1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– With concurrence I beg to move -
I think I am but expressing what is in the mind of every member of the Senate when I say that we feel the deepest regret at the loss which the Parliament of the Commonwealth has sustained. Mr. Piesse brought to the service of the Commonwealth a record of earnest public-spirited work in the service of Tasmania. He devoted himself to his duties here with ‘singular earnestness, attention, and public spirit. Men of that kind are needed in the service of the Commonwealth, and his death is to be deplored. ‘ We must all bow to the inevitable. All we can do is to place on record our sense of the loss which the Parliament has sustained. Our sympathy with the late honorable member’s family can only be mentioned here; but lam sure that it is the wish of the Senate that it should be conveyed to them.
– In the absence of the leader of the Opposition, I rise to second the motion, and to say a few words as an old friend of Mr. Piesse. I remember him 30 years ago, when I came to Tasmania, as a young conveyancer. He struck me then as being a man of singular brightness of character, conscientiousness, and determination to do right. ‘ I have always had that in my mind ever since I met him. During his public career I have noticed particularly that that characteristic has always kept him to the front, and earned for him the respect of all who knew him. Those of his colleagues who knew him best are those who appreciated him most. In Senator Dobson we have one who assisted Mr. Piesse in his first step in life, and I am sure that he will bear testimony to his high character. “We all condole with hiswidow and his relatives, and we must feel that not only the Commonwealth, but Tasmania also, has suffered a great loss.
– I have seldom had a sadder duty to perform than to support this motion. I knew the late Mr. Piesse for 35 or 40 years, and, as he reminded me a year ago, he commenced his career as a junior clerk to the firm of Giblin and Dobson, of which I was a member. He was in every way a self-made man. I think the great cause of his success was his sterling character. He was a man of true honour and fair-mindedness in everything he did. He seemed to grasp immediately the principles underlying conveyancing, and when he was managing clerk for Messrs. Roberts and Allport he was of the greatest use to that firm.’ The training which he got there, and which he gave himself, was of the utmost value to him in his career in the State Parliament, and in his short career in the Federal Parliament. There was no man to whom one went more readily to be helped out with an intricate subject. He had a great grasp of mathematics ; he was a good financier; he had a knowledge of detail, and an accuracy of fact about every subject with which he dealt, and it was a very great pleasure indeed to be associated with him in any public affair; He was president of our Federal League in Hobart, and did most excellent work in the cause of Australian unity. In many ways he was associated with the philanthropic and social life of Tasmania, and his death will bo an immense loss to Hobart and the people generally. I had the pleasure of joining Mr. Piesse in part of my federal campaign, and I marvelled at the goodness and unselfishness of my comrade. With reference to his widow and children, words fail me to say what their sorrow must be. He was a splendid type of manhood, and the loss they have sustained is irreparable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Ordered (on motion of Senator Pearce) -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
The imports, in detail, into the State of Western Australia during the period from 9th October, 1901, to 31st January, 1902, inclusive.
The country of origin of such imports.
The revenue collected thereon under the Federal Tariff, in detail.
The revenue collected thereon, in detail, tinder the State Tariff of Western Australia.
In Committee (consideration resumed from 7th March, vide page 10716).
Clause 13 -
Each State shall be distributed into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein.
– I shall state in a few words the opinion which I have formed since the adjournment, and after having an opportunity to more carefully consider this clause which, I think, was rushed on us last night. I object to any arbitrary enactment that the State shall be divided into as many districts as there are members to be returned to the other House. I do not object to a commission being appointed, to inquire and report to both Houses, as to whether it is expedient to treat each State as one electorate, or as to what districts it is expedient to divide the State into. We are not in a position to judge about the clause. Even if we think we are in a good enough position to decide that there shall be some districts, we are in no position to say that they shall be single districts, or what they shall be. From that point of view, I intend to oppose the clause, and, when we come to the next clause, to move an amendment, to provide for the appointment of a commission to inquire and report as to the expediency or otherwise of dividing the States into districts, and if expedient what districts they should be divided into. If we assent to the clause in its present form, we decide that the States shall be divided into single-member districts for the purpose of the House of Representatives. I think there is an overwhelming public feeling, throughout the greater portion of the Commonwealth, that the States should not be so divided. If my amendment is carried, the report of the commissioners to both Houses will afford us an opportunity of deciding whether or not we should alter the existing law.
– It appears to me that my colleague Senator Downer has got himself into a hole on this matter. He tells us that he does not believe in delegating our powers, so far as concerns deciding upon the electoral divisions, to the House of Representatives, but that he is quite willing to delegate them to commissioners. Honorable senators who have had any experience of commissions will ‘know very well that if we have six commissions representing six different States to tell us how. we are to divide the Commonwealth into constituencies, the chances are that we shall have six different opinions. At all events we shall have more than one, and thus we shall make “confusion worse confounded.” I contend that it is the duty of Parliament to decide whether the divisions for the House of Representatives shall be single, double, or triple electorates. It is not for us to delegate to commissions the duty which devolves upon us. After the commissioners had brought up their report we should be in no better position for deciding whether the House of Representatives should be divided into single electorates or not, than we are now. I suppose 1 there is not an honorable senator who has not come to a conclusion as to the best mode of division. My reading, study, and experience lead me to say that we cannot do better than have single electorates. All kinds of systems have been tried in all parts of the world where there is representative government, and I hardly know of a case where single electorates have not been returned to. In France, after repeated trials, it was found that single electorates were fairer in the interests of the minority as well as ‘of the majority. At one time the whole city of Paris was taken as one electoral division. The result was that the socialists swept the polls from end to end and got practically the whole of the seats. But after Paris returned to single electorates the result was different. Some parts of Paris returned socialistic members, other parts returned members holding different views.
– A majority of socialists is still returned from the Parisian constituencies.
– Undoubtedly the socialists have a majority, but the minority never got a show until Paris was divided into single electorates. Then we have the experience of the mother country. For some years they tried the system of three-member electorates, each voter having two votes. But they have practically returned to the system of single member electorates. The same has happened in “Victoria and New South “Wales. We also have the experience of Belgium, Germany,, and other parts of the world, in which various systems have been tried. They have universally returned to the adoption of single electorates. I believe that single electorates will be best for the House o£ Representatives.
– Has not Belgium, adopted the Hare system 1
– We can argue the question as to the method of election by-and-by. We now have to decide the method of division. I shall support the proposal of the Government.
– I understood that the principle of single electorates meant one member for each electorate. That is why I interjected that Belgium has adopted the proportional system. Of course, the country must be divided into electorates for that system, but there are several members for each district. Since I spoke last evening, I have come to the conclusion that the best method we can adopt, seeing that there is a desire amongst honorable senators to apply the Hare system to both Houses, should the Government succeed in applying it to the Senate, would be to strike out of clause 13 all the words after the word “divisions.” The effect of that would be to leave a blank. We could then proceed with the Bill as we did with the Immigration Restriction Bill, after which, if we altered the principle of the measure, we could come back and fill up the blank according to the decision of the committee. I am extremely anxious that the- Hare system should be applied to both Houses, and not merely to one. I have already endeavoured to show how detrimental the single-electorate system -would be to the interests of all those who are desirous of introducing reforms in the Commonwealth. I am justified in saying, from opinions expressed in the South Australian Houses of Legislature, that single electorates are condemned in that State.
– I move -
That all the words after the word “ State,” line1. be omitted.
If there is any merit in the proposal for treating the Senate elections in the method proposed by the Bill, there must be equally good grounds for applying the same principle to elections for the House of Representatives. Surely the principle for which the Vice-President of the Executive Council fought last evening with so much zeal and ability is worthy of being applied to both Chambers. Why should there be any differentiation between the two Houses in regard to the method of election ? While I feel that it is extremely inconvenient to move an amendment at this stage - and I make no secret of the fact that I move it because I fear that the proportional voting system may be applied to the Senate, to which I am opposed - yet; if we are to have the system rammed down our throats, I propose to do a little bit of ramming on my own account in regard to the House of Representatives. We should not be selfish in this matter. If proportional representation is such a very splendid thing, we should not monopolize it for the Senate. The House of Representatives should be permitted to enjoy the same benefits and privileges as are to be given to us. There is no excuse for introducing, the proportional representation system, except that which is afforded by the unfortunate example of Tasmania. There the principle has been applied to both Houses. As we have to go to Tasmania for our example, and that example shows that the principle is applicable to both Houses, let us accept the proposition in its entirety, and not nibble at so splendid a reform. I cannot see how the VicePresident of the Executive Council can contend that the Senate should be elected under a totally different set of circumstances or by a totally different method from the House of Representatives. I join issue to some extent with my honorable friend, Senator Playford, as to the eminent desirability of single-seat electorates. I have sat for a constituency returning three members which subsequently returned four, and when it was divided into single electorates, I represented one of the divisions for many years until I entered the Federal Parliament. I have tried both methods, and am not enamoured altogether of either one or the other. But if some opportunity for the representation of a minority is insisted upon, we must, at least, have constituencies returning two members each. I have had the experience of three, four, and singlemember constituencies ; I should like to try the experiment of a double electorate. I should prefer double to single electorates, provided that we are to have sections of the people represented in our Parliament rather than districts of some geographical area. The inconvenience caused by the failure of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to give Senator Millen an assurance sufficiently satisfactory to enable this clause to be taken as read–
– I accepted Senator O’Connor’s assurance on the point.
– I understood Senator O’Connor’s assurance to amount to this - “If by-and-by the proportional representation scheme is knocked out, I shall be willing, provided you can get a majority to recommit this clause.”
– Will the honorable senator pardon me? I simply acceded to the request made by Senator Millen. I said that if proportional representation were carried I should give him an opportunity of reconsidering this clause for the purpose of introducing proportional representation generally. It is not a question of whether or not he can carry such a proposal. I undertake to allow him an opportunity of dealing with the matter.
– I accept implicitly that definite assurance and in view of it I shall not move any amendment. I shall be prepared to go straight on with the Bill. Nothing could be more satisfactory than my honorable and learned friend’s assurance.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I move -
That the words “ equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein “ be omitted.
I feel so strongly on the question of single electoratesthat I am compelled to move the omission of these words with a view of inserting others should I be successful. I move the amendment at this early stage in order that I may put myself right with the committee at the first opportunity.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has put the matter in the form of a definite issue. The honorable senator stated that he wished to introduce a system of proportional representation in elections for the House of Representatives. I presume that he proposes to follow up this amendment, if it is successful, by a motion for the division of the States into such electorates as would return three or four members each ?
– That really involves the question of whether or not we should apply proportional representation to the House of Representatives. I do not think there can be any doubt as to what will be the opinion of the committee upon it. Something has been said about the opinion of Australia on the question. The opinion of the Commonwealth may be gathered from the fact that in all the States, save Tasmania and South Australia, the local Parliaments adopted single electorates for the House of Representatives.
– There are a few double electorates in Queensland so far as the State Parliament is concerned.
– I am speaking of the latest expression of opinion in all the States, and it is undoubted that single electorates afford a method by which the best representation can be secured in the House of Representatives. That has been determined by New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, and I think, to a large extent, by Queensland. In the case of South Australia and Tasmania, each State was polled as one electorate for the House of Representatives. During last session the Government of South Australia made a proposal in the local Parliament to divide the State into single electorates. That proposal was not proceeded with, at the request of the Federal Government, on the ground that we were undertaking the duty. At the request of this Government, and with a view to this legislation, the Government of South Australia held its hand. Therefore I may take it that practically throughout Australia there has been a general expression of opinion in favour of single electorates. First of all, as the opinion of Australia has been appealed to, I point out that it is all the one way. The next question is whether the decision is founded upon reason. I admit that if in some moment of temporary insanity all these States had decided to adopt a system which ought not to be applied, we should not adopt it here. But is it not altogether in accordance with the best interests of the different States that there should be single electorates for the House of Representatives? Undoubtedly there should be a division of electorates if we desire to obtain the best representation of the people. In the course of an interesting speech, Senator Playford gave us an illustration of the adoption of the principle in other countries. He put the matter in a true light when he showed that by the division of a country into single electorates, we get such a diversity of opinion expressed in the electorates, that in the result a very fair representation of the general opinion of the country is obtained. I will not say that in this way we secure the representation of a minority, because notwithstanding what my honorable friends opposite have said we have never contended that there should be representation of a minority as a minority. There is one reason in support of the division of the States into electorates that seems to stand out pre-eminently, namely, that we ought to have regard to local conditions - in the larger sense- in the representation in the House of Representatives. We cannot have it, I think, in accordance with the principles of the Constitution, in the Senate, but we ought to have it where the people are represented as a people in the House of Representatives. The reason for it is this : We have different interests dealt with in the Commonwealth Parliament which must in many instances have a local application. Take, for example, the incidence of customs duty. We may have a question as to whether our policy should be a revenue-producing or a protective one. The policy might have the effect of protecting the produce or trade of some particular portion of the Commonwealth, and it might affect one portion of the Commonwealth in a way altogether different from what would be its effect in another portion. I have given the illustration of Queensland, but illustrations may be derived from other States. There ought to be some means by which localities in the Commonwealth should be able to be represented when the interests of those localities come before the Commonwealth Parliament for discussion. I say that the division ofthe States into electorates is principally to secure adequate and true representation of the people of the Commonwealth in the House of Representatives, and that, in the second place, Australia has spoken in no uncertain voice in affirmation of the principle of single electorates. The Senate ought to adopt that view, and carry the clause as it is. Here the simple question is - “ Single electorates or not.” There can be only one opinion on the point, and I hope that the committee will come to a decision as soon as possible.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I cannot help regretting that Senator Charleston has seen fit to submit his amendment at this stage. The suggestion I threw out to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and which he very promptly acceded to, was that we should postpone any debatable point raised by the amendment until we found out what honorable senators proposed to do in the matter of the application of proportional representation to the Senate. I point out the position in which Senator Charleston places those who take the view of the subject that I take. It is evident that he proposes to apply the Hare principle to the House of Representatives, and to have the States divided into subdivisions for that House. If the system of proportional representation is applied to the House of Representatives, each State for the purposes of that House, must remain as one division, because there must be uniformity. It would be absurd to divide the little State of Tasmania into five divisions for the House ofRepresentatives, and to have it polled as one electorate for six senators, and yet if that were not done the larger States must also be polled as one electorate for the House of Representatives. For that reason it will be impossible for me, even with every desire to make the practice with regard to both Houses uniform, to support the amendment. I suggest to the honorable senator that he should withdraw his amendment, and let usproceed with Part 3, when, having had our fight over the application of the principle of proportional representation to the Senate, we shall have an assurance, if we are successful in carrying our views, that there will be a further opportunity of reviewing Part 3.
– I think Senator Charleston has been well advised to withdraw his amendment. The reason for the amendment is that the honorable senator is possibly more in love with proportional representation than are the Government. If it is his object to apply that system all round I must confess that the Vice-President of the Executive Council seems to have met the honorable senator with great fairness. Senator O’Connor has said that if Senator Charleston wishes to apply proportional representation to the House of Representatives an opportunity will be afforded him to do so if that principle is adopted for the Senate. I point out that there are one or two reasons why this clause should not be hastily dismissed. It is a very debatable question whether this Federal Parliament should divide the States into electoral districts. It might, I think, be strongly contended that that is a duty which should be left to the States themselves. I remind honorable senators of the provision of the Constitution with regard to the division of States for the House of Representatives. It is distinctly different from the provision made with regard to the Senate. The Constitution, I admit, seems to imply that the desire of the framers of it was that for the Senate the States should vote as one electorate. But it also seems to imply that it was not so certain that another plan might not be adopted with regard to the House of Representatives. Section 29, dealing with the House of Representatives, provides -
Until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides the Parliament of any State may make laws for determining the divisions in each State for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen.
In spite of that I think it is really a serious question whether we should at once decide to take it out of the power of every State to make its own divisions for the House of Representatives. When I asked Senator O’Connor last night if, in the event of our agreeing to the application of the Hare-Clark system to the Senate, any attempt would be made by the other House to interfere with what might be called the prerogatives of the Senate, he distinctly said “ No.” He gave the Senate to understand that if proportional representation was adopted by honorable senators for the Senate, the House of Representatives, from motives of courtesy, or whatever it might be called, would not interfere with what we have decided for ourselves. If that is so, I remind the honorable senator that we are not returning equal favour to the other House, because we are now distinctly attempting to legislate for the House of Representatives.
– If the honorable and learned senator is right, we could never introduce a Bill.
– The question is not whether I am right, but whether theVicePresident of the Executive Council is right. He is asking us to do what he says the members of the House of Reprentatives would not attempt to do.We cannot well consider the divisions into single electorates without considering the method. Senator O’Connor has already indicated certain considerations which will weigh with him in dividing the States into single electorates for the purposes of the House of Representatives. Amongst other considerations he. urges what seems to me a most extraordinary argument. He says that if we are to split up the States into divisions we must have some consideration for local conditions. Local conditions are defined in clause 19, which says -
In the distribution of States into divisions consideration shall be given to (a) community or diversity of interests, (b) means of communication, (c) physical features.
The chief reason Senator O’Connor gave us for saying we should pay attention to local interests is that such a consideration would necessarily arise out of the Customs.
– And the Post-office ; and I might multiply illustrations.
– The honorable and learned senator laid most stress upon the Customs. Our customs duties represent practically the great scheme of taxation of the Commonwealth. It is a curious thing that in spite of what Senator O’Connor has said the Constitution abhors what he says is desirable. In that celebrated section 51, dealing with the powers of Parliament, it is provided that we may legislate with regard to taxation - but so us not to discriminate between States or parts of States.
And it is with respect to parts of States that Senator O’Connor asks us to discriminate in this instance.
– The honorable and learned senator is not using that argument seriously?
– I am using it perfectly seriously. TheVice-President of the Executive Council says that we ought to have divisions made with reference to localities solely in order that the various discrepancies of the incidence of customs duties may be regulated, and yet the Constitution says that in dealing with taxation we must not discriminate between parts of the same State. I recognise that the honorable and learned senator has discovered a flaw in the Constitution. Another statement made by the honorable and learned senator astonished me. He was referring to the possibility of the States managing their own divisions, and he used the extraordinary phrase of “ temporary insanity “ on the part of the State Houses. It seems to me that if we pass this measure permanently the State Houses may reply that they are going to suffer from the perpetual insanity of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is extraordinary that Senator O’Connor should say that because the States have decided for themselves for the first federal election and for their own elections their method of division into electoral districts, they have been suffering from a kind of “ temporary insanity.”
– I did not say that or anything like it.
– I took the words down. The honorable and learned senator certainly used the term “temporary insanity” with regard to State legislation, but 1 am of course bound to accept what he says now.
– What I said was that unless it is to be assumed that the States in making these divisions were guilty of temporary insanity, we must take it that the public opinion of Australia is in favour of single electorates.
– I am very glad to hear a repetition of what the honorable and learned senator said - it isjust what I thought he said. I remind the honorable senator that, so far as the accusation of temporary insanity is concerned, it applies not only to Tasmania but to that State about which in this committee we are not accustomed to speak in such terms. This is the first time that the model State, in the presence of Senators Playford, Downer, and McGregor, has been accused of temporary insanity in its legislation. In Tasmania we have not got single electorates for the House of Representatives, nor have they in South Australia. Therefore, Senator O’Connor is inaccurate as to facts, and he has levelled against the State Legislatures an accusation which is utterly unwarranted. With regard to Tasmania, the conditions may distinctly differ. It sends only five members to the House of Representatives. It might be very seriously argued by its representatives that this is not so desirable a proposition for Tasmania as’ for ‘Queensland or New South Wales. Our population is well known. The number of electors on our rolls for the House of Representatives would probably be not more than the number for a single electorate in a large State like New South Wales. That argument seems to me to have some force. We are running too far in our legislation in the direction of a desire for uniformity. Uniformity with regard to the division of the States, into electoral districts for the other House is not desirable. I do not believe that Tasmania would like to be split up into single electoral districts. Therefore we might very properly leave the whole question for the States to decide. When Senator O’Connor says that all the States want single electorates for the other House I differ with him in regard to Tasmania, but I must admit that he- is very largely right. His own State, if it so desires, will have single electoral districts whether we legislate in that direction or not. It is not desirable that we should force this system upon Tasmania. If Senator O’Connor’s desire is to be gained by legislation iri the various States, why not leave the settlement of the question to them 1 Why, force on Tasmania a method which she may not like ?
– I think the honorable and. learned senator will admit that under the Bill which’ did away with proportional representation the system of single electorates for the State Parliament was adopted in Tasmania.
- Senator O’Connor like myself is in the unfortunate position of not being able to see a copy of the Bill.
– I have seen the Bill.
– I know that for many years Tasmania has not been split up into single electorates, except in two cases. Where they have had the opportunity - in the two large cities - they have adopted the system of four or five seat electorates.
– At one time they had double electorates in other parts of Tasmania.
– Wherever it was possible in Tasmania to make an electorate return more than one member they did it. That has been the history of legislation in that State. I urge upon Senator O’Connor that the question of uniformity is one which ought to be seriously considered. I admit that, slightly, the Constitution Act is against my argument. I admit that if you read carefully the debates in the Convention; apparently the opinion o£ the majority was that we. should have single electorates for the House of ;Representatives, but, of course, that is not absolutely binding on us.
– It was never seriously considered.
– I am glad to hear that statement from Senator Downer, who took part in those debates. The Constitution Act in no way binds us to legislate foi’ the States. It fairly leaves the States to pass their own legislation on this subject I think I have been quite justified this morning in suggesting that we are in a great deal too much hurry to secure uniformity, and that, in securing uniformity, we may, in some’ cases, inflict hardship.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I see all the greater reason why I should adhere to my amendment. I am extremely glad that a senator from Tasmania has spoken, because I quite realize that its interests are attacked by this clause. I have shown that in South Australia we have always been opposed to single electorates.
– By a very small majority.
– If my honorable friend is always -willing to follow the majority, as he says he is,, let him represent in the Senate the majority in South Australia in dealing with this Bill. I was very much surprised to hear that the State Government declined to deal with the division of South Australia because of a request made by the Federal Parliament. If Senator O’Conner will lookup the South Australian Hansard, he will find that there was a division taken on Mr. Burgoyne’s motion that the State should be divided into seven electoral districts for the election of the members of the House of Representatives.
– I was not speaking of that, but of a Bill introduced by the Government of South Australia.
– When the State decided that it was essential to reduce the number of members in the Assembly, and their number was reduced from 54 to 42, an attempt was then made to divide the State into 42 districts. It was defeated by an overwhelming majority, and the State was divided into five, four, and threemember districts. The representation of the Northern Territory was left as it was, because they were hopeful that it would be taken over by the Common-wealth. In this Bill we are asked to inflict upon South Australia that which she has protested against every time the question has been raised. I feel strongly that we should do a very great injustice to. its electors by forcing upon them single electorates. Senator O’Connor has urged that in the House of Representatives local interests should be represented. Under the Hare system that can be done. If we have a larger electorate, and there is one interest that predominates, what do we find 1 We find that the member is returned according to the number of electors representing that interest, whatever it may be. The quota would give a representation of interests in a State. If New South Wales were divided into six districts returning four members each - and perhaps the metropolis returning five - then those interests of which Senator O’Connor speaks could be conserved by the quota representation. Local interests will be conserved if we adopt the larger electorates and the Hare system. At first I thought that I would test the question On an amendment to insert the words “ and the House of Representatives “ in clause 146, but then it occurred to my mind that if clause 1 3 were passed as it is, my amendment would be ruled out of order, because it would be inconsistent with the decision of the committee on that clause. I am sure that nothing which Senator O’Connor has said would justify the committee in following him, because everything he desires to accomplish by single electorates can be accomplished much more effectively under the Hare system.
– I rise to correct a slight misapprehension as regards the Queensland elections for the House of Representatives. The Vice-President of the Executive Council was pointing out that, in Queensland, we had the principle of single electorates for the House of Representatives, and an interjection was made to the effect that we had double electorates in that State. That is perfectly correct so far as concerns our electoral law for the State House of Assembly. We have 61 electorates, of which eleven are double. But for the purposes of electing the nine Queensland members to the House of Representatives, the Queensland Legislature passed a Bill dividing the State into nine single electorates. The principal point my honorable and learned friend, the VicePresident of the Executive Council, was making Was that Queensland had deliberately decided to be represented by nine representatives elected by nine single electorates.
– It appears to me that the amendment of Senator Charleston is one which might be of some assistance to those holding the views enunciated by him with regard to single electorates. If we pass the clause as it stands,- it is true that we shall have an opportunity of coming back to it in the event of its being decided to apply the principle of proportional representation to the House of Representatives, but if we do not adopt that principle, and if proportional representation be not determined upon for the Senate, and there is consequently no attempt to apply it to the House of Representatives, honorable senators, having passed this clause, will be in the position that they will have already affirmed the principle of single electorates, and will have no opportunity of getting back to the clause under the promise which has been given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Therefore. Senator Charleston is only urging what is reasonable from his point of view, namely, that he shall not be prejudiced in any way by the passing of a clause affirming the principle of single electorates in the event of our determining in favour of proportional representation. I do not agree with Senator Charleston with regard to single electorates, because I am in favour of them for the election of the members of the House of Representatives, believing that single electorates would be better than the system under which three or four members are elected for each particular district. If honorable senators look at the matter from the stand-point adopted by Senator Charleston and other honorable senators who would like to see proportional representation applied to the House of Representatives, they will be inclined to adopt his proposal. By doing so we shall be given an opportunity of having fair play. It appears to me that it, would have been conducive to a saving of time to postpone the clause. The whole of the part of the Bill upon which we are engaged is based upon this clause. Clauses 1 3 to 24 aa-e entirely dependent upon clause 13 itself. But Parts IV. and V. of the Bill deal with subjects which are not dependent upon single, double, or treble electorates, nor upon the principle of proportional representation. The polling places will have to be proclaimed and the electoral rolls provided, whether we adopt proportional representation or not. We might have a debate now upon election expenses or voting by post, both of which questions would be equally applicable, whether we adopt the Hare system or the single-electorate system.
– Why not pass this clause now ?
– Because it involves a question to be hereafter determined, and we do not know what the committee will decide about it. Senator O’Connor must recognise that there is a strong feeling amongst honorable senators that if we are to have proportional representation for the Senate, it should also be applied to the House of Representatives. It would facilitate discussion and save time and difficulty if the whole question were discussed later on. Suppose we fight the matter out today, next week it will be raised again upon a subsequent* clause.
– If I were to postpone this clause, I should have to postpone. 30 or 40 other clauses. We must” get it through some time.
– I do not think that, the question of postponement can be discussed now. We have an amendment before the Chair. The question of the postponement has been dealt with.
– It is true that if we are strictly to adhere to the rules laid down the discussion must be confined to the amendment, but we are now engaged upon a very important matter, and it is scarcely fair to confine me to a rule which has not previously been adhered to.
– The question of postponement was fully discussed before I received an amendment. Now we have an amendment before the Chair, and, I am obliged to ask the honorable and learned senator to confine his remarks to that amendment. I did not object to a few words on the subject, but l cannot permit any general discussion.
– If it will save time, I may as well tell the honorable and learned senator that I cannot consent to a postponement.
– I was under the impression that our object was to give the fullest opportunity to honorable senators to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion with regard to the whole clause. I urge honorable senators to remember that in the first place the State of Tasmania has not adhered to the principle of single electorates. That State has single, treble, and double electorates. The representatives of Tasmania may consider that it is undesirable to apply the single electorate system to that State. They may consider that it is better to have the five members elected by the State as at the present time. If we are going to adopt the clause and reject Senator Charleston’s amendment we shall block the Tasmanians in that respect. Then we find that in South Australia the principle of single electorates has never been adopted. Are not honorable senators who hold to the South Australian view to have an opportunity of having the whole matter considered 1 Why should we bind them down to either one or two systems 1 The Postmaster-General has given us an explanation of the law passed by Queensland relative to the election of members to the House of Representatives, but their electoral law for the State Legislature provides for 61 divisions, eleven of which are double, and the balance single electorates. That does not show that Queensland has been so strongly in favour of such a system as is suggested.
– They passed the Act for the division of the State into districts for the House of Representatives.
– I admit that that is a strong point in favour of Senator O’Connor’s contention. At the same time South Australia did not do such a thing, and in Tasmania there was one system applicable to both Houses of Parliament. It is unreasonable, therefore, to attempt to tie a knot round the necks of the representatives of any State in the way contemplated by the clause as it stands. I say this as one who believes in the principle of single electorates, and who, when a fair opportunity arrives, will vote in favour of single electorates. I hope that honorable senators will recognise that as the Government decline to postpone this clause we ought to
I accept the amendment.
– In order to correct’ what is evidently a misapprehension on the part of Senator Gould, and one which perhaps may be shared by other honorable senators, I should like to refer to the elections in Tasmania for the House of Representatives ; also to the electoral system of that State so far as it relates to electoral divisions. Ibr the last six or seven years or more we have had in Tasmania single electorates outside the two metropolitan centres of Hobart and .Launceston. For some time we had, in some rural districts, double electorates.
– What is the proportion of population between town and country in Tasmania ?
– There is a population of about 50,000 in the two cities, and about 120,000 in the rest of the State. The five representatives of Tasmania in the House of Representatives were returned, just as were the six senators, by the State polled as one electorate, the electors voting under the Hare - Clark system. The Government of Tasmania contemplated the division of the State into five districts for the House of Representatives, and thus to fall into line with’ the other States in carry.ing out what was conceived to be the spirit of the Constitution, that the States should vote as one for the return of their representatives in the Senate, and should be divided into single electorates for the House of Representatives. .The proposal was actually submitted, and a division of the State was made on the instruction of the Government of the day. But when the proposal came to be discussed it was openly stated that if it were carried out it would result in the return of a certain candidate for the House of Representatives who was not considered desirable by many people and by some members of the State Parliament.
– I have not the faintest idea of the gentleman to whom the honorable and learned senator refers.
– Then the honorable and learned senator has not read what took place in the Tasmanian Parliament at the time ; nor can he have studied any of the letters which appeared in the press with reference to the proposed divisions.
– It did not misinterpret them.
– There could be no misinterpretation. The matter was an open secret, and the proposed division was not carried out. It was thus owing to special circumstances that the scheme was not proceeded with. In campaigning throughout Tasmania in connexion with the Senate elections I expressed my intention of supporting a proposal for the division of the State into five separate districts for the return of five members at any subsequent election for the House of Representatives when the Government of the Commonwealth should have taken the matter in hand.
– Is the proposal still popular ?
– I- found when I put the principle forward that it was received by the people with apparent approval. As to the suggestion made by Senator Clemons, that the division or non-division of the States for the House of Representatives should be left to the States themselves, I should like to say that I consider such would be a very vicious system to adopt. Apart from the want of uniformity which would follow, I would-draw attention to the circumstances at present operating om the minds of the Government of one State. Let us take Queensland for example. We see day by day that, rightly or wrongly, the Government of that State feel aggrieved at the action of the Commonwealth Government and Parliament, and are indulging in many little pin pricks at the expense df the Federal Government. Could we reasonably expect that at the present time that Government, backed up as it might be by a majority in the local Parliament, would approach the task of dividing Queensland into electorates for the House of Representatives with the calmness and judicial deliberation that ought to characterize the discharge of duties of that kind? We might take the case of any other State which feels aggrieved. When the State Parliaments divided the States into electorates for the House of Representatives, it was openly asserted in many public organs that the divisions in some cases were . marked out on lines to suit particular members of the State Legislature.
– I have never heard of such an assertion.
Sena tor KEATING.- That does not show that my assertion is incorrect. There are other honorable senators here who can bear out what I am saying in regard to the dissatisfaction expressed in their States.
To adopt Senator Clemons1 suggestion would be to practically allow a State Government, if it thought that certain men were returned by that State to the House of Representatives who were not in sympathy with that Government upon matters of Federal or State concern, to alter, to a certain extent, the character of that representation at each election. I think that we can determine far better than could the State Parliaments what should be the electoral divisions. We can approach the task free and untrammelled, and complete it in the interests of the people of the whole of the Commonwealth, and not purely and solely in the interests of any State itself. I shall oppose, as strongly as I can, any attempt which may be made to leave the mapping out of electoral divisions for the House of Representatives with any of the State Parliaments.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I think it would be a little premature to pass this clause, and thus affirm the principle contained in it. I should like to say, also, that I have never heard in Tasmania any insinuation that the federal electorates were mapped out in that State in order to suit individual members of the State Parliament. Certainly such an opinion has never been publicly expressed.
– I did not make the statement in regard to Tasmania.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - I wish to deprecate any impatience on. the part of honorable senators in dealing with a question of vital importance such as we have before us at the present time. Senator Clemons’ speech, so far from requiring any adverse comment, struck me as being a very valuable contribution to the debate. If there is one thing which was made clear when we framed the Constitution it was that we should be economical in interfering with the rights of the States. In every case in which we used the words “ until the Parliament otherwise provides,” we said, in effect, that the existing law was a good law ; but that we were legislating for the present, and we could not tell what might crop up in the future to make it necessary to alter that law. That fact, I am satisfied^ is not realized sufficiently by sections of this committee. If there was one view more strongly urged than another in the Conventions and submitted to the people, it was that there should be an economy of interference with the States, and that we should never interfere unless interference became very necessary. I absolutely deny Senator Playford’s statement that the feeling in South Australia is in favour of single electorates. The honorable senator has always been in favour of that principle, but he has never been able to carry’ it in South Australia. We had one little district in that State, the Northern Territory, which at one time only returned one member ; but insignificant as that district is compared with all the rest, so strong was the feeling there against single electorates that two members were given to the Northern Territory, and that district has them still.
– That law was passed ten or twelve years ago, and there has been a growth of public opinion on this question for a great many years.
– The growth of public opinion in South Australia has been entirely different to that developed in the larger populations. I do not desire to go too much into the reasons for it, but we know that parties have advocated single electorates because they thought they would get more men in for their side by doing so. That was altogether the game in England, but it never represented any great principle. The great principle has always been better represented by the view that there should not be single electorates ; that there should be at least double electorates, so as not to disfranchise too many - the very thing which is always being complained about. We have gone a little better than the principle in South Australia, and Senator Playford has already referred to the fact that we have one district returning as many as five members. But there is no district there returning only one member, and that is the whole point. We passed this Constitution intending to be economical of interference with the States. The other day we interfered with Tasmania in a way which would probably have prevented that State coming into the Federation if we had told her that we were going to adopt any such course. Ever since we have been here, it appears to me we have been trying, not to legislate for the purpose of filling up the Constitution so as to make it complete, but always to see how far we can go under the Constitution to gratify the fad of this man or that man. I am utterly against single electorates, ‘but I do not desire to make any reflection upon others. In New South Wales they like the system, and for goodness sake let them keep it and elect their members in that way. In Victoria the system is liked, though not so much ; but in South Australia we do not like it, and why should we be interfered with? The object of all is to adopt. that method which will return members who will best represent the opinion of the States. Should we not let them judge for themselves what that method ought to be 1 Are we as competent to decide as they are ? I would never dream of interfering with New South Wales on the subject I would say - “ You know best the physical environments and circumstances which require something to be done in your State different from what is done in other States. Deal with those circumstances accordingly. Adopt the best method you can conceive amongst yourselves for returning the men you want to represent you ; but leave us the same privilege. Because you happen to be a big State and we are only a small State, do not insist that we shall return members according to your method, when we have adopted a method which we think is better, and which has resulted in the return of the admirable representatives we see before us.” Look at the history of America, Canada, Switzerland, and every other country that has given up its State government to some extent for federation, and we shall always find great unpopularity in the first instance. Do not let us unnecessarily accentuate it. Let us deal with matters that have to be dealt with in the interests of the whole people, and interfere with the States just as little as ever Ave can, instead of doing what I venture to think we are doing now - interfering on every opportunity, treading upon their corns, and making the term “federation “ a reproach.
– While I am in favour of single electorates, and think that they have acted better in this State than double electorates, I am entirely in accord with the view that we should not unnecessarily tread upon the corns of the States. We should endeavour to create as little strife as we can during the first few years of the Federation. That is our bounden duty, and I am sorry to confess that we have not adhered to that very wise policy. If this were merely a machinery Bill, about which the States would” not contend, there could be no objection to it. There are vital principles in it to which I object very much indeed. So far as I can judge this clause 13 is all right, but the Constitution does not invite us to pass such clauses. It is plain enough, from section 29 of the Constitution, that, until the Federal Parliament otherwise provides, the State laws are to prevail, and we have not found fault with the State laws dealing with matters of this kind. Why, then, should we force a principle like this upon the States? I think we are making the States angry by our action, and while I have been, and will continue to be, in favour of federation, and while I think that the existing cloud of objections to it will pass away, I tell honorable senators plainly that, if a vote upon the Constitution were to be taken next week, it is certain that it would not be accepted, so strong is the feeling upon the subject. I urge the Government not to press unduly upon any State.
– The honorable senator must admit the need for uniformity in the conduct of elections.
– No. Why should there be uniformity? Uniformity may create havoc and ruin in many instances. There is no uniformity in this Senate ; we are as divided as division can make us.
– Then there should hot be uniformity in the franchise either ?
– I do not agree with Senator O’Connor, and I will give a case in point. I have not been in favour of adult suffrage. I do not believe it would be for the benefit of the country, and in this particular I say that uniformity is not desirable. I pity the country whose manhood cannot manage its affairs without dragging in the unfortunate women. Uniformity is not desirable in many instances. If good results have been obtained by States that have adopted double, treble, and quadruple electorates, let us leave them alone for the present. If that principle is found to work well in the larger States, the smaller States that have nob yet adopted it will come round to that view. I agree to some extent with Senator O’Connor in what he has said in regard to the consideration due to local conditions, because I think the country districts should above all be given representation. The towns live by the country, and if the country is not prospering the towns must shrink up and shrivel. Country representatives are the real representatives of the people, because the country people bear the whole burden. In many States, as in Victoria, the country districts are given greater representation than the towns, on the very principle of which I am speaking, because the prosperity of a State rests entirely upon the farmers, miners, vignerons, wool-growers, and primary producers generally. While I agree with Senator O’Connor in that, I still say that we ought not now to pass such a measure as this. There is no urgency for it. The other States may be opposed to the system, therefore do not do what will aggrieve them, ‘especially when it is not necessary. I favour the view that the clause should be postponed until the other clauses have been dealt with. I do not say that I shall vote for double electorates. I could not take that course without voting against my conviction.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- So far as the other House is concerned, I have no objection to single electorates. But what we ought seriously to consider on this clause, is the question of imposing uniformity on the States. Senator O’Connor was, in my opinion, foolish enough to interject just now to the effect that the question of the franchise might be disposed of in the same way. It is imperative that the franchise should be uniform throughout the Commonwealth, but the method of using that franchise is a totally different question. While I may be disposed to vote for single electorates, I am unable to vote for a clause which deprives every State of the opportunity of doing what I think it ought to do - ‘ of settling this question for itself. I agree with Senators Downer and Fraser that in our legislation we have shown an undue desire to interfere with State legislation and State rights. I deprecate the sort of argument which is becoming common here, even if it were well based, that we are here to cure the evils which are perpetrated in State Parliaments. I object to hear our State Parliaments continually accused here of something like corruption, at any rate of incompetency. I do not suppose for a moment that the speakers expect their remarks to be believed, but I object to the Senate being used for the hurling of such accusations against the State Parliaments. The remark we heard that the Tasmanian Parliament cannot be trusted to look after its own interests in this matter is one which we ought not to hear. 30 t
– The honorable and learned senator did not hear any statement of that character.
– I am quite certain as to what I heard here. I ask Senator O’Connor to answer the statement which has been made, not only by me, but by Senators Downer and Fraser, and which is believed in by many honorable senators - that we are going too far in proposing uniformity. I should like him to make a definite statement of his views as to the desirability of this Parliament imposing on every State uniformity in this matter. Granted that single electorates are desirable, surely he will recognise with me that there are conditions in which single electorates may not be desirable. In splitting up a State into single electorates you must have regard to its size and its population. Single electorates might be applicable to New South Wales and possibly to South Australia, but they might not be applicable to a little place like Tasmania. I ask Senator O’Connor to consider that point, and if he can go so far as to agree with me on that bald proposition, I urge him to hesitate before he induces the committee to impose on some State what possibly it does not want. I do not say that I might not vote for single electorates, but I contend that we have no right to decide the. question. The Parliament of Tasmania, just as the Parliament of any other State, ought to decide the question for the State. Rightly or wrongly I think we must in loyalty always concede to the State Parliament that it can legislate properly in regard to its own affairs. If we start this system of interference with the State Parliaments, based on the statement that they act corruptly or badly, there is practically nothing ‘ which we could not take away from them. Surely honorable senators would hesitate to say that t In nine cases out of ten where a discussion has arisen some honorable senator has come here with a grievance from his own State. I believe that in Western Australia they have a grievance, but still they should not come here and attempt to interfere with what they call corruption or mismanagement ih’ the State Parliament. In Tasmania the Parliament is elected on the widest franchise - one man one vote - and when any honorable senator accuses that Parliament of managing things badly, or showing corruption, what is his accusation worth ? To accuse the Tasmanian Parliament of corruption is to challenge the whole basis of our legislation.
– Nobody has made such an accusation. I have not heard it.
– That accusation has been made more than once. I oppose the clause, because it is an undue interference with the State Parliaments.
– I have listened patiently to the arguments of honorable senators, and I am in a maze of difficulty in regard to some statements which have been made provided they are true. I am one of those who believe in uniformity, but according to the argument of honorable senators we ought not to touch our electoral system at all, but to allow things to go on in their own sweet way, and. the members of each House to be returned under a varying system which, I think, we utterly condemn. Did not the States federate in order to secure uniform legislation on all those subjects on which it is possible to obtain uniformity1! Why are we legislating for a uniform Tariff? It is simply because we believe that a uniform Tariff is good for the whole of Australia. I hold that a uniform electoral system is a’ good thing for the whole of Australia. I believe that it is a good thing to have single electorates. That has been our experience in this State. It is quite true that for the Legislative Assembly we have a few double constituencies, but I- think that the great preponderance of opinion is that it is the proper mode of representation of the people. If a uniform electoral system is a bad thing ; if the States are to be allowed to pick and choose, then good-bye to our federal system. I hold that the views of the majority of the States on this question should prevail. If the majority of the States or the majority of their senators consider that it is a good thing to have single electorates for each State, I see no reason why the principle should not be incorporated in this Bill.
– For years and years politicians were exercised by the fact that Australia was divided, that the electoral systems of the States were different, that the laws on a number of the subjects which are delegated to this Parliament were absolutely different in the States, and they came to the conclusion that there ought to be a Federation ; in other words uniformity of legislation on those subjects which have . been handed over to the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament.
– Surely there is a difference between uniformity of law and uniformity of methods?
– I shall deal with the imaginary distinction between uniformity of a principle and uniformity of the method of its administration. Any one who considers the question at all knows perfectly well that by the administration of a principle, no matter how good it may be, it can be destroyed. We may desire to get the opinion of the people of Australia, but by humbugging electorates, and by the interference of State Parliaments, we may not get that true opinion from the various States. That is what we wish to prevent. We wish to get not only the opinions held by the various States under the same franchise, but to get those opinions expressed under the same conditions of administration. Honorable senators know perfectly well that if you poll a State as one electorate, and then poll that State as separate electorates, you will very often get a very different aggregate result.
– Which is the correct one?
– The principle of division of States for the House of Representatives is clearly adopted in the Constitution Act.
– That is no answer to my question.
– I have nothing to do with the question of whether it is correct or not. The principle of division of States for the election of members of the other .House is affirmed by the Constitution Act ; therefore it . seems to me that there is no material difference between the principle and the method of its administration. If we have a right to say that there shall be single electorates, surely we have a right to say how they shall be divided. It fact, it cannot be denied that we have the right. The question is whether it is desirable to exercise it. Senator Clemons says we are depriving the States of the right to settle this question for .themselves. I deny that the States have any such right.
– Except under section 29 of the Constitution.
– The intention of section 29 is that the Federal Parliament shall divide the electorates. The section only provides that the States shall be allowed to do it until the Federal Parliament sees fit, and finds it convenient to do it. Why were the divisions left to the State Parliaments until the Federal Parliament could make them ? Because, at that time, the State Parliaments were the only bodies that could make the divisions. No Federal Parliament existed ; and until the Federal Parliament existed, and could make a uniform system, the work necessarily had to be left to the State Parliaments. It could not be expected that a Federal Parliament that did not exist could define the limits of its own constituencies, but that work was left to the only machinery that -was available. That I believe to be the intention of section 29.
– I wish to say a word or two as to the decision of the Tasmanian Parliament to adhere to single electorates. It will be within the memory of honorable members that for some years there were at least two doublebarrelled electorates on the northern coast of Tasmania. It is only a few years since the Tasmanian Parliament decided to divide them into single-member electorates. That decision was arrived at to suit the wish of the people, and it evidently met with the approval of the majority of the members of the Tasmanian Parliament. There has been a little misapprehension as to what occurred when it was decided that the whole of Tasmania should be polled as one electorate for the Federal House of Representatives. Senator Clemons will probably remember that it was at first contemplated by the Tasmanian Government to divide Tasmania into five electorates. A Bill was introduced for that purpose. It went so far as to name the electorates. But a gentleman who is now a member of the House of Representatives, and who at that time was leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. Speaking to his motion, he gave as one of his reasons that it would be a very dangerous thing to cut up the. country into five electorates, because a stranger might be able to come to the State, secure a large vote in a particular part of the country, and so capture an electorate. The term “adventurer” was used freely during the discussion. We all know perfectly well that the term was intended to apply to a gentleman who a few months before had contested a certain seat in Tasmania. 30 i 2
He “ got there”
– Was it a general argument, or was it intended to apply to a particular individual ?
– It was taken to apply to a particular individual. So keen was the feeling, that I believe I am right in saying that the decision of the Tasmanian Parliament to have the whole country polled as one electorate, was arrived at in the fear that, as had been mentioned by the leader of the Opposition, that stranger might be able to capture one of the seats
Senator Lt.-Col. Neild. ~~ just the same !
– A certain gentleman took this debate in Parliament as applying to himself, and many other people thought that he was not far wrong in doing so He issued a manifesto on the 23rd October, 1900, in which he made certain statements. Every opportunity was given to members in the Tasmanian Parliament to contradict those statements, but they did not do so. The natural assumption is that they could not contradict them. He stated emphatically in his manifesto that Tasmania was to be polled as one electorate, with the object of keeping him out of the Federal Parliament. The gentleman in question used what might be considered as extravagant language in the document te which I refer.
– The honorable senator must not go into that. I did not object to a general statement showing reasons. why Tasmania was not divided into several divisions, but the honorable senator must not go into the personal aspect of the question.
– I must bow to your ruling, and hope I have not transgressed the limits of debate.
– The Tasmanian Parliament considered that there were special circumstances.
– The argument has been used by Senator Clemons that Tasmania probably does not desire to have the country cut up into different electorates. I was trying to show the real reason why the State was left as one electorate when I was ruled out of order.
– The honorable senator was not ruled out of order on account of that. Every argument which he can adduce to prove that contention he is at liberty to use ; but I will ask him not to introduce personal matters concerning other gentlemen.
– In support of clause ] 3, I urge that it is in accordance with the very spirit of the Constitution. As Senator Ewing has pointed out, one of the reasons for federation was to secure uniformity in the matter of the franchise as in other respects ; and as he has urged, though we may have a good uniform franchise law, if it is not uniformly administered it may be bad in operation. If we left it to the States such circumstances might occur again as I have mentioned as having occurred in Tasmania. Something might be done which would not be to the credit of the State that did it. There may be matters upon which State Parliaments will differ from the Federal Parliament. We already have a question of that kind in Tasmania. It is not in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution that it should be left to the States to arrange the boundaries of the federal electorates.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I think that as the discussion advances greater and greater necessity is shown for striking out, as my amendment proposes, that portion of the clause which provides that the States shall be divided into single electorates for the House of Representatives. The clause would then fit in with section 29 of the Constitution, which provides -
Until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of any State may make laws for determining the divisions in -each State for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen, and the number of members to be chosen for each division.
That section shows clearly that the framers of the Constitution thought at the time that it was quite possible that some of the States might prefer to have electorates returning four or five members each, so that the Have system or some similar method of voting might be applied; because the section clearly refers to the “ number of members “ to be chosen for each division. It has been shown that if we pass the clause as it stands, we shall force some of the States to conduct their elections for the House of Representatives in a very different form from that which they have- chosen for electing members to their own popular Houses. That is not desirable. How many methods -of voting are we to have ? In South Australia we have five, four, and three member electorates for the House of Assembly, and four-member districts for the Legislative Council, while, if this proposal is carried, we shall have that State divided into single electorates for the House of Representatives, and possibly a method of voting introduced which is entirely new to the people there. The desirability of uniformity has been urged, and surely we ought not to impose upon the States methods that will destroy the uniformity of their own systems. The whole of the arguments in support of uniformity are in favour of allowing the States to deal with this matter as they think best. Are not the members of the popular branches of the State Legislatures elected by the people who return us 1 Surely, therefore, the members ought to know what is most conducive to the political and social good of the people 1 If, having passed this clause, we attempt to alter it subsequently, we shall be confronted with the fact that we have agreed upon this principle, and we shall not be allowed to refer to it again in this committee. If the Hare system of voting is to be applied to the Senate, those who favour single electorates will surely see the necessity for uniformity in the method of voting, instead of having one system for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate. All these are powerful reasons why honorable senators should not pledge themselves at this juncture to the principle of one man one district, and why they should deal first with other parts of the Bill. If it is found necessary to make any change, they will then be able to come back and deal with this clause.
– I have not spoken hitherto upon this measure, first because it appears to me to be a well thought out and carefully drafted Bill, and secondly, because the speeches on the second reading were so admirable that they left little to be said. I am very much in favour of proportional representation, and I am satisfied that any defects which can be alleged . against it are not half as great as are the blots on the block system. Whether we should apply this system of proportional voting to a State Chamber like the Senate is a matter which raises very grave considerations. However, that is not before the Chair. The clause under discussion appears to take away for all time the opportunity of applying proportional representation to the House of Representatives.
– No. This Bill might be repealed or altered if carried into law.
– I am so persuaded of the benefits to be derived from proportional voting that that to some extent is a criticism which I feel bound to offer to the clause as it stands. At the same time, Senator O’Connor’s argument that in dealing with the question of the representation of the citizens, as such, in the House of Representatives we must take local conditions into consideration, is a very strong one. That raises another point - whether the States themselves are not the best judges of how to apply any Act to their local conditions. A great deal more will have to be heard on that question, but believing this Bill to be a good one, ‘ and desiring to push on with the business, I propose to vote for the clause as it stands, because it appears to me to be the lesser of two evils. I think Tasmania will be in accord with the vote I am about to give. It is true that the Parliament of Tasmania took steps to map out that State into five electorates for the House of Representatives, and as Tasmania is in favour of single electorates for the one House, I do not think my vote can be- very much called into question. It appears to me that as that State must be polled as one electorate for the Senate - and it is desirable that it should be - it is well to consider local conditions and to have single electorates for the House of Representatives! I can quite understand that some of the more populous States may object to this : that as the popularity of proportional representation grows - as I am sure it will - some will desire to apply the system to the House of Representatives, to which it is far more applicable than it is to the Senate. If they do, this clause will stand in the way, and will have to be repealed. One very important point has not yet been referred to, namely : What is the economic and financial aspect Of this Bill ? In other words, what is it going to cost us ? If we were to allow matters to stand for the present the whole cost of preparing the rolls would fall upon the States, and although I do not desire to delay the progress of the Bill I think that is a matter which we ought to consider. I shall be glad if Senator O’Connor will have a return prepared showing what the cost of this Bill will be. I intend on Tuesday next to give notice of motion for the preparation of such a return. The financial aspect of the question ought to be prominently before us. I am told that the preparation of the rolls will cost a very large sum. As Tasmania has gone back on proportional representation, and as I believe it is in favour of single electorates, I see no harm in voting for the clause as it stands.
– I have said nothing upon this Bill so far, but I have listened to the debate attentively, and I have been amazed at the parochial sentiments given utterance to by some honorable senators. We are told that we should not pass this clause because the States should be the best judges as to how these affairs should be regulated. We should not pass something else because it may create in the minds of a number of persons some feeling of hostility to federation generally. Senators Dobson and Clemons are ardent federalists, but their whole plea has not been for federation, but for the isolation of the different States as they were before the accomplishment of federation. Senator Clemons, admits that we should have a uniform franchise, but he does not desire a uniform mehtod of exercising the franchise. He says we should leave that to the States. Where are we drifting % Are we to drift back to the old condition of things existing before the accomplishment of federation 1 I have always been an ardent federalist, and I deny that anything has been done by the Federal Parliament to create hostility to federation. I think I know something of my own State, and a great deal more than some honorable senators who assume to know a great de.il about it. I know the public sentiment existing in that State, and the highly beneficial effect which the legislation passed by the Federal Parliament will have upon it. Notwithstanding the platitudes we haveheard concerning the hostility created by federal legislation, if aplebiscite on federation were taken in Queensland to-morrow an overwhelming majority would be found in favour of the action taken by the Federal Parliament. We want uniformity of franchise, uniformity in the method of conducting elections ; in legislation reserving this Commonwealth for people of the white race ; in defence ; in banking ; and in the establishment of an Inter-State Commission for directing the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth. Yet some strong federalists tell us that if a vote were taken to-morrow federation would not be carried in consequence of the action of the Federal Parliament. I have great respect for the opinions of Senator Eraser, but I do not defer, to his opinion when he says that we must go slow. When in the name of heaven are we to move? We are told that we should not move now or next year. “ Don’t move at all “ is the cry of the old conservative everywhere and every time. We are told that it is unwise to make a start now with this Bill. When are we to make a start ? The Vice-President of the Executive Council has explained that there must shortly be a federal election for the Senate, and is it not wise that we should take time by the forelock, and adopt measures which will secure the best results, not in the interests of one State alone, but in the interests of the whole of the Commonwealth ? I never was an enthusiastic admirer of the system of single electorates, but under all the circumstances I think it is the best system to adopt. In Queensland we adopted a temporary measure for the purposes of the last federal election, waiting the time when the Federal Parliament, as was intended by the Constitution, would deal with this subject, as well as with the subject of a uniform franchise. The very basis upon which the Federation rests is uniformity, so far as it can be carried out. In some States it is suggested that there should be no division for the House of Representatives, and that the members of that House should be elected in- the same way as members of the Senate.
– That would be a calamity.
– It would be no calamity, but it would certainly be a lopsided arrangement so far as Parliament itself is concerned. In other States it may be that large divisions will be adopted. In New South Wales they have had sufficient experience of the single-electorate system to convince them of the necessity of continuing that system. In Victoria no desire has been shown to abandon that system. So far as Queensland is concerned, we have already passed legislation dividing that State into nine divisions, with a single representative for each, for the House of Representatives ; and one of the planks in the platform of the present Queensland Government in the elections which are now being conducted in that State is the abolition of the double electorates which exist there to a limited extent. Following up the argument used by Senator O’Connor, I say that the whole trend of public opinion in Australia is in the direction of single electorates, and that being so, how can honorable senators say that if we pass this clause it is likely to arouse hostility to federation which should not exist ? I am more than astonished at the parochialism displayed during the discussion on this Bill. I hope we shall be true federalists, and as far as we can carry measures which will establish uniformity.
– I may remind the honorable senator that the cost of the election which has unfortunately been rendered necessary in Tasmania will probably be £1,200, while the cost of the whole of the elections for that State was only £1,700, so that, in the absence of a division of electorates, it will cost nearly as much to elect one member for that State as it cost to elect the whole of the members -at the general election.
– I cannot vote for the amendment proposed by Senator Charleston. I do not believe it is a wise or proper policy to adopt so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, though I think it would be highly prudent and politic to adopt it for the Senate.
– There cannot be verymuch doubt in the minds of honorable senators that the Constitution provides absolutely for carrying out what is proposed in this Bill - uniformity of procedure in connexion with elections. The provisions on the subject in the Constitution were not inserted without its being intended that at some time or other they should be given effect to. The first thing to decide is whether it is advisable to exercise now the power provided in the Constitution. I have listened attentively to the debate ; but I have not been able to arrive at a conclusion that there is any special advantage in delay. I am inclined to think that there is very little, if anything, to be gained by delay, and there is a good deal to be said in favour of dealing with this question while it is well before the public. It was discussed during the time of the Commonwealth elections, as it has been since ; the public mind is, I think, fairly made up upon the subject, and there is a general expectation that within a reasonable time the Commonwealth Parliament will deal with it. . So far as I can see, from my experience of Victoria, there is undoubtedly a strong opinion in favour of uniformity in this State. I am not personally a great believer in the wonderfully beneficial effects claimed for uniformity. I do not think its advantages will appear so very great if contrasted with its many disadvantages. Still, I think public opinion in the Commonwealth is in favour of this matter being dealt with promptly by the Federal Parliament, and on lines of uniformity. In clause 13 we come to deal for the first time with the method by which it is proposed that this shall be done, and the clause lays down the principle of single electorates for the House of Representatives. While I recognise that that is in accordance with the opinion held by the vast majority of the electors of Victoria for many years past, I am npt a particularly firm believer in the advantages of single electorates. I believe there is a great deal to be said in favour of double and treble electorates, and that probably the people would be better represented by double than by single electorates. At the same time, I frankly acknowledge that single electorates do secure to a large extent the representation of a number of divergent views. Ry cutting up the States into so many districts, we shall undoubtedly secure the return of men differing widely in their political views. So that while I think it is not by any means the most perfect system, and is not perhaps as good a system as double electorates, and certainly not by any means as good as the proportional system, I admit that great advantages may follow from the adoption of the system, and especially when the contingent vote is applied to it. Under these circumstances I feel that it is my duty to support the clause as it stands, with, of course, the distinct understanding given by Senator O’Connor, that in the event of proportional voting being recognised later on, the clause will be recommitted with the view of determining whether the principle should also be applied to the House of Representatives.
– Of course, that is only to suit” the convenience of those who wish to raise the question. I do not mean to say for a moment that my opinion can be altered in any way.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - I ask the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat whether, on consideration, he will not come to the conclusion that his remarks are utterly illogical ? He has said that he is in favour of proportional representation. He likes three-member districts better than one-member districts. Why? Because he thinks that the nearer you get to proportional representation the further you get from single electorates with members returned by absolute majorities. Although I agree with him that in that way members may be returned with very divergent views, still he says that he is for proportional representation, and he likes twomember districts better than one, and, probably, would like three-member districts better than two-member districts. Seeing that he is fo.r proportional representation, I ask him how he can support single electorates 1
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales.) - I cut my remarks short this morning in consequence of the assurance which was given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and I did so in the belief that we were going to’ proceed with the clause without further discussion. So many speeches have been made, so many side-lights have been thrown on the question, that I find myself placed in an awkward position ; and I have to express my regret-though I still regard the assurance of Senator O’Connor as absolutely binding - that I withdrew my amendment. I am now compelled to give a vote on the amendment- of Senator Charleston, which is indicative plainly of multi-seat electorates - probably two he has in his mind - as against the proposition which I had advanced earlier in the day of placing the elections for the House of Representatives on precisely the same basis as those of the Senate. I am still in favour of that contention, if the system of sectional representation, which is aimed at in the Bill, is to be the method governing elections to the Senate. If the rule is to affect one House it should affect both Houses. I hold that view on the strength of Senator O’Connor’s own expression of opinion here. He has been .an enthusiastic supporter of uniformity ; and many other senators have entertained his view. If uniformity is admirable in one direction, surely it is admirable in more than the one direction which immediately appeals to the mind of the speaker. If there is such a merit in uniformity it certainly should apply to the method of election to both Houses. In con-, tradistinction to the proposition of Senator
Charleston, we have the Ministerial proposal for single electorates. Believing in one proposition I am called upon to vote for or against two others. By withdrawing my amendment I am placed in an awkward position, and I scarcely know what vote is the more appropriate for me to give. I hope that the clause, assuming that it is passed to-day, will not come before us again, because I trust that the idea of the Bill for governing senatorial elections will not be given effect to. Senator Downer made some remarks which implied that the senators for New South Wales are opposed to the amendment of Senator Charleston, because that State has decided in favour of single electorates. I do not think there is any such feeling on the part of any senator from New South Wales. There is no such thought in my mind, and I am not aware of its existence in the mind of any colleague. I imagine that every member of the Senate is actuated by a desire to do his public duty in accordance with ‘the pledges he gave to his constituents. It has never occurred to me that there is any one in the Senate who is seeking to follow up any particular line of action for any benefit which may accrue to himself. This subject has been discussed with very great fairness and very considerable ability. It is one to which 1 have not devoted so much time as many others have done, and my contribution to the discussion has been of an unimportant character. In New South Wales the question of proportional representation has not got beyond the nursery ground of politics. If there is so much merit in the idea of singleseat electorates for one House, I cannot possibly see the utility or the propriety of the later provisions in the Bill for a totally opposite state of affairs as applied to the Senate. For these reasons I am in a little doubt as to the vote I ought to give on this amendment. But as the matter is confused by the manner in which these diverse propositions have necessarily crossed one another in the course of the discussion, I hope that Senator O’Connor will not think that if I sb.ould vote, as I probably shall, for the amendment, I cast the smallest shadow of doubt on the validity of the. pledge which he has given, and which I am sure he will stand by whatever may be the result of the division on the amendment.
– I rise, sir, to ask you a m question as to tho effect of a vote at this stage. Senator Gould has pointed out that if we should vote now against this amendment we shall have affirmed a certain principle, and that therefore it will not be competent at a later stage to introduce any amendment contradicting that principle. I desire to know, sir, whether, if we affirm the principle of single electorates by passing clause 13, it will be open for us later on to propose amendments challenging that principle.
– Whatever is resolved upon at the present stage, can be to some extent qualified or varied on a reconsideration of the clause. It will be necessary to recommit so as to get into a new committee for the purpose of reversing anything resolved on in this committee.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - Your ruling, sir, which is unmistakably right, shows the absurdity of this business. No other practical course could be pursued than to do what we are doing. We all know that when a clause is taken pro forma, with an undertaking from the Minister in charge to reconsider it, at the request of any honorable senator, the reconsideration does not take place for a long time, when the original discussion has been almost forgotten, and the committee is sick and tired of the whole business. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has put the matter both ways. He has asked the committee to take the clause pro forma, promising to reconsider it, and has also told us that we had better fight the matter out now. The latter is my view.
– I never hinted that it should be taken pro forma.
– My honorable and learned friend said that he would reconsider it if asked to do so.
– That is perfectly correct.
– Then I say that that was taking a highly debate able provision pro forma”. I can understand the Minister in charge of a Bill wanting to get it through as quickly as possible. No matter how vital a provision may be, it is his business to get it through.
– I would ask the honorable and learned senator to confine himself to clause 1 3.
– I thought I was doing so. I was discussing the question of single electorates, and incidentally taking notice of charges of obstruction which have been made for party purposes. I repudiate that suggestion. I support the Government, and mean to support them, but I intend to oppose this Bill in every legitimate way that any law of Parliament permits me to adopt, without troubling about either the cheers or the disapproval of honorable senators.
– Again I ask the honorable and learned senator to confine himself to the question before the chair.
– Have honorable senators had time fully to consider clause 13, and to make up their minds as to whether or not there should be single electorates? My honorable friend, Senator Sargood, who was not here during the discussion on the second reading, but whose face we always welcome, and who is always most attentive to the business before the Chamber, although he at one time took charge of a Bill involving the same principle as is contained in the measure before us, has said, after listening a few hours to the debate, that he is doubtful whether his first impressions as to the principle of proportional voting do not call for reconsideration. He is one of the most intelligent members of the Senate.
– What has that to do with the clause ?
SenatorSir JOHN DOWNER.- I cannot conceive of anything that has more to do with the whole question before us, than when one of the most respected members of the committee, even after listening to the discussion that has taken place to-day, tells us that he has come to the conclusion that he does not see that there is any particular hurry about it.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 21
Noes … … … 7
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The clause proposes to divide the States into electoral divisions. In the course of the second-reading debate Senator Symon raised a point about which I should like some information. He pointed out that under the scheme of the Bill the electoral divisions would be based on the quota, which could only be ascertained after the rolls had been prepared, and that could only be after the divisions had been created. Before we vote on the clause an explanation should be given as to how that difficulty is to be overcome.
– Properly speaking my answer to Senator Millen’s question should be given upon clause 17, but I may as well answer it now. When I came to look into Senator Symon’s criticism, it appeared to me that there was something in it, and that the clause was unworkable in the form in which it stood. I have had an amendment prepared and circulated to put the matter beyond question, that in getting the basis of the quota under clause 17 you are to take the number who have the right to vote upon existing rolls, or to obtain your information in any other way. So that as far as concerns the machinery for carrying out this clause there will be no difficulty.
– The wording of the clause seems to me to be unfortunate. I do not like the phrase “ Each shall be distributed into electoral divisions.” As a rule you do not distribute a thing until you have divided it. Here we are to distribute before we have divided. Would it not be better to say - “ Each State shall be divided into electoral districts,” or something of the sort.
– I think the. words in the clause are satisfactory.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 -
The Governor-General may appoint three persons in each State to be Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the State into divisions in accordance with this Act, and may appoint one of them to be chairman.
– I should like to obtain from the Vice-President of the Executive Council information as to the cost of these commissions. There will be six commissions existing, I suppose, during the good-will of the Minister for Home Affairs, and I want to know whether the. proposal is going to be an expensive one.
– The honorable senator will see at once that whoever is to carry out the work, it cannot be done except by the employment of Government officers. We must have surveyors, and persons who know the districts to mark out the limitations. The commissioners will be appointed for the particular purpose of carrying out the work. Of course they will, be paid for it, and perhaps the most convenient way will be to pay them for each sitting. I submit that the proposal to appoint three commissioners for each State, as provided here, not as perpetual public servants, but merely for the purpose of carrying out this work, is a good one.
– Will public servants be appointed as commissioners 1
– I think it is highly probable that persons in the service of the Commonwealth already, or it may be that persons in the service of the States will be employed. In New South Wales, where this system is now in force, the commission, so far as I remember, has consisted of a District Court Judge as chairman, the Chief Electoral Officer, and Mr. Saunders, of the Lands department.
– I shall be quite satisfied if some arrangement of that kind is made.
– I think the honorable senator will realize that “the cheapest possible arrangement will be made. No doubt the commissioners will be paid something, but they are almost certain to be in the public service.
– I certainly think that the clause, as it stands, would involve great waste of money. It would be far better for the Government to instruct their officials, who will always be under their control, to do this work, and there is no’ occasion for this clause, which would involve the payment of eighteen commissioners. We are already over-burdened by Commonwealth expenditure, and there is no necessity ‘for this proposal. The Government could compel their own servants to do the work or make arrangements for it to be carried out by officers of the various State services. If the latter were employed the States would be relieved of the expenditure involved in the payment of their salaries, and therefore the money would not be misspent.
– If the suggestion of the honorable senator were adopted, and officers of the public service directed to carry out this work, their report would be the work of the Government, and it would come before the House as the work of the Government. It would not be reasonable to expect Parliament to accept without question boundaries prepared in that way. If we appoint commissioners to do this particular work they will be responsible to the public as well as to the Government, and will make independent recommendations in regard to the delimitations of the electorates. The public will have the assurance that the delimitations have been fairly made ; that the Government has not had a hand in the work, and there will not be any suspicion of twisting the divisions in order to suit Government interests. In other words, the clause proposes the creation of an impartial body which will make recommendations that are to come before Parliament. That is the difference. If the work is done by these commissioners I hope that they will be selected, as they have been in my own State, and be men in whom the public have confidence. They make their report, and even if Parliament think that errors or mistakes have been committed, they never doubt the bona fides of the report. It is obvious that in a procedure of this kind, in which Parliament is asked to say “aye” or “nay” to the boundaries selected, it is essential that the delimitations of the electorates should not be in the hands of the Government or of Government servants only, but in the hands of independent commissioners. That is why it is necessary to constitute commissions.
– There is nothing in this Bill so far as I can ascertain which makes any provision for the tenure of appointment of these commissioners. First of all we have the bald statement that the Governor-General in Council “may” appoint three commissioners. There is no obligation. When the first distribution of the States into electoral divisions has been completed there will be practically no more work for the commissioners to do until the next census or some other contingency arises, making a further distribution necessary. That being so, are the appointments going to be permanent?
– I have said already that the commissioners are to be appointed to do the particular work, and that they will not be permanent.
– There is nothing in the Bill to that effect.
– Is it necessary to say that they will not be permanently employed when we provide that they are only to do this particular work?
– I think it is. I speak in the interests of economy.
– Clause 15 provides that the commissioners shall hold office during thepleasure of the Governor-General.
– That is what I do not like.
SenatorFraser. - It would be better to say that their appointment shall cease as soon as their work is completed.
– Exactly. The committee would not be justified inpassing the clause in its present form without any limitation as to the tenure of appointment. There is a great deal in Senator O’Connor’s argument that this work should not be left entirely in the hands of the Ministry for the time being, but I see no reason why the various Government statisticians should not fix the boundaries.
– The Government statistician of Tasmania is a particularly able man, possessing an all-round knowledge. In some cases, the officer might be a mere man of figures.
– I do not claim to speak for all the State statisticians, but in Tasmania, at all events, we could save this expense. The Government statist of Tasmania could make these divisions to the satisfaction of every one in the State, and no one would doubt his bona fides. We shall befollowing American lines if we pass clause 15 as it stands, for we shall have commissioners coming in and going out with every new Ministry. Unless I can obtain some assent to my suggestion that we should fix the limit of the tenure of appointment, I shall move an amendment with that object.
– Perhaps it is well that we should see what is being done in New Zealand in connexion with this matter. Their Act has been in operation since 1887, and from inquiries made recently I find that it works admirably. During the fifteen years of its existence there has not been a breath of scandal in connexion with the administration of the Act. The commission there consists of five members. One is thecommissioner under the Property Assessment Act, and another is the Surveyor-General. These two gentlemen, we might say, are connected not so much with the Government of the day as they are with Parliament. The other three members of the commission are appointed by the House of Representatives, from time to time, as vacancies occur ; but as a matter of fact they are appointed permanently. There is a good deal to be said in favour of a permanent appointment, for while it is perfectly true that readjustment of the boundaries will only take place after each census, still it is very desirable that those who are called on to do the work should have been in close touch’ with the whole of the electorates during the previous ten years. That would greatly facilitate the proper adjustment of matters. I think it is just as well for us to take advantage of the experience of other States, and in the experience of New Zealand this plan has worked admirably. There the commission consists of five members, two of whom may be members of the public service ; but I mention in passing that the Act specially provides that three shall not be members of the public service. In that respect it is opposed to the suggestion of Senator Fraser, which I think is very objectionable.
– The point raised by SenatorClemons is an important one, and it has been raised at the proper time. In dealing with the appointment of these commissioners, we have a right to know something of what will follow their appointment before we assent to it. Senator Sargood assumed that they would only require to act after every census period.
– I was stating the practice in New Zealand.
– Senator O’Connor has said that the appointment will not be permanent, but I say that the Bill distinctly contemplates a permanent appointment. Although it is quite true that clause 15 says that the commissioners shall hold office only during pleasure, clause 26 says that these commissioners may be put in motion to make a further distribution practically at any time the Government chooses.
– Certain commissioners may be appointed for the purpose of one distribution, and others may be appointed for another distribution.
– That is quite so ; but it is quite evident that before the Government are in a position to direct the commissioners to act, they must be in existence. The scheme of the Bill appears to me to contemplate permanent commissioners, as shown by clause 26. I join with Senator O’Connor in condemnation of the proposal made by Senator Fraser. We have had experience of these commissioners in New South Wales, and they have given every satisfaction, because the gentlemen appointed there’ were men whose reputation commanded the confidence of the electors. But there is this vast difference between the scheme in operation in New South Wales and that proposed in this Bill : That in New South Wales the Act directs the commissioners what to do, and in this Bill it is proposed that the Government shall set them in motion. That is a difference so vital and far reaching in its possible consequences, that I shall ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, at a later stage, to consider the expediency of bringing the provisions of this Bill more into conformity with the Act in operation in New South Wales.
– I do not see any difference between appointing commissioners to hold office during the pleasure of the Government, and appointing them to carry out certain work. All that we are concerned about is, that the commissioners, when appointed, shall do their work properly, and shall be paid only for the work they do. I do not think the Bill contemplates anything else. They may continue to hold office, but when they are not doing any work they will not receive any remuneration. If necessary we can carry an amendment in clause 15 to secure that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 -
The commissioner shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I propose here to submit an amendment which will limit the appointment of the commissioners. Senator McGregor has pointed out that they would not be paid if they were not at work. It is rather refreshing to have that assurance, but my experience of positions of this kind has been such that I have always hankered after such an appointment. If these commissioners are to be permanent as I think clause 26 contemplates, it is evident that a fixed annual amount will be made payable to them. As in the ordinary course of events they will only be called upon to work occasionally, it appears to me that there is no earthly reason why when they have completed the distribution for which they have been appointed they should not be disbanded. I put that forward as a business-like proposition on the score of economy. Now, I have a political objection to allowing the commissioners to continue in office, because if that-is done it becomes competent for the Government of the day to set them to work to redistribute a State for some reason or another at any time, and I think no Government should have such a power.
– I shall explain the reason for that.
– I shall be glad to hear the reason. It appears to me that the only safe political course to follow is to lay down in the Bill the periods when the commissioners shall divide the States. I say that was distinctly contemplated by section 24 of the Constitution, which provides that the quota of electors and the number of members to represent each State shall be determined only after the census period, and I say that is the only time when a State should be divided.
– Where does the honorable and learned senator get the limitation with respect to the census period?
– In sub-section (1) of section 2i of the Constitution - which provides that a quota is to be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of members required - and in the next sub-section, it is provided that -
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota.
The census returns are to be taken for the purpose of determining- the number of members to which a particular State is entitled. The last figures entitled New South Wales to 26 members. Then I say that the census returns having shown the number of representatives to which a State is entitled, the commissioners should step in and divide the State into a number of electorates equal to the number of members to which it is entitled. Having done that I contend that there should be no further disturbance of the electorates until the next census period in some way or other disturbs the number of electors to which the State is entitled.
– Suppose a big mining field is discovered and an immense population is gathered there.
– “Would the honorable senator propose an alteration for every election ?
– Certainly, if there was a large increase of population.
– Then I put the other proposal to the honorable member - the proposal adopted in New South Wales, where the commissioners are permanently appointed, and are directed by the Act to keep a continual eye upon the electorates. Whenever a change becomes necessary, it is their duty to submit a report to Parliament, but that scheme does not leave the initiative with the Government, which is my charge against this proposal. We may have a case where a Government, noticing a large accession of strength in an electorate held by one of its opponents, and seeing a possible chance, by a fresh distribution of seats, of so altering electoral boundaries as to gain a distinct advantage, may put the commissioners in motion to secure that advantage, I am not prepared to trust any Government with a power of that kind. Before I submit any amendment, I should like to hear the explanation promised by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Of course the question which Senator Millen has raised is an important one, but I think I shall be able to satisfy the committee that the best form in which this distribution can be dealt with is that which is provided in the Bill. We must not mix up the two questions which the honorable senator dealt with. First of all, the number of members that a State is entitled to is ascertained under section 24 of the Constitution Act. It is ascertained according to the latest statistics of the Commonwealth. The word “census” is not used in the section, but I presume that it would refer to the census.
– Not necessarily.
– Not necessarily “if there are any other statistics by which the population of the Commonwealth can be ascertained from time to time. I suppose they may be used for the purpose of fixing a quota. No doubt, as a general rule, the quota will not be altered except by an alteration of the population when disclosed by the census. . But there is another way in which it might be altered. If, at any time, it should be thought necessary to increase the number of senators, then the number of members of the House of Representatives would have to be increased, and there would have to be a new quota fixed for the States. If a territory were admitted to the Commonwealth, or if a State were subdivided in any way, then a new quota would have to be made. I admit that the latter contingencies are not likely to occur very often, and probably what would settle the quota would be the number of the population at each census. Having got under the Constitution Act the quota which gives the number of members for each State to return, you have to settle its divisions so as to distribute those members over the State. That is where it becomes very difficult to see how you can. manage to keep that distribution fair without having some elastic system which enables a redistribution to be made when it is necessary. Senator Glassey, by interjection, instanced the case of a goldfield. Ten years is a very long time in the history of all these new countries. From our experience of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, we know that the difference in the population of a locality now and ten years hence may be immense. A place which may be a desert at one time, may be a populous city at another, and in three or four years you may have ups and downs of population which may make the greatest difference in the right of a place to representation. I think Senator Millen will admit that there ought to be some means by which contingencies of that- sort should be provided for. The only question is how should it be done.
– By passing a short Bill.
– All a short Bill would do would be to direct- the Government to make a new distribution of boundaries. You do not need an Act of Parliament to do that. But you need some method by which your commission can be put in action. The power is given in clause 26 for tine purpose of meeting the cases I have mentioned -
A redistribution of any State into divisions shall be made in the manner hereinbefore provided, whenever directed by the GovernorGeneral by proclamation .
It assumes that in the case of any strict anomalies or inconsistencies arising by reason of the floating nature of the population in any locality, the Government will have that fact brought before them, and will take all necessary action for the purpose of putting the commission to work to remedy the difficulty. What objection is there to that ? It may be said that the Government will not act unless they are called upon, unless they have some motive for action. After all it is only like any other case of administration. If it becomes necessary in the public interest to take a particular course, the Government can be forced to take that course.’ The Parliament will see that it is taken ; it is there for that purpose. If it is the case of a large population being under-represented, that population will take very good care that there is such a re-arrangement of boundaries made that it is properly represented. We may very well trust the Parliament, public opinion, and the persons interested to see that whenever it is necessary to make a delimitation of the boundaries, proper action will be taken, and the commission will be put in motion by the Government itself. What objection is there to that ? I cannot see what objection there can be. Senator Millen has said that he would not trust to any Government the duty of fixing the time for ordering a redistribution. Of course, when the commission is once set in motion it works automatically under the Bill, but it is the time of setting it in motion to which he refers.
– Setting it in motion or refraining from doing so ?
– My answer to that is that it is like any other act of administration, and I do not think it will be found that any Government will hang back if it becomes really necessary to make a redistribution. What alternative is there to that? Senator Millen suggested that there should be some automatic way by which the commission should be set in motion. What process can he suggest 1 I cannot suggest any.
– What is wrong with the provision in the New South Wales Act?
– I do not think that that Act would be applicable. I have ascertained from the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, who was formerly the Chief Electoral Officer of New South Wales,, that the cost in fees to the commissioners for re-distributing, for the first time, the 125 seats in New South Wales was £200. Considering what the work was, the enormous amount of labour involved in the inquiry, and the qualities which the commissioners had to exercise, I do not think it can be said that the cost was excessive. The commission was appointed for a term of five years, and the terms of appointment were as follow : -
The office of a commissioner shall be tenable for the period named in such commission, and if necessary for such extended period to be named in a further commission, as the Governor may deem proper, for the completion of the distribution in respect whereof such first-mentioned commission shall have been issued.
I do not see very much difference between the appointment of a commission for five years and the appointment of a commission during the pleasure of a Government, which means either that you retain them while the work is being done, and then let them go about their business, or retain them for a considerable period, and in the carrying out of any subsequent distribution they have all the knowledge and advantage of the experience they have already gained. I now come to the question to which Senator Millen has drawn my particular attention, and that is the automatic way in which the Commission works in New South Wales. Section 13 of the Act says -
It shall be the duty of the commissioners, and they are hereby directed to distribute New South Wales into electoral districts for the purposes of this Act, within three months after the passing of this Act, and thereafter, within three months after the results of every census of the population of New South Wales shall have been ascertained and reported to the Colonial Secretary, which the Government Statistician is hereby required to do as early as possible after such census shall have been taken, and such distribution shall take effect when approved by resolution of the Legislative Assembly with or without amendment, and upon proclamation of the names and boundaries of the electoral districts in the Gazette.
That provision is not applicable here.
– There is an intermediate adjustment.
– There is another Act which gives other power, but I do not think that it operates automatically. A period of ten years between one distribution and another is not adequate. This is not a matter in which I have any particular feeling for one method more than another. I quite recognise the difficulties of the position. Above all things the object you have to aim at is to see that the distribution is kept as fairly representative as possible. Considering the nature of the different electorates in Australia, the liability to change in population, you must have some elastic system, and it appears to me that the best form of elastic system you can have is one which will enable the commissioners to be put into operation at any time, when the Parliament or the public, or the Government, on its own motion, may think it should be done. I quite appreciate the difficulty which Senator Millen has put, but I do not see a better way of getting over it than that provided in the Bill. If I did, I should be very glad to consider it.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I am under the impression, and shall remain under that impression until it is disproved, that in the electoral law of New South Wales there is some provision for a supplementary adjustment, that whenever an electorate obtains a number of electors over and above the quota the commissioners are empowered to adjust it, reporting to Parliament the adjustment, and the not taking place until Parliament approves. Whether that is so or not, I think we can draw from the New South Wales experience sufficient support for my contention that it is not safe to leave this power in the hands of the Government of the day. Senator O’Connor has pointed out that he simply looks upon the exercise of the power as an executive Act, and that if the Executive fails in its duty, the power of punishing it lies in the. hands of Parliament. That is true ; but the Government may fail to do something, and for party reasons Parliament may not be prepared to take the responsibility of punishing it. Some time ago, in New South Wales, the commissioners, in the exercise of the duty, imposed upon them by the Act in question, prepared a redistribution scheme and forwarded it to the Government. The Government neglected its duty, and took no action whatever upon it. The whole purpose of the Act was nullified. I can conceive that for many reasons a Government wishing to please certain supporters might lay aside the report of the commissioners, or might refrain from taking action upon it. Take the case mentioned by Senator Glassey, of a new mining township springing up. A Government holding a certain set of opinions might come to the conclusion that the voters in that township would send into Parliament a representative of the party opposed to itself. Consequently, they might not desire to have a redistribution. I appreciate all that is implied in theterm” Ministerial responsibility,” but it is dangerous to leave in the hands of any Government the power to fix electorates, or to refrain from having them fixed. For these reasons it will be desirable to direct in the Bill that action shall be taken quite apart from Ministerial control. I have not prepared an amendment such as would be necessary to carry out. my view, but in order to have the matter discussed I move -
That all the words after “office,” line 1, be omitted.
The effect of the amendment would be to create a blank, which I would ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to fill up or to leave the matter over till next week, when a more suitable amendment might be prepared.
– The point raised by Senator Millen is one of great importance. Whatever our party views may be, we all recognise that if we want to insure the proper representation of the people in both Houses we must be very careful that the redistribution is properly attended to. The action of the commissioners should be automatic, quite apart from any instigation by the Government. They should keep their eye upon the statistics of the Commonwealth, and upon the changes of population from time to time, and should make reports to Parliament as they became necessary. I should prefer that the commissioners should communicate directly with Parliament and not with the Government. Whatever we do we should be perfectly clear that it is not possible for the Government on any occasion to intervene between the report of the commissioners and Parliament itself. I am sure that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is fully seized of what Senator Millen desires. His sense of fairness and justice should induce him to see his way to support an amendment of this character.
– I shall consider the matter between now and Tuesday. Up to the present I have not been able to see any better way of dealing with the question than that we have proposed. But if, on reconsideration, I can see how the clause can be improved, I shall have have no hesitation in moving an amendment.
Motion (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the committee have leave to sit again on Tuesday next.
– Do I understand that we are to meet on Tuesday?
– Yes. Surely the motion passed by the Senate was intended to be a reality.
– I cannot help saying that it is our duty to protest against sitting on Tuesdays before we receive the Tariff. I do not think the majority of honorable senators desire to do so. Are we always to regard Tuesdays as sitting days in future?
– It all depends upon how we get on with the Electoral Bill.
– Then we may take this action as a species of punishment. I hope that we on this, side of the chamber will, at any rate, know how to take our punishment properly.
– I strongly object to the tone in which Senator Clemons has spoken. He regards Tuesday sittings as a species of punishment inflicted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council upon the Opposition on account of their long speeches on the Electoral Bill. But the Senate came to the conclusion to meet on Tuesdays, and the resolution to that effect was carried on the voices. It was carried because honorable senators desire to pass the Electoral Bill before the Tariff is received. Necessity demands that we should meet on Tuesdays, if we intend to pass that measure. It is not possible for those who come from distant States to get to their own homes every week, and those who come from the nearer States should have some consideration for those who are tied to the oar as we are. At the rate of progress now being made by the House of Representatives, the Tariff will be received by the Senate before the end of this month, and if we do not make better progress with the
Electoral Bill than we have done to-day, it will be three months before we pass it. It appears to me to be desirable that we should sit on not onlY on Tuesdays, but, if necessary, on Mondays, and even all night to get through the business we have before us.
– Senator Stewart talks about sitting all night and every night. He knows very well that no possible intellectual capacity could bear the strain. We have to consider the matter from a practical point of view. Those senators who represent Victoria can attend here comfortably at any time. The South Australian senators are able to spend a quarter of the week-end in the train, and the rest of their time at home. Senators from New South Wales are in substantially the same position. I do not know how senators from Tasmania stand.
– We have no chance of returning to our homes at the end of the week.
– I have every sympathy with my fellow sufferers, and I know that representatives from Queensland and Western Australia are obliged to remain here. On a previous occasion I asked for a pair, but failed to obtain it. I cannot be here on Tuesday next, and I fail to see that any special emergency has arisen which requires us to depart from our ordinary rule of meeting on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
– I hope that not only will the Senate meet on Tuesday, but that if proper progress is not made with the Electoral Bill we shall consider the advisability of extending rather than reducing the number of our sitting days. I cannot understand why some honorable senators who talk all dayare so anxious to. close the proceedings immediately a certain hour is reached. 1 desire that they shall have the fullest opportunity of expressing their views, but I expect some consideration to be extended by them to others. I protest against being kept here until an hour at which senators from New South Wales can catch their trains when the flow of eloquence is stopped and we are asked to adjourn to suit their wishes. I want to see fair progress made, but when we find that we have been discussing one clause from 10.30 a.m. to 4 p.m., I think it is reasonable to say that we are not going to stop to suit the convenience of certain honorable senators.
– The question before the Chair is : When shall the Senate sit again?
– I hope thatwe shall meet on Tuesday, and that instead of rising at 10 p.m., we shall continue until fair progress is made. If the Government are prepared to adopt that course, I shall be willing to back them up. We may fairly claim to meet not only on Tuesdays, but every day in the week, until this measure is passed. Unless we do so I see very little hope of passing the measure through the Senate before the Tariff reaches us. If we waste as much time as we have been doing, this measure will be shelved.
Senator Major GOULD (New South Wales). - I was under the impression that when the motion relating to Tuesday sittings was carried it was understood that it was to come into force only when the Tariff reached us.
– Certainly not.
– I was not here at the time, but that was my impression. It will be very inconvenient for many honorable senators to be here on Tuesdays under any circumstances, although they are prepared to attend on that day when the Tariff comes before us. I am certain that Senator O’Connor will find it will be a very great convenience to many honorable senators if he amends his motion so that we shall not be called upon to deal with this Bill until Wednesday next.
– I cannot do that.
– If the honorable and learned senator insists upon the course proposed by him, those who are opposed to it must endeavour to have the Bill recommitted at a later stage, in order that further consideration may be given to clauses passed hurriedly, and which might have been amended if there had been a full House, instead of a bare quorum present at the time. I know that there are some honorable senators who are prepared to meet on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as on the ordinary sitting days, because their attention is devoted entirely to public business. There are others Who cannot do so, and surely they are entitled to consideration? Proposals such as this will have a tendency to drive out of the Senate men who have other work to consider.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I feel a certain amount of sympathy with such honorable senators as Senator Playford, because, although he entertains just as strong an opinion on the Electoral Bill as do certain other honorable senators, he has endeavoured to make it possible to push on with public business. We are justified in insisting that the will of the Senate on this question, which has been tested, shall be carried out. If any justification were needed for, the course proposed, it would be supplied by the tactics which have been resorted to to-day by opponents of the Electoral Bill. They have not in any way cloaked their design. They have told us here that on every possible occasion they are going to block the Bill, and the Government would be very foolish, indeed, if they accepted the proposals made by those honorable senators in regard to this motion. We are justified, in the interests of the public business before the Senate, in insisting that we shall meet on Tuesdays, seeing that the Senate: arrived at that decision with the full knowledge that the additional sitting day was necessary for the purpose of enabling us to pass the Electoral Bill.
– I have no intention of delaying the Senate, butI think the Government are perfectly justified in the action they have taken, and I am only sorry that they did not take it. before. There are more than New South. Wales and South Australian senators in this Chamber, and every hour the conclusion of’ public business is delayed, out of the 36 senators, eighteen, from the other States are kept away from their homes. We are entitled to receive some consideration, and the best consideration that can be given usisto sit upon extra days, and get through with the public business. I also rise because I wish to correct a false impression which, might be created by a statement made by Senator Downer, that on a previous, occasion he could not get a pair. The honorable and learned senator has never made a demand for a pair from the labour party. I am myself personally indebted to Senator Downer, and I should in gratitude be prepared to pair with him at any time, because he was good enough to pair with me during the time of my illness. I am sorry the time has been cut so short, as I. should like to say agood deal more upon this question to show the proper justification which the Government have for proposing an extra sitting day. I think: they might also have included Monday and -Saturday.
Senator O’CONNOR (lft reply). - I desire only to say that I must adhere to the position I have taken up,, and -I am sure the Senate will support mei-
Question. resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020307_senate_1_8/>.