7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce that I have received the following communication from Miss Deakin: -
Dear Mr. Johnson,- -On behalf of my mother and the family, allow me to assure you of our very real appreciation of the generous tributes paid to my clear father’s memory in the House of Representatives on 7th October, also for the kind thought which prompted the sending of the copies of the resolution.
We thank you sincerely for your personal expression of sympathy in our time of sorrow.
I remain, dear Mr. Johnson,
Ever yours sincerely,
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Special Report of the Auditor-
General on Amendment of the Audit Act and Position and Status of the AuditorGeneral.
Economies - Postmaster - General’s Review and Remarks on Commission’s First Progress Report in so far as the Postal Department is concerned.
Naval Defence - Report of Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa, G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O., on Naval Mission to the Commonwealth (May- August, 1919).
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Award _ of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in connexion with plaints submitted by the -
Commonwealth Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australia. Dated 23rd September, 1919.
Tasmanian Mail Contracts - Existing Agreements.
– Is the Minister for Works and. Railways aware that, owing to complaints that were made against a clerk of works, about thirty temporary employees engaged on works at the Flying School, at Point Cook, were put off, and are still out of work ?
– I am not aware of any such action, but will make inquiries.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether there is any, discrepancy between the amount set out in the Budget statement as being due to the
British Government and the amount stated by the Economy Commissioners to be due?
– I presume that the honorable member’s question arises out of a recent cablegram published in the press?
– I think it was on Sunday evening last that representatives of the press communicated with me by telephone, asking whether there was any such discrepancy. I informed them that the Budget figures were correct. I have since had an opportunity to confer with the officers of the Treasury, who assure me that the figures are correct.
-Can the Minister for Home and Territories supply any information to the House regarding the situation in the Northern Territory ?
-(By leave).- I can only tell the House of the general effect of the telegrams that have reached me on the subject. As has been announced to the public, there has been a very serious breach of order at Darwin, but the necessary steps have been taken to remedy what has been done, to preserve order and good government for the future, and also to deal with those responsible for the present position.
– Including the officials?
– I think I have expressed all that is necessary for the present. We will deal with those who have led to the present position. On 13th inst. a public meeting was held at Darwin, as a result of which Messrs. Toupein, Nelson, Bolton, Brennan, and Thomas called upon the Director of the Territory (Mr. Carey), Judge Bevan, and the Secretary for the Territory (Mr. Evans), and stated that they were requested by the meeting to call upon them to leave the Territory by the next boat, and, before doing so, to hand their resignations to the deputation. They stated, in effect, that the people of the Territory were in deadly earnest, and would devise ways and means to give effect to the suggested changes. It was stated by one member of the deputation that a refusal to resign would precipitate one of the biggest revolutions Australia had seen.
It is unnecessary to go into details, but those who have read the telegrams from
Darwin on the subject will recognise that the tone of the deputation was somewhat coercive. Judge Bevan and the Secretary stated that in the interests of peace, and te prevent violence, they were prepared to leave the Territory, while the Director said he would telegraph to me that, in the circumstances, it would be wiser for them to leave the Territory by the next boat. I received a telegram from Mr. Carey, and shortly afterwards replied that I could not give instructions to the officers to leave the Territory in the circumstances stated, and that any changes made must be incidental only to the proper discharge of their administrative duties. I pointed out, further, that there was nothing in the telegram to indicate dissatisfaction with the officers, and that anything that required investigation must be submitted in ‘ the regular way. As stated in the telegram, nothing had been communicated to me as to the alleged grounds of dissatisfaction, and in no circumstances would there be any justification for the forcible action taken. One member of the deputation was reported to have said that, after the revelations of the last Advisory Council, they considered it absolutely criminal to allow them to remain there.
The reply to my telegram which gave instructions to remain, in effect stated that the officers were convinced, for reasons mentioned to me, that they should leave at once as demanded, but that if I still directed them to remain, they would endeavour to obey and take all possible consequences.
It is stated that the alleged revelations were extracts from a personal letter written by the Director to Dr. Gilruth on the 8th July, when out of service; that the details could not be telegraphed without the context; but that a copy of the letter would reach me by the end of this week; and that he was prepared for a searching inquiry.
In the telegram it mentioned that Mr. Evans, the Government Secretary, was charged with permitting the son of the Protector of Aborigines to sell his (Mr. Evans’) old bicycle to the natives, and that an official inquiry was being made into this. This will give honorable members an idea of some of the complaints.
– There is something different from that in the statement from the other side.
– I am simply giving what is in the telegrams received by me. I replied on the 17th that I knew nothing to justify them leaving Darwin, and that the proper course was for all serious causes of complaint or revelations to be submitted in the regular way to the Minister.
On Sunday I received two telegrams, which, in effect, stated that my reply had been conveyed to the deputation, who demanded an absolute undertaking that they should leave by the next boat or be put on the Bambra. The Director replied that he could not disobey the Minister. A further public meeting was held on the same day (Saturday), at which it was decided to put the officers on the Bambra, and that they (the officers), to avoid personal violence, agreed to walk on board.
I can only repeat that necessary steps towards restoring executive government in Darwin have been taken. There have, of course, been very serious interferences with the order of government, with administration, both official and judicial. This sort of thing cannot be allowed to continue. In a country like this, where - speaking by comparison - the most liberal principles of democratic government have been established, it is clearly the duty of all to observe order and to vent grievances in a constitutional way.
In regard to representation, the Territories are not, of course, in the same position as the States, and opinions may differ as to when the stages of partial or full representation should be reached. In fact, on this point, I may say that this matter has been considered by the Ministry, and the members of the Advisory Council, recently formed as a tentative method of constitutionally presenting the views, &c, of the residents, have been recently informed by me by telegram and memorandum, dictated immediately on’ receipt of communications, on points that had been considered on both sides. However, I cannot go into this matter now, but thought it my duty to give some indication to the House how matters stand at the moment.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been called to a recent statement in the Senate by Senator Ferricks, who visited the Territory lately, in which he gave a catalogue of acts of maladministration which had taken place there? If the Minister has seen the honorable senator’s speech, has he had the matters therein referred to looked into?
– My attention has not been called to the speech of Senator Ferricks, but it has been given to it. There is scarcely a thing occurs in relation to Darwin to which I do not devote personal attention. The complaints made from time to time, whether they are sound or not, are known to me, and are investigated. I read everything that Senator Ferricks said, and have made my memoranda accordingly.
– Is it a fact that the Government have caused a warship to he sent to Darwin for the purpose of reducing that place to order, or has any means been taken to despatch a military force in connexion with the present trouble?
– I hope a warship will arrive at Darwin, because we must see that order is restored, or, at any rate, that it is not broken. I cannot go into all the steps that have been taken, but they are all directed to seeing that government is carried on in the ordinary way.
– I do not think I can add anything to the answer I gave to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) the other day. During the last financial year the importers of dip managed to set into this country more than double the amount recorded for any other year ?
– In value or in quantity?
– In value, but the value per gallon was practically the same in 1918 as it is this year. I am having the books of the company which is more particularly concerned, examined, and when that examination is complete I shall make a further statement.
– Can the Acting- Leader of the House supply an answer to the question which I put to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) last week, regarding a shipment of 100,000 tons of wheat foT Sweden? The ships are here prepared to take the wheat away. Can it be shipped without going through a London agency and paying commission?
– The Prime Minister, in fulfilment of his promise, sent for certain information, which reached the office only a little while ago. I have hot had a chance to look at it, but hope to be able to furnish the honorable member with an answer to-morrow.
– In Queensland the State Minister for Justice discovered that a large number of names were off the electoral rolls, and instructed the police to assist the Commonwealth officers in getting them on to the roll again. Is it a fact that the Minister for Home and Territories declined to allow the police officers to have interleaved rolls to facilitate the collection of those names?
– I have had no report to the effect that a great number of names were off the rolls in Queensland.Whatever statement has been made to the honorable member to that effect is incorrect. As a matter of fact, the rolls have been kept p to date in every State. No doubt, if you compare the State rolls of the last election for Queensland with the Federal rolls it may be seen that the State rolls are pretty extensive, but it does not follow that the number of persons represented are identical in both cases. I shall make inquiries, and give the honorable member any information that I can obtain for him.
– Is the Minister for Home and Territories aware that some postmen, when they collect the electoral cards, retain them for a long time until they get a bunch ? I have been informed that several postmen hold bunches of these cards, instead of sending them in direct to the Returning Officers as they collect them. Will the Minister see that the cards are sent in as collected, as this would help to get the names on to the rolls much more quickly?
– I do not know what is meant by the honorable member’s statement that the cards are kept too long. As soon as the cards are filled in by the officers whose duty it is to attend to them, they are immediately notified to the Records Department by the Assistant Returning Officers.
– The postmen hold them until they have a number.
– I do not think there is any delay. These particulars are collected for record purposes, and, so far as I know, the records are kept up to date.
-Can the Minister for Trade and Customs give to the House any further information regarding the likelihood of refrigerated space being made available for the export of frozen products, particularly rabbits?
– Several honorable members who are interested in this matter have brought it under my notice, and urgent representations have been again made to the Imperial Government asking them to allot further refrigerated tonnage to Australia to enable us to export rabbits and other frozen produce.
Fraudulent Sales - Dumping
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The matter isbeing inquired into.
Mr. FENTON (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. WATT (for Mr. Hughes).- The matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Government will amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, so that pensioners may be allowed to earn an amount equal to the full pension, as was provided in the original Act?
– It is intended to adhere to the principle adopted by the Labour Government when the first increase in oldage pensions was approved. That is to say, pensions will be increased by 2s. 6d. a week, without altering the amount which pensioners may earn in addition.
Transferof Officers - Office Rental - Commonwealth Offices in Melbourne.
asked the Treasurer upon notice -
Whether he will place upon the table -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
– (1) Commonwealth Offices, Treasury Gardens - Site, £7,242; structure, £77,625.
Reprimanding an Officer.
– On the 16th October, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
I understand that some formality under the Public Service Act was inadvertently omitted in this case, and the Deputy Postmaster-General has consequently cancelled the reprimand. On receipt here of the papers in the case, which I have asked for, any further action necessary will be decided upon.
Mr. Speaker reported the receipt of a message from the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. Speaker reported the receipt of a message from the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– I move -
That standing order No. 70 be suspended for the remainder of the session.
This standing order provides that no new business shall be taken after 11 p.m., unless the House otherwise orders. It may not be necessary for the House to sit late, but in order to meet possible eventualities, and enable us to bring on new business after that hour, it is desirable that the standing order be suspended.
– I assume that the Minister means that only Bills of which notice has been given will be brought forward. The House is becoming gradually smaller. Many members are in their constituencies, and others who are threatened with opposition feel that they have as much right to be on the spot as have the men who are trying to unseat them. Possibly, when a large number of members from both sides of the House are absent, the Government will bring on an important Bill of which no notice has been given. For instance, we were promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) last Friday that, during this week, the Government would announce their policy in regard to the payment of a war gratuity. A measure relating to this matter might be brought forward in a small House without previous warning. I have no objection to the Government proceeding after 11 o’clock with the Bills that are already on’ the notice-paper.
– And Bills of which notice hag been given.
– I shall not object to that. But if the motion is intended to enable the Government to bring forward late at night Bills of which no notice has been given, I shall oppose it.
– The inquiry and observations by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) are perfectly reasonable. So far as I am aware at this moment, all the Bills which the Government desire to pass are either on the notice-paper or have been notified to the House. If there should be any further measures, they will be only of a small and inconsequential character, although they may be technically necessary. I promise the honorable gentleman that no measure of which notice has not been given will be brought before the House after 11 o’clock at night. Honorable members will not be taken at a disadvantage in that regard. The House will not be taken at a disadvantage, and honorable members have the further assurance that for the remainder of the session the Government desire to work in harmony with all sections of the Chamber.
.- This motion is in keeping with the habits and customs of the Government.
– And of Parliament.
– What the Government intend to do is to put through important business when honorable members of the Opposition, and other honorable members, too, are exhausted. The hours chosen by the Government to do the business of the country are the hours when what are called “ fiz-gigs,” and burglars, and thieves follow their pursuits. Why cannot the Government do their business in the daytime? If it is desired to sit longer, why not meet at 10 o’clock in the morning? It is well known that the newspaper press will not report the proceedings of the House after 11 o’clock; and there are various reasons for this. Newspapers have to go to press at a certain hour, and the representatives of the journals are so exhausted listening to the dreary speeches of honorable members that they take no notice of what is said. In the time that is left to us we ought to consider the financial proposals of the Government. This motion, however, is to enable the Government to avoid the criticism which they would be likely to get if the House met at a reasonable time. Possibly the Government wish to avoid any reference to the report of the Economy Commission which was produced the other day; and it is amazing that it was produced at all. How the Government came to make that document public is beyond my comprehension, having observed their actions for the last three years and a half.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - The honorable member is now going into another matter altogether.
– I do not wish to discuss that report, but merely cite it as a reason why we should not take new business after 11 o’clock, when all decent, law-abiding, moral people ought to be in bed.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Do you not think that you are getting more than fair treatment?
-The honorable member is so impressed with the “ fairness “ of the treatment we get; he is so sick and tired of the Federal Parliament, and of the inability of a private member to get any business done or any satisfaction from the Government, that he proposes to leave this Parliament at the first opportunity and never return.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - It is chaps like you who have made me “ tired!”
– I am sure the honorable member does not mean that. However, the Government desire to be able to take new business after . 11 o’clock, because it is proposed to submit the Estimates, which cover, I suppose, nearly £100,000,000, or, in a Peace year, only £6,000,000 less than last year, which contained a portion of a war year. I challenge the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), or his representative at the table (Mr. Groom), to say that he does not propose to bring down the Estimates after 11 o’clock at night. Let us meet to-morrow morning at 10 o’clock, and go on with the Estimates. You, Mr. Speaker, from your long experience, must know that the Government will bring on financial measures long after 11 o’clock, when we are all tired.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - You are not sincere about that.
– I am, as the honorable member would find if he came to Capricornia and heard me on the public platform. If the honorable member is really going out of politics, I should be glad if he would come to my constituency and give me a little help. I protest against this motion, and I protest against the manner in which the Government have carried on the business of the country right through the last two years and a half. There is hardly anything that the Government have done -with which I can agree, and I protest against their every action, even the bringing on of an election in such a sudden way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Imove -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to provide for the preferential method of marking the ballot-papers at elections for the Senate. While the Electoral Bill of 1918 was under discussion, and alternative methods of voting were suggested, I said that preferential marking, which includes proportional representation, would be submitted for the consideration of the Cabinet; and that has been done.
The present method of marking the ballot-papers for the Senate is based on and in accordance with what is known as the block system. That system, if properly applied, will give majority representation and majority rule and decision, but it will exclude minority representation. I am not now talking of its demerits, but simply stating the effect of its application. The block system involves voting for three or six, according to the number of vacancies - it is compulsory voting for all vacancies. There is no preference, and the voting must be for all the seats to be filled. Its defects are that where there is unity of voting - where there is a majority, and that majority is solid in relation to its party and policy - the majority will obtain all the seats, and the minority will get none. Then there is another, and what I consider to be a serious, defect of the block system, namely, that if the majority have more candidates than the number of seats to be filled, there will necessarily be a split in the party, and the majority will suffer. It may lose all the seats or it may lose some, but it will not get what the block system aims at - the complete representation to be given to the party which has the majority of electors.
It may also occur that if there is a split amongst the electors in the majority, and they differ as to the men to be re turned, there will be a waste of some of the votes they can control, if not of all. The consequence is that the minority will get into power1 by obtaining all the seats. There are, therefore, two possible evils of the present system - it may, if properly applied, give the whole representation to one party and exclude the other from even an expression of opinion, or the minority may get the whole of the representation without any possible justification, with the incidental effect of excluding any criticism or opinion, which is one of the great savings or helps in democratic government.
– That is the strongest possible argument for proportional representation.
– Doubtless, but I am now merely dealing with the system which it is desired to alter ; and a proper substitute may be apparent to the honorable member who has been looking into the question for many years. I remember,’ on the occasion of the last election, stating that if majority rule or majority decision was desired, there should be in addition - representation of the minority. The block vote at present defeats that end. In New South Wales the block vote gave the Liberals all the representation at one election for the Senate, and at the succeeding election a slight addition to its voting strength gave all the representation to Labour. At the Senate election in 1910 the Labour party throughout Australia secured all the vacancies, that is to say, eighteen seats, in the ‘Senate, when, according to the poll, the proportion should have been twelve Labour and six Liberal. In 1917 the Nationalists secured the whole eighteen seats, when, according to the poll, the proportion should have been twelve Nationalists and six Labour. There was a complete reversal between the two elections. The true democratic method is to give to each party that share of the representation in the Senate to which its numbers, as expressed at the poll, entitled it.
When the last Electoral Bill was under discussion, the Government promised to provide some method of preferential marking of ballot-papers for both Houses, because it was felt that, with two systems of marking the papers, there might be a greater number of informalities. The number is at present low. The Bill before us provides for preferential marking only; that is to say, for having similar systems of voting for both Houses. At the same time, it enables a party or combination of electors, if in the majority, to indicate the preference between the party’s candidates, whether they are limited to, or exceed, the number of vacancies. In the latter case it prevents the likelihood of a split in the party vote.
– N/o party wants that system.
– The people who are in a majority want to prevent the efficacy of their numbers being destroyed .by being split. The Bill is introduced because the Government promised to consider the matter; but we have not gone beyond adopting a system of preferential marking, because of the difference of opinion which exists as to the greater efficacy of the system of marking ballot-papers through proportional representation. The measure must, therefore, be regarded as being of a purely tentative character, designed to prevent mistakes occurring through the use of two different systems of marking ballot-papers. I cannot regard it as the final Bill, representing what a democratic .Government should aim at. There is a consensus of opinion as regards the efficacy of preferential marking of ballot-papers. There is no such consensus of opinion - of expressed opinion, at any rate - in regard to the efficacy of proportional representation. I can only repeat what I have said for many years in regard to proportional representation, that I believe in its efficacy. It was first mentioned in 1859 by Hare. It takes a long time for some of the best reforms to become reality. Lord Acton, in Freedom, states -
The one pervading evil of Democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or, rather, of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds in carrying the elections. Thirty-five years ago it was pointed out that the remedy is proportional representation. It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of the minority, who would otherwise have no voice in the government, and brings mon more near an equality by so striving that no vote shall be wasted, and that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament a member of his own opinions.
If there is sufficient development of opinion among a number of electors in proportion to the total votes cast, they should have representation in Parliament. In the case of three candidates, something more than a quarter of the votes cast should entitle a body of electors to some voice in the government of the country.
I was .a member of the Federal Convention in 1897-8 where this matter received very serious consideration. I proposed that all senators should vacate their seats at once, in order to render it possible to apply proportional voting; but the Convention decided to leave the matter of the voting system for Parliament to deal with, as it was deemed to be a matter of policy, which might afterwards be capable of variation by Parliament.
The matter of - preferential marking and proportional voting has recently received attention in the United Kingdom. In 1910 a Royal Commission recommended that proportional voting should be applied to second Chambers and municipalities, and a Bill was drawn up which I, as Attorney-General in the Cook Government, availed myself of to prepare a scheme of proportional representation for the Senate and preferential voting for the House of Representatives. Subsequently, in Great Britain, a Committee was appointed called ‘ the Speaker’s Committee, which made a similar recommendation. Proportional representation has been very successful in Tasmania, which State, in regard to its electoral system, works in conjunction with the Federal Act and administration, with good results, excepting that it has proportional representation as well as preferential marking of ballotpapers. At the 1916 election in Tasmania, 33,398 persons voted for one party and 33,200 for another party, the voting being nearly equal, and the representation in Parliament being 14 seats for one party and 13 seats for the other. The systemmay cause inconvenience in the control of the Legislature, but it certainly does accomplish what Burke said ought to be the object of democratic government - making Parliament a reflex of popular opinion. All I can say at present in regard to proportional representation is that the principle seems to be right, butthat, so far, there is not that consensus of opinion which will justify the introduction of a Bill adopting it. This measure is a step in the direction of obtaining the: desired end ; the final step is left open for further consideration, but I hope that it also will soon be taken. There was a gap in the movement in Great Britain. For some years after 1859 there was a “system of securing some proportional results, or, rather, minority representation by allowing two votes where there were three vacancies. Then followed the single seat system, which had the opposite results forsome time, although in actual working in Australia it gives results which, in cases, are fairly approximate to, but not as effective as, proportional representation.
In 1864 representations were made by the proportional representation societies, and, subsequently, there were big developments in the direction of securing the desired reform. When I was last in Sydney several deputations waited on me, and a very representative one saw me in Melbourne last week. The best I can do is to pay some respect to the policy which lias their indorsement.
Honorable members may have received a circular from the Proportional Representation Society and other bodies. I have not had sufficient time to peruse it, but it refers to the Sligo election, a case which I had previously examined, that vote having been taken on the proportional system. There’ were four parties. The party voting 823 first choices secured eight seats; that voting 674 first choices got seven seats; that voting 432 first choices won five seats; and the fourth, which voted 279, won four seats. Thus, proportional results were approximately obtained. As a matter of fact, some members of the Irish party asked that legislation should be passed to test the working of this system, and. there has been a very large consensus of public opinion in favour of it in a country which, when it gets the chance, is democratic in results as well as in ideals. This, perhaps, may operate as a very effective example to such of us as may have the opportunity to try to influence public opinion here.
To come now to the dry method of procedure, I may say at once that a good deal of intelligence is required in marking a ballot-paper where there are a large number of candidates, and the compulsory marking of the ballot-paper in respect of the whole of them is required. In Ireland, where the voting was preferential but optional, I find that the average expression of preference was eight, and that, in some cases, many marked twelve in succession with a degree of intelligence which causes me some satisfaction, 1 mention this because some people think that effective marking cannot be obtained where there are a great number of candidates.
The system for which this Bill provides is similar to the preferential system of marking provided for in respect of elections to the House of Representatives. In the case of the Senate, however, there are three seats or six seats instead of one to be filled. Under this Bill the three or six elections, as the case may be, are really to take place at the same time by means of tha one ballot-paper. The marking in respect of the whole of the seats is to be carried out on the one ballot-paper. The successful candidate for each qf, say, three seats will be the candidate who secures an absolute majority. The position is that there is one ballot and three elections or choices, if I may so express it, for the three vacancies. There can be only three absolute majorities if there are three seats and six if there are six* seats, to be filled”. Each senator is elected, in effect, separately at one ballot by an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, being a greater number than one-half of the whole of the ballot-papers other than exhausted and excluded ballot-papers obtained by first preferences, or first preferences and transferred ballot-papers. The exhausted ballot-papers are those that do not contain a complete marking of preferences. In other words, in order to render a ballot-paper formal, the elector using it must mark one more than double the number of seats to be filled.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott - Does not the system appear to be very complicated?
-It is complicated in so far as expression and apprehension are concerned, but in the actual working it is not.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - Will it be so plain in actual working that the average voter will know what to do ?
– It is difficult to explain to any individual the actual working without looking at the ballot-papers and the figures. Examples of how it will work have been secured, and, mathematically, the system will accomplish what is desired. It will secure, in the case of each vacancy, the return of the mau who has an absolute majority of the votes cast. That fact has been tested, and proved by every possible means. The system of marking is similar to that provided for under section 124 of the Electoral Act of 1918 in relation to elections to the House of Representatives. That section provides that -
In a House of Representatives election, a voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper as follows: -
In the case of the Senate there is to be compulsory marking for the prescribed number, which, as I have already said, is one more than double the number of seats that have to be filled, or, if there are fewer candidates, the total number of candidates. The method of marking ballot-papers is identical with that followed under the single transferable voting system. The voter is required to indicate the order of his preference by means of numerals up to one more than twice the number of candidates to be returned, and optionally for the remaining candidates. In the case of the election of three senators, the first candidate would be elected in precisely the same manner as a candidate for the House of Representatives under the system of preferential voting established by the Act of 1918. The whole of the ballot-papers would then be reviewed in exactly the same manner without regard to the name of the elected candidate, and the next candidate to obtain an absolute majority would be elected to fill the second seat. The same procedure would ‘be followed in filling the third seat.
Speaking generally, the ballot-papers are placed in separate parcels, according to the first preferences. The number of ballot-papers are counted according to first preferences, and if any candidate has obtained an absolute majority of the total, excluding the exhausted papers, he is at once returned. Exhausted papers are those which do not contain the full number of markings. The further vacancies are similarly filled. If no candidate has an absolute majority, then the candidate lowest in the list is excluded, and his votes, according to the subsequent preferences, are transferred to the other candidates. If that procedure does not result in a candidate having an absolute majority, the next candidate lowest on the list is excluded, and his ballot-papers are counted according to the next preferences and transferred until some one obtains an absolute majority. There can be only one absolute majority for each seat, and as that absolute majority must at some time or other be obtained, the counting goes on until it is secured and a candidate is returned. The continual process of counting can make no difference, because there can be only one absolute majority in respect of each seat, no matter where the counting ends, and the first to obtain it is returned. A similar method of counting is applied to the determination of the return of the second candidate. All the ballot-papers are once more put into parcels according to the first preferences declared, on them, and are distributed amongst the others according to the preferences indicated. The papers marked in respect of the first man returned are distributed before the papers given for the candidates lowest on the list are distributed, but no reference is made to the No. 1 vote, because that marking has already been applied to the first man to be returned. The ballot-papers are then counted in the same way as for the House of Representatives, and whoever obtains an absolute majority in this way is returned. This procedure goes on until the election of the third candidate is determined.
– The No. 1 votes cast for the man returned in the first instance in this procedure will not be counted a second time, but regard will be had only to the second and third preferences where there are three seats to be filled.
– Regard will be had only to the subsequent choices. The first candidate having been effectively returned, the first choices on his ballotpaper can be no longer used. As there are two other seats to be filled, however, all the ballot-papers are counted again, the officer ignoring, of course, the first choice given for the man returned.
In order to expedite the counting, changes are made in this Bill in relation to absent and postal voting. There is in the Electoral Act a provision for absent voting not only within, but outside, the State in which an elector resides, and I think that about 250,000 absentee votes were cast at the last general election. Of that number, not more than some 15,000 were cast outside the States in which the voters resided. Under this Bill, we are abolishing absent voting outside the State in which the elector resides, since absent votes are recorded on the day of election, and if the present system were to continue great delay would be involved in waiting for the return of these papers before the counting could take place.
– So that if a resident of Queensland were in Victoria he could vote for a House of Representatives election but not for the Senate.
– He could record his vote for the Senate by means of a postal vote. Voting by post may take place at any time after nomination day, and the papers must be returned before the day of the poll. This facilitates voting, and effects all that is desired. At present, amongst the reasons why a man can vote by post is that he expects to be 10 miles distant from a polling place on the day of the election. That 10 miles provision is now knocked out as regards voting outside a State; but it is continued as regards voting inside a State. Those are the chief amendments effected in the existing law by this measure.
.- In view of the desire of the Government to wind up the business this week, sufficient time cannot be devoted to the proper discussion of this Bill. We are informed thatcertain members of the House believe in proportional voting. If so, they will have an opportunity of voting for it; but I have no doubt that the same thing will happen with this Bill as has happened with every other - no amendment will be accepted by the Government. The Senate took out of the Bill the system of list or group voting. Every candidate’sname will now stand “ on its own,” and the electors can vote, not for party groups, but for individuals. The system provided for in the Bill will confuse the ordinary elector.
– The whole of this system will.
– Yes; there will probably be a greater proportion of informal votes under this system than in any election since the Commonwealth was founded. The Act of 1901-2 provided a simple method compared with this. Electors were able to vote by placing a cross against the name of the candidate whom they preferred. The Government last year,’ for reasons best known to themselves, introduced the preferential system for the House of Representatives.
– The system of voting by means of a cross will be used for the referendums at the next election.
– I was about to point that out. We shall tell the people from the platform, if they desire to vote for the Senate candidates of our party, to place the numbers 1, 2, and 3 against their names, while if they desire to vote for one of our party for the House of Representatives they must put “ 1 “ against his name, and consecutive numbers against the names of all the other candidates, but that when voting on the referendums they must mark the papers with a cross.
Now we learn from the Minister that if an elector is away in another State he cannot cast an absent vote, but must secure a postal vote. A great number of people have to be away from their home States on business, and often have to leave on very short notice. They may not know of this in time to obtain a postal voting paper. Honorable members themselves often have to journey to another State at much less than twenty-four hours’ notice. I have had to travel to two different States at less than five hours’ notice. Under this system a resident of Richmond can vote as an absent voter for the electorate of Yarra in the House of Representatives even if he is at Rockhampton or Perth, but if he wants to vote as an absent voter for the Senate he will be told that for that purpose he is not a citizen of the Commonwealth, and that he should have applied for a postal vote. That is a most confusing arrangement. If the Government had laid themselves out deliberately to confuse the people, they could not have done it better.
They have not attempted to introduce proportional representation. In connexion with the Tasmanian vacancies at the last election, when there was a proposal to run various candidates belonging to different parties for the Senate, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) said that the time was “ rotten ripe “ for the introduction of proportional voting. About twelve months ago, when we were dealing with the preferentialvoting system for the House of Representatives, we were practically promised by the then Leader of the Government (Mr. Watt) that a system would be brought in which would give honorable members what they desired in relation to elections for the Senate. The Government then had counted without regard to the members of the Senate, and, as the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) stated at a public meeting in Melbourne, it was found that only seven of the twenty-four or twenty-five Nationalist members of the Senate were in favour of proportional voting, while the rest intended to stick to the present system.
– How many of the other side are in favour of proportional voting?
– I have never bothered to count them, so I have not the slightest idea.
If the Government party, the Farmers Union, and the Labour party, each runs three candidates for the Senate seats in Victoria, there will be at least nine candidates. Electors must vote for not less than seven. If they vote 1, 2, 3, omit the fourth choice, and then vote 5, 6, 7, 8, they will have voted for seven as the Bill requires; but it is provided, at the end of paragraph (6) of sub-section 9 of proposed new section 135, that -
Where there is a break in the consecutive numbering of preferences marked on a ballotpaper (other than a break necessitating the rejection of the - ballot-paper as informal in pursuance of paragraph (ft) of sub-section 1 of section 133 of this Act) only those preferences preceding the break shall be taken into account.
Will the ballot-paper be valid if the elector votes for seven candidates, and makes a break after No. 3? If it will be, I am going to tell all my people to vote 1, 2, 3 for our candidates, omit 4, and start again and vote 5, 6, 7, 8. If the preferences expressed after the break are not to be counted - and according to the proviso I have quoted they will not be quoted - any party can defeat this system. The ballot-paper must be counted as valid, because the elector will still have voted for at least seven candidates.
The only alteration the Senate made in the Bill was to knock out the system of grouping. Apparently, the numbers were up against the Minister, and he accepted the inevitable.
– It was a good thing to knock the grouping out.
– I am not sure that it was.
– The party machine is strong enough now.
– I have no objection to my name appearing on the ballot-paper as a Labour man, or to calling every candidate opposed to us an anti-Labour man.
– Not anti-Labour.
– If the Government will let me choose the title of the party of which I am a member, I do not mind them calling themselves anything they like. I have no objection to people voting for candidates in a block if they so desire, and apparently that was the decision of the Government until they found the numbers in the Senate against them. At the last election, when a great number of the soldiers were still overseas, candidates were designated by titles in accordance with an Act passed by this Parliament, so that the soldiers might know what party they were voting for.
This Bill means that the party with just one more than half the total number of voters will secure the whole of the vacant, seats, provided that the people vote solidly according to parties. In a State with 200,000 electors, the party polling 1.01,000 votes will secure the three seats, and the party polling 99,000 votes will get none. This will be exactly what happened under the old system.
– Only more so.
– That is so. This will give the majority far greater power. On two previous occasions one party secured the whole of the representation. Once the lot fell our way, and once the other way, and it is possible that the same thing will happen again. At the last election about 52 or 53 per cent, voted one way. and 47 or 48 per cent, the other, and the latter were absolutely disfranchised. I do not think that will happen in all the States on this occasion, but the least wave of public opinion will give to one party practically the whole of the representation.
– But you do not believe in that?
– If the honorable member wishes to vote for proportional representation this afternoon, he can move an amendment in that direction.
– Will you vote for it?
– I am more likely to vote for it than the honorable member is to move it.
– That is an evasion. W511 you and your party vote for it?
– If the honorable member will propose it-
– If you will all vote solidly for proportional representation, you have a big chance of carrying it.
– Try us on this Bill, and see.
– What is your pledge in this matter?
– Never mind what my pledge is. If the newly elected member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the Leader of the Farmers’ party (Mr. Jowett) will propose the amendment, we shall see if the honorable member is sincere. If they move to introduce proportional representation into this Bill, I will vote for it.
– And your party?
– I will vote for it. It is not a party matter, and I can no more bind honorable members sitting onthis side than the honorable member can bind the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) or the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). If the members I have named, or the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) will move in that direction, I shall vote with them.
This is possibly the worst Bill that has ever been introduced for the purpose of confusing the electors. I say that deliberately. It leaves the two systems of voting in existence.
– It is better than the block vote.
– It is not, because you get the block vote.
– But you do not stop any one else from standing.
– But you prevent him from having a chance of being elected. Any person outside a party will have a better chance of losing his deposit under this system than under the other.
– There are five or six Nationalists selected to run in Tasmania now.
– The more the merrier.
– You will be careful not to run more than the required number.
– Certainly. I am in favour of three representing the party and I have never advocated anything else. I am fairly honest in the matter.
– “Fairly” honest!
– I am a great deal more honest than some honorable members are who modify their speeches with qualifica tions and provisos. Our party will run three candidates, I hope, in every State, and I trust that we shall capture the three seats in a majority of the States on this occasion. If the elections had been postponed until May of next year, honorable members know that we should have won the lot. The Government are so absolutely discredited that they are losing ground every day. They rushed the other Electoral Bill through to suit the Corangamite election, and now they are rushing this through to suit the general election on 13th December. Every honorable member, if he stated his opinion as honestly as I have done on proportional voting, would agree with me.
The Government are doing what the people of Australia said must not be done. Before the election of 1906 the farming population of Australia, in particular, had asked that no election should be held in December. The Constitution was deliberately altered to remove the elections from that month, and the people of Australia agreed to that alteration by an overwhelming majority. I believe the only opponent of the change was the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair). The Government say, “Let us rush the election; let us confuse the people. Let us make them vote 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.”
– You do not think the Bill is introduced for this purpose?
– I am afraid you do not pay a compliment to the intelligence of the elector when you make such an assertion.
– There will be a greater proportion of informal votes under this Bill than have ever been recorded under any system of voting, and the very object of the Bill will be defeated if the proviso I have quoted, allowing electors to make a break in the consecutive numbering of preferences, is permitted to stand. For the House of Representatives, electors must vote consecutively for all the candidates, but for the Senate they must vote for one more than double the number of seats to be filled. It is provided that a candidate who secures an absolute majority ofvotes shall be returned. No man will obtain an absolute majority for the Senate on the first count, because the majority for either party in any State is not sufficiently pronounced. There is probably 55 per cent. on one side and 45 per cent. on the other, but the 55 per cent. has to be divided into three, giving about 18 per cent. each. If the votes are equally distributed, a candidate has to get over 50 per cent. of the total votes polled. The chances are that noman will have 50 per cent. of his party votes. If he has, he will get only 28 per cent. of the total, and yet the process of eliminating will begin, and the votes of those who have been passed out will be counted, and passed on. Then they will start the process over again. If we are to have this “win and a place “ business, it would be far better to ask the elector to indicate three first preferences, each vote to be of the same value. In Tasmania, proportional representation is in operation, but the proposed system, so far from being of that nature, is more opposed to proportional representation than is the present method of electing the Senate.
– It is a mongrel system.
– It is the worst “mongrel “ ever introduced into a Parliament. I shall have pleasure in voting for any system other than that which the Government have proposed - not that this Bill will hinder the Labour party very much. Probably, we shall do as well under thi6 system as under the one now in operation.
– It is rather peculiar that the Government compel a voter to split his vote for the three candidates belonging to his own party.
– It is. I was in Tasmania at the time of the State elections in 1916, and I was very much interested in the system of counting.
– It is a good system.
– I do not say that it is.
– It is the only intellectual system.
– It leaves a lot to the Returning Officers when they have to reckon up fractions of votes. I was present when the officers were allotting one-sixth of a vote to- a candidate.
– Knibbs’ curve is necessary, in order to operate that system.
– The curve is simplicity itself in comparison with the system of counting that operates in Tasmania”.
– The count can be worked out by simple proportion.
-I believe it gives a more accurate result than does the system at present in force in the Commonwealth.
– No member of the Labour party in Tasmania would vote to alter it.
– It is quite possible that both parties in Tasmanian State politics havedecided to adhere to the system by which they gained, or hope to gain, power. I object to the Bill because it does not fulfil the promise of the Minister (Mr. Glynn) to introduce a proper system of voting, and because it does not introduce proportional representation - not that I am enamoured of that system. It is well known that the Minister favours proportional representation, but the needs of his party have compelled him to submit a Bill in which he does not believe. He said that honorable members on this side may some day have intelligence enough to understand the virtue of the proportional system. I am prepared to vote for it in preference to the electoral method which is described in the Bill, and if the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who are believers in proportional representation, will move amendments to that end, I shall have pleasure in supporting them, in the hope of defeating the mongrel proposal that is now before us.
Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) [4.321. - I confess that I sympathize with the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), whose speech indicated that his heart was not in the measure he was explaining. But I suppose he had to accept facts and conditions as he finds them, and his position in that regard is identical with my own. If I could be satisfied that a measure of proportional representation would be accepted by another place, my attitude to the present Bill would be different, and I should have no hesitation in very strongly urging the greater reform in this Chamber. The position is, however, that, although honorable members may be, as I am, greatly disappointed in this measure of so-called electoral reform, we must regard it as an instalment of something better. It represents a step, a very small step, towards proportional representation, which, as honorable members are aware, combined preferential voting and the quota. This Bill provides for preferential voting for the Senate, and it will help in educating the public to that system. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) argued that the adoption of the system outlined in the Bill will cause increased confusion in the minds of the electors. I think, on the contrary, that if we were to retain the present system of voting for the Senate, the confusion would he infinitely greater, because electors would require to vote for the House of Representatives on the preferential system, and for the Senate by marking a cress opposite the names of the candidates whom they favoured. They would be simultaneously operating two different systems. There would, indeed, be complication and confusion. This measure has, at least, the merit that it introduces the system of preferential voting for the Senate, and, so far, it not only harmonizes the form of voting for both Chambers, but, as I have said, is a small step towards tie greater reform of proportional representation.
It is true that this Bill, while it cures one, perpetuates most of the evils of the present system. It provides that no man can be returned unless by a majority; and so far so good. We are all anxious to secure majority representation, and this Bill is an advance in that direction. It prevents the possibility of split voting, which hitherto, to some extent, has had the effect of giving representation to the minority as against the majority. Certainly, from a party stand-point, and from an electoral stand-point, it is desirable that no man shall be returned to this or the other Chamber unless he has a majority behind him. Nothing is more unsatisfactory than that a member shall sit in this or another place on a minority vote ; and this Bill will secure that each man shall be returned by a majority, and that there shall be no split voting. This, pf course, is a measure of reform, Chough a comparatively small measure.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was rather” amusing in the bait he held forth, to honorable members on this side. Ultimately, after a great deal of hesitation, he vouchsafed to tell us that if any honorable member on this side would move for proportional representation, he would be prepared to vote for it. On no other occasion heretofore has he avowed himself in favour of proportional representation; indeed, towards the end of his speech he told us that he did not know whether he believed in it or not. The offer which, for party purposes, he made by way of a bait to honorable members on this side is too specious and hollow to bring about the consequences he desires; political legerdemain of that character is no good; it is too obvious to be useful.
I am greatly disappointed with this measure of reform, and, as I have said, if I thought there was a possibility of securing the larger measure, which I am hopeful will be obtained later on, I would be one to strongly insist on its introduction. The Minister who introduced the Bill (Mr. Glynn) stated very properly that this is merely a tentative measure, and it is only from that stand-point that I am prepared to accept it.
The hideous results of the present system are such as to demand on the part of Democracy a more substantial reform. The experience of the block system has been of a grossly unsatisfactory character. . That it has been a failure no one can doubt for a moment, in the light of the experience of the last two or three elections. If in 1910, for instance, there had been a double dissolution, it is quite obvious that the Liberal party would not have secured a solitary representative in the Senate. At that election there were recorded something like 4,000,000 votes, of which Labour recorded 52 J per cent., and the Liberal party 47£ pet cent. Although the voting strength of the Liberals closely approximated that of the other side, the Labour party got the whole of the eighteen seats, their majority being represented by only 192,732 votes. Under proportional representation there would have been given to the Labour party on that occasion only eleven seats, and to the Liberal party, seven seats; but by reason of the block system, the Labour party, with that small majority, managed to secure the whole of the representation.
At the election of 1914, on the occasion of the double dissolution, there were something like 12,000,000 votes recorded. The Labour party got 53 per cent, of the votes, and the Liberals 47 per cent.; in other words, there was a Labour majority of 735,647. The result was that Labour secured 31 seats, and the Liberals only five, whereas under the proportional system the representation should have been eighteen on each side, because of the closeness of the votes. It is quite true that if the votes had been taken as in a united Australia, without any State boundaries, there would have been a slight difference. Under such circumstances, the proportion of seats would have been as eighteen to sixteen; but, by reason of the voting being shut down to the several States, the result under proportional representation would have been eighteen on either side.
In the 1917 election the Nationalists polled 55$ per cent., and the Official Labour party 44£ per cent, of the votes, representing a Nationalist majority of 716,154: votes on a poll of some 6,000,000. The Nationalists secured the whole of the seats, whereas they were really entitled to only twelve seats, as against six seats for the Labour party..
These facts and figures conclusively demonstrate the evils of the block system, and I should have thought these evils were sufficiently obvious to make a much wider scheme of electoral reform urgent. Our anxiety should be to make Parliament as effectively representative as is possible. It is clear that effective representation is impossible under the present system, and our duty is to bend our energies to securing a system that will attain the desired end.
Personally, I have been an advocate of proportional representation for a great many years ; indeed, I think.I was almost its pioneer in the Victorian Parliament. In 1900, when it became the duty of the State Parliament to pass the necessary laws for elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives, I introduced in the Victorian Parliament a measure with three objects - first, the limitation of election expenses; second, the application of a system of preferential voting for the House of Representatives; and, thirdly, preferential voting and the application of a system of proportional voting for the Senate. The few of us who then advocated proportional representation were as men crying in the wilderness. It was looked on as a most attractive theory, but as quite outside the realm of practical politics. Preferential voting and proportional representation have made strides in the meantime. In 1906 preferential voting was introduced in Victoria, and is the present law. Pro-
Sir Robert Best. portional voting has been introduced into a number of European nations, and it is the law in several States of the American Union, and it also obtains in the Mother Country. It has been most favorably reported on by expert Committees as the most effective system of representation; and it is also in force in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Tasmania; so that there is ample “proof that the reform is one entitled to be included in practical politics as a method of securing’ real representative government.
I regret the failure to realize the situation, and to realize our duty, on this occasion. What proportional representation achieves is, to a large extent, achieved automatically. The first great object of the system is to secure in Parliament the representation of the public thought of the community in proportion to its relative strength, and while it provides that the majority shall rule, it also takes care that the minority shall, at least, have an opportunity of being heard. It also provides for natural and equal nominal electorates consisting of voters of the same particular views, that is to say, it automatically segregates the public, and political thought of the people, and where any section of thought is sufficiently substantial to secure a quota, that section gets representation.
The block system is like an avalanche, overwhelming in its operation and sweeping everything before it. On the other hand, proportional representation secures equal representation and equal electorates. These are the fundamentals of all schemes of distribution, so far as electoral laws are concerned. Those of us who, from time to time, have taken part in electoral reform, and in the discussion of Distribution of Seats Bills, remember that the outstanding idea is to secure, as far as possible, equal and natural electorates, with community of interests. The idea is also to secure that one vote shall be of one value. Proportional representation automatically secures all this in the most complete and effective way. While I am not justified in elaborating and fully discussing the system, I may say that, to those who have studied it, it is obvious that it is the only reform which can render Parliament representative of the people in accordance with their varying public interests. However, we have to be content with the present small measure of reform; and it is only on the ground that the larger measure cannot be achieved at present that I permit myself to vote for the Bill.
.- It is a most interesting admission from the honorable member ?ot Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that, although this Bill is not satisfactory, he is prepared to support it. The measure has been introduced to redeem the promise made by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) that a Bill for the alteration of the voting for the Senate on the lines of proportional representation would be brought forward before the session closed. It does not seek to introduce proportional representation, yet the honorable member for- Kooyong and honorable members associated with him on the other side, who arc enthusiastic supporters of that method of voting, are prepared to sacrifice their convictions, to give way in everything they have advocated in this direction, and accept the measure on the ground that it is a step towards the end they seek to achieve. We also had an interesting admission from the Minister (Senator Russell) in charge of the Bill in the Senate that it has been introduced merely as a matter of tactics. We are candidly informed that it has been brought forward for political purposes at the forthcoming election.
– That is mot correct.
– I can quote the Argus to prove what I am saying.
The .Bill is a fair sample of the methods adopted by this Government in dealing with important national matters. Nothing is of more importance than the basis of representation in our National Parliament. The purity of public life depends on the purity of the electoral machinery; but the Government prefer to tinker with such matters, to patch up that machinery, or apply stop-gap measures. Right across the face of this Bill, in glaring letters which cannot be misunderstood, one sees the fact expressed that it is brought forward in order to secure a party advantage at the forthcoming elections.
– It will be of advantage to the Labour party, whose ranks are more solid than are those of any other party.
– I am certain that the Government would not be likely to bring in a Bill to give the Opposition any advantage. To express my opinion of the benefit I think it will bestow upon the Labour party, I am prepared to vote against the second reading, and reject the measure. It introduces a most complicated system of voting. I have always been an ardent admirer of the statement made by the late Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone, that the science of good government is to make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong. This measure fails when that principle is applied -to it. To ask me to believe that it will make it easy for people to vote or for votes to be recorded correctly or satisfactorily counted is asking me to believe something for which the Bill gives no ground. An elector is called upon to vote for seven Senate candidates in order to elect three. The average elector will ask, “ Why should I vote for more than I want to vote for? Why should I take any notice of men whom I do not want to represent me under any circumstances?” Many people are prepared to give away their votes rather than record the fourth or the fifth preference for a man whom they do not want to represent them. Thus the Bill is complicated in regard to the method of voting. It is also complicated’ in regard to the method of counting votes. It makes it easy to do wrong and hard to do right. It is the very contradiction of the accepted form of good government. The people will be convinced that it is easy on their part to make mistakes, and ten times easier for the electoral officers to make mistakes in counting the votes. There is no better electoral system than that which enables the voters to record their votes for the men they want, taking their chances of being either at the top of the poll or at the bottom. The people understand that method. Under it there is no possible chance of manipulating votes or of miscalculations on the part of electoral officers. Under the method now proposed -the scrutineers and electors will be absolutely at the mercy of the electoral officers.
– Taking them right through, the electoral officers are the best men in the Commonwealth service.
– There are some electoral officers for whose qualifications I have the highest admiration. I am prepared to trust Mr. Allars, in Queensland, to the fullest extent, but I am certain that under the Hare-Clark system in Tasmania there is not one voter out of 1,000 who understands where his vote gets to in the long run.
– Do not be silly.
– I have not met three Tasmanian members in this House who could explain in any intelligent form how the votes under the Hare-Clark system are distributed. I have only met one man who knew anything about it, or could- explain it. I refer to ex-Senator Ready. He had made a study of the system. There are not half-a-dozen members in this House, not even excluding the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn), who can see daylight through this measure and explain everything in it clearly.
– The Minister can do so.
– Unfortunately for the Minister this is not the Bill he promised, or one that he lias his heart in.
The Bill will prove unsatisfactory, and only because it does not provide for what we want, but also because it will impose additional trouble, inconvenience, and difficulties upon the electors at a time when these should be most avoided. There is to be a new system of voting for the House of Representatives, and at the 3ame time it is proposed to adopt a much more complicated and difficult system of voting for the election of senators. I cannot understand how it is that the Ministerial party are always so anxious to amend the electoral law just prior to an election. They seem to have a penchant for that sort of thing. No sooner did they come into power than they began to ascertain how they could amend the electoral machinery -with the object of preserving themselves in office, and at this particular juncture, no doubt, anticipating with some fear and apprehension the result of the forthcoming elections, they are endeavouring to make things as secure as possible for themselves. In an article dealing with proportional representation, the Argus, on the 17th May last, in one of those outbursts of honesty which occasionally affects its editorial columns, said -
A change in the character of the members chosen for the Senate is necessary to change the character of the House. This can be brought about only by a limitation of the franchise. Perhaps this is heresy in these days of Democracy, when it is regarded as right and proper that the beer-swilling voter, who happens for the moment to be out of gaol, should have equal political rights with the most highly educated and the most useful man of the community, and with the man who has saved Australia at the risk of his life.
We find University students bitten with theoretical microbes. They call themselves Socialists. . . . The evil is that they have full voting strength.
What the Argus says is really indicative of what is also in the minds of a large number of honorable members on the Government side. The vital difference between the Government party and the Labour party right through the political history of the Commonwealth is this:. The Labour party have always stood - and there are men on the Government side of the House now who have always stood, and I hope will stand yet - for the widest, freest, and easiest franchise. On the other hand, the Tory party, represented on the front benches of the Government to-day, have always been in opposition to adult franchise and to every movement on the part of supporters of the Labour party to give the people of this country the right to vote as citizens instead of allowing land and property to be the qualification for voting. The Labour party have right through the progress of the Commonwealth stood for the right of the people to go to the poll and claim the right of citizens to a. say in the. administration of the affairs of the country. On the other hand, the associates of the party opposite have always opposed any move ^ in that direction. One looks with suspicion on a Bill introduced by this Government to deal with the electoral machinery, because, to be consistent, it must follow the lines adopted in this case, and that is to try to handicap the electors, to prevent a free and intelligent expression of opinion, and, most of all, to secure that the Government will continue in power, if that can be obtained by any manipulation of the electoral machinery.
The present Government party, after the elections of 1913, brought in a Bill to amend the Electoral Act. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), then Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, introduced that measure, which, if car- ried, would have meant a reversion to the worst type of voting yet known. It was a Bill that demanded that every elector, when he proceeded to record his vote should sign his name, so that in no circumstances would his vote be secret. Such a system would have been a handicap to many voters who refused to lay their votes open to identification. In the same year the present Ministerial party brought forward a Bill to restore postal voting, and during the present month an Electoral Bill was introduced for the same purpose. The attitude I take with regard to the interjection by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams) as to postal voting is that I would heartily support a system that would guarantee the protection of postal voting from corruption and manipulation. I do not think, however, that such a system has yet been devised. I do not think the new system provided for in this Bill will assist in that direction. Last year a consolidating Electoral Bill was passed. That Bill must have taken much time to prepare, since it was necessary not only to gather the experience of the Government in electoral matters, but, to some extent, to make use of the very valuable report presented by the Electoral Commission. Under that Act two by-elections took place. Each went against the Government, with the result that there was an immediate rush to amend the Act. The Electoral (War-time) Act, which was introduced in 1917, was amended, and is now to be still further amended. The Government seem to have a penchant for interfering with, and playing tricks with, the electoral machinery of theCommonwealth. I am anxious to know how we are going to get away from this sort of thing. It would be just as bad for a Labour Government to interfere with the electoral machinery, for its own party purposes, as it is for the Government now in power to do so.
The whole purpose of this Bill may be put very shortly. The Government have in the Senate eighteen supporters who are free from the danger of exclusion at the next election, or for the next three and a half years. At the forthcoming election, however, eleven Labour senators and seven Ministerial supporters in that House will retire. I am quite certain that the Government, by means of this Bill, are not so anxious to secure any system of preferential voting or proportional voting as they are to try to secure the very thing against which they declaim. They are anxious to obtain an absolute majority, and, if possible, to capture the whole eighteen seats in the Senate which will have to be filled at the forthcoming election. They profess to be anxious that, not only they, but all parties opposed to them, shall share in the representation. I do not believe that they desire to secure to the Labour party any representation whatever in the Senate. I cannot imagine that they have any idea that, by means of this Bill, the Labour party should reap any advantage. If the Government can obtain from the people of Australia a sufficient number of votes to secure for themselves all the representation in theSenate or in the House of Representatives, let them go ahead, because I believe in majority rule.
– Then why has the honorable member been arguing against it for the last half -hour?
– I have been arguing against this Bill because I do not think it will give us a fair deal. Its evident purpose is to secure a party advantage.
– It is no more likely to do that than is the block system.
– I think it is.
– “ Thinking” is no good. Can the honorable member demonstrate the truth’ of what he “ thinks”?
– I cannot demon strate it by means of this Bill, since it is so complicated that no honorable member understands it.
– The Minister said that it was to prevent the effect of a split vote. The Government know what it is for.
– It is to secure majority rule.
– In view of the amendments made when the Bill was before another place, Professor Hansen’s article on the Bill as originally introduced is somewhat out of date. He argued that the block system would by means of it be more soundly based than ever before.
– If the Labour party have the support of the majority, what is there in this Bill to prevent them from obtaining it?
– I am always suspicious of an Electoral Bill brought iu by my political opponents, just as my political opponents would be suspicious of an Electoral Bill brought in by a Government which I supported.
– Do not say that.
-I have seen some of the most simple amendments of the electoral law - amendments designed to make the electoral machinery run as easy and as securely as possible - vigorously opposed by honorable members now sitting behind the Government.
– The honorable member’s party brought in a very curious Bill.
– The honorable member must be referring to that introduced by the honorable member for Went worth (Mr. Kelly), which was laughed out of the House. Its reception was such that the Government of the day did not attempt to take it beyond the second-reading stage.
It is unfortunate that the electoral law should be the plaything of party politics. Why do not the Government come forward with a Bill to enable the people to vote for the men they prefer?
– The honorable member would allow persons eighteen years of age to exercise the franchise.
– I would. I am also in favour of giving a vote to those whose employment compels them to wander all over the country - men whom the honorable member speaks of as “ vagabonds.” I desire that such men shall not only have a vote, but be able to exercise the franchise with intelligence and some sense of. security. I want them to know exactly for whom they are going to vote, to know that their votes will be correctly counted, and that there can be no possible manipulation or miscalculation. We cannot be too careful to have our electoral machinery free from any suspicion or taint of miscalculation.
I believe that this Bill has been brought in for a particular purpose. The Electoral Bill of 1918, which, by means of the guillotine, was rushed through Parliament in order to secure to the Government an advantage at the by-election for Corangamite, failed, and I am hopeful that this Bill will have the same result. It is being rushed through, in the dying hours of the Parliament, to perpetuate the power of the Government in the Senate, and I ‘hope the result will be as disappointing to them in that regard as was the result of theCorangamite and Echuca by-elections.
– Legislation affecting the franchise for one branch of the Parliament should be introduced in that House, and every regard should be paid to the decision arrived at there in respect of it Unless we observe that rule, unfriendly feelings are likely to arise between the two Houses, and such a thing would not be in the best interests of the country. However anxious honorable members may be to amend this Bill, they should not overlook the fact that it has come down to us from the Senate, and that it relates to elections to that House. Honorable senators should be the most competent judges of what is the best electoral system to apply to elections for that Chamber. If the Minister (Mr. Glynn) intends to stand by his Bill, he will have me behind him; but if he departs from it, I will not guarantee to support him. It has been said during the debate that this is not the kind of Bill that the honorable gentleman would have liked to introduce. Every schoolboy knows that; every one knows that for the last thirty years he has been in favour of proportional representation. But, after all, the welfare of the people does not depend entirely upon the electoral system of the Commonwealth. An electoral system is valuable only to the extent that it secures the return of a representative Chamber, calculated to guarantee the progress and sound administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth. The fads, fancies, and moonshine whims of some people are mere matters of detail compared with the desirableness of securing a system which will make for the proper repressntation of the people. We have inherited from our fathers our belief in the principle of constitutional government; and I, for one, favour constitutional party government all the time. It is generally agreed that the majority should rule, but it does not necessarily follow that the majority of the people are the wisest. It may be that on occasions in our history the minority have been wiser than the majority, who have decided upon a certain course of action. But in connexion with the electoral law, some principle must be followed, just as it is essential that an army should be in the hands of a commander, or a group of officers, in order that it may be used effectively for the purpose for which it is created. The probabilities are that the majority, as a rule, are right and the minority are wrong. When people come to me and say, “ We are in a minority, and are not represented in Parliament,” I reply, “It is your business to go amongst your fellow-countrymen, and, by the logic of your arguments, to convert your minority into a majority. Do that, and you will get representation and political power.” There may be a sprinkling of various European peoples in Australia, but there is no doubt that we are essentially British, and it is far safer to allow ourselves to be guided by the wisdom and experience of those who have preceded us, being careful always, of course, to keep ourselves up to date. What has been the history of Great Britain for the last 100 years? There was the Whig party, which later became the Liberal party, and later again the Radical party. It is in the majority in England to-day, and is, and always has been, the party of reform. The people of England are prepared to support it. A leading man, whether it is Peel, or Gladstone, or Lloyd. George comes forward, for, thank God, whenever the nation has to face a crisis the man of the hour appears. He puts his programme before his countrymen, and they follow him, because they feel that their institutions or their surroundings are not up to date. A Parliament is returned, determined on reform. After a time, there is a cry of “ Halt!” not from public men, but from the people themselves, and then our Conservative friends are returned to power. That has been the history of our country for the last 100 years at least, and it has been the process also in Australia. It would have been a happy day for Australia if we could have continued on those lines, presuming always that the political thought of the country i§ divided into two big camps. In the terrible times’ that we are entering upon after the recent great war, there should be no occasion for patriotic Australians to be divided into two parties. In view of our experience of the results of majority rule for so many years, I respectfully urge upon honorable members the wisdom of following in the footsteps of those who have preceded us, and of those who are leading the political world in the Old Country to-day.
There are a few men and women who have always, like the Minister (Mr. Glynn), believed in proportional representation. He believes in it because he is a philosophical Radical, and has never been anything else. I admit frankly that I have sometimes found him rather queer political company, but those of us who have known him personally for many years are pretty well aware what his opinions are. He does not disguise the fact that he favours proportional representation as a philosophical Radical. But what about the merry band of men and women who are with him in supporting that theory? When I was a young man, I found a sort of rule-of-thumb method of great material assistance to me in political matters. When I found men who had grown grey in the service of the people taking a particular view, if I did not understand the question I followed them. I did not go on the direct-action or revolutionary cut-throat principle of to-day, when every young man thinks he knows more than the oldest man in the country, and proves himself every hour of the day to be the biggest fool that walks. That is the difference between the old and the modern school. One of my reasons for being against proportional representation in those days was that I found that its advocates were Conservatives - Tories) - right up to the hilt. And why ? It was because they thought that power wa’ going over to the people, and they wanted to be up to some trick to check the popular power.
– They will keep you out of the National party of South Australia for this !
– The honorable member knows more about the red-rag tribe than lie does about the Nationalists. I have been kicked out of the honorable member’s crowd, and thank God that I am out of it ! My friends on this side give my views a hearing, both in the House and in the party meetings, and we are no worse friends afterwards
I do not say that the same thing applies to those who advocate proportional representation to-day, as applied in the days that T. speak of. If I were a younger man, I might be in favour of it. It may be that there is growing among the people of Australia a strong feeling than proportional representation is the best check against that direct-action humbug and trash which is likely to do so much harm to our country. A great many people in Australia make the mistake of ignoring the effects of the dreadful war that we have passed through, and much mischief is arising, both in this country and on the other side of the world, through the fools who cannot realize that the world is in a position to-day very different from that it was in before the war. [ have been through the melting-pot, and look at things now in a very different light from pre-war days. I am bound to admit that the war has probably produced a similar effect on a great number of my fellow citizens. My old feeling, therefore, towards proportional representation, on account of the political colour of its advocates, may not be worth very much now. At the same time, I would urge honorable members to leave the system alone at the present time. If there is a growth of feeling amongst the people in favour of it, all those persons who are not merely stupid and obstinate will bow to the will of the people, and be prepared to carry it out. I urge honorable members, when considering the issue, to remember that proportional representation is a philosophical question. Do not lose sight of that fact. Macaulay pointed out that his countrymen were not philosophers. Neither are the men and women of Australia. The philosophers in this country are only a handful of people, and a third of them are “cracked.” One of the advantages of majority rule is that as the pendulum swings to the desire of the people a Government is returned to power with a majority, and for the safety, prosperity, and sound administration of the Commonwealth, it is essential that the Government in power shall have a majority of at least six or seven. There is no need to look outside the history of this Commonwealth: for guidance as to what happens when the party in power in any Parliament has a majority of only one or two.
– We had lively times then.
– .But I question whether the people of Australia had such a lively time. The welfare of the people as a whole should be our main considera tion. The danger I see in proportional representation is that it may result in the creation of Parliaments in which no party has a majority over the other groups. In ordinary circumstances, no party has a majority of more than from six to ten in this House; the present National party is an exception. If we jeopardize the principle of majority rule by endowing a certain number of philosophical cranks with a controlling voice in this Parliament we shall create chaos.
What was the history of Italy for the thirty years immediately preceding the outbreak of war? With the exception of the period when Crisp: was Premier, the Italian Parliament was composed of small groups of men, and the Ministry had only to play one group against another. I remember many years ago there was much talk about the glories of independent and free Italy. But until war broke out Italy was a disappointment to all her friends. Why? Because the . electoral system of Italy divided the Parliament into a series of groups, and good government was impossible. So, too, if we introduce into this Parliament the group system we shall produce bad government and will bring a curse upon the people whom we represent.
The great majority of the people outside of Parliament are not philosophers; they are only common-sense folk, and even a good many of those who pretend to be so wise and to know more than the common folk are not very different after all. The ordinary people understand the system of majority rule ; it has been handed down to them by their fathers, and has been found to work well. I do not believe that the law that is embodied in this Bill will last. The people will revolt against the system which is being introduced.
– It is a puzzle.
-Any proposal that emanates from, this side of the House is a puzzle to the honorable member. Our people are accustomed to a system which enables them to choose the man they wish to be elected and to record a straight-out vote for him. They are now asked to adapt themselves to a new and very curious method of voting, one of the peculiar effects of which will be that the Senate would never be representative of one polity. That would be a very good thing. But I believe in the system of majority government, because it has worked well. The people of the ‘Old Country have too much sense to place the government in the hands of one man or one group. It is absolutely essential thai all phases of thought should be represented, but that is vastly different from giving to any philosophical group a controlling influence in Parliament that would prevent the good government of the country.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), with his usual regard for the truth, said that I had protested against giving votes to the “ vagabonds “ of Queensland. It is well to place on record what I did say. I opposed the Government of the day for inserting in the Electoral Bill the word “ place,” instead of, as in every other electoral law, “ home,” or “ residence.” I say deliberately that that was done for the purpose of giving votes to the nomadic population of Queensland. Those men would, not be given votes in any country in Europe. If a man leaves his home for any reason whatever, he still leaves behind him his wife and children, or his mother and sisters; wherever he travels to earn a living, the place where the other members of his family reside is his home, and he returns to it at some time. It is on the home or residence qualification that the electoral right should be based’. The alteration was made for the benefit of a nomadic population, of Queensland - I refer to a very small minority of the people. Many men who came to Australia from the Old Country were nomadic for some years after their arrival, but they worked hard until they established a home, to which they always returned after their travels in search of work. But there is in Queensland a section of individuals who have no home, and who never will have one under any circumstances. It was to that section I referred.
I have no wish to further delay the House at this period df the session, but I ask honorable members not to condemn hastily the system of majority rule. When there was an appeal for every patriotic man and woman to combine in creating a strong Government in the Commonwealth in order to deal with the aftermath of the war, the farmers’ organizations thought the time opportune for them to step into the field as a third party, and the result has been the election of members, in oppo- sition to the Government on a minority vote.
– The farmers are as patriotic as are ‘the supporters of the honorable member’s party.
– The farmers, in order to vent their spleen against the Liberals, thought nothing of the welfare of the country or of the need for having a strong Government to resist direct action. They determined to fight for their own representation, and the conviction was forced upon me that .some system should be attempted by which we might insure the return of a Government strong enough to deal with the aftermath of the war. Thank God, we were able to win the war. The present Government and their supporters were behind the men at the Front who fought to win the struggle, and we gave them the support of a solid Australian public opinion. From this side of the House no appeal was made for ‘ Peace by negotiation. None of us said that we had had enough of the war. Our attitude was that we had started the job, and we must see it through. We must adopt that same policy in dealing with the aftermath of the war. But the farmers said, . “ Now is our time. Curse Australia; we care nothing for it; we shall secure direct representation, even if “we break up the Liberal party!”
.- The Government find themselves in a curious position. There is no member of the Ministerial party who does not know that if an appeal were made to the electors under the old electoral law, the verdict would go against the Government. Therefore, in order to confuse the electors, the Government have submitted this Bill. It stands to reason that no Government will propose an alteration of the Electoral Act except to benefit themselves. This hasty proposal has been introduced because of the pressure brought upon Ministers by a number of cranks outside. There is not one honorable member of the House who has not been approached directly or by letter by a crank, who is advocating some nostrum for completely revolutionizing Australia. One result that will accrue from this Bill is the setting of the city against the country. This Parliament will lose its national character, and a minority will be able to control the government of the country. There is nothing wrong with the existing electoral law. The people declared at the general elections in 1910 that the Labour party should be intrusted with the government of the country. In 1917 the people showed the alteration in their opinion by giving a substantial majority to the Liberal party. Apparently, the Government fear that at the coming elections the pendulum will swing against them, and their numbers will be reduced in both Houses of . this Parliament. There should be only two parties in any Parliament, and I hope that either one or the other will have a substantial majority. The giving of representation to the individuals who propound the nostrums which have reached honorable members by correspondence and otherwise will not benefit the country in any way, but will only create confusion. One of the greatest curses of the British Parliament is that it comprises Conservatives, Liberals, Labour party, Free Traders, Single Taxers, the Irish party, and dozens of other groups. At one time I tried in vain by a study of the Ilansard of the House of Commons to discover how many parties were represented in the House. The result of having so many groups in the Imperial Parliament is that it has .been slow in progressive legislation. From 1901 until 1910 the Commonwealth Parliament was a failure so far as legislative work was concerned. But in 1910, when the Labour party obtained a majority in both Houses, we were able to do the work of the country as we could not before.
I feel confident that this proposed alteration of the electoral law will be a failure, and in the forthcoming campaign I shall point out to the people how the Government are trying to fool them. The present electoral law is the simplest and surest way of electing a Parliament which is a true reflex of the will of the people. Every man and woman who is entitled to a vote can participate in the election of Parliament by marking a cross against the candidate he or she favours. I do not know how we shall get. the people to understand the new system that is proposed in this Bill. Persons who enter a polling booth only once in three years are very nervous, and I am sure that endless confusion will result from the incomplete understanding of this new system. In the State of New South Wales nine candidates are already announced for the Senate, and 1 believe there will be at least twelve or thirteen. Some persons think that the payment of a £25 deposit in order to become a candidate is a very cheap advertisement. If I were a proprietor of some patent pill or some other commodity which I desired to bring before the public, it would pay me to nominate for the Senate, pay the £25 deposit, and go about the country giving an advertisement to my particular nostrum ._ I believe that is what will happen under the system which will be introduced by this Bill. I cannot understand the state of mind of persons who, because they are single taxers, desire everybody else to be single taxers. or who, because they are prohibitionists, think everybody else should be the same. By the proposed system of voting these faddists will be given an opportunity to force their peculiar views on the country.
No one on the Government side has yet shown whether the results of such a system of voting have been of any benefit to a community. We cannot look to Tasmania for examples of legislative ability, for, although there are some very decent fellows in the State Parliament, the composition of the Houses is such as to remind one of a mince pie or a German sausage - most mysterious in its composition. It stands to reason that no Government can be powerful without a strong majority behind it. There is no doubt that the forthcoming elections will result iri the triumphant return of the Labour party with a majority in this Chamber, but no one can say what will be the result so far as the Senate is concerned. Legislation passed by the future House of Representatives will be rejected or blocked by the Senate, and before we know where we are, we shall be faced with a double dissolution. The proposed system of voting can result in nothing but confusion and in utter inability to place the true issues before the people. Parliament cannot stand fads of this kind. The legislative body should have broad national views and lofty ideals, and not be compelled to bow to particular sections. Parliament ought to be a true reflection of the opinions of the people, but these proposals on the- part of the Government will only place the electors in the position of not being able to return men to represent their actual views. Before many months are over, under this system of voting, Parliament will comprise such a mixed, mottled crew that the people will be glad to send us about our business. Can any honorable member tell us that on the part of the community generally there has been any objection to our present electoral law? There is no sincerity about the Government in their presentation of this Bill. An alteration of the electoral law is a much more serious and important matter than some people seem to imagine, and it should not be entered upon without very serious grounds indeed. I guarantee that those who are giving the most support to the proposed alteration are more concerned with vested interests than with the interests of Democracy, and there is no doubt that this Bill, if passed, will smother and throttle democratic ideals. Our present electoral law gives the widest field for candidates, and a man in recording his vote does so in order to obtain something definite. Nothing but trouble and confusion can arise from the preferential method of voting; and as to proportional representation, I remember once questioning a great advocate of it, and being unable to obtain one word of satisfactory explanation from him as to its advantages. I feel quite sure that honorable members on the Government side will suffer if this Bill be permitted to become law, although any person of ordinary intellect, who is not biased in his political views,’ must recognise that the Government hope to get some advantage which has not been laid before us.
Group voting, however, is a good idea, and I very much regret that the provisions in this connexion were removed from the Bill in another place. Some years ago I suggested that the Liberals and Labour candidates should be put into separate groups, for there is no doubt that many people when they go to the polling booths go there to vote for one side or the other, irrespective of individuals. Such a system would simplify matters very much, and prevent such an occurrence as came under my notice many years ago, when a man, in order to do his duty, voted for two members on each side. There are always two parties - the Progressive party and the Conservative party. This is so all over the world; and the grouping of candidates would make matters easy for the electors. In England we know there have always been Conservatives and Liberals, the latter introducing progressive measures, and the former blocking them.
– The Conservatives in England passed the most liberal measures.
– In England, in the matter of the franchise in years gone by, the Liberals fooled so long with their proposed measures, that the Conservatives, as it were, “ stole their thunder,” and, on being returned, extended the voting facilities of the people. That was not done because the Conservatives believed in an extension of the franchise, but merely as a means of getting on to the Treasury benches.
As I said before, the Government are not sincere in this Bill, and only introduced it in order to “save their necks.” If the Bill be passed it will result in the representation of many sections, and, amongst other things, will set town against country. This would be most unfortunate, because Parliament should show a national spirit on all questions. I followed the Labour Government from 1910 to 1913, and in .that time not one measure was passed that was not of a national character and of benefit to the community, as is witnessed by . the fact that there has been no interference with those measures since. The Labour party were able to make such progress simply because they had a solid majority in each House. The Senate, we ought not to forget, was never intended to take any part in party politics, ‘but was constituted as an advisory Chamber in order to protect the rights of the States under the Constitution. However, in the course of time the Senate has drifted into its present position, and no man can obtain a seat unless he belongs to some particular party. ,It is to be hoped that wisdom will prevail, and when the Labour party returns to power the Senate will cease to be, and there will be one Chamber with a. membership of, say, 110. Members in this House should ac-cent the responsibility of the votes they cast, and should not vote with the prospect of gentlemen in another place reversing their decision. From a constitutional point of view, I hardly think that another place has the right to interfere with the electoral laws which we frame for this House. On the other hand, I do not think we have any right to make drastic alterations in a Bill which comes from the Senate.
The country is not sufficiently calm for an alteration of the electoral law. The vote given at the forthcoming election will be an hysterical one. We cannot avoid excitement. The people are so determined to push the present Government out of office that they will fall overone another in their endeavour to get rid of them. Ministers have been very badly advised in seeking to alter the electoral law at the present time. From advices I have received from relatives in Great Britain, and reading between the lines of recent publications, as well as judging by the results of the by-elections in the Old Country, there is great discontent there, caused by the fact that Mr. Lloyd George rushed to a general election just after the war. The people of Great Britain felt that they were “ fooled “ at that election, and there is unrest. I trust that it will’ soon be removed, in the best interests of the Empire. Here, in Australia, also, we have discontent and unrest, and it is wrong to bring down a Bill which will add to it at a time when we should do everything possible to bring about harmony. The proposed voting system will create confusion, and will not permit of the people giving a true reflex of their opinions in this Parliament.
.- I can hardly say that I have listened to the debate with a great deal of pleasure. From neither side of the House have I heard a single word of commendation for the Bill. I did not propose to speak, but I felt that I could not allow the opportunity to slip bv without raising my voice in protest against the Bill, and, In fact, moving an amendment. I move -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted “ the method of election for the Senate should be by means of proportional representation.”
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has challenged this side of the Chamber to take a test vote. My amendment will test, not only our friends on the Labour side, but also the gentlemen who are sitting on the Ministerial side. The other honorable members of the Farmers party are not here for the moment, so that I am standing alone in moving in this way. The present method of voting for the Senate has been called the block system. “We may call the proposed method $ie blockhead system. I sincerely hope that it will be thrown out, lock, stock, and barrel. The Farmers party are strongly out for the adoption of proportional or minority ‘ representation. At present, large minorities have been left without representation. It has been said that Labour, with a minority almost as large as the Nationalist majority, has at one election been left without representation in the Senate, and that at another election the position has been j u st the reverse. The only way in which we can secure minority representation is by adopting a proportional system of voting. The Bill before us is a measure of expediency, designed for a specific purpose, and that is to insure the return of certain members to Parliament. Many pious hopes have been expressed on both sides, but, in my opinion, the measure has been “ damned with frank praise.” An honorable member on this side said that the majority in the Senate had worked well, but he would not have made that statement had another party been in the majority in the Senate.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) made some unkind remarks about the farmers. Let me tell the honorable member that the farmers, as a class, are as patriotic and loyal as any other section of the community. He says that the farmers’ representatives will break up the Government. So- they will if it is not doing the right thing. In those circumstances, they are prepared to break up any Government. I do not suggest that the present Government is a failure in that respect, although we do not agree with Ministers in every matter. But, I repeat, that if ever we see that the Government, whatever party is in power, is not doing the right thing, we shall take every step possible to break it up. I emphasize the necessity for the adoption of proportional representation, and I hope that a division will be taken, so that we can ascertain who are in favour of that system and are prepared to give the country a fair deal.
.- It is mos’t refreshing to hear the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) tell us the intention of the Farmers’ party, when they become strong enough, to be an entity in this House. Whether we have a Labour or a Liberal Government in power, it is well that there should be a strong and virile Opposition. If the Farmers party is returned in sufficient numbers to enable it to hold the balance of power, the result may not be unsatisfactory. It was quite refreshing to hear the honorable member speak as he did, but I tell him honestly that I looked upon his utterances as being merely those of a member in the novitiate stage. I am quite satisfied that, like the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), he will soon fall into line behind the Conservative crowd.
– No hope.
– ‘The only farmer who is likely to help the farming community as a member of Parliament is the man who joins the Labour party. We have farmers among the members of the Labour party in the State Parliament of South Australia. They are not camouflage farmers, like some of the camouflage “ diggers “ among the Ministerial party, but the “ real dinky-dye article.” I have no confidence in the honorable member’s prediction, but I may be wrong. If the Labour party do not come back, I hope that there will be returned a body of members at least strong enough to prevent the present Ministerial party from securing the power at which they are aiming by means of this Bill.
While the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) was speaking, I was reading a speech which he delivered on a motion moved in this House in 1915, to provide for proportional representation. His speech on that occasion was much the same as that delivered by him this afternoon. He told us of the history of England and of Macaulay, and Italy and Garibaldi, and displayed also a little bit of “ dinkum “ patriotism in respect of the party which returned him to this Parliament, and enabled him to get that speech off his chest.
– But in those days the Labour party had not blown out its brains.
– If the Labour party has no brains it is difficult to understand why the Government should be resorting to this device to prevent its return to power. The honorable member belongs to a section of the Ministerial party who claim still to be Labour men. They belong to the National Federation, but they were not invited to the first meeting of the party, with the result that “ Baldy “ Southwood, in the Nationalist “rag,” almost wept. Honorable members of the Labour’ party should read that “ rag “ ; it contains much interesting matter.
– Order! The honorable member is departing from the question before the Chair.
– In discussing a motion to provide for proportional representation for the Senate when it was before the House on 15th April, 1915, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, as reported in Hansard, page 2356, said -
Government by the two-party system has been in vogue in British communities for many years. Here, in this Parliament, there is on one side the Labour or Socialistic party - the name does not matter -
And so when the honorable member speaks of us as “ Bolsheviks “ we must not forget that in his own words “ a name does not matter.” After all, we are only the Labour party that hatched him as a politician. We may not be proud of our chicken, but we did the job. The honorable member continued - the party of reform and advance, whose members have great faith in their country, and believe it to be capable of very large development. What I say of the Labour party now could have been said thirty or forty years ago of the Radical party in England, of which we are the descendants and heirs at law. We must be careful that we do not cease to he the party of reform and progress. Opposed to us is the Conservative party, although its members have changed their name, the party which Mr. Disraeli described as the “ stupid party,” and to which might be applied the observation of Monsieur Thiers, that it “ forgot nothing and learnt nothing.”
– Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I am quoting from a speech made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh when discussing a Bill providing for proportional representation for the Senate.
– I do not see the application of the honorable member’s extracts to the Bill with which we are now dealing.
– Very well, sir. My point is that this Bill is a mere bit of political window-dressing. It is only a bit of the political garbage with which the Ministry hope to secure their continuance in office. The facts cannot be denied. This Bill will not bear analysis from the point of view of common sense, and the Minister in charge of it (Mr. Glynn) knows that it does not represent what he would like to put before the Parliament as a reasonable measure of reform. It is a mere expedient demanded by the forces behind them.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has well demonstrated the purpose of the Bill. It is intended to insure the return of the Government party. At the last, two byelections in this State the Government lost and the Country party gained, and the object of the whole Bill is not to secure a progressive reformin electoral matters so much as to assure the return of the Government to power. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) was Minister for Home Affairs in 1915, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Glynn) brought forward a Bill for the introduction of proportional representation. This is what the honorable member for Hindmarsh said about it : - ‘ ‘ Our Conservative friends have put forward this proposal hoping they may thereby secure a majority in support of their views.” That just summarizes the present situation. The Bill is not so much a measure to secure majority rule, because, presumably, the majority must be there, unless the Government party are going to lose the whole of the Senate seats at this election, inasmuch as they will still have a large number of members on their side in the Senate, nor is it designed to secure better representation for the people. It is a mere matter of preparing for the election that is to come. It is manifest to every one who watches political events that the coming election is to be made a khaki election, similar to the one held in Great Britain recently, when an attempt was made to catch the people on the hop before they had settled down after the war and before the promises made regarding labour conditions in Great Britain could be brought to fruition. The British Government knew that they could not carry out those promises, and our Government cannot or will not fulfil the promises they have made, hence their desire to use any possible subterfuge to get back to power. This Bill is one of the means they have adopted. It is no new thing for the Government to do this sort of thing. The Ministerial party evidently fear that the election may go against them, and it will not be difficult for the general community to see through this measure. They will very soon come to the conclusion that it is not a measure to improve the electoral machinery, or to place the electors on a better footing than they occupy at the present time.
When the last referendum was taken on conscription, a number of things were done by the Government to insure victory for their side. The Electoral Act was left out of the question, and the voting age was reduced to eighteen. The vote was also taken on a Thursday, and everybody knows that the further you put the polling away from the Saturday the greater difficulty is experienced by the labouring section of the community in securing the representation which their numbers entitle them to. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said that he cannot carry on the Government without a general election and another mandate from the people, and, therefore, he has put forward two referendums for the amendment of the Constitution. What mandate does he want? He says he needs greater powers to fight the profiteers and the Bolsheviks but there are no two opinions in the public mind as to what action the Government should take in that regard. Why then should the Government appeal to the people for another mandate? The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) put his finger very nearly on the spot when he said it was a matter of making the position secure for the Government, and then dividing the spoils among the persons he named in a series of questions which he put recently to the Prime Minister. We have had an illustration of that sort of thing in South Australia. In that State on one occasion, just prior to a general election, the whole of the positions then vacant or offering to members of the Government and their supporters were distributed amongst them. The gentleman who succeeded to office was turned out as soon as the House met, on what is known as the “ sudden death “ motion. The adjournment of the House was moved, and the conduct of the business was taken out of his hands. Like the present Government, he was one of the tenacious sort, and had to be scraped off.
The Minister (Mr. Glynn) has given us no concrete reason for this Bill. The alteration of our electoral system is not a live issue in South Australia. I was invited to address a meeting in the district of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, called by requisition, and well advertised. I was asked to speak on proportional representation as applied to the Senate. There were only twenty persons present, including four on the platform, clearly showing that the people of Hindmarsh were not concerned about proportional representation or preferential voting, but were satisfied with the present system of the block vote. The members of the Proportional Representation League of South Australia assured me that they would have a big meeting on the subject, and start a great campaign in the Adelaide Town Hall. The meeting was well advertised, and was to be addressed by some of the prominent members of the State Parliament, but the Town Hall was not more than three-parts filled. Scarcely any one in Adelaide cared whether we had proportional representation or preferential voting. They wanted the system which they knew and understood, and which had given them satisfaction, to continue. The meeting was supposed to be the opening of a big campaign for proportional representation not only for the Senate, but for the State Parliament, but the campaign has gone flat. The subject is written up by the Nationalist Federation, or the Nationalist members in South Australia, but they are the only ones “ boosting “ it. Of course that body does not mean the Liberal Union, which stands distinct and apart, as it has always done. It consists of the same old Conservatives. The Nationalist Federation is the wing of the Labour party that has broken away, and is now agitating for proportional repre sentation in South Australia, but nobody outside of its members over there cares one iota whether the system is altered or not. We on this side of the House have had to put up with an electoral system which gave us no members for the Senate, but we have not cried for its alteration on that account. The Liberals were beaten out of sight in the elections of 1910 and 1914. It was only then that proportional representation for the Senate was proposed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Glynn), and it was opposed by a number of members who are supporting it on this occasion. All this shows -the insincerity of the whole business. It is not in any way necessary.
– I do not think that is quite right. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Millen) is the strongest opponent of proportional representation that I know.
– I am speaking of the members of this House. The honorable member for Angas introduced a Bill in favour of proportional representation in 1915, after we had cleared the field in 1914, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh opposed it, as I have shown. It was only then that the question was brought into the region of practical politics, but it died a natural death. We should try in this Parliament to approximate to the desires and opinions of the general community. If the people generally show that they want proportional representation, I shall go baldheaded for it. It is a new system, introducing a quota, but it is fairer than this proposal if you are going to change the block system. I am not prepared to give away the block system for the satisfaction of my opponents, or to cry about it when the numbers have gone against us; but if, in the opinion of the general community, a change is desirable, there is only one system so far as I can see that will give fair and adequate representation, whether it brings in one or two faddists or not. I hardly think it will bring in faddists.
– We have enough faddists here now.
– They were not elected on their fads, or they would be talking about them in season and out of season. Although some members may hold peculiar ideas on certain subjects, they are not obsessed by them.
– They axe rational on most things.
– The honorable member has phrased it very kindly.
– A faddist would have to poll one-third of the votes before he could be elected for the Senate.
– He would need a pretty strong fad. The honorable member for Franklin speaks from practical experience of proportional representation, because it has been tried in his State. For two elections in Tasmania it gave peculiar results. It made one man the dominating factor in the House of Assembly.
– We have had that twice here.
– Yes, under the block system. The same result can be obtained from both systems. The indicating of a preference by the use of numerals will help to confuse the elector. That is the only objection I have to the proposal, because, change the system how you will, popular opinion . will find a way of expressing itself, so that the ideals of the people are represented in Parliament. If that were not possible, ‘ there could be only one outcome. The present growth of Radicalism cannot be stayed. With the passage of time old thoughts lose their influence in a community, and the newer ideas predominate. And if the Government continue to leg-rope the community, as they are doing in this Bill, with the object of serving their own ends, let them not complain about Bolshevism, for they themselves will be creating it. It is an irrefutable fact that the placing of difficulties and restrictions in the way of the voter, as will be done by making him mark numerals against possibly twenty candidates for the Senate, will be a burden and disability to honorable members on this side, rather than to the supporters of the Government. I can quite realize the benefits that will accrue to the National party because of the intricacies of this system. There is in the community a number of illiterate persons who will naturally go to the Labour party for assistance, because we on this side do most for’ them. I admit that amongst the supporters of the Labour party are to be found the great majority of the illiterate, the indigent, the ‘blind, and the maimed; and if they desire representation in Parliament they must go to the polls and vote. Often we are obliged to convey them to the polling booths. These persons were not always able to understand the old method of merely marking a cross inside a square against the name of the candidate they favoured; but when we compel them to indicate the order of their preference in regard to possibly fifteen candidates, we shall cause a lot of informal votes, which will be lost to the party on this side, rather than to our opponents. If the voter writes the same numeral against the names of two candidates, how is the electoral officer to know which candidate should have the preference ?
– Such votes will be informal, and will not be counted.
– They will be counted up to the point at which the mistake in the preference is made.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension.
– The elector may make the mistake of writing the numeral 1 against more than one candidate. To whom will the vote be given ? Is the Returning Officer to decide that point, or is the vote to be rejected as informal? We have no right to insert a provision that will trip the electors. Our aim should be rather to make voting simpler.
If the Government can show that this Bill is introduced in conformity with the desires of. the general community, they will have some ground for arguing that it is necessary and proper. The whole argument in favour of the Bill is contained in the fact that under the present system the whole of the Labour candidates for the Senate were returned on one occasion, and on another occasion the whole of the Liberal candidates were successful. But there is no guarantee that the altered system will give any better result. There is a chance, under the preferential system, that, in a three-cornered fight, the Labour candidate may slip in between the Country party’s nominee and the Nationalist. That is the real reason for the introduction of this measure. It is to be one of the aids to the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his followers. It is a win-the-election measure, and is in the same category as the increase in the old-age pensions and the amendment of the entertainments tax. If the Government are returned, the people will have no assurance that the promises made will be honoured. They know that profiteering cannot be dealt with by a House composed as is this Chamber at the present time. The Nationalists may win with the soldiers’ vote, although I doubt whether the “ diggers “ will be bluffed by the promise of a war gratuity and assistance in connexion with the erection of their homes. They will look further ahead and think of the laws under which they will have to live if the present Government are returned to power.
This Bill, like the referendum measures, is a delusion - a trap for the elector, and a trick to prevent the Labour candidate winning on account of the splitting of the anti-Labour vote. Let honorable members opposite demonstrate to the public that the Bill represents a genuine desire to amend the electoral law for the benefit of the general community. Let them show that a necessity exists for altering the method of electing the Senate in order to give representation to minorities. This Bill will not do that. The same block vote will be. in operation. I grant that the system proposed by the Bill will prevent any candidate being returned on a minority vote, but it will not make the Senate more representative of the diverse opinions in the community. I think that the Labour party will be successful in the forthcoming appeal to the people, and some of the newspapers have indicated a similar anticipation. The Farmers’ party intend, according to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), to take ah independent line of action, and there was a possibility of the present Government losing some seats for that reason. This Bill is brought forward to remove that danger, and not .with any desire to confer any benefit on the community, or do anything to improve the method of electing senators.
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing unworthy motives.
– I have no desire to impute unworthy motives. Members of the outside public regard all political motives as unworthy, and I have- been told by members of audiences I have been addressing that we are all in the political game for the pounds, shillings, and pence. That remark is usually made by a certain section of the community. Some persons will say none of us have any concern for the welfare of the public. I impute no unworthy motives on the part of the Government, but I challenge the Minister to make a definite statement that will satisfy the minds of people outside this Chamber as to the reason for this Bill, and the effect it will have.
– I have already done that.
– The Minister’s explanation was not sufficiently clear to enable me to explain the system to anybody else. A person called at my house during the week-end for an explanation of the method of voting provided for in this Bill. I said that the Bill had not yet come before me, but I was able to explain to him the system of preferential voting for the House of Representatives. I ask any honorable member to explain to me how the preferential votes for the Senate are to be counted. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) said that the duplication of a numeral will render a vote informal. That must necessarily be so, because an electoral officer cannot gauge the mind of the voter. Neither the reason for the introduction of this Bill nor the effect it will have has been explained to me.
– The object of the Bill is to secure majority representation.
– The object is to insure the Government being returned to office. I admit that the proposed system will mean that the successful candidate must have a majority of the votes polled, but how is the system to operate? Were any of the present senators elected on a minority vote?
– Some might be elected on a minority vote at the next election.
– The honorable member’s interjection means that the Government fear what may happen if a Labour candidate stands between a Nationalist and a Farmers’ party candidate. They desire to prevent the possibility of a Labour candidate winning through a split of the Liberal vote. If they really desired the general community to be represented other than by a block vote, they would accept the amendment and propose a system of proportional representation. I do not see anything wrong with the principle of insuring majority representation; but the Bill does not come genuinely from the Government with a view to doing something for the benefit of the community. According to the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) the Bill is to insure that minority members are not returned, particularly minority members who are Labour men.
– I did not say that.
– I am interpreting the honorable member’s suggestions - only saying what the honorable member means, but dare not say himself. I shall make “no bones” about telling the electors of Grey that that is the meaning of the honorable member’s suggestion.
– The more you go to Grey the more votes I shall get.
– That is the luck of the honorable member. But when I went round that constituency during the conscription campaign, that was not the result according to the voting, though I do not say that that result should be attributed to my efforts. The people, I fancy, were sound enough in their judgment to vote without my assistance. I am of the opinion that the electors, not only of Grey, but of the Commonwealth generally, when they are asked to decide on the merits of this Bill, and on the merits of every act of the Government, will unmistakably show their opinion of legislation of the kind.
– It will be within the recollection of honorable members that when speaking on the measure before us last year, I said that if it could be shown that it was possible to .count the votes recorded on the- proportional voting system for the Senate, I should certainly be in favour of that system. I am still of that opinion; and now, after consultation with the electoral officers in several of the States, I am assured that the counting can be quite easily carried out. I regret very much that the amendment has been moved at such a period in the passage of the Bill. What does it actually mean ? It means a motion oi want of confidence in the Government, and any member voting for it will be practically voting against the Government. For what purpose has the amendment been moved 1 The honorable member for Echuca. (Mr. Hill) could not have been acquainted with what happened in another place. Does he know that this proposal was rejected there? If we insert it in the Bill now, it will be rejected by the Senate, and there will be a dead-lock, leaving us to go. to the country under the existing Electoral Act. Rather than that, I shall vote against the amendment. I am not afraid of the objections of honorable members opposite. I have not now to wire to a league to ask whether I may vote in a certain direction. I am merely making an explanation of my vote.
– Does the honorable member allude to me? Does he say that I ever, wired to a league asking how I should vote?
– The honorable member is in close touch with the Trades Hall here, and takes’ his instructions from there.
– If the honorable member says that, he is saying something that is absolutely untrue, and he knows it.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the words, but what the honorable member says is absolutely untrue. I am sorry I have to withdraw the words, but I shall keep on thinking what I. said. What the honorable member says is untrue, and, what is more, he knows it.
– The honorable member knows that he must withdraw the words without qualification.
– In accordance with the Standing Orders I have to withdraw the words, but the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) knows quite differently from what he says.
– It was my privilege when in the Old World to have a talk with that great scientist, Lord Avebury, who told me that if, on approaching an ant hill, I tapped the ground, the ants would come out in swarms. In like manner, it would appear that no sooner do I rise to speak than honorable members opposite jump up in all directions, though for what reason I do not know. When honorable members charge me with being afraid of doing certain things, I am justified in retaliating, and saying that certain honorable members have not shown much courage on other occasions in this place.
I think I have made my position quite clear. It would be disastrous for us to reject this measure now, which we shall really do if we pass this amendment. The effect would be the application of the pre-selection method to members on this side, just as it is applied to honorable members opposite. That would mean that, while a member was here performing his duties to the country, another person would be working up a preselection campaign in his electorate. I need not go into details, because honorable members opposite know all about it; they have all been through the experience.
The other day I read in one of Foster Fraser’s well-known books that something similar happens in the Argentine Republic. There members of Parliament are paid £1,500 a year, but one disadvantage is that when they are elected they dare not go to Parliament, because immediately they do, some other persons begin organising election campaigns in the electorates, with the result that a quorum can never be made. If we reject this Bill, we shall have to revert to the old system; and, rather than that should be the case, I shall vote with the Government; and I advise honorable members who are in favour of the proportional -system to do likewise.
This amendment has been unfairly and unjustly sprung upon members who are just as much in earnest in regard to electoral matters as is the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who has come into the House to teach us how we shall conduct our “ business. Where did the honorable gentleman get the amendment from? Did he originate it and draft it himself ? In my opinion, it has not exactly come from the mastermind of the gentleman who submitted it to the House. Why could this amendment not have been introduced in Committee ?
– That is a dirty insinuation against a new member !
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– I must withdraw, but I wish to say that I was irritated, because the honorable member for Denison once referred in the same manner to the rentals of my cottages that are nonexistent.
– I regret very much if I have hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). I did not gather from the speech of the honorable member that he is a colleague of the honorable member who submitted the amendment, or that there has been any private agreement or conversation between them.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself !
– I urge honorable members to think seriously before they vote for the amendment. In my opinion, proportional voting would have been much better for the Senate elections than the system proposed; but, as has been pointed out before, the Senate, which is the Chamber most concerned, has passed this Bill, and if we amend it in the way proposed, it is not likely to be improved, and may be lost altogether.
, - I compliment the -honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) on his maiden speech in the House, and wish to say how deeply I, and, I suppose, others, were impressed with his sincerity. I feel certain that his object is a good one, though I think he has chosen a wrong method of giving it expression. Each and every one of us when we come into Parliament needs reminding that ours is not the first consignment of brains landed here.
On the question before us I can at least speak impartially, because I do not consider myself committed by any promise to proportional voting, or even preferential voting, although I have supported the latter as an expedient, which I consider we must subscribe to in what I fear will be our long evolutinary march towards the most perfect system humanity can devise. The debate, so far as it has progressed, shows clearly that the proposal which we hope to see fructify, of a great National Convention to recast the Federal Constitution, has not come one moment too soon, for it is an all-necessary work. We who have taken some interest in this Parliament since its inception must realize that, after all, ours is a Federal system, and we must have equal States representation. With equal States representation we must naturally expect that each State will be jealous of its individuality as expressed in the Senate. It seems to me a most delicate undertaking when the House of Representatives, which is largely dominated by the representatives of the two largest States, takes up the work of introducing a system of electoral reform for the Senate, a system which may destroy that principle of equal representation, or, at all events, hamstring it. Personally, I feel a strong trend towards Unification, but I recognise that I was elected under a Federal system which the people alone have the right to alter. I feel as a man might feel who is cashier of a large establishment where the work-people are not treated liberally - I feel I have no right to hand out “the cash to make good the wrongs done by my superiors. While our system remains a Federal system we must remain loyal to it, and at all events, not attempt, by methods of the kind proposed, to destroy the Federal principle. What we do must be done openly, in the light of day, by the will of the majority which called the system into existence.
A perfect system is one in which all persons entitled to vote record their individual opinions according to the standard of knowledge and honesty they possess, without regard to any other consideration. What has happened to side-track our evolutionary progress, and, as it were, destroy the efficiency of parliamentary representative government? It is because the all-powerful influence of what is known as party machinery absolutely stultifies the opinions of the people, so far as the expression of independent thought is concerned. We have subscribed to the doctrine of majority rule in a numerical, and not in a real, sense. Election after election, we use our votes as a riotous crowd may use bricks, to down the other fellow without regard to consequences. All this is quite opposed to the true evolutionary process of parliamentary representative government. Assuming that one hundred men are given the duty to record an intelligent vote on a given question, and that ninety of them follow a machine-made vote, made for them by a minority, and refuse to think for themselves ; while the other ten by their own thoughts come to about the same conclusion without any regard to consequences, it really means that a minority of one rules if the principle which the ninety follow, without giving thought to it themselves, has emanated from one man, one brain, or one organization. That 13 side-tracking the foundation principle of Democracy upon which alone our security and progress can be based. What we should aim at is the rule of reason, based upon the moral responsibility of individuals. If a man is honestly wrong, he may be right in his action, even though he may be doing the wrong thing. Here we have an instance of gentlemen opposite, who are quite willing to vote for something in which they do not believe, so that the Federal Union may be dissolved before the majority of the people may have a say, and so that the machinery may begin its underground work without consulting the source from which all power is derived, that is the people.
– How is this proposed to be done?
– If we adopt a system of proportional voting for the Senate, although it is opposed by a majority of the senators, we are taking upon ourselves a task which would have the effect of undermining the Federal compact, which gives equal .State representation in the Senate. Even assuming that the party power over the teeming hundreds of thousands of voters were destroyed, it would be quite possible, with this innovation, introduced by a vote of the Senate, to bring about a state of affairs by which a majority of honorable members in this House, representing two of the largest States, could absolutely dominate the whole of the Federation, a state of affairs which, I am sure, would not be tolerated by the intelligent people of this country.
– What influence would members of this House have on the Senate.
– Members of this House can compel things to remain as they are, or compel senators to accept a system of voting with which, so far as their opinion has been disclosed up to date, they do not agree. It is a delicate matter this House should take no responsibility of touching.
I have no objection to the system of proportional representation being instituted, sooner or later. I believe that in our long march to a better system, we should first try the preferential marking method; in fact, the Minister (Mr. Glynn) has told us that the Bill is a step in the direction of proportional representation. I hold that the preferential system of voting is illogical ; it is just as illogical to compel a man to say that he will accept Jones, Smith, or Robinson if he cannot get Brown, as it would be to compel a man who is proposing to a young lady of whose affections he has a monopoly, to inform her that if she will not accept him he will take Sarah Ann, or Mary Jane. If, by a later revolutionary step, we adopt a system of proportional representation, what does it mean? Broadly speaking, we are told with some1 truth that any section in the community sufficiently strong to be represented in Parliament has a perfectright to that representation, but when we look at the foundation principle upon which representative government is based, what does it amount to? We simply assume that in a true Democracy all men and women are interested in their country’s welfare, and willing to give the best thought and service that are in them to the betterment of their country ; but, since it is utterly impossible for all to sit in Parliament, they depute their part of the governing power to men who. for the time being, sit in Parliament and represent them. When casting a vote for a parliamentary candidate, the elector must answer a thousand and one questions. He is compelled by the responsibility that is on him to give his best attention to the realization of which is the abler or better candidate, or the man whose record is the cleaner or the more Unblemished, or the man whose character for honesty and uprightness is the more Untarnished, or the man who has the greater capacity to do good work in the interests of the country. All these are questions which the electors are called Upon to answer. A thousand and one questions of policy must be solved in the one simple vote for a candidate, and if the true system of individual responsibility is maintained with the voters, if the candidate fails, the people in their thou. sands will come together and punish one who has been recreant to the trust reposed in him. The responsibility is thus made, as it were, the medium by which a further advancement in higher evolutionary education is accomplished. What does proportional voting do? It shunts that responsibility from the individual voter who, under a true system of representative government, is as much responsible for his political and material wellbeing as he is under the moral law with regard to his doing right ot wrong, on to small sections who in turn, when parties in Parliament, will be subjected to all sorts of bartering and compacts between leaders and sections. Finally, the net result, taking into consideration the frailty of human nature, will be that the most powerful and unscrupulous leader will have sufficient of the other parties in his bag to govern the country for the time being. Thus the cause of true Democracy will be side-tracked through the individual being lulled into a false sense of security, and allowing his individual responsibility to be shunted on to small parties. It may be - I believe it is so - that with human selfishness ever seeking expression, we might at this stage of our political development admit that we are not out to do justice to our fundamental principles of responsible government, but are out to be generous to ourselves, irrespective of whether we are just or not to those who differ from ourselves. If we pursue these false gods, our best friends, and the best intelligence in the world, shocked by the monstrous selfishness everywhere evident, will dissociate themselves from a representative system pf government and adopt systems of direct action and revolution which will ultimately destroy the foundations upon which the highest attainments of our evolution are based.
Yet this system -will come. Sections will be represented in Parliament, but it will not mean that these forces, which everywhere threaten responsible government, will not ultimately prevail. They will prevail not because of the justice of the new cause they are espousing, but because of the falsity of man to the principles of true representative government which are being everywhere flouted in the interests of selfishness and dominance. There is no question about this, but for the time being proportional representation is a fad which some people will insist on putting into operation. I have no objection to i* running its course, because I have not the power to avert it; but I have given some years of careful study to this question, and I recognise that no higher system or standard can be erected by law if we are unfitted through lack of intelligence or honesty to subscribe to it. It is idle to take a’ Bogan blackfellow to a West End tailor; it would only make him more ridiculous than he was in his opossum rug. When we hear men complaining of the tyranny of laws and bad systems where universal suffrage prevails, we find it is because, on the average, they are incapable of enjoying or understanding higher and truer systems and standards of morality that should everywhere be raised by the people, no matter what their differences may be, by which public men should be measured, and by which individual voters should be judged, but which are everywhere being trampled in the dust in this race. Now we find men who profess to be champions of these very principles of representative government, and of this system which, under the Divine law, compels those who are capable and intelligent to be their brothers’ keepers without fee or reward, offering to conduct them to higher standards of laws before they are capable of understanding them. These men are prepared to take short cuts at the dictation of men who themselves have not a time knowledge of what is meant by the priceless benefits of the self-government which we have, and which we largely flout. We are engaged to-night in discussing a matter which is seemingly only a question for parties to wrangle upon as to what will be the immediate result at the coming elections, but it has a greater and deeper significance; it has within it either the acceptance or abrogation of the principles of justice, and an inheritance of liberty or slavery for our children. In an attempt to seek an advantage for classes, this must be realized. My honorable friend for Echuca (Mr. Hill), whom I compliment on his first speech, is doubtless desirous of doing justice to that section which he represents. I claim to be as truly representative of that section as is any honorable member, since for thirty years I have done nothing for a living save the honest work of farm production, and consider it the best employment that a man could follow. We farmers as a class are just as selfish as, and no more so than, any other section of the community. I regret to see in this free Australia of ours this fight for sectional interests. Whether I remain in Parliament or out of it I shall never be found fighting in the cause of any section. I recognise that all our interests, rights, and principles are based on the imperishable principle of justice, and that once we infringe thatprinciple for the benefit of one class we must bring injury and suffering on the rest of the community. I feel certain that the honorable member for Echuca, as an honest producer, will realize the truth of what I say when he has a little more experience of politics, and that we who are privileged to have been born in this country, and love it above all others, knowing no other, must never cease to preach the fact that once we sink to these pettifogging party methods of outwitting each other, we shall never raise Australia to the position that she ought to hold among the nations of the earth. If our country is lost and our children are in chains the moral responsibility will rest with us.
I shall not vote for the amendment; it would be wrong to do so. I applaud the fact that the people will have an opportunity in the near future of moulding their own destinies and of determining that the ship of Australia shall glide along nobler channels than the pettifogging sinks in which some people would have her remain. I believe that the people will rise to the occasion, and that a charter of liberty suitable to this country and the position her soldiers have
Avon for it will be evolved. I am convinced that the intelligence of the people will help them to succeed in this task. Let us do nothing to deprive them of the opportunity which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his followers are attempting to afford them to make this country what it ought to be - the home of liberty and freedom for every law-abiding citizen drawn from the white races of the .
– While some people hold that proportional representation is but little different from preferential voting, others hold that there is a very marked distinction. The fact remains that, no matter what system of voting we may have in force, we shall always have in this House only two parties - the Labour party and those who go to make up the anti-Labour party. In 1916 the Labour party was rent asunder on the conscription issue. Future students of Australian historv will find it difficult to realize that men who were drawn together as supporters of one great political idea should have been torn asunder by a difference of opinion concerning a question that had nothing whatever to do with economics. Every new member entering this House who is not a member of the Labour party takes his seat on the Ministerial benches. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) who was returned as a representative of the Farmers Union, sits with the Ministerial party, and whatever other divisions of opinion may take place, we may be sure that we shall always have in this House, only the two parties representing Labour and those opposed to it. Parliament would not be an effective institution without party government and recognition of the principle that the majority must rule. The majority is justified in doing anything in order that it mav rule properly.
– Then ‘ it is justified in doing anything to get the chance to rule?
– I believe the Prime Minister and his party feel they are justified in doing anything that will keep them in office. But why all this trouble on the Ministerial side of the House as to whether we should have proportional representation or some other system ‘of voting? Differing as honorable members opposite may do on this question, they are united in their opposition to the Labour party. The members of our party hold divergent views on various questions. There is just as great a diversity of opinion amongst us as there is amongst members of the Ministerial party.
– You “ moderates “ of the Labour party have had a pretty rough time lately.
– The honorable member has discovered that there are differences of opinion amongst our party just as there are differences amongst members of the Ministerial party, but we say that the majority must rule. Ministerialists should recognise the same principle and let us get to the people without delay.
I hope that some day we shall have in power a Ministry sane enough to bring in an Electoral Bill providing that an elector may record his vote by scratching out the name of the candidate” to whom he is opposed. I object to this system under which I shall be forced to express a preference where I have no preference. Let us assume that there are nine candidates for the three vacancies in the Senate. In that event I shall be forced under this Bill to vote, for seven. After I have voted for the three Labour candidates I shall have no preference, and I cannot see why I should be asked to express my preference for the remaining men who go to the poll. Why should I be asked to express my preference’ for a Farmers’ Union candidate as against a direct follower of the Government, or vice versa? I am told, however, under this Bill, that I must, whether I wish to do so or not. Is the true opinion of the people to be obtained in that way? If there are twelve candidates, an elector will have to vote for the whole of them in the order of his preference. Why should he be compelled to do so?
– Because it is in the interest of the people that he should.
– There are and will be only two parties in this Parliament - the Labour party and the anti-Labour party. Why, then, having voted for the Labour candidates for the Senate, should I be compelled to vote in the order of my preference for a Farmers Union candidate and a Nationalist candidate? Then, again, there will be three Labour candidates for the Senate, and under this Bill I shall be compelled to declare the order of my preference for them. I want all three to be returned. I have no preferences so far as they are concerned.
– But is not that system followed in the Labour party’s preselections?
– Not where three are selected.
– But the Labour party applies the preferential system of voting to its pre-selections
– ‘In the case of a party selection a mere question of personality might be involved, but in the case of a parliamentary election it is a question of politics. It is required of the Ministerial party that they shall fight the Labour movement. Members of that party hold widely divergent views on many political questions, but as a party it is demanded of them that they shall unitedly fight the selected Labour candidates. The honorable member for Echuca says that no matter what party may be returned to power the Farmers Union representatives will demand from the Government of the day that the farmers shall have full value for their produce.
– Do they want London parity for their wheat?
– Well, that to-day is about 2s. per bushel, according to the statement made yesterday by the honorable member.
– After Australia’s requirements are satisfied, if the farmer wants the London parity he and not the middleman should get it. The Government should fix a minimum below which the produce of the farmer should not be sold, n the pre-war days I said I would fix a minimum price of 4s. per bushel for wheat, because it did not pay to grow it for less than that. In those days the farmers were receiving about 3s. 3d. or 3s. 4d. per bushel. Rates have increased since then, and I would allow them more to-day.
– If the oversea rate were 3s. 9d. per bushel, would the honorable member fix 4s. per bushel for local consumption?
– Yes ; I would fix a minimum price at which it would pay to produce .wheat and other primary products. I would fix the price of wheat just as I believe that the minimum wage of a bootmaker or any other tradesman should be fixed. I am not authorized to speak for the Labour party, but- 1 believe that the party .as a whole would agree to that proposition. Then, again, where a farmer’s beast is killed because it is suffering from a disease the farmer should be compensated. The beast is destroyed in the interests of the community, and the. community should make good the loss to the farmer.
– Then we should be sending all our diseased beasts down to be killed.
– But you would not be selling them to the public. Under present conditions, if fever breaks out among his swine, or some other disease among his cattle, the farmer is compelled to save himself, like the man who sells a bad pair of boots or bad fish. Like everybody else, if he has a commodity that he stands to- lose on he will get rid of it, if he can, to save himself.
There are other commodities which should be put in exactly the same position as wheat. Having once said that the farmer in Australia must be assured against producing at a loss, and that the people of Australia shall pay for it, we are not asking too much when we say that the people of “Australia should have their needs supplied at a price, and that for the surplus available for exportation the farmer should get the full parity, without any middleman being allowed to step in.
– What does your Leader say to that idea?
– He is of the same opinion as myself.
– What part of the Bill is this?
– I was waiting for the honorable member to connect his remarks with the Bill.
– The subject nas something to do with the Bill. Preferential voting is being introduced because the Farmers’ party has come into the political arena. Every man in the Labour movement admits that the farmer has as much right to a living wage as the man who makes a suit of clothes. The Far.mers party coming in now is in the same position as the Labour party found itself in some years ago. The only seats the Labour party could win were the Radical ones. The Radical-Liberals fought strenuously to keep their seats, but ultimately the Labour men prevailed. Thu Farmers’ party says, .” We represent the producers. We want our rights, and we shall vote only for our own men.” In electorates like Henty and Balaclava the farmers’ vote will not count for very much,’ but it must have great POwer in the purely country electorates. The farmers have an undeniable right to take the stand they have taken; but why should we bring about a different electoral system simply because the farmers have come into the arena? In a country like Spain, the same old party continues in power, and the only change is that one man replaces another who has not fulfilled the expectations of the ruling class; but that system would not be tolerated in a British community. Our Parliament consists of political parties which fight one another strenuously, and the system is productive of the greatest good to the community. There will always be less corruption in party government with a strong opposition than in a Parliament composed of a number of different sections, one playing off against the other. The natural result of the introduction of proportional representation would be to produce a number of different sections in Parliament. To work it fairly it would be necessary to poll the whole of a State as one division.
– The’ Senate should not be a party House at all.
– To my mind, preferential voting in a big constituency such as a State, with about twenty members, would produce exactly the same results as proportional representation; but if we adopted proportional voting for this House, what a nice position we would be in ! Every religious party in existence would fight to get a representative, and what sort of a Parliament would that produce? The liquor trade interests would want representation, and the temperancesection would get a man in to vote always for the suppression of drink. There would be men sent in to vote only as Protectionists, and others to vote only as Free Traders. There would be single-taxers, and there would be a representative of sports, who thought that the sporting interests were not being treated properly. Altogether, when it settled down, the Portuguese Parliament would be nothing to ours. Talk about the bargaining between three parties! . What sort of bargaining would there be in a House of Representatives of that character? Proportional voting might not be injurious under the present system, because with single electorates, of course, the strongest party would be dominant.
So far as the Senate is concerned, the whole question narrows itself down to the view put by the honorable member for Franklin(Mr. McWilliams). The whole fight in the Convention about the Senate “was on the question of the equal representation of the States. Why was Tasmania, a mere fly-speck, not only in’ size, but in population, given the same number of members as New South Wales? Because the. intention’ was to make the Senate in no way a party House. If wa3 to preserve the rights of the small States ngainst the big ones. I think this Bill is really unconstitutional, in view ofthe intention of the framers of the Constitution.
– How will this Bill alter that?
– The whole object of this change is that one political party shall not beat another. The Senate was created to protect the States. The small States said they would be overwhelmed in the Federation if the Senate did not protect them, but now, because the Farmers’ party has come into the field, we are asked to alter the whole composition of the Senate, and turn it into a party House instead of a
State House. The Senate will not be selected on the question of State interests at all.
– It will be no different from the elections that have previously been held.
– Whatever happened at those elections was the outcome of the party system, but this is the first time that we have been asked to make special provision for political parties in the voting for the Senate. Any defeated candidate who had enough money to appeal to the High Court could, I think, have the whole of the Senate elections under this Bill declared ultra vires.
– The Constitution says that the method of voting shall be so-and-so “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.”
– The honorable member knows the intention of the framers of the Constitution, and the fight that was put upby the small States. It was suggested that they should be represented in the Senate according topopulation, but if that had been carried there would have been no Federation. The Senate was always intended to be a State House, pure and simple. It was never the intention to have representation in the Senate of the farmers, or of the brewers, or of the religious bodies.
– And the Senate never for one day fulfilled its intended functions. It has been a party House ever since it was created.
– The men who constructed the Senate constructed it stronger than they knew. They never dreamt that the Labour movement would grow so strong as to have charge of this Parliament. They thought that if a State was polled as one electorate there would be no possible chance of Labour men getting into the Senate. That is why so many men in the Labour movement, who would have been an ornament to the party had they stuck to it, made the mistake of leaving it. They did not think the Labour party would grow so strong as it did. If there had never been a Labour majority in the Senate, there would never have been any talk of altering the Senate electoral system. This Bill is introduced because the Labour party collared all the seats at one or two elections. The people afterwards tried to balance it by giving the other party all the seats, but that does not satisfy them. They recognise that that was only a temporary swing-over. They want to make sure of holding the Senate for the next few years, but they forget that the Constitution goes further. If the Labour party come back with a majority next time, and have only a few representatives in the Senate, there will be a way of getting over the. difficulty. If the people are behind the Labour party a double dissolution can come about. If, by reason of the composition, of the Senate, we could not enact legislation beneficial to the workers, we of the Labour party would not be worth our salt if we did not bring about a double dissolution in order to see whether or hot the people were behind us. I know that it is difficult to get a double dissolution.
– Our leaders brought about a double dissolution once.
– And I know they were sorry for it; but a political party that desires to achieve anything must take its life in its hands. I agree that the majority ought to rule, but it is unfair of the Government to propose this alteration on the eve of an election, and without allowing opportunity for proper consideration. Under the new system there will be more informal votes than ever there were. I remember that, when this House voted on the selection of the Federal Capital site, .notwithstanding all the intelligence there is among honorable members, some informal votes were recorded. How much more must informal votes be expected amongst people who have opportunities of voting only at long intervals, and who must be drilled and coached before they go to the polling booth? There they are embarrassed by the solemnity of the questioning by the poll clerk, and then they are sent into a dark cubby-house with a piece of paper and a blunt pencil. Some of them, like myself, are shortsighted, and have a difficulty in deciphering the names. There may be twelve or thirteen names on the ballot-slip, and when they are nervous and agitated they are liable to make a slip in indicating their preferences up to ‘ seven. Fully 60 per cent, of voters are primed up before they enter the polling booth as to the candidates they are to vote for. They are fearful of making mistakes, and for that reason are bound to do so. Although there are always local parasites hanging around the polling booth, who try. to create informal votes by making themselves officious, the officers of the Department do everything that is possible to make each vote effective. I would not mind betting cigars that there will be an enormous number of informal votes at the coming election because of the misunderstanding of the new system. I do not know how the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was able to address himself to the Bill at all, having regard to the limited opportunity he had to peruse its contents.
It is inconceivable ‘that any Government should expect the people to understand a measure of this- kind. The system contained in the Bill has not even the virtue of being the same as the method of voting for the House of Representatives. In voting for this Chamber, if there are ten candidates, the elector signifies the order of his preference in respect of the whole ten. But, if there are ten candidates for the Senate, he must signify his order of preference in regard to only seven of them. If the elector takes up the Senate ballot-paper first, and finds he has to vote for only seven candidates in the order of his preference, .he may. then only indicate his preference in regard to seven of the candidates for the House of ‘Representatives. The two systems are so at variance that there are bound to be informal votes. The Government may think that this will result . to their advantage, but it will not achieve that which is in the best interests of Australia. It would be better to continue the old method of- voting for Senate candidates, or, if the preferential system is to be introduced for the Senate election, can it not be made the same as that for the House of Representatives? If the Government wish to be fair, they will leave it optional for the elector to vote for three candidates or as many more as he chooses in the order of his preference. 3 ask the Government what objection there is to the adoption of that system ? Are they afraid that the supporters of the Country party will vote for .only their own three candidates? One could understand the Government being wedded to the system contained in this Bill if there were any real necessity for it in their own interests, but when the new Parliament meets, they will already’ have eighteen supporters in the Senate, apart altogether from the results of the coming election. What is the reason, for’ the hurry-scurry in the passage of this Bill? If I thought that there would be any chance of an .amendment from this side of the House being accepted, I would move to leave it optional for the elector to vote for three or more candidates.’ I suppose that the second reading of the Bill will be carried, because I have noticed ambassadors and plenipotentiaries extraordinary approaching the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and asking him to withdraw his amendment. Whether or not he will adhere to his present attitude I do not know, but it is clear that the Government do not like the amendment. I suppose the party whips will be cracked and that the Bill will be assured of a majority, but there is no advantage in doing that which is unnecessary and unfair.
.- I have expressed my opinion on electoral matters so often that every honorable member is aware that I favour the system of proportional representation. I would have allowed this Bill to pass without comment but for the fact that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) places those who share my opinion in an awkward position. Therefore, as I intend to oppose the amendment in favour of proportional representation, it is necessary for me to explain my reason’. What on earth does the honorable member expect to gain by this amendment? If it is carried, the Bill will be defeated, and. we shall be thrown back on the present block’ method. This proposal embodies a better method of voting for the Senate than the block system, which has operated hitherto, and if it is defeated, we shall gain nothing, and lose the advantage it offers. If the honorable member had been conversant with the forms of the House, he would no doubt have moved this amendment in Committee, where there would be a chance of the question being fairly considered. The amendment on the motion for the second reading is unfortunate and untimely, because the carrying of it would involve the destruction of the Bill. The Senate has already declared in favour of this measure. If this House rejects it, the measure will be lost, and we shall then be forced to operate the dual system of preferential voting for the House of Representatives and the marking of crosses against candidate^ for the Senate. If anything would create informal voting, it would be a jumble of systems like that.
– The electors will still be required to mark crosses on the referendum ballot-papers.
– But the question to be decided on those papers will be a straight-out “ Yes “ or “ No.”
– Why not use the numerals on those other papers also?
– I believe that it would be better to do that for the sake of uniformity. I have advocated proportional representation so often and so strongly both in this House and elsewhere, that it will naturally be thought peculiar that I did not vote for the adoption’ of that system when the opportunity was afforded me, but, unfortunately, in the existing circumstances, voting for proportional representation would mean the rejection of a proposal that I consider better than the present system, and would result in our making no advance at all. The greatest political thinkers are agreed that a Parliament should be a reflex of the opinion of the people.. That is one of the reasons why I strongly favour proportional representation. That is the only means by which we make Parliament anything like a mirror of public opinion. If a bare majority has to rule, nearly as many electors as those who voted for the successful candidates, must go unrepresented; and that is not democratic. Preferential voting has been at work in Tasmania for some time, and the Tasmanian “Parliament is as evenly divided into two parties as any Parliament in Australia. This afternoon, complaint was made by honorable members opposite that the British Parliament has a great many parties in it; but the British Parliament is elected on the block system, so that experience does not bear out the ideas that have been expressed here as to what may happen under proportional representation. I do not think that, holding the views I do, I should give a silent vote.
– I regret that this Bill is being dealt with at such a late stage of the session when it is almost impossible to give it the serious consideration it deserves. The mode of election for the Senate has been before the country for a very long time. In this House, if my memory serves me rightly, the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn) promised that we should have an opportunity to discuss proportional representation on a Bill’ introduced by the Government, and I believe that, just prior to the last elections, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in Launceston, announced that the preferential system of voting would be proposed for the House of Representatives, and proportional representation for the Senate. It is impossible for any one to say that the present system, in the case of the Senate, is either fair or democratic. If we take the history of the Senate from 1903 to 1917, we see that over and over again first one party and then another secured the whole of the representation with slightly over 50 per cent. of the voters. This means that practically half the. electors of Australia have been disfranchised.
-Can you tell me of any Bill introduced by the Government which you have supported?
– I cannot speak from memory; but I can say that veTy few of the measures that the Government have brought in have deserved support.
– would not sit with a party of which I had that opinion !
– I have not the slightest desire to sit with the honorable member, either in the House or out of it.
– My candid opinion is that you would be better somewhere else; and I think that is the opinion of many of our party, too.
– Perhaps the honorable member will be somewhere else when the new House meets. I regard this Bill as proposing something better than the block system. One great advantage of the Bill is that it will, to some extent, break down that abominable machine which has practically gripped both parties by the throat.
– It will not break down our machine.
– It will break down the machine of the honorable member’s party, just as it has broken down the machine in other States, when the electors begin to realize what the preferential system really means.
Tasmania is a small State, and I know thatsome might hold the opinion that it is not to be, taken as a criterion; but in Tasmania the parties are just the same. But where we have preferential voting, as honorable members from Tasmania, both Liberal and Labour, will say, it has to an enormous extent broken the grip of the party machine in the case of Liberals, Nationalists, and Labourites alike. What is the position in Tasmania in regard to the Senate? According to a report that I have seen, five Nationalists are standing for the Senate, and probably one or two, if not more, are standing in the interests of the farmers. There will be three candidates in the interests of Labour; but it would not make the slightest’ difference to the Labour vote if there were half a dozen, because the Labour party would be just as loyal to their own men.
– Why put up six candidates when only three are required?
– Because it prevents intending candidates having to appeal to some little coterie in the city for permission to go before the electors. For as long as I have taken an interest in politics I have held that no party machine has the right to come between the candidate and the electors, for the latter alone should have the choice.
– Since preferential voting has been in vogue there have been more Labour candidates than the number required.
– Yes, from Franklin, within the last few months, five or six Labour candidates stood for three vacancies.
– That was done with an object.
– It was done because a very considerable proportion of the electors thought that perhaps there were other men who could represent them better than the previous members; and, instead of compelling the candidates to go up for pre-selection, the executive very wisely said; “ Let the electors say who are the fitter men.” There were, I think, fifteen or sixteen candidates for six seats, but that made not the slightest difference; as soon as the electors begin to understand what the preferential vote really means, then, as some say, “ The more the merrier.” But the great advantage that this. Bill presents over the block system is that under the latter men may be elected who do not represent a majority of the electors - men may be elected whom the majority of electors do not wish to represent them. For that reason the block system is undemocratic and unfair.
There is no question that the proportional system of voting for the Senate will break down to some extent, at least, the cast-iron party system which has demoralized that Chamber and has rendered it such that it has never, as the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has said, fulfilled, from its first inception, the functions for which it was created.. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has said, we came together under a proper system of Federation, with a House elected by the people of Australia, oh the basis of one man one vote, and with the Senate representing the States. When it is said that it is impossible to continue a system of Federation where a small State like Tasmania has the same representation in the Senate as the larger State, numerically and geographically, of New South Wales, they forget that in the United States of America, for considerably over a century, the small State of Rhode Island, with its handful ofpeople, has had the same representation in the Senate as the large State of New York. New York city alone has a larger population than the whole of. Australia, and yet New York State has only the same representation as Rhode Island.
For a Chamber such as our Senate; I have always held that proportional representation is the correct system. I was one of many others who distinctly pledged themselves to their constituents to vote for proportional representation. I make no charges, for men must be their own judges, as I have always been my own, politically. I take my own political conscience in my hands, and do what I think is right; and I cannot understand why men who have always been in favour of proportional representation do not try to get it when there is a chance; and the only chance that is presented is when an Electoral Bill is before the House. Some one has said that this amendment means a vote of want of confidence in the Government; but whoever heard of a vote of want of confidence on an Electoral
Bill ? How is. it that within the Senate itself this Bill has been very considerably altered ? The grouping system was in the Bill as a Cabinet proposal, and yet the Senate knocked it out.
– That was not a principleof the Bill.
– It was a very material principle, and I am glad the grouping system was rejected, because it would have more and more consolidated and solidified the party vote.
– The honorable member knows why we are supporting the Government on this Bill.
– I think the honorable member is supporting the Bill because he is afraid that if this amendment be inserted, the Senate will throw the measure out. Personally, I am quite satisfied that theSenate will do nothing of the kind; but that the Senate will simply put back into the Bill what we have taken out, and take out what we have put in, and leave this House to take responsibility for its actions.
– Why waste all that time for nothing?
– If the honorable member thinks it is nothing, I do not.
– It comes to nothing.
– I think the pledge that I and others gave, practically on every platform, to support proportional representation in the Senate, ought to bei honoured ; and I intend to honour it.
I should regret if the Bill were lost to us, because I regard it as immeasurably better than the block system, for the reasons I have given. But I do not think it right and fair - it is something that I have always rebelled against - that a man should be bludgeoned into voting against some measure in which he honestly believes. The Government, I think, have too much sense to attempt such a thing; but some honorable members seem to regard it as quite proper. They seem to think that the Government have only to say that some proposal is a test question, in order to make their supporters come to heel like poodles when the whip cracks. But the whip may crack as much as it likes, I shall not come to heel.
– You were the first to do so, and you are trading on our loyalty.
– I gave a pledge to the electors, and so did the honorable member.
– I did not.
– The honorable member over and over again- advocated and supported proportional representation. I am going to be loyal to the pledge I gave ; the honorable member may do as he likes. I knew nothing about this amendment.
– It is curious that you should have seconded it.
– I seconded it for two reasons - first, in order that a new member, on the first occasion of his submitting a proposal, should not see it go, in default of a seconder; second, because I conscientiously believe in keeping the pledge I gave to advocate the adoption of pronortional representation for the Senate. This is the first opportunity I have had of redeeming that pledge. Every man must be his own judge, and the keeper of his own political conscience. I have held that in a Senate such as ours, a Senate elected to represent States-
– You know very well that it is not, and that it is a party House right up to the hilt.
– From the inception it has never fulfilled the function for which it was created, and because I want to break down, as far as I can, that party system, and because I represent a small State, and am anxious to see the Senate fulfil the functions for which it was created I am advocating the adoption of proportional representation for the election of senators. It is a deadly menace to another place to have, as we recently had in it, one party with just over 50 per cent. of the electors of Australia securing thirtyone seats out of thirty-six.
– Is the honorable member anxious to see’ this Bill go into the waste-paper basket ?
– I want to see proportional representation in the Senate, and I want to see senators get another chance of reconsidering the matter.
– I wouid like to see the same thing myself, but I know it is impossible at this moment.
– That is not my fault, nor is it the fault of the House that the Bill is introduced at such a late portion of the session. It is not fair to the House, to the Senate, to the electoral system or to the people that such an important Bill should be brought in within a few hours of a prorogation, and for us to be expected to accept something in which we do not believe, and to be unable to advocate that which we were pledged to support. It would not be fair to honorable members if we were to adopt this system, generally, with important measures on which, honorable members hold very divergent views, having them brought in at the last hours of the session, and having this alternative submitted to us: - “There is a certain amount of reform in this Bill, but if you attempt to get all that you have pledged yourself to obtain you will lose the Bill with all the good that is contained in it.”
I see none of the objections urged against the measure from the other side. There will not be any confusion among the electors. In the State election for the Franklin district there were fifteen or sixteen candidates representing Liberals, Labour, Independents and mixed parties, but there was no confusion. The proportion of informal votes cast will_ bear comparison with those cast at elections under the old system. It is astonishing how quickly people adapt themselves to proportional and preferential voting systems. There is nothing complicated about them. Any difficulties in regard to the transfer of quotas or preferences do not affect the elector. He simply votes, and puts his paper in the box and there his responsibility ceases. By interjection I said that we had in charge of the electoral system some of the best men in the service of the Crown. We have a thoroughly competent electoral staff, and I have been assured that they would have no difficulty in working this system. With competent assistance they can do the counting In a reasonable time. The question is’ whether the proportional system of voting for the Senate is the best we can adopt. I think it is. Is it better than the system proposed in the Bill ? I think that the great majority of honorable members will agree that it is. That being the case, why cannot we give the Senate another chance? I believe, if we inserted proportional representation in the Bill and sent the measure back to the Senate, they would adopt it.
– The honorable member sannot believe that,after hearing what the senators have had to say about the matter.
– I believe that they would adopt proportional representation rather than accept the black vote system that now prevails. If they had their choice between accepting proportional representation . and throwing the Bill into the waste-paper basket, they would accept the reform. I know that there were only six senators, three on the National side and three on the Labour side, who voted for proportional voting when the matter was before the Senate; but I am convinced that if the Senate again had the choice between proportional representation and the continuance of the block system, they would accept the former rather than continue the antiquated system at present in force.
– I ask the honorable member not to continue that line of argument. It is quite out of order to Tefer to proceedings in another Chamber.
– When the interjection was made that if we sent this amendment to the Senate, the Bill ‘would be rejected, I felt called upon to give my reasons for not agreeing with that view. If the amendment were adopted, the Minister could make the necessary alt:ra- tions to the Bill within an hour.
– Does the honorable member think the Senate would agree to it after he has heard what they have said about the matter?
– Was it upstairs that senators expressed their opinion ?
– I can assure the honorable member that this system of voting was not fixed up at the party meeting. I recognise there is a distinct liability-
– The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– The opinions favoured by the majority of honorable members of this House are not universal throughout the Legislatures in other parts of the world; but I am convinced that, given the opportunity, some of those Legislatures would prefer proportional representation to the block system of voting. Therefore, I support the amendment.
.- I cannot conceive why there should be such an exhibition of feeling on the other side of the House because one or two honorable members seek to carry out their election pledges in an honest and straightforward way, and because the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), doing what he believes to be the right thing, and believing strongly in the adoption of a certain system of voting, although he sits on the Government side, is taking the only legitimate course he can to give that system the force of law. He has also taken an opportune time of moving in this direction. The M nister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) proposes a more complicated system of block voting. Under this Bill, the same purpose can be achieved as may be achieved under the present law. The honorable member for Echuca does not believe in the present system of b’ock voting, norin the proposal put forward by the Ministry. He has been quite recently in touch with the electors, and I take it that when he sought their suffrages he pronounced himself in favour of proportional voting for the Senate, and that he is taking the first opportunity of trying to redeem his pledge. The honorable member has proved himself to be a master mind in a great organization; but one would imagine, from the lectures given this afternoon that he was spineless enough to be pushed by a little brow-beating from some individual from Tasmania into withdrawing his amendment. The honorable member for Echuca, however, is not that class of man.
– Order! Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– If I have to decide between this mongrel measure and the amendment which provides for proportional voting I shall accord my support to the amendment.
– I never heard the honorable member support proportional voting in the Labour party Caucus.
– I do not think it was ever discussed there.
– It was scouted whenever suggested.
– I think the honorable member is playing with his imagination. I am led to understand that if an elector votes 1, 2, and 3 his second and third votes will be just as valuable as his No. 1 vote.
– What vote would the honorable member prefer - the No. 1, No. 2, or the No. 3 1
– I believe that the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 votes will be equally valuable - that those who secure them will be in the one boat, and that it will simply be a question of who shall be the first .to be declared elected.
– A party with a majority will secure the return of its three candidates for the Senate.
– Yea, I. believe that if the Labour party oan poll 55 per cent, of the votes recorded it will secure the return of all its candidates for. the Senate. If that be so, in what respect will this Bill make any alteration in the existing law, save that it will lead to an increase in the number of informal votes ? Instead of trying to give the electors the simplest and most complete method of recording their votes, the’ Government are here introducing a most complicated system. When, an elector enters a polling booth on 13th December next, he will have placed in his hands one ballot-paper in respect of the House of Representatives, one for the Senate, and two dealing with the two referendums in regard to the proposed .amendments of the Constitution. If there are five candidates for the one seat in the House of Representatives, the elector will have to vote according to his order of preference 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. He must vote for all five. In the case of the .Senate, there will be, at least, nine “candidates, but the elector will not be compelled to vote for more than seven of them. Having struggled through the Senate ballot-paper, making, no doubt, many mistakes in doing so, he will then have to negotiate the two referendum ballot-papers, and place a cross opposite the word “Yes” or the word “No “ according to the way in which he desires to vote. He will thus have to vote in three different ways oh the one day. Surely that is most undesirable. Even at this late hour the Government should provide that an elector may put the figure “ 1 “ opposite .the word “ Yes “ or “ No “ in respect of the proposed amendments of the Constitution. That, to some extent, would bring the system into line. . These varying systems of voting will tend only to contuse the electors, and I am certain that the party which subjects the people of this country at the present time to further worries will lose rather than gain votes.
– The honorable member has not shown how this .system will impose upon the electors more worries than would the proportional system, which he favours.
– It cannot be denied that this system has been introduced for a specific purpose. With the advent of a third party claiming representation in the Senate, the so-called Nationalists are somewhat afraid. They fear the outcome of -the . appeal to the electors, and hence we have this proposal. Why is it provided that an elector shall mot be required to record his preferences for more than seven candidates for the Senate, although there may be nine or twelve candidates. Has the figure 7 any peculiar charm ? ‘ I know that the Jews of . old attached much importance to it. but I did not know that it had any special significance in politics. The requirement that at least. seven preferences shall be recorded is designed merely to serve party political ends. The people, will not be slow to discover that fact. This can hardly be described as “gerrymandering.” since it applies to elections rather than to electorates; but wherever an attempt has been made to alter the electoral law for party political purposes the party responsible for that attempt has suffered.
I am going to vote for the amendment, in the hope that the Bill will be sent back to the Senate with amendments that will improve it, and which the Senate will accept. As it is, I am satisfied that the people will see in this Bill nothing but a party political move, and I am confident that the party which hopes, by means of this subterfuge, to secure an advantage will suffer at the polls.
.- It is a strange story which we have just had from the lips of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who complains that the Government are actually trying to bring in a measure that will insure that the party returned to power at the next general election shall repre- sent the majority of the people of Australia I What a dreadfully wicked thing to do! I am sure that we all sympathize with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), who has got himself into a difficulty. He finds that he may be forced to support a measure brought in by the Government. He says that he would prefer the proportional system of voting, but he would be sorry to see the Government proposal lost. He is, doubtless, sorry that he will have to vote with the Government, since I can scarcely recall an occasion when he did. We know that he has frequently voted against Ministerial proposals.
At this late hour I shall not discuss as I had intended to do the provisions of this Bill. I am not among those who, at the last general election, made any promises in regard to proportional voting. I do not remember that the question was raised, and as a loyal supporter of -the party with which I am associated, I am careful not to make promises which, under the present system of government, cannot be carried out unless a majority of the party to which a member belongs can be converted to his view. We have to search far and wide for an entirely new political idea. Most political ideas nowadays are threshed out in advance for us. This is a day of political organization, and political questions are as a rule thoroughly threshed out before they come before Parliament. Many experiments have been made in the States, and many systems of voting have been tried. In one State the contingent voting system has been given a trial, while preferential voting has been adopted in another State. In New South Wales the system of the second ballot has been tried, the object of it being to make sure that the successful candidate shall represent a majority. The people of New South Wales, however, have not been satisfied with the working of that system, and a- system of proportional voting is now proposed. When it is brought into operation it will probably be found to work, as in Tasmania, for the party system.
The press is constantly denouncing party government, and urging the adoption of the system of elective Ministries. But how are we to do without party government? A mistake is made in complaining, about the system. - There is no escape from it. The proportional system in theory is supposed to provide for the representation of minorities. It is believed that where any substantial body of people hold certain views they can by means of proportional voting secure representation in Parliament, but the theory does not work out in practice. Tasmania to-day has in its Parliament only two parties. The system so operated on two. or three different occasions that a deadlock was reached, and the Government of the country could not be carried on. As to the much talked-of system of elective Ministries, every one knows that the Minister who largely governs all legislation, and certainly controls all administration, is the Treasurer of the day. He in turn is governed by considerations of finance and taxation. What, then, is the use of talking of Ministries elected by the whole of the members of the Parliament ? If a Minister is a vigorous man with splendid ideas he cannot give effect to them without the consent of the Treasurer, who must find the money, and who in many cases declines to find it, because there are objections to further taxation.
The history of the great mother of Parliaments - the House of Commons - is well worth studying. The mother of Parliaments has been a long time at work, and its development has been along evolutionary lines. In the United Kingdom they have the Cabinet system of responsible government. Cabinet responsibility is recognised, the whole Cabinet going out if the Government is defeated. I do not think that system could be improved upon. We have to measure a scheme largely by the effect it produces. Proportional voting is a pretty theory, but it does not work well. We have three parties at the present time. There is also the temperance party, which, under a system of proportional representation, would attempt to secure representation in Parliament. If we had several parties in the Parliament, Government would be carried on by means of a series of compromises, arrangements, and honorable understandings.
– And “ log-rolling.”
– I will not apply any ugly name. When the people send their representatives into Parliament, they must carry on the government, and whatever difficulties present themselves must be got over by compromise and arrangement. We have had such things as coalitions, and it is well known- that one series of coalitions in Victoria killed political life in this State for years. I was president of a Reform and Protection League in 1877 in Graham Berry’s time, when Graham Berry swept the Conservatives out of office and did some vigorous work. Lateron came a coalition, followed by another, and the late Alfred Deakin admitted that he made one mistake in his political life when he entered into a coalition which killed political activity and political thought in Victoria. With a strong Government, such as we have in this Parliament, and a majority loyal to the Government, for loyalty is a necessity, and fighting a strong Opposition, we can do good work. But too much compromise, and coalition, and arrangement, spells weakness. You cannot depend upon a party that is united on some things and divided on others. There is a lack of vigour about it, and that is always a danger. I have never joined in all the talk about the evils of the party system or party government.
We are not justified in complaining about the Senate. We have been told that it has failed to carry out the intentions of the framers of the Constitution, but we must look for the reasons. When the Constitution was adopted, there was an idea that such things as State rights existed, but when we got to work nobody discovered any State rights. What is the use of abusing the Senate because they did not discover a lot of State rights to quarrel about? The Senate, like this House, has been engaged in considering the welfare of the people. I was one of those in New South Wales who took part in the opposition to the equal representation of the small States in the Senate, but it was agreed to. The members of the Senate are elected by the people, and they act for the people who send them there, and for the Commonwealth as a whole. There is no need for us to be sorry that State rights questions have not arisen. Questions involving the interests of the small States are very few, and it is lucky for Australia that we do not hear more of them. The Senate has carried out the work that a second Chamber is called on to do. The Government acted correctly jn introducing this measure in the Senate and we ought to pay attention to the opinions of the Senate regarding changes in its own electoral system. We should not care about the other Chamber drafting an electoral system for us. The Bill was not sprung on the Senate. The members of that bodv threshed it out, and it was known beforehand what their views were. This House ought to pass what the Senate has agreed to.
The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) who has moved the amendment in favour of proportional representation, must know that an individual member of Parliament cannot get his own way in everything, especially ifhe belongs to a party. He must consider the probable effect of his vote. ‘There are a few honorable members who seem to take an independent stand, and yetprofess that they belong to the party. Fortunatelv, there are not many of them. The honorable member for Echuca, who does not belong to the National party, hasa free hand, and no one can complain of his action. But those of us among the supporters’ of the Government who have had experience of parliamentary life know that after having our say we must stand loyally by the Government, because we have to consider the alternative. I shall not vote for anything that would put this Government out, and producea political crisis at this period, even if I believed in the principle. I have never been able to see a great deal in any of these proposals in their ultimate effect on the work of Parliament. I had my training in trade unions where after the majority decides the minority stands loyally by the decision of the majority. That is the kind of loyallythat a party must have if any vigorous work is to be done. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr.McWilliams) referred to what has happened in Tasmania, but I take a different view. The Labour party there has not been affected, and is not likely to be affected, by the proportional system. It selects its men, and takes care that no more than the required number of candidates stand. It has the trade unions at its back. They are continuous bodies, always organized, but the Liberal party or the National party have no such organized bodies behind them. They have to do their political organizing/ hence the talk of machine politics. They are not on the same footing, and that accounts for the fact that several Nationalists are running. Their machine is not. so well organized or so fullvrepresentative as the Labour party is ofthe workers on its side. After all, Parliament is fairly representative of the people, hut a method that will allow men to come in who only represent a minority is not a right one. “Whatever may he said for the proportional system of the representation of minorities, it is certain that the majority should be always represented.
Complaint has been made that the Senate has almost completely changed. That represents the change in the people who have- sent the members into the Senate. There is always a. swing of the pendulum. No Government gives entire satisfaction to the people, and ‘it is only in later years that we have had Governments lasting for two Parliaments. In New South Wales, before the Labour party kept Mr. Reid in office for five years, there were rapid changes of Government, because the people expected more from the Governments than Governments could possibly give them. After all, Parliament represents the feelings and opinions of the people, however clumsy the electoral system may be. All we need worry about is to secure electoral machinery that will give us the fullest expression of the will of the majority. Parliament itself, when elected, will find a way to carry on the business, but no Government can carry on unless it knows the views of those behind it, and has their loyal support. We want no weak Government in these times, with the problems we have to face and the burdens we have to carry. This is not a time for theoretical or experimental legislation. It is our duty to face unitedly the difficulties ahead of us. In the circumstances, I have no hesitation as to the way I shall cast my vote. Sometimes moves are made for party, reasons, or to put some one in a’ corner, or to test a situation. This amendment will be in no sense a test of the views of members, and is, therefore, not worth pressing. Members on this side who favour proportional representation will not be led away into voting for any-‘ thing that puts their own Government into a difficulty.- These things will nol? catch those who have been long enough in Parliament to see what they mean. I measure everything by its effects. I hope the amendment will riot be pressed, and that we shall pass the Bill, which simply brings the Senate electoral system into, line with that of the House of Representatives. It would be a great mistake to adopt the suggestion to put figures opposite the referendum proposals. There will be less likelihood of mistakes if the people are allowed to express their opinions on those subjects by means of the cross. There may be more mistakes made by electors in the voting for the Senate, if there are a large number of candidates, but that cannot be avoided. The electors generally are used to the preferential system, and I do not fear any difficulty. Anyhow, that is no reason for rejecting the proposal. It is our duty to give the people the fullest information, and coach them up in the new system. If we do that, there cannot be a very big percentage of mistakes, at any rate, after the first trial.
.-No question of proportional representation as a system is before the House. An amendment has been moved, which means, in effect, that the Bill should simply be blotted out, without the possibility of submitting anything in its place. The Bill provides for something which most of us believe is better than the existing system. For that reason, I am going to vote for the Bill. Another way of looking at the amendment is that it is really an intimation to the Government that they should have brought in a Bill embodying proportional representation. This Parliament has so nearly expired that it does not seem worth while for honorable members to intimate to the Government what they should have done in that direction. The country will have an opportunity of saying in a few weeks whether this should or should not have been done, and we shall not serve any good purpose by voting for an amendment which will sim ply do away with a proposal for an improvement on the existing system, and substitute nothing in its place.
.- My vote on this proposal does not necessarily indicate an indorsement of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Echuca. (Mr. Hill), but is a protest against what I consider a botch of an electoral measure.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Hill’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affimative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Application for a postal vote certificate, and postal ballot-paper).
. -The Minister (Mr. Glynn) stated by interjection that no person outside the State in which he lived would be allowed to give an absent vote for a Senate candidate. It is more difficult to send correspondence from certain parts of Queensland to other parts than it is to send from any part of New South Wales to Victoria, and I do not understand why it is necessary to absolutely prohibit absent voting by persons who. are outside the State in which they reside. A person resident in Albury may be in Victoria, just across the border, on polling day, and he will be unable to give an absent vote. Is it not possible to amend the clause in order to meet cases lite that? I do not intend to move an amendment to any Bill brought forward by the present Government. We on this side have tried to improve many Bills, but although our amendments have been rejected, the Government have later adopted some of our suggestions. I merely ask the Minister to give consideration to the amendment I have suggested.
.- Full consideration ha3 been given to this matter. We desired to promote expedition in the counting of the votes, and the only way was by the amendments which have been made. One of the amendments provides that, instead of having absent voting outside of the State in which the elector resides, postal voting, which is more expeditious, shall be substituted. Postal voting takes place after the nominations close, and the papers must be in the hands of the Returning Officer before the close of the poll; but absent voting takes place on polling day. Some absent votes might be recorded in a far off part of Queensland or Western Australia, and as the papers must be sent to the Returning Officer, we should have to wait until the last of those votes was received before the preferential scrutiny could beproceeded with. That would mean a great loss of time. The postal voting provisions have been amended,so that, if an elector is absent from his State, he will be able under this Bill to vote, although he may not be 10 miles distant froma polling place on the day of polling. The Electoral Act of 1918 provided that he must be 10 miles distant from a polling place on the date of polling before he could exercise a postal vote; but that distance limit is eliminated, so that every opportunity is given to an elector to utilize the postal-voting system.
– He can vote as an absentee for the House of Representatives, but not for the Senate.
– That is not so. The amendment is made to cover the elections for both Houses.
– But an absentee cannot vote outside a State in which he resides except by the postal vote.
– Practically all the absent voting takes place within theState. I have not the statistics for the last election, but I remember that of about 250,000 absent votes recorded in the preceding election, only about 15,000 were recorded outside the State of residence. Instead of the absent-voting provision, electors will get the advantage of the far greater facilities afforded by the postal vote.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Scrutiny of votes in Senate elections) .
.- The proviso to this clause seems to be in conflict with clause 7, which compels the elector to indicate the order of his preference from 1 to 7. It sets out that where there is a break in the consecutive numbering of preferences, only those preferences preceding the break shall be taken into account.
– Clause 7 amends section 123 of the principal Act by substituting a provision that the elector must preferentially mark at least seven names. Unless he does that, his vote is informal. Therefore this proviso, both as a matter of consistency and as a matter of literary expression, means that the break in the consecutive numbering of preferences can only occur after the seventh number. There must be no break up to 7 in the case of three vacancies, or up to 13 in the case of six vacancies. If there is any break in the numbering of preferences beyond the seventh or thirteenth, as the case may be, this proviso applies.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Form of Ballot-paper for Senate Elections).
– I suggest that there be restored to the Bill the original provision in regard to grouping the names of candidates. With the number of candidates that are eertain to be nominated in some of the States, the provision for the accommodation of the voters will have to be doubled or trebled in order to enable the votes to be recorded under the system proposed in the Bill. The original proposal was for such grouping as would enable the voter readily to ascertain where the party names were, and record his vote with facility. That has been taken out of the Bill, and the difficulties of the voter have, in my opinion, been increased fourfold. I am pretty familiar with systems of voting, but I am quite certain that to pick out seven names from the lists submitted in any of the States would involve, to myself at least, thrice the amount of time that I should have to devote to the matter if the candidates were grouped. The object we should have in view is the simplification of the work of the elector in the polling booth, but the system proposed in the Bill places on him a heavy responsibility, creates confusion, involves con siderable waste of time, and a great deal of unnecessary expense in providing elaborate arrangements in the polling booths. These are times of economy and we have no right to increase the cost of taking the ballot. The objection has been urged that the grouping system accentuates the party system, but that objection is too childish for consideration. To say that ah elector will be influenced according to whether the candidates’ are grouped or not, is to credit him with small intelligence, and certainly with no political predilections. When an elector enters the polling booth, he desires to vote for the candidates he has already selected, and the easier that is made for him the better for the accurate registration of votes. Unless my suggestion is acted upon, therewill be an immense increase in the number of informal votes. Notwithstanding what the newspapers and a small section of politicians may say, the great majority of electors will vote the clean! party ticket. It is this that they desire to do, and it is no business of this Parliament to put obstacles in their way. I hope the Government, even at this hour, will reconsider the matter.
.- The original draft of the Bill did include the grouping system, which was a new one, and could be very simply worked in the interests of those to whom the honorable member has referred; but in another place the provision, after full discussion, was rejected; that is, it had to be withdrawn because of the strong feeling against it. I inquired into this matter myself, and was told that there was a majority against the idea, and was also informed as to some of the reasons for the opposition. In the circumstances, we shall have to leave the Bill as it is. I do not think that the grouping system would work so badly as some suppose, because in the Sligo election, which I mentioned, with sixteen candidates, it seems to have been exercised most intelligently.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senatewithout amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to ratify an agreement for the variation, of the agreement for the surrender and acceptance of the Northern Territory, and to amend the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1010.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave he given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to certain legal proceedings.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-Can the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) inform the House as to the dates of the dissolution, the issue of the writs, and the day of nomination? It is the date of the issue of the writs about which i am most anxious, for after that date no names can be placed on the rolls. Of course, people should be on the rolls at all times, and we should not hold out the advantage of enrolling before a certain date, but there are soldiers returning from abroad, and although those who are under twenty-one years of age can vote under a special form, they should be given the opportunity of doing so by being informed of the last date at which they can get on the roll, namely, the date of the issue of the writ.
.- i understand that electoral officials in the various States have had no notification that there is to be an election, and are not able to make a public statement as to the last day upon which persons may enroll.
– They cannot do so until they know the date of the issue of the writ.
– The Government know the date of nomination and the date of the poll, and no doubt by this time they know the date on which the writ will be issued. I would like the Minister (Mr. Glynn) also to take notice of the fact that there is a shortage of enrolment cards at various post-offices and electoral offices in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
– I may know; but I cannot tell the date of the dissolution, because in ordinary constitutional etiquette, that is a matter for the Governor- General to decide. However, as Parliament is to some extent carried on by inference, we may infer that the issue of the writ will be on the 3rd November. I could notsay this definitely before, although I practically knew that it ought to be on that date. If the amendments of the Constitution had been delayed too long, possibly we would have had to alter it ; but that difficulty has been overcome. The date of nomination will be the 14th November, and the date of election the 13th December.
– The date of the dissolution will be before the issue of the writ’.
– Of course. It will probably be very close to it; but that is problematical. I advise the honorable member not to be too nervous, and to remember what Shakspeare says in “The Tempest.” I hope the remaining words will not be too true as applied to the honorable member -
And like the baseless fabric of this vision . . .
Leave not a rack behind.
In regard to the lack of claim cards. I cannot follow up every assertion that they are required, but I know from continuous inquiry as to the working of the system that they have been sent out, and that every place has been supplied with, them. If there are offices which are not fully supplied, the honorable member may rest assured that they are very few indeed. After the issue of the writ applications for enrolment are not received, but any application that has been made previous to the issue of the writ may be recorded, even although it is received after the date of the issue of the writ. The Returning Officers have been apprised that an election will be coming on soon-. They may not have been told the necessary date; but the necessary preparations have been made. As a matter of fact, before it was decided to hold an election the (possibility that one would be held was looked into by the Department. I think that waa the answer I made in reply to the first question raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191021_reps_7_90/>.