5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Employes’ Grievances - Preventionof Reforms - Telephone Text-book.
– In the last Parliament, the honorable member for Parraraatta stated that “ in spite of the statement of this self-satisfied Minister” - ha . was referring to myself - “ many employes” - that is, of the PostmasterGeneral - “ are smarting under a tremendous sense of injustice.” I ask the honorable gentleman at the head of the Department if the Prime Minister has’ . brought under his notice the’ fact that the postal officials are smarting under a tremendous sense of injustice; and, if so, what has been done to remove their grievances?
– I have received a number of deputations from postal employe’s, and I am dealing, so far as I can, with the. grievances submitted.
– In view of the statement of the Postmaster-General last evening, that he has been prevented by redtapism from carrying out certain reforms in the Post Office, will the honorable gentleman lay on the table a statement of the reforms that he cannot carry out because of the disloyalty of public officials ?
– I shall consider the matter carefully.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take into consideration the advisableness of having a text-book containing diagrams of the various telephone circuits printed and issued to the employe’s of the telegraph and telephone branches - a book similar to that published some years ago by Mr. Jenvey but brought up to date? .
– We are using Mr. Jenvey’ s book at the present time, and I believe that it is pretty well up to date. The. Department buys copies of it, and supplies its officers.
– Is the Prime Minister correctly reported to have said that the farmers feel their burdens growing heavier day by day as .the result of recent legislation in the Federal sphere, and will the honorable gentleman indicate one legislative measure which has imposed additional burdens on the farmers?
– I have not yet had time to read the report, and I am very tired.
– In view of the statement of the Prime Minister that he is tired, and in view of the fact that honorable members are being forced to sit here _ for long hours and until late at night, will the honorable gentleman take into consideration the advisability of discontinuing Friday sittings?
-Unless some business is done, I think I shall .take into serious consideration the question of doing away with sittings on other days as well.
– I am not clear regarding the intention of the Government in getting a report from the naval engineering expert on the Naval Base in Cockburn Sound. Is it intended that this .expert shall advise concerning the site of the Naval Base in Cockburn Sound, or only concerning the details of the general lay-out of the work at Jervois© Bay?
– The expert is to give us the benefit of his advice on everything concerning the Cockburn Sound Naval Base.
– Can the Minister of External Affairs inform the House when the High Commissioner for Australia is likely to arrive,, and will the honorable gentleman give that official an opportunity to meet the producers of the various States, so that they may discuss with him export arrangements and markets in various parts of. the world ?
– It is expected that the High Commissioner will arrive on the 20th October. Although he* is not paying an official visit, he will do everything in his power to help in all these matters, and, so far as he can, to get into touch with the opinions of people here. I shall see him’ on the subject, and I am sure, that he will consider the suggestion.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs had an opportunity to make inquiries concerning the offer to secure an expert to advise the Government concerning the cotton industry; and, if so, will he say what is being done in the matter ?
– I stated the position generally yesterday. There is. to be a conference in the Colonial Office in Octo-ber, at which Australia is to be repre- ‘sented, it having been decided a few days ago to ask for representation . In the main, it will be a meeting of those interested in the - cotton industry, with a view to taking into consideration the cost of production. The sum of £500 has been set aside as. a vote towards paying the .ex- < peases of the visit of an expert, and we shall conform with the honorable mem- . ber’s desire by doing everything we can to get an expert sent out to examine the possibilities of cotton growing, notmerely in Queenland, but also in the Northern Territory.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The day before yesterday, a senator brought under my notice a statement made by the representative of the Albury electorate in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, who, he said, had told him that I had refused a pair to the honorable member for Hume when that honorable gentleman wished for one in order that he might have an opportunity to attend the’ funeral of a relative. I ask the Government Whips if I have ever refused .a pair in the case of sickness, and I ask the hon orable member for Hume whether I refused him a pair on the occasion referred to?
– It is not in order to ask a private member a question, except in relation to some business that he has on the notice-paper, or a Bill of which he is in charge; but the honorable member for Hume may, if lie desires, make a personal explanation.
– As a personal explanation, I say that I did not apply through the Whips for a pair, nor had I to request a pair for such a lamentable occurrence as the honorable member for Maranoa refers to.
– Before calling on Government business, I desire to draw the attention of honorable members to the growing practice of . disregarding one of our Standing Orders. Frequently, when honorable members have friends in the gallery, they hold conversations with them from the gangway between the back benches and the bar. I am naturally loath to interrupt such conversations, but yesterday there were three going on at the one time. Honorable members also sometimes stand in the gangways and converse with persons sitting in the press gallery. These practices are contrary to the Standing Orders, but I have no doubt that what is done is done in ignorance or forgetf uhiess of the rule. For the information of honorable members’, and in the hope that when they know the standing order they will not repeat the offence, and will thus make it unnecessary for me to call them to order, I will read the rule to which I have drawn attention. Standing order 54 says -
Every member of the House when he comes into the chamber shall take his place, and shall not at any time stand in any of the passages or gangways.
If honorable gentlemen will kindly remember that standing order, they will save me some trouble, and will relieve me of the necessity of having to call their attention to the disregard of it.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 1418), on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Bill is of very great importance, dealing, as it does, with one of the most vital questions that Parliament and the country can consider. Apparently, it is not making the progress that Ministers would desire, but I am not surprised at that, because, althoughhitherto the proposals of the Government have contained nothing of a very contentious nature, the provisions of this measure are so highly contentious that it is likely to- have a long and stormy passage through the House. In it we have a clear indication of the policy of the Government. I submit that the Bill has been wrongly named, and that it should be entitled “ A Bill for an Act for the purpose of swindling the electors of Australia out of their votes.” That is the object of the measure.
– The honorable member must not use such expressions.
– We hear a great deal said about “ Fusionists,” and so forth ; but we do not care to be worried with either the ancient or comparatively modern, political history of our friends opposite. We can judge them by their actions and by this Bill; and there is no doubt that the Fusion has “ gone to the wall,” and that we have opposite a Conservative party with all the worst features of that party- Their policy is nothing newIf the franchise be extended in any part of the Empire, and the Conservatives are in power, they always associate with such extension, or follow it immediately, with some swindling attempt to rob those whom they enfranchise. This is only carrying out, as I say, the traditional policy of their party. We have to consider whether we are not to-day facing a widespread conspiracy against the rights of the great masses of the Australian people to prevent them recording their votes and using the instrument of Parliament for their protection and advancement. Only a few days ago, the Prime Minister, during one of his weekly talks, which extend from the Saturday to the Monday, expressed his pleasure at the cordial relationship that is growing up between the Federal Liberal party and the State Liberal parties, and he hoped that this would continue and extend. A similar tone is adopted by Mr. Watt, the distinguished Premier of Victoria; and there is no doubt that the cultivation of this cordial feeling is with the object of swindling the people out of their votes. In South Australia, the electoral boundaries are being altered and the number of members increased, with no other object than a deliberate attempt, the Government having the power in both Houses, of gerrymandering the electorates in the Liberal interest. When we find this sort of thing all over Australia, and a Bill of the character of that we are now considering, it causes us to apeak somewhat strongly. Of course, I have spoken of this measure in a manner that no public man is justified in adopting’ unless be is in a position to prove his statements; and I think I shall be able to show that this is simply a swindlers’ Bill.
– Order !
– Is this language in order ?
– I have already told the honorable member that he must not use expressions of that kind.
– Apparently, it is only the Prime Minister who may use such language at the week-ends.
– If the head of the Government objects to the language
– Why, a Minister has referred to us as criminals.
– I submit that the honorable member for Hindmarsh should withdraw the allegations of swindling and robbing, and apologize for having made them.
– We have been described as the associates of criminals.
– The honorable member for Grey is out of order. I have several times reminded honorable members that it is highly disorderly to interject, particularly when the Speaker is on his feet. I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw the objectionable words he has used, and not to use words that impute improper motives. If he thinks it necessary to speak strongly, he must avoid the use of offensive expressions.
– I have great pleasure in withdrawing the remarks I made if they are offensive to my honorable friend, the head of the Government. But I ask honorable members whether, after the case is made out, the country can come - I shall not say to any other conclusion, but ask to what conclusion the country can come? The Bill before us is for the purpose of amending the Electoral Act. The main basic principle of the Constitution is that every man and woman in Australia shall have a vote; and if women did not vote for the first Parliament, it was because the necessary machinery had not been prepared. There is something that should be above party - something that should be unmistakably the sheet-anchor of this great Commonwealth. There should be no tampering or playing with the right of all men and women to record their votes freely, as they feel disposed, so that in one portion of the Empire, at any rate, we may have a Government that represents the manhood and womanhood of the country. As a matter of fact, however, the effect of the Bill is to destroy the secrecy of the ballot; and that is the first of three indictments that may be drawn against the measure. The second is’ that associated with the re-introduction of the postal vote; but I do not propose to traverse the ground already covered by previous speakers. There is, however, a burning desire on the part of the Government and their supporters to reinstate postal voting ; . and it is not quite realized, except by those who are in the vortex of politics, how this can be made one of the finest instruments of corruption. I am not disposed to refuse the right of the vote to the sick, provided they may exercise it without leaving a loop-hole for corrupt practices. I hold that there is corruption wherever we find an interference with the sacred secrecy of the ballot; and I have yet to hear a proposal which would do justice to the sick and at the same time would not be abused. The majority of the sick are, I believe, /patriotic enough to waive their right to vote, so that the secrecy of the ballot may be maintained. Under the old system that was righteously repealed by the late Government, we saw more postal votes recorded in Victoria than in the whole of Australia, and in the aristocratic, educated, and refined district of Kooyong more votes of the kind than were polled throughout the State. I am not alone in my antipathy to this method of voting. I remember my late lamented friend, the Right Honorable Charles Kingston, one of Australia’s statesmen, when it was proposed to enable seamen to vote in South Australia, saying to me, “ You are doing a dangerous trick, and you had better leave it alone; once the practice is instituted, the secrecy of the ballot is over.” My own opinion may not be worth much, but the opinion of my late right honorable friend was worth a great deal when he was alive, not only in his own State, but throughout the Commonwealth. Of course, we are not bound by the dead hand, but it is worth while sometimes to take cognisance of the principles and opinions valued by the departed statesmen of Australia. There is the obvious fact that this method of voting is an engine of corruption. It is not used in the back-blocks to any material extent, but it is used largely in the centres of population for one purpose, and one purpose only.
– There were less than a dozen prosecutions in connexion with the postal vote.
– There have been no prosecutions at all under the Act as it is at present. The second indictment against the Government is that of attempting to abolish Saturday as a polling day. Of course, the Government are not going to prohibit Saturday by providing to that effect in the Bill. The late Government values Saturday voting so much that they thought it essential to expressly provide for it ; and what is the advantage of Saturday polling 1 Throughout the country, both in the town and in the outlying parts, the majority of those who are commonly described as the working class are at liberty on the Saturday afternoon; this gives them ample time to associate with their friends and to record their votes. I am not a betting man, but I think it would be .a safe thing to wager that if the present Government were in power when an election takes place, we should not have the polling on the Saturday. They have enough Conservative instincts to avoid that day; and why? They know that the great army of the well-to-do can vote or take their pleasure at any time, whereas the working people find that impossible. This is the reason that the provision for Saturday voting is to be struck out of the Bill. It is said that we ought not to impute motives; but when we see a motive clearly and unmistakably staring one in the face, what conclusion can we draw? What is the’ position today? The early morning trams and trains, at an hour when people with work like our own are not about, are crowded with the working classes. We see trains and trams in the early morning crowded with men going to their daily work. We are told that they can vote when they return home at night. Of course they can. A man could run 5 miles after his day’s work if he cared to do so, but would he be likely to do anything of the kind ? Is there not a strong resumption - and no one knows this better than does the Prime Minister - that after a man has been toiling all day in a mine, or at the waterside, or at any heavy work, he will be too tired on returning home to dress and go out again to vote.
– The Prime Minister has forgotten all that.
– No; I shall not say that. A man can never forget his early experiences. The result of the abolition of Saturday voting will be a light poll on the part of the workers. Is this not a strong indictment against the Government? Is this not an attempt on their part to disfranchise thousands of working men? Such a provision must have that effect, but it will not disfranchise one of the well-to-do classes, or any of the crowd associated with the Government. All this goes to prove, as I said during the debate on the AddressinReply, that the Government have declared war on the working classes. This is not swindling-
– Order ! The honorable member must not make use of that expression.
– I did not say it was “ swindling,” Mr. Speaker. What I said was “ this is not swindling,” but I would like my honorable friend, the Prime Minister, to say what it is, or what word in the English language would fitly describe it?
– One word will describe the honorable member’s tirade, and that is “hogwash.”
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I do not want it withdrawn.
– I am glad, Mr. Speaker that you hear everything I say. I withdraw the remark.
– The Prime Minister apparently does not like what I am saying.
– It seems to me that you can call us swindlers and robbers as much as you like over there.
– Order! That is a reflection on the Chair. I have already called upon the honorable member for Hindmarsh-
– Mr. Speaker, that-
– The honorable member is out of order in interrupting the Speaker. I called the honorable member for Hindmarsh to order when he referred to “ swindlers.” At my direction he “withdrew the expression, and the Prime Minister has no right to reflect on the impartiality of the Chair.
– By way of personal explanation-
– The Prime Minister must set an example to the House. It will be necessary for him to withdraw the reflection on -the Chair before he makes a personal explanation.
– I am not aware that 1 have made any reflection on the Chair.
– The honorable gentleman said that I could hear certain statements on one side of the House, and suggested, by implication, that I permitted honorable members on the other side to use unbecoming expressions as much as they liked.
– Since you have been in the chair this morning, Mr. Speaker, I have heard the honorable member for Hindmarsh repeat these words half-a-dozen times. That is a fact.
– Order ! In the first place., that is not a personal .explanation, tend, in the second place, the statement :is incorrect. I listened to the honorable member very carefully., and when he made a certain statement, which imputed improper motives to the authors of the Bill, I at once called him to order.
– I regret very much that the Prime Minister is so “ touchy.” I am led to believe, by the irritation he displays, that there must be a good deal of force in my remarks. I have been pointing out the very curious policy adopted by our Conservative friends, and in this connexion there is an historic fact -that is worth remembering. It is that you can always get -a renegade to do work of this character better than any man belonging to a party with which he has been associated all his life. Let us look at the prince of renegades. The first of these was Thomas Wentworth,. Earl of Strafford, who struggled hard, was leader of the Parliamentary party, and who made a page of history of which we are all proud. But Thomas Wentworth was decoyed over to the side of the Court party, and thereafter initiated a series of horrid prosecutions against his comrades and others who had struggled with him in the cause of liberty. He sent these men to dungeons, and committed such crimes that at last the Commons passed a Bill of Attainder and sent him to his grave. From the days of the infamous Earl of Strafford to the present time, when there has been anything to do interfering with the liberty of the people - dirty work of any kind ‘to be done - a renegade has always been prepared to do it better than any one. else.
– Order ! I call the attention of the .honorable member to the offensive innuendoes his language conveys. There is an obvious inference ,to be drawn from his analogy that I would remind him is against parliamentary practice. I ask the honorable member not to pursue this course.
– I am simply referring to a page of history, .but I shall return at once to my indictment against the Government. The nest proposal >to which I desire to refer is the numbering of ballot-papers and their butts. W.e .all know what .a long fight .there was ‘to establish the ballot in the Old Country. It was copied from Australia, where It was first introduced, and .South Australia .had something to do with the initiation of .-the system, which has since been adopted .in the United States, and indeed wherever the English language is spoken. .Nothing more is required than that every ballotpaper shall bear the initials .of the returning ‘officer, so that .only those which have been issued .by .him shall be counted. We are told that .the numbering of ballotpapers .and butts will be found advantageous in the case of a .disputed election. I think it will offer a premium to disputed elections. If adopted, the people .will soon realize that the secrecy of the ballot-box has been Jost. Thousands of timid workers will fear that they will lose their bread and .butter if vested interests learn how they vote, and will, therefore, refrain from voting at all. This system will not affect the bold and the daring - they will beat any party at its own game; but it will have a most serious effect on the timid section of the community. I appeal to honorable members opposite not to be so eager to pass provisions of this kind. Australia’s great strength lies in the homes of Australia’s people, and it should be our first desire to do everything to protect those homes. Their chief protection is the ballot-paper, which can be used at election time, and the secrecy of the ballot. I have no quarrel with the wealthy class, but we need not worry about them. We may be sure that they will always be represented. But is any one prepared to say that this is not an attempt on the part of the Government, obviously for party purposes, to reduce the number of persons going to the poll?
– Are not the ballotpapers numbered in South Australia? They are in Victoria and Queensland.
– They are not in South Australia. I have heard it said that they are numbered in the Old Country, but I doubt it. The Select Committee of the House of Commons, which inquired into the system some thirty years ago, was largely influenced by the practice in South Australia ; and even in the United States, where the Australian system has been adopted, they do not think of numbering the butts of the ballot-papers, because they have quite enough “ butts “ already. I come now to what is known as the “ press-gag “ clause. All over the Empire we have a great commercial press - but a press without any principle. It is out to make money as a purely commercial undertaking, and the large daily newspapers constitute some of the finest properties in the Empire. They derive an enormous income from their advertisements, which are sent in by the commercial and mercantile sections of the community, and indeed by the people of all avocations. It may be said that there was no necessity for the action we took in the last Parliament, when we insisted that newspaper articles on political questions during an election campaign should be signed. I believe that it was the least we could do, and that before many years have passed, the British Government will have to take measures to regulate not the freedom, but the licence, of the press. The press at present enjoys not freedom, but unmitigated licence. When two great nations are straining at the leash and threatening war, the leading statesmen, seeking to uphold the European concert, fear not so much the authorities behind them as the newspapers with their fire brand articles. The late Napoleon once said “The country slipped through my fingers,” and when that happens war is inevitable. On more than one occasion the press ‘ has nearly brought about a European conflagration. Its power, which is always used on the one side, is monstrous. With the exception of the Sydney Bulletin, which gives us a fair deal in some of its articles, and the Labour journals, which are not financially strong enough to compete with their powerful rivals, there is not in the Commonwealth to-day a newspaper which is allied with the Labour party. They are a menace and a trouble to every Liberal and Reform statesman in England, and to every one of a progressive character here. All we asked them to do was to sign what they wrote, simply putting them on the level with ourselves when we go to our constituents. Parliamentary candidates are well enough known, and are responsible for what they say. People once trembled about the editorial “ We,” but now those with any sense laugh at it. In my opinion, the provision with regard to signing press articles did not go far enough in merely interfering at election time. I consider that there should be some limit to the licence of the press in order to secure that right be” done in the country. But why is it that the. party now in power wish to repeal this provision ? It is because they wish to have the assistance of the full strength and power of the commercial press in season and out of season. Newspapers sell by meeting, the tastes and fads and desires of all sections of the community, and in this way they secure a tremendous amount of capital; and by the repeal of this provision the Government party hope to secure the aid of these powerful interests in carrying on their war against the working people of the country. I think that is strong enough for a fourth indictment. We know that when the present party caine into power there were allegations in the press as to a tremendous amount of corrupt practices and duplicate voting at the last general election. These allegations were made with the intention of poisoning the minds of a great number of the public against members of the Labour party, the inference being that the Labour party were in power by reason of the fact that our supporters voted early and voted often. But what was the truth ? The Government thought they had something to go on, but as day followed day they discovered there was nothing in the rumours; and it is now incumbent on honorable members of the Opposition to attempt to do their part in seeing that justice is done to the people, if the Government are not prepared to do it. We should not pass this Bill until we have a Select Committee or a Royal Commission to probe this matter to the bottom. Government inquiries are of no use. When a Select Committee or a Royal Commission reports, Parliament will be in possession of a State document that can be quoted in the future by people of this Continent as a sample of a great joke. But it is no joke to accuse the mass of the people of the country of being so far lost to the sense of equity and justice as to approve of a system of duplicate voting to turn the result of an election against the legitimate wishes of the people. It is one of the gravest things with which the people of a country could be charged. Fortunately, one of the guarantees for the security of the Empire is that the great mass of the people can secure a fair deal and justice by means of the ballot-box. It is a security far greater than the platitudes of those associated with arts and sciences, and there can be very little go wrong with the country when there is among the overwhelming masses the innate desire to see that right be done. The people love natural justice, though they may be very suspicious of what the law may call justice.
– Do you support the appointment of a Royal Commission?
– Undoubtedly, so long as this Bill does not go any further ; otherwise we would be taking action on an ex parte statement from the Government. We are asked to pass this measure for purifying the rolls on allegations made by the Government and their supporters - merely on ex parte statements without proof. If the Government were to take a case on those grounds before the High Court or a Supreme Court the Bench would say, “ What are the points on which you rely?” and if the Government said, “ We rely on ex parte statements,” the Court would immediately retort, “Do not insult the Court; run away and give us something of which a tribunal can take cognisance.” I do not know that I need make a great deal of noise about the transfer after one month provision, but the proposal is part of the game of our “opponents. The proposal of the Ministry will enable them to attenuate the roll. They do not believe in a stuffed roll; neither do I; nor do I believe in an attenuated roll. I would be very sorry to apply my remarks this morning to all honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House; it would be doing an injustice to them; but certainly they are drifting, and apparently they cannot see where they are going. One of the most dangerous courses to any individual, or to a party, or to a country, is to drift without any compass, and without any object. That is what is happening on this occasion. The transfer after a month provision associated with other things is made with the object of reducing the roll and preventing it from being a legitimate and faithful statement of those entitled to vote. In regard to the alteration of. electoral boundaries, the old practice of having the Surveyor-General, and an electoral officer, with a gentleman nominated by the Governor in Council, is to be superseded by leaving the matter to a Supreme Court- Judge. I object to this. I do not say the world will cometo an end if we adopt it, but I appeal to honorable members to be careful in this matter. The more we separate the executive and administrative functions from the judicial the better. We wish our Judiciary to deal with judicial matters, and not to be drawn into the political arena by any side track as will be the effect of this proposal. We know that Mr. Justice Higgins is the President of the Court of Arbitration, before which every worker has the right to appear, just as any one may appear in a Court under the law of torts; but there is no reason why when we get in a tight corner and begin to quarrel among ourselves on party lines we should run to a Judge to settle the matter.
– That is because the Judge is the most impartial person that can be secured.
– I believe the Judges, by virtue of their office, are entitled to our respect, but one Judge told me, “ You know, Mr. Archibald, I question very much whether the public do not think too much of us. After all is said and done we are only men, and we are only giving our opinions.” Nevertheless, Judges are, by virtue of the work they have done, and of the position they hold, entitled to our respect, but when we ask them to fix up squabbles about electoral boundaries we must consider what the result may be. No Judge will please both sides of the House, and upon the fixing of a boundary may turn the fate of a party or a Government. Let the Judges do their proper work, and for that purpose let us fence them in so that they can be looked up to by the whole community. Are we, the representatives of the people of Australia, doing justice in this proposal when we remember the axiom that the Judiciary should be separate and independent from the Government and their administration, and the Legislature ? I undertake to say it is almost a certainty that the Judges will not send a letter to the Attorney-General begging the Parliament to excuse them from this duty, but, nevertheless, we should not be so deficient in common sense as not to see that we are putting these gentlemen in a position in which we have no right to put them. We should not do anything that will have a tendency to lessen the respect to which the Bench are entitled by virtue of their high office. But leaving party considerations out of the matter, why should we, because we have got into a tight corner, run away from the difficulty. Australia has not been built up by Australians who ran away from trouble; that policy will not help Australians in the future; and I hope the Government will see their way clear to strike out this proposal. I hope their supporters, at any rate, will see their way clear not to adopt it. I plead on behalf of the occupants of the Judicial Bench, who cannot come here themselves and ask us to give them a fair deal. They have a right to think that we will not put them into any false position, nor do anything to weaken their authority, nor interfere with their work. I come now to my next indictment, a charge that has already been freely made, and will be made again if the Bill gets into Committee. Ministers have a certain audacity; it cannot be called pluck, unless it is pluck to run one’s head against a, wall, which is much like what they are doing. They have a majority of one in this Chamber, and are in a minority of twenty-two in the other. They cannot, under these circumstances, successfully make war on the liberties of the Australian people. But for cheek and political audacity, commend me to their proposals. It would have staggered any one on this side to be asked to start on a job like theirs. The members of this party do not claim to be perfect, but, whatever mistakes we may have been guilty of, we have faith in the people, and desire to treat them fairly. If they show want of confidence in us, we shall respect their verdict, but there will be no attempt on our part to rob them of any right nor to interfere with their legitimate aspirations. It was the policy of the last Administration to give effect to that provision of the Constitution which requires that every man and every woman in Australia shall be permitted to vote. The framers of the Constitution said - “ We put the destinies of this great continent, without reserve, into the hands of the masses of the people. Let there be no restriction of the franchise. It is for the people themselves to determine all questions of development, of peace, and of war, and to do what is necessary for the benefit of the community, in accordance with the best instincts and ideals of the Motherland and the Empire.” The last Government made it their business to see that every elector was given an opportunity to get his name on the roll, and those who had nothing better to do than to hunt round for objections to enrolment were not encouraged. Against whom is it that objections are raised ? Against the merchant, the great lawyer, the commercial and vested interests, the motor-car brigade? No. It is the working people that are troubled in this way. John Bright said, years ago - “ Look at the great Babylon they have built.” It is the working people who have built the great cities of Australia, in association, of course, with the brains and intellect of other sections; but all are workers who do useful work for the country. When trade becomes dull, those belonging to the working classes have to travel about seeking for employment. But the sleuthhounds of the Conservative party - men too lazy to earn an honest living or unfit for other walks of life - are in and out of their office all day long with reports like this - “ Brown is away working in Albury, I heard to-day; we must object to his name being on the roll.” An intimation is sent to Brown’s address that an objection has been lodged, and then his name is struck off, and Brown finds himself unable to vote when an election takes place. It is the object of the Conservative party to weaken the roll; but I hope that its members will go through the length and breadth of Australia, and speak to the people of their great achievement. I hope that they will tell the farmers what they have done. I know the farmers of my own State, and they are similar to those of other States. They may have strong prejudices against the Labour party, and strongly dislike much of our legislation, but at heart they are honest and just, and would not agree to anything unfair or tricky. Sooner or later they will show that their view is the view of those who framed the Constitution, namely, that all the inhabitants of Australia should have a fair deal. In dealing with the roll we must respect the logie of facts. There must be on the roll the names of many persons who are often away from home travelling in different parts of the Continent, but who are, nevertheless, entitled to vote. I hope that honorable members opposite will not go to the- length of disfranchising a large part of the community. I bring seven indictments against the Government on account of this Bill, about which I should like to say the hardest things permitted by parliamentary usage. It is a Bill to give effect to an attempt to destroy the secrecy of. the ballot. The proposal to abolish Saturday polling is intended to rob the working man of his vote. The requirement of a month’s notice in connexion with transfers has for its object the attenuation of the roll. My next charge is in connexion with the interference with the Judicial Bench. It is not right to propose to put distinguished gentlemen who hold the King’s Commission into an unfortunate position. The press-gagging provisions of the present law are right and proper. It was neces-sary in the interest of freedom, liberty, and justice that the press should be con*trolled at election time, and the fact that the Government wish to repeal these provisions is a further offence. The proposal that the butts- from which the ballotpapers are torn shall be signed by voters is an attempt to destroy the secrecy of the ballot. Further, the Government have no right to proceed with a measure of this character until a Royal Commit sion or Select Committee has reported on evidence’, not on hearsay statements,, that past elections, have been corrupt. You must justify charges against the elec- tors before proposing to amend the law. If I have used strong language, I apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, but I feel strongly on this matter. More than forty years of my life have been spent in securing Radical and Labour reforms, and since I was a youth I have worked for the good of the masses. When I see a party possessing , wealth, education, culture, and power, backing the Conservatives, my blood boils. There are no lofty ideals among honorable members opposite. What they propose is paltry. In an underhand way they are trying to prevent the manhood and the womanhood of the country from recording their vote. But the House should be careful of the interests of those on the lowest rung of the ladder, even more than of other interests. I bear the wealthy of the country no ill-will, but I say that they more than others, should use their efforts for the advancement of those on the lowest rung of the ladder, and to secure justice to all. If the law is to be strained, let it be strained in favour of those who are least able to fight their own battles.
.- I am surprised that the indictments against the Government have not been replied to. Minister after Minister has remained silent, and their supporters are dumb. Has the criticism which they have heard made them ashamed- of the Bill ? Have they lost faith in it, and become afraid to champion i£?’
– We should have more to hear this criticism.
– I think that we should have a quorum. I do not wish to speak to empty benches. [Quorum formed.’] I should like to know whether, after the criticism that has been levelled against the Bill, the Government still intend to take it into Committee, or whether they will not ask leave to withdraw it for the purpose of recasting its provisions. I admit that during the elections’ the Government and their supporters put thequestion of postal voting before thepeople, and, of course, they are justified in trying to reinstate the system in some form or other. They have, however, gone beyond that, and are now endeavouring to recast the whole- of our electoral machinery without any mandate from the people for such .a drastic step. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that if the Bill becomes law, the secrecy of the ballot will be destroyed.-
The fact that the number on the butt will agree with the number on the ballotpaper puts it into the power of any returning officer, poll clerk, or scrutineer to ascertain on the count how any particular person has voted. I am quite sure that if any of my honorable friends opposite were to go to the Library and read of the great struggle that is going on in Belgium and other places on the Continent in order to maintain the right of voting and the eecrecy of the ballot, they would not support the Government in introducing a system altogether foreign to the democratic ideals of Australia. What is gained by the proposed numbering of the butt and the ballot-paper? We were told by the Honorary Minister that if any dispute arose about double voting it would be possible to trace the vote and convict. Surely we will not upset the whole of our electoral system with a view to obtaining convictions against particular persons.
– How otherwise can offenders be traced and convicted ?
– I have no desire to convict any one for the exercise of the franchise. Whether the number be on the back of the butt or on the front, it must harmonize with the number on the ballotpaper, and if offenders may be traced by means of the numbers, then it may be ascertained how particular people have voted. But the Government go even further, and provide that every elector must sign the butt - a practice unknown in the history of the Commonwealth.
– That has to be done in the case of the absent vote.
– That is very different from asking every elector to sign his name. My information is that there are about 70,000 people in the Commonwealth, residents of the back-blocks and elsewhere, and including a great number of our most worthy pioneers, who have not had the advantage of compulsory education, and who are really not able to sign their names. Their disability is no disgrace, but why should we degrade them by exposing their ignorance in the polling booth ? We are not the masters; but the servants of the people, and we have no right to belittle any section of our constituents. Many women and others might be most timid and nervous on attending the polling booth for the first time, and might find themselves utterly unable to sign their names in the presence of the throng.
– As to the illiterate, pro-; vision is made for them.
– I see no provision except that they must make a mark.
– The honorable member is confusing the signature on the butt, or, the declaration as to powerlessness to make a signature, -with the . voting in the booth, which is still secret.
– Many illiterate persons would rather not vote at all than make an exhibition of their ignorance to the officials. If the- Government will take friendly advice they will eliminate that part of the Bill. Otherwise there must be a very strenuous fight at the Committee stage, because we have the right to protect the humblest in the community, Furthermore, we have to consider the great number of blind electors. In the electorate of Nepean there are three large asylums, and a third in the constituency of the Prime Minister; and I ask whether those honorable gentlemen are going to be so cruel as to force those afflicted and infirm people to come along to the booths and sign their names ?
– We propose something better than the honorable member would be prepared to give; we propose to give the right to exercise the franchise without dragging those people into the polling booth.
– In what way ?
– By allowing them to vote by post.
– And, doubtless, the Honorary Minister will send a kind friend along to assist the unfortunate people to vote.
– We will send one of the Labour Justices of the Peace.
-I can understand the Honorary Minister desiring the postal vote under such circumstances, because then it would be possible to send some one to see that the votes were properly recorded in the interests of the Liberal party. Personally, the postal vote does not affectme in the least; Labour members can get majorities of thousands without relying on the sick. I should like to assist those unfortunate people to have the fullest possible opportunity to record their votes; and though they do not matter so much to myself, and others on this side, I know that to some honorable members opposite, who have to struggle for a few hundred votes, the postal vote is very important, because it can be manipulated, though, of course, I do not say that those gentlemen would be guilty of such conduct. We, as a party, say that the Government have not received any mandate to alter the main provisions of the Act, and to do away with the secrecy of the ballot.
– In no ‘way are we affecting the secrecy of the ballot, but if the honorable member thinks that we are, I shall be happy when in Committee to consider any suggestions he has to make.
– Personally, I shall assist the Honorary Minister to make the postal vote effective, so long as it is not open to abuse, and I believe that the same will be said by every honorable member on this side. As I said. before, the Government placed the question of the postal vote before the people at the last elections, but they certainly received no mandate to destroy the secrecy of the ballot.
– And nobody thinks of doing it.
– But the Bill now before us will have that effect, and, therefore, we intend to take every legitimate opportunity to prevent this measure becoming law. We are sent here to protect the rights of the people; and we do not, when in this House, act contrary to our declarations on the hustings.
– If the honorable member really thought that we were going to destroy the secrecy of the ballot he would not be so smilingly cheerful.
– It is not a cheerful matter for me. From my earliest boyhood I have been deeply impressed by the history of the fight for the franchise and the secrecy of the ballot; and I hope that even the supporters of the Government will not give a vote which will cast even the shadow of doubt on that secrecy. Any official or scrutineer will be able to see how any particular person has voted.
– Does the honorable member not know that the numbers are to be placed on the back of the ballot-paper? If that is not enough something further may be done.
– A scrutineer has the right to examine every ballot-paper, and it is not proposed to take that right away.
– We will consider eliminating that right if the honorable member chooses.
– This is one of the proposals that cause the Labour party to so strenuously oppose the measure. The Go vernment would be well advised in eliminating the provision requiring that ballotpapers and their butts should be numbered, and the butts themselves signed. They had received no mandate from thecountry to initiate such a system, and if they press it they will make a mistake which will undoubtedly react upon them. We shall take the platform throughout the country against the Government on the cry that they are seeking to do away with the secrecy of the ballot. Another feature of this Bill to which I object is the provision that the rolls shall be closed one month before the date of the issue of the writs. I was under the impression that the Government was consumed with a desire to give every adult an opportunity to get on the rolls and to exercise the franchise; but what will be the result of this change ? About a month prior to a general election the enthusiasm of the electors is aroused. Workers for the different parties are abroad, and whenever they hear that a man is not on the roll they advise him at once to get on. Under this provision he would not be able to do so. Suppose that a dissolution took place within the next few days? Such a thing is quite possible.
– I hope the honorable member is serious.
– We are fighting the Government and trying to induce them to go to the country. If a dissolution took place next week those who were not on the rolls could not secure enrolment if this provision had become law. The Bill makes no provision at all to meet a byelection or an. election suddenly sprung upon the people. The rolls, under it would be closed one month prior to a dissolution, so that thousands of people would be disfranchised. Under the law as it stands persons can be enrolled up to the date of issue of the writs. That system, which we introduced, has worked very satisfactorily. No one has complained, and it has given ample facilities to new arrivals, or those who have been neglectful, to get enrolled.
– The electoral officers complain.
– The electoral officers have to carry out the will of Parliament.
– They say, in effect, that they cannot get a clean roll.
– “In effect”! After all, it is a matter of administration. If more officers are required in the Department they can be obtained. This Parlia- ment has never been niggardly in regard to the number of officers required to carry out our electoral system.
– The honorable member for Oxley said that the rolls should be closed three months before a general election.
– He is a new man in this House. It is a great mistake to deprive any individual who is entitled to be on the roll of an opportunity to secure enrolment; but this is another attempt on the part of the Government to deprive the workers of an opportunity to get on the rolls. The Attorney-General has invited political organizations to assist in the purification of the rolls, and his statement has been repeated all over the country by members of his party. Any such practice must result in great harm. For instance, in the electorate of South Sydney, which I represent, we have a very congested population. Since Federation the population of Sydney has doubled. There, as in other large cities, population has increased so rapidly that it is almost impossible at the present time to get a house, and, in many cases, two or three families are living in ‘the one house. They are naturally on the look out for better accommodation, and, consequently, people are constantly changing their place of residence. They may remove merely from one street to another in the same Federal electorate, but an organizer finding that they had shifted, would, without taking the trouble to ascertain whether they were still residing in the same electorate, lodge an objection, with the result that the names of these people in all probability would be struck off the roll. This is a monstrous thing. Under the existing law a deposit of 5s. must accompany each objection, and if it be found that the information is false the person objecting is liable to a fine of £5. Under the Bill that restriction would be removed. The Attorney-General invites organizations on either side to lodge objections, and when they do so they need not pay any deposit.
– But they are liable to severe punishment for giving wrong information.
– Certainly; but if a dissolution took place to-morrow, canvassers who had collected the names of many per.Bona who had removed - and removed, perhaps, only from one street to another in the same electorate - would keep back their lists until the last moment, with the result that these people would have their names struck off the certified roll.
– Not necessarily.
– But there is a great danger.
– They would not be struck off without inquiry.
– The only inquiry made is by means of a communication sent by the Department to the late address of the person concerned. The trouble is that in such cases these communications are not received, and when .no reply is made the names of the persons objected to are removed. A man might shift to halfadozen places within the one electorate. This, consequently, is a very grave danger. Free scope should not be given to political organizations, no matter to what side they belong, to give information that may not be bond fide.
– Does the honorable member say that the official inquiries will be less carefully made than they would be if a deposit had to be lodged with every objection ?
– I say that people would be more careful in giving information while there was such a requirement.
– But the matter must rest ultimately with the departmental officers.
– The honorable member must know how busy the Department is at election times. The officers have practically no time to bless themselves.
– Does the honorable member think that the requirement as to a deposit of 5s. makes them more careful ?
– I do. If, for instance, I were a Liberal organizer for Indi, working with the object of securing the honorable member’s return, he might say to me, “ See if all the Labour supporters are still living in the same place.” Then I would make inquiries, and if I found that a number of them had shifted, I would prepare a list of objections, but hold it back to the last possible moment. On receiving those objections, the electoral officers would send out communications to the late address of the persons concerned. These in many cases would not be delivered, so that when the official roll came out, and the people went to vote, they would find that their names had been struck off.
– Why should they not be struck off if the people are absent)
– I am speaking of those who have shifted from one place to another in the same electorate. I am in favour of clean rolls, but I object very strongly to people being struck off merely because they have- removed from one place to another in the same electorate.
– The provision as to the 5s. deposit will not keep those people on the rolls.
– It has had that effect. It makes people exercise greater care in lodging objections. If it has not had the effect, of which I speak, where is the logic in proposing to do away with the provision ? The Government are opening wide the door for people to be struck off the rolls.
– Under the present law, it is only when a formal objection is made that a deposit of 5s. has to be lodged.
– If I were a political organizer, and had to lodge 5s. with every objection made, I would have to find a considerable sum of money when I’ handed in a list of objections, and the mere fact that I did so would be some evidence that I was a partisan. These are matters that require to be looked into. Our party must protect those who sent us. here, and I regard this as- one of the blots- on the Bill.
– I have in my pocket an objection lodged against a man who was away for only three days from the farm where he lived for three and a half years.
– I think that we have only to put these facts before honorable members opposite to convince some, at least, of them of the unwisdom of this proposal. I do not think they are all case-hardened. They have some good intentions, although they are gradually diminishing, and I hope they will endeavour to secure the fullest and freest franchise, so. that the people may uphold their rights at the ballot-box. I am sorry to- have- to raise so many objections’, but there is yet another to which I must refer. It relates, to the proposed alteration in the method of redistributing the States into Federal electorates. Previous Parliaments have held the opinion that th« work can best be done by a Commission of three. The, Government now propose that the work shall be done by one - by a Justice of the High Court ‘or of the Supreme Court of a State. What experience has a Judge of.’ the. electoral boundaries of the. State.s.,. or. of.’ the com munity of interest to be preserved inmaking a redistribution? The Justices of these Courts are. constantly travelling at a rapid pace from place to. place in the discharge of their ordinary duties, and they have no experience at all in the subdivision of a State into Federal electorates. We take the view that the SurveyorGeneral of a State should be one of the men chosen for this work, since he, above all other officers, is familiar with State boundaries and local interests, whilst the Chief Electoral Officer should be a second member of the Board appointed for such a purpose. I should have no objection to a Judge acting as chairman of such a Commission, but I strongly object to the whole work being placed in the hands of a Judge, not because I have any objection to his dealing with questions of law, but because I have great misgivings as to his capacity to redistribute Federal electorates, unless he relies entirely upon the departmental officers. That, I think, he will be compelled to do if this clause be passed; so that we shall have a redistribution controlled wholly by the Department. I think that is a backward step. I be’lieve all parties in the House seek to secure the best and most equitable redistribution of seats; but the question we have to decide is whether one man can do it better than three men. I believe the proposal in the Bill will be a bad departure, and I hope that in Committee the Government will reconsider their proposal and retain the provision already in the Act, because there is nothing to be gained by an alteration. I understand that there is conflict of opinion among honorable members of the Opposition in this regard, but my opinion is that there is safety in numbers, and, therefore, I shall vote against the proposed alteration. At the last election there was a great deal of capital made out of the provisions; requiring the signing of- news: paper articles. We were told. that, we were gagging, the- press,, but the newspapers, have not gone insolvent ; they seem to be just, as prosperous as ever ; they are still paying dividends; some of them in New South. Wales, are, about to erect large buildings. Everything seems- to be going on fairly well’ with the press. Members, of the Labour party have, no great grudge against the press,, except that! we, say they are> one-sided,,, and that, they back up one party only.. Many. of the papers have made onslaughts against us, and we wish to locate the individuals making them. When an election takes place we wish to know who are the men that write long statements about our party and misrepresent the facts in regard to our organizations. But there is no gagging the press in that. If a man has, the conviction of his opinions he will not hesitate to sign any article he writes, and if ray vote can gag the press at election times they will be gagged again. The articles that appeared in the press at the last election were a great improvement. They were condensed and putin a more readable style. In Sydney, at all events, we did not have whole slabs or abuse.
– We: had them in Victoria.
– In Victoria the people are always struggling with some blight; I do- not know what- is the matter with the- State. This provision of the Act had a very beneficial effect in New South Wales, and the men who wrote the articles wrote iii such a style that we could have- no antipathy against them. Meetings were well reported, and the whole community benefited. I believe that we should not allow any paper to. be published unless the leading article is signed. I object to the Bill before us, because there has been no mandate in regard to these great alterations. I regret the Government should see fit to conie down afc this early stage of the session and challenge- the Opposition to defeat the Bill,, or make us fight it as strongly as we will have to do. I trust the Bill will be amended in Committee in the direction of securing the secrecy of the ballot, and retaining the 5s. deposit fee required from those giving information in regard to striking names off the roll. I hope we 3hall also- retain- Saturday polling. What is the object of eliminating the provision which says that a general election shall take place on a Saturday? Our object in putting it in the Act was to prevent any unscrupulous Government making Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday the polling day, and so depriving thousands of people of the opportunity of voting.
– What rubbish !
– The honorable member must be a good judge of rubbish if he calls it rubbish when a workman is prevented1 from going to vote.
– Under the Act as it is he must be allowed time off.
– The law says that boys must be allowed time off to go to drill, but in many cases they are practically not allowed to go. Employers say, “ If you do go we shall not require you here next- week.” The’ same thing will apply when a workman leaves his work, to vote. Saturday is a. universal half-holiday in nearly all cities. I do not know whether it is so upcountry, where they do nothing but pullteats,, but in the cities Saturday is a halfholiday, and so we are entitled to claim that Saturday is the day when most people can conveniently exercise the franchise.
– Sunday is a whole holiday.
– We do not wish to have the polling on Sundays. I am a strict Sabbatarian, and as. long as I am in the House I shall oppose honorable members trying to introduce polling on Sundays. It is a disgraceful suggestion - one that I would resist to the bitter end . The Labour party will stand up for the purity ofi the Sabbath, and we shall certainly opposethe French system of Sunday voting. I am surprised at the honorable member. We insisted on Saturday polling being placed in the Act so as not to leave it- in the hands of an unscrupulous party to fix any other day. What was the result at the last election ? A higher percentage of people voted than ever before in the history of the Federation, and that was because we had the polling on the Saturday.
– What about the people who have conscientious objections to voting on Saturday?
– The honorable member cannot be one of those. He has no conscience at all, or, if he has one, it is very elastic, stretching to suit the circumstances.
– Why do you not answer the question?
– I would like the honorable member to give notice of it.
– Do you not think that Sabbatarianism is good for the other fellow as well ?
– The honorable member evidently wishes to get back to Sunday voting, which I shall resist to thehilt. It will be the downfall of the Government if they bring in polling on Sundays. Do they wish to remove Saturday polling in order to introduce Sunday polling ? If so, they will feel the full strength of the Opposition. As I was saying, the mere fact of holding the election on Saturday increased the voting of the whole of the community. We had the highest percentage of voting in the history of the Commonwealth. Is it because too many people took the opportunity to cast votes that honorable members now wish to remove Saturday from the Bill, so as to allow them, if they are in power, to fix the vote for Sunday, or Wednesday, or Friday? Our wish is to see Saturday specified in the Bill, so that it will not be within the power of any unscrupulous Government to fix the polling day to suit themselves. If any Government brought in a Bill to have polling day on Sunday those who support our party would be found to have too many conscientious scruples to admit of their voting. They would not do it.
– What about those political meetings on Sundays?
– Order !
– The late Minister of Home Affairs would not allow the votes to be counted on Sunday, such strict Sabbatarians are we on this side, and I trust the honorable member for Wimmera will not insist on having the vote taken on a Sunday.
– Why did you not answer my question ?
– The honorable member for Wimmera must not carry on a conversation with another honorable member. It is impossible for a speech to be delivered in those circumstances.
– If he had answered my question he would have saved all this.
– Order !
– The Minister who had control of the late elections, when telegrams arrived from all parts of Australia asking whether the counting of votes would be continued on the Sunday, said “No; Sunday must be respected, so far as our party are concerned.” So there were no votes counted on the Sunday.
– Surely you do not wish us to believe that.
– Does the honorable member doubt the late Minister of Home Affairs ?
– I know nearly all the votes were counted on the Sunday, and that is my objection to Saturday polling.
– That does not say very much for Queensland.
– They were not counted in Brisbane on Sunday.
– I am glad to hear it. There is a looseness about Sunday work to which I object. There is a tendency in this country to follow on the lines of the United States of America, where some of the large stores open, and where works are carried on and ships discharged on the Sunday, and the day of rest is set aside for the sake of business and wealth. I will not be one of a party who will do anything to infringe the sacredness of that grand institution handed down to us from our forefathers, and from the good old Book which has done so much for civilization and progress. We owe something to those people who have gone before us. We ourselves have established the halfholiday, and we think we have done wonders, but we have had the Sabbath handed down to us as a day of rest. I, for one, wish to retain that day of rest, and I hope, therefore, no votes will be counted on Sundays, and that this Parliament will never so far disgrace itself as to have an election on Sunday, as some of our friends suggest.
– Who suggested it? The honorable member knows it is an absolutely incorrect statement that we suggested it?
– Order !
– I think I have shown the dangers that lie before the electors if this measure becomes law. I trust that the criticism that has taken place will induce the Government to withdraw the Bill - I believe the House would give them leave to do so - and come down and say, “ We want a Committee to inquire. When that Committee reports, we shall be able to frame another measure in touch with the democratic views of the country.” The Opposition would then give the Government hearty co-operation in placing on the statute-book a measure worthy of being there. As the Government insist on doing away with the secrecy of the ballot, and on compelling all old people, the infirm, and the blind, to sign butts of ballot-papers after they are numbered, I predict that there will be nothing but confusion at the next election. That, I trust, is not far off. I hope it will bring about the success of the Democrats on this side of the House. If we have the good fortune to come back with a majority we shall not try to deprive the people of their franchise, nor to violate the secrecy of the ballot. On the contrary, we shall make the exercise of the franchise as free as possible, and give the people the fullest opportunities for governing the country in the interests of Democracy. I trust that if the Bill gets into Committee the democratic instincts of honorable members will cause it to be amended in a way that will make it creditable to this Parliament and to the country. As framed it is full of pitfalls of the worst character. The good sense of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, however, may persuade the Honorary Minister to withdraw the measure, and to bring forward one that will secure the peace and progress of the community.
– I heartily indorse the suggestion of the honorable member for South Sydney that the Ministry should consider the advisability of appointing a committee of inquiry into electoral administration. There can be no measure of greater importance to a country than a Bill to effect electoral reform. Such a measure affects the basis of our social and industrial life. It has been well said by Edmund Burke that the House of Commons must be the image and the reflex of the public will, the public purpose, and the public ideal of the people. If there is not expressed in our Parliament the public ideal, the public will, and the public purpose, we are on the road to disaster. I take it that we, as a body of parliamentarians, are seeking to carry into effect the will and purpose of the people. Dealing with electoral systems we have to provide, first, for the purity of the ballot, so that those who would prostitute the franchise shall be prevented from doing so. We have next to protect voters who might be subjected to intimidation by employers, or to the adverse operation of social forces, were the expression of their individual opinions to be made public. We thus provide for the secrecy of the ballot. In the third place, we have to try to get a truly representative expression of the will and purpose of the community. Speaking for myself - and I believe that my opinion is also the opinion of my associates on these benches - there is no possibility of the measure being accepted. We have here a clear line of demarcation. From my standpoint, the cry is “ no compromise.” I cannot accept the measure, no matter what the result may be. I am not anxious to go to the country to-morrow, because I know the cost, mental and financial, of such appeals; but I must, nevertheless, stand strongly against the Bill and seek to defeat it by every means in my power. With the advantage of such education as I possess, I have attempted to make a survey of the history of electoral reform. I remember what the pocket borough system meant, what the limited franchise meant, what the lodger’s franchise meant. As we have marched along the line of progress we have had always to struggle against the Conservative element, which, by every means in its power, has prevented the extension of facilities for that representation of the people’s will that is essential to democratic government. I find the present Administration attempting to go backward instead of forward in the proposals they make for the alteration of the electoral law. An Electoral Act should express the purpose and will of the community in regard to social and industrial conditions. We desire to give expression to the public will and sentiment by our representative system. I confess that some hold a different view. A week ago I was reading a work by Mr. Humphreys on proportional representation, in which he states that it is the opinion of a party that parliamentary administration or government is not the expression of the public will but rather the expression of the belief in one party or another. That is, there may be in a country two or three political parties, and at an election the people merely say which political party they place their trust in, leaving it tothat party when it has the reins of government in its hands to decide what measures of legislation are advisable in the public interest. I hold that Parliament should be the reflex of the will of the people, but I am afraid that those on the Ministerial side hold rather the view which I have just stated, namely, that Parliament is a body of individuals whom the country has left free to carry such legislation as they think desirable in the interests of the community. The Labour party is charged with having caucus meetings, with being governed by labour leagues, and with thus having a clear cut policy laid down for it which it must try to carry into effect. The Ministerialists, on the other hand, say that they have no caucus meetings, no platform, and no programme laid down for them, though, of course, that is not so. Their views, however, seem to fall into -line with those to which I have just referred as being held by a certain section of British political thought. I propose now to go categorically through the Bill and express my objections to its provisions in their order. In the first place, I regard the Bill as undoubtedly an attack on the electoral measure which the Labour party put on the statute-book. That being so, and believing our measure to be an effective electoral reform, I must oppose the Bill. We must all admit that absolute and perfect representation cannot be obtained; that under every system difficulties will arise, it being impossible to meet every situation and to cover all occurrences. But making that allowance, the Act passed by us is infinitely superior to the proposals of this Government. Honorable members opposite are attacking it because of their intense conservatism. They see that it gives to the people the largest volume of representation that can be reasonably given. In our Act we made provision for the redistribution of electoral divisions by three commissioners, one of whom was to be the SurveyorGeneral of the State which is being redistributed. The Bill proposes to substitute a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of a Supreme Court. But in view of the work that falls on these gentlemen, how can they attend to these fresh duties, and what qualification have they for their performance ? Surely the person best fitted to deal with matters of this kind is the Surveyor-General of a State, who should know it from end to end, and who should have associated with him individuals well versed in the conditions of the community. A Judge naturally has a logical brain, with the power to analyze evidence; but is it not a fact that a Judge will have to act on statements placed before him by professional men who are conversant with the subject, and who could themselves better perform the duties? As I have said, this Bill cuts out all the best features of the Act, inasmuch as it attacks our system of representation, and makes open to the world the name of every individual who records his vote. If that be the effect of the Bill, I am prepared to go further. I see from the press that a body of employers in the
Old Country has established, or is establishing, a fund of many millions of money for the purpose of fighting us in our industrial efforts; and if we cannot create a measure that will safeguard every man in the exercise of his- rights as an elector, I. am prepared to go to the other extreme, and say, “ To the devil with your politics ! we will fling ourselves into the fold of syndicalism, and, if necessary, have class revolt.” I am against this Bill from top to bottom, for the reason that it seeks to deprive us of rights that we enjoy to-day. The next point to which I desire to direct attention is that relating to the lodging of objections. Under the Act as it stands, any person making an objection has to lodge a fee of 5s.; which, failing the substantiation of the objection, is retained by the Department. The Bill seeks to abolish that fee, although it is, as a fact, a most reasonable safeguard. I do not attach purity in elections to one party more than another. When a fight is on, men in politics on each side are prone to much ill-doing. This is to be regretted, but the fact is there. Organizations are at work, and, day after day, doing the best they can for the party they represent. We know that, time and again, exception is taken to names on the roll with the sole object of handicapping opponents; and the retention of the fee of 5s. will, of course, have a salutary effect. There is nothing to fear if an objection be a reasonable one, because the fee is then returned; but, if this Bill be carried in the form in which it is presented, we shall, as was the case before, have the Electoral Registrars swamped with applications for the removal of names. At the last election, the great desire of my opponents was to handicap my supporters; and a man was walking up and down the booth all day, and his practice was, whenever any of my people came in, to call out, “Here is another Howeite.” Then, again, another representative of my opponent had a list of names which it was his intention to challenge at every possible opportunity, but, having to leave the booth for a while, he forgot the list, which thereupon disappeared, and was never .utilized. I merely mention these facts to show the extent to which people will go in fighting elections. We are asked whether we do not believe in the integrity and purity of the Australian people; and my reply is that I give the Australian people credit for that degree of decency in life that I give to any other people, and no more. When occasion arises, men and women alike are prepared to do wrong for the sake of success, and there ought to be such restrictions as will tend to minimize the wrongdoing. ‘ If the Australian people are so pure and incorrupt as some honorable members seem to think, why are all these pains and penalties imposed in the Bill ?
– We ‘wish to keep them pure.
– Quite so; and, therefore, I say those pains and penalties ought to be retained. We have all the failings that attach to fallible humanity, and in times of excitement we are apt to do things that under ordinary circumstances we should avoid. When a man moves from one house to another in the -same electorate, the secretary, perhaps, of the opposing political party informs the authorities that the man is no longer living at his old address; and, when an intimation goes to that address, what chance is there of the man being able to deal with the situation ? He is at work all day; and there are hundreds of cases in which men are unable to write a connected letter. At present, the whole burden of proof is placed, it may be, on an honest elector in order to maintain his right to vote, while, as a matter of justice, it ought to be placed on the person making the objection. The retention of the fee will relieve the Electoral Officer <and others of a great deal of trouble caused by people who, in their anxiety to win, take steps not justified by the circumstances. As to voting by post, the honorable member for Bourke dealt most adequately with the situation the other night. How can any person say, within a reasonable distance of polling day, that he will not be within 5 miles of any polling booth on that day? Of course, there are some cases in which people know as definitely as life permits that they will not be at a certain place on a certain day; but this system of voting certainly leaves the door open to wrong-doing. There are women supporters of myself who most strongly object to go to the poll. They say that they are quite willing to vote for me, but that they will not associate with the people, at the polling booth. Their wish is to be superior persons, and sign the papers in their own homes; and this really, and not illhealth, is at the bottom of the desire for the postal vote. The same may be said of some men; and I know how the vote has been taken advantage of. Of course, an electoral system should make the widest possible provision for the exercise of the franchise; and, like the honorable member for Bourke, I say that if some system could be devised whereby the sick could be enabled to vote, I should support it. But the question is whether the lesser evil is the danger to purity of elections, or the limitation imposed by the abolition of the postal vote.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I doubt very much whether sick persons have any desire to vote. The chief concern of a man or woman who is seriously ill is to regain good health rather than to exercise the franchise, and to throw upon people so situated the duty of recording a vote is something that is not desirable. If they wish to exercise the franchise provision ought certainly to be made for them; but we have to choose the lesser of two evils, and the question is whether the provision honestly made in past times to enable the sick to vote has not opened the door to much that is objectionable. I come now to the question of the removal of names from the rolls. Under this Bill it is provided that -
Any person other than an officer acting in the exercise of his duty who, without reasonable cause, signs an objection to any name on a roll, shall be guilty of an offence.
What is the meaning of the words “without reasonable cause?” The Bill gives no definition. Is the interpretation to rest with the Electoral Officer ?
– No; the person called upon to impose the penalty would have to decide what was a reasonable cause.
– The Bill does not provide that. If we pass this clause any statement can be made by a person objecting to a name on the roll, and it will be for the Electoral Officer to decide whether there is reasonable cause for the objection. This, I hold, is wrong. If the clause be retained the meaning of these words should be defined in the Bill itself. Another provision to which I object is that repealing the existing law, that Saturday shall be chosen as polling day. Could the electors have better opportunities to vote than those which offer on a Saturday ? We have an almost universal Saturday half-holiday throughout Australia, and with the hours of polling from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. what better day could possibly be chosen? If this amendment be made I suppose that the Government will select such a day as will best suit their convenience. This proposition is, and will prove, objectionable to the House, as Saturday undoubtedly gives the widest opportunity to the people to vote. Men leave their work at 12 noon, or 1 p.m., have the whole afternoon to devote to their sports, and can vote at any time up till 8 p.m. If Wednesday, instead of Saturday, were selected, what would happen? The great bulk of the people of this country on that day of the week are tied to their work from perhaps 7 a.m. until 1 ji.m. All decent folk desire, if possible, on leaving their work, to return to their homes and change their attire before they go to record their votes, and unless we definitely fix upon Saturday as polling day the great body of the working classes, the people who are associated with Labour politics, will be handicapped in exercising the franchise. What objection can be taken by the Government to the fixing of Saturday?
– The objection that too many people go to the poll on that day.
– That is just their trouble; that is what they are seeking to overcome. They are endeavouring to handicap us in every possible way, but they will not do so if my vote can prevent them. If the Ministerial party desire that all shall have fair and reasonable opportunities to record their votes they will undoubtedly vote for the retention of Saturday as polling day. I come now to the statement made a few nights ago by the Attorney-General in regard to the intervention of political organizations in the work of purifying the rolls. Under the Act as it stands certain provision is made for removing from the rolls the names of electors who have changed their place of residence. The honorable gentleman, it seems to me, is so ardent in the desire to serve his own party interests that, although that law still exists, he has given permission to certain organizations, evidently favorable to his own party, to act in opposition to it, and to lodge objections without the payment of the fee for which the law provides.
– He is inviting them to do so.
– Undoubtedly. What sort of attitude is this for the AttorneyGeneral to take up ? It is a disgrace to the honorable gentleman who has dared, in the face of the law as it stands, to invite organization’s to take action in this way. If Parliament chooses to abolish the requirement as to the lodgment of a fee with each objection, well and good. In that case the Attorney-General would be well within his rights, but when he extends such an invitation as this while the law remains as it is he merely shows his intense partisanship, and the desire of his party to act in some way contrary to fair dealing.
– Did the AttorneyGeneral restrict his suggestion to the Liberal organizations ?
– No; but he knows what the organizations of his party can do, and the power and money behind them. The Liberal party is well organized, and the Attorney-General is playing into their hands.
– The honorable gentleman’s reference to the money behind our party destroys his argument in regard to the 5s. fee.
– Money can be spent in many ways. If you have your money tied up in one way you cannot operate it in another. There is another matter in clause 19, in which the secrecy of the ballot is absolutely destroyed. What have we done hitherto during the years we have been fighting for electoral reform. We have been striving in every possible way to preserve and safeguard the men or women who go to the ballot-box. Yet we have a statement in the Bill that the ballot-papers may be printed with butts, and a corresponding number placed on each ballot-paper and its butt. It is said this relates to a Court of Disputed Returns. Are we then to suppose there is going to be such trouble in connexion with our elections that there is absolute need for every ballot-paper being marked, or a signature attached to the butt of the form on which a man votes ? Where in this is the secrecy of the ballot? It is almost criminal to attempt to do anything of the sort. The Government have made inquiry into our past elections. They had a conception - or they did not ; in all probability they did not - that they could make some attack on the administration of the last Electoral Act that emanated from our party. The result has been absolutely nil. They have spent some thousands of pounds in a recount of the ballotpapers, with the result that they have not been able to prove one case of wrong-doing on the part of the people of Australia. It surprised me; I did not credit the people of Australia with being so clean. I thought that by such an investigation much wrong-doing would be proven; but happily this has not been the case.
– It is a tribute to the people.
– It is, indeed. That being so, after their own special investigation, based on some supposed wrong-doing of our party, and based upon the measure we introduced and passed through Parliament, why the introduction of a provision that will absolutely destroy the secrecy of the ballot, and leave every member of the community subject to such pains and penalties as may be imposed by those who are prepared to take advantage of the knowledge they may obtain ?’ I take grave exception to this proposal, and I shall fight it in Committee, or elsewhere, no matter what the result may be. There is no need to dwell further upon this ; it has been dealt, with by other members of the House in a most effective fashion; but from the stand-point of the public press, and from the stand-point of honorable members on the Ministerial benches, the most grievous feature of the Bill is the question of the press gag. They say we gagged the press, and limited their opportunities of free speech, and that we were so audacious that we were tying the press up in every possible way. What had we done to justify such a charge? The man who writes a book is usually not afraid to append his name to it. He is rather proud of the fact that he has added to the literature of the country, that he has the ability to express himself in decent English, or that he has that imagination and knowledge of the situation that will enable him to give to the world the results of his thought and the efforts of his brain, so he does not hesitate to sign his name to his book. Then why should a pressman be afraid to sign his name to an article? Is it that he must hide himself behind the editorial “ we” ? Is there something sacrosanct in that editorial “ we “ ? Is there behind the term some subtle force that gives to his utterance a larger value than it is reasonably entitled to ? Frequently we see articles ap pearing in the press headed with the names of those who write them. Why, then, should not a political article be signed in precisely the same name ? Why should a man be afraid to sign his name to a leader, or any political paragraph, at the time of a great political contest ? What justification is there for asking for secrecy ? Why not have secrecy in regard to the imprint of the printer and publisher that is now by law attached to the newspapers? Why not give them an absolutely free hand so that they cannot be traced in their operations ? There has been no gagging of the press; but there has been an attempt by our party to make each man responsible for his own utterance. No honest man should be afraid of that. No honest man should fear when he writes an article to sign his name to it. He is either reporting the truth or stating a lie, and he should be responsible for the utterance he makes, and the country should know the person who makes the utterance. Written in secrecy, written under the editorial “ we,” articles are supposed to carry weight; but when written under the writers’ names the writers become very small; they are known, and can be picked out every day; they are no more than ourselves, have no brighter intellects, but are simply men writing for a particular purpose, and often hack writers not expressing their own opinion or their own thoughts, but writing to the order of the paper that pays them. I think I have dealt with the salient features of the Bill. In its main aspects, I am strongly opposed to it. I do not believe in making a Judge of the High Court or any Supreme Court Judge a commissioner. I believe the best interests of the country will be preserved by retaining the section of the Act whereby three gentlemen intimately associated with the country, its divisions, and its population, can split up the country into such divisions as may be deemed advisable from time to time. I do not believe in the abolition of the fee of 5s. Iti is an excellent safeguard against wrongdoing on the part of political organizations. When elections are in progress, and men are in the heat of battle, there are desires for wrong-doing. The wish is not to do wrong, but they take advantage of such opportunities as may arise for the sake of victory. The retention of the fee of 5s. will help materially to prevent so objectionable a thing. I am opposed to the inclusion of the- postal vote. I regret this opposition, because at all times, and in all circumstances, I desire to give the widest possible opportunity to’ the people to record their votes. Perfection is not possible in any Bill that may direct, or seek to direct, the operations of the people of any country. We can only approximate - and, perhaps, in a very small way - the ideal we have in our minds. But I view this postal vote as undesirable from the stand-point of the public well-being. While, undoubtedly, it will give some who are anxious to record their votes the opportunity to so do, I believe that, in the main, it opens the. doors to much wrong-doing and much possibility of treachery to the best interests in this- country. I object to the removal, of the limitation imposed on the press. I believe much good will be done by persons being compelled to sign their articles. These are the iii ain lines of objection I have to the Bill. In conclusion, I hope the good sense of the House, even the good sense of the Ministerial party will prompt them not to attempt to push the Bil! through the House at the present time. I hope they will put this Bill into the hands of a Committee of investigation. If they abstain from forcing the Bill through the House - which they can do - we will join hand in hand with them to have passed some measure of beneficial reform that will purify the law of such ills as exist to-day. As I said in my opening remarks, the electoral law lies at the base and bedrock of our democratic life, and I am prepared to meet honorable members in some method whereby that purification will be brought about. I hope the Ministry will adopt a course whereby an unimpassioned and impartial inquiry may be held into the administration of the Electoral Act justifying such reform as. may be necessary to bring about the purification of our law.
– I think we should have a quorum in connexion with this important debate. [Quorum formed.’]
.- It is unfortunate that one of the first acts of this- Government should be to propose to entirely re-cast the electoral law. This seems to me likely to create the impression that Ministers find it necessary to re-adjust the electoral machinery to make themselves secure in their positions. I do not say that that is the intention; but that is likely to be the impression made abroad when a Government take such action immediately upon coming into power. This, action is the more remarkable, in view of the fact that the last election converted the previously handsome majority of the Labour party into a minority of one in this Chamber. The Ministry, therefore, have no real grievance against the electoral law, so far as the result of the last election is concerned. To come now to the measure itself, let me say, at the beginning, that I regard the proposed tinkering with the electoral law as dangerous, the provisions of the Bill being likely to increase the abuses which Ministers .profess themselves to be anxious to check. We have been given to understand that in future any person may protest against any name on the roll. This is bound to create illfeeling, and to encourage many unjustifiable acts’ by partisans. By partisans I mean over-zealous adherents of either party. We know what party warfare is, and no party is free from blame for occasional questionable exercise of power. The Labour party is not composed of paragons, and certainly the Government party is not. They are very anxious to beat the other fellow. To practically invite the general public to object to this and that name on the roll is to create a great deal of trouble. In my. opinion, the penalty for making a frivolous objection should be greater than it is. At the present time the penalty for making an objection without reasonable cause is £5;; bub I think that £50 should be the penalty, as a deterrent against the lodging of frivolous or partisan objections. But a better thing still is to require the lodging of a small deposit with each objection. I strongly object to the provision for the abolition of polling on Saturdays. If carried into law, it would strike a blow at the industrial community, whether that is intended or not. Saturday is almost a universal holiday in Australia, and the public have greater facilities for polling on that day than on any other. Persons who are their own masters can vote at any time ; but those who are not are subject to. disabilities which we are bound to consider. Saturday is the best day for polling, so far as the majority are concerned, and as the majority did not sup-, port the Labour party at the- last election, I cannot be accused of arguing in the interests of my party in this connexion. Coming now to a provision which has drawn much hostile criticism from . those on this side of the House - the proposal that electors shall sign the butts from which their ballot-papers are torn - I say that it might work properly, but that, to my mind, it would be fruitful of abuses. There is a possibility of trouble if every elector is compelled to sign in this way. If we make it possible for any person present in a polling booth to ascertain how any elector, man or woman, votes, we shall open the door to grave abuses. I do not say that persons will deliberately watch and wait to see how others vote ; but those who are assisting in the polling booth will have an opportunity to ascertain how votes are being cast; and, remembering the bitter partisanship that exists at election times, I think that the opportunity is likely to be
U3ed. At any rate, this provision will be received with prejudice by the public, who treasure the secrecy of the ballot. As a nation we regard the secrecy of the ballot as essential to self-government, just as we treasure trial by jury. I object to compelling electors to sign their names, no matter what attempt may be made to prevent publicity. The “signing is to be done to enable the voting to be checked, if necessary, and, therefore, it may enable it to be checked when not necessary, which is most objectionable. In many cases that have come under my notice, it would have been most unfair to allow the opinions, of voters to be made known. I do not consider that the offences which it is alleged were committed at the last election - which, it must be remembered, resulted in the return to power of the present Government - were grave enough to warrant the proposed infringement of an established principle of our electoral law. On the whole, the election was conducted fairly cleanly, and the investigation which has been made has not resulted in discoveries at all startling. In fact, the things that have been discovered were hardly worth looking for. I feel that the Government are guilty of an act of omission in not providing for the payment of scrutineers. Every candidate should have the right to appoint scrutineers to be paid by the Government. We limit the expenditure of. candidates to £100, which must include payments to scrutineers. In my division: there are 130 or more polling booths, and scrutineers cannot be obtained for less than half-a-sovereign or one guinea; so that £65 would be required to pay all my scrutineers. In my opinion, scrutineers are necessary in the interests of fair dealing, and the community should be prepared to bear the expense. If every candidate could appoint scrutineers, there would be no suspicion of anything but fair dealing. I do not suggest that a candidate should be allowed to spend more than £100, although the limitation is more or less farcical, as is all legislation that attempts to protect men from themselves. The provision of which I approve is the repeal of the condition requiring the signing of articles dealing with electoral matters published during an election campaign’. But, though I approve of this provision, the other provisions of the measure of which I disapprove are so numerous that T must oppose the Bill in toto. I voted against the proposal to require the signing of articles, and I shall be glad to see the law amended in that respect. I cannot see that anything is gained by compelling the signing of articles other than the satisfaction of idle curiosity. The common law is sufficient to protect every man’s reputation from newspaper attacks. If a man is libelled by the press, and gains an action,, the whole establishment of a newspaper must, if necessary, go to redeem Ms character. There can be no better safeguard against abuse than the libel law. I know what I am speaking of, because I have been associated with the press. Perhaps 1 have a little fellowfeeling with pressmen in this matter. In my opinion, any one who asks for more protection from the press than the common law now gives, allows his feelings to run away with his judgment. Why should one want to know who wrote this or that article, unless it is to shoot the writer, or to poison his dog, or to do something else in retaliation ? During the last electoral campaign the press was just as bitter and irrational, though always keeping within the law, as during any other election campaign. Of course, we knew the names of the writers of its articles. I know many writers by name,, but I do not know the individuals themselves, and I do not wish to know them. They were writing what they were paid for writing, and, in many cases, probably, did not express their own views.
– This provision affects only the metropolitan press, because every one knows who writes the articles in the provincial journals, whether they are signed or not.
– That is so. If Ministers are really anxious to improve the electoral law, why have they not proposed the adoption of preferential voting? I admit that underlying preferential voting is the principle that every candidate must be given a run; and we cannot have preferential voting without doing away with the selection of candidates by parties. In my opinion, the party system will continue, and I have no desire to destroy it. Men who think alike on any subject are free to come together to devise ways and means for accomplishing their ends. The liberty of the subject demands that that shall be so. To allow parties to conduct pre-elections, in view of the fact that the machinery is manipulated, is not wise; and it is time we made the procedure illegal. Let a party nominate one or half-a-dozen candidates if it chooses to do so. If an electorate is essentially identified with, say, the Labour party, the preferential system is sure to secure the return of at least one member of that party, although a dozen may be nominated; and the same remark applies in the case of the Liberal party. Instead of a limited coterie electing a member, the people would do so; and the suggestion is a most reasonable one. I do not speak from any personal motives, for I do not care twopence about the matter; if I am opposed, I take what comes to me. But I see, particularly in regard to the great Liberal party, that the system of selection is grossly abused. It leads to all sorts of Machiavelian proceedings, which are a disgrace to an intelligent community. If the Government are really sincere, let them get to work on a proposal of the kind I have mentioned, and they might then get some votes from this side. The glaring examples provided by their own party are sufficient warrant for such a course.
.- I have been living in hopes that an honorable member from the other side would address himself to the Bill, but evidently there is a conspiracy of silence on the Ministerial benches. Of course, honorable gentlemen opposite know their own business best, but I think that, from a tactical point of view, they acted very foolishly when they passed a resolution in caucus that no honorable member on that side should speak on the Bill.
– The honorable member is making a big guess.
– There is no truth . in the statement, anyhow.
– I have been in parliamentary life for a considerable time; and, under the circumstances, I should like to know why there is this conspiracy of silence. I am not by any means a suspicious man, but I feel convinced that the fiat has gone forth opposite, “No speaking; let the other fellows do the talking.” But honorable members on this side, and the people of the country, ought to know that the Bill is being treated with contemptuous silence by the very party who are supposed to advocate it. The first provision in the Bill with which I desire to deal is one that makes me smile; I mean the provision to compel electors to put their signatures on the butt of the ballotpaper. However, I do not think it necessary to say much on the point, because, in my opinion, honorable members opposite are not really in earnest in regard to it. I feel convinced that they have sufficient common sense and fair-mindedness to prevent their persisting in carrying such a proposal even through this House. They know very well that, if carried, this provision would seriously interfere with the secrecy of the ballot. I have acted as Deputy Returning Officer on more than one occasion, and I know what opportunities are given to an official to find out how his fellow-citizen may have voted. Further, such a provision would prevent many of the illiterates from casting their vote. An illiterate person may, and, in some cases, does, apply to the Returning Officer or scrutineer for assistance in marking his ballot-paper; but for one person who does this, there are ninety-nine who do not ; indeed, my experience is that illiterate people are generally the more careful in marking the paper. The next important proposal is, not to do away with voting on Saturday, but to strike out the provision that it must take place on that day. If the Government really desire to give the opportunity to the people to exercise the franchise, and do not wish the polling to take place on a Saturday, or to leave the matter an open question, why not declare, as has been done in other parts of the world, that polling-day shall be a public holiday, all employes to be paid in full. I am not suggesting that the Government should declare the polling-day a public holiday; but, if they do alter the
Act in the way proposed, there should be the stipulation for full pay. The honorable member for Hindmarsh pointed out that this proposal showed the Conservative tendency of the whole of the provisions. There is no doubt it would mean that the election would not be held on a Saturday, if the present or any other Conservative Government were in power. The Prime Minister told the honorable member for Hindmarsh that he was talking “ hogwash.”
– That statement was withdrawn, and must not now be referred to.
– We are in the unfortunate position that there are thirtyeight members on one side and thirtyseven on the other; and for this state of affairs the people of Australia are, of course, to blame. But now that we are in this position, why not make the best of a bad job, and endeavour to pass legislation that will be helpful and beneficial to this and future generations? I admit that the Government are, practically, bound to propose the reestablishment of postal voting, because that formed part of the policy announced by the Prime Minister; but I see no need for all the other provisions that are in the Bill. If the Government had confined themselves to the postal vote, the Opposition might have met them in some way or other, but, in regard to this Bill, as in other matters, instead of using sweet reasonableness, honorable members on both sides go in for heavy tragedy, and endeavour to display any histrionic ability they may or may not possess.
– The honorable member should have been here during the last) three years to see the “ sweet reasonableness “ displayed.
– Especially on the part of the then Opposition. Only this morning I read in the newspapers an account of a meeting of the so-called People’s party, which, I suppose, is only the Fusion party under another name. The Prime Minister was present at that function, and it was there proposed that the hour for closing the poll be altered from 8 o’clock until 7. This only shows that if honorable gentlemen opposite and their supporters had the power, they would gradually reduce the closing hour to 5 o’clock, as in the “good old times,” which they all so much regret. One honorable member said, in reference to Saturday voting, that we ought to consider the religious and conscientious scruples of certain sections of the community. No doubt, this honorable member was referring to Jewish electors, and also to adherents of that body known as the Seventh Day Adventists. In both cases no work is done between sunset on the Friday and sunset on the Saturday, so that really any conscientious objections they might have are met by the Act passed by the Labour party, which extended the time for voting from 7 to 8 p.m. I take it that there is scarcely any time of the year when the sun has- not set by 8 p.m. These people, therefore, are glad of an extension of the hours of polling, which enables them to vote without doing violence to their consciences. I do not want to pose as a follower of any particular brand of religion, but I have the greatest respect for those who hold definite dogmatic views upon religious subjects, and am always eager to extend to them every opportunity to exercise the franchise without acting contrary to their religious convictions. Another minor point is the proposed redistribution of electorates by a Justice of the High Court, or the Supreme Court of a State, instead of as heretofore, by a Commission of three members. I do not feel strongly on this point. The change, perhaps, will not make very much difference. It has been argued that no one man is able to redistribute the Federal electorates in any State in such a way as to have proper regard to community of interest. Ethically speaking, community of interest is world-wide. We have an exemplification of this in the small-pox outbreak in Sydney. That disease has spread from other countries, and the very fact that some people have not been living under hygienic conditions in Sydney has made it possible for small-pox to get a footing there. It will not remain there; it will travel to other parts of the world. Then, again, a few years ago the bubonic plague originated in far Eastern countries, but it did not remain there; it extended to Australia and other countries. Consequently, I say that community of interest, ethically speaking, is worldwide, although for all practical purposes, I am sorry to say, many centuries will probably elapse before we shall have recognition of the almost criminal neglect to see that there is community of interest all the world over. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, however, there is not only from an ethical, but from a- practical, point of view, community of interest from one end to the other. If Tasmania had to suffer, the people of Queensland would have to suffer. The interests of the whole of the Australian people are identical. Australia is the only continent inhabited practically by people of one nationality. It is the one continent where the one language is spoken, so that if there is any country where there should be community of interest, it is this great island continent of ours. It is always to me a matter of regret to hear people, supposed to be of a progressive turn of mind, using such a term as “ community of interest “ in respect of our legislation. Both in the Federal and in the State Legislatures we constantly hear the cry of town versus country, and vice versa As a matter of fact, the interests of the man who guides the plough in the country are bound up with those of the man who makes it in the city, or drives a quill in a city office. To have healthy, prosperous cities we must have healthy, prosperous communities in the country. We cannot live in the city merely by cutting each other’s hair, or by taking in each other’s washing. Therefore, I hope the time is not far distant when the phrase “ community of interest” will no longer be applied to matters of this kind. If the Government think it advisable to hand over the work of redistributing the Federal. electorates to one man instead of three, I shall not offer any objection. I come now to one of the more important matters associated with this Bill. I allude to the statement made recently by the Attorney-General that every one should take a hand in purifying the rolls, and that, to enable every one to do so, the provision in the Act that a deposit of 5s. shall accompany each objection would be abolished. As a matter of fact, it has practically been done away with and illegally done away with already. I sincerely hope that no political organiza”tion, whether it be connected with the Labour party or the Fusion party, will be allowed to assist in this work. I am not absolutely bound to the provision that a deposit of 5s. shall be lodged with each objection, . but I certainly object to this work being handed over to all and sundry. When I interjected the other evening that it should be intrusted to the police and the postal officials, the honorable member for Indi said that I was inconsistent, since I did not ask that those officers should deposit 5s. with each objection made by them. Those officers, however, would simply hand in to the Department the names of those who, to their knowledge, had removed from a district.
– The police find it almost impossible to grapple with all the duties now intrusted to them.
– I do not say that they should give much time to this work, but they could give the Department much useful information. Then, again, postal officials have special opportunities to furnish information in this connexion. If they prepared lists of people whom they knew had left a district, they would be of great assistance; but if this work is left to political organizations, it will be very easy for the names of many persons who have not left the district at all - who have merely shifted from one place to another in the same electorate - to have their names struck off the roll. I do not want to pose as a walking encyclopaedia on electoral matters, but my experience in connexion with organizations and electioneering business generally during the last twenty-two years teaches me the possibilities that would be open to party organizations if they were allowed to do this work. A canvasser would call at a house armed with a copy of the rolls, and inquire, for instance, if Mr. Brown lived there. On being told that he had shifted, he would at once place his name on the list of objections, although, perhaps, the man had only shifted to another street in the same electorate. Statistics prove that a very large proportion of our population change their domicile on the average once in three years. These canvassers are paid by the day, and often get instructions that they must win the election, and keep So-and-So out, no matter what happens. ‘ That was the instruction given to the Liberal organizers in Boothby - that they must keep Dankel out, and see that the other man was returned. I am not blaming these men for doing the work they are supposed to do in the hope, perhaps, of obtaining acom=fortable billet as permanent organizers or canvassers. One can well imagine that lists covering the names of hundreds, if not thousands, of persons in one district will be sent in by these organizations. It may be said that, before any of these names were struck off, notice would have to be given by the Electoral Officer. Such notices, however, are merely sent to the last place of residence, and where the person concerned has not left behind his new address, the notice is never received. Then, again, objection may be taken on the ground that the person enrolled has “ left the district.” Where a man has merely removed from one street to another in the same electorate, he might naturally say, in such circumstances, “I am still living in the same electorate. Why should I bother about this ?”
– Besides, a man must lose half a day to attend the Revision Court.
– Yes; unless a man whose name has been objected to appears before the Revision Court, his name is struck off. Unfortunately, a great many people do not realize as fully as they ought to do the importance of politics, and therefore they do not attend to these notices. Those who do recognise that it is of the most vital importance to them, as well as to their fellow citizens, that they should exercise the franchise, take care to be enrolled, and the worst that could happen to them under this proposal is that they would be put to a certain amount of annoyance. I shall certainly strongly object to this work being handed over to political organizations. If it is, thousands of voters will be disfranchised. Coming to the question of signed newspaper articles, I must certainly disagree with the honorable member for Macquarie, who says that, as an old journalist, he speaks feelingly on the subject. As such, he naturally views the matter from, a stand-point different from that taken up by us ; but I would not dream of returning to the old system. It is all very well for the honorable member to say that we can appeal to the common law - that we can obtain legal redress if any newspaper libels us. We know that in some- cases it is next door to impossible, because the person who feels that he has a case to take to the Court has not the necessary coin at his disposal to indulge in that course of action, and he puts up with anything rather than go into a Court of Law.
– Cannot he take action against the paper 1
– Speaking, subject to correction by legal members, I understand the unfortunate man cannot plead in forma -pauperis. We know that previous to an election innumerable letters appear ia the press throughout Australia, in the country journals as well as in the city journals, and although most of the writers keep within the pale of the law, we know that they very often sail fairly close to the wind. At any rate, they say things which the writers in many instances know to be absolutely untrue. Letters are written by “ Mother of Ten,” “ Pro Bono Publico,” “Struggling Farmer,” “ Once a Labourite,” and so on. I suppose the “ Mother of Ten “ will be found in Collins-street. The writer will possibly be the father of ten, and, besides, have to keep a wife. He has to sell his brains - to develop which his father and mother have spent their money - to a newspaper office to write stuff he does not believe in. Such a man would rather write the truth, and say something for the benefit of the people of the country, but, as “A Mother of Ten,” he has to write some blessed - the term “ hogwash “ is not permitted - he has to write something which in his heart he despises. He has to do it for filthy lucre in order to keep his wife and family. The “ Struggling farmer “ was very much in evidence before this law came into existence in South Australia. Prior to the 1910 elections, he was in evidence day by day, and though he was a “ struggling farmer,” he found plenty of time to write letters to the newspapers. He must have burned many a gallon of midnight oil to see his views printed. The honorable member for Adelaide took the trouble to cut out and paste on a slip of paper all the “ struggling farmers” that appeared in the Register and Advertiser, and on one occasion, when he was speaking at- an open-air meeting, he unrolled 27 feet of “ struggling farmers.” This sort of thing would be again indulged in if the law requiring the signing of newspaper articles were abolished. The law is in existence in other parts of the world, and has been for years. In one part, it operates for six weeks before an election.
– Where is that?
– In Germany.
– That autocratic country.
– All newspapers are tarred with the same brush. No distinction is made between Liberal, Conservative, and Labour papers, and if the law is left as it stands, people will have the better opportunity of understanding political questions. Now I come to the crux of the Bill. I allude to what is known as- the postal vote, one of the few planks the present Ministry had on their platform in the last campaign. As it was spoken of on a goodly number of occasions, I do not blame the Ministry for bringing in their proposal j they must redeem their promise to the electors; but again I hope sweet reasonableness will prevail, and that we will come to an understanding. I would like to continue my remarks at the next sitting.
– Go on; we will adjourn at 4 o’clock.
– I realize the Government could not do anything else but bring in this proposed legislation to restore the postal vote. They made such a song to the electors as to the dreadful iniquity of eople being deprived of the right to vote y post. They could not do otherwise.
– After the public demanded it.
– I think it is only right that the Government should try to keep faith with the electors; but I think it is a pity, with parties as they are in the House, we could not confine ourselves to matters of a non-contentious nature. There is, for instance, the Bureau of Agriculture Bill ; that appeals to every progressive individual. Why not put in valuable time discussing that measure for the benefit ci the people now living in Australia, and those yet unborn? However, the party system requires that .we should devote ourselves to this very contentious matter of the introduction of the postal vote. I do not blame the Government for bringing forward the proposal, but many honorable gentlemen, if they really had a proper conception of the idea of the postal vote, would not support its reintroduction. It is not a question of which party will be the most dishonest; it is not a question of the opportunity presenting itself. The opportunity is there now to vote in more than one place; but if a man embraces that opportunity, he is liable to be punished in a court of law. There is every chance of being found out, and people fight shy of law courts; they do not take too many risks when there is a fear that they may have to put in_ a portion of their time in gaol. In spite of that, under the postal vote, as it used to exist, voting by canvassers was done with impunity - I do not say it was illegally done, but people are somewhat limited in their knowledge of political subjects - and it was a great lever for any political party to have a few hundred or a thousand votes ready at hand to be counted on election day.
– Do you say the postal vote has been abused in Victoria?
– I do not know.
– Is that not one of the best instances of the use of the system ?
– Of course, not very many have been found out; but it can be used in circumstances in which it cannot be sheeted home as fraud. To explain myself, I must go into details.
– The suggestion of fraud is in the imaginaton of those attacking the system.’
– I recognise that the onus of proof rests on me. I make a definite statement when I say that it can mean thousands of votes in one district. I am making the charge, and the onus of proving it rests on me. It can be done without infringing the law, because of, I do not like to say the ignorance, but the limited knowledge of the great mass of the people.
– Then why not give the press freedom, so that it can educate the people ?
– The press is free enough now if it likes to publish signed articles. Those who manipulated the postal vote in the interests of their own party could do so without any fear of infringing the law. They stood on velvet all the time. Persons who wished to exercise a postal vote were only required to say, “I believe that I shall not be able to attend at the polling booth on the day of the election.” There was nothing, therefore, to prevent an unscrupulous justice of the peace from accepting a vote there and then.
– Why should the honorable member say that all justices of the peace are unscrupulous?
– I say that some of them are. I am not a suspicious person who is always ready to speak ill of my fellow man, because I know that, on the whole, the world is very good. But when men are paid to do certain work, certain results are expected. Those engaged in collecting postal votes could go to a house and ask the woman there, ‘ ‘ Are you sure that you will be able to go to the polling booth on the day of the election,” and if she said that she thought that she could not, they would take her vote. Half of them would not know who the candidates were. Indeed, 10 per cent, of the population does not know the names even of the candidates for the Senate a short time before an election. In the way I speak of, you could get hundreds, and even thousands, of postal votes in one division. I have now a proposition to make to the Government. Speaking on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, I said that I Was anxious to give facilities for voting to persons living more than a certain number of miles from a polling place, and I should be glad to give the same facilities to persons unable, by reason of physical infirmity to go to the poll. We want to look after the mothers of the nation, and should not deprive them of the right to vote. In South Australia I notice, however, that the Liberals, in proposing an alteration of the franchise which would give a vote for the Legislative Council to all who pay the rent, are in effect extending the franchise only to men, because it is the husbands who usually pay the rent. They are not solicitous of the interests of the mothers of the State. But let sweet reasonableness prevail in this matter. Let us see if there is not some half-way house. Life is a compromise. We have constantly to compromise, either as individuals or collectively. A man has often to compromise even with his wife, and a wife with her husband, as those who have been living in connubial bliss for any length of time are fully aware. If there must be compromise in the closest of human relations, it is not strange that there must be compromise in public affairs. I am willing to go a considerable distance to meet the Government in this matter, and I have a proposal which I am sure will be received with favour by every rightthinking man and woman in the community. As I said at a former stage, I am willing that persons living more than 10 miles from a polling booth should have the right to vote by post under certain conditions, which I shall state later on. Sometimes the husband, wife, and members of a family are all employed in an establish- ment which cannot be closed for a whole day. Persons keeping a hotel are so situated, and when they are living more than a certain number of miles from a polling booth they cannot all attend to vote. Consequently, under present arrangements, some of them are deprived of the franchise. Again, persons living in the back-blocks, 50, 60, and 100 miles from a polling booth, are unable to vote in most cases, though we have heard of men driving 120 miles to a polling booth. On the other hand, we know that there are persons who would not go 120 yards to record a vote, not realizing the importance of voting. The opportunity to vote by post should be given to all persons living beyond a certain distance from a polling booth. Another class of persons who should have the benefit of the postal vote are persons in quarantine. At Sydney, at the present time, there is a large number of persons in quarantine because of the small-pox epidemic. The disease, by the way, is not of a very virulent type, though the medical fraternity deem it to be sufficiently serious to require the quarantining of patients. If a general election were held, those persons would be unable to vote, which is manifestly unfair. Provision should be made for their voting by post. As to the sick and infirm, honorable members on this side are only too eager to have polling booths in every large and small hospital. As it is now 4 o’clock, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a subsequent occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Commonwealth Bank - Governor’s Report.
.- As a matter of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I should like you to be good enough to say whether you laid the report of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank on the table of the Hou3e as soon as it was received?
– No, not as soon as I received it. I am sorry to say that the report got covered up with some other documents, and, owing to that, was, unfortunately, temporarily overlooked. I sent for a fresh copy, but meanwhile discovered the document among my papers, . and laid it on the table.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper : -
Public Service Act - Promotion of Hugh McConaghy to new office of senior clerk to the Inter-State Commission.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with my remarks on the no-confidence amendment. When I was speaking on that occasion, I made the statement that certain people in my electorate were receiving old-age pensions, and the Minister of Trade and Customs, on the 18th of this month, made some remarks in regard to the matter. I do not know whether I ought to mention the names of the people.
Honorable Members. - No, no.
– The names were mentioned by the Minister.
– They were first mentioned by the honorable member, and afterwards were repeated.
– The Minister mentioned the names in his statement.
– I mentioned only the same name the honorable member had -mentioned in Iris speech.
– My only object in rising on the present occasion is to apologize to those people in my electorate for my statement that they were receiving old-age pensions. I spoke from information given to me by reliable people in the electorate, but I now find that I was wrong, and I therefore desire to apologize.
Sitting suspended from Z/..3 to 4.11 p.m.
Bill returned from Senate, without request.
Purification of Rolls : Assistance of Political Organizations - Cockburn Sound Naval Base - Outbreak of Small-pox : Administration of Quarantine.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to the following newspaper statement in regard to a meeting of the South Burnett District Council of the Queensland Farmers’ Union, and to ask him whether the statement therein contained is correct -
Amongst the correspondence was a letter from the Commonwealth Electoral Registrar asking for the assistance of the Farmers’ Union organization in getting the Federal roll in order. From statements made by various members, there are a lot of names to be struck off. Arrangements were made for each branch to go over the rolls and report for their own sub-districts.
Will the Minister tell us whether the statement made recently by the AttorneyGeneral has been taken by the Registrars as an official direction that they are to seek the assistance of political or ganizations, or whether the statement made by the Honorary Minister himself during the same debate that no such instruction had been sent out is correct? Will the honorable gentleman ascertain whether this report is correct; and, if so, whether the Registrar has exceeded his duty in taking this action?
.- If the Leader of the Opposition will let me have the newspaper cutting, I shall send it at once to the Chief Electoral Officer, and have inquiries made.
– Has such an instruction been sent out by the honorable member?
– Not by me. The question put to me last Wednesday by a member of the Opposition was, to the best of my memory, as to whether any instruction had been given to enable political bodies to strike names off the roll. No such instructions have been given. Indeed, such instructions would be highly improper; but the assistance of organizations with regard to information which would afterwards be verified by the trusted officers of the Department is quite another matter.
– The body in question is a political organization.
– But the particular statement in this case goes a little further. I shall have a very strict investigation made at the earliest possible moment.
.. - I had not an opportunity yesterday, during the consideration of the Supply Bill, to make a few remarks that I desired to offer with regard to Cockburn Sound Naval Base. I should like the Prime Minister, and the Ministry generally, to understand that I do not approach the consideration of this question from a party stand-point. This morning I asked the Prime Minister a certain question, but I did not receive a satisfactory answer. I wish to know what the Government are going to do in regard to the site. I am somewhat in a quandary in regard to this matter. At page 541 of Hansard we have the following statement made by the Minister of Defence, in another place -
It is not suggested that the gentleman who is to come out here to advise us in this matter is to review the question of a site.
That statement is definite enough, and, if it remained there, would be all right.
– The reference was ito Cockburn Sound.
– No ; the Minister was speaking of Jervoise Bay. In support of this, we have the following statement made by the Prime Minister, when speaking of Jervoise Bay, as reported in Ilansard, page 276 -
I am quite aware that Admiral Henderson recommends that we should begin to make a naval /base at the point in question, and we desire to do so.
– He did not “ recommend “ it at all.
– He said that, in :his opinion, it was the best site.
– Why does not the honorable member quote what he did say ?
– I was quoting what the Prime Minister said. Then we have had the right honorable gentleman who is interjecting-
– This will do “Western Australia, and Fremantle particularly, a lot of harm.
– That is a matter of opinion. The right honorable gentleman has frequently interjected in this House that Mangles Bay is the better site; and in a communication to the Mayor of Fremantle he states .that unknown nautical men support him in this contention. I should like to know the names of these authorities, because we have abundant evidence in Sir John Coode’s reports of 1877 and 1891, as well as in the reports by Captain Archdeacon, a member of the Royal Navy, to show that the Jervoise Bay site is the better one. The Treasurer, on the 11th instant, sent the following wire to the Daily News - to the editor, I presume - in which, referring to some report, he states -
Report incorrect. No difference of opinion. No feeling adverse to Cockburn Sound. Taking steps to obtain eminent authority to advise as to character and cost of channel dredging and naval work. Every reason for Western Australia to be satisfied that great naval base is to be established at Cockburn Sound.
Cockburn Sound is a sheet of water some 12 miles in length by 8 or 10 miles in width, and it embraces different sites for a Naval Base. It will be observed ‘ that the telegram sent by the Treasurer to the Daily News is not at all definite as to where the Base will be; and, as a representative of Fremantle, I am trying to obtain from the Government some conclusive statement on the point. This morning the Prime Minister said, in answer to a question which I put to him, that the expert will advise on the whole question, and will give the Government the benefit of the whole of his experience. I should like to know, even now, why it is necessary to bring out this expert. I would recommend the Cabinet to read the speech delivered by the ex -Minister of Defence in another place on Wednesday last. It is a speech replete with all the information that could possibly be required iri connexion with this matter, pointing out the reports received from different eminent men, whom the Treasurer will know right well, because he had a great deal to do with them.
– Is that the same speech in which the selected expert was described as an “ trader-strapper “ ?
– I cannot say “yes” or “no” to that, although I have been through the speech. The firm of Coode and Matthews, the principals of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice., both reported on “the whole question of harbor accommodation at Fremantle. They had any amount of information. Bores were put through the Parmelia and Success banks, and there was also the report of Captain Archdeacon, who was in Fremantle for a number of months dealing with the question from a nautical man’s stand-point. And we have all that information, coupled with the advice tendered by Admiral Henderson. Apparently, there is an effort being made to alter the site, and I protest against this. I ask why the work should be stopped at Cockburn Sound, when the work at Westernport is not interfered with. And if the expert is coming out to advise in connexion with the whole of these matters, why should there be this discrimination 1
– Do you wish us to discharge the men ?
– No ; I wish you to put men on at Cockburn Sound.
– The Attorney-General represents Westernport, and you represent Fremantle.
– I would not say that is the cause of it.
– That is dirty.
– It happens to be the truth.
– If the question of the site is not the crux of the matter, there is a great deal of work that can be undertaken at the Jervoise Bay site. Admiral Henderson spoke of the erection of a breakwater. It must be placed in a certain position, and the site cannot very well be affected by the expert that apparently is to come to Australia. The loss of work is a very serious matter to the men. There are many now unemployed who might reasonably be at work to-day. The stoppage of operations at Cockburn Sound has also had an effect on the business life of the Fremantle district; and from my recent visit I know that men by no means associated with me politically are feeling very keenly the action of the present Administration. I would remind my friend, the right honorable member for Swan, that there is only one Labour man on the Fremantle Municipal Council. Therefore he will recognise that resolutions passed by that council are not suggested by me, aud must have some weight with him.
– It was not a unanimous resolution.
– There were only two against it.
– But there were only three for it.
– I know that is absolutely incorrect, because I was at the meeting. I did not frame the resolution. I went to the meeting as the representative of the district, and placed before the municipal councillors the full facts of the case. I took with me Hansard reports, and I admitted things that, from a party stand-point, did not reflect as well as I would like them on the Opposition. I am perfectly honest in what I do, and I would like to know what the Government are going to do. If it is not a question of site, there is a great deal of work they could undertake which would absorb a lot of the unemployed in the Fremantle area.
– I do not intend, at this late stage, to lay before the House what I should like in connexion with the quarantine regulations and small-pox epidemic generally, but I would like to ask two questions of the Minister of Trade and Customs. He ha3 already been asked what he proposes to do in reference to the proclamation of the quarantine area, and I understood that he said he was considering the matter, but was unable to say anything further or definite. I hope that, without any unnecessary delay, he will see his way clear to lift the proclamation. I shall not labour the point any more; but I wish to bring forward another matter. While the quarantine is there, the regula- tions should be administered with regard to the convenience of the public. That is not the case now. Having left my exemption certificate behind, I was compelled to apply for another. I attended at the office before 5 o’clock, but found the place shut up. The only officer there gave the stereotyped reply that the doctor would be in attendance at 9 o’clock in the morning. There were two or three people there besides myself, and I learned that tins was quite a common practice. I inquired from two officers who came out what were the hours during which the doctor attended. They said it was at any hour that was convenient to the doctor between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. I do not think that is proper. We have the means to keep a man there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. for the public convenience. The other people there were comparatively poor. They wished to go to Adelaide. They had been at the office previously, and were told they could not be attended to because there were noforms. I said it could not be true; but the two officers whom I interrogated said it was perfectly true that people were turned away because there were no forma available.
– If you will give me theexact date I will make an inquiry.
– It was on Tuesday last. Those other people - a man with hiswife and child - told me that it was the second time they were there. On thefirst occasion they were put off becausethere were no forms, and the officers admitted it was a fact. I ask the “Minister now to take steps to see that the publicconvenience is consulted, and to see that a doctor is kept there all day. I do notthink we should be made a convenienceof by a man to suit his private practice, or that he should go there only when hehas an interval in his private practice.
.- Regarding the first question, I can see noreason at the present time advanced for lifting the quarantine, though I am willing to hear from any person or authorized body in Sydney any representations that may give me information on the subject. In regard to the second matter touched on by the honorable member, I agree with him that the public interests should be first considered. It comes to me as a surprise to know there were no forms in the - office, and I shall certainly inquire into the matter. I am also surprised to learn that no officer was available in Sydney for the purpose. I was under the impression that he was available, and if there was any neglect I shall inquire into it. There may have been some temporary - matter that justified his absence. As a rule, an officershould be there in the interests of the public, because trains and steamers are leaving every day, and frequently emergency cases compel persons to visit the office. Facilities ought to be provided for the public, and I will see that every reasonable facility is provided.
– And there should be some indication to the public that the office is there.
– Until quite recently the office was located at the municipal council chambers in the city, but, for some reason or other, we could not retain those quarters. I am glad that the honorable member has drawn attention to this matter.
– I shall be glad to substantiate what I have said.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement.
– I do not know when we are going to hear the last of this Cockburn Sound business.
– When the Prime Minister has done justice.
– What is justice ? “What is truth?” said jesting Pilate, and waited not for an answer. All I have to say is that we are getting an. expert out because the Naval Board suggested it. We have no better authority here. The suggestion is being industriously circulated that my colleague, the Treasurer, is at the bottom of all this. He, of course, is interested in anything affecting Western Australia just as keenly as is the honorable member for Fremantle; but he is only anxious, with the rest of us, that this huge expenditure shall be incurred after we have obtained the best advice as to where the money should be. spent.
– That affects the site?’
– I have told the honorable member before that we are getting Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice out to select the best available- site for the docks and other establishments anywhere in Cockburn Sound that he may deem best for naval purposes.
– That is definite.
– What else should we get him out for ?
– It may be for the sake of delay. . .
– And it may not be.
– It- may be that he is being brought out to alter the site selected by Admiral Henderson.
– Admiral Henderson did not select a site. He Baid that the best available advice should be obtained in regard to a site and an establishment somewhere in that bay.
– He recommended a site in Jervoise Bay.
– Why does not the honorable member read what Admiral Henderson said 1 He takes care not to - do that. Admiral Henderson did not recommend a definite site at all. He merely suggested that it should be somewhere in that vicinity. He selected the - Naval Base, and now we are obtaining the services of the expert whom he recommended to select the site and to lay down the general establishment. We know of no other way of settling this matter definitely so that work may proceed there.
– Who selected Westernport ?
– TheNaval Board, I presume, which recommended the bringing out of this expert. It was the . same authority in each instance. I. have here a long speech which was delivered a day or two ago in the other branch of the Legislature by Senator Pearce. I do not think that he does himself credit by speaking of this expert in the way that he has spoken of him. He calls him an understrapper who is being asked to come out and report on the work of his chief. His words are -
Now the Government are asking an understrapper of the same firm to come here and report on the work of its head.
Let me quote from Who’s Who, who this understrapper is. I find that he was born in May, 1861. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin University.
He is -
M.A., M.E. (Dublin); LL.D. (Birmingham); apprentice to the late Sir Benjamin Bakie,
K.C.B. ; Member of Council, Inst. C.E., M. Inst., Mcch. E. ; Hon. Fellow Society of Engineers; M.K.M. Canadian Society of Engineers;
Lieut. -Colonel, Engineer and Railway Staff Corps ; Engineer of the Rotherhithe Tunnel, New Vauxhall Bridge; King’s Way and Tramway Subway, below street ; the electric tramways in London and the duplication and extension of the London main drainage system at a cost of Z4>ooo,ooo<; also engaged on the Forth Bridge, Railways and Docks in Canada, the Blackwall Tunnel, Nile Reservoir Dam, Assouan, Egypt. Decorated ; Order of Medjidie, 1901 ; and for ‘ Nile Reservoir,’ 1903. Publications : Plate. Girder Railway Bridges; Shrinkage of the Thames and Leads; London County Bridges; Main Drainage of London ; and many papers and publications on engineering subjects. Recreations : Shooting fishing.
– I did not say that hewas not a good man.
– No. But Senator Pearce suggested that he was not of much account - that he was only an understrapper of this firm.
– Is it not a fact that every, man contributes his own biography to Who’s Whot
– I suppose that the gentleman who forwarded this statement, to that publication would not claim that he had done something that he had not done. All 1. have to say is that if fie says that Jervoise Bay is a proper place for- these works nobody on this side of the House will be sorry. On the contrary, we shall be quite satisfied that the best has been done. It is only because on the authority of the Naval Board there is a necessity for getting further expert advice, and because this expert- advice was- recommended by Admiral Henderson that the Government are- obtaining it.
– Did not the Minister of Defence distinctly say that it was not so much a question of the site to be chosen as of an expert to advise as to detailed works?
– Nor is it a question of the site alone, but of the whole establishment as well. This expert is coming here to advise us as to the lay out of the whole scheme. He will advise us in the same way in regard to Wssternport, That is why his- fee is so high. After he returns to England hd will have to make plans of all these places, and upon that work his staff will be engaged for some time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130926_reps_5_71/>.