1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator GLASSEY presented a petition from fifty seven electors of Queensland, praying the Senate to prohibit the introduction, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
Report presented by Senator Staniporth
Smith, and ordered to be printed.
Pacific Cable: Conference
– Before the ‘business of the day is called on, I wish to move the adjournment of the Senate until 2 o’clock to-morrow in order to discuss a question of urgency, namely, the unsatisfactory nature of the negotiations concerning the request for a Conference by the Secretary of State for the Colonies,
– In reference to the Eastern Extension Telegraph. Company ?
– No, in reference to the Pacific Cable.
– Pursuant to standing order 60, the honorable senator has handed to me a letter, which I shall read -
I propose to-day to move that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 2.30 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. I wish to discuss a matter of. urgency, namely, the unsatisfactory nature of the negotiations respecting the Pacific Cable Special Conference asked for oy the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
The question is whether that subject can be discussed. We have already had a long discussion concerning the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the Pacific Cable, and order - of the day No. 3 is “ Eastern Extension Company’s Agreement.” By standing order 118 -
No motion or amendment shall anticipate an order of the day or another motion of which notice has been given.
The question is whether the proposed motion for adjournment is not in conflict with our standing order, and with the practice which we ought to adopt. I would call the attention of ohe Senate to the fact that if this matter were allowed to be discussed we might have a dozen debates on the same subject. It is quite competent for any honorable senator to discuss this question on the order of the day. The matter has been discussed, and I do not think it is in accordance with the spirit or the letter pf the standing order to interpolate at any time between the commencement and completion, of a debate a new debate on what is, if not practically the same ‘ subject-matter, at all events a subject-matter which is so relevant to the order of the day that it can be discussed upon it.
– Have’ we the right, sir, to put forward special reasons why tho motion for adjournment should be moved, before you give your ruling 1
– My present idea is that such a motion ought not to be moved ; but, before I finally decide, I am quite willing to hear any one who wishes to speak.
– It seems to me, sir, that the intention of the standing order is to obviate unnecessary discussion. It’ would be against the standing order to move the adjournment of the Senate if the subject could be discussed on the order of the day. But since the previous discussion, quite a new phase has arisen. On that occasion we were discussing merely the merits of the agreement ; but the general manager, of the Pacific Cable Board has come out, and is now engaged in negotiations with the Commonwealth Government; and in cable communication with his principals and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. From statements in the press, and from statements made by officials, it has come to our knowledge that they expect the negotiations to conclude within a day or two. If wo have to wait until the order of the day is reached, we shall be denied the opportunity of putting before the Senate some special reasons why the negotiations should not be conducted as they are. I do not wish to discuss the question, but I know that the authorities in London are not aware of the true state of affairs.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the merits of the question. He would be quite in order in snowing that a new state of facts has. arisen.
– I have established that point. I am now speaking on the question of urgency. A new set of facts have arisen which, if not known by the Imperial authorities, may lead them tocome to a conclusion which, otherwise, they would riot contemplate, and under thesecircumstances I think Senator Higgs should be allowed to move the adjournment of the Senate.
– The order of the day is. for the Senate to ratify the agreemententered into by the Prime- Minister and* theEastern Extension Telegraph Company.. That is the question, sir, which you say I am anticipating. Allow me to put a caseto you. Suppose we were discussing thequestion of, say, a transcontinental rail–, way, the matter of steamship communication might be referred to. If at an intermediate stage an. honorable senatorwished, to refer to the steamship communication between Adelaide and Western. Australia, and your contention were soundhe would be prevented from discussing that matter. I am not anxious to anticipate thediscussion on tho order of the day if therewill be. an opportunity to debate this question ; but We know, from what we read in the press, that an endeavour has been madeto get the partners in the Pacific Cable to withdraw their request for a Conference. If that request were withdrawn, it might happen when the order of the day was reached, that any reference to that aspect of thequestion would be ruled out of order. We have read in the press that the PrimeMinister has satisfied Mr. Reynolds that the Pacific Cable is to get all the facilities: which have been granted to the other company, and, in view of that fact, thinks that the request of the partners in the PacificCable for a Conference will be withdrawn. It is to that point that I wishto address myself this afternoon. I donot propose to discuss the details of the> agreement, or the reasons why it should not be ratified. I only wish to direct the attention of the Senate to what the Government are doing, and to show, from the reports in the press, that Mr. Copeland is doing his level best to get the partners to withdraw their request for a Conference. ‘ Surely that is a matter of urgency, concerning as it does, to a very great extent, the people of Queensland, as well as the people of Victoria, and, indeed, the people of the Commonwealth. I would beg of you, sir, not to rule the motion out of order. I admit that if I proposed to discuss the agreement I should be anticipating the discussion on the order of the day, but I wish to discuss a subject which is quite apart from that matter. I submit that we could discuss the agreement - its validity, justice, and fairness - without at all referring to a Conference of the representatives of the partners in the Pacific Cable. Surely -v/e ought not to be prevented f tom discussing that aspect of the matter, until we resume the debate on the motion for the ratification of the agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, which may come before the Senate in a week, or may not be reached again this session. How many subjects were introduced during the discussions on the Tariff?
-, I must ask the honorable senator to address himself to the question of novelty and urgency.
– The discussion was postponed for the purpose of enabling representatives of the Government to see Mr. Reynolds and endeavour to arrange matters.
– The discussion on the agreement was postponed for the purpose of enabling a Conference to beheld. “What was the proposed arrangement ? When the Senate agreed to that postponement, was it not under the impression that the Government would try to settle matters with Mr. Reynolds on the basis of Mr. Chamberlain’s telegram 1
Referring to 3’our telegram of 2lst August, I agreed not to press Conference until Copeland hud conferred with Prime Minister and Governments interested, in hope that some suggestion might be made to facilitate agreement at Conference. I recognise that agreement with Telegraph Company may possibly have gone too far for Commonwealth to recede, but in any case incident appears to emphasize desirability of Conference to consider whole question of basis of partnership in Pacific Cable. Conference would not be body to decide by majority of votes and bind Governments, but to meet for friendly discussion on difficulties which have arisen, and to endeavour to reach general conclusions which would be recommended to Governments interested. Canada has agreed, and doubtless New Zealand will also agree. I trust that on reconsideration your Ministers will be prepared to appoint representative. As I understand, Australian share of loss on cable is borne by contributing States. If your Government would wish States to have separate representation in Conference, I am prepared to recommend this to Canada and New Zealand.
We all understood that the Government were going to come to an understanding regarding the details of that cablegram, but we find from the press that they are trying to avoid having a Conference at all. The Prime Minister has told us that Mr. Reynolds is now satisfied, and he does not think there will be any Conference.
– Is not the honorable senator discussing the merits of the Conference, and not the point of order? I quite appreciate his point,but it has nothing to do with the merits of the case.
– You asked me, sir, to show you the urgency of dealing with this question, and I submit that the Senate understood that the Government were going to arrange the details of a Conference of the partners.
– That is the reason why we agreed to report progress : otherwise we could have taken the conduct of business out of the hands of the Government, because there were sufficient of us here to do that.
– To see Mr. Reynolds and ascertain -whether he would not withdraw his opposition to the” Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s agreement.
– That is not so.
– Not only the interjector, but the speaker, is discussing the merits of the case.
– That is the matter of urgency. I understood, and I am sure that the majority understood, that there -was to be an arrangement made for a Conference of the partners in the Pacific Cable. But we find from the statements in the press that the Prime Minister and Mr. Copeland are trying to do away with the necessity for a Conference.
– That is all the honorable senator’s case.
– That is the case, and I submit that it can be discussed quite apart from the order of the day.
– When Senator Higgs rose to move the adjournment of the Senate I was not aware of the nature of the subject which he desired to discuss, but having heard his statement on this point of order, in which, I think, he has very ingeniously delivered the speech he wished to make, it appears to me to be perfectly clear that the two subjects are most intimately connected. He desires to speak on a subject which we have debated at considerable length. I have a very distinct recollection of what took place on the last occasion when it was being discussed. I was able to announce that Mr. Reynolds had arrived, was going to confer with the Prime Minister, and was clothed with power to treat on behalf of the Pacific Cable Board. I also mentioned that Mr. Copeland had arrived in Sydney and would be over here shortly, and the general wish was then expressed that the debate should not proceed until an opportunity had been afforded Mr. Reynolds to have this Conference with the Prime Minister. On that understanding the debute was adjourned. What Senator Higgs desires now is clearly to raise the whole question again on the matter of the conference which has been taking place between Mr. Reynolds and Sir Edmund Barton. What good can possibly result from that? Apparently the honorable senator fears that if he does not interpose in some way the parties will be satisfied, and there will be no further request for a Conference. Surely that would be the most fortunate thing that could happen 1
– Not at all.
– We adjourned the debate on the agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company in order that some arrangement might be arrived at which would be found satisfactory to all parties, and why should the honorable senator come in now and try to obstruct the efforts being made to come to such an arrangement?
– Because of the honorable and learned senator’s intriguing and of the intriguing of the Government.
– There has been no intriguing. When we have here gentlemen representing the whole of the parties meeting in conference and trying to arrive at a solution satisfactory to all, how can that be said to be intriguing?
– Then Mr. Copeland must have misled the Government.
– I must ask the Minister for Defence as well as Senator Higgs to confine themselves to the point of order.
– In reply to the interjection that Mr. Copeland has misled the Government, I should like to say that I am now perfectly prepared to lay on the table the private letter to which reference has been made. I should do so now if I had it with me ; but I will lay that letter upon the table on the first opportunity.
– The laying of the letter upon the table will not do away with the discrepancy.
– The honorable senator will then see that Mr. Copeland did not mislead the Government.
– Then the honorable and learned senator misled them.
– I did not mislead them, and I do not think I misled the Senate by anything I said.
– The honorable and learned senator said that Mr. Chamberlain had withdrawn all opposition.
– Senator Higgs, in moving the adjournment of the Senate, is making an attempt in an irregular manner to resume the discussion of a matter dealt with by an order of the day on the notice-paper on the ground that certain negotiations are talcing place.
– I regret very much the attitude of the Minister in regard to the action taken by Senator Higgs. It seems to me that the debate on the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement has nothing whatever to do with this motion, and still less has any understanding that might have been arrived at on the termination of that debate. We have to consider whether this is a matter of urgency, and then whether itcomes into conflict with anything else on the noticepaper in contravention of standing order 118. With regard to the question of urgency, it is desired to debate the negotiations going onat present between the Government and the representative of the Pacific Cable Board in Australia. These negotiations may result in some definite arrangement. If Senator Higgs can establish that it is advantageous that the Senate should discuss these matters before the negotiations have resulted in anything, the matter is certainly one of urgency, apart altogether from any connexion it may have with the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement. It is admitted that negotiations are going on which may terminate in something that will pledge the people of Australia hereafter.
– As in the case of the Naval Agreement.
– If Senator Higgs can establish that it is necessary that before that time arrives the Senate should discuss the nature of the negotiations, the matter is certainly one of urgency.
– How can we discuss the nature of these negotiations when we know nothing about them?
– Senator Playford is assuming that honorable senators know nothing of the negotiations.
– Do honorable senators think they are being discreditably or unfairly conducted?
– I do not suggest that for a moment, but if there is a single member of the Senate who thinks that they are being conducted unfairly, or in a manner which will prejudice the interests of the people of Australia, he has an undoubted right to move the adjournment of the Senate in order to ventilate his opinions upon the subject.
– I can prove that they are being conducted unfairly.
– I express no opinion on that ; but I say that if one member of the Senate has any suspicion arising from the manner in which negotiations are being conducted, the representatives of the Government in this Chamber should afford him every opportunity to ventilate the grievance. Standing order 118 provides that no motion or amendment shall anticipate an order of the day, or any motion of which notice has been given. The order of the day to which reference has been made in this instance, is order of the day No. 3, dealing with the proposal to ratify the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement. Whilst the negotiations at present going on between the Government and the representative of the Pacific Cable Board may incidentally have a bearing upon the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement, it is only in connexion with those negotiations that Senator Higgs’ motion is moved. Assuming that he is allowed to move the motion, I presume that, in submitting arguments in favour of it, the President will confine him strictly to the subject of the negotiations irrespective of their bearing upon the matters which will properly come up for discussion in connexion with the order of the day to which reference has been made.
– Unfortunately, I find it almost impossible to insist that honorable senators shall keep to the point, because this is so mixed up with the other question.
– With all due respect, I think, Mr. President, that you appear to have anticipated to the fullest extent all the remarks which Senator Higgs proposes to make in connexion with his motion. I am unable to understand how I or any other honorable senator can be supposed to know what arguments Senator Higgs proposes to bring before the Senate for consideration when moving his motion. As the negotiations which are going on at present have not been concluded, I presume that it is perfectly competent for any member of the Senate to move a motion as a matter of urgency, to prevent the termination of the negotiations before the representatives of the people have had an opportunity of giving expression to views which may . alter the attitude of those who are representing the people of the Commonwealth in conducting those negotiations.
– I feel sure, Mr. President, that you will always interpret the Standing Orders as a means to an end ; as a means of giving the Senate the fullest opportunity of criticising the actions of the Government at a time when criticism may be effective. It seems to me that what ought to influence you in giving a decision upon the point of order is the fact that the negotiations which Senator Higgs proposes to make the subject of his motion for adjournment are at present pending. Look- . ing at the matter from a common-sense point of view, and knowing the astuteness of the Government, it is reasonable to presume that when the Senate comes finally to deal with the question of the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement, referred to in order of the day No. 3, the request for a conference will have been withdrawn, or the matter will have reached such a stage that it will be out of order for honorable senators, in speaking upon the agreement, to enter into details of the negotiations regarding the withdrawal of the request for a conference.
-We shall be able to go into all those things.
– What will be the use of discussing the negotiations which led up to the withdrawal of the request for a conference after the withdrawal has actually taken place. No object can be served by such a discussion?
– After the withdrawal is agreed to by the Pacific Cable Board in London under a misapprehension of the facts.
– I am sure you will recognise the right of the Senate to criticise the action of the Government when the negotiations are pending. It will be useless to criticise the action taken after it has had a certain effect. When we come to discuss the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement, what will be the use of going back over the history of the negotiations for a withdrawal of the conference if the withdrawal has taken place ? The question is at what stage of the proceedings will our criticisms be likely to have an effect upon the negotiations ? Surely it will be admitted that this is the only stage at which criticisms of the kind can be of any avail. Surely we never framed these Standing Orders, and standing order 118 in particular, with the idea of in any way limiting our right to criticise the action of the Government, who are responsible to Parliament. I trust that in giving your decision upon the point of order, you will take into consideration the practical aspect of the case; and askyourself whether, by rulingthat Senator Higgs has no right to proceed with his motion, you will not be depriving honorable senators of an opportunity to effectively criticise the action of the Government in conducting the negotiations.
– I concur with other honorable senators in urging on you the wisdom of permitting the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to be moved. It appears ‘ to me that if Senator Higgs’ motion is to be ruled out of order, all that it will be necessary for any Government at any time to do will be to get an order of the day on the business-paper, and by allowing it to remain there all discussion upon the question to which it refers or upon any cognate question will be blocked for the whole of the session. The very intention of the standing order dealing with the subject was to meet Ministers who might make a move of that description, so that when any sudden development of a particular question took place, or there was some sudden turn which was not anticipated when the order was placed on the business- paper, the very urgency of the matter might enable us to take advantage of this standing order to secure a full discussion upon it. In this particular case there appears to have been a sudden development of events which was not anticipated at the time the order of the day for the ratification of the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company was placed on the business-paper. There is another point to which I should like to direct your attention. The latter part of the standing order says -
Such motion must be supported by four senators rising in their places, and indicating their approval thereof.
The question now arises, whether the mover of the motion, and the four senators who rise to support it are not the judges of the urgency of the matter.
– No; the President undoubtedly.
– Certainly they are.
– Senator Playford appears to be wrong on this occasion. I take it that your ruling is that if Senator Higgs has four senators to support him in the motion, the motion must come before the Senate for discussion.-
– So far as the question of urgency is concerned.
– The motion is moved as one of urgency, and a definite statement of the question to be discussed is contained in the written notice which Senator Higgs has presented to you, whilst four honorable senators approve of the discussion of that question. I have raised this particular point, because I know that under an almost exactly similar standing order in force in the Queensland Parliament it was ruled by exSpeaker Cowley that the five members rising in their places to support the mover of the motion were the sole judges of the question of urgency. The Government of the day, headed by Sir Thomas McIlwraith, challenged the Speaker’s’ ruling, and the House divided upon it. The present Minister for Defence was one of those who with myself upheld the ruling of the Speaker upon that occasion. The ruling has continued in force in the Queensland Parliament.
– Perhaps it will save time if I give a ruling upon the question now. The notice of the intention of Senator Higgs to move this motion was handed to me only one minute before the Senate met. I, therefore, had not time to consider it or to learn the reasons to be advanced in support of it. It is most objectionable, I think, that a new debate should be interpolated in the middle of a discussion upon a matter which has been partly considered, and which is to be further considered. That was the principal idea in my mind in first dealing with the question, It has been alleged, and I must take the allegation to be correct, that a new set of facts has arisen, which as a matter of urgency ought to be debated before the order of the day comes on again. The order of the day is practically in the hands of the Government, and it will be brought on for discussion at their discretion. I was struck, I may say I was convinced, by the argument of Senator Dawson, that it -would be unfair to prevent any discussion upon a matter cognate to that dealt with in an order of the day once that order of the day has appeared on the businesspaper. I think it my duty to enable the Senate to discuss most fully and amply «very subject-matter in all its aspects so far as the Standing Orders do not prevent such discussion, and that perhaps it would be as well in these circumstances that I should permit the motion to be moved.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland) - I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 2 -o’clock p.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
– I am very thankful to you, Mr. President, for having given me an opportunity to discuss a matter which, as a representative of Queensland, I regard as of the greatest importance to my State. My reason for taking action is this : I certainly understood that when Mr. Reynolds, the general manager of the Pacific Cable Board, arrived in Melbourne he was to be seen by representatives of the Government, with a view to arranging details of the conference asked for by Mr. Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his cable to His Excellency the Governor-General, dated 27 th August. That cable, by the way, appears to have been the outcome of a letter sent by Sir Edmund Barton, addressed to the Governor-General, and in these terms -
I have the honor to request that your Excellency will be so good as to inquire, by telegram, from the ^Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether he has agreed not to proceed further with the proposed conference on the subject of the Pacific Cable Board, as a communication to that effect has been received by this Government from the Honorable Henry Copeland, one of the Australian representatives on the Board.
– What is the date of that letter 1
– It is dated 20th August. His Excellency appears then to have cabled to the Secretary of State for the Colonies ; and I am very sorry that the Government have not seen fit to give us the terms of that cable.
– Which one is that ?
– The cable sent by His Excellency the Governor-General ; and replied to by the Secretary of Slate for the Colonies on the 27th August.- I do not know what may be the reason for suppressing that cable, but at all events it does not appear in the papers, whilst we have Mr. Chamberlain’s reply in comprehensive terms.
– There is Sir Edmund Barton’s telegram, which elicited that reply.
– Sir Edmund Barton’s letter to the Governor-General contained a request that a cable should be .sent.
– A cable was sent in the terms of the letter, I suppose.
– But do we know that that was so 1
– Yes ; I guarantee that the cable was word for word.
– The honorable senator seems prepared to guarantee a lot.
– I know the usual form of such communications.
– The Secretary of State for the Colonies replied to certain statements in a telegram which we have not before us. However, we all understood that when Mr. Reynolds came here the Government were to confer with him as to the representation and voting on the Conference, and, I presume, as to the subjects to be discussed. After Mr. Reynolds arrived, I sent him a letter, asking him to receive a deputation of honorable senators favorable to the Pacific Cable, and, as I received no reply, I waited on him personally.
– “Backstairs influence.”
– Do I understand the honorable senator to indicate that there has been “backstairs influence V The honorable senator may hear enough about backstairs influence, before the agreement which he so favours is ratified. I waited on Mr. Reynolds to ask him to receive a deputation of honorable senators, and his reply was, “I am perfectly willing to hear all that you, Mr. Higgs, may have to say, but I decline to receive a deputation of senators.” Where is the “ backstairs influence “ in a deputation of honorable senators?
– Why did Mr. Reynolds refuse to receive a deputation ?
– I asked Mr. Reynolds that question, and he replied - “ On the ground of etiquette, and on the ground that my board would object.” Why should the Pacific Cable Board object to hear the views of a representative body of honorable senators favorable to the Pacific Cable, unless the insidious influence of certain persons has been at work 1 One of the reasons why I bring this matter up this afternoon is that in my opinion Mr. Reynolds is not the man to cope with this question. We were told in the Melbourne Argus of 27 th August, 1901, that Mr. Reynolds was for a considerable time Director-General of Telegraphs in India, and has been pensioned by the Indian Government for long service. While I do not subscribe to the proposition that when a man reaches the age of sixty he ought to retire from the Public Service, I am of opinion that in all probablity Mr. Reynolds, who is about that age, and who, during his long service in India, moved in a certain set of society, is not the man to conduct these negotiations in the impartial manner which I, as a representative of Queensland, would like to see. If Mr. Reynolds refuses to receive a deputation of honorable senators in a public way - I was anxious to have the newspaper reporters present - how is it that yesterday he was able to meet the members of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, who are as favorable to the Pacific Cable as are the majority of the honorable senators ? If there is no intriguing on the part of the Government, how is it that Mr. Reynolds refuses to meet a deputation of honorable senators? We in this Senate, who are favorable to the cable, are not in a position - at least I am not - to send home cables to our partners telling them the position of affairs ; but the Government are able to send cables home, and they have the wires at work. In the Age of last Saturday, instead of a statement that all is going on well, and that arrangements are being made to have the Conference conducted in a business-like and amicable way, there appeared the following : -
The Prime Minister appears to have convinced Mr. Reynolds, the manager of the Pacific Cable Board, that there is to be granted to the Stateowned cable all the facilities now granted to its rival, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company . . . The Prime Minister does not think that the proposed Conference of the partners in the Pacific Cable will be pressed now that Mr. Reynolds fully understands the situation.
The Melbourne Argus of this morning informs us -
The Prime Minister has been in negotiation with Mr. C. H. Reynolds, general manager of the Pacific Cable, and Mr. Copeland, the AgentGeneral for New South Wales, who represents Australia on the Cable Board, on the subject, and he has cabled to Mr. Chamberlain, giving reasons why the suggested Conference is unnecessary.
Mr. Copeland is a gentleman who, in a private letter, misled the Commonwealth Government. The Minister for Defence says that he is willing to lay that letter on the table, and assures us that the communication will show that Mr. Copeland did not mislead the Government. But if Mr. Copeland did not mislead the Government, then the Government misled the Senate.
– I shall quote what I said.
– I do not think that Senator Higgs may refer to another debate during this session as a reason for submitting the present mtotion.
– What I am quoting was said on the question of the Pacific Cable Conference. However, Senator Drake told us that Mr. Copeland having seen the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and explained to him the position-
– That was as to the Eastern Extension Company’s agreement, which we are not allowed to discuss now.
– Senator Playford is showing himself too . enthusiastic on behalf of his own State. I hope the honorable senator will allow a representative of another State to proceed without objectionable interruptions. I am not talking about the cable agreement, but about the Pacific Cable Conference. Senator Drake has told us that the request for a Conference was withdrawn ; and that statement he made on the authority of Mr. Copeland. But Mr. Chamberlain, in a subsequent cable message, spoke as follows -
I agreed not to press Conference until Copeland had conferred with Prime Minister and Governments interested, in hope that some suggestion might be made to facilitate agreement at Conference.
We must, I suppose, choose between Mr. Chamberlain and M r. Copeland, and in view of the fact that in 1901 Mr. Copeland was the only gentleman who objected to a certain course on the Pacific Cable Board, I prefer to accept the statement of the former. Mr. Copeland is at present trying to induce the partners in the Pacific Cable to withdraw their request for a Conference ; and if that gentleman has misled the Senate, and the Commonwealth Parliament and Government, he may mislead the partners in the cable. All along, the action of the Government regarding this Conference must be condemned by every straightforward member of Parliament. I find that Sir William Mulock, the Canadian Postmaster-General, informed the Canadian House of Commons that Sir Edmund Barton told him that he recognised it to be the duty of the Commonwealth, while adhering to the agreement with New South Wales, to live up to the spirit of the Pacific Cable agreement, and that he earnestly desired to see his way out of the great difficulty to which his Government had fallen heir. Although Sir Edmund Barton knew that the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand were desirous of obtaining a Conference, he absolutely placed himself in the way up to the last, and he is now carrying out his plan, whatever that plan may be. This Senate ought to take care that the members of the Pacific Cable partnership, or their representatives, are not misled by Mr. Copeland, Mr. Reynolds, or any other person. If Mr. Reynolds refuses to receive a deputation of members of the Senate, who wish to place the case of the Pacific Cable before him, what could we think if he were to refuse to let his board know that a majority of this Senate are in favour of a Conference?
– Did he do that ?
– The Senate is not the judge in these matters.
– Senator Playford objects to a deputation of honorable senators, but he apparently does not object to honorable senators seeing Mr. Reynolds privately. Senator Playford does not seem to object to Mr. Reynolds hearing only the side . of Sir Edmund Barton or of Mr. Copeland.
SenatorStewart. - Who is Mr. Copeland?
– Mr. Copeland happens to be the representative of the Commonwealth on the Pacific Cable Board, and he is the gentleman from whom the Government refused to ask any explanation as to a discrepancy between a letter from him and a cable from Mr. Chamberlain.
– Does Senator Higgs impute that Mr. Reynolds is disloyal to the Pacific Cable Board ?
– No : he has been misled.
– I have every sympathy with Mr. Reynolds in his position. He is here as the representative of the Commonwealth, Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand ; and as, practically, a civil servant in the employ of Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Edmund Barton, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and Mr. Richard Seddon. He, no doubt, finds it very difficult to steer clear and maintain harmony. I venture to think that if Mr. Reynolds did send home a cable to the effect that the majority of honorable senators were in favour of a Conference, he might place himself in a very peculiar position in relation to his employer, Sir Edmund Barton.
– There is the House of Representatives as well as the Senate to be consulted.
– In my opinion, the House of Representatives has not gone into the rights of the Pacific Cable case as it ought to have done. White recognising the difficult position of Mr. Reynolds, those of us who are favorable to the Pacific Cable, and who want to protect the taxpayers of Australia, must recognise that he is not the man to conduct the negotiations for a Conference on behalf of the whole of the partners.
– Is that because Mr. Reynolds would not see the honorable senator, or, rather, would not receive a deputation?
– Mr. Reynolds was quite willing to see me, but he would not receive a deputation from the Senate.
– Does that make him unfit for his position?
– I do not say that Mr. Reynolds is not fit to hold the position of General Manager, but he is not the man to conduct the negotiations on behalf of the partners.
– Did Senator Higgs not say that Mr. Reynolds had received another deputation on cable business ?
– I have already said that Mr. Reynolds received adeputation from the members of the’ Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. I desire for a moment to discuss the conduct of the Government in this matter. When the Pacific Cable was opened for business, Sir SandfordFleming sent the following message : -
To the Premier and people of Australia and New Zealand, on anniversary of formal execution of the Pacific Cable contract, a unique partnership of six British Governments, I am enabled, as one result, to transmit from Canada, for the first time by wire, respectful and cordial New Year’s greetings.
To this the Prime Minister replied -
Your New Year’s greeting heartily reciprocated by Australia’s partners in Pacific Cable. May it prove an eternal bond of friendship between the two great British Federations.
Sydney, 1st January, 1903
– No. The wrong is in the subsequent hypocritical action of the Prime Minister, and those surrounding him.
– Hear, hear ! That is quite true.
– On the completion of the cable on the 31st October, 1902, friendly greetings were exchanged with Canada and the mother country, and Sir Edmund Barton wired to the Dominion.
Congratulations on thecompletion of the Pacific Cable. I trust that the connexion, and with it the community of feeling and interest between the sister Dominions may strengthen them and the whole Empire.
– Very pretty !
– It is very pretty ; it sounds beautiful. It was Sir Edmund Barton’s prayer that the cable should prove “an eternal bond of friendship.” So much for the Prime Minister’s grandiloquent hypocrisy.
– I do not think the honorable senator is in order in accusing the Prime Minister of hypocrisy. That is not, in my opinion, a proper expression, and I ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– I beg to withdraw the expression, and to substitute another - grandiloquent nonsense. We know that the Prime Minister has been doing his best all the time to prevent the partners in the Pacific Cable having a Conference.
SenatorFraser. - If the partners in the cable want a Conference, surely they are entitled to one before the agreement is concluded.
– But if they wanta Conference, we ought to know why.
– I must ask honorable senators not to interject.
– The Prime Minister, while expressing the wish that the cable would prove “an eternal bond of friendship,” was conducting certain negotiations. The partners in the Pacific Cable wanted a Conference, and the Minister for Defence, in spite of his replies to certain questions which I asked on the loth July, 1901, then knew the attitude of the partners. As long ago as the 15th July, 1901, they knew that the partners wanted a Conference, and they took no action except to refuse the request some eighteen months afterwards. The matter is of the gravest concern to my State, and I firmly believe to the whole Commonwealth, and I hope that the Government will carry out the spirit of Mr. Chamberlain’s request, as contained in. his cablegram of the 27th August, namely, to bring about that harmony which was dissipated a couple of years ago and which was replaced by a feeling of the greatest irritation and bitterness. I do not propose to say more at this stage. I regret that my remarks have been somewhat circumscribed by the presence of an order of the day on the business-paper. But I think I have communicated sufficient information to provethat theie is something going on which will, not bear the light of day, and which can only be properly discussed and settled at a. Conference.
– This is a most inconvenient way for Senator Higgs to bring forward this subject for discussion. He did not give me the slightest opportunity - by giving me a notice of his intention - to get any information on the subject which he wished to discuss, or to check his statements. He has made a number of statements mostly baaed on what be has read in the newspapers. He has told us that the press said this, and. the press said the other. How can I answer the honorable senator when I am not aware of what the press has said ? But - he has gone further than that. He has mixed the statements which he got from the press with statements about the way in which people conduct their business, and they certainly do not conduct it in public. How can we possibly distinguish the part of his statements which is based on his cuttings from the newspapers, from the part which is drawn from his imagination ? I understand that he is offended because Mr. Reynolds, who is here to confer with the Prime Minister on a certain matter, has declined to receive a deputation of senators. I am inclined to doubt the propriety of honorable senators going to Mr. Reynolds in the first place.
– They are in the position of judges.
– Certainly Mr. Reynolds is entitled, if he chooses, to decline’ to discuss the matter with individual senators when he is in conference with the Prime Minister on the same subject. I think that the suggestions which came from the honorable senator about intrigue and so on must arise from a naturally suspicious mind.
– - We shall let the Senate know the Minister’s opinion of a certain company before many months are over.
– The honorable senator may let the Senate and all the world know my opinions of any company he pleases.
– We shall see whether there has not been an extraordinary change of attitude on the Minister’s part.
– Mr. Reynolds, the representative of the Pacific Cable Board, is here to confer with the Prime Minister, and why the honorable senator should suppose that because he is so conferring there is something underhand going on, I cannot conceive. I am in hopes, and I should have thought that everybody who desired the welfare of the community would have been in hopes, that an arrangement will be come to which will be satisfactory to all parties. I hope that such an arrangement will be arrived at. The honorable senator said that Mr. Copeland misled the Senate, or else I did. He was’not quite ingenuous, ifhe did it on purpose, in avoiding quoting from what I said when I had Mr. Copeland’s letter in my hand, and in quoting from some remarks which J afterwards made, when the debate was going on in Committee, and in which I used theword “withdrawn.” I did not use the word when I had Mr. Copeland’s private letter in my hand and was quoting from it. One paragraph of a private nature - quite immaterial to this subject - is not in the copy I have, and which I propose to read. It is not generally supposed that every private letter is going to be made public.
Westminster, S.W. , 10th July, 1903.
SenatorFraser. - That is months ago.
– Does the honorable senator wish to have the letter read or not ?
– It is of no use at this date.
– -This is the letter which has been talked about, and which I have been asked to make public, although it is of a private nature. The nextobjection is that it is dated 10th July.
– That is not longago.
– Many things have occurred since then.
– I made an extract from the letter on the day on which it was. received -
Deal Sir Edmund Barton,
Although I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you almost as soon as you receive this letter, I have thought it better to inform you that I had a long conference (of over an hour) with the Right Honorable Mr. Chamberlain at the House of Commons last night, mostly on the subject of the Pacific Cable disputations.
The result of the Conference has been a protracted visit to-day at my office from Sir John Anderson, in the hope of arriving at a basis of compromise. As the mail is about closing, and I expect so soon to see you, I will not now enter on the arguments brought to bear on both sides, but will content myself with merely stating that Mr. Chamberlain has agreed not to proceed further with his request for a Conference, which goes to show that my interview has had some satisfactoryeffect upon him.
– Does the Minister mean to say that Mr. Copeland has misled the Government and misled the Senate?
– Wait a minute.
– The Minister is. omitting to read a portion of the letter.
– I have already explained that that paragraph is quite immaterial to the subject. 1 hope to see you shortly after my arrival in Australia, when I shall be prepared to go into the matter fully. As I informed you by cable, the Earl of Jersey has agreed to fill my vacant seat at the Pacific Cable Board, and I have had a long; consultation with his Lordship, posting him thoroughly with your views on the several phases. As, however, Mr. Chamberlain has now decided to let the matter remain in abeyance pending my visit to you, in the hope of a compromise Beingeffected, I do not anticipate any severe fighting will take place in the meantime.
I leave San. Francisco on the 6th August, and expect to arrive in Sydney on the 28th idem.
I am, &c. ,
The Right Honorable Sir Edmund Barton, G.C.M.G., K.C., Melbourne. [One paragraph omitted which is immaterial and of a confidential nature.]
I beg to lay the paper on the table. It will be seen that it is not inconsistent with Mr. Chamberlain’s telegram of the 22nd August, which has been referred to.
Referring to your telegram of 21st August, I agreed not to press Conference until Copeland had conferred with Prime Minister and Governments interested, in hope that some suggestion night be made to facilitate agreement at Conference. I recognise the agreement with Telegraph Company may possibly have gone too far for the Commonwealth to recede, but in any case incident appears to emphasize desirability of Con ference to consider whole question of basis of partnership in PacificCable. Conference would not be bodyto decide by majority of votes and bind Governments, but to meet for friendly discussion on difficulties which have arisen, and to endeavour to reach general conclusions which wouldberecommended to Governments interested. Canada has agreed, and, doubtless, New Zealand will also agree. As I understand, Australian share of loss on cable is borne by contributing States. If your Government would wish States to have separate representation in Conference I am prepared to recommend this to Canada and New Zealand.
– I shall endeavour to get it for the honorable senator. I never had anything to do with such suspicious gentlemen. They have had the minute of the Prime Minister, and do they suppose that when he desires to communicate with some one in England, and sends a minute to the Governor-General, His Excellency sends a telegram of a different nature ? It is absurd to suppose that that would be done.
– We should like to know what it is.
– The same words are always used.
– I had that private letter from Mr. Copeland in my hand when I made that statement to the Senate. What I said was this-
– I stopped Senator Higgs from quoting from a former debate of the session, because the only ground on which this debate is allowed is that it deals with a new subject-matter.
– That is the reason why I did not quote the exact words.
– The honorable senator gave notice of a question, and quoted certain words as representing what I said in regard to that letter. But the words which he quoted, if they were correctly quoted, as I presume they were, were probably those in which I used the word “withdrawn “ as being equivalent to the statement which I made when quoting from the letter.
– When I was speaking the Minister interjected that the request for a Conference had been . withdrawn.
– I have no doubt that I did.
– The honorable senator used the word a dozen times if he used it once.
– If the honorable senator wishes to know exactly what I did say, it may be found on page 3617 of Hansard. When I made that statement I had before me this passage in the letter -
As the mail is about closing, and I expect so soon to see you, I will not now enter on the arguments brought to bear on both sides, but will content myself with merely stating that Mr. Chamberlain has agreed not to proceed further with his request for a Conference, which goes to show that my interview has had some satisfactory effect upon him.
– The Minister did not tell us that in the debate.
– I was reading from that letter. If the honorable senator will refer to page 3617 of Hansard, he will see that I quoted fairly and faithfully from the document I had before me. There was no misleading of the Senate at all. I informed the Senate that a communication had come from Mr. Copeland, and afterwards, on several occasions, I used the expression “ withdrawn.” I should like to know what difference there is between withdrawing and agreeing not to proceed further with his request.
– Until there has been a Conference.
Not to proceed further with his request for a conference, which goes to show that my interview has had some satisfactory effect upon him.
– Mr. Chamberlain’s telegram does.
– I am not talking about Mr. Chamberlain’s telegram, but about this letter. The telegram had not been received.
– We were misled by the Minister.
– It was received on the 27 th August.
– That telegram denies what Mr. Copeland stated in his letter.
– It does not. I have compared the two. There is a reference in Mr. Copeland’s letter to the matter remaining in abeyance pending his arrival, while the telegram of the 22nd August says very much the same thing but in different terms. In fact, there is only the slightest shadow of a difference. The communication I made to the Senate was a fair quotation from the letter which had just been received from Mr. Copeland, and did not differ at all from the other. A conference has been and is going on. The conference that is referred to in these papers is a general conference that he still desires to have between the partners in the Pacific Cable, in order to deal with matters relating to the business of the partnership. I may tell honorable senators that there is another matter which must have been in the mind of Mr. Chamberlain, and that was the question of the terminal rate. He desires that the partners in the Pacific Cable shall come to an understanding as to whether we have the right to make a terminal charge of 5d. per word. He expresses a desire still that there shall be a Conference to decide on matters connected with the business of the partnership. But, clearly, the reason why he was holding his hand, and agreeing not to press for a conference, was because Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Copeland were coming out. Now that they are both here, the Conference is, I presume, proceeding. I cannot see that an effort has been made to deceive the Senate, or that the Senate has been deceived in any way. I think that there are no grounds for the suspicions entertained by the honorable senator.
SenatorFRASER (Victoria). - I am exceedingly sorry to have to differ from the Minister for Defence, and also to dissent very seriously to the action of the Government. The history of this matter is very short. An agreement was sent up here for ratification, and but for the knowledge which the Senate possessed it would have been ratified. Nothing was left undone by Ministers to force the agreement through the Senate. Had it been adopted we should not have heard about the conference with
Mr. Reynolds or any thing else. That would! have been a mere twopenny-ha’penny matter;.
– They would not have waited then.
SenatorFRASER. - No. The position has been altered by the high stand which the Senate took. This all-British cable was inaugurated for Empire purposes ; otherwise it would not have been undertaken. The reasons for its construction are just as. good to-day as they were years ago. It is, in the interests of the Empire, for every honorable senator to see that the Pacific Cable Board is fairly and honestly treated. In my opinion it has not been so treated. I have had an interview with Mr. Reynolds. No doubt he is a high civil servant, but in my opinion he has failed to realize his duties in this regard. I look upon Mr. Reynolds, not as an official of the Prime Minister, but as an emissary of the Pacific Cable Board.In fairness he should do his utmost to advance its interests. I do not wish to imply that he would do anything which would be unfair to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, which I look uponas a monopolizing, grasping concern.
– The honorable senator cannot discuss that question. The only question before the Senate is whether a conference should be held.
SenatorFRASER. - Quite so ; how can the Minister for Defence meet the statement I am now going to make? The Pacific Cable Board, the British Government, the Canadian Government, and the New Zealand Government are at this moment claiming a Conference. Surely Canada has a. right to be heard. If four honorable senators join in an undertaking with me, and I am vile and miserable enough to take advantage of the position I occupy to ignore the interests of my co-partners, I am to be condemned. For a co-partner to depart from the true principles of partnership and the true principles of honesty in regard to a matter of this kind is vile, and I repeat that it ought to be denounced.
– This is more than ignoring the other partners; it is doing something to their detriment.
SenatorFRASER. - It is not only ignoring them ; it is treating them with contempt.
– It is overreaching them.
SenatorFRASER. - I know no word in the English language strong enough to denounce such conduct. I feel strongly upon this matter, because I was at the Conference held at Ottawa in 1894 in connexion with the Pacific Cable. I have taken an interest in the matter ever since, and have continually corresponded with my dear friend, Sir Sandford Fleming. It is not long since I had cables and letters from him upon the subject. I say that it is a disgraceful thing for the Commonwealth Government, who came in. with honied words and told us that they were going to do this, that, and theother thing, to be guilty of such conduct. They were going to be so nice to every country, and to consider the interests of every State, and what are they doing? Is not this a contemptible departure from the ordinary principles of partnership ? It is contemptible in every respect. Is it not a simple and easy matter for the Government to ask the Pacific Cable Board if they desire a Conference ? Of what use is it for the Minister for Defence to read letters dated July last, when they have the cable at hand with which to communicate with the board?
– The honorable senator’s first complaint was that I did not read that letter.
– I say that these letters are out of date. The Government have at their hands the Pacific Cable or the Eastern Extension Company’s Cable, and they can ask the Pacific Cable Board whether they are in favour of a Conference. It is an easy matter to get a reply from them. We could send the message to-day and get a reply to-morrow. What is the excuse which the Government have to offer for not having done that ? I say that they have no excuse ; and I should hide my head with shame if I treated my partners in any transaction in this manner. I say there is no excuse for ignoring the interests of the other partners to the Pacific Cable.Canada is protesting ; why should Canada be ignored ? New Zealand is protesting; why should New Zealand be ignored ?
– Great Britain is also protesting.
SenatorFRASER.- Yes ; Great Britain is also protesting. I believe we shall have information to that effect very soon. We know that Mr. Reynolds is here in connexion with the matter. I interviewed that gentleman, and I said to him what I say here. I say nothing in private that I am not prepared to say in public if the occasion demands it. Mr. Reynolds, as the agent of the Pacific Cable Board, is not the servant of the Commonwealth ; and he should have communicated to his board the facts as he found them when hearrived here.
– I suppose he did. How does the honorable senator know that he did not ?
– I know that he has not done so because he told me. That is the answer to the honorable and learned senator’s question. I begged and entreated ofhim to send a cable telling his board thetruth. I did not wish him to say anything but what was true, and what his board should know. They ought to know the.facts, because they represent the wholeof the partners in the Pacific Cable, and not only one of them. The Pacific Cable Board should be enlightened upon these matters, and as Mr. Reynolds refused absolutely to enlighten them, or to do what I considered it was his duty to do, I did it myself. I wired to the Chairman of the Pacific Cable Board, but I have not got the answer yet. ,
– It is to be hoped it will be in time.
– I know that Queensland is anxious for a Conference, and in fact all the partners who have not been shackled in this matter are anxious for a Conference. In the name of Heaven; why should we deny a Conference in a matter like this ? I say that it is disgraceful, and 1 should use stronger language to denounce it if it were in order to do so.
– We have listened to a most extraordinary speech from an honorable senator who later on will sit in judgment upon the action of the Government, and probably also upon the action of Messrs. Reynolds and Copeland, and others connected with the Pacific Cable Board. The honorable senator goes deliberately to Mr. Reynolds, and practically orders him to send a certain telegram, and when that gentleman refuses, he sends the telegram himself, so that the Pacific Cable Board may have the information he desires they should receive. Who would suppose that Mr. Reynolds would look upon any honorable senator as a proper person to order and instruct him as to what he should do? Have we not some authority in the shape of an Executive Council, to whom Mr Reynolds might apply ?
– We are complaining of the action of the Ministry.
– To go to a gentleman like Mr. Reynolds and practically order him to send a telegram in the way the honorable senator has described is to be guilty of an attempt at back-stairs influence. Is it not highly improper that any honorable senator should do anything of the sort?
– Was it not wrong to do what the Government have done ?
– I think it was wrong to do what the honorable senator has done. I think that as the honorable senator will have to sit here as a judge of the action of the Executive and of Mr. Reynolds, it would have been a great deal better if he had not gone to one of - the parties in this way. I think the honorable senator has done a highly improper thing, and certainly something which I should never do.
– The Government are prejudging this matter.
– I do not know that. I have every ( reason to believe that the Government are acting fairly and Straightforwardly.
– Why refuse a Conference?
– I believe that the Government are placing the whole of the facts before Mr. Reynolds, and are doing what they ought to do. I believe that it is highly improper for honorable senators to form themselves into deputations to wait upon a gentleman who is general manager of the Pacific Cable Board, and try to influence him in a certain line of action.
– Have we not as much right to do so as has the Chamber of Commerce ?
– No ; the Chamber of Commerce is an outside body which will not sit in judgment upon the parties when this matter is settled. The members of the Chamber of Commerce have a perfect light, as interested parties who will not be sitting in judgment upon the’ action of the Executive or of Mr. Reynolds, to place their case before him. Any honorable senator would have a perfect right to introduce a deputation consisting of persons who, like the members of the Chamber of Commerce, are specially interested. But it is highly improper that members of the Senate should go as a deputation to wait upon a gentleman who is here to confer with the Government when they may afterwards sit in judgment upon the action of the Executive and of Mr. Reynolds, and may deem it necessary to expose them to hostile criticism and possibly to punishment of some kind. It was for this reason that I made an interjection with respect to back-stairs influence when Senator Higgs was speaking. I did not intend to use the interjection in an offensive sense, but I did not think the honorable senator had sufficiently looked into the matter. The influence sought to be exercised is an influence I should never have attempted to exercise in my capacity as a senator either on one side or the other, and I made the interjection I did in these circumstances. This is the position. Senator Higgs goes to Mr. Reynolds, and because that gentleman does* not appear to agree with him exactly in everything he says, the honorable senator comes here and deliberately abuses him, and says that he is not fit for his position. I say that that conduct is altogether unbecoming an honorable senator. What opportunity had Senator Higgs of judging of this man’s character in so short an interview ? The very same course has been adopted by Senator Fraser.
– I stand by everything I did.
– Because Mr. Reynolds does not fall in with the honorable senator’s views, he says that that gentleman is not fit for his position.
– I did not say so ; the honorable senator should quote me fairly.
– The honorable senator perhaps did not say so in those words, but Senator Higgs said so in unmistakable language, and I think the action of the honorable senator has been grossly unfair. I do not know Mr. Reynolds from the man in the moon, nor do I know Mr. Copeland. I never met that gentleman, but I find that Mr. Copeland is treated in exactly the same way as is Mr. Reynolds. If we are in this Chamber to slander people outside upon insufficient evidence, we shall certainly be lowering the Senate in the eyes of the public. It is impossible to argue this question apart from the question dealt with in the order of the day on the notice-paper. We know what is the object of the Conference which is being held. The Pacific Cable Board will have all the facts of the case laid before them by the Government. I have not such a bad opinion of the Prime Minister and the rest of the members of the Cabinet as to believe that in any circumstances they would put a garbled statement of the facts before the Pacific Cable Board. Surely Messrs. Reynolds and Copeland will be able under- the circumstances to give the matter mature consideration. I have no doubt that Senator Higgs has read all the correspondence, and he will know that Sir Edmund Barton, in a letter he wrote some time ago to Mr. Seddon, showed plainly that that gentleman was altogether mistaken in the view which he took of this particular question.
– Should Mr. Seddon not be heard 1
– Mr. Reynolds is authorized by the Pacific Cable Board to represent them in the matter, as is shown by ji telegram, dated 8th August of this year. The Government sent this telegram -
We shall be prepared to comer with Heynolds now on his way to Australia. Suggest he be empowered and instructed by you to confer with this Government.
To which the following answer was received -
Your telegram of 8th August, Reynolds has already full authority to confer with you, but he is not entitled to commit Board without cabling.
Two members of the Pacific Cable Board are here, and the rest are in London ; and nothing can be done without’ the fullest cabling Of the facts to the members of the
Board in London. If the two members of the board who are here, after considering the -whole of the facts of the case,. come to the conclusion, as I do, that there is nothing in the agreement proposed to be entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Company which is likely to be injurious to the prospects of the Pacific Cable - I believe that it will be found in ten or twelve years to come to be of advantage to the Pacific Cable - and send home a statement of the facts of the case, and the Pacific Cable Board being acquainted with all the facts see no objection to the arrangement made by the Government with the Eastern Extension Company being ratified by Parliament, what do we need a Conference for ? The whole question will be set at rest so far as the Pacific Cable Board is concerned. They are the persons who are best able to say what is in the interest of the Pacific Cable, and not the members of this Senate. If the representatives of
Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth are all satisfied, why should we complain 1
– Are they satisfied ?
– I do not know. I understand that negotiations are going on, and these are the proper persons to conduct those negotiations and not honorable senators. I can trust the Government to place the facts fairly before the representatives of the Pacific Cable Board, and if, when that is done the parties concerned in the Pacific Cable are in favour of the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company being ratified by Parliament, we shall have nothing to complain of. We should certainly wait until .then before discussing the matter, as* we shall then have all the papers and all the information on the subject, and we shall be able to argue the question with the advantage of knowledge which we at present do not possess. .
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Senator Playford commenced by referring to the speech” of Senator Fraser as one of the most extraordinary speeches ever delivered in this Chamber. I think that the honorable senator has himself at least given us a parallel to it. As a rule there is no member of the Chamber who is more fair in his criticisms of other speakers than is Senator Playford. But the honorable senator has referred to Senator Fraser as having “ ordered “ Mr. Reynolds to do something. I can appeal to honorable senators whether the expression used by Senator Fraser was not that he “ appealed “ to Mr. Reynolds ? I am sure that the alteration of the word constitutes an act of unfairness which Senator Playford will himself recognise.
– I beg Senator Fraser’s pardon. In the heat of the moment I may have used the word “ ordered “ for the word “appealed.”
– There is such a marked difference between the words used, that I was satisfied that when Senator Playford’s attention was drawn to the word he used, he would see that he had been unfair to Senator Fraser. I cannot at all subscribe to the doctrine laid down by Senator Playford, that because we are members of the Senate, we are not at liberty to take any steps to impress our individual opinions upon other people. I would ask the honorable senator to consider whether in the. long parliamentary experience he has had, he has never in the course of a Tariff discussion, for instance, listened to representations from, or made representations to, people outside interested in a particular item in the Tariff. I venture to say that, in common with other honorable senators, the honorable senator has done so, and has not regarded it as being wrong that he should do so. I take it that Senator Eraser has been exercising the same rights and privileges as Senator Playford has exercised in such circumstances as I have imagined. The honorable senator asks us - What is the purpose of this Conference? A most extraordinary agreement is proposed, and I would ask the honorable senator what is the purpose of the refusal of the Conference ? Here, so far as I know, Australia is, for the first time, engaged in something which is entitled to be regarded as an international agreement. The Commonwealth, in conjunction with Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain, has entered into an agreement. One of the partners to the agreement takes action which the other partners to the agreement regard as injurious to their interests. A polite request is made for a Conference, and in the ordinary commercial walks of life, with which alone I am familiar, a request of that kind would be cordially acceded to.’
– So far as it is intended to deal with the general basis of the partnership ; that is a different point altogether.
SenatorMILLEN. - The Minister for Defence may try to push the question on one side, but it is quite clear that up to this point the Commonwealth Government have declined to accede to the request for a Conference.
– There is a matter of internal concern under consideration, which has nothing to do with the other partners.
– The Minister for Defence may try to obscure the point as much as he likes, but a request has been made by our partners for a Conference. As a matter of simple courtesy I should have thought that, under the circumstances, the Government would have been quite ready to meet and discuss matters in which all the partners are jointly interested. When there is a refusal of such a simple and natural request I am bound to ask what is the reason ?
– There must be a reason.
– There must be some reason for the strong attitude on the part of the Government.
– The honorable and learned senator is discussing the main question.
– The Minister for Defence is absolutely right in saying that ; and the main question is - Why is there a refusal to meet our partners in Conference?
– If the honorable senator discusses the agreement I shall have to ask the President to rule him out of order.
– Senator Playford undertook to speak for the other parties in the undertaking, and to say thatthey were under a misapprehension. It may be, however, that it is we who are under a misapprehension. In any case, seeing that this is the first occasion on which we have entered into an agreement of the kind, it isdesirable, as a matter of courtesy and in order to maintain our good name, to meet in conference and take every opportunity of removing any misapprehension.
– The honorable senator has not, I think, read the previous discussion.
– It seems to me that the Government would be having regard, not only to their own reputation, but to the good name of the Commonwealth, if they cordially agreed to meet our partners in the way desired. It is much easier to remove misapprehension when parties meet face to face than when they communicate by letter. Senator Playford has suggested that if all the facts are sent home the Pacific Cable Board will be satisfied ; and for that reason he asks the Senate to abstain from taking action. But the honorable senator must not overlook the fact that the Senate has been asked to take action, and but for the Senate the matter would have almost been past redemption. The action of the Senate has given time for further consideration, and for a renewal of the request for a Conference. I know that Governments have a natural disinclination to depart from any policy they have once announced, but I suggest that even now, at the eleventh hour, unless some more satisfactory reasons can be advanced for declining a Conference, the Government would, as I say, preserve their good nameand the reputation of the Commonwealth, by agreeing to discussing the matter in the way desired. It is quite true, as the
Minister for Defence remarks, that I have not heard all the discussion on the question ; but the pointwhich appeals to me is that the Government contemplate taking certain action which our partners in the Pacific Cable think to be to their detriment. That is my opinion also, but, seeing that the request has been made, and that certain obligations rest on them in common with ourselves, I cannot conceive on what grounds, from the point of view of ordinary business intercourse, or the courtesy which ought to prevail amongst countries so situated, the Government persist in their refusal.
– I hope that all honorable senators are duly impressed with the highly moral lecturette, and the ethical homily delivered by Senator Playford on how we should comport ourselves and manage our business both inside and outside the Senate. The honorable senator had the assurance to tell us that we have been guilty of using “ backstairs influence” - that Senator Eraser was guilty of the same offence in seeing Mr. Reynolds, and in subsequently reporting to us exactly what took place at the interview. It was unworthy of Senator Playford to make such a charge. SenatorFraser is guilty of no “ backstairs influence,” but took a course entirely consistent with the dignity of his position as senator.
– I act for my own country, whether it is necessary to go to the “ back stairs “ or the “ front stairs.”
– Honorable senators think that it is necessary Mr. Reynolds should be informed of the true condition of affairs ; but Senator Playford tells us that if we see that gentleman, either individually or collectively, we are guilty of unworthy tactics. I admit that Mr. Reynolds occupies a somewhat delicate position, and in this Senate, where we are privileged, we should be careful not to condemn him without reason. Personally, I do not condemn Mr. Reynolds, but believe that he is acting to the best of his lights. I may say that I have been guilty of using what Senator Playford describes as “ backstairs influence,” because I had an interview with Mr. Reynolds by appointment. I said to Mr. Reynolds - “I n the cables you have sent to London, have you, or have the Federal Government to your knowledge, informed the. board of the feeling of the Senate as to the necessity for a
Conference ?” To this Mr. Reynolds replied - No ; I have not.” I then asked Mr. Reynolds - “ Have you any intention of doing so?” and the reply was - “No;I have not.” Sir Edmund Barton, Mr. Copeland, and Mr.Reynolds were practically closeted together, and only one side of the case was being heard. The Government were anxious to carry their proposal in the Senate, and Mr. Reynolds had no official knowledge of the position in this Chamber, nor do I think that he had any actual knowledge of it.
– What about the Chamber of Commerce ?
– I am speaking of a time previous to that deputation. Senator Eraser, with others, thought it well that the Pacific Board in London should know the exact state of affairs, and he did right in cabling home and informing the board of the feeling of the Senate. We were misled by Mr. Copeland, and further misled by the Minister for Defence. I do not know why Mr. Copeland should write private letters on public business, but he did so, and in effect stated that Mr. Chamberlain had withdrawn his request for a Conference. In order to “ go one better,” the Minister for Defence said that Mr. Chamberlain had withdrawn all opposition to the agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I can show the honorable and learned senator his statement in half-a-dozen places in Hansard.
– The honorable senator will not find the words anywhere in Hansard. The honorable senator is inventing.
– I am not. The Minister for Defence absolutely misled the House, intentionally or unintentionally.
– The honorable senator is misleading the House, because he is not only misquoting, but saying what is not true.
– The Minister for Defence intimated that Mr. Chamberlain did not object any further to the signing of the agreement. That was absolutely untrue.
– Does the honorable senator impute untruth to the Minister for Defence?
– I am saying that the- statement made by the Minister for Defence was absolutely untrue.
– The honorable sena-. tor must withdraw the word “ untrue.”
– I do not say that the statement was intentionally, untrue on the part of the Minister for Defence.
– The honorable senator must not say that another honorable senator has been guilty of untruth.
-I shall withdraw the word, and say that the statement was absolutely incorrect. At the time a division was imminent, and if those who were supporting the proposal for a Conference had thought that Mr. Chamberlain’s opposition was withdrawn, the Minister for Defence would have been able to carry his point. It was a most dangerous thing for a Minister, intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead the Senate when a division was imminent on an important agreement which was to last ten years.
– A division was not anything like imminent.
– My belief is that a division would have been taken that night.
– The honorable senator must stick to the line of truth.
– I object to be hectored by the Minister, and I decline to allow him or any one else to dictate to me. This is an agreement which is being hatched, and there ought to be the fullest discussion by all the partners. Why do the Government try by every means in their power to stop discussion? It is not for us to inquire why a Conference is requested. The agreement has been signed by the Eastern Extension Company, and has been provisionally signed by the Prime Minister, subject to ratification by Parlialiament. There is no time specified within which the agreement has to be ratified - that oan be done now or in twelve months’ time. It must not be forgotten that the Eastern Extension Company cannot alter the agreement one way or the other - that if they try to increase the rates by even one penny, the traffic will go over the Pacific Cable. Under the circumstances there is no urgency, and our partners, who own threequarters of the cable, have said to ns, “We think you have over -reached us, and acted unfairly, and we want to talk the matter over before the agreement is ratified.” Not one .reason can be advanced for the immediate ratification of the agreement, and surely we may reply to our partners, “ You have asked for a Conference, and we will hear what you have to say, and then decide whether we shall sign the agreement.” This is the first agreement of the kind between six divisions of the Empire ; and if at such a time we are accused of unfairness, it is better to have a Conference than to leave any suspicion rankling in the minds of our partners. As I have already said, I recognise that Mr. Reynolds, who is a civil servant, is in a delicate position ; and I think the difficulty has been overcome by the cable sent to England by Senator Fraser. The fullest information ought to be in the hands of the Pacific Cable Company, and then, if a conference is not desired, any proposal in that direction will be withdrawn. But so long as a request for a Conference is made, we should endeavour to have one arranged with the object of removing any misconception that may exist.
– I think Senator Playford was altogether wrong in accusing Senator Fraser of using “back-stairs influence.” If there is any such influence, it is on the part of the Government, who seem to have a desire to keep something from1 the public. I have yet to learn that it is “ back-stairs influence” when a man pays money out of his own pocket in order to cable important and necessary information. If the Government are satisfied that they have made a good bargain, why do they not let the public know ? Are honorable senators, who form an important branch of Parliament, to have their mouths shut at the instance of the Government ? No one recognises the enterprise of the Eastern Extension Company . more than myself, but there is no doubt that the rates which at one time were charged by that company were so exorbitant that it was impossible to send a cable to England under half-a-guinea a word. For the present reduced rates we have to thank the dread which the Eastern Extension Company had of the Pacific Cable becoming a reality. Senator Playford should not have made the remarks he has made, bearing in mind that South Australia has an inland telegraph line which is subsidized to a large extent. If it had not been for the business sent from Victoria and New South Wales, that line in South
Australia would have been a bankrupt concern; and Senator Playford ought to give representatives of larger communities credit for the same public spirit which he himself claims. Senator Fraser is entitled to every consideration from this Senate for the action he took, which was in the right direction and tended to the interests of the Commonwealth. Queensland, New Zealand, I believe, New South Wales and Victoria, I am sure, are not with the Government in this matter ; and from remarks made by representatives of Western Australia, the people of that State would appear to take the same view. Under these circumstances why should inquiry be burked ? If the Government are not afraid of investigation, why do they not welcome it ? I shall support Senator Higgs, because in my opinion the Government are doing wrong in refusing a Conference.
– I did not have the advantage of hearing the discussion on this question some time ago, but I have very carefully read the reports. I also wired to Senator Staniforth Smith agreeing to a postponement of the debate with a view to bringing about a conference.
– That was the conference with Mr. Reynolds.
– I am not speaking of that conference, but of ageneralconference, which I gathered from Mr. Chamberlain’s message it was proposed to hold. Why is any attempt being made to prevent that Conference being held? I am not here to join in any insinuations that Sir Edmund Barton would lend himself to any unfair or mean transaction. I have a higher opinion of the Prime Minister, whom I regard as a perfectly honorable man. I am an independent supporter of the Government, but I am here first to look after the interests of the State I . have the honour to represent, and that State is affected very materially by the Pacific Cable. Our first consideration should be the welfare of ourrespectiveStates,and of the Empire, rather than the welfare of a company whose only interest is large dividends. If this matter is pushed to a division, merely with a view to emphasizing not only the desirableness, but the essentiality of a conference, I shall vote with Senator Higgs. I sincerely hope that the expression of opinion which has been given to-day will have the desired effect.
– How can it make the slightest difference if we carry the motion for the adjournment?
– It will emphasize the fact that, in the opinion of the Senate, such a conference is desirable. I am sorry to do anything to hamper the Government in any way, as I am exceedingly desirous of helping them to carry out their general policy; but I can be no party to burking discussion. A Conference has been demanded by our co-partners in the Pacific Cable, and certainly no harm can come from having a Conference. On the contrary, a great deal of good may result. With a view of securing the good which I think will accrue, I shall vote for the motion if it goes to a division.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I am not quite sure what the object of this motion is, unless it be to take up time. We shall be no further forward if it is carried. I understand that a Conference is taking place at this moment.
-It is a secret conference.
- Sir Edmund Barton represents one-third of the owners of the Pacific Cable, and he is conferring with the Canadian representative. Honorable senators expressed themselves as extremely anxious that there should be a Conference, and now that a Conference is being held 1 cannot understand why they should try to stop it. What is the object to be gained 1 Mr. Chamberlain says in Ms telegram that he recognises that the agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company may have gone too far for the Commonwealth to recede, but that in any case the incident appears to emphasize the desirability of a Conference to consider the whole question of the basis of partnership in the Pacific Cable. That can be done without interfering with the agreement itself. It has been said by Senator Playford that the representatives of Tasmania are likely to be influenced against the Government, inasmuch as they have not secured better cable communication with Tasmania. I repel the inference that Tasmanian senators would be so influenced. I am against the Government in many matters, but I do not see what good is to be gained by the motion. I urge Senator Higgs to withdraw it.
– I have to refer to one or two matters in reply. Senator Drake will insist that Mr. Copeland. did not mislead the Government, and he also says that the Government did not mislead the Senate. Clearly either Mr. Copeland misled the Government or Senator Drake misled us. I do not say that the Government misled the Senate, but I call attention to the fact that Mr. Copeland, in his letter quoted by the Minister for Defence to-day, said that Mr. Chamberlain had now agreed not to proceed any further with the request for a Conference. These words are in absolute contradiction of the language used by Mr. Chamberlain in his cable of the 27th August, which states that he agreed not to press for a Conference unless such and such a thing occurred. With respect to what Senator Playford said about backstairs influence, what do we see now ? The Government have been moving heaven and earth to avoid a Conference. Senator Macfarlane says that the Conference is taking place. But it isa secret Star Chamber conference, and we want to have everything free and above board. We also see that Mr. Copeland, who wrote the letter of the 10th July - a private letter about a public matter - and who said that Mr. Chamberlain had withdrawn his request, is conducting the negotiations with the partners to the Pacific Cable. I will not say any more, but I hope that the Senate will emphasize its objection to “the way the Government are conducting this business.
– Does the honorable senator withdraw his motion 1
– No, sir.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 3
In Division :
– I call the attention of honorable senators to the new standing order which provides that when a division is called each senator must take his seat at once on the side on which he wishes to vote.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Letter from Mr. Copeland to the Prime Minister, dated 10th July, 1903.
SenatorDRAKE (Queensland - Minister for Defence). -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. This is a Bill to provide for the division of the States into electorates for the purpose of electing members of the House of Representatives at the next periodical election. In order to make clear the purposes of the Bill, it is necessary to refer to legislation passed last session. The Act with regard to parliamentary elections provided for the division of the States into electorates for the purpose of electing members of the House of Representatives. By the Act it was provided that a Commissioner should be appointed for each State, whose duty it would be to divide the State into electorates. It was also provided that the Commissioner should publish maps, and that any objections or suggestions might be lodged not later than thirty days after the first publication of the proposed districts. The reports and maps had to be laid before the Houses of Parliament. Section 21 provides that -
If both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution approving of any proposed distribution, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare the names and boundaries of the divisions, and such divisions shall, until altered, be the electoral divisions for the State in which they are situated.
In the case of two of the States, South Australia and Tasmania, that procedure has been followed. Both of the Houses have signified their approval in the manner required by the Statute. The 22nd section provides -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives ft motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the States into divisions.
What has happened in the case of the proposed divisions for four of the States is this : Certain considerations are laid down for the guidance of the ‘ Commissioners. They are to ascertain a quota according to the number of members assigned to a particular State, and are to divide up the State in such a way that there shall be a quota in each division within a certain margin, the margin being one-fifth. In no case must it be more than one-fifth above the quota, and in no case must it be less than one-fifth below the quota. In dividing some of the States under those conditions, it appears that alterations were made in the direction of increasing the size of electorates, which were already too large for convenience. In the States of New South Wales and Victoria the divisions have had the effect of taking away a member for the country districts and giving an additional member to the thickly-populated centres. That result has clearly been a consequence of the migration of population that; has been going on for some time past from the sparsely-populated parts to the large towns
– In Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland there has been that tendency for the population to come from the country into the towns. Happily, now the tide has apparently turned as the result of good seasons, and we all hope that population will return to the country districts. In the meantime the Commissioners had the task of dividing the States according to the rules laid down in the Act. The consequence has been, as I have said, that the representation of outlying portions of the State has been somewhat reduced, whilst the representation of the central portions has been increased. It is not necessary for us to go into the details connected with the division. The position which we have to face is that one House of Parliament has expressed its disapproval of the divisions in the case of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia.
-Col. Gould. - Has that disapproval been expressed by special resolution ?
– Yes. One way of dealing with the matter would be to send the divisions back to the Commissioners in order that they might propose fresh distributions of the States into divisions. But time is running on, and if we are to have the elections for the Houseof Representatives as well as for the Senate before the end of the year, the arrangements for taking the poll must be pushed forward as speedily as possible.
– Does the Governmentpropose to have the two elections simultaneously, then?
– I am not makingthe proposal, but there is a general feeling; as to the desirableness of having the elections on the same day. It is largely a matter of money. It is not necessary under the Act that the elections for theSenate and the House of Representatives should be held at the same time, but it has been estimated that to do so would makea difference of something like 5 0,000 in the cost of the elections.
– Still, the honorableand learned senator does not know whether we are going to have the two elections simultaneously.
– It is impossible to know at what time the House of Representatives will be dissolved. There is a limit to the duration of the present House. That limit expires in April or May, I think. We know that at any time between now and then the other House may be dissolved. It is impossible to. say when it will be dissolved, but there is a general desire for the elections for the two Houses to be held at the same time. It is clearly desirablethat we should have all our electoral arrangements made in order that, if necessary, the elections may take place at the end of the year. Under these circumstances, it is not considered expedient tosend back the plans and divisions to t heCommissioners. I think there is hardly timenow for them to make fresh divisions.
– Sir William Lyne said that there was a month to spare.
– That statement was made on the 14th August, and aswe have now reached the ‘8th September, there would be just bare time for that purpose, supposing that everything weredone in the most expeditious manner, and that there were no unforseen delays.. It is not wise for us to rest too much on thechance of there being no unforseen delays. We have also to consider the possibility that new divisions and maps might be foundunsatisfactory. If either House in the exercise of its power were to object to the new divisions, it would be absolutely impossible to go through the same process again, and get the electoral arrangements ready in time to hold the elections, if necessary, at the end of the year. It is proposed, therefore, to go back to the divisions which were made by the States for the purpose of the first Federal elections. I believe that no serious dissatisfaction has been expressed with those divisions. Seeing that the tendency on the part of the population now is to return from the towns to the country districts, the probability is that if the elections were held at the end of this year, the numbers would be very much the same as they were at the time of the last elections ; and would correspond very nearly with the quota laid down in the Act.
– In few cases would the numbers be outside the margin laid down in the Act. With the moving back of the population there is a strong probability that the numbers would very nearly comply with the provision in the Act. Taking into consideration the margin which is allowed, it seems to be the best way of settling the difficulty. If this plan is pursued, then the divisions will be ready, and the elections can take place at any time. I do not propose to go into details with regard to particular electorates.
– Most wise.
– It is unnecessary. A good deal of time was spent in another place in discussing how many electors there were in one electorate and how many in another, but with all the figures which were quoted, official and otherwise, they never seemed to be able to come to any common agreement with regard to any one of the electorates.
– The Minister for Defence has acted very wisely in suggesting that it is not well to go into particulars.
– Because it is not necessary.
– Of course it is not necessary or desirable from the Minister’s stand-point, because once we go into particulars we shall find what a rotten schemehasbeen evolved bytheGovernmentin order to cover their laches, their indifference, their neglect of the interests of the public. Nearly twelve months after the Electoral Act was passed the Government make a wretched appeal to honorable senators to pass this Bill - because it is the only thing which can be done to save expense - in order to cover up their neglect of duty during many months. The Minister has quoted from the Electoral Act to show how the divisions should be made ; but he neglected to point out that its great object was to insure equal representation throughout the community. It is a notorious fact that certain Ministers are opposed to that principle. I give one Minister credit for consistency in that respect, because many years ago he advocated the principle of giving larger representation to the country than to the city electorates. But that is entirely beside the question before the Senate. Last session the Parliament determined, at the instance of Sir William Lyne, that each vote should have an equal value wherever it might be ; that the States should be cut up into equal electorates. It was recognised that the time had gone by to raise the question of the representation of acres as against men. In the arguments which have been adduced in support of this Bill, the Government have endeavoured to ignore that principle. It is not creditable to the Commonwealth that the Parliament should be asked to go back on the principle which it laid down less than a year ago simply to suit the convenience of the Government who have neglected their manifest duty. For a long time it has been considered very desirable that the elections for the two Houses should be held at the same time. Suppose that the elections for the Senate were to take place at the end of this year, and that the elections of members of the other House were to be held in April next, it would be impossible for any business to be transacted in the Senate when honorable senators were seeking election. One House could not sit while the other was incapable of sitting. Definite rules for the guidance of the Commissioners were laid down in section 16 of the Act, which is as follows : -
In making any distribution of Statesinto divisions the Commissioner shall give due consideration to -
Community or diversity of interests,
Means of communication,
Existing boundaries of divisions ; and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Commissioner may adopt a margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary ; but in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
That margin of allowance was fixed in the Electoral Bill, despite the objection raised that it was too small. It was suggested that it should be one-fourth, but the Parliament would not entertain the suggestion. At that time the drought was intense in New South Wales and Queensland, and members of Parliament knew quite well what they were doing.
– And the Commissioner knew what he was doing.
– Yes. The Government pointed out to the Commissioners what was the quota in the different electorates, so far as they could judge ; but the Government now say that the population is changing ; that it is coming back. The Minister has attempted to predict that in the course of a year the distribution of the population will be just as it was when the present divisions were made. The tendency, as honorable senators know quite well, is for the population to increase more rapidly in the cities than in the country.
– More is the pity.
.- The honorable senator who interjects was a strong advocate for the equal representation of the people. His contention was that, no matter whether a man lived in the city or in the country, his vote should be of the same value.
– That cannot be.
– A man can reach the polling-place much more easily in the city than in the country.
– That is an argument in favour of unequal electorates. I am taking the law as it is. It must have been known to the Government when they appointed the Commissioners that womanhood suffrage would greatly increase thevoting power of the cities. In every State there is a larger number of female voters in the metropolitan area than elsewhere. Although all these things were known to the Government at the time when they appointed the Commissioners, yet they are attempting to shelter themsel ves by continuing the old divisions, which may or may not have been right three years ago, but which most assuredly are not right at the present time. From a perusal of the reports we find that these matters have been taken into consideration by the Commissioners. For instance, the
Commissioner for Victoria says in his report -
In connexion with the above objections and suggestions, I desire to further point out that owing largely to the fact that there is a greater preponderance of women electors in the city divisions than in the country, the number of electorsin the city has been increased to a much greater extent than in the country ; and to reduce the area and number of electors in the city and add to the country, in order to give the latter an additional number, would give the country a number of representatives out of all proportion to the number it is entitled to on the basis of electors, and as a result the city would be deprived altogether of about 25,000 electors whose interests are wholly and solelyassociated with the city ; at the same time it would necessitate many new and unnatural or objectionable boundary lines, and render it almost impossible without “gerrymandering” -
– Is that word used in an official document ?
.- Yes. It is printed within inverted commas, clearly showing that it has a definite meaning, and was intended to appeal strongly to the Government and to members when perusing the report.
– I thought they called it Lyne-mandering.
.- That would be a synonymous term - to a large extent to create eight city divisions with an average of the maximum margin of allowance above the quota, to say nothing of linking together mixed communities and interests.
I think that that paragraph shows pretty clearly the view which was taken by the Commissioner for Victoria. What does the Commissioner for New South Wales say in his report? In paragraph 19 he says -
An examination of the number of electors allocated to the proposed divisions, as set out in the table given in paragraph 1, will show that, while high numbers have been adopted within thicklypopulated areas, such as the.divisions of the city of Sydney and suburbs and Newcastle, moderate or low numbers have been assigned to the divisions in the central or western districts and to some of the coastal divisions. The principle of this distribution of numbers rests largely on the assumption that, given a return to more favorable seasons, the country population will naturally expand, the rapidity of expansion being regulated by the characterof the settlement, climatic conditions, quality of the soil, &c. The expansion of many of the suburban divisions may be regarded as certain, while those of the city, or denselypacked suburbs, are obviously less subject to active causes of disturbance.
And in paragraph 22 he says -
To provide for the representation of this excess number of voters liberated from the adjacent over-weighted and under-represented electorates, the constitution of a new electoral division became an obvious duty. This was accordingly carried into effect, and a division formed containing 24,933 electors, to which the name of “ Ashneld” has been given.
These are extracts from the reports of the Commissioners appointed for the work in the two most populous States of the Commonwealth, the States in which the anomalies are more glaring, under the divisions the Government propose to adopt, than they are in the other States. How far the directions of the law have been carried out honorable senators will see on reference to the report of Mr. Houston, the Commissioner for New South Wales. Let me say in passing that Mr. Houston, as UnderSecretary for Lands in New SouthWales for many years, and recently as a member of the Land Court in that State, has had immense experience of the conditions prevailing there. What do we find in connexion with the division of the State of New South Wales ? The Commissioner is informed that, in accordance with the list of adults deemed to be electors, the quota for the State is 22,864, and he says -
The quota being as above stated, subject to a margin of allowance of one-fifth more or one-fifth less, the maximum number of electors legally assignable to any electoral division, for the purpose of the distribution, would be 27,220, and the minimum 18,148.
How did he proceed with the distribution 1 In dealing with metropolitan districts we find that in East Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, Parkes, Ashfield, Dalley, Lang, North Sydney, Parramatta, and Illawarra, eleven electorates, he has given more than the quota of electors because they include metropolitan areas. It is shown clearly that the Commissioner has taken advantage of the margin allowed to. the fullest possible extent, in order not to give any undue representation to the city of Sydney, whilst at the same time keeping within the powers given to him bylaw. On the other hand, in dealing with country electorates he has given as few as 18,386 to the Darling, 18,862 to Riverina, 18,449 to Canobolas, in fact there are a large number of the country electorates in which the number of electors is between 18,000 and 19,000, and in which he has kept slightly above the minimum number of 18,148. He has taken the fullest possible advantages of the provisions of the law in order that; there should be no charge made against him of having unduly favoured the city as against the country electorates.
– The honorable and learned senator is, I take it, going behind the decision of the House of Representatives.
– In what way?
– The House of Representatives has rejected the Commissioners divisions.
– I do not care what the House of Representatives has done. Senator Drake is submitting a Bill in which he asks the Senate to take a different course to that provided for by law. If the honorable and learned senator were asking the Senate, as the House of Representatives has rejected the divisions proposed by the Commissioners, to say that they should, go back to the Commissioners, I should be prepared to support him to the fullest extent. But when he contends that we should not do what the law has provided for, and that we should make something legal which at present is absolutely illegal, I join issue with the honorable and learned senator and with the Government. 1 see that it was stated by an honorable member in another place that there was an increase of 9,000 voters in three country electorates combined, or an increase of about 3,000 in each. But that is not a sufficient reason to induce honorable senators to turn their backs upon the law, to secure what will be absolutely a more unfair division than those proposed by the Commissioners could possibly have been. I find that under the proposals of the Government we are being asked to assent, in the case of North Sydney, to a voting power of 31,862, and in the case of Parkes of 31,475. Although these figures are about 4,000 above the maximum, we are being asked to say that these electorates shall have no greater share in the representation of the State than the district of Darling with but 12,139 electors. It is now being proposed that 12,000 electors in Darling shall return one member of Parliament, whilst 31,000 in Parkes and in North Sydney shall have no greater representation. This, instead of allowing for a margin of one-fifth, as we have provided by the Commonwealth Electoral Act, gives to the larger electorates two and a half times the number of electors in the smaller electorates. I quote the most glaring anomalies, but if honorable senators will consult the reports submitted by Mr. Houston they will find that other very glaring anomalies are being created by the proposal of the Government. It must not be forgotten that the present Government have posed as the great champions of woman-suffrage, but whilst they have claimed to have given the women of the country votes, they are now proposing to take away from them the influence and power which they should have as the result of the possession of the franchise. If we are to have adult suffrage, men and women must have the same power with regard to their votes, and the Commonwealth having adopted that principle should carry it out fairly.When we find that a gentleman who has had a gold snuff-box presented to him for his exertions in favour of woman sufferage, whilst giving the franchise to them with one hand is taking it away from them with the other, it will be admitted that they have not much reason to thank him. The Government had an opportunity of foreseeing what would happen under the Electoral law which Parliament passed nearly a year ago, and they have either not foreseen it or have been wilfully blind. Honorable senators are aware that the Government have been asked over and over again to have the Commissioners’ reports laid before Parliament, but there has been nothing but procrastination on their part. The Commonwealth Electoral Act was passed in October, 1902, and I should like to know how many months were allowed to elapse, after Parliament had declared what should be done in order to arrive at a fair division of the States, before the Government moved a hand to appoint the Commissioners. If they had been at all active the Commissioners might have been appointed months before they were, and their reports could have been laid before Parliament long ago. In consequence of the delay in instructing the Commissioners their reports were not laid before Parliament until early in last month. The Government knew then that under the law, if the divisions proposed in the reports were not agreed to by either House of Parliament, they must be sent back to the Commissioners. So keen were honorable senators to provide against any political interference in this matter that when the House of Representatives suggested that the reports might be sent back to the Commissioners with instructions as to. the way in which they should amend their proposed divisions the Senate stood fast against that suggestion. It was urged that the Senate had no right to interfere, but, inreply,wesaid that we represented the States as a whole, and that it was our duty to protect the States against any danger of gerrymandering.
– What is “gerrymandering ?”
– Ask the Government.
– The Government were anxious to have this power left in their own hands, but they gave way when they recognised that honorable senators were in earnest. Now the Senate is being asked to stultify itself. We are being asked to say, “ You do not choose to accept the divisions proposed by the Commissioners; you have not the power to instruct the Commissioners as to what you desire should be done ; but we will allow you to submit a Bill to enable the Government to do just what they please, whether we like what is proposed or not. We agree to this because you come to the Senate with the ad misericordiam appeal that, if we do not agree to it, the country may be involved in an expense of £50,000.” I say there is a principle at stake in this matter. We must ask ourselves whether our legislation is to be acted upon, or is to be. effective only at the whim or caprice of the Government for the time being. It is a notorious fact, so far as New South Wales is concerned, that the interests of a number of New South Wales representatives would not be served by the divisions proposed by the Commissioner.
– The honorable and learned senator is imputing motives.
– I believe that some honorable members representing Victoria are in exactly the same position. Why do we find so many representatives of Victoria and of New South Wales joining with the Government, who are anxious to put on one side the law which has been enacted ?
SenatorFraser. - Their own law.
– It is their own aw, but its operation does not suit them, and they are prepared to set it aside. Senator Drake says that I am imputing motives, but one cannot be blind to what is going on. We know very well that the divisions proposed by the Commissioners do not suit certain honorable members, and it is for that reason they are to be set on one side. The divisions laid before the
House of Representatives were objected to on the 8th August, and why were they not sent back at once to the Commissioner for further inquiry and report? An opportunity was offered to the Government to amend the law in such a way as to reduce the number of days during which plans were to be exhibited to the electors so that they might not be able to say that there was not sufficient time in which to carry out the law as originally contemplated. An opportunity was given them in this way to cover up their own negligence in the matter. But they did not avail themselves of that opportunity, as they had a big battalion behind them prepared to swallow anything which might prove of advantage in the elections. I hope honorable senators will bear in mind the fact that the difficulty which has arisen was very fully considered when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill was before us. If we are prepared to turn our backs upon what we did in passing that Bill simply to suit the convenience of certain honorable members in another place, or to cover the neglect o the Ministry, the sooner we make up our minds that Commonwealth legislation is going to be reduced to a farce the better. There are a number of electorates in which it is shown that the number of electors is below the minimum. In the Darling, for instance, the number of electors is 12,139, or 6,000 below the minimum. Do honorable senators imagine for one moment that those 6,000 electors have returned to the electorate ?
– Many go back in good seasons.
– The honorable senator does not know much about the Darling, or he would not say that.
– Senator Playford may have been in the Darling electorate, but he cannot have been in the “ nevernever “ parts.
– Does the Darling electorate include Broken Hill ?
.- I believe so.
– At Broken Hill to-day the population is normal ; it is the pastoral portions of the electorate which are alleged to be depleted.
– Honorable senators may ask what will happen if we do not pass the Bill.
– A sum of £50,000 will be wasted.
– According to that interjection, the Bill is presented to us with a pistol, and we have to accept the measure whether we like it or not.
– Honorable senators cannot help themselves.
.- That is the excuse of the Government ; but how many other measures could be brought forward on the same terms ?
– It is the large majority in the other place who have forced the Government.
– The honorable senator, by means of his interjection, is using an argument, the object of which is to force the Senate to accept the Bill. It is not the members of another place who have forced the Government into their present position, but rather the Government who have led honorable members. If the Government had stood firm, and, expressing their determination to observe the law, had sent these plans and proposals back to the Commissioner, the proper course would have been adopted. A few days before the introduction of the measure in another place the Government were asked what course they proposed to pursue, but they declined to give any information, saying that the matter would be referred to the House, with whom would rest the determination. NowIcontend that this Bill will not give a faithful representation of the people in the Commonwealth Parliament. If the divisions as submitted by the Commissioner would not give a faithful representation, we shall have a less faithful representation under the Bill. Do honorable senators mean to say that in a constituency like North Sydney the population is going to decrease? Can that be said of any of the more thickly-populated places within the metropolitan area ? I hope that honorable senators, notwithstanding the difficulties they may foresee, will show their determination not to allow their votes to be manipulated in such a way that an unjust distribution of the population in the electorates will become law. I shall record my vote against the second reading of the Bill. If the second reading be carried, I shall adopt the course suggested by the late Minister for Trade and Customs, and advocate an amendment ‘ which will give an opportunity for the report to be returned to the Commissioner, however short may be the time allowed in which to exhibit the maps and hear objections from the public generally. If necessary, I am prepared to refer the report back to the Commissioner, and accept his recommendations when it is returned to Parliament. The present position shows the danger there is in placing a Commissioner in an independent position, with instructions contained in an Act of Parliament, and at the same time allowing members of Parliament, whose interests are directly concerned, to interfere with his work subsequently. I urge honorable senators to record their votes in such a way as to show that they refuse to be made tools of by either the Government or the House of Representatives. I hope that honorable senators will bear in mind that their duty as States representatives is to see that the interests of the States are faithfully and properly conserved. Senators have the advantage that they do not represent electorates but whole States, and are thus put in a position which enables them to see that justice is done to every electorate, particularly in such a vital matter as representation in the Parliament of the country.
– Without the introduction of the personal element.
– That is so. From time to time charges are made that Parliament does not represent the people. It is possible that, in some cases, Parliament does not, but for that the people have themselves to thank. If the people do not record their votes, they have no right to complain of legislation which may not perhaps accord with their views. We ought not to say to 30,000 electors - “ You shall have -no more power in influencing the destiny of the Commonwealth than have 12,000 electors in another portion of the State.” I have not spoken of any of the States except Victoria and New South Wales. The divisions in Tasmania and South Australia have been accepted, and I presume that with regard to these no objection was raised. I have not alluded to the position of Western Australia and Queensland, because I have, not had an opportunity of considering the matter carefully as it affects those States ; and I am not so intimately acquainted with their circumstances as I am with the two States-to which I have referred, particularly New South Wales. A gross act of injustice will be perpetrated to Victoria and New South Wales if we adopt the Bill ; and we shall hold ourselves up to ridicule and contempt in the eyes of the community as people who, believing that we knew our mind, found at a later date thatwe had passed legislation which possibly did not suit our own personal interests, and whowere prepared to throw that legislation on one side. We are here in the position of judges,, although our own interests are concerned. We adopted a great principle, and are asked at the first opportunity to turn our backs upon that principle, because we find that it does not suit certain personal interests. I notice that there is but one other amendment proposed in the Bill, with the object of limiting the powers of the Commissioner in giving names to the electorates. The amendment proposes to omit in section 19 of the Electoral Act the words “and names,” so that the Commissioner will simply describe each division, and exhibit a map containing the boundaries. I should have thought the more convenient way would be to allow the names to be given by the Commissioner, but it is not a matter of such great moment that the amendment may be objected to. As to the measure as a. whole, if we are true to ourselves, to our constituents, and to the principles of democratic and liberal government, we shall reject the proposal of the Government.
– At the opening of the present session the Vice-regal speech contained the following passage : -
The passage of the Commonwealth Electoral Act has rendered necessary the division of th& various States into new electorates. This work is proceeding with all possible speed, and theplan of division will be submitted to you when completed.
When this session was opened, eight or nine months had elapsed since the passing of the Electoral Act, and during that time nothing had been fairly or satisfactorily accomplished. There had been a collection of names for the rolls, but they were found to be inaccurate, and an effort was made to bring them into line with the alleged population. Anything or everything answered the purpose of delay. Nine months had passed by, and we found the work only initiated ; and what has happened since 1 Instead of proceeding with all -possible speed, the Government have proceeded with all possible delay. To-day we have submitted for our acceptance a. measure which outrages the constitutional principles of the Commonwealth, and outrages the law we passed last session.
To me it is more than extraordinary - I might say more than outrageous - that a Parliament cannot exist for more than two sessions without, in the second session, seeking to undo the work of the first in a matter which transcends all others which could be submitted, namely, the constitutional and legal representation of the people. Senator Playford now says that there is not time to do more than is proposed by the Bill ; but whose fault is it that there is not time 1 Is it the fault of the people, whose legal rights are being filched 1 Is it the fault of the Senate, which is now asked to consummate these outrages on the Commonwealth law? It is the fault of those who are charged with this duty, and who have failed most egregiously, to carry out that law. If anything could show more clearly than another the utter need for a general election, which we are now told may be postponed, and in regard to which there is no satisfactory promise from the Government
– How can the Government give any such promise ?
-Col. NEILD. - If any reason were required for a general election, it could be found in the fact that the Senate is so effete and so neglectful of its duties that the discussion is proceeding with less than a quorum present. I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.] We are told that the reason for going back on our Constitution and upon our statute law is the occurrence of the drought. Did not the Government know of the existence of the drought when the Act fixing the maximum and the minimum of representation was passed, and when they penned the paragraph in the Governor -General’s Speech which I have quoted 1 Had not the drought been in existence for years 1 Has there been since the commencement of this . session any more drought, and any greater tendency on the part of the people to leave the back country and come to the cities than there was when the Electoral Act was passed ? In view of what is now taking place, the paragraph which I have quoted from the Vice-regal speech was nothing short of hideous hypocrisy. We prescribed the manner in which the people were to be represented, and, in accordance with the law, one of the ablest public servants in New South Wales was appointed to make the divisions. And here let me say that I propose to confine my remarks to the affairs of New South
Wales, because I take it that honorable senators representing other portions of the Commonwealth will be more able to express the views of the States from which they come than I could attempt to do. The Government do not say that the Commissioner for New South Wales discharged his duties unsatisfactorily. No attempt has been made to discredit his work. No doubt has been cast upon the bona fides of his divisions or upon the accuracy of the figures that he has prepared in relation to each of the divisions mentioned in his report. But instead of the work of subdivision being carried out by an able, experienced, conscientious, disinterested servant of the public, we find a most pernicious and evil attempt made to carve out electorates in the interests of members of Parliament themselves. Is it to be tolerated that this new Commonwealth Parliament is to set an example of ill-fame to the communities of the world in attempting to farm out the Commonwealth into electorates in accordance with the personal or political interests of a parliamentary majority ? We are, by the Bill submitted to us now, going back upon the great principles laid down in our Constitution, and in the Electoral Act passed last year - namely, equality of representation and the distribution of the electorates at the hands of unbiased and disinterested officials. I propose to make a few quotations f rom the Commissioner’s report. They will be brief ; and whether there is a large number of senators present to listen to them or not, it is, in my view, requisite that in this crisis of the constitutional history of the Commonwealth I should put on record my reasons for giving the vote which I feel I must give, irrespective of the consequences to Ministerial convenience. Mr. Commissioner Houston says -
It is obvious that in the present condition of the electorates, with numbers varying from 12,139 (Darling) to 32,476 (Lang), equality of representation has no place, and that to give effect to the principle as contemplated by the statute, a reconstruction of the existing boundaries of electorates, more or less extensive in character, becomes inevitable.
The Commissioner here gives us two of the glaring examples in which we find an electorate containing 12,000 electors pitted against one containing 32,000. We therefore find that as compared with the Darling, where there is one representative to 12,000 electors, in the Lang division the representation of the people is only two and two-thirds as great. And that occurs in the face of the cry that has rung from this Parliament and from public meetings throughout the. Commonwealth’ in favour of one vote one value. How can there be one vote one value when in the one case certain electors have two and two-thirds the amount of representation that is given to others? In our Electoral Act of last year, we made most novel provisions in the way of voting facilities for persons who reside at certain distances from polling places. We allowed voting by post. We allowed everything that it was possible to allow, even to extravagance of liberality, in the conditions laid down in the Electoral Act. But to-day we find all those provisions swept away, and 12,000 people are to have the same representation as 32,000. Yet in Mr. Commissioner Houston’s report the fullest and. most complete provision is made for the recognition of the conditions of drought affecting the country. The Commissioner goes on to say -
An examination of the number of electors alio- ‘cated to the proposed divisions, as set out in the table given in paragraph 1, will show that while high numbers have t>een adopted within thickly populated areas such as the divisions of the city of Sydney and suburbs and Newcastle, moderate or low numbers have been assigned to the divisions in the central or western districts, and to some o”f the coastal divisions.
The Commissioner was supplied by the Government with the quota. He did not manufacture it himself. The quota supplied to him was 21,058. Under the provisions of the law he allocated the voters in the different electorates with a minimum of 18,000, and a maximum of 27,000. ‘ The minimum of 18,000 was to be found in the sparsely populated districts, whilst the maximum of 27,000, which surely is high enough, was to be found operating in city and suburban electorates. Surely a difference of 50 per cent, between an elec,torate containing nearly 18,000 male electors and one containing 27,000 is sufficient for all practical exigencies. The Commissioner’s proposals are embodied in the next paragraph of his report, which I will quote -
It will be seen that eight city and suburban Federal electorates (namely, East Sydney, West Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney, Lang, Dalley, Parkes, and North Sydney) include 234,406 electors, or nearly two-fifths (30-74 per cent. ) of the whole . number of electors ; and further, that these electorates, together with the coast electorates (namely, Richmond, Cowper, Hunter, Newcastle, Parramatta,
Illawarra, and Eden-Monaro) contain no less than 396,869 voters, or over two- thirds of the electoral population of the State. The remaining 192,920 electors are distributed over an immense area’ embracing about five-sixths of the State.
We find, therefore, these remarkable figures - that 396,000 electors are represented by fifteen members, with an average of 26,000 voters per seat ; whilst 192,000 electors are represented by eleven members, with an average of 17,000 per seat. My honorable and learned friend, the Postmaster-General, must feel some degree of dissatisfaction at having, as a member of the Cabinet, to take a course of action which involves defending this Bill.
– Why ?
– I credit ray honorable and learned friend with feeling some dissatisfaction in reference to the task.
– I am afraid I do not ‘ deserve it.
.- If my honorable and learned friend wishes to pose before the Senate as one who desires to destroy the representation of the people-
– The Bill is not going to do that.
– My honorable and learned friend knows that I am speaking the truth. The Commissioner appointed by his own Government condemns the present condition of affairs, which this Bill seeks to perpetuate. This difference between 26,000 electors per seat in the one case, and 11,000 per seat in the other, is not satisfactory enough to the Government, but is wafted aside. Even those wide divergences in representation are not wide enough. Apparently it is necessary, in the estimation of the Ministry and their supporters, to fall back, not on 17,000 as against 26,000, but on 12,000 as against 32,000. That is the sort of representation which meets with acceptance. I propose to address myself to some rather awkward features, of this refused division. I draw attention to the fact that the present Minister for Home Affairs has not chosen to father this Bill. Whether he had a mind and a soul above fathering such an assault on the liberties of the people I do not pretend to say. But we have the spectacle of the Minister, in whose Department this matter lies, failing to handle it in another place or anywhere, and leaving it to be fathered by another Minister who is not officially connected with the Electoral office. I should like to know if the change that took place in the Ministry a little time ago. was attributed to the true cause, or whether it was not this onslaught on the leading features of the Constitution and the basis of democracy which compelled Mr. Kingston’s retirement ? Who are the persons specially interested in this refusal to accept the Commissioner’s subdivision ? Which are the electorates that are attacked under the scheme which it is not deemed desirable to accept, although the Minister who moved the motion on which this Bill is based stated in another place that there was time to send back the report. He would not send it back for alteration.
– The Minister for Defence has admitted that there is just time to send it back.
– Yes, there is still time to take that course. It is proposed practically to mix up the Darling electorate with the Riverina electorate, both represented by gentlemen who do not belong to the Opposition in Federal politics, one of whom must lose his seat. Another electorate which is very seriously interfered with, in that it is shifted coastwards. and which if the scheme were carried out would include a very large number of coal miners who would not be likely to be friendly supporters, is the Hunter, represented by the Prime Minister. Another electorate very seriously affected - I was in it the other day and know the facts - is the Hume electorate, represented by the Minister who engineers this proposal, although it does not belong to his Department. What are some of the others 1 I have named the case of the Darling electorate, represented by Government supporter Spence; the Riverina electorate, represented by Government supporter Chanter ; and the Hunter, represented by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable senator is entirely wrong about Mr. Spence being a Government supporter.
– He is a very useful man to them, anyhow.
– He is a member of the Labour Party.
– He votes with the Government. Then we have Hume electorate, represented by the Minister for . Trade and Customs ; Cowper, represented by Mr. Clarke ; Gwydir, represented by Mr. Cruickshank, who, like
Mr. Clarke, is a very strong Government supporter1; Richmond, represented by Mr. Ewing, Government supporter ; New England, represented by Mr. Sawers, Government supporter ; Barrier, represented by M.r. Thomas, a, good supporter of the Government although he supports the Labour Party also; and Newcastle, represented by Mr. Watkins, a member of the Labour Party, but who invariably votes with the Government. Everybody knows that the Government and the Labour Party are one and indivisible. Here are ten electorates on whose boundaries the Commissioner is compelled to lay hands in order to comply with the law, to provide the quota with which he was furnished, and every one represented by a supporter of the Government. Not one of these electorates must be touched, and apparently to protect the interests of the sitting members this Bill is introduced. Let me compare a few figures which have been” furnished by the Minister, of some of the divisions which we are asked to canonize by this Bill. It is said that we should throw aside equal representation - honest representation. We cannot have honest representation if it is unequal, to such an extent as is shown here. Perhaps I had better give the full figures in each case. Lang, 32,476 votes, represented by Oppositionist McLean; North Sydney, 31,862 votes, represented by Oppositionist Thomson ; Parkes, 31,475 votes, represented by Oppositionist Bruce Smith ; Dalley, 30,097 votes, represented by ‘ Oppositionist Wilks, comprising, in all, 125,910 votes. Let us compare these electorates with four electorates which have returned Government supporters. Darling, 12,189 votes, represented by Mr. Spence; Riverina, 14,92.0 votes, represented by Mr. Chanter ; Barrier, 15,173 votes, represented by Mr. Thomas; and Richmond, 16,879 votes, represented by Mr. Ewing, making a total of 58,961 votes. The four Opposition seats average 31,500 votes, while the four Government seats average only 16,750 votes - that is, practically one-half. After fighting to get the principle of equal representation and equal voting power enacted, the Minister for Defence comes here with, this Bill, and asks us to tear up the law, to drag out of our minds every remnant of selfrespect in doing a far thing by the people who sent us here, and to perpetuate anomalies and unequal representation, which are nothing better than an outrage on our statute law. In the figures which were produced by the Minister for Trade and Customs the other day, we find a list of fifteen electorates with over 20,000 votes each, and a list of eleven electorates with under 20,000 votes each, running from a minimum of 12,000 up to a maximum of nearly 33,000. There are more than the four electorates I mentioned which have over 30,000. votes.I shall give another example. Take the electorates of Lang, Parkes, South Sydney, Wentworth, East Sydney, North Sydney, and Dalley. If the Bill is passed, those electorates, represented by seven members, will comprise 212,362 electors.. Perhaps I had better explain that I am not now making any comparison between Government seats and Opposition seats, but only a comparison between country seats and town seats. On the other hand, seven country electorates - Riverina, Darling, Hume, Bland, Barrier, Gwydir, and Richmond - will contain only 110,000 voters, disclosing an inequality of 102,362 votes. I shall now give another example. Take the electorates of East Sydney, Illawarra,Wentworth,West Sydney, Parrarhatta, Parkes, Lang, Dalley, Robertson, North Sydney, South Sydney, Macquarie, Werriwa, and Canobolas. It will be found that these fourteen electorates - returning practically all Oppositionists -will contain 354,530 electors ; while on the other hand, twelve electorates - returning Government supporters - contain 233,470 voters. There is a difference of no less than 121,060 voters in the case of those twelve Government seats and fourteen Opposition seats. I do not wish to labour the number of voters too much, but still I think it is absolutely necessary to put some figures on record. Take the electorates of Lang, Parkes, East Sydney, North Sydney, Dalley, South Sydney, Wentworth, and Parramatta, which are represented by Oppositionists. Those eight electorates contain 236,000 voters, while eight constituencies represented by Government supporters - Riverina, Richmond, Hume, Gwydir, Cowper, Hunter, New England, and Eden-Monaro - muster only 160,000 voters. Again, the four strongest Opposition seats contain 125,920 votes.
– Metropolitan constituencies, I suppose.
– Yes. The four strongest Government electorates contain only 92,776 votes.
– Those are four country constituencies ?
– What a discrepancy - 92,776 votes as against 125,920 votes- - the averages being for the Opposition 31,500, and for the Government 23,200. The four weakest Opposition seats muster 110,000 voters, whilst the four weakestGovernment seats muster only 67,000, the averages being for the Opposition 27,500- per seat. and for the Government 16,750- per seat. I propose to say a few wordswith reference to the question of the newlyenfranchised female voters.
– “Lady “ voters.
.- If I say women voters it is because “ woman “ is an. older word than “ lady.”
– The honorable senator said “female.”
– Then I apologize. I shall say “ woman voters “ - “ woman “ is. an older word than “ lady,” and is not open to the same possibility of misconstruction. I have one word to say with reference to the Minister who claims to have been the medium of giving the franchise to women.. I say that no Minister, no Ministry, and no Federal Parliament gave the franchise to the women of the Commonwealth. The framersof the Constitution did so, because they deliberately laid it down that no personswho possessed the franchise at the timewhen the Commonwealth was established, should have it taken away from them. The extension of the franchise to women was but a necessary corollary to the adoption of the Constitution. It was necessary that the franchise should be uniform throughout the length and breadth of the land, and it was impossible to take the franchise away from those women in the Commonwealth) who possessed it before Federation was accomplished. It was automatic under the Constitution that the franchise should be extended to all the rest. For any Minister to pose as the saviour of the women of the Commonwealth, and to accept van loads of snuff-boxes for his achievement, is really very absurd.
– The honorable senator is casting envious eyes upon the snuffbox.
– I do not take snuff. The “Snuff-box Hero,” as he has. been called, proposes in this Bill to perpetrate some of the most savage injustices which. could be perpetrated upon women, as a return for the blessings and the shower of snuff-boxes they have poured upon him. I have to quote for honorable senators some figures upon which there can be no controversy, as they were collected only this year, and there can be no mistake as to whether the rolls have since altered them. I find that the women electors number 17,000 in Lang, 17,700 in Parkes, 16,500 in Dalley, 17.600 in North Sydney, and 16,000 “in East Sydney-. As against these, when we come to consider Government constituencies, we find that there are only 4,000 women electors in Darling, 4,000 in Riverina, and 4,500 in Barrier.
– Are the Government afraid of the women voting 1
– It certainly looks like it. In the constituencies to which I have referred those supporting the Opposition contain but one-fourth the’ voting power of those supporting the Government.
– The women -voters are absolutely ignored.
- Col. NEILD.- I think that four to one are pretty long odds, even in an election. I ask whether the honorable and learned senator who is fathering this Bill, and the colleague for whom he is acting in this Chamber, are giving full effect to the franchise to women t In eight electorates, East Sydney, Wentworth, South Sydney. Lang, Dalley, Parkes, North Sydney, -and Parramatta, as they exist at present, there are 129,000 women electors. These are all Opposition constituencies. On the other hand, in the electorates of Eden-Monaro, Hunter, Cowper, Richmond, Hume, New England, Guydir, and Riverina, all represented by Government supporters, the women- electors number but 70,000. There are 70,177 in eight Government electorates as against 129,000 in Opposition electorates. The Government propose that the 129,000 women electors, represented by eight honorable members sitting on the Opposition side in another place, shall hav» no greater voting power than is given, to the 70, 177 women electors in eight constituencies represented by Government supporters, lt is an ungrateful thing for a man who, I hope, has some pretensions to a. generous mind to be compelled, in the discharge of his duty, to dissect such figures, and to show the little sort of infamy that underlies them, when we are professing, as a Parliament, as a Ministry, and as a people to believe in and to practise the principle of equal representation. In the Commonwealth Electoral Act I find these words, under the head of “ Undue influence “ -
Without limiting the effect of the general words in the preceding section “ undue influence “ includes every interference or attempted interference with the free exercise of the franchise by any voter.
What is Senator Drake doing in this instance ? If the Minister for Defence at an election time took any action that interfered with the recording of a single vote by an elector, male or female, he would render himself liable, under the Electoral law, to severe penalties, which are so well known to honorable senators that they need not be further indicated. What is the Minister for Defence now doing? Whatever his loyalty to his colleagues may induce him to say, I know his nature well enough to be certain that he feels he is discharging a sorry task - that he is now doing that which at the time of an election would certainly bring him within the four corners of his own Act. The action of the Minister for Defence comes within the phraseology of “undue influence,” because he is unquestionably interfering, in the words of the Act, with the free exercise of the right of voting. It would only be the sanction of law that would save him from the clutches of his own measure passed last session. I shall quote one brief extract from the speech of the leader of a party which is represented in this Chamber at the present moment by two honorable senators. Those honorable senators will be in solid agreement with what I shall quote, whether or not they may be in agreement with the Bill before us. The quotation contains the reason given for the passage in another place of the Electoral Bill, and is as follows : -
One of the best features of the measure is that it fixes an absolutely equal quota right through the Commonwealth as to the principle of persons required to return a representative to this House. The whole principle for which the Labour Party has been fighting is that the power of government should be shared by the people in absolutely equal proportion.
These are the words of the leader of the Labour Party in the House of Represents^tives. Wherein the measure before us is there one phrase showing the absolutely equal proportion provided in the Electoral Act of last year, which, according to Mr. Watson is the most admirable principle embodied in the law - a principle which we are now asked, I will not say to burke, but to throw aside. The law has already been broken by the Government, in that they have not carried out the provisions of the Electoral Act ; and they now ask us to condone their offence by passing a measure in order to get them out of a scrape brought about by their own laches. I shall quote another sentence from the speech of a gentleman who, I am sure, is respected by many in the Senate. It is as follows : -
I would say to honorable members - “ Keep the Parliament free from this question asmuch as you can, and you will get better results from impartial officers.”
That was the question of fixing the boundaries of the electorates; and he was referring to the possibility of Parliament arranging these so as to suit members. The quotation proceeds : -
Do not let us revoke a principle which the House adopted, practically unanimously, only last year. Let us endeavour to stand by that principle. We did right when we passed it ; let us not depart from it until we are satisfied that it is our duty to do so.
These are the words of Mr. Kingston, the late colleague of the Minister for Defence. The Bill before us specially enacts that the first elections conducted by the Commonwealth shall be soconducted as to deliberately outrage the Statute law of the Commonwealth, and every principle of democratic government. If we pass this measure, honorable senators who go before their constituencies this year, or three years hence, will go with the sin and shame hanging over them of having set aside a principle dear to the people who have trusted us and created this Parliament. These senators will be actually appealing for support to the people whose right of equal representation they have set aside. They will go before the electors with the ignominy of having, at the end of twelve short months, destroyed a law in regard to which a considerable number of honorable senators went throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth blowing their own trumpets and the trumpets of their respective parties. They proclaimed to the world at large how splendid an instrument of equal representation and equal value of voting had been placed on the statute-book. But that law is to be torn out and the statute-book left with a ragged page ; and the people are to be given insufficient representation by the act of repudiation which the Minister for Defence now asks us to pass.
– It is regrettable that at this early period of our legislative career it should be found necessary to introduce amendments in legislation that wepassedonly last session. Before we have equipped the Commonwealthwith the necessary instruments for carrying out the Constitution, we are asked to stop in the midst of the construction of the most urgent measures which are necessary for the carrying on of the transferred services.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– The Act which we are asked to amend is one which I think we should consider very carefully before making any alterations in it. Such an amendment as is now proposed is absolutely unnecessary. Moreover the amendment we are asked to make is distinctly undemocratic, and strikes at the very principles that we laid down for the government of the Commonwealth. The Bill therefore merits the strongest condemnation. If the Government had complied with the Act that was passed by both Houses - if they had accepted or returned the recommendations of the Commissioners - it would have been necessary for us merely to give our formal assent to the arrangement of the constituencies by the House of Representatives. But when the Government propose and succeed in carrying something that is absolutely illegal, in defiance of the principles of the Electoral Act, and then endeavour to make their illegality legal by an amending Bill, it is our right and our duty to consider whether such an extraordinary proceeding is necessary. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not accuse the Government of deliberately gerrymandering. I do not accuse them even of undue political influence. If there were a belief that the Government were engineering a Bill to deprive the people of their electoral rights for party ends, if the Parliament did not hurl them out of office the people of Australia certainly would, because they would have betrayed the confidence that had been placed in them. But I do say that if this Bill is carried, it will be contrary to the principles that are embodied in our Constitution, to the provisions of the Electoral Act of this Parliament and to the intentions of the Franchise Bill. To carry such a measure as this, to deprive thousands of people of the right to vote, or, what is the same thing, of the value of the vote, is a crime against democracy ; and, if we carry such a measure, we shall disfigure the legislative record of this the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. We can all feel a certain amount of pride - both members of the Opposition and supporters of the Government alike - in the legislative enactments we have put upon the statutebook. We can say that it is broad, democratic legislation. Though there are one or two measures that I do not agree with,. I think we have established a legislative record equal to that of any Parliament in the world. But we are asked to spoil that achievement by a Bill which is opposed to the very principles of democracy, which is going to deprive tens of thousands of people of their votes, and which in addition is absolutely unnecessary. We ought to object to any measure which does an injury to the people, and undoes the good work that we accomplished last session.
– I think it is rather misleading to say that we are depriving tens of thousands of people of their votes. It is a phrase that will mislead the public.
– We absolutely deprive 48,000 people of Victoria of the vote. What I mean is this : At the next general election under this Bill there will be 48,000- more votes in the city than in the country electorates for an equal number of electorates. My honorable and learned friend will see that if those 48,000 people left for South Africa or some other place, the same number of members would be returned for Melbourne and its suburbs. Therefore, those 48,000. votes are absolutely useless. Though we have embodied in our Electoral Act that the electorates shall be as nearly as possible equal, and that the people of the Commonwealth shall have equal voting power, we are depriving those 48,000 people of their votes, or of what is equivalent to that.
– That argument misled me when I first heard it.
– The procedure in regard to these electorates is clearly laid down in the Electoral Act, in sections 19 to 22. The Government at first complied with those conditions. They appointed able, upright, and well-qualified men to discharge the duties of Commissioners. They were men whose integrity was above suspicion. Those Commissioners have, in accordance with their instructions, brought up certain divisions, and their action in so doing has not been questioned.
– The honorable senator forgets that one has been questioned in the House of Representatives.
– I am speaking generally. There has been a question with regard to the Queensland Commissioner, I believe. In arriving at their divisions, the Commissioners were told to give consideration, first of all, to “ community or diversity of interest.” Of course, that does not mean community of political interest. It means community of social and industrial interest. They were also told to give consideration to means of communication, physical features, and existing boundaries of divisions. They sent in their reports. The Government then had two ‘ courses open to them. One was to accept the recommendations of the Commissioners ; the other was to return them and ask the Commissioners to ‘ amend them. Those were the only two courses which were given to the Government under the Electoral Act. What did they do ? They adopted neither of those courses. They illegally rejected the reports of the Commissioners, and they did that with the knowledge that they had plenty of time in which to return the reports for amendment.
– The honorable senator says the Government illegally did what?
– Carried resolutions.
– How did they illegally/ carry resolutions ?
– Surely my honorable and learned friend, as a lawyer, knows that the Electoral Act gave the Government two courses to adopt - either to return the reports to the Commissioners or to accept them. They did neither, but threw the reports in the waste-paper basket. Therefore, they have done something which is absolutely illegal.
– The House of Representatives has rejected those divisions.
– I am discussing the resolutions which were carried. They were illegal, because they were not authorized by any Act.
– They are authorized by the Statute.
– The Electoral Act gives two courses only - one is to return the reports to the Commissioners, and the other is to accept them. The Government had no other alternative.
– They can reject them if they like.
– They have absolutely no right to reject them.
– Look at section 2 1 .
– The only procedure that is laid down is that they must accept the reports from the Commissioners or return them. I hope that the Minister for Defence will not continually interrupt me.
– I thought that the honorable senator wanted the truth.
– The Government, I say again, have done something which is absolutely illegal, although they had plenty of time in which to return the reports to the Commissioners. Indeed, Sir William Lyne said that they had a month to spare. Having done something illegal, the Government ask this Senate to pass an Act which makes their illegality legal. If what they have done is legal, why do they take this procedure ?
– Section 22 provides for what they are doing.
– I ask Senator Dobson why the Government want us to alter the Electoral Act if they are doing something that is legal 1 Why this Amending Bill ?
– Has the honorable senator read section 22 ?
– I have- read it. This Amending Bill is brought up because, unless it is passed, the action of the Government will be illegal.
– It is only to clear up a doubt.
– What is the alleged reason ? We are told that it is on account of the drought. That is the only reason that can be given. It is said that as the result of the drought people have come in from the country districts to the towns. If the Government were sincere in advancing that reason, why did they not confine their rejections of the Commissioners’ reports to the drought-stricken States ? Why did they reject the report of the Commissioner for Western Australia, where there lias been no drought? Why did they accept the report from South Australia, where there has been a drought 1 In Western Australia we have had magnificent seasons. The sheep and the cattle are fat, the pastoralists are doing well, and the agriculturists are prosperous. There has been no drought there. Yet the Government say that on account ‘of the drought the recommendations of the Commissioner for Western Australia should be rejected. In South Australia there has been a drought, and the. people have been turned back to the cities from the north. Yet the Government have accepted the divisions for the State. It is proved absolutely conclusively that it was not the drought that caused the Government to take this action. The drought is a mere subterfuge, - I was going to say a mere piece of hypocrisy, but I do not know whether that would be in order. If the drought were the reason, there is ample provision in the Electoral Act to meet it. If we read the reports of the Commissioners, we shall find that they have made provision for the drought. They have given the country districts far more representation than they were entitled to, according to the number of people actually there. They have made ample provision for any people who have been driven into the towns. If the country districts have lost their population, as the Government say, they had lost it before the Electoral Act was passed. Have Ministers only just discovered that there has been a drought ? Were they not aware of the existence of the drought when they inserted in the Electoral Bill a provision as to the size of the electorates ? They seemed to have a good knowledge of the existence of the drought when they passed the infamous fodder duties to squeeze money out of the suffering people.
– The honorable senator ought not to stigmatize any law as infamous unless he is moving for its repeal.
– I withdraw that word, sir, and describe the duties as cruel. When the Government appointed the Commissioners they knew the limitations in the Electoral Act. They raised no objection at that time, but now that enormous expense has been incurred in printing rolls and appointing Commissioners, they say that the whole thing is a botch and a bungle and has to be thrown aside. Although the Government have had two years and a half in which to bring in a Bill and divide the electorates, yet at the last moment they say - “ We have not had time to do anything ; therefore we have to revert to the States divisions.” It is humiliating to think that we cannot put in force the machinery necessary to carry out the electoral law. Practically we admit our incompetence, and we fall back on faulty divisions which were made by the States over three years ago. There have been enormous changes in the population. Although, we know that people have gone into the country districts - and perhaps some districts have been depopulated - yet we are asked to accept electoral divisions which were faulty three years ago. Of course, the faults have grown enormously. By enacting female suffrage we practically doubled the voting power of the Commonwealth. And that has added enormously to the previous inequalities in the States electorates. If the next Parliament should be elected on the old States boundaries, it could not be said to represent the people of Australia. How can that statement be denied when one member would represent a third of the people whom another would represent ] The Bill is a humiliating exhibition of executive impotence and incapacity. The Ministry have taken immense credit and been publicly thanked for conferring the franchise upon women. Public meetings were called, and Ministers basked in the sunshine of the smiles of the assembled womanhood. One Minister recei ved I do not know how many beautifully chased and inscribed gold snuff boxes and moral pocket - handkerchiefs. They talked of that measure with the most magnificent diffidence. They assumed the attitude of one who does good- by stealth and blushes to find it fame. They felt disconcerted at being found out in their good work. The whole demonstration was a sham and a hypocrisy, for the Ministry were not entitled to receive any credit for enfranchising the women. That credit was due to those gentlemen who said in one section of the Constitution that the yoting right of any person in a State should be retained in the Commonwealth, and in another section that all laws should be equal. Those two provisions made it imperative in an Electoral Bill to provide for adult suffrage. The Ministry posed as if they had conferred this political right on women, when as a matter of fact they only did what they were compelled by the Constitution to doi
– The credit is due to the model State.
– Adult suffrage existed in Western Australia,, as well as South Australia. When the first opportunity occurred, for the Government to confer on women not any advantage,, but bare justice, what did they do 1 They treated shamefully the electoral claims of women. By a skilful manoeuvre they have practically deprived the women of the full value of their political rights. To show the unfairness of the State divisions, let us review for a moment the position in “Victoria. According to the old distribution there were fifteen country electorate* and eight city electorates, but according to a true distribution the State would have twelve and threequarter members for the country and ten and a quarter members for the city ; so that if we pass the Bill we shall wrongfully deprive the city of two members. The numbers given in the Commissioner’s report are fourteen members for the country and nine members for the city. The whole intention of the Constitution, Electoral, and Franchise Acts was to secure absolute political equality so far as voting was concerned. What do we find from a reference to the Commissioner’s report? We find that the country electorates average 23,742 electors, and the town electorates 28,190 electors. It takes nearly 5,000 more persons to return a member in the town than in the country. The difference between country and city representation should be -two and a-half members, but according to the State divisions, to which we are asked to revert, it is seven members. Surely that is a shameful proceeding. It is an unheard of thing to adopt divisions which will put the people in city electorates in such an unfavorable position as compared with the people in the country electorates. The returns for the last census show a marvellous difference in the number of women in the different electorates. It is shows that 101,000 women were entitled to* vote in five of the most populous city electorates, and 47,000 in the five least populous electorates in the country. All that goes to swell the inequality of the voting power in the old State divisions. Are we going to take no notice of inequalities, such as those, which exist in Kooyong electorate, with it* 21,000 women, and in Wimmera electorate^ with its 7,000 women 1 Cannot honorable senators see what an enormous inequality there will be in the electorates 1 Practically it amounts to plural voting. In one electorate a person has virtually two votes, while a person in another electorate has only one vote. At public meetings Ministers have been patted by the ladies and told what good fellows they were for conferring on them the suffrage ; but it occurs to me that they are biting the hands that patted them. The Commissioner for Victoria gives the country districts an advantage of 48,000 votes as against the town. We have been told that those 48,000 persons have come down to Melbourne. Suppose that an average family consists of two persons it would mean that an army of 144,000 individuals had come down to Melbourne. We know as a matter of fact that the population of Melbourne has not increased, that there has been no building to speak of in the suburbs, and that there are more houses vacant now than a year ago. Therefore it is all nonsense for the Government to tell us that these people have come to Melbourne. If they have left the country districts they have left Australia - at any rate, Victoria. That reason for rejecting the Commissioner’s reports will not bear inspection; it is a mere subterfuge. The Commissioner of Victoria has recognised all this in his report. He says -
I have taken advantage largely of the margin of allowance, and if the margin of allowance had been departed from to the full extent of oneiifth less than the quota for the country divisions, the number of electorsremaining in the city would have been such that, with eight divisions only in the city, the one-fifth margin of allowance above the quota would have been exceeded. In other words, there a re 253,709 electors in the city area, as proposed ; and if eight divisions were provided, the average number of electors in each would be 31,713, or an average of 1 , 1 33 above the maximum margin of allowance under the law.
He goes on to say -
At the same time it would . . render it almost impossible, without “gerrymandering” to a large extent, to create eight city divisions with an average of the maximum margin of allowance above the quota, to say nothing of linking together mixed communities and interests.
While the Commissioner says that there wouldbe “gerrymandering”indoing acertain thing, the Government have done that very thing, and, therefore, according to him - I would not dare to use the wordthey have been guilty of “gerrymandering.” The Electoral Act contains a section with regard to the exercise of undue influence with a voter. Suppose that at an election a man should go to a voter and unduly influence him, perhaps unknowingly, he would be put in gaol. I remember a saying to the effect that one murder makes a criminal, a thousand a hero. The exercise of undue influence with a voter qualifies a man to go to gaol, but to deprive 48,000 persons of their vote is called, by the Government, high national policy. If we turn to the report of the Commissioner for New South Wales we shall find a condition of affairs which is equally reprehensible. There are in the metropolitan and coastal electorates 396,000 electors, who return fifteen members, while 192,000 electors in the country districts return only eleven members. The difference is204,000. There is that number of electors more in Sydney and the coastal districts than in the country districts.
– The difference is fifteen members to eleven members.
– Exactly. As Senator Playford says, the difference is between fifteen and eleven, so that the 204,000 electors to whom I have referred are entitled to four members, whereas, according to the quota, they are entitled to nine members. It will be seen that an enormous number of people are practically being disfranchised by the extraordinary division of ‘the State of New South Wales which we are being asked to adopt. The people in the coastal districts of New South Wales are being given less than twothirds of the voting power of the people in the country districts. Why should this extraordinary difference be made 1 Why should the people of Sydney and the coastal districts of New South Wales be deprived of their voting power ; and why should they be given only two-thirds of the voting power of the landed gentry, and others, in the country districts ?
– Because 11,000 of them would not vote when they got the chance.
– Does the honorable senator say that the people in the country are landed gentry? That surely is an extraordinary notion.
-I say the landed gentry and other people living in the country. We should not look with equanimity upon the perpetration of such a gross injustice to the people of Sydney.
– What is the use of giving them votes when they do not take the trouble to record.
– The honorable senator’s interjections are not pertinent. What is being proposed is certainly most dangerous class legislation. We are giving the people of the cities a certain voting power, and a much superior voting power to the class of people residing in the country districts. We have a proposal put forward under which 192,000 country electors are permitted to return eleven members, whilst 205,000 city electors are permitted to return only eight members. Are the people of the city supposed to be inferior to the people of the country districts ? One reason brought forward for the proposal which has been made is that it is generally admitted that the people in towns and cities are more democratic than the people in the country districts ; and here it is proposed that the democratic voter shall be given less representation than the conservative voters in the country.
– Who said that?
– Any man of common sense should know that city people are more democratic than the people of country districts. If my honorable and learned friend has not been aware of that I am glad to be able to give him the information.
– It is not so in Western Australia.
– I am speaking generally. I do not refer to goldfields and places like that. It is found that where people are congregated together whether on gold-fields or in cities, they are more democratic than people in sparselypopulated country districts. I do not desire to make any accusation against the Government of exercising undue political influence, but I point out what is likely to occur when the elections take place. If the report of the Commissioner for New South Wales were adopted the number of free-traders in the House of Representatives would be supplemented by two. That is to say that two more members would be given to the electors residing in free-trade districts. If the Commissioner’s division is not adopted, the Government will probably secure two seats to which they are not entitled, if the correct quota is observed. This may suggest to some people who do not recognise as we do the higher atmosphere in which the Government exist, the higher moral tone which they adopt, their devotion to the Commonwealth, and their singleness of purpose, that they have been guilty of political treachery in depriving the people of the voting rights conferred upon them by the Constitution and by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is rather significant that in New South Wales there have been no less than 300,000 electors added to the number previously existing by the extension of the franchise to women. Of this number, 200,000 reside in the coastal districts, and but 100,000 in the country districts. Yet there are to be more members returned for the country districts than for the coastal districts.
– So that 100,000 women are absolutely disfranchised.
– That is so, and these are the very women who gave Sir William Lyne his snuff-box, his moral pocket handkerchief or whatever it was - some say it was a warming pan. The Ministry are contending that this enormous addition of voting power merits no recognition ; and the fact that an electorate has doubled its number of electors by the extension of the franchise to women does not entitle it to any extra consideration. They are proposing that a Government supporter may be returned by 12,000 electors of Darling, whilst an Opposition supporter must be returned by 32,000 electors in Lang.
– That is a very good Government policy.
– It is a policy, no doubt ; but I am not so sure that it is a good policy. The Government prypose for adoption a division of the State of New South Wales, which will mean that an Opposition member returned for the electorate of Lang shall represent 32,000 electors, whilst a Government supporter returned for Darling shall represent only 12,000 electors. I ask honorable senators whether any candidate would have been returned to this Parliament if he had said to the electors that he intended in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth to propose a division of the States under which one electorate having but 12,000 electors should have the same parliamentary representation as another having 32,000 electors ? Honorable senators know that no candidate supporting such a scandalous system would have had any chance of being elected. Yet just before the new elections come on, the
Government are proposing the adoption of a system which will bring about that scandalous state of affairs. When we passed the Commonwealth Electoral Act we adopted every possible safeguard against the scandalous gerrymandering and political corruption in vogue in other parts of the world. We laid it down that neither Ministers nor Members of Parliament should have any voice in deciding what should be the boundaries of electorates. We decided to appoint non-political officers to do that work, and we left to Ministers and to Parliament merely the right to accept or reject the divisions proposed by Electoral Commissioners. Yet on the very first occasion when we have an opportunity of carrying that principle into effect, the Ministry propose to destroy all those safeguards by proposing the introduction of an amending Bill, and I say that in the circumstances we have come to a most dangerous pass in the history of the Commonwealth. We have here a movement which ought to be nipped in the bud by every one who desires to see fair play and equal rights accorded to the people of the Commonwealth. I do not accuse the present Government of any sinister intentions in this matter, but I point OUt that we are adopting a precedent which may be followed hereafter by succeeding Ministries with a sinister purpose. Later Ministries may say, “ In the past a Federal Government selected electorates which they desired themselves, and the precedent having been established, we shall do the same.” We surely do not wish to bring about the condition of affairs which is alleged to exist in the United States and in Germany. The German Government is condemned on all hands for the unjust methods they have adopted to stifle the legitimate voice of the people. They have been able by the adoption of such methods to continue in power ; and the present Commonwealth Ministry would appear to have taken a leaf out of their book. In the German Reichstag the conservative members represent an average of 16,000 electors ; the clerical members, 18,000 ; the national liberals, 24,000 ; and the social democrats, 37,000.
– It is said that another William is responsible for that.
– I believe so. There is apparently room for two great Williams in the world. The difference in representation between the conservatives or Government supporters in the Reichstag, and the social democrats or oppositionists, is shown by the difference between 16,000’ and 37,000, but the Commonwealth Ministry have gone one better than that. They havegiven a Government supporter in New South Wales an electorate- containing 12,000 electors, and an Opposition supporter in the same State an electorate containing 32,000 electors. They have improved upon the German methods in this the first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Honorable senators who are prepared to vote for this anti-democratic measure are entitled toa certain amount of sympathy and commiseration. Many honorable senators whodo not believe in the principle of the Bill will vote for it, merely as a matter of expediency. Having done so, they will be able to go back to their electors, and say, “ Last session we gave you the most just and liberal electoral law it was possible to frame. We provided for one adult onevote and one vote one value. We were the first to reach the goal of absolute political equality throughout an entire community. And we made Australia the truest democracy in the world. That was our record last session. But this year, as the elections are coming on, we have altered all that. ‘ We have dropped the Australian methods, and have adopted German tactics, instead. We have so arranged things that the next Parliament cannot truly represent the people of Australia, because we have introduced under another name the very worst conditions of plural voting. A Government supporter may represent 12,000 electors, whilst an Opposition supporter may represent 32,000 electors. We have therefore given one section of the people nearly three times the voting power of Australians in another electorate.” This practically means that one Government supporter is equal to three Opposition supporters, and it is something which the moststrenuous advocate for plural voting has not dared to propose in any part of Australia. This Bill will disfranchise thousands of people and will provide several seats for Government supporters to which under our electoral law they would not be entitled. The Government may be able to flout the wishes of the people, and may be able tocome back with a majority of honorable members representing the minority in the country. Measures of this kind touch the political morality and political justice of the whole’ community. Can any honorable senator say that he approves of these scandalously unequal electorates? Any person who professes to believe in’ democracy cannot possibly defend such an extraordinary manipulation of electorates. The Bill destroys the broad principle of the Constitution - it destroys the principle of the absolutely equal rights of every individual in the political arena of Australia. Honorable senators who vote for a Bill like this, on the ground of expediency, will never be able to justify their betrayal to the people. Those honors able senators are abandoning the great fundamental principles on which the Constitution is founded, and trampling those principles in the dust as a mere matter of political expediency. Before Federation, the people of Australia as a whole never had an opportunity of expressing their opinion. For the first time we have a law providing for adult suffrage, under which the people should be able to speak with absolute equality. But before that law has had time to operate - before there has been time to elect a true Australian Parliament on an absolutely equal franchise - it is proposed to deprive the people of that priceless gift - to deprive them of their constitutional rights. The people of Western Australia have suffered perhaps more than the people of any other State from unequal electorates.. On the gold-fields of Western Australia, . tens of thousands of people had less voting power than tens of hundreds of people in the pastoral districts. When Federation became an accomplished fact, the people of Western Australia were delighted, and when the Electoral Bill became law they said - “ Now we have one Parliament which does not give votes to gum trees, sheep, and cattle, but to the manhood and womanhood of Australia.” Those people were entitled to be proud of the most democratic legislation ever passed in any part of the world. But before we have had an opportunity of taking advantage of that legislation, the Government, in their bungling, stupid policy, say that we must go back to a state of affairs infinitely worse than when ve were elected three years ago. I hope that no mere question of expediency will induce honorable senators to vote against the great principle of equality of voting power. If we destroy that great principle, how can we expect the laws to be according to the wishes of the people ? How can we expect the people to readily obey the laws when tens of thousands are disfranchised? We have it on the word of the honorable member who introduced the Bill in another place, considerably less than a month ago, that there was then time, with more than a month to spare, to return the reports to the Commissioners, and have the work completed.
– That is what the Minister for Home Affairs said in the House on the 14th August.
– And the Minister for Defence in the Senate this afternoon said that even now there is time.
– We see that there is yet time to have the reports considered and adopted, and thus carry out the intention of the Electoral Act. Instead, we are going to adopt a course prejudicial to the best interests of Australia, and to do an absolute injustice to the whole of the women of the Commonwealth. When we have an opportunity of acting fairly and honestly, why should we not do so, instead of throwing the responsibility on the next Parliament, which will have most important work to do in guiding the infant steps of the Commonwealth ? We are endangering the best interests of Australia, although we have an opportunity of taking a course which will be absolutely fair to the community.
– I am sure that those who listened to the Minister for Defence this afternoon must have felt a large amount of sympathy for him. His halting sentences and the evident desire which possessed him to have done with the task at the earliest possible moment, must have convinced everybody that he regarded it as extremely distasteful. But however much condemnation may be deduced from the remarks of the honorable and learned senator, they are hardly less ‘ eloquent in denunciation than the conspiracy of silence on the part of honorable senators who are going to support the measure. It is a little curious that while there are honorable senators prepared to support the Bill,’ not one has dared to identify himself , so far, as its public apologist.
– They dare not.
– Probably that is the reason, but I am drawing attention to the fact that, so far, no honorable senator has ventured to defend the measure. The Minister for Defence can hardly be said to defend the Bill, though he apologized for it.
– I gave the reasons for the measure.
– I trust those reasons have at least satisfied the Minister, for Defence ; I venture to say they have satisfied no one else. If anything were wanted on the part of those who are going to support the Bill,, it must have been some decent tangible excuse for their action. There is one reason above all others why the Senate should give particular attention to the meazure. This Senate is intrusted with the interests of the States ; and if there is any way in which those interests could be placed in greater jeopardy than by a proposal to deprive the people of - their true representation, I cannot conceive what it may be. It must be obvious that if the Bill passes, it will be absolutely impossible in the case of my own and other States to say that the opinions of the electors are duly reflected.
– They will be reflected as well as they were at the last election.
– Is that the defence for the Bill ? Is the fact that we who had to have a stepping-stone, an interregnum, between the old order and the new, and had to adopt the existing machinery in the absence of machinery provided by a Commonwealth Parliament, a justification for doing - what? Not starting with a clean sheet, but absolutely violating the principle we ourselves have adopted in a law which we helped to pass. I do not propose’ to weary the House with many figures, but I ask the indulgence of honorable senators while I refer to one or two. I propose to deal with the measure from two points of view. First of all, I propose to speak of its merits,’ or, rather its demerits, and then of the motives of the Government in introducing it. Although I recognise that certain honorable senators who have preceded me have hesitated to impute any motive to the Government, I regard the offence proposed to be committed by the Bill as. so enormous that I am afraid I shall not be able to select my words with that consideration which has marked the utterances of others. I regard this as the biggest electoral “steal” ever perpetrated under constitutional Government. Seeing the great injury and wrong done to hundreds of thousands of people, it is idle for me, holding that opinion, to mince my words. The measure repeals that provision of the Electoral Act which gives equal electoral power. That principle was adopted without serious opposition in the Senate. No one then ventured to seriously put forward the plea that a’ larger measure of representation should be given to any one group of electors as against another. No one dared do that, although it is now sought to attain the result in an indirect way. I am curious to know what de fence those who support this Bill will make before the electors whom they have helped to rob of their political privileges. This proposal, disguise it as we may, is a Bill to restore plural voting. That is what it comes to in essence. Although no particular individual is given two votes, certain individuals get double power for the one vote they possess. There can be no “difference between giving one man two votes as compared with another man possessing one vote, and giving one elector double value for one vote. I know there are certain honorable senators who believe that a larger measure of ‘representation should be given to electors in the country districts than to the electors in the towns. I can respect, though I do not share that opinion. I should have regarded it as legitimate, if honorable senators holding such an opinion had attempted to bring about an amendment of the law in that direction. But that they have not dared to do. There is not one of all the apologists for the Bill, with probably one exception in another place, who has ventured to give that as a reason for supporting the measure. Honorable Senators holding that opinion would have been quite within their rights if they had moved an amendment so as to disturb the equality which the law gives. The Bill is put forward professedly as an expedient to tide over a temporary difficulty. Why was the Bill not drafted so as to indicate its temporary character ? The measure does not provide for the’ coming election only, but for all time. If those who support the measure as one totide over a temporary difficulty have no sinister object with regard to the Electoral law itself, why do they not propose that it shall apply to the coming election only ?
– Cannot we do that in Committee ?
– I hope that will be done, if we get into Committee ; but I am now dealing with the action of those whoare responsible for the measure. We can test the sincerity of the Government when they profess that it is a temporary expedient by the simple fact that this a permanent measure. Instead of throwing on the next Parliament the obligation of carrying out the provisions of the Electoral Act, that Parliament is left until, in the storm and stress of ordinary legislative work, it can find time to revert to the original enactment. That is one of the indications which justify me in regarding all connected with the Bill in the most sinister light. I propose, if this Bill survives the second reading, to move an amendment, the purpose of which will be to limit its operation to the coming election. ‘ That will be a very fair test of the sincerity of the representatives of the Government, and of other honorable senators who say they are adopting the Bill only to tide over the coming elections. I should like to warn honorable senators who are taking that course, that history is full of pernicious expedients which have been adopted under stress of temporary circumstances, and which have survived long after the purpose of their adoption ceased to exist. It seems to me that when we look at all the influences which are marshalling to the support of this measure, we must regard it as being in the nature of a retrogression. There are three great forces that I can see making for the continuance of this Bill, if it is once placed upon the statute-book. In the first place we have all those who openly and avowedly believe in a larger measure of political power for the country districts than for the city electorates. Those include the gentleman whose name has been closely associated with that idea, namely, Sir William Lyne. As my colleague, Senator Gould, mentioned, Sir William Lyne has for years been an advocate of the principle of a larger measure of representation for country districts than for town eloctorates. We find that that gentleman is the principal author of this measure. What happens? Everyone who believes in the unequal representation of country electorates is rushing to its support. That is the first influence that will make for its continuance. The second is that there is existing in Victoria to-day a recognition of the principle of giving undue representation to certain sections of the community. The third force which will assist to maintain this measure upon the statute-book is that latent conservatism, disguise as it as we may, which is seeking to-day to confer a larger measure of political power upon the country districts, in the belief that the country settlers will tend to counteract and to retard that more progressive legislation which finds its most active adherents in the cities. We have, had the doctrine openly preached by the Premier of the State of Victoria that it is necessary to try to build up a large class of small country settlers. I believe in having a large class of country settlers. The great advantages that are conferred upon the general community by having such a class is the justification for trying to bring them into existence. But that is not the reason given by the Premier of this State. His simple reason is that if such a class can be created they will tend to checkmate the socialistic tendencies of the Labour Party in the cities. All of those forces will tend to give this measure a longer term of existence than is contemplated by some of its supporters. I can only believe that if the Bill is passed it will be the thin end of the wedge for the recognition of a system of political inequality, and that the three forces which I have named will work together to drive that wedge home. I come now to the reasons, if they are entitled to so serious a name, advanced by the Minister for Defence. Really I apologize for the use of the word “ reasons,” but I can think of no other word at the moment.
– I take that as a good suggestion. What are the excuses of the Minister for Defence for this measure ? The first one was the much-belaboured drought. It is rather a pleasant surprise to me, bearing in mind the attitude of the present Government with regard to the fodder duties, to find that at last they have aroused themselves to the existence of the interests of the country electorates.
– They have at last realized the value of the honorable senator’s arguments.
– I suppose they have. The curious thing is that previously, with regard to the fodder duties, when the interests of the country electors were altogether ignored, and now, when the interests of the country electors are sought to be advantaged, the Government take that line of policy which makes for the advantage of themselves. In doing what they did in regard to the fodder duties, they were endeavouring to please a large section of their supporters in several of the States. We now find that they are concerned about the interests of the country electors, because they think it will secure to them a large measure of support in certain directions. I know no word but one by which I can describe the attitude of the Government in so manipulating the electorates as to secure to themselves a large measure of advantage, and that word is one which comes to us from America- - gerrymandering. This is an attempt on the part of the Government to introduce into Australian politics the pernicious principle of gerrymandering. We may as well recognise that, although on this occasion, the evil may be slight, these things once performed become easy. They may grow. We know that once the first fatal step is taken the second becomes easier ; and I would remind honorable senators that if there is one thing that is sacred in the whole of our electoral law, it ought to be that which secures that the whole of its administration should be absolutely free from any tinge or suspicion of party influence. Can any one state that this measure is free from that suspicion? Is there any one who will vote for this Bill who can absolutely deny that the whole of its surroundings are shady in the extreme 1 Returning to the subject of the drought, previous speakers have already pointed out that whatever weight should be attached to the Bill on that score has been amply allowed for by the Commissioner for New South Wales. If any honorable senator will look at the figures he will find that the discrepancy between the country and the city electorates in New South Wales is so great today that it would be idle to suppose that that discrepancy will be made up no matter what the seasons may be. I will quote one or two figures to illustrate what I mean. I am taking these figures from the official report for New South Wales. The quota in that State is 22,684. There are fourteen electorates above the quota, possessing 349,225 electors. Their total quota would be 317,576 ; so that in those fourteen electorates there are 31,649 more voters than the quota. They are entitled, even if the population remained as . it is to-day, to one more member than they have under the Commissioner’s proposal. Now, can it -be supposed that a sufficient number of electors are going to leave those more heavily populated constituencies and return to country electorates 1 It seems to me to be highly improbable that such a number will return. But, even if they do return - if 31,649 leave these, electorates to go to the more sparsely populated districts of New South Wales - still the Commissioners scheme will be absolutely sound and fair; because these fourteen electorates will only have a fair measure of representation, and will still possess the quota. Take the figures in another way. There are nine city electorates in New South Wales. Including Newcastle there are ten city electorates. These ten have an average of 25,413 electors. Sixteen country electorates have an average of 20,977 ; the difference being roughly 4,500, which is the surplus on an average. In these ten city electorates that amounts to 45,000 electors above the quota. Is it likely that 45,000 electors will leave the city electorates to go out back 1 That is one question, an answer to which will test the sincerity of those who support this Bill. Because the Commissioner has made ample allowance for 45,000 electors leaving the cities and going to the country districts ; and when they have gone and settled in the country, the city constituencies will only have their fair share of representation. 1 need not refer to the paragraph which has already been quoted from the report of the Commissioner, in which he points out the fact to which I am drawing attention, that, by giving high numbers to the city electorates and low ones to the country, he has made ample provision for a return to what he regarded’ as normal conditions. The Commissioner allows for an ample margin, and the Government are called upon to show some substantial reason for .asking for a larger margin than that. No one who knows anything of New South Wales conditions can truly Say that the electoral rolls that we have had, and the statistical information prepared by Mr. Coghlan, show anything to indicate that there are 45,000 electors more in the cities now than would be there in normal times. Indeed, I doubt very much if, taking a round of the years, the cities would show to-day any greater increase over their population of last year or the year before, than is shown by the relative increases over an average of years. It is quite true that one or two country districts have suffered in respect of population. I could mention one of the districts in the electorate of Darling, namely, the district of Bourke, where the population has dwindled down, possibly, by 25 per cent. That population, I think, will never return. But the reason for their departure was not the drought. It was due to the stoppage of that influx of borrowed money which in early years was sent out to be spent upon the improvement of pastoral holdings. That work is now done, and those pastoral properties will, in future, be worked with the ordinary station hands ; whereas years ago there were large bodies of fencers, tank sinkers, and other workers. That work is now done, and the properties will continue to be worked in the ordinary way that pastoral properties are worked. Probably the same state of affairs exists in “Victoria as in New South Wales. Taking the average I find that in nine Victorian city electorates there are 28,190 people. In fourteen country electorates there are on an average 23,742; which makes the difference on the average between city and country electorates 4,448 more in the city constituencies than in the country constituencies. That means that there are 40,032 more electors in those nine city electorates than in the country electorates. Will the Government pretend that there are 40,000 electors in the city of Melbourne today simply because of the drought, who ore going to return next month, or the month after ? The thing is too idle and absurd for words. I am not sufficiently familiar with the character of the various Victorian constituencies to do more than refer to the matter. But I think I am correct in stating that the labour movement has its stronghold in the city electorates and is weakest in the country constituencies.. That is largely so in my own State, and I think it is so here. It, therefore, behoves the representatives of Victoria in the Senate to see exactly what is being done in this, matter. It is idle to support this measure, and then for honorable senators afterwards to excuse themselves on the ground that they did not know what was going to follow from its operations. So far as Victoria is concerned, it is clear that the Bill aims at placing restrictions on the free expression of opinion in the strong labour centres. I have yet to learn that any one would defend the Bill openly upon the ground that it does that. One other reason which has been advanced was that, unless we adopt this Bill, the Government would be put to the expense of a double election. Now, I appeal to honorable: senators, who, I know, are supporting this measure to stop what they regard as an unjustifiable expenditure, in that direction, to pay attention to this argument. They assume that the only alternative to this measure is a double election. But I ask the Minister for Defence now to give ‘ this House his assurance that if this Bill does pass there will be a double election. Otherwise we have no guarantee that the elections for the two Houses will take place at once ; and it will be competent for the Government to allow the other House to continue its existence into next year. The Government has refused all along to pin itself to a double election. Unless we get such an assurance from the Government - and its withholding it is suspicious-
– It is a pretty cheap thing for the honorable senator to ask me for that assurance when he says in the next breath that the Government will not tell him.
– Because the honorable and learned senator did not tell me when I asked him this afternoon.
– Because I could not.
– If the Government cannot tell us that the elections for the two Houses will be held simultaneously, what guarantee have we that, even if we pass the Bill, the expense of a double election will be saved 1
– I hope that we shall save it.
– I hope so, too. But,, at the same time, honorable senators must recognise, to use an old expression, that they will be buying a pig in a poke if they vote for the Bill in the belief that that expense will be saved. The Minister tells us that he cannot say whether it will be saved, and if he cannot give the information to the Senate, who can I
– We wish to be in a position to hold the elections before the end of the year.
– The Government wish to be in a position to hold or not to hold the elections - to hold all the trumps and the- joker as well. It is wrong for honorable senators- to assume that there are only two courses open to them ; that this Bill is the only alternative to a double election. It would have been just as easy for the Government - if anxious to loyally adhere to the principle of political equality in the Electoral Act - to bring in a Bill to enable them to send back the schemes to the Commissioners, and toprovide for economy of time after the new schemes were submitted to Parliament. Mr. Glynn submitted to the other House a series of amendments which would have had the effect - had the original schemes been sent back and revised - of saving a large portion of the time which is prescribed by the law as it stand’s. If we have to go a little out of the ordinary course, surely it is better to do so in matters of detail than in matters of principle? It was quite competent for the Government to bring in an amending Bill, which, instead of allowing thirty days for certain things to be done, would have allowed only seven or fourteen days. In that way they could have saved more time than was sufficient for doing all the things prescribed to be done ; ‘but they have not done so. Another alternative would have been for the Government to revise the Commissioners’ schemes, to issue a proclamation, and to submit the revised schemes in the form of a Bill.
– How could they improve the schemes ?
– I agree with my honorable friend that improvement is impossible if the Government are to loyally abide by the principle of political equality. I am applying this test to their sincerity. When they say that this Bill is the only alternative, my reply is that there are halfadozen alternatives. Another alternative would have been for the Government to adopt the amendments which were moved by Mr. Glynn, and which I shall ask honorable senators to accept if the Bill should pass this stage. I cannot forget the admission by the Minister for Defence this afternoon that there is yet time in which to carry out the law as it stands. I ask honorable senators who intend to support the Bill on the ground of economy to consider that admission.
– My view is that there is not time.
– I think it is probable that the Minister’s view is that there is not time, because he said this afternoon that there was time.
Senator Drake__ I have said that there is not time.
– The Minister is correcting what he said this afternoon.
– I am correcting nothing that I said.
– The Minister said this afternoon that there is just bare time in which to carry out the law.
– I admitted that the Minister for Trade and Customssaid on the 14th August, in another place, that there would be time.
– The statement made on that day to the other House was that there was still time and a month to spare. I have shown that by striking out the long periods allowed in the Electoral Act we could save at least two months, so that there would be ample time in which to carry out the law as it stands with those amendments if the Government were sincerely anxious to do so. Whatever may be the value of their excuse about the drought, it is quite evident to those who have looked at the figures that the real disturbing element in the electoral distribution is the enfranchisement of women. That is a factor which no return to normal seasons will affect. We know that not this year or last year, but ever since statistics have been kept in New South Wales, and, I believe, in Victoria, women have preponderated in the cities, and the percentage has decreased the further they receded from the settled districts. That proportion will not be varied very much by a mere change of the season. If this electoral inequality is due to the enfranchisement of women, then it follows that, whether it is liked or not, there must be a redistribution of electorates unless the operation of this Bill is to be made permanent. If ever we wish to give effect to the principle of political equality, sooner or later we shall need to make that redistribution. Dealing with the figures for New South Wales, for every 100 male electors in the city and the suburbs 122 female electors have been added ; for every 100 male electors in the coastal districts 89 female electors have been added ; for every 100 male electors in the central districts 77 female electors have been added ; and for every 100 male electors in the western districts sixty female electors have been added. Those figures represent very fairly the location of the women in the State. The figures have not varied materially for a number of years. As a new body of electors has been added in such unequal proportion, it follows ‘as surely as day follows night, that we have either to deprive the new voters of the full value of their votes, or to redistribute the electorates. Taking the figures which I have given, it means that two female electors have been added in the city and suburbs, as against one female elector in the western districts. If two women in the city and suburbs are not to be placed on an equality with one woman in the western districts, then it follows that we are giving either to the country woman a plural vote, or to the city woman not half a vote. On this point I should like to quote a paragraph from the report of the Commissioner -
The addition of 286,032 electors to the voting power of the State might, of course, be expected to cause some disturbance of the existing electoral arrangements, but, when it is found that more than two-thirds of the total number of this new army of voters are located practically on the eastern margin of the State, it is apparent that exceptional action must be taken to bring the electoral system into line with legislative requirements.
There is the key to the whole position. This inclusion of a new army of electors, and the consequent unequal distribution of voting power throughout the State, means that we have either to disfranchise a large number of them, or to redistribute the electorates. The Government have chosen to discount the votes of a large number of new electors. I wish now to say a few words, about the motives of the Government in introducing this Bill. It is idle to disguise the fact that if it should become law the Government would reap a strong party advantage ; that- by means of this iniquitous measure they would secure the return of the members of their party.
– I ask you, sir, whether it is in order for the honorable senator- to impute motives and then to say that the Government are going to reap an advantage from this “iniquitous” measure.
– I do not think that the honorable senator imputed any motives, and it is quite permissible to use strong language against a Bill, though not against an Act of Parliament, unless its repeal is being sought.
– The honorable senator said he would state the motives of the Government, and went on to use that expression.
– The honorable senator must not impute improper motives to the Government. So far as he has gone he has merely said that a certain result would follow.
– It is quite clear to me that the object of the Government in introducing the Bill is to secure a strong party advantage which would otherwise be absent.
– I do not think that that is quite in order.
– I ask your guidance in this matter, sir, for I have no desire to place myself in conflict with the Chair. Here is a Bill which threatens to steal the votes of a large number of the electors whom I represent, and no language I could employ could impress that fact on the Senate more strongly. I wish to know whether I am to pretend that I believe that the Government is clean-handed in this matter when 1 do not ? This is not an ordinary Bill, but one which, if passed, will disfranchise an enormous number of the electors of New South Wales. I should be false to my trust if I were to pretend that I believe that the Government has no sinister purpose in view when I do not. I believe that Ministers have introduced the Bill in order to avoid the consequences which would otherwise follow. In New South Wales the adoption of the Commissioner’s scheme would have resulted in those electors who are in strong opposition to the Government, as is well known, securing one or two more representatives in the other House. By reverting to the old State divisions the Government will get an undue advantage, inasmuch as the seats of certain supporters are fairly safe. The Bill will give to those portions of the State which support tho Government and their policy an undue advantage over those portions which oppose them. When I see that that is being done for no tangible reason - because there was time in which to carry out the law - I am justified in designating this measure as the nearest approach to gerrymandering that we have ever had in Australia. I regret very much that in this first Parliament the occasion should have arisen for referring to any measure in such terms. But when I see that efforts are being made to raid the electors of their votes it is idle for me to pretend that I am perfectly satisfied that everything is above board and square. Knowing the delay which took place after the maps were exhibited in the corridors, and the reports of the Commissioners were presented to Parliament, and knowing the steps which were taken to ascertain the feeling of members, I can only describe the Bill as one which from its inception has been designed to secure for the Government electoral support which otherwise they would not receive. For that reason. I shall do everything I can to defeat the Bill. I do not believe for a moment that the alternative is a dual election; nor do I believe that even if the Bill were passed we should have any guarantee that the elections would be held simultaneously. There are half-a-dozen other alternatives. It is paying a very poor compliment to ourselves to suppose that there is not sufficient constructive ability here to suggest many ways out of the difficulty. I have suggested a few. They are too numerous and too simple to justify me in occupying the time of the Senate in dealing with them in detail. This measure contravenes the principle which every one here professed to believe in - the principle of political equality. I do not refer now to small country electorates existing in some of the States, but I say there is no single man in public life who could hope to appeal successfully to any large constituency in Australia coming forward as a supporter of this Bill on the principle which i t; contains, the principle of giving certain groups of electors larger political power than other groups. We cannot advertise the fact too much that, whilst we have professed here as a Federal Parliament to adopt the broad franchise of one adult one vote, and have striven, so . far as human ingenuity could strive, to give every elector equal political power, before the ink is well dry in the Governor-General’s signature, and before there has been time to get the measure into print, we are here trying to destroy the work for which we took so much credit last session. There might be time enough for other people in other Parliaments to set to work to destroy what we have done, but that we, after putting in the time and labour that we did upon the measure, knowing that it had the commendation and the support of the constituencies at large, should be asked to destroy our own work, and to contravene the principle for which we all strove, the principle of political equality, simply to enable the Government to secure a party advantage, is a course to which I cannot assent. So far as the rules of the Senate will permit, I shall do everything I can to secure the defeat of this measure, and, failing success in that, I shall seek to amend it in the direction I have indicated.
– I feel that it is incumbent upon me to explain the position I shall take upon this Bill, because my vote on the second reading, and my subsequent action, might otherwise be misinterpreted. It is very much to be regretted that the difficulty has arisen which this Bill purports to meet. I agree that the Government are altogether responsible for that. They are responsible because, during the time they should have been energetically pushing forward their arrangements to meet the political situation which must arise at the end of this year, they neglected to take action, and it is only late in the year, when there is a rush of business before us, that they come forward with any attempt to adopt the procedure we decided on under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The whole question we have now to decide is, whether it is possible to adopt the procedure which we laid down in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Senator Smith has said that the House of Representatives, by disapproving of the divisions submitted by the Electoral Commissioners, has acted illegally ; but that is not so.
– By not first introducing an amending Bill.
– I told the honorable senator so by interjection, but he would not listen to me.
– If Senator Smith will turn to section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act he will see that, after providing for the proclamation of divisions, it says -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution - & certain course is to be followed. The Commissioners submitted their proposed divisions, and their reports were laid upon the table in both Houses. Then the Minister submitted a motion disapproving of certain divisions and approving of others. Those motions have been dealt with. Up to that point the action of the Government has been perfectly legal under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. They are acting legally now in endeavouring to amend that Act.
– Will the honorable senator tell me why it should be necessary to amend the Act if the Government have not done something illegal ?
– The proposed amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is intended not to cover what has been done, but to provide for something which is to be done in the future. That is dealt with in the next part of section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which says -
The Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
The Government do not propose to do that, and it is on that point that I join issue with them. I contend that it is perfectly practicable to comply with the provisions of the Act, and the Minister for Defence has not shown honorable senators that it is impracticable. The Government should direct the Commissioners to submit a fresh distribution of the States into divisions. It seems to me that that is the point upon which we should concentrate our attention. I have been disappointed by the failure of the Minister for Defence to submit as an argument in support of this measure that the course required by the Act is impracticable.
– I did deal with that subject.
– The honorable and learned senator referred to the difficulty, but he did not attempt to prove by reference to dates, and to the various provisions which have to be complied with, that it is impraticable to refer the divisions to the Commissioner.
– There is no time fixed for some of the stages.
– There is a period of thirty days within which the Ministry may receive objections to the proposed divisions. The honorable and learned senator might have quoted that. Then there is another period during which the rolls have to be exhibited,’ in order that objections may be taken to the names. That also might have been referred to if the argument is that it is impossible to carry out the plan laid down, and we must therefore amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– I shall try to make that clear to honorable senators.
– The position iS this : The Government have adopted the divisions proposed by the Commissioners for South Australia and Tasmania, and that will bring about a curious anomaly. We shall have the electors of part of the Commonwealth electing representatives on the basis laid down in our Electoral Act, and the people in the rest of the Commonwealth returning members on the basis laid down by the States Parliaments. I am certain that the framers of the Constitution never intended that any such condition of affairs should exist. They never contemplated that at an election the method adopted in four of the States should be that provided by the States Parliaments, and the method adopted in the other two States should be that provided by the Federal Parliament. The words of the Constitution are “ until Parliament otherwise provides.” The intention was that the method adopted in the different States should prevail until the “Federal Parliament made other provision, and I take it that that is a general rule which must be applied uniformly to the whole of the Commonwealth. South Australia and Tasmania are provided for under our own Electoral Act, but I should like, before leaving the reference to those States, to point out how closely they have been divided in accordance with the provisions of the Act with reference to the quota. In the case of Tasmania, for instance, the highest number of electors in any district is 17,314 in Flinders,- and the lowest number 15,134 in Darwin - the difference between the highest and lowest in the State being only 2,180. In South Australia the highest number of electors is 26,727 in East Torrens, and the lowest 22,335 in Flinders.
– No ; Barker is the lowest.’
– I am taking the figures given in the Commisioner’s ‘report. The greatest difference there is 4,392; and honorable senators will see that in those two States we have provided for representation, as nearly as possible, on the basis of population.
– The scheme of the Electoral Act worked well in those two cases.
– I now come to deal with Western Australia ; and honorable senators will find that, even if we go back to the old divisions for Western Australia, there is less disparity in the numbers in the different electorates than in any of the other States. The increase of population has been so nearly the same in the different divisions that even the new allocation of electors would make very little alteration in the basis of representation. The rejection of the Western Australian divisions, ! venture to say, was agreed to, not on the ground that they did not properly allocate the population, by giving too much representation to the towns, but simply because the Commissioner, in arranging two of the electorates, in one case put a suburb of Perth with a community of interest with that town in with Fremantle, a port with which it has no community of interest, aud in the other case he put a country electorate, Swan, which has a great community of interest, with a country division known as Western, in with the metropolitan division. This raised a storm of local comment and local opposition, which was echoed so loudly in the House of Representatives that the Western Australian members agreed that the proposed division should be rejected. Honorable senators must remember that even though that division is rejected, we go back in the case of Western Australia to a state of affairs, which, so far as the number of electors in each division is concerned, is practical])’ the same as the distribution proposed by the Commissioner. I believe, however, that so strong were the arguments brought forward in Western Australia by the local bodies, and so strongly were they as repeated in another place, that if the division had been referred back to the Commissioner for Western Australia, he would have altered it at once, and he could within a few hours have altered the boundaries of the electorates he proposed in accordance with the desire expressed. The alterations necessary would be very simple, and I’ purpose to indicate them. Under the divisions proposed by the Commissioner, tthe largest number of electors in any electorate would be 23,532 in Perth, and the lowest number 21,978 in Coolgardie - a difference of only 1,554 between the highest and the lowest. The objection to the inclusion of Subiaco in Fremantle, and the Swan, electorate in Perth, could be met by taking the Swan electorate out of Perth, and putting Subiaco into Perth, and by taking Wellington and Bunbury out of Western, and putting them into Fremantle, with which Bunbury, as a port, has a community of interest. Swan, being a country division, could .be put into Western, which is also a country division. The divisions would then stand as follow : - Perth would still have the largest number of electors, 26,251 ; and Western would have 21,375. That would give a difference of 4,876, which is little more ‘than the difference shown in the South Australian divisions which have been accepted. If Parliament desired that there should be a greater equality, it could be achieved by taking Guildford from Perth, which would leave Perth with 23,250, and giving it to Western, which would increase the number of electors in that division to 24,376. The highest number would then be in the division of Western, 24,376 ; and the lowest in Coolgardie, 21,978, the difference between the highest and the lowest being only 2,398. Community of interests would be considered, and numbers equalized ; and I guarantee the Commissioner could make the alteration in a few hours. Where, then, is the necessity of rejecting the Commissioner’s report in the case of Western Australia1! In regard to the other States, there has been some talk of gerrymandering. It has been said, with what truth I do not know, that there has been gerrymandering outside the influence of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am told that the strength of the support given to the Government in another place is largely owing to the undue influence exercised iin Queensland, by which the Commissioner for that State was induced to depart from his original proposition. I understood that the Commissioner announced to the public, through the press, that he had made a certain division ; indeed, a map actually appeared in some of the Queensland newspapers. The Queensland State Government then stepped in and brought such influence to bear on the Commissioner that he withdrew his original report and substituted and presented to the Commonwealth Government an entirely different scheme, which had for its object the defeat of the Labour Party in that State. It is not surprising that the Labour Party should resent such steps and refuse to indorse the report of the Commissioner. I can well understand representatives of Queensland refusing to accept the recommendations of a Commissioner, who allowed himself ‘to depart from what he believed to be a just division merely because pressure was brought to bear upon him by those in authority in the State. In my opinion, the charge of undue influence has been proved up to the hilt ; and the only question now is how best to combat that influence. Shall we decide not to have a fresh redistribution, but to go back to the old electorates which were not arranged on a population basis t As a democrat, I cannot regard that as the best course. In ray opinion the Commissioner ought to be given another opportunity, and told that it is recognised that undue influerice was brought to bear.
– The proper way would be to discharge the present Commissioner and get another.
– That might be done if desired. But the Commissioner, seeing that he has replied to statements made in Parliament, must be acquainted with the debates ; and he ought to be aware that if his scheme is to be adopted it must be on a basis of something like justice. The Commissioner, no doubt, has his original plan, which he could submit.
– If what Senator Pearce says is a fact, how is it that the Queensland Commissioner has absolutely denied undue influence?
– No doubt, the Commissioner has denied undue influence ; but the proof that such influence was exercised is found in the. fact that he submitted an original plan, but withdrew it, and substituted another, which Queensland representatives, who ought to know the facts, say was deliberately aimed at a particular party.
– Has the Commissioner explained the fact of a second plan 1
– Not to my knowledge. What is the alternative suggested to the Queensland representatives. It is to go back to the old state of affairs, which is even worse than that which would be created under the Commissioner’s scheme. Under that scheme, Oxley, the largest electorate, has 29,443 electors ; and Maranoa, the smallest, has 20,627, showing a difference of 8,816. That is the tremendous difference the Commissioner is prepared to allow the country as against the town in Queensland. I have mislaid my figures which show the old state of affairs in that State, but I believe that there was then a still greater disparity between town and country.
– That is so.
– I do not altogether agree with some who say that this means the disfranchisement of 8,816 town electors ; but, at any rate, the alternative is to go back to the state of affairs in which there was a still greater disparity. Unless the Government can show that it is impossible, all the Commissioners whose reports have been rejected ought to be asked to revise their schemes. I do not propose to repeat the figures in regard to New South Wales, but it seems to me that the argument in regard to the drought has been worn threadbare with very little effect in another place. It is idle to say that the great disparity in numbers between the town and country electors in that State will be made up by the added population in a prosperous season. The most sanguine well-wisher of New South Wales cannot believe that the added population to the country districts will ever exceed 40,000. It is a regrettable fact that throughout the States the town population shows a tendency to increase in a greater ratio than does the population of the country. Victoria affords even a better reason than other States why the Commissioners should have the reports sent back to them. In that State we are asked to return to a condition of affairs equalled only by that which existed in Western Australia under the State Government, where the vote of one man in the pastoral districts was worth three times the vote of a man in the towns or on the mining fields. Under the old arrangements in Victoria the constituencies of Balaclava, Yarra, North Melbourne, and Kooyong had 140,000 electors, or an average of 35,000 electors each, while Wimmera, Laanecoorie, Gippsland, and Indi had only 72,400 electors, or an average of about 18,100 each. The surplus of 67,000 electors in favour of the metropolitan districts was almost equal to the voting strength of the four country electorates combined. That is the state of affairs to which we are asked to return in Victoria.
– The Bill is only a temporary measure.
– How do we know that it is only temporary ?
-I agree that the Bill is only temporary ; but why pass a temporary measure if there is any other way out of the difficulty 1 I object to depart from a principle, unless it can be absolutely shown that there is no alternative. I hope to be able, however, to show that there is an alternative. Under the old distribution in Victoria Balaclava had 19,000 electors more than the Wimmera, or a majority greater than the number of electors in the country electorate. The Commissioner in Victoria has gone as far as the Act allows i n giving the country the advantage of the quota. The constituency with the largest number of electors isBourke, with 29,402, while the lowest is the Wimmera, with 21,185, or a difference of 8,217. . Surely, that is all the most ardent advocate of country representation can modestly ask for ? Town electors to the number of 253,709, have nine representatives under the Commissioner’s scheme, or an average of 28,189 per representative, while 332,395 country electors have fourteen representatives, or an average of 24,028 electors per representative. It will be seen that while 192,224 country electors under this scheme have eight members, the same number of electors in the town have only seven. To what are senators committing themselves in rejecting the Victorian scheme? They are not rejecting it on account of the drought, which at most can affect only two of the country electorates. The Western District and Gippsland have both reaped a rich harvest on account of the drought; and, as a matter of fact, the drought has not affected a single district south of the Dividing Range. Although the Commissioner gave the country additional representation as far as the quota would allow, honorable senators are not satisfied ; but prefer to go back to the old state of affairs, which gave a man in the country voting power equal to that of two men in the town. I am not prepared to support that view ; but I shall stand by the Electoral Act unless it can be shown that in order to have the elections this year we must pass this Bill. If that can be shown I must abandon my principles to allow the elections to take place; but it must be shown that such a step is absolutely necessary. I am of opinion that the course proposed by the Government is altogether opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. The second paragraph of section 24 of the Constitution provides -
The number o£ members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined whenever necessary in the following manner : -
A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators.
It is the second sub-section to which I particularly wish to refer honorable senators. It says -
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined b3’ dividing the number of people of the State as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth by the quota.
The important point is that the number is to be divided by the quota.
– That is the total number for the State.
And if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
The Constitution contemplated dividing the population by the quota in order to find out the number of electors for each division.
– That deals with the number of electors in the aggregate ; it has nothing to do with the subdivision.
– I contend that it indicates that the intention of the Constitution was that we should adopt a population basis - in apportioning our representation ; and if we carry that out in our Electoral Act we shall follow the principle laid down in the Constitution. Without taking up more time with figures, I wish to inquire how we are to get out of the fix in which the Government have placed us by their Bill ? The first consideration is that of time. Have we sufficient time to refer these maps back to the Commissioners and allow them to make fresh dispositions, and then to collect the names and print the rolls for new divisions? Have we time to do that and have everything ready for the elections? If when the divisions are prepared, and they are still unsatisfactory, have we still time to deal with the position ? That is the point to which we ought to address ourselves, and that is the only argument in favour of this Bill that has much weight with me. I think we shall need to make some alterations in clause 2 of the Bill.
– Would it not be better to accept the proposed electorates than to have the elections on the old boundaries ?
– Parliament has already taken action in that matter.
– We can rescind what has been done.
– But we are not in a position to say what the other House shall do. The other House has taken- certain action, and we must have regard to that fact. How are we to get out of the position which that action has created ? Under section 18 of the Electoral Act thirty days are allowed for objections to be made to a scheme of distribution. We might very well cut that terra down to seven days or abolish it altogether in this particular case. Very few objections have been made by the public. The principal objections that were made came from Parliament. In the case of Western Australia, the objections arose in regard to community of interest, and I do not believe that the Commissioner would be stiff-necked upon that principle. He would give way to what he sees is the will of the House ofRepresentatives in that case. The House has already indicated its will in this matter.- Therefore, the thirty days’ term is not necessary, and can be done away with. Having done awaywith the thirty days that would be wasted by waiting for objections to be made, we turn to section 19 of the Act, which provides that after the expiration of thirty days the Commissioner shall forward a report to the Minister. If we say that seven days shall be allowed, we save twenty-three days there. Then section 50 provides that new rolls shall ‘ be prepared whenever directed by proclamation. Where new lists have been prepared, they have to be exhibited for thirty days, in order that objections may be taken to any names upon them, and so that
Applications may be made for names to be placed upon them. Wecan decrease that time. The existing rolls have been taker either from the rolls of the States, or have been compiled by the police, or taken from ‘ the census. But, supposing those rolls are not complete, I contend that, under an Electoral Act like ours, any man or woman whose name is not upon the rolls will have ample opportunities for getting it put upon the rolls before the election takes place. To complain about the few hundreds who may be left off the rolls by not exhibiting them for the full term, and at the same time to support a Bill which proposes to deprive thousands of people of their full electoral power, seems to me to be almost hypocritical. In the ways I have indicated a considerable amount of time could be saved. - The amendment I should like to see made in clause 2 of the Bill is entirely in the way of saving time. I do not think we ought to reject the Bill. It would be unwise to reject it. If we did so, 1 conceive that this contingency would arise. It might be said that by rejecting it we had made it impossible to hold the two elections in this year. If a second election would involve an expenditure of £50,000, we ought not to do anything that would compel two elections to be held.
– Throw the responsibility upon the Government.
– If we were to cause such a condition of affairs to arise, the blame would rest upon us, but if we make it possible for the two elections to be held this year the responsibility would rest upon the Government if that were not done.
– But the present rolls will be infinitely more accurate than those made up under the present conditions.
– I do not see why the present rolls cannot . be adopted. I was told months ago by Mr. Lewis, the Chief Electoral Officer, that, in connexion with the rolls, he is keeping each locality separate, bo that, if at any time an adjustment of electorates is wanted, he can with very little difficulty separate the electorates, and place a particular batch of voters in the division in which they are entitled to be placed. Therefore it would be a simple matter to make an adjustment of that kind. 1 suggest that the Senate should agree to the second reading of the Bill. When we get into Committee I shall propose that clause 2 be negatived, and that a new sub clause be inserted in some such words as the following : -
In respect of any redistribution of a State into divisions, under section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, prior to the 31st March, 1904, seven days shall be read for thirty days in sections 18 and 19 of the said Act.
– That is impracticable as far as Queensland is concerned.
– There would not be time for objections to be made in seven days in that State.
– Then why not do away with the period altogether? Where is the necessity for giving facilities for objections to be made in the present case ? It is a case of urgency ; and whilst in a normal case we should give every facility, under present circumstances it is not necessary. Parliament is going to define the boundaries. If this plan were adopted we should be able to pass a Bill which would go in the direction of providing machinery for carrying out the elections this year. For these reasons it is my intention to support the second reading of the Bill, but, unless the amendmeats which I suggest are made in Committee, I shall vote against the third reading.
Debate (on motion by Senator Matheson) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT laid upon.the table his warrant under standing order 38 appointing Senators .Dobson, Neild, and Barrett temporary Chairmen of Committees.
Senate adjourned at 0.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030908_senate_1_16/>.