2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to Bills
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he is aware thatthe messages conveying the Royal Assent to Supply Bill (No. 3), and the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, and bearing the signature of the Governor-General, as given at Government House, Melbourne, on the 28th September, were dated at a time when His Excellency was at sea off the coast of Western Australia? I should like to know how the honorable senator accounts for the signature of His Excellency being upon the messages.
– My attention had not been called to the matter before. I certainly cannot account for it, unless the Governor-General could be in two places at one time.
– If the Senate so desires, it can be arranged to have the rulings printed in the same form as the Standing Orders, and bound up with any honorable senator’s copy of them, if it is sent in for the purpose.
– It will not be necessary, then, to submit a motion on the subject?
– No, I shall get it done.
– I think it can be taken by you, sir, that the Senate would prefer to have the rulings printed and bound in that way.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable senators questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– I do not propose to answer these questions categorically at this stage; but if the honorable senator, or any one else, desires to get the information asked for in them during the consideration of the Bill, I shall be prepared to give it with the reasons for my answers.
” Urgent Public Business. “
– Before asking whether the notice of motion standing in the name of Senator Higgs is “formal” or “ not formal,” I should like to direct the attention of the Senate to its wording. It reads -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator McGregor on account of urgent public business.
So far as I know, no motion in similar terms has yet been, moved, and it is for the Senate to say whether it is prepared to admit that any business is more urgent or important than its own business. I cannot rule the motion out of order, because it is strictly in accordance with the Standing Orders. Is themotion “ formal “ or “ not formal “ ?
– Not formal.
– One dissentient voice prevents the motion from being taken as “ formal,” but it can be moved by Senator Higgs inthe ordinary way.
– I move -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator McGregor on account of urgent public business.
– Can this motion be moved now, sir?
– Yes. Standing order 47 provides that any such motion shall be called on before public business.
– If there is any departure in this from the usual phraseology of such motions, it is because it struck me that it might be more correct to say that the reason for asking for the leave of absence is urgent public business rather than urgent private business.
– There is no reason given in the motion.
– The reason is urgent public business. Of course another honorable senator might prefer that I should say public business. I am not certain, sir, that it is wise to introduce a discussion on a motion of this kind ; at any rate, I do not propose to initiate a discussion, and, therefore, I merely submit the motion.
– As there seems to be some misapprehension on the matter, I shall read standing order47 -
Leave of absence may be given by the Senate to any senator, on motion, after notice, stating the cause and period of absence; and such motion shall have priority over other motions.
– I was very glad, sir, tohear your remarks before the motion was called on, because I intended for more than one reason to oppose it. It would seem to follow from standing order 47 that some reason should be given in a motion for leave of absence. Senator Higgs, however, has approached the subject in quite another way. Apparently he thinks it is quite sufficient to put a motion on the notice-paper for leave of absence on the very extraordinary ground of urgent public business.
– There have been far more extraordinary reasons than that given here.
– I have not heard them. To ask for leave of absence for an honorable senator on account of urgent public business is from my point of view practically a contradiction in terms. The public business which is urgent so far as the Senate is concerned ought to be that requiring the attendance of an honorable senator here. The motion as worded carries with it the implication that certain business which has not been mentioned by Senator Higgs, but which we gather is public, is more urgent than the public duty of every honorable senator to be here when the Senate is sitting. I oppose the motion for reasons which although, so far, they have been unexpressed, must be in the mind of every one here. The grounds for asking for leave of absence rest entirely upon the fact that Senator McGregor is away with the Tariff Commission. When the question of any honorable senator absenting himself in order to discharge his duty on the Tariff Commission was before the Senate, I took up a stand which probably is remembered. The personal element does not enter into my opposition to the motion. It would have met with my opposition, even if it had asked for leave for Senator Higgs.
– More so.
– No, the personal element does not enter into my opposition. I feel now, as I felt some time ago, that the prior duty of every honorable senator is to the Senate. There was no real reason why Senator McGregor, or any other honorable senator who happened to be a member of the Tariff Commission, should be called away from Melbourne while Parliament was sitting. Even if to some persons interested in the Tariff Commission, directly or indirectly, it had seemed desirable that its work should proceed even while Parliament was sitting, the position in which we now find ourselves ought to be unsatisfactory. In the debate to which I referred just now, no one urged that the duty of an honorable senator to attend the meetings of the Tariff Commission was more urgent than his duty to attend the meetings of the Senate. In spite of the interjection from Senator Guthrie, I venture to think that the majority of honorable senators are opposed to any honorable senator absenting himself from the meetings of the Senate in order to attend the meetings of aRoyal Commission. I feel quite confident that if a vote could be taken without any side issue being introduced, the opinion of the majority of the Senate would be against granting leave of absence for that purpose. Entertaining that feeling, I am compelled, if I am to be consistent, to oppose this motion. If the leave asked for be refused, no personal hardship will be inflicted upon Senator McGregor, because we have not yet reached that stage when, he would be inconvenienced so far as his proper attendance here is concerned. I have taken care to ascertain that if this leave of absence be refused, Senator McGregor will be in no danger whatever of losing his seat. I admit that he will have to come back, but I make that admission with the greatest pleasure, because I think, first of all, that he ought never to have gone, and, secondly, that he ought to come back. Seeing that there will be no hardship, and that this principle of absence from the Senate to carry on any other public duty which, as Senator Higgs alleges, is more urgent, is in question,I hope that honorable senators will find it quite open to them to vote on the motion, wholly irrespective of the personalaspects of the case. I have therefore risen, not merely to oppose the motion by word, but with a determination to call for a division.
– I wish to state that my memory led me astray when I said that no other motion such as this had been moved in the Senate. My attention has been called to the records for the 14th May, 1902, when leave of absence was granted to Senator Lt.-Col. Cameron “on account of urgent public business.” That was on anoccasion when Lt.-Col. Cameron went to England in command of a military contingent on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Was there any objection on that occasion?
– I do not think so.
– I hope that Senator
Clemons, who has objected to this motion being treated as formal, will not carry out the intention which he has just expressed of calling for a division. It seems to me that if he intends to do that, his opposition to the motion is not based upon the principle of the motion itself that Senator McGregor should be granted leave of absence, but is based on the ground that he should not be granted leave for the reasons assigned.
– I have already said that I objected to the motion on principle. Is Senator Keating doubting my word ?
– I admit that Senator Clemons has no personal objection to Senator McGregor obtaining leave of absence, except for the cause assigned - that he is absent on account of “urgent” public business.
– Is not that the whole point?
– Very well, then; it seems to me that the objection is not because! Senator McGregor is absent on public business. Senator Clemons never ventured to suggest a single argument to show that Senator McGregor’s absence was not due to public business.
– I said that the business of the Senate is the more urgent business.
– Then it is a question of the relative urgency of Senator McGregor’s attendance here or elsewhere. Upon that is based the whole of Senator Clemons’ objection, to this motion. It appears to me that the question of the comparative urgency of the duty of Senator McGregor to be in attendance here, or of his duty as, a member of the Tariff Commission to be somewhere else, is the matter sought -to be put in in dispute. The point that it is, in any case, Commonwealth business upon which Senator McGregor is absent does not seem to appeal to Senator Clemons at all. It is not suggested that his absence is due to private business. No matter how urgent or otherwise the business may be, it is public business that is keeping him away from the Senate. The urgency of that business may. in the minds of some people, be very small indeed. Its urgency may seem to be overshadowed by the urgency of the call to duty in the Senate. But that is not the position with which we have to deal. Suppose the’ word “ urgent “ were left out of the motion. Would Senator Clemons then oppose it?
– Very well; suppose the word “ public “ were left out, and it was stated that Senator McGregor was absent on urgent private business. Would Senator Clemons object then?
– It would entirely depend on circumstances.
– We have repeatedly, at the instance of different senators, passed motions granting leave of absence, extending in some cases to two months, on account of “ urgent private business”; and, so far as my recollection serves, no one has asked the nature of the private business that detained the honorable senator in whose interest the motion was moved. If it is competent for an honorable senator to abstain from his public duty in the Senate on account of “ urgent private business,” and if a motion to that effect is accepted as a matter of course, without opposition and without inquiry as to the nature of the private business, surely we may expect that when an honorable senator asks for leave of absence on the ground that he is in attendance elsewhere on public business, no matter how urgent, it may likewise be accepted without opposition.
– The honorable and learned senator is not answering argument as to the question of principle.
– I am. I say that the Senate has repeatedly and invariably given leave to honorable senators to abstain from attendance on account of private business. We do not care whether that private business is urgent or otherwise. When an honorable senator moves that another be granted leave of absence on account of public business, no matter whether it is urgent” public business or whether the urgency is equal to that of the business before the Senate, the fact remains that the ground of absence assigned is public business ; and I say that public business, no matter how unimportant it may be relatively to other’ public business, is a sounder cause for granting leave of absence than private business, no matter how urgent the latter may be. If we are prepared from time to time to grant leave to senators to be absent on account of private business, no matter how extreme or otherwise its urgency, we ought to be prepared to grant on like terms absence on account of public business, however unimportant; because public business ought to be of greater consequence to us in determining such a question than the most urgent private business. For those reasons, I ask Senator Clemons not to press for a division on the motion. If, however, he wishes to express his disagreement with the suggestion that the absence of Senator McGregor is on urgent grounds, why not take the course of amending the motion by striking out the word “ urgent”? If he wishes to register his objection to the absence of Senator McGregor being designated as on account of “ public business,” why not move to strike out the word “public” ? If he thinks that the honorable senator is absent on ‘account of private business, why not move to insert the word ‘ ‘ private ‘ ‘ ?
– Why should I do that? I am not asking for leave.
– But no one has protested against the formality of such motions on previous occasions. They have been passed without any discussion whatever. Are we to lay down the principle that if leave of absence is asked for on account of private business it is to be granted without question, but that if a senator asks for leave in the interests of public business, the Senate will at once begin to inquire what the quality of that business is?
– The principle is that there is no quality of urgency.
– No one disputes that it is public business that is keeping Senator McGregor away. We are prepared to concede leave of absence in every case where private business is alleged as a reason. But the moment it is suggested that public business is being transacted by an absent senator, is the Senate to determine what is the relative urgency of that public business? I say that that is a most anomalous position to take up. We are practically saying that an honorable senator may subordinate his duty of attendance in the Senate to his own private business, but not to any public business affecting the Commonwealth, unless that public business is of such a degree of urgency as in the minds of other honorable senators should warrant his absence.
– We have seldom listened to a more irrelevant and misleading speech than that which has been delivered by my honor able and learned friend. He has entirely overlooked or given the go-by to the principle underlying the objection which Senator Clemons has taken, and which he took in the form of an affirmative motion some weeks ago.
– It was defeated.
– I am not such a walking encyclopaedia as is the honorable senator, who carries the votes and proceedings of the Senate in his head, but I recollect that fact. I also recollect that on that occasion, at the instance mainly of honorable senators opposite, an amendment was proposed declaring that absence was not proper, either on account of a Royal Commission or on account of private business. Senator Guthrie was, I think, the honorable senator who moved to that effect. Senator Keating has espoused the principle that because we have been in the habit of granting leave of absence to senators on account of urgent private business without inquiry as to the nature of that private business- relying upon the assurance of honorable senators who took charge of such motions and on their good faith, and refraining from prying into the reasons for the absence - therefore, when urgent public business is alleged as a ground of absence, we ought -not to inquire into it. But it is our duty to inquire. The honorable senator, expressing the views of the Government, puts the two cases on the same footing. I never heard of such a proposition in my life. There is a guard cast around private business which does not subsist in regard to matters of public business ; and when a motion is tabled in this Senate asking for permission to be absent on the ground of urgent public business, and not on the ground of urgent private affairs. I say that it is the duty of the Senate to ascertain what the public business is, and to determine whether it is of such a character as to dominate the public business which requires us to be present here. To my mind, this is a high matter of principle, and I am sorry that the remarks which have been made on the responsibility of the Government tend to bring; the discussion down from the high plane which it ought to occupy, and to make it a question of an application for leave simply in respect of a senator personally.
– That question was decided on the motion proposed some time ago.
– I am willing to reassure my honorable friend that, so far as I am concerned, I am looking at this matter purely from the point of view of principle. I am glad that Senator Clemons has objected to the motion being taken as formal. It would have been a degradation of the position and the status of the Senate if we had treated as formal a motion which asks us to take the view that absence from the Senate to sit upon a Royal Commission is to be tolerated when set against the claims that the business of the Senate has upon itsmembers. If that were permitted, let us think for a moment whatthe result might be. Look at the power which is thus placed in the hands of the Government of the day. All the expenses of honorable senators attending the sittings of a Royal Commission are paid, insufficiently, it may be, and there is a competing influence as against the duties which they are called upon to carry out within this Chamber. Has there ever been a motion of this kind treated as a not formal motion when reasons have not been given to show why leave of absence should be granted? This discussion has nothing to do with Senator McGregor personally. If Senator Higgs can show that Senator McGregor’s position in this Chamber would be placed in jeopardy by the rejection of the motion, I for one will not vote against it. But I did expect Senator Higgs, when the motion was not regarded as formal, and when he realized the great principle which some of us, at all events, consider underlies it, to give reasons for the proposal. I expect him to not only give reasons in order to establish that this is urgent public business, to which the business of this Chamber is to be subordinated, but also to show that unless the motion is carried Senator McGregor’s position will be placed in jeopardy.
– This is the first time that reasons of the kind have been asked in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– This is the first time such a situation has arisen.
– No; there was a similar situation when Senator Cameron was granted leave of absence to go home.
– What is the good of the honorable senator, who happens to be Minister of Defence, saying that Senator Cameron’s position was at all parallel to the position of Senator McGregor? The whole Parliament - the whole of Australia, for the matter of that - agreed that there was an urgent reason why Senator Cameron should be granted leave. The present position is caused by the voluntary act and assent of the gentlemen who are members of the Royal Commission. I am not saying for one moment that there may not be adequate reason for this leave of absence, but there are other members of Parliament who are also members of this Royal Commission. Why should Senator McGregor not return, if his position is in jeopardy, and allow some other member of Parliament to take his place at the sittings of the Commission ? I am not dealing with this matter personally, and blaming Senator McGregor, and suggesting that he should come back ; but there is only a quorum required to carry on the business of the Royal Commission.
– There is more than a quorum of the Royal Commission in Western Australia now.
– I do not know how many members of the Royal Commission there are in Western Australia ; but, as you, Mr. President, have pointed out over and over again, by the appointment of these Commissions, when they consist of members of Parliament, we hand over a great power to the Executive Government, and make a competing influence as against the duties which we are placed here by our constituents to discharge. Then, in regard to leave of absence on the score of private business, the question rests first with the Senate, and secondly as between an honorable senator and his constituents. In the matter of public business, however, it is, I will not say remunerated, but at any rate that it is compensated - it is paid for, out of Commonwealth revenue, and is in competition with the public duties we are elected to discharge. As I say, if Senator Higgs shows that Senator McGregor’s position is injeopardy, the situation will be altered so far as the motion itself is concerned. But I ask Senator Higgs to show in what respect this is urgent public business.
– Should not Senator McGregor be left to judge as to that ?
– It is not for Senator McGregor, but for the Senate to judge.
– Senator McGregor is responsible to his constituents.
– It is for the Senate to judge. The Senate is the tribunal which has to determine whether there is a case made out for leave of absence.
– The same principle should apply to leave of absence on the ground of private business.
– If this is urgent public business for Senator McGregor, why is it not urgent for Senator Higgs, who is also a member of this Royal Commission? Here we have two members of a Royal Commission, one of whom says that the business is not urgent.
– The two cases are entirely different.
– I do not think so. I shall not make any comparison, but Senator Higgs knows that I value very greatlyhis presence in the Chair.
– Senator Higgs is an officer of the Senate, and that makes all the difference.
– There are deputy Chairmen of Committees, and Senator Higgs’ absence is provided for. This matter has been discussed previously, and there is no more reason shown why Senator McGregor should attend the sittings of the Royal Commission, than there is why Senator Higgs should attend.
– Vastly more.
– We can get a Deputy Chairman, but we cannot get a deputy senator.
– That is a very effective answer, seeing that we have two. Deputy Chairmen. If Senator McGregor has to judge as to the urgency of the business, the Senate has no control. Senator Higgs gave us no reason - he did not tell us that leave of absence was asked for on the ground of the business of the Tariff Commission. I do not think that he need have been so reticent. We are indebted for theinformation to Senator Clemons, who assumes that the reason is the presence of the Royal Commission in Western Australia.
– Of course, Senator Symon did not know anything about that !
– I suspected that that was the case. But why did not Senator Higgs tell us so?
– I did not want to initiate a discussion of this kind.
– I know that theRoyal Commission is taking valuable evidence, and has done good work in its investigations ; but I utterly deny any urgency that requires Senator McGregor’s absence from this Chamber. I utterly deny the urgency which required the Royal Commission to go to Western Australia. The position is one which I deeply regret and I take this opportunity to express my opinion. I find from the press that communications have been addressed to the chairman of the Royal Commission, practically seeking to dragoon him and the other members into giving a progress report at an early date whilst they are busy prosecuting the inquiry. That is an extremely improper thing for the Prime Minister or any other Ministerto do.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that those remarks are relevant to the question, which is the granting of leave of absence to Senator McGregor ?
– I am addressing myself to the question of urgency in connexion with the work of the Royal Commission. I do not intend to dwell on the matter at any length, but merely to say that, in my opinion, the alleged urgency is being furbished up - that it is not genuine. The position is due, first of all, to the dragooning of the Governmentby a section of the press, and, secondly, to an attempt to dragoon the chairman and Commission. We have seen really pathetic representations and appeals for mercy made by the chairman of the Royal Commission from time to time, and declarations by him that a progress report is impossible now, but will be produced when materials are ready. But the continual harassing of the Royal Commission is simply for the purpose of showing a fictitious urgency.
– It was the Government of which the honorable and learned senator was a member who appointed this Royal Commission.
– That is so; but that Government did not send the Royal Commission roving all over this great continent, and did not expose their self-respect to be humiliated by letters from the Prime Minister telling the Commission to hurry up with the report. Anything more scandalous never took place.
– The honorable and learned member may discuss the urgency of the business so far as Senator McGregor is concerned.
– I bow at once to your ruling, and will limit myself to the observations which I have made, and which I commend to the attention of Senator Higgs, who, I know, is sensitive, and would, as a member of the Royal Commission, resent the attempts which I have indicated to interfere with and dictate to him in the discharge of public duties. I regard this question, as you, Mr. President, have on previous occasions in connexion with Select Committees, as one of high public importance. I should be prepared to give Senator McGregor all the leave of absence he personally requires; and I think that is magnanimous. Doubtless we on this side would prefer to have one less honorable senator on the other side to vote against us; but, apart from that consideration, the personal element has nothing to do with the question. It would be intolerable to any legislative Chamber, if it were held that, because we have not made an inquiry as to private reasons for leave of absence, we are, therefore, to be precluded from making inquiries as to public reasons. I disclaim most emphatically any desire whatever to deny leave of absence to Senator McGregor, or to do anything to interfere with or prejudice his position .’in the slightest degree. If Senator Higgs, when he replies, can point out that there is any possibility of that kind, I shall certainly keep an open mind on the subject. But in order to protest against the admission of a principle which would be” most injurious to the conduct of business in . the Senate - injurious, indeed, to the public political morality - I shall, unless such an explanation as I have suggested is given, vote with Senator Clemons if he calls for a division.
– The closing remarks of Senator Symon were extremely amusing. The honorable and learned senator treated us to a diatribe on public morality, social morality, and so forth. What Senator Symon objects to, so far as I can discover, is that the plain truth has been told in the motion. ‘A reason of some kind it was necessary to give, and the question was whether that reason had to be a true one or a false one. If we are to follow Senator Symon, the reason should be the truth, because he has told us that he is an advocate and supporter of public morality. To be moral we must be truthful ; and if Senator Higgs had asked for leave of absence for Senator McGregor on the ground of urgent private business, the reason given would not have been true.
– Why should not Senator Higgs have said that the reason is that Senator McGregor cannot return in time to save his seat ?
– I cannot enter into all the phases of the question which crop up in the honorable and learned senator’s mind. I am only concerned with the fact that, so far as I have been able to discover, Senator Higgs has given absolutely the true reason why leave of absence is requested.
– No doubt the reason is true, but the question is whether it is a sufficient reason.
– I do not think there is any need to elaborate that point.
– Are we to sanction the absence of an honorable senator in order to attend a Royal Commission ? ‘
– Are we to sanction the absence of a senator on account of private business, which is the less important?
– As Senator Keating has pointed out, honorable senators are without question allowed leave of absence on account of urgent private business. Such motions have always hitherto been allowed to pass as formal. Now, however, when leave of absence is asked for on account of urgent public business, an objection is raised.
– Public business is under the control of the Senate, whereas private business is not.
– We know that Senator McGregor is absent on public business, and I believe the public business to be urgent. Of course, Senator Clemons may not take the same view; but that is the position. Senator McGregor was appointed a member of this Tariff Commission to inquire into the condition of various industries throughout the Commonwealth - industries which, if we are to believe what we have been told, are put into a perilous position because of the operation of the Tariff.
– The whole of the evidence given at Kalgoorlie has been in favour of free trade in machinery.
– So much the better for the honorable senator. He ought to be delighted, instead of complaining about the Commission going to Western Australia, as he has done. The honorable and learned senator said, “ Thank God, the Government of which I was a member did not send the Commission over there” - to get this fine evidence from their point of view. I am surprised that Senator Symon should now come out in quite a new light. The members of the Commission are obtaining the very evidence required to prove his case, and the honorable senator is not yet satisfied.
– As I permitted Senator Symon to wander from the subject to some extent, I do not propose to pull up Senator Stewart; but I ask the honorable senator to make his remarks, on the point to which he is now referring, as brief as possible.
– The position appears to me to be this : I consider that the business in which Senator McGregor is engaged is public business. There is no doubt that that should have been stated in the motion, and I further consider that it is urgent business. If we are to take up the; position that an honorable senator’s first duty is in this Chamber, we may find that occasions will arise when exceptions to that rule should be permitted. Senator McGregor is absent for the purpose of securing information to enable the Senate to do its duty.
– Would not that apply to every Commission?
– I am dealing. now only with a particular Commission.
– But the principle would be the same.
– If the honorable senator talks about principle, I point out where his principles might very often lead him. He is probably very fond of water. It is a very useful thing, and man requires it to quench his thirst, to make his tea, and to wash himself ; but he does not. desire to be drowned in it. Senator Gray will see that the best of principles may be carried to a very illogical and unreasonable conclusion. The business in which Senator McGregor is engaged at the present time is public and urgent, and the leave asked for should be granted to him, that he may be able to pursue the investigation in which he is engaged, without any fear that in the exercise of a public duty he may be penalized by the loss of his seat owing ta his non-attendance in this Chamber.
– The debate has taken a turn which, I think, few honorable senators anticipated. It is strange to hear one of the principal members of the Government that appointed the .Tariff Commission denouncing, the necessity of it.
– I never denounced the necessity of it.
– Then, I fail to understand the drift of the honorable senator’s argument.
– I objected” to the Commission going to Western Australia, when that involved members of this Parliament being taken away from their duties while Parliament was sitting.
– Surely the honorable senator will admit that it was the duty of the Commission to visit Western Australia as well as the other States of the Commonwealth.
– They should have been sitting here.
– I cannot accept Senator Clemons’ opinion on a matter of this kind, because I think that his attitude in this connexion savours very much of the attitude of the dog in the manger. In the first instance, the honorable senator objected to go to Western Australia himself, and now that others have gone to carry out the work, “He objects to their getting theleave of absence necessary to enable them tocomplete it. To object to leave of absence being granted to Senator McGregor in thiscase, to enable the Tariff Commission to complete their work in Western Australia, would be to take up a very unreasonable position, which could only be justified by one adopting the dog in the manger policy which Senator Clemons has pursued from the start. Senator Symon has laid down a new principle with regard to leave of absence. He contends that unless reasons are given, leave should not be granted.
– I never said so. What I said was that, as the motion was declared not formal, reasons should have been given, because that was a call for reasons.
– I cannot under- ‘ stand why reasons should be specially asked for in this case, when, since the inception of the Senate, no previous motion for leave of absence has been challenged; though this is not the first occasion on which leave has been asked on the ground that an honorable senator has been absent on public business. Ex-Senator Cameron was granted leave of absence for somewhat similar reasons. No one can say that attendance at the Coronation ceremonies in London was of more public importance to the people of Australia than attendance at an inquiry on a great public question.
– Ex-Senator Cameron was sent to England in command of a body of men at the wish of the Government and of Parliament.
– And I dare say that there were thousands of men in Australia who would have been only too glad to accept the position, and who would have carried out the work quite as well, though I have no doubt Ex-Senator Cameron performed the duties of his position well. Honorable senators opposite are taking a new course, and it is possible that they may find that their action will have a boomerang effect. When, in the future, leave of absence is asked for by honorable senators opposite, a request may be made for good reasons for it. The Senate may demand good reasons for motions which are constantly being moved for leave of absence to honorable senators, on the ground of urgent private business. Reasons will then have to be given, whether it is a matter of goodtaste to demand those reasons or not.
– No one will demand good taste from the honorable senator.
– I am quite sure that I shall never try to follow the example set by Senator Clemons, who is a paragonof everything opposed to good taste. It will, I think, be a mistake for honorable senators opposite to call for a division on this motion. If a division is called for the subsequent results may not be satisfactory to those who push their objection to this motion so far.
– Undeterred by the threat just addressed to the Senate, I still venture, though not without some fear and trembling, to express my opinion. I could wish that this had been an abstract motion rather than one with which the name of an individual member of the Senate is associated, as my course would then have been abundantly clear.
– An abstract motion could not have been brought forward in this case.
– The principle involved might have been discussed on an abstract motion, as it was some time ago.
– I do not think we could bring another motion forward on the same lines this session.
– Probably not, but if we were dealing with an abstract motion I should be entirely opposed to the granting of leave of absence for the reasons stated. However, the Senate has practically arrived at a decision on the pointthat the mere fact that a member of the Senate wishes to be absent on public business is in itself some reason why an application for leave of absence for him should be granted.
– No, that was not the decision.
– I put the reverse position. Senator Clemons contends that absence on public business is not in itself a sufficient reason for granting leave of absence from attendance in this Chamber. If that were put to me, without any reference to Senator McGregor, or any other member of the Senate, I should vote entirely in that way ; but I am brought face to face with the fact that the Senate has already refused to adopt a motion of that kind.
– No, it did not.
– Then what became of it?
– It would have adopted every word of that motion, with some other words added.
– If all private business had been included.
– In my opinion, Senator Guthrie occupies a most illogical position at present. The honorable senator has been prepared to say that leave of absence should not be granted for any reason.
– If we are to lay down an absolute rule.
– I am pointing out now that the Senate has declined to lay down the rule that leave of absence shall not be granted to enable an honorable senator to attend to public business, and I therefore hesitate to give a vote in support of a motion that the decision of the Senate shall not apply where a particular individual is concerned. In such a case, with whatever care we may select our words, our action will be open to a suspicion of personal feeling. I quite recognise that honorable senators who have preceded me in opposition to the motion are free from personal feeling in the matter, but the very fact that threats of retaliation have been made should this motion not be carried shows at once that when a motion of this kind is discussed in association with the name of a particular honorable senator, the suspicion of personal feeling; comes in. Although I should be opposed to the granting of leave of absence for the reasons set out in this case, as the Senate has declined to lay down a general rule, I think that I have no. other course open than to vote for the motion moved by Senator Higgs. I should like to say, with regard to the argument addressed to the Senate by Senator Keating, that there is a wide difference’ between private and public business. A man’s private business can be attended to only by himself. If we ask a man absolutely to divorce himself from his own private affairs, it would be impossible for him to take a seat in Palliament. Unless, when occasion arose, he could get leave of absence to attend to his own affairs, he could not accept a seat. With public business it is surely very different. Will it be contended that no one but a member of the Senate could take evidence on the Tariff Commission?
– Why are ‘two of us here, and not with the Commission ?
– Exactly. Is it imperative that this public business should be conducted by those who are supposed to be here? The moment a man holds two public appointments, the duties in connexion with them clash, it is his clear duty to resign one of them. There is another matter to which I wish to refer, and I should not deal with it at this stage but for the fact that if I did not do so, it might be said later on that I should have referred to it when a cognate subject was under discussion. I have been seriously disturbed in my mind of late in connexion with the whole of these Royal Commissions as to whether the payments made to members of them, who are also members of Parliament, do not constitute an infringement of the Constitution.
– I do not think the honorable senator can deal with that matter under this motion.
– I make the reference relevant in this way : I point out that if there is an infringement of the Constitution in the acceptance by members of the
Senate of emoluments paid to them for work performed on Royal Commissions to that extent, the Senate might be said to condone what is being done by granting leave of absence to Senator McGregor on this occasion. I mention the matter now, not with a view of pursuing it further at this stage, but to make sure that no one will be able later on, if I bring the matter before the Senate, to say that I have condoned what I may ask the Senate to declare is illegal.
– I should, not vote with Senator Clemons against the motion if I felt that there was the least probability of Senator McGregor losing his seat in the Senate. But there is not, and I feel that I am bound to vote with him, because the Senate contains a limited number of members. Already there are, I think, three or four Commissions and Committees sitting. Just prior to the meeting of the Senate today, I asked Senator Pearce whether it was possible for a certain Committee to go a short distance into the country during this week, as it would be very inconvenient for me to attend its meetings during next week, and he instantly replied that it could not possibly be done. If it cannot be done with a Select Committee, why should an exception be made in the case of the Tariff Commission?
– The honorable senator is confusing a Select Committee with a Royal Commission.
– Are they not in the same category?
– Substantially they are the same. I do not know that there is any difference between them.
– A Select Committee of the Senate can only sit while the Senate is sitting, and dies when the Parliament is prorogued.
– Every honorable senator is elected to look after the interests of his State. If one Commission is allowed to go to Western Australia or another part of the Commonwealth during the sittings of the Senate, I take it that every other Commission can do the same thing. In view of the limited number of honorable senators it is necessary that all should attend as far as practicable to transact the business of the Commonwealth.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I did not give reasons for the motion, because I felt that I should not be a party to initiating a discussion as to the reasons why an honorable senator should be granted leave of absence. Hitherto such motions have always been treated as formal business ; not a single vote has ever been, taken on this subject, and I ask whether it is wise for honorable senators to criticise each other’s actions. Because, to my mind, the arguments advanced against the motion have been in the nature of a criticism of the action of Senator McGregor. If the conduct of one honorable senator is to be criticised on a motion of this kind, then another honorable senator may indulge in such criticism when leave of absence is asked on the ground of urgent private business, and we may have a discussion which will not, I think, enhance the dignity* of the Senate.
– I do not think that any one would inquire into the private affairs of an. honorable senator.
– Except Senator Keating, no one wants to do so.
– Is the object of those who oppose this motion to compel the attendance of honorable senators here? I lake the view that inasmuch as the Senate is the States House, it is not the duty of any honorable senator coming from Queensland to criticise the conduct of any honorable senator coming from Western Australia. Each honorable senator is responsible to the electors in his own State, and if Senator McGregor or any one else stays away, no doubt his constituents are keeping an eye upon his movements, and will make him answer for his absence. If there be an objection to Senator McGregor -being absent on public business, urgent or otherwise, is there not a far greater objection to an honorable senator being absent on his private business when it may be merely to take a holiday? Private business, though it is described with a certain amount of poetic licence as “ urgent private business,” may be merely absence in England on a .holiday. There may be reasons of an urgent private character why an honorable senator should be absent.’
– - No one ever publicly inquires into the reasons for an honorable senator’s absence. Is the honorable senator going to adopt the view of Senator Keating ?
– I shall not discuss that point. There may be other reasons - such as the competitive influence which Senator Symon- mentioned as arising in connexion with a Royal Commission. He spoke of a competitive influence which might have the effect of taking an honorable senator away from his public duties.
– The whole question here is whether we should not protest against a seat on a Royal Commission involving a senator’s absence from his duties in the Senate.
– We can easily imagine urgent private business which would have a strongly competing influence against the influence which ought to prompt an honorable senator to attend here. But the view I take is that the Senate has already decided the question raised to-day by Senator Symon and Senator Clemons, that is, as to whether an- honorable senator ought to absent himself under any circumstances on account of either urgent public business or private business. On the 2nd August, 1905, Senator Clemons moved -
That in the opinion of the Senate, it is contrary to the practice of Parliament, and the proper transaction of business, that members should absent themselves from the Senate for the purpose of attending sittings of a Royal Commission.
Senator Guthrie moved an amendment to add to the motion the words, “or for private business.” It is curious to observe that the majority of the members of the Opposition voted against the amendment.
– No, they did not.
– On the question as to whether the words “or for private business” should be added there were nineteen ayes and ten noes. The minority included Senators Dobson, Drake, Fraser, Gould, Gray, Matheson, Pulsford, Trenwith, Walker, and Clemons, so that Senators Clemons and Gray are of opinion that it is in accordance with the practice of the Senate-
– Nothing of the sort. The honorable senator asked us to vote that it was contrary to the practice of Parliament for members to absent themselves on private business when he and every one else knew that it was not the case. I refused to say what I knew to be untrue, but the honorable senator preferred to say what he knew was untrue.
– Order, the honorable senator must not say that.
– Well, which was contrary to fact.
– The motion was proposed in order to lay down a rule. Some honorable senators proposed to add the words “or for private business,” and other honorable senators thought it was in accordance with the practice of Parliament and the proper transaction of business for honorable senators to stay away on private business. The amendment was carried, but the Senate, by a majority of eighteen votes to eleven, decided to reject the motion as amended, thereby saying practically that the majority were of opinion that an honorable senator might absent himself on public or private business. Senator McGregor went to Tasmania and Western Australia after the motion was defeated. If, however, the motion had been carried, and a rule had been virtually laid down that it was not right for an honorable senator to stay away on account of either private or public business, Senator McGregor would not have left. I have good reason to believe that if the Senate had voted in any other way, the chairman of the Tariff Commission would have reconsidered his position, and probably called a meeting of its members to reverse the order of proceeding.
– In spite of its urgency ?
– These are revelations.
– Does not that defeat the honorable senator’s reason of urgency.
– I do not think it does. I think that in all probability the chairman of the Tariff Commission would have regarded the voice of the Senate as one to which attention should be paid. When the motion of Senator Clemons was defeated, no doubt the chairman felt quite sure that he was doing the right thing, and therefore he departed. Senator McGregor has been absent since the 31st August; the two months’ absence will expire on the 31st October, but I do not think that the matter should be put on personal grounds. Senator Symon said that if it meant the jeopardizing of Senator McGregor’s seat, he would not vote with Senator Clemons.
– And if I thought there was any danger of Senator McGregor losing his seat, I should drop the matter at once.
– There will be plenty of time for Senator McGregor to return if the Senate is of opinion that he should not be allowed leave of absence on this “ urgent public business.” I used that term in the motion because it seemed to me to be far more accurate than the term “ urgent private business.”
– It may be, but is it sufficient ?
– Some of us think it is urgent. If Senator Symon asks me to say why I did not go, I shall give the reply I gave before - that, as there are several protectionists on the Tariff Commission, and, as I think it has just about two too many members, my presence is not necessary. With three protectionists in attendance, I feel that the cause of protection is in good hands. Senator Symon said that this motion would pave the “way for a Government getting members of the Senate and the other House out of the way.
– Suppose that we have half-a-dozen Commissions in existence?
– We must take each case on its merits. The Tariff Commission was appointed by the Reid Government, and, no doubt, Senator Symon had a voice in deciding upon the terms and the personnel of the Commission., Does he suggest that that Government wished to establish some competing influence?
– He practically admitted that he agreed to the appointment of the Commission in order to hang on to office.
– Is that remark in order?
-Nothing that Senator Higgs has said is out of order.
– Was the interjection in order ?
– I did not hear it.
– Does Senator Symon suggest that Mr. Reid, in appointing this Commission, wished to set up some competing influence that might operate against the attendance of senators ?
– I never said anything of the kind. What I said was that the Government, by sending a Commission’ to sit in a distant State, might create a competing influence in public affairs.
– Is it suggested that the Commission ought not to have taken evidence in Tasmania and Western Australia, or ought not to sit while Parliament is sitting? That would mean that the proceedings would be protracted for a considerable time, and that the report of the Commission would be hung up for years.
– Senator Higgs suggested a solution of the difficulty - that the Commission should sit in Melbourne while Parliament was sitting.
– What has this to do with granting leave of absence to Senator McGregor?
– I have in my possession several letters from the Secretary of the Commission, the Chairman, and Senator McGregor, that they heard me move an amendment that the Commission should sit in Melbourne during the recess.
– Then it should appear on the minutes.
– Senator Clemons knows that there is no record in the minutes of amendments that are not seconded. The Commission is doing important public business in Western Australia, and the Senate ought, I think, to pass the motion so as to allow Senator McGregor to attend to that business. The suggestion that the Government might appoint a number of Commissions, and so take honorable senators away from their duty, is quite true, but a Commission having the scope of the present one may not be appointed for another twenty years.
Question - That one month’s leave of absence be granted to Senator McGregor, on account of urgent public business - put. The Senate divided -
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Ministers laid upon the table the following papers : -
Pursuant to the Post and Telegraph Act, 1901, Telephone Regulations - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 59; Registration Regulations, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 60.
Regulations under the Excise Act1901, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 65.
Debate resumed from 4th October(vide page 31 31) on motion by Senator
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I have not much to say on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, but I intend to propose several amendments in Commit tee, some of which may be considered to affect important matters of principle. All my amendments are not yet in print, and I shall not deal with them until they are in the hands of honorable senators. But I may as well explain the most important of the proposals which I intend to make. The first involves an important alteration of principle. It relates to clause 14 of the Bill, which deals with the alteration of electoral divisions. That clause amends section 23 of the principal Act by adding the following new sub-section: -
Such proclamation may be made -
I intend to propose to strike out the proportion, one-third, and to substitute onefifth, for the following reason : The Act now provides that the Commissioner shall have power to alter the boundaries of an electoral division at anytime, when the number of electors in that division is greater or less than one-fifth over or under the proper quota. Taking the State of New South Wales, the quota will, under this provision, have to be defective in one-third of the whole of the divisions of the State before it willbe possible to alter the boundaries of any one division. I submit that it is not right that there should be probably a larger discrepancy than one-fifth more or less in one-third of the divisions of a State, before power is given to alter the boundaries. Therefore I propose to strike out one-third, and to make the proportion onefifth. There are twenty-six electoral divisions for the House of Representatives in New South Wales. It would be necessary for the quota to be largely out of its proper proportion in eight divisions at least before the boundaries of any one of them could be altered. If we made the figure one-fifth, instead of one-third, that ought to be quite sufficient. I have given notice of an amendment, which I think involves a question of principle not dealt with in the Bill as drafted. Section 150 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act is as follows: -
In elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his ballot-paper by making a cross in the square opposite the name of each candidate for whom he votes. The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.
The amendment which I intend to submit is that the words “ the voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected “ shall be omitted. I take it that the principle underlying our electoral system is that the utmost freedom of political thought and action shall be extended to every elector. An elector is left to decide whether he shall have his name placed on the roll, and, if his name be there, he may please himself as to whether he votes.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of plumping?
– I am in favour of leaving the elector to vote for as many or as few candidates as he chooses.
– That is plumping.
– Not necessarily, though I should describe it as optional plumping. The elector at present is perfectly free in the particulars I have indicated, and the principle of compulsion, except in the one respect in which I desire to see the section amended, is in no way introduced into the Commonwealth Electoral Act. As the law stands at present, an elector may be placed in a very awkward position ; if there were, for instance, a double dissolution, and nine candidates presented themselves for six vacancies in the Senate. If the question at issue were, say, free-trade versus protection, a free-trade elector might find only three of those candidates of his own particular political faith. An elector under these circumstances would naturally desire to vote for the free-traders, and yet, compelled as he is to vote for the full number of senators required, he would have to vote for three protectionists also ; and in this way he would practically lose his vote altogether’. We profess to provide a free and democratic system of elections, and to give, every eligible person a vote, and yet the law as it stands may be the means of depriving an elector of the value of the franchise. Personally, I favour preferential voting, which I regard as an ideal system. I recognise, however, that the large number of votes which were given against a proposal to adopt that system when the Electoral Act was passed renders it hopeless to attempt to carry out a reform of the kind in an amending Bill. I understand that “Senator Mulcahy had some intention to submit an amendment providing for preferential voting, but that there was some probability of its being .ruled out of order by the President. I do not think, however, that, the President could take a similar view of the amendment which I have “foreshadowed.
– I cannot rule any proposal made in Committee as out of order; that is a matter for the Chairman.
– However, I give notice of my intention to submit the amendment ; and I feel sure that whatever grounds there may be for ruling the amendment suggested by Senator Mulcahy out of order as not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, the same objection cannot apply to my proposal. Any great question would illustrate my argument just as well as that of free-trade versus protection which I used. For instance, the question might be whether or not the Commonwealth Parliament should undertake the imposition of a graduated land tax; and in this connexion an elector might find1 himself in precisely the same position as the elector whom T previously instanced. These and other matters were debated at great length when the Electoral Act was passed some two or three years ago, and there is no need to dwell at length upon them” now. When we reach the Committee stage I shall move several small amendments, which do not call for comment at the present moment.
– I do not propose to deal at any length with this Bill at the secondreading stage. I have had an opportunity to read, though I did not have the privilege of hearing, the excellent and exhaustive speech which Senator Millen made on this measure at a previous sitting of the
Senate. That speech appears to me to cover largely all the ground which might be traversed in a second-reading debate, and the honorable senator indicated certain amendments with which I am in entire accord. I wish to take this opportunity to say that I rather regret the departure from what was the plan of the late Government in respect to this Bill. I do not think I shall be open to .the charge of making any irregular disclosures, when I say that the late Government intended that any changes in the electoral law should be proposed in the form of a new measure. To my mind, it is extremely unfortunate that that idea has been departed from, and that we have the proposals entirely in the form of an amending Bill, which makes many changes, and which, therefore, will be exceedingly difficult to dovetail into the existing electoral law.
– The honorable and learned senator would like to see a Bill repealing the old Act.
– Of course, a good deal of such a Bill would have been purely formal, but it would have provided a code within the four corners of one Act, which could have been readily followed and understood.
– There is a clause which says that the Bill must be read with the Act.
– As Senator Drake reminds me, there is a provision which will, to a certain extent, alle”viate, if not remove, the mischief and difficulty to which I refer. It is infinitely better, even for Parliament, when dealing with a Bill of this description, to have the measure in the most intelligible form, and be enabled to consider the proposed alterations without any necessity to continually refer to the original Act. In connexion with an Electoral Bill especially it is desirable that he who runs .may read. Whatever bears upon the conduct of elections and on the franchise and its exercise, should be in such a form that the “man in the street” may easily grasp the intention of the law by which his political liberties are to be controlled - controlled, we must always remember, in respect of the elector’s choice of the candidates for whom he shall vote. Honorable senators will observe that the Bill consists almost wholly of amendments in each section of the Act - each clause purports to amend or repeal some provision of the Electoral Act. There are altogether some fifty-five clauses in it, and it would have been very much better, and not open to any disadvantages I can think of, if it had come before us in the shape I suggest. At any rate, that was the intention of the late Government. I think it was a good intention, and T am sorry it has been departed from. Senator O’Keefe has dealt with a very important provision, contained in section 150 of the Electoral Act, in respect of which he intends to submit an amendment. This is the section which makes it obligatory upon every elector in elections for the Senate to vote for the whole number of candidates to be elected. I did not quite follow the details of the honorable senator’s proposal.
– I proposed merely to strike out those words in the Principal Act.
– That might or might not be sufficient to carry out the honorable senator’s intention. I do not know whether it would not be necessary to provide that an elector ‘might vote for the whole or any less number of the candidates than the number of senators required. The honorable’ senator will bear with me in suggesting that it will be desirable to make his meaning absolutely clear, and that it must not be left to inference. I suggest for his consideration that it might be open to doubt whether the mere omission of the words to- which he has referred might not still leave it obligatory on the voter to vote for the full number of members required, unless he -is given express permission to vote for a less number. In regard to the principle which the honorable senator has advocated, and has illustrated in a most effective way, there is a good deal to be said on both sides. Elections for the Senate differ from elections for the House of Representatives, where there are single constituencies, and where the difficulty to which Senator O’Keefe has referred does not arise. It does not matter what issue may be placed before the electors in the case of an election for the Senate, there may be one, two, or three candidates whose views on some main question - because in all probability an elector will not agree with them in everything - may be more in accord with the particular elector’s opinion than the views of some other candidates. He may feel that he would like to.secure the return of those, whether one or more, who would give immediate and effective expression to his own opinions, but he is placed at this disadvantage, as Senator O’Keefe has pointed out, that he cannot do anything to secure their return without at the same time voting for, perhaps, three or four others, whose views are diametrically opposed to his, and who when they get into Parliament may by their votes defeat the policy to which he would like to see effect given. That has always seemed to me to be a fetter upon the elector. At the same time, I supported the provision as it now stands in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, because I thought that, in relation to State representation, the balance of advantage was rather in favour of securing a solid vote, and that every elector should be compelled to vote for six representatives of his State. Some honorable senators may, perhaps, at the time have thought that we were cutting things a little too fine, and were laying down a principle in philosophy rather than a practical expedient applicable to ordinary workaday politics. But it struck me, having regard to the functions of the Senate, and its place in the Constitution if we could, so to speak, live up to it - though, to some extent, owing to responsible government, we cannot quite do so - that electors should be bound to vote for the whole number of members required. The full number required now at a periodical election would, of course, be three for each State.
– It might be four.
– It might be four, as has already occurred, where a casual vacancy required to be filled. Under the section to which Senator O’Keefe takes objection, an elector must vote for three candidates for the Senate. I am bound to say that further reflection has induced me to lean to the view that the balance of advantage is not so much in that direction as I had hitherto believed. All I can say now is that I am quite open to listen to a fuller exposition of Senator Q’Keefe’s desire in this respect. The honorable senator - and he need not be at all ashamed of the term, because it is a well-understood term - desires to introduce “ plumping.”
– That is so.
– Does not plumping mean a cumulative vote?
– No. Cumulative voting is a different thing from plumping as ordinarily understood, which means that a voter records a vote for one candidate only, and throws away the rest of his votes. I do not know that Senator O’Keefe needs any encouragement,but my present inclination is rather in favour of the view he takes than against it. I am not going to pledge myself or promise my vote one way or the other. As I say, if I have regard purely to the principles underlying the functions of the Senate and its place in the Constitution. I feel that the vote ought to be for the whole of the representation of a State. At the same time, I agree that we must look at the matter as one of practical politics, and see which course will work out best in the general interests of the country. The only other amendment on which I propose to say. anything now is one which has been indicated by Senator Millen, in reference to the removal from political and parliamentary influence of the question of a redistribution of seats. Under the method now in force, one Commissioner for each State is appointed to report, and the redistribution which he recommends has to be submitted to Parliament for its approval. Of course, the natural result of that is to bring to bear upon any proposed redistribution every political personal influence which may actuate any honorable member who naturally does not desire that his particular preserve - and there can be no harm in his regarding his constituency from that point of view - shall be interfered with. He is also naturally influenced to do that which, in his judgment, will make his calling and election sure whenever a new election shall take place.
– I quite agree with Senator Millen on that point. Just before an election is not a proper time for Parliament to consider a redistribution scheme.
– This difficulty is not one of theory, nor is it a mere abstract matter. We have had an example of it.
– We have had two examples of it - one in the last, and one in the present, Parliament.
– The one in the present Parliament has not yet been completed, but in the last Parliament we hadan example which produced results which I venture to think have been regarded unanimously as a scandal. We know that the result in that case was that in many instances one vote did not possess one value, and that, owing to the fact that the redistribution then submitted was not adopted a position of things arose which was not at all to the credit of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. We have this year another matter of redistribution arising in exactly the same way, as Senator Pearce has reminded me. It is proposed to remedy the evil by a Bill, which will come on for discussion later, but it was proposed to be remedied by another method, and on the same basis exactly, by the late Government. The reports and papers have been before us, but another method has been interposed to prevent our considering them. Still, we have another proposed redistribution brought before Parliament, thrown- into the political arena, and made, if not a party, at least a personal’ political question with all the disadvantages, and the evil consequences which that- course of action- may bring about. If the existing system is permitted to continue, we may have a state of things which will be greatly to be deplored. If it does not turn out exactly as it did in the last Parliament, there is at least very good ground for apprehending that it will. It is natural that it should, and no one can point the finger of scorn at any one else in connexion with it, because we are all human, and are influenced by these individual considerations. I am sure that anything we .can do to keep, such matters out of the reach of parliamentary and political interference, for which there is no need, should be adopted. I. do not know in what definite form Senator Millen proposes to submit the matter in Committee; but I should be perfectly willing to leave it entirely to the Commissioners without establishing a sort of court of review in the Parliament in respect to it. But if there is a feeling that perhaps the opinion of one man ought to be checked, that it might be hastily arrived at, in circumstances we can easily, imagine, and that there ought to be more minds than one brought to bear on the subject, then I think it would be wise to adopt some such idea as was in the mind of the late Government, namely, that there should be three Commissioners in each State, whose decision should be final; and that one of them, the Chairman, should be a State « Judge, whose entire absence of bias, and whose’ impartiality and capacity would be beyond question and beyond reproach. That was the idea we had. I do not know what my honorable and learned friend pro- poses, but I shall lend him every assistance I can, and I hope that other honorable senators will do the same, with the view of removing this question of redistribution - than which nothing can be higher or more important in relation to the full representation of the electors in Parliament - from all political influence, and being affected by political or individual considerations of the men in politics. I am certain that, when we come to think of it, we shall agree that for ourselves it will be a good thing if that is done. Where the duty is cast upon us, and the temptation is thrown in our way, we must do the best we can ; but it seems to me that we shall have reason to be grateful if we can aLsolve ourselves from so invidious a task as the present condition of things involves. I think that most, if not all, of the suggested amendments were contemplated by the late Government, although they were not absolutely revised and determined upon. It is in respect of the omissions that I think there is complaint to be made. At any rate, I hope that the result of passing this Bill will be that our electoral system will be improved. ‘ Any improvement’ therein is, of course, always in favour of the power of the’ voter and his freedom and opportunity to express his political views’ through his representatives.
– I have no intention to discuss the merits or’ demerits of the various changes proposed by the Bill. What I wish to refer to is the very unsatisfactory manner in which it has been presented. Senator Symon hasreferred to this matter, and I think that’ every other honorable senator ought to express his opinion. I have had the greatest trouble in finding out exactly what amendments are proposed. The Act and the Bill have to be “read together, and that is a most inconvenient and unsatisfactory system. In Queensland the practice was to show the additions to the principal Act by means of black letters, and the omissionsby means of erased type. That method of presenting amendments was much more convenient and satisfactory than is the one embodied in this Bill. I should suggest to Senator Keating that in a similar case he ought to adopt that method in preferenceto one which gives a great deal of trouble to honorable senators, and prevents themin many cases from grasping trie full meaning of the proposed amendments, except-1 with very great trouble.
– When I moved the second reading of the Bill, I pointed out that the form in which it should be submitted was very carefully considered, and that it was thought that attentionwould not be so strongly directed to proposed alterations in the existing law if an entirely new Bill were submitted, because it would be very much more difficult for honorable senators to ascertain where any deviation had been made from the principal Act. It was considered that, by a reference to the marginal notes to each clause, honorable senators would see the subject with which it dealt, and that they would be able to check the new provisions by reference to the old provisions, and so very much more clearly ascertain the extent and effect of the proposed alterations. I am very glad to have had from honorable senators an indication of the portions which they consider defective, or which they intend to seek to amend. I trust that, in Committee, they will give us every opportunity of seeing the exact nature of the amendments they intend to move, so that they can be fully discussed. The object of the Government is to amend the electoral law as far as experience of its working has shown to be necessary. When the existing Act was drafted we were practically in. the position of providing machinery for the accomplishment of something which had never been done before The first Federal elections were conducted according to the States laws, and the existing Electoral Act was the first uniform law for the Commonwealth. It has been tested in practice, and, in the light of that experience, as ascertained by the Select Committee of the other House, the Government have brought down this Bill, which does not in any way savour of a party character, and we ask honorable senators to bring the law into conformity with what is considered by experience to be the necessities of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Contingent upon the Electoral Bill being read a second time, Senator Mulcahy has given notice of his intention to move -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Senate to include measures in the Bill to provide for the election of members of the Senate by the method of preferential voting known as the Hare System.
I do not intend to call upon the honorable senator to move this contingent notice of motion, but, as this is the first time on which the question of an instruction to the Committee on a Bill has come before the Senate, I propose to enunciate the principle which I think should be laid down, and to give the reasons why we should adopt a certain practice. The Standing Orders are silent as to the scope or limit of instructions on a Bill. It is evident that there must be some limit - some degree of relevancy between the subject-matter of the Bill and the subject-matter of instructions to the Committee on that Bill. For instance, no one would argue that on a Bill to impose a land tax an instruction ought to be given to the Committee to insert provisions concerning the transfer of State debts. .. The question is, what degree of relevancy should exist? I propose to state the rule and practice of the British Parliament, and of all other Houses of Parliament established under the British Crown, so far as I can ascertain them, and the principles on which they are founded, and then to show why we should adopt such rules and practice. According to the rules of the British House of Commons, an instruction may amplify the machinery to carry out the general purpose and scope of the Bill within the general framework and idea of the Bill, beyond which the instruction ought not to go. The general rule as to instructions is laid down in May, page 453 -
In entertaining an instruction the House is subject to this primary condition, namely, that the amendments to be sanctioned by an instruction must come within a fair interpretation of the rule laid down by standing order No. 34, namely, that those amendments should be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. Thus, as the subject-matter of a Bill, as disclosed by the contents thereof, when read a second time, has, since 1854, formed the order of reference which governs the proceedings of the Committee thereon, it follows that the objects sought by an instruction should be pertinent to the terms of that order; and that the amendments, which an instruction proposes to sanction, must be such as would further the general purpose and intention of the House in the appointment of the Committee. The object of an instruction is, therefore, to endow a Committee with power whereby the Committee can perfect and complete the legislation defined by the contents of the Bill, or extend the provisions of a Bill to cognate objects; and an attempt to engraft novel principles into a Bill, which would be irrelevant, foreign, or contradictory to the decision of the House, taken on the introduction and second reading of the Bill, is not within the due province of an instruction.
In regard to the Tithe-Rent Charge Recovery Bill - Imperial Hansard, volume 339,page 1082, August 12, 1889 - Mr. Speaker Peel ruled that -
An instruction cannot be moved which deals with a question which does not come within the scope of the Bill, and which would require to be dealt with in a separate Bill.
Mr. Speaker Peel also decided, on a Bill concerning evidence in criminal matters, an instruction could not be moved to give prisoners a right of appeal. -Crimi- nal Evidence Bill, Imperial Hansard, volume 352, page 1564, May 7th, 1888. He also ruled that -
It is not competent to move an instruction which opens up a wide and independent question foreign to the Bill before the House. - Imperial Hansard, vol. 331, pp. 32, 33, Nov. 23rd, 1888.
He also ruled in two cases - Imperial Hansard, volume 345, page 347, July, 1890- as follows : -
When a Bill has been read a second time, the House has assented to the principle of the Bill. There is a reservation with regard to instructions. If an instruction were to traverse the principle of a Bill, or go so far outside the limits and scope and framework of the Bill as to set up an alternative scheme, or a counter proposition to the Bill, that would virtually be a Second Reading Debate over again. It would be an amendment to the principle of the Bill, and would, therefore, reduce to a minimum, and would nullify altogether, the provision which the House has passed in the standing order, which states that when the House is prepared to go into Committee the Speaker should leave the chair at once without any question put. There is nothing in the precedents which go beyond an instruction of this nature - an instruction to amplify the machinery of the Bill to carry out the general purpose and scope of the Bill within the general framework and idea of the Bill. There is no instruction since the alteration of the standing order which could be construed into the traversing of the principle of the second reading of a Bill. In Mr. Speaker’s opinion, an abuse of the principle of instructions will be fatal to the transaction of business.
The instruction proposed by Senator Mulcahy to the Committee on the Electoral Bill ought not to be moved. The Bill is a Bill to provide for electoral machinery for the conduct of elections. The instruction would authorize the Committee on the Bill to alter the method of counting votes and practically make a radical alteration in the franchise. The proposed instruction goes outside the limits, and the framework of the Bill. It relates to a principle, novel so far as the Bill itself is concerned, and irrelevant to its contents. Its object does not come within the scope of, and it opens up a wider and independent question foreign to, the Bill. It is true that the Acts which the Bill proposes to amend do deal with the franchise, and with the method of counting the votes, but the Bill itself does not deal with this matter. The fact that this is an amending Bill makes no difference. “ The subjectmatter of the Bill is disclosed by the contents thereof,” and the relevance of the proposed instruation thereto is the sole question to be considered. A principle of the gravest possible importance, and a system for the election of members of Parliament founded on that principle, is sought to be embodied in a Bill to provide for amendments in electoral machinery. This would alter and greatly enlarge the scope, the purpose, and the object of the Bill, as read a second time by the Senate. A separate Bill should be introduced to deal with the question raised by Senator Mulcahy. There is one other objection to the proposed resolution which is, however, merely verbal, and could be abrogated by an amendment made by leave of the Senate. All instructions to a Committee must be permissive, not mandatory. The Committee is a deliberative body, and should have power to make amendments if it think fit, not be ordered to do so. The proposed instruction is mandatory in form. I do not propose to call upon Senator Mulcahy to move the motion.
– May I ask that special consideration may be given to the ruling whichyou have delivered ?
– The Standing Orders provide that, if a ruling is not objected to formally, it stands. I told Senator Mulcahy that I intended to give this ruling.
– Unfortunately, he is absent, but I feel sure that I am speaking on his behalf as well as, perhaps, for others, if I request that the ruling may be taken into consideration.
– How can I abrogate the Standing Orders?
– If I enter a formal objection, will that enable the ruling to be considered ?
– Yes; the honorable and learned senator can make a formal objection that my ruling be disagreed with. The question will be considered on the next day of sitting. But the objection will have to be in writing. Does Senator Clemons object to the principle laid down, or to the application of it in this case?
– I am not objecting at all, except formally. I would rather do so in the least objectionable way.
– Senator Clemons can object to the application of the ruling in this case.
– I hand in my objection -
That the ruling of the President be disagreed with, so far as the principles laid down apply to the Bill to amend the law relating to Parliamentary Elections.
– That objection can be considered at the next sitting day.
In Committal :
Clause 1 (Short title and incorporation).
– I think it is proper to draw attention to my belief that this Bill has not passed its second reading. The President, I believe, rose and put the question, but before he proceeded any further with the motion he went on to refer to Senator Mulcahy’ s contingent notice of motion. The result was that the secondreading motion was not carried. Consequently I must, in upholding the duty which falls upon us, object to you, as Chairman, going on with the Bill. I do not know whether I can move you out of the chair to report a progress which the Committee had no right to make, but I think that the President ought to return to the chair, and that the second reading ought to be properly carried.
– I think Senator Millen is right.
– The Chairman cannot report progress on a Bill which is not properly in Committee.
– Senator Millen has properly called the attention of the Committee to the fact that the motion for the second reading has not been carried.
– The Chairman is illegally in possession.
– Yes ; I do not know whether we shall have to issue a writ of ejection. The President had to rule in respect of Senator Mulcahy’s notice of motion before the motion for the second reading could be put. Immediately the motion for the second reading is carried the President is out of the chair.
– The peculiarity of my position is that, as Chairman, I know nothing of the proceedings referred to which took place in the Senate.
– But we call your attention to what took place.
– I should put the matter in this way : If the motion for the second reading has not been passed, because the President omitted to put it, your position as Chairman of Committees is a nullity. You should vacate the chair, in order that the President may put the question properly.
– My recollection is that the President put the question, and that there was no division. The Clerk read the title of the Bill a second time, and then the President brought up the matter about the contingent notice of motion, which he declared to be out of order.
– As far as my recollection goes, the President rose for the purpose of putting the question. He stated the question, but did not ask for the voices. He went on to say, “ Before I put this motion I wish to refer to another matter “ ; and then he referred to Senator Mulcahy’s contingent notice of motion. From that time until you, as Chairman, took the chair, no reference was made to the second reading of the Bill.
– As a member of the Committee, I may say that, as President. I did put the question, and declared “ The ayes have it.” The Clerk read the Bill a second time. I could not have referred to the contingent notice of motion until the Bill had been read a second time.
– In view of the statement of the President of the Senate, I am prepared to believe that my recollection is wrong. I bow to the knowledge of the gentleman who says that he did certain things, but the statement does not tally with my recollection.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
– - I suggest to the Minister that this clause should be postponed. Though it is innocent in appearance, it refers to one of the main principles to which the Bill asks us to give effect. The Electoral Registrar is now made a Divisional Returning Officer, acting as Registrar. There is another clause which might give rise to some discussion, and I think that this clause might be post poned until we have dealt with the clause which will render this enlargement of the interpretation necessary.
– I have no objection to postpone the consideration of this clause. An interpretation clause can nearly always,I think, be postponed with advantage.
Clause 5 -
Section 5 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section substituted in lieu thereof : - “5. There shall be a chief electoral officer for the Commonwealth, who shall have such powers and functions as are conferred upon him by this Act or the regulations.”
– 1 should like to hear some reasons to justify this clause, and the way in which it is worded. I quite understand that it is proposed to put certain specific powers upon the Chief Electoral Officer, rather than leave them to the caprice of the Minister or some one else. But it should surely be sufficient to assume that he has the powers which this measure conveys. The clause uses the words “or the regulations.” I think it should read “ and the regulations,” if we desire to include those words, but I object to them altogether. Unless the Minister can offer some good reasons for their retention, I propose to move to strike them out.
– Section 5 of the principal Act made provision that there should be a Chief Electoral Officer, who should, under the Minister, be responsible for the execution of the Act throughout the Commonwealth. It is proposed to give the Chief Electoral Officer such powers and functions as are conferred upon him. This provision makes the Chief Electoral Officer subject, not to the Minister, but, for the purposes of discipline, subject to the permanent head of the Department. That is thought advisable, because such a system leads to greater uniformity in administration. It is not conceivable that every possible power exercised by a Chief Electoral Officer could be contained in an Act of Parliament. There are many matters, important in themselves, but, so to speak, of a. minor character, which do not involve questions of policy ; and many of such if there had been a provision of this kind, could have been dealt with at the first election under the Commonwealth Electoral Law. Obviously it would be very hard if, in connexion with every such minor matter, the Government had to come to Parliament with a Bill to remedy defects, supply omissions, or make alterations when merely administration and not policy was involved. Therefore, under some; of the regulations provision will be made for certain work, and the Chief Electoral Officer will be charged with the responsibility of the administration. Under the circumstances, I think we should be well advised to allow the clause to remain as at present. The provision is more descriptive than anything else, and, as I say, places the Chief Electoral Officer under the permanent head of the Department. That should commend itself to Senator Millen as a desirable change.
– Who is the permanent head of the Department?
– The Secretary for Home Affairs. The term “Minister” is used throughout the principal Act, and throughout this Bill; and the Acts Interpretation Act defines “Minister” in any Act as “ the Minister for the time being administering the Act.” The permanent head is the head of the Department which administers the Act.
– I think Senator Keating is mistaken. Of course, the Minister is the head of the electoral branch ; but I think that the permanent head is the Chief Electoral Officer. I am afraid that to make the Chief Electoral Officer subordinate to theSecretary forHome Affairs might raise a hornet’s nest in the Department. My view is that the Chief Electoral Officer is not under anybody if he be taken away from the control of the Minister.
– I am informed that the electoral branch is now, and always has been, a sub-department of the Department of Home Affairs.
– Yes ; but is Senator Keating assured that the Chief Electoral Officer is responsible to the Secretary for Home Affairs?
– No; at present the Chief Electoral Officer is responsible to the Minister.
– By removing the Minister, is the Chief Electoral Officer made responsible to the Secretary for Home Affairs?
– I could not say; I think not.
– Then I think Senator Keating is mistaken in saying that the object is to remove the Chief Electoral Officer from the control of the Minister, and leave him responsible to the Secretary for Home Affairs. I do not say whether such a position is good or bad, but it appears to me that the Chief Electoral Officer ought to be independent, as far as possible, and, if no longer under the Minister, he should not be in subjection to anybody. I “take it the object of the clause is to remove the Chief Electoral Officer from the control of the Minister, and to leave him the permanent and uncontrolled head responsible for the administration of the
Mct. There is one suggestion which I should like to make in order to cause the clause to be not quite so cumbersome as it is at present. The section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which it is proposed to repeal by this clause is as follows : -
There shall be a Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, who shall, under the Minister, be responsible for the execution of this Act throughout the Commonwealth.
In my view, all that is necessary is to strike out the words “ under the Minister.” And this suggestion will, I think, meet the view of Senator Millen, and also what I take to be the view of Senator Keating, if the object is - and it is one with which I agree - to remove the Chief Electoral Officer from the control of the Minister or anybody else. I move -
That after the word “ shall,” line 5, the words “ be responsible for the execution of this Act throughout the Commonwealth “ .be inserted.
I propose, if this amendment be accepted, to move the omission of the remaining, words of the clause.
– Is there any need for an officer of this character? We appear to be multiplying officials unnecessarily, and adding largely to the cost of carrying on the government of the Commonwealth. There is a Chief Electoral Officer in every State, responsible, according to the original Act, to the Chief Electoral Officer, who, in turn, I understand, is to be made responsible to the Secretary for Home Affairs.
– The Chief Electoral Officer is responsible to the Secretary for Home Affairs by virtue of the Public Service ACt.
– I understood Senator Keating to say that that was not so.
– The honorable and learned senator is mistaken.
– I find that the Chief Electoral Officer is also a public works officer, and a deputy public service inspector; and ‘he receives a salary of ^520 per annum. My contention is that this officer is superfluous. If we are to have such an officer, he ought to be independent, but I do not think an official of the kind is necessary, in view of the fact that there is a Secretary for Home Affairs. The Minister and an Under-Secretary ought to be quite sufficient for the administration of this Act.
– Who would be responsible ?
– The Department of Home Affairs. Does Senator Clemons wish to place no responsibility on the Minister ?
– I wish to take the administration of the Electoral Act from the Minister.
– Does Senator Clemons doubt the honesty of the Ministers ? Personally I do not, and should be quite prepared to leave the- whole administration of this Act in their hands.
– Why did we not take that course in connexion with the Public Service Act?
– That is another matter. The administration of the Electoral Act is a simple business, and it will be in the hands of the Secretary for Home Affairs, to whom the Chief Electoral Officer is to be made subordinate. He is responsible to him.
– He is not responsible to him, as Chief Electoral Officer.
– He is in his Department. Why should this official be appointed at all ? What is the Secretary for Home Affairs for? It appears to me that we are simply multiplying officials unecessarily, and so wasting the public funds. This work could be done quite well without a Commonwealth Chief Electoral Officer. We have a Chief Electoral Officer in each State, who ought to be responsible to the Secretary, of the Department of’ Home Af fairs, who is himself responsible to the Minister. I think we shall be acting wisely if we save .£520 a year by excising this clause and abolishing the office.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I invite attention again to an amendment suggested early in the proceedings, and that is the elimination of the words “ or the regulations.” With these words, the clause means something more than it would mean without them, or else they are surplusage. If they mean something more, and give some power other than the clause indicates, we should know what it is. It would be like signing a blank cheque to agree to this clause without some explanation of these words. If the clause does not mean any more with than without them, they may as well be struck out. I invite the Minister to decide on wHich alternative he will take his stand.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - As I said before, in answer to the criticism of the honorable senator, this clause describes the functions of the Chief Electoral Officer. It points out to any one who reads the Act that the Chief Electoral Officer is invested with the powers conferred on him by the Act and by the regulations.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - He who runs through this Bill must come to the conclusion, that the Chief Electoral Officer has to - perform the duties imposed on him by the Act and the regulations under it. I cannot see what necessity there is for the words “ or the regulations.” “The words which I proposed to insert would have given effect to what it appears the Government desire. The object, as- I understand it, is to appoint a Chief Electoral Officer, to make him independent of the Minister, and to charge him with the responsibility of carrying out the provisions of the Act. The Committee did not think it wise to adopt ray suggestion. The clause simply means that there shall be a Chief Electoral Officer, who shall do what the Act and the regulations require him to do. What necessity is there for that? Of course, as it stands the clause is absurd, and the Minister concedes that the word “or” should be “and.” It seems to me that Senator Millen’s contention that there is no necessity for the words “ or the regulations1’ at all is a very sensible one. The Chief Electoral” Officer is referred to over and over again in the principal Act and throughout this Bill, and he has to do what the law requires him to do. Why should we encumber the Statute with words which may mislead but cannot assist the person who runs and reads? Someone must be responsible for the execution of the Act, and the policy of the amendment is to throw the whole of that responsibility on the Chief Electoral Officer. With reference to what Senator Stewart has said, I may point out that the Chief Electoral Officer might be the Secretary for Home Affairs. The purpose of the Bill is to withdraw him from responsibility to any single soul, as regards his duties under the Electoral Act, to make him responsible only to the law itself, and to the Parliament which makes the law.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The more I consider this clause the more it seems to me that in its present form it ought to be struck out altogether. The words “ There shall be a Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth,” must, of course, remain, but the rest of the clause is unnecessary. The Chief Electoral Officer will necessarily have such powers and functions as are conferred upon him by the Act and regulations made under it, without any express declaration to that effect. If we pass an Act of Parliament, conferring certain powers and duties on an individual, we do not require a special clause to say that we have done so. Take, for instance, the first function imposed under this Bill on the Chief Electoral Officer. We provide that he shall, whenever necessary, ascertain the quota for each State. Do we need another clause to say that he shall do what he is told to do? That is what we say in this clause. With a view to test the question of the retention of the clause, I move -
That the word “ have,” line 5, be left out.
I really wish to strike out the words “ who shall” ; but, as we have already dealt with an amendment to insert certain words after the word “ shall,” I cannot go back to an earlier portion of the clause. If that amendment be carried I propose .ito move the omission of the balance of the clause, and later on the Minister could take steps to secure its recommittal, with a view to striking out the two words, which would then be surplusage.
– The course suggested is, I think, rather novel. I believe that in all machinery Acts we have not only named the officer, but used this formula of words to say that he shall be responsible for carrying out the Act.
– We do not say that in this clause.
– Practically we do. We say that the officer “ shall have such powers and functions as are conferred upon him by the Act,” and throughout the Bill we specifically define his powers. In the Customs Act and the Distillation Act the honorable senator will find that this form of words is used. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the amendment, although I must say that I do not see the necessity for the words “or the regulations.” If in every case the regulations are to be read as part of the Act, those words are unnecessary; but, if that provision is not contained in the Acts Interpretation Act, I see a necessity for their retention.
– According to section 210 of the Principal Act -
– It does not necessarily follow from that section that the regulations will be part of this measure. If there is any doubt on the point I should like it to be cleared up.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - Senator Pearce has said that the same course has been adopted in this clause as was adopted in the Customs Act and the Distillation Act, but on examining those Acts he will find that he has been misinformed. When I moved my amendment I had forgotten that section 7 of the Customs Act says -
There shall be a Comptroller-General of Customs, who, under the Minister, shall be the permanent head of the Customs, and shall have the chief control of the Customs throughout the Commonwealth.
Mv amendment was to insert the words “ be responsible for the execution of this Act throughout the Commonwealth,” and if I had recollected the existence of that provision in the Customs Act before I might have offered it to honorable senators as a precedent. So far as I am able to discover, the Distillation Act contains no provision on the subject. It simply provides in the interpretation section that “Comptroller” means the Comptroller-General of Customs, and that “Collector” means the Collector of Customs for a State. And wherever a duty is cast upon the Collector, or something is left for him to do in the administration of his office, in taking security, and all that sort of thing, it is specifically mentioned that he is responsible. Honorable senators will see that in this clause there has been a departure for no reason, but with the effect, I think, of, perhaps, confusing matters or giving rise to the question of whether or not the regulations impose certain duties other than those contemplated by the provisions of the Act.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - Senator Symon has ‘shown that in the Customs Act there was a provision made somewhat similar to the existing provision in- the Electoral Act. That draft, it seems to me. would be perfectly correct when the following Words are used : -
Who shall under the Minister be responsible for the execution of this Act throughout the Commonwealth.
That is the form of the draft in the existing Act, but in this clause now the Minister is not mentioned at all. Later on in the Bill, however, as in the existing Act, reference is made to the Minister, and to his powers and functions in connexion with electoral administration. In the clause now before us we simply say that there shall be a Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth. We have abandoned the principle that fie shall be “ under the Minister.” But recognising the fact that the Minister will have certain functions, we expressly state that the officer shall have the powers and functions conferred upon him by the Act, or the regulations.
– Would he not have such powers and functions without the use of these words?
– I have no doubt that he would. We are taking away the existing responsibility of this officer to the Minister, but that is no reason why we should accept the amendment. The officer’s powers and functions are to be determined by the Act, or the regulations, and by nothing else. With regard to the necessity for the words, “or the regulations,” let me point out that the word “or” is not used disjunctively, but distributively. He would have power under the Act or the regulations, or under both. In some Acts we have made express provision to the effect that when regulations are framed under an Act they shall have the force of law. They derive their validity from the Act, but they are not necessarily deemed to be part of the Act. When we find tha* in particular instances we have made express provision that regulations framed under an Act shall be deemed to be part of the Act, it follows, as a rule of construction, that where we have not made a similar provision a like consequence does not necessarily follow. “Under these circumstances, I think it will be safer to use the words “this Act or the regulations.” The Acts Interpretation Act is silent on the question as to whether regulations made under an Act are to be deemed part of the Act. Seeing that we made express provision to that effect in the Customs Act, and pulposely refrained from making a general provision of that character in the Acts Interpretation Act, I think it would be advisable to declare in this clause that the powers and functions of the Chief Electoral Officer shall be those determined by this Act or the regulation.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The Minister conceded the whole of my contention by the reply he gave to my interjection. I admit at once that he then passed on as rapidly as possible from the subject, and- proceeded to d£al with a matter which I do not regard as vital. My point was that without the words in this clause the Chief Electoral Officer would still have such powers and functions as are conferred upon him by this Bill or the regulations. When I asked the Minister whether, in the absence of this provision, the officer would not have the powers and functions, he said “ Yes.”
– Suppose that a question arose as to whether he had any powers other than those conferred upon him by the Act or the regulations ?
– How could he have any other powers ?
– He might say that he had powers incidental to the powers conferred upon him by the Act.
– If the officer could contend that under the authority of these words he had certain powers, he could equally contend that he had those powers if the sections of the Act did not contain them. That is another instance of where the
Minister, being unable to find a good reason for retaining words, still shrinks from having an impious finger laid upon a clause of his Bill.
– Not at all.
– I would appeal to the Minister to satisfy himself that the words are not mere surplusage.
– There are certain words in the clause about which I have grave doubts, and these are the words “or the regulations.” Not because of any technical interpretation, but because I think that in framing an important measure, we ought to know definitely what are the powers and functions of the important officer who will administer its provisions. It is one of the cases where it is undesirable, possibly dangerous, to allow these matters to be determined by regulations. We know the method in which regulations are brought into force. Fair opportunities are given to us to see all regulations made under an Act; but, as a matter of fact, very few honorable senators ever do see them. The regulations to be made under this Bill might confer on the Chief Electoral Officer powers and functions which now escape our notice and which we should be very sorry indeed subsequently to discover that he possessed. I intend to vote for the clause as it stands, with the exception that if I get an opportunity I shall vote for the omission of the words “or the regulations.”
– If they are struck out he will still be bound by the regulations.
– The regulations cannot confer upon the Chief Electoral Officer any powers beyond those conferred by the Act.We should be in a position to know what those powers and functions are.
– Is it not desirable to be able to empower the officer to act in matters of small importance without coming to Parliament?
– There is something to be said on that side. Where the powers and functions to be given to the officer are not of great importance, that sort of elasticity is desirable. I do not say that I should always oppose it ; but in this case we should hesitate. It is not desirable that by regulations most important powers and functions should be conferred upon the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) put -
That the words “or the regulations,” lines 7 and 8, be left out.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Section 8 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ except the powers of that officer, under Part X. of this Act.”
– I ask the Committee to negative this clause, which is intended to amend section 8 of the original Act. That section is as follows: -
Assistant Returning Officers may be appointed to exercise within or for any portion of a division, subject to the control of the Divisional Returning Officer, all the powers of the Divisional Returning Officer, except the powers of that officer under Part X. of this Act, but no Assistant Returning Officer shall be appointed in or for any portion of the division in which less than 100 electors are enrolled.
The effect of the amendment proposed to be made will be to give an Assistant Returning Officer powers equal with those of a Divisional Returning Officer under Part X. of the original Act. That will be rather dangerous. Under section 8 of the original Act, an Assistant Returning Officer is expressly precluded from exercising the powers under Part X., which refersto voting by post.
-Does not the honorable senator wish to facilitate voting by post?
– Only so long as the door is not opened to corruption. I do not wish to facilitate such cases as were proved to have occurred in Melbourne at the last general election.
– The report of the Electoral Committee gives glaring instances.
– Gross abuses” under that part of the Act were publicly exposed.
– But the Select Committee recommended this amendment.
– At that time the existing limitation upon the powers of Deputy Returning Officers existed, so that the abuses could not have arisen from that cause.
– An Assistant Returning Officer may, or may not, be a responsible person, but a Divisional Returning Officer is. I do not think that Assistant Returning Officers should be vested with such great powers as will be given, if we accept the amendment.
– Our object in passing this amending Bill should be to make the registration of votes as easy and simple as possible, provided there are sufficient safeguards against wrong practices. If applications for voting papers can only be made to a Divisional Returning Officer, who is the Chief Electoral Officer for the division, very great hardships will be created. In Western Australia the electoral district of Coolgardie is as large as the whole of New South Wales. It is, the:refore. difficult for a person desiring to vote by post to apply to the Divisional Returning Officer. I see no reason why Assistant Returning Officers should not be vested with power to issue postal voting papers, especially as we have created an additional safeguard, by requiring the applications for postal votes to be witnessed by reputable persons who know the applicants. In that way opportunities for fraud are eliminated. If we do not confer these powers upon Assistant Returning Officers, we shall penalize those electors who happen to live in large electorates, and who may consequently reside at great distances from a Returning Officer. While in Tasmania the electorates are comparatively small, in other States like New South Wales, Western Australia, and part of South Australia, they are very large. In parts of the Commonwealth there are constituencies almost as large as some of the States; and, under the circum stances, it is very difficult to make application to the Divisional Returning Officer. The people in these large electorates are in a much worse position than are those who live in some of the smaller electorates, and the safeguard of a competent witness eliminates the probability of fraud. Under the circumstances, I think we should allow the clause to pass.
– I am sorry I cannot agree with Senator O’Keefe as to the desirableness of this amendment. Those who apparently seek to place obstacles in the way of people voting by post, fail, in some measure, to grasp the principle which underlies this provision. The clause is inserted for the convenience of people who have reason to suppose they will not be able to attend at the polling-booth on the day of election., and it applies principally to electors who live a long distance away,, or who may be sick. Every one must admit that the principle of the clause is splendid. We have conferred the franchise on every man and woman in Australia, and provided that, with certain safeguards, every elector, whether sick or well, or whether living near or at a distance, shall have an opportunity to place his vote on record. Senator O’Keefe maintains that, because a provision of the kind has been abused in Melbourne, the principle is a bad one.
– A provision of the kind is always likely to be abused when the administration is in the hands of an irresponsible person.
– Honorable senators who think that the principle of postal voting is bad, ought to vote against its adoption. Personally, I believe in the principle.
– I would confine the clause to persons who are sick.
– The honorable senators, to whom I have referred, would punish honest people because of the conduct of some rogues who have abused what I regard as a most excellent provision. We should not punish .innocent people who live in the back country, but ought to insert provisions which will operate against those who break the law. My own electorate of Capricornia extends away west to Clermont, Jericho, and Gladstone, and, if the new boundaries are agreed, to, it will take in Bundaberg. The Divisional Returning Officer for the electorate lives at Rockhampton and I do not see why an elector at Bundaberg, who desires to vote by post, should be obliged to write to the former place. No one can apply for a postal voting paper until the issue of the writ, and honorable senators ought to remember that all electors do not live in places like Sydney or Melbourne. There are electorates in Queensland as large as the whole of Tasmania; indeed, we have one as large as New South Wales. An elector in Bundaberg ought not to be compelled to make application at Rockhampton, when he might as easily apply to the local Assistant Returning Officer. If an Assistant Returning Officer is not, as has been suggested, a responsible person, he ought never to have been appointed.
– There are places in Western Australia where a reply could not be obtained from a Divisional Returning Officer in under two months.
– I could understand those who are opposed to postal voting, seeking to excise this portion of the Bill, but it seems a left-handed kind of policy to retain the clause, and throw obstacles in the way of obtaining voting papers. In many cases there may be only two weeks between the issue of the writ and the pollingday, and when, after the expiration of a week or ten days, a voting paper has been received, there is the trouble of hunting for a responsible witness. It is provided that a witness must be a person holding some public position, and there are many portions of Queensland where an elector’ might have to travel 100 miles before meeting such an official.
– Surely the honorable senator does not want to make voting by post more easy?
– What is the object of permitting voting by post?
– The system was first instituted for sick people and sailors.
– The object is to enable sick people, particularly women, seamen, commercial travellers, and those who live far away in the bush to record their votes. I do not see why there should be voting by post, except for sick people, in a place like Melbourne, where, in any case, a medical certificate might very well be demanded. The clause is very much more liberal, and more likely to be appreciated by the people of the back blocks, than is Senator O’Keefe’s amendment.
– I am altogether opposed to voting by post, be cause I think the system lends itself to much corruption. As in New Zealand, the system was, I take it, instituted to meet the case of those who were likely to be away from home on polling day. In that Colony, for instance, those connected with shipping could make arrangements at the Customs-house for sending their voting papers to their electorates. But I would limit postal voting considerably, because it affords ways and means of, to a great extent, interfering with the secrecy of the ballot ; and I prefer secrecy even to the ffacili ties which Senator Stewart favours.
– Is secrecy not maintained in postal voting?
– I do not think so; at any rate, there was not secrecy in some cases during the last election. I do not know that there is any particular strain on an elector who has to write from Bundaberg to Rockhampton in order to obtain a voting paper. There is a daily mail by train between the two places, and electors in Clermont and Springsure can obtain a reply from Rockhampton in three days.
– It would be more likely a week from either of those places. I gave very favorable instances.
– The honorable senator is aware that the places to which I have referred are connected by rail with Rockhampton. There are very few places in the district to which he has referred that are far away from the railway line. He says that we are trying to put difficulties in the way of people who are living in the back country. I contend that we are not. If an elector is at work on a grazing’ farm, a long way from a town, he must in the first instance come into the town to get an official to witness his application for a ballot-paper.
– I hardly think the honorable senator is correct there. To have his application witnessed by an. authorized witness, as now proposed, it might not be necessary that he should come into the town.
– The authorized witnesses proposed are all public servants.
– No; a legally qualified medical man may witness such an application.
– With that exception, they are all public servants.
– In the Northern Territory of South Australia, which is one constituency, a man might have to travel 500 miles to find a medical practitioner, and 100 miles to find a police trooper.
– I do not think there is any part of the Lack country of Australia where men are tumbling over medical practitioners. In some instances such gentlemen have to travel 200 or 300 miles to see their patients. An honorable senator says that the application could be witnessed by a justice of the peace. I am not in favour of justices of the peace having anything to do with the business. We have had rather too much experience of their work in connexion with electoral matters in the State from which I come. I am myself on the Commission of the Peace, but I believe it would be wise to prevent justices of the peace interfering in any way in electoral0 matters. So far as a medical practitioner is concerned, a man desiring to record a vote would have to go into a town to find such a witness. I have said that a person living in the back country must go into town to get his application witnessed. He would then post his letter, and it might Le two days before the ballot-paper would be returned to him. He would then have to make another journey to town, to get an official to witness his postal ballot-paper.
– Could he not complete the work in one trip?
– He might if there were an Assistant Returning Officer in the town to which he had to go, but there will be very large areas of country in which there will be no such official. Senator Millen knows where the Thompson River is in Queensland, and I can assure him that there was not one Assistant Returning Officer appointed, on. the western side of that river at the time of the last general election. Ballot-boxes were distributed to. different head stations, as there are only a few towns in the district, about 150 miles apart. No one in that district was competent to count the ballot-papers, and they were delayed by floods, for four Or five days before they could be brought to an Assistant Returning Officer competent to count them. There were, of course, presiding officers in the district, but I presume that the honorable senator does not suggest that postal ballot-papers should be sent all over the country to presiding officers. The honorable senator must be aware that if that course were adopted the result in hundreds of cases would be that men would have to vote as they were told, in order to save their jobs. I have pointed out what a man in the back country would have to do under the proposal made, and in the circumstances it would be easier for him to go to the polling booth on the day of the election, and record his vote in the ordinary way. That would, at least, mean one journey, instead of two. Because we desire to render it unnecessary for electors in the back country to make more than one journey to a town, and desire at the same time to maintain the secrecy of the ballot, we are told that we are putting obstacles in their way. I am opposed to the clause as it stands, because I believe it will play into the hands of unscrupulous people, and will enable them to interfere in electoral matters. I am not referring to one side or the other in politics, but I believe that the clause would give facilities to people on either side to do things which are not contemplated by our electoral law.
– I feel so strongly the force of what Senator Turley has said, and I so entirely agree with him on the principle of postal voting, that I do not care to allow the clause to pass without an expression of my opinion. It has always struck me that the system of postal voting is, first of all, an invasion of the true principle on which voting at elections ought to rest. Of course, I am aware that an improvement is sought to be introduced by this Bill, but in the Act as it stands, the provision for postal voting is. -first of all, a premium on laziness, and in the next place, quite irrespective of the instances to which Senator O’Keefe has referred, I am perfectly certain that it has afforded opportunities throughout Australia for improper interference with voters in various ways. Under the existing law, any one likely to be more than five miles from a polling booth on the day of the election is entitled to vote by post. Nothing to my mind could be more mischievous. Under the Bill the distance is to be extended to ten miles. Although that is an improvement and a restriction on postal voting, I think the restriction might be very much extended. I should like the element of distance from a polling booth to be entirely done away with. After all, voting by post is really a kind of voting by proxy. In principle, there is no more reason why electors should be allowed to vote by post for a member to represent them in Parliament than that we in Parliament should exercise our vote by proxy.
– The cases are not analagous.
– If the principle is right it is logical that we should desire to extend it.
– I say that such a thing should not be tolerated. I should prefer a greater limitation of the right in the direction indicated by Senator Turley, who has suggested that it might be applied only in the case of sailors who may be compelled by the nature of their avocation to be away from their districts at the time of an election. The principle, might be applied also in the case of persons who are really sick, although I know of cases .of feigned illness to avoid the inconvenience and bother of going to the polling booth. I do not consider on which side it would tell, but I think that, the more we seek, by our electoral system, to compel electors to appreciate their responsibility to vote the better it will be for the country. They should be prepared to travel more than ten miles to record a vote.
– I have travelled fifty miles.
– 1 am aware that in the Northern Territory people travel very long distances to vote. Although r hold these views with regard to postal voting, at the same time, I admit that if the. system is to be adopted we should not restrict the facilities for giving it effect. On that account I am unable to support the amendment. In my opinion, the difficulty will not be best remedied by limiting the number of persons to whom the voter can apply for a certificate. The remedy does not lie in that direction, but in the direction of limiting the opportunities for postal voting, by imposing all the restrictions on it that we can impose. In that way I think something is gained by requiring that the witnesses shall have personal knowledge of the elector. There may be very few public officers who will have personal knowledge of an elector.
– But the personal knowledge may be obtained from the applicant.
– I cannot understand the attitude of Senator O’Keefe. We all seem to be committed - at any rate, I feel that I am committed - to the system of voting by post. The proposition is that because in a city - the last place which ought to have this facility, but to which it cannot be denied if it is given to the rest of the State - certain things happened we should punish remote voters by whom this facility is wanted badly.
– Then the honorable senator is bound to take up the attitude that the provisions for postal voting in the principal Act are bad.
– Except in the case of sick persons and those whose occupations take them regularly away from their homes.
– There are innumerable small, places throughout the Com- monwealth whose residents have not a polling place within many miles, and who have no facilities outside those afforded by postal , voting which would save them from a very considerable amount of trouble, and, perhaps, expense, in order to record their votes. There are hundreds - perhaps thousands - of voters in the Commonwealth who, it may be safely said, would not record their votes at an election but for the existence of this system. I do not think the honorable senator can gainsay that.
– I do.
– When the principal Act was being framed, this matter was gone into very exhaustively here, and I think that a very large majority were in favour of granting this facility. It is because I think it is a liberal system and gives opportunities to deserving people at a minimum of risk that it has my support. I believe that to a certain extent Senator O’Keefe adopted the attitude that the Assistant Returning Officers cannot be trusted.
– They are not responsible, and very frequently they are more partisan than the responsible officers.
– If it has not been directly stated, certainly it has been implied, that because we cannot trust Assistant Returning Officers they should be deprived of the right of exercising any control in the distribution of postal ballot-papers. If that is the attitude of Senator O’Keefe and those who support the amendment, they occupy an anomalous position, because they propose to reserve to these officers a.11 the other powers which, needless to say, are large and important. If Senator O’Keefe were prepared to say that in his belief there was too great risk involved in the appointment of these officers, he might be on safe ground.
– The Bill does not seek to give additional powers to Assistant Returning Officers, except in this one particular.
– The Bill says that it is no longer necessary to except from the functions of Assistant Returning Officers the distribution of postal ballot papers. When I glance at the provision in the principal Act, I wonder that we ever did make that exception. If I felt that I could not trust Assistant Returning Officers, I should oppose the clause ; but, seeing that we are all agreed that we cannot do without them, and are bound to trust them to that extent, we ought to trust them entirely. I consider that we have placed plenty of safeguards round the system of voting by post.
– I fail to see that during the last three years we have had a sufficient experience to justify the alteration of the provisions for postal voting. Some honorable senators may have a very distinct recollection of what took place in California Gully in Queensland some years ago. Many of us admit that very frequently the Assistant Returning Officers are men who, being out of work, have been glad to get a job, and, as some honorable senators have said, are very often strong partisans. It is for those who oppose the amendment to show that the proposed alteration of the law is demanded.
– Like Senator Clemons, I was rather struck with the opposition of Senator O’Keefe to the provision, and the thought occurred to my mind that he must have entirely misunderstood its meaning. The object of the clause is to extend the opportunities for exercising the right of voting, by post, and subsequent clauses provide additional safeguards in connexion with the exercise of that right. Undoubtedly the argument which has been used by Senator O’Keefe amounts practically to an expression of want of confidence in the general body of Assistant Returning Officers.
– They are not permanent officers.
– The honorable senator is not correct, because, whenever it is possible to get an officer of the Post and Telegraph Department to ast as Assistant Returning Officer, it is done. Senator O’Keefe suggested that the Assistant Returning Officers are not in a position of responsibility, and Senator Turley referred to the opportunities which, in his opinion, would be placed by the clause in the hands of unscrupulous persons for committing fraud. That argument seems to imply that a large percentage of our Assistant Returning Officers must be unscrupulous men.
– I did not apply that to them at all.
– No, but the argument seemed to convey that implication, because, if outside persons would avail themselves of this provision to act unscrupulously they would not be able to do so unless it were largely in. collusion with the Assistant Returning Officers. It ought not to be suggested that these officers are not to be trusted in this one particular when they are trusted with the discharge of many important functions.
– Why was it that they were not appointed before to do this duty ?
– When the Principal Act was framed the system of voting by post was practically in its infancy. Very (much (consideration had not been given to the practical working of the system, and it was thought desirable to confine the distribution.’ of ballot-papers to the Divisional Returning Officers. Since that time we have had practical experience. There are some electorates which, territorially speaking, are very extensive. The electorate of Maranoa,! in Queensland, has been described as being very nearly as large as New South Wales. The report of the Select Committee of the other House on Electoral Administration, if I remember aright, states that many persons in that electorate sent to the Divisional Returning Officer for postal ballot-papers some days, before the date of the election, but were unable to get them in time to be used.
– How soon would £hos,e persons have obtained the ballotpapers at the last election if they could have applied to an Assistant Returning Officer?
– In many instances I believe the applicants would have been able to get their ballot-papers in plenty of time for recording their votes. Again, taking the electorate of Grey in South Australia, which includes the whole of the Northern Territory. Suppose that an elector in Port Darwin wished to vote by post, he would have to send his application to Port Augusta, where the Divisional
Returning Officer resides. Seeing that his application could not be made until after the writ of election was issued, what possibility would he have of receiving his ballotpaper in time to use it? All that the clause provides is that Assistant Returning, Officers shall be able to exercise this function just as they exercise other functions which usually appertain to Divisional Returning Officers. The Electoral Committee, in their report, said -
Owing to the time occupied in some electorates in communicating with the deputy returning officers, electors were deprived of the opportunity of exercising their franchises. The extension of the powers in Part X. to assistant returning officers would increase the facilities for voting.
It is well to remember that, in sections 173 and 174 of the principal Act, we have provided very heavy penalties for breach of duty. In clause 173 we have provided that-
To secure the due execution of this Act, and the purity of elections, the following acts are hereby prohibited and penalized : (i) breach or neglect of official duty.
In section 174 we have described what breach or neglect of duty shall include. For instance, in paragraph 4 of that section it is provided that -
Any attempt by a person authorized or required by this Act to witness the signature’ of an elector, to influence the vote of an elector, is a breach of official duty; and we provide at the end of the section that -
Breach or neglect of official duty is punishable by a penalty not exceeding £200, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year.
Surely we can feel that those who take upon themselves the responsibility of the, position of Assistant Returning Officers may be expected to discharge their duty in accordance with the Act, rather than incur a heavy penalty, in addition’ to which those holding official positions might forfeit their means of livelihood.
Senator TURLEY (Queensland). - I have said nothing about trusting the Assistant Returning Officers. I know that some members of the Commonwealth Public Service are chosen for those positions, but I also know that a considerable number of persons outside the service are appointed. Some of us have had a consider- ‘ able amount of experience of persons placed in charge of electoral arrangements. I remember one case where a man in charge of an election had, in the ordinary course, written the numbers of the voters on the corners of the ballot-papers, and turned them down in the proper way. At the close of the poll this person, possibly acting in all good faith, took a pocket-knife and opened up the corners that he had previously gummed down, so as to compare the numbers he had written in the corners of the papers with the figures on the roll. A considerable number of the electors who voted were his employes. 1 see no necessity for extending the facilities for voting by post. But would what is proposed give greater facilities? I say no. In the very instance quoted by Senator Keating I feel sure that no extra facilities would be given. It is not contended that every presiding officer in the back country shall have extended to him the facilities sought to be given to Assistant Returning Officers. The instance of Maranoa has been mentioned. It is said that at the last election a number of persons were prevented from exercising the franchise because there was not time to communicate with the Divisional Returning Officer. On that side of the Thompson River there are thousands of square miles of country in which the population is very sparse. There was not an Assistant Returning Officer there at all. There was not a man on- that side of the river who was competent to count votes. It was only after the ballot-boxes were able to be brought across the flooded river into Windorah or Jundah that these votes could be counted. So that if a man were living, say, at Isisford, it would take him five days to get his ballot-paper from the Returning Officer at Charleville. Persons living in such districts have, first of all, to go where they are able to get a responsible person to witness their applications. Then the applications have to be sent to the Returning Officer. I know of cases where men have to travel sixty or seventy miles to reach a person to witness an application. ,1 take it that in Western Australia the case is even worse. After the application form has been witnessed and posted, it has to come back again to the applicant. Probably he will not get it until he calls at a station, or at a letter-box on a line of fence, or until it is delivered away out at a mine where he is working. Many of these people live in places where there is no regular delivery of letters. They do not have a man in a red jacket calling upon them twice ob thrice a day. In such cases the amending clause will confer no benefits. But, on the other hand, it will give greater facilities for unscrupulous persons in the settled district to interfere with the secrecy of the ballot. , I am quite aware that there are Assistant Returning Officers in almost every township. But in many such cases it will be dangerous to extend this privilege. There will be a great temptation for interested persons to set themselves to work to defeat the secrecy of the ballot just as was done in the centres of population at .the last election. Let honorable senators recollect the gross corruption that occurred in connexion with the Melbourne! election. In Brisbane also there were agents who went round, and induced people - especially women - to fill in applications for postal ballot-papers. I know very well that some of those applicants were not sick. There was. nothing to prevent them from going to the ballotbox. But many were indifferent, and consequently the agents of political associations were able to induce them to make applications for postal ballot-papers, and when these were received agents went round, and witnessed the voting, and the papers were sent in as true and legitimate votes. In spite of these examples of abuse, Ave are asked to extend the facilities, especially in the thickly-settled districts. I maintain that the proposal fails to do even what it pretends to do. It will not give additional facilities to the men and women whom it is desired to assist - that is, those who live a long way from railway communication, or from the towns. I know that some honorable senators may saythat there are men settled in the back country with their wives and families. But the average man, who undertakes a contract to put down a tank or erect fencing, does not take his wife and family with him into the country. The only people whom the amendment might affect in this way are the grazing farmers, and even they would not obtain any better facilities. These farmers have their wives and families living with them, but they usually reside a long way from a school, or where there are any of the officials mentioned in the Bill. Telegraph officials, for instance, outside the townships, are only met at repeating stations, and may be 150 or 200 miles apart. If a grazing farmer were settled with his ‘wife and family 50 miles or so from the township, the wife could not make out her application form at home, but would, in the first place, have to go where a competent witness could be found, and that would mean practically the township. Doubtless such a woman might save two or three days, owing to the postal facilities, which are very fair throughout most of the western country of Queensland.
– Is that not something ?
– The corruption which’ has been exercised in connexion with municipalities is, in my opinion, more than a fair price to pay for the additional facility just referred to. Then the gain could be otherwise provided for by the Government seeing that fair time was allowed between the issue of the writ and polling day ; and, in my opinion, this would be of more advantage than the two or three days which might be saved by voting by post. Nearly the whole of the arguments in favour of this amendment have been on behalf of the women in the back country ; but I ask Senator Stewart, or the Chairman, where the larger proportion of votes was recorded before there was any postal voting - in the metropolis of Queensland or in the back country? In parts of the country where men have to travel, perhaps, more than 40 miles to record their votes, a much larger proportion exercised the franchise than in the metropolis, where numbers will hardly take the trouble to walk half-a-mile. to a polling booth. The grazier’s wife whom I have described, will have to drive, perhaps, 40 miles . into the small township in order to have her application form filled and witnessed by a schoolmaster or postal official; and it will then be sent to the Divisional Returning Officer, -by whom, in the course of five days or a week, it will be returned to the applicant. Then this woman will have to drive once more into town, unless the trooper happens to call just at that time, and takes the paper in for her. In most cases she will have to drive into town a second time, and get the voting paper witnessed, before she can post, it ; and I contend that voters are a good deal better off when they have to drive only once into town on polling day in order to record their votes. I do not know whether the same arguments apply to Western Australia, but I know that what I have described has occurred in’ hundreds of cases in Queensland. This amendment of the law will merely afford facilities for people who are able to pay persons to go round and practically induce electors to break the law by misrepresenta- tion, and this, too, in places where the returning officer is at hand, and may reply to any application on the same day or the next. This abuse of the system was carried out in an organized manner, more particularly in Brisbane and adjacent constituencies ; and the amendment will merely give further opportunities to break the law in all centres of population. I object to the amendment, because it will add to the corruption referred to in the report of the Select Committee, while giving very few additional facilities to people in the back country of Queensland or any other State.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I listened with much pleasure and interest to the remarks of Senator Turley, who. whileostensibly arguing against the liberalization of the law regarding postal voting, built up an unanswerable case for giving fuller facilities under the system. The honorable senator detailed a number of difficulties which are undoubtedly placed in the way of electors in outside places, and his only objection, apparently, to the proposed amendment is that it will give opportunities for greater corruption. I find on referring to the report of the Select Committee that this heap of corruption, this mass of swindling, this dung-heap of scandalism, resolves itself practically into what happened in two electorates throughout the Commonwealth - Melbourne and Riverina.
– Those were the only constituencies which came before the Court, but corruption was rampant elsewhere.
– This was an investigation by a Select Committee who examined* witnesses from all over Australia.
– What about the1 proceedings in Macquarie?
– From the report of the Select Committee I find that at the election held on the 16th December, ‘1903, out of a total number of 887,312 votes, 10,143, or a percentage of 1.14, were postal ; that at the Melbourne election, when Mr. Maloney beat Sir Malcolm McEacharn, 5.48 per cent, of the votes were postal ; while the percentage in Riverina was 4.65. At the general election, out of every hundred votes, only one and a fraction w-ere postal. Of course, I suppose that in Melbourne some undue advantage was taken of the system.
– The honorable senator appears to know very little of what went on in Brisbane.
– There is no evidence about Brisbane.
– I do not suppose there is, because that constituency never came before the Court.
– We have the honorable senator’s statement, and probably there was some abuse of the law in Brisbane. We must .always keep before us the great principle that voting by post is designed to enable people who could not attend at the polling place to record their vote. If abuse has taken place in the great cities, let us try by some means to prevent its recurrence; but we ought to increase, rather than diminish, the . voting facilities for people in outside places. No stronger speech was ever delivered in this Chamber in support of extending voting facilities by post than that we have just heard from Senator Turley. Had I entered the Chamber while he was speaking, and not known exactly the point before the Committee, I should have concluded that he was advocating a much greater liberalization of the law.
– I am against the system.
– And in that, I think, the honorable senator is wrong. The honorable senator’s argument is simply the old conservative argument trotted out once more in the name of democracy. In the last Parliament, when we were fighting like Trojans to get permission for electors at Senate elections to vote at any place, exactly the same argument was used in opposition.
– The two cases are vastly different.
– In one case the elector has to take the trouble to go and record his vote.
– But the argument used is exactly the same in character. When we were told to look at the amount of personation to which it would give rise, we replied, as we reply now, “ Why punish an honest man because wrong is done by a wrongdoer.” If this system affords facilities to a large class of people why should we deprive them of those facilities because they have been abused by some scoundrels in the towns? When Senator Turley admits, as he has done, that there would be an advantage of two or three days, he admits the whole case. To tell me that it is just as convenient for me to go from Bundaberg to Rockhampton to get a voting-paper as to go straight to an official in Bundaberg for it, is simply to talk nonsense.
– How many trains run from Bundaberg to Rockhampton every day ?
– There are three mail trains a week, and I believe there is a goods train every day ; but if there were forty-two trains every day why should I be compelled to ride from Bundaberg to Rockhampton for this purpose when I can go to an official in Bundaberg ?
– The man in Bundaberg is not going to do that; it is the man in the outside districts who must do it.
– The man outside must come in to the town in any case. I know of districts from which there is a mail only once a week, and it might be difficult for persons in those districts to catch even that mail.
– To what electorate does the honorable senator refer?
– To any country electorate in Queensland.
– I do not know of any place from which there is a mail only once a week.
– I know of such places within easy reach of Rockhampton, and that town is commonly supposed not to be quite outside the charmed circle of civilization. I ask honorable senators to liberalize their minds, and not to concentrate them on the big cities. If abuses of the system have taken place in the big cities we should take steps to prevent them in future, and not to penalize people who live outside, and who will be placed1 under” very serious disabilities, however easy the matter is made for them. Senator Turley has said that none of the men working on stations take their wives with them. I was not referring to them, but to selectors in outside districts.
– The men who work on stations do not want this system.
– If they do not, that is no reason why they should prohibit people who do want it from getting the advantage of it. I was referring especially to selectors’ wives. I know that there are numbers of them in the district around Rockhampton who will be practically disfranchised unless the regulations with regard to postal voting are made much more liberal than is proposed by the Government. I would go further than the Government propose to go, but I welcome their proposal as a step in the right direction, to be followed, I hope, by other steps in the same direction at an early date.
– What increased facilities would the honorable senator give?
– I would permit any elector to witness any other elector’s signature for a ballot-paper, and I would permit any elector to witness any other elector’s vote.
– That is electioneering made easy.
-The honorable senator may say so, but I believe that we should try to raise the standard of morality with regard to electioneering. The difficulty is that honorable senators like Senators Turley and Millen live in the past, and they cannot bring their minds up to date.
– Senator Millen is voting with the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator’s mind is evidently reminiscent of electioneering dodgery in the past. But the position has changed. Every one has a vote now, and there is not the same inducement to people to personate, or to resort to electioneering’ dodges as there was in the past. Senator Turley has referred to something which was done in the dim and distant past, and we all know that electoral matters were in a very peculiar position in Queensland for a number of years, when all the forces of the Government were used to deprive working men of their votes. Happily that state of affairs, if it has not altogether passed, is rapidly passing.
– The good old days are going.
– Thank heaven those bad old days are going very rapidly. We are entering now upon a new era, and we should try to adapt ourselves to the altered circumstances by giving such people as may be unfortunately’ unable to go to the poll the very fullest opportunity possible to record their opinions on political matters.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of honorable senators who have preceded me. It does not appear to me to be very material to the point at issue whether the proposed amendment adds anything to the facilities given to a particular section of electors or not. The point is, will it give. facilities anywhere without imposing disabilities upon any one. I quite agree with what Senator Turley has said with regard to the advantage claimed for country electorates being rather imaginary. I think that where we have sought to make the postal vote operate largely in the interests of people residing in scattered country districts, we have utterly failed to do so by reason of the restrictions with which we have hedged it round. Many of the townspeople, quite apart from any wrongful use of the system, have probably availed themselves of postal voting, in order to use polling-day as a holiday, and it may partly explain why country electors have flocked so readily to the polls, to suggest that they have sought a holiday in the towns. I should like to quote from the report of the Select Committee appointed by the other branch of the Legislature in connexion with electoral administration. In dealing with the matter of the postal vote, they say -
Without concluding that undue influence was used in connexion with the postal vote, the evidence adduced shows that, under the present sub-section, advantage may be taken to destroy the free and secret exercise of the franchise.
That is in accordance with the opinion expressed by Senator Turley. The Committee go on to say -
The application forms may be witnessed in blank, and these forms may be taken in numbers by agents for candidates when canvassing, and pressure brought to bear upon persons whose names are on the roll.
– That is the abuse to which reference has been made.
– And it is an abuse which I am afraid the amendment proposed will not remedy. The Committee further report - /
The evidence justifies your Committee in finding that many persons who voted by post had not reason to believe they would be more than five miles from their polling place on the day of election, and were on that day within that limit. It would appear that the voting facilities provided have been used contrary to the intention of the Act. The provisions of this section were freely availed of.
Then follow figures already referred to by Senator Stewart, showing that 10,143 out of a total of 887,312 electors used the postal vote. The Committee go on fo say -
While admitting the public advantage of these sections, yet it is apparent that there must be further safeguards to preserve the purity -of elections, without which the repeal of sub-section a becomes necessary.
Turning to the amending Bill I am not at all certain that it meets the difficulty pointed out by the Select Committee. But if it fails to do that the amendment now before the Committee will not add any- thing to the dangers which the Select Committee have pointed out. It is proposed to increase the number of persons to whom application for postal votes may be made, but that is not material. What I think we ought to do is. to follow the direction given by the Select Committee, and provide further safeguards. Some of those proposed in the amending Bill are not, in my opinion, sufficient. Whilst giving these facilities we ought to safeguard them against fraudulent use. Senator Stewart made some reference to crusted Toryism.
– I did not mention it.
– Or to something akin to it. I am compelled, in view of his recent utterances, to consider the honorable senator an eminent authority on the subject. I had once hoped that I might still regard him as being, to some extent, tinged with liberalism, but I can no longer do so when I see the honorable senator halting and prepared to accept the amendment proposed by the Government as a full instalment of his desires, or even as a step in that direction. I wonder what has become of the honorable senator’s liberalism. I will tell him what I want. I desire the entire abolition of form K. I can quite understand that one belonging to the political school with which Senator Stewart is associated might desire to retain it ; but I am prepared to give the honorable senator a lead in the liberalism of which, at one time, he had some knowledge by proposing the elimination of form K. That is the form upon which an elector makes an application for his postal ballotpaper. As Senator Turley has pointed out, it necessitates making an application by post for a form upon which to make another application by post. That involves an utter waste of time, for it largely destroys the facilities we pretend to give. Boiled down it comes to this, that you would have an application on a particular printed form instead of an application on an ordinary sheet of writing paper. The main Act provides that an elector shall apply to an official for a printed form on which to make an application; that when he has received the form !he shall write his name, the electorate for which he is enrolled, and the reason why he will be absent on polling day; that he shall get his signature witnessed, and forward the form to the Divisional Returning Officer.
– The printed form is necessary for the sake of securing uniformity. Otherwise some persons might make the application on a piece of teapaper.
– The main point is to get the signature of the applicant and a witness thereto, no matter whether the application is made on a sheet of blue or white paper. We presume to offer facilities for voting by post to electors who are unable to attend on the day of polling. An elector may only find out within a few days of that date that he will be unable to attend. He has then to write an ordinary letter asking for a form K to be forwarded to him. Why does not Senator Guthrie go further and ask that the original letter shall bs sent on a printed form?
– Not necessarily ; because the elector has to make on that form the declaration that he will be absent.
– There is nothing in form K which the elector could not set out in an ordinary letter.
– He is not bound to use a printed form.
– Then he will have to obtain a copy of the Electoral Act, and write out a form of application, presumably similar to the one published in the schedule.
– That is what it amounts to.
– If it is possible for an elector to make a written application, what comes of Senator Guthrie’s plea fer uniformity ? 1
– It must be worded in the same way as the form in the schedule.
– I ask the Minister to say whether the Divisional Returning Officers are not supplied with forms for the purpose ?
– I venture to say that there is no elector who did not obtain a printed form upon which to make his application. If a printed form is not material let us plainly set out that an elector may make a written application for a postal ballot-paper. That would save the time occupied in one exchange of letters between himself and the Divisional Returning Officer. I propose to eliminate the words “ in the form K “ when we reach clause 29. For the present I shall vote for the clause before the Committee, but later on I shall certainly ask the Committee to consider whether the safeguards with which postal voting is hedged round are sufficient^
Senator TURLEY (Queensland). - Senator Stewart is a gentleman who goes round and. really knows very little of what is going on around him, especially at election time. I do not suppose that there was one per cent, of the men in Brisbane, where the honorable senator was at the last elections, who did not know more of what was going on than he did. I knew that at that time things were being done in Queensland which it would be very hard to prove, because the persons who have broken the law are not likely to give evidence which would practically affect their position. The honorable senator said that all these arguments were used some years ago, when it was sought to enable Senate electors to vote at any polling place they liked to go to. He said that it would lead to impersonation. Does he know that any verv large number of impersonations took place on the occasion of the first Senate elections in Queensland?
– I did not hear of many.
– I do not think that there were many cases at that time. If the honorable senator had made inquiries, instead of being wrapped up in himself, he would have found that while the facilities given for voting, in the case of Senate elections, were very wide, there was not nearly as much danger of* double voting under that system as there is of corrupt voting under the present system. He ought to take a warning from the attitude of the newspapers, which have bitterly opposed him ever since he stood as a candidate for parliamentary honours, and who have always been opposed to the extension of voting facilities. He knows very well that the Brisbane Telegraph, the Brisbane Courier, and other newspapers have all swung round and are with him now. They say, “ We want every person to be enabled to record his vote by post without having to go to the polling booth.”
– But I do not want that.
– The honorable senator has not yet got quite that far. He would provide such facilities as would enable one elector to witness another elector’s postal ballot-paper to be forwarded by post to the Divisional Returning Officer, but I am not prepared to go that far. I am inclined to wipe out the facilities for postal voting, because I believe that the system does, to a very great extent, do away with the secrecy of the ballot. We are told that this system is to be safeguarded. Here is the safeguard which is provided -
The person witnessing any claim or application to transfer or application for a postal vote certificate under this Act shall, if he is not personally acquainted with the facts, satisfy himself, by inquiry from the claimant or applicant, that the statements contained in the claim or application are true.
That is the wonderful safeguard which is provided. A man rides fifty or sixty miles to apply for a form, and the person to whom the application is made, and who has never seen the applicant before, has to ask, “ Are you the person you represent yourself to be “ ? or “Do you believe you will be fifteen miles distant from this polling place on polling day “? Of course, if an applicant did not believe that he would be absent from his polling place on polling day he would not go to the trouble of riding fifty or sixty miles to apply for a form, and then wait there for the reply to his application to be received. Because I believe that, while it would not give large additional facilities to outside persons, it would (rive greater opportunities for carrying on a system of corruption by which the secrecy of the ballot would be defeated, I shall oppose the extension of the. so-called better facilities for postal voting in the back country.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).We have had an experience of about fifteen years of voting by post in South Australia. I believe that I was largely responsible for the introduction of the Absent Voters Bill in that State. Its intention was to enfranchise men who could not vote in the ordinary way. Take my own case. During twelve years, although I was not away from a port for more than a few days at a time, I never had an opportunity of exercising the franchise. There are hundreds of men similarly situated. I dare say that Senator Turley himself had a similar experience. Probably the first intention in amending the law in this direction was to enfranchise seamen, persons employed on the railways, commercial travellers, and others who have to leave their homes ‘long before] the polling-place is open in the morning and after it is closed in the evening. As I understand the position in regard to this clause, it is this : If an elector, on the polling day, is within the division where he resides, he can record his vote at his own polling-place. But if he has reason to believe that he will be more than ten miles away, he can vote by post. I quite agree, however, that the amendment of the law here proposed will not give considerably greater facilities to scattered populations in the back country ; because the Assistant Returning Officers are not to be appointed in places where fewer than 100 electors are on the roll. The electorate of Grey has been mentioned. I cannot state the area of that constituency, but I believe it extends from Port Darwin, in the north, to the Great Australian Bight, in the south, and from the Western Australian border to Spencer’s Gulf. Large portions of that district are sparsely settled. There may be small populations of fifty or sixty electors in mining or squatting communities. But if Assistant Returning Officers are to be appointed only in places where there are more than 100 electors, there are hundreds of places in that district alone where this amendment of the law will not provide any additional facilities. What is the use of appointing Assistant Returning Officers in great cities, like Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane? There are plenty of facilities for going to Divisional Returning Officers in such places. I think that the facilities proposed should be confined to places outside the large centres, where there is need for Assistant Returning. Officers to be appointed. If, for instance, there is a Divisional Returning Officer in Melbourne, there is no need to have an Assistant Returning Officer in South Melbourne or any other suburb. There are postal facilities for people who desire to vote to send in application forms there. The forms can easily be obtained. As to the fears respecting impersonation, I maj’ state that I have had a considerable amount of experience of voting by post, having been scrutineer at many elections, and having paid particular attention to this subject. A person makes an application under form K, stating that his name is so-and-so, that he lives at a certain place; and that he follows such-and-such an occupation. If he makes a false declaration, he is liable to imprisonment. He states that he has reason to believe that he will be more than ten miles from his pollingplace on election day.
– An awful lot of people had “ reason to believe “ that at the last election.
– Probably. A considerable proportion of the population of Australia is continually on the move. On any particular day there axe thousands of people more than ten miles from home. On the occasions when I have been scrutineer, the forms have been produced, and the signatures closely scanned. The signature on the ballot-paper and the signature on form K are compared. If it is clear that the voter and the applicant is the same person no Returning Officer or scrutineer raises the slightest objection to the vote. From what I have seen there is very little reason for the suspicions that have been expressed. The safeguards in relaition to the secrecy of the ballot are as certain under the system of voting by post as under the ordinary system of voting.
– Not at all.
– What is the position of a man going to vote at a polling booth. Probably neither the scrutineers nor any other person present knows him. He says his name is John Brown. His word has to be taken. But in the case of a voter by post you have the signature, “ John Brown,” which is a guarantee that no fraud is being committed.
– Is the signature of a man as reliable evidence as the man himself?
– In many cases it is. I shall support the proposal, but later on I shall endeavour to effect an amendment, so that an increased number of Assistant Returning Officers may not be appointed in the big centres, but only where there is a scattered population.
Question - That the clause stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 7 (Electoral Registrars).
– On this clause I wish to draw attention to an amendment which I may subsequently move. Clause 7 introduces a new clause providing for the appointment of Electoral Registrars to keep rolls for the specified “polling-places or subdivisions.” Part 4 of the Bill, with which we have yet to deal, provides for subdivisions, thus opening up an entirely new principle in electoral law. My intention is, when we reach that part of the Bill, to discuss the question of the advisability or otherwise of having subdivisions ; and should this subsequent clause be amended, it will be necessary to reconsider the clause now before us.
– This amendment of the principal Act is to meet the case of possible subdivisions made in accordance with part 4 of the Bill. If Senator Millen wishes to test the policy as laid down in part 4, and successfully resists this attempt to amend the principal Act in that direction, we shall have to reconsider clause 7.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I propose to ask the Committee’s attention to an amendment, important in the principle involved, to which I referred during the second-readingdebate. It is rather difficult, owing to the fact that the main Act is a distinct document, to refer to the clauses as I should like to do. In order to secure the redistribution of a State into electorates, the maim Act at present provides for the appointment of a single Commissioner, who, when he has mapped out a State, invites objections, and then, having considered these, finally submits his report to the Minister, who in turn places it before Parliament. If the report is objected to by either House, the Minister may refer it again to the Commissioner, who can thereupon prepare another scheme. It is only if the two Houses adopt the scheme that it becomes operative. To all of us with any political experience, it has become manifest that there is a natural hesitancy on the part of Parliament to accept any scheme likely to disturb the boundaries of the electorates. I need not pursue that point further, merely reminding honorable senators of the fact that the objection has manifested itself not only in the Federal Parliament, but in the States Parliaments, where there are similar Acts in force. I propose to remove the parliamentary veto on the redistribution scheme, and to place the matter entirely in the hands of a Commission. I recognise that itwould possibly be undesirable to place this great power in the hands of a single individual, and therefore I propose that the Commission shall consist of three, who shall prepare a scheme, invite and consider objections, and put the final touches on it, and that then the scheme shall become operative with the force of law. By my amendment the scheme is placed quite beyond any parliamentary control. I submit that that is a far better principle than that in the Bill, which submits the scheme to be approved, rejected, or torn about as Parliament may think fit. While I recognise the desirability of lifting our electoral machinery matters as far as possible out of the arena of politics, and away from the influence of party interests, I admit that there will be a very natural hesitancy, not only on the part of individual senators, but of Parliament as a whole, to give so great a power into the hands of one man. My suggestion is that the three Commissioners shall be a Judge of a Court of the State concerned, the Surveyor-General, or head of the Survey Department of the State, and the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, who, it appears to me, would bring together the knowledge requisite for the duty.
– Does the honorable senator mean a Commonwealth Judge or a State Judge?
– I mean a Judge of the Court of the State concerned. The three Commissioners will be officials of the State in which the redistribution is to be made.
– Why not a High Court Judge?
– I do not know that we particularly require a High Court Judge ; and it must be remembered that there are only three High Court Judges in the whole of the six States.
– We have no power to ask a State Judge to perform this duty.
– I think the honorable senator is mistaken, because we have frequently passed Acts which throw obli gations on State officials. In this very Bill,, State officials are called upon to furnish certain information, which may necessitate the preparation of tables of figures. What Senator Givens mentions is more a theoretical than a practical difficulty. I anticipate no trouble in the Commonwealth Executive arranging with Judges in the various States to perform this duty.
– In New South Wales it was scarcely possible to get a Judge to preside over the Arbitration Court.
– For that there were reasons, to which I do not wish to refer. There has never been any difficulty in getting a Judge to take up electoral work in New South Wales. In that State Judge Murray, with his long experience of such matters, stands out as eminently qualified ; and I have no doubt Judges could be found for the work in the other Stales. I suggest these three officials as men who would bring together on the Commission the knowledge which is particularly required, and would be specially useful. We should have, first of all, in a Judge of the State, a trained legal man, and we might safely assume that he would be absolutely impartial ; then we should have the Chief of the State Survey Department, whose knowledge not only of the country but of maps would be extremely useful; and further, we should have the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, who would be familiar with the rolls, the grouping of electors, existing boundaries, and proposed alterations of electoral boundaries. The exact amendment I submit would become clause 8a of the Bill, but it would stand as section 13 of the principal Act. I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “8a. (1) The Governor-General may appoint three persons in each State to be Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the State into divisions in accordance with this Act.
The persons so appointed shall be respectively a Judge of a Court of the State, the Surveyor-General or head of the Survey Department of the State, and the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, unless the GovernorGeneral, by reason of any such persons not being available, or for other reason appearing to him to be sufficient, thinks fit to appoint other persons instead of any such persons.
Each Commissioner shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.”
There is one portion of the amendment to which I have not referred, and that is the power proposed to be given to the Governor - General-
– Who is practically the Governor-General “in Council. That will make the position worse than it is at present.. -
– Senator Givens thinks that the new clause would place us in no better position, because these appointments would rest with the GovernorGeneral in Council, but there would be this difference, that, while at present the Governor-General appoints one Commissioner for each State whose work may or may not be accepted by Parliament, I propose1 the appointment of a Commission, whose work is not to be interfered with by Parliament. I admit that the new clause I have now proposed is only the first of a. series of amendments that would be necessary to give effect to a complete scheme. My> ultimate object is to have a scheme prepared for a distribution by a Commission whose work will be beyond Parliamentary veto. This clause, will not accomplish that, but that is my objective - to provide for a scheme of distribution of each State On which Parliament will not be able- to lay hands. The proposed new clause provides the initial machinery for such a scheme. As Senator Givens has pointed out, the GovernorGeneral no doubt means the Executive of the day, but the honorable senator will admit that in the new clause I have proposed there is very little room given for hedging by the Executive of the” day.
– The honorable senator provides them with an alternative, for any reasons that’ may appear to them to be sufficient.
– I indicate the officials that are to be appointed, and as the honorable senator has said, I propose to permit, the appointment of other persons, but it must at once be apparent how necessary it is that that should be done. Suppose the Surveyor-General of a State happens to be ill or on a prolonged holiday, though he still holds his office, when he is required to act on the proposed Commission, would the Committee say that in such circumstances the whole of the electoral law is to be brought to a standstill? Some power must be given to fill a temporary vacancy of that kind. Similarly the Chief Electoral Officer of a State might at the very time this work was required to be done be incapacitated, or in the middle of very heavy work, occasioned by an election about to take place, or by one which had recently taken place. We never know the time a distribution may be found to be necessary, and whilst I propose that we should give a clear indication of the persons who should be appointed for this work, we must leave with the Executive of the day some power to meet emergencies of the character I have mentioned. As Senator Givens must be aware, I am strongly opposed to leaving to the Executive any more power than is absolutely necessary, particularly in regard to our electoral machinery. If there is one thing which should act automatically and regularly, it is the machinery by which, first of ali, we determine the number of memoirs to which a State is entitled, the quota which, within a State shall determine the number of electors required to return a member, and all the machinery surrounding t’he division of a State into electorates, and the facilities afforded to electors to record their votes. All these things should as far as possible be removed from the influence of party interests. For that reason I should like to have been able to so mould the proposed new clause as to remove even that vestige of power from the Executive to which exception is taken, but I do not see how it is possible to meet the case without leaving to the Governor-General the power to make temporary appointments. I merely wish to add that if this amendment is accepted I shall of -course propose a series of amendments, which will have the effect of practically remodelling the whole of Part III. of the principal Act, which is the part providing for the distribution of States into various electorates, a work which under the present law is performed by one Commissioner, whose report is submitted to Parliament for approval.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - This is certainly a veryfarreaching amendment, and, as Senator Millen has indicated, its acceptance by the Committee will entail upon him the obli”gation of submitting a number of consequential amendments, which will alter the whole of Part III. of the Act. If I remember rightly, when the first Commonwealth Electoral Bill, was introduced in another place, it was proposed to adopt the policy indicated in Senator Millen’s amendment, and to have three Commissioners for each State to carry out the work of distribution of electorates. If my memory again serves me correctly, the House of
Representatives rejected that scheme, and one of the reasons assigned for its rejection was that the popular House of Parliament is always naturally jealous of what it considers its right to model to” some extent the principles on which it is founded. lt might be that a Judge of a State Supreme Court, the Surveyor- General, and the Chief Electoral Officer for a State would be able to frame a scheme of division for that State which would be very fair and adequately representative, in their proper proportion, of the people and the interests of the State. But, on the other hand, the House of Representatives, or the Legislative Chamber corresponding to the House of Representatives in every Parliament, has always jealously guarded’ its own right to look into the subdivision of a State into various electoral districts. It seems to me that in considering this Bill we should have some regard for the fact that the scheme proposed by Senator Millen was not accepted by the House of Representatives. We are dealing in this particular part of the Bill with the division of States into electoral districts, and, as honorable senators are aware, the principal Act provides that the Governor-General may appoint a Commissioner in each State, who holds office during his pleasure. He makes a distribution of the State into divisions, gives notice of it, receives and deals with any objections to it, and makes his report. His report is then laid before Parliament, and if both Houses pass a resolution approving of the proposed distribution, the GovernorGeneral may by proclamation declare the names and boundaries qf the divisions. But if either House of Parliament passes a motion -disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for its approval, the .Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution. That is the principle on which the main Act is based. There is one Commissioner appointed for each State, and in dividing the State into divisions he has to have regard to certain conditions, such as community or diversity of interests, means of communication, physical features, and the existing boundaries of divisions.
– That would apply equally under my amendment.
– Quite so. In the past the Commissioner in each State has exercised the functions reposed in him, and his report has been submitted to Parliament for approval. I believe that when the first Commonwealth Electoral Bill came up to the Senate it provided merely that if the House of Representatives opposed a distribution it should be sent back to the Commissioner, and I think the Senate carried an amendment providing that if either House of Parliament opposed- it the distribution must go back to the Commissioner.
– That is an answer to the honorable and learned senator’s first argument.
-It gives the Senate power to veto the distribution in the first instance. This amendment proposes a very- radical departure from those principles, which in the first Parliament were not decided on until the whole of the circumstances had been thoroughly threshed out. I ask the Committee not to accept an amendment of so far-reaching a character unless better reasons than those which we have heard from Senator Millen are given for departing from the principles already adopted in our electoral law, and which are, embodied in Part III. of the present Bill. I must oppose the amendment.
Senator. PEARCE (Western Australia^ - It is hardly fair, I think, to expect honorable senators to pass such an important amendment before it has been printed and considered. Every honorable ‘ senator has the fight to hand to the Clerk any amendments which he desires to be printed for the convenience of honorable senators, and I am rather surprised that Senator Millen did not avail himself of that privi-lege when he had an amendment of such great importance to submit. In my secondreading speech I said that I should be willing to support any endeavour to amend the Bill in such a way as to prevent the redistribution of seats from being made the subject of gerrymandering. I cannot see that the proposed new clause will achieve that end, but that may be due to the fact that I have not been able to grasp its full scope and effect from hearing it read once. I am inclined to think that it does not carry out the ideas which some of us have in our minds, because the question is not whether we shall have one Commissioner or three Commissioners, but that three Commissioners shall be appointed in precisely the same way us one Commissioner, namely, by the GovernorGeneral.
– But with very different powers. I thought I had made it clear that, whereas under the Act the report has to go to Parliament to be accepted or rejected ; under my proposal the report, after being revised by the Commissioners, will be final.
– Is it not possible for the Committee to agree to there being only one Commissioner, and to say that his report shall be final, or to limit the power of Parliament to deal with the report?
– The honorable senator, I understand, proposes that the vote on his amendment shall be taken as a test vote on the question of whether the Committee is in favour of the whole scheme which he proposes in order to remove the redistribution of seats from parliamentary influence. But I contend that, in voting on the question of whether there should be three Commissioners or one Commissioner, we shall not determine the question whether we are in favour of removing the redistribution of seats from parliamentary influence. I would suggest to the Minister that he should now consent to report progress in order to enable Senator Millen to get his amendments put in print.
– And the other amendments, too.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - Senator Pearce has made an excellent suggestion. But the other amendments to which Senator Keating has just referred are largely verbal and consequential, and not of such a character asto require tobe printed. Really, there is only one amendment, to take the place of sections 21 and 22 of the Act, which needs to be considered. These sections provide that the individual Commissioner shall submit his report to the Parliament to be approved or rejected ; that, if approved, his scheme shall become law, but that if rejected the Minister may tie it up indefinitely, or, if he chooses, send it back to the Commissioner in order to prepare another report ; and so on ad infinitum. Under my scheme, I propose that, after the Commissioners have distributed the State into electorates, considered all the objections to the scheme, and finally revised it, it shallbecome operative without any reference to Parliament. I am not wedded to the idea of having three Commissioners, but I think that when final power is to be intrusted to a body, there is a greater margin of safety in three Commissioners than in one Commissioner.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The career of this Bill has been rather unusual. When we took office we found the draft of “A Bill for an Act relating to imports and exports.” It was never submitted to the late Government for final revision. It was revised by the present Minister of Trade and Customs. The title was changed to “A Bill for an Act relating to commerce with other countries;” and certain alterations were made in its provisions. It has been discussed by the House of Representatives, I was almost going to say, at inordinate length. I find that 200 odd pages of pretty close print were required to record the speeches which were delivered on the Bill in the House and in Committee.
– Was the reasoning as close as the print?
– Some of the reasoning was rather far-fetched. I did not read the whole of the speeches, but I read a very considerable number of them, so as to get a grasp of any objections which had been offered to the Bill. The object of the measure is to prevent persons from importing or exporting goods under false descriptions. Almost all the States have a measure by which the export of certain articles is regulated. In Victoria an Act was passed in 1888, called the Export Products Act, which provides for the compulsory inspection of butter, cheese, live stock, and products, such as meat intended for export. The inspection of meat is as to freedom from disease. Butter submitted for inspection is marked either “approved for export,” or “pastry”; and cheese, of which a little is exported, is, marked “approved for export.” Great care is exercised in regard to the inspection of butter and other articles. South Australia has no law on this subject, but the Government have appointed inspectors who inspect all wines submitted to them for export. All fruit, butter, meat, and dairy produce are also inspected. There is no compulsion exercised.
– Does anything result from the inspection of the fruit?
– Unmistakably. As a result of the inspection, South Australian fruit almost always brings 3s. or 4s. per case more than Tasmanian fruit. lt is all carefully graded. It is carefully inspected by Government inspectors, who put a Government stamp upon it, and the presence of that stamp gives the fruit a standing in the London market.
– Is the honorable senator right in raying that the fruit is graded ?
– It is graded, as well as stamped. The rule is to mark on each case the number of apples which it contains.
– Into how many classes is it graded?
– Into two classes, I believe. But, as a rule, only the best class of fruit is exported. That the articles have been shipped from Victoria and South Australia under Government inspection, and with a Government mark, is an’ advantage to the exporters in other markets.
– Do the grading and the inspection take place at the wharf?
– The inspection takes place wherever it may be most convenient to the shipper on the one side, and the inspector on the other. Honorable senators appear to think that there is great difficulty about the matter, but there is not.
– I foresee very grave difficulty.
– It is astonishing to me that the inspection of the product about which the greatest fuss is made - apples- has been going on so long in South Australia without the fact being known to my honorable friends.
– Is the grading done by the exporter, or the inspector?
– The grading is clone by the exporter, and the inspector passes the article as being of a quality which is fit for export.
– The fruit-grower does any grading that there is.
– I have no knowledge of what is done in Tasmania ; but in South Australia the growers have a proper machine for grading. The apples are tipped in at one end, and as they work their way down by gravitation, they fall through holes of certain sizes. The apples grade themselves in the most, satisfactory fashion.
– That is for size, but not for quality.
– Quality is quite another thing.
– Surely all the fruit intended for export does not go through that grading machine?
– Of course, it does not all go through the same machine. Sometimes the grading is done by sight on a table where the grower picks out apples of a size as nearly as he can. The apples of a particular size in one case are counted, and if) it is found to contain 120 apples, all cases containing apples of that size are branded with that number.
– Is the honorable senator sure that the Government inspectors in South Australia grade fruit?
– Decidedly not; it is the exporter who grades the fruit, but the Government inspector sees that it is properly done, and that the fruit is of good quality. Then he puts the Government stamp upon it as being a first-class article for export.
– Suppose it is not graded; would the inspector reject the whole consignment?
– Decidedly not. It is the producer who does the grading first, and then he finds that the Government stamp has the effect of securing a high price in other parts of the world.
– Is every box opened and inspected ?
– Not necessarily. A number of cases are placed before the inspector, who sees that the goods are of a certain quality. Perhaps he inspects one or two, which are opened, and thereby judges whether the whole shipment is of proper quality. That is quite sufficient. Some States, like Tasmania, have passed Acts of Parliament on this subject, but have never put them in force. In Tasmania there is an Act to compel shippers of fruit and other produce to obtain Government inspection, and receive a Government stamp upon their goods. But that Act has not been put into operation for a considerable time.
– The Act does not compel them, because they do not do it.
– It purports to do so.
– Did not Sir William Lyne promise that this Bill should only apply to articles which can be adulterated ?
– Decidedly not.
– I believe he did.
– He certainly did not. I have read every line that Sir William Lyne said. He undoubtedly did say that it would be advantageous to prevent adulterated articles, such as patent medicines, from being imported. For instance, certain soothing syrups are imported for the purpose of soothing the babies, but frequently they contain so much opium that they are very injurious. It would be the function of the Department under this Bill to prevent the importation of such goods. Clause1 5 mentions the goods to which it is to be applied. Clause 7 relates to imports, and clause 11 to exports. It isprovided that those two clauses shall not apply-
To any goods other than(a) articles used for food or drink by man, or used in the manufacture or preparation of articles used for food or drink by man ; or (b) medicines or medicinal preparations for internal or external use ; or (c) manures ; or (d) apparel, including boots and shoes, and the materials from which such apparel is manufactured ; or (e) seeds and plants.
– Sir William Lyne gave a deputation to understand that he would not apply the Bill to goods which were not articles of food.
– I have read Sir William Lyne’s statement in another place, and I can see no reference to what Senator Dobson asserts. Certainly the Bill would apply to many things that are not articles of food. But I can. give the honorable senator a very clear idea of the intentions of the Bill by reading a statement from Dr. Wollaston. It is as follows : -
The objects sought to be attained by this Act are important, and may be summarized as follows : -
Firstly, to protect those traders who correctly describe their goods from competitors who, by false or misleading descriptions, deceive the public, to the disadvantage of the honest manufacturer, who may have established a reputation for a good article. Secondly, to protect the public by requiring, in cases where the proper maintenance of the public health make it expedient, that manufacturers shall indicate on their goods the nature of the ingredients or materials of which they are made.
That is true in regard to public health.
– Is it the foreign public that the Bill protects?
– It protects our public in regard to imports. The provisions with regard to exports are also to the advantage of the public. In South Australia we have a law compelling exporters of frozen meat, butter, or cheese to have a Government stamp upon their goods, which guarantees their quality ; and our exporters find that provision to their advantage
– Then why do we want this Bill?
– Because we require to make the law uniform throughout the Commonwealth. It is of no use to have Acts of Parliament passed which a State Government does not enforce.
– Why should we deal in this way with articles which are sold by auction in public when the buyers see what they are purchasing?
-Why do the South Australian shippers desire such legislation ?
– I think it will be found on inquiry that they do not.
– The honorable senator might allow me to know something about South Australian affairs. Dr. Wollaston, in his written statement, also says -
Thirdly (and not the least important), that the reputation of the national industries of Australia may be established and maintained, and probably increased, by insuring that inferior kinds of any Australian production shall not be permitted to masquerade under a description which is applicable only to the best quality.
Honorable senators may say that it is unnecessary to interfere with exporters or importers. I will give one or two instances to show the necessity.
– Not a word which the honorable senator has said would apply to fruit.
-Is there not fruit of bad quality ? Are no wretched little apples, about as big as the top of my thumb, sent from Tasmania?
– Fruit is sold openly by auction.
– Why was a pro vision regarding fruit put in the Tasmanian Act if there was no necessity for it?
– I dare say they found that it was absolutely impossible to carry it out.
– No, they did not ; they said they had not the money. We have a despatch on the subject.
– In regard to many imported articles, there is a great deal of what I do not like to call fraud, though it may be so described. A housewife who buys a packet of candles expects to get a pound. But she may get only 12 ozs. in some instances, or 14 ozs. in others.
– That takes place all the world over.
– I do not care where it takes place. By this Bill we say to the importer of candles that he shall put on his packets the weight of the goods contained in them. That is fair and honest all round. Again, if a housewife asks for a tin of jam, she may find that though what she gets professes to be a 2-lb. tin, it is 2 ozs. or 3 ozs. short of the expected weight. Some of the honest jammakers always give full weight. I know of one jam-maker in South Australia who has never at any time put less than 2 lbs. weight of jam in a 2-lb. tin. But others give you a 2-lb. tin, gross; that is, it weighs 2 lbs. in all, including the weight of the tin and the wrapping-paper, so that actually the amount of jam may be 2 ozs. or 3 ozs. short of what the purchaser thinks he is getting. Perhaps he expects to get 16 ozs., when as a matter of fact he gets no more than 12 ozs. The dishonest exporter has done Australia a considerable amount of injury. Let me take the case of butter sent to South Africa during the time of the Boer war. It was commonly exported in tins purporting to contain 1 lb. each, but often the tins were 4 ozs. short. The goods were rejected by the Army officers, and were sold at Johannesburg at 5s. 3d. for a dozen tins, or 5¼d. per tin. That did us an immense amount of injury in South African markets. In this Bill we make provision against anything of that kind. The packages in which goods are exported must contain a true description of them, and if tins purporting to contain a pound of butter are 4 ozs. short, the exporter will be guilty of an offence. He may export whatever weight of goods he chooses, buthe must put the weight on his packages. We also require that exporters shall make a true description oftheir goods, so that no rubbishy articles may be sent abroad to the injury of Australian trade. They may put their goods up in tins or in packages as they please, but they must state the correct weight and give a true description. It is to the advantage of all honest exporters that goods consigned from Australia to any part of the world shall be sent under such conditions that the truth shall be told regarding them, both in respect of their quality and their weight.
– Is it intended to insist that butter shall be graded, and, if so, how many grades are there to be?
– There is a regular system in South Australia and Victoria. Butter is graded in two or three classes. I shall read a statement as to what is done in regard to butter in Victoria -
Two years ago, 22 butter factories submitted voluntarily to grading; last season there were 67, and it is expected that before long all those factories doing any export trade will come in. When this takes place, the intention of the Department is to have all butters approved for export, graded, first, second, or third grade, and those not coming within any of the grades will be marked “ pastry.” At present very little pastry butter is exported.
The document then goes on to show how mutton, lamb, rabbits, poultry, and vegetable products are graded.
– Is it proposed by the Commonwealth to grade butter under the Bill?
– It is proposed to adopt the States’ grading, and to accept as correct the statements of the State inspectors as to quality. In States where there is no grading, the Commonwealth inspectors will satisfy themselves as to quality.
– Is there power to grade under this Bill?
– There is power to make regulations, and no doubt that carries power to grade.
– The Bill gives power to do something more than merely see that the descriptions on imported goods are correct ?
– Undoubtedly. Power is given, amongst other things, to ascertain the ingredients of commodities, and, if they are not satisfactory, to stop the export.
– Does that apply to patent medicines?
– Yes; it applies to articles of that sort.
– Do I understand that butter may be graded in one State and not in another?
– We shall have a uniform system of satisfying ourselves as to the quality of the butter exported, without going to the expense and trouble of having it graded.
– Suppose a State does not grade at all?
– It will then be for Dr. Wollaston and the Customs officials to decide what steps shall be taken ; and no doubt they will satisfy themselves that the quality is good enough for export.
– Will the Commonwealth grade the butter?
– Not necessarily.
– That will be making “ fish of one and fowl of another.”
– In States where there is grading, we shall accept the statements of the State inspectors as to quality, and where there is not grading, our own inspectors will satisfy themselves that the article is fit for export and true to description.
– As a matter of fact, there will be no Commonwealth grading?
– We do not say that we shall make grading compulsory throughout ‘the Commonwealth, but >we shall take advantage of the grading done by the States, and, as I say, where there is no grading, will satisfy ourselves as to quality and description.
– It will be seen that the trade description is a true one?
– More than that, I understand that, if the quality is not as described, the goods will not be permitted to be exported.
– The goods will not be permitted to be exported under a description which implies a quality higher than the actual quality. We shall not allow rubbish to be exported unless it is described as inferior.
– I understand that it will be compulsory to describe the goods.
– Undoubtedly that could be insisted upon by regulation. For instance, it is usual to export apples in bushel cases, but some people may attempt to use cases which hold less than a bushel. We shall provide against that by regulation; that is, if a man chooses to ship his apples in cases of less than a bushel, he will have to describe the size truly. All that is desired is that the truth shall be told about all exports.
– If a man marked a tin as containing 12 ozs. of inferior butter, would he be allowed to export it?
– If he described the tin as containing 12 ozs. of pastry butter, he could export it, and as many such tins as he pleased. There are many tons of such butter sent to England every year under that description.
– I should like to say that, if what the honorable gentleman describes is all that is intended in reference to fruit, I shall withdraw my amendment-
– The Bill will stop all false descriptions. We are not going to unfairly interfere with any trade. On the contrary, the desire is to assist people to conduct their business in such a way that they may get a good reputation for the fruit they export. When the Government stamp has been placed on the fruit, the man who purchases fifty or 100 cases will know that he is getting what it purports to be.
– The purchaser abroad knows quite as well as we do what he is getting now.
– The. purchaser does not always know. The objects of the Bill are very plain, and the means by which it is proposed to carry them out are easily understood. The first part of the Bill is practically a copy of the English Act.
– The fact remains that if the Bill is plain, three of the honorable gentleman’s colleagues gave different interpretations regarding it.
– I know there was some little confusion as to whether grading was intended, but I saw Dr. Wollaston on the point this afternoon, and he informed me that it is not intended to grade, so long as it is clear that the quality of an article is as described.
– Dr. Wollaston is not the controlling authority - there is a Minister.
– No doubt the Minister is the controlling authority in the last resort, but the administration of this measure will, no doubt, be put into the hands of Dr. Wollaston. Some people who have read this Bill appear to see in it a most terrible menace to their business. From one letter received from a grower in Tasmania I discovered that in that State apricots are produced, although I had always been under the impression that the climate was too cold there for such fruit. This gentleman wrote to tell us that he packed the “Arum” brand of apricots, and wanted to know whether he would be contravening the Bill if he continued to set forth on the label that the fruit was “ packed in Tasmania for A. J. Coleman and Co. Ltd.” Of course, there would be no idea of interfering in such a case.
– How will it be possible to obtain all the required information without interfering with the shipping of the fruit?
– There will be no interference with the shipping of the fruit. All that is intended is to see that fruit and other articles for export arc honestly described. We are only doing what the United States Government were compelled to do a short time ago in regard to meat exported from that country. All meat for export is now inspected by Government inspectors, and this step has been found necessary because the meat was getting a bad name, owing to the fact that it was not always certain to be free from disease.
– Does the Minister mean to say that in the United States there is an Act similar to the Bill now before us?
– The United States law does not deal with any product but meat.
– And the meat is graded in the factory.
– That is so.
-In the United States there is no power to stop the meat from being shipped.
– There is the power to prevent the exportation of the meat if it does not bear the Government tag, showing that it has been inspected. Then there is another gentleman in Tasmania who writes in the fear that the export of small apples may be stopped. This gentleman says that each year a number of cases of small apples are exported to England, where they find a market which cannot be found in Australia. One hardly knows what to say about small apples, each variety having its own characteristics as to flavour, and so forth. For instance, the “ Cleopatra “ apple would be small if it were about the size of the top of my thumb, whereas a “ Nonpareil “ apple of that size would be normal and perfectly good fruit. There are many kinds of apples which are not necessarily bad because they are small ; it is their nature to be small, and there is no idea of stopping the export of such fruit. If a case were opened and found to contain nothing but miserable, shrivelled-up specimens of poor flavour, the fruit, possibly of droughtstricken trees, then it would be perfectly right to stop their export, unless they were honestly described as inferior apples. We have a right to say that exporters shall give a true description of their exports.
– Why not let the buyer decide what they are worth for himself?
-And let the exporter of inferior apples put “ Prime Tasmanian “ on his cases.
– The buyer very often cannot decide for himself. We have to protect the buyer, but the action proposed to be taken is not suggested in his interest alone, because if he has received a case of apples marked “ Prime Tasmanian,” or with some other equally false description, he will take means to prevent his being injured. The difficulty is that, where this course isadopted, people who send good Tasmanian apples will be injured in their trade as well.
– How does the honorable senator propose to deal with a man who has packed good apples on the top of his case and inferior apples in the middle or at the bottom of it ?
– If we find him out we shall be able to deal with him. But the coursesuggested will seldom be adopted, because the exporter will not know which end of the case will be opened. I do not say that the topping-up business is unknown to gardeners. I do not think that, as an old market gardener, I have myself been guilty of the practice of topping-up, but I have heard of others who have, and buyershave told me that they cannot trust some of the gardeners in England in the packing of their stuff.
– Are these terrible things done in Australia; and do the people of Australia submit to them?
– I have been very much astonished to find that they do submit to them. If honorable senators willread the evidence given before the Tariff Commission they will find that in connexion with the manufacture of many articles in Australia all sorts of curious things are done. The people of the States must protect themselves in the matter, because this Bill will not deal with Inter-State commerce.
– It will if some honorable senators get theirway in Committee.
– The honorable senator is making a terrible charge against the people of Australia.
– Senator Gray must be aware that there are some dishonest people in every class of thecommunity.
– Not more so here than in other parts of the world.
– I do not say that there are more dishonest people here than in other parts of the world, but I dp say that we must legislate against those who are dishonest.
– By making honest people suffer.
– We shall npt make honest people suffer.. No honest man will suffer by being compelled to put a true description on the goods he has to sell. It is largely to protect the interest of honest traders that this Bill is introduced. I have spoken to two or three exporters of produce from South Australia,, .and they say that they will be only too pleased if the truthful marking of exported produce is made’ compulsory. It is not necessary that all exports shall be marked. Wheat and wool, for instance, do not need to be marked ; but there are certain exports which ought to be marked. Many who are interested in exports hail this Bill with satisfaction. They are honest traders themselves, .but they have to compete with dishonest people who, while they do not gain much by their dishonesty, seriously injure the trade of their honest competitors. In Committee, I hope to be able to give a satisfactory explanation of any point raised by honorable senators. I look upon this Bill as a very useful measure indeed, and one which will prove of very considerable benefit to the community as a whole. I should personally like to see its application extended to Inter-State commerce, but it has been thought wise not to propose that. I should like the Commonwealth Government to be in a position,’ if the States Governments will, not exercise their powers, to prevent the frauds that are perpetrated at the present time in the various States.
– Can the honorable senator mention a trade in which fraud is not carried on?
– I think I could.
– We have no power to <Jo what the honorable senator now suggests.
– No, but we have power to deal with Inter-State commerce if we chose to exercise it.
– -Why does not the honorable senator propose to exercise it?
– We do not think it wise to do so at the present time. We have taken up the larger subject, and we do not at present propose to extend the operation of the Bill to Inter-State commerce.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dobson). adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051011_senate_2_27/>.