8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation prepared to contradict a statement which has been published that there are considerable arrears in respect of the repayments of moneys due to the Department under the War Service Homes Act?
– One of the most pleasing features of the War Service Homes Department is that the arrears of repayments are exceedingly small. I think I am right in saying that, at the end of July last, they were only 4.4 per cent.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen a report just issued by Captain Davis in regard to the recently established radio station at Willis Island? If not, will he peruse it. and give effect to the recommendations made therein as to the management and requirements of the station?
– I shall have inquiries made; and if the facts are as the honorable member says, the Government will give immediate consideration to them.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Federal guarantee of 3s. per bushel for wheat includes handling charges, freight, &c., or whether the handling charges are to be added, making a total of 3s. 8d. per bushel?
– I am afraid I cannot answer the question without reference to last season’s agreement, and also to Sir Denison Miller, in whose hands this matter has been left. Broadly speaking, the intention is to make an arrangement with respect to handling charges and freights similar, for all practical purposes, to that which existed last year in New South Wales and South Australia. We did not have an arrangement last year with the other States. I ask the honorable member to allow the matter to stand over, and I shall endeavour1 to give him an answer on Wednesday next. In any event, I shall supply him with an answer as soon as possible, since the matter is of importance.
– Can the Minister for Works and Railways supply the House with information as to any contracts for buildings at Canberra that have recently been let by his Department?
– The Department yesterday, I think, accepted a tender for the erection of a public school at Canberra. We have also made satisfactory arrangements for the construction of twenty cottages. Tenders for their erection were invited by advertisement, but no satisfactory tenders were received.
Mr.BURCHELL (for Mr. Chanter) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whattowns in the electorate of Riverina, are now receiving weather reports from the Meteorological Department?
To what towns previously receiving reports, within the electorate, have such reports been discontinued?
What are the reasons for such discontinuance ?
What was the annual cost on the whole of sending these weather reports previously?
What is the estimated saving in the discontinuance of thesereports?
Will the saving effected compensate for the probable loss of life and property that may ensue to all classes of settlers caused by prompt information being withheld?
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Oldham, A. B. Lang, and R. H. Lawson, the Distribution Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the House of Representatives on the 30th day of August, 1922, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted.
It willbe within the knowledge of honorable members that the first report presented by the Commissioners for redistributing the State of Victoria into electoral divisions was submitted on 28th July last, and that a resolution was passed by the House disapproving of their proposals. The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), in pursuance of section 24, sub-section 2, of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, accordingly referred the matter hack to the Commissioners in the following terms: -
Whereas the House of Representatives did, on the 28th day of July, 1922, pass a resolution disapproving of the proposed distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions, I hereby, in accordance with the provisions of section 24 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, direct the Distribution Commissioners, Messrs, Ryton Campbell Oldham, Alexander Bruce Long, and Robert Hazelwood Lawson, to propose a fresh distribution of the State into electoral divisions.
The whole scheme was thus referred back’ to the Commissioners for independent investigation and reconsideration. The general trend of the debate in this House on the first distribution scheme was that more consideration should have been given to the country districts. In that scheme the Commissioners divided the State into eleven metropolitan and nine extrametropolitan electorates. In the new scheme they have divided it into ten metropolitan and ten extra-metropolitan divisions. The report, no doubt, has been carefully studied by honorable members, so that I need not go into it in detail. The Commissioners state in it that -
Although no express direction has beenconveyed to us by the resolution of disapproval passed by the House of Representatives, it is gathered from the parliamentary report for- warded by the Minister . for our perusal, and to which we feel it incumbent upon us to have regard in framing fresh proposals, that the House desires that Parliament shall have an opportunity of considering a redistribution which affords greater representation to what is known as the extra-metropolitan area than that originally proposed, but which involves a departure from the quota to a much greater extent than was considered by us to be necessary or desirable when framing our former report.
In framing their new proposals the Commissioners have excluded from the metropolitan area “ the subdivisions of Ivanhoe and Heidelberg from the electorate of Bourke; Mentone from the division of Henty; Box Hill, Doncaster, Mitcham, and part of Surrey Hills from Kooyong; and’ some small areas from the division of Maribyrnong, which have been absorbed in the divisions of Minders and Corio. The electoral population of the subdivisions which have been so excluded from the metropolitan area totals 18,438. The reduced metropolitan area, under these new proposals, contains 453,979 electors, while the enlarged extrametropolitan area comprises 401,805 electors. As a result of these alterations, and by using the marginal allowance to a greater extent than in their first proposals, the Commissioners have been enabled to submit a scheme for the constitution of ten metropolitan and ten extrametropolitan divisions. This, however, has involved a very considerable departure, amounting to an average of 5,217 electors per division, from a uniform quota; but the Commissioners have kept within the marginal permissible allowance. The ten proposed metropolitan divisions will have an average quota of 45,397, and the ten extra-metropolitan divisions 40,180 electors. The greatest range between the electoral populations of the divisions amounts to 9,588, which is the difference between the divisions of Indi, with 38,071 electors, and Melbourne, with 47,659 electors.
I need hardly remind honorable members of the necessity for a redistribution of the State of Victoria.. In the first place it is necessary owing to the alteration of the number of representatives to which the State is entitled, and secondly owing to the great disproportion between the number of electors in the several divisions; for example, under the existing distribution there are 67,452 electors in Henty, while the electorate of Grampians contains only 29,458. The new distribution proposal carries out the desire expressed by a number of honorable members that greater representation should be given to the extra-metropolitan areas than was originally proposed. The result is that every one of the metropolitan electorates is now above the average quota of 42,789. The margin of allowance in excess of $6. qmpta._so._fj ar _as they are concerned, has been exercised to a very great extent. The maximum permissible number of electors is 51,346, and the minimum 34,232; but, as a matter of fact, the quota has been exceeded by 4,844 in the case of the division of Yarra, by 4,621 in Melbourne Ports, and by 4,870 in the electorate of Melbourne. Not one metropolitan constituency is under the quota, whereas every extrametropolitan constituency is under the quota. The quota is 42,789, and Indi is 4,71S, Wimmera 3,462, and Corangamite 3,645 below the quota. Remembering the provisions of section 25 of the Electoral Act, which, of course, allows a certain variation above or below the quota, and also provides that, in certain circumstances, that is, whenever in one-fourth of the Divisions of the State the number of the electors differs from a quota ascertained in the manner provided in Part III. of the Act to a greater extent than one fifth more or one-fifth less, a redistribution shall take place, it will be seen that the Commissioners have allowed great weight to what has been said in this House, and have tried to give effect to the wishes of honorable members. I mention that to indicate the extent to which the Commissioners have attempted to give effect to the desire for better country representation. In their- first’ report they paid regard to that provision of the Act, and it was one of the things which influenced them in making their previous recommendation. The object of the Electoral Act is to have an independent investigation by Commissioners, but, of course, there is always a power reserved to the House to send back the report if honorable members think that there are sufficiently strong grounds for so doing. The Commissioners’ first report was sent back. They have given due weight to the representations made in this House during the discussion- on . the first redistribution, and as an independent body have now submitted this further report to the House. Having investigated the matter twice, having considered every possible objection that could be raised to the first distribution, and every possible point of view that could be stated, theCommissioners have sought to meet the wishes of the House, and in those circumstances I have every confidence in askingthe House to approve of
– I have no hesitation in saying that if this motion be carried to-day, as we are threatened it shall be, such action will spread dismay into the hearts, not only of the people of Victoria, but of all people in the Commonwealth who have hitherto believed that, in the matter of parliamentary representation’, they could depend upon receiving justice from this House. I read this morning in one of the newspapers, in which we are accustomed to see full and accurate reports of the discussions which take place in the party room upstairs, a statement that probably the “ gag “ will be applied if an attempt is made to extend this debate over the week-end. I do not know whether or not that report is accurate, but I ask the Attorney-General now if there is any truth in it. If, in the performance of their duty to the people, members of the House find that the few hours of to-day’s sitting are inadequate to debate this proposal, is the House to be “ gagged”? The AttorneyGeneral does not answer; does his silence give consent ? When the House is asked by the Government to carry such a motion as this, it is proper for us to consider the constitutional aspect. I invite honorable members to refresh their minds by reference to the debates which took place at the Federal Conventions. The House has been told that any proposal to alter the basis of the quota by which these calculations and redistribution were made would be unconstitutional. The AttorneyGeneral has so stated in this House.
– No. I was criticising a particular scheme that had been submitted to the House, and was not making a general statement.
– Did not the AttorneyGeneral say that the Constitution and the Representation Act provided that the number of people in the Commonwealth must be divided by seventy-two in order to arrive at the quota?
– The AttorneyGeneral has told the House that the Constitution makes it impossible for the quota to be altered.
-He is quite wrong.
– Of course he is, and he must have known he was wrong five minutes after he made the statement.
– Even when he made it, perhaps.
– No; I will not lay that charge against him. When in the future the history of this Parliament is written there will be many serious discussions as to the means by which on this occasion one member was filched from Victoria, but I do believe that the Attorney-General was sincere when he made his statement on the 26th July.
– What is the good of sincerity if it does not give us what we want ?
– I cannot understand why the Attorney-General did not immediately amend his statement, and put the true position before the House. If I could only persuade him to again read the Constitution on this point he would be the first to admit that it is not the Constitution which provides that the quota shall be ascertained by dividing the population of Victoria by seventy-two. I suppose, however, I must agree with the interjection of the Honorary Minister (Mr. Lamond) that it is too much to expect the Attorney-General to read the Constitution, and I accept the Honorary Minister as an authority upon the state of mind of his colleagues as regards that instrument. Honorable members were probably under the impression that it is the Constitution which prescribes the method of arriving at the quota, but that method is laid down in the Representation Act of 1905 - a fantastical and unsound method which cannot now be justified by any careful investigator, or by any reasonable assembly.
– The method is mentioned in the Constitution.
– I shall relate to honorable members the means by which this provision was inserted in the Representation Act. It is this hopelessly unsound method which, when applied to the figures of last census, will unjustly deprive Victoria, of a .member if this motion be carried. It is rather interesting to read what was said in justification of the insertion of that section in the Act.
– In any case, this method is prescribed only until Parliament otherwise provides.
– That is quite true, and there is more than that to be said. Section 24 of the Constitution does not substantiate the Attorney-General’s statement in this House. The House was mislead by an honest mistake of the Minister, and by a majority of. one an amendment proposed from this corner of the House was rejected. The history of how that majority was obtained will be read with great interest. I was not present on the occasion, Jb lit I understand “_there was a sound of revelry by night.”
– The revelry was in the Melbourne Town Hall, where the Lord Mayor was giving a ball. The devilry was in this House.
– Now the honorable member is talking of what he knows something about.
– In talking about the Constitution, I am’ speaking of something that I know. I challenge the AttorneyGeneral
– Hear, hear ! in the Grampians; or, better still, in an 8-foot ring.
– Anyhow, no fairer judges than my constituents could be found in all the world. But I challenge the Attorney-General to meet me on the floor of the public hall, even in his own home town of Toowoomba, and to publicly state that- the Constitution lays it down that any proposal to alter the quota would be unconstitutional. I shall deal no further with the incident which is involved -in the “ sounds of revelry by night “ at the Lord Mayor’s ball.
Mr. Laird Smith interjecting,
– The honorable member for Denison tells me that I need the’ trained mind of a legal man if I am to understand the Constitution. When I want to consult the highest intelligence in Australia, I shall turn unhesitatingly to the honorable member for Denison. It is true that I am not a lawyer by profession, but, at all events, I am able to read the English language.
– That is an advantage !
– No doubt; and since the honorable member for Illawarra has been attached to the Ministry I am sure that he has often wished there were honorable members who could not read the English language. Section 24 of the Constitution states -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
I shall presently deal with what the late Sir Edmund Barton and others said with regard to the matter of “ twice the number of the senators.” I desire now, however, to- call particular attention to the next portion of the section, which reads. -
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of the people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides
That latter phrase, viz., “until the Parliament otherwise provides,” has been so far overlooked by those who have spoken on behalf of the Government. The section proceeds - be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner: -
It is clear, then, that this method of arriving at the quota was only tentative and) experimental. Indeed, it is expressly stated in the Constitution that it was only “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” In the Representation Act 1905 Parliament provided that this method of ascertaining the quota should be adopted; but a law which Parliament passed in 1905 may be amended, or repealed, in 1922. It was the plain duty of the Government, before referring this subject-matter to the Redistribution Commissioners, to examine all the circumstances surrounding the method of arriving at the quota. The Government should have ascertained if the method was in accordance with the principles of justice and of modern enlightenment, and, if they were convinced that it was not so, it was their duty to amend the Act. However, the Government failed to take that course, and they are now endeavouring to push this scheme- through Parliament. They should know now that it is entirely apposed to those claims for justice to which all the people of Australia are entitled.
– The method was designed by those who framed the Constitution.
– Yes, but only tentatively. I propose to read what those men said about it.
– Its operation amounts to a gross outrage on this State.
– That is so, and the outrage is one which may. be perpetrated upon every other State if the Act is not amended. It is to the whole of the people of Australia, and not merely to the electors of Victoria, that I now appeal.
I shall now deal with another question, namely, the limitation of the number of members of this House. It has been stated and repeated ad nauseam by people who will not trouble to read the Constitution or study the debates of the Constitution Convention, that there can be no increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives beyond seventy-five. The reason given is that the Constitution says something about the numbers being as nearly as practicable twice the total of the number of members of the Senate. Also, it has been said that the method of ascertaining the quota must not be touched because it is laid down in the Constitution. I have before me a volume containing the official reports of the debates at the Adelaide session of the Convention, in 1897.
– Will the honorable member read the whole of it?
– I do not propose to do so, although I am sure that the Honorary Minister is thirsting for information, and would willingly listen to me. If the Attorney-General will not again read the Federal Constitution, perhaps, as a personal favour to myself ,he will refresh his mind by perusing the Convention Debates. At Adelaide, Sir Edmund Barton explained why it was proposed to divide the population by twice the number of senators. I shall quote his precise words as a reply to those who consider there is something sacrosanct in the number 75, although it is obvious that, if the number 72 was constitutionally unalterable, we have had three too many members of the House of Representatives during the past twenty-one years. This is what Sir Edmund Barton said on 12th April, 1897, when referring to the number of members of the House of Representatives -
The provision is that it (the number) should be as nearly as practicable two to one. Of course, there may be cases in which there will be a slight preponderance in favour of the House of Representatives; but cases of that kind- cannot be avoided. (Vide Convention Debates, page 437.)
SirEdmund Barton then proceeded to refer to the report of the Constitutional Committee of the Convention. He said -
There are further provisions, however, with reference to this question, as, for ‘instance, that: “ Subject to the provisions of the Constitution the number of the House of Representatives may, from time to time, be increased or . diminished by the Parliament.”
There is no justification, then, for the absurd view that the number of the members of this House is limited by the Constitution to its present total of seventy-five.
– Is there no qualification?
– Yes, there are qualifications, and they are so striking that they strengthen my case; which will surprise those honorable members who seem determined to perpetrate injustice upon Victoria. Commenting upon the extract already quoted from the report of the Constitutional Committee, Sir Edmund Barton proceeded -
That may be done because of a great increase in population, and if it is done, it will be subject to this accompaniment: - Supposing that twelve members required to be added to the Parliament of the Commonwealth . . .
That is what the Convention provided for. It was not a question of increasing the total of seventy -two by three or four. Sir Edmund Barton continued - it will then be necessary that half that number, as nearly as may be, should be added to the Senate, so that the proportion of two to one may be observed.
Mr. Hector Lamond interjecting,
– The Honorary Minister is jeering. Before many months are over he may have no cause to jeer at me. I can endure the jeers of the Minister. He may have cause to regret his insulting behaviour.
It is clear from his remarks that Sir Edmund Barton saw that, owing to increase in population, there could be, quite fairly and constitutionally, an ad- dition to the number of members of the House of Representatives to a larger extent than four or five before an increase in the number of senators might become necessary.
Mr. Hector Lamond interjecting,
– I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to protect me from the insults of the Honorary Minister.
-Order! I ask honorable members not to interject, and I again ask the honorable member for Grampians to ignore interjections. If he does so, they will not be recorded, and his remarks will take that connected sequence in the records which, no doubt, he desires.
Mr. Hector Lamond. - I wish to explain that I was not interjecting to the honorable member for Grampians, but was addressing a remark to the AttorneyGeneral.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection; but I can quite understand jeers coming from a member of the Ministry.
– Order ! Will the honorable member please proceed with his speech.
– I propose to do so.
– The honorable member is not speaking to the question before the Chair. The interrogative form of speech often directly invites replies by interjection, and involves personal arguments and retorts to which exception is then taken. If the honorable member will keep to the question he will avoid all this trouble.’
– Is the honorable member not entitled to make his speech in his own way without being interrupted by Mr. Speaker?
– Certainly not, if he contravenes the rules of debate. That is a reflection ‘on the Chair. It is the bounden duty of the Speaker to call attention to the fact when an honorable member is wandering from the point, especially when that honorable member complains of interjections caused by his own non-observance of the rules of the House in the course of his speech.
– I understand that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has just asked, “ Is the honorable member for Grampians finished?” I can assure the honorable member that I have not finished.
– Order !
– I did not say that.
– Then I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– The honorable member cannot- proceed with his speech if there are constant interruptions. It is curious that the tendency to disorder appears to be more marked on Friday mornings than at other times.
– I desire to emphasize the fact that the late Sir Edmund Barton, during the Adelaide Convention debates, considered that he had expressly provided, as did also the members of the Convention generally, for an increase in the number of members of this House far beyond seventy-two or seventy-five. Yet members of this House, including Ministers, who expect to be listened to, and imagine that their views will be respected, contend that the Constitution prevents our increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives by one more, namely, from seventy-five to seventy-six. That is a fair specimen of the kind of arguments which were handed out to this House when the vote was taken on a previous occasion.
Now I return to the question of the quota. Those who support the Government measure for taking away a m ember from Victoria - for that is what it amounts to- - assert that the quota by which the number of the population has to be divided, namely seventy-two, is laid down by the Constitution and cannot be altered except by its amendment. Investigation will prove, however, that their view is quite wrong. During the last few days I have enjoyed the pleasure of reading the debates when the Constitution was framed, and to this House I quote with confidence the words of the father of the Constitution, the late Sir Edmund Barton, and I would remind honorable members that the men who took part in that Convention were statesmen, to whom might be applied the lines of Tennyson -
And statesmen at her council met Who knew the seasons when to take Occasion by the hand, and make The bounds of freedom wider yet.
Those men were statesmen who considered, matters; they did not jeer at those who stood up for the rights of the people of one State, and in so doing stood for the rights of the people of all the States of Australia. Of course, I know that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is deeply interested in the question - very deeply interested, indeed.
– He voted with us last time!
– He did, and in spite of everything that happened yesterday I think that we shall find him supporting us again. I wish to explain very briefly that it is the adoption qf seventy-two as the quota that is responsible for this great disaster to the people of Australia; because a disaster to -the people of one State or an injustice imposed on the people of one State by any Government is a disaster to the whole, and becomes a danger to Federation. Now, there was not the remotest intention on the part of the late Sir Edmund Barton that the quota of seventy-two - but I observe that the Minister (Mr. Groom) seems otherwise engaged. I am accustomed to Ministers not listening to remarks that I may make.
– Will the honorable member proceed with his speech ?
– I am endeavouring to do so, but I do ask for the attention of the Ministers.
– The honorable member is frequently departing from the question before the Chair. I ask the honorable member to address himself to the question.
– I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that you have entirely misunderstood my attitude and desire; I wish to conduct the debate on the very highest level and as amicably as possible. But there are matters which must be put before the people of Australia before this motion is carried. The method of arriving at seventy-two as the quota is entirely responsible for Victoria being unjustly deprived of a member. It is a method which has not stood the test of experience, and I ask honorable members to consider what the late Sir Edmund Barton said on this point when he introduced it. In the Adelaide Convention Debates (page 703), the late Sir Edmund Barton is reported as saying -
On the other hand, the ascertainment of the quota is a mere method. It is therefore an appropriate thing to put in the collocation of words, “ until Parliament otherwise provides.”
And the collocation of words which were put in have been absolutely ignored by those who supported the Government in their view that the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was Unconstitutional.
– The late Sir Edmund Barton said, just before the words the honorable member quoted -
The principle is that the House shall be in the proportion of two to one - that is a proper thing to lay down in your Constitution - and to require a referendum to alter it.
– As a guide; not a maxim.
– As a principle.
– Not as’ a principle. I refer the Attorney-General to the quotation I have already made from Sir Edmund Barton (Convention Debates, page 436)-
Supposing that twelve members required to be added to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, it will then be necessary that half that number, as nearly as may be, shall be added to the Senate, so that the proportion of two to one may be observed.
That clearly shows that in the mind of the Convention was the possibility of eleven members being added before the addition of any member to the Senate. That, I think, completely answers the interjection of the Attorney-General. The late Sir Edmund Barton, in his speech of 15th April, 1897, said, regarding the quota -
On the other hand, the ascertainment of the quota is ti mere .method. It is,* therefore, an appropriate thing to put in this collocation of words - “ until Parliament otherwise provides,” because there may he something better devised than this quota, although the ingenuity of my honorable friends over there has not devised anything better.
My own study of this portion of the Constitution has convinced, me that Sir Edmund Barton was one of those great thinkers foreseen by Milton when he said -
Till old experience do attain
To something like prophetic strain.
This is, I think, clearly shown when he said, “ because there may be something better devised than this quota.”
Although this quota has now been shown to be a hopelessly wrong method of arriving at the number by which the population shall be divided, it was probably the only method known to members of the Convention at that time. It was the method of dividing the number of electors or population by the number of members to be elected; and I repeat that, since then, it has been proved to be hopelessly wrong. The correct method is the one suggested by my honorable friend (Dr. Earle Page). That is the method adopted practically by almost every civilized country in the world at the present’ time. There is hardly one country which, in some form or other, does not adopt proportional representation, and the quota in all those countries is arrived at, not by dividing the number of members into the number of electors, but dividing the number of electors by the number of candidates, plus one, and adding one to the result. That is recognised by civilized countries in the world to-day as the only correct method; and I propose, by a simple illustration, to show the absolute absurdity of applying the quota laid down in the Representation Act of 1905, a quota which was .placed in the Constitution to be corrected when Parliament choose to correct it. If one member has to be returned by 100 voters, what is the formula by which to arrive at the quota? I suppose most people would answer by saying that if one man obtained fifty-one votes he would be returned, and the answer is quite correct. Is that quota arrived at by dividing the number of members to be returned into the number of electors? If so, 100 would be divided by 1, and that would mean that nobody would be elected unless he got every vote.
– How many members do you say have to be returned?
– If seventy-two are to be returned, then the quota is to be arrived at by dividing the population by seventy-two, plus one.
– The number of members required by the Constitution is seventytwo.
– Then what is the number? In the illustration you gave, one man is to be elected, plus one; how many have to be elected under the Constitution ?
– The Constitution does not provide the fixed number; that is the point which the Minister cannot see. However, if I am to be thus interrupted in the course of my speech, I think I shall have reasonable grounds for asking for an extension of time. At the present time, I regret to say there is only one Minister in the House.
– You have driven the others out!
– The others evidently could not control their savage dispositions this morning, and have thought it ‘better to leave, and their absence, when the fate of the whole of the people of Victoria is to be decided, is a matter to which I feel it my duty to call attention.
– The honorable member was hot here when the former distribution was under consideration.
– No; I was absent endeavouring to do my duty to the whole of the primary producers’ of Australia. Does the Minister suggest that* I was wrong to take the steps iu England that I did?
– Order !
– I apologize. A moment ago the Minister asked me a very proper question, and I have shown that if one member is to be elected by 100 electors, it is the height of absurdity to divide the 100 by 1. The only sound method is to divide the number of electors by the number of members plus 1, and then add one to the result. Thus, in the case of 100 electors returning one member the quota is 51, and the principle is the same if the number of members to be elected is 72, in which case the number to divide by would be 73. It is the only method adopted with the exception of this House by Parliaments of the civilized countries of the world, and it is perfectly clear that the late Sir Edmund Barton, at the Adelaide Convention, never intended that the practice of dividing the population of Australia by 72 should be anything but a tentative and experimental arrangement.
– The Constitution says so.
– Yes; and the late Sir Edmund Barton said -the same in explaining the provision of the Constitution dealing with the matter. Nevertheless, in 1905, this Parliament passed the Representation Act without giving any consideration whatever to this phase of the question. I have read every word of the debates upon the measure in this House, and in the Senate, but nothing -was said upon this subject. The clause inserted in tn© Bill upon which the Attorney-General relies was’ hopelessly wrong in principle. It may not have shown itself at that stage to be so exceedingly injurious and unjust as it has since proved to be, but nothing could make it a sound method of arriving at the quota on which to dis-r tribute the number of members to be elected to this House fairly and justly among the population of Australia. Quite unconsciously, and without knowing what it was doing, this Parliament, in 1905, adopted an unsound basis of distribution.
– There was no system of proportional representation in force in Australia at the time.
– That is so, and the Droop system, the soundest of all, was not generally known. There might have ‘been some excuse for the attitude of Parliament at that time, but there is no excuse to-day for the attitude of the Government in ignoring the gross injustice of the position forced upon the Distribution Commissioners ‘by the Representation Act. of 1905. From the moment this injustice was so ably pointed out by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), on the 26th July last, it became absolutely the duty of Ministers to take immediate steps to bring in a. Bill to amend that Act. Ministers can do things very hurriedly if they choose. They can pass legislation through both Houses very speedily. They have been asked to do something in this matter, but have declined to take action.. Upon their heads will fall the judgment of the people of Australia, not only iri Victoria, when the electors realize the gross injustice which has been done by niching away from Victoria a seat to which, according to the latest population returns, and everything that can be fairly taken into consideration, the State is justly entitled. I am here now to make my protest, and to appeal at the last moment, when the sands are running out, to the Government to consider the advisability of withdrawing the Victorian distribution for a few days until they can peruse the Constitution and the debates to which I have already referred. But we are told that it is not a matter for the consideration of the Government.
Surely a question of such prime importance should be a’ matter for the consideration of Ministers. Lf they persist in carrying out this unjust distribution, they will be marked for all time as the Government which, after being warned of the evil they were doing, without the shadow of justification deprived the people of Victoria of a seat in this Parliament, to which, by the number of its population, and upon every other ground,, it was justly entitled.
.- I am not- prepared to vote against the motion, although I think there is a great deal of weight in the arguments used by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). It. is a pity in one way that the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has seen fit, in view of the state of public business, to submit the motion to-day. Speaking frankly, as one who has endeavoured to understand the second scheme for the distribution of Victoria, I say that it is very hard for any member of the Victorian section of this Parliament to say whether it is a good or bad scheme. We have not had time to deal with it properly. But broadly and largely, if we are called upon to register a vote to-day,. I say it is a better distribution than- its predecessor, not in so far as it effects individual members, but mainly because it gives a fairer chance of more liberal representation to the country districts. The 10-10 scheme, if I may refer to it as such, embodied in the Commissioners’ recommendations is a long way morejustifiable than the 11-9 scheme, which gave eleven seats to the metropolitanarea as against nine to the country districts ; and when I have said that, I havenot finished. With regard to the individual element, of the scheme, the metropolitan area, to those of us who have .endeavoured to familiarize ourselves withit, provides a more homogeneous arrangement of electoral boundaries than was the case iin the original distribution. It may not suit parties. It makes more rigid therepresentation of the metropolitan area. It’ broadly says, if it be approved, that while the same class of thought goes on in the ten- constituencies of the metropolitan area as now exists, six of theseseats will send representatives of Labour to, this House, and four will send members who are against Labour, who may be described as Nationalists or Liberals. The- distribution makes the representation of the metropolitan area more rigid ; hut. broadly, it is a better arrangement than its predecessor. I am prepared to approve of it, although I think that when subsequent alterations . are suggested, and other Commission’s do their work, they will probably make radical alterations in the lines surrounding the country constituencies. I speak now with some deference in the presence of Victorian country representatives ; but, as one who has travelled a good deal about, this State during the last twenty-five years, 3 think it will be found that, by altering the lines of distribution to east and west instead of north and south, a more homogeneous set of constituencies could be arrived at. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) knows the trouble he has to reach from the Mallee fringe to Portland, 200 miles away; and also how he sees, as he proceeds south, the wheat country yielding place to wool, dairying, and potato lands. If his constituency ran east and west, he would get a more defensible and understandable electorate right through to the South Australian border.
– And one in which better use could be made of the railway system.
– It is too late now to suggest alterations of the kind. The Commissioners have done their work with considerable ability and fidelity to the wishes expressed in the House ; so that, apart from the argument of the honorable member for Grampians, I am prepared, if the Government think it necessary to act quickly, to vote for the motion.
-. - Why quickly?
– The honorable member knows that it will take some time to prepare the electoral rolls.
– Does the honorable member anticipate an election ?
– I do. I say plainly, not speaking with any regard to my own political future - I do not know whether I have, such a future, and I care as little as I know - there is a fear in the minds of Victorian representatives that if an election should take place there will be a chance of the whole State voting as one constituency. I ask honorable members to think of what that would mean to the average man, who, instead of foraging in one metropolitan or country seat, would be compelled to roam like a senatorial candidate over the whole State. Victorian members are not prepared to take that risk.
– ‘Great would be the slaughter thereof!
– That’ is true; because it is conceivable that men who hold large majorities in Labour seats in the metropolitan area of Victoria might, ‘in such circumstances, be deprived of their seats by a mass vote of the State. I do not predict it; but it is something that can be conceived. The system would be unfair alike .to Labour and Nationalists.
Having said that, I beg leave now to supplement, though perhaps iu a different spirit, the remarks of the honorable member for Grampians. I do not wish to reflect on the honorable member. If I were a man endowed by nature, as the honorable member is, for a successful electoral contest in any particular area, I would be loath to leave it. It is natural that when a man sees his- constituency blotted out he should protest indignantly against those who are responsible for it, or against the operation of the principles that apparently rendel” it inevitable. Honorable members should not jeer at the honorable member for Grampians, and should remember that, since he has come into this House, he has fought for the views in which he believes manfully and well, and with considerable distinction. If he is blotted out, he will be a loss to this Parliament.
– “ A good man,” too.
– Yes; he is “ a good man,” to use his own well-known phrase.
– Is this a burial oration?
– I am afraid it will be unless the premonitions of the press that Bendigo will be rendered vacant shortly give the honorable member for Grampians a second life. If Victoria is to have any compensations in that way, some of us will gladly welcome the second opportunity given to the honorable member. May I be permitted to direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the number of- fierce interjections with which my speech is being interpolated ? , I am anxious to be brief and clear, and to give the Government the benefit of perhaps a suggestion or two with regard to the situation in which we find ourselves. I say quite plainly, viewing the history of the changes of. representation since the union was established, that the present system is distinctly unfair to certain portions of Australia. That happens to have been exemplified most conspicuously in the case of Victoria, and because of that, perhaps’, honorable members from other States may be more or less indifferent to it, or, at any rate, may not feel so acutely the application of the system aa we have done, and still do, in Victoria. But what is our position to-day may be the position of other States in the future, and it is not so much a matter of whether it affects, or has affected, one particular State, or group of States, as it is a question of how far the perpetuation of this principle is likely to work adversely to the true representation of the people of Australia. I do not share the view expressed by the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) that it waa constitutionally impossible to remedy it. I say this with great respect to my honorable friend, because he does not need to be advised to read the Constitution. He knows it as well as any member of this House, but there are laymen who have been a long time in Parliament who may, on occasions, take the opportunity to offer opinions on constitutional interpretations. I ask him to listen to the representations of a layman, and to judge the question, not merely from the legal stand-point. There is one point, although it is distinctly qualified, which is permanent in section 24 of the Constitution, and that is the principle that, until the Constitution is altered, the strength of the Housie of Representatives shall be “ as nearly as practicable “ twice the strength of the Senate. If those words “ as nearly as practicable “ had not been embodied in the Constitution, we could, never have had more than seventy-two members while the Senate had thirtysix, but the builders of the Constitution builded with a liberality of wisdom not appreciated, perhaps, in that day, and they said, “ This Constitution, if too rigid, may place the future Parliament, and the people, under that Parliament, in a ridiculous position. We must give them room to move, and so we say that fas nearly as practicable’ the relative strength of the two Houses shall be as two is to one.” That is all the Constitution says that Paraliament may not alter; and then it proceeds to give this Parliament ample power to decide, within that provision, how representation shall be determined. I take leave to say that the’ Attorney-General has read either too hurriedly, or too unappreciatively, the words of that paragraph, and the situation related to it; otherwise he would not have uttered the opinion that the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was unconstitutional. On that question, I may perhaps be permitted to put in one personal note. I intended to vote for that proposal, but unfortunately I was ill, and asked the honorable member for Cowper to get me a pair. When I returned the next day, I found that there was no possibility of getting a pair, and my vote waa therefore not cast for the proposal. Had I been here I should certainly, notwithstanding the opposition of tie Attorney-General, have voted for the proposal. The clause provides that “ The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall,, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner: - “ Then the quota system Ms laid down. The Parliament could come along and, with one sweep, could remove the whole quota system. It could decide on a different kind of quota system. It could, if it desired, merge the whole of the electorates, and make the people of every State vote in one constituency on the principle of proportional representation. Parliament, with singular prescience and wisdom, has been given full and absolute authority, within the provisions of the Constitution relating to the proportion of two to one “ as nearly as practicable,” to insist upon any kind of election it desires.
Mr. GROOM. The honorable member is referring now to “ insisting upon any kind of election.” The determining of the numbers is the point.
– -I am speaking of that. Tn ,1905, the Government of that day realized that that ruling of the Constitution was correct, and brought down the Act that determined the strength of representation in this House. It made the strength seventy-five. Why? Not because there was any special virtue in that number. It might have made it 72, 73, 74, 75, or any number beyond that if it determined that it was “ as nearly as practicable” double the strength of the Senate. That Parliament and that Government knew that it had power to range within the terms of the Constitution, and that it could then have made the number of members seventy-six. In the same way, this Parliament is entitled to make the number seventy-six. That is my point, and beyond that I do not want to cross swords with the Attorney-General, because he is apparently taking the severely Governmental view. There is an old proverb credited’ to one of our philosophers which applies aptly to this situation in Victoria. It is, “ Right too rigid hardens into wrong.” That is what is happening to this State by the rigid application of what my honorable friend considers to be right principles as interpreted from the Constitution. This State is a progressive State. One perhaps boasts about the State from which one comes, but records of population, of immigration, of production, of land settlement, of railway expansion, and of the development of educational and other Government agencies, show that by every test Victoria is comparable with any other progressive State in Australia. Yet, by this system, it continues to wilt in representation, and although it was one of the torch-bearers of the Federal period, whose influence went as strongly as that of any State to energize and consummate the union, it is losing its relative strength and is becoming less and less a factor in the deliberations of this Parliament. Any system which does that to a progressive and ardently Federal State is a wrong system, and a Parliament that permits its indefinite continuation is blind to the necessity for action and change. I do not know how such an alteration as that suggested by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would affect any particular person. I am not concerned about that in uttering these thoughts, but I am concerned in seeing legislative, or, if you like, constitutional, changes made which will permit the representation of progressive States to be conducted on sound and defensible principles.
I think I have read every word of the three official reports of the Federal Convention at its Adelaide, Melbourne, and . Sydney sittings. I attended most of the time that it sat in this Chamber, and I have endeavoured to understand the principles that animated the founders of the Constitution. They lived in a time of economy. They said, “ Let us build a Parliament that will not be a huge Parliament like that of the Dominion of Canada, or the House of Commons in Great Britain; let ns give them, not ‘ some definite maximum, but a x guide as to what their strength should be until the Constitution is altered.” That principle waa right for the first twenty years; it is not right now. Speaking as the representative of a small garden State, who is endeavouring to realize the difficulties of representation in the sparse areas of the west and north of Australia, it is unthinkable to me that members of this House, continuing to remain at a maximum of seventy-five, can adequately and effectively represent the desires and wants of those far distant places. This House must grow, whether we like it or not. If its members numbered 100 to-morrow, and, apart altogether from the question of salary and other expenses, if this Federation is to remain one and indissoluble, as the Constitution provides, representation must be- made satisfactory to the people, particularly where they are out of touch with the centre of government. The Government would do well - not at this stage, because it is too big a problem to throw on the table now - to consider carefully the basis of representation when submitting to this House, as I trust they will this session, proposals for the amendment of the Constitution for final reference to the people. The principle of representation ought then to be attended to.
– Constitutionally, that is the point.
– It is not the point. It i& one point. I say that remedial measures may be applied legislatively, but the basic principle of representation can only be altered in the Constitution. If the Government will give us a promise of neither I shall be profoundly disappointed. They have given us little hope of their legislative intentions, but they have an opportunity before we finish the session of showing an appreciation of the gravity, importance, and urgency of the proposal I am now making, and I hope they will submit, before we leave, proposals which will make the representation of the more distant parts of Australia more satisfactory to the people.
– I am in sympathy with the two speeches which have been delivered. I share, with many other honorable members of this House, the regret they feel at the circumstances under which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) made his speech, but I am not without hope, though some may be, that this Parliament will retain his services.. I was one of those who supported the amendment of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). Before launching it the honorable member did me the honour to consult me as to its constitutionality, and I have had no difficulty whatever in coming to the conclusion that it was completely constitutional. I therefore regret having to differ from my honorable friend the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) in. the view which he took of the matter. It appears to me that the real pivot of the section was completely lost sight of by him. To my mind the pivot is that the number of members chosen in the several States should be “ in proportion to the respective numbers of their people.’’ Everything else is subordinate to that, and enabling towards that objective. A mere contrivance or mechanical process is tentatively provided in the section as a means of obtaining that end, but it is purely tentative as far as that section is concerned. It is a means by which we may ascertain the quota and the number of members. The section is careful to give to Parliament the widest possible power in the matter of ascertaining and devising the means by which the representation shall be “ in proportion to the respective numbers of their people.” Any process by which that can be most completely obtained is open to this Parliament. I have no difficulty in coining to the conclusion that the scheme submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) as a means to more nearly secure fair representation was absolutely and constitutionally sound. The honorable member took the precaution to adopt the well-recognised means of ascertaining the quota, one that has been incorporated in the Constitution of many nations. Therefore, he had sound precedents upon which to work, and since the Constitution in section 24 indicated a mechanical and mathematical process for ascertaining the quota, the honorable gentleman sought to bring it up to date. He was able to demonstrate that the new Droop quota more closely insures the representation of States in proportion to’ the respective numbers of their people.- His position in this respect was unassailable, and I regret that the Government did not accept his proposal. An opportunity should be afforded honorable members later to give the fullest consideration to that amendment with the object of doing justice to the people of the State of Victoria. The honorable member for Cowper saw that a great injustice was being done to this State by following the course laid down in the Representation Act, and as hae ; been properly pointed out, what is Victoria’s misfortune to-day may be the misfortune of some other State to-morrow. No State should be made to suffer, as Victoria i3 suffering to-day, by any accidental combination of circumstances, and by the failure of Parliament to modernize the recognised methods of mechanically ascertaining the number of representatives for this House. But we have to take things as we find them; and whilst I voted for ‘ the proposal submitted1 . by the honorable member for Cowper, and greatly regretted that it was npt carried, I must admit that at the present .stage we hardly have the right to legislate in connexion, with the Representation Act for practically the benefit of a particular State. The fact that the new quota would not alter the representation of the other States is -purely accidental, and really beside the question at the moment. /The honorable member’s amendment was sound constitutionally before distribution was attempted in any of the States; but the distribution scheme having been accepted for the other States, we could not now constitutionally, or at least fairly, legislate to determine the quota representation for Victoria by a different process. Unfortunately the time has passed, because the distribution proposals in respect of the other States have been adopted. Though strong disapproval was expressed with regard to the previous scheme, there is no doubt that it was scientifically more correct than the present proposal. I believe the Distribution Commissioners have, in this scheme, endeavoured to obey the behests and wishes of this House, and in the circumstances I feel that I have no alternative but to accept it. 1 Mr. Stewart.- The Commissioners have utterly failed to satisfy everybody.
– It is, of course, impossible to satisfy everybody. Even the archangel Gabriel himself would have been unequal to the task of satisfying everybody in a scheme for the redistribution of electoral boundaries. Having regard to the imperfections of human nature, I feel that I must accept the scheme.
.- I was exceedingly pleased to hear such wise counsel from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and the honorable member for Kooyong (.Sir Robert Best). The former is probably one of the shrewdest men in the House from a political stand-point, and an acknowledged statesman, and the latter an experienced legal adviser on constitutional questions. The arguments advanced by the AttorneyGeneral have been torn absolutely asunder. I am satisfied that if the acceptance of the. proposal had not been made vital, that if honorable members were free to exercise their individual judgment, the opinion of the House would be against the Minister. I trust, however, that in the near future we shall have an opportunity to say a great deal more upon this subject. It is exceedingly important to know that the constitutionality of the stand taken by the Country party is ‘ unchallengeable. On this subject I should like to give honorable members the benefit of the considered opinion of Professor HarrisonMoore -
In rb The Representation act 1905. - Determination of Representation of the States.
The question on which my opinion is desired is whether Parliament has power to adopt, for determining the number of members of the
House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, a scheme submitted to the House by Dr. Earle Page on 26th July, in the following resolution: -
That consideration of the approval of the distribution of the several States into Electoral Divisions, as proposed by the Distribution Commissioners, bc postponed pending the Government bringing in a Bill to amend the Representation Act 1905 so as to provide either -
That for the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, the following procedure shall be followed: -
For the adoption of such other form of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States as shall (subject to the Constitution) insure the -most equitable representation in proportion to their people.
The function committed to Parliament by (j 24 (with g 51, XXXVI.) of .the Constitution is that of laying down ;from time to time the manner in which the number of members to which each State is entitled is to be determined in accordance with the provision in the same section that the number of members chosen in the States shall be in proportion -to the respective numbers of their people. The end is the proportionate distribution according to population: the means of attaining that end is committed to Parliament, and in accordance with well-established principle, any means conducive to that end is within the discretion of the Legislature; nor will the Courts usurp that discretion by considering the merits of various schemes as better or worse means to that end. If Dr. Earle Page’s scheme can reasonably be regarded as a means to that end - and in that aspect it is not challenged - it is clearly valid unless it can be successfully impugned as conflicting with some other provision in the Constitution. In particular, it may be noticed that the .provisions of section 24 (i) and (ii) in respect to the quota, the divisor, and the treatment of the fractions, do not restrict Parliament unless their incorporation in any scheme is essential to give effect to such other provision in the Constitution.
Dr. Earl Page’s scheme is impugned on the strength of the provision in section 24 that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. Twice the number o( senators as an exact basis is impossible consistently with the provision for proportionate distribution: that it is recognised in the specific provision for the first Parliament in section 20, and in the provisional scheme in section 24 ( i j and (ii). The relation of the numbers of the two Houses is also affected by the .provision of five members as to the minimum representation for each original State. It is liable to disturbance also by the provision which Parliament may make under sections 121 and 122 for the representation of new States and Territories in cither House of the Parliament. Under section 20, the number of members was 75, and not 72; under the provisional scheme of section 24 (as amended by the Representation Act of 1005) the present membership of the House is also 75. It is. I observe, stated in the House that under the existing, scheme the possible range of membership is from 72 to 70.
The strictest construction that could be .put on the requirement of the Constitution would be that every election shall be held upon a system of distribution among the States which shall give according to the conditions then existing, the closest approximation to the number 72. Such a construction is open to serious objections. I understand that no single system does secure, in all conditions of population, a closer approximation . to 72 than some other system might give in some of these conditions; and there would - on the construction suggested - be the necessity of applying one or other system to any particular election according as one system or the other would give the nearer approximation to * total membership of 72 - double the number of senators. The difficulties of complying with such a condition are enough to justify the rejection of such a seeking after perfection as something outside the limits of the practicable.
Another construction that suggests itself is that, among various means of distributing representation among the States, Parliament must devise its system of distribution upon a basis which secures on all occasions and all conditions of population, a closer approximation to double the number of senators than does any other system, on all occasions and in all conditions of population. That would be free from the objection stated to’ the first interpretation considered: a uniform plan could be adopted and worked. But that any one system does fulfil this condition as against every other is, I understand, not demonstrable.
To both the interpretations referred to thereis a further and, in my opinion, fatal, objection. They both require the subordination of the rule of proportionate representation of the States to the numerical relation of membership of the Senate and the House. For, in either case, it is possible that the scheme which gives the closest approximation of the membership of the House to twice ‘the number of senators, may less adequately than another fulfil the condition that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be proportionate to the respective numbers of their people. In section 24, the proportionate distribution is a specific provision, unqualified, except by the provision for the .minimum representation of original States. The provision relating to twice the number of senators is qualified by the expression “ as nearly as practicable.” I am of opinion that the governing principle is the proportionate distribution of membership among the States: that in the determination of the means to that end, Parliament is not required to sacrifice a scheme reasonably conducive to that end, merely because it might be demonstrable that some other system, not securing the proportionate distribution so accurately,, would give a closer approximation to a total membership of 72.
I am of opinion that the words “ as nearly as practicable “ are not to be read as though they were “ to the nearest number possible “. “ As nearly as practicable “ is not a term for exact measurement, and its meaning is not to be confined to any specific numerical range. It imports the consideration that the provision for twice the number of senators is subject to the fractions of whole numbers, and to the provision for minimum representation of original States. It is, however, not limited by -these specific matters. It imports that the requirement of twice the number of senators is subject to all the circumstances of the case, among which is tlie fact that the Constitution requires a proportionate distribution of members .among the States, and assigns to Parliament the manner of attaining it. What is reasonably practicable in such conditions rests so much on on appreciation of .facts, and, therefore, is so much » political question that the judgment of Parliament is entitled to peculiar weight. This, of course, does not mean that Parliament -is entitled to disregard the condition altogether; but it does, in my opinion, import that a Court would not hold any scheme conducing to the proportionate distribution of members among the States to bc invalid on’ the- ground that it did not “ as nearly as -practicable “ provide for a House of twice the number of senators, unless the Court was satisfied that the number of members of the House was so much above or below the number of 72 that no body of reasonable men could have provided for such number without totally disregarding the general approximation aimed at by the Constitution. In my opinion, it is impossible to say that there is this disregard in a proposal which substitutes for the present scheme, with a membership ranging from 72 to 70, another scheme which gives at present, and, as I understand, a maximum representation of 76.
For these reasons, I am of opinion that each of the alternative -proposals of Dr. Earle Page is within the Constitution.
Until I had read the opinion of Professor Harrison Moore, I was under the impression that the proposal of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) was unconstitutional, and I now believe that the Attorney-General (Mr.
Groom) did not give the House fair and reasonable advice in this matter. His speech was responsible for at least one or two votes being recorded against the amendment, which would have been carried if the Minister had left it an entirely open question, and had spoken in an unbiased manner. I can now only enter my strong protest; and if God spares me I shall have an opportunity of saying a great deal more to persons who will take more notice of what 1 say than some honorable members appear to be doing now. The position, I believe, is as outlined in the very able speech just delivered by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). It appears that we are going backward instead of forward. If dryrot had necessarily to set in in consequence of conditions over which we have no control, it would be a different matter; but unnecessary action has been taken to deprive a great State of representation to which it is justly entitled under the Constitution. If Victoria was not constitutionally entitled to its present number of members, I would not dare to support the proposal for one moment; but when our position is fortified by the able advice of the gentlemen. I have quoted, for which advice the Country party has paid, we are justified in taking the stand wo have taken. I do not wish to say one word concerning the decision of the Commissioners, although my position has probably been made more unsatisfactory than that of any other honorable member in this State. I do not mind that, however, because I am sure I am going to win; but when one considers that under the latest proposal my district will extend from the great divide on the Upper Murray to Mount Dandenong in the south, I ask honorable members, irrespective of their political opinions, is it fair and reasonable for a candidate to be called upon to traverse such a huge district on a paltry allowance of £100 for election expenses? In the proposed constituency of Indi I could attend an important centre every day of the week, and it would take me twelve months to effectively cover the division. Proposals have been adopted which have made it practically impossible for the country districts to have adequate representation. Who are the culprits responsible for treating Victoria in this way ? The electors will deal with them as they should be dealt with, because they have failed to give Victoria justice. Those Victorian members who voted against the amendment of the Leader of the Country party were the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Francis), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). There was one Victorian member, however, who having fought for his country and whose views have been broadened by experience in other lands, supported the amendment - I refer to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister).
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Greene) agreed to -
That the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the resumption of the debate just interrupted.
– When we adjourned for lunch, I was referring to the fact that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) had supported the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) on the original proposals. I was pleased also, to hear the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) say that that amendment was constitutionally sound. I am satisfied that it was, and that it was entirely in the hands of the Government to determine whether Victoria should have twenty or twenty-one representatives in this House. The Government have decided that this State shall have only twenty representatives. Our. protest against that decision, so far as this House is concerned, is practically at an end, but on the public platforms outside it has hardly yet begun. The announcement in to-day’s newspapers as to the retreat of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) from Bendigo indicates the unpopularity of the Government generally. There could be no stronger proof of the weakness of this Government than is afforded by the decision of the Prime Minister not to seek re-election fox Bendigo. Their weakness is due to their action not only in robbing Victoria of tho full representation to which it is entitled in this House, but in relation to many matters of vital importance to the community. It is regrettable that members of the .Country party should have to be fighting the procedure of the National Government. I claim to be as true a- Nationalist as is any member of the Ministerial party. I belong to the old Liberal . school, and the sooner that school comes into possession of the Treasury bench the better. >Not a word can be said against any member of our party. If our careers bo traced it will be found that we represent all that is truest and best in the interests of this young nation. We are out for “the development of Australia in the best sense of the term, and favour a, bold, progressive policy.
– Order! The honorable member is now discussing the virtues and merits of the honorable member’s political party,’ a matter which, no doubt, is very interesting to honorable members, but has nothing whatever to do with the question before the Chair.
– We feel that to reduce by one the representation of this State in the House is a very serious matter. It is a retrograde step which we all deplore. I have entered my protest against the scheme as now submitted, and hope that, even at this the eleventh hour, the Government will reconsider the position with a view to restoring to Victoria the additional representative of which she has been unjustly deprived. Without the shadow of a doubt, there will be another redistribution of this State within the next few years, and Victoria will then secure her full representation of twenty-one members. Having regard to the satisfaction that the immediate restoration to this State of its full measure of representation would give, and > to the fact that greater community of interest would thus be secured, and the welfare of Victoria better assured, the Government should earnestly consider even now the views which have been expressed in favour of the retention of the existing representation of twenty-one members.
.- The further the debate on the original scheme for the redistribution of Victoria proceeded in this House the more convinced I was that the proposal outlined by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) was a right, and proper one to adopt, and that conviction has been strengthened by the discussion to-day. Honorable members of the Country party in criticising these proposals have made it abundantly clear that they do not blame the Commissioners or wish to reflect upon them in the slightest degree. As I remarked, by way of interjection this morning, they have failed to bring down a scheme which satisfies every one. That, of course, was impossible of attainment, but it seems to me that, as suggested hy the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) this morning, the Commissioners could have improved even the scheme now before us by running the divisional lines east and west. Knowing the country as I do I am satisfied that the adoption of that course would have been better from the point of view. of the representatives of the several constituencies, and would at the same time have enabled a greater community of interests to - be secured.
– Our railway system lends itself to the running of the divisional lines east and west.
– That is particularly the case so far as the Divisions of Wimmera, Wannon, and Corangamite are concerned. In response to the invitation of the Commissioners that any person who was opposed to their original scheme should communicate to them his objections in writing, I put before them certain complaints in regard to the proposed redistribution of the Division of ‘ Wimmera. I have no personal grievance with regard to .the divisional boundaries. They do not affect me to any degree, but I think that the Commissioners were at fault in failing to make sufficient allowance for the future development of that big electorate. The Government must know that the developmental works along the River Murray will have the effect of increasing very largely, at an early date, the population of the Murray Valley.
– The same argument will: apply to- other country electorates.
– But not to the extent that it applies to the Division of Wimmera. In addition to ‘ the Murray
River developmental works we have also under construction at the present time a new Mallee railway line running from Red Cliffs, in a westerly direction, towards the South Australian border. This is at the very top of the electorate, and will have the effect of largely increasing the population there. Approval has also been given to the construction of another spur line some 20 or 30 miles long, running from Hopetoun to Patchewollock. All these enterprises show clearly that, at an early date, there will be a very considerable augmentation of the population of the “Wimmera. I understand that it is suggested that the number of electors in the division, as now proposed, will be about 39,000,- but I venture to assert that, allowing for those either already on the rolls, or ready to be placed on them, together with those in the small area now to be added to the division, it will be found that there are over 40,000 electors in the “Wimmera.
– There are* now 39,327 on the rolls.
– Those figures, I understand, are arrived at by adding the number of electors in a small area brought into the division under this scheme to the number on the rolls for the existing division. Accuracy, however, cannot be obtained in that way.
I rose chiefly to draw attention to the rather anomalous, position in which we, as a Parliament, have placed ourselves. The original redistribution scheme was referred back to the Commissioners, not with a view to securing an additional seat, because that proposal was defeated, but on the ground that, on a population oasis, the representation of the rural districts was smaller than that accorded the metropolitan area. In other words, this House agreed that the basis of representation adopted by it in regard to New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia should be different from that applied to this State. If this scheme be carried then the Commonwealth Parliament will have laid down the principle that, there shall be a bigger ratio of representation for rural districts iu compared with metropolitan areas in Victoria, but that the same rule shall not apply to the other States. Thi « raises the old question of whether we should give more representation to rural districts than to the cities. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) say a word for the out-back portions of the Commonwealth, particularly as he is a representative of a city constituency. If we are ever to develop this country in the way” that it should be developed, we, as representatives of the people, should be prepared to recognise that in this country of immense distances the people in the out-back portions are entitled to more representation per head than are the residents of the cities. I say, with all due respect to the workers of the cities, that the pioneers in the out-back are doing more to develop the Commonwealth than is the average city resident. Yet they receive their mail but once a week, some of them only once a. month, and others not as frequently as that; they are completely out of touch, not only with the outside world, but with each other, and they are not in a position to exercise the same amount of political influence in the affairs of the country as are the residents of the capital cities. The latter can read the morning newspaper as they go to work and the evening newspaper as they come home; they have to walk but a few hundred yards along the pavement to hear an address from their parliamentary representative, and they can without great inconvenience come to the strangers’ gallery of this House and hear the debates, whilst those who represent them can with half-a-dozen meetings get in touch with them all. The undue influence exercised by the residents of the capital cities upon parliamentary representatives and institutions is largely due to ‘the fact that the population of the country is congregated in the capital cities to an extent that is unequalled in any other part of the world. The Government Statistician, in the Commonwealth Year-Booh, says -
The Metropolitan Towns. - A feature of the distribution of population in Australia is the tendency to accumulate in the capital cities. To such an extent is this metropolitan aggregation carried, that in every State the population of the capital far outnumbers that of any other town therein, and ranges between 20 and 55 .per cent, of the entire population of the State. . . .
That this metropolitan concentration is phenomenal may be readily seen by comparing the percentage of the total population with the similar figures for the principal countries of Europe, also given in the table hereunder.
I shall quote some of those figures to show the extraordinary extent to which Australian population has been centralized. Adelaide has 51.63 per cent, of the population of South Australia, a world’s record; Melbourne has 50.09 per cent, of the population of Victoria. Perth has 47.04 per cent, of the population of Western Australia, and Sydney has 42.89 per cent, of the population of New South Wales. The whole six capital cities average 43.10 per cent, of the total population of the Commonwealth. Compare those figures with the statistics of other countries. The only other country that comes anywhere near the Australian conditions is Denmark, of the population of which 20.02 per cent, was in the capital, Copenhagen^ in 1916. London, in 1914, had 12.22 per cent, of the population of England, Christiania had 9.86 per cent, of the population of Norway, Amsterdam 9.54 per cent, of the population of the Netherlands, Lisbon 7.31 per cent, of the population of Portugal, Paris 7.29 per cent, of the population of France, and Rome 1.64 per cent, of the population of Italy. The concentration of Australian population in the metropolitan areas becomes mora remarkable when we consider the national industries of Australia. If most of our wealth were produced from secondary industries, or if within the urban areas there were deposits of iron, steel, and coal, and great manufactories, the products of which were able to compete in the markets of the world, one could understand the centralization of population. But on the contrary, Australia, much more than most countries, is essentially a primary producer. And not only are those engaged in our secondary industries unable to compete in the markets of the world, but they cannot hold their own in the local market without legislative assistance. These-statistics prove to me, as I think they must to every other honorable member, that there is something wrong in this country, and I think that this Parliament could well register a decision that there should be greater representation of the rural interests in every State, and not merely, as is proposed, that there should be greater representation for those interests in Victoria, but not in other States. That, in effect, is the ano- malous position in which this Parliament has placed itself.
– -Surely the honorable member does not wish to give votes for acres.
– That raises the old question of one vote one value, and in answer to the honorable member, I declare the right of every citizen, irrespective of his standing or occupation, to have an equal say in the political destinies of his country.
– That is utter nonsense !
– I repeat that the people out-back, far removed from civilization, completely out of touch with each other and the outside world, almost completely out of touch with their parliamentary representatives, are entitled to more representation per head than are people in the cities. There are tens of thousands of people in the remoter portions of the Commonwealth who not only have never seen a House of Parliament, but have never even met a member of Parliament.
– They evidently live in a great, lonely land.
– It is a great, lonely land, and I submit that if every citizen had the same facilities for keeping in touch with parliamentary institutions and legislators, particularly his own representative, and had to go the same distance to the booth on polling day, one vote one value would be all right ; but in the widely divergent, circumstances that exist throughout the Commonwealth, how can any one, by the wildest stretch of imagination, say that a person beyond the town of Bourke, in New South Wales, has the same facilities for exercising political influence as has the resident of a city?
– Would the honorable member give votes to people according to the number of miles they had to travel to a polling booth?
– No; I admit that the problem bristles with difficulties.
– Anyhow, the solution is not . one vote one value in the ordinary way.
– That is so. The present position is wrong and unjust. Compare the areas of different electorates.
Cook comprises 6 square miles. The area of Calare is 11,805 square miles.
– How many votes would the honorable member give to the square mile?
– The Honorary Minister interjects in his usual sneering manner. I am not prepared to give any specific percentage to a specific area. I have already admitted that there are difficulties, but I emphasize that the present basis of representation is unjust, and 1 challenge the Honorary Minister to deny it.
– What would be a just method of representation?
– A ratio of three to two - that is to say, that metropolitan electorates should average 50,000 electors as against 33,000 in rural divisions. Even that basis, however, would be imperfect. The point is that it would be fairer than that which exists at present.
– How would the honorable member discriminate between such divisions as Indi and Maranoa?
– I do not propose to do so. I can only comment that all these interjections verify my own case. In the Division of East Sydney there are only 2 square miles. In Darling there are 63,548 square miles.
– In East Sydney there are about 49,000 voters, and in Darling about 19,000.
– Not under the redistribution scheme. However, anomalies will be found in every set of figures which one may care to examine. I could compare the enormous area of Kennedy, for example, with that of East Sydney; yet the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) receives as large a salary as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald).
– That is wrong. A man should be paid according to the size of his constituency.
– One touch of nature makes the whole world kin ! I am glad to discover a sudden convert. Obviously, there is more hope of success by appealing to honorable members’ pockets rather than to their hearts or heads. There are not only anomalies respecting remuneration, but also in the matter of election, expenses. The honorable member for Kennedy is limited to the same total expenditure in conducting his campaign as is the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Would the honorable member give the owner of a big station more votes than the owner of a small farm?
– I would not. The Honorary Minister, among others, has agreed to lay down a certain principle as applying to rural Victoria alone; he would exclude all the other States. I believe that the country people of Victoria feel keenly about this matter. I invite honorable members to compare the circumstances of 40,000 electors in some such huge division as Kennedy, or Kalgoorlie, with the conditions of 40,000 electors in a compact area within sight of this Parliament. Will any one say that the people in the distant electorate have as great an influence upon legislation as those who reside, so to speak, within a stone’s throw of this building ?
– Why not have a Parliament House on wheels, and drag it around the country ?
– That raises a very important point. I re’fer to the tremendous effect which environment has upon legislation. We are .all creatures of our environment. Legislating within this building, we are in an atmosphere of city influence. One of the reasons why I favour the transfer of the Federal Parliament to the Federal Capital is that I believe we shall never achieve real decentralization until we have decentralized our Parliaments. The sooner we get the National Legislature removed from. ‘the environment of this great commercial centre the better it will be for the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. Not only would I remove the Federal . Parliament, but the State Parliaments also, from the capital cities, and the sooner the better. If our Parliaments sat in rural environments the character of our legislation would possibly be rather more sympathetic to rural interests. J intend to vote for the revised scheme of redistribution, for it is better by a long way than that originally proposed. It has been clearly demonstrated that when the Country party, assisted by members of the Opposition, fought the Government against the acceptance of the first report of the Redistribution Commissioners, we were amply justified. As an outcome of our protest, benefit will now be conferred, not only upon the rural centres, but upon the people of the city areas as well. The population of Melbourne is beginning to realize that its prosperity depends largely, upon the sum of the wealth of rural production, and that anything detrimental to country interests is really crippling the city welfare.
– I am sorry that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). No honorable member would question his honesty; but when he advocates that wide areas should have greater legislative representation than population, I can only ask him, very kindly, to read a little of the history of the world. All the history of the past is purely a history of cities. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) must agree with me that the areas of Victoria are as a mere bagatelle compared with the enormous spaces of Western Australia. In one western constituency alone, namely, that of Dampier, Victoria could be utterly lost.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– Two wrongs, .being doubly wrong, are, by so much, worse than one right! The real intelligence of the people of any country is always to be found in the centre of its civilization. I do not object so greatly to our population being congregated in cities. One man in this world to-day, namely, Henry Ford,, could cultivate 5,000 acres in twenty working days because of his intelligent use of machinery. One intelligence to-day, calling invention to its aid, can cultivate more than 1,000 men could do in the past. If we reap our fields with hooks we shall be compelled to support very many more human beings in the performance of that work than we really need do. What man in this House would care to say that because he goes into the country he ought to have five times the representation of a resident of the city? Would the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) say that? Will he say that he is five times wiser than he was when he lived in the city of Melbourne? The case is still worse in Western Australia, where the ‘ parliamentary representation is on the ratio 6f 7 to 1. Victoria is losing a member because, while it is increasing in wealth and population, it is not increasing in those respects in the same ratio as are other States. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) asks that the country shall have representation at the ratio of 5 to 3.
– I did not say that.
– I ask the honorable member how about the much wider spaces of the neighbouring .States, which are taking away the population of Victoria ?
– The honorable member would make a country representative represent as many electors as a representative does in the bottle-neck down here !
– Does the honorable member propose that the constituency of Dampier should have more representatives in this House than all the other States put together? Whether in country or in town all Australians ought to be equal. No doubt the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Wimmera approve of the principle that the State of Tasmania should have the same representation in the Senate as the major State of New South Wales - that a State with a few hundred thousand people should be on an equality in this respect with a State with a population of over 2.000,000?
– Would you deprive the country people of any representation ?
– I would give them representation in accordance with their numbers. ‘
– That is all we ask for - fair representation according to the numbers of the people.
– In that schoolhouse of Europe, Switzerland, with its many Parliaments or forms of government, the people know exactly when, according to the population, another representative is required. This will make the third time that Victoria has lost a member; and why? Because the State Government has not done its duty in finding openings for our sons who wish to go on the land. In this State there are not the opportunities presented in the wider areas of Western Australia, for instance. Some fifty years ago I selected land, and at. that time it might surely be thought that good land could be easily obtained. But the Government sent me, a poor, little, miserable bank clerk, up to the heaviest of .timbered country, some 10 miles south of. Warragul. When I had pitched my tent, I counted to every acre twenty-. four trees, all over 8 feet through. What chance had a bank clerk in such country ?
– The land is all cleared now, and some one must have done the clearing.
– I wish the honorable member was settled in such country.
– I have cleared a great deal of such country myself.
– I do not dispute that at all. However, how much harder must it be to get land now than it was fifty years ago. I know from a newspaper cutting I have that for a black which was thrown open there were over 350 applicants. I shall vote for an amendment to the effect that Victoria shall retain its .member, but I would vote much more gladly if we, as a Commonwealth, would declare that all human beings shall have equal voting power, wherever they may be - that whether a man be north, south, east, or west, he shall have no greater rights than are enjoyed by his fellows elsewhere.
– The city representative has greater rights than an out-back representative now.
– The honorable member says so, but if that statement is as accurate as others he has made, the less ‘said about it the better. I may say that on the occasion of the last suggested alteration it was proposed to take away a big portion of my constituency which still remained for me to convert, and this I resented very strongly. The present suggested arrangement retains that portion containing those good, dear friends *of mine who have always voted against mo, and I hope to bring them into the fold.
The policy enunciated by one who is called a heaven-born financier and treasurerI allude to Mr. McPherson, the Treasurer of Victoria, - is a great deal to blame for the lack of population in this State. As I said before, the population is actually increasing, but not in the same ratio as the other States. There was a time when, thanks to Sir Alexander Peacock, no human could suffer without means being provided for obtaining quick assistance. That was so because a member of Parliament, or some other reputable person, could send down to the Under-Treasurer and have matters arranged. But directly Mr. McPherson came into power, five years ago, things were changed in that regard, much to the disgust and contempt of Sir Alexander Peacock, one of Mr. McPherson’s own colleagues. Mr. McPherson was once a political opponent of mine, and I never wish to .meet a more honorable one. He was then, however, a comparatively poor man, having” since then become wealthy, principally during the war. It may be that instead of” his owning money, the money has got a grip of him ; at any rate, he is a changed man, and he will leave office as the meanest Treasurer that ever held the position in Victoria. I know of a young man up Healesville way who fought at the Front, and on his return t applied for a block of land in his home district, with an advance of £300. That application was refused, but the State Government offered him a block at “Ballarat. The young man, however, desired to go where he was born, and take land alongside his father’s farm, and it was not until I took the matter up, and saw the State Minister of Lands, that, nine months afterwards, (he got his desire. That is the way in which young men are prevented from settling in Victoria, and it explains how we are not gaining in population.
When I hear country members talk about the difficulty of getting over the wide areas in the country, I always think of the Chinaman who, riding along on his modest donkey, was passed by a great charger going at a swift rate. The Chinaman thought to himself, “ How glad I would be if I could travel as. quickly as the rider of the charger.” On looking back, however, he saw a man walking, and, a little further away, a man pushing a barrow; and his second thought was, “ I am much luckier than those two, and will put up with what I have got.” Has not Ruskin written in words of diamonds that life only is wealth? Yet people talk of wide spaces and representation ! I cannot understand how it is that in this Democratic Parliament - for, with all its faults, it is Democratic - men can venture to say that residents in the country, either mentally or physically, are stronger than city residents in the proportion of 5 to 3. To me it appears ridiculous to introduce such a hoary-headed argument.
.- Iii justice to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), I take this opportunity to confirm his statement that he asked me to arrange a pair for him. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to get pairs, and one that was arranged was disavowed next day. I regret exceedingly that the honorable member was not here, not merely for the sake of his vote, but because he would, perhaps, have delivered a speech on the lines of that he delivered to-day. We should have had the benefit of his mature judgment and long constitutional and parliamentary experience. Hia words would, doubtless, have carried great weight by turning over the one vote necessary to carry our scheme, and we might have been spared to-day the discussion on the question of whether Victoria shall or shall not lose a member to which she is’ morally and constitutionally entitled. The Country party has been fighting, not from any parochial point of view, but for two general principles. It has been successful in securing the recognition of one of those principles - that the country electorates should have fewer constituents than the metropolitan - and the second for, which it fights is that the representation of every State in the Commonwealth should be in proportion to population. The- Country pary has not merely been fighting the battle for Victoria, but the battle of equity and justice for the whole continent; and I regret that, temporarily, the friends of equity and justice are apparently submerged. But the last has not been heard of the matter. The Government, in my opinion, ought to postpone their proposal, and see whether the law cannot be yet amended in order to enable what we desire to be carried out legally. If nothing is done by this Parliament, I venture to say that during the whole of the next Parliament there will be great agitation, and the quinquennial redistribution will be on the lines I have suggested. In the life of the next Parliament there will be another redistribution scheme to be discussed, and I venture to say that the men who have voted against the principle on this occasion will be sur- . prised to find the general acceptance which will be given to it when our scheme is considered on its merits, and not in a parochial or a party spirit. It should have been considered in the highest National and Federal spirit. The Labour party and the Country party have looked at it in a- nation-wide, continental way. Honorable members as widely separated as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), with nothing in common in Victoria from a representation point of view, have united to try and secure justice in this matter. They consider that the number of electors in each electorate throughout the ‘ Commonwealth should be approximately equal ; that there should not be discrimination of one State as against another. It is remarkable that those who have raised the parochial cry have been members of the Nationalist Government, which, although it arrogates to itself the name of “National,” is in this matter a parochialist of the first order. When the question had been disposed of in this p House, a Minister went to New South Wales and tried to arouse provincial pre- judice. The scheme is recognised by mathematicians and statisticians as being mathematically accurate. It is based upon the equitable and universally recognised principles of proportional representation, and yet the Minister in New South Wales referred to it in an off-hand way as “a dot-and-carry-one scheme.” The bogy has been raised in this House of the constitutionality of the proposal. When I told the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) that I had had the opportunity and privilege of getting an opinion from one of the highest constitutional authorities in the Commonwealth, he doubted the correctness of my statement. To-day we have had the opportunity of hearing that opinion read, and it is expressed in such a confident and certain tone that nobody can have any doubt as to the constitutionality of the proposal. Not only is the form right, however, but the spirit of our amendment is absolutely correct, as was shown by the quotation which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) read from the reports of statements made in the Convention while the Convention Bill was being drafted. We shall not cease to fight for this principle. The acceptance of the second general principle for which we have fought, namely, that the number of electors in each country^ electorate should be less than in the town” electorates up to the margin laL& down, has been conceded. We pointed out that it had been conceded in New South Wales, and to some extent in Western Australia and Queensland. The electorate of Swan has fewer electors than has Fremantle or Perth. In therevised scheme which has been brought forward as a result of’ the Countryparty’s action, we find that there are ten electorates constituted in the country and ten in the metropolis. Victoria is entitled to twenty-one members according to the number of people in the State, and on the present figures eleven of those twenty-one would be in the metropolis and ten in the country. Therefore, no one can suggest that our object in continuing to fight for the recognition of this principle is to benefit our own party. All the benefit that can come to this party has come without this fight on the question of general representation throughout the Commonwealth. When speaking previously, I showed what a difference there was between the various country and metropolitan constituencies of New South Wales and Victoria. Darling, the smallest country constituency in New South Wales, has 36,546 electors, while the metropolitan constituency of West Sydney has 42,265, or a difference of practically 7,000. That was the position in New South Wales when the first and only redistribution took place. In Victoria, in the previous distribution, there were actually the greatest number of electors in the country constituency of Wannon, which, I suppose, is, in point of size, one of the largest country constituencies in Victoria. Now we find that that condition has been quite changed. The ten metropolitan constituencies vary from 43,783 to 47.633 electors each, “and the country constituencies from 42,306 electors in Flinders to 38,071 in Indi. This is a difference of about 9,000 electors as between the highest and the lowest number.
– The electoral law itself, with the elasticity it contains regarding electoral quotas, helps the honorable gentleman’s argument.
– The Minister maintained that it did not. He refused to allow this House to direct the Commissioners to take cognisance of that fact.’
– I said it would be improper for this House to give directions to the Commissioners as to how they should carry out their duties, and I still say so.
– Let me show how the legal mind splits straws. “ The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The spirit of the Act was utilized in connexion with the last redistribution, but it was not utilized in the former redistribution. While the Minister says that it would be highly improper for this House to give any direction at all to the Commissioners, what do we find? The position is exactly as I said it would be when we were discussing the matter. I said that the method adopted by the Commissioners to determine the alterations’ would be based upon consideration, of the. speeches of those who had secured the reference back of the scheme. This is exactly what they say in their report -
We sought in our first proposals to provide for the representation of the electors as nearly as practicable in proportion to their numbers wherever located, subject only to such variations as were, in our opinion, rendered “ necessary “ by the provisions of section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and. also to present proposals which, having regard to the provisions of section 25 of the Act, would, if adopted, maintain an equitable measure nf electoral voting power for a reasonably lengthy period of time - a principle of redistribution which was approved by Parliament in 1912.
Section 25 of the Act provides, inter alia, that a redistribution should be made whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of the State the number of the electors differs from the quota, ascertained as provided by section 18 of the Act, to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
As shown in the accompanying comparative statement, the area usually referred to as the “metropolitan area”1 has, since the redistribution of 1912, increased in electoral population by 122,515, whereas the electoral population of what is termed the “ extrametropolitan area” has increased by only 5,668.
Although no express direction has been conveyed to us by the resolution of disapproval passed by the House of Representatives, it ia gathered from the parliamentary reports forwarded bv the Minister for our perusal, and to which we feel it incumbent upon us to have regard in framing fresh proposals, that the House desires that Parliament shall have an opportunity of considering a redistribution which affords greater representation to what is known as the extra-metropolitan area than that originally proposed, but which involves a departure from the quota to a much gr.eater extent than was considered by us to be necessary or desirable when framing our former report.
The report then proceeds to state the margin of allowance, which is 8,557; the maximum permissible number of electors, which is 51,346; and the minimum permissible number of electors, which is 34,232.
This matter of direction by the Parliament, when referring the scheme back, is simply splitting straws. The specific reasons which were, stated in the House ‘for referring the report back are the directions which the Commissioners accepted, and upon which they have acted.. I am glad that the Commissioners, without any express direction, have carried out what was, in my opinion, the intention of Parliament when it passed the Representation Act, and have brought in a redistribution schema for Victoria which approximates to one vote one value. It may not give one man one vote, but it gives one vote one value. The difficulties of communication in the country are recognised by all, and if country people, under manifest disadvantages, have voted in larger percentages than city people, that is all the more to their credit. I shall support this redistribution scheme for Victoria, because I believe it is very much better than the previous scheme. It recognises the principle that there should be some differentiation between country and city electorates, but the mere fact of its being carried will not deter me from still trying to secure a system of representation which will be equitable to every State, every electorate, and every inhabitant of Australia, no matter in which particular corner of which particular State he happens to reside. It is rather hard to find that, after great labour and trouble, and application to many skilled and trained mathematicians and statisticians, and after one has been able to bring forward for the first time in twenty-five years an improved modification of what was regarded, even when it was elaborated, merely as a stop-gap on the score of representation, one receives no credit for one’s actions, industry, application, or skill, but instead, for party reasons, is hounded up and down the Commonwealth. This matter will be ventilated fully during the elections, and if I am in this Parliament when it reassembles after the next elections I shall take an early opportunity to submit an amendment in the direction I have already indicated, to secure that the next redistribution most closely approximates to equity, and I shall do so at such a time that it will not be possible to defeat it for party reasons.
.- In order that honorable members from the other States may catch their trains, 1 shall be very brief.
– Surely the Government do not intend to bludgeon this through to-day.
– I have never given any vote in this House with greater pleasure than on the occasion a few weeks ago when I supported the amendment of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) for the purpose of securing proper representation for country interests in this State. Since then I have received many expressions of approval from electors throughout my division. Like other honorable members who have spoken today, I believe the proposal now before the House, generally speaking, is a distinct improvement. I have always endeavoured to view matters of this kind quite apart from personal considerations. Prior to the submission of the first proposal, a deputation waited on the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) with regard to the proposed alteration in the name of my division, and the Minister intimated that there would be no objection if a move were made in that direction. Decided objections were raised by residents in that part of the then Corio division which has been put back into the Corangamite division, namely, the towns of Colac, Camperdown, and other places to the north. Their objections have been overridden as they are now taken out of my division, and in their stead I have been given portions of the outer metropolitan area. Prom these people, and from some of the country districts in the division as it was formerly constituted, I received very strong expressions of disapproval concerning the alteration of the name of the division ; hut 1 have to remember that there are other electors in the division, and, in view of the present redistribution proposals, I cannot support or take any action in the direction indicated.
The object I had in view in voting for the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has been achieved. The country interests in this State have been given equal representation with city interests. On the figures, I think they really have a slight advantage, but as they progress - and some of the country divisions will increase materially in the course of a few years - the position will be quite equalized, and representation will be quite in accordance with the spirit of the Act.
– I deprecate thenote running through the speech delivered by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). We are to assume that in every action he takes he is directed by the purest and loftiest of motives, and that in all they do the Government are actuated purely by party motives. I should like ‘to remind the honorable member, however, that righteousness is not his sole prerogative; that other honorable members are just as capable as he of looking at proposals from a high and lofty standpoint. If there is any occasion at all to impute motives, one might quite fairly point to the fact that all the amendments submitted by him originated in the room of the Country party.
– We merely contend that the stand taken by the Ministry is unconstitutional.
– That is not indicated in the remarks of the honorable member for Cowper. I also remind the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that the motion for the adoption of this proposal is not being “gagged” at all, nor have the Government threatened to resort to the “gag.” There has been the fullest and freest discussion possible, and I know that, with that fairness which usually characterizes the honorable member’s conduct, he will apologize for suggesting that the Government intend to “gag’’ this proposal through the House to-day.
– I only asked if it were going to be “ gagged.”
– And I tell the honorable member that the Government have no such intention.
Now as regards the matter under discussion. The House has practically agreed to the redistribution proposals, and I presume that the motion will be carried on the voices. But I should like to make one or two observations concerning statements made by the honorable member for Grampians, and other honorable members, in connexion with the amendments that have been before the House. In the first place, the honorable member for Cowper explained, what he thought his amendment meant, but no other honorable member endeavoured fully to do that.
– That is not quite correct.
– I listened to all the speeches that were made, and I repeat that the explanations offered by honorable members supporting the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper were incomplete. I may also state that as the suggestions for the various amendments appeared they were carefully analyzed and tested by electoral and law officers and eminent mathematicians, to see if they contained some proper element that would commend them to the Government, and at the same time meet the requirements of the .Constitution and the Representation Act, and if .they had been more equitable than the present law we would have adopted them. The examination showed, however, that the amendments. were of a very extraordinary character. Take the first amendment. The Leader of the Co’Untry party endeavoured to convey to honorable members the impression that it carried out the principle of proportional representation .
– I do not think the honorable the Minister is doing the ..honorable member for Cowper justice. He said that he adopted the methods of proportional representation.
– The honorable mem- ‘’ ber for Cowper says in the document issued by,- him, “ By adopting the same principles “ as is observed in all the proportional electoral systems in operation within the Empire….. “ In working out that princpie he took seventy-two plus one, and used that for his particular purpose.
– That was in order to arrive at the proper quota.
– The object of section 24 of the Constitution Act is to determine the proper number of members to be elected to this House.
– For each State.
– It is to determine the number of members to be elected to this House, whereas proportional representation is intended to secure the due representation of parties in constituencies. The two objects are entirely different. The Acting Chief Electoral Officer summed up the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Cowper thus -
The reason for the adoption of the Droop quotain methods designed to secure proportional representation is set out in an extract from a paper read by Mr. Droop before the Statistical Society in April, 1881, and will be found in Mr. Humphrey s book on Proportional Representation, at page 138. That method is applied in connexion with -elections under a proportional system to fill vacancies one lessin number than that by which the total votes is divided. Dr. Page proposes to apply the method in order to allot members equal in number to his divisor (73).
– The Minister is totally misrepresenting the honorable member for Cowper.
– Will the Minister read the rest of that page in Mr. Humphrey’s book?
– I am reading the report of the electoral officers upon that scheme.
– But read the book.
– The report of the Acting Chief Electoral Officer continues -
There is a fundamental difference between the two things. In elections under the proportional system, surplus votes and votes insufficient to elect a member are transferred, and candidates are elected when a full quota is obtained, but in allotting representation under ‘the Representation Act, there is no transfer of a remainder (the equivalent of a surplus in an election), but the remainder, if it exceeds half a quota, is used for the purpose of allotting an additional member, and if less than half a quota, is ignored.
The honorablemember for Cowper cannot justify his amendment by any logical principle whatsoever. I defy the honorable member to find any proper principle in it. He also made some reference to the d’Hondt system, which has already been shown to be impracticable. As to the alternative proposal, the Acting Chief Electoral Officer sums the matter up in this way -
The manner of arriving at “ an equitable quota” under Dr. Page’s second method does not appear to be sound, inasmuch as it is not an average quota of the aggregate population of the four States; but is an average of average quotas of the population of the States taken separately.
– Under the d’Hondt system they keep on taking the remainder of the average.
– It is laid down very clearly in the Constitution that the number of members chosen in the several
States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. The honorable member, in his second method, ascertains the total of the population quotas - as determined under the present system - for the four largest States. He divides this total sum by four, and thus obtains a quota. To get this average quota there is, in effect, transfers from one State to another. The honorable member also deals only with four States. That he cannot do. . He arrives at an average, and because accidentally it works out in the way that suits him, he says that this principle can be applied.
– It does not work out accidentally.
– ‘The result is accidental, and! it is useless to apply this method, because it possesses defects which cannot be justified. There are two men in Australia who know something concerning the Australian Constitution, and they are the Solicitor-General (Sir Robert Garran) and Sir John Quick, who were present at the proceedings of the Convention, and have studied the Constitution in a, most thorough manner. They have written the most complete work on the Constitution which has ever been compiled. It is a monumental publication, and no other country inthe world has a superior text-book. It was written before the Constitution came into operation. At page 453, with respect to the words “ until Parliament otherwise provides,” in section 24 of the Constitution, this is what they say -
These words empower the Parliament to alter the provisions of sub-sections 1 and 2, which deal with the manner of determining the number of members chosen in the several States. This power of alteration is, however, confined within very narrow limits by the permanent and absolute provisions of the section. The rules which are determined absolutely by the section, and which Parliament has no power to alter, are -
That the whole number of members shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators.
That the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people.
That five members at least shall be chosen for each original State.
The provisions for ascertaining the quota and for dealing with the question of fractions may only be altered subject to those absolute rules ; so that the power of the Parliament to alter the basis of apportionment is very small.
And at page 450 the learned authors state -
The Parliament, when it makes “ other provisions “ for determining the number of members, will be bound by the constitutional provision to make their number “ as nearly as practicable twice the number of the senators; “ and the clear intention is that the absolute ratio should only be departed from so far as may bc necessary to adjust fractional and minimum representation.
– Will the Minister quote the late Sir Edmund Barton’s opinion on’ that section ?
– The honorable member for Grampians may have read that learned gentleman’s opinion, but possibly he did not understand it.
– That is a most insolent remark, and one that is totally’ unwarranted.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I shall take another opportunity
– The honorable member for Grampians is out of order.
– The Minister is most insolent, and has charged me with not understanding the opinion to which I have referred.
– The honorable member waa not complimentary to me this morning, However, I suppose he was only joking, and my reply to him can be taken in a jocular manner.
– Oh, it is a joke, is it ? The Minister knows I understood the section.
– I am sure the honorable member does. On page 452 of Quick and Gai ran, we find the following:
The Parliament, when it makes “ other provisions “ for determining the number of members, will be bound by the constitutional provision to make their number “ as nearly aB practicable twice the number of the senators; “ and the clear intention is that the absolute ratio should only be departed from so far as may be necessary to adjust fractional and minimum representation.
This “ two to one “ is a rigid element and basic requirement of much importance and significance; it is embodied in the Constitution; it is beyond the reach of modification by the Federal Parliament, and oan only bo altered by an amendment of the Constitution. It was adopted after due consideration and weighty reasons.
The reason was this : It was a question of the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it was proposed at one time that, in order to prevent a decrease in the number of members’ in the States, there should be one member for a fixed quota of people. By that means, as long as the State kept its population within certain limits, it could not lose a member. It was pointed out, however, that the numbers in the House of Representatives might grow to such an enormous extent that they would overshadow the Senate, and the two-to-one ratio was adopted in consequence. It was then realized that in working on that basis there would he fractions, and it was, therefore, necessary to make some allowance, and the words “ as near as practicable “ were inserted to overcome the fractional differences which would result. That was the intention of the framers of the Constitution, in which ample provision is made for increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives provided that the proper ratio be strictly adhered to. The formula submitted by the Leader of the Country party has been worked out by the Acting Chief Electoral Officer in consultation, with an expert mathematician, ‘and this is what he says -
If any other divisor whatever be used to determine representation, the number of members will be found to be as nearly as practicable the same as the divisor. The attached example, appendix A, in which the divisors 65, 72, and 79 have been taken at random, illustrate this. If 73 were’ used as the divisor, as suggested by the honorable member for Cowper, any number of members from 71 to 75 inclusive would be obtained, and whatever the number might be it would be “ as nearly as practicable” to 73, which, being more than twice the number of senators cannot be the proper Constitutional divisor.
If we were to take such numbers as 71, 73, 75, or 79 as our divisor we would obtain representation “ as nearly as practicable” and equal to the divisor taken. The Constitution provides that the number of members in the House of Representatives shall be “ as nearly as practicable “ twice the number of senators, which is seventy-two. If that number be used as> a divisor, the result is in accordance with the principle laid down, in the Constitution..
I hope that I have not offended the. honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). If, in consequence of the redistribution, he will not be a member of this Chamber after the next . elections, we shall miss him. Our recollections of our associations will bo of the most pleasant character, and if he leaves this House I know he will be able to use his energies with equal ability in some other sphere of activity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Junga; Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Warren, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Yarraman, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.BURCHELL (Fremantle) [3.57]. - I am anxious to knew when the Government intend proceeding with the Defence Retirement Bill. There are a number of men throughout Australia who have been retired from the Defence Department, and who have received their furlough pay; but until this measure has been passed by both Houses they will not be able to receive the compensation due to them. Representations have been made to me that a large number of men are in a very unfortunate position, and, as the Minister, as well as others have had this matter brought under their notice, I am anxious to know when that measure is likely to be passed.
– I am hoping that the Bill will pass the House next week. The present intention is to deal first with the Meat Bounties Bill, and then the Defence Retirement Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220901_reps_8_100/>.