7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he proposed to issue on Tuesday next a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division ofCorangamite,- in the place of the Hon. James Chester Manifold, deceased, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follows : - Date of nomination, Thursday, 28th November; date of polling, Saturday, 14th December; date for the return of the writ, on or before 23rd December.
Threat of Union Official
– Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that the’ secretary, or organizer, of the Clerks Union in Adelaide has repeatedly visited the Military Pay Office there, threatening the lady clerks that should they refuse to join the union they would be discharged and replaced by unionists? If this is not being done in accordance with the policy of the Government, will the Minister put an end to such interference with his officers?
– I am not aware of the matters referred to, but I shall make an inquiry, and inform the honorable member of the result of it.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence see that an Italian who has been arrested by the military police at Newcastle, and placed in the lock-up without being given an opportunity to adjust his private affairs, shall have such an opportunity before being deported at this stage of the war?
– I shall inquire into the case, and see what can be done.
– Will the Acting
Prime Minister take into early and favorable consideration the payment of a further dividend on the various Wheat Pools, to enable the farmers who desire it to cut sufficient hay from their crops to. feed their stock should a continuance of the dry weather threaten a shortage of the natural pasture grasses on the grazing areas of the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member intimated to me that he intended to ask a question on this subject, and I. conferred regarding it with Senator Russell, who is in charge of wheat matters. He informed me that the overdraft is now £12,400,000, and that the difficulties in the way of making further advances are considerable, but he proposes to refer the suggestion of the honorable member fox the early consideration of the Government.
– la the Treasurer aware that counterfeit florins are in circulation, the base coin being thicker and lighter than the genuine coin? Will he take steps to protect the public against this imposition?
– So far as I know the matter has not been reported’ to the Treasury, or come under its notice. ‘If the honorable member will give me particulars, I shall see that steps are taken immediately for the protection of the public.
Position in New Zealand.
– Is the Acting Minister for Customs, who is at present in charge of quarantine administration, u warc that the disease known as Spanish influenza is raging in New Zealand, many deaths having resulted f-om it there? ls he also aware that this is due to the fact-
– The honorable member may not, in asking a question, state a number of facts that are not necessary for its elucidation. I have frequently pointed out that the object of questions is not to convoy information to Ministers, but to obtain information from them. Only such brief facts- should be stated as may be necessary to make the question clear, and the question should be put in all interrogative not a declaratory form.
– Are not the introduction of Spanish influenza into New Zealand, and the resulting deaths, due to the fact that no quarantine was imposed in the Dominion on passengers arriving by steamers having this dread disease on hoard? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the statement has been made on behalf of the New Zealand Government that one of the reasons why they did not declare Spanish influenza an infectious and quarantinable disease was because that might have dislocated the traffic between Australia and New Zealand? Is the Minister also aware that the New Zealand Government have definitely stated-
– The. honorable member is again essaying to furnish information rather than to seek it.
– Is it a fact that the New Zealand Government have stated that the medical authorities agreed that the disease was nothing more than pure influenza, and that, so far, Australia has not declared New Zealand an infected country ? In view of these circumstances, will the Minister assure the House that the most drastic steps will be taken in Australia to prevent the introduction of Spanish influenza from Now Zealand, and that, if necessary, New Zealand will be declared an infected country?
– I believe that all steps necessary to prevent the introduction of Spanish influenza into Australia have already been taken by the quarantine authorities. A number of persons are now undergoing the inconveniences of quarantine, and the Government went so far as to arrest two persons who came from New Zealand surreptitiously and evaded the quarantine regulations. One of these was arrested in Sydney, and the other in Melbourne, and ‘both have been sent into quarantine. So far as I am aware, no steps have been left untaken to prevent the introduction of this disease from New Zealand’.
PRICE FIXING: HAY AND CHAFF.
– It is rumoured all over New South Wales that the Government intend to fix the price of hay and chaff. If there is no such intention, will the Minister in charge of price fixing publicly deny the report?
– Last week, in reply to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), I stated clearly and emphatically that it was not the intention of the Government to fix the price of chaff.
SOLDIERS IN INEBRIATE ASYLUM.
– There are various disquieting rumours as to the incarceration of a number of returned soldiers in an inebriate asylum near Brisbane, and as the State Government are holding an inquiry into the whole matter, will the Acting Prime Minister see that the Repatriation Department is properly represented at that inquiry on behalf of the returned soldiers!
– I was under the impression that my honorable friend had dealt with the matter in some way last week, but I will see that the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is directed to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I ask the Minister for Recruiting whether he has caused a quantity of illustrated and printed matter to be published for the exclusive purpose of distribution among the Australian soldiers now returning? If so, I ask him with what object is this matter being circulated among our re-, turned soldiers?
– We have published a small paper for distribution among the returning Anzacs, in order to enlist their support in the matter of securing a substantial number of recruits to make up the quota required by Australia at the present time.
– Will the Minister in charge of Recruiting he good enough to have forwarded to honorable members copies of the illustrated literature that is being issued in connexion with the present voluntary ballot scheme?
– I shall be pleased to supply copies to those honorable members who desire them.
– The recruiting authorities continue to send to my house copies of recruiting literature in connexion with the voluntary ballot, and I desire .to ask the Minister in charge of Recruiting whether he thinks it necessary that such literature should be sent to houses the male inmates of which are either over fiftytwo or under fourteen years o’f age?
– A good deal of difficulty has been experienced in securing the names of eligibles. In some cases where information has been sought the inmates of the house, instead of giving the Christian names of eligibles residing therein, have given the Christian names of grandfathers.
– That can hardly apply in my case.
– Upon making inquiries as to the honorable member’s own experience-
– I received another illustrated pamphlet to-day.
– I ascertained that the literature delivered at the honorable member’s house was- addressed to “ R. Tudor.” Evidently it was not intended for the honorable member. I have taken steps to prevent any further publications of the kind reaching him.
– Does not the Minister in charge of Recruiting think the time has arrived when a stop should be put to a good deal of the petty expenditure in his Department, which every one hopes and believes is now quite unnecessary?
– In the opinion of the Government, it is inadvisable to cease recruiting efforts until such time as a definite peace is assured.
– Will the Minister for Recruiting be good enough to supply honorable members with a copy of the printed and illustrated matter which he is now circulating amongst returning Australian soldiers?
– I shall have pleasure in complying with the honorable member’s request.
– As a matter of economy, will the Minister for Recruiting consider the propriety of discontinuing for the time being the distribution of ballot-papers in connexion with the voluntary ballot?
– At this stage of the war we cannot afford to do what the honorable member suggests.
– I am informed by his relatives that a communication has been addressed to a gentleman advising him to submit his name to the voluntary recruiting ballot, and that the postmen have made two efforts to locate the addressee. This they have been unable to do because he has been dead for a number of years, and was sixty-eight years of age when he died. I ask the Minister for Recruiting what answer he would advise me to give to the relatives who have been thus harassed?
- 1 deeply regret that the relatives of the deceased man should have received such a communication, hut under the system which we were obliged to adopt in order to obtain a list of the eligibles, mistakes of the kind were unavoidable.
– Will the Minister in charge of Price Fixing state whether it is the intention of the Government to maintain that impotent body, the Australian Meat Administration, and, if so, what will be its functions? Will the honorable gentleman direct its attention to an endeavour to divert, from the coffers of the great canning firms, into the pockets of the producers, the profits of fat stock at the present time?
– I shall he glad to bring under the notice of the Commonwealth Meat Administration the suggestion made by the honorable member. The Administration is doing useful work at the present time in making provision to avoid any shortage of meat for consumption in Australia during the winter months.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read an article which appeared in the Industrial Australian Mining Standard of 31st ultimo, in which the charge is made that British manufacturers are retarding the progress of industry in Australia by preventing the export of leather from the Commonwealth, and preventing also the importation into Australia of machinery for certain industrial establishments? If so, will he communicate with the British authorities with a view of ascertaining the accuracy or otherwise of the statement? If the statement is not correct, will he punish those responsible for its publication?
– I have not read the article, and am afraid that if the Government were to endeavour to follow up every newspaper article in which the facts werenot correctly represented, the whole of itstime would in that way be fully occupied. In the casual moments that we have to derote to the reading of newspapers nowadays, the discovery of gross misstatements of fact is not infrequent. I shall read the article, because the newspaper referred to in recent months has displayed considerable acumen in presenting matters of important public concern. I shall see what foundation there is for the statement.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister authorize the appointment to the Wheat Pool Advisory Board of representatives of the various wheatgrowing States in addition to similar representation to be appointed to the Central Board, in order that growers may share with the Government the administrative responsibilities associated with the management of the Wheat Pool ?
– The honorable member is aware, that the Commonwealth Government decided some time ago to ask each of the four wheat-growing States interested! in the Pool to appoint one representative to the Central Board. The representation when arranged will, I think, give considerable satisfaction. The Minister in charge of the matter says that since the AdvisoryBoards are subject to the Central Board the duplicate representation suggested by the honorable member might lead, not to satisfaction, but to confusion. That is his impression, and I would .prefer to wait until the State representation which we are now inviting is effected, to see how far it necessitates any addition such as the honorable member suggests.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether he intends to issue to the people clear and simple instructions as to what ready measures should be taken to deal with any case of Spanish influenza as soon as it is discovered? In view’ of what is known as the doctors’ strike, and the fact that people in the back-blocks are left practically without medical advice, will the Minister direct his officers to immediately publish in the newspapers, and by means of posters on the railway stations and other public buildings, simple instructions as to what to do ?
– The matter is under consideration.
– In view of the fact that the arrangements made for the preservation of the graves of soldiers who were killed on Gallipoli are not generally known by relatives, will the Assistant Minister for Defence make a public statement on the subject ; and, since an armistice is now being signed, will ‘he take steps to ascertain how far those arrangements have been carried out?
– I will.
– Some citizens of Italy who are resident in Australia are still being called up for military service abroad. In view of the armistice between Italy and Austria, will the Government take into consideration the hardships these people are undergoing - some of them having to sell their businesses at a loss - and see whether, under the circumstances, they cannot be relieved from military service.
– Yesterday I had a conversation with the Consul-General of Italy, though, I a-egret to say, the conversation was not an official one. I propose, ‘however, to take an early opportunity to confer with that gentleman again, and also with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in order to see bow far the arrangement with the Italian Government, under the agreement with the British Government, may be modified in view of the more favorable state of affairs at the Front.
(By leave). - Though the figures are not quite complete, the returns yet to come in are so small that ‘practically a final announcement of the results of the Seventh
War Loan may now be made. The figures are-
There were 143,748 subscribers to the Sixth War Loan, which reached £42,851,960-. The average subscription to the Sixth War Loan amounted to £29S, and to the Seventh War Loan £181. The subscribers to the Sixth War Loan numbered 1 in 34 of the population; to the Seventh War Loan 1 in 20. The great success of the Seventh War Loan may, in general, be ascribed to the determination of the people to carry on the war, but the particular factors which brought about a better result than before may be set down as better organization and publicity, and the introduction to Parliament of the Loan Subscriptions Bill. On this occasion, for the first time, the Treasury had the assistance of very active Loan Committees throughout the length and breadth of Australia. To all the workers the Government cordially extends its thanks, and trusts that when the time comes for raising another loan their valuable ‘ services may again be available. To the banks also thanks are due. They worked very hard indeed to obtain subscriptions under what Ls known as the special advances system, and succeeded in obtaining assisted subscriptions of the very large amount of £21,892,122. The aid of the press must also he gratefully acknowledged. In the opinion of those competent to judge, the loan would not have been successfully raised had not the minimum public duty of citizens been set before them in the Bill referred to, and the Go,vernment believes it is necessary to place the Bill upon the statute-book. It is pleasing to record that the interest on this, the largest loan ever raised in Australia, is subject to taxation. That fact disposes, once for all, of any suggestion that freedom from taxation must be given to attract money for war purposes. Another satisfactory feature of the loan is that the number of subscribers is much larger than ever before. The war loan has thus been distributed widely throughout all classes of the community.
Comments by “ Manchester Guardian.”
– Has the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) read the cabled extract from the Manchester Guardian, objecting to certain statements and actions by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) while in England? Would the Acting Prime Minister mind telling us what is the real object of the Prime Minister’s stay in Great Britain - whether it has anything to do with the fiscal system as earned out in Britain or elsewhere?
– I am rather surprised to hear the honorable member ask a question of this kind; I had imagined that the monopoly of such inqui’sitiveness was enjoyed by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). It seems, however, that some magnetic influence has spread itself from the honorable member for Capricornia to one of his most devoted admirers.
– I cannot get the information, and the honorable member is trying to.
– I am sure that if the honorable member himself cannot get the information the honorable member for Melbourne Ports cannot. Anyone who knows anything of the traditions of the Manchester Guardian must realize that that newspaper is not at all likely to agree with the fiscal tenets of any Australian statesman who is worth his salt. The Manchester Guardian must be expected to disapprove of some of the utterances of the representative of this Government in London. If I were there, or if my hon orable friend, the member for Capricornia, were there, this newspaper would take him to task in the same flamboyant way as it has the Prime Minister.
– But I would not call the newspaper pro-German.
– The Prime Minister has not done so.
– He has called his opponents pro-Germans.
– At any rate, he has not called the Manchester Guardian proGerman.
– What does it matter what the Prime Ministercalls anybody, so long as he does not come back.
– It may not matter to the honorable member who interjects, but it matters to the great body of public opinion in Australia, with which the honorable member, I am afraid, does not count.
Mr. Brennan. - He is a back number! Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson). - I must ask the honorable member to cease interjecting.
– As to the object of the Prime Minister’s visit, I have answered question times without number since his departure in April. His stay in Britain will be long, because of the great things that are happening there; this I have also previously announced. His stay will, I think, meet with the full approval of the people in Australia who count.
– They want him to stay there altogether !
– That is a bad-natured remark that has nothing to do with the ease.
– If honorable members will not obey the direction of the Chair, I shall have to take further steps.
– I should be sorry to see the honorable member subjected to such treatment as that suggested by Mr. Speaker, because heis usually exemplary in the matter of courtesy. However, I do not wish to labour this matter. My honorable friends opposite frequently complain of the criticism of the press; and such criticism is just as hurtful and improper when directed against the
Leader of this House as when directed against the ethics and policy of the Opposition.
Construction in America.
– Will the Acting Minister for the Navy arrange for honorable members to have a chance of studying the specifications and the contract in connexion with the construction in America of certain wooden ships for the Commonwealth Government?
– I am not sure whether we have those specifications, or whether they were arranged in America. I shall make inquiry, and, if possible, comply with the honorable member’s request.
– Statements have been made by the military police that their hours of duty are sometimes from 8 a.m. till 11 p.m., and that meat is no longer served with their last meal, which they have at 4.30 p.m. Their evening meal consists of only tea, bread, and jam, although they are kept on duty till 11 p.m. I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence why Captain Graham has ordered that change in the evening meal; and, also, why he said to a man, named A. C. Fisher, who had obtained leave for forty-eight hours to attend an examination for the Railway Department, that he was a disgrace and a dishonour to the service, although tha man has a good discharge after 505 days’ service? Is it the intention of the Department to starve the military police, and thus render them unable to do their duty?
– I shall make inquiries regarding the statements made by the honorable member, and acquaint him with the result. . ‘
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having reference to a statement (12th June, 1918) by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz., “ The Committee have been unable to find any definite evidence that the authorities know exactly what is their objective in regard to (Naval) Base Construction,” will the Acting Prime Minister state what is the ultimate object of base construction?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As regards the two main bases now under construction, the Naval Board know exactly what their objective is. Messrs. Goode, Matthews, Fitzmaurice, and Wilson, of London, furnished a complete report and lay-out plans of Henderson Naval Base, which the Naval Board adopted on 2nd February, 1915. Complete lay-out plans of Flinders Naval Base were approved on 20th February, 1914. The ultimate object of Naval Base construction is to provide an establishment where the seagoing fleet can in security be refitted and repaired, coaled, victualled, stored, &c, and where the personnel can be trained, exercised, and. accommodated when not actually at sea. A base may contain all or part of these facilities.
I may add that the Minister for Works and Railways recently explained this matter in the House.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice - 1. Is it the intention of the Government to foster the industry of mica production and manufacture in Australia?
– I am advised by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the industry of mica production and manufacture in Australia is one which is considered to be deserving of support, and which, there is no doubt, can be developed into a permanent and prosperous business. The matter has been the subject of careful inquiry and consideration, but it does not appear that at the present time any Government assistance is called for, as the investigation of local deposits with a view to supplying mica to the British Government is at the present time being vigorously conducted by certain parties without any assistance from the Government, the market price being a sufficient inducement. The question as to the placing of an import duty on its manufactures has been noted for consideration when the Tariff is being further dealt with by Parliament.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– These reports are now being examined by the Treasury Accountant. As soon as the examination is complete I will be better able to judge whether the request of the honorable member should be acceded to.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
General Post Office, Sydney, are kept working almost daily from 8.30 a.m. till 6 p.m., and that such lengthened hours are caused through shortage of staff?
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, has furnished the following information : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, uponnotice -
Will the Minister, in fixing the price of meat, fix the minimum as well as the maximum price, so that graziers shall receive a fair price equal at least to the export parity, or will he devisesome scheme to prevent the producers from being victimized?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It is not considered that in the existing disorganized state of producing interests any good would result from an attempt to fix minimum prices of meat.
It is considered that a great deal can be done by co-operative effort to prevent abnormal fluctuations of the market.
It may also be pointed out that in South Australia the Government Freezing Works are giving the following prices for all mutton and lamb consigned to them and passed for export on Imperial account: -
Lamb (approved and passed), 61/8d. per lb. f.o.b.
Legs (hoggets) (approved and passed), 55/8d. per lb. f.o.b.
Wether mutton (approved and passed), 51/8d. per lb. f.o.b.
Ewe mutton (approved and passed), 5d. per lb. f.o.b.
Ram mutton (approved and passed), 4¼d. per lb. f.o.b.
All third quality meat,1/8d. per lb. f.o.b. less.
To assume ownership and accept all responsibility with the exception of fire insurance for the first four months, as soon as the meat has been placed in cold store, hut not to pay for it until placed f.o.b.
To pay all storage charges after the meat has been in store twenty-eight (28) days.
Amongst the departmental charges and conditions are the following: -
The Department will take delivery at its works, Port Adelaide, and will slaughter, weigh, grade, freeze, bag, and brand at five-eighths of one penny (5/8d) per lb., plus an agency fee of threepence (3d.) per carcass.
The charges cover twenty-eight (28) days’ storage, fire insurance (only) for four months, Commerce Act inspection fees, all charges incurred in placing on board vessels, interest on advanced payments, and attending to the business of shipping and settlement with the Imperial Government. AH additional charges for extra storage, insurance, &c., will be made to the Imperial Government.
The skin will be returned to the owner or his agent, or sold on his account if requested. Every necessary care will, be taken to leave the trotters, head, and cheek-pieces on the skin; but should they through any unavoidable cause (be broken off, they shall become the property of the Department.
All caul fat and kidney fat taken from the carcass will be purchased by the Department at market rates.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This matter is being inquired into, and the honorable member will be informed as early as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has the Defence Department taken any steps to secure properly-equipped ambulance carriages for the use of cot cases amongst returned soldiers travelling from Wallangarra to brisbane ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No properly-equipped ambulance carriages are available in the 1st Military District (Queensland), but the Military Commandant advises that first class saloon carriages with platform ends are provided for the use of sollers who are cot cases. These carriages accommodate eight patients, and are fitted with special portable stretchers with mattress, pillows, hot-water urn sterilized, lavatories, enlarged window for passing stretchers and patients through. A red cross is painted on the outside of the carriage. The Railway Department do not anticipate any difficulties, but should the necessity arise a first class Pullman sleeper car to carry twenty cot cases will be made available.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The only commission payable to any bank in connexion with war loans is that of 2s. per cent, to the Commonwealth Bank for paying the interest during the currency of the loan, and for the work of redeeming the loan at maturity. In the case of the Seventh War Loan, the results are not yet complete, and no commission has been paid.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Giving consideration to the fact that the Government is now taxing prizes won in Tattersalls “ Consultations,” and that it is alleged that Tattersall’s lias been appointed, or authorized, to collect such tax, will the Minister consider the advisability of removing the embargo against letters addressed to Tattersalls or any known agent of that concern?
– The Government does not approve of the suggestion contained in the question of the honorable member, and is not prepared to authorize the removal of the postal embargo.
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Royal Commission’s Report on.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to both questions will be best presented in a letter which I have received from the Chairman of the Commission, dated’ 1st November, which reads as follows: -
Your letters of the 29th and 30th ult., asking (a) whether the Commission could expedite the investigations which are being made in regard to the acquisition of the Shaw Wireless Works, Randwick, New South Wales, and (6) whether it is the intention of the Commission to conduct the proceedings in public, have been received and considered by the Commission.
The Commission will expedite the investigation in every possible way.
The Commission had considered the best method of investigating the matters mentioned in your letters before the receipt of these letters, and had decided to follow the practice heretobefore adopted by it, vie., to make its enquiries in private. This course was considered to f>e more in the public interest than a public inquiry. The Commission sees no reason to alter its decision.
It must not be forgotten that the Commission is not considering any charges, but merely inquiring into the facts surrounding the acquisition of certain property by the Commonwealth Government. The Commission, in its report to His Excellency the Governor-General on the matters above mentioned, will attach a complete copy of all statements made and of documents placed before it.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he supply the numbers or names of the troopships whereon the thirty-one clergymen (named’ in answer to a question on noticepaper No. 93) served as chaplains, together with the dates of their arrival in the Commonwealth ?
– As the reply would disclose movements of transports, this information will be available to any honorable member confidentially.
– On the 1st November, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked me the following question : -
With reference to his reply, on the 18th October, 1018, to the honorable member for Echuca, relative to his desire for time to discuss the question of certain chaplains on troopships, that the Minister “did not think any good would be served in discussing the matter as suggested,” is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the file does not disclose any such attitude on his colleague’s part, but that on the 18th October he informed the Acting Prime Minister by minute prepared for the information of the House that he had “no objection to such opportunity being given “ if the Acting Prime Minister saw fit. 1 have looked through the papers relating to this matter, and find that the Minister for Defence expressed no objection to such an opportunity as the honorable member for Echuca desired being given if the Acting Prime Minister saw fit. In deciding the form of the answer to be given to the original question of the honorable member for Echuca, I did not make this clear, but as I held the view that no good purpose would be served in discussing the matter as suggested I expressed that plainly. I regret if the form of the answer caused the honorable member to believe that the Minister for Defence held similar views to myself with regard to the procedure in this House.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1-3. a letter dated 11th March, 1918, was received from Mr. Wynne stating that his business of importing textile machinery was suspended owing to the war, and that he had a certain amount of time which he could place at the Government’s disposal in advice, &c, in connexion with the further development of the woollen industry and the manufacture of tops for the Home market. No mention was made of being able to supply textile machinery. The letter was forwarded to the Central Wool Committee, who thanked Mr. Wynne for his offer, and advised that should occasion arise he would be called upon.
Instructional Staff : Promotions : Privileges - Dismissal of Mb. j. G. Bolger - “Western Australian Medical OFFICERS
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. Promotions have been made to fill vacancies in the Instructional Staff.
A’cting Staff Sergeants-Major enlisted for the period of the war are not eligible for promotion by reason of their temporary employment. At the conclusion of the war, all Acting Staff Sergeants-Major will be given the opportunity of competing for permanent employment to fill all vacancies which may then exist.
The successful candidates will be promoted to Warrant Officer, Class II., after one year’s service.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– .The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On two occasions during last month the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked for information in the form of a statement in relation to the products which the Government had sold or in which they had been interested during the period of the war. With some difficulty, and at some cost, I have now got all the information into one form, and I think it will be more convenient if I lay the return on the table of the House. Typewritten copies will be supplied to honorable members who desire them.
– On the 1st November the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) asked me if it was correct that a considerable tonnage was expected to arrive shortly in Australia to load wheat or its equivalent in flour? In reply, I stated that I was not aware that such was the fact, but that I would endeavour to give a reply next week. I desire now to state, for the information of the honorable member, that arrangements are being made for a number of steamers to come to Australia at an early date to load wheat amounting to approximately 45,000 tons, but I am unable to give any further particulars.
– On the 9 th October the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked the following question : -
Is the Acting Prime Minister contemplating an amendment of the Public Service Act bo as to afford effective preference to returned soldiers; and, if so, is the honorable gentleman prepared to make a statement?
My reply was - ‘
There is a certain law on the matter in which this House has concurred. Nothing fresh is contemplated that 1 am aware of at tin’s stage, but I shall make inquiries.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - ‘
Effective .preference is already afforded returned soldiers in connexion with appointments to the Commonwealth Service. On 26,tl June, 1915, an instruction was issued that until six months after the termination of tuc war, except in special cases approved by the Prime Minister, positions in the Commonwealth Public Service were not to be tilled by permanent appointments of persons of military age. This was done to safeguard the interests of those who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. .Returned soldiers have merely to pass the prescribed examination, and they are appointed to the Service, irrespective of the fact that persons who arc not returned soldiers may have secured higher marks. Special examinations have been held for appointment as clerk, open only to returned soldiers. Power is given to the Public Service Commissioner to appoint returned soldiers who have qualified by passing the prescribed examination to any particular class or subdivision of a class of the clerical division, and under this provision a higher commencing rate of pay has been fixed for returned soldiers appointed to the clerical, division. In connexion with the appointment of returned soldiers who pass the prescribed examination, such persons are regarded as senior to all persons who have not served with the Expeditionary Forces appointed as the result of the first examination held after the date of enlistment. The age limit for candidates for the clerical division has been extended from twenty-five years to fifty years in the case of returned soldiers. Provision has also been made for returned soldiers to be appointed to the Service though suffering from physical defects, so long as they are able to perform efficiently their duties. In connexion with temporary employment, returned soldiers have preference, married men receiving first preference. Returned soldiers replace eligibles. In regard to casuals, i.e., persons employed for brief terms, returned soldiers receive first preference, and are to replace eligibles wherever possible. Provision has been made whereby the passing by returned soldiers of certain prescribed examinations other than the Commonwealth Public Service examination constitutes eligibility for appointment.
– In fulfilment of a promise made to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) on Friday last, I present the following statement regarding contracts with Messrs. Cone and Company for the fitting up of transports : -
On 12th January, 1915, Mr. Jensen, Finance Member and Assistant Minister, telegraphed from Melbourne to Senator Pearce, Minister for Defence, at Sydney, as follows: - “ Regarding fitting transports at Melbourne State Dockyard will not conform to our wishes as to method engaging men. They cannot handle in the time more than the three ships they are now engaged on. In order to complete vessels recommended that two ships, Itonus and Chilka, be allotted to Cone and Company, who will do the work on basis of 10 per cent, upon market rate of timber, and 10 per cent, upon cost labour. They are contractors, not timber merchants, and have had great experience in this work. Consider work will be done economically, quickly, and efficiently, and labour conditions will be observed and more men employed. Recommend as above after discussing With Third Naval Member and Naval Secretary. Point was raised as to whether any other quotations could be obtained, but Third Naval Member states that no others will be forthcoming. Please reply early.”
Reply was received as follows on 13th January: - “ Approved your recommendation re transports provided contractor accepts same conditions as imposed on contractors Brisbane. - Pearce.”
On 14th January, 1915, the following letter was received from Messrs. Cone and Company: - “ The Secretary of Naval Board, Melbourne. “ Sir. - Re fitting up of transports. We beg to confirm verbal arrangements made by Captain Clarkson with our Mr. Cone to do any work required on the following terms, viz. :- “ 1. All work to be carried out on the basis of 10 per cent, commission on cost of material and labour. “ 2. All labour to be obtained through the Trades Hall until exhausted. “Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) “ W. C. Cone & Co.”
Note. - This was the first agreement with Cone and Company in connexion with fitting out ships as transports.
Cone and Company were given first the fitting out of /tonus and Chilka, and later on other vessels were placed in their hands to be fitted out as transports.
As work progressed Messrs. Cone and Company were paid progress payments on account of expenditure incurred, pending rendering of final accounts.
In May, 1915, a report was received by the Department indicating that certain irregularities existed in regard to the work being carried out. After investigation, the Minister (Senator Pearce) referred the matter to the Auditor-General for inquiry. The AuditorGeneral’s inquiries did not reveal any irregularities on the part of Cone and Company, but the Minister decided that the contract between the Department and Messrs. Cone and Company, viz., 10 per cent, commission on cost of labour and material, was not sumciently definite, e.g., differences with contractors had arisen over the interpretation of the meaning of “ cost “ of material, &C. It was also considered that more advantageous terms should be obtained for the Department, in view of the estimated prices at which Cone and Company could obtain timber. Accordingly Mr. Jensen, Assistant Minister, arranged a now contract with Cone and Company, which superseded the original arrangement of 10 per cent, commission, and had retrospective effect from 1st February, 1915, thus covering all work done by Cone and Company prior to date of new contract, viz., 4th August, 1915. The terms of this second contract are summarized as follow: - “ 1. That the contractors be reimbursed the actual amounts paid for day labour, plus 10 per cent, thereon. 2. That hardwood timber be purchased at the prices in the published lists of the Associated Timber Merchants, less 10 per cent. 3. That all other timber be secured at most favorable prices, plus 5 per cent, on amounts paid. 4. That all other stores be obtained at cost price, plus 5 per cent., less any discount allowed by vendor. 6. That in respect of all sub-contracts, the actual cost be charged, plus 5 per cent, for supervision, subject to the Minister being satisfied that the’ prices charged by the sub-contractor are fair and reasonable, and that such work could not be carried out by the original contractors. 0. That the contractors should hand over to the Department the actual invoices showing details of purchases made in respect of work of fitting up ships.”
Though the new contract was satisfactory to the Department, the examination of accounts for final charges for fitting some of the transports revealed irregularities in connexion with the claims of a sub-contractor employed by Cone and Company for carrying out plumbing work, viz., Messrs. Peacock and Smith. As the result of the investigations the Minister instructed the Auditor-General to take such action under the War Precautions Act as waa thought necessary. The Auditor-General reported the result of his examination on 6th December, 1915, and on 13th December, 1915, the Assistant Minister (Hon. J. A. Jensen) directed that the report be referred to the Crown Law Department for consideration as to action to be’ taken against Peacock and Smith. On 11th January, 1916, the AttorneyGeneral (Hon. W. M. Hughes) minuted papers containing Crown Solicitor’s opinion as follows : - “ If there appears reasonable prospect of success, approve that proceedings be instituted in order to act as a deterrent to other contractors.”
Acting on advice of counsel, criminal proceedings were accordingly taken against Messrs. Peacock and Smith. These proceedings were unsuccessful, and Peacock was acquitted “ without a stain on his character.”
Regarding the settlement of Cone and Company’s accounts, during the course of the two investigations by the Auditor-General, and pending the proceedings against the subcontractor, the Department did not attempt to finalize Cone and Company’s claims, but merely paid progress payments in respect of the total debits rendered by the firm, holding a sufficient balance in hand to safeguard the interests of the Department.
It was considered desirable that the account with Messrs. Cone and Company should be kept open as long as possible to enable the Department to see the result of the detailed investigations which were made consequent on the decision to proceed against Peacock and Smith criminally. The accounts rendered by Cone and Company from time to time, therefore, were not dealt with separately at any time, but progress payments only made, and all debits rendered by the firm treated as on account of the total claim.
On 19th February, 1916, the following minute (from which a quotation appears in the report of the Royal Commission) was signed by the Acting Director of Navy Accounts. This minute, which summarized the position of the accounts at the above date, was written solely in connexion with an application by Cone and Company for a further progress payment of £15,000.
Subject. - Fitting up of transports by W. C. Cone and Company. - Progress payments on account. 3rd Naval Member.
Attached is a further application from Messrs. W. C. Cone and Company for progress payment of £15,000.
The deductions of £15,000 alluded to in the above minute referred to the total estimated reductions from the accounts then rendered by Cone and Company, and it will be noted that the words “ progress payment “ are used.
In final settlement of this sum, Cone and Company agreed to accept £11,750, being a saving to the Department of £10,502 13s. 2d. This was considered a satisfactory settlement for the Department.
Peacock and Smith’s (sub-contractors) account stood as follows: -
It should be explained that in the settlement of the cla.ims of Messrs. W. C. Cone and Company the Department had the benefit of legal advice, the main part of which is as follows: - “I think it certain that of the amount of such discrepancies, &c, a considerable sum will, on further investigation, be found to be ‘due to Cone, and the question is how best, in the interests of the Department, to deal with the matter. Three courses are open -
I should, therefore, recommend that an attempt be made to settle the whole claim. I need hardly say that I have considered this matter very thoroughly and carefnlly, and I am certain that such a settlement would be in the interests of the Navy Department, and would avoid a very long, troublesome, and costly litigation.”
This advice was given before the prosecution of Messrs. Peacock and Smith, and after that prosecution failed, it was considered that it was sound advice to follow in connexion with the settlement of Messrs. Peacock and Smith’s claims.
– On the 23rd ultimo the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions : -
The honorable member was informed that the information would be obtained. I am now in a position to reply to the questions. The answers are as follow: -
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me a question relative to preventing the manufacture of starch from rice. After consideration, I now desire to inform the honorable member that maize and rice are both valuable foods, and maize probably more so than rice. For laundry purposes it is considered that rice starch is much to be preferred to that manufactured from maize, and it is on this account that the demand for it greatly exceeds that made from the latter product. This is emphasized by the fact that there are five rice and only one maize starch manufacturers in Australia.
Under these circumstances, it is not intended to restrict the manufacture of rice starch, the present supplies of rice being sufficient to meet all immediate demands.
I may remind the honorable member that starch can be made from most cereals.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following questions : -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, the following particulars have been furnished: -
Mothers of Soldiers Born out of Wedlock.
– On the 16th October the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following question : -
I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he regards with complacency the fact that a mother of a soldier killed in action is, in one case of which I know, absolutely destitute because, since her son was born out of wedlock, she is not entitled to receive a pension. This woman is fifty-nine years of age - just too young to obtain an old-age pension, and too old to work. Will the Minister consider the advisableness of issuing an amended regulation to permit of mothers of soldiers killed in action, and who were born out of wedlock, receiving a pension like other mothers who have losttheir sons?
In reply to inquiries which I then promised to make, the Department of the Treasury advises to the following effect : -
The mother of a soldier born out of wedlock is entitled to a war pension (in the event of the death of the soldier) providing she was dependent either wholly or in part on the soldier during the twelve months prior to enlistment. Such pensions are continued indefinitely if the pensioner is considered to be unable to earn a livelihood. If such a mother was not dependent on the soldier prior to enlistment, no pension is payable. The Act provides that pensions may be granted to the parents of a deceased soldier who,although not dependent onhim prior to his enlistment, are at any time without adequate means; but the Crown Solicitor is of opinion that the provision does not extend to the mother of a son born out of wedlock. In the case referred to, if the woman is unable to work, it is suggested that she should be advised to apply for an invalid pension.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked a question with reference to the dismissal of disabled soldiers. In reply, I beg to inform him that it is regretted that there are no suitable vacancies in the Department in which these men can be placed. As previously indicated, owing to the general reduction of the district guard only the most effective men can be employed, and other returned soldiers with the necessary qualifications for any vacancies are available. The matter of finding employment for these men is one for the Repatriation Department, to whom it is suggested the men should apply if in need of assistance in this direction. The Defence Department is bringing the cases referred to under the notice of the Repatriation Department.
The following papers were presented: -
Export of Australian Products. - Return giving information relating to Zinc, Zinc Concentrates, Lead, Copper, Tin, Wolfram, Scheelite and Molybdenite, Wheat, Wool, Butter, Cheese, Leather, Hides, Babbits, and Evaporated Apples.
The War - (Papers presented to the British Parliament) -
Board of Trade Departmental Committee - Report re the position of the Coal Trade after the War.
Civil War Workers’ Committee - First Interim Report.
Housing in England and Wales - Memorandum by the Advisory Housing Panel on the Emergency Problem.
Imperial War Museum - Report for 1917-18. “Period of the War” - Reports of the Committee to consider the Legal Interpretation of the term.
Russia - Central Powers and the Ukrainian People’s Republic - Treaty of Peace signed at Brest-Litovsk, together with Supplementary Treaty.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules . 1918, Nos. 283, 292.
Public Service Act - Promotion of J. W. Armstrong, Attorney-General’s Department.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 191, 200, 238, 247, 262,
Bill returned from the Senate with a request.
That the Senate’s message be considered forthwith in Committee of the whole House.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
– The Senate requests us to insert after the word “ shilling “ in the first column of the schedule of rates contained in clause 3, the words - excepting payments not exceeding threepence for the admission, on Saturdays, between the hours of 12 o’clock noon and 6 o’clock in the afternoon, of children apparently under the age of twelve years.
The effect of inserting these words would be to exempt from taxation on one afternoon of the week the 3d. admission tickets of children. I made a similar proposition, when the Bill was in Committee, but on a technicality raised by honorable gentlemen opposite, my amendment was ruled out of order. I promised that I would endeavour to repair the omission, and the result is the request under consideration. I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
.- I have opposed this taxation from the beginning, and shall, therefore, do my best to reduce it as much as possible. We give in our income tax legislation - and some, if not all, of the States do the same - an exemption in respect of children under the age of sixteen years, and in our war pensions legislation we make provision for the payment of allowances in respect of children up to the age of sixteen years. Why, then, should we limit the exemption from the entertainments tax to children under the ase of twelve years?
– Children of sixteen years are not admitted for 3d. to picture shows.
– On Saturday afternoons every one is admitted to picture shows for 3d.
– There are only seven theatres in Australia which at any time admit adults for 3d.
– Whatever the proprietors of picture-show entertainments may do. there is no reason why we should not extend this exemption to children up to the age of sixteen years, and I intend to move to substitute “sixteen” for “twelve” in the amendment requested by the Senate. I move -
That the requested amendment be amended by leaving out the word “ twelve “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ sixteen.”
– I have a prior amendment.
– I also have a prior amendment.
– Then I shall temporarily withdraw my amendment.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be amended by inserting after the word “Saturdays” the words “ and public holidays.”
– That can be moved only by consent. There is already an amendment before the Chair.
– No; the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has withdrawn it.
Mr- Watt. - It can be withdrawn only by consent.
– The object of my amendment is apparent. It will give parents who visit our cities or large provincial towns on a holiday an opportunity to take their children to a picture show, or some such place of amusement, without having to pay this additional tax. This, I think, will appeal to the Acting Prime Minister.
– The Government cannot agree to it. What amendment does the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) desire to move?
– I desire to have the concession extended to accepted holidays in country towns. In some towns, the Wednesday half-holiday system is in vogue.
– My object is to extend the concession which the Government propose in the measure as it has come from’ another place. Although I opposed this additional taxation on entertainments, I am at the same time prepared to assist as far as possible in making it acceptable to those who have large families. On public holidays in nearly every part of Australia, parents take their little ones either to the seaside, or, if they reside in country districts, to the nearest town, for an outing, and, to give them a treat, allow them to visit a picture show. Public holidays, in this respect, are more important than Saturdays.
– There are not many public holidays.
– There are about sixteen in some States.
– The Acting Prime Minister would be well advised if he accepted my proposal.
– We have made a very fair concession, and we cannot lose any more revenue in connexion with this measure.
– The effect which my amendment would have on the revenueearning provisions of this Bill would be infinitesimal. I submit it, not with the object of preventing the speedy passing of the clause now before us, but merely to extend the concession which the Government had in their minds when they agreed to amend this Bill in another place. It is only fair to give some consideration to families. A working man with five or six children has to spend more than one day’s earnings in order to give them a holiday; and surely a man who gives his children an outing on a public holiday should be allowed to take them to a picture show without being called upon to pay this additional tax.
– There is already an amendment before the Chair.
– I submitted the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra to the Committee.
– Then, sir, I shall withdraw my objection to the withdrawal of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) rather than place the Chair in a difficulty.
Amendment (Mr. Charlton’s) - That the requested amendment be amended by inserting after the word “Saturdays’” the words “and public holidays” - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the requested amendment be amended by leaving out the word “ twelve,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ sixteen.”
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has already given the reasons why this amendment should be adopted.
– No, he has not.
– It will bring this measure into conformity with other measures already on the statute-book. Even under our Income Tax Act we grant an exemption inconsideration of. children up to the age of sixteen, but this Bill, as it stands, proposes to penalize them from the age of twelve. The amount of revenue involved is very small, and I think the Treasurer might very well accept the amendment. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) must not forget that the repeal of the bachelors’ tax has been announced; and yet this Bill would impose a penalty on people who are doing their duty to the country by bringing children into the world .
.- I do not like the taxing of 3d. tickets, and only the necessity for revenue induces me to follow the Treasurer. I cannot see any analogy in the argument of the honorable member who has submitted this amendment. Children are supposed to be supported by their parents until they are sixteen years of age, and up to then are somewhat ofa burden; and in this regard some consideration is shown to mothers whose husbands are at the war, and who have to support children. If there were two rates of charges for admission, the ppssibility is that the management of a picture show would refuse to admit for 3d. any children over twelve years of age.
.- I am surprised at the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) opposing a simple amendment like this. If the honorable member had a family to support I might understand his attitude; and, really, I think this is a question which can only be dealt with by family men. As a rule, children do not go to work until they are over sixteen years of age, and it is quite possible that a father with a growing family might find this tax quite burdensome. It is a paltry means of raising revenue in a wealthy country like Australia. I trust the Government will not deal with this as a party question, but will allow their supporters freedom of action. The honorable member for Wilmot has told us that he does not desire to have this tax imposed, but is prepared to follow the Treasurer.
– I said that the Treasurer had told us the revenue is necessary.
– The honorable member said that he did not like this 3d. tax.
– I do not.
– Then why not stand up for your principles as we do over here?
– Let us wipe out all taxation.
– That might be a good cry to go to the country with, but I do not think it would be a success.
Question -That the word proposed to be left out stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; requested amendment made.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- A common-sense way of meeting the difficulty has been pointed out to me by the manager of Hoyt’s, the largest picture show in Melbourne, if not in Australia, and, if adopted, would, in his opinion, bring in additional revenue. It is that the tax should start at1d. on the 6d. ticket, and be increased by1d. for every additional 6d. in the charge for admission.
– That is the English system.
– Quite so; the manager of Hoyt’s comes from England. This would wipe out the anomaly which would place the heaviest burden on those least able to bear it. All the theatres have increased their charges of admission since the outbreak of war, and are reputed to be making large profits, but this Bill will allow theatre proprietors to escape, and the purchasers of the higher -priced tickets will be taxed only to the extent of 8½ per cent, as compared with the tax of 331/3 per cent, on 3d. tickets. I feel sure that if the Treasurer were agreeable the House would indorse an equitable system such as I have suggested. If the Treasurer would agree to that amendment it would remove much of the ground for our complaint that the purchasers of the cheaper tickets are being taxed disproportionately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Bill, amended accordingly, be returned to the Senate.
In regard to the observations of the honorable member for Melbourne, I fully expect that if the war weight is upon us when the next Budget is introduced, the whole system of the taxation of entertainments, will require to be recast and tightened up. I regard the present measure as only a temporary provision, and I shall bear in mind the possibility the honorable member has suggested if the occasion arises.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Mr. WATT (Balaclava- Acting Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [4.37]. - I move -
That in addition to the land tax payable under the provisions of the Land Tax’ Act 1910-1914, there be imposed an additional land tax equal to 20 per centum of the amount of land tax payable under those provisions.
In my remarks, in introducing the increase of the income tax, I showed that the war expenditure payable out of revenue had increased rapidly. That is also the reason for proposing this additional land tax. Land was originally taxed by the Commonwealth in November, 1910. In December, 1914, owing to the need for additional revenue arising out of the war, the rates were increased. It was not a pro rata increase, and the exact effect of the alterations on individual taxpayers cannot be stated, but it is estimated by the Taxation Office that the increase varied from 30 to 50 per cent. The proposal now is to further increase the land tax by 20 per cent, on the existing rates. It will be interesting, perhaps, to note the burdens which will be borne by certain classes of landholders if this additional impost is assented to by Parliament. I have asked the Taxation Commissioner to furnish me with four typical examples, without giving the names of the -taxpayers, from a land-holder of moderate size to a very wealthy land-holder, in order to show what each will have to pay to the State and Federal authorities in land and income taxation. These examples will illustrate the burden which wealth will carry for this year when the Budget proposals are fully effective -
I produce these figures for the information of the House and the country in order to show that, whilst other forms of endeavour and activity and stored wealth have been levied upon in support of Australia’s objectives in this war, under the proposals submitted in this year’s financial statement, wealth is having placed upon it enormous burdens.
– Yes; there. may be taxation resting upon those individuals in addition to the amounts I have mentioned, if their operations show an excess of profits during the war period as compared with the pre-war period. I believe that honorable members may best inform their minds as to the proposed taxation by studying classified information, thus saving themselves a good deal of trouble and search, and for their information I have prepared certain other classified cases to show what State and Commonwealth land taxation amount to in different portions of the Commonwealth on four different classes of holdings -
I have stated the New South Wales land tax as nil, because the State authority does not collect any land tax except on land in the western division, where the tax is Id. in the £1. The amounts quoted for Western Australia are doubled if the land is wholly unimproved. The Federal land tax has produced, since its imposition -
The estimate for 1918^19 is £2,380,000, including £380,000, which is the estimated increase due to the operation of the proposal which I am now submitting to the Committee. The facts which I have given do not need very much comment. Honorable members who are familiar with the history of the Commonwealth land tax and the considerations which induced this Parliament to impose it over the whole of Australia need not have their minds refreshed as to the objectives of the tax. I am not dealing with the subject as a land taxer, although I am, and always have been, a land taxer of a progressive kind, but as the financial Minister responsible for recommending to the Commonwealth measures that will protect the credit of the country, and give us sufficient revenue to discharge our liabilities for this year. In view of the circumstances of the past four years, I feel sure that this Parliament can confidently and fairly ask the land-holder, who is the subject of our taxation, to bear an additional burden, and thus, out of his stored results represented by’ his landed assets, assist the Treasury in the time of its greatest stress. In that spirit I recommend the resolution to the Committee.
Declaration of Urgency.
Mr. WATT (Balaclava- Acting Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [4.50]. - Before the Electoral Bill is further considered in Committee, I have now, for the first time in connexion with the recently-passed standing order, to declare -
That the Electoral Bill is an urgent Bill.
Question - “ That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill “ - put, and resolved in the affirmative.
Limitation of Debate.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill be until 3 p.m. on Friday next, and for the remaining stages of the Bill from that time until 4 p.m. on Friday next.
We have now the first illustration of the new tyranny of the Government. The Minister* asks us to dispose of a Bill containing eighty-four pages, and dealing with the whole of the Electoral Acts and their amendments that have been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, before 3 o’clock on Friday next, which would limit the discussion to about eighteen hours, whereas there are one or two proposals in the measure the discussion of which, if they were given their due consideration by a deliberative body such as this is, would of themselves occupy fully eighteen hours.
– Have they not been discussed already?
– What I have in mind principally is the position of the Chief Electoral Officer, who is under the control of the Minister and should be independent of him, and subject only to the control of Parliament. I am not permitted to go into that matter now, but honorable members who reflect on what has happened during the last two or three elections will call to mind very grave and unfair actions on the ,part of Ministers controlling the Chief Electoral Officer. In my opinion, that officer should be quite independent of any member of Parliament, and if it should be necessary to call his conduct into question the Government should only do so before the House.
– Would the honorable member’s party support his proposal ?
– I would rather the honorable member would not interrupt me just now.
– Discussion must be confined to the question of the time to be allowed for the consideration of the Bill.
– I have no desire to discuss the merits of the proposal now, but I shall do so when the Bill is under consideration. For the present it is sufficient for me to point out that the discussion upon it might reasonably take up a very great portion of the eighteen hours that the Minister proposes to allow for the consideration of the whole of the Bill. Honorable members on this side have no desire to delay the measure unnecessarily. Because of the manner in which, the Government have brought forward their business, we have only a few days before the recess in which to deal with highly important matters, and I do not wish to offer needless opposition or take up unnecessary time in dealing with any measure, but I wish to make my protest as briefly and as strongly as I can against the step the Government have taken. We on this side are prepared to concede that electoral reform is an urgent matter, but we object to being allowed only until 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon to discuss the Electoral Bill in Committee.
.- I must also raise my voice in protest against this departure on the part of the Government, and this newly evinced desire on their part to save the time of the House by asking honorable members to consider a consolidating Bill covering eighty-four pages by Friday afternoon next.
– About eighty pages, merely re-enact the provisions of the existing law.
– It would not hurt the honorable member to go through those Acts again. I cannot see how any body of men can claim to be able to digest such a measure as this in the brief time proposed to be allotted for it® consideration. It would appear to me that honorable members opposite have had the great organs of this portion of Australia whipping them into line again, so that,perchance, Corangamite may not follow Swan.
– Does the honorable member believe in minority representation?
– No ; and I do not believe in the electoral system in force. Some honorable members who have been so persistent in referring to minority representation first graced the House by means of minority votes. Evidently it is not tlie desire of the party opposite to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the advantages or disadvantages of the new system proposed by the present Administration. There is a considerable difference of opinion about electoral systems. In New South Wales the National party are about equally divided upon the subject.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot go into that matter on this motion, which is merely for the fixing “of a date and hour.
– I am giving reasons why the time for the consideration of the Bill should be prolonged instead of limited. There is so much diversity, of opinion in regard to electoral systems that there will not be sufficient time by Friday afternoon next for the
House to fully and adequately discuss the proposed innovation.
Mr. -Sinclair. - We have already had the Bill before us for five days, and “ so far there has not been very much light thrown upon the subject.
– That is because the honorable member has refrained from speaking. Had he done so, no doubt we would have been in a far better position to understand the working of the proposed reform. It is lack of material from honorable members opposite which has led us to allow our imaginations to run riot as to the benefits that this alteration may confer. But it matters very little what honorable members on this side say, either about the limitation of the debate, or about the proposed new method of electing members. The time is to be fixed, and we are to be prevented from discussing the Bill adequately. The measure is to be railroaded through in order to get it out of the way in time for any by-election that may occur in the near future. The only hope that honorable members on this side have is that gentlemen in another place may exercise their brains in a better fashion, and give opportunity for the measure to be more thoroughly digested before it is rushed through its final stages. Then we may not have the spectacle of this Parliament sitting for months at a time dealing with comparatively trivial matters, while such an important matter as the mode of electing Parliament is to be guillotined through the House in order that discussion may be stifled at the most important stage, namely, while the Bill is in Committee. Most honorable members have said that the measure is essentially one for Committee discussion, and for that reason they have refrained from discussing the electoral law as a whole. They were looking forward to having ample opportunity for discussing details when the measure reached the Committee stage, but now the Government have come down with their guillotine proposal in order to cut short the discussion in the Committee stage*. I register my protest against the action of the Government in .pretending to give an opportunity to discuss the Bill, and yet actually railroading it through without proper discussion being possible.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports)
E5.5]. - I am surprised that the Ministry
Las brought its garrotting machinery into operation at this stage of the consideration of the Electoral Bill. The application of that machinery might well have been deferred until a question of immediate importance had arisen. It may be, of course, that Ministers expect a number of by-elections.
– Is there to be one at Bendigo 1
– There are several that might, and more that ought to, take place. There might be a fair opportunity for the discussion of the measure between now and Friday next, were the members of the Government to refrain from introducing irrelevant matters with a view to taking up time, but when the limits of a discussion of this kind are fixed, it is easy for a strong Government party to deprive an Opposition of its opportunity to place its side of the case, and at present we are few and they -are many. It would not be the first time that such a thing had been done in this House. There are many clauses the consideration of which should occupy a considerable time. I would not be permitted to refer bo them in detail, even if my speech were not limited to ten minutes; but I may refer to one - that providing for preferential voting. There are only two political parties in Australia. Any new man coming into this House, whether he be a supporter of the cold-water section of the community, of the strong-liquor section, a Free Trader, or anything else, must sit either behind the Government or on these benches. His Majesty’s Opposition is regarded by many as a useful parliamentary institution; and we, being so few, should be given an opportunity to consider fairly, clause by clause, a Bill dealing with the methods of parliamentary election. Although the measure, before its introduction, was carefully considered by Ministers, aided by the electoral officials, notice has already been given of a large number of amendments.
– Many of them are merely drafting amendments.
– That is so; but it is possible that careful consideration of the measure in Committee will reveal the need for making as many more. If
Government supporters take up the time, what opportunity will Oppositionists have for suggesting amendments T
– The honorable member’s speech is reducing the time available for the consideration of the measure.
– If my opinion “ could prevail, we on this side would have nothing more to do with the Bill- I am prepared, in sheer disgust with the methods proposed by the Government, to let the measure pass without taking a vote on any of its provisions.
– What is the urgency for the measure?
– A by-election is approaching, and there may be others. Government supporters, if they were allowed to express their views freely, could, no doubt, suggest improvements, though it is not probable that they would, as they are servile, in the sense that they support whatever proposition the Ministry may have to make. Some of them have asserted their independence in their speeches, but when a division has been taken have subsided into their shells, in obedience to the party call.
– Are you “ stonewalling “. the Bill?
– If this motion be carried, I shall take no further interest in the measure, because we are not being given a square deal. The Minister says that the amendments of which notice has been given affect merely matters of detail, but he knows that sometimes one - amendment necessitates, perhaps, a dozen - others. We should have time to consider the measure effectively. It is a Bill of the utmost importance to all parties, because it provides for the method of electing parliamentary candidates. Although, by the garrotting system, the Government can force through Parliament anything that it thinks may suit it, I would remind Ministers that accidents have happened, and this party may regain the position which it lost through the machinations of certain individuals. The Acting Prime Minister, in fixing a time for the consideration of the measure, has adopted the method of a thug.
– That is an unparliamentary term.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the word “ thug.”
– I withdraw it, and apologize for having used it, though I cannot see why it should be unparliamentary, if the word ‘ ‘ guillotine ‘ ‘ is not. I make no charge against the Acting Prime Minister personally, and would apologize twice over if I thought that my remark was considered to have a personal application. If we had a fair opportunity for the consideration of the Bill between now and Friday next without the intervention of Government supporters, the arrangement proposed would suit us; but if that is not promised, we shall have to leave things as they are, although there is much in the measure that we should like to alter. May 1 add, not as a threat, but as a warning, that the time of this party may come again ?
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 1st November, vide page 7423) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
– I desire so to amend this clause that some parts of the Bill may be brought into force before others. With that object in view, I move -
That before the words “ This Act “ the words “ The several parts and sections of “ be inserted.
This amendment having been carried, I shall move to omit the words “ a day to be fixed by proclamation,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation,” so that the clause, as amended, will read -
The several parts and sections of this Act shall commence on such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation.
– Why not bring in a small Bill dealing specially with the Corangamite election?
– As a matter of fact, I think this is the correct course to follow. When a Bill as a whole is in Committee, I do not believe in withdrawing it and bringing in another Bill for a specific purpose. The amendments I propose will make the policy of the Bill immediately effective in respect to such parts of it as should be brought into operation at once. There are parts - such, for instance, as those relating to the postal vote - which could not immediately be made operative. Applications for postal ballot-papers would have to take place after the nominations were out, and papers would have tobe distributed all over the Commonwealth to facilitate voting. The only proper, honest, and straightforward course is to go on with this Bill as it is, and to do what I propose, which has often been done in connexion with certain Acts.
– In connexion with what other measure have we done what the honorable gentleman now proposes? I do not know of one case of the kind.
– I shall be able to tell the honorable member of several as soon as I have an opportunity to look them up.
– It is singular that the honorable gentleman, who is one of the most highly trained legal members of the House, cannot point at once to one case of the kind.
– I cannot deal with everything on the spur of the moment; but in some Acts there are provisions, applicable to exceptional circumstances, which are to be brought into force before others. In this case, I wish to have that part of the Bill which ought to be brought into force at once - I refer to the preferential voting provisions - made immediately operative. That can be done without inconvenience; but it would be unfair to the Department, and, incidentally, to the electors, to attempt, on paper, to bring into force at once parts which, in actual practice, could not be immediately brought into operation.
.- On one other occasion only have we had amendments to a Bill brought down in typewritten form, and not circulated among honorable members. That was in connexion with the War-time Profits Bill, certain provisions of which were objected to at a meeting of the Ministerial party upstairs, and Ministers were instructed to see that they were amended by Parliament. I am confident that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) is. utterly ashamed of the position he occupies at the present moment. From the inception of this Parliament, he has been noted as a firm believer in straight dealing, and as a Minister he has always been regarded as being utterly opposed to subterfuge. To-day, however, he comes forward with this amendment, which is designed to secure a party advantage. He states that a similar provision has been made , in other measures, but, although honorable members on all sides regard him as having a most complete knowledge of the Commonwealth Statutes, he was unable, when questioned on the subject, to mention a case in point.
– I cannot be expected to do everything at once, but already, since resuming rr.y seat, I have found an instance of the kind.
– What is it?
– I refer to Part 4 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– In that case an alteration was made to extend the time within which persons might register for a pension, because it was found that many had not registered within the date fixed. The Chairman seemed to think that the several amendments indicated by the Minister would be put at one and the same time. I am not surprised that he should have entertained that view, having regard to the guillotine proposals that have been passed, and to the readiness of Ministerial supporters to vote for anything that will prevent discussion, and secure for them a party advantage. They are willing to sacrifice the principle of fair play and to prevent the fair consideration of this measure. I was temporarily absent from the Chamber when the division was taken on the motion to apply the guillotine to this Bill, otherwise, if allowed to do so, I should have debated the question. The position is that a Bill containing over 200 clauses is to be passed through this House in two and a half sitting days.
– It contains few new provisions.
– It provides for aD amendment of two very important principles of our electoral law. Deputations have asked the Minister to make other alterations, and in this and the next clause lie proposes to make three or four amendments which will have the effect of bringing the Bill into operation bit by bit. It is to be dealt with like mincemeat. We are to deal with the Bill as if it were a sausage, and it is to be brought into force bit by bit for the advantage of the Ministry. When it was being introduced I interjected that it should be entitled “ A Bill to dish the Labour party.” The action now taken by the Minister shows that my. statement was absolutely correct.
– How can the honorable member say that in view of the fact that the principle of preferential voting, which is involved in this amendment, was first submitted to the Parliament in 1906 ?
– That is not the point. Preferential voting was not brought into operation at that time: there was simply a proposal that it should be brought into force. The honorable gentleman is merely playing with words. No Bill brought before this Parliament has ever borne on its face so flagrantly as this does the words “ A Bill for party advantage.”
– “ A Bill to meet the wishes of new parties.”
– A Bill to suit the Ministerial party. It should be entitled “ A Bill to fake elections in the interests of the party that is in the majority, and which obtained its majority by fraudulent promises” - -promises which it has “never carried out.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M.
Chanter). - The honorable member is entirely out of order in making such a statement.
– Why not call it “A Bill to allow returned soldiers to compete with Labour candidates “ ?
– Order !
– The object of the amendment moved by the Minister is to secure a party advantage. Some of the supporters of the Government are so bitterly opposed to the Opposition that they would like to politically “ out “ every one of us.
– Do not say that.
– In making that statement, I had not in mind the honorable member who is the champion interjector in this Parliament. Some supporters of the Ministry would do anything to defeat all or any of us.
In order to secure a party advantage the Government wish to apply the preferential voting provisions of this Bill to the election for Corangamite, which is fixed for the 14th proximo. The Department is not ready to bring into operaMon at once the Bill as a whole, and, therefore, the Government say, “ Let us bring into operation a bit at a time, and so gain a party advantage.” The postal yoting provisions, according to the Minister, cannot be brought into operation at once, although some supporters of the Government have said that the abolition of postal voting has deprived from 77,000 to 80,000 people of the right to vote. The Minister will not provide for the postal voting provisions of the Bill coming into operation at once because he knows that a number of shearers have been living in the Corangamite electorate, and that they would vote by post in the interests of the Labour party’s candidate. The Government should either bring in the Bill as a whole or let it go altogether. Every Government that has tried to fake or gerrymander an election has met the same fate. When, in 1910, the Labour party, then in Opposition, were denied the right to reasonably discuss the measures brought down, the Government responsible for “ gagging “ them were dealt with by the people. I am confident that the people will deal with this Government as soon as they realize the true position. It will be difficult, however, for them to learn of their shortcomings since 99 per cent, of the newspapers of the Commonwealth support the Ministry. Be that as it may, the Government will find that, while they may fool some of the people some of the time, they cannot fool all the people all the time. As the Minister himself admits, this Bill and the amendment are intended to apply to the Corangamite election. In order to meet the position, the Government propose to chop the Act off in sections, like a sausage, and in so doing apply preferential voting to that contest. Believing, however, that postal voting would benefit the Labour party, the Government do not intend to apply that system, but only the portion of ‘ the Bill that it is thought will benefit the Government and their supporters. We know, of course, that the Government have servile followers who will support any proposals submitted by those in power, and with a safe majority, they propose to bring into operation at once a portion of this Bill. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act has ‘been cited as a similar instance. Mr. Glynn. - There are other measures.
– There may be, but never a measure like this one. An Electoral Bill should not be a party matter. There has never been a more flagrant misuse of governmental control of the business of Parliament than that witnessed to-day. Owing to illness and other causes a great number of the members of the Opposition are absent, but those who are here will all vote against the amendment. No one can accuse me of ever doing anything of this kind in order to gain a party advantage; and I hope that all honorable members will realize their responsibility, and vote against the amendment.
.- From a purely party point of view, the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) would be quite legitimate, but, speaking as he has sought to speak recently, showing himself to be most solicitous about the welfare of returning and absent soldiers, he now fails absolutely to have any regard for the men who aspire to have political representations such as is enjoyed on the other side of the House. Personally, I should have preferred to see preferential voting the law of the land, long since. We could not then have been accused of indecent haste with this measure in order to gain a party advantage. I can acquit myself of any such intention in supporting the Government on the present occasion. During the war period, and quite recently, there have been evidences of a desire on the part- of the people to see the various parties and sections of the community represented in the National and State Parliaments. The farming community are anxious to send forward their representatives, and so are the great body of soldiers and their, immediate friends; and this is an addition to- the. two longestablished political parties in this country. This Bill, will afford the Labour party the fullest measure of support to which it is entitled. Every vote will be effective, but the country will be safeguarded from having foisted on it the representation of an enslaved minority, which is amenable to drill and order.
– The honorable member is getting away from the question.
– I am only following the latitude that you allowed the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).
– I called the Leader of the Opposition to order twiceThe honorable member is now discussing a portion of the Bill that we have not yet reached. The question before the Chair is whether certain portions of the Bill shall operate in a certain sequence; arid I ask the honorable member to re serve his present remarks until we reach that part of the Bill to which they are applicable.
– I had pretty well finished what I intended to say in answer to the Leader of the Opposition; and I think I have indicated to the Committee, and particularly to honorable members on this side, that in giving their support to this amendment they aTe only guaranteeing that in the contest immediately in front of us the Labour party, th© returned soldiers, the farmers’ organizations, and the National party will all have an equal chance. No votes will be wasted, and the choice of the people will be shown in the member selected for Corangamite.
.- * I. do not know whether to congratulate or sympathize with the Minister.
– Do both.
– I congratulate the Minister on his candour on introducing this amendment to clause 2. We have had it now directly from the honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that the object of the amendment is to affect the coming by-election for Corangamite. The honorable member for Wannon, in very simple fashion, allowed the fact to leak out that the Minister is acting under instructions. It is most refreshing that honorable members opposite should admit that the Minister has to obey the instructions of their- Caucus.
– I deny that emphatically; no Caucus has been held yet.
– During the second-reading debate honorable members opposite were particularly emphatic in declaring that the consideration of an Electoral Bill should be free from all party influence? and methods; and yet in the very clause before us the party element is introduced.
– The amendment is to insure that justice shall be done to all parties.
– It is to insure that a certain result, if possible, shall be secured at the Corangamite election. The argument of the honorable member for Fawkner (Sir. Maxwell), and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) fails in view of their previous attitude.
They have contended that in the absence of postal voting a true reflex of public opinion cannot lie obtained; and yet, under the amendment of the Minister, postal voting will not be available; indeed, the Minister admits that arrangements cannot be made for this system of voting at the forthcoming election.
– It is a matter of giving the maximum amount of justice in the time.
– That is why I congratulate the Minister on his admission that the amendment is in order to have some effect on the by-election. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) interjected that this Bill should have been described as the “ Corangamite By-election Bill,” and certainly such a measure would have been easily put through, and we could have discussed this Bill, in its broadest aspect, free, perhaps, from, any party feeling. No argument or statement by the Minister can get over the fact that this Bill is to be used in sections in order to secure a party advantage. Is the reason for the Bill the result of the Swan by-election? Have Ministers got scared ? Do they read the signs of the times?
– If you read the signs of the times you ought to shiver.
– There were two to one against your party at the Swan election.
– The man indorsed by the National party was third on the list.
– This . discussion is getting quite irregular.
– I sympathize with the Minister, because I am quite sure he is not comfortable in submitting this amendment. It is very evident that the proposal has been hatched very recently; so recently, indeed, that it could not be included in the page full of amendments already circulated, but had to be brought in as an afterthought.
– There was a party meeting this morning.
– Was there? Is the next Caucus called for to-morrow? The Government are evidently afraid that their prestige is going to he seriously impaired if there is another acci dent similar to that which occurred in the Swan electorate; and in order to preserve themselves, they are securing, as far as they can, any advantage their party may gain from a partial application of this Electoral Bill.
– A candidate cannot be affected unless he has a majority.
– Quite so, and I am prepared to support preferential voting, but not to support the Government in applying only one part of the electoral machinery to a particular election. If this may be done for the forthcoming by-election it may be done for any election. Under this provision the Government may at any time put into operation a part of the electoral machinery, and leave any other part inoperative. There are a number of honorable members opposite who can always be relied on to regard questions with a certain amount of reasonableness, and I ask them whether they think that the electoral machinery of this community should be open to juggling at the hands of a Minister. Is it fair at any time that the Government should be able to put part of the Electoral Act into operation just as they may choose? That is what this amendment gives the Government power to do. Any part of the Bill may be brought into operation. Who knows but that there may be another by-election in three months? It would be quite open to the Government to apply postal voting to that election and leave out preferential voting. There never was a proposal that left the electoral machinery so open to jugglery as the one before us. I sympathize with the Minister, because I feel quite sure that he does not believe in the proposal he has made. He has established a reputation for himself for fairness and straight-dealing; but if he persists with the present proposal his reputation will be gone, and we shall regard him as merely the tool of the Government, willing to do anything, or be anything, in electoral matters, so long as his party wins. The proposal brings forcibly to one’s mind the experience we have already had of interference ‘With elections. Goodness knows, at the last referenda and general election we had in- terferences that spoiled the name of Australia from this point of view. Australian elections had hitherto been regarded as representing, perhaps, the ideal system ofconducting such business. We were not perfect, but, at any rate, we were far ahead of any country in electoral affairs. The Prime Minister at that time introduced into elections a new feature that destroyed our previous confidence and dependence upon fair dealing in electoral matters. To-day the Government are copying his bad example, but are acting even worse, because, with all his faults, the Prime Minister had the courage to introduce a Bill to give the Government authority to do the things he proposed. To-day the Minister has deliberately brought forward an amendment to allow the Government to manage the elections according to their own sweet will. Surely after our experience in the past, we want no more of that sort of thing. The time has come for straight and clean sailing. The amendment introduced by the Minister is one that ought not to commend itself to right- thinking men in this chamber. I shall discuss this Bill throughout entirely free from party prejudices, and without any wish to gain a party advantage. I have no hope that the Government will give any advantage to the Labour party in electoral matters, but the time will surely come when the Labour party will be in office, and then will belong to them whatever advantages the Bill confersupon the Government.
– What portion of this Bill gives an advantage to one party over another?
– I do not know of any better illustration than the amendment now before the Chair, which gives the Government of the day power to do what they choose with the electoral machinery.
– I assure the honorable member that only the provisions relating to preferential voting will be operated immediately. I cannot specify the clauses offhand.
– My complaint is that this amendment will give the Government of the day power to bring into operation any portion of the electoral law which suits them.
– The balance of the Bill will be brought into force in one block.
– The Minister’s reply further emphasizes that the Bill and the particular amendment before the Chair are being hurried on in order to affect a by-election which is due shortly. No matter how fair may be the operations of these provisions, the fact stares us in the face that the Bill is beingrushed through under a new standing order, and an amendment has been moved by the Minister in order that an advantage may be gained at the coming election.
– Gained by whom?
– Does the honorable member imagine that the Government have proposed this amendment in order that the Labour candidate shall have an advantage?
– Will this proposal give an advantage to any Ministerial candidate?
– If the Government did not hope to gain an advantage they would not be rushing the Bill through the House. I ask the Minister to relieve himself of the charge that will be laid forever at his door that he is proposing to use for a particular party purpose an Electoral Bill, although the electoral law is the real basis of the whole of our governmental institutions and the guarantee of their purity. No matter what party is in power, the electoral machinery should not be available for such a purpose; it should be above suspicion and the danger of manipulation. The Government would beacting more honestly if they put through the whole Bill as representing their ideal of electoral reform, or agreed to the elimination of the objectionable features. The only reason why the Bill is not to be operated as a whole at the Corangamite byelection is that the Government have not time to make provision for postal voting. The Minister is placed in an unfortunate position by his party, and if honorable members opposite wish to relieve themselves of the charge of partiality and of seeking a party advantage they should not press this amendment, but allow the Bill to go through in its entirety, and stand or fall by it.
– The honorable member for Brisbane does not do himself justice in the attitude he has adopted. He admits that he is in favour of preferential voting, which is the real essence of the Bill. The purpose of the introduction of that system is that the people shall be more effectively represented than they have been in the past. Instances innumerable have occurred in which the people have been absolutely misrepresented by the result of an election.
– Why this unseemly hurry?
– So that the people may at the forthcoming byelection be properly represented, rather than that we should have a miscarriage of representation such as took ,place in connexion with the Swan by-election. The contest for Swan is only one of many in which the people have failed to secure proper representation. Only one-third of those who voted are represented by the result of the election j the other two-thirds are practically disfranchised. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has said that preferential voting is fair, because he realizes that by that means people will secure proper representation ; therefore, the sooner we have an effective piece of legislation in operation the better. The general provisions of the Electoral Act are very good, but two amendments certainly should be made, namely, the introduction of preferential voting and the re-establishment of the postal vote. The honorable member for Brisbane objects to postal voting, and he cannot justly complain that that system is not to be immediately introduced, even in connexion with the Corangamite by-election. The Minister has frankly told the Committee that he intends to give the people at that election wider scope in the choice of their representative.
– But why not make the whole of the Bill operative?
– The Minister has already said that it is nob within his power to do that, but that he will give the electors the advantage of that portion of the Bill which is most advantageous to them. In other words, if the whole of Ihe Bill cannot be operated for that election, that the electors shally at any rate, have its essence and best feature, preferential .voting, so that there may not be another miscarriage of representation such as took place in connexion with the most recent by-election. I should have been glad if the Minister could have mentioned the sections which he proposes to bring into operation at once, but as he is unable to do that we have the next best thing in his assurance that the immediate proclamation shall apply only to preferential voting. That assurance does away with the contention that it will be possible for the Minister to operate one portion of the Bill for one purpose and another portion for some other purpose. He has assured us that, with the exception of the preferential voting provisions, the Bill shall come into operation in the consolidated form in which it is passed by Parliament. After all, the Bill is a consolidating measure, and in the forthcoming by-election we shall be relying upon the present electoral law, plus the advantageous provisions for preferential voting. I strongly urge that if we cannot operate the whole of the Bill for that occasion, the people have a right to demand that they shall be given the opportunity of securing effective representation by the immediate operation of the preferential voting provisions.
– Honorable members have asked’ for precedents for the action which I have proposed. I cannot look up precedents at a moment’s notice, but I recollect that, owing to the difficulties _ of administration, portion of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was to be operative on a date later than the remainder of the Statute. Similar provision was made in connexion with the Patents Act 1903-9 and the Navigation Act. Even before the Patents Act came into general force applications under .it could be made. Again, owing to administrative difficulties Part 2 of the Electoral (War-time) Act, relating to the voting of members of .the Forces, was to be brought into force on a different date from that on which the balance of the Act commenced. As a matter of fact, standing order 250 gives power for a Bill to be divided into separate Bills in Committee, or for a number of Bills to be consolidated. That would have been a most cumbersome way of attaining our end, and I thought the better way would be to pick out that portion of the Bill which is relevant to the peculiar conditions of the moment, and which can be absolutely separated from the other portion without any inconvenience. I have sought for the clauses that will be affected by the amendment I have proposed, but I cannot possibly specify them in a hurry with” out some risk. I have, however, made a note of clauses 76, 125, 134, and 137. The balance of the Bill will be brought into force in one block, and cannot afterwards be withheld. Postal voting could not possibly be applied to the forthcoming by-election, because, after nomination day, it is necessary to have postal certificates all over Australia. No one can fill up postal certificates until the candidates are nominated, and in order to print them and have them distributed all over Australia in time for this election, it would be necessary to anticipate the nominations. About 250,000 persons avail themselves of the absent voting provisions, but of these there are only about 15,000 who use this method of voting outside the State in which they are enrolled. Tn any case, absent voting cannot generally apply to a by-election, because there are no polling places outside the division in which the election is held. It would be absolutely useless to apply the postal voting or absent voting provisions of this Bill to the forthcoming by-election. The Government’s proposal could not possibly affect the relative strength of the parties in this House.
– The absent voting provisions’ were not used at the recent Swan by-election.
– The existing laws were in force. But there is a provision in the Bill before the House which can be made to apply at the present time without embarrassing the electoral administration, and the Ministry thought it was sound policy to ask Parliament to sanction its imlmediate application. In asking for the sanction of Parliament, we are following a correct course.
.- It is quite true that, if this amendment is passed, the sanction of Parliament will be given, and the Ministry have the necessary majority; but the method they have adopted is not in accordance with the past actions of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Glynn). I would far rather hear him say that the exigencies of the moment have rendered it necessary. This course may have been adopted on previous occasions, but not to my knowledge; and it seems to me that it is the shadow of the Swan election which is causing the Government to apply to the forthcoming Corangamite election the portion of the electoral law which will suit them. I do not wish to stress the point, but I am perfectly candid in saying that the example set to-day will not be forgotten. The party which occupies the Government benches for the time being will always be justified in making full use of the Standing Orders, applying the closure or limiting debate. I welcome it if it means that certain legislation will be carried into effect. More particularly would I welcome it if we had adopted the principles of the initiative, referendum, and recall, because then the people themselves could say, “ We will not have such legislation; we will have the Bill, and the whole Bill.” If the Government had been more open about this matter, they would have been more honorable. They say that they cannot apply the postal vote to the Corangamite by-election. Why not postpone the election for a fortnight? I do not suppose that the fixing of the date for a byelection is like the laws of the Medes and Persians - unalterable. . Speaking subject to correction, I should imagine that it is not compulsory to hold an election on a certain date after a member’s death. If we could delay the Corangamite election, we could apply the whole of the provisions of the Bill, and so enable the Minister to escape from an unpleasant situation. No one has a greater regard than I have for the honorable gentleman’s character, which has been built up in successive Parliaments, and, therefore, I regret that he should be forced into such a position. While preferential voting must appeal to the majority of honorable members of the House, postal voting was unanimously accepted by the Electoral Commission, which submitted the following recommendation upon the point: -
The electoral law should not he forged as a party weapon, but should aim at making it possible for every elector to record his vote. Apparently, about 77,000 electors were unable to vote at the elections in consequence of the abolition of postal-voting facilities, many of whom would be the mothers Of our people, fulfilling the noblest duties of life, and would have a keener personal interest in the government of the country than many who recorded votes. Wc, therefore, suggest the amendment of the Act to provide for postal voting prior to the day of- election, with sufficient statutory safeguards.
I have enough confidence in the gentleman whose ability rules .the Electoral Department to know that he could make all arrangements to apply postal voting to one constituency only. In this case we are dealing with one constituency only, and to say that it is impossible to apply the whole of the Bill to it is puerile.
-. - I have discussed the matter . with the electoral administration twice, and the advice I received was that it could not be done.
– Did the Minister discuss it in the light of a possible postponement of the election?
– The Government do not interfere with by-elections in regard to dates. That is a matter which is in the discretion of Mr. Speaker.
– No one would be harmed if Mr. Speaker would postpone the election, if it were the wish of honorable members that he should do so. It would relieve the Minister. Honorable nl embers would rather have the whole of the Bill applied to the election than part of it, because if only one portion of the law is applied to this election, supporters and friends of the Government will say that only the portion which suited the Ministry was employed. I would be prepared to expect such criticism if I were supporting the Government. I have suffered more than any honorable member or, perhaps, any two honorable members may have suffered, from the villainies that were perpetrated under the old postal -voting provisions; but yet I hope that the Corangamite election will be postponed, so that the whole of the measure which will be passed by this Parliament may be applied to it.
– As I understand the proposal, it will have the same effect as if the Government had introduced a separate Bill providing for the contingent vote only. I am unable to understand the amount of heat which the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has been able to put into the discussion of a proposition of that kind. Only a party spirit of the most violent kind could rejoice at the Democracy being forced to accept a candidate elected by a minority of electors in opposition to candidates supported by a majority of electors. The man who professes to be a believer in democratic principles, and yet is prepared to support a system applying to any election which will enable a minority of electors to force their candidate upon an unwilling majority, has a very small claim to be a Democrat. The sooner that awful system comes to an end the better it will be, no matter what party it may. affect. It is undemocratic. The proposal of the Government is in the interests, not of party, but of the electors, who have a right to be represented in Parliament by men approved of by the majority. For that reason I heartily support the proposal.
.- I did not think th’at this great National, Liberal, or Win-the-war party, with such a substantial majority at their back, would yield to the dictates of the morning press. This morning we found the- newspapers in Victoria telling the Ministry what they should do in order to save the Corangamite seat, and now we see the great, strong party opposite cringing and crawling on their bellies to these journals. It is a fine spectacle, apart altogether from the principle of the thing, to see the whole process of dealing with the Electoral Bill interrupted by an amendment to establish preferential voting at a by-election, which happens to be forthcoming. If the Goverment should happen to lose the seat, it would not affect their stability, or alter the state of parties in the House. The real test will come at the next general elections, for which we ought to have the best machinery available. We ought not to be wasting our time over by-elections.
– Does the honorable member believe in preferential voting?
– Then vote for this proposal.
– But I do not think that any Government ought to be so mean or so cowardly as to use its majority to have the system applied to one by-election only. Why should it not be applied to all elections? Any one who reads the papers must see that Ministers have taken their instructions from the press.
– They knew that the Government were going to submit this proposal.
– I do not think so. The Minister has not had the Government proposals printed and circulated. My desire is that the ballot-papers shall be the same for Senate and House of Representative elections, the electors being required to mark all the ballot-papers with figures showing the order of their preferences for the various candidates. The Government, however, is willing to pass a piecemeal measure in order that the preferential system may apply to an approaching by-election. The result of this election is not material to the Labour party, because, should we win it, we shall not have a majority. Our desire is to have an Electoral Act under which justice will be done at the next general election. We do not wish to waste time in patching up a measure merely to serve for a byelection. The Bill contains over 200 clauses, and yet we have only from now until 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon next in which to consider them.
– A great part of the measure is merely a re-statement of the existing electoral law.
– Even that ,part of it may require amendment. The measure is in no sense a party one, and I regret that the Minister in charge of it (Mr. Glynn) has intimated that it is to apply to the forthcoming by-election. It would have been better to leave over its application for future elections. The Labour party won the recent Swan election. But what does that matter?
– It matters that the electors should be misrepresented.
– There are many men in Parliament who misrepresent the electors, as they will find out at the next election, when this Win-the-War party has to render an account of its performances. The Government, in announcing that the provisions of the Bill are to apply to the Corangamite -by-election, has given the measure a party complexion.
– Is not the honorable member now speaking from a party standpoint ?
– It is my duty to seek to .protect my party’s interests and the interests of those who sent rr.e here. I have always been elected with a majority of from 8,000 to 9,000 votes, and most of the members of the Labour party were returned by a big majority. I believe that we should have got through the Bill just as quickly had no limitation of discussion been agreed to. The Senate may “ stone- wall “ the measure. We must intimate to our friends what has taken place here, and senators may not agree to differentiation in the method o£ Senate elections. In my opinion, there should be absolute uniformity.
– Will the honorable member support an amendment to secure that?
– I shall support any amendment that I think likely to improve the Bill.
.- I have not yet spoken to the Bill, and in the ordinary course of events would not have done so; but I understand that the Minister in charge of it has announced that it is the intention of the Government that certain parts only of the measure shall be applied to a by-election that is to take place at an early date. That announcement is a political indecency, against which I protest. It amounts to a deliberate declaration that the Government proposes to tamper with the electoral law to suit its party interests in connexion with the election.
– Apparently the honorable member was not present when precedents were cited.
– I was not here when the Minister was speaking, and, therefore, deal with the proposal entirely on its merits. The Government evidently consider that certain provisions of the measure are calculated, if applied to a forthcoming election, to serve its interests. I do not know that the Liberal party would win the Corangamite election in a straightout fight, because Labour has already held that seat. But evidently the Government thinks that it will secure a party advantage by applying to the election the principles of preferential voting.
– In any case, all that is aimed at is the securing of a majority of votes for the candidate elected.
– Whether the method is a good or a bad one may be a matter of opinion, just as what the effect of preferential voting would have been on the recent Swan election is a matter of opinion. Members opposite and their journalistic supporters wish it to be believed that under the preferential method all the votes not cast for the winning Labour candidate would have gone to a Liberal candidate. But there is no proof of that.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 7. fr5 p.m.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed?]
– It is a rather curious circumstance that this Ministry, which evidences in so many ways a desire to expedite the proceedings of Parliament, should needlessly use the time of the Committee in calling a second time for members to attend in order that we might proceed with the business of the country.
– T thought it was one of the honorable member’s admirers who called for a quorum.
– It was a member of the Opposition who called attention to the fact that when we resumed no member of the Ministerial party was present.
– There were several Ministerialists present.
– This proposal- on the part of the Government represents something new in the way of “ speeding up.” The Government already have the advantage of the “ gag “ and the new standing order which enables them to forcibly put through a measure in good time without regard to either ‘the desires or the rights of the Opposition, or the needs or the rights of their constituents. In addition to these salutary proposals - salutary in the sense of being useful in preserving the life of the Ministerial party - we are now faced with a proposition to enable the Government to bring into immediate effect any part of the Bill which may serve their own political interests, and to reserve to themselves the right to postpone indefinitely any other part of the Bill - introduced, perhaps, in some of its phases, as a result of pressure from outside - which may not be so pleasing to them either individually or as a party.
– The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has assured the Committee that the object of the amendment is quite the opposite.
– I have great respect for the assurances of the Minister, but I do not intend, in this or any other matter, to be led into a position of false confidence in the party that he represents.
Looking at the amendment before the Chair, one would suppose that the principles of the electoral law, as they existed before the introduction of this measure, and as they exist to-day, were something new. One would scarcely think that they represented the policy of the Federation since the establishment of the Commonwealth. It is curious that after an experience of Federation, extending over seventeen or eighteen years, it should be discovered only to-day, and in the stress of present political circumstances, that an amendment of the electoral law in the direction of preferential voting is not only desirable,- but so urgent that that part of the Bill which provides for it must be tom from its context and put into operation in anticipation of other provisions in the same measure. Such an action on the part of the Government, quite independently of the principle of the preferential vote which the proposal involves, immediately challenges criticism. It challenges their sincerity since, if they had been as sincere as they might be, it is clear that preferential voting could have been provided for long ago, without any waiting on the part of the Government for the recent “ unfortunate “ happening in the far west of this continent, and without being put into operation in immediate anticipation of another by-election.
– The Government announced long before the Swan election that they proposed to bring in a Bill providing for preferential voting.
– Was it announced that that part of the Bill which provides for .preferential voting would be torn out of it and put into operation to meet the exigencies of the election just coming on, while the operation of the remaining provisions would be postponed ? Is it not clear that the Government and their supporters see the writing on the wall? Is it not evident that every appeal that has been made to the country by referendum or by an extraordinary election since their return to power, has tended to show a distinct weakening on the part of the party of which my honorable friend (Mr. Pigott) is a more or less distinguished member.
– Did the result of the election for Flinders show anything of the kind?
– Some faint consolation might be drawn by the Ministerial party from its experience there if it were not that at that election there was returned to this House a man who, by virtue of his having been to, and suffered at, the war, had some such claim upon the confidence of the people as is possessed by the very man just now returned as a Labour candidate to represent the great constituency of Swan. Leaving out the consideration which prevailed in the case of the Flinders election, we find that, whether it be by referendum, or by vote in a single constituency, or whether we judge by the prevailing tone of the people outside, it is becoming increasingly evident to the Government and their supporters that they are in a condition of discredit which for.bodes their rapid dissolution.
– Honorable members opposite are as bad as the Germans - they want to devastate the whole country before they go out. They are Bolsheviks.
– If we were, honorable members opposite would not be where they are to-day.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) would not be where he is if it were not that he left where he was. Although he has expressed himself before to-day as being entirely opposed to the postal vote and to other principles which this Bill will bring into operation, he is so adaptable that he finds himself, in a spirit of sweet conciliation, ready to accept the prosposals of the Government, although he was opposed to them before he ceased to be an inconspicuous member of the party from which he has been recently expelled.
My objection to this amendment does not go necessarily to the principle of preference. I hold it to be an act of political indecency to pick and choose the electorates to which such a system is to be applied. And that is what is being done in this case. Does any one suggest that if the electorate of Corangamite, which is to be contested shortly, had been a distinctly Labour stronghold honorable members opposite would have been so much concerned about the eternal principles of electoral justice as to apply preferential voting to the contest? Not at all. They have seen what they, believed to be a stronghold of Liberalism in Western Australia pass into the hands of Labour, and they see the danger, from their point of view, of the not-so-great stronghold of Liberalism - Corangamite - also passing into our hands. In these circumstances . they have suddenly become seized of the intrinsic justice of the preferential system, notwithstanding that during the seventeen years of Federation they have never suggested before that it should be brought into operation. I repeat that I am not opposed to the preferential system of voting. So far as our party is concerned it is unnecessary for the reason that we adopt a very simple and just system, which, however, depends for its success upon the loyalty and public spirit of the party. It ill becomes a late member of the Labour party to take exception to a policy under which he has more than once submitted himself without success. I would not like to be severe on the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), but I am bound to pal nt out that, though frequently rejected as an exponent of Labour, he appears to be good enough to be picked up as an exponent of Liberalism in a new party.
– He has gone back to his first love:
– That may be. Our system of selection, so far from being unfair or unjust, consists in taking an absolutely untrammelled democratic vote of every member of the party in the selection. Having done that, we even then do not say that the one selected should represent the whole electorate, but we do say that he is. entitled to be classed as the nominee to run in the interests of the party, and that he is selected in a very democratic way.
– Under the preferential system.
– Under the preferential system; 1 am prepared to take the matter on that ground, although this is used as an interjection against me. We select the candidate by a democratic vote of every member of the party, and I cannot imagine a system more fair. Having made our selection, the candidate is submitted to the whole electorate for acceptance or rejection. As I have said, this ,pre-selection policy of ours depends for its success on the loyalty of the party. That is how it comes about that, while the preferential VOte st elections is a matter of perfect indifference to the Labour party, it becomes a vital matter to the congeries of the parties opposite, for the reason that they cannot depend for a moment on the loyalty of each other when a candidate has been selected. What occurred in the Swan electorate? The nominee of the Ministerial party was at the bottom of the poll.
– That is not quite true.
– He was second last; the candidate who was last was such a rank outsider that it is hardly worth considering his claim for recognition. I believe 1 am right in saying that this gentleman was a contributor to the Consolidated Revenue in a way painfully well known to members of the party opposite. We, therefore, do not require the preferential vote, but we offer no objection to it. We apply it in our pre-selection ballots, and, therefore, my objection “to the amendment does not rest by any means upon the fact that I have a rooted antipathy to the system, for I have not.
I sum up my objections to this amendment by declaring that the Government, in coming down now and giving themselves the power to divorce a section of this Bill from the rest of it when it becomes an Act, for the purpose of picking a constituency in which they think it will help them politically, are committing an act of political indecency.
– Give the soldiers’ nominee a chance.
– Certainly, give them all a chance. The honorable member apparently imagines that he is going to secure for that curious body of hidebound Conservatives who support his interests on that side of the House the democratic vote of the returned soldiers and others. Let me warn him that he will not have to live very long before he finds that those soldiers of ours are coming back more democratic than they wen): away. They will come back to record their votes with a lively recognition of the fact that this war is being won the world over by the forces of advanced Radicalism, and that the victory is, not only for one or two countries, but for the Democracy of the whole world, including the countries of our present enemies.
I think it relevant to say that we are secure in the knowledge of the fact that the men are coming back in that spirit in which they voted not many months ago against a policy of militarism which they have been fighting to abolish on the other side of the world.
– The honorable member is getting outside the amendment.
– Then I shall not pursue that aspect of the matter further; indeed, there is no need for me to add anything to what I have said. I propose to vote against this amendment on the grounds that have been put by other honorable members and myself. It is a party political move, which ought not to have been resorted to in the case of an Electoral Bill, under which appeals are to be made to the great tribunal of the people. It is a party political move at a time, and in circumstances whichmake it peculiarly objectionable and un- worthy of the large party, whose numbers are sufficient to enable them to carry on until the next election. After all, that is all that the party opposite can desire; they cannot avert the fate which is sure to befall them at no distant date. It is perfectly clear that they desire, by picking an electorate suitable, as they think, for the application of the preferential system, to arrest the Tot that is setting in - the rot which set in some time ago - in the ;party, or congeries of parties, as I have called them, of which they are made up. This rot has given a very bad impression to their friends, and to their so-called leader across the seas, at the very time when those stay-at-home warriors are desirous of acclaiming themselves a successful Win-the-war Government and party.
.- I cannot understand the Government introducing these ‘amendments. Any one would think that the honour and safety of the Commonwealth - indeed, the safety of the Empire - depended on their winning the Corangamite seat. On Friday last the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) threatened the Government with condign punishment, and made the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) so angry and alarmed that he dare not go to his home at the weekend.
– I have not been home for three weeks.
– The honorable gentleman and his colleagues, after the remarks of the honorable member I have mentioned, at once started to lay and hatch eggs, of which these amendments are the outcome. The Government is strong enough, and has subservient followers enough to do this dirty kind of business. Why do they not go one step further, and disfranchise every man and woman “with Labour sympathies and tendencies, and thus make things still more easy for the Government? There is an old saying to the effect that those whom the gods wished to destroy they first made mad ; and honorable members opposite are going mad on electoral matters. All the powers of the Government - all their trickery and machinations - will not save the honor able member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) next, time he faces his masters. The honorable member, who does not appear to like what I am saying, will remember the old yarn about the pitcher and the well. As a Labour man I do not object to the Government doing these things, for they are only rushing to their doom. If there is one thing more than another that an enraged Democracy will not have, particularly in Australia - and I know a little of the Democracy of this country, having grown up with it for the last thirty years - it is electoral methods of this sort. The Government and their supporters are to-day doing to the Labour party and Democracy what the squatocracy and the autocracy of Australia did to the manual workers and toilers in the earlier history of the Labour movement. We on this side aTe impotent, because the Government have an overflow of numbers; but the scene will change, as sure as we are here. The time will come when the Nationalists will be sorry for their misdeeds.
– I have not been a traitor to my country.
– Thank God, I have not been a traitor to either my country or my party!
– The honorable member has been amongst traitors.
– He was, but they left us
– I do not say that because a man alters his opinion he is a traitor. If a man does not change his opinion at some time there is not much in him. I know that when I came into this House I had certain fixed opinions which have been at least modified, and I give other honorable members the same right in that respect as I claim for myself. Things that the Australian Democracy will not stand are Tammany practices in politics, and tinkering with the Electoral Act. The enraged Democracy will scarify honorable members for what they are doing to-day. I know that in regard to the Corangamite by-election, the Government are only obeying the dictates of their masters. The Employers’ Federation, the Women’s National League, and the Argus have told the Government what they are to do. The result is the series of amendments’ which the Minister has brought before the House to-day. Honorable members opposite cavil about Labour candidates being returned on a minority vote. In the first Federal election some honorable members on the Government side, and one member of the Labour party were returned on a minority vote; but until this Bill was brought forward, I never heard of any complaint on that account. There must be something rotten in the state of Denmark when,- after having endured the present system for eighteen years, the Government are induced to rush an amending Bill through in the few days before a by-election. What will happen if, notwithstanding all the anxiety of the Government to insure the return of a Nationalist candidate, the Labour candidate wins ?
– We shall be satisfied until the next elections.
– Should not the. majority of electors elect the member?
– They always have done so in my electorate. A blind man can see through what the Government are doing to-day. But a reaction will take place in the constituencies, and many honorable members who are reclining on the soft Ministerial benches to-day will be sitting in the galleries’ watching their Labour successors doing what they ought to have done. It seems peculiar that , the Government should be so small-minded as to misuse the whole powers of Parliament and the electoral machinery in- order to gain one seat, for no” other reason than that a Labour man won the Swan seat with a minority vote. But even if the Labour candidate had not won the Swan seat, the Nationalist candidate, who had the indorsement of the Government, would have been defeated, and success Would have gone to another man, who would have been opposed to the Government.
– The honorable member cannot say that.
– If preferential voting had been operative, Mr. Hedges would have been beaten on the second count. It is remarkable that the Government have made their first use of the guillotine on a Bill which most honorable members have referred to as a non-party measure. I do not think that any man should win an election on trickery ; a constituency should have fair and proper representation, and if the Government think that preferential voting would insure that, I have no objection to giving it a trial.
– All the honorable member’s arguments would be well founded if an injustice to any candidate were contemplated.
– A blind man can see why this amendment has been brought forward by the Government. Apparently, even an electoral law that has placed fifty-three members on the Government side and twenty-two on the Opposition side is not good enough for honorable members opposite. Because we have happened to shoot “ one little swan ‘’ the Government intend, with their brutal majority-
– Order ! That expression is disorderly.
– I withdraw it, and substitute their vast and subservient majority.
– I ask that that expression be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the word subservient and substitute the word docile. The proposal now before the Committee will not redound to the credit of the Government, and I am sorry that it has been brought forward by the Minister for Home and Territories. He is one of the fairest and squarest politicians I have ever met in the whole of my political career. Always when there has been anything wrong in a Bill introduced by him, he has pointed out where the fault lay. I feel sure that he is taking this action to-day in opposition to his principles.
– After giving the Minister that character, does the honorable member think that he would do anything that was opposed to his principles?
– I do not; but he is a member of a Government, and he must do what the majority desire, or get out.
– As a matter of fact, a separate Bill was prepared last year, and *–he preferential voting could have been introduced then.
– Then why did not the Government introduce the Bill last year? What I cavil at is the indecency of Hie
Government in bringing forward this Bill at the eleventh hour. If the Government win the Corangamite seat, will that save their prestige?
– We shall have re-established majority rule.
– Majority rule will settle the honorable member when the electors have a chance of dealing with him and his party for the things they are doing. It is the small abuses against which a Democracy rebels, and the Government are building up a nice little list for which the electors will call them to account. If honorable members opposite will not follow the straight path their blood must be on their own heads.
Question - that the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the words “ a day to be fixed by proclamation “ be left out, and the following inserted in lieu thereof: - “such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation.”
I have spoken to the Chief Electoral Officer again, and, if it is at all possible to bring postal voting into operation in connexion with the Corangamite election, I shall see that it is done; but I do not think it will be possible, as the nomination day has been fixed for the 28th November, and the postal voting certificates will have to be circulated all over Australia after that date. Under preferential voting, the names of the candidates have to be written in. We must know who are nominated before preference can be marked on a ballot-paper. The absent voting provisions will not be affected. As the absent voting within a division is practically small, no substantial purpose is served by applying the system to a by-election.
– I regret that we did not have the Minister’s proposal before we passed the title clause. This measure should be entitled, A Bill to fake elections in the interests of the Ministerial party.”
– As that remark is a personal reflection upon the Ministry, and attributes improper motives, the honorable member must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it; but can you prevent me from thinking it?
– The honorable member can think what he likes.
– Then I think it about Ministers and their party. There is a reason for the course they have taken. One of the candidates for the Corangamite seat has been going about among different constituencies seeking election. He contested the Ballarat seat.
– Order ! The honorable member must not continue in that strain.
– The Government are employing this piecemeal method in order to evade putting the Bill into operation at a whole. I would like to hear some honorable members defending their action. It is taken in the interests of party only, and I am sure they are ashamed of it. I am told that I must not attribute motives. There is no need to impute them. Honorable members think that, because they have the press on their side, they can do no wrong. In order to prevent honorable members on this side from having a fair opportunity to discuss the matter, they bring forward a proposal in this piecemeal way. Instead of giving the country a solid joint, they give it a pound of sausages, cutting off a piece at a time, and applying it piecemeal to the elections. A Ministry which brought forward a regulation on the eve of the conscription referendum disfranchising Australian-born citizens would bring forward another regulation putting part of the Electoral Act into operation for one election, and then, if it did not suit them, they would not apply it at the next election.
– We could not do that. The law would prevent it.
– The honorable gentleman does not know what his Government can do. By means of a regulation, they have already disfranchised certain citizens; and what they have done in the past they will be prepared to do in the future. I shall do my best, not only to prevent this Bill passing in the shape they desire, but also to prevent them from retaining the Corangamite- seat. I am not allowed to say they will endeavour to do so by faking the election, but still I think it.
.- Evidently the result of the Swan election has caused a flutter in the Ministerial dovecot. If honorable members opposite have any honour in them-
– I rise to a point of order.
– If honorable members are not inclined to respond to the request of the Chair, the Chair will have to take some drastic step. There is a growing tendency on the part of some honorable members to indulge in reflections upon the personal honour of others. The practice is becoming so prevalent that the Chair must take notice of it. I ask the honorable member for Darling not to pursue that line of speech, and I ask all honorable members to support the Chair in preserving that decorum which should be observed in an institution of this kind.
– The Government are not devoid of responsibility in the matter of the conduct of business. If an amendment is brought forward by the Ministry, which does not give a fair deal, and which, only by the greatest stretch of imagination, may be called honorable, the responsibility for any remarks which may tend to be personal must be equally shared by them. We surely owe somethingto those who have sent us here, and if, smarting under the injustice heaped upon us, we say something out of place, the Government must take the responsibility for it. The Parliaments of Australia are being used tQ save, if possible, the face of the National party, which fairly stinks in the nostrils of the people.
– The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– I am not concerned with what the honorable member is saying, but I ask, as a question of order, whether a. statement made in attacking a party can be taken personally? Surely it is withinthe rights of members to make such statements ?
– I have alreadycalled attention to several infractions of the Standing Orders. The honorablemember and others have been disorderly in discussing matters other than the amendment. The Government and theMinisterial party have nothing to do withthe amendment. If honorable members wish to discuss the conduct of the Government, they should do so on a proper occasion; it is disorderly to discuss it now. I am sorry that I have allowed somuch latitude, but I shall now draw the rein tighter, confining members strictly to the amendment.
– The measure has been introduced and is being hurried’ through. Parliament for an express purpose. r>
– The honorable member must confine himself strictly to the amendment.
– I protest, sir, against your action in calling me to order for not discussing the amendment, when you have allowed several other speakers to infringethe rule in regard to it.
– The honorable member may move to dissent from my ruling, if he wishes to do so. I have already pleaded guilty to allowing too much latitude. Having found that this was leading to disorder, I am determined to stop it.
.- I understand that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has not finished his remarks.
– I have no desire to finish under these conditions.
– The honorable member for Darling sat down at your request, Mr. Chairman, and now he seems to have missed his chance to speak.
– I called upon the honorable member for Darling after I had ruled on a point of order, and as he declined to rise again, I have called on the honorable member for Brisbane.
– The Minister has told us that the amendment has been proposed in order that some parts of the Bill may be brought into force by proclamation. A clause that we have not yet reached deals with the “War-time Electoral Act, which contains three specific provisions. I ask the Minister if it is intended that parts of that Act shall be brought into force in connexion with the Corangamite election?
– The War-time Electoral Act does not apply to by-elections.
– I am glad to know that. I shall have something to say about that measure later.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1905, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1906, the Disputed Elections and Qualifications Act 1907, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1909, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902, and the Electoral Divisions Act 1903, are repealed. . . .
– The clause repeals existing electoral legislation, but it is necessary to prevent that repeal from becoming operative until the general parts of the Bill, not those relating to preferential voting only, have been brought into force. Therefore, as a consequential amendment, I move -
That, in line 1, after the word “The,” the words “ several parts and sections of the following Acts, namely, the “ be inserted.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr.GLYNN (Angas - Minister for Home and Territories) [9.2]. - I move -
That the following words be added to subclause i, “as from such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation.”
That is simply consequential upon the amendment just agreed to. The effect actually will be to continue the existing law until the whole of this Act shall have been brought into force.
.- I realize that it is hopeless to say anything that will convince any honorable member opposite of the iniquity of what is being perpetrated. However, they will yet realize it themselves, and more keenly than any one inside or outside of Parliament can hope to bring the fact home to them now. The repeal is to take place from such date as may be fixed by proclamation. There will be a proclamation putting this business on, and another taking it off again - something like the case of the Prime Minister, who promised to resign after a certain event, and who did not.
– That is only by way of illustration, sir.
– Order ! Such illustrations are disorderly, and complaint has already been made that too much latitude has been allowed.
– We want no favours.
– We expect none, and we get none. The Government can fix a date by proclamation, calling the whole thing off and can fix another date by proclamation, putting it on again ; which is just what the Government probably will do. We have never had such action taken before as to bring into operation an Act a bit at a time. It is a case of “ one step at a time; do not do it altogether.” The Government are going to bring into force this Act a lit at a time, and will repeal it a bit at a time. The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has admitted that the proclamation is to take place from time to time, simply as it suits the Government. There is to be nothing in the interests of fair play, or of having a pure Electoral Act, or in the interests of the people exercising a proper franchise. It is entirely to be a matter of, “ How will it suit the Government?” A more discreditable motive has never been expressedby any Minister in this, or any other Parliament of Australia. I defy the Minister to point to any measure under which part of an Act may be repealed at one time, and another part of it repealed at a later period. Such a method of legislating is absolutely unheard of, and a Government that resorts to it is unworthy of the position it holds. This proposal is made, not for the purity of elections, but to further the interests of the Ministerial party.
.- In the amendment now before us we have another illustration of the truth of the old saying that if you take one wrong step you have to take many more to cover up your wrong-doing. Having amended clause 2, the Minister is now proceeding to submit consequential amendments which must necessarily be made throughout the Bill.. We are professing by means of this measure to consolidate the electoral law of the Commonwealth. I invite honorable members to observe that it is entitled, “ A Bill for an Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to parliamentary elections, and for other purposes.” I am beginning to discover what is meant by the use of the words “ and for other purposes.”
– Is it not a common thing for such words to appear in the title to a Bill?
– Yes; but apparently a new use has been found for them. This Bill is supposed to provide a complete and permanent machine for the conduct of Commonwealth elections, and yet to meet political exigencies the Minister is compelled to introduce into it a number of amendments so that the Government may be secure in winning a by-election. If the party numbers were very close, I could understand the urgency of the amendment; I could understand the Government doing a lot of things with the electoral law; but since the Government have an enormous majority, and are so sure of the success of their candidate at the forthcoming election for Corangamite, why should they resort to this subterfuge? Why should they be ready to manipulate and juggle with the electoral machinery to suit their own necessities?
If the Government would consider this matter apart from the party stand-point they would recognise that it is immoral to descend to the subterfuge now being resorted to by the Minister. Not content with the amendments made in clause 2, under which such parts of the Bill as axe found convenient may be made operative, he now proposes to make it possible to repeal only such parts of the existing elec toral law as the Government may consider it convenient to repeal. When the election, for Corangamite takes place no one outside the Government officials will know what particular Electoral Act is being applied to it. Under this amendment any part of the existing legislation may be retained or repealed. Is it not reasonable that the Opposition should claim that, whatever else of a party character there may be in the legislation proposed by the Government, no attempt should be made in an Electoral Bill to secure a party advantage ? Ministerial supporters have continually assured us that they approached this question from a non-party stand-point; that they had no wish to gain party advantage, and that their only desire was that by means of this Bill everything relating to the. conduct of elections should be fair and square, and that every candidate should have a square deal. And yet by the amendment now proposed the Government will hold in their hand the power so to utilize the electoral machinery that it may be made to go and stop and made to restart and restop just as the exigencies of the party political situation require.
I enter a most emphatic protest against this manipulation of the electoral machinery of the Commonwealth. This is one of the most comtemptible actions ever taken by any Government in any Parliament. We, as Britishers, have always claimed that, no matter what may happen in other countries in the way of electoral corruption and the manipulation of votes, our elections are always beyond suspicion.
– The honorable member, in his heart, does not mean all that he says as to this amendment.
– Can my honorable friend point to any instance in history where the electoral machinery of a country has been so manipulated that the Government of the day have been able to operate one part and to hold back another part? This Bill is supposed to supersede’ every other Common-wealth Electoral Act in existence, and yet we are now asked to insert in it an amendment which will enable Ministers, as they choose, to drop part of it and to bring into operation other parts. At the same time they will also be able to repeal or to continue any part of the existing electoral law.
– This violates no public right.
– It will violate every public right. It cannot be said that this is a consolidating Bill, because, under the amendment now before us, it will be possible to continue in operation Acts of Parliament which are supposed by it to be repealed.
– Does not the Bill provide for what the people have been asking for years?
– The honorable member is confusing the point at issue. He is thinking now of preferential voting, and when we come to that part of the Bill which deals with it, no difficulty will be experienced. It is evident that the Committee as a whole is prepared to uphold the principle of preferential voting. I arn dealing now with the effect of the amendment immediately before the Chair, and I think I am putting up a good case to show that it embodies a hitherto unknown method of dealing with the electoral machinery. The supporters of the Government, however, have given their instructions, and the Minister is either carrying out their will or they will carry out his will. The amendment will go through, and, as a result of it, we shall have an electoral machine which is neither the old nor the new, but a bit of both. It is the most immoral and disgraceful proceeding in connexion with electoral affairs ever perpetrated in any community.
– I do not think that we should allow to go uncontradicted the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), which has been repeated by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Finlayson), that under this amendment the Government will be able, by proclamation, to bring sections of the law into operation and then to annul them. It is an absolute misrepresentation of the amendment before the Committee.
– It is wholly incorrect.
– It is. All the arguments of the Opposition fail, because there is no such proposal before the Committee. The amendment submitted by the Minister is simply to give the Government power to bring into operation the preferential or contingent voting sections of this Bill for by-elections. The Leader of the Opposition declared that this was an iniquitous proposal. For the leader of a great professedly Democratic party to declare a proposal to give the majority of electors at a by-election the right to select their own candidate, an iniquity, is testing our forbearance to the breaking point.
– Is it not an iniquity in regard to the general elections for the Senate?
– It is an iniquity that honorable members have been returned to this House by only a minority of electors. It is an iniquity that honorable members are able to come here with two-thirds of the electors opposed to them, and help to make the laws of this country in the name of the Democracy that they do not represent. The blame lies at the door of men like the Leader of the Opposition, who has been for years a member of Ministries that have not remedied this undemocratic state of affairs, or even attempted to do so. When a Ministry does come’ forward prepared to give the majority of the electors the right to select their members, it is strange that there should be this “stone-walling” because the provision will apply to one particular election. From a purely party point of view, it is very, consoling to know that honorable members on the other side see so small a chance of getting majorities, that they Want to catch odd seats on a minority vote. But they may take heart. The Labour movement will not die because a few leaders have got into the wrong place, or a few men have turned it down. The contingent vote that this Bill will secure to the electors is the only democratic way to elect members of a Democratic Parliament. I hope honorable members will cease their opposition to a principle which will give greater power to a majority in each electorate to obtain representation of their views.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) would lead one to think that this proposal was designed for by-elections alone.
– Certainly not.
– If it is not, why did the honorable member applaud the honorable member for Illawarra when he tried to prove that it was ?
– It applies to all elections.
– Of course it does, and that is the whole danger of bringing the Bill into force piece-meal. Never before have we brought legislation regarding important matters like elections into operation in parts.
– Was not the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act an important piece of legislation?
– Was not the invalid section brought into force af terwards ?
– That was quite a different proposition. At that time invalid pensions and old-age pensions were two distinct things. The old-age pensions part was passed first, and the invalid pensions part was brought in later, when the finances permitted.
– The whole Act was passed at the one time.
– It was a question of finance only, but it is absolutely wrong to trifle with the people by bringing into force, by proclamation, portions of legislation dealing with the election of members to this Parliament.
– The Navigation Bill was brought into force in that way.
– The Navigation Bill was to be brought into force by proclamation as a whole.
– But it has not yet been proclaimed.
– That is not our fault. I can five the reason why the Navigation Bill has not been proclaimed.
– In any case it is quite a different proposition from this. Under the Government proposal any section or portion of this Bill can be brought into force by proclamation or left alone as they think nt.
– So could oldage pensions and invalid pensions.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. If the Government want the people to be left free to elect members to this Parliament by a majority vote, the simpler the voting system is made the more the people will go to the polls. Anything that makes the system complicated will tend to frighten people away from the polling booths. When honorable members now on the Government side were in the minority, they constantly expressed the hope that the people would go to the polls. They said that all they wanted was a full vote to assure them of a majority. This proposal will do nothing towards getting a full vote. If the Government were doing something new, they might claim that they were trying to improve things, but all they propose in one connexion is to restore a system which this House tried and threw out because of the corruption that occurred under it at general elections.
– That is absolutely untrue. Read the Commission’s evidence from your own people.
– We threw it out.
– Yes, and it was a disgrace to you.
– I call attention to the unparliamentary remark of the honorable member for Wakefield.
– I withdraw it.
– The postal vote was included in the earlier Electoral Acts of the Commonwealth, but it was “abolished after certain occurrences. Is that not a fact?
– Yes, after shocking occurrences.
– So that the Government are only reinstituting by proclamation portions of those things that we have already discarded. If the Government want the full vote of the people, why do they not bring in compulsory voting? The fact is that they do not want to do anything to secure the full vote of the people. All they want is to pass provisions which they think will protect themselves.
.- There is great danger in giving the Government too much power to do things by proclamation. It is dangerous to give a Minister power to issue proclamations that have the force of law. At the outbreak of war, we passed a War Precautions Act which we thought would be fairly administered ; but under that Act powers have been exercised which were never anticipated when the Bill was before us.
– Who introduced that Bill?
– The Labour party ; and I would vote for a War Precautions Act to-morrow, because it is necessary. Under the Bill before us, the Government might at any time issue a proclamation reducing or extending the hours of polling. I am reminded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that prior to the taking of the last referendum a regulation was issued permitting certain questions to be asked of the electors; and such powers no Minister ought to have. If the Government have only the Corangamite election in view, why deface the Bill with such a clause as that before us. I do not think that the House would agree to a permanent measure of the kind; and surely Parliament will not stoop to pass a measure which can only affect one by-election? I warn the Government that this proposal, if carried into effect, may prove a boomerang to them; and certainly the measure will not result in that purity of elections that we have been led to suppose. In any case, if these powers are given to the Minister, I hope they will not be exercised in the same way as have the powers under the War Precautions Act. My own opinion is that if the Minister had his way this clause would not find a place in the Bill, and it is only there as a result of influence brought to bear on him and the Government, in view of the approaching Corangamite election.
– I am surprised that honorable members opposite should take up such an inconsistent attitude in relation to this Bill. This is the first time “that Parliament hasbeen ready to pass an Electoral Act for the people, and not for a close preserve of members of Parliament.
– It will not affect the party on this side.
– Then why are honorable members opposite so inconsistent as to resist the introduction of a system which their own organization uses for the pre-selection of candidates ?
– It is proposed to operate this Bill a bit at a time.
– The honorable member and others have been fighting shadows and side issues all the time, and demonstrating their own inconsistency. They were brought into political existence by the operation of this principle of voting.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– I do know what I am talking about, and I also know that the honorable member and his associates are talking a lot. of nonsense and throwing dust in the eyes of the people. It is about time they ceased this hypocrisy, and brought some common honesty to bear.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I withdraw those last words of mine.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members must see how unfair these continuous interjections are to the Chair. It is impossible to hear the honorable member who is addressing the House. Now an honorable member objects to something that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has said, and the disorderly conduct of honorable members makes it impossible for me to deal with the matter.
– The complaint of honorable members opposite about this Bill being rendered operative by proclamation is just as inconsistent as their other objections. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) is one of the strongest men on the Labour side, and his statements to-day did not do him credit, and ought to be withdrawn. If the honorable member protests that the proposal now made is an uncommon one, it does not say much for his judgment. He knows very well that in the case of old-age and invalid pensions
– I referred to electoral machinery only.
– That was the cunning of the honorable member, and I do not admire it; I admire his intellect a good deal more than I do his honesty. It is not creditable to him and -others to mislead the people in this fashion. Old-age pensions were brought into operation by proclamation.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is all right, and so is the proposal now before us.
– I challenge the honorable member to give me an illustration of electoral machinery being brought into operation in the way now proposed.
– I should be ashamed of myself if I were to attempt to deceive the people as the honorable member has done, knowing that the same principle was applied in the case of other Acts. The honorable member would be a mighty power in politics if he would abandon, I was going to say, his vicious principles, but that, of course, would not. be parliamentary. I repeat that honorable members on the other side of the House are absolutely inconsistent, and I ask that, for once, we should consider the interests of the people, and not regard this as a close preserve for members of Parliament.
.- It is always pleasant for me to follow the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, because he always gives one the impression that he believes what he is saying. I was astonished at his attitude, because I remember that once I acted with him on an Electoral Commission of Inquiry.
– Yes, and agreed with me.
– In some matters I could not help agreeing with the honorable member. I took up the same attitude then as I do now in regard to Ministerial interference with the heads of a Department. The honorable member knows what I am alluding to, yet he is actually proposing now to support a pro posal to make the Minister dominant over his officers.
– No; that is not involved in this question.
– The departmental officer will have to obey if the clause passes. We have been grinding out laws as with a sausage machine of late. No less than 290 laws have been issued this year under the War Precautions Act. Honorable members may- call them regulations, but if they will have the effect of imprisoning or fining any man, they are laws, call them what you will. And now we are being asked to pass electoral machinery upon which the Democracy of Australia will rest at the will of a Minister; but I stand for placing power in the hands of an officer to defy a Minister if the Minister is working against the law.
We are now fighting on the question of re-introducing postal voting. What does it amount to? Honorable members may not be aware how few electors would be affected in the Division of Corangamite. The latest return I have had from the Department shows that at the election on 5th May, 1917, there were 36,733 electors enrolled, and if there were only 77,000 postal voters out of 3,000,000 electors in May, 1917, that would be, roughly, about 4 per cent., so that in Corangamite the number would be about 1,500. I spoke, subject to correction, when, earlier in- the afternoon, I said I understood that the date of an election following a vacancy was fixed by law. I find now that this is not so. There is no reason why this election should not be postponed seven or fourteen days; and allow the Electoral Department extra assistance in any temporary work that may be needed. If this were done, it would disarm any criticism against the present measure. If we commit a wrong now, we shall be creating a precedent, and we all know that precedents are beloved by the legal mind. But the Government have the numbers, so they can rush this measure through if they like.
– They are going to.
– Let us have division after division, if necessary; but let us not include this accursed principle, which will compel a civil servant to do just what the
Minister may order. “We speak of the purity of our electoral system, and we should so frame our electoral machinery that an officer of the Department may be able, when this is expedient, to stand up to a Minister and be subservient only to Parliament. If we had what I have always contended for - the referendum, initiative, and recall - we could recall the regulations under this Bill. It would give me some pleasure to take the platform throughout the length and breadth of Victoria, as well as further afield, to urge that this course be taken. Honorable members opposite will find that even their political friends will believe that the course now being taken has been dictated by the results of the by-election for Swan. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) must agree with me in this matter. It is quite palpable that this action is being taken to insure that Corangamite shall be safe for the Government. But the Government have large numbers behind them, so they can afford to be generous. They should see to it that no slur is cast at them over this matter. If I were on the other side of the House, I would speak in the same strain, and, if necessary, would vote against the Government. I recollect with some amusement what the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) said while we were on the inquiry to which I have referred, and in which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) was associated with us. We had to work very hard to get justice at that time. I remember how strong the feeling was on both sides. If the honorable members to whom I have referred vote for this provision, they will be supporting a principle which will place in the hands of the Minister more power than any other Minister has yet enjoyed in regard to electoral matters. The honorable member for Wakefield will not deny that.
– This will give more power to the Parliament.
– If at any time that Minister be not animated by the highest motives, he might be induced to make use of this power. I remind honorable members that they will not always have the numbers on their side. Political changes take place, and if ever three parties fight an election again, some will miss their seats. This might be my experience.
– You are all right.
– If I am, it will only, be because of the esteem in which I am held by the men and women of the division. I am very sensitive about placing power in the hands of the Minister :n the manner proposed by this Bill. I know that the present Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn)’ has a splendid record, and that he would prefer the Bill to be so worded that if a Minister controlling a Department became so lost to a sense of duty as to order the public servant controlling the Electoral Department to do something which he thought he should not do, that servant should be able to say, “ There is the Act, sir, and I read it in another way.” Let us give the public servant that right. I ask honorable members on the Ministerial side to support me in requesting the Ministry to do the right thing. I do not care how quickly the Government pass this Bill, because if the opportunity ever comes to me to move in a particular matter I shall move quickly. It seems to me absurd that in times like the present we should have such long vacations and brief sittings. Our position is akin to that of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Let us get through the business and dispose of every motion standing in the names of private members. I suggest that the Ministry should withdraw the amendment. On the average, only 1,500 persons in a constituency with 36,000 electors vote by post, and to say that it is not possible to do what I have suggested is to reflect upon the capacity of the splendid band of officers who are controlled by the head of the Electoral Department.
– The Chief Electoral Officer has told me that it cannot be done. I have asked him to reconsider the matter. If it can be done, it will be done.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister, Having known him so long, it is only what I would have expected from him.
.- Some of the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) would be all right if applied to another portion of the Bill. If Opposition members will continue their criticism of the Bill along the lines they have been following I shall have a very poor estimate of the sincerity of their desire to get the best Bill possible in the circumstances. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) started by saying that this amendment would give general powers to the Minister to repeal old Statutes or reinstate them. It does not; it gives specific power to the Minister to repeal by proclamation Acts already on the statutebook.
Mr.Tudor. - When he likes.
– Not exactly; no Minister would dare to allow an Act to go unrepealed. Clause 3 states that certain Acts are to be repealed from such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation, ‘ so that the Minister is given power only to repeal those Acts by proclamation, and when they have been repealed this provision becomes a dead letter. If honorable members opposite will assist me to take, as far as practicable, all controlout of the hands of the Minister in regard to the administration of the Act and the conduct of elections, I shall be pleased to have their support; but the clause under consideration is not the one upon which such an amendment should be considered.
.- The proclamation under the Old-age Pensions Act has been put forth as a justification for the procedure proposed to be adopted in connexion with this Bill. Honorable members know perfectly well that the proclamation under the Old-age Pensions Act was provided for for the specific reason that it was impossible to bring the whole of the provisions into force at the time the Act was passed, because there was not enough money in hand to pay the pensions. How can honorable members compare such a proclamation with one which is to be used merely for party purposes, to stave off the evil day for the Government, and to prevent the people from getting accustomed to seeing the National candidate at the bottom of the poll?
– The honorable member is begging the question by saying that the proclamation is for party purposes.
– I sincerely believe that the guillotine was employed this afternoon in order that those portions of the Bill which are likely to be most satisfactory to the Ministry may be forced through this Chamber by Friday afternoon, sent to the Senate, and , passed through that Chamber in the same hurried manner, so that they may be operated in the Corangamite by-election. I further believe that this action has been taken because of the awful beating which the Nationalist candidate received in the Swan by-election. That is the opinion of honorable members on this side and of the outside public, and, no matter how Government supporters may try to hide their heads in the sand, the people will take that view with increasing conviction when they learn of what is being done in regard to the Corangamite selection. Fancy the whole parliamentary institution being employed to enable the Government to win one seat. It is not the probable loss of the Corangamite seat that worries the Government so much as the effect which another defeat would have on the minds of the people. In order to stave off the evil day, and to bolster up Nationalism, all sorts of devious and sinister methods are being used. The Government to-day instructed the Minister in charge of the Senate that that House should be adjourned, but with instructions that its members should assemble on Tuesday next. Up to the present, during this part of the session, the Government have not thought fit to bring the Senate back to duty on the Tuesday, although on several occasions honorable senators have been sent home for a week. However, on the present occasion, knowing that the guillotine would give the Senate the Electoral Bill early next week, honorable senators are being brought back on the Tuesday to save the face of the Government, to stave off the evil day if possible, and to get their machinery to work that something may be done for the National party, whose foundations are crumbling away. No doubt, everything possible will be done by honorable members opposite. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr.
Glynn), who is in charge of this Bill, is not a very happy man to-night. I say this on the strength of my personal acquaintance with him during the short time I have been a member of this House, and on the reputation given him by my colleagues.
– He is more happy than is the honorable member.
– I do not think so, but I have little doubt that he is happier than is the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), who will be singing his political swan song very shortly. The fact remains that the Minister for Home and Territories is called upon to do a work which I have no doubt is very distasteful to him. He is being used as a party tool. He has to do the dirty work of the National party in order to bring about a result at the Corangamite election which could not, under the existing law, be achieved. I have no fear at ali of the operation of the preferential system of voting. It will put more Labour members into this House than will the sudden-death system. The Labour party have nothing to fear from the preferential voting system. Many honorable members opposite owe their return to the suddendeath system, and with the adoption of a better electoral system I have no doubt at all that the Labour party will benefit considerably. If the Government had the courage to stand up against the signers of the round robin in the Senate, and in- troduce proportional representation for the Senate as the logical corollary of the preferential system of voting for the House of Representatives, the Labour party would do very much better than they did at the elections in 1917. If the proportional voting system had been in operation at those elections they would have secured eight Senate seats, whereas under the existing system they did not secure any. “When the numbers go up for Corangamite I am not at all sure that a Labour man will not be returned, provided that voters are not disfranchised. I am not too sure that honorable members opposite will not disfranchise a number of voters. I say quite candidly that a Government who could bring down a measure such as this, and hurry it through without permitting it to be properly discussed, are’ quite capable of dis franchising voters. It would not be difficult to bring proof that this Government did disfranchise thousands of native-born citizens of Australia for a political purpose. They did that at the last general elections. It requires courage even to be a rogue, and if the political party opposite had had the courage to carry out the regulation providing for the asking of infamous questions of electors as they went to the poll, a large number of young men in this community would have been disfranchised. I am not at all sure that some “ gerrymandering “ will not go on at the Corangamite election. A Government or a party capable of disfranchising electors are capable of anything. I know that in the State of Victoria the electorates have been “gerrymandered “ by the same class of people as those who constitute the Federal Government. They stand on the same platform, are behind the same party and represent the same interests. Whilst 1 may be young politically, I know a good deal about our electoral systems and the way in which they have been used throughout Australia. I know that the National Government are proficient in the art of gerrymandering, and are capable of using every evil practice during the Corangamite election in order to save their faces. This would not be because of their desire to retain Corangamite as a Government seat since they could afford to lose half- a- dozen votes or more in this House, and still have quite sufficient numbers to carry any proposals they considered important. But it is a question of the moral effect which the loss of the seat might have on the minds of the people. The citadel of Nationalism is crumbling, and no matter what sinister and evilpractices are adopted to prop it up it will fall. Provided that the electors are given the opportunity to exercise the franchise, I have, personally, no fear of the result from the adoption of the preferential system.
.- I wish to say a word or two at this stage on a measure which honorable members opposite have pointed to as one, the effect of which the Government propose to test at the Corangamite election. It has been my privilege for a considerable time to have been, as it were, the locum tenens of the late honorable gentleman who represented that electorate. A more honorable man never crossed the threshold of this chamber, and no voters ever had a more “sterling man to represent them. I feel that any measure passed in this House which might he open to the suggestion that it proposed the application of improper methods to that constituency would in all the circumstances be a slur on the Government who introduced it. I wish, therefore, to define the position clearly for the benefit of the electors of Corangamite who are shortly to be appealed to. The Government had, prior to the demise of the late honorable member for that constituency, determined to bring in a measure to provide for preferential voting, and the Bill had been circulated. A by-election becomes necessary, and the Government have determined to apply the provisions of the measure to that election. Every honorable member who has spoken from the other side has admitted the fairness of the principle of preferential voting. Its application must be just the same to a by-election as to a general election. If there be any inequity or gerrymandering possible under the principle of preferential voting its effects would apply in the same way to a general election as to a byelection, and there is, therefore, no justification at all for any suggestion that an attempt is being made to take an unfair advantage by applying the principle to the by-election for Corangamite. On the contrary, it will give every man that comes forward an open field and a fair chance of support. It will gain for the Labour party every vote to which it is entitled. It will gain for “every party the support to which it is entitled. The Government are justified in taking this step to provide a fair basis for the elec.tion of a successor to the late honorable member, whom we were all delighted to call a personal friend.
Amendment agreed to.
.- This Bill perpetuates the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act, which, among other things. provided that, in the event of the death of a candidate after nomination day, the parties could re-nominate some one to take his place. That Act will be repealed by effluxion of time, and I would like to see some provision made in this Bill so that if a candidate should happen to die after the day of nomination, there will be a contest, and the other candidate will not be elected .unopposed, as is likely to be the case if some such provision is not made.
.- I have given notice of an amendment to deal with that matter. I wish to take this opportunity of repeating my objection to the inclusion of the sub-clause perpetuating the Electoral (War-time) Act. As that measure is applicable only to elections for the Senate and general elections for the House of Representatives, it can have no application to the Corangamite by-election. It provides for voting by soldiers. That, also, is impossible in connexion with the Corangamite election. It disqualifies certain citizens of Australia, but they cannot be disfranchised at the Corangamite election, because the Act does not apply to byelections. It also provides for certain questions being asked when electors proceed to vote, and for the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), which I hope to deal with in an amendment. I consider that the provision to meet the case of the death of a candidate after nomination day should be a permanent portion of the electoral la-w. I see no necessity for perpetuating the Electoral (War-time) Act. It will not apply to the .Corangamite election, and there is no danger of a general election being held before the end of the war. Why should we perpetuate in the electoral machinery an Act which is only temporary, and which can be of no use during the period of its currency ?
.- The provision to meet the case of the death of a candidate after the day of nomination was inserted in the Electoral (War-time) Act because, under a .system of voting which is not preferential, it is almost obligatory to have nomination by parties. That provision will continue as long as the Act will remain in force; but I do not know that it is a very good policy to continue nomination by parties. Seeing that we are introducing a system of preferential voting .which may affect the old method of party government, the Commonwealth may not be divided into two stereotyped parties to the extent that has previously existed. Therefore, we have not included in this Bill the provision which finds a place in the Electoral (Wartime) Act.
– Have the Government considered the matter?
– I have not suggested any alteration. It m’ay be effected afterwards I think the better course is to leave the matter for the present.
– There may be only four or five seats in the Commonwealth to which the preferential principle will apply, and there may be only two candidates for each of the other seats. In the latter case, what will happen if one of the candidates dies after nomination day?
– I know of no State Act which makes provision for such circumstances.
– Provision ought to be made to meet such a contingency.
– We are now introducing the preferential system of voting, and it is suggested that we should add to it something which has not hitherto been associated with it. That raises the question of whether nominations by a political party should be a part of. our electoral system. I know that what has been suggested obtains to some extent in America, hut I do not know that it has proved a blessing, by any means.
– The party nomination should be void if the candidate for a particular party dies after nomination day.
– With the exception of the late Senator McGregor’s case, I do not think that the contingency suggested has ever arisen in connexion with a Senate election.
– Cannot we insert a clause providing that, in such circumstances, nomination day shall be postponed?
– The point is: Is it worth while dealing with the matter, seeing that the occasion has not arisen to justify it?
– In 1913, both parties in this House were equal. We do not wish that condition of affairs to be repeated.
– In reply to the honorable member, I can only say that no such provision as he indicates has been made in this Bill, because I do not believe in the principle of stereotyping parties. After perhaps eighteen months’ or two years’ experience of preferential voting, we shall be able to see exactly how it works.
– What about the Senate?
– The principle of party nomination applies to the Senate as well. I do not think that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) will object to keeping in force a provision which will assist our soldiers who are abroad. It is possible that the principal Act may have to be amended in the light of the amendments we embody in this Bill. We may have to adopt some principle of preferential voting for our soldiers at the Front. But, as the Act will continue in force for the period of the war and for six months afterwards, I do not think it will be wise to amend it in the direction indicated, in view of the possibility of a great number of our soldiers, who have done so well for this country, remaining abroad for some considerable time.
.-Upon the question raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), I think this House was unanimous when we inserted the provision in question in cu U. War-time Electoral Act. When the measure reached this Chamber, that provision applied only to Senate elections. But I moved that it should be made to apply to elections for this Chamber. It is all very well for the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) to say that when we have preferential voting party lines are likely to be removed.
– I did not say that they are likely to be removed; but they are likely to be modified.
– I do not think that they are. In a dozen or twenty constituencies that I can mention, the candidate who secures the nomination of a particular party has a rattling good show of being elected. Let us assume, for example, that both the National party and ;the Labour parity nominate a candidate for the division of Wimmera, and that, after nomination day, the National candidate unfortunately dies. What would be the result? Our party would hold the seat by a mere fluke. In similar circumstances, the candidate nominated by one of the recognised political parties would be returned for the electorates of Kooyong, Henty, Melbourne Ports, Newcastle, and Yarra. If death should unfortunately overtake the nominee of the dominant political party after nomination day, is that party to be disfranchised for the whole Parliament? The party system, I affirm, is not likely to be abolished. What will happen in the case of elections for the Senate? There will be three candidates put forward by the National party in each State, and an equal number by the Labour party. Should one of the Labour party candidates die after nomination day, as happened in the case of the late Senator McGregor, is that party to be disfranchised for the entire Parliament?
I do ask the Minister (Mr. Glynn) to endeavour to bring this legislation up to date, and to obviate the possibility which I have outlined. In my opinion, we should insert in the Bill a similar provision to that which we inserted in our War-time Electoral Act.
.-Although we are proposing to adopt preferential voting in elections for the House of Representatives, the difficulty which has been pointed out will still remain in the case of elections for the Senate. If no provision be made to meet the contingency which has been suggested, we may have a repetition of what occurred in the case of the late Senator McGregor.
– Look at what happened in the electorate of Darwin. The elected representative died a few days after polling day.
– And what happened in the case of the late Mr. Skene.
– The difficulty might easily be overcome by postponing the date of nomination, say, for a month, to permit of fresh nominations being made. As an alternative, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) suggests that we could allow the nominators of the candidate who has died, to nominate another candidate in his stead. Personally, I think it would be far better to insert in the Bill a clause which would prevent the majority party in any constituency from having a candidate foisted upon it in opposition to its wishes. There are plenty of constituencies in which the electors are so pronouncedly of one political view that the nominee of a particular party is bound to secure election. In the absence of a provision such as I have suggested, the candidates for these constituencies will always be opposed, on the off chance that one of their number, representing the majority party, may die after nomination day. The effect would be that the country would be put to the expense of an election in numbers of cases in which there would be no possibility of the old member being defeated.
– I have looked into the matter carefully.
– The Minister might consider the advisability of postponing the day of nomination.
– It might not be possible in some cases, because there is a time prescribed by the Constitution.
– This would amend the Constitution.
– No, it would not.
– In South Australia on one occasion, when the leading Labour candidate, Senator McGregor, died before polling day, the party concentrated its votes on one of the Liberal candidates, Senator Shannon. The present arrangement is unfair, and it must be remembered that although it may be our turn to-day, it may be the turn of the other party to-morrow. I ask the Minister to consider the advisability of postponing the date of nomination in any constituency in which a candidate may die.
– I shall look into the matter again.
Clause further amended verbally and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
There shall he a Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth who shall have such powers and functions as are conferred upon him by this Act or the Regulations.
– I desire that the Chief Electoral Officer may be made independent of the Minister by being put into a position analogous to that of the Commissioner of Audit and the Commissioner of Taxation, so that should a Minister be so illadvised as to order something to be done contrary to the law, the Chief Electoral Officer may be in a position to say, “ As I am answerable to Parliament for giving effect to the law, I decline to do what you have directed to be done.” The Minister, of course, could appeal to Parliament, and if the officer were in the wrong, punishment would follow. It will be recollected that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) issued a proclamation under the War Precautions Act which prevented Australian natives from recording their votes.
– Such things could not be provided against in the manner suggested.
– An officer who is strong enough could have taken the position that what was directed to be done was contrary to the law, and he could have refused to do it.
– You could not give an officer power to override the instructions of the Government of the day.
– The Government cannot override any Judge.
– Do you want to give the Chief Electoral Officer the same powers as a Judge has? You will never get that while I have a vote.
– His position should be equal to that of the Commissioner of Audit or the Commissioner of Taxation. The franchise is the greatest thing that the citizen possesses.
– We cannot destroy Ministerial responsibility. The Chief Electoral Officer will be in a better position than the Commissioner of Taxation.
God help the Government that is run by heads of Departments.
– I agree with the Minister, but this officer would be responsible to Parliament.
– He will have every power that should be conferred upon him.
– I understand that a member opposite intends to move an amendment which will give effect to my views, and I should support it. I am not content with the present position of this officer, more especially in view of the provisions to which the Committee have agreed. If the officer’s power were clearly defined, he could stand up to a Minister who proposed to do what was wrong. Of course, Parliament must be dominant, and it would support the Minister if the officer were in the wrong.
– I hope the Committee will not agree to the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). A lamentable state of affairs would be brought about if his proposal “were adopted. If an alteration is to be made it would be well that the Department should be placed under the control of the Attorney-General. It is right that a lawyer of ability should be the responsible Minister. So far as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Glynn) is concerned, I am. satisfied that while he is in office everything will go satisfactorily. But there is no guarantee that a gentleman learned in the law may continue to occupy his position ; and it would be a fatal mistake, therefore, to adopt the suggestion. There would not he very much danger, so long as a Government supported by honorable members on this side remained in power ; but there is no use in ignoring fact3 as they stand. Suppose that the alteration were made, and Parliament had control of this officer. The Caucus, comprising honorable members opposite, is dictated to bythe autocracy outside, who say. “ Certain things have to be done,” and they reply, “ They will be done.” What sort of a position would the country be in ? My reason for supporting the Government in their desire that certain parts of this legislation should come into force by regulation is that the safety of the country demands that honorable members opposite shall not get into power except by an absolute vote of the constituents. The Chief Electoral Officer (Mr. Oldham) is a man with strong personality, and I would like to see the Minister who would suggest to him anything of an irregular character. But we might not always have a Chief Electoral Officer possessing such attributes. In a certain State which I know something about, a drastic alteration was to have been made in the electoral machinery which would have been detrimental to the electors. Fortunately, the then Attorney-General had control of the Electoral Department; and, when I called his attention to the position, the Minister said, “ This must not be done,” and that was the end of it.
The idea that the Chief Electoral Officer should be controlled by Parliament is ridiculous. Parliament is the very last body which should be engaged in work of a judicial or executive character. The Department, should be in the hands of the Government, and under the control of the Attorney-General. I know that, so long -as the honorable member for An ens (Mr. Glynn) occupies his present position, we shall have a Minister in control who would be utterly incapable of acting in any but a fair manner. I appeal to the Committee not to be led away by any of this so-called Democratic rubbish - for that is all it is. It would be positively dangerous where there is a party in existence which is simply a lackey to the autocracy outside.
– Who are these lackeys?
– T,he honorable member is, for one.
– On a point of order, I object to that statement. I am not a lackey to anybody, if the honorable member is.
– Order! T.he honorable member for Hindmarsh is not in order in making a statement of that character; and the honorable member for Dalley is not in order, either.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa) Ti 0.43]. -il hope the Minister (Mr. Glynn) will not acquiesce in the desire of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). It is one of the most dangerous things that could be suggested, to hand over the whole of the electoral machinery to an official outside of Ministerial control. The only case we have known where a Minister has tried to do something against the Electoral Act - something illegal - was that of Senator McColl.
– The honorable member has a very bad memory.
– I do not know of any other Minister who tried to interfere with the Electoral Act, or of any other instance where the Chief Electoral Officer stood up to the Minister. If the honorable member knows of any other case where the Minister tried to influence the Chief Electoral Officer, and where that officer stood up to him, he should let us have the particulars. In the instance I have cited Mr. Oldham stood up. to the Minister and knocked him out. -Mr. Sinclair. - What is t ]le instance?
– I forget but I remember th° time when it happened.
– There were a few instances in Mr. King O’Malley’s regime .
- -1 do not know that the head official of the Electoral Department had to stand up to Mr. King O’Malley.
– -Not in regard to certain station, managers being appointed to certain positions under the Act?
– There are many places where one cannot have anybody else but station managers.
– Mr. King O’Malley sent instructions from Tasmania in .regard to them.
– Since Federation there has been no electoral scandal, so far as Queensland is concerned, with respect to any Government.
– I did not suggest scandals; but a memorandum was sent out by the Minister with respect to persons who should not be appointed under the Act.
– I remember that memorandum, and it was quite right, too.
– It looked at the time like electoral interference on the part of the Minister.
– But the memorandum was’ issued by the electoral officer.
– By direction of the Minister.
– The Minister, of course, had to “carry the baby.” If the Minister had done anything contrary to the provisions of the Act, the Parliament could have dealt with him.
– Even so, it was colourable from a party point of view.
– No man wears a halo at election time. The Commonwealth Electoral Department - and I speak both of the central Administration and the Administration in the several States - is second to none in Australia.
– As to that we are all agreed.
– Then why should there be any attempt to improve upon it? The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) would have the electoral law administered by the Attorney-General’s Department. In connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act, what we need is not law, but justice and common sense. If the Act were administered by the Attorney-General’s Department, we might get a lot of litigation, and sometimes more than we wanted. Why should we make any change? The Minister in charge of the Electoral Department at the present time (Mr. Glynn) has the confidence of every man in the Parliament. We could not find a better man for the position if we searched the whole Commonwealth. The Minister in charge is responsible to Parliament, whereas if the official head were placed, so to speak, in a glass case, and made directly responsible to the Parliament, it would be hard to reach him. I am satisfied that the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), upon reflection, will agree that we have no cause to complain of the way in which, the Act has been administered.
.- I am inclined to think that the position would be improved if the officer in charge of the Electoral Department were made directly responsible to the Parliament. Under this clause, the Minister and the official head of the Department are to be bound by the Act and regulations made under it. The Executive will have full control, and they alone will be able to make regulations. It would be in the interests of all candidates if the officer in charge of the Department were removed as far as possible from political interference. It is useless to attempt to disguise the facts. The general impression throughout Australia was that the elections for 1913 were not fairly and properly held. I am not attaching any blame to the Department, but I believe that political influence was then introduced. I would have the officer in charge removed from the control of whatever party might be in power. I would have him responsible to the Parliament, and not to any Government or individual Minister. It is for the Committee to determine the wisest course to adopt.
– There was a more recent and glaring case of interference than that referred to by the honorable member. What about the Hughes interference ?
– I presume that the Minister at that time had power under the War Precautions Act to make regulations which the official head of the Department would be compelled to obey. We have to remember, however, that we are now framing a Bill which will apply, not only in war time, but for all time, and that under it the Executive will be able to make regulations with which the head of the Department will have to comply. The Minister will, of course, be responsible to the Parliament for such regulations, but I contend that the official head of the Department should be responsible only to the Parliament. I move - -
That after the word “ shall,” second occurring, the words “ be appointed for a period of seven years, and shall “ be inserted.
ri0.53]. - This Bill confers upon the official head of the Department as many powers as I, at all events, think necessary. I have asked for as much information as possible as to what is necessary to enable the Chief Electoral Officer to carry out the intentions of Parliament. If there are any defects in regard to his power, they can be made good, and one of mv instructions in writing to the Chief Electoral Officer was that he should ascertain “what specific provisions should be added to his existing powers.
I may say at once that I do not believe in destroying parliamentary responsibility. A Minister ought to be responsible to Parliament for the honesty of his administration. If he does not honestly discharge his duties, he should be dismissed. We cannot set up a new principle of responsibility by making an outside officer directly responsible to Parliament. In only one case has that been done. I refer to the position of the Commissioner of Audit, whose circumstances are most exceptional. He has to check the finances of every Department, including those of the Prime Minister’s Department, to which he is technically supposed to be subject, and therefore he has to be made practically independent, so that, on behalf of the Parliament, he may see that appropriations are carried out in accordance with the law. Surely there must be some medium of communication between the Chief Electoral Officer and Parliament? If the law is not properly administered, the Minister must be responsible to Parliament. I cannot see what justification there is for altering the existing provisions.
– What I suggest has been done in connexion with our railway systems.
– That is in relation to a purely business proposition. Analogous cases have been mentioned. I have referred to the Commissioner of Audits. Take the Commissioner’s position on the Commission of Patents. The Patents Act is administered by the Attorney-General, or such other Minister as the GovernorGeneral directs. Are we going to set up an Electoral Commissioner with more power than has the Land Tax
Commissioner, who, under section 4 of the Act, is intrusted with the general administration of the Act, subject to the control of the Minister? As a matter of fact, those words “ subject to the control of the Minister “ were in the original Electoral Act of 1902, but were knocked out, so that we have actually given the Chief Electoral Officer greater freedom from Ministerial control, so far as words are concerned, than has been given to the Commissioner of Taxation.
– But, in the Minister’s opinion, has he effective control over his administrative staff ?
– I think he has. I have asked whether there were any defects in the Act, and I confess that the only one I could hear of was in relation to the seventy-five Divisional Returning Officers who, perhaps, might take differing views on such a question as whether a particular nomination was right or not. Even supposing it was wrong, there is power to apply to the Court to get a decision on the point. Are we to say that the Divisional Returning Officers are to settle such a question of legal technicality as that? What the Chief Electoral Officer has power to do under this Bill is, with the assistance of the Minister, or, if necessary, of the Crown Law Department, to give general instructions to his officers.
– The Chief Electoral Officer has the advantage of being able to consult the Crown Law- Department. The Divisional Returning Officers have not that opportunity in the same way.
– No; but the principle of administration is that the Chief Electoral Officer ought to guide these men as to the meaning of particular positions, so that there may be uniformity of interpretation throughout the Commonwealth. No amendment setting up the Commissioner to be independent of responsible Government can cure that. I have looked into the question exhaustively, and examined all the existing Acts, and assert that as the Act now stands the Electoral Commissioner is freer from parliamentary control than any officer except the Auditor-General, who is in a most anomalous position, because he must be responsible to Parliament in order to check the honesty of the financial administration of every Department. During the course of my administration, I have seen nothing to justify setting up any officer outside of responsible Government. God help Democracy in this country if we set up a number of officers who are not subject to the ordinary responsibility to the Minister, and through the Minister to this Parliament ! I have done my best to ascertain if there were any defective powers, and any powers that this officer has asked for have been put into the Bill, as my notes will show. I mention this, because it is due to the members of the Electoral Commission, who took a very keen interest in the subject, and did some excellent work, to show that their suggestions on this point have been thoroughly considered. I ask the Committee, therefore, not to make any amendment. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has proposed an amendment which does not touch the status of the officer, so far as regards responsibility. I do not think any one would say that his independence of the Minister, to the extent to which he ought to have it, depends upon whether he has seven years of office or the. existent term, which is indefinite. The honorable member’s proposal is to make it seven years. If we do that, we put himin an anomalous position, as general transferred officers are kept on, as a rule, to a certain age; and, if necessary, their term may be extended.
– I intend to follow that up; if it is carried, with further modifications.
– The same thing should apply right through the Service to men in similar positions.
– The difficulty is that at the time the Chief Electoral Officer is doing practically the whole of the work, there is no Parliament to deal with him.
– But there is an Act. The question is, has there been such a tampering with the laws laid down by Parliament as to justify us in giving practically judicial powers to an officer, irrespective of the Minister, to determine what is to be done? I ask honorable members to preserve the principle of responsibility. I have seen no evil arising that would justify a change. I speak in the best terms regarding the administration, which is very effective. The officers are zealous men. It is the duty of the Minister to see that no alteration of a fundamental character is made unless there is clear evidence of its necessity.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that the Senate had agreed to the Bill as amended.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I shall not accuse the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) of answering in a flippant way when I suggested that simple instructions should be published broadcast to enable ordinary Australian citizens to know what to do at the first onset of the form of influenza called Spanish. Simple instructions could begiven as tothe symptoms and the treatment, the best of which is rest. I brought this matter up on the adjournment last week. The Minister, after a question from the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), gave an answer which I do not wish to term flippant, but if the same thing happens again I shall use the word. The matter is of great importance. At the present time, owing to the unfortunate difference between the medical fraternity and the friendly societies, medical attention is not so readily obtainable as it was in the past. I am speaking particularly on behalf of the people in the back country, where the disease is liable to spread like a tornado, as it did in London during the outbreak of what was known as Russian influenza in the years 1880 to 1885. I was there at the time, and know that nearly everybody in the streets was suffering from it, and a number of deaths occurred. I believe this to be a more deadly form of the disease, if it is of the influenzal type, than any similar epidemic that has occurred, and I would impress on the Minister at the table (Mr. Glynn) the importance of bringing under the notice of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs the suggestion I have now repeated.
– I will mention it to him.
.- I was not able when asking a question to-day to placebefore the House facts that are within my knowledge regarding the spread of Spanish influenza in New Zealand. Immediatelv after the arrival of the Niagara at Auckland, it was well known that the disease had been on the vessel. Passengers were not put in quarantine at all, but Were allowed to mix freely with the people, with the result that the disease is now rife in New Zealand. What steps are being taken in Australia to keep it out? The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) gave me an answer to-day with which I was not in the least satisfied. I have here a statement made to a committee of citizens in New Zealand on the subject. T regret that there is not a committee of citizens in Australia to take the matter up in the same way. The nature of the reply given on behalf of the Minister for Health for the Dominion makes one fear that a similar state of things may easily prevail in Australia unless public attention be drawn to it. The following is the statement made to the committee of New Zealand citizens on behalf of the Minister: -
Criticism had been levelled at the Government because it had not declared influenza a quarantinable disease, but to do this they would have had to declare it infectious, probably a dangerous infectious disease, meaning a serious disorganization in the Dominion. Moreover, if that had been done, shipping between New Zealand and Australia would be declared infected, and there would probably he a complete stoppage of shipment. The medical authorities agreed that it was nothing more than pure influenza, and so far Australia had not declared New Zealand infected.
The reason given for this attitude is that the steps desired would create disorganization in the shipping trade; but we would willingly meet disorganization ten times greater than we can dream of to keep this disease from Australia. I am not at all satisfied with the statement of the Minister to-day, nor am I satisfied that proper precautions are being taken to combat the disease.
.-I was interested to bear that the return I had asked for as to Australian products had given rise to great expense and much energy on the part of those concerned- in preparing it. I have since had an opportunity of perusing this immensely expensive document in a cursory way, and I extend my hearty congratulations to the ; Government on having supplied- me with information for which I did not ask, and with no information at all for which I did ask. The information supplied covers a few pages of typewritten foolscap, and must in its preparation have taken at least an hour of some Government servant’s time. The information that I asked for is that for which I again ask the Minister, and that is information to show who is getting the benefit of these prices. The only way that can be done is to show first what the producer of the raw material gets, what the man gets to whom the producer sells the raw material, what the man gets at the next stage, and so on, right up to the British Government.
– You want to wreck the Ministry !
– We ought to be satisfied that the sacrifices the producer is making are for the benefit only of the British Government. In the return, the only figures supplied are those given to the Australian producer, which, of course, are known now.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) refused to give me the information in regard to zinc and lead.
– That information ought to be obtainable from the producers. If we take the production of some of the metals smelted abroad, we ought to be able to show what the man who sells them to the smelter gets, and what the smelter gets from the British Government, or some person who sells it to the British Government. That is the information I desire, and I ask the Minister to see that the simple figures are supplied, for the benefit of the House and the country, at the earliest possible moment.
– I am not sure that I apprehended the reply of the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) to the request that copies of the literature issued at the present time shall be supplied to members of the House. I understood the honorable gentleman to say that if we applied we could have copies, but my object is to have this literature brought to the notice of honorable members who are not taking any interest in the matter, and who, when they see the expensive and wasteful character of it, may have something to say. I have had an opportunity of looking at it, and if the object is to bring the facts set out before the people, they are in the most inconvenient form possible for reading, and the quality and weight of the paper used indicates , the wildest extravagance on the part of those in control. Ministers are preaching economy, and I think that every honorable member should have a copy of every important document issued to the public by this Department, so that we may know, when we are asked to waive our right to send Hansard and other literature to our constituents, how Ministers are practising the precepts that they teach.
.- This morning I asked the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) two questions’ concerning a pamphlet, or some printed illustrated matter, of which I had been able to secure a copy. I am given to understand that this pamphlet has been issued for circulation amongst the returning men. A perusal of it shows that it has been compiled mainly, in fact, exclusively, from the anti-Labour press of Australia, extracts from other papers not Australian, and from various cartoons. In the pamphlet there is the following, over the signature of the Minister for Recruiting : -
The object of issuing this journal to returning soldiers is to provide them with light and interesting items to break the monotony of the last phase of their journey, and at the same time to give them, in lighter vein, an indication of public opinion in Australia towards the eligible. -R. B. Orchard, Minister for Recruiting.
At this time, when there is so much talk about the shortage of paper, and the need for economy, we have a pamphlet of this character, which, on the face of it, appears to be circulated amongst the returning men for one . purpose only, namely, to create discord between them and that section of the community who do not see eye to eye with the present Administration either in regard to tihe war or the recruiting campaign. The Minister for Recruiting shakes his head; but I defy anybody who reads this pamphlet impartially to say that, from one end to the other, it is anything but an appeal to the prejudice that the Minister, or whoever compiled the pamphlet, assumes that the men from the Front possess. Personally, I believe there are any number of men who, on coming back, will treat this pamphlet with the contempt it deserves. From my contact with a considerable number, I have foundthat they are just as capable of understanding people who differ from them as are any other members of the community. If any ill-feeling, riots, or civil disturbances take place-
– Do not talk like that!
– The honorable member is not a child. The action of the Minister responsible for the distribution of stuff of this character, calculated, as it is, to excite discord in the community, is very discreditable.
– Would those men who would not fight with the soldiers fight against them ?
– The honorable member knows quite well that during the last conscription campaign the passions of men whom he claimsto have so much at heart were greatly excited at meetings in the Sydney Domain and on the Yarrabank. At certain times it was almost impossible for anti-conscription speakers to make themselves heard on account of the actions of certain men.
– Returned soldiers?
– Who resented the blackguardly attacks made on them.
– They resented the action of those who attempted to use returned soldiers, as is now being attempted under a pretence of placing before them certain light and refreshing literature. Those responsible for this have a very heavy responsibility to carry.
– The Minister is a good man.
– No doubt the honorable member thinks so. This is one quotation from the pamphlet to which I have referred - “ Go down to the Dom. on Sundays,” says Snow, “ and youse blokes will get a shock. A lot of blokes get up and spout. They say they are not paid by Germany, but ‘ Dark,’ and I couldnot help thinking they are helping Fritz. Buckshee ‘ if they ain’t Retting dough for it. Blooming country has turned nootral, says Bluey.’ “
This is the light and refreshing literature served up to men returning.
– That is an article which appeared in the Evening News, Sydney.
– Yes, and it is a fair sample of the articles that appear in the columns of this pamphlet, which is vouched for by the Minister for Recruiting.
– It is all taken from the daily and illustrated papers.
– But compiled under the Minister’s instructions.
– Yes ; I am responsible for it.
– I understand that this pamphlet must notbe circulated in Australia.
– No; you are absolutely wrong.
– I must, of course, take the Minister’s assurance.
– I can assure the honorable member that it is so.
-Itis stated that this pamphlet was to be circulated amongst the soldiers in order to break the monotony of the last days of their journey, and I say that if by any mischance trouble did occur between these returned soldiers there would be a heavy responsibility. T note that the Assistant Minister foT Defence (Mr Wise) is smiling.
– A contemptuous smile at the remarks altogether.
– As contemptuous as the honorable member who makes that observation.
-Or as the man who is speaking.
– I am prepared to stand by my statements, as I have been all through, whether I am on the popular or the unpopular side, and whether I have a majority behind me ornot. Before ever I came tothis House I had to take my risks, and I am prepared to do the same again. It is not creditable to honorable members opposite that any member of the Government should use the taxpayers’ money at a time like this, and when there is need for economy, owing to the shortage of paper, in what looks to be an attempt to stir up trouble between the men who are coming back and the civil community.
– I am sorry the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) is not present, because this morning he evidently misconstrued my answer to his question. I am quite prepared to supply each honorable member with a copy of the pamphlets in question. The honorable memberwas labouring under a misapprehension when he spoke about the paper. A certain number of copies were printed on special art paper to be sent to the various ConsulsGeneral representing the different countries as au example of recruiting efforts in Australia. Evidently the honorable memlber for Illawarra secured one of these particular copies. In reply to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. -Considine) I want him to accept my assurance that when the pamphlet referred to was compiled there was no thought whatever of attaching political significance to it. No suggestion of that kind entered my mind, but I admit, now that he has drawn my attention to it, that that construction may he placed upon it, though I can say that I was absolutely honest in my intention to compile something that the men might care to read. It was our desire; also, to use the Anzacs who were returning on furlough to assist in some portion of their spare time to secure recruits, and whilst many of the statements in the pamphlet may appear offensive to men who are eligible, but have not seen fit to enlist, it was merely our object to place the true position before our soldiers in order that they might assist the recruiting staffs in the strenuous work they are engaged in.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181106_reps_7_86/>.