1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator FRASER presented a petition from 118 residents of Harrow, in the State of Victoria, praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
Senator Lt.-Col. CAMERON presented a similar petition from 1,635 electors of the State of Tasmania.
Petitions received and read.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned senator’s questions are as follow : -
Are recruits being sought and engaged for the permanentmilitary forces of the Commonwealth ?
Has recruiting to fill vacancies in themilitia, partiallypaid, and volunteer forces of the Commonwealth beenstoppedfor severalmonths by Ministerial direction?
Is it not a fact that the efficiency of the citizen forces has been and remains seriously impaired by reason of such stoppage ?
Have not numerous representations been made by the commandants in the different States and by regimental commanders as to the desirability of permitting recruiting tofill vacancies ?
Have any reductions been made in the professional staffs of the different regiments the numbers of which have been reduced by the refusal to allow recruiting tofill vacancies ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to discontinue the practice of selling Crown lands in Now Gumea-pendingthe submission of aBill toParliament providing for its government by the Commonwealth ?
– The control of the administration of the affairs of British New Guinea has not yet been transferred to the Government of the Commonwealth, which cannot, therefore, at present interfere in the affairs of the possession. When the transfer takes place a decision will promptly be arrived at on the question.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council,upon notice -
– Theanswers to the honorable senators’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (consideration resumed from 12th March, vide page 10877).
No nomination shall be valid unless -
The person-nominated or some person on hisbehalfdeposits with the Commonwealth electoral officer or divisional returning officer at the time of the delivery of the nomination paper the sum of £25 inmoney orin bank notes.
Uponwhich Senator Charleston had moved -
That paragraph (c)be omitted.
– I see no reason whyweshould inflicta penalty of £25 upon any person who failed to secure a seat in either House of this Parliament. In New South Wales a candidate for a seat in the Senate, in order to save his deposit, would have to receive at least 15,000 No. 1 votes. Probably when the franchise has been extended to women in that State there will be about 500,000 persons on the electoral rolls. Allowing that 60 per cent, ofthat number vote there will be at least 300,000 voters, and according to the Droop system the quota will be about 80,000. The candidates tohave any chance of being elected would have to receive 60,000 No. 1 votes, which divided by four gives 15,000. That is such a large number that it would cause any one to hesitate before he offered himselfas a candidate. The advocates of the Hare systemhave always contended that nodeposit should be required, andthatevery citizen in a free democratic community should be eligible tobe a candidate. Thebare expenses of contesting an election would be very heavy, and if we provided for the payment of a deposit it would have this tendency, that only those persons who were under the protection of a great political organization would offer themselves. We ought not to penalize the candidates.
– We all agree with the general proposition that there ought to be, as far as possible, the most unrestricted choice for the electors, as regards both Houses. But wemust also take care that it is allowedin such a way that the real will of thepeople may make itself manifest. Experience has shown that it is absolutely impossible to make your electoral arrangements in such a way that the people cangive their opinion straightforwardly and in accordance with their views when there isa multiplicity of candidates. This deposit is really required to prevent the ballot-papers and theelectoral arrangements being made use of for all sorts of indirect purposes. In New South Wales where nodepositwasrequired, 50 candidates stood for the six seatsin the Senate. It is well known that manyof them simply sought a cheap advertisement. With a ballot-papercontaining 50 names,itwas so impossible toproperly carry out the duty of selecting thenames to be struck out, that 38,000 informalvotes weregiven, amounting to 20 per cent. of the votes recorded. There is only one other State, South Australia,where no deposit is required.. In Victoria, thereis a deposit of£50. For therepresentation of the Senate inVictoria, there were nineteen candidates. In Queensland, the deposit is £20 ; in Tasmania, £25 ; and in Western Australia, £25. In making this proposal, the Government believe that they are only doing what is absolutely necessary to make the electoral arrangements effective.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - Under the method of voting provided in this Bill, the will of the people is supposed to be ascertained, inasmuch as the voting for theHouse of Representatives will, be so sifted out that only a person having an absolute majority of votes will be declared elected. There is, therefore,no ground for Senator O’Connor’s argument in that respect. Weall knowwhy it was that there were 50candidates forthe Senate in New South Wales. It was insisted that the elector should vote for six candidates, or the paper wouldbe informal. In South Australia, that rule did not apply, andwe had a fair number of candidates who were well known in public life. We only had about 22per cent, of informal votes. In New South Wales it wasknown that many electorswould throw away votes, and it was hoped that in that way outsiders mightbe elected. We could have larger and better ballot-papers than wereused in New South Wales.
– Some honorable senators in order to be consistent ought to vote for the amendment, because the clause as it stands restricts the choice of the people, and wewere told last night that that ought not tobedone. I am goingto be consistent andvote for the clause. Senator O’Connor has given such good reasonsfor it thathe has a reasonable excuse forhis inconsistency. Senator Charleston askswhy we should not enlarge the ballot-paper. Does he want a paper the sizeof a double-demy poster? He would want ballot-boxes sufficiently large to take a cubic ton. In New South Wales, for some time there was a law requiring a deposit of £40, which was forfeited unless the candidatepolled one-fifth of the number of votes securedbythe lowest candidate elected. The present proposal isa compromise reducing the deposit from £40 to £25, and increasing the proportion of votes to be secured froma fifth to a fourth. That is a reasonable proposition.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). I shall certainly support Senator Charleston’samendment. In South Australiawe have no such deposit, notwithstanding which, at the lastfederal elections, there was no superabundance ofcandidates for parliamentary honours. Iwant to correcta misapprehension that seems to lurk in the mind of Senator Charleston. Itdoes not make any difference withrespect to primary voteswhethera deposit is required or not. If the lowest elected candidate has only 200 or 300 primary votes, it will simply be necessary for the defeated candidate to have a fourth of that number, inthe event of effective voting being adopted in the Bill.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - As Senator Matheson pointed out the other day, a candidate may be a general favorite, and may command a large number of No. 2 and No. 3 votes, but nevertheless may not be the first choice of more than a few of the electors. It would be very hard upon that man, simply because he did not get in South Australia 7,000, or in New South Wales 15,000 No. 1 votes that he should be penalized. I still hold that a man to be elected in New South Wales will require to secure about 60,000 No. 1 votes. I quite understand that a candidate not polling that number may be elected, but it is also possible that a general favorite may command a large number of second and third choice votes, and yet be penalized.
– I suggest that the Vice-President of the Executive Council should add a few words to the clause allowing a marked or banker’s cheque to be taken in lieu of cash or bank notes. A candidate during an election tour may be a considerable distance from the place where the deposit has to be made, and it may be very inconvenient to send a bundle of bank notes. I move -
That the following words be added - “ or in a banker’s cheque.”
– A banker’s cheque is marked by the bank as good to a certain date. The election takes place some time after the deposit, and the cheque may not then be worth the paper it is written on.
– We have had some experience in regard to election deposits in Victoria. For the Legislative Council the deposit is £100, and for the Legislative Assembly £50. The system has worked very well. It has not prevented any of the rank and file from coming forward, while it has kept out many imposters. We have had cheques sent in which were dishonoured when presented, and great difficulty has been caused. No advantage would be gained by making this provision, and a bond fide candidate would have no difficulty whatever in lodging a cash deposit of £25. A cash deposit will tend to keep out candidates whose only object is to advertise themselves.
– In my opinion the difficulty suggested by Senator Clemons does not-exist. In almost any part of Australia a candidate could go to a post and money order -office and telegraph the deposit to the returning officer-. If ‘ Senator Clemons can show that there really is a difficulty, I shall be willing to assist in removing it.
– I am strongly in favour of the amendment. It appeals to me for the reason that at the last senatorial elections a gentleman who proposed to offer himself as a candidate requested me to lend him the amount of the deposit. I did not do so, but if I had acceded to the request, such a provision as this would have been most useful. I should have been able to hand him a banker’s cheque, made payable to the registrar, and it could have gone to no one else. The amendment does not provide for payment of the deposit by marked cheque, but by a banker’s cheque, which emanates from a bank, and for which the bank is responsible.
– The Tasmanian Act expressly empowers a candidate to pay his deposit in gold or by a banker’s cheque. I am not certain whether payment may not be made in bank notes ; but, in this provision when it is so, surely a cheque drawn by the banker on his own bank, and pledging the credit of the bank for the amount named, would be equally as good 1 At the Senate elections in Tasmania I paid my deposit by banker’s cheque, and I know that other candidates did the same, and found it more convenient than the lodging of the deposit in bank notes or cash. Senator Ewing has said that a candidate would be able to telegraph the amount of the deposit to the returning officer no matter where he might be. The candidate, however, might not have the amount in cash with him, and the postal authorities in an outoftheway centre might refuse to accept his cheque, whereas if he had his chequebook with him in any part of the country, all that it would be necessary for him to do would be to forward his cheque for £.25 to the bank with the request that the bank would forward a banker’s cheque for that amount to the returning officer. We certainly ought to do all that we can to facilitate the operations of bond fide candidates.
– I fail to see how the amendment would effect any saving of trouble on the part of a candidate. According to
Senator Keating, with such a provision as this in the Bill, a candidate in the country would draw out a cheque for£25, and send it to hisbanker ; but, instead of requesting him to take the simple course of sending the amount named in notes to the returning officer, he would request the banker to draw out another cheque.
– If the returning officer were in Hobart, while the candidate’s bank was in Launceston, the bank would not send notes through the post to Hobart ; it would send a banker’s cheque.
– In that case the candidate would simply request his bank to telegraph to its branch bank at Hobart to pay the amount in notes.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I am sorry that this harmless amendment should have provoked so much discussion. Before I set out on my travels during the Senate elections in Tasmania, I knew that I should have to send in my deposit within a limited period, and, therefore, I armed myself with a banker’s cheque, so that I might be able to forward it together with my nomination paper to the returning officer. If I had not done that, I should have been compelled either to carry £25 in notes with me, or else to exchange my cheque in the small village of Mathinna, where, so far as I know, there is no bank, and to have run the risk of not being able to obtain the cash there. This is only an alternative proposal, and surely if Senator Keating, as well as Senator O’Keefe and myself, can say that it would be a convenience, and that no risk would be incurred, the committee should not hesitate to agree to the amendment ?
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 105 postponed.
Any elector -
who resides more than 10 miles from the polling place at which he is entitled to vote; or
who has reason to believe that he will on polling day be more than 10 miles from the polling place at which he is entitled to vote ; or
who believes that he will on account of ill-health be unable on polling day to attend the polling place to vote ; may after the issue of the writ make application in the Form K in the 1st schedule to the returning officer for the division in whichhe resides for a postal vote certificate.
– This clause provides for an innovation which I do not regard as a desirable departure from the present system of voting. Voting by post must destroy the secrecy of the ballot, and as large numbers of electors in Queensland live more than 10 miles from a polling place, and would have to bring their voting papers before their employers for attestation, I doubt very much whether the provision should be passed. Our experience in Queensland has shown that if men desire to vote they will not mind going 10, 50,. or even 100 miles, in order to do so, and I shall certainty vote against the proposal unless some modification is made.Under present conditions shearers and labourers, working on sheep stations take a holiday for the purpose of going to the nearest polling place to record their votes ; whereas if such a provision as this were passed the employer would probably tell the men that there was no necessity to stop work, but that he would attest their voting papers, which could be forwarded by post. The voters would then come in with their papers to be attested. We know, of course, that each elector would be entitled to so fold his voting paper as not to disclose the way in which he had voted, but he might not care to act other than openly. If the elector were to maintain secrecy, the employer would conclude that the vote had been cast contrary to his wishes, and visit his displeasure upon the man by dismissing him. I know of hundreds and thousands of cases in which men have been dismissed on this ground. They have in many cases, been dismissed on the mere suspicion. This provision will affect every workman who happens to be employed at a distance beyond 10 miles from the polling place, and as it will bring men more directly under the whip of their employers, I shall oppose it. The more I look at this matter the moreI regard it as opposed to democratic principles, and I hope the Government will abandon it.
-I have heard a good many of these arguments used before. South Australia was the first State to adopt voting by post, and it is a singular fact that this step was taken at the instigation of the labour party. It was originally intended to meet the cases of sailors who could not be present at the polling places on the day of election but the principlehas been extended since it was first introduced, and it has worked exceedingly well. I have heard no complaint. Senator Stewart may, therefore, calm his fears, because the system is not liable to any serious abuse. If a man sends in his voting paper by post he is under no necessity to disclose the name of the- candidate in whose favour his vote has- been east* The system of voting by post has proved of great convenience to “ a large number of people, and especially to those who live long distances from polling places. I am somewhat doubtful as to the desirability of! retaining paragraph (c). In South Australia, we have hitherto restricted the operation of this provision to female voters, and I am not sure that it will be wise to extend it to male voters.. It is not desirable to afford too many opportunities to people to. adopt this special form of voting. There is the danger that we may provide facilities to political organizations- and wealthy candidates to exercise undue influence in securing votes. However, if anything of that kind happens, the law can be altered to meet the situation.
– I intend to support the clause, because I consider it a most excellent one. I have always supported the extension of every convenience for re- -cording votes, and unless we adopt some :-such provision as this, hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Western Australia will be absolutely prohibited from recording their votes. Senator Stewart is oppressed with the fear that this system will destroy the secrecy of the ballot, but if the honor- able senator had had any experience of voting by post he would realize that such fears are groundless. During the federal referendum I was an electoral officer, and’ I had not the slighest idea as to how the hundreds of people who sent in their papers by post recorded their votes. If 1< had desired to know I could not ascertain, as the votingpapers were enclosed in envelopes, and their nature was not disclosed to the officer.I contend that if a proper system of voting by post is adopted, it is absolutely impossible for any electoral officer- to. ascertain how the votes are cast. At the federal elections in Western Australia some people had to travel 40 miles in order to exercise the franchise. Thousands of hardy prospectors in that State; who are just as much entitled to make their influence felt at election time as other members of the community, are resident 60 and 100 miles from the nearest polling booth. Why should they be debarred from recording their votes,, as they will be under any system other than that of voting by post 1
– I am somewhat disappointed that any opposition should be offered to this provision. Most of the Queensland representatives in this Chamber had some experience of the system of voting by post during the federal referendum in 1899. That was the first occasion during three elections upon which facilities were extended to me for recording my vote although I had been a member of the State Legislature for many years. Many of the elections in the State were held, upon the same day, and the fact that I was engaged in contesting a constituency situated nearly 200 miles from my home, absolutely debarred me from exercising the franchise. In this respect I was- not alone. Thousands of people were precluded from recording, their votes. But during, the federal referendum every person who was resident any distance from a polling place was allowed’ an opportunity of voting by post. I carefully examined the ballot papers issued upon that occasion, and so. perfect was the system that I would have defied any one to tell how any elector was voting. Senator Dawson knows the long distances which many people have to travel in order to register- their votes.. In the Mitchell electorate, for example, some 70 or 80 residents upon the opal fields had to journey fully 70 miles. The- powers that be, fearing the democratic vote in that State, have always put every possible obstacle in the way of, electors exercising the franchise. A large- number of- the polling booths there are located upon sheep and cattle stations, where four or five men only reside, and can any one seriously suggest that in such places the ballot is secret at the present time, seeing that very frequently the manager of the station is the presiding electoral officer 1 If he chooses to interest himself in. the matter, he can easily ascertain how his employes are voting. But he could not do so, under the system proposed by the Government. I welcome this provision as a tremendous boon to thousands of electors in Queensland. I welcome it because it is a protection to the working men and a convenience to which they have been strangers, except in the one case to which I have referred. I endeavoured to remedy the abuses which exist under the present system by introducing a Bill into the Queensland Parliament some years ago, but unfortunately that measure obtained very little support. I attempted to provide that all the ballotpapers should be- brought- to one central polling booth, instead of being counted in sections. Perhaps such a scheme would be impracticable under the Commonwealth law, but if practicable it would ensure absolute secrecy, besides offering protection to thousands of our workmen.
– Perhaps time will be saved if I explain the proposed method of voting. It appears to me that the objections which have been urged against this provision on the. ground that the system violates the secrecy of the ballot, arise from a misunderstanding. The process of voting by post is as follows : - The elector makes a written application to the registrar for a certificate. The registrar ascertains that the applicant’s name is upon the roll with a certain number opposite to it, and thereupon issues a document with, that number upon it. The voter takes the certificate before certain persons who are mentioned in this provision, and satisfies them before writing upon it that he is a person entitled to vote. He then writes upon the paper the names of the candidates for whom he wishes to vote, and by an express provision made in the Bill he does so in such a manner that the person witnessing his vote does not see for whom he votes. He folds up the voting paper in such a way that it becomes a complete envelope, in itself, and then turns, over the counterfoil, signs it, and sends it on free of postage to the returning officer of the electoral division. The latter sees the name of the elector, recognises that the number corresponds with the name upon the’ roll, and then tears off1 that portion of the paper. The- officer is expressly prohibited from -opening the ballot-paper to ascertain for whom the elector votes. His only function is to satisfy himself that it is a properly authenticated ballot-paper. The- secrecy of the ballot is absolutely preserved under this system, which, offers immense convenience to voters.
– The secrecy of. the ballot will, not be- interfered with in the slightest degree by the adoption of- the proposed system, and I approve of this clause entirely. It contains a very desirable improvement upon the present electoral law. In paragraph (6) of 31 g 2
Form K. of the 1st schedule, provision is made that a postal vote certificate may be issued to a person who has .reason to believe that upon polling day he will be more than 10 miles from, the polling place at which he is entitled to vote. The unfortunate elector may in many cases have to walk 10. miles each way, and I should be glad if- the limit could be reduced to 5 mile’s. In Tasmania 5 miles may, owing to the nature of the country, be equal to 20 miles on the level mainland of: Australia.
– This clause is taken from the South Australian Act. That Act, however, fixes the limit at 15 miles, though Senator Playford was quite right in what he said as to female voters. Under the South Australian Act the voting paper must be signed in the presence of the postmaster, and no other person; whereas by this clause the paper must be signed in the presence of the postmaster, the returning officer, or justice of the peace. Even with the 10 miles limit this clause, makes greater provision than the South Australian Act for the convenience of- the electors, seeing that a certificate may be obtained enabling an elector to vote in any part of- the division. That provision minimizes the necessity for reducing the limit, although a great deal can be said in favour of the suggestion of Senator Clemons. Voting by post has worked excellently in South Australia,, and I hope the principle will be embodied in the Bill.
– This is a democratic, provision of which I thought every one would be in favour. The physician and the merchant can walk to the polling booth without losing a penny, and the squatter or well-to-do farmer can drive in without any inconvenience. It is only the unfortunate workman, who may lose his wages by having to travel to record his vote, and the provision is one we ought to support on the ground of convenience. The limit of 10 miles is altogether too high. According to the Acts Interpretation Act 10 miles means as the crow flies, and by road or rail the distance may be 13 or 14 miles each way. By making the limit 10 miles instead of 5, we take away two-thirds of the benefit of the system. I move -
That the word “ ten “ in sub-clause (a) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “five. “
– The tirade of Senator Glassey against the representatives of Queensland is absolutely unjustifiable. There is voting by post in Queensland in municipal and divisional board elections, and there a great evil has arisen, owing to the fact that the system destroys the secrecy of the ballot.
– What is the system there?
– The elector is supplied with a ballot paper, which is subsequently opened publicly in the boardroom. The provision in the Bill is quite different from that in the Queensland. Act, and had the voting paper now before us been circulated sooner, I am certain not a member of the labour party would have raised any objection to it. This provision will be a great convenience to people who live in comparatively inaccessible places, or who may be on board ship. We want to make sure of the secrecy of the ballot, and that the vote shall represent the opinion of the voter, and not the opinion of any one else.
– I trust the committee will accept the amendment. It must be remembered that the 15 miles limit in South Australia refers to comparatively good roads ; but what would 15 miles mean in Gippsland in wet weather? There is no fear about the secrecy of the ballot, and as to “ bosses “ we have none in Victoria. This clause is inserted on the ground of public convenience, and I ask Senator McGregor to take a broad minded view and help the working man to record his vote.
– I have always been in favour of giving every facility to the voter, but I am very jealous of the secrecy of the ballot. This provision is the most effective attempt at postal voting of which I have any knowledge. It is supposed to have been copied from the South Australian Act, which, with thehonestsupport of the labour party, was passed for the purpose of giving the privilege to what were called absent voters. The limit was fixed at 15 miles, and the voter before going away had, under the original Act, to make a declaration that he would be more than that distance from the polling booth on the day of election. An absent voter’s paper was then given to him, which he took to the nearest post-office, and dealt with in a similar - but not exactly the same - manner to that provided for in the Bill. But it was quite possible for the returning officer and the scrutineers to gain a knowledge of the identity of the voter, and for whom he voted, and anamending Act was broughtin with the support of the labou r party, At the next election magistrates and postal officials were hawked about in private traps for the purpose of taking declarations that entitled voters to get the voting-papers. Everybody knew whom those electors were voting for. On that account a great stir was made by the labour party, and people turned against this system of decreasing the distance to a very narrow limit. There was no counterfoil on the ballot-paper that could be torn off, and the elector and the candidate he voted for could be identified. That is impossible under the system in this Bill. In Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, there are a number of men in the back country employed by persons who in the past have not shown any scrupulousness in these matters. Occupying the position of justices of the peace or of postal officers, they might not demand to see how the employes intended to vote, but they might make their wish so plain that the employes would be quite prepared to vote as they desired. For that reason it is advisable to provide that a witness shall be present, not to see what the voter does, but to see that the officer does not take undue advantage of him. We should adhere to the distance prescribed in the original Act of South Australia, as it has worked very well. If the word “ ten “ is omitted, I shall move that the blank be filled by the insertion of the word “ fifteen.”
– We all wish to preserve inviolate the secrecy of the ballot. Under the ballot system an elector has to go to the polling place, where the returning officer an impartial person, can see that the voting is properly carried out,butfortheconvenience of those electors who reside at a great distance from the polling place, it is proposed to substitute other safeguards, which are not of the same rigorous character, to guard the machinery of the ballot. We ought only to allow a very small interference with the machinery of the ballot, which has been tested and found to be efficacious. As you lessen the mileage you increase the number of those who will avail themselves of the privilege to vote by post. In South Australia the system has worked well, and we have not heard of any agitation to decrease the mileage from 15 to 10 miles. It will be wise in thisclause to extend the mileage to 15 miles, because there are very few places where an elector would be unable to travel 10 miles to and fro. It has been said that unless the mileage is decreased the elector will have to walk, and that it may take him one day. It will be in very few cases that he will have to walk. We ought to limit the number of persons who can vote by post, either by retaining the distance of 10 miles, or adopting a distance of 15 miles.
– I desire to ascertain from Senator O’Connor whether it would be possible for a sailor, who knew that he would not be within 5 or 10 miles from the polling place on election day, to post the certificate before he set out on his voyage, or must the certificate be signed on the day of election?
– At any time after the issue of the writ.
– Any one who has listened to the speeches of honorable senators sitting on my left would imagine that they are very doubtful as to whether voting by post is a desirable reform or not. It is urged that a distance of 15 miles should be adopted, because it is not desirable to makeit too easy for a man to vote by post. Senator Pearce is opposed to a distance of 5 miles, because he thinks that we ought not to increase the number of votes sent by post. It will be for the elector to decide whether he will vote by post or not. If he thinks he will not be surrounded by proper safeguards, he will be at liberty either to go to the polling booth or not to vote. The provision will enable men whose avocations will prevent them from attending at the polling booth to record their votes, and the safeguards which have been indicated by Senator O’Connor are as good as any we can devise.
– I cannot understand those who desire to get to the poll the largest possible number of voters, and who voted in favour of taking the poll on the Saturday, opposing not only a distance of 10 miles, but a reduction of that distance to 5 miles. There is no doubt that a reduction of the distance to 5 miles would give great facilities to a large number of voters who live in the country. Those who live in the cities have no difficulty in voting. But in the farming districts in particular it is a great tax upon a man to have to go, in all weathers, to the polling booth. Ten miles there and back means 20 miles. If we make the distance 15 miles, as in the South Australian Act, it will be still worse. Senator Stewart has said that on a polling day the shearers would take a holiday. Not long since, when an election was taking place, I was staying at a station where there were a considerable number of shearers. The owner of the station was perfectly willing to let them go away to vote. The polling booth was. about 6 miles from the shearing shed, but rather than lose their day’s wages not one of the 30 or 40 shearers would give up work. Their votes were lost. I discussed this matter with them, being anxious that they should vote. They said they could not afford to lose the day, and were in favour of the 5 miles as provided by the Victorian Act being reduced to a lesser distance. I shall support the alteration.
– The proposal to make the distance 5 miles instead of 10 commends itself to me as reasonable. So many safeguards surround the casting of a vote that the secrecy of the ballot is not in danger ; and, as we ought in every possible way to facilitate the expression of opinion through the elections, voting should be made as easy as possible. Of course Senator McGregor is right in saying that the reasons that apply in favour of 5 miles would equally well apply to 2 or . 1. That is so if the matter is followed out to its logical conclusion. But in selecting 5 miles, which is the distance fixed in the Victorian Act, we take a convenient distance. Five miles in the mountainous parts of Tasmania would be equal to about 10 in level country. There are districts where it is difficult to get horses, and men have to go to the poll on foot.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I at first thought that the reduction to 5 miles was too great, but on consideration I am convinced of the necessity for reducing the distance. In South Australia I have heard constant complaints from workmen of being compelled to leave work to vote. There are already frequent elections for district councils, municipal councils, the Legislative Council, and the House of Assembly ; and now the federa elections are added. This method will facilitate matters wonderfully, and enable every one to record his vote
Amendment agreed to.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I wish to move an amendment in paragraph (c),so as to provide that only those male voters who are sick shall have the privilege of voting by post. This is not a question of mileage, but of whether we are going to allow amanliving inastreet in which a polling booth is situated, on saying that he thinks he will be sick on polling day, to obtain a postal certificate. If this paragraph applied to men only, as in South Australia, I could understand it, but men should not be able to take advantage of it simply because they are too lazy to go to the poll. I move -
That the words “ believes that he” be omitted; that the word “ will “ be inserted after the words “ill health,” and that the following words be added to the paragraph : - “ and who produces a certificate signed by a medical practitioner to that effect.”
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). -Paragraph (c) has been copied from the South Australian Act, where it applies to women who believe that they will be in ill health on the polling day. It is scarcely wise to alter it, because it will enable members of the opposite sex to vote by post if they know that they will be ill on the polling day.
– There is a great deal of reason in Senator Pearce’s criticism, and the provision ought to be made applicable to women only. That is what is intended.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That after the word “Who,” in paragraph (c), the following words be inserted : - “being a woman.”
– I would point out that this amendment would prevent any man who has a brokenleg, dysentry, diarrhoea, or typhoid fever, from voting, unless he actually goes to poll. I do not think that is intended.
SenatorFRASER (Victoria). - A man may have been ill for weeks, and may be justified in believing that he will be ill on the day of election. Why should such a man be debarred from voting?
Senator Sir WILLIAM ZEAL (Victoria). - Senator Pearce’s suggestion is a reasonable and business-like one, but Senator O’Connor’s amendment will bring about greater difficulties than he seeks to remedy.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I suggest that a new sub-clause should be added to provide for females. We should, however, specify that male voters who may be sick, and who wish to vote by post, shall produce a medical certificate.
Senator Sir FREDERICK SARGOOD (Victoria). - Might I suggest to the VicePresident of the Executive Council that he should look at the Victorian Act ? I think it will be found that the matter is fairly provided for there.
– The Victorian Act seems to me to be far too wide. I have no objection to the insertion of a new paragraph dealing with cases of serious illness or infirmity.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That in paragraph (c) the word “he” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “she.”
That the following new paragraph be added : - “ (d) Who will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending the polling place on polling day.”
– I move-
That the words “and before polling day” be inserted after the word “ writ,” line 12.
It will be seen that this amendment is necessary when I explain what the procedure is. These voters certificates may be obtained, at any time, and a safeguard against personation is that as soon as the officer issues a certificate giving the right to vote by post, he will mark off his roll the name of the person to whom it is issued. If the name occurs in the roll of some polling place he will intimate to the officer there the issue of the certificate, and that officer will mark off the name. There is a provision in the Bill that that intimation may be transmitted by telegraph, so that, if at any time up to the day before the poll a certificate is issued, the registrar at the polling place can be notified. If we were to leave the clause as it stands, however, a man might obtain a certificate on the morning of polling day and post it, and before there had been time to communicate with the registrar of the polling place in question, he might vote there as well, his name not having been marked off the roll. There can be no hardship in saying that a man shall be able to apply for a certificate up to the day before polling, and such a provision will be a safeguard against personation. .
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 112 -
Any elector who has received a postal ballotpaper shall in the presence of a postmaster, officer, or justice of the peace, and of no other person, record his vote as follows : -
– After circulating an amendment providing for the omission of the words, “or justice of the peace,” and the insertion of the words, “ police magistrate, state school master, or railway station-master “ in lieu thereof, I found that Senator O’Connor had given notice of an amendment very similar in effect. For that reason I shall not proceed with my proposal.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That the words, “ or justice of the peace “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “police, stipendiary, special magistrate, or head master of astate school.”
Clause further amended, and agreed to.
Clause 113 postponed.
Clause 114 consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clauses 128 and 129 postponed.
Clause 1 30 (Ballot-papers).
SenatorPEARCE (Western Australia). - I should like to have some assurance ‘that the ballot-papers will not be numbered. In Western Australia, it has been the practice to print a number on the ballotpaper, and to have a corresponding number on the counterfoil. This has enabled the electoral officers, not only to identify the papers, but also the voters, and has thus destroyed the secrecy of the ballot. It is provided in clause 131, that the presiding officer shall initial the ballot-papers, and keep an exact account of them, and I wish to know how that can be done, unless the ballot-papers are numbered.
– It is necessary that an exact account should be kept of the ballot-papers, in order to prevent frauds being perpetated by the stuffing of ballotboxes with forged papers. Thehonorable senator will see on reference to Form O, in the 1st schedule, that there is no number on the ballot-paper, and that, therefore, no violation of the secrecy of the ballot can take place.
– I should like to see a paragraph added authorizing the returning officer, in cases where two candidates have names so nearly identical as to confuse the electors, to insert in the ballot-papers opposite the names of the candidates some description which would serve to identify them in the minds of the voters. In South Australia, when the whole of the State was one electoral district,two gentlemen named Davis offered themselves as candidates. The electors were not familiar with their christian names, and the result was that the wrong man was returned. In my own case a relative of mine, whose name happened to be nearly identical with my own, was a candidate for election to the House of Representatives at the last federal election, and a large number of people voted for him under the impression that they were supporting me. I asked the returning officer to insert opposite my own name or that of my relative something to distinguish between us, but he informed me that he was not allowed to printanything on the ballotpapers beyond what was indicated in the Act, the provision in which is almost identical with what is contained in the clause. I donot think that that is a proper state of affairs, and I therefore suggest that discretionary -power should be given to the returning officer.
SenatorO’CONNOR.- The honorable and learned senator has referred to a matter of some importance,but I think it is provided for in paragraph 2. Where two candidates have the same surname their names are to be printed according to the alphabetical order of their christian names and, if their christian names are the same, according to the alphabetical order of their residences. I quite see that in a third case the residences might be the same, and perhaps discretionary power . should be given to the returning officerto make some distinction.
– I thinkthe case would be met by inserting, after “residence,” the words “and the occupations of such candidates.” It is hardly likely that two candidates would have both similar residences and occupations, and probably that would meet the desire of Senator Baker.
– The amendment suggested would not go far enough, because it would only become operative if the christian names of the two candidates, as well as their surnames, were the same. The electors really do not distinguish between candidates by their christian” names, but rather by their occupations and their places of residence.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I can see the force of the objection raised by Senator Matheson, and I would suggest that all reference to christian names should be omitted from the clause.
– I appreciate the difficulty, but it is one which cannot be provided for adequately by an amendment drafted on the spur of the moment. If the clause is agreed to, I shall undertake to have an amendment drafted to meet the case. I do not see that it is really necessary to provide for making distinctions where there are different christian names. It is desirable to avoid doing anything that would tend to confuse the electors, and ballot-papers should not be drawn up in in such a way as to give undue advantage to any particular candidate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 133 (Persons’ present at polling).
– I wish to ask whether this provision would prevent any candidate from recording his vote1? In my judgment it might hare that effect.
– Obviously, the meaning of this clause is that no candidate shall take part in the management of affairs at the polling booth. That intention is made perfectly clear.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 135 -
Electors not having voters’ certificates, and not voting by post, may vote at the polling place for which they are enrolled .
Electors having voters’ certificates may vote at any polling place within the division upon delivering up to the presiding officer their voters’ certificates.
A voter’s certificate may be granted to any elector by the returning officer at any time after the issue of the writ, and not later than three days before polling-day, and may be in the form P in the 1st schedule.
The returning officer shall note on the list of voters all voters’ certificates issued.
– I believe that Senator Higgs has given notice of an amendment upon this clause. On his behalf I move -
That tha words “ the polling place for which they are enrolled “ lines 2’and 3, be omitted, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ any polling place in the division.”
I would point out that a similar provision has operated in Western Australia for some time, and no cases of impersonation have been heard of. ‘ Very frequently it happens that interest in election matters is not aroused till the last moment, and under this clause if an elector happened to be absent from the polling place for which he is enrolled he would be unable to record his vote. The experience of those States in which persons have been at liberty to vote at any polling place, is that the system has not been abused. Such severe penalties are provided for cases of impersonation that a voter does not care about incurring any risk. I would further point out that the rolls are checked by the returning officer, and it is thus possible at the close of an election to trace any person who has transgressed the law in this connexion.
– The probability is that some one else would vote in the elector’s name.
– If that be so, why was the practice not followed during the recent elections 1 Such offences are most easy of proof. During the federal referendum in Western Australia, feeling ran very high, and in the coastal area there was a party which would scarcely have stopped at anything in order to block federation. Had it not been for the salutary penalties provided for the offence of plural voting, some would not have hesitated to vote early and often. I think that the committee might very well hesitate before they disfranchise a large number of our electors.
– If the amendment submitted by the honorable senator were carried, practically the whole of the safeguards against impersonation would be swept away. The Government have gone just as far as it is possible to go consistently with the retention of any check upon the voting, by offering the facilities provided in this Bill. In the first place, if a man has been resident in any division he can transfer his vote to any other division by simply making an application. “Residence,” as the term is interpreted under this measure, merely means the place where a man happens to be living at the time. After he has resided in any particular locality for one month he can obtain a transfer by the simple process which I have just described. In addition to that, if he is unable to vote personally upon polling day, and-is more than 5 miles from the polling booth, he can make application to vote by post. Yet the honorable senator wishes to go further, and enable an elector to vote in any part of the electorate in which he resides. Such a provision would absolutely destroy any possibility of tracing his vote. Let us suppose, for example, that there are 20,000 electors upon a certain roll. At the present time such an electorate is divided into polling districts. The names of the electors are alphabetically arranged according to the districts in which they reside, and every voter is obliged to vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled. If we adopt the amendment, there will be no necessity for any such divisions. We shall then have a roll containing 20,000 names - an electorate covering perhaps hundreds of miles - and a voter will be able to exercise the franchise at any polling place. I well remember when a railway was being built through an electorate. There were six or seven polling places upon the line, and the contractor, who was a very keen politician, put his men upon a truck, steamed through to these polling places, and voted at every one of them. Subsequently he remarked that there was nothing like a steam-engine to enable one to vote. Under the amendment suggested, there is nothing in the world to prevent a number of men from voting at several polling places. Moreover, I think that the experience of all is that when an election has been concluded it is no one’s business to find out whether any impersonation has been practised or not. In the majority of elections there are hundreds of cases in which irregularities occur, but it is nobody’s business to inquire into them. What hardship is there in the provision proposed ? An elector merely has to vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled. Senator Pearce suggests that he may not know that. Of course, he may not know that he can vote at all, or that he can vote by post.. I am pretty certain, from my own experience, that it will be to the interests of some one to instruct the elector. We may really carry this principle of coddling the elector too far ; and if we do away with the safeguard merely for the purpose of making things easier for him, we may render the system open to the greatest fraud.
– I support the amendment of Senator Pearce because my experience leads me to the belief that such a provision would not be abused, and would be a great convenience to the elector. A similar system was used in the federal elections in Tasmania, and for 20,000 votes recorded, there was not one case of prosecution for personation. Unless the amendment be adopted, a large number of electors in the remote mining districts of Tasmania will be disfranchised. The mining population is nomadic ; and I know that hundreds of electors, whose names were on the rolls for one polling place, were 10 or 15 miles away on the day of the federal election I see no danger of personation ; because the average elector is sensible enough to know that this offence carries with it the risk of criminal prosecution. We have heard that there have been no prosecutions in Western Australia, and I take that as prima, facie evidence that there has been no personation. In any case, I do not think it is fair to disfranchise a number of honest electors simply because one or two, or half a dozen, may be dishonest. All the provisions of the Bill are in the liberal direction of facilitating the exercise of the franchise, but without the amendment the Bill will be less liberal than the Act to which I have been accustomed in Tasmania. We have there a provision similar to that suggested by Senator Pearce, and it is better than, or, at any rate, equal to voting by post. I think the objections of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the amendment are exaggerated.
– If it were the deliberate intention of the Government to disfranchise a large number of the electors of Queensland, of which State I have the more intimate knowledge, they could not do it more effectively than by this clause. The Bill appears to have been drafted by some one who has no knowledge whatever of the conditions outside the more populous cities ; and if this provision be retained I would rather not have any Bill at all. In Queensland an elector can vote at any polling booth within the division, and there have been, comparatively, few cases of personation. We know, however, that there will be such cases, and we have to balance the advantages of a clause like this against the disadvantages. It is extremely desirable that every precaution should be taken against personation ; but if, in taking precautions, we disfranchise a large number of honest electors, there should be no difficulty as to the course to be adopted. In Queensland the occupations of a large number of the working men keep them on the move, and they seldom stay in one place more than twelve months at the outside ; but we ought not on that account to deprive them of what to many is the dearest right they possess, namely, the right to vote on the day of election. As to voting by post, does the “Vice-President of the Executive Council imagine that an ordinary working man will carry the Electoral Act in his pocket, and consult it every time he has occasion to change his residence ? An elector will have to write to the returning officer, who may be 100 miles away, or go to expense in making a personal application for the certificate to enable him to vote by post. If the elector does not choose to vote by post, he may apply for a certificate entitling him to vote at any polling place within . the division ; but here, again, difficulties confront him. He must get a form and lodge it, and spend a great deal of time before he obtains the desired privilege, and may involve the elector in much expense which he will have no will or ability to bear. “Why should these difficulties be placed in “his way? According to the Bill an elector must vote at the polling place for which he is enrolled, or vote by post, or get a voter’s certificate. Look at the difficulty it will put in the way of a large number of farmers. In a district I know all the farmers drive distances ranging from twenty to fifty miles to the principal town every Saturday. Their names would be enrolled for polling places outside of that town, so that they would be compelled either to neglect their business on that day or to get out a voter’s certificate, or vote by post. If the clause is passed in its present form it will disfranchise thousands of workingmen in Queensland. If the Government do not see their way to adopt the amendment, I would just as soon be without the Bill.
– I propose to cite a few cases to show Senator O’Connor the inconvenience to which the clause must necessarily put a considerable number of the electors of Queensland.
Take a district like the Barcoo. The distance from Tambo to Beta is about 200 miles. Suppose that a person is registered at Tambo, and the nature of - his calling is such that he is bound to be at Beta or near Barcaldine, 60 or 70 miles off, how can he vote ?
– When he is leaving Tambo he can get a certificate to enable him to vote at Beta.
– A carrier registered at Tambo may leave with his load for Beta, and expect to be back on a certain date. In the meantime, heavy rains may have fallen and he may be blocked for a considerable time. In Queensland I have seen persons blocked for ‘five months in one place. I was blocked once for ten days by the floods, and, but for good friends who assisted me, I would have been detained for many weeks. That occurs in hundreds of instances. At the federal elections, the returns from certain places were not received by the prescribed date, and the time had to be extended by one month. Some of our best bushmen, swimmers, and horsemen, had to be sent out to remote parts to get the returns in even by that date. Then take the ‘Ethridge gold-field. One extreme point is the Gilbert River, near Croydon, and another extreme point, 1.20 miles off, is Mount Hogan. A man may be registered at the Gilbert River, and the nature of his calling may be such that he will have to go to Mount Hogan to record his vote. Is it just or fair to ask any man to go back from Mount Hogan to the Gilbert River to vote, when there are a number of intermediary polling places where he might easily record his vote? Again, take Georgetown, the principal town on the Ethridge gold-field, and a mining camp called Percy, 70 miles away. .Men are compelled to move about from place to place, and yet if the clause is passed in its present form, they must go back scores of miles, in some instances, hundreds of miles, before they can vote. Sometimes a man does not strike a post-office for 50 or 60 miles, and, therefore, he could not get a voter’s certificate. For instance, there is no post-office at many of the little camps on the Ethridge gold-field. If you require men to go back to the place where they are registered, you will disf ranchise a very large number. Senator O’Connor opposes the amendment because he says there will be no check, and that if any one personates there will he no punishment. There is a check and there has been punishment awarded. At the .general election of 1899 we had a case of personation in the district of Toowong, and the offender was sent to gaol for three or four months. We all know that every roll is properly checked by the poll-clerks. The checked rolls are sent to the central polling place for comparison, so as to detect fraud. Of course there will be personation, and there may be some cases of double voting, but these cases are comparatively few. It is not right to inflict considerable hardship and loss on a large number of persons because two or three men run the risk of violating the law. We do not claim this as a privilege. Is it not a reasonable thing that a man should be enabled to record his vote in’ the easiest possible way with safety to the country? The clause will take way from the electors of Queensland a right which they have had for many years, and I strongly protest against that being done.
– I know Queensland just as well as does Senator Glassey, and I declare that Ins statements are greatly exaggerated. By this Bill a voter is given the utmost facilities for voting, and there was no justification for the secondreading speech to which we have just listened. The elector has several ways of voting. If he is going away from home he can get a certificate and vote by post. What more does he require 1 These privileges are safeguarded, but if the door is opened widely, as is now wanted to be done, there may be wholesale impersonation.
– I quite agree with Senator Fraser that there should be safeguards against impersonation, but it must be remembered that the arrangements of one State will not suit all the others. What Senator Glassey has said in reference to Queensland applies in an even greater degree to Western Australia. It is necessary to bear in mind the enormous extent of the territory of the larger States, in order to frame a law that will be suitable to all parts of Australia. At the Senate elections in Western Australia, voters were allowed to poll at any booth. We found that to work very satisfactorily. I never heard any suspicion of impersonation. Considering that a whole State has to be polled as one electorate, it is reasonable to say that an elector should be able to exercise the franchise at any polling booth.
In the larger States we have a considerable nomadic population, and if we do not allow them to vote in any part of the State where they may be, I am confident .that many of them will be unable to vote. There are many instances where voting ‘ by post would not. be sufficient. I admit that it is quite another thing to allow this privilege in the case of elections for the House of* Representatives, but there is no reason why at Senate elections voters should not be allowed to vote at any polling booth.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- If this amendment is not to be adopted I would just as soon be without the Bill. I do not suppose it is the intention of the Government to deliberately disfranchise thousands of voters. If I thought that was the object, I would use every means in my power to turn them out of office. But it has been clearly demonstrated that if the clause be not amended, as proposed by Senator Higgs, the effect will be to disfranchise thousands of working men. The facilities for voting by post are excellent for people who are settled, but there are thousands of miners, shearers, rouseabouts, and labourers who are continually shifting. They -may be here to-day, and hundreds of miles away a month hence. I have pointed out the difficulties in the way of their voting by post and getting certificates. Every precaution should be taken to guard against fraud, but we should not penalize thousands of men because a few may attempt to impersonate.
– Whatever may be the design of this amendment, it certainly offers facilities for crime. Because there may occasionally be cases of hardship in regard to people in out-of-the-way places in Queensland and Western Australia, in their being unable to vote - just as a great number of electors may, be out of Australia at an election time, and unable to vote - we are asked, notwithstanding the loud clamour for safeguarding the purity of elections, to take no precautions whatever to distinguish between decent elections and fraud. In New South Wales we have for many years, in spite of many ineffective ‘efforts to abolish the system, not allowed any one to vote unless he could produce his elector’s right. These rights were used for all elections to the Federal Convention, and the present Commonwealth Parliament. If any honorable senator wishes to be convinced of the need for these precautions, let him look up, in the New South Wales Hansard, a speech delivered in the Legislative Assembly by Mr. E. W. O’sullivan, the present Minister for Public Works. He related that in West Sydney, where he contested his first election, there was in the old days before the elector’s rights system was introduced a voter’s manufactory every polling day. There was a room fitted up, attended by facial artists, with a full supply of ‘wigs, false face hair, and changes of clothing. Men could be made up as often as was necessary to enable them to go to different polling booths and vote for 6d. or ls. a time. I may mention a case than happened in connexion with an election at which I was returned at the head of the poll by hundreds over my next colleague. It was a suburban electorate, for which there were seven polling places in the suburbs and one in the city. I saw a four-horse ‘bus with 30 people on it deliberately driving from one polling place to another, and voting at each. It was only by the placing of a member of my committee on the omnibus that their game was stopped. If honorable senators have any doubt as to whether the system can be readily practised or not, I would mention that the polling places were all practically within sight of each other. Perhaps I may be permitted to refer to another case in which, on another occasion, Mr. John McLaughlin, for many years a member of the New South Wales Assembly, was defeated in the same electorate. Not long afterwards a well-known public man - who is my authority for the statement - employed some men to do labouring work for him. They informed him that at the election in question six of their number drove round in a waggonette to every one of the eight polling places - seven in the suburbs and one in the city - and plumped on each occasion for a gentleman who was returned by 27 votes over Mr. McLaughlin. These criminals - for the)’ were no better - polled 40 fraudulent votes, and thus secured the return of their candidate. I have had no experience affecting me personally of which I have need to complain, and I only refer to the fact of my election by handsome majorities on these two occasions to show that I have no grievance. I was a member of Elections and Qualification Committee in New South Wales for many years off and on, and those committees dealt with an abundance of cases of double voting, and upset elections on that ground. I am asked, why are not men voting fraudulently prosecuted ? It is an easy thing to institute a prosecution, but it is not so easy to obtain a conviction. One might have hundreds of prima facie cases, but yet know very well that he had not sufficient evidence to lead a jury to convict. Thus it is that few prosecutions take place. The provisions which have been made for voting by post and for voting in any place in which an elector may fmd himself, provided that he has obtained one of these voting certificates - which are tantamount to the electors’ rights in New South Wales - have my hearty approval. I think they afford the fullest scope for any man who desires to vote honestly ; that they do not afford scope for a man who wants to vote fraudulently I am very well aware. I could give another example - if an example were necessary - of what may be done when there is no check upon the number of times that a man may vote, by quoting a very well-known case which occurred in New South Wales. A gentleman who has since held office as AttorneyGeneral in more than one Ministry, was returned under most extraordinary circumstances, although not because of any action of his own. He was a candidate for the representation of an electorate in which railways were being constructed, and on polling-day contractors’ trains ran up and down all day, carrying the electors to any polling place they pleased. That happened a good many years ago, and it- was in consequence of occurrences of this kind that the system of refusing a vote to any one except on production of his elector’s right, which has been the law in New South Wales for many years, was introduced. My experience goes to teach me that some safeguard of the right to vote is required in the interests of the electors themselves, because in New South Wales it was no uncommon thing, before the days of electors’ rights, for an elector to be refused the light to vote, for the simple reason that some one had already voted in his name. I. know of such cases by the half dozen, and I am sure that the Vice-President of the Executive Council must also be aware of them.
– Scores of them.
.- It is better that we should safeguard the rights of men who may be personated by scoundrels than that we should do away with all check against personation, and double voting merely because otherwise some stray cases of hardship might occur in out-of-the-way places. Although a man may be within the Commonwealth on polling day he may still be unable to record his vote, notwithstanding what we do for him, unless he votes by post. Take the case of the teamster referred to by Senator Glassey. He might be a dozen miles away from the polling place on election day and unable to attend at the booth, notwithstanding that he would be within his own division. We cannot devise any scheme which will absolutely insure the polling of every vote. Under the amendment, a man would be able to vote anywhere within his State for a Senate election. Surely that is not to be desired? Surely there is to be some limit to the number of times that a man may vote ? It is because it is almost impossible to obtain sufficient evidence to secure a conviction that there are so few prosecutions for fraudulent voting. But fraudulent voting goes on all the same, unless there is some proper safeguard. There are liberal provisions in the Bill for voting by post and for voting on certificates, wherever a man may happen to be, and I trust that the Government will stand by the clause limiting general voting to the division in which a man is enrolled.
– If I could possibly do so, I should support the amendment which has been suggested, but having given it most careful consideration, I think it would be practically impossible to carry out the suggestion. The districts are so enormous.
– That is one reason for carrying out what is suggested.
– The enormous distances, and the number of voters’ lists with which it would be necessary to supply each booth for the purposes of reference, form an equally good reason against it.
– It would be impossible to have any check on the voting by post.
-It would be almost impossible to check anything. In coming to this decision I was at first somewhat influenced by the belief that a man could obtain a voters’ certificate at any time up to within three days before the poll. I find, however, that that is not the case. A voter can only obtain his voting certificate after the writ has been issued.
If honorable senators turn to the clause dealing with the issue of the writ, the date of nomination, and the date of polling, they willfindthatincertaincircumstancesonly fourteen days might elapse between the issueof the writ and the date of polling. We have to deduct three days from that limit, which leaves only eleven days during which it would be possible for a man to obtain a certificate. It is obvious that an elector at some distance from his polling booth would be absolutely unable to obtain his certificate within that time. Therefore, the clause providing for voters’ certificates, which seems a very reasonable one, becomes practically inoperative. In Western Australia and Queensland, and probably in the back blocks of New South Wales, eleven days would be wholly inadequate. Of course electors may vote by post, but they must first apply to the registrar for a. certificate. I intend to vote against the amendment, and afterwards to move that the words “ after the issue of the writ and “ be struck out, with a view to insert a provision that voters’ certificates may be granted to an elector at any time not later than three days before polling day. If my proposal is adopted an elector will be able, before going away into the back country prior to an election, to supply himself with a voters’ certificate which will enable him to record his vote at any polling place.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 13
Noes … … … 11
Majority … … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I think that the main provisions of this clause may be expanded and put in a much better form, and T intend to introduce a new clause with that object. Senator Matheson can then move the- amendment he has indicated, if he thinks necessary. I move -
That all the words after the word “certificates,” line 7, be omitted.
– I would urge the Vice-President of the Executive Council to give the fullest consideration to the question we have just been discussing. I assure him that it is a matter upon which the electors-, who are residing in the back country, feel very strongly, and that unless something is done to meet the necessities of their case, a large number of electors will be practically disfranchised.
– I- shall give the matter every consideration. 1 do not quite see my way at present to accept the proposal which has been made. The difficulty is that the voter’s certificate would occupy very much the position of an elector’s right in Victoria and New South Wales, and if it were issued for a long time before an election took place, it might be lost or handed to some one else by the elector to whom it properly belonged. The system would, therefore, be open to all the objections that have been urged against the practice of issuing electors’ rights.
– I should like to have some clear statement from the Vice-President of the Executive Council as to his intentions. If this provision is to be passed in its present form I would much rather have no Bill, as it would disfranchise thousands of men in. Queensland, and the iniquity of passing it would rest upon the heads of the Senate. It did not surprise me in the least to find the Government supported by all the conservative senators who have expressed anxiety to provide the poor working men with every facility for recording their votes.
– The honorable senator must not make reflections of that kind, but must confine himself to the discussion of the latter portion of the clause.
– I think I am quite entitled to say that all the conservatives of the Senate have sat and voted with the Government in connexion with this clause. Their reason for doing so must be apparent to every one, and- I need not state it here. It is perfectly clear to me. The Vice-President of the Executive Council evidently wants to gerrymander this clause still further, and before consenting to the omission of; a very large portion of it, I think it is only, proper that we should be- told what the intentions of- the Government are. I do not think the honorable and learned senator knows what, he is going to do. He sees a thousand-and-one obstacles in the way.
Amendment agreed to:
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13G -
Every person claiming to vote at any polling booth shall state his Christian and surname, and, if so desired by the presiding officer, any other particulars necessary to be stated in the roll for the purpose of indentifying the name upon the roll under which the vote is claimed.
– As the committee declined to accept the amendment which I- suggested: in clause 57, incorporating the State rolls with the Commonwealth roll, it becomes necessary for me to point out that this ‘ provision clearly enacts, that the only way in which an elector, can exercise his vote is by identifying his name upon the roll of the Commonwealth: After the dis.cussion which took place yesterday, I do not imagine that I can carry any amendment upon the clause, but I call attention to it from a desire to be logical, and in order that; when difficulties arise at a later date,- the public may know by reference to Hansard that honorable senators acted with their eyes wide open. Section 41 of the Constitution Act is most explicit. It reads thus -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
This- Bill, however, provides that before an elector can exercise his undoubted right, he must comply with certain stipulations. I claim, however, that section 41 of the Constitution is conclusive upon this point. It provides that no man shall be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at Commonwealth elections. It does not prescribe that he shall comply with the regulations of the Commonwealth before he can exercise his undoubted constitutional right. On the contrary; it distinctly- states that no regulations shall interfere with him. All that he is called upon to prove is that he has a right to vote at elections for the lower House of any State. This provision implies that if he does not identify his name upon the roll of the Commonwealth he shall not be entitled to vote. That is directly in opposition to the spirit of the Constitution. I therefore move -
That the words ‘ ‘ or upon the roll of electors of the more numerous House of the State “ be inserted after the word “ roll,”line 6.
– I am sure the honorable senator will acquit me of any want of courtesy towards him when I say that it is unnecessary for me to repeat the arguments which I employed when this question was previouslyunder discussion. Upon that occasion the honorable senator stated the case from his point of view very fully, but I think it must be obvious that his interpretation of the Constitution is not sound, and that the system which he proposes would be absolutely unworkable.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 140 (Errors, not to forfeit votes).
– This clause provides that no female elector shall, because her name has been changed by marriage, be disqualified for voting under the name appearing on the roll. Surely the question of identity ought to be considered.
– If any question is raised, the woman will have to satisfy the returning officer. Clause 136 provides that every person shall give particulars necessary for identification.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 141 -
If the name under which the person claims to vote is upon the list of voters for the polling place, or if he delivers to the presiding officer a voter’s certificate, and his right to vote is not challenged, or, if challenged, he satisfies the presiding, officer by his answers to the questions put to him that he is entitled to vote, the presiding officer or a poll clerk shallhand to him a ballotpaper duly initialled.
-I desire to submit an amendment providing that the returning officer shall, at the request of any scrutineer, take note and keep a record of any objection which may be raised.
– I have given notice of an amendment. I move -
That the words “ satisfies the presiding officer by his answers to the questions put to him that he is entitled to vote” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ answers the prescribed questions satisfactorily.”
– Where is the difference ?
– There is considerable difference. The questions may be answered satisfactorily, but may not satisfy the presiding officer, on whom the onus of proof ought to rest. What redress has an elector if the presiding officer declares that he is not satisfied with the answers, seeing that there is no appeal ? It is just as well to put some responsibility on the officer in this connexion.
– If Senator Higgs looks at the preceding clause, he will see that clause 141 is absolutely necessary. I fail to appreciate the difference between the words of the amendment, and the words which he proposes to omit. An election, must be conducted by somebody able to decide questions of identity. Having regard to clause 136, and subsequent clauses, there must be power to reject a vote, otherwise, we should have an uncontrollable mob of electors. It is provided that answers to questions shall be conclusive, so that the election may go on, but, no doubt, if a poll were challenged, and the officer had refused to accept a proper vote, the election might be set aside. The clause simply means that some judgment has to be exercised, but the matter may be subsequently enquired into and decided by the court or some other authority.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland).- If the amendment provides no more than the clause, why object to the amendment? Where each candidate polls an equal number of votes, an elector may have been unable to satisfy the returning officer, though his answers may have been such as would be satisfactory to all right-thinking people. If that case came before the court of disputed returns, the Judge, in the absence of such an amendment as I have proposed, would not go beyond the fact that the elector had not satisfied the returning officer. Under the amendment an elector would have a chance of proving his case.
– The honorable senator contends that the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the officer concludes the matter. That is not so. The satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the returning officer is conclusive onlyfor thepurposes of thepolling, and any mistake made by the officer can be corrected by the court.
– There is a point which neither the mover of the amendment nor the Vice-President of the Executive Council has touched upon. An elector may answer every question satisfactorily, but may not satisfy the presiding officer, and provision should be made to allow the elector to vote, his ballot-paper being put aside for decision during the final count. If the elector is not allowed to vote, no court in the world can restore that vote. No doubt, if the returning officer improperly refuse a vote, the election may be upset, but why should a candidate be put to all the accompanying trouble and expense? It would be manifestly unfair to withhold a vote on some technical point. I have represented a constituency in which there were thirteen persons named Jones on the roll, and the christian name of ten of them was John. This caused much confusion at the polling booth; and I remember assisting at an election, in the Maranoa district, where on five occasions I had to insist on votes being allowed, though the questions were not answered to the satisfaction of the presiding officer. In one case the voting paper was set aside, but I am pleased to say that when it came to the final count the vote was found to be good, but no answer could possibly be satisfactory to that presiding officer, and every one of the five ballot-papers was finally allowed by the returning officer, when the time came to make the final count. In supporting the candidature of Senator Drake for the Enoggera seat once a similar case occurred. The presiding officer was most reluctant to allow the ballot-paper, but under pressure he did. Every mean contemptible dodge it is possible to conceive, has been resorted to in some of the elections in that State. Unless a provision is made that, after the -elector answers the four questions, a ballot-paper shall be given to him, and his vote accepted, but put on one side for final decision, great injustice will be done in some cases. It is possible that a single vote may decide an election. We have had two or three such cases in Queensland, and we may have one or two at the present State elections. Not long since we had a close contest at North Rockhampton for the seat vacated by Senator Stewart, and the successful candidate lost his seat, after sitting for a few days.
– I was inclined at first to agree with those who believe.that this amendment is unnecessary, but on examination I find that the clause is unsatisfactory. The presiding officer will not have to be satisfied. All he can do is to put the four questions prescribed in clause 137, and if the elector replies “ Yes “ to the first two, and “ No “ to the last two, the answers are conclusive under clause 139,* and his right to vote cannot be questioned. The words of this amendment exactly meet the case. If the elector answers the prescribed questions satisfactorily, it is not an answer to the satisfaction of the presiding officer, but a logically satisfactory answer to the questions put to him. If he has already voted, and says so, of course he cannot vote again ; or if he says he is disqualified from voting, he cannot vote again. It is not an answer’ on which the presiding officer can express an opinion. The clause, as it stands, implies that the presiding officer is to exercise some option, and say to the elector, when he answers the questions - “ You may say so, but I am not satisfied.” But ho is absolutely debarred from putting a further question.
– It seems to be assumed by Senator Matheson that the presiding officer is absolutely limited to asking the four questions presented in clause 137. If the right of a person to vote is challenged, the presiding officer, under that clause, may, at the request of any scrutineer, put to him all or any of those questions. But, according to the Bill, he is not limited to putting only four questions as a maximum. Supposing that there are two or three John Joneses on the roll, and that one of them, knowing that another is absent, manages to secure his certificate. After having voted on his own certificate, he approaches the polling booth to vote on the other, and when challenged gives what- the presiding officer knows to be incorrect answers to the prescribed questions. According to the contention of Senator Matheson, if the claimant answers the questions in what he calls a logically satisfactory way - that is, replies “ Yes “ to the two first, and “ No “ to the two last - he should be handed his ballot-paper. I know that clause 139 says that the voter’s answers to the questions shall be conclusive, and the matter shall not be further inquired into during the polling, but if the returning officer absolutely knows that the claimant has been before him previously that day, would the honorable senator restrict him in such a way that he could not possibly ask - “ Are you not the man who polled here on John Jones’ certificate this morning?” Is he precluded by the Bill from asking that question? No. The answers may be conclusive so far as the four prescribed questions are concerned, but I contend that the returning officer is not limited to those four questions, and he may get an answer to another question which is not satisfactory to him. If he chooses to ask further questions during the poll there is nothing in the Bill to preclude him from doing so.
– I rise to cite a case in support of the amendment. In Victoria an elector was not aware that he was entitled to two votes, but the presiding officer, who ought to have known, gave him only one ballot-paper, which was used. Later on the man went back to get a second ballot paper, and it was refused to him, although it was stated on the roll that he was entitled to two ballot-papers, simply because he had been in the polling booth that day and voted. If there had been a tie between the two candidates, the returning officer would most likely, according to the usual custom, have given his casting vote in favour of the late member, but the seat would rightly have belonged to the new candidate, who, owing to a mistake by the presiding officer, would have been put to the trouble and the cost of appealing to a court.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - If, as Senator Keating suggests, the presiding officer knows that a person has given incorrect answers to his questions, what is his duty?It is not to inquire into the matter any further at that stage, but to allow the polling to go on, and later on to report the matter to the police or other person who, under clause 180 may initiate a prosecution for falsely personating any person to secure a ballot-paper to which the person is not entitled, or personating any other person for the purpose of voting. A provision might be inserted, however, to direct that a vote of that kind should be placed on one side, so that it could be traced afterwards if the information in the possession of the.presiding officer turned out to be correct.
Senator BARRETT (Victoria).- The substance of the amendment I desired to move in this clause was, that, the returning officer, at the request of any scrutineer, should take a note of any objection and keep a record thereof. Certainly that would not supply the man with a ballot-paper, but it would enable a ballot-paper to be traced if it had been wrongly used. In a case of this kind, the judgment of the returning officer might be entirely at fault. He might be satisfied in his own mind that a man should vote, but every scrutineer might know that the man should not be allowed to vote, and it might afterwards be proved that the vote was wrongly accepted.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland).- The amendment does not cover the point I have raised, that the elector is denied his ballotpaper. No subsequent proceedings after the election can restore to the elector his right to vote or to the candidate the advantage the vote would have given him. At the Warrego election, in 1899, there was only a difference of four votes in the result. There was a petition against the return, a second count, and the defeated candidate was finally successful. An election took place in North Rockhampton since I and other honorable senators were returned to the Federal Parliament. There was only a majority of two or three votes, with the result that a considerable amount of ligitation took place, the sitting member was ousted, and the so-called defeated candidate took his place. If in those cases four or five ballot-papers had been withheld, a serious injustice would have been done.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - In a case where the presiding officer knew very well that a person desiring to vote was not entitled to do so, he might hand to the individual a ballot-paper similar to one that would be given to a person wishing to vote by post. That voting-paper could be put on one side, and only counted in ease the result happened to be so close that another vote might turn the election.
– The question raised by Senator Glassey, and the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, is not involved in this clause, but it is a matter of some importance. I am aware that some of the State Acts contain a provision of the kind suggested, and I will look into the subject and see what can be done. The honorable senator who has moved the amendment need be under no misapprehension about the clause. The presiding officer is restricted to the questions in clause 137, and if the person desiring to vote answers “ Yes “ to the first two questions and “ No “ to the other two, those answers are conclusive. Even if the presiding officer and every scrutineer in the room knows that a tissue of lies has been told, the elector’s right to vote cannot be contested, though he may be prosecuted afterwards. But, no doubt, as Senator Keating has pointed out, the returning officer is not restricted to those questions in regard to determining the identity of the person ; because under clause 136 every person claiming to vote is bound to state his Christian name and surname, and, if so desired by the returning officer, “ any other particulars necessary to be stated “ in orderto insure his identity. We will say that there are three John Joneses in an electorate ; the presiding officer is entitled to ask the John Jones who comes to vote - “ Which John Jones are you?” He is bound to answer that question, because it is quite clear that the presiding officer cannot identify him until he receives the information. But if after the person makes his claim to vote he is challenged, clause 137 operates, and then it is illegal for the presiding officer to ask him any other questions than the four set forth. If he answers those four in such a way as to entitle him to vote, that is conclusive. There is no reason for alarm about the matter, as the presiding officer has no discretion whatever in regard to the person’s right to vote.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I should just like topoint out, as Senator Keating rather attacked me upon this subject, that what Senator O’Connor has said exactly bears out my contention. We are not discussing the questions which the presiding officer may put before a vote is challenged, but those which he may ask after the challenge. Senator O’Connor fully bears me but that the presiding officer can only put the four statutory questions after the challenge has been made. I do not agree with the honorable and learned senator, however, in the satisfaction he expresses as to the clause as it stands, because, whatever may be the intention of the draftsman, the words undoubtedly imply that the presiding officer has to be satisfied. The presiding officer would probably think, judging from the language of the clause, that he had some power of expressing his own personal opinion. If Senator O’Connor is satisfied that the presiding officer has no option, I do not see why he should not accept Senator Higgs’ amendment.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - Senator O’Connor has pointed out that certain questions have to be asked and answered, and if they are answered that is conclusive. But what I say is that after those questions have been asked and answered the elector must satisfy the presiding officer. I could understand that provision in con nexion with clause 136, under which, apparently, the presiding officer is able to ask all kinds of questions as to birth, religion, standing in the community, and so forth. But I do not understand why these words should be inserted in connexion with the answers to the four questions beyond which the presiding officer cannot go. A punctilious presiding officer might delay an election while a booth was full of voters eager to get ballot-papers. It is necessary to restrict the presiding officer as to the number of questions he may put to the elector, who, having answered the questions satisfactorily, should be allowed to vote. Our experience in Queensland is such that we want to protect the elector as much as we can.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 12
Noes … … … 12
Question so resolvedin the negative.
– I hope that theVice-President of the Executive Council will accept the Words which Ipropose to insert in the gap just created, inasmuch as several honorable senators who opposed my amendment have asked what is the difference between the words in the clause and those which I desire lo substitute.
– I am of opinion that there is very little difference. Rather than see the clause passed in a mutilated form, I should prefer to accept the words proposed to be inserted. If I find on consideration that they will make any difference, I shall have the clause reconsidered.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ The presiding officer shall, at the request of any scrutineer, take note of any objection, and keep a record thereof.”
Under this clause the returning officer will be able to say whether a vote that is challenged shall be allowed, and he will be given a power which, in my opinion, is altogether too wide. The officer may be perfectly satisfied that a certain vote should be admitted, while the scrutineers acting on behalf pf other candidates may be equally satisfied that it should not be recorded, and perhaps in some cases an election may be upset on the ground that a challenged vote has been improperly allowed. Under the Victorian law a note is taken of an objection, and if, at the close of the election, it is found that the polling is so close that the result would have been reversed if the challenged vote had not been allowed, the vote is traced, and justice is done. A safeguard of this kind should be provided.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 144 -
If any voter satisfies the presiding officer that his sight is so impaired or that he is so illiterate that he is unable to vote without assistance, the presiding officer shall mark, fold, and deposit his ballot-paper for him.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “or, if required by the voter, shall permit any person indicated by the voter to accompany him into the voting compartment, and to mark, fold, and deposit his ballot-paper for him.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 146 postponed.
Clause 147 (Contingent vote).
– This clause provides for the contingent vote in elections for the House of Representatives. Do I understand that the Vice-President of the Executive Council intends to postpone it 1
– I shall oppose it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 154 (Informal ballot-papers).
– This clause requires some consideration. I do not think that a voter, or the canditate for whom he votes should suffer, because of the bungling of a presiding officer who fails to initial his ballot-paper. It seems to me that if a presiding officer were inclined to be guilty of sharp practices, this clause might give him an opportunity of indulging in them.
– Surely the returning officer should guarantee in some . way or other that the ballot-paper used is the one which has been lawfully issued ? We provide that he shall initial the ballot-papers, and if we make that condition the scrutineers will see that it is carried out. It would be useless to have this provision if ballot-papers could be valid, notwithstanding its non-observance.
– The returning officer should have a stamp.
– The difficulty is that some other person might obtain possession of a stamp, whereas the ballot-papers are initialed as they are issued.
– An election in South Australia was upset owing to the failure of a returning officer in one of the booths to initial a ballotpaper. The matter was then fully considered by the State Parliament, but it could not see its way to depart from the ordinary custom. It is absolutely necessary that there should be some means of identifying the ballot-papers that are issued.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 155 and 156 postponed.
Clause 161 (Vote of returning officer).
– This clause is worthy of a little consideration, as it gives enormous powers to the returning officer. I am not thoroughly acquainted with the way in which the contingent vote works, but there must be some way of ascertaining from the voting papers which of the candidates is preferred by the electors. The clause provides that if two or more candidates have an equal number of votes, and one of them has to be rejected the returning officer shall decide.
– The returning officer is not allowed to vote except under this clause.
– I quite understand that, but I think the powers given to the returning officer are too large.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 167 (Rates of expenditure).
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - This clause limits the expenditure to be incurred by a candidate for election to the Senate to £250. In the light of our experience in Western Australia, that seems a very small amount. Candidates for election to the Senate in that State had to pay £50 to one newspaper, in order to get their addresses to the electors published, and thus one-fifth of the total amount allowed was expended upon one advertisement. A provision of this sort does not operate as might be expected. I recently asked a gentleman from South Australia, where a somewhat similar provision exists, how candidates managed in that State. He told me that they had political organizations, which issued all the printed matter that was required, and canvassed all the districts in support of a particular candidate. He said also that the candidate was not required to make a return of the expenses incurred by any such organisation on his behalf, as he was supposed to know nothing about any money that might be spent in that way. If he subscribed to the organization, he could incur just as much expense as if there were no limit imposed upon him.
Clause agreed to.
No electoral expense shall be incurred except in respect of the following matters : -
– I move -
That sub-clause (vii.) “Election agents” be omitted.
These election agents are becoming a curse. They are men of no political opinions whatever, and they are prepared to work for a conservative, a liberal, or a labour candidate, just as it may suit them. They have certain mysterious methods of controlling votes and they carry on their operations in the most devious ways. They adopt all sorts of means for bringing electors to the poll and inducing them to vote for the candidate whose interests they are paid to serve. They are a menace to the political life of Australia, and they are yearly becoming more numerous and more widely availed of. Their political services are at the disposal of those who will pay them best, and as their employment offers every facility for bribery, we should not acknowledge or recognise them in any way in our legislation. Any reasonably acceptable candidate who has a policy or programme will be able to find people to work for him, and do their best to secure his election without payment, and the employment of agents should be discouraged in every possible way.
– I hope the amendment will not be agreed to. Many candidates are not in the position to carry on an electoral campaign without employing some one to act as secretary for them. There are meetings to be arranged, halls to be engaged, and a thousand-and-one small matters to be attended to, which no secretary could be expected to look after without compensation. It is all very well for honorable members, such as Senator Pearce, to say that election agents are not required. The honorable senator will no doubt be able to secure the services of the secretary of the labour party in carrying out the work which many other candidates have to pay agents to perform. It is not every candidate who has a political organization to fall back upon, and it would not be fair to place independent candidates at a disadvantage.
– Let me ask Senator Pearce, in all kindness, whether there is not a little unconscious selfishness in his endeavour to eliminate the words “ election agents.” We all know very well that the working classes throughout the Commonwealth are endeavouring to secure as much parliamentary representation as they can. We do not blame them for that, but, unfortunately, there is a proneness on the part of labour members to represent one class only. We all admire the manner in which the working men are progressing, as a result of the close attention which they pay to organization. They pull together, and endeavour to help one another. It is quite possible for a labour candidate to have a hundred volunteer agents, and is it fair to deny to another candidate liberty to employ one agent to attend to his affairs, and to honestly remunerate him for his services? My honorable friends of the labour party have quite overlooked the fact that the Constitution provides that for the return of members to the Senate each State shall vote as one constituency. How is a professional man to make all the arrangements necessary for the conduct of a big campaign without the aid of a secretary ? During the campaign which I conducted recently in Tasmania I held 52 meetings, and consequently had to engage 52 halls. It was necessary for me to insert about 150 or 200 advertisements, and to deal with a voluminous correspondence. The whole campaign had to be organized. Why should my honorable friends opposite deny to all candidates the same right of organization that they claim for themselves? They know perfectly well that when agents of a certain standing are employed, they expect to be paid for their work. It is really amusing to hear members of the labour party suggesting that election agents should devote all their time to the service of a candidate without fee or reward. It seems to me that they are unconsciously endeavouring to benefit their own class without giving any consideration to the great majority of candidates who must employ clerical assistance and engage an agent if they are to successfully compete in an election in which each of these great States represents only one constituency.
– I cannot imagine any reason for the strong opposition exhibited to the payment of election agents. I have had an experience of electioneering matters extending over32 years. For thirteen years I acted as an election agent. I was never paid for my work, and never lived by the game. But if I had been remunerated, shouldI have been less honest than some of my honorable friends who oppose the Government proposal ? An election agent is supposed to be a very unscrupulous person, a mere hireling, who is utterly devoid of conscience and of principle.
– As a general rule he is.
– I deny that charge absolutely. I can produce abundant evidence in support of my statement, that as a rule election agents are strictly honest. I need only point to the case of Dr. Robert Spence Watson, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who acted as the agent of the combined libera] forces in the north of England.
Senator De Largie will remember the time when I contested Bundamba in 1888. He supported me most heartily, and, with others, subscribed a considerable sum of’ money to enable me to pay my election expenses, including my agent. The weakness of this clause is that it does not provide that the name of every candidate’s election agent shall be made known, and that he shall be saddled with the responsibility of any acts of maladministration and wrong-doing which occur during the conduct of an election. The English law provides that if a candidate appoints an agent, the name of such agent must be supplied to the returning officer and published. It lays down the principle that the agent shall be entirely responsible for the conduct of the election. This Bill should be amended in that direction. But it is simple nonsense to abuse election agents. I have known men who were quite agreeable to act as agents either for a conservative or a liberal candidate. Why should they be debarred from so doing ? Does any democrat who wishes to engage the services of a lawyer insist that his counsel shall hold opinions similar to his own ? Not at all ! I well remember being concerned in an election petition in support of a friend of mine whose counsel and solicitor were both strong conservatives, notwithstanding the fact that he was an equally staunch liberal. I hope that we shall take a broader and more comprehensive view of this matter and shall not attempt to damn through all eternity a man who acts as an election agent, simply because he receives a little money for the discharge of his duties. During the federal election campaign I employed an agent who looked after the printing and distribution of literature and attended to the whole of my correspondence. Because I gave him a few pounds for his services, is he to be branded as dishonest ? The idea is preposterous. My honorable friends opposite are indulging in a sweeping condemnation of men who are just as honest as themselves. I sincerely hope that this amendment will not he pressed to a division. If it is I shall oppose it.
– I hope the amendment will not be persisted in, partly because I feel sure that it will be defeated, but chiefly because after the very exhaustive way in which Senator Glassey has dealt with this question from the broadest and most comprehensive stand-point, Senator Pearce should be satisfied. If he is not, I shall make an appeal which I hope will satisfy him. He has told the committee that it was entirely owing to an election agent that I was returned to the Senate. I absolutely agree with him, and appeal to him to allow me to employ the same agent again. If this amendment be adopted, it may do me serious injury.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 16
Noes … … … 9
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– In the Tasmanian elections for the Federal Parliament candidates were allowed, and properly allowed, to use cabs, but I am unable to read “cabs” into any one of the seven privileges allowed under this clause. I take it, therefore, that the distinct intention is not to allow their use. The wealthy man, who is the occasional object of aversion to the labour corner, may use a dozen cabs or carriages at an election if he or his friends happen to own them, and that is an extremely common practice in other parts of the world. By clause 174 the limitation imposed is that the horse or carriage used for the conveyance of voters must not be for hire, but so far as I can see no question of bribery or corruption is associated with the use of cabs. Candidates expenses are limited to £250; andI am unable to perceive any real reason why private carriages should be used as freely as candidates choose, while we prevent payment to industrious cabmen for services rendered.
– I intend to stand by the policy of the Bill as set out in clause 174, which, under “ bribery,” includes the “ supply of meat, drink, or entertainment or horse or carriagehire for any voter with a view to influencing the vote of an elector.”
– Do not the words “ with a view to influencing the vote “ control the whole clause ?
– These words govern the whole clause, and a candidate will have to take the risk of it being shown that the cabs have been used to influence votes. In South Australia and Victoria, I believe, the use of cabs or carriages for hire is prohibited at elections, and honorable senators must admit that there could not be a more direct way of influencing the voter than by sending a vehicle to convey him to the poll. I shall oppose any amendment which conflicts with clause 174.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).. - The words of clause 174 are very ambiguous, and I should like to know whether the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil is satisfied with them. The honorable senator has practically said that a candidate may run the risk of conducting an elector to the poll in a cab. The wordsof the clause imply that there is bribery only when the hire for the carriage is paid with a view to influencing the vote. We ought to make it clear where bribery begins and ends. I disagree with the policy of forbidding the use of hired cabs, and permitting the use of private carriages ; and I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, if, on the consideration of clause 174, the committee agree that cabs may be used, he will give an opportunity to amend clause 168?
– The two clauses deal with different matters. Clause 168 limits the expenditure to a specified amount, and expenditure, which may be the most innocent in the world, cannot be included unless it comes within the sub-clauses of the clause under discussion. Clause 174 deals with bribery, which, either by the use of cabs, or the giving of money or liquor, is carried out with intent to influence votes. However innocent the use of cabs may be, I dp not think hired vehicles ought to be allowed amongst the recognised expenses.
– It would be better for Senator Clemons to test the feeling of the committee at the present time, though I imagine he will find himself in a helpless minority. If all the expenses allowed under this clause have to be paid out of the £250 allowed, there will not be much left for the hire of cabs, considering that in some States there are over 1,000 polling places.
– There are 22,000 polling places in New South Wales.
– The usualfee for a scrutineer is a guinea, and a man who can afford to pay for a scrutineer at each polling place will get a very considerable number of votes, a great many more than he willever gain by all the cabs he is likely to hire. It is a safety to a candidate, because it considerably decreases his expenses. If the use of cabs is allowed, he will be expected to pay for their hire if his means permit. It is advisable in the public interest not to allow the use of cabs, because by their ‘ employment a candidate can undoubtedly influence a considerable number of electors in his favour. It will be a great deal better for Senator Clemons to test the feeling of the committee at once.
– I feel so utterly pulverized that I shall not move an amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 169- “ Electoral expense “ includes all expenses incurred by, or on behalf, or in the interests of any candidate, at or in connexion with any election (excepting only the personal and reasonable living and travelling expenses of the candidate).
– I move-
That all the words after the word “election,” line 3, be omitted.
The objectof my amendment is to insure that the sum of £250 shall include all expenses. If it is considered ‘that that sum is not large enough, it should have been increased. One candidate may say that his living expenses are at the rate of £50 or £60 a week, and another that his living expenses are at the rate of £2 per week. The money must be spent while travelling about, in addition to the ordinary travelling expenses, but who is to judge what are “reasonable living and travelling expenses” of the candidate? I would prefer the Bill to prescribe an amount for these expenses, and not to allow a candidate to spend what he sees fit, and claim that they are reasonable, living and travelling expenses. I should like to see all candidates placed as nearly as possible on an equal footing.
– I cannot accept the amendment, because it is quite impossible to put candidates on the same footing. If you increase the sum you may allow a great deal too much in one place, and a great deal too little in another. You may have a small State to travel over, or you may have the whole of Queensland or Western Australia to travel over. How can you state any sum which will deal fairly with all cases? That is the objection to the amendment.
– A candidate who had sat in the Federal Parliament, or was a member of the State Parliament, would be able to travel free on the railways, but any other candidate would have to spend a large sum on railway tickets. If Senator Styles desires to place all candidates on an equal footing he ought to propose that every candidate should be allowed to travel free by the railways.
– I wish to call attention to a difficulty, and that is of saying when the electoral expenses of a candidate commence. I suggest that it is desirable to indicate in the Bill the time from which they are to be counted.
– This is a very interesting question, but there really need not be much difficulty. I suppose Senator Matheson refers to a case in which, a long time before an election came on, a man began to address meetings, and to adopt any of the usual methods of influencing the intelligence of the electors. I take it that the electoral expenses must have reference to a particular election, and that a candidate’s expenses would begin from the time when he was nominated, otherwise I do not see where you are to draw the line. A man might be engaged for years in laying the foundation for a seat in Parliament. You could not go back to analyze what his motives were when he began.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - If the electoral expenses do commence from the day of nomination, it ought to be specifically stated. A man may employ an election agent if he imagines that he is going to stand long before he is nominated.
In Western Australia he has to send an election agent right up to Roeburne, and the journey to and fro occupies a month. If the date from which electoral expenses are to count is indicated, then everybody will start on a fair footing. My suggestion is that the words “from the date of nomination” should be inserted after the word “election.”
Honorable Senators. - No.
– The necessity for inserting a definition is clearly shown by this debate, because no one can indicate the date from which justly the expenses should be counted. There ought to be a date on which a candidate is to begin to keep an account of his expenses.
– What is to prevent us from putting in 60 days ?
– I do not care what amendment is put in so long as something definite is inserted.
– I hope that Senator Matheson will consent to allow the clause to remain as it is. I really wonder that he cannot see that the Government started off first by limiting the expenses to £250, and then very carefully and prudently put in this clause, which does not define the time at which we may begin to spend.
– There is no value in limiting the amount to be expended unless you fix some time during which it is to be expended. If the date suggested by Senator Matheson were adopted, a candidate’s expenditure - certainly in connexion with a Senate election - would have been running for probably a full month. The time between nomination day and polling day would be altogether too brief to enable a candidate to travel very far in aState. It would be needful, therefore, for some date anterior to he selected. I suggest that it should be the date on which the candidate declares himself to be a candidate, whether it is by address published in print or delivered at a public meeting. That is truly the time when he may fairly be held to begin the spending of money in connexion with the election. We cannot include “ church subscriptions,” or any contribution of that sort. Some men nurse an electorate for a great length of time. In the old country it is not unusual for men to nurse an electorate for five years. It is quite impossible for any such period as that to be fixed upon. But after a candidate has announced his candidature, the expense, limit should run ; otherwise the candidate may spend thousands of pounds and absolutely annul the whole effect of the clause.
– I do not think there need be any difficulty about the clause if honorable senators look at what election expenses are. They are all matters which are defined in the Bill, and have relation to the purchase of rolls, the issuing and distributing of addresses, and notices of meetings, and so on. Those expenses may be incurred before or after the nomination. No doubt there may be cases on the border line, where it is difficult to decide whether an expenditure has been incurred in connexion with an election or not. The only tribunal which can decide that is the Court of Disputed Returns or some similar body. We have to wait until the matter comes up for decision, and the whole of the circumstances are inquired into. If we try to define the matter by laying down a hard and fast rule we may probably do an injustice, and even then we could not cover all cases.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 174 (Definition).
– I think the words “ or horse or carriage hire,” are calculated to confuse men who do not read this measure with the mind of a lawyer. It is perfectly true that clause 168 says that the only expenses which are to be incurred do not include horse and carriage hire, but all kind of difficulties may arise if these words are left in the Bill.
– We must leave in these words if we want to cover all cases of bribery. Bribery may just as effectually be carried on by driving people to the poll as by giving them drink.
Clause agreed to.
In addition to bribery and undue influence the following shall be illegal practices : -
Any publication of any electoral advertise ment or any issue of an electoral notice without at the end of the advertisement the name and address of the person authorizing the advertisement, and on the face of the notice the name and address of the person authorizing the notice.
– There is a class of document frequently distributed at elections, which ought to cany the name and address of the person authorizing its publication. I refer to objectionable pamphlets detrimental to candidates. They are usually circulated anonymously and broadcast on the morning of the poll, and there is no way of obtaining redress afterwards, because it is extremely difficult to find who has printed them. If we cannot prevent people from distributing these “dodgers,” we ought certainly to know the name of the person authorizing its publication. I suggest that we should add after the words” any publication” at the beginning of paragraph (a), the words “ alluding to a candidate or” ; and later on, after the words “ authorizing the” we should insert the word “publication.” It would then become absolutely essential for any one issuing any of these offensive “ dodgers “ to have his name printed on the face of it.
– I am quite in sympathy with Senator Matheson’s suggestion, and in order to carry it out, I move -
That after the word “ advertisement,” line 4, the words “handbill or pamphlet” be inserted ; that the words “of the advertisement,” line 5, be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ thereof ; “ and that the word “advertisement,” line 0, be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “same.”
Amendments agreed to.
Paragraph (6) consequentially amended.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 180 (Electoral offences).
– Would it not be well to add as an electoral offence the distributing of any handbill or pamphlet in contravention of the previous clause ? It may not be possible to get at the printer, but if we make the distribution an offence, we may strike at the issue of such objectionable documents.
– The suggestion is a good one, and to carry it out, I move-
That the following new paragraph be added to the “Table of electoral offences and punishments”: - “Distributing any advertisement, handbill, or pamphlet, in contravention of section 178 - penalty not exceeding £50, or imprisonment not exceeding one month.”
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I wish to draw attention to the paragraph providing a penalty not exceeding £50 for “ wagering on the result, of any election.” Is it seriously intended to enforce this penalty ? If it is, how would it be possible to carry out such a provision? I do not know what is the practice in the eastern States, but in Western Australia it is the invariable custom for nearly every one to bet on the result of an election. It always seems to me to be a mistake to create an offence, and to prescribe a penalty for it, when there is no intention to give effect to such a provision. Is it worth while retaining this paragraph ?
– This is a very large order. Wagering under certain conditions and in certain places is illegal, but the mere making of a wager is not.
– We can make a legal act illegal on grounds of public policy.
– I appeal to Senator O’Connor to withdraw this provision, under which a person making a private wager in his own house would be liable to a penalty.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that in such a case a fine of even1s. would be inflicted? This is to cover cases of covert bribery.
– The responsibility of this provision is with Senator O’Connor; and, therefore, I shall withdraw my opposition to it, although I think it is utterly wrong.
– This is not a new provision. It is the law at least in New South Wales, and we regard it as a matter of public policy that we should make bets on elections punishable, so as to render it impossible to adopt that plan in covert attempts at bribery.
– During the course of the debate on the Bill we have had evidence in support of the retention of this provision. Reference has been made to the case of an ex-Minister of the Crown in Tasmania who was unseated because of certain illegal acts. Subsequently when he offered himself for re-election, his friends went through the electorate and said to elector after elector - “I will bet you so much that so and so does not get in.” The result was that the people with whom the wagers were made voted for the candidate, and he was again returned.
– But this is a legal absurdity. If two people who are not electors made a wager on an election they would be liable under this provision.
– That is not the point I am discussing. In the case I referred to, the candidate was returned because his friends bribed a number of electors by making bets with them. Therefore I think this provision should be retained.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
There shall be a Court of Disputed Returns which shall be constituted by a Justice of the High Court of Australia, or a Judge of the Supreme Court of any State.
– Is the alternative proposal, that a Judge of the Supreme Court of any State shall constitute the court, merely to provide for the contingency of an appeal before the High Court of Australia is established? Unless that is the reason for it, I shall move an amendment providing that the only Court of Disputed Returns for federal elections shall be the High Court of Australia.
– The principal object in inserting the words “ or a Judge of the Supreme Court of any State “ is this. It may be impossible to have the trial before a Judge of the High Court in a State in which a disputed election takes place, and it may be convenient to have it dealt with by a Judge of the Supreme Court there. In the case of a disputed election in Western Australia for example, it would be probably very much more convenient to have the trial before a Supreme Court Judge in that State, where the witnesses resided, than to wait a long time for the hearing, or be compelled to have the trial before the High Court in Melbourne or in Sydney. In addition to that point, the provision has the operation pointed out by Senator Clemons, that until the High Court is established, appeals can be heard before a Supreme Court Judge of any State.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- While I agree with Senator O’Connor on the question of convenience, I think he will adopt my view as to the desirability of following the course he suggests. If there were a disputed return in Western Australia, both parties might prefer to have it decided - as 1 think we all consider it ought to be decided - by the High Court of Australia. I expect to see some provision in the Judiciary Bill for the High Court Judges to go on circuit, and if that be the case, a great deal of the objection as to delay, will be removed. We ought to have our own elections settled by our own court. Who is to decide which is to be the court ?
– The Government will have to take the responsibility.
– That will be an invidious position in which to place any Government.
– Both courts will be above reproach.
– They may or may not be. The answer of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to my inquiry affords a good reason for deciding that all appeals shall be dealt with by the High Court of Australia. If I do not succeed in convincing the committee that my view is the correct one, I shall ask the honorable and learned senator to give me an opportunity of testing the feeling of the committee when we have a fuller attendance.
– The proposal of my honorable colleague, Senator Clemons, would entail considerable delay and inconvenience, and I do not think we should pass legislation which would have the effect of depriving any State of a representative at a critical period. It is perfectly certain that the High Court of Australia will be sitting in Banco for three weeks together during three terms in the year, and while these sittings are taking place no Judge would be able to go to Western Australia, or to try any election case, even though the witnesses were brought to the place where the court was sitting. There is no reason for assuming that the Judges of the State courts would not be fully competent to deal with simple questions of .fact, such as arise in connexion with election disputes. Much more important matters are dealt with by the lowest courts of the Commonwealth. Perhaps questions involving the interpretation of the Constitution might arise in rare instances, but in the great majority of cases facts alone would be in dispute. On every ground I think we ought to provide for an alternative tribunal, and in the interests of economy and expedition I shall support the Government proposal.
– I quite agree with the view taken by Senator Clemons. If Senator Dobson’s argument were carried to its logical conclusion, we should strike out all reference to the High Court. His view is that all these matters might be easily dealt with by the lowest courts within the Commonwealth, but I entirely disagree with the honorable senator upon that point. I think we ought to have these questions decided by the highest tribunals to which wecan refer them, and there is no doubt that the High Court Judges will be selected from the most eminent lawyers in Australia. Senator O’Connor has mentioned that it might be necessary to have a case tried in Western Australia, and that it would be exceedingly difficult and costly to send a High Court Judge to that State. The natural deduction from his statement is, that Western Australia alone of a]] the States would probably never secure the services of a High Court Judge in such cases.
– That is not a necessary implication at all.
– It is, perhaps, not a necessary deduction, but a very natural one, If the position is as I have stated, it would be better to strike out all allusion to the High Court Judges, and allow every case to be tried by the State Judges. A majority of senators would be aghast at such a proposal, because it is almost certain that any cases arising in New South Wales or Victoria would be referred to the High Court. I am sorry that, so far as Western Australia is concerned, it is likely to be treated with very little consideration in this matter.
– This is a very important matter, and it must be threshed out. I move -
That the words “a Justice of the High Court of Australia, or “ be omitted.
I cannot understand why honorable senators wish to bring such very common matters as election disputes before the High Court of Australia. Senator Matheson talks about the great legal ability which will probably be found upon the benches of the High Court, but I have no doubt that that court will be constituted of men who will be appointed in order to repay them for services rendered, or in order to silence their opposition to the Government, and legal ability will have comparatively little to do with the matter. We should look at this matter from a common-sense point of view. Is it desired that in the event of a dispute occurring in Queensland the whole of those concerned shall be dragged down to Sydney or Melbourne, and be compelled to incur a large amount of unnecessary expense?We have many capable
Judges in Queensland, and in the other States also. Economy should be observed by us in all matters connected with the Commonwealth, and there is no reason why we should adopt the mode of proceeding which would be most expensive both for the Commonwealth andfortheparties concerned.
Senate adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020313_senate_1_8/>.