1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers
Senator BRAKE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Wireless Telegraphy. - Tasmania and adjacent islands.- Copies of correspondence and documents relating to.
Senator O’CONNOR laid upon the table the following paper : -
Return showing primary votes and subsequent counts at the federal election for Senate, State of Tasmania.
Ordered to be printed.
SenatorO’CONNOR (New South WalesVice President of the Executive Council). - I move -
That henceforth, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Tuesday in each week be a sitting day of the Senate, and that half -past two o’clock be the hour of meeting on such day.
Hitherto we have been able to do our business on three sitting days in the week, but there is a special urgency for sitting an extra day, and I appeal to honorable senators to aid the Government in their effort to carry out the business we have in hand. As I stated before the recent adjournment, the Government deem it imperative, as I think the Senate will, to deal with the Electoral Bill during this session. We ought to complete that Bill in good time before the Tariff comes up. It is impossible’ to say with any certainty, at all events within a. couple of weeks, when we shall get the Tariff, but it may be that it will be sent up considerably before the end of next month. If so we shall want all the time at our disposal in order to get through with the Electoral Bill. If it is not necessary to use the extra Bitting day it will not be used, but if it is necessary to sit on Tuesday in order to insure the passing of that Bill, I shall ask honorable senators to do so.
– I should like Senator O’Connor to state whether he intends to ask the Senate to sit next Tuesday. A great many honorable senators may have engagements that will detain them next Tuesday, and, probably, it would clear the way for future arrangements if it were stated whether the Senate is to sit on that day. As for my self, and I believe a majority of those who are associated with me, we are quite prepared to sit on Tuesday, and, if necessary, on Monday, to carry out the work before the Senate. I hope that Senator O’Connor will be supported by a majority, as we do not wish to prolong the session over the twelve months if it can be helped.
– Of course I do not wish to inconvenience honorable senators, more than is necessary. It may be that a sitting on Tuesday next would be an inconvenience as honorable senators may not have had time to make their arrangements, I shall not ask the House to sit on Tuesday next, but after that day I hope that the sessional order, if it is passed, will be given effect to.
– We are all extremely desirous that whatever important and pressing business we have in hand shall be proceeded with, but this motion is from any aspect certainly premature, and from some aspects altogether unnecessary. Senator O’Connor has just said, in response to an appeal made by Senator McGregor, thathe proposes to exempt next Tuesday, which isthe first
Tuesday in March. He also says that he expects the Tariff to reach the Senate considerably before the end of next month.
– I did not say that. I said it was impossible to say when it will be received, but that it may be received before the end of next month.
– My honorable friend used the expression - of course it was a mere speculation-“ considerably before the end of next month.” If that is the case, what is the use of passing a motion with a view to give us two Tuesday sittings? The extra day is not asked for in view of the advent of the Tariff, but in view of the position of the Electoral Bill. We can deal with the Tariff when it comes up, and it may be advisable not only to Bit on Tuesdays for that purpose, but to extend our sittings. It is exceedingly inconvenient to have a proposal of this kind brought up now, and, as Senator McGregor has put it, with regard to next Tuesday, some of us are under the necessity of making arrangements as to every Tuesday. We sympathise with those who come from States to which they cannot return at the week-end, but those of us who arein a position to return to our other duties at the end of the week ought also to be somewhat considered. It is really a satire on the proceedings of the Senate that we should be asked to give Tuesday, when the only business before us is the Electoral Bill, which cannot possibly be passed by the other House this session.
– The honorable and learned senator will see before the session is over.
– I think my honorable friend will find that there is not the slightest probability of the Electoral Bill being placed on the statute-book this session.
– There will be no Tariff, then.
– I shall have something to say about theTariff later on.We have sat for about ten months, and the only subject holding us together for a prolongation of the session is the Tariff. Does any one suggest that if it were not for the Tariff, which we must deal with, we should be Bitting now? Of course we should not. None of us, however, devoted he may be to public affairs, would entertain fora moment the view that we should be sittinghere if it were not for the Tariff.
We are simply marking time. Is there any occasion to extend our sittings by one more day in the week until it is found to be an absolute necessity?
– It will not be necessary to sit if the honorable and learned senator does not stonewall.
– It is better not to take notice of that, I shall not say irrelevant, but somewhat offensive interjection. It really has no bearing on the question, and it is offensive because the imputation of stonewalling is one which ought not to be made, and certainly ought not to be made, even by implication, against myself. There is really no justification for this motion at the present moment, and I shall oppose it.
– I support the motion, and I regret that Senator O’Connor, has I think -very unwisely, at the instance of Senator McGregor, agreed to abandon a sitting on Tuesday next. The leader of the Opposition has said that the motion is premature, but in my opinion it ought to have been made months ago. The honorable and learned senator who can go to his residence and his office every week end wants the business so arranged as to accommodate him. He professes to sympathize very deeply with those of us who come from distant States, and who have been in exile for months, but what is his sympathy worth ? He will not sympathize to the extent of a single sitting. He opposes the. motion while expressing sympathy with honorable senators. One other regret I have is that the capital is not somewhere in the back blocks of Australia. So long as it is on the highway between Sydney and Adelaide, we shall never have the business of this Parliament conducted as it ought to be. Honorable members will be continually on the go to their homes and their businesses, and they will give only an occasional look in at Parliament House.
– They will be on the go from the back blocks far more.
– They will stick to their work and get it done, and then they will have an opportunity to go to their homes and their businesses. I was also surprised to hear Senator Symon come forward with the information that we had only one important item of business before us, namely, . the Tariff, and that we were merely marking time in waiting for it. I believe that I have as high an appreciation of the importance of the Tariff as Senator Symon has, but I recognise that there is another measure of equal importance - I will say of much greater importance - beforeus than even the Tariff. Surely the honorable and learned senator does not place the political rights and privileges of the people before the mere question of taxation - and that is all the Tariff is? I can see plainly that there is a conspiracy in this Chamber - and probably somewhere else - to defeat the Electoral Bill. I am going to make no empty threat, but I will say this : that if we do not get the Electoral Bill this session it is very probable that we shall not get a Tariff. Some of us here are old hands at the game of stonewalling. I ask honorable senators to take notice of that. We are determined and pledged - some of us at any rate - to get an Electoral Bill, and we are going to use all the means in our power, and to avail ourselves of all the forms of Parliament to get such a measure passed. If honorable senators who think that the Tariff is the only question of importance before the Parliament are desirous of getting that Tariff passed speedily, they will have to come down from their high horse and compromise. It is desirable that we should all recognise the stateof affairs now. It will probably save much trouble in the future if that is done, and we shall be able to get both the Tariff and the Electoral Bill passed this session. Then both sides in the Senate will be satisfied.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).When Senator Stewart was making references to the existence of a conspiracy, I did not anticipate that he would be as candid with the Senate as he has been. In view of his affirmation that his threat was no empty one, I can only assume that this motion is part of the conspiracy to which he alludes.
– Is the honorable senator in order, sir, in making a charge of that kind ? He has said that this motion has been moved as part of someconspiracy.
– I understood Senator Stewart to say that there was a conspiracy, and Senator Millen was speculating on what the nature of the conspiracy was. I did not understand him to make any charge whatever.
– He was expressing hiswonder as to whether this motion was part of the conspiracy.
– The wonder he expressed was whether the threat of Senator Stewart was part of the conspiracy to which that honorable senator alluded.
– As the allusion to a conspiracy seems to irritate Senator O’Connor I will say no more about it.
– We are accustomed not to make accusations against each other in this Chamber, and I hope that we shall not do so.
– The honorable and learned senator did not raise a murmur of disapprobation when Senator Stewart made his allusion to a conspiracy. It was only when I asked whether that conspiracy had any relation to this motion that he became so sensitive. I merely wish to direct attention to this position - that we have heard from an honorable senator an expression of a threat which he says was not an empty one. A threat of that kind must have some force behind it. He threatened that unless the Electoral Bill is passed this session, there will be no Tariff. I believe that all honorable senators desire to suit each other’s convenience as far as possible. That being so, we can quite understand that honorable senators from distant States may not desire to remain in Melbourne longer than is necessary. But on the other hand I trust that they will give some little consideration to the position of those honorable senators who’ are living in the nearer States. The alternative suggestion which I would make to the Vice-President of the Executive Council and to honorable senators generally is this: I am perfectly prepared to give all the time that is necessary to the transaction of the business of the Senate when the urgency is recognised.
– Who is to recognise it ? Probably the honorable senator himself !
– And probably my judgment would be as sound upon the point as that of the honorable senator. At the present time, if Tuesdays are taken up as sitting days, it is quite evident that those honorable senators who live in South Australia and New South Wales will not be able to return to their respective homes between Friday and Monday. That would mean that we should remain here doing nothing every week-end. I would suggest to Senator O’Connor that he should forego his motion on the present occasion, and that a little later on in the month perhaps, he should ask the Senate to sit on Mondays, Tuesdays,Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. In that case those honorable senators who come from South Australia and New South “Wales would not attempt to go back to their States. On the other hand, we should not be idling in Melbourne. That arrangement would give the Government all the additional time they want.
– They may want that too, later on in the month.
– I am quite prepared to give the Government all the time that is necessary, but I do not want to stay in Melbourne doing nothing from Friday to Tuesday. The Government can get all the time they want by adopting the plan I suggest, which will not inconvenience honorable senators who, like myself, can under the present arrangement visit their homes at the end of the week and attend to their own business.
– I felt greatly surprised when I heard the Vice-President of the Executive Council yesterday afternoon give notice of this motion. I could see no reason for it. I looked at the notice-paper, and found that there was nothing there to justify such a motion. We have simply the Electoral Bill and the proposition for the adoption of the standing orders which have been prepared by the committee, and which can be discussed at some other time. So that there is really only the Electoral Bill before us, and so far as I can see there is no prospect of that measure being passed by the House of Representatives this session. I have made inquiries amongst members of that House, and not one man whom I have seen on the subject recognised that there was any possibility of the Electoral Bill being made law this session.
– There is not the shadow of a chance.
– Instead of asking us to sit four days a week, it would be more consistent with the condition of the notice-paper to ask us to adjourn for a fortnight or three weeks until we get the Tariff. After all, it is quite true, as Senator Symon has stated, that we are only marking time until we get the Tariff. That, as we all know, is of very great importance.
– Is the honorable senator going to block the Electoral Bill?
– Yes. I shall do so, because I see no reason for continuing thesittings in order merely to mark time with a measure that cannot, in my opinion, become law this session. Senator Stewart’s threat will not, so far as I am concerned, have any effect. When the Tariff is brought before us, there will be sufficient honorable senators to deal with it, and dispose of it as quickly as possible. But such a threat, coming, as it seemed to me to do, from the labourcorner, is really answerable for this motion. It seems that the Government are anxious to obtain the extra sitting day in order to push through the Electoral Bill. What they expect to gain I cannot see. I certainly rather favour an adjournment than a continuation of the sittings at the present time. It is quite true that the senators from Western Australia and Queensland cannot return to their homes during a week end. But surely they cannot be desirous of keeping those of us who can return home, when there is really no work for us to do. In fact, if we had sat less than we have done, I believe more work would have been done. It is because we really had so little to do that there has been so much talk, in order that time might be killed. I shall strongly oppose the motion.
– If there were any reason for sitting another day in the week, I should be one of the first to help the Government. I shall be prepared to help them to sit every day in the week when the occasion arises. But I cannot see that it is necessary at the present time. Certainly the notice-paper does not disclose any arrears in. work. The Senate has expeditiously got through the work which has been put before it, and we are only waiting, as is well recognised, for the Tariff to come up from another place. If the Tariff had been passed the Electoral Bill would not have been brought before us. The next session will commence in September or October, and we shall then have plenty of time to pass the Electoral Bill. A threat has been made by Senator Stewart. It has been made in the most deliberate manner. He says that he and his party are adepts at stonewalling. Senator
Stewart. - I did not speak for any one but myself.
– Even if the honorable senator were an adept at stonewalling, he appears to have forgotten that we have standing orders, and that they come from the “ model State.” Under those standing orders we could soon put a stop to stone-walling if he tried it on.
– How would the Senate know that there was stone-walling ?
– I am sure it would be stopped if the Senate desired to stop it. The threat that the honorable senator has made carries great consequences with it. He says that if the Electoral Bill is not to pass this session, there is to be no Tariff. That statement is perfectly monstrous and absurd. The Tariff is of the utmost importance to the community throughout the whole length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Tilings in the commercial world are in such a state that business men do not know what they are doing. To put the Electoral Bill - which will be in time for the next election if it is passed next session - in the same category as the Tariff, and to say that it is of more importance than the Tariff, is simply absurd. I therefore trust that the Senate will not agree to the motion ; but if, later on, it can be shown that our business is getting into arrears, I shall be only too willing to vote for a motion to the same effect.
– I think that too much importance has been attached to the remark of Senator Stewart. He, of course, is strongly in favour of the Electoral Bill, as also are other honorable senators. They are anxious to see it passed. Personally, I .am very anxious to see it passed. When I saw Senator O’Connor’s notice of this motion on tlie business paper it struck me that it was rather premature, but after consideration I feel that the Government ought to be the best judges as to the necessity for an additional sitting day. I agree that the Government have acted wisely in consenting to exempt Tuesday next from this proposal. There should be no feeling or heat in regard to the motion. The matter is entirely in our own hands. If the motion is passed, and we find when next Tuesday week arrives that there is no business requiring that we should meet on that day, we need not do so. We pass this motion as a matter of form. I shall support it. In the Queensland
Parliament I always opposed unnecessary and late sittings. We should not sit late or meet on extra days if the time is only frittered away by useless talk. The Government are the best judges of the time required to carry out the Nation’s work, and we ought to assist them in their efforts. Although I consider the Electoral Bill of great importance, I do not agree with Senator Stewart that if w.e do not pass the Electoral Bill we can have no Tariff this session. The country is languishing for the settlement of the Tariff, and it should be our primary duty to pass it with all possible expedition.
– I have no objection to that.
– Quite so. I hope that honorable senators will not oppose this motion. There is no doubt that the Electoral Bill is important, and I trust it will be passed with certain modifications as to the principle of proportional representation, but in such a way that it will be beneficial to the country. I do not wish it to be understood that I will oppose proportional, representation, because I shall not do so. I trust that the motion will bts carried.
– As a member of the Senate for Victoria, I feel that I am placed in rather an awkward position in deciding whether or not I should vote for the motion. Honorable senators from three States find it impossible to return to their homes at the end of each week, but honor able senator’s representing two other States are able to do so. The Victorian representatives of course are at home. Honorable senators from three States will be benefited by the passing of this motion, while it will be to the disadvantage of two. As the majority must rule it would seem, if that were the only consideration, that the motion should be carried. I am prepared to sit at all times ; I have the advantage of being at home, and I wish we were all in the same position.’ Might I suggest that instead of meeting on Tuesdays, the Senate should meet on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. That would give the Government an additional two hours a day.
– It would be impossible to carry on administrative work if that were done.
– I have not had any experience as a Minister, and therefore cannot speak as to the time required for administrative work. As it is, Ministers propose to be here on Tuesdays, as well as on Thursdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. My suggestion is that they should have Tuesdays to themselves. If we were to give my proposal a trial, I think it probable that it would meet with the views of all.
– As one of the party to which Senator Stewart belongs, I must disclaim any knowledge of a conspiracy or understanding between that party and other honorable senators relative to the question of whether we should support this motion. I hope the motion will be carried. I sympathize with honorable senators from the States indicated by Senator Millen, who naturally like to return to their homes at ‘the end of the week, and who would not be able to do so if we met on Tuesdays. But if as the result of the additional sitting day, we are able to pass the Electoral Bill two or three weeks before the date upon which the Tariff is expected to reach the Senate, would it not be better to have the additional sitting day and adjourn, on passing the Bill, until the Tariff is ready t Surely that would suit honorable senators from New South Wales and South Aus-‘ tralia quite as well as the present arrangement 1 If they leave here on Fridays and return on Tuesdays, they cannot have much time to attend to their business or spend in their homes.
– They can- only have Sundays.
– If we meet on Tuesdays and pass the Electoral Bill, no. doubt the Government will agree to adjourn until the Tariff reaches the Senate, provided that there is no ‘ other business of importance to be dealt with. While I sympathize with honorable senators from New South Wales and South Australia I feel that they will sympathize with honorable senators from other States who have been here for nearly twelve months, and with few exceptions have not been able to return to their homes. The adjournment which I suggest . would enable some of them to spend a few days in their homes. Like Senator Glassey I am very much impressed with the importance of the Electoral Bill. ‘ There may be some who agree with Senator Pulsford, who interjected just now that the Bill, even if it is passed by us, has not the shadow of a chance of being passed by another place this session. It must not be forgotton, however, that early in the session, the Senate, on the motion of Senator Barrett, passed a resolution providing that any measure not completed this session may be taken up, when we meet again, at the stage which it had reached when Parliament was prorogued. Therefore if we pass the Electoral Bill this session no time will be wasted, and upon the other House will rest the responsibility of leaving it until next session.
– The wish is father to the thought, I suppose.
– I do not say that it is. I do not agree with Senator Stewart that the Electoral Bill is of far more importance than the Tariff. It is undoubtedly important, but the state of public business demands that the Tariff shall be passed at the earliest opportunity. I hope that there will not be any “stone- walling” of the Tariff, and as one of the party to which Senator Stewart belongs, I must say that I have no knowledge of any understanding in regard to the Tariff being treated in that way if the Electoral Bill is not passed. I support the motion, hoping that, if we pass the Electoral Bill before the Tariff is ready for us, the Government will consent to adjourn until it has been dealt with by another place.
– I would point out to Senator. Styles that his proposal that we should meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to the Friday morning sittings, would result in very great inconvenience from an administrative point of view. At the present time, the Friday morning sittings are extremely inconvenient from that stand-point, notwithstanding that we do not sit late in the day. If on two other days we were to meet at 11 a.m., and sit continuously, it would be almost impossible to transact any administrative work.
– It was merely a suggestion.
– AVith regard to the proposal made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, it seems to me that there is now a clear-cut issue as to whether or not we are going to push on with the Electoral Bill. The opposition to this proposal comes from those who are either opposed to the Bill or think that it is unimportant, and should not be taken this session. If the latter view were correct, seeing that with the exception of the standing orders there is no other business for us to deal with, it would be more reasonable for us to say that we should adjourn until the Tariff is ready for us. If we are going to meet until the Tariff is ready for us, let us so arrange our sittings that our work will be effectual. Senator O’Connor’s proposal is a business-like one. It is that we shall use the time at our disposal before the Tariff reaches us in passing what we consider to be a very important measure. Holding the viewthat the Government do, that the Electoral Bill is a very important measure, and one that should be pressed forward, I fail to see how we could use our time better- than by going on with it.
– If the Electoral Bill is of such vital importance in the view of the Government, it is a little to be regretted that the Government did not introduce it earlier. We have at times been almost starved for work.
– Could we have done any more than we have done ?
– We might have done what we have done very much more rapidly if we had known that there was other work before us to do. There is no doubt that we proceeded very slowly with some of our work. This is really what the proposal comes to - that the convenience of honorable senators is to be decided by the question of whether they are for or against the Electoral Bill. I protest against that entirely. We should discuss the convenience of each other, quite apart from any such consideration. This is not a party question. It is a question of our own convenience, and we should take care that no more inconvenience is inflicted upon us than can possibly be helped’.
– The longer we are kept here the longer we shall be away from our homes. The honorable and learned senator can get to his home every week.
– I sympathize very much with’ honorable senators who cannot get to their homes every week, but, after all, we must consider the balance of convenience, and we have to deal with everything connected with- Parliament iis a working concern in such a. way as to make it work permanently and well. We are shortly to have the great Tariff question before us, and if in the consideration of that business we are asked to sit every day in the week, I shall be one to say “ yes.” Because I look upon the condition of things as so serious that I think we should reserve our’ powers so as to be able to endure anything rather than delay the passing of that business, which is of such vital interest to the Commonwealth. We have not that business before us yet, and I do not see why we should enter upon unusual sittings to deal with fi measure that might have been introduced months ago, and which is rushed upon us now. I will never allow the- fact that I am for or against a BUI to interfere with my consideration for the convenience of honorable senators in conducting the ordinary business of Parliament. We 1]ave agreed to certain days of sitting, and let us adhere to them, unless there is some strong reason against it. In view of the important business which is to come before us, we need to take a breathing space, rather than to exhaust ourselves before the great labour of the session is undertaken. It is not right that, because the Government at a comparatively late stage of the .session chooses to introduce this Bill as a stop-gap, we should be asked to alter an arrangement which concerns the convenience of’ the majority of honorable senators very much. There is no necessity to deal with this.motion at ‘the present time. If next week it is found to be necessary, let us have it brought on, but, in the meantime, I am opposed to it.
– I believe that the Vice-president of the Executive Council has removed all objection to the motion by promising that we shall not meet next Tuesday, and shall only meet on Tuesday subsequently if that- is shown to be necessary. I desire to inform Senator Stewart that there is no possible chance of the Electoral Bill becoming law this session. The honorable senator appears to have forgotten- that the moment the House of Representatives has finished the consideration of the Tariff it must tackle the Estimates ; and, as soon as it has dealt with the Estimates, it must tackle a number of most important amendments in the Public Service Bill, -which will require most serious consideration. After that, it must consider the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill.
– And then it has to visit the federal sites.
– Then it has to visit the federal sites, which will ‘ occupy two weeks and four days. It is, therefore, perfectly hopeless to think of the Electoral Bill becoming law this session. While I admit that it is an important measure, there cannot be the slightest urgency about it, because we all have our State electoral laws to work under ; and if this Bill should be passed this time next year that will be early enough. “What is troubling me is that the Senate is going to be placed in a most embarrassing position in connexion with the consideration ‘of the Tariff! which is the most important measure this Parliament will have to consider. Two Ministers; several members of the Senate, and members of the House of Representatives are going home to the old country, and they must leave not later than the 12th of May next. If the Tariff does not come up to us almost immediately, and certainly within the next three weeks, we shall have to do in less than as many weeks what the House of Representatives has taken months to do. While I admit that that House is doing very good work in putting the Tariff into a workable shape in many ways, and so lessening the work which appeared before us in the first instance, I still think that too little time will be left to the Senate to properly consider it.
– We can take as much time as we like over it.
– That is so, but when we come to the month of May next I have no doubt that it will strike those of us who have homes and’ businesses to attend to that we have been in session for twelve months, and that we shall begrudge every additional hour that we are away from our homes and businesses. When a number of Members of Parliament are going away to the other, end of the world, will if not represent itself to each of us that in the middle of May we ought to close the session, and will we not be absolutely forced into hurrying the consideration of the Tariff? I say we shall be compelled by our anxiety to put an end to the longest session on record, and to get away to attend to our own businesses in order to keep the pot boiling, to hurry through with the Tariff. I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council might ask the Prime Minister to represent to another place - in the most respectful manner, of course - that we do hope to see the Tariff’ within the next three weeks. If we do not receive it within th’at time we shall not be able to consider it properly. I shall vote for the motion. I have been in attendance in the Senate every hour since the session opened, but I may not be able to continue my attendance if we are asked to sit in June and July.
– I think the suggestion made by Senator Downer that the motion should be deferred until next week is a very reasonable one. This is another of the surprise motions th’at have been sprung ipon us, and about which many honorable senators “have known nothing. Senator O’Connor has agreed to except Tuesday in next week from the operation of the motion, if carried, and consequently it has . lost all its urgency. I do not think there is any member of the Senate, or any opponent of mine in New South Wales or elsewhere, who would ever think of charging me with a desire to shirk work. While the session has lasted I have done my best to take my full share of the work, but I feel that I am now quite justified in asking for some consideration. I have’ no hesitation in saying that the Electoral Bill is one of the most portentious and complex pieces of legislation ever put before any Parliament in the world. The work its consideration will entail will be very severe, and the debates upon it must necessarily be very prolonged. It is as absolutely impossible for that Bill to be passed this session as it is for any of us to learn to fly. I hope Senator O’Connor will consider the desirability of deferring this motion ‘fdr a week, when we may be able to see more clearly the advisability of it.
– In reply.-Oi all the extraordinary arguments used against this motion, I think the most extraordinary is that it comes as a surprise. During the discussion preceding the adjournment for the inspection of the federal capita] sites, I stated that it was the intention of the Government to ask for an extra sitting day in order to make sure of carrying the Electoral Bill before the close of the session.
– The honorable and learned senator did not give notice, and many honorable senators knew nothing about it.
– How much notice does the honorable senator require? It was really to suit the convenience of honorable senators that, when the suggestion was made to me, I decided, if this motion were carried, as I hope it will be, not to ask the House to sit on Tuesday next. I take it that will be sufficient notice ‘to enable any honorable senator to make the necessary arrangements* I could not help being struck bv hearing so much” about the convenience of honorable senators, and nothing about the conduct of public business. I am as willing as any man, and always have been, to consult the convenience of honorable senators as much as possible in the conduct of. Government business; but that ought to be subordinate always to the one important consideration that we are here to do the public business. It is because I see no hope of effectually carrying on the public business in regard to this Electoral Bill unless we meet on extra sitting days, that I am asking the Senate to agree to this motion. The PostmasterGeneral has properly said that this is really a question between those who are in favour of the Electoral Bill and desire to carry it, and those who are not. Although my honorable and learned friend Senator Downer deprecated any such issue being placed before the Senate, he immediately afterwards in the course of his speech showed that his principal reason for objecting to the motion is that he believes there is no necessity to pass this measure, and that. there is nothing for us to do. I protest altogether against the assumption that the business of the Electoral Bill is not of importance, and I also protest against the view that it is not urgent. During next year the senatorial elections must take place, and, it may be, other elections as well, because we never know what may happen. Before the end of the year the senatorial elections must take place, and when it is remembered that the necessary machinery must be put in motion if the Electoral Bill ist passed, it will be seen that it will be none too soon if it is carried during the present session. I regret very much that Senator Stewart thought it necessary .to make a threat about the business of the House. I do not think the honorable senator seriously meant what he said, because I am quite certain he knows enough of political life to be- aware that if a person desires to obtain his object the very worst course to pursue is to threaten men who ‘have any self respect. I do- not’ care from what side it comes, if there is any attempt to “stone-wall”
Or to obstruct the business of the House for any purpose, the forms of the. House fortunately will prevent that being done.
I do not desire to enter upon that question now. It will be time enough to do so when the necessity arises. I hope the motion will be carried. Honorable senators must realize that while we are all quite willing to consult the convenience of those who can get away to their homes at the end of the week, there are a number of honorable senators from other States who cannot get away at all, and it is only by doing some completed work, such as we have before us, that their time can be profitably occupied. I undertake, if the motion is carried, that the Government will not make use of it unless it is necessary. I hope that such progress will be made with the Electoral Bill that we shall get through it before the Tariff comes up to the Senate. If we do there is no reason why the convenience of honorable senators, subject always to the consideration of private business on the paper, may not be fully considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 26th February (vide page 10352), on motion b)r Senator O’Connor -
That this Bill be now re;icl a second time.
– I think that the Senate may fairly congratulate itself upon the debate on this measure. I hope we shall all help: - I shall try to do what I can - to maintain the level which has been reached. We have had speeches, earnest and direct, and I think I may say informing, from various honorable senators. I am indebted to those speeches for great assistance in dealing with these mathematical mystications, which are calculated to defy the wit of man, certainly the wit of the man in the street. Certain aspects of the question have been put before us by Senator Clemons, who comes here, as other senators from Tasmania do, with experience of an election conducted under a system not exactly the same but corresponding with some modifications, to that proposed for our acceptance. We had a speech last evening from Senator Best, from the point cf view of one who takes, a parental interest in the question, because he, with the enthusiasm of a father, and with a natural pride, told us that he had introduced a similar measure into the Parliament of “Victoria. If I may say so, the weightiest portion of his earnest address was at the close, where he impressed on all of us the great importance of the new departures contained in the Bill, and also the fact that those new departures demanded the most careful and prolonged consideration on the part of the Senate. From that I think none of us can possibly dissent, and it is because I view the Bill from exactly the same stand-point, because I do not undervalue its importance in the slightest degree, because I consider it of the highest consequence, that I protest against its being brought before the Senate at the fag-end of a very long session. Senator Downer in a vigorous speech smote the Bill hip and thigh. My view of the Bill is certainly not a favorable one ; but if it were more favorable than it is I should still protest against a measure of this character being launched, not only at the fag-end of a session, but at a time when we are simply waiting from day to day for the really important and serious business we have to undertake. The importance of the Bill is manifest from various statements made by honorable senators on other occasions. Nothing can more intimately concern any self-governing community than the basis of its representation, and next, if not equal, in point of importance to the basis of its representation is the method by which that system of representation is to be carried into effect, and by which the control of the people over their own self-government is to be assured. Under these circumstances, and having regard to its importance, the question is, What are we to do with the BDI? Expressions have been used - I shall not say when and where, because it would be improper to allude to earlier proceedings in the Chamber - suggesting some conspiracy to put an end to this Bill or to stop its progress. I emphatically repudiate anything of that kind, but I am utterly and irrevocably opposed to’ the Bill. I am utterly and irrevocably opposed to its being proceeded with this session, for reasons which I shall briefly enumerate in a moment, and I intend to take every means in my power to prevent its being passed into law, certainly with, the new-fangled proposals in relation to the system of voting which are for the first time sprung, not only upon us, but upon the Commonwealth. But the question is what course we should adopt. I do not think we should be called upon to, affirm or to disaffirm, in fairness to the measure or to those who believe in it, these numerous debatable principles which it contains. It seems to me that it ought to receive much more prolonged consideration than is possible now, and that in view’ of the position of the session and of other circumstances which I shall mention, we should decline to proceed further with its consideration now. .In order to raise a distinct issue on which honorable senators who take a different view may have an opportunity of expressing their opinions and voting, I move -
That after the word “That,” the followingwords be inserted : - “ having regard to the advanced period of the session, and to the fact that Parliament has not yet dealt with the question of an uniform franchise in all the States, it is not expedient to proceed further with the consideration of this Bill.”
– Practically a vote of censure.
– A vote o£ censure !
– My honorable and learned friend must forgive the honorable senator, because he really does not understand what he is talking about. It is undesirable that we should, vote on these principles. We should stay our hand. We should give ample time to ourselves, and to the constituencies we represent, to consider the important departures contained in the measure, and my amendment is moved in this form so that it may not interfere with any honorable senator who may desire to move an amendment on the subsequent words before they are struck out, as they would necessarily be if my amendment were carried. Let us consider for one moment, apart from the contents of the Bill, what .it is we are asked to do at this period of the session. It is admitted that we are waiting for the arrival of the Tariff. It is admitted, as has been pointed out this very afternoon, that if it were not that the Tariff has been so greatly delayed, we should never have heard a word about this Bill.
– Who said that ?
– Senator Playford said that.
– It is true.
– It is asserted and generally denied.
– My honorable and learned friend cannot seriously deny it ; he may generally deny it.
If we had received the Tariff a month ago we should not have seen or heard of the Electoral Bill this session. What is this Bill in respect of which it is demanded that there shall he all this urgency ; that it shall be driven on from day to-day ? It is a Bill of 206 clauses and schedules which I defy any one, unless he possesses a trained mathematical intellect, to understand schedules so ambiguous that they have to be accompanied by eight sheets of abstruse explanation.
– Which the honorable and learned senator cannot understand.
– My honorable friend diagnoses the situation exceedingly well. I have pored over the mathematical problems in these schedules. They are perfectly bewildering, and there is not a man, not even a man of the transcendent capacity of Senator O’Connor, who would undertake to get upon a platform and explain the schedules especially surrounded with .all the additional mystery and complication of the eight pages of explanation. My honorable and learned friend has admitted it. In that interesting speech which at the moment carried some of us away, he appealed to us to remember that -
In very many cases those regulations, have to state what is the most difficult thing in the world to state, a mathematical fact or process in ordinary language.
My honorable and learned friend appealed to us to deal kindly with these explanations, and if we were bamboozled by them, to remember the difficulty that the gentlemen stating these propositions have to face in order to put mathematical facts and processes into ordinary language. How very difficult must it be for the man in the street to understand them when the person who has to write them down, although he possesses a mathematical intellect of superlative power, finds a difficulty in expressing them in ordinary language ? A measure of 206 clauses proposing a fundamental change in the constitutional principles which have formed the electoral basis of the British system of self-government for centuries is what we are asked to deal with during the next two or three weeks. Why, sir, I say it is impossible. I have just as much capacity for work as most men, and with the feeble understanding which I possess, I should be glad to apply it every day and every night to this question ; but I say that it is impossible for us to deal fairly with the electoral rights of the people as established by the Constitution, so forcibly dealt with yesterday by Senator Downer, in the time at our disposal in connexion with this Bill. It is a Bill which ought to be introduced, not at the extreme end of a twelve months’ session, but at the beginning of a new session. It is, moreover, a Bill consisting partly of machinery, but more largely of new departures and so-called principles. If this were purely a machinery . Bill, applicable simply to regulating the polling booths, the districts, and all that sort of thing, I should be the first to say - “ Let us try to do what we can with it.” If the Government had been in earnest - I do not say for a moment that they are deliberately, wanting in earnestness about it, or are introducing it merely as a stop gap, which I think it is - if they had wanted merely machinery, they could have brought in a Machinery Bill, with which we could have dealt, applicable to the existing ‘system of voting which has prevailed ever since Aus. tralia, has had representative Government. During that time we have had very good Houses of Parliament elected under the old system, and it would not have hurt us a bit to have had another election for the House of Representatives under that system. Certainly it would not have hurt us to have had three senators from each State elected under the existing and well tried - system. At any rate, Mr. President, this is not merely a machinery Bill. But, so far as it is machinery, let me. point out to honorable senators that it is machinery on the assumption that what is called the Franchise Bill is also to become law.
– That will not give much trouble.
– My honorable friend says it will not give much trouble. Whenever these gentlemen take anything into their heads, they want to ride rough-shod over everybody. Their belief is that their measures ought to be forced down our throats by a system of coercion. I protest against that idea. If this machinery is merely to be applied to, and is only necessary on the assumption that it is to carry into effect, a new franchise which we have not before us, then such a parliamentary procedure is altogether without precedent. My honorable and learned friend, the “Vice-President of the Executive
Council, made no disguise - he is not in the habit of doing so - of the fact that the essential and important question in all this electoral re-adjustment is the Franchise Bill. He said in his speech on the second reading of the Electoral Bill -
The most important matter, therefore, not this Bill, mark you, to consider will be the basis of representation. The provisions in regard to that matter are contained in another measure which is before the House of Representatives, and which was read a first time there in June last.
Look at the haste there is in the House of Representatives ! In June last, Mr. President ! This measure for the establishment I presume - because, of course, we have not the Bill before us, and can only speak from surmise - of a uniform franchise throughout the Commonwealth, which is the most important matter in the whole of this electoral re-adjustment, has been before the House of Representatives since June last, and has moved not one peg ! Are we to be simply a debating society to deal with this machinery which is to be used for carrying that measure into effect when it is passed ? It is simply beating the air ! Whoever heard of legislative machinery being adopted before the measure which that machinery was to bring into effect was passed into law?
– We did it before. We passed the Customs Bill before the Tariff.
– We did nothing of the kind. My honorable friend, if he will pardon me for saying so, is mistaken. The Customs Bill was also applicable to the different Tariffs of all the States. The Customs laws of all the States had to be carried out under the Customs Bill. If this Bill had been introduced for purely machinery purposes, applicable to the existing electoral laws of the States, the position would have been parallel. But it is not parallel now.
– This Bill is applicable to the existing franchise.
– My honorable friend will pardon me - it is not applicable to the existing franchise, and it is not intended to be applicable to it.
-i beg pardon - it is intended to be and is applicable.
– My honorable and learned friend begs my pardon, and I grant it with pleasure. It is necessary that he should beg my pardon, because I will read what he himself said -
The electoral machinery for carrying that representation into effect - that is the new representation under the new Bill - is contained in the measure now before the Senate.
– I was treating the electoral system as a whole ; that is quite obvious.
– I take what my honorable and learned friend has said, andI urge that themachinery in this Bill is not applicable to the existing systems ; and if it is, as I shall show in a moment, it is one of the most costly bits of machinery, so far as regards the State of South Australia, that was ever invented. We ought not to be called upon to deal with this Bill, so far even as it is a machinery Bill, until we have the Franchise Bill either concurrently passing through the Chamber with it, or until we know that it will be passed into law. Then, again, I say that this Bill is not urgent. As has been pointed out this afternoon there will be ample time to introduce this measure during the next session of the present Parliament this year. Let us devote our first fresh energies when we meet again to the Electoral Bill. The Senate elections do not take place until towards the end of 1903; and if we pass the Franchise Bill establishing a uniform adult suffrage for the whole Commonwealth, then, the provisions with regard to getting people on the roll - assuming that they are applicable - can be carried out in a very simple way. Because there is no trouble about the qualifications. Every adult will be capable of being placed on the roll and the only questions that will have to be asked will be - Is the person an alien, and has that person resided within the Commonwealth for the prescribed time? So that if this Bill were passed into law before the end of this year it would be in ample time for the elections, which, as I have said, do not take place until towards the end of 1903, when the Bill would be in force. If so, there is time enough ; but if not, surely there is no great reason, when we have had one election under the existing system with a very fair result, why we should not have another. We may congratulate ourselves, I think, on the result so far.
– We are satisfied !
SenatorSir JOSIAH SYMON. - Exactly, and why should we not have another? What dreadful rushing haste is there for introducing this new-fangled system, when we have secured a very good representation under the system as it exists 1 If there is time, as I submit there is, before the end of 1903, to pass this measure and make it applicable to that election, then let us adopt that course. If, on the other hand, there is not tune, there will be no great harm in having another election as we had the last one, under the old familiar system of voting which we have had for years past. I say, and it has been affirmed again and again by different honorable senators, that even if the Bill gets through this Chamber there is not the last chance of its becoming law. The Bill has not the least chance of passing through the House of Representatives this session, looking at the multiplicity of business we have had enumerated this afternoon which the other Chamber will have to undertake. I have heard no one pledge himself as to the attitude of the other Chamber with regard to this Bill. If there is no chance of passing it this session, and if there is no chance of passing the Franchise Bill this session, is there the slightest reason in the world why we should occupy ourselves in coming, perhaps, to a hasty and immature conclusion upon the many important matters we are asked to legislate upon by this measure’! If the intention merely is to bring into debate, the principle of proportional representation,- why did not the Government do that upon Senator McGregor’s motion, which has been upon the business paper ever since Parliament met? For eight or nine months that motion has been on the paper, and has never been considered.
– There has been no private members’ day for considering it.
– Surely the Government could have given an opportunity for dealing with the question of the Hare-Spence system and of settling the principle of whether or not we were to have proportional representation. But it does seem to me that the Government introduced this Bill because of the action of their master, Senator McGregor. He puts his motion on the paper, and the Government say - “ Don’t shoot, colonel, I’ll come down ! “ They immediately bring in a Bill into which they cram a scheme of proportional voting with machinery provisions, complicating and confusing the issue, simply because Senator
McGregor has got a motion on the paper with regard to that point. Again, is this a. matter that ought to be dealt with before the public of Australia have bad an opportunity of speaking on the subject ? Is it not a matter upon which there is a wide difference of opinion throughout the length and breadth of Australia 1 Is it not a subject of the greatest controversy ? Has this scheme ever been before the people? Has it ever been publicly discussed % Has it ever been asked for % Have we, as a branch of the Commonwealth Parliament, any mandate- from the people of Australia as to this HareClarkDroopGregory -Nanson system of voting ?
– The honorable and learned senator wants to put it oft until after the next general election, then- ?
– I want to put it off until the people have had an opportunity of considering it. Let the Vice-President of the Executive Council, withdraw the Bill till next session. In the meantime it can be discussed in the press and on the platform. Up till now we have had no discussion on the system embodied in the Bill.
– Ninety-nine people out of a hundred do not understand it in the slightest degree !
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON. Exactly, and cannot possibly understand it. Ninety-nine out of every hundred ordinary voters will never understand this system.
– And the hundredth man does not want to !
– As my honorable friend says, the hundredth man does not want to. He wants to have somevisible control over the direction of his own vote. He does not want to have it manipulated, as it will have to be in one instance under this Bill, at the discretion of a returning officer. We cannot read the explanations of this Bill - and there are eight pages of them - without seeing that in certain instances the returning officer is to use his discretion as to the order in which he will deal with certain classes of these votes. Theelectors will not feel enamoured of a system which enables a manipulation of that kind to take place with regard to votes, although it may be a perfectly honest manipulation.
– The chairman has a casting vote under the block system.
– This is not a question of a casting vote. We shall hear what Miss Spence says about it .in a minute. Senator McGregor’s notice of motion, which appeared on the business paper some time ago, was with regard to the Hare-Spence system. Has he abandoned that System ? Has he deserted his friends, the advocates of the Hare - Spence system in South Australia? Is he going to adopt this system ? I am bound to confess that, although the HareSpence system has been under discussion, it has never been put to any electoral issue anywhere. It has had a small and highly esteemed band of very active adherents, but they themselves are still in a minority, and they disapprove of the system embodied in this Bill. I shall read presently Miss Spence’s views upon the subject, and her great and most just complaint, not as to the accidental disfranchisement of electors, not as to the mere throwing away of a vote, as every elector is entitled to do if he chooses ; but as to the deliberate disfranchisement of a large body of electors simply in order that this mathematical toy of Professor Sanson’s, with the Droop quota, Shall be brought into play. I desire - and I think the Senate will join with me in that desire - to be guided to some extent by the opinion of the people. I must say I prefer the collective judgment of the people, who have the right of self-government, to the eccentricities of all the mathematicians in the world. If the people of Australia tell me that they want a system which is admittedly complicated and confusing, a system which even Professor Nanson admits may possibly be misunderstood, except by a highly intelligent and highly educated body of people, then I shall support it ; but not until then. At any rate, I am standing by my amendment. I put it forward individually. The.re is no party question about this matter. Honorable senators on the other side of the House have spoken upon the Bill with great ability, and I am going to state my honest individual views upon it. I shall do so with the utmost friendliness to the Government and every one else, including honorable senators in the labour corner.
– It is not a party question with us.
– I did not say it was.
– The honorable and learned senator insinuated that it was.
– I did not. Do my honorable friends object to me putting them in the category in which I place myself 1 Do they object to my statement that we should exercise our individual judgment?
– The trouble is that the honorable and learned senator puts the whole corner together.
– There is-only one corner of them. Really, we are becoming very hypercritical. I begin to doubt if this is the momentous question that people think it is when we have these captious interjections.
– The honorable senator overlooked this corner. That is the trouble.
– I was coming to it, but I was not allowed to do so. I say, with the utmost fairness, that we should suspend our judgment upon this measure until it has been before the country for a little longer than two or three weeks, and until we have had some opportunity of ascertaining whether the States who are vitally interested, so far as we are concerned, have been able adequately to consider it. In viewing these things we cannot shut our eyes to what I think are growing signs of disappointment with the. early progress of Commonwealth affairs. It is deeply to be regretted that there are these indications of disappointment, in, I will not say all, but certainly in some of the States. It is by rushing legislation of this sort, by attempting to put it through Parliament before the people have had an opportunity of fully considering it, that we intensify that feeling of disappointment and discontent ; and we are very apt, if not careful, to do mischief to the federal sentiment that we are all desirous of encouraging. Let us hast n slowly. Do not let us introduce all kinds of legislation in the first session of this Parliament. Some honorable senators seem to fear that this Parliament is not going to out-last its first session. We are having almost everything of the most vital and debatable kind thrust before us now. Let us exercise a little moderation; and I hope that, with regard to this Bill, that appeal will not be in vain. I have given these reasons in detail, apart from the Bill itself, because I think that without even considering the Bill we ought to pause before wo press it forward now with such haste.
When we come to consider the Bill itself we find that it is one - and I say so with the utmost respect - which I think has been framed without due consideration to any of its provisions. It is exceedingly controversial in its machinery provisions, quite apart from the vital departure contained in the principle to which I have alluded incidentally. I shall enumerate two or three of these points, so that honorable senators may have an opportunity of considering them. Would it not be better to have the Bill reconsidered before the Senate is asked practically to take in hand what will be the re-drafting of it 1 In the first place I join with other honorable senators in expressing astonishment that clauses 23 and 24 should ever have found a place in the Bill. These are the clauses which remit to the House of Representatives the sole final control over the adjustment of the electoral divisions of that House.
– That is a matter of detail.
– It is one blot upon the measure. It is true that it is perfectly competent for the Senate, by legislation, to deprive itself of the high constitutional functions which devolve upon it ; but certainly it is amazing that the Government, by a Bill of this description, should invite the Senate to efface itself, and to delegate to the House of Representatives the final arbitrament of the basis of representation for the House of Representatives in each State, so far as electoral districts go. There is nothing more vital that we could possibly legislate about in respect of the power of the States. I shall not go into the matter in detail, because Senator Downer argued it elaborately yesterday, and pointed out the facilities which this proposal would offer for a system of gerry-mandering to which that which prevailed for so long, and shocked all publicists in America, would be a mere circumstance. The Ministry of the day are to appoint the commissioners ; the commissioners are to plan out these districts, ‘and having done so, their proposals are to go before the House of Representatives. If those proposals are not satisfacfactorv. in the way they desire, the Ministerial majority there may hand them back, not for the good of the whole community, not for the good of the States whose interests we- are supposed specially to protect, but for the benefit of the Government, and. of the majority of the day in the other House, over whom we would have no control. If the Senate consented, by a measure of this kind, to strip itself of this power of control in a vital matter, it would not be worthy of the place it occupies under the Constitution, and very few of us would feel honoured by having a seat in it. There is another matter to which I should like to call the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and so far as I can see no consideration has been given to it. In what way is the representation of the States to be arrived at? I invite consideration of this matter before any further progress is made with the Bill. Under the Constitution the representation of each State depends upon the population, to be determined according to the latest statistics. Provision was also made in the Constitution that the first election should proceed upon a fixed basis, which is setforth. That, of course, was necessary in order to enable the first elections for the Commonwealth Parliament to take place. But we have had a census since the Constitution came into force. There is no provision in this Bill for the revision of that representation, as there must be, and .there can be no .division into districts, honorable senators will find, until we first establish the representation to which each State is entitled. That can be ascertained only upon the basis of the latest statistics, that is the census of the Commonwealth upon which it has to be founded. This is a matter which will involve reconsideration and the introduction of fresh clauses in the Bill., Before dealing, as I intend to do very shortly, with what I call the new-fangled departures in the Bill, I would also point out to Senator O’Connor that Parts III. and V. are an absolute incurable muddle. In the first place, Part III. deals with the electoral divisions. The electoral divisions are to be ascertained under clause 17 by reference to the whole number of the electors in each State. How is the number of electors in each State to be ascertained until Part “V. has been carried out? It cannot be done. “Elector,” according to the Bill, means “ any person whose name appears on a roll as an elector.” I am pointing out these matters in order to show how little consideration has been given to this measure, and with a view of assisting my honorable friends of the Government, if they are able to get their Bill into committee, to put it into some shape in which we shall be able to deal with it. An elector is a person whose name appears on the roll as an elector. Clause 3 provides that the divisions are to be fixed by means of the number of electors. But we cannot ascertain the number of electors until we have got the divisions. The fact of the matter is that the two things are absolutely contradictory. We cannot have the divisions until we have got the number of electors, and we, cannot have the number of electors until we have got the divisions. That is the position under this Bill.
– Can we not take the existing roll?
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for saying that. That just shows, as I have said bebefore, that the provisions of this Bill are applicable, and are intended to be applicable, to the uniform franchise. We can take the existing roll in South Australia, for instance, because there we have adult suffrage ; but do we not want adult suffrage in the other States as well ? The suggestion .that we might take the existing roll is an obvious one, which would occur to anybody ; but we cannot take the existing roll, because the feature of this Bill is that it rests upon the establishment of adult suffrage.
– That is the assumption the honorable and learned senator made in the beginning - that this cannot be applied to the existing system. It can be applied to the existing system, but when the new franchise comes into force there will be a different roll.
– My honorable and learned friend, I am sure, says that without sufficient consideration. If he will only read Parts III. and V. attentively, he will see that it does not matter ‘ two straws which system we take, the thing is absolutely unworkable. We cannot get the divisions until we get the number of electors, and we cannot get the number of electors until we get the divisions. That is the essence of those two parts. Honorable senators will find that that is made perfectly clear by clauses 31 and 32. I also wish to point out that all the provisions about the courts of revision ought to be reconsidered and recast. The courts of revision provided for in this measure will entail a degree of election expense which we little dream of. So far as South Australia is concerned, there is no necessity for them at all. Where we have got adult suffrage all that we need to ask is-“ Is the adult an alien 1” and- “ Has the adult been resident 1 “ We need no elaborate courts of revision with all their attendant expenses, because if we have uniform suffrage, it will extend throughout the Commonwealth, and, as I have said, these courts of revision are unnecessary at the present moment in the case of South Australia. It has always been understood that .the elections for the Senate and House of Representatives should take place at the same time. I desire to know if that is still contemplated ; because, if it is, ‘this Bill contains no provision on the subject. Not only is there no provision, but we ‘ wish to know whether all the papers are to be jumbled into one box, or if there are to be two boxes and two scrutineers,’ which scrutiny is to take precedence - because they must be different - that for the Senate or that for the House of Representatives. Then again, the Bill contains no authority so far as I have been able to discover, for a returning officer to engage assistance. The returning officers will need an army of auditors at their elbows to enable them to carry out this system, and there is no provision in this Bill for them.
– Surely that is an obvious fact 1
– It is an. obvious fact that they will require an army of auditors, but it is not an obvious fact that they have authority to engage assistance, and’ it must be put into the Bill somewhere or other. . , There is another point that has evidently been lost sight of. Clause 41 of the Constitution to which attention was called at some length yesterday afternoon, , deals, I venture to think, with the question oi franchise alone. It provides that no voter for a State shall be deprived of his right of voting. Therefore, the Commonwealth voting must be guided by the laws of; the States, because if we provide by legislation in such a way as to enable the ‘ Commonwealth to deprive any one whose name is on a State roll of the right to vote, we shall be infringing that provision of the Constitution and ‘taking away the right of voting from a voter who is clothed with it by the law of the State to which he belongs. In framing . these provisions it should be provided ‘ that the rolls of the States should be accepted, when we get uniform suffrage, and should be adopted as the Commonwealth rolls, as they have been already in the elections that have taken place, or else we must have some machinery by which any divergence between the two rolls may be investigated and adjusted. Again, there is another mostimportant matter which is a new departure, and that is the voting by post. No one can say that that is not open to serious controversy, not only as to the principle, but also as to the method prescribed in this Bill. I take very grave exception to it. I have enumerated these only as samples of other matters of an exceedingly controversial character which are embodied in this Bill, quite apart from the new departures proposed in regard to the system of voting. These are only samples, but if honorable senators will examine the other provisions for themselves they willfind that there is an endless extent of work before us in committee upon this Bill, and a task which we should not be asked to undertake until the Government have revised it with a view of having it put into some better shape. This is all apart from the main matters of principle. But there is a fatal blot, it seems to me, upon this Bill as a whole in respect to more serious matters. It adopts two different systems for the Senate and the House of Representatives. I say, without any hesitation, that that is a fatal blot upon the whole thing. The two are absolutely contradictory and self -destructive. If we adopt the one for the House of Representatives, it cuts the ground absolutely from under our feet with regard to the Senate. If, on the other hand, we say that the system we propose here for the Senate is the true system of representation, then away goes our single electorates for the House of Representatives, and to be just and true, we must apply the same system to that House. I say that no Bill ought to be entertained for a moment which embodies a contradiction of that kind, and no body of self-respecting legislators ought to be asked to take it into consideration. I am going to read one or two passages from the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, which amazed me very much, though they filled me with admiration of the honorable and learned senator’s skill in skating upon very thin ice. We all know what an accomplished advocate he is, and that he has the skill like other accomplished advocates, to sometimes make the worse appear the better reason. In this instance, he was not called upon to do that, and he did not do it. It was, perhaps, the boldness of it that carried us away, but the honorable and learned senator stated that he advocated this system of single electorates and a majority vote - which means practically the block vote - for the House of Representatives, because that was the fairest system of representation. Then, when he came to deal with the Senate, he said that the true system of representing the people was the proportional system. The only arguments I am going to use on this occasion are those which have been supplied to us by my honorable and learned friend, and which are stated as he always states his arguments, in language of the most lucid character, so that, unlike this system, he who runs may read. At page 9530 of Hansard, I find that he says -
Having regard to the position of the Senate under the Constitution, as being simply representative of the States, the truest representation is to be obtained, not by cutting up the States into different electorates, butby taking each. State as a whole.
– That is right.
– Exactly. I quite agree with every word of it. It is a splendid proposition. At page 9535 he says -
I have only to say that with single electorates, and the method of arriving at the will of the majority provided for in the Bill, we have a system which will give to the people of the Commonwealth representation in the House of Representatives as fair as can well be attained.
– That is right.
– Single electorates ! Is not that the majority vote? Is that the Hare-Nanson system?
– He is postulating the existence of single electorates.
– Surely my honorable and learned friend need not rise up in judgment against us. We are aware that they are single electorates. I have said so all along; but what I am pointing out is that if they are single electorates it is the majority vote.
– We cannot apply proportional representation to single electorates.
– But my honorable and learned friend’s argument last night, and a very excellent one it was from his point of view, was that this system was an adaptation of the single electorate with a quota of 501 out of 1000, and he used the single electorate proposal as though it was modelled upon the Hare-Nanson system.
– Not at all.
– We cannot apply the Hare-NansOn system to the single electorate. It is a different thing altogether.
– Of course it is.
– Then why do we not make larger districts for the House of Representatives, and apply this system which Senator O’Connor claims gives a true representation of the people? Which gives the true representation ? Is it single electorates, or is it ‘ the HareNanson system ?
– As applicable to the Senate, I say proportional representation.
– The point is,- which gives the truest representation to the people of the Commonwealth ?
– A combination.
– Is the House of Representatives to represent the people of the Commonwealth 1 Is it to represent all shades of opinion which can arrive at a quota ? Win’ should’ it not ? Are you to have the dominance of the majority, and a majority of one, as my honorable and learned friend put it yesterday, because he took the. example of 1,000 votes for a single electorate, and said that one vote put the man in ?
– The honorable and learned senator’s argument will lead him to advocate the abolition of the second Chamber.
– I have a long way to travel before I get to that
– Not so very far if it is applied.
– My honorable friend need not be in a hurry. When ‘ we get to it we shall talk it over. What we wish to arrive at now is what is the truest system of representation. If it were not for these two contradictory things we should know something, but as it is, to use the words of the song, “We dunno where we are.” Here is one statement -
With single electorates we have a system which will give to the people of the Common wealth representation in the House of Representatives as fair as can well be obtained.
All right ; that settles the Hare-Nanson system for the House of Representatives.
– Not necessarily.
– Does my honorable and learned friend sit there, and, without a smile on his face, say a thing like that? The House of Representatives is, according to strong democratic advocates, the House “where, of all others, we should have the people represented in the fullest and truest sense ; and we are not going to get such representation under this Bill.
– You get it with the contingent vote.
– In the most perfect form.
– Here is my honorable friend, who is a most esteemed enthusiast on the subject, telling us that we are not to have it ; that the majority vote in single electorates is good enough.
– With the contingent vote.
– What does the contingent vote do t All it does is to enable you to get this sort of figment of an absolute majority.
– You get the absolute, majority by that. It is put there for the purpose
– Of course you do ; but there is a better way to get an absolute majority, if my honorable friend will accept the suggestion, and that is to insert a little clause to the effect that only two candidates shall stand for one seat. Every voter would thoroughly understand that. It is astonishing to me that it should be necessary for all these electoral reformers to indulge in underhand and indirect ways of getting at these majorities. I cannot see why we should have the contingent vote at all, but I have no objection to single electorates ; without the contingent vote I think it is a very excellent thing, except for the Senate. I wish to guard against that, for a reason I shall mention presently. I must cull one or two other passages from this excellent summary of the arguments’ delivered by Senator O’Connor. At page 9537 of Hansard this passage occurs -
I say it is altogether a mistake to suppose that the representation should be the representation of the majority only.
That is a general proposition; it is exactly what you get by single electorates for the House of Representatives.
The only fair way to get a true representation of a community is to have a representation proportionate to the opinion of the community, and then, when the representatives have met together, the majority of those representatives must decide.
– That is sound.
– Hear, hear.
– I dare saymy honorable and learned, friend would have said “ Hear, hear,” to the other passage I read in his absence.
– It is all good.
– It is all splendid. I do not believe there is any man in the country who could have done it so well. Then at page 9538, after dealing very fully and powerfully with this ideal representation, he says -
No vote is thrown away, and you have an ideal representation of the community. That is the principle of proportional representation.
But the Bill does not give this ideal representation to the House of Representatives. That is to be reserved for the superior Chamber, the Senate. The people-the same people, by-the-bye - represented in the House of Representatives, are not to have this ideal system of representation.
That is the principle of proportional representation . That is the principle which we would carry out under the system in this Bill.
But they do not ; they wish to carry it out as to the Senate, but not as to the House of Representatives.
The nearer any system approaches to that, the truer will your representation be.
I am dealing with the House of Representatives now, and I submit that it is utterly destructive of the system of single electorates embodied in the Bill for that House. You cannot have both. Again, at page 9541, my honorable and learned friend says -
It has been my object to show that the true and only principle of real representation is proportional representation .
-Why does he not apply it to the House of Representatives, if it is the only true one ?
– Because the Senate is supposed to speak with one voice.
– To speak with one voice !
– As one electorate.
– My honorable and learned friend say that the Senate is supposed to speak with one voice, and then he wishes every man to speak with only one-sixth of a voice.
– I mean as one electorate.
– The honorable and learned senator also said -
Because surely if the Government or the Legislature of the country are to be under the direction of the people, we must have the people properly represented, and their will accurately expressed in the Legislature.
To which Chamber is the Government directly responsible ? The important constitutional questionis not yet settled as to the degree of control which, under certain circumstances, the Senate may or may not exercise. But undoubtedly, subject to that problem, the Government is directly responsible to the House of Representatives, and that is the House of all others to which this proposal should be applied. Then, continues Senator O’Connor -
If the Government or the Legislature of the country are to be under the direction of the people we must have the people properly represented, and their will accurately expressed in the Legislature.
And the truest way to do that, as pronounced over and over again by my honorable and learned friend, is by means of proportional representation. I ask, which policy do the Government ask us to adopt? Are we to be on both sides of the gutter, so to speak, or are we to devote our attention to one? Is it to be the policy of securing for the people of this country, who are the electors of both Houses, the truest system of representation ? The ideal representation, my honorable and learned friend says, is proportional representation, and the nearer any system approaches to that, the truer will your representation be. Is it to be that, or is it to be the other system, which he says is also the truest representation - single electorates, with what is a majority vote, but, with the device of the contingent vote, which is to secure the theoretical absolute majority ? We do not want the contingent vote, but if we do, and we are to have single electorates, what is good for the House, which of all others is to represent the opinions of the people as we represent, if you like, the solidarity of the States? There is no reason why the Senate should be used like an anatomist’s subject for these electoral experiments ; and why, if these principles, so ably stated by my honorable and learned friend, are true and well founded, they should not be applied to people voting for one House, just as they are to people voting for the other. That of itself is a fatal blot on this measure, and no argument is wanted to explode it and its policy, beyond those which my honorable and learned friend used and which are mutually destructive. I am not indisposed to favour single electorates, but if I did, it should certainly not be with the contingent vote. I shall state in a minute the reason why I take that view. There always will be the same difficulty in regard to the contingent vote as there is in regard to many of these aspects of the system of proportional representation. If you have three men standing for one seat you will always have the element of difficulty on the part of the voter - an element of difficulty recognised by the advocates of proportional representation in stating their preferences. There is no system of bracketing and so on provided, but there will be always that difficulty. For instance, you may have A, a free-trader, B, a protectionist, and C, a representative of labour. You may find A voting for the free-trader, and saying - “ To whom am I to give my second vote ? I do not like the labour candidate. I think his inclinations are towards free-trade, but there are other reasons why I think he may subordinate free-trade to other questions on which I differ with him. What am Ito do? The protectionist is a good fellow, and I shall give him my vote.” You cannot eliminate the personal equation. In these systems the mathematicians have been too much in the habit of treating voters as though they were not human beings, but algebraic symbols. That is the difficulty we labour under. You cannot eliminate the personal equation ; and the probability is that if obliged to make a preference the elector would give his vote for a protectionist, although he was a freetrader, because he thought that the protectionist was a conscientious man who would, in spite of his fiscal views, be likely to agree with him on other more vital matters upon which he would disagree with his friend, the labour candidate.
– He is a personal, not a party man.
– There are scores of them. You cannot have a rigid iron-bound organization. My honorable and learned friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, acknowledges that the personal equation was a great element in his return - that is, not personal altogether in a limited sense, but that the electors took into account the federal services he had rendered, and other things which affected the vote of the solid freetraders of New South Wales. I also acknowledge with gratitude the help I myself had in attaining to the honorable position I occupied in South Australia, from my friends of the labour party as well as from many among the protectionists. You will always have such cases. You can never eliminate the personal element. The great mistake, in all these calculations is in assuming that every man who belongs to any particular party upon one subject will always be likely to vote solidly with that party, and that you can treat the whole thing as a mathematical problem. You cannot. The figures given by my honorable and learned friend, Senator Best, last night, were exceedingly instructive; but they were altogether arbitrary. He took 120,000 voters, of whom, he said, the protectionists numbered 65,000, and the freetraders 55,000. He assumed that there were three seats, and, from that assumption, he proposed to unravel the whole problem Of representation and to say who would be returned.
– Can the honorable and learned senator dispute those figures? I gave them by way of contrast.
– I will give my honorable and learned friend a problem. His own problem, if he will forgive me for saying so, is really “ too thin,”
– Let the honorable and learned senator upset it then, if he can.
– Senator Best confined himself to two candidates for each seat to begin with. He made up his own data. I could work out any result from figures if I were allowed to make my own data.
– The honorable and learned senator cannot bring out a different result on that particular data.
-I will give some figures, and let the honorable and learned senator apply his mind to them and unravel them. Again taking 120,000, let us take 60,000 freetraders and 60,000 protectionists. Suppose two candidates for each seat. Let him then tell me which will get in. That is a much simpler case than the illustrations given in the eight pages appended to this Bill.
– It would depend upon who the returning officer was !
– Exactly ; my honorable friend says it would depend upon the returning officer !
– The people of this country would not stand that nonsense.
– There would be a tie.
– The Droop system doe’s away with the tie, and the result of it is to disfranchise one quota. That is the price we pay for this nice little arrangement. Miss Spence has shown that at the last election in South Australia 22,000 odd voters would have been disfranchised under the Droop combination. I say, Mr. President, that such a thing would be a scandal.
– “ Droop “ is a wonderfully good name for it.
– I put the figures I have mentioned to my honorable and learned friend, Senator Best, and ask him to tell us, applying the quota system, who would get in, because there are only three seats, and each of the three members would have to get 30,000 votes. If it cannot be worked out by ordinary mathematical processes, perhaps the binomial theorem might enable some one to work it out? In considering this Bill, however, there is a much larger question that ought to be borne in mind. That is : What does our system of representation mean ? I think we may say that for some 600 years back - at least, as far as the annals of parliamentary government go - the British people have had, as the underlying principle of their system of parliamentary election, that the majority of voices upon any question should elect the representatives. That we may take as being the historical and solid parliamentary principle for all that time. Are we going to overthrow it? I admit that it is not perfect.
– The conservative party, by the three-cornered constituency system, tried to alter it.
– My honorable friend’s interjection is an instructive one, because, as he says, as long ago as 1.867, the conservative party adopted the three-cornered constituency system, limiting the right of voting to two members. That system lasted until 1884, when it was swept away as a vicious excrescence.
– It did not achieve the result it was intended to achieve, because two places - Glasgow and Birmingham - returned three liberal members all the time.
– That is so. How that came about is instructive in connexion with this question. It came about in this way. The conservatives introduced their Reform Bill in 1867. This proposal to introduce three-corner constituencies was made in the House of Commons. It was denounced by the leader of the conservatives, Mr. Disraeli, in no measured terms. He said it was a system for introducing the representation of all kinds of crotchets. It was pronounced by probably the greatest liberal or radical then in Parliament, John Bright, to be utterly at variance with the traditional. a.nd timehonoured principle of majority rule.
– - I think Mr. Disraeli voted for it.
– I believe my honorable friend will find that I am right in what I have said. The Bill went to the House of Lords, where some of the conservatives favoured some system of proportional representation. The threecorneredconstituency system was favoured by them, and an amendment to that effect was moved. It was resisted by Lord Derby, but it was carried against the Government ; and then, just as Ministers have to do in other Houses of Parliament, when the Bill came back to the House of Commons the Ministry had to swallow their convictions and retain the threecornered - constituency system in the Bill. That is how it happened. It was not introduced by the conservatives. It to not introduced by those liberals, like John Bright, who favoured the widest possible representation of the people. It was introduced in their teeth, and it was to save the 1867 Reform Bill that the conservative Government voted for it, although they disliked it utterly. Subject to that, and subject to other efforts that were made, we have had the system of majority rule prevailing throughout British parliamentary history. I am in favour of majority rule. When we talk about representation, it does not mean that Parliament is a consultative and deliberative body only. If Parliament were merely a consultative and deliberative body there would, I think, be very strong reasons - at least there would be a strong argument for consideration - for some system of representing diverse and conflicting opinions. But Parliament is a legislative and governing body. And who is to govern, I should like to know, upon every principle of democracy? The majority !
– -Hear, hear.
– I am glad to hear that cheer.
– We all say that !
– It is only very lately that the proportionalists have said that. “What’s in a name?” They could not carry this system if they had called it minority representation. They changed its name, and called it proportional representation. But that was not good enough to conjure with. Now they even say that it is majority representation. Some of us dislike a thing that has so many aliases. I suspect it ; and whilst I am glad to have those cheers for the great principle of majority rule, I shall show my honorable friends that they are not going to - I use the expression with no imputation - sneak in this proportional representation, and expect us to believe that it is majority rule.
– The honorable and learned senator has to disprove it. That is his task.
– No ; the honorable and learned senator has to prove that the representation of minorities is the same thing as the representation of majorities. When he has changed the name he must prove that the two different things mean the same. I leave that task to my honorable friends opposite.
– Minority representation is a different thing from minority rule.
– Another thing that has to be remembered is that majority rule does not mean that the absolute majority is to govern. There is a confusion of ideas on this subject. It never has been so. If the people or parties choose for some reason of their own to split themselves into three, and some party chooses, instead of allying itself with a main party - I do not say whether there should be two, or three, or twenty parties - seeks to hold the balance of power, I do not see why you should ask for what is unattainable - -an absolute majority. What governs is the dominant majority. If an issue is put to the country, you are not to destroy the effect of the block vote by cutting up, as my honorable and learned friend did the other day, the returns from New South Wales - I am instructed, by-the-way, that his figures are open to correction - and saying that if you take the whole lot the free-traders had not an absolute majority. But the free-traders are in the ascendant. It is the dominant majority. It is the same with the protectionists in Victoria. Are we to say that the protectionists are not to have their way, because they have not an absolute majority, not through any fault of their own,, but because there have been divisions? That is no excuse. Nanson admits that men may lose their votes; that a man who votes “1” for the excluded candidate under any of these computations throws his vote away. What do you do ? You determine whether the candidate is to have a place or not, you determine his rejection, by the number of his primary votes. Notwithstanding that he may have a great number of secondary votes you reject the candidate, you deprive him of the benefit of them - unless under certain conditions which arise - and practically destroy the effect of the whole of’ the primary votes given to him.
– But the votes on every rejected ballot paper are distributed.
– Not the primary votes.
– No ; but the ethers are.
– The secondary votes are distributed as primary votes.
– But the primary votes are not distributed, and the rejection of a candidate is determined by the primary votes. The man who gives a primary vote for a rejected candidate throws it away.
– Certainly not.
– I should have thought that he did. My honorable and learned friend can explain how he does not. Let us go a step further in this question of majority representation. The Cabinet stands in exactly the same relation to the Parliament as does the Parliament to the people. It is the majority of the people who govern. They control the Government of the country .by sending in a majority. The minority is represented always whether it is in one or two parties. There may be a majority of protectionists or free-traders in the Senate, but if there is a majority of one party, there is a minority of the other. The minority is always represented, and no one desires to exclude it from representation. But what is the object of this complicated system which rests, as I shall show, not upon the representation of majorities, but upon the representation of sections and fads - fractional representation, which will be destructive of anything like majority rule or responsible Government. I have pointed out that the relation the Ministry bears to Parliament is exactly that which Parliament bears to the people. What is the situation of a Ministry under any system of responsible Government? It represents the majority in Parliament ; it represents the dominant power. It does not matter whether there are three or four sections, all of whom may be competing with each other, it represents - whether it can obtain the support of any particular section or not - the dominant majority of the Parliament. What are we going to do if we introduce this system of proportional representation ? Are we going to apply it to the Ministry ? To be logical we must do so. If we have a Parliament which represents all shades and sections of opinion, we must have a Ministry which is based upon the same representation.
– That point was discussed very fully in South Australia.
– Does the honorable and learned senator support it?
– But that would not do unless we provided for elective Ministries on the Hare-Nanson system. My honorable and learned friend is perfectly consistent, if he seeks to go the whole length of having a Ministry which will also represent every section and phase of opinion in a Parliament which has been returned under what I call the sectional representation of some of the proportional representation schemes. It would provide a very bad working Cabinet. I do not pretend that the system of the block vote, as it .is called, is perfect. It is like all others. It is human work, and it is subject to all the imperfections which are common to human effort, whether in politics or in any other department of life. It is true that sometimes, owing to the splitting of parties, we may have the minority returning more than its due proportion of members. I shall show that the advocates of this particular system admit that there are similar defects in it. So far as we are concerned, at any rate, we have had the, block .system in operation for a great many years, and I have’ not heard any one point out any serious blot upon the representation that wehave had, either in our State Parliament or in the Commonwealth Parliament, due to the existing system. Candidates who fear that they might not be successful under the present system would like a change, no doubt, while we have candidates who have been defeated under the Hare system who would like to go back to the block system. It is so with every system. We have had the present system applying, not only to the Parliament, but to the Convention, and I think that by the universal assent of the people of Australia, speaking generally, the Convention at all events was a very fair choice of men for the work which wasundertaken. As opposed to that system,, the essential feature of this scheme of proportion al representation is the Hare principle. There is no getting away from that, although honorable senators may apply toit any phrase they please, such as “ proportional representation,” or “ a system which will secure the representation of the majority,” or anything else. The essential prin– principle of the Hare system was to give effect to everybody’s opinions so far as possible in. the Parliament to be elected. All the opinions - of the country to the extent of the 658 members of the Imperial Parliament were to have the opportunity of some kind of representation. The Vice-President of the Executive Council in his second-reading speech really put it in exactly the sameway when he said - as reported at page- 9537 of Hansard- .
If this representation was to be on ordinary principles nobody would dream of adopting it. What system would they adopt? Surely they, would adopt the system of every elector choosing a member to represent him ?
That is exactly the Hare principle ; to represent every one, all sections of opinion, to the extent of the number to be elected for the particular constituency - in the case of Mr. Hare’s system the 658 members of the House of Commons. My honorable and learned friend went on to say -
That is to say, there would be six members to be chosen, and every 6,000 electors would have a right to choose a member to represent them.
I interjected - “ Suppose there were twelve sets of opinions. If so, then you would have six sets of opinions unrepresented, although they may be equally entitled, morally speaking, to be represented with those who can secure a quota.” The hall-mark of the right of representation of opinion is the arbitrary quota which is imposed by an ingenious mathematician. That is the system. Hare was logical. He said - “Let the whole of Great Britain be one constituency. Let every elector vote for any candidate anywhere.” There was no limitation. If the elector found a man standing for the Orkney Islands whose views pleased him better than those of the man who was offering himself for the representation of his own locality, he could vote for him. That was the Hare system, but, of course, it was a perfectly ludicrous absurdity.
– It is too big.
– But it cannot be too big if the true principle is that all sections of opinion shall be represented.
– It is too big for practical working.
– It could not be practically worked. I do not want to say that Hare’s successors had not the courage to stand by the principles of the author of the system, but they departed from it, and they acknowledge that it was ridiculous. They said - “ Let . us divide up the people into districts, so as to increase the quota and diminish the number of opinions to be represented and then apply the system.” Is that just 1 If the theory is that all opinions throughout the country are to be represented, that method should be adopted which will as fairly and exhaustively as possible represent all those diverse opinions. Instead of that, you say - “ We cannot work it.” That is to sa)T, you admit that you cannot carry out you r o own logical belief. You say - ‘ ‘ We will limit the districts so as to diminish the number of opinions, and then that diminished number of opinions shall be represented.” It is complained that the majority of the electors may return all the members under the present system. But what right have the proportionalists to limit the representation of opinion to those who can make just the quota that they prescribe ? What right have they to shut out those who just fail short of arriving at that quota, and to give us a Parliament representing, not all opinions, but some, arrived at upon an arbitrary basis? We are told that this is to secure the representation of the majority. I have already pointed out the change in the name. What does the system do ? It is to take away the right, which the majority at present admittedly possess, of returning the whole number of members.
– Of course it is.
– Yet it is said that that is majority representation. Senator Best is oblivious of the fact that if, as he complains, the majority can now return five or six members for the Senate, when by the method proposed in the Bill the minority would be able to return two or three also, this is nothing but a taking away of the right of the majority. What is it but the overriding of the principle of majority rule as it now exists? That is what we are talking about. Argument is hopeless if we are speaking of two different things. I am willing to believe that my honorable and . learned friend is in earnest when he says that this is a system . of majority rule. But it is a confusion of terms to speak of it as majority rule in the sense in which we have majority rule at present. That is the whole matter of our controversy. Not merely do we not give majority rule, but at the same time that we take away from the majority the right which they have at present, and the representation which they have at present, undoubtedly we encourage every group, every section - and using the words of Professor Nanson himself - every body of “ faddists “ to seek in some way or other to secure just the quota that may enable them to get representation in Parliament. These active propagandists, like my friends the small body of proportionalists, will move heaven and earth, and will split up the big parties to whicli they belong to get their own fads carried into effect. They will strive, and this system will encourage them, not to convert themselves into a majority, as they ought to do, but just to reach the necessary quota, by hook or by crook, of pledged people to get a member into Parliament to create chaos until they can bring about the results they desire.
– What the honorable and learned senator may think a fad is not a fad in their opinion.
– No, no. I am using the term because Professor Nanson used it. I would not use an expression of that kind on any account. I will read the passage directly in which he condemns the Hare system - by-the-way, a most unkind and cruel thing to do, seeing that the principle is his own - for the very reason that it would promote and secure the introduction of “ faddists,” as he calls them, into the representation in Parliament. I say this system, if adopted, will do the same thing, but to a less extent.
– It is merely a question of numbers ; the faddist of to-day is the reformer of to-morrow.
– That is a beautiful commonplace !
– It is absolutely true.
– It is so true that it is a truism.
-It corrects what the honorable and learned senator has said.
– It does not correct what I have said. I do not deny that the faddist of to-day may be a power in the land to-morrow, but the way in which he should attain that position is not by securing a quota to enable him to bring anarchy into responsible government, but by converting his minority into a majority.
– He goes on doing that all the time.
– Well, let him go on doing it to the end until he has got his majority in the country, and then let him put a majority into Parliament on this issue of foisting upon us, whether we like it or not, his particular system of election. I am putting my views of this question as I understand it, and I am not throwing any cold water upon faddists. With great deference to my honorable friends who take a different opinion, all I say is that this system will simply have the effect which Nanson condemns in the Hare system, but to a less extent. As surely as we are debating the subject in this Chamber it will produce the result emphasized yesterday, of bringing about minority representation in the long run in its most intense and worst form. I need not trouble the Senate by reading it, but my honorable friends will find what Professor Nanson said about the Hare system at page 19 of one of his last pamphlets upon the subject. There is another peculiar circumstance which must be borne in mind. I think there is no one who can be said to have advocated this system with greater persistence and power either in Australia or anywhere else than
Miss Spence, and I think we cannot do less, whether we oppose or support this particular system, than pay her that tribute. Miss Spence went to England, andthere, as in America and other countries, she addressed meetings with a view of showing the immense advantages of the HareSpence system, which rests upon the principle enunciated by Hare. And her great argument for its acceptance was not that it secures the representation of majorities, or of minorities even in the ordinary sense, but that it secures the representation - if I may use the expression - of individual sections of opinion. Her great illustration of the efficacy of this system was that during the “ mock elections “ - I think they were called -which were held in South Australia, with some 3,800 odd votes, the six candidates selected, six being presumably the number required, were - what do honorable senators think ? One labour man; one representative of capital ; one prohibitionist, that is, an ultra teetotaller ; one woman’s suffrage man ; one single taxer ; and one Irish Catholic. What a delightful Parliament they would make !
– The Kilkenny cats.
– I need not say a word more. That is the typical illustration. That is the great objective argument for our accepting this system.
– It was true representation, anyhow ; and certainly not a monopoly of representation.
– It was beautiful representation. But I ask ray honorable friends just to picture the kind of Parliament it would provide. I ask them to picture the divergence of opinion, and the Ministerial position under such circumstances.
– What is the Parliament of to-day ?
– If my honorable friends say that the Parliament of to-day represents all these sections of opinion, why have the Hare-Spence-Nanson system ?
– To make it more perfect.
– To get more of them ? The more the merrier. A sort of “ many men many minds” Parliament. What should we have in such a state of things? How could we have any responsible Government? We should have these sections, if elected upon that basis, hidebound, as they must be if they were true representatives, with their hearts steeled and hardened against anything except what would carry out their own views. We should have them bartering with each other and bargaining, in order to secure support each for his own fad - I use the expression, with apologies, and because it is a convenient one - with a promise to support somebody else in return.
– That is to say, theywould be dishonest ?
– I do not wish to use an expression of that kind. I should call it diplomatic.
– The honorable and learned senator wants to keep the ring clear for two parties only.
– If we can have two parties upon great principles, subject to divergencies of opinion upon minor subjects, it is as much as we can look for in this fallible and human age. I accept the position as Miss Spence puts it, and I say that if that is what we should get under her system, which is much superior to this complicated juggle, we should pause before we put it upon the statute - book. I used the expression juggle, and it is just like the trick of the juggler who pretends to pour from the same bottle port, champagne, castor oil, milk, and water at the same time. The pity of it all is that every one of these proportionalists disagree, each with the other. . The Hare system has been commented upon and modified by Clark, Droop, Gregory, Nanson and others. Then there is a mathematical basis, too, in which we find about a dozen more authorities differing. There is Ware, two or three mathematicians, the Venetian algebraic system, and two or three other systems introduced. The singular thing is that there can be no possible harm in all this when dealing with a highly artificial system, which may, on paper and theoretically, produce certain results, but which in practical working is found to be a failure. We know what happens in Prance where a corresponding system has been introduced, and we know that there is in the French Parliament some six or eight different divisions - the extreme right, the right, the right centre, the left centre, the left, the extreme left, and I do not know how many others. So we should have under this system the introduction of these sections, which are hopelessly antagonistic to our system of responsible and representative government, and which would altogether paralyze responsible government modelled upon the British system. Then it has been said that under this system informal voting would be stopped. May I point out that the percentage of informal voting in Tasmania is about the same as in South Australia - some 2i per cent. It is all very well to draw attention to the extensive informal voting in New South Wales, where it seems to me they have a most absurd, confusing, and ridiculous system, condemned, I believe, by almost every one at the federal election, with a long list of fifty-odd candidates, and requiring the voters to strike out the names of all candidates of whom they do not approve. But in South Australia, where we have a simple system of voting for those we choose by placing a cross, which takes the place of the number proposed under this Bill, against the name of the candidate we vote for, we have only 2^- per cent, of informal votes, with a very much larger number of voters than there is in Tasmania. I say, therefore, that there is no. argument to be used against the present system on that account.
– Nor can it be used against this system to prove that it is ‘ very complicated.
– We shall see what is to be said about the com- plication. At any rate, it will be admitted that a system of voting should be so simple that he who runs may read. It is not the returning officers who will require to have this system explained to them, and it ought to be easily comprehended by the electors. It is no use your saying, as has been said, that the voter is merely told to put 1, 2, 3. It is admitted that that is a difficulty. Professor Nanson has thought it necessary, even in connexion with his system, to admit that it was hard to be understood ; that the objection that it could only be comprehended by educated and intelligent people was sufficiently well founded to call upon him to provide a remedy. What remedy did he provide? He provided this system of bracketing. Why? To meet the objection - and he would not have done so if it had not been well founded - that it would require a highly educated constituency to understand this system, and to act upon it. At page 40 of his pamphlet, of 1882, on Methods of Representation, which reads like a treatise on the differential calculus, he has this statement -
If this system of bracketing be permitted, we at once get rid of the objection that the proposed method can only be used in the highly educated constituency, because it is only highly educated electors who can possibly arrange the candidates in order of merit. The method can easily be used by the most’ ill-informed elector.
It so happens that that is just the one feature on which Miss Spence lays her finger as a blot on the Bill, and it is obviously so. Before I read what she says I point out what must be apparent to all of us, that it is not only a blot but an injustice. If the voter brackets three together he is absolutely disfranchised, his votes are thrown away, unless two out of the three are elected, because it is only when the bracket is made definite by the elimination by election, of two out of the three that the vote for the third man who is within the bracket is made efficient. Is that a right thing to do % It is an atrocity, and yet that is the provision which is made for unintelligent voters - men who cannot possibly trace through a long series of preferences. The thing is childish in the extreme. When a voter goes to the poll he knows that he votes for Jones, Smith, Brown, and Robinson,’ and that he may be throwing away his vote for every man that does not get in. He knows that he has control of his own vote to this extent, that he throws his vote away if the man of his choice does not get in. But here you acknowledge that he is not skilled in making these preferences, and weighing differences to a nicety. You say, “ Bracket your men equally, but we shall not allow your vote to tell for any of them unless all except one are got rid of by election.” Miss Spence has written a letter to the South Australian Register. I know that Senator McGregor has a high opinion of the Hare-Spence system, but when we find that the Hare-Spence system is not adopted, and that its sponsor, Miss Spence, is criticizing adversely the system which is embodied in the Bill, the advocates of the Hare-Spence system may well pause before they give in their adhesion to it. From the South Australian, Register of the 4th of February, I shall read Miss Spence’s criticism of the Bill, and the reason for her criticism was a statement in a correspondent’s letter that the system embodied in the Bill was the HareSpence system. She says -
This is not the case. It is the Hare-Nanson system that Sir William Lyne has embodied, and this differs from the Tasmanian and from my methods in several important points. - 1. By the adoption of the quota.
She objects, as I certainly very emphatically do, if there is a quota at all, to the arbitrary adoption of another quota to make seven different sets of opinions, and, at the same time deliberately declare that the seventh quota is not to be represented.
The Hare quota is found by dividing the number of valid votes cast by the number of representatives to be elected. In the case of the three senators to bo chosen, by three. For instance, 90,000 votes polled in South Australia would give a quota of 30,000 for each. The Electoral Bill enjoins the Droop quota, which means dividing by one more than the number required, and adding one to the answer - 90,000 divided by four, 22,500, and one, making 22,501 the quota. This necessitates the waste of 22,497 votes, or nearly 25 per cent, of the whole.
No system was ever invented which of malice aforethought deliberately wasted 25 per cent, of the voting power. The thing is intolerable. Senator Best showed yesterday that in Victoria with the present suffrage, without reference to the adult vote, 27,001 voters would be disfranchised. Is it not appalling that such a thing should be possible for the sake of securing this highly-artificial mathematical mystery in our system of representation? Miss Spence goes on to refer to the bracketing -
The Tasmanian system laid down voting by figures, and allowed of nothing else. It insisted on the elector making distinct preferences for himself, and neither bracketing those equally preferred together or scoring those out he objected to.
That is also another fatal blemish on any such system as this.
– You can easily cure that.
– We shall have to re-cast the whole Bill, and we ought not to be called on to do that.
– We re-cast the Public Service Bill.
– I wish we had, but that is just where we failed. This bracketing, which is, if you please, a system to enable the man in the street to understand something about what is going to become of his vote, is open to the censure of Miss Spence, and certainly it is open to the criticism which I humbly venture to lay before the Senate. What is the remedy that is proposed in this Bill ? Of course, I do not dwell on the fact that the Government do not adopt he Queensland system of contingent voting for single electorates ; J pass that by. They admit that we cannot carry out this system in its integrity, and they say - “ We give to every voter the privilege of voting for only one.” Is not that plumping ? Is not that putting in the Bill a legislative invitation to plump ? “Why should we have the Hare-Nanson system, to enable that to be done? Surely it can be done now. They adopt the bracket, too ; that is to say, they enable the voter to strike out or to bracket, but over and above all that, they say - “ You need not even insert a single preference : you may simply abstain.”
– And why not ?
– Then your quota and all your calculations become unnecessary and impracticable. All these things are not wanted unless you have the preferences to work upon, and you cannot logically carry out this proportional representation system unless it is compulsory that every voter shall exercise his preference, if not for the whole lot, at any rate as in Tasmania, which has recognised that it should be done for three out of the six. The thing is, as Senator Downer said, neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. There is no system about it. It has been introduced, no doubt, with the best intentions, but it is a jumble all the same. In this letter Miss Spence refers to the informal votes, and gives all the percentages to which I have alluded, and then she says -
With the experience before them the f ramers of that Government Electoral Bill are allowing scoring out and bracketing, which may confuse the elector, and certainly adds much to the work of the scrutineers and returning officers.
I wonder if the Bill was submitted to any of the returning officers in the other States before it was introduced here. It would have been a good thing if it had been.
– What did Mr. Boothby, our returning officer, say about it ?
– In South Australia we have a returning officer with as great an experience as any returning officer in any of the other States, and we ought to have an opportunity of hearing what he and other returning officers think. There was a conference of returning officers as to the best electoral system to adopt. They did not recommend this proportional system, but the single electorate system with the Queensland contingent vote.
– The Queensland contingent vote has been an absolute failure.
– That just shows that my view is right - that the contingent vote ought not to be adopted. This system is, in one sense, a system of dividing up the people of the Commonwealth into constituencies of opinions, but, at the same time, it is hampered with this condition, that one division of opinion is forbidden any representation. When Senator Best was addressing the Senate yesterday I interjected,”Why should you adopt seven, if you are going to reduce the quota so as to enable every man who is put in to get a quota ? Why not make it eight or nine ? “ I was met with the statement that of course, if you divided it by eight or nine, you might get seven or eight candidates who had the quota. But what difficulty would that be ? Why should not that take place ? Suppose you had eight or nine, and wanted to reduce the quota so as to represent smaller sections of opinion, and found that two, three, or a dozen men more than the number you wanted to elect had the quota. Why should you not do what Professor Nansen himself does at one stage of his count, and go back, either to the preceding count at which the numbers were different, and take the highest man according to that count, and give him the seat, or give the seat to the man who has got the highest excess above the quota? Why should you not 1 That is exactly what he does. It is only necessary to compare these things as far as one can - it is very difficult to see through the mist altogether - to see why all these explanations are put into the schedule. What does the scheme do on the fourth count when there is a tie ? There is no casting vote. The explanation circulated with the Bill says -
There are still two seats to be filled, and there are no more surplus votes to be transferred. It is therefore necessary to exclude the candidate lowest on the poll as it now stands, and to transfer all his ballot-papers to the candidates marked 2 thereon. It is found that D and E are a tie for the lowest place, therefore the preceding counts are referred to. It is found that the last stage at which there was a difference between D and E was the first count, when, as between the two, E had the lesser number of votes. E, with 54 votes, is accordingly excluded.
And the other man is left in. I say there is neither rhyme nor reason in this quota. It is an arbitrary symbol - this seven plus one to the quotient. The fact is that it is so laughable that any elementary school boy would ridicule the whole thing. Then my honorable friend Senator Best said in the most solemn way that, when he introduced a similar measure into the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, he submitted the scheme to the mathematicians of the State, who worked it out, and said it was perfectly right. Of course it was, if we grant–
– The answer is that the Bill never passed.
– That is a very effective answer. I merely mention that to show that this quota is an absolutely arbitrary thing; and once you take an arbitrary assumption like that, you can work out anything from it. AsArchimedes said - “ Give me a fulcrum for my lever, and I will move the world.” Give me the premises, and I will prove anything. Give these mathematicians an X quantity, and God knows where we shall be !
– Give them a known quantity.
– Give them an X quantity or a known quantity - I would not give them more, or God knows what would happen ! I think honorable senators will see from what I have said that this quota is altogether arbitrary and mathematical - that it is arbitrary in that you cannot trust in figures or in calculations that are based upon it, and in that you cannot trust them as to the results, and cannot trust them as to how electors, as human beings, will be affected by hazy mathematical calculations like this. I have said before that in my view the system would be destructive of party government absolutely. It is certainly destructive of honest party government. To that extent I adopt the word interjected by Senator Dawson a few minutes a,go. I say, further, that it is destructive of the British system of responsible government. No Government could, with self-respect, face for a day any Parliament if a serious return were made such as Miss Spence put forward, as showing the acme of perfection in the system. How can any advocate of the referendum accept such a system 1 The referendum is, of course, a sort of apotheosis of majority rule. It in itself, according to many authorities, is inconsistent with responsible government, and means offering facilities for shifting responsibility from the shoulders of
Ministers to the shoulders of the people. But how can any advocate of the referendum admit proportional representation for a moment? A referendum goes to the people upon one issue. Are we going to put the Hare-Nanson system into the referendum system ? Of course not. We must have a majority upon any question submitted to the people under the referendum. What difference does it make when, instead of having a referendum, you have the issue put to the country by means of a dissolution ?
– There are many issues put to the country at a general election, and only one issue at a referendum.
– Undoubtedly at a referendum there is one question put to the country. To that extent, I suppose, I may claim my honorable friend’s sympathy with that argument. But I do not mean a dissolution by effluxion of time, but upon some issue upon which the Ministry is defeated.. Take free-trade or protection. Take some big question in which an ecclesiastical or religious issue is raised. Take any question upon which there is a strong division of opinion, and upon which a penal dissolution takes place. Then I say the dissolution is in exactly the same position as a referendum ; and no Hare-Nanson system could be tolerated, or would work for one moment in dealing with such a state of things. I ask my honorable friends who are favorable to the adoption of the proportional representation system to tell us how it will work in connexion with a penal dissolution upon some great leading issue?
– You get your majority upon a great issue the same as you will under the present system.
– The sectional people will take precious good care about that. They will take care not to lose an opportunity of preventing anything being done to stop their securing their own ends, and no blame to them. If I were in a minority, and a penal dissolution were to take place, I should be. justified in working the system for all it was worth, to get my own man in.
– Still, when he reaches Parliament he must vote aye or nay upon any question that comes up.
– A great deal takes place before he votes in one direction or the other. He will say - “ I will vote aye or nay according to the party that offers me most, and which leans most to my particular idea.”
– We are not strangers to that sort of thing now.
– It is of no use telling, me that. I have said again and again that the present system is not perfect. I say once more that there are difficulties. If we can remedy them let us do so. But we are not going to remedy them by adopting a system which will perpetuate them, and make responsible Government, as we understand it, impossible. Reference has been made to authorities, and it has been said that John Stuart Mill was a supporter of proportional representation. John Stuart Mill supported a great many things that were theoretical.
– Free-trade !
– No, freetrade was his absolute creed. My honorable and learned friend, who is a student, cannot have studied Mill thoroughly, or he would be aware that he lapsed slightly with regard to new countries and protection, though he afterwards withdrew what he had written in that respect. But John Stuart Mill advocated proportional representation logically. He was a logician, and he advocated the system with all the precision of a logician. But he intended to change the character and functions of Parliament - to make it merely a deliberative body, and not a legislative or governing, body. He didso because he recognised that under the system of minority representation, Parliament would be radically unfit for such functions. That was Mill’s theory. He wished Parliament to occupy the position I have referred to, and for that reason he advocated the first step, which was to get all sections of opinion represented in the consultative body. But the mathematicians and everyone else supporting this system have their own nostrums. They all differ, as I have pointed out. I should be sorry to accept any of their views, in the face of the opinions of practical politicians: I find that in 1867 John Bright said that he was convinced that proportional voting was opposed to any devices to defeat the old-fashioned system of majority rule as we understand it. In 1883 his attention was again called to the principle as it had developed. He expressed himself with great strength upon the subject. He said -
Iadvise you to keep to the old ways -
– That is what he said about long hours of labour and factory legislation also.
– He did not say anything of the kind - for the “fads,” minority clauses, and new modes of making a Parliament, all tend to mischief ; they show mistrust of the people, and they are mainly intended to weaken the popular voice. I am for none of these things.
Honorable senators see he does not refer to the Hare system, or to the Hare-Spence system - or whatever they like to call it - of minority representation. A correspondent wrote to him on the subject, asking him whether he included Hare’s scheme in his general denunciation of “ fads, minority clauses, and new modes of making a Parliament,” and he wrote this letter -
One Ash, Rochdale, 16th October, 1883.
Dear Sir, - I think Mr. Hare’s plan more of a “fad” than any other yet submitted to the public, and it has this disadvantage - that scarcely any one can understand it.
– The same thing as we have here.
– Only this is worse.
It aims at making Parliament an exact photograph of every phase of public opinion -
Like Joseph’s coat ! and under it there is no fancy or folly which might not, and probably would not, have its representative in the House. Parliament would be broken up into busy cliques, led by the political lunaticswho would have entrance within its walls. My advice is, keep to the old ways - they are the safest, and the “wayfaring man, though a fool” (in some sense) “shall not err therein.” I have known several, or a few of Mr. Hare’s supporters, but not one of them has seemed to me to possess the common sense which is as useful and necessary for legislation and government as in the ordinary pursuits of life.
It is common sense we want, not mathematics.
I am in favour of the Constitution which has come down from our forefathers, with such amendments as circumstances and our experience seem to warrant. I think they would have looked on Mr. Hare’s scheme with mingled amazement and ridicule. You have asked my opinion and I have given it. I do not seek the protection which its friends claim for the patent constitution of Mr. Hare.
I am, very respectfully,
Nor do I seek any protection - in fact, I think there ought to be no protection - for this patent system, which is condemned by the forerunners of it, and I have no doubt that others will arise, as time rolls on, who will suggest other mathematical modifications of it. I shall not say what I intended to say as to the constitutional question, so ably dealt with by Senator Downer yesterday.
– The honorable and learned senator might give us his views upon it.
– I am not going to elaborate my views upon it. but I cannot say that I quite agree with Senator Downer’s construction of section 41. That is an important constitutional question, which was ably dealt with by him, and on which it is impossible for us perhaps to arrive at a final conclusion. But after listening with interest to what my honorable and learned friend had to say on the point last evening, and after examining, the section with great care, I am disposed to think that it deals simply with the franchise, or as it has been expressed to me, it defines the class which is to be entitled to vote under the Commonwealth, and which must be the same class - at all events not less - as is entitled to vote in the States. That is the view that occurs to me, and I think it would not be fair if I did not say so. I do not intend to elaborate the point. I feel that section 41 has not this effect which my honorable and learned friend contended for, but still it seems to me that the Senate is not the House to which the system of proportional representation should be applied. My reason for that belief is briefly this : The Senate was constituted the State House. It was differentiated, in two respects, and two only, from the House of Representatives.. It rests on the same franchise. The qualifications of its members are the same as those for the House of Representatives. In all respects it is identical in its constitution with the House of Representatives, save in regard to two points. One is its tenure, which, except in the case of a penal dissolution, is to be continuous, there being merely a retirement of three senators for each State every three years. The election was admittedly to take place, as it did take place, for the whole of a State as one constituency. I think. I am correct in saying that although the Constitution contains the words “ until Parliament otherwise provides,” it was intended that that should be maintained. That is the view I take. I think that unless some imperative or overwhelming reason arose we should not be justified in dividing the States into single or any other electorates.
– How could a State speak in sections in regard to the State
– I say that it has not got to speak in sections, but as a whole. It cannot speak in sections, and yet the Government are going to introduce a system of proportional voting which will enable it to do so.
– Is that constitutional ?
– I should not like to say. Whether it is constitutional or not, it is exceedingly inexpedient and inadvisable, and it seems to me mimical to the position and strength of the Senate that its right to speak with one solid voice should be taken away. It seems to me that that solid voice should be the expression of the dominant majority arrived at by every voter having the right to vote for the whole of the representatives Supposing a State consisted of one citizen he would have the right to vote for all the six members to be elected. A State consists of the aggregate of its citizens, and we cannot obtain State representation unless every citizen has a right to vote for the whole six men to be returned. The proposition is that we are to take away from every voter five-sixths of his voting power. What is the good of giving him a primary vote when we take it away if his candidate is excluded ? If his candidate is excluded, his other votes are to be on a sort of descending scale of value and importance. The system is the single vote with the condition of transferability in certain events.
– If it is not effective.
– Yes ; transferability in certain events. The whole system depends on the admission that it is one vote. That lies at the foundation of it - one single vote transferable. That is certainly given, but if we only give that, we take away all the others. Then as I have said we have wasted votes under this system. Let me enumerate them. A point has been made of the number of wasted votes under the present system. Under it, however, the voter knows what he is doing; if his vote is wasted it is his own doing. Under the system in the Bill, however, it is not his own doing ; it is done for him by an arbitrary rulewhich he does not understand.
Voters in this country will insist on knowing what is to happen to their votes. They will insist upon seeing with their own eyes, so to speak, the direction in which they are to go. It is just as in the excellent illustration given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council of 6,000 people meeting under a gum tree in primeval times, and being told that they are to send men into Parliament. They might be a mob, but they do not want a mob Parliament, and therefore they say - “ Let us have representation.” The voters pass by a box, just as they might do here, and the head officer says to them - “ How do you vote, so and so, and so and so ? “ When a man obtains 1,001 votes, the voters are told - “ You need not vote for him : he is in. Who is your next choice ? “ That would be fair, because the voter would know what he was going to do. He would vote for his next man.
– He knows now what he is going to do.
– Not at all. He is to put down his preference, and so difficult is it for him, that in this Bill it is provided that he shall not be compelled to do it. In that way, the ground is cut away from this proportional representation.
– It is quite inconsistent with proportional representation.
– Exactly. How about the lowest quota, No. 7, 8, or 1 5, if we have more quotas so as to reduce the strength of the opinions to be represented ? How about that lowest quota ? Twenty thousand-odd votes would have been wasted at the last election in South Australia by tl] is system ; and in Victoria, something like 27,000 votes would have been lost.
– Were not more lost under the block system ?
– No. The votes were exercised. It is just as if my honorable friend, if he were a betting man - and I am sure he is not - were to back the wrong horse ; he would not win, but he would have a run for his money.
– Still the vote would be ineffective.
– That is a mere phrase, and phrases are the danger of this system. People are misled by such phrases as “proportional representation” and “effective voting.” The effective voting which I like is that which takes place when I vote for a man, as I often do at an election of directors, and he is elected, and for another man whom I may not have the good fortune to see returned. Both my votes are effective, although both men for whom I vote do not get in.
– Then the vote would be ineffective 1
– No ; it often happens that a man does not secure the return of both his candidates. Then what about the votes of the excluded candidates 1 The confusion is not in the number of votes, but that a candidate is rejected, is anathema, regardless of the overwhelming second or third votes that he may have. He does not get a show, because it is the number of primary votes that give him a right to the secondary votes, and in that way give him a place. If the primary votes are low you throw him out neck and crop, without regard to the fact that he may be the popular candidate with the great body of electors. I shall not dwell on the point which was referred to with so much force by Senator Clemons - the intolerable injustice of throwing out the lowest candidate on the No. 1 votes. The injustice has been pointed out by Hare, but this inaccurate and intolerable system is adopted here because there is no other scheme for making his system symmetrical.
– Have not the electors got their choice already 1
– Their secondary votes may be effective, but as it is under this system they do not exercise them. Why should we eliminate the man ? Senator Best said we should eliminate him, because he has the fewest number of votes ; because he has the fewest friends. Another point that Proffessor Nanson admits is - and I ask honorable senators to mark this - that even with his quota, in which there is no particular virtue, he contemplates the same disastrous result of some of his candidates being returned with less than the quota.
– Under the Government scheme 1
– Yes. It is scarcely to be credited. I see no objection to a man being returned by less than the quota- the true Hare-Spence quota - because if three can secure the quota, Surely there is no reason why the next three should not get in if they are close up? We know the men who are popular; we know the men who are the choice of the constituency or of the quota. Why should we not be content? But if it is an evil it is contemplated and guarded against by Nanson in his system, and I shall tell honorable senators where they will find it. In the eight pages of explanations of the Bill, and I hope honorable senators have read them–
– I have not.
– If honorable senators skip the mathematical problems they will find a good deal in them that is of interest. They will find in those explanations that Professor Nanson contemplates exactly the same consequences following under his quota system as under the Hare-Spence or Hare-Clark system - the possibility of men getting in with less than the quota. He provides against it by what he calls a supplementary process.
– That is in the Bill.
– Yes. Will honorable senators listen, and they will see the absurdity of this -
Where all unexcluded candidates are elected, and it is found that less than the number to be elected have obtained the quota - contemplating exactly the same result - any vacant places shall be filled separately. Before he proceeds to fill each such place, the returning officer shall refer to all the ballot-papers, rejecting any upon which the names of all unelected candidates are struck out. The names of the already elected candidates shall be deemed to be cancelled on all such ballot-papers.
Just look at this manipulation of the voting papers -
And the names which remain shall be deemed to be renumbered with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and so on, according to the order in which they stand in the voter’s order of preference.
Without the consent of the voter at all. He is not in it.
– Carrying out his wishes.
– They are re-numbered, but he does not ask any one to re-number them. My honorable and learned friend must see that they are to be re-numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on.
– Because 1, 2, 3 are elected, and then 4, 5, 6 become 1, 2, 3.
– The voter does not ask that they should be renumbered. Then there is to be this readjustment, but upon what basis ? On the basis of the majority vote ! In order to finally round off this beautiful proportional representation system he is compelled in the final resort to have recourse to the majority vote. This is the thing which we are told is to beat the Hare-Clark system and all the other systems into the traditional “cocked-hat.” Then again we are told that another objection to the present system is that there may be tod many candidates, and that causes a splitting of the votes. Does Nanson’s system do away with that objection of too many candidates ? Will too many candidates be a difficulty in working out his system ? Undoubtedly, it will. Does he guard against it ? Undoubtedly he does. How ? By the very plan which we should like to adopt, and which is taken exception to by many people - a drastic deposit. It is essential to his system, as it is to the block-vote system, that there shall not be too many candidates ; and one element of Professor Nanson’s system is to put that evil down by the same means - a drastic deposit. Honorable senators will find that referred to in the pamphlet from which I have already quoted, and which, though it is twenty years old, is still pretty good. At page 43 he says -
If the method which is proposed were adopted, it is clear that the number of candidates would be very much greater than at present.
Of course it would.
In order to prevent the number becoming so great as to make the election unmanageable -
Under this perfect system it is necessary to provide some method for keeping the number of candidates within reasonable bounds.
Good heavens where are we ?
Such a provision exists in the method now in use under which any candidate who fails to obtain one-fifth of the number of votes polled by a successful candidate forfeits his deposit, which is retained by the returning officer.
– Has he said anything different since ? They all do, we know.
– I suppose he has, but I am not aware of it. At any rate there is his proposal. Now for my last word, and I am greatly indebted to honorable senators for listening to me so long. It is a very interesting subject, and no one can exaggerate its importance. It is not because I minimize its importance that I move an amendment to delay the passage of the Bill. It is for the very reason that I entertain the highest estimate of the importance of this great question that I deprecate its being dealt with in a hurry. We have the example of Tasmania, where the Hare-Clark system, a better system I think than this has been tried, and has been found wanting. It has. been abandoned. It is a singular fact, and I make no comment upon it. There we have had experience of the absolute facts which Senator Downer quoted yesterday from Mr. Ashworth’s book. If those facts and statements are true - as Tasmanian senators affirm they are - I say it would be a deplorable calamity if a system which would permit of such things should in the first session of this Commonwealth Parliament be fixed upon the States as a means of electing their representatives to the Senate.
– And it is proposed to apply it to the whole Commonwealth. It is notlike trying an experiment on a small scale.
– This system was adopted for a municipal election in South Australia, as Professor Nanson himself quotes, in 1840, and in his pamphlet he remarks upon the extraordinary fact. He says - “The remarkable point is that in no case, saving that of South Australia, has the principle been abandoned after once being adopted.”
Of course that was written before the abandonment of the system in Tasmania. So that in the two Australian examples of Tasmania and South Australia the principle, after being tried, was abandoned. The Tasmanian system - which some of us think better than this looking at the men whom it has sent here - is certainly one which I cannot say, so far as results are concerned, would be inferior to the system to which I adhere, the old-fashioned block system. No better representatives, if they will allow me to say so, could come from any State. But I say that that system which sent those men to this Chamber is condemned by Nanson, who, of course, works up his own so-called improvements upon it - improvements which I think I have shown are not improvements, and which do not shut the door, even to the mischief associated with the present system of voting. Finally a curious result is obtained from the experience of Tasmania, if honorable senators will look at the parliamentary paper before us - thereport by Mr. Davies and Mr. Johnston. We find from that that exactly the same candidates would have been returned, and I think in exactly the same order, under a system of compulsory plumping. They wereall returned on their primary votes in exactly the same order as when the quotas were made up. Is that not a marvellous thing ? It shows that after all this system is, as Senator demons truly said–
– Compulsory plumping.
– I will not say compulsory plumping, but a system of scientific plumping, only that it is done in a round-about way. There is also the curious, fact, and it is the last to which I will direct the attention of honorable senators, that the analysis made in that paper shows that with one exception substantially the same result would have been arrived at by single electorates with a majority vote. Is not that a singular thing ? If a system of single electorates with a majority vote could have done that, what is the use of going into all this complication and analysis?I have now gone over the ground - more of it than I intended, because of certain most useful interjections with which some honorable senators have favoured me. In submitting the views which I entertain on this subject, and to the consideration of which I have given much thought, I ask whether it is expedient for us to take this leap in the dark? One State did take the leap, and it leapt back again. I think that every one who examines these proposals, with all their explanations, must admit that they are beset with difficulties, and I will say confusion, like a thick, cloud. There are some of them which I confess I find it hard to penetrate. Upon these I have not ventured to dwell. I prefer to - ….. bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we knownot of.
I do not care to see this Commonwealth. Parliament sacrificing the first principles of the well-tried system of parliamentary selfgovernment, which we have enjoyed here for many years, and which we have inherited from the mother country, which has enjoyed it for centuries, merely for the attractions of an algebraic symbol, or a kind of quadratic equation. I do not believe in doing anything of the kind. The methods of the differential calculus do not fit in with practical politics, and I hope we shall not readily at least risk the selfgovernment of the people, the truest. electoral rights which they possess, and the fullest powers of exercising those rights, in one word, their freedom, by adventuring into any new electoral system depending for its virtue on mathematical calculation. In any case my appeal to my honorable and learned friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council and to other honorable senators is that we shall pause a little before we enter upon the enterprise ; let us deliberate. We may act in haste, and we may have to repent at our leisure. If it were of paramount urgency, as the Tariff will be when it comes here, I would say let us apply our minds to it, and through ill or through good let us do the best we can. But that is not the situation, and therefore I say, let us not act in haste. The whole question may very well be postponed until next session, when we can bring to it minds fresh and judgments that are calm. It is well worthy of our best and most careful consideration. We shall then be able, I hope, to reach a conclusion that will be of credit to ourselves, and will be just to the political rights and freedom of the whole people of the Commonwealth.
– I listened with considerable attention to the remarks of Senator Symon in opposing the second reading of this Bill, and in moving his amendment, and I think I am only voicing the opinion of other honorable senators when I say that although we have received from him a very drastic criticism of this Bill, it is one that is based on a considerable amount of research, and we are all deeply indebted to him. I was not surprised to find that honorable and learned senator taking up the attitude that he did, in telling the Senate that the Tariff is a matter of paramount importance, and that we are only marking time or beating the air in attempting to discuss proposed legislation of the character now submitted. I, in common with many others, have now come to recognise that this is the customary attitude of the leader of the Opposition when legislation outside the Tariff is submitted. This is not the first, or second, or third occasion when he has informed the Senate that a Bill of the Government was not urgently required, and that, therefore, we should not apply our serious attention to it. On previous occasions he has predicted that our efforts would not be crowned with any legislative result; but I venture to hope that on this occasion his prediction will be verified to no greater extent than were his former predictions. I believe that there are a sufficient number of honorable senators who recognise that legislation on the lines proposed in this Bill is a matter of extreme importance, anda matter of urgency, in the present circumstances. The leader of the Senate has stated those circumstances here on more than one occasion, and I feel sure that they will appeal to honorable senators when they come to record their votes on the amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. Senator Symon pointed out that it contains a considerable number of ‘clauses, and that we should not be asked, at this stage of the session, to enter into the serious consideration of them or to go into committee. But I think it may be pointed out with fairness that many of the clauses are not of a debatable character, but pure machinery in the sense that they have been adopted from existing legislation in the States, and are not likely to give rise to any very long or acrimonious debates. One other argument which Senator Symon put forward was that the franchise for the Common weal th has not been settled, and that, inasmuch as Senator O’Connor in his second reading speech referred to the franchise and this measure as going together to form one policy, we should not discuss the measure until we had the uniform franchise established. The honorable and learned senator, in answer to an interjection, indicated that it was his opinion that the provisions of this Bill would not be applicable to thepresent varying franchises in the States, and he intimated his intention to convince the Senate that his opinion was perfectly correct. I listened with the utmost care and attention to his speech, but I failed to hear anything which tended in the least to support that opinion which he put forward with so much emphasis, and which he apparently holds with such strong conviction. He made one remark to which I would like to take some exception, although, perhaps, it may not devolve upon me to do so. He insinuated that the Government, in introducing this measure at this stage, and including in it the provisions with respect to proportional voting, have been motived by the action of Senator McGregor, in some time previously putting on the paper a notice of motion with respect to the Hare-Spence system of voting. Senator Symon was a member of the
Convention which framed the Constitution, and when a delegate, who is now a member of the other House, moved a certain amendment to empower the States to divide themselves up for the purpose of returning their senators, it was pointed out by two members of the present Government - the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General - that, in their opinion, it was absolutely necessary that the States should return their members to the States House or the Senate as separate entities, and should not be divided up for that purpose. In their speeches they each referred to the possibility and the great advisableness of the States legislating in the direction of providing a system of voting such as the Hare-Clark system which was then existing in Tasmania, for the return of their senators. They gave in, more or less, their personal adhesion to the principle of proportional representation for the return of the senators by the States voting as separate entities.
– Will the honorable and learned senator tell me where it is reported ?
– It will be found at page 1924 of the second volume of the official record of the Convention debates in Melbourne in 1898.
– During the discussion opinions were expressed.
– Yes. I am pointing out that those personal opinions were expressed as an answer to Senator Symon’s imputation that the Government are merely motived now by the notice of motion put on the paper by Senator McGregor. With regard to Senator Downer’s contention that the principle of proportional representation is an invasion of the Constitution, I noticed that although Senator Symon referred to the remarks of Senator Downer of yesterday, he was not disposed at any rate to agree with his contention. Senator Downer told us yesterday, with a great deal of force and clearness, that in his opinion the spirit of the Constitution is that the status quo as to the right of electors to vote should be preserved. He also said that we are tied to the existing systems in that respect. I take it that section 41 of the Constitution Act imposes no such disability on this Parliament. It provides -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the
Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Beading section 41 in conjunction with section 9, I contend that the spirit of the Constitution is that voters who have the franchise in a State for what is commonly called the Legislative Assembly shall have that franchise preserved to them, and that it is competent for this Parliament to establish uniformity throughout the States in the method of the exercise of that franchise.
– And to deprive the voter of the franchise.
-Not to deprive him of the franchise at all, but to determine the mode in which it shall be exercised.
– And make it less efficacious.
– That is another question respecting which my honorable and learned friend and I are ‘ as opposite as the poles.
– It is the same point.
– I contend, of course, and others contend who are in support of the principle of proportional representation, that we are making it more efficacious, but so long as the franchise is preserved, the method of its exercise may be made uniform by this Parliament in whatever mode it in its wisdom thinks is the fittest and best. If we are tied to existing systems, if we cannot depart from the status quo, how can we possibly establish the uniformity that is obviously contemplated by section 9 of the Constitution Act?-
The Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws prescribing the method of choosing senators, but so that the method shall be uniform for all the States.
At the present time there is no uniformity throughout the States in the method of the exercise of the franchise. In New South Wales, and in Victoria, too, I believe it was obligatory on the elector to record his vote for six candidates, no more and no less. In the State of Queensland it was not obligatory upon the elector to vote for more than one. In Western Australia he could vote for six or less. In Tasmania the elector had to record his preferences under the Hare-Clark system, voting for at least three candidates. So that there was and is no uniformity. If, then, as contended by Senator Downer, we must maintain the status quo, if we are tied to existing systems, obviously we can never establish that uniformity which the framers of the Constitution contemplated when they inserted section 9. I take it that the object of elections, and the . end of the existence of parliamentary institutions, is to mirror in the legislative halls the opinions of the community, not simply any particular portion of the community, be it more or less large or important. Senator Symon has argued to some extent, and I think Senator Clemons to a lesser extent - because his remarks were more exclusively confined to the case of the Senate - that Parliament is not merely a consultative and deliberative, but an administrative and legislative body.
– Not administrative - a legislative and governing, as well as a consultative body.
– From that he has deduced the conclusion, that therefore the representation of the people in Parliament should be a representation of what I think he designates “ the dominating majority.” I should like to ask Senator Symon, and those who agree with him in that view, if such be the case, whether there is any need for any special fitness or any peculiar political, intellectual, or mental qualification on the part of any man who 3its in Parliament? If the “dominating majority” simply is to be represented, where is the need for any consultation ? Why cannot that dominating majority .simply send a certain number of men into Parliament, to fill the whole of the seats and discharge their legislative and governing functions with perfect unanimity and without debate, in accordance with the opinions of that dominating majority ? Where is the need for consultation and deliberation? Why should it be commonly understood that it is desirable that the electors should send men into the Parliament who are capable of adequately giving voice to the views of those whom they represent - men who can come into intellectual conflict with others who entertain different views, with a resultant in the shape of what, is considered to be the best product of the right reason of the whole people through their representatives ?
– Let the honorable and learned senator enlarge his argument, and ask - Why have a Parliament at all ?
– If the dominating majority, and that alone, is to be represented, there is if no need no use for it.
Senator Clemons, in dealing with the position of the Senate, referred to it as the States House. He considered that the Senate was not the House in which there should be represented those whom Senator Symon afterwards called the “dominating majority,” but that the States should speak, in effect, with one united voice. If that be so, why need there be six representatives from each State ? If each State is to speak with one united voice, and if only the dominating political opinion of that State is to be represented, why have more than one from each State ?
– Because the Constitution provides for it.
– We all know that the Constitution provides for it, but why t Because the framers of the Constitution wanted to have not merely one set of opinions in the community, but the various phases of political thought and feeling, represented in this, the States House. If a State, however, is simply to speak with one voice, and that the voice of “the dominating majority,” I contend that the logical principle to follow would be to have one representative from each State and avoid any intra-state conflict whatever. We should then have no waste of time, and the decisions of the Senate would be arrived at much earlier than would otherwise be the case. Again, if a State is simply to speak with one voice, and if the various political considerations and opinions of the people,, are not to be represented here, why does the Constitution provide that the members of the Senate shall occupy their seats by virtue of an election of the people ? Why should they not be chosen by the State Legislature as in the United States, or why should they not be nominated, as in Canada? In Australia we have taken quite a different line. To some extent we indulged in experimental legislation in Constitution making, when the Convention framed the Commonwealth Bill, and the people accepted it, deciding that the members of the Senate, as well as the members of the House of Representatives, should be elected by the people, and that there should be six senators from each State. I submit, Mr. President, that the reason for taking this departure, for making the representation of each State numerically six, and for leaving their election to the people themselves, was to secure in this Chamber an expression of the political thoughts and aims of the electors of each of the several States.
– And we have it under the present mode of election.
– I wish to come to that point a little later on, and I hope to convince the honorable senator that we can secure a more efficient representation of the different phases of political thought and aspiration by a method similar to that proposed in the Bill. Senator Symon has asked, with very much force, why, if the Government recognise that proportional representation secures the advantages and benefits claimed for it, they have not adopted it for the House of Representatives. I take it that there is some need for differentiating between the two Houses of the Commonwealth Legislature. If the two Houses are merely to be elected by the same electors, on the same franchise, by a similar method, and under similar conditions - that is to say by similar groups - it means practically that there is not the slightest distinction between them, and no raison d’etre for the existence of two. The whole of Senator Symon’s argument in that respect - I mean the inferential argument arising from his question - to my mind, if pushed one step further to its logical conclusion, would absolutely abolish all necessity for a bi-cameral Legislature under our Commonwealth Constitution. If, then, there is some necessity, as I contend there is, for a differentiation between the bases of the two Chambers, in order to make something in the nature of abalanceout of them, I think that in following out the line that the Government propose, with regard to the House of Representatives, they are following a well-established principle of having the members of that House returned by the electors geographically. But there is one principle in the Bill to which I would invitethe attention of honorable senators. It is contained in clause 19. I invite attention to it in order to show that the Government are not limiting themselves absolutely to geographical lines of demarcation. The clause provides that -
In the distribution of States into divisions, consideration shall be given to -
Community or diversity of interest.
Means of communication.
They are attempting by that clause to give expression to that differentiation which I contend should characterize the bases of the two Houses. The Senate is to be elected by each State as a separate entity, and in the other case each State is to be divided into separate electorates,and in the division regard is to be had first, to community or diversity of interest ; secondly, to the means of communication ; and thirdly, to physical features. With regard to the return of representatives to the other Chamber, provision is made for securing the effect of an absolute majority in any one of those geographical groups by the contingent vote. I was a little surprised to hear Senator Symon, in denouncing the contingent vote, say that it is impossible to eliminate the personal equation. I do not think that the most ardent admirer of the system of the contingent vote for one moment attempts to contend, that the establishment of such a system is going absolutely to direct the mind and the intelligence, and the consideration and the opinion, of the elector himself. However the elector exercises such faculties - wrongly or rightly - the contingent vote will give effect to such exercise. The system itself cannot enter into his mind and direct it into proper channels, but once the elector’s mind is drawn to the consideration of the matter, and he has decided upon doing a certain thing, and endeavouring to return a certain candidate, whether for his political principles or on account of personal attachment to him - all that is claimed for the contingent vote as for proportional representation is that that system will work out towards the result which that elector deliberately determines and wishes to secure. A great deal of argument has been expended by Senator Symon on what he has called the lost votes or waste votes - that is, the balance left over - which do not constitute a quota. During the course of his denunciations of the proposals of the Government on that score, an interjection came from Senator Eraser, that there was not the slightest warrant for the loss of the 26,000 votes, which Senator Symon said might have been lost under this system in South Australia, according to the testimony of Miss Spence. Since then I have taken out the voting at the Senate elections for New South Wales. I find that the candidates returned scored a total, of 442,094 votes, while the candidates unreturned scored a total of 649,300 votes. Each elector had six votes, and if we divide these totals by six we find that 73,682 returned each of the successful candidates, while 108,200 people in the average returned no one. If the loss of votes that Senator Symon has said might have occurred, according to Miss Spence, upon the application of the principle in this Bill to the last elections of South Australia, would be a misfortune, where could we find a greater misfortune than this ? I come now to the Senate elections in Victoria. The candidates returned received a total of 434,017 votes ; the candidates unreturned obtained slightly more, namely, 455,495 votes. A sixth of the votes for the candidates returned - and which would average about the number of electors who took part in the election - is 72,336, while a sixth of the number of votes for the unsuccessful ^candidates is 75,916. I merely refer to these figures, because in directing their attention to the provisions of the Bill several honorable senators, who have been very hostile in their treatment of it, have supplied nothing whatever in the nature of a criticism of the block system of voting. As an instance of the result of the working of the block system and the representation of minorities I shall quote for the information of the Senate some details as to an election of sixteen deputies for Brussels, which took place in 1888. I take this illustration because almost immediately after the election, and consequent upon its results, they adopted a totally different system there, and thus an opportunity is afforded of contrasting the operation of the two systems in elections which took place within a very short space of time. This is how the block vote operated in the election : The clerical party secured 8,131 votes, the independent liberals 6,933, the socialist liberals 3,723, labour 872, and the Flemings 504, The clericals had 8,131 votes out of a total of 20,163.
– From what pamphlet is the honorable and learned senator quoting these figures ?
– It is a pamphlet by Mrs. A. H. Young, honorary secretary of the Effective Voting League of- South Australia.
– On the same side as that on which the honorable and learned senator is speaking.
– Certainly. I suppose I may quote from this pamphlet. It has been circulated throughout Australia for a, considerable time, and although I have read a good deal on the subject, I have not yet discovered any one venturesome enough to contradict the statements made in it. They are statements of fact, and not mere opinions. The pamphlet sets forth that -
Each party ran its own ticket…..
Proportional representation would have given to the clericals 7 deputies ; to the independent liberals, 5 ; socialist liberals, 3 ; and the two smaller parties, by combining, 1. But the block vote, through the disintegration of the liberal party, gave the whole of the sixteen deputies to the clericals.
Here you have a minority getting the whole representation, and the majority completely disfranchised. A few months later the same electors were called upon to choose eight senators. Taught by experience, the four liberal units combined forces and gained all of the eight seats, leaving the clericals in that district without representation. Had effective voting been, employed a majority outside the House would have meant a majority in it, and a minority outside a minority in it.
– The clerical party scored in one place and the liberals in another.
– The result was unfair on both occasions. “We know that as a matter of fact the existing block system leads to results of that character, not merely theoretically, but in actual fact.
– There is not much consolation in having an injustice in one Parliament balanced by another injustice in another Parliament.
– I shall quote now from a pamphlet published by Mr. Robert Tyson, of Toronto, and which is reprinted’ from By the People, a book on Direct Legisla tion, by Pomeroy -
The vote for Congressmen in Illinois in 1894 will serve as an illustration. The Republicans polled 448,075 votes ; the Democrats, 323,426 ; the Populists, 63,142 ; and the Prohibitionists, 16,053 ; making a total of 850,696 votes for Congressmen in the State. The State being entitled to 22 Congressmen, each 22nd part of the total vote should elect one Congressman . 850,696 divided by 22 gives as the electoral quota 38,668. Since 38,668 is the number of votes necessary to elect one Congressman, each party should have as many Congressmen as that number is contained times in its vote. The Republican vote of 448,075, divided by 38,668, gives eleven full quotas and a remainder of 22,727 votes. The Democratic vote, by the same process, gives eight full quotas and a remainder of 14,082 ; the Populist vote makes one full quota and a remainder of 24,474 ; and the Prohibitionists had an unfilled quota of 16,053 votes. As there are 22 Congressmen to be elected and only 20 full quotas, the remaining two Congressmen are taken from the two parties having the largest unfilled quotas - the Populist and the Republican. This makes the Illinois delegation twelve Republicans, eight Democrats, and two Populists, instead of twenty Republicans and two Democrats, as it actually was.
– In America they have alternate majorities of republicans and democrats. Has either party adopted the system 1
– I am very much afraid that, if any of the electoral methods intended to be adopted in Australia had the hall-mark of American experience upon them, they would not commend themselves strongly to the honorable and learned senator.
– The point I wish to make is that neither party in America has seen fit to adopt what the honorable and learned senator says is a fair method.
– No. I do not support the American machine electoral system, and if the only argument in favour of any proposal of an electoral character put before the honorable and learned senator was that it had been adopted by either party in America, that would not, I am sure, be a very strong, recommendation to him. I contend that the system of block voting, leading to results such as that which I have just referred to, and offering the facilities that it does for people to put up candidates at an election with the express purpose of nullifying what would be the correct will of the people, is one which we ought to look into very carefully. We should remedy it as much as possible, in order that we may obtain proper representation. I do not think any one can deny that the system lends itself very much to what is known as ticket voting. It is quite possible for a dominant party in respect of some big issue before the people to obtain not merely the representation to which it is entitled in proportion to its size in the community, but to put out a ticket, and by proper organization to secure the return of every one whose name appears upon that ticket. In every case in which a number of candidates are to be elected, and the block-voting system is to be used, do we not find that the respective organizations submit their tickets to the people and ask them to vote en bloc for them % Do we not find “that the powerful newspapers put forward tickets, and urge their readers to vote en bloc for them 1 What is the result ? Senator Downer knows as well as I do that many thousands of electors vote for men whom they do not know, and of whosepolitical ability they are absolutely ignorant..
– Is not the result that the candidates whom the voterprefers are returned, no matter how illogical, it may be ?
– That is more than open to question. A system which leads tothe return of men simply because of the factthat the leaders of a party have included, the names of those men on their tickets, or because a powerful newspaper has placed them on its ticket, is one which does not produce results that we are entitled toaccept for any proper scheme of election. The block system often results in the return of weak men absolutely incompetent for thedischarge of legislative functions, but whoare, so to speak, simply carried into theLegislature on the shoulders of stronger men with whom they are associated on a ticket. Itis for ‘this reason that many of the electors, do not choose to go to the poll. They know that the dominant party is so strong that it can carry all the seats that are being contested, and that if they go to the poll itwill be simply to waste their votes. They give expression to their desire to select a. candidate who, they believe, would expresstheir aspirations, but they vote uselessly for him.
– I have never - heard that before.
– It is a fact. I know that since the adoption of the Hare-v . Clark system in Tasmania the interesttaken in the elections there, and the actual attendance at the poll, have been much greater than under the block system - something nearly three times larger than when the representatives of Tasmania for the Federal Convention were chosen. With regard to the scheme that is submitted in this Bill to overcome these difficulties, and. to make the voting more effective, I would, simply point out that it is one of the many systems of proportional representation which, have engaged the attention of political, thinkers for very many years, although Senator Symon and others may referto it jokingly as being the HareClarkSpence Nanson - Droop - Gregory - O’Connorsystem, or something of the sort. The’ very fact that so many modifications havebeen made and have been submitted tothe thinking world by men, who, within their own sphere, rank so highly as some of these gentlemen do, is very strong evidence of the wide-spread recognition of the equity of the fundamental principles of proportional representation, and is also evidence of an honest and earnest attempt to give proper, logical,’ and accurate expression to those principles the equity of which is so widely recognised. All the members of this Senate understand both the method of voting and the method that is adopted by the returning officer and his staff in counting the votes and in counting the preferences.
– I doubt the latter.
– I understood from the honorable senator that he had read a large portion of the Bill, if not the whole of it, and that he had read the schedules, and I sincerely hope that if he does not now understand what the electoral officer has to do he will not be found recording his opposition to the principle until he is in a position to tell us that he understands it. The members of the Senate who have perused the provisions contained in this Bill, and the explanation of them given in the paper circulated with it, will see that the object is as far as possible to minimize the waste of votes. That is to say, instead of a man going to the poll, and simply recording his vote for a candidate who is hopelessly out of it, he will be able, at one and the same time, to indicate by marking his second, third, or fourth preference, how he would have voted in the event of his previously knowingthat his first choice would be hopelessly out of it, and that his vote would, therefore, be ineffective if given for him alone. It has been contended that the provision with regard to the quota is not aimed at securing what is the true and the logical quota. I must confess that there are detailsin the provisions of this Bill with which I am not in entire accord with regard to proportional representation ; but on the principle of proportional representation itself, from what I have seen of its working in Tasmania in the past, and from a comparison of its effects with the results obtained from the working of the older system, I am disposed to support the principle of proportional Representation, and to have the details modified as much as I can to accord with my own views.
– It has been rejected in Tasmania.
– I will deal with that later on, and I hope the Senate will to-night know how it came to be rejected. Most of the arguments addressed against the principle of proportional representation, and against this Bill, have been simply an attempt to prove that the provisions for proportional representation are not absolutely perfect and accurate. They do not. go to any greater length than that. They are attempts to point out the anomalies, that result, overlooking at the same time - and I do not say deliberately, but probably unconsciously overlooking - the fact that every one of the defects that can be pointed out in respect to this system can be pointed out with far greater frequency, and can be shown to be of far greater dimensions in connexion with the system which at present exists, and which some honorable senators would like to see preserved. Senators Downer and Symon have asked, and I think it is probable other senators will also ask - “Whywillyou restrict the vote to only one effective vote when there are three or six seats to be filled?” The answer I give to that is this : I have already assumed that the object of elections to Parliament is to secure in the Parliament a mirror of the political aims and aspirations of the people outside. The reason why an elector is restricted to one vote in all these different and varying systems of proportional representation is that it has been found that by allowing to the elector the full number of votes for the seats that are vacant the anomalies occur to which I have already referred, and the resultant is not the return of those who represent the community, but of those who represent only a portion of the community. And it has been found that by restricting the elector to one vote and allowing him to record certain preferences in addition to it, so that his vote will not be lost, we do get a better reflex of the political aims and aspirations of the community outside. We have to consider the elector, not merely as an individual, but as an integral and component part of the community. If we consider him in that light, and give him simply a vote for a candidate with graduatedpreferencesfor others, the men who are returned under such a system of voting, are representative of the political forces outside, in proportion to their relative strength. It is because we do not consider the elector as an individual, but only as a unit in the mass of electors that go to makeup the community, that we give him one single transferable vote. I think Senator Clemons said that if a scheme were proposed for compulsory plumping in the case of an electorate for which more than one member was to be returned, the proposal would be scouted, and he pointed out that the position of the elector to the elected would be that- he had only taken part in the return of one of a number of men who occupied seats in the Parliament. But precisely the same result occurs in the case of single electorates where the individual elector takes part only in the return of one man amongst the members of a whole Parliament, and his relation to that Parliament is that he has been responsible for securing the return of no one except the particular member who represents the constituency for which he is a voter. Still he is bound to obey the laws which not only that member, but other members of the Parliament pass, and he is also bound to obey laws which that member opposes, but which the others, by a majority, succeed in passing. So that if this is a vice in the system of giving a single transferable vote it is a vice which prevails to a far’ greater extent in the existing single electorate system. The relation of the elector to a House consisting of members representing single electorates, is precisely the same as his relation to a House where six seats have to be filled for each constituency, and where he has an effective voice in the selection of one member only. Perhaps no argument has been brought forward with greater force than the argument that the process of elimination which takes place when the surplus votes, if there have been any, have been distributed is intolerable, and is unfair to the man who is cut out. Take the case of an election in connexion with which there are six seats to be filled. There are sixteen candidates, and the quota is, say, 5,000. Not o,ne of the candidates receives the quota, and the lowest man in the sixteen receives, say, 200 or 300 votes. Somebody has to be cut out, whatever system of election we adopt.
– Some one has to be sacrificed.
– My honorable friend says that some one has to be sacrificed, so that every man who stood for Western Australia, and was not returned, was sacrificed.
– And there were ten of them.
– Then four were sacrificed, if that is the proper term to apply to such a result. Whatever the system, in such a case four had to be cut out. But when we come to the system of selecting men by graduated preferences, what better indication can we get as to our choice of the man who ought to.be cut out, than that he has received the lowest number of primary votes, and is clearly least acceptable to the electors as a whole. It has been suggested that a man who has received very few primary votes may be marked No. 2 on the papers of all the other candidates. But what does that prove ? It only proves that he is wanted by a large number of electors, all of whom would sooner have some other man than him.
– He is a good all round man. He pleases every one.
– He pleases every one, but only to a certain extent. Almost every one of the electors prefers some other man to him. What is the result 1 To take the illustration I have referred to, of sixteen candidates, it is clear that there are fifteen men who are preferred by the electors to this man.
– If I admit that the block system is not a fair one, that does not prove that this is the right system.
– I am endeavouring to show that this system is an advance upon the block system, and is a better mean’s of securing the proper and effective representation of the whole community, rather than any particular part of it. The hypothesis that is put forward is a very extreme one. It is assumed that this man who gets 200 or 300 primary votes, is marked No. 2 on the papers of the other fifteen candidates. That is a very extreme hypothesis, but assuming that such a tiling actually does occur it is clear that in this supposed community of 30,000 voters - sixteen candidates and a quota of 5,000 - only 300 prefer this man to anybody else.
– With the exception of one. man all the rest would sooner see him in than any of the others.
– No. With the exception of the 300, there is not a single man of the 30,000 who would sooner see him in than any of the others. The 29,700, no matter how they may differ among themselves as to who is their first choice, are all agreed that this man is not their first choice.
He is chosen after every one of the other fifteen candidates ; only a paltry 300 come up and say they will have this man before anybody else. Nobody else will choose him unless somebody else is in before him. They first desire to put somebody else in, probably to look after -him. and as to who that somebody else shall be the electors themselves vary in their opinions. If the elimination has to occur, what better indication can you get as to the person to eliminate than the one who receives the lowest number of votes ? Would you go to the one who receives the second lowest number of votes ? The whole principle of the system is to give one effective vote, and if you take into consideration the second preferences that are cast for a man who is low down on the list of primary votes you give to those second preferences a cumulative instead of an alternative value which is right against the radical principles of the system. A great deal has been made of the question of the simplicity of voting. In Tasmania no difficulty of any consequence is experienced by the electors in recording their votes. The system was never tried outside Hobart and Launceston before the last federal elections. To the people of the country districts it was an entire novelty, and yet only a little over 2 per cent, of all who went to the poll voted informally. Senator Symon said that the percentage of informal votes in Tasmania was about the same as in South Australia - a little over 2 per cent., but he then very disingenuously pointed out that South Australia has a larger population. What has the largeness of population- to do with the question when you are dealing with percentages? In the model State of South Australia, too, as Senator O’Connor mentioned in his secondreading speech, they have a ballot-paper which makes voting simplicity itself, inasmuch as they have squares for the elector to place the cross in, so that he cannot go wrong. In Tasmania we have not that system. Further, in South Australia they have been accustomed to their method of voting for years. It has been objected that the elector should know how his vote is to be applied. An elector can, if he chooses - it may be a matter of comparative difficulty to some electors - understand the method of counting the votes which the returning officer is compelled to follow. But the elector will trust, as he has trusted in Tasmania, to the skill of the returning officer and his assistants, just as under any system he has to trust to the integrity and the honesty of that officer and his assistants. If he be satisfied that the result of this system of voting is to secure the representation of the community in the way which he thinks is desirable, even if - he does not understand the method by which the votes are counted, he will have sufficient confidence in the skill of the returning officer and his deputies to carry out that count so that the result will be that desired by the people; and, of course, the scrutineers for the candidates will be there. Senator Symon has pointed out that one of the arbitrary characteristics of this provision is that if there are six seats to fill, and there can be only six quotas - there may be twelve distinctive sets of opinion, and only six of them will be represented. He must have made that slip, after having fallen into an error in conceiving what is “the object and the actual working of this system. Under the block system, if there were twelve distinctive sets of opinions, probably only one set of opinions would be represented by the six men. Under the proposed system, the six strongest sets of. opinions , provided that each one was sufficiently strong to secure the quota With the assistance of the preferences, would have their candidates returned. But it must be remembered that the six sets of opinions to which Senator Symon has referred as unrepresented, would be held by people without whose assistance the other six. could not have been represented. So that, in effect, although not one of them did succeed in getting in the particular man whom it favoured, it took part in securing the return of others who, to its mind, approximated sufficiently to its ideas on the matter which it considered of the greatest importance. Senator Symon asks, “ Why limit the representation to a quota? Why not, for six seats divide, not by seven and add one, but by eight 1 “ If we take as a practical illustration of his proposal an electorate where 56,000 electors go to the poll, and there are six seats to be filled, the Droop quota would be one-seventh of that number plus one - 8,001. The proposal to divide that number by eight would give a quota of 7,000 plus one. If five succeeded in getting 7,001 votes each, 35,005 votes would be accounted for, leaving a balance of 20,995 votes still unaccounted for and unrepresented. These 20,995 voters would be taking part in the return of only one man, while 7,001 voters would in each of the other instances be returning one man. In other words, to divide by eight or any number larger than seven would leave a surplus after the six: men had been returned, which would be larger than the quota .itself. In that connexion Senator Symon used one remark which I think was a little devoid of the acumen that usually characterizes his criticism. He proceeded to point out that the establishment of a system which allowed the election of representatives by quotas, would result in there being no incentive to his friends in the corner to convert themselves into a majority by converting other members of the community to their political opinions, but that it would produce a desire on their part to simply get a quota in the community in order that they might get one representative. Surely he does not think for a moment that any party, if it feels strongly on any political matter, is going to be satisfied with simply one representative where it thinks it can get two, or with two where it thinks it can get three ? Surely he cannot think that any body in the community, which considers any political question of sufficient vital importance to them that they will vote solidly on it, will be satisfied with simply getting its opinions voiced in the Legislature by one man - when an opportunity is extended to it by extending its influence and increasing its number to get two or more 1 Surely there is nothing in the contention that the provision for election by quotas will destroy incentive on the part of political parties. The honorable and learned senator has referred so often to majority rule, and the necessity for its preservation, that I think he has overlooked what is the absolute aim and object of proportional representation. It is not minority rule ; it is majority rule coupled with minority representation. It is contended that you cannot have majority rule properly carried out with a due regard to the interests of the people themselves, if the majority alone are to be represented, but that they must act in conjunction with the minority in accordance with the minority’s strength, and that they must consult and deliberate with the minority so that the real wishes of the community may be ascertained, and the result of the ripe reasoning of the representatives of that community may receive legislative effect.
Senator Symon gave an illustration of a mock election that had been held in Adelaide. He also referred to the election which had been conducted by Miss Spence, and the result of which he said was to practically damn the system in the eyes of the people of that State. I would ask the honorable and learned senator, or any other representative of that State, what issues were put before the electors, on which to determine their choice? What political opinions were professed to be entertained on different subjects by those who were elected, and by those whowere not elected ?
– That was clearly understood.
– It may have been clearly understood by my honorable friend,: who has been acquainted with political affairs in the State for many years, but I contend that the mock election of individuals by 3,800 persons-
– It was held after about 40 or 50 meetings, at which .. Miss Spence explained the whole object of the system, gave the names of the candidates, and stated their political principles.
– Did the candidatesgive expression to their views ?
– They were admitted.
– Who divided them into parties ?
– The Ministermust not question what Miss Spence herself says.
– The characteristic: attributes that Senator Symon said the suecessful candidates possessed are attributes, not uncommon in any present day Legislature. But the weakness of the argument, to my mind, adduced by Senator Symon as. a result of this product of Miss Spence’sactivity lies in this fact - that it seems to be assumed that because each of these individuals entertained perhaps a very strongconviction on some subject, he entertained no- . political ideas on any other subjects, or that there would not be any harmony amongst, them, because the only subjects they would ever have to deal with would be those on which they were at variance. You may find a prohibitionist who is a freetrader, or a strong protectionist, or a single taxer, or an opponent of land taxation.
Is it assumed for a moment that those men entertained no other political ideas than those to which reference is made in the description of them given by Miss Spence?
– That was the dominant note.
– That may have been their dominant opinion. There may be many honorable senators who have very strong opinions on one matter, but who at the same time have a very shrewd commonsense appreciation of other principles, and act on them whenever the occasion offers.
– The point was that Miss Spence represented that as the great charm of her system.
– I am not responsible for that. One argument adduced by Senator Symon - and one that I think was to some extent his strongest - was that voting under the proportional representation system and the return of members under it would be destructive of party government. Now, what is party government ? If we are to take party government in its rigid sense - that men are to belong to one or other of but two great parties, and, irrespective of what their own individual judgment tells them is the right thing to do on certain occasions, are to vote absolutely in line with their party - I admit that to some extent his criticism is justified. But in face of the varying conditions of political and social life in Australia, of the advance in political thought, and of the extended ambit of legislative work, I think that party government as it prevails to-day cannot be carried out on precisely the same lines as obtained 40 or 50 years ago in the old country. There must be a far greater opportunity allowed to the individual member, let him belong to whatever party he may, to give expression to Iris views, to give his votes, and to exercise his own individual opinions on certain matters, than would ever have been conceded in the days when party government was at its height in the old country. Not so many years ago we were told that what was termed the intrusion of the labour party into the legislative halls of Australia was practically tantamount to ringing the death-knell of party government. We have had more than four parties in some legislative chambers in Australia. The individual member nowadays must- be allowed a certain area within which he is free to act irrespective of his party, and he does act accordingly. Honorable senators will hot find in any of the Legislatures of the Australian States to-day parties divided by such a broad straight line of demarcation, or held so closely and firmly together, as was the case in the old country in the past. It is precisely on that account that the need for something in the nature of the legislation now proposed arises, so that the various opinions of the people shall be given expression to, and their representatives shall come here representing the whole community in the true sense of the word. My honorable and learned friend has referred, for instance, to the possibility of a penal dissolution, and has asked what would be the condition of affairs if we had proportional representation under such circumstances. It might be that such a penal dissolution might take place when there was a large organized body of political, opinion in the country which held strongly that the dissolution should not have taken place, and that it was only something in the nature of a shuffling of the cards to see which of the party leaders should be up the tree that Senator Symon has referred to as being shot at by Senator McGregor, the leader of the labour party. If that be so, is it likely that that large body of political opinion would give utterance to its views simply upon an issue which might be put before the people by the two parties? Is it not more likely that those persons would give utterance to their views in another way, by returning men to represent them who would “voice their opinions on particular matters which they felt to be of far greater import to them than issues raised for party purposes ? There is one other matter referred to by Senator Symon upon which I will touch. I allude to the reference he made to what he described as the wasted votes under the Droop quota. He has pointed out that by dividing the total number of votes by the number of seats plus one, and adding one to’ the quotient, you’ leave over a number of votes which are not quite equal to the quota, but which he, roughly speaking, referred to as another quota going unrepresented. But on all those occasions when he has been denouncing the system as productive of such a waste of a large number of votes, he has been assuming that that particular number of persons will in every case vote en bloc and solidly for some particular candidate ; whereas, as a matter of fact, the experience is that they do nothing of the kind, but that they, in common with others who have taken part in electing the successful candidates, have distributed their votes amongst various candidates. The whole of Senator Symon’s denunciation of this great waste of votes is based upon the assumption of what is, to my mind, the most extreme hypothesis which has been advanced by any one, who, up to the present, has criticised the system of proportional representation. I do not think there is anything else to which I wish to refer in Senator Symon’s speech, but before I conclude, I have a word or two to say on the Tasmanian experiment. Mr. Justice Clark, than whom I think Australia has produced no greater democrat and federalist, introduced his system into the Legislature of Tasmania some years ago. The system was tried simply for the two composite electorates of Hobart and Launceston. Hobart was returning six members, and Launceston four. It was precisely because they were composite electorates, and the other electorates in the country were single, that the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation was applied to them.
– They were made composite for the purpose.
– Yes, they were considered capable of being made composite, and were made composite for. that purpose. The system was tried twice in connexion with the elections for those cities. When it came to making provision with regard to the elections for the Senate, the provisions with regard to the composite electorates in that State were applied to the return of the six senators, and also to the House of Representatives. That is to say the existing law in Tasmania at the time was applied, that in the case of composite or multiple electorates the principles of the Hare-Clark method should apply. What -was the result? After the elections had taken place, and we were fairly launched into federation the Government of Tasmania introduced legislation for the purpose of effecting economies in the State Legislature. They proposed to reduce the number of members in the Legislative Assembly from 38 to 35. Certainly that was nothing very astounding in the way of economical reform. Included amongst those 38 members, there were ten representing the two cities of Hobart and Launceston - six for Hobart and four for Launceston. The remainder were elected by single electorates throughout the rural districts. The proposal of the Government, was to cut up Tasmania into five electorates,, each one being, of course, larger than any they had previously had, and each returning; seven members. They were to be elected, under the Hare-Clark method. Naturally so soon as the proposal came before theChamber, the trouble consequent upon theproposal to cut down the representation by three was intensified. Men who feltthat they had safe seats in certain electorates were anxious that those constituenciesshould not be amalgamated with adjoining constituencies, under which system they might find themselves with a large numberof candidates standing for the vacant seats,, and would have much larger electorates totravel over. They were very loth toadopt a system of that character. They suggested as an alternative that the old system should be continued, and that thetwo cities of Launceston and Hobart should still continue to be represented under the Hare-Clark system, whilst the country electorates should continue as single electorates. Hardly any of them were found to be strongly desirous of anything in the nature of political self-effacement, and they considered that the time had not come for a reduction in the number of the members of the Legislative Assembly at all. So far asthe cities were concerned, some of the old members, who, under the Hare-Clark system, had not occupied a position on the poll which they considered they ought to have occupied, were opposed to the new system ; and, further than that, some of them opposed the application of the Hare-Clark system to any electorate which was as small as either Hobart or Launceston. I do not think that at the present time there are in Hobart many more than 4,000 votes.
– What would the quota be there ?
– I think it was somewhere between 400 or 500 at elections.
– It was about 700 or 800 at least.
– That is very small.
– The number of electors on the roll is not very large, and many who believed in the Hare-Clark system for the five large electorates in Tasmania, did not believe in it for Hobart or Launceston, which they did not consider to be sufficiently large areas, from an electoral point of view, in which to carry out the experiment.
– I do not think that is quite the fact. If the honorable and learned senator divides the whole of the electors of Tasmania by five, he will get a less quota than by taking the number in Hobart alone.
– Yes, so far as the numbers are concerned ; but the extent of territory is larger, and the size of the electorates did not apply in the case of Hobart and Launceston as it would apply to the State generally. I have just received from one of the members for Hobart, Mr. Nicholls, a letter, in which he explains that he is not opposed to the Hare-Clark system, and does not believe it to be a failure. He says -
You may hear that I have turned against the Hare-Clark system. It is not so. I say that Hobart and Launceston are too small electorates to give the system a fair trial, but that, as regards the whole of Tasmania, it has worked perfectly, and that we ought to elect our Assembly and Council with the whole island as one electorate.
That is the testimony of one man.
– That is absolutely hopeless. One electorate returning 35 members ?
– I am not dealing with the merit of the suggestion. I am simply pointing out why, as some people say, Tasmania abandoned the Hare-Clark System. The country members were afraid to indulge in a scheme for large electorates and proportional representation, because many of them felt too secure in their own electorates. Those in the city were divided to a certain extent. Many of them opposed the continuance of the application of the Hare-Clark system to the restricted electorates of Hobart and Launceston, but they were in favour of its application to larger electorates. Senator Symon referred to a paper by Mr. R. M. Johnston, Government statistician of Tasmania, and pointed out that that gentleman had come to the conclusion that, if the federal elections had been conducted on a system of compulsory plumping, the same results would have taken place. I only refer to this paper by Mr. Johnston in order to point out that it has peculiar reference to a particular proposal that was before the Parliament of Tasmania at that time, namely, the division of the State into five electorates. He suggested the divisions, and actually marked them out. He showed subsequently, that if those five divisions had been fixed upon as five separate electorates for the Senate and House of Representatives, the same men would have been returned, on the assumption that each of the successful candidates had offered himself for the constituency in which he was strongest, although he might not previously be aware of the fact. It goes to demonstrate that the proposal was to divide Tasmania into five electorates. The members of the local Parliament, like the members of nearly every State Parliament in Australia, were not, anxious to commit any political self-effacement. They opposed the proposal. The city members were in favour of the principle of the HareClark system, as applied to Tasmania as one electorate, although they considered that Launceston and Hobart, with their small number of voters, were not large enough to allow of its application to them. The total number of electors in Hobart is, I now find, 5,600.
– How many of them would vote ?
– Never more than 60 or 70 per cent. If a little over 3,000 voted there, it would be very good. The figures I have given are taken from the latest return. There are 5,600 electors under manhood suffrage, but when the Hare-Clark system was applied to that electorate, we did not have manhood suffrage. We had, I think, something like 4,200 electors there some few years ago.
– According to those figures, the quota would be about that which the honorable and learned senator said.
– In Ashworth’s Proportional Representation reference is made to an election which was alluded tolast night by Senator Downer, and I think the quota was given as a little over 500. I have not the reference before me now, but it relates to the return of Mr. Miles. Thereturn of that gentleman showed, in effect, that the Hobart electorate was too small and too compact for the application of this system of voting, and that a certain sectionof it was considerably corrupt.
– That is rather rough on Tasmania.
– My honorable friend must recognise that such a thing may happen anywhere.
– Does the honorable and learned senator say that, in order to suit their own ends, Members of Parliament in Tasmania deliberately imposed on the people a system in which they did not believe?
– Decidedly not, and I do not think my honorable friend can be acquainted with the circumstances to which allusion was made last night by Senator Downer. They were that one particular candidate practically purchased his return by securing a quota by corrupt practices. The electors resided very closely together, and the number requisite in order to obtain a quota was so small that he was able to do it. The HareClark system, and any other system of proportional representation, aims at nothing else but to carry out, more effectually than does the block system, what the voter desires. It does not aim at affecting his intelligence, or at purifying the electorate. I think that, if honorable senators will consider carefully the principles provided in the Bill with regard to proportional representation, they will see that the object aimed at, and which is in effect achieved - although it may not be with absolute mathematical accuracy - is to secure the representation in this Chamber of the political aims and aspirations of the community as a whole. It does not aim at the representation of any particular dominating section, but at getting them here to go through their proper functions of consultation and deliberation before legislation, and, as a result of that consultation and deliberation, to put into the legislation of the community, as far as one branch of the Legislature can do, the ripe, reasoned, and mature judgment of the whole of the community. As to the principles surrounding the particular system proposed by the Government, I have only to say that they do not meet with my entire approval. If the second reading of the Bill is carried, as I hope it will be, and we get into committee, I shall do whatever I possibly can to secure the modification of that portion of the Bill which provides for the application of the principles of proportional representation to our elections, so as to bring it into accord with my own views, and to secure what I think will be proper representation by a better method than that provided in the details of the Bill. I am sorry that I have occupied the attention of the Senate at such length. My only justification for doing so is that to some extent we have had in Tasmania a practical working acquaintance with this system. I have spoken, I believe, from over 50 platforms in that State upon the Hare-Clark system, and although Senator Clemons says that he was subjected to a great deal of catechizing, the questions that were submitted to me indicated a remarkably keen appreciation on the part of the electors of the basic principles of the system. They indicated an evident desire on the part of the electors to be informed of the practical working of the system before the elections took place, and I feel sure that as the newspapers published the actual results and the method of counting, and the voters themselves received considerable information, it will be of very great advantage to them in future. I hope the Senate will take this opportunity of giving effect to the principles of proportional representation, thus taking one forward step in our legislation - a movement which we ought to be ready to agree to. Proportional representation has already engaged the attention of the New Zealand Parliament more than once. On one occasion a motion for the adoption of the HareSpence system was lost in one of the Houses of the Legislature by eight votes, and subsequently by seven. Therefore the matter is not the mere experiment and. novelty that some honorable senators would have us believe. It has been carefully thought out by leading minds in the world. The disagreement that occurs amongst the different persons who have been modifying the system evidences to my mind their inherently strong belief in the justice and equity of its fundamental principles, and their strong desire to give effect to them in the best manner possible. I have much pleasure in supporting themotion for the second reading of this Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Charleston) adjourned.
Royal assent reported.
Senate adjourned at 9.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020227_senate_1_8/>.