1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The answers to, honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments resumed from 4th September, vide page 15780) :
Clause 182 (Licensed premises not to be used for election purposes).
Upon which Senator Brake had moved -
That the committee agree to the House of Representatives’ amendment omitting the clause.
– In consequence of the discussion which took place last evening, I propose to ask that the committee disagree with the amendment, but amend the clause so that it will read as follows : -
No part of any premises -
I desire to bring the clause into line with the provision in the Queensland Act. The proviso is intended to meet a case, and they are. very frequent in some parts of Australia, where a licensee has erected a hall for public purposes alongside, probably on the same plot of ground, but not connected in any way with, the hotel. It is conceived that there could be no greater objection to a building of that kind being used than there would be to the use of a building which was next door to a hotel, so long as there was no direct communication between the hotel and the room.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the clause be amended by the omission of the words “ wholesale or.”
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). It seems to me that this proposal will suit neither parties in the committee, owing to the use of the words “as a committee room.” The arguments which were directed against the original clause, were that it would be distinctly inconvenient to many candidates, because in small country villages it is not possible to obtain a hall or place of meeting which is not attached in some way to a hotel. The question in their minds always was the necessity to hold meetings. It is now proposed that these premises, or any part of them, shall not be used as a committee room, leaving it perfectly open to a candidate to use any part of a hotel for the purpose of holding a public meeting and addressing the electors. I indorse that part of the proposal, because it meets my view very fairly. But to the second part of the. proposal I take strong exception. I believe that in innumerable cases the hotel is not disconnected with that part of the building which- would be of service and use to a candidate by means of a separate entrance or exit. The modification which Senator Drake proposes to insert meets the case of paragraph (a), but is utterly irrelevant to the case of paragraph (6). Who can conceive that any part of the premises used by a club, society, or association is detached from the hotel? Iknow hundreds of cases in which they are not detached. The proviso is simply ludicrous as applied to paragraph (6), and the effect of its insertion would be that it would be absolutely impossible to use as a committee room any part of the premises of an ordinary club, which was not, and which no one could expect to be, detached.
– Nor could a balcony be used for the purpose of addressing a meeting in the street.
SenatorCLEMONS.- No. While with regard to those buildings which are attached to hotels there may be a separate entrance or exit, in some cases it is absolutely impossible to find a separate exit or entrance in connexion with the premises of a club. I submit that the proposal is bad in two directions - bad in so far as it does not meet the objection of those who do’ not wish licensed premises to beused, inasmuch as the limitation is solely in regard to committee rooms, and bad so far as paragraph (b) is concerned, because it absolutely bars any part of the premises of a club, society, or association from being used at all.
– It seems to be very difficult to frame a clause which will meet the views of all parties. Senator Clemons objects to the proposal of Senator Drake, principally because it would prohibit meetings from being held on the premises of a club.
– Not entirely. I think it is absurd to say that a candidate shall not use a hotel as a committee room, but may use it for any other purpose.
– The intention of the proviso is to prevent candidates from making hotels their head-quarters. I think we are all agreed on that point. If honorable senators would think of the opportunities for corruption, bribery, and all sorts of malpractices which the use of a hotel as the head-quarters of a candidate would provide, they would be very chary about allowing the use of committee rooms in hotels, or permitting, meetings to be held there. If a candidate is allowed to use a hotel as his head-quarters it will mean that a committee will be sitting there during election day, and that voters will be pouring in and out.
– But a candidate is not obliged to have a committee.
– We know that a candidate cannot get into Parliament unless he has a committee.
– I know that I got in without a committee.
– The honorable and learned senator is trying to imitate the ostrich. Legally there is no necessity for a candidate to have a committee, but we know that he must have one.
– I had not.
-Col. Neild. - Nor did I.
– I had committees, as I believe that most other honorable senators had. We do not legislate for exceptions, but for the . general rule, and nearly all candidates are supported by organizations of some kind. Let vis imagine the position as it would be on the day of election. You have your committee sitting in a hotel. You have electors pouring in and out during the whole day. The large majority of the men who went into the committee room would expect to be treated, and would be treated there. If one candidate did this, the others would also be expected to do it. Those who refrained would be called mean, and would probably lose a large number of votes ; so that the election would not turn upon the important issues before the people at the time, but upon the meanness or lavishness of the respective candidates. If committee meetings are permitted to be held in hotels, hotel-keepers all over the country will be angling to have committee rooms on their premises, so as to gather business to themselves. We ought to do everything in our power to prevent the use of strong drink at election time. I was under the impression that the tendency of public opinion was in the direction of shutting up public-houses altogether on election days, instead of throwing them wide open, as apparently is now proposed by another place. Senator Clemons says that it would be very hard if he could not hold election meetings in a club. Imagine a town large enough to make it worth the honorable and learned senator’s while to address a meeting there, which had no place where a public meeting could be held. It is preposterous to suggest, such a state of affairs, which, so far as my observation goes, does not exist in Australia. What virtue is there in addressing meetings from the balconies of hotels? During my election campaigns I have always kept as far away from hotels as possible - for economical reasons, as well as others. If you talk to a crowd from the balcony of a hotel, at the end of the address the speaker is thirsty and the crowd is thirsty. They all gravitate to the bar, and refresh themselves at the candidate’s expense.
– Principally his opponents !
– That is the worst of it. In the interests of economy, as well as of the purity of elections, we ought to .keep as far away from public-houses as possible during election times. I have been in a great many portions of the back country of Queensland, but have never found a place where I could not get accommodation to address a meeting. I have addressed meetings in private houses, in sheds, and in the open air. We were not allowed to use hotels in Queensland, and a very good thing it was, as I have found on many occasions. I trust that some clause will be passed to prevent the use of hotels foi1 election purposes. I consider that it would be a dreadful evil if the door were thrown open to their wholesale use at such times.
– I think that my honorable friend, Senator Stewart, is perfectly right in saying that the whole trend of public opinion, and of the thought and act of Legislatures, is in the direction of divorcing the use of hotels from elections.
But there is one thing that I do not quite understand. Under the section of the Queensland Act, which is similar to the clause before the committee, it is only the holding of committee meetings in hotels that is prohibited. There is nothing in the clause before us, nor in the Queensland Act, which I have read, to prohibit any candidate from addressing a meeting in the bar of a hotel.
– How does Senator Dobson define a committee meeting?
– I define it as a meeting called by the agent of the candidate. Most of us have committees, consisting of 10, 20, or 30 people.
– Any meeting of people which had for its object the return of the candidate might be regarded as a committee’ meeting.
– The clause as it stands will hardly do. I trust that we shall stick to the clause as it stood originally, with a proviso to the effect that a candidate may employ a hotel room for an election meeting, if it is not absolutely connected with the hotel and has a private entrance. I should have no objection to that, although I think that it would be a mistake to go even so far. Honorable senators have spoken of the difficulty of finding accommodation. That difficulty appears to me to exist solely in their imagination. I cannot understand any man going to a place where there is a sufficient number of electors worth addressing at which there is no school or cottage or ‘ place where a meeting can be held. I do not believe that any person in the whole Commonwealth would find the slightest difficulty in addressing the electors or meeting them for business purposes, even if we drew the clause as strictly as it could be framed for the purpose of divorcing hotels from elections. We absolutely make the giving of a glass of beer to an elector with the object of influencing his vote a criminal offence, yet we propose to permit the use of hotels for election purposes, although we know that the sole object of the licensed victualler is to sell drink.
– I am afraid that Senator Dobson does his election business at the street corners. Some of us want to have rooms.
– Senator Clemons lays down the law as though he knew a good deal about conducting elections, but he has had only one contested election in his life. Therefore, we can hardly accept him as an authority.
– I intend to support the proposal of the Government. If a more stringent clause can be framed to prevent the holding of election meetings in hotels, it will find in me a warm’ supporter. It is all very well to say that there is no clanger in holding meetings in hotels, but every one of us knows otherwise. Every one knows that beer plays a very important part in elections. Elections have sometimes been won and lost according to whether candidates were prepared to adopt tactics of that description.
– The beer and the Bible !
– On several occasions I have noticed the evil influence of hotels in connexion with elections. I have contested five Parliamentary elections in my life, and perhaps I shall contest more. In one constituency where I was fighting an election there was only a right-of-way between a polling-booth and an hotel. One of the candidates made use of the public-house. Electors were given a ticket with which they could go in, and, by presenting it, could get a sixpenny drink. The candidate who refused to do that sort of thing was placed at a disadvantage. I lost the election by 100 votes, but I am certain that if I had adopted the tactics of the other side, I should have won. As to the hardships which it is said would be inflicted on candidates if hotels could not be used for election meetings, I thoroughly agree with what Senator Dobson and Senator Stewart have said. If a candidate cannot hire a hall in a small township where he wishes to address a meeting, he can go out into the open air, and by getting a box, or a lorry, or something to stand on, can deliver his speech. This is one of those matters about which we should make a firm stand. We have limited the election expenses of candidates, and ‘have talked a great deal about making elections purer. It seems to me that this question of the use of hotels strikes at the root of electoral purity. I should be prepared to close all hotels on election day, although I think that would be better for the whole community, and would be in the interest of honest representation,
– I suggest that the committee should address itself to the first amendment. It is proposed to omit the words “ wholesale or.” By confining the debate to that amendment we shall facilitate business.
– I will support no clause which permits election meetings to be held at hotels. I do not think there is a man in the Senate who has had a larger experience of election matters than myself, and I say that it is nonsense to talk of candidates being inconvenienced by not being able to address meetings from the balconies of hotels.
– Does the honorable senator climb into the fork of a gum tree ?
– I am not prepared to address meetings from hotel balconies, and to encourage persons to drink. In the Bourke electorate, which I contested in 1S94, I had to canvass a large scattered district, the length of which was about 120 miles, and the breadth about 100 miles. It consisted largely of a number of small mining townships - and miners, generally speaking, are not disinclined to frequent public-houses, and take their beer. There was only one hall inthat vast electorate. I had to address meetings from balconies, waggons, and carts, and utilize other means of making my views known to the electors. I know that it is nonsense to say that a candidate cannot get on without the use of public-houses. To allow meetings to be held in such places is simply to play into the hands of wealthy and unscrupulous men. Unscrupulousness is practically the order of the day at election times, and the honest and straightforward candidate is handicapped and often beaten by surreptitious means concocted in public-houses. I have no prejudice against publicans. Some of my warmest friends are hotelkeepers, and there are many honorable publicans who would not do a mean tiling under any circumstances. Although I see no objection to holding public or committee meetings in halls owned by publicans, but having no connexion with publichouses, I would prohibit candidates from addressing meetings from hotel balconies, and from speaking in rooms of publichouses as well as in some of the clubs which have been referred to by certain honorable senators. In order to purify elections, and to give men of limited means a reasonable opportunity to contest an election on fair grounds, the further we remove election meetings from public-houses the better it will be.
– I agree with many of the sentiments which have been expressed by the two or three honorable senators who have addressed themselves to this question. I believe that when the clause was previously before us I voted for its retention, and I am strongly in agreement with what Senator Dobson describes as the desirableness of divorcing the drink question from elections. But some honorable senators do not appear to have grasped the difficulties in the way of this amendment. Since the clause was first discussed I have come to view it in a rather different light, and I am prepared to show by experience that it would place many difficulties in the way of candidates in some parts of the Commonwealth. I would point out to Senators Glassey, Stewart, Pearce, and De Largie that they come from States where they may safely rely upon having five mild nights out of six, so that they can address meetings from a stump or a waggon if a public room is not available. In Tasmania the climate is very different, and if a candidate desires to address a meeting in a township where it is impossible to obtain a public room except at a hotel, what is he to do ? Although all these difficulties are said to be imaginary, an ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory. During the Senate elections, I addressed something like twenty meetings, and I can assure the committee that in six instances I found it impossible to obtain the use of a hall or public room of any kind. On five out of those six occasions the weather was so inclement that I should not have had an audience of a dozen if I had spoken in the open air, but at each place I was able to obtain the use of a large dining room in one of the hotels. Where there is only one hall or school-room in a township, and that building is occupied by the Salvation Army or some other local body, or perhaps by another candidate, what is a man to do? Personally, I should prefer open air meetings on the score of cheapness, but when the weather is so bad that people cannot be expected to listen to a candidate speaking in the open, the only course open to him is to go to the landlord of the largest hotel and ask to be allowed to address a meeting in the largest room he has available. At Linda Valley, North
Lyell, Derby, Dundas, Mount Farrell, and Lottah, I was forced to adopt that course, and I defy any one to say that an extra sixpence was spent by me or by my agents in the hotels in which I spoke. I did not shout for any individual, although the dining rooms were filled.
– Were those dining 3’ooms ordinarily used for public meetings 1
– Then this clause would not affect them.
– I think it would. At each of these meetings there was an attendance of about 120 or 130.
– Were there no schools of arts 1
– The vision of some honorable senators does not extend beyond the confines of their own States. In order to overcome the difficulties of candidates in places where fine weather cannot be relied upon, and where a man cannot obtain the use of a schoolroom or some public hall, I wish to leave it open to them to use the largest room of a hotel, in the absence of a temperance hotel or coffee palace. I have placed my experience before the committee, because some honorable senators, including one from Tasmania, have said that these difficulties are quite imaginary. I agree that we should do all that we can to separate the drink traffic from elections. I should like to see legislation passed compelling every hotel to close on election day, and, if it were possible to include such a provision in this Bill, I should support it.
– But rather than inconvenience himself the honorable senator would allow the drink danger to creep in.
– I am afraid the honorable senator views . this matter from rather a narrow stand-point. I do not think we shall advance the cause of temperance by being too bigoted. It is for the convenience, not only of the candidate, but of those who wish to hear him, that we should do something in the direction I have indicated. If the honorable senator were standing for a district where, on the average, ii rains two nights out of three all the year round, and where there is no public room available save the dining room of a hotel, what would he do “with this clause in operation ? In many country hotels dining rooms will be found capable -of holding 100 persons. I cannot see my way clear to vote for the reinstatement of this clause, although I am anxious to do everything that I can to meet the difficulties of my honorable friends who support the amendment.
.- NEILD (New South Wales). - I think the speech just delivered by Senator O’Keefe is eminently practical, and that it has shown us that the fair weather conditions, so largely relied upon by honorable senators from Queensland, are not reproduced in the sister State of Tasmania. The drought conditions of Queensland are not always reproduced in the State from which I come, or in Victoria, and it is most necessary, both for the convenience of candidates and electors, that in every place there should be the possibility of securing a roof to cover the heads of the speakers and their hearers. The suggestion that a candidate should travel round with a tub or a barrel as part of his personal effects, and sta.-id upon it when addressing the electors, seems to me to be ridiculous. I should imagine, from some of the speeches we have heard on this question, that some honorable senators would even desire to prohibit the use of tubs or barrels which had held intoxicating liquor, on the ground that theY might contaminate the candidate. We might go further, and insert a provision that no meeting should be held except in a water tank. If we provide that no meeting shall be held except in one particular description of building, we shall place a very heavy burden upon candidates,’ for the rental of that particular class of building will go up to almost prohibitive rates. If the public-houses are to be closed upon polling day, how are electors - who in some instances have to travel many miles in order to exercise the franchise - to obtain meat or drink or even feed for their horses ? How can ‘ they possibly be expected to attend the various polling places for the purpose of recording their votes? T would further point out that in some of the States the public schools cannot be used for the purpose of holding political meetings. I believe that in Victoria their use for that purpose is permitted, but in New South Wales it is not, and no law which we can enact will remove the embargo which at present exists in the latter State. . There are a thousand good reasons why the public schools should not be used for the holding of political meetings.
– Give us one.
– I can give several reasons if I am permitted to hear my own voice. In the first place, the holding of an electioneering meeting, even of the most placid character, would materially upset the whole paraphernalia of a school-room. Moreover, people will expectorate at meetings, and as a result the building would not be fit for use by the pupils on the following day.
– We have used them in Queensland.
-Col. NEILD. - I would further point out that very often a candidate who is travelling rapidly from one town to another does not reach the place at which he is to speak till perhaps dusk. I have frequently arrived in towns even after the time advertised for my meeting. If we absolutely prohibit a candidate from holding a meeting in any place connected with licensed premises, he will have to send an advance agent before him - a sort of political John the Baptist - to make the necessary arrangements. Moreover, in the case of elections for the Senate, candidates do not have committees. I have heard it asserted that every candidate has a committee, but I do not know of one out of the 50 candidates who contested the Senate elections in New South Wales who had a committee.
– I had none.
– Neither had I.
– How is it possible for a candidate’ to have a committee at each of 2,200 polling places in New South Wales ? He cannot even have scrutineers. It is impossible to deal with States, which in some cases are larger than European empires, from the parish pump politics point of view. What is the. difference between a candidate speaking from the balcony of an hotel, with the whole of his audience in front of it, and addressing a meeting from the balcony next door, with half his audience in front of it 1 In New South Wales, for some years past, the law against treating electors has been so strict that any candidate who would attempt to further his prospects by adopting that line of conduct would be little short of a lunatic. We all know that candidates are closely watched to see that they do not commit any breach of the Act, and therefore any man who would lay himself open to certain attack would be a fool. I know. that some of the New South Wales senators did not spend £50 upon their election. How can such a limited expenditure represent the consumption of any liquor 1 Under the provisions of this Bill, candidates for the Senate are limited to an expenditure of £250. How far will such an outlay permit of the realization of the extravagant views of certain honorable senators who speak of candidates “treating” the electors. Personally I am as strongly opposed to the introduction of liquor into any political contest as is the most stringent teetotaller. At the same time, I recognise that we live under conditions which make the use of hotels an absolute necessity of our daily life. The strictest teetotalers, when travelling, reside at hotels.
– I knew a man who would not let his horse drink at a- hotel trough.
– As Artemus Ward observed, there is a large percentage of gibbering idiots in every community ; your friend was one. But we do not come here to-legislate for cranks. I ask whether the hotel - especially in country towns - is not practically the only place available for the holding of election meetings ?
– Certainly not.
– Of course in Queensland candidates make use of the public schools, but as I have already pointed out, they cannot do so in New South Wales. I agree with the necessity which exists for a candidate having a cover over his head in wet weather. The idea of clambering up a gum tree and spouting from a fork in it is simply ridiculous. Some of my honorable friends from Western Australia know perfectly well that there have been very nice little, contretemps connected with addresses delivered by candidates from carts in the road. In some instances, the props have been taken away and the candidates have been upset - very much more upset than when the result of the polling became known. But we all know that candidates frequently have to address meetings under peculiar conditions. As a matter of fact, during the last campaign I addressed a meeting from a vehicle in the middle of the day alongside a railway refreshment room, where the train stopped for twenty minutes.
– Then there was not much time for questions.
– There was plenty of time for questions. I was asked a great many, especially upon a subject which is dear to my honorable friend, namely, the glorious principles of free-trade. I intend to give the Government all the support in my power in connexion with this matter.
– The last speaker seems particularly anxious that candidates, when addressing’ political meetings, shall be under cover, and, therefore, he advocates that the balconies of hotels should be made available to them. But he does not appear to have given much consideration to his audience, because, while the candidate is to be upon the balcony his hearers are to be left in the open. There are very few places in Australia where there is not a sufficient number of people settled to support an hotel in which there is some sort of hall available for public purposes. If a township, is so small that there is no such meeting-place, very few candidates will visit it, for the simple reason that there are no votes to be canvassed. Senator Neild wishes to know why a candidate should not be allowed to address his audience from the balcony of an hotel, seeing that if he goes next door, only half his audience will attend. His observations in this connexion suggested to me an aspect of this question which has not yet been touched upon, namely, that we have recently enfranchised the women of Australia. Every woman, therefore, has a right to hear the views of candidates equally with male electors. If a candidate thinks fit to address an audience in a hotel, I apprehend that he will have very few female electors to listen to him ; and that seems a very strong argument in favour of the clause. I am afraid that the clauses limiting the expenditure of candidates will have very little effect ; that was the view I took originally, and it is the view I still take. “We have heard a lot about the little tricks and dodges resorted to at election times in order to evade the responsibility incurred by candidates and their authorized agents in expending money for treats. I have no doubt that at the next federal election large sums will be spent in this way, and it is the duty of both Houses of Parliament to place every obstacle in the way of evasion. There is one method of expending money on behalf of a candidate to which I have heard no reference made. A candidate may have amongst his staunch supporters some very wealthy men, and without any authority being given or any words exchanged, one of those supporters may “ shout “ for a whole crowd of electors. What is ‘there in the Bill to prevent that?
– There is clause 179.
– We cannot prevent a man spending his own money if he chooses to treat even 500 electors. I recollect on one occasion a man came to me two or three years after an election and claimed £$ which he said he had spent in treating electors on my behalf.
– The Bill will stop that kind of thing.
– How can we stop it ?
– Did the honorable senator pay back the £3 ?
– A man cannot help himself under such circumstances. I told my supporter that I had not authorized him to spend the money, though I recollected his having asked me to have a drink on that occasion. I found, however, “that I had to pay, not only for my own drink, but for the drinks of all who were there.
– The honorable member, under this Bill, would be liable to be unseated if he paid such money.
– But I need not tell anybody of the payment. Having made the declaration as to the amount of my expenses, I could keep secret any subsequent payments even if they amounted to £500. What great risk would there be ? I should like to know how the proposal would work out to close all the hotels on election day. I do not think that anybody would seriously propose such a hare-brained scheme.
– It is impracticable.
– Such a proposal cannot be embodied in the Bill, and therefore it is hardly worth while discussing it.
– We are told that many candidates will be under serious disadvantages if the clause is restored to the Bill ; but surely the temperance candidate is entitled to a little consideration 1 If a hotel be the only accommodation, I guarantee it will not be used by the average temperance candidate.
– The temperance candidate can always use the dining-room or the balcony of a hotel. .
– But a temperance candidate will not do so.
– I never knew a temperance political candidate who would not.
– But why compel a temperance candidate to use a hotel 1
– A temperance candidate will not imperil his election for a little scruple of that kind.
– At all events, we ought to offer every facility for female voters to hear the views of the respective candidates; that is their fair and moral right.
– Female voters will not like to have their bonnets spoiled by a storm.
– In 99 cases out of 100, female voters, rather than go to a hotel or to any building connected with a hotel, will run the risk of spoiling their bonnets.
– An extraordinary variety of arguments of the advanced moral type have been used in reference to this amendment. The fact is, we’ are not merely seeking to enact a grandmotherly sort of legislation, but seeking to import into an Electoral Bill the highest principles of total abstinence. I support the Government in striking out the clause, but I intend to vote against the provision which it is proposed to substitute for it. Senator Styles used some arguments which, at first sight, seemed entitled to weight. We have conferred the franchise on women, and the honorable senator suggests that if the meetings are held in a hotel, female voters are not likely to be amongst the audience. But my experience is that female voters very much prefer cover in some room, whether in a hotel or otherwise, to standing in the open, either with or without the risk of having their best Sunday bonnets spoiled by a passing shower. We shall be drawing a good deal upon fancied disabilities of the female voters if we place a ban on, perhaps, the only place in a town or locality where there is a convenient room in which the electors can be addressed.
– Did the honorable senator ever address an open-air meeting at which there were crowds of women who would not have attended at a hotel ?
– I have addressed open-air meetings at which there were ft few women ; and I have addressed meetings in the large room of a hotel and never known of any increased drunkenness having resulted.
– Did women attend the meetings in the hotel ?
– Certainly. It must be remembered that these large rooms of hotels are not used for political meetings,- but for meetings of all kinds. I have no objection to the room used being detached from the hotel, but there is no earthly reason for putting a ban upon a particular building simply because the landlord is licensed to sell intoxicating drink, the main purpose of the licence being- the accommodation and comfort of travellers. We are apt to forget that hotels are not provided primarily for the bar trade, but for the accommodation of the travelling public; and where there is a room suitable for meetings it seems grossly unfair that a ban should be placed on the establishment and on the occupier.
– The object of the clause is not to place a ban on hotels, though that may be the effect.
– I am not saying that the object of the clause is to place a ban, but undoubtedly that is the effect. It is said that people must not attend hotels in order to hear the views of candidates, because of the drunkenness and mischief which may result. I take great exception to the proposed amendment, because it is limited to the use of an hotel as a committee room. When the original clause was under discussion Senator Pearce moved that the limitation should be struck out, on the ground that the effect of its remaining would be to permit of committee meetings being held on licensed premises. It is now sought to re-introduce the limitation ; and, therefore, the evils which have been’ most strongly dwelt on as likely to flow from the holding of meetings in hotels, will flow from the clause which it is now proposed to enact. When the original clause was under discussion, Senator O’Connor pointed out that if the limitation were struck out no meetings could be addressed from the balcony or in any other part of a hotel, and on a division, the voting being equal, the limitation was omitted by virtue of our constitutional provision.
– Since then a good deal has happened. The clause has been struck out of the Bill.
– The Postmaster-General has turned a somersault in consequence of what has happened.
– If we cannot get the clause we want, we endeavour to get the next best.
– I am merely pointing out that we have returned to a provision which promotes the mischief so much feared by honorable senators. I agree with the opinion expressed by Senator O’Connor, on a former occasion,, that this is theoretical, and not practical, legislation. It is possible that the supporters of a candidate may spend money in treating null]bers of people, but I never found any of my political friends enthusiastic enough to spend £5 on my account in that way.
– Such treating cannot be prevented by the clause,
– The fact is that to carry out the views of some honorable senators, we ought to prohibit election committees meetings in any room in the same street which contains a hotel.
– Or in the same town.
– Or we should legislate that from the time of the dissolution of Parliament until after polling day every hotel must be closed. Such a proposal would be childish and driving teetotalism to the most extreme length. I am reminded of a clergyman in one at the Midland counties of England who was a fanatic teetotaler, and who, in addressing a meeting, expressed great regret that our Lord and the apostles had done so little for the cause of temperance. There is not a man in this Senate, or in the country, who would not wish to exclude from election contests - from every thing in fact - the disastrous effects of intoxicating liquors. We should do this as far as wo can, undoubtedly ; but in a case where we are merely legislating according to theory, it is well for us to consider whether we shall accomplish any good practical results.
– Senator Symon is perfectly consistent, because he objects to the clause in whatever shape it is put. The Senate in the first instance approved of a clause of the most stringent character, to which the House of Representatives objected, and we now have to consider the best course to take in order to include in the Bill some provision of a similar kind. Senator Pearce and others who think with him believe that it will be best to adopt a provision similar to that in the Queensland Act. Those who believe that the use of licensed premises for election purposes should be restricted should concur in sending the clause back to the House of Representatives in a modified form. Senator Styles has overlooked clause 190a - a new clause, which makes it an illegal practice for any person without the authority of the candidate to spend money on his behalf.
– My point is that no one would know that an offence had been committed.
– That might be said of almost any class of offence.
– He would be a very bold man who undertook to spend money in a public-house on behalf of a candidate if he knew that he would render himself liable to a penalty of £50.
– If one of a candidate’s supporters were to say to some of his friends at election time, “ Come and have a drink with me,” who would be able to say that he was spending his money on behalf of the candidate 1
– If an election were being held, and a friend of a candidate were to invite certain voters to have a drink with him, he would run great risk of conviction for a -breach of clause 190a.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Drake) agreed to -
That the clause be further amended by inserting after the word “ used “ the words “ as a committee room,” and by adding the words “provided that nothing in this section shall apply to any part of such premises which is ordinarily lot for the purpose of chambers, or offices, or the holding of public meetings, if such part has a separate entrance and no direct communication with any part of the premises on which any intoxicating liquor is sold or supplied as aforesaid.” ‘
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to. Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - Senator Neild has had a good deal to say about bigotry, and the introduction of cranky provisions into this measure. But I wish to point out that when the members of the labour party have referred to the closing of publichouses at election times, they have only intended to indicate the trend of public opinion. We do not propose that publichouses shall be closed on election day. An amendment of the law in that direction at one time formed a plank in the political I platform of the labour party in Queensland, butit was concluded that it would fall far short of accomplishing its object, because it would be impossible to prevent candidates or their agents from having barrels of beer on draught in their committee rooms or. tents. Honorable senators have not sufficiently recognised the fact that those who are advocating this clause have had experience of its benefits in Western Australia and Queensland, and that the opposition comes from those who represent States in which no such law has hitherto existed.
Senator FRASER (Victoria). - I have no objection to the main part of the clause, but I consider that the provision that any person who uses licensed premises for election purposes should be subject to a heavy penalty goes too far, and I do not think the clause should pass in its present form.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Any person incurring or authorizing expenditure on behalf of a candidate without the written authority of the candidate or of his agent authorized in writing, shall be guilty of a contravention of this Act.
I move -
That clause 190a be amended by the omission of the word “expenditure” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ any electoral expense.”
Motion agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 191. - (Liability for indirect acts.)
Motion (by Senator Drake) agreed to -
That the committee agree to the amendment, omitting the words “ except as mentioned in the last preceding section,” and inserting the words “ and with his knowledge or authority.”
Part XVII.- (Court of Disputed Re- tums.)
That the committee agree to the amendment omitting, from the heading to Part XVII., the words “ Court of disputed returns,” and inserting the words ‘ ‘ Committee of elections and qualifications.”
Several Honorable Senators. - Divide !
– I am very much surprised at the anxiety of honorable senators to go to a division at once. Is that the sort of courtesy which should be extended to another representative House t Honorable senators have been talking here for months about their dignity, and yet they are prepared to go to a vote on this question without consideration or debate. If certain proposals of the Senate had been treated by the other House in the same way, honorable senators would have been up in arms at once. I do not think it is wise to encourage a feeling of that kind.
– One amendment out of 200 ! Cannot we divide without chattering over it 1
– This amendment involves seven printed pages of new clauses. Surely it is due to the other House that .we should state the reasons which prompt us to decline tt> accept their new clauses ? I do not believe that there is such unanimityin the committee as some honorable senators seem to think. I give the members of the other House every credit for believing that in their opinion the new clauses are in the interests of purity of elections and purity of Parliament. At the same time I think that the Senate takes the right view when it proposes that election disputes should be decided by a court. Experience in the Senate, as well as in the States Parliaments, has shown that in the case of a disputed election the members of the House concerned are likely to be biassed, unconsciously it may be, by party interests. Disputes are decided on that very unfair basis. In Queensland we have had considerable experience of courts of disputed returns composed of Members of Parliament, and I am sure that if the Queensland people had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, it would be in favour of the establishment of a court outside Parliament. Some honorable members of another place fear that if election disputes are to be decided by the Supreme Court, the law’s delays and legal quibbles will interfere with a just decision. But I would remind them of a clause in this Bill which says that the Judge must decide such cases according to the merits, and as a matter of equity and good conscience, without regard to legal forms and technicalities. Therefore, the interests of members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate will be protected by a court of disputed returns outside of Parliament.
– Although my experience of election disputes has been comparatively small, such experience as I have gained is rather in favour of having a committee than a court to settle such matters. No doubt most of us have in mind a certain disputed return in connexion with the Senate. I will admit that that case had some unpleasant aspects. But, notwithstanding that, I am convinced that it is better to settle such disputes by means of a committee. Some reference has been made to partisanship. My opinion is that no matter how we frame «, clause dealing with this sort of thing we cannot get away from prejudice and partisanship. The mere fact of a man putting on a gown and wig and sitting in a court does not alter his character. I fail to see how a piece of silk and a horsehair wig make any difference. A man who is actuated by proper motives in one instance will be just as much subject to them in the other. There is more safety in numbers than in submitting cases of this kind for settlement by one individual. We have in Senator Symon a man whose legal ability gives him as high a place in the ranks of his profession as is held by any lawyer in the Commonwealth. But even his best friends - even he himself - will admit that he is subject to prejudice at times.
– I have no prejudices; I deny the soft impeachment.
– If Senator Symon says that, there must be something inhuman - something angelic - about him, which I had not noticed.
– Angelic, yes - but not inhuman !
– I am strongly in favour of a committee as against settlement by a court in matters of this kind, where necessarily political feelings will be exercised one way or the other. There is safety in numbers when various shades of political thought are represented.
– We should not be adopting a wise course if we allowed . this matter to go by without discussion, because the House of Representatives should be furnished with some reasons as to why. we disagree with its amendments. I think we can easily furnish those reasons. I am strongly of opinion that we ought to reject the amendments made by another place. Some of those who advocate the establishment of an Elections and Qualifications Committee do so on the ground that to remit such cases to a court involves heavy expenditure. But some such- “cases have been dealt with by committees of the Federal Parliament. In one of those cases - which concerned the other House - I know, as a matter of fact, that the expenses cost the individual affected £180 for one legal bill only. It is idle, in the face of such a fact, to say that a parliamentary tribunal is cheaper than a court. In regard to partiality, I admit that a committee of Parliament might be impartial if one party were in a majority, but when the parties are equally balanced, and one vote would make all the difference to one party or the other, where would the impartiality come in? Have we sufficient confidence in parties to say that we shall be likely to get unbiased decisions- from them 1 It is true that our Judges are to a large extent chosen from the members of political parties. But I have sufficient confidence in the bench to believe that when they leave the political arena they leave party spirit behind them. We have to choose between political partizans who are still in the political arena, and persons who, having left the political arena, are no longer responsible to any political party. I think a strong expression of opinion should go forth from the Senate on this subject. I am somewhat surprised that some of the older parliamentarians do not express their views. It is they who should lead in this matter.
– We are delighted to see the honorable senator on such safe ground.
– It is for the older parliamentarians to give reasons why we cannot agree to the amendments made by the House of Representatives upon this subject. We have to remember that by means of this Bill we are establishing a course of procedure that will affectfutureParliamentsof Australia. It is of such importance that there should be no doubt about our reasons for what we are doing.
Amendment omitting clause 197 disagreed with.
Amendments inserting new clauses 197a to 1 9 7t disagreed with.
Amendments omitting clauses 198 to 211 disagreed with.
– The House of Representatives have inserted a new clause 213a relating to tbe payment of the allowance to each Senator under section 48 of Constitution. The clause is a useful one, and I presume that there will be no objection to it. I move -
That the committee agree to the amendment inserting new clause 213a.
– This clause has not come under my observation previously. It seems to me that if a senator is elected in January he would not be able to draw any salary until next January. That does not appear to be very desirable.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in forms A, B, C, D, F, I, J, K, M, N, 0, P, Q, and R agreed to.
Amendment inserting new form Ri postponed.
Postponed amendments -
Clause 2 (Parts).-
Motion (by Senator Drake) agreed to -
That the committee agree to the amendment omitting the words” Part XI. Voters’ Certificates, s.s. 120-124.”
Motion (by Senator Drake) agreed to -
That the committee disagree to the amendment omitting the words ‘ ‘ Court of Disputed Returns, ss. 197-211, and inserting in lieu thereof the words “Committee of Elections and Qualifications. “
Amendment in clause 3 agreed to.
Amendments in clauses 117 and 118 disagreed to.
Clause 137 (Scrutineers). -
Motion (by Senator Drake) agreed to -
That the amendment be amended by omitting the word “compartment,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “booth or subdivision of a polling booth.”
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 146 (Ballot paper to be handed to elector).
– I move -
That the committee agree to the amendment omitting the words “he delivers to the presiding officer a voter’s certificate,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ his name is on the roll for the division, and he makes and signs a declaration as required by section 140a.”
This amendment is consequential upon new clause 140a, which refers to the exercise of the franchise by blind and illiterate persons.
– I think that the Postmaster-General is under a misapprehension in regard to this matter. The provision under consideration contains no references whatever to the exercise of the franchise by the blind. It appears to me that if we are to reconsider new clause 140a which has been omitted, we shall also have to reconsider this clause, as the two are interdependent.
– I thank Senator Clemons for calling my attention to the fact that I was labouring under a misapprehension. I see that the clause under consideration has reference to clause 1 40a, which has been omitted. I, therefore, desire to withdraw the motion, with a view to further postponing the consideration of this amendment.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment further postponed.
Amendment to clause 158 disagreed to.
Resolved (on motion by Senator O’Con nor) -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next.
Senate adjourned at 12.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 September 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020905_senate_1_12/>.