2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from nth October, vide page 337 2):
Amendment (by Senator Millen) further considered -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “8a. (i) 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.
– I have nothad an opportunity of going through the proposed new “clause, which, I understand, is in print, ‘ and as its adoption would necessitate, as Senator Millen said, the re-casting of practically the whole of Part III. of the Bill, I would urge that the consideration of that part should be postponed until the remaining parts have been dealt with. If Senator Millen will withdraw his amendment for the present, I shall move the postponement of Part III.
– I think that the suggestion of the Minister is a reasonable one, but I desire to know whether if my amendment be withdrawn now it can be submitted on another occasion ?
– I ask leave to withdraw the amendment for the present. Apparently some honorable senators either misunderstood the remarks with which I first introduced the amendment to their notice, or assumed, because I said that if adopted the whole of this part would require to be recast, that necessarily it would involve material amendments therein. I desire to indicate what alterations would be necessary in order to give honorable senators the fullest opportunity of considering an amendment which, as the Minister said, is far-reaching, and which, I think, will certainly make for the smooth working of our electoral machinery. Under the principal Act a Commissioner is appointed for each State to divide the State into a number of electorates corresponding with the number of members which it returns to the House of Representatives. After he has discharged that duty and published the design of’ his work, and invited objections thereto, a certain period is allowed for the lodging of any objections or suggestions. In the light of any objections or suggestions which may be lodged, he has to revise his scheme. After the revision is completed the scheme has to be submitted to the Minister, and to be accepted or rejected by each House of the Parliament. It is only when the scheme has received the approval of each House that it can become operative. In the past some schemes have not been acceptable to honorable members. There must be an inherent objection on the part of those honorable members whose constituencies are affected by a proposed change in their boundaries. It seems to me inevitable that in such cases the representatives are hardly in a position to be impartial judges as to what is best in the interests of the whole community.. The main object of my amendment is to remove from parliamentary control the question of the distribution of the States into electorates. In order to remove this pernicious influence, I propose to create a Commission for each State which will follow the same procedure as is now followed by an individual Commissioner up to the point where a scheme is revised in the light of the objections or suggestions offered. After the revision of the scheme by the Commissioner for a State, I propose that it shall become operative without reference to both Houses. If the determination of this important question is to be removed from parliamentary control, it would be somewhat dangerous - perhaps open to serious objection - if it were placed in the hands of a single individual. For that reason, I propose that in each State there shall be three Commissioners instead of one Commissioner, believing that, in this case at any rate, there may be wisdom in a multitude of counsellors. I have suggested three officials whose special qualifications and positions seem to me to offer a guarantee that the work would be performed, not only impartially, but accurately. I have suggested the appointment of a Judge of each State, the head of the Survey Department of the State, and the Chief Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State. I am not particularly wedded to those three officials, but they appear to me to possess special qualifications for the performance of the work. The Chief Electoral Officer would be familiar with the working of the Electoral Act, and would be able to deal with the enrolment and grouping of electors very readily. The knowledge which would be possessed by the head of the Survey Department ought to be particularly valuable in determining boundaries and delineating them upon maps. It is desirable to have upon the Commission for each State a gentleman who would readily understand the purpose of the Act, and be able to determine fairly on the evidence submitted, and who, in addition, would bring to the work considerable capacity and that unchallengeable impartiality which has always been accredited to our Judges. My amendment, however, makes provision for the appointment of other persons if any cause should . arise to prevent any one of those three officials from acting . on the Commission. It may happen that either of these officers may be incapacitated through illhealth or absence on holiday, and it is, therefore, desirable to leave the Executive with some power to make another appointment. I have done that. But in the amendment which I have Suggested, the indication is so clear that these three officers are to form the Commission, that, except on such occasions as those to which I have referred, the Government would feel that they had no option to appoint any one else. I submit the amendment, and I invite honorable senators to consider it thoroughly, as I am sure they will do. I put it forward free from all party significance. It is to the interest ofevery party, of every member of Parliament, and of every elector, to have our electoral machinery as free from any pernicious outside influence as possible. It should be made free from party interest or personal intrigue, and from even the suspicion in the mind of any elector that it is not absolutely fair and uniform, and beyond the possibility of influence in any emergency or contingency which may arise in ordinary party conflicts. Whilst I am in no sense wedded to the particular words I have chosen, or to the details of the scheme, I do invite the Committee to see whether it is not possible by the acceptance of the proposal I submit to place our electoral machinery above the turmoil of party conflict or the advantages or disadvantages of the circumstances surrounding individual cases. I ask permission to withdraw the amendment for the time being.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clauses 9 to 14 postponed.
Clause 15 -
The whole of Part IV. of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following Part substituted in lieu thereof : -
” PART IV.- SUBDIVISIONS AND POLLING-PLACES.
The Governor-General may, in any case in which he thinks fit to do so, by proclamation, divide any Division into Subdivisions.
The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette -
appoint a chief polling-place for each Division ;
appoint such other polling-places for each Division as he thinks necessary ;
abolish any polling-place;
establish a polling-place area for any specified polling-place and fix its boundaries.
Provided that no polling-place shall be abolished or polling-place area be established after the issue of the writ and before the time appointed for its return.
a polling-place is appointed or abolished ; or
a polling-place area is established; or
a Division is divided into Subdivisions; or
the boundaries of a Divisionor Subdivision are altered, the Minister may by notice in the Gazette give such directions as are thereby rendered necessary or expedient for the change of electors from one Boll to another, and effect shall be given to those directions in the prescribed manner.”
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - This clause raises the whole question of the new principle introduced in this Bill - that is, the additional subdivision of electorates; and while I may, perhaps, be anticipating a discussion upon the latter portions of the Bill which deal with these subdivisions, it is necessary that I should do so to justify an amendment which I propose to submit. I move -
That the proposed substituted clause 24 be left out.
The purpose of these subdivisions seem to me to be’ as follows: At the present time we have in our electoral machinery electorates and subdivisions which are called polling-places. A polling place represents rather a division of an electorate than an area; but it creates that division in an electorate. It is proposed to have a further class of divisions, called subdivisions ; and those subdivisions are to be entirely optional. The proposal is made, I understand, in order to enable us in adjusting our electorates to work in with the requirements of the States in adjusting theirs. I admit that that is a very desirable object to attain wherever we can do it. But there is always the question how much you get in paying for an advantage; and it seems to me that the advantage to be derived is very problematical and doubtful, and is far outweighed by the complication and disadvantage that will arise.
– Will it not save a lot of expense?
– If it did I should be in favour of it; but, as it is only proposed to make the subdivisions optional, which means that the plan will only be carried out here and there, and not generally, the amount of money to be saved is very small.
– There may be the exact number of State electorates in a Commonwealth electorate, and then it will not be necessary to put this provision into operation.
– If honorable senators read the minute prepared by Mr. Garran they will see at once that the ground work of this Bill is a scheme for the division of the whole of a State into subdivisions, which were’ to be the units of the main scheme. These units were to be so reasonably small that it would be possible to group any number of them together to make an electorate. If it were found that an electorate was too large, whilst an adjoining electorate was too small, the idea was that one of these units should be taken off the larger electorate and added to the smaller one. The idea also was that this scheme would enable the States to group any number of the units together to make a State electorate. That would be an excellent plan if we were able to carry it out. But it is not possible to do so. It was pointed out by Mr. Garran that to divide the whole of Australia into units of this character, so that they could be grouped in the way I have described, would be impossible; because it would mean not merely drawing out these localities upon the map, but having also absolutely clearly defined boundaries that could be gazetted. It isadmitted, I think, that to divide Australia in that way at present would be a stupendous undertaking. The units would have to be fairly small. It is a matter of estimate, but honorable senators will see that to make that scheme easily workable the unit would have to contain not more than two or three hundred electors ; otherwise it would not be workable. If you were to divide the whole of Australia into areas, each containing approximately, that number of electors, it would mean covering Australia with lines so numerous, and in many cases so long, that it would probably take all the Survey Department’s of all the States, and a large sum of money, to complete the work. That fact is recognised, and therefore it is not proposed to do it except in certain cases. The fact that theproposal is not to be uniform is the the first objection I have to it.
– Is there a necessity for what is proposed in the populous districts ?
– It is in the populous districts that it will take place, because of the ease with which boundary lines could be indicated there. In a city there is no difficulty. You can take a block formed by four streets. There is a boundary clearly defined. It is rather in the rural districts that the difficulty would arise.
– Does the honorable senator say that because he cannot get uniformity he would not have the scheme at all ?
– Because he cannot get it all at once he would not have it at all.
– I do not say anything of the kind. I am pointing out the disadvantages, and I say that one is that you cannot get uniformity. A second objection is that it is desirable to have simplicity in our electoral laws. If it is desirable in any law to have simplicity it is especially desirable to have an electoral law which an ordinary individual can understand. This Bill proposes that in some cases there shall be polling-place areas; in several other cases subdivision areas. In one case there may be a subdivision and no polling-place, and in another place there may be a polling-place and no subdivision. In one case a subdivision may be coterminous with a polling-place; in another a subdivision may contain several pollingplaces; whilst in a third a polling-place may contain several subdivisions. As there are different directions as to how an elector may get enrolled, whether he is in a division or polling-place area, he would not know what to do or how to do it, and another elector would not know how to tell him how to get registered, because he would not know the circumstances surrounding any other person’s electorate. Therefore, on the ground of its lack of simplicity, I oppose this proposal. Whatever small sum of money may be saved it would be altogether a ruinous bargain for us to make.
– Would the honorable senator go back to the scheme of the principal Act?
– In this respect, yes.
– The honorable senator prefers polling places to area divisions?
– No, but I object to an additional subdivision. This Bill proposes to make polling-place areas surrounding each polling-place. To that I have no objection. But when you bring in an alternative subdivision which is not to be uniform, and which may take the place of a polling-place area, and may run side by side with it, the effect may be that we may have one subdivision in one electorate which may contain several polling-places, whilst we may have other subdivisions without polling-places.
– There is no uniformity now.
– But there is some simplicity. Take the case of an ordinary elector. Our present machinery provides that there may be several polling-places within a division to meet the convenience of electors. At the present time a man may vote anywhere within his division. If one polling-place is not convenient to him he may enroll to vote at another place which may be more convenient. But if you had subdivisions as here proposed you would compel an elector to vote within his particular subdivision. The subdivisions are proposed in order to enable either a State or the Commonwealth to transfer bodily the electors living within that subdivision to another electorate. Consequently under this Bill you would absolutely compel the elector to vote within his subdivision.
– Is the honorable senator quite sure of that ?
– It is provided in substituted clause 31 that if a division be cut up into subdivisions, an elector may only have his name placed on the roll for the subdivision in which he lives.
– But he can vote anywhere in the division.
– I question that. Al any rate, an elector is absolutely and necessarily tied to the roll for his subdivision.
– Not at all; a man cannot be enrolled more than once, no matter what we do.
– That is true, but at the present time a man is allowed to be enrolled for any polling-place he elects within his division. A man living at one end of the division, who has to leave his home too early to record his vote, may have his name enrolled for a polling-place near to his place of business.
– I have known of an elector’s name appearing on the roll in two divisions.
– Of course, accidents will happen, and have happened, even within the knowledge of the honorable senator.
– What is Senator Millen’s main objection to the proposed amendment ?
– The want of uniformity and the complications to’ which the amendment will give rise.
– Does the honorable senator object to a man being enrolled in the division in which he lives?
– No; one of my objections to the amendment is that the provision will restrict the freedom of the elector.
– Would the amendment not simplify redistribution, which I take to be one of the objects ?
– The object of the amendment is to enable the Commonwealth and the States to work together in the re distribution of electorates. And that is extremely desirable, if it can be done without imposing any disadvantage on the elector. Honorable senators will recollect the confusion which existed in the minds of electors, and of parliamentary representatives as well, at the last election, when nobody seemed to know exactly where they stood, and when the newspapers were so full of complaints and inquiries, that a joint Select Committee was appointed to investigate the matter. Is it not possible to simplify rather than complicate our electoral machinery ? It is not as if it were proposed to have a uniform system, so that all electorates would be similarly dealt with. It is proposed to have alternative subdivisions, with the possibility that no two electorates will be alike. If the idea were to apply to the system generally, I admit that the chief force of my objection would be gone.
– Under the substituted clause an elector might, perhaps, have to change his polling-place.
– Exactly. I should like to know whether the Minister can give us any idea as to the extent he thinks this proposal could and would be availed of. I venture to say that the Minister cannot give us any definite idea on the matter, because this is a provision merely for some circumstances which may arise, and which as time goes on, may be shown to be desirable. The advantages are entirely speculative and problematical, and are far outweighed by the disadvantages arising from want of uniformity, complications, and increased uncertainty in the mind of the ordinary elector.
– One of Senator Millen’s objections to this .proposal is that it is practically an optional proceeding on the part of the Governor-General ; whereas my own opinion is that that optional character is one of the chief merits of the amendment. We could not attempt to pass a definite law at once to bring about those results which. I think, both from the Commonwealth and the States’ point of view, are deemed to be desirable. At the Hobart Conference of Premiers the principle was affirmed that, as far as possible., the States and the Commonwealth should co-operate in electoral administration. The following motion was carried at the instance of the then Minister of Home Affairs : -
That this Conference agrees that the Commonwealth and State Governments should consider the question of amending their electoral laws, with the object of making the qualification and disqualification of electors as nearly uniform as may be deemed possible and desirable, and that communications should be at once entered upon by the Electoral and Law Departments of the Commonwealth and States, with the object of the nearest possible approach to uniformity in the modes of enrolment, mode of revision, establishment of polling-places, and other mechanism of an Electoral Act.
– Have any of the Statestaken action yet?
– I am not aware whether any individual State has taken action, but this is the first attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to give some effect to the principle. We could not provide in the Bill that the Governor-General should absolutely forthwith, or by a certain date, divide up all the divisions of each of the States in such a way that the Commonwealth and the States could act jointly, and take advantage of the same rolls, officers, and machinery. But in order to do as much as possible, it is proposed that the Governor-General, in any case he thinks fit, may, by proclamation, divide divisions into subdivisions. In a certain State it might be possible to deal with every division on these lines. It might be possible to subdivide each Commonwealth division in such a way that the States would be able to take advantage of the subdivisions and subdivisional rolls, officers, and machinery ; and in such case the benefits would be mutual.
– A commencement might be made with a small State like Tasmania.
– Or with one electorate in a State.
– That is so; halfadozen electorates in a State might be dealt with. On the other hand, there might be a particular State in which it would be found impracticable to carry out work of that character. If we were to throw upon the Governor-General the responsibility of either doing this work absolutely throughout Australia at the one time, or not doing it at all, we should, in my opinion, be taking a wrong course; and the optional provision is to enable the plan to be carried out whenever and wherever practicable. Senator Millen seems to think that a subdivisional system would operate in such a way as to prevent an elector from enjoying some right he now possesses. That, however, is not the case. Of course, it is provided later on that if a division be divided into subdivisions, an elector may only have his name on the roll for the subdivision in which he lives; and the interjection of Senator Walker suggests the object of that provision. Whenever we use the word “ division “ in this Bill, or in the prinicpal Act, a Commonwealth electorate is meant, such as Balaclava, Melbourne, Darwin, or Bass. At present each and every one of these divisions has within it a number of polling places, which are established rather with regard to groups of electors than to particular territorial considerations. If the electorate of Melbourne, for instance, were divided into five subdivisions, there would be no reason why each and every one should not have a number of polling places. There may, in fact, be one polling place for parts of two divisions. Mr. Garran, in his memorandum, which was submitted to the Hobart Conference, and which appeared as an appendix to the report of the proceedings, says: -
Sometimes there might be two or more pollingplaces in one unit ; sometimes there might be one polling-place for two or more units ; and it would often be advisable to establish a new pollingplace, or abolish a polling-place. The “ pollingplace” system of enrolment could be retained to this extent - that there could always be some one polling-place at which all the electors in a unit were primarily entitled to vote, and if there were two or more polling-places in a unit, the electors in that unit might be distributed according to locality - between those two polling-places, and the unit-roll subdivided accordingly; but it would not do for polling-place groups to be made up from some of the electors in one group, and some of the electors in another group.
The provision is to prevent an elector’s name being duplicated on the roll for the division; it is not to prevent his having the right he enjoys under the Act to vote anywhere on election day.
– An elector is restricted to the extent that he is not allowed to have his name on the roll for any polling place he likes.
– But he may vote anywhere. Even if I did admit that there is a restriction of the kind suggested, it would be no hardship to the elector, who is placed on the roll for a particular subdivision for a reason which must be quite apparent. The reason is that he lives in that subdivision for which his name will appear on the Commonwealth roll ; and if arrangements under this Bill be made with the States, the presence of the name on that roll will enable the elector, as a State elector, to vote in that subdivision, which, under another name, will be a State division.
– In an electorate like Maranoa, an elector, without this proposed amendment, might be able to register in two subdivisions unknown to anybody.
– And, further, he might be enrolled for three separate electoral divisions of a State.
– No more easily than he could now be registered for three polling places.
– This provision is to prevent an elector having his name on the roll for more than one subdivision. If we are going to have subdivisions and divisions, an elector’s name should not appear on more than one subdivisional roll, because that might give him an extra vote in a Commonwealth, and two or three votes in a State election for separate State electorates. If honorable senators will remember that the provision is not intended to limit a man’s right to vote in any way, but simply to prevent the possibility of his name being duplicated on a Commonwealth electoral roll, and so at the same time appearing on the rolls of two or more State electoral divisions, they will see that it is not only a desirable, but a necessary provision.
– The clause does not say that an elector shall have his name only on one roll, but that he must have it on the roll for the subdivision in which he lives.
– Quite so. I. have pointed out that where subdivisional rolls may be availed of by Commonwealth and State authorities, it would not be desirable to register a Commonwealth elector for any subdivision other than that in which he lives. One effect might be that he would absolutely lose his vote for the State electorate comprising the Commonwealth subdivision in which he lives, as it might be contended that he was not entitled to be on the State roll which included any other subdivision of the Commonwealth division. If we are going to act in co-operation with the States in this matter, we must recognise that it may be necessary to impose on electors, in very infrequent cases, some personal inconvenience, but the balance of advantage to the individual and to the community, from the stand-point of Commonwealth and of State, will result from the establishment of some such principle as is here affirmed. I think that the States Governments will carry out the resolution arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference, with the result that in the not far distant future the advantages and economies which we hope will follow from co-operative electoral administration throughout the Commonwealth, willbe secured.
– I recognise that the object of the clause is a very worthy one; but I point out that substituted clause 24 is left purely optional, and I confess that I should prefer to see it put in some stronger form. It is in sharp contrast in this respect with the mandatory construction of sub-clause 2 of substituted clause 31. I do not care to use the word “ shall “ in connexion with the GovernorGeneral, but I think that in the use of the phrase “if he thinks fit to do so,” there is an element of danger. It would be preferable to provide that “ the GovernorGeneral may in every case in which it is possible” - using the word “may” in the sense of “ shall.”
– It is possible in every case, but not desirable.
– That is where I join issue with Senator Millen. I think it is desirable in every case, but I do not think it is possible.
– It may be possible in some cases, but exceedingly expensive.
– The object of the clause is not merely to simplify the Commonwealth electoral machinery, but to make the best effort we can in this Bill to work in harmony with the State electoral laws. It is also proposed, where possible, to divide an electoral division for the House of Representatives into subdivisions which will comprise two or more State electorates. If we can succeed in giving effect to that object, we shall obviously be co-operating more closely than we are at present with the various States in their electoral legislation. I refer again to the contrast between substituted clause 24 and sub-clause 2 of substituted clause 31. In the latter case, we are saying to the Commonwealth electors that although it may be convenient for them to determine on what roll of a Commonwealth division their name shall be registered, yet for the purpose of working in harmony with the States, we have decided to limit them to registration for the subdivision in which they absolutely reside. If we were framing an Electoral Bill without regard to States legislation on the same subject, I do not suppose that such a proposal would be made. We should certainly provide that an elector should have his name placed only on one roll, but we are here deliberately saying that every Commonwealth elector shall forego certain rights or privileges which, in other circumstances, he might very properly demand, in order that we may work in harmony with the requirements of the various States.
– And privileges which he enjoys to-day.
– I will admit, if Senator Millen pleases, that we are asking the elector to give up something; but I am willing that he should be compelled to do so in the circumstances. I should like substituted clause 24 altered in the way I suggest. At present it is left entirely optional with the Executive for the time being to effect some sort of subdivision which may make for harmony with States legislation. As this is left optional, the Executive may refuse to do what is proposed, and there would be no danger in using the words “ the GovernorGeneral may in any case in which it is possible.” That would make it evident that we are absolutely in earnest in this endeavour to help the States to simplify their electoral machinery, and to save expense to the citizens of the Commonwealth.
– Under the amendment suggested by the honorable senator, the Executive of the day would have to decide when it was possible.
– I shall not press the amendment, but I should like substituted clause 24 made more mandatory. As the Bill now stands, what is left optional with the Executive in this clause is made absolutely compulsory on the elector in substituted clause31.
– This clause is one which the Committee should pass, as it will result in a considerable saving to the people of the Commonwealth. I do not anticipate the confusion and trouble mentioned by Senator Millen.
– The honorable senator did not anticipate the confusion which resulted from the principal Act.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.We did not, but with the experience we have since gained, we are in a position to make certain improvements. When we have exactly the same people, under exactly the same franchise, electing members for the Federal and States Legislatures, it is strange that we should require different rolls, necessitating the heavy expense of twice collecting the names of electors for the compilation of those rolls. It is: absurd to say that purely technical difficulties should prevent us from adopting such a clause as is here proposed. Surely the united wisdom of officials, draftsman, and Parliament will enable us to arrive at some solution of the difficulties mentioned by Senator Millen. in order that this reform may not be blocked. The proposal made is that where a Commonwealth division comprises two or more State electorates there shall be subdivisions of the Commonwealth division. Where a Commonwealth division comprises three State electorates, we shall have three different rolls for that division, which will at the same: time be the rolls for the separate State electorates. I cannot see why there should be any difficulty in bringing that about, so that an elector may be able to vote for a Federal member on exactly the same roll, and in exactly the same manner as he wilt vote for a State member.
– Suppose the boundaries of the State electorate are not the same as those of the Commonwealth subdivision ?
– That is provided for in this Bill.
– We might have subdivisions without joint rolls, and joint rolls without subdivisions. The honorable senator is confusing two things.
– The principal object of the clause is to avoid’ the duplication of expense in the preparation of rolls for Commonwealth and State electorates. I really cannot see any difficulties in this matter. If a Commonwealth election is taking place, an elector can goto a polling place, and, if he is enrolled, he can vote there in just the same manner as he could vote at a State election, provided that all the conditions of the law had been complied with. I believe that an enormous expense would be saved by the adop tion of the provision. It would not come into operation throughout the whole of the Commonwealth in the first instance, but as it gradually came into force we could see how it worked. We should endeavour to make the machinery of the Commonwealth as little expensive as possible to the people. In all the States there is a great outcry that the “new” expenditure under the Commonwealth is very much greater than was estimated at the Adelaide Convention. The States Treasurers are continually complaining of the increase in the “new” expenditure. I believe that if there are any difficulties in the way, they can be overcome in the interests of economy.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - In substituted clause 25 the word “ may “ is applied to the Minister and to two sets of action. I wish to ascertain from Senator Keating whether in this instance it means “may” or “shall.” It says -
The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette - (a) appoint a chief polling place for each division.
Clearly, in that case, the word “may” means that the Minister shall appoint a chief polling place for each division, because, if he did not, the whole machinery would collapse. But certainly the word “may” does not mean “shall” when it is applied to paragraph c.
Clearly, in this provision, we are asked to use the word “may “ in two different ways. I would suggest to the Minister whether it ought not to read in this form -
The Minister shall appoint a chief polling place for each division, and may appoint such other polling places for each division as he thinks necessary, or abolish such polling places.
I move -
That the word “ may,” line 9, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.”
Senator KEATING (TasmaniaHonorary Minister). - I think that the substituted clause in its present form gives effect to what Senator Millen desires. The word “ may “ is used there as governing all the powers which are specified in paragraphs a to d. Undoubtedly the power vested in the Minister by paragraph a is one which he would have to exercise, and for the non-exercise of which he would be responsible immediately to the Parliament and the country. I do not think that there is any necessity to deviate from the drafting which is used in this instance, and is usual in all such cases. I think we can well expect that when the Minister is vested by a section of an Act with a number of powers, some of which he has to exercise at his discretion, and others of whichhe must exercise in the public interests when the contingency arises, he will do his duty. We had better adhere to the provision as it stands, and not, as I said on a previous occasion, in reply to Senator Millen, introduce at this stage a distinction between “shall” and “may” which might give rise to a considerable amount of discussion as to the meaning of words which have been used in so many Acts of this Parliament.
Senator CLEMONS (Tamania).- I intend to support Senator Millen, because I feel quite certain that he is right in his contention. Practically the only argument we have heard against making the proposed alteration now is that we have been committing this error since the institution of this Parliament. It may suit Senator Keating to argue that when we have been travelling along the road of error for a very considerable time it is inadvisable to deviate, but, somehow or other, that sort of argument’ does not generally find much favour here when there are honorable senators present to hear it. This question has been considered, as Senator Millen once pointed out, by the Parliament of New South Wales, and section 23 of their Interpretation Act reads as follows -
Whenever in an Act a power is conferred on any officer or person by the word “ may,” such word shall mean that the power may be exercised or not, at discretion.
Is not that precisely what we want to do? There are occasions when we want to give discretion to an officer or person, as I am reminded by Senator Millen we do in a later part of this clause. On the other hand, there are many occasions on which we want to say definitely, that the Minister shall do certain things, and do not wish to give him a discretion to do them or to leave them undone. The provision in the Interpretation Act of New South Wales goes on to say -
But where the. word “shall’” confers the power, such word shall mean that the power must be exercised.
Frequently we are confronted with a case in which it is our distinct intention that a power shall be exercised, and that there shall be no possibility of evading the exercise thereof. When we desire to bring about that result, we should use the word “shall” in contradistinction to the word “may.” A practice has grown up here which largely destroys the value of one of these two words, and has the result of causing “may” to be interpreted as “shall.” I think it is high time that we took a stand on this matter. I do not believe that any member of the Committee wishes to use either “ may “ or “ shall “ in a slipshod way. If we do not start to use the right word now, when is a start to be made? The longer we go on making this blunder the more firmly will it become established. I trust that Senator Millen will call for a division, and will draw our attention to the fact whenever the word “ may “ is wrongly used in a measure. Of course the provision in. the New South Wales Act applies to any officer or person, but not to the Governor.
– I should have thought that Senator Clemons would know that there is no error in the use of the word “ may “ in this provision. We have already taken up more than an hour in discussing this question. A former Committee decided upon the use of the word “ may “ in such cases. I see no reason to depart from the language of the provision. On a previous occasion I pointed out that if we tried to use “ shall “ when we meant “shall,” and ‘ “ may “ when we meant “ may “ we should get into a state of confusion.
– We shall get confused if we say what we mean !
– We should have to amend nearly every Act we have passed.
– The confusion will be made apparent if this amendment be accepted. Senator Millen wishes to provide that the Minister shall appoint a chief polling place, and may appoint other polling places, abolish any polling place, or establish a polling place area for any specified polling place, and fix its boundaries. He ought to propose that the Minister may establish a polling place for any specified polling place area, and shall fix its boundaries. We should get into a state of confusion at once if we made the proposed alteration. Why should we not adhere to the language which has been adopted by parliamentary draftsmen for centuries?
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I invite Senator Dobson, in spite of his moderate exaggeration of about 300 per cent. when he said we had been discussing this question for an hour, although it is not yet a quarter of an hour since I moved the amendment, to observe that the provision is not consistent as regards the use of this word, because later on it says that there shall be rolls of the electors in each State. There is no greater necessity for affirming in clear terms that there shall be rolls than there is for saying that there shall be a chief polling place. The one without the other would be useless. Why should we affirm that there shall be a roll for each division, and only say that there may be a place at which the persons whose names are on that roll can vote? If, as Senator Keating says, the word “ may “ places an obligation upon the Minister when the public necessity requires him to do a thing, to do it, equally it would be quite sufficient if we said that there may be rolls of the electors in each State. That is the only option. However, I shall not labour the point. If, because a previous Act affirmed a certain thing, we ought not to alter it, we should not have passed such amending clauses as have already been agreed to in this Bill. It is because previous legislation was wrong that we remedy it. If I could get the Committee to my way of thinking, the way would be open for possible amendments of our Acts Interpretation Acts, which would at once remove all possible danger. I point out that we have already passed a clause which says that the GovernorGeneral may “appoint a Registrar.” Now we come to a clause dealing with the Minister. We are not usually so sensitive in dealing with Ministers as we are in dealing with the Governor-General. Surely there can be no objection to say that the Minister “ shall “ do what is desired. But if “ may “ is to be retained here, we ought to make the Bill uniform by using “ may “ in clause 16,’ where the word “ shall “ is used as applicable to rolls. I shall not withdraw the amendment.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The parallel which Senator Millen has attempted to draw between the use of the word “ may “ in the provision under notice, and the use of the word “shall” in clause 1.6, is not a correct one. The latter provision says “There shall be rolls.” It does not say that the Minister shall prepare rolls. But if we were using the words in connexion with a particular person we might say “may.” Wherever officers are intrusted with judicial or administrative functions, we use the word “may,” which the Courts have interpreted in certain classes of cases to mean” shall.”
Personally, I quite agree with the principle contained in the Act quoted by Senator Clemons. But it must be remembered that that was an Acts Interpretation Act of New South Wales.
– Copied from an English Act.
– The section quoted governs the construction of all legislation in New South Wales. But our legislation is governed by our Acts Interpretation Acts, both of which are silent upon the construction of the words “may “ or “shall.” If we were to amend this Bill as proposed, we should land ourselves in a difficulty. In all our previous legislation we have used the word “ may “ in the sense in which we propose to use it here. .
– We could amend our Acts Interpretation Acts.
– Thatis what I think ought to be done if any amendment is to be made. But even then we may create difficulties. We should have to go through all our past Acts, and pick out the individual instances in which Parliament intended the word “ may “ to mean “ may “ in the popular sense, and where it meant “ may “ to mean “ shall,” and we should have to pass a comprehensive enactment governing all those cases. I repeat that I am in favour of the principle mentioned, but I doubt whether this is the proper way to carry it out. I would ask Senator Millen not to press his amendment in this case, because if it were carried it might lead to obscurity and danger in many other places.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- Senator Keating has created a difficulty with regard to the Acts Interpretation Act, and says that if we pass this amendment, we shall find ourselves in trouble with regard to our previous legislation. The answer is that the New South Wales Parliament must have found itself precisely in the same position. But it did not refrain from passing an amendment on that account, and evidently it created no confusion in so doing. There would be none. Further, there is nothing whatever to prevent us from passing Senator Millen’s amendment. . But the real difficulty that faces us is this - that at present we are sometimes using “ may “ to give discretion, and sometimes when we intend to impose an obligation. There is the strongest difference in the world between giving a discretion, and imposing an obligation, and yet we are told that when we read “ may “ in our Acts, it does not mean that discretion is granted, but that the Courts will interpret it as obligatory. The fact is, we have used the word in both senses, and I defy any one to go through our Acts, and to say exactly where, when “ may “ is used, a discretion is permitted, or an obligation imposed. The only solution appears to be that when we intend to give a discretion we should use an obviously absurd word, “might.”
Question - That the word “may” proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - There seems to be some little conflict between proposed substituted clause 26 and section 63 of the principal Act. Section 63 makes the returning officer responsible for any alterations in consequence of a change in the boundary, whereas the substituted clause . throws upon the Minister the duty of giving such directions as may be necessary for the change of electors from one roll to another. It is not desirable to have a duplication of duties, and I suggest the desirableness of omitting paragraph d.
Senator KEATING(Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - Substituted clause 26 is, to a great extent, consequential on substituted clause “25. There may be separate rolls for each polling place, and the provision for the establishment of a polling-place area is very desirable in connexion with more thickly populated centres.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - Is there any particular definition of “ pollingplace area,” which phrase does not, so far as I can see, occur prior to the clause with which we are dealing. I am under the impression that in the principal Act there is no such phrase, and perhaps the Minister will enlighten us as to the necessity for a definition.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - A polling-place area is really in effect a particular division, and the phrase is new in the Bill. It is proposed to give the Minister power to define by certain boundaries an area for which a’ particular polling-place shall be the polling-place. At the same time, of course, it will be competent for anybody in an electorate,if the polling-place area be in his subdivision, to be registered for the particular polling-place, although he may not live within the polling-place area. The object of the clause is to carry out, as far as possible, the desired co-operation with the States, and it will be extremely convenient if the electors, say, in one metropolitan electorate can be grouped together bodily, in such a way as to work harmoniously with the State electoral machinery.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- I begin to understand that “division” means a Commonwealth electorate, and that the desire is that “sub-division” should, in many cases, practically refer to a State electorate. I recognise that another division of locality is a polling-place area, which, in all probability, will be smaller than a State electorate.
– Does the provision in substituted clause 25 mean that no polling-place shall be established after the issue of the writ ?
– No ; it means that no polling-place shall be abolished.
– At what time, and within what limit, having regard to the issue of the writ, can a polling place be gazetted for any particular district?
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - Under the existing law there is no limitation. If the honorable senator will refer to section 24 of the principal Act, he will find that there is no limitation on the appointments of polling places, but there is a limitation on the abolition of polling places.
– Can the GovernorGeneral appoint polling places right up to the day of election ?
– There is nothing in the Act to prevent that.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - There is no limitation as to time on the appointment of polling places, but there is on. the abolition of them or the establishment of polling-place areas. The only limit to the appointment of polling places is that of practicability.
– A polling place may be appointed after the issue of the writ.
– Yes, up to the day before an election.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I am afraid that Senator Keating is under some misapprehension as to the nature of a subdivision. The honorable and learned senator has spoken as though it corresponded to a State electorate.
– Not necessarily.
– That must be understood. The whole purpose of the Bill will fail unless a subdivision may be so small that three or four of them may be grouped in order to form a State electorate. That, in practice, is what these subdivisions must be if the Bill is to have any good effect at all. We have, to some extent, drifted from the matter to which I first directed attention, in connexion with substituted clause 26. The Minister has confined his observations entirely to alterations which might take place within a division, but I refer the Committee to the last line of the clause, which deals with the external boundaries of a division. Whilst it is obvious that there should be some power to transfer the name of an elector from one roll to another when the boundaries of a division are altered, I still affirm that there is a conflict between substituted clause 26 - which deals with the internal boundaries of a division - and section 63 of the principal Act. I lay stress on the fact that I am now dealing, as this clause does, with the external boundaries. Section 63 of the principal Act provides that -
On any change in the boundaries of a division the returning officer for the division shall make all alterations thereby rendered necessary in the roll for the division.
That is clear, and we need not again confuse it by referring to the difference between transferring an individual elector and a group of electors. The Bill provides that wherever the boundaries of a division are altered the Minister shall give directions in the Gazette as to what alterations are to be made, and how they are to be made. There is a conflict here between the Bill and section 63 of the principal Act. I admit the whole of the Minister’s contention with regard to any alteration of internal boundaries, but my point remains good when we come to deal with the external boundaries of a division. It is with me a question whether I can give expression to my views better by proposing that the words “ division or “ shall be left out, or that section 63 of the principal Act shall be repealed. In view of the fact that it is better that a single authority should deal with all matters of a similar character, I should prefer the repeal of section 63 of the principal Act. It is ridiculous to say that the Minister shall give directions for alterations rendered necessary by the disturbance of the internal boundaries of a division, and leave it to the returning officer to make alterations rendered necessary when the external boundaries of a division are disturbed. Senator Keating might consider whether the Minister ought not to be vested with the sole power of making all alterations rendered necessary by any disturbance of the boundaries of a division.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - So far as this clause is concerned, in the use of the words “ boundaries of a division,” there does seem to be some overlapping with section 63 of the principal Act. I have no objection to remedy that. Senator Millen has suggested the repeal of section 63, and I think that would be the better course to adopt as the work would then have to be done under directions which would be gazetted, and an opportunity would be afforded those affected by proposed alterations to obtain some knowledge of them which they are not able to obtain at present, when the making of the necessary alterations is left to the returning officer. I have in the circumstances no objection to the repeal of section 63 of the principal Act. If that is done, as Senator Millen has pointed out, the whole of the events’ on which directions for alterations may be made will be dealt with in one part of the Statute.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- Before Senator Keating finally decides that that is the best way in which to deal with the matter, I direct attention to the fact that in substituted clause 26 it is contemplated that such alterations as shall be made will affect State rather than Federal electorates. If section 63 of the principal Act is not repealed we shall provide that our own electoral officer shall deal with a division which is wholly a Federal, and not a State division. Under substituted clause 26 the Minister is asked to do certain things which will largely tend to bring about the harmony to which reference has been made, but in section 63 of the principal Act the only duty imposed is, I repeat, a purely Federal duty.
– Substituted clause 26 surely imposes a Federal duty solely, inasmuch as it does not affect the creation of any polling place, but merely provides that when certain action has been taken, possibly in conjunction with State officials, the Minister may give directions as to how any alteration of the rolls that is rendered necessary shall take place.
– I do not desire by the repeal of section 63 of the principal Act to relieve the returning officer of the duty to make these alterations, because I think he isthe proper person to perform that duty. He could not be expected to perform the duties imposed under substituted clause 26.
– I think he would have to perform the duty in either case This clause provides only that directions shall be published in the Gazette.
– Section 63 of the principal Act does not provide for the appointment of polling-places.
– I am thinking of the person who is to carry out certain prescribed duties. We directly empower the returning officer in the principal Act to perform these duties, and the question is whether we shall now take from him certain work which he used to do, and get that work done under the operation of substituted clause 26. If the suggested amendment is made, that is what will happen.
– Surely the honorable and learned senator does not desire that there should be a divided authority.
– I think there must be to a certain extent. The repeal of section 63 of the principal Act would in my opinion be a mistake.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 -
Sections twenty-seven to fifty-two inclusive of the principal Act are repealed, and the following sections are substituted in lieu thereof : - “ 27. - (1) There shall be rolls of the electors in each State.
Until new rolls are prepared the rolls in existence at the commencement of this Act shall, as altered from time to time, be the rolls of electors.”
– This clause purports at once to repeal sections 27 to 54 of the principal Act. and ‘ to substitute in lieu of those twenty-seven sections the provisions which are numbered 27 to 36 in this clause. Honorable senators may desire that the different provisions of this clause comprising the proposed substituted clauses should be dealt with separately, and it would be as well, before the discussion on the clause commenced, if it were understood that they will be put separately from the Chair.
– If it is the wish of the Committee I shall submit the clause in paragraphs.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Whilst it would be convenient to honorable senators to deal with the clause in paragraphs, if the rules of debate are enforced too rigidly the consideration of the clause willbe largely hampered.
– Other paragraphs may be referred to by way of illustration.
– I direct attention to the fact that whilst clause 16 proposes the repeal of the whole of part V. of the principal Act, and purports to substitute other machinery, it leaves certain gaps. In part V. of the principal Act it is not only laid down that rolls are to be prepared, but how they are to be prepared, and the whole of the machinery necessary for their preparation is provided.
– When the principal Act was passed there were no rolls in existence.
– In the Bill it does not appear to me that the necessary machinery is set up.
– It is not needed now, as the rolls are already in existence.
– If it is not necessary to have any machinery, what is the use of sub-clause 1 of substituted clause 27?
There shall be rolls of the electors in each State.
The first requirement is to say whose duty it is to see that the rolls are prepared, and the next is to provide how that duty shall be carried out. That provision was made in the principal Act.
– Has the honorable senator read sub-clause 2 of substituted clause 27 ?
– That provision contemplates the preparation of rolls other than those which are in existence. But will the honorable senator show me where, in the Bill, an obligation is placed upon any officer to prepare the rolls?
– Can the honorable senator show me how the present rolls will go out of existence except by alterations?
– Look at substituted clause 32.
– That clause says -
New rolls for any polling places, subdivisions, divisions, or States, shall be prepared whenever directed by proclamation, and in the manner specified in the proclamation, or prescribed by the regulations
This substituted clause does not prescribe, as the original Act does, whose duty it is to prepare the rolls. On the contrary, it is left absolutely to the Executive to say whether there shall be rolls or not. I do not quite indorse that mode of dealing with so important a matter. When it is proposed to abolish the whole of the machinery by which our electoral rolls were created, we have a right to ask what machinery it is proposed to substitute. Apart from substituted clause 32, no machinery is provided in this Bill.
– We have also to ask ourselves whether any machinery is required.
– Why did we provide machinery in the Electoral Act?
– Because we had to create a new roll.
– The honorable senator suggests that after the machinery in the principal Act is repealed, some officer will take into his hands the existing roll, and see that it is continued. If we were to deal with our public officers in that manner, we could shorten our Acts very materially. We should adhere to our policy of giving clear directions as to the duties of the electoral officers, and the manner in which those duties are to be discharged. In the three Electoral Acts of New South Wales, very clear directions were given as to the duties of the various officers. I cannot help thinking that Part V. of this Bill has been prepared on the assumption that the machinery of the principal Act will continue to operate after it has been repealed by this Bill. I am sure that the Minister does not wish the measure to be passed with a gap. I hope that he will be able to give such an explanation as will render it unnecessary for me to move for the retention of some provisions in the corresponding part of the principal Act.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - This part of the Bill proposes to substitute for sections 27 to 54 of the principal Act eight or nine clauses, because in the great majority of instances, the operation of those sections has been exhausted. The circumstances which necessitated their insertion in the main Act have since ceased to exist. When we were providing for our first electoral machinery, it was necessary to provide, as we did in section 27, that there should be rolls of the electors prepared in each State. The rolls were prepared and acted upon in connexion with the first elections held under the Act. It is now proposed to replace that section of the Act with this provision -
It is not necessary for us to say in this Bill that rolls of the electors in each State shall be prepared, but merely to say that until fresh rolls are prepared in accordance with the provisions of the law, the existing rolls shall be, as altered from time to time, the rolls. I do not know that Senator Millen has directed specific attention to any provision in the main Act in which the duty of preparing the rolls is by express terms placed upon any particular officer.
– Section 32 did place upon the Chief Electoral Officer the duty of preparing a list, and subsequent provisions provided how that list was to be converted into a roll.
– That work is done, and is proposed to be utilized under the provisions of this Bill. There are provisions in this Bill and the main Act with regard to any applications which maybe made for additions to the rolls, and a continuous revision of the rolls is provided for.
– Now that I have been referred to Part VII. of the Bill, I do not perceive the difficulties which Senator Millen anticipates. I believe that the whole machinery will work harmoniously. The chief alteration which, so far as I can see, the Bill makes in this regard is to abolish the Courts of Revision.
– Whose duty will it be to look after the rolls?
– If my honorable friend will refer to Part VII. of the Bill he will find that the question of the removal of names from the existing rolls is placed in the hands of the returning officer. I cannot see any material alteration in the existing machinery, except in regard to the supplanting of the Courts of Revision. I am quite satisfied with the provisions of the Bill in that regard.
Proposed substituted clause agreed to. .
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 28- “ (1) There may be a separate roll for each polling-place(in this Act called a “Polling-place Roll “).
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - It is quite evident that the word “may “ is correctly used in the first two subclauses of this provision, because, unless there is a polling-place or a subdivision there can hardly be a roll therefor. I wish to point out that, although it is left quite optional whether there shall be a pollingplace roll or a subdivision roll, it is affirmed that the roll for the division shall consist of the subdivision and the polling-place rolls. Suppose that there are no such rolls, what will constitute the rolls for the division? Sub-clauses1 and 2 are contingent upon the happening of certain circumstances, but if there are no such rolls as are therein referred to, it is essential to have a roll for the division. The object of the clause is quite clear; it is merely a matter of draftsmanship. My purpose is to provide for a case in which there are no subdivision or polling place rolls. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - “ 1. There shall be a roll for each division.”
– I understand that that means that there shall be one or more rolls ?
Amendment agreed to.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).Subclause 2 of the proposed substituted clause says -
There may be a separate roll for each subdivision.
Will that roll include all the polling places in each division? Suppose that a State electorate is made a subdivision. There may be a dozen separate polling places in it. Will the names of all the electors entitled to vote be grouped under their own polling places?
– Wherever there are polling places the rolls are bound together to form a divisional roll.
– I know that, but what I want to know is this : There is a provision for a subdivision roll. I take that to mean that it is intended to fit in with the State electorates. For instance, any State electorate might be made a subdivision. There may be a dozen different polling places within that subdivision. Will the names of the electors be grouped around their own polling places as at present, or will the names run alphabetically without any reference to the polling places?
– They will be grouped around each polling place as at present.
Proposed substituted clause, as amended,’ agreed to.
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 29- “ The rolls may be in the prescribed form, and shall describe the surname, christian names, sex, place of living,and occupation of each elector, and shall contain such other particulars as are prescribed.”
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- The marginal note refers to section 30 of the original Act, which prescribes the form in which these electoral rolls shall be prepared. It says that the rolls may be in the form A in the schedule, and shall contain the particulars indicated in that form.
The substituted clause says that the rolls may be “in the prescribed form.”
– The idea is to give an amount of elasticity to enable us to work with the States.
– I have no objection to that. But as a necessary corollary we should issue regulations prescribing the particular form of roll, which may be varied from time to time.
– Yes, the rolls may be varied in conjunction with the States rolls.
Proposed substituted clause agreed to.
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 30- “ (1) The Governor-General may arrange with the Governor of a _ State for the preparation, alteration, and revision of the Rolls, in any manner consistent with the provisions of this Act, jointly by the Commonwealth and the State, to the intent that the Rolls may be used as Electoral Rolls for State elections as well as for Commonwealth elections.
When any such arrangement has been made, the Rolls may contain, for the purposes of such State elections -
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I wish to indicate an amendment that I propose to submit. The substituted clause provides that the Commonwealth and State authorities may, by a joint arrangement between the respective Executives, prepare joint rolls, which can be used both for Commonwealth and State elections. But, in order to do that, there would have to be upon those rolls some individuals who are electors for both Commonwealth and State, some electors for Commonwealth and not for State, and some who are electors for State and not for Commonwealth. Thus there may be three classes of electors. I do not think the clause makes ft quite clear that these three classes shall be indicated. It only provides that two of them shall be indicated. I propose to move an amendment to make it clear that if these joint rolls are adopted the three classes of electors shall be distinguished. I also wish to propose an amendment to limit this joint arrangement to those States in which the qualification of electors is similar to the qualification for the Commonwealth.
– That would cut out Victoria.
– I do not’ mention any State, but I think that the joint arrangement ought to be limited to States in which the franchise is the same as our own. The amendment which I first intend to ask the Senate to adopt is, after the word “ State,” to insert the words “ in which the qualification of an elector is .similar to that of the Commonwealth.” The effect of the amendment would be to limit the arrangement for joint rolls to those States in which the qualification of an elector is similar to that of an elector in the Commonwealth; and the proposal may be considered quite apart from the other to which I referred. The present proposal raises the question ,as to whether the joint rolls should include electors whose qualification is different to that in the Commonwealth. It seems to me that if we were to permit this we should create a great deal of confusion, and possibly end in disfranchising, either for State or Commonwealth purposes, a large number of electors.
– Suppose the only difference was that, while in the one case the qualification was six months’ residence, in the other it was three months’ residence?
– The difference between the qualifications may be nominal ; but, technically, it may prove sufficient, in certain instances, to debar a man from the exercise of both Commonwealth and State franchise - sufficient to prevent a man from being an elector for the State, although an elector for the Commonwealth. The difference being so slight, it is not too much to ask the States to bring their elec toral machinery into conformity with our own. If the difference were a great one, I might say that the gap, perhaps, was too great to be bridged over. If there be different qualifications, an elector, seeing his name on the roll, may probably not take the trouble to ascertain whether it is there for both purposes. At the last election quite a large number of electors in New South Wales, who thought that, because they held a State right they were entitled to vote for the Commonwealth Parliament, only found that such was not the case when they presented themselves at the pollingbooth. This confusion will become largely intensified, and much more general, because, if men see that their names are on the Commonwealth rolls, they will assume that they are there for Commonwealth purposes. It may be said that such ignorance would show negligence on the part of the elector in making himself acquainted with the electoral laws, but we have to take electors as we find them. Outside the State of Victoria, where the suffrage is limited to males of twenty-one years of age, the difference between the Federal qualification and that of the States is quite nominal.
– Is the nominal difference a sufficient reason for this amendment?
– It is, coupled with the confusion likely to arise if there be a joint roll, on which a name may be entered for one purpose and not for another. I propose this amendment in the interests of the electors. And, in my opinion, we are entitled to say to the States thai:, if, in the interests of their Treasury, they request us to have joint rolls, we in the interests of the electors, may ask the States to remove little anomalies likely to lead to confusion on the part of the elector. I speak with a lively recollection of the difficulty, uncertainty and confusion which occurred at the last election. After this lapse of time, honorable sen’ators mav be inclined to discount the difficulties which then arose, but they must! remember how every candidate and newspaper raised protests against the state of affairs which I do not want to see repeated. The Bill, as it stands, tends to increase the uncertainty, and I ask honorable senators whether any objection can possibly be raised to the amendment ?
– But the States would be asked to make the change by the Electoral Officer.
– As the Bill stands, the joint rolls could be proceeded with while the anomalies remained. At present, the Bill permits joint rolls on a varying franchise, with a later provision for an indication of the purpose for which the elector is enrolled. But with the amendment, the name would be on the roll with the knowledge that it was there for- both State and Commonwealth purposes. The amendment is clearly in the interests of simplicity, and however it may be received, I feel it my duty to submit it. I move -
That after the word “ State,” line 2, the words “ in which the qualification of an elector is similar to that of the Commonwealth,” be inserted.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Ronary Minister). - I thoroughly recognise that Senator Millen’s object is to safeguard, as far as possible, this provision for joint action, and to prevent the elector from being misled. But I really see no necessity for the amendment. After all, we simply propose, by this substituted clause, to confer a power, which may or may not be exercised, and which, of course, will only be exercised where it Oan be with advantage. For instance, the qualification of an elector for the Commonwealth may vary from the qualification in a particular State, but the points at variance may Be practically immaterial so far as carrying out the purpose of the clause is concerned. It is desirable when conferring a power like this - to be exercised only in certain contingencies, which, perhaps, in some cases do not at present arise - that we should make the provision as elastic as possible. Already in substituted clause 29, it is provided that the rolls may be in the prescribed form and contain certain particulars, and “ such other particulars as are prescribed.” In any case in which it was sought to exercise the power, the form of the rolls to be used would be prescribed, and then it would be open for those who were prescribing the particular forms of rolls to dea.l with the particular circumstances of that case and the necessities arising from them. Of course, as honorable senators know, the regulations must be laid before each House of the Parliament. I can understand that it may be urged that very often regulations do not receive from honorable members that attention which they should. But I consider that a regulation in connexion with electoral administration - the preparation of the rolls - would invite just as much attention as did the regulations framed under the Public Service Act.
– The honorable and learned senator will recognise that the natural tendency of a Minister’s mind is to leave as much as possible to regulations.
– In a case like that under notice such a provision is inescapable, because in substituted clause 30 we give a power which may or may not be used, but which will only be used in conformity with the particular circumstances that will present themselves at the time it is used7. When the exercise of that power is called for it is desirable that the regulations prescribing the forms of the rolls shall be such as will meet the particular necessities of the case. Senator Millen has referred to the case of persons whose names were not found on the Commonwealth rolls at the time of the last elections, but who were qualified to be enrolled. But I would remind honorable senators that this provision, and the procedure which” we are now attempting to establish, will to a very large extent minimize the risk of any qualified man not finding- his name upon the roll.
– My argument was that a man’s name might be on the roll for one purpose, but not for both purposes.
– I intend to deal with that point. Suppose that the power proposed to be given by the provision is exercised, both the Commonwealth and the State will work towards a common end, and in so doing the likelihood of a man’s name being incorrectly enrolled or placed on the rolls with imperfect additions will be less likely to occur, because each’ authority will, so to speak, act as a reciprocal check upon the other. I think that to a verv large extent the risk of a man being enrolled for the exercise of one franchise when he was entitled to exercise two franchises will be considerably minimized when the two authorities are focussing their efforts. The variations or differences between the State and Federal franchises may very conceivably be so immaterial as not to in any way affect the principle. In such a case it would be desirable that the GovernorGeneral should have power to deal in that State as in other States where the qualifications were precisely similar.
– But technical differences, however; slight, might operate to disfranchise a man.
– It does not necessarily follow that the Governor-General would exercise the power given to him by the provision, but if it were couched in mandatory terms there might be some force in that objection. It is desirable that as far as possible this power should be given in the widest terms possible. It may or may not be exercised, and I take it that it will never be exercised unless it be for the mutual advantage of a State and the Commonwealth. In my speech on the second reading, I pointed to a statement in the report of the Select Committee on electoral administration, as to the sum of money which might have been saved to South Australia by printing a joint roll for the State and the Commonwealth. Similar information could be given in regard to Victoria. The saving would be not merely to the State concerned, but to the Commonwealth and the State. We have already passed a provision dealing with the form in which the roll may be compiled, and the particular details referred to by Senator Millen can, I think, be properly prescribed in the regulations to meet the circumstances of each case.
– I think it is inadvisable to limit the scope of the powers proposed to be conferred upon the Governor-General by this provision. Senator Millen has said that there may be technical differences between a State franchise and the Commonwealth franchise, and that such differences, although their effect may be very trivial, may operate to disfranchise a man. It must be remembered that the power given in substituted clause 30 is purely permissive, and that it is not at all likely that the GovernorGeneral would extend the exercise of the powers to’ those portions of Australia in which the qualifications for the suffrage were extremely divergent. Suppose that some slight differences in the qualifications had been overlooked by this Parliament, and that both the State concerned and the Commonwealth desired that a joint roll should be compiled, it might not be possible for some reason or other to make the necessary alteration, and the GovernorGeneral would be prohibited by the amendment from taking a step which would save considerable expense to the taxpayers. Iri that way, great hardships would be inflicted.
Under the Commonwealth law, it is allowable for a person who has been enrolled for three months to vote, but in the case of some States the term is longer. That difficulty can be got over. At the Premiers’ Conference, held in Hobart last February, the subject of the differences between the franchises was discussed. It was suggested that in the case of Victoria it would be possible to so compile the rolls as to show by the use of different type those persons - women - who were ineligible to vote in a State electorate, so that at a State election it could be seen at once whether certain persons, whose names were on a roll, were entitled to vote or not, and vice versa. It will be far better to leave this matter to the discretion of the Governor-General, because it is not likely that the provisions of the substituted clause would be extended to those parts of Australia where the electoral qualifications are so divergent, or where the differences are such that they cannot be reconciled by any compromise.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).I should very much like to support the idea underlying Senator Millen’s amendment. He suggested that the Commonwealth Parliament ought to give the lead to the States as to what their franchise should be, with a view to securing uniformity with the Commonwealth franchise. He must remember that all the States are not in the happy position of New South Wales, with a nominee Upper House, for which no electoral rolls are required. In the case of other States, the electors for the Upper House are required to possess a strong property qualification, and, therefore, it would be impossible to assimilate the rolls for those Houses with the Federal rolls. I am satisfied that if the amendment were carried, the Upper Houses in the States would complain very loudly about this Parliament interfering with a view to bring their franchise into line with the franchise for the Senate.
– Is it necessary to have one roll or two rolls in South Australia?
– It is necessary to have a roll for each House. No person can be enrolled for the Legislative Council unless he has a property qualification as a householder of the annual value of ^25, or as a freeholder of the value of £50, or as a leaseholder of the value of ^20 per annum, with at least five years of the lease to run.
– Is a man whose name is on a roll for the Legislative Council entitled by reason of such enrolment to vote at an election for the House of Assembly?
– Not unless he makes an application, whereupon he is entitled to vote at an election for either House. I should be only too glad to assist the honorable senator to assimilate the State and Federal rolls, if he could see his way clear to give every elector in South Australia who is entitled to vote at a Senate election the right to vote for a member of the Legislative Council.
– It is not necessary to do that.
– Then I take it that the honorable senator, in his remarks, was referring to only the rolls for the Lower House in each State.
– I take it that the honorable senator is not prepared to give a lead to the States in extending to the electors for the Senate of the Commonwealth the right to vote at an election for the Upper House of their State.
– Certainly not, where a property qualification exists.
– If we leave out of consideration the Upper House, we have only the rolls for the Lower House to deal with. There is only a slight difference between the qualification of electors for the Lower House in South Australia and the qualification for electors for the Commonwealth. Last year the position was this : South Australia had to .print at the expense of her taxpayers a roll for the Statefor the purposes of her State elections. Then the Commonwealth had to print - not in Adelaide, but in Melbourne - a set of rolls for the whole of South Australia, containing absolutely the same names as were included in the rolls for the State elections, with one slight difference - namely, that the State rolls had an extra column showing whether the elector on the roll had been registered for six months. Under the South Australian law persons are not entitled to vote until they have been on the roll for six months, and to indicate that fact the date” of registration is placed against the name. If that slight addition were made to the Federal rolls there could be no misunderstanding. A man would go to the nearest post-office and consult the roll. If he had not been three months on the roll, he would not be en titled to vote for the Commonwealth ; if he had not been six months on the roll, he would not be entitled up vote for the State. This clause provides that the rolls are to be in a prescribed form. It would be very easy for the Government to prescribe for the South Australian rolls that the date of registration should be placed against the name of the elector. That would make the Commonwealth rolls available for State elections. As to the preparation of the rolls there can be no difficult)’. In South Australia we prepare our rolls as follows : When the census is taken every ten years, in addition to the census paper an electoral application form is delivered. The person who wishes to vote makes his application, and his name is placed on the roll just as he is enumerated in the census. In the interim between censuses application forms are kept at every post-office and by every electoral registrar throughout the State. A person can get a form, fill it up, send it in, and get his name placed on the roll. Nothing can be simpler. When the Commonwealth came into existence, other means were adopted for compiling the rolls. The police called at the houses of the people, and from their lists the rolls were prepared. Nor is there any difficulty in regard to the revision of the rolls. Indeed, the Commonwealth has practically adopted the South Australian system. I see no necessity for Senator Millen’s amendment. We cannot compel the States to accept our franchise for the Upper Houses. I think that the Government in making this proposal have made the best arrangement possible to get near to uniformity with the States in the preparation of rolls. . Consequently I shall support it.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).The Legislative Council rolls which Senator Guthrie has mentioned would not be interfered with in the matter we are discussing. The only rolls affected in his State would be those for the House of Assembly. At present, a South Australian elector has to get on three rolls - that for the State Legislative Council, that for the State House of Assembly, and that for the Commonwealth. The whole question which we have to consider is not the special franchise for the Legislative Council, but the franchise for what is called the popular House, which is based upon manhood or womanhood and residence. Senator Guthrie sets at rest any doubt I may have had as to the efficacy of my proposal, when he admits that a man can get on the roll for the House of Assembly in South Australia and for the Commonwealth, quite irrespective of any property qualification which may entitle him to vote for the Legislative Council. That however, is merely a side issue with which we are not concerned.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I wish to refer to a point which may have escaped Senator Millen’s attention - the effect of the word “ similar.” I take it that the idea underlying his amendment is to deal with cases where there is no doubt about a man being qualified to be upon both rolls in a State. Take the South Australian instance, where an elector has to be on the State rolls six months before he can vote. Suppose a man had been resident nine or ten months in the Commonwealth, but only one month’ in South Australia. In that case he would be entitled to be an elector for the Commonwealth, but not for the State. If we pass this amendment a number of cases like that might be affected. That is a phase of the situation that seems to have escaped attention. I ask the Committee to pass the clause as it stands.
– Do I understand that if in the case of the Commonwealth the period of residence required was three months and the period required for a State was six months, it would prevent any similarity?
– It would.
– I am afraid I cannot support the amendment.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I have already placed in the hands of the Minister an amendment, which does not affect the principle involved in this proposed substituted clause, but which would, I think, set it out in a more definite fashion. By the rejection of my last amendment, we have adopted the principle that general rolls may be arranged for between States and Commonwealth. The clause goes on to say that if those joint rolls are prepared there shall be an indication against the name of an elector if he is not enrolled for Commonwealth purposes. To make that abundantly clear, I think that we should set out that these joint rolls shall indicate either by initial or by some other means to which of the three classes the elector belongs. It ought to be indicated whether the elector is qualified for the dual purpose, or is only a Commonwealth elector, or only a State elector; whereas only two of these classes are indicated.
– Substituted clause 29 provides that there shall be given “ such other particulars as are prescribed.”
– Why should the two classes be provided for in the clause, and the Minister left to indicate the third class by regulation? There appears to me to be a want of balance in the Bill; and either the whole should be left to regulation or the whole defined by legislation. The fact that the Bill indicates two out of the three classes furnishes the strongest argument in favour of the position I take. It appears to me that the draftsman assumed that he had provided for the three classes, and probably, he indirectly did so, but not in that clear and definite way which is desirable. There ought to be a provision that electors may be enrolled who are not State electors, if that fact be clearly set out. The amendment which I intend to move provides that the three classes shall be clearly indicated ; and I point out that Mr. Garran, to whose admirable paper I have already referred, adopted this very principle when he outlined the scheme, because, if I remember aright, he suggested that the letter “C” might be placed opposite the names of the Commonwealth electors, and the letter “S” against the names of the State electors, and that where both of these letters were absent it would be assumed that the qualification was both State and Commonwealth.
– That was not to be brought about by Commonwealth legislation alone, but by a combination of Commonwealth and State legislation.
– The Minister just now referred me to substituted clause 29, under which he said, the omission could be remedied by regulation.
– The regulations will be made with the advantage of negotiations with the States.
– Surely it is not asking too much that we should follow up the provision made in substituted clause 29, and say that electors, who are not State electors, may be enrolled, provided the fact is clearly set out?
– Would the date of registration not give the information.
– I should not like to express a definite opinion, because I am not so familiar with the South Australian Electoral Act as, perhaps, I ought to be.
– The whole matter can be provided for by regulation.
– That interjection raises the whole question whether, having dealt with two-thirds of the matter by legislation, we should leave the complementary third part to be dealt with by regulation.
– There will have to be regulations as to what letters shall be fixed, and we need not go into these details here.
– But why provide in the Bill for some details and leave others to be dealt with by regulation? Is there any uniformity or common sense in such a plan? I move -
That after the word” persons,” line 12, the following words be inserted : - “ who are not entitled to be enrolled thereon as electors of the Commonwealth ;
who are not entitled to be enrolled thereon as electors of the State ; and shall clearly discriminate and show : -
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I have no doubt that if the power conferred by the proposed substituted clause is ever exercised, it will be with due regard to the conditions referred to by Senator Millen,
– Infinite trust in the Government !
– There is something more. The Bill does certainly provide that certain persons shall be designated in a certain way. so as to show their qualifications or want of qualifications, but the possession or want of those qualifications relates to the Commonwealth franchise, which is within our own domain. This provision can never come into operation unless some agreement has been arrived at with a State, in which case it will be necessary for the State to make the complementary provision, in order to designate who are and who are not State electors.
– Why should the State make a double distinction if we only make one?
– The State will make the distinction which is complementary to this provision. We may in this Bill provide that anything which pertains to the Commonwealth franchise shall be shown on the rolls, but it is not for us to declare what shall or shall not be placed on the State roll as affecting the political status of particular individuals in a State.
– It is not for one party to declare, but for both to declare in agreement.
– We do declare in part by this substituted clause.
– In this Bill we legislate only in so far as the Commonwealth franchise is affected, leaving the State, which makes the agreement, to provide what State information the roll shall contain. When I referred to the fact that substituted clause 29 provides that “ rolls may be in the prescribed form,” I was adverting to the fact that a form will not be prescribed until some arrangement has been made with a particular State, when the necessary particulars arising out of the circumstances of the case will be provided for.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - In my opinion, the modus operandi proposed by Senator Millen will prove cumbersome, because it means that it will be necessary to get the six States to unanimously agree to the very letter of the amendment.
– We have the right to make the conditions on which we shall agree to a common roll.
– And the probability is that that will necessitate an alteration of the law in the six States.
– State legislation would be required in any case.
– Not necessarily. If the electoral law of a State is elastic enough to allow the returning officer, with the consent of the Executive, to prescribe the form of the roll, there will be no need for legislation.
– All the States have the form prescribed by law.
– Not necessarily. In South Australia there is a form which, with economy, gives the whole of the particulars; and, so far as the Legislative Assembly of the State is concerned, the roll could be used to-morrow without trouble.
– That roll would have to be altered by reason of this substituted clause.
– Not a single letter of it. Any person with three months’ residenceis entitled; to the Commonwealth vote, and, with six months’ residence, to a State vote.
– My amendment would not affect that roll.
– I think it would. I understand the honorable senator to propose that the letter C shall be placed opposite the names of those who are entitled to vote for the Commonwealth, and that the letters C and S shall be placed opposite the names of those entitled to vote for both Commonwealth and State.
– Or no letters in the latter case.
-I think the amendment would complicate matters very much.
– I merely referred to Mr. Garran’s suggestion as one of the methods which might be adopted.
– My suggestion is that every person who has resided six months in the State shall have no indication opposite his name, but that the man who has not been there six months shall have the date of registration affixed.
– That applies only to South Australia. No other States, so far as I know, allows a man’s name to be placed on the roll until he is qualified to vote.
– I am informed that in this respect, Western Australia is in the same position as South Australia. In New South Wales, where is the necessity to indicate whether the name is there for State or Commonwealth purposes, seeing that the fact that the name is there gives the right to vote for the Commonwealth ?
– Not always, because a longer residence is required to qualify for the State, and the name is not necessarily that of an elector for both State and Commonwealth.
– That is a strong argument why we ought to try to negotiate with the States, and where there is want of uniformity, remedy the defect by means of regulations, instead of by a hard and fast clause in a Bill.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- I believe that a majority of honorable senators have quite decided that, on its merits, the amendment of Senator Millen is a good one, and the only difference of opinion is as to whether the initiative in this legislation should be taken by the Commonwealth or by the States. I think it is agreed by most honorable senators that Senator Millen has attempted to draw a very clear distinction in his amendment, which will make everything quite plain. The only argument which has been advanced against his proposal - and I do not think it is one of much importance - is that the table would be bulky and lengthy. So long as the chief object is secured, I do not think that the table will be too bulky from our stand-point. I believe that the inclusion of one column will cover all that is required. If we go so far as to introduce one column, it will not matter how many different paragraphs it may contain. It will be an effort to bring into harmony conflicting methods in the States and the Commonwealth. Senator Keating can say nothing more against the amendment than that it is quite sufficient for us to go to a certain extent in the direction of producing that harmony, and to leave the States to pass complementary legislation. I cannot see why we should not go to the furthest extent which we deem desirable. I think that the amendment is a very good one.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The rolls, if they come into existence under this amendment, will not be the rolls of the Commonwealth or the rolls of the State, but the rolls of both the Commonwealth and the State. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the proposed substituted clause as it stands provides that where the name of a person appears on a roll, and he is not a Commonwealth elector, that fact shall be indicated. It is manifestly the duty, in fact it is the prerogative ofthe States in connexion with the rolls, which they hold jointly with ours, to make a corresponding provision, and it is not for us to legislate to that extent. With regard to those persons who are both State and Commonwealth electors, there is no necessity for making any mark. There are only two other classes to be considered, namely, those who are Commonwealth but not State electors, and vice versa.
– There is no class of that sort, because all State electors are Commonwealth electors.
– It is suggested to me that it may exist.
– Any State can reduce the age at which a person, is entitled to the State franchise.
– So far as those who are State but not Commonwealth electors are concerned, we say that they shall be indicated by a mart. Surely it is within the proper domain of the State which wishes to co-operate with the Commonwealth to enact what it desires to have in regard to the class who may be Commonwealth but not State electors. Seeing that this is only a permissive provision, and one which’ cannot come into operation except in agreement with a State, we ought not to say to the States that we have already imposed the condition with which they shall have to comply in order to take advantage of this legislation.
– I believe that the States look to us to impose that condition.
– I think not. In any case, I believe that the States will have to pass complementary legislation, and, as a matter of respect for the rights of the States in their own domain of legislation, and about which they are all properly jealous, we might very well leave them to take such action. The provision with regard to prescribing the form of the rolls can be given effect to in each case according to the particular necessity.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The last remarks of the Minister make it abundantly clear that he does not object to what I am proposing, but that, in his opinion, a portion of the legislation ought to be provided by the States.
– Because I think it is within their rights.
– The Minister conceded that something will have to be done before we can give effect to the provision for joint rolls. The only point is whether we, instead of making a partial proposal to the States, should not state fully what we think ought to be the rules to be observed, and the form to be adopted in preparing the joint rolls. The Minister thinks that we ought not to take that course. But suppose that the States make a. proposal which we are not prepared to accept, it will delay negotiations still further. I did not suggest, as Senator Guthrie has said, that there should be five columns, because, in my opinion, one column will be quite sufficient. The entry of the initial will not take up any more room than is occupied by the date of enrolment on his own State roll. I would remind the honorable senator that the principle of publishing the date of enrolment does not prevail except in South Australia, and in, I believe, Western Australia.
– I believe that the Minister is unwise in resisting the amendment. It is a comparatively small proposal, but, if accepted, it will lead to that which is very desirable, namely, uniformity. Otherwise, we might have joint rolls with one State in which a distinct indication of this character existed, and joint rolls in another State in which there was no such indication. As it is admitted to be a thing which in itself it is desirable to provide for, I think it is wise to make it a condition of the joint roll. I urge the Minister to withdraw his objection to the amendment.
– Any State may object to the Commonwealth prescribing the form of its roll.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed substituted clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 31- “ (3) Except as provided in this section or as prescribed, he may havehis name placed on any one polling place or subdivision roll for the division.”
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I ask Senator Keating to consider whether or not the words “or subdivision “ in subclause 3 are not only unnecessary, but are likely to be confusing. He will observe that a previous sub-clause absolutely lays it down that if there is a subdivision the elector can only have his name on the roll for that subdivision. This sub-clause appears to give the elector an option. I admit at once that the option is only apparent, because it is destroyed by the words “except as provided in this section.” The clear purport of the provision is that he shall have no option, if a subdivision roll exists, and yet it says that he may be on any subdivision roll.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - It may amount to a repetition of a previous sub-clause. Of course it is complementary to or consequential upon the provision in paragraph d> of substituted clause 25, in connexion with the establishment of polling-place areas. But I do not think it is absolutely necessary to use the words “or subdivision.”
Amendment (bv Senator Millen) agreed to-
That the words “or subdivision” be left out.
Proposed substituted clause, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed substituted clauses 32 and 33 agreed to.
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 34- “ Supplemental rolls, setting out additions since the last print, shall also be printed at such times as the Minister directs.”
– I move -
That after the word “printed” the words “at intervals of not less than twelve months and” be inserted.
I n Western Australia, especially on the goldfields, a very large percentage of the electors are constantly moving about, and, in order that supplemental rolls shall be printed at least every twelve months, this amendment is necessary. It will meet the requirements of many nomadic persons, not only on the gold-fields, but in other parts of the State. If a longer interval than twelve months were allowed to elapse before the supplemental rolls were printed, a very large percentage of the voters might find themselves disfranchised.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).An amendment which I intend to submit to the Committee will come in at the same point as Senator de Largie’s, and is some what in the same direction. But I propose to adopt the words of the existing Act, and to insert : “ Immediately previous to a general election, and at such other times. “
– What would be meant by “ immediately “ ?
– They are the words of the present Act. I should prefer a definite time.
– Senator de Largie provides a definite time.
– The difficulty is this. You might have a roll printed today, and’ in hine months’ time there might be an election. There would then be nothing to compel the reprinting of the roll. I presume that Senator de Largie has in view the circumstances of Western Australia. But there might be no necessity to reprint the rolls for twelve months’ in more settled districts, and it would be a waste of money absolutely to oblige the officers charged with the Administration of this measure to reprint rolls in every State, in order to suit the circumstances of one. My amendment would compel the Minister to have the rolls brought up to date immediately before an election. Whether we can fix a period, I do not know, but it seems to me that we could not. Suppose we said, “ within two months.” An election might be sprung upon us to-morrow. As far as we can meet the case, we should do so. At this stage, I merely indicate my amendment. If that of Senator de Largie is carried it will not be necessary for me to move it. But if it is not carried I shall proceed with mine.
– I think that the reasonableness of Senator de Largie’s amendment must appeal to every honorable senator. The reasons given by Senator Millen prove that we ought to fix once and for all a time when statutory rolls shall be forthcoming. A general election might take place at any time.
– There is a limit in the Act.
– It is a limit which seems to me to operate verv inconveniently to the elector, and has done so on more than one occasion. If we had our supplemental rolls brought up to date every twelve months, we should be nearer to meeting the case than we are under present circumstances. I have no objection to supplemental rolls being printed immediately prior to a general election ; but if we allow our rolls to get into a backward state, as we have done, and are likely to do if we do not take care, there will be all the more difficulty in bringing them up to date at a time when they are required.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I think that Senator Millen’s suggestion is an improvement upon my amendment. I can see the necessity for some instruction being given to the Minister as to bringing out supplemental rolls just before a general election. Under the clause as it now stands, and my amendment, there is no such instruction. It leaves the matter to the Minister. I should prefer an indication in the Act from which the Minister could not get away. I hope the Minister will be prepared to accept Senator Millen’s proposal, in which case I shall be willing to withdraw my amendment.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I am informed that there are serious objections both to Senator de Largie’s amendment and Senator Millen’s suggestion, and that either would defeat to some extent the objects which both honorable senators seem to have in view. But I should like to have time to look into the matter further.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I wish to ask the Minister to look into this matter carefully before determining to accept an amendment. It is provided in section 53 of the principal Act that these supplemental rolls shall be printed immediately after the holding of a revision court and before a general election. It is certainly desirable to have them printed as near as possible to a general election. We have adopted another method of revising the rolls, instead of having revision courts, but I have been unable to find out by a perusal of Part VII. at what period the revision is to be made under the new Bill.
– It is continuous.
– I understand that the removal of names from the rolls, and the addition of new names, may be going on day by day at all times. Ought we not to have some means of ascertaining from that process when it would be desirable to have the supplemental rolls printed ? Of course it is always desirable to have them printed as near as possible to a general election, but it appears to me that by means of the process prescribed for the continuous revision there might be a means of determining when it was necessary to print new ones.
Motion (by Senator Playford) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to know what business the Government propose to take next week, and whether we are to sit continuously ? I hope they will not bring honorable senators here to find that we shall only sit a few hours.
– I should like to say, with reference to Senator Clemons’s remarks, that it is only fair to the Government to recognise that the portion of the time not devoted to public work last week was not otherwise appropriated at the desire of the Government, but to meet the convenience of many honorable senators. I do not think that it was the desire of the Government to curtail the time devoted to business.
– It certainly did not meet the convenience of honorable senators from Tasmania.
– The convenience of honorable senators who were not present was not affected. What was done was to meet the convenience of those who were . here.
– Next week we shall continue the consideration of the Electoral Bill until it has passed through Committee. When a Bill gets into Committee, I like to finish it while honorable senators have the details in their minds. After that we shall proceed with the concluding stages of the Copyright Bill, and then take the Representation Bill, the Commerce Bill, and the Secret Commissions Bill. There is plenty of work to keep us fully employed.
– Will the measures be taken in the order mentioned?
– Yes, unless some unforeseen circumstances arise which make it desirable to take the Bills in some other sequence. The order may be varied to some extent.
– What about the motion regarding the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s contract?
-I had overlooked that matter, which will be in the hands of my colleague.
– We will take that on Wednesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051013_senate_2_27/>.