4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
The apparent loss is principally due to the lowing causes : -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Papua - Ordinances of 1911 -
Native Children’s; (2) Auctioneers;(3) Defamation; (4) No. 9. Birds Protection;
Public Hospitals; (6) No. 18. Pblic Seers’ Fees; (7) Claims by and against the Government.
Defence Act 1903-1910 -
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
New Regulation 292a. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 172.
Amendment of Regulations 183 and 184. - Statutory Rules1911, No. 174.
Regulations (Provisional) for Universal Training -
Amendment of Regulation 74. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 173.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1910 -
Amendment of General Postal Regulations and Telephone Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 134.
Amendment (Provisional) of Telegraphic and Telephone Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 135.
Amendment of Money Orders Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 142.
Amendment of Postal and General Postal Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 169.
Amendment. (Provisional) of Telephone Regulations.Statutory Rules 1911, No. 170.
Amendment of General Postal and Telephone Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 171.
Sugar Industry - Copy of Letters Patent appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the Sugar Industry in
Papua - Ordinances of 191 1 -
The Clerk laid upon the table the following return -
Further return to order of the. Senate of 5th October, 1911 - Press. Cable Subsidy : Amount paid to date, &c.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th November, vide page 2247) :
Clause 8, as amended -
After section sixty-oneb of the Principal Act. the following sections are inserted : - 61e. In any prosecution in any Court of summary jurisdiction in respect of any contravention of any of the regulations relating to compulsory enrolment, instituted by any officer or by any person acting under the direction of an officer, the averments of the prosecutor contained in the information or complaint shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
Upon which Senator Keating had moved -
That the following proposed new section be added : - “ 61F. Every summons to a defendant in any such prosecution as last mentioned shall have conspicuously printed upon the face of it a notice in the following terms : - ‘ At the hearing of this information (or complaint) you must tender or produce evidence otherwise the statements above set forth will be taken as proved without the evidence of any witness or witnesses in support of the same. The penalty prescribed for the offence with which you are charged is (here set forth penalty).’ “
– I wish to ask any honorable senator who is acting on behalf of Senator Keating in his absence, if he will be good enough to withdraw the amendment in order that I may move one which, I think, will give satisfaction to those who opposed the original provision on Friday, and which is much more comprehensive than the one before the Committee.
– I may mention that Senator Keating spoke to me quite informally about this matter, and asked me to attend to his amendment. Beyond that, I cannot say that I have any authority from him. I know how the amendment arose. It seems to me that, by his amendment, which has been circulated, the Minister has met very largely the position, and provided some, if not all, the safeguards which Senator Keating desired to have inserted. Personally, I think that the Minister has fairly met the intention of Senator Keating.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clauses be added : - “ (2.) The defendant in any such prosecution may, at any time before the hearing, lodge with or send by post to the Court or the prosecuting officer a statutory declaration setting forth any matter he desires to set forth in answer to the charge. “ (3.) Where a statutory declaration is received by the prosecuting officer in pursuance of this section he shall as far as it is practicable for him to do so inquire into the truth of the statements therein set out and shall, unless he withdraws the prosecution, bring the declaration to the notice of the Court. “ (4.) The Court shall at the hearing of the case consider the statutory declaration (whether the defendant is present or not) as if the matter set out therein had been given in evidence before it. “ (5.) The Court may in its discretion on the application of the prosecuting officer adjourn the hearing for any period it thinks fit to enable him to answer the declaration. “ (6.) In any such prosecution there shall be served on the defendant a notice to the effect that the averment of the prosecutor as set forth in the summons will on the hearing of the case be deemed to be proved in the absence of evidence to the contrary, and setting out the amount of the penalty which may be imposed, and that the defendant may attend the Court and answer the charge in person or may lodge with or send by post to the Court or the prosecuting officer a statutory declaration setting out any matter he desires to set out in answer to the charge, and that such declaration will be consideredby the Court as if it were evidence subject to any evidence in reply adduced by the prosecutor. The notice may be printed or written on the summons or may be by separate document served therewith.”
I think that those honorable senators who on Friday last objected to proposed new section61e will find some satisfaction in the amendment now submitted. Many, if not all, of the objections which were urged have been met.
– The amendment gives the accused a chance, which he had not before.
– It was never intended that any man or woman entitled to be enrolled should not be given the fairest and fullest chance of making a defence against any charge of failure to enroll. The applicant was to be given an acknowledgment of his application for enrolment, which in itself would be a good defence.
– The accused is still adjudged a criminal until he proves himself innocent.
– We disposed on Friday last of the matter mentioned by Senator Vardon, who will admit that the proposed new sub-clauses go a long way to meet the objections raised by him and others.
– The Opposition regard the proposed new sub-clauses as a palliation of what we thought to be a too rigid and improper method of procedure embodied in proposed new section61e. The principle of that provision is, in our opinion, wholly to be condemned. Under no circumstances would the Opposition have agreed to accept proposed new section61e even with this amendment if it could have been avoided. But if the Government will insist on this drastic procedure for enforcing compulsory enrolment, the next best thing for us to do is to accept the amendment proposed by the Minister. I may add, on my own behalf, that I regard the method of procedure followed by the Bill as a kind of third-degree business. Senator Keating has succeeded in lifting it into the second degree. As the amendment is a palliative, we accept it as a welcome modification of the original third-degree proceedings.
– Proposed new sub-clause 6 sets out that the person supposed ‘ to be an offender shall be served with a summons or notice. Is it intended to serve the notice personally, or by post? If the notices are not served personally, but by post, there is every possibility that many people, through no fault of their own, may not receive them. I suggest . to the Minister the desirableness of inserting the word “personally” after the word “served.” That would insure that the defendant would be notified of any action taken by the Department.
– It might be served personally or by registered letter.
– Even a registered letter might not reach the defendant in time. In a matter of this kind, the least the Department can do is to find out the person against whom it proposes to proceed, and serve him personally with a summons. I hope that, in order to remove all doubt on the question, and to give a chance to the elector for whom so much sympathy has been expressed, the Minister willaccept my suggestion.
– I cannot act on the honorable senator’s suggestion. He need not have the slightest fear that every care will not be taken to serve sum- monses upon those who are charged with any contravention of the law under this Bill. As a matter of fact, all summonses are personally served unless otherwise prescribed.
– Then there will be persona] service?
– Unless otherwise prescribed.
– Are the Government going to prescribe otherwise?
– It might happen from time to time in remote parts of the Commonwealth that it would be absolutely impossible to serve summonses personally.
– In such cases it would be impossible for the electors to record their votes.
– The Committee would not be doing well to act upon Sena tor Lynch’s suggestion. If the Government proposal is accepted, no harm will be donfe to any elector, though it might happen that, a regulation would be necessary to prescribe for the serving of summonses otherwise than personally in special cases.
– I hope that Senator Lynch’s suggestion will be accepted. So much ‘ is being left to regulation under the Bill that it is quite possible that summonses and the method of their service will be made the subject of regulation. Senator Lynch desires that it shall be placed beyond doubt that, under this provision, summonses will be personally served. As a matter of law, every summons, except when otherwise prescribed, must be served personally.
– Then it would do no harm to accept the proposed amendment.
– That is so, and we are informed that it would give effect to the desire of the Minister and of the Department. If the proposed amendment were agreed to there would be a guarantee to the Court hearing the case that the summons had been personally served, because, where personal service is required, the officer charged with the duty makes a declaration that he has served the summons that is lodged with the Court. I should like to draw attention to another matter arising in an earlier part of the sub-clauses proposed by the Minister. The proposed new sub-clause 2 reads -
The defendant in any such prosecution may, at any time before the hearing, lodge with or send bv post to the Court or the prosecuting officer a statutory declaration setting forth any matters he desires to set forth in answer to the charge -
I believe that, under our Federal law, 3 statutory declaration must be signed before a justice of the peace. It might not be always convenient, or even possible, for a person charged with an offence under this proposed new section to find a justice of the peace before whom he could make a statutory declaration, and I, therefore, suggest that the sub-clause should be amended by inserting after the word “ declaration “ the words “or a declaration in writingsigned by the defendant.”
– That would not be a declaration It would be merely a statement.
– I wish the defendant to be given an opportunity tq make a statement of any matter he desires to set forth in answer to the charge if he be unable conveniently to get a justice of the peace to witness a statutory declaration. It might be inconvenient or very expensive for a defendant «to attend the Court, and he should, I think, be given an opportunity to make a statement in writing signed by himself.
– A statement might be true, but a statutory declaration must, be true under certain penalties.
– No; I think that a statement in writing, signed by a defendant, in a judicial proceeding, even though it may not be witnessed by a justice of the peace, would, if it were false, render the defendant liable to a prosecution tor perjury. Where the law gives effect to a statement as evidence, I think the person signing it is liable to a prosecution for perjury if it is shown to be false. I move - 1 That after the word “declaration” in proposed new sub-clause 3 the following words be inserted : - “ or a declaration in -writing signed by the defendant.” i Senator SAYERS (Queensland) [3.29].- ;It would do no harm to accept Senator St. Ledger’s amendment. In the western districts of Queensland, people have often to travel 40 or 50 miles to reach the residence of the nearest justice of the peace. If, under this proposed new section, an elector is to be required to send in a statutory declaration, he may travel 40 or 50 miles to the residence of the nearest justice, only to find that he is not at home. In such circumstances, why not make the :scope of the measure as wide as possible, instead of confining it to a statutory declaration? In Queensland, two or three hundred miles inland, there are hundreds of men and women who are not within a reasonable distance of a justice of the peace. A similar remark is applicable to the out-back residents of Western Australia and South Australia.
– And of the Northern Territory.
– This Bill is not applicable to the Northern Territory, because, so far, it has no Parliamentary representation. No harm can result from adopting the proposal of Senator St. Ledger.
– Why not apply it to Melbourne and Sydney, where justices of 1he peace are as thick as mulberries?” Senator SAYERS. - T do not desire to apply it to large centres, where justices of the peace are as thick as mulberries. I merely ask the Honorary Minister to consent to widen the scope of the clause, so as to permit a defendant to make a statutory declaration if he wishes to do so. I desire to meet the cases of those persons who find it impossible to secure the services of a justice of the peace.
– Then why not confine it to them?
– I cannot do so. No harm can result from allowing a man to supply a written statement of the ‘reasons why his name does not appear on the electoral roll. There are many parts of the country in which he might have to walk several miles in order to get a pen and ink, much less to secure his enrolment. I do not think that we need apprehend that any man or woman will furnish false statements. But where the services of a justice of the peace cannot be requisitioned, persons who are not enrolled should be afforded an opportunity of protecting themselves in some way or another. I do not know whether Senator Guthrie has read the Bill, but, if so, he will find that it is a very drastic measure indeed. In the absence of the amendment suggested by Senator St. Ledger, a defendant whose name does not appear upon the rolls will be immediately punishable. I wish to give such an individual a chance to prove his innocence. We wish to compel enrolment on the part of those who are able to enroll, but we fail to see why others who cannot be reached even by letter should be penalized for their neglect to do so. Even under our Defence Act, which provides for compulsory military training, exemptions have been provided for. There are whole districts which are not brought under the scope of that Statute, merely because of the impossibility of reaching the residents of such areas. But, under this Bill, there are to be no exemptions. I wish to give a man who has not enrolled a chance of defending himself, even if it be merely by letter.
– I cannot accept the amendment under any circumstances. If We once consent to water .down the clause in the way that has been suggested by Senator St. Ledger, we .may as well wipe out the new sub-clauses which I have submitted in their entirety. ‘.Senator Sayers has declared that some’ persons may have to walk several miles in order to obtain even, pen and ink. In making that statement, I - think that he “exaggerated somewhat. We wish any person .who makes a statutorydeclaration to be held responsible for it.. Senator St. Ledger has not outlined any penalty for the making of a false statement. But, altogether apart from justices of the peace, there are others whose aid may be requisitioned in regard to statutory declarations. For instance, under the Act relating to statutory declarations, such a declaration may be made before a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate, or before a justice of the peace, or a commissioner for affidavits, or a commissioner for declarations. Should the occasion arise, there is nothing to prevent the Government from appointing a commissioner for declarations. If the predictions of Senator Sayers and others are realized, there will be nothing to prevent the Government from appointing any number of commissioners of declarations. But, personally, I do not anticipate any such trouble. If an injustice is being done to any person, he will undoubtedly find a way of replying to the charge preferred against him, and of establishing his innocence.
– I should be willing to substitute the words “ written statement “ for the word “ declaration,” and to add the words “ duly witnessed.”
– If compulsory enrolment is to be enforced, a great many prosecutions will take place, especially during’ the first year or two of the operation of this Bill. Naturally there will be numerous violations of its provisions, and therefore we ought to offer to the residents in the outlying portions of Australia facilities to safeguard their interests. I do not think it is fair to call upon any individual to make a statutory declaration, when the adoption of such a course may involve him in the loss of a good deal of time by compelling him to travel a long distance in order to secure the services of a commissioner who may receive his declaration. I hope that the Minister will accept Senator St. Ledger’s offer to alter his amendment by striking out the word “declaration,” and substituting the words “ written statement,” and adding the words “ duly witnessed.” That would allow a man to make a statement, and his signature, as in the case of many other documents, could be witnessed by any person. If the Minister wants to guard against the possibility of false statements being made, let him provide for the imposition of a penalty of £10. That would surely make persons very careful to see that their statements were true.
– Would you make the witness to a signature responsible as justices of the peace are made responsible?
– No justice of the peace is made responsible for the truth of any statement made by a person whose signature he witnesses. I am aware that in connexion with the transfer of real property a justice of the peace calls upon the witness to certify that the person signing the document is of sound mind. That is rather a difficult question for a justice of the peace to determine. If my suggestion is adopted, we shall make all the provision that is needed, especially in view of the fact that if compulsory enrolment is going to be carried out we shall have a great many of these prosecutions.
– The Minister seemed to doubt my statement, but apparently he is not acquainted with the difficulties experienced in western Queensland. I have been miles away from places where I could get a pen and* ink. What is really the difference between a statutory declaration and an attested statement? A justice of the peace does not know whether a man who wishes to make a statutory declaration is about to tell the truth or not. He simply requires the person to swear that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, the statements contained in the document are correct, and witnesses; his signature. It is the duty of a man on every occasion to make a truthful statement, whether it is made before an ordinary witness or a justice of the peace. If a man is determined to commit perjury, it will make no difference to him whether his statement is made before a justice of the peace or an ordinary citizen. I do not see that “any great benefit is to be derived from requiring a man to go before a magistrate, because the latter will witness a signature to a document as a mere matter of form, and certify to the fact that the signatory has declared on oath the contents of the document to be true.
– A justice of the peace does more than that.
– No; I have witnessed the signatures to hundreds of statutory declarations.
– He has also to swear that the statement is true.
– I have never done so, nor do I think that any justice of the peace has ever been called upon to do so. It is not the justice of the peace, but the man to whom he administers the oath, who lis responsible for the truth of a statutory declaration. We want to protect, not the men in the towns, because they can protect themselves, but the thousands upon thousands of persons who live in the bush of Queensland and elsewhere. If the Government intend to carry out this measure, which I doubt very much, they will have thousands of prosecutions, especially during the first few years of its operations, until persons have learned what it means. Thousands of persons will not dream of being fined. They will not imagine that the Government intend to press compliance with the law. Of late years a bad practice has sprung up. A large portion of a measure is often left to be supplied by regulations. Under this measure we are to have regulations prescribing this thing, that thing, and the other thing, but they may depart entirely from the intention of Parliament. The Minister knows that in the course of time neither he nor the present officers will be in charge of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department. The less we have of departmental legislation the better. We are not sent here to be ruled by the Departments, but to make the laws of the country, and certainly we are not doing our duty. No regulations should be allowed to have the same effect as the provisions of an Act. Originally regulations were only intended to cover details which had been overlooked by Parliament. Year after year we are called upon to pass a skeleton Bill, and leave its administration to be provided for by departmental regulations. The same Minister is not always at the head of a Department. Recently we have had a change of Ministers, and before a year has expired we may have other changes.
– Parliament can disallow any regulation.
– It seldom does. Unless an honorable senator studies every regulation which is issued, some regulation slips through of which he is not aware. The floor of the chamber is the place for the making of our laws, and the Departments are the places for administering them. But more and more is Parliament losing control of the Departments. The Minister agrees with me, I feel sure, that the Act should specify every offence, and hot leave offences to be prescribed by the Department.
– Parliament can disapprove.
– Yes; but it is much easier for Parliament to keep a grip of things than, having lost it, to take it back. How many regulations have been issued during the last six months which many honorable senators have not seen by reasonof their absence?
– Even if they had been here, they could not have read all the regulations, because there were so many.
– No one will attempt to read a batch of regulations. What we ought to do is to meet the case of the men settled in many parts of northern Queensland, and, I believe, in the central and western parts also, who often experience a difficulty in obtaining even pen and ink. Of course, if a man is in a camp, he can get a pen and ink, and a person to witness his signature ; and if either the Government or the Court disbelieve him, further proof can be called for. In connexion with this matter of compulsory enrolment, a man should be afforded a chance to make a statement before proceedings are taken against him. It may not be convenient for him to travel 40 or 50 miles to find a justice of the peace. Surely a man living out on the Percy or the Cloncurry should be allowed a chance, if notified, of furnishing a statement by post. 1 hope that the Minister will see his wayto meet us in this matter. Otherwise, many a man will be punished simply because he will sooner risk the infliction of a fine than lose two or three days to travel to a Court.
– Under proposed new sub-clause 2, the Minister is framing the Act so that a statutory declaration may be submitted to the Court, and when it is submitted to the Court, then, under proposed new sub-clause 3, it is to be equivalent to evidence, and the matter must be gone into. In other words, a statutory declaration, by these two provisions, is made evidence; but we are now practically asked to say that the evidence of a man who cannot get a witness shall not be evidence. The Minister is discriminating in regard to this privilege. I am quite willing to add to my amendment the words “ duly witnessed.” If the Minister will not accept that alteration, he will do a great injustice to many persons. He must be aware that, in Australia, it is impossible, in many instances, for men to find a justice of the peace to witness a statement in writing. What is the basis of the franchise ? That it shall be as free as possible, and surrounded with all facilities which we can reasonably give to the people. Yet, in the matter of dealing with evidence under this measure, we are asked to say that the signature to one class of declaration shall be witnessed, and that the signature to another class shall not be witnessed. I think it will do justice to the whole case to allow the written declaration of the defendant, duly attested, to be accepted.
– By whom?
– Is not the signature to a will allowed to be attested by any person ; and, if so, why should not the signature to a declaration of this kind be attested by any person ? A man may dispose, by will, of thousands of pounds’ worth of property, and the law regards the bequest as quite good if the testator’s signature is witnessed by two persons, who might be anybody.
– In the presence of two witnesses, and in the presence of each other.
-Yes; but under the law, any person may witness a signature to a will. Why not give to an elector who is called upon to answer a charge under the Electoral Act the privilege which is ordinarily given to a person who makes a statutory declaration - namely, that of writing out his case, and having it duly attested?
– Such a statement would not be accepted by a court of law. Senator ST. LEDGER.- It would be if we provided for it in this measure.
– The honorable senator does not convince me of that.
– If we provide in an Act of Parliament that a written statement signed by the defendant, and duly attested, shall be considered by the Court, the magistrate will say, “ I must accept this statement as evidence.”
– Would such a statement be accepted as evidence in a will case?
– Of course it would be, unless it were disproved. The moment a will, signed by a testator, and duly witnessed, is lodged in a Probate Court, it stands good unless it can be shown that the signatures are forgeries. In other words., the signature of the testator, duly witnessed, must be taken to be what it purports to be, unless there is evidence to the contrary.
– Or unless the will is challenged.
– Quite so. We are content to allow property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to be so disposed of. Why not allow a defendant accused of not enrolling himself as an elector to make a similar declaration?
– I cannot under any circumstances accept the amendment now suggested. The Government wish the new sub-clauses to be carried as they are submitted. Senator St. Ledger is, of course, extremely anxious to weaken the whole of the compulsory enrolment provisions. I do him no injustice by making that statement, because on Friday last he put up a strong fight for that purpose. In nearly all Acts of Parliament in which statutory declarations are. provided for, it is insisted that they shall be made before duly accredited witnesses. I thought that I was meeting the wishes of the Opposition by bringing down these new sub-clauses, but, apparently, honorable senators opposite are not satisfied even now. The proposals have simply given them additional vigour to fight against a principle which was indorsed on Friday by fourteen votes to twelve. I trust the Committee will not entertain the amendment moved by Senator St. Ledger, or any others to the same effect.
.- The Minister is hardly justified in taking such strong exception to the efforts being made by the Opposition. I admit that he has tried to meet the desires of honorable senators fairly, and that the amendments before the Committee go a long way to remedy the defects of proposed new section61e. But the honorable senator should recollect that, as Senator Vardon has pointed’ out, the principle of that proposed new section is almost a new thing in law. Being new, it will require to be safeguarded to make it operate fairly. In the back-blocks of this country it is often impossible to secure the services of a justice of the peace to witnessdeclarations. In order that that hardship may be mitigated, it is desired that the defendant, in a case under the compulsory enrolment provisions, shall be permitted to put in a signed statement duly attested as his defence or explanation. I admit that there are difficulties in the way, but, nevertheless, I would ask the Minister to give the matter further consideration. Perhaps, later on, he may be able to devise means by which the desires of honorable senators might be met.
– I indorse the attitude taken up by the Honorary Minister, and appreciate his statement in reference to remarks made by members of the Opposition. I have lived in the back-blocks for years, and have mingled freely with people who live great distances apart; but I have never gone to a place where pen, ink, and paper could not be obtained. Even people in the back-blocks get newspapers, and the few who have not a pen and ink have pencils. They take an interest in what is going on in the world, and rarely have any difficulty in getting a justice of the peace to witness a statutory declaration.
– That may be the case in South Australia.
SenatorW. RUSSELL.- I did not think that Queensland was so far behind South Australia in reference to matters of this kind. There appears to be an attempt on the part of the Opposition, I will not say to “ stone-wall “ the Bill, but to water down these provisions. In my opinion, very little hardship will be inflicted upon the class of people to whom I originally belonged. The Government are acting fairly, and the amendments proposed this afternoon by Senator Findley are liberal in the extreme.
– I do not desire to deprive the Honorary Minister of any credit that is due to him for the amendments which he has proposed. I appreciate the effort he has made to make things easier for those persons who may incur penalties under the Bill. But we ought not to be blamed for endeavouring to make it even more convenient for those who may have to defend themselves for alleged breaches of the electoral law. I see no reason whatever why a signed and witnessed statement should not be accepted as a good defence. I am one of those who do not believe in oaths. A man’s “ Yes “ or “ No,” with his signature appended to it, and properly witnessed, ought to be sufficient.
– A man might forge the names of witnesses.
– Such a man would be equally likely to forge the signature of a justice of the peace. But he would have no object in forging the signature of a witness. There would be no inducement. There might be an inducement for a person living a long way from the residence of a justice of the peace to forge such a signature, but the signature of an ordinary witness could easily be obtained. While giving the Minister every credit for endeavouring to meet the wishes of the Opposition, I see no reason why he should not accept an amendment permitting the signed and attested statement of an accused to be accepted and considered by the Court.
– The Minister has by his amendment met our views to a certain extent, and I give him credit for doing so, but he should remember that there are many people in the back districts of Queensland, at any rate’, who will be unable to get a justice of the peace or a commissioner for affidavits ‘ to witness declarations.
– We can create commissioners for declarations if there is such a lack of justices of the peace.
– That is absurd. No Government has so far provided justices of the peace and commissioners for affidavits for all the remote districts, and the present Government are not likely to do so. The Minister’s proposal will afford facilities to people in centres of population who really do not require them, and we are not asking too much from a Government who profess great sympathy with the people of the remote districts when we urge that those facilities should be extended to them. Senator W. Russell has said that he was never in a house in which he could not find pen and ink, but the honorable senator speaks of conditions that are as different as day from night from the conditions prevailing in the districts to which I have referred. He is speaking of people who are housed, and who will be provided for by the Minister’s amendment. I speak of districts where for hundreds of miles there is no house to be found at all. The people in those districts have trouble enough to get paper, pen, and ink with which to prepare a statement, without having to travel perhaps 40 miles to get a justice of the peace to witness the signature to it. I feel sure that the Minister does not wish to punish people who will be quite unable to comply with this sub-clause, and I hope he will accept the amendment proposed from this side.
– I think we should be much obliged to the Government for proposing to modify the provisions of the proposed new section 61e. I have not travelledgreat distances in the bush, but a few years ago, as a bank inspector, and accompanied by a man, I travelled from Thornborough to Georgetown on the Etheridge gold-field. It took us over six days to travel about 200 miles, and from the time we left Thornborough until we reached Georgetown we came across only two men - one a mailman, and the other a horse thief. We passed through two or three stations, but the station hands were out on the runs. The Minister must recognise the awkward position in which many electors of the Commonwealth will be situated. I shall not take up time arguing the matter unnecessarily, but I think there is a great deal of force in the contention of the minority. When we are in a minority we are generally right.
– I join with Senator Walker in asking the Government, now that they have made some concession, to give it effect by accepting the amendment which has been moved from this side, or by submitting some other alteration of these subclauses, should they consider that what we propose is open to fraud. Under the postal voting provisions of the existing Act, persons wishing to take advantage of the postal vote are required to make applications for postal ballot-papers, and these applications have to be attested. Parliament went to a great deal of trouble to extend the facilities provided for the attestation of such applications, and provided that the following persons should be considered authorized witnesses within the meaning of the Act -
All Commonwealth Electoral Officers for States; all Commonwealth Returning Officers; all Commonwealth Electoral Registrars; all postmasters or postmistresses or persons in charge of post-offices; all police or stipendiary or special magistrates or of the Commonwealth or of the States ; all justices of the peace ; all head teachers in the employment of a State Education Department ; all officers of the Department of Trade and Customs; all members of the police force of the Commonwealth or of a State ; all mining wardens and mining wardens’ clerks in the Public Service of a State; all legally qualified medical practitioners; all officers in charge of quarantine stations; all officers in charge of lighthouses; all pilots in the service of the Commonwealth or of a State or of any local governing body ; all telegraph line repairers permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth who are in charge of working parties; all railway stationmasters and night officers in charge who are permanently employed in the Railway Department in any of the States; all superintendents of mercantile marine and their deputies while permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State - and various other persons. A man’s right to justice is as important to him as his right to the exercise of the franchise, and when it is considered wise to afford such facilities for the attestation of postal ballot-papers, why cannot the Government afford similar facilities to those who may believe that they have an answer to charges brought against them by the Electoral Office? I do not say this by way of threat, because I recognise the concession which has been made, but if the Government are unable to further consider our proposal we may have to ask them to re-commit the Bill later on.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted in the amendment be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
– I have already indicated the amendment which I now propose to submit. Its object is to insure that persons charged with a breach of the law shall be served personally by summons, instead of being notified through the post. It is altogether unreasonable to expect the nomadic element in our community to keep itself constantly in touch with the alterations which are being made in the law. The least we can do is to provide that persons, who, for reasons over which they have no control, go far afield, shall be possessed of a knowledge of the law. I hold that these summonses should be served on the defendants personally, and that the Department should not depend upon them reaching their destinations merely by transmitting them through the post. I recognise that, not only this Ministry, but every other Ministry, has a particular leaning towards its own offspring. But Ministers should recognise that when the Bill emerges from Committee, it will represent, not their work, but that of the Senate. Consequently, ample consideration should be given to every reasonableproposition that is submitted, with a view to the improvement of the measure. Certainly we ought to pay some regard to the most valuable of our citizens, who go far afield to develop our resources, and who, for a time, at any rate, remain unacquainted with any alterations which may be made in the existing law. I ask the Honorary Minister to throw aside the foolish notion that this measure should be accepted in its entirety. We should insist upon the Department following up any man charged with a breach of the provisions of the Bill, even if it be necessary to go as far as Central Mount Stewart, In South Australia, in order to personally serve him with the notice of its intention to prosecute him. I hope that the Honorary Minister will not adhere too rigidly to the proposed amendment which will vitally affect the interests of those whom it should be our foremost care to safeguard. I move -
That after the word “ defendant,” line 26, the word “ personally “ be inserted.
– I hope that the Committee will not accept the amendment. Senator Lynch has made an earnest appeal on behalf of the men out-back, who may be separated by a considerable distance from any post or telegraph office. No matter how far removed a man or woman may be from any post or telegraph office, he wishes that man or woman, if either is charged with an infraction of the law, to be personally served with a summons. As I have already informed the Committee, all summonses are served personally unless otherwise prescribed. Under this Bill, unless a considerable expenditure will have to be incurred by serving summonses personally, the probability is that they will be served in no other way.
– They will not be served at all.
– Then Senator Sayers will be found voting in opposition to the amendment moved by Senator Lynch.
– No, I intend to support it.
– It is only fair that any serious contingency which may arise should be dealt with by regulation. There are contingencies which it is impossible to provide for in any Act of Parliament. I can assure honorable senators that there is no desire to serve, other than personally, a summons on any individual charged with a contravention of this Bill. But, if circumstances should arise which prevent the adoption of that course, we should have power to provide by regulation that summonses may be served in the easiest and the least inconvenient way. Honorable senators must have a very poor opinion of the Acts which have been passed by the Parliament from time to time if they believe that our Post and Telegraph Department is in such a condition that we cannot almost absolutely rely upon telegrams and registered letters safely reaching their intended destinations.
– A person may be in Europe at the time.
– If that were so, how ridiculous would be the amendment which has been moved by Senator Lynch? Does that honorable senator desirethat we should follow a man to Europe? I do not think that the Committee need seriously entertain such a consideration. I am not wedded to every “ i,” or “ t,” or “full point” in this Bill, but naturally I adhere steadfastly to those provisions of it in which I believe. I believe in the new subclauses which I have submitted this afternoon, and I am not prepared to accept any amendment upon them. The Government have gone a long way to meet the wishes of objectors to the proposed new section 6ie in its original form.
– The Ministry are giving members of the Opposition more consideration than they are extending to their own supporters.
– We extend consideration wherever we think that it is merited. I hope that the Committee will not accept the amendment submitted by Senator Lynch. Persons who contravene the Act will suffer no hardship or inconvenience if the Committee carry the proposed new sub-clauses as submitted.
– I am glad that the Minister has endeavoured to meet the case ; but he takes up the position that he has submitted a perfect clause, and that it is impossible to suggest the least alteration which would improve it. I do not think any Minister ought to take up that attitude. Surely, if a reasonable amendment is proposed, it is worth consideration. The Minister draws a distinction between men who can be served with summonses personally and easily in large centres of population and men who live in remote places and cannot be so readily reached. But I would remind him that thepersonal honour of a man who lives in a back-block place is just as dear to him as is the personal honour of a man who resides in a large city. He is equally anxious to preserve his integrity.
– Hear, hear ! And he will have the opportunity.
– No. The honorable senator has said, “ Wherever it is easy to do so, we will serve the summonses personally ; but, at the same time, we may frame regulations to make personal service unnecessary in certain cases.” I agree with Senator Lynch that no exception should be made, because I hold that a man should be personally served if he is to be brought before a Court. If a man is so far distant that he cannot be got at, he might we’ll be left alone until he does come within reach of a polling place and can be personally served. Senator Lynch’s amendment, if adopted, would be a safeguard for every man in the community that his personal honour would not be challenged except under personal service. If the Minister states absolutely “ We do not believe that any one can improve this proposed new sub-clause, and, therefore, we intend to stand by it,” this discussion may just as well cease. Whether we on this side are few or many, it is our duty to do all that we can to make the provisions of the measure as perfect as possible.
.- I was rather amused at the Minister telling the Committee that no attention could be paid to my objection. I think that if a man is out of the State, that is a very good reason why he should not be punished for his name not being on a roll. In days gone by, my name was 011 a certain roll, but, on one occasion, when I happened to be in another part of the Colony, it was struck off without my knowledge. Is a person in that ‘position to be considered a kind of criminal, who must show cause why his name is not on a roll ? If he is defrauding any person, he is defrauding himself. I agree with Senator Lynch that if a man cannot be served personally, he should be left alone until he comes within a reasonable distance of a polling booth.
Surely it is absurd, in a large country like Australia, with thousands of square miles of land unoccupied, to do what the Minister advocates. I do not intend to agitate the matter longer; but I protest against innocent persons being considered guilty.
– As I listened to the Minister, I thought how applicable his arguments were to the question we were discussing a short while ago. He had then no consideration for the cost and the trouble to the poor unfortunate man in the bush ; but when Senator Lynch moved his amendment, he began to show the cost and the trouble it would involve to the Department and its officers.
– Will you tell me where the application comes in?
– We on this side are considering those who keep the country going, but the Minister is only considering the Department. I am sorry to say that when some members of a party become Ministers, a certain number of men have to follow them, whether right or wrong. I should like to see the Ministry elected by the whole Parliament, and if they did not do what was right supporters could criticise them without being met with the cry, “ Ohyou are not supporting the Ministry which you created.”
– Will you name any members of a party who support a Government, right or wrong ?
– If I wanted to name any one in that regard, I should name the honorable senator.
– I will say, sir, that that is an absolute lie.
– Do you, sir, allow that remark to pass?
– Does the honorable senator appeal against the use of the remark?
– No, sir, it is not worth while. I shall treat it with utter contempt.
– The use of such an expression should not be allowed.
– I rise to order. Senator Needham has characterized a statement made by Senator Sayers as anabsolute lie. Is such a remark in order, sir?
– Certainly not. As the honorable senator requires the remark to be withdrawn, I call upon Senator Needham to withdraw it.
– Senator Sayers remarked that certain members would follow a Ministry, right or wrong; I asked him to name the members, and when he named me as one who would follow a Ministry, right or wrong, I gave to his statement an absolute denial, and said that it was a lie. I want the protection of the Chair as well as he does.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I asked the honorable senator to withdraw the statement. Does he do so?
– If you desire the remark to be withdrawn, I withdraw it.
– I am sorry that this incident has taken place, because I do not take any notice of Senator Needham.. He interjected, and when he pressed me to name a member, I told him I did not wish to mention any name.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable senator discuss the amendment?
– I maintain that the amendment, if adopted, will convenience the people in western Queensland. Why should not the Minister consider the people in the country, as well as the Department ? He says that if the amendment is carried it will impose a great hardship on the Department, and entail much expense. But we are here to consider the convenience of the people, and not the convenience of the Department, or the Minister either. It an honorable senator thinks it is right that certain facilities should be extended to the people, he should move in that direction. Otherwise he will vote with honorable senators on the other side, and say that the Department and the Minister are to be considered, but not the people at all. I shall leave it to those who have watched the progress of this Bill to decide whether my view is right or wrong. I do not desire to discuss with any honorable senator his view or his vote on any question. My desire is to do the best I can for those I represent, and if I fail to succeed, that is not my fault. I believe that the amendment would improve the proposed new sub-clause. It is of no use for the Minister to tell us that the Government have agreed to certain provisions, and do not intend to depart from them,. What is the use of having a Parliament, if it is to be run by a few gentlemen who comprisethe Ministry? Surely a Minister who brings down ameasure expects it to be criticised, and does not think that all the wisdom in the world is centred in the
Government ? If we can show that a provision will press upon a class in the community, an alteration should be made. What is the use of our coming here if we are to be told from time to time by the Government that they have considered the provisions of a measure, and decline to accept any amendments? If that course of procedure is to be pursued, we might as well elect a few members from each House as Ministers, and dissolve the Parliament. I shall support any amendment, if I think that it is in the best interests of the community, no matter from which side it may emanate. I have never been, and do not intend to be, a bond-slave of any Ministry. I shall support a Ministry as long as I think they are doing good, and proposing legislation which is suitable and acceptable to the country ; but never will I agree to take a measure from any Ministry without the privilege of criticising its provisions. I shall vote at all times for that which I regard as right. I was very pleased that after the pressure which was brought to bear from each side of the Chamber the Minister saw his way to draft an amendment, but surely he has no right to tell us that he will not depart from it, even although we show that some addition should be made. I am pleased that the Minister has made some concession, but surely he does not expect us to take his amendment without criticism. If he will not meet the objections of the Opposition, we shall have to come to a division, and leave the community to decide whether honorable senators opposite follow the lead of the Government from right motives.
– Proposed new sub-clause 6 reads -
In any such prosecution there shall be served upon the defendant’ a notice to the effect - and so on. If no qualifying words are to be inserted, the notices must be served personally. Every person is sufficiently familiar with the ordinary process of summoning. A summons has to be indorsed by the person serving it with some such words as “ Served by me on such-and-such a date, at such-and-such a place, on the individual named herein.” But in this matter of enrolment, the Government are not prepared to allow an accused person to have the same privilege as he would have if he were being sued for a debt of half-a-crown. What spirit is coming over the Government and the Department in this matter ? Either they want” to do this business by regulation, or they want to provide a substitute for the personal service of summonses. A summons served in the ordinary way must be delivered personally to the person summoned. Surely the Committee is entitled to know whether the Government intend to prosecute persons under departmental regulations, and if so, to what extent they intend to depart from the ordinary legal procedure. Not the slightest intimation has been given to us as to the nature of the regulations. Apparently the Electoral Office is to be allowed to wander by and large over the whole of Australia, showering summonses as, to use the language of the pavement, it “jolly well chooses.” What kind of legislation is this ? I draw attention to the fact that the Department has very wide power in the matter of regulations. Section 210’ of the original Act provides that-
The Governor-General may make regulations for carrying out this Act. All such regulations shall be notified in the Gazette, and shall thereupon have the force of law.
Under that power the Government may be contemplating an entirely novel departure from the ordinary method of procedure. But what is there that is sacrosanct about this Electoral Office, that it cannot carry out its administration in the ordinary way ? Why should it have privileges which are not conferred even upon a court of law? I am aware that under certain municipal statutes there is power to serve summonses for rates by post. But that power is always confined by specific Act of Parliament. Here it is proposed to allow a Government Department to abrogate the principle of personal service, merely under cover of a regulation.
.- When the Minister took such strong exception to Senator Lynch’s amendment, he ought at least to have stated in what way service is to be effected. But he has given us no light or leading as to how summonses are to be served. It appears to me that the first thing a Court will require when a prosecution is instituted will be proof of service. Unless Senator Lynch’s amendment be adopted, very few convictions, if any, will be obtained. Any justice of the peace having respect for himself and his Court will ask the prosecution, “ What proof have you that this summons has been served on the accused?” I believe this provision will be a dead letter, and that no Court will fine a man for a breach of the law.
– One might think, from the persistency with which Senator Lynch’s amendment is advocated by the Opposition; that some advantage would be gained by its insertion. But what particular advantage would be conferred on any man or woman who happened to be involved in a prosecution under this measure by receiving a summons personally instead of by post ?
– In the one case the accused would be sure of getting the summons, and in the other he would not.
– Thousands of communications pass through the post every day, and the complaints made about the non-delivery of letters are very few indeed.
– How many communications are returned to the senders, because the persons to whom they are addressed cannot be found ?
– No doubt many communications are returned because the addressees cannot be found ; but very often they cannot be found because they have gone to another sphere altogether.
– Are the summonses to be served by registered letter?
– We are going to serve them personally wherever we can, and where we find difficulties about personal service we shall provide, by regulation, how service shall be effected. Senator McColl expressed a doubt as to whether a summons not served personally would be valid in any court of law, because of the absence1 of proof of service.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong, because section 29 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 reads as follows : -
Where an Act authorizes or requires any document to be served by post, whether the expression “ serve “ or the expression “ give “ or “ send “ or any other expression is used, then, unless the contrary intention appears, the service shall be deemed to be effected by properly addressing prepaying and posting the document as a letter, and unless the contrary is proved to have been effected at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.
– I did not know I was so correct.
– The honorable senator was quite incorrect. He took the opposite view.
– I said “ Except where otherwise stated in an Act of Parliament.”
– The honorable senator was evidently unaware of this section of the Acts Interpretation Act, which gives us power to serve summonses by post. I again ask the Committee this question, “ What advantage will it be to any person whether he or she be summoned personally instead of by post, as long as the summons be received?”
– None whatever, as long as the summons is served.
– Exactly ; and the Committee may rest assured that the summonses will be properly served.
– What about the Dead Letter Branch of the Post Office, which returns large numbers of communications to the senders?
– We need not take into consideration the number of letters which, in connexion with a matter of this kind, will come back to the Post Office. It will be only in extreme cases that resort will be had to the Post Office, or any other method than personal service, for the serving of summonses under this Bill. When honorable senators speak of the number of letters that are returned to the Dead Letter Branch of the Post Office, in the the ordinary way, and seek to compare it with the number of summonses that will be returned under this Bill, they are not instituting a fair analogy.
– The Minister has referred the Committee to section 29 of the Acts Interpretation Act to show what is to be understood by service by post; but I would remind the honorable senator that the section he has quoted refers only to the use of the terms mentioned in an Act of Parliament. Once a notice is posted, it is under the Acts Interpretation Act deemed to be served, but only if there is a provision for service by post under the Act under which it is issued. I am not disposed to assist the Committee any further in connexion with this matter. I consider the Government tyrannical and obstinate in their refusal to accept Senator Lynch’s amendment. They should, at any rate, give some indication in the Bill itself of the nature of the substituted service to be adopted where summonses are not personally served. That is the practice followed in all other Acts, and it should be followed here. I venture to say that the Ministerial proposal will defeat itself. Unless Senator Lynch’s amendment be accepted, no Court will convict, unless personal service of the summons is proved, of the Courts will insist on evidence of the service of summonses.
.- The Minister expressed the opinion that very few letters go astray.
– I said in comparison with the number that are delivered.
– I find, from an official return, that the number of letters and other articles returned to the Dead Letter Branch of the Post Office in 19 10 was; after making some deductions, for New South Wales, 1,316,148; Victoria, 508,484 ; Queensland, 310,064; South Australia, 169,343; Western Australia, 177,944; and Tasmania, 91,368; or a total of 2,573,351.
– How many letters were delivered through the post in the year?
– A very great many, no doubt; but about one in every 17,000 goes astray. When the Minister said that very few letters go astray, he forgot these official figures dealing with the matter. It is in order to prevent injustice through a summons failing to reach a defendant that we desire that personal service of summonses should be provided for.
Question - That the word proposed to be inserted in the amendment be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
– Before the amendment is finally agreed to, I would ask whether the Minister is prepared to insert a sub-clause defining in what way other than by personal service a summons under the proposed new section is to be served upon an elector in default. I wish to know whether the Minister is prepared to follow the practice adopted in connexion with other Acts, by indicating the nature of the substituted service, so that there may be no mistake about the matter?
– From the fact that the Minister remains silent, I take it that he sees no difficulty at all in the amendment now under review. What we desire is to insure that an elector who has been proceeded against shall have notice of the action taken against him. The Minister must surely see that his amendment does not go far enough. It is not sufficient to drop a notice into a post-office box.’ It ought to be followed up, and if the Minister refuses to provide definitely for the personal service of a summons, he should provide for a service by registered post. By that means, it would be possible to obtain the receipt of the elector when the registered notice reached him.
– That will receive favorable consideration.
– Might I ask the honorable senator to remember that this is a House of Parliament, and not a Tivoli theatre. Such a suggestion as he has made is ludicrous. Let us put the “ favorable consideration “ into the clause. The object of my suggestion is to obtain a receipt for the summons from the person on whom it is served. That would put the prosecuting officer and the Court in a better position. The Court and the prosecuting officer might be diffident about proceeding with a charge unless they were satisfied that the notice of the summons had reached the defaulting citizen. In the interests of all, it would be well to make provision for the service of summonses by registered letter.
– Senator Millen was not present during the afternoon, and did not hear the long discussion which has already taken place on my amendment. Senator Lynch, in moving his amendment, gave his reasons for it, and in my reply I endeavoured to show that there was no necessity for it. When I said that Senator Millen’s suggestion would receive favorable consideration, I did not intend my statement to be taken as a theatrical joke. -I meant what I said. I am not prepared, on the spur of the moment, to accept an amendment on the lines suggested by Senator Millen. But that something will be done in regard to the matter mentioned by him, I am absolutely certain.
– Why does not the Minister insert an amendment in the Bill?
– I am not prepared toembody any amendment in the Bill just now. The Government will consider the matter at a later stage, and provision will no doubt be made, either in the Bill or by regulation, for receipts being furnished by persons upon whom notices have been served through the post.
– If what the Minister has stated be correct, there can be no objection to adopting the suggestion which I have already thrown out. He has declared that steps will be taken to obtain a written receipt from any citizen to whom a notice is addressed. Now, there are only two ways in which such a receipt can be secured. The first is by serving the notice personally on the individual and waiting till he writes the receipt, and the second is by means of the registered past. That being so, I urge upon the Honorary Minister the desirableness of inserting in the Bill an amendment on the lines I have suggested before the measure emerges from Committee. If he wishes to make the measure a workable one, he will not, the moment suggestions are thrown out from this side of the Chamber, so readily assume that it is incumbent upon him to reject them.
Proposed new sub-clauses agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section sixty-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following subsection : - “ (3) A roll may be altered by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State by striking out the name of any person, if he has proof that the person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on that roll and has secured enrolment on another roll.
.- This is a proposal which requires a great deal of consideration. Under it, the Government propose to vest a Commonwealth officer - a State servant - with power to strike the name of any person off the roll if he has proof that such person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment. No indication is given of the nature of the proof that is required. Now, the striking of an elector’s name off the roll is a very serious matter. Under the Victorian law, notice has to be sent to any person to whose name an objection has been taken. The Electoral
Officer for the district has then to insert in the newspapers a notice that he intends to omit this name from the roll, and to set out his reasons for so doing. Finally, a notice has to be sent to the Court, and in all cases, it is the police magistrate who decides whether or not an elector’s name shall be expunged from the roll. Under the proposed new sub-clause, it is proposed to place this great power in the hands of a State official. In my judgment, the provision should be enlarged, and we should understand what is meant by it before’ we are asked to agree to it. At a later stage, I intend to submit an amendment providing that notice must be forwarded to any person to whose name objection has been taken, before his name can be removed from the rolls.
– Senator McColl has informed us that he desires a full explanation of this proposed new sub-clause before the Committee are asked to agree to it. He drew attention to the practice which obtained in Victoria for a considerable time.
– It obtains now.
– I do not think so. That practice was one of which I never approved, and which served little or no useful purpose. Under it, large sums of money were paid to newspapers for inserting long advertisements which set out the names and addresses of persons to whom objection had been raised, on the ground that they had left the district, or for some other reason. These advertisements were set out in the smallest type, and appeared in obscure portions of the newspapers ; sometimes they were posted at police stations. That practice frequently resulted in thousands of names being removed from the rolls which ought not to have been so removed, and in thousands of others, which should not have been on the rolls, appearing there.
– That is merely a statement.
– It is a statement which I am prepared to prove. Under the Victorian system thousands of names were left off the rolls which should have figured there, although I do not say they were omitted intentionally. My own name was objected to. on the ground that I had removed from the district, not with tanding that I had lived in the same place for thirty years.
– The honorable senator had a chance to defend himself.
– I had notice to appear at a Revision Court at 10 o’clock in the morning. I was obliged to sacrifice a portion of my working time to attend the Court in order to prove that I had not left my place of residence. All that this clause means is that when a name appears twice upon the roll, the Electoral Officer shall have power to remove one of ‘ the names.
– There is no reference in the clause to names appearing twice upon the roll.
– That is all the provision means.
– What is the proof that he requires?
– He will have a cardindex, and he will know the names of the different persons in the various States. If the same name appears twice upon a roll, he will have power to remove one of the names.
– If the card index system be complete, such a thing cannot happen.
– To remove any shadow of doubt, we think that this provision ought to be included in the Bill.
– This is a very drastic provision. I am thoroughly in accord with any clause which aims at purifying our electoral rolls. At the present time, I believe the Commonwealth roll is stuffed from top to bottom. I do not say that it has been stuffed intentionally, but there has been no means of revising it. I have heard a good deal about the revision of State rolls, but of my own knowledge, there has been no revision of the Commonwealth roll since the inception of Federation. Does the Honorary Minister say that the system which it is proposed to inaugurate will tend to purify our rolls by removing names which ought not to be there? I confess that I do not like giving Commonwealth officers the power which the clause will confer upon them. Under the old Electoral Act of Queensland, a person objecting to an elector’s name appearing upon the roll was compelled to deposit 5s., which was forfeited if his objection proved to be frivolous. But under this clause, the whole matter is to be left to the Department. Australia is a very big country, and through the negligence of an officer of the Department, the names of electors who may be removed long distances from the centres of civilization, may be struck off the electoral roll. Consequently, I say that the Department should publish a list of all those persons whose names it is proposed to remove from the roll. I know of a case in which the same surname appears on an electoral roll twenty times, although it belongs to different persons. For instance, there may be twenty John Joneses on an electoral roll. I have seen the name of Sullivan and Smith appear upon an electoral roll twenty or thirty times, and, in perhaps a dozen instances, the same Christian name appeared. But they were all bond fide electors. In such cases how is an officer to determine which name should be removed? That is not judicious. The Department should be required to publish in a newspaper circulating in the district the names of those persons which it is proposed to leave off the roll, together with the reasons for taking that course. If, after the publication of the intimation, any man concerned did not go and see that his name was not struck off, the fault would be his. He might be allowed to personally notify the Registrar of his residence in the district, or to acquaint the Court that he was still there. I have known that course to be taken in hundreds of cases by persons who had not left a district. With all due deference to the electoral officers, I know of hundreds of mistakes which they have made. I do not suppose that we are likely to have a new class of officers, and inasmuch as the present officers have made mistakes in the past, I anticipate that they will err in the future. The Minister has stated that any name that is duplicated will be struck off a roll, but 1 would remind him that, to my knowledge, the same name has appeared on a roll ten times, and even more often. He might well consider the suggestion I have made, because in Queensland the publication of an advertisement was found to be beneficial. Before the Court of Revision sat, hundreds of men used to come, and prove to the Registrar that they were still in the land of the living, and located in the district, and, of course, their names were not struck off. I prefer this power to be vested in the Court rather than in an electoral officer, because the Court is generally composed of men who are looking after the interests of all parties, and do not allow names to be struck off if the electors are living in the district. I have never heard or read of a reflection being cast on the honour of the members of a Revision Court. Unless an amendment is made, there will be no safeguards, and the Electoral Officer will have the right to say to a man, “ You have left here,” or “You are not the right person,” and although he may not have received a communication, his name will be struck off. On one occasion, when Senator St. Ledger was a candidate, he came to me as the Returning Officer, and asked me to allow a man named Sullivan to vote. There were ten or twelve Sullivans on the roll, and I believe that the Sullivan on whose behalf he spoke to me was the right man to vote. But in compliance with an order received from the Electoral Office in Brisbane, I had erased the name from the roll. When the man went on to the Croydon roll, he had to send a notice to Charters Towers, and the notice had to be forwarded to Brisbane, and then sent to his last known place of address. The man had left the place of address, or the wrong Sullivan had got the notice, and I had no way of allowing him to vote. I think it will be found much harder to deal with the rolls of the Commonwealth than with the roll of one electorate in a State. I hope that some precaution will be taken so that persons shall not be debarred from having a vote.
– If the roll is to be worked on the card system, and that system is worked out accurately, this amendment is quite unnecessary. It is provided in new section 61c that every person who is entitled to enroll shall enroll.
– That provides the system, but this provides for where the system breaks down.
– The card system, if properly worked, cannot break down. Under new sub-section 61c a man’s name, together with his address and his polling place, will be entered on a card; that will secure the appearance of his name on the roll. It also provides that every elector who has ceased to live in the subdivision for which he is enrolled shall fill in and sign, in accordance with the Act and regulations, a form of claim for transfer or change. Directly a man makes such a claim the original card will have to be taken, and the change inscribed thereon, so that there will be only one card dealing with his name.
– But in these circumstances it may happen that his name will appear twice on the roll.
– That cannot happen if the card system is carried out accurately, notwithstanding Senator Millen’s interjection that it will break down. When a change is made it will be inscribed on the original card, and nowhere else. Is not that right?
– What more does the Minister want?
– Notwithstanding that, the man’s name may appear twice on the roll.
– How is it possible that a man can get two cards? Unless he does get two cards his name cannot be duplicated. I am not complaining of the card index system, which I think is a very good one, provided that it is not ridden to death.
– Suppose that a man loses his card.
– The card will not be in the possession of the man, but under the control of the Electoral Officer.
– Suppose that a fire should take place.
– Then the whole thing will be destroyed, and the Department will have to begin afresh. But I do not wish to go into extreme cases. If the card system is carried out accurately, the Department will have a register of the persons who are entitled to vote, together with the polling places at which they are entitled to vote. The officer cannot have any proof except the card itself. What other proof can he get? Under the card system he will have all the evidence which is required. He will only have to turn up the name of a man to find out where he was originally enrolled, and the division to which he was transferred. I think that the proposed addition to section 62 is altogether useless.
– If I had that absolute faith in the card system which Senator Vardon has, I might’ share his view with regard to this proposal. It seems to me that it is made as a warning to the Committee that the electoral officers are not certain that the card system will work. It is made to enable them to correct a lapse when it occurs. Senator Vardon has pointed out that if the card system is worked properly, there is no need to make this amendment. But evidently it has occurred to the departmental mind that a man who is enrolled may move from one electorate to another. Of course, his business should be to apply for a transfer, but he may not do that. On the contrary he may make another original application, and the officers, seeing that they will have to handle about 2,000,000 cards, are brought face to face with the almost certainty of mistakes occurring and duplicate registrations taking place. Evidently they anticipate the possibility that a man in one electorate may fail to apply for a transfer, but may apply for a fresh enrolment, and get it. Then as time goes on the duplication will be discovered. This addition to section 62 is desired to enable the Department to deal with a lapse or break down of the card system.
– How are they going to discover a duplication?
– By continually searching the registers.
– There may be a dozen men bearing the one name.
– I am not saying a word against the necessity of giving notice to a man whose name on a roll is objected to. It seems to me that with 2,000,000 names and cards to handle, when applications for new registrations are numerous, there is bound to be a percentage of mistakes.
– Especially when a person moves from one State to another.
– That will add very much to the difficulty. I would like the Minister to explain the reason for making this addition to section 62. If it is proposed to allow the provision to stand then, in accordance with the suggestion made by Senator McColl, notice should be given to any elector whose name it is proposed to strike off the roll before action is taken. Take, for instance, a case of similarity of names. It may be that one man is threatened with the removal of his name from the roll, but he is really not the person who is involved. Notice should be given to him to enable him to set the true facts before the Court or the Electoral Officer. Seeing that it is presumably the intention of the Bill to make the enrolment as perfect as possible, we ought at least to be equally careful to see that no looseness shall crop up in regard to the exercise of this power. I should like to hear from the Minister what objection there can be to a notice being sent out to a person whose name is objected to. Surely the power which it is proposed to vest in departmental officials should be intrusted to the Court, as was done in a previous revision.
– I think that too much importance has been laid on this provision by Senator Millen and other members of the Opposition, because it will not work but as they anticipate. The provision is designed for one purpose. We have instituted compulsory enrolment. A man or a woman entitled to vote has to fill in a card and send it to the Electoral Office. That is the first step. Suppose that a name appears on the roll for the electorate of Melbourne. That roll will be printed. The elector may afterwards remove to a country constituency. But, instead of sending to the Electoral Office an application for transfer, the elector may apply for a. fresh enrolment for the country constituency. Thus his name will appear on two rolls. We want the Chief Electoral Officer to have power to remove a name when it appears twice, so as not to burden our rolls unnecessarily.
– The Minister has admitted that my interpretation of this clause is correct, that it is inserted to cover up a weakness of the card system as the Electoral Office proposes to administer it. When, after compulsory enrolment has been instituted, a second application for enrolment is sent in, it is necessary to check it with the names already on the roll to insure perfect accuracy. If such a check were resorted to it is quite clear that no man could get on the roll twice. But clearly underlying this clause is the fear that, as there will be, perhaps. 2,000,000 cards to handle, it will be too great an undertaking for the Department to carry out an efficient check. If a man on the eve of an election applies for enrolment, his application is to be treated as an original application, because to tie up his application until an inquiry could be made at head-quarters, and an enormous number of cards could be examined, might mean such delay as to prevent that elector from having his enrolment effected in time. The Electoral Office realizes that difficulty, and it therefore says, “ In spite of the card system, although anelector may be enrolled in fifty electorates, if he puts in another application for enrolment we are going to accept it and enroll him,’’ notwithstanding that by making the fresh application the elector may be disregarding the provision of the law that under such circumstances he shall apply f or . transfer, and not for en rolment. That shows that the card system will not be such an easy and simple thing to. work as those who support it imagine.
– I think we ought to have a quorum present.
– Why do honorable senators opposite send their supporters outside ?
– We are not bound to keep a House.
– Is that why they were sent out? [Quorum formed.]
– Will the Leader of the Opposition allow me to state what has been the experience of Western Australia under the card system? It has. been in operation there for several years. What happens is this: When an application for enrolment comes in, instead of going through the cumbersome method ofsummoning the elector to make good his claim, and hearing objections to it, the Department treats the claim as if it were an original one. Then, under a provision such as this, power is taken to strike the man’s name off the old roll if he is already enrolled. His name is then retained on the, roll for which he has last claimed. The elector has simply made a mistake by send-. ing in a fresh claim for enrolment instead, of asking for a transfer. The system has been in working order for a number of years in Western Australia, and it enables our rolls to be kept up to date. No harm’ is done to anybody, and it is a source of convenience to electors and to the Department.
– While I freely accept Senator Pearce’s statement as to how this system has worked in Western Australia, I point out that there is a great difference between handling a small parcel of votes and a vastly greater number such as will be the case under the Commonwealth. It would take an enormous amount of time if every application for enrolment had to be sent to head-quarters to ascertain whetherthe applicant had been enrolled anywhere’ in Australia before. 1 doubt whether the provision under consideration will stop the duplication of names on rolls. First of all, electors are going to be allowed to apply for original enrolment when they ought to apply for transfer.
– We do not “ allow “ them; we simply record applications when; they are made.
– Then what is the use of the clause which provides that if the elector does not apply for transfer he may be fined?
– Suppose he makes a mistake through ignorance, applying for enrolment when he ought to apply for transfer, what harm is done?
– I am not saying that any harm is done; but it is at once absurd and dangerous to pass a law providing that a man shall do a certain thing and shall incur punishment if he does not, and at the same time to insert a clause to say that you will not punish him when he breaks the law.
– We do not do that.
– That is done by the provision enabling the officers to transfer a man who makes a fresh application when he ought to have applied for transfer. If compulsory enrolment has any value whatever, it lies in the fact that when a man changes his abode he applies for a transfer, and his original enrolment is altered. But if he is to be allowed to re-apply for original enrolment, his name will be on two rolls at once. The system, if carried out properly, would prevent the inflation of rolls, but that will not be done under this provision. The rolls will be glutted through’ persons being reenrolled whenever they change their place qf abode. We have adopted a clause which directs the Electoral Office as to what is to be done with a person who applies for original enrolment when he ought to apply for transfer. But now we are passing a provision which will enable such a person to escape punishment. As I said at the outset, because the Minister and the Electoral Office find that difficulties are going to occur, and are not prepared to face the responsibility of giving effect to the penal provisions - they have devised this method of entitling every person to apply for original enrolment instead of for transfer.
.- Take the case of an elector who leaves Victoria to go to Queensland, and puts in a claim to vote in that State. A good many electors will believe that that is the right course to follow. How is the Electoral Office going to deal with such a case? Is the responsible officer in Queensland to send down to Melbourne a notification that John Jones has applied to be placed on the Queensland roll, or is the name to be entered without any notification being given to the head office? There will be hun dreds of people who will be on the rolls for more than one State: Under this system I can see no way to check such occur- rences. It is a common thing in a State for ari elector who leaves one part to go to another to apply to be placed on the roll afresh. That is the way in which our rolls have become inadvertently stuffed. A man’s name may be on as many as four different electoral rolls in a State. The confusion will be much greater in the case of electors moving about from one part of the Commonwealth to another. Suppose that a man who is now an elector for. Melbourne goes to Sydney, and, after spending two or three months there, removes to Queensland. His name may be on three different rolls. If at the time of; . the election he happened to be in Victoria,’ he could record his vote in this State, and other persons could personate him in the other States. It is useless for the officials to tell me that the supervision is going to be such that they will be able to check such occurrences. The claim is absurd. No one who knows what can happen with a roll containing forty or fifty thousandelectors can have any doubt as to what will occur with rolls containing up to two million electors. If the Department have some means of checking the inclusion of; the same names on more than one roll, which have not yet been disclosed to the Committee, I should be glad to hear what they are. Even under the card system, a man may have, his name on a roll in three or four different States; and, so far as I can see, there will be no means of checking that. It is absurd to say that it will be sufficient to send down to the Chief Electoral Officer in Victoria and ask him to compare the names on all the rolls in the other States.
– A man could vote only in one State, even if his name were oni a roll in every State.
– But some one else might vote for him in the other States. We have heard of people coming out of hollow logs and graves at election time, and I desire that some means shall be adopted to prevent that kind of thing. I do not desire that people should have their names on rolls on which they! are not entitled to be enrolled, but I de-: sire that all who are entitled to vote should be enrolled.
– The Minister might simplify the proposal with regard to the claim. If, on the claim form, the applicant for enrolment were required to state that he was not on any electoral roll, that would be a reminder to him, if he were already enrolled, that what he should apply for was transfer and not enrolment. The clause provides that an officer may strike out a name if he has proof that the owner has removed to another division, or is enrolled for another division. The Minister has not told us what the proof is to consist of, or how the officer is to obtain it.
– The honorable senator himself admitted that the card system would afford the proof.
– If the Minister contends that the card system will afford the proof, that is an admission that this clause is unnecessary-
– It would not be the fault of the card system, but of the way in which an individual elector used it.
– The card system might be used to check these applications for enrolment. If an elector makes an application for enrolment in his own handwriting, the departmental officer, on turning up his card, may be able to see that he had made a previous application, and that what he desired to do was to have his name transferred from one roll to another. The card would afford the proof in such a case, and the system would be complete. If this clause is necessary, the Minister and the Department admit that the card system will not be complete. Notwithstanding what Senator Millen has said, I still say that I believe in the card system; but it should be made perfect.
– Does the honorable senator know of any system that is absolutely perfect?
– This Bill must be perfect, since the Minister will not permit us to dot an “ i “ or cross a “ t “ in it. How is the Electoral Officer to decide whether he should strike a name off a roll ?
– He will have the two cards.
– Then I say he does not require this clause. He can make the alteration automatically.
– The possession of the card would not authorize the Electoral Officer to strike a name off the roll. He would have to go through the cumberous formalities of notifying the elector and giving him an opportunity to object.
– If a man who is already enrolled sends in a card for enrol ment when he should apply for a transfer, the Electoral Officer, on comparing that card with the original claim for enrolment, will see at once that the second application should be for transfer. He can then give the elector notice that what he wants is a transfer, and not a new enrolment.” The card system will work perfectly, or it willnot.
– The card system is only an index system.
– If properly worked, it should be much more. It should provide a record of each original enrolment, and all the transfers or alterations in connexion with it; and, if properly worked, this clause should be unnecessary.
– Senator Vardon is correct, in a measure, in the statement that, under the card system, an electoral officer should be aware of whether a man is entitled to be enrolled or not; but the honorable senator should remember that there are many constituencies, and many divisions and subdivisions of constituencies, in every State. The cards will go to the Registrars for divisions and subdivisions, and will ultimately find their way to the Central Office in Melbourne. Then, and not until then, the Department will be in a position to say whether certain names should be on particular rolls.
– Will not the cards be posted immediately to the Central Office?
– Does the honorable senator mean that each card, as it is received by a registrar, will be posted on to the Central Office?
– Why nol?
– I do not think that that would be done. There will probably be a weekly delivery of cards. The Registrars will require certain time to do their work and compile their rolls; and it is only when the cards have all found their way to the Central Office that the Department will be able to ascertain whether names appear twice on the rolls. I cannot understand why honorable senators opposite object to this clause. It can do no harm to any elector.
– If we are to have the card system, why not make it complete?
– It will be as complete as any system can be made. I repeat that it is only when the cards have been returned to the Central Office in Melbourne that the Department will be in a position to say definitely whether a name appears twice on the rolls or not. If it appears twice on the rolls, we require that the Electoral Officer shall have power to remove the name from the roll in which it wrongly appears.
Motion by Senator Findley proposed -
That the Committee have leave to sit again to-morrow.
– What is the reason for this motion. This is the first I have heard of any suggestion that the Senate should adjourn after meeting for two hours.
– Order! The honorable senator is in order in asking a question, but he cannot debate this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I understand that there is a general desire on both sides that the Senate should adjourn over this evening. It is in pursuance of a request made to the Government that I submit the motion.
– I have heard the statement just made by the Minister of Defence. I do not know whether it is usual that one or two honorable senators should be consulted about an adjournment of the Senate. I heard nothing about it this afternoon, and was not aware that it was proposed that the Senate should adjourn at half-past 6 o’clock. I should like to know why the adjournment is proposed.
– The honorable senator should blame his leader.
– I do not blame any one. My leader did not consult me, nor did I consult him in the matter. I might remind honorable senators opposite that on previous occasions, when an adjournment of the kind has been asked for, they have very strongly opposed it.
– We all want to “ trip the light fantastic toe.”
– Are we to adjourn for a ball ? Is it for such a reason that the Government propose to suspend the business of the country ? If the matter has already been arranged it is of course useless for me to say anything, and I content myself with entering my protest against the adjournment.
– I should like to say that I agree with Senator Sayers. I did not know that any arrangement was made for an adjournment this evening. I know that some of us desired to get away this afternoon to visit the Admiral of the Fleet during his stay in Melbourne waters. Nothing was . said on that subject, except that we made reasonable arrangements about pairs. I should like to know whether any good reason can be given for the proposed adjournment this evening. I fail to see that there is any valid reason why we should adjourn at this stage, and thus delay the business of the Senate.
– In reply to the remarks of Senator Chataway, I may say that I was first approached in this matter by Senator St. Ledger, who told me that he spoke for several honorable senators upon the opposite side of the chamber. Later on I was informed that a number of Ministerial supporters desired to get away this evening - not for the purpose of attending the ball at. Government House, but for another purpose.
– I may say that I think Senator St. Ledger had ample warrant for his statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111108_senate_4_61/>.