6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for the Navy willing to lay on the table of the Library all the papers relating to the inquiry held by him into the fitting up of transports at Brisbane?
The following papers were pre sented : -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter-State Commission- Tariff InvestigationAppendices to Reports; Statistical and other information, and Evidence -
Glass; Glass Bottles; Glassware; and Stained Glass Windows.
Machinery and Implements, Agricultural;also Incubators and Irrigation Apparatus.
Vessels - Ships, Dredges, &c.
Miscellaneous Group III. - Cookers,
Steam. Gold Leaf. Gold Sheet, Wire, and Solder. Lead Wool. Incandescent Mantles. Malleable Iron Castings. Metal Plate Goods. Metal Printing;. Oil Drums. Picks, Miners’. Snap-Hooks, DrawerHandles Pulls. Ticket-Holders, Bolts and Nuts, Twine Holders and Reel Paper Cutters. Spirit Gas Stoves (Heaters). Wire, Brass Pinion. Wire Nettina. Woven Wire and Woven Wire Fencing.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Lytton, Queensland - For Quarantine purposes.
Public Service Act -
Appointments, as Engineer Operators, Wireless Telegraph Stations, of -
A. Bagot, Class F, Adelaide.
F. J. C. Bridges, Class E, Broome.
V. Hodson, Class E. Darwin.
C. C. King, Class F, Hobart.
N. H. Mayger, Class E, Thursday Island.
C. G. B. Meredith, Class E, Melbourne.
G. G. Phillips, Class E. Townsville.
E. H. Smellie, Class E, Port Moresby.
Promotion of - R. W. Hamilton, as Clerk, 3rd Class, Accounts Branch (Expenditure). New South Wales.
Temporary Employees - Return for year 1914-15.
Naval Defence Act - Naval Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulation Amended (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1915, No. 149.
War, The - Further Correspondence with the United States Ambassador respecting the Treatment of British Prisoners of War and Interned Civilians in Germany - Paper presented to British Parliament.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet been furnished by the Attorney-Generalwith a list of goods of enemy origin for the advertising of which newspapers are to be penalised ? If so, will the honorable gentleman make the list public?
– A list of enemy companies has been supplied by the Depart- ment of the Attorney-General, and sent to various centres to be posted up in the localpost-offices.
– With regard to the question asked by Mr. Burchell, M.P., on 7th July last, relative to supplies of potatoes in Victoria, the following information has been obtained as the result of a census taken on 24th July by the Victorian Government. The quantity of potatoes in Victoria on that date was 42,803 tons, held as follows: -
Thus it is evident that the greater part of the stocks of potatoes in Victoria is held by farmers in small lots.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet issued instructions to the Deputy Postmasters-General not to continue to reduce the allowances granted to allowance post-offices?
-Will the honorable gentleman direct that the allowances which have been cut down shall be restored for this year?
– The matter is under review.
-In view of the terrible death rate caused by the disease known as cerebro-spinal meningitis, will the Government call in the aid of Dr. Brienl, of the Tropical Diseases Hospital at Townsville, and Dr. Ramsay Smith, on his return to Australia, to act together in the endeavour to discover the cause of the disease and to prevent its spreading? This disease has proved more deadly in Australia than small-pox, plague, or cholera.
– I shall consult with the Minister of Defence on the question, which is of the greatest importance, though communications with the medical officers leave me under the impression that the outbreak is well in hand.
– Will citizens, in preparing income tax returns, be required to show the amount of interest which they have received from deposits in Government Savings Banks, and will this interest be taxable ?
– I think that this must be done. The honorable gentleman knows my opinion as to the Commonwealth’s power of taxing, and he heard my statement of the view of the Treasurer. I have no doubt that, as the law stands, citizens are required to make a statement of their income from the source named.
– Is it necessary for religious institutions, such as orphanages and hospitals, to fillup war census forms ?
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether the facts were correctly stated in a letter which I handed to him which deals with the postage on newspapers for the front ?
– I cannot say off-hand, but I shall obtain a reply to the question.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that tea has been raised in price 4d. per lb., although the quality of various grades is 2d. a lb. less than it used to be ? Have any complaints on the subject reached his Department? Has he officers who can test the quality of tea, and thus ascertain whether the public are being fleeced in this doublebarrelled way?
– We have in the Department officers who can test thequality of tea. Iam aware that the price has increased. I read in the newspapers certain figures, supplied in another place, in answer to a question put by Senator Findley, giving the average price of tea for the twelve months ending June, 1914, and the twelve months ending June, 1915. They showed that the increase was not such as had taken place outside.
Non-Delivery of Letters : Canteen Facilities at Gallipoli.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, on the 12th ultimo, drew attention to complaints as to non-delivery of letters at the front, and stated that a soldier in Egypt asserted that there were 100,000 letters unsorted. I promised to make inquiry, and have now received the following reply: -
The statement that 100,000 letters are unsorted in Egypt appears to lack substantiation. The Department of Defence is doing all in its power to remove the cause of complaint.
An offer of an Australian Base Post Office for service in Egypt has recently been made to, and accepted by, the Imperial Government. The unit will be composed of competent postal officials accustomed to dealing with Australian correspondence.
Pending the arrival in Egypt of the Postal Unit action is being taken at the respective bases of operations to insure the prompt and efficient treatment of mail matter.
– Last week I drew the attention of the Minister for the Navy to a complaint that had reached me that up to the middle of July last our troops at Gallipoli had not been provided with any canteen facilities. Has the honorable gentleman inquired into the matter?
– As promised, I forwarded the honorable member’s complaint to the Department of Defence, but have not yet heard anything more concerning it.
– In the Melbourne ** Herald,* of Monday last there appeared the following paragraph: -
Mr. H. A. Grayson, of “ The Block,” Collinsstreet, has devised a simple table showing at a glance the exact amount of income tax payable on any given sum in the terms of the Federal income tax formula. Though Mr. Grayson does not follow the official formula, he has proved all hia calculations by it, and lie claims that by his method much time and labour might be saved. Without going into arithmetical problems which the Federal formula necessitates, he has calculated the tax in gradations from £1 of income upwards. Mr. Grayson has offered the Attorney-General the use of his system for making the assessment in connexion with the tax.
I wish to ask the Attorney-General whether he has received a copy of this stable from Mr. Grayson, and, . if so, whether he will cause it to be printed -and issued with the income tax schedules, inasmuch as it is impossible for the average person to understand the printed schedules as they stand?
– A gentleman wrote me on this subject, stating that he had an easy formula by which every person might ascertain what income tax he had to pay. I hope that is so, and I have written to my correspondent saying that I shall be glad to receive his formula. The House, however, should not be unduly elated at the prospect, because this gentleman deals only with that formula which has relation to incomes received from property up’ to £546. Up to that point the whole matter is quite easy. It is in respect of income beyond that amount that the curves of the second and third degree apply, and in respect to them I am afraid my friend holds out no hope. If he has an easy formula the honorable member may rest assured thatwe shall adopt it.
– In connexion with the list of goods of enemy origin, the companies connected with which have been notified to the Postmaster-General, so that Australian newspapers advertising them may be prevented from passing through the post, I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether it is proposed to refuse the importation of such goods on the grounds mentioned.
– I shall be pleased to consider the matter when it is submitted ito me, but I would point out to the hon orable member that we cannot refuse ‘to admit goods of genuine neutral country origin.
– According to this morning’s newspapers a Bill is before the Queensland Parliament to provide for the conditional acquisition of the meat industry. Will the Attorney-General state whether the proposed constitutional amendments, if carried, will give the Commonwealth any power to control State enterprises?
– The proposed alterations of the Constitution, if carried, will give the Parliament of the Commonwealth powers, such as the States now have, to acquire commodities. It will not take from the States the power they have, but it will give that power to the Commonwealth, so that assuming that the Parliament of Queensland acquired meat, or sugar, or any other commodity, the Commonwealth could compulsorily acquire it from the State, and if it so desired return it to the people from whom the State had acquired it.
– My question is not as to acquisition, but as to control.
– The proposed alterations of the Constitution, if carried, will give the Commonwealth Parliament no control over State enterprises; but it will give the Commonwealth control over State acquisitions of commodities in any industry.
– In view of the fact that in a number of districts - persons who have been engaged in buying minerals now find their position so uncertain that they do not know how to proceed with their own business, I desire to ask the Attorney-General if he will cause to be circulated in such districts instructions on the subject?
– To what minerals is the honorable member alluding?
– The principal minerals that I have in mind are bismuth, scheelite, and tin, all of which, I think, come within the scope of the Metals Exchange.
– I am sorry that there should be any uncertainty.. If such exists, it does not arise through any action of the Commonwealth. So far as all metals, except molybdenite, wolfram, and scheelite are concerned, all sales have to be registered with the Attorney-General. The process is extremely easy, in practice merely involving sending to the AttorneyGeneral a copy of the sale note of each transaction involving over £500. Transactions involving under £500 need not be registered. That is all the formality thathas to be undertaken by persons selling metals in Australia. The position in regard to molybdenite, wolfram, and scheelite is different. The Commonwealth Government, acting on behalf of and as agents for the British Government, have acquired all supplies of these three metals on the surface at fixed prices under instructions from the British’ Government, and are shipping them as fast as they come to hand. All persons who have supplies of these metals have been requested to forward them to the agents of the Commonwealth. They will be paid for molybdenite at the rate of £5 5s. per unit, and for wolfram at the rate of £2 15s. per unit. That is the present position in the metal industry.
– Local agents who have been buying these metals want to know how they stand.
– All local buyers, unless they are aliens, are left in exactly the same position as they occupied previously. They are not interfered with; their business is not disturbed; they can continue buyinginorder to sell, but, instead of having to find an ultimate buyer, they will sell direct to the Commonwealth Government.
– As molybdenite, scheelite andwolfram aref ound in very limited areas, will the Attorney-General have circulated in those areas the information hehas just given to the House?
– I shall be glad to do so, andI shall be obliged if honorable members in whose constituencies those metals are found will give me particulars of the persons to whom I may send this information, so that I may personally advise them, in addition to giving a general public notification.
– Is it a fact, as stated in the press this morning, that the AttorneyGeneral intends to hold the people strictly to the time limit allowed for furnishing war census returns? Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that it is quite impossible for many people in country dis tricts to fill in their returns in the time allowed ?
– It is a fact that there is a limited period oftime which I think is ample for the purpose. Perhaps the honorable member did not see the statement which I made yesterday to the effect that the period would be extended if cards were not available.
– The period is not nearly sufficient for many people in country districts.
– Does the honorable member mean that the people require more time for filling in the cards?
– I shall communicate with Mr. Knibbs, and see what can be done, but as all our arrangements have been based on the return of the wealth card and the personal card in the one envelope, if we propose to extend the time for the wealth cards, we must also extend the time for the personal cards ; otherwise it would mean the printing of 4,000,000 more envelopes. I must see that the personal cards, which are urgently needed, are not delayed.
-I am willing to extend the time for a week if it can be done without delaying the personal cards. The mere fact of having to spend £200 on more envelopes would not weigh as a bar, but I ask the House to share the responsibility. If the House says that we are to undergo the expense of duplicating the supply of envelopes, I shall give the matter immediate and serious consideration.
– Some days ago the honorable member for Dampier asked me to supply a copy of the statutory declaration made by Mr. Gilchrist concerning the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, and the replies thereto furnished by the Engineer-in-Chief . The reply of the Engineer-in-Chief is as follows : - 7th September, 1915.
Statements made by Clerk D. L. Gilchrist.
With reference to the statutory declaration made by Clerk D. L. Gilchrist, dated 19th ult., and handed me by the Honorable the Minister on the 2nd inst., regarding alleged methods of carrying out the work on the western section of the transcontinental railway, I attach hereto replies to the allegations - Gilchrist’s state- ments appearing in the one column and my reply in the other. This may be regarded as an interim report only; a full report will follow whan advice is received by mail from Kalgoorlie regarding certain of the statements.
Gilchrist was engaged by Mr. Deane in April, 1912, at the rate of 10s. per day. His only previous railway experience was a period of fourteen months as a clerk under the Materials Clerk in the Victorian Railways Construction Branch, where I am informed he was in receipt of Ss./per day.
He was employed in the Commonwealth railways in the office of the Engineer-in-Chief, on general clerical work, principally in the accounts section. His services in this office were generally unsatisfactory. His work could not be relied on, and he was officially censured for falsifying his stamp account to the ex tent of £10. Instead of recommending his dismissal, I transferred him to a similar clerical position at Kalgoorlie, after telling him that he was being given another chance to make good. I personally spoke to him very strongly as to his future career.
He obtained leave of absence recently, came over to Melbourne, and applied to be transferred to this office. He was refused a transfer, as he had failed to satisfy me that lie had improved whilst at Kalgoorlie. On this he enlisted.
Gilchrist has no knowledge of railway work, excepting the very little he could gain in a junior clerical position. He did not even fill that position satisfactorily.
The statement of his career, compiled and signed by himself on 25th August, 1913, shows -
Even for the simple and straightforward requirements of this record Gilchrist proved himself to bc unreliable. I tested two only of the statements. The truth is -
For a nian with such a career, oven if ho were truthful and honest, to express opinions on engineering and administrative matters is absurd. The direct statements which Gilchrist makes arc, without exception, either directly and absolutely false, or so twisted and exaggerated as to put a purposely wrong complexion on what has. occurred. To make a statutory declaration as to the truth of occurrences which, never having been up the line whilst work was proceeding, and which he could, therefore, only assume by hearsay, and which a search in the records and returns of the office in which he was working, or inquiries from his fellow officers, would have shown him to have been untrue, appears to me to be a criminal act.
So that I might be quite clear as to what some of his statements refer to, I sent for him. He wrote me to the effect that he was under the control of the military authorities, and referred me to Senator de Largie for particulars contained in the declaration. I then arranged with the military authorities for Gilchrist to attend here, and, after some delay, he reported himself this afternoon. Notwithstanding that I pointed out to him that he was still a member of my staff, he definitely refused to afford any further information, either in regard to his career or to the statements made by him. This, to some extent, is an indication of the type of man. It shows also the effect of an incident such as has occurred upon the discipline of the stuff. 1 may be permitted to say that I and the principal officers associated with me have felt very keenly the methods adopted in connexion with this matter. Gilchrist’s statement was in the hands of certain members of Parliament, and sensational portions were published in a section of the press from several days to as much as a week before a copy of the document reached me.
My reputation and that of my chief assistants are surely above the suspicion which such a course implies. I wish to say, also, with due respect, that the organization of which I am head has given loyal and efficient service to the Commonwealth; but my position, and indeed that of any reputable officer, would bc intolerable if Parliament, in its individual capacity or as a body, were prepared to lend ready ear to the statements of every unscrupulous person who wishes to make charges against the administration.
Apart from this personal consideration, I might add that the work is of such a magni tude as to need the best efforts of the responsible officers, whoever they may be, to carry it through successfully, and if it is necessary to continually defend themselves against such attacks as this, the work must seriously suffer.
Gilchrist, as already stated, refuses to giveany further details or explanations. I suggest that the Honorable the Minister might, send for Mm and question him in my presence. I have nothing whatever to hide.
Engineer-in-Chief and Acting Commissioner.
Table - continued.
Table - continued.
Table - continued.
Report of Mr. Justice Rich: Additional Training Camps: Colonel Kirkland : Death Certificates : Soldiers’ Letters
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether portion of the report of Mr. Justice Rich has not been made public ?
– I cannot say; but I shall make inquiries and acquaint the honorable member with the result.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether any decision has been arrived at in regard to the establishment of a training camp at Grafton ?
– No; but I shall make inquiries and ascertain what has been done in regard to that matter.
– It has been stated in the Sydney press that Colonel Kirkland has been appointed permanent Camp Commandant at Liverpool. Can the Minister for the Navy say whether that is the case,?
– I shall make inquiries, and give the honorable member an answer within a quarter of an hour.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that medical men in hospitals are refusing to supply certificates of death which are required in connexion with life assurance on soldiers who die in the institutions unless they receive a fee of 10s. 6d. ? Will the Minister arrange that those certificates shall be supplied to the representatives of deceased soldiers free of charge?
– The honorable member for Ballarat notified me this morning that he would submit a similar question this afternoon. I have been furnished with the following reply : -
Death certificates in respect of members of the Australian Imperial Forces are issued without charge by the authorized officer of the Defence Department.
In the case under notice it has been ascertained that a certificate of death had already been issued by the hospital authorities free of charge, but subsequently a further certificate, required by an insurance company in connexion with the payment of an insurance policy, was applied for. This certificate was furnished by the superintendent of the Alfred Hospital, and it is understood that, following the usual procedure at that hospital, a charge of 10s. 6d. was made.
– Will the Department arrange that the certificates shall be supplied free of charge?
– The Department will give them, free.
– With a view to preventing many complaints with regard to the loss of letters and parcels sent to soldiers at the front, will the PostmasterGeneral make inquiries with the object of creating a sub-Department in each centre of population, which would examine all letters and see that they are properly addressed ?
– An arrangement of that kind is now in operation. The officers have the assistance of an experienced official from the Defence Department to enable them to check difficult addresses. I may state that we have heard only this morning thatthree bags of parcels, evidently intended for soldiers, have been sent in without any addresses at all on them.
– On the bags?
– No, on the parcels themselves. That is the sort of thing done by people who possibly make complaints regarding the Post Office.
– On the 25th of last month the honorable member for Ballarat asked whether I would obtain a return from the respective postmasters giving the number of hours each censor had attended the Post Office during the last fortnight. In reply, I have to present the following return obtained from the Defence Department: -
Return showing number of hours each Censor has attended the post-office during the fortnight ending 21st August, 1915 : -
Captain H. C. Coxen, 116 hours.
Major W. G. Allsop (absent on other military duty), 72 hours for 9 days.
Lieutenant C. V. Bees, 112 hours.
Captain H. L. Dixon, 106 hours.
Major F. O’Mahony (absent on other military duty). 66½ hours for 9 days.
Mr. J, W. White, 106 hours.
Lieutenant W. S. Jones, 109½ hours.
Captain C. K. E. Woods, 112 hours.
Lieutenant F. W. S. C. Stewart (part time Censor, with proportionate pay), 56 hours for 7 days.
Part service Censors and Censors who may be temporarily absent from duty receive only proportionate pay.
Lieutenant-Colonel J. T. Wilson (a), 84 hours.
Captain S. W. Stokes, 112 hours.
Mr. H. A. Rorke, 112 hours.
Mr. M. L. MacCallum, 112 hours.
Lieutenant T. Wilkins, 112 hours.
Lieutenant R. N. Teece (b), 105 hours.
Mr. W. E. Vincent (b), 119 hours.
In addition to the above Censors attending the post-office, the following are engaged : -
Eastern Extension Office (Cable).
Captain C. S. Cape (b) and (f), 130 hours.
Lieutenant J. W. Cornforth (c) and (f), 78 hours.
Mr. H. V. Jaques (b) and (f), 96 hours.
Mr. A. R. Wheeler (b) and (f), 123 hours. At Pacific Cable Board Office.
Lieutenant J. T. C. Richmond (b), 101 hours.
Lieutenant E. Cowcher, 112 hours.
Mr.R. S. Murray-Prior (d),56 hours.
Mr. V. V. Nathan (d), 88 hours.
Memo by the Censor (Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson) - .
I have some difficulty in rendering a return in my own case. I consider myself more or less on duty at all times. I sleep with a telephone by my bedside at home, and I indicate my whereabouts when I am elsewhere, so that I am practically always at call and am in fact frequently rung up by the Assistant Censors on duty.
If hours of actual attendance in this office be asked for I have no written record for the period in question, but it would be a close approximation to put the number down as 84.
Where occasion requires it, very much longer hours are worked by the various officers, and sometimes the pressure in this way has been very great.
The normal hours of full-time censorship service for the period under investigation would be 112. Departures from this number shown in the return are due to the fact that in some cases there is a rotating roster under which certain officers work more hours one week and fewer another, and so on. A fortnightly return does not quite even out these irregularities.
Of course, certain Assistant Censors are on a part-time arrangement, and are paid accordingly.
The officers indicated under (b) average 112 per fortnight, but the roster is so arranged thatthey work under a rotating roster with periods of longer and shorter hours of duty.
Absent for three days on sick leave, but also on a rotating roster.
On part service and proportionate pay.
The Assistant Censor Staff at this office have to find meal reliefs for Cable Room, General Post Office, as well as for their own office.
Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Davis, about 140 hours.
Major W. Jackson, about 140 hours.
Major J. W. Nedwell, . 112 hours.
Major J. H. Devine, 105 hours.
Major I. Isaacson (only doing broken time, with proportionate pay),46½ hours.
Captain P. L. Billinghurst (only doing broken time, with proportionate pay), 49 hours.
Captain E. N. Derham, 111 hours.
Captain T. G. L. Scott, 105 hours.
Captain C. Hill, 103 hours.
Captain E. T. Searle, 106½ hours.
Lieutenant R. W. Stringer (absent one day sick), 97 hours.
Lieutenant A. B. Sternberg, 93 hours.
Lieutenant E. H. W. Westwood (only on duty three days, absent through illness), 27 hours.
There are no Censors attending the post- office at Adelaide.
The following are engaged in other places in 4th District : -
Colonel Solomon, 79 hours, Eastern Extension office.
Colonel Hampson, 28 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Colonel Dyke, 40 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Colonel Catt, 20 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Lieutenant-Colonel Adams, 44 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Major Schomburgk, 24 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Major Blair, 30 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Captain Willcox, 32 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Captain Clucas, 44 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Captain Vaughan, 36 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Captain Olifent, 32 hours, Eastern Extension Office.
Captain Brown,88 hours, Eastern Extension Office (and Parliament House).
Major Smeaton, 112 hours, Parliament House.
Lieutenant-Colonel Castine, 4 hours, Parliament House.
Only one Censor is on full time, and (with the exception of two others on broken time) the remainder are on quarter time.
The Censor’s Office is not at the Post Office, Perth.
The following is return of hours of attendance of Censors engaged in 5th District: -
Colonel J. C. Strickland, Censor’s Office, 98 hours.
Captain H. W. B. Talbot, 120 hours, including 97 hours Censor’s Office: 14 hours Telegraph Office; 6 hours General Post-office; 1 hour Railwav Station, Perth; 2 hours Post Office, Fremantle.
Mr. E. J. Watkin, 98 hours, including 70 hours Censor’s Office; 20 hours Telegraph Office; 2 hours General Postoffice; 1 hour Railway Station, Perth; 5 hours Post Office, Fremantle.
Mr. G. Mackey, 98 hours, including 74 hours Censor’s Office; 14 hours Telegraph Office; 6 hours General Postoffice; 1 hour Railway Station, Perth; 3 hours Post Office, Fremantle. 6th Military District.
Lieutenant-Colonel G. E. Harrap, Laun- ceston, 84 hours.
Lieutenant G. A. Roberts, 77 hours.
N.B. - The Censor at Launceston attended six hours per day for fortnight ending 21st August, 1915, and Assistant Censor at Hobart attended five and a half hours per day for the same period. Both are on part-time service, and proportionate pay.
Supervising Officers, in addition to the hours actually spent on duty, are required to be in close communication with their offices at all times.
– A number of people are interested in the question of whether the present camp at Liverpool is likely to be permanently located where it atpresent is, or whether it is intended to remove it, before they proceed with the erection of certain buildings of a more or less permanent character. If it is the intention of the Government to remove this camp, will the Minister inform us when the removal is likely to take place, and where to ?
– I have not heard of any intention on the part of the Government to remove the Liverpool Camp. I should think that the present huge expenditure of money is an indication that there is no such intention; but I shall consult with the Minister of Defence and let the right honorable member know to-morrow.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral supply to the Minister of Trade and Customs the same list that he has supplied to the Postmaster-General - in order to prevent the carriage of newspapers which advertise goods of enemy origin - with a view to the Minister of Trade and Customs taking the necessary action to stop any further importation of such articles?
– Yes, I shall do so; but I point out that it is one thing to prevent the postage of newspapers that advertise the goods of German firms and another thing to stop the importation of an article made under licence in the United Kingdom and exported to Australia. That would be a very serious thing to do. For instance, Sanatogen is made in England, and the case of the agent, who waited on me yesterday, is unassailable except on one point, namely, that all the profits, after the war, will go to Germany. I said that that fact was sufficient for me; but it is no answer to a person who has goods outside the Customs House barrier which are made in England, and which he desires shall come in. What are we to say in such a case? It is a very difficult question, and I shall look into it.
– A gentleman from Western Australia, who travelled in the train with me from Adelaide yesterday, desires to know how it is possible for him to fill in his war census returns in time. When he left Western Australia there were no forms available, and it is impossible for him to fill in forms in Victoria, because he has not the necessary data. What is to be done in such a case?
– I think this is a case for “first aid.” These cases are becoming distressingly frequent, if we are to believe honorable members; but I can only say that, as Parliament deliberately adopted this principle, we must carry it out. Every regard will be had for bona fide difficulties ; and I know that there are difficulties. In my personal experience I have met most excellent citizens who are reduced to a most pitiable state in an endeavour to make out their returns. Every consideration will be given; but there is the law, and it must be complied with.
– In view of the fact that the vast majority of people will have sent in their cards in time, and that the supplying of the information is a very difficult matter for many others, does the Attorney-General not think that, considering the Department will have sufficient work to go on with, another week might be allowed? In other words, as the Department cannot handle all the returns at once, could not another week be allowed for the supplying of those which are of a difficult character?
– That raises a similar question to one that has been answered already. I shall certainly go into the matter with the Statistician at the earliest convenient moment - this afternoon, if possible - and see how far the business of the Department will permit of a further extension of time. If at all possible, an extension will be given.
– Would it not be possible to recast the arrangements, so as to permit of each State undertaking its own share of the work in connexion with the returns? As at present arranged, all the returns must come to Melbourne, although iti the other States there are many in the clerical line unemployed.
– I quite appreciate the honorable member’s point. The matter, however, is one of organization; and, after a very careful review of the advantages and disadvantages of the suggestion just now made, the Statistician declared himself in favour of all work being done here. I approved the policy. I saw very many advantages that might arise from the division of labour throughout the various States; but I am persuaded that the nature of this business, largely confidential as it is, precludes treatment excepting under the control of the Statistician here.
– Will the Attorney-General take into consideration the paramount necessity, in dealing with the highly confidential matters that appear in the wealth census returns, of seeing that these matters are not open to the hundreds, or it may be thousands, of clerks temporarily engaged from the ranks of the unemployed, but that their consideration is handed over to trusted and known servants of the Commonwealth ?
– I cannot agree with the statement that the returns furnished on the wealth card are any more” confidential than those on the personal service card. On the latter a man is asked questions of a very confidential nature - for example, as to the state of his health, and other matters - which he ig most desirous that other people should know nothing about. The information asked for in both cards is highly confidential in its nature. But we are taking every precaution that none but persons who are entirely trustworthy shall have access to the cards. The oath to which such officers have to subscribe is very much stricter than that administered to those doing confidential work in Government Departments, and I shall take an early opportunity of showing it to the honorable gentleman. I quite appreciate his point, and I shall see that effect is given to it.
– Partners are required to send in a joint wealth return, and then, in submitting their own personal returns, they are obliged to include their share of the partnership stock. For instance, if two partners own a thousand head of cattle, those cattle must be included in the partnership return; and, in addition, each partner must include half the stock in his personal return. Will not that result in duplication of the returns so far as concerns those cattle? In cases where partners have only one animal of a certain class - a bull, for instance - how are they to equally divide that animal between the two of them?
– Dealing first with the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I refer the honorable member to the answer given by my distinguished predecessor, Solomon. His answer is sufficient for all time. I am not here to decide the ownership of bulls; the honorable member mistakes my profession.. In regard to the duplication of stock owned by partners, the War Committee considered this matter very fully, and, after a most tempestuous discussion, was driven to the conclusion that there was no other means of dealing with partnership assets than that decided upon. The Commonwealth Statistician, however, is providing against a duplication. The partnership return is set apart altogether from the individual return, and, therefore, there cannot be duplication, because it is upon the individual returns that the statistics will be based.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is not a fact that the erection’ of a number of telephone exchanges is being delayed” owing to the equipment not being available. Can the Minister inform the House when the equipment is likely to arrive? Is any effort being made to ‘have the greater portion of the equipment made in Australia either by Government factories or by private firms engaged in the manufacture of electrical appliances?
– We are not able to make in Australia the equipment for the automatic exchanges, but the switchboards for the smaller country exchanges are made in the Department’s workshop, and the goods are equal to any made elsewhere.
Free Railway Passes
– Will the Minister for the Navy consider the advisability of allowing troops who are being trained in camps situated some distance from the capital cities the concession of a free railway pass to the cities at least once a week?
– I shall consult with the Minister of Defence, and inform the honorable member to-morrow.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 2), 1915-16.
War Pensions Bill (No. 3).
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– This matter relates to the Department of Home Affairs, and the questions should, therefore, be addressed to my honorable colleague.
asked the PostmasterCteneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are-
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Duplication of Machinery
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are-
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is - 1 and 2. The immigrants travelled by s.s. Valdivia from Port Madryn to Talcahuano, both being ports in South America. At the latter port they transhipped to the s.s. Kwanto Maru, which carried them to Darwin.
Debate on Third Reading of a Bill.
Debate resumed from 2nd September (vide page 6658), on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling, that on the third reading of the Income Tax Assessment Bill no reference may bo made to the general financial position, be dissented from.
– I do not, sir, intend to debate this motion at length. I have not had time to look up the authorities on the matter. I took exception to your ruling because it seemed to me to lay down an entirely new practice, so far as this House is concerned, and, I venture to say, from the way in which the ruling was given that it would establish a new practice as far as any Parliament is concerned. It will be recollected that the honorable member for Robertson was discussing the general financial situation on the motion for the third reading of the Income Tax Assessment Bill. You, sir, ruled that the honorable member could not make a reference to the war loan, nor could he discuss how the operation of the loan might affect the taxation yield under the Bill. In the course of your ruling you laid it down that every succeeding stage of a Bill is a narrowing stage. That decision struck me as being so extraordinary that I took exception to the ruling at once. My contention is that on the third reading of any Bill, and more especially of a financial Bill, any reason pertinent to the rejection of the Bill at any stage may be urged against it, . and is therefore discussable on the motion for the third reading. You, sir, have laid it down that when the House is asked to pass the third reading of a taxation Bill, and the very Bill which lays down the terms and conditions of the proposed tax, honorable members may not discuss the general financial situation. Such a decision appears to me to entirely rule out one of the constitutional checks properly imposed upon taxation measures. To lay down a ruling that on the third reading of a taxation Bill we may refer only to something that has been overlooked in the Bill itself seems to me to impose a great limitation upon our powers over the finances of the country. The third-reading stage affords an opportunity to check the progress1 of these financial measures, and, speaking broadly and generally with regard to any Bill, I submit that what may be discussed on the second reading may also be discussed on the third reading. I submit that we cannot discuss the details of a Bill on the motion for the third reading. On that point I differ from you radically. You say that the third-reading stage is only for the purpose of discussing some detail of the Bill which may have been overlooked in Committee, and is therefore only for the purpose of making a correction, or something of the kind. . That is precisely what, I submit, we may not do on the motion for the third reading of a Bill. What has been done in Committee cannot be corrected except by the recommittal of the Bill. ButI submit that we can discuss the whole Bill on the third reading and give reasons why it should not be ultimately passed. I should say that no considerations are more pertinent to the discussion of a taxing Bill than reasons drawn from the general financial situation of the country. After the discussion of all these questions at previous stages of the Bill the only thing which should determine our vote on the motion for the third reading is whether, speaking generally, the Bill is a fair one in view of all the other financial measures and proposals of the Government from time to time. These are the reasons which induced me to take exception to your ruling. My point is that we may, on the third reading, just as on the second reading, of a Bill, make reference, even in detail, to the general financial situation as supplying reasons why the Bill should or should not be passed. When you ruled as you did that the third-reading stage is intended only to enable any mistake that may have been discovered to be rectified, you fixed the third reading as a purely technical stage in the consideration of a Bill. I never understood that it was to be so regarded. In my view, the third-reading stage of any Bill is not a technical stage in any sense of the term, but rather a stage at which protests may be made finally against the passing of the Bill, and at which reasons may be urged whether the Bill should, or should not, be placed upon the statute-book in its existing form, or in some amended form. I do not wish to discuss the matter further, but I do sincerely hope that your ruling that on the third reading of a Bill we may only correct any mistake which may have been discovered will not be adhered to, and will noi be held to be strictly valid. To my way of thinking, it is an entirely new ruling. I have never before known a Speaker to give such a ruling in connexion with the third reading of a Bill; and certainly not in connexion with the third reading of a taxing Bill. I think that you wrongly ruled the honorable member for Robertson out of order when he was endeavouring, on the motion for the third reading of the Income Tax Assessment Bill, to deal with the general financial situation as showing reasons why the bill should not pass, or should pass in a modified form.
.- Whatever may be said of the attitude taken by the Leader of the Opposition, may I, sir, be allowed to congratulate you on the fact that you have established a new method of dealing with motions to dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling. V notice that you have placed this motion first on the business-paper for consideration to-day. I do not know what influence may have operated in your mind to place it in that position.
– Only the Standing Orders.
– If it was done in accordance with the Standing Orders, I may have something to say about illegal suspensions of the ‘Standing Orders during the last Parliament.
– What has that _ to do with this motion ?
– The honorable member evidently knows what I refer to. If he will wait a little, I shall come to the point. To my mind, a ruling of the Chair is too serious a matter to bo lightly called in question. When it is, the matter should be dealt with quickly. We have arrived at; a stage in the proceedings of this House when we very urgently need an amendment of the Standing Orders to permit of our dealing with motions to dissent from rulings almost immediately after they are submitted. It is a most serious thing for a motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling to be kept hanging over the head of an occupant of the Chair, and for that reason it ought to be disposed of as quickly as possible. I congratulate you, sir, upon insisting on knowing, at the earliest possible moment, whether you possess the confidence of the House in respect of your rulings. Unless he possesses that confidence, no Speaker with any sense of dignity could continue to hold his position.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine his remarks to the motion ?
– I have no intention of discussing the merits of this proposal
– Then the honorable member is out of order.
– I was merely congratulating you upon having placed this motion in the very forefront of the businesspaper, because it is a complete, reversal of the practice which was followed during the last Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order. He must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition upon recognising that a new departure has been made; and in view of the new standing order which has been set up, I think that he’ might courteously withdraw the motion.
.- You, sir, in your ruling on Thursday last, stated -
At each stage of a Bill the debate upon it is further limited, and at the thirdreading stage the discussion is confined to the subject-matter of the Bill itself. The object of the third reading is to enable any mistake that may be discovered to be rectified.
The only way in which a mistake in a Bill can be rectified is by recommitting it; but when the third-reading stage has been reached the time for recommittal has passed.
– As soon as the Order of the Day for the third reading of the Bill was called upon, it was open to any honorable member to move that the Bill be recommitted.
– One is at liberty to debate the third reading of the measure only after the motion for its third reading has been called on. When that stage has been reached, I submit that the time for recommittal of the measure has passed, and consequently a mistake cannot be rectified. For this reason, I contend that your ruling, sir, ought not to stand. The Bill has passed its second reading, has been carried through Committee, and a motion has been moved that it be read a third time. The question, therefore, arises, “ What subjects are relevant to the discussion of that motion ?” My own view is that the whole of the contents of the measure are then open to criticism. In other words, honorable members are at liberty to debate the whole scheme of the Bill-
– And to suggest an alternative form.
– Exactly. At the thirdreading stage, I submit we are entitled to advance any relevant reasons why the House should not agree to its third reading. We have a right to reject the Bill even at this stage. Let me illustrate the position that I take up regarding the matter. We have already authorized the raising of certain loan moneys. The Bill before us was a taxing Bill. Suppose that in the interim between the flotation of the loan and the passing of this Bill certain conditions developed which changed our whole financial outlook, and rendered the passing of the measure unnecessary. Surely, in such circumstances, we would be entitled to stress those altered financial conditions and to advance them as reasons why the Bill should not be passed. I do not suggest that honorable members should be permitted to initiate a fresh detailed, criticism of the Loan Bill; but I submit that any reason likely to influence the House, either in accepting or rejecting this Bill, is relevant to the motion for its third reading.
– -The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is not strictly in accordance with the ruling which I gave on Thursday last. My ruling related to the Loan Bill, whereas his motion refers to the question of finance; but as it covers practically the same ground, I did not take any exception to it. At the outset, I desire to express my sincere thanks to> those honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question, for the moderate way in which they have dealt with it. I take it that the idea underlying the motion is a desire to assist in regulating the procedure of the House, and consequently every honorable member is interested in it. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not regard the proposal of the honorable member for Parramatta as in any sense a personal one. But in connexion with the motion for the third reading of a Bill I have, always entertained very strong views. I did so long before I entered this House. I would remind honorable members that in this Chamber some years ago 1 ruled upon the third reading of a measure in exactly the same way as I ruled on Thursday last. On that occasion my ruling was in reply to the honorable member for Parramatta, who has now taken exception to a similar ruling. I have no desire to curtail the liberties of honorable members in freely discussing matters which they are entitled to discuss. But in connexion with this motion, I would like to place the facts on record.
The Income Tax Bill originated on a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means which was moved by the AttorneyGeneral on the 18th ultimo, again moved by Mr. Hughes on the 19th in an amended form, and agreed to by the House during the sitting which began on the 1st instant. The Bill was forthwith brought in, and passed its first reading. When the second reading was called on, full and ample opportunity was afforded honorable members to debate the principles contained in the Bill. After this the second reading was carried, and the principles it contained affirmed. It was then considered in. Committee, when certain details were agreed to, and the Bill was reported to the House. This report could have been debated, amended, or recommitted. The third reading was set down for a future sitting. On the Order of the Day being called on, it was still open to be further considered on recommittal. This was not done, but a discussion took place on ‘ the third reading in the course of the debate. I had occasion to call the honorable member for Robertson to order for irrelevance during his speech. Subsequently, on a point of order being raised, I ruled that the Loan Bill could not be discussed on the third reading of the Income Tax Bill. As regards the question of irrelevancy, I am supported by parliamentary procedure, as well as our own Standing Orders, which read - 274. 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. 266. No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the House for personal explanations.
Although on the third reading of the Appropriation Bill it might be in order to discuss the general financial position of the session, it seems to me to be clear that on the third reading of a Bill “ to impose a progressive tax on incomes,” an honorable member is not in order in discussing the provisions of a Loan Bill which has already, during this session, been passed.
My opinion that the third reading of a Bill is not open to debate in as full a measure as the second reading of a Bill, I have before frequently given expression to without my ruling being questioned by notice of dissent. Honorable members will find, for instance, on page 7103 of Hansard of 14th December, 1912, the following ruling given by me on an objection taken by the honorable member for Parramatta:-
The honorable member will probably recollect that we discussed this matter a little time ago. I have always held that the motion for the third reading of a Kill narrows debate to the discussion of the Bill and what it contains, and does not permit of references to speeches made in the previous consideration of the measure. The proper time for such references is on the second reading of the Bill. Then there is debate in Committee, and it may be at the report stage. But when the third reading of a Bill is reached, I hold that the purpose of the debate is to deal with any matter contained in the Bill, the full consideration of which might justify a recommittal, and not to enable a reply to be offered to statements made in the debate on the second reading. To take that course would, in my opinion, be to go beyond the scope of debate on the third reading.
The second reading of a Bill gives honorable members the opportunity of discussing the general principles of a Bill. The Committee of the House is subsequently given the opportunity of considering the details of and amending the Bill. It is, of course, open to the Committee to make amendments which might substantially alter the effect of the Bill. These amend m ents - which are subsequently approved by the House on the adoption of the report - might be of so important a nature as to justify an honorable member who had voted for the second reading in opposing the Bill upon the third-reading stage, and to give reasons why, in the altered circumstances, he should oppose, on the third-reading stage, a measure which he had supported on the second reading of the Bill. In this instance, however, the Bill had passed all its stages up to the third reading without amendment. And such being the case, it is my opinion that the time for the general discussion upon the Bill had passed by, and that the merits or demerits of the- Bill as presented to the House for the final reading were alone open to discussion. Does the honorable member desire to proceed further with the motion?
– I take no exception whatever to the statements you have made. I think you have laid down the law admirably; but, by the same token, it seems to me that you wrongly ruled the honorable member for Robertson out of order the other day. He was not referring to the provisions of the Loan Bill, but was simply showing how one Act would affect the other. However, your statement to-day is all right, and I have great pleasure, after hearing it, in withdrawing the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of the Bill is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and section 55 in particular, by adding the following sub-section: - “and (c) Any association of not less than one hundred employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits whatever, together with such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.”
By clause 3 this provision is made retrospective, so that it will apply to all organizations registered before the passing of the Bill. The necessity for its introduction arises out of a decision given by Mr. Justice Powers in the case of ex parte William Wilson Kitten.
– Is that case still before the Court?
– Has it been finally dealt with?
– The Court made an order, which I shall read ; but I shall not go into the merits of the case further than is necessary to set out the principal facts. The application was for the cancellation of the registration of the Australian Workers Union under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and certain offences against the Act were alleged. The case was heard before Mr. Justice Powers, and on the 23rd November, 1914, he delivered preliminary judgment. After an adjournment of the summons, Mr. Justice Powers, on 25th November, said he would not decide the point without further evidence, and accordingly the case was adjourned until 11th December, 1914. After fixing the date for the answer to tha application for the deregistration of the Association, Mr. Justice Powers said -
I do not propose to decideon this application whether the organization or its members aru guilty of criminal offences. Jt might prejudice their trial and I do not find the commission of an offence in the Act as one of the reasons why the registration should be cancelled, or one I should act on in exercising my discretion under section 60(a).
The application for the deregistration of the association came on for hearing in Sydney on 1st March, 1915, and, after hearing arguments, the Court reserved its decision until 14th April, when, in delivering judgment, the Deputy President said -
The application for the cancellation of the registration of the organization, the Australian Workers Union, was made under section 60 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904-11 on the following grounds: -
That the respondent organization, in contravention of section 8 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904-11,has, for the purpose of enforcing compliance with the demands of certain of its members, viz., the members of the carriers’ section of the Australian Workers Union, ordered certain members to refuse to accept employment from certain pastoralists.
That the respondent organization, in contravention of section 8 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904-11, has. for the purpose of enforcing compliance with the demands of certain of its members, viz., the members of the carriers’ section of the Australian Workers Union, ordered certain of its members to refuse to accept employment from certain storekeepers and others.
That the respondent organization has ordered, counselled, and assisted strikes on the part of certain of its members for the purpose of enforcing its demands.
That the respondent organization has boon guilty of boycotting certain storekeepers and others for failing to comply with the de mand of certain of its members, viz., the members of the carriers’ section of the Australian Workers Union.
That the respondent organization has been guilty of boycotting certain farmers in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia for the purpose of enforcing the demand of certain of its members, viz., the rural workers’ members of the Australian Workers Union.
That the respondent organization is not now capable of being registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904-11 as an association of employees in or in connexion with any industry within the meaning of the said Act, inasmuch as its rules provide for the admission as members of persons other than bond pdc employees.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I point out that this case is still pending before the Court, and that, on a previous occasion, you ruled that an honorable member could not deal with a matter in that position. On the 25th November, 1914, during the discussion on the Conciliation andArbitration Bill, the honorable member for Flinders was about to draw attention to the fact that a case was then pending before the Court, and you said -
The honorable member is now dealing with something that is before the Court, and J have to ask him not to do so.
The ruling was disagreed with, and a debate took place. I speak subject to correction by the Attorney-General when I say that an order has been made by the Court in the case to which he referred.
– I think you might let me state my case.
– I understand an order has been made, although it may not have been complied with yet, but the point I take is that if the order still awaits compliance, the case is really pending before the Court.
– No ; it is not.
– I submit it is.
– I say it is not.
– That is a matter for Mr. Speaker to decide. I say that until compliance is made with the order of the Court, the decision on the case is not complete, and we have no right to refer to it.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs has asked me to give a ruling upon a point which I consider is a point of law, and upon which the honorable member himself seems to be in doubt.
– I have no doubt about it whatever.
– The honorable member has asked me to decide whether this case is bef ore the Court or not, and I say I do not know. I am assured that it is not. It is not reasonable to expect me to make it my business to ascertain whether or not a particular case is before the Court in order to decide whether legislation is overlapping or not. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that this case is not before the Court, and, in the circumstances, the Minister must be allowed to proceed.
– I am sorry my honorable and learned friend did not let me state my case, which I propose to. do very shortly. I submit that by all the precedents of this House, and of every other deliberative assembly, there is no reason whatever why legislation should not proceed in this matter. When the honorable member for Darling Downs interposed with his point of order, I was referring to the finding of the Court, which was as follows -
That the rules of the respondent organ ization (carriers’ section) contain matters contrary to law and public policy, as they provide -
Then His Honor proceeded to say that the applicants alleged that the respondent organization had improperly admitted as members many who were not employees, and many who were employers; that the rules of the respondent organization no longer complied with the prescribed conditions, and imposed unreasonable conditions upon members in the matter of continuance of membership. Mr. Justice Powers went on to say that respondents further alleged -
The organization was registered as an organization of employees in connexion with the pastoral industry on the 16th May, 1905.
The application for cancellation of the registration was lodged on the 1st day of September, 1914. At that time, under the Act as it. stood, if the Court were satisfied that the rules of the registered organization had been altered so as to no longer comply with the prescribed conditions, or that the rules had not bond fide been observed, or that for any reason the registration of an organization ought to be cancelled, the Court was bound to cancel theregistration.
After the application came on, but before it was decided, there was an amendment of the Act, and exercising his discretion under the law, the Judge held that, in spite of the contention of the applicant to the contrary, he could’ exercise his judicial discretion under the Act. and he refused to cancel the registration without cause being shown Subsequently applicant’s counsel confined their evidence for the application for cancellation to five grounds principally, which he enumerated. Dismissing the various preliminary points, the Judge said -
I could, on these findings, order that the registration of the organization should be cancelled: but I have to consider whether, on the facts before me, in justice to the applicant, and in the public interests, such order should be made.
So far as the applicant is concerned, the rules of the “carriers’ section,” to which he so strongly objected, are no longer rules of the organization; and the “carriers,” whose alleged actions he so strongly protested against, are no longer members of the organization.
I do not see that any injustice is done to the applicant if the registration is allowed to continue, if the rules are amended to comply with the Act and the constitution of the organization.
If the organization has been guilty of any of the alleged breaches of the Act, the evidence shows that it can readily pay the maximum penalty that can be imposed under the Act, namely, £1,000.
I have, however, under the Act to consider the interests of the public even if the refusal to cancel was contrary to the interests of the applicant. The public interests are certainly better served by retaining, instead of cancelling, the registration of organizations of employees willing to conform to the provisions of the Act and to rules in accordance with the Act, if it has not been proved that it is an organization that ought not to remain on the register.
It was stated by counsel that the Arbitration Act was passed to marshal the forces of labourers and employers into two different opposing bodies; but the object of the Act was to bring together the two forces which had already set themselves in opposition to each other by strikes and lock-outs. To do so, Parliament made strikes and lock-outs illegal, and provided for registered organizations to speak for the scattered sections of workers throughout the different States, to act for them in making uniform claims on the employers, to meet the employers in conference to endeavour to settle any disputed claims, and to proceed in this Court on behalf of all the employees in the different States if the dispute could not be otherwise settled.
The policy of the Act, therefore, is to encourage the registration of organizations of employees, and this Court, while it has a discretion, would not cancel the registration of an organization unless the evidence proved that it should not, under any circumstances, continue on the register, or that it defied the Court or deliberately refused to obey any order the Court makes, upon the performance of which registration is conditional.
In this case I am presuming the organization to be not guilty of the charges made in the application - not proved by the evidence - I find that the organization has been registered for nearly ten years, and it is at present a party to two awards made in this Court, and to awards in the States of Queensland and New South Wales.
The organization and its members have observed those awards, and during the term of its existence as a registered organization it has not been found guilty of any breach of any award.
I commend this statement of Mr. Justice Powers to my honorable friends. During the whole term of its existence this great organization has nob been found guilty, according to the Judge’s own statement, of a breach of any award to which it was a party. His Honour went on to say -
The organization has over 90,000 members on its books - some of whom I find ought not to have been admitted as members.
For many years past disorganization and conflicts between employers and employees in the great pastoral industry by strikes have not taken place. The organization has done its part in preventing such conflicts, by acting for the shearers, and other employees scattered about the different States, by submitting claims to employers in all the States, by endeavouring to get the claims settled, and, later on, where no settlement could be effected, by submitting the disputes to this Court, instead of attempting to enforce their claims in the old way by a strike; and by seeing that the members of the organization observed the awards of the Courts after they are made.
The cancellation of the registration of the organization - if no steps were taken to reregister - would again lead the large bodies of employees in connexion with the pastoral industry in the different States without anybody authorized to submit any Inter-State dispute to this Court, and the employees would have to submit to the employers’ terms, or different State awards, or strike to get improved wages or conditions.
I have to consider these matters when deciding how I should exercise my discretion.
I am also satisfied on the evidence that the rules, as they now appear - the rules I have to consider - were not framed with any intention of deliberately evading any of the provisions of the Act, but are the result of a misconception of the true meaning of clause 55 of the Act.
Several of the officers of the organization appear to have continued to act, as they were justified in doing when it was an ordinary union - an unregistered organization; and have admitted as members employers in sympathy with the objects of the union, and employees in any industry who wished to join and were not in any other union.
It was also proved that errors made in the rules previously have been corrected by the organization without any pressure from outside - for example, the rule allowing any person in Australia to become an honorary member on payment of£1, was repealed by the organization.
On the evidence, therefore, I do not feel called upon to cancel the registration of this organization unconditionally, but to direct that on or before the first day of July next, the rules are to. be amended in the manner I propose later on to direct.
Then he gave his order in these terms -
I direct the Australian Workers Union - a registered organization of employees - on or before the 1st day of July, 1915, to alter its rules so as to bring them into conformity with the requirements of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1914, and in particular to provide by such altered rules -
That employees only and officers of the organization - whether employees or not - shall be allowed to become members of such registered organization.
That employees only “ in connexion with the pastoral industry” shall be allowed to become members of such registered organization: unless in the meantime the constitution of the organization is changed to include other industries in connexion with which it is registered.
That no new subscription as members shall be received after the rules have been altered from persons who have previously been admitted as members, and who are not qualified as employees or officers of the organization to become members under such altered rules - or altered constitution (if any) at the time ‘such subscriptions become due.
That is the order.
– Has the date of compliance with the order been extended from the’ 1st July, 19151
– My information is that the time has been extended.
– Do you know to what date?
– Until such time as the Government could amend the law.
– The position now is that this organization is unable to comply with the order of the Court, unless and until this Legislature amends the law in such a way as to allow compliance to be made.
Perhaps I may be permitted now to say a few words about the broad principles of this legislation. Compulsory arbitration has received the assent of all parties in this House. It is, with the White Australia policy, the only body of legislation to which all parties are committed by their votes and utterances. From 1904 the basic principle on which this Parliament has acted has been that the method of settling industrial disputes must be recourse to the Arbitration Court, and from that date to the present time efforts have been made to give effect to it. The difficulties that have met this Parliament and the Court are very well known to honorable members. The Court was established to provide an easy, legal, and certain way to settle disputes which heretofore had been settled by appeal to force. It was, in short, the creation of a tribunal where reason and not force was to prevail. Great things were expected from it. And handicapped though it has been, and is, it has done great work. But its usefulness has been seriously impaired by the limitations imposed by the Constitution. It has been hedged about, as the honorable and learned member for Flinders has pointed out, by technicalities, by litigation, by obstruction, in very many cases by deliberate obstruction, by one of the parties to the disputes. Time and again the employees have obtained awards after years of effort only to be met by orders of prohibition from the High Court. It is no exaggeration to say that in some cases it has taken years to obtain an award. It has cost thousands upon thousands of pounds, and the men have been choused out of their just rights by legal technicalities, by appeals to the superior Courts. Is this fair to the labour organizations f la it fair to the policy of compulsory arbitration? It is at this time more than ever necessary that industrial peace shall prevail. I throw upon my honorable friends on the other side this very grave responsibility, which they must shoulder, and which they cannot escape. The nation is at war. Every section must be united to enable its driving force to be delivered with the utmost possible effect.
– In throwing responsibility on this side, does the honorable member suggest that if what he proposes is not done there will be a strike ?
– When you take from men the means of obtaining justice according to law, you offer an inducement, which under some circumstances becomes irresistible, to right their wrongs in other ways. Belgium, being denied the protection guaranteed to her by the Powers, was forced to take up arms, and noncombatant merchantmen on the seas, being denied the protection which they should have under international law, have also to rely on the protection of the British Navy, that is, upon force.
The responsibility of maintaining industrial peace during this great war rests with this Government, and we shall maintain it; but we can maintain it only if we have the sanction of the law behind us. We are not prepared to say to an ‘ organization within whose folds from 90,000 to 100,000 employees are gathered, “ The Arbitration Court is not for you ; settle your disputes as best you can.” The only reason that can be given why this great organization should not be allowed to register is that it is too powerful. Were it puny, insignificant, and struggling, not a word would be said against its request to be allowed to comply with the order of the Court, and register. This great organization is a power in the industrial world. Yet it has used its power in the interests of the Commonwealth. Is it nothing that industrial peace has been substituted for industrial war ? Honorable members seem to suffer from unaccountable lapses of memory. They forget the turbulent days of ten or fifteen years ago, when the community was shaken to its centre by fierce industrial conflicts. Do they wish those days to return ? Do they wish to destroy organizations that have adopted the policy of arbitration ? When the great strike in New Zealand threatened to extend to this country, which would have brought about one of the greatest industrial crises ever known in Australia, the association to which I belong - the Waterside Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union, by uniting, managed to prevent it, and thus conferred the inestimable boon of peace on the country. Is industrial peace nothing? What is it honorable members desire? Why should this union, that only asks to be allowed to comply with the order of the Court, be treated as if it were an enemy of society? The union asks only that it may be permitted to register under the Conciliation aud Arbitration Act. If it has done anything wrong, let it be punished. But it ought to have justice. The Government would have taken the action that it is now taking had it concerned an organization of 100 employees only. Let it be remembered that for ten years the Australian Workers Union has kept the industrial peace. It is a party to three awards in the Commonwealth Court, not one of which has it broken. In the Queensland Industrial Court it is a party to an award against tho Colonial Sugar Refining Company which covers all employees engaged in cane cutting and other field employment and the manufacture of sugar, and in the New South Wales Arbitration Court it is a party to an award against the same company, applying to the manufacture of sugar. It is also a party in the New South Wales Court to an award affecting engine-drivers employed on stations. The union has carried to a point that we hardly hoped would be reached, the policy inaugurated in this Parliament in 1904. When Mr. Deakin made his memorable speech on the introduction of the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill we were told that a glorious era was approaching, when the lion would lie down with the lamb, and labour and capital would be for ever united in amity. Although the golden age has not yet dawned, arbitration awards have been substituted for the settlements arrived at by industrial warfare. As one who has had something to do with the organization of employees, I say that a better day has- dawned for Australia. Had similar legislation been in force in Great Britain, the Empire would not have trembled on the verge of a fatal collapse when the recent South Wales coal strike occurred. That great Fleet which protects this country, and enables us to sit here in peace, under whose mighty trident France, Belgium, Russia, Italy, and England are able to mass their legions and transport them over the seas despite the Prussian hordes, is absolutely dependent for its coal supply on the mines of South Wales. Without coal the Navy is absolutely impotent. Yet, when a strike occurred among the miners, and we drifted almost on the rocks of destruction through this strike, there were no means of dealing with it. Surely arbitration is better than war ! Having had ten years’ experience of arbitration, are we going to allow a technicality to turn out of the field an organization that has loyally and assiduously put into force the principles in which we believe? If honorable members do not believe in compulsory arbitration, let them say so. No doubt it is not a panacea for all industrial ills; but it provides a remedy infinitely better for the community than striking, and substitutes the rule of reason for turmoil and disturbance. If the order of the Court could be complied with without an amendment of the law, the Union would have complied with it. But this was impossible as the Act stands. To remove all doubt, the question was submitted to Mr. Starke. In his opinion the order could not be complied with without the amendment provided for in the Bill. With this I agree. I have considered the matter most carefully, and am of opinion that the amendment will allow the organization to comply with the order of the Court, and will do nothing more.
I do not intend to discuss whether it be a good or a bad thing to organize the labour of the country in one great union. There may be force in the contention that organization should be on a craft basis, but I do not hold that opinion. The evolution of industry does not proceed along the’ lines of craft organization. The tendency to sweep aside the divisions that separate one class of workmen from another is becoming more marked every day, as modern industrialism spreads itself through a thousand ramifications that mock at trade and local limitations. Distinctions of grade or calling are crumbling to pieces. It is not very long since the gulf between a mechanic and a labourer was wider than that between Rockefeller and the man in the street. I remember the time when an artisan looked with contempt upon His labourer. That day happily has gone. Education and organization have taught employees that their interests, if not identical, are sufficiently alike to profit by united action. The Australian Workers Union embraces in its membership a great number of industries. I have never hesitated to express my opinion that large organizations are more likely to preserve industrial peace than small ones, especially when a central executive has complete control of its branches. Before the Waterside Workers Union had such control, disputes were frequent. Half-a-dozen men at a place like Thursday Island would refuse to unload certain cargo, and the vessel concerned, as she came south, carrying cargo that had been handled by non-union labour, was like a fire brand going through dry stubble. Before you knew where you were, a great strike had been precipitated by the action of a handful of men, at a place incredibly remote, on a question about the merits of which all save this handful had the vaguest ideas. The Australian Workers Union brings to the consideration of all disputes the impartial judgment of men who are not inflamed by personal animosity. Troubles frequently occur because some employer or foreman is distasteful to the men under him ; but once they have begun, neither party concerned is amenable to reason. Both “ see red.” Th’e central executive of an organization of employees, however-, although its interests may be identical with those of the employees who have commenced the dispute, are not inflamed with the same animus. The reference of the dispute to them provides a breathing time, which is essential to the preservation of industrial peace. Give the men time to think, and reason will prevail. Public opinion is brought to bear, and the various problems at issue are properly considered. I resent as altogether unworthy the imputation of my’ right honorable friend that the position is that if the Australian Workers Union does not get this Bill it will strike. We should rather say that when justice is denied men through the agency of the law, human nature, which is very much the same in the shearer as in the pastoralist, will find some other way of obtaining it. It is foreign to the policy of this Parliament, and opposed to the interests of the nation, that any obstacle should be placed in the way of an organization complying with an order of a Court properly constituted for the purpose of settling industrial disputes. For that reason, I strongly urge the House to agree to this measure. The policy of this Parliament has been settled for the last ten years. Honorable members will not expect me to say that the Act, even with this amendment, will be satisfactory. I do not pretend that it will be. Both parties, by common consent, have declared that an amendment of the Constitution is necessary, in order that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court shall have a wider jurisdiction; but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. This amendment must be made now in order that the order of the Court may be complied with. Before this Parliament can meet again, that order must either be complied with or this organization must be de-registered. I have only a few words to say in conclusion. The Australian Workers Union has already done all that it could do under the order of the Court. It has altered its constitution and its rules; but this thing which it was ordered to do it could not do.
– Because it would dismember the organization-: If the order of the Court had been made in regard to the honorable member’s organization, he would not then have so lightly regarded the matter. Here is an organization which, as the result of patient industry in the field of labour, has gathered together 100,000 members. These, it is suggested, shall be scattered to the four winds of heaven. The experience of industrial warfare teaches that the greater the number of unions the greater is the chance of industrial strife, and that the greater the size of the industrial organization, provided that the discipline be complete - as it is with the Australian Workers Union - the greater the chance of industrial peace. Industrial organization makes for peace if its policy be that of arbitration. That has been the policy of the Australian Workers Union for ten years. That is my answer to the honorable member for Flinders. The Australian Workers Union has done all that it can do under the order. It has not, however, dismembered itself. I do not think any one should expect it to have done so. No one could expect it to deliberately commit industrial suicide. Seeing that this Legislature was instructed, only a few months ago, by the people to preserve industrial peace, why should it not come here and demand that such an amendment of the Act shall be made as will be right and proper in the circumstances? The organization, on its part, has done all that it could do; it is for us to do what remains. I therefore commend this measure to the House.
– I understand that the AttorneyGeneral is willing to give us a little time to consider this measure in the light of his speech, and, with that object in view, I should like to move the adjournment of the debate.
– I cannot agree to that. The debate must go on.
– Why ? Did not the Attorney-General consent just now to give me the adjournment of the debate ?
– Certainly not. I said that I would agree to postpone the further consideration of the Bill after the second reading.
– I discussed the matter with the honorable gentleman, and he consented to postpone the debate on the second reading until we had dealt with another measure on the noticepaper.
– I assure the right honorable member that what I said was that after the second reading of this Bill we would go on with the consideration of another measure.
– Is there any real reason why we should not be given a few hours inwhich to consider the Bill ?
The honorable gentleman himself has said that time is the very essence of peace.
– I am prepared to allow the debate to be adjourned until 7.45 p.m. Will that do?
– I appeal to the Attorney-General to allow the debate to be adjourned until to-morrow. The Bill will go through to-morrow.
– We are going to meet at 10.30 a.m.
– What for?
– In order that we may hear the right honorable member on this Bill.
– Very well. I ask leave to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a very small Bill, the object of which is to apply the principle of compulsory voting to the forthcoming referenda.
– Why is it to apply only to the referenda ? Are the Government going to try it on the dog?
– I shall tell the right honorable member. As British people we are thoroughly familiar with the principle of voting, which has come down to us from our fathers. Under the old system, which was defended in my youth by Lord Palmerston, and also had the support of many other British statesmen of renown and ability, a section of the people voted for the whole. The view of Tory statesmen was that the masses of the people were not sufficiently educated to exercise the franchise, and that their interests were properly looked after by that section of the community to whom the franchise was extended. That was the electoral system of the Old Country for many ‘hundreds of years; but, as students of modern history are aware, it has broken down to a very considerable degree. At the present time every adult male in England is not entitled to vote, but there have been liberal extensions of the franchise, so that to-day it is practically on the basis of household suffrage and lodger franchise. Women are not yet entitled to vote in the Old Country. We in this democratic country are sometimes charged by our English brethren with being a people given to experiments. Our kinsmen oversea are beginning to realize, however, that some of our experiments are not quite so dangerous as they used to imagine, and that, as a new country, we are privileged to make experiments which it would be difficult to apply to the Mother of the Empire. Here we have laid it down that every man and woman is entitled to vote. That is a sound principle, and is recognised as such by political parties representing every shade of political thought in Australia. The position that we occupy in this respect to-day is a logical one from which there can be no escape. We have enacted the principle of compulsory service, under which every young man is called upon to bear arms, the idea being that since the manhood of the country may determine its policy - since it has been given a voice in the making of the laws of the land under which we may become embroiled with our neighbours - it is only reasonable that the manhood of the country should be called upon if necessary to defend it. Those who make a policy should be expected to see that it is logically carried out, and the responsibility must be borne by the whole instead of being thrown upon the shoulders of the few. A few years ago, whilst a Labour Government was in office, we also enacted the principle of compulsory registration. At that time I did not think that there was much to be claimed for compulsory enrolment unless it was followed by compulsory voting.
– They are very different.
– The right honorable gentleman looks at the matter from thepoint of view of a politician. Politicians are not supposed to be logical. They are generally supposed to be inconsistent. My own view is that the only logical position to take up is to follow compulsory enrolment by compulsory voting, but I am not dealing with that aspect of the question at present. I am merely speaking of the application of the principle of compulsory voting to the referenda. Leading members of both parties have recognised the absolute necessity for amending the Constitution, and the people know it is a matter of the most vital importance to the prosperity, welfare, and solidarity of Australia that we should be governed by an efficient instrument of government,
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the referenda.
– Was the question of compulsory voting on the programme of the Labour party at the last election?
– To the best of my recollection, it was not.
– The honorable member’s recollection is correct. It did not become a prominent matter until after the recent Queensland elections.
– Apart from that aspect of the question, it is fair to tell the people of Australia that on a matter of such vital importance to Australia they must vote one way or the other.
– Then, why not make the principle apply generally ?
-“ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– But the honorable member claims that this is not an evil.
– The honorable member will probably look upon it as an evil. I am not permitted to touch upon the referenda, to which this principle is to be applied, but there can be one objection only to it. Electors may say that they do not understand the questions submitted to them. But I have heard this objection raised even in regard to the election of members of Parliament, though within my recollection there has never been an election in which there was not sufficient distinction between the candidates.
– This Bill will not compel people to vote. They can go to the poll, and mark out both “ Yes “ and “ No,” and thus make their ballotpapers informal.
– That is not the correct view to take of the Bill. Those electors who say they do not understand the questions tobesubmitted sufficiently to give a vote one way or the other, are making a very grave error of judgment. Young electors, owing to lack of reading or close attention to public affairs, may not be in a position to thoroughly understand many of the questions, but I have always said that these young people should follow the advice of their elders with whom they have been associated, and vote in accordance with what they are told by men who have never misled the people, or put them on the wrong track, and who have a record of good work behind them.
– In other words, the honorable member asks them to “ vote the ticket.”
– No, “vote the man.” The Leader of the Opposition knows as well as I do what I mean.
– I know that the honorable member gives the advice, “ Vote the ticket, and never mind the man.”
– The right honorable gentleman is endeavouring to misrepresent my meaning. Did not the people of England rally to the names of Disraeli and Gladstone? That is what I mean when I say, “ Vote the man.” Do not thousands in Australia support my right honorable friend without caring a rap as to his policy? They are of the sound Conservative instinct. They belong to the great Conservative party and always vote for the Conservative leader. When I tell the people to follow those who have never misled them, I refer to the leaders of the Labour party, Mr. J. C. Watson, our ex-Prime Minister, and our present Prime Minister, and the AttorneyGeneral, and others. I have even told the young people in my district that if they do not understand these questions they should trust my judgment.
– Does that not create a tendency to promote intellectual indolence ?
– Every one is not so well read as the honorable member. There are hundreds of young people who do not take the interest in these questions that they should take. There should be more solid reading, and less reading of scrappy magazine rubbish. Twenty -five years ago more solid reading was done.
– The people voted for Liberals then. Since this scrappy stuff has appeared the honorable member’s party has won.
– There is no excuse for any elector to decline to vote on the ground that he is not familiar with the question submitted to him. The Bill is to apply to the referenda only. The Government say that the Commonwealth Parliament should have greater powers, and that the electors should settle the matter.
– Does the honorable member believe in compulsory voting?
– Yes; but the Government are not pledged to it as applied to elections.
– Do the Government believe in the principle of compulsory voting?
– They believe in it as applied to the referenda.
– Why to this, and not to other matters ?
– The right honorable gentleman might just as well ask the opinion of the Government in regard to astronomy or botany. The people are to be asked to vote upon an exceptional matter, and it is perfectly feasible to come to the conclusion that the principle of compulsory voting should be applied to that matter, while it is not applied to elections generally. There is a fundamental difference between the two. At elections the people are asked to return representatives to Parliament for the purpose of making laws and administering the affairs of the nation. In this case the people are asked to give certain powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, and not the parties in it.
– The difference is that people may reasonably vote for a man they can trust, but they should not be asked to vote for a thing they cannot understand .
– Though there may be some electors so filled with their own conceit that they believe they know everything, and decline to accept advice, I cannot believe that there are any who will not have sufficient faith in certain men whose attitude is known to them to enable them to follow their advice. I submit the Bill to honorable members, and ask them to apply the principle of compulsory voting to the forthcoming referenda.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, which provides that a majority of members voting for any proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution may supply argument® in favour of the proposed law, and those who vote against, may supply arguments why it should not he accepted, and that those arguments may he printed and distributed to each elector. It is proposed to slightly amend the Bill by inserting a new clause providing for nine weeks instead of eight weeks, and to insert the 16th of the month instead of the 9th. The effect of this is to extend the period in which the printing may be done to nine weeks, and to extend the time in which arguments may be supplied to Thursday week instead of tomorrow. The Commissioner requires not less than nine weeks to print the arguments, and it has been thought desirable to extend the period for one week for those who are to supply them. No objection should be taken to these amendments. I leave clause 3 for a moment, and deal with clauses 2 and 4. It will be remembered that we passed a small amending measure to extend the life of the Senate. The time at the disposal of members who wished a week or two ago to supply an argument in favour of the amendments has been very short, but at the same time it was thought undesirable that the usual eight weeks’ interval should be allowed; otherwise, the printer could not have got the material and circulated it along with the other. The Bill extends the time during which arguments for and against this proposed law may be handed in. That is to say, any one who wishes to supply an argument may do it by tomorrow week.
I now come to clause 3, which relates to the establishment of a Board composed of three persons, to whom those arguments shall be submitted, and who shall determine whether the conditions of the proposed newsub-clause6b have been complied with. This sub-clause provides that the arguments prepared shall deal solely with the constitutional merits of the proposed law as a proposed amendment of the Constitution, and shall not contain any matter which does not deal solely with the merits of the proposed law. I wish now to direct the attention of honorable members to the debates of this subject as reported in Hansard, vol. lxixof 16th December, 1912. Dealing with the Bill then before the Housewhich was subsequently passed and is now law, I said -
This measure has been introduced in order to enable the electors of the Commonwealth to be informed of the case both for and against the proposal to amend the Constitution. It is based upon sound common sense. The people will naturally want to know why the Constitution Alteration Bills have been introduced. I submit that they will be quite unable to ascertain that by attending public meetings, because on the platform the honorable member for Ballarat and myself will say quite a number of most interesting things that have no relation whatever to those Bills. Under this measure it is proposed to tell them the plain facts of the case as set forth by each side.
Lower down I am reported -
In this particular case it is proposed - as there are six Constitution Alteration Bills - that there need not be 2,000 words of argument in favour of or against each of them, but it will be sufficient if the whole case is concluded within 12,000 words. Subject to that, honorable members may put their case before the public, provided that it is put in an impersonal, reasonable, and judicial way. There is to be no imputation of motives. In short, the argument is to be one which appeals to the reason rather than to the emotions and party sentiments. The subject necessarily covers a wide field, but no irrelevant matter must be introduced. In order that these conditions may be observed, it is suggested that two impartial persons shall be appointed to act, one for each side of the House, the matter being submitted to each party by these gentlemen before being forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer. These persons will be selected by the different parties in this House. All that the selected individual will have to do is to see that the matter is treated impersonally, that no motives are imputed, and that, within the very wide scope which the subject covers, no irrelevant matter is introduced.
Then Mr. Deakin, as reported on the following page, said -
There is only to be one manifesto for each side. It will differ from a parliamentary debate inasmuch as there are to be no personal reflections or imputations. I understand that there are to be no names of members mentioned.
– I would not say that honorable members are not to be referred to.
– If that is not so, I would suggest that it would be as well if it wore so -that the argument should bo one entirely on the merits of each question - “ Shall this be accepted or rejected ? These are the reasons why it should be accepted; these are the reasons why it should be rejected.”
– I hardly think that that should be so. Surely one may quote names in relation to Acts. A man may pass an Act of Parliament.
– He cannot do it by himself.
– A man may issue a memorandum.
Mr.DEAKIN.- He may do that. I am not dogmatizing, but suggesting.
– The whole thing must be treated in quite an impersonal way.
Quoting what I said, Mr. Deakin went on -
That does not make the Chief Electoral Officer an arbiter if the other two persons differ; each party will be unaware of its opponent’s statements. The arbiters take each separately.
– Who, then, is to act if it is suggested that some of the matter proposed to be introduced is irrelevant, or that personal motives are being imputed? I think there must be some third person whom they could consult.
– If the two differ, let them appoint a third.
– Exactly; I think that would meet the case. The arguments should be stated in the simplest and plainest form. Under the circumstances, I have no hesitation in recommending the course proposed to be followed to my honorable friends on this side of the House.
It will be seen that Mr. Deakin strongly approved the limitations upon the arguments as above set out. That was, and is, only an understanding, but it is not the law. The law does not say one word about the argument being confined to the merits of the case, but merely says that each party may supply an argument. “Argument” is a generic term applicable to some very wild and irrelevant outbursts. It certainly does not bail personalities or exclude imputations of party or personal motives. In short, the law does not provide those excellent restrictions and limitations that were agreed to between the parties.
– I should think it does. I should think the argument must be relevant. That is the underlying assumption, is it not?
– The law does not say so.
– We find the distinction in the Vicar of Wakefield, where we are told that the ladies continued the “ conversation,” but not the “ argument.”
– The most potent argument is sometimes that which is the most irrelevant. I am sure that relevant arguments are of very little use in some deliberative assemblies; it is the irrelevant argument that is most appreciated. However, I desire to spare the electors of the country those copious, though sometimes delightful, observations that fall from the lips of my honorable friends on both sides. The electors are entitled to be told the facts, and to be approached as reasonable beings in a reasonable way. There should be an appeal to reason rather than an appeal to sentiment/ - I do not say an appeal to passion, but to sentiment. And because the law does not provide even for reference to an arbiter, but leaves it to each party to say what they please, limited only by their own good taste, or their own idea of what is fit and proper, it has been thought desirable that an amendment of the law should be made so that each party shall be limited to an argument for and against the proposed amendments on their merits. If a Bill be submitted to amend, say, sub-section 1 of section 51 of the Constitution, relating to trade and commerce, by leaving out the words “ Trade and commerce with other countries,” the question is why ought the amendment to be made; and reasons for and against it are presented. Those reasons cannot have any relation to any extraneous circumstance whatever; and I think it is only fair that the people should know exactly what is proposed. For my part, I say deliberately that the best interests of the country will be served by an argument limited, as I suggest, to the merits of the case, without the introduction of any extraneous matter whatever. I hope the right honorable the “Leader of the Opposition will agree to the suggestion. If he does not, I hope he will at least state clearly what are his own views, so that we may know the limits within which he considers the argument should be confined. As this is a matter on which the views of both parties ought to be fairly stated according to their own ideas of what is fair and proper, limited only so that both may have the same opportunity, I shall not press my views on the right honorable gentleman if he can show that such restrictions as are here imposed are not necessary or proper in the circumstances. I shall not labour the question further. To the amendments proposed in clauses 2 and 4 I feel sure he will take no exception, and I shall he glad to listen to his views on clause 3.
– The Attorney-General has invited me to tell him frankly why these proposals should not be enacted, and I am glad indeed to hear his statement that, if we can show good reasons to that effect, he will not press them.
– I will not press clause 3. Clauses 2 and 4 I do press.
– To clauses 2 and 4 there is no objection whatever, so far as I can see, but there is a very decided objection on our part to clause 3. This proposal appears to be very adroitly applying what is popularly known as the “ gag “ to members of the Opposition and to those who are against the submission of theseReferenda Bills in the present circumstances. The Attorney-General knows very well that all along we have taken the stand that we will not discuss the nature of these amendments under the present conditions. So much has that been our attitude that I understand that, at somebody’s instigation, or on his own initiative, the Chief Electoral Officer has not addressed any communication to me in connexion with this matter, but has addressed a communication to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
– I did not instigate him, nor, I feel sure, did any member of the Government. He is acting entirely on his own responsibility, and I think he has acted properly under the law, which refers to a majority of those who voted against the proposed law.
– I am glad the honorable member mentioned that fact, because it only emphasizes our attitude in connexionwith these proposals.
– I think you have a perfect right ; but this will remove it beyond any possible doubt.
– This would leave the position as it is. I am not complaining about that. It is a mere technical matter, and it may go for what it is worth, although there seems a disposition on the part of that admirable officer to act strictly technically in these matters. What is of importance is the fact that our attitude was made unmistakably clear to the honorable member before this Bill was thought of. We decline to discuss the nature of these proposals.
– I know that both the late Government and our party went to the people with a platform that included an amendment of the Constitution.
– But, rightly or wrongly - according to my honorable friend, wrongly since the election, but rightly before the election - we have declined to consider any of these contentious proposals, and particularly proposals of fundamental and far-reaching import and of a party character.
– Why did you not submit other proposals?
– Because we have taken the ground that this is not the time to submit proposals of this kind. The honorable member knows that well.
– I know that when you went to the country your programme in- cluded this.
– Our programme stands where it did, and, at the proper time and place, and in the proper circumstances, we shall seek to give effect to it. But our attitude now is that we will not discuss the nature of these proposals in connexion with the proceedings of this House while the war lasts.
– You are entitled to take that view, but I submit that, under the law, you cannot put that as an argument into the pamphlet. The argument must! be against the proposals, not against the time at which they are put before the people.
– Is the honorable member taking that technical ground ?
– It is not a technical ground.
– It is purely a technical ground, and if that is what the law says it means that the pamphlet will go to the people with only the Government side of the case stated.
– I do not desire that to happen, but the honorable member will do the people a great wrong if he does not give them an opportunity of hearing his views.
– The people have heard our views, and have turned the proposals down twice. No exception was taken to the composition of or argument contained in our portion of the last pamphlet, nor did we take any exception to the argument presented by the AttorneyGeneral and hisconfreres. All we ask is that at this time, and in these circumstances, we shall be able to state our case free of these rigid technicalities.
– There are no technicalities at all.
– I say these objections are the essence of technicalities. I could understand the honorable member framing a clause like this if some impartial tribunal were to be asked to place the interpretation upon these measures, and to incorporate that explanation in the pamphlet to accompany the Bills to the people. I understand that, in some countries that is done. To each Bill an explanation is attached by some impartial officer of the House, or some impartial tribunal. But the honorable member does not pretend to desire that course to be followed.
– We have not power to do ‘that.
– The honorable member desires to state his own side of the ase, knowing very well that we cannot state our side.
– You will not state it.
– We certainly will not, and for the sufficient reason, to us, that we think it is an insult to the people of Australia to raise this argument at the present time. Honorable members may disagree from that view, but for Heaven’s sake let them give us credit for sincerity, as we give them credit, in connexion with these matters. I state our attitude frankly. It has been the same from the beginning. That is why we took no part in the discussion of the proposals in this House. To frame this proposal in this way is to apply the gag in regard o any attitude we on this side of the House may care to adopt.
– Why did the Opposition members take part in the debate in another place ?
– I had nothing whatever to do with what took place in the other Chamber. I suppose we allowed the debate to take place there for the same reason as somebody outside this Parliament is allowing the honorable member to conduct the proceedings of Parliament this week when they should have terminated last week. We do not regiment our members - we cannot - in the same way as outsiders regiment the honorable member and his party.
– I do not think the honorable member should make such a remark as that.
– I think it is a proper remark to make, in the circumstances.
– I do not know whether it is intended to be offensive or not.
– I have never seen a more humiliating spectacle in any Parliament than was presented in this House last week.
– I ask that, that remark be withdrawn.
– The honorable member’s remark is a reflection on the proceedings of Parliament, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark, if I must.
– The spectacle was humiliating.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Swan to withdraw that remark.
– It was certainly humiliating to me.
– The honorable member must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it ; but it was humiliating to me.
– That will not do. No “ buts.”
– You mind your own business. Don’t you be impertinent.
– Don’t you be impertinent, or I shall have you put outside.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Attorney-General justified in saying that he will have me put out of this House? I ask him to withdraw that statement, and apologize for his insolence.
– If the honorable member has said anything that is offensive, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I certainly shall withdraw it.
– I am afraid, from the way the Attorney-General tries to bully people round, that he imagines he is in his room. I should like to remind him that he is in Parliament now.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the question.
– How long is this to go on?
– It will go on as long as the Deputy Speaker permits it, and will not cease at the dictation of the honorable member. The impertinence of this man is becoming unbearable.
– Order ! The honorable member is again out of order.
– Everything is out of order.
– I ask the right honorable member for Parramatta, as the occupant of a high and responsible position, to assist the Chair. He knows that the remarks he is making are entirely unparliamentary. He should endeavour to assist the Chair in the conduct of business. I ask him to confine his remarks to the matter before the House, and not to address the Attorney-General or any other honorable member.
– I did not personally address the Attorney-General. I ask for the protection of the Chair, because the honorable gentleman is threatening and bullying. I wish to say plainly that we will not submit to him. We are prepared, sir, to submit completely to you, but we will not take the dictation of the Attorney-General, nor will we submit to his impertinence. It is timehe stopped this kind of thing.
– The honorable member may leave that in my hands.
– My point, and I want to impress it upon the AttorneyGeneral, is that by this measure he is proposing to apply the gag to the Opposition in connexion with the proposed pamphlet on the referenda proposals. We do not intend to allow the gag to be applied to us in that way. If the honorable gentleman thinks thathe can coerce the Opposition into arguing the merits of the referenda proposals in any pamphlet, or in any other way, I want to tell him quite frankly thatwe will not do so. If he insists on pushing the Bill through in its present form, he will shut the Opposition out of any opportunity to discuss the referenda proposals except such as may present itself on the public platforms of the country. I cannot get it out of my mind that there is a deeplaid purpose in the framing of the Bill in this way. Why is it done? Was there any objection taken to what was done on the former occasion? I know of no exception being taken to the arguments as presented at that time. Why should the Attorney-General imagine that in connexion with the referenda proposals on this occasion the Opposition propose to do something which they ought not to do? Why does he propose to alter machinery that, so far as it went, was found to be quite satisfactory on the previous occasion? I have never had any feeling greatly in favour of this pamphlet business at all.
Mr.Sinclair. - It is an absolute waste of money.
– I am inclined to think that we could do very well without it. I have never been able to see any great advantage in it. There is no doubt that it costs a groat deal of money to issue these pamphlets.
– The estimated cost is £14,000.
– It does not relieve either side from the obligation to issue literature of its own. The AttorneyGeneral, on the last occasion, did not depend solely for his argument upon the pamphlet that was issued. He did not rely upon anything but his own platform work, and such literature as poured forth from his prolific pen during the whole course of the campaign. I am not arguing as to whether there should be a pamphlet published or not, but I have to tell the Attorney-General what he already knows quite well, and that is, that if the Bill passes in its present form, he will shut the Opposition out of the business altogether. If he desires to do that he will put the Bill through as it stands; but I tell him very plainly that he cannot coerce the Opposition into submitting any argument in connexion with the referenda proposals in the way he desires. We have our own way of dealing with this matter, and in a free country we should be permitted to have that way. We should at least be entitled to put our views before the electors as fully and with as little restriction as the honorable gentleman claims in putting his view.
– So long as honorable members opposite deal with the case they can do so.
– I tell the honorable member for Gwydir that we do not propose to deal with the case in the pamphlet. We propose to take our own course, as we have done in this House. We have our own ideas as to what should be done and the way in which it should be done. All that we claim is that we should have the same right to put our view of the matter, as the AttorneyGeneral is given to put his view. I am asking for equal rights and privileges for the Opposition.
Mr.Fenton. - Honorable members opposite will get them, surely.
– We do notget them under this Bill. I think the honorable member for Maribyrnong might keep quiet.
– I will when I like.
– We cannot keep the honorable member quiet since he became a member of the Public Works Committee. Since his appointment to that Committee the honorable member seems called upon to defend the whole of the proceedings of the Government.
– Against the honorable gentleman every time.
– And for the same intelligent reason - that he is against me every time. That is a very intelligent reason, which every one can understand.
I ask the Attorney-General to omit paragraph b of clause 3. Its omission will do no harm. If he does not omit that provision, the effect of the Bill will be to apply a “ gag “ effectually to the party on this side in connexion with the pamphlet the Government propose to issue. As to the other clauses of the Bill, I can only say that I do not know why it is proposed to alter the existing measure. I do not know why it is proposed to appoint a Board of three to consider the arguments instead of leaving the matter as it was loft on the last occasion. What is the reason for the proposed change ? I thought that it was admitted that the mere machinery of the measure passed on the last occasion was quite all right. I do not take so much exception to the other provisions of the Bill, but I tell the AttorneyGeneral once more that, whether it is so intended or not - and I hope it is not intended - paragraph b of clause 3 will have the effect of preventing the party on this side taking their own course in connexion with the referenda proposals in the same way as the Government expect to take their own course. In other words, it will shut us out of the pamphlet altogether.
.- The original measure makes provision for a statement of the arguments for and against a proposed law to amend the Constitution. It is proposed by this Bill to amend the existing Act, so that, while still retaining that provision, there will be an obligation to confine the arguments used to the constitutional merits of the proposals. The effect of that is to limit the scope of the existing Act.
– Yes, of the Act ; but not of the understanding.
– There was no understanding.
– I am dealing with our legislation. It is now proposed to appoint a statutory Board, and we must consider what, if we were members of the Board, we should regard as our duty under this Bill. Speaking of the members of the Board personally, they would probably not permit themselves to be influenced by sinister motives, but no matter how highly qualified they might be, this Bill would cast upon them a very wide responsibility. It is quite probable that under this Bill we are asking the members of the proposed Board to have a wider knowledge of what would be constitutional arguments than they could possibly acquire. If we make provision for arguments for or against the proposed law that will be sufficiently wide; but if, as is proposed by this amending Bill, the arguments are to be confined to the constitutional merits of the proposals, the Board, in reviewing them, will be confined strictly to what the Courts would define as the constitutional effect of the proposed amendments. We shall not be in a position to challenge the decision of the Board, and if, for instance, a question is raised, such as has often been raised in this House, by moving the previous question or by such a motion as that a Bill be read this day six months, will the Board regard that as outside the constitutional merits of the proposals ? If the electors are asked - as, for instance, I think the Constitution, in spirit, provides that they may be asked - whether the proposals are premature, will that be considered outside their constitutional merits? If, speaking in the spirit of the measure, the second reading of which has only just been moved by the Minister of Home Affairs, it is suggested that the proposals are premature, inasmuch as it will not be possible under existing circumstances to have the greatest number of the electors present to record their votes upon them, it may be held that that would not be dealing solely with the constitutional merits of the Bill. If we argue that, in view of possible changes as the result of the war, a possible re-arrangement of our constitutional machinery, a greater degree of statutory co-ordination with other parts of the Empire, this is not the time to raise these questions, will the proposed Board consider such arguments in support of the view that the referenda proposals are premature, as outside the constitutional merits of those proposals? If such arguments are put forward, it will be competent for the Board to say that such considerations should not be allowed to go before the electors in the pamphlet. At the same time, such arguments might very profitably be submitted to the people when they are called upon to consider, not an Act of Parliament, but fundamental alterations in the provisions of the Constitution. The expediency of such changes now, or their postponement until public opinion ripens or becomes manifest to a greater extent than it is at present, may well be amongst the considerations dealt with in the pamphlet. It may be a question whether we can secure a solution of the problems pressing upon us by the proposals now made, which deal mainly with amendments of the Constitution as it stands, and do not to any extent affect the Federal relations which may be established between the central Government and the Governments of the States. 1 put it to the Attorney-General to say whether he thinks such matter as I have suggested should be excluded from the considerations which ought to be submitted to the electors. I do not believe that the honorable gentleman would exclude them.
– What I want to know is what my honorable friends opposite propose to put into the pamphlet.
– I can quite understand that.
– Let me finish what I propose to say. I should not regard such matter as the honorable member has suggested as permissible.
– Then, speaking politically, let me say that I think that by excluding such matter the honorable gentleman would be doing, no doubt unconsciously, a gross injustice to the electors.
– I think it would be permissible under the law as it stands, but not under the understanding.
-I think it ought to be permissible.
– I think that under the understanding with Mr. Deakin it would not have been allowed.
Mir. GLYNN. - I am dealing with an Act of Parliament.
– And I am dealing with an understanding.
– I am not concerned in the least about Mr. Deakin’s understand ing. I am dealing with an Act of this Parliament.
– It was a solemn understanding.
– Mr. Deakin gave no such undertaking.
– I do not (really mind: I do not care whether. Mr. Deakin gave such an undertaking or did not. I deny the right of Mr. Deakin or of any one else to limit my rights under an Act of this Parliament. We have an Act of Parliament under which it would have been permissible to submit these arguments for the consideration of the electors, but under this amending Bill it would be possible to deny the electors the right to consider such arguments in the proposed pamphlet. What we have to consider is whether, in the circumstances, we should agree to pass such an amending measure. Has there been any abuse of the rights or privileges confirmed under the existing Act?
– It is proposed, according to the right honorable member for Parramatta, to follow the course taken on the last occasion.
– Is that - the statement by the Leader of the Opposition to-day, as to the line of the argument - the reason for the introduction of. this Bill? If that be so, the measure has been introduced before a declaration to that effect of the intention of the Leader of the Opposition has been made. ‘ The Bill is apparently to have a sort of retrospective effect upon the possible intention of the Opposition. We are to understand that this Bill has been introduced because the Government have anticipated that a certain line of action will be taken by the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Parramatta said so over and over again.
– I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition ever said any such thing in this House. The right honorable gentleman declared the position of the Opposition in relation to the referenda proposals when they were before this House, but - and I speak subject to correction - he did not declare what was to be done as regards the pamphlet.
– That is so.
– Still we are told by the Attorney-General that what the Government assume to be the intention of the Opposition is the sole reason for the introduction of this measure. I ask, “ Has there been any abuse of the right which was conferred by Parliament by means of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1900-1912 ?” I do not think so. Yet it is proposed to leave the determination of what arguments shall be presented to the electors to a Board consisting of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Clerk of this House, and the Clerk of the Senate, because we are not competent to decide them. I do not think it is just to cast such a duty on any Board. It will inevitably mean the exclusion from the pamphlet of a good deal of matter which ought to be presented to the electors.
– Does the Act. as it stands, preclude improper imputations being presented in the arguments submitted to electors?
– I think so. Imputations are not arguments. Surely the Attorney-General does not ask the electors to assume that personal abuse is argument?
– No. But it might be possible for imputations to be presented’ in the place of arguments.
– Imputations are not arguments.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– Arguments are matters which relate to the constitutionality of the proposed amendments-
– Who is to insure that the imputation of motives will not be introduced ?
– Whoever is administering the Department.
– Not at all.
– The Attorney-General can insure that.
– He cannot.
– The Minister administering the Department or the Printer–
– Who is he to say what is the law ?
– Does the AttorneyGeneral think the Minister cannot say that gross personal abuse is not argument ?
– Bub he is not bound to say it.
– What are Ministers for bub to exercise some common sense and intelligence ?
– Does the honorable member suggest that one party shall criticise and eliminate objectionable portions from the arguments presented ?
– I do not. But I say that there are shades of differences of opinion of which we cannot determine the relevancy. Such matters should be allowed to pass. On the other hand, there may be matters introduced which any man in the street could say were not relevant to the issue, but were merely vulgar abuse of other people. It is the duty of the Minister bo eliminate them. There are some things of axiomatic clearness. One. of these is that vulgar abuse should not be permitted. On the occasion of the last referenda no abuse of either political party found a place in the pamphlet issued. Why, then, should legislation of this character be introduced merely because the Leader of the Opposition intends to deal with the opportuneness of the proposed constitutional amendments ? Should not the people be informed as to their in opportuneness? I submit that the electors will decide generally, whether in view of the existence of war conditions and of the absence from the Commonwealth of a great body of voters, the proposed amendments are opportune. The body of electors in question is entitled more than any other section of the community to make itself heard upon these proposals, because its members are now engaged in defending the Empire. This aspect of the matter is relevant to the question, “Do you or do you not approve of these proposals?” The elector is entitled to say, “ I do not approve of them now.”
– All that can be said on the public platforms.
– And all the arguments presented in the pamphlet can be presented on the public platforms of this country. The Attorney-General has made out no case for the insertion of the proposed new section, and, therefore, it ought not to be insisted upon.
– I am very much surprised that this Bill has been presented for- our consideration at a time when economy should be rigidly practised, and when the Government are afforded an opportunity of saving a little money. I well remember the pamphlets which were printed and circulated on the occasion of the last referenda. They re- presented an absolute waste of public money. The only persons who read them were those who knew something about the questions that were being referred to the electors. The electors who did not understand those questions, and who endeavoured to read the pamphlets, were more or less mystified by them. The arguments embodied in the pamphlets were good enough in themselves, but they were valueless from the stand-point of enlightening the public. I noticed that great quantities of those pamphlets remained unopened at thevarious country postoffices which I visited in my own State. At the present time the Government are exhorting privateindividuals to husband their resources, in order that we may be able to hold on with British tenacity to the end of the present war. Yet here is an opportunity to save £15,000, and they refuse to avail themselves of it.
– On the occasion of the last referenda did not the honorable member himself quote extensively from the argumentspresented in the pamphlets that were issued?
– I may have done so. But that circumstance merely goes to show that those arguments never reached the public mind unaided. Nearly every honorable member knows enough about the proposed amendments of the Constitution to enable him to formulate his own arguments upon them. The new sections which it is proposed to insert in the principal Act are a little bit of Prussianism, which might well be abandoned. The issue of pamphlets will be just as fruitless at the forthcoming referenda as it was on the occasion of the previous referenda. To prosecute the course proposed will be an absolute waste of £15,000. I am sorry that the referenda are to be taken at all. The present is quite an inopportune time to refer these constitutional questions to the electors, as I think their verdict will show. To superadd to the expenditure upon that referenda the sum of £15,000 for the printing of pamphlets, borders on the criminal. I trust that the Government will recognise the way in which their duty lies.
– I trust that the Attorney-General will look closely into the phraseology of proposed new section 6b. It reads -
The arguments prepared under the provisions of the last preceding section shall deal solely- with the constitutional merits of the proposed law as a proposed amendment of the Constitution, and shall not contain any matter which docs not deal solely with those merits of the proposed law.
Thus, when an amendment of the Constitution is proposed, the pamphlet issued must contain arguments for and against it; but those arguments must deal with the constitutional merits of the proposed amendment. In other words, they must deal, not merely with the merits of the amendment, but with its constitutional merits. If, for example, an argument is presented in favour of an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of trade and commerce, that argument must be limited to the constitutional merits of the proposed amendment.
– I do not agree with the honorable member’s interpretation of the proposed new section.
– That is what it says.
– It is not.
– It says that the arguments shall deal solely with the constitutional merits of the proposed law as a proposed amendment of the Constitution. “We know the meaning of the word “ merits.”
– It means What virtue will the Constitution have if it be amended in the direction sought, as against the virtue it possesses now?”
– If what I have stated be not correct, obviously the word “ constitutional “ should be omitted. What is the meaning of that word? When the Court is called upon to interpret an Act of Parliament, it carefully weighs each word of the Statute. Parliament is not supposed to use a word which has no meaning. Each word must mean something. The Bill limits the arguments to the “ constitutional merits,” but there may be others. To say that the alteration of the Constitution should be adopted because it would effect a better distribution of power would be to put forward a constitutional merit, but to say that it should be adopted because it would be financially better for Australia would not be. The opponents of the proposed law would be put in the position of being compelled therefore to deal only with the arguments of its advocates, covering the constitutional merits of the proposal. That is, its advocates would put forward. their case, and its opponents would he confined to answering that case.
– What is a constitutional merit?
– A merit that has reference to the Constitution as a constitution. ‘
– As an instrument for legislation.
– Yes, as an instrument conferring powers of legislation. We might come to the conclusion that the case of the other side had no merits, and desire to put forward arguments on our own account. We should certainly be entitled to put forward constructive arguments of our own.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 7.J/.5 p.m.
– At the adjournment I was pointing out that this Bill, as compared with the 1912 Act, will place an extraordinary limitation upon those whose duty it will be to submit arguments for or against the proposed alterations of the Constitution, because it provides that those arguments must be strictly confined to the constitutional merits of the proposed law. Under the 1912 Act we would have been empowered to put the complete constructive or destructive case. Opponents would have been entitled to show the destructive effect of the proposed alteration upon the Constitution; they could have discussed its effect on our system of government; could have shown how, in recent years, there had been an enormous extension of the central powers in connexion with our Imperial relationships, and could have pointed out how extraordinary it was that, while the general scope and power of the Constitution was to extend our influence from an Imperial stand-point, the amendments evinced a desire to interfere with the smallest detail of local administrative government. Under this measure, our powers in presenting arguments will be seriously impaired and weakened, if not destroyed, because the Bill will confine us solely to the constitutional merits of the proposed law. All exceptional matter, perhaps not strictly of a constitutional character, is to be eliminated. Those who are in favour of the proposed law are required to put the merits of the case, but those who are against it are told what they cannot do. Their statements shall not contain any matter which does npt deal with those merits of the proposed law.
– It does not place any limitation upon those who are required to state the case for the alteration.
– Their powers are wide, but the case against it must contain only matter dealing with those merits of the proposed law. In other words, it means that those who oppose the alteration will have to make out a case dealing solely with its merits. Therefore, they will have to cogitate and think out what are the merits of the proposal, and, having done that, make out their case against those merits. That is nol; fair.
– It is a very simple matter.
– It is exceedingly simple, because it is limited; but is it fair?
– I prefer the American system.
– It is apparent that the Minister has Unification in mind, but if we attempted to make out a case against Unification, it would be ruled out, because the Bill states that the arguments must deal solely with the constitutional merits of the proposed alteration. After all, we have to look at the substance of the proposal. What is it? We are asked to deal with an amendment to alter the instrument expressing the national’ will of the people.
– It is an instrument that limits the power of the people, too.
– It limits the power of the people in the Federation, but not the power of the people as represented in the States and in the Commonwealth. The whole power resides in the Commonwealth and in the States. It is only a question of distribution - in whom shall it reside? This is tho instrument that we are now dealing with. But this Bill will not allow of the case for an alteration of the Constitution being put in its most complete aspect, so that the people may be in a position to grapple with the problem, and give a reasonable and just decision.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will not hammer away at that any more, because I am perfectly sure the clause does not mean what he says. However, I am perfectly agreeable, in order to make it clearer, to leave out the word “constitutional,” and say “the merits’’ of the proposed law.
– In the interpretation of Acts a Court has to keep in mind the language employed by Parliament, and I presume the gentlemen who will interpret this provision will be in much the same position as a Court.
– As I have said, I am quite agreeable to remove any ambiguity from the clause.
– That will not touch the other objection, that those who are opposed to the proposed alteration of the Constitution must not introduce any matter which does not deal with “ those merits of the proposed law.” “ Those “ must refer to something.
– Then with the amendment, it will read with the merits “ of the proposed law.
– It is a mistake to have words of limitation on one side or the other. The test ought to be - Are the arguments used really relevant, and substantially relevant, to the issue before the country?
– Surely it is not relevant to impute motives.
– I do not think that an imputation of motives will be regarded as relevant in this House. When we are dealing with a Bill in this House we are entitled, at the second-reading stage, to show reason why it shall not pass, and exactly the same privileges ought to be conferred on opponents to a measure for a proposed alteration of the Constitution. I hope, therefore, that the AttorneyGeneral will be prepared to widen the provision.
– Yes, I am prepared to widen it that far.
– If the Minister is prepared to do that, the Bill will certainly “bc more acceptable so far as I am concerned. There is, however, another point. Is it advisable to have a Board constituted- as suggested, and including the Clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives? Our Clerks are men of the strictest impartiality; always ready to assist members in every way possible; but, in this proposal, it is the intention of the Government to place them in a position of revising the arguments of members and accepting or rejecting statements in connexion with the proposed alterations of the Constitution.
– They will be adjudicating between parties in the House.
– They should not be placed in such an invidious position. It is much better to leave the matter as it was under the old system.
– What was the old system?
– I think it was left to the good sense of members representing the two big political parties in Parliament. We know that there are thousands of people whom the living voice cannot reach on either side of politics, and by means of thiB Bill it is desired that arguments temperately expressed in a pamphlet shall be placed before them. The law does not lay down rules for the good conduct and good taste of individuals in the community.
– I think it does in this House.
– Of course, if members become unruly, there are certain Standing Orders under which they can be controlled, and which guide them in the presentation of arguments for or against any particular measure. Surely, then, we can leave it to their good taste to place the case before the people in the pamphlet, just as they are entitled to express their views from a public platform. I take it that the Government propose that this Bill shall deal only with the specific alteration under consideration.
– Tes; but appropriate for. any other.
– There has never been any reason, in connexion with any referendum, for arguments employed by one party or the other. I mean that both cases were put in a manner which each party believed to be fair. There was no such utter irrelevancy as to call for the introduction of this legislation. It seems extraordinary to bring in a measure to deal with cases which, so far, have not occurred. If the intention of the authors of the Bill is to practically say to the members of the Opposition, “We will not allow you, in the statement of your case, to put certain arguments which we think ought not to be put,” I contend that it is not a fair way to legislate. If the Ministerial party intend to say to the Opposition, “We believe that you are going to include certain things in your statement, and, in order to block you, we propose to pass this measure,” that, I submit, is carrying the methods of party government to an extreme.
– Why should you impute a motive to me?
– I am not doing so.
– What are you doing, then?
– A little while ago the Attorney-General said that this legislation was intended to apply to this particular occasion, and I ask, “ What abuse has arisen to justify the Government in taking this course ?” I submit that no abuse of the existing law has taken place. I say that if it is intended to block the proper statement of our case, it is treating us unfairly.
– I said to the Leader of the Opposition at the start: “Put your case, and I will listen to you.”
– A serious conflict is waging throughout the world, and the real issue before the nation is, not whether the Constitution should or should not be altered, but whether the people are going to live under the Australian Constitution or a foreign Constitution, and, therefore, the minds of the public ought not to be distracted from prosecuting the war with all our energies. Would not that be a fair argument to put before the electors, and would it not be proper for the Opposition to say to them, “ You should not pass the referenda proposals at this time, for those reasons”? That, I contend, would be a fair thing to do. This Bill will not allow that statement of the case to be put. Yet I submit that it would be a fair statement to place before the electors. The Attorney-General could not find fault with any speaker for putting that argument to the public.
– I should not take any exception to you doing it as often as you like on the platform; but I say that it has nothing to do with the merits of the proposals.
– That is quite true; but what is before the people of Australia is not the merits of the proposals as a matter of academic theory, but whether, as a matter of practical common-sense politics, they should alter their Constitution in the present crisis. If the Bill accomplishes that purpose, as undoubtedly it will, that is doing an injustice to the people of Australia as a whole. I hope that the Attorney-General will be con tent to take clauses 2 and 4, and will not press for the other amendments.
– The Attorney-General has not put forward any just reason why this measure should be passed, particularly clause 3. Whilst there might have been some pretence that it is necessary to enact clause 2, the whole argument has, for the most part, turned on the other provisions, which certainly bear the appearance of having been introduced by reason of what has taken place in this House, and with the deliberate design to prejudice the other side. The Attorney-General may try to get away from that position; but that is the impression necessarily conveyed to the minds of those sitting here. The terms of the Referendum Act itself are of the most general and reasonable character, and we have had the advantage of taking a vote of the people under its provisions. Section 6a reads -
If, within eight weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses, there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
I ask the honorable and learned gentleman to give his attention to the reasonable and fair terms of the Act which it is now proposed to amend -
That permits those who are in favour of a proposed law to state their case in their own way -
It will bo seen that, by the terms of the existing law, the fullest opportunity is provided for a reasonable statement of the case, without limitation.
– By whom?
– By both parties.
– It does not say so.
– It does.
– Now, read it again.
– The section provides that an argument in favour of a proposed law may be put forward by oneside, and then it says that an argument against the proposed law may be put forward by the other side, representative of a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted against the proposed law. .
– Does not that include every person on that side?
– Read it again - keep on reading it till you see that it does.
– Has my honorable and learned friend found any objection from this side to the terms of the law as it stands?
– You did not vote against it.
– Has my honorable and learned friend found any objection, so far as this side of the House is concerned, to the existing law as it stands?
– What I say is, “You have appealed to the law; there is the law.”
– The law Dermits the Opposition, if we think proper, to make a statement.
– It will not.
– I do not agree with my honorable and learned friend, and if that is his only excuse for the introduction of this measure, I do not think that it is a valid one, nor do I believe that he would take the technical objection that there should bo no statement by us if wo so desire.
– It is not a technical objection at all.
– That is a provision which has been tested by experience, with the result that the best statement which could be put forward by the other side was submitted. I am sure that the Attorney-General would be the last to object to the manner in which we on this side stated our case against the proposals. Both sides were satisfied with the pro° vision at that time, and it was a fair one; but, forsooth, the honorable and learned -gentleman finds it necessary, at this juncture, and in relation to this special referendum, to prejudice this side of the House by the introduction of this measure We protest against its enactment. We on this side are substantially in- terested in the measure, and we ought not, 1 submit, to suffer the prejudice which it is proposed to create - of course, supported by a majority on the other side. In other -words, the honorable and learned gentle man is taking advantage of the Ministerial majority practically to shut our mouths in regard to the statement of our case against the referenda proposals. That is a very unreasonable condition of affairs. The Attorney-General ought to listen to the protests of honorable members on this side, who are interested in the character of the answer to bo given to the statement in favour of the referenda. Nothing is suggested which would prejudice the argument for the other side, but we claim that the argument against the referenda will be limited and prejudiced by the terms of this measure, introduced as it is to deal with these proposals alone. I submit, in all fairness and reason, that the honorable and learned gentleman has no right to place us in such a position, particularly in view of what has occurred. The unfairness of the terms of the Bill have already been pointed out by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. Whilst I object to this proceeding and to the provisions of the Bill from beginning to end, there is no doubt that the objections which have been taken are solid ones, because the measure most unfairly limits the character of the replies which are to be given, and will shut down those desirous of making a fair statement from this side of the House. Certain amendments have been suggested which, no doubt, will widen the measure and remove the sting to some extent from the particular provisions referred to. The provisions are improved from that stand-point, but still they will remain grossly unfair to this side, who desire to state their case in their own way. Surely there should be as much latitude given to the members of the Opposition to use every argument that is relevant as is allowed on the floor of this House, but such a thing is not to be permitted. The terms of the measure will prevent reasons from being used which otherwise could be adduced. For instance, we shall not bc able to use the argument that, by reason of the absence of a vast number of the population who are deeply interested in the referenda, this is not the time to appeal to the country. Is not that very unjust and unfair to the members on this side? Wo are at liberty to use that argument on thu floor of the House, but we are to be denied the opportunity to argue in the statement of our case that this is an inopportune time to take a vote of the electors on these proposals. Why should our honorable friends on the other side deliberately block us from making our representations in the pamphlet which is to be submitted for perusal by the people ? Although the Attorney-General may profess that such a thing is not intended, I assure him that we shall be unjustly and ungenerously prejudiced by reason of the limitations contained in this measure. The provision for the constitution of a Board to adjudicate between the two parties here is almost amusing. We, of course, have the greatest respect for the gentlemen who arc to constitute the Board, but surely, in matters of party politics, in regard to which the strongest feeling exists between the two parties, is it not unreasonable that those gentlemen should be called on to embroil themselves as between the parties, and to say which party is right and which party is wrong? It is a very unfair position in which to put the gentlemen. Apart from the humiliation to Parliament itself, I submit that it is grossly unfair to ask public servants, no matter how respected they are, to adjudicate on the merits of the arguments put forward by two opposing parties in regard to proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. At this juncture, when we are making every effort to assist the Government with their legislation, it is ungenerous to handicap us by preventing us from submitting to the people a statement which we think should be put before them.
.- The law as it stands provides for the submission to the people of an argument in favour of, and an argument against, any proposed alteration of the Constitution ; but to my mind the statement that this is or is not the time to submit such a proposal to the people is not an argument in favour of or against that proposal. The law ties down the parties to statements regarding the merits of the proposed alteration. But no provision has hitherto been made for deciding whether the conditions are being violated or not, and the Bill provides for a Board to review the arguments. If the word “constitutional” be struck out, every reasonable argument for or against the merit of the proposed alteration can be put before the electors.
Contentions like those of the honorable member for Darling Downs, that, having regard to the war, and the expense, and for other reasons, this is an unsuitable time for submitting a proposed law to the people, constitute argument which is appropriate when a proposal for the submismon to the people of a proposed alteration of the Constitution is before Parliament; but the submission of the proposed law having been determined, and the country having been committed to the cost of taking a vote upon it, the statement that the time is unsuitable is not. an argument affecting the merits of the proposal, and no harm would be done by omitting it from the referendum pamphlet. I agree with all that has been said regarding the constitution of the proposed Board. The Clerk of this House and the Clerk of the Senate are gentlemen who keep their political opinions to themselves; I suppose that not even their intimate friends know their views on political subjects. To compel them to decide whether the arguments of the Government or of the Opposition go beyond what should be permitted would be to place them in an unfair position, and might embroil them in party strife. The Chief Electoral Officer is to sit with them; but I think that that gentleman would look at things from a totally different stand-point, and that if there were any division of opinion, the Clerks would be on one side, and he on the other. The arguments for and against should be confined to the merits of the proposed law, and if a Board is appointed to decide whether the arguments prepared for publication in the pamphlet are permissible, it should be composed of persons other than those now mentioned.
.- Had the Bill been introduced to repeal the principal Act it would have had my hearty support, because there could be no greater waste of public money than the” printing in a pamphlet of arguments for and against the proposed laws, and the sending of a copy of them to every elector. Before the last vote was taken, I travelled over a great part of Australia, and entered many scores of post-offices, to ascertain if the pamphlets were reaching the people. In every post-office there was a huge pile of them which could not be delivered. In many instances, six or seven pamphlets were sent to the same house, and in house after house not one pamphlet would be opened. Probably not more than 5 per cent, of the pamphlets sent out were opened, and of those that were opened not 5 per cent, were read. Yet it is proposed to go through the same farce again this time, and thus to waste another £15,000. It is not much to be wondered at that every session fresh taxation proposals are introduced. Personally, I found the arguments in the pamphlet which had been prepared to recommend the proposed new laws, excellent material for combating the proposals. I was able to show their inconsistency, and was much obliged to those who had prepared them. No doubt, honorable members opposite would say the same of our statement, and in any lengthy statement of the kind there are sure to be many inconsistencies. All the arguments for and against any proposed law are to be found at length in the Hansard reports, which are published broadcast, but beyond the readers of those reports, who, comparatively speaking, are few, hardly any one will take the trouble to read the special pamphlets. But the Leader of the Opposition has shown that, should the Bill be passed as it stands, this party will be prevented from stating its case in the pamphlet that is to be published. We cannot dissociate the introduction of the Bill from the circumstances that have surrounded these proposals within and without the House. When the Constitution Alteration Bills were brought down from the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment affirming the desirability of deferring their consideration for a definite period. As honorable members opposite know, we desire to put the arguments in favour of that proposal before the people. They know, too, that, should the Bill be passed as it stands, we shall not be able to do that. Therefore, should that happen, honorable members opposite cannot avoid the imputation that their design was to prevent us from putting these arguments before the people. The smiles on their faces make it evident that the Bill will do that. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that, should the Bill pass as it stands, the Opposition will take no part in preparing a statement for publication in the pamphlet, and therefore £15,000 of public money will be spent on a pamphlet which will contain the political views of one party only. Over 100,000 citizens are absent from Australia, performing the greatest duty that citizens can perform, and in their absence the people should not be asked to come to a determination vitally affecting the government of the country. Those who, above all others, are entitled to express an “opinion on any proposed alteration of the Constitution should have an opportunity to do so. Why are facilities for voting not being provided for the men at the front? Honorable members opposite know that they cannot be provided, but that if they could, there would be a solid vote from Gallipoli against the proposed laws.
– Letters written from the front say “Go on with the referendum,”-
– I have seen letters containing a contrary statement - letters in which it is said that the present proposal is a scandal and disgrace to the country. The Opposition are being intentionally prevented from putting their case before the people.
– That is not an argument against this proposition.
– It is a very “proper argument against it. Surely it is only reasonable that every citizen should be in a position to say whether he approves or disapproves of great constitutional alterations like those proposed by the Government. Surely it is fair to point out that when so many of our citizens are absent from Australia important issues like these should not be decided. A hundred thousand votes might carry or reject them, and while these citizens are absent we have no right to ask the people to determine such serious issues.
– But are not the people aware that these men are away ?
– We should be in a position to put this argument fairly and fully before them. This Bill, however, is designedly framed to prevent that.
– The honorable member last night gave notice of motion for an alteration of the Constitution by means of a Convention.
– The House was not sitting last night, and I did not give any such notice of motion.
– On a previous occasion the honorable member gave notice of such a motion on behalf of another honorable member.
– I gave notice of a proposal not to be determined at once, but upon which the Parliament should be invited to express an opinion, with the idea of taking action later on. The notice of motion in question has nothing whatever to do with the submission of any question to the people at the present time. This Bill contains provisions which will prevent the Opposition from putting before the people the one argument which, above all others, should be addressed to them at the present time with respect to proposed alterations of the Constitution.
– Then the honorable member believes that something should be put before the people?
– No. The argument to which I refer is that the referenda proposals should not be put before the people at the present time, in view of the fact that we are at war, and that, consequently, a very large number of the electors of Australia are absent. Honorable members opposite knew that we intended to submit that argument. The Leader of the Opposition made it abundantly evident that we intended to fight the referenda proposals on those lines, pleading that this was not the moment-
– The honorable member must not go into details.
– I do not propose to do so. My sole object is to show that this Bill will prevent us from putting before the people the one particular argument that we desire to put, and which honorable members opposite know we are anxious to submit to them. It is, therefore, the most effective “ gag “ that could be applied to us. They are aware of that fact. They are also aware that the Leader of the Opposition has stated that if these provisions are insisted upon we shall take no part in the issue of the pamphlet, so that they will be using £15,000 of public money to put their own party political views before the people without any answer being attached to them. It is difficult to understand how, in a country which claims to be a free Democracy, the leaders of that Democracy should be prepared to adopt the most undemocratic course of preventing the representatives of the people using one of the forms provided by the Parliament itself for putting their views before the electors. In conclusion, I desire to make a brief reference to the composition of the proposed Board. It is very difficult to secure one that will be entirely impartial, and perhaps the Board, as proposed to be constituted, will be as impartial as any that could be created. It is most unfair, however, to the servants of this Parliament to ask them to judge as between the parties in this Parliament. It may be possible to find three other public servants who are equally competent to judge in a matter of this kind, but it is most unfair that the servants of this Parliament should be called upon to adjudicate as between party and party, and it may give rise later on to a great deal of trouble in the Legislature.
– I desire to reply briefly to statements that have been made during this debate. In the first place let me say most emphatically that it is not my wish to prevent honorable members opposite stating their case in any way they please. I made that clear at the outset. I told theLeader of the Opposition before the debate commenced that I should be glad to listen to any suggestions he might make, but I pointed out to him and to the House, when speaking, that the law as it at present stood was most unsatisfactory. I notice that the Opposition, in criticising this measure, have carefully re- framed from dealing with the undertaking given by Mr. Deakin, then Leader of the Opposition, which was read, and ought to be read, with the Act of 1912. Had the undertaking not been given, provision would have been made in the Act that the merits of the case only could be dealt with. 1 strongly protest against the repudiation of that understanding given by Mr. Deakin, and which went as far as I propose to go in the Bill now before us. The undertaking given by Mr. Deakin was to adopt entirely the suggestions put forward by me. Mr. Deakin, referring to the argument proposed to be circulated, said -
It will differ from a parliamentary debate inasmuch as there is to be no personal reflections or imputations. . . , The argument should be one entirely on the merits of each question - “Shall this be accepted orrejected? These are the reasons why it should be accepted; these are the reasons why it should be rejected.”
He went on to say -
Who, then, is to act if it is suggested that some of the matter proposed to bo introduced is irrelevant, or that personal motives are being imputed? I think there must be some third person whom they could consult.
To which I replied, “ That the two should agree upon a third”; and to this Mr.
Deakin agreed. It was agreed that there should be no imputation of personal motives and no personalities ; that the debate should be relevant; that it should be confined to the merits of the proposal. Taking the Trade and Commerce amendment, for instance, the argument was to be confined to such statements as, “ Why you should vote for it: Why you should vote against it. Why it was necessary in the form proposed: Why the form proposed went further than was necessary.” The present Opposition clearly understood, and followed along, those lines, because it was suggested as one reason why the people should not accept the proposals submitted in 1913 that they went too far. The Opposition suggested in their argument against the amendments as an alternative - not, of course, to be put to the people - the proposals put forward by the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Darling Downs, and Mr. Deakin. In short, the arguments on both sides were confined to the merits of the proposed laws. But this condition was the result of the undertaking between the parties, and was not provided for by law. It is very obvious, therefore, that a measure of this sort is absolutely necessary. Honorable members opposite now repudiate altogether that understanding.
– This Bill is a repudiation of if.
– The honorable member may say so if he pleases. The dry bones of the Act of 1912, plus the understanding arrived at in Mr. Deakin’s own words, which both parties accepted and acted on, make a measure practically identical with the Bill now before us. On the last occasion we endeavoured to get some persons to act as a Board. I approached the Chief Justice ofVictoria. He declined to act. I approached others; they also declined to act. The matter for the pamphlet was ultimately sent to the Electoral Commissioner, who, so far as I know, accepted what was sent in by my honorable friends opposite, and by our party, and issued it to the public in that form. I desire to make it perfectly clear that while honorable members opposite may take up any attitude they like, they cannot, under the Bill, say that they propose to state their case on the merits of the proposals. They do not propose anything of the sort. They propose to say, in effect, “The Labour party are now raising party strife at a time when the nation is locked in a struggle in which either the Empire or Germany must go down for ever. In doing this they are guilty of the most disloyal and improper action.” If that is not imputing improper motives, then I do not know the meaning of words. I do not say they are not entitled to do that as a party, but if they do, they cannot claim to approach this matter in a non-party attitude.
– Is the honorable member doing so?
– Certainly. I am asking the Opposition to deal only with the merits of the case. My right honorable friend does not propose to do that. Hedoes not intend to say to the people, “ We, the Opposition, declared ourselves in favour of an amendment of the Constitution, not at some distant date, butbetween the elections of 1914 and the next general election in 1916 or 1917.” As a matter of fact, the right honorable member’s platform, which was issued and preached after the war - the last election was waged when the battle of the Marne alone saved us, and all of us, from destruction
– That is not so, and the honorable member knows that it is not.
– That is grossly improper; I do not know.
– Then the honorable member ought to know. We did not advance the argument after the battle of which he spoke.
– It was in the right honorable member’s programme.
– Issued long before that battle - issued, indeed, long before the war.
– The right honorable gentleman declined absolutely to suspend party hostilities after the war broke out, although he was asked to do so. He said that the rights of self-government of the Australian people must be exercised, war or no war. Now he talks about suspending party strife. His belated conversion to a suspension of party hostilities is very convenient.
– Your quick conversion to the opposite is equally convenient.
– I must ask the right honorable gentleman to discontinue his interjections.
– I rise to a point of order. If I am to be tied down, and not allowed to make interjections, I must ask you, sir, to rule that the honorable member must discuss the principles of the Bill, and not matter relating to the last election.
– I was not in the chair at the time, but I believe some strong statements with regard to this matter were made from both sides of the chamber, and I understand that the AttorneyGeneral is now replying to them.
– That is not so.
– It is for me to judge, not the honorable member.
– Since you did not hear them, how can you judge?
– When the Speaker is on his feet, the House must remain silent. A few moments ago the honorable member for Richmond said that the Attorney-General and others were attempting to “gag” the Opposition for certain reasons which he proceeded to set forth. The Attorney-General is now in order in replying to those charges. I shall take care that he does not diverge from the question before the Chair, and I now ask him to confine his remarks to the question.
– If he is to discuss the recent election I am not compelled to remain in the chamber to hear him.
– I shall confine my remarks to the question, but as you, Mr. Speaker, have said, I must be allowed to take some notice of what has been said on the other side of the chamber. Every argument used by my friend opposite was an attack on the party in power, and in an imputation of our motives. He says he intends to tell the people that he would not discuss the merits of these proposals, but confine himself to stating in his own way that to take a referendum at this time was grossly improper. And yet he says that this is not an imputation of motives !
The right honorable gentleman’s party were invited to discuss the matter quietly and calmly on the floor of the House, but they declined to do so, and now that both parties are asked to prepare a statement of the case for and against the proposal, they are not prepared to stand by the letter of the law, which says that “The Case For” is to be put to the people by the majority who vote for an alteration of the Constitution, and “ The Case Against “ by the minority who vote against it. On this occasion honorable members opposite did not vote upon the matter. They were on the horns of a dilemma, because they have among them men who, in the matter of amendments of the Constitution, are prepared to go further than honorable members on this side. For instance, in May of this year one honorable member opposite declared that there ought to be Unification, so far, at any rate, as taxation goes, only one taxing power in Australia. How could that honorable member say that our proposals were improper? Therefore, we had that dramatic episode of honorable members opposite walking out of the chamber. And after the exodus the deluge! They are asked to allow them to state a case that they did not have the courage to make on the floor of the House. If they have a case, why do they not stand to it? Why should these proposals not be submitted to the people ?
I am prepared to adopt one of two courses. If honorable members will discuss the proposed alterations of the Constitution on their merits, I am prepared to alter the law, and provide that the “ argument “ shall be confined to the merits alone. If not, let each side say what it pleases. I ‘om content to do that, but I am not content to go into this contest if we are to be bound and honorable members opposite are to be free. Let honorable members take whichever course they choose. I do not care which they choose, but they must choose one. Either they must deal with the matter on its merits, abstaining from imputation of motives and personalities, or they must say, “ You state your argument and we shall state ours. Let us do the best we can. Do not bother about an umpire. Let the people be the judges as to whose case is the better and sounder.”
– That is a fair proposition.
– Of course it was, but it was very different to the arrangement at the last referenda. Let me quote the words of Mr. Deakin, speaking of the “ argument “ -
It will differ from a parliamentary debate inasmuch as there are to be no personal reflections or imputations.
Mr. Deakin said that even names were not to be mentioned, and that “ the argument should be entirely on the merits of each question “ - not as my friend says, “ the question ought not to be put at all,” because the party opposite have always held that the question should not be put to the people. In spite of that belief they agreed “ that the argument should be entirely on the merits of each question,” and they went into the campaign on that cry. But they received a very severe shock when the result of the vote was made known. Converted because the people were within an ace of accepting the proposals, they then put them on their platform. They refused to put them to the people at the general election because, they said, these amendments ought to be put between elections. The honorable member for. Flinders said in this House, only last year -
I have always maintained that the power to refer amendments to the Constitution to the public is one which ought not, except so far as is absolutely necessary, to be exercised at the time of an election. We cannot separate these things entirely from party issues. They never have been, and they never will be, entirely separated from party considerations. They ought to be,so far as possible, divorced from party issues when the people are asked to vote upon them. They ought never, in any circumstances, to be left to the people to decide upon during the heat and turmoil of a general election…… I have always believed that this great power vested in the Australian people should be exercised wisely and sanely, and, so far as possible, at a time when they arc not subjected to the excitement and inflammation of a general election.
They went to the country with this on their platform. When they were asked to suspend party hostilities they declined to do so.The honorable member for Flinders said it was absurd to talk about such a thing. He said it was the practice of Great Britain “ to hold elections during war time.” Now they say that they propose to tell the people this is not the proper time to give to this great National Parliament the power to put an end to bickering between the States, to the power of Queensland to say that the people of another State shall have meat at 6d. a lb. or not at all, or the power of New South Wales to say that if other States do not take their butter at their price they shall not have any, that Victoria shall not have meat even though other States have plenty. Is it not a time to put an end to all that ?
– The referenda proposals will not do those things.
– Yes, it will, absolutely. I am perfectly willing to allow the law to stand as it is, with the exception of altering the eight weeks to nine weeks, on the understanding that my honorable friends opposite can say what they have to say, and we can say what we have to say ; but let there be no hollow pretence about arguing on the merits of the question when that is the very thing with which they will not and cannot deal.
– Did we not do it last time?
– Yes; but the honorable member’s party does not propose to do it now. I quite admit that honorable members could do it if they so desired. My proposition is perfectly fair - that is, to allow the law to remain as it is, subject to the two minor alterations to which the Leader of the Opposition has taken no exception, each party to say what it has to say, or to confine the discussion to a purely impersonal statement of the case, with avoidance of all personalities, imputations and subjects except those bearing on the merits of the case. It is entirely for the Opposition to decide which of these alternatives shall be adopted.
– That is fair.
– I am willing to stand by my offer.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 6a of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words “two months” and inserting in their stead the words “ ten weeks.”
Section proposed to be amended - 6a. - (1) If within eight weeks after the passage of the proposed law . . . there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
an argument in favour. . . . or
an argument against…… the Chief Electoral Officer shall . cause to be printed and posted to each elector …. a pamphlet containing the arguments…….
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That paragraph a be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following : -
by omitting the words “eight weeks” and inserting in their stead the words “ nine weeks.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Argument not to contain extraneous matter).
– From what I can gather the desire of honorable members is to leave the law exactly as it stands; and I am willing that that shall be so. This will leave the position and the law just as they were in 1912. Honorable members can prepare their statement within the time allowed, and hand it to the Chief Electoral Officer, who will exercise his discretion and be the final and sole arbiter in regard to the whole matter.
– I should like this point made quite clear. We cannot agree to this proposal. What I mean is that, if the honorable gentleman proposes to leave the matter as it was originally, and if the original law rules us out, we shall still be ruled out. Personally, I do not see that it does rule us out.
– I say that it rules you out, but it does not rule out the Senate, and you can act through the Senate. That, I say, is the law.
– Then anything rules us out which compels us to discuss the merits of these proposals?
– I certainly understood the honorable member to say that hewas satisfied with the law as it stands.
– I never said so.
– I heard the honorable member say so; and that has been the contention of honorable members right through - that they were satisfied with the law as it stands. My point is that the law as it stands, coupled with the understanding given by Mr. Deakin, to which we were all parties, prevented any personal references, imputations of motives, and all those extraneous matters which may be permissible here. Now the understanding is to be divorced from the law, which is that “ if within eight weeks after the passage of the proposed law “ there are forwarded arguments in favour, or arguments against, the Chief Electoral Officer shall “ cause to be printed and posted to each elector “ a pamphlet containing the arguments. That is the law, and I do not wish to say anything more about it. If the honorable gentleman says that, in his opinion, this rules him out, then he must be proposing to do something that is not in conformity with the understanding, and the law as it stands. In my opinion, the clause as it stands rules nothing out. It might rule out personal abuse, and I dare say it would; but I do not think it would rule out what passes by the name of argument in this august assembly. Anyhow, the Chief Electoral Officer must be the judge of what is proper in the circumstances.
– Is it the view of the Attorney-General that we are subject to the technical objection that no division took place, and that, therefore, honorable members on this side did not vote against the proposed law? The section in the principal Act reads -
If within eight weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses, there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -
An argument in favour of the proposed law, consisting of not more than 2,000 words, and authorized by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted for the proposed law; or
an argument against the proposed law, consisting of not more than 2,000 words, and authorized by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted against the proposed law,
Does the Attorney-General really and seriously mean that his party alone should be permitted to submit statements and arguments, and because the Opposition did not vote on these Bills we should be prevented from making any statement at all by reason of the technical character of these words. Or is lie prepared to so amend the Bill that each side shall be at full liberty to use its own arguments in its own way.
– Do you ask my opinion as a lawyer or as <v human being ?
– I desire the honorable gentleman to tell the Committee exactly what he means by his offer. If he means that each side is to be at liberty to make a fair statement from its own stand-point, we shall be perfectly satisfied ; but if. on the other ‘hand, the honorable gentleman means to take advantage of this technical wording, and thereby prevent any statement being made by the opponents of the referenda proposals, he is asking us to agree to a very one-sided arrangement.
– In my opinion, the law is that the members of the Opposition in this House are not entitled, but the Liberal members in the Senate are entitled, to submit arguments; but, so far as I am concerned, the Opposition may send in whatever statements they may choose to make.
– I only wish the point’ to be made perfectly clear.
– If the matter is referred to me - and I do not see whom else it can be referred to - I shall say that a statement ought to be made by the Opposition. I shall not inquire what members of the Opposition prepare the statement.
– So far as I personally am concerned, that understanding is sufficient.
– I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that technically we on this side are prevented from making a statement of any kind, inasmuch as we did not vote for or against the Referenda Bills; but, on the other hand, the Attorney-General suggests that we may have our arguments expressed in the pamphlets through the Liberal members of the Senate, who did vote against those proposals.
– The difference is between suicide and felo de se.
– I thought the members of the Opposition would have nothing to do with the referenda proposals.
– I have heard all sorts of statements made in this House lately. I can only conclude that honorable members are suffering from some grievous hallucinations, and I hope they will be undeceived very quickly. A fact that has struck me as being very peculiar in this debate is the constant iteration by the Attorney-General that we on this side are in some way departing from an understanding alleged to have been entered into years ago by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Deakin. The touching devotion of honorable members opposite to my late leader in this House is wonderful. It is a pity they did not translate that touching devotion into some more practical shape. Those honorable gentlemen have treated my late leader with the utmost contempt at every opportunity that presented itself.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the clause ?
– I am replying to the argument that we are supposed to have departed from some understanding entered into by Mr. Deakin years ago. I know nothing about any such understanding; indeed, I do not believe that Mr. Deakin ever did make an arrangement that limited the right of his side to put its case in its own way.
– He certainly did.
– What had that to do with the matter ? Was a war in progress at that time to change the whole face of tilings? Have not the Government passed half-a-dozen measures since then arising out of the war? The war seems to change nothing on this side, but everything on the other side. This kind of argument is puerile and childish. We are dealing with the situation as it exists now in the light of a world tragedy, and T submit that the case is different to-day from what it was even twelve months ago. I wish to correct another misstatement of the Attorney-General’s, that we made this argument against the referenda after the outbreak of war. I give that statement an absolute and utter denial. We did nothing of the kind, nor did we ever dream of pursuing any contentious matters while the war was in progress, and I challenge the honorable member to find any proof of his allegation in any statement made by honorable members of the Opposition.
– You said that you were going to carry on business as usual.
– We said that we intended to bring Parliament into existence at a time when there was no Parliament. The Attorney-General, finding that the idea of reconstituting the old Parliament was catching on with the public, urged us to try to avoid an election. We did what we were compelled to do, and that was to constitute a Parliament, and ever since this Parliament has been in existence the Labour party have been running from all the statements and protestations made by the AttorneyGeneral on the public platform during the election campaign. Ever since then he has been getting as far away as possible from his attitude.
– I again ask the honorable gentleman to confine himself to the clause.
– The unfortunate thing is that the honorable member has discussed all these matters, and it was held that he was in order in doing so.
– The AttorneyGeneral did not discuss these matters in Committee, or I should have taken action.
– He has discussed them in the House, and I am not permitted to reply to his statements. He was permitted to discuss them, and, I think, unfairly.
– I call upon the honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark. He must not reflect on the proceedings in the House.
– I withdraw it, but you, Mr. Chairman, see the position I am in. These statements may be made, and I am not permitted to reply to them in any way. They appear in Hansard. One officer of the House says that the AttorneyGeneral may say certain things, and another officer says that I am out of order in replying to them.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not proceed further in that strain. As an old parlia mentarian, he must know as well as I do that it is grossly disorderly for any honorable member to reflect in Committee on any proceedings of the House. The honorable member’s remarks are a reflection on the action taken by the officers of the House, and I cannot permit them to continue.
– I am not reflecting on anybody. I am merely pointing out the anomaly of the present situation, and the unfair position in which I am placed in consequence.
– The question before the Chair is clause 3.
– I am in the position of being utterly careless of what the Government do with clause 3. They may do what they like with it.
– There can be no doubt that clause 3 was inserted in order to prevent the Opposition doing something which the Government did not desire them to do. There was no complaint made by any one on this side of the House as to the existing law regarding the issue of this pamphlet, nor was there any desire expressed to have the law altered. On the occasion of the last referenda each side placed its views before the country in a pamphlet, which was distributed to every elector. My own opinion was then, and is now, that thepamphlet is of very little value. It caused a considerable amount of trouble, and was a great waste of public money. I believe that it has been stated officially that fully a quarter of a million of the pamphlets never reached their destination. This system looks fair enough on the face of it; but it is not as good in practice as it looks in theory, and might very well be dispensed with. Besides, honorable members on the Government side must be reasonable in their attitude towards members on this side. We take the view that it is altogether improper to take a referendum at the present time. Therefore, naturally, we do not wish any pamphlet to be distributed.. We desire that honorable members opposite should postpone the referenda until after the war. They cannot complain if we show what our opinions are in every way that may be open to us. We do not want this Bill, and have voted against the second reading because we do not believe that the referenda proposals should be submitted to the people at this time. Our arguments against the proposed alterations of the Constitution are as strong to-day as they ever were. It is not because we have no arguments to submit against them that we object to this Bill, but because we object to the proposals being submitted to the people at this time. There is a very strong opinion throughout Australia, quite apart from the merits or demerits of the proposed alterations of the Constitution, that it is improper and out of place that the electors should be called upon to engage in a polemical struggle upon them, when their hearts and minds are devoted to other matters. No one is more astute than is the AttorneyGeneral, and he knows very well that the people of Australia will resent the referenda being thrust upon them at the present time.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not discussing the clause.
– The AttorneyGeneral is aware of that, and would like to prevent us saying anything about the war or the inopportuneness of taking the referenda during the war.
– I am willing to have the clause negatived.
– The honorable gentleman is willing to have it negatived now; but why did he include it in the Bill? He is beginning to see that he made a mistake, and that if the clause is allowed to remain, it may be used against the Government.
– I can only say that the Opposition are acting in a perfectly consistent manner in opposing this Bill, and in doing their best to prevent, by every means in their power, the taking of the referenda at the present time.
– I should like to say that the reason why clause 3 was included in the Bill was to make it perfectly clear that what the Government desired to see published in the pamphlet were arguments on the merits of the referenda proposals. Honorable members opposite think that that would limit their freedom of action. “We on this side are content to let the people judge between us. We desire to argue the referenda pro posals on their merits, and honorable members opposite do not. In that case both parties must be left to state their case as they think fit. We shall be satisfied, as honorable members opposite object to this clause, to let the existing Act remain as it is.
Notwithstanding anything contained in section 6a of the principal Act, the Chief Electoral Officer shall not, as regards the proposed laws for the alteration of the Constitution passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives during the session of the Parliament held in the year 1915, cause to be printed and posted to each elector an argument in favour of the proposed law or an argument against the proposed law, unless the argument is forwarded to him on or before the ninth day of September, 1915.
– I move -
That the word “ninth” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “sixteenth.”
That will permit of arguments on the proposals being received up to next Thursday.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from this day (vide page 6690), on motion by Mr. Archibald -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I confess that I am not ready to proceed with these Bills, which come on at unexpected hours.
– Is the honorable gentleman for or against the Bill ?
– I am against this proposal in these circumstances, and as embodied in this Bill. I followed with the greatest possible interest the historical review presented to us by the Minister of Home Affairs, in which he urged as one of the chief reasons for the passing of this Bill the fact that the ballot came down to us through hundreds of years of time. The honorable gentleman always gets back to the days of Rip Van Winkle when he discusses these proposals, and is always strong on the traditional side of things. One wonders sometimes why he is on the other side of the House, where everything is so new and up to date. The honorable gentleman is always out of date.
– The honorable gentleman believes in “no” to-morrow.
– That knocks me all to pieces. I cannot stand up against a thrust of that kind. I believe in “no” all the time, when I am confronted with a proposal such as is contained in this Fill. When the Minister was moving the second reading of the Bill, I asked him why it was proposed to tie the principle it embodies to the referenda. Either the Government believe in the principle of compulsion as applied to the electoral rights of the people, or they do not. If they believe in the principle, why have they not the pluck to amend the electoral law and make the principle of compulsory voting a part of the general electoral law of the Commonwealth ?
– Because a referendum is different from an election.
– In what way? Do we not take a vote of the people in much the same way at each ? The honorable gentleman argued just now, and it was the only semblance of an argument he used, that these democratic privileges carry with them their corresponding responsibilities. He did not say it quite so well as that, but that really was his argument. If privilege and responsibility are to be tied together in this way in connexion with a referendum, why should they not be tied together in the same way us a part of the general electoral law of the country ? Either the Government believe in the principle of compulsion as applied to the electoral obligations and responsibilities of the people, or they do not. If they do believe in the principle, they should commit themselves to its application generally instead of limiting it to a referendum. My honorable friend does not say here what was said in another place. When this argument was being urged elsewhere, one of his confreres said, “ We are going to try it on the dog.”
– Is that what he calls the electors ?
– I did not say that.
– My honorable friend did not. He is quite too wise, too conservative, and too old to say such a thing. He left to his young and impulsive colleague in another place to say it, and to so denominate the electors of Australia. However, that is by the way.
It is obviously an experiment so far as my honorable friends are concerned. It had its birth, I venture to say, in the recent general election in Queensland. Honorable members opposite are not quite certain of the results of that election in so far as the merits of this proposal apply to it. They know that there were certain other intrusive elements which influenced powerfully the decision of that election, and they are not quite sure whether, after ail, it was the compulsory provisions of the Voting Act there which led to the great victory that they undoubtedly won.
– The honorable member’s friends had little doubt on the question.
– Had they?
– They thought it would be a success.
– And my honorable friend is quite sure now that it was not a success so” ‘far as they were concerned.
– They only miscalculated.
– Why do not the Government lay down the principle of compulsory voting as one which should be embedded in our general legislation, or else leave this referendum free from the element of compulsion - an element which, at this particular time, is infinitely more odious than it would be at any other time. When people are nursing their griefs, when 100,000 of our best voters are absent from the Commonwealth fighting the battles of the Empire, why should the remainder of the electors be herded up and compelled to go to the poll - irrespective of whether they like it or not - to vote upon these purely party questions?Notwithstanding all the slim statements of the Attorney-General and his leader, who with their tongues in their cheeks tell us from time to time that they are not party but national questions, the fact remains that they are essentially party questions. It was but yesterday when my honorable friends were asseverating on all the platforms of this country and in the press that they were party questions, and that as such they had been placed in the very forefront of their party programme. The nature of these questions has not varied. Only the circumstances have altered. The honorable member for Fawkner was much more frank the other day than are his leaders. He told us that there are two wars going on just now, one war over the seas being conducted against us by the Germans, and another being waged by the exploiters in Australia.
– Hear, hear !
– Evidently this is quite non-party.
– The honorable member ought to help to put clown the exploiters.
– I want to put down the exploiters, but I doubt if the honorable member does. I am perfectly certain that he cannot do so by means of these proposals.
– We are going to try.
– Of course my honorable friends will try. It is the only shred of political argument that is left to them nowadays. They have to say something to the people outside, and here they are introducing the principle of compulsion - to make the electors, whether they like it or not, leave everything else and vote on these party questions, which are to decide whether in our Constitution we are to adhere to the Federal principles embedded in it, and which were declared to be an indissoluble part of it years ago, or whether it is to be torn right out of its setting and balance, and converted into a Unitary instead of a Federal instrument. That is the question which my honorable friends are asking the people to decide in this time of stress and struggle and strain. They do not say to the electors, “ Come and help us to get rid of these exploiters.” They say, “ You must come whether you like it or not. If you never voted before you must vote now.”
Why should this principle of compulsion be applied to the people at the present time?
– It is the duty of every elector to vote on a constitutional question.
– The honorable member says that it is the duty of every elector to vote. That is quite right. It is the duty of every elector to vote in connexion with the elections that are held from time to time. I am not insensible to the merits of the argument by which this proposal is buttressed. I know that it i3 the obligation of the elector to vote, and I am not quite sure that that obligation is not as enforcible as is any civil obligation under certain circumstances. The theory of Democracy is that the country is best governed when all take a hand in the governing. That is, we are told, a sound principle of Democracy. If that be so, then the privilege of voting is an obligation, and not merely a privilege. But whilst theoretically that may be so, we have to remember- the circumstances under which these proposals are to be put before the people of the Commonwealth - the circumstances under which compulsion is to be employed. I take it that the theory of Democracy is one of equal rights .and equal privileges so far as the ballot-box is concerned.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs himself the father of this brilliant conception ?
– The underlying principle of Democracy is that of equal . rights and equal privileges. The Government are urging the principle of equal duty. But what about equal opportunity? We have no right to enforce a duty upon a section of the citizens of this country, if we do not make it equally opportune for every one of them to discharge that duty.
– We will commandeer all the motor cars for polling day.
– No. My honorable friends have already made it a penal offence to commandeer a motor car or even to pay for one on polling day. That circumstance merely emphasizes the point I am urging, namely, that this element of compulsion becomes, an act of oppression if equal voting facilities are not provided for all citizens. These, however, are precisely what my honorable friends have decided they will not provide under any circumstances. W”hat are they going to do in- respect to those electors who reside 8, 9, or 10 miles from the nearest polling booth ?
– Take the polling booth to them.
– I should like to know if that is the intention of the Government. I should like to take the ballot-box to them. Is it the intention of the Government that every elector shall have an opportunity of voting without being penalized by reason of distance, or of any other consideration? What about the sick?
– The Bill contains pro-vision to meet their case.
– My honorable friend would rather exempt them from voting than provide them with the means of voting. The fact is that a large number of the sick are anxious to discharge their civil obligations. They desire to vote on the referenda proposals) but he will shut them out from the privilege of doing so. He will apply compulsion so far as voting is concerned, but he will not provide them with the opportunty to exercise the franchise. I do not understand the action of the Government in seeking to apply this principle of compulsion, and at the same time depriving the electors of the opportunity which would make the application of that principle just as between voter and voter. In Queensland, where compulsory voting was tried, the electors were afforded these privileges. They had an opportunity to vote by post. They had every means of recording their votes of which they could avail themselves. Therefore, this proposal, whilst it may be theoretically sound-
– Oh no. We have not argued that yet.
– Let us admit for the moment that it is right that all the people should vote upon these allimportant questions. Even then, the way in which it is proposed to apply the principle of compulsion makes it an unfair and discriminating act on the part of the- Government as between the citizens of this country.
– We say that a man who can vote shall do so; but to a man who cannot vote we say, “ We will accept your excuse.”
– My honorable friend says to the man who resides 10 miles from the nearest polling booth, “ You must lose a day’s work, perhaps two day’s work, if you wish to vote.”
– Oh no. Lose a day’s work because a man lives 10 miles from a polling booth !
– The Minister would not do much work on polling day if he had to walk 10 miles to record his vote.
– I would do more than would the honorable member.
– That is not saying very much. If my honorable friend is such’ a glutton for work there is plenty for him to do in his own Department. It has not been straightened up by a long way.
– Not to the honorable member’s satisfaction.
– Nor to the satisfaction of most honorable members on the Government benches. The Minister need not bother about us. I do not think that he has experienced half as much trouble from members of the Opposition as he has encountered from members of his own party. At least, he will admit that I have always treated him fairly.
– I have never said anything to the contrary.
– To make this proposal fair from the Government’s own stand-point, they have a right to put within the grasp of the electors all the opportunities for voting which would make compulsion equitable as between the citizens of this country. If my honorable friends provide them with’ the opportunity, and then enforce upon them the duty of voting, they will be acting justly from their own point of view. But I take up the position that they have no right during the continuance of this war to compel electors to vote upon these party questions. When the Government say that these are not party questions, they know that they have their tongues in their cheeks, because these have always been the fiercest of all party contentions, and must continue to be so. The very object for which they are introduced is to enable the Government to get on with their party propaganda. This has been proclaimed from the housetops time and again.
– Is that why you are so strongly against them?
– Most certainly we are against them. We are not Unificationists. They are party matters, and I am not fool enough to try to make the people believe that they are not. The honorable member’s own leaders have told them too often that they are. The Attorney-General himself informed Mr. Holman that he knew as well as he (Mr. Hughes) knew that they were necessary to give effect to their party programme.
From 70,000 to 80,000 people will be unable to vote on the referenda proposals, in addition to the 100,000 who will be away performing the highest of all patriotic duties.
In their absence in the trenches, and in the absence of those who are sick and disabled from various causes, the Government propose to apply the principle of compulsion to those who can get to their feet and walk, and apply it, too, in a way which will make them either pay for the privilege of voting or go to infinite trouble and expense in other ways. When the Government propose to apply the principle of compulsion without at the same time giving equal privileges and opportunities, they place certain voters under great disabilities, and that is just the same as if they imposed on them a fine for voting. That is the real effect of it, because if a man has to lose a day’s work to vote, it is the same as if the Government fined him 10s. for voting.
– The best way is to find the money to pay him.
– The honorable member’s constituency centres around the polling booths.
– My constituents will vote all right.
– Of course they will. Not one of them has to go further than across the street to vote. I am speaking of far-back constituencies, where men have to lose time to vote.
– I have known men to walk 20 miles to vote.
– Does the honorable member think it right that they should ?
– I am not talking about that.
– But I am. Will the honorable member compel one man to walk 20 miles whilst compelling another to walk only 20 yards? Where is the equality about that policy ? Where is the Democracy in it?
– Do not misrepresent me. I did not say I would compel a man to walk 20 miles.
– If a man is 20 miles from a polling booth this Bill will compel him to walk that distance to vote, or may fine him for not doing so.
– That is if the Returning Officer considers that he should have walked.
– That interjection reminds me of one of the anomalies of the Bill. Each Divisional Returning Officer is to be the judge of what is a valid excuse, and, as there are seventyfive of those officials, there may be seventy-five different standards of what a reasonable excuse is. One may regard 2 miles as a reasonable excuse, another 5 miles, and another 20 miles. Under this Bill, which seems to be crudely fashioned, seventy-five men will be let loose in it with seventy-five differing judgments of what is a reasonable excuse.
– I do not think you have read the Bill.
– I have. Does the Minister deny that the Divisional Returning Officer is to be the judge of what a valid excuse is ? Is he or is he not ?
– Then who is?
– His decision is subject to review by tho Chief Electoral Officer.
– I do not think it is, and even if it is I do not think that will alter matters. The Bill opens up a fine vista of seventy-five men delivering judgment, with an appeal to an authority somewhere in the centre of Australia who is to decide whether a man is under disabilities or not. Does not the Minister see that he is only getting himself further into the bog?
– You have only one argument, and that is to reduce everything to an absurdity.
– Even the honorable member and I cannot agree across the table. How, then, are seventy-five different men, living in different places, to agree as to what is a valid excuse? It must happen that some men will be penalized for not voting under conditions which, in other electorates, are regarded as a perfectly valid excuse for not voting. If the honorable member can show me a way out of that conclusion, I should like to near it.
There is a simple method of avoiding all this trouble, and that is by providingreasonable voting facilities for electors wherever they may be. Every man should have the chance to vote on something like even terms. The Bill would then be just, assuming the principle qf compulsion to be fair and right; but until that is done the Government is tearing up every shred of Democracy, and casting its principles to the winds, in applying compulsion in this unequal and wooden-headed way. They cannot make it fair unless they follow it with the postal vote, and place the voting facilities as nearly equally distant as possible from the people they are compelling to vote.
– If we had the postal vote, would you support compulsion?
– Will the honorable member support the postal vote if I support compulsion? I want a fair bargain. Will the Government give us the postal vote for these. 70,000 people if we undertake to allow thom to put this Bill through?
– No, we will not.
– Then the Labour party ave discriminating between the electors. They are giving to some the opportunity to vote, and denying it to others; while, at the same time, they are driving them to vote under compulsion, no matter what the difficulties and disabilities may be. I do not so read my democratic book as to subscribe to tenets of that kind. The fundamental principle of Democracy is equal privileges and equal opportunities at the ballot-box, as well as everywhere else. Until you can make the opportunities reasonably and approximately equal - I do not say completely and mathematically equal - you have no right to apply the principle of compulsion to the electors in the discharge of their great national obligations. But if the Government believe in this principle, why have they not the courage to apply it to the general electoral law, instead of confining it to these referendums ? Are they going to try it as an experiment in this case? Is this experimental legislation? I know this is, and always has been, the home of experiments ; but I wonder at these brave, courageous heroes opposite, who pretend always to be in the van of progress, not having the pluck to embrace the opportunity to apply the principle of comrmlsion, not only to the referenda proposals, but to every other question. If they did, we could understand them.
– You are complaining because we are too modest, and not revolutionary enough.
– I am pointing out what I regard as the halting, experimental, and lame attitude of the Labour party in the matter. It is clear to mo that they do not believe in this principle altogether. At any rate, they are not satisfied with the experiment so far, and would like to see how it works out on the referenda.
– It is better to be cautious.
– My objection is that you do not apply the principle of compulsion fairly and equally. You have no right, in this time of war, to coerce anybody to vote in connexion with party contentions. You have a right to leave them alone, with their anxieties and their troubles, and not herd them to the ballotbox whether they will or no, until this war is over, and until we have settled at the sword’s point the question whether our future system is to be on the German or Australian model. That is the question we have to decide. It towers infinitely above these trumpery referendums. While this question is at issue we have no right to compel people to take part in these party proposals.
.- I have just been looking through the Bill, and it seems to me it will have to be altered considerably in Committee if it is going to effect the purpose which the Government intends it should.In subclause 2 of clause 4 it is provided that it shall be the duty of the Divisional Returning Officer to send out notices to people who have not voted, but it will be almost impossible, until we get a roll checked with accuracy, to know whether they have voted or not; and I venture to say there is not a roll checked in any polling place in the Commonwealth without a number of errors being discovered. It ought to be set out clearly in the Bill that, so far as the soldiers who have gone te the front are concerned, the Returning Officers shall not be required to send notices to them, because it is the policy to keep their names on the roll, and it would be impossible for them to exercise the vote.
– The Divisional Returning Officers, or the central executive, will not know the men who have gone to the front.
– That information can be obtained. I am merely pointing this out to show how loosely the Bill has been drawn.
– You will find that covered by another clause.
– No, it is not.
– Order! I ask honorable members not to discuss details of the Bill at this stage.
– In this Bill too much is left to regulations; and I should like to know from the Minister who is the prescribed person who will witness the forms ? In a district like the one I represent, where polling places are few and far between, a postmaster or a policeman would not always be available as a witness. Who is the prescribed person ?
– They are all justices of the peace, are they not ?
– No. In my district one would probably have to travel a long distance to get a justice of the peace. All electors who do not vote are to be penalized; and I am satisfied that communications will be sent to thousands who may have voted but whose names may not have been ticked ofl the roll.
– How about the man living by himself in the bush? He cannot get a prescribed person ‘to witness his signature.
– No, and a large number of them are in that position. I think the Minister will find that before the Bill leaves the Committee it will have to be altered considerably. This is a measure chiefly for Committee, and I will defer any other remarks I wish to make for the Committee stage.
– I am pleased, indeed, to know* that amongst the honorable members behind the Ministry there are some who do not represent city constituencies. The honorable member for Grey has pointed out a few defects in the Bill, but the honorable member for East Sydney and a. few other honorable members who represent city constituencies, with polling booths practically round every corner, think that it is no hardship to compel electors to go to the polling booth. They are supporting this proposal in connexion with the referenda campaign for the simple reason that they found it suited their party to a certain extent in Queensland, but I would point out that postal voting facilities were available in Queensland. I have stated my position pretty clearly. I shall never support compulsory voting unless it includes the postal vote. If you are going to have the compulsory vote, to be fair and reasonable to all the people, you must have the postal vote. If honorable members who occasionally come to my constituency to hold their “ rally meetings, were to get off the beaten track sometimes, and go down into the’ heart of the electorate, they would find that there are places where a distance of 5 miles to a polling place is about equal to 20 miles in any other part of the country. I put it to the Ministry that compulsion in connexion with voting at the next referenda will operate very harshly upon people in the country, because voting day will be in the busiest time of the year. The harvest will be on in the southern part of Australia, and if it happens to hp a fine day, every farmer will want to work every hour. Therefore, it will mean a considerable sacrifice if they are compelled under penalty of a fine to leave their work to attend a polling booth. This sacrifice will fall not only on the men, but on the women also if they fail to supply a good and valid reason. The Minister has said that the Divisional Returning Officer will not have the power to prosecute in certain cases, but how is an excuse to be supplied conveniently in respect of people living far back, and who have to travel long distances over bid roads ? In cases where there are families of young children it is impossible for both the father and mother to leave the home on the same day.
– Might not that be put forward as a good and valid excuse ?
– I do not think it would. I know a case in my own district of a family living in a difficult part of the country. On one occasion the husband attended my meeting, and subsequently on a later date the wife was present. They had to travel 4 or 5 miles, and it was impossible for both of them to go to the polling booth on the same day. If this Bill is to become an Act of Parliament, honorable members on the other side will have to realize the necessity for some improvement. In the northern portions of Australia, and even in the northern portions of Victoria, the roads in some places can be just as bad in December as in any other part of the year. Indeed, it is doubtful whether they are not worse, if, after heavy rain, they have dried to a sticky stage, rendering it most difficult for persons to travel over them. Compulsory voting may be good, and it may be necessary to pass such laws in the Commonwealth in the time to come, but I shall never vote for it unless it includes the postal vote.
.- I disagree with the principle of compulsory voting, with or without the postal vote. I can see no justification for it whatever.
The people who do not vote belong to one of two classes. They either cannot go to the polling booth, or else they are absolutely indifferent as to the result of an election, and fail to attend. The idea of compelling people who are absolutely indifferent to go to a polling place and vote is, to my mind, very much like giving a child a rifle to fire - he is just as likely to hit a friend as an enemy. Compulsory voting is not the corollary of compulsory enrolment. The latter secures for those people who wish to vote the certainty of being on the rolls. But compulsory voting is a different thing altogether. The Government are going to compel the people who are absolutely indifferent as to what happens, who do not care whether A or B is elected, or whether the referenda questions pass or not, to record a vote. That seems to me to be absolutely wrong. I was surprised at some of the reasons used by the Minister in moving the second reading. He said that the Government were pledged to compulsory voting in connexion with the referenda, but were not pledged to the principle at elections. Why not ? I cannot see why, if the principle is good, it should not be applied to both. Then, the honorable gentleman said that if persons do not understand a subject they ought, at all events, to follow the lead of the men in whom they can have confidence, and who have never misled them. If I were not a politician, I should feel inclined to ask, “ Where are those men?” Assuming that there are politicians who have never misled any electors, the Minister suggests that the electors should not be compelled to follow a man when it is a case of voting for him, but that they should be compelled to follow his ideas when they are asked to vote for a particular measure. If there is one subject which people ought to understand before they vote it is a proposed amendment of the Constitution. It is proposed to go to an enormous amount of trouble in sending out to every elector the arguments from both sides, so as to give him an opportunity of understanding the proposals. If, after he has read the statements he is still indifferent, why should we compel him to go and cast a vote? The principle appears to me to be altogether wrong. We find that people are being educated from election to election to take a greater interest in political matters. Take the percentages of votes re- corded at the last few elections. They have been increasing by leaps and bounds. Nine years ago I won the Gippsland seat, I think, on a 55 or 56 percentage of the total vote. On the second occasion the percentage rose to, I think, 67; on the third occasion it rose to something like 73, and on the last occasion it increased to 84. That happened in one of the most difficult districts - I believe the most difficult electorate - which electors have to travel over in Victoria. The increasing interest which electors are taking in public men is, I contend, another reason why we should not compel people to go and vote before they have had an opportunity of forming an independent opinion on a subject. This is, to my mind, an absolutely unworkable measure. I agree entirely with what the honorable members for Grey and Corangamite have said about the way it will operate in country districts. One of the objections I had in connexion with postal voting was that it was about as easy for electors in some parts of my electorate to go to a polling booth as it was to find a prescribed person before whom they could sign an application. Every honorable member who represents large country districts will know that that is the case. It is provided in this measure that an elector has to find a prescribed person in order to send in an excuse for not voting, and if he does not do so within the period allowed, he is liable to be summoned. Then he will have to travel, in some cases, miles to prove his innocence, because the prosecution will not have to prove the man’s guilt. It will put in a certificate of the Divisional Returning Officer that the elector has not voted, and that is deemed to be prima facie evidence that he did not vote. He will have to travel to a place to prove his innocence. If he does prove his innocence the case will be dismissed, and then, according to the practice prevailing in public prosecutions amongst most of the police magistrates in Victoria, he will not be allowed his costs.
– Even that is not prima facie evidence. The Bill does not say that the Divisional Returning Officer’s certificate is evidence at all. It is an extraordinary Bill.
– Yes. Clause 11 reads- and any extract therefrom, certified by the Divisional Returning Officer under his hand, shall in all proceedings be prima facie evidence of the contents of such list or extract, and of the fact that the electors whose names appear therein did not vote at the referendums, and that the notice specified in sub-section 4 of this section was received by those electors, and that those electors did, or did not (as the case may be) comply with the requisitions contained in the notice within the time allowed under sub-section 5 of this section.
A mere certificate from the Divisional Returning Officer that John Jones did not vote, and that he had not given a satisfactory reason,- is to be prima facie evidence. A man will have to travel a distance to a Court to prove his innocence. Most of the electors will have a pretty poor show unless they have a professional man appearing for them, and the result will be that a case will be dismissed without costs, and for being innocent the elector will be penalized by having to pay his own costs, and losing a day. I know cases somewhat similar to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Corangamite. I know a case where a man and his wife cannot both vote. They have an establishment which is 20 miles from the nearest voting place. It is utterly impossible for both to leave the premises on voting day. One only can go. The man had to travel nearly the whole of that distance before he could get any of the prescribed persons under the postal voting system when it was in force. To my mind, this Bill will be unworkable. It will cause a great deal of heart-burning and do a great deal of injury, and injury, too, which will be in the nature of insult. Persons who are anxious to vote, but are unable to do so, may be fined for not voting; and that, to my mind, will be adding insult to injury. “With or without postal voting, I am opposed altogether to the idea of compulsory voting. I think that honorable members ought to seriously consider the matter before they pass the measure, particularly, as the last speaker said, those who represent country districts, because if they do they will raise a hornets’ nest about their ears, and have a lot to answer for to their constituents after the appeal is over, unless, of course, the Act is going to be allowed to be a dead letter, and no prosecutions are to take place.
.- I find myself totally against this Bill, first on the principle, and secondly on the machinery provided, most of which seems to me to be impracticable of operation. The honorable member for Gippsland has addressed himself to certain phases of the question of compulsory voting. It seems to me that all his arguments operate with telling force on both sides of the House. It is true that the non-voters are divided into two classes of a broad kind. First of all, the man or the woman who cannot for any reason get to the polling booth; and, second, the man or the woman who does not want to go, or will not go. It may be possible, as I will endeavour to show, to give some relief to the man or the woman who cannot vote on this occasion, but it is not possible to do justice and give relief to the person who is so indifferent as not to wish to record his or her vote. There are other people, of course, of the class who will not vote, and that is those who have conscientious objections. I admit that they are a microscopical proportion of the community; but still, their view is founded on religious convictions, to some extent. My experience of them is that we ought to respect the view of the man, whether we believe it is mistaken or not, who holds that it is imprudent or improper for him to record his vote at any election. I have met such persons in the course of my electoral experience. I know of no more high-minded class in the community than that particular section who will not vote on religious grounds. Generally speaking, I think that there is a good deal of nonsense thought and talked about compulsory voting. It is suggested as an inevitable corollary to compulsory enrolment. The answer of the honorable member for Gippsland seems to be conclusive in that respect. I consider that the man who will not vote has a natural penalty. He must be prepared to submit to it if we call the task of voting a national duty. His natural penalty is that he goes entirely unrepresented, and leaves to other people the control of the legislation and administration of the country in times of peace or in times of war. In my opinion, it is a sufficient penalty to be entirely a cypher in all the great national doings in times of crisis or at other times.
– All these arguments were used against compulsory registration.
– That may be so, and they may have been inappropriately used ; but the mere citation of a fact of that kind is no answer on the merits of the. arguments. Can the honorable gentleman answer the arguments themselves without any allusion to mistaken arguments which have been used in the past? I have always been an advocate of compulsory enrolment, but I never could bring myself to believe in tho enforcement of compulsion with respect to voting itself. Take the other phase of the argument. This Bill gives, as the Leader of the Opposition said, merely a partial application of the principle, lt is to be operated for the first time with respect to a referendum. It is not to be made general or permanent in character, and, therefore, we are to treat it as an experiment. We have had some experiments of that kind in two parts of Australasia. In one case, the definite results are known, and I propose to allude to them later. It does appear to me that if this be an acceptable principle to honorable gentlemen opposite, it ought not to be tried on “ the dog,” to use their own. phraseology. It ought to be not merely good enough with regard to the trial of constitutional changes, but honorable gentlemen opposite who believe in it should be prepared to risk their seats on it. That, apparently, they are not prepared to do until they see how it works out. That is an evidence of timidity or lack of full acceptance.
– That is only your opinion.
– Precisely. I am not, like the honorable gentleman, talking the clap-trap of other people. I speak my own opinion, whether it be acceptable to him or not. Surely that is what we are sent here to do ! Is it. not the whole doctrine of representation ? Does not the honorable gentleman, when he is pouring out his sentiments, hope to influence other nien to join him in that judgment? I do not have any such hope with the honorable member, but I believe that there is a number of reasonable men opposite who will see the folly of a partial application of this principle. Because, if it be good for one particular phase of democratic operation, it ought to be equally good for both.
– There is nothing to prevent its application to the next election.
– There is nothing to prevent its application then if legislation follows this measure, but surely the wisest and best course would have been for the Minister to have said, “ This is a prin ciple of the party for which I stand, and we propose to give it universal application. So long as we are in power we propose to give it the full authority of legislation.” I hold that this is the worst application which could be given to the principle. I do not believe in a referendum being taken before the war is over. I stand absolutely with honorable members on this side in that respect. It is a cruel application of the principle to compel a large body of people, obviously reluctant to consider ordinary public problems, great or small, to cast their votes for or against a particular set of proposals. So that, in addition to being partial in application, it seems to me to be vindictive and cruel, and will, I think, operate adversely to some of the interests for which honorable members opposite stand. There is the other view put by the Leader of the Opposition. If it is to be fair in either its general or its partial application, the proposal for compulsory voting should be followed, or accompanied, by other provisions. Honorable members opposite have consciences, and their consciences will prick them when a woman or a man who was too ill to vote is regarded prima facie as a person who has broken the law. In other words, postal voting or some equivalent of it should accompany this proposition.
– Under strict supervision.
– I quite agree with the honorable member as to that. He was a member of the House that passed the first postal voting law that operated in Australia, a law that was safeguarded with all the provisions deemed requisite by the party with which he was associated. Whatever precautions may be thought necessary, let us take them. Then we shall be able to say to the person who, by reason of maternal obligations, or on other .grounds, has failed to vote, “ The Legislature endeavoured to provide you with an opportunity for doing your duty.” We must provide, not only for those who may be ill, but for those to whom country members, notably the honorable member for Corangamite, have referred, the men and women who live in the virgin forests of Australia. It will mean expense to provide them with additional polling facilities, but when we declare it to be their bounden duty to vote, we should meet them at least half way. We must do something for those who live in the Beech Forest, or in the eastern parts of Gippsland, persons who now must travel 30 or 40 miles along the worst roads in the State to get to a polling booth. We should provide them with facilities for voting before striking them off the roll, or fining them for not voting. Then what is to be done regarding our soldiers at the front, who have left Australia at the call of duty t If in December next they are up against the same kind of proposition as faces them now, they will not have time to spare for questions such as we propose to put before the country. In any case they must be disfranchised, because they will not be able to vote. It is inconceivable that a set of electoral officers should be sent to the Dardanelles and to Egypt to collect, within a period of two or three weeks, the votes of those who are fighting for Australia and the Empire. If men who had been brought back from the trenches for relief were asked to vote on a proposed alteration of the Constitution, I can imagine the sardonic look that would appear on their faces. We are not treating these young men fairly. None of them will be able to vote, and their names will appear in the lists sent down to the Central Electoral Office as the names of mcn who have not voted, and notices will then be sent to them, to which they will be unable to reply. They will, therefore, be considered bad citizens, who have disregarded the request for an explanation, and will be marked absent from the poll without reason given. Unless their relatives secure the notices, and return the explanation that they are serving with the colours, the electoral officials will automatically fine them, or strike their names off the roll. Identification would be difficult, if not impossible, as there will be thousands of cases to deal with. When they get back to Australia, they will find that, although they have been performing the highest civic duty, they have been regarded and treated as bad citizens. The time allowed for the giving of reasons - which must be “ valid, truthful,. and sufficient,” whatever the words may mean - is insufficient to allow the Returning Officer to be informed of the reason of the absence, and our soldiers will thus be liable to the infliction of a penalty, and will incur an odium they have not deserved. I agree with the honorable member for
Grey that the Bill will have to be greatly altered to make it anything but a joke.
– How is the elector to be identified?
– New Zealand and Queensland are the two parts of Australasia where compulsory voting has been tried. As to its effects in Queensland, I have not sufficient data on which to base an opinion, but in New Zealand the Government which introduced the system repealed it as quickly as they could after it had been once operated, because it absolutely broke down. In each’ constituency a list of those who had not voted had to be prepared, and notices had to be sent out, asking the reasons to be furnished for non-attendance at the poll. If no answer was returned, the fact had to be noted. But when the trial of a delinquent commenced, and John Brown, of Smith-street, Wellington, was sued for not voting, his reply was, “ I did vote.” He was told that his name was not ticked off on the roll, and his answer was, “ That is not my fault.” Another “John Brown” probably had not voted, bur,, in the haste of an election, such as we are familiar with in the more populous districts, the wrong name was, quite bond fide, marked off the roll.
– That was the fault of the machinery, not of the principle.
– I am glad that my honorable friend is coming to years of discrimination, and that he at last sees the truth. I admit that it is a detail, but it shows the difficulty of working out that which the honorable member is pleased to dignify by the name of “ principle.” This Bill, like all proposals of the kind, assumes an infallible electoral officer. “We have all had much experience of Electoral Officers, trying, in the most sincere way, to do their duty, and we have all gone through their rolls after an election, and, checking them with our scrutineers’ rolls, have found a mass of incongruities and irreconcilable difficulties that we have never been able to bridge. That is going to take place under this Bill. We shall have large numbers of people fined and struck off the roll who have done their duty, but who, probably, have not taken the precaution to be accompanied to the polling booth by a friend, who could certify that they had discharged the duty which this measure imposes upon them.
– The card system would obviate that.
Mr.WATT. - It would not, unless every man, when he went to the poll, had either an electoral ticket or right, bearing his own name, which could be stamped by the Returning Officer, and produced to the satisfaction of the Central Electoral Officer.
– That is what ought to be done.
– Honorable members of the Labour party in the State with which I am most familiar do not beiieve in electors’ rights. I believe we can devise a much better electoral system than we have, without disadvantage to th3 individual elector, and with complete security to the nation and the candidate. We should set about devising it. We have at present only a rough attempt at personal identification without any documentary evidence, and this renders our system very faulty and difficult to operate. New Zealand went through this experiment. She saw how it failed - how impossible it was to operate the penalties without doing an injustice - and she therefore swept the Act off her statute-book. I venture to say that whoever is in power when such a measure as this is passed, either as a temporary expedient or as a permanent addition to the laws of the Commonwealth, will be disappointed in its operation, and will undoubtedly repeal it at the earliest possible moment. Why should we, knowing these facts, waste our time at this critical period in considering a system that cannot work, more particularly when no defence of the principle, with which honorable members opposite, apparently, are so much in love, has been, attempted.
– The honorable member did not hear the Minister explaining the Bill.
– No ; and I am, therefore, the better qualified to discuss it.
– The honorable member should have heard him.
– I shall read his speech in Hansard, and shall apologize to him if I find it throws light on the issue. I heard of some of the reasons that he adduced to the House for introducing, at this stage, a measure of so debatable a character; and I can only say that his is the only mind in the Chamber that could have invented so incongruous a set of reasons to explain such an impossible system . Another difficulty which I see in the machinery of the E’ill relates to the dual penalty which it proposes to impose upon the delinquent elector. In addition to being liable to a penalty of £1, he is also to have his name struck off the roll. Will that be any real penalty in the case of a man who is unable, or unwilling, to record his vote? I think not. As the honorable member for Gippsland has said, it is adding insult to injury, but will be of no real value in effecting the purpose of Parliament.
– Does the honorable member intend to speak much longer?
– Yes, unless I have the honorable gentleman’s permission to ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date?
– Very well.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
.- Why are we to meet at 10.30 tomorrow morning ?
– In ordeT that we may rise on Friday.
– I do not forget that we proposed to rise on Thursday last.
– We shall rise on Friday next.
– Is the honorable member sure of that? Has he had word from him?
Mr.Watt. - From whom?
– From Mr. Grayndler.
– Of the Australian Workers Union ?
– Yes; he is the “boss” of this Chamber, and it is just as well that we should recognise it. I should like to know whether the Government have the permission of Mr. Grayndler to enter upon the proposed adjournment as from Friday next? If we are really to rise on Friday, I propose to help the Government to get through with the business.
– We propose to do so, and with the help of the Leader of the Opposition we shall do so. I was never more in earnest in my life.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Supervision of Patriotic Funds.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
The allegations which have been made in reference to the collection of war funds have drawn attention to the fact that some supervision is necessary. The Age newspaper recently set out. a number of the purposes for which funds were being collected, but I find it impossible to obtain a complete list. I have heard it said that certain gentlemen are making a very good thing out of these collections. If they are, then it is contrary to the desire of Lady Helen Munro Ferguson and every other lady who is assisting in the monthly collection that is being made. I desire to know when a balance-sheet is to be published, and where the secretary is to be found. It was stated in England, in respect of one fund for the relief of the Belgians, that it cost 10s. to send every amount of 10s. that was forwarded to them. Ladies who have assisted in street collections here tell me that every one, from the humblest working man to the most wealthy, give gladly and freely. Women are to be seen in every train, tram and omnibus knitting socks for soldiers; but if only one-half of what is said as to Red Cross goods having been sold is true, then robbery has been committed for which the persons responsible should be imprisoned. Is it not time that we had some central body of control? Is this unchecked collection of money to continue? I have heard of a case in which a young scout, who was sent to get some collecting tins re-soldered, found a bank note for a pound in one of them. He was told to give it to a certain gentleman; but no receipt was furnished to him, or any statement showing that the money had been handed, over. I fear greatly that we may have a repetition of the abuses that have crept in in other countries, particularly in England. We know that in regard to certain charities in this State of Victoria as much as 30 per cent, has been deducted from the amount collected. It is the duty of the Government to request the State Premiers to appoint honorary committees to control and supervise these funds, so that the money which is given so freely by the citizens will not be diverted from its proper purpose, but shall be sent to where it should be used at the front. How is some of it spent? One glaring case has come under my notice. A brave fighter who landed at Gallipoli was brought back from Egypt with his knee joint open, festering, septic, and rotting, yet his sheets were unchanged, and he was not lifted to the deck throughout the voyage. He has been moved from the base hospital, and two of Melbourne’s greatest surgeons have been trying to save his life ; but what chance of life has he had in such circumstances ? In Victoria £200,000 has been collected for the Red Cross fund. Double that amount has been collected in New South Wales. Why are these infamies perpetrated? Why should not justice be done? I am sorry to delay the House, but if the Department supervising these matters does not attend to them in a better way, public meetings will be necessary, in order to see that justice is done, and our soldiers’ lives are not imperilled. Neither the lady who collects the money in the streets, nor the labourer, nor the wealthy merchant who gives assistance, wants these things to occur. Medical men have nobly offered to give their assistance. Why their offers are not accepted, or their rooms are not used, I cannot understand. I appeal to the. Attorney-General to have these funds supervised, so that the men at the front shall not be robbed by surreptitious means, which these publicly-made allegations would seem to indicate exist.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.0 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 September 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150908_reps_6_78/>.