs that may be allowed. Very heavy costs may be given against any candidate who has been so unfortunate as to be cited before the Court, so that I think it should be mandatory that the Crown should be made a party to every case where the complaint arises from the default of a Returning Officer.
– That is what we are doing.
– Not it is simply proposed that the Chief Electoral Officer shall be entitled, by leave of the Court, to enter an appearance.
– Under the principal Act he cannot do so.
– Quite so; but my contention is that the provision should be mandatory. I view as a wrong the abolition of the system of postal voting as applied to the sick and the infirm, as well as to the women of our land, and am satisfied that throughout the length and breadth of Australia it will be so regarded. An act of wrong-doing usually recoils upon the wrong-doer, and since this is a provision that intimately affects the people, I am satisfied that its effect upon the public mind will be rather to discredit the Government. I believe it will do them greater injury than almost anything else on which they could have placed their hands. From a party political point of view, therefore, we have nothing to fear in this regard, but it is absolutely wrong that people should be deprived of their right to vote, not upon any evidence of wrong-doing, but simply because certain people suppose that it is possible, under the postal voting provisions of the existing Act, that some wrong may be done.
.- This to me is a most disappointing measure. I thought that when the electoral laws of the country came to be reviewed we should have presented to us a comprehensive amending measure dealing with the extraordinary inequalities in the value of the votes cast, as shown by ‘he result of the last general election. Turning to the poll for the Senate in respect of the whole Commonwealth, we find that, at the last general election, the very small majority of 8,020 voters, out of a total of about 1,339,373, secured, for the Labour party, the return of the eighteen senators elected. That surely indicates some extraordinary defect in our electoral system. Surely the enormous minority is entitled to some representation. The fact is, however, that, at the last general election for the Senate, the Liberal party did not secure the return of one senator. Such a matter should be deserving of the attention of the Government of the day, when they bring in a measure of electoral reform. The reform proposed should have been in the direction I have indicated, so that the enormous minority which is now completely disfranchised, and has no voice at all in the affairs of the country, so far as the Senate is concerned, should be able to obtain some representation. Some system of proportional representation is necessary. I have been shown a system, which, I think, would fairly allocate representation to the different sections of the community.
– How would the honorable member meet the position where the voting was equal in respect of two candidates and the Returning Officer had to give his casting vote?
– I understand that the honorable member for Fremantle has the full facts relating to what is known as proportional representation, and will, later on, elaborate a system which he thinks worthy of our attention. Surely every honorable member will admit that it is absolutely wrong that a majority of 8,020 of the electors of the whole Commonwealth should be able to secure the return of eighteen senators.
– It has taken the honorable member a long time to find this out. The first time we come out on top the Opposition find that the system is wrong.
– The luck has always been with the Ministerial party. They have been blessed with good seasons, and we find that even the system of voting is in their favour. In dealing with the electoral laws, however, some attention should be paid to the anomaly to which I have referred. Turning again to this somewhat sickly measure, honorable members must admit that it is exceedingly disappointing. To my mind, the provision for compulsory enrolment will not be effective. I do not think that the people are going to be forced to enrol by the possibility of being subjected to the penalty for which this measure provides. It is provided that the regulations “may “ prescribe a penalty not exceeding £2. It seems to be very doubtful whether such a penalty will be enforced. The word “ may “ is a very significant one, and I do not think the Minister in charge of the Bill is game to enforce such a provision. It seems to me that the word “ may “ has been intentionally used by the Minister, because he has no intention of providing for such a penalty.
– It is merely permissive.
– Exactly. No doubt if it is found that many people have failed to secure enrolment, the Minister will saythat he does not like to be too hard upon them, and this provision, therefore, is a perfect “ fake.” I am confident that if the greater number of people who fail to secure enrolment prove to be unionists there will not be the least chance of this penalty of £2 being exacted.If this penalty is to be imposed let us make the provision mandatory, so that if any one fails to place his name on the roll, he will know what he has to expect. It seems to me that this provision has really been inserted in order to make it appear that the Government are providing for compulsory enrolment, when, as a matter of fact, there is no likelihood of their enforcing the penalty to which I have referred. In Committee, I shall have a few words to say on this provision ; and I now merely suggest that, when the voter lodges his application, he ought to receive a receipt from the Electoral Officer.
– We send every one a card.
– I am glad to hear that; but I dare say the Minister will accept a suggestion to add to the clause the words providing that the Electoral Officer shall send a receipt, so that there may be no mistake, and the elector shall not be harassed in the future.
– They are doing that now by regulation.
– It is much better to have a provision in the Bill. There are numerous cases of clerical and other errors through which electors are disfranchised; and if a receipt be given the elector will be in a position to make a proper charge against the officer.
– The honorable member does not wish the receipt to be used as an elector’s right?
– I should not go so far as that ; but I am sure my suggestion would minimize the risk, and I take it that it will be accepted by the Minister. A more serious question is that of the polling day. Honorable members on both sides desire that every elector shall, if possible, record his vote; and Saturday seems to commend itself as suitable until we look into the matter. We know that the choice of Saturday would offend the large Jewish section of the community, because they have strong religious scruples.
– They never protestedin Queensland.
– Nor in South Aus tralia.
– Perhaps Queensland is like Scotland, where they say a Jew cannot live. At any rate, our Jewish fellow citizens are protesting in Victoria ; and all conscientious objections should be respected if possible.
– The Jews can vote on a Saturday between 6 and 8 o’clock in the evening.
– I know that their Sabbath ends at sunset.
– In May sunset is a little after 5 o’clock.
– At any rate, if we can avoid offending their susceptibilities, we ought to do so. Another objection to Saturday is the fear on the part of experienced Electoral Officers that there will be a great rush of employés and other business people between 1 and 2 o’clock, and that this may result in a number of people not voting at all.
– Does not the same objection apply to voting after 6 o’clock in the evening on any other day?
– To a certain extent; but the rush then is relieved by the number who have voted between 1 and 2 o’clock. I represent a densely-populated district, and, in my opinion, it is extremely likely that many electors would refrain from voting on a Saturday afternoon for the reason I have mentioned. Further, we know how much football, cricket, racing, and other amusements will militate against the exercise of the franchise later in the day. However, I do not feel very strongly on that point.
– The electors voted all right in Boothby electorate on a Saturday, unfortunately for this side !
– I am worrying, not so much about my own side as about the side of the Minister. I now come to deal with what we regard as a distinct wrong, namely, the abolition of the postal vote. I add my appeal to the able appeals already made to the Government not to persist in this proposal. Those appeals come not only from this side, but from some honorable members who sit behind the Government; and I know that there is much feeling on the question. I have heard the Prime Minister say that if one man or woman is injured by the electoral law he will do his best to see the wrong righted ; and here we have a wrongto 29,000 electors.
– The honorable member does not suggest that all the 29,000 electors who voted by post at the last election were sick?
– I do not; but the probability is that if postal voting is abolished, that number of electors will be disfranchised. If the Government persevere in this proposal it will be one of the worst things they ever did. We have no desire in this country to do wrong to even a small section of the people; indeed, that cannot be done without creating great feeling. At the last election two young fellows wrote to me from a hospital requesting that postal voting forms should be sent to them, in order that they might vote for me. What would these young men have thought had I been compelled to write back and say that their humanitarian friends of the Labour party had deprived them of their vote?
– Why not make hospitals polling places?
– Of course, if anything of that sort could be done it might meet the case.
– We must see that the superintendent of the hospital is not biased 1
– I have not heard of a single case of fraud, and no instance has been quoted by honorable members opposite. In my opinion, it amounts to a wicked act on the part of the Government to insist on this obvious wrong to a large section of the community, many of whom are sick. I do not often speak strongly, but it is a great pity to see the dominant party in politics using their power in this way. We cannot help thinking that it might be done because the postal voting at the last election was slightly in favour of the Liberals.
– Who are the Liberals?
– The Liberals are on this side, and I am one of them.
– They are whitewashed Tories !
– I can assure the honorable member that I am one of the most liberal of men.
– It was the Liberals in Queensland who abolished postal voting three years ago.
– I do not know what stupid things may not have been done by our side; I am now merely warning honorable members opposite against proposals which are not only stupid, but cruel, seeing that theyaffect people who for a short time are withdrawn from active participation in life. We can imagine the screams of horror which would have been raised by the Labour party had such a proposal been made by a Liberal Government. I feel sure, however, that the light of reason is beginning to dawn on our friends opposite. I entirely agree with the right honorable member for Swan that too much is left to the regulations under this Bill.
Mr.King O’Malley. - We take that idea from the legislation of our predecessors, with whom it was “regulations, regulations, regulations “!
– I do not agree with the Minister of . Home Affairs. Most of that which is left to the regulations in this Bill is definitely provided for in the original Act. We all know that regulations are open to abuse in many ways, and that under them steps are taken which would never be consented to if they were submitted to the House. The clause that makes it possible for an elector to vote at any polling booth in the Commonwealth on the day of the election is going to open the door to fraud. I suppose people in the Minister’s electorate wander, as many Australians do, and before he will know whether he is elected or not he will have to find out who of the electors in his division has voted in every other division in the Commonwealth. The proposal opens the door to impersonation.
Any one who likes to make a study of the question could find out a number of persons who cannot possibly vote on the day of election, send a list to a friend in another part of the Commonwealth, and get those people polled there.
– That would be so if we did not have the cards to compare their signatures when the votes came back.
– I hope the Minister will make that clear in Committee. I understand that the intending voter away at the Gulf of Carpentaria, for instance, will have to sign a card-
– Yes. and an affidavit.
– If he then disappears into the bush, how is he to be reached ?
– His card will be returned to the electorate in which he is enrolled, and the signature will be compared with the card kept in the cabinet there. ‘
– The Minister can imagine how unlikely it is that the comparison will be made with sufficient accuracy to find out much forgery in this direction.
– About a thousand to one against it.
– Those are about the odds. The scheme will delay the final selection of the candidate for a long while, and I do not think it is worth while adopting it for the few votes that are likely to be got. If it is going to make fraud possible, as appears likely, it would be better not to adopt it at all, seeing that it can oblige only a very few people at the most. I observe that the restrictions on candidates’ election expenses are to be largely increased. I should like to see a fair amount for the hire of halls exempted from returnable expenses. At the last election I felt rather mean in having to ask my electors to meet me at street corners to hear my views. It is all very well in fine weather, but one night when I had called the electors together to hear me, rain fell, and everybody had a most uncomfortable experience. In those circumstances I could not intelligibly expound my views on the important questions of the day, and the electors could not possibly have listened to me properly. I am sure we all want the electors to hear what we have, to say in convenient and comfortable circumstances. I hope that the Minister will draft an amendment to meet my suggestion before the Bill reaches
Committee, because, after all, it will be done to oblige the public. I should say £15 or £20 should be allowed for the hire of halls. The further restriction of expenditure and the complicated returns which the various organizations have to send in are, of course, aimed at the Liberal Leagues.
– The honorable member is generally very disingenuous, but surely I must be right in my surmise.
– It is aimed equally at the Trades Hall.
– Trade unions are mentioned only once. What is every union secretary but an organizer for the party? I know of seven of them in Prahran alone who are getting£3 a week and2s. 6d. per member. I see by to-night’s Herald that the union secretaries have formed a union of their own, and had a picnic today, it being proposed that the outing should be made an annual one. The paragraph states that this morning three drags left the Trades Hall conveying about thirty union secretaries and their wives and families to Warrandyte, the picnic being arranged by the Union. Secretaries Association. Of course, these gentlemen are secretaries to trade unions, but we all know that they are political organizers first and union secretaries afterwards. When the Bill reaches Committee, I intend to try to have the words “ trade union “ put in before the word “organization” wherever occurring, because I do not see why trade unions should not be put in exactly the same boat as the organizations on this side. If these are compelled to send in returns - and I do not mind their doing it - then our trade union friends will have to do it also. They must not have this loop-hole so that they can spend money politically through their unions in any way they like without having to furnish returns. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Under proposed new section 181c, the paid canvassers of the industrial unions - that is, their secretaries - will have to furnish returns just the same as anybody else ; and if they do work for a candidate, the expense must be charged under the £100limit, just as is proposed to be done in the case of the Liberal unions.
– There is nothing in the Bill to specify that.
– I intend to have it put in the Bill if I can, and I hope the honorable member will help me to have justice done.
– It will be a bad job for your side if it is put in the Bill.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance that he will help me. Another clause provides that any prosecution for an offence against this Act or the regulations may, in the absence of express provisions to the contrary, be commenced within three years after the commission of the offence.
– The Minister is going to substitute months for years.
– That will meet my objection. I suppose honorable members opposite are threatened with a little bit of blackmail as much as we are at times. For a member of Parliament to be subjected to blackmailers for the whole of his term would be more than flesh and blood could stand.
– How long would you suggest should be allowed?
– I should say that the prosecution should be initiated within three months, as is the law at present. As a rule, if anything is to come out, it will come out almost immediately after the election. The candidate has to make his return within twenty-one days. It is then open for the inspection of the public, and two and a half months would allow sufficient time for the commencement of an action. It would not be necessary that the action should be completed within that time.
– If the candidate had done wrong, why limit the time within which he could be prosecuted?
– I do not think that it is right that members of Parliament should be liable to vexatious prosecutions during their whole term of office.
– There are plenty of offences which must be prosecuted within a limited time.
– In this case the Department will prosecute.
– But the individual will lay the information. I hope that the Minister will review his decision in regard to postal voting. He says that 29,000 postal votes were recorded at the last election, and if 3 per cent. of them were fraudulent, that would make only 900 wrongly polled.
– If 900 were wrongly polled last time, 9,000 will be wrongly polled next time, unless the law is altered.
– I do not admit that any votes were wrongly polled. I am certain that none of . the postal votes cast for me were fraudulent, and I got 500 or 600.
– Did the honorable member get a majority of postal votes?
– Yes, and I am proud -of it, because in the seclusion of the sick chamber persons have time and inclination to consider questions very carefully.
– Honorable members are fond of speaking of the hide-bound Caucus party, the members of which have their votes settled for them in advance, so I shall begin my speech by dealing with the provisions which I do not intend to support. In the first place, I am opposed to the compulsory enrolment clause. Names are left off the rolls, not so much by the fault of those who should be enrolled, but through mistakes made by the officials, and it would be wrong to punish . persons for not being enrolled when they might have attempted to get enrolled, but could not prove it. We used to provide tables at street corners, furnished with rolls and application forms, and forwarded many hundreds of names to the Electoral office, but a big percentage of those names was not recorded, and it could not be discovered why they had been left off the rolls. The Minister’s desire to have the rolls perfect is a laudable one, and I admit that many persons will not take the right amount of trouble; but I do not think it wise to impose a penalty for nonenrolment. It might be right to compel persons to fill in cards, but it would not be right to penalize those who might have done everythingrequired for enrolment, and yet, through official mistakes, have their names left off the rolls. The Opposition misunderstands the clause relating to returns by newspaper proprietors. The honorable member ior Bendigo asserted that Labour candidates are as well reported as others, but that is not the point. I could not expect as long a report as my opponent, because he runs in the capitalistic interest, and the newspapers are capitalistic concerns. We ought to have newspapers of our own. Of course, we are often wrathful because of untrue statements and misrepresentations, though no one can take exception to criticism. The object of the Bill is to make it necessary for newspaper proprietors to furnish a return of the sums spent with them on political advertising. We must all agree with Josh. Billings that advertising pays. One must advertise to get the attention of the public.
– How would it be to require the newspaper proprietors to say what they get from the big trusts?
– I think that a great deal of money was furnished by the big trusts for the articles published in the press against the proposals of the Labour party at the last referenda. All the Bill deals with is the expenditure of candidates on newspaper advertising. A candidate opposed to me may talk the greatest rubbish, and be reported fully, whilst I may not receive a report extending to an inch of matter, and I should have no right to object. But where a candidate has his speech printed in a newspaper at advertising rates the cost should be included in the return of the expenses of election. No one should cavil at such a proposal as that. This Bill will not affect in any way reports inserted in the newspapers for nothing. During the debate the honorable member for Fawkner, and other honorable members on the other side, have said that we have a larger representation on the Government side than is justified by the number of votes we polled. Well, what are the facts concerning the last Federal elections? I know that it is possible to juggle with figures, and make them appear to prove anything. But if we take the figures of the last Senate election we shall find that, as a matter of fact, the six Labour senators highest on the poll secured 59,000 votes more than the six representatives of our opponents highest on the poll. Further, the six Labour senators lowest on the list of those returned polled 36,000 more than, did the six highest of our opponents. These figures are taken from the official returns, and I can assure honorable members that they are accurate. Yet we are told that we represent but a small majority of the electors. It would be all right if honorable members opposite, in making their calculations, did so fairly. For instance, they do not count the votes given for the Socialist candidates of New South Wales as votes given for Labour.
– I do.
– I do not think that we should have received most of them, because I believe that the “ whole-hoggers” in New South Wales have not very much use for Labour men. Will any honorable member opposite say that the whole of the votes cast for Miss Vida Goldstein would have gone to the- Liberal party if she had not been a candidate?
– We should have received the bulk of them.
– Do we not know that a very great many women in the Labour movement would insist upon giving one vote at least to Miss Goldstein. I know that that was a position which we were up against in Victoria. Then J. B. Ronald was also a candidate for the Senate in Victoria, and do honorable members claim for their party all his votes too?
– We would not claim all his votes, but we should claim Miss Goldstein’s votes.
– My honorable friends would have no right to claim Miss Goldstein’s votes, because I am sure onehalf of the votes recorded for her were recorded by working people. Perhaps it is customary to draw the long bow in making statements about elections ; but I have given honorable members figures taken from the official records, and they show that our majority in the country is much larger than honorable members opposite would have people believe. Referring to the proposed abolition of postal voting, I’ have here a circular letter, which, I suppose, other honorable members have also received from the Australian Women’s National League. I suppose it was sent to me in the hope that it would make me a convert. I should like to read this circular, as it is most pertinent to the Bill.
– It has been read already.
– Then I shall not read it again ; but I must quote the first resolution carried by the League. It reads -
That this Council, representing many thousands of women, enters the strongest possible protest against the action of the Federal Government in proposing to disfranchise thousands of women throughout Australia by the abolition of the postal vote.
The members of the Women’s National League are no doubt admirable ladies. I do not think that any man could, even if he dared, say one word against them personally. They are, as members of a political organization, justified in looking after what they believe to be their own interests and the interests of their fathers, husbands, and sons. Their energy lately is to be commended ; but I cannot say that I admire many of their actions at election times. It would be a question of the survival of the fittest, and I am satisfied that the women’s section of the voters on the other side will have most to say. I am referring now to the Victorian section of the Women’s National League, and I have to say that it is somewhat peculiar that they should be in so much trouble about the action of the party on this side in disfranchising a few thousand women when their husbands, brothers, and sons kept hundreds of thousands of women in Victoria out of their votes for years. The last State election was the first at which women were permitted to vote in Victoria, and no one will contend that it was the Labour party that prevented them voting at State elections before. The party on this side in Victoria fought strenuously for years to secure the vote for them. It is due to their action that to-day hundreds of thousands of women in Victoria are in possession of the franchise, and yet these ladies who are the associates of our friends in the State Upper House, have the temerity to tell us that we are disfranchising thousands of women by abolishing postal votes. It made me sick the other night to hear the honorable member for Wakefield posing as a Liberal, and castigating honorable members on this side because they were not looking after the interests of the women of Australia, when the honorable member must know that we are representatives of the party who have fought in season and out of season to secure the franchise for the women of Australia. The ladies of the Women’s National League know well that they have to thank the Labour party for the right to vote at State elections. But we do not get their votes. They are looking after their bread and butter, as we are.
– Who framed the Federal Constitution? Was it the Labour party ? There was one Labour man responsible for it, and the party kicked him out.
– The honorable member knows, or ought to know, that women’s franchise is not provided for in the Constitution.
– It existed in South Australia.
– I do not like to say anything which may be misconstrued. I agree that the ladies who are associated with this organization are quite within their rights in any political effort which they may make. But when they pretend that they are looking after the interests of the women of Victoria, I join issue with them, because I know that they are merely looking after the interests of those who belong to their political section. I recognise that they are to-day putting up just as strenuous a fight as are the men in Australia. It is a pity that they were not in the political arena half-a-century earlier. But they are out for their own political purposes.
– Are not all leagues out for political purposes?
– Of course, they are. Again, these ladies, as an organization, play the game a bit worse than do the men. At the last general election leaflets were issued in Victoria stating, “ For the sake of the children, vote againstthe Labour party.” We all know what that meant. It was practically an intimation to the mothers of Victoria that the Labour party are opposed to the interests of their children. That is not playing the game fairly. We know, too, that one of the presidents of this ladies’ organization stated some time ago that to charge the Labour party with a desire to abolish the marriage tie was a good card to play against them.
– I have heard them repudiate that accusation on numerous occasions.
– The cry was used at one election in this State very strongly. The Age, and, I believe, the Argus, published articles condemning the women for their stand on this particular question. The organization to which I have referred, brought Mr. Hewison, who was a candidate for the electorate of Balaclava, to book upon it. He was too much of a man to use what he knew was a lie to gain his own political ends, and so they turned him down. He knew that the Labour party dare not take up a stand in favour of the abolition of the marriage tie.
– The late Mr. Skenehimself told me that he would not go upon their platform unless they withdrew that charge.
– I wish to show why certain arguments have been used by our opponents in favour of the postal voting system. It is a well known fact that the Women’s National League is a strong body at election time.
– That is the trouble.
– The honorable member does not like it.
– I do not object to them fighting, but to the methods which they employ in their political fights. 1 will tell honorable members what is done chiefly by canvassers of the Women’s National League. They visit the house, say, of a poor old couple, and tell them that if they vote for Labour they will lose their pensions.
– Will the honorable member give us names in that connexion?
– It is done in thousands of cases. *
– Give us one.
– I propose to deal with this matter in my own way. Again, when they have the distribution of money from ladies’ benefit societies they threaten even worse than that, and it has its effect.
– That is grossly unfair.
– There is the Castlemaine case, which was one of that character.
– About twenty years ago, I suppose?
– What an extraordinary thing. There was a case.
– The dependents of these ladies have to say that they are ill and that they will be unable to attend the polling booth to record their votes. Consequently they vote in their own homes where the canvassers may see the way in which they vote. In Victoria, this kind of thing has been developed to a fine art - this disposition to be ill at election times. It is all done in the interests of one political section.
– Was it the Women’s Political League who stuffed the rolls in South Australia?
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member for Franklin not to continually interject.
– When election time comes round methods are used to insure that these people shall vote by post instead of in the ordinary way. It is easy enough for any person to say that he will not be well enough to attend the polling booth. That is done frequently.
– Are these Labour methods of which the honorable member is speaking ?
– If they were I should like to see them stopped, because I should be afraid that those who employed them would be detected and punished. I know of one lady who boasted that she had secured thirty postal ballot-papers.
– Were they fraudulent ?
– If the Act were properly administered, it would be very singular if one lady were able to secure thirty postal ballot-papers.
– She might have been a’ school teacher.
– She was not. During the course of this discussion, it has been said that it was just as easy for the Labour movement as for the other side to resort to these methods. As a matter of fact, it is not. I do not suppose that i per cent, of the justices of the peace in Victoria are in sympathy with the Labour movement. They were placed in power by our opponents.
– “ Stephen Barker, J. P.”
– For years he was our only representative on the commission of the peace. Our opponents had not the common decency to appoint a supporter of our movement a justice of the peace.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that justices of the peace alone can witness postal votes?
– No.’ I am just as well aware as is the honorable member of the list of persons who may witness postal votes, and the honorable member need not enumerate the list again for my enlightenment.
– Not even for the enlightenment of the honorable member’s constituents ?
– They know as much about the matter as the honorable member does. Policemen are among those authorized to witness postal votes, but they have to be very careful because they know that they might be charged with having Labour tendencies. They are afraid to allow themselves to be made a medium by which the Labour movement may have witnessed votes cast in its favour. There are some who do not mind carrying out this duty; but the majority of them-, especially those in country districts, are afraid to let it be known that they act in this capacity, because they might be charged with having Labour sympathies, and something might happen to them later on.
– By whom would they be charged? By the Labour Government?
– No; by those in the country who believe in. preference to nonunionists. It is well known that the moment a man in a country district becomes the official secretary or chairman of a Labour League, he gets the sack, unless he is an independent man. Dozens of men have, been dismissed from their employment for having the temerity to take such positions. Those who believe in preference to non-unionists take good care to sack a man who has any tendency towards the Labour movement, and they do the same with public officials.
– Some of them have been drummed out of their district.
– We know that many have been so treated.
– Tell us of one.
– I am dealing with things as we know them to exist. Mention has been made of the fact that at the last general election for the Commonwealth Parliament, the majority of the postal votes recorded were polled in Victoria. I was not at all surprised, because this system has been made a fine art in Victoria.
– The honorable member seems to know all about it.
– I do; that is why I am speaking of it.
– Labour methods again, eh?
– I know all about it.
– How many postal votes did the Labour party obtain?
– A fair number, but we could not get justices of the peace to witness postal votes for us.
– “ Stephen Barker, J. P.”
– The honorable member for Kooyong again refers to Senator Barker, J. P. ; but he knows that he is not equal to all the justices of the peace on the other side.
– He is equal to a good many.
– “ Sir Robert Best, K.C.M.G. “ seems to be rather jealous of Stephen Barker’s J. P. -ship.
– Yes ; and if our opponents could have managed it they would long ago have wiped his name off the comimission of the peace. They would have done what was done in New South Wales.
– They wiped me out there.
– Quite so. What is the use of the Opposition pretending that the matter of which we complain is something entirely new? In Queensland about 300 men were appointed to the commission of the peace during a general election, and their work, for which they were paid by the opponents of the Labour party, was to go round and collect these postal votes.
– What was the experience in South Australia?
– We have no postal voting there.
– No; only rollstuffing.
– So glaring was the action taken in Queensland that the socalled Liberals for once had the common decency to wipe out the system.
– Is the State Act of Queensland the same as our own?
– Get a copy and have a look.
– I shall do so. Will the honorable member stop speaking if I can prove that he is wrong?
– The honorable member might prove something to his own satisfaction, but I do not think he can prove anything to my satisfaction. Taking all the facts into consideration, and judging by the experience of Victoria, I think that we shall be wise in giving the new system a trial. As to the mock heroics, in which some honorable members opposite have indulged about the position of the womanhood of Australia. I take my stand with any member of this House in the defence of the womanhood of the Commonwealth; but such statements make me sick. We have evidence to justify the adoption of the course we propose. It is not an experiment ; it has already been tried.
– Will the honorable member produce his evidence?
– The honorable member will excuse me if I tell him thatI, like him, do my own business in my own way. We feel that we are justified in making this proposal. As to the statement that many women will be debarred from voting under this Bill, I would point out that after the issue of the writs there will be opportunities for them to go to their respective Electoral Officers and to cast their votes. It will not be necessary for them to make any parade; they will be able to cast their vbtes in an ordinary, decent manner; and I believe that the women of Australia who. feel that they are in such a condition as not to be fit to go to a polling-booth on election day will avail themselves of this privilege. Indeed, it is distinctly understood that one reason for extending the time after the issue of the writs was to provide for such cases.
– What about the position of a man with a broken leg?
– I admit that a man cannot prepare to vote in this way some days before he breaks his leg. It is a misfortune that any one should be debarred from voting because of sickness or infirmity; but it would be a still greater misfortune if under the Electoral Act corruption was carried on. We believe that by abolishing the system we shall do away with one of1 the most corrupt practices which have been carried on in electoral circles. J think that we are justified in taking that course. Last evening the honorable member for Wentworth would persist in saying that because of the easy method of voting all over the Commonwealth an elector would vote five or six times for one candidate. He is aware as well as I am that not more than one vote can be counted.
– Not for one man he said.
– It was the first vote the honorable member said which would be counted.
– Under the postal voting system one justice of the peace votes for twenty men.
– In Victoria they vote for thousands of men. We know well what takes place. If there is an absent voter at Ballarat, he goes to a booth, votes, and signs his name. Somebody may be able to go to Bendigo and try to forge that name, but when the vote is brought down to the electorate to be counted we are assured that the signatures are compared to see which is the right vote, and only that vote is cast. The first man whose vote is cast is the right one.
– It is always the right man who votes first.
– That contention is exploded ; but, of course, I am not blaming the Opposition for taking this stand. They are only doing their duty as His Majesty’s Opposition in opposing everything which the Government brings forward, whether it is good or bad, and I suppose that we all have proclivities in that direction. When they cannot find anything which is really bad, they simply make out that it is bad, as they are doing in this case. I am satisfied that while there are many provisions in this measure which may be altered in committee, and I shall endeavour to get two or three alterations made, still the principal provisions which the Opposition are fighting will, if passed, purify the elections on our next appeal to the people, and allow a fair go all round, instead of having things one-sided.
.- I consider that most of the members of the House were very much surprised at the socalled electoral reform which is proposed in these amendments, for the reason that they expected something of value to the Commonwealth. To my mind, this measure is merely a placard to satisfy the people who have not analyzed the correct position of affairs. That is very little known in Australia generally. The results of the general elections in 1910 should have proved to any party which might have been returned to power that a committee should have been appointed to go thoroughly into the working of the Act, with a view to suggesting something which could have been accepted by both parties, and insured a measure of electoral reform which would have placed the Commonwealth in a better position, perhaps, than is any country on the globe. There is no reason why we should not have analyzed the most modern systems for electing members to Parliament.
– This is worse than even wireless telegraphy.
– What about voting by wireless ?
– I have a few remarks to make, and if any honorable members think that there is anything funny about the matter they can make their funny comments afterwards.
– That is a straight wire.
– I can assure honorable members that there is nothing very funny about the position as I see it. The Electoral Act would be a disgrace to any civilized country, and I shall quote authorities to prove my statement. To my mind the results of the last election should have been analyzed, and the result of the analysis placed before the House in such a way that honorable members could have looked at it free from party considerations, and even the party in power should have considered that what did happen at the last election could happen again to them, The whole system is so defective that it should cause alarm in any civilized country. We have to thank the Melbourne Age for an analysis which was made of the results of the last Federal election, and published on the nth October, 1910. According to that analysis, in New South Wales, seventeen Labourites were elected,- and ten Fusionists and Independents. Although the Labourites secured seven members more than did the Fusionists and Independents, only 14,779more votes were cast for Labour than for Liberals.
– That has been controverted.
– I shall not reply to any silly interjection. I am quoting figures and facts, and intend to quote a few more.
– They are figures, not facts.
– In Victoria ten Labourites were elected and twelve Fusionists and Independents. Whereas in New South Wales seven more Labourites were elected than Fusionists and Independents by 1 4, 799 votes, in Victoria it took 40,412 votes to elect two Fusionists; that is 20,000 odd for each member, as against 2,000 odd in New South Wales. Can any sane man contemplate that position and say that suggestions from the Ministerial side of theHouse are going to rectify matters in any way, or do justice to the people of the Commonwealth? If we go a little further we find that in Queensland the position was worse. There, six Labourites were elected, and three Fusionists. The votes which were polled by Labour above the number polled by the Fusionists number 4,831, so that that State got three Labour members elected for 4,831 votes. In Western Australia, the most thinlypopulated State in the Commonwealth, it took 15,000 votes to put Sir John Forrest in the position of a member of the House, whereas in New South Wales 14,000 odd votes put in seven Labourites. Surely that is something which even honorable members opposite-
– We had a majority, too.
– Can those who are interjecting silly remarks face the public of Australia and say that they are proposing anything to alter this position? I characterize the position as disgraceful. I have said it in the House before and will say it outside.
– I shall say it again and again.
– The honorable member is making a mistake.
– The honorable member for Fremantle has already appealed against interjections, and I ask honorable members not to persist in making them.
– - I am making no mistake in quoting these figures. The returns for the Senate are even worse than those regarding this House. Labour captured all the Senate seats under this beautiful electoral system of ours, that is now being bolstered up by a few amendments. The number of votes cast for Labour at the Senate elections was 2,021,090. The number of votes cast for other candidates was 1,997,029. The majority for Labour in the aggregate was 24,061. But consider what that means. We have to divide that number by three, because each elector had three votes. That means that a majority of 8,020 votes secured the whole of the eighteen Senate seats for Labour. Was there ever a more defective or disgraceful electoral system in any part of the world? There could not be. I have here figures in connexion with other electoral systems, but I defy any honorable member to point to one which has produced more unsatisfactory results than the Commonwealth Electoral Act has done. I do not think that the people of Australia realize that this party is in power to-day by a minority of the votes of the electors. As a matter of fact, they are in power by a minority of 2,262. They travel throughout this continent with great assurance and much talk, pretending they had a mandate from the people. Where is their mandate? They have none. It is solely in consequence of the defects of the Electoral Act that they are in power. They represent a minority of the people.
– Figures can be made to prove anything.
– These figures prove my contention. The vote for the Senate bears out the figures for the House of Representatives. The newspaper from which I have been quoting says -
In the House of Representatives, therefore, the Labour party does not represent a majority of those who voted in April. Ministerialists had the best of the figures in five of the States, but in Victoria they were 40,000 odd behind, and in the whole of Australia they polled only a minority of the votes, the small surplus of 2,262 being against them. This is a very extraordinary state of things. No one can contemplate the facts without feeling that our electoral machinery has hopelessly broken down.
That is from the Age, which made one of the cleverest analyses of the Australian electoral position that I have ever seen.
– Undoubtedly clever !
– It also says-
The Labour party was highly enthusiastic over the victory gained in capturing all the seats in the Senate. In every State the three nominees of the Labour party were at the head of the poll. If the majorities in favour of the Labour candidates in each State had been conspicuously large the issue would have been perfectly fair, and no one would have had any justification for complaint. But as it happens the three successful candidates in each of the States polled only a little more than half the electorate.
These facts prove conclusively that something more than is now proposed is required to rectify the position. This newspaper further says -
No matter what section in politics mav suffer, the position is equally deplorable, and, as we have often urged, one of the crying needs of Federal affairs is a reform of our electoral law, so that the Senate will reflect public opinion all through, and not merely one section which happens through some accidental circumstances to have a few more votes than can be rounded up for the other side.
Surely this position should receive some consideration. But this Bill will certainly not meet our requirements. Much has been said about cards being left to be filled up at every house. That, to my mind, is a very dangerous system. It permits unscrupulous people to put fictitious names on the roll. If a policeman calls at a house, and wants to know how many are boarding or living there, the proprietor, if he be an unscrupulousman - whether a Liberal or a Labourite - can give a few more than are actually living under his roof. The cards are then filled up, and when the names get on to the roll a channel is opened for all kinds of impersonations.
– Every name must be witnessed.
– But by whom?
– Any elector.
– The man who signs a card may witness his own name. Some people are quite clever enough to do that, and avoid detection.
– People who do that kind of thing are oh the honorable member’s side.
– I am sorry to hear that remark. A few things that have occurred recently, however, put our side in rather a favorable light in comparison with honorable members opposite. I have here a little extract which I carefully preserved in case any honorable member should make any remark about our side. Let me show what has happened in connexion with roll stuffing in South Australia, where Labour officials were charged with serious electoral offences -
In one case the claim was made out in the name of a fictitious person, and signed and witnessed. The committee trusted that drastic action would be taken to prevent the spread of the insidious and mischievous practice of rollstuffing, the existence of which was disclosed in evidence.
Some of these people who were concerned in the roll stuffing in South Australia stood for election for district councils since these revelations were made. I am glad to learn that six out of seven of them lost their seats. They deserved to do so. When we hear accusations made about our party, we have a right to remind our accusers of these facts. I venture to say that electoralmalpractices will occur under this Bill to a greater extent than has occurred under any Electoral Act that has been in force in Australia. We are inviting people to fill up cards with fictitious names, and allowing them to vote at any place in the Commonwealth. One man can vote in the name of fifty people. There is no doubt about that. I, with others, would be only too pleased to see some system which would be to the credit of the Commonwealth ; but I am afraid that what is proposed, whether through ignorance of the position or by design, will not accomplish what is expected. It is proposed in clause 9, that -
A roll may be altered by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State by striking out the name of any person, if he has proof that the person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on that roll, and has secured enrolment on another roll.
When is the Electoral Officer to be allowed to do this? There may be fifty John Smiths or John Johnsons, and the Electoral Officer may strike out the name of the wrong man. If a clause like this is passed, the striking out should be only after due notice; and every care should be taken that no one is disfranchised. It is proposed to fix the polling day on a Saturday, and I see no great objection to that,- or any other day. Personally, however, I think that polling day should be left an open question at the discretion of the Minister, because something may happen to prevent an election being held on that day. The most objectionable proposal in the Bill, however, is that which abolishes voting by post. This is certainly the most unkind proposal I have ever known to be made by a Parliament in Australia. We have men and women working or living in the interior of Australia, or on lighthouses, light-ships, and so forth, whose only means of recording their vote is by post. We have heard much from the other side about the witnessing of signatures on postal-vote forms ; and one would be led to believe that this is a, duty to be performed by justices of the peace only, and that there was not enough justices of the peace to meet the demand. As a matter of fact, it is only hoodwinking the people to represent that only justices of the peace can witness signatures. According to section 109 of the original Act, the following persons are authorized to witness signatures -
The choice is very wide; and I suppose a policeman could be found outside this House at any time. It is recognised that a number of people may be quarantined, and they certainly would not be allowed to enter a polling booth.
– Why not have a polling booth at the quarantine station?
– What would be the use, when the Electoral Officers would not be allowed to come out again ? The section I have quoted shows that Parliament recognised that there must be a large number of people who cannot vote except through the post ; and we ought to think more than once before we strike this section out of the Act. The meanest thing we could do would be to disfranchise people in this way.
– A meaner trick is to violate the secrecy of the ballot!
– When I am dealing with the secrecy of the ballot, 1 shall expect interjections of that kind. Clause 17 would be amusing if its effects were not so serious. It provides - (1.) An elector who has reason to believe that he will not on polling day be within any Commonwealth Electoral Division may, subject to the regulations, be permitted to vote al any time after the issue of the writ and before polling day, if he attends before any prescribed Commonwealth Electoral Registrar and makes a declaration in accordance with the prescribed form.
This means that any person leaving the Commonwealth, and intending never to return, is to be allowed to vote, and, perhaps, turn a close election, whereas the poor individual who hopes to get out of his sick bed within a week or two, or who, perhaps, meets with an accident the day before the election, is to be disfranchised. If’ the Government are going to look after the person who may be going away for ever, surely they ought to look after the person who cannot move out of his bed. It is also provided that an elector may vote at any . polling place within the Commonwealth at which a polling booth is open, subject to the regulations relating to absent voting. That provision opens the door to all kinds of impersonation. It practically legalizes impersonation. In mining towns up country, where there are thousands or people working, most of them under ground, very few of them know each other. Some unscrupulous person, Liberal or Labourite, may receive a list from some other part of Australia of names appearing on the roll, the persons named being reported to have gone away, with the request to look them up and see that they vote. If that fell into unscrupulous hands, every one of those persons would vote, judging by what has happened in South Australia. It is opportunity that makes the thief, and in framing this Bill we should make sure that opportunity is not given for impersonation. There is also a peculiar system of dealing with the vote of the individual who can vote at any polling place in the Commonwealth after it has been recorded. A long provision appears, the effect of which is that absent votes shall be opened only by the Returning Officer for the division for which the voter claims to be enrolled. If an absent voter votes, say, in North Queensland, it may be eight or ten weeks before the Returning
Officer for his electorate has a chance of ascertaining for whom he has voted.
– That was done at the last election under the principal Act.
– We voted under different conditions at the last election. Electors were allowed to vote in the division or State to which they belonged, but not in any part of the Commonwealth. There are parts of the Commonwealth from which it would take eight or ten weeks for the vote to reach the place where it could be opened. It would, therefore, be impossible, in the case of a close fight, to know the result of an election within a reasonable time. Surely if the ReturningOfficer in a remote place is honest enough to open the votes polled in his own division, he can be trusted to open the absent votes also, and wire the result.
– He would not have the man’s signature there to compare it.
– At any rate, that would be a quicker way of finding out any impersonation, because the Returning Officer for the division for which the absent voter was enrolled would be able to see if his vote had already been recorded. A very funny proviso is added to that clause : “ Nothing in the last preceding section, or this section, shall authorize any elector to vote more than once at any election.” Surely it is not necessary to mention that. The fact that it is mentioned would almost lead one to suppose that voting more than once is authorized somewhere else in the measure, but I have hunted in vain for the provision allowing a man to vote twice. Another section limits the electoral expenses of a candidate for the House of Representatives to£100. This is altogether useless in connexion with big divisions. The Swan division is more than 500 miles in length, and Maranoa and Grey are instances of similar divisions in Queensland and South Australia. The same amount is allowed for electoral expenses to a candidate contesting those divisions as is allowed to candidates who can return to their homes in an hour from any part of their divisions. Whereas the candidate of a city division containing 30,000 electors can often address 2.000 persons in one night, the candidate representing a country division is lucky if he can address as many as100 or150 at a time. The provision really compels candidates to be dishonest.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– The appointment of a Committee consisting of members from each side - because this is not a party matter - to devise a better system. The candidate tor a big division may have to hire 100 or 150 halls. At any rate, the accounts for the hiring of them will be sent to him.
– At the election before last the whole of my expenditure did not exceed£13.
– That is the cheapest thing I have ever heard of. The honorable member must have imposed on his friends. Perhaps his constituents charged him in accordance with their estimate of his value, or it may be that hall proprietors, finding that he could not get audiences, charged him nothing for renting their premises. Sub-section 1 of proposed section 172 a provides -
Every trades union registered or unregistered, organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has,in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense -
on behalf of,or in the interests of, any candidate, or
on behalf of, or in the interests of, any political party, shall in accordance with this section make a return of the money so expended or expense so incurred.
To my mind, proper returns will never be furnished under that sub-section. Many of the trade unions have been turned into political organizations, and spend money from one year’s end to another in furthering political ends. Any return they might make would not include everything they spent on politics. From sub-section 2 the words “trade union” have been omitted, the sub-section dealing only with organizations, associations, leagues or bodies of persons. Why should not the provisions of sub-section 2, as well as those of subsection 1, apply to trade unions? Subsection 2 says also that every person who has in connexion with any election expended any money must make a return of the expense incurred. Does that mean that the man who hires a cab to drive him to the poll must furnish a return ? All expense incurred in printing, publishing, or issuing electoral advertisements, or procuring the insertion in any newspaper of any advertisement, article, or report, intended or calculated to affect the result of an election, must also be returned. What is meant by “ calculated to affect the result of an election,” and who is to be responsible for this return ? An unscrupulous newspaper proprietor might make a return for expenditure not authorized by the candidate. Sub-section 5 of the proposed new section reads -
If any organization, association, league, or body of persons - and here, again, the words “ every trades union registered or unregistered “ are left out - fails to comply with this section, every person who was an officer thereof at the time the money was expended or expense incurred shall be liable to a penalty of£50 (Fifty pounds).
What does this mean? Under this Bill a prosecution for an offence may be instituted at any time within three years after the time it was committed, and how is it proposed to catch a man who was an officer of an organization ? He may be in America when the prosecution is launched. The provision is very crude and ill-considered.
I point out also that a man may be an officer of one of these organizations only for the day of the election. Yet he is under this Bill to be made the scapegoat, and, perhaps, fined£50, because he happened to earn a guinea from an organization on a polling day, if he does not send in a return under this proposed section. The organization may not be in existence the day after the election, or may have no funds. Many of them are in that position after an election. In section 177, of the existing Act, it is provided that -
Whoever - (i.) Threatens, offers, or suggests any violence, injury, punishment, damage, loss, or disadvantage for or on account of, or to induce any candidature, or withdrawal of candidature, or any vote, or any omission to vote, or any support or opposition to any candidate, or any promise of any vote, omission, support, or opposition ; or (ii.) Uses, causes, inflicts, or procures any violence, punishment, damage, loss, or disadvantage for or on account of any such candidature, withdrawal, vote, omission, support, or opposition : shall be guilty of undue influence.
We know that the conduct of people at some election meetings is simply scandalous. Men are sent to some meetings to count, to sing, and to interrupt the candidates in any way they can. Personally, I should like to see this provision struck out altogether if it is not to be enforced. I do not believe that honorable members opposite approve of some of the tactics adopted at election meetings.
– Certainly not.
– It has been urged as one reason for holding elections on a Saturday that employés would be able to get to the polls on that day. Honorable members who have given that reason for the proposed alteration of the law must have forgotten section 183d of the existing Act, which provides that -
If an employé who is an elector notifies his employer before the polling day that he desires leave of absence to enable him to vote at any election, the employer shall, if the absence desired is necessary to enable the employé to vote at the election, allow him leave of absence without any penalty or disproportionate deduction of pay for such reasonable period not exceeding two hours as is necessary to enable the employé to vote at the election.
I know that employers raise very little objection to the time occupied by the employes in recording their votes, provided that it is not at an unreasonable time. I have never heard of an employé complaining that his employer refused to give him time off to vote. On the other hand, I have known employers to lend their employés horses, buggies, and carts, and to give them every facility to go to the poll. In the circumstances I think that the holding of elections on the Saturday will not have so much in-‘ fluence in enabling employes to record their votes as some honorable members would have us believe. The second sub-section, of section 182d, of the existing Act, provides that -
No employé shall under pretence that he intends to vote at the election, but without the bonâ fide intention of doing so, obtain leave of absence under this section.
An employer would need to be a mindreader to be able to say whether his employé had, or had not, a bonâ fide intention of voting when he made his application for leave of absence to record his vote. I come now to a section of the existing Act which requires alteration. I refer to section 182e, which reads - (1.) Any person who at any public meeting to which this section applies acts in a disorderly manner for the purpose of preventing the transaction of the business for which the meeting is held shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.
Penalty : Five pounds or one month’s imprisonment in some house of detention more than seven miles from any polling place for the Division for which he is enrolled. (2.) This section applies to any lawful public meetincr held in relation to any election of members of the Parliament between the date of the issue of the writ for the election and the date of the return of the writ.
I consider that the words “ between the date of the issue of the writ of the election and the date of the return of the writ “ should be left out of this section, and it should apply to any political meeting that it is necessary to hold. There may, at any time, be vital political questions requiring public explanation, and I consider that the disgraceful prceeedings which occur at political meetings should be prevented, whether a writ has been issued for an election or not. I was thinking that the chairman of a meeting might be held liable to some penalty if he does not lay an information against a disorderly person. It should be remembered that the chairman has charge of the meeting.
– He might give the candidate in charge for kicking up a row.
– Perhaps, he would sometimes be justified in doing so. Something should be done to show the roughs who attend political meetings that they cannot do as they like. Many persons attend political meetings as a bit of sport. They often know nothing of the subject being discussed. If they had the interests of the Commonwealth at heart it would be quite a different matter. But they go there to make cat-calls, to crow like roosters, and generally to kick up a row. Such conduct should be severely dealt with.
– What would the honorable member do to a man who attends a political meeting armed with a motor horn?
– If that were the only weapon with which hewas armed, I should be inclined to think thathe. had stolen it. The honorable memberfor Melbourne Ports made some very curious remarks about honorable members who sit upon this side of the. Chamber. He stated that we did not believe in preference to unionists. I should like to know whether he was speaking for the Labour party as a whole, because I am inclined to think that there must be some difference of opinion upon that question, even amongst the members of that party. I hold in my hand a report from a Sydney newspaper in which a member of that party, who is president of a certain union in New South Wales, in endeavouring to justify an act of his, says -
No member of the staff was competent to place in charge of the work, hence the appointment of a business manager. The whole of the executive officers have been absolutely unanimous on all these chances. We advertised for a business manager, but could not find a suitable man in the ranks of unionists. Thus, we had to engage one who was not a unionist, but has since become a unionist. Even the work of a union office must be done competently. Our resources are. limited, and our expenditure very heavy., hence we had to retrench in other directions.. With great regret the executive was compelled to dispense with the services of two of its staff - a clerk and an outside canvasser.Both are unionists, but that neither could take the place of the business manager or that of the accountant as satisfactorily as under the existing arrangement, is the unanimous opinion of the executive.
– Whose remarks is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting the remarks of the honorable member for Cook, who is President of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Service Association in New South Wales. I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports accused honorable members upon this side of the Chamber of being opposed to unionists, because it now appears that some of the members of his own party are quite as much opposed to unionists, notwithstanding that they make their living out of them. Having shown that this Bill is very defective, I now propose to show that other systems of representation which might well be made the subject of an inquiry by a Select Committee of this House, are operative in various parts of the world. I wish to refer particularly to the system of proportional representation.From the pamphlet which I hold in my hand I extract the following.
Proportional representation in a restricted form has been in operation in Denmark since 1855. A considerable time elapsed before any advance was made elsewhere, but, in recent years, societies advocating the reform have been actively engaged in many countries and the movement has achieved some notable victories.
Belgian proportional representation society, “ La Ligue pour la Representation Proportionelle,”. under the presidency of M. Yves Guyot, was founded in 1901, and the league is now supported by deputies drawn from all political parties. An electoral reform group consisting of more than 250 deputies has been formed and under their auspices large and enthusiastic meetings have been held in the large towns. The reform has the support of le Temps, le Dibats, l’Humanité and other leading newspapers, and authoritative reports have been submitted to the French Chamber by the Commission du Suffrage Universel wilh a strong recommendation in favour of the adoption of the reform.
Japan, in the law promulgated in March. 1900, adopted a simple form of proportional representation, and has thus secured a lower House representative of the Japanese nation.
have quoted reports in respect of the electoral systems of ‘different countries which have adopted a more modern system than we have. I think I have proved to. the House that our system is so defective that it requires to be carefully considered, and that reform is absolutely necessary. The aims of the Proportional Representation Society are -
The Proportional Representation Society explains its methods as follows -
Small divisions are considered under this system to be unsatisfactory, and divisions represented by three or four members are necessary for its effective working - such as. large towns, counties or parts of counties; give each constituency so formed a number of members proportionate to its electorate, the total number ol the House of Commons being the same as at present or smaller.
Decide elections by a proportionate system such as that known as the single transferable vote, under which -
He is also invited to place -
The figure 3 opposite the name of his third choice, and so on, numbering as many candidates as he pleases in the order of his preference,
That is where the proportional system differs from that of preferential voting - indicated by the figures 2, 3, and so on, as the- next preference of the electors whose votes are transferred. This operation renders all votes effective ; votes are used and not wasted.
As I have yet a lot of matter to deal with, I ask leave to continue my remarks tomorrow;.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a message stating that it had agreed to certain amendments made by the House of Representatives, and agreed to others with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - After clause 8, insert the following new clauses : - 8b. An action or other proceeding shall not be maintainable against the Commonwealth, or the Minister, or any officer of the Commonwealth, by reason of any act, default, error, or omission, whether negligent or otherwise, in relation to any lighthouse or marine mark.
Senate’s Amendment. - After “other,” line 1, insert “ civil.”
– It will be remembered that the clause practically allowed the Commonwealth to contract out of its liability in case of an accident.
– “ Contract out of its liability “ ?
– What I mean is that tre Commonwealth was not to be liable in ‘‘ase an accident happened. The Senate has inserted the word “ civil “ after the word “ other,” so that if it is other than a civil act, the Commonwealth shall still be liable.
– That does hot alter the clause much.
– It does not strengthen the clause as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. It makes the people who do the thing liable for any action other than a civil one. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– There is no harm in that.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 9 (Light dues) -
House of Repr esentatives’ Amendment. - Omit clause, and insert the following new clause : - (3.) When rates or scales of light dues have been prescribed under this Act, light dues prescribed by or under any State Act shall cease to have any effect ;
Provided that nothing in tills sub-section shall release any ship or vesselor any person from any liability in respect of any light dues prescribed by or under any State Act which became due before the rates or scales of light dues under this Act came into force.
Senate’s Amendment. - After “Act,” line 3, insert “ (other than dues solely in respect of lights maintained by the State).”
– A State may maintain lights which are not ocean lights, and for which it may levy light dues. We do not desire to take away from a State, as we have apparently done, the power to levy dues for lighting its own coast. This amendment will leave to the State the power to levy its own light dues, which otherwise would have been taken away by the clause. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That the message be taken into consideratiom forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 5 - (1.) If personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is’ caused to a seaman, his employer shall, subject to this Act, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the First Schedule to this Act. (2.) Provided that -
if it appears that the claimant has a claim for compensation for the injury under any law of the United Kingdom or of any other part of the King’s Dominions, compensation under this Act shall only be allowed upon the claimant undertaking not to claim compensation for the injury under any such law.
Senate’s Amendment. - After “Dominions” insert “ or of any foreign country.”
– This clause provides that, if it appears that a seaman has a claim for compensation for injury under a law of the United Kingdom, or any part of the King’s Dominions, compensation shall only be allowed upon the claimant undertaking not to claim compensation for the injury under such law. That is the form in which the House passed the provision, not only in this Parliament, but in the previous one. The Senate has inserted after the word “ Dominions “ the words “ of any foreign country.” It practically incorporates a provision in the German Seamen’s Compensation Act, so that a man shall not be paid compensation twice over.
– If he recovers compensation in a foreign country, he cannot recover here?
– Yes. I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert the following new sub-clause : - “ Any undertaking given in pursuance of paragraph e of sub-section a of this section shall have effect as a contract between the claimant and the person from whom the compensation is claimed.”
– The object of this amendment is practically to give effect to sub-clause 2. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 8 - (3.) There shall be included among the debts which are in the distribution of the property of a bankrupt and in the distribution of the assets of a company being wound up to bc paid in priority to all other debts, the amount, not exceeding in any individual case one hundred pounds, due in respect of any compensation the liability wherefor accrued before the date of the sequestration order (or any otherorder corresponding thereto or having the like effect) or the date of the commencement of the winding up and the provisions of any laws relating to preferential payments in relation to bankruptcy and the winding up of companies shall have effect accordingly. Where the compensation is a weekly payment, the amount due in respect thereof shall, for the purposes of this provision, be taken to be the amount of the lump-sum for which the weekly payment could, if redeemable, be redeemed if the employer made an application for that purpose under the First Schedule to this Act.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out the words “ not exceeding in any individual case one hundred pounds.”
– This sub-clause provides that, in case of the insolvency of an employer, who ‘has entered into a contract, the seaman shall have certain rights.
– Against whom?
– In common with the rest of the creditors, I suppose?
– No. The seaman will take priority of other creditors in accordance with the terms of the measure. The amendment gives to the seaman the same right as is given to him by the clause, but does not limit the amount of his claim to
– What is the reason for striking out the limitation ? Is not this open to argument?
– I have only just seen the Bill, and, although I heard that this amendment was moved this afternoon, I candidly admit that I have not had time to look into it.
– I think that the Minister ought to take time to consider this amendment, because there may be a lot of poor people with claims.
– If the Opposition would like time for further consideration, we are prepared to report progress.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to -
That the message be taken into consideratioa forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s’ amendments) :
The Postmaster-General may, after giving three month’s notice to the owner, acquire any purchase telephone line which was erected by the Department : of Posts, Telegraphs; and Telephones of any State at the expense of the owner or constructed by the owner prior to the year 1883. orhis predecessor in title, and in respect of which the, owner, pays an annual maintenance fee…..
Senate’s Amendments. - After “owner,” line 5, insert “ or his predecessor in title “ ; leave out “ by the owner,” line 6 ; after “ 1883,” line 7, insert “by the owner.”
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- May I ask the Prime Minister whether he hasreceived any communications from the banks with reference to banking proposal’s generally, and especially with regard to the reduction of the reserve against the note issue; and ifso, whether he will lay such communications upon the table?
– Yes ;I shall have pleasure in doing so. There are oneor two communications.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111206_reps_4_63/>.