5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– Certain articles haveappeared in the metropolitan newspapers,, dealing, with the Budget, the financial position of the Commonwealth, and theviews of the Treasurer on the figures before him and the prospects of the country. I wish to know from the right honorable gentleman whether those articles were based on information given to the press with his knowledge or consent, and. whether’ he knows anything at all about them. Or are they merely statements; made in anticipation of the delivery of the Budget?
– It is not very likely that I would communicate to- the press information about the Budget which I wish to deliver first-hand myself to honorable members. Ihave not given any of these matters to the newspapers.
– And the statements which have been published are not correct?
– I have hardly looked at them, and. cannot say whether they are or are not correct. I have certainly not communicated any information on the subject to the. press.
– Is the Prime Minister aware . that it has been stated in the Sydney newspapers that the question of removing the unjust embargo which has been placed upon Sydney and the district within 15 miles of the post-office in connexion with the small-pox outbreak has been . referred to him ? Is he aware, also, of the proposition by the Minister of
Trade and Customs that the State Parliament should pass a Vaccination Bill, and that the Houses of that Parliament have not been asked by the people to do so ? Is he aware, further, that the Board of Health, the Chamber of Commerce, and the daily newspapers urge that it is not necessary to continue the embargo ; and does he know that all authorities admit that any further cases arising could be dealt with effectually by isolation, as cases were dealt with during the plague outbreak in Sydney some years ago ?
– My honorable colleague has been in Sydney this week-end in consultation with the Board of Health, but there is nothing fresh to report. It is not proposed to raise the quarantine. Until the State has taken steps on its own account which will effectively prevent the spread of small-pox to the other States, the quarantine cannot bc lifted.
– Is there any provision in the Constitution, or has Parliament provided, that a State Parliament shall be compelled to pass a law which the people do not desire?
– I shall have the Constitution searched to see.
– In view of the reply of the Prime Minister to the honorable member for East Sydney, are we to understand that unless the State of New South Wales or the State of Victoria, or both, pass certain legislation to satisfy the Federal Government, the present embargo on the metropolitan area of Sydney is to remain ?
– What I have said, and what I wish to repeat, is that the embargo will remain so long as this Government, on the authority of the Department responsible, is of opinion that there is danger of the disease spreading to the other States.
Colonel RYRIE. - In view of the information which, I understand, was placed before him during his recent visit to Sydney, has the Minister of Trade and Customs come to any determination in regard to the removal of the quarantine station from Manly?
– A deputation representing the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of Manly waited upon me yesterday and urged the removal of the Quarantine Station to some other area. I informed the deputation, which mentioned one or two sites which it was thought might suit the purpose, that this matter had been under the consideration of the Department for some time, and that the late Director of Quarantine had reported that the various sites suggested were unsuitable for thepurpose. In passing, I may mention that the removal of the Quarantine Station would in itself involve a very heavy expenditure. I informed the deputation’, however, that if there could be suggested a site that would fulfil the necessary conditions, it would certainly be considered by the Department. Sydney is a very important commercial and shipping centre, a fact that cannot be overlooked in determining the location of a Quarantine Station, and I mentioned that, in considering the suitableness of any site, regard would have to be paid to the importance of the shipping interests to be served. I reminded my interviewers that a matter that had given rise to great anxiety on the part of citizens of Sydney was that vessels had come right down from the north into the port of Sydney with quarantinable diseases on board, but that the cause for this anxiety was now being, removed, since three Quarantine Stations were being provided north of Sydney. One of these is being placed at Thursday Island, another at Townsville, and the third at Brisbane.
Colonel RYRIE. - Following up my question, to which the Minister has given a very vague reply, I should like to ask him whether, in the event of a suitable site being found, he is prepared to remove the Quarantine Station ?
– If we find a site more suitable than the present one, and the officers of the Department so advise, I shall certainly be prepared to recommend the removal of the station.
Objections - Statistics - Rolls
– On Friday last the Leader of the Opposition asked a question about an instruction which has been issued by the Electoral Department. I have here a copy of that instruction, and propose to read a portion of it for the information of honorable members.
– The question that I asked was based on a statement which has appeared in the press.
– That matter is being inquired into. That part of the instruction which is now relevant reads as follows: -
Where specific information is furnished in writing that electors have removed to another division or subdivision, or have died, or that several entries which differ in sequence of Christian names, in detail of spelling, &c, refer to one and the same person, you should cause independent inquiry to be made through the registrars -and police with a view to -
Objections being lodged where it is ascertained that the electors concerned have left the divisions for which they are enrolled . and are not temporarily absent therefrom ;
Prosecutions being initiated where failure to comply with the compulsory provisions of the Act is disclosed ;
The names of deceased persons being removed from the rolls, if this has not previously been done in ordinary course.
That instruction has been issued by the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Electoral Officers tor the States.
– I asked the Honorary Minister during the adjournment debate on Friday whether a communication had been sent from the principal Registrar to a certain body, asking it to take steps to lodge objections to names on the roll.
– I do not wish 1 honorable members to think that the reading of the instruction was intended as an answer to that question. The matter to which the right honorable member referred is now under consideration.
– The instruction speaks of Registrars.
– I read the instruction because it has been very much canvassed in this House recently, and I understood that honorable members would like to know the actual wording of it.
– Will the Honorary Minister lay a copy of it on the table ?
– Yes. So far as the other matter is concerned, I have placed the newspaper report which the right honorable member quoted from in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer, who is looking into it now.
– A statement appeared in the Melbourne Herald of last evening as to the inability or neglect of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to supply certain information from the Electoral Department. The Assistant Minister has given one side of the case, that of Mr. Knibbs, and I ask him whetherhe will take steps to see that documents reporting the other side, that of the Chief Electoral Officer, are laid on the ‘table of the House, so that honorable members may be able to deal with the question.
– I am glad that the honorable member has brought up this question, because in view of the very carefully worded and absolutely untrue statements that have appeared in the Herald, it is well that honorable members should know the facts. The reporter of the Herald waited on me on Friday afternoon in the Ministers’ room, and asked me if I would give him permission to interview Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer, in regard to Mr. Knibbs’ statistical calculations as to the number of voters. I said, “No.”
– And the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is the man who believes in the liberty of the press !
– Not the liberty of the press to run our Departments. The reporter of the Herald said that it was very unfair - that I was muzzling a great Department which I knew had an answer. I replied that I was not muzzling the Department, but wished to give the fullest information, and was ready to give it to any honorable member who asked a question in the proper place, namely, Parliament. The reporter of the newspaper then said - and this is what I wish honorable members to bear in mind - “ That is no good to me; I want copy.” It is because that gentleman desires exclusive copy at the expense of the Departments that he is adopting this particular method. This morning the Chief Electoral Officer informed me that, so far as he was personally concerned, he did not wish to see the reporter of this newspaper, and that he had in no way been suppressed or gagged by the present Administration. If the Leader of the Opposition or the honorable member for Yarra has any doubt, I shall be only too happy for them to see the Chief Electoral Officer. I may say that one reason why I felt it particularly necessary to be careful of this press reporter is that, some time ago, when a controversy was going on in another place, he wrote in the Herald as follows
– Is this answering the question ?
– I think . the Honorary Minister is going beyond what is necessary to answer the question.
– Of course, if my honorable friends opposite do not wish to, know the reasons-
– I have no objection.
– I should like to hear them .
– I can assure honorable members that the Chief Electoral Officer is under no sense of difficulty whatever. It is purely because this particular press reporter desires exclusive copy for his own newspaper that honorable members have heard anything about the matter.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs state whether it was because the Herald representative desired exclusive information that he declined to allow him to interview the Chief Electoral Officer, and also whether he will allow all the press representatives to interview that officer upon the question under consideration?
– I regard the Parliament as the first body entitled to information in regard to departmental matters.
– According to the Honorary Minister, the Chief Electoral Officer is in no way embarrassed in making his statements and reports, and I ask the Prime Minister, as Minister of Home Affairs, whether he has any objection to the whole of the reports being laid upon the table of the House without honorable members being called upon to elicit the information by questions?
– I am quite unable to say off-hand what should be done with papers. There are some papers and reports between responsible officers and Ministers which are not for publication, while there are others that are. In regard to anything which is proper to be published, there is not the slightest objection.
– I mean documents dealing with this question.
– I mean papers dealing with this question. Papers must stand on their merits as to whether it is proper to publish them or not. If the honorable gentleman has any particular paper or report in his mind, and he will put a question on the notice-paper, the matter will be inquired into.
– Such papers ought to be laid upon the table at once.
– Will the Honorary Minister now lay on the table Mr. Oldham’s statement of the case regarding the number of persons eligible for enrolment, and move that it be printed 1
– Yes, certainly. The Chief Electoral Officer has to-day given me his statement in regard to this matter. This is not the first statement laid before honorable members, because I quoted the Chief Electoral Officer’s views in my second-reading speech on tlie Electoral Bill. The statement of the Chief Electoral Officer is as follows : -
The figures prepared by Mr. Knibbs were submitted in response to an inquiry by a member of the Senate, and merely gave a rough approximation of the number of persons in Australia qualified for enrolment on or about the date of the issue of the writs for the recent elections.
It is admittedly a very difficult matter to even approximately estimate the number of persons qualified for enrolment actually in Australia or in each State at any given time, or the number of persons enrolled but temporarily absent, or the number of persons not enrolled. The main point raised has been that the total enrolment for the purposes of the elections exceeded the total number of persons qualified for enrolment. The Chief Electoral Officer reported that, altogether apart from any question of irregularity, there must always be an excess of names on the electoral rolls at any given date for reasons which arise under the law, and the Minister referred to the matter in his second-reading speech on the Electoral Bill.
It will be seen that, so far from suppressing what the Chief Electoral Officer has said, that gentleman himself recognises that expression has been given to his views.
– In connexion with the question put by the Leader of the Opposition to the Minister of Home Affairs regarding reports made by the Chief Electoral Officer on the administration of the Electoral Act, and its working at the last election, I should like to ask the honorable gentleman whether he has any communication or report from the Chief Electoral Officer covering all the proposed amendments of the law in the measure now before the House. Reference has been made to the Chief Electoral Officer in this regard, and I would ask the Minister of Home Affairs, if he has not any reports or communications recommending or justifying any or all of these proposed amendments, will he invite the Chief Electoral Officer to report and express his official opinion in regard thereto, and lay such report on the table of the House.
– This request comes strangely from the honorable member, as it would, indeed, from any member of the Opposition who, in the last
Parliament, were very indignant when I asked whether the Chief Electoral Officer had reported favorably to the abolition of postal voting. There was then a great “ to-do “ about my question, and we were told by the Minister of the day, that “he” was the Minister. I am afraid that I must follow so good a precedent, and give the same answer in this instance.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs a question arising out of an answer given by the Attorney-General relating to objections lodged to the names of electors being placed upon the rolls. From his statement I gathered that before objections could be filed, full inquiry would be made, either by a police officer or other official. I understood that that procedure was to be followed. But I have received several letters from residents in the Creswick district, which show that it is not being followed. Objections are being lodged to the names of people who have resided in that district for thirty or forty years, without any preliminary inquiry whatever. Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs take action in regard to these objections, otherwise many of these persons may not take notice of them, and their names may thus be struck off the rolls?
– The instruction which has come from the Chief Electoral Officer is very clear on this point. I have read’ it to-day. If that instruction has in any way” been improperly exceeded, the Chief Electoral Officer may be depended upon to see that it is not exceeded again. If the honorable member can point to any cases in which the safeguards imposed in that instruction have been disregarded, I suggest that he might very properly bring them under the notice of the Department, and they will then be dealt with.
– I desire to ask another question of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, with regard to the intimation that has been sent out by the Attorney-General or his Department. The intimation to which I refer has evidently been received by the Liberal party before any other party knew anything about it. It is to the effect that if objections are lodged against names on the electoral roll, the immediate effect will be .that those names will not be placed on any roll. I know that the Liberal party in Ballarat have lodged information against hundreds of names - or, at any rate, scores of names. I want to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he will see that every Deputy Registrar - I do not think that the Registrars would do anything dishonorable
– Order ! The honorable member must not make a speech. He can ask a question if he desires to do so.
– I am proceeding to do that, sir. I wish to know if the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs will see that the Deputy Electoral Registrars get a notice that they are -not to act upon the information received and consider that of itself an objection, but are to make full inquiries and see that the persons in question have not left the division ?
– I only wish to reaffirm that the instruction of the Chief Electoral Officer is very clear and very explicit, and requires that such independent investigation shall take place before any name is struck off the roll.
– They are not doing it.
– With regard to the premise of the honorable member’s question - that is to say, that the news of this matter had got first to the Liberal organizations, and the insinuation that if such news did so get to the Liberal organizations it was deliberately given’ to them by the Electoral Office, or those responsible for its administration - I wish to say that the insinuation is without any foundation.
– We had to wring from you the announcement.
– I have given the honorable member the same reply about six times.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
The Commonwealth Statistician’s rough estimate of the number of persons eligible for Commonwealth enrolment on the 30th . April, 1913, was 2,576,000, and on the 31st May, 1913, 2,585,000. These estimates were obtained -
In the case of allowance (.e) the net adult migration was taken into account. This, consequently, has the effect of making due allowance for any Australian citizens temporarily absent at the dates specified who have left Australia within the six months preceding those dates.
Reinstatement of Officials - Undergrounding of Telephone Wires : Day Labour - Mechanicians : Wages - Western Electric Company - Automatic Telephone Exchanges - General Post Office, Perth - Post Office Reforms
– The following statement appeared in the Brisbane Standard of the 24th of this month -
Mr. Wilson, who had been discharged by the Public Service Commissioner because of his agitation among the postal employes in Sydney, rah as a Fusion candidate against Mr West, M.H.R., in East Sydney. Mr. Wilson has how been reinstated in his position. Mr. Burgess was a lineman, who carried the Labour flag against Mr. Bruce Smith, M.H.R., in Parkes electorate.He has been refused reinstatement.
I ask the Postmaster-General if that statement is correct?
– Mr. Wilson has not been reinstated. I think that he resigned, and took his compensation.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral if he has issued an instruction to the Sydney office that day work in connexion with the laying of telephone wires in Sydney must be stopped ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that a large number of men were discharged last week?
– About 400.
– No; I have no knowledge of it, and I did not issue any instructions. I expect the work is finished.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of getting into communication with the postal authorities in Sydney, with a view to keeping these men employed until openings are found for them ?
– If there is any work for them to do, we shall do the best we can; but I expect that the- work they were engaged on lias been finished.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether he has any objection to laying on the table of the House, or the Library table, papers relating to the recovery of ?5,900, or some considerable sum, from the Western Electric Company?
– I have no objection to laying the papers on the Library table.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question relating to automatic telephone exchanges. While I was in office, I called for tenders for the establishment of fourteen automatic exchanges in and around Sydney. I wish to know whether or not the tenders have yet been accepted, and what system it is proposed to adopt?
– I accepted some tenders the other day. They are being accepted by degrees, as we haVe the money to expend.
– Can the Minister mention whether the system adopted is the same one as was originally chosen? <j
– It is the system recommended by the officers of the Department - the same system as is in operation at Geelong. .
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether it is the intention of his Department to pay temporary postal electricians over the age of twenty-three years a salary of £144 per annum, instead of £168 per annum - the rate fixed by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court to be paid to permanent men?
– I understand that the salary to be paid is £168 per annum. I am not quite sure, but I think that is the amount,
– The honorable member for Fawkner asked a question with reference to mechanics. I have received a memorandum which informs me that the award provides that junior mechanics shall receive £144 per annum, and mechanics £168 per annum.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to make a statement regarding the stage that has been reached in reference to the initiation of the automatic telephone system in Perth?
– I cannot, from memory, tell the honorable member what the position is at the present moment, but I shall make inquiries.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he can tell us exactly the position in regard to the erection of a new General Post Office in Perth?
– In reply to the honorable member, I may say that a site was chosen as the best in the interests of the Commonwealth, and designs were received for the buildings concerned. The lay-out, however, was somewhat severely criticised by various public bodies in Perth, with the result that the whole matter is now under urgent consideration.
– Was it not the site which was criticised ?
– Yes; but if the buildings are to occupy another part of that site they will, of course, have to be remodelled.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of theHouse a list of the reforms that he desires to bring about in the Post Office, but has been prevented by “ red-tapism ?”
– The answer to the question is -
It would be premature to lay upon the table of the House any list of reforms which I have in mind, as I have a Bill drafted dealing with anomalies and for the appointment of a Commission.
I stated publicly, soon after I assumed office, that I was very much impressed with the efficiency of the officers I had met. Since then I have had the opportunity of meeting many more of them, and I am satisfied that the officials and staff of the Department are anxious to assist in doing oil they can for the improvement of the Service.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received any communication from the Queensland Premier in regard to the alleged breach of agreement as to labor conditions, and so forth, in the sugar mills of that State?
– I understood that the honorable member’s questions in this regard had reference to certain complaints as to the administration of a State Act. I arrived from Sydney only half-an-hour ago; and if the honorable member will allow me, I shall endeavour to obtain the information this afternoon. My source of information may be the same as that of the honorable member; but I saw an announcement in the newspaper as to a question asked in ‘ the State Parliament drawing attention to the fact that certain action should be taken.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs noticed a report in the Herald practically inferring interference on his part with the Commonwealth Statistician ?
– I noticed the statement, and the inference which it conveys is untrue. I received, just before I entered the House, the following letter from Mr. Knibbs -
Understanding that some question has arisen as to whether on any occasion or occasions the work of the Statistician has been interfered with, may I mention that on no occasion since my taking office up to the present time has there been any such attempt, direct or indirect, either restricting the freedom of the Statistician as regards the analysis or publication of statistical matter or otherwise.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House whether any progress is being made with the negotiations with Canada in regard to reciprocal trade relations?
– That matter, together with the question of reciprocal trade with New Zealand, is still under consideration.
– It has been for a long time.
– That is not so. The question is being considered in connexion with the general question of the Tariff.
Newcastle Cadets - Expert Inspection of Naval Bases
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence the reason why the Naval Cadets at Newcastle have been cut out from the Fleet reception which is to take place next Saturday ?
– I will bring the matter referred to by the honorable member under the notice of my colleague, and endeavour to obtain information without delay.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the table of the House a copy of the instructions which the Government will issue to Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, regarding the Naval Base sites throughout Australia?
– I have not considered the matter of tying him down to any specific instructions at all.
– What is he to dot
– To report on our Naval Bases.
– Then the Government will give him a charter inside which he will work?
– I do not know that we shall. I do not know that we are going to tie his hands in any such way. He will come out here to do just what we want him to do.
– Will the Prime Minister say what he wants him to do ?
– To report,, in his unbiased and untrammelled judgment, on the best sites for Naval Bases, and to lay out a general scheme for the construction of the establishments.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer- whether he. is aware that considerable delay is taking place in dealing with old-age pension matters?
– I am not. If the honorable member has any information to that effect I shall be very glad to give it my best attention.
– I will give the right honorable gentleman a dozen instances to-morrow.
– I rise to a question of privilege. Last Tuesday I gave notice that, contingent on the Electoral Bill going into Committee, I would propose an addition to clause 1 as follows: -
I cannot see that notice of motion upon the business-paper, nor is there any reference to it in Hansard. I did not expect that it would appear in Hansard, but I did expect that it would find a place upon the business-paper. It is quite the practice - as I am sure honorable members will realize if they read the business-paper for the last few days - to put upon it contingent notices of motion of that kind. Only the other day the Treasurer gave notice that, contingent on a certain Bill going into Committee, he would move in a certain direction. If there is to be any change in that procedure I would be glad to know it, so that I may adopt another method of bringing my views before the House and the country.
– I would point out to the honorable member that no notice of an amendment to a clause of a Bill would appear upon the notice-paper. In regard to the character of the amendment, I may say that my attention was drawn to it by the officers of the House, and I did not regard it as being intended seriously, or as one that the House could seriously entertain.
– I am very serious about it.
– As in duty bound, the officers of the House call the attention of Mr. Speaker to any notice of questions or amendments, or motions, which, in their judgment, should be brought under his notice. After having seen the notice referred to, it seemed to me that the honorable member did not seriously propose it. And, in any case, it was one which no Speaker could, with propriety, accept seriously. I, therefore, directed that it should not be printed. It was couched in ironical terms. According to May -
When a notice, publicly given, is obviously irregular or unbecoming, the Speaker has interposed, and the notice is not received in that form; and he has also directed that a notice of motion should not be printed, as being obviously designed merely to give annoyance. Satirical or ironical notices or questions are not in order, and are not received.
My predecessors also laid it down that, following upon the recognised practice of Parliament, notices of motion, or of questions or amendments of that character cannot be received, and that Mr. Speaker is the. sole judge of whether such questions, motions, or amendments should be allowed.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question arising out of reports which have appeared in the daily press. Certain newspapers credit him with having stated that for three months the business of Parliament has been hung up by the obstructive tactics of the Opposition, and that Opposition members are persistently obstructing the transaction of business. I desire to ask him if it is not a fact that out of that three months the sittings of Parliament were suspended for five weeks to suit the convenience of the Government, and why he has not adopted morning and night sittings in order to put through the business which, he says, is being delayed ?
– In reply to one section of the honorable member’s question, I merely wish to say that I have no intention of instituting a legislative orgy such as that which I witnessed in this House during the last Parliament. If we cannot do the business of the country without resort to that kind of thing, something else will have to be done.
– Inasmuch as Parliament met on the 9th July, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he considers that he made a truthful statement when he said that tlie Opposition had been obstructing the business of Parliament for three months?
– It is au insulting question.
– Order ! It is improper to put questions in that form.
– I desire to put another question to the Prime Minister. I wish to ask him whether he is aware that the ex-Prime Minister, in the late Parliament, announced on the 14th August that there would have to be late sittings in order to transact the business of the country ?
– Order ! Such a question is not in order.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in order to push on with the business of the country, it is his intention to ask the House to resort to morning sittings; and I want a civil answer, top ?
– You will get a civil answer when you ask a civil question.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he considers that he is upholding tho dignity of his office-
– By refusing to answer questions.
– I am not troubled about that. 1 can get answers to my questions in some other way. I desire to know whether the Prime Minister considers that he is upholding the dignity of his office in tramping round this country uttering a series of .odious lies about some of the members of this House-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark, and apologize to the- House.
– I knew that I should have to do it, and I now formally withdraw the remark and apologize, but I got there, all the same.
– Is that a proper way of doing things ? He tells you, Mr. Speaker, that he “ got there “ all the same. He says that in the act of withdrawing the remark.
– I was about toallow the observation of the honorable member for Bourke to pass, in the belief that it was intended as an aside, and not for the House. But since notice has been taken of the honorable member’s statement, I remind him that such a course of conduct is really a breach of the privileges of Parliament. The honorable member has no right deliberately to do something which he knows to be disorderly. I hope that he will not offend in that way any more; otherwise, serious notice will have to be taken of his conduct.
– Very good.
– I have heard one or two honorable members make remarks which were not strictly in conformity with parliamentary procedure, but, at the same time, in view of the facts that some honorable members of this House are constantly tramping about the country and making assertions that they know to be absolutely incorrect, it is not to be wondered at that statements such as I have referred to-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot proceed. He is neither asking a question nor raising a point of order.
– I wish to ask you, sir, _ a question in order to ascertain whether you can guide honorable members on this side? Honorable members on the other side, particularly the Prime Minister, are, at public meetings in the country, dealing with things political, and making incorrect statements. When the matter is referred to here, invariably he refuses to give a reply, or characterizes the question .as offensive or insulting. As these incorrect statements reflect very seriously upon honorable members on this side, what do you, sir, suggest we should do to protect ourselves from a continuance of this treatment?
– The honorable member has raised a Question which affords mean opportunity of laying down what I consider to be the proper procedure in regard to questions. I may state that some members of the British Parliament who recently visited the House expressed themselves as being surprised at the great latitude which is allowed to honorable members in asking questions without notice.
– What had they to do with our House ?
– Order ! They informed me that the practice-
– We do not have free fights here, at all events.
– It is highly disorderly for an honorable member to interject when the Speaker is on his feet. I have been asked, a question, and am giving information’ to the House. In the House of Commons, questions without notice are rarely asked, and invariably, when asked, they have to deal with matters of urgent public importance, and a private intimation of the intention of. a member to ask the question is conveyed to the Minister. With regard to the nature of questions which may be asked, the practice is laid down by a number of authorities. I have had extracts taken from these authorities for ready reference by myself, and it may, perhaps, be as well for me to read some of the quotations for the information of honorable members. On page 255 of Brand’s Decisions the rule is laid down by Mr. Speaker as follows -
I think it light to state to the House that the question of which the honorable member has given notice refers to matters which passed out1 side the walls of the House, and does not -relate to any Bill or motion before the House, and that, therefore, it is a question which, according to the rules of this House, cannot be put.
A question that relates to matters which took place outside the House, and has nothing to do with any Bill or motion before the House is, properly speaking, out of order. Again, at page 126, Blackmore lays the practice down in these terms -
Questions relative tq matters outside the _ House, and not bearing upon any matter before * the House ; questions ‘ seeking the opinion of the Government ; questions adverting to matters beyond the cognizance of the House, and those which deal with subjects which would properly be matters for motions, are improper to 1 be asked.
I have read these quotations out of a number of others to show honorable members that questions relative to speeches which have been’ made outside the House, aud do not relate to any of the business actually before the House - that is, to any Bill or motion - are not strictly regular, although they have been allowed in the practice of the House for some time.
– Mr. Speaker, will you permit me for a moment?
– The matter cannot be debated.
– T wish to put a question to you, sir. Of course, I am grateful to you for reading these decisions, some .of which have been read by honorable members.
– The honorable member asked for the information.
– I wish to ask you a question. Personally, I have not submitted any questions to the Prime
Minister or other members of the Government who have ventured to speak outside the House. What I wish to ask you, sir, is can you guide honorable members on this side, so that we may be protected from the very serious reflections upon us by incorrect statements? You will see, sir, if you will permit me for a moment, that if incorrect statements are to continue, necessarily some high feeling must pervade the atmosphere.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot make a speech.
– I am making an explanation, sir.
– The honorable member can ask a question, but he must not make a speech or traverse my decision.
– I assure you, sir, that my desire is to help you, and to provide as far as possible that the atmosphere of the House shall be cool, calm, and collected. I ask for your guidance because if serious reflections upon honorable members on this side are continued, then the atmosphere must of necessity become electrical.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– Yes, sir.
– The only question of this kind which can arise is as to whether a breach of the privileges of the House has been committed by members outside. In such a case our own Standing Orders provide a method of procedure. Standing order 285 reads -
Any member complaining to the House of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege shall produce a copy of the paper containing the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
If there is any matter which honorable members consider constitutes a breach of the privileges of the House, whether committed by a newspaper writer, a member, or any other person, it can only be dealt with on a substantive motion by the honorable member who is making the complaint. That is the ordinary method by which honorable members can protect themselves from any assertions made outside which they consider to be a breach of their privileges and to reflect upon themselves. It is then for the House to take such action as it may think fit regarding the matter.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. On the 26th inst., there appeared the following in the Brisbane Courier: -
Mr. Finlayson continued to attack Mr. Kelly.
The Prime Minister interjected : - “ Why are we forced to listen to this tripe?” (Sensation.)
Mr. Kelly suggested Mr. Finlayson should tell the House about the tram shares.
Mr. Finlayson said he was ready to explain the matter if necessary.
As a matter of fact, what actually occurred is shown by the following extract from Hansard: -
– I have never dealt in tramway shares.
– Let the Honorary Minister make any statement he cares to in regard to tramway shares and I shall meet him.
I do not know whether it is within the province of this House to deal with a reporter who sends such false and misleading statements to a newspaper about honorable members; but it seems to me that this matter goes beyond the province of a personal explanation. It appears to me that the privileges of honorable members are being seriously infringed by irresponsible reporters for the press.
– If the honorable member desires to raise a question of privilege, the proper course for him to pursue is to produce a copy of the paper containing the matter complained of, give the name of the printer or publisher, and conclude with a motion declaring the matter of which he complains to be a breach of privilege, and tlie person complained of to be guilty of contempt, as provided in standing order No. 285. It will then be for the House to take such further action as may be considered necessary. That is the only way in which a question of privilege can be effectively raised.
– In the Brisbane Telegraph of the same date there appeared this statement relating to my speech in this House last Thursday night -
That a worker in Brisbane should receive the specially high wage of a worker in the Northern Territory is a proposition too ridiculous for serious notice. The honorable member in question objected to the fixing bv a State Minister of the rates of wages paid by the Commonwealth.
As a matter of fact, I did nothing of the kind. It was the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs who fixed the rate of wages. and the State Minister who refused to carry out the instruction of the Federal Government, acting through its Minister.
Mr.- FRAZER. - I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs a question.
– Order !
– I do not know that I should be subjected to a lecture by the Prime Minister. I want to ask the Minister of External Affairs a very serious question relative to the position of wireless telegraphy. This matter, I understand, has been handed over by the Attorney-General to the control of the Minister of External Affairs. An inspection was made some time ago by the Marconi Company, and I wish to know whether the Minister is in a position to say what was the nature of the inspection, or whether he has any information which he can give to the House in regard to the position of affairs between the Marconi Company and the Commonwealth?
– If the honorable member will give notice of a question, I shall give him the fullest details to-morrow.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If not, did the Government of the day acquire .the site?
– The answers to the questions are - x and 2. The Commonwealth Government resumed the site at the corner of Pitt and Moore streets, Sydney, for the Commonwealth Bank.
– Resumed by this Government or by the last one?
– By the last Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
Tenders for Bogie Waggons
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the questions is -
Tenders have not been called for the manufacture and supply of 25-ton bogie waggons for use on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway. I take it, however, that the honorable member refers to the tenders recently invited for fifty 40-ton bogie waggons, which are now under consideration and in regard to which I will shortly be in a position to announce the name of the successful tenderer.
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following papers : -
Canteens at Military Training Camps - Reports by State Military Commandants.
Electoral Act - Memorandum by Chief Electoral Officer as to excess of names on electoral rolls.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 1563), on motion by Mr, Kelly -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Just before the House rose on Friday last, I submitted several amendments which I had prepared to the consideration of Ministers and of the Ministerial party in general. I mentioned at the time that I looked upon them as a very fair compromise, and expressed the hope that honorable members on the other side of the House would deign to consider them fully. I also trust that they will be able to accept them, aud thereby make it possible for the Bill to pass, not only this House, but also another place. I believe that if they were accepted by the Ministerial party and by the Government, the measure would have a very fair chance of being passed by the Senate. I intimated on Friday last that I was in favour of giving the postal vote under certain conditions, to any elector who, on polling day, during the hours of polling, would not, be within 10 miles of any polling place, or happened to be quarantined in the Commonwealth. Women in a certain condition cannot, of course, attend a polling-booth, and, as we have often been told by our friends on the other side, we should not withhold the franchise from the mothers of the nation.. In order to meet. the. Government and the Ministerial party in that respect, my third proposition is that any female elector who will not, ou polling day, during the hours of voting, on account of ill-health or infirmity, be able to attend at any polling place, may, after the issue of the writ, upon making a declaration in the prescribed form before a postmaster, vote as an absent voter. Of course, there would haveto be a schedule in connexion with this amendment, to provide that the declaration shall be made, and the vote recorded only at the post-office of which such postmaster is in charge : and, secondly, that the declaration shall not be valid unless the postmaster stamps it with the postoffice letter stamp of the date on which the declaration is made. This proposal would safeguard the secrecy of the ballot, and at the same time meet the case of the female electors. It would enable those living over a certain number of miles from any polling-booth to record their votes, and also meet the case of people who happened to be in quarantine on the day of election. I understand that the honorable member for Bourke- has expressed himself as willing to vote with the Government for restoring the postal vote as it has operated in previous Commonwealth elections. If so, that honorable member cannot have had any practical experience.
– He did not promise to vote for the Government proposition.
– He said he was in favour of restoring the postal vote. If he means that he- is going to vote for restoring it as it us id to be in the Commonwealth elections–
– He did not say that.
– If he does mean that, I do not think that he could have had any practical experience of the postal voting system. I do not blame honor-, able members on either side of the House who have not had any practical experience. The Attorney-General, for instance, I look upon as an honorable gentleman in every sense of the word from both a political and private point of view ; but, as he has evidently had no experience in this matter, he thinks that everybody else must be of necessity honest and above board. All my experience, however, absolutely prevents me from voting for the restoration of the postal vote as we have had it in Commonwealth elections. I can assure honorable members that it is quite possible to get hundreds of votes under that system , not illegally, but within the letter of the law, and without taking the slightest shadow of risk. If one were unscrupulous enough to do so, he could do the business- himself without inducing, other electors to do so. If I were given a few weeks, I could get at least 400- postal votes under the old system if I wanted to, but, of course, I would not do so. I shall oppose the Government proposition in that respect bitterly, and I sincerely hope that if it is passed in this House, it will be rejected in another place. However, I submit my amendments as a fair compromise to the consideration of honorable members on the other side. I have a very shrewd suspicion of what takes place when membersmeet together, and honorable membersopposite may have been told by the Government, to stick to the Bill, and nothing but the Bill. No doubt some honorable members in particular have been advised to. that effect by Ministers, when perhaps prompted by their consciences to- object’ to some of the provisions of this Bill, but I should like to . advise them not to stick to. the Bill - in its entirety. Surely, we can reason together, and’ arrange a- compromise-. If it is really the. desire of honorable members opposite to pass a Bill which will meet the just demands of those who, at election time, are laid aside by sickness, or are beyond a certain number of miles from a polling booth, they can do so by accepting amendments which will enable the measure to pass through this Blouse, and, I think, through the other Chamber also. As to the number of miles that a voter must be distant from a polling booti) on the day of the elections to be qualified to vote by post, I arn willing, if the Government cannot accept 10, to agree to 5, because I wish to meet Ministers in every way; but I warn the House against restoring the postal voting system in its original form, because it opens the door to any amount of swindling and underhand work. There have been hundreds of cases in which the names of candidates have been written down by the canvassers.
– Does the honorable member say that of his own actual knowledge and experience?
– Not by any means; I would not stoop to such a thing. But I am certain that it has been done. A postal voter had- to sign his name, and the signature was witnessed by a justice of the peace. Tt was immaterial to the Returning Officer, when the ballot-paper was being counted, who had written in the name of the candidate. If Ministers accept the amendments which I have foreshadowed, I shall support the second reading, and I hope that in Committee we shall be able to effect some alterations.
.- It is not my intention to support the second reading of the Bill. I have had twenty years’ experience of electoral legislation, and I have no hesitation in saying that this is the most drastic, and one of the worst Bills that I have ever seen put before Parliament. Personally , I think that there should be some pause after the heat of an election before the introduction of an amending electoral measure. All the spleen, bitterness, and animus provoked by the elections are to be seen in this Bill, which has been conceived in hatred, quickened in malice, and has had its birth - I refer to the speech of the Honorary Minister - in vile vituperation. Why did the honorable gentleman refer to the 143,000 persons who have been convicted of minor offences? What had their conviction to do with the Bill ? His object was to vilify honorable members on this side. He says that he did not associate us directly with them, but he stated indirectly that if our seats were in clanger, they would come to our rescue. Let me tell him that he has afforded additional evidence of the fact that education alone does not make a gentleman. A residue of the 143,000 persons to whom he referred may permit themselves to be used in connexion with elections, but they do not give their services for love. It is not long since, in this State, in the Ronald v. Harper case, on the evidence of certain witnesses a verdict was obtained ; but within a few months nine of these witnesses were serving sentences for perjury. Their evidence had not been procured by any member of the Labour party. If the services of such men are used in connexion with elections, the Honorary Minister knows who are best able to use them. The measure should be entitled, “A Bill for an Act (a) to limit the facilities for electors getting their names on the electoral roll; (?’) to provide facilities for the wholesale removal of the names of bond fide electors from the roll, and (c) to enable inquisitorial and vindictive persons to ascertain how other electors record their votes. The Bill provides, first, for limiting the period during which names can be placed on the roll. Undoubtedly the object is to prevent thousands of persons from being enrolled.
– There must be a date fixed.
– There is a date fixed now. Probably more names are now enrolled during the month preceding an election than in the whole three years of the life of a Parliament; but honorable members opposite wish to prevent persons from being enrolled in that month. The Bill will deprive thousands of young men and young women coming of age just before an election of the opportunity to vote. Honorable members opposite have not the courage to say that they do not believe in adult franchise; but there are ways of destroying it, and they have adopted one of them, namely, the placing of all possible difficulties in the way of enrolment. The Bill provides, also, for the restoration of the postal vote, honorable members opposite displaying their chivalry by expressing great anxiety for giving the ladies the vote. But let me read what they say to the women of the country. The party with which they are associated has described our wives, our mothers, and our daughters as breeding cows. That statement is taken from a document issued by the Liberal Union. If it could be proved that that is not so, I would resign my position.
– The statement was not issued as expressing the views of the Union on the matter.
– It was made in an official publication containing the names of the Liberal candidates and their photographs, and setting out the ticket of the party. The issue was published in March last. In it is a quotation taken from a book called A Year and a Bay. The quotation is printed under the heading of “Atheist Socialism,” but the writer referred to a Socialistic club. The word “ Socialism “ was substituted for the words “ Atheist Socialistic Club,” to give the passage an application to the Socialists of Australia, because, as applying to an atheistical Socialistic club, they had no relevance. The intention was to deliberately blacken our characters, and the characters of our wives, mothers, and daughters. They said that we had no further use for the women of this country than to make them breeding cows, and wished to father their children on the State, instead of on the animals who bred them. That is the statement of gentlemen who now parade on the housetops their chivalry to women, and who say they want to give the women a vote.
– The words referred to appeared in the book that the honorable, member has mentioned.
– Why were they published in the document from which I am quoting ? They were published to alienate the sympathy and support of the electors from what is known as the Socialist party. Those responsible for the publication went further, and told the electors that if they met Socialists and listened to their talk, they would be amazed at the low value they placed upon women. I ask honorable members opposite if that is true ? There is no answer. Again, they said that they did not know any persons who dishonoured women more. Is that a true statement, Mr. Speaker ? You have been associated with the members of this House for many years, and I venture to say that you would not willingly and knowingly be party to a statement branding those with whom I am associated as dishonourers of women. If this is to be a fight with the gloves off, honorable members will get what they wish for. We know where the women are dishonoured ; and if they want to know they will have it. They go on to say that there are none who dishonour their mothers more. Could there be a worse indictment against a political party than that?
– Who says these things ?
– The Liberal Union of South Australia.
– Is the honorable member quoting from the same document, or some other?
– The same, of course. Honorable members opposite and their supporters display wonderful anxiety for ladies on their own side to have a vote; but I have shown how they speak of the ladies who support the Labour party.
– Does the honorable member say that that is how any honorable member of this House speaks of ladies who support the Labour party?
– The document I have read is issued by the Liberal Union, with the name of the secretary attached, and it was sent out to all the branches in South Australia for the one sole purpose of branding the Labour party as a Socialist party, and of connecting them with, for instance, Socialists on the Continent, who are said to have a desire to do away with the marriage tie. In fact, in this very document there is a reference to free love and the Labour party.
– Did not the Labour party of Australia send greetings to the Socialist party in the Old Land?
– Probably, and I think they did; but that is not my business, and I take no exception to it. As a matter of fact, the Socialists of Australia opposed such views at the last election, as they have done on previous occasions; and yet, because, like some honorable members opposite, we are more or less Socialistic, this document is issued with the sole purpose, of damaging us in the eyes of the electors. As to the postal vote, whether the radius be 5 miles or 20 miles makes no difference; and if this method be restored I can see very great danger of a large number of votes being manipulated. At one time in our political history lords and squires and their ladies used to drive the electors to the poll, and stand by while they recorded their votes openly; andwith postal voting, clear of the supervision of the proper officials, there is a possibility of the introduction of all the bad, old elements of a by-gone day. As to newspapers, I have yet to learn where an honest publication has been placed at any disadvantage because of the provision that the names of the writers shall be attached to the political articles for a certain period during election time. I should not be afraid to attach my name to any writing in which I attacked another person; and I do not see why the press should be allowed, not liberty, but the licence which they frequently exercise, and sometimes from personal spleen, to ruin a man’s politicalchances. I have heard some very prominent pressmen say that the signing of the articles has a very marked effect in improving the tone of electoral discussions; and I shall certainly vote against the proposed amendment of the Act in this connexion. But the most serious proposal of the Government is that in connexion with the signing of the butts of the ballot-paper. If, as I have said, this Bill is one to enable inquisitorial and vindictive electors to ascertain how other electors record their votes, a better way could not be provided. A scrutineer has only to make a note alongside a number, and if he be also engaged at the counting of the votes, he can easily ascertain how a particular man has voted; indeed, scrutineers might just as well be handed the ballot-papers with the names attached. An honorable member opposite has said that any invasion of the secrecy of the ballot would cause a veritable hell upon earth, and the proposal of the Government would certainly enable a vindictive person to trace votes, thus giving rise to intimidation and recrimination. At outside stations an overseer sometimes votes for a Labour candidate, and it would be a bad job for him if his vote could be traced.
– Absent voting provides a means to ascertain how a man has voted.
– That is so to a limited extent, but absent voting provides facilities that otherwise could not be provided. In any case, it is only in one locality where it could be ascertained how a man has exercised an absent vote. At the last election I, as an elector for Grey, voted as an absentee in Adelaide, but my vote was forwarded to Grey under cover, and, in any case, no name was attached. It is truly marvellous to have such a proposal laid before us in this, the twentieth, century. Many years ago the Attorney-General showed the bent of his mind in matters electoral. It is not the first time in Victoria that thousands of voters have been disfranchised, and the honorable gentleman would seem to show that his anger has not been appeased, but has been carried into the Bill before us. I regret that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is not present in the chamber during the discussion, but it is the usual courtesy shown by him. When I asked the honorable gentleman a question the other day he told me an untruth.
– Order !
– Well, I shall say that the honorable gentleman’s answer was incorrect. I asked him whether cer- , tain instructions had gone out in connexion with the removal of names from the roll, and he said they had not; but, immediately afterwards, the AttorneyGeneral, in reply to a second question, admitted that an invitation had been given, not, perhaps, to certain political bodies, but generally-
– To all and sundry.
– Yes, to suggest names that ought to be removed from the roll. To-day we have been informed of an official document in which such instructions were sent out. It is true that the officials of the Department are to make the usual inquiries before people are struck off, but what is the effect of such instructions at the present time ? I am told that in a part of Colac, with a little over 1,000 names on the roll, some 203 have already been struck off. Under the law as it stands, a fee of 5s. has to be paid before an objection can be lodged; and here I wish to say that the Honorary Minister very nicely “ sidetracked “ us the other day when he referred to section 69 of the Act, and said that what is being done now has been done all along. That statement, I say, is not correct. Section 69 provides that it is the duty of the Returning Officer or the Registrar to lodge or make an objection in writing, setting forth the grounds of the objection in respect of any name which he has reason to believe ought not to remain on the roll. That is an instruction to an official, but the Government have gone further, and, as the honorable member for Corio says, have issued an invitation to all and sundry, but particularly to the Liberal unions, to lodge objections. My first information as to this was obtained from st speech of the Attorney-General at a gathering of the Women’s National League at Ballarat, when he invited the members of that body to assist the Government in “ purifying the rolls.” It will be remembered that in the statement of the Government policy which accompanied the Governor-General’s Speech, we were told that the purification of the rolls was being proceeded with, and every endeavour being made to insure their accuracy. From this it will be gathered that what is being done was then contemplated. The Honorary Minister today absolutely evaded the question that lie was asked. He may think it very well to slate an unfortunate pressman who is not present, or, in any case, cannot reply on the floor of the House. The honorable gentleman said that he referred to this matter in his speech on the second reading of the Bill. It is alleged that there are over 170,000 more names on the roll than there are adults qualified to vote. When the Prime Minister and his colleagues are speaking at tea parties and other social gatherings, they invariably quote the Statistician’s figures, and assert that at” the last general election there were on the rolls the names of 175,000 persons in excess of the adult population of Australia. They mention this as if it were a fact.
– So it is.
– It is not. The AttorneyGeneral was honest enough to admit that the process of transfer accounts for the apparent .duplication in a very large number of cases.
– But the charge is that there were on the rolls 175,000 more names than there ought to have been.
– That charge is incorrect. A great many apparent duplications can be accounted for by the process followed in transferring the name of an elector from one roll to another. A name cannot be removed from a roll, in the case of a person who has shifted from one electorate to another, until it has been added to the roll for the electorate to which he has removed. When that addition has been made, notice is sent to the Returning Officer for the electorate from which the elector has removed, and the name is thereupon struck off the roll for that division. This takes some time, so that on any given day of the year there is apparently a large duplication of names, but a duplication that cannot be avoided.
– That is all that is claimed.
– No. After the last general election, it was claimed by the Liberal party that thousands of persons had voted, although they had no right to vote. It was said that even the dead had voted. A remarkable feature of these charges is that they are made only in respect of electorates which returned members of the Labour party. The AttorneyGeneral obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer a memorandum regarding this question of duplicate voting, and that report bears out my contention. Members of the Ministry have denied making these charges, bub I have before me a statement made by an honorable senator, who is a member of the present Government, to the following effect: -
They have even resurrected the dead to vote. The Ministry was trying to get to the bottom of it, but it was found that, while the parties who passed the Electoral Act, and were responsible for the conduct of the elections, had left as many doors open as possible for wrongdoing -
What does the Chief Electoral Officer say-
– The ex-Minister of Home Affairs said that in his electorate men were dragged out of their graves.
– I do not know what they did at Indi ; but I should not be surprised if the honorable member found it necessary, at the next general election, to practically take people out of the grave to vote for him.
– Honorable members opposite thought that would be necessary at the last election, whan their hosts went up to my electorate to try to secure my defeat; but they did not succeed.
– This charge that the number of names on the rolls is largely in excess of what -it ought to be is on a par with the charge made that many who had no right to vote did so at the last election. In his memorandum, in answer to the inquiry of the Attorney-General, the Chief Electoral Officer reported -
While the average number of apparent duplications is less than three per 1,000 voters, it will be noted that in one division (Ballaarat) the number reaches 175 in a poll of 32,818, and that in another division (Macquarie) the number falls to eleven in a poll of 23,322.
A review of the Ballaarat list discloses that many names which have been marked twice are followed on the rolls by identical or similar names which have not been marked. There is reasonable ground, in cases of this kind, for assuming that there have been errors in marking.
– That refers to the absent voting.
– No, it refers to the wholesale charges that were made by honorable members opposite before the inquiry took place.
– The absent voting was the one matter under inquiry at the departmental investigation.
– When the honorable member wakes up he will understand what was done.
– I know what I am talking about.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. The inquiry related to voting generally. In my electorate inquiry was made in regard to both absent and ordinary voting, and to cases in which apparently duplicate voting had occurred .
– I had a scrutineer present at the inquiry, so that I know what was done.
– The honorable member’s statement as to what was done does not reflect any credit on his scrutineer’s knowledge of the inquiry. Will the honorable member deny that every vote - voting of every kind - was under scrutiny-
– So far as I know, it was not.
– Every vote on the scrutineers’ lists was examined.
– The official report dealing, as it does, with thousands of votes in the various electorates shows that the honorable member for Hume is wrong.
– Quite so. The Chief Electoral Officer says that in the case of the Macquarie electorate the number of apparent duplications “ falls to eleven in a poll of 23,322.” That shows that the inquiry dealt with the whole of the votes. He went on to say in this report -
In divisions m which the elections were keenly contested, and the polling was exceptionally heavy, it might be expected that more names would be inadvertently marked in error than in other divisions; but much would, of course, depend upon the care with which individual officers performed their duties.
While a margin of between two and three errors per 1,000 voters would not appear to be excessive, having regard to the number of similar names appearing on the rolls, it could not, of course, be assumed that, where the average is either above or below, fraud either has or has not entered into the elections.
I complain of the failure ‘of the Government to obtain a report from the Chief Electoral Officer when Mr. Knibbs made his unsolicited statement as to the apparent disparity between the number pf names on the rolls and the census returns. The Honorary Minister’ attempted to reply to a statement by a newspaper reporter who had the audacity to say something in regard to these figures. Of course, it was very naughty of the newspaper man to do anything of the kind. When he was told that he was not to have the desired information, he ought not to have said another word about the Department. I venture to say that the statement made by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to-day is not an answer to the charge made by the newspaper report in question, neither is it an answer to a statement made in this House. What we ought to have from the Chief Electoral Officer is a report showing what proportion of the alleged excess of 175,000 names ought not to be on the rolls. I venture to say that such a report would be very different from the statement made by the Minister. The honorable gentleman says that this question was answered by him when introducing the Bill. On that occasion he referred to the alleged excess of 175,000, and went on to say that the Chief Electoral Officer reported on the matter as follows: -
Unless the law is amended as proposed it will always be impracticable, on the eve of an election, to make the necessary adjustments consequent upon duplications resulting from the errors of electors and upon transfer and changes in the rolls to be used at the elections.
That is not the point we are discussing. We want to know from the Chief Electoral Officer to what extent it would be possible to avoid this alleged duplication. No Electoral Act could be so framed, as to render it possible to have no duplications on the rolls on any particular day.
The last general election took place on the 31st May, and since two months elapsed between the issue of instructions to transfer a name from one set of rolls to another, and the finalizing of the matter, I take it that on that date there would be a greater apparent duplication, owing to the rush to be enrolled, than on any day during the preceding three years. It must not be forgotten that rolls are not printed every month, and that consequently thousands of names on the ordinary printed rolls do not appear on the certified rolls in the Electoral Office. When an objection is lodged,’ inquiry has to be made, and if the objection holds good, the name in question is ruled off the Electoral Officer’s certified copy. The ordinary rolls in use outside do not show that alteration. In this case a clean roll was taken by the Government Statistician, and it showed that there were 2,760,216 names enrolled. That roll, however, made no allowance for transfers in process of being carried out. It therefore covered, I am confident, many thousands of names which were being transferred from one roll to another. As against this number on the rolls, the Government Statistician quoted a total of 2,585,000, on the basis of the census returns. I have worked out the figures, and they show that in the case of South Australia there were on the rolls, apparently, 7,026 in excess of the number that ought to have been enrolled. A great many of these names were in course of transfer.
– But never transferred.
– They were being transferred, and until the transfer had been complete the two names appeared on two different rolls.
– Exactly; that is the point.
– That is not the point sought to be made by the honorable members opposite. Their assertion is that there were 175,000 names on the roll in excess of thenumber that should have been enrolled. I challenge the Ministry to prove that that is correct. According to Mr. Knibbs, the excess is 175,000, but his figures are based on false premises. There is no day in the whole year upon which the numbers will not vary.
– It is a little hard to criticise the Statistician.
– I’ do not think that that officer will affirm that my statement is incorrect. If he does, he will exhibit a want of knowledge of the actual working of the Electoral Department, for the simple reason that the clean rolls vary from day to day. The only place in which clean rolls can be obtained is the Chief Electoral Office. Honorable members themselves do not know the names which appear upon those rolls until almost the day of election. The reason is that transfers are continually coming in, and new names are constantly being inserted. On the other hand, the census returns are based upon the number of persons resident in particular localities at a particular time. It is impossible to apply the same rule to ascertain the number of persons who should be on our electoral rolls. I have very little more to add. I think it would be wise to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, and consequently I give notice that, contingent upon its passing the second-reading stage, I will move -
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee for the purpose if inquiring into and reporting upon -
the conduct of the Federal Elections of 1913;
a better method of purifying our electoral rolls ;
the prevention of plural voting or personation at elections; and
a more perfect system of conducting elections.
Before adopting such drastic proposals as are embodied in this Bill, we ought to have a thorough inquiry upon the lines I have indicated. So far, not one scintilla of evidence has been forthcoming to justify the sweeping alterations proposed. Why should we change our whole electoral system merely for party purposes? Rightly or wrongly, honorable members opposite feel that the existing law is more favorable to the Labour party than it is to them. Of course, the more adults there are who exercise the franchise the stronger the Labourpartywillundoubtedly become. On the other hand,, the party opposite will be benefited by any process which will prevent adults from getting their names placed upon the rolls. Surely it is the duty of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to give us some evidence of illegal practices in connexion with the recent general elections ! I regret to observe that it is proposed to hold the general elections on some day other than Saturday. We all know that Saturday afternoon is a half -holiday, practically throughout the whole of the States. Upon what day can greater facilities be afforded to the people to exercise the franchise ? Of course, if we do not wish them to vote, we shall hold the elections on some other day of the week. In South Australia, elections have been held on Saturday for about fifteen years, and no complaint has been made Surely it is idle to urge that, by holding elections on Saturday, the counting of the votes has to be suspended over Sunday. Can any election be held in the Commonwealth the result of which has not to stand over for a few days ? The only reason assigned for holding elections on any day other than Saturday is that the ballot-boxes might be burnt on the Sunday.
– The Bill merely provides that elections may be held on any other day than Saturday. To-day they can be held only on Saturday.
– We all know very well that if this Bill be passed the Government will do away with Saturday elections. In South Australia the holding of elections on a Saturday, instead of on a Wednesday, resulted in an increased vote of 20 per cent. How can men possibly leave their work to exercise the franchise on any day other than Saturday? I recollect the occasion of a by-election in South Australia on which the business people induced the Factory Act authorities to waive the Saturday half-holiday. This was done within two days of the polling, and the result was that thousands of votes less were recorded than were recorded at the ordinary Saturday election. In my opinion, Saturday affords greater facilities to the working classes to exercise the franchise than are enjoyed by them upon any other day. Of course, the residents of Toorak who have their motor-cars can vote on any day. But there are some persons who have conscientious convictions, and who do not like to ride in motor-cars when they are not going to vote for the candidate in whose interest they are being run.
– There is the secrecy of the ballot. Does the honorable member mean to tell me that, because an elector rides in a motor-car, he is going to vote for the candidate who is supported by the owner of that car?
– I know the case of a lady - a banker’s wife - who inquired of her washer-woman, “You are going to vote to-day?” “ No. I am afraid to go to the polling booth,” was the washerwoman’s reply. “ Oh, you need not be afraid,” said the lady, “ I will walk down with you.” Just imagine that lady walking down the street with her washerwoman upon any other than polling day. I shall vote against the Bill, and prior to the Committee stage shall move the amendment of which I have given notice. As I shall have a further opportunity of discussing this measure in detail, I will not occupy more time at present.
.- I do not propose to address the House at any length upon this Bill, and I would not have spoken at all at this stage but for the fact that honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber have in some unaccountable and unworthy fashion-
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect upon other honorable members.
– Honorable members upon this side of the House have been charged with having entered into a conspiracy of silence. Amongst those who have been most vehement in expressing that view was the honorable member for Boothby, i He accused us of not being permitted to speak on this Bill. He declared that we had to sit quietly behind the Government and accept it without a word of criticism or comment. As a member of the party supporting the Government, I wish to assure him that there has been no such limitation placed upon us in regard to the expression of our views on this measure. We are perfectly free to discuss it as we think proper. I, for one, would not permit myself to be used by any Government or any party in the way that has been suggested. I am absolutely at liberty to criticise this Bill as I think proper. Generally speaking, it has my support, but there are certain features of it which do not entirely meet with my approval, and upon which I shall have something to say in Committee. There are other features in connexion with electoral matters and the amendment of our electoral law which should have received consideration at the hands of the Government, but which have not. The professed object of all parties in this House is to secure the enactment of an electoral law as nearly as possible perfect, to provide for a proper system of registration of- the electors, to devise the best means of enabling them to record their votes, and to insure the secrecy of the ballot. If that be our real desire, why not approach this Bill in the spirit in which it should be approached? Under the existing system of party government, it seems to me that, because the Ministry introduce a measure, the Opposition feel bound to condemn it. If we are going to approach the consideration of an Electoral Bill, which goes to the very foundation of good government, in that spirit, then we can scarcely expect any satisfactory results. Because the Government have introduced a measure that is not exactly in accordance with the views of honorable members opposite, it seems to me that the latter have set themselves out to criticise it to an extent which involves considerable delay in the transaction of the business of the country.
– The honorable member should have seen the Prime Minister and the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs when they were in Opposition last session.
– Fortunately, I come to this House fresh, hoping to assist in the conduct of the business of the country in a business-like way. I must admit that I am disappointed that, so far, very little progress has been made. Very little progress seems likely to be made if measures are to be discussed in the carping spirit which has been exhibited on this occasion. If we wish to secure the best electoral system, why nob consider this Bill calmly and dispassionately? Why not get into Committee and consider what is desirable in the interests of a good electoral system ? I am pleased to say that, notwithstanding all the criticism which has been levelled at this measure, we already appear to have converts to it amongst honorable members upon the opposite side of the House. A number of them now admit that the postal vote should be restored-
– The honorable member is generous.
– -Honorable members, in doing so, try to cover up their tracks by saying, “ We. will limit the postal vote to a certain class of persons ; we are desirous of restoring it, but we want a perfect system.” Let us then get into Committee, and evolve a perfect system. Then, no doubt, all parties will be satisfied, and the postal vote will be restored. Amongst the extraordinary proposals that have been put forward by the Opposition iti connexion with this measure is one by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, that we should abolish rolls altogether. But in the course of some conversational discussion across the chamber, which, I admit, was quite out of order, I drove the ex-Minister into a corner, whereupon he left the subject and entered upon a discussion of compulsory voting. He found that his position was utterly untenable. So it is with regard to a large number of similar suggestions made in criticism of this Bill. It is generally admitted that our electoral system should be improved, although the honorable member for West Sydney claimed that the present -system is a* nearly perfect as possible. The Bill may be considered under different heads. One of the earliest provisions made in it is in connexion with the divisions of electorates. A new departure has been made by the Government in the method of fixing the boundaries of electorates. Any scheme for this purpose has to be submitted to a Judge of the High Court,, or. of the Supreme Court of a State, who, having dealt with the matter, will report to Parliament, which may accept his report or reject it. Then it will be open for the Judge to make a second or final division, which will become law. Whilst, on the whole, I think it desirable that the matter of adjusting the boundaries of electorates should be dealt with by a Judge, as proposed, I should like to see an amendment made by which we should obtain the benefit of the knowledge and practical experience of officers like the Surveyor-General and the Chief Electoral Officer. I do not bind myself to submit an amendment providing that those officers should sit with the Judge, but I think that their expert knowledge would be of considerable value to him. A provision might be inserted, however, by which the Judge, as a person absolutely independent, should have the ultimate decision.
– What is the objection to the present procedure ?
– It does not provide for a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State, or a Judge of the High Court of the Commonwealth, to act. Under the present arrangement, the chairman is the Surveyor-General, if obtainable; and the provision which operates if he is nob available is extremely loose, inasmuch as it provides that an officer of his Department, or some person having like qualifications, shall take his place. I consider that that is most unsatisfactory, and is a point which requires amendment. I suggest that the Judge should have some assistance, instead of acting solely as proposed .
– He will have power to call evidence.
– I admit that a Judge sitting as a Commission will have unlimited powers of satisfying himself from the best available information ; but I think it desirable that he should have associated with him expert officers. I assume that I am within my province, in discussing an Electoral Bill, if I show its effect, not only on this House, but also in relation to another place. It seems to me that the time has come in Australia when provision should be made to elect members of the Senate on a more satisfactory footing than at present.
– That cannot be done without an amendment of the Constitution.
– An amendment of the Constitution is not necessary.
– The remark of the honorable member for Greyshows that honorable members opposite are prepared to make assertions regarding the Constitutionwithout a satisfactory knowledge of the provisions underwhich the Commonwealth came into existence. Section 7 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act provides -
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect that subject with the Bill?
– Yes. I am dealing with the provision of this Bill affecting the division of a State into electorates. That affects the question of representation. I should like to see provision made in this Bill for giving effect to section 7 of the Constitution Act, the framers of which clearly had in mind that the time would arrive when the States should no longer return senators by voting as one electorate, but should be divided up in order to insure the election, of senators on a basis that might be desirable, in view of altered conditions.
– Another alteration of the Constitution!
– Although I am a new member of rhis House, I must say that remarks of that kind indicate that, even in regard to the most elementary questions, honorable members opposite have not made themselves acquainted with the Constitution. I should like to have seen included a provision by which the senators could he elected on a basiswhichwas contemplated by those who framed seclion 7. It is quite impossible for a candidate for t he Senate to get in touch with the electors over such an enormous area as he seeks to represent. The result is that Senate candidates devote their energies principally to the cities, towns, and other large centres of population. If provision were made for dividing up States, I have not the slightest doubt that itwould bring the senators more in touch with the people. Let me point out what is likely to arise in the very near future.
– This Bill does not propose to do anythingwith the Senate.
– That is why I am criticising it. My criticism is an answer to statements like those of the honorable member for Boothby, and others, who say that Ministerial supporters are not free to criticise any measure brought in by the Government.
– Honorable members opposite are all struck dumb.
– The fact that I am making these suggestions is an evidence that I am not sitting dumb.
– One swallow does not make a summer.
– So far the elections of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate have always taken place on the same day. That state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. Occasions will arisewhen elections of members of another place must necessarily occur on a day quite apart from that onwhich an election, for members of this House takes place.
– Up to the present time this House has, on every occasion, lived out its ordinary constitutional term.
– That is not correct.
– It is substantially correct. At any rate, this House has always. lived out its term sufficiently to enablesenators to be elected on the same day asmembers of the House of Representatives.
But suppose there should be an election of members of this House at the end of next year.
– Say this year.
– My suggestion shows that I am free to express my own opinion, although it may be on a supposititious case. I am pleased to observe that honorable members are becoming interested, and are entering the chamber.
– The honorable member ought to have a quorum to hear him. I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– For the information of honorable members opposite, and at their invitation, I was about to explain that in time to come the members of both Houses of this Parliament need not necessarily be elected at the same time. Assuming that there is an election for this House at the end of next year, there may not, and would not, in the ordinary course, be an election for the Senate at the same time. Then, assuming that this House, when re-elected, runs for three years, as fixed by the Constitution, in the interval an election for the Senate must necessarily take place. It cannot be deferred until the date for the next election of the members of this House. “ Therefore, the result will be that in time to come - necessarily, I might almost say - the members of the two Houses will not be elected on the same day. What will the position be unless provision is made for the division of the States into electorates for the purpose of Senate elections ? In the country districts there will be comparatively little interest in the Senate elections, but in the cities and big towns to which the candidates will direct their chief attention, attention will be given, and the result will be that the members of the Senate will be largely elected by the city and town interests. That shows the great importance of taking in hand at an early date the division of the States into electorates for the purpose of Senate elections as contemplated by section 7 of the Constitution Act.
– But there is nothing about that in this Bill.
– No, but I am indicating what is desirable in the Bill, and I am not afraid to express my opinion. The honorable member for West Sydney, who, I think, gave the other side away entirely in their attitude to this Bill, said he had never heard of an Electoral Bill being introduced in the early life of a Parliament, except on one occasion by Sir George Reid. He stated that an Electoral Bill was generally introduced towards the close of a Parliament. As a large number of honorable members opposite admit the necessity of amending the electoral law, and so are going to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and as the honorable member for West Sydney also admits, even with his criticism, that amendments in certain directions are necessary, evidently his party believes that the time is not far distant when there will be an appeal to the electors. That shows the wisdom of the present Government in introducing this Bill at this early stage. It shows that the Government is going to prepare itself for an emergency. It shows that the Government is doing its best to have a perfect electoral law in this country. If the Opposition is desirous of securing a perfect electoral law, it should let this Bill get into Committee as quickly as possible, and criticise it there, and so let us prepare for an emergency which may arise.
– You are n stone-walling “ your own measure, you know.
– Some of the interjections are highly humorous. If we on this side do not speak we are charged with a conspiracy of silence, and if we do speak we are charged with taking up the time of the House. I wonder what honorable gentlemen on the other side expect us to do. I feel sure that they have not the remotest idea of what they want us to do. I think that while they profess that they want an amendment of the electoral law, they really want the electoral law to stand as it is, believing that in its present form it helps them materially.
– It does not look like it, judging by the results of the last election.
– It has been said that we on this side do not desire that the electors shall be properly enrolled, because the fewer the electors on the roll the more likely we are to succeed. Let us compare the results of the last general election with those of the preceding election. We find that three years ago the party on the other side was returned on rolls not nearly so numerous* as were the rolls in use this year. A change has come about. We, on this side, reflect the popular will ; we were elected on the rolls with a much larger number of names. Personally, I have nothing much to complain about in connexion with the rolls for my electorate. My party polled this time nearly 50 per cent, more votes than was done three years ago, and in connexion with the absentee votes, I polled sixteen votes more than did my opponent.
– How did you manage that?
– We managed it by running the election fair, square, and above-board .
– Do you know anything of electoral officers voting for you?
-Unlike the honorable member, I do not suggest that the electoral officers did not do their duty. I believe that, on the whole - at any rate in this State; and I know in my own electoratewe had as fair, reliable, and trustworthy a set of officers as could be found in any part of the Commonwealth, or, indeed, in any country.
– They were all on your side.
– The honorable member for Grey, in his speech, referred to the provision in this Bill to limit the time up to which electors can be placed on the roll to one mouth before the issue of the writ, instead of the date on which the writ is issued, as at present. He said that there was a desire on the part of the Government to prevent persons who were clearly entitled to be enrolled from becoming enrolled.
-I said that that will be the effect.
– No, you said that they did it purposely.
– The honorable member also said there would be a large number of young men and young women who would not become enrolled. Does that not operate in the same way on each side ? Does the honorable member suggest that, on the Labour side, there are more young men and young women coming of age ?
– Hear, hear!
– I wonder what is the honorable member’s justification for saying so. The persons coming of age will be pretty evenly distributed on both sides; therefore, neither side, as a party, will suffer any injustice in that respect. The honorable member for Grey also referred to another matter, and that was the statement attributed to Mr.Knibbs, that there were 175,000 more names on the electoral rolls than there were persons entitled to vote.
– Which Mr. Knibbs never made.
– I am taking the statement of the honorable member for Grey, and the honorable member who interjects was not in the House at the time it was made, and, therefore, cannot express an opinion on the matter.
– The remark was made by the Attorney-General, but Mr. Knibbs never made the statement.
– I am dealing at present with the argument put forward by the honorable member for Grey, that at no period was it possible to ascertain exactly how many persons were on the roll.
– By comparison.
– Although that may be so in connexion with the printed rolls, it is not so in connexion with the certified rolls, because on whatever date the certified rolls are completed all transfers throughout the Commonwealth are supposed to have been carried into effect.
– “ Supposed “ to be.
– Yes, if the system is efficient. Therefore, when the certified rolls are made up on a certain day, every elector who is entitled to be enrolled in Australia should be accounted for, neither more nor less.
– That is a moral impossibility, unless you deprive a lot of people of their votes.
– But if the rolls are perfect, it is not a moral impossibility, because on that date, when the rolls are closed, no transfers are in operation, and, naturally, the number of persons entitled ‘ to vote should have their names recorded on the rolls. I do not personally know what Mr. Knibbs said, but if there were 175,000 more persons on the certified lists than were entitled to vote, there is certainly something distinctly wrong.
– He never said the “certified “ lists.
– I feel sure that, in a matter of this kind, Mr. Knibbs would not deal with the printed rolls, because, in some cases, there were as many as 4,000 names struck off when the supplementary rolls were made up.
– All he did was to give the number of people who were entitled to vote. He never touched the rolls.
– Yes, he did; he told me so.
– No, he did not.
– Honorable members opposite say that they want a pure roll, and that it should be the aim of all parties in the House to have a pure roll. I cannot understand their violent tirade against the Attorney-General in connexion with his attempts to purify the roll. It seems to me that they do not want the roll purified.
– Not in that way.
– The honorable gentleman says “in that way.” I should like to know what he means.
– He said “ Not in that way.”
– If the honorable member is desirous of having a clean roll, then, there should be no objection to anybody informing the electoral authorities of cases which they think should be inquired into. I take it that the responsible officers in the Department will not neglect their duty if information is furnished to them, that they will not simply limit their duty to cases where a sum of 5s. is paid down in order to insure an inquiry, if information is furnished to them which they consider should be investigated.
– Let them put down the money every time.
– I can understand honorable gentlemen on the other side saying, “ Put down the money.” Apparently they have plenty of money to put down, unlike the party on this side. We cannot afford to put down 5s. to. inquire into every name that is objected to. In my electorate, on the last occasion, there was a number of names which I felt should be inquired into - on one roll something like 100 names - but I did not feel disposed, and 1 know that my committee did not feel disposed, to go and plank down £25 to have those names inquired into. Why should not information be furnished to the electoral officers, and inquiries be made by them, and, if tire names should be struck off or added, why should a payment of 5s. be the test of public duty ? Moreover, in this measure, the Government has included a provision for the infliction of a fine of £5 upon any person who enters a protest or makes an objection which is not well-founded. That shows that the Government have no desire to -stuff the rolls. Although they are abolishing the os. deposit, they are securing due inquiry in every case by the officials, and are putting such provisions in the Act as will prevent absurd objections and absurd notices being sent in. The honorable member for West Sydney said that the Government, by means of this Bill, were attempting to achieve five things - to abolish Saturday voting, to close the rolls one month before the issue of the writ, to compel voters to sign their names, to restore the postal vote, and to restore the freedom of the press. Apparently, there is a difference even amongst the honorable member’s own part)’, as to three of those things. A number of them now admit that the postal vote should be restored. I wonder what their position was three years ago when it was abolished. I suppose they were flogged in Caucus, and were brought down here and compelled to swallow the measure as introduced. Now they appear to have some little freedom in this connexion. I suppose they consider it discreet and wise to favour the restoration of the postal vote. They see the desirability of reintroducing it, and are anxious to vote for it, while at the same time protecting themselves by saying that it should be limited.
– That is why we are helping you with the Bill.
– If what we are now getting from the other, side is assistance, I do not know what opposition would be. Although the honorable member for West Sydney has criticised the Bill, there is, apparently, a considerable section of his own party in favour of restoring the postal vote - a proposal to which I am absolutely committed. I advocated it throughout the whole of my campaign, and intend to advocate it in the future, although I admit that there should be proper restrictions to prevent abuse. I shall be glad to give my assistance and co-operation in every direction towards achieving that end. The honorable member for West Sydney also criticised the proposal to close the rolls one month before the issue of the writ; but upon that question, also, there appear to be members on the other side who are entirely in accordance with the views of the Government. In fact, one honorable member who spoke from the Opposition benches favoured the closing of the rolls three months previously.
– He was the only one.
– Perhaps some of the others who have not spoken also favour it, and he might have let the cat out of the bag. The incident shows that there is an honest feeling on the part of some honorable members of the other side towards getting these proposals through, even in face of the disapproval of many of their party.
– It was the honorable member for Oxley who made that statement.
– That is so. “Under the old law it was compulsory to hold the election on a Saturday. Under the present Bill, the election may be held on any day. Before I had experience in the matter, I was against Saturday polling, but I now view the question with rather an open mind. I am indifferent as to whether the voting takes place on a Saturday or on any other day, and I believe that applies to a number of electors ; but in the country districts, I believe. Saturday suits a large number of voters.
– Be careful of the Caucus decision.
– I am not afraid of the Caucus. There is no such thing as a Caucus on our side. We are free to express our opinions, and are not brought down under the whip and the lash as the party on the other side are.
– The honorable member just said that we were not.
– I .said that some of them were backing out on these questions. There are some objections to Saturday voting, and the conscientious scruples of certain sections of the electors should be considered. I have met numbers who object to Saturday voting, and unless there aTe strong reasons why the polling should take place on that day, consideration should be given to their views. Whilst I favour the adoption of every safeguard to prevent double voting, impersonation, and abuses generally, I am afraid that the proposal to compel voters to sign their names on polling day will not work satisfactorily. I am willing to give it a trial, but I am afraid that in crowded centres, where several thousand electors record their votes at one polling booth, the greatest difficulty will be experienced in making provision to enable them to sign their names.
– We know you are going to drop that proposal.
– The honorable member is an authority on everything ; he is omniscient; but whether or not the Government are going to drop that provision, I am afraid it would not work smoothly in crowded booths.
– The honorable member has not the courage to vote against it.
– I have an. absolutely open mind on this as on every other question connected with the electoral law.
– Has the honorable member an open vote ?
– I shall vote for the adoption of what I think will be the best electoral system for the people of Australia. Another proposal criticised by the honorable member for West Sydney was the restoration of the freedom of the press. ‘ I expressed my views on that subject when moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and I notice that even on that question -there is a difference of opinion on the other side. I suppose the Caucus whip has not yet been cracked sufficiently loudly on that point. Before I knew whether I would be returned or not, I expressed myself in favour of the freedom of the press. I may also say that I did not have the assistance of a large number of the Liberal party in connexion with my campaign, although I was allowed a free hand. I fought my own fight, and won it in face of the strong opposition of the then Government. I should like to have seen provisions for preferential voting included in the Bill. In my campaign I strongly advocated preferential voting, which was one of my chief planks in connexion with the electoral law.
– The honorable member did so to curry favour with the Agc !
– I can afford to ignore that interjection. I strongly expressed the view that there should be no preelection or selection of candidates by any party. I think it is desirable that both parties should be permitted to put into the field any number of candidates that they think proper. The result would be that proper elimination which would insure that whoever was elected represented the views of the majority of the electors who recorded their votes.
– Then the honorable member would make pre-selection illegal ?
– I do not know that the system of preferential voting, if introduced, need touch the question of preselection. The party on the other side select candidates, and so do our party.
– And select them on the preferential system.
– Which, no doubt, the honorable member for Maribyrnong will vote for when it is proposed. Even if candidates are selected by either or both the parties, the adoption of a system of preferential voting will also enable anybody else with political ambitions to offer his services.
– Is the honorable member going to move ite inclusion in the Bill?
– The honorable member need not be afraid that this question will not be considered at the proper time, and I hope that when it is considered he will vote for it. It is sometimes said that the system of preferential voting means the. introduction of a’ large number of candidates into the field, and it is also stated that candidates working on the same side in the same interest often cause more bitterness than those opposed to it. Pre-selections also often cause a great deal of bitterness and dissatisfaction, but I feel sure that if a number of candidates come into the field, no matter what party they represent, the electors will ultimately select the man who will most suitably represent the views of the constituency. There will be a proper elimination, as I said, and so long as the electors use the system ‘of preferential voting honestly and fairly, they need have no fear of it. Under present conditions, we may have a Labour candidate and a Liberal candidate in the field, and also an Independent, who is wanted by neither party. Often the result of the candidature of the Independent is the return of a member for whom only a minority of the total votes is cast.
– Would the honorable member make it compulsory to vote for all the candidates?
– Why should a voter be compelled to vote for a candidate in whom he did not believe?
– Under the preferential voting system electors must vote for all the candidates in the order of their preference. At the present time, in Senate elections, electors are compelled to vote for three candidates. I hope that, at the proper time, provision will be made in the Bill for the adoption of preferential voting. There are many other matters with which I should like to deal, but I do not wish to occupy time unduly. If we desire a pure roll and a good electoral system, we should approach the consideration of this measure in a proper spirit. To my mind, the measure is a very plain one, and its provisions are worthy of careful and deliberate study, but so many bogies have been raised by honorable members opposite, so many obstacles erected, so many awful possibilities pictured, that I may say of the speeches of the Opposition, that they have -
Held me entranced in intellectual pain And wonder, at the art than can confuse Things in themselves most plain.
.- The peroration of the honorable member for Indi was a wonderful affair. A more self -satisfied gentleman I have never met in my political experience.
– The honorable member said that of me.
– He says it of every one.
– Honorable members on the other side are all alike; but, Mr. Speaker, knowing the honorable member for Werriwa as well as you do, you must be of opinion that there is some strong chain holding him down. How the party keeps him silent God Almighty knows; I do not. Some spell has been thrown over him. Possibly he has been told that if he does not keep quiet during this Parliament, he will never again get the Liberal indorsement. That is the only whip with which they could scourge him successfully; because he loves to be in the midst of a fight. When the first Electoral Bill was introduced, no one spoke more loudly than he in denunciation of certain proposals that are now being brought forward again. There is a conspiracy of silence on the part of honorable members opposite. Either they have been struck dumb, or they have been struck comical. The honorable member for Indi has broken away, evidently because he felt that he must say something. Like a bird escaped from the cage, he was bursting with song, and had to get it off his chest or die. When honorable members who now support the Government were in Opposition, we had to listen and suffer in silence to what the Prime Minister has characterized as “ hog-wash “ and “ drivel.” We remember, too, the tirade of abuse which the honorable member for Werriwa, in the early days of Federation, used to pour on Protectionists; but he has now become a strong Protectionist, and today is like a little Pomeranian dog, ready to follow his master or mistress anywhere that they may call him. I should like to hear what he has to say regarding certain clauses of the Bill.
– The honorable member will hear that in Committee.
-There it is again. We are to hear at some other time what, the honorable member has to say ! He knows that in Committee his tongue will be tied. Now is the time to deal with the general principles of the Bill. This measure, instead of being one to amend the Electoral Act, is a Bill to keep persons from getting on the roll, and to strike names off the roll, and the Honorary Minister in introducing it used language such as I have never before heard in this or any other Parliament. I would remind the honorable gentleman that, while the two parties sit on opposite sides of the House, the members of this party, and those with whom they associate are not criminals, although he would have the country believe that -we are connected with all that is bad. Let me quote his own words. He said -
The records of the Courts bear witness to that fact. This country is the most honest on the face of the globe, yet, as in every other country, there are in Australia a certain number of persons who are ready to commit offences against the law. We had in 1911- the last year for which particulars are available - 144,764 convictions in the Police Courts of this country, and 2,631 committals for trial. These were not serious offences; they were trifling Police Court offences. But the fact remains that a proportion of these men who will commit trifling offences against the law, might be led to commit what they might regard as trifling offences against the electoral system if they thought that honorable members opposite were in danger. Nobody believed at the last general election that honorable members opposite were in danger. . . . Since then some of these people have, unfortunately, found out the way to commit these petty crimes, and have learned of the safety accompanying any such breach of the law. We have had the newspapers full of the opportunities for fraud given by the present electoral system. Every one is now educated up to the opportunities for fraud which it offers.
A number of interjections were provoked by those remarks, and the honorable gentleman, finding that he was in deep water, started back for the beach. He continued -
The point I am making is this : Admittedly honorable members opposite will see that it ought to be worth the while of a man who, perhaps, takes a drink too much, and gets into trouble with the “ beak “ in the morning, to give an extra vote, or to* give a vote, and do his best for the Labour party. Honorable members opposite will agree that they are of more value to these people than is the mere extra drink which gets those people into trouble. I am not saying -
– The honorable member is playing it pretty low down.
– I do not say for one moment that there is any connexion whatsoever between honorable members opposite personally and these particular people. I am only showing that there is an immense number of people in Australia - the number is small proportionately tothe number in other countries, but still it is a very considerable one - who from year to year, commit trifling breaches of the law. I think that these people would be more likely to believe that honorable members opposite would benefit the country than they would be to think that .honorable members on this side of the House would do so. They are enthusiastic -
Unfortunately, the honorable member for West Sydney then asked if the Honorary Minister was in order. Had the honorable gentleman been allowed to go on without interruption, he would have convicted himself out of his own mouth. I know what he intended to say, though he did not say it. It is playing it pretty low down for honorable members to speak of their opponents as consorting with thieves, rogues, and vagabonds. How does he know that those to whom he refers would vote for the Labour party instead of for the Liberal party. If he and those supporting the Ministry believe what he said of us, they have no right to associate with us i.u any way, nor to have anything to do with us. I do not think that there is any difference between honorable members opposite and those on this side, except that on political matters they think in one way, while we hold entirely opposite views. I would be sorry to fasten on them every crime in the calendar, as the Honorary Minister tried to fasten evil upon us. Every one is free to vote as he chooses; and if any honorable members on this side have to depend for support on criminals or drunkards, our position is not very stable in this Chamber. The Honorary Minister would have been welladvised to drop such talk as he indulged in when introducing this Bill. The honorable member for Indi finds a “ peg “ in what honorable members on this side have said in regard to the postal and preferential voting. When the honorable member was speaking I interjected, “ One swallow does not make a summer “ ; and, as a matter of fact, the vapourings of honorable members opposite have nothing in them. They tell us that we are Caucus-bound, and that we are bound to vote here as the Caucus dictates. Times out of number I have told honorable members that, beyond the Labour platform, the Caucus has no right to bind me in any way.
– What “about the duty on bananas ?
– I never voted for a duty on bananas. I introduced that proposal for a Queensland colleague of mine, who was asleep at the time, but I voted against it; and the honorable member should not twit me when he knows that was only a joke. No one knows better than yourself, Mr. Speaker, that we on this side are free to vote as we like outside the Labour platform. I feel that the pledge I gave ray constituents has to be honoured just as I would honour any promissory note I had indorsed. When I go on to a public ‘platform and say that I am willing to carry out certain reforms, I am prepared to prove my sincerity by signing my name, as it were, to a promissory note to my constituents. Beyond the Labour platform, however, I am quite free, as can be shown in several instances. The Honorary Minister made a great parade about the Labour party’s disloyalty, because of the fact that they did not subscribe to the Queen’s Memorial; and, as showing the freedom that we have, I may say that I was the only Labour member who voted for that proposal, and that not a single member- of my party has said one word to me about the occurrence. Then, in regard to the Bill before us, there is nothing to prevent my supporting postal voting if I feel inclined to do so; but, as a matter of fact, I do not believe in the system. I think it is one of the most rotten pieces of machinery ever invented in any country. I have lived a long time in the State iu which postal voting originated, and I have seen some peculiar things done under it. I plead guilty to the soft impeachment of having done some myself.
– Consciously ?
– Yes. I found out how a voter was going to vote, and, if he did not vote as J. wanted, his vote did not go in. I know very well what can be done, and that is the reason I am against postal voting. Some honorable members take exception to my remarks about justices of the peace. The honorable member for Darling Downs knows as well as any man that the Philp Government, when they ousted the Kidston Government, appointed political justices of the peace by the score, and in no electorate was this more glaring than in that of the honorable member I have mentioned. Every canvasser of the People’s Political League, as it was then called - the “ People’s Political Leg-puller “ - was made a justice of the peace. These men went canvassing from door to door, and frightened women into voting by post, pointing out that if they did not do so their husbands would lose their jobs. But as soon as the Government were returned, what was their first act ? Every justice of the peace created under the Philp regime - and they numbered over 300 - was wiped off the rolls, and a fresh start made.
– That shows how far some people will go when justices of the peace are appointed in such a way.
– It was done, and no one knows better than the Minister of Trade and Customs what corruption took place. The newspaper with which that honorable gentleman’s relatives are associated denounced the system with “ bell, book, and candle,” and the newspaper files of the Library will show what his family thought about it. Yet we find the honorable member in a Government which seeks to perpetuate this evil.
– It is a different system altogether, and the honorable member knows it.
– The. honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– It is a different system.
– All that the honorable member for Gippsland knows is abau telling untruths from the public platform.
– I object to a remark of that kind.
– The honorable member mav object, but it is a fact, all the same.
– The honorable member for Maranoa is out qf order, and must withdraw that remark.
– What must I withdraw?
– I understood the honorable member to say that the honorable member for Gippsland was iu the habit of telling untruths.
– I did say that.
– Well, suck language is out of order, and must be withdrawn.
– If the language is not in order, I withdraw it; but, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you cannot stop me from thinking it. However, I shall leave the honorable member for Gippsland alone, because he is not worth much - I shall refer to him at the proper time.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that thought is free?
– It is, so long as we keep it to ourselves. As I was saying, no one knows better than the honorable member for Darling Downs what happened at a particular election, and I have here cuttings from the Queensland Hansard to show what did take place. The honorable member for Lilley has suggested that the clauses now proposed are not the same as those in operation in Queensland, but J ask that honorable member whether the Bill before us forbids canvassing for postal votes ?
– Then, under the Bill, the same evils are likely as were shown under the Queensland Act. I shall, however, be fair with the honorable member, and take it that his interjection has reference to the new Bill now before the Queensland Parliament, in which it is provided -
Any such person who attests, receives, or takes a postal vote or envelope containing a postal vote shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds, and the election of a candidate who, or whose agent to the knowledge of the candidate so attests or receives or takes such postal vote or envelope shall be void.
I venture to say, if the postal vote for the Commonwealth were safeguarded in a similar way, that not half-a-dozen honorable members on this side would be found to oppose it.
– I am just thinking what the honorable member escaped at one time !
– At that time I was acting as political agent, and not as a candidate. It was my desire to get my friend in, and I can tell the honorable member “that I worked hard, got him in, and kept him there. Under the Queensland Act, justices of the peace are done away with altogether; and this brings me back to what I said about political justices of the peace being rotten wretches. If honorable members knew some of the things those justices of the peace have done, they would agree that the words used are not strong enough : in fact, I am sorry I did not call them something stronger. Some of the acts they perpetrated at the 1907 election were something awful; indeed, honorable members opposite would scarcely believe what was done. In regard to postal voting, it is provided in the Queensland Bill-‘ ‘
Any elector -
As to the sick and infirm, I have no objection to their having a vote. Honorable members on both sides believe that every qualified man and woman should be able to exercise the franchise; but what makes me so suspicious about, the postal vote is the corruption that has taken place. In one electorate, a justice of the peace went round with a canvasser, and told the wives of working men that it was quite easy to avoid the bustle of the polling booth by signing a postal vote, and that, in a few days, they would come round with the necessary witness. There were peculiar ways of finding out how these people voted. I do not wish to tell honorable members what I know, because I am familiar with the game from A to Z. As I told honorable members before, I have been at it, and know very well what is in it.
– The honorable member repents of what he did ?
– I am always repenting, brother. On the occasion to which I refer, the abuses were so great that the Argus sent a special representative to
Queensland to make inquiries. The Argus. apparently was shocked, but not the Age - it would be hard to shock the Age. The Argus was shocked at the suggestion that such political indecencies should be perpetrated in a young country like this. It could not believe it possible that this sort of thing was carried on to the extent alleged. It therefore sent to Queensland a special reporter, and on 15th April, 1912, published an article from him dated Brisbane, Sunday, in which it was said -
The justice of the peace has degenerated. In former years there was an old-fashioned feeling that the justice of the peace was created to hold impartially the scales of justice. In hundreds of cases justices of the peace are party political agents. There is little, if any, disguise about it ; avowedly in many instances they are appointed to their judicial position for political purposes. It is but natural in these circumstances that abuses will result.
The Argus reporter also .wrote -
The justice of the peace had local knowledge of the voter, and of his and her political faith. Unscrupulous justices saw to it that all the votes for their candidates reached the returning officer, and that all votes for the other side were mislaid. … It was the discovery of such abuses that led the Queensland Parliament to abolish the postal vote.
– That is a comparatively recent statement?
-Yes. Notwithstanding all the political justices of the peace who were appointed, and all the political engineering and dodging resorted to by his opponents, Mr. Kidston was returned to power and unseated the Philp Ministry by an overwhelming majority. His first act as Premier of Queeusland was to remove from the roll of the commission of the peace the names of the 300 and odd justices who had been appointed for political purposes.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 7. J/5 p.m.
- Mr. Kidston, as reported in the Queensland Hansard, made the following statement in regard to postal voting -
Every one of us knows quite well that the way postal voting is carried out in many cases made it to all intents and purposes open voting, done under the eye of some person who probably had some power over the person voting.
– But that was under the Queensland Act.
– Which, in this respect, was very similar to the measure now before us.
– Very different.
– It is idle for honorable members to shut their eyes to the facts, or to act like the emu, which buries its head in a bush and imagines that, because it cannot see any one, no one can see it.
Colonel Ryrie. - Do not put that on to the emu.
– Well, I will put it on to the honorable member, if he likes. The honorable member for Hume says that the system for which this Bill provides is different from that to which Mr. Kidston referred. If the honorable member eared to engage me, I could tell him how ninety-nine out of every hundred, who voted by post had recorded their votes if I had witnessed their signatures, and I would not have to be in the same room.
– Only seven cases of fraud have been proved under the Federal system of voting by post.
– Never mind that. Mr. Kidston went on to say that -
The evils of last election will be a mere circumstance compared with the evils that will take place at next election. I consider that it is the duty of this House to wipe out the postal vote root and branch, and wipe it out at once.
The Queensland Parliament did wipe it out.
– It is going to restore the system.
– The system now proposed to be introduced in Queensland is very different from that in vogue at the time to which Mr. Kidston alluded. The difference is as marked as the difference between night and day. No justice of the peace is to be allowed to witness, and no canvasser is to be allowed to handle, a postal ballot-paper. That, at all events, was the original intention of the Government, but I learn from the Brisbane press that the State Ministerial party held a caucus on the Lucinda the other day, and decided to recommit the Bill, with, the object of allowing justices of the peace to witness signatures.
– What is wrong with the justices of the peace?
– Nothing at all. What an innocent nian the honorable member is! Mr. Kidston went on to say -
The postal vote is of such a nature that fraudis made easy owing to considerable abuse of the postal vote. The best way is to wipe it out altogether.
The Minister of Trade and Customs knows that, after this memorable elec- tion in Queensland, a Committee or Commission was appointed by the Government to inquire into the postalvoting system, and that magistrates, amongst others, were invited to express their opinions with regard to it. Amongst the witnesses examined was Mr. Thomas Mowbray, police magistrate at Toowoomba - not a Labour man, but a police magistrate - and this is what he said -
The general tendency of the voting by post certainly impairs the secrecy of the ballot in more ways than one. - The freedom of the elector is forestalled. Hundreds obtain postal votes through misstatements. Scores of postal votes went to one address -
Here is the trouble in regard to intervention by organizations and canvassers - and were taken out to the Federal electorates by the justices of the peace, collected and posted by them. I am of opinion that postal voting is not secret voting, and is open to very grave abuse.
This was the statement made by a gentleman for whom all classes of the community in Queensland have the most profound respect, and whose integrity as a police magistrate is beyond question. A report from Sandgate in regard to this election said -
The certificates were evidently watched for by the justices of the peace who had canvassed. Very serious danger of improper action lies here.
The Hon. Peter Airie, who was Home Secretary in the Kidston Government, introduced an amending Electoral Bill, and, in doing so, said -
He must emphasize his previously expressed opinion that the introduction of justices of the peace into this particular provision might possibly lead to a great deal of mischief. It might do a great deal to vitiate the validity of elections.
Then Mr. Hawthorn, Home Secretary for Queensland in 1907, said -
No less than 1,302 postal votes never reached the returning officers, with the result that those 1,302 voters lost their votes.
Premier Kidston interjected -
They were lost because they voted for the wrong man.
The honorable member for Indi raved and ranted “ this afternoon about purity of elections. All that he wanted, he said, was to insure the purity of elections - that no name should appear on the roll that ought not to be there, and that no one should vote who was not entitled to vote. There is no virtue about that. Our electoral law is the freest in the world. Every man and woman of the full age of twenty-one years has the right to be on the roll and to vote.
– I would tell the honoralbe member that my experience is that it is a difficult matter to get many people to vote once, let alone twice, at an election. In many instances constituents of mine have ridden 70, 80, and up to 100 miles in order to vote for me. In my electorate, hundreds of miles intervene between polling booths. Every man and woman has a right to be enrolled. If they are resident in Australia, their names ought to appear upon some roll; and I maintain that they should not be struck off one roll until they have been transferred to another. They, are residents of the Commonwealth, and have as much right to be upon the roll as has the Attorney-General, whose fixed residence is Melbourne. Their names should not be removed from the roll until it is plain that they have been transferred to another roll, or that they have left the Commonwealth.
– But the honorable member believes that they should be on only one roll.
– I will tell the honorable member what I intend advising my constituents to do. The population of Western Queensland is chiefly of a- nomadic type; and if their names are to be struck off the roll in the way that has been suggested, I will advise them to make an application for enrolment at every shearing shed which they may visit. Here is Mr. Hawthorn’s statement - another member of the Queensland Parliament. The honorable member for Lilley knows Mr. Hawthorn, and he knows that he is not a gentleman who would rave about anything. He is one of the coolest politicians I have ever met.
– And an anti-Labour man, too.
– Yes. He says-
There were cases where justices of the peace were going round where there were two candidates contesting an election. We will say the candidates were Thompson and Williams. They were not supposed to know how the paper was going to be signed, but they were asked if Thompson spelt has name with a “ p.”
Where does Williams come in? He does not spell his name with a “p.” Then we have the statement of Mr. Cowap, a renegade Labour man from Mount Morgan.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman call him an anti-Labour man ?
– I will call him an uncle Labour man if it will suit the honorable member. M.r. Cowap says -
They told the women of Mount Morgan to be very careful how they spelt the name.
Mr. Hawthorn. ; Some carried round a piece of blotting paper, which they handed to the voter when she was signing the voting-paper.
. They would see the name of the candidate voted for on the blotting paper.
That is an old dodge to ascertain how a postal vote is cast. Mr. Kidston, speaking on the 8th August, 1907, said -
If we continue our Elections Act with this blemish in it, we abolish the protection of the ballot so far as men are concerned, and certainly so far as the majority of women are concerned. There are plenty of women in such a position that they can protect themselves. . . But there are a large number of women who are not in that happy position, and it is chiefly for the protection of them that it. is sought to remove this blemish from our Act without any delay. >
On the 29th August of the same year, speaking in the Queensland Parliament), lie said -
When they tampered with the secrecy of the ballot they struck at the vitals of Democracy. Since he came to Queensland he had seen more men frightened to vote than ever he saw in the Old Country, when the electors voted openly. He had seen the most contemptible expedients resorted to to influence votes in Queensland. 1 1 members . . . wanted to do their duty to Queensland they would strike out the postal vote root and branch. He defied honorable members to show how they could give a postal vote and not open the door to a wholesale interference with the secrecy of the ballot. The great objection to that vote was that when an elector took his ballot-paper to some place away from scrutineers and the returning officer, political agents and employers’ agents would be after him to see he voted in the right way. Whenever they allowed a man to vote outside the ballot-box they destroyed the secrecy of the ballot.
The last few words sum up the position in regard to the postal vote.
– Do those statements refer to the Queensland system ?
– They refer to the postal vote. How child-like and bland is the honorable member for Wimmera ! Will he come and put his finger in my mouth to see if I will bite it? He knows Mr. Kidston well enough, and he knows very well the evils of postal voting. He is merely endeavouring to side-track me. Then, again, we had an exhibition of what postal voting means in connexion with the selection of a Liberal candidate iu New South Wales. Only the other day Senator McDougall asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, as representing the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, whether the followingparagraph from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of yesterday had been brought under his notice:-
The experience of the Willoughby and Mosman Liberal Leagues in connexion with the work of candidate selection has strengthened objection to the present system. In Willoughby, about 700- names out of a total enrolment of less than 4,000, have been objected to by one or other of the various candidates in the field. At Mosman the work of revising the rolls has proved, very unsatisfactory. There were 500 names objected to, and when- the lists were thoroughly examined many names were found for whose membership tickets no ‘butts could be discovered.
It was then decided to abandon postal voting, and to require members to vote personally at arranged booths. The whole matter has created considerable feeling among the candidates concerned.
The Willoughby electorate conference has decided to secure the services of an independent canvasser to interview those persons on the roll whose qualifications have been questioned.
Here is the latest phase of postal voting
– The honorable member is confusing two things.
– A vote sent by post is a postal vote. The very organizations for which honorable members opposite barrack, have decided to abandon the postalvoting system so far as the selection of candidates is concerned. They are going to do what the late Right Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston, when speaking on the first Electoral Bill submitted in this Chamber, counselled us to do. He urged that the only means of getting a true reflex of public opinion was by inducing every elector to go to the ballot-box. Some honorable members opposite have endeavoured to make capital out of the fact that one or two honorable members upon this side of the House have said that they agree with postal voting. If the postal voting system could be properly safeguarded, there is no member of. the Labour party who would desire to prevent the sick or infirm from exercising the franchise. But knowing, as we do, the way in which the system was abused in Queensland, we should be lacking in our duty if we agreed to its restoration here.
– If the honorable member believes in it, why did he not amend the. system instead of repealing it?
– I have told the honorable member times out of number I do not believe in it. The late Mr. Kingston voiced my sentiments when he said, in effect, “ Page, bring them to the ballotbox.” There is one little ewe lamb of which the Attorney-General has made a great parade, namely, the signing of the butts. He intends to have duplicate ballot-papers, and to insist upon the voter signing the butts. Has he ever had any experience of conducting an election ? I venture to say that he has not. Need I remind honorable members of what occurred in this Chamber when the Federal Capital Site was chosen? On that occasion no less than three members of this House cast informal votes. Yet these are the paragons of virtue who are going to teach the general public how to vote. How can we expect the man in the street to know how to vote-
– Then the honorable member would sooner wallow in ignorance ?
– I do not profess to know everything, but I do claim to know something about running an election. At the present time there is on the businesspaper a notice of motion, by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who desires to reduce the number of votes which may be counted at a single polling booth. I hope that there are in this Chamber a sufficient number of honorable members of my way of thinking to turn down that proposal.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– I will not. I merely wish to refer to it. I desire to show the Attorney-General how the secrecy of the ballot will be impaired by placing numbers on the ballot-papers. The honorable gentleman says that there are to be duplicate papers, and that the butts must be signed by the electors. Before he put forward this proposal he should have held a mock election amongst the seventy-five members of this Chamber. I desire to show how long it will take in a well-regulated assembly like this for seventy-five persons to vote-
– Order ! The honorable member must not anticipate discussion upon a motion which is upon the business-paper.
– This proposal is embodied in the Bill.
– But the honorable member must not traverse that aspect of it, which is the subject of a specific notice of motion on the business-paper.
– I would wager £50 with the Attorney-General that at an election at which there .are a hundred votes cast, under his butt system I will tell him how fifty of the electors voted. If that does not destroy the secrecy of the ballot, I do not know what does. It does not matter whether you put the number on the front or the back of the paper, because, if the scrutineers desire it, they can handle every ballot-paper that comes out of the ballot-box, and it is the easiest thing in the world to make a note. If I wanted to know how you voted, Mr. Speaker, and I was scrutineer at a booth where you voted, all I should have to do would be to put the number which appeared on the front or back of your ballotpaper opposite your name on my copy of the roll. I think I should have enough brain power to keep twenty or thirty cases in my head until the votes were recounted. The secrecy of the ballot must be maintained at all, costs; otherwise, we might as well go back to open voting, and compel voters to range themselves on sides, as we did in the days of old, when every elector had to go to the polling booth and declare himself openly. This system of signing the butts is about as old as the hills, and has been found defective. Suppose that half-a-dozen men came and voted in the name of James Page at different polling booths in Melbourne. Unless the election was disputed, how could any one find out who was the rightful voter? I wish to deal with the matter of removing names from the electoral roll. I have seen many instances of people who have been residing in one place for thirty years, and whose’ names have been removed from the roll. Only to-day I heard of people who have written down to their representative, telling him that they had received notice that their names were to be struck off the roll. If the members of my party had been imbued with the same feelings as I am, the Government would never have obtained Supply last week until they undertook to lay aside the regulation under which these objections have been entertained. A more unjust one I never heard of in my life. We seem to be returning to the condition of things that prevailed in the old days, when the Pastoralists’ Union.’ and other organizations used to send in wholesale objections to persons to whom they were opposed in politics. A person objected to could not go to the appointed place and prove his claim, and it was not permitted to an agent to go to the Court and speak for him. The same sort of evils are being perpetrated to-day. I will fight this Bill at every stage, as long as it contains provisions enabling people to be deprived of their just rights. What reasonable objection is there to the 5s. deposit ? The honorable member for Indi told us that he knew of 100 names that ought to come off the roll, but that neither he nor his organization could afford to put up £25 to strike them off. The honorable member must have thought that he was talking to a bush audience, instead of to a body of legislators. He ought to know that if these objections were upheld the whole of the money would be returned to him. But if the objections were shown to be frivolous, not only would the 5s. in each case be forfeited, but the objector would be liable to be fined £5.
– The .persons were struck oil, all the same.
– There is another point about this Bill about which many honorable members do not care. I allude to the alteration to be made regarding the redistribution of seats. I am satisfied that the method proposed is not the best one. I have complete faith in the integrity of the Judicial Bench; but what do Judges know about electoral redistribution ? The best man you can get for such a purpose is the Surveyor-General of the State affected.
– We obtained great satisfaction from Judge Murray, in New South Wales.
– I would trust Judge Murray, who, I know, takes a lively interest in matters of the kind. But where are you going to find another Judge of whom you could say the same? The Chief Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General are the best officers to be appointed. I should not object to a third officer acting as referee.
– Does the honorable member object to a Judge being one of the officers ?
– I have no objection to a Judge being appointed, except that there is nothing judicial about the work. The Surveyor-General of each State thoroughly understands the requirement about community of interest, and the demarcation of boundaries, and has all the information at his finger ends.
– Does not the honorable member think that there is room for judicial impartiality ?
– The honorable member for Parkes has an opportunity of telling us what he believes to be the right method, if only he will get up and speak. Is it the intention of honorable members opposite to deprive the people of the secrecy of the ballot by introducing the postal voting system and the butt system ? If not, there is but one alternative. There is no member of this House who does not want a pure roll. But -the roll on which the last election was fought was good enough for honorable members opposite. It gave them their brutal majority, by means of which they are able to “ swang “ it over us every day. It ought to be good enough for them in the future. It certainly is good enough for us. I shall have more to say on the subject in Committee.
.- I propose to offer a few remarks if the silence of honorable members opposite is to be maintained. But if any one of them would like to explain a Bill that has not yet-, been satisfactorily explained, I shall be only too happy to give way. Each hon.orable member opposite seems to know enough about the Bill to enable him to interject, though incapable of explaining his meaning in a speech. It would be interesting to find out which Minister is in charge of the measure. It was introduced by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, but during the last two weeks he has hardly been in the chamber ten minutes. We are somewhat at a loss to understand who is really in charge of the Bill, who is making a note of what is said about it, and who will guide its course in Committee. Possibly Ministers and their supporters, revelling in their present majority, are indifferent to the references made to the subject on this side, and to appeals for justice, or even for the observance of an ordinary sense of decency. Apparently, they have decided that a certain course is to be followed, and we must put up with the consequences, merely hoping that the time is not far distant when circumstances may be somewhat changed. The penultimate speaker opened his remarks by the suggestion that we should accept this Bill in a Christian spirit, refrain from adverse” criticism, even with the object of effecting improvements, and let it go through. He referred to some members on our side who had ventured into his electorate, even including my humble self. It is true that I was invited by some hundreds of citizens in that part of the Commonwealth to visit them and address them. I have been invited to go there again. I feel disposed to accept the invitation. But when the honorable member asserts, as he did, that he won his election in the most open and upright manner, I feel concerned to remind him that there is on record one instance in particular of where his conduct was not such as he alleges it to have been. I have before me a copy of the Wangaratta Chronicle, of 24th May, published just one week before the day of the election. Consequently, any statement published in it had just about time enough to circulate in the district, without permitting an answer to appear. If this statement is typical of the political criticism in which the honorable member indulged at this or subsequent or previous meetings, his statement of to-day must go by the wall, because it will not hold water. For instance, the honorable member is reported in this newspaper to have said -
At the Hobart Labour Conference of last year was formulated the policy of the Government for this election. A proposal was brought forward that the present Federal exemption of £5,000 should be wiped out and no exemption at al allowed. This proposal was only defeated by one vote, which shows what a narrow shave the land-owners of Australia had, large and small, of having to pay a Federal tax without any exemption whatever.
Is the honorable gentleman correctly reported ?
– You are reading the newspaper.
– Before making a comment I ask the honorable gentleman that question.
– You are taking the responsibility of it.
– A little while ago the honorable gentleman was loud in declamation; he was still more loud in denunciation; he was vigorous in his allegations concerning this side. He even went so far as to profess to be able to read our intentions, much less understand in detail our utterances. I ask him, before I make a comment, is that a correct statement of what he said ?
– I am afraid that you are not given to very accurate representation.
– The honorable gentleman will not deny the report; he will not admit it, and he seeks to prevaricate by an assertion of his own respecting myself. He being present, and at liberty to deny it or accept it, as the case may be, I feel justified in calling attention to that particular view. The land tax was one of those subjects with which certain honorable gentlemen wickedly deceived the electors. Their allegations in respect of it were of a most wretched and most shocking description, and, in the direction referred to, deplorable. The statement warning the farmers as to the narrow shave by which they escaped being subjected to a land tax without an exemption is an indication, at any rate, that some statement of that description was made. If honorable members will turn to the official report of the proceedings of the Conference referred to - a report which, I presume, the honorable gentleman has had, because he referred to it a few weeks ago in remarks he made - they will find, on page- 14, that that particular proposal was defeated by 18 votes to 6, and not, as alleged by him, by the narrow shave of one vote. It was by methods of that description that he won his election, and he asserted that he won it in a fair, upright, honorable way, deserving of the praise of all sections of the community, with a modesty which, I am sure, commended itself to honorable members on both sides. In the circumstances, he was justified in saying that he cared neither for the hosts of heaven nor for the hosts of the other place. He could win, I admit, if he followed a course of that kind. We are asked, for instance, why we do not approach this Bill in a Christian-like spirit, why we do not show ourselves amenable to reason, which, we can only, assume, is in the other side, for few of them venture to address the House. We are asked to consider a particular Bill. We consider the Bill as it is put before the House. If it is a Bill which permits of a Christian-like criticism and forbearance, necessarily it will receive it; but if it is a Bill specifically designed to do injury to the country, it naturally follows that honorable members who believe it to be of that description will receive it in no friendly spirit. Even if the Bill were of the character suggested, even if it were mild in its provisions, we are justified, in the circumstances, in criticising it; indeed, in criticising the Minister on the other side on the spirit in which he presented the Bill to the House. He presented it to the House in a blackguardly utterance
– Order !
– That is a disgrace to this House.
– I have to request the honorable member to withdraw the words “blackguardly utterance.”
– I withdraw the words, and will read what the honorable member said, and then honorable members can consider for themselves how they should characterize the utterance of which he was deliberately guilty. In presenting the Bill to honorable members, this is what the Minister said -
We had in 191 1 - the last year for which particulars are available - 144,764 convictions in the Police Courts of this country, and 2,631 committals for trial. These were not serious offences; they were trifling Police Court offences. But the fact remains that a proportion of these men’ who will commit trifling offences against the law might be led to commit what they might regard as trifling offences against the electoral system if they thought that honorable members opposite were in danger.
I propose now to comment, and then to continue reading.
– On what page is that reported ?
– It is reported on page 1236 of Hansard of 15th September. There is a deliberate assertion on the part of the Minister presenting the Bill that the drunkards, the vagrants, people up for petty . larceny, resisting the police, and assaults in the streets, pickpockets, and the ordinary people who number the 144,000 who were up before the “ beak,” as he alleged, in a particular year, were the supporters of this side- We are expected, in the light of such wretched utterances, to accept this Bill in a Christian-like spirit, and with marked forbearance, and to refrain from comment of a character likely to ruffle the feathers of honorable gentlemen on the other side. The Minister said -
Nobody believed, at the last general election, that honorable members opposite were in danger.
The assumption is that if it had been believed that we, on this side, were in danger, these characters to whom the honorable gentleman refers in such glib terms would have come to our assistance, and rendered help willingly.
– He states that distinctly.
– The Minister continued -
The honorable member for West Sydney himself told the people, as reported in the Sydney newspapers, that his party, instead of losing any, was going to win more seats; and the people who did not know him believed him. They thought that they were in no danger. There was, in other words, no inducement to do any of the improper things that can be done with absolute safety under the existing electoral system.
Here, again, there is the clear assertion that had these gentry known that this party was in danger of losing its majority, they would have come to its assistance, thus directly associating us with that section of the community. The Minister proceeded. There were some interjections, and very warm objection was taken to his utterance. One honorable member is reported in Hansard to have withdrawn references he made, and the Minister said -
The point I am making is this : . Admittedly honorable members opposite will see that it ought to be worth the while of a man who, perhaps, takes a drink too much, and gets into trouble with the “beak” in the morning, to give an extra vote, or to give a vote, and do his best for the Labour party.
May I ask, sir, why the honorable gentleman should suggest that? I might go a little further, and ask why he was permitted in this House to indulge in such a vicious insult, to indulge in this degrading reference, to offend honorable members with assertions of the character that the drunkards of Australia would naturally, according to him, support this side of the House? I am surprised, in the circumstances, that he was not prevented
– Order ! The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I am not reflecting on you, sir.
– But the honorable member is doing so.
– I assure you, sir, that I am not reflecting on you, because that would be out of order. I am reflecting, if any reflection is contained in my remarks, upon honorable members on this side of the House who were present. They ought to have subjected the Minister to such treatment as would have prevented him from going on in that vicious way, or displaying such a degrading mentality as was displayed in those particular words. He went on to say -
Honorable members opposite will agree that they are of more value to these people than is the mere extra drink which gets those - people into trouble. I am not saying-
Here the honorable member for Maranoa is reported to have interjected -
The honorable member is playing it pretty low down.
That is a mild way of referring to the utterance, I must say. The Minister continued -
I do not say for one moment that there is any connexion whatsoever between honorable members opposite personally and these particular people. I am only showing that there is an immense number of people in Australia - the number is small proportionately to the number in other countries, but still it is a very considerable one - who from year to year, commit trifling breaches of the law. I think that these people would be more likely to believe that honorable members opposite would benefit the country than they would be to think that honorable members on this side of the House would do so.
When serious exception is taken to the deplorable utterance of the Minister, there is an attempt to excuse it by saying that he did not personally associate us with these characters, but he left the intention of the stigma by saying that we are politically associated with that section of the community. In the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will forgive me - and you will see that I had justification a few moments ago, for breaking a rule - in referring to this as a black”guardly utterance.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw those words.
- Mr. Speaker, I am sure that, in the circumstances, you will request the words to be withdrawn, but, at the same time, I know that, in your heart of hearts, you must agree with me.
– Order ! The honorable member hasnot withdrawn the words.
– I do withdraw the words. There is no doubt about me obeying the rules of the House. I am very glad, indeed, that I was not here at the time, as it is just possible that I might have been moved to break another rule of the House when such vicious, such degrading, such despicable conduct was indulged in by a Minister, of the Crown.
– Order ! The honorable member is again offending against the Standing Orders.
– Then, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the offence again. I am sorry that I have offended; but, in the circumstances, you will see that honorable members are justified in displaying a little warmth of feeling. When, on top of that conduct, the honorable member for Indi - a novice in the House, but not a novice in years nor in legal procedure - suggests in words that are calculated to mislead the community, that we ought to meet this Bill in a Christian-like spirit; when we are being subjected to this kind of insult daily, in particular by Ministers, and being misrepresented daily at socials, banquets, or other sorts of gatherings by the Prime Minister, then there is room for exception being taken to such conduct in words that cannot possibly be misunderstood. The honorable member for Indi regrets, he interjects, that there is not an illustrated Hansard. I am sure I do not know why he wishes the publication to be illustrated. If these words of the Minister, whom he tamely follows, are not sufficient embellishment, do not in themselves form a sufficiently dirty picture, I do not know what more he desires. Now, so far as the Bill itself is concerned, in the few moments that are allowed to honorable members for its consideration, nothing like detail is possible, yet we may indulge in a few general references. We were led to believe, by the first line of the Ministerial statement, that a major alteration of the Electoral Act would be suggested, for that line reads -
The existing electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily.
That is a complete sentence, composed before any inquiry had been made, before anything in respect of the elections was known other than that honorable gentlemen on the other side, though representing a minority of the electors, have yet a majority in this House. Before any irregularities were proved, before, indeed, the inquiry in relation thereto was- finalized, the electoral roll had not been found to be satisfactory. One would think that honorable gentlemen opposite, embracing in their numbers, as they do, some nine or ten members of the legal profession - men who ‘assert that they are of high business standing, who arrogate to themselves almost the sole right of governing and legislating for this country, and who refer to honorable members- on this side as being quite incapable of rising to the sublime heights of understanding political economy - would have some reasonable proof behind them before asserting that a thing was unsatisfactory; at any rate, a proof acceptable to the average and unbiased elector. But from that day until this, despite the few speeches that have been made, notwithstanding the columns that have appeared in their party newspapers, they have not been able to prove in the Electoral Act one unsatisfactory feature, so far as the last elections were concerned. All that they are entitled to attempt to do, by reason of their hustings pledges, is to re-institute the postal vote. Outside of that particular feature there is scarcely one clause in the Bill that embodies any of the references or pledges they have made to their electors. Of course, the Electoral Act is unsatisfactory to honorable members opposite because they have not a majority in both Houses of the Legislature. Only an Electoral Act which will give them, by preferential or some other form of voting, by splitting up the Senate seats, by striking names off or putting them on the roll, by having the electorates divided by Commissioners or by a Supreme Court Judge, by absent voting or postal voting, or any other method, what they term a workable majority in both branches of the Legislature, will be satisfactory to them, and then only will they be mute so far as suggestions for its alteration are concerned. It is sad, indeed, that the Electoral Act of this country should be made the plaything of political parties. If, at the moment that either party receives a chance majority in either branch of the Legislature, they are there and then to seek to alter the Electoral Act to suit their party purposes, it will be a sad day, for we shall go down to the low level of some of the smaller American States, where these matters, together with all Civil Service matters, are regularly manipulated for party purposes after each election. What can be said of this Bill, introduced immediately following an election, when uo irregularity has been disclosed, when not one member on the other side has produced a scintilla of evidence, outside of the restoration of the postal voting provision which they promised to their electors, to justify any alteration whatever?
Despite all the powers of the Government, which have been used during the last three months - detectives, officials, unlimited money - after every inquiry that could possibly be conceived of has been made, they have failed to find one irregularity, one justification for any alteration. Yet they submit the Bill to us in a form which clearly indicates that it has been introduced wholly and solely for party purposes. The main features of the alterations which are proposed have emanated, not from the brains of honorable members opposite, but from their political leagues, from the machines that control the elections, from those people who understand the practical working of every-day elections, and who want to make the Electoral Act such that they can escape the. penal provisions, and do whatever seems to them best to get a majority for their side. The question of whether every human being is allowed to vote is of no consideration to them. If they are so solicitous about the women voting, why do not their party in this State extend the franchise for the Legislative Council to women ? If they are so anxious that their women should speak at ‘the electoral booths, and have a voice in the government of the country, why not give them the right more fully? Why not give it to them in all the States, where to-day they are debarred specifically and persistently by the very political element which is facing us to-day ? The cry about giving women the vote is about the most hollow sham ever imposed on a community by honorable . members on the other side. In Victoria, there still remains a form of plural voting for men, and they seek no alteration of it. As I say, the idea has emanated from the political leagues outside. It is an indication of a desire to manipulate elec-, tions, to remove some names from the rolls, to be able at some special times, when their Ministry happens to be in office to identify particular electors, and enable canvassers to go from door to door and solicit votes. They know that canvassers can mislead and deceive, obtaining votes from persons who do not give much attention to politics, and who are liable to be misled bv forceful or untruthful arguments. They know that they can mislead the electors, for instance, by such wretched statements as that a proposal to alter the land tax was defeated by the warrow majority of one, when it was really defeated by eighteen votes to six ! They know that the efforts of these canvassers are systematically directed to mislead and misrepresent. They want to be able to pay their canvassers, men and women ; degrading women as they do day by day, by paying them to go round and mislead the electors. They want to be able to canvass the electorates and get votes by hundreds, as many can get them, not because the average voter is venal, not because he wants to do wrong, but because if men and women sufficiently strong-minded and sufficiently unscrupulous go from door to door, innocent and uninformed electors can be misled in many ways. That class of electioneering can be indulged in only by those who have abundant wealth, those to whom money is no object, and who, if they do not manipulate all the funds that come in, know full well that the wealthy institutions of the country send money in by hundreds of pounds to aid in the election of honorable members opposite, or to defeat referenda proposals, which would give the people a fuller privilege of selfgovernment. This Bill was conceived in viciousness, delivered in venom, and presented in vilification by its unmarried parents. The four great corner stones on which it is proposed to erect this safe retreat for electoral thieves, are deprivation of electoral rights, curtailment of political power, violation of the secrecy of the ballot-box, and opening up avenues for fraud. Whatever be the desire of individual honorable members on the other side, it is utterly impossible for them to raise on such a foundation any superstructure that can be either honorable to the builders, or perfect in its parts. Yet honorable members on the other side, knowing full well all the possibilities’ under the Bill, knowing whence it in reality emanates, propose to continue pushing it before the House, not that they have any real hope of it passing, not that they believe that its provisions will meet with final legislative assent by both branches of the Legislature, but because they think that by its provisions they can mislead a section of the community into believing that something is wrong with the Electoral Act.
– Does the honorable member think the present Act is perfect ?
– No Act produced by human beings can be perfect. No assertion to that effect has ever been made.
The present Act is possibly capable of improvement, and whenever human minds can conceive of an improvement, it should be suggested. It will then be the duty of every honorable member on this side of the House to receive it with the respect that it deserves, and to place it upon the statute-book.
– Let us get into Committee, so that we can put our heads together, and make a perfect Act of it.
– The cry on the other side is, “For Heaven’s sake, do not speak. Let us get into Committee, where you are not fully reported. Do not expose our intentions and desires to the public. Say nothing. Let it be a policy of hush, silence, and suppression. Get into Committee. Let it go.” Does the honorable member wish me to go back over the last three years, when from this corner, he regularly delivered orations of unlimited length on all and sundry subjects, like Mr. Dick with King Charles’ head, never forgetting the Pacific Cable business in every speech. Indeed, so long and laborious were his utterances, that it was he that constrained us to propose a time limit, for, although we love to hear him, there was nothing truly edifying in his laboured efforts. It, therefore, ill-becomes him, on this occasion, to suggest that we should go into Committee, when but a few honorable members have had the privilege of speaking, and all have been subjected to a time limit. It is proposed in the Bill that the boundaries of the electoral divisions should be delineated no longer by a Commission of three, including the Surveyor-General of the particular State, but by a Judge of a Supreme Court or the High Court. First of all, we may doubt whether the Judges have the time for this work. Secondly, unless they call expert evidence and go into the question very minutely, as this practically embraces a new sphere of employment for them, it will be impossible for them to do the work in a reasonable way. Another serious objection to a Judge alone having the right to do this work is that one of the matters to be considered is diversity, or community, of interest, and I would suggest for the consideration of honorable members opposite that it is not meet that we should mix our Judges up in that matter.
Let us keep them pure and above the reach of everything and everybody that can improperly influence them. Do not let us ask them to decide questions affecting community of interest or similar matters which are not dealt with on evidence or according to law. They should not have that task assigned to them. But while it may not be of great importance who does the work of subdivision, the method under which it is done is of importance. The Ministry of the day can submit the redistribution of a State to the Judge, practically whenever they like. If the Bill became law, they could ask for the redistribution of New South Wales, Victoria, or any or all of the States whenever they so. desired. If, after their hustings utterances, the Government were proposing to take the redistribution of States altogether out of the hands of Parliament, we might regard them as sincere, and as believing what they told the electors about the need for that step; but the right of Parliament to interfere with the redistribution rs not taken away. After the Judge has decided the new electoral boundaries, his redistribution must come before Parliament, and if either branch of the Legislature - not as heretofore, both branches of the Legislature - disagrees, the Ministry can do what they like in the matter. In this provision we see their Machiavelian cunning. Ministers happen to have a majority in this House. If either branch of the Legislature disapproves of the work of the Judge, what happens? This is the worst feature of the provision ! The proposed redistribution is thrown holus-bolus into the hands of the Ministry, who can do what they like with it. It has been said that the last Government prevented a redistribution of the State of New South Wales, but the statement is grossly false. There was a redistribution in accordance with the law. It was submitted to Parliament for review, and returned to the Commissioners. Redistributions were submitted by the Commissioners on two separate occasions, and then the Liberals, finding that the scheme proposed was favorable to them, because its adoption would increase their numbers and decrease ours, went so far as to hold up the business of Parliament for fifty-four consecutive hours, or thereabouts, to force its acceptance, despite the assurance that was given that it would be approved.
– No. The assurance was given after that.
– The honorable member’s statement is not correct, but I know that he is not too regular an attendant.
– Do not be unfair. I am here as often as is the honorable member.
– I do not wish to be unfair. Even were the honorable member a regular attendant, he might not quite understand ; though I shall not stress that point too much. The assurance waa given by Ministers. Although, having a majority in both branches of the Legislature, we had the power to prevent the acceptance of the ‘redistribution, and although we knew that it was inimical to our interests, because it would bring about the reduction of our following, we passed it. Note the difference between what we did and what was done earlier by the Liberal party. When the last Fusion Government were in power, in 1909, it became necessary to redistribute the divisions of Western Australia, and independent Commissioners made a report to Parliament. The. then Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Fuller, as in duty bound, moved the adoption of that report. Then what happened. These immaculate gentlemen, whose honour transcends anything previously known in the political life of this Commonwealth, voted or paired against the scheme to a man, the Minister of Home Affairs alone voting for it. What did they care then about a fair redistribution, or about one man one vote of one value? What sense of honour, decency, or uprightness did they then show? They were playing the political game.
– The honorable member must not pursue this illustration too far.
– I shall not do so; but it has a close relationship to the provision under discussion. Every Liberal member and Minister alike voted or paired against the scheme, because it would have lost to the. party the then member for Fremantle, Mr. Hedges. Did they send back the scheme to the Commissioners for reconsideration ? No. That would have been too much risk. It was quietly put into a pigeon-hole in the Minister’s office, and their adherent was saved. These are the gentlemen who to-day bring forward a provision under which they would be able to do the same thing again. After this House, and they have a majority here now, has disagreed with the proposals of the Judge - and the majority will disagree with them if they are not suitable or satisfactory to the party; because we must judge of the future by what has happened in the past - they will do as they did in 1909, and stamp it out of sight. Well might the honorable member for Wimmera say, “ Do not speak. Let us hush it all up, and rush’ the Bill into Committee.” They do not desire the exposure of these proposals to the public view, so that the people may understand their evil possibilities.
– The honorable member has not given a correct interpretation of the provision. Read the plain English of it.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Indi is an expert in interpretation; judging by what I have read from the Wangaratta Chronicle he is an expert in misrepresentation. This is the provision -
If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution in pursuance of sub-section (i) -
That is, objecting to the provision - of this section, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
Is that a correct reading of the provision ?
– Read on.
– Paragraph 3 states -
The Commissioner shall thereupon -
That is if the Minister sends it to him - reconsider the matter, and forthwith declare a fresh distribution, but for that purpose it shall not be necessary to cause the action provided by section 17 of this Act to be taken.
– Exactly; that is not what the honorable member told the House.
– The honorable gentleman gives the clearest possible proof that he has not read the provision.
– I have read it carefully. The honorable member does not understand it.
– In order that I may pierce the political density of the honorable member, I say again that, if the Ministry, whoever they may be, do not desire that the report shall go back to the Commissioner for reconsideration, it does not go back. It is in the hands of Parliament in the first place, and when Parliament disagrees, it is in the hands of. the Ministry of the day.
– It is in the hands of the Commissioner. Listen to the embryo lawyer !
– Embryo? He thinks himself the finished article.
– These interjections are disorderly.
– The honorable member need not get angry. I am not an embryo lawyer, nor yet the finished article; but, while I do not like to be unkind to the honorable member, it is possible that if I were the finished article I could earn my living, whereas he cannot earn cheese. If the House disagrees, then the Ministry have full control. If it suits the Ministry the report may go back to the Commissioner; but, if not, then the report does not go back. As in 1909, when the Fremantle seat was in danger, the Government, with the knowledge of what they are doing, may pigeon-hole the proposals, and the Commissioner will never see them again. Despite all the utterances about the purity of elections, and the necessity for taking the control out of the hands of Parliament, this has been done. Paragraph 5 of the clause is as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in subsections (1) and (4) of this section the distribution shall not, until the then next ensuing dissolution or expiration of the House of Representatives, affect the election of a new member to fill the vacancy happening in the House of Representatives, but for the purposes of any such election the electoral divisions as theretofore existing, and the rolls in respect of these divisions shall continue to have full force and effect, notwithstanding that new rolls for the new divisions have been prepared.
Once again we see the cunning which drafted this paragraph. It is quite possible that a by-election now would upset either side of the House. A resignation or death on this side might mean a very substantial majority for the Government if they won the seat; whereas, a death or resignation opposite might mean the Government and their supporters coming over here. This particular paragraph is so framed that, no matter how the electorates may be divided in the next two or three years, no by-election can be conducted under the new provisions. The Ministry, to the extent to which they canmake themselves safe under this provision, have done so; and yet all the time they keep talking about using their power to protect the people. There is another proposal to which I desire to call attention. It is proposed, by an amendment of section 64, to prevent the registration of names within one month before the issue of the writs. At present, a person desiring to become an elector may register up to the day of issue; and not a word of justification has been said for the proposed alteration other than that the electoral officers allege they have scarcely time to get the rolls into reasonable condition. During the last thirteen years, however, the officers have been able to do this work; and we know that within the period of one month before the issue of the writs many thousands of electors register their names on the rolls. This provision is specifically drafted to prevent a large number of people from having their names recorded. In the excitement immediately preceding an election hundreds of people, good citizens in the best sense of the word, who have not previously taken the precaution, awake to a knowledge of their responsibilities and seek to be placed on the roll.. The Honorary Minister ought to have been honest with us, and brought down a statement showing the number of persons who, during the last thirteen years, have had their names recorded within the specified month. There is, however, a policy of silence and secrecy that is almost appalling - a policy of hush permeates the whole of the Government side. Had the Minister given us this information, we should have been able to show clearly that tens of thousands of electors do suddenly awake to their responsibilities, and in the vast majority of cases they become the most active of voters. There may be no clear notification when the writs will be issued, and hundreds of electors, in the case of an unscrupulous Ministry issuing them a week or ten days earlier than expected, may find themselves disfranchised. All the time we have honorable members opposite crying about the purification of the rolls, and their desire to give every elector the opportunity to exercise a franchise. They are fair of promise, but false in deed. The result of this Bill will be to deprive many thousands of electors of their rights. Whose loss this will be I cannot say; but I am confident that those from whom this measure emanated are under the impression that the majority of the electors .so registering their names are not favorable to them, or we should certainly not have had such a provision suggested. I hope sincerely that honorable members opposite will be true to their professions, and afford every facility to properly qualified persons to enroll, and subsequently to record their votes. Here, however, we find a specific provision to prevent very many thousands from voting. Another peculiar provision is that declaring that citizens shall not be allowed to register their names for one month prior to the issue of the writs, whilst the leagues which control honorable members opposite will continue, without responsibility or penalty of any description, to object to names already on the roll, and to have them struck off right up to the very day on which the writs are issued. Am I not justified, in the circumstances, in saying that this Bill has been drafted with a cunning that is almost Machiavelian ? How will this provision affect a citizen who has been six months in the Commonwealth, or who has reached his majority a day or two before the issue of the writs? All these will be deprived of the right to vote. Many of our young people, I am glad to say, are taking an active interest in politics. With the spread of education they are obtaining a better knowledge of political economy. Hence the gradual increase in the strength of our voting power, although, for the moment, it is not adequately reflected in this Chamber. I have in my mind’s eye at the present moment some young men of eighteen, nineteen, and twenty years of age, who are looking forward eagerly to the time when they will be able to record their votes. For long they have been active political workers. But these young men may become of age, perhaps, just a few days before the date of the issue of the writs, and honorable members opposite, who prate of their desire to extend the facilities for voting, will say to them, under this measure, “ You cannot vote at this election; you ought to have come of age a few weeks earlier.” Then we may have a citizen pf repute who desires to record his vote, but who, a month prior to the issue of the writs, has not been in the Commonwealth for quite six months, and, therefore, will be deliberately prevented from .securing enrolment. This is a provision which necessarily means strengthening the position of honorable members opposite. As Conservatives they naturally desire for this House a conservative or limited roll, like those relating to their Legislative Councils - so limited, indeed, that but few Democrats will be able to enter. Whilst they seek that degree of conservatism which will prevent people from getting on the rolls, they desire, also, to secure a power that will enable them to remove names from the roll right up to the date of the issue of the writs. If the one proposal were fair and honest, why should it not be applied to the other ? Why not say that political leagues, also, shall not be allowed to lodge objections to names on the roll within one month of the date of the issue of the writs ? The whole Bill has been framed for specific party purposes, and there is underlying it an intention that does not reflect credit on those responsible for it. There is, first of all, the intention to deprive people of the right to vote by preventing them from securing enrolment, and, secondly, the intention to deprive them of the right to vote by a rigid system of striking names off the roll once they have been put on. This is but a return to the old methods, which we thought had been dead for twenty years. Indeed, such methods are dead in some countries ; but, because honorable members opposite have been suddenly returned to power by the narrowest of majorities, and with a minority of the votes of the. people behind them, they have seized the first opportunity to carry back our electoral procedure twenty-five or fifty years - to drag us back practically to the days which we thought we had left behind, for ever.
– They will withdraw the Bill.
– We see at once the desire of honorable members opposite underlying this measure. We can read, so to speak, into their minds and hearts. This Bill lays bare their intentions. Every line of it is stamped with conservatism, rank and rampant. It shows that they would, if they dared, have this House and the Senate like the Legislative Councils of the States. The leading man behind this measure is one who, but a year or two ago, having a majority behind him in both branches of the State Legislature, deliberately robbed certain people of their votes because they dared to differ from him on political questions. Here we have honorable members opposite, who arrogate to themselves knowledge, culture, education, and all that go to make up the individual fit to take part in the deliberations of the National Parliament, seeking to institute an electoral system so conservative as to make honest men blush. We can readily see the condition of mind into which they have fallen. A moment or two ago, when it was suggested that the Bill should be withdrawn, the honorable member for Kooyong laughed scornfully at the idea of withdrawing a measure which is going to help his side so materially.
– i laughed at the honorable member’s humbug r.nd nonsense.
– The honorable member laughed at the idea of withdrawing «. Bill which is going to chock thousands of useful citizens - without whose assistance and labour many Government supporters would not bask so happily as they do to-day in the sunshine of life, in the desire to record their votes. Their names are to be taken off the rolls. Then there is the provision to prevent Saturday being chosen as a polling day. According to the honorable gentleman who introduced this Bill, the reason given by the Electoral Officers is that there is always a great rush after 1 p.m. when the election is held on a Saturday - that the rush is so great as to clog the electoral machinery. If a general election were held on a Friday, instead of there being ‘a continual rush from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., all those who had been at work from 6, 7, or 8 o’clock in the morning would be rushing to record their votes from 5 to 8 p.m., so that for a couple of hours the congestion would be intensified a hundredfold. The hollowness and shallowness of this pretence is positively nauseating. The Government know that by doing away with Saturday as polling day they will deprive thousands of useful workers - clerks, shop assistants, labourers, mechanics, and artisans - of the right to exercise the franchise. Then, again, those who seek to record their votes are to be called upon to sign the butts of the ballot-papers. Of all the ludicrous, not to say shameful, proposals ever made this is the worst. Imagine elector!? going into a polling place in respect of which 5,000 voters are enrolled, and ha- ing to sign their names in this way before being allowed to vote! Many, unfortunately, are not rapid writers; a small percentage are scarcely able to write at all. So that this proposal that every man and woman, before receiving a ballot-paper, shall sign the ballot-paper butts, discloses either a remarkable peculiarity of imagination or the depths to which honorable members opposite will descend in order to deprive electors of the franchise. There are several other provisions with which I should like to deal, but, as my time has expired, I shall have to reserve, until we reach the Committee stage, my comments on them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bennett) adjourned..
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
Per cwt. of manufactured sugar, Four shillings, shall as from and including the twenty-sixth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen be imposed on -
all sugar produced from cane delivered for manufacture after the first day of May and before the twenty-sixth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen, and
all other sugar produced in Australia which was subject to the control of the Customs on the twenty-fifth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen, on which Duty of Excise has not been paid under the Excise Tariff 1905, as amended by the Excise Tariff (Amendment) 1906, and by the Excise (Sugar) Act 1910.
That the Comptroller-General shall, as soon as practicable after the passing of the Act imposing the Duty of Excise referred to in these Resolutions, certify in writing, by notice published in the Gazette, the amounts of cane sugar and beet sugar respectively on which duty is payable under these Resolutions.
That all cane sugar manufactured in Australia which is entered for home consumption after the commencement of the Act imposing the Duty of Excise referred to in these Resolutions, until cane sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the ComptrollerGeneral, referred to in Resolution No. 2 of these Resolutions, has been so entered, shall be deemed to be sugar subject to Duty of Excise under these Resolutions; and all beet sugar manufactured in Australia which is entered for home consumption after the commencement of the Act imposing the Duty of Excise referred to in these Resolutions until beet sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the Comptroller-General referred to in Resolution No. 2 of these Resolutions has been so entered shall be deemed to be sugar subject to Duty of Excise under these Resolutions.
That when cane sugar to the . amount mentioned in the certificate of the ComptrollerGeneral, referred to in Resolution No. 2 of these Resolutions, has been entered for home consumption, cane sugar shall thereafter not be subject to Duty of Excise under these Resolutions.
That when beet sugar to the amount mentioned in the certificate of the ComptrollerGeneral, referred to in Resolution No. 2 of these Resolutions, has been entered for home consumption, beet sugar shall thereafter not be subject to Duty of Excise under these Resolutions.
I may mention that I am moving this resolution with a view to basing upon it the Bill which will subsequently be introduced. The resolution, however, has first to be adopted. It authorizes the’ imposition of a duty upon that quantity of sugar which is equivalent, first of all, to the sugar which was produced from cane delivered at the mills up to the date on which the Sugar Excise Act was repealed.
– That is this year’s sugar ?
– Yes. That is dealt with in paragraph a of the first clause. It relates to sugar manufactured from cane which was delivered at the mills and upon which, therefore, bounty has been paid. The next lot of sugar dealt with is that which was in bond on that date, and which represents the balance of last year’s stock, amounting to £29 tons of raw and 2,504 tons of refined sugar.
– Does the Minister regard raw as of equal value to the refined sugar ?
– The raw sugar has its refined value.
– Who are the potential taxpayers in this case?
– The potential taxpayers are the refiners. They will be the owners who enter for home consumption.
– The resolutions do not say so.
– The machinery is provided in the Bill, which will be based upon these resolutions.
– There is machinery in it?
– Yes. Paragraph b of the first resolution deals with the sugar which was in bond on the 25th day of July of the present year.
– There would be about 33,000 tons?
– We can give only an estimate of the quantity. These two quantities will determine the amount of Excise which has to be collected.
– On last year’s crop?
– On this year’s crop also.
– But the Minister has not given us the quantity of this year’s crop which was in bond.
– Approximately, in bond, there were 27,461 tons of raw sugar and 1,768 tons of refined sugar produced from cane delivered for manufacture after the first day of May, and before the 26th day of July of the present year. Then there is the beet sugar, amounting to 29 tons of raw and 424 tons of refined sugar, making a total of 453 tons. Roughly speaking, therefore, the amount in bond was 32,815 tons, upon which duty will have to be collected.
– Is that the quantity of sugar upon which duty should have teen paid?
– I do not wish to enter into any thing of a controversial character. In addition to that, the next clause of the resolution declares that the actual amount shall be certified to by the Comptroller-General. The third resolution declares that all cane sugar manufactured in Australia and entered for home consumption after the commencement of the Act is to be deemed to be sugar subject to Excise. Further, ‘ when the duty has been paid, the Act is to cease to operate. The effect of this resolution will be to authorize the collection of revenue upon cane and beet sugar to the amounts respectively* that would have been paid if such a clause had been inserted in the repealing Act. In other words, the effect is just the same as if a continuing clause had been inserted in the repealing Act providing that revenue to these amounts could be collected. We authorize the collection of the revenue to the full extent of the £4 per ton upon all amounts upon which we have paid bounty.
– Has some sugar been taken out of bond?
– Some has gone into consumption.
– How much?
– We cannot at present determine the exact amount. But that does not matter, for this reason: We require that there shall be passed through the Excise entered for home consumption, amounts equivalent to these amounts, so that we can collect exactly the amount of revenue mentioned.
– Supposing some of the persons who received the bounty are not producing any more sugar; how can you get the revenue then?
– We know, as a matter of fact, that the persons liable for the duty are all producing sugar.
– Suppose that there are some who are not?
– We know from inquiries that there are none.
– Be frank about it.
– I am perfectly frank. All the persons interested have announced that they have no desire to take advantage of the repeal of the Excise.
– Only one of them has done so, I think.
– All the manufacturers. They say they have no desire to take advantage, and will enter for home consumption the amounts which come under the paragraphs a and b of these motions.
– What is the general result in figures ?
– The general result is this: The quantity estimated to be made from the cane delivered up to the 25th July will be 36,134 tons of refined sugar. About 4,000 tons of that sugar would be made after the 25th July from cane delivered, but not treated. The amount of revenue expected from the new legislation will be £158,000 altogether.
– How does the Minister get that result?
– These are the figures supplied by the officers of the Department.
– Then there must be some figures which we have not got.
– This is an estimate.
– I do not see how the Minister gets £158,000 from 36,000 tom at £4 per ton.
– We have to add 3,500 tons of sugar in bond from last year, making a total of about 39,500 tons. Of course, these figures can only be taken at present as approximate. The revenue from that will amount to £158,000. This year we have paid bounty to the extent of £114,672. In addition to that, in the other proposed legislation which I propose to circulate, dealing with the additional bounty upon the cane of 2s. 2d., there will be involved another amount of £35,730, which will make the bounty payable total about £150,402. That includes what has been paid, together with what is promised to be paid.
– Is it proposed to ask for interest on the amount, or to waive the interest?
– We cannot ask for interest, as we have no legal claim.
– You had no legal claim on the other, if you once admit that you are not going to follow the sugar into the hands of the holder.
– We shall have a legal claim on equivalent amounts that will pass through bond, and have to be entered for home consumption. We shall get an equivalent, and that is what we propose to do.
– Why do you not go for interest, if we have a legal claim ?
– When we pass the Bill we shall have a legal claim.
– A legal claim which you would not enforce against a bond fide holder for value.
– We are not even entitled to interest, because sugar is entered for home consumption when a man desires to take it out of bond.
– What proportion is still held by the producers?
– I cannot give the exact amounts ; but under the legislation we propose we shall be able to take possession of equivalent amounts; so that we shall be in a position to secure and collect the revenue to the full amounts I have mentioned. I should like the Committee to adopt the proposed resolution to-night, so that we can get the Bill circulated, and its second reading fixed for to-morrow.
.- I have no intention of delaying the introduction of the Bill ; but I think that the Minister might have frankly stated the reason why it is being introduced. For about two months the Government have paraded before the country a statement that their trouble arose out of some fault or failure of the previous Government. It did not. There was before them a Statute, telling them exactly what they could do and what they could not do. The Minister did not say whether the Government had cognisance of the fact chat there was in bond sugar on which bounty had been paid at the time of the issue of the proclamation, and on which they must have known duty ought to have been paid, the sugar not being released by the proclamation. He has not said a word as to whether the Customs officers were invited to give information to the Government before the proclamation was issued.
– I said that on a previous occasion. I did not know that you desired me to go over the ground again.
– The Government, as well as the Minister, have indulged in a great number of public statements, and should have embraced the first opportunity to substantiate them.
– The last time I spoke here I gave the honorable member information, including telegrams sent on the night of the repeal.
– The honorable member has not told us either that Parliament was to re-assemble shortly after the issue of the proclamation. If Ministers had looked at the Act. and seen that it was defective, from their point of view - and it was not defective at all, in my opinion - they could have removed that defect, because Parliament was to meet within sixteen days after the proclamation was issued, and no disturbance could have taken place as regards the collection or non.collection of revenue. In fact, the matter was discussed when the Bill was going through last session in the ordinary course of events. Unfortunately, the last cane season - that is, 1912-13 - yielded a very poor crop. Had it been put on the market, as it ought to have been, it would have been all consumed in Australia before March, and “any proclamation issued between March and the end of June before fresh cane was cut would in ordinary circumstances have been issued at a time when there was no sugar in bond at all, unless some persons were speculating heavily and holding back against a proclamation that might be issued by a Government who would not take care to see that there was no sugar in bond. That is really the position, as the Minister knows, but this is not the time to debate it. I hope that later the Minister will tell us frankly whether he consulted the Customs officers to ascertain what sugar was in bond. The officers must have known as the new sugar was coming in that there must be some in bond. It is carried in bond on the seaboard from the mills to the refineries, and therefore the Government must have been aware of the position if they took any notice of matters at all. Furthermore, this question was discussed in the Queensland Parliament, particularly by Mr. Gillies, who pointed out to the Commonwealth Government twelve days before they issued their proclamation that they had to take care that the sugar in bond was not allowed to go scot free, because the bounty had already been paid in accordance with the amount of sugar delivered at the mills for manufacture. That is how the matter stands, but I shall wait with pleasure for the second-reading speech of the Minister, when, no doubt, we shall hear more of the facts, and the reason why this proposal has been brought forward.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. W. H. Irvine do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for a Bounty to growers of sugar-cane and beet.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. W. H. Irvine do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
Order of Business: Reception of Fleet - Small-pox Outbreak : Quarantine.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to know if the Prime Minister can make a statement as to the arrangements in connexion with the welcome that is to be extended to the Fleet at Sydney ? We should be told when the train is to leave Melbourne, so that we may communicate with our friends in regard to the matter. I understand that it is proposed that the special train shall leave on Friday morning. If that is so, it will not be fair to keep us here on Thursday night, because the train will not get to Sydney until early on Saturday morning, and we shall have to walk about in the parks - at any rate, those who have not homes to go to will have to do something of that kind - until the function starts.
– I wish to meet the convenience of honorable members in this matter. A special train will leave for Sydney at 1 o’clock on Friday afternoon, and it will, therefore, be useless for the House to meet on that day, because, to catch the train, honorable members will have to leave here not later than noon. After an hour had been spent in the asking and answering of questions - which is becoming the usual thing - there would be only half-an-hour left in which to do work.
– The honorable gentleman set that fashion.
– That is a mistake; the statement could not be supported from the Hansard records. , It seems to me useless to meet on Friday, because little or no business could be done then. Thursday is the day set apart for private members’ business, but I suggest that at 2 o’clock instead of at a quarter past 2, which is the usual hour when we reassemble after luncheon, the Treasurer should be permitted to deliver his Budget. He will probably finish by 4 o’clock, and then honorable members who wish to leave will be free to do so. Of course, there remains to be settled the question how best to accommodate private members’ business. As to that, I should be glad to receive a suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition during to-morrow.
– There are to be celebrations in Sydney next Tuesday. When is it proposed to meet next week ?
– On Tuesday afternoon, at the usual hour.
– I agree with the suggestion of the Prime Minister regarding the arrangement of business. It would be futile to meet on Friday. Perhaps the best arrangement would be to give up Thursday morning to private members’ business. The Treasurer could then make his speech after the luncheon adjournment, after which honorable members might like to go home to get ready for their trip. I am inclined to think that there will not be a general desire to sit late on Thursday. Perhaps we may be able to rise before the dinner hour then.
.- This afternoon I endeavoured to obtain from the Prime Minister a statement regarding the intention of the Government about the removal of the quarantine restrictions on Sydney and the area within 15 miles of its General Post Office. On Monday a conference was held there, the outcome of which, according to the newspaper reports, seems to have been that the whole question should be left for the Prime Minister to decide. The press statement of what took place is this -
The object of the Conference was to discuss the small-pox outbreak and the possibility of removing the quarantine restriction from Sydney. The Conference lasted for more than an hour. AH the members of the Board of Health, which include such well-known figures as Dr. Paton, Director of Public Health Sir Normand McLaurin, Chancellor of the University; and the Lord Mayor, Alderman Cocks, M.L.A., were in favour of the immediate lifting of the quarantine embargo. The Federal representatives, however, were anything but complacent.
What appears to be the desire of this Government is that the embargo shall not be removed until the two Houses of the New South Wales Parliament have passed a law making vaccination compulsory on the people of the State. If the disease is really smallpox, and the Federal Government has the right to compel the people within the affected area to be vaccinated, it has either made a mistake in imposing quarantine or has failed to give effect to its constitutional powers. For this Government to ask the State Parliament to pass a law about which the people of the State have not been consulted, and in regard to which they have not expressed their views, is an unheard-of thing. The National Parliament has no right to tell a State Parliament that it must pass such and such a law. As a member of this Parliament I disclaim any right of that kind. Let the State Parliament act in a constitutional manner, and appeal to the people on the subject. Apparently, the Government, as represented by the Minister of Home Affairs, will not allow even a conscience clause. Surely, the State Parliament is not expected to act so tyrannically as to pass a law compelling the whole population of New South Wales to be vaccinated, seeing that there is a strong objection to compulsory vaccination in the State. Many persons have .died in New South Wales recently who would be alive to-day had they not been vaccinated. Some of the lymph that has been used has been of such a quality that many have suffered because of it.
– The honorable mem- ‘ ber may not debate the question, because it forms the subject-matter of an adjourned debate which has been made an Order of the Day for a future date.
– Your ruling, sir, makes my position difficult. I do not think this Parliament desires that the embargo should be kept upon Sydney until the Parliament of New South Wales has passed a law compelling the citizens of the State to be vaccinated. Action of that kind is without precedent in any part of the civilized world. If you, Mr. Speaker, representing Lang, the Prime Minister, who represents Parramatta, and other Ministerial supporters who represent other Sydney constituencies, were sitting on this side of the House, the Government in power would have no peace, and no business would be done, until this unjustifiable embargo had been removed. The constituents of honorable members opposite are appealing to the honorable member for South Sydney and myself as the only legislators with the courage to stand up to represent the case of many people in the quarantine area who have been vaccinated in a brutal manner.
– The honorable member must not discuss that question, for the reason I have already pointed out to him.
– A large number of persons outside commercial circles are suffering from the application of the quarantine laws, and many medical men in Sydney have told me that I am taking the right course. I trustthat the Prime Minister is now in a better frame of mind than he was this morning, and that he will see that the 755,000 citizens in the quarantine area are no longer unduly punished. The Sydney Board of Health, the Sydney press, the Chamber of Commerce, and other public bodies are all in favour of the view I am expressing; and it is an absolute fact that if small-pox were to break out in New York, London, Glasgow, or Paris, such steps as have been, taken by this Government would be laughed at.
.- The Ministry ought to seriously consider the position, because in no civilized part of the world would such steps be taken in the case of an outbreak of small-pox.
– The honorable member is now debating a question which is the subject of an adjourned debate on a specific motion.
– What 1 desire to discuss is Dr. Cumpston’s fitness to give the Government advice. During the last three or four years medical opinion has so altered that, while no one disputes the prophylactic power of vaccination, that method of treatment is now regarded as obsolete. Sir Victor Horsley, the President of the Compulsory Vaccination Society, said, so recently as April last, that, while he had not abandoned his belief in vaccination, he considered its compulsory application as obsolete and unnecessary, in view of the present methods of sanitation. In Dr. Cumpston we have a medical man who supplied lymph reported to be so unsterilized that it had caused hundreds of people to lose hundreds of days’ work; and I should like to know whether the Federal Government propose to reimburse those people.
– That has occurred not only in Sydney.
– It has occurred also, I believe, in Melbourne; but in Sydney the loss must amount to tens of thousands of pounds. The man who advised the Government was recommended by the Labour party for the position; but, of course, if they chose, when in power, to recommend an unfit man, the whole Parliament had to bear the responsibility. The Government are following the advice of a young man who does not seem to have sufficient knowledge to guide him as to the right steps to be taken.
– Does the honorable member say that Dr. Cumpston is unfit for the position ?
– I unquestionably say so.
– Then why do the Government not dismiss him 1
– In my opinion, that is what the Government ought to do. Dr. Cumpston is so unaware of the recent developments in bacteriological science that last year, in Western Australia, he said that vaccination was unknown for a certain disease, although it had been used in this way in the Philippines for three years. If a medical man can make such mistakes, for which he has to be corrected by laymen, we cannot have much reverence for his knowledge. The attitude which Dr. Cumpston has advised Australia to take is different from the attitude of Italy, Germany, and England, where opinion is so changing, that during the last twelve months, in the Old Country, for instance, compulsory vaccination has been abolished in the Public Service.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order. The terms of the motion, the debate on which has been adjourned, cover all the ground which the honorable member is now traversing.
– I was quite prepared to allow the Government time to see what the developments might be; and had the disease become malignant, I should have been ready to allow them to take any action they pleased to try to stamp it out. But we have had the history of epidemics of cow-pox in other countries, and, seeing that in this case there have been no deaths amongst the unvaccinated, although small-pox is believed to be specially fatal in such cases, we can only conclude that the Sydney epidemic is one of cow-pox.
– I must ask the honorable member to desist. I have called attention several times to the fact that he is dealing with matters covered by a motion, the debate on which has been adjourned to a future date.
– I am dealing with a medical man who gave advice only yesterday
– I have nothing to do with that. I have to carry out the Standing Orders, and they provide that the discussion of a motion on the noticepaper shall not be anticipated. All that the honorable member is now saying is germane to that motion.
– The whole matter arose only yesterday. The meeting took place only yesterday-
– The honorable member may be right as to his facts; but I am concerned only with the carrying out of the Standing Orders. The adjourned debate on the motion moved by the honorable member for Gwydir, to which 1 have referred, is set down for another date, so that the matter cannot be discussed now.
– I am afraid that I was getting rather heated; but when we see a drop of over £300,000 already in the trade-
– It is not the quarantine, but the existence of small-pox that is responsible for that.
– That is not so. Surely the Prime Minister recognises that the belief in the wisdom of all Governments, not necessarily the present one, is not always well founded. I should like the Government to take into consideration the fact that the Royal Commission in England recommended that the British Government should recompense all who had lost money because of vaccination; and I also desire that an inquiry shall be held into the number of deaths which undoubtedly have been caused by the lymph supplied. There is no question that a septic poison has been set up-
– The honorable member is out of order. I must remind him again that he is traversing a motion, the debate on which has been adjourned to a future date.
– If the honorable member will allow me to intervene, I should like to ask leave to temporarily withdraw my motion for the adjournment of the House, in order to allow the Prime Minister to submit a motion for a special adjournment.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook), by leave, agreed to -
That the House, at its rising to-morrow, adjourn until half-past Ten o’clock a.m. on Thursday, and at such sitting the precedence to general business shall be until One o’clock p.m.
Small-pox Outbreak: Quarantine.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) again pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The honorable member is mistaken as to a statement which I made earlier in the day, which had reference to quite another matter. What I pointed out was that the practice of the House of Commons was that questions without notice were asked only in respect of matters of urgent public importance. I did not rule that the discussion of a notice of motion, the debate on which had been adjourned, could be anticipated as an urgent matter of public importance.
– I do not know, Mr. Speaker, that the point I have been dealing with is covered by the motion to which you have referred.
– Perhaps I had better read the motion moved by the honorable member for Gwydir, the debate on which has been adjourned. It is as follows -
That - with a view to putting an end to the suffering, sacrifice of human life, and the commercial, industrial, and domestic stagnation in the State of New South Wales, resulting from the proclamation and administration of the laws governing small-pox epidemics - this House is of the opinion that the proclamation should be cancelled, and that isolation, combined with sanitary reform, the true enemy of small-pox, should be substituted for the present injurious methods.
It will be recognised that the matter which the honorable member for Werriwa seeks to discuss properly pertains to the adjourned motion.
– On a point of order, sir, do you now rule that because of the notice of motion by the honorable member for Gwydir, this question cannot be discussed on any other motion, no matter how urgent it may become? This is a question of increasing urgency, and your ruling, if I understand it rightly, means that, because the debate on the honorable member for Gwydir’s motion has been ad- journed to a future date, there can be no chance of raising this question on any other motion, no matter how urgent it may be.
– The Standing Orders distinctly provide that no discussion anticipating a debate upon a motion on the business-paper shall be allowed.
– Does the honorable member for Brisbane want the quarantine lifted?
– What I point out is that the Director of Quarantine gave certain advice to the Government, and that the lymph supplied by him was of such a character as to cause great suffering on the part of thousands of people, and also much loss of wages. I think there is no reference to lymph in the honorable member for Gwydir’a motion.
– Order ! Standing order 274 provides -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
The honorable member for Gwydir’s motion deals specifically with the question of vaccination, and alludes to the suffering and sacrifice of human life, and the commercial, industrial, and domestic stagnation resulting from the operation of the laws governing small-pox epidemics.
– The honorable member will have to move the adjournment of the House in order to ‘ discuss the question.
– Even then the honorable member would not be in order in discussing it.
– I think that I would be in order, sir, in moving that the House dissent from your ruling.
– The honorable member would be in order in giving notice, in writing of his dissent from my ruling, but such a motion could not be discussed until a future date. I should like to say that I have no desire, personally, to curb honorable members in the discussion of these matters, but that I have to administer the Standing Orders as they exist, and this particular standing order is very definite.
– As the Standing Orders preclude debate on the subject, I presume that the only course I could have adopted - had the mover of the motion on the business-paper been present - would have been to induce him to temporarily withdraw it.
– That could not be done at the present time, because the honorable member would still have to wait till the Orders of the Day were called upon before any ‘ motion for withdrawal or postponement could be made.
– I would further point out that it is reported that Dr. Cumpston is endeavouring to force the New South Wales Government to introduce into the Parliament of that State a Compulsory Vaccination Bill, and, as a consequence, he is imposing upon that State an altogether ‘undue stress. Any legislative body ought to be at liberty to fully consider a matter of this character, and this Parliament ought to be the last to endeavour to force vaccination upon the whole of one State.
– The honorable member’s point is that we should not interfere with an independent State.
– We ought not, unless we are prepared to take over the whole of the quarantine laws and make them declaratory throughout Australia. The Ministry ought to take care to clip the’ wings of this young Health Officer, who has not had the experience of the Health Officer in New South Wales, whom he is endeavouring to rule. I say that he has displayed a lamentable lack of knowledge.. I would not have brought this matter forward were it not for the extreme lack of knowledge which he has exhibited - a lack of knowledge which^ absolutely unfits him for the position which he holds.
– The Minister is also to blame.
– We have already been told that Ministers are guided by the advice of their medical officers. It must be recollected that the members of the Labour party who were responsible for Dr. Cumpston’s appointment would, By voting for the motion which I desired to move, be passing a vote of censure upon their own nominee. Recognising that fact, I have always striven to make this matter one for the whole House to deal with.
– Should it not be a Federal matter?
– Certainly. We have more than one report from medical men absolutely condemnatory of the policy which has been followed, and which has caused an untold amount of Buffering. It is time that this House took, into consideration the question of reimbursement for the loss which has been sustained. This is a matter which should receive consideration, and I think we might well accept the advice of other medical men who are more competent to deal with this smallpox outbreak than is Dr. Cumpston. These men have seen hundreds of cases of smallpox, whereas that young man had probably never seen one until he went to Sydney. The present restrictions seriously interfere with the livelihood of thousands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 September 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130930_reps_5_71/>.