1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Before the business of the day is called on I wish to call attention to the proposal of the Government to send away a third contingent of 2,000 men to South Africa. I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Last evening I objected to the manner in which this proposal was brought before the Senate. It appeared to me that the Government should have given the members of this Parliament a chance of discussing it.
– It is a Ministerial act, and they take the responsibility.
– Would it not be wise on every occasion of this kind to ascertain the opinions of honorable members generally? When it was determined to send away the first contingent the Ministry submitted the following motions, which were agreed to by both Houses : -
There is nothing in those resolutions entitling the Government to send away thousands of men at intervals of three or four months. I hold a very different view ils to the means to be taken to bring the war to an end. No one in this Parliament or in Australia could defend the slanders upon the honour of the British nation, which were circulated by a section of the press in Germany and other countries. It appears to me that the Government are sheltering themselves behind those slanders in order to prevent a fair discussion as to the continuance of the war on the present terms. My opinion is that Australia is heartily sick of the war, and would like to see it ended at an early date. I do not desire to make anybody responsible for ray action this morning. I do not take this step as a member of the labour party. The opinions of its members are divided on the question of the continuance of the war and the means to be taken to bring it to an end. I think we ought to adopt some other method than that of sending contingents. If we do send contingents, we ought to intimate to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that this Parliament is in favour of offering terms to the Boers other than an unconditional surrender. It is a crying shame to demand the unconditional, surrender of a brave people. The war could have been prevented by wiser counsels on the part of Mr. Secretary Chamberlain and Lord Milner. That question has not been gone into lately, because the people of Australia have not been able to get a tenth - not a hundredth part, I believe - of the information concerning that war which the)’ should have been able to obtain. No doubt honorable senators who claim that it is their special function to declare very eloquently their great loyalty to the Empire will be disposed to designate those who desire to see the war brought to an end rapidly as pro-Boers and disloyalists. I hope that that kind of thing will be dropped, and that honorable senators will endeavour to act more calmly and consider the question on its real merits. I am as much a Britisher as is any other member of the Commonwealth. I have every reason to be a Britisher, for I have sprung from British people, and I am anxious to stick to the British nation. I submit that in asking that better terms be offered to the Boers I am acting in the best interests of the British nation and in the interests of Australia. The very same charges and epithets that are being levelled against those who would cry a halt were levelled at the statesmen of the old country who endeavoured to deter England from going to war with the American colonies. The greatest names in political history which occur most readily to us, I suppose, are the names of those who took up the cause of the American colonists. Pitt, Fox, and Burke were called pro- Americans, just as some of us are called pro-Boers. But the warnings which those men uttered turned out to be quite justified, and after holding out for six years the British gave in. I do not think that such a thing will happen in connexion with the Boer war. I believe that if they so desire the British can exterminate the Boers. It behoves those of us who have taken some interest, perhaps a late interest, in this war, and the causes which brought it about, to endeavour to bring it to an end by some other means than an unconditional surrender.
– The honorable senator is doing the right thing to prolong it.
– The same remark was addressed to Pitt, Pox, and Burke when they deprecated the carrying on of the war with the American colonies, and with just as little justification. Who for a moment believes that my action here to-day will urge De la Bay, De Wet, and other Boer generals to continue the struggle? It is absurd to say that it will. Probably honorable senators are to some extent influenced by the loyalist meetings which have been held throughout Australia. Some of these loyalist meetings have been organized by clever electioneering agents who are anxious to take advantage of the sentiments expressed by some who have been called proBoers, and to make political capital at their expense.
– Is the honorable senator referring to a meeting at Waratah, a labour constituency, where the electors asked a labour member to resign for talking as he is talking t
– The)’ did not do anything of the kind.
– I said - “ some of these loyalist meetings.” Some honorable senators must know that, in each State, certain Members of Parliament have ventured to express the opinion that the Boer war was unnecessary, and to go even further than that. Their political opponents saw a very fine chance to take advantage of those statements. They said - “The whole of the public in the Commonwealth are loyal, and here is a chance for us to express our loyalty, and emphasize the conduct of our political rivals who have said that the war was unnecessary.” In organizing meetings they have been able to obtain the services of enthusiastic loyalists, who really believe that the only way to bring about peace in South Africa is to continue the war to the bitter end, even if it involves the wiping oat of the Boer male population. I do not think we should be deterred in our efforts by any agitations of this kind. Loyalist meetings may be called here and there throughout the Commonwealth and widely reported, but, if ever a meeting is held on the other side of the question, very limited accounts are given of it in the daily press. And here I would ask the editors of the daily press throughout Australia whether they think they are doing right in suppressing the arguments or the speeches of men-
– And distorting them too. Read this, morning’s account of what took place yesterday evening.
– I do not know that the editors are guilty of the distorting, but they are certainly guilty of a line of policy which leads to the suppression of almost everything which is said in favour of bringing the war to an immediate end and in favour of the Boer people. Honorable senators who laugh, as Senator Fraser did a while ago, seem to forget that the war has cost up to the present time£1 40,000,000.
– That is nothing to the British Empire. A hundred years ago it owed £900.000,000, but now it owes £700,000,000.
– Senator Fraser is in the happy position of not being likely to suffer by any of the results of the war.
– I have shown my loyalty.
– The bank balance of the honorable senator is so high that no matter what are the prices of bread and the necessaries of life, neither he nor any of those depending on him will have to go without anything.
– I have proved my loyalty in hard cash, and that is more than the honorable senator has done.
– This war has cost at least £140,000,000 in cash, and the lives of 30,000 or 40,000 Britishers from the old country, and the lives of 10,000 Boers.
-Col. Neild. - What has that to do with us ? That is their business.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to say it is their business. He belongs to that class of men who made a great display of volunteering their services for the war, but who never went, and who were very pleased indeed that the Government declined to accept their offer.
-Col. Neild. - The honorable senator might make an effort to speak the truth.
– Order. Senator Neild will withdraw that observation.
– What observation, sir?
– That Senator Higgs was not speaking the truth.
– I beg pardon. I said that he might make an effort to speak the truth, and I repeat it.
– It is an implication that he is not speaking the truth, and it ought to be withdrawn.
– I do not take exception to it.
– Very well.
– I take exception to an unwarrantable charge of cowardice being made here.
– I must ask Senator Higgs to confine himself to the subjectmatter of the motion, and not to make personal reflections on honorable senators. I do not think he ought to accuse Senator Neild of cowardice, and the implication ought to be withdrawn.
– I beg to withdraw the implication. I was drawn into making that remark by an interjection. It is a very great calamity, not only that the war should cost such a large sum, but that so many of the lives of our people should be sacrificed.
– I ask, sir, whether the remarks of the honorable senator are pertinent to the subject-matter of the motion, which I understand is the Government’s proposal to send 2,000 men to take part in the war in South Africa. I take this point of order now, because the honorable senator lias been wandering from that question, and if this digression is continued it will only tend to provoke unpleasantness.
– I do not think I can say that the reference to the number of men who have lost their lives in the war is not relevant to the subject, which the honorable senator has moved the adjournment of the Senate to discuss.
– I think it is very relevant to the question. I have moved the adjournment of the Senate with a view to endeavour to let Mr. Secretary Chamberlain know that an unconditional surrender by the Boers is not desired by the Commonwealth. Members of Parliament may ask what has the Commonwealth to do with the question 1 I remember a speech made by Mr. Chamberlain some time ago in which he said that the colonies must have a voice in the settlement of the war. If there is no expression of opinion from the Commonwealth of Australia, the people in England may be under the impression that since we are sending contingents so readily we are all anxious that the Boers should be compelled to surrender unconditionally. ‘There are some people who have expressed their opinion publicly, but there are many thousands of people in the Commonwealth who are not able to express their opinion publicly, and their opinion is in accord with ours - that it is not worthy of the great British nation to exterminate a brave race such as the Boers have pro oved themsel ves to be. 1 We are draining Australia of thousands of our best citizens by sending these contingents away. They include some of our bravest men. Can Australia bear their loss? We have raised some 15,000 or 16,000 men, and are now proposing to raise 2,000 more. Can Australia with its limited population continue to send to South Africa thousands of men ? We read a great deal in the press about the the scarcity of workmen to labour on the dairy farms, and on the sugar plantations. There is a scarcity of labour to cany on the industrial work of Australia. Yet here we are, sending out some of our most healthy and courageous men, probably to leave their bones on the South African desert. What are we going to receive in return for all this expenditure of blood and money ? Are we going to bring about anything like peace in South
Africa if the British Government continueto demand the unconditional surrender of the Boers ? Would it not be better for the British Government to offer terms which the Boers would be able to accept ? Would it not be magnanimous on their part to do so? Honorable senators seem to forget that throughout the British colonies in South Africa many thousands of residents are related by blood and marriage to the Boers of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Do honorable senators, recognising as they must that the Boers are a brave, independent, and just people, think that harmony will be brought about by demanding the last ounce of blood that can be extracted from the race ? I submit, sir, that Great Britain ought to take up a magnanimous attitude.
– We are paying now for doing that before.
– Britain has shown that she has the resourcefulness and the capacity to defy any nation on the face of the earth. The Boers hoped, of course, to keep the old country at arms length. They have failed.
– They hoped to drive the British into the sea.
– With all respect to the honorable and learned senator, that view has not been supported by the soldiers and writers who went to South Africa to investigate the situation.
– Thoroughly supported.
– It was proclaimed over and over again.
– It was proclaimed by a few men, probably, who thought they could drive the British into the sea, and the cry was taken up by those interested in bringing about a war in South Africa, until realty the British people and the Australians’ commenced to believe that there was a movement on the part of the Boer race in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State to drive the British into the sea.
– Why were they importing arms for years before the war, if it was not for that object ?
– The Boers did not commence to import arms to any extent until about 1895, when they discovered that Dr. Jameson, Mr. Rhodes, and other people proposed to bring about the Jameson raid. It was then, of course, that they did their level best to protect themselves by importing arms.
– Their own published records show that the importations commenced long before then.
– How long before?
– Sufficiently long to justify my statement, at all events.
– You are only rebels to the Empire, and traitors to the Crown - that is all !
– That is laughable !
– It may be laughable, but it is true !
– The statement is so absurdly ridiculous that I need not ask you, Mr. President, to request the honorable and learned senator to withdraw it. A statement like that is just as slanderous as other statements to which exception has been taken and which have been withdrawn. But the honorable and learned senator is not serious in proclaiming me and others rebels and traitors to the Crown, I am sure. I do not propose, in moving this motion, to defend Mr. Kruger and his Government, and their methods. No doubt if I had been in the Transvaal - I do not allude to the Orange Free State, which appears to have been well governed - I should have Been a member of the labour party, which was endeavouring to oust Mr. Kruger, and which opposed his policy in such matters as granting concessions to the dynamite monopoly, having railways constructed by private syndicates, and refusing to extend the franchise.
– Does the honorable senator think that is relevant to the subject before us ?
– I think it is relevant for this reason - that I propose to refer to the argument that honorable senators have used, that this war was brought about through the very great grievances under which the British in the Transvaal suffered, on account of the dynamite monopoly, the railway monopoly, and the refusal of the franchise. But we who know something of British politics are aware that we hare monopolies within our own dominions just as great as the dynamite monopoly. Take, for example, the Eastern Extension cable monopoly.
– I do not think that is relevant to this subject. It is not relevant to the sending of 2,000 troops to South Africa.
– I only wish to show by illustration that if we turn our eyes to grievances under which our own people are suffering, we shall find plenty of room for reform. It appears to me to be an overdrawn argument to say that the British in South Africa were suffering under such grievences as the dynamite monopoly and the refusal of the franchise when there are many millions of British subjects in the old country who cannot get the suffrage, and many British people who are suffering under the disadvantage of monopolies in railways, and in connexion with such concerns as the Eastern Extension Cable Company. Now, sir, I do not want to go back too far.
– I should have objected if I had thought the honorable senator was going to deal with anything but the sending of the 2,000 men.
– Senator Dobson is an ultra loyalist, and he deprecates anything like criticism, no matter how healthy it may be.
– Keep to the 2,000 men.
– I would nsk honorable senators to put to themselves the question whether there has been any real discussion in the Federal Parliament upon this question since the Commonwealth was established. We have sent away contingents, and the matter has not been properly discussed. Now we are proposing to send another couple of thousand men, and honorable senators deprecate further debate. Mv view is that the war was brought about by the mine-owners of the Transvaal, who wanted to reduce the already low wages of the black people. It was not so much a question of the franchise as of compelling the natives to do three or four months work in the year. After all the information we have obtained about the war since it began, we ought to do our best to bring it to a conclusion.
– Hear, hear ; but not in the honorable senator’s way.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his view. I do not object to his holding those views, but I hope to bring about something like a request on the part of those who think that the war should end by more peaceable means, that it shall be brought to an end speedily. I trust that honorable senators will not endeavour to stop this discussion by doing what is, no doubt, within their rights. My opinion is that the British Government should offer the Boers some terms like the following: - They should grant an amnesty to all those who have taken part in the war, and should promise the Boers of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, self-government on Australasian lines within the next three years ; and if those Boers will settle down to work peacefully under a Constitution such as we possess in Australia, the Imperial Government should give them a federation of the South African colonies with a Constitution such as we possess within a period of five years.
– Would they accept those terms?
– I have no idea whether they would or not, but I believe they would back down if such terms were offered to them. But when the Boers are asked to back down unconditionally, I do not see how, brave as they are, they can afford to do it. They feel that it is their duty to stand by the men who went from other British colonies to support them in the war. They ask themselves, “ How can we unconditionally surrender and hand over those who are called Cape rebels, perhaps to be shot or imprisoned for life.” True to the instincts of their race, and to their traditions, Boers say, ‘ No, we would rather sacrifice our lives than abandon the men who came to our aid.”
– If the honorable senator does not look sharp, I shall object.
– The honorable and learned senator can take his own course. If he likes to stifle discussion, let him do so.
– I am anxious to get on with the country’s business.
– I have only occupied half-an-hour upon a question of national importance concerning the whole British Empire. Probably the honorable and learned senator has a great respect for the 3ate Lord Chief Justice Russell, who, when the Boer war was spoken of, was afraid that it might mean the end of the British Empire.
– Some of you would not bc sorry for that.
– That is a cheap sneer. I deny the imputation totally.
– Hurry up, now !
– I am not going to hurry up. If honorable senators like to shut me up by brute force they may do so.
– The honorable senator has already had half-an-hour.
– Honorable senators do not seem to realize the loss which accrues to the people of Australia through the war. They do not recognise that this war is costing the working classes of these States something like j£2 or ±’3 per family per annum, in consequence of the increase of the price of the necessaries of life. The State of Victoria has failed to float a loan on account of the South African war. There is no doubt about it. The war is increasing the price of loans. I personally believe that Australia has gone in for too much borrowing, but, at all events, we shall have to raise some loans, and the money will have to be paid for at a higher price than would otherwise have been the case, on account of the South African war. There would be no loss to British prestige if the British Government were to offer such terms as I have mentioned. Great Britain has proved to the world and to those nations who would like to see her defeated that she can hold her own. She is in a far better position now, with 230,000 trained men in South Africa, to hold her own than she was at the commencement of this war two years ago. Honorable senators, I trust, will not see any disadvantage in being magnanimous and generous and in offering such terms as are likely to be acceptable to a brave and courageous people.
is unnecessary for me to say many words in reply to the honorable senator’s speech. I am glad that he has been allowed i to proceed without that rule of the Senate being enforced which enables any honorable senator at any moment to stop a discussion of this kind ; because I think that if an honorable senator has a statement to make upon a matter of so much importance he ought to be allowed to make it. But at the same time I hope the Senate will see that there is no necessity to continue the discussion after I have made the statement I have in reply to the honorable to make senator’s say that been for charges. In the first place I the policy of Australia has years, and very rightly so, to connect herself indissolubly with the maintenance of the integrity of the Empire. She has shown that in every possible way in which a people can declare a sentiment. She has poured out her blood in justification of it. That is the position which Australia takes up to-day, and will take up without wavering until this war comes to an end. I am sure that Senator Higgs is actuated by motives of consideration and humanity towards the Boers; but I tell him this : that if his policy were adopted, and the Empire were divided up into clashing opinions as to the expediency of carrying on this war, it would never come to an end. It is mistaken kindness to suppose that by creating a division of opinion throughout the Empire on this subject the war will be brought to a conclusion. There is one way, and one way only, in which the waa1 can be brought to a conclusion, and that is by the absolute conquest of the Boers who are now in rebellion. There is no other way. No one could be more impressed than I am with the patriotism, the bravery, and, in many instances, the chivalry of the people who have fought this splendid fight ; but it is a war to repel an invasion: a war to break up the British Empire in South Africa; a Avar for the purpose of asserting the ascendency of the Boers and driving the British into the sea. Under those circumstances, it can come only to one conclusion, and that is by the complete ascendency of the Empire. Whatever it costs we are bound to see the end of the war. I am not going into the question of its origin, save to say that, in my opinion, it was absolutely justified on the part of the Empire. Whether it was or not, we are now in the throes of the struggle, and it must be brought to a conclusion in one way, and in one way only ; and that is by the complete ascendency of Great Britain. The honorable senator has proceeded upon .an entirely mistaken principle if he has assumed that it is necessary for the Government to go to Parliament for approval on every occasion when they take an executive action. That would not be responsible government. It would allow the practical work of the Executive to be carried on by both Houses of Parliament ; which of course is impossible. Tlie Government, being charged with the carrying out of the executive work of Australia on behalf of the Australian people, took action in this matter originally, in preparing to send the first contingent. They were either compelled to take that action on a telegram received from the authorities in Great Britain, or to allow criminal delay to occur in complying with it. But as soon as Parliament met the matter was brought before it, and certain motions were submitted.
It was open to Parliament to disapprove of our action, but so far from doing so, resolutions were carried in both Houses - and in the case of the Senate unanimously - affirming the readiness of Australia to give all requisite aid to the mother country in order to bring this war to an end. That was a ratification of what the Government had done, and was an authority for the Government to do anything in the future in order to aid the mother country in bringing the war to a conclusion. I do not want it to be thought that I fail to recognise the sacrifice that Australia is making, or what it means to send out the flower of our young men to South Africa, nor do I forget all that their going out implies to them and those they leave behind. But Australia is prepared to make that sacrifice. If she intends to make her connexion with tha Empire a reality, she must be prepared to make it, just as Great Britain would be prepared to-morrow to spend her last drop of blood, and her treasure for the purpose of preserving the integrity of the Empire here, if we were in a difficulty. I have nothing more to say. I feel that the honorable senator’s statement has no foundation in fact, or in right policy. This is a question with which we cannot palter. Either we are for or against the Empire. There is only one course to be pursued in the interests of Australia, in the interests of the Empire, in the interests of this great people themselves, and that is to give ever)’ assistance to the mother country in order that the war may be brought to a speedy conclusion by the complete subjugation of the Boers.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will, without delay, in pursuance of the powers conferred on him by section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901, interdict the transmission through the Post-office of correspondence addressed to persons carrying on business as bookmakers, turf tipsters, or turf commission agents, and if not, why not ?
– The answer to the honorable and learned senator’s question is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General is not aware, nor has he been officially advised, of the transmission through the Post-office of correspondence in contravention of the section referred to except in a few instances, and in those action have been taken.
Are a number of military encampments to be held throughout the Commonwealth at Easter?
What is the estimated cost of such encampments ?
What sum is likely to be required to pay the Militia and P.P. Forces attending such encampments ?
By what parliamentary vote has provision been made for such encampments ? fi. What is the estimated daily cost of rationing each member of the Defence Force attending such encampment ?
I wish it to be understood that so far as paragraph 5 is concerned what I desire to know is the cost per each individual.
– N - Notice of this question was given only yesterday, and it lias been impossible to obtain the information desired by the honorable senator. I shall, therefore, ask him to postpone it until next week.
– But there may be no sitting next week. I understand that Senator O’Connor declines to answer the question.
– N - No ; what I say is that we have not had sufficient time to obtain the necessary information.
ask asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it a fact that three Chinese were, a few days ago, allowed to land from the ship Darius into the Commonwealth without being submitted to any education test V
– T - The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Having altered their position without notice of any intended change in the law, the Prime Minister directed that they might be admitted without passing the test.
Resolved (on motion by Senator O’Con nor) -
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Electoral Bill from passing through all its remaining stages at the same sitting of the Senate.
In Committee - (Consideration resumed from 20th March, 1902, vide page 1109S).’
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “The allowance payable to each senator, and each member of the House of Representatives as provided in section 48 of The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act shall be reckoned from the day on which he is elected, chosen, or appointed, or on which the seat was vacated by his predecessor whichever shall last happen.”
Under the Constitution the parliamentary allowances commence from the date of the swearing-in of the members elected. It may often happen, however, that a byelection will take place when Parliament is not sitting, and in such a case the member chosen might be compelled to wait for a considerable time before he could be sworn in. It must also be remembered that the triennial elections of senators have to take place in the latter part of the year preceding that in which the members returned may take office. Parliament is not likely, however, to meet until late in the year, and probably it would be impossible for the elected persons to be sworn in for from five to seven months after their return. That being so, they would be deprived of what in some cases might be their chief means of livelihood. It is to overcome that difficulty, and to enable the payment of the parliamentary allowances from the date that a member’s work commences, that I propose this amendment. Honorable senators will recognise that a member’s duties are not confined to attendance in Parliament, but that almost from the moment of his election his work begins amongst his constituents and in the general community. What I would suggest, as being preferable to my proposal, is that the Vice-President of the Executive Council should insert a claus d in the Bill providing that upon being declared elected a member shall be sworn in by the GovernorGeneral, if Parliament is not then sit ing. That would be an immeasurably superior provision, and if I had thought of it at the time I should ‘have drafted my amendment in that way. It seems to me that without such a provision Members of
Parliament might be elected and be members de facto, and )Tet be incapable of being sworn in and discharging their duties in a proper manner for many months after their return. Members of the Upper House in New South Wales are sworn in by the Governor. I am aware that there is a constitutional difficulty in relation to the question of whether it is competent for this Chamber to deal with such a matter as this. Therefore, I am going to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council - who I am sure will not think me guilty of any breach of confidence in saying that in private conversation with him I have ascertained that he regards my proposal as an equitable one - whether he would feel justified in giving an assurance to the committee that the Government will take charge of a proposition to this effect, and have it inserted in another place 1 If the Minister can give such an assurance I shall withdraw my amendment.
– had an opportunity of considering the provision and of discussing it with my colleague. It is true, as Senator Neild has said, that it may involve some constitutional question. I am not pronouncing any opinion upon that point, but the amendment might lead to some difficulty. If the view should be taken that we have not the power to pass a clause of this kind, the whole Bill might be imperilled ; it might be liable to be set aside on account of the appearance of such a clause in it. In order to avoid any difficulty it appears to me that the provision itself, is a most equitable one. There is no reason why a member’s allowance should not begin immediately he takes the seat which has been vacated. There is no double payment here 1 It will not begin until the seat has been vacated and the member steps into it, but from that time, whether Parliament is sitting or not, it is only fair that he should have remuneration. Under these circumstances the Government have decided to introduce in the other House a clause dealing- “with the question. Whether it will be exactly in the same form as the amendment or not I do not know. It may be necessary to provide separately for the House of Representatives and the Senate. I am indebted to Senator Neild for having brought the matter before the Senate. I feel certain that honorable senators will consider that it is a provision which might fairly to be made.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - Under these circumstances, and with the courteous assurance which has been tendered by the Minister, I am sure I shall be meeting the desire of all by not proceeding with the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to ask Senator O’Connor how he proposes to deal with form B in the absence of a federal franchise ? It is only applicable after we have passed a federal franchise.
– I - I propose to deal with form B under clause 205, which provides that the forms in the first schedule may be varied as the circumstances of the case may require.
– Form I requires a candidate to state his occupation in his nomination paper, but there is no such provision in clause 101, which is copied slavishly from the Western Australian Act, and in the schedule to the Act, exactly as in the schedule to this Bill, there was a provision, which was purely’, optional, for the occupation to be given. I suggest to Senator O’Connor that he should bring form I into line with clause 101, by omitting the words “ and occupation.” I do not care whether the words are left in or not, but the clause and the form should be brought into line.
– T - There is no reason why a man should not give his occupation.
– No, but when the nomination paper was handed in in Western Australia, the officer insisted that it should be given, and in one case the agent for the candidate took away the nomination paper and filled in an occupation which was not correct, and so ran some risk of invalidating the nomination.
– V - Very often the occupation is a means of identification.
– But should not the words also be inserted in clause 101 ?
– I - I do not think it is necessary. I think that the clause and the form would be read together. In clause 101 we provide that the nomination shall “ name the candidate and his place of residence,” but we do not say that it shall give his christian name and surname. It seems to me that his occupation is a matter which may very well be left to the schedule.
– Would it invalidate the nomination if the occupation were left out?
– I - It would, because he is required to draw up his nomination according to the form in the schedule.
Schedule amended by the insertion of new forms L 1 and M 1, and agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the Chairman reportthe Bill to the House with amendments.
Amend ment (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to-
That the clauses 3, 41, 47, 60, 65, 96, 101, 110, 130, . 135, 154, 175, 175a, 190, . 191, 192, 193, 194, 1 99, and the schedule be reconsidered.
Clause 3 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 41 -
The special court of revision may sit at any convenient places within the division, and it shall not be necessary for the same magistrate or justices of the peace to be present at every sitting of the court.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ The special court of revision may sit between the hours of 7 p.m. and 12 midnight.
The hours at which the court may sit are not mentioned in the Bill, and it is just as well to insert a provision of this kind. Men who are engaged at work all day cannot attend revision courts until the evening. As election times approach there is always a perfect rush of work to be done by electoral officers, and they will naturally desire to do it within office hours. Unless we make provision for the courts to sit at unusual hours it will not be done.
– The There is. really no necessity to make the amendment suggested, but at the same time I can quite appreciate Senator De Largie’s motive. He wishes to make it plain that the court has power to sit in the evening. We cannot do more, however, than make an indication that the court may so sit. I suggest that we should add after the word “ sit” in the first line the words “ at any time between seven a.m. and midnight.”
Senacor STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - The proposal of the VicePresident of the Executive Council is an improvement, because it indicates that the court may sit at unusual hours, but it does not go far enough. I suggest that we might provide that if 50 or 100 electors petition the court to sit between seven and ten in the evening, it shall sit at those hours. On the gold-fields, where the men are engaged upon their shifts during the daytime, a great injustice would be done unless the court were to sit in the evening.
– I trust that Senator De Largie’s amendment will be agreed to. The modification suggested by Senator O’Connor leaves the option with the court. In Victoria the practice is generally for the revision courts to sit in the day-time. When the privilege has been granted of cases being heard at night, I have seen 300 or 400 men waiting to have their cases tried ; but I have also seen 500 men struck off the roll in less than five minutes in the day-time, because there was no appearance on their behalf. It is a crying evil that men should be disfranchised in that wholesale fashion.
– S - Senator De Largie’s amendment is practically the same as my suggestion in regard to its being permissive. I presume, however, that he has made a mistake in moving that the court should sit between seven p.m. and midnight. He surely means seven a.m. The court should be able to sit at any time during the day or in the evening, to suit the convenience of the people in the district. No doubt instructions will be issued to the officers to sit at such hours as may be necessary ; and if an electoral court so far forgot its duty as to do an injustice to anybody, a complaint would be made, and I should hope that an officer would not be allowed to continue in his position if he disregarded the convenience of the public in that way. But there is no half-way between making it permissive or compulsory. It would be absurd to make it compulsory - all parties would be served by making it permissive.
– There is a good deal of sound reasoning in what Senator O’Connor says, but the difficulty Senator De Largiehas called attention to is not got over. I know that his statement is absolutely correct. In Western Australia I and a number of my friends took enormous trouble to put people on the roll, but, after wehad done so, every man whom we put on received a notice saying that his name was objected to. What was the result? The revision court sat between ten and four in the day-time, and the names of men whom we had put on at night were struck off. We took so much trouble about putting them on that we had magistrates sitting at tables in the road, at night, taking names. It was worth the trouble, because I have no doubt that Western Australia would not have entered the Federation if we had not done so. The men were struck off by the revision court at a time when they could not attend to protest. It is generally the names of working men who are objected to. They are engaged in manual occupations all day, and there is no appearance on behalf of them when their names are called on. This grievance is not imaginary, because I have had such a notice served upon me. I was required to attend at the revision court at tcn a.m. I went to the court and found that there were a host of names in advance of mine, so that I had to pay aman to sit in court all day and watch for my name being called on. He told me - and that is how I know - that hundreds of names of persons were struck off on behalf of whom there was no appearance. Senator O’Connor’s objection to Senator De Largie’s amendment is reasonable, but there is no provision in the Bill which would entitle a man who could not appear during the day to attend at a night sitting of the court.
– Those who have criticised Senator O’Connor’s proposal have apparently overlooked the fact that there is a large section of workers engaged in dairy farming and other rural pursuits, who could not attend at night. The court should sit in different localities at different times. A commonsense official would fix the hours of sitting at times most suitable to the great body of electors in the district. But it is absurd to suppose that the court will be able to sit all day andall the evening as well.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I intended to withdraw my amendment before, but as several honorable senators were anxious to speak to the question, I did not wish to deprive them of the opportunity of doing so. I agree with Senator O’Connor’s proposition, which is much more comprehensive than my own.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That the words ‘ ‘ at any time between the hours of 7 a.m. and 12 midnight” be inserted after the word “sit.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 47 amended by the insertion of the following new paragraph, to follow paragraph (a)-
Clause 60 (Right to transfer).
– I m I move-
That the following words be added to the clause -
Until a uniform federal franchise is provided for the right to transfer shall only extend to transfers from one division to another in the same State.
It is obviously necessary that such an addition should be made.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - It is , rather amusing to find the honorable and learned senator saying now that these words are “absolutely necessary.”
– W - Why not drop these personal matters?
– No doubt the honorable and learned senator does not wish to have attention drawn to the fact that, when I endeavoured at an earlier stage to insert what was practically the same amendment in this clause, I was told that I was quite wrong. I congratulate him upon having been obliged to adopt my suggestion.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 65 amended by the omission of sub-clause iv., and agreed to.
Clause 96 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 101 (Proceedings on nomination day)-
Paragraph (a) (on motion by Senator Matheson) amended to read as follows : - ” (a) Name the candidate, his place of resi dence and occupation, and.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 110 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 130 (Ballot Papers)-
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That the following be added as a new subclause to follow sub-clause 2 - “Where similarity in the names of two or more candidates is likely to cause confusion, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State or the Divisional Returning Officer conducting the election may arrange the names with such description or addition as will distinguish them from one another.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 135 -
Electors not having voters’ certificates, and not voting by post, may vote at the polling place for which they are enrolled….
– I move -
That tho word “ the,” li ii e 2, be omitted, with u view to insert in lien. thereof the word “ any.” if this amendment is carried I shall move to omit the words “for which they are enrolled.” We have had so many debates on this question that I do not propose to address myself to it at any length, although I desire to test the feeling of the committee upon it. ‘As has been pointed out repeatedly by honorable senators from Queensland and Western Australia, the provisions in regard to voters’ certificates and voting by post will be totally inadequate to meet the conditions of those States. Abating by post can be availed of up to the day of polling, but where mails have to be carried by coaches it sometimes takes a month for a letter to travel from one part of the State to another. In the ordinary course of events a letter containing a request for permission to vote by post has first to go to the returning officer, and then to the voter, and he has to send it to his polling place. Three journeys have to be made. It is a” very good provision for persons in closely settled places, or for persons who are going to travel by sea, or who are sick, but it does not meet the case of those who live at a great distance from their polling booth. Voters’ certificates are suitable for only one class, and that is those persons who take a keen interest in politics, and thoroughly understand the provisions of the electoral law. A voter’s certificate can only be taken out between the issue of the writ and the third day before the polling. That limits the time considerably. In Western Australia the gold fields extend from the north to the south, and the population is migrating continually. The electoral divisions extend for the whole length of the State, and letters winch have to be sent by coach take months to reach their destination. It has been pointed out by Senator Keating that the Tasmanian system is safeguarded in such a way as to do away with any danger of personation. Under this Bill, if I like to take the risk, there is nothing to prevent me from personating an elector. I hope that the committee will make this amendment, in the interest of a large class who will avail themselves of this provision ; and if they do they can omit the provision for the issue of a voters’ certificate, because it will not be necessary then. It is a complicated system which would not be availed of to any extent.
– I - I must oppose the amendment for the reasons I gave before. I do not think Senator Pearce has adduced any new reason. We have a system which divides the electors on the roll according to polling places, and, as a general rule, compels electors to vote at those polling places. It is only in that way that we can secure that identification of voters which is absolutely necessary to prevent fraud and imposition. But many concessions are made, and amongst them is the concession that an elector may vote by post if he resides five miles from the polling place, or intends to be five miles from the polling place on polling day. The provision is of so general application that it is almost impossible that any man of the class Senator Pearce spoke of, would not be able to avail himself of it. Another provision will enable a man - I think, in most cases, in the large States a month before, if there is any probability of his being away from his own polling place - to get a voter’s certificate which will permit him to vote anywhere. Under these circumstances, I think everything has been done” which should be done to facilitate voting, short of giving up all the checks which are requisite to insure an honest election. Although we may go as far as we possibly can in that direction, still, we cannot hope to reach everybody in all circumstances. I think we have reached the greatest number of people who can be reached without giving up the necessary safeguards of any electoral system.
– There arc fresh arguments to be adduced, and they are those arising out of Senator Keating’s speech the other day on another clause. The chief objection to this amendment appears to be the facility that would be afforded to personate. Under the system in vogue in Tasmania a person can vote ac any polling booth, and if he does not happen to be on the roll of that polling booth, his vote is sent by post to the polling booth of the place where he resides. The fact that he has not previously voted is checked off before his vote is recorded, so that there is no possibility of personation such as we were led to suppose, the other day, would be of frequent occurrence. Seeing that it is a perfectly feasible practice, and seeing that the only objection raised to it has been swept away, I intend to reverse the vote I previously gave, and to support the amendment, more especially because the extra reasonable facilities which I advocated in .connexion with voters’ certificates have not been granted. The committee has thought fit to restrict the issue of the voter’s certificate in such a way that for all practical purposes it is a useless document, and the provisions of the Bill are absolutely worthless to the very people to whom the Government wish to appear most benevolent.
– So far as the Senate elections are concerned they are not worth the paper they are printed on.
– Whether a man is voting for the Senate, or whether he is voting for the House of Representatives in a large division, my argument is equally applicable.
– - lam very sorry that Senator O’Connor can not see his way to accept this amendment, especially in view of the fact that Senator Matheson’s amendment was rejected “yesterday. Even if that amendment had been carried, I should still have asked for this alteration to be made. The chief objection to the amendments the danger of personation. We should get out of our mind the dishonest voter, and think of the honest voter. We are here to make the law as liberal as possible for the electors, and what is the use of enacting a liberal law if we do not provide reasonable facilities for electors to record their votes ? We are providing voting facilities in some directions, but from many electors in some States we are taking away voting facilities which they have had. In a small community where there are not more than 3,000 electors, I have seen hundreds disfranchised on polling clay. In many a case I have seen an elector, whose name was on the roll for one portion of an electorate, hurriedly called away by the exigencies of his occupation to another place, perhaps only ten miles distant, two or three days before polling day, and through no fault of his own, prevented from recording his vote. What is the use of the sympathy of honorable senators unless it is given to us in a practical form ? Surely we should be prepared to believe that the large body of electors in Australia are honest. The provision for voters’ certificates will not meet the convenience or the wish of electors in distant parts of Australia, so well and so readily as will this amendment. We cannot legislate for a more deserving class of electors than the men in our back blocks - the miners, the prospectors, the timbercutters, the shearers, and the rouseabouts. If we can possibly place extra voting facilities within the reach of the very backbone of the industrial life of Australia, it is our duty to do so.
– It is owing to want of knowledge of the conditions which prevail in the back country in the larger States of the Commonwealth that Senator O’Connor is opposing this amendment. If he had been brought into contact with the state of affairs in the back country of Western Australia and Queensland he would not for a moment oppose it. We must remember the enormous extent of those States. New places are being discovered very suddenly. From time to time a large population rushes off to a place at which there is no opportunity to get a postal ballot-paper or a voter’s certificate. In Western Australia, with its enormous area of auriferous country, new finds are being constantly discovered. New rushes are going on from one year’s end to the other. Many of them, unfortunately, are of only a few months’ duration, but they are sufficiently long to attract a large number of persons from the places where they are enrolled. An enormous number of persons who have been the pioneers of our back country will suffer by the provision in the Bill. At the federal elections 25 per cent, of the electors of Western Australia would have been disfranchised if they had been compelled to vote as they are required to do under this Bill. Honorable senators who come from States in which the population is close, and every voting facility is given to electors, know nothing of the conditions that prevail elsewhere. Otherwise they would not offer any opposition to the proposals of those who know what is required in other States. I am prepared to punish a personator as severely as any opponent of tins amendment is inclined to do, but I contend that every possible facility to exercise the franchise should be given. I hope that honorable senators will see the advisableness of accepting the opinion of those who know what provision is required for the convenience of the electors in the larger States. I know that the Bill is liberal on the whole, but many of its best provisions will be
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020321_senate_1_8/>.