3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Referring to Senator Neild’s motion which was carried last night, will the Vice-President of the Executive Council kindly search the Ministerial archives for any correspondence or other papers bearing on the subject of a claim for compensation to the Agricultural Implementmakers Employes’ Unions, and place the same on the table of the Senate?
– I shall endeavour to ascertain if the correspondence referred to is in existence, and consult with my colleague as to its presentation here.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, the following questions: -
-I am in aposition to state that arrangements have been made for an extension of premises adjacent to the railway station in Sydney. I think I am also correct in saying that the offer of the Queen Victoria Markets has been definitely declined. With regard to the other information sought for, I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the questions.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government have heard of the departure of Colonel Foxton from England, and, if so, on what date did he leave ? Can the Minister state now whether we shall have an accurate statement of the decision come to at the Defence Conference as affecting Australia, by means of correspondence, before Colonel Foxton’s arrival here, and, if so, whether such information will be given to Parliament generally if it should arrive in a complete form before he himself arrives?
– I understand that Colonel Foxton contemplated leaving England about the middle of this month. Whether anything has arisen to delay his departure I am not in a position to say. With regard to the rest of the question, I ask the honorable senator to give notice of it.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST laid upon the table the following paper -
Papua - Native Labour Amendment Ordinance of 1909.
asked the Vice-Pre sident of the Executive Council, upon notice-
If he is now, or will he shortly be, prepared to give an assurance to the Senate that no member of the present Ministry will be appointed High Commissioner?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
No names have been even informally discussed among Ministers. They have no particular person in prospect either in the Cabinet or out of it. The only assurance I can offer is that the best man available will be selected.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th September, vide page 3230 of the first report of Standing Orders Committee, session 1908) :
Standing order 405 -
No senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion ; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the notice-paper.
Upon which Senator Lt. -Colonel Sir Albert Gould had moved -
That the following words be added : -
Provided that this Standing Order shall not prevent discussion on the AddressinReply of any matter, and provided further that if a period of four weeks shall have elapsed since any Notice of Motion or Order of the Day was first placed on the Business Paper, and no debate thereon shall have been initiated, the rule as to anticipating discussion shall have no effect in relation to such Motion or Order.
– Last evening I stated why, in my opinion, this amendment of the rule as to anticipating discussion should be extended to the debate on the first reading of a Supply Bill. In order to elicit the opinion of honorable senators, I move as an amendment -
That after the word “ Reply “ the following words be inserted, “or on the first reading of a Money Bill.”
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.41].- The wording of the amendment will not meet exactly the honorable senator’s wish, because a Money Bill may be one which the Senate may amend, and which is not debatable on the motion for first reading. The only Bill on which debate not relevant to the subject-matter can take place at that stage is one which the Senate cannot amend. Standing order 182 reads-
In Bills which the Senate may not amend, the question “ That this Bill be now read a first time “ may be debated, and the debate need not be relevant to the subject-matter of such Bill.
There are money Bills which the Senate has the right to amend. While Senator Turley is considering the wording of his amendment, I would pointout that if adopted no honorable senator would be safe in putting a motion on the notice-paper for consideration. It will be observed that in the proposed proviso to the standing order it is required that a debate shall have been initiated on the subject. Very often an honorable senator finds that on the day for which he has set down a notice of motion there is no opportunity, on account of the pressure of other business, to enter upon its consideration. It would be very much better at present, I think, not to alter the rule so as to allow honorable senators to anticipate a motion which might have been placed on the notice-paper under such circumstances. On the first reading of a Supply Bill the matters which are generally debated are certainly of wide significance, but so far as the Senate is concerned no definite conclusion is come to. Individual senators have the opportunity of expressing their opinions, but the Senate fails to come to a definite decision. When a motion is placed on the notice-paper the Senate is invited to affirm a proposition, and it has then the opportunity of coming to a decision. If an honorable senator desired to obtain a decision from the Senate on a specific matter, would it be a reasonable thing that the debate on that matter should be anticipated when a Supply Bill was submitted for consideration, and all the arguments concerning the matter adduced on the first reading of that Bill?
– That would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Then the honorable senator might as well do away with the rule which prevents an honorable senator from anticipating debate, because if it be an advantage to do so at the earliest possible date when an honorable senator places a motion on the notice-paper he is only wasting his time and practically inviting the Senate to anticipate anything which he may have to say thereon. If we are to follow such a rule, the better plan would be not to prevent honorable senators from anticipating any discussion. The rule against anticipating debate has been laid clown for very good reasons. When specific days are settled for considering certain matters it is very undesirable that those matters should be anticipated. The rule has, I know, been abused, because motions have been given notice of in order to avoid the discussion of their subject-matter within a reasonable time. It is in consequence of the rule having been abused that it is proposed to amend the standing order in this direction. In the case of private business, notices of motion are taken one week and Orders of the Day next week, so that practically thereis an interval of a fortnight between the days on which the former can be discussed. There has to be an interval of a fortnight with regard to Orders of the Day, unless, of course, notice of motion takes precedence. Honorable senators will be best consulting their own interests in not acceding to the proposal of Senator Turley. So far as Government business is concerned, surely it would be an undesirable thing that when the Government have placed business on thenoticepaper for consideration on a specific day its discussion should be anticipated.
– Without hearing what the Minister has to say.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- Yes.
– It might be an advantage to the Minister to get information.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It is only right that Ministers should initiate discussion on important questions. Of course, I have no personalfeeling or interest in the matter under review. I am simply appealing to honorable senators to protect their own rights and privileges, and to do what would be best in the interests of parliamentary procedure. The Standing Orders of all British Parliaments prescribe that a member must not anticipate discussion on a matter concerning which notice of motion has been given.
– Parliaments are like sheep ; what one does all do.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - In these matters we must look for guidance largely to the experience not of a Parliament which has existed only a few years, but of a Parliament that has existed for centuries.
– And which is governed by old world ideas.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Surely we can learn from the experience of others. I urge the Committee not to extend the “rule as proposed by Senator Turley, but to adhere to the proviso as proposed, which will amply protect honorable senators against any abuse of privilege.
– If Senator Gould’s contention were correct, that we must be guided solely by the experience of other Parliaments, there would be an end to all progress, and we should never improve upon old methods. While we should pay attention to the experience of others, still, if the light of reason shows that a departure from old practice is desirable we should not be bound by tradition. If the new standing order advocated by Senator Gould were rigidly adhered to, a Government might be relieved from all embarrassing criticism, except during a debate on the Address-in-Reply. They could arrange with their supporters to put op. the business-paper notices of motion referring to every matter concerning which they desired to burke criticism. The result would be that no member of Parliament could criticise them with regard to the matters so covered. The proposal for a four weeks’ limitation is not worth a straw, because, after four weeks, the senator who had given notice of motion could allow his motion to drop off the business-paper and give fresh notice; and he might continue that practice until the end of the session. A Government desiring to burke criticism would be enabled to manipulate this power in such a manner as to shut the mouths of all senators who were opposed to them. Even during the present session one of the most important subjects that this Parliament has before it has been dealt with by notice of motion, in accordance with which, if this standing order were applied rigorously, the mouths of all of us would be shut. A little time ago Senator Trenwith moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Constitution with regard to the new Protection. That is a subject which occupies a great deal of our attention. It is one of the most important matters likely to come up for consideration in this Parliament. But though Senator Trenwith obtained leave to introduce a Bill, I see no sign of his taking any further action. I do not know whether he is serious in what he has done. Yet under the Standing Orders, if strictly interpreted, every other senator would be prevented from opening his mouth on the question. Senator Turley’s amendment is eminently reasonable. In another place there is a grievance day once a month; when honorable members can bring forward any matter for public discussion. In the Senate we have no such opportunity, except on the first reading of a Supply Bill. If the proposed proviso be adopted without amendment we may even be deprived of that opportunity of discussing matters of importance. It is eminently desirable, and in the interests of good government, that the fullest opportunity should be afforded for a full and free discussion of important matters of public interest, and unless we have such opportunities I contend that Parliament cannot fulfil one of its highest and. most useful functions.
– I trust that the Committee will see that it is eminently desirable that we should accept Senator Turley’s amendment. If we do not, we shall, with our eyes open, adopt a principle that will be inimical to the discussion of important matters of policy by the Senate. By adopting the amendment, we shall do no injury to a senator who has given notice of motion on a particular subject. He will still be able to go on with his motion, and to push it to a division. As has been pointed out, the four weeks’ limitation proposed will be entirely inoperative. If the intention be to interfere with that monopolistic privilege that any senator has, when he gives notice of a motion on a subject, the four weeks’ limitation is a farce. Any senator who wanted to shut the mouths of the rest of the Senate, could easily get over that provision. It would be child’s play to several members of the Senate whom I need not name, to devise a means of preventing debate on any subject of importance if we could not deal with such subject on the first reading of a Bill which the Senate may not amend. We should either accept Senator Turley’s amendment, or leave the standing “order unaltered. The amendment can certainly do no harm, and it would be better to adopt it than attempt to cure an evil by means of what is nothing better than a quack remedy.
– Ishall support the amendment. It is a reasonable one, and is in accordance with the experience gained in this Parliament. Senator Gould has said that our parliamentary procedure is the result of ages of experience. No doubt that is the case. But just as people in the past have profited from the experience gained by others and by themselves, so ought we to take advantage of the experience which we have gained. That is exactly the reason why I support the amendment. When a Bill, which the Senate may not amend, comes before us, the whole gamut of government is under review. Ordinary measures refer to only one subject, whilst everything connected with the government of the country can be discussed on a Supply Bill. If we limit the right of an honorable senator to sneak on any subject connected with the affairs of the country on a Supply Bill, we shall be attacking the fundamental rights of honorable senators and doing something which, however specious the reason for it may be, will be contrary to good government. Senators
Givens and Clemons have given very excellent reasons in addition to that which I have just mentioned for the adoption of the amendment. They have pointed out that it would be possible for a Government or their agent, or even a private member, to burke discussion on a number of subjects. Honorable senators may say that that has never been clone, but the fact that it would be possible should be sufficient to induce us to remove the possibility. When an engineer is building a dam, if he is a wise man he will take care that it is so strong that the possibility of a leak anywhere will be out of the question. If he finds a weak spot he will at once strengthen it. It has here been clearly pointed out how a single member of the Senate could block the discussion of public business, and, that danger having been disclosed, we ought to immediately remove it. I am speaking of the amendment from the point of view of the responsibility of the Senate as a whole to the public. Senator Gould appeared to me to approach the subject from the stand-point of the individual senator. -The honorable senator appeared to be afraid that some member of the Senate would desire to anticipate the speech likely to be made by another on a particular subject. He suggests that that would be taking an unfair advantage. But we are not here to consider the advantage or disadvantage of individual members of the Senate. We are here in the interests of the public, and if those interests can be better served by the immediate discussion on a Supply Bill of a particular matter than by waiting to discuss it upon a motion by a private member, we should not hesitate as to the course we should adopt. In my view a preliminary discussion of the subject would be a distinct advantage rather than a disadvantage to the honorable senator who proposed to deal with it by a specific motion. There would be a preliminary ventilation of the matter, and when the full dress discussion of it took place later the minds of honorable senators would be better prepared to deal with it. That would be a distinct advantage, not merely to the honorable senator taking action by means of a specific motion, but, and this is of very much greater importance, to the proper understanding of the “question. These are good reasons why the amendment should be carried. I know that it will be said that it proposes an innovation upon parliamentary procedure. No doubt it does, but we need not bother about that.
– It does not really, because our standing order No. 182 gives us the fullest latitude to speak upon anything, though I admit that the customary modification to some extent breaks the force of that standing order.
- Senator Gould gave as a reason why the amendment should not be adopted that in a discussion upon a Supply Bill no definite decision can be arrived at with regard to any particular subject. That is no doubt true, but it is no reason why an honorable senator should be prevented from ventilating the matter on a Supply Bill. We often find that even when matters are dealt with by specific motions no decision upon them is arrived at. Such motions are sometimes talked out. The debate upon them is sometimes adjourned from week to week, and month to month, until the end of a session, without anything being done; and under our existing standing orders no member of the Senate is permitted to say a word on the subjects with which they deal, except when those motions are before the Senate. We should always act in the public interest whether honorable senators are convenienced or inconvenienced. What we should strive for is good government, and that cannot be brought about by silencing members of the Senate, especially when Supply Bills are before us and the whole question of the government of the country is supposed to be open to discussion.
– It seems to me that one effect cf amending the standing order in the way proposed would be that the discussion of a Bill which the Senate cannot amend might be turned into a discussion of private members’ business.
– The honorable senator will find that standing order 182 deliberately provides for that. It was passed for that purpose.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - But it does not override the standing order preventing the anticipation of the discussion of motions on the business-paper.
– I have noticed standing order 182, but standing order 405 precludes a senator from anticipating the discussion of business on the notice-paper. To give an example of what I think might follow from the adoption of the amendment, let me say that if it appeared that the time devoted to private members’ business would not enable a matter like that proposed to be dealt with by Senator Pearce in the Bill he has introduced for the nationalization of monopolies to be thoroughly thrashed out and dealt with before the end of a session, it would be competent for honorable senators, under the proposal now made, to utilize the time which should be devoted to the criticism of a Supply Bill and general grievances to the discussion of the nationalization of monopolies.
– May I inform the honorable senator that standing order 182 was passed for just such a purpose. We have not a grievance day as they have in the House of Representatives, and we deliberately adopted standing order 182 to meet the difficulty. Our opportunity to discuss grievances might not arise more than once or twice in a session.
– From my experience in the Senate, judging from the length of the discussions which usually take place on the first reading of Supply Bills, honorable senators cannot complaint that they have not had sufficient time within which to ventilate grievances. It might be a very serious matter if we were to allow the debate on the first reading of a Supply Bill to be taken up entirely in the discussion of private members’ business, especially when, under our sessional orders, time is specially set apart for that purpose.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.11].- I should like to make some reply to the remarks which have been made on the amendment. Senator Givens has said that, because of the permission given to Senator Trenwith to introduce a Bill to amend a certain section in the Constitution, he has himself been prevented from taking action in a similar way. Let me say distinctly that the proposed proviso to this standing order would not apply to a case of that character. Senator Trenwith has been given leave to introduce a Bill to amend a certain section in the Constitution, but there is no reason why any other member of the Senate should not obtain leave to introduce a Bill to amend the same section. When. Senator Trenwith’s Bill is before the Senate, his proposal will be submitted in a concrete form, andwe shall know exactly what amendment of the section he suggests. It will not be possible then for honorable senators to anticipate debate on the amendment he proposes. The honorable senator has, so far, only been given leave to introduce a Bill, and’ he might never introduce it.
– He might introduce it to-morrow, and so block every other member of the Senate.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - If Senator Trenwith introduced his Bill in accordance with the order of leave, debate upon it could not be anticipated. But the Senate would still have the matter in its own hands, because it could fix any date it pleased for the second reading.
– The honorable senator will admit that the subject-matter of a motion on the notice-paper cannot be discussed at the present time on the first reading of a Bill we cannot amend.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I point out that we do not know what the nature of Senator Trenwith’s proposed Bill will be. He might wish to amend a section of the Constitution in one direction, and another member of the Senate might wish to amend it in some other way. The Senate not being in possession of the amendment proposed by Senator Trenwith, there is no- reason why an amendment of the particular section with which he intends to deal should not be discussed on the first reading of a Supply Bill. I wish honor*, able senators to understand that if Senator Givens thought fit, he could give notice of his intention at the next sitting of the Senate to ask leave to introduce a Bill to amend the section of the Constitution which Senator Trenwith proposes to amend. It has been said that under the proposed proviso to this standing order fresh notice might be given after each period of three weeks, and so the matter would be carried on indefinitely. But no presiding officer would hold that the standing order would permit of any attempt at jugglery of that kind.
– The fresh notice could be given in a different form.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It would then be for the Chair to decide whether or not it was substantially the same.
– I should like the position to be clearly defined in our Standing Orders, so that honorable senators might be protected from the idiosyncracies of the Chair.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - The honorable senator should recollect that the decision of the ‘Chair is always open to review, if honorable senators think that a mistake has been made. In reply to the remarks of
Senator Chataway regarding the possibility of debating, upon a Supply Bill, a matter which has been originated in the Senate, I would point out that if we abrogate the rules relating to relevancy, and to anticipating debate upon any matter which appears upon the business-paper, there is no reason why an honorable senator, upon the motion for the first reading of a Supply Bill, should not discuss a proposal which has been submitted in the Senate, and which has not been determined. Senator Stewart has argued that honorable senators should not be debarred from discussing any matter of public interest upon a Supply Bill. If that view were generally shared, I would say, “ Why not abolish the rule which forbids the anticipation of debate upon any matter which appears upon the business-paper?” While I do not hold that any peculiar sanctity attaches to a rule because it has been in existence for years, I do say that after years of experience it should not be departed from unless very good reasons can be advanced to justify that departure. But no such reasons have been forthcoming in this instance. At the same time, I think that it is possible to improve the standing order by doing away with the possibility of its abuse. Senator Clemons has suggested that it would be better either to abandon the proposed new proviso, or to accept Senator Turley’s amendment. But T would point out to him that if we abandon the new proviso there will be no provision in our Standing Orders under which an honorable senator can, upon the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, discuss any matter concerning which notice of motion has been given. It is to avoid honorable senators being precluded from discussing, on the motion for the adoption of the Address- in-Reply, matters concerning which notice of motion has been given that I desire this proposal to be adopted. In its absence debate might be effectually prevented by notices of motion being given covering every item mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I have no personal feeling in this matter, but I think that we shall be acting wisely if we adhere to the proposal of the Standing Orders Committee, which has carefully considered this matter, and which has had the advantage of working with, and hearing the opinions of, one of the most experienced Clerks of Parliaments in Australia. There seems to be a misunderstanding as to the effect of standing order 182, which reads -
In Bills which the Senate may not amend, the question, “ That this Bill be now read a first time,” may be debated -
If the standing order concluded there, the debate would necessarily have reference to matters covered by the Supply Bill. But the standing order continues - and the debate need not be relevant to the subjectmatter of such Bill.
That standing order does not enable an honorable senator to anticipate discussion upon any motion which appears upon the business-paper. The rule of Parliament is perfectly clear. The standing order merely deals with the question of relevancy. Senator Clemons is quite right in declaring that when honorable senators were granted the power to debate grievances on the motion for the first reading of a Bill which the Senate may not amend, the object was to enable them to ventilate any matters which they deemed worthy of their attention, and which otherwise they would have been precluded from bringing forward. My desire has always been to afford honorable senators every possible facility for the discussion of public business. In this connexion I think that I may fairly claim to have originated the idea of permitting them to initiate debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate at the close of the day’s proceedings.
– Would not the standing order which forbids the anticipation of debate upon matters concerning which notice of motion has been given, be equally applicable in that case?
– It would, if the point were raised. But I do not think it would be wise to open the door too widely in the directionI have suggested.
– I do not intend to debate this question any further. It seems to me that quite a number of honorable senators are of opinion that more latitude should be allowed them in the discussion of Bills which the Senate may not amend. I am quite willing to substitute for “ Money Bill “ the words “ Bill which the Senate may not amend,” and, therefore, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment of the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment of the amendment (by Senator Turley) proposed -
That after the words “ Address-in-Reply “ the words “ or on the first reading of a Bill which the Senate may not amend “ be inserted.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Proposed amendment agreed to.
Standing order 415 -
If any objection is taken to’ the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the matter requires immediate determination.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.29].- This standing order deals with objections raised to the ruling of the President. A short time ago a question arose in the Senate as to who should decide whether or hot debate upon a motion of dissent to any such ruling should be adjourned to the next day of sitting. Upon that occasion I ruled that it was within the province of honorable senators themselves to determine that question. The Standing Orders Committee have since thought it wise to amend the standing order, with a view to making that position perfectly clear. They are also of opinion that provision should be made for terminating debate upon any motion of dissent from the President’s ruling, and for limiting the period during which any honorable senator may discuss such a motion, without leave. It was thought reasonable that when an objection is taken to the ruling of the President the point should be settled as speedily as possible. In the majority of these cases an honorable senator can say a great deal in the course of ten or fifteen minutes if he does not digress. Therefore the Standing Orders Committee recommend that the rule should be amended so as to entitle the President to put the question when the debate on such a. motion shall have exceeded one hour, and not to allow a senator, without leave, to speak to the motion for more than fifteen minutes. In another Parliament in which I had some experience it was considered necessary and desirable to adopt a similar provision to prevent a dissent from a ruling degenerating into a mere attempt to obstruct or delay business. Of course, whilst I have the greatest respect for all members of Parliament, I know that very frequently a minority who feel that they are being overridden rather roughly fight strenuously and earnestly, and are always ready to take advantage of every possible opportunity in order to delay the inevitable end. But it is not reasonable that a debate of that character should take place on a motion to dissent from a ruling on a point of order. In the first place I move -
That after the word “unless” the following words be inserted - “ the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that “.
– With this standing order I have been on friendly terms for a considerable time. I am well acquainted with its application and the various uses to which it can be properly put, or, as I suppose some persons may say, improperly put. It will be a decided improvement to insert after “unless” the words “ the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that “ and to substitute “ question “ for “ matter.” It will be remembered that a serious difficulty has arisen in connexion with the application of the standing order. For some time it operated automatically as a closure of the debate in progress. On one occasion the question arose whether the matter under consideration did require immediate determination, and who was to decide that. The President said, “ I decide that it does require immediate determination, and therefore I shall give a ruling at once.” The action brought about the further position that an honorable senator could object to the ruling. At that point the standing order became chaotic in its effect. It is evidently desirable, as the Standing Orders Committee recommend, that the Senate should relieve the President of what is really a most invidious and difficult position.
Proposed amendment agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Lt.-Colonel . Sir Albert Gould) agreed to -
That the word “matter” be left out with view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ question.”
Motion (by Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould) proposed -
That the following words be added -
The President shall be entitled to put the question when debate on any such motion shall have exceeded one hour, and no senator shall, without leave, speak to such motion for more than fifteen minutes.
– I view this amendment quite differently from the last two amendments, and I think I can give many reasons why it should not be accepted. It is proposed that the debate which will necessarily arise, and in which considerable interest will be taken, shall be limited to onehour, and that no honorable senator may speak for more than fifteen minutes.
– “ Without leave.”
– That makes my argument much stronger. Assuming for the moment that those words were not in the rule. Fifteen will go into sixty only four times, so that only four honorable senators in a Chamber deeply interested in the point under consideration could speak.
– Twelve senators might speak for five minutes each.
– They might. I have had considerable experience of the standing order, and I know that a period of fifteen minutes has often been too little for any honorable senator, however willing he was to speak concisely, to devote to the point under consideration. Many honorable senators know that it has not been nearly enough for the most concise speaker we have, owing to the fact that the question under consideration was vastly interesting. I think that it may fairly be assumed that under the proposed rule every speaker would occupy fifteen minutes. That means that only four honorable senators could speak to the question, though I feel certain that more than that number would want to do so. There would be a most indecent rush to catch the President’s eye, and he would be placed in the difficult position of having to decide who should have the call. I should be very sorry to put the President in a position in which, in a Senate with twenty or thirty senators present, upon his dictum would depend the selection of perhaps only four speakers and the exclusion of all others.
– The same arguments are often repeated over and over again.
– I can assure the honorable senator, from my experience, that he is mistaken.
– I have had some experience, too.
– I do not think that the honorable senator has had any experience of this standing order, which I assure him is a most important one. Every honorable senator who has seen the rule put in operation knows how keen feeling becomes. It is not a light thing for an honorable senator to challenge a decision of the Chair. Let us assume that a ruling will not be disputed unless serious occasion has arisen. Surely the honorable senator will recognise that if, in perhaps a full Senate, the debate on the motion were limited to four speakers, it would put the President in, perhaps, a most distressing position.
– As one of the four speakers must be the senator who submitted the motion, the debate would really be limited to three speakers.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - An honorable senator is supposed to speak when he submits a motion of dissent. He is debarred from speaking at any other time, except in reply.
– I know that, but. the proposed addition to the standing order would include in the hour the time occupied by that honorable senator.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -No.
– It may be because the words of the amendment are - “the President shall be entitled to put the question when debate on any such motion shall have exceeded one hour.”
– It does not say that the President must put the question.
– No; but the honorable senator must see that it would be most unwise to put the Chair in that position. It would make it practically impossible for the President, whoever he might be, to give complete satisfaction.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the debate should be extended to two hours?
– No. If it is thought desirable to curtail the debate on such a motion, I suggest that it should be provided that no senator shall speak for more than fifteen minutes. In that case, honorable senators would have an equal right to debate the question. I do not. think it is possible to put in a maximum limit. If we impose a time limit of fifteen minutes, we must let that be the one and. only limitation, because it will apply all round. It we fix an arbitrary period which has to be divided by fifteen, we shall deny to some honorable senators privileges which others will get, simply because they happen to be more alert, and the President may have missed calling upon the right men. He is not infallible. He cannot always be absolutely certain as to what senator he should call first. In a case of simultaneous rising, his position will be invidious. He will probably be made to feel that his decision has led some senators to think, perhaps, unfairly to himself, that he has shown a partisan spirit. We must do everything we can to save the President from being put into a position which he does not want to occupy - the position of a man who shows party spirit. But, if we accept- the proposed amendment of the standing order we shall thrust that position upon the President. I suggest that we should trust to the good sense of the Senate with regard to the debate on such a motion, or if it is thought desirable, there should he no limit to the debate and every honorable senator should be allowed to speak for fifteen minutes. I ask Senator Gould to accept one suggestion or the other.
– We should consider, not only the wording of the motion, but also how the standing order has operated. Under the proposed amendment the senator who objects to a ruling will initiate a debate, and his allowance of fifteen minutes will be included in the limit of one hour.
– I should think so.
– Undoubtedly the opening speech will be just as much a part of the debate as the speech of the same senator when he replies.
– He may speak for an hour.
– No. He cannot.
– I think Senator Gould said that the rule will not apply then.
– We should trust to our own experience in the matter. My experience has ‘been that comparatively few members of Parliament take a deep interest in the Standing Orders. When points of order are raised, the debate is carried on by a small section. In the Senate, as a rule, not more than six or seven senators have taken part in such debates. Why should a limit be practically set on the number who can speak to such a point, or on the time which such a debate may occupy ? There is something to be said for limiting the time which a senator may occupy, though I do not like the words “ by leave.” While it may be difficult for a senator who has taken pains to make himself acquainted with the subject under review, and has looked up authorities, to compress his remarks within fifteen minutes, still, I should prefer that every senator should have the same advantage.
– If the words “ by leave “ were left out, it would still be possible for a senator to get leave to extend his remarks.
– Yes, because the Senate itself has complete control over its own debates. Judging from our own experience, the best thing we could do would be to adopt Senator Clemons’ suggestion, place every senator on an equal footing, and impose a limit to the length of time which a senator may occupy in speaking to a point of order.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.51]. - I feel some hesitancy in proposing to place a limitation upon honorable senators in this respect. My sympathies are with affording opportunity for the full expression of views. But we should have regard to the experience gained in other Parliaments. In New South Wales a motion would occasionally be submitted dissenting from a ruling of the Speaker. The former practice was that the debate on a motion of dissent took place forthwith. Often a couple of days were wasted in that manner. There was naturally a good deal of irrelevancy, because the Speaker felt some reluctance in calling members to order when his own judgment was under review. The practice which I have described led to abuse. A new standing order was then passed, under which it was provided that notice of dissent must be given. There was a further provision to the following effect-
A ruling of Mr. Speaker may only be dissented from by motion, provided that Mr. Speaker shallbe entitled to put the question without debate, that no debate on such motion shall exceed thirty minutes, and that no member shall without concurrence speak to such motion for more than ten minutes. Notice of such motion shall be given within three sitting days of when the ruling was given, and shall take precedence of all other business, and if not moved on that day shall lapse.
So that in a House consisting of 120 members, a debate on a motion of dissent was confined to half an hour, and as each speaker could not occupy more than ten minutes, only three members could take part if each of them occupied his full time. As, however, honorable senators take exception to the limitation as to time, I am willing to waive that portion of the proposal, and to allow the standing order to be amended so as to limit the speeches of honorable senators on such a motion to fifteen minutes. Byleave I will move the amendment in this form -
That the following words be added, “ No senator shall speak to such motion for more than fifteen minutes.”
Leave granted; proposed amendment amended accordingly.
– By the alteration which has been made in this proposed amendment we have struck out a large proportion of the words in it. I have an objection to the few that remain. I am absolutely opposed to any mechanical restriction upon the rights of members of a House of Parliament.
– What about the “gag”?
– That is not a mechanical appliance. It is a method adopted when a House of Parliament itself considers that a debate or particular speech has proceeded long enough. Our Standing Orders are supposed to be evolved from experience. Has there been anything in the nine years’ existence of this Senate to justify making such a radical alteration in our rules as that proposed ? The standing order relating to dissension from the ruling of the Chair has been brought into operation on only a few occasions. I am aware that for the major part of the nine years the Opposition has been of such a character that it has invariably conducted its proceedings with due regard to the welfare of the Senate and the country. Now that there has been a change in the Opposition, it may be that a change will come over the spirit of our dream in that regard. But if this amendment had any virtue at all, it would be in the interests of those who were for the time being in the majority. Our Standing Orders are, however, largely devised in the interest of the minority. I was much impressed with a statement made some years ago by Sir Henry Parkes, when he pointed out that although a majority in Parliament might on occasions chafe under the methods resorted to by a minority, still there might be an occasion when in the public interest that minority would be justified in taking steps to prevent proposals made by a Government being carried through. What has occurred in the history of the Senate to justify us in providing this arbitrary restriction upon the rights of honorable senators? I think I am right in saying that the occasions on which rulings from the Chair have been called in question have been very few. Even the most hypercritical would not say that there was not sound and good reason for calling them in question on those occasions. I am not saying that the President’s rulings were wrong in those cases, but that there was room for a difference of opinion with regard to them. When we consider how important it is that there should be no doubt as to the soundness’ of a ruling by the President or the Chairman, it does seem to me that it would be undesirable by such an arbitrary provision as this to curtail the opportunity to thoroughly dissect and thrash the matter out. The proposal to limit speeches to fifteen minutes is, no doubt, made with the object of saving time. But my experience of Parliament, which is becoming rather lengthy as the years go by, is that the consumption of time is not by a few isolated speeches of inordinate length. These speeches, I admit, attract public attention, and call for public criticism, and they may create some little feeling in the Senate itself, but the consumption of time in Parliament is really bv the multiplicity of small speeches
– A number of honorable senators saying the same thing.
– Exactly. The proposed liberty to each of the thirty-six members of the Senate to speak for fifteen minutes does not furnish a guarantee of economy of time. That can only be secured by the consensus of opinion prevailing in the Chamber itself. It is unnecessary for me to suggest to the Opposition the correct method of wasting, time. They are already sufficiently familiar with it. But any one who has any knowledge of parliamentary practice is aware that any Opposition worth their salt could, though each member did not speak at great length, consume the time of a whole week. I am putting in a plea for the rights of minorities.
– Then abolish the “ gag.”
– No. I should be the first to use the “gag”; not to limit the right of free speech, but to meet a systematic attempt to obstruct public business; which is a very different thing. I should not repeal the standing order providing for the “ gag,” but I say that the arbitrary standing order now proposed would, in my opinion, curtail the consideration of the important questions which would almost certainly be involved where a President’s ruling is challenged. For these reasons I am -entirely opposed to the proposed addition, and I trust an opportunity will be given me to give effect to the views I have expressed.
. -I agree with the proposed limitation of speeches to fifteen minutes, but I am opposed to the proposal that the debate should be limited to one hour.
– That has been withdrawn.
– I think it is extremely desirable that on such questions the speeches of honorable senators should be limited to fifteen minutes each. It would preserve the right of every member of the Senate to speak. If there is to be no limitation upon the length of the speeches, after two or three honorable senators have spoken others may suddenly discover that the question has been sufficiently debated, and may impose the “ gag.”
– This would not repeal the “gag.”
– It would apply to this, as to every other question.
– It is not thinkable in connexion with this matter.
– Anything is thinkable. Did not the honorable senator who leads the Senate say just now that he would not scruple to use the “gag” if he thought a question had been sufficiently debated.
– No; if he thought there was systematic obstruction.
– We know that in another place quite recently, when only two or three speakers had addressed themselves to a question, the “gag” was imposed. A Government will always impose the “gag” if they think that the speeches of the Opposition are likely to be too strong fo.’ them. It is not the consumption of public time that troubles a Government, but the character of the speeches being made in opposition to their proposals. They try to avoid criticism by silencing their opponents.
– Yes, but the honorable senator would limit their right of speech.
– I think that a limitation of some kind is necessary, but I would preserve the right of every honorable senator to speak.
– An honorable senator might wish to quote an authority, and he might require more than fifteen minutes in which to make his quotation.
– There is no need to quote authorities. We are the authorities. This digging in the catacombs is only wasted effort. Let honorable senators get up and say how a matter appears to them to affect public business. We should not mind what was said by May or some one else who is dead and buried and forgotten. As honorable senators are anxious to get to a vote, I shall not detain them any longer.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed amendment negatived.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.17]. - I move -
That the following new standing order be inserted - 415A. Upon a question of order being raised, the senator called to order shall resume his seat, and after the question of order has been stated to the President by the senator rising to order, the President may give his decision thereon, or he may first hear further argument thereon, at his discretion.
It is not necessary to debate this proposal, which simply embodies what has hitherto been our practice in this Chamber.
– I think that this proposal is deserving of a little consideration.
– I do not think it is deserving of any.
– The President has said that it merely embodies our present practice. I do not think it does. Under our Standing Orders, honorable senators have a right to express their opinions upon any point of order which may be raised, before it is decided. But, as a rule, upon points of order which are not of first-class importance, they remain silent and allow the President, or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, to give his ruling. But under the new standing order which is proposed, the President would be empowered either to at once give his decision upon any point of order raised, or to first hear argument upon it. No honorable senator would have the right to discuss any point of order, except by permission of the President, no matter how important it might be. The President would be in the position of an autocrat, and his word would be law.
– But there is a court of appeal.
– Of course it is open to honorable senators at all times to move that the President’s ruling be disagreed with. Instead of assisting the speedy decision of points of order, the proposed new standing order would give rise to endless disputes which are now avoided, and therefore I think that it should be omitted. Under this proposal, if honorable senators felt aggrieved by the ruling of the President upon a point of order which they deemed of great importance, they would undoubtedly move to dissent from his ruling, whereas, if they were allowed to discuss the point of order before a decision was given upon it by the Chair, they would be more inclined to accept that decision without question. So long as we leave a loophole for the exercise of autocratic action, so long will autocratic action be taken. In this connexion we must recollect that we may not always have a President who exhibits the same fairness and impartiality as does the present occupant of the office. For that reason, I do not think that we should empower the President to decide most important points of order without discussion.
– This proposal really invites us to consider the object for which Standing Orders are framed, and the purpose which they are intended to fulfil. Now, I think that our Standing Orders are framed for the purpose of enabling the Senate to be the master of its own procedure. That procedure is clearly defined so that honorable senators may know what they must do to conform to that discipline which is necessarily applicable to each one of us. But under this proposal we are asked to abrogate the first consideration underlying our Standing Orders. We are asked to declare that the power to determine whether we shall be permitted to address ourselves to important matters shall be vested in the President.
– Do not overlook the fact that behind the discretionary power of the President is our right of review.
– I do not forget that. What would be the result of vesting this power in the President? If an honorable senator rose to address himself to an important point of order, and the President were to say, “ I intend to j»ive my decision upon this point without hearing debate,” it is extremely likely that the honorable senator so addressed would promptly dispute the’ ruling of the Chair and, as a result, we should get confusion worse confounded. Then would begin a course of procedure which might last till next day, or conceivably, till the next week. Yet it is urged that the adoption of the proposed new standing order will conduce to a saving of time. As a matter of fact, it will tend to a great waste of time.
– But it merely embodies our present practice.
– I do recollect one occasion upon which the President stated, “I am prepared to give my ruling.” But there is a very considerable difference between an announcement of that kind and the President saying to an honorable senator who rose to address himself to a point of order, “ You must resume your seat, because in my discretion this debate must now cease.” I can recollect occasions upon which the President has declared that he was willing to give his decision ‘at once, and upon which the good sense of the Senate permitted him to do so. But that will not be the case if the President be vested with discretionary power in this matter, because discretion naturally suggests discrimination. I think that the proposed new standing order should be withdrawn.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.26].- I desire to point out that this proposed standing order is merely intended to embody what has been the practice of this and other Parliaments. Under our Standing Orders no honorable senator has a right to speak unless there is a motion under consideration. But when an honorable senator rises and asks whether a speaker is in order in making certain observations, no question is submitted for the decision of the Senate. There is, however, a question for the decision of the President, subject to review by the Senate, under a substantive motion. But until that motion is submitted, no honorable senator has the right to speak. But our practice has been for the President to listen to honorable senators who desire to address themselves to any matter which is worthy of consideration. But upon numberless little matters which crop up, the President is asked to give a ruling which is accepted by the Senate without question.
– Then there is no necessity for the proposed new standing order.
– When an important .matter is under consideration, I cannot conceive of any occupant of the Chair saying, “ I will not hear argument upon it j I intend to give my decision at once.” Of course, if honorable senators do not like the proposed new standing order, I have no desire to press it.
– I am sure we shall get on more smoothly in its absence.
– If that be the general feeling of the Committee, I am quite willing to withdraw it.
– I am strongly in favour of the proposed new standing order, both as the result of my experience on the floor of the Senate and in the Chair. That experience has taught me that there have been numberless occasions upon which time might have been saved without entrenching upon the liberties of any honorable senator. Every presiding officer has had similar experience. A point of order is frequently raised upon a matter which is absolutely clear - so clear that another honorable senator has risen to point out how ridiculous is the point of order. But owing to the practice which has hitherto obtained, the presiding officer has had to sit idly in the chair and listen to debate upon it.
– He has intimated that he is prepared to give his decision.
– At any rate, the practice of debating a point of order has grown up, and eventually the Chair gives an opinion with which the whole Senate is in accord. ‘
– There has never been a delay of five minutes.
– In my opinion the proposed standing order can be adopted with perfect safety. What would be the position of the President or the Chairman who acted in an arbitrary fashion? In the first place, he would invite frequent motions of dissent from his rulings, and that very possibility is a protection against the rule being used arbitrarily. In the second place, he would endanger his position as a presiding officer. I recollect many cases where the discussion was absolutely a waste of time.
– Did the President or the Chairman intimate that he was prepared to give a ruling?
– In some cases such an intimation was given, and yet the discussion was continued. It should be borne in mind that when the President or the Chairman has allowed one senator to state a point of order, he has been very loath to prevent another senator from speaking even though it was merely to state the same point. Under the proposed standing order, if adopted, the President or the Chairman will be entitled to exercise a discretion. If he believes that the point is perfectly clear and does not call for further argument he can intimate that he is prepared to rule. He can count upon there being no dissent from the ruling it, in his judgment, the point is absolutely indefensible. In the absence of the proposed standing order, however, a senator would be entitled to say, “ Before you give a ruling, sir, I wish to put this case.” The President or the Chairman might naturally assume that the senator intended to back up the point taken. But the senator would make a speech showing that the objection really had no basis, and having heard that speaker, and seeing other senators rising to speak, the presiding officer would be loath to say, “ I am prepared to give a ruling now.” If he gave a ruling at that stage he would be open to the im putation of having listened to one senator and refused to listen to others. The fact that he allows a discussion to continue is apt to convey the impression that his mind is not made up.
– That is only because he does not do an “obvious duty.
– No. In my opinion, the present practice leads to a lot of useless discussion. The proposed standing order will allow the presiding officer to say, “I am prepared to give a ruling without debate.” No presiding officer, with any sense or regard for his position, will ever take advantage of the rule unless it is quite clear that no further discussion is needed. Having regard to my experience in the chair, and on the floor of the chamber, I hope that the proposal will be agreed’ to. It is mere exaggeration to suggest that a President or a Chairman would ever seek to tyrannize over the Chamber which elected him, and whose members have each the right to appeal against a decision.
– In my opinion the proposed standing order will invite honorable senators to disagree with a decision of the Chair. Senator Pearce has stated that sometimes when a point of order has been raised some honorable senators have given reasons why, in their opinion, it should not have been taken, and have suggested its withdrawal without the Chairman having been called upon to give a ruling. Very often, in such cases, the Chairman has not been called upon to rule at all, because the senator who took the objection was convinced that he had acted wrongfully and, therefore, asked leave to withdraw his motion. Under the proposed standing order simple points will be decided straight away. Of course, if a senator is clear about a. matter he will not raise a point of order, but when an objection is taken, the Chair will immediately give a ruling, and at once the feeling will be engendered that an opportunity has not been afforded to any one to express an opinion. Even the senator who raised the point of order may not haw had an opportunity to do other than shortly state his reason for resorting to that step. Immediately a ruling is given in such circumstances, the senator concerned will submit a motion of dissent so that he may be able to speak and afford a similar opportunity to other honorable senators, with the result that, after the waste of considerable time, he will ask leave to withdraw his motion. In that way a great deal more time will be wasted than is the case at present. Under the existing practice the President has no right to stop an honorable senator who rises to speak to a point of order. Every honorable senator has the right to speak to such a question if he feels so inclined, and that, in my opinion, really lends to limit discussion. But if the Chair is empowered to give a ruling at once, and does so, that will be a direct incentive to honorable senators to submit a motion of dissent. I think that it would be far better to adhere to the existing practice.
Question - That the proposed new standing order be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed amendment agreed to.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.43].- With regard to the numbers of the Standing Orders, I think that it would be well not to submit a motion on the subject. I shall give instructions to the clerks to have the Standing Orders, as amended, arranged so that they will follow one another in consecutive form.
– -Are we to understand that a right is to be given to the President to re-arrange the Standing Orders? Surely the Senate ought to exercise some control over that matter. The arrangement of the Standing Orders may have an important bearing upon their meaning.
– One or two new standing orders have been adopted which will disturb the present system of arrangement.
– But the relative position of standing orders ought not to be altered without reference to the Senate.
– The Clerk will be instructed to make the re-arrangement in accord with the decisions that have been arrived at. The work will be most carefully done.
– That will do.
– I do not know whether I shall be in order in making some remarks about standing order 433, which relates to the suspension of Standing Orders. Lately, the Senate has got into a habit of regarding any business as “urgent “ when the Government have asked for a suspension of Standing Orders. Once or twice this procedure has been adopted when there has been no sort of urgency. Apparently, there is no authority to decide what is urgent.
– Yes; the Senate decides.
– I do not think the honorable senator’s remarks are in order.
Motion (by Senator Sir Robert Best) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– Can the motion be put without notice?
– Yes. A report from the Committee of the Whole, in regard to such matters, can at all times be put without notice. We are following the practice that has hitherto been adopted. We are not dealing with the report of the Committee upon a Bill which has been amended.
– I should like to ask for the ruling of the President upon a point which has arisen in the course of the consideration of the amendments in Committee. Some honorable senators desired to make alterations in other Standing Orders than those dealt with by the Standing Orders Committee. It will be instructive if we are told at what stage it will be competent for a senator to move for an alteration of other standing orders.
– I do not think that it would be in order to deal with other standing orders on the present occasion. The Committee of the Whole has been engaged in considering a report from the Standing Orders Committee recommending certain amendments. At the present time we are confined to the consideration of the standing orders which have been amended, and to the pew ones which have been adopted. When there has been a desire to amend standing orders, the practice has been to submit the matter to the Standing Orders Committee, with a request to them to take into consideration the proposed alteration, and furnish a report. If any honorable senator desires to amend other standing orders, the proper course would be to submit a motion referring the matter to the Standing Orders Committee. When the Committee reported, the whole subject would be open for discussion. At the same time it is quite competent for a senator to submit a substantive motion for the alteration of any standing order. The submission of a proposal to the Standing Orders Committee is really a matter of courtesy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
[12.53]. - It has been usual when we have amended standing orders to submit a motion that the standing orders, as amended, be printed, and come into force on a certain day. In this case, I suggest that it would be convenient for the new standing orders to come into effect on the 1st October. They can be printed and circulated in the meantime, and honorable senators will have an opportunity of considering their effect. I therefore move -
That the Standing Orders, as amended, and new standing orders, adopted by the Senate, be printed, and come into force on the 1st October next.
– It is obviously desirable that the new standing orders should be brought into operation as soon as possible. We should have an opportunity of informing our minds as to the changes made in the existing rules. The sooner we have an opportunity of testing the new standing orders while the points concerning them that have arisen in debate are fresh in our minds the better.
– Not only should the new standing orders and the amended ones be reprinted, but the whole of the Standing Orders in their re-arranged form should be re-issued with a fresh index. At the present time, our Standing Orders contain little leaflets embodying alterations and new rules which have been made from time to time.
– A reprint of the whole of the Standing Orders could not be finished by the 1st day of October.
– Perhaps not; but it will not be easy to know how the Standing Orders affect our business unless we have them reprinted in their re- arranged form. There have been many erasures and additions, and I think that the time has come for a reprint.
– I agree with Senator Givens. So many of the Standing Orders have been altered that we ought to have a reprint in order that we may know exactly how we stand.
– As soon as the motion submitted by Senator Best is agreed to, instructions will be given for reprinting the new and amended standing orders on little slips, which will be circulated. I agree with Senator Givens, however, that it is desirable that we should have the whole of our Standing Orders reprinted. I will give instructions to the Clerk to have the work carried out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– In speaking on the second reading of the Bill I made the statement that on a previous occasion Senator Dobson had supported a proposal that where provision was made for compensation to workmen they should themselves contribute to the amount. The honorable senator at the time charged me with doing him an injustice. He said that he had not advocated such a provision. I was certainly under the impression that that was the attitude which he had taken up on previous occasions, but I must say that, having looked up quite a number of the honorable senator’s speeches, I can find nothing in what he is reported to have said to substantiate the statement I made. I had no intention to do the honorable senator any injustice, and I am sorry that my memory was not more exact when I made the remark to which he took exception.
.- What I objected to at the time to which the honorable senator refers was his statement’ that it’ was owing to “ people like the Dobsons “ that measures of this kind were not placed on our statute-book earlier. I informed the honorable senator that twelve years ago I succeeded in getting a Workman’s Compensation Bill passed through the Tasmanian Legislative Assembly. I think I said that in the circumstances the honorable senator might do me the justice of withdrawing his statement. If he intends the remarks which he has just made to .be a withdrawal of the statement to which I objected, I accept it. I have taken great interest in this class of legislation.” When I read the debate which took place in the House of Commons on the Workmen’s Compensation Bill considered there some fourteen years ago, I immediately became convinced that every industry should bear the cost of accidents occurring in it. Senator Turley seemed to me to be classifying me as a blue-blooded Tory who would never think of introducing measures of this kind.
– That is the honorable senator’s general attitude.
– I hope that the honorable senator and other honorable senators opposite will realize what a mistake it is to attempt to placard other persons in the way they do. I hope we all have liberal notions and notions of justice and humanity, and I hope also that we all have certain Conservative notions, because there is a place for Conservatism in public affairs in these days just as there is in private affairs. I rose chiefly to say that when, as in this case, we are passing a measure to saddle a particular industry with an obligation which is new, though rI think it should have been made to bear it years ago, we should remember that we are to some extent bringing about a revolution -in the industry affected. I was on this account a little surprised and disappointed that some of our honorable friends opposite should endeavour to make this Bill too liberal. It is very easy to be liberal with other people’s money. It is easy to seize upon, a new idea and engraft it upon our legislation j but whether by doing so we shall really be making progress remains to be seen. The people of New Zealand, which has been called “ God’s own country,” have not been making the progress they thought they would make by virtue of advanced legislation. They have frightened capital, and have saddled industries with obligations. It remains to be seen whether those industries can bear the obligations imposed upon them. Although I am entirely in favour of the principle of this Bill, I do think it is too liberal. Every Compensation Act with which I am acquainted, and I have perused as many as I could discover, puts a limit upon the compensation to be granted under it, the principle being that the workman should do something for himself.
– Does not this Bill recognise that principle? It is not to be pretended that it provides for full compensation in every case.
– The honorable senator and his friends have struck out the limit proposed upon the amount of compensation.
– Still the compensation provided for will not in every case represent the total loss due to injury.
– There should be limits fixed in measures of this kind. The limit fixed in the British Act is .£300, and we proposed .£400. I should not have objected to make it .£500, my contention being only that there should be a limit fixed. Again, I think that a mistake has been made in bringing men receiving over ^250 per year under the Bil). I assert that a man who receives a salary of ^250 a year is able to insure himself against accident, to insure his life for the benefit of his dependents, or to take out a policy under Table j, payable at 65 years of age, which, with accumulated bonuses, would provide him at that age with a substantial amount.
– Would not that be a departure from the principle of the Bill, which is that the industry should bear the cost of accidents occurring in it ?
– I do not think it would be a departure from the principle. I do not suppose that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and Orient Steam-ship Companies would desire to be called upon to pay compensation under such a measure as this to a captain to whom they Pav £S°° or £1,0°° per year. If such people are to be looked after in this way why does not Parliament look after the poor hated and detested lawyer?
– Because he is so well looked after himself. It is his clients who need looking after.
– There are certain principles underlying all these industrial measures which ought to be adhered to. If we were not so careful to look after the high-salaried man we could afford to be more liberal to the low-salaried man. The man who receives£250 per year should be able to look after himself, but he is provided for in this Bill. It is a mistake in measures of this kind to be too liberal, because there is a limit to the Commonwealth’s purse and to the purses of private persons. The more we pile up obligations on the Commonwealth now the less money we shall have at our disposal hereafter. If we make measures of this kind too liberal, the time will come when we shall have to begin to make deductions from the top to the bottom.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th September, vide page 3152) :
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Section 29 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the word “ sex.”
– I ask the Committee to negative this clause. I think it is unnecessary that I should again speak at length on the matter. I feel sure that the Vice-President of the Executive Council must recognise that the facts I stated on a previous occasion were quite sufficient to warrant me in asking the Committee not to agree to the clause.
– Senator Pulsford is quite right. The arguments which he, and, I think, Senator Henderson, adduced have suggested to me that it is desirable to omit this clause. The result of omitting it would be that in the preparation of our rolls the sex of every elector would be indicated by the letters “ F “ or “ M “ opposite the name in a column set apart for the purpose. This would no doubt be of great advantage for statistical purposes, as it would enable us to determine readily the number of each sex on the roll, and, later on, the percentage of each sex voting at an election.
Clause 5 -
Section 56 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section substituted in lieu thereof - 56. (1) Where a division is divided into subdivisions any person who would be qualified to vote if his name were upon a roll and who lives in a sub-division of the division, and has so lived for a period of one month, may claim to have his name placed onthe subdivision roll for the subdivision.
– I move -
That the words “ and has so lived for a period of one month “ be left out.
I have circulated only this amendment upon proposed new section 56, but if it is accepted consequential amendments will require to be made in some of the other subclauses. The point at issue is very clear. We have to decide whether an elector shall be entitled to be enrolled as soon as he has been six months in the Commonwealth, or must also have been a resident for a month in a sub-division before he can claim to have his name placed on the sub-divisional roll. I maintain that the only qualification of residence that should be required is that provided for in our Franchise Act, namely, six months’ residence within the Commonwealth. If a man has been for six months a resident of the Commonwealth he should be given every facility to have his name transferred from one sub-divisional roll to another, or from one divisional roll to another, without having to prove that he has been resident in the subdivision or division for a particular time. What virtue attaches to a residential qualification of one month within an electorate? We must recollect, too, that under the card system, to which effect is given in the Bill, we shall enable the Electoral Department to keep an easy check upon the movements of electors. That system, I venture to say, will be twice as effective as is the present system.
– But an elector who moved from one electoral division to another within a week of polling day would cause the Department some inconvenience.
– Not at all. Under the system to -which I have referred the Department, upon referring to its card index, would see at once that he had been a voter in a particular electorate, and had removed to a fresh electorate. Accordingly, it would delete his name from one roll, and place it on the other.
– That could not be done at once.
– Yes. It would be as easy as “ falling off a log,’’ to use a colloquialism. We must also remember - especially in the case ofWestern Australia - that we are dealing with a nomadic population. Under all the circumstances, I have yet to learn why the Government desire the alteration which they propose.
– I have not urged that this clause involves any matter of principle. In the measure under consideration the Government have adopted the principle that is embodied in our Franchise Act, which entitles every citizen of Australia to be enrolled as an elector. The amendment that is embodied in this clause does not touch that principle in any way. It is merely intended to simplify and expedite procedure under the other Statute to which I have referred. Senator Pearce has inquired, “ What purpose is involved in this proposal?” Before replying to his question, may I ask him. “ What harm is there in it?” Reference has been made by the honorable senator to our nomadic population. I admit that a man who is travelling does not usually stop to secure enrolment in every constituency through which he passes. The position is that he has either come to anchor in an electorate or he has not. If he has, he seeks enrolment, but not otherwise. The proposed alteration might possibly affect an influx of electors into a constituency just prior to the issue of a writ. But presuming that these persons have changed their residence for bona fide purposes, and that they are not crowding into a constituency merely for the purpose of influencing an impending election, the number who would be affected by the Government proposal would be very small indeed. I admit that in the case of citizens so moving the clause might impose a small disability upon them. But against that we must recognise that it would confer a tremendous advantage upon all other electors as well as upon our administrative officers. At the present moment the law imposes a residential qualification of one month in an electorate prior to an elector being granted a transfer to another division. But no local residence is necessary to secure original enrolment, nor is such residence necessary in the case of an elector who removes from one electoral subdivision to another. It has been thought advisable in the interests of the electors that we should have one set term which shall be applicable to all three forms of change. An elector will then know that a residential qualification of onemonth is necessary in all three cases.
– I quite agree that the period should be uniform.
– If we are to have one application card we should also prescribe one residential period which should be applicable to all forms of change on the part of an elector. Seeing that no hardship can be inflicted by the clause, save in a few isolated cases, it has been deemed wise to provide here for a residential qualification of one month. Now, I ask honorable senators whether that condition is likely to prove a very great hardship? I venture to say that our electoral law to-day is the most liberal in the world. We merely say that all persons must reside six months in the Commonwealth before they can become electors. Now, is it to be supposed that a person will reside five months four weeks and two days in the Commonwealth before he settles down in the electoral division for which he seeks to be enrolled? The clause does not add one month to his residential qualification as an elector. It simply requires that the last month of the six months qualifying period shall be spent in the electorate for which he desires to be enrolled. In other words, it merely provides machinery which will prevent fraud, and which will simplify procedure so far as the electors and our administrative officers are concerned.
– I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council ought to accept the amendment proposed by Senator Pearce.
– I think that the honorable senator ought to accept my assurance.
– That the clause is all right.
– It may not be all right. I do not think that an interregnum of one month is either necessary or desirable. ForCommonwealth purposes, if a man be residentin Australia for six months, he is entitled to the franchise. He ought not to be deprived of that right by, any circumstances whatever during any period of his residence in Australia subsequent to the six months’ residential period. But under this provision I can easily conceive of a case in which an elector would be deprived of the franchise. For instance, at the end of the six months’ residential period he might remove from one end of Queensland to the other, and, before the one month had expired during which he would be required to reside in his new electoral division, and before he could get his name transferred to that division, an election might take place. Under such circumstances the probability is that he would be disfranchised. I regard the suggestion that people might flock into an electorate on the eve of an election for the purpose of influencing it, as a mere figment of the imagination.
– In the old days cart loads of persons used to be taken from one electorate to another.
– In the old days persons were taken from the grave-yard to vote. The dead were resurrected, and the living were quadrupled. But the age of miracles has passed.I do not say that the proposed interval of one month would necessarily deprive an elector of the franchise. But it might do so, and for that reason the Government should accept the amendment of Senator Pearce.
– One answer to all the. statements which have been made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council is that the Government in a certain set of circumstances intend to adopt the very course which I am now advocating. This will be seen by reference to sub-clause 5 of the proposed new section.
– We propose to adopt it only for a limited period.
– If the idea is unworkable, why adopt it?
– I have not said that it is unworkable.
– If a general rule be not adopted the circumstances in the various States may differ. Thus, while a residential qualification of one month may not be necessary in Tasmania, in Victoria and the other States it will be necessary. I think, therefore, that the Government should agree to my amendment.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council has emphasized the great convenience which will flow from the adoption of the Government proposal, especially in the matter of enabling electors to be identified. But until we repeal the Electoral Act of 1902, which provides that it shall only be necessary for a person to reside six months in theCommonwealth to become entitled to vote at our elections, I am inclined to think that the objection urged by Senator Pearce is a valid one. Under the Act to which I have alluded, no Commonwealth electoral officer could resist an application for enrolment by a person who had been resident in the Commonwealth for six months. If he did so, I think he would be guilty of an unconstitutional act.
– The first sub-clause of this proposed new section deals with original claims for enrolment.
– That circumstance only makes my argument in regard to the constitutional aspect of the question still stronger, I doubt whether we have that power, but I do agree with the Minister that, for departmental purposes, a month’s notice is a very strong safeguard, and, in many cases, a very proper safeguard, for a complete identification of the elector. As the constitutional question is likely to be one of the gravest importance, and as the general balance of convenience is in favour of the Ministerial proposal, I am inclined to support it, but I have some doubt as to whether, in particular cases, it is constitutional.
– If I correctly interpret the point raised by Senator St.Ledger, it is one of major importance, and that is whether, in view of the Franchise Act, which requires only six months’ residence prior to enrolment we can, in this Bill, without a specific amendment of that Act, add to that obligation. It must appeal to every one at once that it is important to have the point set at rest. I therefore ask honorable senators to postpone the clause until I have had an opportunity of conferring with the AttorneyGeneral as to whether or not the point is fatal to it. At the present moment it appears to me to be a serious objection.
I move -
That the clause be postponed.
– I do not strongly object to the motion. It seems to me that the Committee is pretty well agreed that this provision for a month’s residence should be struck out. If I am right in that idea, there can be no advantage in postponing it. The object of residence at all is to secure an assurance of citizenship, and six months’ residence in the country is required. A large section of the community are necessarily of such a migratory character that at any time you can think of there will be over the
Commonwealth probably tens of thousands of men who have not been in the district for a month. This clause, if retained, will have a tendency to disfranchise those persons for various periods. Of course, they will get enrolled later, but after they are enrolled thousands of other persons will be prevented from voting. It does not seem to me that the danger of a man getting on the roll improperly justifies the risk of continually keeping off quite a large number who ought to be on it.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause8 section 60 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ an elector,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ a prescribed person.”
– As I intimated in my secondreading speech, I intend to move an amendment to this clause. The present Act provides that, in a certain set of circumstances, a witness shall be an elector. This clause proposes to substitute the words “ a prescribed person “ for the words “ an elector ‘ ‘ in section 60. The words I want the Committee to adopt are, “ an elector or a prescribed person.” It has been found, particularly in other States, I believe, that there are certain very desirable witnesses who may happen not to be electors; and, with a view to enlarging, and not curtailing, the facilities, this clause was included in the Bill. I move -
That the words “ omitting the words ‘an elector,’ and,” be left out, and that after the word “ inserting “ the words “ after ‘ elector,’ or a prescribed person ‘ “ be inserted.
– I should like to know what the amendment means?
– It will simply enlarge the number of persons who may be witnesses.
– But who is to be “ a prescribed person “ ?
– That will be set out later. He may not be an elector.
– Every naturalized Australian over twenty-one years of age is an elector.
– But he may not be an elector in that district.
– I think that, instead of substituting the words “ a prescribed person” for the words “an elector.” in section 60, we ought to substitute these words, “ an elector or a person qualified to be an elector.”
– A Government official may be in the district, and he is quite competent to be a witness. .
– There has been very little difficulty in getting witnesses, and if this amendment is made, the difficulty will be lessened.
– I want to know who the prescribed persons are likely to be.
– It is impossible for me, or anyone else, to say who the prescribed persons will be. Circumstances will suggest that. Suppose that two or three persons living at a light-house desired to become enrolled, but were unable to do so because not one of them was on the roll. As the Act stands no one could act, because no one would be an elector, and, therefore, qualified to witness the application of another person. In a case of the kind, clearly the officers of the Department would suggest, and, I presume, the Executive would approve, of the light-house keeper being the prescribed person.
– It will be necessary to prescribe every person of that description.
– I do not know whether that need trouble the honorable senator or myself. Circumstances will suggest the class of persons who should be prescribed. The object of this amendment is simply to create further facilities for those who wish to become enrolled. If, however, the Committee think that the clause is giving too much power, I shall not worry very much if it is negatived. It is designed to meet special cases which experience has shown the Department do exist.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That the words “ in lieu thereof the words a prescribed person ‘ “ be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section 61 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ and shall file it in his office.”
– I think that we are entitled to a little explanation about this clause. Section 61 says -
The electoral register shall note on the application for transfer the date of its receipt by him, and shall file it in his office.
– With the card system it will not need to be filed.
– It is not clear to me that there is any satisfactory method forkeeping a record. There is nothing to show what is to be done with the card.
– The omission of the words “and shall file it in his office “ is rendered necessary by the introduction of the card system. Whether it is an application for enrolment, or a transfer, the card will be sent to the electoral registrar for the district in which the applicant is resident. When the electoral registrar has made the alteration in his books, and on the roll, he will forward the card to the Chief Electoral Officer. Of course, it cannot be filed, but it will be indexed in the head office, and retained there.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 -
Section 6ia of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (3) the words “an elector,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ a prescribed person “
Amendment (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That paragraph (a) be left out and the following new paragraph inserted in lieu thereof -
by inserting after the words “ an elector “ the words “ ‘ or a prescribed person ‘ ; and “.
– With regard to the use of the term “ prescribed person,” I wish to point out that on one occasion a great deal of confusion arose in Queensland through the unfortunate naming of certain persons empowered to attest enrolment and postal votes. One of the regulations was that the attestations should be made before a State school teacher. The term appeared to have a wide signification. But as a matter of fact in Queensland it had a limited signification. Teachers in that State were divided into two classes, State school teachers and provisional school teachers. The consequence was that in the districts where it would have been most convenient to afford facilities for attesting claims, the provisional school teachers were debarred. In some cases persons were deprived either of the opportunity of getting on the roll or of being quickly transferred from one division to another. I hope that the Department, in prescribing persons, will take care to see that such terms are used as will not limit the facilities intended to be conferred.
Amendment agreed to.
– I wish to inquire whether care is to be taken to store the index cards safely? It seems to be necessary that in the Chief Electoral Office in every State the card indexes should be stored in a fire-proof room to obviate the danger of loss of our records.
– - We cannot over-estimate the importance of keeping our records safely, but I point out that the cards will be duplicated. When a card is presented to the local registrar he will make his record and forward the original card to the head office. It is hardly conceivable that a fire will occur simultaneously at the two places. I have not ascertained whether we have fireproof rooms for storing such records at present. That some such provision should be made I agree. I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– - Those who are familiar with the work of keeping a library up-to-date will know that card indexes have to be continually revised and watched. The officers in charge of the electoral card system will have to impose checks upon each other so as to insure that the cards and the rolls correspond. Constant vigilance will be requisite. This is merely an administrative matter, but it is as well to remind the officers of the necessity for very great care.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 -
After section sixty-one a of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “61B. (1) An elector shall not be entitled to make application to be changed from the roll for one subdivision to the roll for another subdivision of the same division until be has lived in the latter subdivision for a period of one month. “ (2) The validity of any enrolment pursuant to any application under this section shall not in any case be questioned on the ground that the person enrolled has not in fact lived in the subdivision for which he is enrolled for a period of one month. “ (3) Where an arrangement has been entered into under section thirty of this Act for the preparation alteration and revision of the rolls jointly by the Commonwealth and a State, and the law of the State contains no provision requiring an elector to have lived or resided in a subdivision for any specified period before his name can be changed to the roll for that subdivision, the regulations may dispense with the period of one month under this section as regards electors enrolled in that State.”
.- Under the existing Act applications for en- raiment can be made by those interested, provided they have lived in the Commonwealth six months. Under the clause now before the Committee a person cannot be enrolled unless he or she has lived in a subdivision one month. But if a person has been wrongly enrolled he cannot be removed from the roll by reason of the mistake. The clause also provides that regulations may dispense with the period of one month’s residence where an arrangement has been entered into between a State and the Commonwealth for using joint rolls, and the State law contains no provision relative to residence in a subdivision for a specified period. When there are different sets of conditions in different States, there cannot be uniformity in regard to enrolment.
– If we want uniformity we must not be too rigid. The clause must be elastic. There is no harm in it.
– I do not suggest that there is harm in the clause, but I am making inquiries to satisfy myself, because sub-clause 3 seems to me to contradict sub-clauses 1. and 2 of the proposed new section.
– I do not think that any constitutional issue is involved in this clause. It simply relates to a change of residence from one subdivision to another, and does not touch the matter of six months’ residence in the Commonwealth. This is a convenient place for testing the feeling of the Committee as to whether we agree with the provision as to one month’s residence. If we were to strike out the limitation with regard to one month’s residence we could secure uniformity through the Commonwealth, because it is obvious that the period of residence required by any State could not be less than one month.
– It might be more.
– The Commonwealth has the wider scope.
– That is to say, no State would have electors that we have not, but we may have electors that a State has not.
– Precisely. If we widen the scope of the clause our rolls would be bound to Include all State electors, and we could easily make an arrangement with any State to have joint rolls. We should not then have the objection of one set of conditions prevailing in one State and a different set in another. The best way to attain the object I have in view would be to negative the whole clause. I shall therefore ask honorable senators to vote against it.
.-Iam inclined to think that the objections raised to clause 5 apply equally to this clause, and especially to sub-clause 3 of the proposed new section. The differentiation it proposes might be held to give an advantage to an elector in one State that would not be enjoyed by an elector in another State. Section 117 of the Constitution provides that -
A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.
So that a. law, especially affecting the franchise, applying to electors in one State would be unconstitutional if it did not apply to electors in all the States. Whether this would apply to a law for administrative purposes enabling electors in a particular State to take advantage of the peculiar facilities afforded by the State law is, of course, open to argument. It seems to me that the clause might confer some advantages upon electors in one State, which would not be conferred on electors in another.
– An elector might find himself qualified to vote in one State, and not in another.
– It would not, I think, go as far as that.
– He might be able sooner to exercise his vote in one State than in another.
– That is so. If the clause is negatived, there will be nothing to prevent the Government proposing some provision to which1 less exception could be taken in its place. In view of the objections which have been raised, I think the clause is one which should be carefully considered by the Crown Law authorities as well as by the officers who are instructing the Vice-President of the Executive Council in passing this Bill.
– Senator Pearce says that if we strike out this clause, we shall get uniformity. We shall, but it may be at the expense of utter confusion. If the qualification of one month’s residence is struck out, there will be no limit to the time within which an elector can change from one subdivision of an electorate to another. He might make the change on the day before an election, and there would be danger under the provision that the purity of the rolls would be affected.
– Whether his name was transferred to the new sub-divisional roll or not, he could still vote for the division.
– I am aware of that, but he might not be able to vote in the subdivision in which he would desire to vote, unless he went to the trouble of making use of the “ Q “ form.
– Senator St. Ledger will forgive me for saying that in the point he raised, I think he was confusing two things. It is true that under the Constitution, franchise rights must be equal throughout the Commonwealth, but between franchise rights and facilities for the exercise of a vote, there is a wide difference. The clause under consideration does not propose to interfere with franchise rights, but it does, perhaps, propose to give facilities in one State for the exercise of a vote which do not exist in another. That would not be an infringement of any constitutional right. I think that Senator Millen need have no apprehension on that point. Senator Pearce. has said that if we desire uniformity, we can secure it easily by removing all reference to the period within which names can be changed from one subdivisional roll to another. I am afraid, however, that the honorable senator’s argument is fallacious. If, under the Commonwealth law, it were decided that an elector might change from one subdivision to another without any reference as to time, and in a State such a change could not be made except within a space of one month, whilst the elector could vote in a certain subdivision at a Federal election, he could not vote in that subdivision at a State election. So honorable senators will see that we would not secure uniformity by removing the time limit in the Federal law. The Committee might very well make provision for some elasticity on this point, since it would not in any way interfere with a man’s right to vote. If we are to promote that sort of co-operation between the State and Federal authorities in the preparation of electoral rolls, which I think we all desire, sub-clause 3 of the proposed new section should be retained. I know that the Vice-President of the Executive Council desires to secure uniformity, and I entirely concur in that desire. I feel that the honorable senator, by agreeing to omit sub-clause 3, would be acting contrary to that desire, since, in my opinion, it makes provision for just that elasticity in non-essential points that is necessary to promote uniformity in all essential points.
– - Senator Clemons has quite accurately stated the purpose of sub-clause 3. I have no hesitation in saying that I do not like the idea of facilities being granted to electors in one part of Australia that are withheld or denied to electors in other parts of the Commonwealth. To that extent, I disapprove of the sub-clause, but I ask the Committee to balance against that disadvantage the tremendous advantage presented by the possibility afforded by the clause of making uniform rolls for State and Federal elections.
– I think we can meet that difficulty.
– In Western Australia, the State electorates are subdivisions for Federal electoral purposes. An elector might change from one subdivision to another of a Federal electorate, and in doing so, he would change from one State electorate to another. It is obvious that if the State law requires a month’s residence on the part of the elector before he can be transferred to the roll for the new electorate in which he has come to reside, and we permit, under our Federal law, a transfer without requiring residence for any period, the whole scheme of co-operation breaks down.
– The State Parliament could alter their law.
– It is in the belief that they will do so that this sub-clause has been included in the Bill. It is intended to give a State Parliament an opportunity of bringing their law into conformity with the Federal law. I have already intimated my intention to propose a limit on the operation of this provision. I intend to propose that it shall be operative only until the end of next year. That would give the State Parliaments an opportunity to come into line with Federal legislation in this matter. It is obvious that the State and Federal Parliaments cannot legislate simultaneously. It happens thatwe are proposing to legislate in this matter first. We are setting down what we think should be the terms and conditions included in the Federal law, and we propose to allow time for the State Parliaments to come into line with our legislation.
– There is another way of doing it.
– I shall be glad to receive suggestions from the honorable senator. I admit the disadvantage of allowing an elector facilities in one part of Australia denied to electors elsewhere, but I again ask the Committee to balance against that the great advantage of securing co-operative action in the preparation and maintenance of State and Federal electoral rolls.
– No one can dispute the weight of the argument in favour of uniformity in the preparation and maintenance of State and Federal rolls. When we learn that it would effect a saving of some £13,000 in the State of Victoria, we must admit that it would be in the interests of the people could such uniformity be made feasible. I think that what is desired might be achieved in a way different from that proposed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I suggest that we might leave out subclauses 1 and 2, and amend sub-clause 3 to read -
Where an arrangement has been entered into under section 30 of this Act for the preparation, alteration, and revision of the rolls jointly by the Commonwealth and a State, and the law of the State contains a provision requiring an elector to have lived or resided in a subdivision for any specified period before his name can be changed to the roll for that subdivision, the regulations may require the same period under this section as regards electors of the Commonwealth in that Stale.
That would meet the provisions in force in the States, and at the same time, under the Commonwealth law, no period of residence would be required to provide for the change.
-It would be merely a question of ascertaining whether the difference would be greater under the subclause proposed by the honorable senator or under that in the Bill.
– It would be a question for arrangement between the Commonwealth and State authorities. If the Commonwealth authorities were satisfied that the law of a particular State is of such an obsolete and conservative character as to be entirely opposed to the principle of the Commonwealth law, they would not make the arrangement. But if the State law was to all intentsand purposes a replica of the Federal law, the arrangement, no doubt, would be made. The objection that this provision strikes at the possibility of an agreement being ar rived at with the States can be met by the alteration which I have suggested.
– I would ask my honorable friend to allow the consideration of this matter to be deferred. I say at once that I rather like the form in which he has presented his proposal. I very much dislike imposing upon one citizen a disability which is not borne by another. If the honorable senator will consent to the postponement of the clause, I shall have pleasure in putting his proposal before the Parliamentary Draftsman, with a view to bringing it before the Committee on the next day of sitting. I therefore move -
That the clause be postponed.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
Section seventy of the principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following subsections : - “ (2) Where the returning officer is satisfied that the ground of objection stated in any objection lodged by an officer is not a good ground of objection, he may dismiss the objection, in which case no notice of the objection need be given to the person objected to.
An objection on the ground that a person does not live in a division for which he is enrolled shall be deemed not to be good unless
It alleges that the person objected to does not live in the division, and has not so lived for at least one month ; or
It alleges that the person objected to does not live in the division, and has obtained enrollment for some other division.”
– Under this clause a returning officer is only empowered to dispense with objections which are lodged by other officers, whereas the principal Act provides for objections being lodged by “ officers and electors.”
– An elector is required to lodge a deposit with his objection.
– My complaint is that if objection be taken by an elector to the inclusion of another elector’s name upon the roll for any division, the returning officer has no power to dismiss it as a frivolous objection. He merely has power - if the objection be of a frivolous character - to fine the elector who has raised it. But a fine of 5s. may not be sufficient to deter an elector from causing all sorts of inconvenience to a person whose name properly appears upon the rolls. I think that the words “or elector” should be inserted after the word “officer.”
– I hope that Senator Lynch will not press his suggestion. Section 67 of the principal Act reads -
Any man on a roll may be objected to by objection in writing lodged with or made by the returning officer.
Provided that a sum of Five shillings shall be deposited in respect of each objection lodged by any person other than an officer, to be forfeited to the King if the objection is held by the returning officer to be frivolous.
– The elector pays the penalty if he enters a frivolous objection.
– Yes, and, therefore, in sporting parlance, he ought to have “ a run for his money.”
– Will a penalty of 5s. be sufficient to deter an elector from raising frivolous objections ?
– Yes. An elector is not likely to deposit 5s. in support of an objection which he knows can be disposed of in a few hours, if that objection is of a frivolous nature.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper).
– We have had a fairly long discussion upon the principle of voting by post, and I do not propose to reopen that question now. Sufficient has been said to show that the system is open to serious abuse. I would, therefore, ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he cannot see his way clear to limit the application of this part of the Bill to electors who, upon polling day, will be at sea, and to those who can furnish a medical certificate as to illness?
– Why should they be called upon to provide a medical certificate?
– That is the only way in which the fact of illness can be established.I should like to extend this portion of the Bill to many other sections of the community, but in endeavouring to reach them I recognise that we only open the door to professional agents, who would canvass the country and secure the votes of persons to whom these provisions were never intended to apply. For instance, I should like to see thispart ofthe measure extended to persons who are travelling by land, and who, upon pg by post was first adopted by South Australia, and there the system was limited to seamen and women.
– I do not think that the women had a vote then.
– I believe that South Australia was the first State in Australia to extend this facility to seamen.
– Had not progress better be reported? It is a big subject.
– A good case has been made out for the limitation of the voting by post system. I ask the Government to take into consideration the question of the advisableness of restricting it to persons who will be at sea on polling day, and to those who can furnish medical certificates as to illness.
– Seeing that the honorable senator proposes to extend it to seamen, would he not also extend it to passengers at sea?
– Is there any logical reason why travellers by sea should be given an advantage over travellers by land ?
– We have to choose between the large number of persons whom the system was never intended to convenience and the few whom it was intended to convenience. A persontravellingbyland would have an opportunity of voting, either before he commenced his journey in the morning, or before he completed it at night. Polling booths are open for twelve hours, and within that period a commercial traveller would pass some place at which he could vote. I think that sufficient has been said regarding the abuses which have obtained under this system to make out a good case for its restricted application.
– In my opinion the clause has been fairly well discussed. The suggestion of Senator Pearce has only one weakness, and that has reference to the production of medical certificates. I do not think that, on re-consideration, he will press the point. I can conceive that if it were made compulsory to produce a medical certificate, in many cases it would be the means of mulcting the elector in costs which he could not very well afford to pay. I know that, as a rule, doctors are not philanthropists. When a doctor is asked for a medical certificate, he generally charges from 5s. to 10s.
– 1 have known doctors to be so charitable as to reduce their fee to 5s. In many cases that would be equivalent to a day’s wages for the elector. If the Government intend to consider the clause which provides for voting by post, I should not like to see it made compulsory upon a sick person to supply a medical certificate. If we provide for an addition to the card enabling an elector to declare that he was not able to go to the poll, that declaration should be quite sufficient Of course, if it turned out to be false, the elector would have to take the responsibility. The best thing we can do, I think, is to eliminate the clause. Qualify it as we may, abuses will creep in. In order to keep our law pure and free from corruption, it might be wise for the Government, even if we have to report progress, to consider the necessity of striking out this provision.
– I hope that very shortly the Committee will be asked to report progress, and that during the adjournment the Government will not weaken on this proposal. As it is just possible that I may not be here, though I intend to come if I can, I should like; to offer a few remarks. The story of postal voting is a somewhat ancient one. The principle was threshed out at great length when it was first submitted for our consideration. At that time there was an element of uncertainty as to how it would operate; and, disguise the fact as we may, the question of postal voting resolves itself into a consideration by the various parties in the Commonwealth as to whether it does or does not suit. We may pretend that we are going to deal with the subject on high grounds; but if we make a frank confession, it will be that a great many of us are going to deal with it just as our judgment indicates it will be useful or otherwise to the party we want to support. But there is another question involved. The system was adopted, it has been stated, because it was regarded as a convenient method for giving voting facilities to seamen and other nomadic persons. Subsequently” women were granted the suffrage. The real reason why the provision for postal voting remains in the Act is that we want to give women full facilities for exercising their right to vote. I do not believe that that is denied. It is rather amusing to me to recall that when we were discussing facilties for voting, and it was a question of giving to an ordinary brute man such facilities as would enable him to transfer his name from one subdivision to another at a minute’s notice, there were ardent advocates for affording to such a man those facilities. .It was urged that it was unfair to withhold them.
– The proposal is not limited to men, but applies to electors generally.
– I admit that it applies to electors generally, but I feel perfectly certain that the only question which engaged the mind of the speakers was the granting of the facilities to men. If we do away with voting by post, we shall do away with the facilities given to women. It may be said that the privilege has been so abused that it must be withdrawn. But whether honorable senators find a justification for it or not, the fact will remain that it will make a considerable difference between the facilities for female electors and the facilities for male electors. While I admit that there is a good deal to be said on ‘both sides, I think that th?.t consideration should govern the Senate. Personally I am not concerned as to whether .it operates favorably to one side or the other.
– The question is whether it opens the door to abuse or not.
– I am afraid that it does to some extent, but so does every increased facility which is given.
– We know that this system has been in operation, and has been grossly abused.
– We cannot add one facility, whether it be applicable to men or to women, without incurring one more risk of abuse. But this facility does stand somewhat separately from ordinary facilities. It does, as we all have to admit, seriously affect female electors.
– There have been gross abuses under the system already.
– That may be so, but this is not the only facility which has given rise to an abuse. It is a special facility for a class of voters. I voted for the adoption of the system. Since that event, I have given some consideration to the matter, and though I recognise that it may open the door to abuse, I think that this is a case where we have to balance our judgment. If the system is abolished, it will seriously interfere with the exercise of the franchise by women, and put them under special disabilities. There may be regulations which will minimize the abuse, but, disguise it as we may, the abuse is practised on both sides.
– Oh ! no.
-I do not wish to make an incorrect statement. I believe that there is no difference in the ability of the two prominent parties to take advantage of this facility, so that if there are abuses from the party point of view, they are about equally balanced.
– The records do not show that.
– Suppose that a party is too honest to take advantage of the opportunity.
– Is the honorable senator accusing the party on this side of being too honest?
– Then I am afraid that the honorable senator is accusing that party of being too dishonest, in which case I think the accusation is scarcely justified.
– There have already been cases of abuse of which the party on the other side have been guilty, and they own it. I can prove that up to the hilt.
– If that is so, I am afraid that this question is not going to be decided on broad grounds, but on party lines. I hope that the Government will sit tight on this matter.
– Inmy opinion, postal voting has been discredited in the eyes of all political parties. Mr. Philp, of Queensland, will not be regarded as, in any sense, a Labour politician. But, speaking on this matter in the State Parliament, he. admitted that a majority of electors would oppose postal voting, and for very good reasons. Wherever the system had been tried, great objections to it have been discovered. It has been said that it is necessary for the convenience of women. In the view of the Women’s Political Association that is not so. It must be borne in mind that this Association is not connected with either of the two big political parties. At a recent meeting held under the presidency of Miss Vida Goldstein, it was resolved that-
This Council protests strongly against the proposal to enable all women engaged in domestic duties to vote by post.
It was stated that women had asked for the vote on equal terms with men, and that, therefore, Parliament was not called upon to pass molly-coddling legislation, which would have no other effect than to weaken their sense of political responsibility and public spirit. Therefore, the women have condemned this system. Senator Pearce suggests its retention, with certain limitations, but I should like to see it abolished altogether.
Old-age Pensions : Western Australian Claims.
Motion (by Senator Millen), proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I would direct the attention of the Government to the unsatisfactory manner in which old-age pension claims have been dealt with in Western Australia. I cannot understand why so many are refused, in comparison with the refusals in other States. Apparently the obstacles put in the way of applicants are greater there than elsewhere. Every mail brings to Western Australian representatives a shoal of complaints. Will the Government see if claims cannot be settled with more expedition?
– Are the officials overworked ?
– I am beginning to think that there are not enough. I hope that the Government will, if necessary, provide a sufficient number of magistrates to deal with the cases which are presented.
– This matter has been frequently brought before the notice of the Government by Senator Henderson and other Western Australian representatives. Every effort is. being made by the Treasury officials to ascertain the cause of delays. As they may be due in some instances to want of efficient assistance, instructions have been forwarded that the responsible officer shall make proper provision. I can only add that quite recently a communication has been sent to Western Australia asking for the fullest report, and for any suggestions for expediting the business that can be made locally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090910_senate_3_51/>.