10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Some time ago, the Prime Minister informed the House that arrangements had been made by the Commonwealth for an officer of the Queensland Government to inquire into the conditions of the aborigines in North and Central Australia. Has the inquiry been commenced; if so, when will it be completed?
– Arrangements have been completed for a Queensland officer to proceed to the Northern Territory, and conduct this investigation on behalf of the Commonwealth. “Weather conditions have been unfavorable to travelling in the interior, but it is anticipated that within the next fortnight this gentleman will be able to commence his investigation.
OUTLAWRY Or WAR.
– I ask the Prime Minister when the Government proposes to make available to the House the terms of the Note sent by the Government of the United States of America, inviting Australia, to participate as an original party in the proposed treaty to outlaw war? When will an opportunity be afforded the Parliament to discuss the matter and express its views?
– I may be able to make the Notes available to-day. If so, I shall endeavour to afford an opportunity for discussion as soon as possible afterwards.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House whether any arrangements have been made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia in regard to the future of the Perth Observatory which is of great importance to the community, and particularly to shipping
– The negotiations have not been completed, hut the Cabinet has come to a definite decision which was to-day communicated to the Premier of Western Australia.
– In view of the prognostication of a German scientist that the greater part of the southern hemisphere will shortly be under water, I wish to know what has been done with the £1,800 that was appropriated last session for improving the communications with Lord Howe Island?
– I shall inquire into the matter and let the honorable member have a reply.
– I have received the following letter from Mr. Russell Rayson Consulting Engineer, Melbourne : -
Three weeks ago yesterday, we arranged a special demonstration for the Federal Government officers. Owing to a delay in meeting Colonel Dunlop -Young, Mr. Allen could not attend the start. There were upwards of 50 persons present, and we delayed them till 11.30; the appointed time, as a matter of fact, was 10 o’clock. However, at the close of the demonstration, both the chief veterinary officer, Mr. Allen, and Colonel Dunlop Young were present and inspected the beef. They were both impressed, especially Colonel Dunlop Young, who openly stated that the hindquarter of Queensland beef we left out to defrost in the atmosphere, was as the beef is presented on Smithfield market practically unsaleable, whereas the treated beef looked very fine, and was saleable. On cutting up, every one declared the beef in appearance was equal to fresh killed. However, the best proof is the fact of being able to sell at a profit.
Since demonstrating, we . have put through further lots of Queensland beef, which have been disposed of profitably, but owing to the uproar, we cannot give the name of our buyer.
Prior to these demonstrations, we carried out tests as per our invitation, copy of which we sent to you. Unfortunately, Mr. Allen was called away to Sydney, and did not see the result. We have now made a proposal to the Minister for Markets; namely, that we put down a plant in London to treat 100 quarters per week at estimated cost of £3,000. We asked the Government to find one-third, namely £1,000, and we will grant an exclusive option to Australian interests. Failing a favorable and early reply we are ‘accepting an offer from foreign interests whose representative had not only been present at the demonstration, but was keen on watching the plant put down.
I ask the Minister for Markets whether the statements contained in that letter are correct, whether he has received any report from the chief veterinary officer, and also whether the Government is prepared to lend assistance in the more thorough testing of this process ?
– I have received a report from the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Inspection Branch of my department, in which he stated that the experiment was conducted only on a laboratory scale and was not sufficiently extensive to enable him to judge the value of the process. We pointed that out to the Rayson Company, and inquired whether it would be possible to arrange another demonstration on a larger scale, and so that the chief veterinary officer might watch the whole process from beginning to end. We were informed, however, that the plant had been dismantled. Naturally, the Government could not consider the undertaking of any liability until facilities have been given for a thorough investigation of the process.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the Commissioner for Old-age and Invalid Pensions has any control over the conditions under which pensioners are paid at the post offices? I have received complaints that at some offices the pensioners are required to line up in queues and wait a considerable time for payment. Will the -Treasurer prohibit postal officials from continuing this practice, which the pensioners very much resent?
– I shall be surprised if the facts are as the honorable member has stated. If he will supply me with specific instances of such treatment of pensioners I shall see that they are fully inquired into.
Leases - Population - Machines - German Gun - Expenditure
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What are the areas leased and unleased in the Federal Capital Territory, and the rentals of such areas other than city allotments, differentiating between the lands acquired and the lands presented to the Commonwealth by New South Wales?
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What was the population of Canberra on the 31st December of each year from 1912 to 1927 inclusive?
– The popu.lation of the Federal Capital Territory as ascertained by the Commonwealth Statistician on each of the dates mentioned by the honorable member was -
These figures comprise only the persons actually resident in the Territory on each of the dates mentioned. It is proposed in future to take a census in the Territory on the 30th June each year.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice - 1_ What was the cost of bringing the heavy German gun to Canberra?
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it .
Expectation of Life
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Issue of New Design
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I have referred these questions to the Commonwealth Rank and will furnish the information desired by the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Sir- NEVILLE HOWSE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the whole of the particulars desired are not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain the information necessary to enable me to furnish a complete answer to the honorable member’s questions.
Report of Tariff Board
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether anything has yet been done to comply with oft-repeated requests that Federal polling booth officials should receive more adequate remuneration for their services, and, if not, will the Minister take early steps to have the grievances of these officials remedied.
– The remuneration of poll clerks has been increased by 5s. per day since the last elections. No other changes have been made as the fees paid are considered to be reasonable.
Motor Transport Competition with State Railways.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the heavy financial losses being suffered by the State- Railway Departments because of the competition of motor transport over 7-oads which are in part being constructed out of Commonwealth funds and as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s roads policy, the Minister will consider the desirability of calling a conference representative of all interests concerned with a view to ensuring that in the development of the Commonwealth Government’s roads policy the interests of the State railways are as far as practicable safeguarded?
– As the proposals for the construction and reconstruction of roads under the Federal Aid Roads scheme emanate from the State Governments who are parties to Federal Aid Roads Agreement, it may be assumed that such proposals would be in harmony with the State Governments’ general policy, and it is therefore not considered desirable or necessary to call the conference suggested by the honorable member.
– On 29th May the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: - 1 and 2. Owing to the arrangement of Army Estimates whereby combined provision is spread over practically the whole of the votes for what may be termed the overhead and general expenses applicable to any system of training, such as pay of the Administrative and Instructional Stan’s, Ordnance and Pay Services, &c. vide Estimates page 145, 171, 230, 237, 375, 391, it is not practicable to state the whole cost of compulsory military training in the Commonwealth. The ex penditure for 1926-27, under the votes which specially relate to universal training is as follows : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred to the requests which had been made to the late Minister for Trade and Customs for increased assistance for the cotton industry, and I promised to furnish a list of the matters which had been referred to the Tariff Board for public inquiry and report. These are as follows : -
Duty on raw cotton imported for purposes other than spinning.
Increased rates of duty on cotton yarn and increased rates of bounty on cotton yarn manufactured in the Commonwealth from Australian-grown cotton.
Payment of bounty on percentage yarns manufactured in Australia.
Duty on cotton linters.
Increased duty on cotton wadding.
Increased duty on edible oils.
– On the 11th and 17th May, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred to the matter of the publication of weather reports from Western Australia, and I promised to have inquiries made.
A report furnished by the Commonwealth Meteorologist indicates that the Western Australian weather synopsis, with rainfall reports for the principal stations, is despatched, per telegram, by the Divisional Meteorologist, Perth, to Canberra and to the weather bureaux in the eastern States, at 10 o’clock every morning, and rainfall for other stations later.
All reports received by the weather bureaux are furnished to the press. From 1st to 19th May inclusive, however, there were but a few reports to publish, owing to the scanty rainfall in Western Australia during that period. From 1st to 8th May rain occurred only at a few places on and near the extreme south-west coast. On 9th and 10th May light scattered rain was recorded on south-west and south coastal districts (but heavy at Denmark and Albany). From 11th to 14th light rain occurred only at one or two places on south coast. From 15th to 19th May inclusive, there was no rain whatever recorded in the State. The Commonwealth Meteorologist adds that the Divisional Meteorologist, Perth, has been instructed to despatch the Western Australian rainfall reports to Canberra as early each morning as possible.
– On the 29th May the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me when it was expected that the second report of the Development and Migration Commission on the Gold Mining Industry would be available. I have had inquiries made, and have ascertained that the report is at present in the hands of the printer. Proofs are expected by the commission very shortly, and the report will then be subject to final revision. The commission is unable to indicate the exact date when the report will be available, but it will be expedited as much as possible.
– On the 16th May the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The statistics are prepared on the basis of the financial year and accordingly figures for the years 1924-25, 1925-20, and 1926-27 are furnished hereunder. It is not practicable to supply particulars for the broken portion of 1927-28 without specially adding up the statistical records for these items. This would involve a very large amount of extra work and would seriously interfere with the working of the statistical branches in the different States- 1. (a) 1924-25, £63,937,217; 1925-26, £56,228,005; 1926-27, £43,386,332.
1924-25, £8,836,399; 1925-26, £9,499,106; 1926-27, £8,094,694. 2. (a) 1924-25, £2,462,930; 1925-26, £3,312,849; 1926-27, £4,071,534.
1924-25, £9,243,329; 1925-26, £9,846,960; 1926-27, £11,078,006. 3. (a) Machinery - 1924-25, £7,731,037; 1925-26, £7,880,020; 1926-27, £8,122,987.
Iron and steel products - 1924-25. £11,981,223; 1925-26, 10,905,800; 1926-27, £11,139,261.
Wearing apparel, including piece Goods - 1924-25, £18,571,384: 1925-26, £16,300,525; 1926-27, £15,662,256.
Machinery - 1924-25, £3,849,052; 1925- 26, £4,270,161 ; 1926-27, £5,384,474.
Iron and steel products - 1924-25, £2,050,125; 1925-26, £2,012,759; 1926- 27, £2,413,582.
Wearing apparel, including piece goods- 1924-25, £1,244,419; 1925-26, £1,587,147; 1926-27, £1,859,315.
Allocation of Land
– On the 29th March the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) referred to the practice of obtaining land, in the Union of South Africa as to the allocation of land on the discovery of a new diamond field, and suggested that consideration be given to the adoption of a similar practice in the event of pil-bearing areas being discovered in Australia. A copy of the Precious Stones Act 1927, of the Union of South Africa has been received from the Government of that dominion. The act in question provides, inter alia, for the making of regulations prescribing that any prospector shall pay a share of the proceeds of any precious stones into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and for the Crown to receive a share of the realized profits derived from the working of certain mines. The rights accruing to the discoverer, the land-owner, and the Crown, respectively, in the event of a payable discovery of precious stones do not appear, however, to be as set out by the honorable member. As the allocation and control of mining land in the States come solely within the jurisdiction of the State Governments, the Commonwealth is only in a position to consider the honorable member’s suggestion so far as it relates to mining legislation in the territories under the control of the Commonwealth. Provision exists in the legislation of the Commonwealth Territories relating to mineral oil, for the reservation of any area from inclusion in any licence or lease, and for the payment to the Administration of a royalty of 5 per cent, of the gross value of all crude oil produced by the lessee of a mineral oil lease. It is considered that these provisions are adequate for present requirements.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) (by leave) agreed to -
That government business shall take precedence over general business for this day of sitting.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - resolved in the negative.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 30th May, vide page 5370).
Clause 9 -
Section ninety-two of the principal act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, in any case in which a postal ballot-paper, if posted or delivered . . . would not reach the divisional returning officer for the division in respect of which the elector claims to vote, before the close of the poll, the envelope in which the ballot-paper is enclosed may be addressed to . . . . . any other divisional returning officer, who shall deal with it in the prescribed manner.”
Upon which Mr. Manning had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “ officer “, last occurring, proposed new sub-section 2, the words “ or presiding officer “ be inserted.
.- The object of the amendment is to enable presiding officers as well as divisional returning officers to receive postal ballotpapers before the close of the poll. It thus seeks to enlarge the facilities which are accorded to postal voters. If there was the slightest justification for the claim that is made by those who support the amendment, that, because the divisional returning officer is a responsible official, ipso facto all those who are appointed by him are equally responsible, ‘ one could accept the amendment. But such is not the case. When a presiding officer is a member of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Public Service of a State, no difficulty would be likely to arise. The scheme would be workable in metropolitan, suburban or provincial divisions ; but there is a fatal objection to its adoption in respect to country electorates and outback areas. Let us consider the electorates of Kalgoorlie, Grey, Darling, Kennedy and Maranoa. It is an absolute impossibility to guarantee the integrity of the presiding officers in those electorates. I make no reflection upon those whom the divisional returning officers choose to fill such positions. But it must be admitted that their choice is often very limited indeed. The divisional returning officer for the Darling electorate has his head-quarters at Broken Hill. On one occasion he had to make provision for a polling booth 150 miles from Wilcannia, up the Paroo, towards the Queensland border. There was no person residing in the vicinity of the polling place who, in the judgment of the divisional returning officer, was suitable for appointment as presiding officer. He, therefore, sent a presiding officer and an assistant by car from Wilcannia. They took with them a tent, and after they had travelled a distance of 150 miles they established a polling place ‘at a bore, the nearest habitation to which was 10 miles distant. That incident illustrates the impracticability of the amendment.
– Would it not be possible to make this provision in some country districts?
– In many districts the act could be worked in that way, but there are very many in which it could not. In the Darling electorate alone, no fewer than three cases have come under my notice of the presiding officer and his assistant having to establish a polling booth. It is impossible for a presiding officer iu such circumstances to have votes posted to him at the place where the polling booth is established. If we were to accept this proposal, it could apply only to a more or less restricted area, and its adoption might cause grave J hardship to many persons who, having faith in the provisions of the act, took all the necessary steps to record a postal vote. It would be impossible for them in many places to deliver postal votes to the presiding officer, because the polling place would not be a place to which mail matter could be delivered. I. am strongly against the introduction into the Electoral Act of any system which is impracticable and dangerous, and I therefore oppose the amendment.
– I disagree entirely with the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). I think he will agree with me when I say that the amendment would be of advantage to certain voters. I point out that it does not restrict, but on the contrary, adds to, the advantages that are now possessed by certain electors. Therefore, we shall be eliminating gradually the number of postal voters who are unable to record their votes. I am amazed that the Minister has not accepted the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie. Take the position of the absent voter : An elector wishing to exercise the franchise under that section of the act, enters a polling place, informs the presiding officer of his name, and claims the right to vote for his division. The official is not in a position to say whether the elector’s name has not been struck off the roll. Accordingly, his vote is accepted, placed in an envelope, sealed and witnessed by the presiding officer and sent to the divisional returning officer for the division for which the absentee voter claims to be enrolled. It is not until the ballot paper has been examined by the divisional returning officer that the vote i3 accepted or rejected.
– But it is traceable.
– Exactly ; and so is a postal vote traceable. For the purpose of my argument I had better cite what happens in a part of my own division. The people living on the north end of Flinders Island are 20 miles distant from the nearest polling place. Their applications for a postal vote have to go to Launceston by steamer. As soon as they learn that an election is pending they apply for postal voting papers, but, before these can be sent, the applications have to be certified by the divisional returning officer. Therefore, if a ballot-paper is sent to an elector he is in a much better position than an absent voter could be, because, having received the voting-paper from the divisional returning officer he knows that he is eligible to vote. What a short step it is to authorize presiding officers to receive a postal ballotpaper. As has been suggested, they could issue a receipt to the person from whom they received it, and the voting paper could be placed in the ballot box and dealt with in the same way as an absent voting paper is handled. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said yesterday that we should put all possible restrictions on the use of the postal vote. That is a wrong view. What, should be done with regard to the postal vote is to impose all necessary, but not all possible, restrictions. There are men and women living in the north of Flinders Island who have never yet been able to record their votes at a federal election.
– This amendment will not give a vote to them.
– It will. Let me tell honorable members what happened in connexion with the State election yesterday. The vessel that serves Flinders Island, or which ought to serve the island, is at present in dock with a broken tail shaft. Consequently there has not been a steamer service to the island for some weeks. As I have pointed out on more than one occasion, the waters of Bass Strait can be very rough at times; consequently the smaller ste’amers are sometimes weatherbound either in the Tamar River or at one of the islands in the Furneaux group. There have been times when there has not been a steamer service to Flinders Island for six weeks. As soon as a writ is issued for an election, Flinders Island electors wishing to vote by post, can lodge their applications with the district returning officer at Launceston, and receive a voting paper, but the vessel that takes the ballot box back to Launceston leaves the island on the day following the elections. So that under existing arrangements the postal voting papers do not reach the divisional returning officer in time. There is no other mail service.
– To whom should the elector deliver the ballot-paper?
– To the presiding officer at any polling place. The amendment will benefit electors who are sick, because they cannot go to the polling booth, and also those living at a long distance. In this bill the Government is extending the privileges of postal . voters so far as distance is concerned. It provides that electors living five miles from a polling place may make application for a vote; but, strangely enough, the Minister refuses to take the short step which will make possible, if the amendment is accepted, the permitting of electors to record a postal vote by delivering it to the presiding officer.
– There are people in Australia who can never have a vote.
– I agree with the honorable member. But as in the Electoral Act there is provision for compulsory voting, so we should see to it that those who are eligible can record a valid vote. I suggest that consideration of the clause be postponed with a view to arriving at some solution of the difficulty. I feel sure that it is the wish of the committee that some proposal on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Macquarie should be inserted in the bill.
ment is, of course, a very important one. I think we can take it that it is the desire of all honorable members that every citizen in Australia should have an opportunity to exercise the franchise if it is possible to devise a system which will contain safeguards against uncertainty, or possibly corruption, being introduced into the operation of our electoral law. I believe it is possible to do something to meet the wishes of honorable members. It is, however, a matter of some difficulty, because it is important that any proposal to do what has been suggested should have incorporated in it adequate safeguards to ensure absolute purity in elections. While I do not think that the Government can accept the amendment in its present form, I believe we can suggest a proposal that will satisfy those honorable members who approve of it, and at the same time provide proper safeguards. One objection to the proposal in its present form is that the vote must be sent by post to the presiding officer. I doubt if that could be allowed; but I suggest that the handing of the postal vote to the presiding officer might be permitted, and perhaps prove a way out of the difficulty.
– By whom should it be handed to the presiding officer ?
– By an individual elector.
– It would not be a postal vote then.
– It might still be regarded as a postal vote, because the voting paper would have been sent to the elector concerned, following his application for a postal vote.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest that a postal ballot-paper should be handed to the presiding officer by the elector concerned?
– Not necessarily. If an elector could attend at a polling place, he would be entitled to vote as an absentee voter. The position might be mel by requiring the witnessing of the signature and other safeguards just as if the vote were posted direct to the divisional returning officer for the division for which the elector claimed the vote. We all have sufficient confidence in our electoral officers to believe that a method can be devised which will satisfy all objections. I am not suggesting that we should attempt to insert these safeguarding provisions in the act itself, but I believe there are ways in which the necessary safeguards could be established. It is desirable that the fullest consideration should be given to this matter by the Electoral Department in order to devise the best method. I suggest that one way would be to issue to all presiding officers receipt forms for postal votes. One of these receipts could be delivered to the person handing in a postal ballot-paper, and the presiding officer would have to account for every receipt form issued to him in the same way that now he has to account for every voting paper and document received by him in connexion with an election. I do not say that that is the way in which the matter should be arranged. It would, be better to leave it to the electoral officers to devise the best method of safeguarding the vote. But the bill should provide that the postal vote must be handed to the presiding officer on polling day. If the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) would withdraw his amendment the position could be met by omitting from proposed subsection 2, the words “who shall deal with it in the prescribed manner “ and inserting in lieu thereof the words “or may be delivered on polling day to any presiding officer, and the divisional returning officer or the presiding officer, as the case may be, shall deal with it in the prescribed manner. “ The clause now concludes - the envelope in which the ballot-paper is onclosed may be addressed to and posted or delivered to, any other divisional returning officer, who shall deal with the matter in the prescribed manner.
The suggested amendment would ensure the handing of the voting paper to the presiding officer on polling day ; he would post it to the divisional returning officer. The voting paper would then be dealt with in the prescribed manner. After consultation with the electoral officers, the necessary safeguards could be provided. I suggest that if the honorable member for Macquarie withdraws his amendment and that which I have suggested is substituted for it, we shall accomplish what every honorable member desires.
– The amendment proposed by the right honorable the Prime Minister so nearly meets the position that I ask leave to withdraw my amendment in its favour. A great deal has been said regarding the necessity of safeguarding ‘postal votes. No one i3 more keenly alive to the necessity for safeguarding them than I am. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the type of man who sometimes is appointed a presiding officer. The responsibility of a presiding officer in relation to postal votes is not nearly so great as that connected with absent votes. In the case of postal votes, he will merely receive the sealed envelopes and place them in the ballot-box, where they will remain until the box is opened either by the divisional returning officer or his deputy. Honorable members know well that presiding officers themselves are not allowed to count the votes, but must seal the ballotboxes and forward them to the principal polling booth where the votes are to be counted. The suggestion that a man who is capable of acting as a presiding officer is not fit to accept sealed postal votes and place them in the ballot-box is the height of absurdity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he knew of instances in which station managers who were not qualified to act as presiding officers had been appointed to the position because of the difficulty , of obtaining suitable men for the work. Yet the honorable gentleman a little earlier advocated the appointment of gangers on railway lines as authorized witnesses. It may be true that in a few instances station managers unsuitable for the work have been appointed as presiding officers; but will any honorable member say that every railway ganger is a suitable person to act as an authorized witness? The responsibility is considerably greater in the case of an authorized witness than it is in the case of an officer who has merely to receive a ballot-paper in a sealed envelope and place it in a ballot-box.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. McGrath (Ballarat) [3.16].- Members of the ministerial party seem desirous of giving every elector the opportunity to vote. I suggest, therefore, that the provisions relating to absentee voting be extended to meet the case of voters who are temporarily in another State on polling day. Under the existing law those electors are disfranchised. An elector who on polling day is in another part of the State than that for which he is enrolled may now record his vote by entering any polling booth in that State; but an elector enrolled for a division in Victoria if he is in South Australia on polling day cannot vote. Electors are sometimes suddenly required to visit another State on or about polling day. Again, elections sometimes take place during the shearing season when large numbers of men are absent from their home State. Under the existing law they are disfranchised, notwithstanding that on polling day they may be close to a polling booth. “With compulsory voting in operation we should endeavour to lessen the number of electors from whom explanations as to their reasons for not voting are required. . Unless provision is made to meet the cases I have mentioned, a considerable section of electors will, on each polling day, be prevented from exercising the franchise.
– The Government’s proposals will meet the case of the electors to whom the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has referred. The bill provides that postal ballot-papers may be returned to any divisional returning officer in the Commonwealth, and also that any elector may apply to any divisional returning officer, whether in his own or in another State, for a postal ballot-paper immediately after nomination day. He may deliver his voting paper to the divisional returning officer. Between the closing of nominations and polling day a period of several weeks usually intervenes. If the amendment of the right honorable the Prime Minister is agreed to, an elector will be able to deposit his ballot-paper with the divisional returning officer or the presiding officer.
Mr. PARKHILL (Warringah) [3.191. - I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). It sometimes occurs that on polling day, or the day preceding it, a mail steamer arrives at an Australian port, having on board several hundred electors who are enrolled for various divisions throughout the Commonwealth. They have not sufficient time to obtain postal voting papers and, under the existing legislation, they cannot vote as absent voters. Consequently they are disfranchised. If the Minister will give us his assurance that their case is met by this bill, I shall be satisfied.
.- The Minister’s explanation of the present law and the amendments now proposed does not satisfy me with regard to the cases that I have cited. Voting by post is not a sure method, because it is not certain that the vote will ever be counted. I should like to know the percentage of informal votes recorded at every election owing to irregularities on the part of the authorized witnesses. No honorable member has watched postal voting more closely than I have. Often my election has been won by the postal votes cast in my favour, and I have never been beaten on them. In scores of instances, at every election, electors who avail themselves of the postal provisions vote for the candidate of their choice, and do all that is required of them; yet the authorized witness forgets to state his qualification, such as postmaster or justice of the peace, or he forgets to put in the date on which the vote was witnessed. For such reasons as those votes are treated as informal. I do not wish to encourage electors to vote by post; but I suggest that we restore the provision that was in the act prior to 1913, under which an elector could vote on polling day at any polling booth in Australia. That arrangement worked admirably. As pointed out by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), an elector might have to leave his home town hurriedly, and might thus be prevented from recording a postal vote. He might be in Sydney the day before an election, and might be suddenly called to Melbourne. He would find on arrival there that he could not vote. The old provision, which operated prior to 1913, if restored, would give every healthy person within reach of the polling booth the opportunity to vote.
.- The amendment before the committee would certainly be of assistance in thickly settled areas, where, perhaps through sudden sickness or for some other reason, a postal vote could be recorded and handed to somebody who would take it to the nearest presiding officer; but it would not help electors in the outlying and widely-scattered districts. Beyond Thargomindah and Windorah, for instance, the mail routes extend over probably 200 or 300 miles, with stations every 40 or 50 miles. Polling booths are not to be found there at convenient distances, and, if a settler wished to record a postal vote, he would still, as under the old conditions, have to deal directly with Dalby, which is the centre. Windorah is about eight or nine days by post from Dalby, yet Dalby is the seat of the divisional returning officer, . of which Windorah is a sub-division. If we are to make the electoral law suitable for people in settled districts, where they can easily have their votes taken to the electoral office, we ought to enable people in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth to,j take full advantage of the provision* I suggest to the Minister that we allow postal votes to be forwarded not to any presiding officer, but only to the assistant returning officers, who are also postmasters. The Thargomindah postmaster is the assistant returning officer, and a Government official. Nobody would take exception to his receiving postal votes. A long time elapses before settlers on the Bulloo, or the Birdsville route, can reach Dalby; but if they could send their votes to Windorah they would save from eight to nine days. The inclusion of the words, “ posted or delivered to any other divisional returning officer or assistant returning officer,” would assist people in the outback places. Electors in thicklysettled areas have their needs completely met by the amended proposal of the Minister. I pointed out yesterday that it was impossible to reach any presiding officer by post unless he lived in a town that had a post office. In the outlying places in the back country, where the people are dependent entirely on the mail services for facilities for sending in their voting papers, they are often 60 or 70 miles from the nearest polling booth. I know one road in a fairly good grazing area which is 120 miles long. There is a polling booth at each end, but none in between, and the electors could not be expected to travel 60 or 70 miles for voting purposes unless they had business to transact in the towns where the polling booths would be located. If they were permitted to post their votes to the nearest assistant returning officer it would be of great convenience to them. That would meet the case of electors in the remote areas, not only in my electorate, but also in those of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) and the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott).
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) said that the present proposal would not meet the case mentioned by him. I point out that section 85 of the principal act, which provides for voting by post, would meet such a case. The elector could apply to a divisional returning officer anywhere in Australia for postal voting forms.
– Those forms cannot be issued on an election day.
– I stated in my previous remarks that the amendment now before the committee making it permissive for any returning officer to receive these ballot-papers would meet the case raised by the honorable member.
– What about an elector who leaves Sydney the day before polling day?
– It is impossible to meet every case.
– We did so up to 1913.
– We have to provide for the needs of the majority of the electors. Under the act as it stands, any divisional returning officer may issue a postal voting form to any elector who applies for it. If a person travels on an election day his inability to vote is due to his own misfortune.
– Why not give him the right to vote as an absentee?
– In reply to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), I think that the amendment, which is to take the place of the amendment that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has withdrawn, meets the case referred to by him. The honorable member’s suggestion would not overcome the difficulty mentioned by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), because there is no assistant returning officer on Flinders Island. The amendment of which the Prime Minister has given notice should be acceptable to the honorable member for Maranoa.
– It is not. How could that vote be used by a person 90 miles from the nearest polling booth?
– It could probably be posted to the divisional returning officer.
– I cannot understand why the original provision relating to absentee votes was struck out of the act.
– The Government is giving effect to the report of the royal commission.
– I cannot recollect anything in that report against that method of voting. At my first election in 1910, we had to wait some time before the declaration of the poll, because one vote had been recorded for me as far away as Camooweal, in Queensland. Why should there be any objections to the absent vote, being recorded at any booth on election day, in the presence of properly qualified persons whose duty it is to superintend the poll?
– It is a secret vote.
– Tes. That vote is sent to the divisional returning officer of the electorate in which the voter is enrolled. The absent vote is one of the finest things in the Electoral Act, and is particularly needed in a far-flung country like Australia, in which people are travelling enormous distances daily. It is impossible for all the people to vote in their own electorates. A person resident in Melbourne may happen to be in Perth or Brisbane on the day of election, and what would be more convenient for him than to apply to a polling booth in the city in which he is staying for the requisite form to enable him to record an absent vote.
– Many persons lose their votes because they are under the impression that they can record an absent vote when out of their own State.
– That ia so. They walk into a polling booth in another State and ask for an absent vote form and, to their astonishment, are informed that that method of voting is not permitted.
– Does not the absent vote still stand in the State itself?
– Yes, but not outside the. State. There is a large number of commercial travellers and workers continually on the move throughout Australia, and it is only fair to them that they should be permitted to record an absent vote. This provision was in the original act, passed when the Labour party wai in a minority. Surely the then Government had some idea of the electoral requirements of Australia. Before the bill is passed the Government would be wise to restore the original provision. The absent vote can be recorded with the same secrecy and under the same supervision as an ordinary vote.
.- I cannot understand why the Government should take objection to the absent vote. I speak from personal experience, because on one polling day before I was a member of the Federal Parliament, I was travelling in another State and I applied for a postal vote, but unfortunately it did not reach me until too late to return it to the divisional returning officer of the electorate for which I was enrolled. My vote would have been recorded’ had absentee voting been in force. On polling day a number of people are outside their own electorates. If a resident of Brisbane is in Sydney or Melbourne, he cannot record an absent vote. He is expected, before he leaves Brisbane, to apply to the divisional returning officer there for a postal vote, which must be recorded at any time between nomination day and the close of the poll. If that person is in another part of Queensland, say Rockhampton, he can record a postal vote. Why that differentiation? State boundaries should not be recognized in our Federal electoral law. If the Government is sincere in its desire to facilitate the recording of votes, it will agree to the restoration of the absent vote. There is little or no danger of malpractice, and interstate travellers should certainly be given the same voting facilities as are enjoyed by intra-state travellers: i .
– I suggest that, unless the Minister can show that there is grave reason why the absent vote should not be permitted in other States, this method of voting should be re-instituted. A resident of Sydney can record an absent vote in any part of New South Wales. He can record a vote if at Albury, but not if at Wodonga on the other side of the river Murray. This is an inconsistency. I agree with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that the Federal Electoral Act should not recognize State boundaries at all. All the federal electorates should be on the same plane. At present a large number of electors who on polling day are travelling in other States are disfranchised, and under the compulsory provisions of the act may be put to considerable inconvenience and trouble to explain why they did not vote. I urge the Government not to refuse to extend the absent vote unless it has some grave reason for doing so.
– I cannot understand why the original absent “Voting provision was altered.
– We could never understand why a Labour Government abolished the postal vote.
– The two methods of voting are totally different, and, in any case, we are not now concerned with postal voting. I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that unless some grave and substantial reason can be given by the Minister to justify the abolition of the original absent vote, that method of voting should be restored. If it has not been abused in any way, it should not be difficult for him to make this alteration and thus meet the wishes of both sides of the committee. The honorable member for Warringah said that a resident of Sydney could record an absent vote at Albury, but not at Wodonga, a few miles across the river Murray. That position is certainly inconsistent. The same thing might apply in the Riverina electorate, as in Hume. On one occasion a party of cricketers left New South Wales to play at Wangaratta, in Victoria, starting in the morning before the polling booths opened, with the understanding that they would be back in time to vote. They had a break-‘ down on the road on the Victorian side, and were unable to get back before the booths closed. Such a party, accompanied by its supporters, might number as many as 100 people. They might be within easy distance of a polling booth, but because they happened to be in another State, they would all be disfranchised. In border districts particularly, the lack of a Commonwealth-wide absent-voting provision is likely to cause the disfranchisement of hundreds of voters.
– As a rule, such persons could vote before they left for another State.
– The train for Victoria leaves before the time at which the booths would open. Then there are cases in which people are called away suddenly. A person who receives an urgent message to go to another State, and has to leave before the polling booths open, would be deprived of his vote. I do not think that that was ever really intended.
– We say that we want everybody to vote.
– Yes, we say that every one should have a vote, and that no obstacles should be placed in their way. Unless it can be shown that under, the original absentvoters’ provision grave abuses took place, what reason is there for not permitting the restoration of absent voting? I have not heard the Minister say that under the old system any such abuses took place. What difference does it make whether an elector votes in Wodonga on one side of the river, or in Albury on the other side? The same sort of officers have to carry out the same sort of duties in both places. What opportunity does the system offer for abuse? The Minister must state clearly his objection to absent voting. He says that we are all agreed that the fullest freedom must be given to everybody to vote. Under the present system a great injustice is done to commercial travellers, who are liable to be called away at a moment’s notice. In many cases they would have to leave the night before, or very early in the morning of polling day, and would not have an opportunity of recording their votes. What is the Minister’s objection to the restoration of absent voting as originally provided for?
– We are not dealing with absent voting now.
– Will the Minister answer these objections? Persons who have to make their living as commercial travellers, and other citizens may receive an urgent . message to go into another State on the eve of an election. Such persons are now deprived of their vote. The other objection to be answered relates to persons living in border towns whose business or pleasure takes them across the border into another State. Are they also to be deprived of their votes?
– I think that the average commercial traveller knows his programme for some time ahead, and could provide himself with a postal voting paper.
– Then take the case of an engine-driver.
– Such people are provided for under other sections of the act.
Mr.Scullin. - Take the case of an engine-driver who is booked up for a morning train, and does not know anything about it until 4 o’clock in the morning.
– He could vote when he reached his destination. He would not be driving all the day.
– But he might have to drive across the border, and then he would be deprived of the opportunity to vote.
– That is a possibility, and it is the possibilities for which we must make provision.
– I promise the honorable member that this matter shall be brought up and discussed later. We shall deal later with postponed clauses and amendments, and an opportunity will then be provided for discussing it. In the meantime I shall consider the point.
– Will the Minister give us an assurance to that effect?
– We shall go into that matter when we are dealing with the postponed clauses, and we can then fully consider the absent voting provision.
– But where is the absent voting clause in the bill?
– We cannot deal with the matter now in any case. I promise that the matter will be re-opened so that members may have an opportunity of discussing it.
– I take it, then, that the Minister will have no objection to the moving of a new clause dealing with this matter after the other clauses have been considered.
– None whatever.
– I was a member of the committee which dealt with this matter, and, like many others, I was at first in favour of the original absent voting provision. I could not understand why an elector should not record his vote in any part of Australia, and I retained that opinion until I heard the objections raised by officers of the Electoral Department. We finally decided not to recommend this system which, as we stated in our report, would result in very considerable delays in the declaration of a poll. This applies particularly to the Senate elections. It does not matter so muchin regard to the House of Representatives, but for the Senate elections it has been found that there has always been a serious difficulty in obtaining final results. What eventually persuaded the committee to turn the proposal down was the statement of electoral officers that only very few persons who could not be covered by the. postal voting provision left for other States on the eve of an election. Honorable members opposite have made a plea for persons who are hurriedly called to another State on the morning of the poll, or on the preceding day. There may be such cases, but the majority of absentees are persons who plan their trips well beforehand and have plenty of time to get a postal vote. Upon this point the select committee reported -
Much evidence was tendered to the committee as to the desirability of electors being permitted to vote when in a State other than the one for which they are enrolled.
At present absent voting is restricted to the State for which the elector is enrolled.
Interstate absent voting was formerly provided for, but it was found that its operation caused grave delays in the announcement of the results of the elections; and, upon the introduction of postal voting, it was decided that practically all cases of this kind would be met by the postal voting system, and therefore absent voting beyond the boundaries of the State was discontinued.
If it were re-introduced, the same difficulties would arise, and the already long period of suspense during which the votes are being counted would be considerably added to. In any cases of close elections, periods even as long as a month would elapse before the decision of the electors could be made known. It would be impossible to enter upon the final counting of the Senate votes until the whole of the absent voting ballot-papers had been received by the divisional returning officer to whom they were addressed. This would mean that, in connexion with the Senate election, no real progress in the count could be made within a month of polling day.
The committee cannot, therefore, recommend the re-adoption of the system of interstate absent voting.
A real difficulty, which is strictly an abuse of this privilege, is the number who vote as absent when they might just as easily have voted in their own polling places. They, of course, sign a declaration untruthfully, and some tightening up,’ in the way of penalty, is desirable to obviate much of this. The committee recommends accordingly.
– Does not the electoral office use the telegraph for communications?
– Only to notify the number of votes that have been received. But, until the votes are checked by the returning officer, it is impossible to know how many of them are valid. Under sections 121 and 121a any person who believes he or she is entitled to vote may do so after signing a certain declaration. Those “ section “ votes are afterwards carefully examined by the divisional returning officer, and fully 75 per cent, of them are disallowed, either because the voters did not know what they were doing or were not entitled to vote for the divisions for which they claimed votes. It would be impossible for the returning officer to declare the result of a poll if he had only a telegraphed notification of the number of “ section “ votes. Absent votes have to be scrutinized more carefully than other votes. The postal vote is safer; it is usually in regular form before it leaves the electoral officer’s hands, because he satisfies himself that the application is bona fide and that the vote is properly recorded. In the rush on polling day, however, many officers accept absent votes, many of which on subsequent examination are disallowed.
– Is any harm done thereby?
– The question to be considered is whether it is desirable for the sake of a small number of absentees, most of whom are at fault, to defer the declaration of a poll for weeks and months. The objections mentioned by the electoral officials were in the opinion of the select committee substantial. It is usually found that 90 per cent, of those who apply for absent votes could have voted in their own division if they had wished to do so. Many people postpone voting until the last moment; in the meantime they have travelled perhaps 30 miles by car, and are out of their own division. . The electoral officials are convinced that the majority of those who complain that they cannot vote within their own division could have voted in the early morning had they so desired. For the reasons I have stated I urge the Minister to adopt the recommendation of the select committee. If honorable members choose to take the risk of allowing absent voting by persons in other States than that in which they are registered, they will be doing so in opposition to the advice of practically all the electoral officials.
– The only objection is delay, and that does not amount to anything in connexion with the polling for the Senate.
– At election time the tension is high, and when the returns are unduly delayed the public become indignant, and blame the electoral officers.
– Delay is less serious than disfranchisement of the people.
– The number of people who are disfranchised, except through their own fault, is very small. Those who carelessly abstain from voting until the last hour will be those who will be principally convenienced by the alteration which some honorable members desire to effect.
.- I support the honorable member for Warringah, because he knows what he is talking about. I was secretary of the Labour party for some years, and I know how people are inconvenienced by the postal vote. The long declaration is enough to frighten the ordinary individual, and the applicants who are away from their own States have very little idea hew the application should be made. These difficulties deter many people from voting. Why should a person be disfranchised because he happens to be absent from his State on polling day? The object of the electoral law is to get an expression of the people’s will. Voting has been made compulsory, and those who fail to vote are liable to heavy penalties. Why then should we put obstacles in the way of electors who are absent from their States ? I am aware of some of the difficulties that confront a person who seeks a postal vote. For instance, the applicant has to state the subdivision in which he resides. Some towns and suburbs are divided by the electoral boundary. For instance, Edwardstown East is in Boothby, and Edwardstown is in Barker. A resident of either of those places who is absent from his State may not be able to declare the subdivision or even the division in which he lives. Through no fault of his own he is disfranchised, and made liable to a penalty. When I was a commercial traveller I often voted outside my own district, after consulting at the booth the officer in charge of declaration votes; he could make sure that my vote was valid, and, therefore, effective. If we are sincere in our desire to give every eligible person in Australia a vote, it is our duty to make voting as simple as possible, particularly for those who are travelling and who do not know exactly where they will be on election day. Absent votes can be reliably recorded, but that is not the case with postal votes. I trust the Honorary Minister will agree to the reinsertion of the full absent voting provision in the present act.
– I desire to obtain some information from the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) in relation to the position of a number of electors at Lord Howe Island, who are in the East Sydney electorate. On five or six occasions the residents on that island have had not had an opportunity of recording a valid vote owing to the time occupied in despatching the ballotpapers to Lord Howe Island, and returning them to the divisional returning officer in Sydney. The ballotpapers, which are not distributed until within a few days of the election, which is a necessary safeguard, usually miss the mail for Lord Howe Island, and consequently the papers cannot be despatched until the following steamer, with the result that by the time they reach Lord Howe Island and are marked and returned to Sydney, it is too late for them to be counted. On two occasions the electors of Lord Howe Island have been able to record their votes and return them in time to be counted, but on every other occasion the votes of those electors have been useless. If a wireless station were established at Lord Howe Island, as I have often suggested, the names of the candidates could be transmitted by wireless, and ballot-papers prepared on the island. They could then be marked and returned to East Sydney in time for counting. Perhaps the Honorary Minister will be able to give me some information on the matter. The electors of Lord Howe Island have a polling booth; they appoint a presiding officer, scrutineers, and other officials, but the ballotpapers do not arrive in time. I brought this matter under the notice of the select committee which inquired into our electoral, law, but it did not submit a recommendation. I am sure the Chief Electoral Officer will be able to suggest an amendment to overcome the difficulty.
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) under the notice of the electoral officials, and request them to see if it is not possible for the electors on Lord Howe Island to reecive their ballot-papers in time to record their votes, and for the papers to be in Sydney in time to be counted. It may be practicable for the ballot-papers to be printed, at Lord Howe Island, and returned to the divisional returning officer for East Sydney, in time to be counted with the other votes. I move -
That the word “ who “, proposed sub-section 2, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “or may be delivered on polling day to any presiding officer, and the divisional returning officer, or presiding officer, as the case may be.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15. (Question to be put to voter) .
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [4.19 J. - I should like the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) to explain if the clause which was postponed last night for the purpose of re-drafting will have any effect upon proposed sub-section 7, in which the words “real place of living” appear?
– I do not think that any harm will be done if the clause is passed in its present form. Postponed clause 2 will be considered at a later stage, and if it is altered in such a way as to render it necessary to amend this clause, it can be recommitted for that purpose.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Assistance to certain voters) .
, - This “clause provides that, when a voter’s sight is so impaired or he is so physically incapacitated that he is unable to vote without assistance, the presiding officer shall permit a person appointed by the voter to enter an unoccupied compartment of the booth with the voter, and mark, fold, and deposit the voter’s ballot-paper for him. The principal act provides that that office shall be performed by the presiding officer in the presence of scrutineers, or if there be no scrutineers present, then in the presence of the poll clerk, or a person appointed by the voter. A person whose sight is impaired should he treated with every consideration. There is on the part of some persons a disinclination to disclose to the presiding officer the manner in which they have voted, although they would have no objection to do so to a friend. The amendment will bring the Commonwealth law on this point into line with that which is in operation in the State of South Australia. I congratulate the Government upon the change.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Articles to be signed).
.- If I read the clause aright, it proposes to enlarge the power of the press to indulge in abuse of candidates whose political VieWs do not coincide with their own. It provides that the signatures of the writers need not be appended to leading articles or articles which consist solely of reports of meetings, and do not contain any comment, other than that- made by speakers at meetings, upon any candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to the electors. Sometimes the reports of meetings contain more than the statements of the candidates and other speakers. I have assisted the press on a number of occasions at election time, and I frankly admit that I have done more for the Labour candidates than for those who are opposed to us. I have always had a great respect for the members of the literary staffs of our newspapers; but I have never been able to understand the reason for their objection to signing their names to the articles they write. We have nothing of which we need be ashamed in our leading journals, although there are some publications that I would have publicly burnt. Every one knows that the literary employees of the newspaper companies must express in their articles the views of the proprietors, by whom the policy of the newspaper is determined. In earlier times some newspapers made outrageous attacks upon public men whose ideas were contrary to their own. The public man should have some means of obtaining redress, quite apart from the monetary aspect. If he should happen to be returned, he is regarded as not having been affected by libellous statements published in newspapers during the campaign; and should he bring an action for damages a serious view is not taken of such statements. The fact remains, however, that they contain a sting which wounds him deeply. No person should employ his literary abilities for such purposes. I have not heard of any objection, outside of newspaper offices, to the signing of articles. There is. a greater number of newspapers published in the electorate of East Sydney than in any other electorate in Australia; therefore my interest in this matter is more than usually keen. On one occasion, when a complaint was made regarding a statement that had appeared in one of our influential Sydney newspapers, the late Sir Henry Parkes advised me to read all the newspapers, and then to vote in the opposite direction from that which they suggested. I have found that it is a good practice to read the newspapers. No books can supply an honorable member with as much material for a speech as can be found in the average newspaper. I hope that the committee will not agree to the proposed extension of power, because it will leave the way open to some newspapers to go beyond the bounds of decency. Honorable members opposite may expect to derive some gain from it. There is only onenewspaper in Sydney which lends its support to the Labour party; but I always regard condemnation by the opposing journals as an indication that we are doing good work. I hope that the committee will not accept the clause. It is more important than appears at first sight, though possibly honorable members supporting the Government may not take this view. The honorable member for Warringah knows what I mean. I hope that I shall have his support in objecting to the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 and 27 agreed to.
After section two hundred and fifteen of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 215a. The placing of a mark by a presiding officer on the certified list of voters or the receipt by a divisional returning officer of an envelope bearing -
.- I am not sure that a declaration or certificate of a presiding officer should be accepted as prima facie evidence of the fact that an elector has voted at an election. This practice has been observed hitherto, but there is no provision governing it in the act. I question the wisdom of accepting as prima facie evidence such declarations from all presiding officers. I have in mind an incident that occurred at Hermidale, in the Darling division. About 200 people voted at that polling place at the last election, and quite a stir was caused subsequently when fifteen well-known residents received a communication from the divisional returning officer calling upon them to explain why they had not voted. Of course, it was quite an easy matter for them to prove that they had voted. One of the persons was a scrutineer on my behalf, and another was a local resident who acted as one of the officials at the polling place. The trouble was due to the carelessness of the presiding officer in omitting to mark off the names not only of some of those electors with whom I came in contact, but a number of others also. If certain presiding officers are so careless as not to mark off the names of electors who have voted, it is safe to assume that they would also mark off names of electors who have not voted. The responsibility should not be upon the elector to prove that he has not voted at an election. I suggest, therefore, that the clause be negatived, and that the divisional returning officer should, as heretofore, depend upon the available evidence as to whether or not an elector has voted. If this provision is inserted in the act, it may impose a serious hardship upon electors.
.- The proposed new section is an extension of a somewhat extraordinary and, in my opinion, vicious principle, whereby the burden of proof is placed upon the defendant. For the purpose of illustration only, I refer honorable members to the provisions of section 215, in which it is laid down that the averments of the prosecutor contained in the information or complaint shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of evidence to the contrary. This proposed new section provides that the placing of a mark by a presiding officer on the certified list of voters, or the receipt by the divisional returning officer of an envelope bearing an absent voter’s declaration made pursuant to the provisions of section 121, or a postal vote certificate duly signed by an elector and attested by a presiding officer or an authorized witness, shall in any prosecution of an elector for voting more than once at an election be prima facie evidence that the elector has so voted. I consider that it is proceeding too far along the wrong road to say that the burden of proof resting on the prosecution shall be discharged in respect of an allegation of the kind referred to, by the production of a list showing merely that a presiding officer has placed a mark alongside a particular name as an indication that the person concerned had voted at an election. I suppose that there is nothing simpler in the world than for a presiding officer, in all good faith, to place erroneously a mark alongside the name of an elector to indicate that he has voted at an election. I suggest, therefore, that it is a very serious thing to lay an information against a person on such slender material as the absence of such a mark, and then to shift the burden of proof upon him.
– And he would have to provide the evidence at his own expense.
– As the honorable member for South Sydney has observed, action against an elector might involve him in certain expenditure to defend himself against a criminal charge. It is not fair to put the defendant in that position. In moreserious criminal offences the burden of proof rests upon the Crown. Not only is tie Crown bound to make out a prima facie case, but it is bound also to- make a conclusive case before the accused or the defendant is called to account. As I have said this principle is laid down in other Commonwealth legislation. I criticized it as strongly as I could in connexion with the War Precautions Act, and in other measures in which ‘ it was felt that stern action was necessary at the instance of the Crown, especially in war time. On more than one occasion I have emphasized that there has been a grave departure from wellestablished principles and practice that have been regarded, probably for centuries, as being important to the point of being sacred. We departed from this principle during the war, but since we are now in a time of peace I submit that it is unfair toembody such a drastic proposal as this in the bill now under consideration.
– I am opposed to the clause. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the department should not make an assumption andthen call upon the elector to disprove it. It is possible that presiding officers on occasions inadvertently omit to mark off names in the list of voters. It is unreasonable, therefore, to require an elector to go to all the trouble and expense of proving that he has voted at an election. He might be put to no end of inconvenience and even expense to prove that a mistake has been made by an electoral official. It is not reasonable to include this provision in the bill.
– I am prepared to allow the clause to be negatived.
Postponed clause 2 -
Section 39 of the principal act is amended - and (b) by omitting . . . and inserting in their stead the following proviso: - “ Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division.”. ….
Section proposed to be amended -
Provided that an elector whose real plane of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled, shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division if, since he secured that enrolment, he has at any time before the commencement of the period nf twenty-one days before the issue of the writ for the election, become entitled to be enrolled in respect of another division :
Provided further that nothing in this subsection shall disentitle an elector from voting in respect of the division for which he is enrolled if he is temporarily living elsewhere than within the division in respect of which he claims to vote with a fixed intention of returning to his place of living in that division for the purpose of continuing to live therein.
– This clause was postponed last night for re-drafting with the object of making it more understandable to honorable members. I now move–
That the words “ whose real place of living is- not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shallnot be entitled- to vote, as an elector of. that, division . paragraph , (b), be left out with’ a view’ to insert inlieu thereof the words “ shall notbe entitled to voteas an elector of the- divisionin respect of which he is enrolled.”
The proviso will then read - “Provided that an elector shall not be entitled to voteas an elector of the division in respect of which he is enrolled unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words ‘ real place of living ‘ include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.”
An elector who for more than three months has been out of the division in which his “ real place of living “ is situated, is covered by the proviso which sets out that “ real place of living “ is that to which he has a fixed intention of returning.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - 1a. Section 8 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following: - “When it is necessary for divisional returning officers to work in excess of the ordinary official hours, overtime shall be paid in accordance with the prescribed rates “.
For some reason the work of the divisional returning officers has not been properly appreciated by Parliament. The remuneration paid to them is not commensurate with the responsibilities they have to shoulder. The Commonwealth has a fine staff of divisional returning officers, whose capacity and impartiality are unquestioned. As a scrutineer who for many years took part in the counting of votes, particularly in connexion with Senate elections, I pay tribute to the divisional returning officers with whom I have come in contact. It is well known that at the conclusion of the polling these officers perform a considerable amount of work after the ordinary office hours; but they also work a lot of overtime during the weeks preceding an election. Even those divisional returning officers in metropolitan areas who are able to get into touch, either personally or by telephone, with the officers associated with them, work a lot of overtime, not for one or two days, but for several weeks, in connexion with each election. The divisional returning officers in large country electorates have a much more difficult task to perform in arranging for the appointment of officers to conduct the election at the several polling booths in their division. In their case no postman calls at their door each morning: they have to be on duty whenever mails arrive, whether it be by train, motor car, or coach. From the opening of the polling booth on polling day until the declaration of the poll the divisional returning officers are on duty practically the whole of the time. In the past, they were paid a salary of £6 or £7 per week, but recently an increase of salary was granted to them. Notwithstanding that increase, the valuable work they perform is not adequately recognized. That little or no trouble has occurred in connexion with federal elections or referendums is a record of which the Electoral Department might well be proud.
– What are they paid now?
– Their salary ranges from £408 to £480 per annum.
– That is not a large salary for them, especially when we reflect that for three months of the year in which an election is held the divisional returning officers, especially in the country, work a lot of overtime. One divisional returning officer with whose case I am familiar averaged four hours a day overtime for a -period of three months in connexion with one election. Yet his application for additional remuneration was not granted. Every honorable members knows the value of the work which these officers perform. “My amendment will provide them with an opportunity of showing in a practical way their appreciation of their work.
– It may convenience honorable members in their consideration of this question if at this stage I review the history of the claim for the additional remuneration of divisional returning officers. This question, which has been before the House on many occasions, has received the earnest consideration of the Government. There are certain facts which ought to be borne in mind by honorable members when dealing with the amendment before the committee. The adequacy or otherwise of the remuneration paid -to divisional returning officers was first given prominence in 1922, when representations were made to the government of the. day that they should receive additional remuneration. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) received a letter on the subject which he referred to the Public Service Board. The substance of the reply of the Public Service Commissioners was -
An intimation in accordance with the terms of that statement was sent in reply to that letter. The matter again came up for consideration in 1925. It was raised then by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), and in a letter which I receivedfrom him, he suggested that a bonus of not less than £50 should be paid for the work done in . connexion with the recent elections. Representations on the matter were made also by a large number of members on both sides of the House. The letter was acknowledged, and I again communicated with the Public Service Board, which having reconsidered the subject replied, on the 22nd January, 1926, in the following terms : -
The fact that the divisional returning officers are required to work overtime in connexion with the elections and referenda was carefully taken into consideration in determining their scale of pay, and in these circumstances the board cannot favorably consider the suggestion to pay them a bonus.
At the time when my department communicated with the Public Service Board, the matter was under consideration by the Home and Territories Department, which administers the electoral law and controls these officers. Representations were forwarded by that department to my department asking that certain facts with regard to the work of the divisional returning officers should be brought under the notice of the Public Service Board. One of the facts then stressed was that when . these electoral officers were classified, there had been no actual experience of the effect of compulsory voting, and therefore, there could have been no knowledge of its effect on the work of the divisional returning officers. A letter setting out these statements was sent to the Public Service Board, and on the 23rd February, a further reply was received from the board stating that the claim for overtime and the probable increase of work due to compulsory voting were masters that had been fully ventilated before the Public Service Arbitrator, that the report of the case left no doubt that full consideration had been given to the facts in determining the rate of pay fixed by determination No. 1 of the 5th February, 1924, and that these were important factors in the increase of the maximum pa) from £440 to £480 per annum. The board also pointed out that the final classification of the electoral officers approved by the Governor-General on the 8th April, 1925, provided for a scale of from £408 to £480 for the divisional returning officers, and that in making it full and careful consideration had been given to the amount of overtime work that they might have to do, and the additional duty that might devolve upon them in consequence of compulsory voting. Actually the bill providing for compulsory voting had not then become law. This fact was pointed out to the Public Service Board in a subsequent communication sent on the 24th March, 1926. The board was requested to reconsider its decision on the ground that the 1925 election was the occasion of the initial application of the compulsory voting provision, and that the difficulties experienced on that occsaion were accentuated by the fact that the election had been held some three and a half months earlier than the anticipated date. To that communication a further reply was received from the Public Service Board to the effect that it did not see its way clear to reconsider its decision, and that the factors mentioned had been under its consideration. ‘ It further stressed the fact that under the Public Service Act no additional payment was made for overtime in the case of officers whose salaries exceeded £450, and that an invidious distinction would be drawn if such payments were made to divisional returning officers. That is really the history of the negotiations between the Government and the Public Service Board, and I have given it to show the committee that the fullest possible representations were made to the board on this matter. The board, which Parliament has entrusted with the task of determining the rates of pay and allowances to be made to public servants, has definitely come to the conclusion that an additional payment to divisional returning officers is not justified, and has refused to acquiesce in the payment of any bonus to them. I suggest to the committee that it would create a dangerous and unfortunate precedent deliberately to override the Public Service Board with regard to the remuneration or rights of public servants by incorporating in a bill a clause determining such matters. Every honorable member, I think, recognizes that the Public Service of this country is now entirely free from political influence. No Minister can appoint to it persons in whom he may be interested. The abuses that existed in olden days under other systems of government no longer exist here. The curse of patronage has disappeared; and we should be careful not to do anything that would in any way undermine the present system. In thi3 particular case representations have been made by members of Parliament that a certain section of the Public Service should receive additional remuneration. The matter has been referred to the Public Service Board, which says that it cannot agree to that. To override the decision of the board might open the door on some subsequent occasion to a claim for additional remuneration for some other section of the Public Service, and there might be a strong opinion in the Parliament that it was desirable to grant the claim. The board might refuse what was asked for and we should have created a precedent for overriding the board’s decision. We have wisely placed the Public Service under the control of an independent board of commissioners. The Government, therefore, takes the view that, apart from any individual opinion Ministers may have regarding the work of these officers or any others, they should take no action to override the board’s decision. A chance majority in the Parliament might favour the granting of a benefit to a section of the Public Service against the interests of all the other sections of the Service, and we must regard the possible dangers of the course now proposed. There might be a large and influential section of the Public Service whose vote might be of value to the government of the day at a critical election that was approaching. That organized body might bring pressure to bear upon the Parliament, and influence the government to take political action to its advantage. We should hesitate about setting a precedent justifying any such action. Therefore, I ask honorable members to disregard in this case their individual opinions of the value of the services rendered by the divisional returning officers, and to remember that Parliament should not over-ride the decision of ‘ a body which it has itself appointed and set in authority to deal with this matter. There is another angle from which the subject must be considered. During the five years that I have held office as Prime, Minister, I have seen a good deal of the work of the Public Service, and know that the volume of that done by some of the senior Commonwealth officers is amazing. I refer to officers who probably do not- come into touch a great deal with honorable members generally, but whose work is seen and must be recognized by those holding positions as Ministers of the Crown. I should be very reluctant, without a full review of the services rendered by all these officers, to say that the claim of the divisional returning officers is so outstanding and so calls for consideration that, whatever may be the consequences involved, we should vote additional remuneration for them. If we did that we might inflict grave injustice on many other public servants who are rendering equally valuable services to the Commonwealth, under conditions as arduous, arid involving as great a strain, as those performed by the divisional returning officers. I stress one other point. We have built up a system for ensuring that fair and equitable treatment shall be given to every public servant in the Commonwealth. We have provided a Public Service Board, and we have also provided for an appeal from the decision of the board to the Public Service Arbitrator. The right and privilege of such an appeal is open to the divisional returning officers. If they consider the determination’ of the board unjust, and the board’s refusal to alter its decision is wrong, they have the right to appeal to the Arbitrator. It is for the divisional returning officers to exercise this right of appeal. There has been no reconsideration by the Public Service Arbitrator of the basis of classification, or the rates of pay they are receiving as the result of the board’s decision. I strongly appeal to the committee to reject the proposed new clause upon the grounds, first, that a great principle is involved, a departure from which would be well nigh fatal to this Parliament; secondly, that these officers have not exhausted their right of appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator to have their case reheard and. the basis of their remuneration and conditions altered if the Public Service Board’s decision is considered unjust. It would be very unwise for this Parliament to place in the Estimates a vote for additional remuneration for any body of public servants. ir It is quite unthinkable that we should embody such a provision in the statutes’* of the Commonwealth. We have never done such a thing, and it would be a most unfortunate precedent to set up in this instance. I strongly appeal to the committee to reject the proposed new clause.
– I am disappointed with the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). No doubt he has looked at this subject from various angles. He has compared the work of the returning officers with that of heads of departments;- but let me re.mind him that members of Parliament have been . in closer touch with the returning officers than with heads of the departments. As a member of a committee which took evidence from returning officers throughout Australia, I know that they arc intelligent, and do their work faithfully and well. There is no more responsible position than theirs in this country. They conduct federal elections, and are therefore responsible, in some measure, for the very existence of this Parliament. The whole machinery of the Commonwealth Parliament is in their hands, and unless we treat them fairly and justly some of the disgruntled officers may impair the efficiency of our electoral system. We know that these men perform many duties. In my own electorate, when going home from meetings at night, I have frequently seen lights in the office of the returning officer. The subordinates are paid overtime, and in some cases receive remuneration almost equal to that of their chief officer. We have appealed to the Public Service Board and to the Government on behalf of these men. Since their salaries were fixed by the board, legislation providing for compulsory voting and the taking of referendums has been passed. This has more than doubled their work, but, notwithstanding, their salaries have not been altered. I believe that the majority of honorable members are of the’ opinion that the returning officers should be compensated for their . additional labour. The Government, although expressing sympathy with these men, referred the matter to the Public Service Board, and that body declined to interfere. Is that board above this Parliament?
– We appointed the Public Service Board to do certain work.
– This Parliament is above the Public Service Board or any public officer, and if we decide that the returning officers are not getting a fair deal, that is no reflection on the board. It is evident that the board does not know the conditions under . which these men are working.
– The board should know the conditions of their service.’
– It is impossible for the members of the board to travel throughout Australia to ascertain the working conditions of all these men.
– It can obtain information “about them.
– We, as members of Parliament, know more of their conditions than does the Public Service Board. The Prime Minister said that the returning officers receive £480 a year. Many tradesmen get more wages than that, and do not work on Saturdays, but receive extra payment for overtime. The returning officers have a grievance, and consequently their work may be impaired.
– The honorable member does not suggest that these men would be influenced in the performance of their duties by our decision on this question.
-Certainly not. But responsible work should be adequately paid for. This Parliament fixes the salaries of commissioners and judges.
– They do not come under the Public Service Board.
– If I had my way, the returning officers would be placed under the control of Parliament. This is not a party question ; it affects every honorable member. The returning officers put their heart and time into their work, and, in their interests, I shall vote for the proposed new clause.
.-The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has given us a word of warning that is well deserved I do not think that Parliament should fix the salaries of public officials. The Public Service Board is charged with that important function, and in this particular case if the board had carried out its duty, or, shall I say, refrained from making a statement that has given grave cause for dissatisfaction, no complaint would have been made. I have come into contact with the divisional returning officers, and their case was taken up by me because of the facts revealed in the correspondence that was produced to some of us who formed a deputation to the Government on their behalf. From that correspondence, it is perfectly clear that, when the salaries of these men were fixed by the Public Service Board, the additional responsibilities that they to-day bear were not taken into consideration, because the legislation that has since been passed providing for compulsory voting and the taking of referendums was not then projected. Unfortunately, I have left that correspondence in my office in Sydney. It was necessary for . me to ascertain whether these officers had an easy time for three years and worked only during a small portion of that period when an election was approaching. I visited the offices of several divisional returning officers and overlooked their work. I discovered that their job is no sinecure. I was greatly impressed by the cleanliness of the Federal rolls, the manner in which they were kept, and the up-to-date data which had been collected by the officers. My investigation revealed a continuous and systematic effort on their part. They attend the office every morning at 9 o’clock until the appointed hour of departure. In one case not only did the returning officer work on Saturdays and Sundays to fulfil his duties, but he obtained the assistance of his daughter to do typing for him. “Were these officers employed by private firms there would be a clamour for overtime rates to be paid to them. I cannot understand the attitude of the Public Service Board. It manifestly did not know, when it fixed the salaries of the returning officers, that legislation would be introduced entailing additional work and responsibility. It seems to me that the board, having informed the Prime Minister that it had taken all the circumstances into consideration has, considering itself omniscient, refused to go back on its word. That would certainly justify action being taken by this Parliament. The Prime Minister has said that the returning officers have the right to appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator. That is quite true, but it may interest the right honorable gentleman to know that these men have appealed to the Public Service Arbitrator, and although that appeal has been lodged for several years, their case has not yet been heard, and they have received no redress. They have therefore been compelled to take some definite action through this Parliament to let the Public Service Board know of their additional responsibilities. I do not think, however, that Parliament should intervene in the maner proposed. It would be a great pity to insert a clause in the bill providing for the re-adjustment of salaries of these public servants. The reason for that is perfectly clear. It would mean, as the Prime Minister has said, that Parliament might become a happy hunting ground for organized bodies outside to enable their members to obtain advantages to which they were not entitled,., Let me, however, emphasize the attitude of, the Public Service Board. First of all,” the board, when fixing the salaries pf the. returning officers, did not know that’ legislation was .to be introduced providing for compulsory voting and the taking of referendums. Despite that fact, .it still intimated to the Prime Minister that it had taken every circumstance into consideration. I regard that as an insult to the intelligence of honorable members. It is useless for the Prime Minister to speak of an appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator as a means of obtaining redress for the returning officers, because they have already appealed, but so far have not had their case heard. If the Government will give us an assurance that this appeal, which has been standing over for a very considerable time, will be heard promptly, I shall be quite satisfied. In view of all the circumstances, I quite realize that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) felt that this was the only proper course to take in order to ventilate the matter. I do not think that any honorable member in this House would be very anxious to vote for a clause of this kind, because its insertion in the bill would, as the Prime Minister pointed out’, undermine a principle that we all ought to uphold. But I think that the Government ought to give us a definite assurance that the appeal on this matter will be heard without any further delay.
– I listened carefully to the remarks of the Prime Minister when he was speaking against the proposal to increase the pay of divisional returning officers, and particularly to that portion of his statement in which he told us that we ought to support the decisions of the Public Service Board. I have yet to learn that the Prime Minister has gained a reputation for. his anxiety always to give effect to the finding and recommendations of boards and commissions which the Government has created.
– His reputation is for appointing the boards.
– The Prime Minister and this Government certainly have a reputation for appointing boards and committees, and their reputation is equally great for disregarding the recommendations which those bodies make. ‘ In view of that fact,, the preaching of the Prime Minister about the loyalty with which we should seek to give effect to the findings of such boards, fell rather flat. I recollect many findings «f similar boards to which the Government has failed to give effect. The Tariff Board, for instance, has frequently made representations which have not followed by the Government.
– The findings of the Tariff Board have frequently been criticized by the Minister for Trade and Customs himself.
– That is so; and then there was the commission appointed to inquire into the subject of unemployment insurance. What has become of its report? The commission made its recommendations, but the Government has not urged honorable members to hurry along arid give effect to them. The Wireless Commission furnishes another instance of the same thing. Yet because it suits the Government to agree with the findings of the Public Service Board, we are told that we must all regard it as obligatory to give effect to those findings. I have never been at all enamoured of this board, nor of its personnel. I am not going to criticize any person on it; but I say that the public servants themselves have had much to complain of, at least in regard to one member of the board, who has never been very favorable to the views of the Public Service. I leave it at that, and do not propose to say anything further oil the point. I certainly do not think this board should be placed on a pedestal, as one that understands, and is sympathetic with, Public Service aspirations. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) put the case for the divisional returning officers very well, and I should like to say a word myself on behalf of them and their assistants, who, I think, should also be included in the clause. Their position is different from that of the ordinary public servant. The Prime Minister said that, if we established a precedent by allowing Parliament to regulate the salaries of these officers, we might have the whole of the Public Service coming to us to regulate their conditions of employment. I maintain, however, that even if we took action in this case, it could not be regarded as a precedent, because the position of these men is, entirely different from that of other public servants. When the Public Service Board is asked to deal with the salaries or conditions of ordinary public servants it knows what are their duties from one year’s end to another… They have fixed duties and set hours. Consequently, it is a comparatively easy matter for the board to determine in such cases what a fair remuneration for such workers should be. It is an entirely different matter, however, when the board has to deal with men whose working conditions are so uncertain, and who may have to deal with an election every twelve months - though Heaven forbid that they should! Frequently, however, a byelection is held, and referendums may have to be taken. The Public Service Board cannot foresee such happenings, and it cannot, therefore, effectively determine wages and conditions for these officers. There is nothing very extraordinary in the claim of members of this committee that a distinction should be drawn between electoral officers and other public servants. The Prime Minister enlarged upon the point that we should not make “ fish of one- and flesh of the other.”
– What he said was that this was not the place to do what is desired.
– My recollection is that he said that, if we dealt with the working conditions of electoral officers, we should have other public servants coming to Parliament, and asking us to do the same for them. My answer to that is that these workers are in a class apart, as their conditions of employment are different from those obtaining in any other branch of the Public Service. No one can say how many referendums may be taken during the life of a parliament. Personally, I do not know how many have been taken since federation. I know that since I have been in this House there have been two sets of referendums held during the life of one Parliament. They entailed an enormous amount of extra work for the electoral officers, and for this work the divisional returning officers received no extra remuneration. When the Public Service Board fixed their remuneration they did not foresee the possibilities of this extra work. Therefore, I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) tha’t this is a fit and proper matter for Parliament to deal with. If we do anything in the way of providing additional remuneration for divisional returning officers, I should like to see something done for their assistants also, as much of the extra work entailed in the holding of by-elections falls on them.
– They are only temporary employees.
– No; they are permanent officers.
– Why, many of them are returned soldiers employed only for the day.
– I think that the honorable member is confusing the men who are employed just for polling day, with the permanent assistants in each electoral office. In some offices I am certain that there is one permanent assistant besides the divisional returning officer, and in some cases I believe there are two. I am of opinion that Parliament should at least indicate its wish that something should be done. I am not particular as to the body by whom it shall be done, but some action ought to be taken to compensate these officers for the increased duties which from time to time devolve upon them, duties of which the Public Service Board cannot possibly be aware, and of which even members of this Parliament may know nothing for any length of time ahead. At the beginning of a year we do not know what may transpire in the way of a referendum before the year is ended. Because we, as a Parliament, are largely responsible for imposing these extra duties on the returning officers, it is, I maintain, fitting that we should see that their remuneration is adequate.
– I have no doubt that the Prime Minister may be right on high moral grounds in the attitude which he has taken up, but I remember that during a debate on this subject two years ago it seemed to be generally agreed that the electoral officers were entitled to an increase in salary. It was felt, at that time, that they were suffering an injustice, and nothing has yet been done to remedy it. I frequently come into contact with the divisional returning officer for this district, and I was well acquainted with his predecessor also. During the last general elections the returning officer for my district was very busily employed. Within a couple of months of the elections the member who had been elected (Sir Austin Chapman) died, and a by-election was held, as a result of which I was chosen. During all this time the returning officer was a sick man, and the medical opinion wa« that his health had been undermined because he was kept too closely at his work. Eventually he fell ill, and the counting of votes had to be temporarily stopped. The residents of that district know that this man died a martyr to his duties, and that he was an underpaid man as well. When the Public Service Board fixes salaries, and we do not know whether their decision is right or wrong, we can do nothing about it; but here is a case in which every honorable member of this House agrees that the men are underpaid. The salaries of many country postmasters are too low, and possibly other officers with whom we do not come in contact are underpaid, but their cases are not before us. That is no reason why we should not. do justice to these men whom, we know are inadequately remunerated. The proposed new clause may be a dangerous precedent, but continued underpayment of valued public officers is more dangerous. The salaries received ‘by the divisional returning officers are not commensurate with the responsibilities they have to bear. I know that one returning officer, who was my neighbour, worked night after night without extra payment. Referendums and by-elections are not taken into consideration when the salaries of electoral officers are fixed. Although the proposed new clause may not be the best way to achieve what we desire, I prefer to support it rather than see the present injustice continue.
.- The new clause should receive the support of every honorable member. The embodying of it in the bill would not involve a departure from any great principle or create an undesirable precedent. There are only 76 divisional returning officers in Australia, and who are better qualified to assess the value of the work they do than members of parliament, who come into close contact with them before and during elections?
– They do no extra work before the elections.
– For three or four months before an election they work at high pressure. I know that they are engaged night after night, working overtime for which they receive no extra payment. That is especially so in big electorates like Capricornia. When a. pri vate employer asks a clerk or typist to work overtime he expects to pay extra. The divisional returning officers should not be expected to work night after night, as they do during the election campaign and between polling day and the declaration of the poll. They have authority to engage assistance, and to pay overtime to others, but not to themselves. The Prime Minister’s remarks would lead one to believe that these men were receiving princely salaries. He reminded us that the Public Service regulations prevent the payment of overtime to persons receiving £400 or more. Many unskilled workers earn £8 or £9 a week.
– They do not average that wage.
– No ; but £9 is not a big payment, especially for men with expert knowledge and holding responsible positions. The divisional returning officers are in a different category from other public servants; as they number only 76 it would be easier to do justice to them than to rectify injustices throughout the Public Service. They are selected because of their ability and integrity. Like judges and magistrates, they are expected to be absolutely impartial, and I have never heard complaint that any one of them has shown a partiality for any candidate or party. We pay high salaries to our judges to place them beyond want and temptation; for the same reason we should increase the payment of the divisional returning officers. All our public servants are underpaid, and this bill gives a special opportunity to be just to one section of them.
– Because an election is approaching.
– The honorable member unjustly reflects upon the divisional returning officers if he suggests that they will be influenced by what is said by honorable members on this bill. I hope the Government will accept the proposed new clause.
.- I do not believe in creating a bad precedent, as we’ should do if we inserted the proposed new clause in this bill; but I resent keenly the Government’s treatment of the divisional returning officers. For weeks before and after an election they work night and day. The whole burden and responsibility of managing the elections in their divisions rests upon them. The divisional returning officer in my own division is one of the truest, most conscientious, and hard-working public officers I have ever known. After the last general election and the succeeding referendum he was worn out, and the doctor whom he consulted said that it was scandalous that the Government should have worked him to such a state of physical collapse. After the election the Government promised to give consideration to the remuneration of the electoral officers. Men who are engaged from year to year in producing and maintaining the cleanest electoral rolls to be found in any country are entitled to more generous treatment; they do a grand work and every honorable member is under a debt of obligation to them. I earnestly appeal to the Government to consider the position of these officers as promised, they having in two years twice appealed unsuccessfully to the Public Service Board. It is the duty of the Government to see that these officers receive a better reward for the valuable and conscientious service they render to the community.
– I have no objection to returning officers or any other public servants receiving an adequate remuneration for the service they render; but it must be remembered that Parliament has provided a tribunal to determine the salaries to be paid to these officers and other officers in the Public Service. I do not consider myself competent to determine whether returning officers are overworked; but I should like to know on what ‘grounds I would be justified in supporting a proposal for the payment of overtime. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has referred to the way in which a particular returning officer is overworked; but that is an unconvincing statement, as it is quite possible that that officer did not ask for the assistance to which he is entitled.
– He did. He performs duties which no one else can undertake.
– There is no work which cannot be undertaken by some one else. Most of the work in the office of a returning officer is performed by clerks. The duty of a returning officer consists largely of supervising the work of others. I can recall an instance in which a returning officer flatly refused to keep his office open after 12 noon on a Saturday prior to an election. It seems to me that apart from election time the returning officer has to perform mainly routine work. The card system has to be kept up to date, and certain checking work has to be undertaken ; but this, I think, can be done during the regular office hours. Even when an election is approaching a returning officer who conducts his office in a systematic manner should not have to work overtime excepting, of course, whilst the counting is being done; and even then he is surrounded by an army of assistants, and his principal duty consists of supervising the work of others. How is it suggested that overtime should be computed? If it is to be on -the actual hours spent on the job during -a particular time a man might draw more in overtime than in salary. I do not think that can be intended. Moreover, I do not think we should establish a precedent in this instance, as, if we do, we may be asked to make similar provision for other bodies of public servants. Whilst I wish returning officers and other public servants to receive an adequate remuneration for their services, I am not disposed to depart from the established practice of allowing their salaries to be fixed by a properly constituted tribunal.
Sitting suspended from 6.11 to 8 p.m.
.- The question before the committee is one of some importance ; but honorable members would do well to pay heed to the advice which has been given by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). This would be a very serious precedent to establish. There is a possibility of irregularity in the proposed new clause. Every honorable member, I am sure, feels that the nature of the work which is performed by the divisional returning officers, and the efficiency that is demanded of them, warrant a much more generous salary than they are paid. Since compulsory voting has been the law the volume of work with which they have had to cope lias increased considerably, not only during election campaigns, but also at all other times in the preparation of the rolls. I think, however, that the discussion which has taken place will convince the Public Service Board of the necessity to either pay to those officers a salary commensurate with the position which they occupy or give them additional remuneration for any overtime work which they perform.
.- I think that members generally agree that the divisional returning officers are both overworked and underpaid. I agree with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that it would be a commendable action if the Government devised some means to alter the existing state of affairs. But an adequate protest I consider has been made, and notice of it will probably be taken by the Public Service Board. I should like you, Mr. Chairman, to give a ruling on the following two points: - (1) As the proposed new clause will involve an expenditure of money, should it not be accompanied by a message from the Governor-General recommending that the necessary appropriation be made, and (2) as this is an amending machinery bill, does the proposed new clause come within its scope? I contend, also, that if any direction is to be given to the Public Service Board it should be by an amendment of the Public Service Act.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has asked for my ruling on two points. On the first I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that this is not a money bill, and that the acceptance of the proposed new clause would not increase the expenditure, inasmuch as it does not refer to any sum that has already been voted; but provision would have to be made in the ensuing Estimates for any expenditure that was found to be necessary. With regard to the second point, as to whether the proposed nev/ clause comes within the scope of the bill, I refer honorable members to the title of the bill, which reads -
A bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 191S-1925.
It is customary, when amending bills are introduced, to mention specifically in the title the particular sections that it is proposed to amend. In this instance, however, no such limitation has been imposed. Therefore, any matter which comes within the scope of the principal act may be discussed by the committee. There is another point. If honorable members will refer to section 11 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1925 they will find that it reads as follows: -
In the event of any vacancy occurring in the office of the divisional returning officer assistant returning officer or registrar, or in the absence from duty of any such officer, the Chief Electoral Officer may appoint some person to perform the duties of the office during the period of the vacancy or absence.
I ask members of the committee to note the fact that “ some person,” not necessarily a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, may be appointed. In other words, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1925 makes provision within itself for the appointment in certain circumstances of a divisional returning officer, an assistant returning officer or a registrar from outside the Commonwealth Public Service. For the reasons I have given, I rule that the proposed new clause is in order, and properly before the committee.
– This is not a party question. We are only anxious to do the right thing. Has the Government considered this matter; and if it has, what action does it intend to take? A statement by the Minister at this stage might shorten the discussion.
– As the Prime Minister stated this afternoon, this matter has been brought under the notice of the Public Service Board on many occasions. I promise that the representations which have been made in the course of this debate will be brought to the notice of the board.
– Will the Minister do everything possible to secure an early hearing of the appeal of the divisional returning officers by the Public Service Arbitrator?
– I was not aware that they had appealed. I give the committee an assurance on behalf of the Government that everything will be done to have the matter considered by the Public Service Board, and if an appeal has been lodged to have it heard by the Public Service Arbitrator.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Proposed new clause 2a - (Section proposed to be amended -
.- I move-
That the following new clause be added: - 2a. Section forty-one of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1) the words “ one month,” and inserting in their stead the words “ three months.”
by omitting from sub-section (2) the words “ one month,” and inserting in their stead the words “ three months.”
I feel somewhat diffident in taking this action, because I understand that the Government is not prepared to accept the proposed new clause; but as a member of the Electoral Committee, which recommended that the act be amended in this direction, I feel it incumbent upon me to press the matter even to a division. The Electoral Committee gave very full consideration to this proposal. The fact that an amendment has already been agreed to extending from one month to three months the period which must elapse before a name can be removed from a roll, strengthens my claim for the acceptance of this new clause. As a matter of fact the one is a complement of the other. Of course it does not necessarily follow that the previous amendment relating to the removal of names from the roll depends for its administrative effectiveness upon the residential qualifications being three months instead of one month; but it is quite obvious that the adoption of that amendment removes a great deal of the objection held by the electoral officials to the residential qualification being three months’ residence in an electorate. I invite honorable members to read the concluding portion of paragraph 25 of the report of the Electoral Committee. It deals with the question of migratory workers, upon which the previous amendment was based, and states -
The committee recommends that section 41 of the act be amended to provide that three months shall be the qualifying period of residence prior to enrolment instead of one month, and that the period for the removal of names from the roll be increased from one month to three months.
The Government turned down the former proposal on the ground, I understand, that the electoral officials had raised an objection to it. I know that on this side of the House there are many honorable members who hold very strongly the opinion that it is time some steps were taken to deal with the evil that hasgrown up in connexion with elections in Australia. I refer to the transference of large numbers of electors from one portion of the country to the other shortly before an election. Although it may not be specifically intended that they shall influence an election, that actually is the effect. I do not wish to raise a violent party issue on this question. I know, that honorable members opposite are adamant on the point that the residence qualification shall remain at one month. The electoral officials, I understand, take the. view that as the Commonwealth and the States, with the exception of Queensland, have come to an arrangement for the issue of joint rolls to be prepared and maintained by the Commonwealth, if my proposal were adopted they would have to deal with two residence qualifications : three months for the Commonwealth and one month for the States. They contend that it would enormously complicate the work of preparing the rolls, particularly as some persons having only the State qualification are migratory workers. Theysay that it would be much more difficult to make the necessary changes in the rolls with two distinct groups to handle. I discussed this question with various officials of the Electoral Department, and while I have every respect for their views, I do not agree that the proposal which I am making is unreasonable. It is claimed that the Commonwealth electoral system is the most efficient in the world. The select committee expressed this view in its report. It costs the Commonwealth a good deal of money to maintain the present system. We have 76 divisions, each with its permanent divisional returning officer and staff, and there is not the slightest doubt that the work is carried out in a highly efficient manner. There is also no doubt that, with the introduction of joint rolls, the work of the divisional returning officers will be much increased and more complicated; but surely the officials are the servants, and not the masters of this Parliament; and if, as a matter of policy, the majority of members hold the view that this change must be made, the Electoral Department should be expected to devise a way to overcome any technical difficulties that may arise in the handling in one roll of two groups of voters with different residential qualifications. Making all allowances for the objections to my proposal, I am unable to see one practical difficulty that really should prevent the amendment from being adopted. The electoral officials say that it is a matter of the rolls. Very well. To what extent are we dependent upon the printed rolls for the efficiency . of Commonwealth elections ? We know very well that there is no fixed period for the printing of the rolls. The work is done when the electoral officials are able to do it. Sometimes two years elapse before there is a reprint of the main rolls; but the officials are continually issuing supplementary rolls, and I maintain that the solution of all the difficulties that have been raised in connexion with my proposal lies in the supplementary rolls. It is obvious from what I have said that the main rolls do not count for a great deal, because they are continually changing. The movement of the Australian population is so great that electoral officials estimate that the alteration to the divisional rolls average 33^ per cent, per annum. In other words, the changes made in three years are equivalent to the preparation of an entirely new roll. To be effective, our main rolls should be reprinted at least once a year. This is not done. The Electoral Committee recommended that supplementary rolls should be issued once every six months, and I should like to emphasize that the most important of the supplementary rolls is the one that is issued just prior to an election. In the case of a Commonwealth election, advertisements are published in the press, and placards are issued ad- vising all persons entitled to enroll to make application by a certain date. It seems to me that it would be quite a simple matter for the electoral officials to carry that system a little further, and, if my amendment is carried, to intimate that persons with a residence qualification of three months must apply for enrolment by a certain date prior to the election. This would, ensure that every person entitled to vote for an election in connexion with the Federal Parliament, would be duly enrolled. In the case of a State election, the same procedure could be followed. An announcement could be made that persons with one month’s residence qualification must apply for enrolment by a certain date. There would be two sets of residence qualifications, but all the electoral officials would have to do prior to a Federal election would be to issue notices regarding a three months’ residence qualification, and prior to a State election, notices regarding the one month’s residence qualification. The electoral officials also object, that because of the continual movement of the population, they experience great difficulty in keeping track of electors. They could get over that difficulty in a simple way, although it might mean a certain amount of extra printing, but that is inevitable under the system of joint rolls. In Victoria, where Federal and State electoral boundaries encroach upon each other, the practice is to print an addendum to each division. If my proposal is accepted, the joint rolls could be so printed as to indicate the electors with three months’ qualification and those with the one month’s qualification, or the letters “ F “ and “ S “ could be printed in the margin opposite the names of electors to indicate who are eligible to vote for Federal and who are eligible to vote for State elections. This would do away with the printing of an addendum to each subdivision. It is quite true that immediately the rolls were printed there would be a number of people qualifying to become enrolled as Commonwealth voters; but that happens now, so we should not be any worse off under the proposal which I am submitting.
– What evidence has the honorable member in support of his earlier contention ?
– I shall come to that later. Everything really depends upon the issue of a supplementary roll prior to an election. I think there are valid reasons why this amendment should be adopted. I am aware that honorable members opposite do not approve of it, but that is no reason why we, who can produce verse and chapter for our argument, should be afraid to advocate it. In my opinion, it is of vital importance that there should be some check upon the practice in certain States of transferring large bodies of voters, particularly navvies, into an electoral division about a month prior to an election, so that their names may be placed upon the supplementary rolls. In nearly every instance where this -packing of the electorate has taken place, the transfer of voters has been most pronounced just about a month before polling day, in order that the new voters may influence an election.
– The honorable member is making a very grave statement. What evidence has he to support it?
– I am prepared to produce the evidence. What I am speaking of has been done in Queensland for fourteen years on a most scientific scale.
– Can the honorable member cite an instance of this practice in connexion with Commonwealth elections ?
– I know that what I am saying is hurting honorable members opposite; it is about time that something hurt them. We know that it was done on a considerable scale in Western Australia just before the last election, and with Commonwealth money advanced for the construction of main roads in that State. It was done also in New South Wales in several electorates just before the last State election. It was openly stated in the. press in connexion with the Goulburn electorate, that Mr. Lang’s “ shock troops “ had arrived.
– I remind the honorable member that the committee is discussing a. Commonwealth law.
– What has hap pened in connexion with State elections may happen in Federal elections.
– Is this Government likely to do that?
– This Government is not likely to do anything of the sort. But it does not follow that a government supported by honorable members opposite would knowingly do this. It might be done, even by a government representing the party to which I belong, without its being able to help itself. Certain railway works are now being started in various parts of New South Wales, and three or four electorates may be affected. The State Government of New South Wales, in order to give work to the unemployed in that State, may be forced to send hundreds of new voters into those electorates. These men may arrive there in time to have their names placed on the roll, and to sway the result of an election against the settled political opinion of the’ permanent residents in those districts. A few months afterwards these workers may pass on to other districts, and the opinion that they helped to register at that particular election would not be representative of that of the permanent residents. Although this practice has been systematically carried out by various State Labour Governments for some years past, it is also liable to be done unwittingly by non-Labour Governments. It is significant that the one month’s residence qualification enables this to be done on a fairly cheap scale; but, if that qualification were increased to three months’ residence, a great deal more money would be required to put the scheme into operation wilfully. It would also prevent the possibility of the new voters being enrolled at the instigation of a government that did not realize what the effect of its action would be.
– They know what they are doing right enough.
– There are certain railway works about to be started in New South Wales. The present Government in New South Wales is not likely to be actuated by a desire tobring about the” defeat of honorable members on this side ; but as these works have been promised,, that government is in honour bound to have them started, and it may have to draw a supply of labour from the cities where unemployment is rife. Possibly between the present time and the next Federal election, a sufficient num ber of new voters, who have no sympathy with the settled political opinion in the districts where those works will be in progress, may be enrolled in sufficient time to enable them to vote there.
– Then the honorable member suggests that we should stop building railways in the country districts !
– Confine public works to the cities.
– I know that my amendment does not suit honorable members opposite; but if a person has resided in a district for three months he is more entitled to vote in that district than a mere newcomer who has been there only a month. After the lapse of three months he may fairly claim to be a permanent resident.
– How the honorable member shows his love for the Australian workers !
– I know that the proposal hurts honorable members opposite, and I am sorry to hear that the Government does not intend to support it. I am confident that if a majority of honorable members accepted it, it would bring about revolutionary methods in the conduct of elections in Australia. It would be the first blow struck at the pernicious practice of packing electorates. It would check Governments that do this deliberately, and it would also check those who unwittingly do it without being concerned about its effect on Federal politics. If the Government accepted the amendment it would be an incentive to State Governments, particularly nonLabour governments, to adopt the same practice. We might reasonably expect the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia, at least, to follow suit, and then we should have two States acting in conformity with the Commonwealth. The other State Governments could stand out if they wished. But it would not make any difference, because nobody would be disfranchised. It would mean a little extra work for the electoral officers; but not sufficient to justify us in postponing what is undoubtedly a muchneeded measure of electoral reform.
– The issue raised by the amendment obviously requires most serious consideration. The honorable member’s proposal was recommended by a majority of the joint committee that considered the electoral laws of the Commonwealth, and unquestionably it is desirable, so long as no injustice is inflicted upon any great section of voters, that as long a period of residence as practicable should be required between the time when an individual comes into an electorate and when he has an opportunity to record his vote in that electorate. I do not propose to deal with the argument that the time of residence should be extended upon the ground that it is possible, under the present system, to pack electorates. It has been suggested that that could be done unintentionally; but I fail to see how that could happen. It is entirely a matter of opinion.” The reason why the Government considers the amendment to be undesirable is that for the last few years efforts have been made to bring about a uniform Commonwealth and State roll, and great progress has been made in that respect. Five States have already come into line with the Commonwealth. They have altered their laws to make them conform to the federal law, particularly in regard to the provisions requiring the period of residence to be one month.
– Which State has not agreed to co-operate?
– Queensland. A great improvement has been effected by five of the States coming into line with the Commonwealth in this respect, because in some of the States it was possible for persons to go into an electorate and vote there, when they had, in fact, only had their names placed on the roll the very day preceding the closing of the roll. It is undesirable that, without consultation with the States, we should proceed to alter the whole basis of the law upon which we have come to an agreement with them. I suggest, therefore, that it would be highly undesirable to alter this provision at the present time. The opinion of the Government is that it is desirable to extend the period of residence as far as possible without inflicting great hardship on any considerable body of voters; but I am not prepared to vote in favour of an alteration until the matter has been discussed with the States which have now agreed to a uniform roll. Without discussing the merits or demerits of the amendment, I therefore strongly urge that it should not be embodied in the bill.
– I am glad to hear the announcement of the Prime Minister, and I regret that the honorable member for New England has gone so far out of his way as to make the accusations that he has. He was a member of the joint committee that inquired into the Commonwealth electoral system and awarded it a clean bill of health. It was reported that no fraud or malpractice had been discovered. It is true that a majority of the committee made a recommendation on the lines of the honorable member’s amendment; but there was not one tittle of evidence to support it. Certain suggestions were made to the committee, but it did not carry them out. A majority of the committee formulated ideas of its own, with a desire to show a party spirit.
– The honorable member is barking up the wrong tree.
– There was not the slightest evidence to justify the recommendation. The honorable member’s charge regarding the expenditure of public money in Western Australia to enable bodies of men to be moved to certain electorates for the purpose of securing the return of particular candidates has been investigated, and proved to be without foundation. Nor is there the slightest foundation for the accusation made by the honorable member to-night. I asked the honorable member for proof, and he could not give it.
– How does the honorable member know that the honorable member for New. England has no grounds for his accusation?
– The honorable member for Franklin ought to be satisfied with the declaration made by the Prime Minister. Committees appointed by the Parliament are expected to have evidence on which to base their conclusions. The honorable member for New England, as a member of the joint committee, has shown political bias.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement, I wish to withdraw the amendment.
– In that case, I need not proceed further.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has seen fit to withdraw his amendment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) may withdraw his amendment only by leave of the committee. That has not yet been granted.
– The honorable member for New England was very unwise tonight in making his wild charges.
– They are absolutely true.
– We naturally expect a paid lackey of the Nationalist party to talk like that.
– The honorable member for Capricornia is out of order in using that expression.
– I shall substitute the words “ paid official “ of the Nationalist party.
– I ask that that expression be withdrawn.
– I base my statement on the fact that the honorable member was for many years the paid official of the Nationalist party. Surely he is not ashamed of that position, because it was the avenue through which he gained a seat in this Parliament. I certainly resent the remarks of the honorable member for New England. He stated that in Queensland large numbers of navvies had been moved from place to place for political purposes. That is absolutely untrue. I admit that in Queensland at various times large numbers of navvies have been employed on the construction of railways; but those lines were constructed by the Government as a part of its policy after obtaining a mandate from the people. Three railway lines were constructed linking up with the Northern Burnett scheme. They involved the expenditure of millions of pounds, and as a result vast areas of land were opened up for settlement. Another railway was constructed connecting Cairns with Southern Townsville. That was a very necessary work, and many men were employed upon it. The men worked on those railways for months, and, in many cases, for years, and surely they were entitled to record a vote in the electorate in which they resided. The honorable member for New England would like to disfranchise them just because their political beliefs are opposed to his. Surely they have the same right to a place in the sun as has any other section of the community. The Nationalist Government has exerted every effort to make the voting of nomadic workers as difficult as possible. It is now sought by this amendment to disfranchise men because they have not a three months’ residential qualification, although they are doing the real work of this country. All this talk about Labour Governments shifting workmen’s camps from one place to another for election purposes is so much balderdash, put forward by the Nationalist party at the instigation of highly-paid officials, who use their positions as stepping stones to this Parliament.
– This proposed new clause is of the utmost importance, since it deals with the period for which a person must reside in an electorate before being entitled to a vote in respect of it. It has been argued that the arrangements entered into with the various States render it advisable that there should be a uniform residential qualification of one month. That is all very well from the point of view of uniformity, but I submit that that is not the only aspect to be considered. We must consider what is right and what is wrong, and, to my mind, the right thing to do is to fix a reasonable and proper residential qualification. One month is not sufficient, and if the Minister consults his electoral, officials I think he will find that they are of that opinion. A large number of people go into an electorate, stay there a month, and leave it, That, under the law as it now stands, involves a tremendous amount of work upon the electoral officers, because the residential qualification is one month. If it were fixed for three months, only those people who intended to reside in a particular electorate would be enrolled there. They would become part and parcel of the community life of that electorate. It is the community life that makes the State, and the State that makes the Commonwealth; and upon that, I submit, the electoral system of this country should be based. I am strongly in favour of a residential qualification of three months, first, on the national ground that it is the proper period to qualify for enrolment in a particular electorate; and, secondly on the ground that it would entail much less work upon the electoral officers. In addition, a concrete expression of opinion would be obtained from an electorate, which is not now possible under a residential qualification of one month. The honorable member for New England has pointed out that at various times there have been moved into certain electorates bodies of men for the express purpose of crowding them with voters to suit the political exigencies of the party in power. I have not the slightest hesitation in affirming that all that the honorable member has said is perfectly correct. He was asked to produce evidence to prove his statement but he rightly pointed out that it was not the duty of the committee to seek such evidence. Had it been necessary, the honorable member could have produced unlimited evidence to show that certain governments have for many years past adopted that practice. I know it, and I know, too, that there has been the greatest difficulty in defining the place of abode of an elector. In New South Wales the original place of abode was accepted for many years as the place in which the elector’s wife and family were located. Then when it suited the ends of a certain government, they got a decision by the Attorney-General of the day that a man’s place of abode was where he resided, whether in a tent, under a bridge, or anywhere else; and that one month’s residence entitled him to enrolment. Under that ruling, masses of workmen have been moved from one place to another, all over the Commonwealth, for the express purpose of obtaining a majority for a particular party. There are two factors which have impelled me to speak on this subject. The first is that on national grounds - on the ground of securing a definite legitimate and concrete opinion from an electorate - the residential qualification should be three months .anstead of one month; the second is that a residential qualification of three months would do much to stop the gerrymandering of electorates which is becoming a habit with a certain political party.
.- I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who seeks to disfranchise a large number of the residents of this country simply because they happen to be nomadic workers. He knows perfectly well that a three months’ residential qualification would disfranchise many of these men. He has given no good reason why men who have resided in a district for a month should not be given the facilities enjoyed by men who have resided there for three months. The honorable member is against these men because, politically, they are not flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone They have done much of the spade work of this country, yet because they are opposed to his views, he wants to disfranchise them. He disclosed his purpose when he stated, in that sweeping manner of his, which is rarely supported by sound argument, that all over the Commonwealth men have been moved from place to place and put on railway construction and other work simply to suit the ends of a Labour government. The honorable member for New England was asked to prove his statement that men had been moved from one electorate to another for political purposes; but he was unable to do so.
– I provided proof.
– The honorable member for Warringah himself stated that the honorable member had not done so.
– I gave certain instances.
– I am blaming, not the honorable member for New England, but the honorable member for Warringah, and I leave them to fight their differences in the party room rather than in this chamber. It is now proposed that a residential qualification of three months instead of one month shall be provided for in this bill. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said a few minutes ago that the Government could not agree to that; but behind this Nationalist party is a power pulling the strings. The honorable*; member for
Warringah, as the paid secretary of the Nationalist party, controlled the seats of certain honorable members in this chamber. He is now trying to exercise that power in this chamber. It is a dangerous influence, and it is no wonder that we see open revolt among honorable members behind the Government, particularly on the part of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). We do not know what limit there is to this sinister power, which can be exercised at any time by an honorable member who at one time was well paid to raise political scares in this country, and who told the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) that he would put over this party at the next elections what he put over it at the last election. I raise this point in order to show that anything which is designed to secure fair play for the workers must, in the mind of the honorable member for Warringah, take second place to the interests of his party. If this amendment is carried it will have the effect of disfranchising many of the shearers in this country, men who take as keen an interest in politics as any one, and who probably read their Hansard more carefully than do many honorable members themselves; yet they will be penalized simply because they are nomads. I trust that honorable members opposite will exercise their sense of fair play, and that we shall not witness the spectacle of a man trying to seize the reins of power in this Parliament simply because he has exercised power outside. The Prime Minister himself has protested against the exercise of that power, and it remains to be seen whether it will be greater than the will of the Government.
.- Personally I am of the opinion that three months residential qualification is little enough. The statement of honorable members opposite that this proposed new clause, if carried, will have the effect of disfranchising certain electors is not correct. There is no such intention behind the clause, and it will not have that effect. An elector’s name should not be removed from one roll until it is placed on another.
– How could his name be on any roll unless he was resident* in a place for at least three months? -,r
– An elector should be on the roll for the district which is normally his place of living. An elector whose occupation takes him from one place to another should not change his place of enrolment every time he moves. I admitthat there are single men who do move about’ very freely, but I think that a three months’ residential qualification is a fair one. I should not have risen to speak on the matter except for the outburst of some honorable members on the other side. As far as the charge of packing of electorates is concerned, I am not in a position to say whether there is anything in it. I know of no government, either Labour or Nationalist, in Tasmania which has ever done anything of the kind. It may have been done elsewhere. Unless this amendment is withdrawn I intend to support it. When the honorable member for Kargoorlie referred to some power behind the Government directing honorable members as to how they should vote, I am sure that he was speaking merely for the sake of effect. Of course he does not mean anything of the kind; it is too absurd. At any rate, the members from my State are not affected, because there is no pre-selection by either party. The people there are too reasonable to do anything of the kind; they insist on the right of free election.
– In this case the Prime Minister desires one thing, and Tammany desires another.
– I have held my present views for many years, and I am not likely to change them as a result of anybody cracking the whip. The Prime Minister said that it would be a bad thing to pass any new clause which would interfere with the arrangements made between the Commonwealth and five of the six States for a uniform roll; but I am sure that if the electoral officers were con.sulted they would say that a three months’ residential qualification was better than one month. Notwithstanding what the Prime Minister said, I think that this Parliament should legislate as it thinks best. It is well to give due consideration to what State authorities may think, and I admit that uniformity in State and federal, rolls is desirable, but honorable members cannot allow themselves to be influenced over much by that. I think that this proposal is a fair and reasonable one; at any rate, after the outbursts of honorable members on the other side, it docs appear that there might be something in the accusations made by other speakers, and I hope that the honorable member for New England will not withdraw his amendment.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) was a very fair and moderate one in contrast with the two which preceded it from the same side of the House. The only part of it to which I can take exception was his concluding statement that because of the outburst from this side of the chamber, there must be something in the despicable accusation made by some honorable members opposite. The outburst of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, if it can be called such, was one of righteous indignation against statements made by honorable members on the other side. We do most strongly resent such despicable accusations as are hurled against the workers of this country. For years past I have heard such remarks made in regard to the transfer of workers from one electorate to another. I have even heard similar accusations made before a Labour party ever came into power. I have heard them made by one party against another when there were only Liberal and Conservative parties in thepolitical field, but in every case it was proved that they referred only to the ordinary movements of workers going about the country carrying on the ordinary developmental work of the State. These workers have to be somewhere at election time, and if they ure sent from one part of the country to another to carry out road-making, or to construct a weir, that cannot be described as manipulation. I have no doubt that with the present Government in office, hundreds of men may be transferred from one State to another on the eve of an election; but is that to be held up against the Government as an instance of manipulation? Such transferences might result in withdrawing support from a Labour candidate and weakening his chance of election. I should be sorry to say that any Government which is handling public money would transfer men merely for the purpose of stuffing rolls. Such accusations come from suspicious minds, and the men who formulate them are much more capable of doing things of that kind than are those against whom the charges are made. I suggest that we should consider this matter in the reasonable frame of mind indicated by the honorable member for Darwin. The residential qualification of one month has, I think, been in the act since Federation, and the same provision is in the Electoral Act of every State in the Commonwealth. For years we have been trying to get uniformity in electoral matters throughout Australia. At last we have got something approaching it, and now comes this proposal to destroy that uniformity. There ha3 been a scandalous waste of money in Australia in the past in the printing of duplicate rolls by State and Commonwealth authorities, and now, after much effort, we have reached an agreement with five of the States for a uniform roll
– The honorable member for Warringah has been one of the most strenuous advocates for uniform rolls that we have had in Australia.
– Perhaps, and if so, he was advocating a good thing. It is remarkable how difficult it is to secure uniformity even on so simple a matter as the electoral rolls of the Commonwealth and States. Yet now, when it has been obtained, an effort is being made to upset it. I cannot understand this foolish talk of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) about the community of interest - “ settled opinion,” the honorable member calls it - that is developed after three months’ residence in a district, but which he says is not possible if you live in it for only one month.
– That is not what I said.
– Anyway, there is something in it.
– I should expect support for a foolish statement like that from the honorable member for Warringah.
– The statement is not foolish because the honorable member says it is. f” >‘u ‘:«.
– No; it is foolish because of its inherent stupidity. What is meant by the settled opinion of a district? As the Minister said, the only settled opinion in any place is to be found in the cemetery. These nomadic workers are Australian. There is one Australian sentiment in this country. The political opinions of people in Australia are settled on party lines for the most part. There is no such thing as local political opinion, and I hope there never will be. We pride ourselves upon being one people, unaffected by geographical boundaries as are the inhabitants of Europe, where racial difficulties arise at every national border. We are divided by political opinions, but they are differences in individual opinions, and are not affected by geographical boundaries. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said, this amendment, if carried, will disfranchise thousands of men who travel continuously from job to job, and who are unable to get regular work anywhere.
– Their names will not be removed from the roll.
– But first, if this amendment is agreed to, they must be three months in an electorate to get on the roll.
– Six months is the period.
– I am speaking of Australian-born people. Take, for example, such people as shearers. They commence shearing in Queensland, and go right down the States and into New Zealand, working for ten or eleven months of the year, and then returning again to Queensland.
– How many shearers are there?
– The honorable member does not want to hear a consecutive argument, because it is telling against him. I remained quiet during his outburst on this subject; but he refuses to give me a hearing. If this new clause is agreed to thousands of men will be disfranchised. If they are three months away from the place in which they are enrolled, and cannot . conscientiously say that they intend to return there to make it their permanent abode, they cannot remain on the roll. There are thousands of men who have no permanent abode. and unless their occupation keeps them for three months in one place, they cannot get on to any other roll. These men go into a district on some railway construction job, and we are told that after a month’s residence they will have no settled convictions; will their convictions be any more settled after three months? Provision must be made for them ; I have yet to learn that this Parliament should legislate in such a way as to deprive such men of the opportunity to vote. Despite the sneers against these men as “ nomads,” and their lack of settled convictions, they are doing work which few honorable members would care to do, and without which the development of Australia could not proceed. I am glad that the Government is opposed to the amendment, which is both unsound and unjust to a big section of people.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Proposed new clause 2a -
Section proposed to be repealed -
.- On behalf of the honorable member for Blunter (Mr. Charlton) I move -
That the following new clause be added: - 2a. Section 70 of the principal act is repealed.
This section was inserted to overcome legislation in Tasmania and South Australia which permitted a State member, without first resigning, to contest a seat for the Federal Parliament. I consider that the section is unjust, and should be eliminated. Surely we should not retain it as a means of self-preservation. Many members of this House were formerly in one or other of the State Parliaments. Practically every member of the first Federal Parliament had been a State legislator. The field of selection for the national parliament should be as wide as possible, and men of proved capacity and experience in the State Parliament should be encouraged to aspire to a place in the Federal Parliament. If section 70 be deleted it will be necessary for each State Parliament to legislate to permit members to contest Federal seats without first resigning. I have no fear of the result if
State legislators are allowed to oppose us in our constituencies. The political organizations would probably prefer as candidates men with experience in State Parliaments rather than political tyros, and I believe that such men would be a valuable addition to the talent of the Commonwealth legislature. I hope the time is not far distant when some of the brainest and most experienced men in the State Parliaments will be helping us to legislate for the people of Australia as a whole.
– I strongly oppose the amendment for reasons which I stated at the second-reading stage, and which were generally approved by honorable members on this side. I cannot believe that members of the Opposition are very enthusiastic over a proposal which would be more detrimental to them than to those who support the Government. State Labour members are recruited principally from the outside organizations, and the amendment will make it easier for State members with ambition to contest Federal seats.
– Probably a couple of the honorable member’s own party will be opposing him at the next election.
– I shall not mind that; but it would not be fair to allow men to play this political game with double-headed pennies. A man who has one political job should be satisfied with that or resign it before seeking another. Highly respected and able though State members may be, this is an audacious proposal to allow them to try to cut our political throats, and, if they fail, to slide back into their own seats, feeling they have had a jolly good time without any risk. Such a thing is opposed to the sporting instincts of a British community. If members of the State Parliament are anxious to enter the Federal Parliament let them take the same risk as other men who have had to fight their way in; if they fail to enter this Parliament they can fight to regain the State seats they have resigned. The proposal that we should allow ourselves to become “ cockshies “ for State members asks too much of human nature, and I am sure that even honorable members who are supporting the amendment will not lose much sleep if it is rejected.
– I am surprised at the selfish attitude of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). We should not regard ourselves as statesmen so superior that we should not be shot at by others. The honorable member fears the competition of State members in the New England electorate.
– Not if they resign their State seats first.
– Why should that be expected of them? I had to resign my seat in the Queensland Parliament before I could nominate for this House, and I thought that was most unfair. Many good men in State Parliaments who have large family responsibilities are not prepared to resign their seats in order to stand for the Federal Parliament, because probably the State by-elections would be held before the result of the Federal election was known, and they would thus lose their chance of recovering the seats they had lost.
– They want to play with a double-headed penny!
– A Brisbane alderman who receives £400 a year has not to resign from the City Council before contesting a parliamentary seat; and why should a State member be required to resign before he can seek promotion to the national legislature? Evidently some honorable members are afraid of the opposition of State members. Any honorable member who is worth his salt should be willing to enter the fight against a member of a State Parliament, or any one else, who comes forward. He should not seek protection behind such a barrier as is contained in the section proposed to be repealed.
– We are endeavouring to look after the interests of the honorable member.
– I am not afraid of any State member opposing me; I believe that the electors should have the widest possible choice in selecting a candidate. I know it is distasteful to some honorable members to have a member of a State Parliament actively opposing them in their electorates during their absence, but one has to put the country before one’s personal interests. Successive Federal Labour conferences have recognized the un-democratic nature of the existing ‘law in this respect, and have placed a definite plank upon its platform that this particular provision should be amended as soon as the Labour party is returned to power. Surely it is not necessary for the Labour party alone to move in this direction. Honorable members opposite prate about democracy and their broadminded views on public questions; but, apparently, they are afraid to give the electors an opportunity to support a candidate whom they may wish to stand for this Parliament. If they wish to give the electors the widest possible choice, they have now an opportunity to do so. The Parliaments of Tasmania, Queensland, and South Australia passed legislation enabling State members to contest Federal seats and, if defeated, to resume their seats in State Parliaments. That was a reasonable proposal, and was discussed at a Premiers’ conference, which adopted a resolution to that effect. Prior to that, however, legislation to that effect had been passed in Tasmania and in Queensland. In Tasmania, Mr. Lyons, the present Premier, availing himself of the provision in the Tasmanian statute, contested a Federal seat, and on being defeated, resumed his seat in the State Parliament. A person with Mr. Lyons’ responsibilities should not be compelled to take the risk of losing his State seat merely because he stands as a candidate for the national legislature. Mr. Lyons was not compelled to do so, because he took advantage of the act passed by the Tasmanian Parliament. I In 1922 the Queensland Parliament passed a similar act; but the shrewd Prime Minister of the day, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) realized that such legislation provided opportunities for State members to oppose some of the right honorable gentleman’s supporters. As a member of the Queensland Parliament, I was selected to oppose Mr. W. M. Higgs, who was then the member for Capricornia. No doubt the Prime Minister of the day thought that the legislation which he introduced would keep me and others out df this Parliament. Section 70 of the principal act which relates to this matter reads -
No person who -
.- I do not intend to allow honorable members opposite to pose as the only examples of generosity. I remind the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that when the Prime Minister of the day introduced amending legislation in the direction he indicated, I was one of those who opposed it. I intend to be consistent and if the amendment goes to a vote I shall support it. As stated by the honorable member for Capricornia, members of State Parliaments have opposed members of this Parliament and when defeated have had the right to return to the State Parliament without contest. When I first contested a federal election, I defeated a State member. I too, think, that the electors should have the widest possible choice in selecting their representatives. I ‘ do not fear opposition from a sitting member of a State Parliament, even if he has the opportunity of returning to the State Parliament in the event of defeat. I believe that matters of this kind should be left to the electors; they should have the widest posible choice in the selection of representatives in the national Parliament. There is a provision in the Tasmanian law that in the event of a vacancy occurring there need not be a by-election; the votes recorded at the last election are consulted, and these determine who shall be elected. If this amendment is adopted it may conflict with the existing Tasmanian legislation. I intend to support the amendment, and I should like other honorable members on this side to do so in order to see how those who ridicule certain honorable members on this side will record their votes.
.- This question lias to be judged quite apart from the personal considerations of members of this or any other Parliament. We have to realize that as the years go on the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament must extend. Its functions are increasing and becoming more important every day, and even in the absence of an amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution it is gradually encroaching upon the work of the State Parliaments.
– I hope that is so.
– It is so, and its work will become greater- and greater. If there is one sovereign Parliament in Australia that ought to have the widest possible recruiting ground for its membership it is this national legislature, and we should not place an embargo upon any one who wishes to serve it. Under the law as it stands we place an embargo upon certain persons, because thay occupy seats in State Parliaments; but we do not place any obstacle in the way of persons occupying important positions in the commercial or professional world. Such persons are not called upon to resign their positions when they wish to stand for Parliament; but under the existing law a State member is compelled to resign his seat. It would be of advantage to the national legislature to have among its members men who had gained experience in State Parliaments. They are very often most useful members of the national legislature because they bring their State experience with them,- which is of great assistance to this Parliament. We are frequently confronted with important questions where the view-point of the States has to be regarded. For instance, when the States Grant Bill, under which the per capita payments to the States were withdrawn, was under consideration, and also when attention was being given to the federal aid road agreement, as well as in connexion with a number of other questions, the view-point of the States was of the utmost importance, and it is important that we should have in this legislature men who have been trained in State Parliaments. We should not place an embargo upon them by compelling them to resign before they can contest a seat in this House, and, shall I say, go a step higher, in order to serve their country in a wider sphere. I deprecate the narrowness of the views expressed by some honorable members opposite, who seem to be actuated by a desire for self-preservation. We should not come down to that level. The provision which we are now discussing was deliberately embodied in the Electoral Act in 1921, because provision was made by several State Parliaments to enable State members to contest seats in this Parliament without resigning from their State legislatures. This amendment does not affect any party in particular, and, if adopted, will provide a means whereby this Parliament may be strengthened. The Commonwealth Parliament should be placed in the strongest possible position, the electors should have the widest choice, and be able to have the benefit of the services of men who were members of State Parliaments. As the years roll on, this Parliament will have everincreasing functions to perform and obligations to undertake. We should not place any obstacle in the way of obtaining the services of men with the best brains and the widest experience. Personally, I believe that later, under an amended Constitution, this will be the only Parliament in Australia with sovereign powers, and that the State Parliaments will possess only delegated powers. The relation of the State Parliaments to the Commonwealth Parliament will be similar to that of the State Parliaments at present to the municipalities. No one suggests that a member of a municipal council should resign his seat before contesting a State election; a man can be a member of a municipal council and also of a State Parliament. If a person can carry out semi-governmental functions as a municipal councillor and also represent the State in Parliament, no embargo should be placed upon a State member becoming a candidate for a seat in . the national Parliament and serving his country in this wider sphere. I do not suggest that they should continue in the State Parliament after election to the Federal Parliament. To object to State members standing for the Federal legislature is not a very high stand for members of a national Parliament to take. I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to consider the matter seriously, and if he is not prepared to yield at this juncture, to at least make an effort to have this rather mean provision, which was inserted in the act in 1921, removed from it before the bill passes its final stages. I believe that the members of the 1921 Parliament were actuated rather by the motive of personal preservation than by a desire to advance the welfare of the national Parliament.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the motion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). It is not creditable to honorable members to try to consolidate their positions by such means as this. I had to resign my seat in the New South Wales Parliament to contest an election for a Federal constituency. Any member of a State Parliament who resigns to contest a Federal seat suffers a big monetary loss. The period during which I was without a seat w’as two months, and I lost in salary about £200. Any person who occupies a position in the pastoral, the agricultural, or the business world, is not called upon to make sacrifices of that nature. Every member of a State House has a vote for the Federal Parliament. If we can trust them with the franchise, surely we should also give them the right to contest a Federal seat without resigning from their present position.
– A State member ought to be prepared to resign his seat and take the risk.
– Before I resigned my seat I made a careful examination of the position, and saw that I was not taking too big a risk. Should a State member fail in his endeavour to win a Federal seat, he stands a good chance of losing also the seat which he formerly held’, because his constituents would not like to think that they had been deserted for another sphere.
– Is that why the honorable member is in favour of the motion ?
– I am not affected one . iota by that consideration. I have taken the plunge, and, being in deep water, am ready to swim. My concern is for others who might not be so fortunate as 1 have been. Australia should have the widest possible choice of its representatives. By making these positions a close preserve for ourselves we are not acting fairly by Australia.
– We are not doing that. - Mr. PERKINS.- We shall be, if we allow this provision to remain in the act. We would gain in importance in the eyes of the community if we showed our readiness to allow the selection to be as wide as possible.
– It is with some reluctance that I find myself out of agreement with the motion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). It was my fortune at the last election to be opposed by a member of the State House in South Australia. He had to resign his seat to contest that election, and I always felt that it was rather hard luck that he should lose both seats, but I do not think it is wise that a man should occupy a position in more than one Parliament. Without laying one’s self open to the accusation of being influenced by personal considerations, one can argue that it is desirable, to keep the two positions quite distinct. Some years ago Mr. Thomas Ryan was simultaneously a member of two different State houses. Some honorable members may think that such a situation is a good thing, but it does not appeal to me in that light. There are one or two sections of (he Constitution which have some bear ing on this question. Section 43, for example, provides that -
A member of either House of the Parliament shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a member of the other House.
Section 44 provides, inter aiia, in effect that a member of the Public Service or of the naval and military forces shall not be eligible to sit in either House of this Parliament. There is a proviso, however, in favour of officers of the naval and military forces whose services are not wholly employed by the Commonwealth. There are many excellent members of the Public Service and of the navy and army who might make splendid members of Parliament. It is generally recognized, however, that it is not desirable for a public servant to stand for Parliament unless he has first resigned from the Public Service. With that principle I find myself in agreement. There is no suggestion that one’s State colleagues may try to work behind one’s back during one’s absence from the electorate. They have their own particular work to perform, and it is quite distinct from ours. In a sense, they would occupy a privileged position which is denied to a member of this House, if they were allowed to return to their old position in the event of their being unsuccessful in their endeavour to obtain election to this Parliament. They would also be placed in a somewhat invidious position. There is a further objection: A political party would be at liberty at any time to say to its more distinguished and more prominent members in the State legislatures, “ Here is a constituency that we particularly wish to win in the federal sphere. We call upon you to wrest it from the sitting member.” That would be an undesirable state of affairs, and might have a harsh effect upon a State member. From every point of view it is undesirable to alter the existing law. If any State member holding political views similar to my own wishes to obtain my seat he can oppose me in the party plebiscite. If he defeated me, I should be only too glad to work in his interests in the election campaign; but I consider that we should keep the two positions separate.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Proposed new clauses 3a and 3b -
Sections proposed to be amended -
S4. - ( 1 ) Whenever an election wholly or partially fails a new writ shall forthtoith be issued for a supplementary election.
Amendment (by Mr. Mark) proposed - That the following new clauses be added: - 3a. Section 83 of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “83. - (1.) If after the nominations for an election for the Senate have been declared, mid before polling day any candidate dies, and the candidates remaining are not greater in number than the candidates required to be elected, they shall forthwith be declared to be elected and the writ returned. (2.) If after the nominations for a» election for the House of Representatives have been declared, and before polling day, any candidate dies, the election shall be deemed to have wholly failed. 3b. Section 84 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1) the following proviso: - “Provided that where the election has failed, in consequence of the death of a candidate after the declaration of the nominations and before polling day, the supplementary election shall be held upon the roll which was prepared for the purpose of the election which failed.”
– I should like the Minister to inform me whether this action is the result of the death, prior to the last election, of the Hon. C. McDonald?
.- I am pleased that the Minister has moved this amendment, as at the second-reading stage I strongly urged that the Government should take action in this direction. Because the act as it now stands does not make provision for a fresh election in the event of the death before polling day of one candidate when only two have been nominated for a seat, a very important electorate in Queensland is now being represented by a gentleman whose politics are entirely different from those of the great majority of the people in that electorate.
– I think that the honorable member will find at the next election that that is not so.
– That may be the opinion of the Prime Minister. I hold the view J;hat a large majority of the electors of Kennedy are Labour supporters. It is a seat that has been represented by Labour from the inception of federation. Immediately after the last federal election, and because of protests I had received from important organizations in the Kennedy electorate, I asked the Prime Minister the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister give early consideration to the advisability of amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act, in order to make it mandatory that, in constituencies where only two candidates are nominated, and one dies between the date of nomination and polling day, fresh nominations shall be invited.
That was a very reasonable request. The Prime Minister replied in the following terms : -
The efficient working of the Electoral Act is always receiving the consideration of the Government, and no matter affecting in any way its efficiency is overlooked. I do not think, however, that the suggestion of the honorable member requires immediate consideration.
I did not suggest that it should be given immediate consideration. I wanted it to be considered by the joint select committee which at the time was inquiring into the working of the Commonwealth electoral law. I recognized that it was most unfair to the majority of the electors of Kennedy that they should be represented by a man whose political views were entirely different from their own. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), immediately after the last election, made the following statement, which was reported in the Brisbane Courier of the 17th November, 1925 :-
There was one thing about the elections he would alter if he had the power. He did not like the Kennedy seat in Queensland reverting as a walk-over to Mr. Francis through the unexpected death of Mr. Charles McDonald. “ Of course, it is law,” he said, “ but it ought not to be. It strikes at the root of democracy, by depriving people of the right of choice. It happens just now to be to the .advantage of the Nationalists, but another time it might operate the other way, with vital consequences. I think the Kennedy election should be declared null, and another election held.”
No one is more qualified to speak in regard to election matters, and no one has had greater experience in that respect than the right honorable member for North Sydney. At the last Federal election the Senate Labour candidates polled 2,311 more primary votes in the Kennedy division than did the Nationalists, notwithstanding that they were three untried and unknown men contesting the election against three Nationalist representatives who were well known throughout Queensland. One is now the Minister for Defence in the present Government. That Mr. Grosvenor Francis recognized that Mr. McDonald had a large personal following was evident from his statement, subsequent to the election, that Mr. McDonald had been selected by the Labour party ito contest the seat again because of that fact. It is absolutely certain that if Mr. McDonald had lived he would again have won the seat for Labour by a majority of thousands of votes, as he always previously had done. The Labour Senate candidates obtained a majority of votes in 19 out of 23 sub-divisions in the division of Kennedy, and there is no doubt that Mr. McDonald would have polled an even greater vote than did the Senate Labour candidates. I make this statement now because it has an important bearing on the coming Federal election in Kennedy. At the last election the Labour Senate candidates polled at Charters Towers 1,946 votes, against 1,638 votes for the Nationalist candidates,’ or a majority of 306 for Labour; at Hughenden they polled 655 votes, against 423 secured by their opponents, or a majority of 232 for Labour ; and at Longreach, another important centre, they secured 1,252 votes, as against 780 votes for the Nationalists, or a majority of 472 for Labour. I could go on quoting other Labour majorities in 19 out of 23 divisions, but I do not wish to detain the committee. If this provision had been in the act when the last Federal elections were held, the present representative for Kennedy would not be sitting in this Parliament. The late Mr. Charles McDonald won the seat for Labour by a large majority on every occasion. In 1913 he had a majority of 11,633 votes; in 1914 he was unopposed; in 1917, when the fortunes of Labour were at a low ebb in Australia, his majority was 6,270; in 1919 it was 5,080 votes, and in 1922 he had a majority of 5,567, notwithstanding that he had been a sick man for years and had not been able to visit the division for some con- siderable time. Consequently he was not able to take any part in the campaign.
– And he should never have been nominated, and all this talking would not have been necessary.
– The Labour party is not so ruthless in its treatment of a sick man as the Nationalist party might be. The late Mr. McDonald rendered faithful service to the electors of Kennedy for many years, and in his hour of sickness his party did not desert him. It gave him the nomination for Kennedy, and, had he lived, he would have won the seat again. I refer to this matter now because I wish the electors of Kennedy to read these facts. I had several communications from a large number of Labour organizations in that division immediately after the last Federal election asking me to bring this matter up in the House. I did so on several occasions. Some months ago I urged the Government to include such an amendment in the Federal law. I had drafted one on lines similar to that which has been moved by the Minister, and I had intended to submit it to the committee. Now that the Minister has moved his amendment I gladly accept it, and I hope that there will be no opposition to it, because it will prevent a recurrence of the anomaly of a division being represented by a member whose views are not shared by the majority of the electors. I am quite confident that the Kennedy division will return a Labour candidate to this Parliament at the next election.
– It appears to me that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), in discussing the amendment moved by the Minister, has endeavoured to make political capital out of it.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member spoke as if it related solely to the division of Kennedy. I am sure that all honorable members deeply regretted the death of the late Mr. Charles McDonald; but like every other candidate at an election, the honorable member for Kennedy took his chances, and surely it was no fault of his that the death of his opponent put him in his present position. Every honorable member will agree with me when I say that the honorable member for Kennedy has proved an acquisition to the House.
– We cast no reflection upon him personally. What we object to is the system that permitted him to represent the division without having to face the electors.
– On the personal side I think we are all agreed that the honorable member for Kennedy is an acquisition to the House. Of course, I do not expect honorable members opposite to ratify his political views. But surely they will admit that he is very courteous and most diligent, and T believe he has given great satisfaction to the people he represents. It would not have been necessary for me to say thir but for the fact that the honorable member for Capricornia so obviously endeavoured to make political capital out of the amendment submitted by the Minister. As for the amendment itself, I am glad that the Minister has submitted it. In discussing it we should not regard it as relating to any isolated case. Every candidate for Parliament offers himself under the law of the time. It is now proposed to alter the law, so that in future, if a candidate dies between the date of nomination and the day of election, a new election must be held. This seems to me to be in every way a desirable reform. I have examined debates on the original act, as I could not help wondering why section 83 was inserted. I thought, possibly, that there might have been 3ome discussion on it when it was before the Parliament, but I was rather surprised to find that no comment was made at all in either House. Since it was passed, the lines of demarcation between the political parties have been more sharply defined, and it seems to me that in certain circumstances the death of one candidate during the elections might under the present law decide the government of Australia. This would be most undesirable from every point of view. Many electoral divisions are held by large majorities. It surely would be most undesirable that such divisions as Balaclava, Kooyong, or Warringah, with Ministerial majorities ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 votes should, by the accident of death, be represented by Labour. Equally undesirable would it be if such divisions as
Tarra, Hunter, or Hindmarsh, with Labour majorities of from 35,000 to 20,000 were, by the accident of death, represented by Nationalist or Country party members. The amendment is designed to make such a contingency impossible. It is most desirable that the Parliament of this country should be elected by the votes of the people, and not by chance. It should not be affected by the death of any candidate between the date of nomination and the day of election.
Proposed new clauses agreed to. Proposed new clause 14a -
Section proposed to be amended - 1.13. - (1) On polling day, an elector shall be . . . permitted to vote at any other polling place within the State . . .
– I move - That the following new clause be added - 14a. Section 113 of the principal act is amended by omitting from subsection 1 the word “ State “, and inserting in its stead the word “ Commonwealth “.
A discussion took place this afternoon on the subject of absent voting. The committee generally was favorable to the proposal that the absent voting provisions should be extended so that they could ‘ be used not only within a State, but in any part of the Commonwealth. I do not intend to reiterate the arguments advanced this afternoon in favour of the proposal, which I think has the approval of the Minister.
– We had a discussion this afternoon on the advisability of reinserting in the act a provision giving an . elector the right to an absentee vote, not only in his own State, but- in any part of the Commonwealth. The Government has considered the matter, and is favorable to the proposal, but it would like to refer it to the electoral officials before adopting it. The Government suggests, therefore, that the proposed new clause be not inserted at this stage. Inquiries will be made, and, if the electoral officers report that there are no insurmountable difficulties in the way of giving effect to it, the Government will have the proposal inserted in the bill in another place.
– Why not insert it now? If necessary it can be struck out in another place.
-Hughes. - This bill came from the Senate, and must go back o that chamber. Would it be possible, in these circumstances, for the Senate to insert the proposed new clause?
– It would be competent for it to do so.
– I think not; the better course would be to insert it now.
– If it is the general desire of the committee, I shall agree to its insertion at this stage.
.- Do I understand that the Government accepts a proposed new clause that makes absentee voting apply all over the Commonwealth, as well as in the individual States?
– I suggest that before the Minister agrees to that in a small committee, it would be well to confer with the electoral officials, and ascertain if they are agreeable to it. The proposal is contrary to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Electoral Law and Procedure.
– This afternoon this committee adopted a proposal to give electors the right to deposit a postal vote with any presiding officer. That is a more dangerous vote than the absentee vote which is recorded before officers of high standing. A postal vote can be witnessed by persons who have not the same high standing. The Government has discussed the matter, and is agreeable to the proposal. If there is any difficulty in the way of its application, we shall have it altered in another place.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be added - 23a. After section one hundred and fifty of the principal act the following section is inserted : - “ 150a. No member of the Parliament, or other person who has been selected as a candidate, or who has announced himself as a candidate for the Parliament, shall offer, promise or give directly or indirectly any gift, donation or prize to or for any club or other association or institution :
Provided that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a member of Parliament to contribute, or to offer or promise to contribute, to the funds of a hospital, a charitable body, an educational institution, » memorial or a church collection, or to pay any usual membership charge to any club, or other association or institution of which he is an active and bona fide member.”
At this late hour I do not intend to make a speech regarding gifts or donations by members. This proposal, after careful consideration, was embodied in the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Electoral Laws and Procedure. It was excised in another place; but I feel it my duty, as a member of that committee, to give honorable members an opportunity to reconsider the matter.
– I strongly oppose the motion.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- I moveThat the following new clause be added: - 25a. After section one hundred and sixtyfour of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 1«4a. Any newspaper which publishes any article, letter, paragraph, or advertisement commenting upon any member of the Parliament, or any candidate for the Parliament, shall within the next succeeding issue, or such other issue as the member or candidate shall desire, publish in a prominent part of the paper usually devoted to such matters any reply by the member or candidate:
Provided that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a newspaper to excise statements which cannot be construed as fair comment upon the article, letter, paragraph or advertisement complained of; but so as not to destroy the relevancy of the reply. Penalty: Fifty pounds.”
My proposal deals with a serious grievance that many honorable members have had for years. Some newspapers, which are not actuated by motives of strict fairness, publish unfair articles or letters that while not actually coming within the law of libel, cast serious reflections upon honorable members, and cause them a certain amount of annoyance and pain.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish to silence them altogether !
– No. I shall deal with the matter briefly. Sometimes honorable members have sent to newspapers replies to criticisms of themselves, and. publication of their replies has been refused. I, myself, have had that experience, although not very often. I have more than an ordinary amount of access to the press. I can get all the publicity that I require and am not dependent upon the metropolitan or any other newspapers for publicity in my electorate. Still, there have been times when I have had to reply to certain criticisms of movements with which I have been associated. My letters in reply have been either seriously bowdlerized or else refused publication altogether. Some twelve months ago a country uewspaper published a leading article containing serious and incorrect reflections upon my association with the new State movement. The statement was very close to being libellous, but was not sufficient to justify me in issuing a writ. I wrote a courteous letter to the newspaper, drawing attention to the statement and asking for publicity; but, without any explanation at all, my request was refused. When I made inquiry, a paltry excuse was made, and I was told that my letter would not be published. The real reason for the refusal was that my letter showed the absurdity of the newspaper’s article, and made the proprietors look very foolish. That attack did not hurt me very much, still, I object to the principle that a newspaper can publish unfair and inaccurate articles about public men and then refuse a reply. A public man -can be shot at from all quarters, and he should have more than the right of the average citizen to defend himself, because the average citizen as a rule is not attacked in connexion with public matters. If the proposed new section is inserted in the Electoral Act, it will have a salutary effect upon the newspapers. Many honorable members might not deem it worth while to take action, but they would have the legal right to demand the publication of a reply to an unfair attack. A newspaper, of course, would have the right to sub-edit the reply, and to give it the prominence in its columns that it thought necessary; but it would have to give some reilly. Although this might not be an altogether satisfactory method of redress for the honorable member so attacked, he would know that, 0 if tha press refused to publish a reply to attacks or criticism contained in its columns, he could take proceedings, not by way of writ for libel or defamation, but in the ordinary police court. In addition, the matter could be brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, who might also be able to take some action. At any rate, under this proposed section, honorable members who are directly criticized by newspapers would feel that they had some method of redress that is not open to them now. The majority of newspapers are very fair, and will publish replies to criticism contained in their columns; but that does not apply to all, and especially to some big metropolitan papers, which are often most unfair in their attacks on public men, especially politicians. I leave the proposed new section in the hands of the committee, and I trust that it will be accepted.
Proposed new clause negatived. Proposed new clause 25b -
Section proposed to be amended - 105. (1) A person shall not exhibit or leave in any polling booth, any card or paper having thereon any direction or instruction as to how an elector should rote or as to the method of voting.
– I moveThat the following new clause be added: - 25b. Section one hundred and sixtyfive of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-section ( 1 ) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : -
Penalty: Twenty pounds.”
This proposed new sub-section was recommended by the Electoral Committee, but for some reason or other was rejected by the Government after consultation with the electoral officers.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Proposed new clause 25c-
Section proposed to be amended - 171, The following acts are, on polling day . . . prohibited. . . Penalty: Twenty-fvoe pounds.
– I move-
That the following new. clause be added: - 2nc. Section one hundred and seventy-one of the principal act is amended - “ (6) by omitting the word ‘twenty’ and inserting in its stead the word fifty’ and ( b ) by inserting therein, after paragraph (e), the following paragraph - (/) driving a motor car or other vehicle not being a motor car or vehicle used for conveying incapacitated electors to the polling booth, or causing or authorizing any such motor car or vehicle to approach within fifty feet of the polling booth.”
This proposed new clause embodies a recommendation of the Electoral Committee which has been rejected by the Government. It relates to the use of vehicles on polling day. At present mot6r cars are crowded round the polling booths, and cause congestion. The electors are inconvenienced, and it was considered by the Electoral Committee that at times an unfair use of these vehicles was made by candidates who were in a position to engage them to convey electors to the booths.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. Motion (by Mr. Mabb) agreed to -
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses 9 and 11, as amended.
In committee (Recommittal) : Clause 9 -
Section 92 of the principal act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section - “ (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, in any case in which a postal ballot-paper . . would not reach the divisional returning officer for the division in respect of which the elector claims to vote . . . the envelope . . . may be addressed to . . . any’ other divisional returning officer . . .
.- I move-
That after the words “divisional returning officer “, second occurring, sub-section ( 2 ) , the words “ or to an assistant returning officer “ be inserted.
This amendment will give the right to the electors to deposit postal ballot-papers with the presiding officers.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, also consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments, and reports, by leave, adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I apologise for keeping the House, but I wish to bring a very important matter before the Minister for Markets. Last week a deputation from the apricot growers waited on the canners in Tasmania, and the reply of Mr. F. Peacock,, manager of Messrs. Jones & Company, is reported in the press as follows: -
Mr. Peacock stressed the importance of growers endeavouring to raise the standard of fruit grown, pointing out the tremendous handicap of Tasmanian growers, compared to the mainland, where, only for the fact that the Government paid large subsidies to the canneries, were the growers kept going. He further remarked that the Dried Fruit Control Board had issued a regulation that no canned apricots could be sold to the United Kingdom without the buyer first agreeing to accept as part of the order two cases of Victorian peaches to one of apricots.
I wish to find out from the Minister whether such a regulation has been issued by the Canned Fruits Control Board. If so, it will seriously interfere with the sale of apricots. If a man in England wishes to buy 500 cases of apricots, he must buy 1,000 cases of peaches in order to do so. It is a most absurd and iniquitous regulation. I .suppose such a regulation has been issued, or the canners would not say such a thing, but if the control of the canned fruits industry is going to bring about such a position as this, the sooner we get rid of control boards the better. In Tasmania we grow a fair quantity of apricots and export them, but we do not grow very many peaches. Therefore, under this regulation, a Tasmanian canner cannot sell a case of apricots unless some one in some other State supplies two cases of peaches. I think honorable members will agree with me that this regulation should be withdrawn at once if it has actually been issued.
Another complaint I have to make is in regard to the fixing of prices for canned fruits. This is not being done as quickly as it should be. The board waits to see what the market is going to be in England before coming to a decision. To give an idea of what is going on, I quote the case of Jones & Company, which had a quantity of canned apricots in England last year. The company sold the apricots, but could not give delivery of them from their English agent because the Control Board stopped delivery pending the fixing of prices in Australia. Eventually, the company advised the board that if it did not fix a price it would take the responsibility of releasing the apricots. Then the board fixed the price, and the apricots were delivered, but the price obtained was ls. a case more than the price which was eventually fixed by the Board. It appears that the more control we have the worse the position becomes, and the more trouble is being given to business people. I should like to know from the Minister whether such a regulation has been issued. If it has, I hope it will be withdrawn at once.
.- In reply to the honorable member, I wish to point out that this year there has been a very large production of canned fruits. We consume about 18,000,000 cans per annum - about three tins per head of our population. That is about equal to the quantity to be exported. Of that quantity of 18,000,000 tins for export, a very large proportion consists of peaches. During recent years we have been able to obtain profitable prices overseas for canned pears, and prices not so profitable for apricots, while for peaches, the prices have been absolutely unprofitable. This year, as last year, it has been necessary to subsidize the export of canned peaches from the Primary Production Trust Account. The Canned Fruits Control Board has found it to be in the interests of Australian canners as a whole, not for one section only but from the point of view of the trade as a whole, to lay it down, in selling canned fruits that a man who buys pears or apricots must take also a certain percentage of peaches.
– The thing is ridiculous.
– In actual practice it works out to the advantage of the canners as a whole. It must be obvious that if purchases of three kinds of canned fruits are made by merchants, they will put pressure on the retailers to dispose of those different varieties.
– Does the Minister think that a man will buy 1,000 cases of peaches if he does not want them, in order to obtain 500 cases of apricots?
– If these canned fruits of various kinds are sold to the wholesale merchant, he finds that he must endeavour, if possible, to sell a certain proportion of peaches to the retailer who requires apricots and pears from him, this will naturally tend to increase the sale of canned peaches. Similarly, the retailer is obliged to endeavour to push the sale of peaches as well as of apricots and pears. By calling upon the buyer to take a commodity that is more difficult to sell along with others which are ready of sale, we are able to dispose of a large quantity of peaches which otherwise would be left on our hands. The Control Board is acting in the best interests of the canned fruits industry as a whole. Those States which produce one kind of fruit only enjoy an advantage in their products being associated with an export pack which is large enough to attract attention, and to secure a market, in addition to sharing the advantages of combined advertising. I shall investigate the other matter mentioned by the honorable member and let him have a reply later.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280531_reps_10_118/>.