4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the
Minister of Home Affairs what branch of. his Department has interfered with the progress of the Naval or Military Departments’?
– The honorable member having notified me of his intention to ask this question, I requested Colonel Owen, the able and conscientious Director of Public Works, to make a statement on the subject, and he has furnished the following reply : -
I have seen the report in the Age, 22nd inst., of Mr. Manisty’s speech at the Trafalgar Day dinner. I do not know in what way this De- ‘ partment is an obstacle, except that the naval authorities wish to carry out all works themselves.
The statement comes as a surprise considering the promptitude with which this Department has taken in hand and executed works asked for by the Navy at Williamstown, Geelong, and elsewhere. ‘ The principal difficulty, however, which I have found up to the present is not in executing the works, but in obtaining from the naval authorities, without delay, a clear statement of requirements ; this is a matter in which theNaval Secretary may be able to remove an obstacle. When the naval authorities make a fair start on the engineering works coming within their own province, they will, I think, be less inclined to impeach a kindred Department.
The wisdom, however, of the present arrangement has been emphasized by the proposal put forward by the Navy Board for the lay-out of naval college at Jervis Bay. If this Department had not prepared a plan in direct touch with an officer acquainted with naval requirements, it may be presumed that the plan proposed by the Navy Board would have been followed; the result would have been a waste of public money, and a most inferior lay-out of the college buildings. I think, therefore, that instead of blaming this branch, the Naval Secretary might have commended it for the assistance it has given,
I do not understand, however, why the Naval Secretary should make any statement open to the public reflecting on another Department, and I submit that such a statement having been made public, an equally public denial should be given.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Defence inform the House if Mr. Manisty is acting under the instruction of the Defence Department, or the Minister of Defence, or is he acting solely as a free lance?
– I understand that Mr. Manisty is acting under the instruction of the Minister of Defence. If the honorable member’s question has relation to what Mr. Manisty is reported to have said, I think it preferable that the Minister controlling the Department in which that officer is placed should be allowed to deal with him rather than that two officers in different Departments should be allowed to fight out their differences on the floor of this House.
– W/hy should Mr. Manisty attack another Department?
– If he did so, he will be dealt with.
– When may the House expect an opportunity to consider the scheme for the re-distribution of the electoral divisions of New South Wales?
– I expect to lay the report and maps on the table tomorrow.
-When shall we have some definite information regarding the proposed new electoral divisions of New South Wales ?
– A report and maps were received j but the maps were returned because there were no lines on them enabling the old electorates to be distinguished from the new. I think that we shall get them back to-morrow.
– What steps has the Department of Home Affairs taken towards preparing plans for the building of the Federal City?
– We shall have a report in a day or two on the designs for the laying out of the city ; and I expect to be able to make an announcement shortly afterwards.
– In inviting designs for buildings, will the Minister consider the advantage to be gained by guaranteeing that the competing architects shall have charge of the erection of the buildings for which their designs have been accepted ?
– That must be considered.
Postal Employes - Official and Allowance Offices - Telegraph and Telephone Lines
– Considerable apprehension exists in connexion with the statement made by the Postmaster- General the other day that he intends to give effect, as from 1st July last, to the award of the Arbitration Court concerning temporary employes. The permanent employes wish to know in what position they stand?
– The permanent employes, in respect to wages, are under the Public Service Commissioner but the temporary employes are directly controlled by the Minister. I have stated that I would date back to the 1st July the award applying to the temporary postal mechanicians ; and I have also informed the hon.orable member for Bourke that, should there be undue delay in the hearing of cases, I shall ask the Government to favorably consider the position of the permanent employe’s, treating each case on its merits.
– I desire to, ascertain whether I heard the PostmasterGeneral accurately just now. I understood him to say that temporary employed are not under the Public Service Act. Is that so?
– I did not say that. Whilst temporary employes are employed under the Public Service Act, in some cases - not in all - their wages can be fixed by Ministerial act. That cannot be done in the case of permanent employes.
– In view of the fact that a Supply Act, providing for a period of three months, has been passed, will the Postmaster-General pay the promised increase to those in charge of the small allowance offices before the Estimates have been dealt with?
– I know of no precedent for incurring new expenditure of that description before the Estimates have been passed by Parliament.
– Will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of issuing a clear statement in regard to what are semi-official and official post-offices? I understood yesterday quite differently from what he has to-day stated. I think that we should understand what the revenue must be before we can obtain a semi-official or a full-blown official office. I only ask the question for the sake of getting information.
– I think I can give my right honorable friend a statement in a few words. An official office is an office which is taken charge of wholly by the Department and conducted under its direct control.
– That is a postoffice witha revenue of£400 a year, I understood.
– In olden times a semiofficial office may have been converted to an official office when the revenue exceeded £200, but the custom was to insist upon a revenue of£400 a year before such conversion was made. When the Minister of External Affairs was Postmaster-General he amended this condition, and stipulated for a revenue of£200. An alteration of the condition has been made at the suggestion of the Postal Inspectors’ Conference, which was held in Melbourne at my request,, and which pointed out that the Department was sure to lose about £50 a year on these offices if a revenue of £200 were reverted to. I have issued a direction that the offices may be converted when they have a revenue of , £300. I have already stated that a promise made by my predecessor in regard to any office will be kept. An allowance office is generally an office in a little place where £10 or £20, or whatever may be considered a suitable sum is paid, because there is no justification for paying £110 to a semiofficial officer, or for putting an official officer there, when in all probability it would cost about£250 to run the office.
– On the 8th inst., ther honorable member for Cowper asked thefollowing questions: -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, the following information has been furnished : -
The Departmental instruction is that -stocks shall never be allowed to fall below the previous nine months’ issues without steps being taken to replenish; but it has not been possible to act up to this standard in the past owing to insufficient funds being voted prior to1911-12, and to inability to obtain from contractors deliveries of sufficient material since that date to establish the stocks. The action in this direction is, however, being pursued.
British Ships : Passengers.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Whether, under the powers in the Navigation Bill, in which an exemption can be made in regard to British ships carrying passengers between specified ports, the Government intends to make such exemption in regard to passengers travelling to and from Western Australia, until such time as railway communication is established with that State?
– The matter has not yet been decided. Until the measure becomes law, it would be premature to delimit the application of the exemption to particular ports. Broadly, the policy of the Government in this respect will be dictated by the convenience of the public.
Sleepers : Payment of Royalty
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the statement of the right honorable member for Swan, made during the censure debate, and repeated in the Argus of the 18th inst., that the specimens of jarrah timber recently exhibited in the House were not genuine, and also- having regard to the statements made by other members that the powellising process is still in the experimental stage, will the Minister take into consideration the necessity of at once stopping the construction of the transcontinental Tailway pending the appointment of and report from a Royal Commission as to whether jarrah, powellised karri, or steel sleepers are the most suitable?
– The whole matter is under consideration.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
The Commonwealth Government simply buys the sleepers, powellised or untreated, as may be arranged, at certain fixed prices, and is not concerned with the cost of cutting and treating them. That is a matter for the successful tenderers - the Western Australian Government. The Commonwealth has no contract or trans actions with the powellising companies, but only with the Western Australian Government, and I have promised to lay the contract documents on the table of the House when completed.
– As soon as the swindle is irreparable, thenyou will put the contract on the table.
– That is not right.
– Do you want that to get into Hansard ?
– No, and if it does I shall immediately correct it.
– As a matter of privilege, sir, I want to call your attention to a remark which the honorable member for Wentworth hurled across the chamber, that when a swindle is completed, the papers will be tabled. Is it in order, sir, for the honorable member to apply those words to a contract to be let by the Home Affairs Department ?
– I did not hear any remark from the honorable member for Wentworth, but, certainly, if he made the remark which is attributed to him, he must not only withdraw it, but apologize to the House for having made it.
– I did make an interjection to that effect, sir. I did not intend to impute any corruption to honorable gentlemen opposite. I used the term in its loosest sense.
– What is that sense ?
– There is many a thing which one would term a political swindle without making a charge of personal corruption against any person involved in it. It was in that sense that I used the word just now.
– It was a nasty word.
– It was a nasty word used in its broadest sense, and used so quietly that, had it not been for the anxiety of the honorable member, I do not think that anybody would have heard anything about it.
– Order !
– You wantedthe press to hear it, and not us.
– No. I did not think that there was the slightest chance of Hansard or the press hearing the remark, I simply muttered it. However, sir, if you ask for a withdrawal of the term, I do withdraw it. But, in doing so, I wish it to be clearly understood that I had it not in my mind, and did not wish to convey to any person the idea of personal corruption being involved in the matter. I have never held that view.
– What did you refer to if you did not hold that view?
– A political swindle in the ordinary political sense - in the same way as honorable members opposite call each other brothers. They do not mean it technically or literally, but they call each other brothers.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the statement and apologize to the House for having made it.
– I did withdraw the statement, sir, and stated that I never intended to use the words in the sense attributed to me. That is my withdrawal. I cannot understand what else is required.
– The honorable member must see that when I insist upon a withdrawal he must express some regret for having made use of the term. The mere fact that an honorable member makes a statement and then gets up and withdraws it is not sufficient. In my opinion, if this sort of thing is allowed to go on, it fill lead to serious results. The honorable member can see as well as other members that that is not desirable.
– What might have been inferred from my remark, sir, was that when the mischief was completed the Minister would give us a chance of seeing what it was. I apologize to the House for having used the term “swindle,” if you insist upon an apology, although I never intended to convey that sense at all.
– The honorable member has committed another offence. He has put a qualification to his remark which certainly is almost as bad as the original remark.
– What is that, sir?
– The honorable member must not do that. I ask him to withdraw the remark unconditionally, and apologize to the House.
– Mr. Speaker, what have I done now?
– Apologize and withdraw the remark.
– I apologizeand withdraw the remark, but I really do not know what I have done now.
– Order !
– It is ridiculous.
– I ask to be allowed a moment or two to make an explanation regarding the answer to a question which I received from the Minister of HomeAffairs. I resent this method of answering questions.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot do that.
– Then I shall content myself with simply saying that I resent the thing.
– Order ! I understood the honorable member to rise to make a personal explanation, but he is going beyond that.
– I did rise to make a personal explanation, sir, and a very important one, too.
In Committee(Consideration resumed from 20th September, vide page 3314) :
Clause 4 -
Section four of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “4 (1). The provisions of section 64 … shall . . . apply to a referendum. . . . “
Upon which Sir John Quick had moved -
That after the word “of,” line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ Part X (Voting by Post) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909 and of.”
– The exceedingly rash and general statements which have been made as to alleged corruption on the part of different candidates at a general election - statementswhich no one has attempted to prove - cannot apply to a referendum. I have no opposition to offer to this Bill, forI believe that a general election offers a fitting opportunity for the taking of a referendum. The referendum of 191 1 involved an expenditure of , £40,000 or £50,000 which was absolutely useless - a reckless waste of public money - seeing that it might well have been taken at a general election, when all the electoral machinery was in actual use, at comparatively little expense. When the States are asked to surrender any of their powers rathe Commonwealth, surely every elector should have an opportunity to exercise the franchise and to declare by his vote his opinion in regard to the proposal. A much stronger reason for this proposal to allow postal voting to apply to all referenda has recently arisen. It is reported in the press that objection has been taken to the placing of ballot-boxes in hospitals and other charitable institutions; so that, in addition to the 30,000 persons who, it is estimated, will not be able in ordinary circumstances to attend a polling booth on election day, we shall, under the Bill as it stands, disfranchise every inmate of a charitable institution. The electors who dealt with the Constitution Bill on the basis of the widest franchise will be asked to deal with the proposed amendments of the Constitution on a more restricted franchise. It cannot be said that any candidate would have a personal interest in influencing votes in respect of a referendum. While it has been asserted that the postal vote has been used improperly by some candidates, although no attempt has been made to prove that assertion, it cannot be said that any attempt would be made to improperly use the. system in connexion witha referendum. Let us have a fair run. Whether we favour a surrender or an extension of Federal powers, I think we must all agree that every elector of the Commonwealth should have an opportunity to exercise the franchise in connexion with such a proposal. Not one member of this House has had the courage to say that he favoured the abolition of postal voting because of a desire to take from the sick or the invalid the opportunity to record their votes on election day.
– They do not wish to worry the sick.
– It is worry on the part of the candidate, rather than on the part of the electors, of which some honorable members are thinking. Honorable members opposite have asserted that they have reluctantly agreed to the abolition of the postal-voting system because certain candidates have made an improper use of it; but, at a referendum, every man and woman can exercise the franchise absolutely untrammelled by a desire to secure the return of any particular candidate or party. If the Government choose to make the coming referendum a party question, well and good. I regret, however, that the Prime Minister has intimated that it is their intention to do so. I did not make the referendum at the last election a party matter, and I do not think that it should have been so treated. When the people are asked to give the Commonwealth Parliament greater powers than those for which they, voted at the inception of Federation, there is not the slightest reason for restricting . the franchise. Consider for a moment the absurdity of the position under this
Bill. If a man breaks his arm a day or two before the next general election, he will still be able to record his vote, notwithstanding the abolition of postal voting ; but if he break a leg, he will not be able to do so.
– What if he breaks his neck ?
– Does the honorable member think that because a man has the misfortune to break his leg, he should be disfranchised?
– That circumstance would not disfranchise him.
– It would prevent him from attending the polling booth, and therefore would disfranchise him. It is proposed to ask the people of Australia to vote “ Yes “ or “No” on a broad principle. This is not a party question-
– Whether it is a party question or not does not affect the issue.
– Does the honorable member say that, in connexion with the proposed referenda, there is the same possibility of undue influence being exerted as there is when persons are engaged in canvassing for an individual candidate?
– Yes. I would not trust any of the officials who side with the honorable member’s party.
– Those unfounded statements carry their own reply. It has been said that the postal vote has been improperly used, but that plea cannot be urged in connexion with the referenda. If we wish to ascertain the will of the people on the questions to be submitted to them, let us have a fair run. Let every man and woman in Australia over the age of twenty-one years who is outside of a lunatic asylum and a gaol be afforded an opportunity to vote. Do not let us provide that a person who is sick, or who has the misfortune to meet with an accident, shall be deprived of an opportunity to exercise the franchise. I have in my mind’s eye three persons who are possessed of far more than ordinary intelligence, but who, owing to an affliction which affects their limbs, will not be able to go to the polling booth to record their votes. When we are deliberately asking the electors of this country to surrender a portion of the home rule which they now enjoy, to deprive them of an opportunity to record their votes is one of the worst acts ofpolitical impropriety. I hope that the House will, deal with this question in a a. liberal manner. Whatever bann the majority of the House may place upon elections when personal influences are operative, it is clear that in connexion with the referenda there can be no corrupt influences at work, and consequently we should afford the men and women of Australia the fullest and most complete opportunity to exercise the franchise.
. - I make no apology for speaking again upon the subject of postal voting, though I intend to say only a few words. The abolition of the postal vote in connexion with ordinary elections is based upon the alleged improper use of that vote; in other words, of corruption. Some months have now elapsed since the matter was formerly under review. At that time, no proofs were brought forward in support of the allegation regarding the misuse of the postal vote, and I wish to ask the Prime Minister, or the Minister in charge of the Bill, whether, after the lapse of all these months, he has any further proofs? Is there anything more than the suggestion of corruption which was then made? There has never been a single prosecution by the Department for corruption or for the improper use of the postal vote.
– Yes, there has been. What about Lesser, a justice of the peace of Coleraine, who was fined £26 altogether ?
– For what?
– For corrupt practice.
– Is that the sole instance which can be brought forward?
– There are dozens of cases.
– If there are dozens of them let us have them. I was not “aware that there had been even one prosecution. But, seeing that there has been one, I would ask how many prosecutions there have been for fraud in other directions ?
– That case shows the possibility of fraud which exists.
– The possibility of fraud is always present, but that possibility is less in connexion with postal voting than it is in connexion with personal voting.
– Th’at is an absurd statement.
– To say that my statement is an absurd one is no answer to it. In the one case a person has to write down his or her name - a step which everybody knows most /people are extremely reluctant to take. They regard the writing of their signatures as an infinitely more dangerous proceeding than that of walking into a polling booth where they may or may not be well known and affixing their cross to a ballot-paper. I venture to submit that there is not a single tittle of evidence in support of the only accusation which justified this move. The Prime Minister must remember that where the Leader of a Government, with a majority of both Houses, makes use of that majority to alter or affect the result of an election he assumes a responsibility which it is very difficult for him to justify. I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether statistics do not show that a large majority of the electors who recorded postal votes at the last election recorded those votes in opposition to the present Government?
– I do not “know, and I did not inquire.
– That is not our business*
– To use an expression which was used by the late Mr. Duncan Gillies, “ That is a little too thin.’-‘
– My position in connexion with electioneering is well known.
– The conscious virtue which the Prime Minister manages to assume will hardly stand the strain of the present occasion. He is now engaged in holding on his halo with both hands. I can assure him that public opinion will not be satisfied unless it receives much more substantial evidence of corruption or fraud in connexion with the postal vote than has yet been forthcoming. Otherwise, unless the Government fortify their position bw proving that they have a real substantial case of improper use, they fall under the condemnation of using a political and parliamentary majority to work a point in favour of their own party. This is a matter on which it is of no use to mince words. Either the postal vote has been corruptly used, or it has not. If it has been more an instrument of fraud than any other means of voting, the fact ought to be capable of proof. Of course, we know that every method of voting is occasionally subject to fraud ; but the plain, simple issue is this : Either the postal vote is so much more subject to fraudulent practices than the ordinary personal voting at the polling booth that it is not safe to continue it, in which caseI. admit that the Government would be justified in doing away with it, even though they did disfranchise some people, or it is not. Where is the evidence that it is? Where is there anything more than the mere bald statement by the Minister that such is the case? There is not the slightest tittle or iota of evidence of it. Many months have elapsed since this audacious proposal was brought forward, not based on any evidence at all ; and all I ask the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs is this : Has anything happened since then? Have they obtained any more evidence ? Is there any more material to justify the extraordinary statement on which this Bill was originally based?
. -I would press the Minister to look into this question again to see if he cannot concede what we are asking. With regard to the absence of evidence, may I remind the Committee that the Prime Minister’s own view upon the question of the abuse of this section of the Act, as previously expressed by him, was as follows -
Because certain persons may have misused the privileges conferred by an Act of Parliament we ought not to deprive even oneeligible voter of the opportunity to exercise the franchise.
The Prime Minister’s attitude then was quite right, because the highest possession that a man can have is his franchise, and the electoral machinery ought to be just as wide as the franchise is. We want the laws of Australia to rest upon the will of the people of Australia; and, in order that the will of the people may be truly expressed, every elector who is qualified ought to have the opportunity of recording his vote by some means or other. If there have been individual cases of abuse of this part of the Act, that does not justify us in wiping out the whole of it. We ought not to deprive one eligible voter of the franchise as the Prime Minister put it, because of the misusing of the privileges.
– Yet the Queensland Parliament had to wipe it out because of corruption.
– Queensland had an entirely different Act. Our Bill was introduced with the postal-voting clauses properly safeguarded, and received the support of many honorable members opposite at the time. We had the experience of Victoria to guide us in the matter; evidence was taken; the late Mr. Batchelor became Minister, and looked into it; and, later, the question came before myself. A Bill was drafted, and all the safeguards which prevented the abuse of the system were put into it. Queensland introduced a much more extended system. No one in this House is asking for a system like that of Queensland. That may have been abused, but there is not the slightest scrap of evidence that the Commonwealth system has been abused.
– Has there been one prosecution in connexion with postal voting ?
– There have been some.
– Has there been one for fraud on the part of the voter?
– I do not think so, and the very fact that there have been successful prosecutions for abuses shows that we have devised a remedy by which we can get at the wrongdoer. It would be a different matter if it could be shown that a number of abuses took place, and we could not get at them. It has often been shown that there are instances of double voting which we cannot get at. We know that the absent voter’s privileges have often been abused, but we do not ask for the repeal of that part of the Act. We say that unfortunately owing to the weaknesses of human nature certain individuals will abuse the best system that we can devise, but is that a reason for repealing the whole of the electoral privileges, and taking away from a number of people the right- to exercise their citizenship ? They can exercise it only once in three years, and surely we should let them realize their nationhood in some way. It is most unfortunate that the Minister, if he thinks there is some evil, did not examine into the matter and see if he could not devise a better system.
– I examined into it with prayer and meditation.
– If the honorable member had put more thought into it, I believe he would have come to a better conclusion. The repeal of the postal voting provisions is doing a wrong to three distinct classes of persons - the women at a period during which we are going to reward them with a maternity bounty ; the sick men and women injured in our industries, where their work provides us with the means of living; and the great body of selectors and pioneers out in the back-blocks, all of whom on election day cannot possibly leave their holdings to record their votes. I should not support a proposal for a wholesale and indiscriminate system of postal voting. The right thing is to secure the -secrecy of the ballot, and to have votes cast at the polling booths where that can be done, but, while admitting that as a general rule, we have to look at conditions in Australia as they are, and try to devise a system which will enable every voter in Australia to exercise his franchise at the proper time.
– The amount of enthusiasm displayed by the Opposition on behalf of the postal vote is remarkable. The honorable member for Flinders forsook his usual calm to charge the Government with having abolished the postal vote because the majority of postal votes were cast against them.
-it is pretty obvious.
– I could retort that that is the reason why the Opposition are so enthusiastic for its retention. That part of the matter does not influence me at all. The difference in my electorate was not worth considering. Moreover, had the postal vote not been in existence at the last Federal election the present Government would have been on the Treasury bench.
– You want to make assurance doubly sure by abolishing it.
– The honorable . member for Flinders is very wroth that a certain number of people are disfranchised because, as he alleges, the majority of them voted against the Labour party, but we all remember when the honorable member practically disfranchised a whole body of public servants because he had reason to believe that they were against his party.
– You know that that is not true.
– The honorable member cannot come here and assume an indignation against the Labour party on this occasion. I would remind him that as soon as he left State politics those public servants received back their franchise.
– And as soon as you leave office these people will get back the postal vote.
– Then I fear it will be , a long time before the postal vote is restored for the Federal elections. The question to be discussed this morning is not which party secured the majority of the postal votes. The statement made by the honorable member for Flinders that there was less qpportunity for corruption by means of. the postal vote than by ordinary voting will not bear examination. It should be evident to an intelligent man like the honorable member that the postal-voting system is by no means as effectively safeguarded as the system of voting at the ballot-box. Any person who is inclined to commit the electoral offence of impersonation or double voting has to enter a polling booth, where he appears before a number of men who may be able to identify him afterwards. But under the postal-voting system a man who wishes to commit the offence of impersonation can work through the postoffice. He can sign another person’s name, and can have the ballot-paper sent to a fictitious address. There is necessarily less risk of being caught under this system. The worst part of the postal voting was that it violated the secrecy of the ballot. It is of no use to mince matters and assume that the system was safeguarded. I am not in the habit of making wild statements, but I will say that in the great majority of cases of voting by. post the witnesses knew in what direction the elector voted. We are asked for proof of these allegations. A number of things are true as to which we may find it difficult to produce proof. But, as a matter of fact, police constables and sergeants of police have given me information in an indirect way showing that wrong things have happened. When I said, “Why did you not bring these facts forward?” the reply was, “ We did not want to cause trouble.”
– Does the honorable member mean to say that a police constable who knew an offence was committed would not take the trouble to take action ?
– I . say that there are scores of cases in which motor cars were used to go round and manipulate postal votes. I know of an instance in which a police constable was asked to accompany a person from door to door for this very purpose. I know of another case where canvassers went to a woman and almost bullied her into voting by post. Her husband came home before they had succeeded, and pitched them out neck and crop. That man was prepared to make an affidavit, but he said, “ What is the use, as the postal vote has now been abolished ?’ ‘
– Was not the law sufficient to deal with such cases?
– The average layman knows sufficient about the honorable member’s profession to be wise enough to keep out of the law. “The great majority of the people of this country will put up with a great deal before allowing themselves to get into the hands of lawyers.
– This is a matter for administration.
– We know of several instances that have occurred, but very seldom will you find any one who is publicspirited enough, or has sufficient pluck to lay a charge. A charge was made against a man named Lesser, a justice of the peace, who was prosecuted. The facts of the case have been published. He was charged and convicted on several counts. The evidence showed that he induced a certain woman, one of many, to make a false declaration that she would be ill on polling day.
– Why does the honorable member say that that case was “ one of many “ ?
– Because the evidence showed that this woman was one of many whom this man approached. He was found guilty. If the honorable member will read the evidence he will see that what I am saying is true. I say again that we are not concerned in this matter particularly because the postal-voting system favoured honorable members opposite, but because we realize the necessity of preserving the secrecy of the ballot and preventing intimidation. In many cases persons, who interested themselves in the circulation of voting-papers were employers of labour and money-lenders. When ballot-papers were “brought along, a person would have to be very plucky indeed to vote against the wishes pf people who could bring pressure to bear upon them. In some instances witnesses were taken round in a motorcar calling at people’s houses to induce them to vote by post. The services of members of the medical profession were also enlisted, for the same purpose. A police constable told me that he was approached, and asked to accompany a certain squatter in his motor-car to call on a number of people, who were to be asked to vote by post. The constable said, “ If those people send to me and ask me to witness their ballot-papers, I will do so, but I will not go with you.” He said that it was a common request, and that, when he refused, the services of somebody else were obtained. The constable added, “ I know they succeeded, although I have no proof, for I saw them going round in the motor-car day after day.” It is absolutely absurd to say that the postal vote is as safe as voting at the ballot-box.
– I know of twenty certificates that were filled up by the other side.
– Does the right honorable member know that of his own knowledge ?
– Yes, I do.
– Surely then that is a strong reason why the postal vote should be ^abolished. I am very glad that the honorable member for Swan supplies a little more proof in support of the case we are presenting from this side; and I shall expect to see that gentleman voting for the abolition of the postal vote. It does not matter on which side there is abuse ; the fact that it is possible on behalf of the Labour Party proves that it is possible on both sides. Honorable members opposite are very agitated because a certain number of people may be disfranchised. It is somewhat strange, however, that we have never heard’ those gentlemen or their supporters putting up any fight in support of the broadening of the franchise. Have we ever heard of their supporting any proposal for adult suffrage for the Legislative Councils? The Argus which, week in and week out, “ barracks “ for honorable members opposite, tells us that the greatest shock the community ever had is the proposal by the State Government of New South Wales to give adult suffrage for municipal elections. Why do honorable members opposite not advocate the broadening of the franchise for Legislative Councils and municipal councils ?
– Order !
– I admit I am not quite in order; but, if honorable members opposite are so keen on everybody having a vote, why do they not prove their sincerity? The postal vote did not favour one side at the last elections. As for myself, I had a good many, and I understand that the honorable member for Indi, and several other Labour members, had a majority of such votes. The honorable member for Swan has told us that there were twenty cases of corruption on our side.
– Not recently.
– It does not matter whether the cases were recent or occurred years ago; the principle is the same. We know scores of cases where there has been corruption and liability to corruption ; and we favour the abolition of the postal vote because it opens the door to abuse, affords opportunity to people of position to influence the votes of others in their power, and it violates the secrecy of the ballot.
– I understood the Minister of Home Affairs to say, in answer to an interjection, that he did not know how the majority of postal votes were cast at the last elec-‘ tion.
– I said that it was not our business to bother about those things.
– Then I take it the Minister does not think that it is his business to know details of the sort? If so, it shows that the honorable gentleman has not looked very deeply into the matter, and cannot have conceived the seriousness of the position. It is proposed to disfranchise some 60,000 people who, from sickness or some other cause, are prevented from attending at the polling booth. One reason advanced by the honorable member for Corangamite, for the abolition of the postal vote, is that it will destroy the secrecy of the ballot; he said that it is much easier to commit fraud under that system than under the ordinary ‘ system of voting at the polling booth. I cannot conceive how the honorable member can take such a view. The applicant for a postal vote must, first of all, write a letter to the Electoral Officer, and if a fraud were contemplated, and one person wrote in the name of another, the reply and voting forms would be sent to the address of the proper person. Under such circumstances I cannot see how fraud is possible. The only prosecution that we know of is that cited by the honorable member for Indi, and even that was the prosecution, not of a voter, but of a justice of the peace. There has not been one single prosecution of a voter for fraud, or attempted fraud, under the postal-voting system.
– Oh, yes; I laid a big list on the table, but I do not desireto hurt families by repeating the names.
– At any rate, thesystem of postal voting has been abolished! on the most insufficient evidence. The honorable member for Corangamite said, asone reason for abolishing the postal vote,, that he had seen somebody driving with somebody else in a motor-car, and that that was enough for him.
– I did not say anythingof the sort.
– It was somethingto that effect.
– Nothing of the sort ; the honorable member is quite incorrect iti his statement.
– Well, was it abuggy, or what was it?
– I never said anything of the kind.
– I certainly understood the honorable member to say that he saw somebody driving with somebody else, and that he had a suspicion that the somebody, who should have voted for him, had? been “ got at.” I suppose that the honorable member is quite astonished at anybody voting against him. I know that I am rather surprised myself, when I seepeople voting against me. I do not, however, attribute any fraud.
– The honorable member, doubtless, thinks them misguided,, though not criminal.
– I certainly think they are misguided, but I do not attribute any fraud ; a man has a perfect right to vote as he likes.
– Does the honorable member think that it is legal to take witnesses from house to house without the request of the people who live in those houses?
– If no undue influence is used, and it assists people to cast their votes, I see no harm.
– It is laid down that a voter must send for his voting papers. T know a case where people, thus going ‘about, have been pitched out of a house.
– That is the properway to treat such persons if they are not wanted. However, if no undue influence is used, and a policeman, or any other authorized witness, is taken round, it is doing a good turn to the electors. Of course, if undue influence is attempted, the proper way is to kick the offender out, as the honorable member for Corangamite has said was done in one case.
– Does the honorable member think that I would cart a postmaster round if he were not witnessing Labour votes?
– I am sure the honorable member would not; and I should not take any one around who was not witnessing votes on our side.
– Thereby hangs a tale !
– There are certain people who wish to vote Liberal, and if I can give them any assistance, I do so.
– Hear, hear !
– Because there is some suspicion in some honorable member’s minds that some people are being “ got at,” is no justification whatever for cancelling the votes of between 50,000 and 60.000 people.
– Where did the honorable member get his figures?
– I understood the number was 29,000.
– It will soon be 100,000 !
– I do not often speak strongly, but, when there is tyranny in the air, my old Scotch blood arises, and I must say what I think. I regard the abolition of the postal vote as tyrannical. Here we have a servile majority behind the Ministry, and we know-
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing motives.
– I am sorry I am not in order. At any rate, we have had no evidence of any corruption. There have been plenty of surmises, but no facts submitted to justify such a drastic measure as that proposed. I repeat that to deprive people of their birthright, the right to exercise the franchise, on the evidence we have heard, which, after all, boils down to one prosecution of a police magistrate, and surmises that certain people have been got at, is, in my opinion, an act of gross tyranny.
.- I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee at any great length, but I think I should refer to the weakness of the defence, if it can be called a defence, of the honorable member for Corangamite to the action of the Government in this matter. Nothing more clearly exhibits the utter weakness of the Government case than the defence that is put up for it. The honor able member for Corangamite repudiated, and would not hear of, the suggestion that the Government propose to abolish the system of postal voting because a majority of postal votes were, at the last election, cast for honorable members on this side. But it was impossible for him to complete his speech without exhibiting the cloven hoof and. proving conclusively that that is the real reason at the back of the proposal. What did the honorable member say before he resumed his seat? He said that all the justices of the peace who witnessed postal votes, and all the doctors who visit sick people, are supporters of the Opposition. That is the honorable member’s reason for dispensing with the postal vote. It was the only reason he could give.
– The honorable member knows that that statement is not correct.
– I have correctly stated what the honorable member said. What is it that honorable members opposite prove? Is it not, after all, that the postal vote has been used? That is their whole objection to the system. I take the case of a doctor going round his patients, and I ask what there is wrong or immoral in a doctor, at the request of a patient-
– There is nothing wrong if a doctor acts upon the request of a patient.
– The doctor cannot get hold of a postal ballot-paper unless the patient requests him to do so.
– The patient may make the request at the request of some one else.
– Suppose he does? Does not the honorable member request every man he meets in the street to vote? Is it not a perfectly moral thing for any man to request a person to record a vote ?
– The honorable member for Corangamite does not request, but implores people to vote.
– I dare say the honorable member does. He, no doubt, goes down on his bended knees, and kisses all the babies as he goes along the street. The honorable member talked of intimidation, but I have a better opinion of those who vote for me than to believe that any one could intimidate them into voting in any way. The honorable member for Corangamite must have a precious poor opinion of those who vote for him if he thinks they could be intimidated to vote in one way or another.
– But they do not vote for me, and that is the trouble.
– Yes, that is the trouble. Here we have from the honorable member the open confession which is so good for the soul. We are told that those who use the postal vote do not vote for the honorable member. That is the reason why we find him this morning so ardent an advocate for its abolition. The Government have never given the slightest reason for this proposal to abolish the postal vote. They have never attempted to show that there is more fraud perpetrated in connexion with postal volting than in connexion with any other form of voting. It is probably impossible to conduct a ballot throughout the country without some amount of fraud ; but, as a matter of fact, there has not been more fraud connected with postal voting than with any other form of voting. A man runs far less risk by impersonating another at a polling place, at which he is not well known, than he does in attempting to impersonate by use of the postal vote. A man who forges another’s signature to an application for a postal ballot-paper, or in recording a postal vote, runs a double risk of prosecution, and renders himself liable to heavier penalties than would a man impersonating another at a polling booth. There is only one other thing which I wish to say on this subject. I am- quite at a loss to understand why honorable members opposite should have singled out women at a time when they should receive every consideration, the sick laid aside by accident, the aged, the infirm, and those who reside in isolated and remote districts, to deprive them of the franchise. These are the classes of people who are entitled to the fullest consideration we can give them. Yet they are singled out by honorable members opposite for the deprivation of the franchise, that privilege of citizenship which is most treasured, which should be the first we ought to try to extend to every individual, and the last of which we should attempt to deprive any one.
.- If it were not for the very gravest reasons, the speech of the honorable member for Richmond would be irrefutable. There are very grave reasons why one should ignore the needs of the sick, the infirm, and the isolated members of the community, and those grave reasons are some forty-one members of Parliament who sit opposite. We are undoubtedly compelled, if we have any sympathy with them in the difficult position in which they now find themselves immediately prior to a general election, realizing, as they do, that almost every straw must be clutched at if they are to retain their places in this Chamber- ‘
– The honorable 6 member is not in order in casting such reflections upon a body of honorable members.
– I can prove that there, can be no motive or reason for denying the franchise to the sick, infirm, and isolated members of the community, other than a party motive and a party reason. I make that statement with the more confidence in view of the fact that the Labour party has continually asserted that the Opposition defends the postal voting system, because the privileges it affords have been used to its benefit. It is for that reason that the Labour party thinks that the. postal vote should be abolished.
– That is the trouble.
– Is it a fact?
– It is the fact; but the system has been honorably used. It is also a fact that what annoys the members of the Labour party’ is that the postal voting system has proved of value to the Liberal thought of Australia.
Now let us see whether it has. provided opportunities for fraud. I think it will be found on examination that no voting system has been better safeguarded. The persons entitled to vote by post, under the Electoral Act of 1909, are the electors who have reason to believe that they will not, during, the hours of polling, be within 5 miles of a polling booth, or, being women, will, on account of ill-health, be unable to attend a polling booth on polling day, or other electors who will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending at a polling booth to vote. Persons belonging to any one of those three classesmay make application for postal votes,, and under section hoa -
All applications for postal-vote certificates and postal ballot-papers received by a Returning Officer shall be kept by him, and shall be opento public inspection at all convenient times during office hours, until the election can be no longer questioned. .
Now, these applications have to be witnessed’ by persons belonging to classes prescribed in the Electoral Act, and these persons, with the exception of doctors, are officials who could at once be severely dealt with for “anything, wrong that they might do. Among the authorized witnesses come first “ all Commonwealth Electoral Officers of States, all Commonwealth Returning Officers, and all Commonwealth Electoral Registrars.” Has any one on either side of the Chamber the colossal impudence to pretend that a person holding any of these offices would dare to abuse the power thus entrusted to him, and dishonestly witness a postal application or vote. Again, “all postmasters, postmistresses, and persons in charge of post-offices “ may be witnesses under the Act. All such persons are employes of the States, and would jeopardize their positions by any act of dishonesty. The next class of authorized witnesses consists of “ all police, stipendiary, or special magistrates of the Commonwealth, or of a State.” Is it to be said for a moment that any one of them would dishonestly witness a postal vote? Next we have “all justices of the peace.”
– Would any one think that a justice of the peace would have the temerity to dishonestly witness a postal vote ! Let the honorable member deal with Lesser.
– The Court dealt with him.
– That is the proper authority.
– That was only one case.
– The members of the Labour party brand a whole class because of the misdeeds of one man ! What sort of reputation would politicians have were the public to treat us in that way ? If they think that justices of the peace, as a class, are dishonest, why do they not strike out the words “ all justices of the peace “ ? I challenge them to prove their sincerity in this matter by amending the list of authorized witnesses by taking from it “ justices of the peace.” If they did that, and allowed the postal voting provisions to stand, they would prove their honesty, but if they do not do that they will show themselves to be humbugs and hypocrites in this matter.
– Our proposal is going through all the same.
– The honorable member says that the proposal of the Labour party is going through all the same. It may be the proposal of humbugs and hypocrites, but still it is going through ! Continuing the list of authorized witnesses, we come to “ all head teachers in the employment of the State Education Departs ment.” They are persons who would be ruined if they did anything dishonest in the witnessing of postal votes.
– But apparently they are all on the Liberal side.
– All these persons would seem to be on the Liberal side, in the opinion of honorable members opposite.
– The school teachers of Victoria were once deprived of their right to vote.
– That is not so.
– At any rate, they are now being deprived of the right to witness postal votes. The next class of authorized witnesses consists of “ all members of the police forces of the Commonwealth, or of a State.” Is it suggested that they would not be severely punished for wrong-doing in connexion with the witnessingof postal votes? “All mining wardens and mining wardens’ clerks in the employment of a State” are authorized witnesses, and so, too, are “ all legally qualified medical practitioners.” Medical . practitioners, being intelligent men, may all be on the Liberal side, and if therefore, they are not to have the right to assist invalids who may wish to exercise the franchise, why not prevent them from attending to the poor at all ?
– Are they all vile partisans?
– Not in my opinion.. There is no nobler or more disinterested profession than medicine, and, as a rule, doctors interest themselves very little in politics, their interest being the comfort and safeguarding of the sick and suffering..
– The argument of the honorable member for Corangamite was that they are such vile partisans that they would deliberately engage in fraud.
– I did not refer to medical practitioners in this connexion. What I said was that the justices of the peace have been mostly appointed by the Liberal party.
– And they are a “crook lot,” too. The honorable member can have that put into Hansard if he likes.
– If the honorable member thinks that they are a “crook lot,” why does he not propose to have them taken out of the list of authorized witnesses ?
– That is what we are trying to do.
– No; the honorable member and his party are trying to abolish postal voting. Instead of wiping out the “ crook lot,” he is trying to wipe out a large body of electors, those least able to help themselves. Medical practitioners are deservedly popular, because of the great and good work that they do in the community, and therefore the honorable member for Corangamite has hastened to, say that he does not in any way impugn their honesty ! Following them on the list of authorized witnesses come ‘ ‘ all officers in charge of quarantine stations; all officers in charge of lighthouses; all pilots in the service of the Commonwealth or of a State, or of any local governing body.”
– Certain members of this House might have been disfranchised recently had not quarantine officers been able to witness postal votes.
– Yes. The honorable members for Melbourne, Lang, and others. Let us go through this list of authorized witnesses -
All telegraph line repairers permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, who are in charge of working parties.
Are they all Liberals?
– They are all right.
– The motive for this business is brought out more andi more as we go ahead. The line-repairers may vote Labour, and., therefore, they are all right.
All railway station-masters and night officersincharge who are permanently employed in the Railway Department in any of the States.
Are they “crook”? No? Then they are “all right,” too! We are getting on.
All superintendents of mercantile marine and their deputies while permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State.
These are permanent officers, and may be stopped-
– They are “all right.”
– They are very very doubtful.
– You are challenging the jury.
– That is exactly what we are doing. My honorable friends opposite are preventing a fair trial because they say they cannot trust the jurymen ! That is the position in a nut-shell. The only persons in this list who cannot be reached by the influence and the power of the Commonwealth Government are the justices of the peace; and I am quite willing to wipe them out as witnesses under the Act if honorable members opposite want that. To resume, there is another class of persons who are authorized witnesses.
All persons or classes of persons employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State who are declared by proclamation to be authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act.
My honorable friends can wipe out that provision, too, if they like. Of course, these persons are all employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State, and can consequently be readily punished for misconduct.
– It has to be done by a proclamation by the Government.
– But the Government may be “crook.”
– Oh, no !
– I do not mean the present Government, because it is “ all right.” It is only the other Government which is “ crook.” My honorable friends might want to wipe out all these persons; but if they wipe out all who may by proclamation be declared to be authorized witnesses, and also wipe out the justices of the peace, they will still have a vast body capable of witnessing the votes of postal voters, and enabling the sick and the infirm, those in quarantine stations, as well as those who are too far away, to exercise the greatest heritage which Australians have, and that is deciding at the ballot-box the management of the country’s affairs.
– I would not suggest the wiping out of the justices of the peace, because that would cast a slur upon a body of very admirable men.
– That may be so; but let us do that rather than wipe out the postal vote.
– The only objection is that honorable members opposite think that most of the justices of the peace vote on our side.
– They put it that the justices of the peace are “crook.” This is not an attack upon their characters, but upon their politics ! If the majority of the justices of the peace are Liberals, let us prevent them from witnessing postal votes !
– The majority are not Liberals. They are Conservatives.
– Those are very “ crook” ! We come now to the section dealing with the directions for postal voting -
That is the clearest possible language. There are also provisions in the 1909 Act covering five pages, and . most of them provide for the infliction of very serious penalties upon authorized witnesses and other persons who in any way seek to interfere with the proper exercise of his intention by the elector. Can it be said for a moment that, if any person who spoke with the bitterness of the honorable member for Corangamite - he spoke with almost a hatred of those who voted in opposition to his views - had a tittle of evidence of a wide abuse of the postal voting, these rigid sections would not be enforced against the malefactors? We first see that the authorized witnesses are persons of standing in the Public Service or public life. We next find that all necessary precautions are taken, and all sorts of penalties provided. What humbug, what hypocrisy it is to pretend that the only reason why my honorable friends will not endeavour to prove this calumny against some of Australia’s best citizens is based upon a desire not to hurt the susceptibilities or injure the feelings of the malefactors ! By this action of the Government, honorable members are taking the ballot-box away from a section of the people who aremost worthy of our consideration ; and they are taking it away for no more lofty reason than the miserable, mean, petty motive of endeavouring to retain themselves and their party in power.
– It did not matter very much to me personally whether postal voting was retained, in the Act or taken out ; and I believe that this remark applies to the bulk of the members of the Labour party. I think I mentioned, on a previous occasion, that, so long as a man has his electorate very well organized, he can dabble with the postal vote as well as can his opponent. I had, a majority of the postal votes recorded in my favour at the last election, and, therefore I have no particular grievance against postal voting. But it is an engine which can be used in such a way that, if not whole constituencies, at least, many parts of a constituency can almost be debauched thereby. The postal-voting system is used in connexion with municipal and State elections, and has been in operation in connexion with Commonwealth elections and Federal referenda. We have had recent illustrations of the way in which a man can be deprived of his vote, even when he appears before an authorized witness. A justice of the peace may witness a postal vote, but, unless he fills in certain particulars in the manner prescribed, the vote will not be counted by the Returning Officer. At a recent by-election for the representation of East Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, a large number of votes were discarded simply because . authorized witnesses had not filled in the postal ballotpapers in the correct form. It is alleged, and I believe with very considerable justification, that because a man was voting in a direction of which the authorized witness before whom he appeared did not approve, that witness failed to fill in the ballot-paper in accordance with the provisions of theAct, with the result that the vote was not counted. It has been said, over and over again, that the Labour party has been influenced only by party motives in abolishing postal voting.
– Certainly. No other interpretation could be placed upon their action.
– I delight in frankness; I am pleased when all reserve is thrownaside, and when we call a spade a spade. If an honorable member holds such a view as that which the honorable member for Wimmera has just expressed, he certainly ought not to be afraid to give utterance to it. If honorable members opposite say that we have abolished postal voting in order to gain some party advantage, the obvious reply is that their advocacy of the retention of the principle is also prompted by a desire to serve their own party ends.
– That is peculiar logic.
– The honorable member was in the House when I pointed out on a previous occasion that, no matter when a general election took place, there were sure to be a large number of women, who, because of a certain contingency, would be unable to attend a polling booth. It is well known that the families of the working men are the largest in the community, and by far the larger proportion of the women who would be incapacitated and unable to record their votes at the polling booth would be the wives of working men. That being so, I fail to see how it can be suggested that the Labour party have supported the abolition of postal voting for mere party purposes, or because they were on the lookout for votes. I should say that the larger proportion of those legitimately entitled to vote by post would be supporters of the Labour, rather than of the Liberal, party. That being so, instead of the abolition of the postal-vote system being an advantage, it must be an injury to our party. As a matter of fact, it is not because of party considerations that we are opposed to voting by post. I give way to no man in my desire that our elections shall be as pure as possible, and I wish to emphasize the point made by the honorable member for Corangamite, that one of the finest features of the system of voting by ballot is its absolute secrecy. Once that secrecy is done away with the ballot must lose its effectiveness. If we are to have indiscriminate postal voting we might just as well revert to the old-time system of open voting. Practically one-half of those who voted by post at the last general election were resident in Victoria.
– That is because the residents of this State are more familiar with the system.
– That will not go down. Although the number of electors on the Federal roll for New South Wales was something like 200,000 in excess of the number on the rolls for this State, only 6,000 postal votes were recorded there, whereas in Victoria something like 14,000 postal votes were recorded out of a total of 29,000 for the whole Commonwealth.
– Because the other States were not familiar with the system.
– That is not the reason. The facilities for voting in Victoria are second to none, yet we have this remarkable record in respect of postal voting. If, as has been urged, the way-back selector, and others living in widely scattered districts, will be deprived of the franchise, because of the abolition of postal voting, one would naturally expect to find that the postal voting system was most largely used in the scattered and sparsely populated parts of the Commonwealth. The closest analysis of the returns conclusively proves, however, that the greatest number of postal votes were recorded, not only in the State where the facilities for voting are second to none, but in the most thickly populated districts. I wish to quote a few facts showing the seriousness of the offence committed by a justice of the peace in connexion with the postal voting system. I forget for a moment the nature of the oath taken by a justice of the peace, although I took it on one occasion, but it seems to me that when a man is appointed to that very important office he is expected to deal out even-handed justice in the discharge of his duties, not only on the Bench, but elsewhere. But what is the position in regard to Mr. Louis Lesser,
Louis Lesser, a J. P., and a wealthy storekeeper at Coleraine, was recently fined at Hamilton for offences against the Electoral Act. He was tried in the police court, before Mr. Williams, P.M., charged on several informations with having committed breaches of the Federal Electoral Act in regard to postal ballot-papers in his capacity as an authorized witness. The first case taken was that in regard to Selina Campbell, a married woman, of Coleraine, whose name appeared as an elector on the roll. In relation to this, three charges were preferred against the defendant, namely : -
After hearing evidence the Bench imposed the following penalties : - Campbell’s case, first charge,£5, with £5 5s. costs; Bird’s case, £2, with £55s. costs; James’ case, £2, without costs. The other charges in these cases dismissed.
The honorable member for Bendigo, in submitting his amendment, stated that it was exceptionally difficult to prove any of these cases. His long parliamentary and campaigning experience, as well as his experience as a member of the legal profession, has led him to that conclusion. Practically every honorable member in the course of an election campaign has heard of distinct breaches of the Electoral Act, but has found it impossible to secure sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.
– Breaches of the law occur in every walk of life.
– They have occurred, and we all know it. But we cannot always bring proof to incriminate the offender. That is the trouble. The honorable member for Bendigo admitted that that is the case in respect to the personation of absent voters. He acknowledged that sufficient evidence is not generally forthcoming to secure a conviction. To argue, as the honorable member for Flinders did, that because only one prosecution has been instituted, no other offences have occurred, is not to state a fact. I recently inquired into the operation of the postal vote in country electorates, with the result that I found that on all hands complaints are made regarding abuses which existed under that system. The people are heartily glad thatit is to be wiped out. There is one State which has had a very sad experience of postal voting - I refer to Queensland.
– The system was not the same there.
– But the principle was the same. The shameful state of things which existed in Queensland points a warning finger-
– Under the Federal system no such abuses existed.
– If that be so, the position in Queensland is very different from that which obtained in every other State.
– An abuse of the system is exceptional there.
– I know that the system was abused on the very day of the last election. A certain medical man, who was an ardent supporter of a particular candidate, and the happy possessor of a motor car, was informed that quite a number of postal voting-papers would come along on that day to certain houses. Accordingly, he visited those houses in his motor car, and fixed up the votes all right.
– What does the honorable member mean by “fixed up”? If he wishes to make a direct charge, why does he not do so?
– My information has been gathered from the voters themselves. I will not mention any names here. I am speaking of what has been told me. On polling day, a large number of postal votes were collected from various parts of the Maribyrnong electorate, and were safely in the hands of the Returning Officer before the poll closed.
– Did the honorable member report that fact?
– No. Anybody with his eyes open could see what was going on.
– Surely it was the honorable member’s duty to reportit to the proper authorities !
– If I were to report every irregularity that occurs in the conduct of an election, I would not have any time to deliver electioneering speeches.
– But a specific instance of that kind should have been reported.
– The very best evidence we have that the postal vote has been abused comes from Queensland itself. This morning, the honorable member for Darling Downs quoted former utterances of the Prime Minister, with a view to showing that he is in favour of the postal-voting system. I need scarcely point out that a great many members of the Queensland Parliament used to hold the same views. The system was tried there, and was afterwards wiped out by the so-called Liberal party, without any compunction whatever.
– It was weighed and found wanting.
– That is quite true. When this question was under consideration in 1909, how did honorable members vote? On that occasion the late Mr. Hutchison, who represented Hindmarsh, moved that Part X. of the Electoral Act, which dealt with postal voting, should be left out.
– A great many members of the Labour party, including several Ministers, warmly supported the system, declaring that it was the necessary corollary to manhood suffrage.
– But if experience has proved that it works unsatisfactorily, surely it is competent for those honorable members to change their views. If the honorable member for Lang will turn up Hansard, he will see that the late Mr. Hutchison moved for the deletion of Part X. of the Electoral Act. How did honorable members vote on that occasion? Every member of the Labour party supported the abolition of postal voting. Yet honorable members opposite now say that the Labour party are actuated in this matter by the results of the last election. Hansard, however, will prove that, as far back as 1909, they were anxious to abolish postal voting. At the last election circulars were sent out to practically every medical man in Melbourne pointing out that on polling day there would doubtless be a large number of patients under his care, and forwarding to him a number of application forms for postal ballot-papers. These forms were taken to the patients who signed the applications for the postal ballotpapers. Later on, at the instance of a certain political association, these medical men witnessed the votes cast by their patients, and thus the secrecy of the ballot was flagrantly violated. If there is anything that we should retain in its purity and integrity, it is the secrecy of the ballot. Cannot honorable members see at a glance what abuses could be indulged in by adopting a system such as I have just detailed ? It should not be tolerated for a. moment that men should do such things at the instance of any political party, and my view is that, if a man commits an offence against any law of this Parliament, no matter what party he belongs to, he should be prosecuted and punished. Mr. Kidston, when Premier of Queensland, in 1907, made the following statements with regard to postal voting as it existed there, as reported in the Queensland Hansard, vol. XCIX.-
Every one of us knows quite well that the way in which postal voting was carried out in many cases made it, to all intents and purposes, open voting …. It was open voting; under this peculiar condition that it was open voting done under the eye of some one who probably had some power over the person voting….. That was the objectionable feature of it. The thing that I wish particularly to point out is this : Whatever evil resulted during last election from postal voting is not a circumstance compared with the evils that will take place at the next election if postal voting is still in existence……
Everybody acknowledges that prevention is better than cure, and, if we see an evil approaching we ought to take means to stop it. In my judgment, the postal voting system in the Commonwealth was tending in such a way that if it had been allowed to continue whole electorates would have been debauched -
I venture to assert if another election takes place with the postal vote provisions in the Electoral Act unrepealed, then all parties - and all candidates for that matter - will do their best to get the great bulk of the women to vote by post. … To all intents and purposes, if we continue our Elections Act with this blemish in it, we abolish the protection of the ballot so far as women are concerned, and certainly so far as the majority of women are concerned. (Hear, hear.) There are plenty of women in such a position that they can protect themselves. There are plenty of women who are in such a position that they are not afraid of their husband’s position if they vote the wrong way. . . But, unfortunately, there are a large number of women who are not in that happy position, and it is chiefly for the protection of them that it is sought to remove this blemish from our Act without any delay about the matter at all. … I consider that it is the duty of this House to wipe out the postal vote root and branch, and wipe it out at once.
The electoral officers of Queensland had voluntarily sent in reports indicating the abuses indulged in in connexion with an election that had recently been held in that State. With these reports, and other evidence true and plain before them, the Queensland. Parliament had no hesitation about abolishing the postal voting system. Mr. Hawthorn, the Home Secretary of Queensland, in explaining the measure, used these emphatic words -
The next feature of the Bill is the proposed abolition of the postal vote. It has been found in practice that the provisions for the postal vote are of such a nature that fraud is made easy.
There is enough there to show that it was desirable to abolish the postal voting system in Queensland. It was abolished, and so far as I know there never has been a demand made in Queensland for its restoration. If it has all the virtues that honorable members opposite claim for it, why has Queensland allowed five years to elapse without a single voice being raised in favour of its resuscitation? The fact is that the Queensland Parliament discovered things that were not right, and felt sure that the purity of elections in their State was considerably imperilled. So far as the Federal Labour party are concerned, they were favorable to. the abolition of the postal voting system in the last Parliament, so that their present attitude is not due to what occurred at the last election, or at- the taking of the referenda. They wished to abolish the system in 1909, and voted solidly against it, but as they did not have a majority they were not successful. By their action then they gave a pledge of their attitude towards postal voting, and when they went to the people they promised that, if returned with a majority, they would certainly abolish the system, because it was degrading the electors. In the circumstances, therefore, honorable members opposite cannot blame us for carrying out our election pledges. The honorable member for Franklin was quite wrong in arguing that, as the personal element was absent from the taking of referenda, there was not the same necessity for doing away with postal voting as there might be in connexion with an election. I believe there is more need to abolish the postal vote in connexion with referenda than in connexion with elections, because no one can shut his eyes to the fact that there are influences which are having an evil effect on the community. The weight of these will be thrown into the scale on referendum day to defeat our proposals, and they will certainly manipulate the postal vote to the full extent possible. It is the more necessary to abolish it, seeing that we are asking for increased powers that will enable this Parliament to ideal with those influences that are fleecing the people of Australia. Honorable members cannot believe that those great vested interests, with large sums of money behind them, would remain quiet on referendum day when an opportunity of operating the postal voting sections was available. We know that they would not. The people of Australia are likely to suffer more keenly through the abuse of the postal vote in connexion with referenda than in connexion with elections. The trusts and combines do not care if ‘this House is filled with Labour members, so long as they are not clothed with the power to deal with those iniquitous influences. From personal observation, and from the evidence I have tendered to the Committee, I am convinced that the Government are doing right in passing this measure so that our elections and referenda may be conducted in the future on purer lines than they have been in the past.
.- Looking over the Act of Parliament which provided for postal voting, I fail to see that opportunities for fraud are afforded. I cannot see why any elector should not be able to sign his postal card, have it witnessed by a justice of the peace, and send it to the Returning Officer, without intimidation or fraud intervening. I doubt whether a fairer system could be introduced. Honorable members who say that the signatures of electors may be fraudulently attached, might as well argue in favour of abolishing cheques for fear of forgery. I doubt whether there are many people in this country who would take the risk of fraudulently signing postal votes. Certainly, I do not know any case of the kind that has occurred in my electorate. The honorable member for Maribymong said that probably there would not be so many cases of fraud in the scattered districts of Australia as where people are more thickly populated. But, although the postal vote is often advocated for the benefit of people in the scattered districts, I would remind the Committee that there are more sick people in the thickly-populated districts, and, consequently, voting by post is of great value there. No one expected that these facilities for voting would be taken from the women of Australia. I make bold to say that the privilege will not be very long kept from them. They will certainly get if back again. I was extremely sorry to hear the honorable member for Maranoa say, in an interjection, that the justices of the peace of Australia are “ a crook lot.” It was not a very nice thing to use the privilege of Parliament for the purpose of aspersing an honorable body of men. Justices of the peace render very valuable services to this country. I doubt whether many of them have at any time committed offences against the electoral law. It may be said that the honorable member’s interjection was not made seriously; but the remark will go forth as having been made in this Parliament by a gentleman elected by the people, and will be taken seriously. The justices of the peace of Australia will have good cause to feel insulted when they see it reported in the newspapers all over the country that they have been described in the Federal Parliament as “ a crook lot.” They are generally selected with the greatest care from no one side in politics. They are worthy to be compared with members of Parliament for the honorable way in which they discharge their duties. It has been represented that the postal vote affords facilities for bribery. Personally, I do not believe that it is possible to buy votes in Australia to any considerable extent. It is alleged that “boodle” has great influence; but, in my opinion, no matter how much “ boodle “ a man may have, he cannot influence a dozen votes in any electorate. That is especially the case amongst the poor people. They look upon their voting privileges as sacred.
– It is possible to mislead them.
– It is difficult to do even that, though the honorable member for Gwydir has such a nice way with him that probably he does mislead the electors sometimes. The people have their own ideas of politics, parties are very clearly defined, and when electors have made up their minds, it is a mighty hard job to get them to turn. That is especially the case amongst the working men. Their votes cannot be bought. They are independent men, and they value their rights. I should not like to do anything to impair the secrecy of the ballot ; but no one can for a moment fairly argue that voting by post will have that effect. How is the secrecy of the ballot endangered by persons who cannot go to the polling booth, obtaining postal ballotpapers, signing them, and having them witnessed by an authorized person? If any wrongdoing is suspected, the papers can be turned up years afterwards, if necessary, and the evidence brought out against those who have committed offences.
– If the honorable member had been in Victoria, he would have seen something at the last election which would have surprised him.
– Victorian people are just as honorable as are the people in other parts of Australia. I am satisfied that very little fraud is committed at our elections. It is a great sin to take away these voting facilities from people who have hitherto enjoyed them. That remark applies especially to the outlying districts. Let the Government and their party make no mistake about it - if they take these votes away from people who cannot help themselves, the electors will turn on them before very long.
– It is a great pity that we cannot approach this subject without the introduction of party politics, because, if there is a question which, above all others, should be discussed without prejudice, it is that of how the. people should exercise their votes. The honorable member for Maribyrnong alleges that, according to his experience, people in the country districts do not want the postal vote. My experience has been of the contrary character. I am convinced that it is in scattered and isolated parts that the postal vote is most valued. I am not going to charge any party with supporting or opposing postal voting for party reasons. It appears to me, however, that the party which is the best organized - and that seems to be the Ministerial party - is in the best position to take advantage of postal voting. I believe that a great number of people will be disfranchised by the abolition of this privilege, and that the Government party will suffer most. If it be true, as has been stated, that Ministers and their supporters are advocating the abolition of postal voting because they believe that the majority of these votes is cast against them, I think that they are committing a very grave mistake.
– The idea that we are proposing the abolition of postal voting for party reasons is not correct.
– Any party will at election time use any lever to secure- an advantage. What is the use of our trying to pose as political saints? There are no political saints here. Either party will avail itself of anything which can confer advantage on its own side. It is the curse of this country that we have too much party. Society is divided into two opposing camps, and class is set against class. The end of it will be disastrous.
– The people will rule in the end.
– It depends on what the honorable member means toy “the people.” The people ought to rule, but they cannot do so unless they are afforded facilities for voting.
– They should vote early and often.
– It all depends on one’s stand-point, and upon the way in which the people are going to vote. It was a mistake to take away the postal vote, because its abolition is particularly hard upon persons in isolated country districts. Hundreds of people will be disfranchised in my electorate.
– People can now vote at any polling booth.
– Quite so; but there are tens of thousands of people, especially women, who cannot go to a polling booth. As a matter of fact, we ought to have a preferential vote.
– That is open to manipulation.
– It may be; and, possibly those who speak most about manipulation are those who understand most about it. Can the honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for Riverina, or the honorable member for Maranoa, who have all interjected, say that if we can manipulate votes we will not do so?- Of course, we all admit trying to influence them.
– Speak for yourself !
– If we can influence votes we influence them.
– That is a different matter.
– Does the honorable member for Eden- Monaro desire a postal vote for the purpose of manipulation?
– I do not mean to say that I would manipulate any vote; all I say is that it is a big mistake to do away with the postal vote.
– It means a violation of the secrecy of the ballot.
– In my opinion, there is very little secrecy about the ballot ; we practically know how everybody is going to vote, and people are not afraid to say how their votes will be cast. I regret that so much bitterness should be introduced into this discussion, because this is a question which should be above party considerations. Every facility should be given to people to . vote, and they ought to be able to do so easily and secretly. There is just as. much chance of manipulation in regard to the absent vote as in regard to the postal vote.
– In the case of the absent vote the voter must be identified.
– Of course, all this is merely a matter of opinion, and I think that there is plenty of “ funny business “ in the absent voting. No real reason has been given for the abolition of the postal vote. It is said that it means a violation of the secrecy of the ballot; but that has not been proved, because a vote may be given by post just as secretly as in the polling booth. Can the honorable member for Gwydir say that 20 per cent, of the people in his electorate would be afraid to give an open vote?
– I do not think so.
– I am on the “ other side,” you know.
– That, I think, is a libel on the Labour party - it is a libel on the supporters of the Labour party to say that they are afraid to say how they vote.
– It is a condemnation of the men who penalize the voters.
– Men who penalize people for their votes ought to be put in gaol.
– The honorable member knows that people are penalized again and again.
– I do not know of any case of penalizing in my electorate, but any one guilty of it ought, as I say, to go to gaol. It would not be wise, I know, to have postal voting in the case of a referendum and no postal voting at elections ; but I fancy that such a glaring anomaly would call attention to the question, and that there would be a strong expression of opinion on the part of those who are inconvenienced by the abolition of the privilege. We know, of course, that there can be intrigue and manipulation under any system of voting ; but in a matter of this kind we have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, and act accordingly. As a step towards the restoration of the postal vote generally, I shall vote in favour of its adoption in the case of the referendum, and in the hope that some endeavour will be made to establish a system of preferential voting.
– I am glad to hear the observations of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, a member for a country electorate, in favour of postal voting; the honorable member’s testimony is very valuable indeed, and ought to have considerable weight with honorable members. A number of objections of a vague and general character have been raised to postal voting, but I do not think that these have been sustained by anything like tangible evidence. I do not like to suggest any political motive as being at the bottom of the proposal for the abolition of the postal vote, because such a suggestion might be hard to sustain. It is alleged that the system has been abused, that undue influence has been exercised, and that the system has led to the violation of the secrecy of the ballot. In what way is it suggested that the system has been abused ? What is the meaning of the term “abuse”? One can understand the suggestion of undue influence - influence illegally exercised in order to make people use the franchise in a certain manner - but “abuse” is, I think, a mere term of reprobation, which may be set aside as so intangible as to be scarcely capable of treatment in terms of logic or political argument.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The prosecution of Mr. Louis Lesser, J. P., has been cited as illustrating the horrible abuse of the postal-voting system, and as presenting an example of the way in which undue influence has been used under it. But that case was misrepresented. While it illustrates the securities and safeguards which surround the exercise of a postal vote, it does not sustain the charge that there was either abuse or undue influence.
– Yet it is the only case that has been cited by those who are opposed to the postal- voting system.
– Yes. The presentation of this case to the Committee was unfair and one-sided, and as I mistrusted the summary given to us by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I took the trouble to ascertain the facts by reference to the report published in the Coleraine newspaper. Before dealing with that report let me refresh the minds of honorable members with a statement of some of the safeguards provided in the Act of 1902-1909, against the misuse of the postal vote. Section 109B of that Act says -
An authorized witness shall not witness the signature of any elector to an application for a postal-vote certificate and postal ballot-paper unless -
he has satisfied himself as to the identity of the applicant;
he has seen the applicant sign the application in his, the applicant’s, own handwriting ; and
he is personally acquainted with the facts, or has satisfied himself by inquiry from the applicant that the statements contained in the application are true.
Penalty : Fifty pounds or One month’s imprisonment.
Mr. Lesser, was prosecuted at the Hamilton Police Court, on three distinct charges, namely -
These charges must have been dealt withunder three separate informations, but at the close of the prosecution, when Mr. Walker, who appeared for the defence, was proceeding to argue that charges one and three had not been sustained by evidence, Mr. Williams, the police magistrate, intervened with the decision that they were dismissed, a conviction being recorded only on the second charge. Mr. Williams said that as Mr. Lesser was an aged man - he is eighty years of age - there might be some excuse for him, and suggested that if he would pay the costs, the prosecution might be withdrawn, but the prosecution being pressed, charges one and three were dismissed, a conviction being recorded only for the formal offence of witnessing an application without being satisfied of the correctness of its statements. A similar conviction was recorded in two other cases. The Crown Prosecutor thought so little of the offence that he stated that, in view of the fact that Mr. Lesser had pleaded guilty to the second charge, he would make a certain recommendation to the Department, and Mr. Williams, the Police Magistrate, said that no doubt the Department would accept that recommendation.
– Yet, because of this one case, 30,000 persons are to be deprived of the opportunity to vote!
– The report of the Police Court proceedings shows that there was no attempt by Mr. Lesser, J. P., to exercise undue influence, and that there was no corrupt practice, the offencebeing merely a technical one, and resulting, perhaps, from Mr. Lesser’s extreme age.
– The Police Magistrate found that there was no undue influence.
– He said that there was no evidence of an attempt to influence the voter. The Act is very strict, and requires every authorized witness to satisfy himself of the identity of the applicant for the postal vote, and to make : himself personally acquainted with the facts upon which the application is based. As has been pointed out in previous debates, the safeguards of the postal-voting system are more stringent than those surrounding what is called the absentee-voting system.. An applicant for a postal vote must first prove his identity to the satisfaction of the person authorized to witness the application, but under the absenteevoting system a man at Coolgardie may say that he is John Smith of Bendigo, and that his name is on the Bendigo roll, and may vote as John Smith without being required to satisfy the Returning Officer of his identity. Again, under the postalvoting system an authorized witness must make himself personally acquainted with the facts on which the application for a postal vote is based, and be satisfied with them. I presume that if the application were based on the ground! of ill-health the authorized witness must be personally satisfied that the applicant is in ill-health. Thus the Coleraine case, instead of presenting a horrible example of undue influence and corruption, illustrates conspicuously the stringency of the safeguards surrounding the operation of the postal vote. It must be remembered that the 1910 election was the first held under the new law, and many of the officers taking part in it may then not have been thoroughly acquainted with all its provisions.
– How could a magistrate determine that an authorized witness was not satisfied?
-In this case it was shown that the authorized witness had not cross-examined the applicant. It would seem that it is the duty of an authorized witness to ask, not merely whether the applicant is really the person mentioned in the application, but also whether he will be able to attend a polling booth on polling day. The system is by no means slipshod, as honorable members opposite would have us believe, but surrounded with wise and judicious safeguards. The only instance that has been mentioned to sustain the contention of corruption does not sustain that contention. To induce an applicant to make a false statement would be an indictable offence, for which any person would be liable to be placed on his trial ; and although it has been suggested to the Committee that in the case to which I have referred an authorized witness induced an applicant to make a false statement, that is absolutely incorrect, as reference to the report has shown. The offence committed was merely a technical one, of which any person might be guilty without being chargeable with abuse of the law or corrupt practices.
It has been said by the honorable member for Batman, and repeated by others, that the postal -voting system tends to the violation of the secrecy of the ballot. Let us examine the force of that contention. To judge of the merits of a system, one must look at the securities and safeguards provided by law in connexion with it. In section 118 of the principal Act we have a full scheme for regulating voting by means of postal ballot-papers. It is provided that the papers shall be sent to the applicant ; that the elector, before writing in the name of the person for whom he intends to vote, shall exhibit the postal ballot-paper in blank, and that in the presence of the authorized witness - but so that the latter cannot see the way in which he votes - he shall mark the ballot-paper in the prescribed manner. Having done so, he is required to- fold and secure the ballotpaper so that the way in which he has recorded his vote cannot be seen. It is a criminal offence on the part of the authorized officer to unnecessarily witness a recorded vote.
– Sometimes a postal ballot-paper has to be held for a sick man who wishes to record his vote.
– That may be. The law provides that if an elector’s sight is so impaired that he cannot vote without assistance, then the authorized witness, if so requested, shall mark the ballot-paper. That opportunity for the intervention of the authorized witness applies only in the case of defective sight on the part of an elector. The law does not go to the extent of allowing him to intervene in the case of physical incapacity. In only one case is it possible for an elector through the authorized witness to vote by post. Let us now examine the position in respect to voting in the open polling place. Under section 148, there are three sets of circumstances under which a voter in the open polling place may vote by means of the presiding officer. The first of these is defective eyesight; the second, physical incapacity ; and the third, illiteracy, on the ground probably of the voter being unable to read or write. In these three cases the secrecy of the ballot is necessarily exposed to one person for the purpose of enabling the franchise to be exercised. Can it be said that the fact that, in order to facilitate voting, in such circumstances, the presiding Officer is allowed to exercise the right on behalf of the voter is a reasonable objection to voting by ballot ? Under the postalvoting system there is only one set of circumstances under which an authorized witness is enabled to vote on behalf of the elector.
– After all, “ secrecy of the ballot “ does not mean that an elector is not to let any one know for whom he votes, if he chooses to do so.
– Quite so. In connexion with the postal-voting system, an elector who does not desire to disclose the mode in which he is going to vote need not do so. If a voter wishes to flaunt his ballot-paper in an open polling place, there is nothing to prevent his doing so. I have heard of many cases where a voter has walked round a polling place, showing his marked ballot-paper, and boasting of how he was going to vote.
– How many people have protested against the voter’s number on the roll being placed on the back of his ballotpaper ?
– That provision was intended merely as a safeguard in connexion with the scrutiny, and such safeguards have proved very useful. We must have safeguards, and we must trust some officer in the case of a scrutiny. It does not follow that a Returning Officer, because he votes on behalf of a blind man, or one who is illiterate or physically infirm, is going to disclose the way in which that person through him voted. It would be a breach of his duty to do so, just as it is a criminal offence for an authorized officer, under the postal-voting system, to disclose the manner in which any voter has voted before him. These facilities for voting cannot be denounced on the ground that, by reason of them, some confidential officer will know how an elector is going to vote. They cannot be denounced on the ground that they will interfere with the secrecy of the ballot. In connexion with e%’ery system, there must be exceptional cases. I contend that the alleged argument against the amendment, based upon the violation of the secrecy of the ballot, fails. There is not as great a violation of the secrecy of the ballot in connexion with postal voting as there is in connexion with open-booth voting. If those who wish to vote allow the authorized officer to know how they are going to vote, then the responsibility is upon them. If they have some conscientious objection against, or believe that they would run any risk by, allowing any one to know for whom they intend to vote, they can secure absolute secrecy.’ In fact, they need not vote at all.
– People are often forced to vote. Pressure is brought to bear to induce them to vote
– One would think that we lived in a country where the people were either so down-trodden, or so ignorant, that they had to vote according to the dictates of any one who came along.
– Why do we provide for a secret ballot?
– Because it is considered, I suppose, to be one of the great palladiums of liberty. The system was introduced at a time when intimidation occurred in connexion with voting It was introduced for the protection of the weak against the strong. But, nowadays, the masses of this country, I think, represent the force of the community. They have greater independence than had people who, in days gone by, were supposed to occupy high and independent positions. I have always found the masses independent. The majority of them are generally proud to make known how they are going to vote. I do not suggest that that should induce us in any way to impair the integrity of the ballot; but the provisions of the postalvoting system, which are intended for the facilitation of voting, cannot be used as an argument against the secrecy of the ballot These official witnesses may be regarded as Deputy Returning Officers in connexion with our electoral system. They are under statutory duties and obligations, and are just as independent as is a presiding officer in a polling place. Voting by post is merely an extension of the system of voting by ballot. When the postal-voting provisions of the Act were introduced in their present form, Mr. Higgins - now Mr. Justice Higgins - said that he could justify and vote for them on the ground that under them an authorized witness would be in the position of a Returning Officer exercising statutory functions and privileges ; that if he witnessed a signature, or asssisted a voter to record his vote, the vote given in such circumstances would be just as secret, as far as secrecy was maintainable in the circumstances, as if it were given in the polling booth. The system was merely intended to enable votes to be recorded in advance of election day, for the purpose of extending the franchise, and for securing as large a ballot as possible. In these circumstances, no strong case has been made out, either on the grounds of undue influence or abuse, or interference with the secrecy of the ballot, for the abolition of the system
.- The forcible speech just delivered by the honorable member for Bendigo has shown this deprivation of the right to vote by post amounts to a public scandal. I have no hesitation in applying that strong term to the abolition of the system. We have been reminded in this House, again and again, without contradiction, that at least 30,000 persons - and more particularly women - will be unable to vote because of the denial of the privilege of voting by post. The answer to that has always been that the system has led to unlimited fraud. The Labour party to-day has been put to the test. When reminded that they could not name a single prosecution showing that there had been fraud in connexion with postal voting, they quoted their best case, undoubtedly believing that no one on this side would be able to show how utterly groundless their statement was. This particular case happened to be in the honorable member for Bendigo’ s own constituency.
– Not in my own constituency, but in my own State.
– The honorable member for Parkes does not know what he is talking about.
– The fact that the case did not occur in the honorable member’s constituency is now seized upon by honorable members opposite as a point in the argument. This serves to show what flimsy logic sometimes passes with them for argument. The honorable member for Bendigo has been able to show by a close analysis of the report of the case in question that honorable members opposite are on a false scent.
He has been able to show that the magistrate dismissed two of the charges made against the defendant, and even recommended that the third charge upon which a technical offence was held to have been committed by him should, on account of its weakness, be withdrawn. I ask the Committee to remember that in that case the defendant was alleged to have failed “ to satisfy himself “ of some facts with regard to the ability of the persons seeking to vote by post to go to the poll. In the first place, that involves a psychological problem which I defy any one to solve. It is impossible for A to say that B has never “ satisfied himself “ on a certain point. Some people - men of the type of honorable members opposite - satisfy themselves without any argument at all ; and it is quite possible that this innocent old gentleman referred to, in the goodness of his heart, felt perfectly satisfied, on the statement of the woman concerned, that she would be unable to go to the poll. When honorable members opposite are asked what the postal voting system is for, they immediately look - dangerously indignant, and talk of the liberties of the people ! Did one ever hear of greater hypocrisy than is shown by the Labour ‘party when they talk of liberty? They speak of the ballot as if it were a thing for which they are prepared to sacrifice their lives, and yet they know that, in the case of an industrial dispute in this country, trade unionists systematically deny to one another the right to vote by ballot on the question of whether or not a strike should take place. The desire is to make men vote in the open, and so frighten some of their numbers so as to intimidate them to vote for a strike.
– What rot !
– It is not so.
– It is absolutely untrue.
– I do not know whether this is a cockpit or a Parliament ! Honorable members opposite, naturally, do not like this sort of criticism ; but we all know that when a dispute occurs, the law-abiding workers are denied the liberty to vote by ballot on the question of whether a strike should take place. They are told that they must vote in the open, S3 that all concerned may know how they, vote, and intimidate them into deciding in favour of a strike. Whether the worker is married and has to move his home, family, and furniture, or is a bachelor, and has only a _ swag to carry on his back, he must vote in such a way that all his fellow-workers know what he is doing. I was told by a trade unionist who took part in the recent Mount Lyell strike that if the strike had been put to the men by ballot it would not have taken place at all. “ But,” he said, “ we were forced to vote in the open, and a lot of us who were dead against it had to vote for it because we were otherwise in fear of our lives.” There is, and has been, on the other side in regard to this subject a complete misconception as to the purposes of the ballot. The honorable member for Flinders very properly pointed out just now by interjection that the object of the ballot is not to prevent a man from letting other people know how he is going to vote. Hundreds and thousands of people parade the side on which they are going to vote on polling day. The object of the ballot is to enable a man, if he wishes, to keep to himself the way he is voting, so that he cannot be constrained by his employer, if he should wish to vote in a particular way, and the employer cannot be constrained by his employes to show how he is going to vote. The ballot is a protection for the voter, and not for the benefit of other people. If the voter chooses, he can carry his voting paper about, as the honorable member for Bendigo said, and tell all the world what he is going to do. Something like 30,000 people have been deprived of their votes by the very men who say. “ We will give you ^5 every time you have a baby, but you will forfeit your vote while you are undergoing the .trial of bearing it.” They have been deprived of their vote in the Commonwealth by the happening of one prosecution which has been put before the House in a very confident way by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, but has been completely exploded by the honorable member for Bendigo. A most remarkable dumbness has come over the other side of the House, since it is shown that the only case they can rely upon is a bogus one. The case for the other side has wholly failed; and I hope the public of Australia will note that 30,000 of their number have been deprived of their votes at a time when they need, as much as when they are healthy, to record their opinion of the Government of the country. The only attempt to justify the action of the Government has been completely defeated and exposed, and the disfranchisement has been converted into a public scandal, by the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo. I hope the public will note this debate, and see for themselves upon what a flimsy basis the Labour party are prepared to deprive people of one of their greatest rights, merely to gain an advantage for their own electioneering purposes.
.- The very recent and new-born solicitude for the voter on the other side of the House is as agreeable as it is remarkable. There was a time in my .recollection when representatives .sitting on the other side of the House would not give anybody a vote.. To-day in certain sections of the State Legislatures the franchise is very restricted, and in some of the States one section of the Legislature is not returned by vote at all. We never hear honorable members on the other side claim that there should be a vote for the Upper Houses in those States. I wish to relate some of my own experiences in regard to the postal vote. I say without hesitation that I can take a ballot-paper to seven persons out of ten, and they will vote as I require them to do - and I am no exception. Any man who goes round soliciting postal votes can get most people to vote just as he requires. If any honorable member opposite did this sort of work, as I have done, he would find that he would often be asked to fill in the paper himself.
– Why should not a man persuade anybody to vote in a particular way if he can ?
– It is laid down in the Act that no man who goes to witness a postal ballot-paper shall attempt to influence the way the vote is cast. Any one asking for a postal vote must first send in an application to the Divisional Returning Officer. When the ballot-paper is supplied it is taken to the applicant’s house, as a rule, by the person who is going to witness the signature. Particular provision is made as to the manner in which the vote shall be recorded, and the paper is to be folded so that it will be impossible for anybody to observe the direction in which the vote has been cast, and then the witness witnesses the signature. At the last State election but one, in Queensland, I, in my capacity as justice of the peace, witnessed a number of postal ballot-papers, and I say, without hesitation, that I could have got seven, or even more, out of every ten of those votes recorded just as I wished them to be recorded. In the par- ticular centre that I was in, twelve or thirteen justices of the peace had been specially appointed by the State Government to witness postal ballot signatures. On what side were those justices of the peace? They were all appointed from one political party, and it was said, although I cannot vouch for it, that they received. £i per day for going round and witnessing postal ballotpapers. What was the position of the other party? The candidate was himself a justice of the peace, but was precluded from witnessing signatures, and there were just three of us altogether who were in a position to do that work. The Act lays it down that certain persons may witness ballotpapers.
– Was this under the Federal Act?
– No. I am referring to the State Act, but the methods in the two cases are almost identical. The State Act is not as broad as our Act with regard to the number of persons ‘ who are authorized to witness signatures.
– Under our Act only a limited number of specified persons can cast a postal vote. The Queensland postal voting system is wider in that regard.
– That does not affect the principle in the least. When we attempted to get witnesses for signatures, we were told that a policeman could witness a signature. A policeman is a State officer-. A schoolmaster may witness a signature, but he is also a State officer. A stationmaster is a State officer, and all. these are under the domination of the. State Government, and it can be easily understood that State officers will run no risks in this regard, and, in many cases, are themselves of a distinct party colour. If we went to those people, and said, “ Here is a man who desires a postal ballot-paper; I want you to witness it for him,” they could all say, “J do not know the man,” and refuse to witness the vote. That was the excuse made at once, because the question of identification is laid down clearly in. the Act.
– Could you not identify the applicant?
– I do not know everybody.. It should be remembered that no one is compelled to witness a signature and that was the difficulty we had in that election and in every” State election. Whereas any number of” people willing, to witness signatures for our opponents could be ob- tained, we could get no one, or very few, to witness signatures for our side.
– That argument does not apply to the Commonwealth, as you have power to appoint anybody you like as an authorized witness.
– We cannot say to a man, “You must witness this signature,” and therein lies the difficulty. The honorable member for Darling Downs knows who are likely to be appointed, and to witness the signatures. After the 1906 election I brought three specific cases before the Home Affairs Department, and asked them to prosecute in each. They declined to do so, and also refused me permission to prosecute on my own account. After the last election I asked the Minister of Home Affairs if he would prosecute a very high divine in the Anglican Church in North Queensland, who had recorded his vote in one place by ballot, knowing that he would be within 5 miles of a polling place in another particular part. Why was this done? It was merely to secure his vote in case he should forget it. I asked the. Home Affairs Department to prosecute him and they declined. I asked them to let me prosecute, and they refused. We had several cases in which we asked for prosecutions to be instituted by the proper authorities, but in every case the Department, declined on some legal technicality, with which, of course, we had no opportunity of contending. This is another case which came under my notice with regard to a postal ballot-pape . There was a young lady who left Townsville to go to Rockhampton on a visit. She was on her journey, when the other side, believing that she was favorable to themselves, sent her an application form to Rockhampton. The form was filled up and returned to Townsville.. She never saw it again, but when. she returned to Townsville she- found that her vote had been recorded, and the ballot-paper put in. A number of such things are done, but the difficulty is to prove them; and when we doget a case, and could, make an example, theCrown Law officers decline to prosecute. I shall not cite the case to which the honorable member for Bendigo referred, because I know nothing about it; but thecases I mentioned have come under my ownnotice,, and I have always lamentably failed, to move the authorities.. Pieces d£ blotting-paper, with the impression of the witness to the signature, are taken away, and, later on, if it has been found that the vote has been cast for Smith, and not for Jones, then that vote is not recorded.
– That was clearly with intention.
– Deliberately, with intent. These frauds became so frequent and so barefaced that the State Government were constrained to abolish the postal vote. The numbers of those which will be affected by the abolition are exaggerated by honorable members opposite, and, in any case, their disfranchisement is nothing as compared with the fraud and opportunity for fraud presented.
.- The more one hears from the other side the weaker the defence appears to become. If the abolition of the postal vote is wrong in the case of an election for members of Parliament, it is clearly wrong in the case of a referendum, which is supposed to be a non-party matter, affecting the community generally, on which every elector should be given the chance to record his opinion. There is already machinery under the Electoral Act to deal with such cases as have been cited by the honorable member for Herbert ; and if two or three people vote in a particular way, and their votes do not happen to reach the ballot-box, why should all the people who desire to use postal votes be penalized? As a matter of fact, the cases cited by honorable members opposite only prove the weakness of their contention. When the question was previously before us, no tangible or valid reasons were given for the abolition of the postal vote, and all we have now are a few cases cited by members who follow the Government. The more we hear the more we are convinced that the Government are taking a serious and wrong step.
– The Government are not taking the step - it has already been taken. Honorable members opposite are now trying to reinstate postal voting, which was abolished last session.
– Only in regard to parliamentary elections.
– This machinery Bill to deal with referenda has not yet settled the question.
– Would the honorable member have no postal voting in par liamentary elections,and allow postal voting on a referendum?
– Yes, sooner than lose the postal vote altogether; in my view, postal votes ought to be permitted in both cases. Every election shows that the people are inclined more and more to avail themselves of the opportunity to record their votes in this way. An honorable member has asked why we desire to prevent electors going to the polling booth; but nothing could be further “off the mark.” We are not attempting to prevent any persons going to the polling booth ; on the contrary, we wish everybody to vote. And the proposal under discussion will prevent people who cannot go to the polling booth from recording their votes. No matter how wide the clause affecting absent voters may be, it will not embrace the people whom we desire to benefit by giving them the postal vote. The defence of the abolition of the vote comes, not from Ministers, but from their followers, and I am forced to the conclusion by the arguments of those honorable members that the abolition is entirely wrong.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Forms of ballot-paper).
– Will the Minister explain the procedure that will be followed under this clause? At thepresent time each question is printed on a separate ballot-paper, but I understand that that arrangement is to be departed from.
– The intention is to print all the questions on one paper.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Scrutineers).
.- Can the Minister say what was done at the last referendum in the matter of the appointment of scrutineers ? I understand that the States were allowed an opportunity to provide a scrutineer at each polling place, and that the Commonwealth had also the right to make such appointments, but I do not remember that any scrutineers were appointed. Parliamentary candidates take the trouble to appoint scrutineers to prevent irregularities, but when there is no personal concern nothing seems to be done in that direction. I ask the Minister to consider whether, in view of the absence of interest displayed by the Commonwealth and State Governments on the last occasion, some provision should be made for checking the conduct of the referendum. Personally I find it difficult to make a suggestion. The appointment of scrutineers could hardly be left to political parties, nor to the parliamentary representatives of the district. The Minister, with his marvellous power of improvisation, may have a solution of the difficulty in his mind. If so, I should like him to explainit.
– I believe that there were no scrutineers appointed by the Commonwealth or the States at the last referendum. The returning officers and poll clerks being virtually Government officials, the proper conduct of the referendum was left to them. On the next occasion the referendum will be taken at the time of the holding of the general election, when the scrutineers of candidates will ‘be available.
– Will the referendum poll be taken in the same room as the election poll?
– Yes. Personally, I think that it would be a good thing for the direct Opposition to be represented by a scrutineer in each booth, the Government being represented by another scrutineer, and paying all the scrutineers, but we have not yet progressed to that stage.
– I think that the Minister is quite right in empowering the Governor- General, or any person authorized by him, to appoint a scrutineer at each polling booth. The Governor of each State, or any person authorized by him, will have the same power, so that the Commonwealth and State authorities will be on an equal footing.
– I wish to know from the Minister what is to be done with a view to checking the rolls before the referendum takes place. I have already referred to some statements about the newly compiled rolls which are startling and alarming. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures disclose that in New South Wales, excluding unnaturalized persons and the inmates of gaols and asylums, there are 66,000 names on the roll in excess of the number of adults in the State, and that in Tasmania there is an excess of about 7½ per cent., or about 3,000 persons. These figures are based on the usual deduction of 5 per cent, for nonenrolled persons. The Commonwealth Statistician provides the information on which we pay to the States their capitation grant, and his figures are accepted for other purposes. If they are right in this instance - and they have not been challenged - the rolls have been stuffed, either deliberately, or by reason of carelessness in their compilation. Undoubtedly, it would be part of the duty of scrutineers to see that there was no duplication of votes, but before the referendum takes place there should be a thorough checking of the rolls. If this checking is not done, there must be chaos and confusion. The absent voting system gives every opportunity for- double voting when the rolls are not correct.
– After the honorable member mentioned the matter some time ago, I had a conversation with both the Statistician and the Chief Electoral Officer, and as each seemed to think that he was in the right I got them to go into the matter together.
– Is the honorable member getting the electoral rolls examined to see that there is no doubling of names?
– Yes. We hope that the final examination of cards will show where there- has been duplication, if any. The Statistician is certain that his figures are right, but the Chief Electoral Officer says that the rolls have been compiled by the police, who are very reliable, and do not make mistakes. I do not think that the stuffing of rolls is possible under the card system.
– Under that system I could have my name put on a roll six times.
– If the honorable member attempted todo so, he would render himself liable to a prosecution for forgery. An honest ballot is the wholesome breath that circulates through the lungs of a healthy community, and anything that tampers with it is detrimental to the hopes of a nation that rests on the people’s suffrage. Unless the honorable member for Richmond is a sleight-of-hand finisher, I do not know how he could register his name on six different cards.
– A man could obtain halfadozen cards, and register under six different names.
– A man must have a residence, and when he seeks to vote, must make a declaration that he has not previously voted. The Opposition do not understand the science of this new method.
– I ask the honorable gentleman not to enter upon a general discussion of the Bill.
– I do not intend to do so I am simply replying to the assertion made by the honorable member for Richmond. A record of the electors’ claims is kept. The system is very much like that pursued in connexion with a letter of credit. A man obtains a letter of credit from his banker, who sends on his name to the places where he goes to collect his money. And so with a- person’ who seeks to vote as an absent elector.
His signature is attached to a card which is placed in a cabinet. When the applicant has signed his name, and made a declaration before a Returning Officer, his vote is placed in an. envelope. It is not put im the ballot.
– That is only in the case of an absent voter.
– It would be only in such a case that a signature could be forged. When it goes to the Returning Officer-
– I ask the honorable member to confine his attention, to the clause before the Chair.
– We did not have any scrutineers at the last referendum.
– Are there on the rolls the names of any persons who have not sent in cards?
– When the time comes round, only those who have sent in cards will be allowed to vote.
– Has the Department struck off the rolls the name of every elector who has not sent in a card?
– No. That work is gradually going on. We do not desire to prosecute any one without due reason, and we have been trying to avoid the institution of legal proceedings in this connexion. I do not send a man before the Court the moment some one makes a charge against him. It must be shown that there was an intention on the part of the individual to commit an offence.
– The Department closes the rolls on a certain day. On that day, will the name of every person who has not sent in a card be struck off the rolls?
– Every effort will be made to insure that a card shall be lodged by every person whose name appears on the new roll, and that no one shall . be allowed to vote at the next general election unless he has signed a card, either directly or by making his mark.
.- The provision which we have been discussing, was passed in the. early hours of the morning. I then suggested that it would be very easy for a man to secure several claim cards, and to register and vote under six different names. When we find that the number of persons enrolled in one State is far in excess of the actual population of that State the natural inference is that many persons have registered several times under different names. The cards have been, distributed in a wholesale manner. They are lying about the tables in the House, and are obtainable anywhere. A man could secure a dozen, register under a dozen different names, and vote where he pleased.
– How could he do that if his name were not on the roll for the division in respect of which he claimed to vote?
– A man who was not well known in a district could easily register and vote under six different names.
– The trouble is that many people will not register even once.
– I admit that a number neglect to do so; but if the rolls have not been “ stuffed “ can any one explain why we have on the rolls in respect of a particular State a number in excess of the population of that State? The system for which the Minister is responsible lends itself to this kind of deception.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– I do not wish to labour the question, for I believe that there will be another opportunity to thresh it out; but I am confident that the peculiar system which the Minister favours and which he has adopted lends itself to the system of fraud that I have outlined.
.- The Minister is taking power to appoint scrutineers. Is it the intention of the Government to appoint scrutineers at the next referendum ?
– No. The Opposition will have their scrutineers and we shall have ours.
– But the Government as a Government do not intend to appoint scrutineers ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Amendment of section 20).
.- On this clause, which deals with absent voting, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the necessity for introducing better safeguards in connexion with that system. I should like him to amend the regulations. We have objected to the provisions relating to absent voting, and since we cannot secure the abolition of the system on the scale proposed by the Government, we should at least make an effort to surround it with proper safeguards. I believe that the Minister, in his calm moments, would be disposed to accept a fair and reasonable suggestion, and I am going to make a reasonable proposal for an amendment of the regulations. The honorable gentleman is aware of the objection that has been taken by the Opposition to these absent-voting facilities, namely, that a man might falsely represent that his name was on the rolls in respect to a distant polling place, and thus secure the right to vote, or that he might also represent himself to be identical with a person whose name appeared on the roll, and that that statement might also be incorrect. The regulations do not require an absent voter, on presenting himself at a polling place other than that in respect of which he is registered, to prove his identity. Strange to say, under the postal-voting system, an applicant for a postal vote was required to prove his identity, but under this system he is not. I suggest that the Minister should frame a regulation requiring an absent voter to give proof of his identity to the satisfaction of the Returning Officer. I ask the Minister not to decide the matter offhand, but to give it his consideration. At the present time all that an applicant has to do is to sign his name. He may forge the name of another man, and secure the right to vote in ‘the name of that man.
– I will look into the matter.
– When I made the suggestion on a previous occasion, the Minister promised to look into it, but he has not done anything.
– If any one of us were in a remote part of the country, we might have some difficulty in finding any one to prove our identity.
– I think not. If, for instance, a man entered the polling booth at Broken Hill and claimed the right to vote in the name of an elector from Bendigo, he would surelybe able to produce some one who could prove his identity. He would be a desolate individual indeed who could not produce, a friend to say : “ This man comes from Bendigo, and is working here. I know him to be identical with the person in whose name he claims to vote.” If the Minister would adopt my suggestion he would largely remove the ground of our objection to this system.
– What method would the honorable member, adopt to secure identification?
– I suggest that the applicant should prove his identification to the satisfaction of the Returning Officer, just as the . applicant for a postal ballotpaper had to prove his identity. If he did not satisfy the Returning Officer as tohis identity, then his vote might be rejected just as a claim for a postal ballot-paper could be rejected.
– I shall, together with the Electoral Officer, look into the matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
– Under this clause, everytrade union or body of persons which has expended money in support of, or in opposition to, a proposed law submitted to the electors is required to make a return of the money so expended, but there is nothing in the clause to show the date from which the expenditure so incurred shall be given. There is nothing to indicate whether an account is to be given of all expenditure incurred three months before or after the issue of the writ,or immediately after the proposed law has been passed by the Parliament. To date it from the issue of the writ would be a sensible way.
– There is a section in the Electoral Act providing that for three months before an election a candidate may not spend money in certain ways. I do not know whether a similar provision would apply to the taking of referenda or not, but I should think that a three months’ period might be made to apply. It is possible that the provision would operate from the date of the issue of the writ.
– Is that what you intend?
– I do not know ;I shall have to look into it with the Attorney-General to see what the law is.
– What would you want yourself, as Minister?
– I should want it to apply for the three months, to fit in with the Electoral Act.
.- Under section 128 of the Constitution the GovernorGeneral issues, I presume, something in the shape of a Gazette notice, and I suppose this section would operate from that date. Paragraph a of clause 35 says - “ In support of the proposed law submitted to the electors at the referendum.” The “ proposed law “ must be submitted at the time. It does not mean in support of a proposed law which may afterwards be submitted. The Minister mentioned a period of three months. Under the Electoral Act certain expenditure is not allowed within three months of an election, when even a contribution towards the prize fund of a society would be an offence. Many of us have been giving these contributions for years to very deserving societies, but this year we are afraid to do it, because we do not know when the Act starts. Is there any use for this clause at all? Why make a provision that organizations, which are not interested in a person or candidate or party issue, shall not spend money in furtherance of their view of a referendumproposal without making public what they spend? I cannot see why any organization should not be encouraged to spend money to educate the public on the merits of a referendum. We are sending the matter to the public, and the more we can tell the public honestly about it the better. There is no person affected, and no question of the rich man against the poor- man is involved.
– I do not know.
– The Constitution itself was not subject to a provision of this sort. I hope we shall strike the clause out, and let money be spent wherever necessary toput the merits or demerits of a proposal before the public.
– I think that in future all referenda will be taken at general elections. The people then have a better chance to have the case put before them. The idea of this Bill is to harmonize the taking of referenda with the Electoral Act. We are interlocking this legislation into the Electoral Act, and, as soon as it is passed, it becomes part of that Act. If the suggestion of the honorable, member for Angas were adopted organizations would be allowed to spend a lot of money in relation to the referenda proposals, while forbidden to spend it on behalfof candidates. In all countries the malignant financial interests fatten on political corruption. Alt that it would be necessary to do would be to raise the money in relation to the referenda, and bribe all the papers, and then the papers and the power of money would support the candidates who were either proposing or opposing the referenda. One law would be the purifier of politics and the other would be the corrupter of politics, and between the two the righteous would fall. I therefore hope we shall let her go just as she is.
.- The Minister has not done justice to the point put by the honorable member for Angas, that, when dealing with an alteration of the Constitution, we are dealing with a matter that is apart altogether from purely party politics. The Constitution is supposed to be a scheme of government for a nation, by which the powers are divided between the Commonwealth and the States, and the referendum is purely a question of a transfer of power from one to the ‘other. It is not a question of the exercise of the power-
– Neither is it a party measure.
– It ought not tq be, and I hope the Prime Minister was not correctly reported from Sydney as saying that this time the referendum was going to be a party measure. There ought to be no objection, no matter how fully or freely the newspapers criticise the question of the transfer of powers under our scheme of government. If there was likely to be a party bribe to benefit some individual, it would be another matter. In the circumstances, the Minister might well reconsider the necessity for the whole clause.
.- I trust the Minister will not accede to the request made by the Opposition. The referenda, for the most part, will be taken during the time of an election, and it will .be a difficult matter to separate the expenses incurred for the enlightenment of the people on referenda proposals from those incurred to assist candidates. We ought particularly to hedge the coming referenda round with all the safeguards possible.
– Now you are disclosing private matters, because we do not know what the questions are to be.
– The honorable member knows that, in substance, they will be similar to those placed before the electors previously. To my mind, the interests of the people are more concerned in a great proposal like that than in the question of whether Jones or Brown is elected for a particular constituency. I hope that, if anything, the taking of referenda will be conducted on stricter lines than elections for the House of Representatives or the
Senate. I trust that this provision will be dovetailed into or interlocked with our ordinary electoral machinery, in order that there may be no confusion in regard to thi expenditure of money or otherwise.
.- The Committee and the country are entitled to know from the Minister when these particulars of expenditure are to date from.
– I think it will be for three months, because this will become part of the Electoral Act.
– It will be a commonsense proceeding to make this Bill interlock with the Electoral Act. It will be very embarrassing to organizations if they are not sure of the date from which they are to keep their accounts. Under the Bill as it stands, a newspaper might be asked to make returns for the last three years, because these questions have been floating about in the air since the last referenda were taken, and the papers have commented on them.
– We try to give a square deal.
– Would it not be a square deal to put the time in the Bill ?
– I am prepared to accept an amendment, providing that the clause shall take effect from the day the Bill passes. ‘
– Will the Minister assure the Committee that a date will be fixed?
– I think the time ought to be the same as under the Electoral Act - three months before.
– That is not a promise, and is only what we all think and hope. I do not see why it should not be provided in black and white that the limit shall be three months; otherwise there may be costly litigation on the part of associations and newspapers, and people may unintentionally be made criminals.
– We never prose- cute unless we think there is intent.
– Is there any objection to a definite provision in the Bill ?
– I am perfectly willing that this Bill should harmonize with the Electoral Act.
?- I strongly advise the Minister to have a time limit, so as to avoid doubt and difficulties, which may confront associations and persons. Unless this is done, there will be a state of confusion as to expenditure. According to the Constitution, referenda proposals need not be submitted to the electors until the expiration of six months, or sooner than two months from the passing of the Bill. When do the expenses begin - on the passing of the proposed law, or on the issue of the writ? This may be a conundrum now, but it may later become a practical question. Immediately an amendment of the Constitution is passed by both Houses, it may become a proposed law; but it does not become a referendum question until the issue of the writ.
– Look at proposed section 43, in clause 17.
– That clause merely deals with offences in regard to the supply of meat, drink, and so forth.
– I am perfectly willing that this Bill should harmonize with the Electoral Act.
– No doubt, the electoral expenses of a candidate are confined to the three months in which he is a candidate.
– I think that it would be better to make the date as from the issue of the writ; but, if honorable members desire that there shall be three months, I have no objection. My own idea is that the Bill should harmonize with the Electoral Act, and provide for three months.
– From when?
– Before the referendum.
– If that is understood, people will know what their liabilities are.
.- If the period be made three months, it becomes important to know when the referendum is to take place. Unless the date is definitely fixed fully three months ahead, we shall not know when the expenses commence. We ought to be informed of the date of the referendum fully four or five months before, so that preparations may be made for records to be kept, and so forth. Either the date of the referendum or the date of the issue of the writ must be fixed.
– The safest date would be that of the issue of the writ, because that is fixed.
.- The question has arisen when the expenditure ought to date from. It is provided that there must be a return of all moneys expended in support of a proposed law submitted to the electors. Does paragraph a mean by “ in support of the proposed law,” after the question has been submitted, or does it mean before or after it has beensubmitted ? There is a slight ambiguity here ; but I do not think there is any other. In my opinion, the word submitted “ means submitted by writ, which may be issued by the Governor-General whenever a proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution is to be submitted. I think that the issue of the writ is the submission, because section 128 of the Constitution says that the “ Governor-General may submit the proposed law.” The point is, however, whether the expenditure must be incurred after the submission, or after the proposed law is passed by Parliament, but before the submission. According to the clause, the meaning may be money expended in support of a proposed law which has been previously, or shall afterwards, have been submitted to the electors. I think we ought to put in words to provide that the expenditure shall be in support of a proposed law after the writ for the submission thereof has been issued.
– My attention has not been directed officially to this point, but we have to look at the purpose of the Bill, which is to apply, as far as possible, the provisions of the Electoral Act to referenda. The Electoral Act has a similar provision to this in regard to expenditure, so far as regards elections to either House; and the object is quite clear, namely, to prevent expenditure being incurred which would affect, or might affect, corrupt or influence electors in an improper way. What, in my opinion, the provision before us means is that, whenever the proposed law has received the assent of the two Houses, the expenditure in connexion therewith is exactly in the same position as expenditure incurred on behalf of or against a candidate for either House of Parliament. How far that is applicable I do not pretend to say ; there is some room for difference of opinion. Section 39 of the Electoral Act says that “candidate” includes a person who announces his intention to stand within three months of an election. The definition does not, in my opinion, exclude other persons. But it lays down certain guiding principles. The mere fact of a man announcing himself, in a casual way, as a candidate would not preclude a friend of his, for instance, asking some other person to have a drink; the declaration must be definite, and not too remote, and must be followed by some public act in pursuance of the declared intention. It is impossible to prescribe a time when that shall apply. A candidate for either House of the Parliament includes a person who comes before the electors three months before the elections. This is all right for the House of Representatives ; but, possibly, not for the Senate. A Senate candidate might, in Western Australia, for instance, be six months before the electors.
– But according to the Electoral Act three months is the term for a candidate for either House.
– I do not deny that, but the definition is not exclusive. A candidate may be a person who announces himself six months before an election. We must have some regard to the practical nature of things, and this clearly cannot apply until there is in the immediate future a proposal to submit to the people an amendment of the Constitution; some definite action must be taken. That action cannot be taken until the two Houses have consented to the proposed law.
Amendment (by Mr. Sinclair) proposed -
That .after the word “ has,” line 2, the words “ within three months of the date of taking any referendum “ be inserted.
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) [4-32J— It is again highly necessary to impress on the Minister the desirability of imposing some limit by the Statute itself. The AttorneyGeneral seems to think that the three months during which a man may be a candidate for the Commonwealth Parliament, and in regard to which there is a limitation of expenses, applies to the referendum. Under section 3 pf the Electoral Act - “Candidate” includes any person who within three months of the date of any election offers himself for election, but those are the only words limiting the period of candidature, and the period during which expenses must be confined to a certain sum. There cannot be an election for this Parliament before the issue of the writ, or a limitation except for some term defined by the Statute, and the term so defined is three months. But there is nothing in the Act applying to- expenditure in connexion with the referendum. The period during which expenditure in connexion with a referendum may be limited may begin after the passing of a proposed law by the two Houses of the Parliament, or after the issue of the writ. If it were fixed to begin on the date of the passing of a proposed law, it might be as long as six months, which would be too long. Three months is a fair and reasonable limitation. Any limitation of the period governing the return of expenditure in connexion with a referendum must be prescribed by Statute. There cannot be a referendum before a law for the alteration of the Constitution has been proposed. What is needed is a provision enabling people to know with certainty the duration of the period within which they must keep accounts, to be afterwards filed. A proposal cannot be referred to the electors within two months of, or more “than six months after, its having been passed by both Houses of the Parliament, but there should be some absolute limitation of the period during which expenditure must be accounted for. Such a limitation .would save trouble, lessen the risk of prosecution, and make it unnecessary to go to the expense of obtaining legal opinion regarding the keeping of accounts. I ask the Minister to consider the matter in .the interests of all parties.
.-r-We ought to have uniformity in regard to the period fixed for the keeping of accounts of expenditure in connexion with elections to either House of the Parliament, and in connexion with the taking of referenda. The Electoral Act indicates the period within which expenditure by, or on behalf of, candidates snail be accounted for, but the definition clause merely says that “ candidate” includes any person who, within three months before the date of election, offers himself for election, and that “electoral expenses” includes all expenses incurred by, or on behalf of, or in the interests of, any candidate.
– An election cannot be said to begin before the issue of a writ.
– I do not agree with that. If a person in some definite and unmistakable way put himself forward as ;a candidate, say, three months before, I do not think that the Court would say that be was not a candidate.
– But the limitation in regard to expenses does not apply until the writ has been issued.
– I agree that six months is too long a period within .which to require the keeping of accounts, but the contention that there .is a limitation of three months is not supported by a reading of the Act, particularly Part XIV. When a person becomes a candidate is a question to be determined by the circumstances of each case. It has been pointed out that not more than six months may elapse between the date on which a proposed law is passed by both Houses and the date on which it must be submitted to the people, and I agree with honorable members, but it will create an anomaly to fix a definite period for the returning of expenditure in connexion with a referendum, seeing that the period within which a. candidate’s expenditure must be accounted for is not defined. There will also be the difficulty of separating the expenditure incurred on behalf of a candidate and that incurred on behalf of the views which he is supporting. Without uniformity of limitation, we cannot expect effectiveness.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported, with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley), by leave, proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
.- I do not wish to parade a certain case too much, but there are one or two observations which I wish to make regarding the prosecution at Hamilton of a justice of the peace, against whom three charges were brought.
– Is the honorable member referring to something that took place in Committee ?
– The honorable member at this stage may deal only with the Bill as it stands.
– Then I shall take another opportunity of dealing with the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley), by leave, proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I desire to place before the House the three charges that were made against the Justice of the Peace whose case was mentioned this afternoon, and also to make some quotations from the report of the proceedings. Mr. Lesser was charged with having committed the following electoral offences-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the motion before the Chair. On a motion for the second reading of a Bill, an honorable member may deal with any case relating to the general principles of the measure, but on a motion for the third reading he must confine his remarks to the actual provisions of the Bill itself. To allow the discussion to go beyond that scope would be to open up an unlimited field of debate.
– Very well, sir. I shall have to take another opportunity to ventilate the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I see sitting opposite to me at the table the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Darling Downs, who were for several weeks closely associated with me in the consideration of another measure. The Bill which I now submit to the House is by no means as far-reaching in its effects as is the Navigation Bill, but it is undoubtedly of the utmost importance to the people of Australia that the law relating to quarantine should be as effective as possible. This is a Bill to amend the Quarantine Act of 1908. It introduces no new principle, but is designed rather to extend the principles already embodied in the existing Act. Those who have given any study to the question of quarantine are aware that it partakes of the character of a defence measure. It is a legislative instrument having for its object the prevention of the introduction and spread of disease. We have power to take action to prevent the introduction of disease into the Commonwealth, and the spread of disease from one part of Australia to another. Our three years’ experience of the working of the principal Act has shown it to be defective in certain respects, and the present measure is introduced with the object of remedying its weaknesses. A quarantine law, to be effective, must be such as will protect a clean country like Australia against the introduction of disease.I stated, in answer to a question some time ago, that Australia at the present time was the only country in the world where the three principal quarantinable diseases - plague, small-pox, and yellow fever - had not gained a footing, and I am sure that it is the desire of honorable members generally that we should take all reasonable precautions to prevent the introduction of any of these diseases into our midst. If, by tightening up the machinery of our quarantine law, we can secure that. object, without, at the same time, embarrassing the movements of individuals, or unduly interfering with trade and commerce, we ought certainly to do so. This Bill aims at strengthening our present quarantine line of defence, and at curing the omissions of the existing Act. Section 14 of the. principal Act gives power to the GovernorGeneral to exempt certain localities and places from the operation of the Act, for the reason that it is necessary to take greater precautions in the case of vessels coming from some countries than is necessary in the case of others. We propose to compel the masters of vessels coming from ports known to be infected with a quarantinable disease to take such precautions in respect of their passengers as will minimize the risk of the introduction of that disease into Australia. We propose to require them to make a statutory declaration regarding the condition of the ports at which their vessels have touched, and in respect of the passengers whom they have taken on board, or who have gone ashore there. In the United States of America, where the quarantine law is equal to that of any country, the captain of a vessel, on arrival, is required to make a written answer to certain questions, and to sign a statutory declaration that his answers are correct. It has been found that, where captains are compelled to sign this statutory declaration, their answers often differ from the verbal replies they have made to questions put to them. Under proposed new section 15A it is provided that the master of a vessel which comes from or touches at any proclaimed place shall take all precautionary measures to prevent the introduction into Australia of any quarantinable disease. The captain of a ship feels the pinch of quarantine more than does any one else, and if ship-masters can make their way easier by taking proper precautions at the infected ports at which they call, we may be sure that they will do so. The Bill also provides for increasing the facilities for communication with minor ports. At the present time we have in Australia certain ports which are known as “ chief ports of entry,” and we propose to amend the definition section in the principal Act by providing that “ first port of entry “ in re lation to a vessel, means “ a first port of entry for that vessel.” Under proposed new section 13 a, the master of a vessel bound for Australia will not have to go out of his way in order to touch at a principal quarantine port. At the present time we have quarantine stations at Port Darwin, Thursday Island, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Albany, Fremantle, and Hobart, and under the existing law, an oversea vessel desiring to proceed to Launceston, or to discharge cargo for that port at Beauty Point, would have first of all to call at another port in order to be granted pratique. By this Bill it will be possible for such vessels to go direct to such minor ports, and to be there inspected by the quarantine or deputy quarantine officer. It will not be necessary for them to call first of all at any of the larger ports. This alteration of the law is considered necessary to give greater facilities for the transaction of business to those whom we compel, and rightly compel, to use our quarantine service. A number of these minor ports, except in the case of vessels coming from especially dangerous places, will now be open.
– That is to say, the Bill, makes such minor ports “ first ports of entry “ for vessels coming from oversea.
– In certain cases that will be the position. If, for instance, the Panama Canal were open, we should not allow a vessel coming- through that canal to proceed direct to such a port as Cairns, where there is no quarantine officer. But if a vessel came from San Francisco, which was known to be free from any quarantinable disease, we might allow her to proceed direct to Maryborough, Rockhampton, or any other minor port without calling previously at one of the recognised first ports of entry. The Bill provides that any port may be thrown open to vessels coming from clean ports. It is also considered advisable to follow the example set by the United States, which requires reasonable precautions to be taken at the end of a voyage. Under the American law it is provided that in the case of vessels bound for the United States precaution shall be taken to prevent infected persons from going on board such vessels at an infected port. It is also provided that passengers’ luggage shall be disinfected, if considered necessary by the American authorities. No such power is provided under the Commonwealth Act as it stands. We are, therefore, proposing so to amend the principal Act as to provide that captains of vessels calling at infected ports shall take precautions similar to those required under the United States law. This particular amendment was placed in the Bill after the Director of Quarantine had had an opportunity of personally inquiring into the quarantine systems of other countries. It was inserted in the Bill after his visit of inspection to America, Europe, and Asia. Shipmasters consider that quarantine is a burden to them, and would like to get through it as quickly as possible; but all honorable members who have had experience in the matter will agree that when vessels come from known infected ports we must take greater precautions with them than with those which come from clean ports.
– I am glad the honorable member takes the same view as I do.
– Is not there a danger -from cargo?
– There is ; but I do not /think it is as great as from human beings. I understand that some germs can be carried only by human beings. When vessels are known to have been infected with a quarantinable disease, we take care to disinfect the whole of the clothing and goods on them. I was at Fremantle just after the Malwa small-pox case arrived, and saw the barge containing the cargo that was being disinfected- It will be seen from the Works Estimates that we are providing for fumigating barges and launches in various parts of Australia in a way we have never provided for before. By one of the clauses of this Bill we compel the owners of vessels to carry “ such prophylactic agents as are prescribed, and efficient disinfecting apparatus or appliances and disinfectants.” Quarantine, particularly the quarantine we are dealing with, usually applies to diseases that are not generally prevalent in the place where the quarantine is enforced ; but there are other communicable diseases, such as measles, scarlet fever, and diphtheria, that may spread on vessels, and have spread on immigrant ships that have come to Australia within the past few months. It is well known that if the masters and doctors on board those vessels had taken greater care those diseases would not have spread in the way they did. It is, therefore, proposed to provide specially in this Bill for such contingencies, and this may be done without delaying vessels or interfering with the movements of the vessels or passengers. There was a great outcry in this State when the Irishman arrived with about 100 cases of measles on board, and it was urged that the Quarantine Department ought to quarantine the ship. We have not made measles a quarantinable disease for Australia, nor, in fact, is it quarantinable in any other part of the world.
– How is that?
– Because measles are in existence practically in every part of the world. If we quarantined people coming in from outside on account of measles, we should have to take measures to suppress the disease inside ; and I am confident that there are more people affected with measles’ in Melbourne at the present day than there were on the Irishman.
– Are people allowed to land suffering from measles?
– No. So far as the Quarantine Department is concerned, they can land ; but we notify the State Board of Health of cases of measles or scarlet fever. We have co-operated with the Victorian Board of Health in that regard, and in the particular case to which 1 have referred I ma(le the quarantine ground and staff available, without charging the State anything, stipulating only that any extra charge incurred would have to be met by the State 1 made the same arrangement in another State recently when a vessel arrived with ten or twelve cases of measles on board. If proper precautions had been taken, and the captain of that vessel had known that he was likely to be placed in quarantine, different action would have been taken by him. I do not say that we may not yet have .te take steps in order to prevent the ‘landing of cases of some of these diseases, because, even if we have them inside Australia, we have no right to allow a lot of cases of disease to be brought into our midst without taking proper precautions against them. It has been considered advisable to modify section 59 of the principal Act, which relates to the liability of owners and agents of vessels in quarantine for the expenses of quarantining their vessels.^ and we set out more clearly their obligations. I know that they consider that we are extending their liabilities, but it must be borne in mind that the permanent cost of quarantine, which goes on year after year, equals 75 per cent, of the whole cost, and is borne by the Commonwealth, while the agents or owners have to pay only 25 per cent. If they are compelled to take proper precautions, we believe that that amount can be largely reduced. I have had interviews with the agents of some of the oversea companies in relation to this matter. After all, we are only adopting what was the State practice prior, to the Federal Act coming into operation. In those days the owners or agents had to pay for everything, including nursing and attendance, but the Commonwealth has so far paid some of the extra expenses. I do not think that even under this Bill we would compel them to pay for the nurses that we have regularly engaged. In Victoria we have a caretaker and one or two other men and a nurse about the place. I do not think that under this Bill her salary would be chargeable to the company, but 1 am not sure of that. We have to pay well, as we ought to do, any extra people, such as nurses and doctors, who go down to these places, and if the outbreak is the fault of the ship, as it sometimes is, the owners have a right to be made responsible. We do our best to keep the place as clean as possible. Australia is the cleanest country in the world so far as quarantinable diseases are concerned, and it behoves us to take all necessary steps to keep it in that condition. On several occasions smallpox has been introduced because the owners, agents, or master, or other officers, have not taken proper precautions to examine the passengers before they came on board. We know that some diseases take a certain time to develop, but cases have been known where they have developed practically before the voyage has started. In one particular case the disease was proved to be small-pox within twenty-four hours of the vessel leaving Colombo. When the young fellow was brought on board he was known to be sickening for something, and had proper precautions been taken the case would not have been brought to Australia. The patient should have been landed at the first possible port in his own interests, and the interests of the other passengers, because better treatment and more complete isolation can be secured on land. That case occurred two or three years ago, and I could quote other cases of a like nature. . I shall probably do so before the Bill comes out of Committee, which I hope will be to-day.
– The honorable member is very sanguine.
– It would be as well to put the Opposition in quarantine.
– I cannot complain of the Opposition, particularly those members of it who are facing me now. They rendered me the best possible service when I was in charge of the Navigation Bill, and I should be the last to recommend quarantine for them in connexion with this Bill. Another provision, which it is thought will improve the Act, is one whereby proceedings for breaches of the Act may be taken, in any port where the vessel may be foundThere may be an apparent breach of theAct in a port where the vessel stays foronly a few hours, but at present proceedings must be taken at that port. It would be much more convenient for the master, to be dealt with at a later port of call, or at the vessel’s terminal port, where it stays longest. For instance, if there was a technical breach of the law at Fremantle, and the vessel remained there only a few hours, it would be unfair to compel the master, or the responsible person, to remain there, or to return, in order to face a trial; and, in case of a vessel remaining, say, in Sydney for a fortnight, the Bill provides that the case may be investigated there.
– That means that the Crown witnesses would have to travel from Fremantle to Sydney.
– That might prove preferable to holding the vessel up at Fremantle. The Bill provides, also, for the taking of statements on oath from masters and surgeons in respect of the presence of diseases on board. This has been found a very useful provision in similar laws in other countries. In the United States of America it has been found that verbal inquiries have failed to secure the precise statement of facts which was forthcoming when a written statement on oath was demanded. Answers given verbally have, it is reported, been retracted when a written statement on oath was required. In addition to general quarantine, the Bill deals with animal and plant quarantine in certain directions. Provision is made for the keeping of animals in certain cases under observation without removing them to a quarantine station. This will prevent hardship, and lessen the expense to the importers of animals. As regards plants, it has been found that there are grave risks of the introduction of plant diseases and pests which the operation of the Quarantine Act has prevented. On the other hand, owing to the want of power to allow certain plants, from which there is no danger, into certain outports, there has been distinct hardship to the residents ; this difficulty will be removed by the provisions made in the Bill. It is not proposed to relax the quarantine regulations in any way. Some eighteen months ago I was informed that a donkey from Egypt was to be landed here, and that the importer was informed that donkeys from that country could not be admitted. I ascertained that, under the State laws, which had been in operation for a number of years, the importation of donkeys from Egypt had been prohibited because of a disease, one of the worst of its kind, which they might introduce; and on the advice of responsible officers I refused permission to land this animal, although a high price had been paid for it. Under this Bill, however, we shall be enabled to give greater facilities to people who are compelled to quarantine either plants or animals. Experience during the last two or three years has proved that some alterations are necessary. Where it is essential to tighten up the law it has been tightened up, but where we can afford greater convenience to importers we have done so.
– There is animal quarantine in Sydney now.
– Yes, and also in Victoria, Western Australia, and, I think, Queensland. There are certain animals, however, that need not be quarantined, but may merely be kept under observation with little apprehension of any danger. Yesterday the honorable member for Riverina asked a question regarding the foot and mouth disease. In this connexion, the importation of animals is prohibited from certain ports in the world ; but, in the case of clean ports, we are prepared to afford greater facilities, so that quarantine may not be regarded as a nuisance or something invented merely to harass people.
– What is the idea of quarantining dogs?
– I could not say offhand.
– There has been dog quarantine in Sydney for twenty years.
– Yes, and to-day we quarantine dogs from certain parts of the world. For instance, I think that dogs from Japan have to be quarantined.
– And also dogs from England.
– In certain cases the voyage is reckoned in the quarantine time. However, I shall be pleased to answer questions on this and other points, as we proceed with the consideration of the Bill. The Act of 1908 provides that it shall be administered by the Minister of Trade and Customs, but this Bill sets forth that, while the Minister will remain the head so far as the Government is concerned, the Director and other officers are to be given a definite place in the machinery. This Bill, when passed, will, I believe, prove to be in the interests not only of people who come directly under its provisions, but also of the people of Australia, as a whole.
– It is not surprising that it is necessary to amend the Act in several particulars ; indeed, it is rather surprising that so few alterations are called for, considering the problem we had to face. The Government had to frame a Bill to supersede six State systems, and secure uniformity where there had been diversity. This was a big problem with which to grapple. Of course, experience only could show the necessity for certain modifications of the scheme devised in 1908, and in the last few years there has been a great advance in quarantine methods throughout the world. Very properly, the Government sent the Director of Quarantine abroad in order that Australia might be brought uptodate. The desire of Parliament is to, as ‘ far as possible, keep out of Australia those human diseases which have decimated the populations of other countries, and also plant and animal diseases from which at present we are immune. Some of the worst pests with which we are afflicted have been intentionally introduced’ here; but now we are starting under a Federal career with improved powers, which we hope will be exercised to the full. There are proposals in the Bill to make the Act less rigid.
– In some respects.
– There is power, for instance, to proclaim emergency quarantine stations, and to bring in stock, and keep them in certain places subject to certain conditions. I am not finding fault with that, but merely point out that, as soon as we make the law more elastic, we of necessity throw more responsibility on the officers of the Administration - we give wider discretion to individuals, and leave ourselves more at the mercy of human agencies. I hope, therefore, that this Bill, when placed in operation, will not be accompanied by any relaxation.
– People who have dealings with the Department do not complain of any laxity.
– And, personally, I do not desire to see any laxity. The Director of Quarantine, as a result of his journey abroad, has submitted a masterly report which is well worthy the attention of all honorable members.
– The accompanying maps are very impressive.
– The report, as a whole, is a masterly and striking one. Sometimes complaint is made about the Government sending officers abroad, but if all the officers so commissioned make as good use of their opportunities as has Dr. Norris, their travels are a good investment for Australia. Dr. Norris’ aim is to enable us to carry out our ideal of, as far as possible, preserving this country from disease. He deals in a general way with the quarantine systems of other countries ; and, as the honorable member for Gippsland has said, has placed before us some very striking maps showing the necessity for thorough quarantine precautions. Dr. Norris points to the increasing size of vessels which come to Australia, and to the stream of immigration, and shows that that stream is not only from Europe, but from Russia and other countries in what people at Home call the East.
– They are not the worst; we do not regard them as a danger.
– At the same time, Dr. Norris calls attention to the fact. The most important part of the report is that which deals with the administration of the Act. He tells us that experts abroad were, without exception, of the opinion that Australia is well advised in maintaining her existing system of quarantine so long as the present conditions of complete freedom from, small-pox, cholera, plague, and yellow fever exists. It is important to see what Dr. Norris’ recommendations are. We may pass ideal Statutes, but unless we provide a proper staff, stations, and instrumentalities to make the service effec tive, we might just as well not pass any Statutes at all. He says in his report -
The machinery of quarantine must be effective and sufficient if the measures for the exclusion of disease are to have any chance of success, and if the officers in the several States are to be asked to take the responsibility of excluding disease.
I agree, in the main, with the proposals now made for the purpose of tightening the grip in many places. Dr. Norris continues -
The means provided throughout Australia for the quarantine of vessels, persons, and goods are at present inadequate, defective, and in a bad condition owing to chronic starvation.
We have not altered that yet -
In most cases there have been no new works for many years, and for a number of years there has been in nearly all cases practically complete paralysis of maintenance expenditure on quarantine stations with the result that many of the old buildings are beyond repair and must be replaced.
There is no provision for human quarantine in Brisbane or Thursday Island, and no proper provision at Adelaide or Hobart. It is at present necessary to quarantine Queensland passengers at Sydney.
The accommodation in all the principal human quarantine stations is inadequate. With the increasing number of immigrants this creates a position of great importance, as the chief deficiency is in the steerage accommodation.
The means provided for disinfection (i.e., the destruction of the causative agents of disease) throughout the Commonwealth are, with few exceptions, very inadequate and defective. The importance of proper and sufficient means for disinfection is vital, as will be evident after a moment’s thought.
To ask the Quarantine officers in the several States to administer quarantine satisfactorily with inadequate, defective, and poorly-equipped stations and appliances is not reasonable and it is, in my opinion, only fair to claim that np responsibility can be taken by the Quarantj service for failures which will arise from the inadequacy or defectiveness of the means of quarantine.
Regarding the views that have been expressed during discussions in Parliament, he says -
The first fruits which will be looked for from Federal administration of quarantine are greater facilities of transport and trade through uniformity of quarantine procedure and the simplification of much of the practice necessitated by different State laws and separate and uneven administration.
Improvements cannot be made without expenditure. That was the opinion of Dr. Norris in 1909-10, but in a report dated 31st March last, he adds -
I have seen nothing abroad to warrant any radical change either in the proposals already formulated or in the views just referred to.
It would, in my opinion, be more than unwise to delay any further the establishment at the main ports of the Commonwealth of completelyequipped quarantine stations in accordance with the obligations imposed by the Paris Convention, and of sub-stations at the ports indicated below.
Then he makes this significant statement -
The present unsatisfactory condition is, in my judgment, fraught with danger to Australia.
In the Appropriation Works and Buildings Act passed this session, , £50,000 has been provided for quarantine stations. That is a good beginning. Dr. Norris says -
I have endeavoured to form an estimate of the cost of the works which I consider necessary but precise estimates can only be given after lengthy consultation with the Department of Home Affairs. In the meantime, I consider that an expenditure of£148,000, in addition to the amount on this year’s Estimates, will enable all urgent requirements to be met, this amount beingdividedamongthe States as follows : -
– I think that he was referring to last year’s appropriation.
– The Minister made an interjection about our Eastern ports. This is the passage in Dr. Norris’ report which deals with them-
These Eastern ports, important now, will become still more so when the Panama Canal is opened. As already pointed out, they are within the zone where the Stegomyia (the mosquito conveying yellow fever) is found, and the risk of the introduction of the disease with the increased traffic vid Central America cannot be overlooked. The problem is already receiving active attention in Eastern Asia and the East Indies, which are similarly threatened.
We are reminded of our enormous coastline, and of our situation in respect to other countries. The recommendation is made that complete stations should be established at Sydney, Melbourne. Brisbane, Fremantle, Albany, Adelaide, and Hobart -
At Melbourne, Brisbane, and Albany, large stations are required. In the case of Melbourne it may be practicable to provide the increased accommodation without any great expenditure by re-arranging the existing accommodation.
At Brisbane, a station capable of accommodating at least 600 persons should be established with provision for temporary accommodation for an additional 400. The administrative, disinfection, and other equipment should be adequate to deal with the largest number for which accommodation may be provided.
I have read these extracts in justice to the Director of Quarantine, who has reported for the guidance of Parliament, and because his statements show the importance of dealing properly with quarantine. Remembering the need for preserving human beings, stock, and plant life from disease, the Quarantine Department is one which should not be starved. I think it is fair that oversea companies should pay the cost of quarantine. The appropriation for the Quarantine Department, apart from buildings, &c., amounts to£24,900 yearly. The amendments of the law now proposed are matters for consideration in Committee. No important or vital alteration of the fundamental provisions laid down in the Act of 1908 is proposed. The Bill only strengthens those provisions. I agree with the Minister that it is, perhaps, advisable to make the Director of Quarantine a statutory officer. That puts him in a stronger position, and charges him with definite duties, without impairing the Ministerial responsibility for his acts. I hope that, by this measure, we shall secure an absolutely efficient Quarantine Department which will protect Australia from disease.
.- The point has been raised in questions addressed to Ministers, and during the discussion of the original Bill, that the Commonwealth should exercise the whole power of quarantine. This Bill, although, apparently,, needed to perfect our system of external quarantine, seems not to deal with the prevention of the spread of disease within the Commonwealth.
– We have power to deal with that under the Act.
– That power is not comprehensive. Section 13, paragraph h, of the Act says -
The Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare any part of the Commonwealth in which any quarantinable disease or any disease or pest affecting animals or plants exists to be a quarantine area.
That is a reserve power, it being provided that the Governor-General shall exercise it. only when there is danger of the spread of disease. My point is that the whole power of quarantine is not covered. I have gone into the matter, and think that it is fairly clear that the power of quarantine in relation to the spread of diseases in Australia has not been dealt with.
– We have exercised that power. We prevent the sending of apples to Western Australia, because that is the only place where there is not codlin moth; and we recently prohibited the importation of certain onions into South Australia, though we allowed them to be Brought into other States.
– The State authorities have covered much more ground in this matter than we have. The subject has been inquired into by the Department, and advice hasbeen given to it. One opinion given was that as regards importations from other countries, the Commonwealth had covered the whole ground by Part V. of the Quarantine Act of 1908, which establishes a complete system of inspectionand quarantine. When I held office as AttornevGeneral, I wrote a memorandum in which I stated that -
As regards Inter-State commerce, I am of opinion ‘that the Commonwealth has not covered the whole ground. It is true that the Parliament has, by s. 13, empowered the Governor-General by proclamation to -
But, in the first place,these provisions do not cover the whole ground of Inter-State quarantine. They are, in fact, only reserve powers, the exercise of which is expressly limitedby sub-section (2) to cases in which the GovernorGeneral is satisfiedthat their exercise is necessary to prevent the spread of a disease across a State boundary. And, in the second place, these powers have not in fact been exercised.
That is the full limit of the exercise of our powers as regards internal quarantine. On several occasions, complaint has been made by the States that we have not controlled inspection to stop the spread of disease. Many complaints were made, for instance, with regard to the possible importation of pests into Western Australia, and in respect of the spread of the potato blight from one State to another. Is the Minister satisfied that this Bill goes to the full extent of our power in respect of internal quarantine, or have the Government deliberately rejected the recommendation made that we should take greater power in respect of the spread of disease from one State to another? I do not know whether that matter has been considered. Different points of view have been expressed. The law at present permits a State, in the exercise of its powers, to prevent the importation of diseased plants or animals from one part of the Commonwealth to another. Victoria, for instance, can issue a proclamation against the introduction of potatoes affected by blight. I do not know whether the Minister thinks it is a. bad policy to exercise our full power in this regard, but, as the matter has been mooted several times, and since questions have been asked, I am sorry we have not had some information as to what the Government intend to do. The rule of law is that, so far as we have not exhausted our power, the States can pass laws upon the subject of quarantine. They can prevent by proclamation, or otherwise, the spread of disease by stopping importations into one State from another. The only question that can be raised is whether such a proclamation is a reasonable exercise of the police power of prevention. If it is not reasonable, then it is open to anyone affected by the proclamation to challenge the action of the State before the High Court either on the ground thatthe Commonwealth has already exercised itspower in that particular direction, and that the matter is not one for the intervention of the State, or that the State law upon the subject is unreasonable. For instance, it couldbe urged that a proclamation preventing the importation of all plants of a particular class in order to prevent a disease being brought in by some plants inthat class was unreasonable. Itmight be held that such a proclamation exceeded the necessities of the case, and was unreasonable. If it were, the High Court would declare that it was in excess of the police power of the State, the police power being a reserve power to protect the whole of the inhabitants against importations of diseased animals and plants into one part of the Commonwealth from another. It has been held in America that plants or animals that are diseased do not come within the commerce power since they are not articles of commerce. In those circumstances, therefore, it would not be a violation of section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution to prevent their passing from one State to another. That section provides that, on the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, trade, and commerce, and intercourse between the States shall be absolutely free. It has been held in America, where there is no Constitutional provision of the kind, but where there is in force an Act of Parliament practically similar in effect, that, as long as the articles to be imported are diseased, they are not legitimate articles of commerce. The Constitutional provision then, in regard to freedom of commerce, does not touch the question, and the States have the power to prevent the importation of diseased plants or animals within their own boundaries. If a diseased commodity is not an article of commerce, then it cannot be a restraint of commerce to prevent its importation. The point always arises whether the proclamation issued under a State Act is a reasonable one. Questions have arisen between States upon the issues of proclamations and requests have been made that we should exercise this power to the full.
– Could not the GovernorGeneral issue a proclamation under section 13?
– He could issue a proclamation within the limits of that section, but he is not given power to issue a proclamation covering the whole power. Some powers are still left to the States, and, in relation to the part that is left to the States, proclamations have been issued to which objection has been taken.
– South Australia, for instance, issued a proclamation prohibiting the introduction of vines from any other part of Australia.
– I do not know the details, but about two years ago, proclamations were issued by South Australia absolutely preventing the importations of certain plants. Complaints were made that the proclamations exceeded the necessities of the case, because they stopped all plants of the class in question from coming in, and that they were injurious to the producers. Complaints have been made, for instance, in Tasmania, by producers of potatoes against the proclamation issued prohibiting the introduction of Tasmanian potatoes into a certain State. It was declared that the proclamation was so wide that it really stopped a large importation of potatoes from Tasmania, and that it affected many districts where the potato blight did not exist, but to which it spread. I suppose that the Minister thought it better to leave matters as they stood, but I hope that when he replies, he will tell us why this Bill has not been extendedto State quarantine.
.- I hope that the Minister will seriously consider the point raised by the honorable member for Angas. I have an open mind on the subject, but I think it may be advisable for the Commonwealth to take over the whole matter of tick administration.
– Have we the constitutional power to do that?
– The honorable member for Angas informs me that we have complete power to take action to prevent the spread of any disease from one State to another, and I accept his view of the position.
– Is there not tick fever in New South Wales?
– No. There is no doubt that we have absolute power to deal with the whole question of quarantine as between State and State, and to prevent the spread of disease from one State to another. Quick and Garran write of the Commonwealth power in respect of quarantine -
The Federal Parliament has received a clearer and fuller grant of power relating to quarantine than Congress. It is given to Congress by implication ; it is conveyed to the Federal Parliament directly. Out of that expressed grant amplifications and developments may flow which could not have been evolved from an implication. The Federal Parliament may deal with quarantine without reference to the interests of trade and commerce, but as an independent question having regard to the sanitary condition and welfare of the Commonwealth as a whole. It will be able to provide for the isolation, segregation, remedial, and preventive treatmentof animals and plants, and their diseases wherever found within the Commonwealth. It would probably be able, if deemed desirable, to grapple with such problems as the tick plague or a phylloxera pest, in stamping out which the whole of Australia is interested. Such a power would only be exercised in cases of universal interest and of far-reaching importance, and for the purpose of reinforcing, and not superseding the ordinary sanitary laws, institutions, and authorities in operation within the respective States.
The spread of tick fever from one State to another is a very serious matter. The Minister has said that we have the disease in both New South Wales and Queensland. That is not so.
– I merely asked whether it was so.
– We have tick in New South Wales, but we have not tick fever. The two diseases are quite different.
– Is not tick fever a tropical disease?
– As to that I can only say that I have seen bodies of cattle that have died from tick fever lying within 2 miles of the New South Wales border. Queensland is relying upon inoculation as a means of preventing tick trouble. If, however, a tick from an inoculated beast gets on to a beast that is not inoculated, it will immediately give it tick fever. Inoculation in a sense means practically carrying the disease from one place to another. In New South Wales we have not attempted to inoculate cattle against tick, because we recognise that if the tick once got away from us it would immediately spread tick fever or red water throughout the whole district. My own opinion is that we should continue to go on in New South Wales as we are doing at present, and attempt to stamp out the tick pest altogether. Efforts that have been made in this direction have gone a long way towards keeping the pest within a small circumscribed area, and I am very hopeful that we may get rid of it altogether. If at any moment the tick fever crossed the border and broke out in New South Wales, I think that it would be absolutely necessary for the Commonwealth to step in with a view of checking its spread, because of all the scourges that have ever devastated the herds of Australia, tick fever is the most disastrous of all. I ask the Ministers to see that full power is taken under the Bill to deal with the whole subject if the .necessity arises. I have asked the Department for an opinion upon that point on several occasions, and have always received the reply that the matter was under the consideration of the Attorney-General’s Department. I asked for that opinion for the first time about two years ago, and have not obtained it yet. The probability is that the AttorneyGeneral has found a great deal of difficulty in making up his mind as to whether we have the power to intervene under the law. I do not think that there is any doubt as to our constitutional power to pass the necessary legislation, but I want the Minister to make sure before the Bill leaves Committee that we have power to deal with this question if it arises later on. At the present moment I have a very open mind as to the advisability or otherwise of the Commonwealth stepping in. The New South Wales Government have recently despatched a Commission to the United States of America to inquire into the subject, and ascertain the means whereby America has succeeded in clearing absolutely of the tick, as well as the tick fever, more than half of the country which was originally infested. I hope that when that Commission comes back it will be able to give us sufficient information to enable us to do likewise, but it is just as well for us, in the meantime, to make sure that we have the power to step in if the necessity arises. I notice that in the definitions of disease in the principal Act “ Texas, or tick fever” is mentioned.
– That relates to diseases that come from outside. The only time we have taken action within Australia has been at the request of the States.
– I take it that it is not necessary for the Commonwealth to receive a request from the States.
– I think it is. The point is very doubtful. I do not think the honorable member for Angas would give a definite opinion upon it.
– Quick and Garran are very outspoken on the point.
– It must be quarantine to prevent the spread of disease.
– We have not the disease in New South Wales, but we have the agent which carries the disease. There is nothing in the definition in the principal Act about tick itself, and the tick is the principal agent that carries the disease. 1 should like the Minister to look into this point, and consider whether it would not be advisable to include the tick itself,, apart from the tick fever, as one of the things against which we can exercise the powers of quarantine.
– Even if we do not put tick in, we can proclaim it.
– Does the Minister think that tick is a disease ? I am not sure that it is, although it is the agent that carries the fatal disease. This is a most important matter for Australia, because once the pest starts to spread, it spreads with amazing rapidity.
.- I am sure that Parliament will be anxious to pass any amendment of the Quarantine- Act which will tend in the direction of guarding Australia against the invasion of diseases from over the sea. Whilst, however, it may be desirable to strengthen and improve the existing law, I should likethe Minister to be quite sure that he is exercising all the powers which he possesses under the law as it stands. In this respect I should like to draw attention to the question of further extending the definition of quarantinable diseases, particularly in regard to measles, to which the Minister made incidental reference in his secondreading speech. At present measles is not a quarantinable disease, but power is, nodoubt, available for declaring it to be such. The experience of Australia, and) the information made available in the recent case of the steamer Irishman, ought to be a warning to the Quarantine Department and the Minister as to the urgent necessity of declaring measles a quarantinable disease. The Irishman case was certainly most sensational and extraordinary. The steamer had about 1,200 passengers on board, and was seething with measles. Many hundreds of patients were suffering from this miserable and dangerously infectious disease, and yet, when the steamer arrived, the Minister had not taken power to isolate the passengers or place them in quarantine. The explanation of the omission of .measles from the list of quarantinable diseases was that measles was an endemic disease, already existing in the country, and that there was no necessity for making endemic diseases quarantinable. That proposition is hardly a fair one. Even though a disease may exist in the Commonwealth, power ought to be taken under the law to isolate and quarantine large bodies of immigrants who arrive here infected with it. It would have been a frightful calamity if those hundreds of passengers from the Irishman had been landed and let loose to further extend ‘the ravages of measles in Australia. Some people think that measles is a comparatively harmless disease, but experience has proved that, in many cases where an outbreak has -occurred, it has been most devastating. We remember the alarm caused in Australia when a large number of returned soldiers from South Africa brought measles into the country. Great criticism was then offered with respect to the administration of the law. The experience of other countries, such as Fiji, is that measles is capable of decimating an entire population.
– It is severe amongst the natives.
– It would be equally destructive among the poorer classes of any community, and particularly among children; and the more strongly it gains a hold, the more destructive it becomes The Minister ought to realize the defect of the law, which allows the possibility -of passengers affected with measles being landed in large numbers in Australia. It ought to be declared a quarantinable disease, but not necessarily for quarantine to be exercised in every case. The number of passengers affected may not be large enough to demand quarantine; but in a case such as that of the Irishman, with “hundreds of passengers seriously affected, power ought to be .taken to impose quarantine, and it ought not to be left to the States to intervene, as Victoria did on that occasion, and protest against the landing of the affected passengers. Possibly but for that protest those passengers might have been landed and spread measles among hundreds and thousands of people in Australia. Why should the States be saddled with the expense of dealing with an invasion of such a serious disease from across the sea? The Commonwealth ought to be prepared .to deal with such cases, and not necessarily only with small-pox, cholera, and other very dangerous diseases. It .should be ready to attack any form of disease that comes here in a serious state of development.
– There is one disease a thousand times worse than measles.
– Power - ought to be taken to deal with all this class of case, and not shift the responsibility on to the State authorities. They cannot quarantine diseases coming from oversea, except with the concurrence and co-operation of .the Federal Department. The Minister states that the quarantine station and staff were placed at the disposal of the State authorities to deal with passengers on the Irishman ; but that is not sufficient. The Federal authorities ought to have taken the ‘passengers in hand themselves, and not cast the onus upon the State authorities. I hope their experience on that occasion will open the eyes of the authorities to the urgent necessity of making measles and other diseases quarantinable, so that, when they do come here in serious form, or affecting large numbers of patients, they may be tackled by the strong arm of the Federal law, which ought to be more effective than the State law. I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to the necessity of increased supervision over all steamers coming to Australia from over the sea, so as to prevent the possible repetition of the introduction of small-pox cases. Two recent cases have shown slackness of supervision at the first point of arrival in Australia. One was a case of small-pox introduced by the R.M.S. Mooltan in June of last year., The disease was not discovered until after the vessel had passed the inspection at Fremantle. Upon arrival at Adelaide a certain number of passengers were allowed to land and proceed freely to the eastern States without any notification to the health officers. That case ought to have been more thoroughly investigated, the introduction of the affected passengers more fully explained to Parliament and the country, and steps taken to prevent a repetition of it. Then, again, when the mail steamer Otway was quarantined for small -pox, the Adelaide passengers were liberated without vaccination, and the passengers at Melbourne were vaccinated and then liberated ; while the Sydney passengers were rigidly detained in quarantine.
– Were’ the passengers not liberated under supervision?
– They were.
– Is it a proper state of things when passengers are liberated from a small-pox-infected steamer, even under supervision? The result shows that such a procedure is not safe, because a number of the passengers had to be followed, identified, and then placed under supervision. .Even under the Federal law the supervision must be very lax, or, at any rate, not up to the standard that we” are entitled to demand.
– I think the same thing is done in London.
– I know; but we have a stricter and better law here. We have succeeded in keeping those diseases out, and we ought to continue to keep them out.
– There is always small-pox in England.
– Small-pox is supposed to be endemic in England, but here it is not; arid we ought to place a strong guard at the ports of call in the north and in the west. It is quite obvious that inspection of small-pox at Fremantle is not bo strict and effective as it ought to be. We who recently - arrived there on our return from the Mother Country had the opportunity to see how comparatively formal is the inspection for small-pox and other quarantinable diseases.
– And also at Suez, en route.
– The passengers are merely requested to pass in front of the inspecting officer, who has very often to take the word of the medical man on board the steamer. That is not sufficient ; something more is required.
– In Adelaide other arrangements have been made.
– If passengers manage to run the gantlet at Fremantle, they ought not to be permitted to do so at Adelaide. The Department ought to make such a searching and effective examination as to prevent any passengers escaping from a steamer on which there is small-pox; in other words, the Department ought to insist on the rigid isolation of passengers at the first port where the disease is discovered. There is room for improvement in the enforcement of the existing law, as well as room for improvement in the direction indicated by the Bill. The Minister and the Director of Quarantine will have the cordial support of Parliament in guarding Australia against the invasion of disease. Parliament is not niggardly in voting money for the enforcement of quarantine, or in granting all the necessary powers - indeed, even extreme powers, if they are deemed necessary - but all that Is useless unless the powers are enforced so as to insure the adoption of all the safeguards that medical science can suggest. I trust that the Minister will take into consideration the suggestions I have made.
– Generally speaking, the House will, I think, cordially approve of thismeasure, though, no doubt, in some particulars, it may require amendment at the Committee stage. There are one or two points which 1 strongly commend to the favorable consideration of the Minister. First there is the tick disease mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond, anc? also the disease of measles. It does not necessarily follow that every power takenunder the Bill will be exercised, but it isdesirable that the fullest means should be provided to cope with infectious diseases, endemic or otherwise, likely to be introduced. The case of the Irishman affords a very striking illustration of one of those exceptional occasions when Ministerial or departmental action may be necessary in order to prevent the spread of infectionfrom the large batches of people such asare arriving, week by week, on the immigrant steamers. The danger is most striking amongst the poorer classes of the community, who have to live in the more densely populated parts Of the city; it ismuch greater there than amongst an equal number of people distributed over a widerarea with larger spaces between the dwellings. The majority of people, however,, who come out in the immigrant ships have,, for some time, at any rate, after their arrival, to take up their quarters in themore densely populated parts, and thusthey are exposed to much greater danger of contamination. Under the circumstances, the widest possible powers ought to be given to the Department to take effective action as occasion arises. It does not necessarily mean that people will be interfered with unless, in the opinion of the medical authority, there is serious risk attaching to their landing in considerable number from a vessel affected with measles or other communicable diseases, and likely to cause possible danger, at any rate to health, if not to life. I should like the Minister, when he replies to this debate, to let the House know his viewson the points that have been raised. He ought, I think, to inform the House as to what has been done at Thursday Island in connexion with the establishment of a quarantine station - as to how far arrangements have progressed for dealing with infected vessels. Thursday Island is one of the first ports of call, and in some cases actually the first. Dr. Norris’ report is a very carefully compiled, and, to my mind, very valuable, document. It is full of information, and gives evidence of the greatest care in preparation. On page 36, Dr. Norris says -
Although from the stand-point of the Commonwealth as a whole Darwin is at present only a port of call at which preliminary quarantine measures would be required it may, in the near future, become important from a quarantine stand-point if a vigorous immigration policy is initiated. It is difficult at this stage to gauge the quarantine requirements of the port from this latter stand-point, but when passing through on my return to Australia I made inquiries as to possible sites for a quarantine station, and, after inspection in company with the then Administrator and the Chief Quarantine Officer, I selected a site at Emery Point, lying to the east of the township, and more than a mile from the settlement. The site is accessible by sea and land, and can readily be isolated. It was agreed that it was the most suitable site available.
At present the only accommodation required is an isolation hospital of six beds, an observation block of four beds, detention quarters for ten persons, and concrete tent platforms and tents for twenty persons.
Owing to the position of Darwin in relation to Asiatic and East Indian ports, it is my duty to urge with all possible emphasis the necessity of enforcing vaccination and re-vaccination throughout the settlement. It is desirable that vaccination should be carried out throughout the Territory, but as Darwin will, it is presumed, be for some time the only first port of entry the efficient vaccinationof the local population and of all persons entering the Territory would afford almost complete security against the introduction of small-pox.
I do not know whether anything has been done towards giving effect to that recommendation, but it must be remembered that
Port Darwin is really the first port of call for a number of steamers from the East.
– That is where the danger lies.
– Quite so. Have any steps been taken to enforce vaccination amongst the resident population of the Northern Territory ? At the present time, as the medical officer suggests, it would be advisable to have those people, in the neighbourhood of Port Darwin at any rate, vaccinated. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell the House whether anything has been done in this direction.
– No action as yet has been taken.
– It is very desirable that there should be a quarantine station, if only a small one, at Port Darwin. When suspicious symptoms develop en route between Japan and China and other Eastern ports and Australia, the vessels, which call at Port Darwin - whether they call at Thursday Island or not - should be fumigated, and all steps taken to insure that communicable disease shall not find a way into the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
- Dr. Norris speaks of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Fremantle, Albany, Adelaide, and Hobart as the chief quarantine ports, and then tabulates the requirements of what he terms the minor quarantine ports, at the head of which he places Darwin. There he recommends the provision of ten hospital and observation beds, permanent detention accommodation for ten, and tentage or equivalent temporary provision for twenty. At Broome, he recommends the provision of only eight hospital and observation beds, and at Townsville the provision of ten. The idea underlying his recommendation seems to be that Port Darwin, being the first port of call for a number of vessels coming from the East, is the place at which patients who have developed illness known to be quarantinable, or suspected to be of that nature, should be landed. It is more than two days’ journey from Port Darwin to Thursday Island, and to allow suspicious cases to remain on board after a vessel leaves Port Darwin is to subject her passengers and crew to unnecessary risk. While a station at Thursday Island is needed, I hope that the Minister, having regard to the increasing trade with the East - that we hope will develop still more in the near future- will give his serious attention to the importance of providing a station at Port Darwin. I hope, too, that he will give effect to the recommendation that those who live at that place should be vaccinated. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is unavoidably absent, has asked me to bring before the House his view that no distinction should be made in allotting accommodation at quarantine stations between steerage and other passengers. He thinks that all should be treated alike, and given the same kind of accommodation. With regard to the quarantine station at North Head, Sydney, the buildings recently erected there, which I had an opportunity to inspect not long since, appear to have been designed on excellent principles, and to be well constructed. The superintendent was good enough to show me this accommodation, and I found that the provision for ventilation was good, and the dormitory and lavatory accommodation all that could be desired. I think, however, that hot as well as cold water should be provided for bathing, hot water being regarded as one of the best cleansing agencies for getting rid of the germs of disease.
– Since the honorable member was at North Head, I have authorized the expenditure of about ^8,000 there, and some additional buildings have been finished, while others are approaching completion. If he would go there again, he could tell me how they are getting on.
– As I take a great interest in this matter, I shall be glad to have an opportunity to visit the station again, but a conveyance would have to be provided, because there is not a tram or steamer service to the place.
– If the honorable member desires to visit the station, I have no doubt that his visit can be arranged for.
– I shall be glad to see the new work that is being done. The accommodation to which I refer is for Asiatics, and seemed to me to leave little room tor improvement, except for the need of a hot-water service. Dr. Norris suggests the extension by reclamation of an area adjoining the station jetty, to provide a site at the entrance of the station for luggage sheds, a large disinfecting block and laundry, and a power-house. He recommends, too, the provision of a crematorium, of an electric light installation, and of a tramway connecting the main buildings, and from the jetty to the store-room.
It was pointed out while I was at the station that it would be desirable to have a lift from the wharf to the hospital, which is on a hill above the wharf,, and to which access is obtained by a circuitous and steep path. Were a lift provided, patients landed on the wharf could be placed in their stretchers on the lift, and thus conveyed easily to the hospital. Perhaps a lift has been provided for in the new work that the Minister has sanctioned. If not, I hope that he will look into the matter. The provisions of the Bill generally will meet with the approval of honorable members, and we on this side shall be only too glad to assist the Minister in perfecting the measure. I trust that he will receive suggestions in Committee favorably recognising that they have been proposed in a friendly spirit.
– I take it that the object of the measure is to improve the present law, and to enable the quarantine authorities to do their work more effectively. We are indebted to Dr. Norris for the report which has been quoted by several honorable members. He speaks of the backward condition of the quarantine stations, which have recently been taken over from the States. No doubt, the authorities of the States, realizing that the Commonwealth would shortly exercise its quarantine power, have not spent any money on them the expenditure of which could be avoided, and a large expenditure is needed to put them into a proper state. At Port Adelaide station, the Works Department has already commenced alterations sanctioned by the appropriations made by Parliament some months ago. Our best policy, however, is to concentrate our efforts, for the next two or three years, at any rate, on those stations which are nearest to the East, to which we are indebted for most of the diseases mentioned by the Minister - smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, and plague.
– And leprosy.
– Leprosy is of rare occurrence, though, of course, a dangerous disease. Too much vigilance cannot be exercised, especially at the first port of call, over vessels coming down from the East. The Government would .do well to concentrate their attention on Thursday Island and Port Darwin, on the one side, and on Fremantle on the other. Just as a general concentrates his troops and his guns at that point where he thinks he is most likely to be attacked, so the Government should turn their attention to these ports. It is a difficult matter to interfere with trade, and I am sure that no one desires to hamper trade and commerce to a greater extent than is absolutely necessary. But those who have seen the Calcutta boats and steamers from the East entering our various ports must have been struck by their appearance and by the dirty condition of their coloured crews. It is marvellous that they do not spread more disease than they do. It seems to me that when these vessels come into an Australian port we should be able to apply to their coloured crews some regulation requiring the observance of elementary cleanliness. Now and again a scare is raised in regard to the bubonic plague. The doctors run here and there’, and our worthy friends of the press, anxious for copy, put in their spoke. It is not long before the public are thoroughly alarmed, and if they do not all contract the plague it is due to no fault on the part of the newspapers. You can practically place your finger on the very boats that are responsible for the unhealthy surroundings which expose us to risks in this direction. It is not right to make specific reference to shipping companies in this regard, but I am inclined to think that those in charge of vessels engaged in the Eastern trade find it very, difficult to observe on them European standards of cleanliness.
– Some of the passenger steamers trading between Australia and the East are, I am told by the Quarantine officers, the cleanest that come to Australia.
– Nevertheless there seems to have been a laxity on the part of the authorities in making a thorough inspection of vessels coming down from the East. They should be more vigilant than they are. Not long ago a lot of cornsacks were landed from a Calcutta steamer and, under our regulations, had to be fumigated. Directions were also given that they should be fumigated in small bundles; but after some delay, and, no doubt, after various telegrams had been sent to different places, that order was countermanded. It is very necessary that woolpacks and cornsacks coming down from the East should be carefully examined, as far as it is” possible to do so without unduly harassing shippers and consignees. This is a matter not so much for the Quarantine Department as for the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs. They are really the men who have to attend to such work. Under this Bill the Government are taking large powers to deal with the outbreak of a quarantinable disease on board a vessel entering Australian waters. Power is taken to permit an infected person to be landed at the first port of call after the outbreak has been discovered, and for the ship to continue its voyage. That practice is followed at present in connexion with the outbreak of measles on board vessels coming from Europe. Shipping companies realize that it is in their own interests that they should have clean ships, and I think that this is a step in the right direction. I have been informed by medical men that small-pox in its early stages is very difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are very similar to those of chicken-pox, and some little time must elapse before an accurate diagnosis can be given. It seems to me, therefore, that we ought not to run to the other extreme, and to assume that every person who displays symptoms that are peculiar alike to small-pox and chicken-pox is suffering from the first-named disease. If we do, and require every such case to be landed at the first port of call after its discovery, we may put the travelling public to a great deal of unnecessary inconvenience. Great care must be exercised in administering this part of the measure, and the authorities ought to be fairly confident that the disease from which a passenger is suffering is contagious before they require him to be put ashore. I have long held the view that the danger of any extensive outbreak of small-pox in Australia is not as great as we are sometimes led to believe. Having regard to our increasing trade with the East, and to the way in which we are exposed to .the introduction of the disease from abroad, it seems to me that if the climate of Australia were suitable for the spread of small-pox we should have had an extensive outbreak long . ago when Melbourne, Sydney, and other large cities were not in their present sanitary condition. Those who have seen an outbreak of the disease in Europe will know that it generally occurs during wet, raw, cold weather, such as we rarely experience in Australia, and I do not think that the danger of small-pox here is as great as many people believe it to be. We are indebted to our friends of the press very often for a scare in regard to it. They are always on the look out for copy, and when a case of small-pox does occur it is generally well advertised all over Australia. If some one does not frighten himself into contracting the disease it is not the fault of the press. It is a well-known fact that persons can and do frighten themselves into the diseasein districts where it is prevalent. Is it not remarkable that, whilst our medical officers advise that vaccination is necessary, in nearly every State in the Commonwealth those who have conscientious objections are not required to have their children vaccinated. Laymen certainly do not think that the danger of small-pox in Australia is as great as medical men say it is. From a casual observation of the ease with which small-pox has been stamped out on the repeated occasions on which it has made its appearance- in Australia, I am inclined to think that the disease is not one from which we are likely to suffer to any extent. Then, again, I think it is ridiculous to send into quarantine persons suffering from measles. Middle-aged men in the House will recall the fact that their parents never thought of calling in a doctor to deal with a case of measles. The idea that medical attention is necessary in such a case is quite a modern one. Whilst strengthening our quarantine law, I think we ought to take great care to insure the health of our immigrants. I do not join in the cry that the immigrants coming’ to Australia are not a healthy body of people, or that they are introducing disease. There may be one or two isolated cases of the. kind, but I do not think there is much in the outcry. It does seem to me, however, that when a large number of people are crowded for some time into a very small space there is danger of a. disease breaking out. On some of the up-to-date vessels, now being used to convey immigrants to Australia every inch of space is utilized, and during bad weather, u-hen the passengers are not able to move about the decks, there is a likelihood of an outbreak of disease. In ordinary circumstances no such danger exists, but whilst we are strengthening our quarantine laws we ought to take steps to insure that immigrants coming to Australia shall have a fair chance of landing here in the best of health. There are certain grave anomalies relating to the quarantining of plants and trees that it is difficult for a layman to understand. The practice may be a good one, but it seems to me that it is a convenient method of destroying Inter-State Free Trade. I have known it to lae resorted to on more than one occasion with that object in view. For instance, apples .may be imported from one State to another with excellent results, so far as the consuming public is concerned, but the trouble is that they enter into competition with the locally-grown product. In such circumstances a man who is affected by their importation has only to raise the cry that codlin moth is prevalent in the State from which they are being introduced, and he can at once secure an army of experts to express an opinion on the subject. As a rule, no two of them will agree. By raising such an outcry a stop is sometimes put to this free entry of apples from another State, and if anything can be done to insure the exercise of reasonable care in these matters it ought to be done in the interests of the public. I could never understand the necessity for the quarantining of dogs. I never knew that they suffered from any of the diseases that are particularly referred to in the Act.
– lt is a remarkable fact that rabies will not live in Australia. Certain diseases are natural to certain countries and will not live in others ; and it has been proved that dogs are not subject to rabies in Australia. Most of the diseases of dogs spring from the stupidity of their owners in not knowing how to feed them properly, and why they should be subject to quarantine I fail to see. Before the Bill is passed, I should very much like to learn from the Minister the reason why dogs are quarantined. I do not believe that we should inflict quarantine on man or beast unless we have a very strong reason for doing so. Cattle are’ in a different category from dogs, because they are known to be liable to rinderpest and other diseases, which we should take every care to keep out of Australia. I have thought for some years that the whole system of vexatious quarantining was passing away, and that, under the reformed regime, the medical profession did not believe in that sort of thing. I understood that it was possible to keep persons under surveillance for a certain time, and do away with a good deal of our antiquated methods. To any one who has seen quarantining carried out in our ports, the operation is simply marvellous. Certain persons are quarantined, and other persons, who ought to be quarantined, escape. So far as I can see, it is a matter of luck. If they catch one fellow, he has to be quarantined; but the other fellow, whom they do not catch, is all right. Up to the present, a very loose method, which has no scientific basis, has been pursued. We have to tolerate a good many things in this world when we are assured that all the scientific authorities lay it down as an axiom that we must do so in the interests of health ; but when we do not receive that assurance, and know that there is a general movement in the Other direction, we should be very careful to see that no vexatious system, which is not really necessary, is inflicted upon the travelling public. I rose especially to ask the Minister at this stage of the Bill to say whether it would not be best to concentrate the relatively limited amount of money that we can spend on quarantine at our danger points - Fremantle, on the west, and either Thursday Island or Darwin, so far as vessels coming from the East are concerned. We should thus entrench ourselves against any dangers that are likely to threaten us, until we had the whole of our quarantine establishments in our chief ports in an up-to-date and efficient condition. We should then be in a position, as a Parliament, to say that we had exercised due. diligence to protect the health of our people from diseases coming to our shores.
– I have not had an opportunity to study the provisions of the Bill very closely, but 1 have glanced at them, and can certainly say that it could not be suggested that there is anything revolutionary in them. I think we should be with the Minister in his effort, which, I am sure, is a genuine one, to benefit by our quarantine experience, particularly when he has the advantage of the report furnished by the Director of Quarantine. That report, no doubt, will prove valuable to the House in considering this subject. One feature of it is entitled to some consideration. It is contemplated that the proposed quarantine works, when completed, will cost between ^180,000 and ,£190,000. That is a large sum of money, and I apprehend that the Minister, in asking for yearly appropriations, will be able to justify the various amounts which are recommended from time to time. It is our duty to put our most important ports, which are more liable to attack, in a complete state of efficiency, and to see that the equipment is thoroughly uptodate. I am aware that, during the transition stage from State to Federal control, owing to the delay which occurred in the taking over of the quarantine stations by the Commonwealth, they managed to get into a condition of disrepair, and that the general equipment and plant are not equal to all requirements. I quite admit that considerable sums of money will be necessary to make them in every way efficient. A little time ago I noticed in the press that there was an unfortunate misunderstanding between Commonwealth and State as regards a threatened outbreak of measles. I do not suggest that measles should be declared a quarantinable disease, but, by arrangement with the States, all epidemic diseases from overseas should certainly be dealt with by the Federal authorities, who are in a better position than the States can possibly be to handle them effectively. I realize that quarantinable diseases must be confined largely to those specially mentioned in the Bill. Of course, there is a degree of elasticity about the provision, because the Governor-General in Council may, by proclamation, specially declare any disease to be quarantinable. I do not know whether it is necessary to make any provisions in this Bill for the purpose, but where there is a threatened outbreak or epidemic of any non-quarantinable disease, such as measles, the most ample precautions should be taken to deal with it, notwithstanding the fact that it does not come within the definition of quarantinable diseases. I do not pretend to know the facts, but I saw by the press that an application was made by the State to the Federal authorities in connexion with the ship Irishman, on which measles had broken out, for the use of the quarantine station ; that the request was originally refused ; that subsequently the Federal Government granted it ; but that, when the ship reached the quarantine grounds, permission to use the buildings was refused, and it became necessary for the State authorities to secure tents to accommodate the patients. Our endeavour is to protect Australia from diseases from without ; and, in the case of measles or other epidemics of that character, the most complete cooperation and understanding should exist between the Federation and the States, in order that any threatened outbreak may be dealt with. With all the buildings, plant, and equipment in their possession, the Federal authorities ought to be the most capable of dealing with a danger of that kind. I feel certain that, if there was any threatened outbreak of an epidemic from the Irishman, it points to the desirability of co-operation, and the avoidance as far as possible of misunderstanding between the State and Federal authorities. I hope the Minister will ba able to assure the House that the Federal authorities were not in fault in that case, and that there was no attempt on our part to shirk our duties and responsibilities. I urge that, so far as epidemic diseases from oversea are concerned, the proper authority to deal with them is the Federal, and not the State, authority. I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill, which, to some extent, consolidates existing legislation, and will, at least, prove useful in the administration of quarantine affairs.
– The honorable member for Angas suggested that the Commonwealth had never taken over or administered quarantine within a State, but I have ascertained that, in the case of South Australia, a proclamation has been issued prohibiting the importation from the other States of vines owing to a fear of the spread of phylloxera. Then, again, Western Australia happens to be the only country in the world absolutely free of the codlin moth.
– And we have been a good deal abused for keeping it free.
– In order to keep Western Australia free, the State Government requested that the importation of apples and quinces from other States should be prohibited, and a proclamation to that effect has been issued. What we are doing for these individual States, we propose, by the Bill, to do for the whole of Australia - that is, keep disease out. If one State has, fortunately, been able to keep itself clear of a certain disease, the Commonwealth ought to help it to keep it. clear. The honorable member for Richmond admits that in New South Wales there is tick, but points out that there is no tick fever, and those interested in that State are anxious that some action should be taken by the Federal Government in this connexion. Representations were made to the various States on the point, but, so far, there has been no request to the Federal Government for assistance. Either in the Quarantine Act, or some other Act, there is a provision which enables the Commonwealth to extend an infected, area in a State, but not to restrict an infected area. The honorable member for Bendigo suggests that the Commonwealth might take action so far as the disease of measles is concerned ; and I point out that we have the necessary power under clause 35A, and also under section 13 of the Act, which enables the Governor-General to proclaim, any disease a quarantinable disease. Clause 35A was framed to. meet such cases as that of the Irishman. It must not be forgotten that in that case the Commonwealth lent the State all the assistance possible.
– The Commonwealth made the State pay the expenses.
– I think that is quite right. The people of the Commonwealth should not, I think, under the circumstances, be called upon to pay. We have no right to declare a disease quarantinable for one State and not quarantinable for others.
– The complaint was that the Common wealth refused the State the use of the quarantine buildings.
– The Commonwealth did allow the use of the buildings, but, 1 understand, on the condition that if they were required by the Commonwealth, they should be handed over. As a matter of fact, small-pox was discovered on two or three vessels from the East at that time, and if one of those vessels had come on to Melbourne, as she was booked to come, the people afflicted with measles would have had to make way for those affected by small-pox. It would not have been fair to the measles patients themselves to put them in the same place as people from a small-pox infected vessel, and we have only the one Queensland station available for persons coming from vessels on which there are small-pox cases. The honorable member for Lang raised a question of which I must confess I had lost sight, namely, the necessity for vaccination in the Northern Territory. This, of course, is part of Australia over which the Commonwealth has full control, and the Government will have to take into consideration what action may be necessary. The Northern Territory is regarded as one of our weak spots from: a defence point of view, and it is certainly a weak spot from a health point of view it is practically within the danger area so far as quarantinable diseases are concerned, and special care will have to be exercised. The honorable member for Hindmarsh made some remarks about the concentration of quarantine expenditure at certain ports. It must not be forgotten that, if a vessel with say, 100 passengers, and seventy of a crew, called at Port Darwin, and there landed only half-a-dozen people, it would, even if the passengers landed had to be quarantined, continue its voyage, and possibly land the bulk of its passengers at Brisbane or Sydney. It will be seen, therefore, that we have to provide protection not merely at the first port, but at the port where most of the people finally land; and that is the reason why there is so much expenditure in Victoria and New South Wales. The same honorable member said that rabies had never entered Australia; but I can assure him that there are three authentic cases on record in the Health Department, and that, is the reason why the importation of dogs is prohibited from all parts of the world, except Great Britain and New Zealand. As to the expense to which shipping companies are put under the quarantine laws, I may point out that the cost of the nurses, and other employes on the regular staff, is sustained as an annual charge on the Commonwealth, and that it is only when extra nurses and other help has to be engaged that the shipping companies are called upon to pay. This I believe to be a right principle.
– I believe that the Commonwealth provides all the medical aid.
– I am not sure on that point. As I said before, I trust that this Bill will prove of value in the interests of not only the travelling public, but of the public generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses i and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (General definitions).
.- This clause, of course, includes the definition of a quarantinable disease; and, so far as small-pox is concerned, the Minister said that he proposed to do something in regard to vaccination in the Northern Territory.
– No; I said the question had been raised, and I should look into it.
– If the Minister. looks into the matter, he may decide on legislation by Ordinance. I hope, however, that he, or his colleague, the Minister- of External Affairs, will consider very carefully before introducing an Ordinance which we cannot check during recess, and which will deal with a matter on which there is much disputation. In South Australia, the Government of which administered the Northern Territory fairly well, vaccination is optional, and. large advantage is taken of the fact.
– I do not think, as a matter- of fact, that I could issue an Ordinance. All I say is that the matter will be considered. It has not been before the Cabinet, and I know nothing as to the- opinion of other Ministers.
– It is for greater caution that I mention the matter now, and I hope that the Minister of External Affairs, whois not present, will be inspired to great deliberation before he precipitates an Ordinance which we cannot reverse for three or four months. I do not know that there has been any epidemic in the Northern Territory.
– There have been very few people there.
– There have been a good many of the class which generally contract such diseases.
.- As to the definition of “ First port of entry,” I should like to know how the Minister proposes to exercise the power of declaration. Is it proposed to have a quarantine station at all the first ports of entry ? What ports are contemplated? Whenever quarantinable disease is discovered on board, are passengers to be quarantined at the first port of entry? Something of this kind ought to be done. It is of no use, on the discovery of quarantinable disease, to allow a patient to continue his journey around the Australian coast, because that only aggravates the disease and endangers the rest of the passengers.
– A small-pox patient is landed as soon as possible.
– I understood that, not long ago, a small-pox patient was brought from Thursday Island to Sydney. Is it intended that in future all such cases shall be landed at the port of entry ?
– The object of the clause is to meet any emergency that may arise in connexion with the problem of the isolation of communicable diseases. The case to which the honorable member has referred occurred on the Yawata Maru. When the vessel was at Thursday Island, the patient was, apparently, in good health, but on nearing Townsville she was seen to have developed small-pox, and the quarantine station at Townsville not being in a fit state for her reception, she was sent, straight through to- Sydney. Since then the” Townsville station has been put’, in order, and quite recently a caretaker and his wife, who is a. trained nurse have been placed in charge. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh has pointed out, the State authorities, knowing that the Commonwealth was about to exercise its quarantine power, allowed the quarantine stations to get into disrepair. Some of the piers became unusable, and at the Townsville station it was considered by the doctor in charge that the patient on the Yawata Maru could not be landed. As to whether it would not have been better to make emergency arrangements for her accommodation there is a question with which I shall not now deal. This provision has been inserted so that when a vessel has come from a clean country, and certifies that she has no quarantinable diseases on board, and it is possible to make a proper examination of her passengers and crew, they need not be brought on to some port at which there is a quarantine station. I have no doubt that it will be administered with clue regard to the safety of the public health. In the past, passengers have been put to inconvenience by being brought to ports other than those to which they had booked. Vessels coming from infected ports will, of course, have to go to ports such as Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, where there are proper quarantine arrangements.
.- I presume that the Minister intends to act on the recommendation of the Director of Quarantine, and divide the quarantine ports of Australia into chief quarantine ports and minor quarantine ports. At present, under section 13, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare any ports in Australia to be first ports of entry for oversea vessels, and it is now proposed that the power to declare first ports of entry shall extend to authorizing the declaration of a port to be a first port of entry for all oversea vessels, or for oversea vessels from any particular place, or for any class of oversea vessels.
– Woollongong, for instance, is not now a port of entry. Under this provision we can make it a first port of entry, so that a vessel shall not have to go to Sydney to be examined.
– I wish to know how the Minister proposes to exercise this extended power. Is it proposed to follow the recommendations of the Director of Quarantine, and declare that the ports enumerated shall be first ports of entry?
– Some of them may be. It will depend upon where a vessel comes from.
– I suppose that Port Darwin may be a first port of entry for some vessels, and not for others.
– It will be a first port of entry from any place outside of Australia, but under this new. provision we shall be able to declare a port in, say, Spencer Gulf, to be a first port of entry.
.- Did I understand the Minister to say that he might not be able to impose certain quarantine conditions at Port Darwin, because the Northern Territory is under the control of the Minister of External Affairs?
– We certainly should not have a divided authority there, because Port Darwin is the port into which communicable disease is most likely to be brought. The Director of Quarantine says, on page 7 of his report -
It may be well at this juncture to emphasize two points which must be understood in studying the application of the principles of quarantine. These are -
That quarantine is peculiarly a measure adopted by countries free from or relatively free from the diseases against which quarantine is aimed.
That the diseases against which quarantine is directed will naturally vary in different countries according to the nature of the communicable diseases which have established themselves as local diseases.
For example, in India, where plague is endemic, practically no steps are taken to detect cases of this disease on incoming vessels, whereas in Ceylon, which has kept itself free from plague, strict measures are adopted to exclude the disease and to detain under observation persons from infected parts of India. Again, in Eastern Asia, where plague, cholera, and small-pox are quite at home, there is no proper supervision of shipping, whereas at Manila, in the Philippines, which, like Australia, has stamped out plague, the greatest care is taken to prevent the reintroduction of the disease.
We are very close to the places marked on the very fine map of the Director of Quarantine as those where cholera and plague seem to find a happy home. I hope that the Minister intends to take every precaution against the introduction of disease at that port.
– Yes. The honorable member for Angas was referring to the provision relating to vaccination.
– I am quite with him in thinking that a Minister should notbe allowed to deal with a matter by regulation in a manner contrary to the wishes of Parliament.
– This will not be dealt with by regulation.
– Whatever views may be held on the subject of vaccination, every precaution should be taken, particularly at Port Darwin, which is the first port of call for many Eastern vessels, to guard against the introduction of disease.
– I doubt whether the definition of “ port of departure “ i3 clear enough. A vessel might commence a voyage at some English port, and call at several Indian ports before coming to Australia. Quick and Garran’s Annotated Constitution refers to possible decisions regarding continuous voyages, and the question was raised in connexion with the Merchant Shipping Guild case reserved whether, when a vessel clears from Sydney and returns to that port after calling at several places in the Pacific and’ at Auckland, she has made a number of voyages or one continuous voyage. But if the phrase “ port of departure” is used only in the provision which it is intended to make section 2 7 a, no difficulty will arise.
– That is the only provision in which it is used.
– The definition which is intended to place the meaning of the phrase beyond doubt would be the chief cause of doubt, were it not for the use of the term in the provision referred to.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Director of Quarantine and Chief Quarantine Officers).
.- This clause provides for the appointment of a Director of Quarantine, who shall, under the Minister, be charged with the execution of the Act and the regulations thereunder. The experience of the Pearling Commission when in quarantine in Sydney quite recently was that the officer in charge there had practically no power whatever. We came to the conclusion that so long as Sydney remained the principal quarantine station in the Commonwealth the Director of Quarantine should reside there, or if he did not, that the officer in charge should be given more power. By way of illustration I would point out that some of the passengers sent into quarantine had been but recently vaccinated, and were really immune. The new vaccination would not “take,” so that they should have been liberated almost immediately.
Telegrams were addressed to the Director in Melbourne, asking that they should be released, but for some time no notice was taken of those messages. Finally these persons were released, but only three daysbefore those who had been successfully vaccinated on board ship were liberated. Under the new conditions we are to have a quarantine station at Thursday Island and Townsville, where it is very necessary that such stations should be established.
– And one at Port Darwin.
– Yes. We would not expect the Director to reside at any of those places, but the officer in charge should be given more power than such officers- have hitherto been allowed to exercise. It should be unnecessary for the officer in charge to have to refer to Melbourne or elsewhere any request for the liberation of patients. A man who is competent to be in. charge of a quarantine station ought to be fit to be intrusted with the power necessary to enable him to deal with all such matters. Under the system prevailing whilst we were in quarantine considerable inconvenience and loss of time, which involved loss of money, was experienced by those who were unnecessarily detained.
– There is full power to delegate authority.
– But I am anxious to know whether that power is going to be exercised.
.- In the first place I should like to ask the Minister what is the necessity for making this alteration in the existing law? Is it proposed to raise the Director to a higher status ?
– No; there is a similar provision in the Patents Act.
– Unless it is intended to give the Director of Quarantine a higher status or some definite statutory position it is difficult to see why the amendment should be made. The clause provides that there shall be a Director of Quarantine, and such chief quarantine officers for such divisions of quarantine as the GovernorGeneral thinks fit. The term “ divisions of quarantine “ may refer to a branch of a subject of quarantine; it may mean a division dealing with human beings or plants, or it may relate to a territorial division. What is going to be the position of these officers in practice? At the present time we have a central staff divided into a clerical and a professional division.
The head of the professional division is the Director, who receives a. salary of ^1,000 a year, whilst in New South Wales there is a superintendent and deputy superintendent of quarantine. In Victoria there is only a superintendent of quarantine, but I do not think there is any such officer in the other States. I presume that the Department works there in harmony with the State officers.
– I think there is a superintendent of quarantine in South Australia. If there is not there will be one. We work in harmony with the States wherever we can do so.
– I am glad to hear that. Will the present superintendents of quarantine be known henceforth as chief- quarantine officers?
– I shall be glad to explain.
– I understand that the desire is not to duplicate the work of the States, but. to try to blend the two systems into one, so that the Commonwealth and State officers shall be able to work in complete harmony.
– We have endeavoured to work in harmony with the States so far as the quarantine service is concerned. Victoria, however, desired that the Chairman of the Board of Health in this State should be relieved of the quarantine work that he was doing for the Commonwealth, and a similar position was taken up in regard to the State officer acting for us in New South Wales. We had, therefore, in both cases to appoint a superintendent of quarantine. In South Australia the chief quarantine officer is a State officer.
– And in Queensland a State officer is also acting as quarantine officer for the Commonwealth.
– Yes; Dr. Elkington.
– And a very good man, too.
– He is ; I hope that we shall be able to retain his services. Officers in charge who are in the sole employ of the Commonwealth will be known as superintendents of quarantine, but where they are also employed by the States they will be known as chief quarantine officers.
– Will t those in charge, who are in the sole employ of the Commonwealth, continue to be known as superintendents of quarantine?
– Certainly. As to the first point raised bv the honorable mem- ber, I may point out that when the principal Act was framed no decision had been arrived at as to the exact form which the administration would take. The honorable member for Hume was, I think, then Minister of Trade and Customs, and it was said that there was to be an inquiry. Since then a decision has been arrived at, and it has been decided that the chief officer shall be known as Director of Quarantine. This clause has been inserted with a view to bringing the principal Act into conformity with other measures such as the Patents Act. We think it well to specify the officers. The object of the clause is to better define the system of administration and the functions of the various officers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Emergency quarantine grounds).
– This clause gives power to the Minister to appoint any place as a temporary quarantine station for the performance of quarantine by any vessel, persons, goods, animals, or plants, and I think that it requires to be very carefully administered. I ask the Minister to see that it is properly safeguarded. I do not object to elasticity so long as we are assured that there is not to be a leakage in the administration of the Act.
– The criticism of quarantine is chiefly in. the direction that we have tried to safeguard the system too effectively.
– Quite so, but the health of the Commonwealth should be our first consideration.
– I agree with the honorable member.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Master of vessel from a proclaimed place to take precautionary measures to prevent infection).
.- Our experience when in quarantine in Sydney was that the precautions taken, certainly at the landing place at North Head, were of the most primitive character. We arrived there on a Tuesday afternoon, and on the following morning all the passengers on board the quarantined vessel were instructed by the quarantine officer to have a hot bath. We were told that we were to have a bath, change our clothes, and place in a bag those which we had been wearing, so that they might be taken ashore by an attendant, and thoroughly disinfected. As a matter of fact, the clothes in our bags were more likely to be infected than were those in which we had been walking up and down the breezy decks for a day or two. In one case the clothes which a passenger had to put on were taken out of his bag, which had actually been in the cabin occupied by the infected person. Nothing could be more ridiculous than this order, which resulted in clothes being taken out of a cabin which had been occupied by the patient and worn ashore. The order was so utterly absurd that some of the passengers evaded it, and went ashore in the clothes which they had been wearing. We found the arrangements on shore equally as primitive as were the directions which we had to carry out on board ship. The fumigating apparatus, we were told, had been there for about twenty years. It was practically obsolete, and the clothes put into it came out no healthier than when they were put in. Some of the clothes were sprayed out of a bucket with some disinfecting fluid. This process was really ineffective, because you stood up, and the fellow sprayed the stuff on to you as you turned around. Of course, the clothes underneath were not affected in any way. T trust that the arrangements will be much better under the new regime. The whole system was of such a nature that it might just as well be done without, so far as the disinfecting of patients and clothes is concerned. It was of the most primitive, not to say obsolete, character. We ought to know what is being done there. We are kept in the dark as to what is being done in too many of these matters. The whole thing is left to directors, and if the direction is no better than it has been, honorable members and others, who have had practical experience, ought to be allowed to make inspections and offer suggestions. T am sure I could make suggestions that would greatly improve the state of affairs that was in existence when we landed at North Head. When works costing £20,000 are in progress there, we should be given particulars of them, and have the plans and specifications laid before us.
– The honorable member for Lang raised the point now referred to by the honorable member for Herbert, and I informed him that since some members of the House had been in quarantine at North Head station, we had authorized the expenditure of a large sum there. I think that £8,000 of it has already been spent. Some buildings are completed, and others are nearing completion, and the honorable member would see a great difference there now. I shall bring the matter of the ineffective fumigation under the notice of the authorities, and shall be pleased to hear from the honorable member any suggestions that he has to make for improving the methods of disinfection.
.- Clause 9 seems to be based on very laudable motives, but there are several features about it which require explanation as to how its provisions will work in practice. It says that the master of any vessel shall, while his vessel is at a proclaimed place, and during the voyage to Australia, take all precautionary measures to prevent the introduction into Australia of quarantinable disease. It is then provided that he shall be guilty of an offence if, having failed to comply with the preceding provision, he suffers his vessel to enter any port or place in Australia. This is an attempt to impose duties upon the master of a vessel on the high seas, out of the territorial jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. If we have power of that kind, it is all very well, and it should be enforced. The draftsman lias evidently endeavoured, in this clause, to create and establish an offence in the same terms as the section in the Customs Act, which makes the breaking of a Customs seal upon the high seas an offence. In that case the distinct offence is entering into port with the seals broken. That is an offence capable of being investigated, as coming within the jurisdiction of the Courts. Here, however, although evidently an attempt is being made to create an extra territorial offence, there may be some difficulty in enforcing it. I do not want to offer any objection, but I would draw attention to the possibility of the clause breaking down in actual practice. This Parliament has no jurisdiction over ships on the high seas, and if the Government are successful in bringing them within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, I can only congratulate them. There is another, weakness in the clause that will probably cause it to break down in practice. The master of a ship on the high seas approaching Australia is required to take certain precautionary measures to prevent the introduction into Australia of quarantinable disease; but no attempt is made to define the nature of those precautionary measures. They are, apparently, left to the discretion of the master of the ship; but the clause further provides that it will be a defence if the master satisfies the Court that he was not aware of the precautionary measures required to be taken by him. What is the use of requiring him to take precautionary measures without denning them ? If we do not define them, he can easily plead, if he is afterwards prosecuted, that he was not aware of what was required of him. Why not define the precautionary measures to be taken?
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Bendigo struck me ; but I think the decision in the case of Kingston v. Gadd gives a very wide stretch to that principle, and seems to cover the point. We have the power to prevent people coming to Australia altogether, and can impose conditions on them coming here. In the case of Ah Toy v. Musgrave it was held that th» Collector of Customs . could not be sued for assault in preventing the landing of a Chinaman, on the ground that no alien had a right to land in the territory, although the matter might be a subject tor diplomatic remonstrance. It struck me that the provision in this clause is a very wide extension of the principle of Kingston v. Gadd, which was almost an exception in itself to the modern principles of law. Under sub-clause 3, as the honorable member for Bendigo pointed out, if a master can show that he was not aware of the precautionary measures required, it will be a defence.
– The precautionary measures are not specified.
– It is provided that he must take “ all precautionary measures which are prescribed by the regulations.” If he can show that some regulations have been published which could not have reached his knowledge, that will be a defence. It might be better to provide that it shall be a defence if the master can prove that he took all reasonable means to ascertain whether any such measures were necessary on his part, and then add the words “ and to prevent the introduction into Australia of any quarantinable disease.” As the clause stands, although a master may have been guilty of negligence, the very thing which the clause prohibits, he will be able, in nine cases out of ten, to set up a successful defence.
– The precautionary measures to be taken in respect of any proclaimed place will be prescribed by the regulations. The masters of vessels coming, for instance, from Rio Janeiro, where yellow fever is endemic, would have to take certain precautions. The master of a vessel coming from that port to Australia would be liable, unless he took proper precautions regarding passengers coming on to his ship there.
– How will he know what precautions he will have to take?
– I will guarantee that there is hardly a shipping agent in Australia who does not know more about the Quarantine Act and the amending Bill now before the Committee than almost any member of the House. If a captain is coming to Australia, it is his duty to know what the conditions of quarantine are. I do not think there would be the difficulty the honorable member for Bendigo anticipates. A similar provision is in existence in the United States, which absolutely leads the world, so far as quarantine measures are concerned. With the opening of the Panama Canal we shall have to be very careful. If there had been proper inspection in the case of the Otway, the infected boy would not have been brought here ; and we know that there were two or three deaths at Point Nepean in consequence of that outbreak.
.- Is it fair or just that the owners of vessels should be saddled with all the expense ? This may be the practice in other places, but it does not make it any the more just. A ship is put into quarantine for the benefit of the whole community, and the whole community should bear the expense. Such a clause as this might lead to those responsible on a vessel withholding information as to any communicable disease, if the vessel were intending to merely call and land passengers.
– The honorable member for Herbert is, I think, under a misapprehension. As I read the clause, the owners have to bear the expense only in a case where, on a vessel arriving from a proclaimed place, the prescribed precautionary measures have not been taken through negligence on the part of the captain or officers. I agree with the honorable member that, generally speaking, when disease has been introduced through no negligence or fault of those connected with the vessel, it is unjust that expense should be put on the shoulders of the owner. Under such circumstances, the charge should be that of the whole community for whose protection the ship is quarantined. Owners, shippers, and passengers are necessarily put to a great deal of inconvenience, and indirect, as well as direct, expense. Only in cases of neglect should the owners of the ship be liable.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Herbert would be more appropriately discussed under clause 23, which deals directly with the liability of the owner or agent for the expenses of quarantine. The quarantine stations, with all their appurtenances as they are to-day, are worth probably£300,000, while the additions will mean from£150,000 to £200,000, and the annual outlay amounts to about , £25,000. On the average over the last ten or a dozen years, the Commonwealth has paid 75 per cent. to 85 per cent. of the whole of the quarantine charges, allowing the shipping companies to escape with 15 per cent. to 25 per cent.
– It is merely an insurance premium.
– It is an insurance premium which involves a very stiff payment. As I pointed out previously, the whole of the regular staff is paid by the Commonwealth, and it is only when extra assistance is necessary that the shipping companies are called upon to contribute.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Liability of owner or agent for expenses of quarantine).
– Notwithstanding what has been said by the Minister of Trade and Customs, I adhere to the opinion that the cost of quarantine, when the fault does not lie at the door of the owner, agents, or servants of the owner, should properly be borne by the community. After all, this is only a matter of insurance against the introduction of disease, which might not only cause immense expense, but involve the loss of valuable lives. An outbreak of quarantinable disease on board a ship is as much a misfortune to the owners, passengers, shippers, and consignees as it is to the community at large; and if such an outbreak be the result of adverse and unforeseen circumstances, due to no fault on the part of those connected with the ship, it seems un fair to make the owners liable for the expenses.
– What does the honorable member propose?
– I agree with the honorable member for Herbert that, under such circumstances, it is a fair charge on the community which orders the ship into quarantine for its own protection. On the vessel on which I, with other honorable members, was quarantined recently, we were treated in a most handsome manner by the owners of the vessel. Orders were sent from head-quarters at Tokio that everything had to be done for the comfort and convenience of the passengers, regardless of expense. This order was carried out, notwithstanding that in the contract a stipulation was made that in case of quarantine the passengers would have to bear certain charges for the supply of meals, and so forth ; and altogether the passengers were treated most generously. Nothing was left undone to prevent the spread of infection or to promote the comfort of all on board ; and we all agreed that it was most unfair to call on the owners to pay the expense entailed by the detention of the vessel, seeing that the ordinary expenses, apart from the maintenance of the passengers, must have been very considerable.
– As I stated a little earlier, this provision acts as a wholesome deterrent on the shipping companies. Our liability amounts to more than 75 per cent. of the whole cost, because we have to keep the quarantine stations always in readiness. The complaint of the shipping companies is a natural one, but I think that the charge on them is legitimate. No doubt they are careful, but I see no need for altering the law.
– In the case referred to, an Australian passenger boarded a vessel bound for Australia at an Eastern port, and at the time was to all appearances as healthy as is any member in the Chamber, but on the voyage to Australia she developed small-pox, and the company was put to heavy expense by reason of the quarantining of the vessel. It seems a hardship that in cases like that a company should have to bear the whole cost of maintaining the quarantined passengers.
– A company has not to bear the whole cost.
– In the case which has been mentioned the passenger who developed smallpox was “an Australian lady who was returning to Australia. The captain and the doctor of the vessel on which she fell ill, knowing that she and her husband had been visiting places infected with small-pox, although the ship had not called at them, strongly advised them to be vaccinated as soon as they went on board, notwithstanding that they were apparently in the best of health.
– The man had been vaccinated.
– The lady had not been vaccinated, and the doctor and the captain, to encourage and give confidence to her and other passengers, had themselves vaccinated, although already immune by reason of former vaccination. The lady, however, declined to be vaccinated, and, unfortunately, developed small-pox. Although everything possible was done to prevent sickness from occurring, the vessel being kept as spick and span as a man of war, and thoroughly and regularly fumigated, disease broke out, and the expense of quarantine had to be borne by the company. It struck me as a particularly hard case.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 (Amendment of section 87 of Principal Act).
.- Provision is made for the examination by the quarantine authorities of animals and plants for export, but evidently the Government does not intend to regulate the transport from State to State of produce or plants which may be diseased.
– There is a doubt as to our power.
– I am glad that the quarantine law is being strengthened in accordance with the recommendations of the Director of Quarantine, but it would have been well had some attempt been made to meet the growing need for regulating the trade in produce between the States. Every season, on the appearance of the least sign of disease in, say, potatoes or other produce, the business of the Commonwealth is thrown into confusion, to the great inconvenience and loss of the merchants and growers, and to the detriment of the public. The growers complain that the authorities of other States unfairly exclude their produce, in the interests of their own citizens. The position has so often given rise to complaints that the Government should have made some attempt to ascertain the constitutional power of the Commonwealth in regard to it. According to the opinion given by the honorable member for Angas when Attorney-General, we have power to deal with this matter.
– Bad potatoes should be quarantined in any case.
– There can be no trade in bad produce, but at the presenttime food fit for human consumption is often destroyed, and it is a sin to allow good food to go to waste at a time when prices are so high. Some years ago the Victorian authorities suddenly quarantined some thousands of bags of Tasmanian potatoes after having promised to give three weeks’ notice before prohibiting importations.
– Those potatoes were infected with Irish blight.
– Yes, but not badly ; they were very good for food.
– When that happened Tasmania sent her potatoes to New South Wales.
– New South Wales has always been an excellent customer for our potatoes. The Federal Parliament ought to take a hand as scon as possible to regulate the passage of produce from State to State. Every year when a little trouble arises, the whole community dealing in produce is thrown into an uncertain state. They blame the authorities of the States, and un-Federal feeling is aroused which is against the interests of the community. We ought to have a body of Federal inspectors, who should have power to say “yes” or “no” as to whether stuff is fit to go into consumption. Producers should know that they can get fair play from a body of men who will have no interest in favouring one State against another. We certainly ought to get rid of the trouble that now exists.
Last year, some potatoes were sent from Victoria to Queensland. They were passed by the Victorian inspectors, but were condemned by. the Queensland inspectors. They were sent back to this State, and remained here for some weeks. The Victorian inspectors examined them again, and declared them to be absolutely free from disease. That sort of thing is happening too frequently, and the business people have reason to complain. Although the Minister of Trade and Customs has done some very good work in connexion with this Bill, I regret to say that, in my opinion, he has not fairly tackled the question with which I have been dealing. He promised Parliament two or three years ago that he would give serious attention to it, and it is time that action was taken.
– I must say I am in accord with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Wilmot. Although Australia is federated, I am afraid that some States have been using their health laws and other powers to prevent that free stream of trade in commodities which is supposed to exist between the States of the Commonwealth. I think that sort of thing ought to be stopped. Perhaps it would puzzle a wiser man than myself, or it may be any of us, to deal with the trouble in a thoroughly effective way. But people ought to know that the practice referred to is unconstitutional, and that one State has no right to keep out the produce of another State on any pretext whatever other than to prevent injury being done to a part of the Community.
– That is all that is done now.
– My own personal knowledge will not allow me to agree with the right honorable member on that point.
– I never knew of such a case.
– I can only hope that a healthy sentiment on the subject will be established, and that it will be recognised that it is not right for States in a Federation to interfere with the trade of each other. At any rate, the matter will not be lost sight of in the future.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported, without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Governor-General recommending that an appropriation be made for the purposes of this Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to compensation to workmen employed in the service of the Commonwealth for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to intimate that to-morrow we propose to deal with the Tasmanian Grant Bill, the Workmen’s Compensation Bill, and, perhaps, also the Designs Bill and the Trade Marks Bill. We shall afterwards deal with Supply.
.- I remember asking a question some time ago about making provision for persons not naturalized, when an amendment was made in the Old-age Pensions Act.
– We propose to take action on that subject.
– I think an undertaking was given that the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance should be dealt with before the end of the month.
– Quite correct.
– We are to take it, then, that the matter will be dealt with before the end of the month ?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121023_reps_4_67/>.