2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator DOB SON. - In view of the an swer which the Minister of Defence gave me the other day to the effect that honorary members of rifle clubs were entitled to the full privileges of membership, I desire to call his attention to the following letter : -
As the regulations are at present, because a man has been a number of years in the militia, and going on the reserve owing to being in a district where it is impossible to continue any connexion with his corps, he is handicapped from rifle shooting, for though he may join as an honorary member only, he cannot obtain the same privileges as regards ammunition as the newest rifle club recruit can. Serve your country for ten years, and you are penalized. There must be numbers of former members of the force who are debarred from keeping up their practice with the rifle, and to ask if he will kindly confirm the answer, because it is contradicted by the letter.
Senator PLAYFORD. - The answer was given to me by my officers, and is accurate. If the honorable and learned senator will hand to me the letter which he read I shall get the information which he desires in a concrete form.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following papers: -
Returns to Orders of the Senate, dated 29th September, giving ironworkers’’ wages in the Commonwealth and in England, 1899-1904; and quantity and cost of machinery imported into Queensland, 1899-1904.
Senator KEATING laid upon the table the following paper : -
Recommendations, &c”., and approval of the promotion of Mr. W. D. H. Claxton to be Accountant, Postmaster-General’s Department, Adelaide.
Relevance of Amendment to Subject - Matter.
Debate resumed from 27th October (vide page 4204), on motion by Senator Givens -
That the President’s Ruling, on amendment proposed in the Electoral Bill, by Senator Millen, be disagreed with on the ground that it is inconsistent with previous rulings given by the President on other amendments moved in the same Bill.
– Before calling on any honorable senator to speak tq the question, I wish to direct attention to the fact that an answer I gave to an interjection by Senator Pearce is not correct, if the question has been properly stated. According to Hansard, ‘he asked, “Will you, sir, permit me to ask whether Senator O’ Keefe could have moved his amendment on a Bill dealing with this subject for the first time?” and my answer was, “ No, I do not think he could.” I thought the honorable senator referred to “ this Bill,” not to “a Bill.” If he had asked the question in reference to a Bill, I should have answered, “ I do not know what the contents of the -Bill are.” Of course, I could not alter in Hansard Senator Pearce’ s interjection, but my answer is not correct if the interjection was as reported. I think that it referred to “ this Bill.”
– I very much regret that it is necessary to discuss this question to-day, when, for one reason or another, so many honorable senators are absent who were present when it was previously discussed.
– A number of them, are away with the Select0 Committee on the Tobacco Monopoly.
– I am not finding fault, with honorable senators because they are absent. On a motion to dissent from a ruling, it is desirable to get the decision of a full Senate, because otherwise the vote given may not express its view. I am sure that you, sir, must be getting somewhat tired of a discussion which has largely hovered round one central fact. If the judgment rested entirely with you I should be quite content to resume my seat, but an appeal ‘has been carried from the Chair to the Senate. Your previous decisions seem to me to have marked a very broad distinction, and that is that the Electoral Bill is a measure to amend the Electoral Act, but in one particular only, and that is the machinery provisions. By assenting to the second reading of a Bill we brought under review the machinery, but not the principles, Of the Act. I take it that any machinery portion of the Act, although it be not referred to in the Bill, comes under our review, and is capable of amendment. If that is the true meaning of your ruling, sir, I submit that my amendment is entirely in order, because it deals with machinery only, and not with a principle. What it seeks to do is to vary the machinery by which the State is divided into electorates. Honorable senators have spoken as if it involved a Question of vital principle to take from Parliament a work which hitherto Parliament has reserved to itself. What is the principle in issue? Throughout the Act the Parliament, in a dozen different ways, has divested itself of power which it has handed over to other persons. One work which it did not reserve to itself was (that of testing the validity of elections. That right was reserved in the mother of Parliaments and to most of the States Parliaments. No one has contended that it was absolutely essential that either House of the Parliament should deal with a petition against the return, of one of its members. In the Electoral Act the Parliament has shown that it can divest itself of that portion of the electoral machinery as easily as it can. of any other) portion, because it has been handed over to the determination of a Court. That was purely machinery, and not principle. The main principle of Part III. of the Act is set out in the provision that each State shall be divided into electorates as nearly equal iki the number of electors as possible. The Act went on to say who was to divide the State. It was to be divided by a Commissioner, and he was given certain indications as to the interests he was to consider, and allowed a certain latitude above and below the quota. The Parliament said that in the work of dividing the States into electorates, it would take a hand; but that did not introduce a principle any more than if it had said that the revision of the work should be referred to the High Court. It was merely a part of the machinery of the Act; It had nothing to do with the subdivision of the States. The whole of the other provisions deal not with that overshadowing principle, but with the official who is to design the scheme, and the directions which are given to him as to various factors to be observed in adhering to that principle. I do not wish to institute a comparison, sir, between your ruling on my amendment and that given in another case.
– The honorable senator says “ no” as if he thought that I would shrink from doing it.
– It does not suit.
– I do not know any argument so absolutely worthy of the honorable senator, and so little worthy of a Senate, as a suggestion that honorable senators will ignore an argument of this kind merely because it does not suit. I had another reason in my mind, and it was because I ventured to think that the honorable senator, and perhaps others, are prepared to give judgement, not with regard to the merits of this case, but because they are dissatisfied with a decision on an altogether different matter. Surely I have heard honorable senators speak of the principle of: plumping ! Do they call it a principle now or not? Senator O’Keefe affirmed by his amendment–
– The honorable senator cannot discuss that amendment.
– I propose to allow the greatest latitude of discussion, because I do not think that on a motion to dissent from my ruling I ought to draw the line too strictly.
– By his amendment Senator O’Keefe sought to lay down the principle known as plumping. Had it been adopted it would have been necessary to provide other clauses to carry out its object. That marks the broad distinction between the two amendments. In one case the principle that a man could plump was sought to be enacted.
– That a man should have the right to vote for one or two or three candidates, but not to plump.
– The amendment, if carried, would have given a man the right to plump, and in order to enable the right to be exercised machinery would have had to be provided. My amendment, however, is designed to provide machinery to carry out a principle previously laid down. If honorable senators believe that your decision in this case is right, but are inclined to vote against it, because, in their opinion, it is not consistent with a previous ruling, their proper course is to support the motion, and! to take such steps as they may think necessary to rescind a resolution which they deem to be wrong. I have good reason to think that very many of them believe that your latest decision is entirely right. In that case honorable senators ought to vote for upholding the ruling, because, if they think it is correct, it is their duty to say so. If, on the other hand, they think a previous decision is incorrect, the ordinary forms of the Senate are open to them, and they may ask honorable senators to reverse the decision. I submit that honorable senators will stultify themselves and the Chamber if they give a vote by which a decision which they believe to be correct is made to appear to be wrong - that by such a course they will not do justice either to themselves or to the Senate.
– I am induced to speak mainly by Senator Millen’s contention that if Senator O’Keefe’ s proposal had been introduced into the Bill certain machinery would have been required to give effect to it.
– The honorable senator means that no additional machinery! would have been required.
– I mean that no machinery whatever would have been required.
– Surely machinery would have been wanted ?
– No additional machinery wouldhave been wanted, but there must be some machinery.
– Senator O’Keefe proposed to omit half-a-dozen words from the Act, which provides that a man shall vote for the full number of candidates ; and not another clause would have been required to carry that proposal into effect.
– Because the machinery is already in the Act.
– I confess that the proposal of Senator Millen, while radical, is one which the Committee might well undertake to’ consider. While I am of that opinion, I do not agree with Senator Millen and others who think that there is no important principle involved in the amendment. It would be possible for the suggested Commissioners to absolutely take away from a certain body of electors the value of their franchise. The Commissioners who divide the State into electorates have to take into consideration community of interests - they have to take into consideration the pastoral, agricultural, dairying, mining, iron, and other industries, and group them as justly as they may, in order to secure fair representation throughout the Commonwealth.
– Is the honorable senator not discussing the effect of the amendment, if carried, rather than the motion before the Senate?
– I do not think so. I desire to show that the proposal of Senator Millen is not a mere question of machinery, and, as I have said, that it is work which might be undertaken by the Committee. I do not very well see how any honorable senator could get a proposal’ of the kind considered without introducing a new Bill, if this amendment be ruled out of order. It seems to me, however, an important and radical alteration to take out of the hands of Parliament the powers now possessed by us, and hand them over to an outside body, over whom Parliament would have no control. The difficulty in the minds of honorable senators has been pointed out by Senator Millen. If honorable’ senators believe in your ruling, they must uphold it, and take other steps if they think the former ruling, with regard to Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, was wrong. The matter has presented to me considerable difficulty. If, for example, Senator Millen’s proposal is not in order, now is Senator Millen to get it considered, unless he introduces a new Bill ? If the amendment is out of order, it is so because it does not come within the subject-matter of the Bill as passed at the second reading, and, therefore, he cannot move that it be an instruction to the Committee to consider it. I believe this is work the Committee might do under the circumstances, and I hope that Senator Givens, after he replies, will withdraw his motion.
– It appears to me that this is an exceedingly important matter. As you, sir, pointed out in one of the rulings you have given, we are laying down a practice for ourselves. You said that distinctly and clearly in the ruling which you gave on the amendment submitted by Senator Mulcahy.
– I said we were laying down a practice concerning an instruction. Senator Mulcahy’s motion was one for an instruction to the Committee.
– I have a recollection that in some of the other cases you reiterated that statement.
– I do not think so.
– However, I do not wish to labour the point. It is a fact, whether you said so or not, that we are laying down a practice which will largely guide the future deliberations of the Senate. It is exceedingly important that in doing so we should as far as possible make sure that the practice is a correct one. I have not asked the Senate to disagree with your ruling on any other grounds than those mentioned in the motion, namely, that it is inconsistent with the ruling you previously gave on the amendment proposed by Senator O’Keefe. I propose to show, as briefly as Ican, why I think your ruling is inconsistent. I do not say that either ruling is wrong, but merely that the two are not consistent, and should not be allowed to stand side by side.
– The two cases are not properly comparable.
– That is a matter of opinion. Although Senator Trenwith’ may be a very high authority, he is not infallible. The only objection I have to the ruling in the present case is that it is inconsistent with the ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment.
– Suppose the President were wrong in the first case and right in the present case, whyobject to the latter ruling ?
– I have over and over again stated that the ground on which I object to the ruling is its inconsistency with the former ruling, and I propose to show the inconsistency. All that Senator
O’Keefe proposed was to eliminate the provision that an elector should vote for the, full number of candidates to be elected. I contend that that did not involve a very important principle, if any principle at all, because it merely meant the taking away of a direction to the elector as to how he should vote. It did not deprive the elector of the right to vote for the full number ; it simply left him to exercise his vote as he liked.
– It relieved the elector of a duty he otherwise would have been called upon to perform.
– Then Senator Millen ‘s amend’ment proposed to relieve Parliament of a duty which under the principal Act it is called upon to perform.
– The present proposal is before us, while the other was not.
– Senator Millen’s amendment was not before us until it was submitted by that honorable senator. The amending Bill did not deal with the matter in any way. Why did Senator Trenwith not take the same view of Senator O’Keefe’s amendment as he takes of the present amendment ? If the position laid down by Senator Trenwith be correct, we ought to rule the proposal out of order, because we are opposed to it, and rule it in order if we are in favour of it.
– Does the honorable senator apply that remark to me?
– No, I do not; I am merely putting the position as it would be if Senator Trenwith’s contention were correct. In your ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment you say -
There can be no doubt as to what the test is. Standing order 194 says : - “ Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the Senate.” That is quite clear. We cannot get away from it. Therefore we must consider the subject-matter of the Bill, and whether Senator O’Keefe’s amendment is’ relevant to that subject-matter. The subjectmatter of the Act which it is proposed to amend really has nothing to do with the question. It is the subject-matter of the Bill which our standing order says shall be the test.
There you clearly point out that the subjectmatter of the Act it is proposed to amend has nothing to do with whether the amendment is in order or not - that it is the subject-matter of the Bill which has to be considered. The Bill with which we are now dealing does not deal at all with the matter contained in Senator
Millen’s amendment. The Bill contains no provision to take away from Parliament the power to finally review and deal with any division of the States into electorates. I contend therefore that” according to your dictum, Senator Millen’s amendment is not in order. I respectfully submit that the matter dealt with in the amendment is riot contained in the subject-matter of the Bill before us, and therefore if your ruling in the former case were correct the present amendment does not properly come within the scope of the Committee.
– May I interrupt the honorable senator? The standing order does not say “ contained,” but “ relevant “ to the subject-matter.
– I am pointing out that you said the subject-matter of the Act had nothing to do with the question, but that it was the subject-matter of the Bill which our Standing Orders say shall be the test. The subject-matter of the Bill contains no reference to taking away from Parliament the power it now possesses to finally review and decide as to the electoral boundaries. I contend that an exceedingly important and far-reaching principle is. involved. Further on in your ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment you say -
But it seems to me there is a great principle involved. That is this : On the second reading of the Bill we enunciated the principles contained in the Bill as drawn. Then the Senate goes into Committee to amend the Bill in detail. I do not agree with proposition that the Committee could not amend this Bill in any particular except the particulars mentioned in it. I never stated that, and I wish it to be clearly understood that I do not say so. But I do say this - that when this Bill was read a second time, it did not contain the important principle that is now sought to be enunciated in it. There was no discussion on that principle. Although Senator O’Keefe mentioned the matter, there was not, I say, any discussion on the ‘principle of his proposed amendment at the second-reading stage.
Senator O’Keefe’s amendment did not propose to compel the voter to do anything, but merely left him to vote for one, two, three, or more candidates up to the full number required - there was no interference with the exercise of the vote. If in that amendment a principle were involved, it was not a principle of very great importance, but was, as I have said, more in the nature of a direction to the voter as to how he should exercise his vote. But if there were a principle involved, then Senator Millen’s amendment involves a principle of much greater importance. What would be the effect if we took away from Parliament the power which Parliament already possesses in this connexion? I do not propose to discuss the amendment, or say whether or not I am in favour of it, I am now endeavouring to show the important and far-reaching effects which it would have if carried ; and that, according to the dictum laid down in Senator O’Keefe’s case, the amendment of Senator Millen ought not to be permitted at this stage. If Senator Millen’s amendment were carried, it would mean that Parliament would be shorn of one of the great powers and responsibilities it now possesses ; it would mean that the decision of the three persons’ named in the Bill would be final. It would further mean that sections 20. 21, and 22 of the principal Act would be repealed; and I may here parenthetically say that there is no mention of the repeal of these sections in the Bill. These sections provide, shortly, that the Commissioner, appointed to divide a State into electorates, shall make a report and prepare a map, which must be laid before both Houses within seven days after the next meeting; that if both Houses pass an approving motion, the Governor-General mav declare the names and boundaries of the divisions ; and that if either House passes a motion disapproving, or negatives a motion for approval, the Minister may direct the Com missioner to prepare a fresh distribution, The provisions which Senator Mullen’s amendment proposes to repeal -are among the most important provisions of the original Act. They give to the Parliament, consisting of the two Houses, the power to say whether any distribution of a State into divisions made by a Commissioner is a good one, and shall be allowed to stand. If Senator Millen’s amendment were agreed to, it would take away that power from Parliament, and I contend that it is consequently of such far-reaching importance that it should not be introduced into the Bill without the most mature consideration. Honorable members will remember that Senator Millen is the only member of the Senate who discussed this matter on the second reading of the Bill. In giving a ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, the President said -
What is the test by which a proper practice can be arrived at? It is - what was in the Bill when the Bill was read a second time. The Bill having been read a second time, can it then be radically altered in ^Committee by putting in some great principle of far-reaching importance not contained in the original Act itself? It appears to me that we ought not to adopt any such practice. If we did, no one would know what was going to happen. No one would know after a Bill had been read a second time what novel principle might be introduced into it in Committee.-
I submit that the amendment proposed by Senator Millen involves a principle of far-
Teaching importance, and a novel principle which is not contained in the original Act. It involves a radical departure, not only from the principles of the Bill which we are now considering, but from the principles of the original Act which the Bill has been introduced to amend. From every point of view, therefore, if the President’s ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment be correct, his ruling on Senator Millen’s amendment is not correct. One or the other is wrong, and should not be allowed to stand. Certainly, two inconsistent and contradictory rulings should not be allowed to stand. I do not in this instance ask honorable senators to vote against the President’s ruling because it is wrong, but because it is inconsistent with the ruling previously given on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment. I entirely dissent from Senator Millen’s statement that, bv doing this we should stultify ourselves. I say that, if we do not disagree with the ruling in this case we shall stultify ourselves, because we will then have accepted one ruling in one case and a totally different’ ruling on a similar matter in another case. That is where the contradiction would come in, and I ask honorable senators not to consent to stultify themselves in that way.
– The honorable senator admits that the President’s ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment is wrong, but he will not say whether the ruling in this case is wrong.
– I have already said that I do not propose to discuss the merits of either ruling. I do not ask honorable senators to say which of the rulings is right and which is wrong, but to say that the ruling given in this case is inconsistent with that previously given.
– The honorable senator is asking the Senate to say that the President’s ruling in this case is wrong.
– I am not.
– Then how can we be asked to oppose it? In what way are we to vote on the motion ?
– The Senate accepted the President’s ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, and by so doing laid down a precedent which should guide us for the future. That being so, we should not be asked to go behind our previous decision.
Senator Clemons. But if honorable senators think this ruling right, how should they vote?
– That is a matter for the honorable senator’s own conscience. Senator Clemons will admit that a ruling laid down by the President and accepted by the Senate is supposed to be a guide for us in dealing with similarmatters subsequently arising. If that is so, we should adhere to the previous ruling accepted by the Senate, and should not go behind it.
– Even if we think it wrong ?
– I do not, in my motion, ask honorable senators to say whether the President’s ruling in this case is right or wrong. I have carefully refrained from saying which of the rulings given is wrong, but I say that both cannot be right. Senator Millen has said that the Bill is simply a machinery Bill, that his amendment is a machinery amendment, and should, therefore, be allowed. Incidentally, the honorable senator argued that Senator O’Keefe’s amendment was not a machinery amendment. I have tried to show that it was even more of a machinery amendment than is Senator Millen’s. Senator O’Keefe’s amendment proposed merely to remove a direction binding on the elector, and to permit him liberty of action. The Bill, as introduced, proposes alterations in the method of voting, because honorable senators will see that the ballot-paper proposed under it differs from that provided for by the original Act. If, as Senator Trenwith has interjected, Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, if carried, would relieve an elector of a duty imposed on him by the principal Act, and on that account would involve an important principle, I point out that Senator Millen’s amendment proposes to relieve Parliament of a duty imposed on. it by the principal Act, and it, therefore, involves a principle of greater importance than any which can be said to be involved in Senator O’Keefe’s amendment. For the reasons I have given, I contend that the President’s ruling in this case is not consistent with that given on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, and for thatreason I ask the Senate to disagree with it. It is very unfortunate that members of the Senate, or of any similar body, should have to disagree with its President’s ruling. It is only on rare occasions that advantage should be taken of the right to do so. I point out that the numbers in favour of and against the President’s ruling on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment were exactly equal, and, under our Standing Orders, the question that the ruling be disagreed with,., passed in the negative, and the ruling was therefore sustained. The fact that the Senate voted in that way does not prove that the ruling was absolutely correct. Honorable senators are well aware that members of the Senate will often vote to support a ruling of the President, even when they are not at all convinced that it is correct. It is only right and proper that they should do so ; but I point out that the fact that the result of the division confirmed the President’s ruling is no proof that it is correct, and should be adhered to. My desire in submitting this motion is to secure that the ruling previously given, if correct, shall be adhered to, and that we shall not depart from a precedent previously laid down, without the gravest reason. I hope that honorable senators will agree with me that the ruling given on Senator Millen’s amendment is inconsistent with that previously given on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, and, for my part, I am not afraid to go to a division on the question.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 27th October, vide page 4204) : -
Postponed clause 12 -
Section twenty-one of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following words : - “ Provided that, until the then next ensuing dissolution or expiration of the House of Representatives, the redistribution shall not affect the election of a new member to fill a vacancy happening in the House of Representatives; but for the purposes of any such election the Electoral Divisions as theretofore existing, and the Rolls in respect of those Divisions, shall continue to have full force and effect, notwithstanding that new Rolls for the new Divisions have been prepared.”
Upon which Senator Millen had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ Section twenty-one of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof, the following words,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof : - “ Sections twenty, twenty-one, and twenty-two of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section substituted in lieu thereof “ ‘The Governor-General shall thereupon by proclamation declare the names and boundaries of the Divisions and those Divisions shall until altered in accordance with this Act be the Electoral Divisions for the State.’”
– I do not propose to reiterate the arguments I addressed to the Committee in support of my amendment. I remind honorable senators that they have already, adopted the first portion of my amendment, which provided for the substitution of three Commissioners instead of one, for the purpose of dividing the several States into electorates. I am now submitting the second portion of the amendment, to make the reports of the three Commissioners for each State final, without any reference to Parliament. I point out that whilst under my amendment parliamentary revision of the Commissioners’ scheme will be removed, the public will have the same opportunities as they now possess under the original Act, of making known any objections they have to the schemes sub - mitted by the three Commissioners for each State.
– They would not be able to present their objections through their representatives in Parliament. That is a very important difference.
– But all the facilities which are now given under the principal Act for making known objections to the schemes submitted by the Commissioners will remain effective under the amendment. The three Commissioners for each State will be under the same obligation to publish the details of their scheme as is each individual Commissioner under the principal Act, and any elector who has an objection to the scheme will have the same opportunity to make known his views to the three Commissioners as he has today to make them known to an indivdual Commissioner. The only point of difference is that under the present Act, when the individual Commissioner for a State has completed his scheme for a distribution it must receive parliamentary sanction, while the scheme as amended would be practically final, because it would only require a proclamation bythe GovernorGeneral to make it effective.
– For the reasons I gave on a previous occasion, I hope that the Committee will not accept this amendment. It amounts to a surrender by the Senate, as well as the other House, of a responsibility and right which I think should not be abandoned. Senator Millen has said that under the Act the public have not a means of making certain representations which Senator Trenwith said they would be deprived of, but I would point out that they now have that opportunity. Apart altogether from their right to communicate with the Commissioner, they have the opportunity of communicating with their representatives in Parliament, and pointing out to them reasons why they should not consent to the division of the State as proposed.
– Was it the public or the politicians who objected to the previous redistribution ?
– I am not dealing with that matter, but pointing out that under the present Act the public have two methods of expressing their views.-. Under the scheme of Senator Millen, however, the Parliament would have no opportunity of checking a scheme of distribution. It would be absolutely powerless either to approve or to disapprove of a proposed division, which would become operative. I do not think that it is right that the Parliament should surrender its supervising function. We should be offered weightier reasons than we have heard before we depart from the present principle. I do not think that as regards this Senate one tittle of evidence has been advanced to influence the Committee to support the amendment.
– I think that there are very weighty reasons why the Committee should support the amendment. The Act provides for the distribution of each State into electorates, and sections 21 and 22, which Senator Millen desires to repeal, say that the work of the Commissioner shall be subject to the approval of Parliament - that is, to the approval of persons who are directly interested. That makes members of Parliament judges in their own cause.
– I spoke more particularly in reference to the Senate, which is not concerned with the division of a State.
– That is a very low estimate to make of members of Parliament.
– It is an estimate which should be applied to every person in the exercise of a function. I do not take the view that members of Parliament are so exalted, and so free from the frailties of human nature, that they can safely be allowed to be the judges where they are personally interested. It is wrong, I main tain, for either House of the Parliament to have a power of veto with regard to a distribution which has been properly ascertained by independent persons. What , the amendment aims at is to remove from Parliament a corrupting influence of that sort, and to let it stand above suspicion. I admit that tEe”* amendment has no application to the Senate. There can be no doubt that under the present system members of Parliament are at liberty to give way to personal pre judices or fears. Unless honorable, senators can say. that the machinery provided is inadequate or cannot be wholly trusted, I see no reason why we should go through the farce of having Commissioners. Unless we are prepared to accept their decision, the whole thing becomes useless. If we are going to take that attitude, we might as well omit all the clauses concern ing their work. The present system commits to the majority for the time being powers far beyond those which ought to be given. While I believe; in majority rule in most cases, this seems to me to be a typical instance where it is unsafe to permit majority rule to reign,, because the rights of the minority have been absolutely ignored. It is undeniable that under the present system a majority in the other House can really make electoral divisions to suit their own interests. They could go on with the process of rejecting schemes ad. infinitum, until, as might happen some day, a Commissioner came along with st scheme which would suit the dominant majority. I think that no such power should be intrusted to a majority.
– It would be a very extraordinary thing to take from Parliament so important a work as that of deciding ultimately the division of a State into electorates. It is a proper thing to provide for the best men obtainable in a State being employed to report on that issue. It is a. certainty that in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred his report would receive the assent of Parliament ; but it is possible that a report might be presented which would be so incongruous or corrupt as1 to involve a degree of gerrymandering that would be extremely baneful to the whole people. In the event of such a case occurring, the Parliament should have the power to reject the scheme of distribution. Senator Clemons has suggested the case of the presentation of “a report against which there might be no objection except that it did not suit the interests . of some members or some party in Parliament. Even that, I regret to say, is possible, but that could only happen in the full light of public scrutiny, and retribution would be sure to follow the offenders. It is much less dangerous to trust the Parliament with the final decision than to leave it in the hands of the best persons outside of Parliament who could be got for the performance of this duty. I, therefore, hope that the amendment will not be carried.
– It is rather a novel principle which Senator Millen advocates - that the majority in Parliament should not be trusted in this matter.
– Why did we create a Court of Disputed Returns? Why did we not trust Parliament then?
– The cases are not parallel. Three Commissioners of the description which has been given may not be available to divide a State. It is not right to intrust any: Government with this power. If a Government were to goout of its way to appoint three men who were not responsible to any one but themselves, and they were to do any gerrymandering, there would be no possibility of appeal.
– What appeal had New South Wales when the scheme of distribution was rejected last time?
– To public opinion.. The honorable senator must admit’ that underhis amendment three nobodies might be pitchforked into the position.
– We have already granted power to the three nobodies to do this important work.
– Yes, and we are now considering whether their work shall be subject to the approval of Parliament. I cannot indorse Senator Clemons’ opinion, that in this instance the majority in Parliament is likely to do any wrong. I do not believe that the majority in either House would do any wrong. I have that confidence in the people’s representatives that I am prepared to accept their decision. I do not know of any case where either House has done a deliberate wrong. I do not wonder at persons reflecting upon this Parliament when its members set them an example, by doubting whether the two Chambers would act rightly.
– The honorable senator can exclude the Senate, because it would Rave no opportunity of discussing a scheme when the other House objected.
– Neither House would have the opportunity of reviewing, the scheme if the amendment were carried. The Public Service Commissioner makes mistakes, but he is in a responsible position. We have no guarantee that men of his type would be appointed as Electoral Commissioners. I think that the High Court or Parliament should be the final court of appeal in this matter.
– I am in favour of the amendment. I am surprised at the remarks of Senator Keating, because it appears to me that every argument which was used in opposition to allowing either House to deal with a petition against the return of a member can be used in favour of this amendment. We need not fear that the members of either House will do a wrong, hut I have yet to learn that a member of Parliament is an exception to the rule, arid can be trusted implicitly to do what is right where personal and party interests are involved, in a scheme of distributing the electorates. I can quite conceive that a very important question might arise in connexion with the statistics, as we now know them. It might be found that Victoria ought to lose a member, and New South Wales ought to gain one. If an electorate in Victoria had to be obliterated, as may happen some day, a party question would be at once raised. If a scheme is perfect on the face of it, I have such faith in honorable senators that I believe that they would leave it alone, and accept the inevitable. But, supposing there were an alternative distribution by which it was proposed to obliterate a division in which the other party was interested, there would at once be raised a direct party issue. Is it not better to make such a state of things impossible ? We have to take into account,. ‘ not only our own opinion, but the opinion of the man in the street in regard to members of Parliament. The electors know that from the smallest Court to the highest, no Judge or magistrate, who is directly or indirectly Interested in a case is allowed to adjudicate upon it, and the question naturally arises : Why should members of Parliament be regarded as above those feelings and prejudices which influence other people? All the arguments which have been used for centuries against interested people acting in a judicial capacity are in favour of the present amendment.
– Senator Styles has a very high opinion of members of Parliament. I do not wish to detract from that opinion, and merely express the hope that it is deserved. But in proportion to the extent to which that good opinion is merited, will it be the. desire of members to so arrange electoral business that they may be above suspicion of anything of a corrupt nature, and avoid placing themselves in a position in which they may be called upon to decide questions affecting themselves. We are elected to deal with the affairs of the country, and it would be well if the electoral machinery were of an automatic character, so that interference by members of Parliament would be impossible. We all know what is meant by the term “gerrymandering,” and I suppose that as long as there are politicians, there will be a certain number ready to make use of the power they possess to extend their term of office. Any proposal which helps to take electoral arrangements out of the hands of members of Parliament is desirable, and for these reasons I support the amendment.
– I could understand this amendment if Parliament were a similar, body to the Commission we have already decided shall control electoral matters. If members of Parliament were appointed for a life-time, they might be regarded as having a. decided interest in the modus- operandi of dividing the electorates. But when these matters come before Parliament every member will regard them from the stand-point that he is judging, not a position that affects himself, but one which probably will affect some other persons. Consequently, if we simply regard the question from the* selfish point of view, the argument that a member ‘of Parliament would be the judge in a matter affecting his own interests falls to the ground.
– Has the honorable senator forgotten what happened when the scheme for the division of New South Wales was before another place?
– All the same, I am opposed to taking away the rights of Parliament in these matters. Otherwise we might carry the proposal to its logical conclusion, and delegate the business of Parliament to a Commission, merely assembling for the purpose of appointing the Commissioners, on whose shoulders the whole responsibility would be thrown. As representing the people Parliament ought to take absolute control of the electoral machinery, on which the electors depend, as an instrument whereby they can express their will. I shall vote against the amendment.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- Unlike Senator Trenwith, I should say that under the amendment, corruption would be absolutely impossible. How can we conceive that any man would be able to bribe the Commissioners to such an extent that they would make a dishonest division? Even suppose it were possible to bribe the Commissioners, no one would have the faintest idea what the divisions were to be until they had been submitted, and thereby had become law. The three Commissioners have to consider the question from the geographical point of view, combined with that of community of interests, and I cannot conceive it to be possible that they could be bribed.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I wish to point out to honorable senators opposite ‘ some facts which’ absolutely destroy the very pretty theories they have been weaving this afternoon. I have no wish to affirm that members of Parliament are different from the ordinary run of human beings ; in my opinion, there is just as much human nature to the square inch inside Parliament as there is outside - no more, and no less. But those who affirm that members of Parliament would be unmoved in their judgment by any personal interests in these matters, ought to consider what took place a few months ago, when the scheme for the redistribution of New South Wales was before another place. I shall not make any statements against anybody who voted on that occasion. But I draw attention to the curious fact that the representative of every constituency which had numbers below the quota voted against the scheme, while the representatives of every constituency which had numbers above the quota voted for it. Was that all coincidence? Am I not right in assuming that consciously, or unconsciously, the judgment of those members of Parliament was swayed to some extent by the circumstances in which they individually found themselves? I could multiply instances to show that difficulty has always attended efforts to bring about a reduction in the number of members, or an alteration of electorates, in the States Parliaments. Such schemes have always been held back until the last moment.
– The electors do not like to be linked to a district to which they are not accustomed.
– It does not matter what the electors like in the present instance. The people of the Commonwealth have adopted a Constitution which provides a basis of numerical equality.
– It is a pity we cannot devise some automatic method.
– I think that the method I propose is as nearly automatic as we can very well make it. A quota is given to the Commissioners, with a margin above and below; and if we stopped there the scheme would be absolutely automatic. The fact that the scheme is practically automatic is not disturbed by the following direction, which is not mandatory; but merely an intimation that, as far as possible, community of interests shall be taken into consideration. But considerations of community of interests are not to override the quota; the former is merely one of the matters to be considered.
– That direction might be made an excuse for “ gerrymandering.”
– Is it suggested that the three officials are likely to be guilty of “ gerrymandering “ ?
– I do not say that these three officials are likely to be guilty, but some three officials might be likely to “gerrymander.”
– Just as we prefer to trust the Judges, I prefer to trust the Commissioners, who need not be the officials whom I have named in the clause.
– In the case of Judges there is an appeal.
– There is no appeal from the decision of the Court of Disputed Returns. The automatic character of the method I propose could only be destroyed in one contingency, namely, that the three Commissioners were hopelessly corrupt.
– Or incompetent !
– Incompetent Commissioners might do some little injury to community of interests, but they could not get away from numbers. _ Ability would tell where one Commissioner was better able than another to adjust numbers with due regard to community of interest. I decline to believe that corrupt persons would be intrusted with this work. One argument in support of my proposal is. that unless it be adopted, it would be possible for another place to deprive a State of an additional member given to it under the Representation Bill. At present Western Australia returns five members to the House of Representatives, but the time will come when that number ought to be increased to six, and yet the scheme, providing for the increase, might be so delayed that at the next ensuing election Western Australia would be able to return only five members. On the other hand, New South Wales, for instance, might lose a member - and that is by no means improbable as time goes on - and yet the scheme for dividing the State into twenty-five electorates, instead of twenty-six, might not be presented by the Minister as promptly as it ought to be, with the result that at the next election that State would return one more member than it was entitled to. All these are grave reasons why this matter should be out of the reach of Parliament, or any persons who would be likely to have their judgment swayed by personal interests. For that reason, I trust that the Committee will support not only the amendment, but the decision already arrived at. It was clearly understood when the Committee adopted the first portion of mv amendment what it would lead to. Senator Styles shakes his head, but if I am not right, then I can only say that the Senate did what is very unusual, and voted in the dark. In outlining this amendment, I outlined the whole scheme, not once, but twice, and it seemed to me that honorable senators knew clearly the further amendments that were to follow.
Senator STYLES (Victoria).- Senator Millen, when speaking last week, reminded us that we were dealing with this particular amendment, and not the others, which were to follow. The honorable senator seemed to attach a great deal of importance to the fact that the twenty-six members who represent New South Wales in another place were dissatisfied with the scheme of redistribution presented some time ago.
– I did not say that the whole twenty -six were dissatisfied, because the majority who represented the larger electorates voted for the new scheme.
– That , means that only ten or a dozen members were dissatisfied with the scheme, and the question arises what were the balance of the seventyfive members of another place doing to allow their judgment to be swayed in the way indicated?
– Was there not some dissatisfaction also in regard to Victoria? If the dissatisfied men of one State voted with the dissatisfied men of another they could make up a majority.
– I do not think that Parliament would countenance such a wrong. Even if the whole twenty-six members for New South Wales had been dissatisfied, it does not follow that they could persuade the majority, who can always hold the scales of justice.
– The honorable senator knew as well as I did what was going on.
– I am not so much behind the scenes as is the honorable senator. I hope the Committee will reject the amendment.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - In view of the fact that there is a very small attendance this afternoon, I suggest to the Ministerin charge of the Bill that he should agree to defer the division on the amendment until to-morrow.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania Honorary Minister). - Honorable senators knew on Friday last that Senator Millen intended to submit these amendments today. Ministers have repeatedly stated that the business will be taken in the orderin which it appears on the notice-paper. In deference to the request of honorable senators, I have just agreed1 not to take up the consideration of the motion in connexion with the Canadian mail service, but if we . are now to hold up the consideration of the Electoral Bill because, for various reasons, some senators are absent, we shall never be able to know what business will be before the Senate.
– I might ask the Minister to postpone the next matter.
– We might be asked to postpone the consideration of the Census and Statistics Bill, or to remove the Commerce Bill from the notice-paper. It is not as if the amendments had been sprung on the Committee. They were indicated by Senator Millen on the second reading; they were the subject of a President’s ruling on Friday last, and honorable senators were aware that they would form the first busi ness to be dealt with to-day. In the circumstances, I cannot consent to the suggestion made by Senator Pulsford.
– The Minister will admit that there will be a fair claim for a reconsideration of the Bill in a full Senate.
Question - That the word’s proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 13 negatived.
Postponed clause 14 (When proclamation may be made).
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I desire to suggest to the Committee that the connecting word between the various paragraphs of this clause should be “or,” and not “and.” At present the clause reads -
Such proclamation may he made -
That is followed by the next paragraph - “ (b) Whenever in one-third of the divisions in the State,” and so on.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 and title, agreed to.
That clause 16, proposed substituted clause 30 ; clauses 40, 43, 46, and the schedule, form K, be reconsidered.
Clause 16, Proposed substituted clause 30, consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Clause 40 -
Section one hundred and thirty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1) and (2) and inserting in lieu thereof the following sub-sections : - “ (1) In an election for the House of Representatives, an elector may vote only -
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - Honorable senators will find that under this clause different provisions are made for voting for members of the House of Representatives, and for members of the Senate. At an election for the House of Representatives, the elector may vote at the polling-place for which he is enrolled, at a prescribed polling-place for the subdivision for which he is enrolled, or at any other polling-place for the same division, if he makes use of form Q in the schedule. But in the case of an election for the Senate, the elector is tied down to vote at his own polling-place, or at a prescribed polling-place.
That the words “ for the House of Representatives,” be left out.
If there is any objection to that amendment, another way to accomplish the same end would be to repeat paragraph b of subclause 1 in the next sub-clause.
– I think that the provision as it stands will give greater facilities for voting than would the amendment. We are dealing with the case of a man who wishes to vote at an election for the Senate. If he is out of his division on polling day, he is not entitled to vote at the election for the House of Representatives, because he cannot vote at his own polling place at a prescribed place in his sub-division, or at any polling place in a division, of his electorate. But under the Bill as it stands, at an election for the Senate he is entitled to vote subject to the regulations, even although he is outside his electoral division.
– Why not make the facilities for voting the same in each case?
– They are made the same. For instance, at every polling place in the division of Melbourne there is a complete copy of the electoral roll for Melbourne. If a man comes from another polling place, the officers can check his claim to vote for Melbourne at any polling place in the electorate. If, on the other hand, he wants to vote at the election for the Senate, and he happens to come from Port Fairy, the officers at Melbourne may be able to check his claim to vote by looking at the roll which would contain the names of the residents of Port Fairy. If, however; he happened to have gone to the North-E astern district, the case might be different. So far as voting for the Senate is concerned, the place of voting outside one’s division is prescribed by regulation, and where a man does vote in, his own division he votes by form Q. I think that the amendment would have the effect of restricting rather than extending the facilities for voting. It would be practically impossible to have the electoral rolls at every polling place, because that would involve considerable expense, and the advantage to be gained would be altogether out of proportion to the cost.
– I have a vivid recollection that when the original Electoral Bill was being considered both Ministers supported the contention, that a senatorial voter should be granted the same privileges as are extended to a man voting in a division of his electorate.
– I say that he should have more, as he has by regulation under the principal Act.
– The right ought to be given bv law, and not by regulation, which could be altered from time to time to suit the whim of the Minister. It is only reasonable that an elector should have the same facilities for voting ini one case as in the other. If it were’ left to the will of the Minister to make the regulation, and he failed to do his duty, our good intentions would be defeated. This is an alteration which can only be properly originated io the Senate.
– I think there is a misunderstanding in regard to section 139 of the Act. Many ways of voting are provided for. No one can say that we have not endeavoured to extend to every elector the fullest possible facilities to vote, but a limit must be made at some time. If the amendment were carried, then, in the case of a Senate election, it would necessitate the provision of additional rolls for the whole State, at a hundred, perhaps a thousand, different polling places.
– No. I only propose to allow a man to vote within his division as he does to-day by regulation.
– Unless a man votes by postal vote, or by some method which is provided in the schedule to the Act, in his division, he cannot vote in the ordinary way unless there is a roll for the whole State available.
– It is not wanted.
– How can he be identified ?
– By the roll for the division in which he is voting.
– I should like to enable every elector to record his vote at the same polling place in each case, but the cost of providing the rolls presents a serious difficulty.
– No additional rolls would be required.
– If the honorable senator can persuade me that no additional rolls will be required, it may alter my view, but at the present time I am of opinion that his amendment would add enormously to the expense of conducting the elections.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I understand that Senator de Largie desires that my amendment shall be temporarily withdrawn in order to permit him to move a prior amendment. But, before acceding to his request, I desire to make a few remarks. Senator Clemons has stated that my amendment would necessitate electoral rolls for the whole State being kept at every polling ‘booth. It would not necessitate a single additional roll being kept anywhere, nor would “it limit the facilities for voting which are already enjoyed. Senator Keating has admitted that the practice I seek to provide for by law is provided for by regulation. So that it is- quite evident that my proposal could not increase the work of the officers or the number of electoral rolls required. What I propose to do is to enable a voter who wishes to vote at an election for either House to vote either at his own polling-place or in his’ subdivision. W’hen a man wishes to vote in the division, but outside his polling place, he has to use form Q. It is quite obvious that, in order to meet a case of that kind, every polling place ini a division must have a roll for that division. I wish to enable a man, when he votes at an election for the other House by form Q, to vote at the same time at an election for the Senate.
– I have no objection to putting that in the Bill..
– I am very glad to hear that statement. The alteration would in no sense disturb the power given to the Minister to proclaim polling places outside divisions, and it would apply equally to both Houses.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - The amendment I wish to move goes much further than Senator Millen desires to. go. I propose to enable an elector to vote ini anv part of the State at an election for the Senate.
– It would be necessary to have electoral rolls for the State at every polling place.
– If we are to give the fullest possible opportunity to elector’s to record their votes, an amendment of the kind I suggest is absolutely necessary. Elections in Western Australia are usually held in the summer time, when numbers of people from the gold-fields visit the coast, and a voter from, say Kalgoorlie, would not be able to record his vote in Perth. Senator Millen’s amendment, therefore, falls far short of what I desire.
– Such a voter could arm himself with a postal vote.
– But the application for a postal vote necessitates written application, and that involvesgreat difficulty and bother to many miners. I desire to move that section 139 of the principal Act be amended by omitting the word “ only,” in sub-section 2. I propose to follow that up by another amendment, repealing sub-section 3 of section 139, and providing that an elector for the Senate may vote-
At any other polling-place within the Statein which the election is held, if he makes and ‘signs before the presiding officer a declaration in form R in the schedule.
– I take it that if Senator de Largie’s amendment were carried, it would mean the repeal of the whole of section 139 of the principal Act, seeing that the other sub-sections have already been repealed. I suggest, therefore, that he should in the first instance move -
That after the word “ is,” line 2, the word “ repealed “ be inserted.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I indicated the difficulties in the way of this amendment when Senator Millen was speaking generally on the clause. The position that Senator de Largie takes up is that the greatest possible facilities should be provided for voting for the Senate, but the honorable senator will understand that it is not so easy to provide that an elector shall be able to vote at any polling place for the Senate, as it is to make a similar provision in the case of the House of Representatives. Under section 139 of the Act, regulations provide facilities to enable electors to vote, in an election for the House of Representatives, at other polling places within an electoral division, and if the amendment to which I have consented be adopted, an elector, within his own electoral division, will be entitled to exactly the same facilities in the case of either Chamber. We are now called upon to deal with the case of an elector who is outside his own electorate. Within the division there is a complete roll at practically every polling place, but at the minor polling places, there are not usually to be found the rolls of other electorates, and thus we are confronted with a difficulty. According to the present regulations, an elector, in the case of an election for the Senate, may vote at any polling place in the State which is presided over by the divisional returning officer or an assistant returning officer, and in addition he has the opportunity of postal voting. There must be some restraint when a voter is outside his electorate, because there is not that check which can be placed upon him when in his own division. To put it briefly, a man under the present Act may exercise his vote for the Senate in one of four ways: First, he may vote personally ; secondly, he may vote at any polling place within his electoral division under form Q, for either House; thirdly, he may vote at any polling place within the. State presided over by a divisional returning officer, or an assistant returning officer, on signing an absent voters’ ballot-paper, or finally, he may exercise his ordinary right of voting by port. I think that these are all the facilities that could be asked for,when we have regard to the practical aspect of the question, and to the fact that considerations of convenience, of economy, and of efficiency must operate largely in determining the extent to which the privilege shall be granted. I think Senator de Largie would be well advised if he accepted Senator Millen’s amendment, which will permit extensive power to make regulations to meet cases which do not come within sub-clauses a and b, or in which an elector is outside his own division.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - So far as I can see, the form in which the Chairman suggests that my amendment shall be put, would not quite meet the case, and, under the circumstances, with a view to further consideration, I shall allow the matter to stand over for the present.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That the words “ for the House of Representatives,” line5, be left out.
Amendment (by Senator de Largie) proposed -
That the words “ for the same division,” lines 11 and 12, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ within the State.”
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - As we are now practically dealing with the same amendment, that is, the insertion of the words “ within the State,” I ask honorable senators to draw upon their practical experience of the conditions of the Commonwealth. I do not know whether any honorable senator has taken the trouble to look at the formidable library presented by a copy of the rolls for a whole State. I know that the rolls for my own State are contained in twenty-six enormous volumes, and if this amendment is carried, it will mean that copies of each one of these will have to be carted to the remotest little polling place in the State.
– There can be no doubt that the recent vote was given under a decided misapprehension as to what expenditure it would involve. In Australia there are nearly 5,000 polling places. In New South Wales, where there are considerably over 1,000 polling places, it would be a work of immense labour to take the rolls for the State to every polling place. I do not know whether the ordinary stage coaches would be equal to taking all the rolls to some places. I believe that honorable senators will abandon the project as soon as they see an estimate of the expenditure it would entail. The advantages to be gained are most meagre, and in no way call for such a large expenditure of public money.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I hope that the Committee will not agree to the amendment. It is practically making every polling place - even one which perhaps was only decided upon a day or two before the election - a centre to which a man might go and demand the right to vote, whereupon the officer would be obliged to say, “ I cannot allow you to vote, because I have no means of checking your claim or ascertaining whether the name you have given corresponds with the name on the roll.” Do not honorable senators see how impracticable the amendment is?
– The rolls could be sent out at the same time as the ballotboxes.
– In many instances there would be no means of determining how many supplemental rolls had to be issued. A polling place can be proclaimed up to the eve of the election. Under this amendment all the forms and rolls would have to be sent to each polling place, and the chance of an elector coming in to take advantage of the provision might be as 10,000 to 1.
– We have to send the ballot-boxes.
– We provide that certain polling places may be prescribed as polling places at which an elector for the Senate, when outside his division for the other House, shall be entitled to vote. No one has given an instance of the insufficiency of that provision. First, an elector may go to his own polling place and vote; secondly, he may go to any polling place in his own electoral division, and vote by the use of form Q; thirdly, he may go outside his electoral division to any polling place presided over by a divisional or assistant returning officer, and vote there by the use of form Q, under the regulation; and, fourthly, he may vote by post. How can we provide all the rolls for a State, and all the forms, in every remote portion of the State, where there is a polling place for twenty or thirty persons, in order to enable a stray elector to vote there? Surely the Committee ought to be satisfied with the enactment of a provision that the procedure which has been followed under regulations shall apply, and that, subject to the regulations, it shall be legal for a man to vote at any polling place, outsidehis own electorate if it be presided over by a divisional or assistant returning officer.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - If, as I am told, there are 1,650 polling places in New South Wales, this amendment would necessitate the provision of 42,900 copies of the electoral rolls for the State.
– There is some force in the objection of the Minister to sending the electoral rolls for a State to small places. I understand that it would include every station where there was a polling booth. To my knowledge, some difficulties have arisen under the present system. Take a place called Anarchy, in the central district of Queensland, where sapphires are obtained. In the slack season a considerable number of men go down to this place from the stations in the back country, and may be working there at the time of an election. At the last election, in addition to the forty men who are always there, there were some men who had come from the Carpentaria, the Gregory, and the Kennedy, but not one of them was able to record a vote, because it was not a station at which there was an assistant returning officer.
– Why did they not use the postal voting facilities?
– In some cases it would have been necessary for the men to write to Charters Towers, or to send to Charleville. It must be remembered that, when he is living in a camp, a man has not the facilities to write for a postal ballotpaper, and that he has to get some person to witness his signature. Again, take the Clermont gold-field. Sometimes there are 700 or 800 men employed, while at other times there may be 2,000 men. ‘ In the slack season the shearers go down to this place with the idea of making a living. If such men were enabled to get votes, there would beno necessity to send all the rolls for the State to every polling booth. I know of polling places where only four or five votes’ could be recorded. There is no possibility of any one getting within miles of a light-house in the Strait, or wanting to record a vote there.
Question - That the word’s “ within the State” proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– After hearing the speeches made by Senator Millen and the Minister I reversed my vote, but I think that some effort should be made to cope with the difficulties which have just been pointed out by Senator Turley, and which I know have arisen in Western Australia. When, for instance, there is an announcement of a fresh find of gold at such places as Meekathara or Black Range, men crowd in thousands from all parts to that place, and that may happen just prior to an election. The men may desire to vote there for some other part of the State, but in the absence of a returning officer or deputy that is not possible. Is there any provision in the Bill under which a deputy returning officer could be appointed when necessary in any goldbearing part of the Commonwealth?
Senator KEATING (Tasmania - Honorary Minister). - The matters referred to by Senator Croft are for attention in administration. The honorable senator will see that the Select Committee on electoral matters, in paragraph 7 of their report, made a recommendation, on which it is intended to act. That paragraph is as follows : -
The evidence discloses the necessity for the appointment of additional Assistant Returning Officers, especially in country districts. This would expedite the making up of returns, in larger electorates save the carriage of ballot boxes, and considerably increase the facilities for voting by persons absent on the day of polling from the divisions for which they are enrolled.
Then section 8 of the main Act provides -
Assistant Returning Officers may be appointed to exercise within or for any portion of a division, subject to the control of the Divisional Returning Officer, all the powers of the Divisional Returning Officer, except the powers of that officer under part X. of this Act, but no Assistant Returning Officer shall be appointed in or for any portion of a division in which less than100 electors’ are enrolled.
It will, therefore, be quite possible to meet the cases referred to by Senator Croft by the appointment of assistant returning officers, or by regulations prescribing other polling places.
– What would be done in a case where there are sixty electorates in a division, and forty electors from other divisions wish to vote there?
– That is a matter which could be arranged by regulation.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - It is quite true that in regard to the appointment of assistant returning officers there is a limitation as to the number of electors, but there is no limitation under the power given to the Administration to prescribe polling places.
– The Act provides that there must be a certain number of electors before an assistant returning officer can be appointed.
– But there is’ no condition as to the numberof electors in the case of a prescribed polling place. I move-
That proposed substituted sub-clause 2 be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, asamended, agreed to.
Clause 43 (Voting at adjourned polling).
– At the request of Senator Pearce, I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “43A. - After section one hundred and fifty -three A, the following section is inserted : - 1 53b. - ( 1 ) Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if both Houses of the Parliament by a resolution approve of a system of voting by means of voting machines described in such resolution, the polling at any prescribed polling-places may subject to regulations be conducted by means of such voting machines instead of by ballot-papers.
Governor-General may make regulations prescribing all matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the system of voting by means of such voting machines.
Such regulations shall in particular provide for -
I trust the amendment will commend itself both to the Government and to honorable senators. The proposal may be regarded as an innovation, but, after all, it is by way of innovation that steps are made to civilization. The old system of ballotting has been tried, and has been fairly successful, over a long term of years, but! it must, in process of time, give place to a more advanced method. Public attention is at the present day being directed to the necessity for some voting machine which will accurately record the votes given, and provide every possible precaution against fraud. The fact that an amending Bill is before us shows that the existing electoral methods have been found to be in some respects defective, and this amendment, which was circulated by Senator Pearce, simply proposes to go one step further than the Bill, and provide that, on a resolution by both Houses, voting by machinery may be adopted. The proposed new clause 3bes not designate any particular class of machine, nor provide that voting shall be by machinery - the whole matter is left entirely to the will of Parliament. This clause, if adopted, will obviate the necessity for fresh legislation, if at any time it is thought desirable to bring about such a reform. It is contended that voting by machinery will not only give thorough satisfaction in the way of accuracy, ‘but will very materially cheapen the cost of elections to the Commonwealth. The other day, a voting machine was on exhibition within the precincts of Parliament House, and it appeared to comply with every condition, recording the votes accurately, and in such a way as apparently to make imposition impossible. We were assured by the patentee, who, I believe, hails from Western Australia, that the cost of the Commonwealth elections would be reduced by considerably over 50 per cent, by the adoption of his method.
– Did the patentee say what was the cost of each machine?
– Each machine would cost £10.
– Then there would have to be an outlay of ,£100,000 at the start.
– The Commonwealth, which has just been brought into existence, may, for all we know, last for 100,000 years, and df there be an election every three years, at the present cost of £45,000, we have only to do a little arithmetic in order to appreciate the value of an effective appliance of the kind to which I am referring. It has been estimated by those who take an interest in the question that a general election for the Commonwealth could, with these machines, be carried out at a cost of £13,725, as against the present cost of £45,119- I do not know how much value there is to be placed on these estimates, but the fact remains that public attention is being called to ‘this question, and it is quite evident that in the near future some machine will be tried, and, if found satisfactory, will be generally adopted.-
– But what could be done if a machine broke down in the middle of an election?
– I am not an engineer, but when a machine goes .wrong it has to be put right before it can be further used. I understand that this machine is on the principle of the lock and block system in operation on our railways, and I may ask Senator Dobson what is done when anything happens to the apparatus on the railways? There is, however, a possibility of having machinery so perfect as to reduce the possibility of accident to a minimum. The new clause makes provision for regulations, and this, too, I think, will commend itself to honorable senators.
– He would be a bold senator who would say that we will never have parliamentary elections conducted by means of a voting machine far the purpose of recording the votes. It seems to me to be perfectly possible that even in the near future an invention will be perfected for recording votes at elections without the possibility of making mistakes. It will not be denied that on some occasions under the present system of voting, mistakes, and sometimes roguery, occur. During the last Canadian elections, certain individuals, who were known to be voting against the Government party, had the votes which they put into the ballot-box conveyed to some other place, votes in favour of the party being recorded: in their stead. I fully believe that an automatic machine will be perfected which will” lead to a saving in expense, and even to greater security. That being so, it will surely do no harm to insert in this Bill a clause to make the use of a voting machine permissible at elections, if at any time the Government, with the consent of Parliament, proposes the adoption Of such a machine.
– Will it not be time to provide for that when the machine is submitted ?
– No ; because when a machine tried at other elections, has been proved to be accurate in its working, and it is thought desirable to use it at a Commonwealth election, there may not be time to alter the Electoral Act to permit of it being so used. Surely honorable senators do not desire that, in order to enable us to make use of such a machine it should be necessary to pass another Bill amending the principal Act? If we insert the proposed clause, when the time arrives at which, by general consent of Parliament, a voting machine may be usefully adopted in conducting our elections, it can be. used without the necessity of passing another amending Bill.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I see very little objection to the insertion of a clause of this character, and especially one drawn in the way in which this clause is drafted. It throws no obligation upon the Electoral Department. It is permissive in every sense. Before anything can be done under the clause, both Houses of Parliament must take the initial steps of approving by resolution of the use of a certain machine, which must be described in the resolution. Then the polling places at which the voting is to be conducted by means of the voting machine, instead of bv ballot papers, must be prescribed, and it is further provided under the clause that the Governor-General shall make regulations prescribing matters incidental to the use of the machine. Provision is further made that the regulations must be laid before both Houses of Parliament for thirty days before they can have force or effect, and they are not to have force or effect if, within that time, a resolution is carried in either House of Parliament disapproving of them. Honorable senators will see that the clause is permissive in every sense of the word. It is left to Parliament to take the initial steps, and bv resolution passed in both Houses to approve of the use of a voting machine, which is to be described in such resolution. The Select Committee of the House of Repre sentatives made a reference to the use of voting machines, which will 1 be found at page 9, paragraph 18, of their report. They say - :
In considering the complaints of delay in expediting the making up of results of elections, your Committee took evidence as to the use of voting machines. Several different mechanical contrivances were placed before the Committee by Messrs. King Hedley,, F. A. Peters, J. F. Higgins, and Horace Harding. It is apparent that such contrivances may be of great value in populous polling places in securing economy, expedition in the making up of results, and avoidance of informalities ; but for various reasons they are difficult to utilize in the outlying districts. Your Committee are not in a position to adjudicate satisfactorily upon the practical results of- the use of such contrivances in other countries, or upon the value of the respective machines submitted to them ; but consider that the Electoral Department should institute immediate inquiries to see if it is possible to adopt any of the machines in the large centres of population. The adoption would, of i course, need statutory authority.
The effect of that recommendation, briefly stated, is that the use of voting machines in populous- polling places is well worthy of consideration, but that they cannot be adopted for electoral purposes at any polling place without statutory authority.’
– Is it wise to provide that this may be done by the passing of a resolution which does not secure the attention which would be given to a Bill?
– That is a matter for the Committee to consider; but I am personally inclined to think that more attention would be concentrated upon a resolution of this character than upon, a Bill to give effect to such a proposal. As I have pointed out, the clause throws upon both Houses of Parliament the responsibility of taking the initial steps to give effect to the proposal. If those steps are at any time taken, it seems to me that the safeguards provided in the clause are sufficient to prevent the adoption of any machine, unless the general body of members of Parliament have been supplied with satisfactory evidence that it will be capable of doing the work iti is designed to do.
– Is such a machine used in any other country?
– I am not aware whether such -machines have been used for voting, purposes, but they certainly have been experimented with. If the amendment were incorporated in the Bill, I point out that a resolution approving of the use of a machine in a populous centre might also prescribe that the electors should vote at that centre in both ways, by means of the machine, and by the ordinary method at present in use.
– Which would be authoritative ?
– That would be a matter for regulation, but I should say that the voting by ballot-paper should be authoritative. At all events, that would be one of the best ways of testing the value of the machine.
– Was this machine invented ‘In New Zealand ?
– I am not speaking of _ any particular machine. If the Committee were asked in this clause to agree to the adoption of these machines for voting at elections, I should oppose the clause most strenuously. But I see no harm in assenting to the introduction of a purely permissive clause.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - Honorable senators who have seen the machine itself must at once recognise its ingenuity of construction, and, so far as one can judge from external evidence, the comparative safety which it affords.
– “Comparative” is good.
– If Senator Clemons had occupied only the small measure of time which I took to make an examination of the machine, he would have ascertained that it is constructed practically on the principle of the interlocking gear of railway signalling systems, and, though it might come to a standstill, it could not go wrong.
– Could it not be bribed ?
– Unfortunately, I am unable to hold out any hope to the honorable senator in that direction from the use of the machine. With reference to the report of the Select Committee from which Senator Keating has quoted, I am sorry that what the Committee recommended has not been done.
– Inquiries are now being made.
– We have not the benefit of the result of those inquiries. And in the absence of such evidence as the Select Committee suggest, it appears to me that this is a somewhat unusual clause to adopt. The Minister has said that the clause is permissive only, and that it would be quite harmless to pass it. That is perfectly true, but I object to legislation of this kind, which practically says that if Parliament at some future time directs that something shall be done it can be done.
– Would it not be an advantage in this case ?
– I am unable to see that it would.
– Would it not prevent the necessity for the passing of an amending Bill ?
– The honorable senator will see that, though an amending Bill might not be necessary, it would be necessary to pass a resolution through both Houses of Parliament agreeing to the adoption of a voting machine. I may say at once that I am entirely in favour of these machines, but I regard it as idle to say that Parliament at some future date may pass a resolution in favour of their adoption. Senator Henderson, as one of those who support the use of the machine will recognise that its advocates are not satisfied that Parliament would lie prepared at the present time to sanction its use, or they would submit an amendment to the proposed new clause.
– We might ask Parliament at a very early date to adopt the machine.
– When the honorable senator does that he will no doubt be able to demonstrate that the machine can be properly worked,, and it will then be time to propose its adoption, not by means of a resolution, but by a Bill. Such a proposal should be adopted in the form of a Bill, passed through all its regular stages in the ordinary way, so as to give an opportunity, not only to members of Parliament, but to the public, to know what is proposed to be done. It is a matter of very great importance that public opinion on such a subject should find expression in Parliament.
– That would mean . that ih about three years’ time we should require to pass an Electoral Law Consolidation Bill.
– We shall always be passing some laws. It seems to me somewhat dangerous to enact legislation of this character, under which, at some future time, when public attention was diverted, a resolution might be passed without receiving the attention to which it would be entitled. It is better that we should wait until we are in a position to say that a voting machine could be adopted1 at our elections, and we could then pass a Bill in the ordinary way authorizing the use of such a machine. By the adoption of that course we should be in a position to leave very much less to regulations than is proposed in this clause. While I am a firm believer in the use of voting machines, and consider that before very long they will be adopted, with a saving of time, money, and convenience to electors, I am not at present prepared to vote for a clause which conflicts so much with the ordinary procedure of legislation.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- I do not care whether a voting machine is absolutely perfect or very faulty. It is verging upon the grotesque to insert in the Bill a solemn permission for the Senate, or the other House, subsequently to pass a resolution in favour of the use of the invention. I venture to think that there is no parallel in English legislation for such a provision as we are asked to pass. If it is not inserted in the Bill, it will be possible at any time for any one to submit a motion in favour of the use of a voting machine, and a test vote can then be taken. I could understand a private senator asking the Senate on a Thursday to consider a pro position of- this kind, or the Senate asking the Government to investigate .the working of a voting machine, with a view to subsequently submitting a motion for its adoption by the Commonwealth.
– We sometimes pass a Bill to be brought into force by proclamation.
– That is a very different thing. In this clause we are simply asked to permit ourselves subsequently to consider a motion.
– It will enable, not permit, us to consider a motion.
– Does the honorable and learned senator mean to say that without the provision, a motion could not be submitted at any time?
– A motion, if carried, would not be effective unless it were authorized by a provision of this kind.
– Does the honor-‘ able and learned senator -mean to contend that if the clause be enacted, a resolution passed thereunder would be as good as an Act of Parliament?
– I contend that a resolution of Parliament is not identical with an Act of Parliament. Does Senator Best contend that if a resolution were passed by both Houses nothing further would be done ? I do not imagine that the Ministry contemplates that no further step would be taken. I do not suppose that Senator Henderson would be content with a mere resolution.
– Something further is provided for in the amendment.
– In the regulations.
– I hope that every honorable senator will be against the proposal, if it means that’ we are to substitute a resolution plus regulations for an Act. I am not against the adoption of the voting machine, because I know nothing about it. We should become the laughing stock of every legislative body if we were to agree to this provision.
– Would it not be better to let these voting machines be thoroughly tested at municipal or hospital elections time after time until one has been found which would answer the purpose sufficiently well ; whereupon the Government, acting upon the advice of their expert officers, could submit a proposal to use it at parliamentary elections? Suppose that, in the midst of an election for the Senate in New South Wales or Victoria, a voting machine were to go wrong, what an awkward condition of things it would create ! I do not know anything of voting machines; in fact I am rather prejudiced against machines since the recent exposure of the drawing for the prizes in the St. Vincent’s Hospital Art Union. No one seems to know whether any voting machine is perfect or not. I do not see why we should legislate in anticipation of an event which may not occur for some years. I feel quite certain that the Parliament would not approve of the use of any voting machine until it had been thoroughly tested and proved a success. I have been told that in South Australia £,$00 or £600 was paid for the patent right in a totalisator which afterwards proved to be absolutely useless, and that large sums had to be paid away to people. Another machine for which ^150 was paid was, if possible, a greater failure than the original one. It will be time enough for us to legislate on this subject when a perfect voting machine has been made and approved of by experts.
– I approve of what has been said by Senator Styles, and partly of what has been said by Senator Clemons. I admit that it is somewhat unusual to enact that upon a resolution being passed at a future date a certain thing shall take place. That is a most unsatisfactory mode of procedure.
– Yet that is how the Victorian Parliament framed its Factories Act. >
– That provision was the result of a compromise, and not a very satisfactory one eithe*r. We are asked to enact that if the voting machine should prove a success it shall be competent for the Parliament to sanction its use. It is absurd for us to attempt to legislate in advance in this fashion. It will be quite time enough when the voting machine has been proved a success for us to enact a provision that in view of that fact it shall be the means whereby the voting at elections shall be recorded. It is most inopportune at this juncture to contemplate the success of an instrument which may be a failure. Under these circumstances I’ ask Senator Henderson not to press the clause.
Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia). - I am somewhat astonished at the tone of the last three speeches. Senator Clemons has described the act of passing the amendment as grotesque, while Senator Styles has imagined the possibility of a dire calamity occurring if the voting machine be used. But it should be remembered that in the previous clause we have provided that if for any reason the polling be adjourned at any polling place, the electors who are enrolled for that polling place may vote on a subsequent occasion. Senator Best has urged that to introduce a provision of this kind into our electoral law would be to do a farcical thing. I believe that he has been a party to the passing of legislation which was just as much anticipatory as this provision will be. Has not each State encouraged prospecting, with a view to induce men with knowledge and courage to unveil the hidden treasures of the earth ? By that means it has induced men of talent to make the country richer and happier than otherwise would have been the case.
– I do not see the analogy.
– If we enact this provision, will it not induce men to persevere with their efforts to produce a perfect voting machine.
– Is the honorable senator asking us to insert his amendment in order to encourage invention?
– No; but the enactment of the provision will undoubtedly encourage the spirit of invention. Even’ man with an inventive mind will certainly try to produce a perfect voting machine and! to gain the reward offered to him in the promise of its adoption by the Commonwealth.
– When he has succeeded let the honorable senator bring down a Bill sanctioning its use.
– If we enact the provision it will do that which I think ought to be done. We ought not to encumber the Electoral Act by one thousand and one amending Acts. We ought rather to endeavour to make our electoral law assimple and as nearly perfect as we can make it. ‘
– It appears that we are to have an original Act, am amending; Act, a resolution, ‘ and regulations - a simple form of electoral machinery !
– We have power to pass a resolution without amy amending Bill, but there is the clear distinction, that a resolution will be necessary to put the proposed new clause in operation. Sub-clauses 2 and 3 provide for regulations, but leave the Parliament entirely free to act according to the will of the majority of both Houses. If the regulations are rejected by one House, the whole proposal will fall to the ground. In the event of a satisfactory voting machine being invented, we ought to make provision so that it may be brought into- operation at once.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - The amendment, ir» my opinion, embodies a simple businesslike proposal to provide for what I conceive to be a probable eventuality ; and, personally, I see none of the dangers which have been suggested. I examined with some care the voting machine which was on exhibition recently within this bulding, and it seemed to me, as one who has no mechanical knowledge, to be a very useful contrivance. No one would be foolish enough to think of applying such a machine to a Commonwealth election, extending over the whole continent, without having first obtained expert opinion, and subjected it to the most exhaustive trials in municipal, shire council, and, perhaps, State elections.
There are mechanical contrivances of various kinds which do their work better than would be possible with the most careful human endeavour. The totalisator is a machine by means of which’ are invested tens of thousands of pounds, and the public have greater faith in it than they have in the older system of recording clerks. There are also turnstiles and similar machines, which register more carefully than could any human beings. If we have not at present a voting machine which does the work better than under the present method, we shall probably have one in the near future. I believe it is the opinion of many experts that there is at the present time a ballot-box which answers all the requirements of a properly conducted election ; but, as I have already said, nothing will be done in this direction without exhaustive trials. There is no harm, however, in inserting a clause which will remain inoperative unless there be forthcoming a voting machine in every way suitable for a Commonwealth election. The clause offers the. advantage that if an effective voting machine be invented, it can be brought into operation by a simple resolution of both Houses. The bane of. Federal legislation is the constant introduction of amending Bills, of which we already have a large number, and many others are proposed to rectify hasty or immature legislation. If we do not adopt the clause, and a machine is invented, it will be necessary to introduce a second amending Bill.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - If Senator Smith has succeeded in doing anything, it is in showing the absurdity of the proposed new clause. The honorable senator has told us that the machine he saw “ seemed “ to be a good one, and his whole speech was punctuated with “ ifs.” I submit that this is playing with legislation. Such a discussion might be appropriate in a small debating society, but scarcely in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I suggest that Senator Henderson, now that he has fully done his friendly duty for’ Senator Pearce, ought not to proceed further.
– I view the introduction of voting machines with a great deal of suspicion, because I never yet knew a machine which it would not be possible to fi fake.” The ingenuity which can invent a machine^ automatic, and sufficiently accurate to meet with the approval of Parliament, would prove equal to de vising some means of “ faking” that machine. It is quite time to make a provision of this kind when we are satisfied that there is an absolutely reliable machine at our disposal. Why should we lay down laws for a future Parliament, which will be quite able to look after its own interests, and those of the country? Senator Keating said he had no objection to this clause, and pointed out that if an efficient voting machine were invented it would be a great convenience, and result in much saving in the larger centres. But the pamphlet which was sent round to honorable senators pointed out that the saving would be effected in small and sparsely-populated centres. What is wrong with the present system? There is ample- time for everybody to vote, and ample means for insuring accuracy.
– There is great delay in the counting.
– Because there is a delay of a few hours Senator Guthrie cannot possess his soul in patience.
– There is a delay of a day sometimes.
– This impatience is more like that of a man who has a fortune staked on the Melbourne Cup, and wants the result at the earliest moment. If a voting machine were “ faked,” there would be no voting papers or any other record by which a check could be exercised. This clause really asks us to take a plunge in the dark, and I regard it as a dangerous innovation. I do not see why we should empower a future Parliament to legislate without those formalities and safeguards which have ever been deemed necessary-.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- The matter to which I wish to refer may not be very important, but I desire to avail myself of the present opportunity to lay it before honorable senators. Section 170 of the principal Act provides for certain authorized expenses, but makes no- reference to the cost a candidate may incur in regard to cab hire. Section 176, however, is as follows : - .
Without limiting the effect of the general words in the preceding section, “ bribery “ particularly includes the supply of meat, drink, or entertainment, ‘after the nomination has been officially declared, or horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from” the poll, with a view to influence the vote of an elector.
I do not propose to alter that last section, but merely draw attention to it in order to intimate that the amendment I shall submit is not intended to enable a candidate to bribe or do anything to influence the vote of an elector. I shall, however, propose that horse or carriage hire shall be included amongst the expenses that are allowed. At present no candidate may employ cabs. I do not say that no candidate does so, because I know to the contrary, but it is unfortunate to have the law so lax that some candidates do employ cabs, while others are deferred by section 176. Wealthy men, who have carriages and motor cars, may employ these to any extent, and may thereby influence the vote of an elector. Many candidates have no such advantage, and I see no reason why if one may use his motor car for the purpose another may not hire a cabman - and cabmen in most of our cities are not so well off that we need hesitate - to take electors to the poll, not in order to induce them to vote for him, but to offer facilities in the conduct of an election in the cities. From personal experience, I am able to say that it is possible for a candidate to go to the expense of providing cabs to carry voters to the poll, and to find that they have carried voters to vote for his opponent. That has happened in my own case, and I am perfectly certain it has happened also in innumerable other cases, and it will be seen at once that the danger of these cabs being used in such a way as to wrongfully influence a voter is very small indeed. The provision would, of course, be safeguarded also by section 176 of the principal Act, which I do not propose to alter in any way. In the circumstances, if we allow a candidate to count amongsthis electioneering expenses horse and carriage hire, he will still be prevented from expending money in this way for improper purposes, as under section 176 if he does so with a view to influence the vote of any voter he will be guilty of bribery. We know that it has been the custom for many years to permit the owners of cabs and public vehicles to look forward to election day as an opportunity for earning a little money, and I think we might allow candidates to openly expend money for horse and carriage hire at an election. Honorable senators will recollect that there is a limitation on the total expenditure with which I do not propose to interfere. If I thought that my proposal would lead to any sort of bribery or corruption, I should not make it. I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “45A. Section 170 of the principal Act is amended by adding the following paragraph : -
‘Horse or carriage hire.’ “
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I see no objection to the insertion of such a clause, but I am not certain that the words proposed to be used will best meet the case. I think it is necessary to state for what purpose horse and carriage hire is to be allowed, and the words “ for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll “ should be added to the proposed new clause. Otherwise the clause might be construed so as to permit of vehicles being hired for the purpose of driving voters about an electorate.
– I have no objection to the suggested amendment.
Proposed new clause amended accordingly.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I am not in favour of the amendment. Sufficient facilities are afforded at the present time for the spending of money at elections without adding to their number. In my opinion we should endeavour to reduce the expenditure upon elections as much as possible.
– There is a limitation of the total expenditure to , £100 for the House of Representatives and£250 for the Senate.
– It is true that certain limitations have been provided, but if further opportunities are afforded for expenditure at election time, it is possible that the total sum will be increased, although that may not appear in the returns sent in by the candidates. In elections for the Senate, candidates have to canvass the whole of a State, and we need not add to the opportunities for expenditure. I know of no reason whatever for the amendment. So far the Senate elections have been conducted without any apparent necessity for such a provision, and I intend to vote against it.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I should like Senator Clemons to reconsider the amendment. If we put in the words suggested, “ horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll,” it appears to me that we shall provide that while it will be legal to ‘convey voters to and from the poll on the polling day, it will be illegal for the candidate to use a horse and vehicle for the purpose of attending his own committee meetings on other days.
– He may do that now.
– It appears to me that the new clause, if agreed to, would forbid it, as it would limit the use of horse and carriage hire to the taking of voters to and from the poll on election day
– I am opposed to the amendment. It is provided under the principal Act that the use of vehicles to convey voters to the poll with the intention to influence their votes, is bribery. Senator Clemons is really asking us to permit candidates to bribe electors. That is clear from the honorable senator’s own admission, because he has said that when a candidate sends his private carriage to an elector’s house, he does so in the belief that the attention thus paid to the elector will induce him to record his vote in his favour. Senator Clemons is perfectly well aware that cabs engaged for an election day are not engaged for any public purpose, but to induce electors to vote for the candidate who sends a cab or a carriage to bring them to the poll. In my opinion, it would be a step in the wrong direction to recognise in any way the hire of cabs or carriages on election day.
– Would the honorable senator stop it altogether?
– Yes ; I think it should be stopped altogether. Senator Clemons is proposing that a candidate should be allowed to include in his election expenses money spent on the hire of cabs, carriages, or motor cars, which we know will be used absolutely for the purpose of bribing voters to vote for a particular candidate. I prefer to adhere to the law as it stands in this matter.
Senator BEST. (Victoria). - It appears to me that Senator Clemons can hardly effect the object he has in view in the way he proposes: I clearly understand that it is his intention that this should be one of the items of expenditure permitted at election time, in the same way as printing, advertising, and stationery, but that it is to be included within the limit of £250 in the case of a Senate election.
– That is obvious, but what I cannot understand is how the honorable and learned senator can propose the insertion of a clause of this character, and say at the same time that he does not propose to alter section 176.
– I do not propose to alter that section.
– Then this clause will be inconsistent with it. Section 176 provides -
Without limiting the general effect of the words in the preceding section, “ bribery “ particularly includes the supply of meat, drink, or entertainment, after the nominations have been officially declared, or horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll, with a view to influence the vote of an elector.
What is the meaning of the words “ with a view to influence the vote of an elector “ ?
– A candidate cannot hire a cab now.
– No. But I take the contingency Senator Clemons suggests, and I say that if in future candidates were to be allowed to hire cabs to carry voters to and from the poll, a conviction could not be obtained under section176, because it would not be possible to prove that that had been done “ with a view to influence the vote of an elector.” It would be in accordance with the spirit of the Act to assume that if a candidate hires a vehicle for the purpose of conveying electors to the poll, he does so with a view to influencing them to vote for himself. But if we provide by this new clause that it shall be competent for a candidate to hire cabs for this purpose, it will be quite impossible to obtain a conviction under section 176. The mere doing of this act, according “to the present law, is an act of bribery. It is assumed that it is done with the object of influencing the voter to vote for a particular candidate. We know that in past elections it was a great advantage to a candidate to have cabs flying about all over the place with his name on them.
– It often meant that that candidate’s name was at the bottom of the poll.
– That might or might not be so. A candidate for the Senate is limitedto a total expenditure of £250, and he might say that it did not suit his purpose to expend money on printing, stationery, and such items of expenditure, and that it would suit him better to hire every horse and vehicle to be had in a large centre of population, when he would spend his £250 in that way. That is certainly not contemplated by our law, but it would be competent for a candidate to do that under the amendment. The spirit of the Act is to allow legitimate expenditure for the purchase of electoral rolls, printing, advertising, publishing, and distributing addresses by the candidate, and notices of meetings, stationery, expenses for committee rooms, for the hire of halls for public meetings, and for scrutineers. But what is here proposed cannot be said to come within the category of ordinary electioneering expenses. It would be competent for a candidate, under this amendment, to spend money up to the limit allowed on the hire of vehicles only, though that might, or might not, be a successful move. I rose chiefly to point out that if the hire of vehicles is to be included in the legitimate expenses covered by section 170, we should at once strike out section 176, because it would be totally inconsistent with what is here proposed. The amendment is totally at variance with the spirit of the principal” Act, and I think it would be a dangerous provision to insert.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- In order to clear away some little misunderstanding, I might refer to certain facts that are within my knowledge, and I believe within the knowledge of other members of the Committee. I refer to Tasmania, with great modesty and diffidence, of course; but I may inform honorable senators that elections have been conducted in Tasmania for many years with a clear understanding that each candidate is at liberty to hire cabs. And I have never heard that they were more corrupt than those conducted in the model States of the mainland. I say that the use of cabs does not necessarily lend itself to corruption and bribery. It is notorious that they are used simply in order to increase the facilities given to voters to get to the polling booths. If a cab is being driven along the street in the direction of a polling] booth any elector may get into it, and when he reaches the polling place he may vote for a candidate other than the man who has supplied the cab.
– A conscientious man would certainly not do so.
– At election time electors are not burdened with much conscience in this regard. In Tasmania, thousands of electors get into cabs which have been paid for by one candidate in order to vote for another candidate.
– That would indicate a low standard of morality.
– No. At one election the question of the hire of cabs was liaised, .and the three candidates met in a friendly way, and agreed to pool their cabs. No one could say that in that case there was an attempt on’ the part of the candidates to bribe a voter. The candidates recognised the facilities which the use of cabs or other conveyances would give to electors to get to the poll. It has never been looked at in any other way in Tasmania, where the practice has been in vogue for a long time. No one has ever imagined that a candidate derived great benefit from the employment of cabs. As a- matter of fact, the man who put on most cabs was thought to be the biggest “ softy.”
– He ought to be encouraged.
– He ought to be encouraged in the interest of poor, longsuffering cabmen, who are thus enabled to earn money which they do not get too many chances to obtain. At the last Commonwealth elections the cabmen were absolutely staggered to find that no candidate dared to hire a cab. In the law, there is no direct provision that a candidate may hire cabs. On one occasion, in Tasmania, a great many cabs were seen taking, electors to the poll, and inquiry elicited the fact that the cabmen had been gratuitously plying their vocation in the interest of one candidate. It was very difficult for an ordinary man to believe the assertion ; but it was made; and it may have been true. If we do not make it lawful for a. candidate to employ cabs, underhand means will be resorted to, and cabmen will be prepared to assert that they gave their services gratuitously.
– Would not the honorable and learned senator best effect his purpose by the omission of the words from section 176 ?
– It was because I recognised that it would be utterly wrong to spend money on cabs in order to bribe the electors that I specifically mentioned section .176, and said that I would not move the amendment if those words were taken out. I have a vivid recollection that when* the proviso was originally being discussed here, Senator O’Connor said that, in his opinion, there was nothing to prevent a candidate from hiring cabs, so long as he did not fall foul of the concluding words of clause 176.
– That could hardly be so, in view of the express terms of sections 169 and 170.
– I remember that we purposely put words in clause 176 as a safeguard. We agreed to remain silent as to whether or not a candidate might legitimately expend money on cab hire, but we distinctly said that he must not do so for the purpose of influencing the vote of an elector.
– I know that; but we are shut down to “ electoral expense,” which is defined.
– I venture to say that in spite of the definition money has been, and will be, spent on cab hire. I prefer to do these things openly.
– And money will be spent on meat and drink. If you put in one thing, why not the other?
– I think that the concluding words of section 176 afford a sufficient safeguard.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 46 -
Section one hundred and seventy-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding the following sub-section : - “ (III.) The return and the receipted bills of particulars shall be retained by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, and shall be open to public inspection during ordinary office hours on payment of the prescribed fee.”
– I do not think that this clause ought to provide for original receipted bills of particulars to be supplied bya candidate to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State. When I sent in my receipted accounts they were retained. It is quite true that if there had been a mistake on the part of the printer, and he had sued me, I could have subpoenaed an officer in the Electoral Office. But I think that the proper course would be for the Government, through their officers, to take copies of the receipted accounts, and then return them. After some little trouble the Department consented to give me copies of my accounts; but of course these would not have been accepted in a Court of law, as they were not attested in any way.
– The honorable senator could forward his receipts in duplicate.
– Yes ; but I think that the Department should keep a special book in which to enter the accounts of each candidate, and then return the receipts,
If there had been a dispute over the printer’s account at Hamilton I should have had to take an officer from Melbourne to produce the receipt in order to show that it had been paid. I move -
That the words “ copies of “ be inserted after the word “ and,” line 4.
– I must oppose the amendment. I think that the interjection of Senator Guthrie suggests a solution of the whole difficulty. I know that at the last election many candidates took the precaution of getting receipts in duplicate. It is very much easier for candidates to adopt that method than for the electoral officers to be required to copy the accounts, which are furnished by hundreds of candidates. If a candidate has reason to fear that he may be sued by any person, a duplicate receipt would be just as good evidence as the original receipt if the Court could be satisfied that the latter had been properly stamped.
– The Court would not know that the receipt had been stamped.
– The Court could infer that the original would not befi led in the Electoral Office without a stamp, and that would be the reason assigned for the duplicate being put in.
SenatorDOBSON (Tasmania).-I think that the words “ copies of “ ought to be inserted at the beginning of the provision. Suppose Senator Styles had had to go to Hamilton in order to prove that he had paid the printer’s account, it would have been very hard that he should have had to pay the expenses of the electoral officer .
– The object of the Evidence Act of this session is to obviate the necessity of Commonwealth officers being taken away to Courts of law to produce such documents.
– The clause ought to conclude with a provision that if any receipted bill be required to be produced in a Court of law, it shall be produced at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– No. Through his own recklessness, a candidate might be brought into Court, and involve the Commonwealth in the expense of proving his case.
– Suppose that a candidate has paid a bill, but has not the receipt. In the event of a dispute arising, he ought not to pay the expenses of the
Commonwealth officer in travelling, for instance, to Hamilton, to prove that the bill had been paid. It is provided that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State shall retain the receipted account, but if it -is wanted in order to protect the honour or pocket of a candidate, surely the Commonwealth ought to pay the travelling expenses of the officer by whom.’ it has been retained, in the effort to secure the purity of elections.
– Whoever had to pay the costs of the case would have to pay his expenses.
Senator STYLES (Victoria).- If a candidate brought an officer from Melbourne to Hamilton, surely the Department would look to him to pay the expenses of the officer in helping him to’ defend the case. A receipted account is a candidate’s private property, and ought not to be handed over to the Government, or any one else. I was under the impression that my accounts would be returned to me after they had been examined, and found to be correct. ‘ I had one or two small accounts sent by mistake to me a second time, with a letter, demanding payment. When I sent a copy of the receipt to the proprietor of the newspaper, showing that his account had been paid, he sent me an apology for making the mistake; but the Government did not apologize to me for retaining. my private property.
– There is a very great deal in what Senator Styles has said. It is monstrous that a candidate should have to give up his receipts. If it were provided that the return, and copies of the receipted bills of particulars attested before a justice of the peace, should be retained, that would solve the difficulty. If the copies had to be attested by affidavit before a Commissioner of the Supreme Court, there would be some expense incurred ; but I believe that it would not cost a candidate much to get copies of his receipts attested before an ordinary justice of the peace.
– If they were untrue or fictitious they would require to be verified by affidavit.
– I certainly agree that we ought not to enable the Electoral Officer to retain the actual receipts for money spent to the amount, it may be, of £100 or £150. On the other hand, I do not think it right that we should compel a candidate to go to the expense of having properly certified copies made by affidavit before a Commissioner of the
Supreme Court, and I suggest that an ordinary certificate, attested before a justice of the peace, ought to be sufficient. I would sooner see the clause rejected, because I think it is grossly unfair to the candidate. I suggest that there might be a modification to the effect that the receipted bill of particulars be retained by the officer for some limited period, and that on demand it should be returned to the candidate.
– I do not think we should, without reason, interfere with the existing provision, which is evidently based on the belief that the Electoral Officer ought to retain the receipts in view of possible inquiries. I suggest that the addition of the following words would meet the case -
Provided that when required the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall provide a certified copy of any receipted bill, and that the same shall be received in evidence in any Court of law.
– Senator Pulsford’s suggestion would not answer the purpose he has in view. It might so happen that the plaintiff in an action against a candidate would declare that the receipt produced was a forgery, and to insist on a certified copy being provided would in such case be most unfair, because it would shut the plaintiff) out from denying that he ever received the money.
– It seems to me that there is no object to be served by the officer retaining the documents beyond the period for which, clearly, they would be of some public service ; that is the period within which a petition might be presented. Section 124 of the, principal Act states that a petition must be presented within forty days after the receipt of the writ, and if there be no petition then, so far as the Electoral Act is concerned, the documents might be burned.
– The documents need not be filed until fifty-six days after the election.
– Then fifty-six days, or eight weeks, appears to be the longest period contemplated under the Act, but, if a person has to petition within forty days, and the accounts need not be filed until some days later, a problem is presented with which I shall not now wrestle. After a lapse of three months, the documents might be returned on application, providing no proceedings were commenced against the successful candidate.
– I think six months would be the correct period.
– That would not serve the purpose, because, if there were a dispute, it would occur within that period.
– Then I shall vote against any proposal to amend the clause. As Senator Best says, the documents, if of any value as receipted accounts, are equally valuable in the hands of the Electoral Officer.
– Why not have copies in the hands of the Electoral Officer.
– If copies are of no value to the candidate, they are of no value to the Electoral Officer.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - Is there any objection to the suggestion I made a little while ago that if, in one case, a receipted bill is required, the Electoral Officer, or some other officer he can trust, should be required to attend the Court and produce the receipt without charge to the defendant ?
SenatorBEST (Victoria). - I do not think that such a suggestion is practicable, because it simply means that in case of a dispute between a candidate and his creditors, the Commonwealth should be put to expense in assisting in the solution of that dispute. What would practically take place would be that the document would be sent by post to some official in the district for production. I am sure the Commonwealth would never think of putting the candidate to the expense of rending an officer from Melbourne to produce the document.
– The Government, who are the custodians of the document, ought to bear the expense.
– That would be most unfair. The honorable senator is too apprehensive of trouble, because I am sure the document would be sent to the clerk of the Court, and there would be no expense.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- According to section 172 of the original Act, the candidate must file a return of his electoral expenses, which has to be signed before a justice of the peace, and the return must be accompanied by a receipted bill of particulars. There is nothing to prevent that receipted bill being signed in duplicate.
– That is what I suggested to Senator Styles.
– If my suggestion were acted upon, the candidate would be armed on all sides, and the Electoral Act would be complied with.
Senator BEST (Victoria). - It is most important that the Electoral Officer should have the original receipts.
– There would be two original receipts.
– The object is to prevent fictitious receipts being filed, and if the originals are placed in the hands of the Electoral Officer, they can be subjected to all the proper tests in any subsequent proceedings.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - The amendment, if passed, would give rise to a vast quantity of red tape, and make a farce of the whole proceedings. There would be hundreds of candidates’ bills to copy, and I do not see why that should be necessary merely because a receipted bill may be wanted once in five years. I still contend that it is most unfair to keep the documents of a candidate, and then charge him for their production in Court.
Amendment (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That after the word “ and,” line 4, the words “duplicate of” be inserted.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I hope the Committee will not agree to the amendment in the form proposed. When dealing with Senator Styles’ amendment, I pointed out that if a candidate had any apprehension when he paid a bill that he might afterwards be asked to pay a second time, and that his having to file his bill of particulars might prevent his proving the payment, he obviously could ask for a second or duplicate receipt. If, however, we carry the amendment proposed by Senator Clemons, we impose on every candidate, as a matter of legal enactment, the necessity to in every case get a duplicate receipt.
– And, further, we punish him if he does notget a duplicate receipt.
– A candidate is punished more under the clause.
– As pointed out by Senator Best, the original receipts ought to be with the Chief Electoral Officer, if not indefinitely, at any rate for a period sufficient for the purposes of the Act. Apart from that, if a candidate thinks it likely that he will have trouble with any particular creditor, it will be for him to make whatever arrangements he thinks desirable to avoid the difficulty he apprehends. To enforce the giving of duplicate receipts would, I think, be a worse policy than that provided for in the present Act.
– It is common enough in connexion with many commercial transactions.
– I am aware that it is common enough in the case of many institutions and organization’s to have transactions carried on in such a way that receipts are supplied in duplicate.
– There is nothing to prevent it here.
– Thereis nothing to prevent it; but in this case I think we should insist upon the Chief Electoral Officer getting the original receipt, and if the candidate requires anything to carry him over the period between the filing of the receipt and its return to him he should look after that matter for himself. This is practically the same provision as that which has been in force in Tasmania since 1896. Under section 193 of the Act passed in that year ft is provided that -
Within thirty days after the day on which the declaration of the poll shall take place, every candidate at that election shall transmit to the returning officer of the district a true return in the form in schedule 26 to this Act, or to the like effect containing as respects the candidate -
The return so transmitted to the returning officer shall be accompanied by a declaration made by the candidate before a justice of the peace in the form set forth in schedule 27 of this Act; and any candidate who shall fail to comply with the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an illegal practice.
A suggestion has been made as to the desirableness of imposing a definite term for the keeping of receipts by the Chief Electoral Officer. Ido not know that two months would be a desirable term. Reference has been made to section 94 of the principal Act, which provides that proceedings with respect to an election petition must be Instituted within forty days after the return of the writ. Section 172 of the Act provides that the statement and receipts must be filed within eight weeks after the declaration of the poll. There are a number of offences under the Act which may be prosecuted summarily, apart altogether from questions of disputed returns, and’ I do not find on reference to the Act any limitation of time imposed for the institution of proceedings with respect to such offences. But, as honorable senators are well aware, in these cases, by the operation of our Judiciary Act, proceedings can be instituted in Courts of summary jurisdiction in the various States. And I think I am correct in saying that, in the absence of any express provision as to the time within which proceedings shall be taken in any Court of jurisdiction for offences described by Statute, the period of six months is the usual term allowed. That is the period laid down in Jervis’ Act, which may be said to be the foundation for provisions with respect to summary jurisdiction “ throughout the States of the Commonwealth. If we did impose a limit, I think it would be desirable to say that it should be within six months after the declaration of the poll or the return of the writ. In such a case as that towhich Senator Styles has referred, I think that the candidate should not be put to the expense of sending an officer from the Electoral Department to Hamilton to take up and down a receipt which has been placed in his custody. I have no doubt it could and would be transmitted without that expense, and I do not think it is necessary that we should legislate expressly to provide for it.
-Will the Minister say what would happen if the receipt were mislaid, as documents sometimes are in public offices?
– There would then be no opportunity to bring it before the Court, and secondary evidence of the transaction would have to be given. I think it is very much more likely that the receipt would be mislaid by a private individual than by a public officer.
– Supposing the receipt were wanted to prove a charge of bribery, for which section 181 of the Act provides a punishment of one year’s imprisonment?
– There would be very few candidates foolish enough to give a bribe and take a receipt for it.
– That is not the point. A candidate might pay a man £10 for printing, and it might still be a bribe.
– If candidates are operating in that way, it is hardly likely that they will provide themselves with receipts which would prove a case against them.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The Committee must not- lose sight of the fact that at a general election there will be, on an average, 300 candidates ; and if every candidate is to produce 400 sets of accounts in duplicate, there may be a total of 10,000 to 20,000 accounts to be presented. The amendment would put candidates to an immense amount of labour. It ought to be possible to arrange the matter in a very; simple way, and so long as it is understood that when an account ils wanted the Chief Electoral Officer will be able to produce it, that is all that is required.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule, Form. K, consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 40 reconsidered, consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Senate adjourned at 9.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051031_senate_2_28/>.