4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator BARKER presented a petition from two ministers of the Hebrew Church in the State of Victoria, praying the Senate to amend the provision in the Electoral Bill fixing Saturday as the polling day for elections.
Petition received and read.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If it is the intention of the Government, in the carrying out of the works scheduled in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act 1911-12, the cost of which is set out at £2,791,365, to apply the system of preferenceto unionists?
– The policy of the Government, other things being equal, is preference to unionists.
– Arising out of the question, may I ask if it is the intention of the Government to recoup the large body of unionists who have to incur enormous expense to get awards in the Arbitration Court in order that there may be an equality of opportunity? Those who. receive the advantages under the awards are prepared to accept the gains, but they are not going to share in the expense.
– Order! The honorable senator cannot introduce an argument when he is asking a question.
-I desire to know whether the Government are going to compensate the members of, say, the Australian Workers Union, who have incurred an expense of from£6,000 to£8,000 to get an award of the Arbitration Court. Will the
Government compensate the union for the securing of advantages which non-unionists reap all the time ?
– The Government are doing all that they possibly can by an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to make the Arbitration Court available to all unionists.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask whether the Government will give some indication as to what they mean by the term “ other things being equal “ ?
– I may state for the information of the honorable senator that the conditions are those which would induce a client to accept his services in preference to those of any other lawyer belonging to the same union.
– Suppose that a client rejects me, am I going to have preference from somebody else?
– The honorable senator is entitled to ask a question arising out of the answer, but not to state an argument.
– I am not arguing, sir. Arising out of the answer which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has given, may I ask how, if a unionist declines to come to me, the principle of preference will operate?
– I should like the honorable senator to give notice of that question.
– I shall give notice.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
– Arising out of the answer,. I desire to know whether a site was not selected at Thursday Island or Cooktown last year?
– They selected a site on Somerset Island.
– I am not in a position to say definitely whether that is correct or not. I am under the impression that a site on Thursday Island was approved of, but in respect of the second site I am not too certain.
– Thursday Island or Somerset Island?
– I believe that Thursday Island was chosen, but in respect to the other site named by the honorable senator, I am not in a position to say whether it was selected or not.
– No action has been taken for twelve months.
Motion (by Senator McColl, for Senator Walker) agreed to -
That, as early as possible, a return be laid, on the table of the Senate, giving information as follows : -
List of all lands, up to 31st October, 1911, acquired or purchased by the Commonwealth Government, excluding properties transferred from the States, giving in each case the area and the price paid,
Schedule of properties transferred from the States, giving the area in each case.
List of fire insurances effected - (a)Overbuildings; (b)Overrentalvalueofeachbuilding orblockofbuildings.
Motion (by Senator Chataway) agreed to-
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate, showing -
Onwhat percentage of purity the actual raw sugar made at the mills (as stated in the reply of the Minister on the 8th inst.) is calculated.
On what percentage of purity the actual quantity cleared for home consumption is calculated.
How much sugar was delivered without paying Excise during the last financial year.
What Australian manufacturing industries received such sugar, and the quantities respectively, during 1910-11.
What amount of sugar, subject to Excise, was exported during the last financial year.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th November, vide page 2321) :
Clause 9 -
Section 62 of the principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following sub-section : - (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.
– I do not know whether the clause has been drafted in the form in which it appears by inadvertence or of set purpose, but it seems to me that the word “and,” which follows the word “roll” first appearing, ought to read “or.” If the Electoral Officer has proof that a person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment upon, a roll, that circumstance in itself justifies some steps being taken to remove him from the roll without imposing an additional condition that he must have obtained enrolment upon another roll;
– The retention of the word ‘“and” is considered necessary in this clause. I cannot read the provision in the same light” as the Leader of the Opposition. The clause is designed to give the Commonwealth Electoral Officer power to remove a name from a roll, provided that it appears on more than one roll.
– How can it get there?
– We discussed that matter fully, and, I trust, to the satisfaction of most honorable senators, when the Bill was last under consideration.
– But the Government did not tell us of what the proof consists that a person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment.
– I am not going over that ground again.
– We have never debated the point which is involved in this clause.
– The Committee discussed it, and the honorable senator himself took part in the discussion.
– Not in any debate upon the point which I have just raised.
– No, but in a discussion of the point which was mentioned by Senator Vardon.
– Is not the first part of the clause sufficient in itself ?
– In the opinion of those who are more competent to judge than I am, it is not. This Bill, like every other measure, has been intrusted to expert draftsmen, and they are of the opinion that the clause as printed should be accepted by the Committee.
– This is not a question of what may be the opinion of expert draftsmen, but of what the Committee desire to express. If an electoral officer has proof that any person has ceased to be qualified as an elector for enrolment on a roll, should that officer have the power to strike off his name? I think that he should. But under this clause, the officer must not only have absolute proof that the person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on one roll, but that he has secured enrolment on another roll. Take the case of an elector who, for a breach of the law, has been sent into retirement for a considerable period. Let us assume that his name appears upon the electoral roll for the division of Melbourne,notwithstanding that he is located in some place far up the country. In that instance, the Electoral Officer would have absolute proof that the person in question had ceased to be qualified for enrolment on the roll for the division of Melbourne. But he is not on any other roll.
– He ought to be on the roll for the electorate in which he is residing.
– That is not the point. He cannot get on the roll there, and he has ceased to be qualified to be on the roll on which his name appears. Suppose that an elector has ceased to be qualified to vote in Port Melbourne, but that his name remains on the roll for that electorate, whereas he is located at Ballarat. He cannot get on the Ballarat roll, and the Electoral Officer will not strike him off the Port Melbourne roll, though the officer may know that the elector has left that district. He would have power to remove the name if the word “ and “ were inserted instead of “or.” This clause was not designed to meet such a case as I have mentioned. It has been inserted because those responsible for the new card system recognise that in all probability it will frequently break down, because persons instead of applying for transfer will in the future, as they have done in the past, apply for original registration. In that case the new application will be attended to, and the applicant will become enrolled for. the district in which he resides. By-and-by the Electoral Office will discover on comparing cards that the name of the elector is on two rolls.
– The officers ought to have discovered that before.
– I think so, but I am not responsible for the card system. The clause is designed to give power to aid and abet those law-breakers who apply for original enrolment instead of for transfer by enabling their names to be removed from rolls on which they ought no longer to appear. I do not find particular fault with the purpose of the clause, but I say that some other power is necessary to deal with the case of a man who has ceased to be entitled to enrolment on a particular roll. The name of such a man ought to be removed somehow. Surely the Government are not going to allow names to remain on several rolls as they have done in the past, although it has been within the knowledge of the electoral officers that they ought to be removed from one roll to another.
– I feel sure that’ the Leader of the Opposition is anxious that this Bill shall meet with the approbation of the majority of the members of the Committee. But in his anxiety to secure an amendment which he states will meet a difficulty, he apparently overlooks the fact that provision is made for such! cases as he has incidentally mentioned. He will find that Part VII. of the principal Ad makes every provision for rolls to be compiled in the way prescribed.
– If every provision is made there, what is the use of this other provision to meet cases which the Government imagine are likely to arise?
– This is intended to make every possible safeguard in order that rolls shall be in better condition than they were under the original Act.
– Is the clause intended to meet such a case as I have suggested, where a man, instead of applying for transfer has applied for fresh registration?
– It is not necessarily intended to meet such a case as that. But it may happen that a man instead of applying for transfer may .make application to be placed on a fresh roll.
– Part VII. of the principal Act, to which the Minister has called attention, provides that a name may be objected to, and if the objection is upheld, may be removed from a roll. That provides for some one outside the Electoral Office taking action. But the clause with which we are dealing has no connexion with Part VII. of the principal Act.
– No one said that the clause had direct connexion with Part VII.
– Then why the reply made by the Minister to Senator Millen?
– Because Senator Millen was dealing with hypothetical cases.
– Senator Millen gave a concrete case,- and the Minister declared that the point raised was provided for in Part VII. of the principal Act. I say that it is not provided for at all, because under Part VII. the Electoral Officer does not take action until he receives a written objection to some one being on the roll. This clause does not provide for such a case. It provides that the Electoral Officer is to have proof of two things - first, that a person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on a particular roll, and second, that he has secured enrolment on another roll. I asked the Minister the other day to tell us how this provision was going to work. We have not yet been informed. We ought to be told. If the new card system is to be worked efficiently, there is no need for this clause, because the Commonwealth Electoral Officer ought to have immediate proof if his cards are kept up to date.
– The honorable senator must recollect that the card system as proposed to be adopted has never yet been explained to .the Committee.
– I quite admit that. But under the card index system as generally used, there ought to come into the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, every day notices of transfer and enrolments, and he ought to have a staff sufficient to keep the roll up to date. He ought to be able at once to put his hand on a card, and give information concerning any elector. But this clause contemplates that the system is going to break down. Under this model system it ought to be impossible for an elector to get his name on to a new roll without its being omitted from another one.
– From the somewhat hazy explanation we have had of this clause, it would seem that it is intended to prevent the duplica tion of names on electoral rolls, but I should like to know how the Department propose to obtain evidence of identification.
– They will have the elector’s card with his handwriting, a statement of his occupation, and other particulars.
– Then we have to go back to the old question as to what is to be considered proof. I ran my eye down a number of rolls this morning, and even in the case of very common names I found the same name appearing several times on different rolls. Names like Anderson and Andrews appear two or three times on a single roll.
– The honorable senator will often find similar names on a roll, but he will not often find two signaturesalike.
– What has the signature to do with it? Is it proposed to call the elector into the office, and get him to sign something?
– His signature will be on his card.
– I suppose that if the name James Anderson appears on a roll the Department will endeavour to discover if the same James Anderson is enrolled for another electorate. What is to direct their attention to the probability that he is, in order to make them look up the matter and consult his card? Is it proposed to go through the cards of electors of the same name for every roll in the Commonwealth, and compare the signatures to discover whether the same man is enrolled for more than one electorate?
– Who will say whether the signatures are the same?
– We ought to know that also. The Minister has such a blind faith in the Department that he has scarcely troubled himself to master the details of the measure of which he has charge. We have to satisfy ourselves that we are passing common-sense legislation. Before actionis taken to strike a name from a roll we should be absolutely certain that the elector is on some other roll, and the only way inwhich we can be certain of that is by communicating with the person whose name it is proposed to strike off the roll. If we do not get an answer within a certain time we may take it for granted that the name should not appear on the roll on which it is objected to. In order to make the matter clear I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - (4.) When it is intended that any person shall be struck oft a roll by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of the State, that officer shall send notice by registered letter, to the last known address of the person to be struck off, of such intention, and such person shall not be struck off until twenty-one clear days have elapsed after such notice has been sent.
Without some such provision we shall get our rolls into a state of endless confusion. We shall have names struck off that should be allowed to remain on the rolls, and names will he left on which should be struck off. The card system, will not help us in the matter unless an army of clerks is kept to check every name on every roll.
– I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment. In submitting it Senator McColl made a statement which is becoming somewhat hackneyed from him. No matter what Labour Minister may be submitting a measure, the honorable senator, on almost every occasion, makes a personal reference to him, suggesting incapacity, apparently with the intention, of making it appear that he is himself the only Solon in this Chamber. Such charges do not become the honorable senator. I have given as much consideration to this measure as Senator McColl has done. This provision was discussed almost threadbare the last time we dealt with this Bill, but no matter how long we may discuss it, and no matter how much information may be given to honorable senators opposite, this measure will not be acceptable to them. They started out to oppose it tooth and claw, they condemned it lock, stock, and barrel, and in my opinion they have set out purposely to try to delay its passage as long as possible.
– That will not expedite it.
– Whether it will or not, the measure is going through.
– Of course, it is ; the Caucus told the honorable senator that.
– I remind the Minister that he is travelling away from the amendment.
– The amendment, instead of strengthening, would weaken the clause. One would think that Australians are such dullards that they will not be able to understand the plain language of this Bill. They will understand that their enrolment is compulsory, and that they must give notice of any transfer under a penalty if they do not do so.i They will know that it will be their duty to fill in certain cards supplied to them with the information desired by the Electoral Officer. When the Central Office is in possession of all the cards, they will be in a position to ascertain whether the name of the same elector appears upon more than one roll.
– How lean the name pf the same elector appear on more than one roll if the card system is properly carried out?
– No human machine or system is perfect. And it is in order that every possible precaution may be taken against the inflation of rolls with names which should not appear on them that this provision is introduced enabling the Electoral Officer, if he is satisfied that the. name of the same elector appears on more than one roll, to strike it off that on which it should not appear.
– And only after he is completely satisfied.
– That is so. After he is completely satisfied that the name of the same elector appears on more than one roll, he will remove it from the roll on which it should not appear, and will notify the elector accordingly.
– Is there any provision giving the man whose name is to be removed an opportunity of saying that it should not be removed ?
– That seems very unfair.
– When the name of a man or a woman has been removed from a roll, he or she will be immediately notified.
– Where is that’ stated in the Bill ?
– It is not stated in the Bill. Every possible detail is not expected to’ be included in the Bill, but provision will be made by regulation to notify every person whose name has been removed from a roll. In these circumstances, I ask the Committee not to accept the amendment.
– I desire to ascertain from the Minister whether the clause is only meant to apply to a case where the Electoral Officer is satisfied that a person has secured enrolment on another roll.
– Then it strikes me, with all due deference to the skill of the draftsman, that the clause ought to be altered to read -
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, by having secured enrolment on another roll.
That is, that the elector has ceased to be qualified on one roll by reason of the fact that he has secured enrolment on another roll.
– That will limit the power of an Electoral Officer to strike out to one specific case.
– Yes. I think that if my suggestion is adopted, the meaning of the provision will be expressed in plainer English.
– I trust that the Minister will give very favorable consideration to the very happy suggestion of Senator Rae. When I first raised this point, I asked the Minister if the provision was designed to enable the Department to correct mistakes where electors have obtained a fresh enrolment rather than a transfer. He did not give me a specific answer, but he has just done so to Senator Rae. If the provision is merely designed to meet cases where the provisions as to transfer have been ignored or broken, there is no reason why we should not set out plainly that the great power which is sought to be conferred on the Electoral Officer is limited to such cases. The suggestion of Senator Rae would, if adopted, do that, and there would be no objection to the provision being passed in that form. At the same time, I wish to point out to the Minister that if he is as warm a believer in the principle of compulsory enrolment as he would have us believe, this provision will do more than anything else to discredit the system, and cause it to break down. It is to be made an offence for a man to seek original registration rather than a transfer from roll to roll. If a man does do that, the Department ought not to condone his offence, or to become a party to it, but to immediately return the second application for original registration with the statement that he must apply for a transfer.
– I used to put in an application for original registration every time I lost my elector’s right.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable senator would do that in spite of a law to the contrary. Hundreds 01 thousands of persons have taken that course with the result that our rolls are inflated. It is alleged that oneof the advantages pf the proposed system is that we shall clarify the rolls as we goalong, and that there will be no duplicate registration. But here is a provision which will assist to defeat that object. Undoubtedly we all desire to get the rolls cleared.
– The individual elector would be no worse off.
– Having obtained his second registration, he would not be any worse off. We ought to insist that every elector who has changed his place of residence shall get a transfer, and not a fresh registration. Every second application for original registration should be returned,, and the applicant told that in the circumstances he is only entitled to apply for a transfer. I suggest strongly to the Minister that, if he wants to give a fair trial to compulsory registration, he should not, by adopting this provision, hold out an invitation to persons to break the regulationsand the law. Let it be clearly understood throughout the Commonwealth that no man can get on another roll until he has cancelled his first registration.
.- I think that the Honorary Minister was not quite fair in stating that I am continually twitting Ministers. I deprecate the remark being made at the present juncture. I rather resent the imputation which it conveys.
– I have heard the honorable senator say it of Senator McGregor, times without number.
– The honorable senator has not.
– I say that I have.
– That statement is not true.
– It has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that, in the last line of this provision, the word “ or “ should be substituted for the word “ and.” There is no doubt that that alteration would satisfy what Senator Rae has suggested, and what Senator Millen has recommended. I desire to know if the Minister still objects to adopt the suggestion. If the Electoral Officer has proof that a person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on a roll, that ought to be sufficient if it is intended to make the system complete. But the Government say that it is not sufficient for him, and that he must further be satisfied that the person has secured enrolment on another roll. How is it possible to have purity of rolls under the card system unless the Electoral Officer, if he be satisfied that a person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on a roll, has the power to take his name off that roll? If he is satisfied on that point, is not that alone sufficient ground for striking off the name ?
– It will not be done before the Electoral Officer has that proof.
– Why not say so? If it is intended to have purity of Tolls, and impartiality of investigation ought not the Electoral Officer to have the power, when he has arrived at that point, to strike off the name? Is not that what the Government really mean by this provision? But the first thing we should do is to substitute “or” for “and,” and therefore I intend to move an amendment.
– Before another amendment can be moved, it will be necessary for the amendment of Senator McColl to be withdrawn.
– Very well, sir, I will not move an amendment on the provision.
– One would imagine from the arguments of honorable senators on the opposite side that the Electoral Officers, instead of bringing intelligent minds to bear upon the administration of the law, will lay themselves out to disfranchise as many electors as possible. The provision in itself is a sufficient guarantee that the interests of the electors will be safeguarded very carefully. No Electoral Officer would dream of removing a name from a roll until he was perfectly satisfied that the elector had qualified elsewhere. The suggestion of Senator Rae, and the more modified, and, perhaps, better proposal of Senator St. Ledger, to substitute “or” for “and”-
– My proposal was to substitute “by having” for “and has.”
-What I desire to point out is that, under the provision, the roll may be altered by the Electoral Officer if he has proof that the person has ceased to be qualified for enrolment on that roll by having secured enrolment on another roll. That is a qualification which will handicap the Electoral Department. If a person has not secured enrolment upon more than one roll, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State cannot strike his name off the roll on which it first appeared.
Senator St. Ledger has argued that that is a good thing. But suppose that an elector has moved from one electoral division to another, or from one State to another.
– That is what the clausecontemplates - the removal of an elector from one State to another.
– What is the value of his name appearing on the roll in some part of the Commonwealth where he cannot exercise the franchise.
– Under this Bill he can vote anywhere in Australia.
– I favour the suggestion of Senator Millen that there ought not to be any ground for a new registration. As he has clearly pointed out, a person should be able to get his name inserted upon a roll after it has been struck off any other roll only by making application for a transfer. I hope that the Government will listen to his proposal, because its adoption will enable us to have much cleaner rolls than we have had in the past.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [3.27]. - If Senator Rae’s suggestion be adopted there cannot be any objection urged to the provision, but if it be not adopted, I think the clause will impose upon the Electoral Officer a condition in respect of striking the name of a person off the roll, which is entirely unnecessary. In reply to Senator Rae’s remarks, the Minister stated that the sole object of this provision is to enable the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of a State to eliminate the name of any person from a particular roll if that person has secured enrolment on another roll.
– But he cannot do it otherwise ?
– No. The simple way to accomplish Senator Rae’s purpose is to strike out all the words after “person,” where second occurring, down to and including the word “and.” The object is. to prevent the duplication of names, and also to prevent impersonation. I quite agree with Senator Millen that it is a deplorable state of affairs if an elector can secure enrolment upon another roll without first having obtained a transfer. But the clause assumes that such a. state of things is possible, and seeks to provide a remedy. The simplest remedy for us to adopt is to declare that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for a State may strike out the name of any person if he has proof that that person has secured enrolment on another roll. At the same time, I commend to the attention of the Minister, the suggestion o£ Senator Millen, namely, the desirableness of framing a clause which will prevent the name of any person being enrolled upon any roll other than that on which it first appeared, except by means of a transfer.
– - I have not moved any amendment to the clause, but I believe in expressing my meaning in as few words as possible, and I can see at once that the suggestion of Senator Symon, if adopted, would exactly meet my view of the matter. But from what Senator Long and others have said, it seems that we are very anxious that no person shall be deprived of enrolment merely as the result of an accident. I do not share the horror which was expressed by the last speaker at the possible inflation of a Toll. I would like to see our rolls as perfect as possible, but I would rather have my name upon two rolls than upon none at all.
– That would be a convenient way of introducing plural voting.
– I do not mean to suggest that I would make use of both votes.
– The honorable senator has no doubt heard of a system under which he could make use of one vote himself, while somebody else could make use of the second vote for him.
– I have. But I do not experience any thrill of horror at the prospect of some person getting a vote to which he is not entitled. I would rather see a few names duplicated than know that an equal number had been omitted from our rolls. I think that the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out an evident contradiction in this clause, but he appears to lay too much stress upon it. The duplication of names may be the result of accident. I have heard a good deal about the card system, but ‘I do not know what it means any more than does the man in Mars.
– Does not the honorable senator think it should be explained to us?
– Perhaps 1 should have less difficulty in voting for it if I did not understand it. I can see a tremendous amount of trouble ahead in connexion with electors obtaining transfers.
– The card systemhas been in operation on foreign ships for years, and it has proved thoroughly workable.
– But I am speaking of compulsory enrolment. Only the otherday I was debating the matter with a manin Sydney who expressed the warmest admiration for it; but when I told him that under it an elector would have to notify every transfer of his residence, he admitted that it would be absolutely impracticable. I do hope that we shall not have a party squabble over any verbal amendment that may be proposed. It seems to me that the clause is merely intended to meet the cases of electors who have lost enrolment on one roll by securing it on another roll.
– It provides for that.
– The clause says something which is capable of half-a-dozen different interpretations. Now there are methods of expression which nobody can misunderstand. I confess I have beenguilty of adopting those methods on more than one occasion.
– An elector may be disqualified from voting for reasons other than that his name appears on another roll.
– But I specially asked the honorable member whether this clause was intended to deal with general cases, or whether it was designed only to give the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of a State power to strike the name of any person off one roll when he had proof that it. appeared on another.
– I know of a case 111 which a John Smith died, and in which the Returning Officer, as a result, struck off the roll the names of three John. Smiths.
– The interjection of Senator Guthrie is utterly irrelevant to my argument. If the Commonwealth Electoral’ Officer of a State is to be permitted tostrike off the roll the names of persons for: reasons other than I have mentioned-
– Are not those reasonsset out under the disqualifications which are enumerated in the principal Act?
– This clause merely permits the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for a State to strike off the roll the nameof any person when he is not only convinced that it ought not to appear uponthat roll, but also that it appears’ upon another roll. Two conditions are necessary before he can act.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I merely wish to point out that the proposal of Senator McColl was improperly before the Committee. It was not an amendment of the clause, but a new clause. However, as it has now been withdrawn, my point is immaterial.
– I move -
That the words “ ceased to be qualified for enrolment on that roll and has,” lines 7 and 8, be left out.
– I hope that the Committee will not for a moment think of accepting Senator’s Rae’s amendment. Honorable senators opposite say that they cannot understand the clause. If that be so, they cannot understand plain English. The language of the clause is not involved. It provides simply that the Electoral Officer must have double-barrelled proof before removing an elector’s name from a roll. He must have proof that an elector has ceased to be qualified to be enrolled in one electorate, and that he has become enrolled in another. Senator Rae’s amendment would vitiate the whole provision. He seeks to provide that if a person has secured enrolment on one roll, and his name already appears on another, he shall “be removed from the first. An elector, however, ought to cease to be qualified to vote in an electorate where he is enrolled before his name can be removed. A man does not cease to be qualified simply because his name appears on a second roll.
– Then the second enrolment must be a fraudulent one.
– That is another matter. Under this provision the officer must be satisfied that an elector has ceased to be qualified to vote in an electorate before removing that elector’s name from the roll.
– How does an elector get his name on to a second roll if he retains his original qualifications?
– There are possibilities; and it is to remove any possibility of fraud that we want the provisions of the law to be tightened up. I say in all seriousness that this Bill has not been hastily drawn, but every provision in it has been carefully considered. I ask the Committee to agree to the clause as it stands.
Senator HENDERSON (Western Aus correct in his contention. I do not think that the intention is to make use of this clause in a case where an elector has removed from one division in a State to another. It is intended to operate where an elector has removed from one State to another. By the card system, it is intended to keep a check upon electors, who may be followed from one end of Australia to the other. That is the intention of the whole Bill.
– Yes, but not of this clause.
– The full intention of the measure cannot be expressed in every clause.
– This clause gets away from that intention.
– The clause expresses the intention that when a man removes from one State to another, his name shall not be taken from one roll until it has been placed upon another.
– Names have been removed by thousands in that way in the past.
– Exactly ; no sooner does a man remove from one part of the country to another than his name is wiped off the roll.
– How will the Commonwealth Electoral OfFicer for Western Australia know when a late Western Australian elector has become enrolled in Tasmania ?
– The officer will know that that elector has applied for enrolment or transfer.
– When the elector applies for fresh registration in Tasmania, how will the Western Australian Electoral Officer know ?
– The elector will apply for transfer, and his name is not to be removed from one roll after he has so made application until it has been placed upon another.
– That is the safeguard which the elector has.
– Exactly. I think the Minister does well to stand by the clause.
– I am much surprised to hear Senator Henderson expressing such views in face of the wording of the clause. It has nothing to do with transfer. As the Minister has correctly stated, it deals only with the removal of the names of those electors who have got upon other rolls. In other,, words, it deals with the case of those who have violated the law. The proper way of getting on. to a new roll is to apply for transfer. But the Minister recognises that a number of electors, instead of going the right way to work, will apply for fresh registration. It is admitted that this clause has been framed to meet cases of that kind. Senator Henderson argued that the clause was intended to . deal with an elector who had removed from one State to another. If that be so, how will the Western Australian Electoral Officer have proof that a late Western Australian elector who has gone to Tasmania has applied for fresh registration in that State? He cannot have it; and that is the reason why, by this clause, an easy means is being provided of breaking down the compulsory enrolment system. It ought to be- provided that, when a man has obtained his registration, he shall be entitled once, and once only, to original registration. Having got that, under no circumstances should he be allowed to apply for fresh registration. If he removes, let him apply for transfer. But here the Bill provides that he can apply for fresh registration. As surely as we make provision for such a breach’ of- the law, so surely will such breaches be committed? Why should they not be? It may be much easier for a man to apply for fresh registration than for transfer. The compulsory enrolment system will break down. If honorable senators opposite believe in that system let them provide for it in such a way as will make for success, by letting every elector know that there is only one way to get on to a roll in the first instance, and only one way to secure the removal of his name to another roll if he changes his residence. Let every elector know that his application for new enrolment will not be successful if he really ought to apply for transfer. Electors will soon know what is the right thing to do. But if we provide that if they do the wrong thing the Electoral Office will set it right for them, compulsory enrolment will fail.
– - The rolls of the Commonwealth at the present time are full of such cases as Senator Millen has instanced. I know of members of this Parliament who are on two rolls, if not three. Take my own case. I am an elector for Queensland. Yet my name was put on the roll in Tasmania by the police. If I had liked I could have voted there. I did not do so, simply because I knew what the law was. But many men, not knowing the law so well, will break it. Suppose a man who has been living in Queensland goes to Broken Hill and gets on the roll there. How is the Electoral Officer at Broken Hill to know that this elector is already on the roll for Gympie, Charters Towers, or any other place in Queensland? The electoral name will remain on the roll for the State which he has left, as well as being “on the roll for the State to which he has gone. I have already said that I believe our rolls are unduly inflated, and often quite inadvertently. We have only to consider the last election for Boothby to, see that this is so. Boothby is a metropolitan electorate, and although the political parties there are highly organized, and, no doubt, brought every possible voter up to the poll, only 52- per cent, of the persons on the roll recorded their votes. If Boothby were a country electorate, it might be said that, as it was a by-election, the people did not take very much interest in it, but, in the circumstances, there must be something radically wrong with the Boothby roll. I believed that probably 75 per cent, at least of the persons on the roll would record their votes, knowing that both parties were well organized. I am satisfied that if the Boothby roll contained only the names of electors qualified to be upon it, it would have been found that 70 or 80 per cent, of the electors voted at the election. I am not aware that action has been taken by any one since the establishment of Federation to purify the Federal electoral rolls. It is within my personal knowledge that, ort the Kennedy roll, there appears the namesof many former residents of ChartersTowers who left the district years ago. The continuance of names on a roll of persons who have left the district merely offers an inducement to persons to personate, and get themselves into trouble. Under the State laws, there are quarterly sittings of Revision Courts provided for in Queensland, though the system is not all that I should like it to be. A person objecting to a nameon a roll has to make a deposit of 5s., and. if the elector appears and proves that hisname should remain on the roll, the objector loses his deposit. In that way, thereis very little danger that the name of a qualified elector will be struck off a roll. I will admit that the system now proposed by the Government, if properly carried out, should do much to purify the Commonwealth rolls. It should: be kept up to date*. and once an elector is enrolled for a particular electorate, his name should not appear upon any other roll unless he makes an application for a transfer. If the system is to be worked as feared by Senator Millen, I have no doubt that, in a few years, the rolls will be as inflated as ever. A man leaving a Tasmanian electorate, and going to Broken Hill to get work, will, no doubt, desire to be on the roll for the Barrier. He will make application for enrolment, but his name will still remain on the roll for the Tasmanian electorate which he left. I am sure that is not the intention of honorable senators. Now that we are establishing the card system, we should try to make it as perfect as possible, and 1 am satisfied that honorable senators on this side will support any proposal made by the Government to secure the purification of the rolls.
– After listening to Senator Sayers’ convincing speech, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– In view of the discussion which has taken place, 1 shall not again submit my amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria - Honorary Minister) [4.2J. - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 10a. Section 66 of the principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following subsection : -
The Registrar-General of marriages in each State shall in the months of January, April, July, and October in each year forward to the Commonwealth Electoral officer for the State particulars of all marriages registered during (he preceding three months, and in respect of which the bride is of the age of twenty-one years and upwards.
The object of this provision is to enable the Electoral Officers to obtain all the information possible with regard to the alteration of names due to marriages, in order that the rolls may be kept in proper order. If honorable senators will look at section 66 of the principal Act, they will find that it provides that -
The Registrar-General of deaths in each State shall, in the months of January, April, July, and October in each year, forward to each Divisional Returning Officer in the State the names, addresses, and occupations of all persons of the age of twenty-one years or upwards whose deaths have been registered in the division during the preceding three months, and the Divisional Returning Officer shall cause the names of the persons specified in the list to be struck off the roll.
The proposed new sub-section is merely an amplification of the principle of section 66. It explains itself, and I hope it will not be considered necessary to debate it at length.
– I can quite see that the object which the Minister has in view is that where a lady, by reason of her marriage, assumes an altered name, if she was previously enrolled, the alteration shall be made on the roll. I should like to say that I consider this another provision which will weaken the sense of responsibility which it is the object of this Bill to throw upon the electors. I can see, also, very considerable trouble for the Electoral Office in the proposal. A lady, having changed her name by marriage, might reasonably be asked to notify that to the authorities herself. If we are going to adopt the principle of individual responsibility of each elector, the whole matter should be left to them.
– This is a responsibility which would never fall upon the husband. Where would be the equality in that?
– This would be a disability which, under our customs, would attach only to one sex. Is the Department to undertake the responsibility of checking all alterations of names of female electors due to their marriage?
– Not necessarily.
– Then what is the object of the proposed return?
– It will be useful in the compilation of the rolls. A similar list is provided for in the case of deaths.
– But there is a very big difference. A female elector, after her marriage, is still able to communicate with the Electoral Office; but, so far as I know, a person who is dead cannot do so.
– The female elector might be a little busy for three months after her marriage.
– But we have still a provision in the law to enable her to vote under her maiden name. Suppose the Electoral Officer is informed by the proposed return that “Mary Johnson” is married.
– What Mary Johnson?
– Exactly. How is the Electoral Officer to decide? It would be much better that we should give the electors to understand! that they must look after such matters for themselves. If the Department is to undertake this responsibility of making alterations in the names of persons, I am afraid that injustice may be done to some electors, and the Department will be given a very great deal of trouble.
– Will not the addresses be given in the return?
– The address of the person who has changed her name may or may not be given. Senator Lynch may have seen a marriage register, and will know the nature of the addresses entered in such registers. I suppose that, if he were to turn up his own marriage register, he would find that the address would possibly be only the town in which he lived. That would be all the information which the Registrar would be in a position to send on to the Electoral Office. The Minister must not be led away by the fact that a somewhat similar return is provided for in the case of deaths. The reason for this is obvious. No one can give the information supplied by that return but the Registrar of Deaths. Nobody is officially dead until the Registrar says so. In this case the Minister is misled by a fallacious parallel, which is drawn between a return of marriages and a return of deaths. There is no means of showing that a woman whose name appears on a return is identical with a woman whose name appears on a roll, and therefore the Electoral Officer will be put to considerable trouble to determine which name has to be dealt with.
– I believe that in almost ninety-nine cases out of every hundred a woman adopts her husband’s name as speedily as possible. The names of newlymarried women will from time to time be in the possession of the Electoral Office, but in order that there shall be no possibility of doubt in respect to women who have changed their names by marriage, the insertion of this harmless provision is desired by the Government. It will be a help to the Department. It cannot do the slightest harm, and. the probability is that it will materially assist those who are intrusted with the compilation of the rolls, in having proper names on the rolls, and no unnecessary names.
– Can you compel this information to be supplied ?
– We can by way of regulation.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) (“4.12]. - The explanation which the Minister has given to the Committee is remarkably clear and requires no explanation. At every point he is anticipating the break-down of the compulsory principle. He has offered no answer to the criticism from this side. A woman has her name before she is married. When she attains her majority she must be on a roll. Whether she is married or not she is on a roll : whether she is married or not she ought to be on a roll. That is the natural way in which the system must work out, but the Minister wants the Department to catch hold of a woman under a new name, but she is the same individual all the time. I do not object to the provision itself. It is an illustration of how the compulsory principle will break down. I am rejoiced to hear these continued explanations from the Minister.
– On a point of order, sir, I desire to know whether the amendment is in order? I do not propose to press the argument on this proposal at any great length, but 1 would remind you that various decisions have been given, which, stated broadly, were to this effect : that an amendment to an amending Bill must be relevant to the amending Bill, and not to the principal Act. In other words, that we are not at liberty to” roam over the principal Act, and propose practically a new law.
– We cannot add a provision to the Act, but we can amend provisions in the Act.
– To what clause of this Bill is the amendment of the Minister pertinent ?
– I hope, sir, that no unnecessary time will be occupied in the discussion of the point of order. Should you rule that the amendment is not pertinent to the Bill, Senator Millen is aware that the Government will have no difficulty in making this provision by way of regulation. I am of opinion that the amendment is pertinent to the Bill. We have been accepting amendments of this description.
– Because we have done wrong before, that is no reason why I should be a party to a wrong now.
– Amendments have been proposed, discussed, and carried.
– -Amendments on what ?
– On the amending Bill. I think that the amendment has a direct bearing on clause 10 of the Bill.
– The object of that part of the Bill which we have been discussing recently is to make compulsory enrolment secure, and to provide, as far as possible, that no person shall escape the roll, that having once been enrolled the enrolment must continue by every means possible under the measure. One of the methods sought to accomplish the object is a list of the names of newly married women, to prevent any leakage through the change of names causing omissions from rolls, or some mistake being made, and a. name struck off which should have been retained. As the object of the Bill is to secure more complete and fuller enrolment than is deemed possible under the present law, the amendment seems to be quite pertinent, since it would tighten up and strengthen the measure. I hold that it is manifestly within the objects of the Bill, and, therefore, should be within its scope.
– If my understanding of the Electoral Act is correct, it does not matter whether a woman is married or unmarried, what her name was before marriage or afterwards. The Act provides that she can vote. Suppose that she has not sent to the Registrar her married name, or that the fact of her marriage has not been communicated by the RegistrarGeneral, is she to be prevented from voting? This provision is wrapt up in stupid bureaucracy. I should like to see a Minister ‘pr an official who would dare to punish a woman in these circumstances.
– Has this denunciation against stupid bureaucracy any bearing On the point of order, sir?
– It has not. ll ask Senator St. Ledger to keep more strictly to the point of order.
– I think the amendment is an exhibition of stupid Ministerial and departmental bureaucracy. Is that out of order, sir?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Whether the amendment is the result of
Stupidity or not has nothing to do with the point of order. The question before the Chair is whether the amendment which has been proposed by the Honorary Minister can be inserted in the Bill at this Stage. That is the point to which I desire the honorable senator to keep as closely as possible.
– I would point out, sir, that if the amendment is carried-
– It is Senator Millen’s. point of order which is now under consideration.
– I merely wish to ask you, sir, whether you have noticed number 74 of the rulings of the President, which are contained in volume I. of the records of the Senate?
– I have noted that ruling. Section 66 of the principal Act, which the amendment of the Honorary Minister seeks to amend, is one dealing with the duty of the RegistrarGeneral to forward to each Divisional Returning Officer in the State a list of the deaths which have been registered in the division during the preceding three months. That section is not mentioned in the amending Bill which is now before the Committee. Although, personally, I disagree with the precedents which have been established in this Chamber, as I am merely the temporary occupant of the Chair, I feel bound to follow them on this occasion. I say, therefore, that the proposed amendment is not relevant to the Bill, and cannot be moved at this stage. Therefore, I rule it out of order.
Clause 11 -
After section eighty-eight of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 88a. The day fixed for the polling shall bc a Saturday.”
– In view of the petition which was presented to the Senate this afternoon by Senator Barker, I would ask the Minister whether he is prepared to reconsider this clause, and whether he noticed in this morning’s newspapers a paragraph which suggested that the Minister of Home Affairs had promised to submit it to his colleagues for reconsideration, with a view to modifying it so as to meet the objections of the Jewish community ? When we are dealing with matters of conscience, we ought to proceed very warily. Whatever advantages may result to a large section of the electors from setting apart Saturday as polling day will be largely outweighed when we reflect that, in order to confer a temporary convenience upon its members, who can vote equally well, so far as considerations of conscience are concerned, upon any other day, we impose a disability upon another section of the electors. If the Minister is not prepared to agree to the course which I have suggested, will he consent to postpone the provision until he has had an opportunity of ascertaining whether the deputation which recently waited on the Minister of Home Affairs has had the effect of modifying the opinion of his colleagues on this matter?
– I cannot hold out any hope that a departure will be made from the day which is set apart for polling day in this clause. In the opinion of the Government, Saturday is the most suitable day upon which to hold a general election. I am aware that from time to time there have been movements in different States which have had for their object the proclaiming of polling day as a public holiday. Many believe that if that course were adopted a larger percentage of votes would be recorded, and a keener interest would be manifested in our elections. Whether that would be so, I am not prepared to say. But the Government, even if they were favorably disposed to proclaim polling day a public holiday throughout Australia, have not the power to do so. The fact that Saturday is a partial holiday will, it is thought, result in a bigger vote being recorded than would otherwise be registered. The fixing of that day as polling day will enable hundreds of electors to take an active interest in such an important event as a general election. Of course, I am aware that there is a section of the community which entertains conscientious objections to Saturday being set apart as the polling day. While we must respect such objections, we cannot legislate for them.
– But we need not legislate against them.
– For quite a number of years the general elections in South Australia have been held on a Saturday, and I have never yet heard of any very serious inconvenience having resulted from that practice. I believe, too, that, in Queensland, the elections are held on that day.
– Usually they are.
– So that the Commonwealth is not making a new departure by declaring that Saturday shall be set apart as polling-day. I would further point out that the Government are prepared to extend the hour for the closing of the poll from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. - a course which has not yet been adopted either in Queensland or South Australia - to meet the conscientious objections of a certain section of the community.
– Could not the hour for closing the poll be made 9 o’clock?
– We have no objection to the adoption of that course, although 8 o’clock is a very reasonable hour to fix.
– In March and April, the sun sets at 6 o’clock.
– It is very probable that the next general election will be held in either one or other of those months, and as sunset will be about 6 o’clock, the conscientious objections of the Jewish community ought, therefore, to be met.
– The sunset of the Ministry.
– Our party’s sun will never set. I cannot hold out any hope of any other day than Saturday being fixed as polling day.
– I congratulate the Government upon having determined to set apart Saturday as polling day. But I would like them to ascertain from the Jewish community whether the peculiar conditions of the latter would not be met if the hour for closing the poll were extended to 8 o’clock. If they would not, the members of the Jewish persuasion might be enabled to obtain their ballot-papers on the Friday preceding polling day, and to forward them to the Returning Officers so that they might be opened the next day.
– Postal voting.
– No. The Conservative party have adopted such corrupt practices in connexion with postal voting that I can never again view it with favour.
– That has never been proved.
– I think that the conscientious objections of those who dislike voting on Saturday should be respected.
– The honorable senator is a real whale for conscience’ sake.
– A provision might easily be inserted in the Bill by means of which the conscientious objections of certain persons in the community would be met. For instance, the poll need not close till 8 o’clock in the evening.
– The deputation which waited on the Minister of Home Affairs yesterday declared that that would not meet their objections.
– If it would not, I do not think we ought to drive them to do anything that is in any way repugnant to their conscience. Although the clause may well be allowed to pass in its present form after discussion, I think that in the other Chamber a new provision should be introduced under which it would be possible for persons who have religious scruples against voting on Saturday, to obtain their ballotpapers on the Friday preceding polling day, and to forward them to the Returning Officers to be opened the next day.
– I have a conscientious objection to anything of the kind.
– I regret that the Minister does not see eye to eye with me on this matter. I am keenly interested in discovering a method, the adoption of which will suit everybody.
.- I trust that some provision will be inserted in the Bill to meet the wishes of the 17,000 or 18,000 persons who entertain conscientious objections to voting on Saturday. We have already provided that any person who expects to be distant more than 5 miles from the nearest polling place on polling day, may make a declaration to that effect.
– We have abolished that.
– No. Such a person may go before the Returning Officer and record his vote. I feel convinced that, with very little difficulty, a provision could be inserted in the Bill which would enable any conscientious objector to record his vote on Friday. In addition to the Jews, there are the Seventh Day Adventists, who also have conscientious objections to voting on Saturday. Probably there are in the Commonwealth between 30,000 and 40,000 people who are influenced by the same motives. Ifwe can meet their objections without throwing too much work upon the Electoral Officers we ought to do so.
– The only provision that I can find in the Bill which would meet the point that Senator Barker has mentioned is proposed new section 139, which enables electors who will beabsent on polling-day to vote beforehand. But that only deals with those electors who will be outside the Commonwealth altogether on polling-day. There is nothing in the Bill which would give Jews and other conscientious objectors the right to vote except on the day of election. Personally, I prefer to have elections on Saturdays; but at the same time I do not like to deprive a large number of people of the franchise because they have conscientious objections to voting on that day.
– A number of them have no objection to buying and selling on Saturdays.
– We have readin the press of an interview with the Minis ter, and the Senate has been petitioned by two Jewish ministers. The Government might find some way to meet the case.
– I have a great number of friends and supporters amongst the class of people whose case has been mentioned, who have no great objection to voting on Saturdays. A large number of the 27,000 who have been instanced, even if they do go to church in the morning, have no objection to go to sports meetings, and other gatherings, on Saturday afternoons. I will guarantee that you will find plenty of them - thousands, in fact - occupying positions as scrutineers, poll clerks, and so forth, at elections held on Saturdays. As long as they can get paid for what they do, they have no objection to do anything on polling day.
– Is the honorable memtor going to brand the Jewish community with being prepared to desecrate the Sabbath if they are paid for doing it?
– A number of. them are, and I know it. Some of them are just as good as are the others, who would not vote on a Saturday. It is all very well to talk about the few who will be disfranchised; but I am satisfied that if elections are held on any other day, we shall disfranchise five times as many. Saturday is a half-holiday almost throughout Australia. It is the most convenient day. I hope that the Government will stick to their proposal.
– Senator McDougall is quite wrong in saying that Saturday is a holiday throughout Australia. That is not so. In many places, Wednesday is chosen as the halfholiday instead of Saturday. No doubt, it is a great convenience where Saturday is a half -holiday, to have elections on that’ day; but we must give weight to the representations of those for whom Saturday is the Sabbath.
– We give consideration to them by extending the hour of polling to 8 o’clock.
– They say that that does not meet their case. I do not see why any other day in the week should not be chosen for election day. I have no doubt that the State Governments would fall in with our arrangement and make the day chosen a half-holiday. These people make it a matter of conscience, not to do any unnecessary work on Satur day. I dissent entirely from the last speaker, who said that many Jews are prepared to desecrate the Sabbath for the sake of a little money. That was not a right thing to say. Even if three-fourths of them did what the honorable member described, it would be no reason why we should trespass on the conscience of the others. Australia is supposed to be a land of liberty, where every man is free to worship God in his own way. These people consider it to be their duty to their God to keep Saturday holy. We have no right to trench upon their convictions, to come between them and their God. We are doing so by this provision. I find, according to the last census returns, that there are 15,239 Jews in the Commonwealth, of whom 6,447 reside in New South Wales, 5,847 in Victoria, 107 in Tasmania, 733 in Queensland, 1,259 in Western Australia, and 786 in South Australia.
– Are they all adults ?
– These figures represent the total population. There are also 3,700 Seventh Day Adventists, who are very particular about their Sabbath. I know of servant girls belonging to that religious denomination who will not work on Saturday. We have no right, because we are in a majority, to flout their convictions. A petition has been presented to-day from two Jewish representatives, who tell us that this provision simply means disfranchisement for their people. We must take their statement as being correct.By taking away the postal vote we have already disfranchised between 20,000 and 30,000 persons. Now we are going to disfranchise more. I do not know whether Senator Gardiner’s suggestion could be carried out. It certainly seems difficult. The best plan would be to leave the polling day an open question. If, in view of the circumstances of the time, it seemed desirable to declare Saturday “as polling day, that could be done. But do not let us fix it arbitrarily as an enactment. Let us have some regard for the scruples of our fellow citizens.
– I hope that the Government will withdraw the provision under discussion. I remind honorable senators that in places where Saturday is a half-holiday a large number of persons go away from home from Friday to Monday for the sake of change of air.
– That is their own fault.
– Surely the object is to secure as many votes as possible?
– No, it is not; the object of this Government is to prevent people from voting.
– My object, at any rate, is to afford people an opportunity of exercising the franchise. It might be desirable on some occasions to have the polling on Saturday ; but my own impression is that Thursday is the best day.
– People can vote in whatever part of the Commonwealth they may happen to be.
-I do not think that we ought to fix any particular day by Act of Parliament.
– Personally, I find no fault with Saturday as polling day. Many persons find it to be a more convenient day than any other. But, at the same time, we must consider the convictions of those persons who object to Saturday voting. We ought not to disfranchise those who feel that they cannot, on religious grounds, go to the poll on that day.
– How will Saturday suit the farmers?
– In many country places in South Australia the weekly halfholiday is on Wednesday. In other places it is on Saturday. I should like to read to the Senate the petition which was presented to-day from two prominent representatives of the Jewish religion. The document is as follows -
To the Honorable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled :
The humble Petition of Jacob Lenzer, of 225 Victoria-parade, East Melbourne, in the State of Victoria, Minister of the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, and Jacob Danglow, of St. Leonard’s-avenue, St. Kilda, in the said State, Minister of the St. ICilda Hebrew Congregation
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that it may please your Honorable House to introduce such amendments into the said Bill as will avoid the threatened serious conflict between the religious and civic obligations of the Jewish citizens of the Commonwealth.
Andyour petitioners will ever pray, &c.
Dated at Melbourne, the 16th day of November, 191 1. (Sgd.) Jacob Lenzer. (Sgd.) Jacob Danglow, M.A.
These people value the right to vote, and are anxious to exercise it ; but if they are called upon to vote on the Saturday, that will involve a violation of their conscientious convictions. I think they should be given some consideration. It may suit a very large majority of the people to have Saturday fixed as polling day; but we might tell these people that we are prepared to consider their conscientious scruples, and to provide some means by which they may record their votes without having to go to the poll on the Saturday. I believe that there are something like 18,000 Jewish voters in the Commonwealth.
– I am informed that the number is 27,000.
– That is 50 per cent, more than I stated. In addition to them, there are numbers of Seventh Day Adventists, Plymouth Brethren, and others who, though we have received no petition from them, have a similar objection to voting on the Saturday. The Minister might consider the suggestion of Senator Gardiner, and enable these people to obtain a certificate from the Returning Officer, and record a vote which might be sent to the Returning Officer, and reach him before the close of the poll on the Saturday. Ministers, with the majority behind them, may have a giant’s strength, but I ask them not to use it in a tyrannous fashion. If they cannot see their way to retain the whole of the postal voting system, as I think they should, they might, in the way I have sug gested, enable these people at least to record their votes without violence to their religious convictions.
SenatorW. RUSSELL (South Australia) [5.0]. - I should like to reply to some suggestions made by Senator Vardon and others on the question of the day for the elections that will best suit the farming community. From my experience I should say that farmers and their employes have no holiday on any day in the week. Speaking of South Australia, I might say that mails leave Adelaide on the Friday morning, and reach their destination, which may be some small country post-office, on the Friday night, or early on Saturday morning. As a rule, the people for miles around a country postoffice come in to the office to get their mails on the Saturday. There will probably be a store at the place as well as a post-office, and the polling place could be established at such places, and it would then be convenient for the farmers to vote on the Saturday. Far be it from me to say anything disparaging of those who hold different conscientious views from my own, but it must not be forgotten that under the provisions of this Bill, if Saturday is fixed as a polling day, there will still be two hours beyond the Jewish Sabbath during which electors may record their votes.
– That is not so.
SenatorW. RUSSELL.- I am told that it is, and if the elections were to take place on the 13th April, as they did on the last occasion, there would be more than two hours available for persons who objected to vote on the Jewish Sabbath. The Saturday will be a more convenient day than any other for the working classes, because most of them have a half-holiday on that. day. I am aware that it may not suit Senator McColl and those who hold his political views.
– Is that why it is pro posed to disfranchise the Hebrews?
– I do not wish to disfranchise the Hebrews. I have always voted for adult suffrage for all classes, while honorable senators opposite have been on a different tack.
– The honorable senator votes for adult suffrage, and then prevents people from exercising it.
SenatorW. RUSSELL.- The trouble with honorable senators opposite is that they are afraid of the Labour vote. They think that to have Saturday as polling day will suit the Socialists, as they call us. I said that it would, and I gave an instance which Senator Vardon can corroborate. There are a greater number of electors on the roll for the Commonwealth for Adelaide than for the State electorate of Adelaide; and yet, on one occasion, there were 900 more votes recorded at a State election there, because it took place on a Saturday, than were recorded at a Commonwealth election held upon another day. I mentioned that; but perhaps I should not have done so. I am afraid I am too open-minded, and that I speak sometimes without looking far enough ahead. I reminded Senator Millen of this, and he has not forgotten it.
– I have not forgotten the last Saturday election that took place either.
– Rather than put the Jews to a little inconvenience, which need not be a matter of much consequence, since, in any case, they would have two hours in which they could vote, our honorable friends would make the polling inconvenient for thousands of workers. I hope the Ministry will not yield upon this matter.
– Hitherto it has been optional with every Government controlling elections to fix whatever day they pleased for the polling. Whether this clause is agreed to or not, the Government will still be able to fix Saturday as the polling day. Then what is the object of it ? It is not intended to. determine the course of action of the present Government, because they can fix Saturday as the polling day in the proclamation ordering the elections. It will not act as a restraining or compelling force upon them; and it is clear, therefore, that the Government hope that, by putting it in the Bill, they will be able to exercise some compulsion in this matter over a succeeding Government, who might find it difficult to alter the law.
– Would not any succeeding Government have a majority to carry out their will ?
– Is it not possible that, as a result of the next election, a Government may have a majority in another place, and not in the Senate?
– The honorable senator wishes that a subsequent Government, being in a minority, may govern the majority.
– There could be no such Government. Every Government must stand as representing the majority. If this clause were defeated, the present, or any subsequent Government, could still fix whatever day they liked for an election. A number of persons who are firm believers in the appointment of Saturday as polling day, express the greatest sympathy with those whose conscientious beliefs prevent them from voting on that day. They would not hurt the consciences of those people in any way; but they will not, on that account, refrain from insisting upon having this clause passed. The statement that the extension of the hours for polling to 8 o’clock will give those who object to vote on the Jewish Sabbath two hours in which they may record their votes, is not true of any Saturday in the year, and is certainly not true of any Saturday in the middle of summer.
– We will not have elections in the middle of summer.
– We have decided to hold our elections in April, but an extraordinary event may compel the holding of elections at any time during the year. We have no guarantee that even the next elections will be held in April. If I am correctly informed, the Jewish Sabbath terminates only with the rising of the first star, and it is, therefore, perfectly clear that, if an election were held in the middle of summer, Jewish electors would be unable to record their votes, even if they resided only a short distance from the polling place. I suggest that, even if the Government do not relinquish their idea to hold all elections on a Saturday, they will still make some provision to meet the views of conscientious objectors to that day as polling day. They can still fix Saturday for polling day, or, if necessary, select another day. The Minister knows that previous Governments have been free to select any day for polling day, and so W1 the present Government without this provision.
– And so will the next Government.
– Why does the Minister want to put on the succeeding Government the obligation to repeal this provision? It is hoped by the Government that, in some way or other, the provision will leave some shackles on their successors. The Government have full power to hold the election on any day without the clause, and circumstances may arise when even they may see the desirability of varying the day. There can be no wisdom or advantage, or sense, in passing a provision which is not necessary to bind the present Government, and which will bind their successors only so long as they like to be bound.
– In a characteristic manner the Leader of the Opposition desired that the objections of the gentlemen who petitioned the Senate to-day should be met, if possible. The way to meet their objections, he said, was to leave out the day fixed in this clause for holding elections - not that he had any objection to Saturday being taken, nol that he did not believe in Saturday. He wants Saturday to be the polling day.
– I did not say so.
– The honorable senator did.
– I give the Minister my assurance that I did not. If he will refer to my Hansard proof in the morning he will find that I never said anything of the kind.
– Are we to understand that the honorable senator does not want Saturday for polling day?
– No, I have not expressed an opinion for or against Saturday.
– Does the honorable senator want Saturday or not?
– I want the Government to stop disfranchising those who they think will vote against them.
– One cannot catch the honorable senator, .no matter how one may try. At one moment he argued in favour of Saturday, and pointed out that the Government would be in. exactly the same position if the word were eliminated, and that the elections could still be held on Saturday. But by holding them on that day the objections of the petitioners could not be met, by his line of reasoning.
– I did not advocate that the elections should be held on Saturday.
– Now -we are to understand that the honorable senator does not want them to be held on Saturday.
– I have not said a word to that effect.
– The reason why he wants the word eliminated is because he does not believe in taking Saturday for the polling day.
– Why do you want this provision in the Bill ?
– To let the people of Australia know that Saturday has been fixed for the polling day. It is incorrect, as Senator McDougall pointed out, for any honorable senator to assert that this clause is intended to disfranchise a number of citizens. It will do nothing of the kind. Senator Barker said, I think, that the members of the Hebrew persuasion in Australia numbered 17,000.
– No, 27,000.
– Is that the adult portion ?
– I did not ask the question.
– Let us assume that there are 27,000 adult Hebrews in. Australia. Senator McDougall has stated, and stated truthfully, that a considerable proportion of them have no serious objection to voting on Saturday.
– How does he know ?
– The honorable senator ought to know that on the Saturday afternoon of each week there are horse races held throughout Australia, that there is a number of men who lay the odds, and that many of those who lay the odds in Victoria, and, I believe, in New South Wales, are Hebrews. If these persons are willing to work hard on Saturday afternoon in laying the odds, surely they cannot have a conscientious objection to recording their votes on that day?
– Do you say that they represent any considerable number?
– There is a very large number of Jews who follow that occupation. When Senator McDougall made that statement certain members of the Opposition tried to make capital out of it. There is, I believe, a section of Hebrews - it is in a minority - which has a conscientious objection to the holding of elections on Saturday;
– When we are dealing with conscience majority and minority do not come into the matter.
– I know that, but after all the majority rule. We cannot, by Act of Parliament, make provision for everybody’s conscience. We have gone a long way to meet the difficulty which has arisen by extending the time for polling to 8 o’clock. That will give the conscientious objectors an opportunity to vote, and the other section can vote at any time which they may find convenient. The
Government cannot entertain the idea of striking out the word “ Saturday “ from the clause.
– It is remarkable what curious positions Senator Millen gets into at times. On this occasion he finds fault with the clause before the Committee for not giving the Government sufficient latitude, but on a previous occasion he took up quite an opposite position. If he would only allow the Committee sufficient time to forget his contradictory attitude of a few days ago there might be a chance for him to escape our attention. On the clause providing that the averment of an Electoral Officer should be sufficient to secure a conviction in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the honorable senator insisted that the administration was being given too much power. His complaint at the present time is, I understand, that the clause before the Committee is too rigid, and does not give the Government sufficient liberty. Our aim should be to secure the greatest measure of public convenience. It is well known that in every centre of population - mining,’ agricultural, and pastoral - the best time to get a large number of visitors together is Saturday evening. It is then that people who are far removed from the townships come in to do their shopping, and, perhaps, to have a jovial hour, to which, of course, they are quite entitled after a week’s hard toil. This measure would be very defective if it did not take heed of the general usage of the country. This clause makes Saturday the polling day for the Commonwealth, and takes it out of the power of the Government to fix a day to suit their own purposes. Unquestionably, Saturday is the most convenient day for securing the maximum attendance at the ‘polling booths. I agree that we should be very careful before we compel any section, however small, to run counter to the voice of conscience in discharging a citizen’s duty. We ought to respect, as far as possible, the conscientious scruples of every section, large or small. Seeing that the last general election was held in April, and that the next general election will be held in a later month, when the day will be very much shorter, the Hebrews will have an opportunity of recording their votes without doing violence to their consciences. Of course, there are the Seventh-Day Adventists, and, perhaps, another sect or two whose peculiar positions need to be considered.
A very convenient way of overcoming the difficulty would be to insert in the Bill a clause providing that the members of any religious sect mentioned in a proclamation to be issued by the Governor-General, who conscientiously object to voting on Saturday, would be afforded an opportunity of voting in the same way as absent voters may do. If, for example, they were permitted to vote on the day preceding polling day, no harm could result. Of course, the provision would be limited to members of dissenting bodies, whose conscience forbade them voting on polling day.
– Will they agree to that course ?
– I do not know. Up to the present, the only complaint which has readied us has emanated from the Jewish community.
– And we must respect it.
– I quite admit that. If the Government intend to recognise the conscientious objections of citizens, special provision should be inserted in the Bill to meet their views. To compel any section of the community to subordinate their conscientious convictions to the will of a Government, no matter how strong that Government might be, would be an act of tyranny. We have had too much of that sort of thing in the past, and it is about time that we took some notice of the genuine conscientious objections of a considerable element in our midst. This difficulty can be overcome in the way I have indicated. So far, I repeat, the only complaint which has reached us has been from the Jewish members of the community. But we know that there are other religious bodies which have an equally strong ground for consideration in this matter. Until we have discovered their wishes, it would be exceedingly hard if we closed the door irrevocably upon them. I therefore suggest to the Government the wisdom of providing for their cases as they arise in the future. I do not think that such a provision as I have outlined would be liable to abuse. It is inconceivable that, for the mere purpose of being enabled to cast an easy vote, an elector would declare himself to be a member of a religious body to which he did not belong. For that reason, I hold that there would be no danger of the provisions of the Bill being nullified if humane consideration were given to the position.
– I was rather surprised to notice that the Honorary Minister, when he addressed himself to this subject, entirely ignored the sug- gestion which was thrown out by Senator Gardiner. 1 anticipated some time ago that this Chamber, and the House of Representatives, would be asked to consider the unfair position in which the Jewish portion of the community, and other religious sects, would be placed, if we made it a rigid statutory rule that, in connexion with general elections, Saturday should be fixed as polling day. In speaking upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I pointed out that if the Government were irrevocably committed to that course, they might, in Committee, recognise the wisdom of extending, as far as possible, the provisions of proposed new section 139 to persons who, for conscientious reasons, were unable to vote on Saturday. In that proposed new section, it is provided that electors who will be absent from their electoral divisions upon polling day, may vote at any time after the issue of the writ, and before polling day, if they attend before any prescribed Commonwealth Registrar, and make a declaration in accordance with the prescribed form. If it be competent for an individual to exercise his franchise in advance of polling day, merely on the assertion that he will be absent from his electoral division on that day, surely it ought to be equally competent for persons who cannot conscientiously vote on a Saturday, upon making a declaration to that effect, to vote in exactly the same way. I know .that the proposed section to which I have referred is open to a good deal of adverse criticism on the ground that it leaves so much to prescription by regulation. But if the Government intend to adhere to it, either in its present or any modified form, surely its -benefits ought to be extended to persons of the Jewish community, to members of the Seventh Day Adventists, and to others who, from conscientious reasons, are precluded from voting on a Saturday. It is not proper, after we have received a petition from the Jewish community, after the Minister of Home Affairs has been waited upon by a deputation from that body, and after a petition has been presented to another Chamber from the Seventh Day Adventists, for this Parliament to ignore the requests which have been made to it. Neither is it for us to answer those requests by attempting to discover what percentage of these bodies devote themselves to sports on Saturday, and thus outrage the conscientious convictions of the majority of them. Hitherto, there has been too much disregard of the conscientious scruples of certain sections of the community. I entirely disagree with the statement of the Honorary Minister in that connexion; and, upon reflection, I think he will realize that that statement was most ill-timed. He declared that the paramount consideration in matters of this kind must be the interests of the majority. Let me remind him that that ought not to be the paramount consideration where matters of conscience are concerned.
– I said that in framing Acts of Parliament consideration for the majority must rule.
– Whenever matters of conscience arise in legislation conscientious scruples should be respected.
– Why was not that attitude taken up in regard to the question of compulsory training?
– Did the Honorary Minister wish to take it up ? ‘ Who hindered him? I am not aware that there was any objection offered to conscientious scruples being considered on that occasion.
– There were very strong objections.
– Still, that circumstance cannot obscure the fact that considerations of conscience should not be ignored simply because of a view which is entertained by a majority of the community. I do hope that the Minister will intimate his willingness to adopt the suggestion which I made upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, namely, that the provisions of it which are applicable to absent voters should be made applicable to members of the Jewish community and others who entertain conscientious objections to voting on Saturday. If that be done, it will be easy to prevent the abuse of such a concession - far easier than it will be to prevent its abuse in the case of absent voters. The reasons which underlie the introduction of proposed section 139 apply at least with equal, if not with ten times greater, force to those persons who hold conscientious objections to recording their votes on Saturday.
– This clause opens up a question which, from a certain point of view, is a small one, but which, from another point of view, is a very large one. The Honorary Minister himself has said that the conscientious objections of any section of the community must be subordinated to the convenience of the majority. That, in substance, is his defence of the clause-.
Does the Minister repudiate my interpretation of his remarks ? He said that Saturday has been chosen as polling day because it is convenient, notwithstanding that there are people who have strong conscientious objections to doing certain things on that day.
– I said that their objections had been met more than half-way.
– Sunday to us Christians is not venerated more than is their Sabbath by the people for whom we are making this appeal. We all know that the Christian respect for the Sunday has conferred great blessings upon civilization. By insisting upon Sunday observance, we have done great good to the world. There is a section of the community - whether large or small does not matter - to whom Saturday is equally sacred. How can we ask those persons who regard their Sabbath so reverentially to respect our Sunday unless we, as Christians, also respect their observances? This is the first time that any modern Government in a Christian community, when it has been respectfully petitioned by the persons concerned, has said, “ No, we do not respect your conscientious objections.”
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting. We say nothing of the kind.
– The Bill says so.
– The Bill does not say so, either.
– Then I do not understand plain language. Fortunately, we have held up the Bill in the Senate for some time, and have given an opportunity to certain sections of the community to petition Parliament to eliminate the clause to which” “they have such strong religious objections. I can understand their point of view, because there are certain convictions which appeal strongly to me as a Roman Catholic. No matter what law be passed, or what penalties be imposed, there are certain obligations with respect to education which I feel bound to carry out. No law would alter my determination. It is dangerous to pass legislation which is heedless of the religious convictions of a section of the people.
– A very small section.
– I do not care about that. The Government have no right to flout or insult the religious convictions of a single member of the community.
– We have given them a city of refuge.
– Of course, the Minister does not care a straw as long as he has his solid majority behind him. But where would his ancestors have been if his doctrine had been carried out? If I remember rightly, the clan MacGregor fought stoutly for their religious convictions. Have we a degenerate scion of that stock here now?
– Cow-stealing was the principal occupation of the MacGregors on Sundays in the olden times.
– Of course, my honorable friend is better acquainted with the history of larceny than with anything concerning the uplifting of humanity. I feel strongly on this matter.
– No; the honorable senator merely speaks loudly about it.
– It may not matter very much personally to any honorable member of this Parliament; but inasmuch as it affects the consciences of a portion of the community, who have respectfully presented their objections to us, we have a right, nay, it is our bounden duty, to pay heed to their request. But the Government merely consider the balance of convenience from their own point of view.
– Substitute Sunday.
– Would the honorable senator vote for that?
– It would be as proper to vote on Sunday as to play bridge or croquet or golf.
– Very well, then; will the Minister make that proposition? No; it is all hypocrisy. The Government dare not suggest that Sunday should be polling day. If they did, there would be an outcry throughout the Commonwealth, and properly so. Why should we disregard the outcry of the section of the community that regards voting on Saturday as Sabbath desecration? The position is unanswerable from the Christian point of view. I see honorable senators opposite smiling.
– There is so much make-believe that one cannot help smiling.
– I am reminded of sailors on a sinking ship whistling to keep their courage up. Ministers could have got over this difficulty by retaining the postal vote. But they will not listen to that proposition. I can quite understand the strength with which Senator Lynch has expressed his views. Each of us regards this matter from the same point of view.
We have had similar experiences. We desire to respect the conscientious objections of others.
– The honorable senator must get a conscience before he can have consicentious objections to anything.
– It is possibly because I have a conscience that I am sensitive about these matters, and am pressing the argument upon the Government. I say that the respectful petition of those who have approached the Senate in proper form ought to be regarded. Unless some insuperable difficulty or some national issue is involved, which transcends the objection raised by these people, their views should be respected. The Government have received one lesson during the consideration of this Bill already, and they may receive others. I join with Senator Lynch in asking that respect should be paid to the views of these people. I notice Senators Pearce and de Largie smiling at each other ; but, if my memory serves me aright, I think that Senator Pearce has often spoken of the duties of Christians from a pulpit on some pleasant, or unpleasant, Sunday afternoon.
– The honorable senator could not guess what I was smiling at in twenty.
– I do not wish to guess it. The honorable senator has not needed much inducement to discourse upon a Sunday afternoon on the duties of Christians in the community ; and when the duty of Christians in this matter is jeered at, we are justified in saying that there is a great deal of Pharisaism about the virtues, Christian or political, of some honorable senators on the other side. I have been led into this line of argument by the sneers of the Minister of Defence and Senator de Largie. I have said that I join with supporters of the Government like Senator
– The honorable senator has said that several times, and he is very near to being guilty of wearisome repetition.
– Then I shall deal with another phase of the question. The Government have abolished the postal voting provisions, but they have made provision for absent voters, and I join with Ministerial supporters, as well as with honorab’le senators on this side, in requesting them to reconsider their refusal to treat the petition of persons who hold religious objections to this clause with some degree of consideration and respect. If they say that they are unable to do so, they are reckless because of their majority, or they are politically incompetent. If they can provide, as they have done, for absent voters recording their votes anywhere in the Commonwealth or out of it, they can make some provision to enable persons who object to vote on a Saturday to record their votes on some other day. Why is the absent voter, if he be a Christian, to be given a privilege denied to the Jewish section of the community? There is no answer to that question, but the smiling contempt of honorable senators on the other side. It would be as objectionable to persons of the Jewish persuasion to record their votes on a Saturday, as it is for Christian people to perform their ordinary work on a Sunday. I hope that, before the Bill passes, weshall have some indication of an intention to modify this proposal, which represents the second or third instance of a tyrannous disregard of the conscientious convictions of certain sections of the community on the part of the Government.
– I wish to say a final word, in order to make my own position perfectly clear. I think that in South Australia all our elections are held on the Saturday; but I believe there is no provision in the State electoral law that they shall be held on that day. That course has been adopted as a matter of convenience, and, I think, meets with general approval. We had an election last Saturday in South Australia, and a very satisfactory one. I can assure honorable senators opposite that the tyrannical proposals of this Bill were an important factor in the result of that election. They were made a great feature of during the contest, and the electors expressed very strongly their dissent from certain of these proposals. I have no personal objection to Saturday being made the polling day; but I think that when 27,000 people petition this Parliament-
– Oh, do not talk nonsense.
– Order !
– Is that a pertinent or an impertinent interjection? I should like to know from you, sir, whether you think that is a proper interjection?
– I do not think it is distinctly out of order, except on the ground that all interjections are disorderly.
– I am sure that youdo not think that it is dignified on the part of the Vice-President of the Executive
Council to make an interjection of that sort. If it be contended that of the 27,000 persons who have petitioned this Parliament in this matter, 7,000 violate the Jewish Sabbath by going to races on a Saturday, I would ask whether the remaining 20,000 are not to receive any consideration whatever. It is said that we are meeting them half-way in extending the hours of polling for an hour, but only those who live very close to a polling place can take advantage of that extension. I do not ask the Government to give up their intention to fix Saturday as the polling day, but I do ask them to yield to the request of Senators Gardiner and Lynch, as well as of honorable senators on this side, and make some provision in this Bill for the people who object to record their votes on the Saturday. If the Minister in charge of the Bill would say that he is prepared fo insert a clause which will enable these people to record their votes, I should be satisfied, but I say, distinctly, that if the Government are so unwilling to consider these people as to say, “ We shall make no provision for them at all ; we do not care a button what their conscientious objections may be. We shall not consider them in any way,” I shall vote against this clause as a protest against conduct of that kind. We have a right to treat with consideration the request of 20,000 people when we can do so without departing from the Government proposals.
– I wish to engage the attention of the Committee only for a moment in order to correct some misstatements which have been made by honorable senators in regard to the number of Jews in the Commonwealth.
– I do not care if there are only 1,000. We have to consider the principle, not merely the number of persons affected. It is not the number, but the principle, which matters.
– Honorable senators have said that they do not care whether the number is 1, or 1,000, or 20,000. I am not questioning that. Senator Barker said he believed that the Jewish population in the Commonwealth was about 27,000, and in reply to a question he told me that he was not in a position to give the number of adult Jews. According to the latest edition of Knibbs, the total number Of Jews in the Commonwealth is 15,229, made up as follows : - New South Wales, 6,447 >
Queensland, 733 j South Australia, 786 ; Tasmania, 107 ; Victoria, 5,897 ; and Western Australia, 1,259.
– What ! Only 733 Jews in Queensland. Tell that to the marines.
– That is the number according to the census which was taken ten years ago.
– It is the number according to the latest edition of Knibbs.
– He has not the figures for the last census made up yet.
– Senator Barker’s estimate is only 12,000 above the total given by Knibbs.
– Suppose that, during the decade, there was an increase of 10,000 in the Jewish population. That would bring the total to 25,230. If we divide that number by three, which is a very fair division, we shall find that, approximately, the adult Jews number a little over 8,000. No honorable senator will venture for a moment to say that the whole of the adult Jews have a conscientious objection to voting on a Saturday.
– Suppose that onehalf of them have?
– I do not believe that, in the Commonwealth, there are more than a couple of thousand adult Jews who would have a conscientious objection to vote on a Saturday.
– It would be very easy to make provision for 2,000 to vote.
– It is very easy, I know, to open the door in regard to postal voting; but the Senate has declared emphatically against that system, and the Government are not prepared to open the door in the slightest degree. It has been pointed out here half-a-dozen times to-day that the Government have met the conscientious objectors in a very reasonable way indeed. The probability is that the next general election will be held at a period when the sun will go down at about 6 o’clock, and between that hour and 8 o’clock, the conscientious objectors will have an opportunity to vote.
– I again suggest to the Government that what is being urged from this side is, not the destruction of their policy in regard to Saturday voting, but the provision of a fair and reasonable outlet by which these electors, whether their number be large or small, can record a vote, and discharge their duty as citizens without violating their con- science.The Minister has very successfully talked all round the subject. He has never once come closely to grips with the real problem which fronts him. Is there any difficulty in making provision for conscientious objectors to vote on Saturday ?
– They can do it under the provision of the Bill which deals with the hour of closing.
– Of what use is it to tell a member of the Jewish faith who lives 25 miles from a polling place that he will have an opportunity to vote ? Let us see to what an extraordinary degree the Government have provided for the men whose votes they think will be cast for their party.
– That has brought vou to your feet.
– Exactly, and the honorable senator is showing largely what underlies the provision. The Government have gone so far in their efforts to secure the votes of those who they think will support their party that they have enabled persons to vote even before nomination day comes round.
SenatorFindley. - Will not that provision apply to everybody?
– Yes, but it happens to apply particularly to seamen.
– Are they the only persons who will be on the water?
– I venture to say that there are ten seamen on the water to every passenger.
– On some boats there are twenty times as many passengers as seamen.
– I am speaking of the whole shipping community. We have an extraordinary provision that, before nomination day, and before they can know the names of the candidates, some electors may vote. But when the Government deal with another class, where conscience should be the determining factor, they not only submit a. hard-and-fast provision, which shuts out all prospect of hope, but even turn a deaf ear to the appeals from Senator Gardiner and Senator Lynch. Surely it is much easier to frame a provision enabling conscientious objectors to record a vote than it was to hammer out a provision enabling voters who may be leaving Australia for good to vote, and without resorting to the method of postal voting? If it is fair and reasonable to allow a sailor who is leaving a port of the Commonwealth before nomination day to go to an Electoral Officer, obtain the necessary paper, and, in his presence, or under his direction, cast a vote, why can it not be provided that, on the day before the poll, any one who cannot conscientiously vote on a Saturday shall be able to vote? I ask the Minister to tell me what solid reason there is against putting a provision of that kind in the Bill ?
– In one case there is no chanceof a man recording his vote unless the provision is in the Bill; but in the other case there will be every opportunity for a man to record his vote.
– No. The Minister is evidently unaware of the strength which can be asserted by a conscientious objector.
– We have met this class by extending the closing hour to 8 o’clock.
– When it comes to a question of what constitutes the Jewish Sabbath, I prefer to take the word of Jewish clergymen rather than the word of the Minister. So far as I know the latter would not know one end of a Synagogue from the other.
– But they are exaggerating.
– In their official capacity they have set out in a petition to the Senate certain facts in all solemnity. They have assured us that even with the extension of the polling time, it will not be possible for Jews to vote without doing injury to their conscience.
– Let us extend the time for polling stillfurther.
– Why does not the Minister in charge of the Bill submit a proposal of that kind? He makes no proposition, but merely says, “ We have done it.” Who (made Senator Findley the keeper of any other man’s conscience?
– I like this attitude in regard to the Bill. I never heard the honorable senator speak in this way regarding compulsory training.
-I should not insult the intelligence of the Senate as the Minister is doing by supposing that a matter of convenience is to be placed on the same parallel as a matter of public safety. What I am urging is not that the Government should disturb the convenience of the great body of electors, who may find Saturday the better day for polling, but that since they have been so liberal, in the provisions which they have designed for electors who may be leaving Australia, a little of that liberality should find expression in a clause enabling those who cannot conscientiously vote on a Saturday to vote at some other time, or in some other way. I suggest the insertion of a clause empowering the GovernorGeneral in Council to make a regulation for that purpose. I am not concerned as to how it is done, but an opportunity to vote should be provided. There is a great principle at stake. We have no right, unless the national safety is concerned, to ruthlessly thrust aside the conscientious objections of any class in the community.
Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 8 -p.m.
Debate resumed from 12th November (vide page 1326), on motion by Senator de Largie -
That the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services laid on the table on the 5th October, 1910, be approved by the Senate.
– In submitting this motion, Senator de Largie said that “ during the investigations of the Commission we found, on making comparisons, that, speaking of the work of the Department all round, in very few of the services performed by it could any one country in the world claim to have a better system.” That testimony, coming from one who had many opportunities of observing the methods adopted by the Department in the conduct of its business, ought to have some weight with those honorable senators who are ever prone to exaggerate the slightest shortcomings of the Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services of the Commonwealth. As a further answer to hostile critics, the fact ought also to be made known that, in January last, a Conference of Deputy Postmasters-General sat in Hobart, and either prior to the commencement of its proceedings, or during its sittings, a communication was received from Mr. Henniker Heaton, a gentleman who is well known throughout all parts of the British Empire for the activity which he has manifested in connexion with postal reform. He forwarded to the Conference a copy of the reforms which he had urged the British Postmaster-General to adopt in the Postal Department of the United Kingdom. The Conference, after having looked closely into the communication, found that in no instance where a reform did not relate to a matter peculiar to the United
Kingdom, and was such that it was not applicable to Australia, was any reform proposed by Mr. Henniker Heaton which was not already in operation in the Postal Department of the Commonwealth. Of course, no one would be bold enough to say that we have reached the high- water mark of efficiency and management in the services which are now under consideration. But I think it may truthfully be said, in connexion with this vast Department, that, the public enjoy greater facilities to-day than they ever enjoyed previously, and that, speaking generally, the employes are in a better position now than they were anterior to Federation. Their conditions of employment have been very much improved during the period that the present Government have been in power. Senator de Largie observed very truthfully that the parsimonious policy pursued by the State Governments, prior to Federation, had left the services in a very unsatisfactory condition, so that the expenditure of large sums of money was necessary to bring them up to anything approaching efficiency. I think it will be generally admitted that, when the Commonwealth took over our Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services, they were in a very unsatisfactory condition. Since then large sums have been expended with a view to giving more satisfaction to the entire community. In order that the Senate may have before it figures which are indisputable, I intend to read the amounts which have been voted and expended by the Commonwealth in connexion with our Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services since the advent of Federation.
– Can the Minister supply us with the total amount expended upon the Department by the several States during the year prior to Federation?
– I have not that information handy, but if the Leader of the Opposition desires it particularly, I will endeavour to get it for him. During the financial year 1901-2 the Commonwealth expended ,£32,730; in 1902-3 it spent £91,312 ; in 1903-4, £i3i,35z; in
I9°4-S. £9I>435; in i9°5-6> £”3.804; in 1906-7, £221,739; in i9°7-8, £35^743 i in 1908-9, £383,399; in 1909- IO> £46s,756i in 1910-11, £678,155, and for the current financial year a sum of £700,000 appears on the Estimates, and an additional sum of £600,000 has been set apart for special works.
– Were the sums mentioned by the Minister spent upon new works ?
– Yes, and in effecting improvements in respect of old works.
– They do not refer to the maintenance of the services.
– No. In other words, the sum of ,£1,300,000 has been set apart for expenditure upon our Postal Department during the current financial year. In all probability a further sum of ^£700,000 will be appropriated next year. I believe I am right in saying that the Postal Commission declared that an expenditure of ^2,000,000 was required to put these services upon anything like a satisfactory basis. I think that the present Government are going a long way in ihe direction which the Commission recommended.
– They are doing much better than the Commission anticipated they would do.
– I am glad to hear that remark from Senator de Largie. We feel that we owe a duty to the community, and it is our desire to do everything possible to make the services under consideration as up-to-date as possible. Senator de Largie further stated, in referring to the Telephone Branch -
The Postal Commission found that this particular branch had been starved for want of funds. In every State new metallic circuit switchboards, which cost considerable sums, had been asked for by the heads, but they had been told that no funds were available, and for that reason the service has gone from bad to worse.
It will be interesting to honorable senators to know the progress which has been made in regard to the adoption of metallic circuits, and the figures which I propose to give will demonstrate that. I repeat that the postal, telegraphic and telephonic conveniences, which the public enjoy to-day, are much better than they ever were previously. This is a comparison between the year 1901, when the service was taken over by the Commonwealth, and the year 1910, in regard to metallic circuits : In New South Wales, in 1901, there were no metallic circuits. In 1910, there were 12,827. In Victoria there were none in 1901. In 1910, there were 414. Probably honorable senators are aware that a large sum of money is being expended in this State at the present time in order that we may have more metallic circuits. A large number of men are employed in and around the metropolitan area upon that work, as a result of which we hope to improve the service materially. Since this return was prepared, extensive works have been proceeding, and many of them are almost in a state of completion. In Queensland, in 1 901, there were 803 metallic circuits. In 1910, there were 3,158. In South Australia there were none in 1901, but, in 1 910, there were 2,767. In Western Australia, in 1 901 , there were 628 metallic circuits, and, in 1910, there were 2,990. In Tasmania, in 1901, there were none, whilst, in 1910, there were 1,159. The total number of metallic circuits in Australia when the service was taken over from the States was 1,431. In 1910, we had a total of 23,313. Honorable senators are aware that the Postal Commission held many sittings, extending over a period of two years. Much evidence was collected, which was carefully weighed and sifted. Ultimately, a report was presented to Parliament - a document which, in my opinion, for clearness and conciseness has never been equalled by the work of any other Royal Commission which we have had. Whatever one’s views may be in regard to the recommendations of the Commission, it cannot be said that there is any ambiguity in regard to any of its recommendations. It must be very satisfying indeed to the members of the Commission to know that many of their recommendations have already been adopted, whilst others are being carried into effect. Later on, still more will be adopted. I do not expect, however, that any member of the Commission, in his most sanguine moments, ever expected that the recommendations would be adopted in globo. We have had other Commissions sitting from time to time dealing with matters affecting the interests of the community. Although care and capacity have been manifested in regard to their reports, many of them have been treated as so much waste paper, and have been pigeonholed. But the report of the Postal Commission is unique in this respect - that it has at once received the serious consideration of the Government. It has also been closely examined by the gentleman to whom exception has been taken in certain paragraphs of the report in relation to his administrative policy. The Postal Service, according to the latest return, dated 1st January, 191 1, embraced 11,773 permanent male officers, and 1,450 women. It is only natural to expect that there should be in such a large service a certain amount of discontent. It would be wonderful if peace and satisfaction reigned throughout. It is reasonable to suppose that some have legitimate grievances In order that those who have legitimate grievances, which from time to time they have attempted to have adjusted, may have their case properly inquired into, it is the desire of this Government that they shall have the same opportunities as are given to workers outside the service of appealing to the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Could not Par,liament do them justice?
– The honorable member’s section of Parliament never tried.
– Parliament has little or nothing to do with the wages and working conditions of those engaged in the Commonwealth Service. In my opinion, it is a good thing that it should be so.
– The honorable senator is quite right in that.
– Under our Public Service Act, we appointed a Public Service Commisioner, who was invested with certain powers, enabling him to fix the wages and salaries of those in the service.
– Like the Czar of Russia.
– This gentleman, rightly or wrongly - I say rightly - was given certain powers under an Act of Parliament, which created his office. Parliament could, if it chose, abolish his office by an amending Act. It could at once give him notice to quit.
– The sooner the better.
– In my opinion, it would be a bad thing for the Commonwealth Public Service, and for the community, if the office were abolished.
– I refer to the powers vested in the Commissioner, not to the officer himself.
– I have read that there is a section in the Public Service today who, while not entirely satisfied with their lot, are indisposed to lay their grievances before the Federal Arbitration Court for adjustment. Statements have been made to that effect in the public press. For a long rime numbers of working men and women, who are banded together in organizations, have been eager to secure opportunities of approaching the Court. When the Government are making clear the path for the public servants with grievances to approach the same Court, I cannot understand what solid objection they can have to appearing before that tribunal.
– A certain amount of expense is attached to appealing to the Arbitration Court.
– The Court creates opportunities for the’ lawyers.
– Lawyers cannot appear in the Federal Arbitration Court unless by consent of both sides. If that were a good argument as to why the members of the Public Service should not appeal to the Arbitration Court, it would be an equally good argument why those outside the service should not do so.
– That argument does not hold water.
– I do not think that it does. I trust that in the consideration of this motion those honorable senators who may favour the opinion that the powers exercised by the Public Service Commissioner are somewhat Czar-like, will set aside the personal element and discuss the recommendations of the Commission apart from persons, and purely from a departmental and policy point of view.
– There is no intention to discuss the present Public Service Commissioner.
– I do not think that there is; but Senator W. Russell, on two or three occasions, has incidentally made reference to the Commissioner.
– I never saw him, to my knowledge.
– I have no doubt that that gentleman has saved many a member of Parliament endless worry and anxiety. We know well that promotion in the Public Service is not obtained by political influence to-day. We do not have members of Parliament knocking at the Public Service Commissioner’s door, or waiting to grasp him by the hand and talk matters over with him.
– Sometimes there is something worse.
– I should like the honorable senator to tell us what the something worse is. I believe that that officer, whatever one’s views may be with regard to his powers, is a gentleman of high attainments. He is probably one of the most capable officers in the whole service; and I believe, moreover, that be is absolutely free from bias or prejudice.
– That is the proper way for a Minister to talk about an officer.
– Notice where the applause comes from !
– It is not a question of applause. I should not care if my remarks did not meet with an echo from any part of the chamber. I am expressing my own honest opinion with regard to the Public Service Commissioner, and as to the manner in which he has fulfilled his duties. One of the main recommendations of the Postal Commission is that the office of Public Service Commissioner should be abolished.
– Hear, hear !
-He might be the head of the Board.
– Judging from the opinions of some members of the Commission I do not know that they would approve of his appointment to the Board.
– They would not have the appointment.
– That is true. Under existing conditions we have the Public Service Commissioner, five service inspectors, and a permanent head, or a total of seven officers. Under the system proposed by the Royal Commission, we should have a. Board of Management, consisting of three officers, a chief inspector, and staff committees of three officers in each State, or a total of twenty-two officers.
– That is not fairly put.
– Why not?
– Are not many of these officers doing a good deal of work in the service already?
– The officers would probably be appointed from the service, but their duties are many and various to-day, and if they were intrusted with the work specified in the Royal Commission’s report, they would not have much opportunity to do the work which they are doing to-day.
– That is not the opinion ofthe service.
– That may be. Instead of having a managing staff of seven, as under existing conditions, the Royal Commission’s recommendations would involve a staff of twenty-two. It is claimed that, if this recommendation were adopted, a considerable saving would be effected. I know that Senator de Largie and the other members of the Commission who made this recommendation went very carefully into the matter. But any opinion of the kind expressed by a Commission must be prob lematical. Rightly or wrongly, the opinion is also held that the recommendation, instead of effecting a saving, would increase the expenditure.
– The Commissioners must have had some evidence to justify their recommendation.
– No doubt they had. I want to say here and now that the Government are not disposed to adopt this recommendation. It is too drastic and revolutionary. Parliament has rightly held, ever since the establishment of Federation, that it should have a say in regard to the conduct of the Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services of the Commonwealth, and that the staff management of the . Post and Telegraph Department should be intrusted to the Public Service Commissioner. Is Parliament, under the system of a Board of Management and staff committees recommended by the Commission, to lose all control of this huge institution ?
– Does the report suggest anything of the kind?
– Then is the proposed Board of Management to be merely an advisory Board, and is Parliament not to lose the control which it exercises today ? I find it very difficult to believe, if that be so, that any saving at all can be effected by this proposal. If it does not mean that Parliament is to lose all control of the Department-
– Parliament need not lose the slightest control under the recommendation of the Commission.
– Then this is to be merely an advisory Board, to assist Parliament and the Minister, and the recommendation is not, as has been generally understood, that the Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services of the Commonwealth should be intrusted to a Board of Management mainly, and certain staff committees, that the services should be selfsupporting, and that the Postmaster- General’s Estimates should not be subject to review or alteration by the Treasurer of the day. Is is not one of the recommendations of the Commission that the PostmasterGeneral’s Estimates should not be subject to review or alteration by the Treasurer? Do they not also recommend that the service should be self-supporting, and that the proposed Board of Management should be responsible for making it selfsupporting ? If this does not mean that the power of control is to be taken out of the hands of Parliament, then I am unable to understand the English language.
– We do not recommend that Parliament should lose the slightest control.
– The Commission recommends that the Treasurer should not have the power to review or alter the Postmaster-General’s Estimates, and, further, that the Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services should be self-supporting under the proposed Board of Management. The time has not arrived, in my opinion, for these services to be placed under a Board of Management, or Commissioners, as the State railway systems are at present. Parliament still desires, and I hope will continue to do so, to retain the power it possesses in regard to these services.
– The honorable senator is mixing up a number of things. He is confusing the power of the Board with the power of the Minister, and both with the power of Parliament.
– With all deference to the honorable senator, let me ask him, as one of the members of the Postal Commission, whether it is not one of their recommendations that the Estimates of the Postmaster-General shall not be subject to review or alteration by the Treasurer?
– That is quite true.
– Is it not also one of the recommendations that the services shall be self-supporting?
– As a whole.
– The Commission’s report does not say so. It recommends that the Postal, Telegraphic, and Telephonic Services shall be self-supporting.
– And quite right, too.
- Senator Vardon, by his interjection, evidently favours the recommendation of the Commission that the services shall be self-supporting, but would he apply that principle to all Government works? Would the honorable senator contend that there should not be a mile of railway built until Parliament or a Board of management were absolutely convinced that it would” be self-supporting? In remote parts of the Commonwealth, postal, telegraphic and telephonic services have never been, and probably never will be, self-supporting.
– The recommendation surely means that the services shall be selfsupporting as a whole.
– If there is any justice in the recommendation, why should; one section of the community be penalized’ for the benefit of others? If the servicesas a whole are to be made selfsupporting, some people will be called upon topay very much more than others for them. In compact and densely populated areasthe people are supplied with every possiblefacility, postal, telegraphic and telephonic. But the people of remote and< sparsely settled districts have much fewerfacilities.
– They are poorlytreated.
– These servicesin compact and closely settled areas are self-supporting, but in sparsely populatedareas they have never been, and probably never will be, self-supporting.
– We cannot expect it.
– No, and it is because the Government do not expect it, and do not desire to adopt such a recommendation, that I ask the Senate not toapprove of Senator de Largie’s motion covering the whole of the recommendations embodied in the Postal Commission’s report.
– Surely the Minister must be aware that in remote country districts these services cannot possibly pay.
– It is because I know that they cannot possibly pay that I am at a loss to understand what this recommendation of the Royal Commission means.
– It means that the Department, as a whole, shall be selfsupporting.
– That, again, means that the people in country districts will probably be asked to pay more for their services than they are asked to pay to-day, because there is a loss of 50 per cent, on some of the postal, telegraphic and telephonic services.
– The honorable senator should use the argument the other way round.
– Town populations should pay more than they are paying now.
– That is _ another matter which I am not here to discuss at present. I am here, however, to say that the Government are prepared to give favourable consideration to most of the recommendations of the Postal Commission; but there are some that they are not disposed to adopt, and will not adopt. And amongst these are the recommendations that the office of the Public Service Commissioner should be abolished, and that a Board of Management and staff committees should be appointed instead.
– The Commission do not recommend that the office of the Public Service Commissioner should be abolished.
– Then we are to have a Board of Management and staff committees; we are to take away from the Treasurer of the day the control which he at present exercises over the public purse, and we are still to have the Public Service Commissioner?
– I do not say that we should have the Public Service Commissioner, so far as the Post and Telegraph Department is concerned.
– If we are to abolish the Public Service Commissioner in regard to the control of the huge Post and Telegraph Department, why should he be retained for the control of the other public services of the Commonwealth? If it is a good principle to abolish his control in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, why should it be a bad principle to abolish his control in connexion with other public services?
– The Commission had no power to speak for other Departments. They were speaking only for the Post and Telegraph Department.
– I wish to emphasize the statement which I made in commencing these remarks : that the community is given to-day, in connexion with this Department, greater conveniences than it ever had before.
– That is admitted.
– It has been given more conveniences since this Government came into power than it had before we assumed office ; and the lot of those employed in the service is better to-day than it was for a considerable period of time.
– Because of the Postal Commisison’s report.
– I am not here to argue whether it is because of that or something else. The fact remains that the employes of the Department are better off than they were. I do not expect that they are worrying themselves as to whether they have secured advancement, promotion, and better pay because of the recommendation of the Postal Commission, or as the result of action by the Administration. It is sufficient for them that they are better off than they were.
– Some of them are robbed, too.
– If so, there is an easy remedy for them by going before the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that South Australian officers could go before the Federal Arbitration Court to secure recognition of their transferred rights?
– The present Government have given every possible encouragement for the growth of organizations inside and outside the Public Service.
– Would the award of the Court be retrospective?
– I believe that since the present Government came into power there are more members in the organizations within the Commonwealth Service than there were before. There ought not to be any insuperable difficulty in the way of any section of workers in the Commonwealth Service forming themselves into an organization and then formulating their grievances, and having their case submitted to the Federal Arbitration Court. In regard to the service generally, advancement and promotion will entail an additional annual expenditure of .£202,800. That is for the present year alone. Of this amount, ^90,000 is estimated to be paid on account of ordinary increments and increases of salary on promotion, and £112,800 is due to an amendment of the scale of pay. In order that honorable senators may obtain a grip of what this expenditure really amounts to, I shall show how the clerical and general divisions have been financially advantaged. In the clerical division, for the first year, clerks and clerical assistants in the fifth class are to get £IO,000 i postmasters, ,£2,500; telegraphists,. .£13,000; making a total of ;£25j5oo. In the general division, for the first year, sorters and senior sorters are to get .£2,500; assistants and postal assistants, .£17,000; letter-carriers, £ji 3,000; linemen and line foremen, £6,800; mechanics, ,£6,000; telephonists^ £18,000; telegraph messengers, £18,000; and other classes of officers, £6,000. There is to be distributed, in the first year, £87,300 in the general division, and £25,500 in the clerical division, or a grand total of £112,800. I am not going to cite the different branches of the service which have been advantaged in a financial sense during the last few years, but I might incidentally say that the recreation leave, sick leave, time in lieu, and overtime are much more liberal under the Commonwealth than they were under the States. The district allowance is more liberal under the Commonwealth, in the ratio of five to one. The Sunday pay is also more liberal under the Commonwealth, in the ratio of five to one. Towards the close of his speech, Senator de Largie said -
The Government of the day, or the officials at the head of the Department, may wish to ignore this report. But to do so will not get them out of their difficulty. They will have to take steps to reform the Department.
The Government of the day do not wish to ignore the report, nor do the departmental heads. That the Government have not ignored the report has, I think, been shown by some of the remarks I have made respecting certain of the services, and that the heads of the Department have not ignored it is known to each member of the Postal Commission. I ask the Senate not to carry this motion in the form in which it is submitted, because to do so, Senator de Largie says, would mean revolutionizing the Department. The Government have not yet arrived at that stage when they feel that it is necessary to bring about a revolution in the Department by the abolition of the Public Service Commissioner and the bringing into existence of another system recommended by the Postal Commission. I wish to give credit to Senator de Largie and the other members of the Postal Commission for the work which they have performed. They have pointed out difficulties in connexion with the administration of the Department, and many things which perhaps would not have come to light but for their appointment. Having the consolation that the major portion of the recommendations have been adopted, and an assurance from me, as representing the Postmaster-General, that other matters contained in the report will be favorably considered, I think that Senator de Largie ought to be satisfied, and not desire the Senate to pass his motion.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the motion in a general manner, but I cannot agree with the Honorary Minister, who tried to make out too much. In South Australia the Post and Telegraph Department could not have been much worse than it was. Indeed, things were so bad in connexion with the Federal referenda that the opponents cf Labour directed attention to the mismanagement of the Department, and quoted the fact to prove that the Federal Government had more to do now than they could well do. Senator Vardon will, I am sure, agree with me, because I am quoting from a speech which he delivered at the time the Department in South Australia was seething with discontent; in fact, I was afraid that a strike would take place. That was not a very pleasant thing to think of. Several members of this Parliament, including myself, interviewed the officers concerned, and told them to be cautious, and to wait a bit. We said that the report of the Postal Commission had been laid on the table in each House, and would be dealt with, and if, as they said, they could not get justice from the Public Service Commissioner, they might be able to get it from Parliament. Ever since the cry has been, “ Adopt by all means the recommendations of the Royal Commission.” One of the principal grievances then, as it still is, was that the Public Service Commissioner was the wrong man in the wrong place. The officers complained of his action and the treatment which the service had received at his hands from time to time, and the power which he had claimed. Whether it was legal or otherwise, I think that it was unwise, and I intend to quote what happened about last Christmas. The ex-Postmaster-General, Mr. Thomas, was in Adelaide, and a deputation was arranged to wait upon him. I took the opportunity, with other members of this Parliament, to hear the request put in the best way in which it could be submitted, and the Minister’s reply. I came to the conclusion that the honorable gentleman was either incapable, or had not the power to do anything, for he told us straight away that he would see if he could move the Public Service Commissioner to do certain things. He then suggested that a deputation should wait upon the Commissioner if it could be arranged, and stated that he would like to be present at the interview, but he was afraid that would not be permitted. The Commissioner declined to meet the deputation which was appointed by the Civil Service Association of South Australia. Mr. Thomas suggested that the special grievances which had existed in the Civil Service for years back in that State should be settled by an arbitrator to be appointed by both sides. His suggestion was hailed with a good deal of satisfaction. It was thought that, instead of going to law, an amicable settlement might be arrived at by having an arbitrator such as, perhaps, Mr. Justice Gordon, or one of the other Judges of South Australia, to do the work. After the public servants had been rejoicing over the prospect of getting an amicable settlement the Commissioner turned down the suggestion. Was not that cruel? I propose to read a portion of the statement which was prepared by the Civil Service Association in reply to the Commissioner’s reports, which have appeared from time to time, in order to show the Senate how the Public Service in that State has been treated, how the men whose names appear in this statement, and they are legion, have been treated, how, instead of receiving increases, they have suffered reductions in salary, amounting to a very large sum indeed. This statement is not a one man affair. It has received the approval of the Civil Service Association after fair and full consideration. They say -
The postmasters and other large sections of South Australian officers were “ robbed “ (in the moral if not in the legal sense) of considerable portions of their incomes ; the proportional grading was “ faked “ ; telegraphists in South Australia, as compared with those in the Eastern States, have been unfairly treated j large sections of South Australian officers were discriminated against; and, it may be added, that, in his official reports - particularly in that to which attention is now directed - the Commissioner has misrepresented the conditions existing in the Service.
Regarding the accrued and accruing rights of transferred officers this statement is made -
When classifying the Service in 1904, the Commissioner found South Australian postmasters and postmistresses in receipt of certain payments, or allowances, such as rebate on sale of postage stamps (a very few cases), and Savings Bank salary, &c, in addition to statutory salary. With the exception of one or two small allowances, such as fees for registering births and deaths, which the postmaster retained only until transferred to another office, the Commissioner abolished all emoluments, and, with only two or three exceptions, classified the officers at their statutory salary.
The result was that sixty-four postmasters and a large number of other officers were deprived of a portion of the remuneration which they had received under State control. Several postmasters also were deprived of increments to their statutory salary which had accrued, and were accruing, under State law. This phase of the question is dealt with under the heading “ Increments under State law.” The following table will show the extent to which the South Australian officers were affected monetarily by the abolition of emoluments and increments.
Then follows a long list of names, but I shall content myself with mentioning only a few of them. Mr. J. Skinner, who had been in the service thirty-eight years, suffered a reduction in his salary of 32 per cent.’ J. Bastard also sustained a reduction of 32 per cent.
– Is the honorable senator quoting figures from the classification scheme?
– The figures which I am quoting are the result of the classification scheme at the time of its inception. Mr. C. Tucker, who had thirtytwo years’ service to his credit, and whose salary was ,£144 per annum, suffered a total reduction of 28 per cent. A. Howley sustained a reduction of 29 per cent., B.Clark of 20 per cent., J. W. B. Croft of 25 per cent., J. W. Hillman of 30 per cent., T. H. Henderson of 30 per cent., and H. R. Holder, a brother of the late Sir Frederick Holder, suffered a reduction of ,£93 per annum. I well remember all the talk of the great liberty which was to follow Federation. Mr. Holder, who was the postmaster at Jamestown, was a strong advocate of Federal Union. At that time I was on the other side - I was a little pessimistic. I recollect that he used to say to me, “ Oh you little Australians. Why do you not come out into the light and enjoy yourselves “ ? But on the last occasion that I saw Mr. Holder, who has now left the service, he had sustained the reduction” to which I have alluded, and there was absolutely nothing to justify it. I am glad that my old friend, Senator Walker, is’ present, because he was a member of theFederal Convention, and because he took anactive part in framing our Constitution.. As this is a financial question, and’ he was a financial authority at that gathering-
– Unfortunately, I was not a member of- the Finance Committee at the time.
– If the honorable senator was not a member of that body he ought to have been. I propose now to’ quote from the utterances of the members of the Convention, with a view to showing the view which they took of section 84 of the Constitution, and also the spirit in which they preached to the civil servants. They assured the latter that it was to their own interests to vote for Federation at all costs, because they could not possibly lose anything by so doing. The Postal and Telegraph Association of South Australia has provided me with this pamphlet, which contains quotations from the utterances of the great and gifted men who framed our Constitution. The pamphlet says -
The officers affected, individually, through the Appeal Board and by petitions to the PostmasterGeneral, and also through this association immediately claimed that such treatment was a violation of the spirit and letter of clause 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which was re-enacted by the first Federal Parliament in clause 60 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1002. Clause 84, relating to transferred officers, provides “ Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall be entitled to retire from office at the time and on the pension or retiring allowance which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State.” The officers urged that the Commissioner should have classified them at a salary equal to their total remuneration under the State. In advancing this claim they relied partly upon what they regarded as a clear compact made by the Federal Convention to insure the vote of the public servants being cast for Federation. That compact assured them Hint they would lose nothing by transfer to the Commonwealth. That this view was justified the following extracts from the debates of the Federal Convention at the Adelaide sitting clearly shows. Mr. Deakin, page 1044, said, “ The Drafting Committee seemed to have amply provided for those particular rights (pensions, gratuities, and retiring allowances) of public servants. But is it not also necessary to provide that any other existing rights of public servants should be preserved to them?” Mr. Deakin moved an amendment to the original clause in these words, “ and all other existing and accruing rights of such officers as remain in the service of the Commonwealth shall be preserved.”
The next authority whom I shall quote is an even higher one than Mr. Deakin. He was the leader of the Federal Convention, the present Sir Edmund Barton.
He suggested that the amendment would be wider if the word “other” were omitted, and Mr. Deakin, seemingly anxious that no right should be jeopardized, omitted the word. Mr. Isaacs followed. He said, “ I think it is highly important that we should have some provision such as is suggested by my honorable friend Mr. Deakin. I think it is important to put in the word ‘ accruing.” . . . When we transfer men to the Commonwealth it behoves us to do them no injury. We ought to preserve to them not only their existing, but their accruing rights.” Mr. Trenwith said, “While it would be difficult for some time, as indicated by Mr. Gordon, to adjust the different conditions running side by side, it would be unjust not to maintain the rights already in existence. We should be doing different from what any conscientious company would do.” . . . “If this is not done there will be a manifest injustice to a very large number of citizens of Victoria, and without- imputing selfishness or a want of patriotism to the civil servants of Australia, I have no hesitation in saying that we shall be inducing a large number of citizens to vote against Federation in defence of their own rights and their living, and in defence of justice.”
Mr. Barton said ; “We may look a little higher than the question - although I agree with Mr. Trenwith - of whether the absence of provision for the rights of civil servants will make this Bill popular. If there is one thing which must be paramount in framing a Constitution of this kind it is that it must be just, and I take it that this Convention would be doing a great injustice if it did not provide for existing rights. . . . These rights, -hovever, will gradually die out under the Commonwealth, and there can be no continuation of them, because there are only one or two Colonies where these contracts, as I prefer to call them, exist ; and it will be very easy to earmark officers, say, from New South Wales or Western Australia, and to say that they are subject to these existing contracts.
Here again is what Mr. Deakin said -
I recognise the force of the honorable member’s contention, and trust he will give us his help to provide that substantial justice shall be done to all public servants, and that substantially the rights and privileges they now enjoy will be preserved to them under the Constitution.
I think that the public servants of South Australia have shown that justice has not been done to them. When they read the speeches delivered by leaders in the Convention, they expected that they would get fair treatment. They were given to understand that their rights would be preserved to them. But, instead of that, their claims have been turned down. I was surprised to hear Senator Findley speak about the justice that has been done, the prosperity that prevails to-day, and the extra money that has been spent upon the Public Service. Let mc mention a case. I live in the city of Unley, near Adelaide. We have two deliveries per day. About ten years ago, or less, the first delivery used to bring our letters at about half-past 10 or 11 o’clock, in the morning. But frequently nowadays - last Monday, for instance - the letters were not delivered until about 1 o’clock. I made a careful note of the time on that day. I do not complain of the letter-carrier. I simply said to him, “ I suppose you have a big mail to-day.” He said that he had. That is not the sort of thing which should occur in a growing place, where the population is on the increase, and where the letters delivered since the inauguration of penny postage have been considerably multiplied. I quite agree with the Royal Commission that the Post, Telegraph and Telephone Services ought to be made to pay, though I was very glad to read a statement made by the Postmaster-General in another place, to the effect that the Department would not expect country mails to pay. It must be remembered that while some cities have three deliveries a day, there are country districts which only enjoy one mail a month, or in other instances one per fortnight. These country districts have not benefited by penny postage. It is the merchants, the manufacturers, and the city people who have benefited. I am glad that the Government have adopted the policy of not calling upon country residents to contribute sums of money towards mail services. I know of one country district in South Australia which wanted three mails per week. The Department told the people that they could only get that service by paying for one mail out ot their own pockets, or by contributing a certain sum towards it. That sort of thing ought not to occur, and I am glad that it is not in accordance with the policy of the present Ministry. Here let me remind honorable senators that under the State administration, South Australia was the only one of the group in which the Postal Service paid its way. Indeed, it produced a credit balance of ,?40,000 for two years. It is therefore particularly disappointing to the public servants of that State to know that they have been treated with particular harshness. This brings me to a statement made by Sir William Lyne, in moving the second reading of the Public Service Bill. That gentleman said -
I wish to emphasize the fact that under clauses 51 and 52 of this Bill, and under section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act, there is a provision to make it quite certain that no trouble shall arise with regard to transferred officers, and that all the rights which accrue to those officers who are taken over from the various States will be respected.
I am sorry that that promise has not been kept. I should also like to quote from a few statements made on the floor of the Senate when the Public Service Bill was under discussion.
Senator PLAYFORD.; Under the South Australian Civil Service Act provision is made that after twenty years service an officer is entitled to a holiday of six months (actually eight months) on full pay. A number of officers have been taken over by the Commonwealth with that right, and they are entitled to claim that holiday whether we pass this clause or not.
Senator EWING. ; I do not agree with Senator Downer in the construction he has placed upon the section of the Constitution which he has read. I believe Senator Pearce’s view to be correct. There are three classes of civil servants with whom we have to deal. First there are the civil servants who are in the true sense transferred from the States to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Constitution provides for them. We have no power to interfere with their rights, &c.
Senator DRAKE, while contending that furlough was not an absolute right under the State Acts, the. granting of it being permissive, said, “ We ought to legislate in such a way that transferred officers cannot be placed in a worse position than they would have been had they continued in the service of the State.”
Notwithstanding all this, the Public Service Commissioner adopted, and has adhered to, an absolutely contrary view, and by the act complained of, inflicted losses on South. Australian Postmasters and on other officers who were entitled to increments under State law, ranging UP to ?15? Per annum, representing reductions of as much as 32 per cent, on individual salaries.
I hope that it will be recognised from what I have read, that South Australian officers have been cruelly treated and deceived. Can any one wonder that they were amazed when they found that the Commonwealth Parliament had given the Public Service Commissioner power to turn down their claims, and to do towards them just as he willed. When the ex-Postmaster-General, Mr. Thomas, was in Adelaide, and was approached on this subject, he admitted himself to be in a helpless condition. He said in effect, “I sympathize ‘with you; I recognise that you have a good case, but I have no power to help you. I shall try to move the Commissioner in the matter. Send over a deputation, and I will see that it finds its way into the presence of the Commissioner. Possibly, he will not allow me to be present, but you can state your case to him.” We have a Government who are in favour of preference to unionists. So arn I. What was the position in which Mr. Thomas, the ex-Postmaster-General was placed ? He had no power to do anything in the matter at all. When the deputation was agreed upon, .two of the best men in the Post and Telegraph Department in South Australia were selected by the association, and it was supposed that they would be admitted into the presence, I will not say of the Czar, but of the Public Service Commissioner. What happened? He objected to the personnel of the deputation. He could not receive Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Hiscock. The Government recognised that they had no power over him, nor had they. The Government had not the power, and Parliament had not the power. He was an autocrat with a vengeance.
– Parliament has the power if it chooses to exercise it.
– I hope it will show that it has the power. I am not speaking against the Public Service Commissioner personally. I do not know him at all. I dare not go near him. I should be afraid to enter his office, because if I went there to speak in favour of any one I wanted to get into a billet he would at once turn him down. That is the position of the Commissioner, and I repeat that he is ah autocrat. What I meant by the reference to preference to unionists was this - Mr. Thomas shifted his ground ; the Public Service Commissioner spoke through him, and said, “ It was the chairman of the association, Mr. Rossi, whom I invited to come over. It was not Mr. Robert Macdonald or Mr. Hiscock.” But these latter were the gentlemen selected by the association, and I should imagine that they were at liberty to say who should represent them in spite of any one. The position in which the Public Service Commissioner is placed makes him like the Czar. iHe has no responsibility to the staff intrusted with the conduct of the Post and Telegraph Department, but they are controlled by him. There is great discontent existing in the service in consequence. One of the most urgent demands is for a change in this respect, and I had hoped that the Government would try to meet the service as far as possible in this matter. I think I have proved to the satisfaction of the Senate that South Australian civil servants are suffering an injustice financially,, and Senator Walker knows what that means to a Scotchman. I want to drive this home to Senator Walker, because he was a member of the Finance Committee of the Federal Convention, and has been a member of the Senate since its establishment. I hope he will long continue to be a member of it.
– If the honorable senator changes his views.
– Whether Senator Walker changes his views or not, he is a man we all love and respect because of his amiable disposition. Instead of approaching the association with their grievances, some men - I do not like to use the word “ scab,” or any word of that kind - go crawling and using influence in their own interest. We want to put a stop to that. Senator Findley will understand that members of the Senate do not care to listen to grievances from one or two or half-a-dozen men. But if they are members of an association, we shall know where we are. If they are authorized tq speak’ in the name of an association, we shall know that they speak for the majority, and can be trusted. I am strongly in favour of that policy. Senator Findley said that the Government intend to stick to the Public Service Commissioner. No doubt’ they often feel pretty much in his hands. That does not apply only to the members of the present Government, who are smart! men, but to the members of previous Go’vernments as well. They have all been too much under the heel and dictation of their officers.- Perhaps there is a cause for it. The officers know the ropes, and they do not. I remember that one of the first acts of the present, or the first, Fisher Government was to reappoint the Public Service Commissioner for a further term of seven years. I do not say that we should dismiss him. Far from it. But I do say that if one man is to be given the’ power of ruling such a huge Department, he will need to be a very brainy man indeed. I do not believe that the man is yet born who is capable of satisfactorily performing all the duties of such a post.i Senator Findley admitted that the evidence taken by the Postal Commission was good, and their report clear, and nice in every respect; but I hope he will change his! mind and go a little further. My elec-‘ tors expect me tq vote, not for ousting the present Public Service Commissioner, but for clipping his wings and reducing; his power. The Government may not be in favour of that, but I hope that the majority of honorable senators will be in favour of it. Some of us have backbone enough, and are determined enough, believing it to be our duty, to see that justice is done to the civil servants, whatever the effect may be upon the present Administra-? tion. We shall do our duty to the country, and shall support the recommendations of the Postal Commission, even though in> some matters of detail the Government are opposed to our views. I feel strongly on this matter.I know personally a number of the men affected. I may say that I have been told that the attitude assumed by the Government in the House of Representatives last Friday had an influence injurious to the Labour party in the election which took place last Saturday. Whether that be true or not, I cannot say; but I was told it by some one who ought to know.
– Their attitude on what ?
– Portions of the speech delivered by Mr. Frazer, the Postmaster-General, were telegraphed to South Australia, and a number of civil servants, at all events, were dissatisfied with it. One man, whose name I could give Senator Pearce if he wishes to hear it, said that he was just a little bit afraid that that had something to do with the result of the election.
– Then they did not vote on political principles.
– I am telling Ministers the statement I heard.
– So far as I am personally concerned, it would not alter my attitude if we lost the whole of their votes for a reason like that.
– If the Minister expresses himself in that way, and is content to allow injustice to continue-
– I did not say that.
– And to allow a man to rule the roost for all these years, in spite of the oft-repeated and almost unanimous requests of public servants in the different States, I do not know what to say. If the Government have no confidence in the people-
– I did not say that.
– I do not know what will be the result. I am speaking from a sense of duty ; and those who have listened to what I have said, and especially to what I have read, will know how the civil servants have been treated, not by the present Government in particular, but by previous Governments as well. They have been unjustly treated all through, and both sides try to make political capital out of it. I recognise and claim that it was the party to which we on this side belong that asked for the appointment of “the Postal Commission. We forced the battle and succeeded at last. We waited a long time for. the report, and we have got a good one. I cannot understand how a Labour Government, if they were as friendly disposed as they ought to be to the public servants, could have allowed a report of that kind to lie on the table until nearly the end of the session without taking action.
– I thought the complaint was that we put too many of the recommendations into force before the Postal Commission had made them.
– No. One of the most important recommendations is that which proposes the limitation of the power of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Did you expect the Government to adopt the whole of the report?
– I expected the Government to adopt the principal part of the report, and undoubtedly that is the principal part. Apparently the Public Service Commissioner has no sympathy with the Public Service.
– I do not think that that is quite correct.
– That is my opinion, and it is also the opinion of the Public Service, which has had to deal with the Commissioner. The hardships and injustices which I have quoted and spoken of, and which public officers have had to endure, have been caused principally by the Commissioner, and they think that the time has come when the Labour Government should have at least as much sympathy with them-
– Have not the Labour Government shown that they have more sympathy ?
– I am not here to advocate party justice; but I want to drive home the position. I have already stated that the Labour party forced the Opposition party to appoint a Royal Commission. I only hope that the Government may find that, when the figures are up, they need to go further than they expected. I trust that, whatever happens, the principal recommendation of the Royal Commission which presented such a grand report will be fully adopted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from page 2728) :
Clause 11 (Polling to be on a Saturday)
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “11a. After section 88a of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - ‘ 88b. Any elector having a conscientious objection to voting on Saturday shall be entitled to vote, subject to the regulations, on some other day.’ “
My object in submitting the amendment is to place in the hands of the Government the power to provide by regulations that those who are not able to vote on a Saturday because of their religious belief shall be able to vote in much the same way as seamen. A very wide, and in some sense, a very loose, provision has been made by which seamen leaving Australia can vote, even before nomination day. The only restriction is that they shall vote according to regulations. If it is competent for the Government to design regulations which will enable persons leaving Australia to vote before the nomination of candidates takes place, it ought to be possible to devise a regulation to enable Hebrews and other persons who are unable to vote on a Saturday to vote on the previous Friday, or, if the Government like, on the day after. While I recognise at once that there are many forms in which that vote could be cast, I suggest that the Government might follow out the proposal which is out lined in proposed new section 139 for seamen -
I submit that the citizens to whom I have referred should have the opportunityto cast their votes in the same way as seamen will be allowed to do. It could be done under official control, and not as in the case of postal voting. The ballot-paper could be handed out by the official, completed by the voter, and returned to the official there and then. It does not appear to me to be open to the possibility of fraud, while, on the other hand, it will get over the great difficulty which has been created by the determination of the Government to make Saturday a compulsory polling day. I sincerely hope that they will see their way to adopt the amendment.
– I received no intimation from Senator Millen that he intended to take this course. I am not disposed here and now to say whether the Government will accept the amendment, but if the honorable senator will allow it to be postponed, it will be considered. That will afford me an opportunity to confer with the Cabinet and the head of the Department to see whether the proposal can be embodied in a regulation, and surrounded by sufficient safeguards to meet the wish of the honorable senator. In these circumstances, I ask him to agree to a postponement of the proposed new section. If he will allow me, I will move accordingly.
– After the assurance which I have received from the Minister I am quite willing to ask permission to withdraw the amendment, and later, with his concurrence - if he approves of my suggestionI can move for a recommittal of the Bill. The Minister of Defence seems to think that I am suggesting a course which will be, in some way, inimical to the Government, but it cannot in the slightest degree prejudice them. I am willing either to withdraw the amendment or to postpone it.
– The Committee cannot postpone the consideration of an amendment.
– I suggest to the Minister that the better course for me to adopt is to ask leave to withdraw the amendment, and later, when the report stage is reached, it will be possible to recommit the Bill with a view to putting in the provision.
– Will the Government consent to a recommittal ?
– If the Government are agreeable to my suggestion, with their majority they can insure a recommittal of the Bill for that purpose only. If, on the contrary, they are against the adoption of my suggestion, they can resist a motion to recommit the Bill.
– What is the objection to a postponement?
– I want to know what we are going to postpone.
– I would point out that the new clause is now in the possession of the Committee, and, therefore, occupies exactly the same position as it would occupy if it were an original clause of the Bill itself. The Honorary Minister is, therefore, at liberty to move that it be postponed if he chooses to do so.
– May I suggest that, perhaps, the difficulty may be overcome if the Honorary Minister will give us an assurance that he will take into consideration the amendment proposed by Senator Millen, in connexion with clause 17, and then insert a provision to follow sub-clause 1, framed on the lines of that amendment. If the Bill be passed in its present form section 139 of the principal Act will read -
If that provision were followed by a paragraph to the effect that an elector, who - for conscientious reasons, based upon the fact that he is a member of one of the religious denominations which, as a greater safeguard, might be specified - could not vote on a Saturday, might do likewise, then sub-clauses 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the proposed new section” would be applicable to all such persons equally with absent voters. If the Minister will promise to take Senator Millen’s amendment into consideration in connexion with clause 17, he can, when that provision is reached, move for its postponement.
– I think that the course suggested by Senator Keating is the best which can be adopted in the circumstances. If Senator Millen will withdraw his amendment, progress can be reported when we reach clause 17.
– Does the Minister seriously ask us to go as far as clause 17 to-night ? He should recollect that an intermediate clause covers the proposal to abolish postal voting.
– There is really nothing to discuss. I ask Senator Millen to withdraw his amendment.
– I am quite willing to adopt the course which has been suggested by Senator Keating, because I think that it is full of merit.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 -
Section ninety-nine of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 99. Nominations may be in the prescribed form applicable to the case and shall -
Name the candidate, his place of residence and occupation, and
Be signed by not less than six persons entitled to vote at the election for which the candidate is nominated.”
– I desire to move -
That section 96 of the principal Act be repealed.
The object of my proposal is to enable members of State Parliaments to contest seats for this Parliament whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself.
– I understand that Senator Lynch desires to move the deletion of section 96 of the principal Act. I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether it is competent for him to do so. It has already been laid down in the Senate time and again that an amendment of an amending Bill must be relevant to that Bill. Only this afternoon a ruling was given to that effect.
– Section96 of the principal Act reads -
No person who is at the date of nomination or who was at any time within fourteen days prior to the date of nomination a member of the Parliament of a State, shall be capable of being nominated as a senator, or as a member of the House of Representatives.
It seems to me that under our Standing Orders, and following the precedents which have already been established, the proposal . of Senator Lynch is not in order. Whilst it is relevant to the principal Act, it is not relevant to the Bill under consideration, which seeks to amend that Act. His best course would have been to endeavour to secure an instruction to the Committee.
– At what stage can I obtain that instruction?
– The honorable senator is too late now. The standing order distinctly states that notice must be given of any honorable senator’s intention to obtain an instruction to the Committee, before the second reading of the Bill has been carried.
– I wish to know whether we are bound by precedents, unless reasons can be given why those precedents were established? Why should we be mere slaves to precedents?
– I would point out that a resolution has been carried affirming that the decisions of the Chair, if they have been accepted by the Senate, shall have the force of Standing Orders. Consequently the decisions which form the precedents to which the honorable senator has alluded have all the force of Standing Orders.
– I wish to ask the Honorary Minister the reason underlying the proposed change in this clause. Under the existing law the form of nomination is set out in a schedule to the principal Act. Seeing that the particulars required in both cases are the same, what advantage can be derived by departing from the form which appears in the schedule to the principal Act?
– I desire to know whether I am at liberty to submit an amendment which may have the effect of introducing new matter into any of the clauses of this Bill? Shall I be in order in moving an amendment to clause 13, which repeals section 99 of the principal Act - an amendment in regard to the form of the nomination-paper?
– Then I would like to add to paragraph a of the clause the words “ the title of the political party to which he belongs.”
– The honorable senator ought also to ask what is his income.
– It would be a great advantage to electors to know for whom they were voting, and to what political party the candidate belonged.
– We are now dealingonly with the nomination-paper.
– If an amendment be made in the form of the nomination-paper it may afterwards be incorporated in the ballot-paper. We all know that there are certain recognised politicial parties. Suppose there are two candidates, calling themselves a Labour man and a Liberal respectively. Those candidates will belong to known political organizations. If another candidate wishes to come in as a Liberal, he should describe himself as an “ Independent Liberal “; or, if he be a Socialist or a Single Taxer, he should be so designated on the nomination paper.
– Or he might be described as “ Nondescript.”
– I do not want to have any nonsense about this matter. I would allow a candidate to describe himself. When a candidate belonged to a known political organization, he would bear the designation of that organization. I think these descriptions would be of considerable educational value to electors, who would thus be able to back the horse they wanted to win.
– It seems rather an extraordinary idea that when a man is nominated as a candidate for election he should be allowed to describe his political principles on his nomination paper. He might be a candidate standing in the interests of a temperance society or a licensed victuallers’ association. The main feature of his policy might be to support the views of such a body.
– Why not?
– Or a candidate might stand under theaegis of the Single Tax League. Does Senator Rae seriously think that a nomination paper should contain information as to whether a candidatewas a Single Taxer, a Free Trader, a Protectionist, or what not ? Senator Rae might put himself down on his nomination paper as a Labour man; but that might not tell the electors what they wanted to know. Some might want to know whether he was a Free Trader or a Protectionist. It would be hard for them to find out what he was.
– Perhaps an anarchist.
– The honorable senator’s nominators might describe him as an anarchist. Who is to be held responsible for the description of a candidate’s political faith?
– He himself.
– Are not his nominators to have someresponsibility ? One might nominate, him on the ground that he was a Labour man ; another on the ground that he was a Protectionist; a third nominator might support him because he was a Single Taxer. Would those nominators be held responsible, not only for his description, but for his political actions afterwards? Would the nominators have to stake their reputation that Senator Rae, if described as a Protectionist, would vote in a Protectionist direction after election?
– The honorable senator is deliberately talking nonsense.
– My honorable friend is always aggrieved when I cannot help him and always glad when I am on his side. Would he provide that the description of a candidate’s political faith on his nomination paper was to be some sort of guarantee of what his political conduct was going to be in the future?
– What would happen to the unfortunate dupes who pledged themselves that Senator Chataway was a Liberal ?
– Possibly a number of people who voted for me were entirely deceived, just as I am sure we’re many who voted for Senator Lynch. Some may even have voted for me thinking I was a Labour man, and others may have voted for Senator Lynch believing that he was an ordinary constitutional Radical or Liberal. They might be deceived on finding out that he was a sort of anarchist, andmight wish to goodness that they had never given him a vote. I should like to see what Senator Rae definitely proposes to insert in the Bill.
– I move -
That after the word “occupation,” line 7, the following words be inserted : - “ and may state the political designation of the party to which he belongs.”
There is no doubt that the ballot-paper would be the best place for stating the political description of a candidate, but I am availing myself of the present opportunity of bringingforward the idea, because I think it is advisable that the description of the candidate should also appear on the nomination-paper. Senator Chataway’s criticism, if such absolute rubbish may be dignified by that term, is en tirely beside the point, because I have already stated that, under my proposal, the candidate would have the right to chose the designation by which he should be known. The candidate himself necessarily consents to his nomination-paper being filled up. Thereby he consents to the description of himself appearing upon the nomination-paper. I do not propose to make the description compulsory.
– Would the honorable senator make the candidate provide for the depth of his political convictions or the extent of his allegiance to his political party ?
– Senator Millen is endeavouring to throw ridicule on a proposal which is meant for the enlightment of the electors. No matter how many principles a candidate may entertain, one political designation can easily be placed in the fore-front. A man may be a Free Trader or a Protectionist, a Single Taxer or a Socialist, but be is a Labour man or a Liberal first or foremost; or he may stand purely in the single-tax interest, in which case “ Single Taxer “ would bethe proper designation. The candidate himself, how-: ever, would choose the description of himself, and it would be nobody else’s business whether he gave a misdescription or not.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In submitting this motion, I desire to make a statement, since honorable senators will recognise that at 4 o’clock on Friday there may be no opportunity’ to do so. I wish to ask honorable senator’s if they think that, ‘ up to last night, really satisfactory or reasonable progress had been made with the business of the Senate?. If they do, I fear that they lack discrimination. The work now before the Senate cannot be got through unless honorable senators come down really to business, and are prepared to waste less time. I do not say that time has been deliberately wasted, but I askthat in future every effort shall be made to do business expeditiously. Next week it may be necessary to give notice that after next Thursday there will be no further opportunity afforded for the consideration of private members’ business. After that, Government business will take precedence after dinner on Thursday, as well as on other days. It rests with honorable senators themselves as to whether we shall be compelled to sit four or five days in the week, and also as to whether all-night sittings will have to be indulged in.
– Not “ indulged in “ - suffered.
– I should like to see them abolished, if any other method of inducing honorable senators to do their work could be invented. I do not like late sittings, and I am sure that other honorable senators have no great desire to sit here all night and go home with the milk in the morning. I ask them to come to-morrow, and next week, prepared to work as expeditiously as they can, in order that it may not be necessary for. us to impose these incon- . veniences upon ourselves.
– In connexion with the’ statement made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I would suggest that he should to-morrow give notice that the Senate will sit on Tuesdays in future. Every honorable senator must recognise that the business will become congested towards the end of the session, particularly if the Government are in anything like a hurry to get through. It is as well, therefore, that we should take time by the forelock, and commence with Tuesday sittings next week. I am prepared to suffer the inconvenience of coming over from New South Wales a day sooner than we have been asked to do so far this session. I think we should commence with Tuesday sittings next week.
– That means that some honorable senators will have to stay in Melbourne over the end of this week.
– I am sorry to hear that. I hope the Government will consider the suggestion, although Senator Keating’s interjection, I confess, has somewhat altered my view.
– I have listened with interest to what was said by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and also to the remarks of Senator Gardiner. I may say that, notwithstanding the Vice-President’s suggestion, hint, threat, or whatever else it may be called, so far as I am personally concerned, I shall conduct my criticism of Government proposals in the ordinary parliamentary way. I think that we should take whatever time may be necessary in dealing with every measure which is brought before the Senate. I say this because, if the Senate wasted its time for three or four days on a tin-pot thing - if the expression be in order-
– Order I
– I shall say a very small, trifling measure like the Military and Naval Decorations Bill, dealing with pawnshops and things like that - if the Senate wasted its time for three or four days over such a measure, the Government had themselves to blame for it. I, for one, will not hurry in dealing with measures brought before us. It is evident that the Senate has plenty of time at its disposal, when it can waste time in the way I have stated ‘.
.- I have no desire to curtail legitimate criticism, or the fair consideration of any measure brought before the Senate . I hope honorable senators will exercise their rights in that direction at all times. I wish to point out to Senator Gardiner, Senator Rae, and other honorable senators, that it is usual to make a statement, such as that which I have made, a week ahead. It would be scarcely fair, without giving honorable senators reasonable notice, to ask the Senate to sit next Tuesday. Some honorable senators may have made arrangements to go to their own States at the end of this week, and to ask them to sit next Tuesday might put them to considerable inconvenience. I am only giving notice that, if it is necessary, that course of action will be taken in the following week, so that honorable senators may be prepared to make their arrangements accordingly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.35p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111116_senate_4_62/>.