1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator FRASER presented a petition from 109 members of the Church of England, resident at St. Kilda West, in the State of Victoria, praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
– The suggestion of my honorable and learned friend is one which has my sympathy. Every week I understand there is a reprint of the Tariff as it stands. I do not think there will be much difficulty in having that reprint distributed to members of the Senate as well as to members of the other House. I shall look into the matter, and if it can be done I shall have it distributed, because it will facilitate inquiry.
– The suggestion is that the reprint should show in parallel columns the alterations of the duties.
– I cannot promise more than a reprint of the Tariff, because it might involve considerable labour to show the alterations. By comparison with the original Tariff honorable senators will be able to get all the information they require.
– It would be a. great convenience if the reprint could also show the alterations in separate columns.
Debate resumed from 27th February (vide page 10444), on motion by Senator O’Connor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Sir Josiah Symon had moved -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words- “ 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.”
– With the consent of Senator Charleston, I rise to continue the debate. I am one of those individuals, perhaps old-fashioned, who believe that it is desirable to think first and to legislate afterwards. Australia should have an opportunity to form and express its opinion on all great subjects. I am quite certain that at the present moment Australia, taken as a whole, is in entire ignorance of most of the principles involved in this Bill. For that reason alone it is desirable that the amendment of Senator Symon should be carried, and that Australia should, on this very grave and important subject, have ample opportunity to come to conclusions as to the course it desires to follow. I notice that in the opening address of the Vice-President of the Executive Council not one word escaped his lips as to the expenditure involved in the Bill. From time to time we hear from members of the Government expressions of opinion as to the necessity for economy, but we have here a measure involving a great deal of expenditure, and proposals for largely increasing that expenditure, but Senator O’Connor has not thought it necessary to give us one atom of information on that subject. When we were discussing the expenses which were likely to be added by federation to the general expenditure of Australia, State by State, this matter of the cost of elections came up, and it was thought by some of us, certainly it was thought by myself, and I gave vent to my opinion that it would be possible to so mould our electoral laws with the State legislation that there might be somejoint rolls - some joint arrangements - by which the expenditure which now threatens to be very serious would be minimized. On this point I shall quote a few lines from Bryce’s great work on the American Commonwealth. On page 142 he says -
To save the expense of numerous distinct pollings it has been usual, though by no means universal, to take the pollings for a variety of offices at the same time. That is to say, to elect federal officials (presidential electors, “and congress men), State officials, county officials, and city officials, on one and the same day, and at the same polling booths.
I had indulged the hope that steps somewhat on the same lines might have been taken” in Australia, and that some effort might have been made to minimize the expenses which a new Parliament was sure to bring about; but, instead of any step of that nature having been taken, we have submitted to us a measure that must very largely add to the expenses which were incurred during the first elections. It is quite impossible that the elections, as proposed under this Hare et cetera system, can be carried out without an enormous expenditure. It has also to be remembered that the proposal for womanhood suffrage for the Commonwealth practically doubles the electoral roll and the cost of a general election.
– That is a mistake.
– It will not add 1 per cent, to it.
– I dare say that in many districts the additions may not be very large, but I imagine that in great cities, in important centres of population, it would be absolutely necessary to make the polling arrangements of a character that would be worthy of the respect which we are presumed to show the other sex, and that arrangements which might be sufficient when the electors consisted alone of men would not be sufficient when they consisted of both sexes. I suppose it will be granted that collecting nearly twice the number of names, and printing rolls twice the size, must largely increase the cost. But whether or not I am, in my mind, increasing too much the extra expense involved, nobody can deny that when the whole Commonwealth is taken together there must be a considerable increase in the expenditure.
-Whatever the electoral system is, there must be, more or less, an increase in the expenditure.
– Undoubtedly, according to the system that is put before us, “Whatever the system may be which
Parliament resolves to carry out, the expenditure must be borne ; and if a complicated system is introduced, and one which involves a large increase of the electorates, the cost of elections must grow greatly. I desire to come at once to a matter which has been largely dealt with, namely, the proposed method of election, especially for the Senate. It has already been elaborately, and with destructive force, dealt with by Senator Symon. I propose now to examine it, not so much from the point of view of the principle involved as from the aspect of whether it is possible to carry it out. I say, without hesitation, that it is impossible to carry it out, however much we may approve - supposing we do approve - of the principles set forth in the Bill. I hold in my hand a return showing the results of the elections of senators for New South Wales.. The elections took place on the 29th March last year. But it was n< >t until the- 1 7th April, or nineteen days afterwards,, that the electoral complete returns were issued from the office of the returning officer in Sydney, Mr. Critchett Walker. I want the Senateto recognise what that means. New South Wales is a huge State, though it is smaller in size than some of the other States. It took nineteen days to collect the whole of the returns from the remote parts of that State. Consequently, had the system proposed in this Bill been then in force, it would have been nineteen days after the election took place before the authorities, would have been able to proceed to find out what the quota was and to distribute thevotes amongst the candidates- according to the plan here proposed.
– In- South Australia the complete returns could not beobtained for weeks.
– The primary votes are wired from the nearest telegraph office.
– -But until everything is finally complete there is no possibility of going ahead m this matter. It is just as well that the “‘Senate should take this point into consideration. No man proceeds to build a ship in a dock before he is quite certain that the exit is sufficiently large to allow the ship to be launched. No one is satisfied to buy a coat unless it is large enough for him. If we are wise we shall not agree to an electoral system which obviously, on the very face of it,’ cannot possibly be carried out.
– Why not? The honorable senator has not given us any reason yet.
– I think I have sufficiently shown why it cannot be carried out. I suppose honorable senators know that according to the Constitution the returns to the writs must be made within 60 days from the date of issue. In New South Wales the 60 clays had fully expired when all the returns were in. Therefore had the system now proposed by the Government been in force it would only have been after the time for the return of the writ had expired that the important work of fixing the quota, and going through the endless calculations necessitated by this system, would have been begun.
– The honorable senator only accounted for seventeen clays after the election.
– Seventeen days after the polling ; but after the issue of the writ the nominations have to take place, then the pollings have to be held, after which the returns have to be gathered in. Then under the system proposed by the Government the votes have to be counted in all sorts of fantastic, complex, and complicated ways, which take time. In New South Wales at the last senatorial election, we had no less than 50 candidates. Let me inform the Senate as to the probabilities in regard to the number of candidates in the future. Miss Spence, in her book, says that under the Hare system a party * “runs no risk of losing seats if it puts up more even candidates than it can carry in.”
Upon another page she says -
Instead of having to choose from four or five candidates, generally representing two parties only, the electors would have a choice of a dozen or more.
Miss Spence believes that under her. system the number of candidates would be increased.
– And she objects to any deposit.
– Yes ; therefore, although the number of candidates in New South Wales at the last senatorial election was extraordinary, there is every reason to believe that we may again have occasions on which there may be 50 candidates for the vacant seats in the Senate. This would be the position. Suppose we adopt adult suffrage. Then, on the present population
– What section of theConstitution does the honorable senatorrefer to ?
– To the requirement for the writ to be returned within 60 days.
– What section is that ?
– Take it from this very Bill.
– I am not sure, but I believe there is no such section in the Constitution.
– At any rate there is such a provision in this Bill.
– That is a different thing.
– Say that it is in the Bill, and not in the ConstitutionSurely the Government do not propose to extend the time between the issue of the ‘ writ and its return to six months ?
– We think six weeks is ample time, but the honorable senators statement is rather startling - that the Constitution provides anything of the sort.
Senator PULSFORD__ I thought the
Constitution did. At any rate it should have done.
– What the honorable senator is thinking of is the time for the meeting of Parliament.
– I notice that Miss Spence says that Mr. Hare expected that the counting and allotting of the votes in the United Kingdom would take a fortnight or three weeks. At the time when Mr. Hare made that statement, there was a very restricted franchise in the United Kingdom, and no payment of members - indeed, there is not now. There was not, a.nd there is not now, any female suffrage. So’ that the number of candidates was extremely limited, as was also the voting. When Mr. Hare himself anticipated that the counting and allotting of votes under his system would take from two to three weeks, we may be quite sure that, in the -big States of Australia, where the distances -are so great, and so much time has to be taken in getting the returns together, the length of time that would be absolutely lost in finding out who was elected would destroy the system at once. People would not stand it. In fact it would break down._ When the time came for the meeting of Parliament the Senate would not be able to assemble. There is no question about this. It cannot te denied by those who go into the matter carefully. In Victoria the distances are not so great, but in Queensland and Western Australia, where development is proceeding from day to day, populations are existing at very great distances from large centres, and consequently the time required for -getting together the returns must be very considerable. It is probable that in those two great States the length of time will (henceforth be increased. The history of the Hare system is not an encouraging one for those who desire to adopt it exactly as brought in by the author, or with the modifications which have been made. As stated by Senator Symon yesterday, it was first introduced in Adelaide in connexion with municipal life in 1S40. Nineteen’ years later Mr. Hare brought out the first edition of his work. Since then various people have patched it, varied it, and made new proposals. Certain Parliaments have discussed it, and one State has adopted it, but after a very short trial has rejected it. Some small use has been made of it on the continent of Europe. It is used occasionally for the election of directors, and in some small social ways it has had some success. But speaking from the point of view of a great Legislature - the point of view of a great nation desiring to carry out its affairs in the most perfect and satisfactory way - this system has made absolutely no progress whatever. _ It stands rather condemned by the fact that since it was first mooted some 60 years ago, its advocates have quarrelled one with another as to the different phases in which it should be drafted, while when it has been adopted by a Legislature, it has been more or less speedily discarded. In looking over some English magazines, I find that in the Contemporary Review for December, 1883, Mr. Seebohm, who is a well-known English writer, makes the following statement in an article, in which he favours proportional representation : -
Mr. Hare’s system even as modified by Mr. Parker Smith -
Mr. Parker Smith is another gentleman who has undertaken this work of modification - is understood 03’ nearly all practical politicians to be too complicated, and to leave too much to chance.
Then in an article by Hayward - whom I am bound to admit I do not know - which appears in the Nineteenth Century for February, 1884, the writer, who generally favours the principle of proportional representation, makes a statement to the effect–
– Is Mr. Seebohm a man of any authority 1
– And he approves of the Hare-Spence system ?
– No ; he favours generally a system of proportional representation. Hayward writes -
Although Mr. Bright, if he could divest himself of prejudice, and had the patience to study Mr. Hare’s plan in detail, would perhaps find it less unintelligible than he supposes, it may freely be conceded that in its extreme form it is, however theoretically perfect, far too complicated for practical application - at least until the average British elector has developed a degree of intelligence which is far beyond the horizon of the present or many generations to come.
Thus the history of the Hare system from its very inception is a most discouraging one for its supporters. Yet, discouraging as it is, and without any satisfactory evidence of the system having been a success, we have the Government desiring to force it on Australia before Australia herself has begun to consider it. I think that in these facts alone there is more than sufficient reason why we should discard the proposals contained. in. the Bill. In the report on the Hare-Clark system of voting by Mr. Davies, returning officer, and Mr. R. M. Johnston, statistician, of Tasmania - Senator Symon referred briefly to this point yesterday - these gentlemen seek to obtain approval of this fantastical system of election, because they discover that even without it the same people would have been returned at the last elections there. If certain gentlemen can be returned on a simple system, why should a complex one be brought into play in order to achieve the same result 1 Dealing with the returns for the Senate, the report sets forth at page 5 that -
Ifc would therefore appear, apart from the mere order of precedence, that, with one exception, the same candidates would be returned for the Senate by the imaginary six single electorates as were actually returned at the last Senate election under the Clark -Hare system. Seeing that there were fifteen candidates in all, this result is very remarkable, and demonstrates the superiority of the Hare system of voting, or true proportional representation.
Then on the next page it is stated -
As showing the non-accidental character of the Hare system, it will again be observed that, as in the elections for the Senate, the order of preference of the various candidates - for the House of Representatives - was not at all disturbed, by the transfer of the second, third, and higher preference transfer votes.
At the bottom of the same page the following paragraph appears -
The3e wonderfully close results by the two different systems of election demonstrate the great advantages, and the almost complete freedom from the element of chance, secured under the Clark -Hare system of election.
I want to know why we are to be bothered and driven nearly frantic by a system which brings us nothing save that which we can secure by a simpler process.
– But by a system of six single electorates.
– The honorable senator is entirely mistaken in his opinion of that report.
– I am not. I have read the report. It examines the returns for the last federal elections in Tasmania, and after dividing them up claims that if the proposed electorates had been adopted, the same result would have followed, and, therefore, that the HareClark, system is a good one.
– Under single electorates. . This Bill does not provide single electorates for the Senate.
– The report states that if they had had single electorates in Tasmania, the same men would have been returned.
– Does the honorable senator approve of single electorates for the Senate 1
– No. As stated by Senator Symon there is before another place a Bill providing for adult suffrage. By right that Bill ought to have been passed before this measure was put before us. I think that Senator O’Connor is sailing very close to the wind in asking us to deal withprinciples under this machinery Bill which-, are contained in a measure not yet dealt with by the House of Representatives. As those principles are included in this measure, it is our bounden duty to discuss them. Under this Bill we have actually todecide whether or not we shall have adultsuffrage. Senator O’Connor did not evert indicate that fact in introducing the measure. If the Senate once accepts this Bill as it stands it will have accepted adult suffrage. Are we to agree to that principle in this way by a side-wind, without any discussion? Of course we cannot doso, and therefore we have to deal with thesubject while this Bill is before us. I wish the Senate to take into consideration the consequences of adult suffrage, in so far as the relative positions of town and country are concerned, in the measure of representation in another place. I know that in New South Wales there is even now a,’great outcry that the city monopolizestoo much representation, and thatthe country does not obtain sufficient.. But, owing to the fact that the greater proportion of women reside in the cities, the consequence of adult suffrage would be to throwthe representation of the people far more into* the hands of city electorates than is the case even at the present time. I have some figures and facts here with regard to New South Wales. For the State of New South Wales there are 26 members returned to the House of Representatives. Nine of these represent city electorates - South Sydney, West Sydney, East Sydney, North Sydney, Lang, Wentworth, Parkes, Dalley, and I include in the number also, Newcastle. There are seventeen country constituencies represented - Hunter, Canobolas, Riverina,
Eden, Cowper, Werriwa, Parramatta, Gwydir, Richmond, Illawarra, Hume, New England, Macquarie, Darling, Barrier, Bland, and Robertson. There are, therefore, nine city representatives to seventeen country representatives, and the country is not quite satisfied even with that proportion of representation. I have taken the trouble to extract from the statistical returns the figures of the female population as it existed at the time of the last census ; and I find that had there been adult suffrage in existence at the time of the federal elections the “result would have been that the city constituencies would have returned twelve representatives, and the country constituencies only fourteen. So that the country, instead of having, as new, a majority of eight representatives, would only have had a majority of two. This is a matter of very great importance. It may upset to a very serious extent the entire basis of representation, and, without saying whether it is fair or unfair, I say it ought not to be dealt with until the great States have had ample opportunity of considering whether they approve of it.
– What are their representatives here for but to represent them in dealing with this question 1
– We are here to deal with matters we are sent to deal with, and we are not here to deal with matters before the country desires to deal with them, or before the country fully understands what we are at. I do deprecate very strongly the tendency which has been shown to swamp Australia with legislation, and to give us more of it than we can possibly deal with. I like to think first, and legislate afterwards. I do not care to accept these important proposals until I have fully considered them. If I may use the expression, I like a subject to simmer in my brain for a while before I deal, with it. The public of Australia ought to be allowed an opportunity of considering- what they want, of expressing their opinions, and letting us know their views. Now, with regard to the great State of Victoria, there is a very large female population in Victoria, and the inclusion of female voters will vary the representation in this State very largely. The people of Victoria ought therefore to have an opportunity of studying the result of this proposal as between town and country, and in every other way. Then with regard to the great and rapidly growing
State of Queensland, I take it that the bulk of the female population of that State is in the southern portion of it. I have not myself looked carefully into the figures, but I think there can be no doubt at all that the adoption of this system of adult suffrage would vary the electoral results in Queensland in a very important degree. I am not saying now whether it is right or wrong, but I am saying that these important results would come about, and the people of Queensland ought to have some opportunity of studying the matter, or forming a judgment upon it, and letting us know ‘whether they desire that this proposal should be accepted. What opportunities have the people of Queensland of doing so at the present time? What opportunity have the people of the northern portion of Queensland of saying whether the)’ disapprove of the present proportion of representation of the north being lessened, and of the proportion of representation enjoyed by the south being largely increased 1 I ask emphatically and earnestly that Australia may have an opportunity of settling these matters, and of understanding what will be the consequences of adopting the proposals now before us.
– Is not the honorable senator against proportional representation altogether ?
– I am against it.
– Then if it is brought in in twelve months’ time it will make no difference to the honorable senator1!
– If it is brought in in twenty years or a century hence it will make no difference to me, in more ways than one.. I am arguing that we have no justification for putting upon the statute-book measures which have not been considered by the people, and upon which they have not had an opportunity of forming an opinion. There is not a member of this Senate, or of the House of Representatives, who does not know the great importance of the subject of the relative representations of cities and of the country, and I think the people of Australia will desire to have some say in this matter. I should like to point out with regard to the schedules, and the complicated system evolved therein, that the figures which have been given are extremely small. What is the use of talking about an election for the Senate in which we have only a few hundred voters. It is monstrous and absurd, but it is calculated to hide from our eyes the enormous consequences in connexion with clerical work, in- connexion with scrutiny, and so on, which must result in dealing with the enormous number of votes that would actually be before us. I have studied the .schedules and the illustrations given, and I feel very much of an intellectual wreck. I feel as if I had struck a snag for once in my life. I have certainly been able generally to find my way among figures.
– If the honorable senator wants to.:’
– I wanted to do so upon this occasion, but I confess that the more I have studied them the greater seems to me to be the pitfalls and the opportunities for electioneering dodges, and for the scheming which every Britisher and Australian hates. As some illustration of the confusion of thought contained even in the Bill, I just draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that in the clauses dealing with the election of members of the House of Representatives, voters are required to vote 1, and they may vote 2, 3, 4, and so on, just the same as in voting for the election of members of the Senate, notwithstanding the fact that under the arrangement of the Bill only the second vote would in any case be counted. Why should an elector be called upon to put the numbers 3, 4, and so on, when only the number 2 votes are under any circumstances counted 1 The method proposed is, however great the number of candidates, to have the bottom one struck out, and then to distribute his second preferences, and he is then done with. Then we take the next lowest candidate, if there is one, and so on until we have eliminated all but two, and then of the two left the man who has the highest number of votes is elected, and the preferences 3, 4; and so on are not wanted at all.
– Does the honorable senator say they are never wanted 1
– I do say they are never wanted under the system proposed in this Bill for the election of members of the House of Representatives.
– Yes, but the HareSpence system of proportional representation is not applied to the election of members of that House.
– I am speaking of what is contained in the Bill, and of what must be admitted by those who have drawn up this measure. I desire to add to the quotations made by Senator Symon yesterday in connexion with the representation of single electorates. Here* is an extract from page 5 of Miss Spence’s work, “ Effective Voting”-
It would be a backward move for South Australia to follow the bad example of America, and make uninominal or one member districts. The minor party would be always und everywhere i extinguished. Under present conditions all who do not vote for the successful candidate or candidates are unrepresented. Indeed, they are misrepresented by men of different convictions and aims.
Then at page 26 she says -
For the representation of the people in any legislative or municipal body this contingent vote in uninominal districts everywhere and always excludes the minority even more than the ordinary method used elsewhere.
Well I do not know where we are. I cannot for the life of me understand why proposals so divergent should be made. Ithas brought to my mind a creation by a man of genius who has become immortalized, and who was named “Mr. Facing bothways.” Why the Government should call to their aid, in drafting this measure, a gentleman of this character, I do not know. ‘ It seems to me unintelligible that they should, as was sufficiently shown yesterday by Senator Symon, so strongly advocate proportional representation for one House, and equally strongly advocate majority representation for the other. As Lord Dundreary said, it is a thing which no “fellah “ can understand. Women’s suffrage -ought not to have been dragged into the measure, or if it had to be dragged before the Senate, we ought to have .had a Women’s Suffrage Bill introduced first of all. I do not intend to go into the whole question ; but I propose to make a few statements with the view of showing the Senate where I am on this matter, reserving to myself the right to move amendments in committee should the Bill unhappily ever reach that stage. I hold the opinion that the proposal to confer the suffrage on women is not desirable in the interests of women themselves.
– What has that to do with this Bill 1
– If it has nothing to do with this Bill, let the honorable senator ask whether I am in order. If I am in order, then it. is a proof that the Government have introduced this matter into the measure knowingly, and are at- tempting to get the Senate to agree to it.
– May I ask the honorable senator is there anything in the Bill about women’s suffrage?
– I beg to direct your attention, sir, to several forms in the schedule in which a column is provided for a statement of the sex of the elector. For instance, in form A and in form F. Again in clause 140 we find the following provision : -
No female elector shall be disqualified from voting under the name appearing on the roll because her surname has been changed by marriage.
– If the Bill anticipates female suffrage, I do not see why it should not be discussed.
– I rise to a point of order, because otherwise a subject would be opened that might lead to a very wide discussion having nothing to do with the Bill. The honorable senator has referred to some schedules, but I think he will find that there is no part of the Bill which impliedly, in any way, introduces female suffrage. It deals with the existing state of things. In some of the States female suffrage exists, and the Bill would be unworkable unless it contained those references. I submit that the honorable senator is out of order in discussing the general question of adult suffrage.
– The object of the measure is to sweep away all existing machinery laws and to take their place, and this direct reference to female electors in clause 140 could not possibly be passed without our approving of the system of adult suffrage. It says -
No omission of any Christian name, or entry of a wrong Christian name, and no mistake in the spelling of any surname, shall warrant the rejection at any polling of any claim to vote if the voter is sufficiently identified in the opinion of the presiding officer, and no female elector shall be disqualified from voting under the name appearing on the roll because her surname has been changed by marriage.
– That applies to South Australia and to Western Australia.
– We are not continuing the laws of South Australia and Western Australia, but framing a uniform law for the whole of Australia, We are sweeping away the laws of the States, and if it had been desired that those laws should remain in force we should not have had this measure, submitted, and been told that the passing of it is very important. The Government have themselves forced upon us the consideration of the question of women’s suffrage. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has admitted this because he has allowed me to discuss the results of women’s suffrage as affecting the relative position of country and town representation.
– Undoubtedly, but that is a different thing from going into a. discussion of the principle.
– I submit,’ sir, that I am quite in order in discussing the question.
– The question as to who shall exercise the franchise is entirely different from the question as to how it shall be exercised. I understand that the Bill does not raise the question as to who shall have the right to exercise the franchise, but that it raises the question as to how that right shall be exercised. The Bill might be operative in the event of the franchise remaining in the various States as it is. If for a moment we look upon the mode of exercising the franchise as machinery, which of course we cannot, the Bill is applicable to existing laws in the various States, and does not raise the question of women’s suffrage. It is necessary, perhaps, because woman’s suffrage exists in South Australia, to provide in the schedules, and perhaps in the body of the Bill, for the state of affairs existing in that State, but it does not propose to alter in any way the class of individuals who are entitled to vote. I do not think that the question of women’s suffrage is raised.
– On the question of your ruling, sir–
– I have given my ruling, and I do not think it ought to be discussed unless an honorable senator is prepared to dissent from it.
– I only wish to say that I mean to dispute your ruling at some other time.
– I can but express my regret, sir, that you in your wisdom and experience have come to the conclusion that I am not in order in discussing this point. I agree that the Bill as drawn does not propose adult suffrage, but what I held was that it assumes adult suffrage, and commits the Senate to it. I should like to ask the Senate to give a little thought to the strong position which the Constitution Act bestows on the States inregard to the Senate. Section 9 says -
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. Subject to any such law, the Parliament of each State ma3’ make laws prescribing the method of choosing the senators for that State.
The Parliament of a State may make laws for determining the times and places of elections of senators for the State.
And section 11 contains this provision -
The Senate may proceed to the despatch of business, notwithstanding the failure of any State to provide for its representation in the Senate.
It would clearly appear from those sections that the State has something to say with regard to the election of senators. I agree that the matter is wrapped up in a good deal of difficulty. I do not pose as a constitutional authority. I do not propose to attempt to draw any line, to say where the power of the State begins and where it ends. I only ask the Senate to notice the wording of those sections, and to observe that on the States themselves are conferred great powers with regard to the election of their representatives, and to remember that the proposals of the Government deal in a most harsh, abrupt, and arbitrary way with those rights. It has appeared to me that if the Senate were sufficiently satisfied with the remarkable system which has been proposed, or with the idea of proportional representation generally, the first step should have been to appoint a select committee. For in a general assembly it is almost absolutely impossible to discuss with accuracy close mathematical calculations. It is almost impossible in any legislative body to make quite clear the exact working of such a system as is proposed, and if the Senate should desire to go on with the measure, the best course that could be adopted would be to refer the whole matter to a select committee, and then possibly with its report we should be able to see more clearly than we can to-day what course we ought to follow.
– That would be another way of shelving the whole Bill.
– The honorable senator does not wish to shelve the Bill. His only idea seems to be to force’ it down our throats, quite irrespective of whether the country understands it or not. I conceive it to be our duty to insist that we do not precede the country in our legislation, and do not put upon our statute-book a measure which the country has not asked for, and does not yet understand. Having these feelings, and holding them strongly and conscientiously,
I feel compelled to vote for the amendment of Senator Symon.
– I do not intend to attempt to answer at length the arguments used against the Bill, and mainly against the principle of proportional representation. I recognise that the Senate has heard the case put from both sides forcibly and exhaustively. But there are two or three points with respect to the application of proportional representation in the State I represent which it may be of service to honorable senators if I clear up, as having been missed by others who have spoken. I can do this without dealing with the Bill as a whole. I preface- my remarks by saying that I sincerely hope that Senator Symon’s amendment will not be carried, because whatever our individual opinions may be as to the merits or demerits of proportional representation I believe the majority of us regard the Bill as necessary and useful. I hope that we may be able to eliminate such portions as we do not agree with, or get them amended, so that the Bill may be passed. Seeing that almost the whole of the arguments in connexion with the measure have centred around the proportional system of voting I may be permitted to address my remarks principally to that position. The opposition was initiated by Senator Clemons in an admittedly powerful and destructive speech, and he was followed on the same side yesterday by Senator Symon, in a speech which was, if I may say so, one of the best I have had the pleasure of listening to in the Senate. The main tenor of their arguments was that proportional representation has not been retained for any length of time in any country where it has been tried. They laid special stress upon the fact that in Tasmania, where the system was tried, it was dropped. But both Senator Symon and Senator Clemons omitted to tell the Senate that it was not the people but the politicians of Tasmania who dropped the system. As they have made that a main point in their opposition to the Bill, I am justified in trying to show that if the people of Tasmania, with an experience of the working of the principle, had had an opportunity of saying whether they would retain or reject it, I believe they would have retained it.
– I think that 90 per cent, of them would not have had it.
– I am not going to say that 90 per cent, of them would have retained it, but I think that certainly more than 50 per cent, of them were in favour of proportional representation. Like Senator Clemons, during my election campaign in Tasmania I also was considerably catechised as to this system of voting. But there I part company with him. He tried to make the Senate believe that only a very small proportion of the people understood anything about the system, or what was going to become of their votes. I found a very fair proportion - I can say the majority - of the voters in different parts of the State who did understand what was going to become of their votes under the system.
– That was after we had been explaining it.
– Exactly, after the honorable senator’s eloquence, and lucidity had been devoted to its explanation, their intelligence was quite able to grasp it. I found that after a very short explanation the Tasmanian people understood the system, and were favorable to it.
– The Tasmanian system was much easier to understand than this system.
– That remark is not, I think, quite apropos. It was proportional representation in both cases. And why should not the people understand it ? Surely the average elector has enough intelligence to understand that when he gets a- list of candidates, and prefers one to all the others, if he is able to mark his ballot-paper he is to write No. 1 opposite to the name of the man he prefers? Having done that he knows which candidate ha prefers secondly, and is able to put the figure 2 opposite the name of that man; and so on with the figure 3 opposite -the third man, and the figures 4, 5, or 6 opposite the names of others according to his preferences.
– What he does not understand is what happens to his vote.
– He is able to understand that if the candidate for whom he votes No. 1 is returned without his
Vote that vote goes to the candidate for whom he votes No. 2. He knows that his vote will not be wasted if it is not needed for the candidate who receives his primary vote. Ninety-nine per cent, of the voters fully understand the principle that if they mark No. 1 against a man’s name, and he is returned without their votes, those votes are not lost, but are recorded in favour of the candidate whom they marked No. .2. The electors know that if both those men are returned without their help .their votes go to the men whom they have marked No. 3, and so on. They know that after dealing with the surplus votes of those at the top of the list who have obtained the quota the candidates at the bottom of the list who have not a chance of getting in have their votes distributed ; that the candidate lowest on the list has his votes distributed according to the order of the preferences marked. I found that the great majority of the people quite understood what was to become of their votes, and were in favour of the system because they felt that it allowed each phase of political opinion in the country which was numerically strong enough to have a quota of electors, to be represented in Parliament. I found that the opinion was growing, as a knowledge of this system of voting spread, that it was the true system of political representation, under which every phase of political thought, or, as my honorable and learned friend, Senator Keating, put it, every phase of political aspiration, provided the people holding such views were numerically powerful enough to have a quota of electors, secured representation in Parliament. So much stress has been laid on the fact that Tasmania, after having adopted the proportional representation system, rejected it, that I feel it to be my duty to show reasons why that was done. Senator Keating last night gave the Senate some good reasons. I think I shall be able to show a reason which is unanswerable. It is this : Tasmania is at present divided into single electorates, with the exception of the two cities, namely, Launceston and Hobart, to which the Hare-Clark principle of election was applied for some years. Of course it was not applied to the single electorates of the country because the system is not applicable to single electorates. It was only when the proposal was brought before the Legislative Assembly last year to divide the whole State into certain group electorates, instead of having 35 single electorates, that opposition was aroused in the minds of the country members. Why % It is easy to understand it. A man who has been for years representing one small electorate, where he has only to seek the suffrages of 1,000 electors, who is personally popular with his little group of voters, and is practically sure of his seat, looks with some hesitation on any system which proposes to join his-electorate with, or put his electorate into, a larger electorate, which comprises four, five, or six other constituencies round about him. He is bound to regard such n system with hesitation, because he knows that it will compel him to seek the suffrages, not only of his little group of personal friends and political acquaintances, but of thousands of other men who, perhaps, know nothing about him politically or personally. It was in the minds of the country members of Tasmania that opposition to the HareClark system was aroused. They thought the change was injurious to themselves. They wanted to continue the single electorates which they had had for years past. As to the two large cities where this system has been tried, it is true that it has since been rejected, but a very good reason was urged last night as to why that was done, and I may be able to amplify it. There was a general election two years ago in connexion with which a very regrettable incident occurred. One of the candidates for Hobart had been a short time before a member of the Ministry. In consequence of the report of a Royal commission appointed to inquire into certain public works, this Minister was really compelled to resign his seat, and the Government of which he was a member came down with him. A new Government came into power ; but a few months afterwards the general election took place. This ex-Minister again attempted to enter Parliament. The press of the COUntry was roused against him, but he was determined, if possible, to get in. Under the Hare-Clark system of election, which was then the system in Hobart, he was able to get his quota, and was returned. Seeing that the quota was only 603, and that this man had only to get 603 primary votes to secure his return, it is easy to understand that it was not a difficult thing for him with wealth and influence behind him to secure his quota. It was stated last night by Senator Keating that the quota was something over 400 votes, and Senator Clemons interjected that it was nearer 700. Both honorable senators were under a misapprehension, although Senator Clemons was nearer the mark, for I have ascertained that the actual quota was 603 votes. Such was the feeling engendered throughout Tasmania - and kept alive by the press - by the return of this member, who but a few months before had been compelled to resign owing to an alleged act of corruption, that the cry went through the State that he dare not take his seat. Whether he heeded that cry I am not going to say. I do not think that he took his seat ; if he did, he resigned it immediately afterwards. When the Hare-Clark system was before the State Parliament last session, it was said that it was a danger to honest politics, in view of the. fact that it had returned to Parliament a man who only a few months before had been declared by most of the electors of the State to be unfit for a position in the Legislature. It seems to have been forgotten that in a small electorate consisting of about 5,000 electors, of whom no doubt only about 3,000 would vote, the same result might have been obtained under the block system when six members had to be returned.
– Can the honorable and learned senator say how many plump votes that member would “have had to poll in order to be returned for one of the six seats 1 I do not think we can answer that question; but I am satisfied that it would not have been necessary for him to poll very many. If he was able - and I do not say that he was - to purchase his way into Parliament under the HareClark system, as applied to that small electorate, then he would have been equally able to do so under the block system.
– If he had spent a great deal more money
– We do not know that he spent anything, but I contend that he would have been equally able to get in under the block system. If it was .a question of monetary influence perhaps a greater expenditure would have been required. I am able to give a somewhat remarkable confirmation of my contention that it was not the people, but the politicians of Tasmania who objected to the Hare-Clark system. We all know that Members of Parliament are rather sensitive to the criticism of the press.
– Not at all. I have snapped my fingers at the press all my life.
– I am glad to hear that we have such an independent man amongst us. We must agree, at all events, that every politician reads the newspapers, and knows that their views differ largely.
In Tasmania we have five .or six daily newspapers. We have a weekly paper published mainly in the interests of labour ; we have three small daily newspapers, all of which can claim to be very liberal in their political views ; one large daily newspaper in the’ northern city of Launceston which is a liberal journal, and another which I think I may describe as conservative, for it is against all kinds of social improvement - it opposes factory legislation and the abolition of black labour. In the southern city of Tasmania, Hobart, we have another newspaper, which is recognised as the leading daily journal in the State, to the extent that it is the largest. It is perhaps the most tory newspaper in Australia. I refer to the Hobart Mercury.
– Do not call it names.
– It is the most ultraconservative journal in Australia.
– Was it- in favour of the abolition of the Hare-Clark system 1
– I am coming to that. Some honorable senators have dwelt so strongly upon the fact that the one State in Australia which has tried the Hare-Clark system rejected it after a short trial, that it may be of interest to the Senate to learn that all these newspapers, notwithstanding their wide divergence of opinion upon political and social questions - notwithstanding that in their fiscal beliefs they are as far asunder as the poles - raised an outcry against the abolition of the system. Every one of them pointed out that the politicians who- succeeded in having the system rejected showed by their arguments that it was not the convenience of the electors which they sought, but the convenience of the politicians themselves. The whole of the arguments against the Hare-Clark system which were raised by members of the Tasmanian Parliament indicated not the slightest regard for the convenience of the electors, but rather the convenience of the politicians.
– The electors will settle them.
– If, as suggested yesterday by Senator Symon, this question were submitted to a referendum of the electors there, I am satisfied that, having tried the scheme and learned how it enables the different phases of thought to be represented, they would indicate their determination to adhere to it.
– The honorable senator is not including members of the Federal Parliament in his condemnation of politicians.
– The honorable senator was referring to the State Parliament.
– If the electors of Tasmania had to decide the question of whether or not the Hare-Clark system should be retained, they would return an overwhelming majority in favour of its retention. Senator Clemons’ presence here is a monument to the efficacy of the system.
– But I dislike it. I do not want it.
– I am sure that if Tasmania had not returned Senator Clemons honorable senators would have regretted it. At all events the free-trade party would miss him. Senator Pulsford has referred to the report issued by Mr. Davies, the returning officer, and Mr. R. M. Johnston, statistican of Tasmania, on the working of the Hare-Clark system in that State, and I intend to read an extract from it in order to show that the honorable senator was wrong in his deductions. He stated that those two gentlemen claimed in their report that if the block system of voting had obtained at the senatorial elections in Tasmania the same results would have been achieved. On the contrary, after giving an analysis, they set forth at page 5 of the report that -
From the foregoing analysis, showing the strength of the principal candidates within each of the five great divisions of the State, we may reasonably infer that the candidates standing at the top in each division would be returned for the respective divisions. . . . The position taken up by Clemons by this restriction to one subdidivision is very curious and instructive. As this candidate would in all probability stand for Mangana, where it is shown that he had his strongest following, it is likely that he would, as indicated, be defeated by Keating. This shows how, by the single-electorate system, a candidate who commanded the second highest number oE followers in the State, and even the third highest following within a single division, would nevertheless be excluded from the poll ;-
– The calculations are all based on the assumption of the division of the State into single electorates, and certain candidates offering themselves for certain divisions.
– I was going to come to that - while a candidate who only took up the eleventh position (Murra)’) in the single six-member electorate would in all probability be returned for his local division of Paratana, even though his local following (581) is only about half the number of demon’s following in Mangana (1,130), where, in all probability, the latter would be defeated by the superior following of Keating (1.138).
The arguments in this report only go to show that the same result would have been obtained at the federal elections in Tasmania if the State had been divided into six single electorates. They do not show that the same result would have been achieved under the block system as under the Hare-Clark system if Tasmania had been polled as one electorate. It will be seen therefore that Senator Pulsford was quite wrong in his deductions. There is one other point which I think is worthy of notice. A great deal of sympathy has been wasted upon the unfortunate elector. The elector does not want it, for he understands the system. A great deal of stress has also been laid on the argument that under this system the returning officer manipulates the votes. I think that is a most absurd contention. Senator Symon dwelt upon it more strongly perhaps than did any other honorable senator. He urged that the votes would have to be manipulated by the returning officer before they became effective. Surely under any system of voting we have to trust to the honesty of the returning officer 1 Under the block system the votes could be manipulated equally as well as under the Hare system.
– Not very well.
– Equally as well. The Hare system simply makes it mandatory that the votes shall be counted in a certain way. It has to be remembered that at the final count every candidate is entitled to have a scrutineer at the elbow of the returning officer, and no doubt scrutineers would be selected who understood the system just as well as did the returning officer.
– Nanson does not say that of his own system.
– I am speaking of the preferential system of voting generally, and I have had experience of it as applied to Tasmania. It is only because I come from the one State of the Commonwealth in which the Hare-Clark system has been tried, that I have ventured to add a few remarks to what has already been put forward far more ably and exhaustively by Senator Keating in support of this scheme. A point which I think is worthy of the attention of the Senate is, that there is a danger that in future elections in a State where, we will say, half the population is in one city the whole of the six representatives may go to the city. I do not know whether it is a coincidence, and I do not mean to be personal in mentioning it, but I think I am right in saying that, under the block system in Victoria at the last federal elections, the whole of the six candidates returned to this Senate were men who reside in and around Melbourne. I say there is always this danger under the block system where a State contains something over 1,000,000 inhabitants, as Victoria does, and there are perhaps 200,000 voters, and 100,000, or half of them, reside in one city and its suburbs. If, in such a case, there are six country candidates and six city candidates, there is an ever-present danger, owing to the vote in the city being rather stronger than the country vote, of the return of the whole of the six city candidates. We can easily imagine in the future some big question arising which will be a bone of contention between the city and the country.
– The honorable senator is wrong about Victoria, because I got fewer votes in the city than in the country, where I was not so well known.
– That may be so. I do not recollect how. many city and country candidates stood. I am sure Senator Barrett will not regard my remarks as in any way personal. I say that if there is a big issue raised in connexion with which the politics of the country and the city come into conflict, and there are a few more electors in the city and suburbs than in the country, and each side runs an equal number of candidates for senatorial elections, the city may return the whole of the six senators for the State.
– Holding those views, does the honorable senator advocate single electorates? It is for the reasons the honorable senator advances that I object to them.
– -I do not think that is quite relevant to my argument as applied to elections for the Senate.
– It is the Bill we are dealing with, and the reasons the honorable senator is giving are the reasons which induced me to oppose single electorates.
–]: do not follow the honorable and learned senator’s interjection. Senator Pulsford drew a dismal picture of the time that would elapse before the final result of the elections under this system could be made known, and of the expense it would entail. The honorable senator quite exaggerated the case. I see no reason why there should be any greatly increased expenditure ; and I am quite sure that Senator O’Connor will be able to answer that argument. I believe that it will involve the employment of only one or two extra assistants for each chief returning officer. As to the time that must elapse before the results of elections under this system are known, I may say that when it was used in Tasmania, the returning officers for distant electorates counted, first of all, only the primary votes, and telegraphed from the nearest telegraph office the number obtained by each candidate to the chief returning officer. Though Tasmania is not a large State, owing to insufficient means of transport there are some parts of it which are geographically remote, and yet on the night of the day of election, or very shortly afterwards, the chief returning officer was able to publish the results of the primary voting, which showed that five out of six of the candidates eventually returned were at the top of the poll. That list was posted up by every newspaper office in the State, and it might have been posted up at every post-office if that had been necessary.
– Showing that it was purely a plumping system, because the result was not altered.
– The result was not altered in the order of the return of the candidates. But I am now dealing with Senator Pulsford’s objection that this system will involve great delay in the publication of the results of elections. The instance to which I have referred shows that probably no more delay is likely to occur under this system than under any other which might be adopted.
– When were the final returns made known? A week after the election ?
– The final returns were published about five days after.
– That was due to the fact that there was a great deal of voting by post on the day of election, and the returning officer had to wait for those votes to come in.
– I am reminded of the fact that many votes were recorded by post, and it took some time for those votes to reach, the returning officer. I am able to say, from personal experience of parts of the district with which I was most closely associated, that a number of votes were sent in by post.
– Under the block system in New South Wales nineteen days elapsed before all the votes were in.
– I was about to say that the very same delay would have occurred under the block system, as these votes could only have been received by post, and in some cases it took several days for the mail from remote polling booths to reach the chief returning officer. I have mentioned that the quota was 603 in the general election in Hobart in 1900, and it was 531 in Launceston. As stated last night by Senator Keating, that, I think, is a very fair answer to the objection taken to this system that the quota is so small that it is always possible for some undesirable persons to get into Parliament. In the case of the first election at which this system was tried, the quota in Hobart was 457, and in Launceston it was 442, showing, again, how small was the quota necessary. Honorable senators ‘will understand that if this system is applied to a whole State, no matter how small, the quota must be very large. Even in the case of Tasmania, with its 40,000 electors, it is clear that the quota mast be very large, and too large to enable any man by means of undue or corrupt influences to purchase himself into Parliament. So that the danger apprehended in Tasmania, and which caused the rejection of this system in that State need never be apprehended in its application to federal elections. The strongest argument adduced by Senator Clemons in his exceedingly able and instructive speech, was that in which he sought to discover why the last man on the poll should be struck out. That has been exhaustively answered, and it is perhaps unnecessary for me to answer it again. He is struck out because he is the choice of a fewer number of the electors than any other candidate. Suppose there are fifteen candidates, as there were in Tasmania for the Senate, the man who is fifteenth on the list may have obtained more No. 2 votes than any other candidate. I do not suppose it is at all possible that he did, but assuming that he did, surely he was the right man to be first struck out when some one must be struck out, because it is clear that fourteen-ffteenths of the electors of Tasmania preferred somebody else to that man 1
– That is only saying the same thing in other words- - that he must be struck out because he has the lowest number of primary votes.
– Even though he was every elector’s second preference.
– Undoubtedly, there were still fourteen other candidates preferred to him by the general body of electors.
– By little sections, but he would be considered the second best man in the whole State.
Sonator O’KEEFE. - Still in the aggregate he was not the choice of the great bulk of the electors.
– He was never better than an alternative choice.
– I am sure Senator Clemons will not misunderstand me when I say that I can quite believe that he has probably gone more deeply into the reasons why the last man should be struck out than any of us. The honorable and learned senator contested a general election in Tasmania, and suffered under this provision, as he was the second to be struck out in a list of candidates, having the second lowest number of primary votes. There was only one candidate who got anything near the quota of 531. That candidate got 52.7 votes, and the other candidates 395, 284, and 273. Senator Clemons got 237 votes, and the lowest man on the poll got 205 votes. Senator Clemons was in that instance the second man to suffer from the application of this principle, and that, no doubt, has made him go very carefully into it to try to discover the reasons why the lowest man should be struck out. I do not know that I have at present anything further to urge in support of this principle of proportional representation. It has already been ably advocated by other speakers, and no doubt there are other honorable .senators to follow me who will urge the reasons in support of it quite as ably. Let me say, in conclusion, that surely we need not deal with this Bill in the way contemplated by the amendment proposed by Senator Symon. Even if we reject this system of proportional voting, let us still have the Bill.
– Who is going to re-draft it1! We’shall need to strike out whole clauses and also the schedules.
– We will need to strike out only the clauses relating to proportional voting. There are 206 clauses in the Bill, and I venture to say that it is desirable, in the interests of the people, that many of them should be passed into law. I think a very good reason was given by Senator O’Connor when he said that we must recognise the fact that we are to have an election at the end of next year, and it will take a very long time to get all this machinery into working order, or to get into working order the machinery necessary for the operation of any electoral law
– Ask Senator O’Connor if he will accept the Bill with the provisions for proportional representation in the Senate struck out.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator know very well what my answer will be 1
– Undoubtedly he does. I believe that a majority of honorable senators will accept this Bill whether we strike out those provisions or not. If the opponents of proportional representation succeed in having those clauses struck out, I believe there will still be a majority of honorable senators in favour of the Bill.
– But the Government will not accept it. i
– Surely it is desirable that we should pass such a Bill, more perhaps in the interest of purity of elections than anything else. The provision limiting expenses in connexion with elections is, I venture to say, a very desirable provision, and one which I am sure the people of Aus-* tralia will welcome. In the last federal election in Tasmania I know that some candidates were in a position to charter special trains to carry them from one point to another very quickly, and they were able in many ways, which were not corrupt, but which were legitimate and fair under the existing, electoral law, to get an advantage over men whose pockets were not so deep. I hope for many reasons that the Bill will be accepted, because it limits the election expenses to a fair sum, and because in many other ways it will tend to bring about a desirable state of affairs at elections. I have much pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill.
– I think we may say, without fear of contradiction, that if the Government had introduced the Bill without these new-fangled notions of which the great majority of the people of the Commonwealth have no knowledge, it would have been passed with very little discussion, and with no trouble. It contains two provisions which are new to the great majority of the people. It contains, first, a provision for proportional representation with regard to the Senate, and, secondly, a provision for contingent voting for the House of Representatives. The constituencies have never had an opportunity of speaking out on these questions except possibly to a limited extent in one State. In South Australia the adoption of proportional representation has been strongly advocated by Miss Spence, a very able and intelligent lady, and a number of persons who have been associated with her. “With that exception I do not know that the question of proportional representation or of the contingent vote has ever been before the electors of the other States. They have not spoken out on the subject, or given us any mandate. As a rule, they are satisfied with their present position, and I am quite confident that the vast majority of the people of South Australia are not in favour of the Hare-Spence system, or any proportional system, notwithstanding the ability with which it has been- advocated there by very able people, and the meetings which have been held in various centres during the last 40 years. The Government have sprung these provisions upon us as a surprise. It is not wise to force upon this large Commonwealth a new system of voting which practically the people have never had the slightest opportunity of considering, and which, if it should produce indifferent results, will be injurious to the whole of the Commonwealth. The first point I wish to make is that the Bill undoubtedly has no principle. If it is wise and proper that the senators should be chosen by a system of proportional representation, so as to enable minorities to get that which they cannot get under the block system, it is equally wise and proper that it should be applied to the election of members of the House of Representatives. Honorable ‘ senators may argue until they are black in the face, but they cannot get awa)’ from the fact that if, as some of them admit, it is a wise and proper system to adopt for the elections to the Senate, it is also a wise and proper system to adopt for the elections to the predominant House.
– Is it the predominant House ?
– The House that can make and unmake Ministries is the predominant House. The House that initiates Money Bills is predominant over the House that offers suggestions for the amendment of those Bills. Honorable senators may plead as much as they like that the Houses are upon an equality, but they are not.
– The honorable senator will have Senator Downer against him.
– Senator Downer has a perfect right to his own view. I have not the slightest doubt that in the Convention he tried to make the Senate as strong as he could, and to put it practically on an equality with the other House. Our system of responsible government could not be worked with two co-ordinate Houses.
– That is what I deny.
– Possibly Senator Downer thinks that because certain provisions are to be found in the Constitution the Senate is on an equality with the other House, but it is nothing of the spit. What have the Ministry done in this Bill 1 Not only have they provided single electorates for the House of Representatives so that the majority shall rule, but they have taken precious good care by their contingent vote that there shall be no mistake about it. Under our present system of ordinary voting, without the contingent vote, it very often happens, and very properly happens too, that the minority get a representative through the foolishness of the majority. The majority put up two men to contest one seat, but the minority put up only one man. The majority have their votes split up between the two candidates ; but the minority vote for their one man, and he is returned at the head of the poll, though he may not have got a majority of the votes. To prevent the minority having the ghost of a show of getting a man returned the Government have made provision for a contingent vote. They propose absolute rule for the majority, and that, I think, is a mistake. There is not the slightest necessity for the contingent vote, and later on I shall advance some reasons why it cannot work well. Senator Dawson has admitted that in Queensland it has been a great failure.
– The Queensland senators do not all agree with him.
– The proposal in the Bill is quite different. It cures the defect in the Queensland system.
– Here is an honorable and learned senator who advocates minorities getting a chance of being represented in the Senate, and who by his own action is preventing minorities getting the slightest chance of being represented in the predominant House. The proposal is absurd on the face of it. Honorable senators cannot answer a question of that sort satisfactorily ; they may do it to their own satisfaction, but that is all. I contend that the usual manner of voting which Englishspeaking people have adopted with hardly an exception, and with no exception at the present moment that I am aware of, should not be abandoned for this new and admittedly complicated system without very good reasons being advanced for such alteration. Last night Senator Keating wanted to prove that our present system has broken down in a great many particulars, and he had to go to Belgium, a country quite distinct from ours, and living under completely different conditions, to show how badly the block vote worked. In Belgium the difference between the two parties is so marked and so accentuated from a variety of causes that you can draw no parallel between them. In the first place, two or three languages are spoken and naturally the people group themselves, according to their language, in opposition one ‘to another. Then there exist very strong political parties. The. Roman Catholic party is exceedingly strong, and at the present time I believe it rules. There are also a strong liberal party, and a strong socialistic party. The people are divided up into a number of parties with very strong and accentuated antipathies one to another. That is not the case with us here.
– I am not sure. I want to find out.
– I am quite sure that the religious element does not come into our elections.
– I hope not, but I am not sure.
– Certainly, the language element does not. I have not 30 d followed the working of the electoral system and its results in the various States, but I know a good deal about the working of the electoral system of South Australia. I made inquiries to find out how the block system has worked. It must be remembered that the Senate is an absolute duplication of the Legislative Council of South Australia, which was constituted of members chosen by the electors of the colony voting as one district. From my knowledge of the members I can say that the electors made most admirable choices. In consequence of the- expense which was incurred on the death or resignation of a member, in taking a poll for the election of a successor, the Parliament divided the colony into four districts, and I believe that such division has resulted in deterioration and not advantage. The elections under the previous system were very satisfactory.. I shall take another case in which precisely similar results were obtained. Each., colony had to elect ten delegates to the Convention to revise the Constitution Bill that . was framed in Sydney in 1891. In SouthAustralia the elections were held under the block system, and I unhesitatingly say that no other system of election could have produced better results. I ask my colleagues-‘ in the representation of the State to say whether the results were not highly satisfactory. Coming to the election of the members of the Senate, and leaving myself out of the question, the results were highly satisfactory again. We have had a number of trials in South Australia in which the whole State waa . polled, under the block system, for the return of certain people to perform certain . functions, and in every instance with satisfactory results. The fact of the matter is that when a State is polled as a whole there is eliminated from the consideration of theelector to a great extent the force of local’ influences. The electors as a rule will return the men who have had the most ex- perience, and who are best known and besttrusted. That is the usual result under the. block system. Can a better result be obtained under any system ? I contend that it is not possible. I come to another point. This question.of proportional representation was a matter upon which the South Australian candidates were catechized at the. Senate elections. Naturally that was so, there being a powerful organization in South Australia, with an exceedingly able woman at its head. This organization asked every candidate how he was going to vote upon the question. They issued their ticket for the six men for whom they asked electors to vote, and who were pledged to support proportional representation. What was the result? They approached me. I said - “ No, I will not be a party to proportional representation for the whole Commonwealth, because it is an experiment, and we do not know how it will work. I am quite willing that it should be applied in the States first of all in a limited degree, and if it does not work out well, we need not adopt it for the Commonwealth. If it does work out well, we can adopt it generally. But I will be no party to thrusting into the electoral system of the Commonwealth this new system until we have seen more of its working.” I know that it is an exceedingly fascinating system. Once one adopts the premises of its supporters, one has to adopt their conclusions. What was the result of the poll in South Australia? The four highest candidates on the poll were, first, Senator Symon, secondly myself, thirdly our President, and fourthly Senator Downer - the four whoare opposed to proportional representation. The only two senators who got in who said they were in favour of proportional representation were the lowest on the poll, namely, Senator McGregor and Senator Charleston. So that, as far as South Australia has spoken out on this question, it has unmistakably pronounced against proportional representation. I do not mean to say, of course, that it was because the four senators at the top of the poll were opposed to proportional representation that they got in, any more than I would say that the two lowest got in because they supported it. Still, however, the matter had some effect. 1 have no doubt that opposing the system took some votes away from us, and supporting it gave some votes to the other side.
– Does the honorable senator think it was a real issue ?
– In South Australia we have had this question before the people for a long time. It had a trial in 1840 in connexion with municipal elections ; and because it produced bad results it was given up. It was a regular fad with Mr. Neville Blythe, who was at one time Treasurer of South Australia. He used every year’ to bring up in Parliament an academical discussion in favour of the
Hare system of proportional representation. When I entered Parliament in 1868, I recollect him proposing a motion in favour of the Hare system. I listened with considerable attention to the highly intellectual and interesting speech which he delivered. But he never carried his motion. Our then Speaker, the late Sir George Kingston, the father of the present Minister for Trade and Customs, was wholly opposed to the system. He never believed in it in any shape or form. He always argued emphatically against minority representation. The supporters of the system are turning round now. They say that the system is in favour of majority, but formerly it was the representation of minorities that they wanted. I remember how the late Sir George Kingston in his vigorous way used to oppose the system. He would say - “ What do we want with minority representation ? We want to have majorities represented in Parliament. This is a House of Parliament for the expression of the opinion of the majority of the people, and the more minorities you have here the more trouble there will be, and the more difficult it will be to carry on the government of the country.” At last Miss Spence arose and took the matter up. She held meetings throughout South Australia, and she practically killed the system. Senator Symon has referred to the people who voted at mock elections, or trial elections, in South Australia, and what sort of candidates were returned ? One was a labour man, another a representative of capital, a third a Roman Catholic, another a prohibitionist, another a single-taxer - and they wound themselves up with women’s suffrage. There was such a conglomeration - such a frightful, mixture - that the people of South Australia, when the results of these mock elections were known, shrugged their shoulders and said - “ This system would produce such results at parliamentary elections that we do not want it. We will continue to elect our Legislative Assembly as we have done in the past, under a system which has proved very satisfactory.” But though these trial elections produced such marvellous results, Miss Spence looked upon them as a proof of the correctness of her contention that minorities would be represented under her system.
– She contended that only minorities were represented under her system, and that is what killed it.
– Before Mr. Hare started his system in England, a German proposed a plan of proportional representation. Indeed, a considerable number of highly intellectual people have taken the matter in hand, with the result that as fast as one man proposes what he considers to be an improvement on Hare’s system, another man comes into play and says that both the previous men are wrong. Then a fourth comes up and says that the systems of the others are utterly incorrect. Next a fifth man comes along and says that all his predecessors were wrong, and the words are hardly out of his mouth before another proves that every other system but his own is completely false. We have before us a work by a gentleman named Ashworth. It is a very intelligent and able work. Mr. Ash worth is most damaging in his criticisms of the Hare, Clark, Droop, Gregory, Spence, Nanson, and all other systems ; and then he winds up with , a system of his own. He most effectually destroys the systems of other people -knocks them out completely-and then sets up his own ideal. But I venture to say that if we put Mr. Ashworth’s system into practice we should have “confusion worse confounded.” His system entirely depends upon having two parties. He wants the” whole of the electors in the country to be divided practically into two parties, and he wants the electoral machinery to be constructed in such a way that arrangements are only made for two parties. He compels the voter - that is the beauty of it ! - to say whether he is an Opposition man or a Ministerial man when he goes to the poll. Every voter is to be labelled. They are not to be prohibitionists, or single taxers, or anything outside the two parties, but are to be simply Ministerial or Opposition supporters. Mr. Ashworth thinks that he can educate public opinion up to that system.
SenatorO’Connor. - And he has been set up as a great authority by Senator Downer !
– So he is, as far as concerns his destructive criticism of other people’s schemes. I have no doubt that presently some other inventor of a system will come along and knock Ashworth kite high. It must be remembered that all these peculiar schemes are the work of highly intellectual men, and there is certainly a great fascination about them, as was urged at the beginning of this debate by my honorable friend from Tasmania, Senator Clemons. I have shown that, so far as South Australia is concerned, the results which have flown from the block vote indicate that there is no necessity for any alteration in the system ; that under it we have had excellent representation there; that the block vote as applied to the whole State has been eminently satisfactory, and will be equally as satisfactory in the future. To show how difficult it is to arrive at any true conclusion in regard to the system proposed, I would point out that, although Senator Keating said that the reason for the abandonment of proportional voting in Tasmania was that the constituencies were small, a number of other honorable senators have gone on the opposite tack, and have said that the system cannot be applied to large electorates if they contain more than a certain number of electors.
– I have not heard any one say that.
– That was the argument put forward by Senator Clemons.
– Yes. It was said that too many electors within a district would spoil the system.
– That is not intended.
– That is one of the strong arguments against the system, because it shows that we must have mathematically accurate voting districts, as well as a mathematical quota. It shows that it is an artificial system to go on. We have two main provisions in this Bill, which differ from systems hitherto in force. We have first of all, what is known as the “ bracketing,” which has been fully dealt with by Senator Symon in his most admirable speech - a speech which I think the leader of the Government will find an exceedingly difficult nut to crack; We have also the Droop quota.
– Some say it is the “ dupe “ quota.
– Possibly it may be. I have marked a passage in Ashworth’s book on Proportional Representation, setting forth reasons ; which appear to me to be absolutely unanswerable, showing that the Droop quota is undoubtedly a mistake. I shall not read it, but I will give to the Senate the conclusion that he arrives at. So far as I can see, the conclusion which he draws from his premises is absolutely correct. After giving an example of how the system works, he says, at page 105 -
The Droop quota therefore gives not proportional, but disproportional representation.
He proves it up to the hilt. Leaving that question, and coming to the position of the House of Representatives under this Bill, I suppose we all admit that we shall defer to the wishes of that House in regard to most matters, such as the division of the States into districts for that Chamber, which specially affect it. What meets with its approval, as a rule will doubtless gain our sanction so far as questions in which it is specially interested are concerned, unless we are able to point to what we think is some unmistakable blot. On the other hand, we shall expect it to reciprocate, and to defer equally to the wish of the Senate in matters relating to this Chamber, such as the question of whether the States should be divided into electoral districts or each polled as one electorate. I am utterly opposed to any division of the States into electoral districts for the Senate. I believe that the great majority of gentlemen who composed the Convention were equally opposed to it. In my opinion, the proper course to follow is to provide in this Bill that each State shall be one district for the election of members of this Chamber. I am sure that by that means we shall secure the best representatives - better men than could be obtained by any other scheme. We have a perfect right to criticise the proposals of the Government as contained in this Bill. I have mentioned briefly, in a few introductory remarks, that I am opposed to the contingent vote. It is a device to save the second ballot which is the law in many parts of Europe. I know it is the law in Prance and Germany.
– And in Italy.
– Yes. I would point out, however, that this contingent vote is not a second ballot. It means that a man must practically vote in the dark. An elector is undoubtedly asked to say that if the man opposite whose name he marks “No. 1,” is not returned, he will then give his vote “No. 2.” If he knew who were the two men who were topping the poll, and the man for whom his second vote might be required, he might vote quite differently. If there were a number of candidates, his contingent vote might be given to a man who had got a chance df election.
– He would mark “ No. 2 “ opposite the name of the man who was his second choice.
– But that man might not have a chance of being returned, whereas with a second ballot the elector would know exactly who he was voting for.
– The two top men might represent minorities.
– The honorable and learned senator wants minorities to be represented in the Senate, but he does not desire them to have a chance of representa- . tion in the other House.
– I want the majority to rule.
– Not here, but in another place.
– Most distinctly in both Houses.
– No. The honorable and learned senator desires a considerable sprinkling of minority representation here, but not in the other House. However, we will not pursue the subject any further.
– It is just as well.
– It is just as well for the honorable and learned senator. I think he has the wrong end of the stick. It strikes me very forcibly that he is arguing like “Mr. Facing-both-ways.”“ What is good for one section of the Parliament, according to the honorable and learned senator, is not good for the other. I will read what Mr. Ashworth has to say about the contingent vote, because t it is an exceedingly important point, and he puts the matter far more clearly than I could do. Evidently he has thought out the matter with considerable care. Having explained the manner of voting in France, he takes France as an example, and at page’ 190 he alludes to the contingent vote. He writes -
But in reality it possesses hardly any of the advantages of the French plan. It is another instance of the danger of neglecting the factor of human nature. The French do not go to the trouble and expense of a second election for nothing. . Their plan is far the better. First of all, consider the candidates. They know well beforehand that unless one of them gets an absolute . majority of the votes at the first election they will be put to the expense and delay of a second election, therefore it is to their interest that the number of candidates be restricted. This tends to keep down the representation to two sections. Next consider the electors. They know also that unless they give a majority of votes to one of the candidates they will be put to the trouble of voting a second time, therefore they will take good care the votes are not split up, even if the candidates wanted it. What is the result t Simply that in the vast majority of cases one of the candidates gets a majority at the first election, and no second election is necessary ; and, most important of all, the tendency to split up is counteracted.
Now take the Queensland system. None of these checks operate. The -splitting up into groups is actually encouraged, and it is to the interest of each group to see as many more groups as possible formed, in order to increa’se its own relative importance, for the delegates of the two strongest groups have a chance of election instead of the strongest group only.
In practice the plan threatens to break down, owing to a practical point being overlooked. It is evident that the success of the Advanced “Vote depends on the electors marking all the preferences. The ballot-paper should be made informal unless all the preferences are given. In Queensland this has not been done, and the consequence is that a large proportion of the electors refuse to give more than one preference. No more conclusive evidence is needed that the scheme has promoted the growth of factions -
That is the very thing we do not desire -
These electors voluntarily disfranchise themselves rather than vote for any of the other candidates, and of course the vary object of the scheme is defeated ; the successful candidate cannot secure a majority of the votes cast.
I will leave the subject, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, and come to another important point in connexion with that Chamber : I refer to the proposal of the Government to do what I have never, in all my experience, known any Government to do, namely, to relegate to commissions a duty that unmistakably belongs to the Government. Commissioners are to be appointed to divide the various States into districts. Undoubtedly that is a duty which the Government ought to perform.
– Are members of the Ministry themselves to do the work 1
– They can obtain reports from officers who are intimately acquainted with the work.
– Is that not practically the proposal here 1
– They can obtain reports as to the divisions, and the numbers which the divisions ought to contain, allowing a certain margin, larger or smaller, as the case may be, and providing for any difficulty. There are various officers who can do the york. I undertake to say that Mr. Josiah Boothby, of South Australia, could divide that State into districts as equitably and as well as could any commission that might be appointed. Returning officers could bring in reports. The Government might obtain two reports, if necessary, so as to see whether there was any conflict of opinion, and have the matter brought before the House. Then, if the House of Representatives required still further information on the subject, it could appoint a select committee to inquire into the manner in which these divisions had been made. . That is the course that has been adopted in South Australia. I introduced a Bill in the State Legislature for the division of the State into districts, but I did not ask for any commission. The House referred it to a select committee to make such suggested alterations as the Government proposed. This’ is the duty of the Government, and surely there is one Minister, at least, who could devote some time to the work ? There are a very few States which would be required to be divided anew, while the others would only need some little rectification. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia are already divided into electorates for the House of Representatives, and South Australia and Tasmania are the only States in which anything specially new would be required. In the case of all the other States we have the express wish of the people of those States that they should be divided in a certain way, and in their case all that requires to be done is to make the adjustments which appear to be necessary as the result of the fresh knowledge we may obtain from the census. What is the meaning of the appointment of these commissioners but additional expense 1 People will not work for nothing, and if we appoint a commission, the members of it will have to be paid. They will have to be paid in each of the six States, and the proposal will involve a considerable expenditure, which is quite unnecessary. What is required could be -done by the Ministry bringing in a. Bill describing the districts ; the House of Representatives could accept or amend the proposals made, or they could refer them to a select committee, and then accept or amend the recommendations of the committee. The provision for referring this matter to commissioners is a mistake, and such a course can only result in a needless waste of public money. It is a proposal to remove from the shoulders of the Government a responsibility which they should properly take upon themselves. Senator Pulsford has suggested that the whole question ought to be referred to a select committee. There are only certain debatable provisions in the Bill, the most important of which are those dealing with the manner of voting. If we appoint a select committee of the Senate to deal with that subject, will we not know what their report will be as soon as we know who are to be the members of the committee1! If there is a majority of honorable senators on the committee in favour of proportional representation the committee will report in favour of it, and if the majority is against that system, the ; report will be against it. “What the honorable senator suggests would only be delegating work to a committee which we are capable of doing ourselves. We are here to do our own work, without the assistance of a committee, except in special cases, where information is required that we do not at the time possess. That is not the case here, and it would be a perfect farce to refer this measure to a committee. I am exceedingly pleased to find that in this Bill the South Australian plan for dealing with election expenses has been adopted. It has worked admirably there, and has considerably reduced the expenses of the candidates for election. I will not say that it has put a stop to a great deal of bribery and corruption, because to my knowledge there has been very little of that in South Australia. Still we have had members who have spent very large sums of money to secure their return.
– Have we not had a couple of elections upset on the grounds of bribery and corruption ?
– There may have been one such case, but I do not recollect it. I am glad to see these provisions contained in the Bill. I feel sure that members of the Senate are actuated by a most earnest desire to give the constituents of this House the best possible form of representation. Those of us who believe in the old system as being, not perfect, but one which, taken as a whole, has worked exceedingly well in the past, and those who prefer a system of proportional representation, are working towards the one end, and with a desire to secure the best results. Although I am opposed to the proposals of the Government on the two important points to which I have -referred, I do not oppose the Bill as a whole. It is an ex”ceedingly important and useful Bill, and even if these two fancy modes of voting are struck out, it will still be a valuable measure, and one which ought to be passed, if not this session very early in next session. I shall therefore do nothing whatever to prevent the Senate going into committee upon the Bill. As I understand from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that he desires to go into committee upon it to-day, so that we may commence the committee work of the Bill next week, I have shortened my remarks to expedite the adoption of that course. I think it would be wise, if possible, to pass the second reading of the measure to-day, that we may, have “is clean slate next week for the consideration of its various ‘clauses in committee.
– I would re-echo the observation of Senator Playford as to the necessity for cutting our remarks short in order to get into committee upon the Bill, but seeing that we have an amendment before the Senate which, if carried, will have the effect of shelving the measure, and as we may have further speeches in opposition to its principles, it may be necessary to say a word or two in the interests of the Bill, if not in the interests of the system of proportional voting contained therein. So far as the debate has gone there has not been one honorable senator who has proved that this Bill is not necessary. The assertion has been made, but it has not been backed up. Those who have made it have contented themselves with arguing against the principle of proportional representation, but have not endeavoured to show that the existing divergent electoral laws are sufficient or satisfactory for the carrying out of the next elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. We must bear in mind that there must be an election for the Senate and for the House of Representatives towards the close of the year 1903, and we have little more than eighteen months to prepare for those elections. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that in New South Wales a Redistribution of Seats Act and a new Electoral Act were passed, and the time occupied in compiling the rolls and allocating the districts under those laws, extended to considerably over eighteen months. If it took that time in New South Wales, it is reasonable to suppose that we shall not have the machinery necessary under the provisions of this Bill ready for operation in less, time than that. It is therefore clear that we need to pass an Electoral Bill at the earliest opportunity. It may be argued that the existing electoral laws of the States can be availed of for the federal elections, and the existing State districts’ may be adopted for the House of Representatives. If honorable senators give their support to the principles of this Bill, and especially to the provisions providing for a redistribution of seats upon something approximating to a population basis for the House of Representatives, they will not achieve . their desire by trusting to the electoral districts at present existing for that House, because those districts have not been arranged upon a population basis, but upon varying bases. That is a good reason why we should assist the Government in carrying this measure in so far as we agree with it, for the purpose of having uniform districts for the House of Representatives throughout the Commonwealth. We know that the existing electoral laws are faulty. I venture to say that the Victorian electoral law is one of the worst in the States. We have heard from many Victorian public men that it is a most unsatisfactory law, and at every election in this State public men advocate from the platform the amendment of the existing electoral law of Victoria because of its unsatisfactory provisions. In Western Australia we have had an amendment of the electoral law during the last two years. The existing law is a great improvement upon the old electoral law there, but there are still many abuses remaining to be remedied. Persons still have much difficulty in getting their names upon the roll, and there are still great facilities to enable names to be struck off the roll, and difficulties in the way of transferring votes where people change from one district to another. We have here an opportunity, so far as the elections for the Federal Parliament are concerned, to remedy those abuses in connexion with the electoral laws of Victoria, Western Australia, and the other States. We know that in Queensland grave abuses occur under the electoral law there. We know that thousands of men have had their names removed from the roll, and we have here an opportunity of preventing anything of that kind occurring in connexion with elections for the Federal Parliament. We have an opportunity of carrying out electoral reforms which will give facilities to people to get their names upon the rolls, and to exercise their votes when their names have been placed upon the rolls. I say we should be false to our principles if, because we did not believe in the principle of proportional representation, we allowed ourselves to be persuaded into voting against the Bill or into blocking it at the present stage. My own opinion is that if it is blocked at the present stage there will be very little chance of passing it in theearly part of next session, and even if we do carry it then, owing to the shortness of the time before the next federal elections, its operations will not be nearly as beneficent as if we were to carry it into law now. In Western Australia we have a system of electoral lists. The names of persons eligible to vote are first of all placed on electoral lists. Their names remain upon those lists for a certain time and then go before a revision court, and persons whose names are objected to must appear to answer the objections. After this form is gone through the names must be placed upon the rolls. In this connexion I desire to call the special attention of honorable members of the Senate to something which happened previous to the last State elections in Western Australia ; because it is possible, if we allow the State electoral laws to govern the next federal election, the same thing may happen in connexion with those elections. In the district of Collie, with eight or nine hundred electors on the roll, there were 500 names upon .the electoral lists of persons who were in every way qualified to vote. They had lived in the district and in the - State for the time necessary to qualify them to vote, but no revision court had been held, and their names remained upon the electoral lists and were not placed upon the roll. The result was that when the election was held nearly half of the duly qualified electors were prevented by our electoral system from taking part in it. That state of things could not occur in South Australia, because there the name of an applicant for a vote goes straight on to the electoral roll. In ‘ some of the other States as well as in Western Australia the names have first to pass a revision court, and the state of things to which I have referred may happen again. We have no guarantee, if we do not pass this Bill, that in the interim the States will pass electoral laws, and we may be perpetuating the old system when we might, by passing this Bill, prevent a large number of persons who are duly qualified being deprived of their right to vote at the next federal elections. The provision in this Bill dealing with the limitation of election expenses of candidates is a very valuable provision. In Western Australia there has been no limit placed upon expenditure by candidates ; and we know, as the result of bitter experience, especially in .connexion with State elections, that money has played a very prominent part in those elections, and in some instances has been the predominating influence. That law does not exist in Victoria, nor I believe in several of the other States. Are -we going to allow the next federal elections to be conducted under State laws, which do not prevent the buying of seats by the ^spending of money to influence the electors ? We shall be wanting in our duty to the Commonwealth if we do not at the earliest opportunity place upon the statute-book a law to limit the expenses of candidates, and to ensure the purity of elections, so that merit and not wealth will be returned at the head of the poll. It is evident that the framers of the Constitution contemplated that machinery would be provided by the first Parliament to insure the election of the second and all succeeding Parliaments upon a uniform system. Every section of the Constitution which deals with this subject, commences - “Until the Parliament otherwise provides,” showing clearly that its framers looked upon the adoption of the State machinery as a merely temporary expedient to provide for the first elections. No doubt that fact had some weight with the Government, when they considered the expediency of bringing in this Bill during the first session of this Parliament. I think, too, that so long as the existing system is allowed to continue, a certain amount of injustice must be done to the States as States. Where there is a perfect electoral system, as in South Australia, the whole adult population is able to voice its opinions ; but where there is a faulty electoral system, as in Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia, only part of the people are able to record their votes. That is an abuse which this Parliament should set itself to rectify by giving the people of all the States an equal franchise. With regard to the point raised by Senator Downer that clauses 23, 24, and 25 give to the House of Representatives the power to adopt, alter, or reject the report of the commissioners who will be appointed to map out the electoral districts, I shall support the substitution of “the Parliament of the Commonwealth “ for “the House of Representatives.” This Parliament consists of two Houses, which are constituted in a slightly different manner, and to relegate the determination’ of electoral boundaries wholly to the House of Representatives is to derogate from the powers of the Senate. Then, too, the exercise of that power by one House alone may create a gross abuse, especially should it happen that the majority in the House of Representatives is supporting a political principle different from that supported by the majority in the Senate. I think that the provisions which deal with disputed returns need some slight alteration. I believe that we have in the Senate some of the ablest constitutional lawyers which are to be found in the Commonwealth ; but all must remember that when there was a dispute in regard to the interpretation of the provisions of the Western Australian Act, from which clauses 193 and 194 of this Bill are taken almost literally, they ranged themselves upon opposite sides.
– But the Bill provides for the creation of a court.
– The difference of opinion was not as to the court, but as to how the petition should have been lodged and placed before the court.
– The difficulty in the case to which the honorable senator refers occurred because the Senate was the court ; but the Bill makes provision for the establishment of a special court, and the machinery provided is applicable to that circumstance.
– It appeared to me, as a layman, that in accepting the wording of the Western Australian Act we were paving the way for a repetition of the trouble which we had a few months back ; but if the legal authorities of the House are satisfied on the subject, we must be content to let the clauses remain as they are. I fully recognise that the question of proportional representation has not been made the subject of considerable public debate in the various States. It has not been introduced into practical politics so far ; but I do not know that that is any reason why we should not adopt it, if we are convinced that it will have the results which are claimed for it, as I believe it will. I had given some study to the question before this debate took place, and I have listened very carefully to the speeches which have been made on the second reading of the Bill, and to my mind the advocates of proportional representation have made out a case which has not been in any way shaken by those who have attacked it. The great bugbear of those who are opposed to the system appears to be that it will allow fads and minorities to be represented, and that the system of party Government will disappear. Mr. Ashworth, Senator Playford’s authority, in a letter to the Argus, objected to it because it would allow a third, and even a fourth. party to make its appearance in the Legislature. But, however that result may be deplored, it does not prove that the system is unjust, and those who object to it on that ground must first prove that only two parties have a right to be represented and heard in the Legislature. As a matter of fact, the majority of the people will always be divided on some leading question. There will be small minorities in favour of various political principles in the advance guard of political thought, but they will always be minorities, because as soon as those principles become popular, one or other of the great parties of the day will adopt them. That has always been the case in the past. In England the liberals and conservatives fought against factory legislation, the extension of the franchise, and other reforms, until those who advocated them had such an effect upon the public mind that they became popular, and then they were adopted by one side or the other.
– The policy of Governments has been never to move until shoved along.
– That is so. Therefore the statement that the representation of the States will be the representation of six separate fads is not justified by the history of public opinion. It has been said that if proportional representation is right for the Senate, it is right, too, for the House of Representatives ; but I hope that those who use that argument are prepared to follow it to its logical conclusion. Before it can be admitted that proportional representation can be applied to the House of Representatives, it must be admitted that there is no reason for a difference between the constitution of the two Houses, and when that is admitted we are forced to the conclusion that there is no need for two Houses, one the replica of the other. But it must be remembered that we are legislating under a federal system of Government - that there has been, not a unification, but a federation of the States ; and so long as the federal idea is maintained, there must be a representation of the States, as States, and a representation of the diversified interests of the people in the various districts of the Commonwealth. Although in the House of Representatives there are members from South Australia, Vic- . toria, and all the other States, there is no such thing as a representation of the States. What we have there is the representation, not of States, but of districts - of town interests and country interests. In the Senate, however, we have the representation of States - the representatives of Western Australia, for instance, looking at all questions as they affect, not any particular district in their State, but the whole State. That difference in representation is the only logical reason for the existence of two Houses. Otherwise all we should require would be the referendum to ascertain the will of the people, and one House of Legislature to carry it into effect. But the people have given their adhesion, not to unification, but to federation, and we shall be untrue to them if we do not continue the present system of representation until their opinion changes. If we applied the system of proportional representation to both Houses, we should have in this House the States represented as States, but what could be done in the case of the House of Representatives ? Is it supposed that the 75 members of the House of Representatives could be elected by the whole of the electors of the Commonwealth ? That would be impracticable. Therefore we should be forced to divide the Commonwealth into districts returning five or six members, and we should then have States within States. The House of Representatives would represent States smaller than those represented here, but apart from that it would be an entire replica of this Chamber. That seems to be the only reason why we should not apply the system of proportional representation to the House of Representatives. It has been said that if we omit this principle of proportional representation the whole Bill might as well be abandoned, but honorable senators, who hold that view, have not property studied the Bill. The system of proportional representation is dealt with in about six clauses, and surely it is open to those who are opposed to it to propose that these clauses shall be omitted, or so altered as to provide for another system, such as that existing in South Australia, which is the best to be found within the Commonwealth. Then we should have a good Electoral Bill. To ask honorable members, because they do not agree with the system of proportional representation, to slaughter the Bill, is to ask them practically to cut off their noses to spite their faces. No honorable senator who really wishes for electoral reform, and that the next Parliament shall be elected on a more uniform and a better basis, will vote against the Bill, when all the alterations needed to make it a good measure can be effected in committee.
– I had thought that after all that had been said upon this subject there was very little necessity for me to speak ; but the remarks that have fallen from Senator Pearce show that, even at this late stage, a great deal of misapprehension exists. It is perfectly clear that Senator Pearce thinks that this Bill, and this Bill alone, is to be the great panacea for all the electoral evils which exist in Western Australia, as far as the Federal Parliament is concerned. The honorable senator, however, quite forgets that until the Franchise Bill is passed, this measure will be practically useless.
– Why 1
– Because 50 per cent, of its provisions are absolutely inappropriate to the position of affairs that would exist until the Franchise Bill is passed.
– They are all applicable to the existing state of affairs.
– The Minister made a similar statement in reply to Senator Symon, and I wondered that that honorable and learned senator did not take up the question and argue it. The provisions relating to the federal roll cannot come into operation until the Franchise Bill becomesan Act. That is absolutely beyond dispute.
Senator- O’Connor - The honorable senator is wrong. There is provision for framing the first rolls from the materials in the existing rolls-: - from any materials we like.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council takes a view entirely different from mine. First of all, we know we have no power as a Federal Parliament to frame any roll whatever until the Franchise Bill is passed. All we have power to do is distinctly set out in the Constitution. Section 30 provides -
Until Parliament otherwise provides, and we have not done that yet–
– No, but we are doing it in this Bill.
– We are not dealing with the qualification of electors in this Bill, and that is what the section refers to. It proceeds - the qualification of electors of members of the House of Representatives shall be in each State that which is prescribed by the law of the State as the qualification of electors of the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State ; but in the choosing of electors, each elector shall vote only once.
Therefore, until we pass the Franchise Bill, we shall have no power whatever to make an original roll of our own. All we can do when an election has to be provided for, is to obtain from the State the roll of electors which is applicable to the situation on that date. There can be no disputing that, and yet we find that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is prepared to maintain that we can have an original roll in the absence of the Franchise Bill. If the position is as stated by me, what becomes of clause 57, which provides for the construction of a roll and for the granting of new claims to be placed on the roll. I submit that we are not in a position at this moment to receive any new claims whatever, nor shall we be able to do so until the Franchise Bill becomes law.
– The honorable senator is assuming that the Franchise Bill will not pass.
– I am assuming nothing of the kind. What I state is that the Franchise Bill has not been passed, and that in consequence the greater part of this measure will be useless. I further state that the honorable senator’s expectation of bringing about any improvement of the electoral position in Western Australia through the passage of this measure is futile until the Franchise Bill also becomes law. Carrying out that line of argument, honorable senators will find that form B in the schedule is provided for persons who desire to be placed on the roll. That form of application is absolutely inapplicable to any situation that exists at present. If we pass this Bill including that schedule any person will be entitled to go to the registrar and put in his electoral claim. All the declarations that have to be made are these : That the claimant is a natural-born or naturalized subject, that he is 21 years of age, and that he is an inhabitant of Australia. How could we possibly deal with a State roll and absorb it as the Minister has suggested, in order to form a federal roll? How could we accept claims to add names to that roll when the applicant has to state that he is an inhabitant of Australia 1 The whole theory of the State roll is knocked on the head. The State roll disappears and the provisions of the State Electoral Acts - many of them most iniquitous, as Senator Pearce has very justly pointed out - providing as they do, for a residence of twelve months, and a further period of six months on the roll, and all sorts of restrictions, including in some cases property qualifications - are overridden. All a person has to do in order to qualify himself for a place on the federal roll is to reside in Australia for six months, and to be in the same division during that period. I submit that under these circumstances, Senator Symon and myself are perfectly correct in stating that the chief provisions of this Bill cannot be effective until the Franchise Bill is passed. That measure, as we all know, provides for women’s franchise, a reform which I personally favour. Imagine the position that we should be in if by any chance the Franchise Bill were to fail to become law. We should have passed an Electoral Bill containing provisions which would be absolutely valueless, a Bill providing for the construction of a roll which would be of no value what ever, and for the form in which people could apply to be placed upon a roll, which would be” inoperative. Throughout the whole Bill the term “ voter “ would be applied to a person who has no legal existence. The Bill is absolutely useless in its present form, although there are many admirable features in it. Some one may suggest that we should pass the Bill without these electoral claim forms, and without the special provisions for voters being placed on the roll, or for the construction of a special roll, and that we should at a later stage, after the Franchise Bill has become law, pass another measure, which would make it effective. That, however, would be nonsense. We cannot deal with an Electoral Bill in two sections, and if we agree to it in its present form, we shall pass a lot of clauses that would lead to confusion, and cause the rest of the Bill to become inoperative. The “Vice-President of the Executive Council, when he first addressed the House, said -
The most important matter, therefore, to consider will be the basis of representation. The electoral machinery for carrying that representation into effect is contained in the measure now before the Senate..
That was an absolutely correct statement of the position as it stood. But when this Bill was drafted, the Government had no idea that the Franchise Bill would not have been passed prior to this measure coming before the Senate. The Bill was drafted on the assumption that it would have been passed. But what are the facts of the case? That Bill has not been passed ! There is no certainty that it ever will be passed. Yet we are asked to enact legislation which will be absolutely inoperative unless that Bill becomes law. What is the good of saying that this measure can be applied to the existing rolls of the other States ? It is perfectly clear that it cannot be. In that way it seems to me that Senator Pulsford was justified in calling attention to the schedules. Honorable senators will remember that he called attention to the schedules in which sex was set out as some justification for the fact that it was contemplated that adults of both sexes should vote at these elections. It is clear that that was the original intention of the draftsman of this Bill, although Senator O’Connor declared it was not, and that this provision had simply been inserted to deal with the existing laws of Western Australia and South Australia. It is abundantly clear that it cannot deal with the existing laws of those States in the slightest degree, because it is impossible to have an original roll until we have passed the Franchise Bill. Of course, I admit that there are many admirable provisions in this Bill. I do not wish it to be supposed that because I take these initial objections to the measure that I am utterly opposed to it. To a large -extent it has been framed upon the existing Western
Australian and South Australian Acts. Wherever anything good has appeared in those Acts it has been inserted here.
– The honorable senator is a reasonable oppositionist.
– I am a reasonable supporter of the Bill. What I object to is that the imported provisions for voting, with which I intend to deal later, have not come from any country where they have proved a success. The first point upon which I wish to touch has reference to clauses 23, 24, and 25. To me it is astounding, coming back, as I do, at this late stage of the session, to find that the rights of the Senate are to be calmly given away in the manner proposed by Senator O’Connor in his introductory remarks. In dealing with this question he said, as far as I can judge by the context of his remarks, that the Senate had no right to interfere in the division of electorates for the House of Representatives. Does Senator O’Connor intend to entirely ignore the provisions of the Constitution? He discussed the matter as if it were a claim set up by one or two senators.
– I did not say that. I said there was a well-recognised rule that one House did not interfere with the electoral arrangements of the other, and that, therefore, the Senate would never claim to interfere with the electoral arrangements of the House of Representatives.
– Of course I was not present when the Vice-President of the Executive Council made his speech, and I can only quote from Hansard. But I hold that no doubt , can exist as to the rights of the Senate in this particular matter. It seems to me inexplicable that an attempt should be made in this Bill to limit the rights which we undoubtedly possess under the Constitution. Senator O’Connor has said that it would be unusual for us to exercise those rights. But is that any reason why we should commit suicide by eliminating from a Bill the undoubted right which we do possess - if we choose to exercise it - of interfering in this matter. Under certain circumstances I can quite conceive that the representatives of Western Australia would, in spite of precedent, consider themselves amply justified in objecting to the division of that State into electorates. I will explain the exact reasons for this. The powers that be - that is to say, the Ministry - will, through the Governor-General appoint the commissioners. These commissioners will most likely be appointed from amongst a number of those whom the Government, through the representative of Western Australia in the Ministry, delight to honour. I must say that in very many instances the majority of the population do not share with that gentleman the confidence which he, places in his friends. I do not suggest that the division would not be made upon a perfectly proper and sound basis, but it might occur to us and to the people of Western Australia that these electoral divisions were not properly made. In that case it would be the duty of the representatives of Western Australia to protest most strongly against any such division.
– This is the only House in which we could protest effectually.
– This is the only House in which we could protest effectually, and this is the place where that protest should be made.
SenatorFraser. - The representatives of Western Australia would have a perfect right to do that.
– Undoubtedly we have the right, but from the Hansard report of the speech of Senator O’Connor it appears that he suggested we have not that right.
– I never suggested anything of the sort, as the honorable senator will see by reading the whole of what I said.
– This is what Senator O’Connor said -
I say, in addition to that, that members of each House should control the electoral matters concerning that House, and that, if that principle is right, this power of delimiting the boundaries for the House of Representatives should be left to that House.
– It is one thing not to exercise that power, and quite another thing to have that power taken away from us.
– The honorable and learned senator seems to me to make a mistake when he suggests that any power is taken away. There is no power now with regard to the boundaries of the electorates for the Senate. At the present time each constituency returns its members in accordance with a division made by the States. Neither House of the Parliament has had anything to do with it. So that it is a mistake to suppose that we are taking away a right which the Senate possesses.
– That is by the Constitution.
– Of course it is, but I am talking of what our rights are. The Senate has no right at all, and the question is whether we should give the Senate any right to interfere in the division of electorates for the House of Representatives, or should leave the matter solely in the hands of the House of Representatives.
– It is quite obvious that I was then referring to Senator Dobson’s interjection.
– It appears as if Senator O’Connor was replying to the interjection of Senator Symon. In any case it is well that this subject has been ventilated, and . I am heartily glad to find that Senator O’Connor has been misrepresented. If he had not, it would have been a most serious matter. It would be monstrous if our privileges were to be so lightly surrendered. Coming to clause 105, 1 find that it contains a most remarkable instance of patchwork - patchwork which can be equalled only in “Western Australian legislation. This provision deals with the forfeiture of a candidate’s deposit under certain circumstances. Until the . last two lines it is a most admirable extract from the Western Australian Act. It provides that if a man fails to get one-fourth of the number of votes polled by the successful candidate who obtained the smallest number of votes at an election, he shall forfeit his deposit. But owing to the intricate system of election favoured by the Government a further provision had to be made, and as a result they added a little paragraph which the draftsman evidently thought dealt with the case, but which it is clear does* not. It says -
The number of votes for the purposes of this section means the number of votes indicated by the No. 1.
What does that mean 1 The last successful candidate is usually the third man elected. He may be* the last candidate but one or two upon the list of No. 1 votes, and may owe his final position to the number of No. 2 preferences which he has received when the cards have been shifted. The result is that the intention of the framer of the Bill is defeated. The third candidate upon the poll is presumably a man who has obtained very few first preferences.
– And he gets a majority of No. 2 votes.
– Yes, and yet the determination of whether a man has lost his deposit is based upon the number of No. 1 votes that he, although successful, has received. The thing is absurd. It just showsone of the enormous difficulties that will arise from this complicated system of election. I do not suggest how it can be overcome, but merely wish to point out that it absolutely defeats the intention of the draftsman of the Bill. Having dealt thus briefly with the measure, I come now to the principal debatable point in it, namely, the system which has to be adopted for the conduct of elections. In this connexion we ought first to consider what right Parliament has to interfere with the voting powers of the electors in the different States. Senator Downer, when speaking, very emphatically, expressed the opinion that Parliament had no right to reduce the voting power of any elector. In support of his contention he quoted section 41 of the Constitution Act, which 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 b3’ any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
His argument at first sight seemed most convincing. Then Senator Symon, another eminent lawyer, got up, and, in alluding to the same section, expressed a doubt whether it conveyed as fully as Senator Downer; claimed the right of every voter for the Senate to exercise six votes. Looking at the matter from a layman’s point of view, I am inclined to agree with Senator Symon. My reason is that the Constitution undoubtedly provides that Parliament, if it thinks fit, may split up the States into divisions for the election of senators. To my mind it follows that if Parliament has the right to restrict the voting power of an elector for the Senate, it has equally the right to limit his voting power in any other way by making plumping compulsory, without any breach of the Constitution.
– My only objection is that one is expressly given, and the other is expressly left out.
– Surely the ° honorable and learned senator must see that the one follows from the other 1
– No. The Constitution, is an enabling Act, and we have only the power which it gives us. We have no implied power.
– The Constitution gives this Parliament the right to split up the States, for the purpose of the election of senators, into six constituencies, if it thinks fit. If the States were split up into six constituencies every voter would have only one vote.
– I agree with that entirely.
– It seems to me that if Parliament thinks fit, in its lunacy or wisdom, as the case may be, it has the power to provide not for territorial divisions, but for the divisions of sentiment which are approved of by honorable senators opposite.
– No ; one is given, and the other is not. That is the whole point.
– The power is given to the Parliament to do anything it likes. That leads me up to the point of what this whole dispute is about. It seems to me that in talking about preferential voting, the representation of majorities, and the representation of minorities, the main point of the dispute has absolutely failed to receive the proper ventilation it requires, lt has become a question of whether there shall be compulsory plumping in the Senate elections, or whether each elector in a State shall continue to have the right which he now possesses of giving one effective vote for each of six candidates. At every election of senators in a State, except Queensland, each voter has the right to give an effective vote for six candidates. Under the Hare-Spence system, or under any modification of the Hare system, it is admitted on all sides that each elector has only the right to give one effective vote. He cannot exercise the right which he now possesses, and from my point of view he is to that extent disfranchised. His voting-paper is not a voting-paper. He does not vote at all i he marks on a piece of paper his first preference, and afterwards, if he chooses, his second, third, fourth, or other preferences. These are all handed to the returning officer, who manipulates the votes for the elector. Up to a certain point, the returning officer attributes the first preferences to the candidates who are entitled to them, and after that he proceeds to distribute, by various methods, the second, third, and fourth preferences.
– According to the instruction of the elector.
– Yes; but are we prepared to go back and to tell our constituents - “ At the last election you had six votes which you could register, but from henceforth you are not to register more than one vote “ “? I am not prepared to go back and tell them that.
– The honorable senator does not need to tell them that.
– Are we to keep it from them 1
– It would not be correct to tell them that. An elector has more than one vote - he has as many votes as there are candidates, but they have a different value.
– After this debate, which lias lasted three days, it is deplorable to find any honorable senator showing such complete ignorance of the principles of the Hare-Spence-Droop system as the honorable senator shows, when he says that an elector has so many votes.
– Does the honorable senator say that a man has only one vote ?
– He has only one vote, and he does not exercise it. He only exercises his. preferences.
– Are they not votes ?
– They are not votes, but simply preferences. An elector has no more than one vote, and I would ask the honorable senator to think very carefully before he goes back to Western Australia and suggests to his constituents that the result of the HareSpenceDroop system is that they have lost several of their votes at each election, because that is what it amounts to. Senator Keating has ridiculed very strongly the idea that the second preference on a majority of the papers is entitled to very much consideration, because he says that with fourteen or fifteen candidates he may rank practically as sixteenth the fourteen or fifteen being preferred as shown by the first preferences. Under the block system the man who was second in the estimation of nearly all the electors of the State usually came out at the head of the poll. Why ? Because he was usually a man of such attainments, so little faddy, and so generally popular that everybody who was not exactly of his political line of thought said - “ Although so and so does not exactly agree with me on my pet hobby, still he is aman who distinctly ought to be in Parliament.” The result of the general consensus of opinion was that that man usually came out at the head of the poll. This is not an imaginary case, because we have an instance of it in the person of Senator Smith. He had ! not moved in politics prior to his coming out at the Senate elections, but he was deservedly popular. He had no political sins and no political credit. Everybody who came in contact with him . said - “ This is an extremely good fellow. He is a’ man to whom we can safely intrust our interests in the Federal Parliament.” “What was the result of the organized parties voting presumedly, in the first place, for the particular persons whom they trusted in Parliament to push their fad? When the returns came in we found that Senator Smith had got most votes, because of the different parties stating - “This is a man who should be in Parliament.”
– He may have a different tale to tell.
– I do not think he would have a different tale to tell, because he admits that it was owing to the fact that he was voted for throughout the whole country that he was put in. It is indisputable, it can be seen in the returns. Yet that is the man whom Senator Keating, under his system, would most probably have
Cut out from the representation of the State.
– Does the honorable senator assume, that if there had been a system of proportional representation, Senator Smith would have been the lowest in the count of primary votes for the State?
– I do not assume that he would have been the lowest, but I assume that he would have been pretty low down in the count of primary votes, because he did not represent any particular person’s fad, and I think the other representatives of Western Australia can bear me out in that respect.
– Under the HareClark system I think he would have been found nearer the top of the poll than the bottom.
– Possibly. The question we have now to consider is whether this is a logical and proper system to adopt in the case of the Senate elections. I think every honorable senator will agree with me that it would have been absolutely impossible to carry any measure which would have divided the States into geographical districts. Nobody would have consented to it. Everybody would have opposed it. Why ? Simply because it is the impression both here and outside that the Senate should represent the States, and represent a majority in the States. Under these circumstances, why should the Senate go out of its way to adopt a system which returns representatives of divisions of opinions, because that is undoubtedly the object of the Hare-Clark-Droop system ? It is intended to divide the constituency in such a way, according to their opinions, that as many opinions may be represented as there are candidates, and even that it is not successful in doing. The thing is ludicrous when you come to think of it. The Bill as drafted absolutely fails to attain the original aspirations of the inventors of the system. The gentleman who drafted the scheme which is adopted in Tasmania provided a quota which insured every person having a share in the election of a candidate : every candidate that was returned by a quota had received one vote from each elector in question. But under the system embodied in the Bill, we shall not attain that result at all. We shall keep the minority unrepresented, which it is the object of this system to avoid. The long and the short of it is that, if the Government had intended to be candid, they would have brought in a Bill providing for compulsory plumping. This system simply provides in effect for that very undesirable result. I should like to elicit from Senator Pearce his reason for imagining that this system is much more suitable to the Senate than to the House of Representatives. To my mind the case is exactly different. If the system is good at all, it is good for securing the representation of the people in the more popular House - the House in which every shade of opinion ought to be represented, - and not in the States House at all. Yet we find that the system for the popular House provides for the continuance of the very objectionable principle of minorities not being represented, because a candidate is returned if he has one over half of the votes polled. Surely if senators who support this system ave right, that is an extremely inequitable position. For that reason alone every person who supports this system for the Senate, seems to be logically bound to support the same principle for the House of Representatives. When this suggestion was made a little while ago we were told that it was impossible
I to - apply the system to the House of
Representatives, owing to the fact that for the purposes of that Chamber the Commonwealth is split up into single electorates. But the provision for the splitting up into -single electorates is entirely arbitrary. Parliament has the fullest power to deal with this question j and if Parliament thinks fit to provide that two or more representatives shall be allotted to each Parliamentary district, there is nothing to pi-event such a course being taken. It is merely a matter of adjustment which must logically follow the application of the system to the Senate. I suppose that if I asked the question I should be told, as other senators have been told, that it is impossible to apply this system to a single electorate. I believe that is the decision which has been come to by Senator Keating and other senators who support this scheme ; and I should like to know if I am right.
– The system is not applicable to a single electorate.
– Then to show the folly of the situation, I want to know how the honorable and learned senator would propose to deal with an electorate when one senator had to be elected ?
– The provision for election to a single vacancy is that the Legislature shall appoint the individual the election is not by the people.
– The honorable and learned senator has a little knowledge, but not quite enough. That is the preliminary stage ; and at the very first election for the House of Representatives an election has to be held to fill the vacancy in the Senate. Section 15 of the Constitution reads -
If the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen shall, sitting and voting together, choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term, or until the election of a successor as hereinafter provided, whichever first happens……. At the next general election of members of the House ‘of Representatives, or at the next election of senators for the State, whichever first happens, a successor shall, if the term has not then expired, be chosen to hold the place from the date of his election until the expiration of the term.
Senator Keating will perhaps admit that a single election can be held for the Senate.
– No. The system of proportional representation which prevails in Tasmania is not applicable to a single electorate, but the adoption of the Droop quota is to make it applicable to a single electorate.
– I am discussing the provisions of the Bill, and not the provisions of the Tasmanian Act ; and I certainly understood the honorable and learned senator to say that the system is not applicable to an election for the Senate.
– But I was speaking of the system in Tasmania.
– Then I shall take the honorable and learned senator on his present contention that the system is absolutely applicable to the election of a single senator. In that case, why is it not applicable to the election of members for the House of Representatives ?
– I do not say it is not applicable.
– I understood the honorable and learned senator to say so a few minutes ago,- and Senator Best and others took the same position.
– I said, not that the system was not applicable, but that it was not desirable for the House of Representatives.
– Then the honorable and learned senator is prepared to advocate a system of election for the Senate, which, according to his own showing, is not desirable.
– I gave the reasons why I think it is not desirable. I consider it is desirable to have a differentiation on the basis of the two Houses. The undesirability is not on account of any defect in the system.
– The fact remains that this principle of election will, in all probability, frequently have to be applied to the election of a single senator. The whole of the machinery will have to be brought into play for the eleceion of a single individual.
– That cannot happen under the Constitution.
– The honorable and learned senator is quite wrong. Why cannot it happen ?
– If the honorable senator will read the sections concerning vacancies which have to be filled, he will find these elections take place only at the time of a general election, when there must be three senators.
– It would be a pity to have to read the section again, but I find that the leader of the House, who has been absent, is evidently under a misapprehension. It is deplorable that the honorable and learned senator should be so misinformed on the subject. His contention, I believe, is that a single candidate cannot come up for election ; but it is perfectly clear that a single candidate can do so. It will be seen that in section 15 of the Constitution, which I have already read, the word “ successor “ and not “ successors “ is used. How does the Vice-President of the Executive Council explain his contention that a single candidate cannot come up for election ?
– Not at a Senatorial election ; what is referred to is an election for the House of Representatives.
– Undoubtedly a candidate has to come up for election at that election.
– We agree about that. The candidate is elected only for the remainder of the term of the person whose place he takes.
– The question of the term has never arisen, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council is introducing that point in order to “ draw a red herring across the trail.” The question is whether a senator can come up alone for election, and the honorable and learned gentleman says he cannot, thus exposing his ignorance of the Constitution. I appeal to the Senate whether I am not correct. Not only the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but also the drafters of this Bill, seem to have been under a similar apprehension, the latter never for an instant imagining or realizing that a single candidate could come up for election. If we turn to the schedules dealing with elections, we find the word “senators “ always used, and not “ senator or senators,” as should have been the case. Of course, that is a minor matter which can easily be corrected, but it shows what was in the minds of the drafters of the Bill. Now, as to the contingent vote which is provided for in the elections to the House of Representatives. Senators who have discussed this question seem to think that the contingent vote is a great advantage. Much has been said about minority representation and majority representation, and there has been an endeavour to show that by lumping together all the various groups with, discordant opinions, who fail to return their candidate at an election, we get a majority non-represented. Certainly we get a majority of voters nonrepresented, but we get a number of people represented who never could agree on a subject. I should like to explain to the House, by an absolutely accurate example, what the result of contingent voting is. I do not wish to take any hypotheses, but a case which actually happened. When the question of federation was before Western Australia, the Government of that State were extremely unwilling to have a referendum. Finding, however, that they were pushed into a corner, the Government appointed a select committee to inquire into the whole question, and the committee recommended certain amendments which they desired to see inserted in the Constitution. The Government then introduced a measure providing that a referendum should be taken underthreeheads, which was equivalent to the contingent vote. The first question which under this measure would have been put to the electors was - “ Are you in favour of federation or are you not in favour of federation?” Then there would have been the contingent issue - “ If the vote goes in favour of federation, indicate whether you are in favour of federation under the Commonwealth Constitution, or are in favour of federation under the Constitution as amended by the wiseacres in Western Australia.” The result of ouch a referendum would have been that on the first vote the federalists, who were in a majority, would have voted for federation and the minority against. But when they came to the contingent vote, there would have had to be reckoned with a number of extremely honest people who were of opinion that federation was a good thing, but that it would be better if they were able to secure certain concessions which the select committee had recommended. All this time the Western Australian people were being told that these concessions could be easily obtained, and if a referendum had been taken on the contingent vote, all the non-federalists would naturally have voted for federation with the altered Constitution, and a number of federalists, who believed the alterations desirable, would have voted in the same way. Those federalists who were honest, and knew that the alterations, which were impossible, had been recommended only as a trick, would have been left in the minority. There we have the result of the contingent vote, and what honorable senators opposite call the majority vote.-
– There is no analogy.
– That is not contingent voting, but cumulative voting.
– Senator Keating may give the voting another name, but in operation it has exactly the effect of contingent voting.
– No ; it is taking two” distinct and separate ballots at one and the same time.
- Senator Keating may call that cumulative voting, but, as I say, the operation is exactly the same as that of contingent voting. There were, so to speak, three candidates - A, B, and C, and the first preference was for A and C. When C could not be obtained, the votes given to the latter were transferred to B, represented by “the Constitution, as amended.” We get exactly the same result as from contingent voting.
– Decidedly not.
– It would be easy to take a piece of paper, and prove the accuracy of what I say.
– Senator Matheson has a topsy-turvy idea of the matter.
– What I have stated is the general impression which the public have of the operation of preferential voting. If that is not the operation of preferential voting it is extremely desirable that some senator should explain what is If honorable senators work it out on’ paper, that is the result they will obtain. It is well known that some people vote for a party straight out, but there are electioneering agents who go round and try to work points. As a consequence of their action the persons who will, get elected under this system will have no clear views of what they want at all. They are the men who will be returned.
– We have just been told that it is the faddists who will get returned ; and they know what they want.
– I say there will be faddists who will vote for a man who they think does not represent such an objectionable shade of opinion, according to their view, as do others who are standing for election. I was returned to the Senate, as many other honorable senators were, as a democrat. I always understood that the great principle of democracy was the rule of the greater number for the benefit of the greater number. I do not know whether my honorable friends who occupy the corner benches flatter themselves that they are securing the rule of the majority by proportional representation.
– This is not a party question with us.
– I never said it was a’ party question. I say that it is a question of democracy, and of government by the greater number ; and I ask again whether my honorable friends flatter themselves that they are voting for a democratic principle 1
– Democracy does not mean rule by a few people, but by the whole lot.
-It means the rule of the majority of the people for the benefit of the whole. That is a generally accepted axiom. I do not intend to eat my convictions, because it may be to my advantage to support this principle. I candidly tell the Senate that it would be. I have worked out the system extremely carefully, and am satisfied that it would secure my return in a very much easier manner than .the old system. I am sufficiently well known in my State to make certain of securing enough first votes to return me. I am positive of that. But I do not intend to advocate this principle simply upon that ground, when I am satisfied that the grounds upon which it is based are not right. In addition to that, I do not want to be returned, and do not want to see other honorable senators returned, to represent a shade of opinion. Shades of opinion are what might properly be represented (in the House of Representatives. But we do not want shades here.
– Is not free-trade a shade of opinion?
– No. It is a great political question. Free-trade and protection are great political questions, and should never be put down as mere shades of opinion. The honorable senator knows that that is so, and is simply trifling with the position by making such an interjection. This Senate should represent the solid convictions of the majority of the voters in a State. If the proportional representation system were adopted by the House of
Representatives, it would be applicable, because there every shade of opinion ought to be expressed; If honorable .senators opposite wish to be advocates of the rights of the minority, let them advocate the system for the other House. It is admitted that under the existing system, 51 per cent, of the votes carry an election, whilst the remaining 49 per cent, of the electors are practically unrepresented in the House of Representatives. That, therefore, is the House in which this system might logically bc tried, but certainly not in this House. I do not say that I shall not vote for the second reading of the Bill. It contains, as I said before, many clauses that are most admirable. I trust, however, that Senator O’Connor will explain in some satisfactory manner how, in connexion with the rolls and revisions, this Bill can be made effective prior to the passage of a Franchise Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drake) adjourned.
Resolved (on motion by Senator O’Connor) - j
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next.
Senate adjourned at 3.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020228_senate_1_8/>.