4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at . 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Average Liabilities and Assets of the Banks trading in the Commonwealth.
Capital, Dividends, and Reserve Funds of Banks trading in the Commonwealth.
Public Service Act 1902 -
Repeal of Regulation 57, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 185.
Documents in connexion with the appointment on probation of Mr. J. H. A. Pike to the position of Engineer Operator, Wireless Telegraph Station, Pennant Hills, New South Wales.
Defence Act 1903-1910 -
Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulation 207. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 182.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulation199. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 183.
Amendment of Regulation 166. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 184.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council state when we shall have the information which I asked for a few weeks ago as to the land tax ?
– I shall have inquiries made as to the matter.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence to the following cablegram from London which appears in the Argus of this morning -
The Colonial Office has not yet forwarded Coronation medals to Major Wynne’s Sydney cadets, who visited London for the Coronation. The officials are awaiting a reply to a letter sent to the Governor-General (Lord Denman) on the subject. and to ask whether he can explain why the presentation of the medals to the Sydney cadets has been delayed, while the other cadets have received their medals?
– The explanation is that Major Wynne submitted to the War Office a roll of. the strength of the cadets, and then when the medals were to be pre sented he submitted another roll which contained an additional name. The War Office sent out the two rolls to the Department of Defence, and asked which was the correct one. The rolls were forwarded to Major Wynne, and he admitted that there was one name on the second roll which ought not to have appeared. He withdrew the name, and we have sent the documents back to the War Office with that explanation.
– They put off the presentation of the other medals because there was a surplus name on the roll ?
– That is the explanation of why the medals have not been given.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs if the information is now available which he promised to lay on the. table, in the form of a return, in connexion with prosecutions instituted by the. Electoral Department in reference to the elections of 1909, and the referenda in 1910, or if it has been laid on the table of the Senate?
– The Department has not yet forwarded the information, but I shall have inquiries made with a view to expediting the production of the return.
– The Minister stated on the 3rd instant that the information was available. It is wanted for the purpose of the Electoral Bill, but apparently it will be presented when it will be practically of no use to us.
– There seems to be a misunderstanding. I am now informed by the Chief Electoral Officer that the return has been sent up.
– That is what I wanted to know.
– Will the honorable senator ascertain whether the return is in the possession of the Clerk of the Senate ?
– On the 3rd instant the Minister, in reply to my question, said, The information is available, and will be laid upon the table in the form of a return.”
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
If he will lay on the table of the Library the report of the Departmental Board (Mr. Jenvey, chairman), which sat about twelve months since, to inquire into the matter of defective telegraph poles and arms.
– The answer to the question is “ Yes.”
– May I know when it will be laid upon the table?
– I will make it my business to have the report laid on the table as speedily as possible.
– Early in the week?
Motion (by Senator McGregor) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from16th November, vide page 2743).
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.”
Upon which Senator Rae had moved -
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.”
– When this clause was reached last night, I asked the Minister in charge of the Bill why the schedule, which figures in the Act, and which, I believe, without exception is to be found in a similar form in the law of every State, is being departed from, and we are simply providing that the nomination form shall be as prescribed. I can see an advantage in having a set form in the Act, so that every candidate, even in remote parts, may know what it is. But if the form is to be a variable one, affected by regulation, there may be some hardship done. I cannot see any advantage in the proposed method, seeing that the information required to be given is the same in each case. It is the mere form which the Department is seeking power to vary. I should like the Minister to say why it is considered necessary to strike that schedule out of the Act and provide for one by regulation.
– It is believed that this proposal will be for the public advantage.
– In what way?
– It has been found to be somewhat embarrassing to have a hard-and-fast form prescribed bythe Act for those who desire to nominate candidates. By the regulation we shall endeavour to secure uniformity and simplicity in the form prescribed. It will . be made quite clear.
– Is not the form in the Act quite clear ?
– It might be made more clear.
– Then why hot make it more clear in this Bill ?
– This proposal means that it may be altered from day to day or week to week.
– Circumstances might arise from day to day which would necessitate an alteration.The simplest provision in the Bill proposed for the advantage of candidates, and irrespective of party, is taken exception to by honorable senators opposite.
– Let the honorable senator give us some reason for striking out the present schedule.
– I have said that in the past it has been found to be somewhat embarrassing.
– Mention a case.
– Cases have arisen within the knowledge of the Department. It has been necessary in some instances to strike out the words “ polling place “ and insert “subdivisions.”
– Can we. not strike out those words in the schedule now ?
– There is an instance of what I complain of. The honorable senator asks whether we cannot strike those words out of the schedule now, to meet that particular difficulty, forgetting that circumstances might arise which would render other alterations necessary.
– What principle is involved in the clause?
– Not the slightest principle. It deals with a matter of detail hardly worth the while of the Committee to discuss.
– Then why is the clause inserted?
– For the convenience of the Department and the convenience of candidates, and those desiring to nominate candidates.
– Not for any more sinister purpose?
– For the piling up of regulations.
– These two insinuations are unworthy of the honorable senators who make them. One suggests that the clause is inserted for the purpose of piling up regulations, and Senator Millen has it in mind that the Government have some sinister motive in proposing this alteration. The Government have no sinister object in this clause, because the prescribed nomination forms will be the same for all candidates, whether standing in the interests of the Government or of the Opposition.
– The form can be altered at the last moment.
– The heading of the form in the schedule of the existing Act differs from the reading of the Act. There is no reason why any exception should be taken to this clause.
– Who objected to the existing schedule, and desires that it should be struck out ?
– It has been found-
– Who found it?
– The honorable senator knows who are intrusted with the administration of the Act. The Electoral Officers have found that the existing schedule is inconvenient and embarrassing.
– Their convenience is to be considered more than that of the public.
– The public have also been inconvenienced.
– Where? We have never heard of it.
– The honorable senator has never heard of many things. I hope the Committee will under no consideration accept any amendment of the clause.
– The Minister has said a great deal, but he has so far absolutely failed to give a single reason why the schedule referred to should be struck out. There is, however, good reason why it should be retained. The moment an Act is assented to, it is published and available everywhere in the Commonwealth for political parties and individuals who wish to take action under it. If any person wished to nominate a candidate under the existing Act, he would know exactly what he had to do, no matter in what part of Australia he might reside. But if the form of nomination is to be as prescribed by regulation, it will be competent for the Department on the eve of an election to alter the form to suit its own convenience, and it may then be too late for persons in remote parts of Australia to obtain a copy of the amended form. Let the Minister point out a singleobjection to the nomination form in its present shape, and honorable senators on this side will assist him to alter it. But whatever it is to be, it ought to be set out in the Act, so that every elector in Australia may know what he has to do if he proposes to nominate as his standardbearer some elector in his division. When I asked the Minister whether there was not some more sinister purpose behind this proposal, I was not thinking of anything which the Government might do. I had in mind the sinister purpose of departmental officers in seeking, for their own convenience, to gather more and more power, and by regulation to do things which ought to be done by Parliament. Bytheexcusethatthisorthatisalittlematter, and is not of much consequence, we are gradually transferring the work of Parliament to departmental officials. I am absolutely opposed to this clause. I am prepared to give the Department and the Minister every necessary power for the proper administration of the law, but I am in no circumstances prepared to give them one jot more power than is absolutely necessary for that purpose. Is it necessary that we should give the departmental officials this power to do what in Australia has hitherto been done by Parliament ?
– Parliament has altered the form from time to time. Senator MILLEN. - Because alterations made in the law have made that necessary. I remind the honorable senator that those who are guiding him in this step are the people who are responsible for what they allege to be a faulty nomination form.
– Who are they?
– The officials of the Department. The form we have was drafted by the officials who are now asking, the Minister to tear it up. If there is any defect in the wording of the existing form, let the Minister propose to remedy it, and we shall give him every assistance. To strike the nomination form altogether out of the Act, and leave it to the officials of the Department to suggest to the Minister at the last moment some new form of nomination, may place those who may desire to nominate candidates, and candidates themselves, in a position of considerable inconvenience, and this is to be done to meet the convenience of the paid servants of the Commonwealth.
– How will a candidate be inconvenienced by being asked to comply with forms A, B, and C?
– Because, under this clause, the Department may substitute a new Form D on the eve of an election.
– It will be in simple language.
– But it may not reach an elector in Port Darwin in time for the nomination. Senator Findley has lived here within the sound of the Town Hall clock all his life, and forgets that Australia is a land of magnificent distances.
– I have been to Port Darwin, and there could be no candidate for Port Darwin.
– Without going so far north, let me say that there are many places in New South Wales where, if an alteration in the nomination form were made on the eve of an election, it would not be known in time. This is giving way to the desire on the part of officials to get more and more power into their hands ; and I hope that no member of the Senate will assist that desire.
– The members of the Opposition are very hard to please this morning. The Minister and Senator Rae are doing their best to provide a nomination form which will suit them, but their efforts are wasted. So far as honorable senators on this side are concerned, the present form suits them admirably; but we should require a nomination form which might, be altered by regulation at any moment to suit the party opposite. This difficulty may be met if the clause is agreed to as proposed to be amended by Senator Rae.
– Are the Government going to accept Senator Rae’s amendment ?
– I do not know what they will do until a vote is taken on the amendment. So far, it would have been impossible .for any Parliament, in a hard-and-fast nomination form, to anticipate the name by which the party opposite desired to be called.
– That may be all the better for our party.
– It has not operated in that way so far. At every fresh election, honorable senators opposite fly a different flag and if Senator Rae’s amendment is accepted, it will be possible, under this clause, to meet that difficulty. At the last election, they called themselves “ Fusionists.”
– That is what we were called by the other side.
– That was the name the members of the party called themselves, and they were no more fortunate under it than they had been previously under other names. My political opponents in Western Australia were at the first Federal elections called Free Traders and Protectionists. The only party who have been true to their name throughout has been the Labour party. They have stuck to the old name and are still doing business under it. In the second Senate election, the party representatives of the party opposite ran away from the fiscal names and came out as the “ Nationalist party.” At the third election in Western Australia, we had them calling themselves “ the Western Australian party.” Fancy the presumption of people calling themselves “ the Western Australian party.” The inference was that the Labour party were not Western Australian ; but when the figures were up, it was found that they had the support of the people of Western Australia, and the presumptuous “ Western Australian party “ were in their proper place, at the bottom of the poll. At the last election, our honorable friends opposite called themselves “Fusionists.” Now they call themselves “Liberals,” and the Lord only knows by what name they will call themselves at the next election. It is only by a regulation, which may be altered every five minutes, that it will be possible to frame a nomination paper which will suit the Opposition. The Minister is evidently proposing this clause in the interests of our honorable friends opposite, and’ not in the interest of honorable senators on this side.
– I think that the Minister must realize that this is a proposition which is fraught with very grave danger, not to any political party, but to candidates and those who desire to nominate them.
– Will the honorable senator point out in what way?
– I propose to do so as briefly as I can. Under the existing law, the Act itself sets out in a schedule the prescribed form. Everybody who wishes to consult the electoral law of the Commonwealth, will consult the Act, and it may be found in bound volumes in the different centres of all the States. If it is desired to nominate a candidate, the form of nomination is there for the guidance of those concerned. The Minister knows that it is very easy for a nomination to-be rendered invalid.
– Is not the form of nomination paper always printed and available at the electoral offices?
– It is available at the electoral offices, but there may not be an office of that character in a particular centre. If the form of nomination be clearly set out in the Act, any elector who may desire to become a candidate for Parliament, or who may wish to nominate some other person as a candidate, will be in a position to consult it, and, by following the form which is there laid down, will know that he is avoiding the possibility of an invalid nomination. But if the form of nomination is to be prescribed by regulation, it will be necessary for him to obtain a copy of the regulations, and that may not be as easily procurable in certain centres as are copies of the Act itself. Then again, an elector may obtain regulations and follow the form of nomination prescribed by them, nursing the conviction that he has complied with the law, only to discover subsequently that a later set of regulations, has superseded that which he consulted, and has prescribed a different form. I think that the Honorary Minister, on reflection, will see that this clause- is fraught with very great danger. If the nomination form were a variable one it would be fraught with danger in the case of a State, but it is fraught with much more danger in connexion with Commonwealth elections, because I am quite sure that in different parts of Australia the regulations which are framed under various Acts are never seen. For instance, practically the only persons who ever consult the regulations framed under our Customs Act are those whose daily work brings them into contact with the Customs Department. Similarly, regulations under our Defence Act are consulted only by those who are intimately interested in that Department.
– And who, save the candidates themselves, are interested in the form of nomination?
– I say that when an Electoral Act is passed, it is often consulted by intending candidates some time before an election is to take place. But it occasionally happens that almost on the eve of an election an individual is requested to offer his services to a constituency, or himself decides to come forward as a candidate. In such circumstances it is only then that he consults the , electoral law for the first time. Now, if we require him to go beyond the Act itself, and to obtain a set of regulations in order to ascertain the proper nomination form to be followed, I submit that we shall be doing an unfair thing to the community. The clause opens up the danger and possibility of invalid nominations to everybody .concerned. I submit that nothing which is essential and indispensable should be prescribed by regulations in the form of a nomination paper. If it be essential that certain particulars should be set forth in the nomination form, those particulars should be clearly specified in the Act. If the form requires to be a variable one, in order to convenience the Department, I submit that non-compliance with the regulations prescribing it ought not to invalidate a nomination. That is a point which is worthy of very serious consideration. All essential particulars, the absence of which would invalidate a nomination, should be clearly set out in the schedule of the Act.
– I should like to know who has complained of the present nomination form. I am not aware of anybody having urged that it is indefinite in character, or that it does not set out the required particulars clearly enough. The Minister has given us no information on the subject. All he has said is that the Department desires the proposed change. But if the wishes of the Department are to be con- suited in every instance, ‘ why not abolish Ministers and Parliament entirely, and hand everything over to the Departments? I have heard of a member of the Govern-, ment in another place -declaring that Ministers were rubber stamps, and it certainly looks as if they were. It seems as if the Honorary Minister has no opinion of his own. An officer of the Department has merely to say, “ We want this,” and he at once replies, “ Yes, you shall have it,” without inquiring the reason why it is required. The form of nomination for the position of a senator is set out in schedule I. of the principal Act, and I would ask the Minister whether he can urge any objection to it? What is wrong with that form? Why take it out of the Act unless there be something wrong with it?
– I do not think anything that I could say would influence the honorable senator.
– The Minister ought not to make reflections of that character. If the form of nomination be clearly set out in the Act any elector will be able to make a copy of it. But if it is to be prescribed by regulation, and alterations made in it, persons living in remote parts of Australia, who may desire to nominate candidates for the Senate, may not be able to secure a copy of the regulations in time to enable them to do so. Under this clause they will be subjected to great inconvenience. I am surprised at such an exhibition of Ministerial inefficiency. When the Minister is asked for information on this matter, his only reply is that the Department says that the present form of nomination does not suit it. Is the Department, or is the Parliament to rule . this country ? Are we to frame Acts for the guidance of the people, or is the Department to do it? The less regulations we have for administering an Act of Parliament the better. I am indeed surprised that the Minister should submit this proposal without offering one valid reason why the change sought should be made, and that he should obstinately refuse to recognise that that change must impose great inconvenience on the public.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria - Hon one occasion during the discussion of this Bill members of the Opposition have affirmed that some of its provisions havebeen framed in the interests of the Department, and of departmental officers,, and that the Government have been moved’ by some occult influence to insert those provisions. Such statements emanating as they do from honorable senators who are responsible for their utterances were quite unworthy of them. “
– It is the Minister’s own statement in reference to this clause.
– I said that a change in the form, of nomination was required for the public convenience as well as for departmental convenience. I would ask those honorable senators who are opposing the clause whether it is not much easier for departmental officers to do their work when it is clearly set out in an Act of Parliament than it is for them to perform it when they have to draft regulations in order to efficiently administer the Act. Under which of these conditions would any honorable senator prefer to work?
– Why do all Departmental heads strive to get as much power under regulation as possible?
– What power will departmental officers possess by prescribing the form of nomination in respect of candidates either for the House of Representatives or the Senate? What man, other than one who is possessed of strong imaginative powers, can believe for a moment that departmental officers are thirsting for an alteration of that form in order that they may occupy themselves in drafting a new regulation The thing is so absurd that I can hardly understand why so much time should be occupied with the discussion of it. What is proposed is not in the interests of the departmental officers. It is quite as much in the interests of candidates, and of those who sign nomination papers in their behalf. Senator Keating has raised a legal point.. The average man who nominates for a constituency never worries about consulting the Act.
– That is the first thing that he does.
– The average candidate when he obtains a nomination form does not trouble about the particular Actthat prescribes that form. He takes it for granted that the form is correct
– Does the Minister take it for granted^ then, that the candidate carries round the nomination form himself ?
– The candidate and his nominees read the form carefully, and if they have any doubt with respect to it they ‘ probably, as Senator Keating says, consult the Act.
– Where does the candidate get the form?
– He obtains it where he obtains the copy of the Act and of the regulations.
– He may not.
– Wherever he can get a copy of the Act he can get a copy of the regulations and of the nomination form.
– Where would he get a copy of the regulations at Thursday Island ?
– Oh, where would he get one on the planet Mars !
-Colonel Cameron. - When do the Government propose that these nomination forms shall be available?
– I should say that the regulations with respect to this Bill will be ready as soon as copies of the measure itself are ready.
-Colonel Cameron. - The forms may be available as soon as the Act is passed, but the regulations may not be available to many candidates until it is too late. Senator Millen. - More than that, the Government will alter the regulations as soon as it suits them.
– The regulations will be altered whenever it suits the convenience, not of the Government, but of candidates and of the public. What other object can we have?
– The Government’s view as to what suits the convenience of the public may not be that of their political opponents.
– There is no desire to do anything unfair with regard to nomination papers at any rate.
-Colonel Cameron. - There should be no possibility of doing anything unfair.
– There will not be the slightest desire to do anything of the kind towards any section of the community with respect ‘to this measure and the regulations that will be prescribed under it.
– Do the Government propose to put preference to unionists in the nomination paper?
– Proposed new section 99 simply provides that nominations in the prescribed form shall name the candidate, his place of residence, and occupation, and shall be signed by not less than six persons entitled to vote at the election for which the candidate is nominated. Section 102 of the principal Act says -
No nomination shall be rejected by reason of any formal defect or error therein if the Commonwealth Electoral Officer or Divisional Returning Officer receiving the nomination is satisfied that the provisions of this Act have been substantially complied with.
– It is all the “officer.”
– The conditions regarding nomination will be “substantially complied with “ if the name of the candidate, his place of residence, and occupation are stated, and the paper is signed by not less than six persons entitled to vote at the election.
– Put that in the schedule.
– We do not desire to put it in the schedule.
– The Government do not desire anything that is fair.
– Now tell us what the real reason for altering the practice is.
– I have already told the Committee. The schedules have been amended four times.
– To meet new requirements.
– They have been amended for the purpose of striking out petty details that are not worthy of serious consideration ; and, in order to avoid the necessity for amending the law in future, we desire that the forms shall be prescribed by regulation.
– I draw the attention of the Committee to another very important reason why we should keep this schedule in the Act. If honorable senators look at the bottom of the schedule, they will find a footnote, setting out that -
The candidate’s consent to the nomination may be on a separate paper and in any form, but if given on the nomination paper in the above form, its sufficiency is not to be questioned.
We are asked to strike out that safeguard, which is nowhere else provided for in the Bill before us. What is provided for in proposed new section 99 is that certain particulars concerning the candidates shall be set out in the prescribed form, and that the papers shall be signed by six persons* Section 98. of the Act provides that the consent of the person nominated shall be sufficient if he signs the form of consent set out at the foot of the nomination paper -
But* the Commonwealth Electoral Officer or Divisional Returning Officer receiving the nomination may accept any other form of consent accompanying the nomination paper or received by him from the candidate that he may deem satisfactory, and his decision shall be final.
So far, therefore, as consent upon the nomination paper is concerned, the sufficiency or otherwise of it rests entirely with the Returning Officer. But the section goes further, and provides that the sufficiency is not to be questioned by anybody. Moreover, the form of nomination paper is set’ out side by side with that requirement. We know what particular .form of consent is to be considered sufficient. But if we strike out the schedule* it will be competent for the Government to institute any other form of consent they like. If there is to be any objection to the particular form of consent, let it be stated. It will be quite competent for a Government or its officials, for purely party or unworthy motives, to tamper with elections by means of these regulations. Suppose that members of this side of the Senate were in charge of the Government of the day, and they had proposed such a thing; would honorable senators opposite willingly agree to place themselves in the hands of their political opponents by giving this power to them ?
– There is no such power.
– Let us get down to cold facts. Senator Findley said just now that where the Act was obtainable the regulations would be. He seemed to assume that a man had nothing to do but walk off Collins-street into the Home Affairs Department, and ask a pleasant official over the counter to give him a copy of the regulations and of the Act. But Collinsstreet is not all Australia. If you go into the remote parts of this country - and a remote-living Australian has as much right to nomination as anybody else - you will find that it is not so easy to obtain copies of regulations. Even if the Act and the regulations found a place in every postoffice and police office in the country, what is going to happen when, at the last moment, for some reason or other, the Government, of the day chooses to alter the regulations? The amended regulations may not be found in the remote parts of the country. That is where the danger comes in. As it stands to-day, every political party, every individual disposed to run as? a candidate, knows what? the law requires., I have been engaged in many elections. My participation in political life extends., over a quarter of a century. The first thing I did when I took an active part in such matters was to study the Act itself.
– With regard to the nomination paper?
– Yes, to find out what I had to do. >
– I have never used a printed nomination paper yet.
– My first experience” was not to use a printed form, but to take a sheet of foolscap and draw out a nomination paper for myself. Under the proposal of the Government that facility would be denied. The Minister has given no sufficient reason for the change. Where can I get a copy of the regulations in a remote part of this country? 1
– Where the honorable senator can get a copy of the Act he can get a copy of the regulations and of the] nomination form.
– That is not so. More than that, the Ministry of the day can alter the regulations every week if they like. In answer to Senator Cameron just now, Senator Findley said that the regula-tions prescribing the form of nomination would be available at a very early date.’ I do not hesitate to say that if they care’ to do so, the departmental officers could in five minutes give us a copy of the nomi-nation form which they intend to prescribe.’ They know what their intentions are. Let us see a copy of the form now, and let usput it in this Bill. When the Minister stands so tenaciously to this proposal and” gives.no solid reason for it, I am justified in suggesting that he is concealing the real object of the change.
– I am surprised that the Government should want to do away with the prescribed nomination form. The Minister has not’ attempted to show us in what respect the present form is inconvenient or defective. I have heard honorable senators sitting be-‘ hind the Government, when they were in Opposition, denouncing the Government of’ the day for trying to administer by regulation instead of by law. There must be something wrong when honorable senators* opposite change their attitude with regard to regulations in such a remarkable manner. I do not trust the Electoral Office so fully as the Minister seems disposed to do. I have known instructions to be issued to a Returning Officer to omit certain polling -places from the list. The omission was not discovered until two or three days before the election. Then when the Electoral Office, after seeing the advertisements which appeared in the newspapers, noticed the ^omission, -they sent a telegram to the District Electoral Officer to know why he had omitted these polling- places. The telegram was couched in the most mandatory terms, such as would make a nervous person shake in his shoes. When the officer referred the officials to their own instruction, they made no apology for being such blunderers, and the Returning Officer, at the last moment, had to send men on horseback 70 or 80 miles to put the thing right. The cost ought to have been charged against the gentleman who issued the instructions, not against the Commonwealth taxpayer whose money had ‘to be spent to cover up these blunders. We do not want to put more power into the hands of the Electoral Officers. I do not say that any mistakes that have occurred have been wilfully made, but I have no hesitation in saying that blunders have been perpetrated, and I can prove my statement. Is a man, or is a constituency, to be practically disfranchised because the Electoral Officers make a blunder?, The Government want the Committee to strike out the present form, without offering a single reason for its deletion. I am sure that if any defect in the form can be ‘shown, no one will be more anxious than honorable senators on this side to provide a. remedy. Our desire is that the nomination form shall be embodied in the Act, and shall not be left to be prescribed by the Department. It should be remembered by the Government that the friends of every candidate for a seat in this Parliament do not reside in Melbourne. It is only right that they should enjoy equal facilities with those who do reside here. Senator Findley experiences no trouble in this matter, simply because he happens to reside on the spot. But persons living in distant parts of the Commonwealth, who desire to nominate a friend as a candidate, will not be aw.are pf the requirements of the form unless it is prescribed in the Act. If they are in Queensland, they will have to write to the Electoral Officer at Brisbane, and wait a week, or perhaps ten days, for a reply; and’ perhaps they may have to communicate with the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department in Melbourne. This is the provision which we think it is very requisite to have in “the Act -
The candidate’s consent to the nomination may be on a separate paper and in any form, but if given on the nomination paper in the above form its sufficiency is not to be questioned.
We are acting in the interests of the other side as well as in our own interests. A day may come when honorable senators opposite may have occasion to thank us for getting the form of the nomination paper embodied in the law. Our desire is to secure fair play for candidates generally, so that no Minister or Department shall be able to suddenly produce a form which may cause a lot of trouble, and perhaps result in a party not being represented in Parliament. If the Department has any objection to the existing form, let the objection be stated ; or if it has a form ready to take the place of the existing form, let it be produced and embodied in the Bill. Why should a vital matter be left to the discretion of the Department? In country districts, if. is not easy to find men who are well versed in the provisions of the Electoral Act, and who can prepare a form without a hitch. Unless the form is embodied in the Act, it may happen that, after polling the largest number of votes, a man may find himself left out in the cold by reason of something over which he had no control. I believe that the Department has a form ready, and I dare say that the Minister has seen it. If, however, the Department has no form ready to be prescribed by regulation, it has not done its duty, and I -think very little of its methods. I really cannot understand why the Government will not state what is objectionable in the existing form. The advantage of the footnote to Form I in the schedule to the Act is that it safeguards the interests of a man, no matter what intrigues may be brought against him. Whether the Department or the Minister is favorable to him or not, no one can cavil if a candidate signs the nomination form. I can assure the Minister that I have no desire to delay the transaction of business; but, unless we are told how the existing form is wrong, and supplied with the form which is intended to take its place, I shall continue to protest as long as I can, not in my interest alone, but in the interest of honorable senators on both sides. Should the
Department have no form ready, the Government have no right to ask the Committee to strike the existing form out of the Act. In any case, we should be taken into their confidence. I object to government by regulations. Parliament is created for a certain purpose, and its members are elected to see that as much as can be put in a measure is put in. I am always willing to givethe Government power to deal by regulations with non-essentials and matters which may have escaped the attention of Parliament; but I do protest against this practice of bringing down Bills in skeleton form, and leaving very many things to be dealt with by regulations. We shall not do our duty if we assent to this method of legislating. No matter what Government has been in power, I have always entered a protest against it. On this occasion, not one protest comes from the supporters of the Government, no matter how much is being left to be done by regulations. Thepresent Government is worse than any previous Government in this respect.
– We cannot forget that the Bill has been before the Senate for five weeks.
– We cannot forget that the Government put the Bill at the bottom of the notice-paper.
– That is not our fault. All we want is fair play.
-To “stone- , wall.”
– The honorable senator may think that this is “ stone-walling.”
– What else is it?
– Surely we have a right to get an answer to a reasonable request? Are we expected to come here and to be dumb all the time? The honorable senator says that we are “ stone- walling.” I am not reading paragraphs from papers, but dealing strictly with the clause before the Committee. We are merely told that this change is being made for departmental purposes; but we decline to accept that answer as a satisfactory one. I do not think that any candidate has asked for a change. I certainly have not heard a candidate cavil at the existing form.
– There are twentythree senators on this side who support this proposal.
– I would remind the honorable senator that when a previous Government wanted to leave certain matters to be dealt with by regulation, membersof the Labour party, who sat behind that Government, and whose action I approved, although I was supposed to be supporting the Government, entered a vigorous protest. They said, “ if that is to be the law, why not put it in the Act itself ? Why leave it to be prescribed by regulation?” I do not hear any honorable senator on the other side saying now that it iswrong to leave the nomination form to be fixed by regulation.
– Less than two years ago you supported Senator Millen in doing the very thing which we are doing now.
– We are also asked to strike out Form J, which relates to the nomination of representatives. We have asked why its deletion is sought, but we have not yet received a reply from the Minister. The form reads -
Commonwealth of Australia.
State of (here insert name of State).
Division of (here insert name of Division).
Nomination of a Member of the House of
To the Returning Officer for the Electoral Division of (here insert name of Division).
We, the undersigned electors on the Electoral Roll for the Electoral Division of (here insert name of Division),’ in the State of (here insert the name of State), do hereby nominate(Christian name, surname, residence, and occupation of person nominated) as a member of the House of Representatives for the aboveDivision.
Has the Minister any objection to thar language? In the next portion of the formit is necessary to give the date’, thesignatures of the nominators, the place of living, polling place, and number on the roll. Is there anything wrong in that portion ? Hasthe Department objected to that? The form continues -
I, of consent to the above nomination, and to act if elected.
Witness - (Signature of candidate) - Address -
N.B. - The candidate’s consent to the nomination may be on a separate paper and in any form, but if given on the nomination-paper in the above form its sufficiency is not to be questioned.
Will any honorable senator opposite saywhat there is wrong about that form?
– Then why strike itout ? Surely Parliament has a right to know what forms are to be substituted for those now in the Act. I am surprised thatwe should be asked todo away with these forms merely for the convenience of the Department. Is the convenience of Parliament or of the electors not to be considered? If the objections which have been raised to this clause are not met, I am afraid that I shall have to ask these questions again before the Bill goes through.
– It must be becoming almost painfully evident that the Government are wrecking their own Bill. It is almost equally evident that the Bill is helping to wreck the Government, and, to continue this form of expression, they are quite reckless in refusing to accept the plainest and most sensible suggestion from this side. 0 No attempt has been made to give an intelligible reason why the form of nomination-paper should not be retained in the Act. The Government seem to have forgotten the elementary principles of elections. Two essential elements of an election are the submission of a candidate to the electors, without which an election cannot take place, and the choice by the electors from the candidates submitted. The whole of our electoral machinery is founded on those two principles, and as the Act prescribes the form to give effect to one essential element, namely, the ballot-paper, on which the elector expresses his choice, it should in the same way provide the form to give effect to the other essential element of an election. Might I ask the Minister to display sufficient intelligence and courage to resist being tied hard and fast to the provisions -5 of this Bill by the officials of the Electoral Office? Why is the form of the ballotpaper set out in the Electoral Act? It is in order that the elector may be properly ;guided in indicating his choice.
– Why not prescribe the ballot-paper by regulation?
– That is just my point. Unless a candidate were submitted to the electors, there would be no need for a ballot-paper, and, therefore, the nomination element of an election should be given effect in the same way as that provided for giving effect to the choice of the electors. No Government would have the audacity to suggest that the form of the ballot-paper should be as prescribed by regulation, and yet the nomination-form is equally essential. It is all very well to say that the law will be more elastic if the nomination form may be prescribed by regulation. There are things which Parliament may safely leave to regulations, but the nominationform is as essential as the ballot-paper in an election, and it should not, any more than the ballot-paper, be left to regulation.
– Let us have an interview with the officers of the Department. We might be able to convince them.
– It is about time that Ministers listened to advice from this side. .Senator Findley should display some courage, and endeavour to release himself from the cast-iron bonds of his officials. No attempt has been made on the other side to give a single reason for this proposal. It may be that honorable senators opposite dare not get up . and give reasons for it, or it may be that there are no reasons. If we were in possession of the benches opposite, and proposed to alter the form of the ballotpaper by regulation, we should be condemned and denounced throughout Australia as desiring to manipulate the elections. 1 do not know that any Government would have the audacity to make such a proposal, but for just the same reasons the nomination-paper should be treated in the same way as the ballot-paper, and its form set out in the Act. ‘ We may be told that this will be left to trusted and experienced officials, who will frame the nominationpaper properly, but it is within .my experience that some regulations issued under the Electoral Act have been utterly stupid, and some have been actually illegal.
– What does the honorable senator know about law ?
– I have a knowledge of something more than the law. I know something about the Vice-President of the Executive Council. In connexion with the Federal election in Brisbane, the attention of the Department was called to certain regulations, which were inapplicable to some of the divisions in Queensland. It took a long time to convince the Department, and letter after letter was, no doubt, thrown into the waste-paper basket. On a very important point, a reference was made to Melbourne, and a ruling was received. The election was upon us, and we had the unpleasant duty of informing the Department that their regulations were ultra vires, and we pointed out the section of the Act upon which we based our communication. Acting upon legal advice, the regulations were flouted by the Committee in charge of the elections. They were set on one side, and we acted, so to speak, upon our own regulations. It was subsequently found that we were right and the departmental officials were wrong, and I believe the regulations to which we took exception were altered. This goes’ to show that the officers of the Department may sometimes be without sufficient intelligence or knowledge of the law to frame regulations properly. So essential an element in an election as the nomination-paper should not be left to any such chance. The form should, as in all our previous Acts, and as, I believe, in all the English Acts and the Acts of other portions of the Empire, be set out in the Act itself. I remind honorable senators that regulations may be issued at a time when Parliament is not sitting, and they will have the effect of law. We know that, from time to time, regulations and statutory rules are tabled in the Senate, and honorable senators never look at them. I think that sometimes even the Minister who lays them on the table does not know what they are. It is easily conceivable that a regulation under this Bill may be issued when Parliament is not sitting, and no one but the officials may be aware of an alteration proposed in the nomination-form. We should guard candidates from the possibility of any mistake due, it may be, to the ignorance or stupidity of officials of the Electoral Office. I hope that the Committee will strenuously resist the clause, because it permits of the nomination- form being made a variable one. I trust that the Honorary Minister, in view of the debate which has taken place, will recognise the wisdom of allowing that form to be clearly set out in the schedule of the Act.
– I would remind the honorable senator that the question before the Chair is the amendment by Senator Rae.
– Do I understand you to rule, sir, that it is impossible for honorable senators to discuss the. question of whether or not the clause should be adopted ?
– I have given no such ruling. I merely desired to inform Senator St. Ledger as to the question immediately before the Committee.
– I thank you, sir, for informing me of the true position. My contention is that the form of nomination should be clearly set out in the Act, and ought not to be left to officials to prescribe. Our Electoral Act ought to be entirely removed from the vortex of party politics. Every honorable t iator should exercise his own intelligence a matter of this kind. But the Government appear to have their supporters under the whip. At any rate, they are keeping singularly quiet.
– I am remaining silent in order that we may” make some progress.
– The Government are doing all they can to wreck their own Bill, and, therefore, to. wreck themselves. I trust that the Committee will affirm that the form of nomination shall be clearly set out in the Act, so that, when this Bill becomes a Statute, every elector may know exactly what he has to do to comply with the electoral law.
– - Senator St. Ledger appears to be very much exercised in mind by reason of the fact that, so far, very little criticism of this clause has been offered by Ministerial supporters. But when he implied that all honorable senators upon this side of the chamber agree with the clause his remark was rather premature. I have listened attentively to .the discussion which has taken place, and I have been awaiting an explanation from the Minister which . would satisfy me that it was absolutely necessary to strike out’ of the schedule to the principal Act the form of nomination which is there laid down. It seems to me - and I speak from experience, having fought threeelections - that there is a possibility of great trouble being occasioned to candidatesif the form of nomination may be altered by regulation, and is not clearly within their knowledge a long time prior to the date of nomination. When a candidate starts out on an electoral campaign - and a candidate for a seat’ in the Senate usually commences his campaign many weeks before the date for the closing of nominations- - he invariably takes with him a copy of the Electoral Act. One of the schedules to that Act prescribes the exact form of nomination. Now, it frequently happens that a candidate is in a very remote part of the State for which he is seeking election only a few days prior to nomination. Usually he does not leave his nomination to be attended to by. his friends, who reside in a centre of population, where, of course, the latest, regulations can be obtained, but prefers to personally forward his nominationpaper by post to the Returning Officer, after it has been duly signed in the form that is necessary to render it valid. Under this clause, if that course be followed, it may happen that the paper may not be strictly in accord with the latest prescribed form. In such circumstances, the Returning Officer may say, “ This paper is not quite formal. There is something invalid about it,” and it may then be too late for the nominationpaper to be returned to the candidate, and for the latter to send in a fresh paper. I believe in the provisions of the Bill; but in connexion with a detail of this sort it seems to me that there is a possibility of considerable trouble being occasioned to candidates. Unless there be good reason for the proposed change in the law, we ought to avoid any such possibility. For that reason 1 would prefer to see the form of nomination which is set out in the principal Act retained. I wish the exact form and wording of the nomination-paper to be clearly set out in the Act itself, which candidates will have with them weeks before the date for the closing of nominations, so that the possibility of mistake may be avoided. I trust that the Minister will be able to meet the desire of the Committee in some way. I do not like to vote against the clause, but I very much doubt whether it is a wise one. I hope the Minister will be able to give some reason for its retention which will satisfy me that I am in error.
– I presume that the Honorary Minister is anxious to get the Bill through Committee as quickly as possible, and I assure him that I have no desire to hinder its progress. . In such circumstances, may I remind him of the speech which he delivered this morning, and to which I listened intently, besides taking short notes of his observations. He referred to the Department. But the arguments which have been adduced regarding the convenience of the Department do not appear to me to be material, and, therefore, I dismiss them. But the Minister went on to say, “I am also going to show how the proposed alteration will convenience the public.” He did not, however, offer any argument whatever on that point. He did not attempt to show how the proposed alteration would convenience the public. If he had told us that the Government had been advised by the Electoral Office that this alteration would suit the public convenience, and had gone on to say that the reasons supplied to the Government were such as he would give to this Committee, we might have been free to agree or disagree with those reasons, but we should have known why this proposal was made. The debate would then have ended. Surely it is a common practice in this Chamber for the representative of a Government to give reasons for what they propose. It is quite within the ambit of ordinary courtesy for honorable senators to be told why a proposed alteration in an Act of Parliament should be brought about. I submit to Senator Findley with all respect that, at any rate,’ he has not supplied such reasons this morning. He has merely met an argument of the Opposition with respect to this alteration being for the convenience of the public. I am’ not an obstructionist. 1 am probably the last person in the Senate who could be accused of taking up time unnecessarily. But I do say that, on the present occasion; Senator Findley should get himself out of his difficulty by supplying us with the reasons that have been asked for. Surely that is a fair thing. If the honorable senator will frankly tell us, “ These are the reasons supplied to us by the Electoral Office,” I shall not cavil a’t the action of the Government in accepting them.
– If all members of the Opposition were as reasonably disposed and as fair-minded as Senator Clemons is. I have not the slightest doubt that this clause would have been passed half-an-hour ago.
– That is the sort of remark that tends to expedition !
- Senator Clemons said that if I frankly stated’ that the departmental officers had recommended this alteration in the interests of the public and of administration, he would be satisfied.
– Not quite that; ] said that it would be courteous of the Minister to give the reasons to the Committee.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that he would be satisfied with the reasons adduced by the officials. The same reasons can be given for striking this provision out of the Act as were given by Senator Millen when, while in charge of the 1909 Bill, he moved to omit certain forms contained in schedules. The hollowness and make-believe of the Opposition this morning are highly ludicrous.
– I asked for information, and I was not here in 1909.
– To show the insincerity of those honorable senators who are opposing this provision-
-Colonel Cameron. - I rise toorder. Is it proper for the Minister tt. accuse the Opposition of insincerity? I object to that term. *
– I shall endeavour to prove my statement. Senator Millen had charge of an Electoral Bill in 1909. On that occasion he moved to repeal seven forms, and accomplished his object in about five minutes.
– Hear, hear !
– The forms were repealed without discussion.
– Mention what they were.
– I will mention particularly Forms B, C, and D. Form B related to an electoral claim for enrolment, Form C related to applications for transfer, and Form D contained the form of notice of objection to enrolment. The matters dealt with in those forms were all left to regulation. Formerly they were provided for in the Act. On the same occasion, at the instance of Senator Millen, Forms K, L, M, and N were repealed. Form N dealt with the postal ballot-paper. Why, then, cannot this form of nomination also be left to regulation?
– Because the circumstances are entirely different.
- Senator O’Keefe has argued that in connexion with Senate election campaigns not infrequently a candidate is out three or four months before polling day, and that he is fortified with a copy of the Electoral Act, which at present definitely and clearly sets out the form to be used. But if the candidate starts out with a copy of the Electoral Act in his possession , he ought also to’ have a copy of the regulations and of the ballot-paper.
– Our complaint is that the Government propose to vary the regulations and nomination-paper as they please.
– An Act of Parliament costs something, and is heavier to carry than the regulations and form of nomination-paper.
– That is splitting straws; get to the point.
– If it is possible for a candidate to start out with an Act of Parliament, it is equally easy for him to possess himself of the regulations which he would be able to obtain at fifty different places.
– While the candidate was out on his travels, the Act could not be repealed; but the regulations might be altered.
– That is the whole point, and it has not been answered by the Minister.
– The regulations will prescribe the form of nominationpaper.
– Will the Government give a guarantee that that form will not be altered ?
– The candidate would know from the regulations exactly the kind of form required for nomination. If he carries the Act, he will, if he is so particular, also have with him a copy of the regulations.
– No; because new regulations may be issued within a day of the nomination.
– I would point out that, for months beforehand, the regulations and the Act will be available for intending candidates, and the regulations will have printed on them an exact copy of the form on which candidates will be expected to nominate.
– Will it be impossible for a new regulation to be issued within, say, three or four months of the nomination ?
– Nothing is impossible on this earth, but it is unthinkable that any Government would, at the eleventh hour, issue a regulation which would complicate matters, tie up candidates, and, perhaps, invalidate elections.
– Why do you want the power to vary if you do not intend to alter the form?
– We intend to vary it.
– From time to time?
– From time to time, but not at a time which would be inopportune with respect to elections. We do not desire anything of that kind. I hope that the Committee will take a reasonable, common-sense view of the provision, and remember that those who oppose it this morning by their silence agreed, when Senator Millen was in charge of an Electoral Bill, to repeal seven forms in the Act of 1909, including the form in respect to postal voting. On that occasion, there were no dissentients. Even the members of the Labour party, who were sitting in Opposition, allowed his proposal to go through.
– Nothing could have been more complimentary to Senator Clemons than the speech of the Minister. Senator Clemons put forward a calm request for a statement of the specific reasons which have induced the Government to make this change. Does any one pretend for a moment that an answer has been given to that request? What the Minister did is what he has done all through his conduct of this business. Unable to. give reasons, because there are none to give, he immediately turned round, and said, “Look at what Senator Millen did some time ago.” No matter what I did, that does not furnish a reason for what the Government are doing now. If the fact that it is good to remove from the Act one form is a reason why you should remove any, why does not the Minister propose to remove all the forms? That’ is the answer to his statement. The question as to whether a form should be included in the Act, or not, does not depend upon what another Government did with another schedule. It depends upon whether that particular form ought to be embodied in the law, or struck out. What were the particular schedules which the Senate did consent to remove from the Act when I was in charge of an Electoral Bill ? Senator Findley has referred to one form, and that is the form for postal voting. Did it matter whether that form was in the Act or not, seeing that the onlypossible form which could be obtained was a printed form, which was to be issued by an official, and that the only time when a man wanted a form was when he had to vote. He knew that he could only get a form in a certain way, and that, on application, an officer was bound to supply it. It did not matter a penny to the elector whether the form was printed on blue or white paper, whether it was printed with blue or red ink, or how it was worded.
– But a regulation could vary the form.
– It did not matter how the form was varied. When an elector applied to an officer for a postal voting certificate, he was bound to get one. Judging from the tenacity with which the Government are fighting, they recognise as well as I do that it will be possible for a Government, under this proposal, to so select a date for the issue of a regulation as to possibly jeopardize several nominations. I ask the Minister, Is it intended to vary the form of nomination, or not? .If he says that it is intended to vary the form, the danger to which attention has been directed is manifest. If, on the contrary, he says that there is no such intention, what is the. objection to putting the form in the Act? The only reason for putting a form in a regulation rather than in an Act is to provide that elasticity which comes from granting to the Government power to do things, and to vary them from time to time. Time and again, we have been told that it was necessary to have this elasticity to enable a Department to accommodate itself to changing circumstances, so that it may undo to-morrow what it has done to-day, or on the day after do something else. In this case, however, a power to vary would be dangerous. It was not a dangerous power in regard to postal voting.
– Yet it is dangerous. here.
– The Minister maysmile. He is now in a position where hispolitical friends would have the power toshape the form of the nomination-paper. . Would he view with the same equanimity this proposal if it was sought to intrust the.power to his political opponents?
– In regard to the~ nomination-form ?
– In regard to the right now being sought to alter the form up to the last moment.
– I do not think you would hear my voice raised against it.
– The honorable senator would make the chamber ring with indignation. I have already drawn attention to the fact that the schedule contains a notification that if the candidate’s consent is signed on the form, it is sufficient, and its. sufficiency shall not be questioned. But,’ under this proposal of the Government, they may issue a nomination-paper which may, or may not, have a form of consent on it, but which, if it does, may be entirely different from the present one. It may be altogether free from that note of warning or encouragement which now. appears on the nomination-form.
– It will appear under the regulation.
– It may, or may not. We have no guarantee of that.
– I give an assurance that it will.
– The Minister’s assurance is comforting, so far as it goes, but I would very much sooner have had his reasons for making this change. I come back to the original point. Senator Clemons was perfectly right when he said that there would have been no debate if the Minister had given us some sound commonsense reasons for proposing the change. I appeal to every honorable senator in the chamber as to whether the Minister has done that or not. It may be thought by honorable senators opposite that it is quite sufficient to trust the Department. That is a subject on which we can have individual differences.
– So would you if it was under your control. It is not, and that is the trouble.
– I challenge the honorable senator to turn up my record, and see if I have not, as tenaciously as I possibly could, resisted the growing tendency on the part of Departments to gather power to themselves, and the right to make regulations.
– Not when you were in the Government.
– Yes; whenever it was possible to do a certain thing by Act rather than by regulation,” I have adhered to the parliamentary procedure.
– What object would departmental officers have in desiring to put more work on, their shoulders ?
– I am not going into an abstract question like that, but I appeal to honorable senators who have had parliamentary experience, State or Federal, whether they will not always find a steady pressure coming from the Departments to enlarge their liberty, and to increase their powers as much as possible. That is within the knowledge of every parliamentarian who has been brought in touch with departmental officials. It is not too much to say that; in certain circumstances, and at certain times, one may regard the occupants of Ministerial office as merely so much Ministerial, clay in the hands of departmental potters. That experience in some Departments has become notorious. It is not long since that the matter presented itself to the mind of a colleague of the Minister, who protested against being made a “ rubber-stamp.” Why ?
– As his predecessors had been.
– Was there any pressure which brought forth that remark? Senator Gardiner has interjected that the predecessors of Mr. O’Malley were rubberstamps. I do not intend to argue that matter, but the interjection is an admission of my contention that there is always a tendency on the part of a Department, or its officials, to try to gather power to itself.
It is for that reason that I have objected, and always will object, to doing by regulation that which can clearly be done by Act.
– I was disappointed with the Minister’s reply, and I can only assume, from the patent fact that he declined to meet what I thought a perfectly fair request, that the Government do not wish to disclose the reasons for making this alteration. We all know the position in which they are. If Senator Findley will say that the Department has advised the Government that, in its opinion this elasticity is desirable, I shall answer at once, “ The Government have accepted that advice, and are prepared to act on it. They’ have the numbers, and so further debate is unnecessary.” But Senator Findley has not even said that. That may not be the reason for proposing the change. Without taking up time, or importing any heat into the discussion. I did ask him if he would give the Committee some affirmative reason why the Government have proposed the alteration. I asked nothing further, and, as every honorable senator here knows, I did not get, in any shape or form, an answer. If the Minister calls my question a demand, which, of course, I do not admit it was, all I can say is that it was based on the rule of courtesy, which invariably obtains here, namely, that a Government shall be ready to give some reason for proposing an alteration.
– If I tell the Honorable senator that the Department recommended that the form should not be put in the schedule to the Act, but should be left to be dealt with by regulation, for its convenience, will that satisfy him?
– That will satisfy me.
– I have said so in other words.
– That will satisfy me, so far as it goes, but the Minister will agree with me, I think, that that is the first time he has made that statement. What I should like to know, and what I expect a great many honorable senators, who d© not know, would like to know, is the reasons which the Department has given to the Government. That is, of course, what every one here would like to know.
– Would that satisfy you ?
– It might. We recognise that the reasons which the Department gave to the Government have satisfied them. I do not quarrel with that. But I think that it would be more satisfactory, at any rate to members of the Opposition, if the reasons were disclosed. It may be that the reasons, if stated at the beginning of the debate, would have satisfied every senator on this side. What is unsatisfactory is that no honorable senator on this side knows what the reasons are - whether they are good, or whether they are bad. At any rate, I am glad to have got from the Minister the statement he has just made.
.- When I entered the chamber this morning, 1 had not the least idea that there would be any delay in passing this clause. Senator Millen, however, took exception to the clause, and pointed out the gravity of it. I do not think that any one of us had realized that fact before he spoke. His remarks were very calm. He put the matter very fairly, and asked the reasons for proposing the change. The Minister answered very hotly in a speech of considerable length. He took occasion to abuse the Opposition. He said that they were hollow, insincere, and so on. He was indorsed by the Government Whip, who made a speech which was calculated to arouse very bad feeling indeed, and which was absolutely unnecessary, as it gave the Committee no enlightenment. The more one considers the matter, the more he wonders that such a clause should have been inserted in the Bill. The greatest possible care should be exercised with respect to all matters connected with an election. Every one will admit that many matters of detail which are not material, and would not affect the issues, might possibly be left to departmental regulations; but in the nominationform we are dealing with the basis of an election, and its alteration at any time should not be left to the will of an official. The Minister says that he will guarantee that it will not be altered within, a certain period before an election, but he is not in charge of the Department concerned. If he were, his guarantee might be of some value; but” as matters stand, the Minister in charge of the Department might, at the request of the officials, propose an alteration in the nomination-form which might never be seen, even by the Cabinet. If Parliament were sitting an opportunitywould be afforded, within fourteen days after the regulation had been gazetted, of reviewing it, and objecting to it, if neces sary; but if Parliament were not sitting it would become law as soon as gazetted. Suppose a man, who intended to be a candidate at an election, desired to go to the Old Country. He might take the precaution, as has been done several times before in similar circumstances, of leaving his nomination-paper, properly signed, behind him in the belief that the form would not be liable to change. He might discover later on that, owing to a regulation altering the form of the nomination-paper, his nomination would not be received, and he would be left out of the field. When Senator Findley says that he would not have so much objection to criticism if honorable senators on this side were all as fair-minded as Senator Clemons, he overlooks the fact that we are taking exception to this clause in the public interest. When it is objected to by Senator Keating, who is riot a violent man, and Senator O’ Keefe, as well as by Senator Clemons, the Government should see that there must be something in the objection taken to this provision. We have been given a reason for it, and it is ‘that the departmental officials desire that such a provision should be inserted in the Bill. Who is to rule in the matter? Parliament, and not the departmental officials, should have the settlement of a matter of this kind, which is the basis of an election, especially in view of the fact that a’ slight error in the nominationform may be taken advantage of to put one man out and another in. We cannot shirk our responsibilities in connexion with such a matter. When a man makes up his mind to stand for Parliament he turns at once to the Electoral Act and expects that it will guide him in every step he should take. He will never dream of asking for regulations. He will send to the Government Printer, and not to the Home Affairs Department, for a copy of the Act, and the Government Printer will never dream of sending him the regulations if he asks only for a copy of the Act. It should be patent to Ministers that the objections to this clause are substantial, and deserve to be very seriously considered. When we are told that this proposal is made because the departmental officers have asked for it, I say we have a right to know why they have asked for it. It is an important change in the law that is proposed. If it were a matter of detail intended to simplify the working of the Act, or to secure economy of administration, we could understand it. But this proposal strikes at the root of the matter, and we should know what are the reasons governing the departmental officials in making this recommendation to the Minister. If the Minister has agreed to make this change merely because they have said they desire it, he has fallen short of his duty. He had a right to ask them the question we have asked to-day, and should have received an answer to it. I trust that the strong representations which have been made by honorable senators on this side, and also by Senator O’Keefe, will have weight with the Government. Senator O’Keefe is a Ministerial supporter, occupying a judicial position in the Senate. He is essentially a fair-minded man, and the last thing he would desire to do would be to take exception to a Government proposal if he had not very strong reasons for doing so. Honorable senators on this side, who Senator Findley himself admits are fair-minded men, also object to this clause, and we have a right to expect that consideration will be given to the views expressed by these honorable senators.
– - The objections I have to this proposal would be met if the Minister could see his way to accept an amendment, adding after paragraphs a and b of the clause, words to the following effect -
Provided that no regulation issued by the Department shall invalidate a nomination so long as the conditions named in paragraphs a and b are complied with.
– That is provided for by the existing Act.
– Section 99 of the Act provides that -
Nominations may bein the form I or J in the Schedule 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.
The proposal in this Bill is to repeal that section, and substitute for it another in exactly the same terms with the exception that the forms I and J are to be struck out, and the nomination-form is to be as prescribed by regulation.
– The honorable senator will find that his objection is met by section 102 of the existing ‘Act, which it isnot proposed to repeal.
– I am doubtful about that. This Bill gives power to the Department to prescribe regulations under the Act. If Senator Pearce’s contention be sound, there should be no objection to putting the matter beyond doubt in this clause,
– Let the honorable senator read section 102.
– I do not wish to cover the whole ground again, but, briefly, my objections to the clause are that a candidate who may not be within reach of any place at which he could obtain the latest regulation altering the form of the nomination-paper might discover, when it was too late, that it would invalidate his nomination, in spite of what may be contended in section 102.
– Section 102 says that if he complies with the conditions of the Act his nomination will not be invalid.
– My answer to that is, that in my experience, Returning Officers are extremely careful that nominations shall be in proper form, and it would be possible for a Returning Officer to refuse to accept a nomination on the ground that it was not in accordance with the latest prescribed form.
– The candidate would have a copy of the regulation on which the nomination form would be printed.
– The honorable senator is only repeating an argument he has used many times this morning, and he overlooks the fact that a candidate may not be able to get a copy of the regulations.
– He will be able to get it at any post-office in any State months before the date of nomination.
– I beg the honorablesenator’s pardon. The existing Act sets out, in a schedule, the exact form of nomination. What is there wrong with that? Under existing conditions a candidate can follow the exact form of the nominationpaper, and can be assured that his nomination will be valid.
– Where would he get theprinted nomination form?
– It is in the Act. A printed form is not necessary. I am satisfied that Senator Long ‘ desires to avoid the possibility of any candidate having his nomination objected to upon a mere formality.I fear that it will not always be possible for a candidate to obtain the latest regulation affecting the form of the nomination-paper. Under the existing Act, the form is set out in a schedule, and the candidate is at liberty, if he pleases, to copy that form on a sheet of foolscap, or a piece of brown paper, and his nomination will be valid.
– Will he have any more difficulty in getting a copy of the regulations than henow has in getting a copy of the Act?
– A candidate will be sure to secure a copy of the Act when he begins his campaign; and long before the nomination day, but it is possible that, under this clause, a regulation altering the form of the nomination-paper may be issued shortly before an election, and it may not be possible for a candidate to obtain a copy of that form in time. I should be quite satisfied if candidates were given a few months within which to obtain the form of nomination-paper which will be accepted at an election, and if Senator Rae will temporarily withdraw his amendment I shall be prepared to move the addition to the clause of the following words -
Provided that no amendment shall be made in the form of nomination within three months before, the date of the holding of a general election.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.36 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I intimated my intention to move the insertion of a proviso to follow paragraph b of this clause. I find, however, on looking through the Bill again, that Senator Rae’s amendment would take precedence of mine. But after his proposal has been dealt with I shall move for the insertion of the proviso I have read to the Committee. I would still prefer to see the exact form of nomination clearly set out in the Act.
– Are the Government prepared to accept the honorable senator’s amendment ?
– I think so.
– To make the amendment submitted by Senator Rae effective, the words which he proposes to insert in paragraph a would also require to be inserted in the ballotpaper.
– His proposal is permissive - that is the trouble.
– If the words in question were inserted in the ballot-paper, they would appear very peculiar. As we all know, quite a number of independent candidates contested seats at the general election which was held in Victoria yester day, though as a matter of fact there is no such party as the independent party in politics. A candidate would have to be labelled on the ballot-paper, either as an independent Liberal, or an independent Conservative, or an independent Labour candidate, or an independent Socialist.
– We are getting perilously close to the use of green and yellow papers.
– If the ballot-papers are to be of different colours, the secrecy of the ballot will be destroyed.
– But suppose that all the ballot-papers are of one colour?
– I would point out to Senator Sayers that the question before the chair has reference only to the form of the nomination-paper.
– Then I do not see that the insertion of the words proposed by Senator Rae are of any account, because nomination-papers do not leave the hands of the Returning Officers. At the first meeting which is addressed by a parliamentary candidate, it is usual for him to declare the political party which he intends to support. When he has so declared himself, the whole country knows what are his political views. I do not see that any advantage is to be derived from requiring these particulars to be supplied on the nominationpaper. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.
– I move -
That after paragraph (b) the following proviso be inserted : - “Provided that no amendment shall be made in the form of nomination within three months before the date of the holding of a general election.”
– Make it six months.
– Three months will be sufficient to nullify the objection which I entertained to the clause, and the Government have gone thus far to meet my view. I am satisfied that the objections which I urged, as the result of my own experience of political campaigning, and of the experience of others, will be met so long as the form of nomination is not altered within three months of the date of an election.
– I have sat very patiently during this debate in the hope that Senator Findley would remember that we credit him with being a strong man, and that a strong man differentiates between firmness and obstinacy. If he remains obdurate after good reasons have been assigned why he should give way on any matter, he must fall from grace in our estimation, and we shall have to regard him as being merely an .obstinate man. It seems to me that good reasons have been advanced why the form of nomination, which is set out in the schedule of the Act, should be retained, and I trust that he will gracefully consent to the adoption of that course.
– Are there no strong men on the other side of the chamber who will give way occasionally ?
– We have been giving away all this week, whereas Ministers have sat as firm as the rock of Gibraltar.
– It is more blessed to give than receive.
– During the luncheon adjournment I took the liberty of speaking privately to both the VicePresident of the Executive Council and the Honorary Minister, both of whom know that my only desire is to save time. Now, the best method of saving time is for them to give way on this matter. I think that Senator McColl made a very good point when he drew attention to the fact that a candidate might be’ absent in Europe on nomination day. We all recollect that on one occasion Senator Ferguson was in Europe when he was nominated, but fortunately there were then no difficulties in the way of his nomination.
– There will be no difficulties in future so long as the essentials of the Act are complied with.
– I quite agree with Senator O’Keefe that in one case there is a possibility of mistakes arising, whilst in the other, there is no such possibility.
– I should like to know whether the Government are favourably disposed towards the amendment, because I admit at once that its adoption would modify the objections which have been urged to the clause by honorable senators upon this side of. the chamber. When I asked Senator 0’ Keefe what was the Ministerial attitude towards it, he replied that he thought the Government would accept it. I wish to know whether that is so?
– I am glad to hear, that, because it will remove very largely the main objection which I had to the provision. But just in proportion as it does that, it is an admission of the soundness of our contention that there is an evil in having a variable form of nomination-paper. However, I am only too pleased that as the result of our morning’s work, we have eliminated the objectionable feature of the proposal which the Government asks us to adopt.
– Senator O’Keefe in his amendment - probably inadvertently - has used the word “ general.” I suggest that he should substitute the word “ any.”
– I am willing to accept that alteration.
– How can the honorable senator do that? He cannot tell when a vacancy will occur.
– I am glad that Senator O’Keefe agrees with me that there is no reason why we should apply one rule to by-elections and another rule to general elections. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment of the amendment which I have indicated. Australia is a country of magnificent distances, and there are many portions of it which cannot be reached in a moment’s notice.
– There are places in it where the residents do not even read Hansard. ‘ ,
– We are a very benighted people.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council wishes me to delay the progress of business I will do so. It is provided, by section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1904, that regulations shall be published in the Government Gazette. That is the only way in which the law of the Commonwealth provides that they must be made known to the public. ‘ What do people living, say, in North Queensland, know about regulations? Occasionally a man who does business with the Department of Trade and Customs will be told by a friendly officer that certain regulations have been altered. Otherwise he would not know. A man like the Hon. James Clarke, who is at the head of the pearling business, makes himself acquainted with any regulations affecting his trade. But people generally do not know what the regulations made under any Act contain. I certainly think that the amendment should apply to by-elections as well as to an ordinary general election.
– The Government accept the amendment submitted by Senator O’Keefe. We need not seriously concern ourselves about what the regulations will be.” As long as the essentials required by the Electoral Act are complied with, any slight variation of form in the matter of the nomination-papers is, and will continue to be, of no account. The essentials are simple and clear.
– There is nothing in the clause requiring that a candidate’s formal consent must be given to his nomination. That is one essential contained in the schedule to the principal Act that is not provided for in this Bill.
– The Government cannot entertain the idea suggested by Senator Chataway that the amendment should be made applicable to by-elections, for the reason that we never know when a by-election may take place. The date of a general election is fixed some time in advance, but no one can say when the seat of a member of Parliament will become vacant. A provision that any new regulations should not be applicable to byelections would not work.
– In reply to a remark by Senator Chataway, I said that I had no objection to the word “ any “ being inserted, but the explanation of the Minister has thrown a different light upon the matter. I shall be content with the amendment as moved. The Minister’s objection seems reasonable. A by-election to fill a vacancy in Parliament might have to take place within a few weeks. The Minister has gone so far to meet my objections that I think I ought to be satisfied.
– It seems to me that the Minister will go a certain way to meet the objections of an honorable senator on his own side, but will not dot an “ i “ or cross a “ t “ to suit the Opposition.
– Honorable senators opposite do not move any amendments; they only object.
– We have shown that the nomination-form should be provided for in a schedule. The Minister has agreed to go a ‘certain way with us. He has not said a word against the existing form. If it is to be altered, we want the new form to be distinctly laid down in the Act. To show how necessary it is that a candidate should know what the nominationform is to be some time before an election, I may mention that, just before the last general election in Great Britain took place, Mr. William Crooks, the member for Woolwich, was in Australia. iHe hurried
Home as soon as Parliament was dissolved, and arrived in England on the day of the election. Before leaving England he had signed a nomination-paper, and left it witha friend. Consequently he was nominated in his absence. In this country an election might take place suddenly, but if the form of nomination was altered just before the election, a nomination-form left by a member of this Parliament before going out of the country would be of no avail.
– It would not matter as long as his nomination-paper complied with the Act.
– The Returning Officer has to decide whether the form is right or wrong. Will the Minister agree to a clause providing that, when a nominationpaper is handed in, the Returning Officer must give a receipt stating that it is in proper form?
– The nomination might be written on a sugar-bag, and it would stillbe all right.
– Why should we leave this important matter in the hands of departmental officials? I am credibly informed that the same proposal as is now before the Committee was suggested by a departmental officer to a previous Minister, but that he refused to accept it. Now the officials have a more pliable Minister to deal with.
– The other Minister did not know any better.
– It has not been shown that this proposal is better.
– Rumour is a lying; jade.
– It may be so, asfar as the honorable senator is concerned, but in this case I believe the rumour to be correct. The departmental officials have Seen trying for years to get this alteration of the law made, but other Ministers said’ “ No.” It did not seem to them to be right, and they refused to adopt the suggestion.
– The proposal need not be wrong because previous Ministers turned it down.
– What I say shows that the Department is always trying to encroach upon the prerogatives of Parliament. Every Department is doing the same. We have had Ministers saying so publicly. If a departmental official gets an idea into his head, he tries to get a Minister to adopt it. If he does not succeed to-day, he tries succeeding Ministers, until at last he finds one who will meet his views.
– The departmental officials, in fact, pursue Ministers with the relentlessness of a Corsican vendetta.
– Is Parliament simply a recording machine to carry out the wishes of departmental officials? I am satisfied that if Senator .Givens were sitting in Opposition, he would make a great fight over this question. I have supported - him on previous occasions in objections to government by regulations.
– Regulations have to be submitted for the approval of Parliament.
– We have a great deal too much to do without reading hundreds of trumpery regulations. That, I suppose, is how it is that, some day, regulations get through that are not trumpery. How will this amendment work? Ordinarily, Parliament meets in June or July and sits up to the end of November, or some time in December though this year we met very late. What is to prevent any Government issuing in December regulations dealing with elections to take place in March or April of the following year ? In such a case, would honorable senators have any control over the regulations, though they might be framed to assist the Government? If Parliament is sitting, regulations have to lie on the table of each House for fourteen days before they can get the force of law ; but in the case I have put, Parliament would not be in session, and so no honorable senator would have a chance to offer an objection, though the regulations might be obnoxious to every member of the Parliament except the Ministers themselves.
– They must be consistent with the Act.
– We know how Acts’ can be construed. Two lawyers, even two Judges, will take a different view of what is consistent with an Act. Though an Act is drafted with the best legal ability, Judges will disagree as to the meaning of certain words in the Act; yet the Minister interjects that regulations must be consistentwith the Act under which they are made. The Attorney-General or the Crown ‘Solicitor may say that a nomination-form is consistent with the Act, though afterwards it may be proved that it is not; but in the meantime an election has been held. This clause will open the door to a lot of danger. If the Minister could have shown what is wrong with the two schedules in the Act, the position would have been quite different. He has made no such attempt, yet he says that the schedule must be taken out of the Act and replaced under regulations. It is quite evident to me that the Government made up their -minds as to the new forms before they decided to repeal the existing forms. What ulterior object can the Minister have in withholding the reasons for this proposal ? I feel satisfied that draft regulations covering the new forms are in the possession of the Department, because for years its officers have been trying to get the forms altered. Why? They must have new forms ready ; yet the Senate is not to be afforded an opportunity to see them. I am really surprised that a knowledge of something which is to become the law of this country under regulation is possessed by the Department and withheld from members of Parliament. The fact that the Minister refuses to let us know the reasons of the Government for taking this. step speaks for itself. If there was nothing to be hidden, his attitude would be quite different. What is the secret which the Government will not disclose? I cannot see any reason why they should withhold their confidence from us.
– Is not the reason obvious ?
– Has the explanation of the Minister been absolutely lost on the honorable senator ?
– The Minister’s explanation was merely a statement that he does not intend to give any information on the subject to the Senate. He has simply stated that the alteration is desired for the convenience of the Department. Is that a sufficient reason? The Minister has been asked time after time to point out what is wrong with the present form.
– Do you want the Minister to join in a “ stone- wall “ ?
– This debate would have been finished long ago if the Minister had merely said, ‘ ‘ Something in the present form is wrong, and for that reason I want Parliament to repeal it.” But he has not made such a statement. Hours ago he was asked to tell us what is wrong in the form. He has risen to address the Committee, but he declines to say a word about the reasons for making that change. If he thinks he can sit there-
– I can sit here for a few hours more.
– I do not care how many hours the honorable senator is prepared to sit there. I am as capable of sitting here as he is. If he will not explain the reasons which have induced the Government to submit this proposal, his interjection ‘must be taken as a threat that the Government intend to drive it through the Senate. All that he has yet said is that the alteration is desired for the convenience of the Department. If there is anything objectionable in the present form, he could have indicated what it is. Does the Minister of Defence think for a moment that the Department has not already drafted a form to take the place of the existing one, especially seeing that its officers laid a scheme before previous Ministers, and that it was not accepted? They must find the present Ministry very pliable. No one objected more strongly to this method of procedure than did honorable senators on the. Ministerial side when they sat in Opposition.
– That is incorrect, because seven forms in the schedule to the principal Act were repealed at the instance of the late Government.
– I can name honorable senators on the other side who objected strongly to be governed by regulation.
– These .were forms dealing with more important electoral matters than the nomination.
– There is no more important matter than the form of the nominationpaper. The Minister sits quietly in his place and refuses to say what is wrong with the present form. It is the duty of a Minister in charge of an amending Bill to explain what is wrong with any part of the principal Act which he wishes to have repealed. The Minister in charge of this Bill will not take the Committee into his confidence. Apparently the officers in the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department know more of what is going to be the law of this country under regulations than do the members of its Parliament ; yet some honorable members will make no protest. If that is how the laws of the country are to be made, it does not speak well for the Minister in charge of the Bill. There is no fair-minded man outside this Chamber, no matter what his political opinions may be, who will deny that that is not a proper way to legislate. I cannot conceive what the Minister expected when he decided to submit this proposal. Surely he did not anticipate that we would be so foolish as not to ask the reasons for desiring the change. Has he made any attempt to give reasons in support of the proposal? No. Even when he was asked point blank to give them he either sat silent or made a speech which did not touch on the point at all, and in which he merely said that it was the intention of the Government to do so-and-so. Has the present form been a failure ? Has any candidate ever complained that it did not safeguard him ? The very footnote to the form safeguards a candidate. He feels that, once he has signed the document, no hitch can take place. We are told that some form will be issued under a regulation, but we have no assurance that it will contain a similar safeguard. We have tried time and again to elicit the reasons for this proposal, but, so far, the Minister has not deigned to give any. He will not even say that there is a letter, or a word, or a line in the form which is wrong ; yet he asks us to repeal the form without giving a shadow of an ex-‘ cuse, except that it is for the convenience of the Department. If Parliament meets to legislate for the convenience of the Department, and not for the convenience of the people, the sooner the Department or the Parliament is done away with the better. How can we be expected to swallow what the Minister takes from the Department without getting a satisfactory explanation? I never heard before that Parliament was merely a convenience for .the Department. I understood that we were sent here to pass laws for the good of the country, and not for the good of the Department; but the Government, apparently, want power, to make regulations for the easy working and the convenience of the Department. I cannot understand how the Minister could expect his proposal to go through without giving any reasons. If he will only consent to disclose the reasons, my opposition to the proposal will cease. It will not cease until such time as he states the reasons why the form is to be repealed. If he can show that it has injured candidates, I shall be with him; but up to the present time he has not been able to show that it is an evil. I hope, however, that, before it goes through, he will be able to show that it has done some injustice, and that its repeal will do some good. Even if he had found a better schedule, it was his duty to come down and ask the Senate to substitute the new form for the old one. He is really asking us to pass the Bill in the dark, and to rely on the Department to administer the law according to the sweet will of those in authority. Why the Government want this power I do not know. I do not wish to attribute any evil to them, but the proposal is surrounded with a shade of suspicion. If everything was open and above board, there is nothing to prevent the Minister from stating the facts. If he had taken that course there would have been no trouble. The Committee would have proceeded at once to discuss the reasons, and go to a division. This discussion is simply due to the obstinacy of the Minister, who will not give any information to us.
– I would remind the honorable senator that he is near to becoming guilty of tedious repetition. He has made that remark quite a number of times. _
– I think it is a remark which can be made, and I wish to emphasize it.
– Order. I remind the honorable senator that I have allowed him a very great deal of latitude already under the standing order dealing with tedious repetition.
– If you, sir, compel me to “ stone- wall,” I will do so. This is a very short clause, and we have asked merely for the reasons for it. I have made that request repeatedly.
– Too many times.
– What am I to do?
Are we compelled, under the Standing Orders, having asked a question once, not to ask it again?
– The honorable senator is aware of the standing order to which I have referred.
– I know it, and 1 think there is nothing in it which would prevent me asking for an answer, to a question as many times as I please. If, when a Minister refuses to answer a question, honorable senators are not to be permitted to ask it again, we might as well have no Parliament at all. I shall be forced to adopt quite another course. Ministers know that I might “ stone-wall “ this measure by bringing in a number of volumes, and’ reading from them, but I have preferred to adopt a different course.
– We are not concerned as to whether the honorable senator reads from a number of volumes or not.
– I am not concerned as to what the Minister thinks about the matter - good, bad, or indifferent. I am asking for fair play for the electors of this country, and I do not want the Ministry to hold anything up their sleeves. I have a right to ask the questions I have put to the Minister, and I ought to get a reply to them.
– Before the amendment is decided upon, I wish to say a word or two with regard to some preliminary remarks made by Senator Sayers in opposing the clause. Knowing exactly what he was saying, the honorable senator made the statement that a proposal was made to a former Minister for the elimination of this schedule from the Act, and that a former Minister absolutely refused to accede to the wishes of the departmental officer. He said that to-day we have a more pliable Minister, and that that pliable Minister has acceded to the wishes of the departmental officers.
– That is quite correct.
– I challenge the honorable senatorto prove his statement that Senator Millen, who had charge of the Electoral Bill in the last Parliament-
– I was not referring to Senator Millen at all. The honorable senator is barking up the wrong tree.
– I challenge the honorable senator to prove that a departmental officer ever approached any Minister who has ever had charge of any Electoral Bill in this House, or in another place, with a view to having this schedule removed from the Act, and that such Minister refused the departmental official’s desire.
– The honorable senator should not try to frighten me.
– It is not a question of frightening the honorable senator, but I hope he will be made toprove his words, and if he cannot prove what he has said in this chamber to-day I hope that, as a man, he will take the first opportunity of apologizing to the departmental officers against whom he has made a serious accusa- tion. I ask the honorable senator to give proof of his statement. The inference the honorable senator draws is that a former Minister would not do this, and that a Labour Minister is prepared to do it. In the first place, no departmental officer ever made such a request to a previous Minister, and no previous Minister was ever afforded an opportunity to turn down this proposal. The members of this Government have decided to eliminate the schedule from the Act, not because they are a pliable Government, but because, in their opinion, its elimination will be in the best interests of the Department and for the convenience of candidates. I said earlier in the day that so long as the main essentials are complied with, it will not matter on what* kind of paper a nomination is made. I have risen to offer these remarks, in reply to the charge made by Senator Sayers. I ask that on the first opportunity the honorable senator will prove his statement, and that if he cannot do so, he will apologize for having made it.
– I shall take my own lime about that, despite the heroics of the Honorary Minister. 1 have not asked whether I should be at liberty to mention the name of my informant or not, but I have been informed that this proposal was presented to a Minister who was at the head of the Department, and refused. I accept the word of my informant, but until he permits me to mention his name I shall not do so. It is enough to say that 1 believe him. Senator Findley will see that this is simply a question of the statement of two men, and the word of one is as good as the word of the other. I believed the information given me, and I still believe it. We have here nothing but departmental rule, and I ask who is to blame for it? I say it is the Minister who is to blame. We have heard of a member of the present Government who said that he was “ only a rubber stamp.” We have the rubber stamp still’. Senator Findley made a great furore about my having made a statement which I should withdraw. I shall not withdraw it, because I believe it to be true.
– Let the honorable senator prove his statement, if he will not withdraw it.
- Senator Findley has made many statements here which he did not prove. He has said that this clause is introduced for a certain purpose, but he has not proved it. When he is asked the reason for it, he lies back and says nothing. I am npt frightened to say what I have said before, because I believe the man who gave me the information.
– Bring the officer to the bar of the Senate and question him.
– That would be more rational.
– Honorable senators opposite did not say that when the last Government were accused of appointing polling places to suit themselves, and I ask’ the Minister to prove or withdraw the statement.
– No one has made rasher statements in this Chamber than has’ Senator Findley. I have seen the honorable senator walking backwards and forwards between the two pillars at the back of the Ministers’ bench, and making outrageous statements, which he never at-‘ tempted to prove. 1 have made a statement because I believe it to be true. I do not suppose that any irian would desire to be dragged into a wrangle about the matter, but I made my statement on the best authority. Without the authority of the person who gave me the information I shall not bring his name into the matter.I am prepared to take full responsibility for the statement. What we have seen here to-day has proved my. words. The Government have a scheme which they are not prepared to put before Parliament, and let us decide whether it is right or wrong. They wish to do this through the Department. Who is ruling in this matter? Is’ it the Department or the Government? The Government must accept all responsibility for this. They cannot shield themselves behind the convenience of the Department.
Amendment agreed to.
– The Honorary Minister said that we were not prepared to submit amendments to this clause. I may inform him that I had an amendment prepared upon paragraph b, but as I do not wish to take up time unnecessarily, and the Minister has accepted an amendment which meets our objection to. a certain extent, I shall not move it.
Question - That the clause (13), as amended, stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 -
Part X. - Voting by Post - of the Principal Act, including sections One hundred and nine to One hundred and twenty-one (both inclusive), is repealed.
.- This is one of the provisions of the Bill to which very strong exception has been taken by honorable senators on this side. We have already debated the matte:: at considerable length, and stated what we consider to be the injustice of the proposal. We have had a great many statements as to corruption and malpractices carried on under the postal voting provisions of the present law, but we have not had one concrete example.
– Did I not give the honorable senator an example of the way in which Government officials were corrupted ?
– No; the honorable senator gave us some statements which recoiled upon himself.
– Because the Age said that the honorable senator was able to get home on me when he did nothing of the kind, he wants to be the pet of that journal.
– I do not want to be the pet of the Age any more than I want to be the honorable senator’s pet.
– I should be nicely set up with the honorable senator as a pet.
– We believe that a number of persons in the community will be deliberately robbed of their franchise by the abolition of the postal vote. The provisions of this Bill, which seek to deprive women and others of that privilege, contributed in no small degree to the results of the general election which took place in Victoria yesterday. The proposals have been received with general indignation.
– Get out ! Why in the city and suburbs of Melbourne the Labour party had a majority of 20,000 votes. .
– I do not know why I should “ get out “ because the honorable senator tells me to do so.
– If these proposals did our party so much mischief yesterday, why is the honorable senator so desirous of doing good to our party?
– I wish to show what a different attitude the Honorary Minister took up in regard to women at the last Commonwealth elections. Upon that occasion a circular was issued, on which there were three excellent photographs of Senators Findley, Blakey and Barker. Accompanying that circular, and printed on the back of it, was the following:
Labour wants women to use their votes to help themselves.
Yet Labour is now. doing its best to deprive women of the opportunity to exercise the franchise. The circular continued -
The ballot-paper is a powerful instrument. Women can either help or hurt themselves and all belonging to them with it.
Yet the Labour party to-day is seeking to rob the infirm, the feeble and the delicate, by depriving them of an opportunity to vote.
Labour appeals to all women to vote the Labour ticket, because the Labour party will, when it attains power, make the lot of women better. The greatest workers and the most sweated are mothers. If the Labour party were in power, it would at once begin to improve the lot of mothers.
It has begun to improve their lot by depriving them of the franchise which they were in a position to exercise by means of the postal vote. The circular proceeds -
If Labour were in power there would be constant employment for every one
How much work does Labour find ?
If Labour were in power housewives would always have a few pounds to spare, and would not have to worry about money matters. It will be said that these proposals are materialistic. But Labour says it is only hypocrisy to prate about the sanctity of the home and the holiness of motherhood if you do no.t give the mother enough money to carry out her noble functions.
That is the way in which the Labour party professes to glorify women, whilst endeavouring .to deprive them of their dearest privilege. I shall not labour this matter; but I feel convinced that the women of Australia will remember their deprivation of this right, and will reward those who are responsible, for it at no distant date.
– I do not wish to delay the passing of this Bill, but I cannot allow its major proposal to be approved without uttering a final, though brief, protest against it. I do not intend to again traverse the grounds of my opposition to it. I shall content myself with saying that, for quite insufficient reason, and upon some wild, unsupported allegations of corrupt practices - allegations which remain unproved, notwithstanding that there have been frequent demands made for proof - the Government are seeking to destroy a privilege which has hitherto been enjoyed by the electors of this country. In support of my statement that the charges made against the system of postal voting have not been substantiated, I would direct attention to the return which has been presented to the Senate, and which sets out the number of convictions secured in connexion with the last elections for electoral offences. These total 20.
– Plenty of robberies are committed, and we do not find the culprit.
– But when a robbery is committed, even if we cannot find the thief, we can generally find some person who says, “ I have lost my property.” It should have been possible for the Minister to give us some proof of these alleged corrupt practices. But- of the twenty convictions which were secured in connexion with the last elections, not more than three offences can have been in any way associated ‘with postal voting. For instance, there was a conviction for dual voting. Obviously, that had nothing to do with voting by post. Then another conviction was recorded for taking papers out of the polling booth. That, top, had nothing to do with postal voting. The only offences which can have had any connexion with that system were one for a breach of duty as an authorized witness, and another for the exercise of undue influence. These were the only cases which could have had any relation to the postal vote. I place these facts in contrast to the vehement assertions that corruption has been rampant in connexion with that vote. We should require stronger evidence before we deny to electors who, because of their infirmity or old age, are unable to attend the polling booths, the right to record their votes. «
– Or intimidation.
– The honorable senator cannot object to intimidation. Intimidation is to be practised for the purpose of compelling a person to abstain from voting, or to vote wrongly. The honorable senator is standing over unfortunate women, and saying to them, “ Because of your motherhood, you shall not vote.”
– If it were according to the practice of this Chamber, I should reply to that statement by the use of a short word.
– I do not mind what the honorable senator does. He has never observed the practice of the Senate when it did not suit him to do so, and he is not likely to do so now.
– What does Senator McColl know about the question?
– I quite admit that he Cannot know as much about it as South Australians, with their roll-stuffing proclivities. I confess that we are mere babes compared with them.
– A cursed political slaughter-house is the Legislative Council.
– I should be the last to reflect upon South Australia as a State.
– The honorable senator’s party prohibits two-thirds of the people there from having a vote for the Legislative Council.
– Is that a justification for the honorable senator’s political brothers stuffing the rolls?
– It is only political opponents who say that they do that.
– I regret that these interjections have drawn me from the course which I had originally mapped out for myself. I had intended to make only a few remarks, but I should not have liked the clause to go through without uttering a final protest against a proposition which is absolutely unjust to an unfortunate section of the community - to those who, by reason of ill-health or infirmity, temporary or otherwise, or because of remoteness from a polling-place, are to be denied their right to participate in an election in thiscountry. The only reason for the proposed change is that the majority of these postal votes have hitherto” been cast against the party which, having a majority in Parliament to-day, is evidently determined to shape our electoral law to suit its own purposes.
– - Assuming that we take a division upon this clause immediately, I should like to know whether the Government propose to use their majority to carry on business after 4 o’clock?
– The statement has been made that it is the intention of the Government to force us to sit until the consideration of this Bill has been completed.
– I hope so.
– That depends upon the progress which is made during the next half-hour. Honorable senators opposite have had a very good time.
– That has nothing to do with the question. If the Government propose to depart from the ordinary practice of the Chamber, I think that, as a matter of courtesy, they might at least have intimated their intention to us.
– I did so last night.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council did not.
– I said that progress would have to be made.
– What is progress?
– I leave it to the Government to say whether they intend to sit after the ordinary hour. Whether a departure from the ordinary practice will facilitate the transaction of business by that means remains to be seen.
Question - That the clause (14) stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority ….. 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 (Provision relating to scrutineers).
– -Iwishto inform the Committee that the Government have considered the progress which we are making upon this Bill. We have come to the conclusion that if we reach clause 17 this afternoon it would be desirable to postpone it, as it contains debatable matter. If that clause be reached we shall be prepared to report progress at the usual time. But if we do not make as much progress as we think desirable, I shall not be responsible for the course which we shall deem it necessary to pursue.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 postponed.
Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Amendment of section 147).
– - I desire to make provision that poll clerks shall announce the numbers of the voters. It is difficult for scrutineers to follow names, but if numbers were announced, they could easily be followed, and the polling could be checked. I hope the Minister will consider the suggestion.
– The suggestion of the honorable senator will receive consideration, and will probably be acted upon.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 (Marking of votes in a Senate election).
– I have given notice of an amendment ‘providing for a system of proportional representation.
– I may inform the honorable senator at once that I do not think I can receive his amendment. Volume 1. of Decisions of ike President of ike Senate (Sir R. C. Baker) contains .the following ruling, No. 74 -
Amendments in Committee must, be relevant ^0 the subject-matter of the Bill as read a -second time. The question to be considered is whether an amendment is relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill. If so, it can be moved whether it contains a new principle or not. The test is neither the title of the Bill nor the scope nor object of the Bill. The standing order is clear and concise. Under that ruling I do not think that the honorable senator’s amendment can be accepted.
– The decision of the Chairman is a surprise to me, and I shall’ have to consider the best course to pursue.
Senate adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111117_senate_4_62/>.