2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.im. and read prayers.
Senator WALKER presented a petition from the Fruit-growers Union of New South Wales praying the Senate to reject the Commerce Bill, or to so amend it as to cause it to press as lightly as possible upon traders.
Petition received and read, and ordered to be printed.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, if it is true, as stated in this morning’s Argus, that the Government intend to so amend the Immigration Restriction Act as to place immigrants from Japan outside the education test, and that their proposals in- that direction have been submitted for approval to the Japanese. Government in Tokio before being submitted to this Parliament?
– I have not seen the paragraph in question, but it has been seen by the Prime Minister, who, thinking that I might be asked a question on the subject, has sent me the following reply : -
The passport system is one to allow the temporary admission of Japanese who desire to travel round and see the country.
– And to acquire military information.
– Indeed !
– -Why were we not taken into the confidence of the Government as well as the Japanese?
– I have answered the question of the honorable senator as far as I am able to do so. The correspondence has never come before nae, and, therefore, I have no knowledge of it.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether the Government has decided on the course it will adopt with reference to the Capital Site, and if so, what is its decision ?
– So far as I .am aware negotiations are going on, and are, I believe, nearly completed. Immediately they .are completed a communication will be made to the Parliament ; and I believe that a measure will be brought in to give ‘effect to any arrangements which may be made with the State of New South Wales.
– Can my honorable friend tell the Senate if it has been decided where and when the peg is to be driven in?
– I think that the peg proposal has been abandoned.
– Arising out of the notice of motion just given by; Senator Keating for the ratification of the Vancouver mail contract, I desire to ask if he can expedite the production of the return I moved for yesterday, because it is essential that it should be available when the question is being discussed.
– I shall do all I can to expedite the production of the return.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the honorable the Minister now declare the intention of the Government with reference to the amendment of the third section of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, promised some time since by the Prime Minister; and, if not, when will such intention be made known, and the Bill to amend the Act be introduced?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Bill is now in draft, and will be introduced at an early date.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If, in view of the doubt expressed by Sir William Lyne, in Sydney, as to the expediency of proceeding with the Iron Bonus Bill at the present juncture, the Government have decided to abandon that measure?
– The answer” to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
The encouragement of the iron industry is now occupying the attention o£ the Government.
– Surely the Minister does not pretend that that is an answer to mv question ?
The PRESIDENT. The honorable senator cannot force an answer.
– Surely, sir, if a question is submitted to .a Minister by an honorable senator the Senate is entitled to an answer?
– It is a matter of policy whether the Government will answer a question or not. There are no standing orders which can force a Minister or other senator to answer a question.
– Then the Government must not resent my action if I take another opportunity of bringing the subject before the Senate.
– The Honorable senator has been informed that the Government have not yet decided -to abandon the measure. Surely he can understand that answer.
Motion (by Senator Higgs) agreed to -
Marshall Islands, Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands during* the year ending 30th June, 1905.
Motion (by Senator Pulsford) agreed to-
That a Return be laid on the table of the Senate similar to “ Table C “ of Parliamentary Paper 15, 1904, showing the Postal Matter carried by the Sydney - San Francisco Mail Service in 1904-5, together with a Supplementary Return showing the amount of Postal Matter carried by the same service for the same period for Europe and Australia ; and for America and Australia respectively.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of sub-clauses 6 and 7 of clause 34.
It will be recollected that at the instance of Senator Pearce these sub-clauses were inserted in order to provide for the compulsory admission of newspaper proprietors into the syndicate of newspaper proprietors which has been formed for the purpose of procuring the supply of cable news by the most economical method. Sub-clause 6 reads as follows: -
A copyright is given to the newspapers in information which is obtained in this way for a period of twenty-four hours. Senator
Pearce pointed out lhat in certain circumstances which he recited, there had been, in his opinion, harsh treatment of the proprietor of a country newspaper who desired to participate in the benefits of trie service of cable news, and, therefore, he thought it expedient that a provision of this character should be made. I. have no doubt that honorable senators at first sight were impressed by the possibility of a monopoly existing under which it would be absolutely impossible for rival newspapers to obtain cable news from the other end of the world. It was also put to the Senate that the information, cabled out was simply a summary of information which had been previously published in the London newspapers. In the first .place we must remember that a newspaper is a private enterprise, and that any one who enters upon a private enterprise of any kind is entitled to all the benefits arising from it. The obtaining of information in England is not so simple, a matter as Senator Pearce assumes. I understand that the newspaper proprietors who have banded together to obtain this information have special agencies for the express purpose of collecting it from, every source available to newspaper reporters. I am informed that a great deal of it is not published in London before it appears in the Australian journals. I understand, moreover, that there are many matters that we regard as being of considerable importance that are not regarded with the same degree of interest at home, and that a considerable amount of information which we get is never published in the English papers, or is not published until two or three days after it has been published in Australia. In order that honorable senators may realize the expense that is incurred by this combination, I will give them the figures for the twelve months ending June, 1905.. I find’ that the cost incurred during, that period’ in obtaining the information which we find in our morning journals when we come down to breakfast, amounted to nearly ,£16,000.
– That has nothing to do with the question.
– I make that remark merely parenthetically.
– I ask the honorable senator not to refer to a former debate. To do so merely leads to friction.
– We will go over the whole ground again if Senator Gould likes.
-Col. GOULD. - I have no desire to go over the whole ground again. I pray to be saved from that. I simply give this information to the public, and ask them to judge between the statements of these newspaper proprietors and the opinions of honorable senators opposite. I give it in order that the Senate may understand that the cables are not obtained for a mere bagatelle. Senator Guthrie has asked what return the members of the association received for supplying information to other newspapers. I reply that I do not know. But I understand that the charges made to newspapers that take the cables are in proportion to their circulation. Speaking without definite information as to the amounts, I understand that, for instance, one newspaper may pay ^1,000, whilst another may pay ^£500. Much depends upon the circulation of the newspaper concerned. The Senate should also bear this fact in mind - that one great benefit arising from the whole of the leading papers of Australia getting cables in this way has been that we get a larger amount of information than we could from the individual efforts of each journal. It would be absurd to assume that each newspaper would be prepared to expend a sum of £12,000 or ^15,000 per annum on cables. The joint enterprise of the newspapers enables us to get a very full service. Possibly we should get only one-half or onefourth of the information that we now obtain, if we had to depend upon the individual efforts of the leading journals.
– About 400 smaller newspapers obtain cable information from these principal newspaper proprietors.
.- It would be quite impossible for any one of the 400 newspapers mentioned by Senator Walker to obtain such a quantity of valuable information, if they had to bear the original cost. An honorable senator pays his id. for his newspaper in the morning, and he gets the whole of this information, which is obtained at an expenditure of over j£i 5,000 per annum. That in itself is a great benefit to the people of Australia, and a great benefit to the country newspapers that avail themselves of the privilege of participating in the service. But honorable senators opposite want to put it in the power of the Minister to say what sum of money shall be paid by a newspaper for participating in this service.
– The Minister would fix a reasonable sum.
– I assume that the Minister would make a reasonable recommendation. But apply that principle to any other business. Take the case of the proprietors of one of the large softgoods or hardware houses in Sydney, who are able to purchase goods on extremely advantageous terms because of the strength and stability of their firms. Are we going to say by Act of Parliament, “ There is Tom Jones next door, who cannot buy goods on the same terms ; we will force the large business man to sell him goods at the same price as that at which he is able to purchase them ?”
– We are not dealing with soft goods but with cables.
– We are giving a protection, by means of this Bill, that a softgoods merchant does -not get.
.- I think we give the softgoods man a great deal of protection in more ways than one. We propose to say to these newspaper proprietors, “ Unless you consent to sell the information which you obtain on such terms as the Minister may determine, we will give you no protection, and any one can use your information the moment you publish it.” Assume the case of a war breaking Out, or of some other important event occurring in any part of the world; and assume that two or three newspaper proprietors combine together to send out one or two representatives to obtain the fullest and most complete information, and to cable it to Australia. Are we going to enact that it shall be at the option of other newspapers to say, “ The obtaining of this information is going to cost so much ; we will take a share of it if it suits our purposes, but we will run no risk in obtaining it. These people can take the risk of obtaining the information, and if it is worth anything, we will avail ourselves of it.” That is the position which honorable senators opposite are taking up. Other newspapers would not join in the initial expense until they ascertained whether the information was likely to be of value to them. Several statements were made, in the course of the previous discussion, to which it is just as well to reply. It was asserted by Senator Pearce that this combination has an arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company, by which its cables are sent out at a lower rate than other newspapers would have to pay. I understand that that is an absolute error, and that the newspapers in the combination pay the same rate as other newspaper, proprietors would have to pay for the same service.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– It is useless to tell Senator Pearce, because he would not believe it. I should be sorry to exhibit so much preju’dice in connexion with a question. I tell the honorable senator, however, that if he chooses to start a newspaper to-morrow, he will be entitled to get information sent out by the cable company at the same rate as is charged to these journals. Senator de Largie as- serted that there was very little original matter sent by cable. I have already stated that the newspaper proprietors concerned incur considerable expense in obtaining information.
– There is great originality displayed in .padding it out.
– Perhaps there is very little originality in the world after all. A great deal of the information cabled to Australia is published here before it appears in any English journal.
– Does the honorable senator take into account the difference in time between Australia and the old country ?
– That difference only makes my case stronger, because Australia is ahead, and not behind, the old country in point of time; and, therefore, the information would have to be sent away before its publication in England if it was to be published here on the same clay. A newspaper is a valuable document, of great use to people, affording, as it does, information of events in every part of the world. That information could not be obtained without a combination of talent and ability in the case of each newspaper; and the only assistance which this Bill appears to give to newspapers is to copyright news for a period of twenty-four hours. A book or a magazine article has copyright for a number of years ; and, in comparison, the protection afforded to news is very small. Under the circumstances, it is fair to protect newspapers when pluck and determination are shown in an endeavour to cater for the public generally. It would, be grossly unfair to take away any of the rewards that may reasonably be expected from enterprise of the kind, just as it would be to take away the rewards which a man in ordinary business may earn by his energy. In any town in the world we may find two men in the same way of business, one as singularly successful as the other is unsuccessful.
– But such businesses do not receive the same assistance as newspapers here receive in the way of reduced telegraphic rates.
.- And who reaps the benefit of the facilities, which are offered to all newspapers alike? If the proprietors of the Melbourne Argus desire to send copies of that newspaper through tlie post, they have to pay a regular rate, and the rate increases with the size of the publication.
It is a good thing for this country that there should be great newspaper enterprise exhibited in the various States, resulting, as it does, In the collection of information by cable from all parts of the world. I ask that, the clause be recommitted, so that no bar or ban may be placed upon individual enterprise. If honorable senators carry their minds back a few years they will remember that the cable information then published in the newspapers was very sparse and unsatisfactory, and items which appeared one day were very often contradicted the next.
– We need not go back many days to find examples of that kind !
.- These contradictions, at any rate, do not happen with anything like the frequency they did formerly, and that is because care is taken to verify the information cabled.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I second the motion that1 the Bill be recommitted for the re-consideration of clause 34. I do not propose to traverse the arguments which present themselves against the clause as a whole, seeing that I did so on a previous occasion. Those arguments have just been placed before the Senate by Senator Gould ; but there is one other to which I desire to direct attention.
– Is the honorable senator thinking of the small majority by which the clause was carried ?
– I know that Senator Higgs is a perfect worshipper of numbers where the carrying of a motion or anything of that kind is concerned. But my desire now is to direct attention to a defect in the clause which the Senate itself, on a former occasion, sought to rectify. An amendment was agreed to with a certain object, but that object, as I think I shall show, was not attained ; and, therefore, unless honorable senators have, changed their opinions, they should recognise that the suggestion I have to make is reasonable. I previously pointed out that whatever may be the merits of the clause, so far as cable information is concerned, it certainly is not sought to make it apply to a case where a combination of newspapers send Out a special war correspondent. That position was recognised so far that an amendment was carried to insert the word “telegraphic” before the words news of any facts or events. “ Clearly, it was deemed to be unfair that, in the case of two or more newspapers combining for the purpose of sending out a special representative to report any events, other newspapers should have the right to participate in’ the special news thus obtained.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable senator assents to that proposition. But it is quite probable that several newspapers might combine for the purpose of despatching a special correspondent to send them such news by telegraph or cable; and the clause as it stands would not protect news so obtained.
– A Minister would be foolish if. under the circumstances, he gave any other newspaper the right to participate.
– Without referring to the present Government in any way, I may say that we have had foolish Ministers in the past, and may have such Ministers again.
– The action of a Minister may be reviewed in the Senate.
– But the reply of the Minister would be that the Act compelled him to allow other newspapers to participate, .and that it was not for him to decide on the question of the justice of so doing. The clause does not go far enough, because while it excludes newspaper correspondence forwarded by mail, it does not exclude the same correspondence if forwarded by cable ; and the Senate, in order to be “consistent, and to secure that measure of justice which we intend shall be given under the Bill, ought to agree to a recommittal, if not for the purpose of going to the full extent proposed by Senator Gould, at any rate for the purpose of rectifying an omission in our own work. If the proposal for recommittal is assented to, I trust that the Committee will assist me in framing an amendment which will meet the position I have indicated, even if in other respects the clause be adhered to in its present form.
– The honorable senator wants to frame a bludgeon, I am afraid.
-“ Bludgeon “ is a very good term to apply to this clause. The object I have in view carries the indorsement of honorable senators opposite, because, on a previous occasion, they supported me in excluding from the operation of the clause correspondence forwarded by telegraph. If honorable senators were sincere when they took that course a week ago, they will now assist me to make the meaning of the clause clear. If, on the other hand, they desire that the clause shall give any. newspaper the right to come in and share in the benefit of special correspondence, whether it be sent by mail or wire, they will, of course, retain the clause as it stands. But in doing so they will not be acting consistently. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. If a distinguished journalist, for instance, forwarded to a number of Australian newspapers articles for each of which he was paid, he would receive copyright under this Bill; but if, instead of being paid by the article, the journalist entered into an arrangement to be paid a lump sum, copyright would not subsist. Is there any equity in such a provision? I am now speaking, not merely in the interest of newspapers, but in the interest of journalists. In the event of a number of newspapers combining to send out a special correspondent, the effect of the clause would be to deprive the writer of the articles of that measure of copyright which is given under other circumstances. Even if honorable senators adhere to the clause, I ask them to help me to eliminate from its operation the cases to which I have referred.
– I must oppose the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose indicated by Senator Gould. The position is not quite as the honorable and learned senator states; and if he had referred to the debates on the clause, he would not have committed himself to the opinion that it provides the only rights enjoyed bv news papers. This clause purports to give to a newspaper an additional right to those enjoyed by any literary production, namely, the right to exclusive production of a certain class of news for a certain term, with the power, if that right is infringed, to take summary proceedings before Justices for the imposition of a pecuniary penalty. This right of exclusive publication was contained in the Bill as circulated in the Senate in the first instance. Soon after the Bill was read a second time, a rather lengthy amendment was circulated designee! to carry out the object of the paragraph now under discussion. Thai amendment, I mav say, was in the hands of honorable senators for weeks, and came on in ordinary course for discussion in Com- mittee . Then another amendment was circulated for about a week, and on both proposals this question was discussed at length. It will be seen, therefore, that this cannot be described as an amendment which was sprung on honorable senators, considering that in both instances it was in print for a considerable time. On each occasion certain honorable senators, for reasons best known to themselves, chose to be ab sent from the division. Their absence may have been due to the most justifiable of causes, but the position is, practically, that, in consequence of their absence, we are asked to recommit the Bill.
– That is hardly correct, because I tried to show that the Committee itself had made a mistake.
– I am at present dealing with Senator Gould’s proposal which means that. Because honorable senators, for reasons best known to themselves, are absent from the Senate when public business of which they have had due notice is being considered, the passing of a Bill is to be suspended, and it is to be thrown once more into the turmoil and conflict of the Committee stage in order that they may have effect given to their views.
– If an injustice is done the people should not be made to suffer because certain members of Parliament have been absent when a measure has been discussed.
– If an injustice is done, certainly not. I remind honorable senators that the Committee considered this matter on two occasions, and, by a majority decided that, in conferring an extraordinary right on newspaper proprietors - and’ it is an extraordinary right - they would do so subject to a certain condition. Some honorable senators who were not present when the matter was being considered arranged for pairs, but other honorable senators who were in this Chamber on the very day when they knew the question was coming on for discussion were absent when that discussion and division took place. We shall be adopting an entirely wrong principle if we decide that honorable senators may abstain from attendance inthis Chamber as they please, ‘and may then ask the whole Senate to reconsider a matter which has been dealt with in their absence. If these amendments had been submitted in Committee without notice, no exception could be taken to a proposal to recommit the Bill for their further consideration, but, as I have pointed out, they were in the hands of honorable senators for weeks.
-Col. Gould. - According to that argument, even if it is admitted that the Committee has made a mistake, we have no business to recommit a Bill.
– I am not taking up that position. It was the duty of honorable senators to be here when the amendment to which exception is now taken was being discussed, since they had notice of it. As they were not here we are entitled to assume that they were indifferent as to the course which would be adopted in connexion with it. By following the course now suggested we shall be inviting honorable senators opposite to abstain from attendance in this Chamber whenever they please, and to come down subsequently and claim that a measure dealt with in their absence shall be recommitted. That would upset all discipline affecting attendance in this Chamber. In this matter I take it that the sense of the Committee was that the amendment should not be confined to any particular class of cables. The word “telegraphic “ was put in to cover the case of communications being received by cable. Senator Millen asked me when I suggested it whether I thought that that word would cover the matter, and I said I thought it would.
– Does the Minister contend that all telegraphic news is subject to the provision of the amendment ?
– I say that that was the sense of the Committee.
– I do not think it was.
SenatorKEATING.- Senator Clemons was not present when the discussion on the amendment took place. For the reasons I have indicated, the Senate would not be well advised in agreeing to the proposed recommittal.
– I hope that the Bill will be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 34. I am one of the unfortunates who was not present when this matter was under discussion in Committee.. I desire to give due weight to what Senator Keating has said, as applied to wanton or frivolous motions for the recommittal of a Bill, but I think that the honorable and learned senator takes an entirely erroneous view of the object with which the recommittal is proposed. I am strongly in favour of the motion proposed by Senator Gould.
I had intended to suggest the recommittal of the Bill with a view to the further consideration of an amendment of my own, which I had printed. But I feel that I should not be justified in seeking the reconsideration of that amendment, because at my request it was moved in Committee by Senator Millen, and was debated. It was suggested in substitution for a subclause of clause 8, as it now stands, and would have been a great improvement to the Bill, but I shall not ask that the time of the Senate shall be taken up in its reconsideration. The provision proposed to be dealt with by Senator Gould is on a totally different footing. I am aware that Senator Keating wishes to ascertain the views of honorable’ senators, but he was misguided in suggesting that in moving for the recommittal of the Bill for the reconsideration of clause 34, Senator Gould simply desired that honorable senators who were not present when the matter referred to was dealt with might have an opportunity of discussing it in Committee. That is not so at all.
– Unless it can be shown that there a possibility that the amendment will be altered as the result of their presence now, there can be no purpose in the recommittal.
– I believe there is such a possibility, but that can only be shown by means of a vote. Speaking from my recollection of the record of what took place in Committee, I believe that the representatives of the Government voted against the amendment moved by Senator Pearce, when it was previously under consideration. If that be so, Ministers are at one with Senator Gould and other honorable senators on this side in thinking that the amendment ought not to appear in the Bill.
– We took a division on it and were beaten, and we are not going to be constantly humbugging about.
– Why should Senator Playford get in a temper and talk about “constantly”?
– We had two divisions on it.
– If there had been fifty divisions on it, that would not alter the facts. Senator Playford is too old a parliamentarian not to know that the object of the recommittal of a Bill is to secure the re-discussion of a proposal, with the advantage of fresh con- siderations of the question involved. No one can deny that the amendment to which exception is taken deals with a very important matter. I know of nothing in the Bill which more strongly invites con.sideration from every point of view. Without going into the matter as fully as we might more appropriately do in Committee, I may ask whether the amendment is an improvement on the Bill, or imposes a condition which ought to attach to the copyright granted to newspaper proprietors in respect of cabled news? Is it a vital matter? My honorable friends who are in favour of the recommittal of the Bill think that it is. I agree with them in thinking that it is an exceedingly drastic and important amendment from any point of view, .and is one which ought not to be introduced into this Bill. Nothing can be more fittingly the subject of copyright than news cabled from all parts of the world at great expense, and collected by a skilled staff of men. The men who collect this news require not only to be skilled, but to be possessed of diplomatic gifts of a very high order. No one knows better than does Senator Higgs, who has had great experience in connexion with journalism, that the collection, sifting, arrangement, and condensation of news of this kind, require as high qualifications probably as are required in any department of journalism. If one newspaper proprietor, “off his own bat” and out of his own pocket, goes to the expense of getting this news by the employment of a staff of men on the other side of the world, no one can doubt that he would be entitled to copyright. Would any one contend that he should be compelled by law to supply that news to the proprietors of other newspapers at substantially the same price as he has paid for it ? Will any one contend that he should be compelled to share that news at a price fixed without his consent, by a Minister, under an . Act of Parliament, with other newspaper proprietors, who have not the same amount of enterprise, and are unable to command the same skill ? What difference does it make if three or four newspaper proprietors constitute a partnership in getting this news ?
– It makes all the difference. .
– Will the honorable senator say why? He will admit that if news is secured by the enterprise of an individual newspaper pro- prietor, a certain degree of protection ought to be afforded to him. If the honorable senator were a manufacturer, he would be entitled to fix the price of his goods, having regard to the market. If a person desiring his goods induced some member of Parliament to move an amendment to a Bill to compel him to supply the goods to others at a price which a Minister might think reasonable, and the amendment were carried’, I have no doubt the honorable senator would protest.
– That is a different thing altogether.
– Where is the difference?
– A combination can get news very much more cheaply than could any individual newspaper proprietor. The competition of a combination is not a fair competition.
– What nonsense the honorable senator is talking ! Surely an enterprise conducted by a partnership is just as fair as one conducted by an individual ? What absurd rubbish it is to say that it is unfair competition ! It is admitted that one man may do it, and that if he does he is entitled to protection, and it would be grossly unjust to compel him to sell his merchandise, whether it be cable news or anything else, at less than he thinks a fair profit; it would be legalized theft.
– We do not give the importers of merchandise a special protection, such as is proposed to be given to the proprietors of newspapers under this Bill.
– They have absolutely the same protection. If any one takes my honorable friend’s goods is not that theft?
– If any one takes goods which are the subject of copyright is not that theft too? I am not seeking to press my honorable friend to accept my views; but I venture to think with great respect to him that he has not considered the subject. It is not a question of fair or unfair competition, but a question of whether he intends to compel a man to sell his own property at less than he chooses. I wish to carry the matter just one step further on this point. If my honorable friends admit that they would not dream of applying such a provision to an individual newspaper proprietor, who might have facilities to get information infinitely more cheaply than another newspaper proprietor, why should they apply it to a partnership? What merit or obloquy is there in calling this a combination? Every partnership is a combination. I am not defending a monopoly of newspapers or anything of that kind. But if two or three newspaper proprietors have entered into a partnership to secure this news - at less expense, if you like by reason of that fact than it could be obtained by one individual proprietor - why is there to be a difference made in their case ? Why should they be subjected to a kind of penal law and told that they must sell their property at cost price ? If two or three newspapers have combined or entered into a partnership to secure this news, why should not all the other newspapers enter into a partnership for that purpose? I really cannot understand on what principle of justice or fair play or honesty my honorable friends contend for this provision. If they proposed to make the provision apply all round, and to compel not merely manufacturers but any combination of workmen to sell their labour at whatever price a workman who. was not therein, chose to say was fair, I could understand it. The principle underlying the provision is that somebody else has something which my honorable friends want, and which they propose to take. There is no monopoly.
– They have admitted that there is.
– Does my honorable friend know what a monopoly means ?
– They have bought up all the avenues, and absolutely closed them against everybody else.
– What nonsense. Does my honorable friend say that two or three newspaper proprietors who have entered into this frightfully wicked partnership to get news to supply the community with, have shut all the avenues by which news can be obtained in London with its population of four or five millions ? Why should these gentlemen not be protected if they are catering for the public?
– But are they?
– Every day my honorable friends read the newspapers and gloat over the telegrams, especially any one which is in favour of their views. Why should the persons who are supplying this news at great cost, and at the exercise of great enterprise be placed under a ban? I cannot understand that my honorable friends can be animated by any sense of fairness. The answer they make is that it is a monopoly. Of course, we know that very often an epithet is used more successfully than an argument, and when my honorable friends dub this association a monopoly, they think that there is an end to it. There is no monopoly or exclusiveness here. I do not know how many newspapers are in the partnership, but probably it does not include a tenth of the newspapers in Australia.
– There is exclusiveness, though, as I shall explain presently.
– I do not care whether there is exclusiveness or not. I have a perfect right to be exclusive as to my property. But if there are fifty other newspapers why should they not enter into a partnership to obtain similar news? Senator Guthrie’s answer to that question is that the existing partnership has closed all the avenues. What avenues have been closed? Can they not get the information in England or other parts of the world? If, as Is urged, it is secondhand news, other persons can pirate it too. I fail to see any possible ground on which this provision can be supported on its merits. All these considerations may very well be threshed out in Committee, because the provision will bear reconsideration, not once, but twenty times. What is the remedy that my honorable friends propose ? Whatever there may be in the merits or, as I think, demerits of their proposal, the remedy is mischievous to the last degree. If the partnership is exlusive - and I grant for the sake of the debate that there is exclusiveness - how are they going to break it down? Or if it is a monopoly, why do they not apply the same principle as they propose to apply to other monopolies? Why do they not propose to nationalize this business as they propose to nationalise the tobacco monopoly?
– Will the honorable and learned senator support that proposal?
– I shall not support robbery in any form. My honorable friends propose not to hand over the business to the State, but to compel a man to sell a property which he already enjoys. I did not’ understand Senator Keating to say that this privilege of copyright in cable news is given for the first time by this Bill.
– It is not possessed now in New South ‘Wales or Victoria or Queensland.
– Well,, it -is possessed in the State in which. I am chiefly concerned. Cable news is as much the property of the partnership as the goods; and chattels of any man here are hisproperty. Surely my honorable friends are not going to enact a provision to compel these newspaper proprietors, at the behest of a Minister, to sell their cable news at practically cost price ?
– And their goodwill.
– I do not care about the goodwill. Surely my honorable friends do not propose to confiscate the property of newspaper proprietors in South Australia, not for the benefit of the State, but for the benefit of some other existing or contemplated rival? Any Parliament which would sanction a provision of that sort, without the utmost consideration and reconsideration, would be playing false to the high principles of justice which mv honorable friends thought they were giving effect to yesterday in voting “for the motion relating to Home Rule for Ireland. It is opposed to every principle of justice as we ordinarily understand it, and to every fair principle of honesty. I ‘ ask my honorable friends to consider whether they are going the right way to break down what they think is a monopoly or an exclusive enjoyment of certain property ? They are placing the Minister in the position of a political court, liable to have pressure brought to bear upon him by the dominant party of the day, in order to compel the press’, or a portion of the press, of the opposite party to hand over the news which they have obtained. ‘ I ask my honorable friends, who I know are as desirous as anybody else of maintaining the purity of judicial decisions, to say whether that is a right tribunal to constitute. I invite them to say if they propose to intrust the rights of property to a Minister, whose tenure of office depends upon the breath of his supporters in Parliament?
– Is not that largely done in the case of the Minister of Trade and Customs?’
– It is not, and, besides, if it were we have examples to-day - and I shall not sa whether the Minister is right or wrong- of the danger of intrusting judicial functions to a party politician. I feel that we ought to raise this question to a higher plane. and that is why I ask if my honorable friends wish to intrust to a party politician a power which is purely judicial. What has he to decide? He has to sit in judgment without hearing the party. If there is one principle of British law more absolutely sublime than another, it is that no decision ought to be given without hearing the other side. There is no provision for the Minister to hear witnesses and investigate the facts. He may come to a decision haphazard ; he may come to an ad captandung decision on the points he has to determine. What are they? This party politician has to make an order like a Judge.
– The same Minister may appoint a Judge.
– What a fine interjection that is ! A Minister may appoint a Judge, but once the appointment is made the Judge, so far as judicial determinations are concerned, is- unassailable. He is not independent of the will of the Crown in respect to Executive matters, but as regards his judgments and the judgment seat, he is beyond the breath of any politician and above interference by any Minister. But here this Minister has to give judgment and to decide three or four most important things. First, he has to decide - without evidence it may be, and without giving the parties an opportunity of defending themselves - whether a combination of newspaper proprietors exists for the purpose of obtaining news. It may be a mixed question of law and fact. No one can tell. No one can prognosticate what the position will be. Having found that the combination exists, the Minister has to find its purpose. What purpose? That of obtaining news concerning facts or events which have taken place outside Australia. Then he has to find that the combination has refused to admit somebody else into the partnership without reasonable cause. That is to say, this Minister has to come to the conclusion that there was no reasonable cause for refusing to admit an applicant. I have always been under the impression that if a partnership chose to exclude any one, even on account of the colour of his hair, it could do so if it liked, But the Minister has to decide that there is no “reasonable cause.” What could that be? I can conceive of no more difficult and delicate position. And there is no appeal to any tribunal. It is arbitrary. The Czar of all the Russias could not be in a more arbitrary position than the Minister under this provision. There is an alternative - that the partnership has refused to supply the applicant with news “ at reasonable rates.” The Minister has to investigate that. He has to say whether the rates are reasonable. He may be unconsciously influenced in his decision by the fact that he prefers the newspaper of his party to the newspaper of his opponents. Nothing more indefensible was ever proposed. Having found out all these things, which it would take an ordinary Court days to investigate on proper evidence, the Minister has to pronounce a solemn judgment; or perhaps some would prefer to call it a farcical judgment. He has to order this partnership to supply , the news to the complainant, without having heard the defendant, at what he considers “ reasonable rates.” Then there is an addendum. Not merely is this power left to the Minister, but there is a restriction. He is not to be allowed free play even as to “reasonable rates.” No rate is to be considered “reasonable” which substantially exceeds the cost of supplying such information to such newspaper proprietors;
– What is “ substantially”?
– God knows ! The Minister, in the exercise of his judicial faculties, would have to decide what were reasonable rates. In asking that honorable senators shall again be allowed to apply their minds to this provision, is my honorable friend Senator Gould unreasonable? He is asking that we shall have an opportunity of freeing ourselves’ from the imputation of doing what I will not call a foolish thing ; but from putting on the statute-book such a scandalous provision as this would be. I have incidentally expressed mv view upon the merits of the proposal. That view I hold very strongly. But I hold more strongly the view that I have expressed adverse to the method adopted. I cannot understand upon what hypothesis it issought to create a Minister - a -party politician - a Judge, without appeal, to decide matters of this kind. My honorable friend Senator Pearce is, I am sure, actuated by a desire to do that which he believes to be fair. Let us not only be fair, but true to ourselves, and to the ambition we’ all have to put nothing on the statute-book which will not be honest and just.
– I do not. like undoing to-day that which we did yesterday, unless,- as in this case, there seem to be good and sufficient reasons for that course. But I think it is better that we should acknowledge that we have made a mistake than load the statute-book with an impracticable and unjust provision. There is, in my opinion, no form of monopoly which is worse than a newspaper monopoly. Notwithstanding the remarks of Senator Symon, I think that a combination of this kind does at times degenerate into a monopoly. We have had an experience of that sort of thing in Tasmania. Therefore, my sympathies are very strongly in. the direction of the object sought to be attained by Senator Pearce’s proposal. First of all, however, I believe that the object cannot be attained in the way proposed ;. and that in so seeking to attain it we shall commit ourselves to a mischievous principle. Where are we going to stop ? If certain newspaper proprietors choose to join together in certain circumstances in order to bring about economy in the transaction of their business, and incidentally give the public a much better supply of news, why should we interfere with them in doing so ? There seems to be an idea that we can, by Act of Parliament, enable some one to decide what the money cost of obtaining- items of news by cablegram is. Such an idea is absurd. A number of proprietors of journals who had previously been getting their cables individually might combine, establish agencies at Home, arid send out expert correspondents to different places - it might be to follow up armies in the field. They would have to incur considerable expense; and to bring considerable experience to bear in making their arrangements. The mere money cost of obtaining the cables would not represent the true value of the service thus obtained, for the simple reason that such a plan would have to be carefully thought out, and would be probably the result of years of work. Why should men who combine together in this way be compelled to share the results obtained by the application of their brains, energy, and capital, with other people who had taken no risk? I do not agree with Senator Symon that there is no exclusiveness shown by newspaper combinations. We have had an experience of an unpleasant character in Hobart. There is only one morning newspaper there. It constitutes a monopoly, and in operation it is a most objectionable monopoly indeed. I, as a public man, have been compelled to pay for having reports of my speeches inserted in that journal. I have had a bill for £9 presented to me on its account.
– That is a very wrong and mischievous practice.
– I have been waited upon by reporters from the newspaper before I delivered a speech in public, and asked how many inches of space I intended to pay for at 3s. an inch.
– I have always positively refused to pay for the publication of any speech of mine. I think that it is a scandalous practice.
– I have known publication to be denied even to a financial statement by a colleague of mine unless hewould consent to pay 3s. an inch for having it inserted.
– Although the country wanted to see it.
– In Tasmania an effort was made to form a strong combination of newspapers by means of which no public man would be reported unless he submitted to this improper charge. Fortunately, one paper, the Launceston ‘ Examiner, was strong enough, and public-spirited enough, to resist that attempt. But the other journals denied publication even to Ministerial speeches, and it was only when the practice was denounced upon the platform by myself and others that something like fair play was given. But although I entertain a strong view concerning the iniquity of newspaper combinations, I cannot subscribe to Senator Pearce’s proposal. I believe that it contains a false and mischievous principle. We are asked to constitute the Minister a tribunal, and to place him in a position which he ought not to occupy. I would go a step further than Senator Symon has gone, and say that probably the Government might enter into the journalistic business. I believe that such a “thing has been proposed in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. Fancy a Minister being placed in the position of deciding what would be a reasonable charge for cables supplied to a journal of which he was part proprietor. Such a position is an absolutely false one, and should not be tolerated for a moment. I think that we have no right by Act of Parliament to interfere in matters of this kind ; and although there are cases of gross hardship, I certainly do not agree that the remedy proposed is one that can be regarded as just. I shall vote for the recommittal.
– The Senate will recollect that 1 protested as strongly as I could against the word “ Minister “ being left in Senator Pearce’s proposal. I pointed out that it would have the effect of making the Minister a Judge in a matter of considerable intricacy and importance, and one having to do with our everyday politics. I shall vote for the recommittal of the clause, and shall make the best effort I can to substitute for the Minister a Judge, or some other fit person, if the person carrying out the functions specified in Senator Pearce’s proposal is to be allowed to act in an arbitrary manner. The clause involves very delicate and intricate considerations. When the hour of adjournment arrived on the occasion of the first discussion, I certainly understood that the Minister in charge of the Bill would make himself conversant with the terms and conditions of the combination amongst the newspaper proprietors.
– The honorable senator thought that I would do so ?
– I thought that the Minister would have taken that course.
– I do not know anything about the combination.
– We can hardly give an intelligent and just vote until we have the information. Certain correspondence, which was read in this Chamber, points to the conclusion that the combination has on one occasion, if not on two, acted in rather a harsh and unfair manner; and the real facts are important to us in deciding on the right course to adopt. I am not convinced that the vote I gave on the last occasion was wrong, but, as the question is so intricate and complicated, I see no harm in affording opportunity for further discussion. We are getting at the facts piecemeal, and, according to the letters which have been read to us, this combination may act in restraint of trade, which, as the Minister in charge of the Bill and Senator Symon know, is illegal. If the combination admit some to membership and exclude others, and sell to newspapers cable news which they refuse to other newspapers, or to persons wishing to start newspapers, they may bring themselves within the doctrine which I have indicated, and lay themselves open to a charge of boycotting. I do not say that the combination does behave in that way ; I am merely pointing out that the case involves many intricate and complicated legal questions. I am pleased to know that this Bill will be sent to another place, where there are a number of lawyers, and acute, intelligent men, who will give it full consideration.
– Is that not a reflection on the Senate?
– The membership of another place is double that of the Senate, and includes, as does the membership of the Senate, able lawyers; and there will be further time for consideration and discussion. Then the combination may, to a slight extent, act in restraint of the dissemination of knowledge and education. In some of the back-blocks, not reached by the Melbourne, Age, the Melbourne Argues, the Australasian, or similar journals, the small, local newspaper may be unable to afford the price asked for cable messages, or may be refused any supply ; and, under the circumstances, the people resident there remain absolutely ignorant of the events of the world. There may, however, be something to be said for the idea of Senator Smith, who desires the Government to be the means of supplying cable news. I am not, however, a nationalist with respect to either land or news ; and of two evils, I regard the proposal contained in this clause as the lesser. If it can be shown that the combination has been judged harshly, I shall be prepared to reconsider my vote, but I am not prepared to do so now, because it appears to me that two or three very important principles may be infringed by the combination. Senator Symon, if one’ may judge from the strong language he used, forgets that this Bill confers protection on newspaper proprietors, including the members of this combine - that, in fact, the present protection to newspapers is extended and defined. In conferring this protection, we stipulate that on certain fair terms other newspaper proprietors may be allowed to participate in the cable news, to which this Bill attaches copyright for a certain period. The Commonwealth Government grant an enormous subsidy to the Pacific Cable Board, and extend certain concessions to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company ; and while it is perfectly true that any person may use the cables, I aim not at all sure that, when we protect members of this combination by this Bill, we are not justified in laying down conditions with the object of preventing injustice.
– I was sorry, and still more surprised, that the Government did not at once consent .to the recommittal of the Bill, a. course for which there is one very strong reason. The vote taken the other day does not represent, but notoriously misrepresents, the view of this Chamber. I am not sure that if every honorable senator voted, Senator Pearce might not secure a majority of one in favour of his amendment. That, however, would be the extreme support which tie provision would receive ; and it i’s exceedingly undesirable that the Bill should go to another place, and convey an impression that a vote of fifteen to nine represents the deliberate opinion of the Senate.
– The honorable senator has an opportunity to see what he can do on the present occasion.
– I do not know what Senator Pearce means by that interjection.
– The honorable senator has now an opportunity to reverse the previous decision.
– I was not present on the last occasion, when the division was taken, and, for some reason *or other, I was not given a pair. If Senator Pearce will tell me that any one of his supporters is absent on the present occasion I herewith offer to pair with’ the absent one.
– I accept the honorable senator’s offer on behalf df Senator Trenwith.
– Senator Trenwith voted against the clause on the first occasion.
– But he voted for” it on the second occasion.
– I know that Senator Trenwith has voted on both sides, and how he would vote to-day I am not sure - probably with honorable senators on this side of the Chamber.’
– Order ! The Senate can take no cognizance of pairs.
– It is quite true that the Senate may take no notice of pairs ; but, at the same time, we all desire to carry on the business” on fair lines. So far, I have been able to credit my friends opposite, not only with having a desire to act fairly, but realizing that desire on all occasions. A division list showing fifteen votes to nine gives an absolutely incorrect impression as “to the views of the Senate on. this question, and I cannot understand . the Government hesi tating to allow the clause to be reconsidered. There are many phases of the provision which require consideration, but the most important is that cable news is private property, and that no one has a right to obtain private property by compulsion. When I firs? saw this provision, about a month ago, I at once expressed the view that it legalized something like a deliberate “steal” - a proceeding which I am sure none of us can contemplate with any peace of mind, more particularly those members, of a party who yesterday issued a manifesto declaring that their views, policy, and administration are always clean.
– I earnestly ask the Government to accept the proposal for the recommittal of the Bill. Some of us, at all events, have been able, since the last occasion, to gather information regarding the matter. I was under the impression that the country newspapers, as a whole, were unable to obtain cable news from the so-called combine. I find, however, that there are actually 400 country newspapers obtaining cable news from the combine at a price which must be considered reasonable, inasmuch as the terms are accepted on business lines.
– The country press of New South Wales pays nothing for the news.
– But in other States, country newspapers pay a very small consideration for the concise news which comes over the cable. No one outside a lunatic asylum would expect the proprietors of a business to give away part of their goodwill to others who may become dangerous competitors. Certain newspapers, from economical and other motives, have arranged to gather news in a concise form, and have it cabled to Australia; and it is an outrageous idea to expect them to give away that news against their wish. No one has yet shown me that this socalled combine is an arrangement outside the ordinary business relations of the whole civilized world. Every day the evolution of commerce makes it incumbent on the directors of different commercial enterprises to economize by arrangement’s to work in unison.; and a newspaper is just like any other business enterprise. I was under the impression that Reuter gathered the news for -the combine, and was prevented from selling the news to any other newspaper proprietor, whereas the fact is that Reuter has nothing whatever to do with the collection of the news. The so-called combine have correspondents who collect the news, and Reuter merely transmits it to Australia. To refer to the combine as having in any sense a monopoly is merely for party purposes to make use of a certain phrase which, it is thought, will take well with certain people. The news collected in London and elsewhere by the correspondents of the associated newspaper proprietors belongs to them, and Reuter can send to Australia in the same way other news collected by .other means. I should like honorable senators to consider the position in which the so-called combine will be placed if Senator Pearce’s amendment ultimately becomes law. In the first place, I venture to think that the interests of the public of Australia will suffer materially. If, for instance, during such a struggle as that of the Russo-Japanese war, the combine were to send special correspondents to the scene of conflict, there can be no doubt that the information which they could supply would be of interest and advantage to the public of Australia. The newspaper proprietors would act in combination in order to secure such information at a minimum cost; but, under the conditions which would be imposed bv this clause as amended, it could not be expected that they would take such action, and the result would be that the people of Australia would be deprived of the valuable information which might be so obtained. No honorable senator can say that it would be fair that after newspaper proprietors by arrangement had gone to an expense of thousands of pounds to secure interesting news, the proprietor of any other newspaper in the Commonwealth should be able to secure that news from them at a merely nominal sum. There have been instances in which newspaper proprietors, by arrangement, have sent out missionaries and distinguished travellers. That might be done with great advantage to the public, but it might not be possible for an individual newspaper proprietor to meet the expense which would be involved. We are aware of the fact that the proprietor of one newspaper went to enormous expense to provide special information on the question of irrigation. An expert correspondent was engaged to gather knowledge df the systems of irrigation in various countries, and the information he obtained was no doubt of value and interest to the people of Australia and of the old country. It cannot be expected that people will go to the expense of obtaining information of this character if immediately it is secured it can be taken advantage of without cost by the proprietors of all the newspapers in Australia. The newspaper proprietors associated in the so-called combine, expend money in obtaining news on strictly business lines. They believe that the money they expend is well laid out froma business point of view, and will yield them a financial return. If the clause as amended becomes law, ‘the proprietors of each newspaper will have to get all the news they require for themselves. I judge of what they will do by what I should do myself under similar circumstances. I should simply secede from the combine and go on my own. I fancy that the members of the combine will be likely to doi the same thing, and the effect will be greatly to the disadvantage of the public of Australia, who will be deprived of a vast amount of valuable information and interesting news with which they would otherwise be supplied.
– The clause as amended would absolutely kill newspaper enterprise.
– It would. Senator Smith has suggested that the Government of the day should take charge of the cabling of all the news sent to Australia. Was there ever a more silly and preposterous suggestion made to any House of Parliament than that .a Minister should be placed in such’ a position that he would be the sole judge of the character of the cable news transmitted to Australia? Many of us, from practical knowledge, are aware that Ministers already have far too much power in their hands. There is far too much of the political engineering element in connexion with parliamentary institutions in Australia. I do not say that Ministers in Australia are better or worse than Ministers in other countries, but I do say that there is no Minister in Australia who does not realize the importance of the engineering element to which I refer in political life. I do not think that it is entirely absent from the Federal Parliament. I have in mind now a Minister who would think himself justified in utilizing the power which Senator Smith would confer to obtain political kudos for his own party, though his action might not be altogether beneficial to the Commonwealth.
– We can all put our finger on him.
– Many honorable senators know the gentleman to whom I refer. I think he is so moulded that he believes “ the ends justify the means.”
– No wonder the honorable senator is blind to the virtues of my amendment.
– I am.Although I am notan old politician in the sense that I have had a long experience in any Parliament, I have had a long experience of electioneering, and know something about what takes place in political life. When Senator Pearce has had the same experience, he will probably arrive at the conclusion that it is not wise to give Ministers of the Crown any power which they might use for the advantage of the party to which they belong.
– Senator Pearce may know more of political engineering than the honorable senator imagines.
– I believe that Senator Pearce has gained the respect of every member of the Senate, and I am sure he would be the last to take an unfair advantage of a power of that sort ; but some of us have gained information by practical experience, which’ we are able to use in order to conserve the interests of the public at large. I cannot conceive anything more dangerous than the suggestion made by Senator Smith that the cables transmitted to Australia should be at the mercy of any Minister of the Crown. The word “ monopoly “ has been used over and over again, and, like the word “combine,” it is used simply because some people have been taught to associate it with combinations that are harmful to the public interest. This press combination is neither a monopoly nor a combine.
– It is an example of co-operation.
– But only a cooperation on a certain basis. We are well aware that the proprietors of the different newspapers are antagonistic to each other, and are only too anxious to obtain an advantage over one another in securing general news. There is no reason why newspaper proprietors should be deprived of the ordinary commercial facilities which may be availed of by any business partnerships. It is absurd to suggest that because one Concern combines with another in order to secure economy in the management and conduct of a business, the combination must of necessity be’ a monopoly. In certain essentials the banks, I suppose, are monopolies. They regulate the race of exchange, and so long as they proceed on fair business lines they are acting within their rights. Surely Senator Pearce recognises that mutual business arrangements may be of advantage to the general community. The Bank of England fixes an arbitrary rate, which is attended with” certain effects. In all the States of the Commonwealth the banks fix the rate. If they did not’ come to some arrangement with each other, it would simply be a case of the survival of the strongest bank, for the others would have to go to the wall.
– I thought that the honorable senator believed in the law of competition ?
– I do.
– The associated banks prevent competition amongst themselves when they fix the rate.
– My honorable friend does not know what he is talking about. Let the fact become known that a man proposes to open a banking account in Sydney, and all the banks will run after him in order to get his account.
– When the associated banks fix a uniform rate of exchange they prevent competition amongst themselves, because they will not take lower rates.
– Although the banks fix the rate of exchange, still there are a number of commercial firms in Sydney, Melbourne, and elsewhere, who make a nice living by charging a little less than that rate.
– I would ask the honorable senator not to discuss the rate of exchange, because it is not relevant to the question before the Senate. I recognise that he has been led awaybyinterjections.
– I only wished to point out that the word “monopoly “ or “combine “ is used very often without absolute knowledge of its meaning. When, in respect of one branch of their business, the banks agree to a certain rate, that agreement in no sense prevents competition amongst themselves, or prevents individuals from doing just what they like. The same rule applies throughout the business world. In fact, the peculiar conditions under which commercial affairs have to be conducted nowadays render it absolutely necessary to make these arrangements. There is no doubt that the gospel which has been preached by the caucus Labour Party has had a great deal to do with the formation and cultivation of these arrangements between business concerns. Whether the combinations, or so-called arrangements, are in the interests of the community at large depends upon whether equitable principles are observed. There may be arrangements which are prejudicial to the general interests of the trading community. But there are other arrangements which are of great advantage to ,the general community. Just as in the case of a post-office, a uniform rate is considered to be to the advantage of the whole community, so in the case of a business arrangement a minimum but regular charge may be considered to be of great benefit, though in a smaller degree, to the community. When my honorable friends speak of these business arrangements as combines or monopolies, they do not use those words in a proper sense. This provision is of far more importance than appears on its face. It is the first serious attempt which has been made in this Parliament to interfere with the rights of property. In no other Parliament that I know of in Australia has such a direct attack been made upon the rights of property, which from time immemorial have been considered to be unassailable. According to the traditions of the old country, the rights of property are sacred. In the United States it has been laid down by the Courts, almost unanimously, that it is unconstitutional to interfere with the rights of property or the rights of man. It must be patent to every one that this provision is an attack upon the rights of property, because no one has denied, first, that the so-called combination is a purely business arrangement; and, secondly, that the proposal will intrench upon their rights in certain property to the detriment of the shareholders in the different newspaper proprietaries.
– 1 should be sorry to miss the opportunity of discussing the desirability or otherwise of recommitting the Bill for the purpose of reconsidering clause 34.” “Unless very much stronger reasons to the contrary can be adduced than have been given in this instance, it is quite proper to consider the question of rectifying a mistake. It has been argued that because certain honorable senators were absent it is unfair to the remainder to ask for a reconsideration of the clause. That is equivalent to asserting that the public exist for our benefit and convenience, and that it is not our duty to be here to safeguard their interests.
It is turning the whole thing topsy-turvy. If for any reason the clause is not satisfactory, it is worse than absurd for any one to say that because certain honorable senators were absent on a previous occasion we ought not to ask the remainder to consider how the public may be affected by it. A question of reconsideration should be decided solely on the merits of the case. I admit that, occasionally, where a vote has been taken in a small Committee, and it is obvious that the result would not have been different if there had been an ordinary attendance, that fact should carry some weight. That is not the present position. However, I do not suppose it will be of the slightest use to dwell long upon that aspect of the case. I do not believe that any honorable senator will alter his .vote because he considers that the public are going to be inconvenienced or otherwise. I am afraid that honorable senators opposite want their own way absolutely.
– This provision is inserted for the convenience of the public.
– Let me point out to the honorable senator what the provision means, or, at any rate, how it will affect certain States. In Tasmania there are many newspapers, representing various shades of political opinion ; but there is no newspaper which does not participate in the benefits of the press association. The smaller newspapers - and I am sure it will not hurt Senator Story’s feelings if I say that the Labour paper there may properly be classed with them - are charged a much lower rate for cable information than are the larger newspapers.
– Would it be possible for another large newspaper to get into the association?
– I am here to state facts, and not to answer questions. The Examiner and the Daily Telegraph, in Launceston, and the Mercury, in Hobart, have to pay more for identically the same cable information than the smaller newspapers. In these circumstances, Senator Story will admit that in Tasmania the grievance is wholly imaginary.
– Then I shall not waste any more time in attempting to persuade the honorable senator that it is. He is forced to admit that, so far as that State is concerned, what lie wants is that the smaller papers shall get the cable news not at lower rates than the larger newspapers, but at still lower rates than they are now charged.
– The position is that it is impossible for any new daily newspaper to start without paying a very high price for its cable news.
– That is not the position in Tasmania, where smaller newspapers have been started, and have been in a position to get this information at a lower rate than is paid by the larger newspapers. I do not believe, either, that there is any impediment to starting larger ones.
– Tasmania is not all “ Australia.
– No, and Senator Story is not competent to speak for all Australia. I say, without fear of contradiction, that a great deal of this alleged grievance is unreal.
– Are the Tasmanian newspapers satisfied with the present service?
– They are perfectly satisfied with the existing arrangements for getting cablegraphic news. I am firmly convinced that not one of the smaller newspapers has any grievance. The grievance is simply* on the part of those who want to get their news for nothing. It must be recognised also that if this clause becomes law, a demand will be made by certain newspapers for the cabled news at times of excitement - in times of war, for instance - and they will discontinue using it when times are dull.
– Has that occurred in Tasmania ?
– It will occur everywhere. When there is a demand for cable news, in consequence of stirring events occurring in other parts of the world, there will be a demand upon the Minister to exercise the power that this clause gives, but I am confident that the moment the war, or other important event, no longer excites attention the demand will drop off.
– That is only supposition.
– It is a supposition that is based on the experience of the past, as Senator Story must know. There is no fairness in the proposal, and for that reason. There is no guarantee that there will be the same demand for news in dull times as in times of excitement. That is one of the most damaging arguments against the clause. I have been informed, only within the last ten minutes, by a newspaper in Launceston - and I had not the faintest idea that the information was coming to me - that what I have stated is the case. Some of the facts were known to me previously. It is pointed out that the clause will give the Minister enormous power such as cannot be exercised in any other sphere within the Commonwealth.
– Is the newspaper referred to the Clipper?
– No, it is the Launceston Examiner. Senator Pearce would be none the worse for reading that newspaper sometimes. In no other direction have such powers as these been conferred upon a Minister. If it were proposed to give him such power in other directions, the members of the Labour Party would be the first to protest. I have heard them protest in the most vigorous manner against power being conferred upon a Minister to interfere with persons in the exercise of their rights. But honorable senators opposite are quite prepared to confer any power upon a Minister when they think it will suit their own interest. I hope that the Government will recognise that the Senate ought to have an opportunity to reconsider a subject which is of such great importance. There is nothing abnormal about the demand.
Question - That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of sub-clauses 6 and 7 of clause 34 - put. The Senate divided.
Aves … … … 15
Noes … … … 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question - That the report be adopted - put. The Senate divided.
Original question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator KEATING laid upon the table the following papers : -
Post and Telegraph Act 1901 - (Statutory Rules) - (I.) Terms and conditions under which packets may be transmitted within the Commonwealth. (II.) Town and suburban letters.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 13th October, vide page 3566) :
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.
Upon which Senator de Largie had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “printed” the words “at intervals of not less than twelve months and “ be inserted.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).When this amendment was submitted I suggested what appeared to be an improvement, namely, that instead of the words of Senator de Largie’s proposal, we should adopt the words of the Act, “ immediately previous to a general election,” and insert the word “ other “ before the word “ times.” I understand that Senator de Largie is willing to accept my suggestion in lieu of his own amendment. To make it compulsory that there shall be a print every twelve months, might mean some unnecessary printing, and yet not give that reprint which, above all others, is absolutely essential - the reprint immediately previous to a general election.
– I dislike what may be termed the narrowness of Senator de Largie’s amendment, which ties the Minister down to specific periods, when there might be no necessity for printing. My suggestion would leave the matter with the Minister, with one exception, namely, the time immediately previous to a general election.
– I am not wedded to the wording of my amendment, and I think Senator Millen’s suggestion is an improvement. There is certainly a necessity for supplemental rolls being printed just prior to a general election, and, further, though my amendment does not provide for it, there ought to be an annual closing day, so that we may have a. complete roll each year. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– The desire is to have the clause as elastic as possible, so that every contingency may be met. As Senator Millen has pointed out, Senator de Largie’s amendment would considerably narrow the provision, because, owing to there being only slight variations, there might be no necessity to reprint the rolls every twelve months.
– I suggest an annual closing day for the rolls.
– Even then, I think the fixing of regular intervals would narrow the operation of the clause. At present the divisional returning officers are instructed, in the case of every general or by-election, to prepare a supplemental roll. But in many country districts it is difficult to get the’ printing done in time ; and as the divisional returning officers may receive claims for enrolment up to the very day of the issue of the writ, it would be unwise to tie the Department down to have supplemental ‘rolls printed. In such cases a manuscript roll is used. In the event of a State and the Commonwealth working together in electoral matters, it might be that a State election preceded a Commonwealth election by a month or a couple of months, and the State’s supplemental roll could with advantage and economy be printed and used for the Commonwealth election. There is no objection to Senator Millen’s idea that prior to every election there shall be a supplemental roll setting out the additions since the last print, but there are the difficulties I have indicated as to the reprinting, which might lead to the exclusion of persons entitled to vote. The idea is to have the supplemental rolls as up to date as possible ; and to attain that end it is necessary in many instances to use manuscript copies.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - If the Minister’s? suggestion that the word “ prepared “ be substituted for “ printed “ be adopted, it will alter the whole purpose of this provision, which indicates the time at which the supplemental rolls may be printed, and will leave the Bill without any direction as to printing. It appears to me that the difficulty the Minister suggests will be found in actual practice to be imaginary, because I do not know that he could give an instance where it might arise. The period between the issue of the writ and the election is invariably long enough to permit of the rolls being printed.
-What does “ immediately previous” mean?
– The Chairman Kimself assisted in passing the section of the Act which contains these words, and he is therefore in just as good a position as myself to define the meaning of the words. I admit that the words are, and wisely so, a little elastic. We could not provide that the supplemental rolls shall be printed so many days before an election, because we do not know how many days may elapse between the writ and the election. The words give a direction as to the time at which Parliament thinks the rolls ought to be printed, leaving the Minister some latitude in which he can move according to the necessities of the case. I have no objection to the suggestion of the Minister, but, as I pointed out, to adopt it will leave the Bill without any direction as to printing, and it will be necessary to insert another clause, providing for the latter.
– Would not the insertion of the words “wherever practicable” after the word “printed” meet the case?
– I think that would cover the ground.
– I think the insertion of those words would meet the case.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That after the word “be” the words “prepared, and wherever practicable “ be inserted.
– I ask Senator Millen to withdraw his amendment in the meantime, to enable me to move a prior amendment. Substituted clause 34 reads -
Supplemental rolls setting out additions since the last print shall also be printed at such times as the Minister directs.
I am sure we all desire that the supplemental rolls shall be made as perfect as possible, and provision should be made here for alterations as well as additions. If an elector changes from one part of a district to another, the alteration should appear on the supplemental roll. I propose to move the insertion of the word “alterations “ after the word “additions.”
– Is not that unnecessary, seeing that the alterations will appear On the main roll ?
– I do not think so. Suppose a man goes from one division to another ?
– That will be shown on the main roll.
– It should be shown on the supplemental roll. The substituted clause as it stands provides for the addition of the names of newly-registered electors to a roll, but it does not provide for alterations in a roll. Take the case of a woman who changes her name by marriage. That alteration will not appear on the roll.
– It will appear on the main roll.
– No. The original name of the voter will appear on the main roll. There is no provision for that class of alteration here. If, for instance, an elector removes from East Sydney to West Sydney, the transfer will not appear on the supplemental roll. The word “additions”’ will not cover that.
– His name would appear amongst the additions to the supplemental roll of the division to which he has removed..
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I hope Senator Guthrie will not move the amendment he has suggested. It would have more serious consequences than the honorable senator may suppose. Provision for all the alterations which have been mentioned is made in clause 23, proposed substituted clause 62, which provides that -
In addition to other powers of alteration conferred by this Act, rolls may be altered by the Electoral Registrar as follows : -
by correcting any obvious mistake or omission ;
by changing on the written application of an elector the original name of the elector to an altered name.
Senator Guthrie will see that that would meet the case of a woman who had married since her registration as an elector. Proposed substituted clause 34 as it stands will cover a very .large percentage of the corrections which it will be necessary to make in the rolls. I understand that it would be impracticable to bring out the supplemental rolls if it were necessary to include in them all these alterations.
– That is to reproduce all the alterations in the -main roll?
– It would be confusing also.
– It would be impracticable in the limited time that might be available prior to an election. I may inform the Committee that these alterations during the year cover 33 per cent, of the names on the rolls. If any attempt were made to print them in the supplemental rolls, the system we have adopted would break down. In the circumstances, I ask Senator Guthrie not to press such an amendment as he has suggested. He must see that adequate provision is made in the Bill to meet the class of cases to which he has referred.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). Of course I shall be prepared to withdraw my amendment if Senator Guthrie wishes to proceed with the one he has indicated. The honorable senator has fallen into some little confusion in assuming that the supplemental rolls should necessarily contain all the alterations which appear in the main rolls. We have adopted a system by which the revision of the rolls is continuous. Where any alterations, such as have been suggested, are made on the main roll, there is no need to reproduce them on the supplemental roll. The name of the honorable senator will appear on the main roll for the division in which he resides. If he changes his place of abode, the necessary alteration is made in the main roll. What advantage will it be to himself! to other electors, or to the community at large, to have his change of address set out in another Toll? The supplemental roll is purely intended for additions. New voters are continually being registered after the main roll has been printed, and their names appear as additions1 to the supplemental roll. This must go on as a continuous process. I believe that it would Le unwise for the honorable senator to move the amendment he has indicated.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - We have made provision for a complete roll, as nearly as possible up to the date of an election. But an election may be sprung upon us at any time, and the supplemental roll for a division should indicate the electors who will vote in that subdivision, and not merely the additions since the last printing of the main roll. The alterations in most districts would be very few.
– The Minister says that they amount to 33 per cent, of the total numbers on the roll.
– I do not think that they can amount to anything like that.
– I have stated the actual experience of the Department.
– The main roll is only published every three years.
– No; whenever the Minister directs.
– The honorable senator does not suppose that the Minister will direct the main roll to be printed every year.
– It will be printed as frequently as the supplemental roll.
– I do not think so. My idea is that the main! roll should be made up to a date as near as possible to a general election. Then the supplemental roll should contain the names of voters who have 1been> registered after the main roll has been published, and a record of any alterations that have taken place since the publication of the main roll. I think that the Minister will be likely to direct the annual publication of supplemental rolls containing the names of voters registered since the publication of the main roll, and all alterations required by changes of residence, transfers from one division to another, or from one subdivision to another. That, I think, would Le only a small matter.
– It would cost the Commonwealth £5,000 a year. That is the estimate of the Department.
– I do not think it would. I can scarcely believe that 33 per cent. of the population of Australia change their residence inside of three years.
– The 33 per cent. covers all alterations. The honorable senator would refer to a change of residence from No. 50 to No, 52 as an alteration.
– If 33 per cent. of the electors on the Commonwealth rolls require alteration in the year, I think that is not the experience of the States electoral departments. If a man removes from one electorate to another, his name should appear on the roll of the electorate to which he removes.
– So it will.
– It will appear as an addition to the roll for that electorate.
– If a voter removes from one electorate to another, there will be no record of an addition to the roll for the Senate.
– The Senate roll is divided into divisions.
– No, the main roll for the whole State is the Senate roll. A man residing at Port Darwin will have his name put on the roll to vote at Port Darwin. If he changes his residence to Macdonnell Bay, there will be no addition to the roll, but there should be an alteration, and his name should appear on the Macdonnell Bay roll.
– It will appear as an addition to the Macdonnell Bay roll.
– There will be no alteration of the Senate roll.
– Look at sub-clause 4 of proposed substituted clause 28.
– It says-
All the division rolls for a State shall together form the roll for the State.
A removal from Port Darwin to Macdonnell Bay would not be shown.
– It would be shown on the roll for a division.
– No, because it says that all the division rolls, together, and not separately, shall form the roll for the State. Suppose that there was no election for the House of Representatives, all the rolls for the State together would form the Senate roll, and the alterations, which the Minister says come to 33 per cent., would not be recorded.
The electors ought to be in a position to know the voting strength in a subdivision. If 33 per cent. has been added to its voting power by alterations, and not by additions, that fact ought to be known. We are all aware that considerable changes of population take place, especially in country districts. Suppose that a gold-rush has taken place in a district, why should not the names of the new arrivals be placed on the roll for the subdivision? Otherwise, when ‘an election is held, a candidate will not know whether he is likely to get the support of a thousand or ten thousand electors in the district. It is absolutely necessary that the words “ or alterations “ should be inserted after the word additions.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - The more this provision is discussed, the more inadequate does it seem to me to meet the cases for which we are trying to provide. If we look through this part of the Bill we shall find that no time is fixed for compiling or printing either the main roll or the supplemental rolls. There is absolutely no direction as to when the main roll shall be brought out. The more I look at the provision the more convinced I am of the necessity to fix a date. I think that the Minister would do well to postpone the consideration of this part.
SenatorMillen. - Is the honorable senator speaking of the preparation or of the printing of the rolls?
– I am speaking more particularly of the printing of the rolls, though the same remark applies to the preparation of them. Otherwise, we shall not know which roll will be the more important. Ifthe supplemental roll is likely to be more important than the main roll, as I think it may be, then it will be all the more necessary to show the alterations to which Senator Guthrie has referred. We should provide for the printing of the main roll each year in June or July. If, however, two or three years are allowed to elapse before the main roll is printed, the supplemental roll will be more important than at first I was inclined to think it would be.
Amendment, by Senator Guthrie, proposed -
That the words “ or alterations “ be inserted after the word “ additions.”
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I rise “to point out the effect of the amendment to those honorable senators who were not present when I spoke previously. Instead of a supplemental roll containing the names and descriptions of persons who have been recorded as eligible to vote for the electorate after the preparation of. the roll, the alteration of any particular, even in the number of a house, would necessitate the elector’s name being printed on a supplemental roll. When I said that the Department had considered this question, I might have added that it had received a good deal of consideration, and that it was not an estimate, but an actual calculation, based on its experience up to June last, which led me to say that it would involve an alteration of the rolls to the extent of 33 per cent. per annum, and that the cost for printing supplemental rolls of that character for the Commonwealth would be £5,000. It is already provided in the Bill that the alterations to which Senator Guthrie refers shall be indicated on the main roll. He desires that the alterations shall also be shown on a supplemental roll ; but so far from the people of the electorate being able to estimate the probable additional voting strength, they would be grossly misled, because they would have to go through the whole of the supplemental rolls, and ascertain if the names of any persons thereon also appeared on the main roll, with their alterations. The honorable senator has referred to the case of Jane Brown becoming Jane Smith. That fact would be indicated on the main roll.
– But the main roll would have been printed two years previously.
– The honorable senator would have the new name put on a supplemental roll, and it would remain on the old roll, so that any one who was inquiring into the state of the rolls would think that Jane Brown on the one roll and Jane Smith on the other were two distinct persons. Under present circumstances, her maiden name would be on the main roll, and the alteration of her surname would also appear there in manuscript until it became necessary to reprint the roll, when it would appear in its altered form. When Senator Guthrie says that the main roll would be two years old, and that such alterations may not be shown thereon, he states what is quite contrary to the fact. If this question had not been considered before, I might have been influenced to some extent by his remarks.
– How often is the main roll going to be printed?
– It may be printed two or three times a year. It will depend almost entirely upon the condition of the rolls, so far as alterations in them are concerned. It can be ascertained from the manuscript alterations in the roll when it is desirable that it should be reprinted. But if we do not make these alterations in the main roll, and we require the supplemental rolls to contain every particular, even to a change of residence “from 50 to 101 Smith-street, there will be no opportunity to ascertain the most desirable time for reprinting the main roll. As Senator de Largie said, the supplemental rolls would become more important than the main roll. In view of the fact that the proposed substituted clause 62 provides for all these alterations to be recorded on the main roll, I ask honorable senators to pass this provision with regard to supplemental rolls, as it stands, together with the amendment which has been indicated by Senator Millen.
– I should say that Senator Keating has understated the case. Speaking from a long metropolitan experience,I consider that the number of removals is understated at 33 per cent. In view of the fact that tens of thousands of persons are continually changing their lodgings, and that tens of thousands of female servants are continually moving from place to place, honorable senators will see that if it be decided to keep pace with all the changes we shall run the Commonwealth into an expenditure which I am quite certain is seriously understated at £5,000 a year.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - I still think that the words ought to. be inserted. Senator Keating has stated that the returning officer has the power to make certain alterations in the roll. Why should not the public know what alterations have been made?
– They would know on reference to the roll.
– The roll may be published “as the Minister may direct.”’ but what is it that the Minister may direct ? That a roll shall be prepared once in three years. The general roll is prepared in anticipation of a general election. But the general election may not take place till twelve months afterwards. A supplemental roll is prepared for the purpose of correcting errors in the general roll. Why should not that supplemental roll absolutely show the number of persons in each subdivision ? The Minister has stated that ‘the departmental estimate of the cost of what I desire is £5,000 a year. I do not think there is any need to issue a supplemental roll every year, but there is an. absolute need to have a supplemental roll which will be as perfect as possible just prior to a general election, which in ordinary circumstances would take place only once in three years. In every subdivision throughout the Commonwealth the people ought to know absolutely who has the right to vote, and who is on the roll. That is all that I ask. Without the words “ or alterations,” that would not be known.
– The alterations would be on the main. roll.
– Take the present position. The general roll for; South Australia was delivered at my house last week. Say that a general election does not occur until December, next year. The people in each subdivision will want to know what alterations and additions have been made to the roll since September of this year. Therefore, a supplemental roll should be published just before the general election. Any person transferred from Victoria to South Australia between September of this year, and December of next year, ought to be included in that supplemental roll. I do not believe that 33 per cent. of the population transfer every three years. I suppose that the largest movement of the population we have had in recent years has been to Western Australia. I do not believe, however, that 5 per cent. of the population of the other States have gone to the West. The estimate is ridiculous on the face of it.
– It seems tome that Senator Guthrie is unnecessarily alarmed about this provision. I have endeavoured to ascertain what improvements would be effected in the clause if his amendment were agreed to, but I cannot see that there would be any considerable improvement. The concern of the elector who has transferred from one State to another is, that his name shall be upon the roll in the State in which he wishes to vote. He is not concerned that his name shall not appear upon the South Australian roll, if that is the State which he has left, but that his name shall appear upon the Western Australian roll if that is the State to which he has removed. Under this provision, that elector’s name would appear on the Western Australia sup plemental roll. Senator Guthrie says that we should also provide for the name being struck off in South Australia. To the elector that is of no consequence whatever. The only point that can be urged is that the amendment would prevent impersonation. But against that we have the safeguard that before the transfer could be effected the elector must have written to the returning officer. The returning officer would therefore be in possession of information that the person had left the State, and undoubtedly he would arm the returning officer of the polling booth with that information. Indeed, he is directed to do so. So that when the impersonator came along he would at once incriminate himself. The only convenience that would arise if Senator Guthrie’s amendment were carried would be. that those who wished to use the rolls would have the means of determining what voters had left the district. But would it not be possible to obtain that information without putting the Commonwealth to the expense of printing it in a supplemental roll? I think thereturning officer could, and would supply that information to interested people. The question of expense has to be taken into consideration, and I can quite believe that it would be very costly to have supplemental rolls, not only showing the additions, but also the alterations which had been made since the printing of the main rolls. For these reasons, I am unable to support the amendment. I think the provision as it stands is perfectly satisfactory. Amendment negatived.
Amendments (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That after the word “be” the words “prepared and wherever practicable “ be inserted ; and that after the word “ printed “ the words “ immediately previous to a general election and “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That after the word “ such,” the word “ other “ be inserted.
Proposed substituted clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 35-
The last printed copies of each Division Roll shall be open for public inspection at the chief polling place for the Division without fee, and shall be obtainable thereat and at such postoffices in the Division, as the Divisional Returning Officer appoints, on payment of the price prescribed.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - Does this clause mean that the roll for a division may be inspected only at the chief polling place in the division, or does sub-clause 2 mean that there shall be rolls in other parts of the division ? The clause appears to me to indicate that the roll may be inspected only at the chief polling place.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - The clause does not necessarily mean that the roll may be inspected only at the chief polling place. It is much more liberal than the section it ireplaces. There must be at the chief polling place the whole of the division roll open for inspection without fee, and there may be at some other divisional polling place - though it is impossible to prescribe so in every case - copies of the whole roll for the division. At each polling place there will certainly be some portion of the roll, including, of course, that portion which immediately concerns the locality. It is provided further that rolls shall be obtainable at such post-offices in the division as the divisional returning officer mav appoint. The original section provides that the rolls shall be obtainable at the principal post-offices in the division, but as some doubts have been cast on the construction of the word “ principal,” it has been deemed desirable to substitute the clause now under discussion. The -returning officer for the division must hold and be responsible for the complete roll from which copies are printed, and the electoral registrars and officers at each polling place will have the polling place roll. It does not necessarily follow that copies of the roll will not be open to inspection anywhere, but there must be one roll for the division held in the custody of the divisional returning officer.
Proposed substituted clause agreed to. Proposed substituted clause 36 agreed to. Clause 16, as amended, agreed to. Clause 17 agreed to. Clause 18 -
Section fifty-six of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section is substituted in lieu thereof : - “ 56. Claims may be in the Form B in the Schedule, and shall be signed by the claimant and witnessed by an elector, and shall be sent to the Electoral Registrar keeping the Polling Place or Sub-division Roll on which the elector claims to be enrolled.”
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - When dealing with clause 16 we inserted a new paragraph, providing that there shall be a division roll to meet cases where there may be no subdivision or polling place roll, and it appears to me necessary to make a similar amendment in this substituted clause. I move -
That after the word “ sub-division,” the words “or division” be inserted.
Amendment agreed to. Clause also consequentially amended and agreed to. Clause 19 -
Section fifty-seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ the Returning Officer or Registrar,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ and the Electoral Registrar is satisfied that ‘he claimant is entitled to be enrolled, he.”
– Will the Minister tell us why this amendment as to the officials is made, not only in this clause, but in clause 20?
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - It has been found necessary to include under the term “ electoral registrar “ a divisional returning officer, whenever the latter is acting as registrar, and provision has been made in the interpretation clause accordingly. The work referred to in section 57 of the main Act is the work done by the divisional returning officer in his capacity as registrar, and the two are merged in the one comprehensive title.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - The main Act provides that if a claim “is in order” the returning officer shall proceed to do certain things, but in this clause the words are used “ and the Electoral Registrar is satisfied that the claimant is entitled to be enrolled “ he shall take the necessary steps to that end. Why the departure in language? It would be a terrible job to satisfy some electoral officers that certain individuals were entitled to be enrolled. If an illegal claim be made, the claimant may be punished, and I do not see why the returning officer should have to. be satisfied in the manner laid down. These officials may be drafted from any section of the community, and if they hold strong political opinions all the arguments in the world will not satisfy them that those of opposite opinions ought to be placed on the roll.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - This is an alteration by design to meet a class of cases which came under the notice of the Select Committee. Under the original Act there is no obligation thrown on the registrar to satisfy himself.
– The Revision Court has to be satisfied.
– Under this Bill, the application will come to the registrar, and he will have to satisfy himself, because the proposal of this Bill is that the registrar shall take the place of the Revision Courts under the existing Act. If honorable senators will look at the report of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives that dealt with the Electoral Act, they will find that, at page 10 of their report, they say -
The evidence discloses that under theexisting law roll-stuffing may be resorted to. It would appear that the Registrar is bound to receive any claim signed by a claimant. Instances were cited of persons who had been resident for less than one week in a division having been induced by an agent to sign claims. Subsequent investigation proved that these persons were enrolled elsewhere, and were not entitled to vote in the division for which they had submitted claims for enrolment. It is recommended that each claim should be witnessed by an elector for the division, and that it be. made an offence to witness any such claim without due inquiry on the part of the witness as to the qualifications of the elector. The proposal of the conference of electoral officers to permit applications to transfer to be sent to Electoral Registrars as well as to Returning Officers is approved, but these applications should continue to be signed in the presence of a witness.
Honorable senators will see that a serious defect in the present law was disclosed during the inquiry made by the Committee. Very great opportunities are afforded under it for roll-stuffing, inasmuch as when a claim which is in order is received by the registrar, he has automatically to put the name on the roll, and must wait for the Revision Court to deal with it if an objection should be lodged against the claim.
– Is it not giving too much power to an electoral registrar to say that he shall be satisfied in this matter?
– The honorable senator will see that we are doing away with the Revision Courts, and we are giving the claimant a right of appeal if his name is not put on the roll. He can go before two justices at any time to appeal against any refusal by the registrar to put his name on the roll.
– That all means expense.
– It will not be nearly so costly as proceedings under the present law, whilst it will be more expeditious and more safe. Honorable senators must see that the present law is very defective. The Select Committee of the House of Representatives has recommended that we should depart from it, and enact some provision which will afford a check on the roll-stuffing which was resorted to in the first Federal election under the present law.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I believe that too much power is beingplaced in the hands of these officials, and we know that there will be less revision of the rolls under this Bill than under the existing law. I agree that persons who are not entitled to a vote should not have their names on the roll, but I would prefer that there should be a duplication of names on the roll than that the name of any one who is entitled to vote should be left off it. In Western Australia there was a great deal of duplication of names, but I have yet to learn that there was any hint from any political side that anything like personation took place at the elections. I cannot agree to put so much power into the hands of these officials as is proposed by this clause .
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 -
Section 60 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ Returning Officer for the division,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ Electoral Registrar keeping the polling-place or subdivision roll.”
– The objections just urged by Senator de Largie apply with greater force to this clause. If it is passed, electoral registrars will have the power to transfer a claimant’s name or to refuse to transfer it. Is not that too great a power to place in the hands of an electoral registrar? Under the present Act the power is in the hands of a returning officer for a division; but he is a responsible official.
– There is no option in the case of a transfer. It is compulsory upon application, as the honorable senator will see if he reads the next clause.
– I may explain to Senator O’Keefe that the object of this clause is to avoid the circumlocution which is necessary under the present Act. The clause will not alter the effect of the present law, but will enable communications to pass direct from subdivision to subdivision.
Clause agreed to.
Section sixty-one of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section substituted in lieu thereof : - “61. The Electoral Registrar shall note on the application to transfer the date of its receipt by him, and shall file it in his office, and shall register it by placing the elector’s name on the roll, and shall give notice of the transfer to the Electoral Registrar keeping the Polling-place or Sub-division’ Roll from which the elector’s name has been transferred, who shall thereupon remove the elector’s name from the roll.”
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).It is extremely undesirable that in the case, especially of public documents, where any alterations are made, they should not disclose the purpose and object for which they are made on their face. Where we say, as in this clause, that the electoral registrar “ shall thereupon remove the elector’s name from the roll,” I think it ought to be made quite clear that what is intended is that the name should be cancelled. An inexperienced officer might consider that he was justified, instead of running his pen through the name, in scratching the name out with his penknife, and there would then be nothing to show what alteration had been made.
– Section 65 of the existing Act deals with that. It provides that -
All alterations shall be made in such a manner that the original entry shall not be obliterated, and the reason for the alteration and the date thereof shall be set against the alteration, together with the initials of the officer making the alteration.
– I thank the Minister for pointing that out; that entirely meets the difficulty I suggested.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 -
Section sixty-two of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section substituted in lieu thereof : - “62. - (1) In addition to other powers of alteration conferred by this Act, rolls may be altered by the Electoral Registrar as follows : -
By reinstating any name struck out by mistake as the name of a dead person.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - In this proposed substituted clause 62 I think an omission has been made, as no provision has been made for a change of address. The principal Act provides that the returning officer or electoral registrar shall be entitled to alter the roll by correcting obvious mistakes or omissions, and by changing, on the written application of an elector, “ the place of living to another within the same division.” It seems to me that we should continue the provision of the existing Act in this respect, as without it it might be doubted whether the electoral registrar had the power to make an alteration which it might be extremely desirable he should make to prevent the possibility of confusion. An elector may alter his address without removing from a subdivision, or without altering his polling place. He may change his place of residence from one street to another, and it is desirable to preventany possibility of doubt that his correct address shall appear on the electoral roll. A possible reason for the omission in this clause is that the draftsman had in mind merely a change from one polling place or subdivision to another.
– What the honorable senator refers to might be met by an amendment of paragraph b of substituted clause 62, by inserting the words “or address” after the word “ name.”
– I think that would do. I move -
That after the word “ name,” line 10, the words “ or address “ be inserted.
Of course, that will require a consequential amendment at the close of the paragraph.
Amendment, and consequential amendment, agreed to.
– I think that we should omit the words “he is satisfied” in sub-clause 2 of the proposed substituted clause, because, in my opinion, they give a discretion to the divisional returning officer. Although a person might be entitled to be enrolled, still it might be held that the divisional returning officer was not thoroughly satisfied as to that fact. It will be remembered that the corresponding clause of the original Electoral Bill contained these words, and that after discussionthey were omitted.
– The honorable senator will remember that there is a difference now in the preparation of a roll.
– There is no difference as to a cLaim. In the other case, a claim had to go before the returning officer, who had to put the name on the roll, and the only difference was that ihe original list had to go before the Revision Court. If a man is entitled to be enrolled, his name must be added. The clause will not lose any of its usefulness by the omission of words which introduce a vague element. Therefore I move -
That the words “ he is satisfied,” line 18, be left out.
– We have already adopted the principle, and for the reason I previously advanced, it is desirable, in the face of the report of the Select Committee, to provide adequate safeguards that the rolls shall be a list of the names of persons who are entitled to be enrolled. This clause is to take the place of section 55 of the Electoral Act, which- reads -
New names may be added to rolls pursuant to -
Lists prepared by the Returning Officer for each division.
– Lists dealing with the original roll.
– Yes, but that principle we wish to perpetuate in our law. Obviously the returning officer for each division in these cases would satisfy himself as to the eligibility of the different persons whose names were put on the lists.
– In the case of those lists, it was the Revision Courts which had to be satisfied.
– Certainly not. According Ito the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, whose opinion was obtained -
Names may be added under section 55 (c) by the Divisional Returning Officer, with a claim and without the intervention of a Revision Court.
In, these circumstances, the divisional returning officer necessarily has to satisfy himself that the claimants are entitled to be on the roll. The words have been used in a previous clause, and I think should not be departed from. If a man has a grievance he will have a much’ better right of appeal than he now enjoys before the revision court.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - In clause 19, which amends section 57 of the Act, we have already provided for this very thing, ,and I am not at all certain that sub-clause 2 of the proposed substi tuted clause 62 is not an unnecessary repetition. Whether that is the case or not, it is obvious that we. have already affirmed the principle, and, in my opinion, it would be rather dangerous to depart therefrom in this clause. Section 57, as amended by clause 19, says -
If the claim is in order, and the Electoral Registrar is satisfied that the claimant is entitled to be enrolled, he shall, pursuant to the claim, immediately enter the claimant’s name and the particulars relating to Kim on the roll, and shall file the claim.
Surely he cannot add a name without altering the roll. It is somewhat late for Senator Pearce to take exception to a provision which, perhaps to meet a technical difficulty, is simply stating the same thing in another way.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - But for the fact that I was absent from the Chamber for a few minutes, I should have raised this question on clause 19. I would again point out that these words do not appear in section 57 of the Act.
– I explained the reason why they were put into the proposed substituted clause 62.
– We have no evidence that their insertion is necessary.
– I gave that explanation before.
– I do not like the idea of giving a discretionary power to the divisional returning officer; but, seeing that I have taken the objection, perhaps, rather late, I ask leave to withdraw mv amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 24 -
After section 63 of the Principal Act, the following section is inserted : -
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - When we were dealing with proposed substituted clause 26, I understood that the Minister recognised that there was a conflict between that clause and section 63 of the Act, and that it would be wise to repeal that provision. Therefore, I ask the honorable and learned senator to consent to the introductory part of this clause being amended to read as follows -
Section 63 of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section is substituted in lieu thereof.
– That is right. Clause amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.
Clause 27 -
The whole of Part VII. of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following Part substituted in lieu thereof : - “ 67. Any name on a roll may be objected to by objection in writing lodged with or made by the Returning Officer.
Provided that a sum of One shilling shall be deposited in respect of each objection.
The Returning Officer shall forthwith give notice of the objection to the person objected to. The notice may be in the prescribed form. 73. (i) Any person - may in manner prescribed apply to a court of summary jurisdiction, constituted by a Police Stipendiary or Special Magistrate, or by two or more Justices of the Peace, authorized by the Governor-General to hear and determine electoral appeals, for an order directing that his name may be added or restored to the roll.1’
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales)__
I desire to draw the attention of the Minister to an anomaly. In the proposed substituted clause 70, the returning officer is directed to”’ give notice to the person objected to. The notice must be in the prescribed form, and must be served at the last known place of abode of the person objected to. But where an individual, not an official, gives notice, there is no prescribed form. In the one case, what is to constitute the serving of the notice is specified ; in the other “case, it is left to the individual. I think the two provisions should be made uniform.
– I draw attention to the fact that it is. here proposed that the deposit which has to be lodged, on objecting to a person on the roll, is to be reduced from 5s. to is. I oppose the reduction. No reasons were given for it at the second-reading stage, and a deposit of 5s. is a safeguard against a man with plenty of cash to throw away objecting wholesale to persons whose names appear upon the roll. The present arrangement has worked satisfactorily. I have heard nothing against it, and I can see a great danger in the sum being reduced.
– (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - The idea of having a deposit is to lessen the number of frivolous and vexatious objections. A sum of 5s. has now to be paid on lodging an objection. I understand that, although there are 1,893,000 names on the Commonwealth rolls, the Revision Courts did not have to deal with fifty objections. That is clear evidence that not many objections were lodged. We are proposing to reduce the amount of the deposit, with the object of placing the poor man on better terms, as compared with the rich. I thought that would meet Senator de Largie’s views.
– I am astonished to hear the Minister defend the reduction of the deposit from 5s. to is. I do not see that it will, in any way Benefit the poor man, who has not many shillings to lose. People do not like to lodge objections wholesale, at a cost of 5s. per objection, but if the amount is reduced to is., so that a man could lodge twenty objections for £1, it is very likely that the number lodged would be considerably increased. The agent of a wealthy party, with a large sum of money to play ducks and drakes with, would lodge as many objections as he could against his political opponents’, and men who wished to defend their right to remain on the roll would Rave to lose a day’s wages in order to do so.
– I am not wedded to the shilling. I thought the honorable senator would like it.
– I certainly do not, for the reasons I have stated.
Amendment (by Senator Keating) agreed to -
That the words “One shilling,” line 7, be struck out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Five shillings.”
– I draw attention to the use of the word “ may “ in the proposed substituted clause 70. It says that “ The notice may be in the prescribed form.” I should ‘think that we ought to say that it “ shall “ be in the prescribed form. Surely we ought not to allow the returning officer to prescribe the form.
Senator KEATING “(Tasmania:- Honorary Minister). - The difficulty is that if we put in the word “shall,” and then prescribe a form, the failure to adhere to that form, even in some most unessential particular, might make the objection defective. That is the reason why, in the case of forms, the wor3 “ may “ is always used.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - The proposed substituted clause 73 prescribes that the Court of Summary Jurisdiction to hear appeals may be constituted by “ a Police Stipendiary, or Special .Magistrate, or by two or more Justices of the Peace.” I think that as we have put great powers in the hands of the Court, which will only be called upon to settle questions of importance, it should be confined to special magistrates or stipendiaries. We should strike out the allusion to justices of the peace, who ought not to have anything to do with the matter. It must be admitted that justices of the peace are appointed on more or less party lines. In country districts, and also, I suppose, in towns, they are more or less political partisans, and should be excluded from sitting on this court of appeal.
Amendment (by Senator Keating) agreed to-
That the word “ apply,” line 13, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ make application.”
Amendment (by Senator de Largie) proposed -
That the words “or by two or more Justices of the Peace,” lines 15 and 16, be left out.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary’ Minister). - I ask the Committee not to adopt the amendment. It might be impossible, or, at any rate, impracticable in many instances to get a police stipendiary or special magistrate to deal with these cases. In the first place, these stipendiary or special magistrates are not so numerous as justices of the peace, and, secondly, their judicial duties are much more extensive. The justices of the peace under this clause must be authorized by the Governor-General to hear and determine electoral appeals, and his power will be exercised in regard to such localities as may be deemed necessary by reason of the circumstances. The clause ought to be adhered to in order that there may be no failure in the administration of the Act in places remote from the larger centres of population.
Question- That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to draw attention to an anomaly in this clause. In one part a direction is laid down as to what is to constitute he service of the notice, and in another part this direction is absent. I understand, however, that before we meet again next week Senator Keating will confer with the draftsman, and see whether there is any reason for the difference, and that, if circumstances demand, he will not object to a recommittal.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - At present I see no reason why Senator Millen’ s suggestion should not be adopted, subject to one safeguard in regard to prescribing the address of the officer. It occurs to me, however, that the draftsman, who has an intimate acquaintance with judicial procedure, may have had some particular object in drawing the clause as it appears. Before we meet next week I shall take an opportunity to confer with him, and, if possible, I shall meet Senator Millen’s suggestion.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051020_senate_2_28/>.