5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3. p.m., and read prayers.
Invitation to Commonwealth Members
– Last week I asked the Prime Minister if he would be good enough to invite the members of the New
South Wales Parliament to the reception of the Fleet, and, in reply, he said that he would deal with them more liberally than they had dealt with the members of this Parliament in connexion with the visit of members of the British Parliament to Sydney. I therefore now ask the honorable gentleman if his attention has been directed to the following statement by the Premier of the State, which appeared in the Newcastle Herald of Saturday last - “As a matter of fact,” said the Premier, “I wired Mr. Cook in these terms on the 29th August : - ‘ Could you kindly say how many members of the Federal House will be in Sydney Tuesday next, and should be invited to the State banquet to the British Parliamentarians, also members’ names.’ A list was supplied in reply to that telegram, and invitations were sent out in accordance with that list to two Ministers and to Messrs. Carr, Conroy, Finlayson, Ryrie, and Sinclair. Mr. Groom did not accept, neither did Mr. Cook, but several of the others were there. The public can judge how much ground there is for the complaint of discourtesy.”
Is the statement a correct one ?
– How should I know whether it is correct? I am not able to say what the Premier of New South Wales does.
– The honorable gentleman should have received the telegram referred to.
– I think that it is a pity that the Premier of New South Wales has not something better to do than to try to make mischief in this way.
Isolation of Contacts
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if anything has been done towards removing the embargo on Sydney. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the press of New South Wales urge that the quarantine should be removed?
– I have the whole matter under very serious consideration, but I personally shall not take the responsibility of lifting the embargo.
– I promised the honorable member for West Sydney that I would lay on the table a statement by Dr. Cumpston regarding the small-pox outbreak. The following is the statement in question : -
In my opinion, after having seen a number of the cases, there is no possibility of doubt that the disease is small-pox. It is true that many of the cases are mild, and that the type of the disease now being manifested in Sydney is not a virulent one. It is, however, not possible at present to give any forecast as to whether this mild type will or will not continue.
– A few days ago I addressed to the Minister of Trade and Customs a question as to the number of small-pox contacts isolated since the outbreak of the” scare in Sydney, and the number allowed to be at large. I think that the honorable gentleman’s reply was that this was a matter of State concern. I desire now to ask him whether he does not think it is of sufficient importance to warrant his obtaining the particulars for the information of honorable members.
– As I said on a previous occasion, this is a matter entirely under the control of the State, but if the honorable member desires the information I shall be pleased to try to obtain it for him.
– I certainly desire to obtain it.
Mr. GLYNN laid upon the table the following . paper : -
Papua - Ordinance of 1912 - No. 1, Health.
Count Out - Postal Ballot-papers.
– I wish to make a personal explanation regarding Friday’s count out. After we had adjourned, I discovered that I had promised the honorable member for Parkes to come in to make a House while he was away. In the, excitement of the moment, when engaged in throwing out skirmishers to keep members from coming into the chamber, I forgot my promise. I apologize to the honorable member for having done so, and I am very sorry for what’ happened. Had I been reminded of the promise, even at the eleventh hour, I should have come in and helped to make a House.
– I wish to make a personal explanation which I should have made on Friday morning had the circumstances permitted. The report in the Argus of that day, of our proceedings of Thursday, credits me with this utterance -
Five thousand postal votes went astray during the 1910 elections, and the reason, that many of them did not reach the ballot-box was that some high officials did not properly carry out their duties.
This is the corresponding passage in the
Hansard report of my speech -
Under Part X. of the old Act which was repealed during last Parliament, trafficking in postal votes was possible, and, in my opinion, a number of the 5,000 postal ballot-papers that were unaccounted for did not reach the ballotbox because the persons to whom they were intrusted for posting did not perform their duty, the way in which the votes were cast probably being known to them.
Without an explanation it might he thought by officers, of the Electoral Department that I intended to reflect on them, because of the words “ high officials “ which appear in the Argus report, but which I did not use. I cast no reflection on these officers, who carry out their duties splendidly, although underpaid and overworked. Those to whom I referred were the persons to whom, in 1910, postal ballot-papers were intrusted, which they did not- forward as they should have done.
Mechanics - Electricians : Holidays - Storemen: Wages
– In reference to the importation of postal mechanics, about which I have already questioned the PostmasterGeneral, I ask that honorable gentleman now if he will obtain from the Public Service Commissioner a statement of the “number of individuals in the Service who, although they have passed the examination for the position of postal mechanic, have not been placed.
– Applications have been invited to fill the vacancies in the Department, and they must be sent in by the 1st October. It would therefore, be well to leave this matter over until these applications have been dealt with. If the honorable member will not do that, I shall be prepared to ask for the statement which he desires.
– I wish for that statement.
– Provision having been made in the postal electricians’ award, giving the Public Service Commissioner power to proclaim certain days as holidays, will the Postmaster-General see that there be proclaimed as holidays Eight Hours Day, in Sydney, and also the day on which the Australia arrives in that port?
– As a rule, when a public holiday is proclaimed in a city, the Department, which cannot permit the offices to be altogether closed to the public, allow off as many officers as possible, so that they may attend whatever functions may be on. That probably will be done in Sydney, as in other towns.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he advise that award rates recently obtained by the Storemen’s Union, New South Wales, viz., 10s. per day for casual and temporary storemen, be paid to the men employed in the same capacity in the Post Office Stores, Sydney ?
– The Common- wealth Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information : -
The award referred to provides that the minimum rate of wages to be paid to storemen under weekly engagement shall be £2 10s. per week. It is not the practice to employ storemen in the Stores Branch, Sydney, for periods of less than a week, and any engaged are paid the award rate of £210s. per week. Should it be necessary to engage temporary, storemen for any period less than a week, the casual rate prescribed in the award will be paid.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether he is correctly reported in the Melbourne Age of this morning in the following statement: -
He (Mr. Cook) was not quite sure whether a country, like any other body, did not need a rest, the rest from legislative enactment.
– I have already ruled on more than one occasion that it is not in order to ask if a statement attributed to an honorable member is correctly reported, or if a statement that has appeared in a newspaper is true.
– I rise to a point of order.
– The honorable member cannot take a point of order in’ this connexion.
– I submit that I. can take a point of order at any time.
– In regard to other matters, the honorable member could do so, but I would -remind him that the Speaker is the sole judge of what questions are in order, and no point of order nor question of privilege can arise in connexion with his decision. That was laid down by my predecessors in this office. It is distinctly laid down in May that questions as to the truth of newspaper reports are not in order.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his statement, reported in -various journals, that the Government would be compelled to go to the country -at an early date, is not a violation of the constitutional rule that advice to be tendered to the representative of the Crown should not be anticipated by the ; public statements of his advisers. I hand to the Prime Minister a copy of the newspaper containing the remarks to which I refer.
– I dare say I did make that statement, but I am not aware that I have violated any constitutional rule whatever. ‘ I should now like to ask the right honorable gentleman whether his statement at Ballarat -the other night is correct.
– The honorable member is not in order in asking the right ‘honorable member a question.
– I only wish I were!
– I should be very glad if the Prime Minister were allowed to ask the question.
– I have no desire to embarrass the Prime Minister, but I should like to ask him whether, in view of his statement last evening, that the country wishes to have a rest from legislation, he proposes’ to proceed with the Bureau of Agriculture Bill?
– I am not quite sure that I did say the country desired a rest; what I said was that, perhaps, the country desired a’ rest. It is quite clear, that the opinion of my friends opposite is that we do require a rest, and a long one.
– Is it a fact that, at the week end, the Prime Minister made an offer at Ballarat to resign his seat, and, if so, was it a Cabinet decision that led him to make the offer, which would have the effect of bringing about the resignation of his Government! Is the offer to be taken seriously?
– I do not mind answering the question, though it is a somewhat puerile one. A statement had been made by the honorable member for Ballarat to the effect that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had admitted - those were the words - paying large sums of money to the funds of our party organization. What I said was that if the honorable member could find any substantiation for his statement I should resign my seat.
– Would the whole Government resign 1
– And the whole Government would resign also.
– I have submitted evidence. Why does the Prime Minister not resign?
– The honorable member has submitted no evidence whatever.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister desires this afternoon a rest from the work of the House, and that the business of the country is to be suspended ?
– That question is not in order.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that he consults his own self-respect before asking such questions ?
– Order! I have ruled the question out of order.
– Does the Minister of External Affairs intend to honour the promise made by his predecessor to, as far as practicable, have the furnishing and internal fittings of the Commonwealth offices, in London, made of Australian wood, and other Australian material. Further, I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman will see that in the lead-lighting of the building, Australian bird life, and Australian flora and fauna generally, are illustrated as a further advertisement to this country?
– About a fortnight ago an arrangement was made for the supply of Australian wood for some of the floors in the High Commissioner’s office. The matter had to be carefully inquired into, and it was decided to accept an offer of £3,000 or £4,000 worth of timber for this purpose. Besides this, the halls and the public rooms of the London offices will be floored with Australian marble, and the walls decorated with coloured marble from this country. The actual marble has not yet been decided on, but I am expecting a report shortly from the person who has been making, an examination of the quarries. The marble for the masses of sculpture at the main entrance, 14 feet from the ground on either side, and 73 feet from the ground in the centre, will have to be of the best, and about ten days ago. we arranged with Mr. Mackennal to do the sculpture. As to the illustrations of Australian bird life, and so forth, in the lead-lights, that has not yet come under my notice, but when the scheme for the mural decorations reaches us shortly - one is now being drawn up- by the architects - the matter will be carefully inquired into. It is out desire that Australian artists, wherever resident, shall have full opportunity to compete.
– Has «he attention of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs been directed to the statement made at the Ballarat Conference of the Women’s National League, and reported in the Argus of last Friday to the following effect-
Miss B. Armstrong (Kyneton) ‘opened the discussion. She said that it had been proved that the certified rolls had contained duplications and the names of deceased persons, and many votes had been cast by fraud.
Will the Minister communicate with this lady with a view to proof of her statements being obtained, and to taking action against the persons alleged to have voted by fraud? ‘
– I have not seen the report referred to, but I shall give the matter my consideration, and see what the necessities of the Department require.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government) have arranged for, or have in contemplation, the sending of some of the members of the Government as delegates to a conference at the other end of the world, shortly?
– No- no such luck I
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Edward Petherick, the donor of the Petherick collection, is very dissatisfied with his position, and with the duties assigned to him under the Petherick Collection Act. Further, will the honorable gentleman be good enough to have laid upon the table of the House and printed all correspondence and memoranda sent by Mr. Petherick to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, - and to Senator Gould when President of the Senate ?
– I am totally unaware of anything of the kind. I should imagine that any complaints would first of all be made to the Library Committee, of which Mr. Speaker is the chairman, bo that anything I might receive would come from that quarter. I have heard nothing.
– Will the Prime Minister inquire ?
– Certainly. I shall be glad to do so.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Inter-State Commission has been requested to furnish within any specified time a report as to its inquiries in regard to the Tariff, or whether it has been left to the Commission itself to determine when a report shall be made?
– No request’ has been made to the Inter-State Commission to report within a specified time. The Commission will have a large number of inquiries to make, but we expect that those matters requiring urgent consideration will be dealt with by it as soon as possible.
– The Minister has not asked for a report within a certain time ?
– The matter has been referred to the Commission.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Inter-State Commission has yet received any replies from those who have been asked to’ supply certain information ?
– The officers of the Commission have been appointed, and notices are being sent out; but I am not in a position to ascertain to what extent replies have been received.
– Would it not be advisable to have a report presented from time to time, giving not necessarily the names of those who have supplied information, but the number who have done so ?
– That can be done. As honorable members know, this will be a judicial inquiry by an independent tribunal
– I grant that.
– And much of the information supplied must be of a confidential character ; but I can see no objection to giving the honorable member the number of persons who have supplied information.
– Can the Minister of Trade- and Customs state whether the information relating to Tariff revision which, from time to time, has been . lodged with the Department of Trade and Customs will be handed over to the InterState Commission?
– All the information that we have in the Department will be available to members of the Commission. The Commission, however, will be seeking the latest information, whereas much of that already in the possession of the Department of Trade and Customs goes back two or three years. Since then conditions in many oases have considerably altered, but the information we have in the Department will certainly bo placed entirely at the disposal of the Commission.
– There has recently been supplied to . the Department of Trade and Customs information showing the desirableness’ of revising the Tariff. I desire to know whether information of that character will be handed over to the Inter-State Commission?
– Certainly. It will then be for the Inter-State Commission to make what inquiries it thinks necessary, and to get the evidence verified according, to its usual method of procedure.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether communications made by manufacturers to the Department of Trade and Customs in regard to Tariff revision are not in the nature of confidential information, and whether such information has been handed over to the Inter-State Commission without the consent of the parties concerned-?
– There was in the possession of the Department at the time of the appointment of the Commission a large number of schedules giving information that had-been supplied confidentially. A letter has, therefore, been sent out to these manufacturers reminding them that this information was supplied as confiden tial, and asking whether they will consent to its being communicated to the Commission. It was recognised that the information was purely confidential, and it was thought right to take this step before handing over the schedules to the Commission,
State Premiers’ Conference - New Banking Premises, Sydney - Powers of Governor - Loans
– I should like to ask the Treasurer whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government intend to call a conference of State Premiers and Treasurers in order to induce the States to join in the operations . of the Commonwealth Bank?
– I am not able to say that anything has occurredyet, but if there be an opportunity we shall certainly have a conference of Premiers and Treasurers in regard to any matters of pressing mutual concern.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the cost of the land resumed, and the erection of new buildings for the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, will run into something like a quarter of a million sterling, and, if so, who is responsible for this expenditure 1 Is there to be no competition for the erection of the building? Have the Government of the day anything to do with the matter, or is it entirely in the hands of the Governor of the Bank?
– This is a matter relating to the powers of the Governor of the Bank, from whom I shall be glad to obtain the necessary information. I believe that he is in town, and no doubt I shall readily obtain the information required if the honorable member will give notice of his question.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the Governor of the Bank has power to expend £250,000 on new banking premises without first obtaining the-, consent or approval of Parliament, and without Parliament being asked to provide the necessary funds.
– Yes; the Governor of the Bank has full power, and the Government of the day are responsible.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank purchased the site on which’ thenew banking premises are to be erected in Sydney, or did a former Government of the Commonwealth provide the necessary funds?
– I bought it.
– I should like the honorable member to give notice of his question. I do not think the Government provided any money. The Governor of the Bank has to provide the necessary funds, and, if he makes a mistake, the Government of the day are responsible.
– Has the Treasurer yet received the return for. which I asked a few days ago in respect of the money loaned by the . Commonwealth Bank, the security given for such loans, and the interest earned ?
– Did the honorable member give notice of his question ?
– No; but the right honorable gentleman said he would obtain the information for me.
– I should be obliged if the honorable member would give notice of his question. It is due to the Governor of the Bank, and also to the Government of the day, that we should have definite questions put, so that a precise and definite, answer may be obtained.
Speeds of Vessels- Liverpool Manoeuvre Area
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House what are the greatest -speeds in miles- ‘per ‘hour attained by faotor boats, revenue clatters, cruisers, and turbine passenger steamers?
– The following particulars are furnished by the Naval Board: -
Motor boats (hydroplanes), 45 miles per hour; revenue cutters (sail), 12 miles per hour; cruisers, . 35 miles per hour; turbine passenger steamers, 29 miles per hour. Note. - Speed is given in land miles, not knots.
asked the Minister representing “the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In consideration of the delay which has occurred in regard to the Liverpool Manoeuvre Area, and notwithstanding that under the . terms of the lease which the . authorities are prepared to’ give the late owners, wherein they reserve to themselves the right to enter the areas resumed twice within the year for military purposes, will the Minister undertake to guard the late owners against damage to the frnit and crops now growing in the area during the next Easter’ encampment? ….
– Instructions will be issued that every precaution be taken to guard against damage.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to . the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 1370), on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the House adjourned on Thursday, I was endeavouring to point out the seri: ousness of interfering with ballotpapersin the manner proposed by the Government. I am of opinion that it- is a grave mistake to permit the marking of a ballot-paper by an electoral official in any manner whatever. The AttorneyGeneral pointed out that in Canada a ballot-paper issued to an elector is numbered on the butt, and corresponds with the elector’s number on the roll. That, in my opinion, is a bad system. At many polling places in Australia the number of electors is not large. It is quite within the realm of possibility for a returning or presiding officer or a poll clerk to retain in his memory the number of an elector;’ and when the papers are counted the memory of an officer who desired to know how a particular elector voted would probably be sufficiently retentive for him to identify a particular paper. I do not think that such a system would commend itself to the public of this country. The proposal made by the Government is that an elector shall write his name across the butt of the ballot-paper. I am of opinion that those- who originated this proposal cannot have had a very large experience of elections. In city constituencies especially, where large numbers of electors go to the poll ‘at certain hours of the day, a great rush- takes place. Under the present system the confusion is bad enough to give rise to a great deal of excitement and grumbling. Indeed, some people, are not disposed tq go to the poll owing to the inconvenience. But what will it be like when each elector has to write his name on the butt pf the ballot-paper? As a rule, electors are somewhat nervous when they go into a polling booth.
– Those about’ to vote Liberal ought to be nervous I
– The honorable member is quite right. This nervousness is. especially marked in the case of aged people. It will be impossible to carry out such a system as insisting that each elector shall write his name before he gets, his ballotpaper. What reason is there for this proposal? We have heard no justification for it from the Government. The Attorney-General did indeed try to elucidate the matter. From the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs we obtained no information whatever. Even the AttorneyGeneral gave no sufficient reason. Of course, we were told about possibilities which may occur. But no legislative body in any part of the world has ever attempted to legislate for some imaginary possibility. The Government, since the last election, have been searching in every corner to find out whether the statements regarding all that occurred were or were not correct. They have done their utmost to discover that there was something wrong. But they have obtained no reliable information. In my ‘ humble opinion, there was no justification whatever for the aspersions cast after the election on the electors of this country. I honestly believe that all the rumours which were circulated arose simply in the minds of some, disappointed individuals who could not endure im. patience at the defeat of candidates in whom they were interested. If I know anything of the feeling of the electors of Australia,’ they will vigorously resist any attempt on the part of the Government to interfere with the secrecy of the ballot. If there is one thing more than another which has advertised Australia throughout the civilized world it is our electoral system. One can scarcely pick up an American work deal-: ing with social questions which does not eulogize our Australian system of the secret ballot. I can recollect the time when men and women .were practically compelled’ to vote as their employers directed, and when to do otherwise would mean unemployment and, perhaps, starvation for them. Under that, system it was utterly impossible to obtain a true expression of the will of the people. For the Government to ask the Democratic party which sits upon this side of the House - the party which is intent, upon the betterment of the people - to-do away with the secrecy of the -ballot, is simply preposterous. I am satisfied that every member of the Labour partY will voice the’ view which I am expressing, and will use his utmost endeavours to prevent any alteration of the existing system of voting by ballot. What has occurred to warrant any such alteration ? It is true that immediately after the, last general election the Government, assisted by the juvenile member for . Wentworth, attempted to raise a public scare by declaring that numerous cases of duplicate voting had occurred. Personally, J. would hail with delight an appeal to the people upon this measure, because it -would afford me an opportunity of pointing out to them that the Ministry “which are in office with a magnificent majority of one wish to deprive them’ of the grand system under which their votes are recorded secretly. Honorable members opposite are exercising uncommon self-restraint upon this Bill. They sit there, like a lot of dumb dogs. They dare not utter a word. They long for an ..opportunity to crush the Democrats of Australia. . I note that one portion of this Sill proposes to abolish the Electoral Commissioners, to whom is intrusted the work of redistributing our electoral boundaries from time to time. I am not so wedded to the existing system, as to say that an improvement in it cannot be made. But, to my mind, the Government are taking a step in the wrong direction when they propose to substitute for these Commissioners the Judges of our Supreme Courts. These dignitaries are to be taken away from an atmosphere to which they are accustomed and placed in an atmosphere which is entirely foreign to them. Unless some better scheme can be suggested, I shall be obliged to vote for the retention of the existing system. We all know that the Surveyors-General of the various States are well qualified to determine the boundaries of our electorates. The knowledge which they acquire in the daily performance of their official duties is necessarily of great value to them in delimiting those boundaries. To supersede these gentlemen and to appoint in their places Judges of our Supreme Courts is, to my mind, a false step. Only a few days ago I read in the newspapers of Victoria a report which suggested that a Judge of the Supreme Court of this State, upon being called upon to deal with an appeal from a Wages Board award, seemed ‘unable to’ grasp the position. The ramifications of the legal profession take the Judges into ari atmosphere which is quite foreign to- that in which commercial business is transacted. That struck me as a good reason for not bringing the - Judges into the question of dividing the States. I cannot see that the proposal of the Government is an improvement. Under a redistribution scheme, even if made- by a legal mind, an honorable member on this side, whose electorate is altered, and who is given a number of Liberals, will feel aggrieved, and will not want- anything to do with the scheme. It will be just the same with honorable members on the other side. If any one of them should get a few Democrats and men with open minds - men who support the party on this ‘side - included in his electorate, he also will feel aggrieved. Honorable members opposite want in their electorates only Conservatives and persons who look after vested interests. They do not want their electorates to include persons who are interested in the welfare of the people. Their main object is to conserve old ideas, to represent those who consider that vested interests have to be looked after, and that, if those interests are not conserved, the country will go to the dogs, though history, of course, tells us quite a different tale. We know from the history of recent times that the conditions of the people are better in a Democracy than ever they were before. Although we .have made many marches in the field of progress, the field is still very wide, and there is a lot of work to be done for the people. As regards the redistribution of our electorates, I prefer the old system. If we should be as devoid of information on this subject at the next stage of the Bill as we are now, I shall certainly vote against the proposal to bring the Judges of the Supreme Court into a matter which, I think, can hardly be congenial to the atmosphere in which they move and have their being. I still hold the opinion that it is very objectionable to. abolish the deposit of 5s. with an objection to a name on the roll. Having had a long experience of electioneering, I am acquainted with the dodges which are resorted to by canvassers. No matter on which side they may be working, enthusiastic canvassers seem to lose control of themselves, and lodge objections which are likely to result in many an elector being robbed of his vote. I know of many cases in New South Wales in which that result has happened. Not very long ago, for instance, a friend who had five votes in his house had a little trouble through an objection being lodged. There was no question as to how these five persons would vote at an election, because the three male members of the household belonged to’ a very strong trade union, while the two wives took a very active part in the women’s organization in connexion with the Labour party. They gave notice to the landlord that they intended to shift on the following Monday. This information came to the knowledge of some persons, probably an estate agent. Most of the estate agents are Liberals. They generally work with Liberals, because they get most money out of them. I do not blame them for taking that course, because it is always a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence with them. Some person informed the Electoral Officer that my five friends had left the house,- and their names were struck’ off the roll directly; in fact, before the notice had really expired. Occurring, as the incident did, about a fortnight ot three weeks before an election, my friends had just time, by acting quickly, to get the names restored to the roll. Surely honorable members can see that loopholes of that kind are not beneficial to one side or the other. If the desire of honorable members opposite is to insure the purity of elections, and to deprive no person of an opportunity to record his vote,_ it will be very sound judgment on their_ part, I think, to still require a deposit of 5s. with an objection to a name on the roll.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This Electoral. Bill, it seems to me, ought to be considered by an honorable member apart from the side on which he sits. It is the basis of our whole system of constitutional government, and in a Democracy like that of Australia; where the governors can only govern with the consent of. the governed, we ought to make the ‘ system as clean and pure as possible. I admit at once that I am a partisan, and that is why I did not’ accept the position of justice of the peace in South Australia. I admit also that, while the arguments of- the Honorary Minister the other day were weak, his lungs were strong. A weak argument may not always be put forward from weak lungs. I think it is a mistake to abuse the Minister who is dealing with a Bill. ‘ It is always a mistake to abuse any one Minister. This is a Government measure, and therefore the Government are responsible for its provisions. The Honorary Minister is only the instrument for carrying out the will of the Government and their party. That is why I think that our system of Cabinet Government is a weak one. The strength of a chain is always that of its weakest link, and the weakest administrator represents the strength of the Ministry. It would be far better, I think,’ if the Government and our side of the House could come to an understanding with . a view to a Committee hatching out the Bill, so that it might be made a perfect one.
– There would be a lot ‘of scratching out.
– Yes, but every law is the result of compromises with stipulations. No law can be put on the statute-book without the people having been got together and consulted. I was hoping that the Government would take advantage of their small majority in the House to do big things. I thought that they were going to bring down a Bill for the unification of the railways.
– Why did you not do it?
– I did all that was possible in the three years. We cleared the way for ourhonorable friends opposite. We have left everything right, and surely they could not expect us to do everything in three years.
– Do you say that you left everything right for the unification of the railways?
-If my honorable friend will get the report of the Engineers-in-Chief in Australia, he will find all the information there. I think that the estimate of cost has only just been completed.
– I cannot find on the file any -substantiation of that statement.
– The honorable member will find from the file , that we called a conference of the engineers, and that they made a report! I think that they have just completed an estimate of the cost to the Commonwealth of a uniform gauge from Brisbane to Perth.
– That is all you could do. But you did not approve of that ?
– We never got to that point, because my honorable friends put us out. We got “-the royal order of the boot.”
– You resigned.
– When a party has not the numbers it is a mistake to wait.
– You had a majority of ten for three years.
– My honorable friend is . mistaken; we had a majority of only five or six, for we could not include the Liberals in our majority. I had hoped that the present Government would bring in a Bill to provide for a uniform railway gauge, and for the Commonwealth to pay its proportion of the cost.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the question before the House.
– I quite agree with your remark, sir, but Governments and Parliaments have never much to do with anything that is before the country. I hoped, too, that many other matters, such as banking, would have been .dealt with. But,, instead of dealing with them, my friends have brought -in a controversial BilL which, as it- is framed, would,- if passed into law, absolutely destroy the secrecy of. the ballot in Commonwealth elections. I approve of electoral inspectors. But before dealing with .the constructive side, let me say -something of the destructive side of this proposal”; though we ought not to criticise with a view to destroying anything unless prepared to substitute something in its place. Clause 11 contains a provision .for the closing of the roll at least ten weeks before the holding of an election. Now, according to the Government Statistician, 2,000 persons come of age every week, so that, in ten weeks, 20,000 persons come of age, and the 20,000 persons, young men and young women, coming of age ten weeks preceding the holding of an election, would be deprived of the opportunity for the first exercise of their. franchise. In the United States, however, electors can be registered to within ten days of the holding of an election for the Presidency. It seems to me that every combination can ‘ do business except the Government. Yet the Commonwealth Government is the greatest corporation south of the equator. All the taxpayers, all the ratepayers, all the interest payers, and all the rent payers are shareholders in it, whether they like it or not. It should . be managed with the same efficiency and economy that characterizes’ the management of a private .corporation by a board of directors. The management should be for the benefit of the whole of. the shareholders, who are the citizens of Australia:. Yet measures are brought forward here -which are only half incubated. This Bill is npt incubated; it is in a state of petrifaction. It’ is a very serious thing that 20,000 young- men and young women should be deprived “of the right’ to vote.’ Let me deal now with the 5s. deposit.’ Several persons have written to me of the actions of agents, or canvassers, or touts, or organizers. If a man crosses the street, or goes round the corner, and objection is taken to -his name continuing on the roll, without a payment of 5s., he is to be struck off. We all know that to send a letter to a working man or a working woman with the information that his or her name has been objected to is useless, because such persons never answer letters. I have known men in my electorate to have their names struck off the roll because they have been away in the bush for a coupleof weeks only. We have made enrolmentcompulsory; we fine persons for not getting their names put on the roll, and then we offer a reward for the taking of namesoff the roll. We make it a penal offence for persons not to have. their names on the roll, and at the same time offer toagents and interested parties all sorts of inducements for getting names struck off the roll. This Government will be condemned before Australia if it deprivesone human being of a vote. Is it not theprinciple of our electoral law. that every person in the community of twenty-one years of age or more who is not in gaol, nor a lunatic, shall have, the right to vote ? Why,, then, should persons be deprived of that right because, of negligence of indifference?
– We use the same argument in connexion, with the postal vote.
– I shall have a word to Bay about that. I asked the Chief Electoral Officer to write - to the hospitals for permission to place polling booths in those institutions, and I advise the honorable member to get the Honorary Minister to produce the replies received. In many cases the request was refused on the ground that it would excite the patients too much. . If it would excite a patient in’ a hospital too much to be asked to vote, how much more would it excite a patient in a private -house to have a canvasser for the Labour party, and a tout for the Fusion or the Confusion party pulling, one at his arm, and the other at his toes, trying to get him to vote ? The Fusion party should remember that it is now making history. It is only temporarily in office, and an appeal to the people .might change the position. It should, therefore, set an example, so that it may afterwards be able to point to the justness of its actions. There are verY few farmers’ wives in this country who would have time to reply to a letter saying that objections to their enrolment had been lodged. Yet such persons would be disfranchised for failing to reply to such a communication, although the objections to their enrolment might be based merely on visits to neighbours, or a holiday trip. We could evolve a good system if we appointed a Committee to go into the matter carefully and cautiously, as business men would do. Unfortunately, envy, hatred, and revenge enter into our politics. We ought to try to triumph over these corroding political poisons. Each side tries to gain an advantage over the other. Why talk about going to the country ? We have just been to the country, and the. people have sent us here. As their trustees, we should try to manage their affairs as the directors of a corporation would manage its affairs. But our friends opposite bring down Bills that are tinged with copper-head snake poison. They challenge us to a battle. My friends, the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, have been travelling round the country, threatening what they will do, until they have aroused all the fighting blood of the Britishers on this side; They are like Mrs. Murphy’s parrot. Mrs. Murphy, of Western America, had a parrot, which was a good talker. One day it got out of its cage while she was away, and flew on to the dog, saying, “Doggie, wake up !” When the dog waked up, it plucked out every feather that the bird had. The mistress, on returning home, exclaimed, “ Oh, Polly, what is the matter?” And all the bird had to say was, “ I have talked too damned much.” The trouble with this Government is that they have talked “too damned much.” Why are not honorable members opposite satisfied at having got into office ? Why do they travel round with a chip on the shoulder, calling- on Fisher to knock it off? Let me deal now with the provision relating to the fixing of polling day. They do not say that they are going to abolish the Saturday poll, but they propose to deal with the matter by regulation. What does that mean ? Animated rubber-stamp administration. I admit that the Honorary Minister is not a rubber-stamp administrator.. Had he been, the schedule and digest would have gone. But this is not the Honorary Minister; it is the concentrated essence of the Ten. They do not “ say tliat they will abolish Saturday polling; the matter is to be dealt with by regulation. That means that the polling will be fixed for some day suitable, not to the people, not to the great masses that struggle out in the back-blocks, digging the ditches, and cutting down the forests, but to the men with the motor-cars, to the wealth and culture of the country. Saturday is a half-holiday almost all over Australia.
– Did it ever occur to the honorable member to provide for the polling being held on a public half-holiday?
– I tried to do so, but I was told by my legal advisers that- I had no power. I regret that I was not emperor of this country - at least not an emperor-
– A “King”!
– No ; but a mild despot. There has never been a movement in the history of the world, in the interests of the people, that the lawyers had not condemned as a violation of the Constitution ; but great reforms have ever trampled over such objections. Saturday is the day when the country boys have time to go themselves, and take their girls to the poll, with the prospect of a -little rest on the following day. It is said that the results of the elections cannot be made known on the day following the poll; but if a man is successful it does not matter if the information is withheld for a month, while, if he is defeated, he does not want to hear the news at all. Application was made to me to have the count proceeded with on the Sunday, but I refused. My father was a strict Sabbatarian; and, in my opinion, every, invasion of the Sabbath means its final destruction. Personally, I did not know that I was elected until about the following Wednesday. A banquet was, I believe, being prepared for my opponent on the Monday9, but, of course, he did not get it, because’ no one ever wishes to do anything for a defeated man. This desire to have the information an hour or two after the election, or the next- day, appears to me ridiculous; and, under all the circumstances, I shall oppose tooth and nail any interference’ with Saturday as polling day. While we were waiting for the result last time, some of my friends told me in Tasmania that the Liberals had won. To that I replied that if the Liberals had the numbers they were entitled to -win; and I certainly have no desire to hold my seat for a moment if the people are against me.
– The honorable member could not do so, in any case.
– Yes, I could keep the law going for centuries; and I know a man in America who, by resorting to such means, was able to hold-on to his seat. The greatest poll we ever had was taken on a Saturday; and I was amazed to hear my friends opposite talking about corruption, and so forth. We on this side might have talked about corruption, because we had suffered defeat; but what should we think if the horse of the PostmasterGeneral were to win by a head at Epsom next month and he were to raise a cry of “ corruption “.?
– He might be right, too!
– Yes; but it is not his business to cry out - that is the business of the man who loses by a head.
– The Liberals would not dare to interfere with Saturday as polling day, because it would mean a small vote in the farming community.
– It is wonderful what “boodle” will do; and it speaks in all languages. I honestly believe that no scheme of postal voting can be devised that will not lead to corrup-. tion. The postal vote does not affect me in the slightest; but I am now speaking for the great masses of the people.
– The postal vote was not abused in the honorable member’s electorate.
– Because we did not bother with it. I knew I could win ; but, after the close run. I shall show on the next occasion how my majority can climb. .. The- sick, are not capable of considering a vote. When I fought the Encounter Bay electorate in South Australia, 98 per cent, of the electors polled, and I was beaten by fourteen votes. My opponents emptied the cradle and “the grave on that occasion, as they did in my electorate at the last election, when the farmers polled 83 per cent.
– They fought you fairly.
– I am not saying that they did not, but they emptied the cradle and the grave.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– None were forgotten - they brought out the sick and the well. They brought women just at their last gasp, in their efforts to put me out, but the Lord delivered them into my hands.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the dead were brought out to vote against him ?
– I say that everybody who voted was entitled to vote.
– The honorable member’s figures of speech are pretty free.
– They are classical. The honorable member has evidently never studied Western classics. However, I had not the slightest objection, but, on the other hand, was delighted there was such a heavy poll.
– I am surprised at the honorable member saying that he was fought fairly.
– What does, it matter when one wins?
– The honorable member had a narrow squeak.
– I had. a majority of 660, with an 80 per cent. poll. It is some of my honorable friends opposite who had the narrow squeak. As to the provision for the signing of the butt, I ask, in all seriousness, whether my honorable friends opposite think they can make it a success. There is hardly a day that I do not meet in business people who do not understand the signing of a promissory note, or a letter of credit, or many of the ordinary little transactions of life; and yet it is proposed to ask 2,500,000 voters to sign the butts of their ballot-papers. An old lady may leave her glasses at home, and find those offered to her too young for her sight; and in any case, it is most curious to find our friends opposite fighting against what put them in power. All the world over, -a cheerful liar seldom attracts such universal attention as a vicious scandal-monger. We are told that there are over 70,000 people over 21 years of age in Australia who cannot write ; and I ask whether these are to be deprived of votes. I know several wealthy business men in this country who cannot read or write; and one of them, who told me the fact in confidence, and whose name I would not divulge for all Australia, would have to be asked to append his mark in public.
– He would have to do that in the case of an- absent vote.
– Then he would not vote at all. There are 20,000 other people so circumstanced that they would not be . able to sign their names; and thus we have 90,000 people who might be disfranchised. The Honorary Minister the other day had a wonderful burst-up of the inner boilers of his soul because the vote would be taken away from the sick in the hospitals. During the election before last I went into the Zeehan hospital one day and found my supporters, with some supporters of the other side, arguing with a poor old woman who died next day; and I said to myself, “ This is tiresome.” However, my people got in the’ first argument, and the Fusionists killed her. The witnesses to the signatures all belong to the flourishing classes ; and, however conscientious and wellmeaning a person may be, whether of the struggling masses, or of the flourishing classes, he can never quite lose touch with his environment.
– Any State school teacher or postal official may witness a signature.
– They all belong to the flourishing classes. There never was a law made yet, in the history of the world, for the enlargement of the franchise which was not a direct invasion of some privilege possessed by the flourishing classes. Moreover, this proposal is absolutely destructive of the secrecy of the ballot. If the butts and the ballotpapers are numbered as proposed, then even if they are glued down, my scrutineer will be able to tell me, if I desire it, how any person voted. I shall be able to know, and shall make it my business to know.
– But how can the scrutineers know?
– The honorable member knows very well.
– There is not much that he does not know.
– He would not “be here if that were not so. I ask honorable members opposite to consider for a moment the delay which this system must involve. I might as well be honest, however, and tell them that they are not going to have it. The “ butt “ has gone. I come now to the provisions relating to absent voting. Surely if any people on earth have profited by that system it is our opponents. Is it reasonable to think that thousands of electors all over the country, who are not trained in the science of business, will apply a week ahead of a poll, and make a declaration, in order to secure an absent voter’s certicate ? The whole thing is preposterous. There was never a purer system than that for which the absent voting provisions of the Act itself provide. Under the postal voting system the moment a man makes the required affidavit he gets a postal ballot-paper, and records his vote. The paper is then placed in the ballot-box, and, so to speak, is lost for ever. Under the absent voting system, however, a man must, first of all, make an affidavit, and when he has voted, his ballot-paper, instead of being put in the ballot-box, is enclosed in an envelope and sent to the Returning Officer of the division, in respect of which he savs he is enrolled, with the result that if it is found that his name is not on the roll, his vote is disallowed. The absent voting system, therefore, is safer than is that of voting by post. If I were in another State, and claimed to vote as an absent voter in respect . of an election for Batman or Balaclava, my vote would be disallowed, if it were found by “the Returning Officer for that electorate that my name was not on the roll, and that there was no card in my name in the cabinet. But, under the postal voting system, my vote, in such circumstances, would count. I am amazed that my honorable friends opposite have allowed themselves to be - I shall not say misled - but led along the wrong and unchristian way.
– The honorable member thinks that they are on the broad path.
– Yes; and we . are told in the Scriptures to ‘ turn from our evil ways. Hundreds, of thousands of people would not apply for absent voters’ certificates if these amendments of the Act were adopted. It is a difficult matter now to induce people to vote. We have to make speeches urging the electors to do so. . We have to get our friends out, and we have to spend money to induce the electors to go to the poll. Honorable members opposite now come along with a proposal which, if adopted, will prevent thousands of them from voting. I cannot understand such a proposal receiving the support of intelligent men. Wealth is the product of intelligent labour applied to industries, and whilst we ought to endeavour in every possible way to cleanse the rolls, we cannot cleanse them under the present system, nor will that which the Government propose to introduce prove a remedy.
– We need a remedy.
– This is not a remedy. ‘ The trouble is that no Treasurer will give the Minister responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act the money necessary to make the system a proper one. I come now to the proposal to do away with the provisions in the Act requiring political articles published in newspapers during an election campaign to be signed by the writers. When dealing with this matter, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs preached “freedom of the press” so enthusiastically that I was reminded of the experience of a couple of fine old evangelists in Western America, who, after conducting a series of revival meetings for a week, finally said, “ Let us take up a collection.” They sent round the hat, and got buttons and bones, and sticks and stones, but never a threepenny bit. When the elder evangelist of the two turned over the collection, he said, “Let us thank God.” His companion asked, in astonishment, “Why?” and the old man answered, “ Let us thank God that we have got the hat back.” And we have to thank God that Brother Kelly has allowed us an opportunity to discuss and examine this proposed amendment of the law. There are thousands of healthy, vigorous young men in Australia who would like to make a reputation on the press, but who at present have no market. They are only one of the lost units of a great corporation. The head of a big corporation with which I was connected at one time, said, “ You must understand that it is the corporation that is to count, and that you must not put your name to the front.” I persisted, however, in putting my name to the front, and made it an asset. These young writers would be glad to have a market for their names, but the great newspaper proprietors and leading journalists do not desire anything of the kind. They like to be able to fire off a lot of little guns from behind their Boer kopjes, and so to arrange the firing as to blend it into the mighty roar of one great gun - and that the newspaper proprietor. During the last election we read in the Age, the Argus, or the Herald what Mr. Biggs, Mr. Fox, Mr. Cook, Mr. Johnston, or some other writer said. We analyzed their reports for what they were worth to the writers as “ good stuff.” Some of the articles written by these reporters were splendid in their display of journalistic capacity, but they were unspiritual in their declaration that we were opposed to the best interests of the people. That, however, makes no difference to me. I now read the Argus occasionally, although for a long time I did not. I always read the Age, and find it a powerfully organized and well-managed institution. One feature of it is that it has never faltered on the question of Protection. It is “Rock of Ages” on Protection. When we saw at the foot of articles in these newspapers during the election campaign the words “ Written by Mr. So-and-So, and Mr. So-and-So, after consultation, to express the views of the Argus,” or the Age, as the case may be, we said, “Oh, this was written by Mr. Maling, or Mr. So-and-So. They are very decent gentlemen, but they do not know any more than we do.”
– They are good journalists, but they do not know as much about politics as we do.
– I shall not say that. The position is very much like that of the great missionary bishop and the chief of one of the big tribes in Western America - I think it was Sitting Bull whom he visited. Sitting Bull drew a little ring and said, “ This is what I know,” and then, drawing a big ring, said, “ This is what you know.” We know as much as each other. We know that it is the business of the journalist to make a living bv writing, and that, under the Act as amended by us, men are not called upon to write certain articles when they have conscientious scruples about doing so. In Tasmania, certain journalists would not write and sign articles which they were asked to write, because they had conscientious scruples about doing so.
– We had a few over here.
– I know it. The Act as amended by us in this respect has Christianized the press. In Saturday’s issue of the Argus I saw articles signed by Professor Tucker, Dr. Rentoul, and that great journalist Donald McDonald. Why do they sign their articles ? Because their names are marketable, and the newspaperreading public desire to read what they write. The Sydney Sun publishes the names of its sporting writers.- Mr. W. F. Corbett is the boxing editor, and Mr. H. S. Targett does the cricket news. Signed articles, quite apart from politics, there? fore, are by no means uncommon, and there was really nothing in the highsounding declamations of the Honorary Minister when dealing with this question. The only point that I can see about the Government is that they have sense enough to know that it is better bo have their teeth than their fingers in the Government pie. All articles ought to be signed.- That would be good for journalism and the people as a whole. Even under such a system newspapers can misrepresent politicians. Does any honorable member think that, when I took action because people complained to me in regard to certain polling clerks and. presiding officers being related and also being partisans that I desired to corrupt the “ballot-box? I called attention to the matter, and there was great excitement. It was said that I wanted to corrupt the ballot-box. Of course, I wanted to do nothing of the kind. But I had to listen to the complaints that were made, and I -.sent them over to the Chief Electoral Officer. Information that I had done so Jeaked out, and got into the Tasmanian newspapers. Was it right #t Forest for Mr. Morgan to be presiding officer, and for his son to be poll-clerk ? Was it right at Montagu for Mr. Young, an intense, bigoted partisan, to be presiding officer, and for Mr. Freeman, who was secretary of the Fusion League, to be poll-clerk? At TJlverstone, Mr. House, the president of the Liberal League, was poll-clerk, but no complaint was made against him, and I made no complaint; but the local presiding officer asked him -to resign. As no complaint was made to me about him I took no notice. I was -told that he was a fair man.
– Were not secretaries of Political Labour Leagues appointed pollclerks ?
– No, these men were presidents and secretaries of Liberal Leagues. People on my side came to me and said that we did not appear to be taking any interest in what was going on.’ I said, “Why? What do you mean?” They said, “We think so, because you, as Minister of Home Affairs, appointed these men, and therefore you must look after matters yourself.” I said that I had not interfered with the appointments; that I had only appointed the TDivisional Returning Officer. Take another point, for I am not going to fight shadows any longer. A number of the charges made were quite preposterous. I could -easily see last week from the speech of the learned Attorney-General, that he himself -saw that the allegations were mere shadows. I am of opinion that rolls ought -to be abolished. I will tell the House why. Rolls are nearly always old and useless before they come off the printing press. Yet it costs the Commonwealth “between £10,000 and £12,000 to _ print them. The card-index system, if it is pro perly managed, can absolutely replace rolls, can be made far more effective, and can do exactly what we all want to do.
– We want to^ get any system that will give us pure rolls.
– We never had a chance of establishing a fair system, because it takes a long time to evolve a perfect one. At the beginning many were opposed to the card -index system.
– It was a great improvement on the old system.
– It was a great improvement, but as yet it is only half finished. Here is my proposal. First of all, each elector ought to be called upon to sign at least two cards; three, if necessary, but certainly two. In all Australia there ought to be seventy-five paid officers to act as Deputy Returning Officers for allotted districts. At present we pay £20,000 a year for registrars, but we ought to have permanent officers in each district, who should have their offices at the post-offices of the principal polling places. They should be non-partisan officials. They should work in cooperation with each other. When the two cards were signed by an elector, one card should go to the central office - which in Tasmania “would be at Hobart - and the other card should go to the Deputy Returning Officer for the district. He should have a cabinet, and in that cabinet all the cards should be indexed. Whenever a man or a woman left the district, he or she should be called upon to give notice to the Deputy Returning Officer, who should send the elector’s card to the district to which the elector was going. If a good system were inaugurated, that method could be followed ; but, unfortunately, there is very little idea of system in Government offices.
– Under that system, how could information be obtained by candidates as to electors?
– I will show the honorable member. In the first place, the Deputy Returning Officer would be at his office, which, as I have said, would be at the post-office, and would be available to give any information to candidates. Suppose, on the day of the election, a man came into a booth to vote, and said his name was Jones. Suppose that the presiding officer found that the person whom the elector professed to be had already voted. The officer would then put the card in front of him and say, “ Sign your name.” It is the simplest thing in the world.
– But there would have to be rolls, all the same.
– The present rolls could be taken as a basis at the beginning. The honorable member will know that, although many people in his electorate leave the district, the whole district does not go away. If, a week or two before an election, it were thought advisable to print a roll, it could easily be printed from the cards in the cabinets of the District Returning Officers.
– But the honorable member told us that his proposal was to abolish the roll.
– If, to conform to prejudice, it was felt that a roll was wanted, it could be printed from the cards.
– How could candidates ascertain who had a right to vote unless they had rolls?
– It would be the duty of a Returning Officer, say in Wangaratta, to tell the honorable member if he were a candidate.
– The Returning Officer could not write out 30,000 names.
– We ought to have compulsory voting.
– That is quite another idea.
– The present system is Very unsatisfactory. A roll is issued, and it is found that hundreds of people have been left off. Then a certified foll is prepared. I issued an order before the last election to the effect that when the name of an elector was on any roll he was to be allowed to vote. It must be remembered that the card-index system was copied from some of the American States, where it has been a great success. How is it that every innovation is opposed by some people ? We had the same trouble with compulsory enrolment at the beginning. If I had my way, I would make provision to carry voters in country districts who lived more than 2 miles from a polling place to a booth at the expense of the Government. There are 6,000 booths, and there would be a cost of, say, £2 each for conveyances. Furthermore, there ought to be paid scrutineers at each polling booth, one for each side.
– At some booths a dozen scrutineers would be necessary.
– I had only one scrutineer at each booth in my electorate. We ought, to see whether we cannot come to some understanding on a business footing. I am satisfied that our side does not want to take any advantage. We only desire to have a clear field and a fair fight. The time has come for the House to settle this matter on business lines. Fancy talking about going to the country ! What do we want to go. to the country for? To see what set of men shall occupy the Government benches?
– The supporters of the Government do not want to go to the country.
– Neither do we. I have no money to throw away. It is too hard to get. Under circumstances like these, we ought to have an elective Ministry. Then each Minister would bring down his Bills, and we should fight them out in this House during the next three years. In the last session the contentious fighting Bills could be dealt with. But suppose we were going to the country to-day. I firmly believe that we should beat our friends opposite. I have a consciousness that that would be so. I believe that the Prime Minister’s” conscience admits the justice of the Labour cause. Knowing as I do that his heart is open to tender impulses, I wonder how he can so remorselessly sacrifice his preconceived convictions concerning the welfare of hundreds, of thousands of the Australian people. I know the sighs of the multitudes which are heard at the sound of his name, and I know that nothing will go up from the great body of the people of this country but gratitude to God when it pleases Him to call that monumental sinner home.
.- In discussing this Bill, it was not my intention to make any observations upon the administration of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs. But his reference to the work of the Electoral Department, and what I may term his Ministerial interference with that Department, justifies me in making some allusion to it. I say that the honorable member went a little bit further than drawing the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer to the fact that there were certain presiding officers whom he alleged were partisans. In his memorandum to the press, he said -
The day of the elections was fast approaching,” and as I was on the spot I made some inquiries as to suitable non-partisans who would be capable of efficiently performing the duties, and forwarded their names for the consideration of the Chief . Electoral Officer.
To my mind, that statement evidences that the honorable member did interfere with the conduct of the elections, and I am afraid that if . he removed a partisan from one side he very likely secured a partisan from the other.
– We ought to have had our share at any rate; whereas the honorable member’s party got 99 per cent, of them. *
– Seeing that instructions were issued by the Department that persons in charge of stations in the back country were not to be appointed presiding officers, it seems to me that there was an undue desire on the part of the exMinister of Home Affairs to do something of a partisan nature. Under our Constitution we have the freest franchise in the whole world. In the Commonwealth, every person over twenty-one years of age is entitled to have his or her name placed on our electoral rolls.
– That is the trouble.
– This is a democratic country, and all these persons are privileged to have their names put upon our electoral rolls. I think it will be universally admitted that those rolls are the foundation of our parliamentary system of government. If we have not clean rolls, we cannot have a proper electoral system. Have we clean rolls to-day? Honorable members upon both sides of the House will, I think, agree that at the present time our rolls are unduly inflated, and that a number of names are improperly there. That being so, it is impossible for us to have clean elections and pure parliamentary representation. In these circumstances, a change - and a very drastic one - must be made in our electoral system. ‘ Honorable members upon this side of the House have been charged with “canting hypocrisy” in connexion with that system. I say that the present Electoral Act opens the door to dual enrolment, to impersonation, and to double voting, whilst at the same time it disfranchises thousands of electors. What right has any honorable member to say that facilities shall be given to one person to exercise the franchise, but shall be denied to others? The honorable member for Darwin spoke of residents in our back country, and of the necessity for holding the elections on a Saturday in order that they may . not be disfranchised. But’ did not honorable members opposite, in cold blood, disfranchise thousands of electors by “the abolition of the postal vote?
– Absolutely incorrect.
– I will prove it.
– Honorable members opposite are about the greatest lot of slanderers I have ever come across.
– I desire that that remark shall be withdrawn.
– I did not catch what the honorable member for Grey said, but as the honorable member for Dampier regards it as offensive, I ask him to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– In connexion with our electoral system, the first thing we have to consider is the condition of our rolls. From the returns which are available, it is perfectly clear that these rolls contain the names of a larger number of persons than there are adults in Australia. According to the figures supplied by Mr. Knibbs, which were quoted by Senator McColl- -
– Surely the honorable member is not going to repeat his slander on the people of Australia?
– Who is talking about slander ?
– The honorable member is.
– I am slandering nobody. It is the system against which I am declaiming. Because we have improper rolls, honorable members opposite must not assume that impersonation will be practised only by their supporters. In a keen election fight persons will be found on both sides of politics who will be only too glad to take any advantage of a loose electoral system. It would be wrong for me to say that honorable members opposite assisted to get names improperly placed upon the rolls. ‘ But I do say that they were responsible for the passing of an Act which makes the offences of which I have spoken easy. The party opposite_ the Socialistic party - which is responsible for existing legislation on this subject, opened the door to fraud of every description. They made the practice of fraud by partisans of both political parties easy. I am not going to assume that persons who help the Liberal party will act more cleanly than will supporters of the Labour party.
– Does the honorable member assume that fraud was practised ?
– I am desirous “of securing an amended Act which will give us clean rolls.
– This Bill will not give us clean rolls.
– According to the Electoral Registrar of Western Australia, the general rolls for that State contained 148,000 - names. At the last moment 45,418 names were added to them. I am not going to blame the Electoral Department for the muddle which occurred, because, under the Act, these claims were receivable right up to the time of the issue of the writ.
– So they ought to be.
– I object to that. .We have adopted the card system, and the result is that the Department is swamped with cards which are rushed in at the last moment. In the framing of a supplementary roll, how is it possible for the electoral officers to ascertain whether there is any duplication in the matter of enrolment? It is absolutely impossible. On the supplementary rolls for the whole of Australia there were no fewer than 378,586 names.
– What percentage was that on the whole ?
– I have not worked out the percentage, bub there were 2,533,000 names on the general rolls. There was no chance of making the card system effective.
– What does the honorable member mean by ‘ ‘ the last moment “ ?
– Up to the time of the issue of the writ.
– Within what time were those names received ?
– Between the issue of the general roll and the issue of the writ - probably about three months. I wish now to give honorable members an idea of the difficulty experienced in contesting an election. Of the names which were on the general and the supplementary rolls in Western Australia, 13,000 were struck off. No candidate and no party had any knowledge of whose names were struck off. Throughout Australia, 150,000 names were struck off the genera] and supplementary rolls, and candidates had no knowledge of what names were thus removed. I presume that the presiding officers would have the names of those persons who were not eligible to vote marked on their rolls. But when rolls have been issued to candidates, surely it is a wrong system which permits 150,000 names to be struck off as those of persons who are not qualified to vote. Of course, there is a possibility that one party may have obtained knowledge as to who these persons were. But that would have necessitated fraud in the Department, and I do nob think that any such fraud was practised. But my point is that it should not be possible. The rolls should be made up, and the names of those persons who have been added to them, as well as the names of those who have been struck off them, should be made public. I repeat that we must have clean rolls, and the question therefore arises, “ How can we best obtain them?” I say that the present system is bad, that we require to filter the method of enrolment, and to have an entirely different form for a transfer from that which is provided in the case of original claims. Our electoral laws have been in force for the past twelve or thirteen years. Surely by this time they should be somewhat complete. The names of all the persons in Australia except those who have been abominably careless should now appear upon them. There’ are three sections, therefore, for whom we have to cater in the future, namely, the new .arrival, who, after six months’ residence here, will be eligible for enrolment; persons coming of age, and careless persons who have neglected to get their names placed on the rolls. I can see no reason why applications for enrolment should not be lodged some little time prior to enrolment so as to permit of something in the nature of a Revision Court adjudicating upon them before the names of the approved applicants are enrolled. With this end in view, I would allow the newcomer to lodge his application four months after his arrival in the country. It should be the same with persons who are coming of age. I would allow their applications to be made two or three months prior to that event, so that their names could be listed, and, if necessary, objections could be lodged. I find on the roll many instances of persons whohad been in Australia for less than six months, and many instances of persons who were under age. I advised in several instances that the person should not vote, because he was taking a very great risk in doing so. It is only right that there should be something in the nature of a revision. There would be three classes who would be making an original claim, namely, the newcomer, the person coming of age, and the person who had been careless and negligent about getting the franchise. There is no reason why there should not be an inquiry in regard to an application from a man who had lived all his life in Australia, and had not got his name placed on an electoral roll. The trouble is that a large number of original applicants have not stated to the Department that their names had previously been placed on a roll. Indeed, there is a great number of persons - men working on railways and going to other jobs, persons travelling through the bush, such as shearers - who appear on different rolls. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that a large number of persons made application, not necessarily fraudulently, to have their names placed on the roll, and did not let the Electoral Department know that their names had previously appeared on a roll.
– If a man filled up the card in that way it would be informal.
– No. The Electoral Act provides that when a person applies for a transfer from one roll to another, his name shall’ be placed on the roll of the new division, and that information shall be sent by the local Registrar to the Registrar of the old division, instructing the latter to remove the person’s name from his roll; but his name may not be on that roll at all. He may have given a wrong division in his application. He certainly has no right to get his name placed on the roll of another division until . it has been removed from the roll of the division on which it previously appeared. Unless that is done, we are not likely to have “clean, rolls. Some system must be adopted to prevent this plurality of names in the future. The mere fact that the rolls to-day show that something like 180,000 more persons are enrolled than there are adults in the country - and I know that there is a great number of persons in Australia who are not yet enrolled - proves clearly that our present system is bad. Then in regard to the personation of voters, it has been stated as a result of the recent inquiry it is clear that there has not been any duplication of voting. When we find that there were some 5,760 cases of supposed duplication, when we remember that the inquiry was made with original rolls, that the names of those who had been removed from one roll to another had not been struck off the rolls used at the inquiry-
– Was that so ?
– It is a fact. When we recognise the large number of absent votes in Western Australia, which were sent from one division to another, and as to which there could not necessarily be any investigation, it is quite possible that the estimated number might have been considerably increased. We ought to try to reduce as far as possible any chance of personation. The present system of absent voting undoubtedly lends itself to plural voting. The one main principle in this Bill is that of voting by post. I represent a district of enormous magnitude - I think it is the largest district in the Commonwealth - and I know many persons who, at the last election, travelled over 100 miles to vote. It is essential that we should do something to give the franchise to the people in the back country. I cannot understand the objection of honorable members opposite to the postal vote.
– It is based on the experience we have had.
– Why, it is provided for in the present regulations.
– What regulations do you refer to?
– The regulations dealing . with absent voters.
– That is a different thing.
– The honorable member does not wish me to assume that honorable members opposite did not know that they were giving to one section of the community a facility which they were denying to another section ?
– They had to give the paper to a Returning Officer.
– If it was a fair thing to give to the seaman the right to go to- any Electoral Registrar in Australia and record a vote by post, why did not honorable members opposite give the same facility to the sick and to the mothers of our people?
– The same facility was given to the sick and the mothers.
– Where was it given ?
– Every sick person and every mother could do precisely the same as every sailor did.
– Not unless they were about to leave the country.
– If they were to be absentees, as sailors believed they would be, they could do precisely the same thing as the sailors could.
– If any person made a declaration that he would be outside the Commonwealth on polling day he could go to an Electoral Registrar, and the regulation provides that -
The elector shall, in the presence of the Electoral Registrar, but so that the Electoral Registrar cannot see the vote, mark his vote by writing on his ballot-paper the name of the candidate for whom he votes, and shall fold the ballotpaper so that the vote cannot be seen, and return it to the Electoral Registrar, who ‘ will then, in the presence of the elector, without unfolding the ballot-paper, forthwith place it in the envelope. bearing the declaration of the elector, and securely fasten the envelope.
If my honorable friends had no objection to allow the seaman- to go to the Electoral Registrar and record his vote by post in that manner, why not allow the woman to do so?
– So she can, if she is a passenger.
– Not unless she is going to leave the Commonwealth.
– The sailor cannot do it unless he is leaving the Commonwealth.
– Why did honorable members opposite give this facility to the man outside? Because there was a large number of good union seamen who they could be quite satisfied would do nothing wrong or improper, but the people who were to remain in the Commonwealth were not to be trusted in the same manner.
– They could go to the Electoral Registrar if they were to be absent.
– Why were they not to be trusted ? The Electoral Act and the regulations do not provide the necessary facility for a great number of women to vote. We know, though honorable members opposite may not know, that there is a certain amount of modesty in a woman at a certain delicate time, and they do not care, in the hustle and bustle of an election, to go into a polling booth.
– What rot !
– The honorable member can leave that question of modesty ; he can have, his own idea, but I have mine. We know, as an absolute fact, that, for three weeks or a month, it is impossible for some women to go out to vote. Why were they not given some facility? Why could they not have been allowed to go to an Electoral Registrar, and, in the secrecy and privacy of his office, record a vote ? Women were denied that facility because honorable members opposite could not see any profit there; but they certainly could see a profit in giving to seamen a right which they denied to women.
– As a matter of fact, it applies to passengers as well as to seamen.
– I know that; but the passengers form a very small proportion of the whole. The legislation of my honorable friends opposite went this far: that, if a resident had had his name placed on the roll, had sold all his interests in Australia, and was going away for good, even though he left here the day after the issue of the writ, he could record his vote, while the woman who remained to do her duty to the country was disfranchised.
– Do you not think that there are as many maternity cases amongst the Labour women as there are amongst the Conservative women? The percentage is higher, . I guarantee.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order.
– That only makes me wonder all the more why the women were denied the privilege.
– It was not owing to partisanship, at any rate.
-Order ! The honorable member can speak later.
– Then my honorable friends opposite substituted the absent vote, whereby a person could go into any polling booth with no provision for identification. All that a man had to do at the late elections was to go into a polling booth and make a declaration that he believed his name was on the roll for some division in another part of Australia, and then he could record an absent vote. ‘ No means is provided for checking these votes.
– Oh, yes, there is.
– The votes would be checked afterwards, and I am satisfied that the Department will always try to do its duty.
– You are making a shocking misstatement. Not one of these votes was recorded until the person had proved to the Electoral Registrar that he had the franchise.
– Were they not?
– How did the Electoral Registrar deal with absent votes 1 Absent votes were taken at Geraldton for Gympie. They went from Kalgoorlie to Ballarat, and from Perth to Brisbane. We. know quite well that there could be no check.
– Absent votes were not counted until it was proved that the persons were enrolled.
– If the persons were not on a roll, the votes were not counted. If somebody else had voted for a man on the roll the vote was not counted.
– There was this possibility, that a person could vote in a district where he was living, and also vote in a district on the other side of the continent. That is where the trouble came in. Suppose, for instance, that a person had his name on the roll for Melbourne, and went to Perth, and had his name placed on the roll there. In Perth, he could vote as a resident voter, and knowing that his name was on the roil for Melbourne he could vote as an absent voter for Melbourne. The act might be found out afterwards, but that would not vitiate the election. The Department would not know how he voted.
– Your difficulty is that you have not been able to find out one such case.
– It is not my duty to look for a case, but to show the possibility of a case occurring, and try to get legislation which will prevent that sort of thing from being done. The honorable member ought not to open the door to this fraud, but to make fraud impossible if it can be done.
– I am not referring to you individually, but to the whole of your party. The Ministry, and the whole of the power and the money behind them, have been trying for three months to find . a case, but cannot do so.
– Order !
– I think that the honorable member for Adelaide is in error there. I do not know of any effort which is being made except through the Department.
– The Department had private detectives employed, under the instruction of the Minister.
– So did your Government.
– If the Minister or the Chief Electoral Officer thinks that there has been fraud committed, does the honorable member object to an inquiry being made ?
– I do object to wholesale charges of fraud. You have not proved one case of fraud.
– You made far more charges.
– Order ! I have several times called for order, and on many previous days I have called attention to the same matter. When the Speaker calls for order, especially after he has had to call two or three times, it is highly disorderly to continue to interject. As soon as the Speaker calls “Order!” there should be absolute silence.
– Unless honorable members are going to disfranchise a very large section of the community we must have the postal vote. It is idle to say that the intelligence of this Parliament cannot devise a scheme whereby the mothers of our people, the men who are building up the back country, and the sick, can have an opportunity to vote. The figures given by the Honorary Minister, in regard to maternity cases, the sick, and others, show that there were some 77,000 persons who were liable to be disfranchised. Are we going to allow this in the future? These are only a few of the persons who are disfranchised. Let me read a portion of a letter which I have received from an elector in my own district -
In the Pilbarra district we are, to all intents and purposes, disfranchised. Nearly a third of the Liberals did not, and could not, vote, unless they travelled great distances to do so. There was a polling booth at Port Hedland ; one at Marble Bar, 115 miles distant; one at Nullagine, 75 miles distant; one at Condon, 65 miles distant from Hedland and 95 miles from Marble Bar. Voters living between these places could not neglect their business for a couple, or more days to travel to a distant polling booth to vote.
It is not a matter of being 5 miles from a polling booth - and I would not object to the limit being extended to a distance of 10 miles - it is persons living still further from the polling booths who are disfranchised at the present time, and it is our duty to- devise a system which will enable them to record their votes. I have noticed from the speeches made during the debate that honorable members opposite are beginning to realize the mistake that has been made, and that they owe it as a duty to the people to make provision to enable the franchise to be exercised by those who are now unable to go to the poll.
– If such a provision is suggested that there cannot be corruption, I shall be prepared to consider it.
– There has been no corruption hitherto.
– Then why have charges of corruption been made, and why have inquiries been held ?
– I refer to the operation of the postal vote. * I believe that it was shown that in only one case had pressure been used.
– In a hundred cases in Queensland.
– I understand that the total number of cases brought before the Court was ten, or thereabouts.
– We refer to what happened under a State law, which, if anything, was more safeguarded than the Commonwealth law.
– I am satisfied with the provisions of the Bill.
– No doubt.
– I resent the interjection. It has been suggested by honorable members opposite that if the postal vote were again provided for, it would lead to fraud, and the imputation is that I advocate this measure because I desire the re-instatement of a fraudulent system. I have always conducted elections cleanly, as I believe other honorable members on this side have. If honorable members opposite will do the same, there will be no need to bandy words across the chamber.
– That is a dirty insinuation.
– No reasonable body of men can defend an electoral system under which so many persons are disfranchised as under the existing electoral system of the Commonwealth. I hope that an effort will therefore be made to pass the Bill. The Attorney-General has held out the olive branch, saying that the Government would be only too pleased to receive suggestions and assist ance in Committee. The honorable member for Darwin. asks, “Why cannot we refer the Bill to a Committee?”
– Does the honorable member suggest that course ?
– I do not think that the Government would assent to it, because it is necessary to get along more quickly. Great objection has been urged to the Bill by honorable members opposite, because it is provided that the postal ballot-papers shall- be attached to butts, both the butts and the papers being numbered. Do honorable members object to having a number on a ballotpaper ?
– -We have proved that there is no secrecy in connexion with ballots when ballot-papers are numbered.
– Under the system proposed, a scrutineer could trace any voter.
– I cannot, of course, suggest to the honorable member that he should adopt a different way of framing his speech, but I would point out that the interrogative method necessarily provokes interjections, and makes it difficult for me to maintain order.
– I have on this occasion invited interjections, because honorable members opposite have stated that they are opposed to the numbering of ballot-papers.
– I would remind the honorable member that interjections are disorderly.
– I do not know how many absent votes were recorded at the last election, but I believe that they aggregated from 150,000 to 180,000, and every one of the ballot-papers used was numbered, in accordance with regulations framed by the Socialist Administration which preceded the present Government. Honorable members opposite approved of that numbering, but they now declare that the numbering of postal ballotpapers would destroy the secrecy of the ballot. These are the regulations drawn up by the last Government which provide for the numbering of absent voters’ ballot-papers -
The Divisional Returning Officer shall then deal in the following manner with the ballot-papers which he has decided to accept for further scrutiny : -
– The absent voters’ ballotpapers are not marked with the number on the electoral roll opposite the voter’s name.
– A number is placed on the envelope containing the ballotpaper, and the same number is marked on the ballot-paper itself .
– That does not make any difference.
– It is done to enable the voter to be traced. It is strange that honorable members who are responsible for a regulation providing for the numbering of “ballot-papers should object to what is proposed by this Government. It would be possible to provide for theprinting of a number on the back of each ballot-paper, and for the end of the ballot-paper, to be turned over and sealed down - thus hiding the number. Then, in the event of a close contest, it would be easy to ascertain, if votes had been improperly cast, how they should be allotted, and a proper decision would be come to. Without some such arrangement, it would be impossible to get a true result. We must, in the first instance, have a clean roll - it being admitted by all sections that the existing roll is unduly inflated. Then, we need the postal vote, to enable all classes of people to vote. As the existing regulations provide for the numbering of absent voters’ ballot-papers, I see no objection to the numbering of postal ballot-papers. I think that those papers could be numbered without the risk of. a violation of the secrecy of the ballot. The Bill provides also for an amendment of the law which will bring about again the freedom of the press. . Unless honorable members are ready to say that no article should be published at any time without the name and address of the writer being attached to it, there is no reason for attaching that condition toarticles commenting on electoral matters. Surely those who write for the press are’ entitled to the same freedom as we claim I. Are we to make comments, and to exercise our privileges to the full, and yet deny to newspaper writers similar privileges in connexion with political matters? I see no reason for the provision in the existing law. The honorable member for: Darwin has pointed out that many newspaper articles are signed now. If the newspapers choose to publish . the namesof the writers of articles, well and good; but we have no right to take away the liberty of the press by requiring it to be done. I object to that very strongly, and hope that the Act will be amended in the direction proposed. Honorable-, members opposite must recognise that theAct as it stands opens the door to fraud. It enables persons to have their names on the roll improperly. We ought to devise a system which will give aclean roll, and will enable all the people to record their votes. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will be passed; and that, in Committee, honorable -members will make it as fair and reasonable a measure as possible. In doing that, we shall be benefiting the whole community, and we shall know that in future whichever side is returned to power is supported by a majority.
– It is refreshing to hear members of that political party which has for generations restricted the franchise wailing because, under the existing law, certain persons are unable to vote on election days. Honorable members opposite have paraded their sympathy, especially for members of the weaker sex who about election time are approaching a certain important event; but they belong to a party which, year in and year out, has objected to allowing women to vote under any circumstances.
– We introduced adult suffrage.
– This is most peculiar. Honorable members opposite represent the Tory and reactionary party outside this House. Under their rSgime, it is true, certain reforms in the franchise have been effected, but that is only because they were prodded by the bayonets of the Democratic representatives iu this House-. Never was any concession made unless there was a Labour party to claim it in return for keeping a Tory Government in power. Only in this way have extensions of the franchise been wrested from the Conservatives. Last Friday, there was an election in Melbourne for the State Legislative Council. No Labour man contested the seat, and both candidates were Tories. It is a significant fact that each candidate tried to damn the other because of a desire to extend the franchise; and on Saturday the Argus gloried in the fact that the more Conservative had been elected. Yet we hear this prating from honorable members opposite, and from the Conservative organizations outside, about making the franchise as free as possible. Every inch of the way has had to be fought in Victoria to block plural voting; and, indeed, that system is not yet abolished. A man who has property in one constituency and resides in another may vote in either place be chooses ; and, in connexion with the Bill before the State Parliament for the creation of a Greater Melbourne Council, the party represented by our friends opposite are agitating daily for plurality of votes. As a matter of fact, there is a desire to deny votes to people who do not pay rates of a certain amount, and a full property vote, has not yet been accorded for the Legislative Council. The expressed desire of the Women’s National League to extend the franchise, and to give the postal vote under certain circumstances to women ‘ ‘ goes down ‘ ‘ with certaiu sections of the community; but what did we find in connexion with the postal vote ? Single girls were induced to affirm over their signature that, on a certain date, they would be in a certain condition, and unable to attend the polling booth.
– That was never done.
– The fact came out in evidence, and those girls voted by post. As a matter of fact, in the desire not to raise a blush to the modest cheek, the section of the Act was so worded that itwas not rightly understood by those girls; but it was well understood by those who induced them to declare that they were approaching maternity. Then, again, it is not necessary that an elector shall be 5 miles away from his constituency on polling day; he need only swear that he has reason to believe that he will be away, so that, under the circumstances, anybody may vote by post. Ladies’ organizations do a great deal of good of a charitable kind amongst the poorer classes. I would rather that those poor people received this aid as a right than as a charity; but let thatpass’. In their zeal to secure the return of Conservative candidates, those ladies get people to vote by post, so that it may be seen how they vote, and many old women are deceived in every electorate by those supporters of the Conservative cause. The men in the political organizations would be fearful of carrying on such work as is practised by women in the electorates. This is a harsh thing to. say; but I am proud of the men in the Tory organization, because they have never resorted to such methods to secure votes.
– I am not proud of men who get women to do what they dare not do themselves !
– I do not believe that the men know that it is done. There is not an honorable member opposite whose soul is his own, because of the power of the Women’s National League. Each candidate has to submit himself for election, and to ingratiate himself with the members of that body. The men have no say in the selection of candidates for that side of the House.
– The Labour party is starting a Women’s National League.
– As a matter of fact we are the National party, and the description of the Liberal Women’s League is a misnomer. From experience, the Liberal party know how impure the operation of the Electoral Act can be made when people desire. For years the party, and the newspapers that support it, have talked about the great organization of the Labour party, and they have tried to copy the Labour system to a slavish extent.
– Why does the honorable member object?
– I do not object; but, as a matter of fact, the system of the Liberal party is not our system. Our system is not corrupt, whereas that of the Liberal party is. It is because the Liberal organizations are corrupt, and know exactly how corrupt the electors may be made, that they desire to so frame the Act as to prevent malpractices. I speak with full conviction of the truth of my statement when I say that the Liberal organizations are corrupt. They select their candidates, of course, in order that two or three shall not face one Labour man, and their method of doing this is full of, corruption, of which three examples can be found in New South Wales. There is no doubt that those organizations which send the Government here know how to work the oracle, not only in the selection of candidates, but at the elections themselves. In the Melbourne Herald of last Saturday, there appeared the following : -
Grave allegations of wrongful practices have been made in connexion with the selection of a Liberal candidate for the Mosman electorate. There are six candidates for selection, and the contest is being conducted with vigour. It is alleged that the butts of fourteen receipt books belonging to the League are missing, and that some of them have found their way into the hands of candidates. These butts give the names and addresses of electors enrolled. Packing is said to be rife, and it is stated that the membership fees for many hundreds of persons have been paid by the candidates. The ordinary League membership of 200 has been suddenly increased to 4,000.
That is ‘ ‘ rich ‘ ‘ ; and it is not the only case. When a candidate for the State Parliament had to be selected for the Waverley constituency, the membership of the Liberal organization was suddenly increased from 200 to 4,000; and there is no doubt that people who would do this would, at an election, if they had the opportunity, increase the votes, in the same way. We cannot believe that these organizations have a more kindly feeling for the Labour party than for their own members. I am not charging honorable members opposite with corruption, but merely stating that the organizations outside, who have sent them here, are corrupt in their practices, and always have been corrupt when an election has taken place. There can be no doubt that the Tory organizations have followed this practice. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are so ready to believe that the organizations of our party are willing to resort to corrupt practices of the same character. Honorable . members talk of the purity of elections, but I firmly believe that the only way to secure a fair deal for both political parties is to . provide that in every polling booth, _ no matter how small it , may be, on the day of election, there shall be two officials, one representing each party. Until such a system is established we shall never have purity of elections.
– If the honorable member’s party will agree to my suggestion, our officials will not let their men do anything that is wrong, and vice versd.
Ninety-nine per cent, of the electoral officers in my electorate are my political opponents, and, generally, they give me a fair, square deal. But knowing how keen they are in regard to political matters, I feel that if they were acting in an isolated part of the State, with no scrutineers present, I could no more trust them on political matters than I could trust a smuggler not to smuggle.
– Would the honorable member trust himself ?
– No; I would not trust any one in political matters.
– What an honest place Australia must be.
– Australia is just as honest as any other part of the world, but politics are fought so keenly and bitterly that some men would do anything to secure the return of their candidate. There are many subdivisions in Australia in respect to which only forty or fifty persons are enrolled, and 99 per cent, of the . electoral officers employed in those subdivisions have been acting in that capacity for many years, having first been appointed by the party opposite. Go into one ‘ of these small country polling booths on election day-
– I think that the officials there are a great deal straighter than are those of a lot of city electorates.
– I have my doubts. It may be said that I am suspicious, but I do not think that these country districts, in the wet weather experienced last election day, in reality polled 75 or 80 per cent, of the voters on the rolls. I believe that the officials voted for many of them, and that the other side got the corrupt votes, so obtained.
– A very unfair state-, ment.
– Let me show how easily such a scheme could be worked. Who are the electoral officials in small country subdivisions ? Are they likely to belong to the Labour party?
– : They are honest men.
– In every-day business they are; in politics they are not. They know every one in the district, having resided there in most cases for very many years, and, what is more, they know pretty well how every one in the district is going to vote. There are only two officials in one of these booths, and to place scrutineers in every polling booth in Victoria is something that the Labour party has never been able to do. These two officials both belonging to the one party, may run the election at their own sweet will, and when they are strongly partisan, they do so. This is the way they act: Towards the close of the day, if John Smith, who lives 9 or 10 miles away, has recorded his vote and his wife and son have not, they know that they are not likely to come in - but they vote all the same. What is to stop these partisans marking a ballot-paper and dropping it into the ballot-box!
– This is an outrageous slander.
– The only way to prevent anything of the kind is to provide that a representative of each party shall be present at every polling booth.
– Is that the general belief of honorable members opposite?
– I do not know; I am speaking for myself. We havein Victoria men who have been acting as electioneering officials for thirty years - long before the Labour party was in existence - and who, therefore, did not learn these practices from us. They are political agents who work only when they are paid, and the Labour party cannot afford to pay them. There are in my electorate three of these men whom I would not allow to act for me, although they say that their natural inclinations are in that direction.
– They must be pretty bad.
– They are, but the thickness of their hides was gained in fighting for the Conservative party.
– And do they find their natural refuge in the Labour party?
– No, because we cannot afford to pay them. There are, however, occasions when, their services not being required on the other side, they are prepared to work for us, but we, being fearful of such men, do not take them on. Thank Heaven, the officials in these small subdivisions to which I have referred do not count the votes. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, how easy it is to make a formal vote bad, and an informal vote good? Let me take you into my confidence. In the case of an election for the Senate, the elector must vote for three candidates. If he votes for more or less than three, his ballot-paper is informal. These corrupt gentlemen, employed in a small polling- place, who have been at the game all their lives and want a particular side to win, can place a mark opposite a third name where the elector has voted for only two candidates - and both of them belonging to their party - or if he has placed a mark opposite four they can scratch off one. On the other hand, if they wish to reduce the votes polled for the candidates of the opposing party, they can easily make a ballot-paper informal by placing a mark opposite the name of a fourth candidate.
– The honorable member will give us proof that what he savs takes place?
– I cannot; but the honorable member knows as well as I do that it is done.
– I should be sorry to know that it is.
– The honorable member is no infant in politics. He has fought some most strenuous political battles, and his knowledge of what can be done at election time is as good as my own. Although he may have no proof that this sort of thing is done, he knows that it can be done when there is no third party present to see that it is not resorted to. When -the honorable member for Dampier was asked for a cure for certain evils of which he complained, he said, “It is not my business to provide a cure.” In the same way, I say that it is not for me to prove that what I say takes place., but that we should try to prevent corruption.
– The honorable member is charging, the various associatons with being already corrupt.
– I make the assertion that the political organizations which returned the honorable member know of these practices, and would not hesitate to resort to them to secure ‘the return of their candidate.
– Since he has about four-fifths of the electors of his constituency behind him, that is a poor compliment to pay to Victoria.
– The honorable member may think what he pleases.- I do not suppose that one-fourth of the electoral officers in the Wimmera electorate were in any way sympathetic towards the Labour movement. The electorate is a very big one, and I believe that among the great body of electoral officers employed there, there would be men corrupt enough to have done this sort of thing, and to be prepared to do it in the future unless we guard against it by providing that a representative of each political party shall be placed in every booth.
– They have them now.
– By paying for them.
– No; volunteer scrutineers.
Mr.MATHEWS.- We know all about the volunteer scrutineers. Coming to another point, I find that this Bill provides that no name shall be placed on the rolls within one month of the date of the issue of the writs. Under the present Act, people may be enrolled up to the date of issue of the writs. If the Government intend to prevent people from being enrolled within a month of the issue of the writs, they ought also to provide that no names shall be removed from the roll within that period. I see no provision for that.
– If people are not entitled to be on the roll, why should not their names be taken off?
– But why should not those who are entitled to be on the roll be placed upon it, right up to the day of election ?
– Because it is not practicable.
– If this Parliament declares that it shall be done, it is quite practicable to insure that the names of electors shall go on to the roll right up to the day of election. We all know that the printed roll is not very reliable. If the Government are going to prevent people from being enrolled after one month from the issue of the writ it will simply lead to wholesale disfranchisement. My view of the franchise is that it does not so much matter in what particular place an elector votes as long as he is able to vote somewhere to return to Parliament a candidate who will legislate in the direction he desires. I hope that something will be done to insure that people who have to remove from a subdivision between the date of the issue of the writ and the election shall not be robbed of their votes. The Bill also proposes to take power to change the election day from Saturday.
– The honorable member means that the Bill does not restrict the polling day to Saturday.
– If the Government are desirous of enabling’ as many votes as possible to be recorded, the evidence of the last election proves that Saturday is the very best day for the purpose. In spite of the torrents of rain that fell all over Victoria, there was a very large poll. It may be true that some other day than Saturday is likely to be more convenient to the Conservative section, but I am satisfied that Saturday is the best day for the great mass of the community. The majority of people ‘in almost every avocation are free on Saturday. Not only is it the best day for people who live in towns, but also, in my opinion, for residents of country districts. If, however, it can be shown to me that Saturday is not suitable for country electors, I am quite willing to enable some arrangement to be made so that Saturday may be the polling day in towns, and some other day in the country. I do not want to disfranchise anybody. I have on former occasions urged that we are too hurried in the way we take a vote. Our object is to secure a full expression of opinion from- the people. If one day is not sufficient for taking the poll, let us have more than one day. In the old electioneering days in this State the polling booths closed ?t 5 o’clock. It suited the Conservative section to restrict the hours of polling as much as possible. Later on, the time for polling was extended from 5 o’clock to 6. Now the booths aire open from 8 in the morning till 8 at night. Naturally it has been found that the extension of the hours of polling has led to the casting of a larger vote. There is no reason why we should not still further extend the facilities.
– Why not start the polling at 6 in the morning instead of keeping the booths open until.it is dark?
– In my electorate people go to the polling booths in large numbers towards the close of the day. The extension of the time has been very beneficial to the working-class electors. I, for one, shall strenuously resist any attempt to change the polling day from Saturday, as far as city electorates are concerned. The Attorney-General told us that he was willing to accept suggestions in order to make this measure as liberal as possible. Let him, then, consider the advisableness of taking out the provision in regard to changing the polling day, and if it is found that Saturday is not suitable for agricultural constituencies, let’ us have two polling days instead of one. There is also the question of the 5s. deposit that has to be lodged when objection is taken to persons being on the roll. The meaning of that is that political organizations are to give information that will lead to the rolls being purified. But it is quite possible that if the 5s. deposit be abolished, a percentage may be removed from the roll without good reason. If there is any solid ground for an objection that may be lodged, surely those who lodge it ought not to object to a penalty being imposed if the objection is found to be frivolous.
– There is a penalty attached to objectors.
– But the Government propose’to remove the penalty.
– No; we retain the penalty, but make it recoverable before a justice instead of at the ipse dixit of a Returning Officer.
– Why not leave the 5s. penalty as it stands?
– Because it is an absolute bar to all objections.
– lt is not an absolute bar to all objections, but only to frivolous objections.
– The party to which I belong is not overblessed with financial support, but poor as we may be, we do not object” to the lodging of a 5s. deposit when an objection is made. But the proposal of the Government is really intended to make it easier for political organizations to make objection. At the last election, in my constituency, there were ladies going round finding out whether people whose names were on the rolls were living at the addresses specified. There was a rumour that these ladies received a reward of 6d. for every name they removed from the roll. I do not know who financed them.
– Does the honorable member think that Herbert Brookes financed them - the gentleman who sent the £500 to Western Australia?
– I think the Chamber of Manufacturers must have found that money. In friendly societies, and many other organizations, whenever a protest is lodged against any decision, it is customary to lodge at the same time an amount of money which may be forfeited if the protest is found to be frivolous.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was dealing with that portion of the Electoral Act which relates to putting on and removing from the rolls the names of electors. My own opinion is that we shall not purify the rolls by removing from them the names of persons in the manner proposed. It is well known that the police are at present engaged in searching for electors who could not be reached by post, with a view to ascertaining whether they reside at the addresses given, and, if not, removing their names from the rolls. While, the police are undertaking this work, I understand that they are not being paid for it. I do not think that this is a correct attitude for the Commonwealth to take up. It is true that a few of these officials may shirk their task, but, generally speaking, the police are above reproach, and have discharged their duties in this connexion exceedingly well.
Mr.Fenton. - Do the States get paid for that work?
– If they do, they ought to pay the police who perform this duty, because it is no part of their ordinary work. I believe in the old adage that “ what is worth doing is worth paying for.” I would also like to point out to the Minister of Trade and Customs that in the instructions issued to Electoral Registrars the following appears -
An objection on the ground that a person does not live in a division for which he is enrolled shall be deemed not to be good unless it alleges -
that the person objected to does not live in the division, and has not so lived for at least one month ; or
that the person objected to does not live in the division, and has obtained enrolment for some other division.
It is very clear, therefore, that unless the police know that an elector has left the division for which be is enrolled the electoral officials have no right to remove his name from the rolls.
– They do it, nevertheless.
– Of course, they do. What is the use of issuing instructions if effect be not given to them?
– But the Government will repeal that regulation.
– While the existing Act is operative, they have a right to respect the law. This is a matter which deserves- serious consideration. Under the present system it is not intended that the names of electors shall be removed from the rolls if they cannot be found at their postal addresses.
– Does the honorable member say that the provision which he has read is a section of the Act?
– It is a regulation. It is based, I believe, on sections 67, 68, and 69 of the Act.
– Section 70 of the Act.
– Of course, if it can be proved that an elector is’ enrolled for another division, his name should be removed from the division for which he was previously enrolled.
Mr.McWilliams. - When a man leaves a division, instead of applying for a- transfer he applies for a new card altogether.
– Does the honorable member say that names have been removed from the rolls contrary to the Act ?
– I say that if ele’ctors cannot be found at their postal addresses their names are removed from the rolls. That is a direct violation of the regulation which I have read. 1 wish electors to have only one vote, but I want them to exercise that vote. At present when an elector removes, from one locality to another he is averse to obtaining a transfer, because the system of transfer is such an intricate one. In the first place, he is required to say for what division and what subdivision he is enrolled. Now, very few persons know the subdivision for which they are enrolled. As a matter of fact, there are electors enrolled for the division of Melbourne Ports who reside at the postal addresses given, but who ought to be enrolled for Fawkner; while there are electors enrolled for the Fawkner division who ought to be enrolled for Melbourne Ports. Of course, a member of Parliament is regarded by most people as a sort of general information bureau, or a walking encyclopaedia. Thus it comes about that he is frequently appealed to by electors who are in doubt as to their true position. For example, a man will come to me and say, “ I lived in the Bendigo division, and I obtained a transfer from there. ‘ ‘ He will then mention, perhaps, the name of some town in the Bendigo division, and ask me if I know the subdivision for which he is enrolled. In such cases, I always advise my interrogator to embody in his transfer form his former address, and inclose a note stating that he does not know the subdivision for which he is enrolled, leaving the Electoral Officers to rectify matters. I have met numbers of persons who did not even know the division for which they were enrolled. It is the duty of the Electoral Department to ascertain the division for which electors seeking transfers are enrolled. If that were done, the number of transfers would be much larger than it is at present. If those persons whose names appear twice on the rolls were left alone by political organizations, I do not believe that one in a thousand of them would vote twice. But if the organizations know that they are enrolled twice, they will endeavour to get them to vote twice. To my mind, it is better that one man’s name should appear on the roll twice than that an elector’s name should be wrongly removed from it. As to the best means of insuring that each elector shall vote only once, opinions are very much divided. I remember that in 1890 a system of electors’ rights was in vogue in New South Wales. To me it looked an almost perfect system. But it was found to be very far from perfect, because at an election which took place in East Sydney in 1894 or 1895, these electors’ rights were bought up for 5s. and 10s. apiece. There are not many human devices which cannot be circumvented by the power of money. Some who had electors’ rights went a little bit further. “They visited the electoral officials and declared on oath that they had lost their electors’ rights. They got another elector’s right, sold the old one to the other side, and voted with the new one. That system is not a perfect one, and so I pass it out as useless. It is not a system which we, as a party, could advocate, because it is open to corrupt practices. The electors of Australia are just as honest as are the electors in any other part of the world, but money can do a lot at an election, and it is not the Labour party who have any money for that purpose. That is what I am most grieved about, I admit.
– You reckon that they could all be bought.
– It is not a question of whether they could all be bought, but a question of whether a large percentage could be bought. The honorable member knows that 500 or 600 votes which were not cast against a man at an election might be very handy to . him. However, in New South
Wales the elector’s right was wiped out. Our present system, with alterations in machinery, is, I believe, about as good as any system which could possibly be adopted. The card system could not be beaten. It might be just as well, as the ex-Minister of Home Affairs remarked, to have two or three cards, so that the signature of a person could be kept at different places. It has been shown conclusively that under the absent-voting system electors did not vote early and often, as has been charged by the Opposition. Our honorable friends have had to crawl down from the stand they took up after the elections, because in 99 per cent, of the cases the apparent duplication was due to a mistake. I desire now to say a few words about signed articles in the press. We are told that by our legislation of last session we interfered with the liberty of the press. Nothing of the sort, sir.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have very much pleasure in- entering a protest against this Bill. I do so for the reason that the members of the Opposition are remaining silent.
– Of the Government.
– I am referring to honorable members opposite. They know my meaning when I say the members of the Opposition, because that is where they should be, and where they will be in the very near future. When this Bill was outlined, I certainly expected to find members of the Government getting up and supporting it.
– Defending it.
– They can either defend the Bill or support it. However, we are entitled to hear their voices, and to know their opinions. The people of Australia will think that the Government have no confidence in the measure, and that it should not become law.
– They are “gagged.”
– They are not “gagged.” They do not believe in the Bill, and it has only been brought forward to mark time. They are not prepared to support the Bill, or even one clause of it.
– Give us a chance to vote, and we will show you.
– You do not expect to get a chance to vote for the Bill. You; know that it is a direct challenge to the party sitting on this side, and you expect us to oppose it in every detail.
– Order ! The honorable member should address the Chair.
– I apologize, sir. When the Government said, that they proposed to bring forward a Bill to amend the Electoral Act, we expected them to submit something in the nature of a reform. But, instead of that, we have a measure to destroy one of the most useful electoral methods which Australia has enjoyed. Our present electoral machinery is undoubtedly the best that Australia has ever had, or is ever likely to have. This measure does not contain one redeeming feature. I have not studied the Bill very carefully.
– Yet you are against it.
– But I have seen sufficient of the Bill to realize that no sane person could support hardly one clause in it.
– It is not even like the curate’s egg.
– We shall hear what it is like when the honorable member expresses his opinion, but until then we are not likely to know.
– Order ! These conversations across the chamber are disorderly.
– In introducing the Bill the Honorary Minister dilated on its great qualities. But in the whole of his speech we did not hear a useful explanation of a clause. He referred to many of the clauses, and to the improvements likely to accrue from the enactment of the measure, but one felt more disgusted with it after hearing his remarks than he did previously. The first provision with which the honorable gentleman dealt was the one to abolish the deposit of 5s. when a person wishes to lodge an objection to a name on the roll. That, in my opinion, is one of the most useful provisions in the Electoral Act. My expectation is that immediately the provision is abolished, the complaints to names on the roll will be almost as numerous as the electors who are enrolled. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to say that there is a penalty attached to the provision, but why do the Government want to do away with the deposit if it is not to suit one political body? We on this side do not desire the abolition of the deposit. If a Labour man is satisfied that a name should be removed from the roll, he is prepared to lodge a deposit of 5s. with his objection to the retention of that name. That our opponents should desire to do away with the deposit suggests that this is being done for a political purpose. The members of the Government seem to think that if the deposit is abolished, their canvassers or paid organizers will be able to go to an electoral officer and lodge a complaint against the retention of an elector’s name, and that that name may be removed without the elector being advised that an objection to the retention of his name has been lodged. That is most unjust and most unfair. I have no faith in the Bill, and if it ever reaches the Committee stage I hope we shall be able to continue the deposit of 5s. with an objection. The next matter with which the Honorary Minister dealt was Saturday polling. He spoke at very great length about Saturday not being the right day for voting, and - a day in the middle of the week, he contended, would be much more convenient to the people, and much more suitable in every respect. In my opinion, no day in the week is so convenient for an election as is Saturday, because it is a slack day with people ail over the Commonwealth.
– You did not get much from a Saturday’s election.
– I got a great deal more than did the honorable member, because my majority was very much larger than his. However, I hope that we shall soon have another election. Our opponents imagine that if they can get a poll taken on a day other than Saturday it will be of infinite benefit to them. They recognise that many persons who are now able to vote on Saturday will not then have the privilege or the pleasure of doing so, because their business will prevent them from reaching a polling booth in time. Many persons who are in employment of different descriptions will not be able to get away from their work to vote on any day but Saturday.
– In New South Wales the half-holiday in the country districts is on Wednesday
– That does not obtain all over Australia. In many places the half-holiday is on Saturday, and shortly that will be universal throughout Australia. Saturday is the natural day on which to hold an election, and I think it will always be held in Australia on that day. We have only to recall the large percentage of votes which was polled in the Commonwealth at the last election to realize that Saturday is the most convenient day for taking a poll. When a man meets with success in an undertaking he continues on that line; and that argument in itself is quite sufficient to induce honorable members to retain the provision for a Saturday poll. I feel that the Government are not sincere in their proposal to alter the polling day. The people of Australia are satisfied that Saturday is the natural day, and I know that candidates prefer that day to any other. Many persons work very strenuously when a poll is taken on Saturday, and these can rest on Sunday. Remembering that Sunday affords a rest to these persons after a hard day’s work, we should see that the provision for Saturday polling is retained. The next matter with which the Honorary * Minister dealt was the gagging of the press. We have heard much of the provision for signed articles, not only in connexion with this Bill, but in connexion with the late election, and the want of confidence motion. We are told that we on this side are anxious to gag the press. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to do that. It is only those with money at their command who have a chance to gag the press. With money it is possible for men to use a great deal of influence with the press, but poor people, as a rule, have not much influence with the press, nor do they wish’ to have any influence in that direction. I suggest that, instead of modifying the present law in reference to the press, we should strengthen it in some respects. In my opinion, every leading article in every newspaper in Australia should be signed, and I feel that the time is not far distant when such articles will be signed. Those who write leading articles should be ready to sign them. When articles are signed, we know the true value of the opinions expressed in them, because we know whether the writer is a man who is properly acquainted with his subject. At the present time, there is no way of finding out who writes the leading articles of the newspapers. I am certain that if a referendum were taken on the point, the people would vote almost unanimously for the retention of the provision in the Act. Newspaper writers - I do not speak of the proprietors - are anxious that the provision should be retained. The signing of articles gives them better opportunities for obtaining distinction. The publishing of the names of writers of articles is a good advertisement for those writers, and assists them in making way in their profession. For these reasons, and for the many others too numerous to repeat which have been advanced during the debate, and which are still fresh in the minds of honorable members, I trust that the existing provision will be retained. The next matter on which the Honorary Minister dwelt was the clause reinstating the postal voting system. He expressed his intentions and opinions most lucidly, but I do not think that any argument could be adduced which would convince honorable members on this side that the postal voting system provided for in the Bill is of any value, and, in my opinion, it is not “ likely to be agreed to. Were the clause to pass as it stands, men and women would be able to record their votesdirectly after the closing of nominations. That was allowed under the old Queensland postal voting system, in connexion with which there was so much corruption. Every Queensland representative could give many instances of corrupt practices in connexion with the use of the postal vote provided for in the old Queensland Electoral Act. One of the most glaring cases of corruption occurred in connexion with the Warwick contest in the election on the 5th May, 1908, and Mr. Kidston, who was, at that, election, returned to power, immediately proposed the abolition of the postal voting, system, because of the corruption to which it had given rise. For the Warwick constituency the candidates were Mr. O’sullivan, the present Attorney-General of Queensland, and Mr. Barnes, a leading merchant. By reference to the newspaper files in the Library, honorable members can make themselves acquainted with what occurred. Thirty-one witnesses who gave evidence before an elections tribunal admitted that they had been bribed during the campaign. Many who had been offered money by the canvassers of one party -went to the canvassers of the other candidate, and were able to obtain a still larger sum. The Judge who tried the case had to dismiss it, however, because the evidence was so conflicting that he could not come to a decision, corruption on both sides being proved.
– The election was declared void.
– My memory is not clear as to that, but, at any rate, it was made sufficiently evident that the postal voting system could no longer be tolerated. Under the system proposed in the Bill, votes may be recorded immediately after the nominations have been closed, and the candidate with the largest amount of money at his- disposal will be able to obtain the largest number of votes. The Queensland Government is at the present time trying to amend the State electoral law, and lias proposed the introduction of the postal voting system, but has attached to it conditions which make it very different from the old postal voting system. Women will be able to vote by post only on election day, and then only on the production of a certificate from a doctor or a qualified nurse.
– That is not the Queensland provision.
– I have just returned from Queensland, and I say that that is the proposal, and that it is likely to become the law of the State. But the Queensland Government proposes a worse thing, and that is the disfranchisement of between 40,000 and 50,000 working men. Electors are to have a vote only when they have registered their homes, and must vote within the electorate in which those homes are situated. A man will not be allowed to vote outside his electorate, using the postal vote, unless he can produce a doctor’s certificate to the effect that he is unable to return to his elec.torate. Thus the shearers, the sugarworkers, and the harvesters who may be living outside their electorates on election day will be unable to vote. A man whose home is in Toowoomba, and who is working in Charleville on election day, will be unable to vote by post. Of course, if the Queensland Government were sincere, it would give those persons the right to vote by post. But it is not prepared to do so. The result of the recent Federal elections has made the members of the Queensland Liberal Government feel that they must take additional measures to secure their .return at the coming State election. I think that, after that election, a Labour Government will be in power in Queensland. This disfranchisement is the only method Ministers can think of for retaining power, The action of the Queensland Liberal Administration is in keeping with the Liberal Administration of the Commonwealth, but there is even better evidence than that which I have given against the postal voting system. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports read a newspaper account of the mode of selecting candidates at Mosman, but I think we have a more apt example at Ryde, also in New South Wales. I have a copy of the Sydney Evening News of last Saturday fortnight, and it contains a rather long account, which is of much interest, and which will dispel any leaning there may be towards the reintroduction of the postal vote. This is an account of a Liberal League meeting, composed of men who give their support to the present Government, and it goes to show what is likely to occur if we once more ‘have the postal vote adopted.
Irregularities of the Ballot. Executive’s Interim Report. Mr. Thompson the Selected Candidate.
A meeting of the Ryde electorate conference was held at the Hornsby School of Arts last night, to receive the executive’s interim report (to date) into the recent ballot for the selection of a candidate, and to deal with a communication on the subject received from the Leader of the Liberal .party, Mr. C. G. Wade.
Mr. R. M. Pontey presided, and 66 delegates were present ‘ from various branches throughout the electorate.
The secretary read the report of the executive. This stated that 5,030 ballot-papers were printed, and 4,252 posted to members of blanches. Two ballot-papers were cancelled and handed to the general secretary of the Liberal Association, and 766 were now in the hands of the returning officer, which accounted for the 5,030 ballotpapers printed. The number of ballot-papers received at the count was 3,342. The returning officer had received 53 ballot-papers, said to have been delivered at the Liberal rooms by postal officials since the date .of the count. Some of the envelopes bore postmarks showing they had .been posted since the date of the ballot, while in some cases the dates could not be made out. Up to date 23 envelopes had been returned as undelivered by the postal officials to the returning officer, and 11 by others.
– I do not think that this has anything to do with the question before the House.
– It has to do with the system of the postal vote.
– The honorable member will have to connect his remarks with the question before the House.
– The newspaper report proceeds -
The total number of ballot-papers received since the count was 87, leaving 823 unaccounted for.
The whole of the signatures to the votes recorded had been carefully checked with the various branch rolls on which the ballot-papers had been issued, with the result that the executive found 68 signed ballot-slips bearing names that were not on any of the branch lists, and to whom ballot-papers had not been posted.
Statutory declarations had been received to the effect that those signing them had received their ballot-papers, and posted them in sufficient time to have been received for the count. None of the names for which declarations had been received were to be found amongst those who had voted. With reference to the signatures to the ballot-papers, one instance was discovered in which it appeared that there had been two votes put in for the same person.
– I have been closely following the honorable member, but I cannot find that he is connecting his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– I wish to show what has taken place in connexion with a postal vote, and what is likely to take place under the very similar conditions c which will be created by this Bill.
– The honorable member will be in order on those lines if he can show that there is an analogy. But, so far, he has not shown the connexion between the Bill before the House and the affairs of the Ryde State Liberal League in New South Wales.
– The newspaper report goes on to say -
The returning officer had received a letter from the .secretary of the Ryde branch stating .that 40 members of the Labour League at Ryde and Gladesville had been enrolled as members of the Gladesville and Ryde branches of the Liberal Association.
The report was received. The chairman read his report to Mr. C. G. Wade of the circumstances connected with the balloting, and the action taken thereon by the conference.
Mr. Wade’s Opinion.
Mr. Wade’s letter, after dealing with the rules, stated : - “ Under the circumstances, you will observe that once the count has been made, the name of the selected candidate should be forwarded forthwith to the council of the Liberal Association. T should be glad, therefore, if you would make it a point of making the position clear to the conference at the first opportunity. “ I appreciate your anxiety to account f or the large number of ballot-papers that have not been returned, and, prima facie, this is a matter which justifies inquiry. But, at the same time, the constitution is quite clear. In the first place, an aggrieved candidate lodges an appeal if gross irregularities exist, and the council of the association should then investigate the matter. “ Further, the discrepancy between the ballotpapers issued and the ballot-papers returned is a very marked feature of all the selections that have been held lately. It indicates, to my mind, some carelessness with the Postal Department, or apathy on the part of the voters in exercising their privileges. I quite recognise you desire everything done systematically and constitutionally.”
In a further letter, dated August28th, Mr. Wade said : - “ Although the action of the conference in making inquiries is not authorized by the constitution, at the same time I will not stand in the way of honest work, on grounds of technicalities. My desire is to keep these selections as clean as possible, and, while irregularities always occur, to use my influence in checking abuses. “ Under the circumstances, the Executive will await any report the conference may decide to make before taking further action with regard to the indorsement of a candidate for Ryde, but I would suggest expedition in dealing with the matter, as delay at this stage is not desirable.” ‘
A statutory declaration was handed in by Mr. J. Knight, of Ryde, in which he said Mr. Reuben Lewis, of Ryde, had stated that 200 members of the Labour League had joined the Liberal Association for the definite purpose of voting for the selection of : a Liberal candidate. A heated discussion followed.
It was moved by Mr. Wright, and seconded’ by Mr. A. E. Arthur - “ That in view of the gross irregularities that have taken place in connexion with the ballot, as revealed in the report of the Executive, the conference recommend that the said ballot be declared null and void.”
Upon this an amendment was moved by Mr. T. Rolin (Turramurra), and seconded by Dr. Hodgson - “ That the name and address of Mr. Thompson be forwarded to the council as the selected candidate, together with a report of the Executive.” The amendment was carried by 32 votes to 25.
I quote this to show what has occurred in connexion with a postal vote.
– That is Labour manipulation.
– This report refers to a small league which exists, I believe, in the Prime Minister’s electorate, and with which the honorable gentleman is connected.
– It is in my electorate.
– And this league has to manage the Prime Minister’s electoral affairs in this portion of the electorate.
– And it manages them very well.
– The report is ample evidence of the management, and it is precisely the sort of management we shall have under the postal vote as applied to Commonwealth elections. It is our duty, when we find such cases, to make them public; and the members of this league are amongst those who are supporting the measure before us.
– And even they are the victims of Labour trickery.
– The report I have read shows the class of people who are trying to revise the postal voting system, which has been a source of corruption for so many years.
– How do the Labour party select their candidates?
– By ballot, and we never have any of this corruption. We have no voting by post; the voters must go to the ballot-box. I think I have said sufficient to prove that we are not going to have the postal voting system again introduced into any measure in Australia. A State Government of Queensland dared to bring in a Bill providing for the introduction of the system, but found that Parliament was not pre- ° pared to place it on the statute-book in its old form. If it is to be restored in the case of Commonwealth elections, a candidate, instead of spending £5,000 or £10,000 during an election campaign, will, in many cases, spend £20,000.
– The squatter will be able to stand it.
– If the postal voting system is not restored, I think that we shall lose one or two squatters now in the House.
– From which side?
– Unfortunately we have no squatters on our side of the House. After all, they are most useful to a party, because they subscribe liberally to the party funds. I do not think one honorable member opposite will defend the postal voting system. During this debate we have heard a great deal regarding the defects of the existing law, duplicate voting, and frauds of every description, said to have been committed under it. After a searching inquiry, however, the present Government have been able to find only about 5,000 cases for the whole Commonwealth in which it was alleged that duplicate voting had occurred. I am prepared to say that in not one instance was there duplicate voting or any fraud. The apparent duplicate voting has largely arisen from errors due to the great rush of work in our polling booths on election day. Many of the booths were too small to cope with the business. I hope that in future our rolls will be closed about three months before a general election takes place.
– Hear, hear !
– It is all very well for our opponents to say “ Hear, hear!” but if” we continue the compulsory enrolment system it will not be long before the people will appreciate the fact that they must enroll within a certain period to escape being fined. Under the present system we do not give our electoral officers sufficient time to purge the rolls, nor do we give the printers time to present them in proper order- on election day. I hope that some such change as I have suggested will be made. I am inclined to think that the present position would be improved if the Electoral Branch were connected with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and the work of collecting the cards for the preparation of the rolls, which is now done by police officers, were transferred to postal employes and their remuneration increased. Post-office officials are in constant touch with the people, and with this change in the method of collection we should be able to close the rolls three months before the date of a general election. When a letter-carrier is constantly employed on a certain “ walk,” he gets to know every one who should be on the rolls, and he could advise the people to get enrolled within a certain time to escape being fined. I trust that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs will favorably consider this suggestion, the adoption of which would prevent a recurrence of what took place at the last general election. I am not going to say that everything relating to the rolls was all right, because I know that it was not. The fault, however, was not that of the electoral officers. It was due to the late closing of the rolls. I repeat that the present system does not allow the electoral officers sufficient time to cope with the work, and that it is the system itself which was responsible for the allegation that many duplications took place at the last general election. The newspapers, strange to say, alleged that fraud had taken place only where the successful candidate <was a member of our party. I am sure that if the Electoral Office and the Postmaster-General’s Department were combined in the way I have outlined, we should have a very material improvement <on the present system.
.- I really do not know whether I ought to make a few observations at this stage. The House has done a very good day’s work, and I would like the Prime Minister to agree to the adjournment of the debate.
– Go on. We are anxious to hear you.
– Is the honorable member the Prime Minister or the leader of the Kelly gang consisting of himself ?
– Order !
– I withdraw that remark. It is useless for us to prolong our deliberations if the Prime Minister is not sincere regarding the introduction of this measure.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in casting a reflection on the Prime Minister.
– I am sure that my remark is well merited.
– Order 1
– I should like to know what the Prime Minister meant by saying, as he did last night, that he was not sure that this country did not want a rest from legislation. He said that eightythree Acts of Parliament had been passed during the term of office of the late Administration, and that he did not know that Australia was any better off.
– Sheer envy.
– I object to undergo the trouble of criticising measures which the Prime Minister and his colleagues seem to think are unnecessary. The Opposition have placed before the House many objections to this Bill, but the Government and their supporters have not attempted to answer them.
– The honorable member is not bound to go on.
– I must do so if only as a protest against the application of -the ” SaS-“ There seems to be a “ gag “ upon honorable members opposite.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question ?
– I submit, sir, that we are entitled to have a reply to our criticisms.
– If the honorable member will sit down, I shall endeavour at once to reply to them.
– The honorable member promised to do so on a previous occasion, but when he’ got his opportunity he gave us no information. He simply acted, in a spirit of impious larrikinism.
– The honorable member should withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw it. One of my objections to this Bill is that there is nothing in it to prevent the misrepresentation of political parties. The Honorable Alfred Deakin on one accasion ‘said that the issue before the people was, “ Federalism or Socialism,” meaning thereby that his party were in favour of Federalism, whilst our party ‘ favoured Socialism.
– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– With great respect, sir, I would remind you that this is a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which provides for the punishment of certain offences, and that my objection is that in this Bill ho attempt is made to penalize those who misrepresent political parties. In the Electoral Act ‘there is a section relating ‘to penalties for offences. My objection is tih’at the Bill ‘contains no provision to prevent ‘the Women’s NWorial League of Victoria, for example, frofti stating that this party is desirous o’f interfering with the sanctity oi the home. Surely statements of that kind ought to be penalized.
Mr.mcdonald. -It is only f air to say that it was afterwards stated that that assertion was merely made as a’ political dodge.
– I ‘believe that it was said by a lady who has passed away that the . charge against the Labour party was made as a political dodge. I give the AttorneyGeneral the credit of acknowledging that he publicly said that this charge against ‘the Labour party was unfair. He made this statement-
It was said that the Labour party -wished to en danger the sanctity of the home and the marriage tie. It was a : great pity that this should be said. He did not believe the LabouT party intended that at all. He believed in a fair fight always, and it was a great pity they should be accused of this.
But what -did the Women’s National League do-1 They condemned the AttorneyGeneral roundly for his fairness. There ought to ‘be a provision in this Bill, which the Attorney-General supports, to make that kind of thing a penal offence.
Mrkelly.-The sooner we get into Committee, the sooner the honorable member will have an opportunity of moving an amendment to that effect.
– I certainly want a clause inserted imposing a penalty onstatements of this kind at election time. Part XV. of the Commonwealth Electoral Act enumerates electoral offences,, including illegal practices and the useof undue influence. It covers nearly a page of the Statute. Libels of this kind ought to be included. Honorable members opposite are asking that the provision of the Act concerning the signing of articles in newspapers shall be expunged. Not only ought we to retain that provision, but we ought to impose penalties on persons like Mr. John Sydney McMahon, who, at the last election, issued a paper called The People, in which he published this kind of stuff-
The Liberal woman’s cause is just. It is a campaign for right living. What we have ‘to figh’t against can be judged by the following extracts from Socialist writers : -
Frederick Engels : “ The first word of Religion is a lie.”
Frederick Engels : “ Three great obstacles block the path of Socialism - Private Property, Religion, and the ‘Present Form of Marriage. “
Robert Blatchford : “ I -deny the existence of a Heavenly Father. I deny the efficacy of prayer. I deny the truth of the Old and New Testament.”
Women, Socialists : take away your religion and your Marriage Certificate. What do they offer “in exchange?
Then vote against Socialism.
– What has that extract to do with this Bill?
– I am complaining that there is iio provision in the Bill to penalize persons who . publish stuff of this kind. To that extent, the measure is deficient. The same publication also contained a list of questions and answers, in the following terms -
TheTe are a few answers the women can sug gest : -
Who are responsible for industrial unrest? - Socialists.
Who are responsible for strikes, causing misery to hundreds of families? - The Socialists.
Who are responsible for lost opportunities for our children? - The Socialists.
Who would teach the rising generation belief in neither God nor man? - The Socialists.
– Who published that?
– It was published by a person named McMahon, with money supplied ‘by ithe “capitalist party opposite. It was issued at election time,. was circulated in Queensland, and was filled with advertisements paid for by the capitalist party. Surely we ought to have a clause in an amending Electoral Bill to prevent the circulation of such slanders.
I have something more to say about misrepresentation. It will be agreed that the criticism of public men ought to be open and above-board. A person cannot, without incurring the risk of paying damages for libel, rake up the history of a private individual and publish it, unless it can be proved that the publication is for the public good. A private individual, for example, may have stolen a horse, and suffered five years’ imprisonment for his offence. But ifhe is living quietly and honestly no one has a right to rake up that circumstance against him and publish it. But a person can attack the private character of a public man, and it is held to be in the public interest that he shall be able to do so. If you can prove that a politician was once a bushranger, you can say so without fear of damages.
– If you can prove that a politician has changed his views as often as he has changed his coat, and has done so for pay, you are at liberty to publish it.
-Yes; and, unfortunately, the public do not have an opportunity of hearing the circumstances under which some men have changed their views. But, while the criticism of public men is quite right, it ought to be fair and open. If a man puts up for public honours, he must be prepared to stand criticism. But while that is in the public interest, surely the criticism ought to be in the open.
No man, or set of men, no woman or set of women, should be free to send round secret circulars, endeavouring to disparage candidates for public honours, and deprive them of their characters.
I have in my possession a circular letter which was issued secretly in Queensland at the time of the recent election. The circulation of such documents ought to be penalized. There is a section in the Electoral Act, No. 180, penalizing the printing or distribution of any electoral advertisement,, notice, handbill, pamphlet, or card containing any untrue or incorrect statement intended, or likely, to mislead or improperly interfere with any elector in, or in relation to, the casting of his vote. But let honorable members consider the case which I am about to relate. This circular letter was issued by the Political Committee of the Grand Lodge of the Loyal Orange Institution, Queensland. It reads as follows - “
Memo, from the Grand Lodge Political Committee.
This circular is strictly private. It must not be shown to any but members of the Lodge.
The following are the names of those Candidates who have the indorsement of the Grand Political Committee : -
As you will observe, we have given preference to those candidates least likely to pander to the Romish influence and interests. For obvious reasons we do not indorse any Roman Catholic. However worthy he may be, he’ will always be at the call of his church when its interests are being engineered. Unfortunately, pandering to Roman claims is not whollyconfined to any particular party, but it is increasingly evident that the Labour party is the most pliant in that direction. This has been clearly shown in our previous circulars. The members of this party also take every opportunity to air their disloyalty.
As an institution we are altogether independent of party politics. We do not ask any of our members or friends to deny his political faith or denounce his party. What is required of him is that he will put his Protestantism and loyalty first in the programme before all other political considerations. He is no Orangeman who votes for a disloyalist, whatever party he belongs to.
For the Senate. - We indorse Messrs. Sayers, Chataway, and Maughan. We cannot indorse Mr. St. Ledger or either of the two other Labour candidates. Mr. Ferricks has been unfavorably reported on from the north, and Mr. Mullan never had the support of our Charters Towers brethren who know him.
Brisbane. - We can only recommend Mr. Fenwick; he is practically a new man. Although little is known of him, we believe he will make a better representative than Mr. Finlayson, who is bound to the Labour Caucus, and his hands would be tied if the majority of his party were opposed to any cherished principle he may have:
Oxley. - Mr. Hunter has our indorsement. Mr. Sharpe is an extreme Socialist, and not worthy of our consideration.
Moret on. - Mr. Sinclair has always gone straight, and has the indorsement of the Lodge in his electorate. He is a staunch Protectionist of high character.
Lilley. - On the recommendation of Lodges in this “electorate, we indorse Mr. Jacob Stumm.
Darling Downs. - Mr. Groom’ voted Home Rule, and has generally laid himself out for the Roman Catholic vote. We have not been advised as to the standing of Mr. Allen, so therefore rely upon the discretion of our members to choose the best man.
Wide Bay. - Mr. Fisher voted Home Rule, and does not deserve Protestant consideration. He included, perhaps, the most militant and extreme Roman Catholic in Australia (Mr. Mahon) in his Cabinet. Mr. Wienholt bears a good report ; we therefore recommend him.
Capricornia. - Mr. Higgs is a Home Ruler, and has always pandered for the Roman vote. Mr. Dyer is known by our lodges in that district to be a straightforward man and worthy of our support (were it only on the record of his opponent). We can safely indorse Mr. Dyer.
Herbert. - From information to hand we prefer Mr. Mann. Mr. Bamford voted for that obnoxious Home Rule motion, and has, like all the Labour party, laid himself out for the Catholic vote.
Kennedy. - Charles McDonald is an extreme Socialist, and is (like so many of our Labour men) disloyal to boot. He voted Home Rule. We advise our members to carefully consider Mr. Edwards’ qualifications.
We urge upon you all the necessity for action. If anything were wanting to impress upon Protestants the necessity for united action, it should be the knowledge that Rome is marshalling her forces for a determined struggle. To insure complete success there should be confidence in those whose business it has been to select the candidates to receive the Protestant vote, and that every candidate selected should be loyally supported at the ballot-box. Let each member throw himself into the political fray, and each use his or her influence to induce voters to vote for our candidates.
Be up and doing, every one of you, and render a good account of yourselves.
Chas. Fish, Secretary,
Grand Lodge Political Committee.
P.S. - If this circular should be too late for your regular meeting, you are earnestly requested to convey the information pertaining to your electorate to the members without delay.
I received this document from a Queenslander, whose name I do not intend to divulge. There is no doubt about its authenticity, for when I wrote to Mr. Charles Fish, the secretary of the Grand Lodge Political Committee in Brisbane, he replied in the same handwriting that is to be seen on the circular. I wrote to him as follows: -
Dear Sir, -
I have reason to believe that at the recent Federal elections you issued a printed circular in which you referred to me as follows : - “ Capricornia. - Mr. Higgs is a Home Ruler, and has always pandered for the Roman Catholic vote.”
I presume you know the meaning of the word “ pandered,” and, therefore, ask you to be good enough to let me know what led you to use the expression, “ Mr. Higgs … has always pandered for the Roman Catholic vote.” In your reply I hope you will quote instances in which I pandered for the Roman Catholic vole jot for any other vote.
Mr. Fish replied as follows : ;
Ithaca, July 26th, 1913.
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 1 8th inst. As the information you desire has been confidentially communicated to me, I must, therefore, first obtain permission through those sources before I could comply with your request.
Secty., G.L. Pol. Committee, L.O.I. Q.
In the circumstances, I concluded that it would be idle to pursue the matter further, because I was not likely to get any information from this gentleman.
I consider that I have proved to the hilt that some provision should be inserted in our electoral law under which that sort of conduct would be penalized. If Mr. Fish and his friends believe what they say in the circular, they ought to have no objection to making the statements on the public platform, or to publishing the document broadcast. It may be of no personal interest to honorable members to learn that I do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church. I was brought up and confirmed in the Church of England, my wife and I were married there, and our children are being reared in the faith of that Church. But the Australian Labour party never asks what is the religion of any of its candidates, believing that to be a matter outside politics altogether.
I am not aware of any occasion on which I have pandered for anybody’s vote.
Let me consider for a moment some of the statements which are contained in the circular. It says -
For obvious reasons we cannot indorse any Roman Catholic.
Why? They will not indorse a Roman Catholic, but I am quite sure - and I have it on the authority of a member of this House - that they will support a Roman Catholic against the Labour party. I have been told by an honorable member that he got the Orange vote in his constituency, and he is not a Labour man.
– No, he is a Roman Catholic. It seems to me that it is very wrong for any set of men to issue a circular of this character. The statement is made -
However worthy he [a Roman Catholic] may be, he will always be at the call of his church when its interests are being engineered.
What provision is there in our Constitution which can be operated in the interests of any Church ? Fortunately there is the greatest freedom of thought and speech to-day.
If the honorable member for Darwin wishes to establish a branch of the WaterLily Rock-Bound Church of the Cayuse nation he can do so to-morrow.
I notice that, according to the last census, there are 4,274,414 professing Christians in Australia, of whom 920,425 are Roman Catholics. The remaining 3,352,989 belong to the Church of England, the Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, and other churches.
What danger do the persons who have issued this circular apprehend. They say-
What is required of a member of the Orange Lodge is that he will put his Protestantism before all other political considerations.
I believe that certain capitalists are manipulating that institution for the purpose of defeating the Labour party. If they are doing that, they ought to come out into the open. Then we are told -
Rome is marshalling her forces for a determined struggle.
What ridiculous stuff to publish at this time of day in Australia. Surely the authors of this circular must have been reading history, and reading one side of it only. Surely they must think that we are living in a period nearly 100 years ago - in 1536, when Henry VIII., the Protestant King with many wives, because he could not get the Pope to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Arragon, started to close all the monasteries. He shut up 3,219 of them, and 40,000 Roman Catholics rose in protest. That is the period of which these gentlemen must have been reading. There was not much to choose between religious fanatics of 400 years ago, because either would burn the other fellow before breakfast if he had an opportunity to do so.
It was only a few years after Henry VIII. had passed away that Queen Mary started to make things hot for the Protestants, and had Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer burned at the stake, in addition to putting to death some 288 others. But we are not living in those troublous times. We are living in an enlightened age. If people believe that their religious freedom is likely to be interfered with in any way, they are perfectly entitled to form an institution to protect themselves and their faith, but they are not entitled to send out secret circulars with a view to damaging members of the Labour party or any other political party To send out circulars secretly is to condemn a man without evidence and without a trial. I deem it a public duty to bring this matter before the Legislature.
I come now to one or two provisions which are contained in the Bill which is before us. In the first place I will deal with the clause relating to the redistribution of the electorates. The Government propose that our electoral boundaries shall be determined either by a Justice of the High Court or of the Supreme Court. Under the existing system they are determined by three Commissioners, including the Surveyor-General in each State, the Chief Electoral Officer in each State, and another person. I am perfectly willing that a Judge shall be a member of the Court, but I certainly think that the SurveyorGeneral in each State ought also to be a member of it, because several matters have to be considered, including community of interests, diversity of interests, and existing electoral boundaries. A Judge, in all probability, would know very little about the existing electoral boundaries. I do not suppose there is a member of the High Court or the Supreme Court Bench in Australia who could define the boundaries of any electorate as well as could the SurveyorGeneral of the State in which that electorate is located. Honorable members have only to look at the old redistribution in order to see what a technical matter is the delimitation of these boundaries.
– Did not the system which is proposed work very satisfactorily under Judge Murray, in New South Wales? Does not the honorable member recollect ?
– I do not. I intend to oppose that clause. I object also to the proposed alteration of the law with a view to preventing claims being registered unless they are presented to the Returning Officer a month or more before the issue of the writ. This must be an effort on the part of our capitalistic friends opposite to keep the nomad from exercising his franchise. Twenty-five per cent, of the population in Australia are continually moving.
Why do they move from place to place? Because they want to get employment. Honorable members opposite, some of whom have been able to get a piece of land and do not require to shift, do not see that there is any reason why we should consider the man who has to move from town to town, or from State to State, in search of work, more especially as he is likely to vote against the nominees of the capitalists. A man who has to seek employment may have to travel from Tasmania to the Gulf of Carpentaria, as he very often has to do. Take the case of shearers. I remember a friend named George Whelan, a shearer, and member of William Lane’s Paraguayan community, saying that travelling from Adelaide up to Longreach was “ a mere chew. ‘ ‘ That was his curious way of describing a journey of that distance. Thousands of shearers have to travel many thousands of miles, and they surely ought to be entitled to vote for those who make the laws.
– We do not desire to interfere with the shearer.
– Honorable members opposite do apparently desire to deprive the shearer of the right to vote, because they are not prepared to allow him to lodge an application unless he does so at least a month before the issue of the writs. How does he know when a writ is going to be issued? I think that the names ought to be retained on the roll up to the issue of the writs. Once the writs are out, it is only fair that the lists should be closed. The Attorney-General is gracing the chamber with his presence this evening for a brief period - I suppose taking his turn. Ministers have so little interest in this measure that there is only one of them in the chamber at a time. The members of the great Australian public who are witnesses of these proceedings will be interested to watch the Ministerial benches, and will be able to see what little interest is taken by the Ministry in their measure. I feel sure that it has only been introduced to take up time. That is a further reason why the second reading should not be carried. The Attorney-General is, I will admit at once, a man of very strong convictions. There is no pretence about the honorable gentleman, though there is a pretence about some other politicians whom Mr. Speaker would not permit me to name. He has certain ideas about the public which I think he gained in a bad school. A law court is not the best place for a man to get ideas of the general public.
– lt is not the best place to get convictions, anyway.
– I know that the honorable gentleman has convictions, wherever he got them. I think that he got the convictions from certain observations he made in the law courts. He sees the public in the courts, sometimes not in their Sunday clothes, so to speak, and I am afraid that he has rather a low estimate of poor humanity. He thinks it necessary to strike off the rolls as many persons as possible.
– As many people as are dead.
– The Electoral Act contains a provision that if a person wants the name of a person struck off a roll on the ground that he is not entitled to be enrolled, he has to put down a deposit of 5s. as an earnest of his bona fides. Why do ‘ the Attorney-General and his colleagues wish to strike out that provision ? Why should we not compel any busybody who wants a name struck off a roll to put up 5s. as an evidence that he is acting bond fide?
– Because we have no capitalists on this side.
– You pay organizers to do it, though.
– I sincerely hope that the Attorney-General has not in his mind the thought that the repeal of the provision will enable Liberal organizers to go round and find out the political opinions of individuals, and then send in the names of opponents who, in their opinion, ought not to be on the roll. I hope that that is not the intention of the AttorneyGeneral, because I regard him as the most upright of the lot. He is a great Conservative. Although he will learn a good deal from the lectures he gets from this side of the House, still he is nob likely to abandon this provision.
– You enliven him.
– My honorable friend ought to be on this side. As “Ithuriel” said, the honorable member would have made a splendid Labour member.
– God forbid that he should ever come amongst us.
– Not while you are there.
– I hope not.
– Whether the Attorneygeneral and his colleagues have that object in view or not, that is what will happen. If the party send a paid canvasser through an electorate to try to purge the rolls, as they call it, and as the honorable member for Grey remarks, give him so much a head for every name he can get taken off the roll, what is likely to happen ? Thousands of names will be struck off. It is not everybody in the community who has such a keen interest in politics as have the Attorney-General and myself, or others in this Chamber. Men, as a rule, have other work to do. They have not the time for running to the Returning Officer and asking if their name is on the roll and if it is to be allowed tq remain there, nor have they the time to attend the Revision Court. There are very few working men receiving £3 a week, or less, who can afford to take a day off to see if their name is on the roll. Very few working men, indeed, can afford to give up 10s. for that purpose. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite are* so keenly desirous of thinning out the names on the roll. They got into Parliament by a majority, and are they not satisfied ? They never thought that they would get there. The Attorney-General, when he was on this side, said the Ministerialists evidently, on all the prospects, were sure to come back. I agree wit-K the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that once the name of a man or a woman is on the roll for a division, it ought to be kept on that roll until it is removed to the roll for another division.
– Even when they are dead ?
– The Attorney-General, if he were a Judge on the High Court Bench, would not raise a quibble of that kind. I said, “ If the name of a man or a woman is on the roll,” and he interjected, “Even when they are dead?” No one suggests anything of that kind. If a man is on the roll for, say, the Capricornia division, and he removes into the Maranoa division, his name should not be struck off the roll for the former division until his name appears on the roll for the latter division. What is the idea in seeking to deprive a man of his right to vote? Bo our honorable friends opposite want to. go back to the primitive times, when there was no law, and men fought for their rights with their strong right arms. Living as we do in a kind of semi-luxurious style in the big cities, where our muscles run to fat, or to nothing, what sort of a time would we have in the shearing districts if we had to resort to primitive methods?
There is another so-called righteous amendment of the Electoral Act, and that is to stop Saturday polling. At whom is it directed ? At the wage-earners, most of whom, of course, cease work at 1 o’clock on Saturday, and then have time to vote, because they are under no obligation to the employer.
– I think it will hit the farmer hard.
– Without a doubt. In many country districts, the farmers go into town on Saturday, and it is very convenient for them to be able to exercise the franchise in the afternoon. It is quite likely that the Saturday poll brings a number of our opponents to the polling booth, because a number of farmers in some districts vote against us. But it is not right that we should take a sectional view. We ought to try to enable everybody to get to the poll with the least possible trouble or expense. Our friends opposite have their vehicles and their motor cars, and they must not mind this reference on my part, because the Minister who introduced this measure is always extremely personal, referring to a man’s clothes and the way he gets his living.
– The criminals and the beer chewers
– That is another point. Perhaps I should not follow his example. But I do not wish to speak offensively when I say that most honorable members opposite have their vehicles, their motor cars, and their buggies in which to travel to the poll, and would have time to go there on any day in the week, whereas the majority of the public can best get to the poll with the least trouble and expense on the Saturday afternoon. If honorable members opposite do not wish to get some wrongful advantage by putting an end to Saturday polling,, why do they propose it?
I come now to the clause re-establishing voting by post. I notice that the Bill does not contain a form for the postal ballot-paper. Where is the wonderful ability possessed by honorable members opposite displayed? Why has not the Attorney-General, who holds such a high position in the legal profession, given us the benefit of his ability in connexion with the drafting of this Bill? Sometimes certain members of the Government sneer at the working man’s representative who has not been through a college or a university, but where is their ability shown? By the way, did you observe, Mr. Speaker, that yesterday Sir Thomas Lipton was reported to have said that college-bred boys do not seem to get along so well in the world as other people? My honorable friends who have been through the universities cannot, with the assistance of the Parliamentary Draftsman, draw up a Bill any better than, if as well as, members on this side, whose experience and knowledge have been gained in the university of every-day life. The old Act contained a form for the postal ballot-paper; why is there no such form in the Bill? Was there no time to prepare one? Have there been so many banquets at Dandenong, Northcote, and the Dominion Chambers that Ministers have not had time? Are they serious in their proposed amendment of the electoral law ?
I think that this measure has been thrown on the table as a contentious measure, likely to occupy the time of the House until Christmas, when they will glide into recess, and have plenty of time to think out other contentious measures to carry them through next year. The Prime Minister has asked, “What is the matter with Australia? Has there not been legislation enough?” A very Machiavellian provision has been placed in the Bill, by the Attorney-General, I believe. I do not say that he had a Machiavellian intention in framing it. He thought that it would be. a great reform. He proposes that the elector when he enters a polling booth shall sign his name on the butt from which his ballotpaper is torn.
– That is going back to the dark ages!
– It is going back to the time when people voted by holding up their hands, and the employers could see how they voted.
– When the lords and the squires stood over them.
– Yes. It is going back to the time when, if a tenant voted against the wishes of his landlord, he was deprived of his farm.
– What stands over many voters to-day is the union.
– With a secret ballot, it does not matter who stands over the voter, because no one can know how he is voting. The Attorney-General, that wise man from the West, the Treasurer, and their friends, propose that in future the elector shall sign the butt to which his ballot-paper is attached. I have given notice of an amendment to the title of the Bill which will lead to the measure being properly described. If the amendment is carried, the measure will be entitled, “ An Act to enable the Liberal and Tory scrutineers to ascertain how the people vote, and to destroy the secrecy of the ballot.” That describes the intention of the provision to which I refer. A year or so ago, a Mr. C. R. Staples, a Victorian, wrote to the newspapers suggesting that persons should refuse to send advertisements to newspapers that did not support the Liberal party. He proposed a boycott, and there are many persons in Australia who, like Mr. C. R. Staples, think that you should boycott those who do not vote for your party. Evidently the Attorney-General, to whom I gave credit for more righteous instincts, proposes to allow certain partisans to victimize the electors by enabling scrutineers to ascertain how votes are cast. This provision shall have my most strenuous opposition, and, I hope, the opposition of every man on this side of the House. I think that we shall be justified in using all the forms of the House to prevent the measure containing it from passing through any stage.
I come now to the provision repealing that section of the Act which compels the signing of newspaper articles dealing with electoral matters. I admit that I had a good deal to do with the introduction of that part of the law. The honorable member for Gwydir, the honorable member for Barrier, and others, with myself, were extremely desirous of compelling all journalists to sign their names to their political articles. Some newspaper editorswere very much opposed to this, but I think that pressmen, who were angry with us at the time, are now glad that we carried it into effect. I am sure that my friend, Mr. Hirst, who used to sit in thepress gallery, and who was for some reason kept back in his profession, not getting a show, to use a colloquialism, is glad* that we did what we did. He wrote somearticles for the Argus, which had to be* published with his name attached, and he does not now come here. Why is that ? I believe that he has been promoted because persons connected with the newspaper got to know that he had ability, and was being kept down because that was not known while his articles were not signed. His is only one case. What happens is this: Editors of certain newspapers, which I do not undertake to name, like to move about amongst the people, to go to clubs, and to be there pointed at as, say, that great man the editor of the Argus, who writes all the wise leading articles. What a wonderful man he is ! In all probability, however, the editor of the Argus does not write anything, and, I suppose, he has not written a line for years. There must have been great surprise in the community when they saw some of the leading articles “written, after consultation, to express the views of the Argus,” by David Hewitt Maling. Did Mr. Maling lose in prestige or reputation by signing the articles? The only way in which he could have lost would be by the attaching of the words I have just quoted, because, after all, I dare say, there was very little consultation. Such would be unnecessary; Mr. Maling knows quite enough to write leading articles without consulting any other members of the staff.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it!
– My honorable friend, who runs a sheep station, says I know nothing about the matter, but I do know, for I was at one time a newspaper man. The signing of articles is better for everybody, especially for the journalists. We desire to dispel the idea that has held sway for so many years that the editorial “ we “ means a council of wise men, and that the leading articles are an outcome of their deliberations.
– So they are.
– Listen to my honorable friend from the sheep station ! He may know something about sheep, but I wish he would go down to the newspaper office, and be printer’s devil for a while; then he would learn something about newspapers. I shall have to postpone my further remarks for a future occasion.
.- The Honorary Minister, in introducing this Bill, concluded with a statement that he desired to see an .Electoral Act that was safe, a press that was free and fearless, and a franchise that was the widest in the world. In that we all agree. To-day the press has .the freedom to say what it wishes, and it ought to be fearless enough to express opinions without hiding behind the hedge of anonymity. Why should there be a distinction drawn between a great newspaper and the ordinary pamphlet or dodger issued by the poor man’s press? Why should pamphlets and dodgers have to be signed and authorized, and newspapers permitted to publish articles without restriction t If it is imperative, in order to have a free press, that the articles shall be anonymous, then there should be perfect liberty to issue anonymous pamphlets. The Honorary Minister said that the signing of the articles is a “gag” imposed on the Liberal and so-called Independent journals of the country. That is not the case. The law draws no distinction between one kind of newspaper and another; it is imposed on all newspapers, whether Liberal, Labour, or Conservative. However, I do not purpose to address my remarks so much to this aspect of the Bill as to the reasons that are given for the proposed change in the electoral system. We had a general statement that there was widespread corruption, personation, and duplication. An investigation resulted in nothing, and, apparently, an amending Bill is introduced without reason. The Honorary Minister said, in effect, that he had no particular reason for introducing it ; that he had no evidence of personation but that improper practices were possible. As a matter of fact, improper practices are possible under any law that may be enacted. The Honorary Minister said, “ I dc not say there was impersonation or improper practices.” If there was not, why is the Bill introduced ? The Attorney-General asked us whether any one can claim that the present system is perfect. No one can claim that; all we claim is that the present system is better than any other system that has been in existence iu this country, and it nearer perfection. Are the Government, proposals in any way an improvement on the existing Act? They are not; in many respects they are retrogressive, and retrogressive for purely party purposes. We had postal voting under the old system; and, of course, I agree that every person entitled to a vote should have it. Any Electoral Act that prohibits or imposes an embargo in this connexion is imperfect; and the ingenuity of Parliament should be devoted to its improvement if possible. If there is anything in the Bill that tends to the improvement of the existing law - that tends to enable persons to have a vote who do not now have that right - I am prepared, so far, to support it, I .am not particularly interested in the change of the polling day, and it is quite possible that some other day would do as well. Neither am I interested in whether there are three or six Commissioners, or only one Commissioner. These are mere details, on which we may disagree, no matter- to what party we belong. .If I am asked whether I am in favour of the sick and infirm, and others who are not able to go to the polling booth, being given facilities for voting, I reply that I am. If you ask me ‘by what method, I reply, ‘ Any method by which their votes can be recorded.” And if you tell me that the only method is that of voting by post, I say, “Very well, I will support it.” I am prepared to support that particular portion of the Bill, and if it went no further, I should say te the Government, 1 ‘ You may rest assured that you will have my vote, and since you want only one more, you will be able to carry the Bill.” But this measure does not stop there. The Minister, in introducing it, said, “ We want to reinstate in the electoral law of this country those provisions that have been improperly obliterated from it “ He went on to affirm that the Bill laid it down definitely and dearly that the sick and infirm should have restored to them, per medium of the postal ballot system, the right to vote, and that those who were pioneers, far removed from polling booths, should also have the right, to vote. It has been dearly and definitely proved in the Law Courts of this country that the latter part of this provision in regard to voting by post has been the subject of fraud and of iniquitous practices. It has been proved so clearly that the Minister himself has had to admit it. The application of the system to the sick and infirm may be safeguarded. An officer may be able to tell from the appearance of an applicant for a postal ballot-paper that he is sick or infirm, but what safeguard is there against the improper use of the system by any man who likes to come along and say, “ I believe that on polling day I shall be more than five miles from a polling booth, and therefore desire to vote by post.”
– Is not the honorable member slandering Australia?
– No, that has been left exclusively to the Prime Minister. He said the other night, “Is it not a fact that improper practices have been carried out?” The answer was, “No.” Then he said, “Is it a slander on Australia to say that improper practices have been carried out in connexion with the elections?” The- answer was, “ Yes.” The Leader of the Opposition said, “ Furnish us with some evidence in support of your allegation.” The Prime Minister, however, had not a tittle of evidence to support his charge, and even the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, in introducing this Bill, said there was none. He stated that there was no evidence of impersonation - no evidence of improper practices - and this, in spite of the fact that the Treasurer himself had stated that thousands had corruptly exercised 0 the franchise, and that when told, by the examiners and detectives appointed by the Government to make an inquiry, that such was not the case, he simply remarked, “ Well, I am. surprised to find that there is not’ so many after all.” The Attorney-General also admits that there is not the slightest evidence in regard to this allegation. Coming to this last point, I say definitely that I am prepared to vote for the application of the postal voting system to the sick and the infirm, but that, on the other hand, I am absolutely opposed to that part of the Bill which declares that voting by post shall be exercised by any one who cares to say that upon a certain day he will be more than five miles from a polling booth. How can we safeguard its application t.r> such people? An officer may see at a glance that an applicant for a postal ballot-paper is sick, or is in such a condition that he may not be able, under normal circumstances, to attend at a polling booth, but there is no power on earth that can say where a man will be so many days hence or that he will be at a certain place at least five miles distant from a polling booth on the day of election. The extension of the principle to such cases has proved the foundation of all the fraud and iniquity in connexion with the postal voting system of this country. At all previous elections half the postal votes recorded for the whole Commonwealth have been cast in Victoria, where the facilities for voting, and the density of the population, are greatest. Where are these men who are pioneering far from a polling booth? In Queensland, Western Australia, the northern parts of South Australia, and the back-blocks of New South Wales. Surely, then, the number of persons voting by post in those parts should be far greater than in Victoria, where the population is the most dense. Yet the evidence is that in this State, where the facilities for going to the poll are, owing to the density of population, the greatest, the largest proportion of postal votes is cast. Beyond that, honorable members will find that it is not in the country districts, or even the remote parts of this State, where the postal vote is most used; it is rather in our great cities. How is such a system to be safeguarded? If the Ministry desire to secure a perfect system, or to extend the facilities for exercising the franchise,, let them tell us how, and by what means, they are going to insure that the system of voting by post shall not be exercised chiefly in that portion of our continent where the population is the densest and the voting facilities are the greatest? The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has admitted that cases of fraud have occurred in connexion with voting by post. He admitted that there were a number of cases, and he cited instances where different justices of the peace and others, in different States, had been prosecuted for improper practices in connexion with it. He went on to. say, however, that the fact that there were a few cases of this character was no justification for the abolition of postal voting. I agree with him. I admit that this party went too far in abolishing postal voting altogether. I have always held that opinion, but I was not prepared to express it at the time of the repeal of the system, because I was then a new man in this Chamber. I am prepared to say so now. Whilst I think that we were well justified in eliminating from the Act the section enabling any person who says that he will be more than five miles from a polling booth on polling day to vote by post, I think we went too far in repealing the application of the principle to the sick and the infirm. The Honorary Minister asked whether the fact that a few cases of fraud had occurred was sufficient justification for abolishing the system. That remark will also apply to the proposed abolition of absent voting. There is no adequate reason why it should be abolished. Not one case of fraud under it has been brought forward.
– The honorable member does not suggest that it is being abolished.
– As hitherto practised., it is to be.
– See how we disagree, even on simple questions of fact. The absent-voting system established by this party went upon the principle that every adult has the right to vote, and that any elector who cannot vote in his own subdivision should be at liberty to vote at any polling booth in any part of Australia. We declared that he should be able to go into any polling booth and there exercise the franchise. That system can no longer be practised if this Bill is carried. A man absent from his own electorate must, before polling day, obtain an absentee declaration. The Minister said that one of the iniquities of the absent-voting system was that it opened the door to improper practices. The only way in which to get people to carry on improper practices is by buying their services - by bribing them to do it. There may be a few individuals who will do things of this kind from their keen desire to get in a certain individual, but there is no way to organize a system of fraud at election times but by paying for it. The honorable gentleman went on to say that one of the reasons for doing away with the existing system is that you can get half-a-dozen men to vote half-a-dozen times in one subdivision if they care to take the risk. That is true, it has always been true. It is true in every country in the world. It is true under every electoral system in every State of Australia. No electoral system has ever been devised under which a man could not go- from one polling booth to another and vote.
– It cannot be done under the English system.
– Yes, it can. A system cannot be invented under which it can* not be done.
– Under the English system a voter gets a ballot-paper which contains his number on the roll.
– That also is capable of systematic fraud. The honorable gentleman also said that a voter after voting at one polling booth in person can go to another polling booth and exercise an absent vote. Does this Bill cure that? In what way does it effect a remedy? All the Bill does is to say that there must be an absent voter’s form.
– The absentee voter’s form does not touch that question ; but we have touched it with another clause.
– The Government profess to touch it under clause 19, which however, really touches nothing.
– It prevents any fraudulent vote from weighing in an election.
– No, it does not. The honorable gentleman said that the only method of stopping this kind of thing was that adopted in clause 19, which is a kind of Clements’ cure-all, that really cures nothing. Clause 19 is supposed to be an instrument to secure the true verdict of the electors of Australia. So it is from the Ministerial point of view, but not from ours. The idea and purpose of the signature of the voter are to insure that the people voting shall be known. But you do not stop fraud by this clause. The nian who wants to vote more than once can do so. He can go to a polling booth, sign his ballot-paper, cast his vote, and then go to another booth and impersonate another elector. This clause will not cure such improper practices. There is nothing to stop an individual from going from polling booth A, where he has already signed the paper, to polling booth B, where he does the same.
– He does not sign the paper, but the butt.
– Is not the butt a paper? Is it a brick? A person can sign the butt in booth A, and then go along to booth B and sign another butt.
– If he has any sense at all he will recognise that one of his ballot-papers will be passed out, and he himself will be passed in.
– There must be a dispute first.
– The statement of the Minister is that this proposal will stop fraud. If it will not prevent fraud it is ineffective. It is useless. Say that I go into a polling booth, and declare that my name is Brown. I take the butt, and sign the name Brown upon it. Then I go to another booth in the electorate, and sign the butt again. What is to stop that if I choose* to take the risk of carrying on improper practices?
– The honorable member would not do any good, because the improper votes would be cast out.
– Only when there was a dispute.
– The Minister is arguing on the assumption that in connexion with every election that takes place there is going to be a dispute. The only possibility under which fraud can be detected is where a defeated candidate tenders a protest against the election.
– The clause will be a premium upon that kind of game.
– Yes. In that case the votes will be investigated, and then, and then only, would the discovery be made that some individual had voted four or five times. My affirmation is that clause 19, which is going to compel every man and woman in Australia to sign a butt before a vote can be exercised, will serve no useful purpose whatsoever, from the stand-point of the cleanliness of elections, but will introduce the most iniquitous system that is capable of being established by any electoral law under our Constitution. The Minister informed the House that there are 4,000 polling places in Australia at which only a few persons vote. In the neighbourhood of such a polling place, it would be possible to make a voter’s life a hell. That is what is possible under the operation of this system .
– Not at all; the honorable member knows that that is not so.
– I know that it is so. Say that a man goes into a polling booth and is the first to vote there. His number on the butt is No. 1. He must sign his name on the butt. It does not matter, from my point of view, whether the number is 1 or 1,000; if I am a scrutineer at that polling booth, I can take that number down, and ascertain afterwards how the elector voted.
– The signature will be on the back of the butt, and the number on the back of the ballot-paper. The honorable member imagines that a scrutineer can see through paper.
– A scrutineer has an absolute right to look at a ballot-paper. It must be remembered that at ‘some polling places there are only two persons present; sometimes only one. That person will know what elector voted on any particular paper. Say that Mr. Wynne votes on paper No. 1, and Mr. Kelly on paper No. 2. The scrutineer, when the votes are counted, can turn over the paper, look at the number, and see how Mr. Wynne or Mr. Kelly voted. What is to stop him ? If that is not destroying the secrecy of the ballot, what is ? There is no difficulty about it. The elector might as well have written his name on the face of the paper. A man who is a storekeeper conies into the booth, and I want to know how he votes. I look at the number on the ballot-paper, and see. How can the Government ask any body of men to support a proposal like that, which would reimpose in Australia the most iniquitous system which has ever been practised in the world ?
– The ballot-papers are not counted at the centres of which the honorable member speaks.
– I know they are not.
– Then why maintain that they are?
– I know they are not counted there, but I know - and so does every other honorable member - where they go. . I say that, no matter where they are counted, the supervising officers and the men who are employed in the polling booths will know exactly the way in which particular votes are cast. I say further that in many little townships such a system would produce a veritable hell among the residents. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has said that there is no proof of any improper practices having been indulged in at the last elections. ‘ Upon a preliminary investigation the thousands of cases of alleged, duplicate voting boiled down to thirty or forty in each electorate. After these have been further investigated by detectives the Government have been unable to find one single case of double voting. The Honorary Minister has said that the Labour party had no justification “for abolishing the postal vote. He declared that, although there had been some cases of fraud, those cases were not sufficient to warrant such a radical change in the law. I ask him to tell this Parliament and the country if evidence of fraud and convictions in cases brought before the Courts were no justification for the abolition of the postal vote, how he can justify the sweeping away of the absentee vote upon no evidence whatever ?
– The honorable member is straining the matter to an absurd extent. There have been more cases of fraud under the existing system than there were under the postal voting system.
– The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs stated that these cases had been proved.
– There were cases of fraud at the recent elections, but it is impossible to find the defrauder.
– That is very funny. In effect, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs says that something does not exist, but that it does exist.
– Most of the cases of duplication are capable of a very easy and ordinary solution, but there are cases which are not so easily explainable, according to the views of the electoral officers.
– I am very much obliged to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs for the speech which he has just delivered. Why did he say that he did not think there was impersonation or improper practices in connexion with the recent elections?
– We have not inquired into cases of alleged impersonation.
– The Government hunted very hard, and found nothing.
– The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs might just as well say, “ The honorable member for Bourke is a thief. We have never inquired into the matter, but we will enact legislation against him.” In the first place, we were assured that on polling day there were thousands of women running from one booth to another in Bourke and recording their votes. We were told that seven of them voted under one name. The most remarkable feature about these allegations was that the women were supposed to have voted in one subdivision after another in order to secure my return to this House. The Government stated that they intended to inquire into these allegations, and to introduce an amending Electoral Bill, for the purpose of putting a stop to improper practices. The result of all their inquiry is that they obtained only sixty-nine cases of apparent duplication. Why did they not go further and ascertain whether these were real duplications or not? As a matter of fact, they knew that in some divisions there was no evidence of duplication whatever. That remark is applicable to the great majority of the tables in the polling booths throughout the electorate of Bourke. But at some tables there were six, seven, or eight instances of apparent duplication. In a few cases, where there were 200 voters at a table, there were 202 ticks on the rolls, thus evidencing that in their excitement the officers had ticked off more names than they should have done. In the case of Ballarat there is not a single instance upon which anything can be hinged. Yet it is proposed to re-establish a most iniquitous electoral law. The Government, after affirming that the existing system must be changed, and that it was an outrage to sweep away the votes of the sick and the infirm, propose to restore the postal vote and at the same time to deprive ten times the number, who will be thus affected, of the right to exercise the franchise. And they propose to so hedge the system round with limitations and restrictions and devices as to make the right to vote absolutely impossible to two-thirds of those upon whom they propose to confer it. Yet they ask, and expect, that there should be no obstruction or hostility from this side! There is not one man behind the Ministry who has endeavoured to justify for a moment the method by which they propose to change the absentvoting system in this country. I think that the system is capable of amendment in various directions. As regards a man voting in his own subdivision, the system is right enough, but when a man goes into another subdivision of the electorate for which he is enrolled he should be able to go to a table and, instead of exercising the absent vote, to vote directly. I hold that as long as a man is on the roll of the electorate in which he resides he should be able to vote in any part of that electorate. We overloaded the absent-voting system. It is capable of improvement. If we are to change the system at all, we should permit a man to vote in any subdivision of the electorate in which he resides, so that the vote can be counted directly.
– Why not have one roll for the whole division?
– Yes, if necessary. In any case, a man should be recognised as an elector of a particular’ electorate. The right of the nomadic population to vote in any part of Australia is, I submit, absolutely essential. If the Government alter the law as they propose, thousands of men - men in every condition of life - who are constantly travelling, cannot get absent-voting papers, because they cannot say from day to day where they will be stationed. Then, in order to show how the Government propose to restrict the provisions of the Act, I would point out that section 139 provides that any man who believes that on election day he will be outside of Australia may go before an Electoral Registrar and say, “I shall be outside of Australia on election day, and, therefore, I claim the right to vote.” What is wrong about that provision? Is it not a fair one? There has not been one word of justification for sweeping it away. Yet the Government propose to sweep away the whole of section 139. which gives that right to a man, and to give him no right at all. The provision could have been very properly extended and made good use of. If the absenteevoting system is deemed cumbersome we could allow a man to go before an Electoral Registrar, and, whether he was going to England or not, to say, “I believe that I shall be more than 5 miles away from my polling place on election day,” and get the right to vote directly before that officer. I think that the system ought to be extended. In many directions it is good, and ought to be strengthened in every possible way. At this late hour I ask leave to continue my speech on another occasion. .
– Finish up to-night.
– Let it go ; if will be all right. The honorable member will not have to growl.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
.- I would ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the dinner in the evening, we need to meet to-morrow afternoon?
– We want to get Supply to-morrow.
– The Government can have Supply on Thursday.
– I should like to know whether die Prime Minister intends to follow the same course as was adopted last year, that is, to allow honorable members an opportunity of attending the Royal Agricultural Society’s show? On the 4th September last the then Prime Minister moved that the House, at its rising, adjourn until the following day at half-past 4 o’clock. Thursday next is a general holiday in this State.
– I have no objection.
– Suppose that we meet at a quarter to 8 on Thursday evening.
– Of course, that will do away with all private members’ business.
– And it will be grievance day, too.
– In all seriousness, I offer the suggestion to . the Prime Minister.
– I think we had better follow the same course as was taken last year.
– Why not meet at a quarter to 8 o’clock on Thursday?
– To-morrow we will fix the hour of meeting on Thursday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130923_reps_5_70/>.