1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If simultaneously with the introduction of the proposed Tariff into the Senate, he will have printed and circulated among members an estimate of customs revenue to be derived from each item ?
– I cannot promise that this information can be supplied in reference to each item, but estimateswill be laid upon the table which, in conjunction with the estimates already published, will give all the information required.
Resolved (on motion by Senator Macfarlane) -
That leave of absence to the end of the session be granted to Senator Walker, on account of urgent private business.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th March,vide page 11032).
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) further considered -
That the following be inserted as a new clause: - “ 119a. Any elector may, after the issue of the writ, and not later than three days before polling day, make application in the form M1 in the schedule to the returning officer for the division in which he resides for avoter’s certificate.”
Upon which Senator Matheson had moved -
That the words, “ after the issue of the writ and’” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ at any time.”
Question - That the words proposed to he omitted stand part of the amendment - put. The committee divided -
Noes…….. : … 9
Majority … … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative. In division:
– The practice of the Victorian Parliament was, that no member could cross the floor of the House after the tellers were appointed, but our standing orders contain no such rule. I understand that the practice is, that if the name of an honorable member appears on both lists, he is called to the table and asked on which side he proposes to vote.
– I vote with the “Ayes.” I was sitting on that side before my name was marked with the “Noes.”
– I vote with the “ Ayes.” I sat with the “ Noes” under a misapprehension.
– I vote with the “Ayes.”
New clause agreed to.
Amendment (bySenatorO’Connor)agreed to-
That the following be inserted as a new clause: - “119b. The returning officer may thereupon issue to the applicant a voter’s certificate in the Form M2 inthe 1st Schedule.”
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the following be inserted as a new clause : - “119c. A voter’s certificate shall authorize the elector to whom it is issued to vote at the election specified therein at any polling place within the division.”
– This clause gives a man who holds a voter’s certificate the right to vote at any place within a division. Surely that limits his right in respect to voting at any election for the Senate. On that occasion no divisions should be taken into account. If we give a man the right to vote for the House of Representatives at any polling booth within a division, logically we should give him the right to vote for the Senate at any polling place within the State: I move -
That the new clause be amended by the addition of the words “in the case of elections for the House of Representatives ; or at any polling place within a State in the case of elections for the Senate.”
– I cannot accept the amendment because it would destroy the, whole basis of the machinery of the Bill. The voters are divided into divisions ; rolls are prepared in accordance with the divisions ; the divisions are divided into pollingplaces ; the rolls are arranged with regard to polling places ; and the plan of the Bill is that voters shall vote at their polling places. That is the only way by which we can give a reasonable means of identifying the voters ; otherwise it would be quite impossible to check the identity of the persons voting. As there is only one set of rolls for the Senate and for the House of Representatives, it is quite clear that we cannot work any of the checks which ore necessarily instituted for the purpose of seeing that voters are identifiable if we apply this amendment.
– These are for
– That does not make any difference. All a voter’s certificate can do is to allow the holder to vote in any part of the division, otherwise he is bound to vote at his polling place. With a certificate he can roam over the division and vote at any place, but not without a check. As soon as the certificate is issued the returning officer notes the fact upon the list, or if time does not permit he ‘telegraphs to the presiding officer who notes it on the list. As voters’ certificates cannot be issued within three days of the polling, there is ample time to notify every polling place from which a voter’s certificate is issued. In that case there is an efficient check. If the vote may be cast in any port of the State it is quite clear there will be no check. Besides, the amendment would necessitate a roll for the Commonwealth at every polling place. Supposing that a man was on the roll for a Sydney electorate, and that he wished to vote at Bourke for the Senate election, he could not vote there unless there was a roll containing his name. The Bourke roll would not contain his name, and unless there was a Commonwealth roll containing his name it would not be on any roll except that of the place where he lived. It is quite unnecessary to have a Commonwealth roll, which would be enormously expensive. It would so complicate the machinery that it could not be worked. We should have no check if we had a roll of that size. I hope that Senator Matheson will see that as far as we can go in this direction facilities have been given.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - It would seem that Senator O’Connor has quite misunderstood the drift of my amendment. We give certificates by which voters are entitled to vote at any polling booth within a division,’ and when that right is exercised there is no check except that provided by notifying the registrar at the voter’s own polling booth - the one registrar who has the name on his list - of the fact that the voter has been given a voter’s certificate. The man who has got a voter’s certificate can go into any polling booth in a division and, by presenting his certificate, vote. But there is no check beyond the certificate. What I urged was that in the case of an election for a senator, the man who got his voter’s certificate in the State concerned, should be able to go to any polling booth in the State on the roll of which he is and vote. I do not think that Senator O’Connor saw that that was the drift of my argument, because he spoke as if I meant that if a man were on the Commonwealth roll in New South Wales, he should be able to vote in Western Australia.
– No ; I was referring to one State. My difficulty is that unless we have a roll containing the whole of the names of the Commonwealth electors of a State, I do not see how the honorable senator’s scheme can be worked.
– Senator O’Connor overlooks the fact that when a man goes to vote on his certificate, it is not necessary to check his name off. It was checked off originally when he applied for the certificate. Seeing that an election for a senator will be carried on throughout the whole of the State, and not merely in any particular division, it is only fair to allow the elector to exercise his vote throughout the State, and not confine him to a particular division.
– There is not so much difficulty about this proposal as Senator O’Connor imagines. Queensland is a large State, with an enormous territory, and comparatively few people, who are widely spread over it. There is, generally speaking, no part of Queensland but has 1,000 people more or less settled upon it. We have something like 700 or 800 polling places, and for the House of Representatives there are nine electorates. The State rolls are bound up in volumes. Each of the volumes is sent to every polling place, so that at the election for the Senate the electors, no matter where they were situated, were able to vote. We have had no trouble nor heart-burnings, and, so far as I am aware, no cases of personation. There may have been a few cases of double voting, but honorable senators were supplied with a list of the persons who voted in that way, and if they had desired to take action, could have done so by informing the authorities. But no such malpractices have been carried out by voters as is feared by Senator O’Connor and others. We are all agreed that we ought not to throw obstacles in the way of voters discharging their rights as citizens. It has been the practice in Queensland for a long time to prevent as many people as possible from voting, but surely the Senate will rise above that sort of thing, and say that every reasonable facility shall be given to voters. It is a mistake to say that there is no check. Every name is ticked off as the voter votes, and the rolls are afterwards sent to the central polling booth, where the main count takes place. There they are scanned by scrutineers, candidates, and the most capable persons we are able to procure. The right of voting belongs to the citizens, and we have no moral right, whatever we may do legislatively, to throw obstacles in the way of a man or a woman going to the polling booth and voting for the election of senators. I appeal to the committee not to take a narrow view of the matter, but to believe, from the experience of Queensland, that there is a perfect check, that the most minute comparisons are made, and that it is perfectty possible to trace any individual who has been guilty of malpractice at an election.
– It may be possible to have such a check as Senator Glassey refers to in a State like Queensland, where the rolls, so far as concerns the number of electors, are not enormous. But that would be utterly impossible in States like New South Wales or Victoria, in which there were perhaps a quarter of a million of voters. I had 86,000 votes at the Senate election, although I did not poll more than half of the number of names on the roll. How would it be possible for an officer controlling a booth to check certificates among so large a number of voters? Moreover, there is not the least necessity for the amendment, because a man can vote in any place in which he may happen to be. Several methods are open to him under the Bill.
– The amendment of Senator Matheson is only the logical sequence of what we have done in the case of the House of Representatives. We have provided that a voter who gets a certificate shall be able tovote at any polling place in the district for which he is an elector. When we come to the elections for the Senate, where a State has to be polled as one constituency, a voter’s certificate should carry the same right as in the case of a single electorate. A plan similar to that proposed by Senator Matheson has been adopted in Tasmania and has been attended with success, and without any of those disadvantages which have been foreshadowed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Senator Eraser. Of course it will be said with regard to Tasmania, as it was said of Queensland, that it is only a small State. I admit that.
But I do not see why a principle which has been applied in a State so large, territorially considered, as Queensland is, with a comparatively large roll, should not he applied in a compact State where the community is closer to the centres of population, and the polling places are somewhat near together, as in “Victoria. We had such a system in vogue in Tasmania on three occasions when the State was polled as one constituency. Arrangements were made for votes to be polled by voters who were away from their own polling places, and precautions were taken to prevent anything in the nature of personation. It was possible for an elector, when away from the division in respect of which he was registered as an elector, to enter the nearest polling place and vote. All he had to do was to say, “ As an elector for this State I wish to have a ballot-paper, because I am on the roll for the district of - “ we will say Ringarooma. The elector might want to vote in a district like Montague, on the west coast. The returning officer would give him a ballot-paper of the same kind as an ordinary ballot-paper, and which had to be accounted for at the end of the day to the chief returning officer for the State. The elector would mark that ballot-paper as he would mark an ordinary ballot-paper. An envelope would be given to him, in which he would then place the paper folded”. The envelope could, of course, be made in such a manner that absolute secrecy would prevail. The envelope would be closed and addressed to the district returning officer for the particular district in respect of which the elector claimed that he was registered as a voter, the voter first signing his name on the outside of the envelope. The envelope would be posted the same evening to the returning officer for that district. The returning officer would see the name of the elector upon the envelope, would look through the rolls that had been used at the election, find whether that name was on the roll, and whether the elector had exercised his vote. If he had not, the vote contained in the envelope would be counted, just as if the elector had been present, and had recorded his vote in the ordinary way. That system was adopted in Tasmania for the two federal referenda, and for the elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives. I. believe that every honorable senator from Tasmania will join with me in saying that there was nothing in the nature of the mildest form of protest against the adoption of that system, and that everything was done to prevent anything in the nature of personation. The only objection raised to the system was that there was a tendency to deprive the voter who recorded his vote away from his polling place of the secrecy which would characterize his voting in his own district. In answer to that it was said that where the voter is getting exceptional privileges he cannot expect to have the same advantages as where he would enjoy ordinary privileges. But it is quite possible to have an envelope specially made on lines similar to those that are to be used in the proposed voting by post, by means of which an elector away from the poll might be able to enjoy the secrecy of the ballot, and record his vote without any such a disadvantage attaching to it.
– Is not that practically voting by post?
– There is a great deal of difference, because in voting by post the elector has to apply beforehand for his postal ballot-paper. But he may not know until the night before the election that he will be away from home on the polling day, and that he will have to leave at half-past seven in the morning, before the polling booth opens. He may be 100 miles away at twelve o’clock, and what chance has he of applying for a voter’s certificate 1 But where a man is in that position he can go to the nearest polling booth, under the system I am referring to . Our large territory and comparatively small population is responsible for the fact that our people are constantly moving. Tasmania has a much smaller territory than the other States, a,nd the people there are, comparatively speaking, far more stationary, yet 5 or 6 per cent, of the votes polled at the last federal elections were those of persons who took advantage of this system. I have been asked whether, under this scheme, the votes were always returned to the district returning officer. In some instances, the ballot-papers, used and unused, as well as the rolls, were, I think, forwarded direct to the chief returning officer. It was competent, I think, for any district officer, who had received votes by post, to post them direct to a chief returning officer of the State. If that officer saw that a certain elector, John Thomas Brown, we will say, claimed to have a vote for the district of Ringarooma, he simply had to turn to the
Ringarooma roll, which had been forwarded to him, and on ascertaining that the man’s name did appear on the roll, and that his vote had nob been exercised in Ringarooma, he gave full effect to the ballot-paper which had reached him in the sealed envelope. I fail to see why Senator O’Connor should have very much objection to the principle proposed by Senator Matheson. Two States, very diverse in their characteristics, have adopted this course in the past, and there has been no cavillingat the results. I believe that at the last Senate elections in Western Australia it was competent for an elector to vote at the nearest polling place, although there they did not adopt any of the precautions which were adopted in Queensland and Tasmania, in order to prevent personation.
– What is the check on the issue of the voting-papers ?
– There is no check ; a returning officer can give any one applying for it a ballot-paper. But might I point out that the very objection raised by Senator Millen to a system like that which I have referred to prevails in the case of an individual who goes to his own polling place, unless it is possible to identify every elector. In many instances 60 to 70 per cent. of the voters are unknown to any one at the polling places. We have been told that personation occurs without voting by post, and if we are going to raise objections of that character we shall absolutely prohibit the introduction of many liberal and very necessary provisions in our electoral machinery. The provisions to which I have referred are not actually contained in the Tasmanian Electoral Act. They were introduced by regulation under the Act in connexion with the federal referendum, and they were found to be of so much value that if the people were denied such privileges in the future they would consider that they were deprived of something which was almost their inherent birthright. The commercial community, travellers, and others, find these voting facilities of almost incalculable value, and I sincerely hope that if we do not have the principle proposed by Senator Matheson incorporated in the Bill, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not depart from the liberal system that has been followed by Tasmania and Queensland, but that he will so frame the measure that an opportunity will be given to have provisions of that character provided in regulations framed under it.
– I regret that Senator Keating did not make the speech which he has just delivered when we were dealing with clause 135, because it would have removed the fear in the minds of honorable senators that personation would be possible under the proposed alteration of that clause. Even if we carry the arneudment proposed by Senator Matheson, we shall not help the voter who does not secure a voter’s certificate three days before polling day, and in order to meet the cases mentioned by Senator. Keating, it will still be necessary to recommit clause 135.
– This proposal would overcome the honorable senator’s objection to clause 135.
-No. It would not meet the case of men who had to leave their own polling districts on election day without notice, nor would it meet the case of men situated in remote’ portions of great divisions. For instance, we have a place called Roeburn in the north-west of Western Australia, and the head polling place for that district is Coolgardie. It takes from three weeks to a month for a letter from Roeburn to reach Coolgardie, so that it would be absolutely impossible for a person residing there to obtain a certificate after the issue of the writ. Let us take a simple illustration bearing on the suggestion that personation would be possible under this amendment. Here is a list of voters for Melbourne upon which the name of John Jones appears. Jones takes out a voter’s certificate, with the intention of voting at Geelong. His name is checked at the Melbourne booth, and if any other man comes to vote in his name, he must produce a certificate. Thus personation would not be possible.
– If John Jones were known to be out of the country, some one else could apply for his certificate at the other end of the State?
– In the same way, under the present system, any one could go to the polling booth, say that he was John J ones, and demand his right to vote. There is always that danger, and by providing that the certificates’ shall be operative in any part of a State, we do not make the possibility of personation greater. In crowded cities a returning officer does not know 1 per cent. of the voters, nor do the scrutineers. The amendment would give rise to no danger nor would it cause any greater delay than occurs under the present system. Surely it is well to insure that electors in remote places shall have the same facilities for recording their votes as are enjoyed by those in the cities 1 I hope Senator Matheson’s amendment will be carried, and that we shall recommit clause 135 in order to meet the case of those who do not receive sufficient notice that they are likely to be away from their districts on. polling day, to enable them to take out certificates three days before the elections.
– I think Senator Keating has done good service in explaining the plan adopted in Tasmania to meet the case of electors who happen to be away from their homes on polling day.
– Under the Tasmanian practice has a voter to obtain a voter’s certificate 1
– No. I think the Tasmanian Parliament took this step in advance in .connexion with the federal referendum, because it was thought that there’ was not the same likelihood of personation us there would be in the case of a poll for the election of certain candidates. If I recollect rightly, the Bill relating to the federal referendum gave the Governor in Council large powers to frame regulations, and one of the most useful regulations made was that referred to by Senator Keating. Senator O’Connor has from time to time pointed out the great voting facilities which the Bill confers upon electors ; but I think he would do well to consider whether it would not be wise to ask Senator Matheson to withdraw his amendment, in order to adopt the fuller measure of facilities which we have in Tasmania. If he will do that, I am sure that Senator Matheson will acknowledge that it will go further than his proposal. We ought “not to be frightened by the bogy of personation. A man who attempted personation under the Tasmanian system would be compelled, in order to make his vote effective, to sign the evidence of his wrong-doing on the face of his ballot-paper. I think that the incorporation of the Tasmanian system would make the Bill thoroughly democratic.
– The different systems which have been proposed are likely to make the Bill not only cumbersome, but ineffective. If the Tasmanian system, which has worked so effectively, is incorporated in the BDI, there is no need to provide for voting by post, or the issue of voters’ certificates. We ought not to legislate for every special case which is mentioned, and, if we did, our legislation would prove to be ineffective. Senator Pearce has said that in one division of Western Australia it would take- three or four weeks for a letter to pass through the post-office to the returning officer. That is a very special case. I asked Senator Dawson whether he knew of a case of that kind in Queensland, which is also a vast territory, and he told me that, so far as he knew, there could be no such cases. If we attempt to legislate for every case, the Bill, instead of giving voting facilities, will prove an abortion. I doubt whether there are very many places in Australia where it would take three or four weeks to pass ballotpapers or voters* certificates through the post. If this system is adopted for the Commonwealth, it will simplify, to a very great extent, the electoral machinery. It will also meet the objection urged by some honorable senators with regard to voting in any division or in any electorate throughout the State. In that way we shall make a distinct gain. I am not prepared right off to vote for a proposal of that character, but it is well worth considering, and if the sense of the committee should be in favour of its adoption, it might be incorporated in the Bill at a later stage.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I was surprised to hear Senator. Barrett say that there are only very few places in Queensland where it would take two or three weeks for a communication to reach the centre where the main count takes place. There are numbers of places where it would take three or four weeks for a communication to be received. At the senatorial elections fully a month elapsed after polling day before all the returns were received from outside polling places, and good swimmers had to be employed to bring in the returns, as some of the districts were flooded. It took me ten days continuous travel to reach the southern portion of an electorate I used to represent, and if I had gone straight ahead it would have taken me fully a fortnight to get to the far end of it. We must make allowance for long droughts, when a man can only travel at easy stages, and has to carry horse feed. Besides long droughts, we have heavy floods and numerous other difficulties to contend with. The committee .has no right to disfranchise ‘ an elector if facilities can be given to him to cast his vote. I admit that we cannot provide for every single case, but we can make the widest provision to meet as many cases as possible. I am not speaking of isolated cases, but of hundreds of cases. Take the Queensland State elections on the 11th March. The last returns will not come to hand until a month after the polling day. At every election we have had to wait over a month before the final returns had come in. I hope that honorable senators who represent small States will provide for the needs of other States where the people have not such convenient facilities for voting.
– While the Tasmanian method has a good deal to recommend it, there is a great deal of force in the remark of Senator Barrett that we cannot provide for every case. If we once begin to provide for special cases we shall get into all sorts of difficulties. If this provision is made it can be universally applied ; it may be applied in the close centres of population, as well as in outside places. We have to pay regard to the effect of the amendment, because we have to consider the voting of Australia as a whole. All we can do is to give such facilities to voters outside as are consistent with the working of the scheme of the Bill. It would be quite impossible to carry out the system proposed by Senator Matheson. It will necessitate having at each polling place the complete roll for the State. In New South Wales, with adult suffrage, there “will be 500,000 electors on the rolls, and unless an enormous pile of rolls is provided at every polling place this system will be of no value. I do not quite see how the Tasmanian system can be worked consistently with the rest of the Bill. It is worked apparently under regulations which were passed at a time when it was necessary to take a vote of the State. In New South Wales, when it was necessary to take a vote by referendum, we swept away all the electoral divisions, and took the chance of any impersonation or wrong-doing, because it was impossible to provide in time a system to insure the recording of everybody’s vote. I think that very much the same thing was done in Victoria, and apparently regulations were introduced for that purpose in Queensland. I very much doubt whether it would be possible to apply the regulations in such a way as to be workable under any such system. ‘ In Tasmania they have not the postal vote. There is no doubt that we may have many different ways of making voting convenient to the elector. The system we have adopted is the system of the postal vote and the voter’s certificate. It seems to me that the postal vote will deal with 99 out of every 100 of the cases which have been mentioned.’ Unfortunately we cannot provide for the hundredth case. No matter what your system may be, you will not enable every one to vote.
– The system of yoting by post did operate excellently in Tasmania, but I have very grave doubt as to whether it could be made to operate with equal care and facility in the larger States. We also had a provision that each polling place should be provided with a full roll of the electors of Tasmania. That was easily done in so small a community..
– No ; only in Launceston and Hobart.
– It was thought necessary at Hobart and Launceston to have a full roll of the electors of Tasmania. With that safeguard voting by post might be an excellent arrangement, but without that safeguard it might be open to many dangers. The voter’s certificate will adequately fill the place which was occupied in Tasmania by that method.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I do not think that Senator Clemons understands the purport of my amendment which does not refer to voting by post. Senator O’Connor says that every polling booth will have to be supplied with a complete roll of the States in order to check the votes of those who use voters’ certificates. That must be a mistake. A man has to present his voter’s certificate when he votes, but there is no provision in the Bill for the presiding officer to check the voter’s certificate with any roll. The object of my amendment is to enable the holder of a voter’s certificate who wishes to vote for a senator to vote at any polling booth in his State. For that purpose it is absolutely unnecessary for any polling booth to have a roll for the whole State.
– However admirable the Tasmanian system may be for that State, it is, according to Senator Glassey’s statement, absolutely impossible of adoption for Queensland. The point of the system, according to Senator Keating, is that the voting-paper is at once sent by post to the registrar of the district in which the voter resides, and so there is an immediate check in case of any malpractice. But Senator Glassey says that in Queensland there are times when good swimmers have to be sent out to bring in returns from outlying places in that vast territory. In New South Wales we had to wait for a considerable time for the returns for the senatorial elections to be brought in by camels from several districts. It was fully a month after polling day before all the returns were received in Sydney. If a month can elapse in the receipt of a return, it can elapse in forwarding voting-papers for checking. Then another month must elapse ere it can be known whether there has been fraudulent voting or not. It must be proved that the votes which have been submitted for registration have been fair, square, and above board, which would be a matter of grave consequence if there were only a few votes dividing two candidates. If it takes such a long time for the papers to be received it would take an equally long time for them to be checked. In the case of a paper registered in some out-of-the-way district, the returning officer would have to notify to head-quarters if there had been any malpractice, and that would delay the declaration of the poll. I am entirely in favour of offering every facility for voting, but I should not like to see anything done to offer facilities for malpractice and personation. We know perfectly well that personation does take place in connexion with elections, and that it has to be provided against. If the facilities are made unreasonably wide we legislate in the direction of fraud, not of honest voting.
– Senator Matheson’s amendment does not seek to allow indiscriminate voting all over Australia. What it provides is that the principle of voting by certificate in a division shall be extended all over a State. If that is practicable in an election in a division for the House of Representatives, it is also practicable in an election in a State for the Senate. No inordinate delay is necessary, and there is no possibility of greater frauds taking place in respect of Senate elections than in regard to those for the House of Representatives. The first thing for a voter to do if this amendment is carried, to entitle him to vote in any polling place in a State, will be ‘to get a certificate. When that is obtained, his vote is already checked. It does not then matter in what portion of the State he records his vote. All the returning officer has to do, wherever the vote is recorded, is to send it where it ought to go to. If it takes a month to send the returns from any one polling place in a State to the central polling place, it will take no longer to send a certificate; and it will not take five minutes to check it. It will not have to go back to be checked in the place where the vote was recorded. If honorable senators will look at it in that light, they will see that there is no greater difficulty in dealing with these certificates for a whole State, than in dealing with them for a division in the case of elections for the House of Representatives. I therefore have much pleasure in supporting Senator Matheson’s amendment, which is as reasonable as it can possibly be.
– One would think, from hearing some honorable senators, that Senator Matheson’s amendment was entirely new. But we have heard a clear explanation from Senator Keating as to a similar system which was in force in Tasmania at thelast election. We have heard a similar explanation from Senator Glassey with regard to Queensland, and from Senator Pearce in regard to Western Australia. I intend to quote from the Queensland Government Gazette, dated 15th February, 1901, certain of the regulations under which the election of senators took place in that State. Regulation 2 is as follows : -
At each polling place for the election of senators there shall be kept on the day of the election one complete set at the least of all the electoral rolls then in force for the several electoral districts of the State, so that the right of every elector claiming to vote may be immediately verified and allowed.
At each polling place in Queensland a complete copy of all the rolls was kept. The Queensland Government bore the expense, and is not entirely bankrupt yet. What is possible in Queensland is possible throughout the Continent of Australia, though I admit that the Tasmanian system is better. The last words of that regulation express all that we want. We desire that every elector, no matter where he may happen to be on thepolling-day so long as he is in the State concerned, shall have the privilege of voting. I think it was Mr. Gladstone who said that the purpose of all laws should be, to make obedience to the law as easy as possible. The purpose of all electoral laws should be to make voting as easy as possible, and not to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of electors exercising the franchise. Of course the old fear of the personator will be brought up. We know that the personator exists, but there are policemen and officials set apart for the purpose of detecting that particular crime. We have punishments to be imposed upon persons who are found guilty of violating this law. No bona fide and honest elector should be prohibited from voting because some dishonest individual may commit a breach of the law. We have all heard the old adage that is is better that ten guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should be punished. Similarly, I claim that it is better that ten dishonest persons, if so inclined, should be allowed to personate at an election, than that one bond fide elector should be prohibited from exercising his right upon election day. Clause 5 of the Queensland regulations provides -
Before delivery of the ballot-paper to the elector, the presiding officer shall mark the same on the back thereof with his initials, in ink or pencil, and also with the name of the electoral district for which the elector claims to vote, and shall also write upon the back of the left-hand upper corner of the ballot paper, in ink or pencil, the number set against the name of the elector in the electoral roll.
Unfortunately, honorable senators representing some of the States live under entirely different conditions from people in the other States. City senators do not seem to understand the needs of electors who live in the distant parts of States like Queensland. They should try to broaden their thought, and to study the needs of the whole continent, realizing the difficulties under which people live and have to contend against in the far-out portions of the country. It has been clearly proved that if the Bill passes as it stands, a large number of bond fide electors will be disfranchised. If no complaints were made against similar provisions to those now proposed in three States, what reason is there for any fear with regard to the whole continent? It is not enough to say that personation is possible under this system. It is possible under any system. The most perfect system is that which places the fewest obstacles in the way of men recording their votes. If any man is caught personating, and the offence is proved against him, let him be punished severely, and let the punishment be such as will reduce the crime to a minimum. That is the remedy ; but it is no remedy to disfranchise thousands because a few may personate.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 15
Noes … … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
New clause agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That the following new clauses be inserted : - “ 119 (d). The returning officer shall note on the list of voters all voters’ certificates issued.” “119 (e). If there is not time to conveniently note the issue of any voter’s certificate on any list of voters, the returning officer shall immediately advise the presiding officer at the polling place at which the elector is entitled to vote of the issue of the voter’s certificate.”
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted : - ‘ In elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his ballot-paper by making a cross in the square opposite the name of each candidate for whom he votes. The voter may vote for the full number of candidates to be elected or any less number, but not for any greater number.”
This will take the place of clause 146, which prescribed the proportional system of voting, but which has been omitted. The new clause may be briefly described as providing for the application of the block system with liberty to plump. In an election for a Chamber such as, the Senate, there is no half-way house between proportional representation and the block system. The only fair way of applying the block system is to allow a voter to vote as he likes as long as he does not vote for more than the number to be elected. The block vote with the right to plump exists already in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, but in New South Wales and Victoria it is not allowed. In Tasmania, as we know, the last elections for the Senate took place under the proportional system of voting, so that out of the five States in which the block system was in force on the occasion of the last elections, three adopted the principle of plumping, while the remaining two prohibited it. Apart from that, however, the very strong reason which exists in favour of allowing men to vote as they like, is that if we do not give them that liberty they will take care to use the system so as to obtain it. At the Senate elections for New South Wales it was necessary to vote for six persons, no more and no less. But as one may suppose, those who wished to give all their electoral weight to one or two particular candidates were not to be restricted in their operations by a provision of that kind. Electors belonging to parties who thought that they would not have sufficient strength to return the six members to be elected, although they might be able to win two seats, took care to vote for four candidates who had no chance of being returned and who were popularly described as “ wasters.” The result was that a large number of these “wasters,” who, under ordinary circumstanses had not the least chance of getting more than a few votes, secured a good number because they were placed on special lists. We know that there were dozens of these lists in which perhaps one, two, or three men whom it was desired to return were bracketted with others who could not, under any possibility, be elected. Not only were men selected who were already on the lists for the purpose of being used in that way, but there were cases in which men stood for that express purpose. I admit that the requirement of a deposit would have made a considerable difference, but whether a deposit was necessary or not it is evident that at these elections there would be a large number of candidates who would have no chance of being returned, or who, at all events, would be considerably weaker than others, but who would be voted for in some cases in order to avoid the defeat of two or three special candidates whom certain sets of electors desired to return. Any such system is a wrong one, and no system ought to be allowed which so distorts or misuses the electoral machine that it compels men to vote for candidates for whom they do not desire to vote. The system to which I have referred sometimes results in the return of men whom no one desires to see elected. Some “ waster” may be picked out by three or four different sets of voters, every one looking upon him as having the least chance of being elected ; and in that way he is sometimes returned.
– Has any such case occurred 1
– No case of the kind occurred in connexion with the Senate elections in New South Wales, but honorable senators who know anything of other elections must be aware that such cases frequently occur. Can any one point to any case in the three States where plumping was allowed in which the abuse has occurred 1
– Yes, I can point to a case in which a “waster” was returned because of it.
– If that is the honorable senator’s illustration, I do not think it does my argument any harm.” If I may be asked for examples of the misuse of the system under which every man is compelled to vote for the full number of candidates to be returned, I should like to know whether any abuses were found, in the three States where plumping was allowed ? It appears to me that a very strong case has been made out for giving an elector the right to vote for as few or as many candidates as he likes, so long as he does not vote for more than the number required to be elected. It is only in that way that we can give the elector the full right to exercise the number of his votes, and the full force of the electoral power to which he is entitled.
– I intend to follow Senator O’Connor’s example in making my remarks as brief as possible. We are all acquainted with the defects, disadvantages, and mischiefs of plumping, and know that, as Senator O’Connor says, it permits a kind of escape to the voter from the exercise of his franchise. But Senator . O’Connor has used some very strong language in denouncing the system which compels the voter to exercise his full franchise if he goes to the poll. I should be very glad to see a reform extending so far as to compel every voter to exercise his franchise. We have not reached that stage yet, but it would certainly be a great reform in the interests of everything that is democratic. Short of that, we should at least compel every one who has this trust vested in him to exercise his vote for the full number of candidates to be elected. Senator O’Connor has said that it is a distortion and a misuse of the privilege to compel a voter to exercise his full franchise.
– I said that a system under which a man was compelled to vote for the whole number was liable to be distorted.
– I understood Senator O’Connor to say that the system was liable to be distorted and misused by the voter throwing away his vote on some one whom he did not desire to be elected, but who was simply put up as a kind of rubbish basket, with the result that in the case which he imagined, rather than had in his mind as an actual instance, the “ waster,” as he is called, would be elected. I have not known an instance in which the so-called “waster” has been elected in that way, and I do not believe that any such instances have occurred. I have known, as Senator Playford has known, cases in which, under the system of plumping, which unfortunately is permitted in South Australia, the man whom a constituency has not desired has been elected. If there is a considerable number of candidates, and there is a determination to plump for a particular candidate, the plumpers may return that man, although he is not the choice of the constituency, and the great body of the constituency would not have him if the votes were properly recorded. There is no difficulty in a man exercising his franchise. If there are three or four men whom he desires to be specially chosen he votes for them, and from the other candidates he picks out those whom he thinks next best, and votes for them. Why should he not be compelled to do so ? We have settled.the question of the inapplicability of proportional voting to the Senate. The Senate is the States House. We want not sections but solidarity represented, and if we have each State with a representation of six senators, then every citizen of the State ought to vote for six senators. That is the constitutional consequence of the attitude we have taken up. It would be disastrous if we introduced a provision under which an elector might vote for any number less than six. The possibilities which are thrown in the way of the “ boss “ system in America, by means of plumping, are beyond what we can imagine. The evils of plumping have been notorious in South Australia ever since I have been acquainted with the electoral system. Efforts have been made to put a stop to it from time to time, and I believe that before very long they will succeed. I. move -
That the word “may,” line 4, be omitted, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the word “shall.”
– Inthe system of voting originally proposed in this Bill we had compulsory plumping, and in the system now proposed we have optional plumping, which, in my opinion, is infinitely more mischievous than the one “it supersedes. In proportional voting every one’s voting power is the same, and therefore we have an equality of votes. Under the sys tem now proposed, it is possible for a body of electors to strike at the very principle of equal representation. It is possible for a minority of the people to elect a candidate against the wish of the majority, by concentrating their votes on one man. They will take good care not to let it be known that they intend to plump, and a man can be returned who could not be elected if the voters had to vote for the full number of representatives. That system is just as bad in its results as plural voting. With plural voting one person exercises a great deal more voting power than another. If a person chooses to vote for only one of three candidates he exercises only one-third of his voting power and another person will exercise three times as much voting power. Is that one vote one value ? The true principle of democracy is that every person shall exercise the same voting power; and that should be embodied in the Bill. The question has been asked, If at the next Senate election two protectionists and two free-traders stand for a State, how can a protectionist vote for three protectionists?” The answer to the question is very simple. Every well organized party will see that a sufficient number of candidates representing its views stand for the vacant seats. In Victoria, where it was necessary to vote for six. candidates, they had a free-trade party, a protectionist party, a liberal party, and a labour party, with the result that three protectionists, one free-trader, and two democrats were returned. When I stood for election to the Senate, I condemned plumping on almost every platform. I asked the electors not to plump for me, but to vote for the six best candidates. I never mentioned plumping, either publicly or privately, unless it was to condemn it. It is unpatriotic for a person to vote for one candidate instead of the full number of men to be returned. If an elector desires to see the best men returned to represent his State, he will vote for the full number to be returned. But if he wishes by a side wind to get in a certain person he will plump. It is a suicidal policy for a liberal, a democrat, or a labour man, to plump. If each party at the next election is represented by three candidates, the votes will not be wasted, and the full strength of each party will be shown. Senator O’Connor says that we shall attain the same end whether we allow plumping or not. If that is so, I do not understand why he so strenuously supports plumping. Plumping does not have the same effect. Organizations will tell their adherents to vote for a certain man, and’ to throw away two votes ; but their followers will be more patriotic, and instead of following that advice they will vote for the three best men they can get. I am going to support the amendment, because if it is carried, not only will every person have a vote, but the result of the vote of each person will be equal.
– I can conscientiously support the new clause because I’ think it is not right to compel an elector to vote for a candidate whom he does nob know, or whose capacity or ability to fill the position he is ignorant of. If there are only four candidates in each State, for the three vacant seats at the next election, there will be very many electors who will only have a fair idea of the ability of two of them. At all events, there will be many electors who anxiously want to see two candidates returned, and are quite indifferent as to which of the other two is the successful candidate. Is it not better to allow the elector to vote for the two candidates he prefers, and- leave the choice of the third to those who know the ability and capacity of some third man 1 This is simply a question of allowing a man to exercise the full force of his electoral power of voting for one man if he only knows one man, for two if he knows two, and for three if there are three candidates whom he wishes to see returned. Seeing that there are three States in which plumping has been allowed from the time constitutional government was granted to them, I object to this right being taken away. I shall support the clause, because it is a fair one.
– This discussion is only a continuation of the debate on preferential voting. Notwithstanding that the committee threw out the proposal brought in by the Government in favour of proportional voting, there is a general consensus of opinion in the Chamber in favour of that principle. The objection to the method proposed by the Government was that it was too complicated for the elector to understand easily. In bringing in this clause the Government are carrying out the wish of the majority of honorable senators. The clause approaches as nearly as possible to the method originally proposed in the Bill. Every vote cast ought to reflect the opinion and will of the elector. An elector cannot have two opinions on one question. Suppose he wishes to vote on the fiscal question, and there are six candidates to be elected - it would be utterly impossible for that elector to give a consistent vote by voting for three free-traders and three protectionists. By so doing he would practically stultify one half of his voting power. If we wish to give the voter the opportunity to express his will in the manner he desires, we shall allow him. to vote for as few candidates as he pleases within the number to be elected. Unless we do that we take from him a privilege, and compel him to vote for candidates whom he does not wish to see returned. We have seen the results of such a system in both Victoria and New South Wales, where the tickets of the Aye and of the Baily Telegraph have been paramount. In the other four States where plumping was allowed, candidates were returned who were more in harmony with the opinions of the majority of the electors than were the sucessful candidates in those two States. We ought not to rob the minority of representation by making them sub-divide their votes amongst those candidates whom they do not wish to see returned. I am satisfied that the electors of Western Australia want no alteration of the existing system, and that there is a strong’ feeling there in favour of preferential voting. This clause approaches as near to that system as it can.
– We sometimes hear strange doctrines preached in the name of democracy, but I much regret that I cannot warmly welcome to our ranks some of the newly discovered advocates of democracy who have come upon the scene this afternoon. Senator Symon has’ proclaimed in trumpet tones that he is a democrat. Let us examine the kind of democracy that he has been advocating. Suppose there is a senatorial election, that three senators have to be returned, and that there are four candidates in the field - A, B, C and D. Suppose an elector says “ A is my man ; I do not know B ; C and D are absolutely objectionable to me.” The democratic Senator Symon says to the elector, “ If you want to vote for A, you must also vote either for B, whom you do not know, or for C or D, both of whom are objectionable to you.” If that is democracy I cease to be a .democrat from this hour. But that idea, instead of being democratic, appears to me to be a tyranny of the most odious character. Can any one imagine a more absurd proposal’? One effect of the amendment would be to give rise to a multiplicity of candidates. People who wish to see one man returned will throw away their remaining votes on “ wasters,” as they are called. Can honorable senators square their ideas of democracy, of liberty, and of equality - and of fraternity also if they like - with a provision which compels a man to vote for candidates whom he does not wish to see elected?- We have heard something about machine politics. If this amendment is carried, the candidate who is not put through the machine will not have the slightest chance of securing a seat in the Federal Parliament. It is introducing the worst features of American machine politics into Australia.
– It is the machine politics of the newspaper.
– Instead of the people selecting the senators they will be chosen in the back room of a newspaper office, or in some club. The electors will be told “ You must vote the full ticket chosen for you.” The only freedom the elector will have will be to vote for men whom he does not wish to see returned. If I cannot get justice from honorable senators by appealing to them as Australians, I appeal to them as Britons, to vote against a provision which compels people to support candidates whom they do not know, and do not like. Machine politics were in full operation in Sydney and Melbourne at the last election. We found the majority of the electors of those states voting-as the newspapers told them. The big newspapers held the whip over the politicians, and practically said to them - “ If we do not include you in our ticket you cannot get returned.” I do not desire to see government by newspaper. I wish to see the government in the hands of the people. Apart from the merits of this question, all we can do to break down this back-room newspaper influence we ought to do.
– The newspapers selected the men who were most likely to get in.
– It was the newspapers who made the selection, and all the candidates had to do was to say “ Ditto* - yes, Mr. Syme,” or “ Mr. Somebody else.”
– The honorable senator must have a poor opinion of the electors of Victoria.
– I have a very poor opinion of their independence. The editor of a certain newspaper sets himself upon an eminence above 200,000 or 300,000 electors, cracks his whip over them, and they are driven like sheep before a shepherd. The editor may be a democrat, but that is almost dangerous power to place in the hands of any single individual. Where can we find a case- in history in which an individual, having, obtained supreme power has not misused it ? I hope that the Senate will not stultify itself by adopting Senator Symon’s amendment. Let us not bring compulsion into the arena of politics. Senator Symon has said that he would compel, a voter to go to the polling booth. He might compel him to go there, but he could not compel him to vote, for, if the elector did not approve of the candidates he would simply score out their names, and his ballot paper would be informal. The amendment is a deliberate attempt to compel men to vote against their political convictions for men who would not represent them in any shape or form. A more monstrous proposition was never made in the Senate, and no more serious invasion of the rights of free citizenship could possibly be proposed. I trust that the committee will reject this amendment with the scorn and contempt that it deserves.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I was very much surprised to hear Senator O’Connor say that it was the inherent right of every elector to plump. It seems to me that it is the inherent right of every patriotic elector to vote for the number of candidates to be returned. If there are six to be elected he should vote for the six best candidates, and not merely for one. If we allow plumping we shall simply be encouraging sectional voting. I shall certainly support Senator Symon’s amendment.
– I hope with Senator Stewart that this amendment will be rejected, and rejected by a very strong expression of opinion in opposition to it. The only argument adduced in its favour by Senator Symon which carries any reason in it is that there is a duty cast upon the elector when he goes to poll. I take a totally different conception of the franchise, and I feel certain that many honorable senators join with me in the view that the franchise is a privilege which an individual is entitled to exercise, within the limits of the law, as freely as possible. Senator Macfarlane has said that it is the duty of every patriotic elector when going to the poll to take a part in choosing the full number of candidates to be returned. But does the honorable senator ignore the very frequent circumstance that an elector on looking down the ballot paper finds in the case of an election in which three men have to be returned, that there is only one who, according to his convictions, is a fit and proper person to occupy a seat in Parliament ? .
– But the other two would have to be elected.
– If there is only one candidate whom the elector desires to see returned, should he not be free to act according to his own conscience, and to refuse to take any part individually in the return of a man whom he thinks absolutely unfit to occupy the seat to which he aspires ? We know that at the elections for the Senate and House of Representatives in New South Wales, therewere a large number of’ informal ballot papers, and I am given to understand that in the case of the election for the Senate, by far the great majority of those papers we’re informal by reason of the fact that the electors who had used them plumped. Senator Sir Josiah Symon. - No.
– Then the honorable and learned senator knows better than the officials who were connected with the polling and from whom I have but now received my information. In connexion with the elections in New South Wales, where it was obligatory on the elector to vote for the full number to be returned, there was a serious discrepancy between the number of voters who exercised the franchise for the House of Representatives and those who exercised it for the Senate. Many who voted for the ‘ House of Representatives refrained from taking a ballot-paper for the Senate, being influenced by the fact that it was necessary for them to vote for six when they desired only to vote for one or, perhaps, two out of the fifty candidates who presented themselves. Senator Symon’s whole argument, and the only one in favour of perpetuating the old block system, and compelling the voter to vote for the full number to be returned, rests on the conception of the franchise as requiring the elector to do something in the interests of the State, even’ possibly in violation of his own individual conscience. Once we introduce the elements of duty and compulsion into this question we are confronted with the difficulty that it is impossible to carry out that principle which Senator Symon said he supported, and which he must support in order to be logical, if he looks upon the franchise as a duty. You can compel every elector to go to the polling booths, but they can absolutely nullify your wishes by voting informally. Therefore, the whole principle of compulsion and duty which underlies the sole argument in support of the amendment falls to the ground. I fail to see why we should compel an elector, who goes to the poll with the object of securing the return of one or ‘ two particular candidates, where six are to be elected, to nullify possibly the expression of his own wish by voting for candidates who, assisted by his votes, and those of others who would not be disposed to support them if they were dependent upon their individual merits, might be elected in preference to those whom he wished to see returned. The whole system of compulsory voting for the total number to be elected is a first step towards the system of machine politics. Individuals may be nominated, and may be absolutely carried into the Legislature on the shoulders of others simply because they are included in a ticket, prepared, I care not whether by a newspaper or by any particular body or association in the community. ‘ The system of compelling an elector to vote for the full number to be returned leads to the system of voting by ticket. It compels an elector to nullify the expression of his choice, as indicated by his votes for those whom he does prefer, by requiring him to give a vote of equal value to others to whom he may be indifferent or possibly hostile. We should pay regard to the circumstance that, in many of’ the States, we have had already a system which enables an elector to determine exactly how many he shall vote for when he is not compelled to vote for the full number to be elected, and without proper consideration we should not deprive them of what I think many honorable senators will agree with me are their electoral rights and privileges. Where those rights have existed in the past we can still conserve them. In New South Wales and Victoria it was obligatory on the electors to vote for the full number required to be returned to the Senate. If any elector desires to vote for the whole number he can still do so under the clause as it stands. It cannot be said that this clause would take away from any citizen a right which he has enjoyed before. It simply gives the option to a citizen to vote for the full number for which he has hitherto .been compelled to vote, or for a lesser number ; and it leaves electors in those States where plumping has been optional in exactly the same position as before. I sincerely hope that the committee will not be misled by Senator Symon’s argument. If the principle which is in the Bill is retained we shall guarantee to the citizens, and to the Commonwealth itself, the fullest measure of civic liberty, so far as the exercise of the franchise is concerned. If we adopt the principle of Senator Symon’s amendment we shall be depriving the people of three States of the right which they have had to vote for as many candidates as they like, provided that they do not exceed the number to be returned. I am trying to conserve the right of option to those States where it has existed. And in other States it will be for. the electors to exercise the option or not as they please.
– If I understand the new clause aright it will allow an elector at the next Senate election to vote for one, two, or three candidates. I am opposed to that. Senator Stewart has told us that the electors in Victoria are like a flock of sheep ; that they run as they are told to run ; that they do not know what they want, but do whatever the newspapers tell them to do. At the next election cannot Mr. David Syme issue a ticket and advise every elector to vote for Brown, Jones, and Robinson? Under the new clause, equally as well as under the block system, the electors, if they are like a flock of sheep, can be induced to vote for the three candidates selected by the newspapers. This is just the block system with proportional voting tacked on. Any honorable senator who votes for this new clause votes for minority representation. We heard a good deal the other night about throwing open ‘the whole field to every one who liked to stand for the Senate. It sounded very nice and patriotic ; but what happened in certain States under the very system which the Government seek to introduce in this Bill ? In Western Australia there were only fifteen candidates, in Queensland sixteen candidates,, and in South Australia eleven candidates. But in Victoria where the block vote was in force there were nineteen candidates. At the next election there will be three candidates to be elected for each State. Under the proposition of the Government an elector is allowed to vote for a third of the three. He may, if he sees fit, vote for one, or two, or three. It is a very poor State, indeed, in which there will not be sufficient candidates to give the electors an ample choice. All the arguments we have heard have been based on the supposition that there will be only two, three, or four candidates. But all our experience teaches us that there will be plenty of candidates to select from. If two protectionists and two free-traders should stand in Victoria - I hope that only three protectionists will stand - the electors will have no difficulty in selecting their representatives. But if they in their wisdom should see fit to elect two protectionists and one free-trader, who is to cavil at them ? That has happened in Victoria, and will happen again no doubt. Do not honorable senators think that too much importance is attached to the question of free-trade or protection in selecting the senators for a State % No doubt Victoria, true to its political faith, will return three protectionists, but if the electors are like a flock of sheep, as Mr. Stewart suggests, they may be led by free-trade oracles. When the Government are hopelessly defeated on their proposal for proportional or minority representation, they devise a modification of that system. I recollect Senator O’Connor saying when replying to the second reading speeches that he intended to stick to that particular principle to the very last. After being defeated as they were yesterday by a two to one majority, the Government might very well have foregone any attempt to thrust minority representation upon the people of the Commonwealth.
– While listening to some of the speeches I have been asking myself what is liberty. Senator Keating said that if the committee in its wisdom took a certain course the greater proportion of the people of the Commonwealth, whom he presumed to hold different opinions, would be deprived of their liberty. In a speech he made the other day he said he desired in our electoral system to have uniformity. Shortly afterwards, speaking to the same clause, I also pleaded for uniformity in our electoral law. Certainly, if the plea of liberty is to be raised, it can be carried to very absurd conclusions. A burglar, for instance, may think that burgling is a very good profession, and when he is arrested for the commission of a crime he may say to the policeman - “You are interfering with my liberty ; let me go scot free.” We must, take the concensus of opinion as to what is the best system to adopt for the Commonwealth. If the majority of the people of the Commonwealth say that this particular form of plumping is bad, their decision must prevail. We have heard a good deal of the dreadful things which will happen if the amendment is carried. Senator Stewart has predicted what the newspapers Will do, and what they will not do under certain circumstances. In Victoria I have seen the effect of the operation of the principle of this amendment, and I think it is extremely good. I am prepared to trust again the bridge which carried me over safely. If some honorable senators will confess their views in public they will say, if they speak truthfully, that plumping would be a good thing in their own case. It would therefore have their support. It is of no use to disguise the fact or to make an appearance of virtuous conduct, for after all self interest lies at the bottom of our action. No matter what virtuous statements may be made as to the relative value of plumping, honorable senators to a very large extent look at the question from their own standpoint. The system has been tried in Victoria and it has worked well. It was tried at the election of the delegates to the Convention. We have been told that if we adopt the system it will throw political power into the hands of one gentleman in Victoria. I am a native of Melbourne, and during my career I have spoken only once to the proprietor of the Age, and that was after the conclusion of the Senate elections. It cannot be said, as has been broadly hinted, that I was under the control of Mr. Syme. For reasons which to him seemed fit he included me, with others, in the selection he made. If I studied my own interests, I should vote for this new clause, because plumping would put me in a safer position, but I do not think it is a good principle to adopt. I said the other day that I intended to vote against proportional voting, because it allowed plumping. Every elector, I contend, ought to give full value to every vote which is given to him. It is absurd to urge the argument that an elector in this case has not a free choice in regard to the representation of his opinions. It has been1 pointed out, by Senator Styles and others, that at an election the people who hold certain opinions in a State will see that a free choice is given to them. I believe it is right to educate the great body of electors not to throw away their votes, but to cast the full number of their votes, and at the same time to give an equal value to every vote. We have heard a good deal about “wasters.” If it were true that votes were thrown away, the “ waster “ would head the poll every time ; but we know that that is not the case. I am compelled to vote against the new clause.
– I intend to support the amendment, because I am no believer in plumping, and think that it is a very defective system. The arguments used by Senator Keating and the Vice-President of the Executive Council had some weight with me until I came to examine them. Are we to make this a Bill to suit the man who goes to the poll and says to himself deliberately - ‘ By what artifice can I twist this electoral machinery to get in my man and give him a billet of some importance, or get my hard-up chum a salary of £400 a year ?” No ; we should legislate for the man who goes to the poll and says to himself - “ Who amongst this list of candidates are the three men who will best represent my opinions 1” If we look at it from that point of view it will be seen that plumping is not a good system. The more we ‘regard this question from the standpoint of the interest of the Commonwealth, the more we shall realize that it is the duty of every elector to vote for the whole number of men to be returned. An argument put very clearly and coaxingly by Senator Keating falls to the ground when considered from this aspect. He asks why we should compel a man to vote for a candidate whom he does not like, or why compel him to vote for a second or third candidate so as to neutralize his vote for the first candidate. No elector need be placed in that position if he takes care to see that the candidates nominated are such as will save him from that predicament. At the last election for the Senate there were 31 candidates in Queensland, 19 in “Victoria, 50 in New South Wales, 16 in Western Australia, 15 in Tasmania, and 11 in South Australia. These men represented all shades of opinion. It was the duty of the electors to read down the list, and if they did not feel able to vote for any of the candidates thereon, to see that other candidates were nominated for whom they could vote. I deny that any elector voting for six candidates out of 50, or even out of 16, will nullify his vote. If we regard the question from the high ground of national interest, almost every argument in favour of plumping goes to the wall.
– What does a ballot-paper represent when it is placed in the hands of a voter ? On it are printed the names of certain candidates who are seeking election, and the voter asks himself who of those individuals suit his political views. If he can pick three out of the bunch who suit his views he will, if he is a man of common sense, vote for them. There is nothing in the clause to prevent people from voting for the full number of candidates to be elected. But if the elector cannot find upon the ballot paper three candidates who suit his views, why should he be compelled to vote for three ? He is not responsible for the nominations. It is not his business to see that suitable candidates are brought forward. He simply has to make a choice out of those who are nominated. Let me quote an actual case which I believe will appeal to honorable senators generally. It is the case of Western Australia at the last election. We’ had fifteen candidates for the Senate - thirteen free-traders and two protectionists. What would the protectionist voter have had to do if this system had been force in Western Australia as it was in Victoria? It would have compelled him to nullify his votes for the two protectionist candidates by giving four other votes to free-trade candidates. The fiscal issue was the great question at the last election, but there will be some other important question at the next election ; and honorable senators wish to compel electors to vote for some candidates whose views are totally opposed to theirs upon the question at issue. The system advocated by Senator Symon is a “ yes-no” system ; and it only appeals to some who like to vote “yes “and “no” at the same time. Senator Smith has. said that every person’s vote should be of equal value. If, in the case I have mentioned, a protectionist in Western Australia had been compelled to vote for four free-traders, would his votes have been of equal value with those of the free-trade voters who voted for six f free-trade candidates? Senator Smith has also said that this clause strikes at the whole system of representative government. Seeing that the system was in operation in three States, I ask has it struck at the system of representative government in this Senate ? Surely before an honorable senator makes a statement of that kind he should look around him, and see whether there is any justification for what he says. When Senator Smith was dealing with the question of preferential voting he said that he would not care to go back to the electors of Western Australia and say - “ I found .you with six votes, and I come back to you having assisted to pass a law which deprives you of five-sixths of your voting power.” If Senator Symons’ amendment is carried, Senator Smith will have to go back to Western Australia and say - “ At the last election you could use your full choice as you pleased. I have assisted to pass a law which will compel you. to vote for three candidates, and therefore in some cases have forced you to nullify your choice.” I hope that the democrats in this Chamber will recollect what the ticket system has done in America, where it is carried out effectively.
The machinery of party politics in America is worked by the party bosses. Is the result one that any democrat would like to see achieved in Australia? I can understand a fiscal fanatic saying that he would like to see a similar state of things here, but I cannot imagine any man who is a democrat, and believes in the rule of the people, saying that he would like to introduce into our electoral law a system which puts into the hands of party bosses practically the whole of the voting power of the people. It is not a safe thing to put the voting -power into the hands of any party, whether it is the free trade party, or the protectionist party, or the labour party. This .compulsory voting system would give to the dominant party a most effective weapon. Although in the present instance, it might give predominance to one of the two fiscal parties, the time may come when the party at which some honorable senators are striking, namely, the labour party, may be dominant in Australia, and then this weapon may be used effectively by them. The ticket system of politics in America has become a menace not only to the nation, but to the very parties who use the machine. That should make us pause before we record a vote that would introduce machine politics of that description into our electoral system. The ticket system is not most effective where there is plumping. I believe I shall not be contradicted when I say that the labour organisation was the most effective party organisation in existence in Western Australia at the last election. If we had had the system proposed by Senator Symon in vogue there, I believe we could have worked the elections on the American system and could have secured the whole of the six seats in the Senate for the labour party. I make bold ,to say that on the great proportion of the ballot-papers in Western Australia four names at least were found, and those were the names of the four candidates at the head of the poll. That is an indication that plumping does riot mean that any particular organization is going to select certain candidates and vote in that interest. What it ensures is that those who believe in democracy* will select from the free-trade bunch, we will say, for the sake of argument, those who are democrats, and choose from among the labour candidates those whom they think are suitable. If they are protectionists and democrats, they will select from the protectionist bunch those whom they consider to be both protectionists and democrats, and rather than vote for a protectionist who is a conservative they will vote for a free-trader who is a democrat. If compulsory voting for the full number of candidates to be returned were insisted upon, what would happen ? The party bosses, who in many cases are merely half-a-dozen merchants or big manufacturers, and not an organization spread throughout the country, would pick . out the free - trade and protectionist bunches. Free-traders residing in the country would feel that if they were not faithful to the free-trade ticket protectionist candidates would probably be returned, and therefore, while they might object personally to the whole ticket, they would vote for it rather than stultify their fiscal opinions. The same thing would happen in the case of the protectionists. But where plumping is allowed the system is broken up, and the man who is a freetrader or a protectionist can select from the respective bunches those who agree with his views on other questions. In that way it is possible to gain not merely the representation of the two leading questions before the people, but to secure the vote of the people on all questions that come before them.. They will vote not merely as their ticket dictates, but for those on the ticket whom they think suitable to represent them. I trust that the clause will be adopted. I know that there is a strong concensus of opinion that, because the system proposed in the amendment has been in force in Victoria and New South Wales, we should adopt it; but, as Senator Keating has pointed out, if the Government proposal is carried, we shall not take anything from the electors of Victoria or New South Wales that they have hitherto enjoyed.
– I simply desire to refer briefly to something which has fallen from the lips of Senator Pearce. He asked, “ You take the voting paper, and what is the elector to do t” My view of the question is that the elector is to vote for as many candidates as there are vacancies to be filled. That is his duty to the State ; but it is a question that has not been considered during this debate. It is not what is the duty of the elector to his pet candidate or. to the little circle in which he moves ; what the State asks him to do is to assist in returning the number to be elected to represent that State in the Senate, and in securing the six best men. I take it that the answer to Senator Pearce’s question is perfectly clear.
– I have found, on the part of a considerable number of honorable senators who profess to be democrats, a tendency to try and block minority representation in the Federal Parliament. Since we have failed in our attempt to secure the election to the Federal Parliament of members representing as far as possible the two or three prominent sections of public opinion in the community, I think that in determining the voting powers of the electors we ought to allow the minority a chance of representation in the Senate. If we compel the electors to vote for the full number of candidates to be returned, the result will undoubtedly be to force people in the various political sections of the community to run their full strength. That must mean that the minority will be shut out. The attempt to compel electors to vote for the full number of candidates to be elected is an attempt to deny to the labour party a voice in the deliberations of the Senate because it happens to be in a minority in the States. The labour party represents advanced political opinions - the progressive views of a section of the community - and necessarily we shall always be in a minority as long as we take up that position. If the public could only realise what is to their interests, we should have been in a majority long ago. There is a considerable section of the general public who, while not prepared to go with us to the full extent, consider that it is a benefit to the general community that we should be represented in the various Parliaments, and whenever they have an opportunity of” voting for two or three of their own party, together with a representative of labour, they do so. As a rule, we of the labour party put forward only a limited number of candidates, because we believe that if we were to attempt to run the full number to be- returned, we might frighten many people who, while they are prepared to admit the representation of labour in the Legislature do not care to vote for labour domination. Some honorable senators consider that possibly their party will be in a majority in the future, and they assert that they are going to endeavour to secure for themselves the whole of the representation.
I appeal to the better sense of democrats, such as Senator Playford, and urge them to say whether it is wise for any political party to make such an attempt. If the majority secure all the representation, the minority will feel that an injustice is being done to them.
– It might mean revolution.
– If not revolution, it might mean very violent ‘ public agitation. I am sure _ that those who profess to be democrats must recognise that it is their duty to give the minority a chance of representation. If an elector votes only for one man out of six, and is willing to leave others to select the remaining five representatives, why should we not be satisfied? Some honorable senators, like Senator Symon, I am afraid, recognise that there party is the dominant one, and that they are so powerful, politically, socially, and financially, that they can always run the full number of candidates to be returned ; but a party like that to’ which I belong which has not in all cases political or social influence, or financial strength, will be unable to run more than one or two candidates. If it requires £250 to contest an election, there are many who will not be able to stand. Those who desire that voters shall be required to vote for the full number to be returned, know that the labour party cannot run with any prospect of success candidates equal to the number to be elected. Some honorable senators who are democrats have stood by the bridge which earned them over; but they . should look to the future. It may not always be a question of protection or free - trade. “We may find democratic senators like Senator Symon and Senator Fraser combining against the advancing tide of the real democracy. “We may find that public opinion throughout the Commonwealth will get a little ahead of David Syme, with all his democracy. Mr. David Syme’s ticket two or three years hence will not be what it was’ at the last election. Honorable senators who have come here to vote according to democratic principles, but who happen to offend that journalistic king, will not be included in his ticket, and if Senator Symon’s amendment be carried possibly their friends will not be able to cast a solid vote for them. They will have to vote not only for them but for Mr. David Syme’s choice. There is, no doubt, a David Syme in every State, if not as an individual, then as a directorate of a large daily newspaper ; and members of the Federal Parliament should consider the danger which confronts the Commonwealth when they demand that the electors shall vote for the full number of candidates to be returned. In doing so they are playing into the hands of the press of Australia - a press which is doing its utmost to discredit parliamentary institutions, and to secure its own domination. In almost every issue of a newspaper which has so much influence in elections we find something designed to diminish the influence of members of the Legislature and to discredit them in every way. The press is trying to bring the representatives of the people under its control so that Parliament shall be merely a hall in which shall be registered the opinions of the proprietors and editors of newspapers. We want to protect even the despised minority from the domination of powerful daily journals, and we may do so by allowing the minority to give ‘the full strength of their voting power to one or two candidates in an election for the Senate.
– I had hoped that we should get a very fair Electoral Bill passed - a Bill that would suit itself to the conditions which existed in the majority of the States, but there appears to be a disposition on the part of honorable senators to do what, to my mind, would be an injustice to the electors of those States. A few days ago we were doing all we could to secure superior candidates for election to the Senate - candidates who, either by themselves or through their friends, could put down a certain sum of money - so as to limit the competition at elections. Yet to-night, by forcing this amendment into the clause, we are endeavouring to bring about a condition that will have the effect of increasing the number of candidates. I am not making that statement on my own account, because every one who has spoken in favour of the amendment has admitted that the different parties in the body politic will have common sense enough to run the required number of candidates. In the words of Senator O’Connor, they will provide their own “wasters” if they are required. This is the very thing which will act in direct opposition to our insertion of a provision to fine those who, without necessity or hope of success, may increase the number of candidates to an unreasonable extent. In South Australia the number was limited to eleven candidates. Yet we had this very obnoxious principle in our Electoral Act. When I go to the polling booth and look over the number of candidates, and consider their character, I deny that I am losing any portion of the strength of my vote, or doing away with any of the effect of my preference, by voting for one or more of the candidates. Do not honorable senators see that when they vote for one or two out of three they are strengthening their position by keeping a vote away from a man who may be objectionable to them ? By strengthening their own position they are not losing any of the effect of their vote. Senator Higgs was partially right when he referred to this as a labour party question, and said this action on the part of some honorable senators is directly aimed at the labour party. There are honorable senators, who both publicly and privately - and they have any number of supporters outside - who have characterized labour members, and the labour party, as dangerous men. And anything they attempt in the direction of making it more difficult for dangerous men to come here and represent the aspirations of the same class of people as themselves must indicate an intention, if they can, to get rid of those dangerous men. I am very sorry to find that even against the almost unanimous wish of the labour party, some of our own friends are turning their backs on us. They are determined, from acknowledged selfish motives, to stick to the bridge which carried them over. Apart from those who may be associated with them in propping up that miserable old structure which brought some of them here - I might say by mere accident - I have no desire to pose as a high moral example in a political or other sense, but I dare say that my intentions are as honest as those of any one else. I hope I am a loyal member of the labour party. When it sends me into Parliament to carry out its principles and adhere to its decisions, I shall do my best in that respect, and when its decisions, and its principles become wide apart from mine, I shall retire from the labour party. That is the position I should always like honorable senators to take up. When we are advocating a principle that gives the greatest liberty to the elector we are not acting in our own interests. We may be acting in the interests of the party or the section of the community to which we belong. There is not a single member of the labour party who has any guarantee that he will be selected to contest another election. Consequently no one has the right to say that we have any selfish motive in advocating this principle. Any section of the same importance in the community has the right to be represented here. There is scarcely an honorable senator but in speech has admitted that. Yet they are always ready to take away any such opportunity. They are still determined to get rid of the dangerous men. I hope that the amendment will not be carried, but if it is carried and another amendment which may be desired is not carried, I may decide to vote against the Bill, because I would rather exist under the State law which gives me as an elector perfect liberty, than submit to any provision which curtails that liberty to any degree. With the alterations that are attempted to be made this will not be the good Electoral Bill which I expected to pass through the Senate. I cannot understand any one who has any sympathy with proportional voting supporting an amendment of this kind, because every one must acknowledge that the next thing to preferential voting,under the Hare-Spence-Clark, or any other system, is one which allows a man to register his preference for those whom he thinks most eligible, and he cannot do that if he is compelled to vote for as many candidates as are required to be elected.
– Yet the honorable senator voted for single electorates.
– That question has been disposed of, and what is the necessity of always bringing it up? I expressed my opinion on that question. I said that I was prepared to accept single electorates when I could not get the system I advocated extended in that direction. I always endeavour to get at least one of my feet on to the ground on some side of the fence. I am not always endeavouring to bestride the rail in such an exact position that I should offend nobody and please everybody. I hope that this amendment will not be in the Bill when it leaves the Senate. I trust that a few honorable senators will realize that there is a certain sense of justice still existing, and endeavour to harmonize their action with that sense of justice, and not compel their constitutents to vote in a direction which they have no desire to do. Those who desire to get rid of the dangerous men need not raise their expectations too high, because the labour party is always’ able to take care of itself in some manner or other, and when the proper time comes ‘it may be found that its position has been strengthened, because the sense of justice of the electors will lead them to see that they are in the right, and consequently they will support us. I intend as far as I can to oppose the amendment.
– We are really fighting over a question that we dealt with at an earlier stage. No doubt an honorable senator like the last speaker would feel strongly in favour of the amendment which is indicated by the Government after speaking as he did in regard to proportional voting. But we must always bear in mind that our one great duty is to see that the determination of the majority of the people is adhered to. That has been pointed out on two or three occasions, but still there is a desire on the part of some honorable senators to get, if they can, some sort of preference for a minority representation. I do not think we should be acting in accordance with the best interests of the country if we determined to accept the new clause. We should work consistently to pass the clause in the amended form suggested by Senator Symon.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the proposed new clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 9
Noes ………. 20
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “shall” the following words be inserted: “have as nuury votes as there are vacancies, and he may cast the votes for one or more candidates.”
This proposal is practically one for the adoption of the cumulative vote. That is a system of voting which has met with the approval of many of the best democrats known in the old country. I say this in contradiction of Senator Glassey’s statement that the cumulative vote has been condemned by all the principal democrats in England. I have taken trouble to read up the debates which took place in the House of Commons upon the last re-distribution of seats and extension of the franchise in the years 1884-5, and I find that democrats of no less eminence than Sir Charles Dilke, Sir John Lubbock, and also the Bight Honorable Robert Lowe, favoured the cumulative system of voting as against the ticket system. They argued that it was the only possible safeguard against the evil effects of the ticket system, and that it was a means for the minority to obtain their due share of representation. The only reason Sir Charles Dilke could urge against it was that under the ballot system more votes might be plumped for a particular candidate than he would require ; but he said that under open voting the cumulative vote was the fairest system. The only argument urged against preferential voting in our recent debates was that the system proposed was too complicated ; but that objection cannot be urged against the cumulative system, which will give to minorities the amount of representation to which they are entitled. We ask for nothing more. When an elector has a ballot-paperplaced in his hands, no restriction should be imposed upon him, nor should he be compelled to vote in any other way than that which his mind dictates to him. Every elector should be the master of his own vote, and should be allowed to cast it so that it will be a true reflection of his political opinions. In no other way can Parliament be made truly representative. This proposal robs the majority of nothing. They retain their full voting power. But the cumulative system gives the minority an opportunity of representation, to which they are certainly entitled. Senator O’CONNOR.- I much regret . that the last vote was given, but at the same time the effect of it cannot be remedied in this way. I am against the cumulative system of voting, and I put it to Senator DeLargie, as a matter of practical affairs, that as Senator . Symon’s amendment has been carried by a large majority, there is not the least probability of his proposal being adopted. Of course, there is no 1 reason in the world why the honorable senator should not move it, nor why any other honorable senator should not advocate it, but as we want to get the Bill through as soon as possible, and as there is no chance of the amendment passing, I suggest that no more time should be occupied in discussing it than is considered absolutely necessary.
– I do not agree with the Vice - President of the Executive Council. Probably some honorable senators have come to their proper senses since the last division, and the amendment is a golden bridge over which they may retrace their steps. It must not be thought that because certain honorable senators were returned at the top of the poll at the last occasion, their party is going to be paramount for ever more. If they do not permit the cumulative system of voting, whereby a minority may have a chance of representation in the Senate, they will compel that minority to endeavor to become a majority. Will that bring about a state of affairs conducive to the peace and good order of the Commonwealth ? I am sure that if Senator Fraser were to find that his party was deprived of representation altogether, and the labour party succeeded in securing the whole of the representation in the Senate, he, being a man of combative temperament, rather than sit down under such a domination, would recommend a resort to arms.
– No ; I am not such a bloodthirsty man as that !
– That is not at all an overdrawn picture, because Senator Eraser is aware that those who believe in the continuance of kanaka labour in Queensland have recommended a resort to arms. One effect of not adopting the cumulative vote will be that the labour party will be compelled to endeavour to get the whole of the representation in the Senate. We must grasp at the whole of it, or get nothing. Is that a state of things to be. contemplated with serenity ? In the ordinary course, our party would be satisfied with a minority representation in this Chamber, but if the electors are compelled to vote for the full number of candidates to be returned, we shall have to try to get the whole of the representation. At times public opinion is inflamed with regard to a certain question. Take a great strike like that of 1891. If the majority of the people of the Commonwealth possessing the franchise were running a ticket, not a single other candidate would have a chance against the labour party’s candidates at such a time. If in that way we secure a majority, we shall have a sense of responsibility which will moderate us to some extent, and I trust that we shall be a little more merciful than some of those who appear to think that a majority of voters can do as they like, and crush a minority out of existence; It does not need Professor Nanson to tell us that if a majority in any particular State like to exercise the franchise in the way now proposed they can crush out a minority. Senator Symon’s proposal will compel us to organise for that purpose. In Queensland, by means of organization, the labour party was able to secure a representation which was perhaps a little stronger than the Ministerialists thought we ought to havegot. Senator De Largie has handed to me the following opinion on the cumulative vote expressed by the Right Honorable Robert Lowe : -
He must not be understood as coming forward to argue for any protection to the minority . . but between the members of the constituency there should be absolute equality ; the majority should have nothing given to it because it was a majority ; the minority should have nothing taken away from it. . . Let each voter have an equal number of votes not dependent upon the use he makes of them ; let him be at liberty to dispose of them as he likes.
Here was a conservative willing to admit that the minority should have a chance of exercising the franchise.
– That was a Tory proposal in those days.
– Some honorable senators talk about their democracy, and yet they desire to deprive the labour voters to whom I have referred of any chance of representation. Mr. Lowe continued : -
By that means they would be doing nothing unjust or unfair to the majority or to the minority. They would be merely putting them on a level, or leaving them on perfectly fair ground. That was the obstruct argument. There were different way by which the end might be accomplished . Some proposed to give only a single vote to each elector ; others recommended that when there were three candidates each elector should have two votes. He preferred to give each elector three votes, and allow him to dispose of them as he pleased. The objection to the first two proposals was that they would operate in the way of disfranchisement, and would take away something the people already possessed, because, on the supposition that there were three candidates, they had already three votes.
Senator Glassey spoke of this as a conservative proposal which was opposed by every democrat in the old country.
– I said that the bulk of the great democrats of the old country opposed it. Lowe was one of the most crusty old Tories on the franchise question..
– We are anxious to find out the names of these great democrats, but Senator Glassey has not yet supplied them. When the Electoral Bill to control the elections for the Commonwealth was before the Queensland Assembly, Mr. Kidston, one of the members for Rockhampton, proposed this very system - that an elector should be allowed to vote for six or less candidates for the Senate, or that he should be permitted to give the whole six votes to one candidate if he desired to do so. He was supported in that proposal by nearly every democratic member of that Legislature, and I presume they knew what they were doing. If honorable senators insist on going to their doom, we can only permit them to do so with a good grace.
– The honorable senator will be the chief mourner.
– I do not know that I should be very glad to attend Senator Zeal’s political funeral, because I am certain that before many years elapse he will be acting as lieutenant to Senator McGregor.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
Amendment of amendment (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to.
That the words “ or any less number, but not for any greater number,” be omitted.
New clause, as amended, agreed to.
New clauses 154a, 155a, and 156a agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “175a. No premises -
This is a copy of a provision in the Western Australian Act, save that the latter also includes refreshment rooms. A similar provision exists in the Queensland Act. I recognise the evil effects of the liquor influence on elections, and I think that the further elections are removed from public-houses and their associations the better it will be. I shall never forget an election which took place in the model State of South Australia, during which a prominent member of the State Parliament addressed a meeting on the footpath in front of an hotel. At the close of his meeting a couple of barrels of beer were rolled out, and the crowd helped themselves to the liquor. That man actually headed the poll. I do not know whether it led to an amendment of the electoral law there, but certainly this provision has never caused any inconvenience either to electors or candidates in Western Australia. In sparsely populated districts candidates are able to hold their committee meetings in the houses of their supporters, while in the town some meeting room or public hall is available. We all recognise that in the past liquor has had a great and evil influence on State politics, and it may be that if we pass this measure without any provision such as I now propose it will have an evil influence on federal politics. This clause, if carried, will for ever divorce election meetings from places where liquor is sold.
– I should like to know whether thewordsin paragraph (b) mean that, notwithstanding that a political club holds a liquor licence, its premises may be used for election meetings. Why should a distinction be drawn? I move -
That the words “other than a permanent political club “ be omitted.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I copied this provision from the Western Australian Act. The Democratic Club in Adelaide is a club for purely political purposes, but certain rooms, such as the billiard room and the bar room, are used for recreative purposes. I did not endorse these clubs, but I recognised that they existed for purely political purposes, and, therefore, I did not ask the committee to say that their rooms should not be used as committee rooms.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
– Perhaps Senator Pearce might alter the new clause to begin with the words “ no part of any premises.” Otherwise it is so vague that it might be difficult to enforce it.
– I undertake to ask the committee to reconsider this clause for the purpose of making that amendment.
New clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I propose to ask the committee to insert, after clause 189, the clauses which have been printed and circulated to take the place of clauses 190 to 194, which will have to be struck out at a later stage. When we discussed the constitution of the Court of Disputed Returns, there was a unanimous opinion expressed by a test vote that Parliament should have nothing to do with the trial of disputed elections, and that the party who disputed an election should have the right to go to the Court of Disputed Returns. I have had prepared some clauses for the purpose of carrying out that view in the most concise way in which it can be expressed. The purport of the clauses is in the first place to constitute the High Court the Court of Disputed Returns, and it may either try a petition or remit it for trial to the Supreme Court of the State in which the election was held. That gives the High Court the right and the duty of saying on an application made to it where the petition shall be tried. There may be cases in which it may be better for the High Court to try the petition. There may be other cases in which it may be very desirable that the petition should be remitted to the Supreme Court of the State. There is a provision that when a petition has been so remitted the Supreme Court has all the powers of a Court of Disputed Returns. Then there is a provision that until the High Court is established, the Supreme Court of the State is constituted the Court of Disputed Returns, and the same procedure applies as would apply in the case of the High Court. The petition has to be lodged with the registrar, and, after complying with certain formalities, it is tried according to the practice of the court, and, if one J udge sits to try it, he has all the powers of the Court of Disputed Returns. The same powers are given to the Court in new clause 191a and the others, as were given in the clauses which were before the committee on a previous occasion. I move -
That the following be inserted as a new clause to follow clause189 : - “ 190a. The validity of any election or return may be disputed by petition addressed to the Court of Disputed Returns, and not otherwise.”
New clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the following be inserted as a new clause : - “ 190b. (1) The High Court shall be the Court of Disputed Returns, and shall have jurisdiction either to try the petition or to refer it for trial to the Supreme Court of the State in which the election was held or return made. “ (2) When a petition has been so referred for trial to the Supreme Court of a State, that court shall have jurisdiction to try the petition, and shall in respect of the petition have all the powers and functions of the Court of Disputed Returns. “ (3) Until the establishment of the High Court, the Supreme Court of each State shall be the Court of Disputed Returns in respect of elections held or returns made in that State ; and the provisions of this Act with respect to the filing of petitions, the deposit of security, and the duties of the registrar, shall be read as if the Supreme Court of the State, or the offices or registrar, master, or prothonotary thereof, were substituted therein for the High Court or a registry or registrar thereof respectively. “(4) The jurisdiction of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State sitting as a Court of Disputed Returns, or in the exercise of powers conferred by this section, may be exercised by a single Justice or Judge. “
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - Under this clause the first step will be a petition to the High Court. It may try the case, or remit it for trial, to the Supreme Court of the State in which the election was held. My objection to this method of procedure is that it unnecessarily heaps expenses upon the parties. To begin with, we have the filing of a petition in the High Court. Next we have the appearance of senior and junior counsel on each side, and the question as to where it should be tried is solemnly discussed by a full bar, with attendant solicitors on each side. Little progress is made, except in heaping up costs. Then, probably, what ought to have been done at first, is done ;the petition is referred to the Supreme Court of the State. Why could not the clause provide for that course being taken at once? Why not take the cheap method instead of the dear method? I move -
That the new clause be amended by the omission of all the words down to and inclusive of the words “ High Court,” in sub-clause (3).
If that amendment is made, it will be in the interests of economy, and will lead todespatch of business.
– I cannot accept the amendment. There can be no difference in cost if the case is tried before the Supreme Court of the State or the High Court of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator has spoken of the cost of employing counsel, and solicitors, and all the paraphernalia of ‘“the law. That applies to any court. A party who wishes to win will employ the persons who are best able to conduct his case. We cannot help that. It would be rather a serious interference with the liberty of a party to prevent him from employing solicitors, or barristers, or legal assistance of any kind. Rut Senator Stewart objects to the use of the High Court, and says that a petition ought to go straight to the Supreme Court of the State. We have a High Court constituted by the Commonwealth, and consisting of Judges who are its servants, and we have a series of cases involving the rights of Parliament and the rights of the electors of the Commonwealth. Many of them may be utterly trivial, and may turn on very small points, but on the other hand, a case may at any time involve most important considerations of constitutional rights. Does the honorable senator seriously say that we ought to hand over to the courts of the States the definition and interpretation of the rights of the electors of the Commonwealth and the working of its Constitution ? That position only needs to be stated to show that it is untenable.
– You cannot do that. The High Court must interpret the Constitution.
– If the trial of a petition is once handed over to the Supreme Court, and it is given final and conclusive jurisdiction, it cannot come before the High Court ; there is no appeal.
– It would not have jurisdiction in cases involving the interpretation of the Constitution.
– Yes, if it once got the case, and was made the Court of Disputed Returns from which there was no appeal, because then it would be said that the Commonwealth had handed such matters over for final determination. Otherwise, whereyou are dealing with a uniform electoral system you might have in one State a decision as to the existence, or non-existence, of a right, and in another State quite a contrary decision, and there would be no way to secure uniformity. I do not think I need elaborate the reason why, if we have a court, we should give the dissatisfied party the right to appear before it,but having given him that right it might turn out that the case was one which itwas entirely necessary for the High Court to try. If it was satisfied that it involved no serious or important question of constitutional law, or construction of the electoral law, but was merely a simple matter which might be inquired into on the spot, then, for the sake of saving expense and securingexpedition, it would be removed to the Supreme Court of the State, and in that case the convenience of all parties, and the cutting down of expense, would be studied. On the other hand, if one of the parties satisfied the High Court that it involved important questions that ought to be decided by that court, it could retain the decision in its own hands. If we are to keep the control and interpretation of our laws in our hands it cannot be done except by giving the initiation of these petitions to the High Court, and leaving that court to deal with them as it may thinkfit in the interests of all parties. Until we have a High Court established, there is ample provision made here for giving the Supreme Courts of the States all the powers which are necessary for trying these petitions.
– I think that theproposalof Sena tor Stewart is impracticable, but there is one view of the question which will commend itself to the committee, and that is that we should keep down the costs. Every one must know that ari appeal to the High Court, or to the court of a State, will be a very costly process. I would suggest that only costs on the lower scale should be allowed. In the Victorian courts we had a case within the last six months where the sum involved amounted to about £3,000 ; and it is currently reported that the legal expenses were between £8,000 and £9,000. There were about eight or nine counsel engaged, besides solicitors. How is it possible for a man of small means to fight such a case successfully ? It is the old story of the oyster and the shell. A sensible layman would rather lose anything he had than go to law.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- The further we look into this matter the greater the difficulties seem. I believe that it is desirable that there should be uniformity in the interpretation of the law, and some authority to give a final decision ; but I see that the process is going to lead to a great deal of expense, which, in many cases, will be wholly unnecessary. In the first place; counsel will raise a constitutional point, provided that the person employing him has plenty of money. The question will’ be thrashed out, and probably it will then happen that the court will find that no constitutional question is involved, and will remit the matter to the lower court, where the question of fact will be settled.In the end the poorer party to the suit may find himself bankrupt. He may be declared legally elected, but the costs may have so accumulated as to make it impossible for him topay them, and upon his bankruptcy he will be turned out of his seat and his opponent will come out on top. I can easily see how costs are going to be piled up in connexion with election petitions, but unfortunately I see no way out of it.’
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). -I hope that Senator Stewart will withdraw his opposition to the clause. He has drawn such a picture of the litigation that will take place that the committee may be inclined to strike out the clause altogether, and revert to the system of deciding petitions by Parliament. If a candidate disputes an election he may plead his own case. Of course he may “ have a fool for a client,” but still there is a clause in the Bill which states that the court shall be guided by the substantial merits of the case, without regard to legal forms and technicalities. A candidate may therefore trust the Court of Disputed Returns to do justice.
Amendment of amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– It is necessary to insert two words in sub-clause (2) to make the provision quite clear. I move -
That after the word “ petition “ in sub-clause (2), line 1, the words “be and” be inserted.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
New clause as amended agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connoh) proposed-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “191a. Every petition disputing an election or return in this part of this Act called the petition shall -
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I move -
That the words “a person,” in paragraph (c), be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof thewords “ ten persons.”
We ought not to put it in the power of , a single person, apart from a candidate, to put an elected member to the expense of contestinga casebeforethe court. The expense may be considerably beyond . £50, and there should be someguarantee that there is a sufficient number of electors’ to support the petition.
– The amendment is an extremely reasonable one. It might happen that a candidate would ‘ be anxious to lodge a petition against a member, but might be so ashamed of himself as not to wish his own name to be seen in connexion with the case. He might, however, find it easy to secure a nominee to lodge the petition. If ten electors are required to support such a petition, it might be impossible to get up a bunkum case against the elected member. The amendment would cause a. guarantee of bona fides to be given.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I hope the amendment will not be pressed, because it will not get rid of the difficulty pointed out. If there is a fraudulent petition, it will be just as easy to get ten signatures to it as one. The true principle to observe is to give every voter a right to petition. The real remedy for cases of mala fides, or of vexatious petitions, is to increase the amount of deposit for costs. Fifty pounds is a ridiculous sum. A number of men might easily club together to raise that amount in order to put the sitting member to unnecessary expense and trouble.
– The amendment submitted by Senator Pearce is a reasonable one, when we consider the significance of the number of electors he wishes to provide for in order to send a petition to the High Court. In Tasmania, during the last few years, we have had two or three contraverted elections, which were determined by a very expensive tribunal. Certainly every candidate should have the right to petition by himself, but so far as concerns electors in Tasmania, we went to the length of providing that at least one-tenth of thenumber on the rollshould sign the petition. That was an exorbitant demand, but to ask that ten shall sign the petition is. not too much. I would even go to the length of supporting a proposal that the number should be 25 or 50. With regard to the £50 deposit, although it seems very small in the case of the Senate, yet it might be quite sufficient in the case of a single constituency for the House of Representatives.
-I have sympathy with Senator Pearce’s view, but do not think that his proposal will meet the case. As Senator Symonhas said, every elector should have the right to come before the court to petition against the return of a member. What Senator Pearce wants is that there should be some guarantee of good faith and bona fides on the part of the petitioner. That he will secure by having the petition countersigned by ten persons qualified as electors. If the honorable senator will alter his amendment to that effect I will accept it.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I recognise that the Senate is against me, and do not see any use in pressing the amendment. The alteration suggested by Senator O’Connor practically means nothing, as there will be no responsibility upon the other nine persons.
Amendment of amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment of amendment (by Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to - .
That the words “Have each signature” in paragraph (d) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Be.”
New clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 192a. At the time of filing the petition the petitioner shall deposit with the principal registrar or district registrar (as the case may be) of the High Court the sum of £50 security for costs.”
– It seems to me that a deposit of £50 is totally inadequate. The object of requiring a deposit is to guarantee that a person lodging a petition shall pay the costs if he is unsuccessful. Honorable senators know that even in a petition against the return of a member for Victoria, where the parties would be nearest to the place at which the Act was administered, it would be impossible to defend the proceedings for anything like £50, while in the case of a petition against the return of a member for Western Australia it would cost over £200 to do so. The deposit is to be forfeited only when the petition fails, and the rule is that a person who lodges a petition and fails pays the costs. I move -
That the word “fifty “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “one hundred.”
– It should be at least £250.
– My object in proposing that the deposit shall be £100 is that while it shall not be prohibitive, the cost to which a man may be put by reason of a frivolous petition against his return may be met to some degree.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I think that a deposit of £50 is quite enough. The provisions in the Bill in relation to disputed elections are designed on the whole to give a poor man who is a candidate the same chance as is enjoyed by a rich man, but where would a poor man be able to find £100 for a deposit?
– If he were a successful candidate he would be protected by this proposal.
– A deposit of £100 would not stand in the way of a rich man who desired to unseat him. We ought not to build up the deposit with a view of increasing the costs, because, under a clause to which reference has been made, the High Court will judge a case substantially on its merits, without regard to legal forms and technicalities. That means that the Court will consider the case of a petitioner even if he pleads his own cause. A candidate might be able to find friends who would provide a deposit of £50 for him, but he would probably have great difficulty in inducing people to pay on his behalf a deposit of £100, however genuine his case might be, and therefore he would be unable to appeal.
– I am sure that Senator Higgs is sincere in his contention that we should protect the poor man. I am equally desirous that we should do so, but I venture to say that the greater amount is far more in the interests of the man of limited means than would be the smaller sum. In connexion with the recent Queensland elections, I see that Mr. Kidston, one of the members for Rockhampton; is likely to be petitioned against because it is alleged that he was out of the State for a considerable time. In Queensland a deposit of £100 is necessary, but what is that to a number of persons, who may be smarting under defeat, in a place like Rockhampton, and who desire to petition against Mr. Kidston’s return? It is a mere bagatelle; but if the deposit required were a couple of hundred pounds or so, I think they would pause before they would risk the loss of such a sum. In Queensland a deposit of £100 is required, not merely as a proof that a petitioner bond fide believes that he has a good case, but that in the event of a frivolous objection being lodged, the amount shall go towards the sitting member’s costs. In South
Australia a deposit of £50 is required, and surely that amount is inadequate in the case of the Commonwealth elections. It is certainly in the interests of the poor candidate to require a substantial deposit. For instance I am a man of no means. Supposing in the case of my election some men were 60 say, “I do not believe that Glassey was returned honestly; a few of us can club together and raise the necessary deposit of £50. We shall be able in this way to put him to considerable expense, and if he is unable to meet it the possibility is that we shall drive him out of Parliament.” They might make me bankrupt. If a man stands fairly well with a number of his friends, who believe that he has been treated unjustly, they will readily raise a deposit of £100. A poor man has no difficulty in finding a deposit of £25 to lodge with his nomination-paper if his chances are fairly good. When I stood for Parliament in 1888 I had not a shilling, but my friends found my deposit. The smaller the deposit required in this case the greater will be the temptation to lodge frivolous petitions.
– The question of what deposits should be required is a matter on which very many reasons may be given on either side. I have been very much impressed by Senator Higgs’ argument that it is contemplated that a man may conduct his own case in the High Court. If that is so there can be no necessity to incur any expense beyond £50 in defending a petition. Another thing which we ought to consider is that to a certain extent a Judge may be disposed to measure the cost of a case by the amount of the deposit fixed in the Bill. If we fix it at £50 it will be a very fair indication that the expenses are to be cut down as much as possible, while on the other hand the courts will still have liberty to go beyond it in awarding costs. We have cut down the cost of elections in other parts of this Bill, and it seems to me that it would be a little unreasonable to ask the petitioner to lodge £100 as a deposit to cover the cost of an unsuccessful petition. Looking at the matter from the point of view that it is our desire to make the elections open to any one who bond fide wishes to contest a seat, we ought to require a deposit which will not make it beyond the power of a man who is ordinarily able to contest an election to go into court and dispute it. I think Senator Glassey is misled by his experiences in England, where the deposit required is £1,000. There it is a common thing for men to spend £3,000 or £4,000 on an election, and to do so quite lawfully. We must look at our standard, and holding that Senator Higgs’ reasons for the retention of the deposit named in the clause are good, I must decline to accept the amendment.
– The arguments which have just been put forward by Senator O’Connor are excellent, but he has used them entirely on the hypothesis that the petitioner is the injured party and is going to be successful. If he will only use them in favour of the sitting member, they will be excellent reasons why the deposit proposed in the clause should be increased. I agree with SenatorGlassey that if the deposit fixed is a small one - and I think £50 is a small deposit - we shall be offering an inducement to men to petition against a sitting member. A deposit of £250 would be beyond our present scale, but there is something in the argument that if a deposit of £50 is required in certain States, it is not at all unreasonable that it should be increased to £100 in the case of elections for the Federal Parliament, provided we are going to observe a sense of proportion. If we are going to consider, as we ought to consider, the sitting member, it will be a desirable thing to make the temptation to harass him a little more remote from any ordinary elector, and therefore I shall support Senator Ewing’s amendment.
Senator EWING (Western Australia). - The intention is that election petitions shall be tried either in the High Court or in the Supreme Court of the State in which they occur. Supposing that a senator for Western Australia was charged with having been guilty of improper practice at Menzies or some other place in the State, £50 would not go very far to defray the expenses of bringing his witnesses to the court in either Perth or Kalgoorlie. If it happened that a petition had to be tried in Melbourne, a petitioner would have to bring his witnesses from Tasmania, Queensland, or Western Australia to the Federal Court.
– That would never happen, because a Justice of the High Court would go to the State in which the election was held.
– Supposing that a Justice of the High Court went to
Tasmania, or that a petition was remitted for trial to Hobart, and the offence was committed on the West Coast, delay would often be unavoidable, and witnesses would be kept about town for days. In very few cases ‘ in the Supreme Court do- the witnesses’ expenses alone come to less than £50. There would be a practical difficulty in sending a justice to Menzies ; in fact, we could not send the Court of Disputed Returns all over the State. Senator O’Connor ‘ was merely trying to make honorable senators believe that by providing for a small deposit they would get cheap law. The amount of election expenses or the amount of deposit has nothing to do with the amount ultimately awarded for costs, because they are taxed by a special officer, quite irrespective of those considerations. I submit that £100 is areasonable amount to deposit.
– Some honorable senators are forgetting that it has never been’ the policy of the English law- to deny a man justice, unless he could deposit a sum sufficient to secure the costs if he lost. Although the Bill does say that £50 is to be deposited as security for costs, I take it that the object is to insure that the petitioner has a reasonable case to submit. I do not think it ought to be the policy of any Act to say that a man shall not file a petition, and proceed to get that justice to which he thinks he is entitled, unless he puts down such an ample sum as will secure the costs. If I remember rightly, in the case of mining and other appeals, in which the unusual course is taken of making the petitioner deposit a sum for costs, that sum is always small and reasonable, and no one pretends that is an ample indemnity to the defendant if he wins. It is merely required to insure the bona fides of the petitioner. Under the circumstances, a deposit of £50 is sufficient.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
New clause agreed to.
New clause 192b (No proceedings unless requisites complied with) agreed to.
New clause 192c (Powers of Court) proposed -
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I desire to ask Senator O’Connor if it is intended by sub-clause (7) that the Court of Disputed Returns shall direct a new election to fill a vacancy in the Senate 1
– Section 15 of the Constitution Act, I take it, makes it absolutely impossible that any court should order a new election to fill a vacancy in the. Senate. As I understand the -debates. in the Convention, the intention was that a State should not be put to the expense of an election over the whole State to fill a single vacancy in the Senate. If that was the intention of the framers of the section, it would certainly be defeated if the Court of Disputed Returns could direct a new election to be held.
– I do not think that the sub-clause is necessary.
Amendment (by Senator Matheson) agreed to -
That the new clause be amended by the omission of the words “ (vn.) To direct a new election.”
New clause, as amended, agreed to.
New clause 199a (Copies of petition, minutes of proceedings, and order of Court to be sent to House affected) ; and new clause 202a (Power to make rules of Court) agreed to.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message stating that it had agreed to certain amendments of the Senate; agreed to others with amendments, and disagreed to others.
– Before the Senate adjourns, I wish to make a statement on a matter of public interest. The Government have received an intimation from the Imperial Government that the contingents already sent by the Commonwealth will greatly strengthen His Majesty’s Government in bringing, the South African war to an early termination, and that, should the Commonwealth Government be agreeable, 2,000 more men would be gratefully accepted upon the same terms as those upon which the last contingent were sent. Having in view the resolutions passed by both Houses of this Parliament in January last, it is the intention of the Government to comply with the desire
I of His Majesty’s Government. I’ would have made this statement at the opening of the sitting this afternoon simultaneously with the statement being made in the other House, but for a misunderstanding between the Prime Minister and myself, as to the exact time when it was to be made. I have made it at the earliest opportunity after having become aware of what occurred in the other House.
– I should like to know whether the Senate is to be given an opportunity to debate this proposal.
– There is really no question before the Chair.
– Surely it is a shameful proceeding if a proposal like this is to be made, and honorable senators are not to get an opportunityto say something about it. The discussion which took place some time ago with regard to sending a contingent to South Africa was brought up in what I considered to be an irregular way, and the Senate did not get a fair chance of saying whether it was in favour of continuing to send contingents to South Africa.
– Perhaps I ought not to have permitted the leader lot the Senate to make any statement unless he moved a motion, because there is really nothing before the Chair, but I did not like to prevent him from making a statement on such an important matter. Still it shows how one slight breach of order leads to undesirable results. We cannot have a debate when there is no question before the Chair. I admit that Senator Higgs is correct in saying that on a matter of this sort some discussion ought to be permitted, but I do not see what we can do when there is no question to discuss. .
– With all respect to you, sir, may I say, because it is a matter of some importance in the conduct of the business of the House, that following the ordinary parliamentary usage it is the right of a Minister conducting the business of the House to make a statement.
– On some motion.
– No ; to make a statement about public affairs for the information of the House at any time.
– In order to be debated.
– Not to be debated, but for the information of the House. Following, I think, a very general rule, I made a statement merely for the information of the House and not with the view of inciting debate. It is open to any honorable senator to place any motion he thinks fit on the business-paper. I merely notified an act of the Executive Government for the information of the Senate.
– Then I do not think that any debate can take place. If any honorable senator wishes to debate the matter he must bring it forward on some motion.
Senate adjourned at 10.3.p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020320_senate_1_8/>.