5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the Chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following papers: -
Elections and Referenda 1913 - Statistical Returns in relation to the Senate Election; the General Election for the House of Representatives; and the Submission to the Electors of six Proposed Laws (1912) for the alteration of the Constitution, viz. : - Constitution Alteration - Trade and Commerce; Corporations ; Industrial Matters ; Railway Disputes; Trusts; Nationalization of Monopolies.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Military College - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 241.
Military Forces - (Regulations) - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos.238, 239. (Financial and Allowance) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 240.
-laid upon the table-
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Balance-sheet at 30th June, 1913, together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Pine CREEK to Katherine River: Tenders - Port Augusta to Oodnadatta.
– The following statement was published in Monday’s Art/us: -
When the Fisher Ministry was in power, tenders were called for the construction of that section of railway between Pine Creek and the Katherine River, in the Northern Territory. Eight or ten contractors submitted prices for the work, and paid deposits as a guarantee of good faith, these in some instances amounting to £1,000. An alteration in the arrangements was, however, decided upon with the change of Ministry, and a Dill is to be brought before the Federal Parliament to authorize the construction of the line under somewhat different conditions. As it is considered that the contractors who had placed deposits with the Government might be somewhat embarrassed by the delay which now seems probable, it has been decided that their money shall be returned to them, and fresh tenders will probably bc called for at a later date.
Part of the statement is obviously incorrect; but I shall be glad if the Minister of External Affairs will explain the other part of it.
– I have not seen the statement; but it is evidently based on a complete misapprehension of the facts. I am not aware that tenders have been invited for the construction of the railway. What was done last session was to pass an Act authorizing the survey of a route for a distance of 50 miles. I understand that my predecessor thought that that Act might be held to be sufficient sanction for the construction of the line; but, in my opinion, a more regular procedure is to bring in a Bill to authorize the construction, and that will be done in due course. It has not been contemplated to invite contracts for the construction of the line pending the passing of such a Bill. What seems to be referred to in the newspaper statement is the action of the last Government in calling for tenders, in anticipation of parliamentary sanction for the construction of the line, for, amongst other things, steel sleepers. Those who tendered were anxious to have the matter decided, and some of them wished for the return of their deposits. I, therefore, went into the matter as soon as possible, and decided that, pending authority being obtained from Parliament for the construction of the line, it would be unsafe to accept any tender for steel sleepers, and I wrote a minute to the effect that the acceptance of tenders would have to bo postponed until Parliament had sanc tioned the construction of the line; and that, in the meantime, deposits of tenderers might be returned to them.
– Will the Minister take an early opportunity to introduce here, or in the Senate, a Bill to sanction the construction of the line, so that there may be no unnecessary delay?
– I shall take an early opportunity to introduce the Bill, and I have already given notice of my intention to ask for leave to introduce it. As soon as opportunity offers, I shall move the motion of which I have given notice, and bring in the Bill.
– Is not the Bill more important than the Electoral Bill ?
– I do not know. At any rate, I hope to give the honorable member an early opportunity to carry out his desire to co-operate with me in the development of the Northern Territory; and I hope that our efforts may have fruition in tho present Parliament.
– The last Administration proposed to take over the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway in January next ; but I understand that the present Ministry have decided to make other arrangements, which include the taking over of the wharf at Port Augusta. I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs if those arrangements have been completed 1 If so, will the honorable gentleman lay the particulars on the table?
– In general, the arrangement is final; but there are some details to be put into the formal agreement which are stall’ being considered. The draft agreement is, I think, now before the Railway Commissioners of South Australia. I intended to write a letter to-day to the South Australian Ministry, asking them to hurry matters up, and to take advantage of a visit to Adelaide to settle the details to which I refer. The substance of the arrangement has been agreed upon.
– The vast majority of the people in my district are averse to the present Government being in power. I wish, therefore, to ask the AttorneyGeneral if, in an unconstitutional manner, I were to form a provisional Government to supersede the existing Government, would I be shot for high treason?
– Frivolous questions are not in order.
– It is seldom that I trouble the House with a personal explanation, but should like to make one now. I spoke last night on the Electoral Bill, saying what I had to say, and sat down with the clear understanding that my speech on the subject was finished. But I read in to-day’s press that in consequence of what I said I have become the victim of this party’s savagery, my speech provoking from my fellow members indignant protests, and that I fled from the Chamber and was not likely to return. When speaking on the Electoral Bill I said what I thought, as I do on other matters on which I speak; but no member of my party has protested against anything that I said last night. I have not even heard any member of the party say that he disagreed with the views that I then expressed, nor have I heard from any member of the party any opinion in any shape or form regarding my speech. I wish that to be clearly understood.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state whether it is true that an instruction has been issued to the officers concerned that any person to whom a referenda pamphlet was not delivered shall have his name removed from the electoral rolls ?
– So far as I know, it certainly is not true.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, or the Attorney-General, whether any instruction has gone out to political organizations, asking them to lodge objections against names now on the electoral rolls, without having to pay a fee ?
– I answer this question, because it arises out of certain public utterances of mine. So far as I know, no instructions whatever have gone out to any political body in connexion with the matter, but there was a general intimation given by me publicly.
– To whom?
– It was in a speech at a public gathering. There was a public intimation given by me generally in speaking that the Department and the Government would be prepared to receive objections from whatever source they came, and that if those objections appeared to be bond fide, requiring investigation, the Department would proceed to investigate them in the ordinary way.
– Would that mean they would not pay the deposit 1
– It would be without any 5s. deposit.
– You are violating one of the provisions of the Act.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion.
– Do I understand the Attorney-General to say that these political organizations have not to put down the deposit of 5s. ?
– I have already answered the question. I said that if objections that appear to be bond fide objections or intimations that persons on the roil ought not to be on the roll, by reason of death or removal or for any other reason, are brought to the notice of the Department, the Department will investigate them in the ordinary way, without any 5s. fee.
– It is a deliberate violation of an Act of Parliament.
– I should like to know from the Honorary Minister whether there is any truth in the rumour that in anticipation of the Electoral Bill passing, instructions have already gone out to various political bodies to lodge objections to names on the rolls without lodging the fee at present necessary ?
– No such action has been taken by me or, so far as I know, by the Department in any connexion with the Bill now before the House.
– It is reported that the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry have been submitted to the State Governments for criticism. Will the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House to what special items the attention of the State Governments has been directed 1
– Speaking from memory, the recommendations of the Commission have not been sent to the State Governments for criticism. I directed that copies of the report should be sent to them, and that their attention should be specially directed to the recommendations in regard to the carriage of fruit in certain vans on the railways, and also by the shipping companies. The attention of the State Government was particularly directed to the resolution of the Commission dealing with the subject, and the whole report was forwarded to them for their information.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs observed that the Foods Standards Committee has determined to allow colouring matter to be added to margarine to give it the same appearance as butter? Will he take this decision into consideration, if he has power to deal with it, seeing that its adoption will be detrimental to the butter industry of Australia?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council, Senator McColl, specially drew my attention to the report. The whole matter, as well as all the regulations relating to butter, is now being reported upon by the officers of the Department.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs state when we are likely to receive copies of the report of the Foods Standards Committee?
– I shall see that the report is made available to honorable members as soon as possible. I do not think it is a confidential document.
Port Lincoln : Payment for Land - Expert Inspection - Number of Men Employed
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence make inquiry as to why the land which was resumed at Port Lincoln some time ago tor a naval base has not yet been paid for ?
– I shall ask my colleague to do so.
– Can the Prime Minister state whether the Government has yet appointed the expert who is to advise them in regard to the site for a naval base at Cockburn Sound ?
– I have just received a cablegram in reply to one that T sent a little while ago in regard to this question. I am sorry that I have not at hand a copy of the message which I sent, but, briefly stated, the facts are that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, who is a member of the firm of Sir John Coode and Company, has been engaged, and is leaving Marseilles for Australia on 10th October.
He will report in regard to Cockburn Sound, Westernport, the dock in Sydney, Jervis Bay, and Port Stephens.
– On what terms?
– So far as . I recollect, he wants a fee of 4,700 guineas, which will include the work of his own staff in preparing plans and reports after his return home. It will include everything, from start to finish.
– Will many months elapse before we have his decision?
– He expects to be here for six weeks, but is willing to stay longer or shorter according to the necessities of the situation. The fee will vary according to the length of his stay. We propose to ask him to make an investigation, and to give us the benefit of his advice regarding all these very important undertakings on which we are engaged.
– Will his principal work relate to the naval base in Western Australia ?
– No; as I have said already, his inspection will cover Cockburn Sound, Westernport, the dock in Sydney, Jervis Bay, and Port Stephens, all the naval bases and all the naval establishments.
– Arising out of the Prime Minister’s answer, I wish to know whether he will guarantee that this expert will examine first of all Cockburn Sound ?
– Perhaps I had better read the cablegram. It is as follows: -
With reference toyour telegram,16th September, Fitzmaurice leaving Marseilles by Mongolia October 10th. Assume will be met Fremantle. Anxious everything prepared, and launch available for him to commence investigation immediately on arrival.
It will thus be seen that Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice begins at Cockburn Sound, and gradually works his way round.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that the firm of Sir John Coode and Company examined and reported upon Cockburn Sound while the present Treasurer was Premier of Western Australia ?
– That is right.
– Further, will the Government, as soon as convenient, have copies of its reports laid on the table of the House?
– I shall be very glad to do anything of the Kind.
– Except to go on with the work.
– We want to go on with the work at the earliest possible moment. But we do not think we should be justified in spending millions of pounds on these undertakings without having the best expert advice available.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to include the inspection of Bell Bay, near Hobart, in the list of ports to be examined and reported on by this expert? Hobart is to be a sub-naval base, and the harbor requires no dredging or anything of the kind.
– The honorable member says that nothing requires doing at Hobart. It would therefore seem that this expert is not wanted there.
– Will the Prime Minister state why Port Lincoln has -not been included in the list, and will he promise to have that sub-naval base inspected ?
– If it is not in the list, I presume the reason is that it is not considered necessary to Rave expert advice in regard to it. If the honorable member will furnish me with reasons why such an inspection should be made, I shall not have Ihe slightest objection to the inclusion of that port in the list.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government intend to hang up all the work now going on at our naval bases until Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice has furnished a report?
– All the work that can be done will be done. Any work dependent on this expert’s advice will, of course, not be entered on until that advice has been received. I hope the right honorable member will believe that no delay will take place. The cablegram received is a follows : -
With reference to your telegram 16th September, Fitzmaurice leaving Marseilles by Mongolia October 10th. Assume will be met Fremantle. Anxious everything prepared, and launch available for him to commence investigation immediately on arrival.
– Will the Prime Minister now say whether he will get the existing reports and place them on the table ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain any reports the right honorable gentleman desires. We have no other purpose in view but to get the work forward at the earliest possible moment, consistently with our being possessed of the knowledge that we are acting on right lines.
– Will the Prime Minister ask the expert to make sectional reports? I make this suggestion because the Prime Minister said that the expert will return to Great Britain prior to sending in his reports. What I mean is that the expert might be able to give us a report, for instance, on Cockburn Sound, and, if so, that work could be entered upon and expedition secured.
– I can only say, as I said before, that the Government will ask this gentleman to assist them in every way possible, and, amongst other things, in promoting expedition.
– I am sorry to trouble the Prime Minister, but it is only fair to ask another question. Were the Government aware, at the time they asked Sir John Coode’s firm to send one of their officers to examine the Cockburn Sound, that there had already been an official report by the head of the firm recommending that as an excellent place for a naval base ?
– There never has.
– I am not aware that there was any such thing. I should like to remove a misconception that, apparently, is in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition. This Government did not ask this gentleman to come out, but asked the High Commissioner to select the best man available.
– What I asked the Prime Minister was whether the Government knew there were reports from one of Sir John Coode’s firm, and from Sir John Coode himself, as an engineer, in regard to Cockburn Sound, and that probably those reports dealt with the very subject on which information is sought now. The Government are now asking for a report from a secondary man in the same firm.
– We were aware that the firm had reported on the harbor question, but not on this question in any shape or form.
– Admiral Henderson has reported favorably in regard to Port Lincoln as a sub-naval base, and I desire to know whether this site will not stand a great chance of being “turned down “ if other reports are now sought.
– I hope not. The places I have indicated do not necessarily mean the exclusion of other places. There is nothing to prevent this gentleman reporting on any base or establishment in regard to which there is necessity for expert opinion. I am now simply roughly indicating the extent of his investigation. If there is other information required, he will be on the spot, and we can consult him.
– The Prime Minister has said that work will be proceeded with, in all respects, except those which depend on the reports of this expert. How can the Prime Minister, or any one else, tell how much will depend on the reports? Will the whole of the work be hung up until all the- reports are obtained ?
– I have already said that we shall do whatever work we can, so long as we know we are doing it usefully. Where there is any doubt, we shall not do the work until we have received the expert advice of this gentleman.
– You are all doubts over there.
– I direct the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that, according to the information we have, this gentleman is engaged to come out to examine specified-
– The honorable member is not in order in making a speech when asking a question.
– I merely wish to make the question clear. If that be so, and the policy of the Government is to do no work in any place until they have this special advice-
– Who has said that ? Why make such statements? I shall not answer any more questions if honorable members go on like this.
– Will it be necessary
– I do not want such statements put into my mouth.
– Will it be necessary, before any work is started at Port Lincoln, to engage this man, or some other man, to come out to Australia to advise the Government?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will put that question on the notice-paper.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon- notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Number of men employed, including staff- 14th June, 1913, 394; 22nd September, 1913, 377.
– In view of the fact that we are to discuss a Supply Bill to-day, I wish to know whether there will be made available the information I asked for about three weeks ago as to the names of the persons who were holding sugar in bond, and as to any reports of interviews, and so forth, connected therewith. Will that information be laid on the table so that honorable members may discuss it?
– I asked for the information to be collected, and will endeavour to obtain it this afternoon, if it be available.
– Some of it must be available.
– Some of it is.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister that the Liberal party are in favour of the majority of the people ruling in this country, will he introduce a measure to have a referendum taken with a view to obviate the necessity, when it is proposed to alter the Constitution, of having a majority of the States, as well as a majority of the people, in favour of the alteration ?
– I am not quite sure that I have got the bearings of the question. I suggest that the honorable member put the question on the noticepaper, so that I may consider it. It is a matter of policy in any case.
– I should now like to repeat a question which I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday, and which that honorable gentleman suggested I should remind him of to-day.
– I asked the honorable member to put the question on the noticepaper.
– The Minister said he would look into the matter, and asked me to put the question to-day. The question has relation to the instructions or invitations to the Inter-State Commission in connexion with the Tariff, and I desire to know whether the Minister will lay the papers on the table for the information of the House?
– I am sorry I misunderstood the honorable member. When the House meets to-morrow I shall supply the information.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in view of the fact that smallpox has broken out in Adelaide, and that there is a definite case there, he is prepared to treat Adelaide the same as Sydney ?
– My information is not to that effect. There is no necessity to consider the point the honorable member has raised.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The matter is under consideration.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Colonel RYRIE (for Mr.McWilliams) asked the Treasurer, upon, notice -
Ofthe 1 illion pounds in debentures placed to the credit of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, what amount has been sold or issued, and at what rate of interest?
– No debentures have been issued in pursuance of section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911.
Contract for Powellised Sleepers
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
In reference to the contract with the Western Australian Government as to the supply of powellised karri sleepers for the “Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway - Have the negotiations been completed and the agreement signed ; if not, when is it expected this matter will be settled?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Contract following upon the- late Government’s agreement with the Western Australian Government will, it is expected, be signed very shortly.
– We have in the vicinity of the chamber three visitors from the Imperial Parliament, the Right Hon. Lord Emmott, Mr. Arthur Sherwell, M.P., and Mr. Donald Macmaster, K.C., M.P., and I ask leave to move that we extend to them the courtesy of seats on the floor of the chamber.
– I concur in the suggestion of the Prime Minister. We are glad to see any distinguished visitors, especially as they are members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
Leave granted; question accordingly proposed and resolved in the affirmative.
– I suggest that out of courtesy to our visitors we receive them standing.
Cleansing of Electoral Rolls - General Election : Alleged Fraudulent Practices - Public Works Expenditure - Public Works Supply Bill - Treasurer’s Advance Account - Budget.
In Committee of Supply :
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) pro posed -
That a sum not exceeding£1,121,979 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1914.
.- It was my intention to discuss the financial position a little on this Bill, but after the statement that the Attorney-General has just made, I am bound to say that a larger question has been raised. In an earlier speech in this Parliament, the AttorneyGeneral took occasion to dogmatize on the inefficiency of the machinery to keep the Federal rolls clean, but to-day he states that, although he was defeated by the law in his efforts to get a regulation through to deal with this matter in the way he desired, he has made an intimation to the public inviting them to make objections to people whose names are on the rolls without complying with the Act as it stands.
– It is an absolute scandal.
– One does not know whether it is a scandal or worse.
– The honorable gentleman does not suggest that a Ministerial instruction has been issued ?
– The Minister in charge of the Department says that no Ministerial statement of the kind has been made, but the Attorney-General, who is senior to him in the Administration, and who, from what I have seen, guides all Departments in these matters, has stated that the Department is bound to take cognisance of objections sent in without demanding 5s. from each objector. The Attorney-General, having interpreted the law in that way, the Government are bound by his statement, and the views expressed warrant this side of the House in taking extreme action. Ministers could not try to evade the law in a more subtle and insinuating manner than by a general intimation to the public such as that of the Attorney- General. “I made an intimation to the public,” he said, “I did not direct the organizations of the Liberal party to send in objections.” The honorable gentleman simply made the general intimation that objections could be sent in, and the Department would proceed to examine each one of them. A deposit is required by the Electoral Act to prevent the striking off of names of bond fide qualified electors. Some honorable gentlemen who represent metropolitan and closely-settled country constituencies, in which it is easy for electors to get their names placed on the roll, and to see that names are not improperly struck off the roll, may not see the effect of the Attorney-General’s public intimation. But things are different in the back country, where men have sometimes to be away from their homes for eight months in the year, and are constantly moving from place to place, so that they cannot reply to objections lodged against the appearance of their names on the roll. If the Department acts on the suggestion, or hint, or public intimation of the AttorneyGeneral, it will evade, if not the letter, the spirit of the law, which is upheld by every honest thinking person in the community.
– Before the honorable member expresses his views on this subject, it might be as well to hear a full explanation of the position.
– I do not wish to do the Attorney- General an injustice. He raised this issue previously, and apparently intended then to draft a regulation. As 1 understood his principal speech dealing . with electoral matters, when charges of corruption were launched against this side, or against those who supported them, he proposed to remedy what we will call the unsatisfactory state of the rolls by regulation.
– What charge of corruption was made against honorable members opposite:
– From every public platform, and during many of the perambulating visits of sections of the
Ministry, . ‘aided by the press organs which support the Government, the impression was made on the minds of those who do not know these gentlemen as well as we do, that there were about 200,000 names on the roll which had no right to be there, and that duplicate votes were cast to the number of over 100,000.
– The figures show an excess of names on the roll of 175,000.
– They do not in the sense conveyed in that bald statement. Ministers had to abandon that slander because the figures were against them.
– It is no slander, it is the statement of a fact.
– Stick to the issue.
– The Attorney-General should allow his chief to have a word. I presume that he did not intervene merely for the sake of interrupting me. He says that Ministers have made no charge. The Attorney-General has undertaken the purification of the roll. I am not going to reflect on his action as a public man; I am merely concerned with his conduct here. Since he joined the Ministry, he seems to have thought it to be his first public duty to restrict the franchise as much as he can. He may, by the advice he tenders to the Government, enable the Ministry to evade a Statute passed by Parliament to prevent any person from objecting to a name on the roil without depositing 5s. as a guarantee of good faith. If organizations throughout Australia, holding fierce political opinions, views, and prejudices, are allowed to send in objections without incurring any personal responsibility beyond what might be incurred by reason of fraudulent misrepresentation, political corruption is as sure to occur as it is certain that I am standing here. What this will mean must be that organization must check organization, and that machinery must be created whereby every political party can protect its interests. Otherwise the names of electors are likely to be removed from the rolls unjustly. It has been the aim of the Democracy of Australia, especially in connexion with the Commonwealth elections, that every person who is entitled to vote shall be enrolled. The last Government made it the duty of the permanent officials of the Department to see that every qualified citizen was enrolled. It should be a reflection on the Department that any qualified person was not enrolled. Only by the enrolment of every person qualified to vote is pure democratic government possible. No doubt it will be stated by Ministers and their supporters that there were too many names on the roll on the occasion of the last election, but the permanent officials of the Department assure us that that anomaly is absolutely necessary if every person qualified to vote is to be enrolled.
– lt is the rule that, when an elector moves from one district to another, his name shall not be struck off one roll until it has been placed on another roll. It must, therefore, happen at the time of his move, before the application for a transfer has been registered, that an elector’s name will appear on two rolls.
– There are on the roll the names of persons who have been dead for years.
– That is another matter. It would be impossible to make certain of every qualified person being enrolled without occasional duplications of the kind to which I refer. But duplications of this kind do not enable any elector to vote twice. They are necessary unless Ministers intend to disfranchise half the nomadic population of Australia.
– That is their object.
– I do not believe that Ministers wilfully desire to disfranchise one-half of our nomadic population; but what they propose will have that effect, whether they desire it or not; and it is, therefore, our bounden duty to protest against their action, whether it be taken inadvertently or wilfully and maliciously.
– What harm is done to an elector if he is given a vote for a constituency from which he moves, if his name is not transferred immediately to the roll for the district to which he goes ?
– Practically no harm; but there is the risk that an elector may have his name taken off one roll and not put on another on the occasion of his removal from one district to another, and before an application for transfer can be registered.
– That cannot happen now.
– It can happen if effect is given to the intimation of the honorable gentleman.
– No. The right honorable member absolutely misapprehends the position. If he waited for an explanation he would find this criticism unnecessary.
– A public intimation has been made by the Attorney-General, and on it he places great weight. He has not given an official direction >to the organizations over which he and his party have command; but he has made a public intimation to every one, indicating that they may take certain action without fear of legal disability. That is the impression which his statement made on my mind. The honorable member for Henty asks what harm will be done if a name remains on the roll after an elector has left one district to go to another. We say that no harm is done, but the AttorneyGeneral says the. contrary.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– Then what is the meaning of the honorable gentleman’s statement ?
– If I had an opportunity to explain, I should be glad to avail myself of it.
– The statement made by the Attorney-General is too important to pass without challenge, and I think it would be well to hear from him.
– From the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, and those who support him, I feel sure that they really believe that some very serious step has been taken.
– We do.
– If so, I think it desirable that I should state exactly what has been done. If the object of the Government was, by some means or other, to cut down the franchise, or to perform some illegal act, our action in referring to the matter at a public meeting is hardly that which one would expect in the circumstances. The position is that the law does not say that the Chief Electoral Officer, and those intrusted with the purification of the rolls shall not receive information from any source with regard to the condition of the rolls. The law, in fact, imposes upon the Chief Electoral Officer the imperative obligation of acting on information, from whatever source it comes, to assist him in purifying the rolls.
– The law lays down no such imperative obligation.
– I am willing to submit to the honorable member’s judgment on most matters, but having gone carefully into the legal aspect of this question, I shall tell the honorable member what my conclusions are. It is admitted in the first place - and this was tlie great difficulty put before the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs and myself when we first investigated this matter - that the rolls were enormously swollen, not chiefly for the reason to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, although it is one of the important elements, but mainly because of the continued accretion of deaths which were not registered. The Chief Electoral Officer who took part in our consultations was asked to suggest a mode by which it would be possible to minimize the excess by removing the names of those, who were dead. I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we cannot get rid of the whole excess if we desire that every one who has a right to be enrolled shall be on the roll, but the Chief Electoral Officer was asked to suggest what should be_ done to minimize the trouble. He pointed out, very properly, that the ordinary official machinery - that of the police of the States - could not be expected to thoroughly and efficiently perform that duty. He said that we must rely on information from local sources which would enable him to put the machinery in force. Tue mere giving of information will not remove a name, or do anything towards removing it. It will simply inform the Chief Electoral Officer of a case which requires to be looked into. It is the duty of the Chief Electoral Officer under the Act to receive information from any source as to any case requiring attention.
– Is that a statutory duty f
– It is a duty that falls upon him as the person charged under the Act with the administration of the law, the principal feature of which is the keeping of clean rolls.
– But the honorable member does not assert that that is a statutory duty?
– It is just as much a statutory duty as it is a statutory duty on the part of the Minister of Trade and Customs to see that frauds are not committed on his Department, although there is no section specifically declaring that the Minister shall attend to such matters. The duty to which I have referred, however, is imposed on every electoral officer. The real difficulty in which honorable members opposite find themselves arises from a special provision which has really nothing to do with this matter. I refer to the provision giving the right to any person, under certain definite conditions, to lodge objections to names on the rolls. The law declares that if a person objects to a particular name, and lodges his objection, together with a fee of 5s., he shall have a statutory right to an investigation. But if he insists upon that investigation going on, he may be liable to a penalty of £5.
– That is the safeguard .
– Is it suggested that it is the duty of the Chief Electoral Officer to shut his eyes to any information supplied from any source regarding the appearance on the rolls of the name of a deceased person?
– It is a question, not of the dead, but of the living.
– Take the case of the living. If the Chief Electoral Officer receives information that a man whose name is on a certain subdivisional roll has removed to another subdivision, is he to make no inquiry? Is he not to put the matter into inquiry?
– Not until he puts the man’s name on another roll.
– That is quite another matter. The law provides that the Chief Electoral Officer shall not remove from the roll the name of a person who has shifted from the district concerned until he sees that it is placed on another roll. He has first of all to ascertain, however, whether that man has left the district or is dead. Can any one say that the Chief Electoral Officer, on receiving information from any source regarding the matter, should not act upon it?
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by “ acting upon it “?
– Putting the matter upon an immediate course of inquiry - instructing the local police to inquire whether or not the allegation is true. It is his duty to do so.
– He has to satisfy himself.
– That is so.
– What is going to be done with the nomadic population of the different States - the shearers who move from shed to shed?
– What has that to do with this matter?
– It has all to do with it.
– Does the honorable member say .that the Chief Electoral Officer is not to know anything of the movements of these electors ?
– The Government’s proposal will disfranchise 25 per cent, of them.
– These wild and whirling statements on the part of the honorable member have no bearing on the issue. The point that I wish to emphasize is that no statement made by any association or individual can have the effect of disfranchising any one. It will merely have the effect of giving information to the electoral officers, whose duty it is to inquire into such matters. The Chief Electoral Officer himself pointed out that unless he received from the public, and those who take an interest in political matters, information regarding these details, the existing machinery for obtaining such information - that of the police - would not be sufficient. He said that if Ave told the people that the Department would receive from any one an intimation as to’ particular names that should be removed from the roll, we should have no guarantee that information so received was bond fide and worth while investigating.
– Did he make that recommendation in a report?
– I think there was a report. At all events, this statement was part of the general consultation on the subject which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs and myself had some two months ago with the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Is there any objection to Parliament seeing that report?
– None whatever, if there is such a report. I shall have inquiries made. It was then considered that, instead of the Chief Electoral Officer acting on information received from any person, it was highly desirable, in the interests of all sections of the community, that those who were organized on both sides should be allowed to bring under his notice cases deserving of inquiry.
– It is a mistake.
– I think not. I think it is the only way by which we can approach a clean roll. Another suggestion made was that Federal Electoral Officers should be appointed in each division to make inquiries. The power to appoint them has been provided in the Bill.
– For each division and subdivision?
– We have taken power to appoint them. If this work is to be done by official inspectors, it will involve the appointment of a large army of paid officials and an enormous increase in the electoral expenditure. It may be necessary to take such a step. The point is that the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, and the State deputies acting under him, must get information from some source upon which to initiate inquiries. 1 could understand honorable members opposite feeling strongly, if this had the slightest effect on the rolls, but it has not.
– Indirectly it has the same effect.
– Indirectly, it has no effect unless the officials charged with the duty of investigation do not do that duty. It is not for a moment suggested that names will be removed without proper inquiry being made by the police.
– The person objected to will be communicated with, and, if he does not reply, he will be struck off.
– Not at all; the honorable member is entirely wrong. What takes place is that, after inquiries have been put in motion, and the police have investigated and reported, the person who has left the address is sent a notice by the Chief Electoral Officer. If the person’s name appears on some other /oil, he is notified to that effect, and his name removed from one of the rolls.
– If he does not get the notice, what happens?
– Honorable members will see that they are now attacking the machinery of the present Act, for which the Government are not responsible. I admit that the Act does not work perfectly.
– Before objection can be taken, a fee of 5s. has to be lodged.
– No; that is exactly where the whole mistake arises. Any individual who desires to insist on having a particular case inquired into has to lodge 5s., but the Chief Electoral Officer is bound to receive information from any source. If that information is that certain persons are improperly on the roll, it is his duty, unless he believes the action taken is not bond fide, to make the police and other officials inquire into the particular cases. If, as a result of their inquiries, it is found that John Jones is dead, or has left the district, then the name is struck off.
– The Registrar of Births and Deaths has an account of all the dead people.
– The Registrar of Births and Deaths gets a list of all who are dead, but the difficulty is in identifying those dead people with the names on the roll, and the Chief Electoral Officer has always adopted the wise and prudent course of leaving the names on unless he is quite sure.
– The rolls used in Sydney at the last election contained the names of no dead people.
– I do not think that can be so, unless Sydney is very different from other places. As a matter of fact, the excesses in the roll are admittedly steadily increasing mainly owing to deaths, because, as I pointed out, temporary increases or excesses caused by transfers are wiped out by the gradual working of the card system.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say why he made that intimation to the public, and did not leave it to his responsible officers to do so? Why did he, as a member of the Government, take that action?
– Because the Government, after considering the matter, thought it a wise course to invite the public generally, and all who take an interest in electoral matters, to inform the officers of particular cases.
– But the responsible officer is in charge of a non-political Department, and the announcement would have come better from him than from the Attorney-General.
– I speak under correction, but I think that Mr. ‘Oldham, was asked to make the intimation, and did so. It was also suggested by Mr. Oldham that there should be a regulation, not to enable this to be done, but to enable fines to be imposed on any person who made purely frivolous objections, though I cannot quite remember the exact wording.
– Why did the AttorneyGeneral think it necessary himself to make this intimation to the public when feeling was high, instead of leaving it to the permanent head?
– I do not think there was any great crime in that.
– It means >the disfranchisement of about 50,000 men at this season of the year.
– Of course, if that be so, and honorable members say it is, there is nothing more to be said.
– There are 50,000 men in the shearing industry who are away from home temporarily, and who will be struck off the rolls.
– That interjection shows that the honorable member has not understood a word of what I have said .
– We understand the AttorneyGeneral all right, but it is what is being done.
– If by reason of this intimation - though I do not believe it to be so for a moment - names have been struck off without inquiry, the officers are doing what is absolutely contrary to the Act. Moreover, if they are striking names off because people have left one district for another, without seeing that their names are on the other roll, the officers are doing what is directly contrary to the Act.
– What would be done in the case of a seaman who went away without leaving an address?
– The law provides for all that.
– But such people will be objected to.
– The electoral officers have to make inquiry into every case. Suppose a man is transferred, his name ought not to be removed unless it is placed on another roll.
– I am afraid the AttorneyGeneral’s action has given those people the opportunity they desired ?
– What people?
– The people who want to keep names off the roll.
– The Attorney-General is putting the obligation on the backs of his officers.
– I place no obligation on the officers which the Act does not place. There is the obligation to investigate every alleged case, no matter from what source the information comes ; and more information is likely to be got now than formerly.
– Has not the fee of 5s. been abolished for years in Victoria ?
– The law is that if a person wishes to insist on the right to make an objection, he must pay 5s.
– That is as a deposit.
– Of course, he gets it back again.
– That is very different from paying 5s.
– There is no difficulty arising out of this matter, and if honorable members opposite had not been prepared to approach the subject with the suspicion they entertain regarding everything we do, there would not have been the slightest trouble.
– We have had to fight it for years.
– Fight what?
– Fight the same supicion we have now.
– Not suspicion - wholesale disfranchisement I
– I am sorry that that should be so.
– It is true.
– It is a great pity that we cannot discuss the machinery provisions of such a measure as an Electoral Bill, which is of common interest to all honorable members, with less heat than is evinced on the other side.
– A child which has been burnt dreads the fire !
– The Act is still in existence unaltered, and until it is altered no names can be removed without investigation by the officials themselves. No matter where the information comes from, it is the duty and obligation of the officials to make the necessary investigation; and no guarantee that Parliament has put in the Act has been, or can be, in the slightest degree interfered with. I feel that the whole difficulty has arisen from a misapprehension of what has been done, and that the Leader of the Opposition would not have spoken so strongly had he fully understood the matter.
– The Attorney-General has not removed a bit of my suspicion.
– Then nothing I can say can remove the suspicion, and I shall not attempt to remove it.
– The honorable gentleman has not yet said why he made that intimation as Attorney-General.
– Because it is the object of the Government to have a clean roll, and the invitation was given to associations supporting the Labour party, to associations supporting the Liberal party, and to all sections who take an active interest in the working of elections - and these are really the people who look into the rolls - to assist the Department and the Chief Electoral Officer in making inquiries that would lead to their being cleansed.
.- The Attorney-General finds himself in another of those awkward predicaments in which, despite his ability,he is quite unable to do himself justice. He finds it impossible to explain or in any way justify the extraordinary action taken by himself, presumably on behalf of the Government. In what he was pleased to term his full explanation, he either inadvertently or cleverly failed to touch the real issue, namely, why this intimation was given at some banquet or social, that persons would be permitted to violate the spirit and letter of the electoral law. To that point, however, I hope to return in a few moments. Briefly the position is that, until a few years ago, when honorable gentlemen opposite, under different names, carried on the government of the country perennially, persons were permitted to object to others being on the rolls without payment of fee, and without penalty or responsibility. The outcome was that, in different States, large numbers of bond fide electors were removed from the roll, or were unduly harassed or seriously inconvenienced in attempting to keep their names there. There are to-day in existence wealthy political organizations, who dare not say whence they get their money, and who, systematically, by the aid of men and women canvassers, and a small army of clerks, go through the rolls and take objections to names thereon. Their plea is that they are out for pure rolls, which, from their point of view, are rolls on which their opponents are in a minority. There are organizations in existence which, with the aid of an army of clerks and paid canvassers, systematically object to names being on the rolls. Such organizations are in active existence in South Australia to-day, with the result that almost daily a batch of objections issue from the Electoral Department, in many cases objections being taken to persons living in homes where they have re sided for five to twenty-five years; and the outcome is that, unless these people -make special efforts, in many cases losing half a day’s pay, in other cases a day’s pay, and in other cases incurring the serious displeasure of their employers, their names are removed from the roll. That method was in existence in the Federal arena until within recent years, and it was found to be so objectionable in many directions that the Electoral Act was amended to provide that there should attach to these organizations a responsibility when they raised objections.
– The responsibility of 5s.
– This provision passed both branches of the Legislature, namely -
Any name on a roll may be objected to by objection in writing, lodged with or made by the Returning Officer.
Provided that a sum of Five shillings shall be deposited in respect of each objection lodged by any person other than an officer, to be forfeited to the King if the objection is held by the Returning Officer to be frivolous.
It was found that so many bond fide electors had names objected to that the Legislature, in a calm moment, decided to insert this provision in the Electoral Act, and since then, so far as Federal politics are concerned, objections have been far less numerous, and in practically no case have they been frivolous. There has been a wholesome correction so far as the protection given by this provision is concerned.
– Does the honorable member say that frivolous objections were not covered?
– I say that there has been a wholesome correction in regard to objections, some of which were frivolous, and others being due to political partisanship. The existing provision, however, is objectionable to certain political leagues operating to-day. They have objected to it times out of number; they wish to go back to the old method under which, without responsibility or penalty of any description, in a wholesale way, they could lodge objections brought in by their paid canvassers, and through which large numbers were deprived of their right to vote. The Ministry recognise that while this section is in the Act it should be in operation; but, in their suggested amending Electoral Bill, they propose to delete it. They recognise its purpose; they recognise its strength; they know, also, that to their party it is an objectionable provision; they further recognise it has been a wholesome corrective, and they seek, by the power of their majority, to delete it from the Act; but, so far, it remains the law of the land, and, until it is deleted, it should be obeyed. Singularly enough, though it is the law, and has been observed for a number of years - objected to, of course, by the Liberal leagues - the AttorneyGeneral, at a speech given at some social or banquet, intimated in a general way that, in his opinion, the different leagues had the right to make objections without lodging the fee prescribed. We accepted it as merely an opinion the Attorney-General was entitled to express ; but we could not take the view that this intimation of opinion on the part of the Attorney-General was an expression of policy on the part of the Government which the Ministry intended to observe, and which they had instructed their officer? to observe, quite apart from the provisions of the Electoral Act. I am not aware who gave that instruction to the Electoral Officers - if it has been given. According to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, no such instruction was given; but the reply was qualified by the words, “ Under the Bill before the House for amending the Electoral Act”; and, because of the qualification, another question was put to the Minister. No doubt the Ministry felt that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs was in a difficulty, for the Attorney-General immediately jumped to the rescue, and put what, he termed the legal position of the matter, in order to prevent the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs from falling more deeply into the hole which the senior Ministers were digging, possibly “without his knowledge. This matter becomes prominent because, during the past few weeks, we find certain political leagues have again become active in a direction where their efforts were checked by the Electoral Act.
– The dear girls are going round my way in full force.
– As the result of this activity certain questions are put in” the House, and then we find that what was understood to be a general intimation and expression of opinion on the part of the Attorney-General at a social was, in reality, a public de claration of Ministerial policy, and we assume that certain political organizations have been given to understand that they may violate the provisions of the Electoral Act. Otherwise it is difficult to account for the sudden renewal of activity in the way of lodging objections to names on the electoral rolls. The excuse advanced by the AttorneyGeneral this afternoon is that the payment of the 5s. fee provided in the Act, which undoubtedly conveyed the spirit of Parliament at the time, and which undoubtedly has been obeyed in the spirit during the last few years, need only be lodged when the person taking the objection demands that the Electoral Officers should subsequently investigate the case; and the Minister has got over the difficulty of the statutory provision by intimating to these people that they can take objections now without limit and without payment of the fee, although there is no guarantee for them that the Electoral Officers will directly investigate each case put before them. That is the excuse given by the Attorney-General for his permission to certain political organizations to violate the provisions of the Electoral Act. It stands to reason that if these objections are put in, and it is the policy of the Government to approve of objections without a penalty or responsibility, and to intimate to their officers that every objection put in must be carefully scrutinized, then the provision in the Act goes for nothing, is of no value, is of no use, and, by the action of the Government, has been deliberately violated for party political purposes in accordance with the desires of the Liberal leagues that control honorable gentleman opposite. It was their practice in the past - and they desire it to be their practice again - to raise objections to thousands of names on the roll in the sure and certain hope that a fair percentage of those objections, frivolous and unjustifiable as they might be, would have effect, and the rolls be depleted of certain names. At present there is no statutory or imperative obligation in the Act, even on the part of Electoral Registrars, to investigate every objection submitted to them. What, then, will be the outcome of this? Thousands of objections will come in, aud the Electoral Department will be kept as busy as it can be inquiring into them if full effect to the provision of the Act is given; but there is no doubt what the method will be. Each case cannot be inquired into; otherwise an army of inspectors would be needed; the number of officers in the Electoral Department would need to be increased a thousandfold, and the whole community, the Labour community in particular, would be daily harassed by visits from inspectors and by inquiries as to whether names should be kept on the roll or not. If the slightest, notice is to be taken of objections, the practice adopted will be similar to that followed in the States. When an objection is lodged the clerk in the Electoral Registrar’s office will fill in a form to that effect, and send it to the person to whom objection is taken, chancing whether he gets it or not. If he receives it, and can afford the time and money to raise objections to his name being removed from the roll, it may be left there. If, on the other hand, he does not receive the communication, as will be the case with hundreds and thousands of bona fide workers throughout the Commonwealth, his name will be removed. Honorable members must know we are dealing with certainties, and not possibilities. Hundreds and thousands of bona fide workers will not receive the communications in time, and their names will be struck off by default. Is that what is aimed at? Is that the object of honorable members opposite? Whatever their object may be, they must agree with me that will be the result. Thousands of men will lose their votes because they happen to be seamen, shearers, rouseabouts, boundary riders, casual labourers, men out of regular employment, and men who have to travel to seek employment, men whose presence is essential to the welfare of the community, even though they are not permanently employed, and who, whenever they are able to do so, perform honest and useful work. But, for no other reason than that they may be travelling in search of work, because they may be nomadic in their character or nature, honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber will subject them to the indignity and injustice of having their names removed from the electoral rolls. I do not know whether it will be permitted. I hope sincerely it will not, otherwise it will be a grave injustice and a serious reflection upon those who are responsible for it, even as the conduct of the Ministry now amounts to a serious reflection upon them. May I return for a moment to the original point at issue? The information given by the AttorneyGeneral deliberately violates a provision of the Electoral Act. In this way we see to what length honorable members on the other side will go. They will frame regulations to suit their desires. They will carry out their administration as pleases them. But when they go further, and deliberately allow the public, without responsibility or penalty, to disregard the provisions of a measure passed by both branches of the Legislature, we are forced to the conclusion that their standard of honour is one previously unknown in the Federal arena, and that no interest is safe in their hands, because no sense of justice moves them. I hope that honorable members on this side will not permit such conduct to pass without the condemnation that it deserves; without that exposure that will let the electors see what Ministers are prepared to do. I put it clearly to honorable members that, if we tamely permit Ministers to break one Act of Parliament to-day to suit the desires of the Liberal Leagues which control them, they will break another Act to-morrow, and a third the next day, and no interest will be safe. No section of the community can move with a feeling of safety when there is in power a Ministry who, to suit party purposes, will deliberately break Acts of Parliament, and will override them with an indifference that defies description, seeking, though lamely, to excuse their conduct.
– The last Ministry passed a regulation affecting the Commonwealth Savings Bank in absolute disregard of a decision of Parliament.
– That is incorrect. This Ministry, on taking office, passed a regulation with a view to providing for a secret interference with electoral papers, and it was only by chance that the fact was discovered. Ministers had to call the House together on 9th July to get Supply. Had they not been forced to do so, a secret inquiry would have been held, permitting a grave interference with electoral papers.
– The honorable gentleman does not like to have the thing exposed in such clear terms, but that was the possibility. It was not until Parliament met on the 9th July, and demanded that if an inquiry were held common decency should be observed, and both parties given’ an opportunity to appoint independent scrutineers, that the arrangement was altered. The outcome of the inquiry has been disappointing in the extreme to Ministers’ and to their supporters. We do not know what it might have been, or what allegations might have been published in the newspapers, had not scrutineers been provided for. Prior to the inquiry, the newspapers teemed with allegations of misrepresentation, duplication of votes, personatiou, and all kinds of frauds. A secret inquiry was to have taken place, and it could only have been held by reason of a regulation made by Ministers a day or two after they came into office.
– The Treasurer is the worst.
– The Treasurer has given information to the press that thousands of cases of fraud occurred in a particular district; but, notwithstanding the fact that the Government have been four months in office, and have all the forces of their organizations and wealth behind them, they have not been able to discover one case of irregularity. Yet the right honorable gentleman continues to believe that there were irregularities, and will believe it of every electoral division that has not returned supporters of the Government. He will not believe it of the divisions whose electors are so benighted that they returned Ministerial supporters. In those divisions no fraud or wrong was done. That is the mental condition of the right honorable gentleman. However, I do not desire to be drawn off the point at issue. I want to raise, in as clear terms as possible, my decided objection to the action of the Ministry. The evidence that they have produced proves conclusively that no interest is safe; that Ministers regard with no respect, much less veneration, an Act of Parliament; and that when ib suits their party purposes, or when the organizations controlling them desire it, they will permit of the violation of the law. No one knows better than the AttorneyGeneral the effect of the intimation that he made to the public the other day. He knows that it violates the spirit and the letter of the Electoral Act. Section 67 is as clear as need be, and the practice adopted during the last few years in re spect to it has been clear. It has been a wholesome corrective which honorable members have hitherto desired. There were three parties in politics when the provision was adopted, the so-called Liberals gladly joining with the Labour party in voting for the provision to check the admittedly Conservative section - with which they have since combined forces - from wrongly removing names from the rolls. In addition to the intimation which the Attorney-General has made in his speech, there must have been an intimation given to the Liberal Leagues, if not directly by him, by other members on that side, of an alteration of policy, and of their privilege to violate the Act, because these leagues have become suddenly active, and objections are being lodged without limit. If honorable members, knowing what the outcome will be, are prepared to allow the present state of things to continue, they must be content with having placed upon them the stigma that they deliberately connived at the removal from the roll of the names of bond fide electors. It has ever been the method of the Conservatives to reduce the voting strength of the community, because where the voting strength is weak they succeed. When a Democracy is permitted to exercise its voting strength, Conservatism shrinks. Because honorable members opposite are temporarily in power, they revert to the old Conservative method of weakening the electoral roll. I would raise objections to this sort of thing under any circumstances. If, by virtue of a mandate from the people, or because they thought they had such a mandate, they proposed an alteration of the law, we should have to submit to it. But they are attempting to violate the law by means of administration, without giving, even to members, an intimation of what they intend to do. We have had to drag an avowal from them as sometimes teeth have to be drawn from patients.
– The Minister denied it at first.
– He was unaware of what was going on’. I am surprised at that, because I regarded him as having some knowledge of the Department that he controls. He now sees, possibly, that there is an inner Cabinet which knows more than some of the other Ministers. I hope that the Treasurer is in that inner Cabinet. I regret very much what has taken place, though Ministers apparently do not attach the slightest importance to what we say. They have decided on a certain course of action which, for all practical purposes, is mere subserviency to the political leagues outside. I do not believe that any honorable members opposite are personally anxious to remove names from the rolls; the request for such action must have come from outside. But Ministers are providing for this by an administrative act, which shows clearly that their standard of honour is not such as to justify the belief that any Australian interest is safe with them, and that, although possessing merely* temporary power, they will do such things as will reflect seriously upon them, violating the rights and privileges of the general public. We, on this side, have not at present the power to do more than to protest again this ; but I hope that our objections will be heard outside. Notwithstanding the desires of the Libera] leagues, I refuse to believe that a majority of the people of Australia will tamely submit to tin’s. I put it to those who care to listen or to read that, while the conduct of Ministers in this instance may be advantageous to themselves-
– There are not many here willing to listen.
– Ministers and their supporters are seldom in their places to listen, and no impression can be made on honorable members opposite; so that it doe3 not matter whether they are here in large or in small numbers. When the supporters of a Ministry allow an Act to be knowingly violated, not with any desire to purify the rolls, but to provide for the removal of names from the rolls at serious inconvenience to the electors, protest is called for. Even if honorable members opposite do not care to listen, I put it to those who care to read that, although the action of Ministers may be advantageous to them to-day, and serve their particular interests, those who are so callous to every sense of honour held dear by other men, will not hesitate to violate other provisions of the law, and make other interests suffer.
– The time allowed to the honorable member by the standing order has expired.
– It is not because I think it necessary for the benefit of those who are present to make a reply to the speech we have just heard, for its every note rang false, and its insincerity was patent and glaring, but because his remarks were addressed to those who may read the Hansard records, that I wish to bc permitted to make known this further instance in which the honorable member for Adelaide has stopped short in a quotation when, had he proceeded further, it would have answered the objection he desired to make. The honorable member talked about the Act. Are we always to have to look up the records when we listen to him before we can accept what he says? In this case, he talked about what the Act required just as during the debate on the AddressinReply he misquoted what the AttorneyGeneral said.
– That is wrong.
– In this case he dealt with section 67, and said it was necessary for every person lodging an objection to deposit with that objection the sum of 5s. But why did not the honorable and ingenuous member go on to section 69, and give the House the benefit of the knowledge which I am sure he possesses? Section 69 provides that it is the duty of the Returning Officer-
– Read section 68.
– Section 68 deals with the lodging of objections. It provides that -
Tin- objection may be in the prescribed form, and shall be signed by an elector registered on the same division roll, or by the returning officer or registrar.
That is part of the present law. There has been no claim so far that that section has been disregarded. Now with regard to section 69, with which the honorable member for Adelaide, I am sure, is familiar, although he did not quote it, I desire to get at the facts. I do not want to follow the style of argument which the honorable member has so unfortunately adopted. Section 69 provides that -
Tt is the duty of the returning officer and of each registrar to lodge or make an objection in writing, setting forth the grounds of such objection in respect of any name which he has reason to believe ought not to be retained on the roll.
That is his actual duty.
– There is nothing in that section to say that a Registrar shall take instructions from political associations .
– And no one proposes anything of the kind. All that has happened, so far as I understand the AttorneyGeneral, is that the Government desires that the rolls shall be purified. While anxious that every elector whose name ought to be on the roll shall remain enrolled, it wishes that information shall be obtained as to persons who are no longer in divisions or subdivisions in respect of which they are enrolled. All that has happened is that certain associations have been informing the Registrars, so honorable members opposite tell us, that certain persons have left certain districts, and giving reasons for the belief that they have left. Now, when information is so given it is the duty of the Registrar concerned, under section 69 of the Act, to inquire into the objection. Honorable members opposite seem to be absolutely oblivious of the duties of a Registrar. It is his duty to investigate, not to remove these names from the roll-
– The honorable member’s statement is not ingenuous, but, in the light of our practical experience, positively silly.
– The honorable member describes as silly my statement that it is the duty of a Registrar, where “ he has reason to believe” that the name of any elector on the roll for a particular subdivision should not be on that roll, to investigate and lodge an objection.
– What has that to do with section 69 ?
– The honorable member would have us believe that what a Registrar has to do - which is the only subject in dispute- has nothing whatever to do with section 69, which deals with the lodging of objections. That section tells the Registrar what his duty is where an objection has been lodged. In this particular case, objections are lodged by outside persons, and, to the best of my knowledge, they are signed objections.
– Two different sets of people are dealt with by the sections in question. In the one case, a fee of 5s. must be lodged with an objection, whereas section 69 deals with objections lodged by the Returning Officers or Registrars.
– And we are dealing with the Registrars. So far as I understand the complaint of honorable members opposite, it is that the Registrars remove from the rolls the names of persons to which objection i3 not taken in the technical terms of section 67, but about whom information has been received, and that the names are removed without inquiry on the part of the Registrars to satisfy themselves as to the facts.
– The honorable member does not understand the matter.
– I listened to the honorable member during his long speech, which was nothing- but a succession of ill-humoured scolds. Does the honorable member say that a Registrar, under section 69, has no power to initiate an investigation ?
– I have said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member knows that a Registrar has power to initiate an investigation. It is obvious that the House intended that, under section 69, Registrars, wherever they thought there was ground for believing that certain names should not be on the roll, should cause investigation to be made. Yet the Opposition are objecting strenuously because certain persons outside the official organizations of the Department are giving departmental officers their grounds for believing: that certain persons have left certain districts in respect of which they are enrolled.
– Hear, hear.
– Without complying with the law.
– That seems to be the objection. If it is, then honorable members opposite do not want the Department to have any outside assistance in removing from the rolls the 177,000 names which have no right to be there, according to the judgment of the Government Statistician.
– Where is the report from which the honorable member takes that statement? He promised to submit it.
– I have not been asked for it. It was asked for in another place today, and full information, together with the official table, was laid on the table of another place this afternoon.
– I asked for it when I was discussing this very matter six weeks ago.
– The honorable member is always asking questions except at question time. I have no recollection of his having made such a request to me. Our honorable friends opposite are very anxious to get away from this matter.
If one Registrar in every great division is expected to know, by some divine inspiration, whenever any person has permanently left that division, then we must wait a considerable time before we get our rolls in order.
– What about the police and the postmen?
– The honorable member thinks that those officials ought to inform the Registrars? That is exactly what is being done under the system to which honorable members are objecting.
– It is not; it is the political associations that are supplying the information.
– To be consistent, as the honorable member for Indi reminds me, the honorable member should insist that the police and postal officials who give this information shall lodge 5s. in respect of each objection. He does not claim that they should be asked to do anything of the kind, because he recognises the absurdity of taking any such course. But if every objection is to be initiated under section 67, it is a crime for the police to make an objection without lodging a fee of 5s. It is well known that, prior to the recent election, every side in politics gave information to the electoral officers concerning names which it was thought should not be on the roll.
– Our party did not, and could not, because of the stipulation as to the fee of 5s.
– I am bound to accept the honorable member’s word, and I believe that he makes the statement in good faith. I can only say that any party which has in its ranks the honorable and distinguished member for Adelaide would nob have been so entirely oblivious of its powers under the Act.
– Then it is a fact that any one in this country can supply information to the electoral officers - that there is nothing in the law to prevent that being done ?
– Of course, there is nothing to prevent it. Does not the honorable member want the electoral officers to get this information ?
– That is not the point.
– Honorable members opposite desire, by their statements in this House, to deceive those who read Hansard, and who cannot see them here, with their tongues in their cheeks, whilst making these grave charges. They wish to deceive the public through the medium of Ilansard, which is maintained at great cost to the public. If it is absolutely iniquitous to give information band fide regarding a matter of this kind, why is it considered meritorious to convey to the authorities news of an accident requiring the attendance of an ambulance, or particulars of a robbery demanding the attention of the police?
– That is not the point.
– I think that any name which is illegally on the roll, and, therefore, gives an opportunity for electoral fraud, should be removed at the earliest possible moment.
– Yes; but that should be done in a legitimate way.
– It is.
– It should be done in a legal way.
– It is being done in a legal way. If honorable members opposite thought there was any illegitimacy or illegality about the methods pursued, they would not be wearying us in this House; they would be dealing with the matter outside. We have heard the extraordinary, extravagant, and apoplectic language of the honorable member for Adelaide. I challenge the Opposition to prove any charge of illegality or illegitimate action on our part. Such a charge can be tried in the Courts of the country. Section 67 was intended to cover a case where objection is lodged in spite of the Electoral Department thinking that an objection would not be valid. There is every opportunity for bond fide representations under section 69.
– It is not necessary, with the provision proposed by the Government.
– The honorable member will keep on saying that with just the same persistency and force that he would seek to forget having been on the other side in all such matters only a few years ago.
– That is absolutely untrue !
– It is everything that the Standing Orders do not permit.
– It is absolutely incorrect, and the honorable member knows it. Nobody but a cad would say such a thing !
– Is it not true that the honorable member was not in that party a few years ago?
– Which party?
– The party the honorable member is now in. The honorable member will call another a cad, and various other things - as if he were afflicted with the soul of a dancing-master, behind the honest exterior of a Labour member. However, I do not wish to be bothered with the honorable member, who is full of bitterness and bile since the recent change. It is obvious that the Act gives two special opportunities for making objections. One is the opportunity given to persons outside, and the other is the opportunity given to persons within the Department; and when objections by persons outside are against the judgment and discretion of the Department, a fee of 5s. must be paid. All that happens is that, when information comes to the Department - and the Department is very glad to have information on such matters - the officers investigate the cases. The Registrar is absolutely a non-partisan. In most cases, he is one appointed by the honorable member for Darwin. I do not ask honorable members to believe that the Registrars are other than absolutely disinterested public servants. When the information, based on solid grounds, comes to hand, those officers themselves carefully and prudently make investigations; and for this the Government are denounced in extravagant language by the honorable member for Adelaide. I merely ask honorable members to read tlie Act, when they would be more usefully employed than in raising a mare’s nest and in trying to talk out the Bill.
– The honorable member is most unfair.
– What else are honorable members opposite doing? Does the honorable member for Denison, who, I admit, is always fair in his views, mean to tell me that the honorable member for Adelaide, skilful talker as he is, would be left with three or four members only on his side if he were addressing himself to some really important question?
– There, again, is wilful misrepresentation I
– There may have been four or five members. Did the honorable member for Adelaide not himself ask that the call for a quorum should be withdrawn ?
– That is incorrect.
– -The quorum was called for by the honorable member for Maribyrnong.
– What I said was that the honorable member for Adelaide asked that the call should be withdrawn, and then the honorable member for Maribyrnong said he did not wish to have it believed that he really had called for a quorum, because, apparently, it appeared distasteful to the honorable member for Adelaide, who was permitted to continue his impassioned address with four or five honorable members behind him.
– That, again, is wildly incorrect.
– Why does the Honorary Minister say things that are not true?
– They are true.
– I must ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw that statement.
– The statement is absolutely correct. I was in the chamber at the time, and the Honorary Minister is not saying what is correct.
– The honorable member must not make the charge that a certain member has made a statement that is untrue. He must withdraw such a statement.
– Very well, I withdraw the statement, but I must say that what the Honorary Minister said is not in accord with fact.
– It is marvellous how excited honorable members opposite become when they are simply reminded of a few patent facts. I take it as a great compliment that so many of them should come into the chamber immediately after the impassioned harangue of the honorable member for Adelaide, for I was seriously afraid that we were going to have the bells ringing for a considerable time. Can any honorable member say that, if the honorable member for Adelaide had .really been in earnest, and had been attacking a question of some moment to honorable members opposite, they would not have supplied at least half a quorum ?
– Why does the Honorary Minister “ stone- wall “ his own Bill?
– It must be a great grief to the honorable member, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to come into the chamber suddenly and find that he is too late to himself “stone-wall.” My desire is to get the Supply Bill through ; and I ask honorable members, for their own credit, to pause before they erect a “ stone wall “ on the miserable quibble provided by the honorable member for Adelaide.
.- If the Minister does not desire to “ stone-wall “ the Bill, why does he say such nasty things ? But for the honorable gentleman’s manner in addressing the Committee I should not have arisen. If he had spoken nicely and pleasantly-
– And truthfully.
– That is possibly very difficult. There are some men who can speak the truth easily, and there are others to whom it is naturally difficult; and I have every sympathy with men like the Honorary Minister to whom such tilings do not come naturally. The Government rightly take the attitude that it is very proper for the public to be called on to supply the Electoral Department with information as to persons who are improperly on the roll. But the Government already have ample power under the existing law. I listened with patience to the Honorary Minister, and it struck me that he was not putting the facts correctly. I do not say that he deliberately did this; it may be that he does not fully comprehend the matter with which he is dealing. There is clear and ample power under the existing law for every individual in the country to supply the officials with all the information they desire. There is nothing to stop Brown or Jones writing to the electoral officer and saying that certain persons ought not to be on the roll.
– That is so, and it is the practice.
– But they have to pay 5s.
– In the honorable member for Calare we have another gentleman who is going to support a proposition he does not understand . People who give information have not to pay a single penny.
– The honorable member cannot have heard the honorable member for Adelaide, or he would not say that.
– Whatever the honorable member for Adelaide says is correct. I have known him for many years, and I have never found him to vary from the truth by a single inch or fraction of an inch. The truth comes naturally to him, just as it is difficult in the case of the Honorary Minister.
– He leans to both sides at the same time.
– He leans only to one side, and whichever way he leans, it is to the truth. At the present time a member of the public, in giving information, has not to pay a penny; and I ask the honorable member for Calare to remember, when he votes in support of the Electoral Bill, that he is voting for something he does not understand. The law and practice is that persons give information, and the officials test its veracity. This it is not proposed to alter. If any person is not satisfied with the action of the Department, he can of himself set the law in motion; and it is then he has to pay a fee of 5s.
– We are not discussing the Electoral Bill, but Supply.
– I am discussing Supply, and having stated facts which I hope will not be forgotten in future discussions, I resume my seat.
.- The one object of the Honorary Minister a few moments ago was to divert the attention of the House from the position taken up by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Adelaide. I observe that the honorable gentleman is leaving the chamber just after he has made his speech, although he is in charge of the Department the maladministration of which is under review. The most extraordinary point is that, when the honorable gentleman was asked to-day whether a certain thing had been done, he replied in the negative, and it was left for the Attorney-General to say that it had been done. What are the Government doing to allow these inconsistencies and inaccuracies ? If we are entitled to anything, we are entitled to the fullest information in connexion with Acts of Parliament and their administration. The statement of the Honorary Minister was either made designedly or in gross ignorance - he can take his choice. But it was left to the AttorneyGeneral to clear up the matter. Is it not a most remarkable thing that it was left to the Attorney-General to get up again and explain the Bill after both the Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, with an amount, I might almost say, of impudence, had given the House their explanations and been caucussed ? In spite of what the Honorary Minister says, section 67 of the Electoral Act, as defined by the honorable member for
Adelaide, makes provision for certain people who desire to lodge 5s., and make objections to persons’ names being on the rolls; but, in the event of any objection being frivolous, it is within the power of the Department to mulct the person objecting to the extent of £5; and that is the thing that deters many organizations from lodging objections against names on the roll. Then the Honorary Minister comes along and says that the honorable member for Adelaide is not fair in not reading section 69. But the honorable member himself omitted to read it until his attention was drawn to it. Clause 69 provides for the Electoral Officer getting the necessary information to make up the roll in a correct way ; he may get the assistance of the police, or may get assistance from other sources; but section 67, which the Government now through their action practically nullify and violate, says that there should be a 5s. deposit, and section 72 makes the person lodging it liable to be mulct to the extent of £5 in the event of a trivial objection. The violation of this section will enable political parties - the Labour party, the so-called Liberal party, the Fusion party, or the Women’s National League - to drag the provision into the mire of politics; and we know that when party politics are so bitter as they are now, things will be done on both sides not calculated to work in the best interests of the rolls. The AttorneyGeneral says that the wild statements made by myself about hundreds of people being knocked off the roll were not worth considering. But I have seen thousands of names knocked off the rolls. I have seen fifty or sixty names enrolled from a shed, but at the next Revision Court the men were not at that shed ; the shed was not their address; they were shearing a hundred miles away, perhaps. What was the result? The station manager, or whoever was presiding there, would send into the Electoral Registrar objections to these names, because the persons were not at that address, and, though these men were working and living in the electorate, they were disfranchised, and could not vote at the election. According to the Honorary Minister, there are 177,000 names on the roll more than there should be. These are said to be the figures of the Statistician; I do nob know whether they are, because we have had no return laid on the table to show whether it is true or not, but I am prepared to accept it - and the statement has been made, not only in the House a number of times, but it has been made by a number of speakers on platforms outside the House. What is the actual result? It has been done to deliberately mislead the people, because it is not true. I say it is not true, because’ I take the case of my own electorate, which, I presume, is typical of every other electorate, though there may be in my district more people who have to move from place to place in search of employment. From the ordinary roll and the supplementary roll, it would appear that there are 39,000 odd electors on the roll ; but that is not the actual case, as the official roll on which the recent election was fought contained only 34,000 names. Every one knows this, and knows that there is no inflation of the rolls at any time. If there was inflation of the official roll, the presiding officer, or the Electoral Registrar, should be dismissed at the earliest possible moment. But, as a matter of fact, as soon as it is known that a person has left the district or made an application for transfer, the Electoral Officer erases the name of that person from the official roll, and that is the roll issued to the presiding officers throughout the electorate. Now, if that can be done in the electorate I represent, which covers an area nearly four times the size of the State of Victoria, it could be done in the various electorates of Victoria ; and when we hear these statements made time after time that rolls are inflated, we know it is not so. The Attorney-General wishes to get pure rolls with the additional names on them. But I say he cannot do it. If he consults his officers, they will tell him that they cannot do it. If he gives the matter a moment’s thought, he will find that they will not be able to get pure rolls.
– Not while they tolerate the present practice.
– There is no man more prepared to go in for corrupt practices in elections than the honorable member. He is a past-master in. the art.
– I ask that that be withdrawn .
– I withdraw it, and apologize to the honorable member, and say that there is no man who can run an election as cunningly as the honorable member can.
– That is equally offensive, and it shows the honorable member’s class of character.
– When the honorable member talks about class of character, I am not concerned. I have been accused by the press of the other side of everything from “ pitch-and-toss to manslaughter”; so his statement does not worry me in the slightest. I say the rolls are really not inflated, and I say distinctly that, whether or not, you have the provision now proposed, you will still have a certain amount of inflation. It cannot be otherwise. We must have the original roll apart from the supplementary roll, and while the original roll is there, there must be hundreds of people moving from one electorate to the other from the time the roll is printed until another takes its place. It does not matter whether we close the rolls a month or two months prior to an election. Unless we are prepared to do it three or four months before an election we cannot possibly have the rolls absolutely devoid of names that should not be there. Ministers talk about an inflation to the extent of 177,000 names. I know, up our way - and I have heard it said about other electorates - that a large number of people were not on the rolls at the last election. I suppose if we could get at the actual number, we would find that there are probably tens of thousands of people in Australia who did not have votes at the last election. There is justification, therefore, for our viewing this action of the Government with suspicion, because we know what has taken place. Those connected with members on the other side have the means of getting together vast sums of money, by which they can employ paid organizers and paid clerks. I have seen dozens and dozens of those clerks employed looking over the rolls. What do they do it for? It is for the purpose not of trying to put men on the roll, not to see that every man has a vote, not to see that the rolls are purified, but to see how many names they can knock off, more particularly the names of those opposed to them. I have seen it done’ very frequently. In the State from which I come, I regret to say it was done to such an extent that it became a scandal, and if it had occurred in any European country to half the extent it was done in Queensland in connexion with the electoral rolls, it would have caused a revolution. We must judge honorable members opposite by their associates. In South Australia, at the present time, they are cutting up the electorates, and, by their majority, forcing a Bill through the House so that the man who lives in the city shall have only a third of the voting power of the man in the country.
– Quite right.
-I represent a country electorate. I accept the honorable member’s statement, because it is a clear indication of his views. I thank the honorable member for being so candid as to say that he does not want certain people on the roll; that he wants to see that all those who of his particular way of voting are on the roll while the other people are off it.
– I never made that statement.
– Again, we find in Queensland the same party that support honorable members opposite, the same associations, the same organizations, and the same organizers supporting honorable members opposite, and they are going about the country using all their energies and efforts to secure a majority for honorable members on the Ministerial side, a Bill having been introduced in that State which will disfranchise about 50,000 Queensland electors.
– And they are gerrymandering in South Australia.
– And we find our Government trying to gerrymander the rolls, the one thing of all others to which we as a party object, and against which we will fight to the fullest possible extent. It is idle for honorable members to say it is not so. In this case, the worst feature is that there was a clause specially put into an Act of Parliament to prevent such a state of affairs. I regret the Attorney- General should allow himself to be dragged into this matter. He has a big reputation as a barrister, and to put up the paltry excuse he did this afternoon was certainly not creditable to him, nor to his ability, nor to his great reputation. He wandered on trying to explain this practically illegal act. If there is one thing Parliament should guard against more than another it is administrative attempts to evade the law. One of the most serious things that any body of men could be guilty of is the attempt to act contrary to law. An Executive should disregard the law only in great emergencies, as in time of war, when the safety of the nation might demand it. Ministers who can disregard an Act of Parliament in a small matter will do the same thing in regard to big matters. There is cause to wonder, therefore, how far Ministers are prepared to go. They find their position hopeless, there being no possibility of doing business. Why should they be permitted to do business? No more disgraceful state of affairs than at present exists has ever been known in the history of Australia. The two political parties are evenly divided, and the Prime Minister carries round a particular vote in his pocket. That is a disgrace. But Ministers are trying to gerrymander the electorates, so that, in the event of an appeal to the country, they may have a chance of being returned. If I had my way, I would keep them in office for six months, because, judging by the blunders that they have already made, they would, in that time, blunder themselves out of existence altogether. I view what has been done with grave suspicion, and I regret that they have dragged departmental officers into this controversy. Such action is despicable. No Minister should drag in his officers, saying that they wish such-and-such a thing to be done. Our officers cannot defend themselves here, and they should not be mixed up with party politics. Every Minister should be responsible for what he says and. does. I presume that a Minister, before accepting information from an officer, makes sure that that officer is fully acquainted with the facts. It is the duty of a Minister to decide what use he will make of departmental information; but he must take full responsibility for anything he does, and not try to put any blame on his officers. I have full confidence in the officers of the Electoral Department. Whatever their individual opinions may be, I am sure that they will act honestly and rightly in the conduct of elections. But when organizations such as the Women’s National League, the People’s Party, the Liberal Association, the Trades Hall, and others, are allowed to submit long lists of names which, they say, should not appear on the roll, injustice is sure to be done to many electors. The Government have committed a crime, and their action would cause great trouble in any other country than this. By the cunning of the Attorney-General they have set aside an Act of Parliament.
.- Ministers have introduced some new methods of government. We see two or three running the one Department. They said that they took office to restore Ministerial responsibility and honest, efficient government; but we find them contradicting one another - the Minister controlling electoral administration making one statement, and the Attorney-General another. But there are ample grounds for the grave suspicion that their administration will mean the disfranchisement of thousands of persons. Whether, technically, persons may send in objections without depositing 5s. in each case matters not, so far as the general public are concerned, because what percentage of the electors have read the Electoral Act? A few active spirits connected with political organizations may have copies of the Act in their offices, but the masses of the electors have not read it. They are made aware from the platforms, and in other ways, that if an objection to a name on the roll is lodged a deposit of 5s. is expected to accompany it. In the past, every difficulty has been put in the way of enrolment, and every facility given for the striking of names off the roll. Until the last amending Act was passed, men who had been living for twenty years in a small town, under the eyes of the local police who collected the names for the rolls, often discovered on election day that their names had been removed without their knowledge. The rolls were always incomplete, thousands of persons entitled to enrolment not having their names on the rolls. This was due to faulty administration. The Attorney-General says now that quite an innocent thing has been done by the Government. He is an able man, and no one knows the meaning of language, especially of legal language, so well as a lawyer. He tells us that the Government have invited the co-operation of the general public for the purification of the rolls, and that the Act imposes on registrars the duty of investigating objections to enrolment. He did not tell us what the word “ investigate “ means. If we do not watch carefully this action of the Government, there will be an immense disfranchisement. It is strange that the present month should have been chosen for this attempt to purify the rolls, seeing that in September those engaged in the most important industry in the Commonwealth - the wool industry - are necessarily absent from their homes in large numbers.
– The honorable member for Calare would like to have those men taken off the rolls.
– The honorable member for Robertson is joining in this.
– If the Government were doing what the Opposition say they are doing, I would not support them.
– The honorable member is associated with a party a large number of whose members would not allow votes to any but property holders. In the past, the man of nomadic occupation has been prevented by legal technicalities from recording his vote. But at the last election, for the first occasion in our history, we had a very large enrolment. The printed roll necessarily, if every person qualified is enrolled, must have more names on it than there are persons entitled to vote, because it is impossible to keep it up to date and prevent some names from being recorded twice. It does not follow, however, that there is duplicate voting, and it has been proved that there was none at the last election. We are told that it is the duty of the registrars to investigate objections to enrolment. A registrar is told that So-and-so is not entitled to have his name on a roll. He asks why, and is informed that the man lias left the district. The registrar then makes an inquiry into the allegation. Does he personally go to the address of the person objected to to ascertain whether he has left? We know that he does not. Registrars do their work as efficiently as possible, but, generally, they are busy postmasters with large responsibilities. The roll is not collected by them , and they have not to look into these matters personally. They depute their investigations to others, taking such evidence as they can get. At the present time there are at least 50,000 men engaged in the wool industry away from home, and they may be away for three months. Under the Act, after a man has been away from a district for a month, he is expected to transfer his name to the district to which he has moved. That, of course, does not apply to persons who are only temporarily away. But when objections are lodged to the enrolment of such persons, and an intimation of the fact is sent to their permanent address, they often never get the intimation, because they are moving from place to place. If, under such circumstances, their names are struck off the rolls, they are treated unjustly. But that has happened in thousands of cases. It is the method taken by Conservative and alleged Liberal Governments for reducing the voting strength of the community. During the last three years the policy was the reversal of the old policy.
– Does the honorable member say that there are 50,000 men away from home shearing?
– I do not make such a statement without knowing what I am speaking of. The number of men engaged in shearing depends on the season. Evidence has been given in the Arbitration Court as to the number of men engaged in the shearing industry, and I know that, with the present flocks, 50,000 persons are needed to take the wool off.
– All are not away at the one time.
– They are away from home during the whole season.
– A good many do not leave their own district.
– I am dealing only with those employed in shearing sheds, who ure under an agreement which ties them up as tightly as though they were in prison.
– Oh !
– The honorable member smiles, but ho really knows nothing of the actual experience of these men, and is not prepared, apparently, to listen to absolute facts. Men who are under engagement must carry out the terms of their contract. Shearing at one shed may last for a month or six weeks, and during that time the shearers or shed hands are away from home. Their names, however, are on the roll, and they are entitled to vote. Under this precious proposal they will be disfranchised. The Attorney-General says that when objections are lodged the police will be instructed to make inquiries. I am sure that he has not the authority of the Electoral Office for that statement. If the police are to make these inquiries, then the Government are proposing to introduce a new system. As a matter of fact, the police are not available to make inquiries whenever an objection is lodged. The police have many duties to perform, and are expected to know every one in the district in which they are stationed. If, in one of the cases to which I have referred, a constable reported that he had made inquiries, and found that the person concerned had been away for a month or six weeks, what would the Registrar do? Apparently he would remove his name from the roll. It is difficult to obtain any information from this Government, although they have introduced the system of a double-barrelled Ministerial head for one Department. Under that system we find one Minister contradicting the other. If one says that a certain thing is black, while the other declares it to be white, we shall never be able to find out what really is the colour.
– We cannot expect much better from a piebald teams
– The honorable member is right. The Government party is a Fusion team, and they are bound to be contradictory of each other. They have bungled everything that they have attempted to deal with. In the case of shearers and others who are away from home for a month or six weeks inquiry would disclose the fact that they were absent. It would be said that they had apparently left the district, and, as their address would probably be unknown, they could not be communicated with, so that on their return they would find their names off the roll. This proposal will affect many thousands of workers. So far I have referred only to those engaged in one industry, but there are thousands of persons engaged in other seasonal industries, such as harvesting and fruitpicking, who have to leave their homes for some weeks at a time in order to earn their living, and these will be disfranchised. Surely it is bad enough for a man to have to leave his home and his family to find work without being disfranchised. It is all very well to say that it is the duty of the Registrar to keep the rolls clean, but we are face to face with an entirely new development. The late Government said to the Electoral Officers, “ It is your duty to keep the rolls as correct as possible, but it is especially your duty to see that every adult is enrolled.” The compulsory enrolment provisions of the Act were designed to throw upon electors the responsibility of seeing that they were on the rolls, and it was recognised that, in the desire to have an absolutely correct roll, some names, which ought to be on, would be removed. It is absolutely true, as stated by the honorable member for Kennedy, that the immense number of voters on the voters’ roll is not in keeping with the number on the official or certified rolls which were used on election day. The present Government entered upon their duties with the idea that, since their predecessors were a Labour Administration, everything must have been conducted on crooked lines, and that all sorts of fraud had been committed in connexion, with the last general election. Their investigations, however, showed that the election was one of the cleanest ever held. They were utterly unable to find any evidence to support their allegation, but, with the object of getting ready for another election, they are now issuing a new set of instructions to the officers of the Electoral Department. Those officers do their work as well as they can, but honorable members find it impossible to obtain in the House any information from the Government. What information we have is gathered from statements by Ministers at tea parties outside. It is clear, however, that the attitude of the present Government is exactly the opposite of that taken by the Labour Administration, which directed the Department to give every adult a chance to exercise the franchise. This Government starts off by telling the electoral officers that they must revise the rolls, and get rid of as many names as possible. Men of experience know that it is exceedingly difficult to ascertain the names of deceased persons on the rolls. The average, man will say, “ Surely, as every death must be registered, there should be no difficulty in obtaining this information.” But experienced electoral officers will tell you that there are several difficulties in the way. Sometimes a man dies in a hospital, and the hospital authorities do not know his address; whilst very often the deaths are recorded of several persons bearing the same name, and it is impossible to know which name ought to be struck off the roll. That is an inherent difficulty. Some one reports that “ John Smith “-=- and the Smith family is a very large one - has died. If the address of the deceased person is given, the information may be very useful; but why leave to the general public the giving of such information? I enter my strong protest against these proposals on the part of the Government. Experience shows that thousands have been disfranchised because they have had to leave home temporarily to seek work. Others, again, owing to the defects of a bad system, have been disfranchised, although they have never left their usual place of residence. Listening to Ministers talking of the Department getting the assistance of various political organizations, the inexperienced outsider would imagine that they had made a new discovery. As a matter of fact, their political organizations have always been active in this regard. They are not going to be more active now, unless it be that they intend to work in a way that they have not done previously. Officials of the Women’s National League, for instance, have always been active in trying to remove names from the rolls. At the last general election I saw a printed list of hundreds of names which were to be objected to, if possible, on polling day. The only people whom such organizations desire to be enrolled are those who have “ correct “ views.
– Propertied people.
– Yes. A man who has nothing to take out of the country is not thought to have any stake in it. There is ample ground for the suspicion that the law is broken by the failure to insist upon compliance with the provision requiring the lodging of 5s. with each objection. In the old days,’ if the police reported in the case of the men to which I have referred, “ We cannot hear of any of these men being in the district,” their names would be struck off the roll; but when we demanded a deposit of 5s. with each objection, many persons who had previously lodged objections did not think it worth while doing so, with the result that; at the last general election, we had a bigger vote and a greater roll - because we had a more correct roll - than ever before.
– We have 177,000 names in excess of the number that should be on the roll.
– The honorable member is like a parrot; he repeats whatever his leader says. Has he not heard the statement that the ordinary voters’ roll was much larger than the certified roll which was used by the electoral officers on polling day ? What is the use of honorable mem bers speaking, over and over again, of 170,000 more names ? I confess I am getting a little suspicious about this statement, and I should like to see some good authority for it. We ought to have some official figures showing the actual enrolment by the Department as compared with the census returns. We know that in taking the census a certain allowance is made for error; and yet it is regarded as a most comprehensive and reliable statistical table. The card system has proved an excellent one, though, of course, it cannot be regarded as perfect. In taking the census, we aim at getting a signed card from every person * in the Commonwealth ; and, in regard to the electoral rolls, the effort is to have the name and signature of every person entitled to a vote.
– Do not electors’ rights give a complete record ?
– The honorable member would be astonished if he knew as much as some honorable members do about the tricks that are resorted to. Under the Queensland State law, it was necessary, in order to get a vote, for a man to name the particular allotment on which he lived ; and all this sort of thing is done by the friends and supporters of the honorable member.
– A person has to wait now for twelve months in Queensland before he gets a vote.
– That is so; and all these restrictions are due to the Liberal party, though the term “ Liberal “ is certainly a” wrong one, under the circumstances. Rightly or wrongly, the people in the present age are divided into classes, and we can tell roughly from the occupation and circumstances of a man how he will vote.
– Can we?
– Yes; and the object of our opponents is to keep Labour supporters off the roll.
– If the honorable member is able to say how a man will vote, why do he and his colleagues talk so much about the secrecy of the ballot?
– The honorable member must think “ we came down in the last shower.” The secrecy of the ballot is one of the greatest boons we have. It prevents employers and others in authority from knowing which way their employes vote. We, on this side, know the masses of the men intimately, and they trust us ; but they would not trust the employing classes with their power to boycott or starve them out, as has been done all through history, and is done now where possible. In any case, the point now isnot the secrecy of the ballot, but the efforts that are made to deprive men of the very chance of getting to the ballot.
– The discussion has now gone on for some hours without the motion being touched on at all, and perhaps it is just as well that I should say a few words about the Bill of which I am in charge. Although for the last week or two we have been discussing electoral affairs, honorable members have taken advantage of this Supply Bill to further discuss them.
– And there have been some shocking disclosures as to the action of the Government.
– I never even heard about these so-called “ shocking disclosures” till now.
– The right honorable gentleman is evidently not in the scheming part of the Cabinet.
– I have to announce that I propose to deliver the Budget-speech on this day week - the 1st October. Perhaps if I had made this announcement a little earlier it might, in some measure, have curtailed the debate, although it has been altogether directed to electoral matters. I regret there has been such delay in delivering the Budget-speech, but it was not possible to have it earlier. This, the third temporary Supply Bill that I have had to introduce, asks for a month’s Supply to the amount of £1,121,979. There is nothing unusual in the proposals contained in the Bill. The only matter that really requires explanation is that of the Treasurer’s Advance, which it is proposed to increase from £650,000 appropriated in the two previous Supply Bills by a further appropriation of £300,000. This increase is due to the system which has been adopted ever since the establishment of Federation, and by which all works and services prior to the passing of a Works Appropriation Act have to be paid out of Treasurer’s Advance. In the early days this method, so far from being inconvenient, was, in fact, very convenient; but the works now have attained such immense volume that it is no longer suitable. Personally, I do not like asking for what apparently looks like entrusting the Treasurer with an advance on account of nearly £1,000,000. It is entirely due to the system which has been in force for the last twelve “years, and not to any desire on the part of the Treasurer to spend money in directions not authorized by Parliament.
– The right honorable gentleman does not approve, of the system ?
– I do not ; and if I have the opportunity - of which I am not sure - I shall alter it. I certainly shall not do again what has been done this year, but will ask for temporary Supply for Works and Buildings in the same way as ordinary Supply is asked for ordinary services - two Bills instead of one. By this means, the Treasurer’s Advance would be put into its proper position; and I may point out that, when the Estimates in chief have been disposed of, and the Appropriation Act is passed, the Treasurer’s Advance will not amount to more than £500,000 for the year.
Mr.Hughes. - That is up to July. Is the right honorable member reckoning on the extra month ?
– We propose to ask for only £500,000, which, I think, will do very well. Thinking that honorable members might adversely criticise the request for £300,000 more for the Treasurer’s Advance, I had a statement printed and circulated showing that out of the £650,000 previously voted a sum of £606,650 had been expended on the following works : - Additions, new works and buildings, £241,000; construction of telegraphs and telephones, £279,000; naval and military new works, £64,100; Northern Territory works, £12,550; and wireless telegraphy, £10,000. This leaves only £43,350 as the amount really chargeable to expenditure under what is properly Treasurer’s Advance. I can assure honorable members that the greatest care has been taken in the expenditure of this large amount of money ; but, as I say, I think the better, and, indeed, necessary plan in the future will be to obtain Supply for Works and Buildings in hand authorized by Parliament during the previous year, and to avoid asking for large sums of money for Treasurer’s Advance. In Committee, I shall be glad to explain any of the items
I have just read, and be able to show honorable members that everything has been done regularly and in order. It is understood that temporary Supply Bills shall not include works and services not already authorized by Parliament. That, to some extent, is inconvenient, because works have to be delayed until the approval of Parliament is obtained. There is, however, no alternative, as there is no authority- to spend money on works not already authorized unless small works out of the Treasurer’s Advance. I do not think I need say anything more. We shall have the Budget this day week, and then I shall have the opportunity of placing before honorable members, as well as I can, the financial position of the country in all its various aspects. I am sorry that I have had to ask this third time for what is called temporary Supply, or Supply on account.
– You should have brought the Budget on before.
– One ought to do many things, but it has not been possible to do so. I hope there will be no necessity now for undue discussion in regard to these matters, because they will all be included, these and other items in the previous Supply Bills, in the Estimates, which, together with the Budget papers and air information, will be placed before honorable members on Wednesday next.
– I think that if the right honorable gentleman had made this explanation earlier in the debate, the motion would have been agreed to long ago.
– I could not get a chance.
– I never heard the science of government so admirably reduced to epigrammatic dimensions as in the speech - short, and marked with those personal touches which have endeared him to us all - the right honorable gentleman has just delivered. As we now see it, the science of government is simplicity itself. Shortly stated, in spite of all its ramifications, and particularly in finance, it appears to be that it does not really matter what we do, or how we do it, provided the right honorable gentleman, the member for Swan, is the gentleman who is on the Treasury benches. “It is all very simple, and we are not to discuss the matter,” he says. It will be no good discussing it, because it will be all ex plained by the right honorable gentleman, so that even a child will be able to understand it - -even gentlemen on the Opposition side will be able to understand it. He is eager to get to the business. The right honorable gentleman stands like a greyhound straining at the leash. I admit he does not look like it, but we must look at him with the poetic eye of imagination, and picture him straining at the leash until Wednesday next, when he is to deliver his Budget speech. That will be a great day.
When we say to him, “ Why did yon not give us the Budget before,” he says, “ No one is in ore eager to get to it than I am.” And when we ask about the Advance Account, he says, “ I do not believe in it. We are going to do without it in the future.” Ah! that future! Sir, how things have changed! When we were on the other side of the chamber, no explanation we could afford would help the right honorable gentleman in the slightest degree. Then, discussion was the foundation of good government; to every measure and proposal we brought forward the right honorable gentleman brought a meticulous criticism that left ‘us all sore. Then, it was not two or three sheets stuck together in a flimsy way by a pin, gone through jauntily, but a most formidable octavo volume which he used to go through to the bitter end. Now, however, a change of climate, with the wind east-south-east by a quarter north, and on the placid sea of a seat on the Ministerial bench, it is “Be perfectly satisfied. All is well. I am in charge.”
In respect to this little Bill, he admits lie has not done quite right;. he does not believe in the Treasurer’s Advance Account; “ But what could I do V he says - and this is encouragement to us all - “if you only leave me here another year, I will not do it at all.” A man with as little heart and soul in him as there is in a stone monument could not resist an appeal and inducement of that sort. For my part, the Treasurer shall remain there for many years if we have a positive assurance that he will give to various measures that careful consideration that he obviously has given in this case. I am sure that all that explanation of the use to which he has put the moneys he is asking for has sunk into the bottom of the soul of every man here. I venture to say that there is no human being in this chamber who has the faintest idea of it. But that is entirely because we are unable to appreciate the manner in which the right, honorable gentleman sets forth his arguments. There is that personal equation. To understand the right honorable gentleman we must appreciate him, and trust him with absolute faith. No Christian scientist ever approached a difficult problem of acute colic with that pathetic faith and trust in the efficacy of belief with which the right honorable gentleman approaches the financial position. However, wo are to wait a week before we can get anything further, and we are, at the same time, face to face with a declaration by the Attorney-General with reference to an electoral matter which places the House in a very awkward position. We dp not care to refuse Supply; that would be quite improper, not only from the stand-point of the country, but because it would inflict on the right honorable gentleman a blow which, in his delicate state of health,’ I venture to say, he could hardly survive ; and I shall not venture so far. I say, however, to the Attorney-General that in making a statement of the sort that I have been told the learned gentleman did make, in reference to the rights of electors under the present Act, in relation to objections, he failed altogether to point out the fundamental distinction between giving information and making an objection. These things are fundamentally distinct. What the elector now has is the right to supply the Electoral Office with information. It is an inherent right, not only in regard to the electoral law, but practically in regard to all laws where a citizen is not, for some reason, statute barred; but, as in most other cases, while a citizen may give information, it remains for somebody else to initiate a prosecution. In this particular case the individual elector may supply to the Electoral Office as much information in respect to as many electors as he pleases, and the Electoral Office may, or may not, investigate that information ; and, if it thinks fit, may even proceed, under sections 67 and 68, to bring the matter before a Court, which Court has the power of striking names off the roll. What is now proposed in the Electoral Bill is, instead of the present method, by which objections are to be made, each objection having to be accompanied by a sum of 5s., to substitute a system by which objections lodged by an individual elector are made the foundation of a proceeding before a Court. The foundation of the present proceeding in the Courts is action by the Electoral Office, or action by some person who has deposited a sum of 5s. It is proposed now to enable any person, without depositing the sum of 5s., to proceed to instigate the Court to action, and to strike off a name. The Attorney-General speaks about having a pure roll. We are just as anxious to have a pure roll; but there is a difference between a pure roll and offering an inducement to party managers and organizers to strike off the rolls the names of their political opponents. We are all very human, and party organization is about as human an institution as it is possible to get. We say, “ We give yon money; we supply you with machinery; your business is to lodge as many objections as possible.” It is notorious that, in England, the two party machines, between elections and preparing for byelections, are almost exclusively engaged in striking off the’ rolls the names of their opponents, and in putting their own on. The right to supply the Electoral Office with information is a right that should not be curtailed. It is now in the possession of- every elector in Australia, and I have been told - and if it is not true we should be informed - that the Electoral Office, because of that information, has acted on it, and will act on it. That, however, is quite a different matter from the proposal in the Electoral Bill, which is that this information, coming from atainted and an interested source, is to be the foundation upon which a man’s name is to disappear from the roll. True, the man has to be notified; that is to say, notice has to be sent to his last postal address. The Australian is more largely nomadic in his habits than the inhabitants of other countries. The other day the honorable member for East Sydney gave an amusing illustration of the extent to which men and women move about during elections. A large proportion of the people in any electorate shift about, and I venture to say the sending of a notice to the last postal address of the average elector is a very poor way of notifying the elector of the objector’s intention to object to his name. The present position is that every elector has the right to supply information to the Electoral Office to assist in the purification of the rolls.
The present right is fundamentally different from the right which will exist if the Electoral Bill becomes law. How.ever, as it is desired to report progress, I shall reserve any further remarks I have to make for another occasion.
– 1 would remind honorable members thai, Tuesday next being pay day, it will be necessary for us to get Supply before then, and that the Senate will have only Friday on which to deal with the Bill. If the public servants do not get their pay on Tuesday, they will not be very well satisfied.
– Why did not the honorable member bring in the Bill yesterday, or last week )
– I was not aware yesterday that honorable members were going to take a holiday to-morrow. The honorable member when in office did not do everything that he should have done.
: .Motion (by. Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until a quarter to 8 p.m. to-morrow.
House adjourned at 6.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130924_reps_5_70/>.