7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The Acting Prime Minister promised to make an inquiry concerning advertisements which appeared in the Melbourne newspapers asking formen for certain coal mines in New South Wales. Has he come to any decision regarding those advertisements?
– I made an inquiry today as to whether the Victorian and New South Wales Governments had replied to my communications on the subject, and the Secretary to my Department informed me that no reply had been received. Consequently, the situation remains unchanged, but, of course, I intend to follow up the matter.
– Can the Acting Prime Ministergive us a brief statement of the result of the Conference between the Minister for Repatriation and the Land Ministers of the States on the subject of the land settlement scheme for which the Commonwealth and the States are equally responsible?
– I cannot do that, because the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has been ill since the Conference rose, and therefore has been unable to attend in his Department. When he has his report to Cabinet ready, my colleague or I will inform the House regarding it.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware that the war-time postage tax is being levied on letters addressed to nurses at the Front? Will the honorable gentleman look into the matter, and Bee that justice is done?
– I have no information on the subject. The Postal Department was instructed to observe the law.
– Does the tax apply to letters addressed to nurses?
– I cannot say off-hand.
Mr. GREGORY presentedthe report and minutes of evidence of the Public Works Committee relating to the proposed arsenal railway.
Ordered to he printed.
– Is the Acting
Minister for Trade and Customs aware that there is a serious shortage of kerosene in Queensland, and will he inform the House what action, if any, is being taken to protect the public in regard to it?
– I am. aware that it is alleged that there is a shortage of kerosene in Brisbane, and in Queenland generally. Action is being taken which it is hoped will relieve the situation.
-As a number of ships are coming to Australia to take away our produce, will the Acting. Minister for the Navy try to provide space on them for pelts? In my district there are hundreds of casks of pelts in salt awaiting’ shipment.
– We are bound by the priority list framed by the Imperial authorities. I do not know if pelts are in that list, but I shall inquire, and let the honorable member know.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that many telephone connexions are being refused on the ground that the necessary material is not available? Will he, as far as possible, take the most urgent cases into consideration, and endeavour to meet them ?
– I intimated early in the session that it might not be possible to supply new services because ofthe scarcity of the necessary material. Of course, services cannot be supplied when there is not material with which to erect the lines. So far as possible we are giving consideration to the matter to which the honorable member calls attention. Wherever we can provide a service for those to whom it is an urgent requirement we do so. That is to say, we make provision to install telephones for medical men in order to meet cases where death or sickness may be involved.
– I should say also that the same consideration should be extended to clergymen, who are often called to hospitals.
– I trust that the House will realize that the fault is not mine. It is entirely the fault of the circumstances brought about by the war, which have practically debarred us from obtaining the necessary material.
– As the full amount of the seventh war loan has been subscribed, does the Treasurer intend to put into operation the penal clause of the War Loan Subscriptions Bill against persons who have not applied for war bonds in connexion with that loan ?
– If the honorable member will read the provisions of the Bill he will see that they become operative only when a loan is not fully subscribed.
– I am anxious that questions without notice should be rednced to a minimum, particularly this week. As the time for the consideration of the main measure before the House has been cut short, I am desirous that honorable members should get as much time as possible for dealing with it.
– Has any decision been arrived at as a result of the conference that has been held between the Commonwealth Government and the State Ministers of Agriculture in regard to the fodder supply?
– Senator Russell, who is in charge of the matter, conferred with the representatives of some of the States mostly concerned yesterday and to-day for the purpose of developing a scheme in regard to the matter, but it is not complete, and the concurrence of those most interested has not yet been obtained. I am endeavouring to get the matter completed as speedily as possible, because I realize that the hay-cutting season will shortly commence, especially in New South Wales. As soon as a decision is arrived at, I will make the necessary announcement to the House.
– Following on a question which I asked last week, I would like to know, whether it is possible to have a return prepared giving the names of the members of all Commissions and Committees appointed by the Commonwealth Government, with particulars as to the remuneration or allowances paid or payable to each individual ? I ask this question in view of the lengthv list of such Committees and Commissions which has been printed in the Age.
– I have taken a very hasty glimpse at the list appearing in the newspaper. It appears to be an extensive one, and apparently it will take some time to comply with the honorable member’s request, but I see no objection to having a list of payments prepared.
Settlement of Returned Soldiers
– In view of the probable early termination of the war and the return of our boys, will the Government appoint a Committee to devise a practical scheme for the occupation, stocking, and working of pastoral holdings on cooperative principles in the Northern Territory ?
– Surely an agrarian expert does not expect a mere city farmer like myself to answer a question like that off-hand. If the honorable member will give the notice that courtesy, and the importance of the subject, demand I will see that an answer is furnished.
– In view of the re ported intended action of the New South Wales Government to close public houses in their State in the event of peace being declared, I would like to know whether the Commonwealth Government have left this matter in the hands of the various States?
– The Commonwealth Government have not done so.
– In view of the intimation which it is understood was conveyed from the Imperial authorities to the Commonwealth Government, that it ‘is undesirable to send single newspapers addressed to individual soldiers abroad, how is it that the Postal Department is still advertising special mail days for the sending of newspapers for soldiers ?
– The British authorities have advised us not to despatch single newspapers, but those which are despatched in bulk have still to be sent away, and we must notify the closing days for the posting of such newspapers.
– Seeing that the New Zealand Government have published an extraordinary Gazette, declaring Spanish influenza to be a dangerous and infectious disease, and in view of the fact that forty-five deaths have occurred in the small town of Auckland, will the Acting Minister for Customs have simple instructions published far and wide, telling the public what to do immediately this dreaded epidemic appears in Australia ?
– Action has already been taken which we believe will effectively prevent the appearance of the disease in Australia. The other matter is still under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether he will have aregulation issued so as to include single returned soldiers in the giving of financial assistance for the purpose of embarking in business?
– This question is now under the consideration of the Commission.
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Minister to take any action re the dismissal of a certain submarine student, after such student had completed his studies in Britain, and returned to Australia?
– The General Manager, Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, Sydney, has reported that the services of this student are hot required at Cockatoo Island, and therefore his employment there cannot be approved.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How many returned soldiers are employed as temporary assistants, postmen, and mail drivers in the Postmaster-General’s Department?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– ‘The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information in reference to the operations of the Wheat Pool : -
What quantities of wheat have been sold to - (a) Japan, (b) South Africa, (c)~ New Zealand, (d) Australian millers for export flour orders ?
The prices paid for the same f.o.b. and at the mills?
– The information asked for by the honorable member would be better supplied in the form of a return, and I hope to lay a statement on the table of the House later in the day giving the desired particulars.
Visit of Officer to Bourke
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Chairman, Hon. W. Massy Greene.
Vice-chairman, Hugh Sinclair, Esq., M.H.R.
Members of Butter Committee. - Victoria - P. J. Holdenson, Holdenson and Neilson F.F. Pty. Ltd., 521 Flinders-street; H. W. Osborne, Western District Fact. Co-op. Produce Co. Ltd., 49-57 King-street. New South Wales- P. C. Basche, care Basche and Lowney, 36S Sussexstreet, Sydney; C. J. McRae, Coraki, New
South Wales. Queensland - W. T. Harris, Forrest Gate, Toowoomha; T. F. Plunkett, Logan and Albert Co-op. Dairy Co. Ltd., Beaudesert, Queensland. South Australia - J. W. Sandford, A. W. Sandford and Company, Grenfellstreet, Adelaide. Tasmania -O. G. Norton, Burnie, Tasmania.
Members of Cheese Committee. - New South Wales - J. Mackey, J. Mackey and Company, 209-271 Sussex-street, Sydney. Victoria - J.
Rankin, Colac, Victoria. Queensland - A. C. Galbraith, Rural Industries Limited,Romastreet, Brisbane.
Government nominees. - C. E. D. Meares, care Coastal Farmers’ Co-op. Society Ltd., 374 Sussexstreet, Sydney; W. Purcell, Greenmount, Queensland; A. W. Wilson, Gippsland and Northern Co-op.- S. and Ins. Co. Ltd., Flinderslane, Melbourne; M. A. O’Callaghan, Commonwealth dairy expert, “ Rialto,” Collins-street.
Members are allowed first class steamer and rail fares, and £2 2s. per day travelling expenses, also an allowance of £11s. per day when the Committee is sitting.
Mr.FINLAYSON asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
What was the total cost to the Commonwealth in connexion with the visit of Admiral Henderson to Australia, and his report regarding the provision of Naval Bases, &c. ?
Is it proposed to invite the Imperial Government to select a naval expert to visit Australia at an early date to advise the Government in regard to future work on Naval Bases, &c?
If so, to what extent will the Commonwealth Government be financially responsible for the visit of. this expert, and what is the estimate of expenses involved?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, uponnotice-
Whether he will give the following information: -
What are the contracts entered into by the Government for jam supplies during the last three months?
The price paid for such supplies?
The conditions attached to the tenders invited ?
The number of tenders received and the names of the tenderers?
The terms allotted to the contracts accepted, and the name or names of the contractors ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow
The conditions relating to the supply of this jam are set out in the attached specification. These conditions were laid down by the Imperial Government. They are as follow: -
Capacity. - To be such as will admit of thirty tins, each containing 2 lbs. net, being thoroughly and securely packed without incurring risk or damage from shaking in transit or rough usage.
Timber. - Baltic white wood for cases and elm forbattens, or other suitable wood for cases manufactured in the Colonies or abroad. To be thoroughly dry, sound, and well seasoned, and reasonably free from all defects. Thickness, when finished, to measure at least 11-16 in. for ends and 9-16 in. for sides, bottom, and top. All corners to be chamfered.
Ends. - To be in not more than two pieces, with 9-16 in. x 1½ in. elm battens at each end. Soft wood for battens may be used if elm or other hard wood is not available. If soft wood is used, battens to be 2 ins. wide.
Sides. -To be in not more than two pieces.
Top. - To be in not more than two pieces, to overlap sides, and be finally planed flush with them.
Bottom. - To be in not more than two pieces, to overlap sides, and be finally planed flush with them
N.B. - When sides, tops, and bottoms of cases are made in more than one piece, the pieces must be tongued and grooved and then glued together.
Joints of sides and ends when in two pieces to be reasonably broken.
Fastenings. - Case to be well nailed with 1¾-in. English rosehead cut steel annealed nails or other suitable cut-steel nails for cases manufactured in the Colonies or abroad, as follows: -
Thirty-six connecting and joining battens with ends, sides, top, and bottom of case.
Fourteen connecting lid with sides and end of case.
Fourteen connecting bottom with sides and ends.
Sixteen connecting sides with ends.
All nails passing to interior of case to be properly clenched.
Marks. - In good paint (ground in oil) or stencil ink in middle of bottom, sides, and ends the description of the preserve,e.g.: -
in 1-in. characters. On the top -
The Director of Supplies, Egypt, in 1-in. characters. Weight of case, 11 lbs. (about). Gross weight not to exceed 80 lbs.
Johnson Bros. & Co., Sydney.
Stanmore Preserving Co., Stanmore, New South Wales.
Geelong and Western District Preserving Co., Geelong.
Rosella Preserving Co., Melbourne.
Hoadley’s Pty. Ltd., Melbourne.
Peacock Jam Coy., Newtown, New South Wales.
Evelyn Preserving Coy., Wandin, Victoria.
Bendigo Fruit-growers Co-operative Society, Bendigo.
Australasian Jam Coy., Melbourne.
Chambers & Bennetts, Melbourne.
Associated Fruit-growers Ltd., Perth, Western Australia.
Of these, the following were prepared to supply. The quantity required was allotted amongst them -
Hoad ley’s Pty. Ltd., Melbourne.
The remaining nine were either unable to supply or were not agreeable to comply with the conditions.
Pay of Female Clerks
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 23rd October, the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) asked me the following question: -
In view of the fact that the purchases of wool are restricted to £10 in value, will the Acting Prime Minister state why it is that brokers in Sydney and Melbourne are allowed to make advances against small and large lots of wool, and charge what interest they like? Why is it that small men in the country are not allowed to get an advance from the country broker, but have to go cap in hand to the mcn in the big cities?
I then gave an interim reply; but am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following additional information : -
The wool-selling brokers in Sydney, Melbourne,and other appraising centres, charge on wool advances as interest, the usual bank rates, varying from5½ per cent. to 7 per cent. in the majority of cases, . the rate is 6 per cent. Country brokers are allowed to make advances, but the transactions must be bond fide, and not a cloak to illicit dealing and speculation in wool. Generally, country advances on wool are irregular purchases at considerably below the parity of 15½d. per lb. of greasy wool, with participation in the profits above the flat rate which belong to the wool-grower, and not. to the country speculator. The Central Wool Committee’s control and. methods are protection to the small growers, the majority of whom freely recognise the position.
-On the 31st October, the honorable member for. Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked me the following question : -
Is the Treasurer aware that the Commonwealth Bank, which, acting on behalf of relatives of soldiers at the Front, has been sending soldiers’ remittance cables for about 12s. per message, has now raised the charge to something like 30s. because of an increase in the rates charged by the Cable Company? If so, will be make representations to the Cable Company, with a view to inducing it to revert to the original rate?
I then promised to make representations to the Cable Company, with a view to ascertaining whether arrangements could be made to revert to the old practice. I have to-day been advised that the Commonwealth Bank, by arrangement with the Cable Company, has now reverted to the old practice of charging a flat rate of 12s. for soldiers’ remittance messages.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asked “the following question, namely : -
In reply, it was promised that the information would be obtained. The reply to the question is as follows: - 1 and 2. It is true that the persons in question wore convicted, not in September, 1916, but in October, 1917, of offences against the Unlawful Associations Act, and sentenced to imprisonment. As they are both aliens, orders were made under the Aliens Restriction Order for their deportation, and for their detention pending deportation. Owing to the shortage of shipping, it has not yet been possible to arrange for the deportation, but it is hoped that their deportation will take place shortly.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir - Postmaster-
General) [2.53].- (By leave.) - I desire to inform the House of the financial results of working the Postal Department for the fiscal year ending 30th June, 1918, as disclosed by the annual profit and loss accounts, prepared on commercial lines, which have, just been completed, as follows: -
It will be remembered that I forecast a surplus for 1917-18. The actual figures show that there is a surplus or profit in all branches of the Department, amounting to £387,431 for the year. This result is better than the results of 1916-17, 1915-16, and 1914-15 by £564,577, £703,421, and £973,986, respectively.
I am naturally delighted with the result as shown above, and desire to express my appreciation of the way in which the officers have loyally assisted in carrying out the policy of efficiency, economy, and expedition, laid down by the Ministerial head. The good result for 1917-18 is especially gratifying, as it has been achieved during a period in which the cost of working has been continually on the increase, and in which most carrying concerns have found it impossible to prevent a falling off in profit, or an increase in loss.
It will be noted that, notwithstanding the increasing revenue, I am asking for 800 less additional permanent staff than were requisitioned last year.
I regard the foregoing as a complete answer to my critics, carping or otherwise.
– On the 31st ultimo the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
The replies are as follow: -
A special examination for enlistment is carried outin the following cases: - 1.(a) Applications for enlistment in special arms of the service, (b) Applicants who are considered to require special examination which cannot be carried out under the conditions at the recruiting depot. (c) Applicants who signify their intention to enlist, but who for special reasons cannot go through the routine procedure. Special -reasons which operate in these cases are matters of business, or otherwise, which cannot be finalized within the routine time allowed. The principle is adopted in the interests of recruiting of meeting all reasonable requests for special consideration of whatever nature.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act. - Awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and other documents in connexion with plaints submitted by -
The Australian Postal Electricians’ Union. - Further variation (dated 9th October, 1918).
The Australian Postal Electricians’ Union. - Further variation (dated 16th October, 1918).
The Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union. - Further variation (dated 16th October, 1918).
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th November, vide page 7518) :
Clause 6 -
There shall be 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.
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved -
That after the word “shall”, line 2, the words “be appointed for a period of seven years, and shall “ be inserted.
. - I am pleased that when we have a Bill of this character before us there is in charge of it a Minister against whom no one can be said to have any animus, or who can be charged with bias from party point of view. However it is due to us to take precautions against any future Minister who might not observe the same standard of political morality. It has been deemed advisableto remove the auditing of Government accounts from all Ministerial control.
– That is the principle of the Audit Act.
– If it is desirable to remove the auditing of the public accounts from Ministerial or political control, how much more important is it to see that the electoral affairs of the country are administered by unbiased persons ? The return of members who are a true reflex of the desires of the people of the country, is, to my mind, of even more importance than the finance administration, because Parliament has supervision of the whole of the finances. I have no desire to rake up the past, but on two occasions Ministers, in electoral matters, have sailed very close to the wind. We must not forget that while elections are in progress Parliament is not in session, and that a Minister, who, though not considering himself corrupt, may be unwittingly biased, is subject to no criticism. We on this side desire, by means of this clause before us, to remove the Chief Electoral Officer from. Ministerial control. It may seem strange to make this official responsible to no one, but it would be easy to provide that his complete inde- pendence shall date only from, say, the dissolution of Parliament, or the issue of the writs until the return of the writs. This would insure that no Minister would have any control over the officer in charge of electoral matters.
Mr.Corser. - I do not think the Minister has any control now.
– The Minister has full control.
Mr.McWilliams. - Remember that the Electoral Officer on one occasion stood up against two Ministers.
– That I admit.
Mr.Laird Smith. - Is it not a fact that the Electoral Officer refused to carry out the instructions of one Minister?
– That Electoral Officer happened to be a man strong enough to assert his independence. It is evident that there ought to be some safeguards even against any attempt of the kind on the part of a Minister, in view of the fact that there can beno parliamentary control of the administration after the dissolution. The newspapers are just as biased politically as are the parties, and would not expose any attempt of the kind on the part of a Minister if he happened to be on the same side of politics.
– There is an amendment before the Chair that the Chief Electoral Officer should be appointed for a term of seven years.
– And on that amendment the Committee last night discussed the removal of the Chief Electoral Officer from Ministerial control during the conduct of elections.
– The previous debate wasupon clause 6. Subsequently the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) moved an amendment: debate must now be limited to the amendment.
.- I am disappointed that the Government have not done something to remove the conduct of elections from political control as far as possible. I believe that the best way to effect that is to give the Chief Electoral Officer as much administrative power as we can possibly concede without taking the matter entirely out of the hands of Parliament. The Electoral Commission went fully into this matter and recommended -
In order to maintain continuity of administration, section 5 of the Electoral Act should be amended to provide that the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer be definitely defined. Ministerial intervention in the administration of the Act should be strictly confined to regulations approved by the Governor-General in Council.
In view of the importance of the position, the Chief Electoral Officer should be placed on a par with heads of other Departments with regard to salary.
The Commission had prepared a very much stronger recommendation, but we subsequently decided upon the above modification. I have nothing to say in regard to the present occupant of the position of Chief Electoral Officer. Any remarks I make will be in the interests of pure administration in the future. 1 have always contended that if the occupants of important official positions do not come up to our requirements they should be replaced by men in whom Parliament has the utmost confidence. I am not reflecting on the present Chief Electoral Officer, who has had a difficult task toperform from the very inception of Federation. . He has had to fight against Ministerial interference. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) said last night that the only Ministerial interference he could recall was that on the part of Senator McColl, when that gentleman was administering the Electoral Department, but he could not call to mind the specific occasion. I wish to quote definite cases in which attempts were made to influence the Chief Electoral Officer, and I shall put these forward in support of my argument that Ministerial control should be eliminated as far as practicable. On page 4 of the Electoral Commission’s report is the following paragraph in reference to the control by a former Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. King O’Malley)-
The Minister objected to at least 43 officials, on the plea that they were partisans, but insisted on the employment of a Mr. Ellis, who, he admitted, took the Labour pre-election. The following telegram from the Chief Electoral
Officer to the Divisional Returning Officer indicated that the Minister regarded aspartisans only those he thought were opposed to him in politics: - “ Minister wires that Ellis is not a partisan, and that he must be appointed to some position in connexion elections, but does not suggest that he be appointed Assistant Returning Officer. Appointments below grade of Assistant Returning Officer are in your hands.”
It will be seen plainly that the Minister attempted to interfere with the just and impartial conduct of the elections, firstly, by objecting to officers who had been appointed by the electoral officials, and, secondly, by insisting upon the employment of a man who had proved himself to be a partisan by submitting his name to a pre-election ballot. I might refer to a number of letters written by- Mr. King O’Malley, when Ministercontrolling the Electoral Department, but I shall content myselfwith reading this one -
The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Tasmania.
The following persons, who have been nominated for appointment as election officials, must not be appointed -
Polling place, Gunn’s Plains; persons nominated, Jas. Barker and J. Colhoun; suitable persons for positions, J. Collis (Postmaster) and James Barker.
Polling place, Nietta; person nominated, poll clerk; suitable person for position, C. Williams, Nietta.
Polling place, North Mottom ; person nominated, Robt. Scott; suitable person for position, P. Eld, North Mottom.
Polling place, Preston; persons nominated, W. Delaney and W. H. Stuart; suitable persons for positions, an official, Post Office,Ulverstone, and State school teacher, Preston.
Polling place, Riana; person nominated, Wm. Broomhead; suitable person for the position, Mr. Alexander, Riana.
– Why did not the honorable member attempt to deal with this matter whilst the Minister concerned was a member of this House? Why must he dig up all this stuff now ?
– The digging up was by the other side. I might dig up a good deal more, but my purpose is merely to impress the Committee with the view that it is necessary to remove Ministerial control. I have made reference to one letter only in order to show that there is some justification for what I have said and what I am about to say. The letter continues
The men who must not be appointed are all partisans, some well known and notorious.
I am looking through the subdivisions of Emu Bay and Table Cape, and will send you word early next week. (Signed) King O’Malley.
Minister for Home Affairs.
In order to show that at this particular election chaos was only avoided by the firm position taken up by the Chief Electoral Officer and his subordinates, I may be permitted to read the following letter from the Divisional Returning Officer -
I am in receipt of yours of the 2nd instant regarding some comments by the Honorable the Minister for Home Affairs, as to which I am instituting inquiries. At the same time, I must protest most strongly against the Minister’s endeavour to overrule my authority as Divisional Returning Officer. As such, I think the only proper course for one to adopt is to see in “King O’Malley,” who is nominated for election, only the candidate, arid not the Minister for Home Affairs. Any other attitude would lead to endless confusion.
I might quote other letters, but I do not think it necessary to do so. As the honorable member for Batman has pointedout, the Minister concerned in the case to which I have referred is not now a member of this Chamber. I have not referred to the case with any idea of specially censuring that gentleman, but with a view, as I have said, to impress upon honorable members the importance of removing as much of our electoral machinery as possible from Ministerial control.
Mr.Tudor. - What amendment does the honorable member suggest?
– What have the honorable member’s remarksto do with clause 6 ?
– They are pertinent to clause 6, because that clause deals with the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Chief Electoral Officer should have any other powers and functions than those conferred upon him by the Bill ?
– I believe that the Bill should confer further powers than it does upon the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Then the honorable member should point out what powers he should have that the Bill does not give him.
– I think that he should be charged, as far as possible, with the full execution of the Electoral Act.
– Nominally, he is.
– That is so; but in practice, he is not.
Mr.Corser. - In practice, he does carry out the Act.
– Did not something of the same kind occur when Mr. McColl was in charge of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department?
– I asked the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) to specify the particular case in which he said something of the kind did occur under Mr. McColl, but he was unable to do so. I shall be very pleased if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) can do so.
– I do not go around digging up these cases, but I have a vivid recollection that something of the kind occurred when Mr. McColl was the Minister administering the Electoral Act.
– That was in 1914, when the double dissolution occurred. At that time, the Electoral Commission -was engaged in its inquiry, and though I watched matters fairly closely, I cannot call to mind any interference by Mr. McColl. On one or two points, I remember that he was very firm, but they had nothing to do with the elections. I think they had to do with the appointment of the permanent Divisional Returning Officers.
– Surely that would be more important than the appointment of temporary men ?
– Permanent Divisional Returning Officers have been appointed since 1914, and I have not heard the honorable gentleman complain about their appointment. I think they are doing remarkably good work in keeping the rolls pure and up to date.
– I am not complaining about any of them.
– I had intended to move an amendment to give effect to what I desire, but it is somewhat difficult for a layman to draft an amendment upon such a very important clause as this.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the clause should be worded in some other way?
– The powers conferred on the Chief Electoral Officer are given to him expressly by the Act.
– What otherpowers and functions does the honorable member think that the Chief Electoral Officer should have?
– I should like to confer upon him some further powers under this clause, but I have difficulty in suggesting a suitable amendment. If I have the Minister’s assurance that, so far as possible, political interference with the conduct of elections will be avoided, I shall be content, and shall let the clause go as it stand’s.
– I have endeavoured to carry out what the honorable member desires by amending the existing law, and giving the Chief Electoral Officer more specific powers.
– It is difficult to suggest an amendment of the clause which would not involve a sweeping alteration, which might give the Chief Electoral Officer absolute control. I do not think that that would be advisable, and I therefore accept the Minister’s assurance that, so far as possible, provision has been made in the Bill to prevent Ministerial control.
– That has been done.
Clause agreed to.
Glauses1 to 15 agreed to.
State into divisions in accordance withthis Act the Governor-General may appoint three Distribution Commissioners, of whom one shall be the Chief Electoral Officer, or an officer having similar qualifications, and, if his services are obtainable, one shall be the SurveyorGeneral of the State or an officer having similar qualifications.
– I should like some explanation from the Minister as to the reason for the inclusion of the Chief Electoral Officer as a member of the Distribution Commission for dividing the States into electorates. I do not know of any qualification which he possesses arising from his official connexion with the conduct of elections which fits him better for the work of the Distribution Commission than was the officer whose place he appears to have taken under this Bill.
– I thought the best course to adopt would be to include the Chief Electoral Officer, because he is an absolute neutral, and is fairly familiar with the lines on which the Act should be administered with regard to the distribution of the States into electorates. After one distribution of theelectorates it was found that where he was associated with others in the work, not the slightest objection was urged to the distribution which took place. It was really that experience which prompted me to provide in this Bill for his appointment as one of the Distribution Commissioners. In my judgment, it is wise for us to appoint a representative of the Commonwealth, who is absolutely neutral, in the person of the Chief Electoral Officer, and to associate with him the Surveyor-General of each State, and some third person.
.- During the debate upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I called attention to this particular clause, and I would now like the Minister to say why only two officersare specified as being eligible for appointmentas Distribution Commissioners? In the principal Act I know that only one officer is specified. The Government are, therefore, endeavouring to effect an improvement in the law by providing for the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth and the Surveyor-General of each State as two of the Distribution Commissioners. But why is the other appointment left an open question? I have previously expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth Statistician is perhaps, better qualified than is any other official to distribute Australia into electoral divisions.
– What on earth does he know about it?
– As population is the basis upon which the boundaries of each electoral divisionare determined, obviously he is the man who possesses all the information necessary to fit him for the task. He is aware of the way in which the population is distributed, and particularly is he possessed of a knowledge of the number of males and females settled in the various localities, and of their residential status, &c.
– Community of interest has to be taken into consideration.
– That matter naturally comes within the purview of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, while the Surveyor-General of each State is necessarily familiar with the physical boundaries which would make for the best electoral distribution, as, for example, the lay of the land, in regard to hills and rivers which would form the best boundaries between electorates. We have, therefore, in these two officers men who are specially qualified to act as Distribution Commissioners. But having filled twoof these positions, if we allow the third to remain open, the Government will have a free hand to appoint their own nominee. In other words, his qualifications will be a matter of secondary consideration. The Government will have the appointment of the third Commissioner
– Why should not they ?
– Because the Distribution Commissioners should be entirely free from Government interference and Government control.
– The Government tore up the finest distribution that the officials ever made in New South Wales, and the result was a most unequal distribution of electorates in that State.
– Why was that done? Purely because the members interested in that particular distribution thought it would adversely affect them. The whole matter, I contend, ought to be removed from the realm of personal interest, and considered only from the stand -point of the interests of the community.
– Would the honorable member accept as final the distribution decided upon by the Commissioners without the ratification of Parliament?
– I am in favour of the adoption of that course, and I said so during the debate upon the second reading of the measure. I am quite prepared to accept as final any scheme which commends itself to the judgment of the Distribution Commissioners so long as they are free from Government interference in determining the boundaries of our electoral divisions. Probably some of us would find this method particularly awkward, but I am satisfied that, from the stand-point of its general application, the results would prove satisfactory. After all, our chief concern in connexion with an Electoral Bill is to eliminate all risk of Ministerial interference for the purpose of securing a party advantage. If the Government can see their way clear to provide in this measure for the appointment of a third Distribution Commissioner, instead of leaving his appointment an open question, my objection to the clause will be removed. But if the appointment of the third Commissioner be left an open question, the Government will naturally appoint some person who will look after their own interests.
– Who does the honable member suggest should be appointed ?
– The Commonwealth Statistician, upon whom other officers have to rely for information regarding our population.
– Has the Minister any objection to adopting that suggestion?
– We can specify the third Commissioner if it be thought necessary, but I think it will be wise to leave one position open. I discussed the matter with the Chief Electoral Officer in the light of all the facts.
– I think we shall be acting wisely if we specify the Commonwealth Statistician as the third Distribution Commissioner.
– I have every confidence in the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Statistician, both as men and as officers, but the idea of appointing two men who reside in Melbourne to determine the boundaries of electorates in Queensland and distant States is positively absurd. At the same time, I agree with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that if the work of distributing our electoral boundaries can be removed from the final con trol of Parliament it will be a very goodthing indeed. I have been a member of this Parliament when previous distribution schemes have been under consideration, and I do not hesitate to say that I have never witnessed a more humiliating spectacle. Not unnaturally honorable members were found intently studying the maps to see how the electoral divisions recommended by the Commissioners affected their own personal chances of election. As a result, the personal element obtruded itself to such an extent that those who were here at the time do not desire to witness another distribution of our electoral boundaries which is subject to the ratification of Parliament. To my mind, the officer who is most competent to determine those boundaries is the Surveyor-General of each State. The Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth has already quite enough to do without being saddled with this additional heavy responsibility. I would like to see the names of the Distribution Commissioners specified in the Bill, and I would be content to allow them to decide absolutely the boundaries of our electoral divisions. But if we are going to accept their work as final we must certainly provide for State representation as far as possible. It is, therefore, essential that either the SurveyorGeneral or the Deputy Surveyor-General of each State shall be appointed as one of the Distribution Commissioners. What on earth does a man residing in Melbourne know about the natural physical divisions which occur in distant States? Butthe Surveyor-General or the Deputy Surveyor-General of any State will know all about those divisions. The Commissioners who were previously acting did very well. If any mistakes occurred, it was not the fault of those officials. They were due tothe gerrymandering to which the decisions of the Commissioners were subjected when they came before Parliament. Centralization in a matter such as this is the one thing we should avoid. What does the Commonwealth Statistician know about the natural boundaries of the States ? He is familiar with the numbers of the people; but any one can acquaint himself with all particulars necessary upon giving a couple of hours’ study to that particular phase of the question. It is local knowledge that is required more than anything else. The SurveyorGeneral is the best-equipped officer in that respect. After the appointment of that official, I would suggest that the Minister pause before putting very heavy additional duties upon the Chief Electoral Officer. We all wish to see a fair distribution. No one desires that one electorate shall have twice the number of persons residing therein compared with another electorate, which is allowed to remain as it has been simply for party purposes or upon personal considerations. It is in the interest of good government that there should be no gerrymandering in the division of the different electorates; and it is essential, therefore, to appoint really good local men. In fact, each State should have its own Electoral Commission. Take the case of Queensland, for example. It would be well for the Surveyor-General of that State and the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer to comprise two of the three Commissioners. The Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, with his local knowledge of the State, would be aninfinitely better choice than the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth.
– That is what really will occur. The Chief Electoral Officer could not go to each State. Neither could the Commonwealth Statistician.
– That is exactly my point. At a time when the duties of the Chief Electoral Officer would be unusually heavy, it would be absurd to expect him to travel from State to State engaged in redistribution work. He would have to appoint a deputy. Therefore, why should not the Government provide in this Bill that one of the Commissioners in each State shall be the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer?
– That is what will be done.
– As a matter of fact, I fail to see the necessity for altering the existing provision. If the Deputy Surveyor-General and the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer in each State were appointed, together with a third officer, who should be chosen from the State concerned because of special qualifications, a far better Commission would be created than the Government have suggested. I have a horror of the perpetual desire to centralize all things. I wish to see each State Commission free to determine its own problems.
– At present, one of the Commissioners is the SurveyorGeneral, or some other officer in his Department possessing the necessary knowledge. In future, also, there is to be the Surveyor-General, or some officer possessing similar qualifications.
– Who will be the third member ?
– To provide uniformity, and the necessary experience in electoral matter I have added the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth; but, as that official cannot possibly be present at the meetings of every State Commission, his deputy will act as one of the State Commissioners.
– Why make the Chief Electoral Officer responsible?
– The central official will have to control the whole matter, as far as possible. The responsibility should rightly be his.
As to the personnel of the third Commissioner, it has been suggested that the Commonwealth Statistician should be appointed. But there is no official who can take his place in each of the States. There is no actual Deputy Commonwealth Statistician. For that reason, the Commonwealth Statistician has not been included. The appointment of the third official must bo left to Ministerial discretion. If we could associate with the two officials already indicated a Judge of the Supreme Court of each State, such an appointment would supply all that could be desired. There would then be two expert members, and a judicial officer.
.- I regard this clause as one of great importance. Periodically it is necessary to further subdivide various electorates. It should be laid down under the Act that the Commission constituted for the purpose of redistribution should consist of persons specifically indicated. There should be three qualified officials in each State whose appointment would remove the whole matter from political control. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sin- . clair) has cited cases having to do with undue influence exercised by Ministers in connexion with elections. The same sort of thing can happen with the redistribution of seats, because it is provided that the Governor-General may appoint one of the Commissioners to be chairman. The measure before the Committee does not set forth the personnel of the various State Commissioners. The practice is to wait until redistribution becomes necessary, and then the Government decide who shall be appointed. Two officials are indicated, but the third person is left open to choice of the Government. The Government are to recommend a certain person to the Governor-General for appointment in each State, and that individual is so appointed. To prevent interference, it would be far better to settle all doubt regarding who the three officials shall be. The appointments should be covered specifically by the Act itself. I am not opposed to the appointment of a Judge to act with the two expert officials in each State. Failing a Judge, I would favour the appointment of a Statistician.
– That would be removing the personnel from Commonwealth interests altogether. We do not want all State men. The appointment of the third official should be left open.
– The matter of the Commissioners consisting entirely of State officials raises a difficulty; but we have not qualified Commonwealth officials in each State to fill the positions, and to leave appointments to the Government at a time when redistribution becomes necessary may mean that the Government can appoint a person who will hold the balance of power upon the Commission. There is always a tendency for members of Parliament to be dissatisfied with whatever redistribution may be proposed; and, when they secure copies of the first plans, if the proposals do not suit them, influence may be brought to bear so that alterations of boundaries are secured. By appointing three officials for each State, and setting out those appointments definitely in the Act, the possibility of any undue influence would be removed. But if it is left to the Government to appoint the third man, naturally the dominant party will try to have the man who is most satisfactory from their point of view put on tothe Commission, because, after all, party politics do come into these matters. I am glad the Minister is in accord with the idea of removing that aspect as far as possible.
– I have already added one.
– It- would be better to go further and appoint three. Then when a redistribution has to take place the Commission will simply have to be notified to set to work to fix the electoral boundaries of the State concerned. We are endeavouring by this measure to prevent undue influence in elections, and we should be just as particular about redistribution, because, after all, that often determines for nine or ten years who is to represent a certain constituency.
– How about making the Chief State Electoral Officer one of the three?
– I do not mind Who is appointed, .but if any party has the opportunity to appoint’ a .person who will be amenable to its wishes, it can so fix the electorates as to ensure in many cases the return of its own nominees. Almost any electorate can be cut up- in such a manner as practically to make certain what candidate will be returned. A Commission should he appointed in whom we have confidence,, and when the work has to be done they can take it in hand and perform it in accordance with the quota and other essential points- laid down in the Act. Once that is done, there should be no interference on the part of the Government or anybody else.
If the Commission’s decision can be upset, objections will be raised to it, because it does not meet with the approval of some of those concerned,, influence will be brought to bear, and the whole business will have to he reconsidered. That system should not be allowed to continue. The Minister will be wise to stipulate at this stage of the Bill who shall be appointed, se that they may do their work free altogether from party colour. If there is one thing in politics that should be clear of party it is the Electoral Act. The electoral machinery should work smoothly in the interests of thewhole community without giving preference to anybody. Possibly undue influence would never be used if the old system were continued, but the danger is that it may be used.
– It never has been.
– But we ought to remove now any chance of it.
– The majority of the Commission is now mentioned in the clause. If we mention the third it may be difficult to get the individual we want.
– I admit the difficulty; but unless the third man is named, the do or is left open for influence to be used to secure the appointment of somebody when the time for the redistribution of seats arrives. That is what we must guard against. The people only want a fair deal, and the decision on this question should be left to three persons in authority outside of this Chamber.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) [3.551.- I should like the Minister to accept his own suggestion that the third member of the Commission should be a Judge of the High Court, or of the Supreme Court of the State, who should be the Chairman. I was glad to hear the intimation that the intention is to appoint the State officers, and not the Chief Electoral Officer, for this work, because it requires constant attention at the time it is losing done. It is rather an advantage than a disadvantage that the officers doing it should not be Federal servants. I disagree with the contention of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that another officer under the control of the Federal Government should be added to the Commission. A good feature of the Redistribution Commission in the State of New South Wales was that it comprised independent State officers, who were not looking to the Commonwealth Government for favours, rather than Federal officers, who naturally look to pleasing the Government with a view to their future advancement in the Service. We are happily situated, in that, under this proposal, one member of the Commission is to be the State Chief Electoral Officer, who is most concerned in getting workable electorates, while the other two are to be entirely removed from the control of the Federal Government. A Commission consisting of a Judge as Chairman, the Chief State Electoral Officer, and the SurveyorGeneral of the State, or some other similar officer, would be an ideal. body. In New South Wales, we had a member of the Western Land Commission, who was probably a better man for the work than either of those indicated here. But the place where the political “pull” conies in is in this Parliament, and we ought to follow this clause up with a provision making the Commission’s decision final, after an opportunity has been given to objectors to present their case. When the Commissioners have heard those objections, their decision should not be open to review by Parliament, orany other body.
.- While I am not opposed to the appointment of a Commission to deal with the redistribution of seats, supposing the present system is to be retained, I am against the clause as it stands, becaue it proposes to perpetuate the system of dividing the State into electorates which do not truly represent the people. In this country, as in all others with a parliamentary system of government, the present system is to base the divisions on geographical considerations.
– Do you want to pick out patches?
– No; but the geographical system is obsolete. I consider that interests should be represented.
– The Commission must, under clause 19, consider “ community or diversity of interest”.
– I may be wrong in my interpretation of the Bill, but I judge that, in the redistribution, agricultural centres may be joined to mining centres.
– Community, or diversity of interest, will be considered.
– I think that is more with regard to land. According to my way of thinking, the proper system for the representation of the people in Parliament ;s to group the population into kindred interests, and not to follow the lines of geographical division.
– Irrespective of population.
– This is a question that vitally affects the people. Their representation should not be determined by any artificial boundaries.
– What you are contending for could only be done by an alteration in the Constitution. At present the divisions must be made within the boundaries of a State.
– I am against any proposal that will perpetuate the existing state of affairs. The . present arrangements, in my judgment, are quite obsolete. We should have a convention of the people to determine upon the most up-to-date and effective system for the government of the country.
– What is Parliament for?
– What -Parliament is for, and what it does, are two totally different things. I imagine that the people who sent us here to represent them have discovered in the past, and will discover in the future, that their hopes have hardly been realized.
– Are we to understand that you suggest that Broken Hill and Mount Morgan, for instance, should form one division?
– I do not mean that Broken Hill and Mount Morgan should be joined, but I do say that the mining industry throughout Australia should constitute an industrial constituency, the waterside workers another, and the same with regard to the textile, agricultural and other industries. They should all be organized and the interests as a whole should find representation in this Parliament, quite irrespective of any geographical divisions.
– As I told you before, it will be necessary to alter the Constitution before that can be done.
– Very well, then, let us alter the Constitution. I have no objection to an alteration of the Constitution. In fact, the sooner it is done, the better, from my point of view.
The measure now before the Committee is intended to consolidate our electoral laws, and I think I am quite in order in attacking a principle which seeks to perpetuate the existing basis of representation. The interests of the people should not be determined by any false geographical division, but by their industrial affinities, their social life, and interests. If this reform were brought about on a scientific basis, the interests of our people would be more adequately safeguarded. We would then be concerned less with legislation for the individual as such than with legislation for the development of our industries, and advancing the industrial and social life of our people.
– How does the honorable member connect his remarks with the clause under consideration ?
– I thought it was quite obvious. The clause states that the G-overnor-General may appoint three Distribution Commissioners, whose duty it will be to divide a State into electoral divisions for the purpose of electing representatives to this Parliament. I am opposed to the’ clause as a whole, because it seeks to perpetuate the existing system, which I contend is obsolete, and I urge that we should be more concerned about evolving a scientific re-organization of the people throughout Australia. For this purpose I suggest a Convention to overhaul our whole system of representation, and, therefore, I think .my remarks were in order. But, of course, if we are going on with the existing system of selecting representatives according to the growth of population in the various centres, and of redistributing the seats on this basis, I agree with other honorable members that the Distribution Commissioners should be free from the possibility of being charged with pandering to any particular party that might be in power. It is not at all desirable that the Commissioners should be under the control of the Minister for the time being - that they should practically depend upon him for promotion, as the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) suggested. We should, I think,have a non-party Commission akin to the Railways Commissioners of the various States, appointed by Parliament. The people would then have more confidence in the administration of our electoral laws.
– But it might be years before they are called upon to act.
– That is true, but when the Minister introduced the Bill he indicated that, owing to the changes that had taken place in the population of the various States, a redistribution would be necessary after the war.
– In three of the States it is already overdue.
– Yes. The Minister has told us that readjustment is necessary already in regard to the number of seats. The Commission charged with the alteration of electoral boundaries should be one in which the community will repose absolute confidence. A Commission composed of officials dependent for promotion on the Government of the day cannot inspire that confidence. Human nature being what it is, it is reasonable to think that such persons would not act with entire independence. In saying this I do not wish to reflect upon the particular officials occupying the positions named in the clause. They may be the most honorable and estimable persons in the world, but they may be succeeded by persons of quite opposite character. To obtain the confidence of the public, the Commission must be non-partisan, and I shall support any proposal to make it so. It is proposed that the Chief Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General of the State, or officers having similar qualifications, shall be two members of the Commission, and the Governor-General is to appoint a third, and is also to appoint one of the three to be chairman.. I am not in love with the suggestion that the third member of the Board should be a Judge. A Judge might do very well, but, on the other hand, he might not. Generally he would not. My opinion, and it is shared, I think, by honorable members and the public at large, is that Judges and lawyers concern themselves too much with the splitting of hairs, and lose in the time spent in the study of the law the human feelings which actuate most other members of the community. It is proposed that two members of the Commission shall form a quorum, and that in the absence of the chairman, one of the two who are present shall preside. I think that all three members of the Commission should bo present when there is business to be done.
– The honorable member is now anticipating a clause which is not before the Committee.
– The position would be farcical if there were only two members of the Commission present, and they had a disagreement, and the member who had been nominated by the other member for the position of chairman could exercise a casting vote.
– I ask the honorable member to postpone his remarks on this subject until we reach the clause which he is discussing.
– Speaking generally on the subject of parliamentary representation, I am opposed to the perpetuation of the effete, out-of-date system of returning members to represent geographical divisions, instead of industrial and social organizations.
– The ideals of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) may be very exalted-
– They are very practical.
– In any case, we are bound by the provisions of the Constitution, and the complete organization of the community industrially and socially for the election of Parliamentary representatives is quite outside the electoral system contemplated in that instrument, which compels us to delimit the divisions geographically. The proposals of the Government are based on recognised principles which have stood the full test of experience. The proposed Commission has to deal with the delimitation of the boundaries of a State’s constituencies, having regard to the distribution of population. The quota having been ascertained, it is known into how many electoral divisions each State should be divided, and to the Commission is intrusted the delimitation of the boundaries of those divisions. I agree that a Commission exercising such important functions should be non-partisan, and that its members should have expert knowledge. In the carrying out of its duties the Commission must have regard to certain fundamental principles, such as community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions, and State electoral boundaries. The Commission has not an entirely free hand. Having made its preliminary report, opportunity should be given to those concerned to state their objections, and the Commission should then come to a final decision in regard to which Parliament should not give any directions. As to the composition of the Commission, it is provided that either the Chief Electoral Officer or a similarly qualified man, who would no doubt be the Chief Electoral Officer for the State, and the Surveyor-General, or a similarly qualified official, shall form two of the members. As to the third, I think that he should be a Judge of a Supreme Court or a Judge of a County or District Court - a man possessing a judicial mind, whowould not beswayed by political feeling. The appointment would be not a permanent one, but one for a specific purpose, and for a limited period.
– I have given a good deal of thought to thesubject, and have come to the conclusion that it would be well not to tie down the Government to app inting any particular class of person.
– You could not go far wrong in selecting a Judge.
Mr.Archibald. - The selection of a Judge is not barred.
– No, but as the clause stands, a very unsatisfactory and partisan appointment might be made. Judging by experience, it is not likely that a Government would do such a wilfully improper thing as to make such an appointment.
– Why does the clause say that the Governor-General “ may appoint”? Why does it not say “shall appoint?”
– The word “may” is generally used in reference to the actions of the Governor-General, and practically means “ shall.” If an appointment is not made from the judicial Bench there will be a liability to charges of partisanship being raised, whereas if the Act prescribes that the appointment shall be made from among Judges of the Supreme Court, or, as I have suggested, from among Judges of County Courts or District Courts, the impartial characterof the tribunal will be assured.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 and 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interest,
Means of communication,
Existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions.
State electoral boundaries; and subject thereto the quota of electorsshall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
.- According to the provisions of the existing law there should be a redistribution of seats. The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has told us that in New South Wales, out of twenty-eight electorates, seven, or one-fourth of the number, have a population which is more than one-fifth above the quota, while two have a population which is more than onefifth below the quota. I think the margin of one-fifth is too great.
– I think it is too small.
– It means that there may be practically a 50 per cent. difference between electorates with populations above the quota, and others with populations which fall below the quota. There are two electorates in South Australia where the population is more than one-fifth above the quota, and one electorate where it is more than a fifth below the quota. I have not looked at the statistics recently, but I believe that there are about 56 000 people in the Henty Division in Victoria. I. know that the population ofthe Kooyong Division is well above the quota. I understand, also, that the Bourke and Maribyrnong divisions are in the same position. On the other hand, there are some Victorian divisions in which the population is decreasing. When our soldiers return, the population will not increase in the country districts; any increase which there is will take place in urban districts. The InterState Commission is already inquiring into the scarcity of houses in the cities, and we see advertisements daily which have never found an appearance in metropolitan papers previously, offering premiums to people for the keys of empty houses. I am afraid that when our soldiers return there will be an increase in the city populations.
– What is the cause of it?
– I only wish that I knew it. This state of affairs is not peculiar to Australia. The concentration of the great masses of the people in urban areas is world wide. However, my point is that when a redistribution of seats is found to be . necessary it is mandatory on the Government to bring it about; but Ministers say, “We will shirk our obligations in that respect.”
– The honorable member assigns phrases to people that are never dreamt of.
– The Minister has said that it is not the intention of the Government to have a redistribution of seats.
– That is quite a different matter. When the honorable member says that we shirk a duty, he means that we have abandoned it.
– Whenthe quota is 50,000 the vote of an elector in a division with a population of 60,000, has only two-thirds of the value of the vote of a man in an electorate with a population of 40,000. The margin of one-fifthis too wide. There is no doubt about the wording of the Act. If one-fourth of the electorates in a State have populations more than one-fifth above or more than one-fifth below the quota there must be a redistribution of seats, and if the law is not carried out it is only so much waste of paper to re-enact the redistribution provisions in this measure.
– It is clause . 25 which deals with that matter.
– The margin should not be more than one-eighth. I remember the arguments which were put forward when it was claimed in this House that a redistribution should take place when one-fifth of the electorates of a State exceeded or fell below the margin of onefifth. It was pointed out that, as there were only five electorates in Tasmania or in Western Australia, a redistribution of seats would become necessary in the event of any one electorate exceeding or falling below the one-fifth margin. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has interjected that the variation in the New South Wales divisions is scandalous. That being the case, it is the duty of the Ministry which the honorable member supports, to bring about aredistribution. The honorable member for Wiramera (Mr. Sampson) has interjected that he regards the margin as too small. I suppose that he would like it to be one-half.
– No, but I think that it should be at least one-fourth.
– My desire is to see it reduced.
– The honorable member ought to let well alone.
– The electorate which I represent will not be affected except that a small piece of Kooyong or Batman might be added to it. The Ministry should not shirk their responsibilities in regard to a redistribution, and say that they are waiting until the soldiers return. The next general elections will be held upon the present distribution, and the disproportions will be even more exaggerated. In New. South Wales there are already seven electorates above and two below the margin of one-fifth. In South Australia there are two above and one below that margin, and in Western Australia there is one above and one below it.
– If there is no redistribution now, it will mean years before one can be brought about.
– It means that at least four and a half years must elapse before it could have effect upon the representation.
– Does the honorable member advocate an immediate redistribution?
– Yes. I hope that the Government will bring about a redistribution of seats, so that the vote of every person in the community will have an equal value. There is not much likelihood of any increase of population in the Balaclava, Fawkner, and Yarra divisions in this State.
– In those electorates the population rather tends to diminish.
– According to statistics, the birth rate is not diminishing in the Yarra electorate, but houses have been pulled down in order to make room for the extension of factories. In the course of time it may be necessary to extend the boundaries of the Yarra division. However, when we find sucha great disparity as the Minister has shown us existing in three States, it is the duty of the Government to proceed with a redistribution of seats,and not shirk their responsibility in that respect.
.- I move -
That the following paragraph be added after paragraph e: - “ (f) In the case of any division adjacent to Federal Territory the practicability of including such territory in the division.”
If the clause is amended as I desire, in making any proposed distribution of a State into divisions the Commissioners will give due consideration to
– Would it be constitutional ?
– The amendment would not clash with the Constitution, in asmuch as it merely provides that the Commissioners shall have power to consider the practicability of such a scheme. No doubt, if a scheme were formulated by the Commissioners, and. recommended to the Government for adoption, it would be placed before the people in the form of an amendment of the Constitution. Although the Federal Capital may not be fully established for some years, it is apparent that, in the near future, a large number of men will work and reside there. The Government have decided that large sums of money shall be expended in the erection of plant and machinery at the Capital, and within a comparatively short period there will probably be 4,000 or 5,000 men employed there; and they, with their wives and families, as well as the overseers and other officials,will make a very considerable population. In addition, many will be drawn thither by such an aggregation of workers, so that four or five years hence there may be residing in the Capital, and eligible to vote, something like 5,000 persons. Under existing conditions, however, they would not be able to exercise the franchise. “ No taxation without representation” is a well-known axiom, and the people in the Federal Capital who are compelled to pay Commonwealth taxation should be given the opportunity to exercise the franchise.
– What is the population of Canberra at present?
– I cannot say; but, speaking subject to correction, I believe there are 300 or 400 persons there. Then, again, in Papua, we have a considerable white population, which will ‘be largely increased if, as the experts say it ultimately will be, the exploration for oil is successful.
– In any case, there will be a big increase of population there.
– No doubt. The scarcity of other than white labour will make it more of a white man’s than a black man’s country, and the plantations will provide employment for many more white men. The Northern Territory has a larger white population than any other Territory under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, but the people there cannot exercise the franchise. They were allowed to vote on the referendums of 1916 and 1918, and surely provision should be made for them to vote for the election of representatives to this Par Iia-, ment. It should be laid down in this Bill that one of the matters to be considered by the Commissioners shall be the practicability of giving adults within the Federal Territory, as well as other Territories under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, the right to vote at all Commonwealth elections.
.- If there are no constitutional difficulties’ 1 in the way, the proposal made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) should receive the earnest consideration of the Government. I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn) to advise the Committee as to the constitutional aspect of the amendment. This Parliament is placed at -a great disadvantage, owing to the fact that the Federal Territories, which constitute the biggest developmental problems with which we have to deal, are not represented in it. The white populations of Papua and of the Northern Territory are so small as scarcely to warrant the election of a direct representative of each Territory, but on the principle that a man cannot represent’ the same number of people in an enormous and sparselysettled territory that he can in a congested community, we ought to consider how far we should go in the direction of giving special representation to the Northern Territory. I believe that for several years we have suffered seriously in not having any representation of that Territory in this Parliament. Direct representation is the only means by which we can hope to impress upon the Parliament the need for a wide developmental policy for it. I hope the Minister will be able so to amend the Bill as to give effect to some principle of responsible representation in respect of the enormous Territories under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Residents in the Federal Territory are also- at a great disadvantage, and, if possible, they should be included with the electors of an adjoining Federal division. So- far- as the Federal Territory is concerned, however, the want of direct representation does not affect us as a Parliament so seriously as does the nonrepresentation of1 the Northern Territory, for which we are directly responsible, and the development and population of which is essential to the integrity and safety of the Commonwealth.
. I do not wish to deprive the Minister (Mr. Glynn) of an opportunity to express his opinion on the amendment just moved, but am anxious that he should deal with its constitutional aspect after he has heard others who hold certain opinions with regard to it. During the debate upon the second reading of the Bill I expressed views similar to those just uttered by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), and I think the general feeling of the Committee is that we should honestly face the position created by the non-representation of residents of the Northern Territory in the National Parliament. There seems to be a general desire that something should be done to meet their just and reasonable requests and rights in this respect. The Minister is so well acquainted with the position and so sympathetically interested in the question, that I am sure he can help us to a satisfactory solution of this problem. I should be glad also if he would enlighten the Committee on the point raised by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) when we were dealing with an earlier clause. I refer to it here because one of the guiding factors for the Distribution Commissioners is that in the division of each State into electorates community or diversity of interest shall be, not the only, but the primary, consideration. We have arrived at a time when we should seriously consider whether those items specifically mentioned in this clause as the guiding factors for the Distribution Commissioners are really a proper basis for representation in the National Parliament. They are the persistence of past ideas and methods, whereas we are emerging, learning, and developing. Nothing would help us more quickly to rid politics of the narrow party divisions that every mem- ber to a great extent deplores,than a realization of the fact thatwe are here to represent special interests in which certain numbers of the people are directly concerned. Taking the Commonwealth Year-Book, No. 10, 1 have roughly separated into large groups the diversity of interests in the Commonwealth. If honorable members would recognise that we are here to represent the interests of the community and particularly those who are directly connected with them, they would realize how much easier it would be to govern the country and to give more reasonable consideration to the various interests in the Commonwealth if our basis of division were on a better model. For instance, there is the agricultural interest-
– The honorable member is now debating the whole clause. There is an amendment before the Chair, and the honorable member must therefore confine his remarks to it.
– Then I shall defer the further observations I have to make until this amendment has been disposed of.
– I wish to ask, Mr. Chairman, whether the amendment is in order? Can we refer to the Distribution Commissioners the question of the enfranchisement of the people in the Federal Territories in view of the fact that the determination of the question does not rest with them? It is for the Parliament alone to decide, quite apart from what the Commissioners may consider to be right or wrong, what shall be done in the matter.
– The representation of the Territories is provided for by section 122 of theConstitution and I do not think we could constitutionally add the population of a Territory to the population of a State. Section 24 of the Constitution provides that the representation of the States depends upon the population of the Commonwealth, and that the number to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the population of the State, as shown by the latest statistics, by the quota. Section 122 provides that “The Parliament may make laws for the government of any Territory surrendered by any State,” and “ may allow the representation of such Territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.” But that section is governed by an earlier section, which provides that the representation of each Statemust be in accordance with the population.
– Could not provision be made by special legislation?
– That could undoubtedly be done. In America, for instance, a member may be assigned to a Territory on its attaining a certain population, but such a representative has not the full rights of the House; they may speak, but cannot vote.
– The electorate would have to be the boundary of the Territory.
– That is so; and I do not think the amendment could be carried out as a matter of constitutional right. I have looked into the matter, and I find that on the 30th June last, in the Northern and Federal Territories, the population was about 7,362.
– The Minister is not now speaking to the point of order. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has asked my ruling whether the amendment of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is in order. The clause provides that the Commissioner shall give due consideration to certain principles which are laid down. The honorable member for Darling proposes to add another, “ and in the case of a division adjacent to Federal Territory the practicability of including that Territory in the division.” The amendment asks only for due consideration for this proposal,and for a report to be made. In my opinion, it in no way affects the matter whether the proposal is constitutional or otherwise, and, therefore, I rule that the amendment is in order.
.- I am very glad to hear that ruling from the Chair. I take it that even the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has no objection to his fellowAustralians having the vote?
– They cannot be given a vote in the way proposed.
– I take it that the honorable member has no objection to their having a vote; at any rate, I am sure that if he were on this side he would Ite the loudest in claiming the right for his fellow-Australians.
– I would not ask the Commissioners to decide that which they cannot decide.
– Nevertheless, I feel sure that the honorable member would not prevent his fellow-Australians from having the chance to vote if it were in his power to give them the vote. Wherever a Roman went he carried with him his rights of citizenship; but we in Australia have wronged our fellow-citizens, and declared that even if they are living under the Australian flag they shall be robbed of certain rights. We must remember that the Government endowed these very Australians with the right to vote on the question of conscription; and surely they could take one step further. A Constitution is built for the citizens, and not the citizens for the Constitution. For over a score of years, and even before Federation was accomplished, I have held that’ the State Constitutions and the Federal Constitution should be capable of amendment at any time the people desire it. That is a power under the Swiss Constitution; and I resent, and always shall resent, any attempt to deprive Australians of their full rights of citizenship. We call ourselves a Democracy ; but where is the Democracy when we deprive Australians of their citizen rights, although they are actually living in Australia? I believe that, as a matter of fact, the majority of the people in the Territory voted against the policy of the Labour party on the occasion of the referendum. It is not only the Northern Territory, however, but also the Federal Territory, that is disfranchised. It may be said that in this we are only following the example of Columbia, which has Washington for its capital; but if history be consulted, it is found that the people in that State were disfranchised because the negro population was in a majority, and corruption was rife. That information I have on the authority of Mr. Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who gave it as an explanation of the fact that he was not permitted tq vote in his own State. This, of course, destroys the argument that because the capital territory is disfranchised in the United States, therefore our Federal Territory should also be disfranchised. In my opinion, it is the height of absurdity to withhold the vote from the people in that part df Australia. Then, again,- in Papua the white Australians are robbed of their citizenship rights, although they could bc attached to a North Queensland constituency. I shall support the amendment, which aims only at extending that justice to which all Australians are entitled.
– I am opposed to this amendment, which is a mere pretence, and can have no effect. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) gets very heated about the rights of people; but this amendment would give no rights to any one; the Commissioners could not enfranchise residents in the Territories unless this Parliament acted under the Constitution. The Commissioners have no more power to do an unconstitutional thins; than we have; and this amendment is .a suggestion which, if acted upon, would vitiate the whole of their work. I am entirely in favour of the representa- tion of the Territories in this Parliament, and to that end we should take action as in America, and give those representatives the right to speak, but not to vote. With a population of about 7,000 in one of the Territories, we may take it that the electors there may, perhaps, number, 5,000; and it would be absurd to give a representative of 5,000 electors the power to nullify the vote of a representative of 30,000 electors. It would, however be an inestimable advantage to this Parliament to have Territorial representatives here to take part in discussions on Territorial matters. The amendment can be of no avail, and I was rather surprised at the ruling of the Chairman.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to he inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- If honorable members would be prepared to give sympathetic consideration to modern ideas, we might hope that our electoral system would evolve into something practicable and proper. I invite honorable members to consider the advantages that would accrue if our representation were based upon community of interest, which is specified first amongst the matters to be considered by the Distribution Commissioners. In the YearBook the Statistician divides the interests of the community under about eleven principal headings, namely, agricultural, pastoral, mining, forestry, manufacturing, shipping, commerce, transportation communication, postal, financial, and educational. If the community were divided into groups under those or other heads, we should have representation based upon a proper and definite scheme. Those groups are just taken casually from the summarized list in the Year-Book, and the distribution and allocation of representation to each group would, of course, have to be worked out in detail by the Commissioners. I do not suppose that it is possible to get this proposal accepted at this date, and my only desire in referring to the matter is that we shall get into our minds the idea that the present system of dividing the community into sections for electoral purposes does not accomplish true representation based on community of interest. There is no electorate in the Commonwealthwhich can be said to represent a community of interest. Every honorable member represents a very serious diversity of interest, because it is quite impossible to select any part of the country, give it a geographical limitation, and say that within that limitation there is community of interest, and that the whole of the people in that district are associated . principally in the one kind of activity. Why should not those interested in mining in a State be accepted as a group of interested people, and have allocated to them, as an industrial community, a certain proportion of the representation of that State? And so on with all the various other interests. If that were done, honorable members would come to this House to represent the direct interests of the community, and not merely a conglomeration of people with varied and often conflicting interests.
-Proportional representation would solve that trouble.
– It has not solved it in Tasmania.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- The statement has been frequently made during the debate on this Bill that a large number of people are disfranchised by the present system. It hasbeen contended that, as a result of the recent by-election for Swan, two-thirds of the electors in that constituency are practically disfranchised, because the successful candidate represents only one section of the community. But we must remember that, although we are elected by a certain section of the community, we are, after all, the representatives of our constituencies as a whole, and whilst it may not always be easy to get a community of interest amongst the various conflicting sections of the community in any one constituency, there are some honorable members who act so fairly and squarely in the interests of the people in their electorates as to be really representative of their constituencies.
– Would the honorable member give every interest the same amount of representation?
– Would the honorable member suggest that we should do as Sir William Irvine did in Victoria ?
Mr.FINLAYSON. - The honorable member refers to the fact that Sir William Irvine, when Premier of Victoria, gave separate representation to the Railway and Public Service. His scheme failed because it was only partial, and gave separate representation to only one section of the community that had a community of interest. If we had a general scheme to divide the whole community into sections, according to community of interest, we should remove many of our present difficulties. I invite honorable members to consider what would be the development in this Chamber if representation were based on the community of interest as I have suggested. Party elements would not then be. prominent. We should not have mere political platforms separating the two parties in the House, and Bills considered only from the aspect that one side accepted and the other rejected them. We should have members representing certain interests, and those interests would receive consideration from both sides of the House, and free from party influences.
Mr.Considine. - There would be no parties in the House under that system. .
– It might become necessary under those circumstances to alter the arrangement of the House, and I believe that if we were to adopt the system that is in vogue in the American State Parliaments, where members sit in a semi-circle before the presiding officer, and there is no division to indicate their ideas or party adherence, we should make a considerable step forward in the elimination of the party idea. Honorable members must not be alarmed at the thought that the introduction of a new principle would cause a considerable disruption of present methods. The very fact that the idea was new would involve an alteration of existing methods; but that is not an argument against the principle involved. If the principle is right, and if community of interest should be the determining factor in representation, as I claim it should, we would do well to consider the matter, and see whether it is not also practicable as well as right.
Mr.Jowett. - How would the honorable member give it effect?
Mr.FINLAYSON. - The only method I know of is to divide the community into its various interests, and to combine those naturally associated. If we secured recognition of mutual interest in each other, which would be one of the most important results to be achieved, we should have people voting, not because they were of one shade of politics or another, but because they desired thatthe best men obtainableshould represent the particular interests in which they were concerned.
– Why does not the honorable member act upon that principle now ? Why does he not begin now by adopting that principle in recording his votes in this House?
Mr.FINLAYSON. - Because I am sent here, not torepresent a particular interest, but to represent a particularclass of interests.
– The honorable member is sent here torepresent all interests in Brisbane.
– I try to do so.
– The honorable member is sent here to represent the Labour party.
– No, he is not.
– I am here by the votes of those who believe in the Labour party’s platform, but I may say that I have been so successful, in matters that do not conflict with my political principles, in representing those who are opposed to me politically that I have had commendations from them. How is it possible for a man who has earned his living as a miner to adequately and satisfactorily represent an agricultural community ? How is it possible for a farmer to satisfactorily represent a purely industrial community?
– The honorable member believes in the representation of interests as against the representation of localities.
– That is my idea in a nut-shell.
Mr.Rodgers. - The. honorable member must have a good deal of sympathy with the squatters at Broken Hill, seeing that they are represented by the present honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine).
– I think that the squatters of the community should be represented here by their own selected representative squatter.
– I do not think they should be represented here at all.
– The miners at Broken Hill should in the same way be represented by their own representative.
– What about the publicans ?
– They are as fully entitled to representation as are the temperance people.
– Does not the honorable member realize that his idea may be given effect under the existing system of representation ?
– No; because, to give effect to my idea it would be necessary first of all to secure an equitable distribution of the community into the various community interests.
– I must give the honorable member a little pamphlet to read.
– I should be glad to read anything which the honorable member writes, and to hear his view on this matter. The world is moving in the direction of electoral reform. I invite honorable members to consider that within a comparatively short period in the world’s history there are going to be some revolutionary changes in forms of political representation.
– There is the Bolshevik Constitution.
– That is an illustration of what I say. New ideas are being promulgated. They may appear to be revolutionary, but at the beginning every new idea is considered revolutionary. What is whispered to-day is openly preached to-morrow, and is next day adopted by the world at large. The idea I have ventured to suggest may appear to some honorable members to be novel, but in order to have a reform begun and advanced it is necessary only at first to have the idea expressed. It thereafter works like leaven in the minds of men, and there is a gradual evolution resulting in the adoption of the new method suggested.
Mr.Palmer. - Would the honorable member have all trades represented?
– Yes, every body in proportion to its share in the community interest.
– How many members would the Judges have?
– They should have the same right of representation as any one else. Obviously this is not the time to discuss details of such a reform, and I am merely enunciating a big general principle. That principle is accepted to some extent in the clause now under consideration, because it is provided that the first thing to be considered by the Distribution Commissioners is community or diversity of interest. We want representation based on community of interest, in order to secure the best possible consideration of all mattersaffecting the varied interests of Australia.
.- I have listened attentively to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and if I rightly apprehend his meaning he believes in some form of direct representation for special interests. I take it that the whole purpose of this Bill is to provide a means by which the community may secure effective representation in this House for particular interests. In my view, to formulate a scheme following the example of the representation of civil servants in Victoria would be to court disaster. I know men who carry on quite a number of different occupations during the year. I know one man who, at different times in the year, is a bookmaker, a share farmer, and a shearer. I believe that by our slavish adherence to what is called majority rule, in a numerical sense, we often land ourselves in ridiculous positions. When Federation was being promoted we often heard it said that a resident of New South Wales represented only the ninth part of a resident of Tasmania. In our efforts to bring about the necessary Federation of the Australian Colonies we were met with that littlemindedness which suggested that it was a monstrous injustice to permit Tasmania to enter the Federation on equal terms with New South Wales. We have the same principle recognised in regard to the quota which should, or should not, be permissible. The fundamental principle of representation is based on the right of the people to govern themselves. If there be anything in the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that men and women in the large city constituencies - and he referred to two or three or them - possess only two-thirds of the voting power of residents in country districts under the present distribution of divisions, it follows that political representation is not so seriously regarded by the people at large, because we find them everywhere crowding from the country, where, according to the Leader of the Opposition, they have more representation than they are entitled to into the congested centres where they will have less political power. The logical deduction from the honorable gentleman’s contention is that if we disfranchise the people altogether we should confer a very great benefit upon the community, since, in my view, it is of greater importance to secure the distribution of the population throughout the country than to secure the absolute control of the political machine by a particular set of individuals. I think that we have worshipped too long at the shrine of majority rule in .the merely numerical sense, and I hope that a saner principle will be adopted under which we may be enabled to enfranchise the people of the Northern Territory, the Federal Territory, and other possessions of Australia. I hope that we shall adopt some system under which the people of those Territories will be afforded direct representation in this House. Whilst we must cut up the States into equal divisions, when Ave set out with the purpose of dividing them into constituencies, it should be remembered that class and political interests and opinion in the numerical sense are proportionately the same in a small constituency as in a large one, and whether a constituency contains 5,000 or 50,000 electors. Apart from the unconstitutional method proposed by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), I hope that some means will be found to enfranchise the Federal Territories, and that the continual boggling with boundaries of divisions to determine what are the interests of country representation will be dropped. If seems to me that the position of a country representative is fast becoming untenable when every man and his wife is inclined to crowd into the cities, where, according to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) they become comparatively politically impotent. I trust that the provision fixing the quota at one-fifth will be left severely alone.
.- I am glad to find that the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has indorsed the contention I put forward earlier in the afternoon with regard to the representation of industrial interests. Honorable members opposite have attempted to confuse the matter by referring to certain legislation introduced by Sir William Irvine in Victoria. If the people of Australia saw fit to readjust their representative institutions on the basis of industrial representation, instead of geographical divisions, that would involve an alteration of the Constitution. I believe -that an alteration in the basis of our parliamentary representation is not only desirable, but is inevitable in this country. Under existing conditions, the people are not represented according to their community of interest. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) knows perfectly well that the establishment of such organizations as the Farmers Union and the Industrial Labour Party is not due to any lack of affinity with recognised political doctrines, but springs rather from fundamental differences in regard to the representation of the material interests of those concerned.
– Does the honorable member think that the initiative, referendum and recall would alter that?
– No ; but I believe that the initiative and referendum would provide machinery which could be utilized for the purpose of altering the basis of our parliamentary representation. The use of that machinery would enable the people of the Commonwealth to mould our Constitution so as to make it conform to their wishes. I favour that method of achieving the result at which I aim, namely, the abolition of the present form of political representation, which has outlived its usefulness. As the honorable member for Werriwa knows well enough, agricultural and industrial interests to-day ought not to be opposed to one another. It is the aim of the agricultural, as well as of the’ industrial, worker, to get rid of the common exploiter; and the only way in which this result can be attained without upheavals and bloodshed is by giving the people the requisite machinery to effect their purpose in a reasonable and sane fashion. If that course be adopted,’ it will simply o mean that a popular convention will meet and divide the electors into industrial constituencies. Then, instead of having geographical electoral divisions, we should have divisions in which the people will be grouped according to their community of interest.
– Then the honorable member does not agree with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), who says that geographical divisions are necessary.
– The only difference between the honorable member for Brisbane and myself is that the honorable member dealt merely with what he doubtless regards as the transition stage. Those who agree with rae that our present political system, does not conform to the economic development of to-day, believe in doing business instead of talking. This assembly is merely a talking-house.
– Why this speech?
– My speech is merely intended to express the ideas which are bound, sooner or later, to revolutionize the form of government in this country, and our system of administration. I am attempting to put my views before the general- body of the electors.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the remarks of the honorable member are relevant to the clause which we are now considering?
– The honorable member for Barrier is quite in order.
– I am glad that you, sir, refuse to assist in the stifling of views which are now so obnoxious to my late friends and allies. The Ministry have applied the guillotine to this Bill, which consists of some eighty pages, in order to insure its passing by 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon.
– - Because we wish to work, and not to talk.
– Because my honorable friends wish to get to work at Corangamite. That is the reason for I he application of the guillotine to this Bill. But if more attention were devoted to the basis of parliamentary representation in this country, there would not be any need for guillotining measures. Instead, we should be chiefly concerned with the development of our industries.
– I think that the honorable member is now getting rather wide of the clause. I must ask him to connect his remarks with it.
– I merely desire to point out that if the system which I have been advocating were in operation, there would be no necessity to consider measures of this character, and the time occupied in their discussion could be more profitably devoted to developing the industries of Australia. However, I have made my position pretty plain, and am content to leave it at that.
– I should have liked to follow the honorable member in his interesting address upon what might be achieved by a convention of the people elected for tho purpose of revising our Constitution”. But as that question is not relevant to tie clause which we are now considering, I shall be obliged to defer my remarks upon it until a more .opportune occasion. The difficulty connected with a debate of this character is that the attention of the Committee is continually distracted from the business in hand to the contemplation of things which we cannot accomplish, with the result that it is almost impossible to get back to the actual work we are supposed to be transacting. In this clause, it is proposed that we shall give certain directions to the Distribution Commissioners. Two of those directions are contained in paragraphs d and e. I think that paragraph e is a new proposal which has been inserted, presumably on the advice of the Commonwealth Electoral Office.
– It is not a new proposal, but merely a new wording of the existing law.
– In my judgment, neither of the directions contained in these paragraphs should be given to the Commissioners. I know that in New South Wales the existing electoral divisions, in a great many instances, are exceedingly bad divisions. They are not based upon community or diversity of interest, nor upon means of communication, nor upon physical features. It seems to me that if, in adjusting our electoral boundaries, the Commissioners are instructed to take into consideration the existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions, and also the State electoral boundaries, they will be hampered in their work to ah extent that is altogether inadvisable. They should merely be directed to distribute the States into electorates from the point of view of community of interest, means of communication, .and physical features. We should then get a more workable scheme. Why the existing boundaries of subdivisions should be taken into consideration I am quite unable to understand. Then, again, the State electoral boundaries are in some instances utterly beyond one’s comprehension. These* boundaries have been adjusted from time to time, not in the interests of the people, but in the interests of parliamentary candidates themselves. My own view is that the clause would be greatly improved if paragraphs d and e were omitted. Consequently I move -
That paragraph d be left out.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Report to be laid before Parliament).
– I am opposed to the procedure which requires that the report of the Commissioners must be submitted for the approval of Parliament. It is at that stage that political interference enters. The Commissioners should be supreme in regard to their own work. On the occasion of the last distribution, Parliament threw out the scheme of the Commissioners for purely personal and party reasons, in order to save the seats- of certain honorable members. The scheme was wrecked, and when the Commissioners submitted another report the whole of the circumstances reeked of .party politics. In New South Wales we got the worst form of distribution that we have ever had.
– It was good enough to send the honorable member here.
– My electorate is very much above the quota of electors. There are 46,000 on the roll for Illawarra. In the electorate which sent Mr. Bruce Smith to this House there are
B4,000 voters, while in the Barrier there are 28,000 electors. There are less than 30,000 in some other electorates in New South Wales. A vote in the electorate of Parkes is worth only half as much as one cast in the Barrier. Such positions as those have not arisen wholly through the growth of population in one electorate as against another. The scheme began with an uneven distribution. It would’ be much fairer to the electors if the report of the Distribution Commissioners did not come before Parliament at all.
.- I do not favour placing the Commissioners above Parliament. Parliament should be supreme. However, there may be some significance in the position as stated by the honorable member for Illawarra (Ifr. Lamond). This clause provides that the report shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within seven days of its receipt. If it were not so stipulated tha Minister concerned could withhold the report and .please himself what he did wi’th it. In the clause following that under discussion, it is indicated that if both Houses agree to a motion approving of the proposed distribution, the GovernorGeneral may declare the names and boundaries of the divisions. It is clear that the Commissioners must report to somebody in order to put into operation the machinery necessary to establish redistribution. The report should be laid before Parliament, and I would not like the Commissioners to possess supreme power. We may find that an electorate has been added, for example, to the metropolitan area. In Victoria we have had two electorates added to the metropolitan area in recent years, and four have been taken away from the country.
– It will be a city representation in Victoria soon.
– Parliament should have the control in any case. It is quite possible that the Commissioners may do something wrong, and unless Parliament had the greater power there would be no authority to review the actions of the Commissioners.
.- My own experience may be interesting to honorable members. In 1912, upon the occasion of the last redistribution of electorates, when the report of the Commissioners came before Parliament, I moved that the redistribution proposals, so far as Queensland was concerned, should be sent back.
– I think you just ordered that it should be sent hack.
– I did not; but I had to take that action, not because of any gerrymandering on the part of the Ministerial party of the day, but from my own party. I was successful in having the report sent back. But the actual position is that it does not matter, so far as the result is concerned, even though a report may be sent back. The Commissioners may still have their own way, by returning their report at such a time as to prevent opportunity for a fresh redistribution before an election takes place. That is what occurred in the instance which I am citing. The leader of the party at that time, Mr. Andrew Fisher, was one of those remarkable creations, a soft-hearted Scotchman. Not only was there dissatisfaction with respect to my own electorate, but in Wide Bay also there was some trouble. I was advised to move for the return of the report once more to the Commissioners; and I may inform honorable members that I had the numbers - if not here, then, in another place.
In the instructions governing the actions of the Commissioners, it was specified that regard should be had to physical features, to means of communication, and to community of interest generally. All that, however, was absolutely ignored by the Commissioners. To indicate how little notice had been taken of the means of communications, I point out that from Cairns a railway runs up to Herberton, which was then the terminus. On that line is a place named Mareeba, and another named Atherton. All three towns are on the same line and have the same means of communication with Cairns. But it was a remarkable fact that the Commissioners placed
Mareeba in the electorate of Kennedy, leaving Atherton in Herbert, and placing Herberton also in Kennedy. Herberton and Mareeba . were mining centres, and Atherton an agricultural neighbourhood. It may well be understood, therefore, that this re-arrangement might have been calculated to put an end to me politically. The objection which I took was that there were no physical features to account for such a redistribution, nor had means of communication been considered. The report of the Commissioners, therefore, was rejected. It came before Parliament again later, in almost identically its original state. I once more moved for its return to the Commissioners. It has been remarked during the course of the present debate that the State Surveyor-General should be one of the Commissioners in each State. The ex-Chief Surveyor in Queensland was the dividing Commissioner, and he was assisted by itwo other gentlemen. A deputation from the Trades Hall waited upon those Commissioners, and asked them to leave the redistribution project as they had originally fixed it. The effect of that, it was hoped, would be to exclude me altogether. It was that deputation that did the engineering. That is where the gerrymandering came in. The purpose in doing this need not be entered upon.
Upon the second return of the report to Parliament, I was counselled to move that it be sent back again; and I would have taken action in that direction but for the opposition of the leader of our party, Mr. Eisher. Had it been returned to the Commissioners for further consideration, no alteration could have been made before the elections, which were imminent, and Queensland would have still had nine members instead of ten, to which that State was then entitled. At the desire of the leader of my party, therefore, I refrained from following the matter up further. But it is obvious that if any gerrymandering occurs, the whole business can be so managed that the party against whom it is aimed may be so caught thatthey must simply put up with the consequences.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 (Proclamation of Divisions).
.- I direct the attention of the Minister (Mr. Glynn) to what seems a peculiarity, namely, that, following this clause, there appears to be a dead end. It provides that the “Distribution Commissioners shall thereupon reconsider the matter, and forthwith propose a fresh distribution.” But no provision is made thereafter that that redistribution shall be presented in the form of a report, or otherwise, and approved of by Parliament. There is nothing in the whole measure to say that the reconsideration by the Commissioners must come before Parliament in the second instance. Is it to be absolutely final? Is the second consideration by the Commissioners to end the matter? I cannot see any provision for the report to be returned to the Minister or presented to Parliament.
In 1912, when a redistribution occurred, the report of the Commissioners in the second instance camebefore Parliament for approval ; but there is nothing in our legislation, I think, which compels such procedure. I do not know whether it is an omission, or whether the position is accepted, and that there is no need to provide otherwise.
– Parliament may agree to a motion approving of the report of the Commissioners. That principle is quite right. If no action is taken by the Minister, or by the Government as a whole, the matter may “ hang fire ‘ ‘ ; but Parliament may agree to a motion approving of the report of the Commissioners.
– Does the Minister mean that the Government, if they are not in favour of the report, can hang the whole matter up and do nothing with it ?
– As to that, the House may take charge, by way of a motion proposed by a private member. I mentioned the Ministry, because under modern conditions the Ministry is in control at the time, so far as the tabling of motions is concerned. The matter has been considered, but it was thought, on the whole,’ better to leave it, as it had been, for Parliament to sanction what had been done. If Parliament approves of the redistribution, it is adopted. If it disapproves of it, it is sent back for reconsideration, and then has to be brought on again for the consideration of Parliament.
– And if Parliament again disapproves ?
– Then we are responsible to the electors. Many things can occur that depend on the discretion of Parliament. We may hang up the whole of the appropriation if we like, but our responsibility for doing so is to the electors. If we choose to hang up the redistribution scheme we shall have to account for it to them when the” time comes.
.- The Minister’s explanation leaves us in a worse position than before. There is no compulsion in the clause for the scheme to be again submitted to Parliament if it is once referred back to the Commissioners by Parliament.
– Sub-clause 3 of clause 24 makes provision.
– Am I correct in assuming that if the Commissioners do not alter their minds the redistribution automatically comes into operation without being referred to Parliament again?
– No, it has to be referred to Parliament again.
– Then the process may go on interminably. The Minister informed us that the Ministry of the day could simply shelve the scheme if it was not acceptable to the majority of the party behind them. In that case no redistribution would take place, even though the country might be crying out for it. The Minister added that it was only a matter of leaving the electors to deal with members. If the scheme is not acceptable to the majority, the Government can refuse to adopt it. It may be a just scheme, but by virtue of their accidental majority at the moment the Government may shelve it, and the minority will have to fight the election on the basis most favorable to the party in power. That objectionable state of affairs should not be perpetuated. A definite clause should be inserted to provide that after the scheme has been referred back to the Commissioners, if the objections to it have not sufficient weight to alter the mind of the Commission, their decision shall come into operation automatically. I should like to move for the postponement of the clause.
– I have looked into the question very carefully. Something was said by the Electoral Commission on the subject so that I gave it more than usual consideration.
– What does the Minister propose to do if a deadlock occurs between Parliament and the Commissioners?
– I have already told the honorable member that it is for the electors to say that Parliament is not doing its work. Some suggestions made by Redistribution Commissioners could not be adoptedby Parliament. The one made in Victoria was immediately adopted. The Chief Electoral Officer was on the Commission.
– A loophole is left in the Act for any accidental majority in Parliament to hang up an urgently necessary redistribution simply because it is against the interests of their party. In order to give the Minister an opportunity to reconsider the position, I move -
That the clause be postponed.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has supposed a case, a good deal of which has already occurred. Those who were in the House when the last redistribution took place know that it is very largely a question of party.
– Absolutely a question of party.
– Perhaps I could have put it more strongly than I did. The Minister says the electors outside will deal with Parliament if the redistribution scheme is hung up. The electors in a New South Wales or Victorian constituency will not bother their heads at election time over a dispute about boundaries in Queensland or Western Australia. It is absurd to say that the electors would take any interest in the boundaries in another State. There is only one way to meet the objection raised by the honorable member for Barrier. I tried to get it in when we were discussing the matter before.
– The question before the Chair is the postponement of the clause.
-It should be postponed, because the Committee should consider the Minister’s remarks. It is not compulsory on the Ministry to bring tbe proposed divisions before Parliament if they disapprove of them. There is nothing in the Bill making it compulsory to refer the scheme to Parliament.
– Yes. Clause 23 provides for that.
-It would be fairer and, I think, better if the whole business were left to the Commissioners. I hope the Minister will reconsider the matter, because those who were here when a redistribution scheme was last before the House must realize how unsatisfactory the position may be.
– I can assure honorable members that this clause has received very careful consideration. In fact, it is one of the reserve clauses which I submitted to my colleagues for an expression of opinion. I cannot see what else we can do unless we leave the matter absolutely to the Commissioners, and that, I think, would be a dangerous course to adopt. Parliament should have power to check what may be done by the Commissioners, otherwise I am afraid we will be landed in the opposite position to that which we are seeking to get into. On the last occasion, what was regarded as an extraordinary blunder was made in redistribution, and therefore I think Parliament ought to have the power to determine these matters. If we do anything that is unfair the electors have an effective check. This is the reason why the clause, after a good deal of consideration, has been left in its present form, and under the circumstances I ask honorable members not to postpone consideration of it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 33 agreed to.
Upon the receipt by the registrar of a new roll for a subdivision, the registrar shall -
.- I should like to know from the Minister whether it would be possible to insert in this clause a provision preventing names from being removed from the roll after the issue of the writ. I want to safeguard the position of electors, and I maintain that no name should be removed from the roll for any division unless the elector concerned has the right to have his name placed upon the roll for another division. The writ for the Corangamite by-election will be issued next week, and, under the law as it stands, no person can be enrolled for that division after the issue of the writ, so far as voting at the coming byelection is concerned.
– That provision applies, more to a general election than a byelection.
– I admit that; but it will apply to this by-election. Eor instance, a person who has been living in Colac may, a little while ago, have shifted to Warrnambool, or further along the line, out of the Colac subdivision, and his name may be struck off the roll for the Colac subdivision. People are very careless in this matter of transferring, and I think that they are asbad in my division as anywhere else.
– Your contention would be equitable if applied to a general election, or to those who, while resident in a subdivision, removed to another subdivision; but if voters went out of a division it would be inequitable if applied to a by-election.
– I maintain that the names of electors should not be taken off a roll unless they have a right to be placed upon another roll.
– They are not removed unless an objection is lodged before the writ is issued.
– The writ for the Corangamite by-election will be issued next week, and if an objection to an elector’s name being on the roll be lodged tomorrow, the person concerned would receive a notice of objection, and be struck off.
– It is provided in clause 57 that no names shall be struck off the roll after the issue of the writ, except in special cases mentioned in clause 47, which is rather a technical clause.
– We should be very careful about removing names from the roll. We have provided for compulsory enrolment, and I think the natural corollary is compulsory voting, though I am not sure that even to-day people pay much attention to the compulsory enrolment provisions of the Electoral Act. Immediately after the police have completed the collection of names, the State roll is better than ours. But six months afterwards the position is reversed. All that the Commonwealth Electoral Department does is to strike people off, not put them on, as we rely upon the electors to make application for enrolment. The Department, in the metropolitan area, acts on advice received from letter-carriers, who have what is called an address book, containing the names of all persons on their rounds, and I think they are paid1d. or1½d. for each name struck off.
– Not for striking them off.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– My complaint is - and no doubt every member who has had much to do with elections has the same complaint to make - that the rolls are always out of date. The latest roll obtainable now in any electorate was compiled at least eighteen months ago. In many cases the alterations amount to 60 per cent. , per annum, making the roll practically useless.
– Does not the card system meet the case?
– No. My electorate is one of the smallest in the Common wealth. The Divisional Returning Officer, who is registrar for the various subdivisions of the division, keeps all the rolls in his office and the full set of cards, but there is a continual migration of the population. Persons move from place to place, many of the moves being within a subdivision, and thus the rolls become incorrect.
– How could they be kept up to date?
– Only by constantly reprinting them, and the price of paper is so high that I am reluctant to suggest that. The only place in a metropolitan electorate in which an up-to-date roll can be inspected is the office of the Divisional Returning Officer, where the printed lists are kept with the manuscript alterations. Many persons on going to the poll have found that their names have been struck off the roll, although they have had no notification of the intention to strike them off. I ask the Minister to consider whether anything can be done to keep the rolls more up to date. I have been assured by the Chief Electoral Officer that no name is struck off a roll after the issue of the writ. That is quite right. A name should not be struck off during a period in which re-enrolment is impossible.
– I have told the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), and my statement has been confirmed by the Chief Electoral Officer, that it is provided in clause 57 that names shall not be removed from the rolls after the issue of a writ. If, however, a claim for transfer is received before the issue of the writ, and the transfer is made, the Divisional Returning Officer can remove the name from the roll for the subdivision from which the elector has transferred. As to the complaint that the rolls are not up to date, I think it is generally recognised that they are more up to date than any others,
– I think that, but there is only one place in an electorate at which you can ascertain who is on the roll.
– The rolls can be seen at the office of the Divisional Returning Officer or that of any registrar.
-In my electorate the offices of the registrars are 120 and 200 miles apart.
– That does not affect my statement that the rolls are kept up to date. In 1903 the enrolment was 1,893,586, and in 1917, 2,835,327, it having increased at a Tate greater than that at which the population increased between the years mentioned. There is a continuous enrolment of electors. The postal officials and the police record changes of residence, and notify them from time to time to the electoral offices. What is called a habitation index is kept. The Tolls are not being continually reprinted, because that would mean an immense expense, but a supplementary roll is kept. I do not think that the rolls couldbe kept more up to date.
– The supplementary roll contains the names of those who have moved into a district, but is a roll issued giving the names of those who have gone away from a district?
– The regulations provide that every change must be marked on the roll. Under this Bill, if a mistake is made in striking off a name, and it is only discovered when the elector gets to the poll, he is permitted to vote contingently. All that is possible is done to keep the rolls up to date, and to prevent electors from being deprived of the opportunity to vote.
– As enrolment is the basis of the electoral structure, would it not be possible to provide that no elector’s name shall be put on a roll until it has been taken from another roll ; that re-enrolment and derolment shall operate simultaneously ?
– The Queensland system is that a name must not be struck off a roll until it has been put on another roll; but the result of that has been on occasion that there have been more names on the roll than adults in the State. If the names of those who move out of a subdivision are not struck off the roll, the record cannot be kept up to date. Over 1,000,000 changes take place in a year. Persons who live in lodging houses are frequently changing.
.- The Minister would have us believe that the electoral machinery is perfect, yet in Queensland it has happened that persons have been told by public advertisement that they could ascertain from the rolls displayed at the various polling places whether they were enrolled, and yet some of those whose names wereon the rolls so displayed found, when they went to the poll, that their names had been struck off. When complaint was made, the reply was that a notification had been sent to the elector, to which no response had been made. At Charleville, persons who had lived long in the same place, and, in some instances, persons who had never moved from the house in which they were born, had their names struck off the roll.
– Twenty-one days’ notice is given of the intention to strike off a name.
– The population of the western districts of Queensland is largely nomadic. Many men move from station to station to get work; not a matter of a city block, but a matter very often of hundreds of miles.
– But these men live somewhere. Where are their wives and families ?
– These men cannot make a home.
– How did the honorable member manage to do so?
– Because I squatted down. I was not always seeking “fresh woods and pastures new.” Until New Zealand passed a law under which every person of British parentage who had resided in the Dominion for more than six months could be conscripted, there was a regular stream of butchers and shearers passing between that country and Australia, according to the season. Most of these men were born in Australia, and made this country their home, thoughmanyof them had not a home in the sense in which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) would use the word. According to him, a man who has to “ waltz Matilda “ from State to State has no right to vote.
– Men can get plenty of work in my electorate.
– Thank God, this is a free country, where, if a man does not care to work for one boss, he can get another. As a result of conversations with Mr. Oldham, I think that the- difficulty about striking names off the roll has been overcome. Electors are asked to see that their names are on the rolls; but an elector may go to a post-office, where the roll for his subdivision is displayed, and see that his name appears upon it, yet when he goes to a polling booth he may be shown another roll, which is the official roll, with his name erased in red ink.
– If a man. is wandering all over the place how can a notice be sent to him?
– When I am travelling through my electorate, I take a roll with me, and if I find that a man’s name is not on it, I produce a card for the man to fill in so that he may be enrolled. The Minister (Mr. Glynn) will insert a provision in the Bill to permit a Returning Officer to allow an elector to vote if he is satisfied that a name has been struck off the roll by mistake; but I ask him to have these misleading rolls removed from post-offices. It is better not to have them displayed than to have people coming to the polling booths and finding that their names, which appear on the displayed rolls, have been struck off the official rolls.
.- The question of making additions to electoral rolls is very important, and it seems to me a very great pity that there is no cooperative scheme between the States and the Commonwealth by which the work could be done more effectively. It is remarkable how our Divisional Electoral Officers keep the rolls as clean as they do, seeing that the only power they have is that of instituting prosecutions - with which I do not agree - and that they are not even allowed travelling expenses when engaged upon that Work. It is almost impossible for the average man who is moving about the country to know exactly the electoral subdivision in which he may be located for the time being, and it seems to me that the Commonwealth Electoral Office is doing a considerable amount of duplication work which might be avoided under a more efficient system. I do not know whether strained re lations exist between the . State Governments and the Federal Government, but in some cases the police are not permitted to supply information to the Federal electoral authorities, which is a scandalous state of affairs in a democratic country like this. Furthermore, the electoral officers in their efforts to cleanse the rolls and keep them perfect, do not receive that support from the people which they ought to get. For instance, some people deliberately attempt to duplicate their votes. A few years ago a man- told me that he never travelled into a new electorate without getting his name on the roll for that division under a fr-3:-h name, because, as he said, “ One never knew when he might want it.” Another gentleman wrote to me immediately after my first election to this effect -
Lynch, I walked 20 miles to vote for you on polling day, and I will walk 40 miles to put you out on the next occasion. I got my feet blistered in that walk, and when I came to a polling booth I found my name was not on the roll, and I was immediately summoned and fined 40s. I have now discovered that it was the rotten party you belong to that put that law on the statute-book.
– And so you changed your party.
– No; I have not changed my party or my principles. As a free. born Australian I say that unless we have sufficient manliness! and sufficient regard for and interest in the welfare of our country to register as .voters,’ and to vote without compulsion, the average amount of intelligence that is supposed to be expressed at the ballot-box does not lose much by our absenting ourselves on polling day. True freedom and Democracy can only be advanced in an evolutionary way by the people talcing the responsibility for their existence, morally, politically, materially, or in every other way.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has shown the difficulty and the unfortunate circumstances attending the matter of enrolment in Australia, but it seems to me that the only principle which has guided our legislation has been the study of the interests of a nomadic population who have no homes; who do not want any homes; and who will never have them. That is the view of the honorable member for Maranoa.
– There would be no Hindmarsh if those men were not working out in the country. They are the backbone of the Commonwealth.
– I do not think they are. The conditions of .the nomadic population of Australia differ vastly from those of the tramp class of the older countries of the world. Any one in Australia who wants to make a home can do so, and if a man wants to roam about like a vagabond all over the earth, he does it because he likes that mode of life.
– There is many a good man, not a vagabond, roaming the earth.
– There are many good men, not vagabonds, who have to wander about for two or three, or possibly four or five years, but they do not keep it up any longer than they can help if they are of any use to the country. Let us look at the other side of the matter. Under our electoral law, where a’ man lives is the place where he must vote.
– I wonder* what the honorable member was doing before he came into Parliament?
– Let the honorable member for Dalley look after the Sydney Trades Hall. I do not want to waste the time of the Committee. I want to bring something of importance under the notice of honorable members.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
– We do not propose to allow the honorable member to insult us.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order in defying the Chair, and I ask him not to repeat his offence.
– The basis of the electoral enrolment in the Old Country and in the United States of America is “residence.” What does “residence” mean? I would not bother the Committee to-night if it were not that I am anxious to have the law amended to meet the case of those respectable people who have been prosecuted and fined because their names are not on the electoral rolls for the division in which they happen to be working for four or five days in the week, but in which they do not reside. It is not in the interests of the nomads that I am occupying the time of the Committee.
– They will not come to the honorable member for a character.
– I ask honorable members to cease these personalities.
– Then why does the honorable member for Hindmarsh attack other people ?
– He insults members on this side every time he rises to speak. It is about time he was prevented from doing so.
– You do not worry -roe.
– I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to address the Chair.
– It is time that he stopped insulting everybody.
– Order !
– We have stood too much of it already.
– I shall give the honorable member for Dalley one more opportunity. If he continues to defy the call of the Chair, I shall be obliged to name him.
– The recognised principle in electoral enrolment all over the civilized world is a voter’s place of residence. What is the ordinary acceptance of the term “ residence “ ? It is the place where a man lives with his wife and family, the place where a young man or a young woman resides with his or her parents, or the place where others who have ‘not family ties reside. It seems to me that the use of the word “ live “ in the Commonwealth electoral law was a deliberate attempt to create confusion. In the past, this Parliament never approached the basic electoral principle that a voter’s “ residence “ is his title to be enrolled, for this one reason : the great nomadic vote has always been uppermost in the minds of our legislators.
– The honorable member did not say that when he wanted those people to fight his battles for him.
– I am talking, about the definition that should be included in our electoral law; a matter that has nothing to do with going to the war. What does the dictionary say about the word “ live “ ? Honorable members will find that it applies to existence as a human being, and has no reference to “ residence.” In my opinion, the word “ live “ has been deliberately used in our electoral law with the full knowledge of its meaning. I have had an experience of the result of the working of the law as it now stands. An elector of Hindmarsh, who lived with her parents in the Hindmarsh division, was engaged in teaching for four or five days in the week in another electorate, yet the electoral authorities declared that she must vote where she worked for those four or five days in the week. The decisions of Courts in. Great Britain and in America as to the meaning of “ residence “ as applied to electoral matters are very clear. What has to be kept in mind all the timeis what lies behind, and is contained in the word “home,” and all that it means to the individual. It is where men or women have their homes that their votes should bo recorded. If, through exigencies of circumstances, people are compelled to move from place to place in order to earn a living, it is their business to see that they are on the rolls when they change from one division to another; but, if a man’s wife and family are left in a particular spot which he can regard as his home, that is where he should be enrolled and be entitled to vote. He should not be compelled to vote simply where he lives. We shall have no satisfaction in regard to our electoral law until we lay down the clear and definite basis for electoral enrolment. As long as the alteration from “ live “ to “ residence “ is not effected, there will be endless confusion and continuous complaints about persons not being on the rolls. Persons have been prosecuted before being permitted to enroll in the districts where their residences are situated. It is our duty to guard the interests of the settled portion of our population as well as to turn our attention to those less fortunate individuals who are compelled to earn a livelihood by roaming about the country.
.- I should not be worth my salt, and should be quite unfit to occupy a seat in this Chamber if I did not promptly resent the statements made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) about the men of Western Queensland who travelfromstation to station, hawkingth eir labour. Coming as they do from one of the members of the Win-the-war party, such statements must recoil with twofold force upon his head. I ask honorable members what type of man is the Australianbushman? I say without hesitation that he is one of the noblest and best men on the face of God’ earth. He has proved his manhood on the battlefields of Egypt,France, and Palestine, and for the honorable member to come here and call such men “ vagabonds “ is beyond endurance. I hurl the lie back in his teeth. There are no vagabonds in Western Queensland. They are the manliest men into whom God Almighty ever breathed the breath of life. As far as the honorable member is concerned, they care very little what he may say about them. But the honorable member would deprive them of the rights of citizenship.
– No, no!
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has misrepresented me.
– That is not a point of order. Sit down!
– The honorable member cannot intervene at this stage. His proper course is to make a personal explanation later on.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh would deprive these men of the right to vote because they have no fixed place of abode, and because they have no wivesandno families. But when the call came for volunteers to fight the battles of the Empire where did they come from ? They came from the back-blocks of Australia. There are no narrowchested individuals out there. Why, in some parts of my own electorate 95 per cent., of the eligibleyoung men, aye, and of the old men, too, volunteered to take up arms, not for Australia, but for the Empire. Yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said that he would not give these men citizenship rights because they have no fixed place of abode, no wives, and no families. He even went so far as to describe them as “vagabonds.” He will see how his statements read in Hansard to-morrow. As I have already said, I would not be worth my salt if I did not defend these men whom he has so grossly libelled. Honorable members opposite who represent country constituencies know what a libel he has put upon one of the noblest class of men in the Commonwealth. How many times have we received cablegrams from Egypt and Palestine regarding what the Australian bushmen have done! Even if they do lead a nomadic life the very least we can do is to give them the same citizenship rights as are enjoyed by persons who are resident in our closely populated centres.
– Whose fault is it that they lead a nomadic life?
– It is the fault of the sys-. tern. But their nomadic life has ceased to a great extent, owing to the better conditions which prevail in the western portion of Australia, and particularly of Queensland. Mr. Squatter now has to take these men to their work and to bring them back either to a populous centre or to a railway terminus, in a motor car. Thus they are not obliged, as they were formerly, to hawk their labour from place to place and from camp to camp. I thank the honorable member for Hindmarsh for having opened his flood-gates of oratory on these good people who hail from Western Queensland. They are the men and women who have pioneered this country, and have sent me here to defend them against such gentlemen as he. They have sent me here to defend them from such slanders as those whichhave been uttered by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. These men are not “vagabonds,” and nobody knows that better than you do, sir. The people living in the country are the back-bone, andthe blood and sinew, of this great Continent.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to say that never in my life have I stated that I object to a portion of our population being nomadic.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 38 agreed to.
Clause 39 -
Subject to the disqualification set out in this Part, all persons not under twenty-one years of age whether male or female married or unmarried -
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted in sub-clause 1 : -
every member of the Forces, according to the definition of such in the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act 1917.
Honorable members will readily perceive that the purpose of my amendment is to give to every member of the Australian Imperial Force the right to vote. Under our Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act of last year - “ Member of the Forces “ means a person who is or has been a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces enlisted or appointed for active service outside Australia’ or on a ship of war, and a person engaged as a munition or other worker under agreement with the Commonwealth Government for service outside Australia, and includes a person who is or has been a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service who is accepted or appointed by the Director-General of Medical Services for service outside Australia.
When that measure was under consideration, I moved an amendment which would have permitted every member of the Forces, without any qualification whatever, to exercise the franchise. The Government, however, refused to accept my proposal, and subjected it to the qualification that every member of the Forces not under the age of twenty-one years should have the right to vote. That is why I have inserted in the amendment which I am now submitting the words “ every member of the Forces.” I desire to insure that, irrespective of. age, any male or female accepted for service under the definition which I have quoted, shall, ipso facto, be entitled to vote. I believe that such a provision should form a permanent part of our electoral system. But, after all, it can be effective for only a very limited period, by reason of the fact that, in a few years, every member of the Forces, male or female, will be entitled, under the age qualification, to be permanently enrolled. However, I have in mind the circumstance that a large number of the men and women who are now rendering such splendid service on the other side of the world will not be afforded an opportunity of getting their names placed upon our Commonwealth electoral rolls. We are all rejoicing in the hope that the end of this terrible war is not far distant; but we have to recollect that, even when the struggle has ended, some time must elapse before these men and women can return to Australia. My amendment seeks to provide that, no matter in what position they may be placed, either in or outside of Australia, their names shall automatically be inserted upon the rolls because of the splendid service which they have rendered to this country. To me it seems but a very feeble recognition of that service. We talk glibly enough of the magnificent deeds of our boys at the Front, and of the splendid work of our girls there. But we need to put our eulogy into practical effect. Surely if there be any corollary to national service it is that of national privilege. As these people have rendered the greatest national service that it is possible for them to render, it seems to me only logical that we should endow them with the privileges of national citizenship which are enjoyed by other people in the Commonwealth. We make it easy for people to get their names upon the roll. An age qualification is sufficient for this purpose. We do not make their enrolment contingent upon intellectual or social qualifications. We merely provide an age qualification. Now I say that the qualification possessed by members of the Forces is superior to that which is possessed by any other class of citizens. I know of no proposal that will more powerfully appeal to the people of the Com monwealth than that the members of our Forces, all and sundry, and irrespective of age, shall, by virtue of the services which they have rendered to Australia, be given the privileges of citizenship. Nothing could be more discouraging to a member of the Forces - soldier, sailor, nurse, or munition worker - than to find, when polling day arrives, that he or she is not entitled to vote. One is repeatedly disappointed on election clay to discover that some persons, who have resided for years in an electorate, have been disfranchised.
– They can vote if theyare twenty-one years of age.
– The honorable member is missing my point. Upon every election day cases are discovered of persons who, for a life-time, have possessed all the qualifications to vote - persons who have, perhaps, resided continuously in one house for forty years - being deprived, either by accident or design, of the right to vote. I ask honorable members to consider the position of a soldier or sailor, or some munition or other war worker, who has given service at the Front, coming to record his vote, and being refused the opportunity.
– Every one has theright if of the age of twenty-one.
– My claim is that it ought to be the right of every member of the Forces.
– Boys of sixteen and seventeen?
– That throws me back on my old argument that if these boys of sixteen orseventeen are permitted to take on citizenship responsibilities the least return that we can make to them is to give them citizenship rights.
Mr.Sampson. - Should that not also apply to those who have offered their services and have been turned down for physical disabilities ?
– Most of those are persons over twenty-one years of age.
– Oh, no!
– - Such persons have not made any sacrifices. However, if honorable members opposite are willing to make that a qualification for enrolment, I shall support it; indeed, I go so far as to say that every person of eighteen years of age should have the right of enrolment.
– You are not asking for that.
– I am not asking for that, but every extension suggested will have my hearty support. It seems to me inconceivable that the Government should refuse this amendment. I cannot believe that honorable members opposite would care to deprive any member of the Forces of this privilege, no matter what his other disabilities may be, so long as he has been enrolled in the Forces.
.- During the second-reading debate’ I urged that it was the duty of the Government to give every one who has seen active service the full franchise, no matter what his age may be. I was afraid, however, that in a Bill of this sort the Constitution would not permit us to give the franchise to any one under the age of twenty-one, otherwise I should have taken action without waiting for this amendment. According to the Age of yesterday, some of the boys in the Repatriation Department, who are supposed to be returned soldiers suffering from shell shock, have not been beyond Brisbane; and such as these ought not to be given the privilege of the franchise. As I have indicated, every one who has been away and has seen active service, even if only seventeen years of age, ought to have the franchise; but I do not wish the waster, under any circumstances, to get the vote. There are men who have left Australia, and have even got as far as England, but who have returned without having been near the Front; and I would confine this extension of the franchise to those who have seen active service. If this privilege is extended to our young soldiers, it would be something for them to be proud of in the future, and J strongly support the amendment. I have not seen the Wartime Elections Act recently, and it is quite possible, of course, that some slight alterations may be needed in that measure. As a matter of fact, I would give two votes to the man who has seen active service ; and it give3 me great pleasure to find a proposal of this sort coming from the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson). I only wish that the honorable member had shown the same kind of spirit in relation to other questions of public importance.
.- I am heartily in accord with the amendment, and I believe it to be absolutely constitutional. During the last election the men at the Front were given the vote irrespective of age.
– No, they were not.
– Soldiers of eighteen voted for the referendum. My own boy did, so that I know ; he was not nineteen.
– A few months ago, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) and myself spoke most emphatically on this subject; and I now ask the Minister whether he is prepared to accept the amendment?
– I had this question on the list for the Cabinet when the Bill was under consideration. As I have already said, when this Bill is through, we may have to amend the War-time Electoral Act in consequence of the adoption of preferential voting. The provisions regarding the men at the Front are in that Act, and, as the question of age was discussed when the measure was before us. I should prefer whatever amendments are necessary to be made in that Act. The measure before us is a permanent one, while the other will automatically cease to operate six months after the war. The question has been raised whether the amendment should not be modified so as to prevent those who have not been in the fighting line from voting, but I cannot see how that can be done. I think that any amendments of the kind desired ought to be made in the War-time Electoral Act; but if honorable members think that the alteration should be made now, I have no objection. At the same time, I should like to look into the matter a little more closely. I shall accept the principle of the amendment, hut it may be necessary to make further amendments in consequence.
– Will you postpone the clause ?
– I do not think that is necessary. Under the circumstances, I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 -
Penalty: For a first offence, Ten shillings; and for any subsequent offence, Two pounds.
Clause verbally amended.
.- This clause has to do with compulsory enrolment, and it seems a proper place in the Bill to provide that there shall be compulsory voting. This question has been frequently discussed, and need not be elaborated now. It seems to me that we are in a peculiar position in having provided for compulsory enrolment without imposing on the elector the obligation of recording his vote at the ballot-box. At present, the obligation to bring indifferent people to the poll rests on a few public-spirited and active persons in each constituency. There are those who will not go to the polling booth unless they are carried, preferably in a motor car; indeed, sometimes electors declare that unless some one calls for them they will not vote. Why should the obligation rest on a few earnest people to compel indifferent electors who are constantly neglecting their public obligations? If every person is to have equal electoral rights, the obligation ought to be on him to record his vote, and no one should be conveyed to the poll unless he is physically unfit to go otherwise. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted: -
It shall be obligatory on the part of every person enrolled as an elector under the provision of this Act to vote at any election for the division for which such elector is enrolled unless debarred from voting through, circumstances beyond his control, which must be reported to the Divisional Returning Officer, and be satisfactory to the Chief ElectoralOfficer.
Penalty: For a first offence, 10s.; for every subsequent offence, £2
– The proportion of voters to enrolments has increased very much during the last twelve or fourteen years, and I think, it would be a pity to introduce the principle of compulsion in regard to voting. Is it not better, when we give people the opportunity to vote, to leave it to them to decide whether or not they shall do so? Those who take an interest in political questions will go to the poll; those who do not will not vote, and it would be a pity to compel the latter to go to the polling booth and” neutralize the votes of those who are taking an intelligent interest in the election. In 1903 the proportion of votes recorded to enrolments was 46.86; in 1906, 50.21; in 1910, 62.16; in 1913, 53.31; in 1914, 73.66; in 1916 (referendum), 82.75; and in 1917, 77.69. Honorable members will notice that there has been a considerable improvement in the voting, and I do not think there is that necessity for compulsion which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) thinks. On the whole, we may regard the proportion of votes as over 80 per cent., and those figures compare well with the voting in other parts of the world.
– Even without the postal-voting provisions.
– That is so.
– But why should some persons in the community have the responsibility of carrying thousands of others to the poll?
– Is not government a matter for those who take a direct interest in it? Give everybody an opportunity to vote, but do not force them to take an active part in elections. Let those conversant with politics rule.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the amendment is relevant to the clause now under consideration which deals with enrolment. Is not the proper place for such an amendment Part 13 of the Bill, which deals with polling ?
– It is not for the Chair to say at which part of the Bill an amendment should be submitted. The only point with which the Chair is concerned is as to whether the amendment is relevant to the clause. The clause under consideration makes provision for compulsory enrolment and transfer ; therefore,I rule that an amendment relating to compulsory voting is relevant and in order.
.- I regret that the Minister has not accepted the amendment. I am glad that the proportion of votes has improved since 1901. but even at the last general election, when feeling ran very high, and there was supposed to be a keener interest in the voting than on any previous occasion, the votes were only 77,69 per cent. of the enrolments. Even if some people were not able to vote on account of the absence of the postal provisions, the poll could not have been more than 80 per cent. of the enrolments. I know that one subdivision in toy electorate polled 80 per cent. of the enrolments, but although in that subdivision there was a polling booth within a quarter of a mile of every elector’s residence, only four out of every five persons on the roll took the trouble to vote. The time has arrived for the introduction of compulsory voting. If that system were in force we should have no more of the present-day troubles in getting people to the poll. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) has voiced the opinion of a man who has contested many elections in the country. But there is not even a metropolitan member who does not know that the worry of his committee has been to get the people to exercise their franchise. They will not take the trouble to go to a polling booth halfamile distant from their residence unless they can be carried there in motor cars. They will even go to the corner of the street in which the booth is situated, but refuse to complete the journey otherwise than in a motor car. Members of my committee have told me that some persons have refused to be carried in a waggonette; nothing but a motor car would suit them. I am glad that the amendment has been ruled in order so that we may have an opportunity of voting on this question.
– Would the honorable member apply compulsion to divisions in this House?
– If the honorable member will propose such an amendment of our Standing Orders I shall support him, and I shall not be fined very often for not voting.
– My point is that we have too much compulsion. I object to the whole clause. It is absurd.
– That comes well from an honorable member who a little time ago wished to apply compulsion to human life. I support the amendment as a step in the right direction,and I trust that Government - supporters will realize that the provision, if carried, will be helpful to them in the future. Compulsory voting is in operation in Queensland, and if we incorporate it in this Bill we shall be saving candidates and their committees a lot of trouble in dragging people to the poll.
.- I am opposed to compulsion in respect of either enrolment or voting. The only effect of the amendment; if carried, would be to bring people still more surely under the power of the party machine. Consider the position in which many men in the country may be on polling day: If the election takes place in December when the farmer is reaping his crop, and bush fires are raging, and if the party machines have succeeded in limiting the candidates to two, both of whom the farmer abhors, he must, on pain of being fined, run the risk of being burnt out, and having his family roasted alive, in order to go behind a screen to commit a moral criminality by recording an informal vote. Whilst we all support a system of compulsory education, for instance, because we claim that the State has the right to see that all men and women are fit to take upon themselves the responsibilities of citizenship, ana equip themselves for the battle of life, if we were to go further and compel them to engage in occupations for which they were unfitted, we should be guilty of Kaiserism in its worst form. It is a pity that men who will be ultimately intrusted with the leading positions that statesmen ought to occupy are always animated by these petty principles and allow them to subvert the bigger principles under which a Democracy should vote.
– I ask honorable members to reject this clause altogether. I object to all this compulsion. There must be something wrong with the candidate who cannot induce his supporters to go to the poll. No doubt candidates have to go to a great deal of trouble to induce voters to record their votes, but that is a part of the electoral battle. I object to providing by law that people shall do certain things in connexion either with electoral enrolment or voting.
– The man who has a horse and cart may object to going on the right side of the road.
– He is compelled to keep to the right side of the road for the public good. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) would force a voter to go to the poll who might vote against him. He would not think that for the public good. But I would. Under this clause, a man who changes his address, and does not send word of the fact to the Electoral Registrar, is liable to a fine of 10s., and for a second offence to a fine of £2. Surely that is preposterous. I was summoned the other day, because I had not my name on the Kew roll. As a matter of fact, my name is on an electoral roll in Western Australia, but that only shows how persons may be mistaken. We have too much of compulsion in our every -day life. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) referred to compulsory education, but that is a compulsion for the good of the community. When a much bigger proposal for compulsion in the best interests of the nation was put before the country, there was a very big majority recorded against it. Those who voted against that proposal should strongly support the deletion of this clause.
.- I have been astonished at the remarks of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), but perhaps we should not wonder at them when we learn that, at the last elections, the lowest percentage of votes polled in Western Australia occurred in the constituency which the honorable member represents.
– Did the honorable member say that the lowest vote polled in Western Australia wasin my electorate ?
– I can give the figures if the honorable member doubts my statement.
– I very much doubt it. The honorable member is either absolutely incorrect, or is making a mistake.
– I find in a return submitted by the Electoral Department that the percentages of electors to whom ballot-papers were issued in Western Australia at the last election as compared with the number of electors on the rolls for the different constituencies were - for Dampier, 72.3 per cent. ; Fremantle, 80 per cent. ; Kalgoorlie, 84 per cent. ; and Perth, 76 per cent. In view of these figures, and by the memory of the great man after whom the honorable member’s district is named, how dare he dispute my statement? I do not think the Committee will permit the rejection of the clause.
– I remind the honorable member that the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) is now before the Committee.
– I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment. Compulsory voting is the natural corollary of compulsory enrolment. When a member of the Electoral Commission, I asked almost every witness the question: In view of compulsory enrolment being the law of the land, does it not follow, as a natural corollary, that there should be compulsory voting? The majority of the most intelligent of the witnesses replied “ Yes.” We have had only one experience of compulsory voting in the Commonwealth, and that was in Queensland, and it resulted in an increased percentage of the ejectors recording their votes. Every citizen owes a duty to the State, and the duty to record his vote should be regarded by every elector as sacred. The Switzer, when he walks over his hills to record his vote, considers that he is performing a sacred duty, and the sacred day of the week is in that country appointed for the performance of that duty. I hope that our Australians will also regard the duty to record their votes as a sacred duty. In my view, it is a duty which the citizen should be compelled to perform. Honorable members opposite honestly held the view that young men in this community should be compelled to fight, whether they would or not. I, just as honestly, held lie opposite opinion; but surely the duties of citizenship, upon which civilization depends more than upon anything else, should be considered of so much importance that the citizen who fails to perform them should be liable to punishment. In the older Democracies of the world - the Elder Greece and the Elder Rome - every citizen was compelled to do his duty. We may not be successful in carrying this proposal on this occasion, but, so long as I am a member of this Parliament, I shall, whenever the opportunity arises, endeavour to provide for compulsory voting. I should like to see the matter left to the vote of the people outside. I have no doubt the consensus of their opinion would be that, voting should be compulsory. The only argument used by those opposed to the proposal that has any logic in it is that suggested by the question: “Why should a man be compelled to vote against his conscience? “ But compulsory voting will not compel any man to do that, because, as honorable members ‘are aware, a voter can render his ballot-paper in- formal, and the secrecy of the ballot will prevent his identity being known.
– What a scandalous thing to tell men to do.
– Would it be honorable for a man to deliberately record an informal vote?
– It might not be within the honorable member’s code of honour; but if a voter does not care to record a vote for either of the candidates at an election, he is, in my opinion, justified in refusing to do so.
– And the honorable member will make him go through the farce ?
– The honorable member calls it a farce, but I do not. I call it a sacred duty, and Democracy demands its performance. Sooner or later, the proposal for compulsory voting will be adopted. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) would not give 30 per cent, of the electors in his constituency the right to recall him from his seat in this House. He would call that compulsion also. Well, I have given that right to my constituents for over a quarter of a century.
– The honorable member would support a system which led to such results as that of the Swan election, and permit one-third of the electors to return a representative.
– By what right does the honorable member make such a long interjection ? He should get up and make a speech. We know that he is half a poet, and is fluent enough, and I may say that I have always listened to him with pleasure. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn) has a logical mind, and he should agree that compulsory voting is a logical sequence of compulsory enrolment. I hope, before the Bill is finally passed, even though the amendment now before the Committee should be lost, he will submit an amendment to give effect to the principle of compulsory voting.
.- 1 am totally opposed to the amendment, and I have been very much surprised that the thoughtful mind of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) has failed to recognise the many difficulties in the way of electors recording their votes in the larger electorates of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member is afraid of the voters who do not now come up to the poll.
– If a voter will not come to the poll to vote for me, no compulsion will make him do so. A vast majority of the electors take an intelligent interest in the affairs of the country ; but we know that, on any given day, a proportion of the electors will be confronted with difficulties which will prevent them from going to the poll, no matter what provision for compulsion is embodied in the Act. I ask honorable members to consider the difficulties in the way of electors in a huge electorate such as that of Dampier, when an election is held in the winter, if on the polling day it is raining, and they have to go some distance to the nearest poll. Under existing conditions, the trouble to which electors will go to record their votes is ‘wonderful, and to compel all electors to vote would be to inflict a very grave injustice upon a great many. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera provides no safeguard.
– It does. There is the safeguard of reasonable conditions.
– Who is to be the judge of the reasonableness of the conditions that prevent a man from going to the poll ? Is a man living, say, in the electorate of Dampier, some 300 or 400 miles from the Returning Officer, to be called upon to appear before a Court to prove that his absence from the poll was reasonable? I believe that in normal times we should not put the strain of compulsion upon all the obligations of citizenship; but I am in accord with the spirit of the Rill, which requires the electors to share with the electoral authorities the obligation of establishing a national register. I approve also of the amount of the penalty fixed to make sure that the electors will join with the electoral authorities in seeing that a proper register is furnished ; but I am not prepared to go so far as to compel a man to record his vote. Such compulsion would impose far too great a task on a proportion of the people who might legitimately be unable to go to the poll on a certain date.
I hope that the honorable member will withdraw his amendment, because it will press very heavily upon country electorates. The honorable member enjoys a very big poll, although I think that, so far as the percentage of electors recording their votes is concerned, my electorate has beaten his. On the occasion of my return to this House the percentage of electors who recorded their votes in my electorate was the second largest in the whole of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) would also do well to let sleeping dogs lie in his electorate. If there are in it some who are not sufficiently interested in him to vote, and so add to his majority, the probabilities are that the application of compulsion will tend in favour of his opponent. I would suggest to honorable members on all sides that they should be content with the proportion of the people who take a sufficient interest in their candidature to induce them to go to the poll and not to apply this compulsion.
Question - That the proposed new subclause (Mr. Sampson’s amendment) be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move - 1
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that no person shall be proceeded against under this section unless he has been given at least twenty-one days’ notice by the Registrar.”
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has furnished a good illustration of the hardship to which perfectly innocent people are sometimes subjected under the law as it stands. In his case because of the onus being placed upon eligible persons at all times to secure enrolment, and not upon the Electoral Department, to see that all eligibles are enrolled, the honorable member, although quite innocent, was summoned before a Court. If my amendment were incorporated in the Bill the electoral officers could not issue a summons without first giving reasonable notice. Honorable members, no doubt, have all heard of men and women who have been summoned because they have omitted to get their names on the roll. Sometimes it is a railway man who has been shifted from one end of a State to the other; or, it may be, a civil servant or a man who follows a nomadic occupation that is summoned for this failure. I would urge the Minister, if possible, to grant this concession. It will not affect any principle of the Bill, but will prevent hardship in the case of innocent persons who ought not to be fined.
– It would be very difficult to find people in order to carry out this provision.
– If the whereabouts of people can be discovered so that. a summons may be placed in their hands, it should be equally easy to discover them in order to place in their hands a notice calling upon them to enroll within twenty-one days. The Minister, upon reflection, will recognise that this is only a fair proposition from the point of view of the electors. Would it not be just as easy for the registrar to send out a notice to those whom he knows have neglected to enroll as to serve a summons on them 1
– I can tell the honorable member the difficulties that beset us if we do that.
– I would thank the Minister if he could point out any difficulties; but I have had considerable experience in this matter, and I know that it would be no more difficult to send an elector a notice that he must get his name on the roll than to serve that person with a summons. Take, as an example, the case of a young woman accepting a position in the country and leaving her home in a metropolitan electorate. She retains her country position for a month, and, after the expiry of twenty-one days, she is handed a summons by the registrar in that town. Such a state of affairs is totally wrong and unfair. Would it not be just as easy for the registrar to send the young woman a notice that she must have her name placed on the roll_within twenty-one days, and that if she failed to do so she would be summoned? Cannot the Minister accept my amendment to enable the registrar to adopt that course, rather than take the drastic action which is at present followed ?
– It is exceedingly difficult to ascertain people’s addresses. If we had to give notice, as the honorable member desires, the rolls would be in nothing like as good condition as at present. To-day, people are expected to enroll themselves. So many people are constantly changing their addresses that it would be impossible to follow them all. It has been the experience of the Department, by the way, that where there has been a prosecution in a particular town or neighbourhood, about 90 per cent, of those electors who also have failed to become enrolled have immediately taken the necessary action in that direction.
Mr- Blakeley. - If it is possible to issue a summons, surely it would be as easily possible to issue a notice !
– The practice at present is that before a summons is issued the electoral officer allows the person concerned to make a statement as to why he or she has not enrolled. It is not compulsory with the Returning Officer to prosecute. Provision has been made in clause 220 that -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which, by this Act, are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to this Act. . . .
The policy will be to give to persons who have not enrolled the option of making a statement, and of having the matter decided without recourse to the Courts at all. Such procedure saves costs and a great amount of bother. For the future, honorable members may rely on this, that in very rare instances only will summonses be taken out.
.- If I have understood the Minister correctly, the Electoral Department will endeavour to carry out this particular provision with as little hardship to the public as possible. If I thought there was the slightest chance of having the whole clause struck out I woUld not hesitate to divide the Committee- I have found, however, that I would receive only very small support ; and therefore I .shall not take that course.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) quoted certain statistics in connexion with recent voting, and he drew ‘attention to the small percentage of votes recorded in the electorate of Dampier. He mentioned that only 73 per cent, of the electors had voted. A great many people secure their knowledge of Australia merely by residence in Melbourne. In Dampier, I know of men who travelled no less than 150 miles to vote for me. Honorable members generally should realize the difficulties in the way of enrolling, ot of voting, in this, the largest constituency in Australia.
When the total of 73 per cent, of voters in Dampier is compared with the 80.60 per cent, who voted in Melbourne, I think the latter figures must be adjudged the less creditable. Melbourne Ports and the city of Melbourne showed the two lowest “percentages of” votes recorded throughout Victoria, yet there were polling booths right alongside of the people in those constituencies. The honorable member for Melbourne will realize that to quote statistics mav be sometimes dangerous. In my constituency, I obtained 71.76 per cent, of the whole of the votes cast; whereas the honorable member for Melbourne secured only 60.25 of those polled in his electorate. I again point out, therefore, that statistics in his case furnish a rather poor object lesson.
In the administration of this clause, I hope the .Minister will endeavour to insure that fewer hardships occur in the future than has been the case hitherto.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 43 and 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 (Alteration of rolls).
.- This is one of those clauses which have been radically altered and will give greater power to the registrars. It is a step in the right direction, in that it will enable the registrars to reinstate names which have been struck off the roll by mistake. At election time, a good place for candidates to absent themselves from is the office of the Divisional Returning Officer. Within one hour, I have seen scores of people making their way to that office to complain that their names have been wrongfully struck off the rolls. I congratulate the Minister (Mr. Glynn) upon having made the alterations covered by this clause.
.- A great deal of the trouble in connexion with the rolls is due to the difficult nature of the information sought upon the cards. If persons are asked for the name of the division and subdivision in which they have previously voted, in nine cases out of ten they will not be able to reply accurately. All that should be asked of an elector is his previous address; and upon the Department should be thrown the onus of ascertaining the division and subdivision. By .that method, there would be a reasonable chance of securing a clean roll. The present system aims at giving as little trouble as possible to the Department, but it actually imposes more trouble than is necessary. The Minister should consider the wording upon the cards.
– As a matter of fact, there is a re-draft of the card. It is not yet in force, of course.
– Is it intended merely to ask for the previous address ?
– I do not know that it covers that.
– In many instances a person finds that he cannot answer the questions upon the card, and he leaves them a blank. If the postal address were asked for, the Department could fill in the remaining details without much trouble. Probably of all those cards received by the Electoral Department, not more than 10 per cent. - in the cases of transfers - are found with the required details filled in; and probably 50 per cent, of that 10 per cent, would have the details wrongfully supplied.
– Many electors go to certain people to get them to fill in the cards for them.
– That is very wrong.
– The honorable member for Barrier means, I think, that people who come to the Department for a card to enable them to notify change of address, very often get the officials to fill in the particulars for them, whereupon the .electors themselves attach their signatures.
– That is not done in the majority of cases.
– The average man or woman knows very little about these matters, and will prefer to consult some one who does know ; and thus the details are filled in for them.
– And very often that person may be a party organizer. If the honorable member, while he is in Broken Hill, is visited by an elector who has gone to reside there from some one of the western suburbs of Sydney, and that* elector has merely told him his previous address, I venture to assert that the honorable member will not be able to fill in the space required for the division and subdivision. A very easy way out of the whole difficulty would be to have questions sat out upon the cards which could be answered.
– If a man applies to be enrolled, all that -be has to declare is that he is not enrolled for any other subdivision.
– But if he does not so declare, and, for the reason that he is not able to supply the information, he leaves that item a blank, the Department has not the previous address of that individual, with the result that he may be on the roll for two subdivisions. The Minister, I hope, will look into this matter and secure alterations in the wording of the cards for the benefit of the electors and in the interests of pure rolls.
– I will look into the matter; but, as I have indicated, if a man applies to be enrolled he simply declares that he is not already enrolled elsewhere.
– I emphasize that the present system is devised to save the Department trouble, but that it does not in the long run save trouble; for there areduplications, and intelligent people ascertain that fact and make an outcry about it.
– Quite right, too.
– That is undoubtedly how the bulk of the duplications arise.
.- I am in considerable agreement with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) on this matter also. During the last’ anti-conscription campaign, I was travelling up the- north coast of New South Wales, and, staying at one of the hotels there, came across a gentleman belonging to the honorable member’s constituency. He told me that at the last election he was in his constituency, and went into a polling booth to ask the Returning Officer for a ballot-paper. When he was asked where he came from, he said “Wentworth,” meaning the Wentworth electorate, but the official thought he meant Wentworth, a town on the Murray, in my electorate, and he voted in the Barrier election.
– His vote was thrown away.
– It might or might not be thrown away. He was a commercial traveller, and travels through a number of the States. He can vote in two States, and be on the roll for two States. He can cast an absent vote for Queensland, and vote personally in Sydney. Some safeguard should be devised to prevent this. I do. not say that commercial travellers as a class do cast plural votes; but there is the possibility of people who are in a position to travel through various States casting two or three votes at the one election.
– There is no check on such persons under the card system. It is only a check within the State.
– I support the endeavours of the honorable member for Wentworth to keep the system as clean as possible. The opportunity to do these things causes them sometimes to be done. The Minister should give this phase of the matter extra consideration.
– There is very little of it. We have inquired into it.
– There is always very little of anything until it is brought under the notice of the general public. It should not be very difficult for the electoral authorities to devise a safeguard to prevent people voting in several States at the same election. A number of votes of that kind might turn an election, where the figures are close, as they were in my electorate, where the minority was only twenty-eight, or in Brisbane, where the majority was only, fifteen, or in Macquarie, where it was only nine.
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has been looked into in connexion with the card system. I cannot be positive, but I do not believe any cases of voting in different States has been discovered. I am told by the Chief Electoral Officer that there has been a splendid response in the way of accuracy and everything else connected with the application of the card system in recent years. When a man wants to enroll, he fills up the card, stating that he is not enrolled, for any subdivision at present. He gives his address also. His statement is tested at the Electoral Office. If it is a transfer enrolment, the applicant states what subdivision he is enrolled for at present, and what subdivision he wishes to be transferred to. He gives- his address also. The card is examined at the Central Office of the State, to see whether the applicant has been already enrolled or not. The whole thing is tested by the card system, which, so far as my information goes, is working exceedingly well, and improving every year.
.- I am delighted to hear the Minister’s explanation of a system which has always been declared in this House to be letterperfect, and has always been found by any man of experience to be as full of holes as a sieve. I had experience in my own electorate recently of a case where a man who shifted a few ‘hundred yards was on the roll for both subdivisions, not only for a few months, but for eighteen month’s afterwards. Whole families shift from one place to another, and are on the roll for both places. The Minister gave the official explanation which is always put up. We are always to’d that the system is perfect, that no mistake ever arises, and that the cards are always compared in the card index office. A man is given a card to fill in, and, in tue majority of cases, is not anxious so much about his own enrolment as to comply with bare provisions of the law, and to escape a fine. He is asked the name of his previous division, and subdivision, but the average elector does not know the difference between a division and a subdivision. In many cases he does not know the names of the men who are standing. In a big Federal electorate the names of the State electorates are the names of the subdivisions, and they do not follow the same bounds lies.
– For instance, there is a State Bendigo and a Federal Bendigo.
– My subdivisions bear the names of the State electorates, but do not follow the same boundaries. That is a fruitful source of confusion for the average elector. Let the man who is making out an original application say he is not previously enrolled, and give his address. If he is applying for a transfer enrolment, let him. state that he has come from another place, and give the name of that place. Then let the Department look up where that other place is.
– I think those things are stated at present.
– They are not; unless the questions have been altered in the last three or four weeks.
– They have not been altered.
– I am sure they have not.
– The unification of the State and Federal electoral rolls will obviate a good deal of the difficulty you are speaking of.
– It will obviate a certain amount, but the foolish system of asking people questions they cannot answer will still be invogue. Why not ask questions that can be answered? Why should the Department shirk its responsibility ?
– The applicant has to give his address.
– Not his previous address. He is asked to give his previous division and subdivision.
– His statement is checked from his address.
– I am speaking of transfers. The Department should require the applicant to state his previous address, and then take the responsibility of finding out where he was previously enrolled. There is no difficulty about it. Any Department worth its salt can sift the answers to simple questions of that kind. I know hundreds of these cases that happen at every election.
– The Department does not insist nowon the previous address or subdivision being given.
– It does not. It cannot insist on it, because many electors actually do not know the name of their previous division or subdivision. I have here a copy of the actual card issued. There is enough in it to confuse a com pany promoter, let alone an ordinary average honest applicant for the suffrage. This card states -
To the Electoral Registrar for the subdivision of
State of New South Wales.
There is nothing there to require the applicant to give his previous address.
– I will see whether it is necessary in the case of atransfer.His previous address is on the other card.
– But the Department cannot find the other card. This may be the only one.
– It can be found. That card is immediately compared at the central office with the card on which the elector got his first enrolment.
– How about theJohn Smiths, who cover four pages of the roll for my electorate?
– That is another question.
– It is always another question when the Minister begins to get into difficulties. There is another card, which is kept as a record of every enrolment; but what happens in practice is that the particulars about previous enrolment are seldom filled in, so that this card comes in really as an original enrolment.
– If an improvement can be made, it will be made.
– This improvement can be made. Every organizer knows the difficulties of the present system; but the Minister takes the word of an officer, who wants to be spared the trouble of looking up the previous addresses of applicants for enrolment.
– We do not take things for granted.
– The only excuse I can make for Ministers of this Department is that they do take things for granted. If they looked into this question, the form of this card would be instantly altered.
– Are you referring to the present Minister ?
– I am afraid that if we wanted to review the administration of the present Minister, the guillotine would have to be lifted to enable us to spend some weeks in advertising his many merits.
– What does the honorable member want from the Minister? .
– I want him to alter this card.
– The honorable member wants an assurance that the matter will be looked into.I again give him that assurance.
– I trust that when the Minister looks into this matter he will do as I suggest, I can assure him that every organizer in the country wishes to see this alteration effected.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 48 to 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 -
Any name on a roll may be objected to by objection in writing lodged with or made by the Divisional Returning Officer :
Provided that a sum of Five shillings shall be. deposited in respect of each objection lodged by any person other than an officer, to be forfeited to the King if the objection is held by the Divisional Returning Officer to be frivolous.
– I should like the Minister to make it quite clear whether the payment of 5s. will cover a list of objections that may be lodged by any person, or only one objection. Unfortunately, we have known of cases in which a whole list of objections have been lodged by one individual.
– For 5s. ?
– It is too little.
– Obviously, it is unfair that it should be possible to read the clause in this way. It might mean that the payment of 5s. would cover an objection to one name, or that one person might lodge 100 objections for the same amount.
– I think the text of the clause, as well as the prac tice of the Department, is that 5s. shall be lodged with each objection, and not a group of objections. But, as a matter of fact, objections are usually lodged by an officer of the Department. Very rarely are they made by private individuals.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 53 to 57 agreed to.
Clauses 58 and 59 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 60 to 69 agreed to.
Clause 70 -
No person who is at the date of nomination, or who was at any time within fourteen days prior to the date of nomination a member of the Parliament of a State, shall be capable of being nominated as a senator, or as a member of the House of Representatives.
.- I intend to vote against this clause, because I object to any unnecessary restrictions being placed upon the choice of electors. There is no reason why a member of a State House should be debarred from offering himself, either as a candidate for the Senateorthe House of Representatives.
– What has gone wrong with your theory of one man for one job?
– This proposal is not any alteration of that theory. Iam merely contending for the right of the member of a State Parliament to submit himself as a candidate for the Commonwealth Parliament without first having to resign his position in the State Legislature, and thus jeopardizehis interests. Probably in our State Parliaments there are quite a number of men who desire to offer themselves for the Federal Parliament, and it is probable, also, that the people themselves would like an opportunity of expressing an opinion on this subject.
– The honorable member might point out that, considering all the trouble there is about the Corangamite election amongst the Nationalist party as to which candidate shall be selected, this proposal should be useful to them.
– I am never anxious to help the enemy I cannot see that any good purpose will be served by retaining the clause in . the Bill. No honorable member, I suppose, is anxious to enter into competition with representatives in the various State Parliaments. At all events, I am not. I shall be quit<» satisfied if the people will leave me where I am. I think members of this Parliament could very well take the stand that they are not afraid of competition from State members so long as everything is clean and above board.
.- Many honorable members will remember that when the first Electoral Bill was under consideration, this question was discussed at very great length, and the party to which I then belonged, the Labour party, were instrumental in inserting the present clause in the Bill. It was then felt that Federal members, living a long distance from Melbourne, would not have the same opportunities of canvassing their electors and giving attention to their division as a man on the spot might be, and it was thought that a State member might be at work in this direction all the time.
– Of course he would.
– That was the reason for the inclusion of this section in the Act. The State member who held a secure position fought without risk against his opponent.
– Was the provision inserted in the law by ex-State members?
– The bulk of the members of the Federal Parliament at that time were ex-State members.
– Members like myself, who came to Melbourne from distant States, had to spend most of their time between elections in looking after their seats, from which State members were striving to oust them. For the State member it was a case of heads I win, tails you lose.
– I think that it will be generally admitted that the opportunity for election to this House should be made as wide as possible.
An Honorable Member. - Why did the Labour party put into the law the provision to which exception is now being - taken ?
– Thev did not. It was the Lyne party that did that.
– Supported by the Labour party.
– Not by all of them.
– Well, we had the opportunity to repeal it, and we did not do so.
– The Labour party was directed to repeal.it. and yet did not do so.
– I have not blamed the Government or its supporters for this provision, -though when it was made law, Labour had but a small representation in this House. In my opinion, every citizen who wishes to do so should be allowed to nominate as a candidate for the Commonwealth Parliament, without being required to resign any position that he may hold. We might as well require a business man to get rid of his business before becoming a candidate as require a member of a State Parliament to resign his seat. There is no reason why public servants should, not be allowed to nominate as candidates.
– They might win.
– I won my seat after having been a public servant.
– Had the honorable member to resign his position in the Public Service ?
– Yes, and I had also to forfeit my pension and £70 in retiring allowance.
– No one would maintain that that is fair. I think that any person in the Public Service - Commonwealth or State - should be free to nominate as a candidate for this Parliament without resigning his office. It may be objected that that would bring politics into - the Public Service, but the public servants have their political opinions now. I know of no instance in which a member of the Victorian Parliament has sought to deprive a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, belonging to tie same party, of his seat.
– He would have to give up his job to do so.
-That should not be required of him.
– I had to do it.
– Yes, and the late member for Bendigo (Mr. Hampson), the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), and others have had to do it, but that does not make the arrangement a fair one. It is foolish to try to keep this a close preserve.
– Did not the Federal Parliament put this provision into the law because the State Parliaments had passed similar provisions?
– That is possible; but I believe that the States may reciprocate if we strike it out again. I do not like it to be said that we are afraid of the competition of State members, because that is not so. Experience gained in a State Parliament is of value in Federal politics, and although in the early years of Federation State political battles were fought overagain in this House, that is not a reason why State members should not be allowed to nominate for this Parliament without resigning their seats. On one occasion, the time at which the resignation should be tendered and the nomination made was fixed almost to the hour. Although men without previous parliamentary experience have come” to the front both here and in the Senate, the knowledge of parliamentary institutions gained in the State Parliaments has proved of great value in this Parliament, and we should place no obstacle in the way of the State member who wishes to enter this Parliament. Has the matter ever been considered by the Ministry?
– All the clauses have been considered.
– When the Labour party had control of the Government benches, they had a majority sufficient to deal with the matter; but while there was a good section of the party favorable to the deletion of this provision in the electoral law, there was another section in favour of it, justas honorable members on the other side are now divided in regard to the matter. How ever, it is a blot. A member of this House may nominate for another Federal seat without first resigning, yet we prevent members of the State Houses from nominating for seats in this House without first resigning. We might just as well prevent members of municipal councils from contesting seats in this House without first resigning their municipal positions. I shall vote against this clause. No one can be proud of it, and there is no necessity for it.
.- No sound argument has been adduced for the deletion of the clause. If we were merely to consider the wants of a few politicians, the contentions of some honorable members might be potent; but surely some little consideration should be extended to the unfortunate people who send us here. I have always felt that it is rather a hardship, and somewhat of an outrage against true Democracy, to have the retiring member as a candidate travelling about his electorate on his gold pass while the candidate which other people are putting forward to supplant him has to foot his own bill for travelling expenses. Of course, the sitting member receives no salary after the writ is issued, and, nevertheless, has to carry on the ordinary work of representing the electorate, and his punishment is heavy enough if he loses his seat ; but if a sitting State member be allowed to stand, a portion of his election expenses would have to be borne by people who are bitterly opposed to him, and who are spending their money to defeat him. The proposal to delete the clause is a most monstrous one. It means utterly flouting the people’s opinions. As the law now stands, a man who wishes to contest a Federal seat must resign his seat if he is a member of a State Legislature, or any other public appointment which he holds, fourteen days prior to nomination day, and stand for election just as an ordinary candidate does, paying his own travelling expenses. Those who ask for an alteration of the law in this regard have no thought for the welfare and rights of the people. They are setting at naught the principles of Democracy for the sake of advancing the desires of a few politicians, who make a trade of what it ought to he an honour for them to do, namely, serving the people.
.- I have never been in favour of compelling a member of a State House to resign before contesting a seat in this Parliament. Some of the States have deliberately connived at making the law inoperative. In Tasmania, for instance, both parties have agreed that if a member of either State House resigns to contest a Federal seat, the vacancy created will not be filled until after the result of the election for the Federal seat is made known.
– That is making a convenience of theelectors.
-The electors will be able to deal with the matter. I know the argument which is used. It was said that the honorable member’s opponent in Fawkner (Mr. Hannan) made a convenience of the electors when he contested the Albert Park seat in the State House on the death of Mr. Elmslie. There is nothing in our law to prevent a sitting member contesting a Federal by-election. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) could nominate for the Corangamite seat if the National party think that the Wannon seat could be easily won for them, and that the honorable member would have an excellent chance of capturing the Corangamite seat. Yet we compel a State member to resign his seat fourteen days before the nomination of candidates for a Federal seat, which usually means at least a month before polling day. The people will be the best judges as to whether they are being made a convenience of; they will be able to judge whether the candidate who happens to be a State legislator is right or wrong in the step he is taking. The deletion of this clause will give them the opportunity to select the man they deem to be best fitted to represent them. Therefore, I hope that the clause will be struck out.
– Honorable members opposite have freely advised us not to restrict the choice of the electors in regard to their representatipn in this Parliament, but this clause is a very deliberate restriction on the choice of the electors. If there is one qualification which shouldbe looked upon as salutary in regard to membership of this House, it is experience in a State House. A large proportion pf members of the Federal Parliament have occupied prominent positions, and have served for periods in State Legislatures.
– How does the clause restrict the choice of the electors?
– It means that, unless the member of a State House is prepared to resign his position, he cannot contest a Federal seat; and I do not see any reason why he should be compelled to dp so. We might just as well compel the prior resignation of a member of a municipal council, or a member of the Wheat Board, or a man occupying any other public office, to resign his position before he can become a candidate for a seat in this Parliament.
– Does the honorable member think that the electors care a brass farthing whether they have the choice of State members or not?
– My contention is that the electors have a right to the widest possible choice. Why this embargo should be placed upon the members of our State Parliaments it is difficult to understand, seeing that they possess essential qualifications which are not possessed by the members of other public bodies. At the very least, they should be accorded the same rights as are extended to other individuals in the community. Moreover, the arrangement should be one of a reciprocal character. If any member of this Parliament is desirous of contesting a seat in one of our State Legislatures, he should be at liberty to do so, without first being called upon to resign his position here.
– Suppose that he did not resign his position here, and that he contested an election, and was defeated. Would not that be an insult to the constituency which he had endeavoured to throw over ?
– The men who occupy responsible positions in public affairs are not confined to our State Par- liaments. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) fill3 an office in connexion with the Victorian Harbor Trust - an office which is of more importance than would be a seat in a State Parliament. The mere fact that a man is a member of Parliament ought not to impose upon him an embargo to which other members of the community are not subjected. I strongly support the proposal that the clause should be deleted.
.- The way in which some people cling to ancient and worn-out traditions is to me perfectly astounding. The proposal that members of our State Parliaments should be debarred from becoming candidates for the Commonwealth Parliament unless they first resign their seats is one which, in the light ofreason and experience, appears to be absolutely preposterous. There is no justification for it whatever, and I shall vote against it.
.- I was under the impression that the inclusion of this clause in the Bill was the result of an oversight, and. that we had merely to direct the attention of the Minister to it, in order to secure its deletion. The qualifications for membership of this Parliament are clearly set out in our Constitution, and in our principal ElectoralAct. The arbitrary provision inserted in that Statute, for the purpose of safeguarding the personal interests of individual members, does not reflect any credit upon those who were responsible for its inclusion there. ‘The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), in the speech which he delivered just now, admirably illustrated his gift for affecting a sincerity which he did not feel. He would have us believe that, by accepting the amendment, we shall be bestowing an unfair advantage upon the members of a State Parliament as against any outside aspirant for Federal honours. Surely such a contention pays a very poor compliment to the intelligence of the electors. Surely, too, it imposes a limitation on the right of the electors-
– That limitation can be imposed only by the selfishness of a State member who refuses to resign.
– The honorable member might just as well impose all sorts of obligations of an unrelated sort, and inconsistent with the spirit of the Electoral Act upon aspirants for seats inthis Parliament.
– If the members of a State Parliament are allowed to contest a Federal seat without first resigning, will they not possess an unfair advantage over the ordinary candidate?
– The honorable member’s argument is simply absurd. If he could create conditions that were ideally equal as between all candidates for seats in this Parliament, I should be glad to co-operate with him; but obviously one political aspirant, by reason, say, of his position or his wealth, must possess an advantage over another aspirant. All that this Parliament can do is to say that it will take no account of a man’s official or financial position, but will merely ask whether he is entitled, because of residence and citizenship, to present himself as a candidate for a seat in the Commonwealth Legislature. For us to limit the right of any person to become a candidate for a seat in this Parliament will be an act of selfishness which will not redound to our credit. No doubt the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) is going to ask what somebody did five or six years ago. But if this proposal has any merits at all, let the honorable gentleman speak fearlessly as the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has done; hoary traditions do not concern the present issue. The honorable gentleman has sat on both sides of the House, and half-way between on the gangway, at one time or another, and has a wonderfully retentive memory of all the votes of the different members on different occasions.
– My memory is unpleasant for some people!
– It is not unpleasant for me, because my conscience does not prick me in the slightest degree.
– Your hide is too thick!
– I ask honorable members to look at the honorable member who interjects, and then look at myself, and say which, on appearance, has the thicker hide. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn) appears to have left the chamber. Has be made up his mind to accept this eminently reasonable proposal, or is he going to divide the House on pure party lines? Can he make no suggestion except one, to turn down the proposal in silence, or, on the other hand, to fight it in a pure party division ? The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), at least, has had the courage to say that he is not going to accept the conditions as he finds them in the Act, where they never should have been : and an excellent opportunity is presented to remove them. I invite honorable members opposite to show a little fair-play towards persons outside this House - outside this charmed circle. This is not a close preserve; it is a National Parliament, presumed to be elected on a universal suffrage. How much further will this process of limitation extend ? Is it the intention to use the majority here to decide that this class, or that person, shall not be eligible to contest a seat in the House? Is it proposed to constantly limit the area of electors’ choice until it is whittled down sufficiently small to give even members opposite a chance of re-election ?
.- I have been considering what were the reasons which moved the Legislature on previous occasions to make this part of the electoral law of the country. There are, I suppose, about four State members in each of the Federal constituencies, and I can conceive of a State member being selected as a candidate twelve or eigtheen months in advance; and using his free pass, and other advantages, to undermine the sitting member’s position ; and then, without any risks, using his unmanly advantages to secure a Federal seat.
– What State member are you afraid of?
– I am not afraid of any State member, or. any member of the honorable member’s party - let them all come.
Mar. Brennan. - But yon will not “let them all come.”
– This clause disentitles no one to contest a Federal seat, but merely calls upon a State member to face an ordinary risk. I can only conceive that the one-time leaders of honorable members opposite foresaw something when they inserted this provision in the Electoral Act. That was a matter with which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was associated.
– The provision was already in the Bill, placed there by” the Deakin Government.
– But it was afterwards re-enacted by the honorable member’s party. No good reasons have been advanced against the clause, and I think it should stand.
– L think I am about the only member who has been elected under both conditions. When I first fought the Melbourne seat - when I fought the bricks and mortar of the city - and was beaten, I was a member of the Legislative Assembly. At the next election, under this section of the Act, I had to resign from the Assembly, and that contest, in which £5,000 was spent by the other side, mostly in bribery, resulted in an appeal to the High Court and in its being declared void. I see no reason why a member of a Legislative Assembly or a Legislative Council should not have the right of contesting a Federal seat. Why should a man, if he adopts a political life, give up one position before he can aspire to another? It is a matter in which the constituents ought to be the judge; and i think that the words of Walt Whitman are very apropos -
I speak the word primeval : I give the sign of Democracy. By God ! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.
I am glad to know that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) intends to vote in the same way as myself. It should be the aim of every man in political life to rise, if he can, to a higher Legislature. Any member of the twentyfour Parliaments in Switzerland, the greatest Democracy of Europe to-day, has the right to contest seats for the higher House, and the example of that nation, which is called the school-house of Europe, ought to be sufficient for us here.
.- I support the clause, because I think that to allow members of the State Parliament to contest the Federal seats without resigning from the State Legislature would not only Te detrimental to the sitting Federal member, but would also interfere with the chances of every other man who might be a candidate for the seat, because the State member would be using his influence and his railway pass in touring the country canvassing for votes.
.- For once in my life I intend to vote wilh, members of the Opposition. .1 personally have suffered through this particular embargo, because I had to resign my seat in the Victorian Parliament in order to contest the electorate of Indi. It almost seems as if members of the State Legislatures are classed with lunatics and criminals. In reply to the argument that the State member has the advantage of a railway pass, and is, therefore, able to compete unfairly with other candidates, I remind the Committee that members of this Parliament also have railway passes. If the argument holds good against the State member, why should not the retiring Federal member also surrender his railway pass when contesting an election?
– Because he does the work of the electorate without pay after the issue of the writ.
– So does the State member. It should be the desire of members of the House, as it is of the people, that the best brains in the Commonwealth should find a pL. e in this Parliament. The school of ‘ politics should naturally be the State Parliaments, and it is only right that members of the State Legislatures should have the opportunity of entering Federal politics without having to suffer disabilities before they can offer themselves to the electors. Every argument that has been advanced in favour of the retention of this clause has been actuated by personal considerations.
– That is a contemptible remark.
– I call your attention, sir, to the interjection of the honorable member for Wakefield.
– H the honorable member takes exception to the remark I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– -“On a point of order, is it the duty of an honorable member to draw attention to the remark of another honorable member? When an honorable member says that a remark is contemptible, should not the Chair call him to order ? r The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. - That is so, but, unfortunately, there was so much noise that I did not hear the interjection.
– As a rule I do not object to interjections, but I do resent a remark such as that made by the honorable member for Wakefield. No matter what others may say, I contend that members are looking at this clause from a personal point of view.
– Is not that an offensive remark ?
– I do not think it is.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Indi has made a reflectil on every member who is supporting the clause by saying that he is actuated by personal motives.
– The honorable member for Indi is not in order in reflecting upon the motives of honorable members or the Government.
– I think I have been misunderstood. I said that this clause was being debated by its supporters from a personal point of view.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member says that he does not mean to impute improper motives to honorable members I must accept his assurance.
– If an honorable member, in expressing his opinion, is to be subjected to interjections such as some that have been made during my remarks,, those who make the interjections must expect to be hit in return. I shall not submit to unfair baiting, even by members on my own side.
– When the honorable member makes others withdraw objectionable remarks we expect him to do the same.
– My remarkwas not as objectionable as some that were made towards me. My opinion is that this clause is a great mistake. It is preventing some of the best brains in the Commonwealth from entering this Parliament. The clause should never have been placed in the present Act, and it should be struck out of the Bill.
– The suggestion that honorable members, in dealing with this matter, are actuated by merely personal motives, is utterly unworthy, particularly when it emanates from a gentleman who admits that his own difficulties in getting into this House supply him with a reason for opposing the clause. I was very much impressed withwhat the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) said, but in the practical application of this provision there is the consideration that if we are to make it easy for members of the State Parliament to enter the Federal arena - and it certainly is much easier for them, with their railway passes and assured positions, to contest an election - we shall make it exceedingly difficult to retain able men in the service of the State Parliaments, where there is an equal necessity for ability. Apart from the war, the utilities that rest with the State Parliaments are of equal importance to the electors withthose that are confided to the Commonwealth Parliament, and it is, in my judgment, highly undesirable that the State Parliaments should be regarded merely as the training ground for Federal politics. I think it would be better that men taking up political life should look for a full and honorable career in State politics, in which there are high offices to fill which require the greatest ability. For that reason I intend to support the clause.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 71 and 72 agreed to.
No nomination shall be valid unless -
.- I move -
That paragraph c be left out.
On a former occasion, when I moved the omission of a similar provision, I was threatened by a member of my own party with personal violence. That honorable member is present now, and I am wondering how he will vote on this occasion. The preferential vote is, in my opinion, the vital principle of this Bill, and it is as democratic as it is vital. If we desire to make this a democratic measure we should not require a man to occupy a certain financial position before he can become a candidate for this Parliament. Wo man should be prevented from becoming a candidate because he has not £25, or cannot raise that amount. Some of those who entered the first Federal Parliament had some difficulty in finding the deposit when required. It is sometimes said that if no deposit is required a great many persons will offer themselves as candidates, but that has been disproved by the experience in New South Wales, where no deposit is required for the State Parliament. All the State electorates in New South Wales are single electorates, and at the last elections, if my memory is to be relied upon, there was only one instance in which there were five candidates for one seat. There were four instances in which there were four candidates, but in the great majority of the electorates only two candidates stood for election. It is clear, therefore, that the elimination of the provision for a .deposit has not had in New South Wales the effect which some honorable members seem to think it would have if adopted for the Federal Parliament. I intend to call for a division on my amendment, that I may find out where the Democrats are. If by adopting the preferential vote we desire to permit any man who chooses to do so to become a Candida “e for this Parliament we should go further and delete this provision for a deposit by candidates. We should permit any man to become a can didate, no matter what his financial position may be.
.- I also hope that we shall eliminate paragraph c, which requires a candidate to lodge a deposit of £25. Such a requirement is, after all, only a survival of the old property qualification. It is claimed by honorable members opposite that the preferential system of voting will give the electors a better chance to secure the return of .the best possible candidate, and also that it will do away with the preselection system. If, with the coming into operation of preferential voting, the party system disappears, as these honorable members say it will, then this will impose a great hardship on individual candidates. If a party ran a full ticket for both Houses, it would have to find, in respect of the deposits of its candidates, considerably over £3,000, which would thus be tied up, although it might otherwise be spent in forwarding their interests. But if with the inauguration of preferential voting, the party system disappears altoghether, this provision will impose a great hardship on individual candidates who have no party behind them, and who, perhaps, have not been able to accumulate £25.
– Does the honorable member’s party put up the deposits of candidates ?
– It did in my case, otherwise I should not have been here today. Individual candidates who are not backed up by a party, or it may be, the members of a small propaganda party, must be prejudiced by this requirement. It is said by honorable members opposite that if no deposit were required, we should have a multiplicity of faddists, and others seeking election. I do not think that would occur to any material extent. It has not been the experience of New South Wales. In the King, Darlinghurst, and other city electorates, for the Legislative Assembly, men who have been looked upon as freak candidates have stood for election, but in New South Wales generally, as well as in other States where a deposit is not required, there has not been a multiplicity of candidates who come within that category.
This last relic of the property qualification should b.e wiped out. There are members of this House who, but for the organization of the Labour party, or the Liberal party, would not have been able, in the first instance, to offer themselves for election. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), if he had had no organization to back him up, would not have been able to seek election if this qualification had been insisted upon when he first stood for Parliament.
– Does not a man who wishes to join a union have to pay an entrance fee?
– Yes .
– That is a property qualification.
– It is not. In the case of the unions with which I have been connected the fact that a man is unable to pay his entrance fee does not deprive him of the opportunity of obtaining a job. The unions allow such a man to take a job, and give him time in which to pay his entrance fee.
– But he has to pay it.
– And the entrance fee is part of the co-operative fund.
– Quite so. If the boss sacks the man the day after he takes out his ticket, the money he has paid by way of entrance fee does not go into the consolidated revenue. In any case my honorable friend cannot draw an analogy between a union member and a parliamentary candidate.
– No. Before a man can enter a union, he must know his job.
– That is so. I agree with the honorable member that a politician has not to serve any apprenticeship. The only reason for the continuance of the deposit system is that which operated in the minds of those who voted to prohibit candidates for the Federal Parliament holding a seat in a State Parliament.
– A deposit of £25 is not enough. It should be £50, as required under the Victorian State Electoral Act.
– I dare say the honorable member, if he had his way, would insist upon a deposit of £500. He is one of the wealthy men of this community, and thinks that a deposit of , £25 is too small, yet he voted with us for the removal of the embargo against State members seeking election to this Parliament. There are men who have never been able to accumulate £25, but who have ideas which, if given effect to, might radically and beneficially alter the Constitution of this country. There are men who have not had the wherewithal to finance an election, and who have had to carry their swag through the country while they contested a seat.
– Driving an “ Irish tandem.”
– Exactly. The present member for Murrumbidgee in the State Parliament - “ Paddy “ McGarry - would not have been in that position had there been a property qualification.
– He did not carry his swag.
– He did carry it throughout the electorate, and the honorable member knows that is correct. They gave him £10, and he took up his swag and came back as the representative for Murrumbidgee. Had there been a £25 deposit required he could not ha-e contested that election, and would not have been the sitting member. He was sent out as the Political Labour League representative, for the reason that no other candidate could be secured by that body to contest the electorate.
Other instances could be cited to prove that, if this breaking up of the party system does come about, as some honorable members anticipate, on account of the alteration of the Electoral Act, a man possessing money would have all the advantage. It will be money that will count, and not brains. This qualification is nothing more or less than a tax upon brain’s and ability. It is not democratic; and, from whatever standpoint it is viewed, there is no valid reason for its continuance.
.- Until I heard the remarks of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) I had been prepared to sympathize with the difficulties of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). But the honorable member who has just resumed his seat argued, not only in the interests of the individual, but of an organization which desired to save itself from the obligation of having to put up deposits amounting to some £3,000. I would not have trespassed upon the time of the Committee, however, had I not in mind a little paragraph in the cable news of the past few days, wherein it was stated as. a fact, in a certain Swedish newspaper, that the Bolsheviks in Russia were proposing to send money out of Russia in order to capture electorates in other parts of the world.
– That is not correct.
– I did not believe it was correct, because, knowing the Bolsheviks as I do, I am fully aware that they will not part with any money which gets into their hands. Even if they did this absolutely inhumanthing-
– Order ! This Bill has nothing to do with the Bolsheviks.
– I realize that, sir ; but if this deposit of £25 were wiped out-
– The honorable member’s objection to the Bolsheviks is that they have wiped out the property qualification.
– Wiped out the propertyowners ! They cuttheirthroats.
– I wish the Cadet party on this side of the chamber would leave the Bolsheviks alone, so that I might proceed with my point. If there were any attempt to be made upon the Australian electorate by any body of opinion in any other country such an attack would be materially helped by the abolition of this deposit. Of course, if an attack of that nature were initiated from the quarter indicated bythe Swedish journal I am thoroughly aware that the representative of the Bolshevik’s in this country is sufficiently a patriot to prevent that money going any further than himself. However, the Swedish paper, no doubt, is rather straining the point in suggesting such a thing in respect to a country like Australia; andI will not further proceed with myreferences.
Mr.FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [11.32].. - I am content, in my opposition to the continuance of the deposit to take the argument of honorable members opposite. They hold that no limitation should be placed upon the freechoice of the electors, that the people should be in a position of unfettered choice in making the selection of a candidate. Yet here is one of those lingering qualifications, which, one by. one, are gradually disappearing. This, however, is to be continued. The ability to furnish a deposit of . £25 is no qualification whatever. Merit is not at all associated, necessarily, with the possession of £25, or of 25d. It is a historic fact that some of the best men the world has known have been extraordinarily poor. Poets have been notoriously poor men.
– That is not the experience here. That is a reflection upon a certain honorable member present, and should be withdrawn.
– It is not a question of poor men, but of poor poets.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - Of course, we have in this House one shining exception to that rule. We know, however, that merit has not been associated necessarily withfinancial qualifications. It is evident that in this community there are large numbers of men and women who could render excellent service in the halls of Legislature, but who are disqualified because of the necessity of finding the requisite deposit. Take the case of the Prime Minister himself. There is no question as to the ability of Mr. Hughes, whatever we may think about his other qualifications. His ability is recognised. He is a smart man.
– A statesman.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - I”hae ma doots.”
– The Brisbane Worker has its doubts about the honorable member. .
– That makes no difference as to my qualifications. But, to proceed with Mr. Hughes, that right honorable gentleman has risen to a very high and responsible position; and, undoubtedly, he has great merit and ability. We know, however, that he would never have had his opportunity in Parliament if the necessity for finding a deposit had been imposed as a personal qualification. The same fact may apply in other cases ; and this shows how true it is that -
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark, unfathom’d caves of ocean bear :
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
There are plenty of men who, for lack of opportunity, are denied the exhibition of their virtues, merits, and qualifications. Throughout the whole course of history election to Parliament has been hedged round with all sorts of qualifications and difficulties to prevent certain classes of people being returned. One by one those things have disappeared. Various restrictions in regard to age, possession of property, and electoral qualifications have gone, hut one or two still linger. Thisis one that hangs on tenaciously. The time has arrived when it should go. The right to appeal to the public for election to the Legislature should be free and unfettered. Our attitude towards this Bill throughout has been, “ Let the people’ say whether a man should be elected or not.” This limitation is a handicap on merit, and accomplishes no good purpose. It is a relic of the past, and the time has come to shake ourselves free of it. I strongly support its elimination.
– There are two very good reasons why the clause should be supported as it stands. The first is the interest of the general community, who have the right .to be protected from candidates, the only effect of whose intervention in an election is to swell the expense to which the country is put, because they have no possible chance of being returned. We are warned by some honorable members to be very careful to prevent no citizen from having the opportunity to gain a seat in Parliament because of his poverty. It would be a serious matter if poverty were allowed to prevent any man with qualifications from standing for Parliament, and if I thought this clause might have that effect I would undoubtedly vote for its amendment, but 1 am certain that it cannot possibly occur. The people who return us to Parliament are not our personal friends, but the members of the public, who know us only by repute, or through hearing us speak. As soon as the public realize that « man has a message to deliver, no matter how poor he is, he will not’ lack backers to put the money up for him. To the honour of the Empire, it can be said that” no poor man with ability is prevented from standing for Parliament by reason of his poverty. It would be indeed serious if we- were the close corporation that some people say we are, but we are not. I was poor enough when I first went into Parliament, but I undertake to say that if £25 had been required to be put up for me it would have been put up over and over again. The man who has his mind chock full of “ rats “ will not get money put up for him.
– We accept you as an authority on the question of “rats.”
– I am a good - judge of so-called Labour men, who do nothing for Labour except to vote themselves into Parliament and live on it, like the honorable member for Brisbane. I urge the Committee to retain the clause requiring a deposit, for the protection of constituencies against unnecessary candidates. It will block no poor man from standing if he is level-headed, and has a message to deliver to the people of Australia. Australians have not yet sunk so low that they will not. put up the money for a poor man who is capable of representing them in Parliament.
.- It sounds very entrancing from the lips of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) to hear the declaration that any man with half a chance pf election is always able to raise £25 in order to submit himself -as a candidate. One sees in his mind’s eye a spokesman of Democracy, like the honorable member, going cap in hand to a “ Swedish “ capitalist like the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) and saying, “ Sir, may I Submit myself to you as a person who has not, but urgently requires, £25, in order that I may submit myself as a candidate for the people’s suffrages?” This is a Democracy which requires that a man who has not a penny in the world should rely upon the generosity of his friends, in order to submit himself as a candidate for Parliament! Surely it is up to ‘ honorable members on the other side, or one of them, to tell us, in a few words–
– A few well-chosen words.
– Not necessarily well-chosen words, for I would not, for a moment, place such an impossible condition on honorable members opposite. But I say it is up to honorable members opposite to tell us, in a few words, what justification there is for imposing this obligation upon any candidate for Parliament.
The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), I understand, said that £25 was not enough.
– In Victoria it is £50.
-Oan any honorable member tell us the reason for placing this obligation on candidates? It is true the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) rose, but he did so because he lacked (hat elementary wisdom which enjoins silence where there is a. lack of knowledge.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to cease personalities, which only lead to disorderly interjections
– I can rely on you, sir, to see that I do not transgress the Standing Orders. My experience of you, as Chairman of Committees, or as Deputy. Speaker, is that you never fail to exhibit a meticulous regard for the forms of the House when I am speaking, and, therefore, I am sure I shall not be permitted to transgress for a moment. The only reason which the honorable member for Hindmarsh was able to give was palpably absurd. We should have a deposit, he said, because by that .means we will keep fools and faddists from presenting themselves as candidates for Parliament.
– Well, it has failed utterly in that regard.
– <It has failed, as the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has said. Nobody could be more clearly aware of that circumstance than the honorable member himself. If we pursue the argument of the honorable member for “Hindmarsh to its logical conclusion, does it not amount to a declaration that certain men, being fools and faddists, shall not present themselves to the judgment of the electors, and that the standard of their folly and faddism shall * be the sum of £25? But will this stand the test of serious examination for a moment? It seems to me that it will not-, and I am wondering how honorable members opposite, can hang on to the ancient fetishes which they have been accustomed to without regard to the consequences of the arguments they bring forward, and pretend to believe *in. Twenty-five pounds ! That is the amount which will secure us against cranks; against the man with ‘ ‘ rats ‘ ‘ in his garret, to use the eloquent language of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Imagine a man who was a Labour man - even supposing that. he is not now, but remembering that once he pretended to be a Labour man - saying
– Order! The honorable member is now indulging in personalities that will lead to further disorder, and I again “ask him to discontinue.
– Imagine such annan saying that the standard by which we shall judge a man’s qualifications for Par-, liament is his capacity either to produce himself or borrow. from one of his richer friends the sum of £25! And the consolation the honorable member for Hindmarsh .offers is that he is sure such a man will be able to borrow it. Let him not fear ! He Will find money-lenders to advance him this sum. There are moneylenders - some generous and some who are not - and if a man is really in earnest in wishing to .present himself as a candidate for Parliament, he will discover moneylenders ready to put up money to enable him to become a candidate. His brain, what of it? His capacity, what of it? His capacity alone to find £25 is to be the test of his eligibility. If he cannot do this, he is ineligible, and the country, according to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, should not be put to the expense of an election for a poor man. Why, he asks, should this country be saddled with the expense of an election to gratify the ambitions of a poor man ! This’ is the argument of an ex-Labour man !
.- After listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) I am lost in amazement, because I am not quite sure which Government it was that introduced this system of requiring candidates for Parliament to. lodge a deposit, of £25 with the Returning Officer. But I am certain that the -honorable member sat. behind a Government which allowed this iniquity, as he calls it, to exist. Between 1910. and 1913, and also between the years 1914 and 1917, a Labour Government were in power.
– I was not here in 1010.
– Well, I know that not one word was said by way of taking exception to this pernicious practice, as it is now termed.
-Do you say that I never spoke against it?
– I do not remember the honorable member doing so, and I am quite satisfied that his party by their inaction condoned the offence, if it can be called an offence,and, therefore, I think the honorable member has simply been wasting the time of. the House.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must withdraw that statement.
-I withdraw it. I would point out, however, that honorable members on the other side who are putting up an argument against the practice of requiring candidates to lodge a deposit having nothing to say against the practice of unions compelling men to pay £1tojoinandupto£3inlevies.
– Order !
– And making their- unions a close corporation by compelling men to join before they are allowed to work, to wit, £10 having to be paid by a man before he can join the Hatters Union.
Mr.Tudor. - That does not happen to be correct.
– Order ! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to support the Chair.
– I will.
– I ask him to set a good example and help to prevent these interjections. I have several times called honorable members to order, and I ask the Committee to support me in insisting that these recriminations shall not be introduced into this debate.
– I am simply drawing a comparison between the arguments used by honorable members on the other side. Honorable members opposite have referred to this Government as undemocratic, and I have the right to compare our record with theirs. It is certainly undemocratic to compel a man to pay £20 before allowing him to get work as a wharf labourer.
– The honorable member is out of order. I appeal to him to obey the Standing Orders. He is proceeding to say something which must be offensive to some other honorable members, and may lead to recrimination and disorder. I ask him to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I have no wish to deal in personalities. I was defending this party from the attack of the Opposition, which has accused us of having taken an undemocratic stand.
– I have interfered to prevent the Opposition members from doing that.
Sitting suspended from 11.57 p.m. to 12.55 a.m. (Friday).
.No good reason has been given for the retention of the provision requiring candidates for election to the Federal Parliament to make a monetary deposit. This requirement of the law is a surviving remnant of the property qualification such as that for the Legislative Council of Victoria, which is one of the most effete legislative bodies that could be found. Until recently a member of the House of Commons was not paid, and candidates had to subscribe to the expenses of the election, and find adeposit as well. They are still required to find a deposit, and this is not refunded to the sucessful candidate until he has taken his seat. I was living in a division of Lancashire in 1892. and there was some talk of running a Labour candidate, but we found that’ we should have to provide £400 or £500 to meet the official expenses in addition to the electioneering expenses. In New South Wales, for many years past, no deposit has been required of candidates.
Mr.McWilliams. - The Parliament of New South Wales is not a bit better than this Parliament.
– The requiring of a deposit’ from candidates has not made this Parliament any better than the New SouthWales Parliament. It may be said that a man who cannot find £25 has not much chance of being elected, but when I was first a candidate for this Parliament, it would have been difficult for me to pay the deposit of £50 then required had not some friends come to my aid. The first Federal elections were conducted in each State under the electoral law of that State, and the; Victorian electoral law required candidates to deposit £50.
– The deposit required in England is £150.
– And the money is not refunded to the successful candidate until he has taken his- seat in the House of Commons. That provision was enacted to prevent the Sinn Feiners from turning elections into ridicule. I realize that we have not any hope of doing away with the deposit, and I congratulate the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) on having succeeded in getting one amendment made. But I feel bound to vote against the present arrangement.
.- If honorable members are consistent, they will abolish the deposit. Ministerialists who spoke on the second reading in support of preferential voting denounced those of the Opposition who were against it as being undemocratic, because, they said, it would give every one a clear run, and would not confine candidates to those who obtained the indorsement of a party organization. I have met many able men in my travels through life who, had they had an opportunity to show their ability,, might have made their mark in politics. If every one is to be given a free run under the preferential system, why do honorable members Opposite swallow the camel and strain at the gnat- by insisting on the retention of the £25 deposit? If the deposit is abolished there will not’ be any rush of candidates, ^particularly in the big Commonwealth electorates.
– There has been no great rush in New South Wales.
– No; and several elections have taken place in that State since the deposit was abolished there. We ought not to try to make money out of candidates. As for the argument that preferential voting will give every candidate a fair run, I would point out that in a division like Maranoa a candidate who had not the support of ah organization would have no more chance of getting elected than he would have of flying without wings or an aeroplane.
– How many candidates for this Parliament have lost their’ deposits ?
– Not many.
– The cold-water candidate in the Swan division has lost his deposit. ,
– No wonder; he threw cold water on his own chances-. I do not think that any Commonwealth seat could be won on the prohibition ticket.
– The farmers’ candidate was a prohibitionist.
– =But he had another organization behind him, and Mr. Hedges had the great Win-the-war party behind him. The natural corollary to preferential voting is the abolition of the deposit. If I were desirous of. standing for Parliament, and I did”, not possess £25, I would borrow the money from friends who would have sufficient faith in me to provide the deposit for me. In fact, on many occasions, dummy candidates have been nominated. by certain people in order to enable their particular candidates to secure election on minority votes. At the present time, the parties in the .Australian political arena are the Nationalist party, the Labour party, the Farmers’ party, and the Soldiers’ party. The Win-the-war Government are very anxious to give the soldiers a fair “ go “ ; but the majority of the boys who return from the Front are not millionaires, and why should not the Government let them have a “ fly “- for parliamentary honours?
– They will find the money for deposits.
– The honorable member means that the organizations will find the money for them, but the returned soldier, who is outside an organization, will not have any possible chance of finding it. We notice in the Victorian newspapers’ statements that this man or the other does not belong to the fair “ dinkum “ returned soldiers’ organization, but belongs to another body. Let us abolish deposits, and allow the electors to say which candidate is the “ dinkum “ returned soldier. The returned soldiers’ associations, both political and nonpolitical, propose to run candidates for parliamentary honours - they have told us so - and if we are anxious to give these men a fair “ go “ by taking the matter out of the hands of the various organizations, we can only do so by abolishing the deposits. Honorable members opposite must have meant what they said on the second reading of the Bill, that preferential voting is being established so that every constituency may be faithfully and fully represented in this Chamber. Let them prove that they were not speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, by following preferential voting to its logical conclusion and abolishing deposits, thus allowing every one to stand for this Parliament, and giving the electors the absolute and final choice in the matter.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Bamford’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 74 to 80 agreed to.
Clause 81 -
In the case of the death of any candidate before the date of election, the depositlodged by him shall be returned to his personal representatives.
– I desire toknow whether I shall be in order inmoving for the insertion of a proviso to the effect that where not more than two candidates are nominated at an election, and one of them dies after nomination and before polling day, the proceedings shall be declared null and void, and fresh nominations called for.
-I think that the proposal outlined by the honorable member will be in order upon clause83 : but it is not relevant to this clause.
Amendment (by Mr. Sinclair) proposed -
That all the words after “ returned “ be left out.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 82 agreed to.
– In sub-clause 3 of clause82 I desire to strike out the words “ a greater number of candidates than are required to be elected are nominated,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ the number of candidates nominated is greater than the’ number required to ‘be elected.”
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that we have already passed this clause.
– I was on my feet at the time.
– The Minister may have been on his feet; but he was rather inclined to be somnolent. At any rate, I understood that the clause had been agreed to, and I should like your ruling, sir, on the matter.
– The error was partly my own. I was under the impression that the clause finished upon page 19 of the Bill, when, as a matter of fact, it is continued for several lines upon page 20.
– Have you, sir, ruled on the point of order raised by the honorable member for Wentworth? I distinctly heard yon say that the clause had been carried.
– I was up at the time.
– The clause continues on page 20 of the Bill, and I desire your ruling, sir, on the point Taised by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– On the question of fact, I desire to say that I was actually on my feet at the time you, sir, declared- the clause carried.
– The fact that the Minister was “ up “ at the time does not necessarily mean that he was addressing the Chair. I have seen him “ up “ on many occasions, makingperambulatory visits, behind the Chair in order to seek for knowledge upon his own Bill. I ask you, sir, to rule definitely whether the clause has been passed.
– I have already explained that, acting under a misapprehension, I declared the clause carried. That being so, we must pass on to the next clause.
Clause 83 -
If after the nominations have been declared, and before polling day, any candidate dies, and the candidates remaining are not greater in number than the candidates required to be elected, they shall forthwith be declared to be elected, and the writ returned.
– I move -
That all the words after “ elected “ first occurring be left out, with a view to insert in Heu thereof the words “ the nominations shall be declared null and void, and fresh nominations shall be called for in the same manner as if a vacancy had been created as from the date of the death of tlie deceased candidate.”
– I have a prior amendment to move.
– If there is one portion of this Bill which ought to be treated from a non-party stand-point it is certainly this portion. No candidate wishes to jump a seat in this Parliament by reason of the death of another candidate after nomination and before polling day. The Minister (Mr. Glynn), I think, will recognise that this is a most desirable amendment to make, inasmuch as it will prevent the electors of any division, in the circumstances I have indicated, having a candidate foisted upon them in opposition to their wishes. I do not agree with the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that in the event of the death of one of the candidates for a constituency, the party nominating that candidate should ‘have the right to nominate a fresh candidate.
– What would the honorable member do in the case of an election for the Senate? There was a case of that sort, which affected the representation of South Australia.
– If the number of candidates nominated was less than the vacancies to be filled,’ I would cancel the election. My proposal would impose less hardship upon senators than it would upon the members of this Chamber, because the salaries of the former would continue.
– Is not that anomaly altered in this Bill?
– No. The principle for which I am contending is just as sound in the case of senators as it is in the case of members of the House of Representatives, and I am surprised that the Minister proposes to allow this evil to be perpetuated.
– The Government have been victorious hitherto.
– But they may not be as successful in the future as they have been in the past. At the last general election, it will be remembered, one candidate died immediately after he had been elected. A difference of only a few days would probably have . given that seat to the Labour candidate; This defect could easily be rectified, because I understand that there are. no constitutional obstacles to the insertion of a proviso cancelling all arrangements for the election in a constituency, or in the State, in the case . of the Senate, where a vacancy by death occurs, when there are not more than the requisite number of candidates nominated. I hope that the
Minister will realize that this is a most desirable provision to insert, and that honorable members will support it.
– I do not think the amendment will remedy the existing condition of affairs. The real grievance is that, by the death of the candidate of a party, the electors are deprived of the opportunity of giving expression to their views on the current politics of the hour. In such circumstances, the election should not be proceeded with.
– Isnot that the effect of my amendment ?
– No ; because the amendment applies. only to elections in which the number of candidates does not exceed the number of members to be elected. There are more than two parties in this country; At the next election, there may be five- parties in the field. In this matter, we ought to consider, not the convenience of the party, but the convenience of the elector. If, before polling day, the candidate of a particular party dies, not only has that party lost their representative, but the’ electors have to submit to representation by a candidate holding views diametrically opposed to their own. In my opinion, whenever a candidate dies, the election should be postponed until fresh nominations can be obtained.
– If the candidate of a party that could only expect to poll about 150 votes were to die, should the whole election be cancelled?
– Until the electors have registered their votes, no one can say with certainty which candidate will win. It would be absurd to provide that, if the Labour or Nationalist candidate died, the election should be postponed, but that if the Prohibitionist candidate died, ‘the election should proceed. I cannot support the amendment unless it is made applicable to every occasion on which a candidate dies. In this Parliament, a party held power for a long time on one vote, and, by the death of one can didate at the elections, the whole balance of power might have been transferred from one party to another. This is a very serious matter, and the right of the electors to be represented by a candidate holding their views ought to be preserved. The present conditions ought to be remedied, but the amendment will not do that.
.In connexion with the election which followed the double dissolution in 1914, Senator McGregor, who was one of the six Labour candidates for the Senate in South Australia, unfortunately passed away after nominations had closed. lt was mandatory on every elector for the’ Senate to vote for six candidates. The Labour party executive selected one of the Liberal candidates upon whom all the Labour supporters should concentrate their sixth vote.
– What would happen if only six candidates were nominated, and one died?
– There would be no election in those circumstances, and probably the vacant seat would be filled, a.s provided for in the Constitution, by the State Legislature, at a joint sitting selecting a man.
– The death of Senator McGregor practically reduced the Labour party’s candidates at the 1914 elections from six to four.
– That is what happened, because the vote that was concentrated on Senator Shannon counteracted the votes for the five Labour candidates. In connexion with the Victorian Parliament, Mr. Thomas Skene, who was a member of this House in the first two Commonwealth Parliaments, was selected as the antiLabour candidate in an election held about 1906, and he died within twentyfour hours of the closing of nominations. The Hon. James McCay was selected to fill the vacancy. Had that death occurred twenty-four hours later, the. whole of the anti-Labour party would have been compelled to vote for one of the Labour candidates or for Miss Vida Goldstein.
– The only way out of the difficulty would be for every party to have a reserve candidate nominated. That would be possible under the preferential-voting system.
-That would not overcome the difficulty in regard to Senate elections, lt would be useless to nominate more candidates than were to be elected because that would mean the throwing away of votes. I think it would be better if we were to incorporate in this Bill a provision: similar to that in the Electoral (War-time) Act, allowing the party which is responsible for nominating the candidate an. opportunity of replacing him in the event of his death.
-Suppose that an Independent candidate were to die.
– We might be able to provide that his nominators should be allowed to bring forward a substitute. At any rate, we should make some provision which would obviate the possibility of a recurrence of the trouble that occurred in South Australia in connexion with the 1914 elections for the Senate.
.- The object of the amendment is provided for, to some extent, at the present time, by the Electoral (War-time) Act.
– What is the duration of that Act?
– It lasts during the war and for six. months thereafter. In the meantime, we may have preferential voting in force, and may have an opportunity of seeing its effects in relation to parties. If this amendment were agreed to, and the death ofa Senate candidate occurred, the election would have to be postponed after most of the expenditure had been incurred. In the case of the House of Representatives, it would be necessarv to hold a new election, although the elections for both Houses are usually held on the same day. I suggest- that this matter be left in abeyance for the time being, because we have in the Electoral (War-time) Act a provision which allows of a party nomination.
– I am sensible of the difficulty of introducing a new provision, of which I have already given notice, particularly in the form in which it has been submitted for the consideration of honorable members. It is evident that the Committee is of opinion that something should be done in regard to the point at issue. In the Electoral (War-time) Act, which, in this Bill, is to be perpetuated, definite provision is made. Under present circumstances, that provision would be sufficient for all requirements; but it is. certain that, at the next elections, there will be a multiplicity of parties. I am not seriously concerned about that, because, if it is left to the leaders of the two parties at present recognised to substitute a candidate in the case of the death of a nominated candidate, there will be time enough then to consider the claims of any other parties. It is no use providing for something that does not now exist, and may not exist later.
– But there are more than two parties. There is the Temperance party.
– No; that is not a political party.
– The honorable member has advised every elector to vote for temperance candidates, ho matter what may be their political views.
– If there were a Temperance party, I would be one of its candidates. I would know whether there was such a party or not. I suggest that clause 83 be struck out, and that there be substituted for it the wording of . section 15 of the Electoral (War-time) Act. To retain clause 83, and. to include the section of the wartime measure, would be to perpetuate a contradiction. Clause 83 provides that if a candidate dies, and the candidates remaining are not greater in number than those required to be elected, they shall forthwith be declared to be elected. Thus, to follow such a clause with the provision that the leaders of the two parties shall have the right to choose a substitute candidate, would be illogical. I suggest, therefore, that clause 83 be struck out. The provision in the war-time measure would then meet every requirement. Failing the acceptance of that suggestion, I would offer another proposal, that to clause 83 be added the words -
Provided that if the candidate who has died wns a candidate representing the Ministerial party or the Opposition party, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition party, as the ease may be, may certify to the Chief Electoral Officer …
And so on. Either of the two proposals would meet the difficulty.
– It would be better to leave the matter alone for the present, although there is much to be said for what the honorable member has indicated.
– But theWar-time Act will become inoperative six months after the war is over.
– Consideration - could be given, after preferential voting has come into operation, as to what might be the best method to adopt.
– The War-time Act will have disappeared. We are trying to establish a consolidated system, and honorable members are of opinion that something should be done to secure any party against an unfortunate position that may arise.
– What would be the position in the case of a man enjoying the support of two parties, say, the Prohibition and anti-Gambling parties ? And what if it were for the representatives of those two parties to choose a successor, and each party desired a separate candidate?
– It has been suggested that it would be wise to give the nominators of any candidate the right to choose a substitute candidate; but that would be open to serious objection, because the nominees of a candidate are more ‘a formality than anything else.
Personally, I would prefer to limit the matter to either of the two parties already in existence. When that stage has arrived where there may befive parties, each would have equal rights of consideration ; but it may be safely accepted that when a multiplicity of parties has come about, we can then legislate for them.
To test the Committee, and to give the Minister an opportunity to clearly state the intention of the Government, I move -
That clause 83 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof section 15 of the Electoral (War-time) Act.
– The honorable member is now proposing a different procedure from that which he previously notified.
– This would be a prior amendment.
– The honorable member may secure his object by voting against the clause as a whole, and then by moving to insert a new clause.
– I will content myself by standing by the amendment which I have just moved.
.Has provision been made to cover the eventuality of a candidate being declared bankrupt between the date of nomination and polling day? Would not such pro- vision require to be included in the measure, just as in the case of the death of a candidate?
– I think the provision in the Constitution would be adequate to coyer such an emergency as that.
With respect to the other matter under discussion, I ask the honorable member forBrisbane (Mr. Finlayson) not to press his amendment at this stage. There is a provision under the Electoral (War-time) Act which, until six months after the war, will cover, the contingency raised by the honorable member. Meanwhile, we shall be able to find out whether it will be necessary, to amend that provision.
– This Bill will never come back again. The Government will never care to bring in another amending . Electoral Bill.
-That will not necessarily be a consideration. The section in the war-time measure applies now to only the two parties in existence, which are presumed to be represented by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. But, if four or five parties should nominate candidates it would be rather rough upon them to say that only
Ministerialists or Opposition representatives should nominate a candidate in place of a deceased candidate. I promise honorable members that I will consider the whole matter.
-. - Why not undertake to submit some amendment upon this point when the Bill reaches another place?
– If the Minister would undertake that I would he pre- pared to withdraw my, amendment.
– I prefer to leave _ the matter over for the present. It is a modification that should be made only in the light of experience. There will be plenty of time to consider what should be done.
– I hope the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) will persist with his amendment. This is not a party matter. It is notorious that when once Bills are got out of the way no Government cares to bring them before Parliament again.
– It should not be overlooked that the Electoral (Wartime) Act does not apply to by-elections.
– That is so; and, moreover, six months after the Avar that Statute will have lapsed. We are not likely to have an election for eighteen months or more, by which time the Wartime Act will not be in existence. We should provide now for a contingency which has arisen in the past, and may arise again.
– The Minister says he would like time to consider matters in the light of experience. Does that mean that he doe3 not propose to amend the Bill in another place? If that is the case it will be the duty of the Committee to insert anamendment now. It is idle to say that the War-time Act covers the situation entirely. It does so only so far as two parties arc concerned, and only with regard to general elections; and that Statute is to be in existence for but a fixed period. Expedition, I think, will be best served by meeting the Committee. I suggest that the Minister should help those who consider this a serious matter.
– Why not adjourn now to enable the Minister to bring in an amended proposal?
– I am sure that if the Minister will promise to have an amendment made in the Senate, the Committee will give bini an opportunity . to draft a well-considered provision.
– T,he clause ought to stand, but, as I have said, some amendment should be made in the other provision. I cannot draft an amendment now likely to meet the wishes of all honorable members. .
– Will the Minister have an amendment made when the Bill is in the Senate?
– I shall see whether it is possible to do that. I cannot speak definitely at the present moment.
– The two provisions are entirely contradictory.
– Not entirely. I think the Committee had better let this clause pass, and if I can re-frame it in connexion with the other provision, to cover the weakness in the Electoral (War-time) Act, I shall do so.
– And have it moved in the Senate?
– Very likely. I left the provision in the Act with a view to refraining it later in the light, of the experience of preferential voting. I ask the Committee to let the clause go, and if I can frame an amendment to deal with the situation, I shall do so.
Question - That the clause be agreed to « - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 84 agreed to.
Clause 85 -
An elector who -
will not throughout the hours of polling on polling day be within fifteen miles by . the nearest practicable route of any polling booth open in the Commonwealth for the purposes of an election; or
will throughout the hours of polling on polling day be travelling under conditions which will preclude him from attending at any polling booth to vote; or
is seriously ill orinfirm, and by reason of such” illness or infirmity will be precluded from attending at any polling booth, to Vote, or, in the case of a woman, will by approaching maternity be precluded from ‘attending at any polling booth to vote, may make application for a postal-vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.
The application ‘must contain a declaration by the elector setting out the -grounds upon which he applies for the postal-vote certificate and postal ballot-paper, and may be in the prescribed form, and must be signed by the elector in his own handwriting in the presence of an authorized witness, and must be made and sent, after the isue of the writ for the election and before the polling day for the election, to the Divisional Returning Officer for the Division for which the elector is enrolled or to some other Divisional Returning Officer if the. elector has reason to believe that the application may not, in the ordinary course of post, reach the Divisional Returning Officer for the Division for which he is enrolled so as to enable him to receive a postal-vote certificate and postal ballot-paper from that officer in time to permit of the elector voting at the election.
An elector shall not make, and a person, shall not induce an elector to make, any false statement in an application for a postalvotecertificate and postal ballot-paper, or in thedeclaration contained in such application.
Penalty : Fifty pounds, or imprisonment for one month.
.- In 1914 there was a double dissolution, when the people pronounced against the party that wished to reinstate postal voting. Sir William Irvine, the man responsible for the double dissolution, stated that the people then decided for preference to unionists and for the abolition of postal voting. If ever a general election was fought on two questions alone, that election was so fought. Prior to the double dissolution, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) moved an amendment to provide for a system of postal voting, which was defeated by one vote only. He has had to go to his electorate to attend a Labour demonstration there in connexion with the miners, and he has asked me to move on this clause an amendment containing the proposal to which I refer. I therefore move -
That all the words after the words “An elector who “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “by reason of illness or infirmity believes that he will be unable to attend at the polling place at any time during the hours of polling, may make application by pest to the returning officer of the division in which the applicant is enrolled for a vote after the issue of the writ for the election, and within sevendays preceding the day of the election. The returning officer, on a day previous to the election, and after the day for receiving applications has expired, shall instruct the presiding officer appointed at the nearest polling place to call at the address of the applicant, and who shall, if satisfied tha t, the claimant is entitled to vote under the provisions of this’ section, supply a ballot-paper to the elector, who, in the presence of the officer, but so that the officer cannot see the vote, shall mark the ballot’-paper in the prescribed manner, and shall fold and secure the ballot-paper so that the vote cannot be seen. The ballot-paper shall then be placed in -a sealed ballot-box in the presence of. the presid- ing officer, and shall be opened and counted at the scrutiny at the close of the ballot.”
The difference between the proposal of the honorable member for Hunter and that of the Government is that the honorable member’s proposal keeps the control of the voting within the Electoral Department by preventing outsiders from, dealing with postal votes. It was stated that the abolition by the Labour party of the postal voting systemdisfranchised a great number of’ persons, among them many women who had just become, or were about to become, mothers. As I took the trouble to prove by statistics, in Mel- . bourne, the birth rate in districts like Richmond, Footscray, Collingwood, and Brunswick is 50 per c0nt. higher than ii is in constituencies like South Yarra and Malvern, and, therefore, if the argument were correct, we must have been doing greater injury to our supporters in industrial localities than to our opponents. There is a considerable difference between the Government proposal for the reestablishment of postal voting contained in the Bill and the method repealed in 1911. Under the original provision the person desiring to vote by post had only to state that he thought that he’ was going to be ill, but under the provision in the Bill it must be stated by the elector that he is seriously ill or infirm. In the original provisions persons who said that they would not, ori election day, be within 5 miles of a polling booth, could vote by post. Under thisclause only those who are likely to be 15 miles away will be able to so vote. There are more safeguards surrounding the exercise of the postal vote under the Bill than there were in the provisions that -we repealed; but in the matter of witnessesli ttle change ‘ has been made, and it was ‘ the question of witnessing that caused all the trouble. The trouble in the past has been that partisans witnessed . postal votes. The honorable member foir Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), if he were here, could tell the Committee that more postal votes were polled in the subdivision of the Melbourne Division, bounded by Elizabethstreet, Bourke-street, Victoria-street, and Spring-street, than were recorded in the whole of Western Australia. The Government have certainly improved the postal -voting provisions; but, in my. opinion, the only persons who should deal with these matters are officials of the Electoral Department.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 86 agreed to,
An authorized witness shall not witness the signatureof any elector to an application for a postal-vote certificate and postal ballotpaper unless -
Penalty : Fifty pounds, or’ imprisonment for one month.
– I move -
That the words “ Fifty pounds or imprisonment for one month “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Imprisonment for six months.”
Any person who is guilty of corrupt practices, especially in regard to postal voting, or in regard to absent voting, would not be deterred by the imposition of a penalty of £25, to which amount the Minister intimates that he proposes to reduce it.
– No one will feel inclined to pay £25 for each vote.
– Those who find the money for some one else who will commit these corrupt practices will not take the risk of being imprisoned for six months.
– People are not likely to find money for some one else’s benefit.
– They may be finding the money for their own benefit, if they can get some one foolish enough to take the risk on their behalf. If this Act is to guard effectively against corrupt practices, the most effective deterrent is not the imposition of a’ fine. If a person knows that he may be imprisoned for six months if he. is detected in corrupt practices, he will think very hard before setting out to engage in them, on behalf of any candidate. If honorable members are actuated with a desire to preserve politics from degenerating into the corrupt-
– -State of the Bolsheviks. Mr. CONSIDINE.- The Bolsheviks have eliminated all forms of corruption in Russia by separating property-owners from their property, and by prohibiting them from standing as candidates. We can only guard against corrupt practices by making the penalty imprisonment, without the option of a fine.
– I have a prior amendment. Will the honorable member withdraw his amendment temporarily?
Amendment (by leave) temporarily withdrawn.
.- I move-
That the following paragraph be inserted: - “(d) he has satisfied himself that the elector is unable to have his application witnessed . and his vote recorded before a Commonwealth Divisional Returning Officer, Assistant Returning Officer, or Commonwealth Electoral Registrar.”
The object of this amendment is to curtail, as far as possible, the collecting of votes - for that really is what it is - or that open voting which is inevitable under the postal-voting system.
– Does the honorable member say that it is open voting?
– It is not actual open voting which is provided for in the Bill ; but. as the system is carried out, as between the voter and the witness, it may be, and very often is, open voting. We should . -limit the area of that risk as much as we can, and should not allow a postal vote to be recorded other than before an electoral officer, unless the elector is not able to go to one. What mainly tended towards breaking down the postal-voting system when it was previously in force was not the proper use of the system, but the fact that it was found that votes could be collected from people who were prepared to affirm . that they could not go to a polling booth. An organized effort., was made to collect the votes of women and others who were unwilling to submit themselves to what they considered the indignity of pushing their way through the common crowdat a polling booth.In Victoria, especially, a number of women found the postal vote a loop-hole through which they could vote without going to a polling booth. In this way the system was misused, and it would be unwise to-day to allow electors to vote otherwise than under the superintendence of officers of the Electoral Department, unless an elector is not able to go to an office where these officials may be found. My amendment will provide that the host of authorized witnesses specified in the Bill will not be able to witness postal-voting certificates or postal votes if it is at all possible for the regular officers of the Electoral Department to do so.
.I trust that the Minister (Mr. Glynn) will not accept . the amendment. In my judgment, the amendment which the Minister himself intends to move to this clause will adequately protect the postal vote, and will provide for every contingency that is likely to arise. . The great evil which every honorable member is desirous of abolishing in connexion with postal voting is the personal canvas. Under the Minister’s amendment the penalty which will be imposed upon any authorized witness who associates himself with any person in persuading an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate or a postal ballot-paper, is a fine of £25. Now I maintain that there can be no open voting in connexion with the postal vote. The elector has merely to show that there is no mark or name upon the postal ballot-paper when it is handed to him. I repeat, that it is the canvassers who have created all the trouble associated with the postal voting system, and I hope that the Minister will adhere to his amendment.
– I ask the Committee to accept my amendment as an adequate one. The other conditions which it is sought to apply to the clause are really. based upon the personal knowledge of an authorized witness. They could, not be- attached to the proposal of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), which would render it very difficult for an elector to sign an application for a postal ballot-paper at all.
. - I move -
That the words “Fifty pounds or imprison, ment for one month “ be left out with the view to insert. in lieu thereof the words “Imprisonment for six months.”
The fact that these corrupt practices will meet with six months imprisonment will, I believe, act as a deterrent to evil doers.
– But the penalty is high enough as it stands.
– It is not. When the Minister (Mr. Glynn) proposes in his amendment to reduce the financial penalty by one-half, and to eliminate imprisonment entirely, it shows the light way in which he views these evil practices. My proposal is to cut out the financial penalty, and substitute for it six months’ imprisonment.
– Itried to get a man out of a fine of £1 the other day.
– Probably that was at a time when the honorable member’s chief used to speak of these offenders as “ mistaken enthusiasts.” If we . are to make an honest attempt to prevent these corrupt practices, the penalty should be one which will act as a deterrent.
– I move -
That after sub-clause2 the following subclause be inserted : - “ (3) An authorized witness shall not persuade, or induce, or associate himself with any person in persuading or inducing any person to make application for a postal vote certificate or postal ballot-paper.
Penalty, Twenty-five pounds.
– Why has the Minister struck out. the words “or imprisonment for one month “ ?
– If the honorable member will look at clause 172, he will see that the penalty for inducing an elector not to vote at an election is fixed at £25, and I think it would be wise to insert the same penalty in this clause.
– In my opinion, the penalty provided here is altogether too low. An authorized witness who does not satisfy himself as to the identity of an applicant for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper is liable to a penalty of £50, or one month’s imprisonment. But a man who deliberately violates the law by inducing people to make application for a postal ballot-paper is to escape by the payment of only half that fine, and is to incur absolutely no risk of imprisonment. I think that the one penalty should apply to the whole of the clause. I therefore move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “Twenty-five” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ Fifty “ and adding after “pounds” the words “or imprisonment for one month.”
– I shall vote against the amendment because it would leave the question of punishment absolutely untouched. A fine, of £50 would be no penalty whatever in the case of a person who had the money with which to pay it. Only by substituting imprisonment for a fine can we make the punishment of these offences a deterrent to all and sundry.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 88 to 95 agreed to.
Clause 96 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 97 -
A postal vote shall not be rejected because the surname only of a candidate has been written thereon if no other candidate has the same surname, or by reason of any mistake in spelling where the elector’s intention is clear.
– I should like to know how this clause squareswith the preferential system of voting ?
– It deals only with postal voting.
– But as the elector is. not allowed to ‘ plump, how can he write the surname of a candidate upon his ballot-paper, assuming that six’ or seven candidates are contesting an election ?
– It does not apply to the writing of one surname only.”
– But are we to assume that the elector has voted the order in which the names of the candidates are written on his ballot-paper?
– He will have to put numbers in front of the names in the ordinary way.
– Suppose that he does not do so?
– Then his vote’ will he informal.
– That is just what 1 wanted to ascertain.
– That would be an informal vote.
– It appears as if this clause had been inserted in disregard of the fact that preferential voting was contemplated ; otherwise the clause would have been phrased in the plural, and. refer to “ candidates “ and “ surnames.” I wish to be sure that it will not be possible to do with the postal vote what cannot be done with ordinary votes.
– The voter will write in the names of the candidates.
– If I go to a polling booth and write in the names of the candidates, I must place a numeral against each name.
– Clause 92 (6) says that the voting must be in * the prescribed manner ; that means prescribed by the Act or regulations under the Act.
– It appears to me that the object is to confuse the electors who may vote by post.
– Can the Minister explain what clause in the Bill requires the postal voter to write in the names of the candidates? If l ot, I take it that this clause is inserted -.merely to save the public from the faults of the Department.
– The practice in the past has been for the elector to write in the name of the candidate on the postal- ballot-paper.
– But the clause does not prescribe that the voter shall write in the names.
.I have acted as scrutineer in at least three Senate elections, and have dealt with a large number of postal votes. “Even before the nominations close an elector may apply for a postal ballot-paper, and write in the name of the candidates for whom he wishes to vote. After the nominations close, the ballot-papers are printed immediately, and T suppose that less than 10 per cent! of the ballot-papers have the names written in by the voter.
– Under the preferential voting system the elector will have to wait until the candidates are nominated before recording his postal vote.
– The person who votes before the nominations close is in danger of having his vote declared informal, because the man for whom he votes may not be nominated, but persons have been known to ha/e been away from Australia three weeks before polling day, and their votes have been recorded by post.
– Those are called absent votes.
– Yes, but a person who expects to be absent on polling day may apply for a postal vote.
– Under the new system it will be necessary., to have the full list of candidates on the ballot-papers in order-‘ that the voter may signify his preference. .
– I believe there will be no necessity for this clause so far as the elections for the House of Representatives are concerned, but if a person, who is likely to be away from Australia, desires to vote for a Senate election, he may vote by ‘post as. soon as the writ is issued, assuming, of course, that there will be no preferential voting for the Senate. I think this clause could be struck out without detriment to the Bill. It has been inserted by an oversight.
– That is not so. Before nominations close a man may vote, and the practice in connexion with such votes is for the name of the candidate to be written on the ballot-paper by the voter.
– A person cannot vote under the preferential system before the nominations close.
– He will be able to do so for the Senate. There will be” no preferential voting for the Senate, and, apparently, the Government have allowed the clause to remain so that in the event of any person voting before the nominations close his vote will not be declared informal.
– One would infer from all that has been said about postal voting that the people of Australia are a community of “ frauds.”’ I have never known of any fraud occurring in connexion with postal voting. It is wrong to suggest that because persons are on sick beds and have recourse to the postal vote they are likely to be guilty of fraud. The postal vote ought never to have been removed from the Electoral Act, and I hope the Committee will agree to its reinstatement.
– Honorable members have asked me whether the postal voting provisions will be broughtinto force in time for the Corangamite by-election. I think they will be. We cannot distribute the postal ballotpapers all over the Commonwealth as extensively as we could if more time were available, but to the extent to which it can be done it will be done. In order to improve the wording of the clause, I move as an amendment -
That after the word “ because “ the word “ the “ be left out, and the following words inserted: - “in the ease of any candidate his”
– I take it that if, before the printing of the ballot-paper, a person votes on the assumption that there will be only two candidates when actually three are nominated, his vote will be informal?
– If he votes before nominations close he will have to take the risk of his vote being declared informal.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 98 (Returning Officer to make arrangements).
.How long does the Minister (Mr. Glynn) propose to ask the Committee to sit? We have now passed the postalvoting provisions, which I understand the Minister wished to dispose of before’ adjourning. Only one other contentious portion of the Bill remains, namely, the clauses relating to preferential voting. We have sat here all day and night; there has been no “ stone-walling “ on the part of the members of the Opposition, and I ask the Minister to report progress so that we maygo to our homes.
– There are a few other clauses that we would like to dispose of
– Then we shall come to the preferential voting provisions, upon which there will be some debate. Does the Minister intend to ask the Committee to sit on continuously?
– May I suggest to the Minister that the Government, when they decided to determine this debate by the “ guillotine “ at a certain hour, had not in mind this late sitting. They decided that a certain time was necessary for the discussion of the Bill without asking honorable members to sit day and night. We have passed the most troublesome portion of the measure, and I think that we might now report progress. Honorable members were asked to’ sit here till 2 a.m. It is now after 3 a.m., and the Minister seems to be still a glutton for work. Is it essential to the Government’s purposes that we should sit all night?
– I will not vote for the “ guillotine “ again if there, are to be all-night sittings.
.Apparently the Minister has made up his mind to go right ahead.
– Taking the proportion of the time occupied to the clauses dealt with, does the honorable member think that we have done . very well?
– That does not enter into the question at all. We pass eight or ten clauses in a few minutes and then one clause will hold up the Committee for an hour. On the first of the preferential voting clauses there is sure to be discussion. The supporters of the “ guillotine “ argued that it would obviate all-night sittings, and I, as one who has sat through as many late sittings as any member of the Committee, hate them. I feel sure that no honorable member who voted for the “guillotine” to be applied to this Bill at 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon expected that we should be sitting here at 3.30 a.m. The Minister would be well advised in the interests of Parliament to agree to an adjournment until the ordinary hour of meeting on Fridays, namely; 11 a.m. The Committee would then have a few hours in which to finally polish off the Bill. After all, there is only one controversial subject remaining, that is, preferential voting.
– Then let us get to it.
– I object to going on any further. Does the Minister in charge of the Bill propose to go right on?
– We want to go on further than this.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 99 agreed to.
Clause 100 (No licensed premises to be used).
.I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.] This clause sets out that no part of any premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor shall be used for the purpose of any polling booth. The same provision has been in every Federal Electoral Act, and I have no objection to it. I again call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.] The position with respect to intoxicating liquors has been entirely altered during the past few years.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) having entered the chamber, I point out that there remains only one controversial section of the Bill. There has not been any “ stone-walling “ on the measure so far, but if honorable members opposite desire to go straight on, there are a few honorable members on this side who will see that the Committee sits straight through the remaining hours.
– I suggest that consideration of the debatable clauses be postponed until after the usual hour of meeting on Fridays, that is, 11 a.m. That would provide a few hours’ respite, and would furnish opportunity for the full and representative discussion which, apparently, is desired upon the question of preferential voting.
– Preferential voting is covered in clauses 124, 125, 134, 136. and 137. Discussion of those clauses could be postponed, and I would not object. But, as to the remaining clauses in the Bill, there are certain amendments of which notice has been given; and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has given notice of a new clause. I doubt if the Committee’s business will have been advanced very much if we adopt the present suggestion. However, if the Minister cares to agree to carrying on up to clause 123, the intervening clauses can be dealt with in a very few minutes, so far as 1 am concerned. And with regard to other clauses subsequent to those dealing with preferential voting, I shall have nothing to say, so far as I know at present.
– I do not enjoy all-night sittings ; I hate them like poison. I appreciate what a strain they are on honorable members, particularly when an Opposition is small, as is the case at present; and the strain is upon Government supporters also, seeing that they are required to sit up through the long hours of the night”, lt is no good for the Committee to sit continuously unless something substantial is to be achieved. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn) assures me that, with the exception of those clauses dealing” with preferential voting, the whole of the remainder comprise practically a consolidation of the existing Acts. There are certain additional provisions designed to bring about uniformity with the States, and economy in various directions. By dealing with all the . clauses, excepting those of a controversial character, we shall be able to adjourn for a few hours, and leave the remainder of the day free, up to 3 p.m., for the discussion of the clauses having to do with preferential voting.
– There are one or two other phases which honorable members would like to deal with. Possibly the Committee could discuss the preferential voting provisions; and then, if there is opportunity, honorable members could give attention to any remaining clauses which may be considered important.
– The position is that the Committee is ordered by the whole House to report to it by 3 o’clock. The Government need not make a bargain at all. The House has ordered what the Committee shall do. I am not seeking to grant concessions or to win approval. I arc endeavouring to make an agreeable arrangement without prejudice to the desires of any honorable member. But if the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) will indicate the clause which he desires to amend, that can be included among those portions which may be postponed for later consideration.
I do not object to the proposal of the Acting Prime Minister, but there is one other consideration, and that is with regard to the clause or clauses dealing with the signing of press articles. I wish to know if there has been any alteration in that regard.
– That involves the clause which I desire to have postponed.
– The penalties have been reduced in accordance with the request of a deputation which Avaited on the Government in 1913.
– If the Minister will postpone, also, the clauses dealing with that phase I shall have no objection.
– I propose that the Committee shall postpone consideration of clauses 124, 125, 134, 136, 137, 153, 154, 164, and 165.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 101 to 109 agreed to.
Clause 110 -
No candidate shall in any way take part in the conduct of an election, and no person, other than the presiding officer, the poll clerks, doorkeepers, and scrutineers, and the electors voting and about to vote, shall be permitted to enter or remain in the polling booth during the polling. . . .
– Owing to a drafting oversight an omission has been made in setting out the officials who may be present at the polling. I move -
That after the words “ presiding officer “ the word “ the “ be left out, with a view to insert the words “assistant presiding officers.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 111 -
The polling shall be conducted as follows : -
– In the course of the investigations of the Electoral Royal Commission it was found that very few votes were recorded after 6 p.m. on polling day. There are between8,000 and 10,000 polling booths throughout Australia. All those places must be lighted up after 6 o’clock in the winter, and the cost of lighting alone is an expense and inconvenience which should be avoided if possible.
– Was there not a concession made to Hebrew electors, that the booths should be kept open after 6 o’clock?
– There are plenty of men who do not cease work until after 6, even on a Saturday.
– I move-
That in sub-clause 6, second occurring, and sub-clause c, the word “ eight “ be left out, with a view to insert “ six “ in lieu thereof.
– The recommendation of the Commission actually was that the polling booth be closed at 7 o’clock.
– I will stand by my amendment to close the polling booths at 6 o’clock. There will be little saving, if any at all, if they are to remain open till 7.
– I suggest to the honorable member that he should not proceed with the amendment. He doubtless speaks from a wide knowledge of country voting, in which I am not experienced, but I can assure him that in the city constituencies the privilege of voting up to 8 o’clock at night is highly appreciated by a large section of the community. I have not figures by me to support the statement, but I know that a large part of the voting is done between 6 and 8 in the evening. When the poll used to close at 6, there was a tremendous rush between 5.30 and 6.
– Was not that before Saturday was made the polling day?
– The fixing of Saturday as the polling day has made a difference, but to close the poll on Saturdays at 6 o’clock would deprive many persons of a proper opportunity for relaxation.
– Many country dwellers work until late on Saturday afternoon, and then go into town to vote.
– We are too apt to consider this matter from the stand-point of the candidates. Another reason for keeping the poll open until 8 is that there is a section of the community that objects to voting before 6 o’clock on Saturday.
– And another section that objects to voting at all on Saturday,
– One of the requests most generally made to the Electoral Commission during its travels throughout the Commonwealth was that the polling should close earlier. Witnesses everywhere were of that opinion.
– What kind of witnesses ?
– All kinds of witnesses. The officials informed us that there was very little voting after 7 o’clock. They spoke, of course, of Saturday voting. I do not advise the closing of the poll at 6, but it might well close at 7.
– I was pleased to hear the Acting Prime Minister oppose the amendment. His experience is the same as my own. Many of the municipal councils of Victoria are now closing their poll at 8 o’clock to suit the convenience of the public. It must not be forgotten that thousands of persons work on Saturday afternoons. I cannot understand how the Electoral Commission came to get such evidence as that referred to by the last speaker. In any city division the polling booths are more crowded between 6 and 8 in the evening than during any six hours of the day. Of course, I admit that were the poll open until midnight some one would want to cast his vote at two minutes to 12. I trust that an arrangement which is a convenience to the public may not be discontinued.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 112 agreed to.
Clause 113 (Voting before polling day by electors who will be 10 miles from a polling booth.)
.- I should like to know why, to obtain permission to vote as an absent voter, an elector must declare that he will not on polling day be within 10 miles of a polling booth, when for the exercise of the postal vote it is necessary that the elector shall be 15 miles from a polling booth?
– I think that the 15 miles should be reduced to 7, and I intend to propose that.
Clause verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 114 to 121 agreed to.
Clause 122 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 123 agreed to.
Clauses 124 to 129 postponed.
– Clause 126 authorizes the presiding officer to. adjourn the polling from day to day where it is interrupted or obstructed by riot or open violence. There might be an interruption by a fire or flood, or the non-arrival of papers.
Clause 130 agreed to.
Each candidate may …. appoint one scrutineer to represent him at the scrutiny. . . .
.I wish to move an amendment which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) had ready. I think that the scrutineers should be paid by the Commonwealth.
– It would add largely to the cost of elections.
– In a great many cases the candidates do not appoint scrutineers.
– They would do so if the scrutineers were to be paid by the Commonwealth.
– I move-
That after the word “ scrutineer “ the words “who shall be paid by the Commonwealth” be inserted.
– The amendment would leave the door open to grave abuse. Scrutineers fulfil a very useful purpose. They are of considerable assistance to presiding officers in making up returns. If the amendment is carried, the Government may accept the principle and simply pay a shilling for a day’s work.
– They give more than that now, because they make an allowance of 4s. for meals.
– A provision which simply states that scrutineers shall be paid, without stipulating what they shall be paid, would leave it open to ridicule.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 132 and 133 agreed to.
Clause 134 postponed.
Clause 135 agreed to.
Clauses 136 and 137 postponed.
Clauses 138 to 141 agreed to.
Clause 142 verbally amended, and agreed to.
Clauses 143 to 152 agreed to.
Clauses 153 and 154 postponed.
Clauses 155 to 163 agreed to.
Clauses 164 and 165 postponed.
Clauses 166 to 176 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to-
That after “ authority,” in sub-clause 3, the words “ (proof whereof shall lie upon him)” he inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 178 to 181 agreed to.
Clause 182 (Defamation of Candidate).
– I would like to have this clause postponed, because if an amendment which I propose to submit to another clause which has already been postponed is agreed to, it will be necessary to amend this clause also. My amendment deals with pre-selections. In America, primary elections are not conducted in the holeandcorner manner that characterizes preselection ballots in Australia. In my opinion, they should be conducted under proper supervision. An amendment will also be necessary in clause 212, which makes it a disqualification to be convicted of bribery or undue influence.
– If it is necessary to make any clause of the Bill effective because of the passage of an amendment to the prior clause, I will see that it is done. I understand what the honorable member wishes, but there is no need for the postponement of this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 183 to 219 agreed to.
Clause 220 -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving, effect to this Act. . . .
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that no new regulation shall be issued after the issue of a writ.”
I have a very vivid recollection of regulations which were issued not necessarily in connexion with an election, but on another occasion. It is a very improper practice to issue regulations of a farreaching character on the eve of an election, when it is not possible for the people to realize their purport. The occasion to which I refer was the first conscription referendum. We were informed by those who were in the Cabinet at the time that an Executive Council meeting was held which refused to pass certain regulations, and that subsequently another meeting was called together hurriedly, at which the regulations were agreed to.
– The honorable member knows that he is not allowed to refer to what has taken place at a meeting of the Executive Council.
– I thought that I would be blocked when I sought to have those regulations placed in the records of this House,by reading them in the course of submitting a want of confidence motion. However. I was not prevented from doing so. I was able to show that the regulations were issued by the Prime Minister at that time. I regret exceedingly that any Government should descend to such tactics. I have no desire to labour the matter, but I do wish to safeguard the whole of the electoral machinery by providing that no new regulation shall be made after the issue of the writ.
– I cannot accept the amendment. It is necessary for many things to be done by regulation after the issue of a writ. The honorable member is thinking of obnoxious regulations that should not be passed ? I quite agree with him that no obnoxious regulation should be gazetted, but it is necessary to do something byregulation even after the issue of the writ.
Clause agreed to.
Forms A and B agreed to.
Forms C and D verbally amended and agreed to.
Forms E and F postponed.
Form G agreed to.
Sitting suspended from4.19 a.m. to 11 a.m. (Friday).
Postponed clause 124 -
In the Senate election n voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper as follows : -
– I move -
That paragraph (b) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following: - “(b) where his ballot-paper is a ballot- paper in accordance with Form E in the Schedule - he shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected by placing consecutive numbers commencing from the number 1 in the squares opposite their names, and he may in addition place in the squares opposite the names of any other candidates numbers following consecutively after the greatest number placed by him in a square opposite the name of a candidate for whom he votes.”
It has been frequently stated from the Opposition benches that the Government introduced a measure by which, on the same day, at the same polling booth, the same elector will be tendered two ballotpapers, one of which he has to mark on the preferential system, and the other in the old way by making a cross. I have all along regarded this as an anomaly calculated to confuse the electors. Like all other members on this side, and, I believe, on the other side, I desire to secure, not the suppression of the views of the electors, but their expression, and to make the process as simple as possible. The amendment is intended to enable an elector to mark his selected candidates for the Senate by the numbers 1, 2, 3, not as a system of preferential marking, but as one of preferential voting. The counting of the votes will not be affected in any way by this method of marking, for each vote will have exactly the same value, and will be counted in exactly the same way as if a cross had appeared instead of a figure.
– Then you do not propose to apply the preferential system to the Senate?
– No; the amendment is simply to enable the elector to mark both the Senate and House of Representatives ballot-papers in the same fashion, except that in the case of the Senate he has only to mark the number of candidates to be elected. Of course, if this amendment is objected to there is the alternative of permitting the Senate ballot-paper to be marked in exactly the same way as that for the House of Representatives; but that is not the object of this amendment.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with the honorable member in his desire to find some method of preventing informalities in the marking of the ballot-papers. I am afraid, however, that if it is made optional in the case of the Senate, and compulsory in the case of the House of Representatives, there may be as many informalities as if the Senate ballot-papers were left to be marked as proposed in the Bill. At the last election under the preferential system in Victoria the total informal votes - all informal votes, and not merely those in the preferential marking - represented 3.1 per cent.; but with the great number of voters throughout the Commonwealth such a percentage might have a very serious effect on the election.
– Does the Government not accept the amendment?
– I suggest that it should be left over - that it should not be pressed at present. There may be an opportunity to consider what method of election should be adopted by the Senate.
– I shall be very glad to meet the wishes of the Minister, and I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
.- I object to the withdrawal of the amendment unless we know exactly where we stand. I do not exactly gather what the Minister means by his suggestion to post- pone the clause. Until when is it suggested that we postpone it? Is it meant that we are to have an opportunity in this Committee to discuss the clause, or are we to leave the Bill as it stands with the two different methods of marking the voting papers? In my opinion, the right procedure would be to postpone this clause, together with the proposed amendment, until we have dealt with clause 125, which provides for the method of marking the papers in an election for the House of Representatives. If clause 125 is carried, as apparently it will be, and if the Government adhere to the Bill as presented, they will deliberately provide for two different methods of marking the ballot-papers. I do not say that this amendment would entirely meet the position, because the Minister has pointed out that it would permit of optional marking. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) informs me that he has handed to the Clerk notice of an amendment to make the method of voting optional for the House of Representatives, and, therefore, I think we ought to waif until clause 125 is decided. Under the new standing order the Committee stages of the Bill have to be completed this afternoon, and that leaves only about two and a half hours in which to discuss the principle of preferential voting. ° If the Government insists on the Bill as presented, it will place the Opposition in a position to point out that the Senate ballot-papers are to be marked in the old way with a cross, while in the case of the House of Representatives it is mandatory, except where there are two candidates, to vote preferentially. Let us first deal with the method for the House of Representatives, and then with the method for the Senate.
– There should be no difficulty about disposing of this amendement at once. It indicates a very laudable desire on the part of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to avoid informal votes. But, in trying to give effect to his desire, the honorable member would perpetrate a minor fraud upon the public. He does not pTopose to provide the electors with a means of recording preference, but merely a form of voting which bears all the externals of a preferential vote and has no reality about it. To impose upon the public generally a pretence that they are to make a preference between Senate candidates would be to put a weight upon their judgment almost impossible for them to bear. How can we have preferences in connexion with candidates for the Senate? Honorable members are aware that the Senate candidate who secures the greatest number of votes is the man who has visited the fewest places in the State for which he stands. It is, after all, this House that returns the Senate. We might go to a vote at once upon the amendment, so that we may have time for the consideration of the more important matters in the Bill.
– Unless the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition is agreed to, I shall object to the withdrawal of the amendment. If it had not been moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), I should have submitted a. similar amendment, because, in my view, it is almost a criminal mistake to provide, as the Government do in this Bill, for one system of marking of ballotpapers for the House of Representatives and a totally different system for the Senate. There is, in my opinion, a much more important electoral reform than the preferential vote, which should havebeen provided for in this Bill. I say deliberately that, as the measure is likely to leave this House, it win be an abortion, because it will contain no provision for what I consider the most necessary reform, and that is some, system of proportional representation for the Senate. The adoption of the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition would not lead to any loss of time, because we have decided that the Committee stage of the measure shall be completed by 3 o’clock to day.
– Then why not let it be completed?
– I am speaking because I intend to do my best between now and 3 p.m. to-day to prevent what I consider a fatal blunder, and that is the provision made for one system of marking ballot-papers for the Senate and a different system for the House of Representatives on the same day. It would be possible for voters to place the figure 1 opposite the name of each of the three senators of their choice and the figure 2 opposite the candidates whom they did not desire to have elected.
-That would add to the confusion.
– That would be worse than the crosses.
– It would not, because it would be merely substituting numerals for the crosses. I can see no reason why the electors should not mark the Senate ballot-papers 1, 2, 3, and so on, in the order of their preference. I should be prepared to accept any system of marking requiring the use of numerals in the marking of ballot-papers for both Houses in preference to the use of numerals in marking the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives and crosses for the Senate. I ask the Minister to accept a proposal for the marking of Senate ballot-papers by a straightout preference indicated by numerals. We certainly should have the same system of marking the ballot-papers for both Houses.
Question - That the (paragraph proposed tobe omitted stand as printed (Mr. Jowett’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 125 -
In a House of Representatives election a voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper as follows: -
.The vote upon this clause will decide whether there is to be preferential voting for the House of Representatives. We have already decided that there is not to be preferential voting in the case of the Senate. Honorable member’s opposite have made a great deal of the fact that Mr. Corboy, who, I understand, will be present at the first sitting of the House next week, in order to be sworn in, has been returned by a minority vote. Throughout the discussion of this measure the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has been taunted because he happens to be the only honorable member of this House at the present time who was returned by a minority vote. It is strange that some of those who have most persistently uttered this taunt were themselves at different times the representative of a minority. I took the trouble the other day to look up the honorable members of this Parliament who were elected upon a minority vote since the election of the first Federal Parliament in 1901. I find that there have been forty-four honorable members so elected to this Parliament at different times, and of that number thirty-five have been anti-Labour men. Including the new honorable member for Swan, who is not yet sworn in, nine honorable members elected upon a minority vote were candidates run by the Labour party. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.
Richard Foster), who, with others, has on more than one occasion taunted the honorable member for Barrier in this connexion, was himself returned on a minority vote. I would prefer personally the chance of the honorable member for Barrier getting back into this Parliament to the chances of a number of honorable members on the other side.
– The honorable gentleman is welcome to his cheap opinion.
– I am very sorry that the honorable member is annoyed because I have pointed out that he is one of those who has been returned to this House on a minority vote. This occurred as late as 1910. There are two members of this Parliament who have had a greater number of walkovers than any other honorable members. One of these is the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), and the other is the Government whip, the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Thomson).
– Ibelieve the honorable gentleman was returned upon a minority vote.
– That is so. I was coming to my case, but my electorate of Yarra is last but not least on the list. I got in on one occasion on a minority vote, and by a smaller percentage of votes polled than was recorded by Mr. Corboy.
– And we have never been able to shift the honorable gentleman.
– The party opposite has tried very hard to do so, and the two Melbourne newspapers have made many violent attacks upon me. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has had one of them at least barracking for him all the time, but it has been my privilege and pleasure to wallop them both. If we take the election of 1910, when the Labour party swept the polls, and secured a majority in both Houses, I find that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer), and the then honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), Mr. Robert Harper, the member for Mernda, Mr. Bruce Smith, Mr. Massy Greene, and Mr. R. W. Foster were all returned by minority votes, and they were all anti-Labour men. From the statements which have appeared in Mansard and in the press, one might be led to imagine that Mr. Corboy, the newly-elected member for Swan, and the present honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) are the only men who have ever been returned to this House upon a minority vote. Mr. Robert Harper, who was a political opponent of our party, but a man much esteemed in this House for his honesty of purpose and the ability he displayed in dealing with various matters, was returned at three successive elections on a minority vote. One would suppose from the way in which honorable member’s speak that every vote not recorded for Mr. Corboy in the recent Swan election was recorded against him. But that does not follow at all. Do honorable member’s mean to tell me that the prohibition candidate, who was last on the poll, the Government nominee, who was second last, or the Farmers and Settlers’ candidate would, but for Mr. Corboy, have secured the whole of the votes polled?
– They would have secured 95 per cent.
– I do not think so. The preferential system has been operating in Victoria, and those who have had experience of its operations will not say that they would have polled 95 per cent, of the votes. Some twelve months ago an Honorary Minister in the Victorian Government retired from the representation of Jika Jika, which is part of the Federal electorate of Bourke, and the vacancy was contested by two Liberals - a Mr. May, who had run the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) much closer than any other candidate had done, and Mr. Dennis - as well as by a Labour candidate. On that occasion a fair proportion of the second preferences cast by those who voted “ No. 1 “ for Mr. May and Mr. Dennis, went to the Labour candidate.
– One has only to look at the result of the recent election for Swan to see the necessity for a change.
– That is npt the point. Honorable members opposite contend that the only members of this House returned ‘ on a minority vote are the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), and the recently returned representative for Swan. As a matter of fact, the two candidates who opposed the honorable member for Barrier only polled in the aggregate twenty-height votes in excess of those cast for him. Will any one say that of the 700 or 800 who voted for Mr. Doe more ‘ than twenty-eight of them would not have given their second preferences to the honorable member? There were more members returned on a minority vote at the elections for 1910 than on any other occasion, and the number of Ministerialists so elected is four times that of the Labour members.
I protest against the introduction of this system at the present time. The Committee has decided that it shall not be applied to the Senate, and the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), who expresses surprise at my protest, joined with us in an effort to apply the system to both Houses. We shall now have to tell the people that, in respect of the Senate elections they must put a cross opposite the names of each of the three candidates for whom they vote, but that if there are three candidates for a House of Representatives Division they must vote in the order of their preference, “ 1, 2, and 3.” On the other hand, if there are only two candidates for a House of Representatives Division *they may please themselves whether they put a cross opposite the name of one candidate or vote “ 1 “ and “ 2.”
– Is that a fact?
– It is. Clause 134 provides, in accordance with a decision of the High Court, that a ballot-paper shall not be declared informal if the voter indicates on it the way in which he desires to vote. We have had only the one system of voting for Federal parliamentary elections since the Electoral Act of 1901-2 came into force. We are now to tell the people that preferential voting will apply to House of Representatives elections on the lines I have just indicated, and that, in the case of Senate candidates the simple majority system is to apply. Thus, the Government will fail lamentably in their professed desire to secure uniformity. The result of these several systems will be still greater confusion on the part of the people, and we shall have a larger number of informal votes than ever before. I shall vote against this clause with the object of securing a uniform system of voting in respect of both Houses of the Parliament.
– Listening to honorable members opposite who are so partial to preferential voting, one would think that its introduction wouldput an end to all our political worries, and would secure to the people representation absolutely in accordance with their desires. Incidentally, the system will make more useful the many, various, and weird armies of the National party. The party has quite a number of candidates bearing different names. Some are disguised as soldier candidates, others as farmers and settlers’ candidates, while others again come forth under the guise of prohibition candidates. They are all at bottom members of the National party, and, if elected, would ‘be abject followers of the National Government. The preferential voting system will give the Nationalist party three chances or more in respect of each electorate, ‘whereas under the simple majority or “ sudden death “ system they will only have one. Ministerialists regard this system as a splendid one - to be grasped with both hands so to speak - so far as its applicationto the House of Representatives is concerned, but to apply it to the Senate is quite a different matter. “ It is all right,” they say, “for the House of Representatives, but for heaven’s sake do not let us apply it to the Senate.” The honorable member for Grampians. (Mr. Jowett), in the earlier discussions on this Bill, threatened revolution. He declared emphatically, “ There will not be two systems of voting in respect of the Federal Parliament; we shall see- to that.” The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) was also loud in his denunciation of the proposal that there should be one system of voting for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate.
– Some of us “ followed the flag “ on the occasion of the last division.
– What is the use of “ following the flag “ on minor principles, and backing and filling when we come to deal with great principles? Those who have been loudest in their advocacy of the preferential system will vote servilely with the Government to perpetuate the “ sudden death “ system in respect of the Senate. What can be said of their political honesty?
The history of the anomalous and ridiculous position in which the Government find themselves to-day in regard to this matter is particularly interesting, and will make splendid election material for our party. The Ministry desired that proportional representation should apply to the Senate, and that the preferential system should apply to the House of Representatives. The one is the natural corollary to the other. While I believe that there should be no alteration ofthe electoral law until our soldiers return, I am not at all afraid of any of the more scientific electoral systems. I believe we shall do very well out of them. We cannot lose. The Government, as I have said, decided that there should be proportional representation for the Senate.
– I have not heard of such a decision.
– That was the news that went forth during the by-election for Flinders. It was the price paid to the farmers and settlers’ candidates. A couple of thousand pounds might have passed, but at all events I know that certain promises were given, with the result that some of the candidates that were “ butting in,” and were likely to injure the chances of the Nationalist candidate, withdrew. The next move in the matter was taken by members of another place. The members of the National Parliament in the Senate, evidently not so abjectly servile in their support of the Ministry as are honorable members opposite, signed a round robin-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. As soon as the members of the National party in the Senate learned that it was intended by the Government to introduce a Bill to provide for proportional representation in respect of that Chamber, the whole of them, with the exception of those who held portfolios, signed a round robin, telling the Ministry that if they persisted in bringing down such a proposal, the Senate would throw the whole thing out.
– Order ! This clause does not deal with proportional voting.
– The two things are so allied that I felt justified in dealing with both.
– The whole of those statements are pure invention.
– They are only too true, and when honorable members go to the country, and have to instruct their supporters and followers how to vote by means. of the two systems now being proposed, it will take ‘ a good deal of explaining away. The honorable member will carefully and painfully explain to his constituents that those who are to vote National for the Senate must place a cross before the names of the candidates they want to (support, but that they must place the figure 1 opposite his name, and other figures against the names of his opponents in the order of their choice. And we get this from a Minister who so ardently desires uniformity in our electoral system ! It is remarkable that an intelligent community, with a wealth of experience in other countries to guide it, should in the year 1918 adopt measures which, to say the least, are childish and ridiculous. With all the wealth of experience and knowledge of electoral matters possessed by the honorable member for Grampians–
– I thank you for the compliment.
– The honorable member has a fairly good knowledge of electoral matters, and must have given them some study; but with all his knowledge, and all the knowledge that the Committee has on the subject, we are asked to accept two systems of voting, the cross or “ sudden death,” and the numeral, or preferential. The Government will find even their own supporters outside so disgusted at the futile way in which the question is being handled that a good deal of explanation will be necessary to ease their minds. I shall vote against the clause, because the Committee has already decided on the sudden-death method for Senate elections.
– The vote just taken calls for a more definite statement from the Minister (Mr. Glynn). The explanation given by the Minister on the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is not sufficient for any honorable member on this side who desires to vote for a wellconceived, well-thought out, and equitable system of election for members of the Senate. In view of the characteristic speech of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), a tissue of improper imputations from beginning to end, I now ask the Minister definitely and forcibly if it is proposed to perpetuate the systems as laid down in clause 124? or if the Government have any other proposal to make?
– I told the honorable member for Grampians that the matter would be considered, and, as a matter of fact, was under consideration; but there was so much talk at the time that I am afraid all members did not hear what I said. I said, on the second reading, that, in deference to the opinions existing in favour of some new method of election for the Senate, I would give some ideas as to what was possible, and I did so. I have a memorandum here, prepared for further consideration, as to whether or not a different method from the block vote should be adopted for the Senate. That memorandum deals with proportional representation, preferential representation, and the block system of majority for the Senate. All I- can promise is to put the whole matter before my colleagues, from whom it will receive full consideration.
– Did the Minister say we should have an opportunity next time we meet to deal with this question in an amending Bill?
– I can give no absolute assurance to that effect. The Government are considering the question of the method of election to the Senate. When I mentioned that fact to the honorable member for Grampians, he at once recognised its importance, and asked permission to withdraw his amendment.
– Will you give us an opportunity to deal with it next year?
– I expect so, but cannot give a definite undertaking without the consent of my colleagues. I give the assurance that the whole question of methods of election to the Senate is being considered, and also the point whether it should be dealt with separately in a new Bill.
– The Minister’s explanation is most unsatisfactory. To have the two Houses elected on different systems will lead to endless confusion and trouble, and I. feel disposed to vote against the clause unless the Minister gives a definite promise, as asked for by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). The Acting Prime Minister is within call, and it is of no use for the Minister to tell us that the matter is under consideration. Tt has been under consideration too long for me. It is all consideration here. It is time the Government made up their minds what they are going to do, instead of leading their followers into ambushes and dead-ends. We are in an absurd position, and should insist on something being done. If it cannot be done now, the Minister ran do the next best thing by acceding to the request of the honorable member for Kooyong. Unless he does so, I shall vote against the clause as a protest.
Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) [11.53 a.m.l. - This ,is a matter concerning which there must be no misunderstanding. The absurdity of having two different systems of voting for the Senate and the- House of Representatives must not be perpetuated. As one in favour, not only of preferential voting for this House, but of proportional representation for the. other, I want a full opportunity to deal with those questions here. We are not being given that oppor tunity, although I voted for , the Bill in its present form on the distinct understanding that there would be an amending Electoral Bill when we next met, and that we should have full opportunity of dealing with the whole question then.
– During the life of this Parliament ?
-Certainly. I hope the Government will see their way next time We meet, say, in April or May next, to introduce a Bill providing for proportional representation. If they do not do that, I now seek a promise from them that they will introduce a Bill at least providing for an alteration of the system in this Bill, and giving us an opportunity of making the mode of election to both Houses uniform. On that Bill, those of us who favour proportional representation will have an opportunity of bringing it forward But, at least, we must have the opportunity to vote for a uniform system of preferential voting for both Chambers.
– If the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) takes the only logical course open to him, he must vote against the clause. It is only a waste of time to accept a mere promise from a Minister that when the House meets next year another Bill will be introduced to deal with the system of voting for the Senate. The only way to make an absolute certainty that they will get what they desire is for honorable members opposite to vote to strike this clause out. They can then say to the Government, “ When Parliament re-assembles, come along with your measure to make the two systems uniform.”
– Would you vote for proportional representation for the Senate f
– I shall make my position perfectly clear. My opposition to preferential voting is that we should not interfere at this time with these laws while our soldiers are away. If, however, the Government will make the systems uniform, applying the same principle to the Senate as they propose to apply to this House, my opposition to the , clause will disappear. My greatest objection is to the enactment of two different systems of voting for the two Houses, which must lead to wholesale informalities. If members simply accept the Minister’s promise that something will be done next year, this Bill will have become law, and they will have given away the very point that they have been insisting on.
– If the Minister gives a promise, there is not a man in the Committee who will refuse to accept it.
– I have the greatest respect for the Minister, and am prepared to accept his word at any time, but he may not be the master of his own destiny in this matter. He is only one member of the Cabinet, and one member of the party opposite. The matter will be decided by the Cabinet or by the party, and no one can foretell what will happen in the coming months. If the Committee carries the clause as it stands, the law will he preferential voting for the House of Representatives and the old system for the Senate.
– Are you in favour of preferential voting?
– I have already stated that if the Government wall agree to have the system iu operation for both Houses I will withdraw my opposition to it.
.- I am greatly surprised at some of the statements made by honorable members opposite concerning the assurance that has been given by the Minister (Mr. Glynn). In my opinion, nothing could have been fairer. The Minister could not be expected to say definitely what the Government would be bound to do in a month’s time, but he said quite clearly that he is in favour of some improved system of voting for the Senate. While, of course, he could not speak for the whole of the Government, we know, from his actions and . the opinions he has expressed for many years past, that he is in favour, if not of proportional voting, then of some better system for the election of the Senate. He could not be expected to say more at this stage. The question to be considered is how best can the electors of the Commonwealth be benefited by preventing the return of candidates by the votes of the minorities at by-elections. That is the only point which we should be called upon to deal with at the present time. There will be plenty of time, in the life of this Parliament, to bring about an improvement in the method of voting for the Senate.
– But is this not the proper place to do that?
– Not at this moment; because members of the House are not in a position to say just what is the best form of voting for the Senate. It is a big question, and should be thoroughly exploited. The Government will, I presume, want time to bring down a properly-matured scheme with that end in view. There will be no by-elections for the Senate, because any vacancies that may occur in that Chamber will be filled by appointments by the State Parliaments.If, on the other hand, a member of this House dies or resigns, the vacancy must be filled at a by-election, and the sooner we adopt some improved system of voting, as is indicated in this clause, the sooner will we be assured of the will of the majority . being respected. It is all very well for members on the other side to get up and endeavour to put the Government in a hole over a matter like this. We know quite well that many of them are talking with their tongues in their cheeks about what they will do, that whilst in this Chamber they oppose preferential voting they actually indorse this system in connexion with elections in their leagues and conferences. In their opposition to the clause they are merely seeking to embarrass the Ministry. The Minister in charge of the Bill has said all that could be expected of him. This Parliament will be strong enough, if ever the necessity arises, to force the Government to come down with an improved system for Senate elections, if the opinion of the House in. that way. I, for one, will do my best, after this Bill is passed and before the present Parliament expires, to bring about some improved system of elections for the Senate.
– What do you mean by that?
– Why not ask for it now ?
– Because I am not sure that any honorable member, on the spur of the moment, can produce the most effective system of proportional voting, and there is no immediate hurry, as it would not be wanted before tie next general election. I do not want to occupy the time of the Committee unnecessarily, but I desired to say that I was in favour, to some extent, of the amendment introduced by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett).
– To what extent?
– To the extent of voting against it.
– I want to explain that vote. The honorable member for Grampians introduced an amendment and then withdrew it because, I understand, of the assurances that were given him by the Minister that the Government were considering a better scheme for Senate elections.
– I am quite satisfied.
– Yes ; but then the honorable member immediately crossed to the other side of the House, and voted against the Government. I was not bound to follow him in that action. I was quite satisfied with the statement made by the Minister, and voted against the amendment, because, as I have said, there is no immediate hurry in regard to an improved system for Senate elections.
– I understand that some slight misunderstanding has arisen in Committee with regard to one or two related questions involved in this clause, and I desire to state quite plainly what is the attitude of the Government upon the question. I do regard the question of proportional representation as a separate subject, and not one to be dealt with in this Bill. I have, therefore, asked the Government to consider, as soon as opportunity will allow, the whole question of the system known as proportional representation for the Senate.
– And other systems?
– I cannot, of course, at present pledge the Government to bring down a Bill to enforce that, but it is the intention of the Government to consider the whole matter and deal with it, if it is so decided, in a separate measure.
– Have you not had six months to consider the matter?
– The Government have had many things to consider during the past six months, as events have moved so rapidly in that time. There are many things which might have been done in normal times, but-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– It seems impossible, Mr. Chairman, to address the Committee.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - Order !
– I do not know if honororable members on this side are not worse than those on the side opposite. The Government have had this matter in view. It is plain that difficulties would be presented to the electors because of the different systems of marking votes for the two Houses. When a general election takes place, an elector will have placed in his hand two ballot-papers, coloured differently, and he will have to mark one under the proposed new system known as preferential voting, and the other under the old method by a cross opposite the candidate’s name. I want to say that if the Government does not bring down a measure involving proportional representation, it will bring in another Bill to remove that difficulty from the minds of the electors. I make that promise definitely, and not as a condition of work now before the Committee, and I hope honorable members will accept it.
. -I admit that if I were in the Minister’s position I would do exactly as he is doing. Naturally Ministers want their Bill, but-
– Order ! I find the honorable member has already spoken twice on this clause.
– I spoke only once, Mr. Chairman.
– I find, on reference to the records, that the honoraible member has spoken twice.
– Not on this clause. I spoke on clause 123, and before I rose I spoke to the Clerk on the subject.
– It is the duty of the Chair to’ be accurate in checking the members’ times. The honorable member first spoke on this clause at 11.25 a.m., and again at 11.52 a.m.. He now proposes to speak again, but he has exhausted his time.
– I am sure I did not. I say deliberately I do not think I did, and I do not think any other member believes I have spoken twice on it.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I will withdraw it. You are not going to put me out.
– You try it on !
– I did expect that the Leader of the Opposition would endeavour to support the Chair.
.- Mr. Chanter-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The interjections across the chamber are distinctly disorderly. I ask honorable members to try and preserve some semblance of order.
– Have a go!
– The honorable member for Brisbane must cease interjections, and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) must respect the Chair.
– I did expect that in speeches we have had from members of the Opposition we would have had some discussion of the system proposed to be introduced. The Leader of the Opposition will not get the country to believe that he is opposing the system because he does not believe in it, because he must know it will insure the will of the majority being respected. The honorable mcmlber for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), like other honorable members of the party opposite, has come into this House as a product of this system in operation for pre-selection ballots, and it seems to me that they are opposing it now, not because it is not a good one, but merely because it has been introduced by the Government.
– The honorable memberis wilfully misrepresenting me.
– For ten years, at least, this system has been in operation for the pre-selection of candidates in the Labour movement, and it has worked admirably in ascertaining the will of the majority, which was the object of the Labour party up till recently. This is a system which, until a few months ago, members of the Labour party professed to favour, but when the Government propose by means of this system to give the electors the right to determine who shall represent them, they are found in opposition to it. I do not think, therefore, that we need attach much weight to opposition of this kind, as their attitude in this chamber is inconsistent with their attitude in their own party meetings for many years past.
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to pursue that lino of argument. The question before the Chair is whether the clause shall be agreed to or otherwise.
– I accept your direction, Mr. Chairman.
– I think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I desire to discuss the merits of the contingent voting, and that on knowledge gained of its operation over many years in a very important section of the community. I shall be prevented entirely from putting my views before the House if I am not allowed to refer to the operation of this system where I am most familiar with it. It has been adopted as the system for elections under the Arbitration Court in New SouthWales for twelve or fifteen years pa3t. It is’ not a new system or experiment, but a system that has proved its worth wherever tried, and nowhere more than in the ranks of Labour in the selection of candidates.
– Nobody opposes it on its merits.
– Now we come to the professed ground of opposi- tion. This is a proposal to give a majority of the electors the right to select their member, and the reason . given for opposition to it is that it will confuse the voting for the Senate. I point out, however, that we have the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that the question of a uniform system of voting for the Senate will be dealt with if the proportional system is not applied to the Senate. That argument of the Opposition therefore - and it is the only one put forward - falls to the ground. Honorable gentlemen opposite are no more interested in seeing a simple system of voting applied to both Houses than are honorable members on this side; we have no desire to go to the electors with a confused system.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– There is no democratic argument against the preferential system of voting except from those who believe in the proportional system. That ‘being the case, I shall support the proposals of the Government.
.- Had it not been for the promise of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) I should have voted against this clause. T believe, not only that there should be preferential voting for the Senate and the House of Representatives, but that there also ought to beproportional representation for the Senate, or, better still, the division of each State into electorates. It would be ridiculous for honorable members of the party on this side, or even honorable members of the party opposite, to go before their constituents after having supported two systems of voting for the two Houses of Parliament. I pledged myself to support preferential and proportional voting for the Houses, and, as I say, I should have voted against the clause had it not been that we had been definitely promised an opportunity before Parliament rises, and before this Bill can take effect, to deal with the question. My own opinion is, however, that the question ought tobe dealt with now. I do not believe in legislation of this kind being rushed through with the aid of the guillo tine. But it is not in order to reflect on a decision of the House, and the House having determined on the guillotine, we must put up with it. On a measure which alters some of the fundamental principles of the electoral system, every honorable member should be given an opportunity to discuss the clauses without the knowledge that at a certain hour the guillotine will come into operation. I hope that the Government will next session introduce a Bill to remedy admitted defects, and to enable the same marking of ballotpapers to take place for each House, and that the question of proportional representation for the Senate will be fully and freely discussed by all honorable members.
.- I am not much concerned whether preferential voting becomes the system or not; and, as one honorable member opposite said last night, most of us look at questions of the kind from a personal point of view. The honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Lamond) has urged that the adoption of the preferential method ‘by the Labour party in their pre-selection of candidates affords a reason why honorable members of that party in this House should support the present proposals of the Government. I may say thatI was not pre-selected under the preferential system, but under the exhaustive ballot system, which, to my mind, is by far the fairer. The only drawback to the exhaustive ballot is the great expense involved, ‘but it certainly does not allow the scope for intrigue and manipulation that may be exercised under the preferential system. That was the method adopted by the workers of Broken Hill in their pre-selection of me as the Labour candidate.
– That is enough to condemn it!
– It is not enough to condemn the system, any more than the fact that I took my place in this House on a minority vote of twenty-eight is any justification for honorable members opposite making the remarks they do about minority representation, seeing that they themselves, in the first place, graced this House on minority votes. I could not’ advocate the exhaustive ballot system for the general elections, because, as I say, of the great expense, especially when there are many candidates; and the nearest approach to the exhaustive ballot is the preferential system. I do not oppose these clauses because of any objection to the preferential principle, but because I believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Nationalist party are not so much concerned about giving the electors a fair and decent way to select their members, as they are actuated by a desire to destroy that system which works to the detriment of their own party - that system or principle of “first past the post.”
– If the preferential system is a good one, as you admit, the sooner we have it the better.
– The preferential system will, at any rate, do the Labour party no harm.
– Then what are you growling at? *,
– I am not growling, but analyzing to the best of my ability the motives which I think are behind the introduction of this preferential system. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) last night intimated that he had a further torpedo in store for the pre-selection system ; and the same motive of ideas-
– You must not attribute any motive to me beyond a desire to benefit the country.
– The honorable member may attribute to himself whatever motives he chooses, but I think I am at liberty to express my opinion. Personally, I do not think that the party opposite are actuated by a desire to give the electors free and unfettered choice of candidates. They know well that if the party system were completely . broken down by the application of the preferential system, it would not affect their candidates; because the cash consideration involved in fighting an election - -
– You have big union funds.
– If the preselection method were abolished, and union funds were not permitted to be used for political purposes, working-class candidates, who run without selection by orga nized parties, would be placed at a disadvantage, as compared with candidates of the party opposite. It is because of dissatisfaction in the ranks of the Nationalist party inside and outside Parliament that the preferential system has been proposed ; and it is proposed in a purely party spirit, in order to consolidate the ranks of that congeries of parties known as the Nationalist party. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) was the other evening very loud in his questioning of myself as to whether I believed in minority representation. I find from the official figures in connexion with my election that I received 49.93 per cent, of the formal votes cast.
– -Is there a quorum present? [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Echuca was returned to this House with a percentage of only 42.50 per cent, of the effective votes cast at the election, whilst I secured a percentage of 49.93. Another of my critics, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) was returned upon a minority vote which did .not represent more than half the minority by which I was returned. Sir William Irvine was returned for Flinders on one occasion on a percentage of only 46 of the effective votes cast at the election. A promise has been made by the Acting Prime Minister to bring down a measure at a later date to prevent the confusion likely to arise from the different methods proposed for voting.
– -Then why continue the debate?
– I am giving reasons for voting against this clause proposing preferential voting. I do not believe that it is submitted in order to provide a fair voting system for the benefit of the electors, but in order merely to put an end to domestic discord in the ranks of the National party. We know that preelection of candidates has led to considerable trouble in that party. The honorable member fpr Grampians (Mr. Jowett) knows a good deal about that. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) knows something of the diplomacy that was necessary in connexion with his candidature, and tie desire of a certain Nationalist to serve his country in this Chamber.
– I was invited to offer myself for election.
– I know that the honorable member was invited, but one of his opponents was an uninvited guest at the election. The multiplicity of candidates offering in the Nationalist interests is responsible for this preferential voting proposal. At the recent by-election for Flinders the Farmers Union was successful in securing a promise from the Government, and their candidate was withdrawn during the election.
– The honor able member’s information is quite incorrect.
– It was not contradicted in the press. “We had the example of the Swan election only the other day, and the Corangamite contest is looming in the near future. The guillotine has been introduced into the procedure of this House in order that this Bill might be rushed through so that Corangamite might be delivered from the possibility of being represented by a Labour member. It is quite clear to me that it is not the concern of the general electors that is responsible for the introduction of this provision, but the laudable desire of honorable members opposite to set their own house in order.
– That will be in the interests of the general electors.
– That will depend upon the candidates elected. I should not object at all to a proper preferential system of voting, including the exhaustive ballot, which I prefer, if that were financially possible. I do not oppose the preferential system provided for in this Bill on principle. My reason for opposing it is to point out that it has not been introduced for the benefit of the electors, but in order that the legislative machinery may be used to adjust the domestic differences in the ranks of the National party.
.- I realize, that with the time at our disposal to-day it is impossible for us to do justice to this very important matter. At every election which I have contested since 1913 I have been ardently iu favour of some electoral system which would give better representation in the Senate, and secure majority rule in the House of Representatives. I am very pleased that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has assured the Committee that a further and better opportunity will be afforded honorable members to discuss the wider question of representation in the Senate. I hope that, when deciding the proposal to be submitted, the Government will take into consideration other systems as well as that of proportional representation. Whilst a system of proportional representation would be an improvement upon the present system, it would not take from the large centres of population the dominating influence which they now exercise in connexion with elections for the Senate.
– (What is the honorable member’s objection to the influence of the large centres if he desires to have majority rule?
– I desire that the varied interests, as well as the people throughout the wide area of the Commonwealth, shall he adequately represented in both branches of the Federal Legislature. No one can question the democratic character of the House of Representatives. By the division of the States into electorates we secure the advantage of representatives alive to local interests, as well as to the general interests of the community. We secure the return of men possessing special knowledge, enabling them to deal with special subjects. We get a wider representation of interests, as well as of electors. I say that the adoption of proportional representation for the Senate will not take from the large centres of population the balance of power in securing representation in the Senate; and, therefore, other systems should be considered by the Government. The system which I advocate is not new. It was discussed in the Federal Convention, where its adoption was defeated only by twenty-one votes to eighteen. I refer to the subdivision of the States into electorates for the Senate. That would be a practical method of securing the representation of interests as well as of ejectors in that branch of Parliament. I think it is unfortunate that this Bill will not he a complete measure, but I accept the statement which has been made by the Acting Prime Minister, that another and a better opportunity will be given to consider the matter more fully. In my view, it will be a disgrace to this Parliament if it permits the present lopsided system to operate at the next general election
.- The statement made by the Acting Prime Minister clearly indicates that this measure is not one of urgency, but one that should be carefully considered. In view of the great problems which will confront Australia at the conclusion of the war, I am strongly of opinion that these electoral matters should not be tinkered with today. “We should tackle a big question in a big way- In my. opinion, it will be necessary at the conclusion of the war to put the whole Constitution into the melting pot, and with it our whole system of parliamentary representation. I relieve that we shall find ourselves faced at the conclusion of the war with all sorts of limitations upon the powers of this Parliament. A Federal Convention, representing the whole of the political opinions existing in Australia, should be called to deal with the Constitution in the light of the newer and greater problems which confront us as a result of this war. The discussion of the question of whether or not we shall elect members to the House of Representatives upon the preferential system of voting is, to my mind, mere beating of the air compared with the importance of making preparation to deal with the vastly important matters that will demand our attention as soon as the war is over. At the close of the war we shall discover that Parliament has not the power to legislate in regard to them as wc should be able to do. Is the National Parliament to be hamstrung, as it will be unless some of the existing constitutional limitations are removed? Surely it is essential that we should consider that matter at once, rather than waste time in dealing with an Electoral Bill which in no sense of the word can be described as urgent. We should allow the consideration of the Bill to remain in abeyance until we can deal with the whole question of electoral reform in a bigger way. Of what avail will it be whether the members of this Parliament are elected by the preferential or any other system if, when, they are returned, they have not tie power to deal with the pressing problems that will have to be solved as soon as the war is over? If a Federal Convention were convened - and I am not tied to any particular method of electing it - it would be able to consider, amongst other questions, what system of election should be adopted for the National Parliament. It could deal with the present system of representation in the Senate. It might well be asked, also, to determine whether we should continue to have the numerous State Parliaments existing to-day, or whether we should have one Parliament for the whole of Australia, and wipe out the present geographical State boundaries. All these are questions that ought to be considered by the people. The Convention might determine that the electors should be represented in the National Parliament upon the basis of the communal rights of the people ; but while we are tinkering with this measure, which is comparatively unimportant, we are neglecting the great questions that are urgently demanding attention. With the close of the war our powers under the War Precautions Act will automatically cease, and we shall revert to the position that we occupied before the outbreak of hostilities. The old constitutional limitations will again apply, and we shall he unable to carry on the hundred and one commercial undertakings which the Commonwealth Government have been forced by stress of circumstances to enter upon. Are we to allow these larger war powers to be suddenly taken from us without taking precautions to avoid the commercial chaos which, in that event, would follow? We must see that the National Parliament is given power to deal with these great questions. If we fail to take the first and vital step necessary to that end, we, as a Parliament, will become impotent. We might well allow this Bill t’o stand over for twelve months. We are absolutely unprepared, and have no machinery whatever to deal with post-war problems. Are we to stand idly by and allow them to solve themselves? I hope not. Let us take the only effective step towards securing to Parliament the constitutional powers that it requires. Without such powers we shall be impotent, and it is mere humbug to discuss a question of this kind when matters of national importance remain untouched. The Government should rise to a sense of their responsibility, and deal with these questions in a big way.
– It is an accepted political axiom that it is the science of good government to make it easy for the people to do right and difficult for them to do wrong. We cannot escape from the fact that the provisions of the Bill now before us in regard to preferential voting, the postal vote, and other matters must tend to great confusion in the minds of the electors. We have, unfortunately, a large proportion of informal votes cast at every general election. These informalities, however, are by no means confined to the class from which they might be expected to come. It has repeatedly been noticed in Brisbane that informal voting is most rife at polling booths situate amongst the more educated sections of the community. And here we are to-day introducing a system which is going to lead to much greater confusion, and to cause in the minds of the electors, when they proceed to record their votes, far more perturbation than has ever occurred before. This is to be deplored. We want the people at election times. to exercise the franchise calmly and in the most intelligent way.
During the consideration of this Bill nothing has been more remarkable than the conflict between the professed principles of Ministerial supporters, as expressed during the second-reading debate, and their actions and votes in Committee. During the second-reading debate we were repeatedly assured by these honorable gentlemen that one of the immediate effects of preferential voting would be the abolition of pre-selections. It was said by them that such a thing as machine selections by political parties would then disappear. But what is the actual position? This Bill is being rushed through under the special guillotine provisions of the Standing Orders, in order that it may be applied to a by-election that is imminent. And yet, in the Herald last night, and in this morning’s newspapers, we have the first clear indication that the organizations supporting honorable members opposite are proceeding at once, in connexion with this by-election, to do the very thing that we were told this Bill would render unnecessary. We have the statement in the press that meetings of the National Federation and of the Australian Women’s National League are to be held to send representatives to a conference to select candidates, and that after a selection has been made by it, the several organizations represented will be bound to support the chosen man. We are told, also, that the National Labour party is about to meet to decide what action shall be taken to select a candidate, so that we find that the parties associated with honorable members opposite are doing the very thing it was said this Bill would obviate.
– We cannot expect them to get away at once from old ideas.
– But this Bill has been under the consideration of the Department for some time, and has also been before us for some days, so that it would seem that all the hopeful anticipations of honorable members as to the abolition of pre-selections as the result of the passing of it will fail.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. (Friday).
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clauses 126 to 128 agreed to.
Postponed clause 129 -
Where an election is being held for any division it shall not be necessary to open polling booths at the polling places lor any division for which no election is being held.
.- This is a refraining of the old section, but why is it necessary to make this provision ? Does it mean that it is not necessary to open all the polling booths in a division for an election for the House of Representatives ? Every person must be given the opportunity to record his vote.
– It is to meet the case of a single dissolution.
– It must mean that if this House went to the country, and there was a walkover in one electorate it would not he necessary to open the ‘polling booths in that electorate. Under that arrangement, a person desiring to vote as an absent voter for the by-election for Corangamite could not do so unless he was wealthy enough to travel to the division. Does it mean that no one in such a case can record an absent vote in any other division ?
– 11.lab 1 is so.
– If the principle of the absent vote is retained, the Government should allow the vote to be taken ‘by the person, say, in charge of the post-office at any twn where the voter happens to be. At th:) by-election for Bendigo, after Mr. Arthur died, the party opposing Mr. Hampson ran a special train to convey voters to the nearest polling booth in the electorate. I suppose the intention of the clause is to provide that during a byelection, occurring, for instance, at Corangamite, it is not necessary to open the polling booths, say, in Yarra, to allow persons then in Yarra to record absent votes for Corangamite.
– If that is the reason, the clause may go through, but at first I thought it was possible that the Department were not going to open the polling booths in every part of the division concerned.
-1- They will all be open in the division.
.- I wish to move the insertion of the following new clause, to follow clause 129 : -
No pre-election, pre-selection, or primary election of candidates for the Senate or House of Representatives shall be held except under the provisions of this Act, and any person who, without the consent of the Chief Electoral Officer, conducts, or attempts to conduct, any such election, pre-selection, or primary election shall be guilty of an offence.
– The honorable member may move a new clause only after the consideration of the postponed clauses.
.- The honorable member could move it as a proviso to an existing clause.
– I have the Chairman’s assurance that I can move it subsequently.
– Another dozen clauses have to be dealt with in about thirty-five minutes, and by the wording of the guillotine standing order, no amendment will be put which has not been moved, except those circulated by the Government. The Chairman has no option in the matter. Unless the honorable member can move his amendment in some shape, he will lose his chance.
.- I prefer to test the question on a substantive motion for the insertion of a new clause, not as an appendage to an existing clause. I can see nothing relevant to this matter in the Bill. There has been an entire absence of consideration by the Government of the essential conditions necessary to give effect to the principles of the Bill. The announced intention was to give an open, free, and unfettered opportunity to every candidate who complies with the conditions of the Bill to approach the poll. The Minister stated that the object of the Bill was to grant equality of opportunity to every candidate; but I have scanned it in vain for evidence of any such free and unfettered opportunity. No measure to review the electoral laws of the Commonwealth can be considered perfect which permits its provisions to be undermined by parties holding preselections or primary elections, as such proceedings undoubtedly whittle away the freedom of choice which it was intended to offer to the electors. It is a matter of common knowledge that, even since the war began, men have been introduced to constituencies who had no chance of hav1ng their merits considered along with other candidates at the general election. Our party, as well as the other party, has been culpable in that matter. If we must have pre-selection, I am inclined to agree with the system in force in the Labour party. That provides for the pre-selection on democratic lines, as it gives the whole of the adherents of the party an opportunity to cast their votes for every candidate who conies forward. That is a step towards the equality of opportunity the Minister has in view. The same principle is adopted on our side to some extent. I was a pre-selected candidate before I came into the House. I took my chance with four other candidates, and every adherent of our party had an opportunity of voting.
– Order! Will the honorable member address himself to the clause ?
– I thought clause 129 had been dealt with. At any rate, I have a promise from you, sir, that I would have the same opportunity to-day, if we agreed to the Bill being dealt with last night, as I would ‘have had if these clauses had not been postponed.
-I said it would not be competent for the honorable member to move a new clause until the postponed clauses had been disposed of.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 134 -
A ballot-paper shall (except as otherwise provided by regulations under section one hundred and thirteen or the regulations relating to absent voting on polling day or to voting by post) be informal if -
.- I shall be glad if honorable members will take the remarks I have just made as applying now to the new clause I propose to move.
– There are more postponed clauses to be dealt with.
– I took what you said last night to mean that the same opportunity would be open to me in the same sequence to-day. If you now rule that all the other postponed clauses must first be dealt with, and debate has to cease at 3 o’clock, you clearly cut me out of my
-I am not attempting to deprive the honorable member of any of his rights. I am bound by the Standing Orders, which provide that no new clause may be moved until all the postponed clauses have been disposed of. If there is not sufficient time available between this and 3 o’clock, I am not responsible.
– I regret that you were not as explicit last night as you are now. But for what I understood you to say last night, I would have been no party to losing the opportunity which it now appears likely that I will lose. It is not electoral purity to allow monetary or other considerations, no matter which party is in power, to determine who shall be candidates for pre-selections.
– I regret that I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed on those lines.
– At what stage, then, will I be in order in moving the new clause ?
– I have endeavoured to make myself quite clear to the honorable member. The Standing Orders prescribe the procedure in the Committee. New clauses cannot be dealt with until after the disposition of all the postponed clauses of the Bill. There are several postponed clauses yet to be finalized, and after they have been disposed of, the honorable member will be in order, and in accordance with the Standing Orders, in introducing a new clause.
– On a point oforder, I ask what opportunity will be afforded me if it is my intention to bring before the Committee the absence of any provision for controlling pre-selection ballots, and to show that political parties, executives, and other bodies unknown to the Constitution
– I have not yet stated my point of order, Mr. Chairman.
– I have already given two rulings upon this matter, and I certainly must respectfully decline to rule again on the same subject. Clause 134, which is now before the Committee, deals with the question of informal ballotpapers, and not with the principles of the Bill. The honorable member will have his opportunity, if time will permit, at a later stage.
– I have not yet had a chance of stating my point of order. I accept your ruling, but it is not in accordance with your undertaking given to me last night, and it places me in a difficulty. I want to know what opportunity I will have if it is my desire to point out to the Committee, before we deal with any of the other clauses, that there is no provision in the Bill to prevent bodies unknown to the Constitution-
– Order ! I must intervene. The honorable member must know that he is entirely out of order. He is not stating a point of order at all. In the first place the honorable member is under a misapprehension when he says I gave an intimation that he would be able to do a certain thing. I did no such tiling. When the advice of the Chair is nsked I give it freely and willingly, but beyond that I am not competent to go. I am bound by the Standing Orders of the Committee, and the question which the honorable member is dealing with now cannot be considered until the postponed clauses have been dealt with. Whether he will have an opportunity, within the limited time available, or not, I cannot say. I am bound to proceed in accordance with the Standing Orders ; the clause before the Chair has nothing- whatever to do with the matter which the honorable, gentleman is seeking to ventilate.
.- This is one of the most important clauses of the Bill, because it deals with the manner in which votes may be declared informal I regret that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) appears to be labouring under a misapprehension, but the Chairman is bound to proceed in accordance with the Standing Orders, which state that new clauses must come after postponed clauses. And once the guillotine comes into operation there appears to be no chance for any new clauses.
– There is no chance for any amendment under the guillotine provisions.
– I am aware of that. U nless the Minister accepts an amendmen t there will be no hope of getting one carried. However, I appeal to the Minister on this matter. The clause states that a ballot-paper will be informal if -
During the second-reading debate, I referred to this question of the informality of votes, and mentioned cases of voters who, through no fault of their own, had been disfranchised. I think the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) interjected that during an election in which he was interested, over 200 persons had been disfranchised in this way. It is a mistakp to disfranchise any voter owing to the fault of a presiding officer, but thi3 has been done in numerous cases, at all events in regard to absent voting ballot-papers. Honorable members know that during a general election, and at a referendum, a voter may go to any polling booth in the Commonwealth to record a vote for any electorate in Australia, and, as electoral officials can testify, some of these votes have been declared informal. I know also that complaints have been made about the possibility of counterfeit ballot-papers being presented. It has been suggested that persons, with this object in view, could get information as to the type to be used, the colour of the ballotpaper, the words to be printed upon it, and then get paper, the texture of which is so close to the official ballot-paper that it could be used at an election. Whether there is this risk or not I cannot say, but it could be guarded against in paragraph a of this clause, which I have just read. The paragraph states that ballotpapers should be authenticated by the initials of the presiding officer, or by an official mark as prescribed. The Electoral Department could arrange for the ballot-papers to be officially marked, and thus it would be impossible for counterfeit ballot-papers to be used. I realize that in the short time at our disposal there is not much chance of securing any amendment to the clause unless the Minister agrees to it; hut I ask him to consider whether it is not advisable to strike out the words, “ by the initials of the Presiding Officer or.” The clause would then provide for a ballot-paper to be declared informal if -
This would get over the difficulty of any person being disfranchised by the failure to act of any official. The next paragraph of the clause provides that a ballotpaper shall be informal if -
And schedule e sets out that ballotpapers shall be marked with a cross against the names of the three candidates for whom the voter desires to vote. In the case of an election for the House of Representatives, the ballot-paper will be informal if it has no vote indicated upon it, or does not indicate the voter’s first preference for one candidate, and where there are more than two candidates, his contingent vote for the remaining candidates. In Queensland and in Western Australia the contingent vote is in operation; but I think it is optional in the latter State. South Australia does not employ the contingent vote, and in New South Wales there is the second ballot, which. I think is more costly.
– It is a very bad system.
– Yes, it strings out an election. I think the preferential voting system is better than the second ballot, but where there are more than two candidates the exercise of the contingent vote should be optional, so that whether a man exercise his full preference or not, his vote should not be declared informal. I remember that, when I was an elector for Kooyong, I had a choice between Mr. Knox, Mr. Fink, and Mr. Foster Rodgers.
– It is a wonder you did not tackle Kooyong.
-I decided to stand for the division of Yarra because I was brought up in one of the cities, and served my time at the trade at which I worked in the other. I was working in a factory up till within three weeks of the day of election, and if I had not been elected I could have gone back to that factory. I may also mention that the newspapers predicted I would have to do this. I have not been back yet. to the factory, but if I have to go I hope I shall be able to make a living. The Bill provides that where there are not more than two candidates the elector’s vote for one candidate shall be deemed to be sufficient, and he need not exercise his second preference. In other words, while we provide that an elector shall vote 1, 2, 3, and so forth, we, at the same time, say that if there are only two candidates he may vote for only one. There is, however, a second proviso to the effect that a cross in the square opposite the name of one candidate shall be deemed to indicate the voter’s first preference. It will be seen that a cross must be made in the case of the Senate, that if there are only two candidates for the House of Representatives the voter may please himself whether he marks with a cross or a figure, and that where there are more than two candidates the full preference must be exercised. If the Government, by means of this Bill, sought to obtain uniformity, they have, therefore, signally failed, and I regard the clause under discussion as the greatest blot on the measure. The first objection I have to the Bill is that it disfranchises people for no fault of their own, but for the act of an official” of the Department; and my second objection is that we make preferential voting mandatory and then leave it optional. I realize that there is not enough time to deal with this question as it ought to be dealt with, and I submit that we are building up new machinery on an utterly wrong basis in adopting three conflicting systems of voting. I know it is hopeless to ask the Minister to make any alteration now, but I suggest that the necessary amendments to secure one method of voting be made in another place.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) started off by telling us that there were 200 informal votes at the Wide Bay election for the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That wa3 a State election.
– Under the State Act, initialing is mandatory, whereas it is not so under the Commonwealth Act in the sense of invalidating the ballot-paper, if absent.
– Surely it is!
– There is no provision in the State Act that the official mark must be on the ballot-paper, but though section 107 of our Act declares that every ballot-paper must have on it the initials of the officer, for the purpose of testing, while section 177 provides that if the initials are improperly on the paper a fine may be imposed, the official mark would give validity. As to marking, the rule is that an elector must mark his ballot-paper 1, 2, 3; but provision is made so that where, in the case of only two candidates, a mistake is made by simply putting, a. cross opposite the name of one, the vote shall not be invalid.
– I hope that the Minister will not abandon the proposal to accept a ballotpaper if the voter makes the mistake of placing a cross opposite the name of one when there are only two candidates. But I think that it is quite unnecessary to insist on an elector exercising his preference in the case of all the candidates that may present themselves, because, in my opinion, that can only lead to a considerable number of informal votes. The object of the preferential system is to secure at a single ballot the same result that would be attained if there were several successive ballots, the candidate lowest on the poll being dropped at each successive one. I do not think an elector should be disfranchised because, after recording three preferences, he refuses to make a selection of all the other candidates. If, because of his failure to comprehend the system, he stops marking his paper before ho gets to the end of a long list of nondescript candidates who have no hope of winning, the votes he has already given should not be invalidated. In order to insure that if an elector has given an in dication of what he would do if he went to the polling booth three times his vote shall not be declared informal, I move -
That the words “for all the remaining candidates “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “to the third place.”
– I have already circulated a proposed amendment to strike out all the words after “ candidate “ in paragraph c of the clause. The whole of my case in support of that amendment is exactly the case presented by the honorable member for illawarra (Mr. Lamond). We have no right to deprive any person of his vote, so long as that vote can be effective. If an elector puts No. 1 opposite the name of one candidate only, and that candidate has sufficient No. 1 votes to keep him in the ballot, we have no right to declare that vote informal.
– Then you believe in plumping?
– It is not plumping; the meaning is that, while a vote can be effective it should be allowed. As the Bill now is it would be more fitting to describe it as a measure to declare effective votes informal. We must keep it clearly in our minds that votes Nos. 2, 3, and 4 are never counted until a candidate drops out of the ballot, and it is quite immaterial whether the second, third, and fourth preferences have been used if the elector has indicated the person for whom he desires to vote.
– I myself have been the victim of circumstances in an election, and I am of the opinion that we cannot make the clauses of a Bill of this kind too simple. I was unseated through no fault of my own, but through’ the fault of an electoral officer; and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Minister should take an early opportunity to have the necessary amendments made in another Chamber to simplify the electoral procedure. I have been accused of representing a constituency on a minority vote in a previous Parliament.
– Considine is the man!
– The Bolshevik leader in this House-
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it, and say that if I in a previous Parliament represented a minority, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) is the only person who represents a minority in this Parliament.
.- I desire to move, as an amendment, the addition of certain words after the word “candidate”.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so. There is already an amendment before the Chair, submitted by the honorable member for Illawarra, and it has not yet been dealt with.
– I thought that the amendment I submitted in a previous part of the clause was before the Committee.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– I rise to a point of order. The House instructed the Committee to terminate the Committee stages of the Bill at 3 p.m.
– To apply the “ gag “ at 3 o’clock.
– It is not the “ gag.”
– It is worse; it is the guillotine.
– I submit that we must obey the decision of the House.
– The time limit for the consideration of the Bill in its Committee stage has been reached.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the remaining clauses of the Bill, as amended by the printed and circulated amendments of the Government, and the remaining forms of the schedule be agreed to as a whole.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for . Echuca (Mr. Palmer) saw fit in his remarks concerning observations I made in discussing the Bill, to reflect upon the fact that I was returned to this House by a minority vote. I wish to point out, as a matter of personal explanation, that the difference between the honorable member and myself is that, while we were both returned upon a minority vote, the honorable mem ber had been previously tried and subsequently returned by a minority vote.
– Order !
– That is not a personal explanation, but a piece of gratuitous impertinence.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority .. ..28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 137, 154, and 165 were accordingly” amended in accordance with the notices of amendment circulated by Mr. Glynn.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages of the Bill to be passed without delay.
.- A contingent notice of motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders has appeared on the business-paper for some time, and the motion has usually been accepted as a formal one, because the purpose was to enable the Government to get important business through during war time. It was assumed, however, that the Government would be prepared to deal fairly with the House in submitting their business. Honorable members will admit that no fair discussion of this Bill has been allowed. For that reason I object to the suspension of the Standing Orders on this occasion. I know that numbers are all-powerful, and that the motion will be carried, no matter what protest may be entered from this side. Honorable members opposite have made up their minds that this Bill shall be passed as the Government desire, although very many of them are not satisfied with the measure as it has left the Committee. Several honorable members had given notice of amendments they desired to move,’ and of new clauses which they wished to have inserted, but no consideration has been given to their proposals. About a dozen clauses have been put through without a word of discussion. It cannot be said that these clauses were not important, because honorable members who remained here .last night will know that we passed only non-contentious clauses, and it was unanimously agreed that clauses involving new principles to carry into effect proposals of the Government should be postponed. Amongst them were clauses 136, 137, 153, 154, 164, and 165. There has not been one word of discussion of those clauses, although it was agreed that they should be fairly considered. The new principle in our procedure involved in the standing order providing for the guillotine was submitted on a Wednesday, and there were not half-a-dozen honorable members in the House outside of the Ministry who knew- that the matter was to be1 dealt with on that day. I was obliged to be absent for a time on urgent private business. I had not the slightest idea that it was the intention of the Government to bring on the matter then ; but .when I returned to the House, after being away for an hour, I found that it had been dealt with. Honorable members opposite have scored in using the guillotine to-day, but they will find themselves in a minority at some other time. They, no doubt, consider that as they are in power, everything is all right, and they look forward to- the time when honorable members on this side will be displaced by men of their own political faith.
– The honorable gentleman would not tyrannize if he were in power !
– No, I have never done so. As a Minister, I have sat in this Chamber for forty-eight hours while a Supply Bill has been under consideration. The honorable member for Denison recently stated that when I was a member of the Government a Supply Bill was passed in a few hours. I said at the time that there was some reason for that, and I have since found, on looking u,p the records, that for three weeks before the introduction of that Supply Bill there had been a general discussion on the Budget. There was a full discussion of the Budget on the day before its introduction,- and so the honorable member was endeavouring to mislead the House in making the statement he did. Honorable members opposite have adopted a principle in the guillotine which, I feel convinced, will sooner or later recoil upon their own heads. No Bill of such magnitude as this and of so much importance to the people of Australia has ever been passed through any Parliament in such a short time. The Bill is being forced through the House in order that the Government may secure a party political advantage. On Wednesday last the Senate was asked to meet on Tuesday next instead of on Wednesday as usual, and the reason given by the Minister for this earlier meeting was that it was desired to proceed with the discussion of taxation measures and the Electoral Bill. As a matter of fact, there is not one taxation measure ready for the consideration of the Senate. The taxation measures so far introduced in this House have not been debated. No one has had an opportunity yet to discuss in this House the War Loan Subscriptions Bill, the Income Tax Bill, or the Land Tax Bill. On the other hand, the Entertainments Tax Bill was rushed through this House by the Government because it affects the poor of the country and cornpels their little children who wish to visit picture shows to pay a tax.
– The honorable member knows that that is a misrepresentation.
– I do not desire to misrepresent the Government, but I repeat that the entertainments tax was hurried through both this Chamber and the Senate.
– The reason why the Postal Tax Bill and the Entertainments Tax Bill were introduced and passed in advance of other taxation measures was that the taxes applied by them could come into operation only after they had become law, whereas the taxation provided for by the other measures to which the honorable member has referred are automatic as from 1st July last.
– As to that I am quite willing to withdraw any statement I have made that might reflect on the Government. It cannot be denied, however, that the Entertainments Tax Bill was pushed through both Houses while other taxation measures still await our attention. Although the representatives of the Government in another place said that the Senate was to be called upon to meet earlier than usual next week in order to deal with taxation measures and the Electoral Bill, we know that when they do meet on Tuesday the Electoral Bill will be the only measure ready for their consideration.
Last night the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) told us that he had had twenty-eight years of political life. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) have also had long political careers, but I defy them or any one else to point to a case where in the Federal or any State Parliament a Bill of over 220 clauses has been pushed through one House in a such a short time as this has been.
– Most of the clauses of this Bill are a repetition of provisions in the existing Acts.
– But in this measure there are two important principles which are not to be found in the original Electoral Acts. The House this afternoon is adopting principles which we have not had an opportunity to fully and fairly discuss.
– Why did not honorable members opposite remain with us this morning?
– I am asked why I did not urge that the Committee should go on this morning instead of the sitting being _ suspended as it was about 4 a.m. There is, after all, a limit to human endurance. A number of members of our party are ill, and three of them are much worse than I myself should like to be.
– The Perth Conference would make any one ill.
– Only one member of our party - the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) - has been away at the Inter-State- Labour Executive dealing with that matter. He is here to-day, and was here all last night. The Perth Conference has not made any of our party sick. None of us have the physique that we had when we first entered this Parliament. Long hours tell upon .us all, but I am told by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) that we should have remained here after 4 o’clock this morning in order to discuss this Bill. The fact is that had the Government desired the Committee to sit on they would have found themselves without a quorum. I heard some of their own supporters say that they were simply asked by the Whip to remain until 2 a.m. in order that the postal voting provisions of the Bill might be passed before we closed.
– That is not so. I distinctly stated, when questioned early this morning, that it was not the case.
– The Minister said about 3 a.m. that he intended to go further, and after passing 123 clauses we were allowed to go home. About eightyfour or eighty-six clauses were passed in an hour with practically no discussion, while others to which I have already referred were postponed.
– The honorable member has omitted to mention that many of those clauses are already part of the existing law.
– I asked for the postponement of clauses 124, 125, 134, and 136, which deal with preferential voting, because I think the dual systems for which the Bill provides are needlessly complicated .
It is useless, however, to discuss this matter further. Already the guillotine has fallen; at 4 o’clock it will fall a second time. The Standing Orders will then be suspended, the report from, the Committee will be adopted, and the Bill will be read a third time, so that it will be ready for another place when it meets on Tuesday next. Had there been no by-election for Corangamite imminent, I am satisfied, that this Bill would not have been rushed through. The Ministerial supporters think their position is satisfactory. By reason of their numerical strength, they have been able to impose their will upon us, and are going to suspend the Standing Orders, and apply the guillotine.
– The ‘guillotine standing order was passed long before the vacancy for Corangamite occurred.
– Quite so; and one of the reasons given for its adoption was that it would tend to conserve the health of honorable members by obviating the necessity for all-night sittings. Despite that statement, within twenty-four hours after the first application of the guillotine we had an all-night sitting.
– That goes to prove the incorrectness of the honorable member’s statement on a former occasion that the guillotine would be used in a tyrannical manner.
– We sat last night only to give the Opposition a chance to discuss the Bill.
– I implore honorable members opposite, even if they try to fool the people, not to endeavour to fool themselves. The honorable member for Illawarra (“Mr. Lamond) does not believe the statement he has just made, and no one else will believe it. No one will believe that the Ministerial party remained here throughout the night in order that we might have an opportunity to discuss this Bill. The truth is that they remained here because the Government Whip said that they must do so. They knew that they dare not leave. They knew that if they did the whip would be cracked, and that unless they came to heel other candidates would be put up against them at the next election. With the preferential voting system some candidates will not find themselves in a very happy position. We hear how the organizations supporting the Ministerial party are conducting themselves just as honorable members opposite hear of the doings of our party organizations. In the press we read that a returned soldier is visiting such-and-such an. electorate with the object of paving his way for selection, and that some one else is a likely candidate for. another electorate. With preferential voting the Ministerial party will probably have a number of candidates in the field.
In conclusion, I repeat that we have had an absolutely disgraceful performance on the part of the Government in hurrying this Bill through as they have done, within, roughly speaking, fifteen sitting hours after notice of their intention to apply the guillotine.
– Did we not discuss the Bill on the motion for the second reading?
– The honorable member should not try to throw dust in the eyes of the people. He knows that on the motion for the second reading of a Bill we can deal only with general principles, whereas in Committee we can deal with details. We have not had an opportunity in Committee to deal with the details of this Bill. That opportunity has been denied us by the Government merely for the sake of securing a miserable party advantage. I doubt, however, whether their action will have the effect they anticipate in Corangamite, and it is undoubtedly an absolute political disgrace that they should have resorted to this method of endeavouring to obtain a party advantage at an approaching by-election.
– When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) reads in Hansard the report of his speech, he will recognise that he has not. done himself justice. This may be due to the fact that the all-night sitting through which we have passed has strained his nerves, as it has strained mine and those of many others. I gather, however, that his main object in rising was to complain of the principle of the guillotine. May I remind him that the guillotine standing order was discussed at great length some weeks ago by this House, which decided to impose upon itself that self-denying ordinance in the hope that public business in future would be discharged more to the public advantage than had hitherto been the case. “When its first application was moved by me on Wednesday last, it was agreed to without a division, and apparently with the unanimous concurrence of the House. Whether my honorable, friends opposite, usually so vigilant and alert, were at that time unusually slumberous, I know not.
– Do not rub in the salt.
– In the guillotine, when properly understood, there is no salt, but much sugar. The first application of this wholesome medicine was accepted unanimously by the House, and has already proved salutary, in that we have done business. Apart from the general principle of the guillotine, I take it that the Leader of the Opposition objects to the action of the Government in applying it on this occasion.
– I object to the way in which the Bill has been hurried through the House.-
– I am dealing now with what I assume to have been the honorable member’s object - if he had a definite object - in rising to speak. I think his secondary object was to complain about the conduct of the Government in applying the standing order in this way during this week. When the House assented to .the limiting resolution that followed the urgency resolution, I thought there was sufficient time for the passage of the Bill; but I candidly confess that so much time was taken up on the earlier clauses, designedly or not, that I thought a little more time was desirable, and I was successful in inducing honorable members on this side to allow more time for the consideration of the Bill than they had originally thought necessary.
About five or six hours were, therefore, given last night, quite unnecessarily, in order that honorable members opposite might discuss the question as they thought they should discuss it, fully and freely.
– That is not- fair. Members on the Government side took the greater part of the time.
– It was not fair to the majority that so small a minority should have held the House last night. It was not a question of fairness but of generosity, although, I admit, quite unrecognised. It will pass into history as one of the features of the first application of the guillotine that, quite without necessity, the Government gave more time to their opponents than the vote of the House compelled them to give. That is why we persuaded ourselves to sit here last night. The guillotine was not intended to serve a party advantage. I take leave to say, notwithstanding the warnings of my honorable friend, who spoke like Jeremiah in his recent speech, that even if the time should come by any tragic mischance when this party must pass over to the Opposition benches, I will still assert that the same principle applies, and that the House will hold the party responsible for the application of this timesaving order. The misuse of an instrument of this kind will, I admit, react on its users, and in the full recognition of that fact the system was applied. If ever the Leader of the Opposition leads a Government with a full majority behind him, he will find the same sense in the community and in the then Opposition. The principle was not introduced for party purposes, nor was it applied on this occasion to meet a party issue. We gave almost three weeks to the second reading of the Bill. I know of no Bill involving so few new principles to which so much time has been given in this House. To talk of the Bill containing 220 clauses is so much fudge. The bulk of them are consolidated clauses involving no new principle. There is in the Bill one new principle, and one restoration of an old principle. The new principle is preferential voting, which, while not as old as original sin, is as old in its acceptance and operation as “ any member of the House. Any man who wishes to read the history of contingency voting can get reams of literature upon it, and study its operation not only in this part of the globe but in many others. In that sense it is not a new system, but its application to this House is new. The system of postal voting, which is restored in a modified and safeguarded form, was the subject of great discussion in this House for months and in the country afterwards. It might have been easily possible, if the Minister in charge of the Bill had thought fit, not to re-enact the main sections of the electoral law, but to embody in a short Bill those two principles, and it should have been possible to pass that Bill without the guillotine, in any reasonable assembly, in two or three days. But the honorable members opposite have taken advantage of this consolidating measure to reopen the whole of the principles of the Electoral Act. They, and not the Government, are responsible. If I seem to speak somewhat hotly on this matter, 1 ask honorable members to reflect that with me it is a question merely of manner. I- do not feel hotly about it. I feel at peace with all the world, although I had no sleep last night. I rose last night, as honorable members on both sides did, without any feeling of animosity or antipathy. It was a goodnatured sitting, and we rose in response to the call of tired nature. My honorable friend led his gallant, but outnumbered, quartette until we responded to his appeal. We should be capable now, as men of the world and experienced parliamentarians, with records extending from a few months to twenty or thirty years, to discuss our differences and rise in perfect good temper with one another.
– But for the application of the axe.
-There is no axe about this. It is a soft club administered in mercy, and will save such a voluble member as the honorable member for Darling from himself. It has been applied in a merciful and effective way, not to serve party purposes, but to clean our businesssheet in reasonable time of the items which the country desires.
.- The Acting Prime Minister is as polite as a Japanese executioner. He offers us all sorts of apologies, but he still firmly presses the dose on us. He still applies the “ gag “ effectively to members on this side. No matter how he smiles or honeys his phrases, the dose is just as bitter to us. I see no need to rush a measure of this sort through the House at this stage, when no general election confronts us.
– Do not be too sure of it.
– That is what I want to get at. If the Government say they contemplate an early appeal to the country, there may be some justification for rushing the Bill through; but if they intend to go on in the ordinary way until Parliament expires by effluxion of time about eighteen months hence, there is no hurry for the measure, which can have no application until the next general election. Surely, therefore, we can be given reasonable time to discuss its provisions. I wished to move an amendment, which, to me, is of paramount importance, to allow votes to be regarded as formal which, under the provisions of this Bill, will be declared informal. As a representative of the people, I should be given a reasonable opportunity to discuss so vital a question ; but when the Committee reached the clause in question, I found I had only five or six minutes in which to explain my views.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing in the House the proceedings of the Committee.
– I find myself shut out from advancing reasons why the measure should be altered in certain particulars. Had I been allowed to state my arguments and facts, light might have dawned even on the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond). Other members, including some on the Government side, have also been debarred from moving amendments. The honorable member for Illawarra, when he desired to move an amendment that he thought would improve the measure, was not allowed to advance his reasons. He is denied the right to give expression to the views of the people who sent him into Parliament. That is not the proper way to conduct the affairs of Parliament. I could quite understand the necessity arising in a time of war to meet some sudden emergency in the interests of the nation by hurriedly passing a Bill; but there is nothing urgent to which this measure can be applied. Members could have been given ample time to consider it carefully, and plenty of opportunities would have offered themselves in the next eighteen months to pass it into law. Instead of wasting our time over it, we could deal with measures for the welfare of the people. Let us consider proposals to benefit our soldiers, whom we all hope to see returning very soon. These’ are urgent questions. I hear somebody whisper the word “ Corangamite.” Is it because of that impending by-election that this measure is being forced through the House, and the mouths of the elected representatives of people in Parliament as.sembled are to be shut? If so, it is not much to the credit of the Government, or of the party responsible. This measure would have just the same effect if carried in twelve months’ time, and cannot be applied any sooner by being put through now. The problem the House is dealing with, I am reminded,, is how the Ministerial party aTe going to win the Corangamite seat.. ‘ But, as a matter of fact, the problem with which we should concern ourselves is how we are going to treat the boys who are coming back from the Front, and how we are going to restore them to their industrial occupations. These and a thousand and one other questions have been confronting us for months. These are the things that really matter. These are questions that are urgent and should be dealt with, not such a question as the winning of the miserable Corangamite seat.
– Why call it a miserable seat?
– Because this is a miserable business in comparison with the great problems that confront Parliament. We should be dealing with the big things, and not a paltry matter like this. Will it make any difference to the Government if they win a seat? Have they not already all the strength they require to pass any legislation they like? What doe3 it matter if they gain another seat ? They will find, however, that the people of Corangamite will resent this action on the part of the Government in forcing a measure like this through the House by applying the “gag” and shutting the mouths of the elected representatives of the people. The Government and their supporters will find that this victory is so much Dead Sea fruit, and that Corangamite, instead of being like a ripe cherry ready to be picked, will resent the Government tactics, and return a Labour candidate t.t the _top of the poll.
– I desire to congratulate the honorable member who has just sat down upon displaying less of the wisdom of the serpent than his leader. The Leader of the Opposition beat his breast, and in the same manner pretended tha,t the Government had been guilty of some offence in order to win the Corangamite electorate, but he did not talk so directly to the people of Corangamite as did the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat. I sat through the sitting last night and until 4 o’clock this morning, and I do not want to add in any small degree to the heat of all-night debate, which, fortunately, was singularly absent last night; but I want to say here and now, and as one who does not like the guillotine, and who would have nothing whatever to do with its introduction, that if anything in the nature of hypocrisy in connexion -with the Corangamite election has been shown, it has not been displayed by those behind the Government. Why should not the people of Corangamite have a chance of preferential voting in the coming by-election? Why should they not have the freest choice in the world of the man to represent them? And who has attempted to prevent this? Who but the party opposite, which can only get men into Parliament on a minority vote - the party which won the Swan election with a candidate who could not poll more than one-third of the votes recorded. This is not in the interests of any electorate, and it would not be in the interests of Democracy if the same thing happened in regard to Corangamite. All I want to say to honorable members opposite is this: Let us bury all these pretences. This Parliament is old enough now to realize the true value of humbug. “We always see these things done before a by-election, but in this matter I hold the Government to be utterly blameless.’ I do not, however, hold the Leader of the Opposition blameless. At 2 o’clock this morning I heard the honorable gentleman pleading, and in my judgment properly pleading, for the House to rise. I remember the honorable gentleman saying across the chamber, “Why waste our time and impair our health here? This business has to go through to-morrow at 3 o’clock.” And then to-day we find him beating his breast because he had not all the time he wanted to discuss the measure! Although his speech just now was not addressed to the people of Corangamite, it was intended for circularization through that electorate. I stayed on last night in. order that honorable members opposite might not to-day be able to beat their breasts, and declare that they had not had time to discuss this measure. Unfortunately I was not successful, and I nin satisfied now that no generosity and no amount of care will ever prevent an Opposition under such circumstances from endeavouring to humbug the country as the Opposition has seen fit to do to-day. I hope that in the coming byelection honorable members who realize the importance of getting an absolutely honest verdict will scorn all this pretence and hypocrisy.
– That will be something new. More than we have had during this war.
– It would be something new for the honorable member to get a majority for his war views! Well I remember that the honorable gentleman, a little while ago, said we would be worse than criminals if we endeavoured to still further follow the advice of Mr. Lloyd
George and the Allied statesmen, and persevere in this war until we achieved final victory. We were told by another leading member of the Opposition (Mr. Higgs) that, as victory was impossible, any man who was responsible for continuing the war would virtually be guilty of murder.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker, and point out that the honorable member is not addressing himself to the question before the Chair. His remarks are of a personal character, and I should be only too glad to reply if opportunity offered.
– I was about to draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he was going beyond the scope of the motion, when the honorable member rose.
– I thought I was following an excellent example in the case of the two previous speakers.
– The two previous speakers were the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt).
– Then I will go back further and say the three previous speakers, who in their general references showed how the measure would affect the coming by-election. I only want to say that, in my humble judgment, it is only by a proposal of this kind that a proper measure of electoral reform can be effected.
-The only question before the Chair is the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– And I am entirely in favour of the suspension of the Standing Orders. After listening to the discussion, I have come to the conclusion that the guillotine must in some mysterious way have widened our Standing Orders, and permitted a latitude of debate at the conclusion of the murder that was not previously expected. Honorable members who were here last night will realize that a man cannot do justice to himself after an all-night sitting. - I do not ask for justice. I ask for mercy, particularly at the hands of the Chair, and I only want to say that if our Standing Orders be not suspended to enable the Bill to be taken through all its re- maining stages without delay, there is a serious risk that we may perhaps come to a discussion of the Bill within the last few minutes that remain before the last head falls into the last basket. For my part, I do not propose to take up the time of honorable members any longer. I hope th at at two minutes to 4 the Standing Orders will be suspended, so that we may get the third reading of the Bill through, and give the constituency of Corangamite an opportunity of selecting a candidate in a manner never previously available to it.
.- It was rather amusing to listen to the honorable member for Wentworth posing as Satan reproving sin.
– I rise to order. I submit, with all. deference, that I was not posing as Satan at all.
– I was under the impression that the honorable member was posing as Satan reproving sin, and emulating the example of certain other people who beat their breasts and thanked God they were not as other persons. It appears from the statements made in the discussion on this measure, that the Nationalist party are simply engaged in house-cleaning operations on their own behalf. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) almost tearfully explained tois the hardships which a Nationalist candidate had to suffer in the process of elimination. The general body of electors do not appear to have been considered at all. The Bill should really have been entitled “ A Bill for the further protection of the interests of the National party.”
– You seem very anxious about the National party today.
– No; but I object to this endeavour to fool the electors, when all the time the interests of the National party are being kept in view. As far as the Labour party is concerned, the preferential system of voting will not affect us at all.
-Then what are you talking about?
– I am trying to dissipate the camouflage that honorable members opposite are using, that is all.
– You will get more experience later on.
– I hope so, because experience is what I desire.
– The time allowed for debate has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Question - That the report be adopted -put. The House divided.
Majority … … 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) put -
That this Bill he now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority … … 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Entertainments Tax Bill.
Dispute in Meat Industry - Wheat Pool - Amnesty to Political, Industrial, and Military Offenders - Spanish Influenza - Employment of Australian Troops at the Dardanelles - Recruiting - Peace Celebrations : Prohibition - Dairy Produce Pool Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister the very serious situation that has arisen in connexion with the whole of the meat industry of Victoria. Yesterday a goslow strike was instituted at all the export meat works in this State, and it has now extended to the two inland farmers co-operative freezing works. It is needless to point out that the present is a period of very high pressure in this industry. Even in normal times there would be high pressure when the export season had advanced only three weeks, but the pressure has increased at the present time by reason of the weather conditions which have forced the stock of the country into the market at an abnormal rate. I propose, briefly, to relate the sequence of events as they have happened.
The Victorian Butchers Union engaged in the freezing and canning works, including the two co-operative works referred to, are concerned in this go-slow strike. There is an existing slaughtering award fixing the rate at 30s. per 100.
– Is that by agreement or an award of the Courts?
– It is an Arbitration Court award given by Mr. Justice Higgins in October, 1916, and it will not expire until 1921. A demand has been made by the workers engaged in the industry, including the butchers, for an increase in wages of 50 per cent, and the reduction of working hours from fortyeight to forty-four per . week. This demand is made during the present highpressure period when the works are engaged in fulfilling contracts with the Im- perial Government for supplies for the Army, Navy, and civil requirements of the Old Country. I point out that, in addition, many of the producers have, at great expense and with very great dim”culty, topped up their sheep and lambs this year. Owing to this being an abnormal season, they have had to em> ploy the most skilful husbandry in topping up their sheep. This is not like an ordinary season, when sheep and lambs may be removed from one paddock to another and kept for weeks. It is a time when the whole of the grass and fodder resources of the producers have had to be carefully husbanded to fit and finish the stock for the works.
When the demand was made by the Butchers Union, the Exporters Association met the men first of all in conference on the 25th October, next on the 28th October, and again on the 4th November. Finally, they met before Mr. Justice Higgins on Wednesday last, the 6th November, when an offer was made to the men, notwithstanding the fact that an award is in existence, and has still some time to run.
– The honorable member is referring to a Federal Arbitration Court award.
– Yes. Notwith-standing the fact that the exporters are entitled to take advantage of the Arbitration Court award until 1921, in recognition of the exceptional weather conditions and the abnormal supplies coming forward, they decided, in order to keep the works going, and to prevent further dislocation of the business of the producers, to offer the butchers an additional 2s. 6d. per 100 for all sheep and lambs and an increase of ls. per day to all other labour engaged at the meat works. The effect of this would be to raise the previous minimum rate from lis. to 12s. per day, so that no person employed in any. branch of the meat works would be in receipt of less than 12s. per day. I do not here refer to the butchers, who work at a special rate, and some of whom are employed . on piece-work. In addition, the Exporters Association agreed to make their offer to the men retrospective to the date of their demand. The offer was not accepted by the men, “ and they have definitely declined to approach the Arbitration Court, even though the employers should be agreeable to do so, believing that they have a better opportunity of taking advantage of the abnormal conditions of the season and securing what they desire by force of circumstances, over which they think they are masters.
I desire to inform the Acting Prime Minister that on Thursday morning, at two of the works engaged in the export trade, the butchers and other employees started their go-slow strike, killing, about one-third of the normal killing .rate. This is probably worse in its effect than would be an absolute strike, because the men are carrying on- and continuing to secure the benefit of their ordinary wages and conditions. They have appointed amongst themselves their own board of control. I do not believe that this strike is directed by the executive of the Australian Workers Union. I do not believe that the officials or managing body of that union instituted the strike. On the contrary, I believe that the strike has been initiated by a section of the men who have come over from Queensland, where the export season has closed, and who are openly boasting in Victoria that they intend to show the men here, who have been con- .tentedly engaged in their work, how they can better conduct operations for their own benefit at a time like the present by direct action.
What has occurred has resulted in the cancellation of contracts entered into for next week, for the supply, not only of the fresh meat market and the export trade, but of all trucks for the metropolitan market. There has been a complete withdrawal by the big operating firms of their buyers in the country, and thi8 has accentuated an already very difficult, troublesome, and dangerous condition of the stock market. Already there has been quite a sufficient dislocation of the stock market in this State, hut the action of the men engaged “in the industry has accentuated the difficulties of the position. I have no desire whatever to take part in the dispute between the meat works and their employees, or to render the position more difficult of settlement. The Government have worthily strained every effort to secure insulated shipping space to remove carcasses already accumulated in stores, and it is expected that the. Suffolk will be here within a few* days to take away, roughly, 80,000 carcasses. They are, therefore, concerned in the matter, and I ask them to do all that is possible to have the difficulty resolved. Constitutional methods have been adopted by the employers. The Arbitration Court is a tribunal created by this Parliament, and an award of that tribunal is in existence affecting this industry. In the circumstances, I ask that the Government shall intervene to compel a conference and require the Arbitration Court to sit and determine the conditions of the industry at the present time. I ask that the Government shall not allow advantage to be taken of the present abnormal conditions to enable tie men to force unfair demands -upon the employers. I can inform the Acting Prime Minister that what they demand would mean an additional cost to the producers of ls. per head all round for sheep and lambs to be slaughtered. This will mean a reduction on the present buying price on the top of decreases which have already taken place, because the price of lambs and mutton has already been reduced by the lack of organization to deal with this very prolific season’s output.. I bring the matter before the Minister in the hope that a spirit of sweet reasonableness may be displayed as between employers, employees, and the Government, with the object of preventing the producing interests of the .country being smote hip and thigh.
.- I feel confident that the Government need not be urged to make an effort to secure industrial peace, and I would be the last to say anything to hinder them in that direction. More than one Minister will admit that I have endeavoured on several occasions recently to try to preserve industrial peace.
– Hear, hear!
– And I do not wish to utter one word that would widen the breach at the present moment. There are in this community, however, many who are not unmindful of the fact that it is not long since there was, if not a deliberate strike on the part of the producers, at all events, some sort of understanding, as the result of which not one sheep was yarded at Newmarket on the occasion of one or two sale days, a happening previously unheard of in the history of Australia. If the facts in regard to the slaughtermen are as stated by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), then it would seem that, unfortunately, they are following the bad example set by the very people on behalf of whom he makes this complaint to-day.
.- In view of the eminently satisfactory European situation to-day, and the probability of the early restoration of shipping to normal conditions-
– I should like to shake hands with an optimist.
– During the last four years, I have not been so optimistic as I am to-day ; and I desire to urge upon the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that he should carefully watch the interests of the primary producers, particularly in regard to the wheat held in the Pools of Australia. According to newspaper cablegrams, the Allies are particularly hardpressed just now in furnishing to the conquered countries of Turkey and Bulgaria a sufficient supply of foodstuffs, and I would urge the honorable gentleman not to sacrifice the interests of the primary producers of Australia by selling at too low a price the wheat now in the Pools. Farmers believe that before very long, with the cessation of hostilities, wheat will be worth 6s. per bushel f.o.b. at the various ports in Australia ; and that being so, the Government should not be too ready to close with any offer that may be made to them on previously existing conditions. I ask the honorable gentleman to give this matter his earnest consideration.
.- In view of the near approach of a world peace, I urge the Government to take into consideration the matter of remitting sentences imposed under war-time Acts on soldiers and political and industrial offenders, in respect of exclusively wartime offences. Put shortly, I ask the Government to consider the desirableness of granting a general amnesty to political, industrial, and military offenders during the course of the war, who happen to be serving sentences at the close of hostilities.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of quarantine the necessity of taking certain steps to combat an outbreak of Spanish influenza in Australia. It will be observed that in New Zealand a committee of citizens has been formed to deal with and assist the Government in this matter. I fear that, owing to -lack of organization, grave danger may assail the community in the event of the disease, despite our quarantine arrangements, spreading here. It will probably spread with great suddenness; and without a proper organization of the whole of the medical faculty and the nurses, many people may be neglected, and possibly lose their lives. I trust that the Federal Minister in charge of public health will join with the State health authorities to bring about the organization I have suggested, so that, in the event of an outbreak occurring, we may cope with it immediately, with the greatest hope of saving life.
.- I have much pleasure in indorsing the remarks just made by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). I have been awaiting a message this afternoon from the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Lawson), but owing to a Cabinet meeting he has probably been unable to send it. Sir Alexander Peacock, however, has assured me that all parties in the State Parliament will give the Commonwealth every assistance in combating this dread disease. I urge the Minister in charge of quarantine to publish through the press, and by means of posters displayed in conspicuous places, a few simple directions as to what should be done in case of an outbreak. In these notices, the symptoms of the disease - such as sneezing, coughing, running at the nose, and so forth - should be described, and in- structions given as to the proper treatment. The public should be warned that rest is at once imperative, and that those who have not the means to pay for a doctor should send for a Government medical man. I take it that the Government will have to handle this matter. It is too big a matter to be left to private practice. If the Acting Prime Minister requested the medical men to offer their services, so that they could be properly organized, with the nurses available, and temporary hospitals prepared if necessary, I am sure the response would be immediate. We should then be in a good position to meet and fight the disease after it has got over the first barricade of the quarantine. I have had a talk with the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and find that all possible measures are being taken in the way of quarantine to meet the emergency. I can assure honorable members that the quarantine system will do its work, and for that I desire to thank the Minister and his officers. The time for us to organize in the way I have indicated is now, while the quarantine system is giving us a respite, because I do not think it is possible to keep the disease out altogether. Simple directions could be circulated showing citizens what to do when the first symptoms appear. For instance, all handkerchiefs, instead of being thrown into the soiled linen basket, should be steeped in an antiseptic solution, such as can be made by mixing a teaspoonful of phenyle in a quart of water. That precaution is necessary, because soiled handkerchiefs carry the germs all the time. I desire also to thank the Acting Prime Minister for his courtesy, and the attention he has given to my representations on this very important matter.
This disease is the greatest danger that ever threatened Victoria. Small-pox is a mere bagatelle to it, and I urge the Prime Minister to see what can be done before next week to disseminate first-aid information throughout the community. I know no better means of sending pamphlets and other matter throughout Victoria than the splendid organization of which Captain Dyett is the head.
If tbe war’ isnot at an end, the indications are that it is nearly at an end. Is it, therefore, worth while to keep transports ready to send men away? If our brave sons are to be honoured by the task of guarding the. Dardanelles, we have more than enough men away already for the purpose. I suppose we have 300,000 men in Europe.
– No; under 200,000.
– They are quite sufficient to represent Australia.
– Do not you think they want to come back now?
– Undoubtedly; but I take it that those sent to the Dardanelles will be volunteers. It would be for the benefit of the primary producers and the Commonwealth generally to use all available shipping space to send our food products to the countries that are famishing for it.
.- I am shocked to find what a large expenditure is being incurred on recruiting. Yesterday 1 received a number of pamphlets of a peculiar type, that might be of value as Deadwood Dick literature. They must be costing enormous sums. This morning I saw the band playing to a big crowd in front of the recruiting office in the Town Hall, and at mid-day speakers from a platform in front of the General Post Office were exhorting men to join up to go to the Front. The revelations of the last few days, or even of the last fortnight, justify us in crying a halt in this direction. I raise this question now, first, because of the great expenditure being incurred, and, secondly, because I have no time for those who desire to get their names in as recruits, excepting always boys of eighteen or nineteen. I urge the Acting Prime Minister and the Government to take immediate action in this matter.
.- With perfect sincerity I congratulate the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) upon the action hetook this morning in closing the liquor bars of the city. I am not aware to what extent the prohibition applies.
– They are all open again; you need not worry.
– Then the Acting Prime Minister’s conversion is very shortlived. I have been told that the prohibition is being evaded, and am anxious to know to what extent it was meant to apply. I congratulate the Acting Prime Minister on his admission that the liquor business is so dangerous that, in times of excitement, it is necessary to close the public bars. That the honorable gentleman has arrived at that stage marks a very notable and satisfactory advance.
– Yet you said I was the chief obstacle to the proper consideration of the liquor problem in Australia.
– No; I said I considered the honorable gentleman to be the chief obstacle to the adoption of wartime prohibition.
– I do not deserve the compliment.
– If the honorable gentleman had been willing to allow an opportunity for the matter to be decided, the people of Australia would have been grateful to him. If he had given Parliament the opportunity to express its view, he would have relieved himself of any charges in that respect. But, unfortunately, he has taken up an attitude of opposition, and I am sure he is prepared to abide by the results.
– I have not defined my attitude to you or to the House. You are proceeding entirely upon newspaper gossip.
– I am basing my remarks upon the honorable gentleman’s statements in this chamber. In response to repeated applications to him to state whether the Government would do. anything, or consider the matter, or give the House an opportunity to consider it, the honorable gentleman has at times rather testily stated that he was not prepared to afford such opportunities, and that the Government was simply considering the matter.
– I said at that stage that I was not prepared to promise one private member an advantage in regard to his motion over another. Inreply to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), I said the Government would not introduce a measure for war-time prohibition. If you put all that on to me, you can do so.
– “When did you take over the licensing laws?
– I have not been given charge of them yet.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - The Acting Prime Minister is not being asked to take over the licensing laws by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), nor, by any questions addressed to him on the matter, has. he been asked to do anything that is not absolutely within the powers of the Commonwealth Government under the War Precautions Act. The Government have used those powers very freely in other directions; but, for some reason, the Acting Prime Minister will not exercise them in this direction. That, however, is his responsibility. I have heard it rumoured that to-day, despite the closing of hotel bars, certain things are being done beyond a 15-mile limit, in connexion with the carting about of liquor, which are detrimental to, if not entirely destructive of, the effect desired. I hear,’ too, that the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquor to-day and to-morrow does not affect the wine shops or the licensed grocers. , This is obviously unfair to the hotelkeepers, who are deprived of business opportunities while competitors are allowed free and unrestricted liberty of trade. Prohibition, to be effective, should be universal. No doubt, it is dangerous, in times of public excitement, to permit facilities for the purchase of intoxicating liquor. May I suggest to the Prime Minister that it is also advisable that he should request the larger employers of labour not to throw men out of work by giving them a holiday hastily and unnecessarily, because this will bring crowds into the city streets, which may cause the evil that we wish to avoid.
– I have already done that.
– I am glad to hear it. The people are anxious to celebrate a peace. No tidings would be received with greater enthusiasm than those announcing a peace, and it is neces sary that we should prevent trouble by diverting the natural excitement of the people into wise and useful channels, so that that celebration may be one we may look back upon with pride and satisfaction rather than regret. Another Teason why a holiday should not be imposed unnecessarily is that in most cases such holidays mean loss of pay, and this the workers can ill afford at the present time. If employers ‘ close their workshops or warehouses, and compel their employees to take a holiday to celebrate a military victory, I hope that they will be honest and patriotic enough to pay for the holiday given.
.- Yesterday the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked a series of questions about the Australian Dairy Produce Pool Committee and its operations. No exception is to be taken to the replies of the Minister, but there appears in this morning’s Argus a paragraph regarding the Committee which is open to serious misinterpretation by those who are not au fait with the facts. The paragraph is as follows: -
In answer to questions by Mr. Mackay (Nat., Queensland), the Acting Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) stated in the House of Representatives yesterday that the members of the Board of control of the Butter and Cheese Pool were allowed first-class steamer and rail fares, and£ 2 2s. a day travelling expenses, with an allowance of £1 ls. a day when the Committee sat. Alterations in the prime of butter did not come within the jurisdiction of the pool committee. Prior to the war the price ruling at this time of the year was ls. per lb., but it was now ls. 4½d. Producers were compelled, under the regulations, to contribute their surplus butter and cheese to the pool. The rate of commission paid to agents had been fixed at 1 per cent. At present the average weekly quantity of butter going into cold stores or exported from Queensland was 1,400 to 1,600 cases.
I wish to explain that the Minister does not draw fees, and that the £2 2s. per day travelling expenses are paid only to the members of the Committee who travel from one State to another, which reduces the sum total of the payment very considerably. These allowances were not fixed, nor are they paid, by the Government; they were fixed by the committeemen themselves, the majority of whom were elected by the dairymen to represent their interests, and they are paid out of the fund provided by the Pool created by commission charges. The statement regarding the 1 per cent, commission suggests that the Pool has agents which do its business, but that commission is the commission which an agent is allowed to charge a producer for handling his produce. As the reply to the sixth question of the series indicates, factories wishing to do their own business need not employ an agent. The Pool has no agents, and its working conditions have been framed with the object of disturbing existing arrangements as little as possible.
– In reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) I wish to say that the Government fully recognisesthe enormous importance of keeping Spanish influenza out of the country, and I assure the. House and the people that any step which has suggested itself to our mind has been taken by the Quarantine authorities to prevent its introduction. “ Whilst it is. true that we have not declared certain ports outside Australia to be infected ports, which we have power to do under the Quarantine Act, nevertheless we have under that Act such wide powers that the Quarantine authorities are able to deal with every ship as it arrives in Australia, and there is no vessel now arriving at these shores which is not inspected by the Health’ authorities in the most thorough way, and every ship coming from any place where we know the influenza to be rife is immediately put into quarantine. There is a reciprocal arrangement between the Governments of New Zealand and Australia under which persons travelling between the two countries must submit to treatment for three days before they start their journey, and the New Zealand Government is permitting only such persons to leave the Dominion for Australia as are required to do so by the most urgent business reasons. Honorable members understand, of course, that the function of the Commonwealth Government in this matter is only the prevention of the introduction of the disease into Australia, and that the State Governments are charged under the Constitution with the duty of looking after the health of the people within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government is anxious not to do anything to invade the authority of the States in any way. We have already told them, through their Premiers, that we desire to co-operate with them in every possible way in dealing with this disease if it should actually break out. I may add that the State health authorities are taking steps already to do what has been suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), by publishing information. The health authorities in Victoria have already distributed amongst municipalities information telling the people approximately what ought to be done should the disease make its appearance. In regard to the question of the mobilization, if I might so term it, of medical and nursing staffs, something of the kind has already been done, but I am not able at the moment to inform the House what form it has taken. We are consulting with the States as to the wisdom of mobilizing a small reserve force of doctors and nurses, so that if the disease should appear we will be ready. This is a matter which concerns the States more than the Commonwealth, and whilst we are consulting them we do not propose to go any further at present. I can give the House a definite assurance that the head of the Quarantine Department is firmly convinced that no action which could possibly be taken has been neglected. With reference to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), the facts as stated by him are, to my knowledge, entirely correct. The paragraph was somewhat misleading, as the people were given to understand that the charges were being paid by the public. As a matter of fact, the producers have to pay them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.54. p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181107_reps_7_86/>.