15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the
Minister for the Army come to a decision with respect to the proposed amendment of the regulations relating to military allowances to dependent mothers and wives of soldiers in certain circumstances ? If so, when can honorable members expect to know the nature of that decision?
– Yes; a decision has been reached and I propose to issue an explanatory statement at an early date - possibly to-day.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and myself, I ask the Minister for Commerce whether he will be prepared to broaden the scope of the inquiry by JudgePaine to include contracts entered into by purchasers of barley, as well as wheat?
– I am prepared to consider the suggestion, and will advise the honorable member later of the result.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs intend to supply to the House any information regarding the developments in France? Further, is he yet in a position to inform honorable’ members as to the reaction of the Government of the United States of America to the latest developments, and the policy that it is likely to pursue should hostilities extend to the Pacific? Generally, does he propose to supply to honorable members any information beyond what they are able to obtain from press statements?
– I reply first to the honorable member in general terms by saying that I have followed the practice of giving to the House, at intervals, such authoritative information as has been in the possession of the Government, and which the Government believes may properly be released. I am unable to give any information to the House as to the attitude which the Government of the United States of America would be likely to adopt in the event of hostilities extending beyond Europe, As to the fighting in France, the information in the possession of the Government is that the great south-western drive of the German Army into France, which during the latter part of the week-end appeared to have paused, ‘ has now been renewed with great intensity in a more westerly and north-westerly direction towards the channel. I can only say that the intensity of thisnew drive in that direction must cause grave concern to the British and Belgian Armies during the next 48 hours.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Dutch shipping which is now under the control of the Allies couldbe used in the Australian export trade, and whether such a development would affect the Government’s policy in regard to shipbuilding in Australia?
– This matter is at present actively under the consideration of my colleague, the Minister for Commerce.
– Is the Minister for
Commerce in a position to say whether a decision has been arrived at in connexion with the appraisement of hides and skins at Newcastle?
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development have inquiries made in order to ascertain whether there is discrimination in the issue of hides to tanners in New South Wales. It is reported that tanners in a large way are able to obtain supplies, whereas others find difficulty in doing so. Will he also ascertain whether the export of hides is resulting in a shortage of supplies to local tanneries ?
– I shall be pleased to have inquiries made. My task would be simplified if the honorable member would supply to me the data which presumably provoked his question.
– In view of the somewhat heroic statements appearing in _ the press this morning, and attributed to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Mair, and the ex-Premier, Mr. Stevens, relating to the necessity for an intensification of Australia’s war effort, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether either of those gentlemen has submitted to him any practical suggestion which would bring about that intensification1?
– Some timo ago the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Mair, in a communication to me, suggested the revival of the National Council, and offered reasons why, in his opinion, advantages would flow from consultations between the Commonwealth and State governments through that instrumentality. Apart from that, my knowledge of the matter referred to has been derived from press statements.
– In view of the exaggerated statements appearing in the press, and in order to reassure the public of Australia, will the Minister for Supply and Development make a statement of what the Government is doing?
– During the next few days a statement along the lines suggested by the honorable member will be made by either the Prime Minister or myself.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for the Army during the last session of Parliament that he intended to bring in a bill to amend the Repatriation Act, can the Minister say whether he intends to introduce that legislation during the present sittings?
– Tes; that is the intention.
– As honorable members know, I have been collecting pennies and halfpennies from various independent theatres in order to provide milk for children, and on one occasion when I was said to have adopted the role of a movie actor, inasmuch as I was photographed and recorded for the screen, I delivered a speech in which I said that in Russia two pints of milk were given to every child daily. Those remarks have been deleted by the censor from the report of my speech. I now ask tho Minister for Information, in view of the fact that Great Britain has not declared war against Russia, why is it that we are not allowed to publish the truth about any good to humanity which may be done in Russia ?
– I shall be pleased to take the honorable member’s question into consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is in a position to say when the Tariff Board will begin taking evidence in connexion . with its inquiry into the tobacco industry, and ako whether the board will visit Western Australia to take evidence?
– I am unable to say offhand when the board will begin taking evidence, but I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable member later. His request concerning Western Australia will be brought under the notice of the Minister.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to the following telegram which I have received from the tobacco-growers at Dimbulah in the far north : -
Tariff Board tobacco inquiry sitting Melbourne 27th instant. North Queensland growers wish to give evidence. Insufficient time to submit to Melbourne. Strongly urge your support to bring board north. We have a strong case to offer.
Will the Minister use his best endeavours to arrange for the Tariff Board to visit the far north to enable those growers, and the growers of Mareeba and other parts of Queensland, to give evidence?
– I shall be glad to convey to the Minister for Trade and Customs the representations made, and to ask him to give consideration to them.
– Can the Minister for Air explain why important national work at the Mascot aerodrome, which was gazetted six months ago, has not yet been commenced ?
– The honorable member must be aware that the amount of money that could be expended during the present financial year on civil aviation works has been limited. Nevertheless, I am able to inform him that a considerable amount of work at Mascot will have been done this year.
Mr. SPENDER laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Ordered to be printed.
Mr.McCALL. - Has the Minister for External Affairs any information which he can make available regarding a report in this morning’s press to the effect that Russia has warned Italy against entering the war on the side of Germany? Can the honorable gentleman say whether there is any truth in the statement that Russia is adopting a more friendly or conciliatory attitude towards the Allies?
– I have no information of that nature which I can give to the House.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a press report to the effect that M. Rene Pleben, French minister of the Allied Purchasing Commission in the United States of America, is reported from New York to have said that there was no question but that the Germans would be stopped, but that what the Allies needed was not men, but immediate war materials ? I also ask the right honorable gentleman to indicate what action the Government is taking to absorb all the unemployed in Australia in the production ofwar materials?
– My attention has not been directed to the report referred to by the honorable member. The Government is taking every possible step to accelerate its programme of war expenditure. I anticipate being able to make a further statement to the House on that subject within the next day or two.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government is still considering the appointment of an Australian minister at Tokyo ? If so, does he anticipate being able to make a statement on the subject before Parliament goes into recess?
– The Government is considering the subject, and I hope to make a statement in regard to it within the next fortnight.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the great inconvenience caused in many country centres through the curtailment of mail services owing to the coal strike ? Is he also aware of the indignation that has been expressed because of the refusal of the department to allow mails to be carried bymotor vehicles, in some cases at no cost what ever to the department; and alsothe refusal to allow them to be carried by such goods train’s as were available in lieu of the customary mail trains that lmd been temporarily discontinued?
– Following upon the curtailment of the mail train service on many State and interstate railway lines, the Postal Department had no option but to curtail some mail services. I have had no serious complaints, except two or three protests lodged in respect of localities which had been receiving a six days a week service, and had been obliged to accept a three days a week service. I have no doubt that a certain amount of inconvenience has been caused. The department made a very careful survey of the whole position and took advantage of such goods trains and other means as were available, except where such action would have increased thecost of distribution. In the existing circumstances the department did not feel disposed to incur additional liability, as it was felt that the people as a whole were prepared to submit to some slight inconvenience, and even a delay of 24 hours, in the delivery of their mail matter, knowing that some disadvantage of that kind was inevitable because of the coal strike. It is not anticipated that the inconvenience will continue for much longer as full train services are to be restored in the near future.
Mr.SCULLY. - As the Australian Wheat Board has announced that delivery of the next season’s harvest will be taken only if the wheat is in new bags, I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether he will make a statement with a view to relieving the anxiety of the farmers respecting the supply of cornsacks for the next harvest? In view of the large carry-over of both bagged and silo wheat, farmers should be advised that adequate supplies of cornsacks will be available.
– I have already informed the House that an advisory committee has been established to investigate the whole position. The chairman of the Australian Wheat Board has a seat on the committee, and it will therefore devolve upon the Wheat Board to take such steps as will ensure that ample supplies of cornsacks will be available for the new season’s wheat.
– I have received the following telegram from the Mayor of Casino, a town of some 6,000 inhabitants : -
Have been approached by numbers men desirous enlisting but unable afford travelling expenses and loss wages to enlist Lismore. Military situation demands opening recruiting centre Casino.
I ask the Minister for the Army whether it will be possible to open additional recruiting depots in large centres, such as Casino, in order that men who desire to enlist may do so at a local centre instead of having to travel considerable distances ?
– Action such as that suggested by the honorable member is already being taken. I am unable to say, at the moment, whether Casino will be a recruiting depot,but I shall make inquiries and give the honorable member a personal reply later.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the compilation of the National Register has been completed or is nearing completion? If it has been completed, in view of inquiries that are being made of honorable members, will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Government proposes to take action in accordance with the information supplied ?
– The compilation of the results of the National Register is in some respects complete. I am not sure if all information has been tabulated, but I shall ascertain what the position is and advise the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the commendable, patriotic action of the Premier of New South Wales in lending £4,000 free of interest for the period of the war?Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that many employers are refusing to employ youths of military age in order to press them into military service? Does the Prime Minister not think that the Government should try to compel those persons, who have wealth and. have all to lose, to lend their money for the purposes of the war free of interest? That would not be nearly as patriotic a gesture as that of the boys who have offered their lives, but the time has arrived when people who have the money should offer it free of interest. Does not the Prime Minister think that this would he a great stimulant to voluntary enlistment?
– Order! The honorable member may not comment when asking a question.
– I did see the press reference to the action of the Premier of New South Wales, which I, in common with other honorable members, admire very much. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I may say that taxation in this country for war purposes is, and always has been, compulsory. It is on a high level and there is little reason to believe that it will not go to higher levels. It need not be feared that those who have means will not make their proper contribution to this war; it will be the business of the Government to see that they do make a fair contribution. As for borrowing, there has so far been no failure of the voluntary system of raising public loans. I do not anticipate that there will be any such failure, because I believe that every one realizes that the responsibility for getting ourselves out of the dangers of this war attaches to everybody.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether large numbers of Dutch and Belgian refugees have gone to England where problems of housing, feeding and clothing them are arising? Is it true that many of those refugees are of excellent types and that investigations were made before the war of the prospects of settling Dutch migrants in Australia ? As a contribution to Britain’s war effort and to the solution of one of Britain’s war problems, that of finding foodstuffs, and as a contribution to the vital need to populate this country, will this Govern ment investigate the possibility of assisting the passage of a considerable number of those people to Australia?
– That suggestion will be taken into consideration. The honorable gentleman will realize that, apart from many other problems, there are at present great problems of shipping.
– On Friday, the Prime Minister described as treasonable, the leading article which appeared in the Friday issue of the Daily
News and said that he was referring the article to his colleague, the Acting Minister for Information, for action. Will the Prime Minister now say whether the whole or a part of that article was treasonable, and, if part, which part?
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman will not expect me to occupy the time of this House by reacting various parts of the article that came under my stricture, but I say, unhesitatingly, that the article was a scandalous one. It was calculated - I have no doubt, deliberately calculated - to weaken the national effort in this war and was, therefore, a treasonable article.
– In view of the fact that apprenticeship certificates show that boys of sixteen or seventeen years of age develop most quickly in mechanical trades, will the Minister for the Air take steps to reduce the age limit of eighteen years for the recruiting of young men for training as mechanics in the Air Force?
– I shall look into the honorable member’s proposal.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development state any satisfactory reason why the equipment installed in the New South Wales Railway Workshops for the manufacture of aircraft has not yet turned a wheel? Has the Minister any knowledge of, or any statement to make about, the machinery installed at the annexe of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited at Pyrmont, the bearings of which seized when the machinery was put on a trial run, proving that the installation of the plant was most unsatisfactory?
– I hope at no distant date to be able to make a comprehensive statement about the whole, of the Government’s aircraft production programme. I have no personal knowledge of the circumstances disclosed in the second part of the honorable member’s question, andI shall have inquiries made.
– When will the Attorney-General be able to inform members when the appointments of additional inspectors to police federal awards are likely to be made?
– No doubt those inspectors ought to have been appointed before now, but when the honorable gentleman asks me when they will be appointed, I can only say that I find myself embarrassed by the number of most excellent applicants. It is somewhat difficult to make a selection. Perhaps the honorable gentleman could help me?
– I should very much like to.
– Has the search for the Avro-Anson aeroplane which was lost on Thursday been abandoned? Is it a fact that the Air Board did not order a search for the plane until four and a half hours after it had lost radio contact with Point Cook? If so, does that indicate that the Air Board showed neglect?
– Absolutely no neglect was shown. Search was quite impossible at the time, because, when that aircraft was forced down, the flying conditions were dangerous. It would have been madness to send out aircraft over mountainous country in search of it until visibility improved. Since then sixteen planes have been flying across the country two miles one from the other and the search has been continuous for the whole time in which flying conditions have been safe.
-Is the Minister for Supply and Development aware of the widely held belief that the. supply of petrol in Australia is very low? If so, has he taken any steps to secure as much as possible for defence purposes?
– The supply of petrol in Australia to-day is greater than it was normally in pre-war times, as the direct result of intervention by the Government just before the outbreak of war. Whether or not it is adequate to meet requirements is a matter that is being investigated.
Assent to the following bills reported -
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1940.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1940.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1940.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1940.
Estate Duty Bill 1940.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Nock) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Nock) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agree to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Post and Telegraph Bates Act 1902-1931.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Post Kates (Defence Forces) Act 1939.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 17 th May(vide page 1027).
Section one hundred and fivea of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraphs (e) and (f) and inserting in their stead the fol- lowing paragraph: - “(e) the order of the names of the candidates whose names are not included in any group shall be determined in the same manner, mutatis mutandis, as the order of the several groups in the ballot-papers ; “.
Section proposed to be amended - 105a. In printing the ballot-papers to be used in a Senate election -
the order of the several groups in the ballot-papers shall be determined as follows : -
before the square opposite the surname of each candidate in the first group in the ballot-papers there shall be printed the letter A; before the square opposite the surname of each candidate in the second group in the ballot-papers there shall be printed the letter B and so on, asthe case requires;
if there are two or more candidates having the same surname in any group, their names shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be arranged according to the alphabetical order of their christian names, or, if their christian names are the same, then according to the alphabetical order of their residences, which shall in such oases be arranged and stated in the ballot-paper.
the order of the names of the candidates whose names are not included in any group shall be determined in the same manner as the order in a group of the names of the candidates included in that group :
wheresimilarity in the names of two or more candidates is likely to cause confusion the, names of those candidates may be arranged with such description or addition as will distinguish them from one another; and
Clause verbally amended.
Amendment (by Mr. Nock) proposed -
That paragraph (c) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph : - “ (c) by omitting paragraphs (d), (e), (f) and(g) and inserting in their stead the following paragraphs: -
the order of the names of the candidates whosenames are not included in any group shall be determined in the same manner, mutatis mutandis, as the order of the several groups in the ballot-papers;
where similarity in two or more designations which are to appear in pursuance of section seventy-twoc of this act, or in the names of two or more candidates, is likely to cause confusion, those designations or those names may as the case requires, appear or be arranged withsuch description or addition as will distinguish them from one another; and’.”.
– The object of the amendment is to restore to the bill the provision which the Government agreed to delete. Before dealing with it, I wish to make a brief reference to statements made during the debate in regard to the necessity for an alteration of the set-up of the ballot-paper. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said that in his electorate at the last election’s, the number of votes polled for the Senate Labour candidates was greater by 2,000 than that polled by the Labour candidate for the House of Representatives. The argument of the honorable gentleman appeared to be that a similar conditions applied in every electorate in New South Wales. The fact is that in the aggregate the votes polled for the Labour Senate candidates were practically equal in number to those polled for the Labour candidates for the House of Representatives, the numbers being respectively 711,728 and 643,226, a majority in favour of the Senate candidates of 68,502.
– There might have been some uncontested seats for the House of Representatives.
– Two of the strongest Labour seats in the State - West Sydney and Hunter - were uncontested. Adding to the total number of votes tor the House of Representatives, the number polled for the Labour Senate candidates in those two electorates, we find that the majority in favour of the candidates for the House of Representatives was nearly 4,000. The first Senate candidate for the United Australia party in the electorate of the honorable member for Richmond polled nearly twice as many votes as the honorable gentleman himself polled, whereas in Newcastle, the majority of the honorable member who represents that seat, possibly due to his popularity, was 44,000, as compared with one of 32,000 for the four Labour Senate candidates, despite the alleged advantage of the names of the Senate candidates beginning with “ A “ whilst that of the honorable member for Newcastle begins with “ W “. Honorable members may analyse the position for themselves. If they do so, they will find that, throughout the constituencies, the differences between the number of votes cast for the Labour candidate for the House of Representatives, and those cast for the Labour Senate candidates, was not very material, and that in the aggregate, after making, allowance for the two uncontested seats, the polling favoured by 4,000 votes the candidates who stood for the House of Representatives. That completely answers the suggestion that the voting was not on purely party lines. The United Australia party and the Country party were out of favour, and in a few electorates won by only a narrow majority. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) polled 44,000 votes, and the excess number of votes polled by that honorable member would have been sufficient to have enabled the Labour party to have won five of the seats gained by members of the United Australia party and Country party in the House of Representatives. Quite apart from the aggregate vote shown in the Senate count at the last general election, the figures supplied by the Chief Electoral Officer dispose very effectively of the argument that an increased number of Senate votes was polled for Labour candidates in consequence of the alphabetical system. The Minister, apparently with the- consent of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then in the chamber, agreed to withdraw the amendment previously submitted, but it is now being moved in another form. This amendment, although it is worded somewhat differently, is of precisely the same effect, as it throws upon the Chief Electoral Officer the responsibility of changing the name, or a portion of the name, of any political group, and of deciding whether the name submitted shall be used. That is dangerous to democracy, because it brings politics into the Electoral Office. It would give candidates the right to think, justifiably I believe, that the Chief Electoral Officer was interfering -with their rights. It would be preferable to dispense with group designations altogether, rather than allow such hanky-panky tricks to be brought into ti,e Electoral Department. One of the keystones of democracy is the people’s belief that they are getting fair treatment; but if one candidate may derive advantage over another by an act of the Chief Electoral Officer the whole pro- cedure will be suspect. Why should the Electoral Department have a right to interfere with the designation of any political group when the responsibility of that department is to safeguard the franchise? The amendment moved by the Assistant Minister should not be tolerated for a moment. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber hold different opinions as to the way in which a group shall’ be designated; but no member of the Opposition will, give to the Chief Electoral Officer the right to decide the form in which the ballot-paper shall be prepared. The only way in which to avoid a. serious departure from the system which has been recognized almost since the introduction of adult franchise is to eliminate the names of the political groups from the ballot-paper.
– After the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had agreed to the elimination of a portion of the clause, it was found that it would be possible for one party, or a section of one party, to submit a party designation similar to, or even identical. with, that of another party. If that were done the Chief Electoral Officer could not refuse to accept the two applications in the same name thus causing considerable confusion. A similar provision already exists in connexion with elections, for the House of Representatives. Paragraph g of section 106 reads-
Whore similarity in the names of two or more candidates is likely to cause confusion, the names of those candidates may ho arranged with such description or addition ju will distinguish them from one another.
– That applies to names and not to groups.
– The object of this a]li C.11(ment is to give to the Chief Electoral Officer the same right with respect to groups.
.- The Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) explains this amendment as intended to meet cases where identical names are submitted by two parties.
– Or similar.
– There is a difference between identical and similar. The case put by the Assistant Minister is that in which two different political parties select identical names.
– Which are likely to cause confusion.
– The amendment relates to instances in which similarity of names is likely to cause confusion. Who is to he the judge? That responsibility will rest upon the Chief Electoral Officer who has to decide between two parties. If this proposal be adopted, it will impose upon the Chief Electoral Officer the duty to make a decision which will bring him into the political arena and tend to make the office suspect, because, naturally, the decision which he makes will benefit one party and injure another. If there should he confusion because names are identical, the difficulty could be overcome by the Chief Electoral Officer, instead of himself deciding what should be done, telling the parties to arrange between themselves an alteration of the names so that they will be no longer identical, otherwise neither group would be named. An occasion might arise, although it is most unlikely, when two parties submitted the same group name. In such a case the Chief Electoral Officer could say : “ I. cannot accept those names; take them away and alter them so that they will no longer be identical. If you do not do so the candidates cannot be named”. He might say that as one of the group names submitted was that of a long-established political party, that party must have the exclusive right to the name, and that no other party could claim the right to use the same name. The matter should be dealt with by statute and not be left to the Chief Electoral Officer to make a decision. In 1931-32 there were in New South Wales two parties, both describing themselves as the Australian Labour party, and both would have claimed that name at an election, if the system now proposed had then been in existence. The Chief Electoral Officer would have had to decide between the rival claims of the two parties, and that would have been a very undesirable posi- tion in which to place him. Throughout the whole of New South Wales, and perhaps throughout the whole of Australia, his decision would have been suspect. No matterto which of the two claimants he awarded the name of Australian Labour party, he would have been accused of having given it an undue advantage. And so he would, because obviously it would be better for a party to go to the country calling itself the Australian Labour party, rather than the Australian Federal Labour party, or the State Labour party. If a group, because of its federal organization, claimed the right to call its candidates Australian Labour party candidates, and the Chief Electoral Officer refused to accept that name, but assigned them another name, that group would certainly consider that if. had a grievance. Similarly, the candidates endorsed by the State organization, who claimed the name of Australian Labour party, would have been aggrieved if that name had been refused them. In Victoria, at the next election, there may be a Liberal Country party and a Victorian Country party, both running candidates. Isit fair to the parties, or to the Chief Electoral Officer, that the responsibility should rest on him to decide what names they should bear on the ballot-paper? I say that it is not. I suggest that, instead of tacking this provision on to clause 7, it should be held over for more mature consideration, and the bill recommitted later, if necessary. Any attempt to make a fraudulent use of the ballot-paper should he declared an illegal practice, and the person responsible should be punished. Apart from that, however, I would not interfere with the right of people to choose the names of their own political groups, except when two groups happen to choose the same name. Even then, I would not place upon the Chief Electoral Officer the responsibility of choosing between them. He shouldbe empowered to say to the claimant groups that, he would not put any party name on the paper for them until they were able to agree on separate names. If they were unable to agree, then their names would be put on the paper with no group name at all. In this matter we are dealing with the most important part of the organization of the Australian community. It is much more important than the judiciary, which is a body independent of the Executive. The electoral office is. however, a department of the Executive. The best way to keep it in the position of confidence it occupies at the present time is to keep it from interfering in matters that are the domestic concern of political parties. It may be that no occasion will arise for the Chief Electoral Officer to make a decision, or, if one does, it may be that his decision will be respected; but it is also possible that he may have to give a decision that would leave him open to the charge that his office was no longer impartial.
– Does not the honorable member think that the whole of 72c should be struck out?
– I do, but the Prime Minister said that his Government was committed to it. I think that the whole system of putting the party names on the ballot-paper is dangerous and bad.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that this is a very undesirable feature to incorporate in the electoral law of the country. We are placing a heavy responsibility upon the Chief Electoral Officer in asking him to straighten out a difficulty between rival organizations. The existence of two rival Labour parties in New South Wales might bring about a very serious position during the next federal elections, if the Chief Electoral Officer has to decide whether he will accept the designations submitted to him by those parties. The same difficulty might arise with regard to the Country party, though the Country party is generally less inclined to split into factions than are some other parties. In any case, I object to throwing upon the Chief Electoral Officer the onus of deciding what name shall be borne by any political section or organization. If such, an undesirable proposal were put to the committee, I should feel compelled to vote against it. I am totally opposed to the introduction of party designations. I can foresee much trouble if we practically attach a “ How to vote “ card to a ballotpaper. The intelligence of the people of Australia has been sufficiently demonstrated in the past to justify leaving severely alone the admirable electoral system that we have developed. I agree that some alteration is necessary in the grouping of Senate candidates, in order to deprive political parties or organizations of the unfair advantage which a certain party took at the last elections, when all of the candidates selected by it had surnames commencing with the letter “ A “. That was a negation of the democratic principles about which honorable members opposite have been speaking. If we can devise a simple means of giving every candidate, irrespective of whether his name begins with “ A “ or “ Z “, an equal chance of receiving a fair deal at the poll, we should do it. The proposal of the Government to group the names of candidates certainly meets with my approval, hut I am totally opposed to the dangerous, and possibly vicious, departure of designating groups by their party affiliations.
Mr. NOCK (Riverina - Assistant Minister) [4.2 1 . - Last week the committee agreed to an amendment of the act to provide that a group of Senate candidates might indicate to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer the designation by which they desire their group to be named on the ballot-paper. The clause with which we are now dealing merely provides that the same conditions as (hose obtaining with regard to candidates for the House of Representatives shall apply to Senate candidates. Where the names of rival Senate groups are so similar that the electors are likely to be confused, the Electoral Officer may add sufficient to the designations to distinguish one group from another.
.- Although the committee agreed to the grouping of Senate candidates, I submit that it did so only on the understanding that the Electoral Officer would not interfere with the names of the rival groups. I said last week that, personally, I objected to designations of parties appearing on the ballot-paper ; but, speaking for the Opposition, I opposed, and would have’ forced to a vote, the granting of power to the Electoral Officer to alter a designation of a party group. The principal act has never provided that names of parties may be placed on ballot-papers. Power is given to the Electoral Officer to distinguish between the names of candidates, if two candidates happen to have the same initials; but, under this clause, serious differences might arise between political parties. As the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) said, we should be ‘attaching a “ How to vote “ card to the ballot-paper. If this occurred, the electoral officials would be constantly criticized for some action or other that would leave them open, to the accusation of having interfered with the names of candidates, and they would be attacked from public platforms. Nothing should be done that might bring our electoralofficials into the hurly-burly of party politics. Up to the present time their names stand as high as those of any other public officers ; but., if effect were given to the present proposal, the public might lose faith in them, and their names might be bandied about on public platforms. That would almost spell death to our democracy. We should be placing upon those officials a responsibility that they should never be asked to shoulder, their high present reputation as impartial officers would be lost, and the whole of our electoral machinery would be discredited in the eyes of the democracy.
.- f. dealt with this matter when clause 7 was under discussion, and I suggested that if this particular provision was to be deleted, and the Chief Electoral Officer was to have no discretionary power to alter designations, the whole of the clause including the provision which makes it permissible to have a party name written over the name of the candidate should be struck out. I was rather surprised that members of the Opposition, and others who are holding out against the Government’s proposals, in this debate should have allowed that clause to go through without a division. I indicated very clearly that I was opposed to it, and if a division had been called I should have voted against the clause, but as it has now been passed, and provision for the inclusion of party names has been left in, it is imperative that there should be some authority - the Government proposes the Chief Electoral Officer - to discriminate between names which are identical or similar. The Communist party, which u credited with not being over-scrupulous in its activities, might put up three candidates and indicate on the ballot-paper that these candidates were members of the Labour party or even of the United Australia party. Unless some discretion were vested in the Chief Electoral Officer The Communist candidates would appear on the ballot-paper under a party designation which would mislead the electors. In order to obviate such a danger I propose to support the amendment moved by the Government. That amendment is not altogether the same as the provision which was previously deleted, because that provision gave to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer absolute authority. It read -
Subject to any variation, addition, or omission, which the Commonwealth Electoral Officer thinks tit to make. . . .
If the amendment now under discussion be carried, the Chief Electoral Officer will be empowered to mak« an alteration only if there is similarity of designation. Taking all circumstances into consideration I think that it is a wise provision, but I repeat, that had a division been called on the previous occasion I would have supported the striking out of the whole clause.
.- When speaking on clause 7 I made it perfectly clear that I much feared the use of party names. I assumed that as thai clause had been agreed to in the Senate, and as the Prime Minister had said that the Government was committed to it, the Government and its supporters would stand for the principle of party names. Now I learn that some ministerial members are against party designation, and if this clause be agreed to in its presell form, I shall move for the recommittal of clause 7. I move -
That the amendment bc amended by omitting the words “ in two or more designations which are to appear in pursuance of section 72c of this act, or “.
The carrying of my amendment would involve as a consequential amendment in the same clause the omission of the words “ these designations or “. Some members of this committee may believe in the use of party names but do not favour giving to the Chief Electoral Officer discretion to choose between such names. By means of my amendment I propose to give such people, if there be any, an opportunity to vote for the removal of that discretionary power from the Chief Electoral Officer. I have suggested privately to the Minister that it should be made an illegal practice for persons to deceive electors by using false party names, and such an offence should be punishable by the imposition of a severe penalty. The rights of persons and parties would then be decided by a court, whereas, under this amendment, a judicial power is to be vested in an executive officer, and discretionary authority is to be left to an executive officer who should not, have any discretionary authority. If, with the object of deceiving the public, a group falsely takes the name of some existing party, that should be an offence under section 161 and, upon conviction, the offenders should be subject to the heavy penalty provided in section 162. My objection is to giving to the Chief Electoral Officer powers which would tend to bring him into the arena of party strife. Public confidence in his administration should not be jeopardized by leaving an opening for some candidates to claim they had been unfairly dealt with and that some other candidates had thereby received an advantage.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) [4.1-8 j.- I had hoped that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) would have agreed to a postponement of this clause in order that it might be dealt with at a later stage. Such a ‘postponement would have relieved many honorable members of their difficulties. It is apparent that several honorable members ou both sides of the chamber have failed to appreciate exactly the position with which we are now faced. The honorable member for Bourke (MrBlackburn) made it quite clear that the passing of this legislation hi the form, proposed by the Government would involve the electoral office in undesirable difficulties. If, later, by a. further amendment we provide that the judiciary shall decide any dispute as to the rights of persons or parties in regard, to designations, thus relieving the Chief Electoral Officer of an obligation which the clause seeks to impose upon him, we shall be acting wisely. lt, is of great importance that our electoral machinery should not, bo open to suspicion of any kind. Up to Ihe present no aspersions have been cast, upon, it; whatever defects it has should be remedied but provisions of this kind are dangerous. This will create further difficulties, and the Electoral Officer will be put in the unsatisfactory position of being compelled to pass judgment, as to the desirability or otherwise of the designations proposed by certain groups of candidates. I am opposed to placing such a responsibility upon the Electoral Officer. I believe that if more Government supporters were present - there are only three or four in the chamber at the moment - and paying strict attention to the discussion, they would agree with the honorable members on this side. The Assistant Minister should heed the reasonable arguments of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and the honorable member foi Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). The amendment of the honorable member for Bourkii would put the matter on a proper basis. Would it not be better for the Minister to postpone consideration of the clause so that honorable members may have an. opportunity to study it?
– I also urge the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) to postpone consideration of this clause in order that honorable members may have an adequate opportunity to consider it. I understand from a statement made by the Assistant Minister in committee last week, that it will be optional for organizations to submit the designations of their groups of candidates. It should be compulsory for parties to give their designations; otherwise, the provision should be left out altogether. That, question is not now before the committee, but it is linked with clause 17. The more I study this provision, the more I am convinced that it is loaded with all sorts of complexities which will cause irritation and worry to the electoral authorities at future elections. The possibility of different groups of candidates selecting similar designations opens wide the door to all sorts of arguments which might be taken ultimately to the law courts for determination. The clause should be postponed in order that it may be considered further by the Government, and by honorable members generally, because I am satisfied that- most honorable members are not convinced of its merits. In its present form it may give rise to uncertainty and serious difficulties in the arrangement of Senate ballot-papers. The Minister should allow honorable members time to determine whether some better proposition could be submitted to the committee.
– I assure the committee that the Governmentis anxious that only the most clear and simple ballot-paper possible shall be submitted to the electors, so that they may record an intelligent vote because there has been a very big percentage of informal votes at past elections. I am willing to meet the wishes of honorable members opposite and postpone the clause in order that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) may consult with the legal advisers of the Government with a view to evolving a new clause providing for simplicity of arrangement of the Senate ballot-paper, in order that the electors may not be confused.
.- I have no objection to the postponement of clause 17, but it seems to me that the committee cannot deal with this matter satisfactorily because another clause having relation to this provision has already been passed. As the debate has developed to-day, honorable members cannot discuss party designations without referring to the powers given to the Electoral Officer by an earlier clause which, I suggest, should be re-committed.
Clauses 18 to 25 agreed to.
The Schedule to the principal act is amended by omitting Form E and inserting in its stead the following form: -
Commonwealth of Australia.
State of [here insert name of State].
Election of [here insert number] Senators.
Directions. - Mark your vote on this ballot- paper by placing the numbers [here insert 1, 2, and so on, as the case requires] in the squares respectively opposite the names of the candidates so as to indicate the order of your preference for them.
.- This clause proposes to alter the form of the Senate ballot-paper by providing that the names of candidates, in their respec tive groups, shall be printed horizontally instead of vertically. The form of ballotpaper proposed is entirely different from that to which electors have been accustomed since Commonwealth elections were first held. Honorable members on this side are entirely opposed to the proposal. We stated our objections during the second-reading debate. So far the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) has given no satisfactory reason why the arrangement of the ballot-paper should be altered, even though provision has been made for the positions of candidates’ names on the ballot-paper to be determined by the drawing of Jots. The Opposition prefers the method of setting out the names of candidates vertically, because electors are accustomed to that system and would be confused by any change. The Assistant Minister has referred to the high percentage of informal votes at past elections. I tell him that if clause 26 be agreed to in its present form, the percentage of informal votes at future elections will be considerably higher. He would be well advised to adhere to the existing system which is simple and familiar to the electors.
.- This clause proposes an amendment of Form E of the schedule, which contains the following directions to voters -
Mark your vote on this ballot-paper by placing the numbers (here insert 1, 2 and so onas the case requires) in the squares respectively opposite the names of the candidates so as to indicate the order of your preference for them.
Whilst the words “in the squares respectively opposite” may be clear to nine out of ten electors, they are capable of being construed to refer to the square after the name; that is, the square in the next column. That square is just as much opposite the name as is the square to the left of it. I therefore move -
That the words “ respectively opposite the names of the” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ immediately to the left of the names of the respective “.
If the amendment be agreed to, the directions will then read “Mark your vote on this ballot-paper by placing the numbers (here insert 1, 2 and so on asthe case requires) in the squares immediately to the left of the names of the respective candidates . . . “
– There is no need for the word “ immediately “.
– Unless the word “immediately” be retained, it could be contended that the square in the first column applied to the names in the second or other columns.
– The argument of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) shows the foolishness of altering the arrangement of the ballot-paper. The difficulty which his amendment seeks to overcome would not arise with a vertical arrangement of names on the ballotpaper. I cannot see any advantage in substituting a horizontal for a vertical arrangement.
– It puts the various groups more on an equality.
– The new arrangement will cause more informal votes than ever. The electors are accustomed to the vertical arrangement, and I see no justification for the proposed alteration. It has been suggested that at the last Senate election the existing arrangement resulted in the election of candidates whose names begin with “ A “ ; but even if that were the result on that occasion that state of affairs is not likely to occur again.
– I explained on Friday why men whose names begin with “A” were elected.
– No sound reason has been advanced for the alteration, and I hope that the committee will decide to retain the existing vertical arrangement of names on the ballot-paper.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) but I do not agree that the word “immediately” is necessary. We must avoid alterations which will not improve the ballot-paper; otherwise we shall increase the number of informal votes. I disagree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that no good case has been made out for an alteration of the arrangement of the ballot-paper. It is not sufficient to say that the position which arose at the last election in New South Wales will not occur again. On that occasion an unfair advantage was taken of the arrangement of names, and unless the form of theballot-paper be altered, we may have a repetition of such happenings. 1 do not say that the submission of names beginning with “ A amounted to trickery, because it was a legitimate act on the part of a political party, but I do claim that it was an attempt to take advantage of the alphabetical order of names on the Senate ballot-paper. Other political parties which did not resort to such tactics were defeated. It is significant that the result of the voting for the House of Representatives in New South Wales was different from that for the Senate. I do’ not think that any political party is keen onthe present arrangement, which is really in the nature of a two-edged sword. The logical outcome of the existing arrangement would be that men with names like “ Aaron “ would be sought as candidates. That would be a farcical situation which would be unfair to other men who might desire to enter the Senate.
I am not in favour of the name of the political party being shown on the ballotpaper, either optionally or compulsorily ; but as the proposed arrangement is an improvement on the existing ballot-paperI shall support it, with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland.
.- I desire to know how it is proposed to deal with independent candidates at Senate elections. Is it intended to group their names as members of “ independent parties “, or will each name be dealt with separately? Moreover, will the names of independent candidates be submittedto a ballot in order to determine their position on the ballot-paper? I consider that the names of independent candidates should be shown, not as member of a party, but as individuals. If they are grouped, electors may vote for them as members of an “independent party”, whereas they may in fact represent various “isms “ which may be temporarily popular in some portions ofthe Commonwealth.
.- Whilst I recognize that the proposed new form for the Senate ballot-paper is not perfect,I consider that it is a marked improvement on the form hitherto in use. Can the
Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) inform me whether he proposes to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) ?
– I do.
– I am glad of that, because I think that it will improve the clause. An analysis of the surnames of the members of the Senate indicates clearly the need for reform. Thirty-three of the 36 names of senators begin with letters in the first half of the alphabet. Of the nineteen senators elected at the last Senate election, eighteen had names beginning with letters in the first half of the alphabet. It must surely be apparent to honorable members that unless some reform be adopted a ridiculous position will develop in this country. The retention of the present provisions of the electoral law in relation to the Senate would be tantamount to an intimation that only about 5 per cent. of our people need consider themselves really eligible for election to the Senate. I support the clause as proposed to be amended by the honorable member for Gippsland.
.-I hope the clause will be defeated. If we pass it, we shall add to the confusion which electors now face at election time. I cannot see that any substantial improvement is likely to be effected by the adoption of a horizontal ballot-paper. In effect, it will simply be the substitution of a lottery by name, for a lottery by position. Those whose names appear on the left-hand side of the ballot-paper will have an advantage over those whose names appear in other positions. The alphabetical arrangement of the ballot-paper has served our purpose for more than 30 years. The people have been educated in respect of it, and they are able to record intelligent votes. The electors of Tasmania showed remarkable intelligence at the last. Senate election when they replaced three of the sitting senators without any consideration as to the alphabetical arrangement of the names on the ballot-paper. The honorable gentlemen who were defeated had outlived their political usefulness. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) is an honest and intelligent man and I am sorry to see him favoring the adoption of a gambling device for the purpose of determining the position of candidates on the ballot-paper. If this proposal be adopted I have no doubt that we shall find people betting on the positions that candidates will draw on the ballot-paper. Perhaps the candidates themselves will bet on the subject. I do not see how the Commonwealth will be able to obtain any revenue by way of a betting tax on such transactions! At this serious stage in the history of our country we should be paying attention to far more serious matters than this. It may be that the democracies will be defeated before this proposed new system of balloting can be put into operation. 1 sincerely hope that this will not be so, of course, but I urge that we should be given the opportunity to devote our time to more serious business. I feel justified in describing this proposal to vary the form of the ballot-paper, as a method of robbing Peter to pay Paul. At any rate the proposal is an affront to the intelligence of the electors, which the electors themselves will resent in no uncertain way. I believe that when they are given the opportunity to do so, they will reject all the present anti-Labour senators who will seek re-election. Nothing that the Government can do will be able to save the political lives of those honorable gentlemen. They will be politically annihilated. Iunderstood the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) to say that the members of the Semite who will be seeking re-election at the next election are a poor lot.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– If the honorable member had said so I should have agreed with him. The Government ought to be devoting all its energies to the galvanizing of our people into a greater war effort, so that our yearnings after prosperity and progress might be realized. I am not in favor of compelling independent candidates to submit to the listing of their names as party candidates do.We should have only two great parties in this country. The party system is, in my opinion, the best system of government, but the country was given better legislation when there were only two’ parties than it has been given since the advent of the Country party. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies)has become an aged and weary man since he has been responsible for the Country party as well as the United Australia party. I regard the Country party members as the “fifth column” in Australian politics. I would describe them as the “parachute politicians “. Does the Assistant Minister suggest that if an independent should draw the first position on the left-hand side of the ballot-paper, an elector who desired to vote for an independent should give to him the No. 1 preference and go on with his second, third and other preferences? If so, I fear that confusion will result. Electors who wish to vote for an independent will probably assume that, having voted for such independents us they choose they need not exercise other preferences. That will cause their ballot-papers to be informal. From whatever point of view this proposal is considered it is hopeless. I cannot see any reason why the Government should endeavour to force such a procedure upon the people. If there is one thing that I resent and hate it is brute force, but apparently the Government intends to use its weight of numbers to bludgeon this bill through Parliament. I again make an appeal for the withdrawal of the measure, for I consider that it can only result in hopeless confusion that will lend, ultimately, to bring ridicule upon our democracy.
.- The object of this proposal, so we are told, is to simplify the Senate ballotpaper, but if the proposed new Form E be ultimately adopted we shall not achieve any simplification. It is quite possible that electors, instead of voting 1, 2, 3, 4 down the respective columns of the ballot-paper, may vote 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on across the paper.
– It may turn out to be a subterranean method of achieving proportional representation.
– Quite so. I suggest that the thin line which separates the squares be replaced by a heavy double line. That might assist the electors to assimilate it better.
– The Government will accept that suggestion.
.- As the discussion proceeds, the scant popularity of this measure is exhibited. I should not have risen for the second time but for the fact that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) again trotted out the old argument about the letter “ A “ gaining for Labour the majority of senators returned at the 1937 election. That contention is disproved by the fact that Labour candidates for the House of Representatives, with the exception of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who were returned unopposed, polled more votes in the aggregate than did the Labour Senate candidates. I have anaylsed the figures, and know that that is so. For instance, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) had an absolute majority of 33,000 votes, which would have wiped out the majority of half a dozen1 United Australia party and Country party members in New South Wales. The swing to Labour was the reason why the Labour senators were returned, because in almost every instance Labour candidates for the House of Representatives recorded increased majorities. I, myself, polled about 1,000 votes more than were received from my division by the Labour candidates for the Senate. United Australia party and Country party candidates all had reduced majorities, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) polled only half as many votes as the Labour Senate candidates received from the electors in. his constituency.
– That proves nothing.
– If the honorable member’s name had not been Anthony, he would not have been elected.
-Th atis what we are saying about the letter “ A “.
– It certainly applied in the honorable member’s case. The Labour candidates for the House of Representatives polled a greater vote in the aggregate than did the Labour Senate candidates. The Government can put whatever lines it. likes on the proposed ballot-paper, but it will not alter the fact that this ballot-paper will cause more informal voting. I have not done much scrutineering myself, but my scrutineers mid other persons with experience of elections tell me that most informal voting occurs when cross-voting takes place, that is, when electors pick out those candidates for whom they wish to give their early preferences, because, when they have reached, say, number five, they forget where they are and record No. 7 as their next preference, thus nullifying their votes. Everybody reads from left to right, and, under the proposed n’ew system, voters will vote straight across the paper, taking the line of least resistance. Lines, thick or thin, single or double, will not stop them. The Government appears to think that by this means it has a chance at the next Senate election of at least getting the second and third preferences of Labour supporters. Many of us will be here to go over this discussion after the next election, and we shall then be able to show the correctness of our forecasts. If I were a betting man, I would be prepared to gamble on there being more informal votes than ever cast at the next elections owing to the institution of this new system. I nail the misrepresentation that the Senate vote in 1937 did not reflect the general tendency in New South Wales because the Labour candidates for the House “of Representatives polled more votes than the Labour candidates for the Senate. If the Labour candidates for the House of Representatives had been returned in proportion to the votes cast in the aggregate Labour. would have won 15, 16 or 17 out of the total of 28 seats in New South Wales. Many Government supporters would not be here if the swing to Labour had been 2,000 or 3,000 votes greater than it was.
– I am. mainly concerned about the possibilities of informality in voting arising out of this proposed change. It is better that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) than honorable members on this side should point out the danger of people voting across the paper from left to right, because he supports the Government. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) has agreed to accept a suggestion made b.y the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and now he has accepted a further suggestion that the “roup? on the ballot-paper hp separated by a double line. The Assistant Minister knows as well as I do that if the groups were separated by a railway line, some electors would not be prevented from voting from left to right instead of from top to bottom. The proposed new ballotpaper is the essence of stupidity, whether (he groups be separated by a thick line or a double line. The whole of the arguments put forward from both sides of the committee show conclusively that thi? proposed alteration will be of no advantage at all, and that there is a danger of its being a grave disadvantage. Honorable gentlemen opposite appear to agree with the Opposition’s point of view, and they should, therefore, vote for the retention of the present ballot-paper.
The Assistant Minister should be per*suaded by statements made, not only by Labour supporters but also by Government supporters, to reconsider the whole question of the ballot-paper, because 1 make the prophecy now that if the proposed change is made, the number of informal votes will be larger than at the last election. That would be a disadvantage to the electors and to Australia.
– I have received advice from the Government that it is prepared to meet the wishes of the Opposition and one or two honorable members on this side of the committee, and withdraw the proposal for the designation of the parties on the Senate ballot-papers. In view of that, it will be necessary to postpone the clause and allow the. draftsman an opportunity to recast Form E. In these circumstances it will not be necessary to continue with the amendment, which 1 submitted to the committee, providing for the Electoral Officer to review the designations supplied by candidates.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause 27 agreed to.
New clause - by leave - considered before postponed clauses.
– I move -
That after clause 21, the following new clause lie inserted: - “21a. After section one hundred and eighty - one of the principal net the following section is inserted : - 181a. - (1.) If, in any matter announced or published by any person, or caused by him to I io announced or published, on behalf nf any association, league, organization or other body of persons, it is, without the written authority of the candidate (proof whereof shall lie upon that person), -
claimed or suggested that a candidate in an election is associated with, or supports the policy or activities of, that association, league, organization or other body of persons; or
expressly or impliedly advocated or suggested -
in the case of an election of Senators for any State - that a voter should place in the square opposite the name of a candidate on a ballot-paper a number not greater than the number of Senators to be elected; or
in the case of an election of a Member of the House of Representatives - the name of that candidate as the candidate for whom the first preference vote should be given, that person shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for three months. (2.) Where any matter, the announcement or publication of which by any person without the written authority of a candidate would be an offence against sub-section (1.) of this section on the part of that person, is announced or published by or on behalf of, or with the support of, any association, league, organization or other body of persons, every person who was an officer thereof at the time of that announcement or publication shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against subsection (1.) of this section. (3.) For the purposes of this section, where any matter purports expressly or impliedly to be announced or published by or on behalf of, or in the interests or with the support of, any association, league, organization or other body of persons, the matter shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be deemed to be announced or published by or on behalf, or with the support of, the association, league, organization or other body of persons. (4.) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall apply to or in relation to any announcement or publication made or authorized by any bona fide political party or by any bona fide branch thereof respectinga candidate who, by public announcement, has declared his candidature to be a candidature on behalf of or in the interests of that party.’.”.
This clause is designed to protect candidates from disabilities that might conceivably follow from action by unauthorized bodies. An amendment to the game effect was considered by the Senate last session and appeared to be generally acceptable, but, as some doubts were expressed as to its practical applicability in the form then submitted, the amendment was withdrawn for redrafting.
.- I am a little doubtful about this clause. It appears to me that a candidate might very easily get into difficulties through some people, who are his genuine friends and are anxious to support him, and who, on their own initiative, take steps to advocate that he be given first preference, or, in the case of the Senate, first, second or third preference, with the intention of assisting him.
– They are entitled to do that.
– But not without the written authority of the candidate.
– Why should they be free to do anything without the written authority of the candidate ?
– It does appear to me capable of working against the interests of the candidate in certain circumstances.
– It is the only way to meet the difficulty.
– I can understand candidates desiring to be protected from their so-called friends, but it would be a calamity if anything were done to prevent well-wishers from assisting candidates to their utmost capacity.
– What does the honorable member want? Does he want to have assistance and then repudiate it later? That has been done in the past. I do not mean the honorable gentleman in particular.
– No. I realize that whilst this proposed new section may serve a very good purpose in certain circumstances it is so wide that it might create difficulties in other circumstances.
– Can the honorable member give the committee one example of how it might create difficulties?
– In proposed section 181a, 1b, a person shall be guilty of an offence if, without the written authority of the candidate, he expressly or impliedly advocates or suggests -
in the case of an election of Senators for any State - that a voter should place in the square opposite the name of a candidate on a ballot-paper a number not greater than the number of Senators to be elected; or
In most rural electorates, there are many centres which cannot be reached by the candidates during the electoral campaign. Some electorates are so huge that there are within them about 250 polling places, [t would not be possible for a candidate to visit more than, say, about one-third of those places. At the other places, he might have very good friends wanting to do their utmost to secure his return by campaigning for him on their own initiative. If they are prohibited from doing that, unless they have the expressed permission of the candidate, they will he cramped in giving their help to their choice of candidate at election time. This ought to be given a little more consideration before it is agreed to. Although it may serve a very useful purpose in one direction, I fear that it will do more barm than good in another direction.
.- [f the candidate is satisfied with any propaganda that is issued in his name, unless he takes action against the person who has issued it, no one can be fined.
– Will it be dependent upon a candidate taking action?
– He would have to take action. Proof would have to be furnished that the candidate had not given his written consent, and unless the candidate gave evidence against the author of the propaganda, how could such proof be obtained? If a man in my electorate issues propaganda with which I am dissatisfied, he, cannot he fined unless I give evidence to the effect that he has acted without my written consent. Quite a lot of things are done in politics, and no mention is made of them until the candidate is charged after the election with having obtained some advantage, when, if it does not suit him to support what has been done, he repudiates it. I, as a candidate, want whatever protection I can get under the law. I am quite satisfied that my organization will do all that I want on my behalf. Any person who wishes to help me can easily get in touch with me and obtain my consent. Some organizations have been known to act deliberately in a way that they knew would injure a candidate. I was a member of a committee which had this bill under consideration when it was before the Senate. It was not then clear whether “ how to vote “ cards would be affected. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Collings) asked that question, and some doubt was expressed, with the result that the proposal was withdrawn. I can see no valid objection to any part of the clause. Supposing that a trusted man in my organization were to scribble my’ name on a scrutineer form, unless I were to say that it was a forgery, nobody would know that I had not signed it. If I say “ That is my signature “ who can deny it ? If propaganda is issued by any organization or individual on my behalf, and I take no action, nobody else can take action. If another person were to take action, he would have to prove that my consent had not been given, and he could not do that unless I went into court and swore that I had not given my consent. The position is fully safeguarded, and there is no possibility of any trouble occurring. If there are a few persons who will not help a candidate for fear of getting into trouble ‘because of this provision, they are too timid and fearful to have anything to do with election propaganda and machinery, and their services would he of no value to any candidate.
.- I strongly support this proposed new clause. I have seen the gross abuse that has taken place because of organizations associating the name of a candidate with certain propaganda without his consent. That is an influence which must be checked. It is essential that some such provision as this should be made. I call to mind the last federal election, or that which preceded it. A day or two days before the poll was taken, an organization issued a list of candidates which in its opinion’ ought to be supported and allied them with certain views. It is more than possible that the men whose names were used would not have wished to be associated with the propaganda. . Sectarian differences are introduced into elections in this way. In South Australia, one particular faction sought to advance its claims by issuing, either a day or two days before the election, a list of names of men some of whom, f understand, had not given their consent. Had they repudiated the propaganda, they might have prejudiced the large section of people which held that particular view. If a candidate’s name is to be associated with any advertisement or propaganda of any description, it is fair and reasonable that he should be consulted and that his authority should be obtained. If that protection is not given to a candidate, designing people can attach his. name to an advertisement with the deliberate desire to prejudice his position, knowing full well that he will not dissociate himself from it, even though it may have a harmful effect against his candidature. I hope that the committee will see the wisdom of protecting those who submit themselves for public office, by agreeing to the proposed new clause.
– I appreciate that there is some justification for a provision of this kind, but should like the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) to explain how it will apply to parties who want to issue “ How to vote “ cards. As I read the clause, it will bc necessary to obtain the consent of the candidates.
– The clause could provide that it shall not be interpreted as involving “ How to vote “ cards.
– What candidate would agree to the number 4, 5 or 6 being placed opposite his name on the Senate cards? [ suggest that before wo adopt this proposal further consideration be given to its implications.
– It should not be beyond the capacity of the Parliamentary Draftsman to make provision in respect of the contingency mentioned by the honorable member.
– As the clause stands, it will apply in the way I have stated.
– Although this is an unprecedented departure, I believe that it has a good deal of merit. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin’) has referred to the difficulties caused by religious or quasi-religious organizations publishing lists of approved candidates. That has been one of the things that have distorted the judgment of the people times out of number. Such organizations may advertise that certain candidates support their views, or advise electors to give their first preference to Brown, their second preference to Smith, and their third preference to Williams, or vice versa. The object of this proposed new clause is to discourage the introduction of non-political extraneous issues into a political campaign. If a man’s name appears in a list of candidates recommended by a religious organization the people will in future know that he has consented to that course being taken. As a rule,, candidates take the view “I am not responsible for what such and such an organization does; 1 did not solicit its endorsement, but as it has been given to me, it is only human for me to take advantage of it.” In future, if the clause be carried, the fact that a man’s name appears in a list of candidates will be evidence of his consent having been obtained. Elections will be made purer. More than 25 years ago, when the education question was the issue in Victoria, the press of both creeds - Protestant and Catholic - issued printed matter showing how each candidate was going to vote on it, and, with one exception, a very astute politician who had instructed his chairman that if the question were asked at any meeting, lie should refuse to put it to him, and if he could not refuse, he should take certain action. At one meeting the chairman’ was unable to prevent the asking of the question. The meeting was held in a country hall, which was lit by a kerosene lamp on the table in front of the chairman. He carried out his instructions by kicking over the table, whereupon the audience rushed out of the hall ; consequently, the question was evaded. It seems obvious that this proposed new clause will apply to the “how to vote” cards of a party in respect not of its own candidates, but of other candidates. Sub-clause 4 will enable an organization to circulate its literature in favour of its own candidates, but it will prevent it from indicating whether the second preference should go to a candidate of the Country party or of the United Australia party or vice versa, unless it has first obtained the written consent of that other candidate. As there has been a good deal of trafficking in second preferences, which is unavoidable under the present system, this proposed new clause will act as a deterrent and should be of benefit. It has this merit, that it will tend to make elections cleaner, and prevent the intrusion into political campaigns of issues thatare not political. A section of the Crimes Act reads - any person may -
If a candidate said that he was not responsible for his name appearing on certain literature, a prosecution could be lodged against the organization and the candidate could be called as a witness.
.- I should like the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) to answer the question which I raised a few moments ago. Will this proposed new clause prevent a party issuing “ how to vote “ cards ?
– Not for its own candidates.
– There should be some definite indication that an elector must vote for the whole of the candidates on the ballot-paper. I am opposed to the provision in its present form if it will prevent a political party from indicating the order in which it wishes the preferences to be recorded.
– A candidate may give his written consent to the way in which the preferences may be distributed. Without that consent the person or organization using his name will be incurring a risk. The Chief Electoral Officer, acting on the advice of the Crown Law authorities, will determine who is the aggrieved person. Any person can take action under Section 209 of the Electoral Act.
.-Should three Labour candidates be contesting an election, the Labour organization will recommend the electors to place their candidates one, two and three on the ballot-paper, with perhaps the Country party candidates four, five and six, the United Australia party candidates seven, eight and nine. Should there be a Communist candidate he would be placed tenth on the list. Is a Labour organization to be prevented from placing the Communist candidate in the tenth position ? “ How to vote “ cards issued by the Labour candidates for the House of Representatives usually have in them directions as to how votes should be cast for the Senate elections. Can a member of the House of Representatives be prosecuted because he has issued a “how to vote “ card, showing that the second preference should be given to a United Australia party candidate, or to a supporter of, say, the Douglas Credit party?
.- The representatives of political parties should have the right to arrange the names on “how to vote” cards in whatever order they consider desirable. A Labour organization may direct the electors to mark the Labour candidates 1, 2 and 3, but if there is no direction as to how their other preferences are to be exercised, there will be a large number of informal votes. We should have the right to direct electors to give their first, second and third votes to endorsed candidates, and the remaining votes to other candidates in the order which we consider desirable. I understood the honorable member forBourke (Mr. Blackburn) to say that under this proposed new clause directions can be given only with respect to the first three candidates. I have studied the proposal very carefully, andI believe that, if it is adopted, it will cause considerable confusion and an increase of the number of informal votes.
– Proposed new section 181a provides that -
If in any matter announced or published by any person, or caused by him to be announced or published, on behalf of any association, league, organization or other body of persons, it is without the written authority of the candidate (proof whereof shall lie upon the person) . . .
expressly or impliedly advocated or suggested -
i ) in the case of an election of senators for any State that a voter should place in the square opposite to the name of a candidate on a ballot-paper a number not greater than the number of senators to be elected.
A Communist organization would not be allowed to recommend that any candidates should be placed first on a House of Representatives ballot-paper, or to recommend that the numbers 1,2 or 3 be placed against the names of any Senate candidates without the consent of those candidates. Paragraph 4 of the proposed new clause reads -
Nothing in the foregoing provision to this section shall apply to or in relation to any announcement or publication made or authorized by any bona fide political party, or by any bona fide branch thereof respecting a candidate who, by public announcement, has declared his candidature to be a candidature on behalf of or in the interests of that party.
Candidates are amply protected under this proposed new clause.
. -During the 1934 elections there was only one candidate representing one political party in New South Wales, and under this proposed new clause such a candidatecould not indicate any order of preference without the written consent of the other candidates.
.- I see that I was wrong a few moments ago when I said that a party could not indicate the order of preference for other than its own candidates. It can mark its own candidates Nos. 1, 2 and 3, and also the other candidates, without contravening the provisions, provided it has their consent. I misread the clause.
.- Should an independent candidate seek election to the Senate he cannot recommend the order in which the first, second and third preferences can be recorded-
– Not without the written authority of the other candidates.
– An independent candidate should be able to indicate the way in which preference votes should be recorded. No difficulties would arise when there were several candidates representing a party, but an independent United Australia party candidate will not be allowed to indicate preferences. It would prevent an independent candidate from standing.
– No, it wouldn’t.
– I think it would. In theory it may not, but in practice it would. If this provision becomes law an independent candidate may prepare a “ how to vote “ ticket instructing electors to give him their first preference, but he may not, without their consent, insert the names of the other candidates, with a direction to give them second and third preferences. Those places would have to be left blank. Then, if the electors followed his directions and showed only a first preference for him, their votes would be informal. Those of us who have had experience in elections know that many electors will do only what they are directed to do on the party ticket. It may be said that the vote of a person who brings no more initiative than that to bear upon his choice is not worth having in any case, but I know for a fact that, at the last election, thousands of informal votes were cast because electors would not register a vote for the Communist candidate, and thus they omitted to place a preference vote against his name. I am convinced that if this innovation is introduced it will result in the casting of a great many informal votes. I intend to vote against this provision, because I believe it to be wrong. It was devised by men who have not had practical experience around the polling booths. A great many persons, when they come to a booth to vote, say, “ The only one I know is Mr. So and So, and I want to give him my vote “. In some instances I have known those who are working for that man’s opponent to say to the elector, “ All right, just give him your first preference vote, and that will do “. If the elector follows that advice, placing No. 1 against the candidate’s name, and not giving any preference to the other candidates, his vote becomes informal. At other times, I have even heard those self-appointed advisers say, “ Never mind about giving him your first preference, put No. 3 opposite his name, and you will then be giving him three votes “. I have found that if your opponents want to beat you, they will resort to all kinds of trickery.
.- In my opinion, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has forecast difficulties which are not likely to be encountered in actual practice. It is true that the independent candidate whom he mentioned could not, advise the electors on his “ how to vote “ card to give their second and third preferences to the other candidates unless he had obtained their written consent. From that, the honorable member argued that he would have to leave those positions blank on the card, because, he assumed, the other candidates would not give their consent.I cannot, however, understand why an independent candidate should be concerned about any other party or person. He ceases to be an independent when he identifies himself with others on a “how to vote” card. The logical way for such a person to advise is that he be marked one and all other candidates in order of the voters’ preference.
.- I think that this provision, if agreed to, will create a good deal of confusion. In the 1934 elections, one Communist candidate stood for the Senate, and it is quite possible that, at the forthcoming election, the Communist party might again put up a candidate, merely in order to see whether the party is gaining or losing ground in New South Wales. Only one candidate will come forward, probably, because the party cannot afford to lose more than one deposit of £25. I can well understand that the other candidates may object to this Communist candidate issuing tickets directing the electors to give them their second and third preferences, on the ground that the electors might thus be led to believe that they themselves were Communists.
– Does that not make it all the more necessary to obtain the written consent of the candidate?
– No doubt, but it also makes it very probable that they would not give that consent, and if the Independent or Communist candidate is unable to obtain their consent, then the argument of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) stands, and he must leave blank the spaces for second and third preferences. In that way, confusion will arise.
– That is better than m isrepresentation .
– I have shown how confusion may be created in the case of an election for a Senate. In an election for members of the House of Representatives, it will now be necessary for a candidate to obtain the consent of the other candidates before placing their names on a ticket with instructions how to vote, but a candidate for the election to the House of Representatives may also object to beingbracketed with a Communist candidate, and to having the electors instructed to give him the Communists preferences. It is well known that the honorable member for Barton was elected on one occasion by the preference votes of a Communist candidate, but J guarantee that he did not consent to the arrangement.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that I was elected to this House on the preference votes of the Communist candidate. In that election, there were four candidates for the Barton electorate, Lane, Eldridge, Tully, and Crowle. Eldridge was the representative of the Lang party, and he wanted the second preference votes of Tully. As a matter of fact, I won the election without these preference votes. I needed only 16 per cent. of them, and I had them; but, as the result of a change of front during the day, the Tully party said, “ Give Lane your No. 2 vote and not Eldridge “. An independent candidate has every right to a fair chance. If a Communist candidate issues cards asking electors to give him their No. 1 votes and to give me their No. 2 votes,I have no objection. The proposed new clause would increase the number of informalvotes tenfold. If the honorable member forHindmarsh (Mr. Makin) became an independent Labour man, and could not obtain the consent of the Labour party to bis placing two Labour candidatessecond and third on his “how to vote “ card, he is prevented from drawing the attention of his supporters to the order in which he desires them to mark their preferences. He is compelled to mark on his card No. 1 for himself, and then leave two blank squares which will mislead the electors into casting informal votes.
– He can say, “ Give your No. 1 to me, and exercise your discretion with regard to the order in which you place the other candidates “.
– But it is quite fair to give an elector a card containing advice as to how to show preferences. To leave blanks on a card would create greater confusion at the ballot-box than occurs at the present time. Supporters of a Labour candidate might hand his cards to electors who were known to be supporters of the United Australia party. He might say to those electors, “ Do not trouble to record your No. 2 and No. 3 votes,” and this would probably result in informal votes being cast.
.- The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has simply erected an Aunt Sally and knocked it down. The Electoral Act has nothing to do with “ how to vote “ cards. These cards are issued by organizations in order to -make it easy for an elector to cast a formal vote. If a. candidate, whether connected with the United Australia party, the Country party, or the Communist party, issued a “how to vote” card, and desired to get all the votes he could, he would say to the electors, “ Give me your No. 1 vote, and vote for the rest of the candidates according to your order of preference”.
.- I quite appreciate the fear honorable members have that acceptance of this new clause might occasion inconvenience, but I do not think that it involves any of the risks that have been suggested. The prohibition in sub-section 1 of the proposed new section 18 is directed primarily against associations. Paragraph a of the sub-section is a prohibition against an association claiming that the candidate is associated with it. Paragraph b is in my opinion a most crabbed provision ; that is to say, it is drawn in an abstruse form and is difficult to understand. It provides that in Senate elections an association must not issue a card or anything in the nature of a card so as to indicate Nos. 1, 2 or 3 votes for any candidate without his consent.
– Could a newspaper advocate any candidate without his consent ?
– Apparently this prohibition is directed against associations, leagues and organizations.
– Could the Workers’ Weakly advocate that a certain candidate should receive the No. 1 votes?
– If the publication had the authority of the candidate, it could do so.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Attorney-General should explain the purpose of this clause, but in his absence I shall endeavour to give the committee an indication of what it means. Paragraph a of subsection 1 prohibits an association such as the Communist party from representing in any way that a candidate is associated with, or supports the policy or activities of that party, unless with the consent of the candidate concerned.
Paragraph b (i) refers to Senate elections, and makes it an offence for any person or association to suggest or represent that a voter should give an effective vote, that is either one, two or three, to any particular candidate unless with the consent of that candidate; because recommending a candidate for preferences No. 1, 2 or 3 is equivalent to representing him as a supporter of that person or association, when, in actual fact, he is not. Of course it would still be competent for any person or association to recommend that a voter should give a lower preference to a candidate. The offence is in a person or association recommending to the public that early preferences should be given to a particular candidate, with the object of suggesting that he is associated with that person or association.
Paragraph b (ii) refers to elections for the House of Representatives and it prohibits the recommendation of a No. 1 vote to any one candidate without the consent of that candidate.
I have been asked whether or not these prohibitions apply to newspapers; in my opinion they apply just as strongly to newspapers as to associations or individuals, all of which are covered by the term “ person “. Should a newspaper, without the consent of a candidate, recommend that that candidate be given No. 1 vote for the House of Representatives, or, in the case of the Senate, preferences 1, 2 or 3, it does so at its own risk. That risk, of course, is not very serious in the case of an ordinary newspaper, because most candidates would be very pleased to be favoured by a newspaper. The clause covers a recommendation conveyed in1 any form, including newspaper articles, pamphlets, manifestos, cartoons, slides at picture theatres, or by word of mouth, and advocacy on the platform. The aim is to prevent an association or any persons from sponsoring a candidate who docs not wish such support. That is the sole purpose of this clause and that is its only effect.
– “For instance, I might take exception to such support from the Brisbane Courier-Mail.
– The honorable member would be quite entitled to do so. If the newspaper in question gave unsolicited support which the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) considered to be detrimental to his candidature he would be privileged to prosecute the journal, on which a penalty of up to £50 could be imposed. I could quite imagine that if any newspaper, except perhaps a Communist journal, should support the honorable member for Herbert, or for that matter any other member of this House, it is unlikely that a prosecution would be launched, because no exception would he taken to that support. In such a case I am sure that the breach of the law would bc very conveniently overlooked. That is the substance of the main provisions of this clause, contravention of which hy any person or association would permit a prosecution and a. penalty of up to £50 fine.
– It is a dangerous clause.
– It may be dangerous for those who belong to the wrong organization. Should any matter he published purporting to be issued on behalf of an association, the law will presume that the publication was in fact authorized by that association until the contrary is proved. That is the substance of the provision and I think its real purpose is to prevent persons, newspapers and associations generally from sponsoring candidates who have no wish for .their support.
.- In suV section 2 it is provided - . . every person Who was an officer thereof at the time of that announcement or publication shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against sub-section 1 of this section.
In my opinion that is carrying the penalty a little too far. In the case of the punishment of a newspaper, fines might be imposed on every director of that paper because each director could bc classed as an officer of the newspaper. Similarly, all members of a political organization might be called upon to suffer a penalty because of the action of some officer of that organization. Action could even be taken against, say, the president of an organization although through illness he had not been associated with its activities for many months. Similarly, action could be taken against the treasurer or auditor, both of whom are classified as officers in the case of trade unions. This legislation should definitely cite a responsible officer who would be responsible for his organization in this regard.
.- I listened very attentively to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and others who have spoken during this debate and I am not yet satisfied that this clause is harmless. In my opinion it might be very injurious to a candidate; because, although a penalty of £50 is provided, it would be possible for a newspaper, or even a political organization, which is not supporting any candidate to injure a candidate by issuing “how to vote “ cards or indicating in some way that he should receive the No. 1 vote in the case of the House of Representatives election. That sort of thing has been done by organizations which have not themselves run candidates, and their advocacy has not been of benefit to the cam did a te for whom they have urged support. I have seen “ how ‘ to vote “ cards issued in my own electorate by the United Australia party urging the giving of No. 1 votes to an independent. I am not quarrelling about that, hut the point is that perhaps such advocacy would do the candidate an injury.
– He could prosecute the organization responsible for issuing the cards.
– Under the old law he could not, but ho could take such action under the proposed legislation. A candidate might consent to a card being issued and then find himself written up in the press by the political organization which issued the cards as having some affinity with that organization. H a candidate wishes to accept a preference from some organization, well and good, but candidates should not be bound to consent to the support of any particular party. I have frequently found in my own electorate that cards are issued by political organizations which themselves have not a candidate. The United Australia party did that in the 1931 and 1934 elections in connexion withan independent candidate. Under this legislation that independent candidate could claim that the support accorded by the United Australia party did him an injury, and could launch a prosecution. It may even be that, although a candidate has not consented to the issuing of a “ how to vote “ card by any organization, he might have to carry the odium of being attached to the party issuing that card because of the fact it had been published that he had consented. It is doubtful if, in these times, any candidate would consent to the Communistparty nominating him as second or third preference, because he would consider that he would thus be forced to carry the odium attaching to the name Communist. This proposal would not give the Communist party a “fair go” despite the fact that this is supposedly a democratic country; because, if the new clause is inserted, a Communist party candidate, when issuing his “ how to vote “ card, will have to leave blanks for second and third preferences and show only fourth, fifth, and later preferences. If he should nominate second and third preferences for the Senate, without the authority of the candidates so named, he wouldbe liable to prosecution.
– He would be able to say, “ Vote number one for me and then vote the rest of the card according to your own preference “.
– That would not overcome the difficulty. Many electors like tosee a completed “ how to vote “ cardwhich they can copy when marking the ballot-paper. Nobody knows why the Government has introduced this proposal. I can think of no reason unless it be that the Government wants to tack on to honorable members on this side of the chamber the stigma that they are likely to obtain the preferences of some political party, which would injure them in the eyes of the electors. If other parties wish to allocate second and third preferences to Labour party candidates they should be allowed to do so. The Labour party is not the only political organization whose candidates have benefited by the way in which the
Communist party has allocated its second and third preferences. At some elections the Communist party has advocated the giving of preferences to a Labour candidate in one subdivision, a United Australia party candidate in another subdivision, and a Country party candidate in a third subdivision. By that means it has attempted to cancel its vote, so that it would not be to the advantage of any one of its opponents. At the last general elections its preferences were given to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on one hand, and to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) on the other hand. The honorable member for Barton first entered Parliament, in 1931, on the Communist party’s preference votes. The honorable gentleman does not deny that. Other honorable members have gained their seats in the same way.
– I regret that, I lost an election because the Communist party preference votes were cast against me.
– The honorable member for Hunter is complaining because he thinks that his name is likely to be linked with other parties. This new clause provides that the other parties must obtain his written consent before that can be done.
-I am not complaining about being linked voluntarily with any party in particular; I am complaining about, being forced to consent in writing to being linked with any party other than the Labour party.
– This proposal will safeguard the honorable member against that.
– The Government should not propose to add this clause to the bill. A political party should be allowed to allocate its preferences in favour of a member of another organization if it wishes to do so, but they should not be compelled to do so in writing.I believe that there is some ulterior motive behind this. The anti-Labour press could say that Labour party candidates had allied themselves with the Communist party, or any other political organization, if they gave consent to the allocation of preferences in their favour. I cannot see the reason for introducing the proposed new clause. No one has yet endeavoured to explain its valueand the only reason foritthat I can imagine, is that Ministers and their supporters want to make political capital out of it.
.- I fail to see what motive induced the Government to introduce an amendment of this kind. The bill itself is something new, and its effects will be far-reaching. The Government should take direct action now, if it has any fear of Communist newspaper propaganda, and introduce legislation to declare illegal the Communist organization and its publications. This proposed new clause has only one end in view - the injury of one political party or another. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is correct in his assumption, it will apply to newspapers as well as to pamphlets and cards issued by political organizations. Apparently a newspaper would be committing a punishable offence if it suggested a policy in relation to a particular candidate. That would be. unfair, because newspapers are supposed to guide public thought. I am not satisfied that this clause would affect newspapers, but the honorable member for Perth says that it will and a doubt remains in my mind. [ cannot understand why the Government has introduced amendments of the electoral law at this time.
– Honorable members on this side of the House said that when the bill was introduced, but the honorable member and his friends supported the second reading.
– I shall oppose this new clause.
– In connexion with proposed new sub-section1. paragraph b (ii) the legal advisers of the Government have informed me that it will be necessary to alter several words to make the Government’s meaning clear. The proposed paragraph reads -
It should read -
I ask permission of the committee to have that alteration made.
Clause - by leave - verbally amended.
– What does it mean?
– It does not merely mean that the Communist party shall not have the power to state that any political party has its support. Many other organizations, including the advocates of Douglas Credit and other financial reformers, will be affected also. Some of them would like to go into the political field and tell the electors to give first preferences to a certain candidate because he happened to support their views on finance. What right have they to do that without the consent of the candidate?
Question put -
That the proposed new clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 43
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Nock) - by leave - agreed to -
That clause 7 be reconsidered.
Clause 7 -
After section seventy-two a of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - 72c. Candidates nominated for election to the Senate whose names are included in a group in accordance with the provisions of section seventy-two a of this act may notify the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of the designation of the political party or parties represented by the candidates whose names are included in the group, and where a notification in pursuance of this section is received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer from each of the candidates whose names are included in the group not later than twelve o’clock noon on the day of nomination and the designation set out in all the notifications is the same, that designation, subject to any variation, addition or omission which the Commonwealth Electoral Officer thinks fit to make, shall appear in the ballotpapers above the names of the candidates in the group:
Provided that where a notification in pursuance of this section is not received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer from each of the candidates whose names are included in a group not later than twelve o’clock noon on the day of nomination or where the designation set out in the notifications received from all the candidates is not the same, the designation which shall appear above the names of the candidates in the group shall be that determined by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.”
Clause verbally amended.
Amendment, (by Mr. Nock) agreed to-
That proposed new section 72c be omitted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 17 (Printing of Senate ballot-papers.)
Amendments (by Mr. Nock and Mr. Blackburn) - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 26 (The Schedule, Form E).
Amendment (by Mr. Paterson) - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Nock) proposed -
That the proposed new form be omitted with ii view to inserting the following new form: -
” FORM E.
Commonwealth of Australia.
State of [here insert name of State].
Election of [here insert number] Senators.
Directions. - Mark your vote on this ballotpaper by placing the numbers [here insert 1, 2, and so on, as the case requires] in the squares immediately to the left of the names of the respective candidates so as to indicate the order of your preference for them.
Note.- The letter’A’ or ‘B’ or ‘C’ &c., appearing before the square immediately to the left of a candidate’s surname indicates that that candidate and each other candidate who has the same letter appearing before the square immediately to the left of his surname have been grouped by mutual consent.
The fact that no letter appears before the square immediately to the left of a candidate’s surname indicates that the name of that candidate has not been included in any group.”
.- The amendments proposed by the Assistant Minister are consequential on the deletion of that portion of clause 7 which designated the names of the parties, but they will leave the ballotpaper horizontal, instead of vertical. As already intimated, the Opposition will oppose the alteration of the form of the ballot-paper.
Amendment agreed to.
Question put -
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. H. Prowse.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Nock) - by leave - proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I move-
That the bill be now recommitted to a committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clause 18.
My object is to give honorable members a chance to decide, before it is too late, whether approval is to be given by them to an extraordinary innovation in the placing on the ballot-paper of the names of candidates for the House of Representatives. I understand that insufficient opportunity was given in committee for the consideration of this clause. Certain honorable members, including myself, desire that further consideration be given to it. Honorable members will sec that, although the proposal in relation to the House of Representatives appears to be in conformity with that in relation to the new Senate ballot-paper - that is, that a sporting element will be introduced whereby the placing on the ballot-paper will be decided by drawing from a hat or ballot-box - the position of candidates for the House of Representatives and that of the groups in the Senate are not quite identical. Sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph a reads -
The divisional returning officer shall, at the place of nomination immediately after the close of nominations, and before all persons present, make out in respect of each candidate a slip bearing the name of the candidate, enclose the respective slips in separate blank envelopes of exact similarity and deposit the several envelopes in a locked ballot-box.
I draw particular attention to the words “before all persons present”. That will make it obligatory upon all of the candidates for each electorate for the House of Representatives to be present.
– Nothing of the sort.
-What it means is, “before all persons who happen to be present “.
– I take it to mean that the candidates will have to be present.
– But it would be advisable for them to be present.
– I agree. So many details will have to be attended to that the candidates should supervise them personally. The paragraph provides that the respective slips shall be placed in separate blank envelopes of exact similarity. There might be some dissimilarity, and the conduct of the draw could be challenged on that ground. That, however, is not my main point. There is no analogy between placing on the ballotpaper the names of candidates for the House of Representatives, and the names of candidates composing all of the groups for the Senate. In the Senate grouping, it will be optional for the designations of the parties to be placed on the ballotpaper, but no such provision is made in respect of candidates for the House of Representatives. In the great majority of contests for the House of Representatives there are only two candidates, or, at the most, three, and nothing very vital is involved in having such small groups of candidates placed in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper. Sitting members will have as much chance as newcomers of obtaining a suitable position under the present procedure as they would have under the proposed alteration. This seems to me to introduce a farcical procedure in regard to the House of Representatives, and really imposes on a candidate the obligation to be present at a time which may not be convenient for him. There is no need for this alteration. I cannot see how, by any process of logic, it could be linked up with the very vital alteration in relation to the arrangement of the groups on the Senate ballot-paper. This particular proposal, which has often been discussed, but has not until now come to finality, apparently is designed to produce a symmetrical scheme which will place candidates for the House of Representativeson the same mark in favoritism or lack of it, as are placed those who participate in elections for the
Senate. We may as well leave the position in relation to the House of Representatives as it has been so far. For the reasons I have given, I desire the clause to be reconsidered with a view to omitting it from the bill.
– I am opposed to the recommittal of the bill for the purpose suggested. Clause 18 came before the committee this afternoon. Tt was not the fault of the committee that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) was not present. It is admitted by a large number of people that the advantage of occupying a position at the top of a ballot-paper automatically accrues to a person whose name begins with an early letter of the alphabet. The Government desires that all shall have an equal chance to occupy that position’. If this proposal were defeated the prejudicial effect would be felt, not only by the candidate, but also by members of the community who might desire to be candidates, because they would have less chance of being selected by party organizations, if it were known that their names began with a late letter of the alphabet.
– I sincerely hope that the House will refer this clause back to the committee. As the bill was reported, the committee had agreed to the same practice being adopted in connexion with the sequence of names on the ballotpapers for the House of Representatives as for the elections to another place. 1 have no doubt that the Government considered that the first position at the top of the ballot-paper conferred a distinct advantage on to whoever held it. The argument has been put forward repeatedly in connexion with elections for another place, but has never been seriously advanced in respect of elections for this House. It at any rate could not be sustained by the facts. The division1 list shows strikingly that names at the bottom of the ballot-paper in respect of elections for the House of Representatives have had a degree of success equal to that obtained by candidates whose names appeared at the top of the ballot-paper. Furthermore, the circumstances are altogether different. At elections for another place, at least three candidates have to be chosen, and sometimes, six candidates have to be elected. Therefore, the greater the number of seats, the greater the number of candidates offering; consequently, there might be a minimum of nine candidates at each election. Another principle operates in connexion with the House of Representatives compared with the Senate. There is grouping of candidates for another place, and no grouping in respect of the election of members to the House of Representatives. The proposed form of ballot-paper for this House rests on the presumption that the requirements of the election and therefore the knowledge of the elector are the same for the other place as for this place, whereas such is not the case. I instance these radical distinctions: For another place, there is always a minimum of three candidates. For this House, an election is not on a State-wide basis, bur is confined to an electorate, in1 which the candidates are peculiar to the district or electorate, and for whom the public outside that particular area have no concern. There are a number of electorates in which an election does not take place, although contemporaneously an election takes place for the Senate. The argument that there is an advantage as the result of one’s alphabetical precedence for the House of Representatives is not justified by the facts. It is said that that advantage, the result of alphabetical precedence, is so important that it is necessary for this House to cancel it. What this House proposes shall replace that advantage is the equivalent of winning a ticket in a lottery, or of selecting the first name out of a hat. I said on the motion for the second reading of the bill that I regard such an innovation as unworthy of the dignity, the status, or the importance of this chamber. To make the indiscriminate selection of names from a hat or a ballot-box one of the conditions relating to the election1 of members to this place, in my opinion would be likely to lead to a disease far more dangerous to the community than that for which a remedy is sought. What evidence has the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) given that the top position on the ballot-paper of the House of Representatives has been advantageous? I can speak in this matter with some knowledge. I have what may be regarded as a comparatively early place in alphabetical precedence. I have been elected on three occasions, twice when my name has been at the bottom of the ballot-paper - there were two candidates ahead of me - and on one occasion, when my name was in ohe middle of a ballot-paper. C hope, with great humility, that, wherever my name appears, I shall still be elected. I submit that this bill came to be a matter of concern with the Government when it contemplated the result of the elections to another place. If it were not for that development, there would not be any drastic interference with the practice which has stood not only in all the popular assemblies in this country, ever since we have had popular assemblies, but also in all the other popular assemblies in the British Commonwealth. It is curious that in this House at present there is only one honorable member with the initial “ A to his surname. Extraordinarily enough, there are seven “BV, six “CV, two “D’s”, five “ Fs “, five “ G’s “, six “ H’s”, three “J’s”, four “L’s”, tern “M’s”, two “ISP”,* six “PV, three “R’s”, nine “S’s “ two “TV, and four “ W V. Those are the initial letters of the surnames of members of this House. Why does the Minister say that this is to be done? Is it because it has ‘become a war measure? If it is not for that reason, then it can only be for some sinister political purpose, pf which the Minister is so ashamed that he has not even told us about it yet.
.- I support the Assistant Minister in his contention that no good reason has been shown for the recommittal of this clause. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), amongst other arguments, said that, from his reading of the clause, it would be necessary for candidates to he present when the divisional returning officer made the draw for the position of candidates on the ballot-paper. That would be quite unnecessary. I am prepared to trust the divisional returning officer to make the draw absolutely impartially. We can acquit the honorable member for New England of any suspicion of self-interest. My experience is like that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I have been placed at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the ballot-paper, and I have not found that it affected my political fortunes. But, if we are to be consistent, we should have the same practice in the elections for the House of Representatives as we have in the elections for the Senate. We have decided in respect of the Senate to do away entirely with any advantage, real or imaginary - I think that it is real - which may accrue to any candidate whose name begins with a letter occurring early in the alphabet. Why not carry out the same procedure in respect of this chamber? The Leader of the Opposition said that there was a great difference between elections to this chamber and elections to another place, because the names on the ballotpapers for the House of Representatives elections were not grouped but the names of the candidates for the Senate were grouped. I submit that that is one reason why we should not disturb the committee’s decision to retain clause . 18 in the bill. The names of Senate candidates are grouped and rarely will there be more than three names in a group. There may be four if there should happen to be four vacancies for the one State at the same time, but normally, there will never be more than three names in a group. It happens occasionally that there are five or even more names of candidates for the House of Representatives. I could cite several instances of that having occurred. The names are not grouped; they are placed vertically, one above the other on the ballot-paper. In those circumstances, whatever advantage there is in being at the top of the list, is greater in a vertical list of five names than in a grouping system in which i here are only three in a group. If there is a reason - and I believe there is a good reason - why we should do away with an advantage given to certain individuals by accident of birth, by making a draw, so that men whose names begin with “W” or “ Y “ shall have exactly the same chance as the men whose names begin with “A”, “B” or “C” in the Senate elections, we should do away wilh it also in the elections for this chamber. It is of advantage to have the same practice for elections to both Houses.
– I support the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). I do not know why clause 18 was included in the bill. The main purpose of this legislation is to eliminate the confusion and complexities about elections for the Senate. It was never intended to interfere with the ballot for the House of Representatives. I have never heard of any complaint about the procedure of elections to this chamber whereas, there have been many complaints about the Senate elections. Candidates for the Senate number nine, twelve or fifteen and under a preferential system confusion may arise, whereas candidates for the seats in the House of Representatives rarely number more than two, three or four or, perhaps, five. There is no reason why the present practice should be altered. The clause is superfluous.
Question put -
That the bill be now recommitted for the reconsideration of clause18.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Recommittal: Clause18 (Printing of House of Representatives ballot-papers).
– There is just one additional point which I can put to the committee. Honorable members heard what I said in the House. It is perfectly true that in unusual circumstances there may be nine candidates for a seat in the House of Representatives, but the fact remains that many of the electors will be urged to votefor party candidates and they will be obliged, when seeking for the name of their party candidate on the House of Representatives ballot-paper, to disregard the whole of their educational training and experience. If they look for a name, say James, they will naturally be guided by common practice. In looking up the telephone directory, a gazetteer, a dictionary, or the electoral roll, they rely on the alphabetical system.. Persons who wish to look for a particular name should not be obliged to search through the whole list. In the. elections for the House of Representativesthe names of the candidates stand for distinct and, in some cases, antagonistic party interests. In Senate elections a group of names stands for the party interest. An elector who desires to vote for the Labour party or for the United Australia party will have been carefully tutored as to the group of names for which he desires to vote. He will know that they will appear together in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or maybe 4th group. The situation in connexion with the House of Representatives is different. No reason has been given to justify the jumbling of the names out of alphabetical order. I know of one instance in which that course was adopted. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was concerned. The result was that many persons, accustomed to the alphabetical arrangement, looked towards the bottom of the ballot-paper for it and not finding it, assumed that he was not a candidate; so he lost their votes.
– Were the voters not able to read?
– Of course they were able to read. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) does not seem to realize that a person may remain in a polling booth for only a limited time. Usually there is congestion, and persons in the booths are more or less harassed by others outside who want to get in. If no preliminary guidance were given to the electors, by means of the issuing of vote thus “ cards, difficulties on polling day would be certain. I shall go so far as to say that, in some cases, it would be practically impossible to conclude the taking of the ballot in the time specified unless some preliminary tuition had been given and “ how to vote “ cards distributed. I can see no justification whatever for interfering with the alphabetical order in relation to elections for the House of Representatives. If that course be agreed to, a great deal of informality will result. We have been asked to make this change in relation to elections for the House of Representatives because, in the opinion of certain honorable members, the top position on the ballot-paper gives to the candidate who holds it an undue advantage. I disagree with that view. It seems to me to be extraordinary that we should even consider trying to compel electors to disregard what is a common practice. In this country we have had free, secular, compulsory education for more than 40 years, and it is ridiculous to assume that our electors will vote for the first name on the ballot-paper, irrespective of any other consideration. Whatever may be said in favour of position, in relation to a group of candidates, nothing can be said for it in relation to individual names. Even honorable gentlemen opposite who have advocated this change have had to admit, when questioned, that they have suffered no ill effects from a low position on the ballot-paper. It may be just as great an advantage to be at the bottom of a ballotpaper as at the top of it, and we all know that, in certain circumstances, it may bo of some advantage to follow the name of a candidate who has no prospect whatever of election. The pros and cons in these matters have been canvassed in Australia for the last ten years, but the fact remains that the political complexion of this Parliament, would not be regarded by any reasonable political commentator as having been changed in any way by reason of our adherence to the present practice in relation to elections for the House of Representatives.
– As I moved the recommittal of this clause, I should like to put my views briefly to the committee. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has pointed out that I cannot be accused of having had any selfish motive in this matter. My surname begins with “ T “, and in six out of seven elections my name has appeared at the bottom of the ballotpaper. On the only occasion when it appeared at the top I was returned with the lowest majority I have ever had. 1 do not believe that the position of a candidate’s name on the ballot-paper is of anything like the concern that some people think it is. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, if we adopt for elections for the House of Representatives the procedure set out in this clause, we shall depart from an educational practice which has been in force in this country for more than 40 years. We might also reduce to a farce the procedure of determining the places that candidates’ names shall have on the ballot-paper. It would almost seem to he necessary, under the proposed new system, for the candidates to be present, or nearby, when the names were being drawn. Doubtless there would be a considerable amount of sporting interest in the matter, and the element of humour would not he absent. I cannot imagine anything more undignified than for candidates, including perhaps even the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, to be waiting around in a curious group to learn their fate. It is in order to check anything of that kind that I desire to see the clause omitted from the bill.
Mr. NOCK (Riverina - Assistant Minister [9.24]. - The desire of the Government in this matter is that each candidate shall have an equal chance at an election. It is, of course, for the committee to determine whether it will alter the existing procedure. I emphatically deny the suggestion that the Government was actuated by a sinister motive in including this clause in the bill. It has been stated that the top position on the ballot-paper is not of great value. That may be so in constituencies where the party vote is clearly defined, but I do not think any honorable member will deny that the top position may be a factor in electorates where the voting is always close, for, unquestionably, there are some electors in every constituency who go into the polling booth and simply mark the ballot-paper with consecutive numbers from, top to bottom. If this should be done, in even a hundred or” so cases, it might easily influence the final result in a constituency where the voting was very close. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is impossible to prove the extent of the benefit of the top place. However, the Government does not regard this clause of the bill as vital, and it will accept the decision of the committee.
Bill again reported with a further amendment.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Mr. NOCK (Riverina - Assistant Minister [9.26] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to enlarge the provisions of the principal act in order to enable contributions to be made by . the Commonwealth Government towards the cost of any geological surveys or scout drilling operations conducted by the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with a State government. At present the fund that has been established may be drawn upon only in connexion with such activities by companies or individuals. It is proposed that the Commonwealth Government and the Victorian Government shall co-operate to some extent in certain operations provided for in the principal act. One of the amendments in this bill is to make it practicable for the fund to be drawn upon to help to defray the cost of these operations. The other amendment has to do with the provision of plant. The principal act provides that money may be allocated for the purchase of only a complete plant. The amendment provides that grants may be made towards the purchase of portions of a complete plant or of tools that are not available in Australia. I hope that the. bill will be given a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 3rd May (vide, page 555) on motion by Mr. Nock -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This appears to be a non-contentious measure and the Labour party will not oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th May (vide page 602) on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is one of the financial measures which the Government has submitted in order to provide the necessary revenue to carry the extra burden arising from the war. One of the chief features of the measure is that it proposes to withdraw partially exemptions from land tax now enjoyed by mutual and partly mutual life assurance societies and friendly societies. The bill removes certain anomalies in regard to associations which are not carrying on for pecuniary profit, and also deals with the taxation of perpetual leases which are not subject to re-valuation. Since 1910 friendly societies and mutual and partly mutual life assurance societies have been exempt from land tax. It must be obvious that whilst these companies still preserve their mutual characteristics - only some of them are entirely mutual - in order to make the best use of their resources, they have invested very substantially in city properties. As a result, they operate and control large business premises only a portion of which is used for their own work, and having regard to their articles of association, are in the position of landlords letting premises at whatever rentals they can secure. It appears to be only fair that that portion of their premises which they let should be brought in to the tax field. The exemption which has remained operative since 1910 appears to give such companies an unfair advantage over other landlords. I realize the social value of assurance societies and how important it is that they should preserve their solvency ; but when they enter the field of. competitive commerce they should be subject to the same principle of taxation as other companies. The bill provides that friendly societies and mutual life assurance associations shall receive total exemption only in respect of the land used for their own purposes, and not in respect of that used by tenants. When these companies use buildings merely to carry on the business of insurance or friendly societies, the exemption will be complete, as it has been since 1910. At that time I suppose that it was reasonable to assume that the mutual life associations, and indeed friendly societies, were not so extensively investing in properties which werelet to tenants. Furthermore, the probability is that even though they were so interested, the land itself was not of sufficient value to bring it within the tax field. The value of the land has improved, due not entirely to the company’s efforts, but largely to economic conditions, the general progress of the country, and more particularly the progress of the cities in which these buildings are located. It has been the practice of the Taxation Department to include the lessee’s estate in such leases on the basis of the expired period ; but, as the Treasurer pointed out, the High Court decided thatunless a lease was for a specified period liability to tax in respect of it did not arise. Obviously the revenue was being cheated, and the bill therefore provides that the unexpired portion of any perpetual lease shall be deemed to be 100 years. On that basis, the Commissioner of Taxation will set aside what he would’ consider to be the remaining capital value of the lease for taxation purposes. The general purport of the bill is to remove anomalies. When theRates Bill has been passed by Parliament the receipts from land taxes will increase by £1,500,000, which will bring the amount to about double that at present received. I do not intend to oppose the bill, but I should like the Treasurer to state whether it will affect friendly societies, the Trades Halls, and other similar organizations operating in the Australian Capital Territory which are actually mutual benefit societies.
– They will be exempt.
– And returned soldiers halls?
– Yes, although halls of that description would probably bring in some rent.
– Sub-section 3 of section 13 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1934 stipulates that all land owned by a society registered under a State act and controlled by friendly societies or trade unions shall be exempt from the tax.
– Friendly societies registered in the Australian Capital Territory come under the act. The returned soldiers’ organization is exempt as it is non-profit making.
– The Commercial Travellers Associations have made representations to me repeatedly, asking for complete and unconditional exemption of their lands, whether occupied by themselves or by tenants, on the ground that they are friendly societies.
– They are on the same basis as mutual societies.
Mr.NAIRN (Perth) [9.43].- This measure brings within the scope of the law certain friendly societies which hitherto have enjoyed complete exemption. This exemption was given to friendly societies and certain trade unions organizations at a time, when it was not contemplated that they would extend to the degree which they have. The value of these organizations is generally recognized, and it is desired to help them in a reasonable way. The Manchester Unity building in Mel bourne is perhaps the finest of its kind in Victoria, and is a striking contrast to those owned by some other societies liable to pay tax. It would therefore appear that the Government should tax friendly societies in respect of such portions of their buildings as are let for commercial purposes and exempt those portions which are utilized by the societies. Trade unions have not developed to the same extent as have friendly societies, but some of them possess large properties valued at over £5,000. One that I know runs a printery.
– That printery does not belong to a trade union, although unions own shares in the company which runs’ it. It is an independent company with a great number of shareholders. 1 myself am one. The company pays all taxes, including land tax.
– I am surprised to leani that. In any case, what of trade unions which own premises, and lease them in competition with other property owners ?
– We have made fairly extensive inquiries, and we know of no instance in which a trade union leases premises in competition with any one else.
– Perhaps I am wrong, but I understood that the trade unions in Perth “own premises which they let.
– Only to trade unions.
– If that is true, there is not much point in my objection. I am glad to learn that the Treasurer is satisfied on the point. Until quite recently, societies such as the Commercial Travellers Association, described as not carrying on for purposes of profit, enjoyed partial exemption from land tax. The Taxation Department assessed them only on that part of their premises which they rented for commercial purposes, the part which they themselves occupied being exempt. Twelve months . ago, however, the department discovered that if they let any part of their premises they must pay tax on the whole.
– That was the result of a decision of the court.
– Yes, in New South W ales, I believe. Now the Government is correcting the position by including in this bill the partial exemption which such societies in fact enjoyed up to twelve months ago, but the societies remain liable for three years’ arrears of tax. The error, in the first place, was largely the fault of the Taxation Department.
– It might be said that the department was rather, good to the Commercial Travellers Association up to the time of the judicial decision.
– The taxpayer was entitled to assume that the law was as the department had been administering it. If the department made an error, the taxpayer should not be penalized by having to pay arrears. It is very difficult for the taxpayer, if after his income is spent, and after he has made provision to meet all ascertainable liabilities, he is called upon to pay arrears of taxation for a number of years. Many a company has gone into liquidation, and many an individual taxpayer has been forced into bankruptcy in that way.
– They should have been subject to taxation from 1930, according to the decision of the court; yet they are being called upon to pay only in respect of the last three years.
– That is because, in such cases, the law does not permit arrears to be collected for more than three years. The Treasurer is getting his full pound of flesh. He is collecting. the maximum that may be collected under the law. I bave always entertained a good deal of doubt as to the propriety of this method of land taxation. The tax was imposed originally as a punitive measure; its alleged purpose was to break up large estates, and there was much political feeling over it at the time. It was one of the methods devised for getting at the big fellow, but it is generally admitted uow that it has not been so successful as was hoped. Most of the large estates on which land tax is paid are not in the country, but in the city. More than 70 per cent, of the total amount collected from this tax is paid on city properties, and this is not because the tax has had the effect of breaking up large rural estates, but because the value of rural property has declined because’ of reduced prices for primary products. This tax falls very heavily on rural propertyowners.
– There is a £5,000 exemption.
Mr.NAIRN. - I know that thesmaller land-holders are exempt, but in the pastoral industry a great many holdings are valued at more than £5,000, and this applies particularly to companies engaged in wool-raising. The iniquitous part of this tax is that it is levied on the land, whether or not the land is yielding a profit. In that respect, it resembles the gold tax. There should be no taxation unless there is profit. In other words, ability to pay should be the basis and criterion, not only of the measure of taxation, but also of whether there should be any tax at all. The owner of a property having an improved value in excess of £5,000 may have mortgaged it right up to the hilt. Thus, although nominally the owner, he may have hardly any equity in it; the beneficial ownership rests with the mortgagee, but the nominal owner must pay the tax.
– It is the same with ra tes.
– Partly, perhaps, but rates are adjusted more equitably tothe productive value of the land. This land tax is merely a general levy on property. The idea seems to be that men with property valued at more than £5,000 are good game to be shot at. There are not many to speak for them, and therefore they are not regarded as entitled to much consideration. I say quite unhesitatingly that where there is no revenue-producing capacity in property, it is unfair to levy tax upon it. The tax is levied on the unimproved value of the land, and bears no relation to its income-producing capacity. It is merely a rough-and-ready method of collecting revenue from a certain class of property owner. Though this is not a rates bill, it is all the more important to consider this aspect now, because very soon a rates bill is to be brought down to double the present rate, although the people who will have to pay it are not at all likely to be in any better position to do so. Large city stores are able to pass on the land tax, hut the wool producers have no opportunity to do that, because they have to accept the best prices they can obtain for their product in the world’s markets. When their margin of profit is substantial, I have no objection to taxes being imposed on them; but the wool industry on the whole has not made big profits in recent years, and the capital value of pastoral lands has depreciated. Scores of wool producers who were formerly regarded as wealthy men have been carried by the banks, and the department could not collect their arrears of land tax without causing their bankruptcy.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) appears to have conveniently overlooked the fact that the land tax was introduced in the days of the Fisher Government to provide revenue for social services and for defence purposes. Large land-owners and the owners of valuable city properties have something worth defending, and it is only fair that they should contribute towards the cost of the defence of the country.
– What if their industry is a losing proposition?
– If the primary producers are showing a loss in all phases of their activities, the logic of the honorable member’s argument is that we should not attempt to defend this country. I do not suggest that the man on the land is living in clover, but it must be recognized that in recent years every section has experienced financial difficulties.
– When an undertaking isbeing carried on at a loss some temporary remission of the land tax should be granted.
– In primary production, many landholders resort to mixed farming. My parents were growers of fodder, but they also engaged in dairying and cattle dealing. Whilst I realize that honorable members from rural districts have every right to draw attention to the plight of their constituents, I point out that other sections have also had great difficulty in making ends meet.
The honorable member for Perth should remember that big improvements in metropolitan areas brought about by the expenditure of public money have enhanced the value of city properties. In ^Sydney, for instance, the construction of “the tube railway has given Mark Foy’s a railway station at its door. Not only has this work enhanced the value of the property of that store by, perhaps, 50 per cent., but it has also greatly increased the business activities of the store. The Commonwealth and State governments are entitled to call upon private undertakings of this kind to contribute substantial taxes in return for such unearned increment. As the result, of the building of the” Sydney Harbour bridge, the value of all adjoining properties has increased.
– The property owners are paying increased State and municipal taxes.
– Yes, but those increases are shared by all, whereas the owners of large city undertakings enjoy special advantages as the result of heavy public expenditure. The construction of roads and railways may increase the value of adjoining land by from £4 to £10 an acre. My argument is that we should all help to pay. The burden should be placed equably on the shoulders of every one of us, even the indirect taxpayer who pays through the medium of added costs. No taxpayer should derive benefit through civic improvements and a proportionate contribution should be made by those who are getting this benefit, the land tax providing a-, means whereby that contribution can be made. When we compare our economic position to-day with that which obtained when the federal land tax was first imposed - and as I have indicated it was imposed for defence purposes - there can he no dispute about the Government’s attitude towards this form of taxation, although it may be regarded as unusual for me to be found supporting the Government in this matter.
Apart from the general principle of the land tax, another point to which I should like to direct attention is the matter of perpetual leases which I raised some years ago. When the former member for Corio, Mr. Casey, was Treasurer, I was informed from a source within the Taxation Department that, owing to the difficulty of arriving at the necessary formula for the imposition of this tax on perpetual leases, there had been a great loss of revenue for many years. Speaking from memory, I was further advised that many of these leases are held by people absent from Australia. It would be interesting to calculate the total loss of revenue from these leases caused by the failure of successive governments to provide some means of assessing the tax more in keeping with the form of taxation applied to other property.
– Interesting only as an historical fact!
– In my opinion there is considerable doubt as to whether or not this bill provides for the removal of that anomaly, if I may call it such. Certainly it provides a formula for the raising of this taxation.
– On a notional basis of a 100 years’ unexpired term.
– Previously perpetual leases were regarded as being for 99 years.
– Perpetual leases were previously exempt because the court held that there was no specific period of unexpired lease on which the unimproved value of the land could be assessed.
– As the result of the failure to produce a satisfactory formula, a large number of .landholders have escaped taxation. Could this provision bc made retrospective to catch these people?
– I am afraid not.
– Belated as it is, it is worth while and is a valuable contribution to our taxation legislation even though it has been brought about by war conditions.
.- I should like the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to give an assurance that the basis on which land taxation is levied throughout Australia is uniform. This in my opinion is a very important point.
– It cannot be done.
– I think we are entitled to an assurance that. an attempt has been made to make it uniform.
– What does the honorable member suggest is not, uniform ?
– I only want to know what is the policy of the Taxation Department in arriving at a basis foi valuing leases throughout the Commonwealth. I know that in Queensland the Commonwealth is largely guided by thi- valuations of the Queensland government and municipal authorities. I should like to know what is the practice in the other States, because I think it is only right we should have an equable basis for land taxation throughout the Commonwealth.
– It is uniform so far as the law is concerned. Uniformity in administration depends on what factors the department considers in its determination of the real value of land.
– That is an aspect of this matter to which attention should be given. I take it that the Taxation Department does endeavour to ensure that there is a uniform valuation throughout the Commonwealth, so that the people in say, Victoria, and the people in Queensland, are paying an- equable share of land taxation burden.
– It may be fairly assumed that the department endeavours to obtain the best information, and if in each particular State there is comparable in formation I have no doubt that the same ratings apply.
– In Queensland there are three different land-taxing authorities - Federal Government, State Government and municipal, but the Commonwealth is largely guided by the valuations arrived at by the Queensland government officers. I should like to know whether or not the same practice is. observed in the other States?
– I understand that the Commonwealth Taxation Department seeks, as far as possible, to co-operate with the States in arriving at a correct valuation. The Commonwealth valuation, however, is not determined solely by what value is arrived at by the States. It endeavours to make its own fair valuation, which sometimes varies greatly from that of the States.
– This is a very important matter, because it is only right that there should be an equable distribution of the burden of land taxation, just as there is an equable distribution of income taxation, although it is “ not so easy to arrive at.
With regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), I have always advocated that there should be only one authority imposing direct taxation on land, and that is the municipal authority. Let us examine for a moment the position in Australia to-day. The revenue which the Commonwealth will derive from land taxation, including the proposals now before us, will be roughly £3,000,000. The State governments are raising £1,400,000 from land tax, and the municipal authorities raise £12,500,000 from rating land. Because the responsibilities and the burdens of the municipal authorities throughout the Commonwealth have increased considerably in recent years through the obligation to provide added facilities such as good roads, better drainage, and other public services, they have been considerably embarrassed financially, with the result that they have either to borrow money to carry out works which should be paid for by means of ordinary taxation, or to obtain grants from State governments. During the financial year ended the 30th June, 1937 - the latest figures available - the municipal authorities in Australia raised by way of direct taxation on land £12,600,000.
– Over a wider field. The field covered by the municipalities includes what is contained in this legislation, plus something else.
– The point I wish to make is that during the same period the State governments and the Commonwealth Government raised roughly £3,000,000, and the various municipal authorities had to obtain subsidies and grants to the amount of £8,000,000. 1 submit that it is contrary to one of the cardinal principles of taxation to obtain such grants, because one of the best checks on extravagant expenditure is the observance of the principle that the raising of revenue should be in the hands of the authorities expending it. The time has come for a. review of the basis of land taxation. The municipal authorities have to look to the. State and Commonwealth Governments for grants, because they are not able to raise funds by direct taxation on land owing to the contributions that property owners have to make to State and Commonweath treasuries. This matter warrants early consideration by the Government.
.- I shall not oppose the passage of the bill, because I recognize that the present is an inopportune time to take any action that would prevent the Government from raising the money which it needs. I have always objected to this form of legislation because I believe land taxation should be left entirely to the States. It would, however, be wrong, at this time, to attempt to hamper the Treasurer in his endeavours to secure the finance required for the prosecution of the war; but, I direct attention to the plight of a section of our people, not living in my constituency, but in the north-western portion of Western Australia, who have suffered from the most dreadful climatic condition’s during the last seven years. That area which previously was wonderfully productive, has experienced a drought of unparalleled intensity. Many men on the land there have been enabled to continue only by receiving assistance from those who hold mortgages on their properties. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to give me an assurance that graziers and others who have shown a loss on their operations over a series of years will not be asked to pay even a smallproportion of the tax demanded by this measure.
– Those men are protected by the hardship provisions.
– I do not know whether those provisions would apply to men who have not shown any profit over a series of years.
– That would depend upon their total financial position.
– In that case the men to whom I refer would not be taxed under this bill. Those who make good profits on land should pay their share of the Government’s tax demands, but reasonable concessions should be granted tothosewho have passed through desperate times, particularly if they live in districts which it is essential to populate and develop.
.- Revaluations of rural properties are too infrequent. - Australia has experienced virtually ten years of depression, during which our primaryproducers received unprofitable returns from the sale of their exportable products. This has caused a serious depreciation of the value of their properties. To-day, farmers in many districts could not expect to get half of the amount which their properties would have realized twelve years ago. Nevertheless, the Taxation Department rigidly maintains the old valuation for assessing the taxes to be paid.As a matter of fact, if is a fictitious valuation. It might have been a proper valuation when it was first placed on the property, but it is a wrong valuation to-day in view of the reduced returns from our farms.
– Values are determined not upon comparable sale prices, but upon productivity.
– That method also is applied on a wrong basis. Land is often assessed hot upon the actual quality of the land as a whole, but upon the productivity of some small corner of the area under review - perhaps a small allotment purchased from an adjoining land-holder. The Treasurer (Mr. Spender) must realize that when wheat was realizing 5s. 6d. abushel, the land from which it was produced was worth a great deal more than to-day, when wheat is worth 2s. 6d. a bushel.
-That would be so if the condition were permanent.
– Low prices for wheat have almost reached a stage of permanency. I understand that several thousands ofmen have left their holdings in Western Australia almost penniless. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has intimated, squatters in the north-western part of that State, once regarded as wealthy men having large bank credits, are to-day almost bankrupt. The former land Valuer for the State and the Commonwealth has been appointed by the Western Australian Government to inquire into their position. The continued low prices of export commodities call for a revaluationof land.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Section 13 of the principal act is amended -
by adding after paragraph (i) the following word, paragraph and subsections : - “ (3.) For the purposes of subparagraph (3) of paragraph (g) of sub-section (1.) of this section, the use or occupation of any building or part of any building by any society, institution, club or association not carried on for pecuniary profit, which is affiliated with and controlled by the owner of the land on which the building is erected, shall not be deemed to be use or occupation by a person other than the owner.”.
– I move -
That the words” and controlled by the owner of the land on which the building is erected,” be omitted with a view to insert in their stead the words, “ the owner of the land on which the building is erected, or with which that owner is affiliated, or which is controlled by or controls that owner,”.
This amendment is submitted because it has been discovered, following representations, that the bill as originally placed before honorable members will not apply fully to all of the bodies that it was intended to cover.
Clause 4 provides that the exemption granted to societies, clubs and associations not carried on for pecuniary profit shall be limited to lands occupied by them, and also that where a building erected on land owned by such a body is partly occupied by that body and partly let to tenants, the proportion only of the unimproved value of the land represented by the rental value of the portion of the building let to tenants is taxable. The bill further provides that the occupation of any part of a building by any organization which is affiliated with and controlled by the owner shall not be deemed to be occupation by any person other than the owner.
It. has, however, been brought to my notice that cases exist where the owner of the land is affiliated with or controlled by the occupier of part of a building. A case in point is that of the land owned by the Commercial Travellers Association, Victoria. The federal body of the association occupies part of the building erected on the land. Although the Victorian association is affiliated with the federal body, it cannot be said that the federal body is affiliated with the Victorian association; and as the bill is now draw, the part of the unimproved value of the land attributable to the rental value of the part of the building occupied by the federal body would be treated as being used or occupied by persons other than the owner and would therefore not be exempt. It is the Government’s desire that, in a case such as this, the part of the building occupied by the federal organization should not be regarded as being used or occupied by persons other than the Victorian association which owns the land.
The amendment which I move gives effect to the Government’s desire, and I feel sure will meet with the approval of all honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 8th May (vide page 623) on motion by Mr. spender -
That in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Land Tax Act 1910-1938, there be imposed land tax at the following rates: - (vide page622).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Sir Frederick Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring before the House the case of a militia trainee who, while breaking in horses at the Liverpool camp, received injuries from which he subsequently died at the Randwick Hospital. This young man, whose name was Mulliner, was the role support of his parents who are in indigent circumstances and getting on in years. I have here a letter from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street), intimating that the Defence Act contains no provision to compensate them for the loss of the breadwinner of the family. I submit that, even if the Defence Act be deficient in that respect, the department should see that some compensation is paid to them. In bringing this matter forward, I wish it to be understood that I am not attempting in any way to interfere with the Government’s defence policy, but I point out that failure to pay compensation in such cases will militate against recruiting. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who was in charge of a camp in Victoria recently, has told me that there were several similar accidents with horses in the camp under his control. Honorable members will realize that the breaking- in of horses is dangerous work. I hope that the Minister will see that provision is made to meet this and similar cases.
.- The regulations relating to the Militia Forces provide for the payment of a lump sum by way of compensation in certain cases. The provisions in connexion with members of the Australian Imperial Force are somewhat different. I shall look into the matter and let the honorable member have a reply later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of Precious Stones (dated 9th May, 1940).
Judiciary Act -Rule of Court, dated6th May, 1940.
National Security Act - Regulations Amended. &c. - StatutoryRules 1940, Nos. 83, 84, 85.
Patents, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright (War Powers) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 82.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Notice of variation of plan of lay-out of City of Canberra and its environs, dated 9th April, 1940.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Not at present. 2. ( i ) In Wirraway production, in addition to the full day shift in the engine and aircraft factories, a half capacity afternoon shift is being worked in each factory and a half capacity night shift in the engine factory.
The training of personnel is proceeding, and every effort willbe made to secure a sufficient number of trained men to serve the needs of this and other industries vital to the defence requirements.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
– In my absence from the House on the 9th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.
James) asked a series of questions bearing upon the application of censorship to the Miners’ Journal known as Common Cause.
I now supply the following information : -
To the best of my knowledge Common Cause is published in the interests of the Miners’ Federation. The total number of newspapers and periodicals of every kind published in Australia is approximately 3,500. Of this total the Commonwealth has removed only thirteen from self-censorship, that is, censorship by their editors in accordance with regulations promulgated by censorship on behalf of the defence services. Of these thirteen not less than nine are either straight-out Communist newspapers or are edited and controlled by Communists on behalf of their owners. These thirteen newspapers have only been subjected to special censorship because they’ showed no disposition to submit to the regulations as thousands of other newspapers have done. They waged a ceaseless battle against censorship. The offences they committed against censorship were in a great many cases of a most serious kind, such as open advocacy of sedition and obstruction to the efficient conduct of the war. The Government regrets that a newspaper like Common Cause should have been placed upon the special censorship list, and all that is necessary for the owners of this paper to have the present restrictions removed is to free the paper at once from its Communist control. This applies to other papers similarlyplaced.
r. - On the 17th May, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked whether the Deputy Prices Commissioner in New South Wales had made reports and recommendations to the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner disclosing certain cases of war profiteering.
I am informed by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner that certain recommendations concerning war profiteering have been made, and have been submitted by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to the Attorney-General’s Department for examination of the possibility of launching prosecutions against the people concerned. For the information of the honorable member I may add that it would not be in the interests of justice to give, at this stage, any information as to the names of the parties concerned. The honorable member may, however, rest assured that the Government is actively engaged in dealing with cases of profiteering wherever they are discovered.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information re quired by the honorable member, which is incorporated in the published budget papers, is too voluminous, and the cost involved too heavy, to justify inclusion in Hansard. I am, however, having the information compiled in an appropriate form and will make it available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - l.Is it a fact that the 7th Cavalry Division (or Reconnaissance Regiment) being formed for the Australian Imperial Force is not taking any officers from the 2nd Armoured Regiment?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s ‘ questions are as follows : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936, and was gazetted on the 20th October, 1939.
Australian Imperialforce Food Supplies.
t. - On the 17th Maythe honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following question, without notice: -
I ask the Minister for the Army whether different menus are provided for officers and men proceeding abroad with the Australian Imperial Force, and, if so, will he inform the House of the quality of food provided in each case?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member thatin accordance with “Regulations and Instructions for His Majesty’s Sea Transport Service “ officers travel first class, warrant officers and sergeants second class. Other ranks travel in special trooping accommodation.For each class an appropriate menu is provided. Only one’ quality of supplies is shipped to provide food for all classes. In camp and abroad all ranks receive the same ration.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400521_reps_15_163/>.