1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
In Committee (consideration resumed from 7th March, vide page 10766).
Clause 15 -
The commissioners sholl hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.
Upon which Senator Millen had moved -
That all the words after the word “office” be omitted.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Proceedings at meetings).
– This clause provides that at all meetings of the commissioners the chairman shall preside, and that in his absence the commissioners present shall appoint one of their number to preside. Two are to form a quorum, and the chairman or presiding commissioner is to have a casting vote. If we allow two commissioners to constitute a quorum, the control of the business will be entirely in the hands of the chairman. I would suggest that it would be better to insist upon the presence of the three commissioners at each meeting.
– I see the difficulty which Senator Clemons points out, but much graver difficulties may arise if some such provision is not inserted to meet a case in which a commissioner is absent through illness, or is carrying out some particular investigation at a time when only merely formal work has to be done. It is not necessary in all circumstances to have all the commissioners present. They will do their best to have their work done as perfectly as possible ; it will be criticised by Parliament and the public, and therefore their credit will be involved in having it done in the best way. I take it that as a general rule all will be present ; but without such a provision as this the machinery will break down. It is not an unusual provision to make. It exists in the electoral law of New South Wales and Victoria. If the chairman gave his casting vote and was in a minority, very good caro would be taken by the majority to assert its will afterwards. It is necessary to give the chairman a casting vote in order to enable matters to be decided. It is possible that it may be abused, but on the other hand that is always open to remedy, and always will be remedied.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania.)- It is because I see the possibility of a danger arising that I suggest that it is undesirable to allow two commissioners to form a quorum. I can conceive of no adequate reason, except a physical one such as illness, why the three commissioners should not sit at each meeting, and in view of the limited amount of work which the commissioners will have to do, I ask Senator O’Connor to make it incumbent that all three shall sit. That would get over what he admits is a blemish. If we allow two commissioners to form a quorum we might just as well allow one to do the business.
– In New South Wales the Public Service Act and the Government Railways Act contain a similar provision, and it has always worked well.
– I think I can point a way out of the difficulty, and that is, that any matter on which two commissionersdiffe . should stand over until the three commissioners are present.
– That would be better than the present clause.
– What Senator Clemons desires to insure is that in no case shall a minority have the power to force a decision in any direction. The provision for two commissioners to make a quorum is likely to operate in that way. I have known a minority of a small committee to be opposed to a certain decision, and all it needed to do to prevent that decision being given was to absent itself from a meeting. It might be provided that a commissioner who absented himself more than twice, or thrice, should forfeit his seat. But in the absence of such a provision, the clause should be retained as it is.
– In reference to Senator Baker’s remarks, if the matter in dispute were of importance, what the honorable and learned senator suggests would take place. No doubt the decision would not be regarded as binding, and would be reconsidered. There is no practical difficulty about the clause as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
For the purposes of this Act a quota shall be ascertained in each State as follows : -
The whole number of electors in each State, as nearly as can be ascertained, shall be divided by the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein.
– No doubt this Bill was drawn in anticipation of being worked with the Franchise Bill, but with a few alterations it can be worked independently of that measure. With a view of making that perfectly clear, and also to meet an objection raised by Senator Symon and Senator Matheson, I move -
That the following new paragraph be added to the clause : - “ Until rolls are compiled, all persons qualified to have their names placed on a roll shall be deemed to be electors for the purposes of this part of this Act.
There will be no rolls in existence when the collection is being made under clause 17, and it is necessary to enable the commissioners to take account, not only of persons who are actually on the Commonwealth rolls - because they have not yet been compiled - but also of persons qualified in any way to vote.
– I have given careful consideration to this amendment, but do not think it is altogether satisfactory. It does not quite meet the point I originally raised. The part of the amendment to which I particularly object is contained in the words “ qualified to have their- names placed on a roll.” That is a very open way of defining the people who are entitled to be counted in making the division of a State. Tl is is not a provision for fixing voters, but simply for making a calculation for the purpose of dividing the States. At present the people who are entitled to be taken into account in dividing the States for the purpose of representation are those who are qualified to vote at the elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of an existing State. The people who. are on the rolls receive careful consideration at the hands of revising committees, and we may take it for granted that with few exceptions they are entitled to the franchise. What does this amendment do 1 It gives some undefined person - because the officer who is to make the choice- is not defined in any way - the right to say that in different portions of any State certain persons are qualified to vote, and shall be taken into account in fixing the quota. That is a power which, in the first place, ought not to be given to individuals. Under the State Acts it is carefully given only to revising committees. The person to whom the power is to be given ought to be very distinctly defined. It is perfectly clear that it is not within the power of the commission of three who are to be appointed by the Governor-General to investigate this matter. The lists are to be furnished to the commission, and those lists are to contain what some unknown person says are the names of people qualified to be placed upon the roll. The person to whom this power is given may be anybody in a State who wishes to juggle with the representation under the quota, and in that case all that he would have to do would be to furnish a certain number of names. There is no check of any kind. With the view of bringing the clause into conformity with the Constitution, I move -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the words “ qualified to have their names placed on a roll,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “on the roll of electors of the more numerous House of the State.”
The words of my amendment follow the language of the Constitution as closely as can be, and absolutely define the people who are entitled to be counted in making the distribution of districts for the purpose of electing members of the House of Representatives.
– My thoughts have been running in the direction pointed out by Senator Matheson. It appears to me that the clause, as it stands in the Bill, is preferable without amendment. We ought to make it perfectly clear that the commissioners, in ascertaining the quota, are to be guided by the last rolls in force. That is the safest course to follow. I take it thai the commissioners will have to ascertain who are the persons qualified to vote. But how are they to do it 1 If the Vice-President of the Executive Council says that it is a question of law, I reply that a question of law on which the division of the whole of the States into electorates is to be effected should not be left to the commissioners. It should be a question of fact. If the commissioners take no proper means for ascertaining who are the persons qualified to vote, disastrous consequences may be the result. If, by means of Senator Matheson’s amendment, we can make sure of putting in this Bill the words of the Constitution, that will be preferable.
– I do not think that Senator Matheson has quite appreciated the effect of the subsequent clauses. The commissioners have to divide the States into electorates in accordance with the Bill. Then for the purposes of that distribution certain rolls have to be prepared. Of course the commissioners cannot make the distribution until ‘ certain numbers are ascertained. These clauses provide a rough way of arriving at the number of electors. They start with clause 17. If the Franchise Bill is in force - and it is intended to accompany this Bill as one electoral system - there can be no difficulty in applying the clause as proposed to be amended by me. Under other circumstances, in order to find out who are entitled to vote for the purpose of ascertaining the quota, we revert back to section 30 of the Constitution. That section fixes definitely that the persons who are qualified to vote for the House of Representatives are those who have the qualification to vote in a State according to the law of the State for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State. It was not intended to limit the right to vote to persons who were merely on the rolls. In some States two things are necessary to entitle an elector to vote. First of all he must have the qualification as to residence for a certain time, and in addition to that in some of the States he must have his elector’s right. If he has lost that right he is not entitled to vote for the State House, notwithstanding that his name appears on the roll. According to the Commonwealth Constitution, however, he has the qualification and therefore the right to vote. In the same way, in some of the States where electors’ rights are not provided for, it is necessary that a man’s name shall be on the roll before he can vote. It may be obvious that he is entitled to vote, but because his name has been omitted in some way from the roll he is not able to vote. He would come under this section, however, as a person qualified to vote. There are many people who have not got electors’ rights, or whose names do not appear on the rolls, although they have the right to vote. That is * the condition of things we are dealing with when we bring clause 1 7 into operation. That being so, when we begin to form the Commonwealth rolls, we want to find out the number of electors in this way. It is necessary to do so in order to place on the rolls the names of those who are entitled to vote under the Constitution, and not merely the names of those who happen to be on the State rolls at the time. Power must therefore be given to the officers who are to carry out this work to ascertain under section 30 of the Constitution who are the persons qualified to vote. No doubt the clause, as it stood originally, would be sufficient if the Franchise Bill were worked in conjunction with this measure, but as that may not be the case it is necessary to make provision in this amendment. The use of the word “electors” in this clause has created the difficulty - and yet there is no other word that could be used - as “elector” is defined to mean “any person whose name appears on a roll as an elector,” and a roll is defined to mean “an electoral roll.” I have an amendment to provide that the definition of “ roll “ shall be “an electoral roll under this Act.” The meaning of the clause without my amendment would be that the whole of the electors on the roll in each State “ shall be divided by the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein.” In order to apply the clause to either set of facts we propose to insert my amendment. Section 30 of the Constitution provides who are the persons qualified to vote, and in order that there shall be no doubt about the matter I have an amendment to follow clause 33, providing -
All persons qualified to vote at any election for the Senate or House of Representatives, or who would be qualified so to vote if their names were upon a roll, shall be qualified and entitled to have their names placed upon the Electoral Roll for the Division in which they reside.
Of course, that would apply when the rolls were actually made, but .it also has an application in the interpretation of this addition to clause 17. The operation of it will be this : When the number of electors has been ascertained by this process as nearly as possible, the quota will be constituted. I fancy I hear some honorable senators objecting that the same process should be gone through which will have to be followed in fixing the electoral roll of the Commonwealth. That, however, is not necessary. The process has to be followed up to a certain point, to find out the number of electors roughly in order that the quota may be obtained, but we cannot have the roll completed until we have the electoral divisions, because it is not until then that the rolls can be prepared and tested in the way provided for in the Bill. Each electoral division is to be divided into certain polling places ; each polling place will have a group of electors around it, and a register, and will be a centre of administration as well ‘ as a centre of voting. Therefore the roll must have regard to the polling places, and we cannot have polling places until we have a division of electorates. In the first instance, all that can be done is to ascertain as nearly as possible the whole number of electors. It is hardly necessary to provide that these duties shall be earned out by the officers of the commissioners. They will be carried out by the Government officers in the ordinary way, as we do not want special officers appointed and expenses incurred to any greater extent than is necessary. The commissioner will have the electoral officer of each State and all machinery at his command, as well as the census. The ascertainment of these votes will be as they direct ; and when the votes are ascertained for the purpose of fixing the quota, the quota and the boundaries of the electorates will be fixed, and their work will be done.
Then the work of compiling the electoral roll, and of revising it, will be carried out by the other authorities provided for by the Bill. I hope the honorable senator who has moved this amendment will see that the work to be done under this clause could not be carried out, with due regard to the rights of all persons, unless liberty was given as provided here to ascertain the quota in this way.
– This is a very important matter, and we are agreed that all who are entitled to vote under the Commonwealth Constitution should be taken into account in the preparation of the quota. The difficullty is to arrive at the number with anything like reasonable accuracy. If the amendment is carried, and certain people qualified according to this proposal have not been added to the number, the. quota will be thrown out. A great many qualified voters will not take the trouble to have their names registered. The commissioners could, to a certain extent, take the State rolls, but we know that there are a considerable number who are not upon the rolls, but who would be entitled to vote under the Constitution. How will those additional names be ascertained unless the commissioners have some rolls 1
– The police - I presume the officers of the State - will be employed to ascertain the name of every person in a district qualified to vote, just as is done now when a revision of the rolls takes place.
– But this is to apply to the whole of a State. Seeing that we take the census in testing the number of members to be returned by each State, I think we should ascertain more accurately the number of qualified electors if we took the census and selected the names of all over 21 years of age.
– I agree with Senator Sargood that this a most important clause, but I am heartily in accord with the Vice-President of the Executive Council when he says that what we wish to do is to ascertain the number of persons who are qualified to vote under the Constitution. Holding that view, as I think, rightly, I can quite understand that he is endeavouring by his amendment to make sure that no one will escape. The rolls may be unsatisfactory, and therefore- we desire to adopt the very best method possible. I agree, however with Senator Sargood that this is the starting-point of the whole operation. The duty of the commissioners will be, first of all, to ascertain the whole number of persons entitled to vote under the Constitution. I regret that even with the amendment proposed by Senator O’Connor that is not made perfectly clear. I would ask Senator O’Connor why he provides that until the rolls are compiled all persons qualified to have their names placed on a roll shall be deemed electors 1 I remind him that clause 5 provides that the Bill shall not apply to the election of a new member to fill any vacancy happening in the House of Representatives during the continuance of the present Parliament. That being so, the only inference which can be drawn from the honorable and learned senator’s amendment is that the rolls will not be compiled during the remainder of the present Parliament.
– The quota itself is founded upon the rolls, and until the first rolls are prepared there must be something to enable us to get along, otherwise we should be working in a circle.
– I take it that the difficulty under this Bill is that we are working in a circle. The interpretation of elector in the amendment is opposed to the interpretation under clause 4, which says - “Elector” means any person whose name appears on a roll as an elector.
Now we are proposing to say that an elector is some other person.
– That is for the purposes of Part 3 of this Bill, as the honorable and learned senator must see.
– I am only showing that this is one of the difficulties in which we are landed. I think clause 17 should be amended slightly by the insertion of the words “ by the commissioners “ after the word “ascertained.” We are appointing certain persons for a special purpose, and surely it is better that we should definitely state who those persons are to be. Honorable senators will agree with me that we want finality in this matter once the quota is established.
– The whole difficulty arises from the inevitable reading into this clause of the definition of “ elector “ contained in the interpretation clause. If that definition were not there clause 1 7 would be exactly right. We should then go to the Constitution Act to find what “ elector “ means. We have no power to alter the definition. Electors are those persons who are now or may be hereafter entitled to vote for the election of members to the State Houses. I suppose the business could not be carried on without these rolls, but it” would be better to carry this clause without the limitation involved in the definition of an elector in the interpretation clause. I admit that to prevent an immense quantity ofoverd rafting there must be a definition of an “ elector.” The clause is quite complete as it stands, and it is not made incomplete by anything in the Constitution, but by what is in the Bill itself.
Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That the words “by the commissioner” be inserted after the word “ ascertained,” line 2.
– I cannot accept this amendment, because it would make a serious difference in the interpretation of several of the other clauses. As the clause stands there can be :. no doubt whatever that the ascertainment of the quota must be the work of the commissioners, because they are required to act upon that basis. Honorable senators will see by the other clauses that each State is to be distributed into electoral divisions ; there are to be commissioners appointed for the purpose of the distribution ; a quota has to be ascertained ; and the commissioners have to make the distribution’ upon the basis of the quota. It is not necessary to say in each case that this work shall be performed by the commissioners. In clause 19 it is provided that, in the distribution of the States into divisions, consideration is to be given to community or diversity of interests, means of communication, and physical features, and it might be contended that it is just as necessary to say that that consideration shall be given “ by the commissioners. “ The honorable and learned senator must know, a§ a lawyer, that if these words “ by the commissioners “ are used in this clause, and not in the other clauses, a doubt will be raised as to whether the other duties are to be performed by the commissioners.- It seems to me obvious that the persons to carry out this duty are the persons who have to carry out the whole duty under this part of the Bill, of which this particular duty is an essential.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - The question of ascertaining the quota is a most important one, and while we have appointed commissioners very properly for the purpose of the distribution of States into divisions, I put it to the committee that they might be told to carry out the distribution upon the basis of figures supplied to them by other persons. It should be made perfectly clear that they are the persons to ascertain the basis of the distribution.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I quite agree with Senator Clemons. The amendment he proposes meets the difficulty I raised when I pointed out that there was no provision made for any persons ascertaining who the qualified people were. I consider it of vital importance that the persons who are to make these compilations should be distinctly defined in the Bill. Senator O’Connor spoke entirely beside the question. He impressed Senator McGregor with the fact that if a person were left out of this preliminary enumeration it would do him a hardship, and Senator McGregor interjected - “We want the rolls correct.” That objection is met by a subsequent amendment, No. 33a, which provides for every person qualified to vote at an election being placed on the roll, whether he is on the State roll or not. The commission is authorized to distribute the States into electoral districts. It has to take a basis for the purpose of distribution, and the only basis it can take is a rough estimate of the people entitled to vote in the State. The question arises, “ How near can it come to ascertaining that figure ?” Surely it must have resort to the existing rolls.
– The commissioners will use the rolls, but they will use other material as well.
– Where are they to get any other material from ? The first step of the commissioners would be to advertise that they were prepared to receive applications, and their next step would be to set apart a staff to examine them. The only thing we can do is to establish a revision court, to, see that the applicants are qualified.
– Hundreds of people have passed the revision court ; but their names are not on the electoral roll.
– In Western Australia, if the applicants have passed the revision court they must be on the roll, but they may not be effective voters. The honorable senator cannot include those persons even under this clause, because the Constitution provides that the only persons who can vote are those who hold the qualification of electors. In Western Australia a person has to be on the roll for six months before he is qualified to vote.
– In Victoria thousands of voters are not on the roll at all, but a few days before an election comes off they get voters’ certificates and vote. That is the case in other places.
– How does the applicant get his certificate ?
– By reason of being resident for a certain time in the locality
– Under the Constitution Act we have to deal with only those persons who are qualified to vote. If we allow the commissioners to accept applications in a haphazard way from any person who says he is qualified to vote, it will open the door to no end of improper practices. We wish the rolls to be constituted in such a way that they will be fair all round. I fail to see how this provision can possibly work with any degree of satisfaction in other States where they are not accustomed to do such things as apparently are done in Victoria.
– I can see none of the difficulties that seem to concern some honorable senators. The Bill requires the commissioners to divide the States, and it lays down a basis on which such division shall be made. It is absolutely unnecessary to inform the commissioners that they are the men to ascertain the quota. We do not expect the commissioners personally to gather the information. They will ascertain the quota by the best means available. They will use all the information at their command, including statistics and electoral rolls. Surely it is quite sufficient to say that the commissioners shall divide the States on a certain basis 1 In Western Australia the electoral rolls afford absolutely no basis. Surely the commissioners can ascertain infinitely better, with all the means at their disposal, the true number of electors in that State in which the electoral rolls are full of the names of dead men. We have plural voting there, and the name of one man may be found on twelve, fifteen, or twenty rolls. How can it be said that’ the ‘electoral rolls of that State furnish a satisfactory estimate of the true number of persons entitled to vote, particularly when we know that a third of the people who ought to be on the rolls are not enrolled 1 Again, by reason of a property qualification, on the rolls of Western Australia we find the names of hundreds of persons who are not even resident in the State. Senator O’Connor suggests that the commissioners shall ascertain as nearly as practicable all persons entitled to vote. It seems to me that he has offered the best solution of the difficulty, because he says that until the rolls are compiled all persons qualified to have their names enrolled shall be counted. That is the basis which is intended, and it is the true basis. It will be a very unwise thing to substitute for that which is right something that we know to be wrong.
– This clause ought to be very plainly worded. I have been trying to follow the operation of the clause with the amendment, but I cannot do so with any degree of satisfaction. I can understand that it would be quite simple if it said that the commissioners should work on the rolls in existence. But when honorable senators speak of ascertaining the quotas from the census papers, I reply that that is absolutely absurd. The census returns cannot be applied to matters of this kind. It would not be right to have one system in one State and another system in another ; and under this clause it is quite possible to have different systems. The officer charged with the duty cannot say who are qualified, and cannot arrive at the quota until he has something in black and white before him. . I cannot understand why the Vice-President of the Executive Council should object to Senator Clemons’ amendment, which would simplify the matter and throw the responsibility on the commissioners.
– The acceptance of Senator Clemons’ amendment would give clearness to the clause. I notice, looking through this part of the Bill, that it is provided that the commissioners shall do various things, and I see no reason why they should not ascertain the quota. There is a doubt as to whom the responsibility for the ascertainment of the quota will rest upon. Senator Clemons’ amendment would set that doubt at rest. I cannot understand, therefore, why the Vice-President of the Executive Council should so strongly object to it.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - It seems to me to be a matter of no moment whether we insert the words proposed by Senator Clemons or not. They are not necessary. But does not Senator O’Connor’s amendment cast upon the commissioners the duty of ascertaining with precision all persons who are entitled to vote 1 If the commissioners do hot take necessary steps will not a writ lie to compel them to do so, and to upset what they have done 1 If they are to do it, what process will they go through 1 Will they not have to compile a roll in the same way as if they were making up the actual roll of voters 1 That is my difficulty.
– For the life of me, I cannot discover why so much opposition is being shown to the amendment of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Clause 17, as drafted, would not achieve the end intended. It would not give the quota for the purposes of the Bill, so far as Queensland is concerned, for the simple reason that a large number of individuals, who are qualified under the Constitution to vote, are not upon any roll. Provision must be made for those men before the quota is found. How is that provision to be made ? The amendment proposed .by the Vice-President of the Executive Council meets- the case exactly. We do not want to find out every individual voter by name in each division - to set a headmark upon him. Why should not the commissioners, or some officer charged with the duty by the Commonwealth Government, refer to the census papers, and find out how many people there are over the age of 21 1 Every person over 21 years of age is entitled to vote. It is the desire of the Senate that every adult in the Commonwealth should be able to vote at an election for the Commonwealth Payment. But this clause is merely for the purpose of fixing the quota. Does Senator Matheson expect the quota to be fixed down to the last unit? Such a tiring is absolutely impossible. I do not believe that even the honorable senator, if he were in charge of the Bill, could do it. But we can get as near to the exact quota- as possible. It is not a thing that we must decide within a unit, or within tens, hundreds, or even thousands. A considerable latitude is allowed which might extend to even 4,000 or 5,000 names. Such being the case, the honorable senator’s desire for exactitude is altogether out of place. I can only come to the conclusion that he wishes to disfranchise a large number of citizens.
– I rise to a point of order. This is not a question of franchise- ment or disfranchisement. I have not raised that question.
– That is not a point of order.
– It is a matter of personal explanation.
– I do not judge according to the explanations of honorable senators; I look to their actions and their attitude. If the honorable senator does desire that every citizen of the Commonwealth shall be entitled to vote, he ought to be quite satisfied with Senator O’Connor’s amendment. What does SenatorClemons’ amendment mean? He wishes the quota to be ascertained by the commissioners. What does it matter who the quota is ascertained by 1 It can be calculated by a junior clerk in the Home department. It is a mere question of arithmetic. After the quota has been fixed the commissioners will not be bound by it. They are given considerable latitude.
– It seems to me that we should take care that unqualified persons are not placed upon the roll. If that difficulty can be avoided I do not think much objection can be taken to Senator O’Connor’s proposal. It seems to me, however, that it would be a perfect farce to take the census returns as a basis for determining the persons qualified.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority …. … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the following new paragraph be added to the clause-‘ ‘ Until rolls are compiled all persons qualified to have their names placed on a roll shall be deemed to be electors for the purposes of this part of this Act.”
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I move -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the words, “qualified to have their names placed on a roll” with a view to insert inlieu thereof the words “on the roll of electors for the more numerous House of the State.”
Senator O’Connor said just now that the process under which the quota would be ascertained was that the commissioners would pick out the names of those qualified to vote. But if the State rolls are not to be used as a basis, from what are the commissioners to select these names? No procedure is laid down. It seems to me that as the Bill stands, the commissioners will find their hands tied, and will perforce be bound to act only on the rolls. No provision is made for personal application to the commissioners. Senator Stewart had a great deal to say about my views on the franchise. This matter, however, has nothing to do with the extension or reduction of the franchise. When that? subject comes up, the honorable senator will find, no doubt, that I am in line with him in the matter. This clause has solely to do with fixing a quota, and withdetermining the persons entitled to be taken into account in doing so. It does not deprive any one of his voting rights. That matter will come up later on. I contend that if we are to go behind the rolls, we should certainly understand to what source of information the commissioners are to go in order to secure this information.Unless that is made clear, we shall be allowing some boy in the Government offices the right to say the number of the persons in each State qualified to vote.
In addition to that, if it is evident that the rolls do not include every one entitled to vote, there will bo power to have a personal ascertainment - by the police, or some other officers - of all the persons entitled to vote in any particular locality. The whole responsibility is to be upon the commissioners, of ascertaining by means of all the electoral offices the persons entitled to vote. The expression, “ as nearly as can be ascertained,” is used in the clause. We cannot ascertain with the greatest possible exactitude the number of persons entitled to vote, but we will go as near as we can by wellrecognised methods.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - I support this clause for reasons which are not quite the same as those just mentioned by Senator O’Connor. The quota is to be ascertained by the responsible authority, and that is the Government. The clause provides the basis on which the commissioners are to make the divisions. They have nothing to do with the basis, but are merely the instruments to correctly inquire into, and report upon the position. Senator Clemons was anxious to make the commissioners responsible for defining how the quota shall be ascertained. I think it is better that that should be left to the Government, who are responsible for it ultimately. It is their executive work.
Amendment upon amendment negatived.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - The objection I still urge to Senator O’Connor’s amendment is that it is absolutely vague as to who shall say who are to be deemed to be electors. I cannot understand the opposition to the words I proposed in clause 1 7 ; but I suppose that if I proposed the insertion of words to pro videthatelectorsshall be persons deemed to be such “ by the commissioners “ there would be the same opposition to that proposal. It seems to me that the clause is being deliberately passed in this vague way in order that an opportunity may be given to some one to ascertain this most important information by other methods. I am impelled to use those words, because I find that in clauses 20, 21, and 22, the reference to the commissioners is clear and deliberate.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 18 -
The quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution of the di visions, and shall be adhered to as nearly as practicable, but may be departed from to the extent of one-fourth more or less.
– On behalf of Senator McGregor I move -
That the word “fourth,” line 4, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “eighth.”
It is generally recognised that as the clause stands the. margin allowed is altogether too large. It would permit of a constituency of 15,000 electors bordering upon a constituency of 25,000. We should try to have the constituencies as nearly as possible equal in point of population, and it is for that reason the amendment is moved.
– I must oppose this amendment. The margin provided for here it a margin of one-fourth, more or less. Further on, in clause 22, it is provided that if the number of electors residing in any proposed division exceeds the quota by 1,000 or more, or is less than the quota by 1,000 or more, the reasons for not adhering to the quota shall be stated. The procedure under the clause will be this : that while the commissioners are given the margin of one- fourth, more or less, they cannot give any margin at all under or over 1,000 without making a report as to the reasons why they allowed that margin. It will be the duty of the commissioners to make as fair and equitable a distribution as can be made. Parliament, or one House of the Parliament will have the duty of finally deciding whether their proposals are to be adopted, and we must, I think, assume that the commissioners will take an intenest and a pride in their work, and will do their very best to form the electorates as nearly as possible in accordance with the quota. If we were dealing with only closely popu- lated localities this would be a very large margin, but we are dealing with States in which there are thickly populated centres. There may be thickly populated centres adjoining very sparsely populated districts, and places which contain a few electors scattered over an immense area. Having to deal with all these conditions it is impossible that this work can be carried out unless a very large discretion is left to the commissioners. A margin of one-fourth is not too large. The population quota for the Commonwealth will be about 51,000, and, assuming adult suffrage to exist, that would mean about 20,000 electors in each division. It is possible, although I do not think it is likely, that you may have one electorate with 25,000 . electors, and an electorate adjoining it with 15,000 electors. It will be very seldom that a margin as large as that will be required. In New South Wales in many cases the distribution has gone right up to the margin. It is provided in the next clause that community or diversity of interests, means of communication, and physical features are to be considered. In an electorate you may have a portion of agricultural country, and adjoining it a bit of mountain country, with some mining centres. To get the exact quota you would have to take your agricultural country and half your mining country. Surely it is better to take in the whole of the mining population, and to have solidarity in the interests represented, than to make a hard and fast rule that the commissioners shall be bound to make an electoral division which runs through that mining population, leaving half of it in one electorate and half in another 1 With the varying conditions of Australian settlement, the varying physical configuration of different portions of the continent, and the different interests represented it is impossible to have these divisions equitably and fairly made and with a due regard to all the interests concerned, unless a very large margin is left to the commissioners-. In New South Wales when the districts were first being arranged one of the most difficult things was not to’ see that you got a certain number of electors within a certain area, but to plan out the area in such a way that, as far as possible, you got community of interests , grouped together, having due regard to the means of communication and the physical features. What harm can be done by allowing a margin which often would be larger than perhaps would be applicable to crowded localities ? The Parliament, first of all, lias to be notified by the commissioners of the margin, with their reasons for it. If the other House thinks fit to say to the commissioners, “ We are not satisfied. In this particular case you have gone up to 5,000, and we do not think you should have done so. We therefore send the matter back to you for consideration,” what harm is done 1 It could be easily, rearranged. If this margin is not given, and the commissioners find that it is impossible to make a distribution with a due regard to all the circumstances I have mentioned, no remedy will be available. Considering all the circumstances it will be very unwise to tie the ‘hands of the commissioners any more than is necessary.
– The arguments of Senator O’Connor are very clever, but I do not see what they aim at. What has the population quota of the Commonwealth to do with the question1! Senator O’Connor must see the very great difference which would be created if it were taken as a basis. A quota of 51,000, taking a fourth either way, would make a difference of nearly 26,000 in a district. I can see no reason why Senator O’Connor brought up that quota, unless it was to strengthen, his position.
– To give the basis for the calculation of the quota of electors.
– That can be easily got at, because you can go to the States where adult suffrage prevails and find the number of people on the rolls, and that number probably can be increased. Although in New South Wales and Victoria the quota at the present time would be only one-half that of South Australia or Western Australia, yet the argument comes to exactly the same point. There we have somewhere about 154,000 electors, and as that number may be increased, it would give considerably more than 20,000 as the quota. But supposing that it were reduced to 20,000, is it reasonable to have one district with 15,000 electors and another district with 25,000 electors 1 It does not matter what the community of interests may be. If there was a mining population or an agricultural population of 30,000 in the same area, would Senator O’Connor say that that number should be divided into two, so as to give a quota, when there was in a corresponding area an agricultural or a mining population of 50,000, who would have only two representatives 1 Under this onefourth margin 30,000 electors in one electorate may be represented by two members, while 50,000 electors in an adjoiningelectorate may be represented by two members. It is to do away with that possibility that I wish this amendment to be made. The commissioners should be allowed a. margin of 5,000 in an electorate of 20^000 electors, but they should not go in both directions ; they should be at liberty to go 2,500 below the margin or 2,500’ above the margin. When that limit is exceeded some other distribution should, be made, because it is far better to have an electorate and a half of the same interests, than to have one electorate with an excessive population and another with a very small population with different interests. It is clearly evident from clause 22 that theintention of the framers of the Bill is tostick as closely as possible to the quota. I believe it is the intention of the committeethat where the community of interests isidentical, the divisions shall contain asnearly as possible the same population.
– I had some experience in Queensland of the difficulty of creating; electorates representing a fairly even number of electors. An effort was made to divide Queensland into fairly even electorates for the purpose of sending members to the House of Representatives. The task was to endeavour to ‘ divide the State so that each electoratewould represent about 12,000 electors. Itwas found almost impossible to carve out any electorate which would contain thatnumber of electors, and the result was that the Maranoa electorate represented country from the southern boundary right up through, the centre of the State to the north, touching the northern boundary. Even then the number of electors for Maranoa, was very far short of the number of electorsin the other divisions of Queensland. If we had endeavoured to make the number of electors in each electorate equal, Maranoa,, or some other electorate of Queensland, would have embraced considerably morethan half the territory of that State. I quite admit the desirability of having theelectorates as nearly equal as possible from, the point of view of the numbers of electors,, but where there is a thin and scattered population adherence to the principle of equality would mean taking in such an. enormous area that it would be practically unworkable. We have become accustomed to polling each State as one electorate for the Senate, but for particular reasons we propose to divide the States into electorates for the purpose of elections for the House of Representatives, in order that local interests may be specially represented. The size of some of the electorates makes it impossible that the interests of the people can be anything like homogeneous. As a matter of fact, a quota of electors could not have been obtained in the western part of Queensland unless some part of the State had been taken in which had nothing whatever in common with the western pastoral districts. It is expedient that this loop-hole should be left, so that a margin of one - fourth may be allowed either way. There is a safeguard provided, namely, that if there are more than 1,000 electors in one electorate than another, a reason for it shall be stated. There is, therefore, no fear that the electorates will be carved out in a capricious manner.
– If we look at the practical results of attempting to divide States into electoral districts, we shall find that the difficulties pointed out by the Postmaster-General have been encountered. I do not think that Senator McGregor’s amendment would tend in the direction of justice. In reply to what Senator Higgs has said, I can give a Tasmanian illustration of a case in which we found the greatest difficulty in giving to one or two constituencies the population which would seem to justify each of them in returning a member to Parliament. There was a district composed of rich farms, held, I am thankful to say, in small holdings, and next came a long stretch of country on the east coast, consisting of 80 miles of straggling second-rate sheep farms and fair agricultural land. That district was quite apart from the rest of the island. There was no railway near it, nor was there a port. The produce of the farms had to be carried by steamer or cart.. On the north was a large coal and tin mining district. It was felt that the only way of doing justice to the principle of community of interest was to give to 386 people on the east coast the same amount of representation that was given to 1,200 in the mining districts. We have to consider, not only community of interest, but also diversity of 30 y z interests. If we have a long, straggling district, where the population is small, and if, in order to get as near the quota as possible we join on to that district a mining district, there is no community of interest, but the mining population is likely to entirely swamp the pastoral interest. I am, therefore, in favour of the clause as it stands.
– I have seen so much, injustice connected with the arbitrary division of States into parliamentary districts in Western Australia that I shall support Senator McGregor’s amendment. It is all very well for Senator O’Connor to say that the decision of the commissioners must be laid before Parliament, but my experience has been that Parliament is extremely unwilling to upset anything in the nature of a report from an authority which has been properly constituted. We are always inclined to say - “The committee have gone into this matter verv carefully, and although the decision does not seem to be quite right, there must be good reasons for it, and we’ ought to adopt the report.” For that reason I am satisfied that we should not give the commissioners too free a hand in dealing with the question. One quarter of the quota each way, amounts, taking two constituencies into account, to one-half of the quota ; and that is an enormous difference. It must be remembered too, that the number of voters will be very much increased in a year or two, when the federal franchise is brought into operation. If we permit a margin of one-eighth either way, we allow a total difference of a quarter of the quota in two different constituencies. That will be an ample margin. The argument that the areas are enormous may be a strong objection to any division of the States on the basis of population. But it is expected, that the people will be represented in this Parliament, and not acres of salt bush and desert, although the results may seem unjust when worked out on a mileage basis.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - In reply to what the PostmasterGeneral has advanced, I should like to take an illustration from South Aus- tralia. Prior to the federal elections in that State a movement was started to divide South Australia into districts. A recommendation was made by the Chief Electoral Officer to divide the State into -seven districts. No district had a less number of electors than 20,000, nor more than 23,000. This shows that it is quite possible to divide even a large State into fairly even electorates, as far as concerns population. In the division of South Australia for the local Parliament there was one district, that of Flinders, which was, in point of size, as large as all the other twentysix districts put together. But1 in that district there were hundreds and thousands of square miles of country in which no white man was to be found. Even in the large districts of Queensland to which the PostmasterGeneral referred the population is not evenly scattered. There are parts where there is not a living soul. The population is generally congregated in settlements. . If the white population in a great district like Flinders were scattered there might be a difficulty ; but, seeing that it is all grouped along the coast and the railway line, there is no, necessity for making two districts where one is quite sufficient for the representation of the people.
– I intend to vote for Senator McGregor’s amendment, and should be prepared to go further in the same direction. I believe in the old Chartist doctrine, that the electorates should be as nearly equal as possible. The only reason why I would consent to depart from that principle is that some parts of the country are sparsely populated, whilst others are thickly populated. Senator Matheson has truly hit the point of the matter when he says that not territory but men should be represented here. . In Western Australia, I learn, some very peculiar things I have been done, because the distribution of electorates has been made on the principle of considering territory. The same thing has taken place in Victoria. In one electorate in Victoria there are about 3,000 electors who return two members to the Legislative Assembly, while in another there are some 10,000 electors who return also two members. The basis of distribution should be the number of electors, and not territory. Therefore I think that a departure of one-fourth from the quota would be altogether too great, and the amendment is more in conformity with my views. While attention should be paid to the question of community or diversity of interests, too much has been made of it. We should educate the people to recognise that we are part of a federation, and that, although our interests may be diversified, we are practically one. When the argument is carried to the other extreme it tends to set up in electoral districts a sectional interest, which is not to be commended.
– Clause 18 places in sharp contrast two reasons which have always been prominent in the division of an)’ State into single electorates. We have honorable senators, like Senator McGregor, anxious for arithmetical exactitude, objecting to any divergence so far as mere numbers are concerned, and then we are confronted with clause 19, which recognis.es that we must pay attention to community or diversity of interest. While the reasons for not giving the margin proposed in the Bill are attractive,- a very fair provision is made in clause 22 to meet every case. It is provided there that -
If the number of electors residing in any proposed division exceeds the quota by 1,000 or more, or is less than the quota by 1,000 or more, the reason for not adhering to the quota shall be stated.
That goes a great deal further than Senator McGregor’s amendment. I am certain that in many cases 1,000 will be a great deal less than one-eighth of the quota. This then will be the result, that if the quota in one division is greater or less than that in another, by so comparatively small a number as 1,000, an opportunity will be given to both Houses to investigate the reasons for the divergence. That being so, all the precaution that can reasonably be demanded is provided for.
– I cannot understand why the provision in clause 22, to which Senator Clemons has referred, is made. In South Australia two members would represent 32,000 electors, while two others would represent 54,000, the departure from the quota in each case being 5,500. That would be allowed if this clause were passed as it stands ; then why expect reasons to be given for a variation of 1,000 1 No notice would be taken of it. Every one knows that when a commission of this kind is appointed Parliament will not undertake to vary its report. We have a standing committee on railways in Victoria, and I have no recollection of any instance in which its recommendations have been departed from by the Legislative Assembly. For my part, I would support a margin not exceeding one-tenth. I hope, at all events, that the amendment will be carried, for a difference of one-eighth should be ample. I should have thought that onefifth would have been sufficient. In Victoria there is a mallee electorate of about 11,000 square miles - equal in size to Belgium - which returns one representative ; while Prahran, which is about 1,000 square miles in area, also returns one representative to the Legislative Assembly. No one grumbles about the matter, because there may be as many electors in Prahran as there are in the larger electorate. I agree that there should be a difference between large centres of population and sparsely populated districts. The matter was put very fairly by Senator Matheson when he mentioned that the House of Representatives represented men and- not acres.
– We all agree to that?
– Then why do we not keep as closely as possible to the quota ? We can get much nearer to it than the margin of one-fourth. I cannot recognise any circumstances under which it would be necessary to have a variation of one-fourth. In Victoria it would mean that one electorate might have about 9,000 electors, while there were some 15,000 in another. I cannot imagine that there is any part of Victoria in which there is that difference - even comparing the most densely populated part of Melbourne with the mallee - a difference of 67 per cent. ‘ For every 100 electors that one member might represent, the member returned for the neighbouring constituency might have 167. Surely that is not a fair proportion 1 Senator McGregor’s amendment is a very moderate one, and I do not think that the provision in clause 22 amounts to anything. If three commissioners in whom I had confidence said to the Senate - “ This is our division,” I do not know that I should question it, but I want to limit them to something like a reasonable principle to act upon.
Senator EWING (Western Australia;. - I shall vote for the amendment, which will mean practically that it will be possible to depart from the quota by one-fourth in the aggregate. This clause means really that it will be possible to depart from it in the aggregate by one-half. I think onefourth is sufficient.
– I think Senator Styles is wrong in his facts. I am informed that at the election for the House of Representatives in Victoria, there were 280,661 electors, which gives a quota of 12,202. According to the principle of this Bill, supposing that were the quota of electors, and allowing a margin of one-fourth, the minimum limit would be 9,152, and the maximum 15,252. Then I am informed that the electorate of Gippsland was 700 above the minimum limit, while Northern Melbourne was 300 beyond that proposed in the Bill. The electorate of Yarra exceeded Northern Melbourne to the extent that there were 600 beyond the limit proposed in the Bill. . I presume that those who had the task of dividing Victoria into electorates for the House of Representatives did not find any way of making a fair division except by allowing such a margin. I have the figures in regard to Queensland where the same difficulty was encountered. We were endeavouring to divide Queensland into nine electorates as nearly equal as possible. And the State was divided in this way: - Wide Bay, 12,995 electors; then Brisbane, with a very small area had 12,663 electors; Oxley, 12,621; Moreton, 12,450; Herbert, 11,397; Darling Downs, 11,34-5; Capricornia, 11,118; Kennedy, 10,039 ; and Maranoa, 9,278. I wish honorable senators to see what kind of a division of the State was necessary in order to bring out that result, because that does not go the extreme limit proposed. I have here a map of Queensland, showing the division of the State into electorates for the House of Representatives, and honorable senators will see that it was necessary that the electorate of Maranoa should extend from the southern border, almost up to the northern border of the State. To secure 9,000 odd electors for that electorate, the quota being something over 11,000, we had to take nearly half of Queensland into the electorate of Maranoa. Honorable senators must recognise the enormous difficulty of dealing with an electorate of that size. Is it not reasonable that some consideration should be given to the extent of territory if we are to have anything like fair representation ? We must provide a sufficient margin in order to meet the difficulty of canvassing and securing proper representation.
Senator STYLES (Victoria).- In Vic-
I toria the electorates for the House of
Assembly were accepted as a guide, and it was because there was an effort made to adhere to them as nearly as possible that there was so large a departure in some instances from what is recognised here as the quota. If the State had to be re-divided into electorates with the advice and assistance of commissioners as provided for under this Bill, I have not the slightest doubt there would be no such margin allowed as 67 per cent.
– The commissioners may have to determine the number to form the quota from figures compiled by State officials. The difficulty of ascertaining the quota with any accuracy will therefore be very great, and we are going to accentuate it by permitting this margin of 25 per cent. As Senator McGregor has pointed out 30,000 electors may return two members to the House of Representatives, and it may take 50,00Q to return two in the case of two . other electorates That will mean that in one case three votes will be worth as much as five votes in another, and that strikes at the very basis of equality of voting power which we particularly desire to provide for. While we shall have one adult one vote, we shall not have one vote one value, which is just as important. It has been pointed out that in electorates covering an enormous extent of territory we should provide for a departure from the quota. We have had to deal with that difficulty in Western Australia. There were some electorates there in which 100 electors return a member, and others in which there are something like 30,000 people. We should not take the area into consideration at all. Honorable members of the House pf Representatives represent a certain number of human beings, and not acres, sheep, cattle, or rabbits. The proposal in the clause strikes at the very basis of equality of voting, and I shall, therefore, support Senator McGregor’s amendment.
– Senator O’Connor has spoken as though whether we said the margin was to be onefourth or one-eighth would make very little difference, but there will bea great difference 1 in the actual results. Senator Drake referred in a pathetic way to the injustice which may be done to the vast territory in the interior, but we are not going to do any injustice to the few white people who are there. Take Western Australia as an example. At the time of the federal elections we had about 90^000 electors on the rolls in that State. We had to elect five members and that made the quota 18,000. One-fourth of that quota would be 4,500, and if we were to apply this rule of allowing a difference of one-fourth more or less, we might have 4,500 voters more than the quota in one electorate and 4,500 less in another, which would make a difference of 9,000, equal to half the quota. Applying that to the five electorates we might have some districts containing 12, 500 electors and others containing 22,500, and by a manipulation of the electorates 37,500 electors might elect three members, and 45,000 only two members. Yet this proposition is made by the same Government who proposed proportional representation. It is certainly most inconsistent. I should like honorable senators to disabuse their minds of the idea that, by this amendment, Senator McGregor is proposing any hard and fast rule that we must have exactly 18,000 electors for any particular district. Under the amendment he proposes there would be the right given to the commissioners to make a difference of 2,250 more in one case, and 2,250 less in another, and that would allow of a margin of 4,500. That cannot by any stretch of imagination be called a hard and fast rule, or be said to involve any injustice on the score of diversity of interests. Surely any person who believes in representation on something like an equal basis will see that this is a fair proposal.
– I wish to draw the attention of Senator O’Connor to the wording of the clause. If it is allowed to go as it stands I believe the commissioners may please themselves whether they make the difference 100 per cent. The clause states that the quota may be departed from to the extent “ of one-fourth more or less.” Does not that mean that it may be departed from to the extent of more than one-fourth or to the extent of less than one-fourth 1 If that is so the words one-fourth are of no use as a guide to the commissioners, and they may please themselves as to the deficiency or surplus of electors they may provide for. 1 With regard to what was said by Senator Drake as to Queensland, the difficulties arising in that State were created by the gentlemen who brought down the schedule dividing the State into nine electorates. There was an attempt on the part of the Philp Government to do a little jerrymandering.
The Legislative Assembly was so dissatisfied with the schedule brought forward by the Government that they would not adopt it, and the division, as shown on the map exhibited by Senator Drake, was made by the State House itself. It might have been improved upon if a longer term had been given to consider the matter, or if it had been left to commissioners to define the electorate. Notwithstanding the difficulties the State House in Queensland was able to fix the boundaries without requiring so large a margin as this Bill proposes to give to the commissioners.
– The clause gives the commissioners a pretty wide margin to act upon. If they find it extremely difficult to arrange the districts according to population, as they would like, and to make it possible for a candidate to canvass a district they may find it necessary to have a very wide margin to go upon. But no harm can possibly be done, because the act of the commissioners will not be final. Should there be a difference of more than 1,000 in the number of electors, it must meet with the approval of Parliament. The interests of the people are well conserved in that respect, and therefore I see no reason to alter the margin to one-eighth. At first I thought that one-fourth was a huge margin to allow, but when I recollected how sparse the population is in various parts of South Australia, I recognised that it would take in nearly one-half of the territory to get the quota.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I do not feel satisfied with the appearance of the words “ more or less “ after the figure “onefourth.” I think it would be more correct to insert the words “ one-fourth “ before the word “less” also.
– I do not think that the criticism of Senator Higgs is justifiable. He has said, I think, that he does not see anything to limit the commissioners to a quota, but it is expressly provided that it shall be adhered to as nearly as practicable, , but may be departed from to the extent of one-fourth, more or less. It may be departed from to the extent of one-fourth more, or one-fourth less.
– It does not say so.
– That is exactly what it does say.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I think that Senator Higgs is quite correct in his objection. On one occasion I had to get legal advice on a point of this kind, and I found that the use of the words “ more or less “ allowed you to depart from the number fixed on one side or the other. In the case of contracts that is permitted. If there is one State more than another in which a large margin should be allowed it is Western Australia. We return less members to the other House than does any State, except Tasmania, but at the same time we have a larger area of territory. I hope that Senator O’Connor will see the advisability of not making the departure any greater than one-eighth, if that is shown to be necessary in that State. The smallest number of voters in any division there was 16,000, and the largest number only 21,000, the quota being 18,000. A margin of one-eighth is quite sufficient to meet the requirements of Western Australia, which ought to need a larger margin than any of the more populous States. We have every reason to believe that the proposition of Senator McGregor would suit the requirements of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
– The question as to one-fourth or one-eighth is a question of what is reasonable. The Government have the responsibility of carrying this Bill, if they can, in a form in which it will be workable. . We have instructing and supporting us the experience of the electoral officers of the Government. Their experience extends to all the States. It includes the division of New South Wales by this very system of division according to quota, and recent divisions of other States by schedules to Acts. While we recognise that it is essential that voters and not acres should be represented, still for the representation of voters, if due regard is to be had to community of interest, means of communication, and physical features, it may often be necessary to make a departure of considerably more than one-eighth.
– But one-eighth either way !
– Assuming that one constituency is divided so as to include less than one-fourth you may have alongside it a constituency in which there is a surplus. What is to be done with the surplus ? The commissioners may not be able to pass it on, and it may have to be included. If the power of give and take is to be of any value it must include the right to increase as well as decrease. It is merely a question between Senator McGregor and the Government as to which is likely to give the best practical results. We all wish to have these divisions made as equal as possible, and in the great majority of cases they will be practically equal. We are now dealing with the possibility of exceptional cases in which a margin will be required, and speaking with all the knowledge of the officers who have been engaged in working out a practical scheme, I have no hesitation in saying, that if you limit the margin to one-eighth you will not allow sufficient room, and you may find divisions made which will be absolutely unsatisfactory to the persons who are included therein, whereas, if you take one-fourth in any case in which Parliament thinks the margin is too large it need not be adopted.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 12
Noes … … … 11
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the word “ one-fourth “ be inserted before the word “less.”
Perhaps a simple illustration will bring my point more clearly before the minds of honorable senators. Supposing that a man is selling a station with 5,000 sheep, more or less, what is meant by the use of that term? It may mean 5,500 sheep. “One-fourth more or less,” I take it means one-fourth more, or one-fourth less.
Therefore I desire to make the clause clearer.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 19 (Matters to be considered in distribution of seats).
– I do not see the necessity for paragraph (a), which directs that the “ physical features “ of the country are to be taken into consideration. I suppose it means the same thing as paragraph (b), “ means of communication.”
– Not necessarily ; there might be a mountain range or a river to be taken into consideration.
– Precisely; and the “ means of communication “ would not include the bridging of the river or the crossing of the mountain range. I would suggest the omission of paragraph (c).
– Paragraph (c) is necessary. It is a direction to the commissioners as to the principles on which they are to make their subdivision, and it is important to have regard to the configuration of the country. There may be certain interests on one side of a river and certain opposing interests on the other side, quite apart from communication between the two sides. There may also be differences of soil and production on two sides of a mountain range. It is quite as essential to consider the physical features of a country as the means of communication and the community of interest. In some cases diversity or community of interest may be in accordance with physical features, but there may be other cases where physical features will be apart from these other considerations.
– I should like to have some clearer explanation of what is meant by “community or diversity of interest.” Is it meant that all the mining people are to be herded into one constituency, and all the farming people into another? If so, I have a distinct objection to it. I do not look upon the people as miners or farmers or pastoralists from the Commonwealth point of view, but simply as citizens. Where do “community or diversity of interest”come in as far as concerns the Commonwealth ? I can understand this principle applying in the States, because there the various interests and industries come directly in contact with the Government. But what has mining any more than farming to do with the Post-office, for instance, or with the management of the Defence department, or the Customs? Each man in the community has an equal interest in these matters whatever his occupation may be. For this reason I object strongly to classifying people according to their occupations or interests. It is a most improper principle ; we should simply look upon the people as electors of the Commonwealth, and treat them as such.
– Senator Stewart seems to have forgotten that we have already carried the principle of dividing the Commonwealth into single electorates, to be represented each by one member in the House of Representatives. One of the reasons underlying that principle is that there will be differences in localities and in interests which have to be represented in Parliament. There is a district of Queensland, called Texas, where tobacco is largely grown. The special interest of that district in the legislation of the Commonwealth is the tobacco interest. It is true that the people of that district are citizens of the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth must be regarded as a whole ; but their special interest is that particular industry, and it should be recognised in their representation. I will assume for a moment that adjoining the place where the tobacco is grown there is a district in which there is a great deal of mining. I have no hesitation in saying that having regard to the interests of the people to be represented it would be much better if all the tobacco-growing country could be put into one electorate, and all the mining into another, than’ it would be to have the tobacco electorate and the mining district represented b)’ the same- member. If the principle of single electorates is to be carried out we must regard the principle of “ community or diversity of interest “ in fixing the contituencies
– I quite agree that if we are to have single electorates we must follow the principle of which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has spoken. I am deadly opposed to single electorates, but as the Senate has decided upon them I see no reason why paragraph (c.) should not be one of the instructions given to the commissioners.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 -
Before reporting on the distribution of any State into divisions the commissioners shall give notice by advertisement in two newspapers circulating in the State of the proposed distribution, and of the number of electors as far as known to them residing in each proposed division.
– The provision in this clause with regard to advertising is extremely inequitable. It is proposed that two newspapers circulating in each State shall receive the advertisement. It will inevitably happen that those two newspapers will be those published in the capital, and that no other newspapers published throughout the State will receive any. In Western Australia, the Perth newspapers have not a large circulation in the gold-fields districts, where we have ah extremely good press of our own. If this clause is left as it stands, 50 per cent, of the electors of Western Australia will never know what are the divisions proposed by the commissioners and will never see the advertisements. With the object of rectifying that grievance I move -
That the word “ two,” Une 3, be omitted with a view to insert in ben thereof “one”; and that the words “ the State,” line 4, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “each proposed division.”
– I shall support Senator Matheson’s amendment, which is a fair one. I can hardly conceive the Vice-President of the Executive Council objecting to it. If the clause as it stands were to be agreed to, it would mean in Tasmania that the advertisements would be published in two newspapers in the two large cities. Those journals do not circulate very largely in the northern and western portions of the State : whereas the papers published locally in those portions of the State do circulate .very, largely there. The electors subscribe to them and read them, and if the advertisements were published in them they would have an opportunity of knowing what was proposed to be done. In this matter I claim the support of Senator Clemons if he considers the interests of his own State. Honorable senators are better able to point out the disabilities of their own States. I shall support the amendment.
– If money were a matter of no importance, I should be willing to admit that greater publicity would besecured under the honorable senator’s proposal than under the clause. We propose that the commissioners shall make a selection of the two newspapers in each State which they consider most likely to be read by the great bulk of the electors of that State.
– It will be impossible to obtain two.
– Two could be obtained in some States, while in others two newspapers could be selected which are read by a very large proportion of the electors. I admit that this system of advertising will not bring home the subdivisions to every elector, but we should look at the cost which the amendment would involve. The proposal is that the whole subdivision shall be published, and one has only to look at the schedule to any Electoral Bill to see what the advertisement will be. The intention of the amendment is that it shall be advertised in the local newspapers.
– No. If the Age circulates throughout Victoria that would be sufficient, but we have nothing of the kind in Western Australia.
– I should like to see some plan by which the division might be made known to every elector possible, if it could be done within reasonable limits, but the honorable senator’s proposal would be altogether too extravagant. If the law was as the honorable senator suggests, and any commissioner attempted to advertise only in two Melbourne newspapers, and to ignore all the other newspapers in the division, I should like to know the measure of public dissatisfaction there would be. The honorable senator’s amendment is that one newspaper shall be selected. Suppose that we chose one, would the commissioner select the Age. or Argus for Victoria, or the Daily Telegraph or the Herald for New South Wales’! The proposal is altogether too extravagant.
– I have very much sympathy with the views of Senator Matheson, but the amendment would not achieve his object, because the word “ circulating “ is used. It does not necessarily follow that because a newspaper circulates in a district it is published in that district. The clause seems to me to be faulty in that the word “circulating” is used rather than the word “publishing.” It would be quite competent for the commissioners to publish the electoral boundaries of Tasmania in a paper like the Australasian, for the simple reason that it circulates in that State. There may also be papers published in Queensland or New South Wales which circulate in the adjoining States, and as the provision now stands the newspaper selected might be published outside the State itself. What Senator Matheson has said in regard to Western Australia applies with a great deal of force to Tasmania, where we have’ centres in which perhaps, a large population take an interest in matters of this kind. Very often, however, they do not take the metropolitan newspapers, because they are a day or two old when they arrive. The local paper is preferred. If the object of the committee is to enable the electors to see what are the boundaries of each electorate, then clearly the boundaries should be published in the newspaper most extensively circulated in the district. If the commissioners published the proposed division in the metropolitan newspapers, many of the country newspapers would probably re-publish the advertisement as an item of news. I hope that before Senator Matheson presses his amendment he will give some consideration to that possibility.
– I think that all the publicity that can be given to a matter of this kind is desirable. If the Government of the day departed from their proposal, however, they would be confronted with the difficulty of subsidizing a paper which might be running in consonance with their views, to the detriment of a competitor. In Launceston, for example, there are two morning papers, The Examiner and T/te Daily Telegraph. Which would the Government choose? If they chose the Daily Telegraph they would incur the deadly enmity of the other newspaper. A simple way out of the difficulty would be either to give the advertisement to all the newspapers, or to print notices and display them on every Post-office and State school in each State. That would not be a very costly procedure.
– The amendment is very catchy at first sight, but careful examination shows that there is not a great deal in it. I do not think it would meet the requirements of the people. So far as Victoria is concerned, no doubt the Age, or the weekly journal issued from the same office, circulates in every division of the State. The Age is an excellent journal, but we are dealing, not with quality but with the question of circulation^ There would be no reason in selecting 26 journals to do work which could be practically covered by one, ‘so far as Victoria is concerned. But take the State of Queensland, and in the case of the Kennedy division in the far north, one of the papers published in Charters Towers might be selected, and while that selected might have a larger circulation than any other published in Charters Towers, it would circulate only over a very limited area of the division, and the bulk of the electors would never see it. In the same way, in the Herbert division, the question would arise as to whether a Mackay or a ‘Townsville paper should be -selected, while either would circulate over but a small area, and would reach only a small number of the electors. In the case of the division of Wide Bay, the difficulty would be still greater. In that district there are two papers published in Bundaberg, in Gympie, and in Maryborough, but in each case they cover only a certain limited area, and the bulk of the electors of Wide Bay would not see any one newspaper published in that district. The same difficulty would arise in the case of the Moreton district. The Queensland Times, published at Ipswich, is probably the most important paper in that electorate, but the bulk of the electors of Moreton would never see it.
– No particular newspaper would be of any use to those people.
– The metropolitan journals filter through all of those districts pretty well. Senator Matheson will admit that I do not oppose his amendment upon any other grounds but those of practicability and expense. If the amendment would meet the requirements of any considerable number of electors, I do not know that the question of expense would weigh very much with me, but although it would not, that is a question that must be considered. I cannot support the amendment.
– -If the Commonwealth Government desire to exercise economy in this matter a good plan would be for them to have their own notices printed and sent through the post-office. To advertise in the various papers would cost many thousands of pounds, and the Government could, for one-tenth of? the cost, Iia ve the notices- printed themselves and sent through the post-office with greater advantage to the electors than under the present proposal.
– I point out that Senator Matheson, in moving this amendment, and Senator O’Keefe in supporting it, are animated by a desire not to subsidize newspapers, but to secure that the object of the clause, so far as they can affect it, shall be carried out. Incidentally two newspapers have been mentioned, but I am sure that those honorable senators are not concerned with any particular newspaper. I feel bound to support the amendment, because even though it* may be faulty, and cannot be applied with uniformity throughout the States, it will have a better effect than the clause as it at present stands. I point out that Senator O’Connor cannot measure extravagance in the way of advertisements by the number of papers in which we advertise, because I venture to say that in the case of Victoria it will cost considerably more to advertise in the Age and the Argus than in any two provincial papers such as were in the minds of Senators Matheson and O’Keefe. What Senator Matheson desires is, that there shall be a publication of the notices in some newspaper which has a circulation throughout each electorate. With respect to Victoria, it is probable that an advertisement in the Age would be circulated throughout every division, and the same might perhaps be said of the Daily Telegraph or the Sydney Mm-ning Herald in the case of New South Wales. But in the smaller States that cannot be said of any particular newspaper. In Western Australia, for instance, it is necessary to see that the notices are advertised in papers which circulate in the goldfields districts, and in Tasmania in newspapers which circulate in the west coast and north-west coast districts of that State. I hope the amendment will be carried.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - -The chief objection to my amendment seems to be that made by Senator O’Connor on the ground of expense. I do not think it will involve any very large expense. The clause provides for the publication of the advertisement in two newspapers. My amendment only means that when it is proved that the metropolitan newspaper does not circulate in any division to any extent, a local newspaper shall be used which does circulate there. It may be the case that no great publicity is obtained by putting the notices in the press, but certainly you obtain all the publicity it is possible to get. If the committee think that sufficient publicity is not obtained by that method the better plan would be to insert the announcements in the Gazette only. It has been suggested that if the proposed boundaries were notified in the metropolitan press the country press would copy them. If the information were published in the Gazette the metropolitan and the country press might copy it, and thus the same amount of publicity Would be obtained. Senator O’Connor raised what I regard as a most miserable point. He alluded to the difficulty which the commissioners would have in discriminating between two metropolitan newspapers in a place like Melbourne. If that consideration is going to influence our actions here the sooner we abandon any intention to advertise in the press the better. Surely the commissioners will be men of such standing that they will not be afraid of any dictation from, the press, or afraid to select that newspaper which seems to them to have the greatest circulation. Why should the notices be advertised in two newspapers when that would not give greater publicity 1 If one newspaper will give the publicity we require, why advertise in two newspapers in the same town, merely to avoid any friction between two rival proprietors 1 The whole justification for the clause, as it stands, is that the commissioners will find it extremely difficult to adjudicate between the claims of two rival proprietors. Apparently the Hobart newspapers do not circulate in Launceston, nor do the Launceston newspapers circulate in Hobart. Do the representatives of Tasmania suppose that the commissioners will select one Hobart newspaper and one Launceston newspaper 1 If so how are they going to get over the difficulty of adjudicating between two rival proprietors ? Are the proprietors in either town going to be prejudiced by this clause t In its present form it will put the commissioners in a most unenviable position. In Western Australia 50 per cent, of the electors live on the goldfields, and rely almost entirely for newspaper information on the local press. The largest circulation is, I believe, enjoyed by the Kalgoorlie Miner. Throughout the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie goldfields it circulates everywhere. The metropolitan newspapers circulate almost solely in the metropolitan district and down the coast. If my amendment were inserted in the clause the commissioners would advertise in one of the metropolitan newspapers. It would circulate in three distinct , districts out of five, and would undoubtedly carry the information to every elector in those districts. On the gold-fields in one district you would have one local newspaper, and im another district you would have another local newspaper. Through the circulation of three newspapers instead of two you would get this information carried toevery elector, and it would only occur oncein three years under normal conditions. According to the remarks of Senator Glassey, the metropolitan newspaper circulatesthroughout Queensland, and the local newspaper, where it exists, has such a small circulation that publication in it would not serve the whole district. In a greatnumber of instances I think he said itwould be a waste of money. I ask honorable senators to leave the commissioners free to use the local newspapers when they are absolutely satisfied that the metropolitan newspapers do not reach the electors of a division. It is only common justice to give the electors of a division an opportunity of seeing what their boundaries, are. In many cases they will not get thisinformation if the publication is confined tothe metropolitan newspapers.
– I am in favour of economy. By our legislation weare increasing to a very large extent thefederal expenditure. Wherever it. is possibleto maintain that expenditure within judicious limits it should be done. That is theprimary consideration which weighs with me.. Several suggestions have been made to overcome the difficulty. Senator Higgs has suggested that the Government should give the information to every. elector by means of a circular. That would involve a largercost than the proposal in the clause, and itwould consume more time. “Under clause 21, any objections against the proposals of commissioners have to be made within 30 days. Within that period the circulars could not be sent to certain parts of Australia, and’ the objections forwarded to the commissioners. All the publicity we desire can be obtained by inserting the advertisements in two of the metropolitan newspapers. I do not think that the insertion of the advertisements in the metropolitan newspapers will have any effect with respect to other journals which may circulate throughout the State. Quite recently, when the federal electorates were mapped out in Victoria, two metropolitan newspapers published a diagram giving all the details. We may depend upon it that if an injustice is done to any electorate in a State, the local journals will take good care that the electors shall have an opportunity of lodging an objection.
– Then why advertise in any ?
– Possibly an advertisement is not needed, and if an amendment to that effect were moved, I think I should vote for it. In view of the fact that we ought to practise economy, and that this Bill will entail a good deal of new expenditure, I do not feel inclined to support the amendment.
– It will be quite as expensive to carry out the amendment of Senator Matheson as to carry out the provision in the clause, so that Senator Barrett need have no fears on that score. The question is whether there is very much necessity to advertise in any newspapers. Correct information is not always supplied by the Melbourne press. For instance, they said this morning that I have given notice of an amendment to keep the polling booths open from seven a.m. to midnight. If that is the sort of information which they are going to circulate, I doubt very much if the electors will be edified. The amendment of Senator Matheson will suit the State of Western Australia much better than will the proposal in the clause, because it will give country newspapers a chance of getting their share of the advertisements, and afford certain constituencies which the city newspapers do not reach an opportunity of lodging objections with the commissioners.
– I am prepared to vote for the clause, but if Senator Matheson had proposed that the advertisement should be inserted in four newspapers I should havevoted for such an amendment. It would be an unnecessary expense to publish in each division of each State. There will be 26 divisions in New South Wales and 23 inVictoria. I presume that the advertisement would occupy three or four columns in every newspaper. The bulk of the information would be useless to the people. If the advertisements were inserted in four newspapers all the local journals would look after their districts. The electors will care very little for the boundaries as long as they see that the quota is equally distributed. Furthermore, every Member of Parliament will be enabled to obtain as many copies as he wants of the proposed scheme of distribution and will be able to distribute these copies all over the electorate, sending them to every president of the protectionist society or democratic league, as he thinks proper. The information would be spread broadcast just as is the result of a test match or the news that Lord Methuen has been taken prisoner by the Boers.
– I suppose that every senator looks at this matter from the point of view of his own State. With regard to Queensland, publication in two papers would be of no use whatever. Why should two newspapers be paid for the publication, and the others be left to publish the information out of charity ? The journal in which the advertisements would be published at Government expense are the richest in the States. This clause appears to have been drawn by some Melbourne man. who probably believes that there are no newspapers in Australia but the Age and the Argus. In Queensland I suppose the papers selected would be the Brisbane Courier and the Telegraph. Senator Matheson’s amendment would be an improvement from the point of view of the people of Queensland. I trust that the Government will reserve to itself some discretion and not severely limit the number of papers to two.
Question - That the word “ two “ proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I move -
That after the word “ two,” the words “ or more “ be inserted.
This mutter is of more importance to Queensland than some honorable senators seem to suppose. The object of inserting the advertisements is to convey information to the public, and every step should be taken to achieve that object. To confine the publication to two journals would be a penny wise and pound foolish policy. We might as well have no publication in a newspaper at all, but limit the publication to the Government Gazette, depending upon the charity of the other journals to copy the facts. I do not see where the excessive expense would come in. It is extremely desirable that the electors in every portion of a State should be officially informed of the boundaries of the various divisions, and the only way in which that information can be conveyed in Queensland is by giving the executive a free hand in the matter of advertising. Queensland is practically divided into three divisions, southern, central, and northern. The principal newspapers in the north never circulate in the central or southern districts, whilst the central newspapers do not circulate in the north and south, nor the southern in the north and centre. I trust that honorable members will see from the information which I have given that it is necessary to alter the clause in the direction of my amendment. I hope I have said sufficient to convince the committee that so far as Queensland is concerned publication in two newspapers would practically be no publication at all.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator O;CONNOR) proposed -
That the following words be added to the clause - ‘ ‘ and shall cause to be exhibited at the* post-offices, police stations, town halls, and railway stations within the proposed division, maps showing the boundaries of the proposed division and its relation to adjoining divisions, togetherwith a statement of the number of electors proposed to be included.”
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I do not propose to proceed with my amendment, because I have gained morethan the object at which I aimed. The maps are most desirable, but they will b& extremely costly, so that the Government will be going to much greater expense than I proposed to put them to. My only regret is that Senator O’Connor did not see his way clear to save a long and acrimonious discussion by making the suggestion at an earlier period.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
The report and map shall be laid before the House of Representatives within seven days after its receipt if the House is then sitting, and if not then within seven days after the next meeting of the House of Representatives.
– I think an overwhelming majority of the committee, and probably of the Senate, is against this clause. I move -
That the words “the House of Representatives passes “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ both Houses of the Parliament pass.”
It might be expected, as a matter of courtesy, that the Senate would not interfere violently with any arrangement made by another place in relation only to itself, yet it is wrong to ask us to consent to the effacement of the Senate - to give up our proper right to interfere.
– I would draw the attention of the committee to the fact that Senator De Largie has given notice of an amend ment, that the words “ Senate and “ be inserted before the word “ House “ line 2. In the absence of the honorable senator, I propose to give the committee an opportunity of determining whether they will accept that phraseology or the words proposed by Senator Clemons.
– The clause provides merely for the laying of the report and map before the House of Representatives. I have very little objection to an amendment, providing that they shall be laid on the table of both Houses of Parliament so that the Senate may be officially informed of the division about to be made. It is in the next clause that I think the real question at issue will arise. I may save time by saying that I shall not object to the clause being amended in that way. If honorable senators will agree to the form which the amendment shall take, I will undertake to put the clause into shape.
– As Senator O’Connor has pointed out, the substantial discussion will take place on the next clause. Under the circumstances, I think it would be better to make this clause as simple as possible, and what I would suggest is that we should provide that the report and map should be laid before both Houses “ as soon as practicable.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause (on motion by Senator Clemons) further amended, and agreed to, as follows : -
The report and map shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within seven days after its receipt, if Parliament is in session, and if not, then within seven days after the commencement of the next session.
If the House of Representatives passes a resolution approving of any proposed distribution, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare the names and boundaries of the divisions, and such divisions shall, until altered, be the electoral divisions for the State in which they are situated.
– I propose in this clause to move an amendment upon the lines of those which we have just adopted in connexion with clause 23, the object being that the resolution provided for must be approved by Parliament and not by the House of Representatives only. It seems to me that the simplest way in which to amend the clause to carry out that object, in the first instance, will be to move the omission of the words “ the House of Representatives,” with the view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ Parliament,” or the words “both Houses of Parliament.”
– I point out that if the amendment is made it ought to be by the omission of the words “ the House of Representatives,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “both Houses of Parliament,” because by section 1 of the Constitution the words “ the Parliament “ mean the King, a. Senate, and a House of Representatives.
Amendment (by Senator Clemons) proposed
That the words ‘ ‘ the House of Representatives,” line 1, be omitted, with a view to insert iu lieu thereof, the words “ both Houses of the Parliament.”
– The honorable and learned senator has made some reference to his astonishment that the Government should introduce a clause which asks, this Senate to efface itself. I do not think, the Government can be accused, of in any way minimizing the importance of theSenate, nor have they ever said or doneanything which would, to the smallest extent, lower the position or power of theSenate under the Constitution. I say, with all respect to those honorable senators who have been so urgent upon this question, that there is no intention to derogate from the power of the Senate, and in fact thereis no derogation of its power in the proposal. As a matter of fact, what is here proposed,, is really the law in force in New South Wales and in New Zealand at the present time.
– It isdifferent in New Zealand. ,
– In New Zealand it is different, but the difference is morestrongly in favour of the view I am putting,, because there it is not necessary that thereport of the commissioners should be laid before Parliament at all. The commissioners settle the division, it is proclaimed, and. there is an end of it. New South Wales is, perhaps, a more parallel case, because therethe report of the commissioner is laid upon the table of the Legislative Assembly, and if the Assembly passes it, it becomes law. That is on the principle, that the House, specially concerned is the House whose members are to be elected under the proposal,. and that, as it is an ordinary convention under the British Constitution that one House of Parliament does not interfere with the business of another House in matters of this kind, it is assumed that the assent of the other Chamber would be a formal assent, and might be taken for granted. I mention .that as an illustration to show that this is no new principle, but is one which* has been in force elsewhere. Of course I am aware that we have now to decide whether it is applicable here. If the report has to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, then both Houses must be in agreement about it, and we have to consider the questions which are likely to be raised over these electoral divisions. I do not anticipate that as a general rule there need be any difference of opinion between the Houses upon the subject, but if the report is to be placed before both Houses, both must express an opinion upon it before it can become effective. That being the case, we put it in the hands of a minority in the Senate to delay, perhaps for & considerable time, the completion of the scheme, and to hang up the whole system oi representation whilst it is being discussed in the Senate. In reality, if the Senate did interfere with the division of the electorates for the election of members foi- the House’ of Representatives, it would be doing something which it is altogether against constitutional usuage for the Senate to do. That possible delay being the practical outcome of the proposal, I can see nothing on the other side in favour of incurring the risk of such a contingency. I quite see that there may be a theoretical view that each House has a right to take a part in framing -the boundaries of these electorates. But looking at the question practically, is it likely that the Senate will interfere 1 If it is not likely to interfere, what is the «se of handing over this power, which may only be used as a power to obstruct, and according to constitutional usage, will result in nothing effective. By passing the clause, as Senator Clemons desires, it would give no practical power to the Senate to interfere. It would give a formal power which in ordinary cases would not be exercised, but which might be exercised in such a. way as would delay the accomplishment of a scheme for the division of the States.
– - “While I desire to confer every possible right on the House which is more immediately affected, still, as a representative of Queensland, I think it is not desirable to surrender this right, and I shall vote against its surrender by the Senate. I can conceive a case where it may be essentially necessary for the Senate to interfere. I can well understand that there have been occasions when it has been found necessary for the second Chamber of a State Parliament to interfere with the boundaries of the electorates for the lower House. I can conceive the possibility of a Government exercising their wonderful power of making suggestions to the commissioners with the view of manipulating the boundaries of ‘certain constituencies. And I can conceive the possibility of the divisions being carved out in such a manner that it might be necessary for the Government to exercise considerable power in the House of Representatives. Although the other House may be more immediately concerned in the divisions, some members of the Senate may take an entirely different view of the commissioners’ work, not from a party stand-point, but from a broad stand-point, in their desire to see their State subdivided in such a manner that it would be more equitable and just to the whole State, irrespective of whether it would be beneficial to the Government or not. Some senators might have a far more accurate knowledge of a State and the manner in which it should be divided in its own interests. I profess to have as large a knowledge of Queensland as, in some instances a far more accurate knowledge than, has any honorable member in the other House. Supposing that that State were divided in a manner of which I did not approve, surely it would not be wrong for me to suggest an alteration of boundaries which would be more beneficial for the election of the representatives 1 It would be a mistake not to give up the opportunity of imparting to the Senate the knowledge which some of its present or future members may possess. A member of the other House may have a knowledge of the division which he represents, but he may have no knowledge of other divisions of the State. It would be unwise and unjust not to retain to an honorable senator the opportunity of discussing the division of a State from the stand-point of his larger knowledge of its requirements.
– The chief objection which Senator O’Connor had to raise to the amendment seems to be constitutional usage. That hardly applies to the procedure of the Senate. It is not constituted exactly on the same lines as the Upper House of a State. Although these precedents may apply very strongly to the actions of the Legislative Council of - a State, they have not the slightest bearing on the proceedings of a House constituted to safeguard the interests of the States of the Common-wealth. After very stormy debates in the Convention it was at last agreed that each State should be represented by six senators, in order that there should be a fair proportion of representatives from each State, quite apart from population, to protect its rights and to see that no grave injustice was done to any of the smaller States. Under those circumstances it is waste of time to endeavour to fit in our usage to the generally accepted constitutional practice in the States. In all instances, I think, the Legislative Council began its career as a nominee Chamber, and it was perfectly natural that the practice should be for it not to interfere with the domestic economy of the lower House.
– It has not been the practice in Victoria, and the right has been exercised.
– So it has in South Australia.
– No one’ doubts that a Legislative Council has the right, but I submit that constitutional usage is not to exercise lt-
– Then it is quite clear that in practice constitutional usage has not been observed. It is most desirable that we should cling closely to our rights in the interests of the States we represent. This view is amply borne out by the wording of section 29 of the Constitution, in which the expression “ until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides “ is used. If the framers of the Constitution had not clearly anticipated that the Senate would exercise the right of revising the electoral divisions for the other House, they would undoubtedly have used the expression, “ until the House of Representatives otherwise provides.” In other sections of the Constitution that House is specifically mentioned as being entitled to perform certain actions. Under these circumstances, I fail to see how an)’ question can arise as to the absolute necessity of our not surrendering our rights in the smallest iota. 30 z
– I have not been able to see that there is any constitutional principle involved, either by reference to other Parliaments, or by reference to any analogous Constitution, to justify us in passing the clause as it is. I ask honorable senators who have lived under a system of responsible government with two Houses where such a question has ever been raised as a constitutional question ? Never in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, or Western Australia. It has only arisen - and then not as a constitutional question, although the circumstances were different - in New South Wales, where they have a nominee Legislative Council. Under those circumstances, there being a conflict between the two Houses, I suppose one House thought it well to give way a portion of its undoubted rights, which were not derived from the people but from the Crown, which means the Government. But under no Constitution would any Legislative Chamber in Australia be justified in passing a statute depriving itself of its share in legislation in matters concerning the other House any more than its own. I do not agree with the proposition that, even under the present Constitution, there is any general rule of parliamentary government to be derived from past usage, that the Legislative Councils should not interfere in electoral divisions for Legislative Assemblies. On the contrary, my experience is that they have interfered a great deal - I do not mean improperly. A Legislative Council, paying due respect to the House which represents all the people, has sometimes made concession in favour of that House, but, nevertheless, Upper Houses have not hesitated to exercise a superintending influence, and to interfere when they thought it was in the interests of the country that they should do so. So that, from the constitutional aspect, the surrender of this right would be a wrong thing in any State. But’ if it were a wrong thing in a State, what a terrible thing it would be in respect of this new Commonwealth, the different parts of which are given the right to elect two Houses, one to represent the States, and the other the people. To adopt the clause would be an invasion of the very basis of the Constitution. I raise these points because we are not speaking to one another merely. We recognise that the question has to be dis- cussed in another place, and we may wish to put our points so that members of the House of Representatives may see how the matter affects our minds. The other Chamber may take a different view as to the expediency of aggrandizing their own House. “What we have to consider is whether we should- prevent that aggrandizement.
– If this power were to be handed over to the House of Representatives the members representing Victoria and New South Wales might totally wipe out the representatives of Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia. In view of the fewness of the representatives of the other States in another place the provision was expressly inserted in the Constitution, that there should be an equal representation of the States in the Senate, so that this Chamber might be able to rectify an error or an injustice created by the larger States in the House of Representatives. For this reason I cannot vote for the clause. Senator STYLES (Victoria).- Recognising the feeling of the Senate upon this question, the Government might concede what I think will be demanded - the right of this Chamber to discuss all parts of a Bill. Does any one believe for a moment that if this measure were sent to the House of Representatives that Chamber would, for a single moment, consent to forego any portion of its powers with regard to any provision affecting the Senate 1 The Legislative Councils of the States have not hesitated to make amendments in Bills affecting the representation of the people in the Legislative Assemblies. Time after time the abolition of plural voting was agreed to by the Legislative Assembly in Victoria, and rejected by the Legislative Council, acting well within its constitutional rights, although those Bills merely referred to the election of members for the Legislative Assembly. The Council considered that it had a right to amend them, and no doubt it had. If we were -to agree to this proposal, it would not be long before something else would be proposed in a similar direction. It is true that the Senate cannot make and unmake Ministries. They are made and unmade in the other Chamber. I do not say for a moment that that consideration influences the Government in proposing to hand over the power of arranging the boundaries of electorates to the House of Representatives. . But it is rather anomalous to give us the power to deal with clauses with I respect to fixing the quota in each division, and then to ask us to forego our powers in this respect. It has been pointed out by Senator Glassey that there are members of the Senate who know a good deal more about the various States than do the representatives of those States in another place. I mentioned last week the case of Senator Best, who is a native of the Yarra electorate. His advice might be very useful in arranging the’ boundaries of that electorate, and would be read with interest by members of the House of Representatives. I shall vote as I believe every honorable senator will, with the exception of Senator O’Connor, against the clause.
– I cannot understand how the Government came to insert such a provision in the Bill. I regard it as the most important clause in the measure, notwithstanding all that has been said with reference to the Hare-Clark system. I am not troubling myself much about the effacement of the Senate, but rather with the fact that we are sent here to look after State rights. If we were to agree to the clause we should forego the exercise of that power which we were sent here to use. I am not prepared to assist the Government in doing a thing of that kind, because I can see that great injustices might happen to the smaller States by so doing. It might enable a combination of the members for the larger States practically to settle the boundaries of divisions for all the other States. I do not say that it is probable that such a thing would happen, but it is possible. Honorable senators may not be much interested in settling the boundaries for the House of Representatives for any other States but their own, but I am safe in saying that every honorable senator wishes to have a say with regard to his own State in that respect. We must, therefore, insist upon the Senate not giving up one of the rights for which the verv existence of this Chamber was required.
– I should be very sorry indeed to see the clause passed in the form submitted by the Government. I was surprised to hear Senator O’Connor’s arguments in favour of it. Senator Matheson has pointed out that those arguments rest on a fallacy - that the Senate occupies in relation to the House of Representatives a position analagous to the relations existing between the Legislative
Councils and the Legislative Assemblies in the States. I cannot admit that position. The marginal note to the clause indicates that it is taken from a New South Wales statute. If there is any analogy between our relations with the other branch of the Legislature and the relations between a State Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, that analogy would be inapplicable in the last degree to the case of New South Wales, where the Legislative Council is a nominee Chamber. The argument of Senator O’Connor with regard to constitutional usage, indicates that the courtesy existing between the two Houses of Legislature dictates that one House shall not interfere in an electoral matter concerning the other Chamber, and he contends that that would prevent us from interfering in provisions prescribing the method of election with regard to the House of Representatives. Where are we going to stop ? Are we merely going to stop at the delimitation of boundaries ? If courtesy dictates that we should refrain from dealing with electoral matters relating to the House of Representatives, why should we not refrain altogether from prescribing the method of election to another place ? In the Bill, however, we propose one special form of election for the State and another for the House of Representatives. I think Senator O’Connor will see that if his argument is pushed to its logical conclusion we ought to leave a gap in the Bill in order that the House of Representatives may alone decide what particular form of election shall prevail with respect to that Chamber. If Senator O’Connor insists upon the clause as it stands, I must vote against him.
Amendment agreed to.
-I would call the attention of the honorable and learned senator, who moved the amendment just passed, to a consequential amendment, which, I think will be necessary. The clause as it stands now reads -
If both Houses of the Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution the Governor-General may- and so on. It would thus necessitate the passing of the same resolution in both Houses. That is to say, the resolution relating to the boundaries would be introduced in one House, then brought up to the Senate and passed here, just as in the case of a Bill. The question is whether it would be better to follow that course, or whether each House should be allowed to pass a resolution independently. Whichever way we decide it, this matter may involve a considerable waste or a saving of time. It is provided that the report and map shall be laid on the table of both Houses. Therefore, each House will be in possession of a duplicate document, and each House will have the power to deal with it. It is clear that if each House can deal with it independently the result will be precisely the same as if the resolution were introduced in one House, carried to the other House, and passed there, because the report can have no effect until both Houses have agreed to it. I take it that is all that the Senate seeks in its desire to preserve its powers. On the other hand, there can be no possible object in making it necessary that a resolution shall be introduced in one House, then passed on to the other, because we cannot amend the report. If we could amend it, and in such a way that finally both Houses could come to an agreement, there might be some reason for doing so.
– Surely we can object to the report ?
– We can either accept it or reject it. It would destroy the whole system of the commissioners if we could amend a portion of the report. We must deal with it as a whole. The whole principle of the Bill, so far as this part of it is concerned, is that the commissioners have the responsibility of making the distribution. If the Houses approve of the distribution it becomes effective ; but if the Houses do not approve of it -they have only power to approve or disapprove - it must go back to the commissioners for amendment.
– With instructions.
– It would simply go back with a direction to the commissioners to arrange a fresh distribution. It would be very undesirable if Parliament could take upon itself to make amendments of the report. We should have the House of Representatives making one set of boundaries and the Senate making another. What difference would there be between a procedure of that kind and the introduction of the whole of, the boundaries in the schedule to a Bill which could be carried through Parliament in the ordinary way ? I desire to show honorable senators that there can be no possible object in carrying the clause in such a way that it will be necessary to introduce a resolution in one House, and to cany it on to another. I do not propose to move any amendment, but it seems to me to be a very important question, and to open up a question as to the position which the Senate will be in if the proposal is introduced in the House of Representatives and passed there, and then carried on to this Chamber and negatived. We should simplify the matter very much by leaving each House to act independently.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - This is no doubt a most important question, but I cannot agree with Senator O’Connor’s view. It seems to me that if we adopted the course which he suggests we might place ourselves in a very false position. Supposing we passed a resolution approving of the boundaries laid down by the commissioners, and that the House of Representatives passed a resolution disapproving of them, we should place ourselves in an extremely false position without any necessity for doing so, because, as Senator Dobson has pointed out, we should not have given the other House the reasonable opportunity which they ought to have had to first express a view about a division which concerned themselves. It seems to me that that is the course which we must undoubtedly take. All we claim is the right to revise the decisions of another place if we consider that those decisions are inequitable. I fail to see that any difficulty will arise in regard to a resolution of the other House coming up here. My experience in the Western Australian Parliament was that if one House passed a resolution in the ordinary course - very often a resolution proposed by a private member - a motion was subsequently carried that it should be sent on to the other House for its concurrence. I think that would naturally be the course adopted in this case. The House of Representatives would pass a resolution approving or disapproving of boundaries, and then it would be sent up to us for our concurrence or the reverse, as the case might be. If we are to have concurrent resolutions in both Houses, and if we are to deal with the matter at one time, while the other House deals with it at another, we shall probably get into hopeless confusion.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- With the exception of the Vice-President of the
Executive Council and the PostmasterGeneral the committee unanimously decided a few minutes ago that both Houses of the Parliament should settle this question. It does not necessarily follow, because we have done that, that the Vice-President of the Executive Council can turn round and ask us what we are going to do. We have given the Government an unmistakable indication of our desire, and it is the duty of the Government to carry out that desire. That is my first answer to Senator O’Connor’s question. My own opinion is that we shall best secure the object which we have in view if we insist upon a short Bill dealing with the distribution being introduced and treated in the ordinary way. I cannot agree with the suggestion that we should have two resolutions dealing with the matter. It would only be another way of defeating the object we desire to secure. The Bill of course would be originated in the other House, and would then be passed by us. Or there might be a joint resolution if the Government desired it. We have had already an instance of a joint resolution in relation to New Guinea. The Government have had a clear indication of what the Senate is determined to have, and it is for them to carry out the wishes of the Senate.
– With regard to the procedure, the practice in Victoria has been that a Bill has been introduced in the Assembly, and has then been passed on to the Commonwealth to deal with. That practice could not be adopted in this case, because neither House can alter the report. One or both of the Houses may agree or disagree to the report, and if it is disagreed to it is referred back to the commissioners and they are required to submit a fresh one. It appears to me that what is wanted is a joint resolution, and in my opinion it should be introduced first in the House of Representatives, as primarily affecting that House. The wishes of that House would be ascertained and the resolution would then come up to us, and in nine cases out of ten we would indorse the opinion of the House of Representatives. But cases might arise in which the Senate would feel bound to disagree, and then the matter would have to be referred back to the commissioner for a further report.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 25 -
If the House of Representatives passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the commissioners to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
– A consequential amendment is necessary in this clause, and I move -
That the words “the House of Representatives passes,” line 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “both Houses of the Parliament pass.”
– I think it might be advisable to amalgamate clauses 24 and 25. It appears to me that after the amendment, to which we have agreed in clause 24, clause 25 is not necessary in its present form.
– SenatorClemons, I think, will see that his amendment, in the form in which he has proposed it, will not do. Supposing the Senate exercises its right under the amendment which has been agreed to and fails to pass a resolution proposed, I presume that honorable senators will expect that the matter shall be sent back by the Government to the commissioners for a redistribution. I think that the honorable and learned senator requires to use the expression, “ If either House of Parliament passes,” and so on.
– I think that would be a mistake, because it would go a great deal further against the intention of the Bill than the present clause does. The matter seems to me to be quite intelligible as it stands. All the machinery, as to the appointment of the commissioners and their inquiries, is a preliminary to the matter coming before Parliament for its consideration, and the Houses will say that they accept the report, or that they do not. If we are going to send the report back at the direction of one House or the other, there will be no end to the business. We do not send it back with any direction. We simply say that we will not have it, but we suppose that the debates will probably be noticed by the commissioners, and that they will act in some degree with reference to the opinions which the votes show Parliament to have entertained.
SenatorFRASER (Victoria). - The House of Representatives will first deal with a resolution of this kind, and if they reject it, it will never come to the Senate. I agree that the amendment is not in keeping with the requirements of this clause. Speaking as a layman, I should say that if the resolution is not passed by both Houses, the report will have to be sent back to the commissioner.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - The resolution will undoubtedly originate in the House of Representatives, and if that House disapproves of the report submitted, it will never come to the Senate. I am therefore prepared to accept the amendment upon my amendment suggested by Senator O’Connor. The use of the word “ either “ seems to me to fit the case. It will remain to apply to the Senate, which will also have to agree to any resolution of the kind proposed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by SenatorClemons) agreed to-
That the words “the House of Representatives “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “either House of Parliament.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Before any polling place other than the chief polling place is appointed for any division, the Commonwealth electoral officer for the State shall report to the Minister specifying what polling places are required in the several divisions in the States, to meet the public convenience.
– I have given notice of an amendment in a certain form, in order to do away with the inconvenience of having to move a new clause. I propose, first of all, to move the omission of the words “ Before any,” at the commencement of the clause, with a view to making the clause read as follows : -
Polling place shall be declared on petition of a prescribed number of electors, or by resolution of the Senate or House of Representatives.
I do not know what the experience of other honorable senators may be, but in Queensland, we have had considerable cause to find fault with the polling places which have been proclaimed in connexion with elections held in that State. We have found that, for various reasons, polling places are created at certain places, and abolished in certain places, and it may be because the vote went in a certain direction at a previous election. I am sure that honorable senators are desirous only that the electors shall be given every opportunity of exercising their votes ? I take it that if the clause is amended as I propose, the electoral officer will bring down a list of polling places, and then, if - the electors in a given locality think that they should have a polling place, they will be able to petition for it, and any member of the Senate, or of the House of Representatives, who deems it necessary to have a polling place in some part of his State, may bring forward a resolution to that effect, and I have no doubt he will get support.
– That would be a slow process, would it not 1
– I do not think, as a rule, it would be necessary to do any more than give notice of motion, and have it carried formally without debate. Senator Glassey will remember that in Queensland there has been a very great deal of dissatisfaction created by the method of appointing polling places adopted there. In connexion with the present elections taking place in that State, people are complaining that they are compelled to ride 60 and 80 miles to exercise their votes. If the list of polling places prepared by the returning officer is considered satisfactory there will be no petition presented, and no motion moved in connexion with the matter in either House. If the list should not be satisfactory the electors will petition, and honorable members of the Senate and the other House will state their objections. I move -
That the words “Before any” be omitted.
– I cannot accept the amendment. To accept it would really be to hand over the administration of the Act first to the electors in different localities, and secondly to resolutions of the two Houses. It would be quite impossible to administer the Act under such circumstances. The first proposal of Senator Higgs is that a polling place shall be declared on petition by the prescribed number of electors. Apparently all you would have to do would be to fix the number of electors to make the application, and on its receipt it must necessarily be granted. You would never have any certainty as to where your polling places would be. The Senate might carry a resolution one week to establish a certain number of polling places, and a similar resolution the following week, and that course might also -be taken in the other House. Under the Bill certain polling places are fixed, and rolls are prepared with relation to those places. That system enables electors’ rights and all the inconvenient paraphernalia used for the identification of the elector to be got rid of, but with an amendment of this sort it would be quite impossible to administer the Act.
– I am under the impression that in South Australia petitions are continually presented to both Houses of the State Parliament, praying for the establishment of a polling place in a certain district. A petition, 1 understand, has to be signed by a prescribed number of electors, and on its receipt a resolution is passed by the Houses, and the polling place is declared. It is only giving to electors the facility to vote where it is proved that they comprise a certain number and are grouped in a part of the electorate. Unless this amendment is made, the fixing of polling places will be left in the hands of officials who, as a rule, are not very generous in this respect, especially if it is likely to lead to any great expense. In Queensland, for instance, there has always been a tendency on the part of the officials to limit the number of polling places. The amendment would never be utilized in the case of any city. It would be distinctly in the interests of electors in country districts. In some cases the officials are located in one portion of a district, and have’ no knowledge of the conditions existing in scattered portions of that district, whereas the member for the district, like the electors, has a distinct knowledge of the subject.
– In South Australia, on petition to both Houses, we have established many polling places where scarcely twenty votes have been recorded on polling day. Scarcely ever has a request to establish a polling place been refused. We all realized that we were unnecessarily increasing the number of polling places, and that it was desirable for the Chief Electoral Officer to hold an inquiry, and recommend a revision of the list. In a little place one or two persons who have been anxious to become electoral officials have stirred up the electors and got a petition signed, and the representative has moved that a polling place be established there. This Bill enables the electors in outlying districts to vote by post,, and thus renders it unnecessary to establish as many polling places as might otherwise be required. I see no reason for not passing the clause as it stands.
– The amendment deserves some little consideration, although it does not provide for everything which is required. In South Australia we found it rather inconvenient to be moving a motion on every occasion when a petition for a new polling place was presented,, and it was often suggested that some automatic method of appointing polling places should be devised. The amendment goes some way in that direction. It would be unwise to allow a prescribed number of electors in any port of the Commonwealth to petition for a polling place without rhyme or reason.” But it would be very reasonable to provide that if twenty electors located not less than 10 or 5 miles from a polling place presented a petition, a polling place should be established in their locality. It would prevent the necessity of motions being moved in the two Houses, and the electoral officers would carry out their duties without any difficulty. It should also be provided that if less than ‘50 or 40 per cent, of the electors in a locality failed to record their votes at an election, unless prevented by any physical cause, that polling place should be struck off the list. The best thing we can do is to pass the clause pro forma oil the understanding that Senator O’Connor will afford an opportunity to Senator Higgs, after consultation with others, to submit later on an amendment embodying the suggestions I have made. It should not be the object of the committee to encourage voting by post any more than is absolutely necessary. Wherever a certain number of electors are settled they ought to be afforded an opportunity to record their vote in the ordinary way, but they should not be given any facilities which might lead to corruption being practised.
– I am opposed to the principle of the amendment. There could not be a more elastic form than that in the Bill which enables polling places to be proclaimed at any time. Senator Higgs proposes, I understand, a method by which the Government shall be moved by a petition, but unless the Government are to be compelled to grant its prayer there is really no value in the provision. It would be very much better to pass the clause as it is. If
Senator Higgs wishes to draft bis proposal in another form, I shall not stand in the way of its reconsideration by the committee, but let it be distinctly understood, that I shall be opposed to it.
Clause agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 10.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020311_senate_1_8/>.