7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.) - On Friday last I was asked to ascertain who the Ministers were who were referred to in paragraph 5 of the Royal Commission on the Navy and Defence Administration Report, dated 18th September, 1918, and what were the circumstances and dates of the transactions alluded to.
On Saturday (the 26th instant) I addressed the following letter to His Excellency the Governor-General : -
Referring to your letter of. the 26th instant requesting to be furnished with certain information in connexion with paragraph 5 of the report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, I have to inform you that I am advised by the Chairman of the Commission as follows: -
That the Minister referred to is. the Honorable Jens August Jensen, M.F. (b)That the nature of the transactions referred to are -
The dates of the transactions are August, 1916, with reference to the Wireless Works, and June, 1916, and August, 1916, with respect to the purchase of certain vessels.
Honorable members may remember that the Commission, in the concluding paragraph of itsreport, made the following statement : -
We had hoped that this report would contain the results of our completed inquiries, but we have recently had placed before us other matters seriously affecting the administration of the Navy Department, which demand further and close investigation. These matters will form the subject of a further report.
On Tuesday, 22nd October, the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, through its secretary, made a request to the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. L. E. Groom) for legal assistance. This request was granted immediately, and an officer from the Crown Solicitor’s office was placed at the disposal of the Commission. The officer attended the Commission on the following day (23rd instant), and on Monday, 28th, the Acting Attorney-General received, through ‘ the Acting SolicitorGeneral, a report from this officer acquainting him that he was asked to as- ‘ sist the Commission in an investigation into the conditions under which the Navy Department had purchased the Shaw Wireless Works at Randwick. The report disclosed a suggestion of such a character concerning the then Minister for the Navy, the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. J. A. Jensen), that Mr. Groom felt it his duty to place the matter before me at once. On the same day I advised Mr. J ensen. of the nature of the report. . He then asked me to relieve him from the duty of. administering the Trade and Customs Department until the completion of the investigation. I at once agreed. On Tuesday, the 29th instant; I sent a letter to the Chairman of the Commission informing him that I would be glad if the Commission would expedite the investigation, and furnish the result to the GovernorGeneral with all possible despatch.
Mr. Massy Greene will administer the Customs Department during the absence of Mr. Jensen.
The Commission was appointed on 2nd July, 1917, “to inquire into and report upon the following matters: -
Treasury and the Auditor-General.
The Commission is vested with full statutory powers under the Royal Commissions Act to conduct its inquiries and investigations, and has full and complete control over the conduct of its own proceedings. The Commission has not advised the Government whether it proposes to conduct this investigation in public, but yesterday I communicated with the Chairman, asking what is the intention of the Commission. As the investigations being undertaken will include a full and impartial examination of the acquisition by the Government of the Shaw wireless plant, the matter now being sub judice, in accordance with the recognised procedure of Parliament, I ami not in a position to further discuss it at this stage.
– In view of the urgency of the matter, I ask the Acting Prime Minister, without notice - 1. Are the inquiries being made by the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration private and confidential? 2. “What is the name of the officer from the Crown Solicitor’s office who, in response to the Royal Commission’s request for legal assistance, was placed at the service of the Commission ? 3. Does the Minister consider that officer justified in disclosing to persons not connected with the Royal Commission the nature of the inquiries being made by the Royal Commission (see statement by the Acting Prime Minister appearing in the daily press of 30th . October) ? 4. Is the officer still assisting the Commission ? 5. Is it proposed that he shall make to the Acting Solicitor-General progress reports of the Commission’s confidential business, and that the Acting ‘Solicitor-General shall forward the said reports to the Acting Attorney-General, who, in turn, will submit them to the Acting Prime Minister?’
– The honorable member has been good enough to hand me a copy ofhis questions. The answer to No. 1 is contained in the statement just made. I am not aware at this stage as to whether the Commission proposes to conduct its investigation privately or not, and I have written for information on the subject. The reply to No. 2 is that the officer in question is the Assistant Crown Solicitor, Mr. Sharwood. In reply to No. 3,I consider theprocedure adopted by that officer quite proper in the circumstances. 4. Ha is still assisting the Commission. Question 5 I cannot answer until I receive in- formation regarding the procedure of the Commission.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balance-sheet at 30th June, 1918; together with the AuditorGeneral’s Report thereon.
Railways - Report, with Appendices, on Commonwealth Railway Operations, to 30th June, 1918.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1018, No. 277.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 271, 276.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 196 (substituted copy).
– Having regard to the fact, as reported in the press, that Dr. Liebknecht and all the militant politicians of Germany who were imprisoned during the war have been released recently, and are allowed full opportunity of expressing their opinions, although they are in opposition to the ruling powers, and that the suppression of free speech has been discontinued, and the censorship removed, will the Government take into consideration the advisability of releasing all political prisoners in Australia, and the removal of all the censorship restrictions on free speech and publication?
– The Government have no official information regarding the proposal recently adopted by the German Government in relation to the matter mentioned by the honorable member, and I am not sure that if we had such information it would influence us in any way. We have no desire to follow German methods; we have been often warned against doing so by honorable members opposite. Further, I am not aware that there are any political prisoners in. Australia. Certain men,, by reason of the laws adopted in consequence of the war, made themselves liable to punishment, and have been punished, but the term “ political prisoners” is not an appropriate one to apply to them. I can hold out no hope of their release, unless better cause than that contained in the honorable member’s question is shown.
– In view of the large number of women who have been singled1 out for honour on account of their Red Cross activities, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether there is any reason why such recognition should be confined to the inhabitants of the cities, and that the very earnest women workers in the country should be ignored ?
– I know of no reason for the differentiation, but I cannot discuss here honours which the King has been good enough to confer on citizens of Australia. .
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that two membersof the working class,. Frank Bilboa and J. Burtovitch, who were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment under the Unlawful Associations Act in September, 1916,, have been kept continuously in prison since the completion- of their sentence? Will the Acting Prime Minister inform the House the reason for. this high-handed and obviously unjust procedure on the part of the Administration?.
– Order ! The honorable member should not put a question in a form which conveys a reflection on the Administration .
– The concluding portion of’ the honorable member’s interrogation was not a question^ but a comment upon the administration of justice. I am not conversant with the facts relating to the matter he has mentioned, but if the honor able member will give notice of a question, the Acting Attorney-General will . answer it to-morrow.
– I again remind honorable members that it is not in accordance with the Standing Orders for honorable1 members, in asking questions, to express opinion’s or to- make allegations or statements of fact. The purpose of a question ‘ is to seek information, not togive it. I ask honorable members to bear that rule in mind.
– A cablegram has appeared in the press stating that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Acting Prime Minister have declared that the island’s which have been seized from Germany should remain in the hands of a neutral’ power, preferably the United States. I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has made any such statement ?’
– I made no such proposal, but apparently the Morning Post, an important London journal, based upon the cabled version of my remarks a suggestion that the United States should be asked to. take charge of those islands. The Government are in no way responsible for that suggestion.
Soldiers Sent to Inebriate- Homes-
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact, ses stated: in a newspaper paragraph, that a number of returned soldiers1 were sent to aru inebriate asylum for recuperation, being informed that they were being’ sent to that institution in order to have recreation, such as cricket, tennis’, swimming,, and so forth, but were actually- treated in exactly the same way as habitual drunkards ?
– The only information I have upon the subject is a paragraph published in the press this, morning. I am directing the attention of the Minister to the paragraph,, and willinform the honorable member of. tha result.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories made any further progress regarding the settlement of areas of land that have been vacant in the Federal Territory for some months, and are a constant source of danger from bush fees? Many returned soldiers have applied for permission to make homes: on those areas, but without success.
– I do not think the honorable member is correct in saying that there is a lot of vacant land in the Territory that could be settled at once.
– Is there any such land? mr. GLYNN. - There is none that has not been turned to someaccount. Steps are being taken, in conjunction with the Repatriation Department, to try to get the best openings for returned soldiers. As a matter of fact, some subdivisions have taken place, but the first instalment of leases will not expire before the end of next year, and obviously we cannot place other persons upon the land until after that date.
– Some of the blocks have been vacant for six months.
– No land is vacant that could be settled at once. Every possible stepin that direction has been taken by me, and I hope that soon a definite policy will be agreed upon between the two Departments for the repatriation of returned soldiers in Federal Territory.
– Will the Minister for Price Fixing bring under the notice of Cabinet the. necessity for preventing that valuable food, rice, being used for the purpose of making starch, which could be made from maize, thus assisting the Australian farmers?
– I will be glad to give the matter consideration, and furnish the. honorable member with any information on the subject
– Is it correct that the Government are bringing two experts from Great Britain to report on the
Blythe River iron deposit? Seeing that the Government have paid £3,000 for an option over the property, will the Acting Prime Minister say what the Government have in view in contemplating its purchase ?
– It is not correct to say that the Government are bringing two. experts from the “United Kingdom’. The. Board of Trade has recommended that an American and a British expert be obtained to report on this deposit, and in accordance with that recommendation Ihave communicated with the Prime Minister in England to see whether it is possible to have one sent out from Great Britain. Until I receive an answer I cannot say whether we shall be able to get oneor two experts from abroad. As Mr. Speaker has said, this is not the proper time to announce policy, and it is not permissible for me to do so, but on the right occasion I shall explain to the House the object which the Government have in view in taking up this option, and what we hope to accomplish bypurchasing the property.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH.Some time ago the Acting Prime Minister promisedthat the Government would take into consideration the advisability of modifying the war-time profits tax so that it should not fall heavily, as itis now doing, on new industries, and discourage their growth; and I shall be glad to know whetherthe Government have given consideration to that modification.
– The Government announced their policy in this regard in the Treasurer’s Budget speech - thehonorable member will see special references to it in that speech - and at present we are dealing with the Bill to give effect to the proposals therein outlined. They will be fully explained, probably next week, when I have the opportunity of presenting the measure for the consideration of the House
Mb. HIGGS. - On what approximate date will the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) return to Australia ?
– I cannot say.
Land Purchases: Advisory Board
– In order to ‘safeguard the interests of returned soldiers, will it be possible for the Minister for Repatriation to make arrangements with the State Governments with a view of securing reports from the various Local Committees before estates ~ are resumed in their districts ?
– I will put the honorable member’s suggestion before the Minister for Repatriation.
– As there is sitting at the present time a Conference between the Minister for Repatriation and the Ministers for Lands in each of the States which are controlling land settlement in Australia, will the Acting Prime Minister take counsel with his colleagues along the line of seeking the advisory services of men with first-hand knowledge of the great question of land settlement, instead of having returned soldiers settled on the land by officials, ,,and having all their stock, implements, &c, bought by officials and not by men acquainted with the business? The policy of seeking assistance from practical men who understand business, trade, and industry is followed in many Departments.
– I am not able to say exactly what assistance- the Minister for Repatriation has already sought and obtained in the direction indicated by the honorable member, but I am quite sure that he has shown a very keen desire to utilize the very best that he can obtain in pursuit of his project. However, I shall convey the honorable member’s question to him to-day, while- the Conference is sitting.
Pensions for Mothers of ex-Nuptial Sons.
– In the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, I would like to remind the Acting Prime Minister very briefly that a week or two ago I asked a question in the House in regard to the treatment of mothers of soldier sons born out of wedlock, and that I received a reply that the matter would be inquired into. However, as it is an urgent matter, will the Prime Minister take an interest in the question and obtain from the Minister for Defence a definite reply as to whether or not it is proposed to put these mothers in the same position as other mothers whose sons have fallen in the war?
– I do not know what steps have been taken to give effect to the promise made by my colleague as to inquiry, but I will see the Minister for Defence to-day, and ascertain what steps have been taken in the matter.
– The matter has already received the attention of the Government. At present it is not deemed expedient to take the step suggested by the honorable member in regard to military affairs, for reasons which will occur to him as a soldier and an officer.
– I was referring particularly to the question of expenditure.
– We are not embarking on any new forms of expenditure in regard to military work. Steps have already been taken in the direction the honorable member indicates in regard to the Fleet and Naval Bases, and in the course of a month or two I expect to be able to announce what has been done in the matter.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the Defence Department are making an allowance of only 8s. 9d. per week to the wives of Australian citizens who are undergoing compulsory training, while 12s. 6d. per week is paid to the wives of German internees; and will he make inquiries to see that the wives of Australian citizens receive at least as much as is paid to the -wives of German internees ?
– I do not know that the comparison is quite fair, hut, as I am not acquainted with the facts, I shall refer the matter to the Minister in charge of the Department.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister the following questions : -
– The first part of the honorable member’s question has already received attention. Some few months ago, with the help of the Departments concerned, I published a small book, giving full information in reference to the various Boards, their personnel, functions, locations, titles, and everything which I thought would prove of use to honorable members.
– Did it give any particulars as to the salaries and allowances?
– No ; but I will see whether that information can be furnished with reasonable despatch.
– Have the Government come to a final decision in regard to the treatment of the wives and children of members of the Australian Imperial Force who have been classed as deserters ?
– I do not know whether the honorable member refers to A.W.L. men, who are not necessarily deserters.
– Are they not exactly the same?’
– No. The policy of the Government was explicitly laid down in a statement which I laid on the table of the House last week, and, so far, as I can judge, there has not been any necessity to re-open the matter.
Payment of Income Tax
– Will the Treasurer make a refund to all persons who have been called upon to pay a 10 per cent, tax on prize money derived from Tattersalls sweeps, and who’ had previously included such winnings in their Federal income tax returns, and had paid income tax. -upon them?
– =lf any taxpayer can show the Commissioner ‘that he has paid, income tax twice in respect of the same item, then under the law he will receive a refund.
– I have not heard, of such action, and do not think it has taken place; hut if the honorable member, with his usual solicitude for his constituents, will give me particulars, I shall have the matter looked into. I should like to add to the statement that I made on the subject a day or two ago that, in view qf the cutting down of the vote in respect of the Federal .Capital works, I am now considering the possibility of the settlement of returned soldiers on that part of the Federal Territory known as the city area extension.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Commonwealth Bank, which, acting on behalf of relatives of soldiers at the Front, has been sending soldiers’ remittance cables for about 12s. per message, has now raised the charge to something like 30s., because of an increase in the (rates chargedby theCableCompanies? Ifso,will he make representations to : theCable Companies, with a view to inducingthem torevert to the original rate?
– Thehonorable member advised me that he proposed to ask this question whichaffectsalarge number of families in Australia. I have made inquiries,and I understand that ‘the Pacific Cable Board have intimated that, owing to the congestion of messages on their times, they have recently declined, for the present, to accept soldiers’ remittance cables for less than3s. per word.
– If they charge more, will they be able to send the messages more speedily ?
– Certainly not, but no doubt itis thoughtthat the increased charge will lead to less business. There is a real difficulty in the way. Iam informed that this is merely a temporary alteration. I shall,however, make representations ‘to the PacificCable Board, with a viewto ascertainingwhether ar- rangements can be made torevert tothe old practice.
– The Government gave authority for theissue ofsuch a badge, and I understood that it was issued. I shall, however, ascertain the reason for the delay, and advise the honorable member.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister comfort the House by furnishing any fuller particulars in regard to the dreadful catastrophe that appears to have overtaken the National party in the Swan electorate ?
– Order ! Obviously the question is a frivolous one,andtherefore should not be asked.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories state whether any definite arrangements have “been, or arebeing, made as between the Commonwealth and local or foreign capitalists in regardto the developmentof the Papuan oil fields ?
-Offershavebeen received from two companies in connexion with developments in Papua. As a matter of fact, tentative offershad previously been made, but I thought it advisable to secure something more definite, and concrete proposals havenow been received and are underconsideration. The development of these fields, however, does not depend purely upon the efforts of companies. The question of the needs of the Imperial Government is also under consideration, and I hope to be in a position shortly to state what has been done.
– Will the Minister in charge of recruiting state whether tit is proposed to expend any more money in the printing and circulation of recruiting literature? If so, will he take care that there is no repetition of the experience of one family of whom I know, the members of which, consisting of husband, wife, and daughter, received no less than seven notices, one of them being addressed “ Hurry,” and the other addressed “ Quick.” Will he take care that there is a saving of time, energy, paper and money in this regard?
– All the pamphlets required in connexion with therecruiting ballot have been printed, so that itwill be unnecessaryto indulge in more printing in that respect. It is to be regretted that in some cases pamphlets have been sent to people to whom they should not have been addressed ; but this has been largely due to incorrect information supplied from local sources, and to the fact that there is no compulsory meansby which information can be obtained in regard to the names of eligibles.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation request his colleague to frame a regulation providing for financial assistance ‘to single soldiersto enable them toembark inbusiness ?
– The subject mentioned by the honorable member has been considered by the Commission as well as by the Minister. If he will give notice of his question for to-morrow, I shall be in a position then to informhim of what is proposed.
– In view of the expressed desire of the Ministry to conserve the paper supplies of this country, will the Postmaster-General kindlyexplain the difference betweenthe revised version of the ode to efficiency and the King James version?
– Order ! Questions of a frivolous character should not be asked. It is not in keeping with the dignity of the House that its time ‘should be occupied with such questions, and I shall not call upon Ministers to reply to them.
– I desireto ask the Postmaster-General whetherhe proposes to make any re-arrangement in regard to post-offices in the Lefevre Peninsula district of the Hindmarsh electorate ?
– I shall look into the matter to which the honorable member refers, and inform him what, if anything, is being done in the direction indicated.
– In view of theurgent necessity for increasing our goldreserves, and giving a genuine stimulus to . prospecting in Australia, will the Acting. Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) formulate some cooperative scheme with the Statesfor the purpose of encouraging mining, especially gold mining? Will the honorable gentleman consider the constitution of -a ‘Committee to formulate a scheme for sending parties to the Northern Territory, there, perhaps, to develop industries which would enable hundreds- ‘of thousands of our people, and especially returned soldiers, -to embark in an occupation most suitable to them after their -adventurous open-air life?
– I recognise the necessity for increased gold production in Australia, but I am not very hopeful that the procedure proposed by the honorable member would be fruitful. I have had some little experience of endeavouring to co-operate with the States, and it is very difficult to get them in line.
– Go on your own.
– My most recent experience ofgoing on “ my own “ was when, in connexion with the production of cereals and other primary commodities,I pointed to the necessity for some such investigation as that now suggested in the case of gold, and many of the States, and organizations within theStates, took exception to the idea. As a matter of fact, -this is a State function distinctly., and the Commonwealth is interested only ina general way,beyond thespecial feature that the gold reserve of our note issue is influenced by the gold production. The’ primaryresponsibility rests with the State organizations.
Compensation to Sailors and Dependants
– Does the Minister for the Navy propose, or can he inform me if the Government propose, to compensate the dependants of those members of the crew of the Wimmera who lost their lives . as -a result ofthat vessel striking a mine ? Is it also proposed to compensate members of the crew who lost their property, and suffered other damage as a result of the sinking of the vessel ?
– If the members of thecrew concerned make applicationtheir cases will be considered. I am not sure, speaking offhand, whether the Wimmera is- registered -in Australia, but I think that any ship so registered comes under the provision for payment for lost effects.
– I think the Wimmera is registered in . New Zealand.
– I told the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) some time ago that if these men made application their case would be considered and dealt with properly.
Mr.FENTON. - A number of Australian wireless operators have been employed on dangerous voyages and in dangerous work, and I should like to know whether the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) would favorably consider awarding a badge to returned wireless men, much- in the same way as badges are given to returned soldiers?
– I shall give the matter consideration and inform the honbrable member later on.
asked the Acting Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Having reference to the statement by the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration that in certain departmental frauds “ the fault obviously lay in the unquestioning credulity of thefirms concerned,” what are the names of the said firms, and what were the moneys paid to the officer named in paragraph 28 of the report?
– I have requested the GovernorGeneral to ascertain from the Commission the information desired by the honorable member.
asked the Assistant
Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. ORCHARD (for Mr. Wise).To enable replies to be furnished to the honorable member’s questions, it is necessary to communicate with Western Australia, and as soon as the information comes to hand, I will inform the honorable member.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Action has been taken to prevent the engagement of clergyman in England for duty on transports who have not served as chaplains in the Australian Imperial Force, or who have not resided in Australia.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr.WEBSTER. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sale to New Zealand - Pool Agents
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will inform the House as to the amount paid individually to wheat pool agents operating in New South Wales for the handling’ of wheat?
– The information desired by the honorable member will be found in a return, which I am to-day laying on the table of the House in reply to a question on this subject asked by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) some time ago.
asked the Assistant
Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of the members of the sub-committee of the Cabinet which considered the Report of the Royal Commission on the Navy and Defence Administration?.
– The members are- Minister for Defense (Senator Pearce)-,. Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), Acting Minister for the Navy. (Mr. Poynton). meat for export : inspection;
asked the Minister forTrade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will supply the following information: -
The amount received during the years 1014, 1915, 1010, 1017, and 1918 respectively, as fees for inspection of meat for export? 2’. The total payment made to the inspectors for each year of the same >- ‘ period?- 3.- The total’ travelling expenses of inspectors for each year of the same period ?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Jensen).The information will be obtained1 and furnished to the honorable member.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1 _’ Whether the Minister’s attention has been drawn to the prosecution at Sydney,. ‘by theDefence Department, of Frederick John. Betcke for illegally wearing decorations and medals-, and. the imposition of a fine of £2. or seven days’ imprisonment?
– Inquiries are being made-in the matter,, and a reply will be given to the honorable member as early as possible..
Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the Assistant Minister’ for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will, take action to have filled by officers and men who have returned from active service every position at present filled by officers at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne,, who have not been on active service?
Mr. ORCHARD (for Mr. Wise).Action in the direction’ indicated has been, and is being,, taken, so far as is practicable.
Eligibles and Enlistment
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers- to the honorable member’s questions are as. follow : -
In the event of the price of tin being fixed in Australia upon the formation of the TinProducers Association, and .the price in London or other selling centres being higher, will the primary producer get the benefit of the difference in price?
If not, into whose pockets will the difference go?
– Tie formation of a Tin Producers Association does not involve the fixing of the price of tin. The Allies have, however, created an Inter-Allied Tin ‘Committee to control the market for tin, and this Committee has fixed the price for tin throughout -the Allied Dominions. There will thus ‘he -only -one price for the Australian production of tin. I have mot yet received full details of the ‘scheme, but I have again cabled for particulars.
asked tike Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the examination of Mr. Greenwood by the Board revealed that his condition was perfectly normal? -5. If Mr. Greenwood has suffered, as has been ‘ stated, from diabetes for several .years, was the “usual examination made which would demonstrate this beyond question’-?
Mr. ORCHARD (for Mr. Wise).Reports have been called for in regard to the honorable member’s questions, and Tellies will be furnished in due course.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions -are as follow : -
Reciprocity with New Zealand.
Msc. WATT. - The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) asked me a question on the 24-th ‘October as to’ whether any communication had been received from the New Zealand Government in regard to proposed reciprocal arrangements whereby soldiers’ dependants of one country and resident in the other will receive hell!) if needed, leaving the financial arrangements to be adjusted later on. I then promised to make inquiry. As I informed the honorable member, there is a reciprocal arrangement in ‘existence between the ‘Governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand in connexion with the payment of - soldiers’ pensions. Under this arrangement ‘the Commonwealth pays New Zealand war pensions in Australia,- and the New Zealand Government pays Australian war pensions in the Dominion. An adjustment is made by the debit administration remitting half yearly the balance due. A reciprocal arrangement was made in JM6 between the ‘Commonwealth and the New Zealand ‘Governments for the Commonwealth -Government to pay separation .allowances to dependants of members of the Australian Imperial .Force resident in New Zealand, and for the New Zealand Government to pay dependants of New ‘Zealand soldiers resident in Australia. No reciprocal arrangements of this kind, other than those to which I have referred, have been made between the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments.
Detention .in Europe after th-e War.
– On Wednesday last the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following -question : -
In the event of Australian soldiers being detained in Europe after the war, .and employed in the work of restoring the devastated countries, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange that they will be subject to civil tribunals, and not to military law?
By way of addition to the answer I gave then, I am informed that-
Until the Australian Imperial Force returns to Australia for discharge, they will continue to be soldiers. Where, however, they are em- ployed or detached from the Australian Imperial Force for civilian employment in connexion with repatriation, there may be a necessity for some form of civilian control, and this point is now receiving the attention pf the Government.
Director of Design, and Construction
– On the 11th October the honorable member for Boothby asked me the following question : -
Will he furnish a list of the works at the Federal .Capital Territory upon which Mr. Griffin, Federal Capital Director of ^Design and Construction, and his staff !have been engaged^ during this calendar year, also (a) a_ list of the works which will occupy his attention during the coming year; (6) the estimated cost of Mr. Griffin and his staff during this year; (e) the estimated cost for the coming year?
With regard to the work upon which Mr. Griffin and his staff have been engaged during this calendar year, and which will occupy his attention during the coming year, the information will be found in the accompanying copies of reports by the Federal Capital Director. The estimated cost of Mr. Griffin and staff for the current calendar year is -
The contemplated cost of the coming year cannot well be stated) as the question of the renewal or otherwise of the .agreement with Mr. Griffin has not yet been considered by Cabinet, and it is not. known what funds will be provided for Federal Capital purposes on next financial year’s Estimates. I lay on the table papers to accompany this reply.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), on 25th October,- drew attention to the fact that > in the Herald of the previous evening there appeared a lengthy report of the speech of the German Chancellor on the peace proposals, and that in the morning papers of the following day there were only abbreviated references. He desired to know whether there was any political significance in that fact. Pressed by me to say what he really desired to know, the honorable member asked whether the report had been censored. The report was not censored. I am not aware whether the full text was cabled to the morning press, but if it were, I can only assume that, as the cable had been given full publicity in the Herald, the morning papers did not consider it worth while ‘ to repeat it. That is only my assumption, but there is certainly no ground for the honorable member’s insinuation that the Government had anything to do with the matter.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked a question with reference to the price of chaff and cornering by speculators. In further reply to his question, I desire to say that I cannot see my way to. fix the price of chaff, the difficulties (such as quality, &c.) in the way being insuperable. Every effort will be made to see that speculators are not cornering.
– In further reply to the inquiry of the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) on the 27th September last, re chaff bags, I desire to say that War Precautions Regulations have been passed providing for the licensing of all second-hand hag dealers- and collectors. By this means combined, with the fixing of prices, it is considered that a proper control can in future be kept over these supplies.
Dismissal of Watchmen
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Melbourne asked the following question: -
Is it a fact that the Business Board dismissed two one-armed returned soldiers (one of whom is married and has two children), Who were employed at the Victoria Barracks, 3rd Military District, as watchmen, at £3 per Week?
To which the following reply was given : -
The Business Board has not dispensed with the services of any such ‘watchmen, but it is Understood that the services of two watchmen were recently dispensed with on the recom- mendation of the Home Service Personnel Commission. Further inquiry is being made into this matter.
I am now informed that the Home Service Personnel Commission recommended a reduction of the number of watchmen, and that their duties should be undertaken by the District Guard. In view of the general reduction of the District Guard, it is necessary that the most effective men only should be retained. It is regretted, therefore, that the services of the two one-armed men referred to had to be terminated.
Allowance for Civilian Suit
– On Friday last the honorable member for Moreton asked a question with reference to the allowance to returned soldiers for a civilian suit, and suggested an increase in the amount allowed. I am now able to inform the honorable member that discharged soldiers who are entitled to an issue of civilian clothes are now supplied with a good suit from store, made up of material produced at the Government Woollen Cloth Factory. No allowance is now paid by this Department to any discharged soldier for civilian clothes.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) asked a series of questions as to the religious denominations to which men enlisted for service in the Australian Imperial Force belong, and as to the number of chaplains appointed. In reply to inquiries, the following information is now made available: -
The figures given for Methodists include Congregationalisms, Baptists; and for other Protestant denominations, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, Christian Scientists, Plymouth Brethren, &c.
Payments to Agents: Clericai Super vision and Stacking and Handling, Costs.
-On the 24th May last the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me’ the following questions . in regard to the sums paid to Wheat Pool Agents, and I then promised to have inquiries made with a view to the desired information being furnished : -
Will he give the following information to the
House by supplying- a return’ showing -
The following statement shows, the amounts paid to 30th April,, 1918,. to in- dividual shipping agents in the various: States for handling charges: -
In regard to numbers* 3 to 7 oi£ the’ honorable member’s question, I am advised by the Australian Wheat Board as1- follows: - These amount’s are unknown, and can only be estimated. The agents are contractors,, who perform specified services for a certain remuneration.. Their costs and. their profits, are known’ only t’o themselves– For tha first year - 1’9)15-16: - representatives of farmers” organizations’ agreed with wheat shippers- as to- the. handling charges, to. be. paid. These rates-, however, were reduced at the- instance of the Ministers1 constituting the Wheat Board. The rates, for 1916-17 were still further reduced. Owing to the. length of time it- has. become necessary to store wheat, a different arrangement for I9,1T-1S was decided upon. The rates for that year are. so low that it is considered that some contractors will make little,, if any, profit. There is a. point below which it is unwise, in- view of the magnitude of the interests at stake,, to reduce profits. It is considered that that point has now been reached in regard to. the. handling charges.
,. - To . enable, the- Government to. proceed with. the. first stage of. the Income. Tax Bill, which I shall not. carry further to-day/, I move -
That Orders, of the Day, 1. to 12’ inclusive; bepostponed until after Order, of the Day No. 13; Government Business.
;– The, framing of the business-paper is Lel thehands of Ministers,, but: Lt. ia. inadvisable’ to make alterations of the kind proposed. It. is> only five minutes since the Treasurer told me o£ his intention to push om bo-day with the consideration- of the- Income Tax Bill until such time as. we- ‘ might desire the adjournment-
– I referred to the motion in Ways and Means.
Mr. -TUDOR.- Had Ways and Means been the first order of the day, the House would have anticipated the discussion of a taxation measure. No doubt, honorable members generally were no better informed than myself about the intentions of the Government regarding the Income Tax Bill, I assumed that we were going on with the Electoral Bill. If there were urgent need for the Income Tax Bill, ‘I could understand the Treasurer’s proposal, but that will be passed soon enough if it becomes law any time between now and early next year.
– I shall give you a land tax measure to-morrow.
– The income tax returns have been submitted, and the assessments will be made early in the year. In the meantime there is no urgency for the Income Tax Bill. I protest against the proposed alteration of the business-paper.
.- I support the honorable member for Yarra. I do not think that we have had another Treasurer who has approached us more insinuatingly than the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who is almost generous at times; but I would remind him that the business-paper exists for a certain purpose. On it a Government arranges its proposals in order , with a view to giving honorable members warn- ing of the business that may be expected to.be brought forward for consideration each day. An honorable member interested in, say, Order of the Day No. 3, may propose to make some remarks about the Spirits Bill, but, seeing the Electoral Bill and. the Distillation Bill down for discussion before it, may postpone the collecting of facts on the subject, under the impression that the Bill will not be brought on for a few days. But if the business-paper is to be altered in the manner proposed, such an honorable member may find that the Spirits Bill is made to precede the other two measures, and he may thus be unprepared when the opportunity for discussing itpresents itself. The Acting Prime Minister is a very frequent offender in this respect. I have come to the House on several’ occasions, and thought that we should not reach acertain Bill for a few days, but in a most gracious way the Acting Prime Minister has leaned across the table, and asked the ‘ Leader ofthe Opposition whether it would be inconvenient if that particular Bill were taken before other orders of the day which preceded it on the noticepaper. I feel sure that the honorable gentleman will feel no resentment, but will rather give us credit for proper watchfulness in requesting that he will, in future, give due notice of any proposal such as he is making now.
– If I intended to dispose of the matter to-day, I should say that my procedure was unfair, but it is not unfair when I am proposing to merely introduce the measure, and then to afford honorable members time to study it.
– I am sorry that I misapprehendedthe Acting Prime Minister; I thought he intended to proceed with the Bill to-day. Therefore my criticisms will have to apply to some other occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Mr. WATT (Balaclava - Acting Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [3.37]. - I move -
That a tax be imposed on income derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates, namely: -
– Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the whole taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable’ income as does not exceed £7,600 may be calculated from the- following formula: -
R = average rate of tax in pence per pound sterling.
I = taxable income in pounds sterling.
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600 the rate of tax shall be Sixty pence.
R= average rate of tax in pence per pound sterling.
I = taxable income in pounds sterling.
In addition to the . tax payable under the pre ceding provisions, there shall be payable, in the case of incomes in respect of which the tax is calculated under the foregoing provisions, an additional tax equal to. 25 per centum of the amount of the tax so calculated.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions, the tax payable by any person who -
In addition, to any tax (including additional tax, if any), payable under -the preceding provisions, there shall be payable a super tax equal to 30 per centum of the total amount of the tax so payable.
There shall be payablein respect of a cash prize in a lottery won after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, and before the commencement of the Act carrying out this resolution, income . tax to the amount -of 10 per centum of the gross prize money, and in respectof a cash prize in a lottery won . after the commencement of that Act income tax to the amount of 13 per -centum of the gross prize money.
Paragraphs a, b, c, d, ‘and e are the same as those in the existing Act. The alterations embodied in the proposals outlined in the Budget are to be found in paragraphsf, g, and h. The necessityfor this resolution and the Bill which will be based upon it is that additional’ revenue must be found to meet interest on war loans and war pensions. In 1916, tomeetthe expanding war expenditure, the rates imposed by the Act of the previous year were increased by 25 per -cent., and those new rates operated for . the years 1916-17 and 1917-18. Again, the demands for interest on war loans and war pensions are suchthat a f urther addition is proposed by theGovernment, equalto30 per cent, increase of the rates charged in the two previous years. Expressed in other words, the intention is -that the tax to be collectedin the present financial year shall be 621/2 per cent, in excess of the tax imposed by the first Federal Income Tax Act. It so happens that the 25 per cent, increase, upon which is imposed a30 per cent, increase, comes to an exact 621/2 percent, increase on the original tax. The tax yielded in 1915-16 a sum of £3,932,775; in 1916-17, £5,621,950; in 1917-18, £7,385,543 ; while theestimate for the year1918-19, including the 30 per cent, increase now proposed, is £9,600,000. As Iexplained in a former analysis of the matterthe estimateofthe original revenue due to the 30 per cent, increase is £2,200,000.
The statistics for 19 17-18 are not yet available. Figures are not procurable to explain fully the increase in 1917-18 as compared with’ 1916-17, but it may be stated at this stage that the increases are due to three factors. The first is the collection in 1917-18 of arrears from the years 1915-16 and 1916-17. In the early stages of a tax the office takes some time to catch up to the assessment work, but in the third year it commences to overtake arrears. The second cause is increased incomes. We have evidence that in many cases the increase has been colossal. The third cause is the . more efficient machinery forcollection. That is ‘to be expected when an office has been running for three or four years.
The need for a greater income tax is shown by the expenditure figures, with which I will refresh the minds of honorable members. The war payments out of revenue have been as follows: - 1914-15, £640,217; 1915-16, £3,778,378 ; 1916-17, £8,427,329; 1917-18, £11,856,335; while the estimate for 1918-19 is £21,129,602. It is to me a matter for regret that . the Commonwealth began its levy upon incomes by means : of a . scale -so complicated as . to bewilder . all but the highest mathematicians. Anattempt was made to alter the mode of computation, but the difficulty at once presented itself that a new scale would . impose upon some taxpayers increases much in excessof those applicable . to others. ‘The Government therefore decided to adherefor . this year, at any rate, to theold basis, to which, in spite of its intricacies, the taxpayers have accustomed themselves. As honorable members . are aware, a handbook has . been issued showing the amounts . payable on all . incomes. It -is a ready reckoner that he who runs may read, and before honorable members . commence to . either support or criticise the historiccurves that adorn the scheduleof the Income Tax Assessment Act, I suggest that they spend a. considerable time in this post-graduate . course. I have found itboth illuminating and enervating.
– The taxpayer knows what he has to pay; he does not know why, but he has an idea that the taxation machinery works unerringly and upon scientific principles. If the Committee and the House assent to these proposals to increase the tax by 30 per cent, a new book will be prepared which will include the increase now sough); to be levied on the people.
The tax on lotteries is to be increased from 10 to 13 per cent. The lottery organizers at present are withholding 10 per cent, of each prize. It is thought unwise to attempt to collect an additional 3 per cent, after the money has passed into the hands of the winners ; therefore, the new rate wall apply only from the passing nf the Act.
The rate for companies has been fixed at 2s. 6d. in the £1, which represents slightly more than an increase of 30 per cent., but, is a convenient round sum. This rate will apply only to that portion of the companies’ taxable income which has not been distributed to shareholders. The dividends are taxed in the hands of the shareholders at the rates payable by them as individuals. Moneys payable by a company to absentees were formerly taxed at fid. in the £1. The rate now proposed is Sd.
The income tax of 1917 included a provision known as the bachelor tax, which required bachelors and widowers without children to pay income tax to the extent of £5, or 5 per cent, of their taxable income, whichever was the greater. The Government arranged that this tax should not be collected, and we now propose its formal repeal.
In viewing the effect upon the taxpayers of the new rates, it is necessary to include the income taxes of the States, and examples are given in a printed statement, which will be handed to honorable members later in the day. That the income taxes of Australia have reached high rates is shown by the following comparison with those in Great Britain. In each case the highest State rate has been included. The British tax on the higher incomes is the same for property as for personal exertion.
– Is there any other direct taxation in Great Britain ?
– There are many direct taxes in existence there.
– But there is no land tax.
– Yes,” there is an Imperial land tax, but it is not based on the same principle as ours. At present I am comparing only one form of direct taxation with the corresponding form which exists in Great Britain. On the lower incomes, the. British impost is much heavier than the combined taxes in Australia.
On taxable income of £100 -
The English rate for earned income is 2s. 3d. in the £1, and for unearned is 3s. in the £1. The Commonwealth and State rates for personal exertion vary from 7½d. to ls. 4½; and for property they vary from 7d. to ls. 8d.
On taxable income of £1,000 -
The English rate for earned income is 3s. in the £1, and for unearned is -3s. 9d. in the £1. The Commonwealth and State rates for personal exertion run. from ls. 3Jd. to ls. 10£d. ; and for property they run from 2s. to 2s. 8d.
The Government recognises that the income tax now proposed will be a serious burden upon the community, but feels sure that the people will cheerfully bear it as part of the cost of maintaining the independence of Australia. There may be differences of opinion, quite irrespective or inclusive of party, as to whether the proposals of the Government are the best that are possible in all the circumstances of the case,- and I take this opportunity of saying very briefly, particularly to my friends opposite who criticised some other forms of taxation emanating from the Budget, that the distinct endeavour I have made in the preparation of tlie finance proposals and statement of this year has been to leave room for the operations of next year. It is an easy matter, even nowadays, to prepare a Budget that will make the revenue meet the expenditure, that is to say, bridge the difference by cumulative rises, but in making levies for this year one has to keep in sight what it will be possible to do next year. If ever there was a time in national finance when this is an imperative and inevitable duty, it is the present. Even if the war should stop to-day, we all recognise now that our war expenditure must proceed for many months, if not for a year or more, at the same considerable rate, and that our war borrowing would have to keep pace with the outgoings here aud overseas, which would mean on top of this year’s levy another cumulative rise. In former years, when Treasurers of the Commonwealth or of the States were asked to prepare their balance-sheets and their financial proposals, one step only was enough for Parliament and the Administration of the day, but at the present time it would be criminal folly to merely take a glimpse at one year’s operations. There ought to be no party or politics in regard to finance. The more honorable members, irrespective of party feelings, will attempt to study this question, the more they will see that room has been left for operations, whoever may be compelled to conduct them,- next year, and possibly the year afterwards; and close study of the resources of Australia should not discourage us in the belief that the Commonwealth can support the indebtedness which falls upon it as the result of this war. We are still a very wealthy people, with vast diffused wealth- that is easily mobilizable, and we are becoming accustomed to credit in such an extraordinary way that what was not money or a mobilizable asset previously has now by the general use of the operations of banking institutions become as available to us as if it were actually coin.
– We are beginning to teach you something.
– The honorable member out of the clarity of his wisdom has de- cribed my finance as “ muddle,” but I hope history will write him down as having been wrong, so that it may not write me down as having been wrong. I am not a believer in dogmatizing on these matters, but I am a believer in talking frankly to a Committee of Supply or Ways and Means, and in telling honorable members what my researches lead me to believe. It is in that spirit that I recommend the Bill as a healthy and necessary measure, and one which I hope the people, when they understand it, will cheerfully accept.
– I think it is the wish of honorable members to have a rough Hansard proof of the Treasurer’s speech made available before the Committee deals further with the Government’s proposals.
– Before I ask honorable members to consider the matter again, I shall have copies of my speech placed in their hands, particularly the tables of comparison to which I have referred. They are as follow : -
Rates of Federal and State Taxes compared with Rates in Great Britain.
The Federal Bates include the 30 per cent. Increase proposed for 191S-19. (Calculated to nearest tenth o£ a penny.)
Taxable income, in above statement, means the income remaining after all deductions and exemptions have been allowed for.
Rates of Federal and State Taxes compared with Rates in Great Britain. The Federal Rates include the 30 per cent. Increase proposed for 1918-10. (Calculated to nearest tenth of a penny.)
Taxable income, in above statement, means the income remaining after all deductions and exemptions have been allowed for.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 725S), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I join with other honorable members on this side in heartily congratulating the Minister in charge of the Bill on the excellent speech he made in introducing the measure. Copies of that speech have been very useful in enabling honorable members to study the proposed alterations in the electoral law. I am perfectly aware that there are really only two important proposals in the measure, namely, the provisions reinstating the postal voting and those which introduce preferential voting; but as the Minister has explained them so fully and well, little remains to be said in regard to them. I would not have spoken upon the second reading had it not been for the discussion that followed the Minister’s speech, particularly the remarks which have fallen from honorable members on the Opposition benches. I agree, with others, that the Bill would not have been necessary if there had been two distinct parties in the House such as existed in 1914. At that time, the party in power was known as the Labour party. It had a distinct platform. That platform was drawn up by a conference of delegates selected by the people controlling the Labour movement throughout Australia, and each and every person who desired to take up political honours in the interests of the Labour party subscribed to it, and was told that, provided he adhered to the platform for three years, no one could say him nay, or remove him from the position he held if he succeeded in being elected to Parliament. He was also told that on the completion of his three years, if he had carried out the planks of the platform, he would be entitled to contest a selection ballot on the platform as agreed to by the preceding conference; but is there any Labour platform in existence to-day?
– Of course there is.
– Where is it? I have listened most attentively to the speeches delivered from the Opposition benches. One honorable member speaks with one voice ; his- neighbour speaks with another. How many honorable members opposite will indorse the platform of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) ? I admire that honorable member, because he says distinctly what he means, and is not afraid to set before the people the platform in which he believes. How many men are there on the Opposition benches representing constituencies such as mine which are not absolutely Labour seats, who would support the platform laid down by the honorable member? Not one of them would do so. But why does not the honorable member create a party of his own, instead of tacking himself on to the Labour party? Is he not aware that, prior to 1914, members of the Labour party were opposed by gentlemen following the same lines of thought as he does to-day, and with the same policy which he enunciates ? They called themselves Socialists. To-day we find them sitting side by side with their old opponents, and each man has his own distinct platform. In an endeavour to prove that the Labour platform does not exist, I shall quote freely, not from my own views on this important question, but from the utterances of honorable members sitting opposite. Until this dreadful war broke out, the Labour party was a united body, and there was no need for preferential voting, because the two parties in the House were evenly divided, leaving no room for Independents, as was shown by the results of the different elections. That state of affairs does not exist to-day. Parties in the House are split up into fragments. The old Labour party no longer exists. In fact, it is unknown. I believe that there are some honorable members opposite who still adhere to the views which they held when members on this side were associated with them: They still display a little bit of the courage that they had in the old days. Not long ago, I was delighted to read a manifesto issued by the New South Wales members of the Opposition, in which they distinctly declared that they would not be bound by the little coteriethat now controls” the remnant of the old Labour party of Australia. That party is controlled to-day, not by the great mass of the workers outside, but by one or two individuals in each of the States. In New South Wales to-day, Mr. Boote, editor of the Sydney Worker, has set himself up as the Messiah of the Labour movement, and has declared that out of it he will build something great. I do not know Mr. Boote, but his writings suggest that he is the very personification of the chief character in Caesar’s Column, a book that was written in reply to Bellamy’s Looking Backward.
– He is a good man. Mr. LAIRD SMITH. - As to that I -shall call the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) to bear witness. This Caesar - this great Messiah of the new Labour movement - who claims to be whiter than snow, and purer than any member of Parliament, in criticising members of the Opposition who have had the courage to issue a manifesto giving expression to their views with regard to the ballot on the Perth Conference recruiting resolution, wrote -
And the politicians of that day will no more think of issuing manifestoes to influence our decision than of tossing a handful of pebbles into the sea to change the course of the tides.
Who is this Mr. Boote that he should dictate to the representatives of the people? Who is he that he should sit in judgment on honorable members generally ? We can find an answer to this inquiry in a speech made by the honorable member for Macquarie at. a local Eight Hours banquet, and reported in the Lithgow Mercury of 16th instant. This report sets forth that -
Mr. Nicholls here made a statement regarding the editor of the Worker, and on being told -by Mr. Garden and Mr. Carroll that the statement was not true, remarked that he would resign his seat in the morning if Mr. Boote could prove that he had never worked while his journalistic comrades were on ‘strike.
Was Mr. Boote a strike breaker in Queensland twenty-five years ago ? I have no information of my own on the subject, but it must be assumed that he was, otherwise the honorable member for Macquarie would by now have placed his resignation in your hands, Mr. Speaker. The report goes on to state that- (It is understood that, later, Mr. Nicholls handed his resignation to Mr. Garden on the terms stated.) He added that throughout his career no finger of scorn could be pointed at him in that regard. (Mr. Garden: You will lose Macquarie.) Mr. Nicholls: Well, if I do I carried my swag before I. got into Parliament, and, if necessary, I can do it again. (Mr. Carroll : The same old gag.)
I have referred to this incident to illustrate the necessity for the introduction of preferential voting - a system which will enable men with the courage of the honorable member for Macquarie to fight a clean fight where the workers desire them to seek election to Parliament. By means of preferential voting we shall be able to deprive this self-appointed Messiah of the Labour movement of the power to determine who shall, and who shall not, stand for election to Parliament in the interests of the workers. Under such a system the people themselves will alone determine who shall represent them. Where there are many political parties preferential voting is necessary to afford all sections an opportunity to secure representation. Mr. Carroll, who is evidently a gentleman in authority at Lith- gow, said, as reported in the Lithgow Mercury - ire was a member of what was known as the extreme industrial wing of the movement. In the Federal sphere a number of members of the Labour party had endeavoured to create a split by their ill-advised action in regard to the recruiting ballot. They had advised the leagues and unions to vote contrary to the request of the Perth Conference. This the industrialists at any rate resented, especially as in the past they had looked in vain for a lead from the politicians, who in no sense lod the movement, and in some instances did not fairly represent it.
This again shows the necessity for a preferential voting system, and although honorable members of the Opposition have not the courage to publicly say so, I know that they welcome the proposal.
– Is the honorable member discussing the Perth Conference resolutions, or the Electoral Bill ?
– I am replying to the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that preferential voting was unnecessary since we had in Australia only two political parties. I am proving out of the mouths of members of the Opposition that preferential voting is necessary, because there are more than two political parties in Australia, and because even the Official Labour party is divided within itself. I am showing that that solidarity of which we hear so much in connexion with the Official Labour movement does not in reality exist. Speaking at the Lithgow demonstration to which I have already referred, the honorable member for Macquarie gave further evidence in support of preferential voting, so that every man seeking election to Parliament may secure a fair deal . The report goes on to state that -
Mr. Nicholls, in response, said he had attended that demonstration as a humble limeburner, as a representative of a great industrial organization, and as a member of Parliament. He would not have made reference to his action in connexion with the recruiting ballot had not Mr. Carroll done so; but he would say at once that the ballot as distributed to the State leagues and unions was a distorted, dishonorable, and disreputable one.
Such statements show that preferential voting will be very useful to courageous men seeking the suffrages of the people. The honorable member continued -
They had not the ballot at all, only a section of it, and he claimed he had as much right to ask members to vote “No” as the Political Labour League executive had to request them to vote “ Yes.” He claimed the right as a man who, for the past ten years, had been the representative of an industrial union, and as one who had carried out his duties as honorably as a man could. If they disapproved of his action and thought he had done something detrimental to the movement, they had a perfect right to put him out. Vhen he asked the people to give him their votes he pledged himself to voluntary recruiting, and he had a right to stick to that agreement; but if the ballot was decided as the Political Labour League executive apparently desired, it meant that any man who went on the recruiting platform was a scab.
I wish now to show how necessary it is to protect members of Parliament from interference by men like Mr. Boote. Referring to the manifesto issued in opposition to the Perth Conference recruiting resolutions - not by those members of the old Labour party, who followed the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but by honorable members who still belong to the Official Labour party, and who had publicly declared themselves against conscription, but in favour of voluntary recruiting - Mr. Boote wrote -
And when this “ manifesto “ tells us that to vote “Yes” would give the Government the alternative of introducing conscription by regulation of Statute law, we can neither admire the intelligence that put forth such a rotten argument, nor the spirit that moves them to prompt the Government to violate its solemn pledges to the country. “ But so long as we stand firmly together they can do no harm, nor do I imagine for a moment they have any such intention.” Nevertheless, the issuing of their manifesto “ in opposition to the recommendation of the Inter-State Conference, is a serious blunder, suggestive of an inflated, sense of self-importance, and the sooner they realize it and get their own measurements more correctly, the better it will be for them and all concerned.” ¥hat is choice language to be used by a man whose writings sink into insignificance when compared with those of Robert Blatchford and Sidney Webb, lecturer in political economy at the London University, or with those of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who at one time did journalistic work in the interests of Labour. What right has this man to say that members of the Opposition have no intelligence merely because they dare to differ from him? This man Boote preaches, not Democracy, but the worst form of autocracy. He would take to himself the right to determine who should be returned to this Parliament. In other words, no man seeking to- represent Labour should be returned unless he bears Mr. Boote’s hall mark. The honorable member for Macquarie is to be commended for the stand he has taken in opposition to such Kaiserism. Mr. Boote is more autocratic than the Kaiser himself.
– He “scabbed” on others’.
– The Assistant Minister has used a term I should not care to use, and if it appears in Hansard it must be as coming from him. Mr. Boote has a heavy load to carry; and I wonder if those gentlemen who expelled the Prime Minister and others, including myself, from the Labour Party, will inquire into his conduct - whether they will treat him as we were treated.
– -I must ask the honorable member not to go into that matter.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) stated that on one occasion, when he was exercising the franchise on a station, the squatter who presided tried to influence his vote. When that statement was made I interjected that the squatter at the time was a public officer, and should have been reported and dealt with. But the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) has informed us that there is no complaint of the kind in the Electoral Office.
– Do you mean to say that squatters have never intimidated their hands in the matter of the vote ?
– I am not going to say anything about that matter, except that, in my opinion, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is altogether mistaken. As a member of the Electoral Commission I travelled throughout Australia - not only in the big cities, but in the smaller towns and hamlets. We inquired into allegations of corruption at the elections, and though these were probed to the very core, not one was substantiated. On the contrary, we found that the Electoral Office is controlled -by gentlemen who are above suspicion; indeed, I would be quite willing to contest my constituency without employing a scrutineer. The electoral officers who were examined by the Commission were asked some very keen pertinent questions, and every question was satisfactorily answered. The fact that the Electoral Office came out of an ordeal of this kind with flying colours leads me to think that the honorable member for Darling ia-. not correct in saying that some one attempted to intimidate him, and that when he made a complaint no notice was taken of it.
– Are you inferring that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) was telling a lie ?
– In the face of my experience I cannot understand why this squatter - if he did make an attempt of the kind - was not prosecuted. If the honorable member had at the time made a straight-out clear statement, I believe that the Chief Electoral Officer would have taken action at once. Let me remind honorable members that the Labour party was in power at the time this is said to have occurred.
– It happened years ago.
– It happened during the referenda.
– There is no official record of such an incident. I have had the matter twice inquired into. In every case where information has come to the office prosecution has resulted. Even a member of Parliament was prosecuted.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and, I believe, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), alleged that this Bill was being put through when 400,000 men are at the Front.
– I did not say there are 400,000 - I said that we were asked to decide this when the soldiers are away.
– I think the honorable member for Darling gave that figure ; and it is to me remarkable th-t a more important vote than that on this Bill is now being taken by plebiscite throughout Australia by the Labour party.
– Only in some of the States.
– That is so. Little. Tasmania, for one, has stood out of this vote, notwithstanding what the Labour paper, The World, formerly the Daily Post, said in its leading article column on the 4th September last. In that article there occurred the following : -
Referendum involves a choice - it involves ft free choice - liberty to say Yes, and liberty to say No. Consequently since it would be in no sense disloyal to utilize that liberty to vote cither Yes or No, it is not disloyal to advise either Yes or No. But members of Parliament who advise No must take full responsibility for the fact that they are recommending the opposite course to that recommended by Conference; they are asking- that members of the organization should prefer their recommendation to that of Conference. For the reason given they may perhaps be within their strict rights, since a choice of policy is specifically remitted by Conference to the organization “for decision. ‘ But the advice is distinctly hazardous, and is most unlikely to be accepted.
What does the writer mean by that? The explanation was given last night by a member at a Union Smoke Social, when he said, “Oppose every one of them”; that is where the “ acid “ will be put on. This shows the necessity for preferential voting, so that a man who is true to his principles and platform may be free before the electors whatever The World or The Worker may say. Listen to the criticism on some of the members of the Labour party who are representatives in this House. -
The Labour movement is going to be guided in the future less by leaders and politicians, and more by sense. “ And if the telegraphed summary of the views of the dissentient New South Wales Federal members is a just summary of their statement there is not much sense in what they say.
Does that not show the necessity for the Bill before us? I notice that another gentleman opposite, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), who would doubtless be glad of a preferential vote when he goes before the electors, has expressed the opinion that the decision of the Perth Conference was “ unnecessary and unfortunate.”
I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) cares much whether or not there is” preferential voting.
He was very careful, in his speech, to get out of the rain; but, unfortunately, he has got under only a bit of a parasol, and not a good stout umbrella; his head may be dry, but I am afraid that his feet will get very wet. His view is expressed in the following newspaper extract : -
His own view ns to the ballot had been given at the Perth Labour Conference, although he was not a delegate fo that Conference.
Mr. Tudor will make a further statement to-morrow on the general position created by the action of the New South Wales Federal members.
I have not seen that promised statement.
– Yes, I made it.
– I am afraid the honorable member is like the ostrich which puts its head in the sand; he is still in danger, and the time may come when he, like myself and others, will be asked for an explanation, by the Labour party.
– I will run straight, at all events, and not go hanging around the Employers Federation !
– I am sure the honorable member will not make such a suggestion in regard to any honorable member on this side. Had I been one likely to hang to the “ apron-strings “ of anybody, I should have hung to tho honorable member when he had not tha courage to do what the Prime Minister and others did. He cannot accuse me of hanging on to anybody.
– You cannot accuse me of not sticking to my opinions.
– This amending Bill, if it goes through, will be most useful to many honorable members opposite. At one time in the history of this House there was a proposal to increase the salaries of honorable members, and some representatives were against it. I do not think, however, that” those honorable members were anxious that the_ motion should be negatived; and so it is with some honorable members in regard to preferential voting. They are opposing the Bill, but they are praying all the time that it might become law.
– Should the honorable member not apply that, code to Tasmanian representatives, and no one else? It is a most cowardly taunt.
– I had not intended to say anything about the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), but his interjection suggests that this measure will be invaluable to him, in view of the attitude of some of his constituents. Will all the men in Newcastle vote “No” ‘on the Labour referendum ?
– Then what does the Labour executive say to that? I notice that the honorable member was also careful to “ come in out of the rain,’’ and with a- much bigger umbrella than that used by his Leader (Mr. Tudor).
I believe there is necessity for this Bill now, although that was not so in 1914. At the present time there are not only two parties in this House; indeed, it would be hard to say how many parties there are, or what may happen when we go before the electors. Under the party system of to-day, we can give the electors a fair deal only by carrying this measure. Look at the state of things in the Swan division.
– That hurts.
– Probably we shall have another member in this House representing a minority of the electors in the constituency for which he sits, a chum for my honorable friend. No wonder that he is jubilant. They will sit side by side until they have to appeal to the electors under a system of preferential voting, and what will the result be then ? I understand the opposition of the honorable member for Barrier to this measure. He has no desire that the people shall be able to vote effectively.
Reference has been made to the complication of the voting arrangements. Personally I dislike having two systems, and I ask what is to prevent the electors from marking the Senate voting ballot-papers 1,” “ 2,” “3,” the same value being given to each vote. There is not much fear of that system not being understood by the electors. According to Mr. P. C. Douglas, when the first Commonwealth election in Tasmania was conducted under the Hare system, it was found, according to a joint report of the Returning Officer and of the Government Statistician, that the percentage of in valid papers was 1.44 per cent, for the Senate and 1.88 per cent, for the House of Representatives. I take that statement from an excellent paper on., the Hare-Clark system, summarizing an address given at Newtown, Tasmania, before the local branch of the Australian Natives Association. The Hare-Clark system was at that time new in Tasmania, and the facts justify the belief that we have nothing to fear in adopting it. The electors have sufficient intelligence to know how to record their votes- under it.
Very able articles have appeared in the press concerning the introduction of proportional voting for the Senate at the same time as preferential voting for this House. I should have no objection to it could it be shown that the counting of votes would not take more than a reasonable length of time.
– It would occupy two or three years.
– At a mock election in Tasmania, when there were only four candidates and a small number of persons voting, it- took nine counts to reach finality, and to determine which candidate was properly elected.
– At the last election for the Tasmanian Parliament there were forty-three distinct counts.
– But the counting was all done in three or four days. What does a little delay matter if the system is fair?
– The only objection I see to the system is that in a great State like New South Wales the necessary counting may cause delay.
– Absent votes are recorded all over Australia, some of which would not reach the Returning Officers within less than six weeks, and it would not be until the last of these had been received that a start could be made to divide up.
– If it can be shown that the counting can be done effectively and well within a limited time, I see no objection to proportional voting.
The Royal Commission, of which I was a member, inserted this paragraph in its report with the unanimous approval of the members - .
– The evidence in support was overwhelming.
– Yes. Moreover, some of the members of the Commission were approached personally on the subject. Women canvassers saw me, and expressed regret that there was no provision in the law under which electors who could not go to the polling booths could exercise the suffrage. They asked me to do my best on the Commission and in Parliament to alter the law in that respect. Those who are prevented by sickness or other unavoidable circumstances from going to the polling booths should be allowed to record their votes in some other* way. I welcome the reintroduction of postal voting, and the Minister is to bo commended for the manner in which he has provided for it. Possibly, in Committee, the safeguards may be strengthened, but great care has been exercised in providing for them. On moving the second reading, the Minister (Mr. Glynn) said-
Under the old law, which was repealed in 1011, the authorized witness was bound to post the vote to the Returning Officer. Under this Bill the envelope must bc handed back to the elector, and he is subject to a penalty if he does not post it to the Returning Officer. It is the duty of the latter to keep a numericallymarked list of all postal certificates and ballotpapers sent out by him.
I think that strict precautions against fraud have been taken, but, no doubt, the Minister will consider suggestions for increasing thom. I am of the opinion that in the interests of the Commonwealth postal voting should be passed into law.
.- Although fifty-three of the seventy-five members of this House sit on the Treasury benches, they are not satisfied with the existing electoral law, and wish to amend it so as to wipe out the Opposition altogether.
– Fifty-three members on the Treasury bench !
– Has Rip Van Winkle been asleep on the Grampians ? Let him wake up. Does he know that there is a drought in Queensland, and that bushfires are burning his sheep ? There are fifty-three honorable members on the Government side of the chamber. The law that was good enough to put me into this House, and to keep me here for the last seventeen years, will be good enough for me if it keeps me here for the next seventeen years.
– The honorable member hopes that ‘ the electors of Maranoa will not turn over a new “ Page.”
– The Bill has been introduced to benefit the electors, not to benefit members of Parliament.
– Since the introduction of the measure we have heard a great deal about the people and Democracy, and liberty, fraternity, and equality; but I have never known Democracy to be dragged in the gutter so much as in this debate. “ 0, Liberty ! what crimes are committed in thy name “ was the cry of a victim of the French Revolution. I
Bay, “ O, Democracy ! what crimes are committed in thy name.” However, the Government has a force sufficiently strong to pass through both Houses of this Parliament any measure that it may choose to submit - electoral, financial, defence, or any other. But I ask Ministers why they are not prepared to try on the dog what they propose to give to the pup. If preferential voting is good enough for the House of Representatives, surely it is good enough for the Senate. The senators, however, have said that if it is applied to the Senate they will throw out the whole Bill. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) said that he’ was in favour of postal voting, and that people had waited on him when he was travelling with the Electoral Commission and asked for the privilege of voting by post when they were sick. Does not the honorable member see the anomaly of allow- ing a sick or infirm woman to vote by post for the House of Representatives, but to refuse to allow her to vote for the Senate ?
– That is not what the Bill provides.
– There is nothing in this Bill to allow postal voting for the Senate.
– Postal voting is the same for both Chambers.
– We shall see whether or not that is so. What is sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander. I have no desire to prevent anybody voting. We have the freest franchise in the world; any man or woman outside of a gaol or lunatic asylum, and who is of the full age of twenty-one years, is entitled to record a vote. If a person does not .vote on election day he can blame nobody but himself. It is the easiest thing in the world to be placed oh the roll, but a very difficult thing to be struck off. One is followed by the electoral officers to every new address.
– And they keep on the rolls men who are dead.
– Not so many dead persons vote in Federal elections as voted on the electoral rolls of the good old State days.
– The Electoral Commision heard a good deal of evidence about votes being recorded for dead persons.
– The Chief Electoral Officer has reported that duplicate votes and votes recorded in the names of dead persons are very few. There is no reason why there should be many. In the old days people resorted to improper practices in order to get a vote because of the villainous electoral Acts which were then in operation. I recollect that at on© place in Queensland the magistrate sat on the bench and struck off the roll eighty names, although fifty of the men affected were present in Court to answer the objection. The police, however, formed a cordon in the front of the Court,- and the men at the back could not get forward to answer when their names’ were called. The policeman merely said, “ No appearance, your worship,”and his worship thereupon struck the name off the roll. But when an appeal was made to the Supreme Court every one of those names was reinstated. On another occasion, the agent of the Pastoralists Union, Marshall by name, sent to every elector in the Barcaldine Division who was thought to have voted for Labour a notice telling him that his vote was challenged. We had nobody to defend our interests, and some of us were forced to study the Electoral Act very closely. This agent applied for all those names which he challenged to be struck off the roll. But he overlooked that section in the Act which provided that the “objector must be on a roll. When the objections were heard in Court the pastoralists were represented by a couple of solicitors from Rockhampton and a. barrister. Two ordinary “ bush-whackers ‘* were looking after the interests of the workers. After the objections had been made, Mr. Vaughan, the police magistrate, declared that he could not find the name of Marshall, ‘the objector, on the roll. The lawyers tried to bluff by saying he was on the Brisbane roll, or some other roll. The cases were adjourned, and when the hearing was continued a week later there was no appearance of the lawyers to represent the Pastoralists Union; the two “bushwhackers “ had knocked them out on a technical point. I have mentioned these instances of what we had to battle against in the early days of the Labour party. I remember that after the strike in 1891 George Fairbairn, now a member of the Senate, said to us, “ Instead of striking,- . why not send men from your own ranks to Parliament in order that they may tell the Legislature what the workers require?” We did that.
– The trouble was that the workers sent too many men to Parliament.
– That was the trouble. The cushions were too soft, the whisky too strong, and the tucker too good. The consequence was that directly we commenced to put Mr. Fairbairn ‘s advice into practice, an amendment of the franchise was introduced. However, the Labour party kept pegging away, and from a representation of two or three members in the State Parliament in 1893, it has grown until there is in power in Queensland to-day a Labour Government that will remain in office for a long time. The Ryan Government are doing so much good for the people who returned them that the other fellow looks on forlorn and hopeless.
The honorable member for Denison referred to intimidation. I remember that my opponent in 1901, George Edward Bunning, before he left his station to go electioneering, asked his manager how many votes he could expect to get on the station. The manager replied, “ Every one, sir.” At that time, the votes were counted wherever they were recorded. Unfortunately for Mr. Bunning, he received only one vote on the station, and every man in the locality claimed that he had recorded it. Bunning said, “ I cannot believe any of you, so I will sack the lot.” That was the last of the policy of intimidation on the stations, because the first Electoral Act passed by this Parliament - and I give credit to the present Minister for Home and Territories for his share in framing what was a very good, although not quite perfect, Act - provided that all boxes containing less than 100 votes must be sealed and sent to the Returning Officer, and by him mixed with other votes before they were counted. That prevented the station-owner knowing how his employees had voted. We had’ a rough time in the early days of the Labour movement.
– The honorable member admits that intimidation is hardly possible now.
– In the whole of my electorate, I do not know of a single case of even attempted intimidation. The scene has changed. To-day the Australian Workers Union and not the station owner, is the boss. At one time, the policemen, the magistrates, the Judges, the soldiers, and the gatling guns all belonged to the Government, of the day. To-day, Labour is boss. Now they are our soldiers, our gatling guns, our policemen, our Judges, and our prisons ; and if you do not obey our laws, we will put you in pur gaols.
– Does not the honorable member think that postal voting before certain authorized ‘persons may revive some of the old abuses?
– I do not believe in the postal vote at all, but I honestly believe that the system could be made perfect if canvassing for postal votes were made a penal offence.
– Why did the Labour party allow seamen to vote by post?
– I would allow seamen to vote by post, and I would allow any person who is sick, or believes that he will be sick on polling day, to vote in the same way so long as it is made a penal offence to canvass for postal votes. Do not let us fool ourselves over the matter. We know very well how these votes are obtained. We know the tales canvassers toll. On one occasion, I heard my own character from a woman at Toowoomba. 1 asked her did she know the man to whom she was referring? She said that she had known him all his life, and that everything he had made was got by gambling and by taking people down. In fact, she described him as being a regular speller. She was referring to myself. If we prevent individual canvassing for postal votes, we shall remove as much danger as possible, and make VOl,ing by post as pure as voting at the ballot-box.
– Is not all that provided for in the Bill?
– No. Of course, there is a provision preventing canvassing for votes near a polling booth, but the English law expressly prevents personal canvass in any shape or form.
– Is there no canvassing for votes in England?
– I cannot answer that question, but a penal provision in an Act deters some people from committing offences.
– It makes them more honest.
– I suppose that it does so. Some people are honest through fear of the law. The honorable member has probably learned that some people are honest through fear of being found out; and when they are found out, they are still regarded as strictly honest, because the other fellow has done exactly what he has prosecuted them for doing. There are men in Queensland who are not in gaol, but who ought to be there, who have imprisoned persons for committing offences for which they themselves ought to have been punished.
We are dealing with something which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) says is for the people, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said at Bendigo that no new legislation would, be introduced, and that none of the old would be altered while the men were away fighting abroad.
– At Launceston, he promised that the Electoral Act would be dealt with.
– The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has said that it is part of the Ministerial policy, but I have searched in the. Library with a microscope as big as a plate, and I cannot find any mention of it.
– It was declared at the elections.
– I cannot find any reference -to it. What are the Government’s promises worth? Should not they honour the Prime Minister’s promise?
– It has been honoured. He promised to introduce preferential voting.
– No. He promised not to interfere with existing legislation, and not to introduce any new legislation until the men returned from fighting abroad.
– Taking that statement literally, we could do nothing at all.
– The honorable member knows what the Prime Minister meant. We can only judge his remarks by the context. He was speaking at the time about industrial legislation, and# about what some of the Labour candidates were saying, namely, that the whole of our industrial legislation would be revoked, and that taxes would be imposed on tea and kerosene. I had said it myself.
– Did you believe it?
– I did. I believe in the truth of every word that I am saying, and I know that it is only fear that prevents honorable members from carrying out that policy. Here in this Bill is. an instance of interference with the liberty of the subject.
– How does it interfere with the liberty of the subject?
– Will the men who are away fighting have the same rights and privileges on their return as they had in the past? Section 41 of the Constitution provides that every Australian-born adult shall have a vote for the Commonwealth
Parliament. This is what the Minister (Mr. Glynn) has said in reference to that provision.
Section 41 of the Constitution provides that a person who had or acquired the right to vote for the popular State House at the time the Federal Constitution was passed should not by any law passed by the Federal Parliament be deprived of the right to vote. The intention of this provision was, I might explain - as the only member of the Convention now remaining in this Parliament - to prevent the passing of any Federal law cutting down the adult suffrage at that time prevailing in any of the States.
– That was because all the States did not have adult suffrage, and tho Conven lion was anxious to protect the rights of the Democracy.
– Democracy again! This is poor Democracy.
– How does this Bill como into conflict with section 41 of the Constitution ?
– By depriving Australianborn persons of alien parentage of the ‘ right to vote. It says that nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral (War Time) Act, which means that it deprives certain citizens of the Commonwealth and nativeborn Australians of the right to vote, although the latter are more entitled to vote than I am, because I am an imported man.
– Then the honorable member should attack the Electoral (WarTime) Act, and not this Bill.
– But this Bill expressly states that the provisions of that Act will not be affected. They will still be in force, depriving native-born Australians of alien parentage of the right to vote.
– The Electoral (WarTime) Act does not do that. The honorable member is confusing the provisions of that measure with the provisions under which the last conscription referendum was taken. As .the Electoral (WarTime) Act secures the right of Britishborn persons to vote, the Bill now before the House does not disqualify native-born Australians.
– I am pleased that I «> raised the question and elicited that information from the Minister. It takes away a lot of the ill-feeling that I had in regard to certain provisions of the measure.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) thinks it a godsend that a number of honorable members on this side of the House issued a circular in reference to the ballot upon the Perth Conference resolution, dealing with recruiting. The honorable member knows that there are only two parties in Australia - Labour and anti-Labour. There is no half-way house; no shandy-gaff business.
– You tell the jj Id story well
– I do. Nothing gives me greater pleasure. When I remember the vicissitudes through which we have passed since 1S91, it is a marvel to me that we are here at all. On one occasion I saw a cartoon in a Melbourne paper picturing a Labour man with, hobnailed boots, half-a-dozen hairs sticking out representing a moustache, and a couple of fangs protruding from his mouth. He was wearing bowyangs, a belt, a shirt, and no coat, and two or three hairs were sticking out through a hole in his hat. The cartoon bore the words : “ This is how Australia is going to be ruled.” In passing, I wish to show what has been done by the Labour party. Australia would have been in a queer pickle had it not been for, the Labour party’s policy in regard to the “ tin-pot “ Navy, about which the Liberal Opposition talked so much. Although hairs were sticking out through holes in our hats, and although our boots were hobnailed, we had brains enough to do something for the land of our birth or our adoption, and we practically saved Australia for the Empire.
– Was not the Australian Navy started by a Liberal Government?
– There was no one in the world better than was the Honorable Alfred Deakin at bringing in memoranda and saying, “ The time is not yet ripe, although Australia wants this thing and Australia wants the other thing.” Mr. Deakin brought down a memorandum on the subject, but ‘it remained for the Labour party to provide for the creation of an Australian Navy. Some of my old- time colleagues are now sitting on the Government side of the House, but I do not wish to take from them the credit they deserve for yoting with me as they did on that occasion.
– The Labour party today has not sufficient brains to do anything of the kind.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that he has a monopoly of the brains of the House. There are still some brainy members of the Labour party, and there will come a time when the honorable member will be sorry that he left our party.
I have been informed by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that the sons of aliens were permitted to vote at the recent Swan election.
– Section 10 of the Wartime Electoral Act provides for that.
– I am pleased to hear it. The Minister’s statement removes some of the opposition that I had to this Bill. While the Minister -was moving the second reading of the Bill, I- inquired whether, under the preferential voting system, plumping would be permissible. He replied in the negative. This gives rise to another difficulty. Out of three candidates for one electorate there might bo only one whom an elector considered to be worthy of a moment’s consideration. He might regard the other two as political wasters. In such circumstances, why should he he compelled to vote for all three candidates in two of whom he had absolutely no confidence?
– He would not hinder the chances of his first preference by doing so.
– He would prefer to plump for the man of his choice.
– If he did so, would his vote be informal?
– Yes; the Minister has said that where three candidates are seeking election the ballot-paper must b«marked “ 1,” “ 2,” and “ 3.” I recognise that if plumping were permitted it would defeat the preferential voting system.
– Did not Queensland have in force preferential voting with the option of plumping?
– In Queensland we had in operation the contingent vote system
In connexion with the State elections, we have in force to-day a preferential voting system.
– Under which the honorable member’s party did very well at the last State elections.
– . Not at all. I do not think my party won a single seat by means of preferential voting. Every victory secured by the Labour party was, I believe, in a straight-out fight as between two candidates. The application of preferential voting to elections for the House of Representatives, and the continuance of the present system of voting in the case of the Senate elections, will serve to befog the electors, and must lead to a great increase in the number of informal votes. If preferential voting is to be applied to elections for the House of Representatives, it should also be applied to Senate elections.
– “Would the honorable member approve of proportional representation?
– I would not. I would be prepared to give a trial to preferential voting in the case of the Senate elections - each State to be polled as one electorate.
– Does not the Labour party carry out its selection ballots under the preferential voting system?
– I cannot speak from experience. I have not experienced anything of the kind.
– Does the honorable member agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman.) who asks. “ What is the need for electoral reform? Are we not all here?”
– When I said that the present system was good enough for me - that it had sent me here again and again from the inception of the Federal Parliament, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) declared that the Government and their supporters were working on a higher plane - that they were legislating for the people, and not for members of Parliament. The people sent us here, and I say quite candidly that the system that has been good enough for the people up to the present time is good enough for me. I have no fault to find with it
– A proposal for a preferential ballot was introduced in this House in 1906.
– I well remember it. On that occasion the honorable gentleman spoke hour after hour on the advantages of the preferential voting system.
– No; I advocated proportional representation.
– That is so; I was under a misapprehension. The honorable gentleman, from the inception of Federation, has consistently advocated proportional representation, and but for the immense majorities that Labour has secured on different occasions, he would, no doubt, before now have charmed us into the adoption of the proportional representation system. Discussing it on one occasion, he declared that under it the fellow who came along seeking election to this House after we had been here for a few years, would have no possible chance against the sitting member. I was unable, however, to “ swallow “ that. I was satisfied with the system we had then in vogue, and I am satisfied with it now. I do not think that the adoption of preferential voting will help to put me out of Parliament, so that in opposing it I am not actuated by any personal consideration. I take the view that the less complicated our electoral machinery is the better it will be for the people. As the honorable member for Wakefield said. “I am for the people every time.” The honorable member is a great Democrat, and desires to secure the true value of every vote, but just so far as to put him back into Parliament. Is it necessary at this time to introduce this legislation ?
– I say “ No.” .There are other Bills and business much more important than an Electoral Bill to save our own political skins.
– Then why not get this out of the way, and deal with the more important business?
– I have no desire to hang up any business. I take up very little of the time of this House; but my political existence is at stake, and if I do not defend myself, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) will not, unless, of course, it is in a Police Court, and I pay a good fat fee. I do not wonder at every honorable -member wishing to say something on this measure, for many of us, if it be passed, may be singing our “ swan .song.”
I know it is a forlorn hope to oppose the postal vote as it is provided for in the Bill. The late Charles Cameron Kingston used to say, “ You can talk and talk; so long as 1 have the numbers I do not want to talk at all “ ; and -that is the present position in a nut-shell. I believe all Ministers have an idea of improving the electoral machinery, and some of it needs amendment; but, taking everything into consideration, I think our Electoral Act compares favorably with that of any of the States.
Does it not seem an anomaly and an injustice to the taxpayers of Australia that we should have seven Electoral Offices in this country? There is a State Electoral Department and also a Commonwealth Electoral Department in each of the States, though I am pleased to know that the Minister has great hopes of bringing all the different Departments under one head. I know that the honorable gentleman has advocated a ref orm of this kind for years, and at one time was sanguine as to the States joining with the Commonwealth and operating on one roll. If the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) desires to do something for the people for whom he is bo anxious, he will strive to get South Australia to do as has been done in Tasmania, where a combined roll has been found to work well. If the Federal and State electoral systems are not exactly the same, the difficulty can, as the Minister has told us, be overcome by distinguishing the Federal and State voters by a star, or asterisk. The cost of compiling the rolls runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds, and much saving will result from a joint roll. When Federation was being advocated, the great argument was the expense that would be saved. We were told that, with a High Court for Australia, some of the State Courts would be done away with, or so deprived of business that the number of Judges could be reduced.
– You did not believe that, did you?
– I did. We were also told that Federation, with one .GovernorGeneral for Australia, would do away with the State Governors and their establishments, and that the State Parliaments would be so reduced as to become practically country councils.
– We were told that, at the very outside, the expenditure would not be more than £600,000 a year.
– I did not swallow that bait. We were told that with one Defence Force, and one Customs Department, .there would be one Electoral Act for the whole of Australia.
– And one railway system.
– That is so. The inducements we were offered were like a bunch of carrots dangled before a tired donkey.
– At the Federal Convention I moved in favour of one railway system.
– It is a great pity the motion was not carried. We have got over the Braddon Blot much more easily than we thought, and, that being so, surely to goodness we can get over the electoral difficulty if the States are willing?
– “If”; the States are Sovereign States, do not forget.
– THe co-operation must be voluntary.
– In Tasmania the State and the Commonwealth have had the same roll for many years, and the system acts splendidly.
– Can the honorable member (Mr. Page) bring Queensland round?
– I can help, and I shall. It is monstrous that we should have these different systems. Look, for instance, at the money spent in connexion with the income taxes. A reform in this connexion would not benefit the Common-
Wealth only, but the whole of the States - the whole community. If the people are ripe for a desirable change, they will make the States take action. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) many years ago preached Unification throughout the land, but I, for one, would never do anything to cause one of the States, small or large, to lose its identity; this must be preserved and maintained. If, however, the States will not come into line there should be some way of compelling them.
– There is the difficulty that in less than two years the financial arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States will cease, and the States may have to impose direct taxation in order to live.
– At a Conference in Brisbane I told some State Ministers that a change might come much sooner than they expected, and that they would be compelled to join in an arrangement with the Commonwealth. The State expenditure, as apart from that of the Commonwealth, is going ahead by leaps and bounds, instead of being reduced.
The cost of the compilation of the rolls is an instance of unnecessary expenditure. On one occasion in Brisbane I saw a policeman on one side of the street taking names for the Commonwealth roll, and another policeman on the other side collecting names for the State roll. It is only fair to say that each side of the street was in a different district; nevertheless, there was the fact of this duplication, and unless we do something the expanse will go on as in the past.
I know that it is of no use opposing the postal vote, but I impress on the .Minister that if he desires to make it secure - and no man desires to deprive the sick and infirm of the franchise - the Government will make it a penal offence to canvass anybody for such a vote. At one election in Queensland a whole bunch of justices of the peace - hundreds in one day - were gazetted, and for what? To go round canvassing for postal votes. We do not desire any such scandal in connexion with the Commonwealth. This incident made every one in Queensland afraid of the postal vote; in fact, those who were responsible found their action recoil ipon them to such an extent that the Government was put out of office. The postal vote is all right so long as it is properly and honestly safeguarded and worked; it is canvassers that cause the trouble. I am sure that if the Minister (Mr. Glynn) were behind the door sometimes when Labour canvassers, especially ladies, are at work, and heard his own character discussed, he would not think he was the same man.
– I was the first man returned in the Empire by the ladies’ vote; it is a good record.
– I am afraid that if I were a voter in an electorate where the honorable gentleman was opposed to a Labour candidate, I should be absent on the day of polling; that is my feeling towards the Minister, and I think it is the feeling of many others. I hope that honorable members opposite do not think they are going to stop in power for ever; if so, they will have a rude awakening, for this Bill is not going to crucify the Labour party altogether.
– We are abolishing the cross for the House of Representatives.
– I am prepared to carry mine until I die. However, if the postal vote be safeguarded in the way I have suggested, it will prove a service to the House, the country, and’ the voters.
– You will support the postal vote.
– I will vote for the postal vote if individual canvassing is made a penal offence. I believe in the postal vote, but I know the evils of the present system; so does the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and none better. The honorable member has not shut his eyes to the injustice and enormities that can be perpetrated’ under the system.
– I never knew of any.
– If the honorable member will meet me after dinner I shall tell him of individual cases, in which personal friends of his own are concerned. I do not say that I wear the “ white lily of a blameless life” in this connexion; when I saw the other chap doing things, I followed his example quick and lively. Of course, I know that “ two blacks do not make a white,” and I wish to save, not only myself, but the country from such evils.
– You do not wish the penal clause to be made retrospective ?
– Certainly not. I recognise that this is mainly a machinery measure; and I sincerely hope that, with help from both sides, we shall “ lick “ it into workable shape. I regard electoral Bills as non-party measures, and I do not think that any honorable member wishes to take an advantage over another - though nowadays it would seem that everything is party. A few weeks ago a young lady, who asked me what my politics were, was surprised at my reply that I had no politics. She thought that a man without politics was like a dog without a tail.
I am pleased that the Bill does not take from the sons and daughters of aliens the right to vote should they be over twentyone years of age.
I trust that, with help from both sides, the Bill will emerge from Committee a credit to Ministers and to members alike.
.- When the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) commenced his speech he seemed to be in strong opposition to almost every clause of the measure, but I think that when he realizes that in regard to several matters he was mistaken, the Bill will receive his ‘support in Committee. Indeed, he has promised to support it. After the experience of the past few days, will any one say that our electoral methods are satisfactory? At the present time there are a number of political parties in Australia. There are the Official Labour party, the National Labour party, and the National Liberal party - now joined in the National Federation - the Country party, the Returned Soldiers party, the Prohibitionist party, and others. Are we going to so frame our law that only two parties can successfully present candidates for election? The Swan division, which was represented by the late Lord Forrest, is now to be represented by a man who has received only about 6,000 of the 18,000 votes polled at the election - a preposterous state of affairs, which should not be allowed to continue. We must devise some method whereby the representation of the people will be more equitable.
The most important part of an Electoral Bill is that providing the machinery for enrolment. The Constitution and the Electoral Act are the foundation of Parliament, and we should endeavour to provide that every person qualified for enrolment shall be enrolled, and that no person can be enrolled more than once. The existing law leaves the door open to unscrupulous agents and organizers. Time after time I have noticed that, within a day or two of the issue of a writ for an election, an enormous number of claims is sent to the various Electoral Registrars. I do not blame one party more than another for this. It is the result of party organisation. Those names are placed, on the rolls whether the applications are justified or not. In my opinion, a revision Court should deal with enrolment. Our electoral law has been in force since 1901. We have provided for compulsory enrolment, with a penalty for failure to enroll, and there is no reason why every qualified person should not have his name on the roll. To further facilitate enrolment, young persons about to come of age and immigrants who had been in the country for three months should be allowed to apply for enrolment three months before the date on which they will become entitled to exercise the franchise. These applications should go before a revision Court, the elector not having to attend unless his enrolment was objected to.
– How would the revision Courts be constituted ?
– The ordinary police magistrates could act. At the present time a man may apply to be enrolled for a Melbourne division, stating that his name is already on the roll for, say, Ballarat or Bendigo. The Department thereupon puts his name on the roll on the division for which he seeks enrolment, and then sends word to Ballarat or to Bendigo that his name is to be taken off the roll there. But it may never have been on that roll, and he may have been enrolled for Geelong or some other place. A name should not be placed on a new roll until it has been taken off the old roll.
– The card index in every State checks the whole roll.
– Objection has been taken to the system of proportional voting on the score of trouble and delay, but surely the card system of checking will cause worse delay. I know that the card system, if well operated, is a fairly good one, but in regard to such an enrolment as that of, say, John Smith, working on railway construction in some remote place, a signature difficult to decipher, and no definite address, it must happen that names get on and are kept on a number of rolls.
– What the honorable member suggests would, in many cases, cause delay, bringing about disfranchisement.
– I do not think so. I object strongly to the sending in of an enormous number of claims for enrolment on the eve of an election.
– That does not occur under the Federal system.
– A table is placed at the street corner, and any one’s name is taken.
– Thousands of names have been added at the last moment. No doubt there are only a few persons unscrupulous enough to attempt to manipulate the electoral rolls, but it is done. Then a great many duplications occur through carelessness. A man moving from one constituency to another gets enrolled for them all in turn. At a recent election there were more names on the electoral roll than there were adults in Australia.
– Postal voting will help people to vote for more than one division.
– Fraud is much more possible under the absent voting provisions than under the postal voting provisions.
I do not know that it is necessary to make provision for the soldiers’ vote in a consolidating measure such as this, but something should have been said regarding the franchise of soldiers.
– The voting of soldiers is provided for by the War-time Electoral Act. _ Mr. GREGORY.- If you let boys of eighteen fight for yon, while you keep in the Defence Department big, strapping young men who will not volunteer”, you should give them the privilege of voting.
– If a lad is old enough to fight for the country, he is old enough to vote.
– I would give the soldier two votes. I hope that in Committee an effort will be made to extend the right to vote to every soldier, no matter what his age.
I have always favoured postal voting, though I think that strong safeguards are required. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa that it should be a penal offence to tout for votes, particularly for postal votes. I know that the Minister keenly desires to provide for the clean conduct of elections, and he might consider whether he could not amend the measure, so as to make it a penal offence for any person to tout or to associate himself with touting for postal votes. I represent the biggest constituency in Australia, and perhaps the biggest constituency in the world. Many of my constituents have gone out into the Never-Never country, and, in view of their hardships, deserve every consideration. It is impossible for a station or a business to be left without some one in charge. Some of the booths in the Dampier Division are 60 or 80 miles apart, and others are separated by even greater distances on the Pilbarra and Gascoyne fields. A man, his wife, and two or three employees cannot all get away at the same time, even though there may be a polling booth within 15 miles of the homestead. I should have preferred to see the right given to vote by post to electors residing 10 miles from a polling booth. Will any one say that the sick, or mothers and prospective mothers, should be disfranchised? There are 140,000 births in Australia during a year. Why should a third of that number of mothers - or say 47,000 women- be disfranchised by being unable to vote by post? The Labour party acknowledged the principle of postal voting when it provided that seamen and others who anticipated being on the water on pollingday should be able to vote by post. The seaman can go to the Registrar and’ record his vote. The system is good, provided that it is properly safeguarded.
– Seamen who are not. leaving Australia cannot get a vote.
– Any man, whether he be a passenger or a seaman, who can make a declaration that he will be on thewater on polling day is allowed to vote. Thereby the principle of the postal voteis admitted by the Labour party.
– That .system is on all-fours with the absent vote.
– Nothing of the sort. I do not like absent voting. There can be ten times more fraud under that provision than under any other portion of the Act.
I have had a good deal of experience of preferential voting in Western Australia, where the system has been in operation for a long time. Lately I have been studying the electoral methods operating in different countries, and I think that the preferential voting system is far ahead of any other as a means of affording every section in the community an opportunity of sending its representative to the poll. No other system appears to do that. At present men are returned by merely a relative majority. Can anybody justify a system which gives such a result as that in the Swan by-election, held on Saturday ? If the votes polled for the two parties were at all approximate it might be argued that the number of candidates reduced the majority of the successful Labour representative, and that, had only two candidates gone to the poll, he would still have won. But it is clear from the polling in the Swan electorate that the majority of the electors were in favour of the return of a National party representative.
– Not necessarily.
– The honorable member need only study the polling in the Swan electorate,, in connexion, with the last Senate election to discover the preponderance of National party supporters in that constituency. I suppose the fact that Mr. Corboy was a returned soldier gave him a little additional support, and probably there has been, as there always is between any two elections, a little change in public feeling. But the poll on Saturday was very similar to the polling, at the last Senate election, and there cannot be the slightest doubt about the National sympathies of the constituency.
– An election result is of national importance to-day.
– It is. In New South Wales, and in many European countries, the second-ballot system is in operation. I do not think that there :’ould be any worse electoral method than that. It opens the door to all sorts of abuse. That is proved by report after report. A Committee of the French Chamber of Deputies has reported officially that “ the abolition of the second ballots, with the traffic in votes which they cause, will not be the least of the advantages “ which are expected from the adoption of the system of proportional representation.
– What is the nature of the trafficking?
– If four candidates stand, and none gets an absolute majority, the two leading candidates again stand for election on a later date. In the interim all sorts of corrupt practices are resorted to. One authority which I have been studying records that at the German general elections in 1907 the Social Democrats polled 3,259,029 votes, which entitled them, on a proportional basis, to 115 seats; but the number of seats which they won as the result of the second ballot was only 43; whilst the Centre party, which polled 2,179,743 votes, entitling it to only 77 seats, actually secured 105 seats. It is clearly shown that the practice of one party working in with another party after the first election leads to all sorts of intrigues, which defeat the result which would have been obtained had the first election been conducted on either the preferential or proportional system. I believe in the compulsory application of the preferential system. When it was first introduced in Western Australia, it was not obligatory on the elector to vote for the candidates in the order of his preference; but experience showed that compulsion was necessary in order to make the system complete. To-day, compulsion is applied in almost every country where the preferential system is in operation, and undoubtedly it has been very effective. Every section in the community is enabled to send a candidate to the poll. Surely, when we have adult suffrage and payment of members, in order to enable every class to be represented, it is right that we should provide the most effective means to enable the majority of the people to return to Parliament the man whom they consider best fitted to represent them.
– The honorable member does not think that preferential voting will do away with party politics?
– Not at all. A few years ago there were only two parties in Australia - Labour and Liberal.
– Why say Liberal when we all know that the honorable member’s party is Conservative?
– We hear the honorable member talking a great deal about Democracy, but nothing could be more autocratic than the methods of the Labour party. Here is an informative extract from the Brisbane Worker about the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) in regard to the war aims enunciated bv the Inter-State Labour Conference in Perth. At this stage, I take exception to honorable members alluding to that gathering as the Perth Conference. It was merely a convention held in Perth, and honorable members have no right to throw disgrace upon the most loyal part of Australia by describing it as “ the Perth Conference.” The Brisbane Worker says -
When he (Mr. Finlayson) contends that the acceptance of the war aims laid down by the Convention at Perth means a complete abandonment of the policy of the party as promulgated at the Federal elections last year, we ask, without admitting the fact, what _ of it? The Federal Labour Convention, which is the body duly constituted for the purpose, is quite entitled to alter the policy, even that promulgated at the Federal elections last year, if it thinks fit, and Mr. Finlayson and every other Labour representative is bound by it.
Are we to give the people only a choice between two candidates pre-selected by the National party on the one hand and the Labour party on the other hand, especially when one party says, “ No matter what the candidate may tell you on the public platform, the Labour machine can alter its policy, and the candidate must do as he is told ? “ Is this Labour’s idea of Democracy? The candidate’s pledge to the electors becomes contemptuous, and it is scandalous to think that at the present time the electors can choose only between a candidate so bound and one pre-selected by the National Federation. An instance of what happens was afforded by the last Senate election in South Australia. Sir Josiah Symon stood as an independent candidate, but the people voted for one or other of the party tickets. Do honorable members mean to say that if we had had in operation a system of preferential voting Sir Josiah Symon would have finished so low on the poll ?
– Does the honorable member advocate proportional voting for the Senate ?
– Most decidedly. Mr. Rodgers. - This is only the first instalment of the true reform.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill, when moving the second reading, said -
Legislative and administrative uniformity, simplicity, economy, and clearness ought to bo the aim of our legislation.
How can simplicity be the aim of this Bill, which requires the elector to enter the box with two ballot-papers, on one of which he shall signify by numerals the order of his preference, whilst on the other he must indicate his intentions by making a cross against the name of each candidate for whom he intends to vote ? When we are dealing with millions of people, many of whom understand very little of politics aud electoral methods, confusion must result from that dual system. There are two ways of overcoming the difficulty. The first is to divide each State into three divisions for the Senate. I do not think that system would meet with popular favour, but it would be better than the present method.
For the election of senators I would like to see each State cut up into three electorates, observing community of interest as far as possible, and adopting the preferential system of voting. Otherwise we should have proportional representation, for the Senate. Are honorable members opposite satisfied with what has occurred in the past under the block vote? At the 1910 elections, at which eighteen senators were returned, 4,018,119 votes were cast throughout the Commonwealth. Of these votes, Labour candidates polled 2,021,090, or 50.3 per cent., while candidates supported by other parties polled 1.997,029 votes, or 49.7 per cent. The difference between the two parties was only 0.6 per cent., yet Labour secured the whole of the eighteen seats. The opposite result was achieved at the last election, all the seats falling to the National party. Surely a system which can bring about such results is wrong. The only objection to the adoption of proportional voting is said by its opponents to be the enormous delay that will be unavoidable by applying the system to Senate elections, but this is absurd.
The supporters of the preferential vote and proportional voting have lately gained a great victory in- the British House of Commons by motions carried in connexion with the provisions in the Irish Home Rule Bill for proportional representation for the Irish Senate and House of Commons respectively. The following motions were passed: -
Irish Senate : “The election of senators in the four provinces, (Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connaught) shall be according to the principle of proportional representation - the electors being the same electors .as the electors of members returned by constituencies in Ireland -to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and each elector having one transferable vote.” (Carried unanimously in the House of Commons, 31st October, 1912.)
Irish House of Commons : “ In any constituency which returns three or four members,’ the election shall be held on the ^principle of proportional representation, and each elector shall have one transferable vote.” (Carried in the House of Commons by 311 votes to 81, 7th January, 1913.)
The argument has “ been advanced that proportional voting should also be adopted for House of Representatives elections. It might be applicable in Victoria or in New South Wales, where there are large centres of population, but it would be eminently unsatisfactory if applied to Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western australia. For instance, Western Australia returns only five members to this House, but they and the three senators standing for election at the same time would be elected on absolutely the same basis if proportional voting applied to the elections of both Houses.
The best system of securing justice to the people is to adopt preferential voting. Let me point out my own experience. I had not the slightest desire to become a member of this House, but at the request of the Liberal party in 1913 I consented to contest the Dampier seat.
Shortly after coming into the House the double dissolution took place, and when I went back to Western Australia I found that the Country party were anxious to have me nominate as their candidate, but as that would have entailed my signing a pledge and submitting to pre-selection, I objected. I must always have absolute freedom, other than my pledges on the public platform. It was a fairly strong organization, and it felt that it was justified in putting up a candidate, but it refrained from doing so, as it realized that if a third candidate was in the field the Labour candidate would be returned. At the next election we came to better terms, and I was accepted as the Country party’s candidate as well as the candidate for the National party. Why should not a powerful organization such as the Country party is be entitled to nominate a candidate for election to this House? Why should we stand up to it or any other party with a gun and say, “You must not put up your man; you must accept our man or go without representation”? Yet that is just what happens in various electorates, and it may happen te honorable members opposite if they should happen to become divided among themselves. In fixing our electoral laws surely we should do all we can to see that the people are fairly represented in the National Parliament. Therefore when we are in Committee I hope that we shall have the support of honorable members in framing a measure which will achieve that object.
Sitting suspended from 3.30 to 7.J/.5 p.m.
– I am unable to discover any urgent need for the introduction of this measure in time of war. I have been at considerable pains to ascertain whether, at the last general election, any promise was made by the Government to the people of Australia, or to our boys at the Front that, during the course of the war, our electoral system would be amended. I have failed to find any such promise, but, in the course of my investigations, I have discovered a clear and distinct pledge given, not only to those resident in Australia, but to the men who are fighting in the trenches for us, that Labour legislation would remain untouched. During the campaign the Government issued a little paper entitled All for Australia, and, under the title, which is printed in heavy black type, there appeared the words, “ A newspaper to explain the aims and ob jects of the National Win the War Party (Ministerialists).” The copy I have before me is dated Thursday, 12th April.. 1917. This little newspaper was distributed broadcast amongst the soldiers in the trenches in Prance, as well as amongst those in camp in England, Egypt, and elsewhere.
– It was issued every week for four weeks.
– That is so, and was issued as the official organ of the Winthewar party. In it the Win-the-war party made a bid for the soldiers’ votes, and in clear, unmistakable language set out what it would do if returned to power.
– Where was this newspaper published ?
– It was printed in London, and, as I have already said, was distributed amongst our soldiers at the Front. Under the heading, “ Labour Legislation Safe in our Hands,” there appeared the following statement -
If the National Government be returned to power, not one stone in the temple of Labour legislation will be displaced. It is a non-party Government which accepts things as it finds them.
There could be no mistaking the intention of the Government, and the promise made to the boys who were fighting for us.
– Surely an electoral Bill is not a party measure.
– If the honorable member will be patient, I shall make a still further quotation from this newspaper as to the policy of the Win-the-war party. Referring to that party, it went on to say -
It will not touch, except to increase, civil or military pensions, the maternity allowance-
I think I heard something in a Ministerial statement a day or two ago as to the maternity allowance - or the old-age pension. It will not destroy the principle of preference to unionists-
Are Ministers listening to this statement of their policy ? - nor any pf the other Acts brought in by the Labour Governments, and it will administer all these measures in a sympathetic spirit.
– Has not that policy been adhered to?
– No. I could give innumerable instances of departures from it; but, fortunately for honorable members opposite, Mr. Speaker would not allow me at this stage to” do so. I wish, however, to point out that the Government gave a solemn promise to the thousands of trade unionists and Labour supporters fighting in the trenches that Labour legislation would not be interfered with - that it would be safe in the hands of the Ministerial party.
– Surely electoral measures do not affect any basic principle of party ?
– They strike “at the very root of our system of government in Australia. It is upon our electoral system that the people are able to return their representatives to Parliament. When our soldiers went to the Front, we had on our statute-book electoral laws passed by the Labour Government. Those electoral laws did not provide for voting by post.
– The Labour party was not responsible for our electoral legislation.
– We passed an amending Bill.
– The basic electoral legislation was brought in* by a Liberal Administration.
– The original electoral laws of the Commonwealth were not brought in by our party because we were not then in power; but in an amending Bill we removed from our electoral laws what we conceived to be their undemocratic features. One of these was the provision for voting by post. We repealed that part of the Commonwealth electoral law.
– And so deprived 80,000 people of the opportunity to vote.
– That is not the point. The point is that this Bill is an interference with Labour legislation, which the Government at the last general election promised the boys in the trenches, would not be disturbed.
– No soldier taken from the trenches into a hospital to-day could vote under the electoral law as passed by the Labour party.
– The soldiers in the trenches were rightly given the opportunity to vote at the last general election, and if our party had been returned to power we should have gone further. Had we given such a solemn pledge as this to the boys in the trenches we should have honoured it.
– They could not have voted at all if that particular pledge had been kept.
– It is useless for the Minister to try to side-step the question. The point is that at the last general election the Ministerial party promised that existing Labour legislation would not be interfered with.
– So far from that statement being correct. I may say that I never before even heard of the newspaper from which the honorable member has quoted.
– It was issued as an official document.
– No: it never came before Cabinet.
– It is a precious little paper, but I am prepared to lend it to the Minister, and he will see that the manifesto published in it agrees word for word with that issued by his party in Australia.
– Even if that is so, the promise has been adhered to.
– All this quibbling as to the Minister knowing nothing of the issue of this newspaper “ cuts np ice.” This manifesto was issued to the soldiers, but the Labour party knew nothing of it until the elections were over. A very dear friend of mine sent me this copy of it as showing what the Government were promising the boys at the Front. In his covering letter to me. he said, “ Do your best to keep this win-the-war crowd up to its promise. “ I ask the Government now to keep their promise that Labour legislation would be untouched, and that Labour laws would be administered in a sympathetic way. This newspaper will tell its own tale as to the gross and flagrant way in which the Government are breaking their promises.
– Did not the honorable member’s party break its pledge that Australia would, if necessary, give its last man and its last shilling ?
– Why do not the Government come up with the “ last shilling “ ?
– How can the Minister square this promise on the part of the Government with the proposal now before us to substitute preferential voting for the system which was in operation at the last general election?
– We gave no pledge.
– Have I not just quoted the pledge given by the Government?
– It was not a pledge; but even if it was, the honorable member is misreading it, ‘because it refers to “ legislation of that class.”
– The honorable gentleman’s statement reminds me of the old story of the man who said “ this belongs to me, and even if it does not it ought to belong to me.”
– I say that the honorable member is misreading the promise made.
– The Minister is out to win, tie, or wrangle. I invite honorable members to examine this newspaper for themselves. If they do, they will see that it is an official publication issued by the Win-the-war party. When the boys went away, the system of voting was by placing a cross against the name of the candidate favoured. Now there is to be an attempt to wipe out that system, so far as this Chamber is concerned. It will be a complete change in the electoral methods which were in vogue when our soldiers departed for the war.
– The Returned Soldiers Association of Sydney is clamoring for this system.
– I shall have something to say about that Returned Soldiers Association in Sydney before many weeks are over. The country is prepared to stand for the legitimate soldier, but not for those who are trying to float into Parliament on the backs of our boys. We shall have something more to say about those gentlemen later on.
I am very pleased that the young man who has just been returned to this Chamber for Swan is a returned soldier. Mr. Corboy stood, at a Western Australian State by-election, for the subdivision of Subiaco last year, under the preferential system of voting; and here is one of the cards which he issued, lt states -
Private E. W. Corboy, selected Labour candidate for Subiaco, who has returned after completing over two years of active service, and has been twice wounded. He now respectfully solicits your No. 1 vote.
Here is the point which I desire to make: Mr. Corboy, in asking the people to vote” for him, just put his own name, with No. 1, against it; and he left it to the public as to whom they should vote for after himself. The other candidates issued a little card, which stated -
You are urged to vote for the National candidates in the order of your preference, and to mark the Labour candidate No. 7.”
They put on the back of their cards all the names of the candidates. Mr. Corboy’s name was put down last, with the numeral 7 against it. No numbers were placed against any other of the names. As for the boy who had spent two years in the trenches, and had been twice wounded, they said, “ No matter whom you vote for before him; but for the love of Mike put him last - mark him 7.”
– Why should they vote for him if his politics did not suit them ?
–If that is the honorable member’s view, let him hold his peace about advocating soldiers’ parties, and the claims of soldiers.
– Hear, hear ! Their politics have got to suit.
– Of course, they have. It is not a matter of what a man is, but of which party he stands for - for the people or for the exploiters of the people ; for the worker or for the people who live on the backs of the workers. That is the only question, and the only test that will be applied.
If the Government are determined in their folly to push on with this measure, 1 realize that they have the numbers. In my usual generous manner, therefore, I shall offer a few suggestions, in the hope of improving the Bill. I propose to deal with the measure in a constructive manner.
Irrespective df party, we should make our electoral machinery such that the people may freely and fully express their wishes at the elections. A provision for compulsory voting should be introduced. One of the most lamentable things in Australia has been the apathy shown at election time, lt is the duty of the people to go to the polls, and to return the candidates whom they desire shall represent them in the government of the country. It is the duty of Parliament, too, to see that the people shall be compelled to exercise their functions. Why does the Minister in charge of this measure propose to introduce one system of. voting for the Representatives, and to retain the old method for the Senate?
– Would tha honorable member support proportional representation for the Senate?
– I want none of this at all while our boys are away. That is the first principle for which I stand. The next is that if the Government are not prepared to stand by their promise they should be compelled to apply the same system to both Chambers.
– For the Senate you have more than one man returned for one constituency.
– I am quite aware of that, but that is no real difficulty in the way of applying to the one Chamber what is sought to be applied to the other. All that would be required for the Senate’ would be to make the numerals opposite to the names of any three candidates of exactly the same relative value. If that were done the whole difficulty would be solved. ‘The same principle is involved whether the people are asked to vote for one or one dozen candidates, so long as the values to be placed opposite to the names of all are identical. Unless the systems are uniform there will be nothing but confusion from one end of the country to the other on election day, when candidates are to be selected for both Houses of the Federal Legislature. The people will have one set of instructions for the Representatives candidates, and a, totally different set of instructions in the matter of electing Senate candidates. That must be altered, or our whole electoral system will break down.
There is much talk concerning why the Government have not proposed to apply preferential voting to the Senate. Dame Rumour has it that Senate members shook the mailed fist in the face of the Government, and said, “ If you dare to apply this principle to tho election of members for the Senate we will apply the order of the boot, quick and lively, to your precious Bill.” And this was said with such effect, and the mailed fist was shaken so effectively, that the Government decided to leave the Senate out of the business.
– I never heard such a thing mentioned except by ihe honorable member and others in this House.
– If the Minister has not heard such a thing he must have been going about blind, deaf, and dumb. The matter is quite open. The members of the Senate themselves make no secret of the fact that they told the Government they would have none of their precious preferential system applied to them. No system shall have my vote unless it is to be applied both to the Senate and to this House
The deposit required from a candidate upon nominating for an election should be done away with. It is undemocratic in such a community as ours. It is very difficult for many men to raise £25 in order to stand as a candidate for Parliament. The only test should be that of citizenship. We already provide against the candidature of any individual who has been punished for a crime, or has been an inmate of a lunatic asylum. But there should be no property qualification, and no other qualification, indeed, than citizenship rights.
– We should need ballotpapers as long as those in some of the American States.
– That is no argument against my suggestion; the length, of the ballot-paper is quite immaterial. It is the right of every citizen in Australia to aspire to be a member of this Parliament, and we ought not to deprive him of that right by imposing disabilities beyond those already provided for. I therefore hope that in Committee we may agree to an amendment to abolish the £25 deposit.
Another objectionable provision is that unless a voter exercises the full preference his vote shall be declared informal. This may have the effect of disfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
– People who are accustomed to the old system of merely placing a cross against their selected candidate may put No. 1 opposite their choice, and leave all the other names unmarked. My point is that while a vote can be effective - while it can achieve the purpose the elector desires - it ought to be allowed. A candidate might perhaps have 1,000 such papers, and all these votes would be declared informal, although a majority of the electors might desire him to be their representative.
– Were you not selected on that very principle in the pre-selection ballot?
– I have a very vivid recollection of a pertain pre-selection ballot - not my own, “ for I won pretty handsomely - in which a number of people voted for a certain candidate, but “failed to record any contingent votes.
– Why should they have failed to do so?
– It does not matter why; the point is that they did, thus proving that people are not yet educated up to this system of voting. This preselection ballot resulted in the candidate to whom I refer dropping out and somebody else becoming the candidate. This tends to make a farce and a travesty of elections. Let us take as an illustration an election in which there are four candidates, A, B, 0, and D. When the ballot-box is opened, and the first preference rotes are counted, A 13 found to have received 2,000 votes, B 2,371, C 1,031, and D 1,100. The candidate receiving the least number of votes is C, and he drops out. But supposing that for D 120 people had voted, putting merely No. 1 opposite his name and giving no other contingent votes, then D would lose that number of votes as informal, his total thereby being reduced to 980. Then D would have dropped out instead of C, although if C had dropped out in the ordinary way probably a large proportion of C’a votes would have been transferred to D, and it would have been quite possible for D to become the elected representative. Again, if 1,000 voters had merely put No. 1 opposite A, recording no contingent votes, then A would have dropped out of the ballot, although there might be a majority of electors who desired him to stay in.
– To do otherwise would destroy the preferential system.
– That is a common impression, but it has no foundation in fact.
– In- 1914 the informal votes in Victoria were just a little over 2 per cent, from all causes.
– There are far fewer informal votes under the preferential system than under any other.
– That does not matter; the point is that under the system proposed people who vote for a candidate may be deprived of the right of giving effect to their vote on a mere technicality. Honorable _ members should realize that the second, third, or fourth vote is never counted until the candidate drops out, and the vote is always effective while a candidate is in the ballot. If a candidate receives sufficient No. 1 votes to keep him in the ballot, it is immaterial to him how people have voted secondly, thirdly, fourthly, or fifthly on his ballot-papers. The main point is that the voters desire a certain person to be in a ballot, and their votes are, I contend, effective. While a vote can be effective, it should be counted, but when it is not effective - that is to say, if the candidate in the ordinary way has dropped out - then that candidate’s vote has become exhausted, and becomes informal of its own volition, as it were. I wish honorable members not to view this matter from a party point of view, but to give it the most careful consideration, for it is clear that an injustice may be done.
– I can assure the honorable member that I looked very carefully into this point. In some States the contingent vote is compulsory, and in some it is not, and having balanced the advantages, we decided on the proposal in the Bill.
– Should it not be the main principle governing our whole electoral system that so long as a vote can be effective - can achieve the purpose that the voter desires - it should be counted ? We have no right to deprive a voter of his rights.
– How do you deprive a voter of his rights when you make him vote for all the candidates ?
– I have been endeavouring to show how this vote can be, as it really is, an effective vote in the first ballot, and under the preferential system we have no right to notice contingent votes until the No. 1 votes have been counted and dealt with.
– Neither do we, in preferential voting.
– Whatever the system may be, there is only one principle,, and that is the principle of the effective vote. When a candidate has not sufficient No. 1 votes to keep him in, the No. 2. preferential votes become effective, and’ have the same relative value as No. 1 votes. When a vote is recorded for a person who is in the ballot, and who may probably win, why should it be declared informal ?
– The honorable member’s plan was tried in Queensland,, but it broke down.
– What I suggest willnot in any way interfere with the preference vote; it will not deprive us of any advantages, if there are any, to be gained for the preference system. On the other hand, if it is not allowed a hardship may be inflicted upon a great number of people in Australia.
– Does not the same argument apply to informal votes under the present system ?
– No. because they cannot be effective. Can the honorable . member show me how any vote, declared informal under the present system, can be made effective?
– If the informality is against the law, yes.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that the test is whether the intention of the voter is ascertainable..
– That is exactly the position. Under the present system, if the intention of the voter can be ascertained, his vote is allowed.
– But do you think our present system is a bad one ‘?
– I think it is a grand system. lt put me here, and I am satisfied with it. I cannot understand honorable members opposite wanting to alter a system that put them where they are.
– But do you not think that they want to remedy a great wrong ?
– If this Bill is an act of generosity on their part, or if they are feeling the prickings of an uneasy conscience, perhaps it will remedy the great .wrong that was done to our party at the last election, and next time return us to power. But, joking apart, this question of informality of votes is a serious matter. Up to the present, we have been fairly liberal in our interpretation of our electoral laws. So long as a voter has indicated his intention his vote has been allowed, and I am pleading for something along the same lines to be introduced into this measure.
– That would allow of plumping-.
– Nothing of the sort. Under the preferential system of voting the main consideration for a candidate is to get the No. 1 vote. If he does not get sufficient of these votes he will be out of the ballot. I cannot emphasize this point too strongly. If a candidate has 100 votes to his credit, those votes become informal in the ordinary way if they contain no indication of any preference beyond No. 1. In Committee, I intend to move an amendment to give effect to the ideas I have outlined.
.- The measure which the Government have brought down is very bulky, but most of its provisions may be left to the Committee stage. The Bill introduces a principle which, though well known in some of the States, is quite new to the Federal Parliament. I cannot understand how members, especially those opposite, can fail to recognise the democratic nature of this intention to introduce preferen tial voting. Surely if Parliament is to be a reflex -of the people’s opinions, the people should have the fullest opportunity of electing whom they desire to fill the seats. Under our present system, if three candidates are running, and if two happen to be on one side, and one a 0 Labour representative on the other, some one is asked to withdraw so that there shall not be any vote splitting. If, however, two or three men persist in seeking election on one side of politics, the opposing side running one candidate usually wins on a substantial minority vote. The recent election for the Swan division in Western Australia illustrates this point. In this case there were four candidates, one of whom was a Labour representative, and he has won with a little more than one-third of the votes cast. Is there anything democratic about that?
– If the other side had won, their candidate would also have been in a minority.
– That would not have made the position any better. The objection I take to the present system is that in some circumstances it enables a minority vote to prevail, and I say that members of this Parliament should come here as representing a majority of those who take the trouble to go to the poll. I cannot understand how a party that is always talking about democratic principles should object to this measure. To them, apparently, the word “democratic” is like the word “ Mesopotamia “ as it appeared to the old lady - a blessed word. They seem to think that if they can describe anything as democratic it is quite good enough. There could be no more democratic form of election than that which is proposed by the Government in the measure now before the House. The principle has been in operation with satisfaction in several of the States.
I think the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) urged that the Government should attach provisions penalizing any outside organization which might endeavour to influence candidates to stand down or in .any other way interfere with them. I do not think the honorable member need have any fear on that score if the principle operates in the
Commonwealth as it is working in the States. In Tasmania, if there are five or six candidates of a particular line of thought offering, the organization which, they represent does not interfere with them in any way, but merely asks SlIpporters to vote, for these candidate? in their order of preference. The organization is careful not to take up any particular candidate. The system works eery well in Tasmania, and I do not see why it should not be quite as satisfactory throughout the Commonwealth. Indeed, I am quite sure it would, if the electors only realized that the franchise is a privilege, to be used to the best of their ability, and with a view to having their political opinions represented. If the public will only regard this measure in that sense, and not allow outside. people to pull the strings, or monkey with the system by asking them to vote first for their own candidate, and then to give their second preference votes to a man on the opposite side because they are afraid of some one else cutting their candidate out, the principle will work satisfactorily. Those States which have adopted this principle are not anxious to give it up, because they know it operates so fairly. It gives the public the widest range of choice, and that, surely, is democratic. Moreover, when a man is elected he knows that he is the representative of the majority of those who went to the poll. Quite’ the opposite to this happened in the by-election that has just been decided in “Western Australia. A little while ago, when the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was seeking election, considerable pressure had to be brought to bear on the farmers’ candidate to induce him to withdraw, and thus avoid splitting the vote. Why should that be necessary? Why should not the public have the right to vote for five or six candidates if that number offer? Would it not be better, and would it not be educative to those who have political aspirations, if the people had a wide range of selection? It would give all candidates a chance to show the public what they are made of as politicians.
Honorable members opposite have come out into the open to oppose this system on all sorts of flimsy pretexts. I cannot understand why they take up this attitude, because, if they are holding a preselection ballot, or are doing anything within their own leagues, they adopt this very system.
– Not always.
– I understand they generally adopt this system in preselection ballots, but apparently it is not good enough for them when candidates are offering themselves for Parliament.
– The exhaustive ballot is better than, preferential voting.
– It may be; but we are not now dealing with that system of voting. Preferential voting has proved itself effective when applied to constituencies returning only one member, and it is more than time that it was adopted in Federal elections.
To my mind, the lack of provision for a system of proportional voting, or some system of voting other than the blockvote system, for the Senate constitutes a serious omission from the Bill. A change in the method of- conducting Senate elections is even more needed than a change in the method of conducting elections for this House. Here, by reason of the fact that the States are represented by divisions, each returning one member, there is a more adequate representation of the public mind than is obtainable in the Senate, where a small majority in each State can prevent the minority from being represented. The chief objection to the present system of voting, so far as it applies to the House of Representatives elections, is that the public has not a sufficient range of choice, being confined practically to two opposing candidates. In 1910, when eighteen Senate seats had to be filled, the Labour party secured every seat, although the difference between the Liberal and Labour votes polled was very small. At the last Senate election, eighteen Nationalists were returned, and had there been a double dissolution every senator would now be a Nationalist, Labour being wholly without representation.
– Does the honorable member believe in proportional representation for the Senate?
– I do, though there may be a practical objection to it, in the difficulty of counting the votes. Sometimes, under the proportional system, as many as twenty or thirty counts would have to be made to determine a result, and when some millions of votes had to be counted and re-counted, as in the case of a State like New South Wales, a large amount of time might be consumed in the process. Before the quota could be arrived at, it would be necessary to ascertain exactly how many votes had been polled. I do not say that this is a fatal objection. Possibly Tasmanian officials could show how the counting could be done fairly quickly. Something would be gained so far as Senate elections were concerned by dividing each State into three electorates, each with its own centre. It is very rarely that double dissolutions will take place. The results of the last convinced most persons that they are to be approached with great caution.
– Would it not be better to return senators on a population basis?
– Certainly not. Under that system, New South Wales and Victoria would have all the representation, and remote parts of the Commonwealth would have little opportunity to make known their wants, and to advertise their resources. If, for the purposes of Senate elections, each State were divided into three electorates, with one candidate to be elected for each, the Senate voting could be on the same lines as that for the House of Representatives.
– The honorable member says that the Senate is a State House. Necessarily, then, its candidates must be voted for by the electors voting as States.
– This Parliament has the power to arrange as it pleases the methods of election.
– Surely a State with a small population should not elect as many senators as a State with a large population.
– That question is not now before the House, though I am prepared to argue it with the honorable member at any time.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made a promise at Launceston that something would be done to alter the present electoral system. At the last election there was the risk that the National cause might suffer because of the rivalry of National candidates, and one of these withdrew on the understanding that the Government would introduce a system of preferential Voting at future elections. It was understood, in Tasmania at any rate, that the change would apply to elections for both Houses of the Parliament.
I am glad that the Government have returned to the principle of the postal vote. Why that vote was abolished I fail to understand. I have never heard a valid argument in favour of its abolition. I recognise that many persons who desire to exercise the franchise may be prevented from attending a polling booth upon polling day, and to enable them to. record their votes the system of voting by post, provided it be surrounded with adequate safeguards, is an eminently desirable one. In the matter of providing proper safeguards against fraud and manipulation, -I understand that the Queensland Act is practically a. perfect one. Why, then, cannot this Parliament follow the lines which have been laid down in that Statute? I think that the proposed limit of 15 miles from a polling place in connexion with the exercise of the postal vote should be considerably curtailed. Personally, I favour a reduction of the distance to either 5 or 7 miles. The Bill contains a new principle in that it will permit an elector who believes that on polling day he will be more than 10 miles distant from a polling booth to record his vote beforehand. That will, doubtless, prove a great convenience; but if it will necessitate the appointment of any considerable number of additional electoral registrars, I do not think that the expenditure incurred in giving effect to it will be warranted. However, that is a small matter, which can be better dealt with in
Committee. I do hope that the Government will not rest satisfied with reforming the electoral system for the return of members to this House, but will earnestly grapple with the problem of how to provide for proper representation in the Senate.
.- I recognise that this is purely a Bill for consideration in Committee. But there are one or two points connected with it to which I desire to refer. In the first place, I protest against the Government attempting to alter our electoral system while so many men are absent from this country fighting the battles of the Empire. This Parliament promised those men that during their absence “ not one stone in the temple of ‘Labour would be overturned,” and it has a right to honour that promise. At the last election, too, Ministers told the people that they would not destroy any Act on our statute-book.
– They are not destroying the Act; they are improving it.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but it is not mine. I protest against the proposal to restore the postal vote, because I believe that the postal voting system leads to corruption. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has affirmed that he has never heard a valid argument in support of the abolition of postal voting. Need I remind him of what takes place under that system? Whenever a keen electoral contest is in progress the canvassers for the rival candidates immediately get to work. They visit the different hospitals, .and, first of all, make floral gifts to tie patients. Then they commence to talk politics to them, with the result that the inmates, as well as the entire staffs of these institutions, are annoyed by their attentions. It is not in the interests of the sick that the system of voting by post is desired, but in the interests of political candidates themselves.
– The medical authorities would not allow political canvassers lo wait upon the patients in our hospitals.
– It has been done time and again, as everybody knows. Even the sick in the privacy of their homes are not exempt from the attentions of these energetic canvassers. Yet it is now proposed to restore the postal voting system.
– Under the existing system we establish polling booths . and allow scrutineers at hospitals.
– I am quite aware of that. I have no desire to deprive any person of his vote. But we have a right to protect the inmates of our hospitals against visits by political canvassers. I do hope that the Minister will take note of the utterances of honorable members upon his own side of the chamber, and will devise effective means to prevent the patients in these institutions from being interfered with by canvassers for rival political candidates.
– I will look into the matter.
– In regard to the system of preferential voting for this Chamber I would point out that at the present time we are endeavouring to secure uniformity in the matter of our Commonwealth and. State electoral rolls. Here is an opportunity to secure uniformity in respect of our electoral systems of voting. We are departing from uniformity in connexion with the ballot by proposing that the electors shall indicate by numerals their preference in voting for the House of Representatives, and their choice for the Senate by placing , a cross Opposite the names of the favoured candidates.
– There is the consideration that the preferential system will absolutely destroy every chance of minority representation.
– Does the Minister be.lieve in proportional representation?
-Is the Minister prepared to carry the system to its logical conclusion? If it is right that people should be represented in Parliament according to their numbers, the principle should be carried further, and parties should be similarly represented in the Cabinet. The principal body in connexion with our system of government is the Executive; and if the Minister sincerely believes in the principle of proportional representation, he should be pre pared to extend it to the Treasury bench. There is proportional representation on the Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee : let us extend it to the Cabinet.
– The- honorable member’s party would not agree to that.
– The honorable member cannot say what our party will do.
– The honorable, mem.bet is prepared to do as he is told.
– We are proud to do as the electors tell us. Honorable members opposite are very obedient to their organizations. For my own part, I shall carry out every promise I made to the electors, regardless of the decisions of any conference. This Bill may have been intended as a reform, but, in my opinion, lt represents a backward step, and it will not achieve much. We have more important matters to deal with than a Bill which is introduced for the particular benefit of the present Government. We know that the Government are apprehensive of the farmers nominating candidates at the next general election.
– Why should they not do sot
Air. RILEY. - Of course, they should; but the Government are afraid of a repetition of what happened at the Swan bvelection.
– Is it not a fact that the honorable member’s party selects candidates’ by preferential voting ?
– It is; but it must be remembered that every man who submits to pre-selection in the Labour party believes in the same platform.
– The honorable member is given a platform from day to day.
– Some honorable members opposite who are laughing at the Labour party would be very glad to be included in those ballots. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) submits himself to pre-selection, and must abide by the result. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) knows that in the organization of his party there is a tendency towards pre-selection. And why not? The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has made a number of promises, which I hope he will carry out. He has said that he will consider whether we- can have the- same system of voting for the House of Representatives and for the Senate*.. If he agrees1 to an amendment in that direction, my opposi- tion to the Bill will be greatly curtailed..
– Did the Minister pro mise that?
– He said he would consider it; but this is “ the consideration Government.” If the Minister will further promise that there shall be no canvassing in hospitals for the votes of sick people, my objection to postal” voting will be lessened. I hope that be- fore the second reading is taken to a division, the Minister will state what he is: prepared to do. If he will not agree, to the amendments I have suggested I shall vote against the second reading, but if it is carried I shall move amendments in Committee which will aim at removing the objectionable features I have indicated.
– This is largely a Bill to be dealt with in Committee. New South Wales is the one State in the Commonwealth which has not the preferential system of voting, and every argument which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) used has been used and exploded in State after State. However, some points’ have been raised by honorable members on the Opposition side with which I agree. We could not make a greater mistake than to provide that the elector shall signify his choice by - placing a cross against the names of Senate candidates and numerals against the names of candidates for the House of Representatives when the election for the two Houses takes place on the same day. I believe that if we operate that dual system, at least 25 per cent, of the votes recorded will be informal.
– It will entail too great a strain on the intelligence of the voter.
– Unfortunately, there is a large proportion of the electors on both sides who do not take much interest in political matters until election day arrives, and even then if they were not hunted up assiduously by both parties the total vote, in each constituency would be much smaller than it usually is. _
I think the time, has arrived for an alteration in the system of electing the Senate. The present system is crude in the extreme, and nothing could be more unjust. At the last general election the party to which I belong secured the whole of the eighteen seats in another place. I say deliberately it should not have done so. The total vote cast for the Liberal candidates was 1,172,126, and they secured, the whole eighteen seats; while 825,568 electors throughout the whole of the Commonwealth failed to secure one representative in the Senate. In New South Wales, the Liberals polled 54 per cent, aud Labour 46 per cent. The representation should have been two Liberal senators and one Labour senator. In Victoria, the Liberals polled 54 per cent, and Labour 46 per cent., but in Queensland the result was worse still. There the Liberal party polled 50.9 per cent., and the Labour party 49.1 per cent., but practically half the electors failed to secure any representation, as three Liberal senators were returned. Can any one say that the result of that Senate election was not a travesty on representation? In the election of 1914, following the double dissolution, Labour, polling a bare majority of the entire votes of the Commonwealth, secured thirty-one seats in the Senate, and the Liberal party gained only Ave. If we had had proportional representation, the two parties would have secured exactly eighteen seats each. It is possible for one party to secure the whole of the voting power in the Senate after a double dissolution. As a matter of fact, if there had been a double dissolution twelve months ago, it is practically certain that there would not have been one Labour representative in the Senate to-day. I am one of those who think that that is not a good thing. On the actual results of the poll, if we had had proportional representation at the last election, the Liberal party would have secured twelve seats in the Senate, and the Labour party six. I should like to quote the figures for a number of previous elections, because they show what a complete travesty of representation is brought about by our present system.
– There is no chance of carrying proportional representation through the Senate, and the Government party know it.
– it is the duty of this House to do what it thinks is right, and leave the Senate to do what it thinks is right also. If we think proportional representation ought to apply to the Senate, we should put it iu the Bill, and take our chance of what the Senate chooses to dp. So strongly do I hold that view, that I intend to support the amendment that is to be moved in Committee to apply proportional representation to Senate elections, and I sincerely hope it will be carried. That will get rid of the great objection which has been urged in this debate, that to have one system of voting for the House of Representatives, and another for the Senate on the same day, can result only in hopeless confusion in the minds of a certain percentage of our electorates, while it will not secure the proper representation of all parties, as a good system should do.
The preferential system of voting exists in every State of the Federation except New South Wales and South Australia.
– And in South Australia they have double and treble electorates also.
– The second ballot is a worse evil than the block vote. One of the great advantages of the preferential system will be to do away with the party machine selection on both sides.
– I do not think so.
– In Tasmania, where preferential voting has been in existence for many years, although the Labour party still retain the system of pre-selection, it is a very nominal preselection, while the Liberal party has abolished it.
– I bet you do not like that any better in Tasmania than anywhere else.
– I do not believe you would get half-a-dozen members in the Tasmanian Parliament to support a motion for the abolition of the preferential system. The late Mr. G. B. Edwards, who was very ‘highly esteemed when he sat in this House for North Sydney, once said that there was more intrigue in one pre-selection than in three elections, and that statement was cheered by both sides. I have always held that no organization has the right to come between the electors and any one who desires to represent them. The choice of the electors should be as wide as possible, and it is not right for any organization - Liberal, Labour, Nationalist, or Socialist - to say to a man, “ Unless you will come to us, and lodge your nomination with us, and let us decide whether you may go before the electors or not, you have no chance.” That is a travesty. on representative government.
– That is all very well, but you know the finance is all on one side
– In my elections I have found that the financial assistance has indeed been all on one side, and that side was not mine. If a party likes to run only one candidate, there is no reason why it should be compelled to run more. I differ entirely from the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who would prevent a party selecting only one’ candidate. If, a party chooses to select one candidate only why should it not do so? But the Bill will have a very advantageous effect upon those parties which lake a wider grip of national government. Why should not the Farmers’ party run candidates ? Why should the people in a country constituency in Victoria be compelled to come down to a little clique in Melbourne for a decision as to who their candidate shall be? That kind of thing is a travesty on representative government, and one of the reasons why I hail this Bill with delight is the fact that it will put a stop to it by giving free access to the electors for those who desire to offer their services to them. It is said that the introduction of this system will be the means of bringing out many more candidates, and that those who have been fortunate enough to bo returned unopposed on several occasions will now have to contest elections, but if the electors desire to have a choice, surely it is not our place to hinder them ?
When the Bill goes into Committee I hope it will be taken out of the realm of party politics, and that we shall endeavour to secure proportional voting for the Senate, a uniform system of voting for both Houses as far as possible, and the establishment of the postal vote, thereby enabling sick people ‘ and persons who cannot get to the poll the opportunity to record their votes. In some country districts 3 miles are as much as 8 or 10 miles in a city or a suburb.
– Does the honorable member think that candidates should be permitted to canvass sick people for rotes ?
– I do not think that persons should be allowed to go into hospitals and worry sick people for their votes, but I do not think the medical authorities would permit very much of that. Whatever system we have it will be abused to some extent, but no more cruel thing was ever done, and no more autocratic step was ever taken, than when. our friends, who are now sitting opposite, deliberately disfranchised from 60,000 to 70,000 sick people in Australia. The hands of the political clock were never put back further.
– It was a brutal thing to do.
– Yes, it was, and I am glad to note that not one honorable member of - the Opposition has said that he intends to try to prevent sick people from recording their votes. The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has said that proper precautions will surround the postal vote. I hope that the matter will be dealt with on its merits, and that those who live in cities and can ride to the polling booths for 2d. or 3d. on tramcars, will try to remember the difficulties of hose people who are out in the back-blocks, where there are practically no roads, and no motor cars to take them to the poll.
– Does the honorable member think that city people use tramcars to go to the poll? -
– I hope that electors who are in the favoured position of being driven by our friends on both sides in motor cars to the polling booths will give a little consideration to those whoso best means of conveyance is a bullock cart.
.- If we could just forget the past when we arc discussing this Bill we could much more easily arrive at a satisfactory re- suit. It is quite refreshing to hear honorable members on the Government side saying that this is not a party measure, and telling us what they, propose to do when we are in Committee, but I have heard them say the same thing before, and the result has always been the same. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) may perhaps be much less open to the charge of not standing by his statements when votes are taken than other honorable members are, because on several occasions even during this session he has given us exhibitions of his independence, but we know that when it comes to a vote the Government have the majority, and the Bill which they bring forward is the measure which’ goes through. The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has given us no indication that we may hope for the acceptance of any amendmentswhich will accord with the views of those honorable members who have expressed their opposition to certain of the provisions of the measure.
I have endeavoured to discover the reasons which have actuated the Government in bringing forward the Bill. We were informed by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) when the House met that on this occasion we were to consider urgent financial measures necessary for the conduct of the war, and I can only imagine that this Bill has been introduced in order to give him an occasional relief. This is one of those Bills which can be taken up and dropped as the, occasion requires in order to give a respite to the Treasurer from the strain of being continually in the House piloting his financial proposals through. There is certainly nourgency for the Bill. There has been no demand for it.
-it was promised in the policy speech.
– If a promise was given that this Bill would be introduced I congratulate the Government on ‘ having decided to honour at least one promise. There is no other pledge that the Government or their supporters gave at the last election which they have had the decency to keep. In fact, the Government is a Ministry of broken pledges, and if this Bill is an indication of their return to honorable methods I congratulate them.
I take immediate exception to clause 3, which provides that nothing in the Bill shall affect the provisions of ‘ the Com monwealth Electoral (War Time) Act 1917, which Act disfranchised naturalized British subjects born in enemy countries, and therefore the contention of supporters on- the Government side that this Bill. does not disfranchise any one fails utterly. The Electoral’ (War Time) Act was a special measure brought in for a particular purpose during war time, and that purpose having been satisfied, rightly or wrongly in the result, its provisions ought to have been wiped out by this new Bill which is supposed tobe a consolidating measure and the one authoritative piece of electoral machinery for this country. The Government are perpetuating in this Bill what was recognised then, and is more clearly recognised now, as a distinct blot on our electoral machinery. The War-time Electoral Act also provided for additional, questions being put to voters when desiring to record their votes. Honorable members will remember the irritation caused by those questions.
There is, however, one provision of the War-time Electoral Act to which I venture to give my assent, andI am surprised that the Minister has not seen his way to include it in this Bill, because it operated with very satisfactory results to the Government when applied under the War-time Electoral Act. It was also recommended by the Electoral. Commission. I refer to the provision for a party vote. A good deal has been said about the preferential vote for the House of Representatives and proportional voting for the Senate; but there is no provision in this Bill to enable an elector to vote for a particular political party.
– That provision is in the War-time Electoral Bill.
– I have said that it is.
– We must alter that if the preferential vote is carried. It could not be associated with preferential voting.
– Why not?
-How could a man exercise a choice by marking the names of three candidates with crosses?
– I can see no reason why a candidate should not be. distinguished by the name of the political party to which, he belongs. I should certainly have no objection to my name appearing on a ballot-paper as that of the Labour candidate, and I do not think that my opponent would be likely to object if distinguished by the name of the political party to which he belonged. In connexion, for instance, with the byelection which has just taken place for the electoral division of Swan, what objection could there be if Mr.- Corboy had been described on the ballot-paper as the Labour candidate, Mr. Hedges as the National candidate, Mr. Murray as the farmers’ candidate, and Mr. Watson as the prohibition candidate? If that course had been adopted, it would have afforded a clear guide to the electors in recording their votes. What wc desire in connexion with all our electoral machinery is to enable t’he electors to record an intelligent vote, in order that we may secure a satisfactory result from elections.
– It could not be a very intelligent vote if the elector required to be told that the honorable member is a Labour man.
– It is not that the. elector requires to be told what a particular candidate 13, but that a number of people desire to vote for a party candidate, and are not concerned about the individual at all. If on the ballot-paper the names pf the candidates were followed by the names of the parties they support, it would be of great assistance to the general voter. We should have no other desire than that every candidate shall be given a fair deal; and if people wish to vote for a particular political party, they should be given an unmistakable opportunity to do so. This is much more necessary in connexion with an election for the Senate than in connexion with an election for the House of Representatives. Many of the objections raised on the Government side to voting under the present system for the Senate might be overcome by having a party description of the candidates on . the Senate ballotpapers. The electors could, then vote in one vote for Labour party candidates or National party candidates, or the candidates of any other political party contesting Senate seats. This proposal was re- commended by the Electoral Commission as a simple method of overcoming what apparently, under the provisions of this Bill, will constitute a very serious difficulty.
A matter to which I invite the attention of the Minister is the provision in - regard to the appointment of the Commissioners who are to be responsible for dividing the States into electoral divisions. It is proposed that three shall be appointed, and the Bill specifies who and what two of. the Commissioners shall be. One is to be the Chief Electoral Officer, and another the Surveyor-General of a State, or some officer having similar qualifications. There is no suggestion as .to who is to be the third Distribution Commissioner. He is evidently to be ‘a Government nominee, who may, and . probably will, be a distinctly party man, because no Government having charge of the electoral machinery will take any chances. Every Government that introduces an Electoral Bill, however anxious they may be to see that its provisions are just and fair, will naturally be prejudiced in their own favour. They will not include provisions in the Bill which will be of advantage to the other side. If the Labour party were in charge of this Bill, they would make its provisions as satisfactory to themselves as possible, and the party in charge of it now will naturally do the same. The third Distribution Commissioner will, therefore, inevitably be a Government nominee - some man in whom the Government have confidence that he will see that the States are divided into electoral divisions in a way that will be satisfactory to them. Previously, in dealing with electoral measures, I have suggested that, in addition to the Chief Electoral Officer, there is one man in the Commonwealth who might most appropriately be appointed a member of the Electoral Distribution Commission. The SurveyorsGeneral of the States are properly ap-‘ pointed members of this Commission ; but, in my view, the Commonwealth Statistician is, before all, the one man qualified to decide what should be the division of population upon which our electoral representation should be based. I suggest to the Minister that he might consider the possibility of stating clearly in this Bill that the Distribution Commission shall include three specified persons, and that the Commonwealth Statistician shall be one of the three.
– “We have included the Chief Electoral Officer under this Bill. He was not included before. This was done in the interests of the purity of the distribution, about which the honorable member is talking.
– I have expressed my entire approval of the inclusion in the Commission of the Chief Electoral Officer. My objection is that under the Bill it will be possible to include some person who does not occupy a responsible official position. My experience of Commonwealth electoral affairs is that, where we have Commonwealth officers conducting elections, we get a fair deal, but when others are introduced we lose the advantage of the sense of responsibility which is upon Commonwealth officers, and that is “disadvantageous, not merely to one party, but to the whole election. Immediately a suspicion arises in the minds of the people on either side that an election is not being conducted fairly, there is a decided disadvantage accruing.
– We propose to include in the Distribution Commission at least two experts.
– “Why not include a third?
– It would “then be complained that there was no neutral on the Commission at all.
– The Minister will better appreciate my point of view in dealing with, this matter when I tell him that I go so far as to assert that it is not a good thing that the distribution of seats should be subject to the approval of Parliament. I think that members of Parliament should have no say whatever in the matter. “We are interested in these electoral divisions. Naturally, if I can influence the Minister or the Government, or, through them, the Electoral Distribution Commission, to cut up the Brisbane division in such a way as to bo favorable to me, I am going to do it. But it should not be possible for me to do it. I do not think that members of Parliament should have any say whatever in the matter, or any influence in the division of the States into electoral divisions. The Distribution Commission should have full, absolute, and final power in the matter.,
– And be appointed by the Government?
– Appointed by whatever Government is in power. As long- as they are responsible officials I am quite content to take the result of their work.
– Does the honorable member believe in creating an authority higher than Parliament?
– In regard to the - distribution of electoral divisions I do. Parliament should have nothing to do with such a matter.
– This improvement ia made for the first time.
– I have before expressed this view, and I adhere to it to-, day.
There is a clause in the Bill relating to the qualifications and disqualifications for enrolment and voting, and it is provided that only persons over , the age . of twenty-one years shall be allowed to vote. The War-time Electoral Act, however, provides that soldiers, sailors, nurses, and others enlisted for active service shall be entitled to vote whether their names are on the roll or not. When that measure was before the House I submitted an amendment providing that every citizen of eighteen years of age should be given the right to vote. I believe in that principle to-day more strongly than I did when the War-time Electoral Bill was before us. We have imposed upon youths of eighteen years of age the responsibilities of citizenship, and we should accord them the privileges of citizenship. I should like to see in this Bill a clause providing that every man and woman who has been enrolled for active service in connexion with this war shall, because of that fact, be entitled to vote regardless of whether ornot he or she has reached the age of twenty-one years. In Committee I shall* propose to amend clause 39 by providing that any soldier, sailor, nurse, or any other person who has been accepted for active service during this war shall be entitled to be enrolled.
– Such persons can vote at present if they are twenty-one years of age.
– Quite so; therefore my amendment would apply to a comparatively small number. I would remind the Minister thatquite a. number of these men and women who are over, as well as under, twenty-one years of age may not be on the roll. For obvious reasons they may not have been able to secure enrolment.
– It is not necessary for them to be enrolled if they have been at the Front. The War-time Electoral Act is unaffected by this Bill.
– Then there was more in the contention of the honorable member for Mararnoa (Mr. Page) than appeared on the surface.
– Not at all.
– The War-time Electoral Act provides for the disqualification of voters. We do not wish that to operate under our electoral machinery.
– It does not disqualify, natural-born British subjects.
– It disqualifies naturalized British subjects. Honorable members opposite, who have been talking so. glibly of the disfranchisement of certain individuals, should be the last to do so, seeing that this Bill does not affect that Act which disfranchises a large number of citizens.
– Under the War-time Electoral Act enemy-born subjects alone will be disfranchised, and then only for the period of the war and six months afterwards.
– The Government can bring in a regulation’ just as they did in connexion with the last referendum to deal with that matter.
– They cannot. That was quite a different matter, and I can assure honorable members that no such measure will be brought in.
– The Minister must be aware that under the War-time Electoral Act power is given to ask questions in addition to the ordinary questions that may be put to an intending voter under our general electoral legislation. The Government could pass regulations providingfor the putting of such questions as it was proposed to ask at the last Federal referendum.
– Why not repeal the War-time Electoral Act?
– Surely the honorable member would not deprive men at the Front of the right to vote.
– I certainly would not. I think we should have it clearly and specifically set out in this Bill that any man or woman who has been enrolled for active service shall be entitled to vote irrespective of his or her age. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment of which I have given notice. It will be but a very small recognition of the work of the men and women who have gone on active service in connexion with this war. At the most its virtue will expire- within a very short period, since the men and women under twenty-one, and therefore ordinarily disentitled to- be enrolled, will be few in number. A year or two hence they will be able to comply with all the usual qualifications.
The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) makes a suggestionthat I should like the Minister to consider, and that is whether he cannot see his way to accept eighteen years as the qualifying age for enrolment throughout Australia. There is no particular virtue in the age of twenty-one years. A man does not, as if by magic, become wise on reaching the age of twenty-one years.
– Nor on reaching the age of eighteen.
– Quite so. ButI suggest eighteen years because the Government themselves have imposed citizenship responsibilities at that age.
– And the honorable member says that a youth of that age is too young to have citizenship responsibilities imposed upon him.
– I do.
– Then the honorable member’s argument goes by the board.
– The Government must accept responsibility for their own attitude. It is they who ‘ have imposed citizenship responsibilities at the age of eighteen. Is the Minister prepared to insert a provision that all those on whom citizenship responsibilities have been imposed at that age shall have extended to them citizen privileges also at the age of eighteen T
– To those who have enlisted?
– Will the honorable member support that in Committee?
– You will not find me failing there.
– I hope not.
I want the Minister to consider also a suggestion with regard to the removal of names from the roll. In the Bill he has provided that any name on the roll may be objected to by way of an objection in writing, with which a sum of 5’s. has to be deposited. It is not clear whether an objection may be taken to an individual, or whether it may be a wholesale objection. It should not be open to any one person to be in a position to object to electors in a wholesale fashion.
– Practically all the objections come, from the officers, and not from outsiders.
– But salaried party officers on the Minister’s side in politics lodged wholesale lists of objections to names on the roll, and it was very difficult to prevent large erasures from the certified roll.
– That must have been after an election, when the rolls were clean.
– No, it was before an election. I want to know whether a list of fifty objections will require a deposit of 5s.. or whether every objection to every single name must be accompanied by a 5s. deposit.’
– As a matter of fact, outside individuals do not lodge objections. It is all done by the officers.
– In one instance letter - carriers lodged some 300 objections, and afterwards all the names had to be placed back on the roll.
– They get 1½d. for every name they take off, under the electoral regulations.
-And a very cheap and effective way it is of accomplishing a desirable purpose. Moreover, it is a more secure and honest way than by allowing managers of party caucuses to bring forward lists of objections by tens and hun.dred, - objections to persons of whom they have no personal knowledge, and regarding whom such action is taken only for party purposes.
– They are individual objections by people in the same division- ; but they are all officers, as a matter of fact.
– I will leave that point.
The Minister, in this measure, persistsin the old and effete practice of requiring a State member to resign his seat in the State House before becoming a candidate for Federal honours.
– Does not the honorable member believe in one man one job?’
-^ do, and’ I do not believe in one man getting my job here until I have finished “with it.’ We are hoping to secure, by some scheme of reciprocity, a uniform Electoral Act which will operate equally in the State and the Federal sphere. If there were reciprocity among members of Parliament themselves, that might be one of the easiest, ways of bringing about uniformity in the general direction. If Federal honours were open to State members without requiring resignation from State seat’s, andvice versa, there would be something in this question of reciprocity for the sake of uniformity. We can. afford to be generous, and I, for one, am prepared to excise the provision in this Bill which requires a State member to resign his seat before appealing to the people for Federal honours
Another provision which should be made perfectly clear has to do with that, period’ -between the nomination of a candidate and election day, during which interval the candidate’ may die. Under this Bill, no provision is made for the substitution of a candidate. The only provision we have, and which gives either party, or any individual, - the right to nominate another candidate in the circumstance of the original candidate dying between the date of nomination and election day, is contained in the War-time Act. I cannot understand why the Minister has not included in this measurea permanent provision as part of our. . electoral machinery. It is set out in the war-time measure to which I have alluded that if .any candidate dies between nomination day and palling day, the leader of either party shall have the right to nominate another candidate in his stead.
– That continues so long as the Act is in force.
– It continues only for the period of the war, whereas it should be a permanent feature of our electoral machinery.
– It had a special interest in relation to voting at the Front; but does the honorable member want stereotyped parties for ever?
–Will this Bill assist us to get rid of party government ?
– I do not say that. .
– It is amusing that some honorable members should think that the method of voting to be inaugurated under this Bill will mean the end of the party system.
– I do not say that.
– The Minister does not. But instead of two parties, we are more likely to have five or six. _ This principle will only aggravate and intensify the party system. I have no object-tion to the party system as such. It is easily the finest system of government the world knows to-day. Of course, there is a still better system. We shall grow out of the present party method into something better; but we shall not do so by bringing about half-a-dozen different parties instead of two. One inevitable result of this Bill, under its provisions relating particularly to preferential voting, will be that instead of two candidates, with a straight-out fight, there will be at least four candidates in nearly every electorate.
– Quite right.
– I do not think so; but, whether it is right or wrong, we shall probably have to put up with it. The- only advantage, so far as I am concerned, will be that there will be only one Labour candidate in the field.
– There will be two Labour candidates next time - a National, as well as an Official Labour candidate. . .
– - Thi:y may call themselves what they choose, they are not the Labour party.
– What is your definition of the Labour party?
– My definition of the Labour party is a party of men who have signed the Labour platform.
– Under Caucus domination.
– I had not intended to refer just yet to the Caucus, but had reserved it for a later part of my speech, when I intended to show that there is a. good deal of misconception and of deliberate misrepresentation regarding it.
There is another provision in the Bill to which I venture to draw the attention of the Minister. Probably I shall not secure, and do not expect to secure, the approval of the. Minister, and, perhaps, that of honorable members; but I am here to express my personal opinions. I should like to see Part xvi. of the Bill cut out altogether. That is the part which deals with the limitation of electoral expenses; and I do not see the slightest reason for its retention. I know the reason that the part is inserted, but I am not at all convinced that any limitation has the slightest effect on the expenditure of any party. We all know that, although the Act imposes a certain limit in this regard on candidates for both Houses, and also imposes the necessity for a return of expenditure within a certain time, none of the returns sent in are reliable.
– I do not think that any of the returns are reliable, except, it may be, that of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) who did not spend more than £5 or £10.
– Say “hardly any.”
– I have no objection. Does the honorable member’ say that the expenditure of the National party at the last election was shown in the returns made?
– What about the expenses of the Caucus party?
– They were not shown in the return, so far as I know.
Apparently both the honorable member arid myself admit that the provision in the Act is futile.
– Exactly! Mr. FINLAYSON”. - The provision only leads to fraud and falseness’; it pretends to impose a limit that cannot be imposed. Perhaps the fact that the provision is there may have a sort of deterrent effect.
– It is a check.
– It may be a check, but it is not an effective check, and in my opinion it is of no advantage to anybody. Of course, candidates may say in favour of the provision that it enables them to point out to their supporters that their expenditure is limited, and that if the election is to be won by money it must be found by somebody else. Who can imagine the honorable member for the Grampians (Mr. Jowett) allowing an election to fail for the sake of a few pounds ? His £100 would disappear, and he himself not know where it had gone, and nobody would ask him. Although the Labour party have suffered in the past for lack of funds, while their opponents were rolling in wealth, the fact remains that this limitation is a mere pretence, professing as it does to do something that it cannot do. There is no serious objection to preferential voting, and I am quite willing to accept it if it is thought that it will enable us to arrive at a fair expression of the will of the electors.
– It is a national necessity just now.
– It is, no doubt, in the case of those members who once belonged to the Labour party and have crossed over; it will undoubtedly be their salvation at the next election.
– We have retained the true faith ; you are the seceders.
– There has never yet been a secession in any matter, political or religious, in which the seceders have not declared that they were the true, men who had “ left their country for their country’s good.” I have a very definite opinion that this preferential voting is the one thing that will give our old comrades a chance of life.
– Do not worry about your old comrades ; they will be alive and kicking when you are done.
– 1 have, no friendly concern for them, and the less I see of them in this House the better I like it. The one thing is that those gentlemen will have to sail their own boat at the next election; they cannot shelter under the wing of the old Liberal party.
– What about the Brisbane Worker and the selection?
– Probably the Brisbane Worker and I may have a good deal to say to each other before the next election, and if I have to face the ballot, all right; I am not going to put up an umbrella until the rain comes. I have no objection to the principle of preferential voting, because I believe it will work just as much . in favour of the Labour party as in favour of other candidates. If there is to be,’ as I have suggested, four candidates in each electorate, I think the Labour men will stand a very good chance of being one of the first, two in the first round. They will have as good a chance of getting preferential votes as the “ other fellow,” and from a party point of view I do not think it will hurt us in any way.
Postal voting, however, stands on a different footing, and, generally speaking, I do not object to the principle. It i3 only reasonable and proper that every opportunity should be afforded to the electors to record their votes, and I am prepared to go -to extreme limits to give every man and woman that opportunity. But - I have not yet seen a system of postal voting work out satisfactorily. Every system that has yet been tried, State and Federal, has proved itself seriously open to corruption and intrigue.
– So has every other system of voting.
– But the postal system seems peculiarly susceptible to these influences. It is supposed to apply particularly to sick people. As a matter of fact, we know that thousands of people who were not sick, and had no expectation of being sick, on the day of election exercised this particular privilege. We all know, too, that it was intended to apply particularly to women, but that thousands of men who expected to be sick on polling day voted by post at previous elections. And most of these sick people, strange to say, were to be found in the cities, and not in the country districts.
We have not yet evolved any system of postal voting which eliminates the possibility of abuse by people for whom it was not meant, and who have no right to use it. In this BUI, it is proposed to open the door still wider, because postal voting is to be made applicable, not only to people who are sick or expect to be sick, but to people who are not living within 15 miles of a polling booth, or who expect to be travelling By rail or steamer on polling day. My only hope is that when the Bill is in Committee we may be able to insert some provision which will, as far as possible, protect elections from fraud or corruption.
– There is more protection in this Bill than in the previous measure.
– I really think the Minister has made an effort to tighten up the provisions against fraud, but I do not think it possible to guarantee absolutely against fraud in the postal provisions.
I am sorry that the Bill makes no provision for the enfranchisement or representation of Commonwealth .citizens resident in our Territories. We are extending our Territories, and now we have not only the Federal Capital, the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island, and Papua, but probably after the war we shall also be administering New Guinea. It is not fair, and it “is not creditable to Australia, that there should be on Australian soil people qualified to vote, but who have neither that right nor any representation in our Parliament. I know it is a difficult and delicate question to handle,- and that it is not easy satisfactorily to give these people direct representation. The only method I can think of is to attach each of those Territories some State electoral division. Although there may be some argument in favour of the Territories jointly having, say, one senator to represent them, and one member in the House of ^Representatives, I’ would object most strenuously to. any suggestion that any such senator or member of this House be limited in the exercise of his privileges, and allowed to vote only on questions affecting the Territories-. Any representative so appointed should have exactly the same rights and privileges as other members. This suggestion has been made to get over the difficulty. I think most honorable members honestly believe that these people should be represented, but the ‘question is how to do this satisfactorily and equitably.
– The Northern Territory would be attached to three States. I did look into that matter, but the proportions are still small.
– Some relief would be afforded if representation were given on the Local Councils. In Papua there is a Local Council; and I think if the people there had direct representation on that body,, their desire for representation in the Federal Parliament would be satisfied for some time to come.
– They have a system of local government in Papua
– Yes ; but we must look forward to the time when some arrangement will have to bo made for their representation in the Federal Parliament. If in the Federal Capital Territory the Government projects are proceeded with, there will be a fullyequipped Arsenal, and yet a large number of people there will be disfranchised. I have heard the Minister express the opinion that these people in our Territories should have some consideration, but this Bill makes no provision in that direction. In Committee I hope bo submit a few amendments which I trust will be accepted if there ia. anything at all in the argument that the Bill is non-party in character. If members on the Ministerial side of the House approve of principles which we on this side advocate, I hope they will vote for them. As far as I am concerned, I can promise that if I approve of principles which they are advocating, I will cross the floor with them.
Mr.. jowett (Grampians) [10.27].- “We are all agreed that if ever there were a measure that should be free from all prejudice and party bias, it is the Bill which we are now considering.
– There never has been a Government yet that did not bring in an Electoral Bill to suit themselves.
– That may have been the experience in the past. The honorable member may be familiar with what has taken place in the dark ages; but that is no justification for the intrusion of party spirit into the discussion of this Bill. I have made a few mental notes of the debate, and regret to say that there has been’, perhaps unconsciously and unintentionally, some exhibition of party spirit. One of the earlier Opposition speakers said, I think, that the “ other side,” meaning the Ministerial supporters, “ are getting ready to wipe us out.” But, in my opinion, every member wishes to give the electors of Australia & fair and square deal. Our endeavour must be, not to suppress, but to give opportunity for the expression of, the political views of the electors. The essential provisions of the Bill are those dealing with preferential voting and restoring postal voting. It has been said that we have no right to make any radical alteration of our . electoral system while out soldiers are absent from Australia, and the promise that “ not a stone in the temple of Labour will be touched until the war is over,” alleged to have been made by. a very distinguished citizen, has been referred to in support of this contention. We, on this side, have, been accused of ignoring that promise. It has been said about me personally that my election was won on that promise, though I had not heard it until I entered this House. The establishment of preferential voting in no way affects the promise. Practically every returned soldiers’ organization in Australia strongly favours preferential voting, and has carried a resolution to that effect. The provisions of the Bill are all in the interests of the soldier, because they make his voting more effective. What could be more ridiculous than the result of the Swan election? Within a week or two we shall have here as the representative of that division a gentleman for whom were cast only about one third of the total number of votes polled at the election. Those who object to pre ferential voting support an ineffective method of election which, in several instances, so faT as this House is concerned, has brought about the gross misrepresentation of the electors. However, as the hour is late, I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow. - Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181031_reps_7_86/>.