5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Expenditure - Return by Newspaper Proprietors - PostalVote.
– I draw the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the following provision of the electoral law: -
Section 172A (8).- The Chief Electoral Officer may, by notice in writing in the prescribed form, require the President or Chairman, and the Secretary or other officer of any trades union, registered or unregistered, organization, association, league, or body of persuns, or any person, within such time, not being less than one month, as is specified in the notice, to make a return in accordance with this section of any money expended or expense incurred in respect of which a return is required to be made under sub-section (1) or sub-section (a) of this section, and the President or Chairman, and Secretary or other officer or person who neglects or refuses to comply with the notice shall be guilty of an offence, and liable to a penalty not exceeding Five hundred pounds and not less than One hundred pounds, or to imprisonment for any period not exceeding six months.
Every return filed in pursuance of this section shall, subject to the regulations, be open to public inspection.
As Mr. Herbert Brookes stated at a meeting at Brunswick, at which the VicePresident of the Executive Council was present, that £500 was sent to Western Australia during the electoral campaign, to be used for political purposes, and as there is no statement of accounts in the Home Affairs Department showing how the money was spent, I wish to know whether the Chief Electoral Officer has done his duty in not communicating with Mr. Herbert BrookeB on the subject?
– I suggest that notice should be given of the question, but I am informed that the time within which returns must be made has not yet expired.
– Will the Honorary Minister lay upon the table a return under section 173b of the Electoral Actt
– The honorable member asks me whether I will lay on the table a return under section 172b, which reads -
The proprietor or publisher of a newspaper published in the Commonwealth shall, in accordance with this section, make or cause to be made a return setting out the amount of electoral matter in connexion with the election inserted in his newspaper, in respect of which payment was or is to be made-
I shall make inquiries to see whether the request can be conveniently granted.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he noticed in yesterday’s Age a report from the Women’s Political Association of Victoria, stating that on the previous evening that body had passed a resolution condemning the proposal of the Government to restore the postal vote on the ground that a loophole would be left for the manipulation of that vote, and also because it would have a tendency to relieve women of their political duty (
– No, I have not been made aware of it. It only shows that the ladies are like the men - they have differences of opinion on different subjects.
– Yesterday I promised, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, to obtain information regarding a contract or agreement made with the Government of Western Australia in reference to the supply of sleepers for the transcontinental railway. The information with which I have been furnished is tins -
The statement in regard to the supply of about 60,000 jar rah sleepers, and the powellized karri sleepers not being due until November, is correct. A draft agreement was prepared by the Federal Crown Solicitor and forwarded to the State Government for approval and signature, but that Government, desiring a different wording, prepared, signed, and forwarded an amended draft agreement. The Commonwealth could not agree to the amended draft, and after some telegraphic communication the State Government intimated that it was willing to agree to the Commonwealth wording. It was anticipated that a fresh draft would be prepared and signed in Western Australia, as asked in the Engineer-in-Chief’s telegram, but some misapprehension seems to have arisen as to whether the State or Commonwealth should have the fresh document prepared for signature.
I am taking steps to have the matter
– On the 11th inst., the honorable member for Nepean asked me how many telephone lines in his division, passed by the Department, are being delayed through shortage of staff. An interim reply was given, and the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has now furnished the following information : -
No public telephone lines authorized by this Department in the Nepean electorate are being delayed through shortage of staff.
There were a few telephone subscribers’ lines in that electorate delayed through shortage of material, but they are now in hand.
Colonel RYRIE. - I desire to ask the Postmaster-General another question in regard to the clock in the North Sydney
Post Office. Seeing that the clock is already in the building, that the gas pipes are laid into the tower to light the clock, and that the municipal authorities will not pay the gas bill, will the Department pay for the cost of lighting the clock for the convenience of the people of North Sydney ?
– I think that the municipal authorities of North Sydney must be pretty mean when they will not light the clock.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if he has called for plans or designs for the building of the Federal city, and, if not, when he intends to do so, and whether the invitation will be confined to local architects, or will be made world-wide?
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has a question on the notice-paper dealing with the subject. Whether designs shall be open to the competition of the architects of the world, or restricted to those of Australia, is a matter which is now under my consideration.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Removal of Sydney Quarantine Station - Small-pox Outbreak - Escape of Patients - Isolation of Contacts - Site for New Quarantine Station near Sydney.
Colonel RYRIE. - Has the Minister of Trade and Customs considered the many representations that have been made to him, and to his predecessor, as to the desirableness of removing the Sydney quarantine station from its present position, it being now in proximity to the populous suburb of Manly?
– The honorable member is anticipating a question on the notice-paper.
Colonel RYRIE. - I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he is prepared to receive a deputation consisting of the mayor and representatives of Manly in regard to the removal of the quarantine restrictions there; and, if so, can he fix an approximate date for the reception of that deputation ?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me some time ago-
– All well arranged.
– As a matter of fact, the honorable member mentioned it to me when I was passing through Sydney the other day. At that time it was found that it was impossible to make an Arrangement to receive a deputation.
– Is there any necessity to ask a Minister whether he will receive a deputation ?
– I then told the honorable member that I would be glad to receive a deputation, and I assure him now that, on the first occasion that I visit Sydney, I will be only too pleased to do so.
– Following up the question which was asked by the honorable member for North Sydney of the Minister of Trade and Customs, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether any new procedure has been adopted under which it is necessary to ask a Minister on the floor of the House whether he will receive a deputation ?
– No different method has been adopted so far as I am aware.
– Is there any necessity to ask whether a deputation will be received ?
– May I suggest that that is a matter entirely within the discretion of the honorable member who chooses to ask a question. May not any honorable member upon this side of the House ask a question ?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
In reply to another question which the honorable member for Gwydir put to me yesterday, I may say that on receiving the Hansard proof this morning I found that what the honorable member asked was whether I contended that all contacts had been isolated in Sydney. I desire now to say that all contacts were not isolated.
– I thought so. That is just the evil of the whole matter.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– In connexion with the welcome that is to be extended to the most recent additions to the fleet on their arrival in Sydney on Saturday week, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to invite the Parliament of New South Wales to take part in that welcome ?
– I am very glad that the honorable member has asked this question, because it enables me to refer to a statement which appears in this morning’s newspapers, and which emanates from the Premier of New South Wales and some members of the Labour Party in that State. I wish to say that at least as much courtesy will be shown to the Parliament of New South Wales as the Government of that State showed to this Parliament in connexion with the recent banquet which they held. To that banquet, I believe, only the Prime Minister was invited.
– I was invited.
– I think that my honorable colleague was invited and attended in my stead. Where there is any room for complaint on their part I fail to see. I hope that we shall treat them much better than that. I understand that the Whip has ascertained that there will be a large number of honorable members journeying to New South Wales to witness the arrival of the flagship Australia and her consort, and if they will let us know exactly what are their requirements we will take steps to see that they are made comfortable.
– I presume that the quarantine will be raised before then ?
– I advise my honorable friend to be vaccinated, and thus to set a good example.
– Does the Prime Minister wish to kill the Leader of the Opposition ? Is that his little game ? Vaccinate ! A nnihilate !
– If I thought that vaccination would have the same effect on the tongue of the Leader of the Opposition as it has had on the honorable member’s tongue, I should hesitate before recommending him to be vaccinated.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence why the new vessels of the Australian Fleet on their arrival are to be taken into the danger zone, seeing that there are so many clean ports to which they might have been taken?
– I do not knowwhether the vessels are being taken into the danger zone. No doubt all on board have been vaccinated, and are ready to face anything - even an enemy of that kind.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. While the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs was speaking yesterday, he said that I was a justice of the peace for South Australia. I want to say that I am not. The lateRight Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston made me a justice of the peace, but I refused to pay the 10s. to take out the commission, because I recognised that I was a partisan, and, therefore, in the capacity of a justice, could not act fairly to my opponents.
– Has the Prime Minister taken into consideration the possible effect of the unseemly exhibition by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs last night?
– The honorable member is out of order in making a reflection of that kind in asking a question.
– May I put my question in this way : As Ministers areanxious to get on with business, will they protect the House from such pugnaciousreferences and buffoonery as were indulged in last night by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs when introducing a measure ?
– The question is not properly allowable. Our standing order provides that, after notice has been given, questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs, and, according to May, questions addressed to Ministers should relate to the public affairs with which they are officially connected, proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any matter of public importance for which they are responsible. I have called attention to this matter before, but the honorable member may not have been here at the time.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has been severely admonished by the Cabinet for his conduct of yesterday?
– Order !
– All I have to say on that point is that if admonition is necessary, it is doubly necessary with regard to the Opposition for the scandalous way they treated him. I have never seen a Minister so treated before.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it istrue, as reported, that Ministers have introduced a new system of party government, and have abandoned their Caucus meetings for that which they call a Ministerial party meeting?
– That is not a proper question.
– One portion of the honorable member’s question related to the conduct of public business last evening, and, if I am in order, sir, I would like to answer it.
– I object. I was not allowed to get in my statement.
– I understood that the honorable member asked whether I would prevent the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs from making pugnacious statements. I wish to say-
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order! I am prepared to decide this question at once. The answer to that part of the question to which reference has been made by the Prime Minister was embodied in my reply to the honorable member just now. I am responsible for the conduct of the proceedings of this House.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Brisbane, under cover of a question to which he afterwards sought to deny a reply, cast a serious reflection upon a Minister in this
Chamber. I ask that that reflection should be withdrawn.
– Order ! I have already ruled that the question of the honorable member for Brisbane was out of order.
– Yesterday afternoon I drew the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to certain allegations made in connexion with carrying out the agreement between the ex-Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland, and he replied that if I would give him a definite assurance regarding noncompliance with the conditions of the agreement, he would make inquiries. I desire to know if he has taken any steps in that direction.
– Last night the honorable member gave me definite information in telegrams. I have already given instructions for the allegations to be remitted forthwith to Queensland, and requested that the attention of the Premier be drawn to them.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Cane Inspectors were employed by the Customs Department in Queensland and New South Wales last sugar season ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to know whether anything has been done to improve the ventilation of this place in which we are called upon to sit from day to day?
– The honorable member asked me a question on this subject a few days ago, and my predecessor, the honorable member for Kennedy, explained pretty fully what steps’ had been taken to improve the ventilation of the chamber. I do not know that it is necessary for me to elaborate that statement more than to say that large sums have been expended in the effort to improve the ventilation, and certainly the ventilation has been improved by comparison with what honorable members in previous Parliaments have experienced here. I have asked our own engineer to inquire into a scheme which is proposed by a recentlyestablished firm here for ozonizing the atmosphere of the chamber. Whether that will be effective or not, I do not know, but I propose to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the presence of the British Parliamentary visitors to inquire as to their experience of the experiment of the House of Commons under the same system; and, later on, I shall be able to give the honorable member and the House the benefit of the information obtained.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer - Is it a fact that tenders are being invited for offices for the InterState Commission for a term of five years, and is it intended that they shall make their head-quarters in Melbourne for that period ? Again, I would ask, what is wrong with Canberra as the head-quarters of this body?
– I invite my honorable friend to put the question to the Minister of Trade and Customs, in whose Department the matter is.
– I will put the question to the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– Of necessity, offices must be provided in Melbourne, where the members and officers of the Commission may be located. I hope, however, that Australia will be regarded as the headquarters of the Inter-State Commission - that the Commission will move about in making their inquiries.
– The Minister is “side-tracking” me.
– That is not so. The Commission will make inquiries wherever necessity arises, but there must be some definite centre where the officers can be located to carry on the business of the Commission.
– Is the Minister aware that applications have been invited to provide quarters for the Commission in Melbourne for the next five years ?
– I am aware that inquiries are being made for the purpose of obtaining offices in order to house the members and staff of the Commission.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the fact that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank lias been raising a large loan for the Wagga Municipal Council, and, if so, will he see that the same facilities are extended to the farmers throughout the country districts?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter, nor was I aware of it till now.
– Has the Treasurer knowledge from reports of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, that not only has he granted loans to public bodies, but also to farmers and business people of every kind, carrying on the usual business of a bank?
– I should be obliged if the honorable member would, give notice of a question, and then I should be able to answer him.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the interest being charged by the Commonwealth Bank to municipal bodies and the Metropolitan Board of Works is 4 per cent., whereas the farmer is being asked to pay 6 per cent. ? What is the reason for the difference ?
– I am not aware. I am not in the secret of what tha Bank is doing.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the Commonwealth Bank is giving any better terms to the Metropolitan Board of Works or to municipalities than any other bank is doing, and whether it is charging as high a rate of interest to farmers as other banks are doing ?
– If the honorable member will give notice of a question I shall be able to make inquiries of the Governor of the Bank.
– Will the Treasurer endeavour to persuade the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to* establish a branch at Burnie, the gate of Darwin, in Tasmania - a rich farming country.
– Are you interfering with the Bank?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of a question. I believe that the establishment of branches is a matter altogether in the discretion of the Governor.
– They are trying to use political influence.
– i wish to ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that while the Commonwealth Bank is charging 4 per cent, to corporations it is charging 6 per cent, to farmers?
– I am not aware. If the honorable member will give notice of the question I shall make inquiries of the Governor.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer if it is possible to lay on the table of the House a list of the advances made to farmers by the Commonwealth Bank - a list, without the names?
– I shall look into the matter and make inquiries; but 1 advise the honorable member to give notice of a question, so that I may have the terms of his request to forward to the Governor of the Bank.
– Will the Treasurer obtain information from the Governor of the Bank as to the amount that has been lent, and the class of securities given, together with the amount earned by the Bank in its loan business ?
– I shall be glad to make the inquiry*
Distribution of Tasmanian Fruit in Sydney.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to take action to prevent dislocation and interruption of commerce between the States, and to secure freetrade between the States, as provided by section 02 of the Commonwealth Constitution?
– It is understood the honorable member’s question refers to some difficulty arising owing to the existence of a strike in Sydney which has affected the unloading or distribution of Tasmanian fruit. Inquiry into the facts is now being made.
Boring for Artesian Waters
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
There is no evidence of the existence of artesian water in the Territory north of Charlotte Waters; but the Government entered into a contract for the sinking of a trial artesian bore at Anthony’s Lagoon, on the Barklay Tablelands. The contractors failed to carry out the work, and the agreement was then cancelled. Further inquiries were made with a view of putting down both artesian and sub-artesian bores on the tablelands, and on the overland telegraph line between Powell’s Creek and Bitter Springs, but the prices quoted by the boring company were considered too high. It is intended, when money asked for on the Estimates is available, to engage a foreman and a boring party to commence operations to procure subartesian water, and provide troughs, &c, between the Queensland border and the overland telegraph line.
Appointment of Inspector
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Military College- Statutory Rules 1913, No. 236.
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 235.
Military Forces - (Regulations) - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 233, 237. (Financial and Allowance) - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 231, 232, 234.
Small-pox Outbreak - Quarantining of Sydney.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for East Sydney that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz. -
The action of the State Health Board of New South Wales, and its recommendation that it is no longer necessary for the Proclamation of Sydney and 15 miles of Sydney Post Office as an infected area.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I take this action in order to remove an unjust stigma that has been cast on the people of Australia. Ever since the issue of the proclamation I have been endeavouring, to the best of my ability as a public representative, to induce the Minister of Trade and Customs to remove the restrictions from which the people of Sydney and the surrounding districts are suffering.
– The Clerk has just called my attention to the fact, which had escaped my notice, that this discussion anticipates a notice of motion set down by the honorable member for Gwydir on the business-paper for to-morrow in the following terms: -
That - with a view to putting an end to the suffering, sacrifice of human life, and the commercial, industrial, and domestic stagnation in the State of New South Wales, resulting from the proclamation and administration of the laws governing small-pox epidemics - this House it of opinion that the proclamation should be cancelled, and that isolation, combined with sanitary reform, the true enemy of small-pox, should be substituted for the present injurious methods.
Both motions, it seems to me, have reference to an identical subject.
– I am not ignorant of what appears on the notice-paper, but I am now asking the House, as a matter of urgency, to deal with the action of the Health Board of New South Wales.
Mr.Fisher. - I think the motions are different.
– If it is desired to discuss the subject to-day, it would be more regular, I think, if the honorable member for Gwydir were to temporarily withdraw his motion.
– In view of that suggestion I should like a little advice. If I withdraw the notice of motion to-day, can I reinstate it for discussion tomorrow.
– The honorable member will have to give fresh notice of motion to-morrow.
– He could give notice, by leave, to-night.
– By leave of the House, yes.
– We do not desire two discussions on the same subject.
– At present, it seems to me that the motion before us is out of order, because it covers practically the same ground as that covered by the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir.
– I am not at all anxious that a motion of the kind should be brought on now; but, with all due deference to you, sir, I doubt whether the two motions really deal with the same subject. The motion of the honorable member for East Sydney has reference to the act of a body altogether apart from the Commonwealth.
– But in consequence of that act the honorable member is asking for a repeal of the proclamation.
– The urgency, I understand, arises out of something done by another body, altogether apart from the Commonwealth.
– That is only urged as a reason for repealing the proclamation; both motions ask for a repeal, but on different grounds.
– This, of course, is quite a non-party question. If the placing of a general motion on the notice-paper in reference to a big subject like this can prevent the discussion of, perhaps, a proposal of much greater importance than the original motion, the functions of Parliament could be abrogated by merely filling up the paper. I think, Mr. Speaker, that, strictly, your ruling is too narrow, and might be disastrous in its effect.
– I do not think anything can possibly be said on the subject that could not be said under the motion that appears on the business-paper.
– But when shall we reach that motion ?
– It is down for tomorrow. I should not have the slightest objection to a discussion to-day if that notice of motion were not on the paper for to-morrow.
– There are other motions before the motion referred to.
– But those other motions could, I presume, be postponed. In any case, it is a well-known rule in Parliament that when there is a notice of motion on the paper, the subject of that motion cannot be made the subject of another one. In the present case it is, after all, only a minor branch of the subject that is touched by the motion of the honorable member for East Sydney, and I think the matter might well wait until to-morrow. We shall facilitate its discussion tomorrow in every way we can.
– On the point of order-
– I am quite prepared to give my decision. I have been looking carefully through the motion and also through the notice of motion given by the honorable member for Gwydir, with the result that it seems to me that the subjects are practically identical, so that the same range of discussion will cover both. That being so, I have no option, under the Standing Orders, but to rule that the discussion of this motion at the present time would be out of order. Standing order 117 provides that -
No motion or amendment shall anticipate an Order of the Day or another motion of which notice has been given
The motion of which notice has already been given by the honorable member for Gwydir practically covers all the ground covered by the motion which the honorable member for East Sydney has just handed in.
– It is a good way of “ burking “ the discussion of an urgent matter.
– May I proceed to refer to this matter, Mr. Speaker, without giving notice of motion to disagree with your ruling ?
– I hesitate very much to give notice of a motion to disagree with your ruling, since I always desire to support the Chair.
– Order! The Speaker’s ruling may not be discussed, except on motion to dissent therefrom in proper form.
– Then, sir, I shall have to move that your ruling be disagreed with
– An audible remark was just made by an honorable member, although I cannot say that it was intended to apply to me, that this was an attempt to “ burke “ discussion. I may say that I am only ruling in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– If I am the member to whom you refer, Mr. Speaker, I can only say that I had no intention whatever of reflecting on your decision. Looking across the chamber to the Ministerial side of the House, I said that the giving of a notice of motion of a general character might be resorted to in the future as a means of “ burking “ discussion. What I meant was that an honorable member could be debarred from bringing forward some urgent and important matter because of the appearance on the businesspaper of a general notice of motion relating to the same subject.
– This is a speech to which there should be a reply.
– I am advised, Mr. Speaker, that a motion to disagree with your ruling would not come on for discussion until to-morrow. That being so, I shall not move that your ruling be disagreed with.
Debate resumed from 16th September (vide page 1240), on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I agree with the statement made yesterday by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs that no more important matter could be dealt with by this House than that of the franchise, and especially the franchise of a country which is ruled on a democratic basis, and controlled by responsible government. The speech delivered by the honorable gentleman was, however, singularly free from evidence of any abuse of the rights and privileges of the electors during the last general election. Both before and after that election, every Liberal organization, and many Liberal supporters, echoed and re-echoed throughout Australia the cry - and, indeed, the statement was made where it could be heard overseas - that the conduct of the election was immoral and wicked. The suggestion was made that a large number of the electors of Australia were so immoral and so corrupt that they had voted more than once. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, in moving the second reading of this Bill yesterday, however, had not a tittle of evidence, nor did he make even a suggestion, that there was any ground for such an assertion. He was content to say that Ministers were going to extend the franchise. But honorable members will search in vain through this Bill for any indication of an extension. They will find alterations of the law, and proposals to embarrass the electors in every way, but little else. The Minister actually had the audacity to say that the Government had not changed their attitude since they first made allegations regarding the conduct of the elections. He said that the Opposition had not made any complaint until after the investigations had taken place. The honorable gentleman is entirely wrong. I cannot believe that he wilfully desired to mislead the public. . But, as a matter of fact, immediately after Parliament met, on the very first day, when the allegations were still ringing in our ears, and members of the Government were supporting them, I said in my place, speaking for the Opposition, that I believed there was not a tittle of evidence in support of those allegations, and that, as far as I was concerned, I believed that the people of Australia were the most honest and upright people in the world in the matter of electoral conduct. That observation can be found recorded in Hansard, and ought to be known to the Minister. It was thought that the AttorneyGeneral wanted an investigation, and I immediately accepted the opportunity. We also had a desire for an investigation. Some of my friends thought that the Government had exceeded their public duty in announcing that an investigation would be made before they had met Parliament, after being constituted as a Government. But many of us felt - I, at any rate, felt strongly, as a result of a long public life in Australia - that there was ample reason for trusting in the sound common sense and honesty of our people. I therefore considered that these allegations demanded the most serious investigation, and that the completest evidence should be brought forth. What is the position now ? There is not a single suggestion that anything was wrong at the elections. According to public statements made, there were thousands of duplications in one electorate. It was alleged that at Ballarat the cemetery gates had opened, and the dead had voted, and voted more than once. We hear nothing of that kind now. The investigations that have taken place, both publicly and privately, have demonstrated that there was less duplication in Ballarat than anywhere else. There was only one case amongst 33,000 voters; and I understand that there is reason to believe, according to the reports of those who know most about that individual, that he is not likely to belong to the Opposition party. Even, however, if we take our half-share of that one case, surely the whole people of Australia are not to be condemned because one person in 33,000 in one electorate committed an offence.
– He may have made a mistake.
– I am taking the most extreme view when I say “ he may have committed, an offence.” What was the evidence given to the House by the Minister to show the necessity for the protection of the ballot against fraud and criminal intent? He said that there were no fewer than 144,764 Police Court convictions in ‘Australia in a year. What analogy is there between Police Court convictions and fraudulent voting at an election? I should like to know whether the Attorney-General and those associated with him would put persons convicted at Police Courts for petty offences in the same category as a person who votes more than once at an election ?
– Certainly not.
– The Minister in charge of this Bill brought forward no other evidence to justify the statements made by Ministers, except that there were many criminals in Australia, and many persons who had been convicted at Police Courts. There can be no analogy between the offences committed by those persons and offences under our Electoral Act. If that be the evidence on which the Go- vernment wish to alter the whole basis of our electoral law, I can only express my conviction that the people of Australia will not be willing that this Parliament shall do what the Government desire it to do. As regards the question of the amount of duplication which took place, and the number of fraudulent votes that were given, I should like to ask the Minister whether he has any evidence to give us now, while this debate is proceeding, regarding the conduct of the investigations from the time when they were inaugurated until the present time? I have been unable to find an official statement to justify any of the allegations made by the Minister himself. This is a matter upon which there ought to be no holding back of information by the Government. It is a matter that ought to be dealt with in the fairest and most open way. It is not even a party question.
– Has any information been withheld from the honorable member?
– If no information has been withheld, evidently there is none to give.
– We have given all that, the Opposition have asked for.
– I understood from statements made by the Minister in answer to questions, and from statements made by other Ministers, that this Government were determined to make the fullest possible investigation into duplicate voting. Have they done so? They have had ample time. Is it true that they have employed private detectives in some electorates and have discovered nothing? We know that it is true that they have had a legal investigation under the superintendence of scrutineers, and discovered nothing by that method. Not only did they discover nothing sensational, but they discovered nothing in the nature of evidence against the honesty of the ordinary voter. If there is other evidence, I hope that it will be forthcoming.
– The Government acted on the instruction of the leagues outside.
– I do not care what they acted on. I speak for this side of the. House when I say that the more complete the investigation is the better we shall be pleased. This House ought to be given the whole of the evidence upon which the Government rely to justify this proposed alteration of the law. This matter of electoral irregularities was used as a political cry. It was aimed at the
Opposition. Unfortunately, it has injured the good name of Australia outside this country. The Government are responsible for that; but their tactics are not different from those of the so-called Liberal party in this House since the present Parliament first met. They were always denouncing the people of Australia, decrying the White Australia policy, and our social reforms for the amelioration of the conditions of the struggling masses. These tactics not now being available to them, they raise the cry that the electors are not to be trusted.
– Does not my right honorable friend say that the electors are not to be trusted with the postal vote?
– I have always held that, whenever it is possible to increase the facilities for voting, it should be done.
– When it can be done with safety.
– Why is it not safe to intrust the people with the right to vote by post?
– Because evidence shows that the postal system of voting lends itself to the worst fraud and deceitMr. Kelly. - I gave the full record of the Commonwealth cases yesterday.
– The Honorary Minister left out the most serious.
– The honorable gentleman gave a few Commonwealth cases.
– Every case, according to the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Postal voting has been in operation in the States as well as in the Commonwealth. One of the States has abandoned it because it was found to be absolutely subversive of individual freedom.
– Is it not being reintroduced by that State?
– I shall come to that. Queensland abandoned postal voting because, in the opinion of a Liberal Ministry, it was impossible to get the true record of the postal voter’s views.
– Was the Queensland Act identical with what we propose?
– Practically. This is what was said by a Queensland Minister in 1905, when it was proposed to abolish postal voting. The Hon. P. Airey, Home
Secretary, speaking in the Queensland Parli ament, said-
He must emphasize his previously expressed opinion that the introduction of justices of the peace into this particular provision might possibly lead to a great deal of mischief. It might do a great deal in the way of vitiating the validity of elections.
In August, 1907, speaking on the second reading of the Elections Act Amendment Bill, which wiped out the postal vote in Queensland, the Home Secretary, Mr. Hawthorn, referring to the previous elections, said -
No less than 1,302 postal votes never reached the returning officers, with the result that these 1,302 voters lost their votes.
The Premier (Mr. Kidston). - They were lost because they voted for the wrong man.
That was the opinion of the Premier. Mr. Hawthorn also said -
There were cases where justices of the peace were going round where there were two candidates contesting an election. We will say the candidates were Thompson and Williams. They were not supposed to know how the paper was going to be signed, but they were asked if Thompson spelt his name with a “ p.”
A very innocent way in which representatives of political organizations could discover how an elector was going to Tote.
– They used to carry blotting paper.
– Many of them practically carried a bludgeon, saying, in effect, to the wives and daughters of employes, “ Your bread and butter depend upon the way in which yon vote.” Mr. Cowap, who is not a Labour man, said -
They told the women of Mount Morgan to be very careful how they spelt the name.
Mr. Hawthorn. ; Some carried round a piece of blotting paper, which they handed to the voter when she was signing the voting-paper. . . They would see the name of the candidate voted for on the blotting paper.
Mr. Kidston, speaking on the8th August, 1907, said-
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. There are plenty of women in such a position that they can protect themselves. . . But 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.
– When the right honorable gentleman found that there was a good deal of fraud in connexion with the Maternity Allowance, he did not propose to abolish the allowance.
– We discovered that there was very little . fraud in connexion with the Maternity Allowance; so little that it is the marvel of the time, though undoubtedly some persons are prepared to act criminally in connexion with it to gain a pecuniary advantage. I hope that no Government will propose the abolition of the Maternity Allowance because some persons may act criminally in connexion with it. It must be remembered that the misuse of the right to vote by post really deprives electors of the privilege of exercising that right, and, indeed, puts therm in a much worse position than if they/ had not the right, because it permits them to be victimized unless they vote for certain candidates. On the other hand, the persons entitled to the Maternity Allowance cannot be injured by anything fraudulent that may be done by other persons.
– Is there any parallel between the Queensland and Commonwealth postal voting systems? There were no safeguards in the Queensland law.
– If the proposals of this Government are likely to pass, I hope that the honorable member will assist me in imposing the safeguards that exist in the Queensland Act. Mr. Kidston, speaking on the 29th August, 1907, said -
When they tampered with the secrecy of the ballot they struck at the vitals of Democracy. Since he came to Queensland he had seen mere men frightened to vote than ever he saw in the Old Country, when the electors voted openly. He had seen the most contemptible expedients resorted to to influence votes in Queensland. If members . . . wanted to do their duty to Queensland they would strike out the postal vote root and branch. He defied honorable members to show how they could give a postal vote and not open the door to a wholesale interference with the secrecy of the ballot. Tlie great objection to that vote was that when an elector took his ballot-paper to some place away from scrutineers and the returning officer, political agents . . and employers’ agents would be after him to see he voted in the right way^ Whenever they allowed a man to vote outside the ballotbox they destroyed the secrecy of ilu- ballot.
Honorable members will notice how eager Ministers are to have voting done away from the polling booths. How eager they are to get as many persons as possible to vote in their own homes, surrounded by Liberal and influential ladies and gentlemen willing to assist in the process of voting. The Democratic principle always
Las been that voting should be done at the ballot-box, in the presence of responsible officials, and of the scrutineers of the candidates, not behind the scenes, where influence can be brought to bear. I have been asked what are the provisions of the Queensland law at the present time. Let me read one or two of them. The Queensland Elections Act 1913 provides that -
In the case of a sick or infirm elector, however, the application must be attested by a duly qualified medical practitioner or by a qualified nurse, who is in attendance on such elector. Further, no candidate, or agent of a candidate, or agent of an organization, is permitted to attest, or take charge of, or post, any envelope containing a postal vote. Severe penalties are imposed for non-compliance with this provision.
– It is a postal vote all the same.
– I did not say that it was not a postal vote, and I have never said that it is not the duty of Parliament to make it possible for the sick and infirm to register their votes. But it must be done in such a way as to allow them to be perfectly free to vote just as they may desire and not as some other person may wish them to vote. Honorable members will search in vain for any utterance of mine to the contrary. I had always been a strong advocate of the postal vote. I was however compelled, on the evidence adduced, to conclude that the postal vote was more mischievous than beneficial, and it was with reluctance that I consented to its abolition. One would have thought that, because of the action of the late Government in bringing about the repeal of the postal vote, the number of electors who voted at the last election would have been considerably reduced. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs told us yester day that, because this privilege had been withdrawn, no fewer than 77,000 electors had been prohibited from voting at the last elections. What are the facts? At the elections held in 1903, 46.86 per cent, of the electors upon the roll voted; in 1906 the percentage had risen £0 50.21 ; in 1910, it had increased to 62.16; and at the last election it had still further increased to 73.66. There was a larger increase in the number of votes recorded at the last election as compared with the previous election than is to be found in a comparison between any two precedingelections. Indeed, the percentage of those enrolled who voted at the elections during the present year was nearly double that of those who voted in 1903.
– Has the honorable member the number of males and females who voted, because the voting power of women has enormously increased?
– Good luck to them.
– I say the same. But can the honorable member say whether the increase in voting power has not been more in the case of women than in the case of men?
– I think that the percentage of increase has been about the same in the case of women as in the case of men ; but, of course, I am speaking entirely from memory. I am very anxious that all women who are entitled to vote should exercise the franchise. This is a matter of greater importance than that a particular political party should benefit by it. In dealing with this question yesterday, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs skipped very lightly over the fact that, under this Bill, it will be necessary to ask each elector to sign the butt of his or her ballot-paper on polling day. I believe that that is an absolutely impracticable, proposition. I believe that it is entirely unnecessary. The point which the Honorary Minister endeavoured to make was that this proposal would assist in the identification of the voter. To my mind that point was of little value. So far as the cry raised by the Government is concerned, this proposal does not touch it at all. It will not help to identify the voter in any way. It may be of value in identifying the vote-
– That is all that was suggested.
– By his remarks the Honorary Minister conveyed more than that to most honorable members. How- ever, I think he merely intended to say that the signing of the butt would enable the vote to be identified. The identification of the vote, however, will be established by the number which appears on the other part of the butt, and not by the signature.
– Whether a man who represents himself as Tom Jones is really Tom Jones will be discovered by comparing the signature on the butt.
– That remark is based on the assumption that the person who wishes to impersonate will sign himself as Tom Jones.
– If he is impersonating Tom Jones, will he not sign the name Tom Jones? The writing could then be compared.
– How can the writing of a false hand be compared ? Unless the person himself, and not the vote, can be identified, how can Bill Sikes be identified as Tom Jones?
– But when it has been found out that a man has falsely signed a name his vote can be traced, and cast out.
– I admitted that at once. But the Honorary Minister went further, and said that the signature would enable us to identify the voter. I say that it will not. Can the Government tell me of any country in the world in which this system prevails? I shall be very glad if the Honorary Minister can give me that information.
– There is a more rigid provision in operation in the United Kingdom.
– The system in operation in the United Kingdom is not more rigid. There is no signing of names required there.
– But the ballot-paper which the voter gets is numbered with his number on the register.
– And the proposal of the Government is that there shall be a number on the ballot-paper in addition to the signature.
– We can do without all this if we restrict the facilities for voting and have only one polling booth for a subdivision.
– That would suit the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs.
– It would not; and that is why we are submitting this proposal.
– We require to be given more information than we were given yesterday, although that was not entirely the fault of the Minister. Whether there are few or many polling booths does not affect this question one iota. The fewer the polling booths the more difficult will it be to identify the voters. Where only a small number of persons vote at a polling place, almost every elector knows every other elector, so that impersonation is difficult. This proposal is a bastard one, which has been attached to a provision that obtains in Canada. There they have a system in book form, with duplicate butts and a counterfoil attached to the ballot-paper. Upon the counterfoil is placed a distinguishing number and the initials of the Returning Officer. That is held until the ballot-paper which the elector has marked is brought back to the ballot-box and the initials and number are compared. The ballot-paper is then put into the box. The presiding officer thereupon takes the counterfoil which he has initialed and tears it up in the presence of the elector. In a poll-book a poll clerk keeps a record of the elector’s distinguishing number and the fact that he has voted. That is not what is proposed here. I am convinced that the proposition is ill considered, that it is not protective, and that it will not discover the fraudulent voter or impersonator. Under such a system one can imagine an election continuing for a week. It is no reflection on people to say that they very much dislike signing their names when going to the ballot. Quite a number of electors find themselves very excited when they go to vote, and as a result they make errors. The idea of handing out a butt and requiring every voter, in the presence of the Returning Officer, to sign it! Why, the signing of it would probably occupy two or three minutes in most cases, and certainly one minute in the quickest case. What is to be done in the meantime? Everybody else will be kept waiting. The result will be that we shall require very many more presiding officers and considerably more polling places. In a big centre, one Divisional Returning Officer is far more competent to manage twenty presiding officers than each presiding officer is competent to manage a separate polling place. Therefore, under this proposal, large polling places would requireto be established in big centres. Upon that ground alone I hope that the Govern- ment will not proceed on the lines which have been indicated. There is another matter upon which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs enlarged, and in regard to which I entirely disagree with him. The Bill provides for the abolition of the 5s. deposit which is required to accompany objections to the presence of any name upon the roll. I can remember the time in my own State when it was necessary to have some protection against the elimination of names from the electoral rolls.
– We have very great protection under this Bill.
– The proposal of the Government is one to enable interested parties and organizations to give information to the officials, so that they may, on that information, strike the names of persons off the roll. In theory, that may seem admirable and useful, but in practice it has worked disastrously to the toiling masses. The honorable member for Maranoa knows very well that this system was used prior to 1892, and up to 1896, in such a way as to disfranchise whole electorates; and, because of that, the electorates were wrongly represented for years and years. Even a distinguished member of Parliament, and a justice of the peace - we had possession of his original letter - sent word to all the justices of the peace and Electoral Registrars in his own district to take care to purge the roll of Labour voters. There was no deposit of 5s. required at that time; it was enough to make the suggestion that the purging should be done. It could not be done very well by this man, rich as he was, by means of a deposit of 5s., because they were dealing with Labour voters, not by hundreds, but by thousands. Is it suggested by the Minister, or the Ministry, that the officers of the Electoral Department will not take advice from ordinary persons regarding persons who have left a district, and so on ? They can get all the information they want without the 5s. If a deposit of 5s. is made, it simply means . that if a person wishes to make a specific objection against a person who he believes is not entitled to be on the roll, he can do so, and if he is right he can get the money back.
– In one place which was brought under my notice recently - I forget the name - the presiding officer refused point-blank to accept any specific suggestions of that kind ; he wanted 5s.
– Honorable members have now obtained the strength of this proposal ! It is that the Minister has heard about one person who, at some time or other, refused to take the statement of another person.
– That only came to my ears very recently. I was merely showing that your statement is not correct.
– Surely honorable members will not admit that that is sufficient evidence to make a fundamental alteration of the law! The suggestion is-
– We ought not to do as you did with the postal vote.
– This alteration is the suggestion of the Electoral Office.
– The Prime Minister intervenes at a convenient time with his usual red herring.
– It is no red herring. That is exactly why you abolished the postal vote.
– I pointed out yesterday that, so far as these particular provisions are concerned, they have the concurrence of the Electoral Office, and are designed to facilitate the work of that office.
– I am glad to hear that statement repeated, though I can assure the Minister that it was quite unnecessary. There was nothing he emphasized so much yesterday as that these proposals have the official sanction of the permanent officers. Few Governments, to my knowledge, have leant so much on the permanent officials as the present Government are doing. Either this is a matter of policy, or it is nothing at all. Why should the Ministry draw the permanent officials into the discussion ? Why do they shelter themselves behind men who cannot speakin self defence here?
– Surely it is an administrative matter !
– We had to listen to the Minister repeating that statement over and over again. If this is an official Bill, let the officials come in at the Bar and look after it, instead of the Minister.
– Taking the whole Bill as an officials’ Bill, different proposed sections deal with partly policy and partly administrative reform.
– Order ! It is almost impossible for me to hear the honorable member for Wide Bay on account of the continuous flow of interjections, and interruptions, and also conversations across the chamber. The honorable member is entitled to make his speech without such interruptions.
– Unfortunately, sir, I have scarcely any voice left to discuss the Bill. The Minister now tells me that it is only part of the Bill that the officials have had to do with. Even that statement is quite unsatisfactory.
– Do you take the view that you should not consult an official in the preparation of a machine?
– Yes. I think that any sensible Ministry will consult the permanent head, and every other person who can aid them in drafting any legislation.
– I should think so.
– Having done that, it is the Ministry’s Bill; and represents the Ministry’s policy; they should not shelter themselves behind any officials, nor must they expose officials to the fire of party politics if they are straightforward and manly.
– Who is doing that?
– The Prime Minister is evidently not hearing.
– I am hearing.
– Not only did the Honorary Minister repeat that statement over and over yesterday, but he interrupted me to repeat it to-day.
– And I am going to repeat it again.
– Mr. Speaker, may I ask you a question ?
– Order ! This is not question time.
– Has the Prime Minister a special privilege to interject here ?
– Order !
– The Honorary Minister interrupted me to repeat the statement either to show that permanent officials are behind the Ministry in this matter, or that the Ministry are behind the permanent officials. There is no getting away from that. What is the purpose in purging the rolls? Is it to get a clean roll?
– Hear, hear!
– Has there been any evidence forthcoming as to the existence of an unclean roll ? We have had figures galore, but no evidence of any duplication except that which is essential to enable everybody to be on the roll. When you are nearing an election - indeed, at any time - if you intend to have every person on the roll, under our sys tem, there must be duplications. In no country do people travel more from one part to the other than is done in Australia, and it is a good thing for Australia that it is done. Those who sit still in one place can always be sure of having the franchise; but those who remove from place to place will experience great difficulty in exercising the franchise unless the existing system is continued. We are making a rule which, I hope, will last as long as we have a franchise Act, and that is that the name of a person shall not be removed from the roll of a division until it has been enrolled effectively in another division, and that a person, though he travels from one part of Australia to another, following his occupation, and helping to produce the wealth of his country, shall remain a citizen, and be entitled to exercise the franchise. Is the Ministry against that ideal? There must be duplication. In no country in the world, not even in America, is the nomadic portion of the community more numerous than in Australia. And that principle must continue to prevail if we want to protect these persons. A great deal has been made - and quite properly made, if the statement is correct - of about 77,000 persons being disfranchised because of infirmity and sickness. I believe that that number is excessive. As regards maternity disability, I think there is a large term involved there, probably over two months, while as regards the other cases of sickness, I can get no statistics from those in authority to bear out the allegation. Suppose that that is so, what is the proposal of the Government on the other hand ? What do they propose to do regarding the 10,000 young Australians who become twenty-one years of age more than a month before the issue of the writs, and whose names are not on the roll before the issue of the writs? The Government are going to deprive these young persons of a vote, although they say they are desirous of every one having a vote. Could inconsistency go further than to have the youth of Australia, who are looking forward to the opportunity of casting their first vote, in all probability deprived of that opportunity for three years and one month by the act of a Government who say they desire to see every one taking part in the elections? This Bill bristles with inconsistencies.
– That is good; give- it to them.
– They give it to themselves. That is exactly what they state; this is their own measure, after great and careful deliberation. The Bill contains many minor points, which, of course, are worth considering, and which I should like to deal with. There is quite a number of references which I should be very pleased to put before the House; but it cannot be agreeable to honorable members to listen to my voice, and the use of it is certainly not very pleasant to myself. As regards the postal vote, that is another weakness, and one which cannot be eliminated by any system which might be passed through the House. I refer again to the 15 per cent. of postal votes that were never returned at the 1910 elections. In our own experience, and in the experience of Queensland, generally, these are probably votes given to persons who take charge of them, and destroy them for particular reasons. I believe that the Ministry are honestly desirous of protecting these votes in every possible way once they have been recorded by the electors. But I am apprehensive that we shall never be able to satisfactorily get a larger vote from the persons who are absent from the ballot-box in a proper voting place. And it is for these reasons, I think, that the Government, in their efforts to give these facilities to the sick and the infirm, have failed to carry out their own wishes, and certainly the wishes of the Opposition. We are desirous that every person shall have a vote, and that every facility shall be given for voting. I think I am speaking for the whole of the Opposition when I say that, while we believe that there have been abuses of the postal vote, if any system can be devised that would enable the infirm and the sick to record a vote, we should be glad to cooperate to do so; but this proposal is certainly not one of those which can commend themselves to us. Generally speaking, I think that the Bill fails to do anything to the electoral system which is beneficial. I believe that it is not conceived in the best spirit of a democratic government. Its effect will be restrictive, although its purport, according to the Ministry, is progressive and extensive. The measure will not extend the franchise to any persons who do not now enjoy it, and, in my opinion, it represents a weakening rather than a strengthening of the principle of democratic representation. For those reasons I cannot promise the Government to support the Bill.
– I do not intend to takeup much time this afternoon. This is essentially a Committee Bill, and until we get into Committee we cannot get at close grips.
– It is the only policy the Government has.
– May I suggest to my honorable friend that he should say something fresh, and not indulge in a very old and very stale platitude. If we haveno policy it is strange that my honorablefriends opposite should be so troubled. Had we not better be allowed to get on with our no-policy, and be done with it If we have no policy we can hurt nobody.
– I said that this was all the policy the Government had - an amending Bill !
– The Leader of the Opposition has just spent an hour in showing that we have a policy, and that it is a policy malign, evil, and mischievous in every way. Of course, honorable members opposite see nothing wrong in the present state of affairs - there has been no duplication, no fraud, no abuses. Who believes that?
– The Prime Minister believes it.
– The honorablemember knows better than to believe it.
– The Prime Minister ought to produce evidence of fraud and abuse.
– Honorable member must be aware that interjections are very disorderly, and I remind them that the Prime Minister is in possession of the floor.
– Honorable members opposite know quite well that at every election there are practices that should not go on. It is no use trying to make anybody believe that nothing wronglias occurred. 1 hope I am not slandering my country in making use of the old quotation-
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds.
Makes ill deeds done.
There are cases of abuse and fraud, and the trouble is that we cannot make public throughout the country the names of those concerned, for the simple reasonthat it is not right to pillory a man who is set down as having voted twice, in view of the fact that he may be absolutely innocent. I should as soon imagine that I had voted twice myself as think some of the men whose names are down had been guilty of doing so.
– That was in the Prime Minister’s own electorate?
– And in every other electorate. Is it not foolish for honorable members opposite to talk as they do, simply because no action is taken to pillory those men ? Somebody has impersonated individuals.
– That is not so.
– They are clerical errors.
– What right has the Prime Minister to say what he has said ?
– The Returning Officers do not say so.
– The honorable member for the Barrier does not know anything about the matter. The trouble is that gentlemen who have not seen anything, claim to know all about the matter. I only desire to make the general observation that -there has been duplication.
– That is not true.
– Since the Prime Minister took the floor there has been a continual chorus of interjections? This is fair neither to the Prime Minister nor to the Chair, because order must be preserved at all costs. 1 therefore hope that my position will be made a little easier by honorable members observing the rules of debate.
– It seems to me, if I may make a bull, that the only place to speak here is outside, where people will listen.
– That is only amongst the old “tabbies”!
– Here is another insult to a body of women in Australia, who have no more right to be called “ tabbies “ than the honorable member has a right to be called a monkey.
– A disgruntled lot of women who want husbands !
– Was there ever such a farce enacted in Parliament?
– Was there ever such a farce ?
– Such a farce as the honorable member trying to be serious when he does not know how.
– It seems to me that I shall have to resume my seat, for it is impossible to proceed. Honorable members opposite are making a very large draught on the credulity of the people of Australia in trying to make them believe that nothing out of the ordinary occurred at the last election. The public of Australia, however, do not believe any such thing.
– They do.
– The public of’ Australia do not believe that the present electoral machinery is perfect, and they expect us to perfect it in some way. This Bill is an effort in that direction.
– Perfected for one side !
– That is an easy statement. Anybody can say that a particular side wishes to manipulate the electoral machinery for its own particular purposes.
– The machinery is good enough to put the honorable gentleman here with a majority - such a big majority !
– Yes, with a majority big enough to do business.
– And to injure the country !
– I am not going to be driven from my point; I intend to make my few remarks even if that takes me a long while. There is plenty of time on hand.
– I should like to hear the honorable gentleman in a good old “ stone-walling “ speech !
– I have seen nothing more artistic in that line than the three days’ debate on the Audit Bill. However, we shall get back to the question, which is so important-
– That the honorable gentleman’s own supporters do not listen to him.
– I cannot go on if this sniping is to continue all over the place.
– At all costs, order will have to be preserved. The Prime Minister has scarcely uttered a sentence without a shower of interjections. Honorable members must realize that it is impossible for business to be carried on in this way; and I again ask for order.
– Is it in order for the Prime Minister to invite interjections?
– I am not inviting interjections.
– If the Prime Minister is out of order I shall call him to order. So far as I am aware, the Prime Minister has not transgressed the rules of debate.
– As a new member-
– Will the honorable member sit down and behave himself ?
– I rise to a point of order. As a new member, I should like the Prime Minister to set an example to me, because when-
– Is this a point of order ?
– I do not think the honorable member for Pa wkner is raising a point of order.
– It is an insult; and I ask to be protected from this insulting man.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is not stating a point of order. The Speaker is appointed for the purpose of preserving
Order, and when the Prime Minister is out of order I shall call him to order. The Prime Minister lias been speaking according to the recognised rules of debate, and is not out of order. Honorable members, however, are out of order when they interject.
– I got up for the purpose—
– I rise to a point of order, and because I desire instruction myself. I arn, as I stated, a new member, and I am not acquainted with the rules of debate in this particular House. I made an interjection, to which the Prime Minister took exception. I followed the example set by the Prime Minister himself when the honorable member for Wide Bay was speaking. The honorable member for Wide Bay was subject to a constant flow of interjections from the Prime Minister; and if it was in order for the Prime Minister to pursue that course of procedure, I take it that it was quite in order for me also to pursue it.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is a new member, and I have, therefore, allowed him some latitude. The honorable member, however, has not stated a point of order. I was not in the chair when the honorable member for Wide Bay was speaking, but if I had been, and the Prime Minister had interjected, I should have protected the honorable member for Wide Bay. I can only say that I am here to carry out the rules of debate, and I shall endeavour to do so,- looking for the assistance of honorable members.
– I rose for the purpose of paying the ex-Prime Minister the compliment of replying to his arguments, but I decline to do so in the circumstances.
.- Personally, I regret that the Government should have introduced the Bill at this early stage of the session. It is not, as the Prime Minister has told us, a Committee Bill, but it is practically a challenge to the Opposition. I also regret that the Bill contains provisions which were eliminated from the Electoral Act last session. We have to face facts as they are; and, in my opinion, it is not statesmanlike to attempt to radically altermeasures after a general election, unless the Government can see a fair possibility of passing their proposals through both Houses.
– Has this House not a. duty to itself?
– I quite admit that ithas; but it does not appear to me statesmanlike to alter measures that were carried by both Houses in the last Parliament, especially when an opportunity is presented to deal with large noncontentious measures. This House might deal with such subjects as the federalization, of our State debts, the strengthening of our Defence Forces, the building up of our Navy, and the nationalization of the Atlantic cable. These are some of the questions with which the Government might deal at the present stage. The Government, however, are attempting to make radical alterations in an Act that received the support of a substantial majority of the members of both Houses of the Parliament returned at the election previous to the last general election. At the last general election, some of the matters with which this Bill deals were the subject of a great deal of controversy, and, taking the membership of the two Houses, we find that more members were returned in favour of the principles which I have in mind than we had supporting them in the last Parliament.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– At the last general election, there were more members returned in favour of the principles that I have in mind than there were in the last Parliament. In the last Parliament, we had in this House forty-two members of the Labour party, including the two Independents, as against thirty-three members of the Liberal party, whilst in the Senate there were twenty-two members of the Labour party and fourteen members of the Liberal party. Taking the two Houses together, we thus had sixty-four members of our party and forty-seven Liberals.
– Is that why honorable members are playing up?
– I did not interject when the honorable member was speaking. In the present House, there are thirty-seven members of the Labour party and thirty-eight Liberals, but in the Senate there are twenty-nine members of our party, and only seven members of the Liberal party.
– But eighteen senators did not face the constituencies at the last general election.
– I am quite prepared to deal only with those who sought reelection, and I would remind the honorable member that the Labour party won the larger number of seats. The point which I wish to emphasize is that we now have in this Parliament a larger number of members in favour of certain amendments made two years ago in the Electoral Act than we had at that time. I am referring more particularly to two or three provisions which the Government are trying to remove from the principal Act, and one which they desire to put back. Dealing with this question, we must have regard to the Constitution as it stands, remembering that the two Houses are elected by the people, and have equal co-ordinate powers except in matters of finance. I have always objected to a Legislature consisting of more than one House. I voted against the Federal referendum in New South Wales on both occasions because the Constitution Bill provided for the bicameral system. It seems to me, however, that having been defeated, those of us who at that time advocated a National Parliament of only one House must, in common with the people of Australia as a whole, work within the sphere of the Constitution which the people of the Commonwealth have seen fit to adopt. In speaking thus,I am not taking up a new position. We had some difficulty between the House of Representatives and the Senate in the very first Parliament, a certain degree of friction and a substantial difference of opinion arising between the two Houses concerning a very important point. I then took up the position that I am now adopting, urging that the people of Australia, having decided upon the bicameral system of legislation, it was our duty to work within the Constitution as it stood. Looking up the debate which then took place, in orderto refresh my memory, I found that the present Prime Minister took part in it. I cannot say that he was influenced by any opinions that I had expressed. He spoke shortly after I had addressed the House, and used practically the words that I had uttered, although he spoke with a great deal more power, and with a brilliancy which I do not possess. He said - and his words are applicable to the present situation -
If a crisis were to occur, and I went to the people of New South Wales and said that I objected to what the Senate had done in regard to the Tariff, they would turn around and say, “We want the Senate to do precisely as it is doing.” Then I might retort, “But look at the danger that is involved to the Constitution.” They would then say, “ We had all those dangers pointed out to lis before the referendum was taken. We knew all about them then, and now that the Senate is in favour of our view with regard to the Tariff, we ask you and others to work the Constitution as you find it until it is altered in a constitutional way.”
That was in 1903, and to-day I take up the same stand. I do not say for one moment that if the Government of the day hold strong views on a certain math ter, they ought not to submit them to the Parliament, although they may know for a certainty that the Senate will not adopt them. I claim, however, that it is not wise for a Government to adopt such a course unless it deliberately desires to waste the session. It is not wise to introduce a measure of this kind, containing provisions that must inevitably be rejected by the Senate, seeing that that House - which is not a nominee Chamber - has just returned from the country as we have done-
– And the Labour party’s candidates polled a minority of votes.
– I doubt whether that is so; but if it will please the honorable member, I will give him that point.
– It is a fact. It is not a matter of “ giving.”
– In the last Parliament, twenty-two out of thirty-six members of the Senate belonged to our party ; to-day we have twenty-nine out of thirtysix. Is it reasonable, therefore, to suppose for one moment that those honorable members, having just returned from an appeal to the people, would necessarily go back upon that which they did two years ago ‘f Although, at the last general election, our party lost some of its strength in this House, we gained, so far as the Senate was concerned. The ranks of those who, in both Houses two years ago, took up a certain stand regarding the electoral law have been strengthened.
– Does that mean that the Labour party do not intend to let us put this Bill through ?
– I do not say anything of the kind. But I do say that it is unwise for the Government to do what they are doing just now, in view of the fact that there are quite a number of other matters with which they could deal. If the Government desire to force an election - if they feel that the time has come when they should appeal from a halting Parliament to an awakened people - well and good. But let us understand the position. No one can imagine for a moment that the Government seriously anticipate that they are likely to succeed in carrying two or three of the provisions of this Bill. I quite admit that there are in the Act some provisions which it would be wise to amend. I agree with the Prime Minister that the Act itself is not perfect. Nothing that comes from the human mind can possibly be perfect; and, however good an Electoral Act may be, after it has run the gantlet of a general election it is usually found to contain provisions that might justifiably be altered. That, however, is quite a different matter from the attitude of the Government with regard to two or three matters which have been made vital, to a very great extent, by one of the parties in this House, in view of the fact that, in the two Houses, we have to-day a bigger majority in favour of them than existed two years ago. I do not propose to deal with the whole of the clauses in this measure, for I recognise that we shall have, in Committee, a good deal of time to consider them. One of the provisions of this Bill does away with the requirement of the present Act that, during an election campaign, political articles published in newspapers shall have attached to them the names of the writers. I understand that the Assistant Minister of
Home Affairs, in introducing this Bill, said that what was done in this regard two years ago was an interference with the liberty and freedom of the press. We are not opposed to the liberty of the press. We are opposed to the licence of the press. But, whilst we believe in the freedom of the press, we say that there is something even more important, and that i3 truth. We are anxious that, as far as possible, the press of Australia shall be a truthful press.
– Does the honorable member think that the signing of articles will alter the tone of them ?
– I intend to elaborate my argument somewhat on that line. There is no doubt that the press of Australia, in common with the press of the world generally, has, during the past few years, undergone a serious change. There was a time when the press did stand for freedom; when it did stand for the privileges of the poor; when it did stand for the disinherited. But that time has passed. Editors, proprietors, general managers, and those responsible for the conduct of the press - I am not referring so much to the provincial press as to the metropolitan - have become wealthy people or corporations. Consequently, they are not to-day so much inclined to advocate the cause of the defenceless poor,- or to champion the oppressed. I was speaking a few years ago to a very prominent editor of one of our great metropolitan newspapers. He is well known to quite a number of honorable members as editor of one of our fighting journals. I said to him, “Is it not a fact that people do not read leading articles to-day as once they did, and that leading articles do not influence public opinion as they used to do ? But is it not also a fact that, nevertheless, the press has greater influence over the popular mind than it once had?” He said, ‘ Yes, that is so ; you are correct in both suppositions. I do not believe that people do read leading articles as they did once, but, nevertheless, the press is more powerful than it was. I will give you my reasons. When I was young, and became a reporter on the press, it was my duty simply to report a meeting to which I was sent. No one on the paper was allowed to have any politics except the editor. The politics of the paper were expounded by the leader-writers; but no one else was permitted to allow his political opinions to appear in his work. When we were sent to report a meeting, we were expected to report the facts, and nothing but the facts. But times have changed. Every person on a newspaper nowadays has” to write up to the leading articles. The consequence is that it does not matter what part of a paper you are reading, you must come under the influence of the policy espoused by it.” The tone of the press has absolutely altered. I am much indebted to a useful little book entitled The Newspaper, written by Mr. G. B. Dibblee, who is an M.A., and a late fellow of All Souls’ College, Oxford. The book is published as one of the volumes of the “ Home University Library.” The author says -
The newspaper is primarily a collector and distributer of news, and in this function has long ago beaten every possible rival out of the held. Secondarily, it is a vehicle of opinion, and in the virtue of this capacity it often becomes the prey of the mighty or the victim of the long purse.
I think there can be no question that the newspaper has become ‘ ‘ the prey of the mighty,” and “the victim of the long purse.” This writer has an extremely interesting chapter discussing whether articles should be signed or not. He states that in France and Italy all articles have to be signed, and his opinion is that the outcome is that the standard of literary excellence is higher than is the case in countries where articles are not signed.
– That does not refer to political articles only.
– I am glad that the honorable member has mentioned that, because, as I said when speaking on the motion of censure, I am of opinion that every article published in a newspaper ought to be signed. So far from being willing to remove this restriction, if it be a restriction, I should like to see it extended to every article. In dealing with the question of signed articles, and referring to the press of Great Britain, Mr. Dibblee says -
In the United Kingdom the prevailing, practice has followed another course. Anonymous journalism has been found in the end to be a more powerful political weapon, partly because reverence attaches itself more easily to the unknown, and also because the shelter of corporate responsibility adds somewhat to the freedom of writing, and very much to the fertility of invention.
We do not wish to interfere with the liberty of the press, but we do say that the influence which the press exerts over public opinion ought not to be the result of a “reverence for the unknown,” but ought to follow from the weight attached by the reader to the opinion of a writer whose name he knows. Another objection to the non-signing of articles is, as the author says, that it gives to those who are writing an opportunity for “ fertility of invention.”
– Does he state any of the advantages arising from unsigned articles ?
– There are some advantages, and the author states them. The honorable member may read the book for himself. One advantage of unsigned articles is that it affords an opportunity for a mediocre writer to get behind the reputation of a great newspaper. Brilliant men, this author says, prefer to have nothing to do with journals in which articles are not signed. They prefer to attach their names to what they write.
– According to that, we have no brilliant men writing for the papers here.
– I mentioned just now that the editor of one of the great journals of Australia told me that nowadays every reporter had to write up to the leading articles, whereas, when he was a youth, a reporter was expected to report a meeting exactly as it took place. I remember an occasion a few years ago when a meeting was held at the Protestant Hall, Sydney. It was addressed by Sir William Lyne, and the main subject of discussion was Protection. If honorable members want an illustration of the truth of what I have been saying, let them compare the reports of that meeting in the Argus and the Aye. Any honorable member who takes the trouble to do that may reasonably ask himself whether it was possible for two such reports to appear unless the reporters were writing up te the political opinions of the journals which sent them to the meeting.
– Does the honorable member associate his argument with the reporter of a meeting; in other words, does he suggest that the reporter does not want to report faithfully?
– I- simply say that if the reporter had to sign his name to the report he would be much more careful about his work. I have no hesitation in saying that, in the majority of cases, if the name of the reporter appeared in con- nexion with his report, reports would, in very many instances, be different from what they are to-day.
– That is not my experience, at any rate.
– I desire also .to read an extract from Mr. Dibblee’s book in connexion with the press of to-day, because the press of Australia is very similar to the press of England. I may be pardoned for reading this extract, because it bears out the contention of some of us. The author speaks very highly of the English press up to a certain time; but he does not believe that it is maintained at so high a standard to-day. He refers to the period since the Boer war and the commencement of the Tariff reform agitation, the result of which has been that practically all the principal metropolitan newspapers in England are on the one side. Consequently, according to this account, there is not that regard for impartiality and truth that at one time was maintained by the newspapers. Then there were newspapers writing on each side of the question. But since then in England the greater part of the rich and powerful newspapers have been writing on one side. The author says that the press has lost its high standing to a large extent, because it is not as careful of the truth as it used to be. He continues -
This prevailing misfortune is growing worse daily, and already we have lost the chastening memory of days when impartiality was more strictly maintained in our press as a whole by an adequate representation of both sides. Society, with a big S, has gone entirely on to o:ie side, and lias imposed on its press that most hopeless form of provincialism which already prevails in high circles in Berlin, of merely refusing to recognise as possible the existence of culture, good faith, and even of common honesty in those who do not adopt the opinions prevailing in its own ranks. From this blindness I sec no ordinary means of deliverance.
Here in Australia the metropolitan newspapers are all on one side. I am not blaming the press for that. It is not their fault that we have not a press on the other side. It is the fault of the workers of Australia, who have not yet come forward in sufficiently large numbers with their pounds and their ten shilllings in order to establish a daily press to advocate their own cause.
– That only emphasizes the departure of the press from the old system, under which the newspapers reported both sides fairly.
– That is so. In view of these facts, we have to take every means that we possibly can to insure that, as far as possible, a regard for fairness and truth shall be exercised by the press. Personally, I do not care whether the Labour press, or any other press, is affected. The nearer we get to the truth the better it will be for the nation.
– Why do not the Labour papers set an example2
– I quite recognise that there are some associated with the Labour press who object to the signing of articles; but that makes no difference, so far as I am concerned. I know, for example, that some of those who are associated with a rather powerful organ connected with my own party are strong on the other side on this question ; but that does not influence my opinion. What I want to get is the truth from all sides. I envy no man or party who wins an election by misrepresentation and falsehood. Any party or candidate that wins by misrepresentation or untruth can only triumph for a time. The triumphs of misrepresentation and falsehood are of a very temporary character. It is the triumphs gained by truth that last. There was a time when the liberty, freedom, and greatness of the press were to be extolled, when the newspapers advocated great measures of reform, great causes and great principles, and were not merely money-making machines. But that time has passed. It is now true of them to say, as has been said -
There is little distinction now made between newspaper properties and any other, except that their political influence adds some considerable extra value to their market price. In almost the majority of cases they are owned by limited companies. Their possession does not carry with it the feeling of a public trust; to own one means just so much money and so much power.
We know that some years ago it was practically a toss up whether the Sydney Daily Telegraph should be brought out as a Protectionist or as a Free Trade organ, the directors, by a majority of one, deciding that it should be the latter. They came to that decision, not because they cared particularly about either fiscal policy, but because they wished the newspaper to earn as big dividends as possible, so that their shares might become as valuable as possible; and they thought that more money was to be made by its advocacy of Free Trade. We must deal with things as they are. There are some who think that the signing of newspaper articles is a measure which was first proposed by the Labour party; but that is not so. As the Prime Minister has supported his arguments by references to what happened in the time of Jack Cade, and even of Diocletian, and as one of his supporters referred to something that occurred in China 900 years ago, I may be allowed to go back to the year 1864, and quote the opinion of one whom even the honorable member for Robertson, if he knows anything of history, will recognise as a great Liberal - I refer to John Bright, one of England’s greatest Liberals and tribunes. During the corn law agitation, the Times assailed both Cobden and Bright very fiercely, publishing leading articles which went beyond what they deemed to be fair criticism. Cobden thereupon demanded that the articles should be signed, and Mr. Delane, one of the greatest editors that the Times has had, was forced to sign his name to them. John Bright, dealing with this episode at a meeting held in Birmingham a little while afterwards, said, referring to Cobden -
He found a mon in a mask endeavouring to stab me in the back - for he had not seen that the same man had been in a previous article also stabbing him - and he came forward and dragged his mask from him, and he showed him to the gaze of the whole nation and of the world. And at last, after denial and equivocation of every kind, this unmasked editor of this great journal was obliged to retire from the personal part of this controversy, and to skulk back into his anonymous hiding place, which suited him better.
Speaking of persons who did not sign their articles, he said that he was reminded of a politician iu New York - perhaps the honorable member for Darwin may know him - who had been for some time at the elbow of the correspondent of the Times -
It was said of him that “ he was a just man, and a righteous man, and that he walked uprightly before the world, but when he was not before the world his walk was slantendicular.
It is only fair that the walk of those who write for the newspapers should not be slantendicular. We do not wish to interfere with the freedom or liberty of the press, but we ask that the walk of its writers be upright. It is important that the writers who made incorrect statements should be known. Speaking on the no-confidence amendment, I referred to an article published in the Melbourne Argus, which had been written by Mr. Maling, under instructions from the proprietors, stating that the then Leader of the Opposition and present Prime Minister had thrown off some of the Labour views which he held in the past, as one might throw off infantile complaints. I wrote to the newspaper pointing out that the honorable member had stated recently that his views were unchanged, and that it was of serious interest to the country to know the facts of the case. Some years ago the honorable gentleman told the following story : -
Once upon a time there lived in Dublin a well-to-do man, who was known as Cosy Murphy. He practically went to sleep for seven years. At the end of that time he was twice as wealthy as when he went to sleep. Well, boys, when you discover the secret that enabled Cosy Murphy to grow wealthy whilst sleeping, then you will have solved all Labour troubles, and will be able to get, each man, the full results of his labour.
We ought to know whether those are still the Prime Minister’s views. According to Mr. Maling, the honorable gentleman does not hold those views now, but according to what the Prime Minister himself said, at Lithgow, some twelve months ago, he has not changed his views. Let’ me take another incident in which I was personally concerned. When Minister of External Affairs I went to tho Northern Territory with a parliamentary party. The original arrangement was that I should leave by train on Sunday, but I changed my plan and left on the Monday. Much to my surprise I read in Monday’s Age that on Sunday the train had been kept back, because I had not turned up, that a motor-car had been sent out to find me, that a telephone message had been sent in asking that the train might be stopped, and that a compartment had been reserved for me, and that I had not said that I would not use it. I tried to ascertain what truth there was in these statements, and the stationmaster informed me that the train had not been kept back for a minute on my account, and I had sent him no telephone message, nor had a motor-car been sent out for me. Something to that effect appeared in the Herald of the same afternoon, but the correspondent of the Daily Telegraph wired to Sydney that what I had stated was nonsense, that the train had been kept back for me, and that three motorcars had gone in search of me. The writer did not sign his name, though I knew it was Mr. Peters, because he always writes a certain column. He knew that his statement was not true, and might not have made it if he had had to sign his article. When I returned from the Territory, I had a chat with him and his confrere,* and before starting business I asked whether I had ever done any injury to him personally, either privately or publicly. He said, “ You should not talk in that fashion.” I replied, “ Well, why did you send that statementwhen you knew that it was not true?” “Oh,” he answered, “you knew it was a joke.” I replied, “ Then you should have stated that it was a joke, so that the people could understand it in that light.” If men are to be assailed, let them be assailed in the open. When a deputation of press representatives - I think the honorable member for Wimmera was among them - waited on me, I spoke on this subject, without mentioning the particular case, and was told that a public man who i night be assailed unfairly or unjustly could appeal to the Courts of Law for justice. Well, in the affair which I have mentioned, I went to Messrs. Sly and Bussell, than whom there are no more eminent solicitors in Sydney, and Mr. Bussell was good enough to say that he thought I had a good case, but he added, “ I do not advise you to go to law over the matter, because if you win - and you might lose - the other side will appeal. If you are lucky enough to win again, they will appeal again, and even if you win on the third occasion you will be hundreds of pounds out of pocket.” No doubt, men will write unfairly and unjustly even when articles have to be signed, but every man who is assailed by the press ought to be permitted to know the name of his assailant. As honorable members know, it is the intention of the Government to re-introduce the postal voting system, if possible. I voted for the abolition of the postal voting system a year or two ago very reluctantly, because I had previously spoken in favour of the system in this House, and had supported its adoption in the electoral law of New South Wales, but I was forced by the logic of facts to change my opinion with regard to it. We should endeavour, not merely to secure the insertion of electors’ names upon the rolls, but also to provide them with reasonable facilities for voting. I have taken up a stand in opposition to the restoration of the postal vote because it cannot be questioned that that vote interferes with the secrecy of the ballot. Out of every one hundred persons who vote by post, I venture to say that how ninety of them exercise their franchise is known to canvassers. That remark is not applicable merely to supporters of the Liberal party, but also to supporters of the Labour party. It is obvious that it must be so. Take the case of 100 persons who are sick or infirm. Ten out of that number may be anxious to vote, and may take the trouble to get the necessary papers to enable them to do so. They may fill in those papers and forward them by post in the ordinary way. Nobody may know how they voted. But, in the other ninety cases, the agents will not bother to secure the requisite papers if they do not know how the persons concerned intend to vote.
– They may not have the chance of knowing.
– I say emphatically that that is the position so far as the Labour party is concerned.
– Does not that apply to the whole organization?
– The honorable member would not send his motor car to take mo to the poll unless he thought that I was going to vote as he desired me to vote. Of course, after using his motor car I might not vote just as he wished.
– The same thing might happen in the case of a person voting by post-
– If what I have already said is correct, the exercise of the postal vote involves an interference with the secrecy of the ballot. I may be pardoned, perhaps, for once more referring to that great Liberal, John Bright.
– A great eccentric, too, do not forget.
– The honorable member should be the last to say that.
– I should like to know how the honorable member proposes to enfranchise the sick if he is not in favour of the postal vote?
– There is something more important than that a sick person should have a vote. The majority of the people are healthy. If 97 per cent, of the electors can vote by ballot, surely we ought not to undermine a great principle for the sake of the remaining 3 per cent. !
– The postal vote was instituted only to meet special cases.
– I understand that, before he entered this House, the honorable member for Gippsland was n canvasser, and, therefore, I ask him whether it is not known to agents of political parties how the great majority of sick and infirm persons who vote by post exercise their franchise? Iu 1867 the Conservative party in England introduced a Bill for the purpose of conferring the franchise upon a large number of persons. At that time Lord Cranbourne, who was afterwards the Marquis of Salisbury, the great Conservative Prime Minister of England, introduced a provision for voting by post. In a very able speech he defended voting by post. The whole of the Liberal Opposition opposed that proposal, and no one more ably than did John Bright himself. In replying to Lord Cranbourne, in the House of Commons, he said -
J am not now ‘ speaking of the sick, because we ought not to make special laws for a comparatively small proportion of the people, and that is why the sick are much better in their rooms and in bed than taking any part whatever in the excitement of a contested election at a time when they are suffering mental and bodily depression.
I do not know that I agree with the whole of that statement, but it is only fair to say that when, at the last general elections, voting by post had been abolished, and the ex-Minister of Home Affairs endeavoured to get voting facilities granted at the hospitals throughout Australia, his request, in Victoria and other places, was refused, on the ground that the medical officers considered that the sick ought not to be worried with the affairs of a general election. John Bright went on to say -
My honorable friend, Mr. Ayrton, described what would take place with agents. There is a wonderful fertility of invention at election times, and clever agents would busy themselves in the streets of our boroughs, and in some parts of the counties, with a view to obtaining these polling papers.
That applies absolutely to-day. In order to illustrate my point, and to show what agents are prepared to do in the open, I propose to read the following leaflet, which is signed by Archdale Parkhill, who is probably known to honorable members -
The Man on the Land. Some Reasons why You should Vole No.
– Order ! I am not able to connect the statement which the honorable member is reading with the Bill.
– I am pointing out that, in connexion with the postal vote, there is a good deal of fertility of invention on the part of agents. I think that is a fair thing to show. I am arguing against the restoration of the postal vote. Canvassers, I contend, have very fertile imaginations, and I think I am illustrating my contention remarkably well. The leaflet continues -
Then vote NO by putting a cross in the bottom square thus -
[ ] YES
Vote for the Senate Liberals -
Vote for the Liberal candidate for the House of Representatives.
Polling Day : May 31st, 1913.
Authorized by Archdale Parkhill,109 Pitt- street, Sydney.
I am not quite sure that that leaflet was circulated in the busy centres like Sydney. I am rather inclined to think that it was distributed only in remote areas where we could not trace it. We desire to secure as good an Electoral Act as possible. If some provisions in the existing Act require to be amended to enable the people to more clearly express their views on great national questions, we are prepared to assist the Government to amend them. But it is a very great pity that the Ministry should have incorporated in this Bill some clauses which will necessarily provoke a great fight, instead of dealing with the question from a statesmanlike point of view. They have brought down to us something which is not a Bill, but a challenge.
.- I regret somewhat that the Honorary Minister in charge of this Bill is not present.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I propose to speak to what I consider one of the most important Bills which this or any other Government could introduce. But before doing so, the Honorary Minister will not object, I am sure, to me criticising his method of presenting the measure. I know no one who can surpass him in flying a kite, or trailing his coat tails and fighting anybody who will tread on them. He speaks with the deep design that, by courting interjections, or giving sometimes a witty reply, culled either from his own brains or from those of others, he may sometimes lead men to place a construction on cleverly used words which he can say afterwards will not bear the. construction. It would have been far better for my honorable friend in introducing the Bill to have followed the good example of the Minister of External Affairs, or the Minister of Trade and Customs. Amongst other things, my honorable friend said, “ They have done it - that is, going round to every polling booth, and voting.” I must confess that I took that remark as an insult to a large number of our Australian people. I know from converse with the honorable member that he did not mean that, but that was the construction which would appear to any listener.
– I can assure my honorable friend that those words did not appear in the Hansard proof.
– I took the words down when my honorable friend made the remark.
– You are welcome to see the proof afterwards.
– My honorable friend also twitted the ex-Attorney-General with having boasted that the Labour party would come back with a majority of four votes. Perhaps the Minister does not know how many supporters we went out with. We went out of this House fortyone strong, lost eleven seats, and gained seven seats, coming back thirty-seven strong. On the other hand, the Opposition went out of the House thirty-two strong, gained thirteen seats, and lost seven seats, returning thirty-eight strong - that is, with a majority of one. In the Senate, however, four members of the Labour party went out, and eleven supporters were returned, giving us in that chamber a majority of twenty-nine against seven. Fourteen supporters of the Opposition went out, and only seven came back. We were forty-one strong in the late House, and only twenty-two strong in the Senate. At present, we are thirty-seven strong here, and twentynine strong in the Senate, showing a clear gain of three supporters. As regards both Houses, we went to tlie country sixty-three strong, and came back with sixty-six. We could well spare ten members from our majority in the Senate if we could only obtain the majority which the Speaker has the distinguished honour of being. That statement will show that when an honorable member, speaking of his party, said, “ We will gaiu four seats,” he was perfectly justified in making the prophecy. I certainly did not think that we would lose so many seats as we did, nor would we have done so had we the power to meet the press in the country parts that we have in the town. In that election, for the first time in Victoria, if not in the whole world, the platform faced the press on equal terms, because we had no anonymity, no aliases, no false names. A writer signed his name, and some writers were so honorable that they would not sign or write certain articles for some newspaper proprietors. In the country, however, the press had an advantage. I confess openly - and the Minister will know it - that if the Protectionists in my district ceased to vote for me, my majority would have been nothing.
– I call attention to the state of the House. * Quorum formed.]*
– The Honorary Minister also stated in his speech - I am quoting from the Age of to-day - that out of forty-one justices of the peace in the Federal Parliament, thirty-two were members of the Labour party; and I believe he was so unkind, if only for a moment, to mention one member by name, Senator Barker.
– No; I mentioned all.
– As Senator Barker’s case happens to be in my mind, may I inform the Honorary Minister that his offence was a mere technical one, which would not affect the honour of any one by the weight of a feather.
– May I explain that the charge was withdrawn ?
– In a memorable election I had to fight, not only against a wealthy man - for the election cost something like £4,000, although it had to be contested with an expenditure of under £100 - but against a police magistrate, since retired from the Bench. A partisan of the vilest kind, this magistrate asked, “ For whom were these votes obtained from our unfortunate sisters?” thinking that my name would come out. He nearly dropped on the bench when he found that the candidate was Sir Malcolm McEacharn. The magistrate, to his eternal disgrace, showed partisanship by his question; and the barrister who was trying to imprison the women, and trying unjustly to do it, too, thinking that they had voted for me, was horrified when it came out whom the vote was cast for. I think I must pay my honorable friend opposite a meed of fair play by saying that he acknowledged that the charge against Senator Barker was withdrawn.
– No; it was, on appeal, dismissed.
– In this matter, Senator Barker stands pre-eminent. During my long State career, I felt that magistrates were too far away from the people ; that they thought themselves little tin gods; and I said I would never nominate to the magistracy a man against whom a single hand could be held up at a public meeting. Two men only did I nominate - one was Stephen Barker - and I am proud of my act. At that huge meeting of over 1,500 people, called by an announcement in the press, not one man held up a hand against Stephen Barker.
– You never expected a man to hold up a hand against anything at a public meeting which you were addressing ?
– To such a compliment, coming from the lips of an old friend, I have no answer. I must cross swords with the Honorary Minister again. He said -
In one year 144,000 offences against, the law had been committed in the Commonwealth, and it is probable that their authors were of a class whose sympathies would be more likely to run with the Labour party than any other.
At the election I have been referring to there were concerned two highly paid men - one getting £600 and the other drawing, I believe, over £1,000 per year. One was Mr. Frost, whose records, I believe, ‘will be found in the prisons of Great Britain, and the other was Mr. Carey, who fled the country. So clever was Mr. Carey that I could get no trace of him, and he could not be pinned to any one of the 150 sworn declarations in- regard to bribery and corruption.
– Is that the Carey who stood for Wimmera last time ?
– The Carey who stood for Wimmera is an honorable man; and it ill becomes the honorable member to “chip in” with an interjection of that kind. The other Carey was a man whose name is now not mentioned in the country - who defaulted to the extent of some £16,000 in insurance business. I think the honorable member for Gippsland will regret his interjection, because
Tom Carey is one who cannot be said to have wronged any man, woman, or child in all his life. I resent very strongly the suggestion that it was probable that the authors of the offences were of a class “whose sympathies would be more likely to run with the Labour party than with any other party. Perhaps I have had more personal experience than most of persons who have been inside gaols, and who have afterwards made a brave restart in life; and, as a fact, the vast majority of those people are very careless about their votes.
– The convictions referred to do not necessarily imply gaol; the vast majority of the offences were most trifling.
– We know that men who rob in thousands sometimes get titles, while those who rob in pennies, or bread, to appease their hunger, go to gaol. T would rather face my Maker as a man who had stolen bread for his children than as a man who had robbed widows and orphans of their thousands. If the majority of those 144,000 people, who have been stamped as criminals, have sympathy with the Labour party, it is because we are trying to uplift and help them ; our doors are, perhaps, more open to them than are the dcors of more superfine persons. I see no provisions in the Bill relating to the use of conveyances at elections; and 1 ask whether it can be thought for a moment that £100 will cover the expenses when thirty motor cars are used. I am credibly informed that, in Ballarat, at the recent election, over fifty cars were used on one side only; and I would honour this or any other Government who would stop the use of conveyances. Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that any conveyance used to bring a voter to the poll should be confiscated.
– Does the honorable member suggest that an elector would be influenced by being conveyed in a motor car ?
– I am informed that a good many men and women used Sir Malcolm McEacharn’s car, though I believe all did not vote for him. At the same time, such attentions have their effect, just in the same way as have afternoon teas. Then, again, this Bill would have received more support if the Government had proposed to absolutely stop canvassing. It is, of course, absolutely impossible for a candidate to canvass 35,000 votes, and there is a large body composed of silent voters who stay at home, and who may possibly be swayed by newspaper articles or friendly conversation. A man or woman of independent thought would scorn a candidate who asked votes for himself. In the whole course of my twenty-four years of political life, I have never asked a man or a woman for a vote, but have merely pointed- to the planks of my platform, and stated that if the electors were in favour of those planks they ought to vote for me, but that if, on the other hand, they favoured the policy of my opponent, then, of course, he ought to have their support. The touts and other undesirable types of humanity who used to flock round at election times are gradually disappearing, and their disappearance is due more to the last Electoral Act than to any preceding measure. At the last election we know that the privilege of absent voting was exercised to an absurd degree, especially in centres of population, and it would have been well if a clause had been inserted in this Bill fixing a 5-miles radius. It is perfectly absurd that a man residing only a third of a mile from a polling booth should be able to cast an’ absent vote, and cause all the subsequent trouble to the officials. I do not see much utility in the provisions for the signing of the butt of the voting paper. As far back as 1891 I suggested that the photograph of the elector ought to appear on his elector’s right, and I am informed that such photographs could be obtained at a minimum cost, possibly as low as a penny each, in centres of population. This plan, or the German plan of a book of life, might be adopted, which would begin a youth’s record when he went up for compulsory training, and would continue until he claimed his vote. This, of course, would absolutely prevent any misrepresentation or impersonation. When I was representing Australia in the Coronation year, I had to obtain photographs of myself for certain purposes, and I got three very fine ones in London for a shilling. One of these, unmounted, was handed in at a railway station in Ostend, and, in return for 7s. 6d., I received a railway ticket bearing that photograph, and entitling me to travel five days and five nights on all the railways of the country. The signing of the butt will only create additional and unnecessary difficulties. The elector should, of course, be checked when he gives his vote.
Every ancient Greek had the right to write his “yes” or “no” on the shell, and throw it on a pile, which was counted, and the modern Greek, who is no fool, and thoroughly appreciates his vote, places his arm in a rounded instrument so that none can see how he uses his black and white balls. These balls ore counted by placing them on trays which hold exactly 100 in depressions, and the operation is performed with great celerity. Those of us who have seen the totalizator at work on the race-courses, will agree that it would be very convenient if we could get our election results as rapidly.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Had the Government accepted the advice of the Age a few days ago, and provided for the referendum, initiative, and recall, I should have viewed this Bill with much more favour. Personally, I see no objection to the woman who is about to become a mother being permitted to exercise the postal vote; and I may say the same of the inmates of hospitals, and the sick generally. Why could there not be a clause plainly stating that a woman about to become a mother could so vote ? Where is the disgrace of motherhood? Is there a God-gift which more plainly points to immortality? These unfortunate young women, of whom we have heard, would not have perjured themselves had there been such a provision. Then, again, we could have copied the splendid example of the Home Parliament in their Insurance Act, and have provided for a fee of, say, 2s. 6d., for medical men, within a certain distance, to attend applicants for postal votes, and certify that they were unable to go to the polling booth. I was one of the first to suffer under the system of voting by post, and I had to go into the High Court, at a cost of £200 for three afternoon sittings, to obtain redress. Had I gone on with that case, I should have been involved in an expenditure of fully£1,500. In the circumstances, therefore, I can speak with some feeling upon this question. At the election to which I refer, I had a sworn declaration relating to the conduct of a Melbourne city alderman in connexion with the voting by post system, but at the request of my second legal adviser, I did not use it. This man told our unfortunate sisters that if they did not vote by post for my opponent, so that their votes could be checked, he would never bail them out again. On the day of election, he bailed out some of these women, and took them to the pollingbooth in a carriage and pair. I have already referred to the partisan police magistrate who fined an honorable member of another place. He is an old man now, and perhaps we can forgive him. Who bribed the workers? Who found the £4,000 spent on the election for the division of Melbourne, to which I have referred? And why was it spent? To try to keep me out of Parliament.
– How does the honorable member know it was spent?
– One man got £600 a year.
– But how does the honorable member know of these things?
– I could give the honorable member the name of a man who was given a first-class passage to South Africa. Will the honorable member say that not more than £100 was spent by my opponent on that occasion ?
– 1 know nothing about the matter; I am asking the honorable member for information.
– The honorable member knows a good deal more about it than he would care to mention in this House. Who found the champagne and chicken ?
– Who ate it?
– Certainly not the workers.
– Did not the GovernorGeneral of Chat day give a lot of champagne to Fleming?
– The honorable member knows why the Marquis of Linlithgow made that gift. It was a fine act on his part, although it gave rise to a good deal of comment on the part of those who wanted to guzzle the champagne.
– Is the honorable member for Henty in order in suggesting that a former Governor-General gave some champagne to a person named Fleming with a view to influencing his vote ?
– I did not hear the honorable member make that statement. Such a statement would not be in order.
– As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Herbert added to the statement I made. I merely said that a former GovernorGeneral had given a man named Fleming some cases of champagne.
– The Standing Orders provide that the name of His Majesty’s representative shall not be brought into our discussions, and it is very improper to introduce it.
– I found the Marquis of Linlithgow noble in every sense of the word. There were two secretaries acting for the other side at the election to which I was referring when interrupted. Will any one say that it was my money which paid Carey, the defaulting secretary of the insurance company - the man who robbed the company, I am informed, of close upon £20,000.
– What has that to do with the Electoral Act?
– But this man was the presiding genius who controlled the work of obtaining votes by post in a certain quarter. There are, in this city today, men who assisted in that work, and who would be willing to say that they knew how 80 per cent. of those who voted by post cast their votes. Indeed, if they Were not afraid of being prosecuted, they would say that, when they knew that the votes were not cast in the direction they wished, the votes disappeared. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs said that, in one year, there had been 144,000 convictions in the Police Courts of Australia, and that such offenders against the law were most likely to have a kindly feeling towards the Labour party. I find, however, that, at the last general election, in the electorate of Macquarie, which returned a Labour member to this House, there were only eleven cases of alleged duplication out of a total of 23,322 ballotpapers issued. My own electorate comes next with only eighteen out of 27,325 ballot-papers issued; whilst Ballarat is first on the list with 173 out of 32,818 ballot-papers issued. The recent inquiry shows that there was not one case of double voting out of every 1,000 ballotpapers issued; and the Government officials will admit that most of these cases of alleged duplicate voting did not actually occur, but were due to mistakes in marking off the rolls. The postal voting system permitted of flagrant bribery and corruption in my own electorate, some years ago, as proved in the High Court; but, at the next election, there was no mistake, and a majority of seventy-seven obtained by bribery and corruption was converted to a minority of 859. I wish to pay my meed of praise to the public officials who conducted that election. They were not friends of my party, nor were they my own personal friends; they were appointed to act by a Government which wished to have the electorate of Melbourne freed of the stigma of infamy with which it had been branded by the High Court because of what had happened on a previous occasion. Some of our opponents scream from the public platforms, “ Why do you rob the unfortunate mothers of Victoria of the right to vote?” Since the birthrate in Victoria is less than that of any other State, it follows that the postal votes recorded should have been less than in any other State. Victoria has also more polling places to the square mile than has any other State of the Commonwealth. Yet, although she has one polling booth to every 58 square miles, 14,049 postal votes were recorded at the 1910 election, as against only 1,751 in South Australia, which has only one polling booth to every 890 square miles, and 1,977 postal votes recorded in Western Australia, where there is only one polling booth to every 1,936 square miles. In other words, 14,049 postal votes were recorded in Victoria out ofa total of 29,249 for the whole Commonwealth. I maintain that a great number of these postal votes were obtained by undue pressure. How is it that in Victoria, which has the lowest birth-rate, 7,708 womenfolk applied for postal ballotpapers at one general election; whereas in New South Wales, which has a population 250,000 in excess of our own, and also a very much higher birth-rate, there were only 3,325 applications. Tlie electorate of Melbourne is more compact than is any constituency in the metropolis of Sydney. Sydney, with a population, according to the radii you take, a little larger than that of this city, is divided into four constituencies; whereas the whole of Melbourne is embraced by the one electorate. In the electorate of Melbourne there are polling places only one-third of a mile apart. The subdivision of Gipps is bounded by Elizabeth, Victoria, Spring, and Bourke streets, and no part of that area is half-a-mile away from a polling booth. I find, however, that at the 1904 elections more postal ballot-papers were applied for in that one district than were sought in respect of the rest of the electorate. For Melbourne, 1,098 applications were made for postal ballot-papers, and 815 votes were actually used. In other words, there were more applications for postal ballotpapers than there were for the whole of Queensland in 1903, for the whole of South Australia in 1903 and 1906, for the whole of Western Australia at the referendum of 1911, and for the whole of Tasmania in 1903 or 1906. In 1903 there were only 1,064 postal votes recorded in Queensland, 630 in South Australia, and 816 in Tasmania. In Western Australia, at the referendum in 1911, 647 voted by post; while in 1906, 906 voted by post in Tasmania, and 744 in South Australia. What is behind all this? I have also some information regarding the voting for the Riverina, which should be of interest. It will be remembered that a certain election for that constituency was upset by the High Court, on the motion of Mr. Chanter, about the time that I appealed to that tribunal, and the investigation then made showed that there were 162 informal votes out of 511 re: corded by post, whereas there were only 102 informal votes out of 10,484 recorded at the ballot-box. In other words, on the basis of the figures for the voting by ballot, there were thirtytwo times more informal votes than there should have been in connexion with the postal voting system. The Argus, in April, 1912, sent a special reporter up to Brisbane, and on the 15th April published an article from him in which it was said -
Brisbane, Sunday. - The justice of the peace has degenerated. In former years there was an old-fashioned feeling that the justice of the peace was created to hold impartially the scales of justice. In hundreds of cases justices of the peace are party political agents. There is little, of any, disguise about it; avowedly in many instances they are appointed to their judicial position for political purposes. It is but natural, in these circumstances, that abuses will result.
If justices of the peace were appointed for improper purposes it was only natural to expect that abuses would follow. The Argus reporter also wrote -
The justice of the peace had local knowledge of the voter, and of his and her political fate. Unscrupulous justices saw to it that all the votes for their candidates reached the returning officer, and that all votes for the other side wen mislaid.
– Are not justices of the peace usually appointed because they have been elected to the municipal councils?
– It was proved in Queensland that justices were appointed two or three- hundred at a time, on the eve of an election, purely for party pur poses. I saw enough when I was up there to convince me that wrong-doing occurred. Some of these magistrates earned as much as £3 or £4 a week, and travelling expenses, going round collecting votes for a political party.
– Were they Labour men ?
– No, they belonged to the honorable member’s crowd.
– Those men ought to have been put in gaol.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. The Argus reporter said -
It was the discovery of such abuses that led the Queensland Parliament to abolish the postal vote.
Personally, I thank the Argus for that straight-out declaration by its special reporter, who was sent up to Brisbane in order to inquire into these matters. Furthermore, Mr. Kidston said -
Every one of us knows quite well that the way postal voting is carried out in many cases made it, to all intents and purposes, open voting, done under the eye of some one who probably had some power over the person voting. The evils of last election will be a mere circumstance compared with the evils that will take place at next election.’ I consider that it is the duty of this House to wipe out the postal vote rort and branch, and wipe it out at once.
And he did so.
– In what year was that?
– It was in 1907. Mr. Hawthorn, then Home Secretary in Queensland, said -
The postal vote is of such a nature that fraud is made easy, owing to considerable abuse of the postal vote. The best way is to wipe it out altogether.
Mr. Thomas Mowbray, police magistrate at Toowoomba, said -
The general tendency of the voting by post certainly impairs the secrecy of the ballot in more ways than one. The freedom of the elector is forestalled. Hundreds obtained postal votes through misstatements.
– Under the Queensland system, were not all women enabled to vote by post ?
– The conditions were exactly the same as under the Commonwealth system.
– The honorable member for Maranoa knows exactly what took place. Mr. J. McGill, police magistrate, who was Returning Officer at Ipswich, reported -
Scores of postal certificates went to one address, and were taken out to the Federal electors by the justice of the peace, collected, and posted by him. I am of opinion that postal voting is not secret voting, and is open to very great abuse.
A report from Sandgate said-
The certificates were evidently watched for by the justices of the peace, who had canvassed for them. Very serious danger of improper action lies here. ls it any wonder that these men were paid to canvass? From Ravenswood it was reported -
Tlie postal vote has been very much abused.
Honorable members may recall that on a former occasion I laid particular stress upon the fact that there is no disgrace in a woman acknowledging the God-given, gift of motherhood. I maintain that it ought to be placed clearly in an Act dealing with this subject, that the postal vote is only to be used by women who are expecting to become mothers. We should then never have such cases as those of men trying to persuade single girls to make a false oath. I suggested the copying of a portion of the English Insurance Act which has placed Great Britain preeminent amongst great nations, providing that any man or woman who is ill shall have the right to call in a medical man to give an honest certificate for which the Government would pay a minimum fee of half-a-crown ; and that that certificate should be sufficient warrant for enabling a person to vote by post.
– It was stated that medical men abuse their position.
– Then they should be punished. The remedy for that would be to nationalize medicine. It is interesting to compare the number of postal votes passed in constituencies in which the population is nearly equal in size. In Kooyong, Victoria, there were 1,196; in Lang, New South Wales, only 89; in Balaclava, Victoria, 870’; in Parkes, New South Wales, 154; in Fawkner, Victoria, 897; in Parramatta, New South Wales, only 144. How can any one honestly reconcile those figures, which are obtained from the Parliamentary Report of 1904? In the same document, the Divisional Returning Officer for the division of Melbourne reported to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Victoria -
Owing to possible irregularities, I deem it necessary to forbid any electoral information obtained or officially required touching the vote of any elector from being taken out of the polling booth during the poll. Had this not been rigidly insisted upon, I feel sure a great deal Of confusion would have arisen by persons continually entering and leaving the booth.
In the election three months before this date the sending cut of information was so much abused that on one occasion a knife was drawn by a canvasser for my opponent, and it was only in consequence of my strong appeal that he was” not prosecuted for it. I am glad to say that that man is to-day a firm supporter of mine. Out of 815 postal votes in that election, my opponent got 603, and I got 197. I ask any honorable member whether he thinks that there is any part of my constituency in which there would be such great odds against me under a system of honest voting at the ballot-box 1. Not a bit of it. One ballotbox was removed from 9 in the evening until 8 o’clock next morning, with the result that the report of the Returning Officer giving me a fair majority was altered, and I was placed in a large minority. The Divisional Returning Officer reported -
Eighty-five ballot-papers were not recorded, owing chiefly to the fact that the correct witness was not recorded on the counterfoil. An analysis of these eighty-five cases thus rejected shows that thirty-five were signed by justices of the peace, and thirty-six by postmasters and postmistresses, or others not on the permanent staff, whilst fourteen were irregular owing to the certificates not being returned.
Sitting suspended from 6. SO to 7.4-5 p.m.
– I have shown conclusively that there were more postal votes cast for that constituency in the Commonwealth which had more convenient polling booths than any other than were cast for the whole State of Queensland, where a man can walk 1,500 miles in a direct line without crossing the border, or for the still larger State of Western Australia. I have shown, further, that nearly half of the postal votes were cast for the State that had the lowest birth rate in the Commonwealth. I have shown, too, that bribery and corruption were proved to the hilt in tlie High Court of Australia. But Ministers have made up their minds that the postal voting system should be a fighting plank, and I shall be ready at any time to meet them, though I should have preferred three months at least to be given up by both parties to sensible legislation. If that is not done, the man in the street will be apt to say, “ A plague o’ both your parties. Why cannot you show common sense and do some work?” If we provided for the referendum and the initiative, the people, instead of having power one day in three years to create the Parliament, would have the power to control it every day. They would be able to say to a Ministry that had not their confidence, “ Out you go.” They might even say to this Parliament, “ You are fooling away our time. Go out!” We are paid a very good minimum wage; I wish that the average earnings throughout the land were as good. If we had the initiative, and the people said, “ There shall be an elective Ministry,” nothing could gainsay it. If the people said that there should be preferential voting, Parliament could not object to it. Since 1891, I have advocated giving the people this power. This Parliament, good as iti is - possibly it is the best that has ever been elected in Australia - is carrying on a fool’s game. Every honorable member should be permitted to devote the whole of his energies and attention to the welfare of the community. What higher honour could there be than to be a servant of the people in this House, With the privilege of proposing legislation for the benefit of the community ? Instead of that, we have the continual squabbling of parties. When we were on the other side we had a huge majority compared with that of the present Government. You, Mr. Speaker, hold the scales. I know that you will always do so justly, but you are the omnipotent power in the House, and the position is not fair to the people. Had they the initiative and referendum, they would say, “ Get to work, and when it suits us there shall be a dissolution.” Honorable members opposite ask for a double dissolution, but in the Senate we are twenty-nine against seven, and when at the last election eighteen senators had to be chosen, the number of Labour senators returned was eleven, although only four Labour senators had to submit themselves for reelection. It ill-becomes this Parliament to play With a -measure which has been designedly brought forward to cause friction. But we, on this side, have declared against it, and Must fight against it at every opportunity. In the United States of America a revolution has taken place against their iron-bound, steel-riveted Constitution, an attempt being made by no Sewer than twenty-two States of the Unionto givethe people more power.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Weshould have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
.- I desire to say a few words on the second reading, and shall commence with a reference to the manner in which the second reading was moved by the Minister in charge of it. If a man trails his coat on the ground, and as the honorable member for Herbert said the other night, looks for a fight, he is sure to get it; and any one with parliamentary experience knows that the best way of getting a Bill through is not to stir up the Opposition beforehand. Why was not this Bill introduced in the Senate, which has already had three long adjournments this session ? The first adjournment was caused by the moving of the noconfidence amendment; but Ministers proposed then to adjourn for. a longer period than was necessary, until it was pointed out by a Labour senator that an earlier meeting would have to be arranged for to enable a Supply Bill to be passed. The Senate has apparently no work to do. Why, then, were not this Bill and the Arbitration Bill introduced in that Chamber?
– The Senate adjourned repeatedly last year for long intervals.
– Yes; but important legislation, such as the Defence Bill, wa’s introduced there.
– It had a fair wind there.
– And I am sure that this Bill will receive there the fairest treatment to which it is entitled. If the Senate is not dealt with fairly, it may treat this Bill as it has treated other important measures. I remember how numerous its amendments in the Navigation Bill were.
– That Bill took four and a half years to pass the Senate.
– Seven and a half years. Had Liberal Ministries continued in power, it would still be on the stocks.
– It was. Labour senators who blocked it. Senator Guthrie was a thorn in the honorable member’s side.
– I should like a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– Of course, the Senate will have the Audit Bill when it meets next Wednesday, and probably that meeting would not have been arranged for had it not been necessary to introduce ‘ft Supply Bill.
– The Senate will nave this Bill next week.
– I doubt it,, because there will be a Supply Bill to pass, and Thursday happens to be Grievance Day.
– Senators have taken control, and introduced their own business.
– No one knows better than the Prime Minister that the Government can introduce what business it likes ia the Senate. It is the bounden duty of the Government to originate a fair proportion of measures in the Senate, so that in the dying hours of the session that Chamber will not be faced with a glut of work, whilst this House has practically nothing to do.
– The honorable member has merely to say that that must be done, and we will do it.
– Why cannot the Government originate in the Senate the Bill to amend the Arbitration Act, and also the Bill to amend the Australian Notes Act?
– I thought that the honorable member was in favour of this Parliament consisting of only one House ?
– Has the honorable member ever heard me say so?
– Order !
– J am aware, sir, that the honorable member is out of order in interjecting. But he has never heard me say that I was in favour of this Parliament consisting of only one House.
– Where, did the late Government originate their Electoral Bill?
– In the Senate, I think. At any rate, there is no reason why this measure should not have been originated there. Immediately following the last general election a great outcry was made hy the press and by honorable members opposite regarding the duplicate voting which was alleged to have taken place. Since then the rolls in connexion with every electorate have been carefully scrutinized, but no evidence has been forthcoming that any person was guilty of double voting.
– There were over 5,000 cases of duplicate voting.
– There were alleged to be forty-eight cases in my electorate. I challenge tlie Government to proceed against any one ot the alleged offenders. Quite as many mistakes as occurred at the last election will occur at any election, in which 2,000,000 votes are recorded. Ballotpapers were issued on the ’31st. May last to 2,033,000. electors. The Treasurer says that out of this number 5,000 persons voted twice.
– I am basing my statement on the return which has been presented.
– On the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I analyzed the forty-eight cases of alleged duplicate voting in my own electorate.
– The honorable member need not repeat what he said then.
– But I will, for the benefit of the Treasurer. If the Government know of any cases of duplicate voting they have a right to prosecute the offenders. I honestly believe that there were no such cases - that what are alleged to be cases of double voting were mistakes on the part of electoral officers. It is true that some names appear twice upon the rolls, but inquiry has revealed that these are either the names of mother and daughter or of father and son. In one of the largest subdivisions in the Commonwealth - a subdivision in which there are 10,000 or 11,000 voters - the names of ten or twenty John Smith’s appear on the roll. That being so, some names are bound to be ticked off in error. At the polling booth at which I voted in Richmond, I saw the people standing round the table four or five deep. In such circumstances some mistakes cannot be avoided. Honorable members opposite do not believe in their hearts that there were 5,000 cases of duplicate voting. Probably, upon investigation, these cases would be narrowed down to less than fifty for the entire Commonwealth. The Government have recently had a special investigation into the conduct of the Ballarat election - an investigation undertaken by a detective. Why has not his report been laid upon the table ? If that investigation was undertaken on the advice -of the Chief Electoral Officer the report ought to be laid on the table. We have as much right to know what is in it as honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member knows as much about it as we do.
– I wish to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– When I was interrupted I waa dealing with electoral irregularities which were alleged to have occurred on the occasion of the last election. I have here a clipping from the Age newspaper of the 9th June last. It is headed “ Electoral Scandals,” “ Alleged Impersonation,” “The Yarra Electorate Rolls,” “ Extraordinary Duplicate Entries,” and “ A Labour Member’s Impetuosity Resented.” I have read the extract carefully on more than one occasion, and I cannot find in it a reference to any Labour member. It would be assumed by any person who merely glanced at the headings - as many people do - that I had been impetuous on the day of the election, as I was the only Labour candidate for the Yarra electorate, and that some person had resented my action. The statement is signed by L. V. Biggs, of 233 Collinsstreet, Melbourne. It does not contain a single word about a Labour member having done anything. Towards its close it Bays -
One wholly gratuitous alteration of the Abbotsford roll nearly led to the loss of a lady’s vote on the 31st May. The lady, Mrs. Emily Grace Parker, of 393 Johnston-street, tells the story thus : - “ When I went to the polling booth and gave my name and address, I was informed that my address had been struck out, and alongside it, in the .:, A., of the roll, was written in red ink a. new address, which, I think, was 205 Nicholson-street. On my declaring that that address was wrong, and that I did not live in Nicholson -street, but here, I was refused the vote. Luckily, there happened to be in the booth at the time Mr. Sforcina, a baker, who knew me. He courteously stepped forward and said I was stating what was a fact, and eventually I was permitted to vote.” Mrs. Parker is a well-known Liberal worker in Abbotsford.
Now, section 144 of the Electoral Act provides -
No omission of any Christian name, or entry of a wrong Christian name, or address, or occupation, and no mistake in the spelling of any surname; shall warrant the rejection at any polling of any claim to vote, if the voter is .sufficiently identified, in the opinion of the presiding officer.
So that even if the statement which I have read be correct, which I doubt, the lady in question was perfectly entitled to vote, and even had the address been written in red ink the lady could have voted. I feel confident that the Deputy Returning Officer in charge of the Abbotsford booth, Councillor Gahan, knows his duty sufficiently well to be aware of that. When I speak of Councillor Gahan
I do not speak of a man who is, or ever has been, connected with the Labour party; he was an opponent of mine at one time. I believe that he would give a fair deal to every elector going to a booth. I have every confidence in him, even though I think it is quite possible that if he had a chance he “might not vote for me. I believe that he is sincere and honest, and would give the lady in question her vote. In this article headed “Election Scandals,” and pointing out in large headlines that “ a Labour member’s impetuosity “ was resented, there is not one word as to what that action was, or who the Labour member was. When the newspapers adopt such tactics we have a> right, as far as we are able, to protect ourselves against them in trying to wilfully mislead their readers regarding elections. Personally, I have no fault to find with the newspapers. I can deal with them on the platform. Like the honorable member for Echuca, I have always had the bitter opposition of the Age, but, unlike him, I have also had the bitter opposition of the Argus. He has been fortunate enough to have one newspaper backing him up, and, as I have said on more than one occasion, where newspapers have the largest circulation they have the least influence. Every honorable member on the other side knows full well that if we had had not a half, but a fifth, of the newspapers supporting the Labour party and its aims, they would not be sitting opposite to-day with a majority of one; they would be on this side of the chamber.
– In New South Wales the daily newspapers declined to publish editorials at all in connexion with the last election, and your party got beaten there worse than ever they had been.
– Elections are not swayed by the editorials, but by the reports of the speeches, the “ campaign notes,” the “ points for electors,” or the “ pith of politics,” which appear from day to day. The average person takes no notice of leading articles. I do not believe that one out of every ten persons who take the newspapers ever reads the leading articles.
– Why do you want to make the writers sign the articles’!
– On that point I would not worry about leading articles, but I do worry about election flams. If we were to believe the statements published in the Age at the last election we should be greatly deceived. We were told, for instance, that at least half-a-dozen members, or more, from this State alone, who are now on the other side, were in favour of preferential voting. Have we heard a single word from them here in favour of that method ?
– We will give it now. Move a proposal and put it on solemn record.
– I feel sure that the honorable member would not.
– Move a clause in favour of preferential voting, and I guess that it will be carried. Will you do it?
– Here is one vote for it.
– Are you prepared to move it ?
– Order !
– Are you prepared to vote for it?
– Order !
– I suggest to my honorable friends that they should give notice of a question like that. If they feel so much anxiety as they profess, let them get up and place on record in Hansard their thousand and one interjections which are not taken down.
– We are helping you.
– I gave honorable members a chance. I was not in a hurry to rise. Mr. Speaker was putting the question when I rose ; in fact, honorable members on the other side said that by rising I had saved the situation. During the last election we read in the press, that preferential voting was to be one of the big features of any amendment of the electoral law. On Friday last the Age, in criticising this measure, said that there were some important points left out of it, and that one of them was the question of preferential voting, the question of majority rule; that is, that no person should be returned to the House unless he had the support of a majority of the electors voting at the election.
– What is wrong with the Electoral Act? We are all here.
– Yes, and that is why I do not think there is so much necessity to alter the Act, as honorable members assert. Now that the Honorary Minister is here, may I suggest to him that he did not adopt the best method in introducing this measure. He thinks that what he does not know about the political game is really not worth knowing. But I might suggest, for his consideration, that the best way for him to get a Bill put through is not to trail his coat on the ground, because, as a rule, a man who looks for fight gets it.
– My honorable friend is not amiable this evening.
– I am. I have confidence in the Honorary Minister that he will do the best he can for his party, but I am pointing out to him that he has not adopted the best means to secure the passage of a contentious measure.
– I assure you that I have no confidence in him.
– I have every confidence in the Honorary Minister as a man who is prepared to fight He was far better over here fighting, and he has not forgotten the little tricks he learnt here in practically putting up a fight on everything which was brought forward. He brought forward this measure in a style which I feel confident his supporters will admit will not be conducive to the getting of it put through.
– What is the matter ?
– I will tell the Honorary Minister as I go along, and I do regret the time limit of an hour and five minutes. Of course, in Committee we shall have two speeches of half-an-hour on eiach clause and each amendment.
– Let us get into Committee.
– We shall get there in a while. As a matter of fact, I think that the Bill should have been referred to a Committee.
– I am prepared to refer it to a Committee.
– I do not mean to a Committee of the House, but to a special Committee to go into all the reports, including the secret report of the detectives who went to Ballarat.
– Could you have any better Committee than a Committee of the House? Why not go straight into Committee now ?
– Was the investigation at Ballarat official or not?
– Of course, it was an official investigation.
– Then why has not the report been placed on the table for honorable members to peruse? Where an official investigation is undertaken at the cost of the public, we have a right to know the results. In this case we have a right to know whether the slanders which have been uttered by honorable membersopposite were wholly unfounded.
– Full information has been given as to the result of the inquiry.
– The report of the detectives should be laid upon the table.
– Why do you not ask for its production?
– The report has been asked for’. The honorable member for Ballarat, for instance, has asked for its production half-a-dozen times, and if that is all the Minister wants, I ask him now to produce it, or if he cares to place it on the table at once I shall do my best, even while I am on my feet, to see if I can find any tiling to justify the slanders which have been uttered since the general election. I understand that Ballarat is the only place where detectives have been employed in conducting an investigation. If the Minister has had such an investigation made at any other place I am not aware of it.
– There is no occasion for apprehension.
– If the Minister has had the detectives at work in any other electorate, we have a right to know what the report is. If it had been favorable to the Ministry it would have been laid upon the table as soon as it was sent in.
– No; in all the newspapers next morning.
– Perhaps it would have been first laid on the table of the House. If any innocent persons have been slandered we have a right to the information contained in the report from Ballarat, or from any other electorate. If the Ministry are making radical alteratpins in the electoral methods because of the alleged irregularities at the last election, the reports ought to be produced here, and not kept in a pigeon-hole in the Department. The investigation was irudertaken, I presume, not for the information of the Department alone, but for the information of honorable members, too.
– Will the honorable member be satisfied if I tell him that the investigation was for the information of the Department, and that I myself have not seen the report?
– If it was an official investigation made for the Department we have a right to know what the report contains. If the aspersions which have beea made on the characters of certain individuals are found to be false -
– Have any aspersions been made on the characters of any persons?
– On any named persons?
– Honorable members op? posite were too cunning to pick out any individuals. To-night the Treasurer said that according to a return there were 5,000 proved cases of duplicate voting. I assert that there has not been one proven case of a person having voted more than once on the 31st May, andI, challenge the Attorney- General to take action regarding any or all of the persons.
– Youhave heard speakers say to-night that thousands of persons voted wrongly under the postal voting system. Why did you not take action when you were a Minister, after the election of 1910?
-There was not the same opportunity of taking action then as there is now. Here the Government have investigated the rolls; they have the names and the addresses of the 5,000 persons who are alleged to have voted more than once, that is, out of 2,000,000 electors.
– Oh, no ! We have the addresses of 5,000 persons on the rolls for whom somebody else is alleged to have voted .
– The honorable membercan find the 5,000 persons whose nameshave been ticked off more than once.
– There is no difficulty in finding them.
– Will the HonoraryMinister have a return prepared, or will he have the rolls checked - it could easily be done in a few hours at the Department. - to find out how many of these 5,000 persons have the same Christian name and the same surname as other persons whose names have not been struck off ? I have- gone through the whole of the forty-seven or forty-eight alleged duplications in my electorate, and I find that, in nearly all cases, they represent persons of the same names.
– Did the honorable member find the names of any persons who had been dead for years?
– I did in my electorate.
– But; one voter in my electorate, the driver of a bread cart, said that the officials at the North Richmond polling booth, where there are 7,000 or 8,000 names on the roll, had refused to take his vote on the ground that he was marked off as having already voted. This man stated that his father, who bore the same name, had left his home about an hour before in order to vote; and the officials told him that if he brought his father, and the latter was prepared to swear he had voted, it would be seen that a mistake had been made, and the vote of theson would be accepted.
– That was fair enough.
– It was; and the man did bring his father along, and the vote was accepted. This, I maintain, is what occurred in the majority of the alleged cases of duplication. All members of Parliament have had, of course, something to do with elections, and they know that on the Saturday afternoon some tables are quite rushed, with eight or ten persons waiting, while other tables are almost deserted. This arises through no fault of those in charge, because the roll has to be divided according to the numbers; and the great outcry about duplication really has for its foundation the fact that honest mistakes have been made by the electoral officials. This afternoon, the Prime Minister quoted the lines from Shakspeare -
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Makes ill deeds done ! and inferred that the knowledge gained at the last election would lead to much duplication on the next occasion . That is a wrong inference, however, so far as the people of Australia are concerned, because the trouble is to get people to vote at all, much less twice. We all know that practically the object of all our efforts during a campaign is to get people to go to the poll; and hence the great anxiety of candidates to rope in their friends who can lend motor cars. I wish I had a few friends with motor cars to lend.
– The honorable member was not badly off for motor cars on the day of the election !
– I should like to know where they came from.
– I saw them flying around.
– The honorable member did not. I challenge the honorable member to prove that there was a single motor car run in the Yarra electorate, m my interests, on election day.
– The honorable member is very bold; he knows that these things cannot be proved.
– The honorable member says he saw the cars flying around on my behalf, but he did no such thing.
– Was there not a strike of chauffeurs?
– That was in the case of my opponent, who had an unlimited supply, of taxis and motor cars. May I say to my friends opposite, who have great influence with their party, that I do not think the money was well spent in sending out such a lot of motor cars on that occasion.
– My opponent had cabs, but it was so wet that my motor cars could not run.
– It was wet in Melbourne, but the motor cars here were just as good as cabs. It is a shame to walk’ if you see a motor car going along, and you can get a ride to the polling booth.
– If all the honorable member’s voters were travelling in the other fellow’s motor cars, were they not going to the poll in the honorable member’s interest ?
– I do not say that any of my voters went to the poll in my opponent’s motor cars, and I object to the honorable member trying to put words into my mouth.
– The honorable member said he advised his voters to ride.
– I never did. What I said was that it is a shame to walk to a polling booth on a wet day when you see a motor car running empty; and so it is. The electors could please themselves how they voted when they got to the booth. I trust that the important return asked for by the honorable member for West Sydney to-day will be laid on the table while this Bill is under discussion.
– The return is unopposed, and I presume it will be here to-morrow.
– I hope so. We ought to have the fullest information when we are dealing with a matter of this sort.
– And it must be put to its proper use.
– Certainly ; a return is very handy, I admit, when one may be short of material at any time.
– The honorable member is now doing very well on nothing 1
– I have a good mind to ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it with pleasure.
– After the elections, Senator McColl, who is the Vice-President of the Executive Council, speaking at the Fitzroy Town Hall, said that, on the day the writs were issued, there were 314,000 more names on the rolls than there were persons entitled to vote. I am quoting from a report in the Age., which, I presume, as a supporter of the Government, can be relied on not to misreport a Minister. It is true that for a number of years the Age was known as Ananias, after a well-known biblical character, who met his death in a way that I am sure we are not at all anxious to follow. Senator McColl went on to say that 60,000 more people voted in Sydney than were eligible. I have looked up the returns for New South Wales, and I find that the percentage which voted was 69.28 per cent., so that if there were 60,000 votes in excess very few must have voted in the country. I should say that the number of persons voting in Sydney would be about 300,000, and if 60,000 voted who had no right to, we must take it, on Senator McColl’s figures, that over 100 per cent, of the votes were recorded.
– Will the honorable member inform me why his friends always attack honorable senators in this House, and always attack members of this House in the Senate ? I do not know whether the statements now made are correct.
– I am quoting from the Age; but if the Honorary Minister will assure me that Senator McColl never uttered those words I shall not proceed with the matter.
– It is the first time I have heard them.
- Senator McColl also said that 60,000 more people voted in Victoria than were entitled to, that 30,000 more voted in Queensland, 17,000 more in South Australia, 11,000 more in Western Australia, and 7,000 more in Tasmania, and that the worst of it was that some of those people voted twice. On the 4th August I wrote to the Electoral Office and also to Mr. Knibbs, asking the latter to supply me with the number of persons eligible to be enrolled in Australia on the 30th April, the statistics being checked at the end of the month.
– I gave the figures as on the 31st May.
– I took the date from the issue of the writ, because that is the latest date at which people can get on the rolls. In any case, seeing that our population is always increasing, there would be a few more on the 31st May. The reply I got from Mr. Knibbs was that the number of persons eligible in New South Wales was 970,000; Victoria, 768,000; Queensland, 332,000; South Australia, 236,000; Western Australia, 169,000; and Tasmania, 101,000.
– There were 365,000 in Queensland.
– According to Mr. Oldham, there were 363,000 in Queensland. We cannot take the numbers on the rolls for our present purpose, because the rolls contain the names of persons who have been transferred to other electorates. In the Yarra electorate, about 2,000 names were struck out as being those of persons who had gone to other electorates or other subdivisions of the same electorate. The certified roll, after all, is the only correct one. The newspapers, in order to make political capital, took the gross figures as to the numbers on the rolls for 1912, and the number of additions made, but not the number who had been transferred. The following table, supplied by Mr. Oldham, shows the number of electors on the certified lists for each State on 31st May, 1913, the number to whom ballot-papers were issued, and the percentage of electors to whom they were issued -
Mr. Oldham states, in a letter to me, that -
In any figures furnished by Mr. Knibbs, the residents enrolled, and who are temporarily out of Australia at any given time, are ignored. They would probably number anything up to 40,000. Neither the Statisticians nor the Electoral Administration can give, with an approximation to correctness, the number of persons entitled to be enrolled at any given date in each State.
An overloaded roll does not, of course, in itself imply fraud.
This is a statement made by Mr. Oldham, the official in whom the Minister bases so much reliance -
It indicates that persons enrolled already have applied for and secured fresh enrolment, instead of transfer or change of enrolment, and that the officials have not had time-
– Hear, hear!
– It might have suited my purpose to omit this part of the letter, but I am not. keeping back anything - owing to enrolment continuing up to the date of the issue of the writs for an election, to adjust, through the card index, many duplications; have not had sufficient information to enable them to lodge objections, or time in which to determine the objections already lodged ; or have not been able in the time available to satisfy themselves as to the identity of persons bearing a common name reported by the RegistrarGeneral as deceased, and who have probably died at some hospital or other institution far removed from their place of enrolment.
Mr. Oldham’s statement is perfectly correct. Every Saturday, practically the whole of the steam-boats of Australia leave the ports of our capital cities, and generally with a full list of passengers, so that the 40,000 mentioned by Mr. Oldham as being temporarily out of Australia, and not, therefore, taken into account by Mr. Knibbs, is well within the mark. Many people, from time to time, take a trip to England, the East, or New Zealand. Directly they leave our shores, they are struck off Mr. Knibbs’ records, but their names are not removed from the rolls, because, although they may be temporarily absent from the Commonwealth, they are, in reality, still residents of Australia. There has not been any great discrepancy between the number of persons on the rolls and the number of adults in Australia, so that I think we should be acting unwisely in adopting the provision in this regard’ which the Minister has put before us.
– I am informed that the statement made by Senator McColl, to which the honorable member has referred, has been corrected.
– The statement was reported in the Age, and I have never seen any correction of it.
– He corrected it.
– I have not seen any correction, over Senator McColl’s signature, in the correspondence columns of the Age, nor have I seen a correction in its news of the day columns, although I am sure the Age would be glad to publish any statement by way of correction made by him. I was not aware that Senator McColl had made the correction, otherwise I should not have referred to the matter. The Age distinctly reports Senator McColl as having stated that 60,000 more people voted in Sydney-
– That is an obvious mistake.
– At any rate, the statement was published in the Age, which boasts that it prints 137,000 copies daily, although I cannot say how many copies it sells. This incorrect statement by Senator McColl, a responsible member of the present Ministry, was published in the Age, and scattered broadcast. When he spoke of 60,000 more people voting in Sydney, he obviously meant to refer to New South Wales. That is yet another mistake. I come now to the proposal that the electoral boundaries shall be determined by a Justice of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State. What special qualifications has a High Court or a Supreme Court Judge for such work?
– A judicial qualification.
– And that is all.
– Impartial and judicial.
– And above suspicion.
– I grant that; but the Honorary Minister, in introducing this Bill, did not say one word in justification of the proposed departure from what has been the established rule.
– The abuse of the present system by honorable members opposite necessitated the change.
– As to that, in the first or second Parliament of the Commonwealth, whilst the Barton or the Deakin Government were in office, this House deliberately threw out the scheme of distribution for Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Mr. - now Sir George - Reid was so incensed at the attitude taken up by the Government of the day thathe resigned his seat in this House in order to draw public attention to the matter. That was the way he protested against the action of a Liberal Administration.
– The late Government did not resign its position.
– Every member of the late Government supported every distribution made by the Commissioners.
– The stand taken up by the late Government was in striking contrast to that of the Fusion Ministry. Mr. Fuller, then Minister of Home Affairs - who was passed out at the last general election - moved that the redistribution of Western Australia by the Commissioners should be agreed to, and every member of his Ministry deserted him when the division took place. The present Treasurer was a member of that Administration, but he did not back up his colleague. For party purposes, and party purposes alone, every member of the Ministry deserted Mr. Fuller.
– The Labour Government did the same in the last Parliament.
– We didnot.
– Seven members of the Ministry were absent, and conveniently absent.
– I am quite sure that is not correct, and I think that every Minister voted. I believe that I took part in every division.
– That was mere misfortune.
– Not at all. We stood to our convictions. Even if one or two members of our Ministry were absent when a division took place, surely their position was better than that of the members of the Fusion ‘ Government, who voted against a scheme the adoption of which was moved by one of their colleagues - the Minister of Home Affairs of that day. If this work is to be carried out by a High Court or a Supreme Court Judge, we shall have an official distribution only. A Justice of the High Court will not make any investigation. Members of the High Court Bench have not so much time on their hands that they can deal with the work of redistributing the States into electoral divisions as it should be dealt with. That being so, it will be left to the officials to make the distributions, and we shall have going on in Australia that which is occurring in South Australia at present under a Liberal Administration, which is cutting up the electorates to suit itself. We shall have what is going on in Victoria at present, where scheme after scheme, as some honorable members know, has been arranged.
– We do not know anything of the kind.
– There is a fairly authentic rumour that at least four schemes have been submitted in this State, and that all have had to go first of all before the State. Ministry.
– The Labour Government insisted on three schemes for the redistribution of New South Wales being prepared last session.
– No; we accepted the first scheme, and I believe that every member of our Ministry voted for it.
– The Labour Ministers were rubber stamps.
– Were we? The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs says that he is adopting the views of the electoral officers of his Department, so that he is apparently a rubber stamp.
– The Labour Government voted in three or four different ways.
– We certainly did not. Whilst I think it is better that this matter should be dealt with by an outside authority rather than by Parliament itself, I do not think that a Justice of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State is the best man to determine a distribution. My time has almost expired, and therefore I shall reserve for Committee the comments which I have to offer with regard to the questions of voting by post, and the absent voting provisions of this measure.
.- The Ministry have made a mistake in the title of this Bill, which, to be brought into consonance with their obvious desire, should be intituled, “A Bill for an Act to put difficulties in the way of the electors exercising the franchise.” The manner in which the Bill was introduced also indicates very clearly what is in the minds of the Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister ofHome Affairs. It is well expressed in the Melbourne Age - that great Liberal and Democratic organ, which now supports the Honorary Minister, and which, in its leading article this morning, said -
Mr. Kelly was obviously governed by a desire to irritate the Labour Opposition, rather than by any intention to expound the measure.
That exactly expresses the attitude of the Minister. Never in the history of this Parliament have we had such a miserable exhibition on the part of a Minister introducing a Bill as that which we witnessed last night. The speech by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs was carefully prepared, and he had at hand quotations to be used whenever an opening offered to abuse the other side. There was very little explanation, and practically no reason given for the proposed Amendment.
– I beg to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The Age has admirably expressed the attitude of Ministers and the lack of information that ought to have been furnished. The major part of the Bill seems to consist of suggestions made by the Electoral Office. One of the extraordinary proposals made by the officials is the alteration of the polling day from Saturday. The only reason given by the Minister for the change was that the Departmental officers found Saturday inconvenient for them. No consideration is shown for the electors. The convenience of the officials is to be the principal matter consulted.
– The honorable member knows that that is not so.
– The Minister himself made the statement.
– No, I did not.
– The Minister gave that as a reason - namely, the great inconvenience of having to wait over Sunday.
– Not the inconvenience, but the grave risk attached to waiting over Sunday.
– I am not desirous of following the lead of the Minister by being careless about my statements. I am aware that he also gave as a reason the difficulty of taking care of the ballotboxes. But we have had experience under the present Act of an election held on Saturday, and of having to wait till Monday before the decision was known. The reason given is not a sufficient one. What the Minister has overlooked is the convenience of the electors. As a country representative, I am of opinion that Saturday is the most convenient day for most people, and especially for farmers. But the interests of the farmers are not to be considered by this Government.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Robertson, in the great oration with which he favored us, advised us to study history. It is just because we have studied history, and especially the efforts of the people, not only in Australia, but in other countries that we are acquainted with the long struggle to obtain voting power in order that the masses might control their own destiny. I have .stated what, in my opinion, the title of this Bill might very well be.
– Would the honorable member go back to the system of voting in the Witenagemot 1
– It is the honorable member’s party that wants to go back. We want to go forward. No one knows better than the Prime Minister that when he first entered Parliament in New .South Wales there were deliberate efforts by the privileged classes to prevent manhood ;suffrage being granted. Gradually the difficulties were removed, and not only manhood, but womanhood, suffrage were secured.
– Manhood suffrage existed 1,000 years ago.
– The honorable member for Werriwa knows as well -as I do that the privileged classes, who are now represented on the Government benches, have always fought against giving the masses any say ih. the government of the country. There are some honorable members in the Ministerial party who .openly admit that they are not favorable to manhood suffrage. The honorable member for Grampians has had the courage to say, since this Parliament met, that he favours the ratepayers’ roll as a foundation.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– We might have expected such a Bill as this to emanate from the Ministerial party. In every country it has been discovered that the privileged classes pretend to give the people what they ask for, but do not in reality give it to them. The government of nations in the past has been effected by force, and foolery. We have pretty well got beyond the age of force, but we are not yet beyond the age of foolery. This method of dealing with the franchise is only fooling the people. The Government pretend that they are going to give the sick and those who cannot go to the poll an opportunity to vote, but at the same time they are proposing, in other clauses of the Bill, to make the conditions such that thousands of electors will be disfranchised. It is characteristic of Conservatives to deny to the masses the right to a say in the government of the country. Honorable members opposite take the high and mighty position that they know best what is good for the people. They pose as if they were benevolent despots, who alone can be safely intrusted with the management of the affairs of the country. It is evident, however, that the Bill is not a sincere attempt to improve the electoral law, but has been introduced merely to create a row. That could not be hidden by the Honorary Minister last night. But he need not have been so insulting in his statements, because the Government party would have had trouble enough had they merely tried to steal the franchise from some of the people, instead of stirring up temper as well. The Honorary Minister, being driven into a corner in regard to some remarks that he had made about the purity of elections, made the insinuation, and indeed said in so many words, that criminals would naturally vote for Labour candidates as being more likely than others to look after their interests. Those who sit on this side of the chamber are as honest and respectable as honorable members opposite, and no one occupying the position of a Minister of the Crown should make such statements. Had the Bill been a sincere attempt to improve the electoral law, we should have had a calm statement of its provisions from the Minister. Electoral reform is not a party matter; it concerns the people at large. But the Labour party has been fighting specially to widen the franchise, and to purify electoral methods. The Prime Minister, who was associated for a number of years with a gentleman who holds the honorable position of High Commissioner, knows that he spoke highly of the Labour party in this connexion. Old politicians will remember the days of plural voting. I think that at one time a man in Queensland possessed thirty-two votes for the Parliament of that State. Care was taken that these votes should be exercised. I took part in a fight in Victoria many years ago - the honorable member for Kooyong will remember the time - when we were protesting against plural voting and the use of the ratepayers’ roll. A great deal of personation took place then, and many crooked things were done in the “ good old days,” as they are called by some. I know of a case in which a man voted eight times in the same polling booth, and boasted of having done it. Nowadays, the conduct of elections is so pure that a band of detectives under a budding Sherlock Holmes has been un- able to find anything questionable in regard to the last election to put before this House. Elections have been purified by the appearance of a new element fighting for the full adult suffrage. It has been admitted, even by our opponents, that the advent of the Labour party into politics has purified public life. Adult suffrage is the only safe base on which to> rest representative government.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the deplorable state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– As we have extended the franchise-
– This is most regrettable. I must again draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Suppose we have a little excitement. I move -
That the question be now put.
– Can that question be moved by a private member?
– Yes. Any member may move it. Our standing order on the subject reads : -
After any question has been proposed, either in the House or in any Committee of ‘the Whole, a motion may be made by any member rising in his place, and without notice, and whether any other member is addressing the Chair or not, “ That the question be now put,” and the motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
Question put, and division called for.
– I withdraw my call for a division.
Honorable Members. - No !
– There being no “Ayes,” the question is resolved in the negative. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the honorable member for Henty, who moved “ That the question be now put,” was required, under the Standing Orders, having called with the “Ayes” to vote with the “Ayes”; but he moved to the other side of the chamber before the division bells had ceased to ring. I mention the matter in case a similar situation might arise in the future. Honorable members must vote as they call, “ Aye “ or “ No.”
– I desire to know, sir, whether the honorable member who called for the division should not have voted with the minority?
– Order ! I have already spoken on that point, and reminded the honorable member that, having declared himself in favour of the “Ayes,” he had a right to vote with them.
– The Prime Minister in his manifesto lias provided us with many good things. Here is one of them -
Democracy must always mean the rule of a nation, however great and influential it may be.
We all agree with that sentiment. But how are we to secure the rule of the nation if we do not give every adult in it an opportunity to exercise the franchise ? To do that effectively we must recollect the situation in which many electors are placed. That is just where this Bill fails. Under it, every elector cannot exercise a vote. We are all in favour of providing voting facilities in the case of the sick and infirm, but we must safeguard any system of that kind against abuse.
– The only party in recent years which has reduced the franchise is the party opposite. It abolished the postal vote.
– The Prime Minister said that the absentee vote was equally good, and we provided for that.
– I have several times called the attention of honorable members to the disorderly practice of interjecting whilst an honorable member is speaking. 1 cannot possibly hear the honorable member for Darling while these interjections continue.
– The Prime Minister knows very well that the complaints which have been made regarding electoral irregularities are due to the tremendous increase that has taken place in the number of names upon our electoral rolls. He knows that under the existing Act a larger percentage of votes was registered at the last elections than had ever been registered previously. What is the use of telling the country that we reduced the facilities for voting simply because we abolished the postal vote? Under the old administration the 80,000 voters in New South Wales, of whom we have heard so much lately, would not have been on the rolls at all. If the Government will put forward a scheme which will give to the sick and infirm a vote, and safeguard it against abuse, we are ready to assist them to pass it. But it is ridiculous to say that a person who is 5 miles distant from a polling booth is unable to record his vote. I know of one case in which a man walked 82 miles to register his vote. I have known women to walk 16 miles in order to exercise their franchise. The proposal embodied in this Bill is an impracticable one, and one which would never have been put forward by anybody who understands the position in which the mass of the voters are placed. In the first place it provides that an elector who desires to vote by post shall make application for a certificate “in the prescribed form.” That form has to be witnessed by certain persons. There are thousands of electors in this country so situated that they cannot find the necessary witnesses. In Western Australia, and elsewhere, there are thousands of electors who cannot find the only persons who are qualified to act as witnesses. Then under the Bill these electors are required to obtain the witnesses twice - first in connexion with the prescribed form, and then to witness their signatures. I come now to the provision in respect of absent voters. The absent voter is not to be permitted to vote at the nearest polling booth after being required to answer questions, make a declaration, and sign his name. He, too, must apply for a certificate. Of what value will that certificate be ? How can the Returning Officer know whether the applicant is the man whose name appears upon the roll? This provision will encourage almost any kind of crooked work. We have heard a good deal about criminals voting at elections. But the professional criminal is too busy dodging the police to vote at all. He does not wish anybody to know his address. What nonsense, it is for the Honorary Minister to talk in the way that he did! It is obvious that he is only endeavouring to fool the people. Suppose that an elector applies for a certificate to enable him to record his vote as an absent voter. He must visit a polling booth and sign the butt of his ballot-paper. What for? In order, so we are informed, that the Electoral Department may have a check upon him. But suppose that he is not the person whom he professes to be, of what use will be this alleged check ? It is true that by a comparison with the signature obtained under the card system the Department can ascertain whether the signature on the ballot-paper is a genuine one. But of what value will that information be ? It will be absolutely valueless. The difficulties which the Bill will put in the way of absent voters will disfranchise thousands of electors. Honorable members behind the Government may not be aware of this, but if they will do a little thinking for themselves they will discover it. Now, if there is one thing which a man who does heavy manual work dislikes, it is writing letters. An immense number of persons do not take as much interest in elections as they ought to, and it is only when they are stirred up that they will exercise the franchise. Yet this Bill .requires them to apply for absent voters’ certificates on a prescribed form, and will compel them to hunt round for witnesses. This they will not do, and the Government know it. Ministers do not want them to do it, because they know that the votes of this class will not go their way. The Government think they will score by making it appear that we are opposed to the postal vote. We are, and the evidence against it is sufficiently strong. I would like to call attention to another of the peculiar acts of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. He pretended to supply us with a list of the names of those who have been pro ceeded against for breaches of the law in connexion with postal voting. We have always been challenged that we have not produced any evidence of the abuse of that system. Now the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has discovered that action was taken.
– He has discovered only four cases.
– I have here a copy of the list which was supplied during thelast Parliament in reply to a question by Mr. George Fuller. The Honorary Minister must have had that list in his possession. Yet he carefully read from it only the names of persons -whose action could in any way be held to reflect upon the Labour party. He did not give the names of those on the Liberal side against whom action had been taken. That was most unfair on his part. I propose to supply the deficiency. Why should he be ashamed of it ? Let me read the list from which he quoted -
RETuRN showing tho reported oases in which tho Law Officers considered breaches of the provisions of bSxa the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to Postal Voting at the last Federal Elections (1010) and Referendum (1011) were disclosed : -
– How many cases were there at the two elections?
– This return deals with one election and one referendum, and in connexion with the former seven cases are mentioned. My objection is to the unfairness of this proposal. The Minister made a great fuss in regard to justices of the peace. What he said about them was inaccurate. He was responsible for leaving out the names I have quoted. The honorable member for Darwin, for instance, was never sworn in, and therefore, he was not qualified to act as a justice of the peace. I see nothing at all in the statement of the Minister, but I do complain of his unfairness. As regards the postal vote, there would be some sense in the new proposal if it provided for only the sick and the infirm; but it proposes to give the privilege to other persons. I intend to quote two or three statements which were made in Queensland about the operation of the postal vote. Mr. Kidston, who was Premier, said -
Every one of us knows quite well that the way postal voting was carried out in many cases made it, to all intents and purposes, open voting, done under the eye of some one who probably had some power over the person voting. The evils of last election will be a mere circumstance compared with the evils that will take place at next election. 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 other cases mentioned in this leaflet have not been quoted, I think.
Mr. Hawthorn, Home Secretary. ; “ The postal vote is of such a nature that fraud is made easy, owing to considerable abuse of the postal vote; the best way is to wipe it out altogether.”
Mr. Thomas Mowbray, P.M., Toowoomba. ; “ The general tendency of the voting by post certainly impairs the secrecy of the ballot in more ways than one. The freedom of the elector is forestalled. Hundreds obtained postal votes through misstatements.”
Mr. J. McGill, P.M., Returning Officer, Ipswich. - “ Scores of postal certificates went to one address, and were taken out to the several electors by the justice of the peace, collected, and posted by him. I am of opinion that postal voting was not secret voting, and is open to very great abuse.”
Report from Sandgate runs : - “ The certificates were evidently watched for by the justices of the peace, who had canvassed for them. Very SerioUs danger of improper action lies here.”
Report from Ravenswood : - “ The postal vote has been very much abused.”
These opinions emanated from impartial men - not only from politicians, but from persons who had dealt with the conduct of elections - and on those opinions a Queensland Liberal Government wiped out the postal vote, and I presume did not retain any provision for the sick and the infirm simply because of the inherent difficulty. Had the Commonwealth Government brought down a provision to meet such cases it would have received fair consideration, but to say that persons other than the sick and the infirm are disfranchised is ridiculous. There is a number of other points on which one must dwell a little further. I have said that the nature of men’s work will prevent them from exercising the franchise. The difficulty of getting a witness, for instance, is a great handicap.
– What about the Warwick election, in 1908?
– lb goes without saying that the postal vote was abused on that occasion. The Minister in charge of this Bill claims that the system is now safeguarded by providing severe penalties. In the other case penalties were provided, and offenders punished. Twenty-five pounds is a high penalty for a person to pay ; but it is necessary first to catch an offender. I venture to think that the imposition of the penalty will not insure the system being carried out honestly, because of the opportunity which will be afforded for the exercise of influence. In the back country there will be no person at hand who is qualified to act as a witness. Under the Electoral Act it is a criminal offence on the part of any employer to interfere so as to prevent an elector from exercising the franchise. But the postal voting system will leave a loophole to an employer to prevent an employe from exercising the franchise, because it will permit him to say, “ Now, you have no occasion to leave your work in order to go to a polling place some distance away. Why not take out a postal ballot-paper?” The squatter, being a justice of the peace, will be the only person on the station who is qualified to be a witness, and he will say to his station employes, and the rest of them, “ I cannot spare you on polling day, because such and such work will have to be done. You have no occasion to go to a polling booth, because you can get a postal ballotpaper.” We know how influence can be used on stations. That is an unfair position to put working men in, and it is only being done to carry out what has been referred to here before.
Colonel Ryrie. - It is a slander on working men to say that they will vote as their employers tell them.
– It is not. I know what I am talking about. Employes have been threatened with the sack, and men have been sacked because they voted the wrong way to suit the “ boss.” To give employers an opening to interfere is wrong. No interference with employes should be allowed. The prating of the Honorary Minister leads me to say that what we want is freedom to vote without interference, freedom from corruption, freedom from the exercise of influence. There never was any interference with the freedom of the press, because any newspapers could say what they liked. The statement about the press being gagged had no foundation, but I do not intend to dwell on that argument, and I do not know that it counts very much at all. The Labour party has won its battles in spite of the press. It will continue to win its battles. It is going to have its own press, and perhaps take possession of the old press in the course of a few years. As one who has been associated with very many members of the nomadic class, I am in a position to say that absent voting was the only system that ever met the situation of an immense number of the working classes. To introduce the drawbacks and the difficulties which are now proposed would be to disfranchise them effectively. The present Government came in for economic, honest, and effective administration, but in their first big Bill they propose to enormously add to the public expenditure. They propose to do about the most stupid thing which has ever been proposed in a Parliament when they propose to require voters to sign their names on election day. No doubt, every honorable member has noticed how timid nervous men and women are in a polling place. They are hardly capable of signing their names. They certainly cannot sign them in the same way as they do in their own home, simply because of their nervousness. Even with sympathetic Returning Officers, electors will continue to be affected by nervousness, and when they have signed their names what will be the good of the signatures. Why put a man to the trouble of getting an absent voter’s certificate if he still must goto a polling booth; what is the gain ? The Minister has said that we shall have a check, and can find out how a vote is given, but that position will only arise if there is a recount or a case taken to the Court of Disputed Returns. In an average election, no appeal will be made. It is costly to fight an appeal. This proposal may suit honorable members on the other side, who are rolling in riches, but it will not suit honorable members on this side. The appeals will be few, and the result will be that we shall have unchecked corruption introduced into our elections. Suppose that an examination is made, you cannot bowl out the individual who committed the offence. Who is to swear to his identity? He has sported the name of somebody else, even if he has done it clumsily, but nobody will be able to say who he was or where he went. Boiled down, this is only a proposal to disfranchise electors. I expect nothing else from the Liberal party, having regard to the elements of which it is composed . I will point out one objection which, of course, will not influence honorable members opposite, for they care only to disfranchise people. In some parts, the mails are once a week; in other cases, once a fortnight, and in some cases once a month. To start with, an elector will not be able to find a witness. Even if a witness is found after a lot of trouble, there will be no time for the return of the papers before polling day. It is our duty as an Opposition to criticise, and to expose the fraud, fallacy, and hypocrisy of this Bill as an improvement of the electoral law. The increase in the staff suggested by the Minister will add enormously to the cost of the administration of the Electoral Act. If we had increased efficiency for the extra cost it might be worth while, because no one nan say that we have anything like sufficient polling booths now; but the proposal of the Government simply means additional cost with less efficiency and fewer votes recorded. Honorable members would be astonished if they knew the immense percentage of electors who change their abode every year, much less every three years. Those who have to travel in order to make their living do not know where they will be at election time; and the absent vote has been a great boon to them.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– May I ask, as a point of order, whether you, Mr. Speaker, have counted in the honorable member’s time that portion devoted to the taking of the vote on the motion ‘ ‘ That the question be now put “ ?
– It is pretty rough!
– That point was decided last session, when it was debated for some considerable time on a motion of dissent from the Chairman’s ruling in Committee. The honorable member then voted against allowance being made for interruptions.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [10.5].- I think that at this hour it is a reasonable request that the debate be adjourned, instead of, as would probably otherwise be the case, splitting my remarks into two parts. Will the Prime Minister consent to the adjournment now?
– No. If I were to grant the adjournment, honorable members opposite would jeer at me for it, as they have done before. We shall go on until 11 o’clock.
– The Ministry evidently intend to use their brutal majority on my unfortunate self at this late hour of the night.
This House and the country are in an exceptionally unfortunate position in respect to this measure. The Honorary Minister, in introducing it, gave a most limited explanation of the provisions, and now wo find that any further explanation from the Ministerial benches is withheld. I am not an old parliamentarian, but I never remember, in any deliberative assembly, a measure of such importance being treated as the Government are treating this one tonight. New members opposite may be under the impression that a similar course of conduct wasfollowed by the late Government and their supporters.
– I am glad the honorable member’s conscience is pricking him.
– There is no pricking of conscience, I ara simply endeavouring to remove from the minds of new members opposite any impression they may have that the Labour party, when in power, refrained from discussing measures submitted to the House. Hansard will show that all important measures introduced by the Fisher Government were fully and freely discussed by their supporters.
– That is not so.
– I challenge the Prime Minister to turn up Hansard and show that considerable discussion did not take place on the Land Tax, the Bank Bill, the Note Issue, and other important proposals.
– Will the honorable member discuss the question before the Chair ?
– I am merely pointing out the serious position the Opposition is placed in by having the educational influence of honorable members opposite withheld in regard to this important Bill.
– The honorable member ?nust connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– As I say, I am pointing out that we are being deprived of the pent-up wisdom of honorable members opposite, and thus showing that the Government are saying to them in the old words -
Ope, gape, and swallow,
We lead, you follow.
Honorable members opposite are muzzled.
– The honorable member, during the whole time he has been speaking, has not once referred to the principles of the Bill before the Chair.
-I am referring to the Bill before the House.
– The question is that the Bill be read a second time, and to that question the honorable member has not addressed himself.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I hope that every member in the House is particularly jealous of that sacred thing which we call the secrecy of the ballot. Authorities bear me out when I say that this system of voting was first introduced in the State of Victoria in 1856, was adopted in England in 1S72, and in quite a number of the States of America as far back as 1888. I have to enter my protest against the absence of any provision in the Bill for the institution of the initiative and referenda, and I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Government this, session to introduce a measure to carry, those desirable reforms into effect. I see that by this Bill it is proposed to close the rolls at least a month earlier than was the case prior to the last election. This, I understand, is owing to the fact that officials at the Electoral Office complain that, under the present arrangement, they have not time to purge the rolls. My own opinion is that we may pay too big a price for having the rolls closed a month earlier than hitherto. The Leader of the Opposition informed us this afternoon that, if this alteration be carried into effect, it will mean that 10,000 young people - this, I think, is a very conservative estimate - who will come of age in that month, will be deprived of the franchise. The Government boast that this measure will increase the facilities for voting, and yet, in order to strike off the names of the few people who may die or may move from a particular State or from the Commonwealth, all these young people are to be denied the right to record their first vote at the next election. In the event of a strong Government being returned to power, and remaining in office for the full term, those young men and women will have to wait three years and one month before they can exercise the franchise. That is a wholesale disfranchisement of a very important section of our population. If there is one section of the community which more than any other we should encourage to vote, it is our young people. As a Radical, I look to the young folk of this country to establish far and away better systems than we have been able to put into practice. Seeing the mistakes that we have made, they will be able to go on and on until they get as near as possible to perfection in respect of electoral matters and various reforms. If we agree that the rolls shall be closed not less than one month before the date of the issue of the writs, at least 10,000 persons coming of age in that month will be denied the right to vote, and will thus receive what is practically a snub at the very inception of their manhood and womanhood.
– At what age should they be allowed to vote?
Mr.FENTON. - At the age of twentyone years.
– The honorable member voted for compulsory military service at the age of eighteen, and he should, therefore, allow those who are eighteen years of age to exercise the franchise.
– When we are dealing with defence matters, I shall be prepared to cross swords with the honorable member; but I do not wish to do so in regard to a peaceable matter of this kind.
– If a youth is fit to undertake the defence of his country at eighteen, he ought to be fit to vote at that age.
Mr.FENTON. - Time will not permit me to follow the honorable member along the by-paths into which he would lead me. Many of the proposals made in this Bill are very fantastic, and some are exceedingly silly. One that is both foolish and wrong is that which requires an elector to subscribe his signature on the block from which the ballot-paper is taken. We all know how polling booths in the more populous centres are overcrowded during certain periods of the day, although under the present system the electors have only to give their names and receive a ballotpaper. Very often there is much confusion, excitement, and turmoil in our polling booths in the carrying out of this simple process ; but the Government are now asking a body of intelligent men to agree to a very retrograde, step. Many old men and women are much troubled and excited when called upon to sign the electoral cards while in the midst of their own families. What will be their condition of mind when they are called upon in a crowded polling booth to write their names on the ballot-paper blocks? Does the honorable member for Franklin think that the signature of an elderly person, written under such conditions, would be at all similar to that written on the electoral card in his own home?
– I believe that, in many cases, one member of the family signs the whole of the cards before they are sent in.
-The honorable member may know more about that than I do. I understand that the chief object of this proposal is to enable the identity of the voter to be established by comparing his signature on the ballot-paper block with that on the electoral card in the departmental cabinet. But we have all witnessed the condition of nervous excitement into which many old people get when signing their names, and I am sure that the signatures of old people on these blocks will not be much like those attached to the electoral cards. Many of us are such peculiar writers that a comparison of some of our signatures to different letters would lead some people to believe that they had not been written by the same hand. When I am away from home my wife has very great difficulty in deciphering what I write.
– And ho a “wowser” at that.
– I would call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the epithet hurled at me by the honorable member for Maranoa. I regard it as an extremely offensive term, and I resent it, whether it be applied to me inside or outside the House.
– Does the honorablemem- ber desire that it shall be withdrawn?
– I shall not insist upon its withdrawal, but I hope that this mild rebuke will be sufficient to keep the honorable member for Maranoa in his place. I take itthat the meaning of the word “ wowser “ is “ hypocrite “ or “ Pharisee,” and I certainly do not like such an epithet to be applied to me.
I take it thatthis Bill has been introduced, not to give every facility to the people to vote, but to try to frighten away from the polling places as many men “and women as possible. Thousands ofpeople will refrain from going to a polling booth when they learn that they will have to sign their names there before they are allowed to vote. There are many who would sooner do a hard day’s work than write a line. This is not only a retrograde, but an exceedingly harsh, proposal, and should not be pressed.
I am not going to give the Government the credit of having initiated some of the provisions of this Bill. To a large extent the occupants of the Treasury bench, if not the rank and file of their following, are under the control of the leagues outside. Honorable members may laugh, but I hope to be able to show that the Government are beholden to their electoral leagues - to leagues here in Melbourne - for many of the provisions of this Bill. Take that, for instance, to which I have just been alluding. I know that a report has been issued, either by the Liberal Union or the Liberal Speakers Union, in which many of these so-called reforms are outlined. In one report, covering a number of pages of foolscap, a suggestion in reference to the signing of the blocks of the ballot-papers is made. The recommendation did not go as far as the Ministry propose, but it was suggested that where a vote was disputed the person desiring to vote should sign the ballot-paper block.
– That has to be done nowwhere there is a dispute.
– They have to sign a paper, but not the ballot-paper blocks. I believe I shall find, on comparingthis report with the Bill itself, that there is a wonderful similarity between the two. Instead of our politics being made in the Trades Hall, as used to be said, they are being manufactured in the rooms of theConstitutional party, the Women’s National League, the Liberal party, or the People’s party.
– Does the honorable member think that we could ever get those four bodies to agree?
– I believe that they could bo led to agree on a matter of this kind. The report to which I have referred was issued immediately after the last general election, so that many of the provisions of this Bill have been framed in the first place outside theCabinet altogether by the masters of honorable members opposite - the Liberal Leagues.
– Why growl when the Political Labour Leagues do the same thing for the Labour party?
– I have come to the conclusion that the Labour party have far more freedom than have honorable members opposite. The supporters of the Government are coming to heel splendidly, and are displaying magnificent discipline. They are practically being “gagged” so far as the discussion of this very important measure is concerned.
– We are waiting for some decent arguments to which to reply.
– The honorable member would be one of the first to pounce upon inoffensive members on this side of the House if they gave utterance to weak arguments.
– I would describe what we have been listening to, not as -weak arguments, but as drivel.
– Sometimes the honorable member is not in a fit mental state to judge whether the matter submitted is solid argument or drivel. If his mental capacity is defective, I cannot help him.
I come now to the postal voting provisions of this measure. The chief complaint levelled against postal voting is that it opens the door to fraud, and that frauds have been committed in connexion with it. I have said that if the postal vote could be hedged round with sufficient restrictions to prevent those who are inclined to manipulate it from doing so, we should be only too glad to give the privilege to every one who wished to vote in this way. The late Government tried to give the sick and infirm in our public hospitals an opportunity of voting. The Home Affairs Department communicated with the hospitals in every State, but with two exceptions the offer was declined.
– Was it allowed in any one case?
Mr.FENTON. - I believe that in one case, in South Australia, the patients in a public hospital were allowed to vote, but in Victoria not a single hospital was placed at the disposal of the Home Affairs Department in order that the inmates might be enabled to record a vote.
– The patients in the public hospitals in Tasmania were allowed to vote.
– I am glad to hear that. That information places in a worse light what was done in the State of Victoria, at the instigation of the Premier, Mr. Watt. He, as Treasurer, contributes the greater amount of the funds at the disposal of the hospitals, and he sent out a circular to all boards of management of hospitals over which he had any influence, telling them that they were not to allow their institutions to be used as polling booths on the 31st May. Consequently, if these sick persons were not allowed to exercise the franchise the blame does not rest with the late Government, but with the State Premier and those who sympathize with him. A great deal of objection has been raised by honorable members opposite to the criticism of the postal vote made by the Opposition. I have in my possession a report from members of the police force in respect to the worst case of abuse that came under the notice of the Home Affairs Department in Victoria. I refer to the prosecution of a justice of the peace named Lesser, at Coleraine. The case was heard at Hamilton, but the offence was committed at Coleraine. Constable Harrington, of Coleraine, who made the inquiries, reported -
With regard to Mr. Louis Lesser, of Coleraine, illegally witnessing postal ballot applications, I beg to report as follows : - “ On the 6th and 7th instant I made careful inquiries regarding this matter, and interviewed and obtained statements from all persons whose names appear in attached certificates. The first eleven applicants whose names appear in attached brief pre strong, healthy young women, all living from 300 yards to half a mile from the polling booth ; had no reason whatever for applying for certificates, and I have very little doubt they would have gone to the booth had not Mr. Lesser taken them the application forms and asked them to vote by post. Most of them are poor people, and either tenants or are in debt to Mr. Lesser, who is a storekeeper at Coleraine, and also a money lender. All the persons interviewed gave their statements freely, and, I believe, if on oath, would say more. The statements of these eleven are exact copies of statements signed by them to me on the 6th and 7th instant.
Senior-Constable Loftus, of Coleraine, who seems to have a very good knowledge of the Coleraine people and their habits, gave me every assistance in making these inquiries. He says he has no doubt the persons named in attached brief of statements are truthful.”
– I think we had better have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– The constable’s report stated that these women were healthy young women who could easily have gone to the polling booth. They were required to take the oath -
That, being a woman, I will, on account of ill-health, be unable to attend the polling place on polling day to vote.
Every one present, especially every married man, knows what that means. Ann Bird, one of the women, told the constable, “ I was not ill at the time.” Ellen Elizabeth Maylan said, “ I was not sick; he knew I was not.” S. E. Humphries said, “ I was not ill at the time.” M. G. Dolman said, “I was not sick.” J. E. Staff said -
I cannot remember the way I voted, but it was for the side Mr. Lesser was taking. I afterwards found when my husband came home that I voted the opposite way he was voting. He said the referenda would mean a taxon people who had a certain amount of land.
Selina Campbell said. “ I was not sick, nor did I seal my papers.” The evidence was brought before Mr. Gordon Castle, of the Attorney-General’s Department, who reported -
In the majority of cases Mr. Lesser appears to have induced’ persons, mainly women, to sign applications for postal ballot-papers on the ground of ill-health when they were not in ill- health, and although the authorized witness to the respective applications, he did not satisfy himself by inquiry from the applicant that the statements were true.
By inducing the applicants to sign the applications containing untrue statements, which he must have known to be untrue, or which he did not trouble toascertain whether they were true or not, Mr. Lesser has committed a ‘breach of section 109(4) of the Electoral Act; and by witnessing the applications without satisfying himself of the truth of the statements by inquiry from applicant, he has committed a breach of section 109 (b) (c) of the Electoral Act.
Mr. Morley, who prosecuted for the Commonwealth, said that -
Being of the same shade of politics as Mr. Lesser, he would not push for so heavy a fine as he might otherwise have done.
Selina Campbell made a statement to the police upon which a charge was based against Lesser, bub when the case came into Court, she refused to substantiate her statement. She said -
We live in Mr. Leaser’s house, and we are paying him rent.
The witness also said that all the statements attributed to her were correct, except that she did not remember about the cross in the little square. Mr. Morley asked : ‘ ‘ Why did you make this statement to Mr. Harrington?” The witness remained silent. Mr. Morley then read her signed statement to her. It contained the words “ He (Mr. Lesser) told me where to make a cross in the little square.” Here we find that a witness who had made statements to the police, upon which a prosecution was inaugurated, was not inclined to give the same evidence when the case came into Court. Speaking of the case later, Mr. Morley said -
This offence is happening all over Victoria.
This gentleman was a candidate for selection in the Corio division against Mr. Kendell-
There have been prosecutions before in and around Melbourne. What the Department feels is that it must avoid suspicion, and put this sort of thing down.
The Crown Solicitor, now Mr. Justice Powers, wrote in a report dated 24th October, 1911-
In Mrs. Campbell’s case the defendant was convicted for an offence under section 109(d), and fined£5, with five guineas costs. The police magistrate, however, held there was no evidence of “ inducing” under section 109(4), and dismissed the information As Mrs. Campbell went back on her evidence no conviction could be obtained under section 174 (4). The
Police Magistrate held the Department had ample justification for laying the information, and declined to allow costs to the defendant in connexion with the two charges on which no conviction was obtained.
In reference to other two charges, Mrs. Campbell went back on her statement to Constable Harrington, and refused to remember having said what was in her statement, anything about “ inducing “ or “ attempting to influence.”
The honorable member for Darling referred to a number of cases, some of which I did not hear the Honorary Minister mention last night, though I shall not say that he purposely suppressed them.
As there are trains to catch, I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Non-payment of Temporary Employes - Show Week Adjournment - British Parliamentary Visit - Liberal Party’s Canvasser : Miss Norris.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have been advised by telegram that the temporary hands employed in the Hobart Post Office are not being paid. Men in receipt of only £2 or £3 a week have not much left over at the end of the week when their debts have been paid, and honorable members will understand the inconvenience to which these officers are being put. I am sure it is not the desire of the Postmaster-General that any members of the Public Service should suffer in this way, but I understand that funds are not available for the payment of the men. Surelv the Government have not yet been in power long enough to deplete the Treasury. I hope that the Minister will inquire into the matter early tomorrow, and instruct that the men be paid at once.
– If the men referred to have not been paid it is not for want of funds. I shall make inquiries to ascertain why they have not been paid.
.- I ask the Prime Minister whether it is intended to adjourn over any part of next week because of the visit of members of the
British Parliament, and the holding of the Agricultural Show? Honorable members, especially those who have to come from Sydney, would like to know as soon as possible what is to be done so that they may make arrangements accordingly. If there is to be an adjournment, we might as well adjourn over a whole week as over two days of the week.
– I have been asked to make a denial of a statement made by the honorable member for Ozley. I have drawn the honorable member’s attention to the passage in a speech made by him to which objection has been taken, and have told him the course I intend to follow. I have received the following letter from Miss Ethel A. Norris, who says -
My attention having been called to Hansard, No. 6, issued on Saturday, 30th August, 1913, where Mr. J. Sbarpe, member for Oxley, is reported to have said : - “ I was opposed by a candidate whose canvasser, Miss Norris, Mainstreet, Kangaroo Point, went about among the old-age pensioners telling them that if the LobouT party were returned, old-age pensions would be abolished. As her father and mother are in receipt of old-age pensions, her statement received some credence. I . mention the fact to show that misrepresentations occurred on the Liberal side.”
MightI ask you if you would give this statement of Mr. Sharpe an unqualified denial?
I showed the honorable member this denial, and told him I intended to take this? action - 1 st.I deny emphatically ever having tried to deceive any old-age pensioners by such statements.. 2nd. My. father and mother are not in receipt of old-age pensions, and never have been.
I intended to mention the matter last night, but the early rising of the House prevented me from doing so. I think it is only fair, in justice to this lady, that her. statement should be given as wide publicity as that made in regard to her.
– Last year, on Show Day, the House met at half-past 4, instead of at 3 o’clock, and it seems to me that. we. might do the same thing this year. As: to the dinner to the Parliamentary visitors on Wednesday night, it should be sufficient to adjourn about 6 o’clock.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130917_reps_5_70/>.