4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Report by the Honorable Sir John Cockburn on the Social Insurance Conference held at the Hague, September, 1910.
Defence Act 1903-1910 -
Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amend ment of Regulation 199: - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 166.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth - Amendment of Regulation 6. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No.167.
The Clerk laid on the table -
Return (in part) to Order of the Senate of 5th October, 191 1 -
Press Cable Subsidy- Amount paid to date,&c.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
The number of bookmakers, turf commission agents, turf tipsters, and agents for any of the same in the Commonwealth whose correspondence through the Post Office has been stopped under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901, section 57, since the beginning of the present year?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “ One.”
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
-asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has any decision yet been arrived at regarding the requests made to him to withhold or modify the bonus now being paid upon iron produced at Lithgow?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is: -
No. Decision will depend upon evidence now being sought by investigation as to proportion of Australian ore in certain slag which is used in manufacture of pig iron on which bounty is claimed.
Debate resumed from 25th October(vide page 1794). on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– One is almost tempted to think that the Government are really not very anxious to pass this Bill during this session. It was brought on early, and then put day after day below the famous Bill in connexion with the possibility of Tommy Atkins pawning his war medal. In view of these facts, one really fails to see why the Government are bringing forward the measure at all. Let me take first the portion which deals with the abolition of postal voting. It has been said that the Government are running away from the Women’s National League in Victoria. As a matter of fact, the figures show that men have used this system very nearly to the same extent as have women. Indeed, in an electorate in Western Australia the other day, the majority of the postal votes went to a Labour candidate.
– That was in a shearing electorate.
– That may be. I do not see why we should deprive shearers or any other persons of their votes. The amount of postal voting is really very small. If it is argued that the use of this system is growing and becoming a public scandal, as it were, if there is a scandal attached to it, the figures do not prove it. At the election in 1906, 1.4 per cent. of the ballotpapers issued to electors were issued in the form of postal ballot-papers ; at the next election the percentage was 2 per cent., while at the referenda in 1911 the percentage was only1.98 per cent. That shows that postal voting is not used to an immense extent. Therefore, I hold that the Government need not claim that its use is growing out of all proportion to the intention of Parliament. At the same time, I contend that we have no right to disfranchise one man or one woman if we can provide a system by which persons can fairly be enabled to vote, even though they cannot go to the polling booth. Let us consider who will be affected by the abolition of postal voting. It will not affect those who go to sea, because there is a provision which enables such persons to vote before they go out of the Commonwealth.
– Even though they do not intend to return.
– That is true. It does not affect either those who go up in an aeroplane, but a person who remains in the Commonwealth may possibly have to travel hundreds of miles to get to a polling booth or he will not be able to vote. It may be right enough to abolish postal voting because it is used to a very large extent in Victoria, but I would remind honorable senators that that State is only a part of Australia. In Queensland there are electorates, such as the Maranoa, which cover enormous areas, and many places where persons have to travel 40 miles or more to get to a polling booth. It is these persons, first of all, who should have an opportunity of getting their ballot-papers by post and eventually recording their votes. Indeed, the distances are so great that in 19 10 I came across, in Queensland, a place which was so far away from the polling booth and the Assistant Returning Officer that it was absolutely impossible, between the issue of the writ and the polling day, for the local persons on their own initiative, or prompted by somebody else, to send in their applications, to get their ballot-papers, to fill in the forms, and to send them back within the time allotted. If that is so in some cases, it must be infinitely more difficult for persons to travel the long distances which they have to travel in the larger States in order to be able to vote at a polling booth. My contention is that the amount of postal voting which is done is not very great. It would be very unfortunate if the Government deprived the old and the infirm, as well as those living at very long distances from the polling booth, of the opportunity of voting. We have been told that postal voting has led to a large amount of corruption, but I would point out that not a single case has come before the Courts, which has shown that there has been any serious corruption. Even supposing that one or two persons have been convicted, that only shows that we have a system which we can check and keep from being used corruptly to any extent. If we are to abolish a system because somebody or other is corrupt, we may as well abolish practically every rule or law that we have. If the Government will insist on abolishing the present form of postal voting, I think it would be well if they would find some other system which would meet the necessities of the case. It does not meet the necessities of the case to simply say to a person, “ You can go and vote at some polling booth.” That does not meet the case of scores and scores of persons who are too old to travel long distances. I think that before the Government disfranchises, say, 1 per cent, of the voters, whether men or women, they should try to introduce a system which can really take the place of postal voting. I have no objection to compulsory enrolment, but the proposal to compel the “transfer of votes will hit very hard the shearers, the cane cutters, and so forth, who are travelling through the country taking contracts. How can the Department follow up the nomadic population? If they carry out this method to its logical conclusion, what they could do would be to insist upon every man carrying a right, and then the officials would be able to demand the production of the right to show that the holder had himself enrolled for the particular district which he was in for the time being. But how many of my honorable friends opposite would suggest that we should compel the electors to carry a right ? Very few of them indeed. It would be’like going back to the old Victorian days, when the police chased men through the bush to see if they held miners’ rights - the very scandal, the very tyranny, that created such an incident as the Eureka Stockade. The Government are proposing to create a new offence. In all probability it ‘will not affect the more settled population, but it will affect those who have to travel in search of work. It is to be made a crime if a shearer fails to get his name transferred from one roll to another after he has been for six months in a district in Queensland, or even in Western Australia. A shearer cannot travel through a district and work from shed to shed for six months ; but it is to be made a crime if he does not transfer his name from one roll to another. I do not know for whose benefit the provision is made,, unless it is for the benefit of the Department. It seems to me that it will not create a rod for the backs of the Opposition, but a rod for the backs of the Government, and, more especially if the provision is carried out squarely and honestly, a rod for the backs of that section of the. people who, I believe, give their warmest support to my honorable friends on the other side.
– A shearer or anybody else can only have his name on the roll for the district where he is domiciled.
– My honorable friend comes from a mere fly speck on the map. He knows nothing whatever about the enormous distances that some electors have to travel in the larger States. There are large numbers of people in Australia who are not domiciled definitely anywhere. They live, for a few months in one electoral district, and a few months in another, travelling from place to place looking for work and earning an honest living. They are very useful persons indeed. But my honorable friends are willing to make it the law that when a man travels from a particular electoral district to another he must carry an electoral map in his swag, anr] may incur a fine of £2 if he does not send his name to the Registrar every time he shifts his abode. That is an unfair condition to impose. The Government would be very wise to drop it from the Bill. I do not intend to say much in connexion with the proposal to compel newspapers to publish returns as to amounts received by them for the publication of electoral information. I do not think the provision matters a row of pins. But there is something to be said about the wonderful provision intended to compel any person who has spent money in connexion with an election, or in the interest of any party or candidate, to make a. return. Is that to apply to members of State Parliaments who, in connexion with Federal elections, travel at their own expense to help Federal candidates who are standing in the interests of the parties whose policies they favour? I should also like to know how the provision is to affect individuals. During an election campaign a man may put me up for the night somewhere in Queensland. Is he to send in a return as to the expense he incurs in keeping me for that night ? Probably the Government do not realize how far this provision will go. Some of my honorable friends opposite will soon be out on the “ stump “ in connexion with the Victorian State elections. Suppose there were a State law providing that every penny spent in travelling round the country in connexion with an election should be included in a return ! It is assumed throughout this Bill that Australian electors are divided into merely two or three organizations: that there are on one side the Labour organization, and on the other the Employers Federation and the Liberal party. But there are sen’of organizations in this country the members of which have their little axes to grind or their little theories to advocate. There is the Single Tax League, for instance. Has it to make a return showing how much money it has spent in the course of an election? Have the Orangemen, the Roman Catholics, the temperance advocates, the licensed victuallers, the Warrego Shearing Company, the trade unions themselves, and numerous other associations to make returns ? We have not heard a single word from a responsible Minister as to how far this provision is intended to be carried. Under the Bill as it stands any person may be prosecuted, and made liable to six months’ imprisonment for spending any sum of money in connexion with an election without furnishing a return. Do the Government intend to propose that any organized body that spends money upon an election shall certify the party in whose behalf the money was spent? Surely that is a fair proposal. There is nothing in the Bill to compel, say, the Single Tax League to show in what party’s interest it has spent money. The Protectionist Association spent money at the last election. Probably they spent a considerable sum. I venture to say that they did not spend it on behalf .of any candidate sitting on this side of the Senate.
– They would have been foolish to do that.
– They must have been very much more foolish to spend money on behalf of the present Government and the party supporting it, who have repudiated all their promises in respect of protection. It is a serious defect in the Bill that no provision requires particulars to be furnished as to the party in whose behalf money is spent.
– The honorable senator is confusing organizations with individuals.
– I am not. Proposed new section 173 (a) reads as follows : -
Every organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has, in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense (a) on behalf of ot in the interests of any candidate, or (b) on behalf of or in the interests of any political party, shall in accordance with this section make a return of the money so expended or expense so incurred.
I do not suppose that the Government are prepared to tell us how they intend to apply this provision if it becomes law. The term “organization” might apply to the Employers Federation, or it might apply to the Political Labour Leagues. “ Association “ might apply to any body of persons. It might apply to the Single Tax League, which might support either party to suit its own purposes. “ Body of persons “ would cover everybody. All the rest of the provision is surplusage. The remaining words are not necessary. “.AH persons” would cover every one. All that the Government need to say to attain their end is that every individual, no matter whether he be a member of a State. Parliament, or a member of a church, or a member of any league or association, who chooses to go out at election time and spend any sum of money which he has in his pocket, shall furnish a return. Any number of persons who desire to have their political views exemplified in Parliament through the instrumentality of a certain candidate will be called upon, under pains and penalties, to furnish particulars of expenditure or go to gaol. New crimes are being created under this Bill, the title of which ought to be, not “ Commonwealth Electoral Bill,” but “ Creation of Crimes Bill.” It will be a crime for a man not to send his name within a certain time to an electoral registrar. It will be a crime not to send in a return if he spends half-a-crown in connexion with an election. There is no provision in the Bill limiting the expenditure. Whether a man spends five shillings or twenty pounds, he has to furnish a return just the same. If there were a limit there might be some sense in the provision. I venture to say that at every election thousands of pounds are spent, a half-crown, five shillings, and ten shillings at a time, on behalf of all political parties. If the Electoral Office think that they are going _ to save themselves trouble by the provisions regarding compulsory enrolment, I venture to say that they .are going to give themselves fifty times as much work in another direction, by chasing people all over Australia to find out how much money they have spent on elections. I do not intend to touch upon a number of the questions dealt with so ably by Senator Millen in a speech which elicited a somewhat ambiguous reply from Senator Findley. But I wish to refer to one other point. There is a curious provision in the Bill which, apparently, would deprive electors of a voice in the recasting of electorates. Under the present law Commissioners are appointed to divide up electorates, and they have to exhibit maps showing the boundaries of electoral divisions. These schemes of divisions have to be approved by Parliament. One House may reject a Commissioner’s recommendation, sending it back to him for further consideration. The Commissioner, then has to re-arrange the electorates, in accordance with the objections that have been raised. But there is no provision compelling him to give the electors an opportunity of studying the new scheme of division. A member of Parliament from Queensland and a member from Western Australia have a voice in determining the electoral divisions for Tasmania, but the electors of Tasmania have no say in the matter whatever. Under the present law the Commissioner has to exhibit a map showing what he proposes under his amended recommendation. But under this Bill the electors are not considered. I think a. proviso ought to be inserted enabling the local people, who are chiefly affected, to see what the Commissioner proposes to recommend. The Government would be well advised if they would agree to insert an amendment to that effect. My complaints against the Bill are, first of all, that it unnecessarily deprives about 1 per cent, of the electors of their facilities for voting;, and next that it contains provisions which seem to me to be more or less nonsense. I doubt whether the Government are serious about the Bill. There is only one reason which causes me to think that they may have a serious motive, and that is that a Ministerial supporter in another place, when the last referenda results were mentioned, said : “ We will carry our proposals when we have amended the Electoral Act.” The session has not much longer to run, and I hope the Government will allow the Bill tostand over until next session. If they do, I think that by that time they will find that they will be well advised if they drop it. altogether.
– Most honorable senators on this side anticipated that when this Bill was brought forward it would be received with a storm of opposition from honorable senators on the other side of the chamber. It has been so received, but the storm so far may be described as a storm in a teacup. The Honorary Minister has replied very effectively to the scathing criticism of the Leader of the Opposition.
– It was scathing. .
– It was scathing, but not effective. As a younger member of the Senate I always listen with pleasure and respect to the Leader of the Opposition whenever he rises to speak. But I never heard him make a speech in which there was so little real argument and somuch noise as the speech which he delivered on this Bill. After listening to the honorable senator for three hours and twenty minutes, I must say that I was very much disappointed with his effort.
In submitting this proposed amendment of the electoral law, the Government are fulfilling a public duty to the electors. An attempt is being made to purify our electoral machinery and prevent its manipulation for party purposes. Honorable senators opposite have urged that the matter should not be dealt with from any party point of view, but they have contradicted themselves at once by considering it entirely from a party point of view. They have, for instance, asserted that the proposal in this Bill for the abolition of postal voting is made because it will enable the party on this side to secure more votes, or will prevent the party opposite from securing some votes.
There is need for the greatest care in the conduct of our elections. I cannot speak with much knowledge of the other States, but it is well known in Tasmania that much-needed reforms are necessary in the conduct of elections. I have a vivid recollection of what occurred at a small country polling place in Tasmania. It was quite a common thing for electors to drive up to the pollingbooth, and the obliging Returning Officer, in response to a whistle, would run out to the carriage with ballot-papers and ask whether the occupants desired to vote. The occupants of the carriage marked their ballot-papers while sitting in state. These gentlemen took very fine care to bring their workmen and domestic servants along in the carriage, and they also marked their ballot-papers in the roadway.
– -I have known the dead to arise on election day in my State.
– The honorable senator is a good exemplification of that himself, as some of the remarks he makes are unworthy of the living. The instance to which I have referred shows that there has been no decency in the conduct of elections. Since the Labour party have been in power they have endeavoured to put an end to many of these objectionable practices.
The most important principle embodied in the Bill is that of compulsory enrolment, and I venture to say that it has not been so far effectively criticised. In the past I can say that in Tasmania the work of enrolling electors has fallen upon party organizations. They have had to make special efforts to see that the electors were enrolled. Hundreds of residents of the country .districts were not enrolled, and it fell to political parties to provide means by which they might be enrolled. I maintain that this is a work whichshould not be left to any political party, but should be undertaken by the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department itself.
Honorable senators will probably recollect a very striking case which occurred during the Federal elections of 1004 in Tasmania, in the electorate of Darwin, represented by the Honorable King O’ Malley. At a small place in that electorate, called Penguin, the Returning Officer, who evidently was a political partisan, allowed thirty or forty persons whose names were not on the roll to exercise the franchise. The reason given was that he knew that they would vote against Mr. King O’Malley. As it happened, Mr. King O’Malley was returned at the election; otherwise, on challenging what had been done, he might easily have upset the return of his opponent. As it was, a thorough investigation into the case was made by the Electoral Officer, with the result that the Returning Officer in question was discharged.
– Was he not punished in any way ?
– I understand that on the dismissal of the Returning Officer the matter was allowed to drop. But for an accident that occurrence would never have been discovered, whilst under a proper system of compulsory enrolment it would have been impossible, since every resident of that small town of Penguin would have been enrolled. It is in the interests of the Commonwealth that every one entitled to vote should be in a position to exercise the franchise. If honorable senators will loot at the proposed new section 61 (d) they will find that it provides that -
Any officer who receives a claim for enrolment and who without just excuse fails to do everything necessary on his part to be done to secure the enrolment of the claimant in pursuance nf the claim shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : Ten pounds.
That means that while electors under this Bill will have the responsibility cast upon them of having their names enrolled, a responsibility in the matter will also devolve upon electoral officers who, if they neglect their duty, will render themselves liable to a heavy fine.
I come now to the proposed abolition of postal voting. That is a sore point with honorable senators opposite, and even my honorable colleague from Tasmania, Senator Cameron, has condemned it very strongly. I say, without hesitation, that in my State the manipulation of the postal vote has become nothing short of a public scandal. Liberal friends with whom I have conversed on the subject have admitted that the system of postal voting has been much abused in Tasmania.
– By only one party ?
– Particularly the party represented by our honorable friends opposite.
– How can the honorable senator know that?
– We know that in the country districts of Tasmania it has been a common practice of large pastoralists to drive round a district with a justice of the peace, and to ask the working men in their employ to vote by post. These men have been between the devil and the deep sea.
– Who was the devil in that case?
– The devil was the employer and the deep sea was represented by the “ Order of the Sack.” It is never a very pleasant thing to receive the “ Order of the Sack,” and there is no. honour attached to it. The working men in the country districts have often been coerced into voting by post. Every corner of one district was scoured by large land-owners with their carriages. They took along with them an obliging justice of the peace, and collected from workmen applications to vote by post. They brought the postal ballotpapers around later on and secured the votes in their own particular interest.
– I have known that to be done on the day of an election.
– It has been a scandal in Tasmania. We are often asked by honorable senators opposite to give specific instances of this kind of thing, but it is very difficult to give instances.
– Charges of the kind should not be made unless an honorable senator is prepared to give specific instances.
– Does the honorable senator think so?
– I do. It is my habit not to make a charge unless I can give a specific instance.
– If specific instances of the practice followed in connexion with the exercise of the postal vote are required
I am prepared to give them. I have here a report of a case that occurred in Victoria, which gives a pretty conclusive instance and should satisfy honorable senators opposite. It is as follows-
Justice of the Peace Fined.
In the police court to-day, before Mr. Williams, P.M., Louis Lesser, J. P., of Coleraine, was charged with several offences under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Mr. Morley, instructed by Mr. Westacott, appeared for the Crown Solicitor, and conducted the prosecution. Defendant was represented by Mr. E. Silvester and Mr. Walker.
The first case concerned a voter named Selina Campbell. The first charge was that defendant as an unauthorised witness had witnessed signatures to an application for a postal ballot-paper without being personally acquainted with the facts, and without satisfying himself by inquiry that the statements were true. The second charge was that he had induced the woman Campbell to make a false statement that she was ill and would be unable to attend a polling place en polling day. The third charge was that defend, ant had influenced her vote.
Selina Campbell stated that defendant had visited her and had asked if she would like to vote. On receiving an affirmative reply, he gave her a paper which she signed. Defendant did not ask her any questions. This was on 22nd April, a few days before the Referendum poll. On 25th April defendant returned and gave her a paper. He did not say anything, and he did not see where she put the cross She had made a statement previously to Constable Harrington, but she was so excited at the time that she did not know what she said.
The statement was read over to witness. She said she did not remember having said that defendant had told her where to put the cross in the square. As a fact she was not ill at the time.
A lengthy legal argument took place on various technical points, which were noted by the bench.
The magistrate found that there was no evidence as to inducement or influence, but found defendant guilty on the first charge of not making proper inquiry. On this charge defendand was fined ^5, with ^5 5s. costs.
In two other cases in which similar charges had been laid in relation to defendant, defendant pleaded guilty to not making proper inquiries, and was fined ^5.
I was told by a friend who had personal knowledge of the case that in their arguments counsel stated that it was quite common for this thing to be done all over Victoria. In other words, the postal vote, was used to an unfair extent by men who travelled round the country, and he claimed on that ground that his client should not be fined. I do not think that honorable senators on the other side are serious when they state that postal voting has not been abused very greatly.
I desire to bring before the Minister in charge of this Bill paragraph a of section 1 80 of the Act -
In addition to bribery and undue influence, the following shall be illegal practices : -
Any publication of any electoral advertisement hand-bill or pamphlet or any issue of any electoral notice (other than the announcement by advertisement in a newspaper of the holding of a meeting) without at the end thereof the name and address of the person authorizing the same.
It would appear that under that provision it is punishable by fine for a political party to circulate unauthorized hand-bills.
– I thought that it was punishable. During the last referendum Tasmania was flooded -with election literature which did not bear any authorization. Some of the publications came into my hands. I feel greatly interested in this matter, because, so far as Tasmania is concerned, the party with which I am identified did not issue any pamphlet without an authorization, but dozens of pamphlets were circulated throughout the State bearing only the printer’s name, and no statement as to who issued them. Here is a typical sample, which is a disgrace to the political party on whose behalf it was distributed, because it is not only without an authorization, but contains a tissue of deliberate, unfair, and uncharitable misrepresentations. When I was touring the southern part of the island I often saw this precious document posted on gates and other conspicuous places -
To the Free Workers of Tasmania. (Whether or not Members of Trade Unions.)
On April 26th you will be called to decide by your votes whether you will hold to the liberties which you have, or resign the freedom for which your forefathers shed their blood.
An amendment of the Constitution is proposed which will enable the Federal Parliament to say when and how each person may work.
As at present constituted Parliament is controlled bv the Labour’ Party, which in its turn is dominated by the Political Trades Unions. Have you the slighest doubt that the first use which Parliament will make of its new power will be - to legislate for compulsory preference to Unionists ?
Nor is it likely to stop at that. The implement makers of Melbourne are out on strike to assert the principle that none but Unionists must be employed. The Prime Minister of Australia and one of his colleagues subscribed to the strike fund and encouraged the men to remain out.
An affirmative vote at the Referendum will enable the Federal Government to translate that sympathy into legislative action.
By voting “ Yes “ you stand to lose your industrial and political rights.
You will not be allowed to work unless you join a union, and you will not be allowed to remain in the union unless you subscribe to the funds of the Labour Party, and give open and direct support to its candidates.
Even the secrecy of the ballot is threatened.
You will not be allowed to belong to a trades union for purposes of mutual protection and the advancement of the interests of the workers unless you will accept the political creeds of its officials.
The A.M.E.A. is one of the strongest unions in Australia, and yet the President stated that not one-fourth of the miners belong to it. The same thing applies still more to other unions. That’ is because most men refuse to surrender their political rights.
If you vote “ Yes “ at the Referendum you will put yourselves into the power of. a few who control unions, representing a small minority of the workers.
What mercy you may expect you may gather from the recent declaration of one of the leaders, which was received with cheers, and has not only not been disavowed, but has been indorsed by the Leader of the Victorian Labour Party. “ They must know no morality -except that which led to success.”
Are you prepared to put yourselves into such hands ? “ They must make the life of a non-unionist a hell upon earth,” said Mr. Hyett, Secretary of the Railway Employees’ Union, and no one with authority has disavowed him.
Will you give complete power of control over your work, your lives, and your political opinions to men’ who boast that they know ‘no morality ?
If not, vote “ NO “ on April 26th.
Will you stand for your rights and your liberties?
If so, vote “NO” on April 26th.
All the rights of freedom which make life worth living . depend, on a solid vote of “NO” on April 26th.’
The political party which issued this document ought to be ashamed of it, and no wonder that they did not authorize its circulation.
– They were proud of it.
– It was an insult to the intelligence of the electors, and a good many of them thought so. But that is not the point. The question is that this defamatory document was issued without authorization.
– And got a lot of. votes, too.
– I suppose that it influenced some weak-minded persons. One would think that under paragraph a of section 180 of the Act the persons responsible for the circulation of this document could be punished. I brought under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs, not only this leaflet, but others.
– You ought to have found out who the printer was.
– It was printed in the Mercury office. I also drew the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the fact that advertisements were being published in Tasmanian newspapers without authorization. He promptly set in motion the machinery of the Electoral Office, and promised that my complaint should be attended to. After making a thorough investigation he referred the whole question to the Attorney-General’s Department for its opinion, and it replied that under the present Act no action can be taken against the circulation of these unauthorized documents.
– Under this Bill any person who incurs any expense, or does any printing, will be called upon to furnish a return.
– That is not the point. In the Bill I see no provision which will prohibit the distribution of such documents throughout the country.
– You want the man punished as well.
– I do. I want the law enforced. What is the good of a provision, if no action can be taken? I have the permission of the Minister of Home Affairs to read the following minute which he wrote on the subject to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department -
The attached schedules are submitted for the Minister’s consideration : -
The newspapers in question inserted advertisements or notices in relation to the Referendum taken on the 26th April in contravention of section 180(a) of the Electoral Act, which provides that it shall be an illegal practice to publish any electoral advertisement (other than the announcement by advertisement in a newspaper of the holding of a meeting) without at the end therof the name and address of the persons authorizing same.
The persons responsible for the issue of cards, hand-bills, leaflets, and posters have contravened section 180 of the Electoral Act inasmuch as they have not inserted the names and addresses of the persons authorizing the same, and in several cases there are no imprints as required by law.
A question arises as to whether or not action should be taken against the proprietors of the newspapers, and the other persons concerned.
In reply, the Attorney-General gave an opinion which reads as follows: -
As regards newspapers, I am of opinion that articles, even though advocating any particular side, cartoons, and news items are not electoral advertisements or notices within the meaning of section180 of the Electoral Act. Advertisements and notifications relating to elections, which to the ordinary mind would not fall within articles or news items, would, in my opinion, come within the section. Of the cuttings submitted, a certain number are articles, cartoons, or news items, and would not fall within the section, a certain number are on the border line, and should be given the benefit of the doubt, and a certain number are infringements of the law.
Nearly all the hand-bills are infringements of section 180, assuming of course that they were published, as to which there is probably no question.
The question whether prosecutions should be instituted is a question for the Department of Home Affairs to decide. Apparently there is nothing to gain by failure to comply with the law, and the failure appears to have arisen because newspaper proprietors and political organizations failed to realize that section 180 applied to the Referendums. Under the circumstances, and also because the reasons for the provisions are not as strong in the case of a Referendum as they are in the case of an election, I think that no good end would be obtained by instituting prosecutions.
Attorney-General. 12th July,1911.
If our laws are to be framed in such a way that a coach-and-pair can be driven through them, what is the use of spending our time and trouble in passing them? It should be made absolutely impossible, I contend, for such breaches of the Act to take place. I commend the matter to the consideration of the Minister, and I hope that a clause will be drafted which will prevent a repetition of this offence. I also desire to bring before the Senate the question of what constitutes bribery under the Act. One would think that section 176 distinctly prohibits the feeding or treating of electors at any particular time from being indulged in by any person. It provides -
Without limiting the effect of the general words in the preceding section, “ bribery “ particularly includes the supply of meat, drink, or entertainment after the nominations have been officially declared, or horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll, with a view to influence the vote of an elector.
It appears to be a direct offence against the Act for a person to provide any kind of refreshment to electors with a view to influencing their votes.
– It is a good job, too. It saves a lot of shouting.
– Yes. Apart from any question of political parties, it is a good thing that we are not compelled to go into hotels and shout all round. It means a saving to our pockets, and I believe that it conduces to the purity of elections. During the last Federal elections in Tasmania, I found that it was usual in some parts to provide refreshments after political meetings. A political meeting was held, and then the ladies-
– Would give a cup of tea.
– Ladies, who otherwise would not be seen in the same street as some of the persons to whom they gave cups of tea, who otherwise would not be seen speaking to them at all, who otherwise would not bother their heads as to whether they lived or not, would provide refreshments. Just about election time these ladies discover an ardent love for electors.
– They are anxious about the babies.
– Yes. They say, at election time, “ Dear Mrs. So-and-so, we ought to get into closer touch with one another.” In the cases I refer to, these refreshments were given, but I did not take any action. It next occurred in connexion with the referendum. Grown bold because they had not been checked, these persons not only dispensed refreshments, but posted a notification that at the close of Mr. Soandso’s address light refreshments would be served by the ladies.
– What on earth is wrong about extending a little hospitality?
– Is my honorable friend serious? There is a good deal of wrong about it. If persons are allowed to feed electors and give them cups of tea, there is nothing to prevent them from giving a half-guinea-a-head banquet, because the principle is just the same. If we allow persons to give a shilling meal or light refreshments, surely we can allow them to give a banquet.
– What harm can the giving of a cup of tea do?
– It will generally be found that those who give the refreshments represent my honorable friend’s party, and, as I said before, they do not bother electors with cups of tea apart from elections. I brought the matter before the Minister, furnishing him with proof. I expected some result to follow. But what happened? The Minister had to state that he was unable to recommend a prosecution, because of an adverse opinion from the Attorney-General.
– It is quite a common thing in Queensland to have a drink all round after a political meeting, and nobody thinks there is anything wrong in it.
– Oh! Is it?
– Who provides the drinks ?
– Sometimes we do ; sometimes our opponents.
– I am rather sorry for the honorable senator’s political morality ; it is to be deplored. I wish now to read the Minister’s letter to me containing a statement of the AttorneyGeneral’s opinion. I may say that the Minister has incurred a certain amount of odium in this connexion, both from this side of the Senate, and, I believe, in one instance, from the other side, in consequence of his refusal to prosecute. The question has been asked, “ What is the use of having a law, if we cannot get the Minister to carry it out?”
– The Minister had common sense.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Minister would have prosecuted had he not been advised by the Attorney-General that he had no jurisdiction. The following is the letter which he sent to me: - 20th June,1911.
Dear Senator Ready,
I have now received an opinion from the Attorney-General’s Department on the points raised in your communication dated the 3rd ult., viz., whether it is an offence in itself to supply refreshments -
The Law Authorities are of opinion that it is not in itself an offence to supply refreshments under such conditions, but that it would only be regarded as an offence if it were done under circumstances which would justify a jury in coming to a conclusion that the refreshments were supplied with the object of influencing the electors present at the meeting to vote in a particular manner or not to vote at all.
The fact that a poster was issued in connexion with the Ross meeting to the effect that a tea and coffee supper would be provided after the address would, it is thought, be construed into an offer of refreshments with the object of inducing the electors to attend the meeting, and would not be held to be an offence.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) King O’malley.
We ought not to be satisfied so long as such a loophole as this exists in our Electoral Act. I do not expect any support from honorable senators opposite; but I do expect assistance from Ministers and from honorable senators on my own side, wim the object of remedying such a state of affairs.
– Do not get angry about a cup of tea.
– Cups of tea have done a great deal for the honorable senator and his party. We can offer, better inducements to the electors to vote for us than to go round “ smoodging “ for votes with offers of drinks. I hope that it will be provided in the amending Bill that such breaches of the law shall not be permitted. I have given notice of an amendment, which, I believe^ the Government will be prepared to accept, with the object of stopping this kind of thing. I shall be found voting for any provision that will militate against fraud, imposition, or corruption at the polls. There have, been cases m which the electoral machinery has been prostituted. I, therefore, trust that the amended law will make it much more difficult for electors to be bamboozled, and to make it dangerous for any political party to induce them to vote by improper mean;..
. -The honorable senator who has just sat down has made it appear that his own State is a very wicked place indeed, in ‘reference to electoral affairs. W i th reference to giving cups of tea at election meetings, I may mention that I happened, some time ago, to be at a place in Tasmania where a meeting had been called in the interests of the Labour party - not of the wicked Liberal party, of which we hear so much.
– Why does the honorable senator call his party a Liberal party ?
– Because I was a Liberal before the honorable senator knew what the word meant - before he left Scotland, in fact. At the meeting to which I refer it was announced that there would be a social and dance after political addresses had been delivered.
– The social and dance had to be paid for.
– The reason given was that the people would not attend a mere political meeting, and, therefore, there was to be a social and a dance, with refreshments.
– The honorable senator should state, in fairness, that a charge was made.
– The charge was not sufficient to cover the expense.
– Where was it?
– It was at Kettering, in Tasmania. I was one of those who paid the charge, and I am, therefore, well aware that it was not sufficient to cover the cost.
– Two shillings for a cup of tea?
– The charge was not a quarter of that amount. As to unfair practices, I know that there has been much intrigue and just as much personation on the one side as on the other. I have no fault to find with some parts of this Bill. I suppose that no Bill is ever brought before a Parliament that does not contain some good provisions. I do not object to the compulsory enrolment clauses, because I desire to see the largest roll that we can possibly to get. I do, however, wish our elections to be conducted on fair lines. We find from the speech of Senator Ready that he has been looking for all sorts of loopholes in the law. In fact, he has been acting as a detective for his party. He has laid cases before the Minister of Home Affairs, and has asked that prosecutions should follow. I wonder that anything wrong occurs in Tasmania at all, when the people have the honorable senator’s eagle eye upon them. We read strange detective stories occasionally. I have no doubt that the honorable senator was an exceedingly vigorous detective in the interests of his party. He has instanced a document that was issued in Tasmania. I do not know where it was published. I think that he might have done better service to his party than to have that document put into Hansard. Had he had any discretion he would have realized how injurious it was to his own side.
– It will do us good.
– I do not think so. Mention was made in it about preference to unionists. That principle has been applied. I dare say that other practices mentioned in the document are also to be followed in due course. While I have no objection to compulsory enrolment, I hope that some scheme will be devised to compel those who are enrolled to vote. The Minister argued yesterday that it would be useless to try to do so, because people who were compelled to go to the poll might deface their ballot-papers. I do not believe that anything of the kind would, occur. As a rule, it is laziness that causes people not to go to the poll. It a scheme could be devised under which people would be compelled to exercise the franchise, unless they were debarred for good reasons, I have not the slightest doubt that the majority would vote properly. I feel very strongly concerning postal voting. I have known instances of men who have been in hospitals with broken limbs, or suffering from sickness, who could not possibly, go to a polling booth, but who have been glad to exercise their right as citizens by means of a postal ballot-paper. Much has been said concerning abuses, but they appear to have occurred principally in Victoria. We have had no actual proof.
– I gave proof.
– I do not think” that the honorable senator did. He merely made bald statements. The postal vote has been a great boon to a large number of people. If it has been wrongly exercised in some instances, let the law be amended to prevent abuses. I have not the slightest objection to that. I have no desire that people shall vote by post if they are not entitled to do so, nor have I any desire that the privilege shall be used in an improper manner. There are large numbers of friendly societies in Australia which are not political organizations, and at whose meetings political arguments are not permitted to be brought forward. I have made inquiries, and find that, roughly speaking, about a thousand of the members of such societies in this State alone would not be able to vote at election times if postal voting were abolished. Many of these societies are carried on in mining districts where accidents frequently happen. Many of the persons who sustain these accidents are strong political partisans, and take a keen interest in the affairs of their country. No matter what side in politics they favour, they ought not to be deprived of the right of voting at elections. They will be much surprised to know that the Labour party, which professes to be so solicitous for the sick and the infirm, are desiring to take this privilege from them. I am perfectly certain that had honorable senators opposite been of opinion that postal voting was generally favorable to them we should not have had a proposition to abolish it. 1 shall steadily oppose any provision to limit the opportunities for the recording of a free vote by a free people. No proof of abuse has been furnished to us. T have been speaking to people in Victoria since this Bill was introduced, and have told them about allegations made as to the abuse ‘of postal voting in this State. Senator Ready has spoken of the abuse of the system in Tasmania. But the number of postal votes recorded in that State was a mere bagatelle.
– About the same proportion as in the other States.
– Not at all. _ New South Wales has the largest population of any State in Australia, but the postal votes recorded there were not half as many as those in Victoria. Are the whole of the people of the Commonwealth to be penalized because wrong is alleged to have been done in one State? I am prepared to assist the Government in doing anything to prevent wrong doing. I desire to obviate infringements of the electoral law. But I am not prepared to do away with opportunities for voting which have hitherto been accorded to the sick and the injured. The party opposite ought to be the last party in the Commonwealth to deprive any man of his vote, because they are always posing as sympathizers with the sick, the widowed, and the injured. Yet, in the first blush of their power, they are endeavouring to deprive a very large number of people of the franchise, because, according to the Minister, something wrong has been done in Victoria. Senator Ready has informed us about a case that he brought under the notice of the Minister of Home Affairs who has consulted the Attorney-General.’ Why do not the Labour party give this young man a step that would satisfy his ambition for the time, and let him go round on their behalf scenting out any wrong doing in connexion with electoral matters ? I should be quite prepared to support the Government if they put a sum of money on the Estimates to send Senator Ready round on such a mission. He believes in himself as a detective. Let him then take on this job. Why do we allow voting by ballot? We know that it has been abused more than the system of - postal voting. I could give an instance of what occurred at a place called California Gully, where no less than 400 votes were polled, although it was impossible to raise more than fifty inhabitants within a radius of 100 miles. But should we do away with the whole system’ of voting by ballot because there have been wholesale cases of personation? You, sir, will remember a case that occurred at South Brisbane, when, on a recount, the votes of persons who had been guilty of personation were thrown out, and Mr. Jordan, the candidate demanding the recount, was ieturned. We have tried by every means to protect the secrecy of the ballot, and why could not the Government submit some proposal for safeguarding the operation of the postal voting provisions of the existing Act? We are told from the other side that the system has been abused, but we are given no proof. Do honorable senators opposite think that the mere statement that the system has been abused in the past will satisfy the people who, under this Bill, will be deprived of the right to vote, because they may be sick, or infirm, or obliged to attend upon the sick or infirm? If the Government will submit proposals calculated to make it almost impossible to abuse the postal voting provisions, I am sure they will get ample support from both sides of this Chamber. I ask them nol’ to disfranchise people who can only record their votes by post. If only one thousand persons are disfranchised as the result of a harsh law, that will be an injustice to the Commonwealth. Abuses will creep into the operation of every system, and though men are very foolish to do so, we know that some are prepared to risk imprisonment for personation. We have not, on that account, proposed to abolish voting by ballot, but have tried to put the system on a better footing. That is what honorable senators on this side ask the Government to do in connexion with postal voting. If it can be shown that the system is abused, no honorable senator on this side will oppose th”e most stringent provisions to prevent its abuse in the future. We have in this Bill a proposal made to permit an elector to vote in any part of the Commonwealth for any election, and I do not hesitate to say that that will lead to ten times the abuse of the postal voting provision. Honorable senators opposite may, perhaps, think that they will gain something by the proposal.
– Oh, no !
– It is of no use for Senator W. Russell to become indignant. I am here to criticise the Bill, and the honorable senator will later have an opportunity to say what he thinks ought to be done. Under the old practice affecting absent voters an elector claiming to vote for another constituency was required to make a statement to the Returning Officer, and sign it. He had to sign a declaration under Form Q, and he was then given a ballot-paper, and had the right to vote. But now the Government are, in this Bill, opening the door wide to wholesale personation. A person will be able to say that he is an elector for Kennedy, for North Melbourne, or South Melbourne, or somewhere else, and will at once be able to demand the right to vote. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent abuse of that system. The Government are, in this Bill, shutting the little wicket to prevent abuse of the postal voting provisions, while they are opening the gate wide to abuse in the other directions. That will not tend to the purity of elections. No doubt, Senator Findley, in speaking yesterday afternoon, had all the information which he could get from the heads of the Electoral Office, and I venture to say that if they could have supplied him with specific instances of abuse of the postal voting system they would have done so. I say that the Minister should have submitted specific instances of its abuse before he asked us to alter the system. When we challenge the vague statements made by honorable senators on the other side, we are told merely that the system has been abused, and we are given no proof of the statement. In the circumstances, we have only to do our duty to the country as well as we can, and leave it to the electors to judge whether the action of the Government is right or wrong. We should be betraying our trust if we did not express our views on the matter, and, in the circumstances, we are justified in expressing them more fully than would otherwise be necessary. I come now to the provisions with respect to a recount. These are contained in clauses 25 and 26 of the Bill. The Honorary Minister asked whether we would give every candidate the right to ask for a recount. I interjected that we should, on the condition that he should put up a certain sum of money, which he would forfeit if, on the recount, it was proved that his charges were not true. I thought the honorable senator was playing a little too low when he asked whether we would give a candidate who received only a few thousand votes a right to a recount. Do honorable senators believe for a moment that if a candidate received 50,000 votes - I shall not make the matter ridiculous by saying 6,000 - and the successful candidate received 250,000 votes, he would put up his money for a recount? No man in his senses would do such a thing. But if a candidate is prepared to pay up £25, £50, or ^100 in order to secure a recount he will have a good reason for doing so. He may be beaten by only fifty votes.
– A candidate can get a recount without putting up any money at all.
– I maintain that under this Bill, although a candidate may ask for a recount, he cannot demand it as a right. He may have polled within twenty votes of his opponent, and if the Divisional Returning Officer is a partisan, he may be refused a recount. The Chief Electoral Officer may subsequently also refuse a recount. The candidate may be satisfied in his own mind that if he could get a recount he would win the seat. He can go to the Court, but he must satisfy the Court that he has a just case. How is he to satisfy the Court before a recount takes place ?
– If he cannot satisfy the Court, surely the honorable senator would not expect the Court to grant him a recount.
– I have contended that a candidate should be given the right to ask for a recount, and I have suggested that he should be required to deposit a certain sum of money, and should be penalized by its forfeiture if it were shown that he asked for the recount on insufficient grounds. But in this Bill the Divisional Returning Officer and Chief Electoral Officer are made the sole judges in the matter. 1 am not suggesting that the gentlemen who now fill those positions will do what is wrong, but they will not live for ever, and this Bill will continue in force until it is repealed. We may have men filling such positions who may be strong partisans, and if they refuse a recount the candidate will have no remedy. If a candidate is prepared to put up £25 or £50 in order to secure a recount he should have the right to demand it. So far as the Court is concerned, a recount is the only way in which a candidate can secure evidence of personation or other wrong- doing to put before a Court.
– The honorable senator would give a premium to the man with means.
– I would do no such thing. 1 am not fighting in this matter for one side more than another. Under my suggestion, if the recount went against the candidate demanding it, he would forfeit his money, whilst if it proved his case, he could approach the Court, and the other party would then have to pay. I have been a Divisional Returning Officer, and I know the powers possessed by any one acting in such a position. He could do a lot of harm if he chose. We should be satisfied that men appointed to such positions, no matter how strongly partisan they may be, will, like a Judge on the Bench, give fair play to both parties. I have acted in the position at many elections. The Speaker of the House of Representatives will recollect that I did so in connexion with an election for the Kennedy electorate, and he can verify my statement that from the issue of the writ to the polling day I did my duty as a returning officer to the best of my ability, and never showed favour to one candidate any more than to another. In spite of this, I should not like, when in such a position, to be charged with the responsibility of having to say to a candidate, ’ I will not grant you a recount.” I should prefer that such a matter should be provided for in the Act, and to be in a position to say, “ You are entitled to a recount if you put up *£25 or £50, and abide the consequences. ‘ ‘ Under this Bill, if the Divisional Returning Officer refuses a recount the matter may be referred to the Chief Electoral Officer. But I point out that whilst appeal for a recount may take place in connexion with an election in Western Australia or in Northern Queensland, the Chief Electoral Officer will be, perhaps, in Melbourne; he will know nothing of the surrounding circumstances, and will naturally say, “ I have every confidence in the Divisional Returning Officer, and I therefore refuse a recount.”
– I think we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.’]
– I was asking the Minister whether he would not agree to provide in the Bill that a candidate should have a right to demand a recount. He might be within 50 dr 100 votes of the successful candidate, and might be satisfied that on a recount he would win the seat. I have maintained that under clauses 25 and 26 a candidate could not claim a recount as a right. He must appeal first to the Divisional Returning Officer, who may be a partisan. The appeal is then to the Chief Electoral Officer, who, in ignorance of the circumstances, will accept the view of the Divisional Returning Officer. I say that there is then no remedy for a candidate who desires a recount. I mentioned tha case in which, on a recount, an Elections :ind Qualifications Committee allowed certain voles to the unsuccessful candidate, and he eventually won the election. Senator Millen referred the other night to a case that occurred in the Riverina, where, if a recount had been granted, there would have been no appeal to the Court. We all remember what was done by the returning officers in the contest between Senator Vardon and Mr. O’Loghlin. The ballot-papers were supposed to be burnt, and all sorts of political intrigue and ingenuity were resorted to to oust Senator Vardon. We maintained here that a fresh election should he held. When the Government found, at the last moment, that they could not qualify Mr. O’Loghlin for the seat, they agreed to send the case to the High Court, which decided that the election was null and void, and ordered a fresh election, which Senator Vardon won. Surely honorable senators on the other side do not want to debar a candidate from getting a recount. Under clauses 25 and 26 a candidate is debarred unless he can induce the Divisional Returning Officer or Chief Electoral Officer to grant him a recount as a matter of grace. It should be given as a matter of right. If. on a recount, a man finds that he has a good case, he should be free to appeal to the. Court. I would not object to a provision requiring £2° or £25> or even £s°> to De Put up. If a man is made liable to a fine of from ^25 to £50, he will not ask for a recount unless he feels that he has good and reasonable grounds. When I was a returning officer, I always had a recount before I sent down the return. It was made in the presence of the candidates or scrutineers chosen on their behalf. We often found discrepancies in the figures from each presiding officer - enough to make a big total, but not enough, perhaps, to affect the result of the election. It was found that, in the hurry of counting, many votes were made informal which were really not informal ; in fact, all sorts of mistakes were made, especially in connexion with the Senate election, for which there is a large number of candidates. At the first Senate election in Queensland, I think that there were sixteen candidates for six seats, and it was very hard indeed for an ordinary elector, who had been used to State elections, to correctly mark his ballot-paper. He might have left five or seven names on his ballot-paper, and, of course, all those votes were informal. Of late we have not had so many candidates. At the last Senate election in Queensland we had eight candidates, though at a future election we may have ten or twelve. If the voting is close, a recount is necessary, and there ought to be a provision in the Act enabling a candidate to demand a recount on depositing a certain sum. That would be only fair and just to him, and the privilege would only be used in those cases where a man had a reasonable ground for suspecting that something was wrong. It could inflict no hardship, and it 9’ould save candidates from moving the Court. I hope that, if not here, in another place, a provision for that- purpose will be inserted in the Bill. We have heard a lot about the provision requiring a return to be furnished by newspapers. I do not intend to object very strongly to the provision, but’ I do not think it is required. Most of the newspapers, I know, make very little money out of electioneering. Take the position of my honorable friends opposite. There may be an advertisement in a newspaper costing 5s., or, at the most, 10s., and saying that Mr. So-and-so will address a meeting at Selheim, Black Jack, or Charters Towers. The owner of the newspaper sends a reporter to the meeting, ar$ I. am sure that his expenses amount to four times as much as the price of the advertisement.
– In South Australia a Labour candidate gets reported once. The newspapers take care of that.
– In Queensland 1 have known a Labour candidate to be reported as fully in a newspaper as his opponent ; in fact, I have known a Labour candidate to get. a ha If -column more in his report than did his opponent.
—It was paid for.
– It was not paid for on either side. We are told that newspapers get a lot of money out of elections. To my knowledge they Jose. Practically the only money which they get - and it is easily earned - is the payment for the Government advertisement which comes from the Returning Officer. That they get, no matter what their political opinions are. I am speaking of a newspaper which represents not the Labour party only, but the whole of the community ; and I have known fuller reports to be given to the Labour candidate than to his opponent. That is not done every day, though, because’ it would not pay them to do so. Surely the Minister in charge of this Bill can see that there are various anomalies in connexion with the voting. A candidate in Tasmania is allowed the same amount for expenses as a candidate in Western Australia or Queensland.Is it fair to allow to a candidate in New South Wales or South Australia the same amount for expenses as is allowed to a candidate in a State which can be travelled over in a day like Tasmania and Victoria? That is an anomaly in the Act which ought to be rectified by this Bill. Wherever we go we have to pay for the display of posters and the rent of halls. We have to twist and turn to see how we can keep our expenses below the allowance of . £250. It is simply absurd to allow the same amount for candidates’ expenses in Western Australia and Queensland as in Tasmania and Victoria. A candidate is practically asked to break the law. I do not know what is the experience of honorable senators generally, but I find that it is very hard indeed to keep within the allowance. One has to give a man, perhaps, less than he deserves ; in fact, one has to sweat him in order to conduct his election within the allowance ; but in this measure the Minister is making no attempt to doaway with this sweating. He is making it illegal for a candidate to pay a fair amount. Why does he not increase the allowance to the candidates in the larger States by £50, and reduce the allowance to candidates in the smaller States? Why do the Government not seek to find out the existing abuses, and try to rectify them? We have been told that at the last referendum vast sums were expended by some individuals.
– And never accounted for.
– That is like other statements which emanate from the opposite side. Without the slightest tittle of justification, they throw sneers and slurs across the floor of the chamber, but not one of them is man enough to rise and prove them. In connexion with the referendum, I travelled through the north Of Queensland, and was up as far as Mareba, Atherton, and other places, but I never received from any association or person the small sum of a farthing. I paid my own expenses from the time I left Melbourne until I returned. I do not like to hear these wild accusations thrown across the floor. I am aware that money had to be found for certain purposes, such as the hiring of halls, and I take it that the Labour party do not get the use of halls for nothing.
– They get them for less.
– Yes, I believe they do sometimes. We pay the current rates for the halls which we engage, and we never dispute the charges, though, of course, we have not the same facilities for addressing the electors as are provided in Victoria. If a man applies to the Shire Council, he has to pay £11s. or £2 2s. for the use of the shire hall. He does not expect, or ask, to get the use of a hall for nothing.
– He does if he is a member of the Labour party.
– Never have I had the free use of a hall. I have paid the bill-sticker, and the newspaper which published my advertisement. A Labour candidate may stop in an hotel for three or four weeks, and he is charged nothing. I have never been in that position, because I do not care to accept charity. When I am canvassing, I am always prepared to pay the current rates at hotels. The things I have mentioned have been done, but not accounted for in the return of expenses. Perhaps Senator Pearce is one of those who have had such things done for them. I know such things are done in Western Australia and are not included in the return of expenses, whatever may be done afterwards. The candidates are taken to the hotels as guests.
– Do you ever pay your hotel expenses?
– Oh, yes, I have done so. A man may drive me in his trap for 8 or 100 miles, and not charge anything. That should go down in my expenses, but it does not; but when I hire a vehicle to drive me, I have to include the charge in my expenses.
– The wealthy squatters will drive you about.
– No wealthy squatter has ever driven me a yard, so that my honorable friend is barking up the wrong tree again.
– You are driven for pure love and affection.
– Yes; but, according to my honorable friend, Labour men have no wealthy squatters who will drive them for pure love and affection.
– Yes, we have a few.
– If. it is desired to improve the Electoral Act and secure a better voting system, it will be necessary for the Minister to materially alter this measure: It should be framed a little more in the interests of the electors, instead of in the interests of party. To my mind, the interests of party weighed with Ministers in drafting the Bill from first to. last, and that opinion is shared by members of the Labour party, because, outside, they have said that it is not a fair deal. I feel sure that if the Minister forces the Bill through the House, as he can do with his numbers, he will find that it will react against the Labour party. There is an old saying that a man who becomes a tyrant makes enemies. The Ministry, in bringing down this Bill, will make enemies. The opinion is gaining ground, even amongst their friends, that they are little bits of tyrants, who are not prepared to give fair play to the electors of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– It is rather trying to get up and make a speech after the excitement which has prevailed. It is also trying to have been waiting several hour’s to speak. But now I have secured the opportunity, I do riot intend to mince matters. I shall say on the floor of the Senate what I have already said by way of interjection. This is not a party question as far as the Labour party is concerned. Electoral reform is not on our platform. We have the freest hand to deal with it. ‘
– The freest hand to further the interests of the honorable senator’s own party.
– To further the people’s interests. Renegades from the Labour party, however, are the worst of all Tories when they get to the other side. I have much pleasure in supporting the second reading of this Bill. The Government are in favour of compulsory registration. So am I. I am in favour of compulsory voting. The Government are not. Moreover, I will say now what I said before the electors about six years ago, that I am in favour of the compulsory attendance of members of Parliament, health permitting, at our sittings while the Legislature is in session. I have said so before the electors, so that it cannot be alleged that I have any particular reason for saying it now. I believe that if compulsion is necessary in reference to registration, ‘it is also necessary in connexion with voting. No doubt, it seems difficult to compel people to vote. At all events, Senator Millen painted the difficulties in strong colours, pointing out the evils that might arise under a compulsory system. He suggested that the police, the soldiery, and other forces would be brought into requisition to carry out the law. But there is already compulsory registration of births, marriages, and deaths. The people are accustomed to that, and they carry out the law freely. I believe they would also become accustomed to compulsory voting. I am., a strong supporter of the proposal that Saturday shall be polling day for Commonwealth elections. 1 can speak both as an employer and an employe, for I am not only .an old farmer, but also an oldfarm labourer. I support this, proposal, because the farmers are accustomed to drive into the towns on Saturday mornings for their newspapers and letters. It will be easy for them to vote without disarranging their farm work, and they can bring their wives to the polling place with them. The change will be of great advantage to working men, and especially farm labourers, for this reason : Farming people do not work eight hours a day. Sometimes they work as many as fourteen. Some farmers do not want their men to vote because they do not know how they will vote. Instead of making it a convenience for them to be driven to the poll, they often keep them’ working till sundown.
– Is the honorable senator speaking for himself?
– I was always a Democrat, and my men always voted right. By fixing Saturday as polling day, and keeping the polling booths open for an extra hour, the Government will give working men a chance to have their tea in comfort, go to the township, vote, stay a little, while to learn the latest news from other parts of the Commonwealth, go home in comfort, and have a little longer sleep on the Sunday morning. That is how my experience shows me that the new provision will work. At the genera! election in 1910, in the State of South Australia, when a Labour member was returned for the electorate of Adelaide, 10,300 votes were recorded for the Labour candidate. That election was on a Saturday. On Wednesday, 13th April- that grand day which we shall never forget - in the same district, practically the same electors had another opportunity of going to the poll, when Mi. E. A. Roberts was returned. I am proud to say that he is now an Honorary Minister. He is one of the ablest men in our party, and I often wish that he had occupied a seat, in the Senate so that he could dress down Senator Millen. Although Mr. Roberts was returned by an overwhelming majority, the number who voted was smaller by 900.
– Was that due to the day chosen for the election?
– I believe so.
– Was it not because the result was known to be a certainty?
– I have explained that farmers have less difficulty in voting on Saturday than on any other day.
– Adelaide is not a farming electorate.
– But in some cities - at least, in Adelaide - the working classes have half -holidays on Saturdays. Men are better able, therefore, to vote on that day than on any other day. That is a sufficient reason for the provision proposed by the Government. We want to have a full poll of the electors ; and, therefore, we should have the election on a day that suits the great majority. Of course, Senator Millen does not like the idea of a Labour candidate getting much support, nor is he inclined to extend postal facilities for the farming community and residents in the back-blocks.
– The honorable senator need not talk to me about the backblocks.
– I have a great respect for the honorable senator, and am only sorry that our party has lost him. I am also in favour of the provision to abolish postal voting. I support it in the interests of the farming class also. I can quite imagine some one sent by Senator Millen, or by the National League, coming along with a trap, visiting the different farms, asking how many men and girls are employed, and telling them about the wickedness of the Labour Party, and of the harm that we would do if we got into office. I can quite imagine such people telling the girls - poor modest creatures - that it would not be right and proper for them to go to the poll and mingle with the Labour party, far better for them to vote by post. I can quite imagine a justice of the peace going round in that way, witnessing signatures, and, perhaps, providing at the same time postage stamps. That sort of thing has been known in South Australia. We want to do justice, and to insure the purity of the ballot. I am a strong supporter of the principle of the ballot, and that is another reason why I am. in favour of the Government proposal. I do not favour gagging the press ; but I do think that steps ought to be taken to prevent the publishing of wicked and untruthful statements about candidates. Names should be attached to political articles. I- am sorry that Senator Vardon is absent, because I am about to show what happened to me about five years ago when I was a candidate for the Senate. A few weeks before election day, the newspaper which I mentioned the other day - the dirty rag-
– Is that the name of the newspaper?
– I have given it that name; it calls itself The Critic. I do not wish to be unfair to Senator Vardon. Far be it from me. At one time, however, I know that he had an interest in that newspaper. That he was interested in it at the time to which I refer I am not disposed to say. He told me that he was not; I must take his word. It is a remarkable thing, however, that Senator Vardon was an opposing candidate at this particular time. At least, he printed the paper, if he had no further interest in it. There appeared in it a statement to the effect that William Russell, who was a candidate for the Senate, was so cocksure of being returned that he had already made arrangements to move to Melbourne with his wife and family. Was that fair? Should not the person who wrote that statement have been made responsible for it? Except for the accident that a friend met my wife and daughters and asked them, “Is it true that you are going to leave South Australia, and take up your home in Melbourne.?” I might not have been able to contradict this untruth. What was the object of publishing it? I leave that to honorable senators. It was a dirty piece of work. Moreover, when I wrote to the newspaper stating that the information was not true, my denial was not inserted. Surely the time has come when some alteration should be made with reference to the practice of certain newspapers in connexion with political candidates. It has been said that we in this party have been bitterly opposed to giving women the franchise.
–No; what was said was that the honorable senator’s party are trying to prevent women from voting.
- Senator Vardon himself said that he wanted to have it put in black and white that the Labour party are opposed to postal , voting, and, therefore, to the interests of humanity. Senator Vardon also said that I was always a partisan in politics.
– The honorable senator does not deny that, does he ?
– I do deny it. I was for seven years in the State Parliament of South Australia without belonging to any party.
– The honorable senator was waiting to see which party was going to be top dog.
– I was not one of that sort. When the question of adult suffrage came on, those who knew me knew where to find me. Senator Vardon said that I was always a party man, but I was nothing of the kind. I was considered by the present Mr. Justice Gordon - and I think Senator Vardon quoted the reference - to be a dangerous Radical. I did not belong to the Labour party, because I thought then that they went too far. My objection was that they wanted an allround increase of the land tax. I did not believe in that. I always fought for the farmers, being one myself. I had a good large estate too, and it was all my own. I fought for the farmers, and I said to the Labour party, “ I cannot join you while you have that plank on your platform.”
– And while the honorable senator had the land.
– No, that was not it. I said, “ If you make an alteration in the platform, I will join you.” They eventually did so, and I naturally joined with them, and I am very glad I did.
– Was it because of the honorable senator’s estate that the Government put the exemption in the Land Tax Act?
– The honorable senator should not talk such nonsense. It has been said that we have no sympathy with women, and that we desire to prevent them voting. I am going to show that nothing can justify Conservative members of the Senate making such a charge. In 1894, when the Kingston-Holder Government were in office in South Australia, we had a big fight over the question. We had the required number in both Houses to carry the measure, and not one to spare. We got the measure through, and I wish Senator Millen to take notice of the fact that not a single member of his party voted for that measure.
– Which party does the honorable senator mean?
– The Tory party. They are the Tory party, and nothing more. The Liberals have been mixed up a little by the Fusion, but they are the Tory party all the same.
– The honorable senator got his land exempted, did he not?
– No, I did not. I am going to give the Senate and Senator Millen a little information. I am sorry that Senator Vardon is not here, because he is one of those who said that we were going to do women an injustice, and he wanted the country to know it. The honorable senator was a member of the Legislative Council in South Australia. He was in the Tory Government, and he was one who opposed the franchise for- women all the time. The honorable senator did not oppose the extension of the franchise merely to women. Of the electors on the rolls for the State Parliament in South Australia not one in three who can vote at an election for the House of Assembly has a vote for that autocratic House of Lords - the Legislative Council of South Australia. This matter has been before the country for years, and, having fought for women’s franchise all the time and adult franchise also, I must be forgiven if I refer to it. While the late Mr. Kingston held office, he was repeatedly asked to test the feeling of the people on the matter, and in this connexion I quote the following
In consequence of the resolution passed by the House of Assembly on December 22, 1898, u referendum was taken on April 29th, 1899, to obtain the will of the electors on the question of the extension of the franchise for the Legislative Council.
The question referred to the voters was :
Are you in favour of extending the franchise for the Legislative Council to all householders as provided in the Bill passed by the House of Assembly in 1898?
Section 111 of the Bill provided that when a man and his wife -
Where is brother Vardon now?-<- live in the same dwelling of which either is the householder then each shall have a vote.
I do not speak of the honorable senator personally, but I say that the party that Senator Vardon belonged to, and of which be is now president, was then opposed, and is still opposed, to any extension of the franchise. Lovely woman, whom Senator Walker delighted me by speaking so nicely of the other day, was the one that suffered. Not only did the party fight bitterly to prevent women having votes for the House of Assembly, but also to prevent the extension of the franchise for the Legislative Council. The members then in Opposition often said to the late Right Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston - I like the name, because it sounds Scotch - “ Take a referendum of the people. Let us understand where we are, and what the people want.” A referendum was taken on . the question, and I have before me the result. The number who voted “Yes” was 49,208, and the number who voted “ No “ 33,928, giving a majority in favour of the question of 15,380. That is the position in which Conservatism was placed by that referendum. The Legislative Council of South Australia went on strike when the motion was carried in the House of Assembly, deciding to take a ballot of the people without their sanction. Now I ask, “ Who are the friends of humanity ? Who are the friends of women? Who have fought their battles in season and out of season?” Has it not been the Labour party? I say advisedly that Senator Vardon is president of the party that objects to the further extension of the franchise to women.
-That was many years ago.
– And even now. It is hard to understand how the honorable senator can talk on the floor of this chamber as the champion of women’s rights while he is president of the Tory party that refuses women a vote. Senator Vardon said that he would place his reputation against mine. I have nothing to say against the honorable senator.
– But the honorable senator is always saying it.
– I am not.
– The honorable senator has never made a speech yet without attacking his colleague from South Australia.
– I think we should have a quorum present while these interesting references are being made to Senator Vardon.
– There is a quorum present.
– I am not finished yet. I am not going to withdraw anything. I will swear to the truth of every word I have said.
– The honorable senator might do it less violently.
- Senator Millen is cool and twisty, but because I fail to be so cunning, the honorable senator is not going to put me off the track.
– I am not so vicious as is the honorable senator.
– I think the honorable senator is far more vicious, than I am. Senator Vardon said that his reputation was as good as mine. I am not going to deny that. But we are not here to discuss reputations, but to discuss politics. I am not going at the present time to cast a reflection on Senator Vardon in this respect, because I bear in mind that he was one of the selected delegates to visit England during the Coronation. He had an honour conferred upon him that I am afraid I shall never have conferred on me. He visited the London City Council, as stated by himself, and had the honour of sitting between two earls.
– Order. Senator Vardon’s visit to England, and to the London City Council, has nothing to do with the Electoral Bill.
– The honorable senator referred to reputations, but that is all I have to say on that subject. It is a question of which party are the friends, as Senator Vardon put it the other day, of the worker. I have already shown what occurred in the State Parliament of South Australia, and Senator Vardon for some time was Chief Secretary of the State Government. So far as women, or men either, were concerned, they did not consider humanity, but land, or bricks and mortar. While we of the Labour party went, and are still going, for the broadest franchise - adult suffrage votes for men and women, even for the Legislative Council - the Conservative party, Senator Millen’s party, prevented women from obtaining votes. There are thousands more men than women on the Legislative Council roll for South Australia. In view of these facts, I cannot understand how honorable senators opposite can justify the attitude they now take up. Senator Vardon referred to preferential voting. It sounds very nice, but were I to go to my democratic friends and constituents in South Australia and tell them that I am in favour of preferential voting as described by Senator Vardon, they would say to me. “ What we want is an equal franchise. There is only one-third of those on the roll for the House of Assembly to be found on the roll for the Legislative Council in South Australia, and we want that abuse remedied first.” Although I might believe in preference in other circumstances, I cannot consent to that injustice at all.
– The honorable senator believes in preference only to unionists.
– There is nothing to be said about unionists so far as the franchise is concerned. According to the Labour platform, every man and woman should have a vote for the Legislative Council or that House should be abolished. I shall not take up much more time, butI wish to say that two years ago I read an extract from an Adelaide newspaper. Senator Millen referred to a Sydney newspaper the other day in a very disparaging manner. That induced me to send my name in as a subscriber. I want to get that paper regularly. Senator Walker quoted something nice. When he speaks the honorable senator does not use much acid, and I always appreciate what he says, though I differ from him. The honorable senator quoted the other day from a newspaper that described in a very pleasing manner the l oveliness and usefulness of woman, until the President told him that he had had about enough of it. I am very glad to find that that quotation in praise of lovely woman was from The Labour Call, that Socialistic organ.
– Senator Walker for- got to say that the author was Robert Ingersoll.
– I want to be fair, and I am going to read an extract from the Conservative press on woman suffrage in 1894. The Country newspaper of 28th July, 1894, published an article, of which the following is an extract -
We seem given over to folly. And no greater folly than this woman’s suffrage fad could well be committed. To have fifty or sixty legislators deliberately admitting that men are not able to govern the colony without the assistance of a lot of fussy, snuffy, gossiping old women is very funny. If men choose to write themselves down such asses, we cannot help it ; we can only look on and wonder. The suggestion that women are equal to men is absurd. They are as inferior mentally as physically. That they are so physically goes without saying; that they are so mentally the ages have proved. Once and again there is a brilliant exception, but that only proves the rule. Early ripening is a faculty they have in common with negroes. Up to twelve a nigger boy is probably ahead of a white boy; from twelve to fifteen, possibly equal ; at fifteen he stops. But nobody would say that because a negro boy was ahead of a white boy at twelve that therefore he was equal, for after fifteen he is hopelessly behind. Another proof of the inferiority of women is their villainy, when they are villainous; their brains cannot control their instincts. In the French revolution the most brutal, fiendish, and bloodthirsty were invariably women. So it is in gaols. All who have ever had experience testify that women are far harder to govern than men, when criminal, and much wickeder.
– Who said that?
– The organ of the National Defence League of South Australia, in 1894.
– What has it to do with an Electoral Bill in 1911?
– It has a good deal to do with the Bill, because from the beginning of his speech, which lasted three hours and twenty minutes, to the end, the honorable senator poured bomb-shells into the camp of the Labour party, and said that they are opposed to any just and fair reform, and that poor innocent women are going to be deprived of their rights.
This is vouched for by their own sex, by matrons, searchers, nurses, and visitors, as well as by the other sex also. This extra villainy is not proof of superior ability, i.e., it does not show that powerful intellects give them a greater capacity to be villains. But it shows that their inferior ability renders them less able to put a restraint on their villainy. In other words, they have not had ability to restrain themselves. Of course, some men have also been deficient in such an ability. The difference is this : That the inability of men is in some only ; the inability of women applies to all. Yet this weak sex is for the future to govern us; and not the best of the sex, but the worst. The best of the sex will be engaged in nursing babies and other suitable and natural avocations.
That is a parcel of lies which was published by the Conservative party in South Australia to defeat the Bill onthat occasion, but it was carried in spite of their opposition. They have changed since then.
– And now they want to shelter themselves behind the skirts of women.
– They want to shelter behind their petticoats. I agree with Robert Burns -
There’s nought but care on every han’,
In every hour that passes, O !
What signifies the life o’ man,
An’ ‘twere na for the lasses, O !
Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes, O !
Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man,
And then she made the lasses, O!
I agree with Senator Walker. Forty years ago I read in John Ploughman’ s Talk, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, a few lines which I have never forgotten -
God bless our wives !
They fill our hives
With little bees and honey.
They soothe life’s shocks;
They mend our socks;
But - don’t they spend the money !
Do my honorable friends opposite realize the position which we take up ? As a party we have fought inch by inch to give women the status which they occupy in connexion with politics. The object of this Bill, which I warmly support, is not to prevent evils as far as party matters are concerned, but to prevent corruption and the destruction of the secrecy of the ballot. I am pleased to see Senator McColl here. The other night he made a speech which, as usual, was very bitter. He has no room for the Labour party at all. His eyes, like mine, are fixed on the coming election, and other senators who have taken part in this debate are in a like position. My honorable friend hopes to score by saying that women have been treated unjustly and unfairly by the Labour party. I think that I have shown conclusively the other side of the question. I believe that when I address the electors from a platform I can put a case honestly and fairly, and prove that we have stood by the women every time. They have trusted us in the past, and I think they will do so in the future. Senator McColl is a dry farmer. I have been a practical farmer. I know the wants of the farmers in different parts of South Australia and other places, but my honorable friend does his farming in his office.
– Order ! This Bill has no connexion with the question of farming. It is a measure to amend the Electoral Act, and the honorable senator is not connecting his remarks with the question.
– If I had been allowed to finish my remarks, sir, you would have seen their connexion with the question. Although I am a member of the Labour party, and indorse its platform, I pledged myself to the farmers of South Australia that, if elected to the Senate, their interests would never be overlooked by me. Therefore, sir, my reference to the farmers is connected with the question before the Chair. I am not blaming Senator McColl for putting his case, but I think that I, as a practical farmer, ought to know something about the matter. I have been connected’ with farming since I was thirteen years of age in Old Scotland, and I have been in Australia for forty -six years. I was sixty-nine years of age on Friday last. It will be seen that I have had some experience. Even from the farmers’ point of view, we on this side are the best friends whom they have ever had. I support the Bill, but if any honorable senator should feel called upon to move an amendment in favour of compulsory voting, and also of the compulsory attendance of members of Parliament,, he will have my support. I_ am not sure that it can be done, but I stated - perhaps I was foolish - that I would try to get such amendments made. I thank the Senate for the patient hearing which I have received. I have very much pleasure in complimenting the Government, and also con.gratulating Senator Findley, on the manly and eloquent speech which he delivered yesterday afternoon.
– In giving a general support to the Bill, I regret that I cannot express very much sympathy with those who have, in a very vague manner, passed criticisms on the Bill, because I believe that if it has one fault it is that it is not strong enough to cope with many of the evils in connexion with elections. Senator Millen and his colleagues went to great pains to show that, while we on this side were very anxious to extend the fullest facilities to that portion of the press which advocates our claims, but is directly subsidized by many trade unions, and not attempting to limit its power, either to represent our cause, to misrepresent our opponents, or, may I say, to even go so far as to indulge in personal slander, we were very desirous of restraining that respectable section of the press from which they receive support. I was glad to hear from the Opposition that this is a non-party measure. Whether it is liked or not by honorable senators or’ the members of different political organizations, Australia has declared for a Democracy, and it is too late in the day to endeavour to restrict, either directly or indirectly, the power of the people to bring their will to bear on this Parliament.
– How about the defeat of the’ referenda proposals?
– I am quite satisfied. Our policy was submitted to a Democratic vote, and defeated, and I offer no complaint. I fully accept the decision given, at the referendum. ‘ . . .
– Why do you not retire from office?
– I am not in office, unfortunately, and, what is more, if I were, I should not feel inclined to resign, because I believe that if the electors had thoroughly understood the questions referred to them, they would have carried them. Despite the comments from the other side, I have never quibbled at the decision of the people, which I fully accepted at that stage. At the same time, I believe, I might almost say that I pray, that the day is not far distant when they will recognise their mistake, and, under an improved electoral law, give a decision which will shock the Opposition. Senator Millen went to great pains to point out that we on this side were supported by a party press. I plead guilty. I admit that, generally, on the face of every journal which is supported by the Labour party, there appears, in bold letters, these words, “ The official organ of the Labour party,” so that when Senator Millen or Senator Walker reads the Worker or the Labour Call he is not deceived, but knows that he is reading a party organ. If it slanders a member of the Opposition, it has to take the responsibility of its action in a Law Court. Whilst honorable senators on the other side claim that we are granting a special exemption to Labour newspapers, they seem to think that the daily press should be exempted. We ought to protect the daily press because, in my opinion, they are not free agents in the face of the political pressure which is brought to bear. Not only that, but from time to time, the daily press, particularly the Melbourne Argus has been guilty of slandering members of Parliament, misrepresenting actions in Parliament and the finances of this country, and trying to the best of its skilled ability, which is of a very high standard, to misrepresent the issues before the people, and to misrepresent methods of voting with the deliberate object of deceiving its readers as to how they should vote. It is nothing new that to-day we should have to deal with the daily press, particularly with newspapers like the Melbourne Argus, because, throughout the history of Australia, particularly of Victoria, the newspapers have tried to dominate political parties and political associations, to declare who should be returned to Parliament, and who should be in a Ministry, and, last but not least, to dominate the thoughts and very actions of members of Parliament.
I have been interested in looking up the record of this respectable journal - which is only one of a type, and which it is claimed should have the unrestricted right of slandering politicians, not only in connexion with public issues, but also in connexion with their private affairs. Let us have a look at the history of this newspaper in respect of its treatment of public men. The late Sir Bryan O’Loghlen was at one time Premier of Victoria. On the 21st February, 1879, the following notice to the citizens of Victoria appeared in the Government Gazette - not in a Labour journal -
In consequence of the fabrication by, and the publication in, the Argus journal of false news, purporting to be genuine and authoritative, concerning the proceedings and discussions of the Cabinet, being continuously persevered in for several weeks last past, the public are hereby cautioned against giving any credence to either those statements, or any similar kind of news, for the future in that journal. The Argus journal has been refused any official information of the kind by the Acting-Chief Secretary, who feels justified in taking this course, as that journal has for several months unpatriotically attempted to depreciate the financial credit of Victoria.
The Government of the State, therefore, through the means of the Government Gazette, had to warn the public against malicious and lying statements published by the Argus to the injury not only of members of the then Administration, but of the finances of the State in which the newspaper circulates. Since then the Argus has developed a much more scientific system of misrepresenting members of Parliament who are opposed to it. The present Leader of the. Opposition party, Mr. Deakin, is reported in the Victorian Hansard, 23rd July, 1895, to have spoken of the Argus in the following terms -
It was a column of slander and scandal directed against the Assembly.
His was the only name mentioned in this column of slander, scandal, and insinuation, and as he supposed his experience to be no different from that of his brother members, he felt called on to state that, so far as he knew, every other assertion in the article was untrue.
Surely some members of the Opposition will cheer that statement of their leader concerning this highly respectable organ of the press.
– He only became our leader last year.
– I wonder whether he has changed his opinion of the Argus. Perhaps he has. Perhaps that is the reason why he now enjoys the slobber of that newspaper.
– I have not changed my opinions; I do not know whether he has.
– As Senator Walker has favoured us with a confession, may I ask him whether he can tell us in confidence whether his worthy leader has changed his views?
– The honorable senator can ask Mr. Deakin himself.
– He never had any opinions to change.
– We will give him the advantage of supposing that at one time he held political opinions of his own.
– The honorable senator followed Mr. Deakin at one time.
– Unfortunately we could not help it. But I never followed the tail of the Deakin Government without protesting against the humiliation.
– The honorable senator was always a restless follower.
– Certainly ; but the alternative, if the Deakin Government had been thrown out of office at that time, was a Government representing the honorable senator and his party. I will give another instance. The Honorable John Murray, now Premier of Victoria - who is, by the way, at present supported both by the Argus and the Age - at one time spoke strongly in the Victorian Legislative Assembly concerning an attack made by the Argus upon the late Mr. Albert Harris, then a member of the Victorian Parliament. Senator McColl was in the State Parliament at the time. A charge having been made against Mr. Harris by the A,gus, a motion was submitted by Mr. Murray in the following terms -
That, in the opinion of this House, the charges made against Mr. Albert Harris, a member of this House, in the issue of the Argus of the nth inst, are wanton and profligate untruths.
Not one of the ninety-five members of the Victorian Legislative Assembly voted against that motion. Senator McColl did not raise his voice against it. He therefore supported the condemnation of the newspaper to which he is now attached. It may be his turn some other time unless he is willing to be the newspaper’s obedient slave in this Parliament, and its humble instrument outside. Senator McColl voted distinctly on this occasion to say that the Argus in its attack upon a fellow-member had been guilty of wanton and profligate untruths. It would be interesting to knowwhy he accepts the support of such a clean, moral, political journal to-day. Mr. Justice Higgins, now of the High Court Bench, in the course of the debate on Mr. Murray’s motion, said -
What stronger case of lying could there be than this?
– He was not ‘’ Mr. Justice “ Higgins then.
– Certainly not, but I do not know that he has changed his opinion of the Argus. On the same occasion Mr. Trenwith said -
It is a notorious fact that the average Argus writer does not write his own opinions, but has. to write what he is paid to write, so that he. may be fairly described as a literary prostitute.
That is the true position. Here we have the Leader of the Fusion, the Leader ot the anti-Socialist party in the State of Victoria, Mr. Justice Higgins, and Mr. Trenwith, all denouncing this newspaper, and their denunciation was backed up by the vote, if not by the voice, of Senator McColl. Let me come to a more recent date. The Fusion party elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a man very well known in this country. I refer to Dr. Carty Salmon. Let me quote what Dr. Salmon said about this same newspaper in the House of Representatives on 30th November, 1905 -
In case my silence may be taken as consent I desire by way of personal explanation, to say that at the proper time, and at the proper place, I shall deal with the statements contained in the leading article published in this morning’s Argus. In an article which extends over nineteen inches, there are sixteen lies, five misleading statements, some half-truths - which an eminent authority has declared to be worse than actual lies, - one illogical conclusion, and one grammatical error. In this analysis, which has been somewhat hurriedly made, I have not taken into account the usual headline, which precedes the leading article, “ I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth,” &c.
– How many centuries ago was that?
– I am now up to 1905.
– Where does this Bill come in?
– I am dealing with a proposal to limit the power of the press.
– Is there then a proposal in this Bill to limit the power of thepress ?
– There” is a proposal to limit the power of the press to slander its political opponents, or, at alt events, to compel newspapers to acknowledge such of their political slanders as are really advertisements. Dr. Carty Salmon, who spoke of the Argus in the terms that I have quoted, was elected to the honorable position of Speaker by the Fusion party.
– He was not Speaker in 1905.
– I do not suffer from a short memory, and I may remind Senator Walker that there was no Fusion in 1905. It has been reported that a member of this Senate, in an interview published in Tasmania, distinctly made the statement - Iam not prepared to affirm that it is true - that pressure would be brought to bear upon the Age people to bring them to their knees, if they did not support the Fusion party. The statement was, I believe, denied, but it was afterwards reaffirmed.
– Thereis not the slightest doubt that the statement was made.
– Senator Fraser would have denied the statement if he had not made it.
-I know the journalist who reported the interview, and I know him too well to doubt the truth of the statement.
– At all events, Senator Fraser is a wealthy man, and he had his remedy in the Courts of this country if the remarks which he was reported to have made were false. I shall now deal for a little while with the country press. Part of our object is to protect the country newspapers against efforts made to bribe them- to buy them - to publish articles, prepared in party offices in Melbourne, which they would not publish except for the money offers made to them.
– The honorable senator would not mind subsidizing the country newspapers, would he?
– My experience has been that when I have addressed meetings, reports have frequently appeared which were not really reports of what I have said, but merely inaccurate comments, upon which criticism was afterwards founded.
– The honorable senator ought to be thankful.
– I am not thankful for such reports. I have never asked for any reports from the press, but I do say that when reports of speeches are published as a matter of news, they should, no matter how much condensed, at any rate be a correct epitome of the remarks of the speaker. It certainly is not fair to put observations into the mouth of a speaker, and then found criticism upon what he did not say.
– Is this Bill going to cure that evil?
– I will come to that point in good time. The country press needs protection, as the document which I shall now quote abundantly shows. This letter was circulated amongst the proprietors of country newspapers in 1909 -
B.A., Oxon., LL.B., Lon.
Dear Sir, - Mr. Walpole, the secretary of the Employers’ Federation, is about to address a meeting in- , to be advertised in your journal. Mr. L. K. Preston, who is connected with this Press Association, is ahead of him, and will call upon you. I am sure you will kindly assist in making the meeting a success.
For a considerable time past this Press Association has devoted leading articles to the policy of the Employers’ Federation, so far as it is opposed to the confiscatory socialistic tendencies of the day. And as some recognition of this, the suggestion made that a substantial portion of some£50,000 now expended by the big advertisers with the metropolitan press should be given to the provincial press at decent rates, has found favour.
Mr. Preston will explain more fully. I hope shortly to offer you some 6,9, and 12 month contracts, and will communicate with you further in due course. You might have a chat with Mr. Walpole. Why not a column interview? His Federation, as you know, represents capital interests totalling over£400,000,000, and if we help the Federation, it intends to help us. That has been my aim, and it is in course of achievement. There are now 70 provincial journals represented by this Association in Victoria and the sister States. By-and-by you may think it desirable to throw in your lot with us. For one thing, it means contracts at a minimum rate of one shilling per inch, not the paltry 2d. and 3d. per inch of some of the city “ agencies.”
– Yes, I shall come to that - and it means leading articles and matter fit to read. written probably in the office of the Fusion party in Melbourne -
And again, it means a cable service of our own within a measurable distance of time.
This should be interesting to Senator ^Pearce -
This association is at the bottom of the Senate Special Committee Inquiry, the evidence before which is doubtless interesting to you.
This, then, is the body that moved Senator Pearce to inquire into the operations of the Cable Combine, and the honorable senator should now say whether he belongs to this association with £400,000,000 of capital. The circular continues -
Has not the time gone when the politics of Australia are “ made in Melbourne “ in the editorials of the Age and Argus f
I should be very glad to hear from you, and to have any suggestions. They will be treated as confidential, and I know you will extend the like courtesy to me. Why not take an occasional service from us and send copies of your journal regularly for filing? We send out a list of topics of immediate interest at 3s. to 5s. per article. These articles are read, and read with interest, by big advertisers here, and that spells business and advertising contracts.
– Is he alive or dead now ?
– He is still alive. Many of these country newspapers would be glad to accept this advertising matter, but they would like to acknowledge the source of the articles and advertisements. They ought not to be compelled, as they are compelled to-day, to sell their columns to enable the Fusion party and similar political parties to circulate misrepresentations throughout the State. I am very glad that one Melbourne newspaper takes no exception to these provisions of the Bill. I refer to the Age, and it is to its credit that it does not object. It says that it may be a little inconvenient, but it is willing to make all the returns required under this Bill. Senator Millen, when speaking as the champion of the newspapers of Australia, must surely have forgotten to have a previous interview with the proprietors of the Age.
– I did not say a .word to suggest that they cared twopence about the matter. I said the Government have simply made us laugh over the thing.
– The honorable senator said that he spoke in the name of the whole of the press ; and how he could speak for twenty minutes on the subject without feeling that his party’s interest was being injured, I could not comprehend. I support these proposals, but I hope that, in Committee, they will be stiffened so as to make them effective. In many cases the newspapers deliberately, and even maliciously, slander the members of this Parliament, and they have misrepresented political opinions too long. If we are going to continue to tolerate such misrepresentation, it will be, not because we do not desire to check it, but because we lack the courage to pass a law to deal with this kind of criticism. I come now to the question of postal voting. As I indicated in an earlier part of my speech, the aim of a Democracy, such as is represented in this Parliament, should be to afford every possible facility to electors, well or ill to record their votes. But there is thisqualification to be understood. If we find that a scheme devised for the purpose is ineffective, or tends to corruption, we should undoubtedly abolish it. The records of Hansard will show that I am probably the last member of the Labourparty in the Senate to favour the abolitionof postal voting.
– The honorable senator has got to do it now.
– Why ? Is the honorable senator ashamed of his interjection ?
– If I did the honorable senator an injustice, I withdraw the statement.
– The honorable senator does himself an injustice. It shows that he has no effective control over his thoughts or he would not make such a; statement. On the last occasion when this matter was before the Senate, every member of the Labour party, with the sole exception of myself, voted for the abolitionof postal voting. I honestly believed at that time that the system was good and necessary, and that it was possible to safeguard it from corruption and enable people who could not otherwise do so to record their votes. I regret to say that I wasmistaken. The electoral officials have not been able to devise sufficient safeguards to prevent corruption under the postal voting, system. I shall tell honorable senatorswhy. We have in all the States justices of the peace. What I propose to say may not apply to every justice of the peace, but it certainly applies to a great many of them. I restrict my observation to this State, and I say that from the inceptionof Government in Victoria very few persons have been appointed justices of thepeace who have not been in full sympathy with the Ministry of the day. As wehave never had a Labour Government inpower in Victoria, we have had no Labour justices of the peace.
– The same thing applies in all the States.
– I believe that is so. But I speak of what I know and can prove. Our justices of the peace in Victoria have been appointed because they have been the political partisans of, and in full political sympathy with, those who appointed them. These men are permitted to act as authorized witnesses of applications for postal votes. In not one or two, but in a great many, instances, they have failed to maintain the judicial balance of their office, and have actually become partisans and canvassers for a political party in asking people to vote by post. It is sometimes said that we cannot bring forward any proof of this kind of thing. I have investigated many cases of the kind personally, and I have been satisfied that on many occasions corrupt practices have been carried on. But it is one thing to believe that corrupt practices have been carried on, and it is quite another thing to prove it. To-day, we have this proof from the Hamilton district of a case tried at the Hamilton Court. I have here a report headed “ Federal Electoral Offences : Breaches of Postal Clauses : Charges against a Justice.” Now what were the charges?
That, on the 22nd April, he witnessed the signature of Selina Cameron to an application for a postal certificate without being personally acquainted with the facts stated and not having ascertained by inquiry that the statements made by her were true.
The justice of the peace referred to was Mr. L. Lesser, of Coleraine. Could he exercise influence in this case?
– What happened in connexion with the three charges referred to?
– He was fined on each.
– He was fined on the charge of not making full inquiry into the facts.
– That was all ; there was no case found against him on the other charges.
– This Mr. Lesser, who is a justice of the peace, is one of the biggest money-lenders in the district of Coleraine. There are scores of farmers in that district Over whom he holds bonds.
– He is the man who farms the farmer.
– -What is the position? He goes to an elector who is under a legal obligation to him, and owes him money, and being doubtful about his vote, asks him, as he asked this woman, whether he would not like to vote by post.
– There were justices of the peace on the other side doing the same thing at the last Federal election.
– I want to put a stop to it. In this State a member of Parliament has had to pay for a trivial error. This shows that the administration of the law has been clean, and free from party influence. This man Lesser, in tra: veiling around the district, does not meet farmers and farmers’” wives, sons or daughters, who are free, but in very many cases persons who owe him money. I ask honorable senators whether they think that those persons have a free choice to vote by post. The possibilities are that in hundreds of cases of this kind the system has been open to corruption, and I do not believe that any man who is anxious to preserve the purity of elections can supportit any longer.
– Then if a mortgagor speaks to his mortgagee it is an evidence of corruption.
– I hope the honorable senator does not desire to apologize for this case. It is bad.
– I do not. I have not much to apologize for.
– A Mr. Silvester, a local solicitor of Coleraine, and an open political opponent of the Labour party, appeared in this case for the defendant Lesser, and what plea did he make? Let honorable senators listen to it. He said -
No doubt hundreds and thousands of the same sort of things are occurring in Victoria.
– Hence 14,000 postal votes.
- Mr. Silvester may have exaggerated in that statement, but he has a suspicion, and believes that this kind of thing is going on. Suppose, as Senator Millen says, that Labour justices of the peace are doing the same thing, let me say that I am as anxious to prevent them doing it as to prevent any one else. I object to this practice, whichever side is guilty of it. If it is possible for a justice of the peace, whether he be a Labour man or an anti-Labour man, to do this kind of thing, Senator Millen ought to be with me in trying to prevent it.
– Then the honorable senator would abolish the ballot because it is possible to commit fraud in connexion with it?
– Not to the same extent.
– Now the honorable senator comes to a question of degree.
- Mr. Silvester went on to say -
So far as the public are concerned it is sufficiently marked by this transaction, and the humiliation and anxiety he must have suffered was sufficient punishment for him without any other penalty. I. would like to ask your worships to exercise your jurisdiction under section 191 of the Justices Act, and dismiss the case.
I regard an offence of this kind as one of the most serious crimes that could be committed -in this country. I might be considered despotic, but if I had my own way, I should abolish fines under the electoral law, and send to gaol any individual, rich or poor, who deliberately offended against its provisions with intent to make our politics impure.
– The honorable senator should communicate with Mr. Holman, who relieved the secretaries of political labour leagues of fines they had incurred for similar offences.
– According to one of my colleagues, Senator Millen’s speech on this Bill occupied three hours and twenty minutes. I am sorry if, in the course of it, he lost an opportunity, but he does not lose many opportunities, of scoring
– I do not want to lose this one.
– The report from which I am quoting goes on to say - Mr. Morley pointed out that there were at least a dozen other charges pending against the defendant.
And therefore I suppose he should be let off with a light fine. Mr. Morley said -
I think the defendant must also pay a penalty. It is a serious matter. The offence is happening all over Victoria, and there have been prosecutions in and around Melbourne. What the Department feels is that it must avoid suspicion and put this sort of thing down.
– The honorable senator has not mentioned what the fines were.
– The defendant was fined on each charge of not having made proper inquiry.
– But the more serious charges were dismissed.
– I feel sure that Senator Millen does not desire that I should say why I think they were dismissed.
Senator -Millen. - The statement was made that a fine was imposed on all three charges.
– RUSSELL.- I did not make that statement.
– Senator Blakey did.
– I have heard of some very strong cases -of the kind, and have investigated them with the co-operation of officers of the Department. I may say that many rumours, unfounded and untrue, have come even from people on our own side ; but while that is so, many of the charges which have been made have been only too true, though it is difficult to prove them. It is sufficient that there should be a suspicion in the public mind with regard to the operation of the postal voting system to justify us in endeavouring to remove that suspicion. I believe that politics are absolutely clean within Parliament, and we should do all we can to make them clean outside Parliament. I have heard it asserted, and I have every reason to believe that in some cases the statement is quite true, that more postal votes have been issued than have ever been accounted for at the poll.
– There are always more ballot-papers issued than are accounted for.
– The postal ballot-papers that are unaccounted for have been in undue proportion. Without saying whether I believe these statements, I say that if there is a suspicion in the public mind that they are (rue, that is a strong reason for proposing the abolition of the system. I can prove that in too many cases justices of the peace, whether belonging to one side or the other, have become political partisans and canvassers for postal votes. When we come to investigate the number of persons who vote by post, I say that the number who would really require to vote by post is so comparatively small that we are bound to accept the lesser of two evils in this case. I am glad to know that there were doctors in this city who maintained the high standard of their profession. But let me inform honorable senators that from the Equitable Building, at the corner of Elizabeth and Collins streets, during the recent Referenda campaign, an organization supporting the Fusion party sent out forms of application for postal ballot-papers to every doctor in Victoria, with a covering letter asking them to influence their patients on sick beds to vote against the referendum. I am pleased to say that, to their credit, some of the doctors resented this appeal. It was certainly enough to make any decent man shudder and feel ashamed.
– Who told you that ?
– As the honorable senator has not spoken, he will be in a position to give the lie direct to my statement. I am prepared to produce a covering letter if he challenges its accuracy.
– I did not challenge the statement, but simply asked a question.
-If the only way of giving persons who are ill in bed and suffering pain an opportunity to vote is through the agency of a partisan,, whether he be on the Labour side or the anti-Labour side - if doctors are to be asked to worry patients in bed - then I say that this system is bad and rotten, and ought to be abolished. With regard to compulsory enrolment, I do not know why honorable senators opposite should want to know if it is intended to employ the Army for this purpose. I do not know whether they would like to make use of the Navy as well as the Army to enroll the people. They ask us to say how the enrolment can be carried out. But I did not hear that question asked when it was proposed to introduce compulsory military training for lads who, of course, do not read newspapers to the same extent as adults. The boys managed to make themselves acquainted with the obligations imposed upon them, and did their duty. But some honorable senators opposite say that the adults in this community will not know their duty. I hold in my hand a copy of the only official- announcement of the introduction of compulsory military training which appeared on the Hoardings throughout Australia. Owing to its size, it could not be posted on a threerail fence, but it was the only public announcement, apart, of course, from the news which was given by the daily and weekly newspapers, in regard to the duty laid upon certain boys in the future. Do honorable senators opposite mean to tell me that our newspapers will refuse to tell the people that the principle of compulsory enrolment has been enacted, and that it is their duty to enroll themselves? Certainly not. There are very large areas which are exempted from the operation of the system of compulsory military training. Of the ages of r4> iS> 16, and 17 years, there were 178,000 lads in Australia, yet 154,247 of them registered for compulsory military training. Not 1 per cent, of the lads who were covered by the Act failed to register themselves. I believe that, on a closer analysis, it will be found that not even J per cent, of them failed to respond to a simple poster of this description. Surely the parents who have been able to look after their boys and see that they registered themselves for military training, are intelligent and keen enough to look after their own interests and register their names on an electoral roll. In the very interesting address which Senator Vardon delivered, he was very anxious to emphasize the necessity of introducing a system of proportional voting. Strange to say, the Opposition fall into the error of always calling upon the Democracy - upon virtue and justice - whenever they want to do anything, no matter how vile the proposal may bie.
– I am not sure that I called upon them in any way.
– The honorable senator called upon the Democracy.
– During the course of his address, the honorable senator made the following remarks -
On the present basis of representation the Senate might be held by one party. What he desired to see in operation was a true proportional representation, which was the only sound,’ scientific, and democratic principle. He foreshadowed an amendment wilh the object of introducing this principle in the measure, the only sound, scientific, and democratic principle.
What is the Democracy? Lest the honorable senator might not accept my definition,. I took, the trouble to make a copy of thedefinition given in Chamber’s dictionary -
A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them.
I take it that the honorable senator will not quarrel with thai definition.
– No ; it is a very good definition.
– The honorable senator did not make it quite clear whether he desired this system of proportional voting to apply to Australia as one electorate, or to the States. Let us assume that he intended the system to apply to the whole Commonwealth.
– No. There is no proposal to alter the representation of the States in the Senate. It will still be equal representation.
– For another purpose, I wish to quote some figures. At the last election, the total number of votes recorded on 13th April, 1910, was 1,403,976, which, divided by 36, gives a quota of 38,971.
– Divide the total number by thirty-seven.
– That is near enough.
– No ; it will make a considerable difference.
– Roughly, it will do for my purpose. Taking the number of votes recorded in the respective States on the same date, it will give the following representation : - New South Wales, 13 ; Victoria, 12; Queensland, 4; South Australia, 3 ; Western Australia, 2 ; and Tasmania, 2. If the honorable senator, who called upon the Democracy, intended the rule of the people, that is the only way in which to apply proportional representation to a Democracy.
– Oh. no.
– Demos means the people, I think.
– He only wants a part of it.
– I should i ike to hear Senator Vardon saying, “ In the - name of Democracy, let us have the people represented in the Senate in proportion to the electors in South Australia,”
– The Constitution stands in the way.
– Democracy does not suit the honorable senator here. I ought to have a good deal of sympathy with his proposal, because I believe that where three candidates have to be elected, if I could manage to beat my colleagues, I could poll about a third of the votes, and I believe that the Liberal or Fusion party could Doll about a third of the votes in South Australia, so that there would be a good chance that the honorable senator and I would be able to meet here later, shake hands, and congratulate each other. At the suggestion of the Minister of Defence, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a tater hour this evening.
Leave granted; debate adjourned,
– I beg to lay upon the table the following papers -
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, it)r2.
The Budget, 1911-12.- Papers prepared by the Right Hon. Andrew Fisher, P.C., for the information of Honorable Members, on the occasion of opening the Budget of 1911-12.
In accordance with practice, I move -
That the papers be printed.
I hope that, having regard to the peculiar position the Senate occupies, the course that I am now adopting will be in the interests of honorable senators. In every Parliament in the world, the House corresponding to the House of Representatives is the one in which Governments are made and unmade, and therefore the one which has absolute control of the public finances. But, in a Parliament like the Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate, although not possessing exactly the same power as the House of Representatives, has really a power over the finances which, if exercised, might be attended with very serious consequences, in carrying on the Government. When the Treasurer makes his financial statement in the House of Representatives, it is advisable, I think, for the Government to give the members of the Senate also an opportunity to consider the financial affairs of the country. The only way in which it can be done is by laying the papers on the table, and moving that they be printed. In the other Chamber, the public finances receive very serious consideration, with the result that it is rather late in the session before the Appropriation. Bill arrives here. Consequently, honorable senators complain, I do not know whether reasonably, or unreasonably, because they have the right, but not the opportunity, to discuss the finances of the Commonwealth. But we are taking advantage of this opportunity to remove all cause of complaint from honorable senators opposite. I intend to make a short statement, after which the subject will be before the -Senate for discussion, and any honorable senator will be able to express his opinion; with respect to the Budget-papers, the Estimates of revenue and expenditure, and the general financial policy of the Government. I admit, of course, that it is the duty pf the Opposition to find fault with everything that the.
Government are doing, or may attempt to do. Honorable senators opposite are capable representatives, and will, doubtless, do all they can to show the public that the affairs of this country are being mismanaged. But I have no fear of any such criticism; first, because honorable Senators opposite are so few in numbers that their opposition is of very little consequence so far as votes are concerned ; and in the next place, because the prosperity that has reigned since the advent of the Labour Government to power has been so marked that no matter what the Opposition may allege the public will not believe them. People will say, “ Look at the results. Look at the prosperity that we have enjoyed. Look at the bountiful harvests and the enormous wool clip. Look at everything pertaining to the welfare of the country. It is clear that the advent of the Labour Government has been a God’s blessing to Australia.” Years ago the representatives of the Opposition endeavoured to convince the people that if a Labour Ministry ever occupied these benches there would be blue ruin throughout Australia. It was represented that the country would be ruined by drought, by rabbits, and by every conceivable calamity, even to the extent of letting loose the ten plagues of Egypt. But those predictions have not proved true. The Opposition are universally recognised to-day as being false prophets. It may be said that it is a stretch of imagination to put forward the claim that the Labour Ministry have been responsible for the great prosperity of Australia. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the Labour Government are here, and that prosperity has remained with us. I sincerely hope and believe - and I have no doubt honorable senators opposite also sincerely hope - that that prosperity will continue. There is every prospect of its continuance. I now wish to give a short outline of the actual financial position of the Commonwealth. The revenue received last year was £18,803,873. Those figures must be regarded in comparison with the revenue for previous years in order to appreciate them. In the year 1904-5 the revenue was only £11,323,049. But as the Labour party grew stronger the prosperity became greater, and, consequently, the revenue increased. During the past six 5’ears it has nearly doubled itself. I am sure that when the people recognise these facts they will be pleased that the strength of the Labour party has increased. -
– The honorable senator is as bad as the Kaiser - “ Me and God.”
– The honorable senator can attribute these results to any other cause he pleases. 1 am speaking as a common individual - as one of the great mass of the people of Australia - and am showing how the facts appear to me. The revenue from Customs and Excise was £12,980,443. That amounted to £2 18s. 9½d. per head of the population; and our taxation is levied in so mixed a manner that it is bound to go up and down with the prosperity of the people. The more prosperous the taxpayers are, the better their position to contribute to the revenue of the country. In 1904-5 the Customs and Excise revenue was -£8,656,981, which amounted to £2 3s. 5§d. per head of the population. The next item of revenue to which I will refer is one which, at any rate, is due entirely to the Labour party. I refer to the Land Tax. During the past year the amount collected from that tax was .£1,370,357. The Government estimate was £1,000,000.
– The Opposition said that that estimate was excessive.
– The Opposition said many things upon the subject. I can remember that the Opposition formed various estimates. Some members on both sides even said that the High Court would declare the Act ultra vires. It was pretty freely predicted that the Labour Government would be in a fix, because they would be very short in their revenue.
– Is that what the honorable senator’s own side said?
– -I remember that Senator St. Ledger had grave doubts as to the validity of this legislation.
– I did not say so.
– There are various ways of expressing opinions, and the honorable senator knows how much can be conveyed by insinuations and innuendoes. Some estimated that the revenue from this source would be not less than £2,500,000. As I have shown, the actual results were £370,357 in excess of the estimate. The result of the tax we regard as beneficial. None of the large land-holders of Australia have gone to a lunatic asylum, or committed suicide, or made an application for an old-age pension. Some of them have sold portions of their land at goodprices, and are better off than ever they were. The morbid predictions of our. friends of the Opposition have been brought to naught, and the country is more prosperous than ever. I want to make a comparison between the position in which the present Government stands in regard to the finances and the position of previous Administrations. In the past, Governments had a very easy way of getting out of their difficulties. If they could not easily patch up the Public Works of the Commonwealth they simply allowed them to go to decay. It is in consequence of that policy that today we hear Senator Sayers, and others, growling about - white ants in public buildings. By the legislation passed by this Parliament the Commonwealth has taken on substantial liabilities, and any Government worthy of its position must meet them in a manner creditable to the Commonwealth. In connexion with the Northern Territory, and its transfer to the Commonwealth, there was a sum of £151,513 borrowed by South Australia in excess of what had really been spent on the Territory. That sum had to be handed over to the Commonwealth. But against that the Commonwealth had to pay in connexion with the redemption of bills, and other liabilities, on account of the Northern Territory, £273, 250. I also wish to point out in connexion with the finances that past Governments - Governments of which members of the Opposition were supporters, and some of which were supported even by members of the Labour party, because we were bound to follow at their tail, not having strength enough to form a Government of our own - paid over to the States money that was, to the extent of £6,059.088, in excess of constitutional obligations.
– We were bound to pay over that money.
– We were not bound to do so. There would not be so many moth-eaten post-offices in Queensland, and elsewhere, if the Commonwealth Governments in the past had provided the facilities to which the people were entitled. But they neglected to carry out improvements, and to maintain buildings in a fair state of repair, in consequence of which the Commonwealth bill for buildings and renewals is much larger to-day than it otherwise would have been.
– We have not paid a cent to the States for the transferred properties yet.
– The honorable senator says, “ We have never paid a cent.” I say, “ You have never paid a cent.” Honorable senators on the opposite side held the reins of Government for ten. years, and they never paid a cent. We have only just come into power, and we arebeginning to pay. I shall tell honorable senators how much in a few minutes. It is not we, but you, on the other side, who are to blame. During the financial year just passed, we had an unexpectedly largesurplus of revenue, owing to the general prosperity throughout the Commonwealth. There was an excess of revenue over expenditure amounting to £1,829,524.
– The Government were that much out.
– No, we were that much in. If the honorable senator went out some night with ,£30 in his pocket and came back with only an IOU for £30, he would be ,£60 out. We were not out at all. We went out with £16,841,629, and we came in with £18,803,873, or £1, 829,524 better off than when we went out. Senator St. Ledger is very clever, but generally in the wrong direction.
– The Government estimate was not a very clever one.
– I think it wasmore than clever. It was really a Scotch estimate, as frugal as it could possibly be. Owing to the general prosperity of the country, it was shown to be much under the mark ; and, consequently, the people of Australia are .to-day in a much better position than it was anticipated they would be. When we found that we had this £1,829,000, it was necessary that .we should do something with it. If we had done, what previous Governments have done in the past, we should have handed it over to the States, and let the white ants and bottle flies continue to ravage the post-offices in Queensland and other States. The present Government did nothing of that kind. They divided the amount, putting one-half into a Trust Fund for the establishment of an Australian Navy, and the other half into the Old-age Pensions Fund. The wisdom of our action in putting this money into Trust Funds, instead of sending it back to the States, or blowing it out on the MelbourneCup, will be seen a little later on. I have dealt with the position of affairs during the last financial year. I now come to the Estimates of revenue and expenditure for the current, financial year ending 30th June, 1 91 2. The estimated revenue for this year is £19,515,000, and the estimated expenditure for the year is £21,227,679. Honorable senators will see that the estimated expenditure is much larger than the estimated revenue. Something, consequently, had to be done to meet the excess of expenditure over revenue amounting to £1,712,679. Where were we to go to find the money for the purpose? We could only go to the Trust Funds, and we have taken that . £1,712,679 from the Trust Funds to make up the amount we propose to spend during the current financial year. It might be said that we have no right to spend more than the actual revenue for the year, nor should we have proposed to do so if we had not had this amount in the Trust Funds to fall back upon. Because the estimated revenue of£19,515,000is less than the estimated expenditure of £21,227,679, we have had to fall back on the Trust Funds for the balance. If we had wasted the surplus revenue of last year, we should not have had this money to fall back upon, and honorable senators will see now the safe position in which the Government have kept themselves. I want to show what this amount of £1,712,679 is really required for, in order that honorable senators may know the justification for taking it from the Trust Funds. Of the amount, £600,000 will be required for the Post and Telegraph Department. Honorable senators may recollect that the authorities of the Department, and also the Postal Commission, recommended the expenditure, within a few years, of about £2,000,000 on that Department. We are making provision for the expenditure within two years on the Post and Telegraph Department of the £600,000 to which I have referred, and this year another amount of £700,000. The expen diture of a similar amount in the next financial year will bring the expenditure upon this Department up to the £2,000,000 that has been asked for. That is where some of the money is to go, and every citizen of the Commonwealth will be delighted at the determination of the Government to put the Post and Telegraph Department and its equipment in a proper condition. The balance of the amount of £1,712,679, namely, £1,112,679,will be used for the payments we shall require to make during the financial year on account of the Fleet. I might explain to honorable senators that this sum of £1,712,679 is not a recurring amount, and the same may be said of many of the amounts appearing on the Estimates for this year.
– When the honorable senator says that it is not a recurring amount, he will admit that there will be a payment of some sort to be made for similar services.
– Yes ; but Parliament will have to agree to those payments, and must accept the responsibility. I am referring now to payments which Parliament has already sanctioned, and has directed the Government to make. I hope that the Government will do all that they possibly can to carry out the directions of Parliament. From the commencement of the Commonwealth we were giving back all that we had to spare to the States, when they really did not want it, and we did. It is an absolute fact, well known to all the people of Australia, that the States did not want the money.
– They wanted it.
-They wanted it; but they did not need it. Honorable senators will find a table showing the very small amounts spent on public works during the time the Commonwealth was paying back surplus revenue to the States. The Labour party have done all they possibly could, up to the’ present, to keep out of the money market. They intend to continue to do so; but I do not say that the time will not arrive when, in order to carry out some of the undertakings authorized by this Parliament, honorable senators will not have to accept the responsibility of finding the money in some other way if the expense cannot be defrayed out of revenue. But that is in the future. During the current financial year, the Government propose to spend from revenue, and the surplus of last year, an amount of £4,306,365, on works. For the construction of similar works every State Government in the Commonwealth has been going to the money market. Honorable senators will admit that this is a great step in advance on anything that has been done in the past. If what the present Government spent during the last financial year were added to the £4,306,365 which they propose to expend on works during the current year, it would amount to more than we spent in the previous ten years of the existence of the Commonwealth in the same way. This should show that in the Labour Government the people have a Government that is prepared to do something. I shall endeavour now to interest honorable senators by showing how some of the revenue is to be expended. I have said that £4,306,365 is to be spent on works. Then, to meet our obligation to give 25s. per head of population to the States, we shall require .£5,776.250. I am sure that no one begrudges that amount to the States.
– It is £500,000 more than they received last year.
– That is quite true. The Post and Telegraph Department, apart from what is to be expended in the way I have already described, will require £3,935.980. For Invalid and Oldage Pensions we require £2,190,000. For Defence, we require £1)873,633. I am sure that honorable senators, in view of the opinion expressed by this Parliament, will accept the responsibility of doing all that is possible to provide adequately for the defence of our country. For interest and sinking fund on Transferred Properties, we require £673,600. There are other propositions requiring very large amounts of expenditure; and, as I have said, the total estimated expenditure will exceed the estimated actual revenue for the year by £1,712,679. I should like, shortly, to refer to the expenditure proposed in connexion with the different Departments of the Commonwealth. For the Parliament it is estimated that this year there will be required £185,341. The expenditure under this head last year was £209,678. We, therefore, propose to spend £24,337 less in this financial year in connexion with the Parliament than was spent last year. For the Prime Minister’s Department, there will be required this year £15,414, as against £9,020 last year, or an increase of £6,394. It must be remembered that the Prime Minister’s Department has taken over the Auditor-General’s Department, and that will account, to a considerable extent, for the increased expenditure proposed. The Treasury Department is charged wilh the payment of old-age and invalid pensions, and will require this year £2.359. °95. as against £1,951,409 last year, or an increase for this year of £407,686. The Attorney-General’s Department this year requires an expenditure of £63,14.2, as against £^55,414 for last year, or an increase of £7,728. Honorable senators who are prepared to devote sufficient time to the study of the papers placed before them will see why these increases are necessary. Another Department that requires a considerable increase of expenditure is the Department of External Affairs. This year, it will require £S32.899. as against .£453.256, or an increase of £79,643.
– What is the honorablesenator quoting his figures from?
– From the statement placed in the hands of honorable senators.
– The honorable senator’s figures do not agree with those beforeme.
- Senator Vardon, will find that, when he makes the proper deductions and additions, the figures will agree. In connexion with Defence, we thisyear propose to spend £2,264,156. Last year the expenditure on this Department was £1.397,915. This shows an increase for this year of £866,241.- Parliament hasurged an increase of expenditure in this Department, and is responsible for it. We are, in this matter, only carrying out its wishes. The Trade and Customs Department will this year require an expenditure of £I.I45.I92. as against £1,032,780 last year, or an increase of ,£112,412. The Home Affairs Department this year requires an expenditure of £181,645, as against an expenditure last year of £180,739, or an increase of £906. There will not be much objection to so slight an increase of expenditure upon such a Department. It must be remembered that, in carrying out the will of Parliament, and the instructionsgiven to the Government, the Home AffairsDepartment will have die control, probably, of the greater proportion of the- £4,306,365 to be expended on works.
– The papers before honorable senators show a decrease of £15,000, and not an increase of £1,000, on the expenditure for this Department?
– When the figures are properly understood, they will1 be found to be as I have stated them. The Postmaster-General will have this year a sum of £4.37i:952> as against £3,561,928 last year, showing an increase of £810,024. Every person who is familiar with the postal affairs of the Commonwealth knows that these increases to make the service efficient and up-to-date must naturally be made to the extent indicated. I hope that, although increases are necessary this year, and will be perhaps next year and the year following, yet the time will come when the affairs of the Postmaster-General will be in such a position that they can be economically worked, and all the deficits overtaken. I hope that in a very few years the Department will yield a handsome surplus, and thus increase the Consolidated Revenue. I think that I have given a fair indication of what has been done during the past year, and also a sufficient intimation of the intentions of the Government with respect to the finances during the next financial year. I have much pleasure in submitting the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator St. Ledger) adjourned.
Second Reading. (Debate resumed from page 1852.)
Senator E. J. RUSSELL (Victoria) [8.47”!. - Just before the debate was adjourned I was dealing with the scheme of Senator Vardon to secure a more democratic system of representation in the Senate as an alternative to a proposal which had been made by some imaginary party for the abolition of the Senate. At all events, it was an endeavour on his part to build up a case against the Labour party, on the statement of one individual, that it was our intention to abolish the Senate, and to prevent that, and to make the Senate more representative, which I understand was his guiding motive, he desired to introduce a system of proportional representation.
– I understood the honorable senator to refuse to name the person who had made this suggestion, and to say that it was made by members of the Labour party.
– I beg your pardon. Here is the newspaper report, which the honorable senator can read for himself.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable senator. I am dealing with the statement which he made, and not with a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I quoted the report.
– Proportional representation was put forward by the honorable senator for the purpose of improving the basis of representation in the Senate. He spoke of it in the light of a democratic proposal ; but he had not very far to go to-day to find that he is not prepared, as I should be very willingly, to support a proposal of that sort, provided that it applied to the constituency of Australia rather than to the States.
– And for both Houses ?
– I shall deal with that point in a moment. That would be giving representation to the people rather than the basis of equal representation which we have to-day, and which, of course, I accept. The honorable senator claims that it would be democratic to introduce proportional representation within the States, but he is not prepared to establish a general Democracy throughout Australia! I want to state why neither the honorable senator - nor, I take it, any other representative of a small State - will advocate this system. I want them to refrain from using terms in support of a proposal which is anything but democratic.
– And in which they do not believe.
– That is not the only false statement which you have made.
– Yes ; but it is a very good cry if they can get anybody to listen to it.
– Mr. President, I draw your attention to an interjection by Senator Vardon that I have made a false statement, and ask you to request a withdrawal of it.
– I did not hear the interjection ; but if Senator Vardon made the statement attributed to him it certainly was out of order, and should be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark, sir, and ask you to request Senator de Largie to withdraw his remark that I made a proposal in which I do not believe. That is what drew out my interjection that it was not the first false statement he had made.
– If that statement was made by Senator de Largie in reference to Senator Vardon, it was out of order, and should be withdrawn. I do not know whether it was made in that connexion.
– I would not hesitate for a moment, sir, to withdraw the statement if I had made it. What I did say was that it was a Democracy in which the honorable senator did not believe - an entirely different statement.
– I intend to quote some figures, not with the idea of advocating this proposal, but to show the logical application of it. If it is good that the Democracy should be represented, it should not be limited by the borders of the States. The quota which I mentioned before dinner would give to New South Wales thirteen senators, Victoria twelve, Queensland four, South Australia three, Western Australia two, and Tasmania two.
– You are incorrect, because, under my proposal, your quota is wrong.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator has a monopoly of any particular system. I think that, as I have dropped the odd figures, even if he increases the number to thirty-seven from thirty-six, that would not give South Australia another representative. I will give the benefit of the doubt to the honorable senator if he wishes.
– Then you want unequal representation.
– I am not advocating that, but showing that the honorable senator is advocating, in the name of Democracy, a system which he wants to limit to the borders of the States, and shirks the responsibility of advocating its application to the whole Commonwealth. I should be willing to accept the system as a sound one if it were applied to the whole of Australia, as I believe in the representation of the people and the people only. Let us take the other position. This is the democratic proposal which the honorable senator puts forward, and which he can modify a little if he likes. If we limit its application to the States, and take the number of those who voted at the last Federal election, a senator from New South Wales would represent 85,467 voters; a senator from Victoria, 78,089 voters; a senator from South Australia, 18,917 voters; a senator from Queensland, 28,439 voters; a senator from Western Australia, 13,982 voters; and a senator from Tasmania, 9,601 voters. The proposal of the honorable senator does not get over the difficulty which exists to-day, and to describe it as democratic, which means that the government is based on the supreme will of the people, is merely to make use of phrases which either are not understood, or which are used for the purpose of misleading the electors. That can be the only alternative. I want to deal now with the proposal requiring political associations, organizations, and leagues to make a return to the responsible authorities who have to look after the expenditure of their money. It is true that I find no limitation in the Bill. But from whom come the objections to the provision ? From the Opposition side of the chamber. It has been proclaimed loudly that the trade unions and political leagues are treated differently from other institutions.
– I did not hear any one on this side object to the return being required. We want to extend the provision.
– It seems to me that honorable senators on the other side want to be very deaf. There has never been any secrecy, and I hope there will not be any secrecy, in regard to any funds used by a Labour organization. I believe in compelling every political organization, whether it is Labour or antiLabour, to have a balance-sheet audited and published broadcast, so that the world may know where its funds come from. A few days after the vote was taken at the last referenda, I had the pleasure of stating to the press, and the statement was reported, every penny expended by the Labour party, and whence the money had come. Have the organizations on the other side, who are doing the squeaking, issued any balance-sheets? We have seen challenge after challenge that they should disclose their expenditure, not merely in connexion with the last election, but particularly in connexion with the recent referenda. From what source the money came I am not prepared to state, but I have my own opinion on that point. The challenge was made because it was impossible for the “ No” campaign to be carried on in Victoria alone with anything less than £40,000. Every country electorate had its advocate, who was a paid servant of one or other of the Fusion leagues. I have been in a small country district like Kerang, where there are not more than seven or eight thousand voters at the outside, and seen from two to four organizers, in receipt of fat salaries, working and misrepresenting the case. The party which is ashamed to publish its balancesheet has something to hide. Why? Not because of the astounding number of paid advocates for the cause, but because of the astounding number of men who were deliberately paid to misrepresent the position of the Labour party and those who were supporting its proposals. This was notorious in all districts. I know of many cases, which, if necessary, I could quote, but I do not desire to name individuals who exhibited manliness and courage. I know of a case where a prominent man in Victoria was offered a large sum for a certain number of weeks to go out on a campaign of misrepresentation. He asked what would become of him afterwards. These organizations are prepared to use anybody and everybody who are in a position to help, but to leave them to find their own way out of the political quagmire after their own work has been done. Now, who provided the funds, the accounts of which they are not prepared to have audited? It is said that we have a monopoly of the funds of the trade unions. Granted, small as it is. We have a monopoly, it is said, too, of the political organizations. Will Senator St. Ledger, who smiles, say that the whole of the vast sum which was expended by the Liberal organization came from the Women’s National League? The reason why they are not prepared to publish a balance-sheet, but quibble, and desire to evade this responsibility is because the money came from a source which they are ashamed of and afraid to disclose to the people.
– If you will not publish your balance-sheet, why should we publish ours?
– We have published ours.
– Whether it has been published in a form which is acceptable to the honorable senator or not it has been published.
– What about the Australian Workers Union? How many thousands did it spend?
– It is a case of save me from my friends. First, Senator St. Ledger says that we did not publish our balance-sheet ; then, Senator Walker asks, “ What about the Australian Workers Union?” while, the other day, Senator Millen had in his hand a copy of the balance-sheet of that union. It would be better for my honorable friends to hold a Caucus meeting and arrange not to contradict each other. That large sums were supplied is admitted. The object of my remarks is to show the necessity of having balance-sheets audited and published, in the press, if necessary.
– The provision will touch our organizations, but it will not touch yours.
– Why not? To-day our trade unions, from the Australian Workers Union down to some of the smallest, are proclaimed political organizations and affiliated with a political organization? Does not this provision deal with political organizations?
– The point is, will they be compelled under this Bill to publish their balance-sheets?
– Of course they will be.
– I do not think so.
– That is recognised and publicly proclaimed from the house-tops. I am prepared, however, to support an amendment to make it quite clear that every political organization shall have a balance-sheet audited and open to public inspection.
– What about trade unions ?
– Where they are political treat them in the same way. Some are political and some are not.
– The organizations which take the most active part in politics publish broadcast their balancesheets in order to show their members and the general public what is being done. The Bill prohibits the employment of paid canvassers or agents. We all admire the man who is prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of his political principles, whatever they may be - the man who will put energy and determination into a campaign for the sake of a principle which he believes will, if adopted, be in the interest of his State. Undoubtedly most of the political corruption which has disfigured contests in the past has come from the clever schemer, who is at all times anxious to ally himself with any party which is able to produce money, and who never makes the mistake of falling in with the party which has the least funds.
– What is the value of the services of a man of that character. Who would trust him?
– The honorable senator should not ask me that question because he belonged to an organization which whipped them all up and gave them very fair salaries.
– I did not.
– What occurred in Victoria at the time of the referendum campaign? Every man who had been associated in this State with every doubtful political campaign, who had always hung on to an individual who had money, irrespective of politics; the man who had been one day a Conservative, the next day an anti-Socialist, and the day after a Liberal - nearly all these men who are clever and keen were on one side, and that is the side on which the money was. And, last, but not least, the great army of paid misrepresenters in this State included the rag-tag and bob-tail who had been kicked out of our party because of their want of principle. That, I take it, represents correctly the position in the other States during that campaign. That is how the other side got all the postal votes in Victoria as far as my experience goes. This Bill, I believe, wants stiffening, because, in certain directions, it does not go quite far enough.
– It wants dead stiffening.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator will not have an opportunity of being the undertaker on this occasion. I have devoted some time and attention to the consideration of the system which the officers of the Department have brought into existence - namely, the card system. I believe that with correct and careful administration the card system as now adopted will prevent the inflation of the rolls, will give us clean rolls, and will insure that no more than the correct number of people enrolled shall register votes. I believe that this will enable us to have a better electoral machinery, and the more effectually to stamp out corrupt practices than all the other devices of the Electoral Office put together. I believe that we shall thus contribute towards making Commonwealth elections as clean as they ought to be considering that this is a Democracy. The abolition of the paid canvasser will further assist to destroy an undesirable element in our political life ; and the obligation imposed upon the press to furnish returns of the sources from which money is obtained in respect of political advertisements, and other electoral matter, will enable the people to know with reasonable certainty when the newspapers upon which they rely ave in the pay of political associations. With the additions that I have indicated, I trust that the Bill will be passed into law, and will assist to realize the ideal of clean political contests in Australia.
– I hope to cause the Government to experience some hesitancy in regard to their advocacy of this Bill. It was said of the late President Kruger, by a char- ‘acter known as Mr. Dooley, that he ought to have given the franchise to the Uitlanders of the Transvaal, but ought at the same time to have taken care to count the ballot-papers. If he had done that, Mr.
Dooley said, there would have been no war. This Bill is a Dooley-Kruger Bill, or, if not exactly that, it is, at any rate, a pretty big chip off that block. The Government, whether they knew it or not, have brought in a measure the effect of which will be very much what a similar measure drawn up by Mr. Kruger would have been. It is somewhat remarkable that the Bill when introduced by the Minister of Defence was defended by means of a quotation from an official memorandum which, to say the least of it, contained a gross inaccuracy - for which the Minister, not the officials, was responsible. That memorandum as quoted observed that the present Electoral Act under section 32, permitted of a proclamation being issued requiring the preparation of a new roll under a system of compulsory enrolment. If the Minister had referred to section 32 of the Act he would have found the provision to be that new rolls for any polling place, subdivision, division or State - shall be prepared whenever declared by proclamation and in the manner specified in the proclamation or prescribed by the regulations.
A proclamation 01 regulation under an Act can contain no more than the Act itself contains. If a proclamation or a regulation contained things not authorized by the Act, the proclamation would be to that extent invalid and the regulation would be ineffective.
– The Government have power to prepare rules as prescribed.
– As prescribed by what?
– By the regulations.
– No, the regulations cannot go beyond the Act ; and as the Act does not provide for compulsory enrolment, neither the proclamation nor the regulations could make enrolment compulsory. That that argument is sound as a matter of common sense - as I respectfully submit that it is sound as a matter of law - is proved by the fact that the Govern-, ment have brought in a Bill to make enrolment compulsory. If they could have made enrolment compulsory under the existing law there was no need for this amending Bill. The Minister is on the horns ofa dilemma right away. The very fact that an amending Bill has been brought in to’ provide for compulsory enrolment shows at once that the former Act did not provide, for any such thing. The Minister is responsible, but the officials ought to be a little more careful when they submit to a-
Minister an official memorandum containing such a statement. Both Minister and officials ought to submit such a point to the Law officers so as to be quite correct.
– That was done.
– Then I can only compliment the Crown Law office upon landing Ministers in a position which, whether as a matter of common sense or of law, amounts to an unanswerable dilemma. I mention this matter, following up the criticism made by the Leader of the Opposition, to show how absolutely necessary it is that the Government should carefully watch its officers and curtail the growing tendency towards beaurocracy. When the Minister of Defence introduced this Bill it was apparent to every one who listened to him1 that he was explaining a measure which was really within the province of an absent colleague. Throughout his most cursory explanation the Minister left important provisions to be further explained by his colleague. Of course, in his usual fashion, every portion of the Bill with which the Minister of Defence dealt was lucidly explained, and his explanation was perfectly intelligible. But it was insufficient. Furthermore, the Minister introducing this Bill exhibited a tendency which has previously been noted - a tendency to make charges against other people unnecessarily. I mention this tendency because it is growing into a habit, or degenerating into a disease, with him. The honorable senator repeats the offence nearly every time he addresses the Senate. Referring to the return required by this Bill in relation to expenses incurred by persons or organizations, he gave reasons why such a return should be furnished, and then threw out an insinuation which was unjustified. He said that a candidate might furnish a return of his election expenses which was absolutely bona fide, but he went on to say that, nevertheless, “ in his election proper corruption and fraudulent practices might have been rampant.” Where is there the slightest evidence - I will not say proof - that anything which can be stigmatized as corruption takes place in connexion with the elections in Australia, or has been rampant?
– The honorable senator must not expect Parliament to be a Court.
– That is not the point. My point is that the Minister insinuated that corruption has been rampant by saying, “ Notwithstanding that it may have been rampant.” There is such a thing as destroying a man’s character - and more especially a woman’s character - by a shrug, or even by silence, without committing oneself to any definite statement. Personally, so to do is the shabbiest of things; politically, it is contemptible. If there is any reason whatever upon which the Minister’s statement is founded, it is the duly of the Government to bring forward their evidence at once. Is there a shadow of evidence for the suggestion that bribery or corruption have been rampant in any election in Australia ? No. Every time any honorable senator opposite has been asked to give a direct instance upon which such a suspicion or charge can be founded, it melts at once into thin air, or flies away into corners, where it is impossible to pursue it. What is the value of this kind of argument ?
– I call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– Insinuations thrown out in this way can only lead people to think that attempts have been made, either by those on this side of the Senate or by politicians elsewhere, to bribe and corrupt the electors of Australia. I have no hesitation in saying that it is our bounden duty to attack and refute insinuations of that kind. There may be political sins which may be alleged against political organizations in reference to the conduct of elections. Sins of that kind may reveal themselves if one chooses to search for them. But if honorable senators opposite are quite candid, they will admit that those sins lie just as much at. the door of their own organizations as of those who support the Opposition. But they do not justify any such charge.
– What charge?
– The charge that we want to corrupt or improperly influence the conduct of politics in Australia. I take this opportunity of drawing attention to a matter of which we should all be proud. Apart from, the political parties to which we may belong, we can claim that, as far as the politicians and statesmen of Australia are concerned, and as far as our constituencies are concerned also, they have earned a reputation for incorruptibility, which ought to protect them from such insinuations as those to which I have referred. Charges and insinuations of the kind ought to be suppressed, because they. are in the main unjust to both parties, and can only inflame public opinion unwarrantably. Our object in framing an Electoral Bill ought to be simply to provide an effective political machine by means of which the people of Australia can express their opinions. One of my complaints against this Bill is that it conspicuously seeks to attain its ends, not by direct legislation, but by regulation. Nearly every clause in it refers to things to be determined afterwards “ as prescribed “ or “by regulation.” Indeed, it may be pointed out that the drafting of Bills presented to this Parliament is becoming notorious in these respects. Crucial points of administration closely connected with matters of policy are determined by regulation. Such a practice of drafting must have a powerful influence in determining the form of our legislation - a still more powerful influence in determining administration - and frequently Parliament has to take the whole thing on trust and depend upon regulations of which they have no knowledge during the consideration of the Bill. I should like to say that a very different practice is now being followed in the Queensland Parliament. It has been introduced after repeated requests from members of both political parties, and now, when important measures are under consideration, they are accompanied by the regulations to be proposed under them in a draft form as a supplement to the Bill. In this way, the clauses of a Bill, and the regulations controlling their administration, may be considered together, and members of Parliament are placed in a position to understand how far the regulations, as drafted, will give effect to the policy of the Bill, and how they will influence its administration.
– We should need plenty of time for the drafting of Bills under those conditions.
– Possibly, it would take some time, but Ministers have at their command the full resources of the Crown Law Department, and the other Departments specially concerned in any measure. The Minister, or the permanent officials of the Department, when submitting to the draftsman the outlines and principles of a Bill, must have a definite idea of the way in which they intend that the measure, if passed, shall be administered. Side by side with the building up of a Bill must go the consideration of the regulations which will lie required to administer it.
– Where the Bill provides that certain things are to be done by regulations, the Minister must know the nature of those regulations.
– That is so. We have a right to assume that the officers of the Electoral Branch, in submitting their suggestions to the Minister for the framing of a measure of this kind, will have in view the requirements of its administration. If not, they are unfit for the positions they occupy.
– The honorable senator must know that regulations are frequently changed without any alteration of the Act under which they are made.
– How can .that apply in a case of this kind ? We have an amending Bill introduced giving expression to the principles it is desired to enact with a knowledge that its administration will be based upon certain regulations. The building up of the Bill, and the regulations necessary to administer it, must have been simultaneously in the minds of those who are responsible for it. Senator Rae stands up as an apologist for the neglect to supply some outline of those regulations. How does the honorable senator get over the fact that in the Queensland Parliament the course I suggest is followed ? I do not desire to give the practice of that Parliament any special prominence, and mention it only because I naturally know more about it than about the Parliaments of the other States. There is nothing to prevent the permanent heads of the Department, or the Minister, taking charge of a Bill submitting the regulations upon which its future administration is to be based.
– A skeleton of them might be supplied.
– We could not expect that they would be supplied in a finished form. Our view of some of the most important features of this Bill must depend entirely upon the form which the regulations for the administration of the different clauses will take. Many of the clauses are in themselves comparatively insignificant as compared to what will appear in the regulations framed to give them effect. One to which I shall refer honorable senators is the proposed new section 32A, sub-section 2, which will be found in clause 7 of the Bill. It provides that -
The regulations shall prescribe anything necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying a system of compulsory enrolment into effect.
I do not at this stage propose to consider the necessity for, or the merits of, a system of compulsory enrolment. But the most important feature in connexion with it is certainly the way in which it is to be administered. Senator Millen suggested a way, but that could be only conjecture. The Minister of Defence, in introducing the Bill, did not’ suggest any method, and Senator Findley, who was in charge of the Bill, has said very little on the subject. Honorable senators who have spoken from the other . side have given us no light, and yet it will be admitted that a very great deal will depend on the way in which it is proposed to carry out the compulsory enrolment system. I confess that my mind halts on the question as to whether compulsory enrolment is necessary or judicious.
– Does it ever move?
– That is one of Senator Needham’ s characteristic remarks. It is all that the honorable senator appears to be able to rise to when he descends, or ascends, to an interjection. I can understand that the adoption of a card system, or some modification of it, might remove my present objections to compulsory enrolment, but, so far, we have had no explanation of the way in which it is proposed to give effect to the system. If it were on the lines suggested by Senator Millen, some light having been thrown on the subject by Senator Findley, my objections to it might be weakened. There are advantages in the system. My chief objections to it at present are that it would be expensive and irritating, and possibly would be futile after all. Whether it will be expensive or irritating when in practice will depend very largely on how it will be administered. The Bill declares the principle; but the administration will be in accordance with regulations. Surely, on such a matter - when our minds are halting, and some on this side are prepared to accept the principle^ - the Government ought to give us information with respect to the proposed administration which would enable us to make up our minds. The words used in sub-section 2 of the proposed new subsection 32A are -
Anything necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying a system of compulsory enrolment into effect. ‘
There is here another obvious difficulty. What is to be understood by the word “convenient” ? Let me point out that a system which might be convenient and applicable to the circumstances of Victoria or Tasmania, and might be comparatively easy and inexpensive, might be quite inap plicable to such large States as Queensland, Western Australia, or New South Wales.
– What is the convenience to be considered ; that of the public or of the Electoral Office.
– Exactly. We do not know whose convenience is to be consulted. The Bill is framed, from top to bottom, to suit the convenience of the Department that will be called upon to administer the measure. That would be right enough if that were all we had to consider. But we have to consider also the convenience of the public and the various and varying requirements of the different States. I will mention a reason why I direct attention to this matter, and ask that at least a draft of the regulations shall be presented to honorable senators. In connexion with the last Senate election, one of the officers sent in his voucher to the Department for expenses. He was immediately carpeted. Inquiries and reports were made, and the officers of the Department were absolutely dissatisfied with every explanation of a particular- item of expenditure. The expenditure had been incurred, and the official was asked to come down to Melbourne in order that the authorities here might have the benefit of a personal explanation of the matter from him. He suggested to me that, as I happened to be going to Melbourne, I might look into the matter ; and I did so. The expenditure was incurred for the conveyance of a ballot-box which contained three ballot-papers. The cost of conveying it from the centre of the electoral division to an outside polling place and back to the centre of the division amounted to as much as the total expenditure for the conveyance of similar boxes throughout the whole of the State of Victoria. Naturally, the departmental officials down here seized upon this item, and concluded that the official had been careless in the performance of his duty, or had overlooked an extravagant demand. I pointed out that the box in question had to be conveyed over a distance considerably greater than the greatest distance which could be reckoned in a straight line through Victoria and some distance into New South Wales. 1 plead that, in matters of this kind, honorable senators should have the benefit of the perusal of skeleton regulations to be framed under a measure, in order that they may be in a better position to determine; not only the policy on which it is founded, but the extent to which the administration proposed will give effect to the principles it contained. I refer honorable senators now to clause 8, and the proposed new sub-section 6ie -
In any prosecution in any court of summary jurisdiction in respect of any contravention of any of the regulations - which we have not yet seen - relating to compulsory enrolment, instituted by any officer -
I remind honorable senators that, under the existing Act, “Officer” includes the following: - The Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for a State, a returning officer, an assistant returning officer, an electoral registrar, a presiding officer, an assistant presiding officer, a doorkeeper, and a poll clerk. These are all officers, and each of them will be able, under this Bill, to institute a prosecution for any contravention of the regulations relating to compulsory enrolment. I confess that, in the circumstances, I should like very, much to see those regulations.
– Would the definition shut out a policeman?
– I think it would, since certain officers are specifically mentioned in the definition in the existing Act, which it is not proposed to amend by this Bill. It would not, I think, under this Bill, be possible to include a State police officer. That is an opinion cursorily formed, and given for what it is worth. The proposed new section goes on to provide that such a prosecution may be instituted, not only by any officer, but by any person acting under the direction of an officer. I doubt whether the Minister can point to a similar provision in any Act of Parliament. What precedent is there for this? I do not think that even the Customs Act contains such a provision. If my memory serves me correctly, prosecutions under that Act must be instituted with the consent of a Minister or of an officer mentioned in the Act. I doubt whether any Act of Parliament can be referred to in which an officer intrusted with the power of prosecution is allowed to delegate his prosecuting power in such a way. Whether that be so or not, this is an extraordinary provision. Usually such a provision in an Act is accompanied with a condition that the prosecution must be with the consent of the Minister, or some permanent responsible officer of the Department. We have complained that the Government in this measure are not doing much for the extension of the franchise; but they are running amok with the extension of facilities for prosecutions. We should certainly have some further information as to how it is proposed that these prosecutions shall be carried out. Here, again, I think that neither the officials nor the Minister have recognised the varying conditions of different parts of the Commonwealth. Under this Bill, as it stands, it would be possible for a doorkeeper at a polling booth at Boulia to delegate his authority to prosecute some person for an offence against the regulations committed at Windorah; and the alleged offender might be dragged from Roma to Boulia to answer the charge, although he might be a perfectly innocent man. The expense to which he would be put would be enormous; and if the charge against him were dismissed, he would never be able to recover his expenses. It might be said that I am pleading from an extreme case; but it is a case which might occur, and it would be no satisfaction to the man who might be made the victim of an extremely stupid, or even malicious, act, to say that his case was an extreme one, and, on that account, had not been provided for. It ought to be provided for. When Parliament is asked to give this power to officials, it should be told precisely how it is to be used and administered. Another very important amendment of the Act is the one which deals with regulations, and which is embodied in clause 17. It prescribes the making of regulations for any elector, who on polling day, will not be within any electoral division, to vote before any Electoral Registrar at any time after the issue of the writ and before polling day, subject to making the prescribed declaration. It has been pointed out more than once from this side, and it was practically admitted by the Minister of Defence when he introduced the Bill, that very wide powers are given in this clause which makes provision for absent voting. That statement is not cavilled at, but it has been pointed out that, in the circumstances, the Ministry intend that any person may vote at any polling-booth in the Commonwealth, whether he is in the divi-sion in which he lives or not.
– There are some persons who are at sea.
– I can undersand that; but what about those persons who will not be at sea? The provision which is made for the former class, and with which I entirely agree, is quite different, because it requires the seamen to go before an Electoral Registrar of his State, to say he thinks that he will be outside the Commonwealth, and to record his vote. I hope that we shall be afforded an opportunity to see the regulations on this point.
– TheBill is specific on one point, and that is that there has to be a declaration.
– Yes, but not in regard to the man who is on land, for he may vote at any polling booth in the Commonwealth and for his own division.
– He has also to vote on a form.
– The Bill does not say so.
– He has to vote on the form prescribed, but not to make a declaration. The very fact that he can vote anywhere outside his division isa reason why the form should be prescribed in the Bill. Parliament is surely entitled to this information. Unless the form is prescribed, any corruption or improper conduct which has happened will be but a small circumstance compared with that which may occur under this provision. Why cannot the Minister let us have a skeleton of the regulations? I should say, from its style, that most of the forms accompanied the Bill when it was under discussion in Cabinet. We are all familiar with the forms which are prescribed in the principal Act ; but this Bill proposes a new and important departure. The forms and regulations under which it will be carried out are everything. No one objects to give facilities and opportunities to vote to every person in the Commonwealth, apart from the question of whether he is inside or outside his division. The all-important point is : How is the provision to be administered ? Take the “ Q “ form, with which we are familiar. An applicant has to identify himself when he is outside his subdivision, and even when he is in it, and so the form prescribes. He has to set his handwriting to the form as a further safeguard, and it he is too weak to sign his name he has to make a mark in front of an officer, and a declaration, which is set out clearly in the Act, has to be made. Parliament has, I contend, the right to sec the safeguards intended to prevent any abuse of the extended facilities. Another clause to which I intend to refer shows the necessity of submitting the regulations. I cannot understand why it is included in the Bill at all. and I hope that the Minister will furnish an explanation. I think it must have escaped his observation. Proposed new section 139 a empowers the Department to define by regulation the grounds on which the ballot-papers of absent voters are to be rejected as informal. That power should, I think, be left tothe Court. I am not aware that in any other Act the power of declaring a ballot-paper formal or informal has ever been controlled by regulation or defined by the Electoral Department. In all Electoral Acts, State and Federal, the form of the ballot-paper is prescribed. It indicates certain formalities which the elector has to observe. It prescribes, as a rule, exactly what the ballotpaper shall contain, and provides thatany mark or writing on the ballot-paper shall have the effect of making it informal. But in this case the Electoral Office seems to be going further. It is left to the officials by regulation to determine when a ballot-paper shall be informal. What may happen if the regulations prescribe hardandfast conditions which, if not complied with, may make a ballot-paper informal? When that informality comes to be contested, the Court may be driven to consider the regulations only, and whether the elector has conformed with them or not. It may bind the candidate disputing down to the regulations rather than consider what was the intention to be gathered by the marks placed on the ballot-paper. It seems to me to be asking for a rather large and unusual extension of departmental powers when it goes so far as that. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future day.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111026_senate_4_61/>.